Delhi – Gurgaon Metro

Dhalta Sooraj

“Kahin bhi baith sakte hain kya?”, a guy asked me as soon as I had taken a seat in the almost empty Metro from Qutab Minar to Gurgaon. He was a middle aged person – a laborer who was confused and was feeling out of place with his old torn air bag amongst the suave, urban crowd most of who seemed like on a picnic in the metro.
“Pehli baar Metro mein aaya hun”, he explained, probably as confused as one of the kids who was asking his father the reasons for putting the hanging handles on the roof. But he was equally ecstatic too – after all he may not get to travel everyday on a 5 star AC train which according to another kid was “moving in the sky”.
“Gurgaon ka konsa station hai?”, he again asked leaving me confused as well.
“Aapne kahan jaana hai?”, I asked.
“Gurgaon bus stand se apne gaon ki bus pakadni hai”.
I told him to get off at Iffco Chowk station, which I later realised was quite a bit away from the actual Iffco Chowk. After all this was my first journey on Gurgon Metro Line too. Till now I had only travelled on the underground sections in North Delhi. The underground part has its own charm. While travelling you cannot see anything around, the sense of direction has any meaning only if you look at the map on top of the doors. Overhead Metro on the other hand was scenic. And the journey from Quatab to Gurgaon is filled with diversity. You start with Quatab Minar behind you and a vast expanse of greenery around. The trees fall short as you ‘move in the sky’. The way is occasionally dotted with different farmhouses, their privacy destroyed by giving the public a bird’s eye view of the palatial bungalows. The distinct Chattarpur temple then looms large over to the left. Gradually the human intrusion starts surfacing as the green gives way to the brown and then eventually a jungle of a different kind – the skyline of the millenium city. And within half an hour, you have successfully made the transition from the history to the future.
Gurgaon Skyline
As I sat there clicking photos and watching excited toddlers having different views of the changing views outside, it was tough not to notice the laborer. He had not looked outside the window even once and sat there looking at the floor all the time. The only time he looked around with expectation was when a station came. Obviously he will have some different kind of experiences to tell to his family.

Rainy Ride

How often, while stuck in a busy city road with rain lashing down hard, has a wish escaped the trapped body – a wish that you are on a highway – free, open, greenery around, dark skies with the car tires making a squeezy sound as they pass on the wet roads on a high speed.
To live that wish, I realised is an exhilarating experience.
The state of Punjab ensured the greenery all around, the monsoon season ensured the lovely weather and the government ensured a good straight highway. Good, though, I must say is a relative thing. There were the usual slow moving trucks on the extreme right, fast moving vehicles snaking through, some daredevil on a bike braving the rain right in the middle of highway or an unsure slow moving car moving right and suddenly moving towards left when you try to overtake it from the wrong side. But all this is quite OK and in India, it feels strange if the mind does not pop up with “What the hell??” Morever, compared to city traffic, it was heaven.
Dark clouds had started racing me as I started the journey from the small town Mandi Gobindgarh, also known as the steel city. I accepted the challenge and with Coldplay giving me company, stretched the car exploring its limits – 130 kmph was the max that it could go. But challenging the nature is obviously not a good thing and soon the pitter patter was heard on the roof. Though it was sunny, but the wipers were sweeping the windshield. When we were kids, we used to attribute this rare rain and sun combination to “Geedar and Geedari”(Jackals) getting married. Soon the sun was out and the dark clouds, though heavy with the water overtook the speeding car. I was happy to lose the race. The green of earth meeting the blue of sky is an amazing sight. But may be the black of sky meeting the green of earth exceeds in awesomeness. May be it has that cocktail of a sense of laziness, pinch of romance, a hint of solitude and a tendency to go in the past.

Soon the laden clouds had dumped off their weight. Some of them turned white, other simply vanished leaving behind a beautiful rainbow with its arc directly on top of the highway.


Book, Music and Journey

It is always an interesting experience to travel in a train. The thought of it is fascinating. You are trapped in the iron box with a large glass window separating the natural from the artificial.
There is light music in ears – I wonder why I don’t like to hear rock or an upbeat number while travelling. It is always slow & soothing. May be it is the overall lazy setting. Eyes oscillate between the passing scenery and a book in the lap.
There is a blanket over the legs as you see half clad villagers sweating it out in their fields (or may be calling it ‘their’ field is wrong). And the smells…Ah…the smells, specially after the lunch or dinners. At that time you wish you were in a non-AC compartment where you can just turn your face towards the window. But it is also a plac where you see the similarities of the nation. A family always has food along – unless you are travelling in a Rajdhani. Punjabis prefer dry aaloo sabji along with plain paranthas and pickle. My mother used to pack the same thing and I have had this menu in trains, buses and airports. And interestingly seen many people have the exact same thing in all these places. So I am used to the before and after smells – don’t know how many people suffered at my hands.
At night, it is pitch dark outside but still you keep looking. Such darkness, a rare sight in cities, seems fascinating. Sometimes there is a solitary light standing out somewhere far and its tough not to think about it. Is it a solitary light in perhaps a whole village or a solitary home in the wanderness. May be its none of it. Who knows?
In a train, places like these become ephemeral and so do the thoughts. We call ourselves travellers. But may be the real traveller is one who finds the story behind that solitary light, places are not ephmeral and the associated thoughts are documented.

Traffic Jam

I am struck in a terrible Delhi traffic jam right now. In the sweltering heat, inside an auto – where unlike an AC car, there is no barrier between me and the dust, heat and the typical traffic jam noises – just two primarily – horn and the engine. But within these 2 parameters there is as much variety on offer as it in Sachin’s shots.
There are 2 rows of vehicles that have formed – typical of a jam. I am on the right side as we have to take a U turn. On my left is a Santro with two kids who, unaware and unflusterred by the jam are enjoying themselves with some game. Blarring horns don’t affect them, neither does the slow moving traffic. They are not in a hurry to reach somewhere. As I am looking at them, trying to make out what is the game they are involved in, I catch their attention. They make faces at me. May be they don’t like my frustrated face. Just then their line moves forward – perfect opportunity  to mock me with their tongues out and the thumbs up. Meanwhile I curse my luck for being in the wrong line.
Behind them is a contrasting picture. A mercedes moves up and stands elegantly besides my auto. I can see some big honcho sitting through the shaded window –  a copy of the economic times in his hands. This surprises me a bit. Newspapers lose their importance after morning. In Mumbai, ETs are ubiquitous when you take a morning train to Churchgate station (the financial nerve center) but in the evening? Only time you see that happening is during placement season, when someone has an interview the next day . But then Who knows this guy is also headed for some interview!!  He looks calm but is frequently turning his newspaper pages and glancing above it into the non-moving traffic. The contrast between the playfullness of the Santro and the seriousness of the mercedes amazes me.
Tired from waiting and to save his oil, the auto driver turns his engine off. Unlike Mumbai, Delhi Autowalahs dont go on a meter which keeps running while stationary too. But by some corollary to some Murphy’s Law, the line starts moving as soon as the engine sputters down. It is the most beautiful site I guess – watching the vehicle ahead inching away in a traffic Jam. It seems like it has opened up all the way. I pass the Santro and almost mock the children back. But anyways, they are absorbed in their little game. All hopes dash, when I see the car ahead stop again.
This time it is a big white ambassador by my side. An unused Red Light on top – may be he has realised that its of no use in a jam like this. Antennas coming out of everywhere. The outside looks powerful but the sad point is that I cannot see inside – the windows are dark black – perhaps just like their lives. What is the neta inside doing right now? We only see them on TV, giving speeches, press conferences, on dharnas, abusing some one or the other. But what exactly do they do normally – for example just now stranded in a traffic jam?
My line has moved further ahead. There is a cut in the divider and the auto successfully manages to take the much desired U turn. Whenever there is a traffic jam, the other side of the road(if there is a divider) – one for the on coming traffic is free of traffic and vehicles zoom past you. The person stuck in it often wonders why is he not on the other, empty side where he can move freely at a high speed. But then, it is not the direction. Is it?

Taking pains…

It was a first time trip to Vaishno Devi- inevitable, I guess since the time I landed in Jammu.
The atheist in me had avoided it but accompanied parents this time to the shrine for which you need to trek 15 kms up a hill. The trip was a display of staunch belief of people – in God. The belief which leads them to walk the arduous road up. The first thing that came to mind is why is God such an evil that it forces people to take such pains just so that they could prove their faith in him(‘her’ in this case). Or is it the people who need to reinforce their own faiths that the god exists. Do they feel that by taking lot of pain they will get recognized in God’s eyes? May be he will have a look at their problems and solve them too? Pain is the path to the salvation. Something like that guy from Da Vinci Code who wears a skin piercing belt on his leg.

To endure this tough path, there are plenty of measures. The first and the foremost is the omnipresent shouts of Jai Mata Di. The verse has been quite well marketed actually. People of all religions, castes, creeds etc etc are seen chanting the same words. Taking the Goddess’ name after all helps to take the mind off the pain. The irony however is the same very people wont chant those words once they have left the place. To endure other pains of the world there are many other options – blaming someone, abusing, beating etc etc.
Among other things, which come generally in the early part of the trek are those ‘jagrata‘ songs which remind of certain popular hindi songs – same music, different lyrics. They were so loud that I could hardly hear Metallica on my I-pod. Talk about finding Peace in the arms of god!!

But then again, after enduring much of that ‘healing’ pain as you near the main bhavan, you realise that all this pain has different classes too. There are some on whom the goddess has already bestowed her blessings.They have come to thank her (hopefully) on a chopper. Swoosh in – 5 minutes, go through the VIP Darshan and swoosh out – 4 minutes flat. and there are others who still believe that their walking trip, their path of salvation will lead to them coming through chopper and the VIP darshan some day. (who wants the pain, anyways??). Then there may be some adventure seekers or observers who are more interested in the journey part of it – may be group of friends on a religious picnic. I doubt God’s calling plays a major part in their being there. Its more like “achaa!! sonu is coming and monu too??? ok. I will think about it. Oh!girls
are coming too… I am in!!” (Their pain is of different kind which comes later)

On the positive side of it, the whole route, specially the Bhavan was super secured. I had not seen so much layers of security at New York airport as there was at Vaishnodevi shrine. Nothing except your clothes are allowed inside. Belt, wallet, shoes, socks, keys, mobiles. That all is fine. But the problem was that many times something was allowed inside by 1 layer of security and then asked to be removed by the next one. May be this was another way to increase the pain points – making it much tougher to reach the god. The closer you get, more painful it will get!!

Interestingly, not only it was tough to reach the God, it was tougher to depart from there. Carpets had been provided en route so that it is a bit easy for you to walk bare foot on the cold marble floor. But they were distinctly absent on the way out. Surely, after the painful(pun intended) experience, which will last for a couple of days (less if you travel by a chopper), you are bound to remember the God. be it while standing when your legs hurt or sitting when your back hurts!!

Related MMT take!!!

Apni Desi ‘Cars’

11.35 AM
It’s a cold, foggy day when I start this journey – 250 kms long from Jallandhar to Jammu. It is the first time that I only have only 1 person sitting on my head – commanding me, ordering me and making me dance on his finger.. err… is that a correct translation for ungliyon pe nachana? Well it’s a phrase but has been literally true since I went to gym and gained more power in my steering. The thing I fear today is not the fog but the fact that my passenger is alone (just like me!!) and all the focus will be on me today. Other times, when they get chatting up, I get a chance to run smoothly at a constant speed for good stretches. Chalo, enough of talking. I am invigorated with that sweet smelling petrol. Time to hit the road!!
12.00 PM
The city of Jallandhar is behind me now. After spending some time on the bypass road and the outskirts of the city, I am now freely moving on a 4 lane road. Though I must say that it was more enjoyable 2 days ago, when I was coming to Jallandhar. Less traffic meant that I had nice, fresh wind in my face. Now it’s all polluted. Shucks. I hope this broad 4 lane road doesn’t end. But I know it will. And then it will be time for the constant pull and push on my levers. That gives me lot of pain. Not to forget I will be constantly moved from one side to another. Well. Why fret about the future. We will take it when it comes. Filhaal.. enjoy the present.
12.30 PM
Exactly as I expected – the cat and mouse game has started. I don’t know why I named it but that was the first thing that came to mind. But it’s an exciting game that I hardly get to play in the cities. It happens as follows. There is a sputtering thing like a truck or a tractor or a bus moving ahead. I move slightly to the right, peeking, with one eye on the road ahead. It is easy decision if either there is nothing ahead or someone is so close that we can look deep into each other’s eyes. But the fun comes when there is a decision to be made. If it’s a go, then I have to open up my mouth, drink in more fuel and just march ahead. No time to think, no excuses, it’s a one way road then. Though there are few cases when I may have to stop in between. My other friends have told me but this guy sitting on my head has not let it happen to me till now. But that stuff is real hair raising one. The other one – just narrowly missing kissing the on-coming friend. That kiss by the way is called kiss of death!!!

1.00 PM
Wooooh.. I hate this part… Was cruising through wonderfully. Beautiful, Lush green fields on both sides and suddenly I am pulled up for no fault of mine. Some bloody tractors seemed to have gotten tired in the middle of the highway. Poor chaps are like the donkeys. They move slowly, bray like the always loaded animal. You should see how happy they are when they don’t have the baggage behind them. Anyways, there is a minor jam on the road right now. Have to slow down in any case as the town is coming up.

I don’t remember this stretch of road. It is awesome. Proceedings from the town were slow but have hit a nice patch of the journey. There is no one around – and being all alone is giving me some doubts if I am on the correct path. There has been no milestone too from quite some time. But what the heck. I don’t really mind even if I have to turn back. I am gliding on the curves nicely and have reached a nice speed of 120. Last time I had experienced some pains while on 100 only. Coughing and Tiredness was there. But today nothing of the sort. May be it’s the nice sunny weather.

Reached the half way point. And the road gets bad from here to Lakhanpur. And to make matters worse, the big enemies – the gundas, called trucks have entered the scene big time. These guys are huge, walk thinking they are Sanjay Dutt and the bhai of the road. Most responsible for beating up small people like me. Inse bach bach ke aage jaana padega.

2.30 PM
Have crossed into J&K now. Vast difference in the scenery – a sudden change in the colors on the sidelines. Green to Brown. I am also feeling tired now. Plenty of border towns here so it’s been slow and steady for some time.

It’s like total dizzy phase now. My mind is totally numb. I am just moving along, tiredly going past my slow friends and staying behind the faster ones. It’s really hot. This bloody guy has not given me any break. It’s been like three and a half hours now. And I am just following the motions. The road has been strange. The highway is partially constructed and one side of the road is open. So have to alternate between them. And it is the only time I wake up from my slumber- just to be sure that I am going the right way.

Closer home now. I can already see the beautiful shade under the tree. I am dreaming about it. It’s not far. Meanwhile, got some adrenaline rushing when a speeding Alto gave me some challenge. The damn thing was quite fast, even on straights. I thought of not taking too many risk overtaking the bhais. So let it go after some time.

Finally home, under the shade of the tree.

Christmas Getaway

Lot of firsts were reserved for this Christmas. It was the first getaway from Jammu – generally holidays are reserved for going home. First time driving more than 300 kms – on a hilly terrain. And it was the first time to extreme north of India – just 180 kms shy of Srinagar.

The destination was Patnitop. It was an early morning start. The car flew on the empty roads. The bypass road to NH1A is excellent. In fact the whole highway was totally unexpected. Considering that we were going towards Srinagar, the image in the mind was that of a torturous, narrow, steep, bending and curving road. But it was quite the opposite – a comfortable, Shimla kind of highway. In fact the conditions of roads in Jammu City have been a revelation too. They are as good as any.

Coming back to the journey, milestones indicating the reducing distance from Srinagar created excitement enough to stop and pose for some clicks with one of them, which had an Urdu translation as well. While in south India, we constantly complain of a language problem, the boards and names written in the language which make no meaning. Like Sanchit, I also never expected a similar problem in North India as well.

Patnitop was nothing but just another stopover on way to Srinagar – just marketed well, may be because of its appropriate ‘getaway’ distance from Jammu.

There is a resort for night stopovers which we were not really interested. After having breakfast, in which Kava was ordered. It’s a Kashmir specialty – green tea with almonds etc. Didn’t really like it. The weather was awesomely chilly. On getting news of some snow on Natha Top a place around 14km from there we decided to head that way. Rs 50 was charged at the start of the road and someone tried to sell us the idea of renting out gum boots and heavy clothing for the snow. Having experienced enough snow, we could see clearly that there was negligible snow on the hill. In any case, Sanchit and I had trekked several kilometers of more than ankle high snow on the hills at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh in mere sports shoes so we were sure we could definitely make it through here. The way up was disappointing if anyone had expected the white cover. It was a barren brown land. We found a spot, parked the car and climbed up a small hill. The chill was felt immediately as the first step was taken out of the car – the cold wind making the bright sun useless. Within minutes, ears were literally paining with cold, nose incapacitated to do its primary job, the mouth, slightly open frozen in its place and the wind making funny sounds as it passed the teeny tiny gaps in the teeth. All kind of biological sensors under the skin had gone awry.

The loss of 4 senses was compensated by the last one – eyes. It was a visual treat. In front of us were the splendid Himalayas. It was the first time I saw snow clad mountains with the sharp, pointed peaks. Generally the hill tops get curved at the top and are exactly the same as we used to show in the drawing books in our bachpan. But here was something that had come out just out of those books and our imagination.

After some minutes, the 4 senses whose call for some relief had slipped under the beauty of the nature, stood up and it was time to return to the car where the sun and the glasses had colluded  to trap the heat inside the car. It was an instant relief.

My co-passengers slept off on the return journey where the highlight was the Udhampur by-pass road. We had missed it in the morning and had crossed the city. The bypass, though a bit longer was amazing. The car literally flew over the lonely and deserted stretch.

The after effects of around 300 kms of driving were witnessed when, on reaching Jammu, I came out of the car. The knee and the foot refused to move from their places. They had to be moved a lot to get them back into use.

Overall it was a satisfying experience which gave me the confidence that driving down(rather than taking a flight) to Srinagar is a nice option. In any case, the last 100 kms of the 300 km distance is through plains only as you leave the hills behind and enter the valley area.

Hopefully it will happen soon…

Sound of Silence


How often have we heard of this phrase – Sound of Silence. But it was something never experienced. But a recent trip gave an opportunity to actually hear the sound of silence – literally.
Silence is generally considered as no noise from a human being. When you can only hear the nature’s voices – breeze gently ruffling the leaves, a river or a stream lightly going by or may be animals softly chattering away. Basically completely merged with the nature. That had been the definition of silence for me till it happened on the Tawang – Lhasa highway – some 13000 feet above sea level.
The setting was similar – it completely belonged to the nature. The white of the snow and the blue of the sky were the only visible colors with a dash of green provided by the sparse trees. It was a lonely mountain, sun covered by the clouds, a light fog settled around. There was not a whiff of breeze and birds and insects excused themselves from the extreme weather.
As I moved down taking in all the beauty around, I was surprised to hear the peculiar sound of my soaked socks making that “pachh-pachh” sound against the soaked boots. I then realized that there was not a sound around. I stood their motionless for a minute, removed the cap and tried to hear any sound – may be something far away or may be something down below from the army camps – Nothing. Absolutely Blank. No birds or insects. No water. No Air or breeze to ruffle things. No human being even remotely close to disturb the setting. It was still, absolutely still. And then I heard it – The sound of Silence , complete Silence. It was a kind of whistle softly blowing into your ears. I stood there, eyes closed and heard it for a long long time – something that I had never heard and may be will never hear it again in life again…

BackPacking North East

The trip provided Amazing Spectacles

The original plans had started off with a back-packing trip across Europe. Ultimately, keeping in mind all kinds of restraints it ended up being finalized to North East India. And it was quite a trip – plans changing every day, every moment during the sojourn. The 3 people had something in common. All three names started with ‘S’ and their company’s name started with ‘I’. Sanchit and I caught the morning flight from Delhi while Suvo reached Guwahati from Kolkata. We were to travel and trek for the next 12 days.
The final destinations encompassed 3 states – Assam, Arunachal and Meghalaya. The first destination was Tawang – a small town situated literally in the lap of the magnificent Himalayas. The first morning was a sight to remember. It was bright and sunny, clear blue sky and wherever you looked you had snow peaked mountains staring down at you.

Paradise Lake at Sela Pass

It was truly breathtaking. Next 4 days were spent at Tawang. In that for 2 days we trekked, climbed the nearest mountains and altitudes of around 4000 feet to snow ranges. The whole region is army dominated. There are different posts at different heights and it was a close range view of how tough the army life was there in that area. For us, it was remarkable. For them, it was routine and tough. Apart from the treks to PTSO lake – a small water body amazingly unfrozen at 13,500 feet, we also saw the Tawang Monastery – largest in India and second largest in Asia. We also found out that the town went dead at 8.00 PM. The shops close down by 6 – 6.30. There was a electricity cut for 1 – 1.5 hours at 7.30 PM everyday and any traces of ‘night life’ left went off at that time. It was tough resisting a comparison with Mumbai. Another interesting thing was the internet penetration. In Tawang where there was no Mobile connectivity (in fact mobile was off for the whole North East trip) and where a call from a STD/PCO took around 3 minutes to connect – still the place had a cyber café with broadband with decent speed and cheap prices (even the computers were quite modern with flat LCD screens and all)

PTSO Lake: The trek Objective standing at more than 13,500 feet

After 4 long days and 5 nights in Tawang, we left back for Tezpur. The plan was to go to Guwahati from there and then carry on to Tinsukia, Miao and finally to Namdapha – which is a rare Tiger reserve at the extreme East end of India. But destiny had some other plans. On the way to Tezpur, we were stopped and our huge back packs checked 3 times. Then we came to know that serial bomb blasts had taken place that very evening in the area – it was ULFA’s rising day next day. Neverthless, Suvo’s uncle was contacted and he gave a green signal to come to Namdapha where special permission had to be taken to enter the area. We found buses leaving from Tezpur itself so booked ourselves. We had an hour to leave so decided to quickly check our mail once. By the time we reached back and Suvo made another call to his uncle to confirm the plans, everything had changed. The bomb blast news had just reached them and we were asked to drop all plans and go to Shillong. The original plan was in fact quite interesting. Had we gone ahead with it, we would have traversed through whole of Assam on the eve of ULFA rising day to the place which allegedly has headquarters of 4 terrorist organizations. May be its good that we went to shillong 😉
Anyways, it was time to check in to a hotel at Tezpur for the night. It was Sanchit’s birthday that day so had a celebration dinner for the most extraordinary birthday of his life. Next morning we left for Shillong. Shillong was a typical tourist destination – not different from our very own Shimla. After checking into a hotel, we enquired about the treks and places to visit. Days here were also full of uncertainty. Plans were deliberated on, discussed, searched, quashed and still changed even after climbing on the bus. The trek to Living root bridge – a rare one found only in India was quite exhausting but enjoyable – through the jungles of Cherapunjee, crossing wire mesh bridges, arduously climbing mountains. The place known for world’s highest rainfall had a harsh sun shining on us on 2 days.

The only double decker living root bridge in the world – Cherrapunjee

Return journey from there was equally exciting. It was a small tribal village that we reached. According to information gathered, there were hourly buses till 3 PM. But our 2.5 hour stay in the middle of the road till 2.30 PM didn’t witness anything which could take us back to shilling. Eventually we took lift in an Ambulance to Sohra (local name of Cherapunjee) from where we took a cab to Shillong.
It was a long journey back from Guwahati but the air journey provided some magnificent spectacles – firstly of the huge mountain peaks of Himalayas and the plains down below in a single view. Secondly of views of 2 other aeroplanes from our plane.
It was one of the longest travel trips I have ever had. The longest time that the Mobile phone was tucked away in the bag. And a rare one where life safety had to be factored in before making some of the decisions. The landscapes , the treks, the grueling bending roads, rare sites and cities – everything has left a distinct mark on the memory – a cherish able mark.

Peaks and the Plains: View from the Aeroplane

Day 8…

>Final day… Big Day…
It seemed like we had been in seattle for years where it was hardly a few days.
The morning was a bright sunny one. Perfect day for a perfect competition. Raka had stayed with me overnight and we left early morning for the university and reached there by 7.30.
Had light breakfast and practiced some more for the preliminary round or in other words the semi finals. 5 out of the 14 teams were to be shortlisted after this round. At around 9, we left for the HUB where our presentation was scheduled at 9.30. We met Suzy there and she encouraged us more before our presentation. We entered the room with 7 judges and few audience at 9.30. The presentation was for 10 minutes. It went flawless – exactly as planned. The next 10 minutes questions and answers happened. They too went without any major hurdles. In fact we think we gave more than what was needed.
It was a satisfied, happy and confident bunch of 4 that came out of the room.

With Suzy
Lunch was scheduled for 11.30 and we decided to use the time and the excellent weather for some more exploration and photo clicking.
We got a few minutes late for the lunch in this whole process. We had 2 of the judges waiting for us at lunch where in they gave us some valuable feedback and also questioned us more on our plan and the business environment in India with respect to our plan.
The final five finalists were announced just as we were finishing our lunch. We were in. Through a random chit pickup we were slotted to be the 3rd one to give the presentation.
We had not seen what the hall looked like or how many people were there inside. And it was a much bigger hall full with people that met us when we entered at the time of giving our presentation. We had the next 20 minutes with us and again we delivered what we had practiced so hard. We were much more confident this time around though made a few mistakes (which hopefully only we noticed). Ankit, raka and I came out after our presentation and roamed about in the university campus – much more relaxed.
The results were not announced after the final round of presentations. They were to be announced at the Banquet Dinner at Fremont Studios. All the teams then moved to the venue then. The setup was lavish there. But before that, there was another round of elevator pitch with our posters setup – like the one we had on Wednesday. It was not a graded round so the atmosphere was much lighter. We also took the opportunity to interact to a couple of other teams and heard their projects. It was basically a time to network and interact with the top bosses of many companies like Microsoft. The most interesting, though was the one with the COO of Theo Chocolate – the Chocolate Factory in Seattle. We had heard about it the previous day and that it was open to the public where one could go in for a tour of the factory and see how chocolate is prepared. We were offered a tour at that very time. But it being not possible at that time, he offered us a pack of fresh chocolates. It was quite an overwhelming gesture.

At Trade Show II

Meanwhile we were also interviewed by a TV Channel. It was time for dinner then. A full banquet dinner with all kinds of forks, knives etc were last experienced only at a sample lunch at Infy’s Cross Cultural training session. It was a first time real experience. Everyone was given a table number and it was made sure that a variety of people were seated at each table. We had some nice discussions on cultural differences in India and US there. Time flew as we ate and talked. The keynote speaker on the occasion, Dr. William Foege gave an interesting presentation. Finally, it was time for the awards. The first one was the investors choice award – given for the trade show which was held on Wednesday. It went to the team from Princeton University. Next in line were the 2 prizes by department of global health. We were strongly expecting to get one of these. But there was disappointment when we didn’t win either of the two. A slight dejection feeling was sinking in now. It was the final award – the Grand Prize of $10,000. And there was that euphoric moment when our name was announced as the winners. The moments after that are in a blur.

The Moment

We hugging, getting a standing ovation, going to stage, hoards of cameras clicking, everyone wishing us. We first went to Suzy who had patiently guided us all along followed by photos and more photos. And then suddenly everything ended.

Center of Attraction
I took a cab back to Anu’s place, went out for a dessert in a fabulous hotel downtown. We had a flight early morning the next day. It was already 2AM. So Anu, raka and I had a night out.
So some of the last moments at Seattle were quite similar to when we arrived – dark outside, a beautiful view of the city and the lake from Anu’s living room with the space needle promptly standing out amongst it all – similar to the last 8 days which simply stand out in the life till now.