Saturday, December 29, 2007

Travelogue: Getting popular

One question a lot of people asked after reading the previous blog was whether it was my mobile; the mobile was not mine, it was my colleague’s mobile who was on vacation for his marriage! I never applied for a new mobile because my stay was going to be really short and it wasn’t really required.

I ransacked my bag once again in the bus but was unable to find the mobile. When I reached home my roommate said, “What happened? We were thinking of taking the car to come in search of you when we heard some Spanish guy answer the mobile”.Wow; a Spanish guy!
I recollected my story; we tried calling the mobile a few times but it was switched off now. The good thing here was the CDMA system – there was nothing like replacing a SIM card and using the mobile with some other provider. If the guy who had my mobile wanted to use it he would have to use it as such – he couldn’t change anything. My roommate said we could block the number once my colleague returned.

And that was the end of the day.

Next day I searched online for the telephone number of the theatre and finally found it. They directed me to another office which registers complaints for lost items; they informed that they would get back in case they found something.

Everyday morning was a rush - I would wake up at 6 or 6:30am; have some cornflakes at home and then rush to the bus stop. The 7am bus was ideal – anything at 8am would mean traffic jams while entering New York city. But still the rides were comfortable – you didn’t feel tired after an hour of traveling. No jerks and no sweat. We would have breakfast at office – something I really looked forward to everyday! Double omlette sandwich, two pancakes, a banana and a glass of milk (and their average glass size is pretty large). The first time I took all of that (it was self service style – you go to each counter and pick up whatever you want; certain things like omlette you would order and pick it up once the cook has finished), the cook said, “heavy breakfast”.
“Well, not really but I am quite hungry”, I replied.
I guess Americans didn’t really have a heavy breakfast because whoever I saw in the canteen ate light in the morning. And so did my colleagues. My reputation slowly grew due to my appetite (though I didn’t feel I was eating too much) – a lady saw my plate in the morning and asked, “Is that all for you?”
“Oh; you eat well”.
Maybe yes; but my mom would still have said that I eat much less than what I should be eating! Whatever it was I simply loved the breakfast in US :-)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Travelogue: The Phantom strikes!

Once the play was over, the actors and actresses showed up one by one on stage as their names were announced. Each actor drew a larger applause than the previous one; the crowd was on their feet and the best appreciation was held for the last – the introduction of the actor who played the lead role. A boisterous crowd sent flying kisses to appreciate his performance.

It was good to see such encouragement for the actors – acting live in front of an audience is no easy task and they surely deserved all of that applause. I don’t know how much of that encouragement we see in India; maybe it’s there sometimes and sometimes it’s not.

Perhaps if there were some way of projecting sub titles it might be really good – or maybe that would spoil the atmosphere. The music by Andrew Webber Llyod was great – especially the title song “Phantom of the Opera” had a nice tune.

On the whole it was an enjoyable experience; my colleague and I rounded up the day with the standard junk food for dinner at a food joint which had four vendors in one place. Back in the main bus terminus we parted ways – he was off to catch the metro while I went upstairs to catch my bus. A few minutes later when I put my hand in my left pant pocket I realized that something was missing – I checked my jersey pockets but it was no where to be found. I ransacked my bag but it wasn’t there either. I had lost the mobile phone!

First thought was to run down to the metro and see if my colleague was still there below. But I decided against the idea since it was already a few minutes since we departed and it would be difficult searching for him below. Next idea that popped up was to give a ring to his mobile and check where he was – but from where to ring? Fortunately I had a list of mobile numbers written on a sheet of paper within my bag. I found a coin box phone and read through the instructions. I tried numerous times but it always ended in a dead line with my quarter getting refunded. I tried another coinbox telephone booth but the result was the same.

Next idea was to go back to the theatre and check – I was sure of having my mobile in the theatre because I remember putting the mobile in silent mode while in the theater. It must have slipped out of my pant pocket; I usually never sit anywhere with the mobile in my pant pocket just because of this reason – but I probably did do it this time. To my good luck the theatre was abandoned – there was no one in sight and all lights were switched off with the main entrance locked.

What next? I hurried to the food joint where we had our dinner though I didn’t have much hopes of finding it there. I enquired in the counters but everyone said they hadn’t seen the mobile. Exhausted with running up and down I returned back to the bus terminus to catch the next bus.

As I sat in the bus I had to accept the fact that the phantom had succeeded in getting my mobile!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Travelogue: The Phantom of the Opera

(Many people thought that the last edition was the end of the US travelogue – misled by the title; that was just the end of the bus adventure).

The first room we entered was the memorabilia area along with a mini bar. We took a snap before proceeding to the seating area. Just as we stepped off the stairs a lady employee looked at our ticket and said, “Ah; I don’t need to move. This is your seat”. Our seats were in the rightmost corner but it was in a much better position than what we expected; the stage was clearly visible and there was no visual obstruction.

We browsed through the booklet to get an idea of the story; I had already read a few reviews about this musical on the Net. I was able to follow most of the dialogues to start with – the dialogues spoken by the men were clear but those by the female cast were of much higher frequency and harder to comprehend fully. Basically in musicals, most of the dialogues are delivered through songs and poems; you will have very little of the drama style dialogues. As we neared the end of the first half it was harder to grasp words delivered at such high frequencies. But from the context you could make out most of it. The story was simple; centered on an opera house where there is supposed to be a phantom – whose voice alone is heard. He takes liking to one of the girls working in the opera house whom he has trained by giving lessons through the walls. He insists that she should be the lead voice in the opera’s performance (else he would wreck havoc in the opera house). She impresses the audience with her first performance. And then the love triangle begins – there is another guy who likes her; our phantom grows jealous and appears before her; he takes her to his place underground – all along his face is covered by a mask. The heroine manages to remove the mask and sees the most hideous face; this enrages the phantom who finally releases the heroine. She is in fear and fright when she returns back.
After a few more incidents (and some humor along the way), the end of the first half is brought about by a huge chandelier sent crashing by the Phantom when he is enraged with the heroine moving towards the hero.

The second half was about hero and heroine’s engagement, the phantom warning against destruction and demanding that the opera perform his composition with heroine in the lead role. Our hero contrives a plan to capture the phantom and as expected the final scene has the phantom, hero and heroine in the phantom’s lair. But here the phantom realizes that the heroine does have sympathy for him and lets the couple escape. A mob arrives but by then the phantom has disappeared save for his mask.

Now that I think over the story I wonder if the film “Kadhal Kondaein” was to some extent inspired by this musical.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Travelogue: The drama ends happily!

My roommate gave me a ring and asked where I was; I calmly replied that I was on my way back! I don’t know how come I was that calm when attending the call – perhaps I was dreaming about another large bus terminus like the one we have in New York but was surprised to find that this bus terminus hardly had any building. Maybe there was something but in the middle of the night I couldn’t make out anything. It seemed more like a cluster of bus stops rather than a bus terminus. There were hardly any buses at present and as I got off I asked the driver about where to take the return bus. He told me to wait for a while. It was past 10pm and as I stepped on to the pavement I noticed that there were just a few people around; three adult men and a couple of children running around each of the bus stops. The sight of the kids relieved me a little; the men were burly and shared some jokes with the driver which I couldn’t hear. The area was completely deserted with nothing in sight except for the seven of us. It was chilly and it was frightening to be stranded in an unknown land at night – and in such situations the mind recollects all unpleasant news and movies which are set in similar conditions (highway robberies, Texas chainsaw murders, horror stories)! I stood there gazing around, with all my senses on high alert, waiting for what seemed like eternity (though in reality it was just five minutes) for the bus to start.

This time around I was wide awake in the bus eyeing each and every stop. There were a few people who boarded the bus in bus stops even at this hour of the night – it was 10:15 pm – maybe they were working in night shift. After 15 minutes I began wondering whether I had missed my stop again; somehow the surrounding seemed as if it was after our house – had I slept off unknowingly? My fears were laid to rest when Walmart came in sight; I was delighted and immediately got off in the next stop – in fact there were many people who got off in that stop. It was great to be back in familiar territory.

On another weekday my colleague and I decided to go for one of the Broadway theatre musicals. There were plenty of them concentrated in that area – maybe 10 to 15 theatres each one running a different show. There was Lion King, Les Miserables, the phantom of the Opera and many more. The Lion King was sold out and having done some research we thought of trying out “The Phantom of the Opera” since I had already read the book on “Les Miserables”. My colleague had doubts as to whether we had to be dressed in formals but I remember seeing people enter the theatres in casual wear. The cheapest tickets were $27 while the costliest was $111 (the closer to the stage the higher the price). As we debated over what ticket to go buy, the cashier said that there were a couple of seats in the front available at a reduced price – the $100 ticket available for half the price. Looking at the seating chart those two seats were in the rightmost corner but we decided to go for it. My friend bought an illustrated booklet about the Opera to get an idea about the story.

We were really hungry but didn’t have more than 20 minutes to spare for the show – to our utter disappointment we couldn’t locate even a single fast food joint nearby; it was probably the first time that I couldn’t find a McDonalds or Burger King in New York! We settled for a bakery where we had a quick snack before returning to the Majestic Theatre.