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Nietzsche said, “Love is more afraid of change than destruction”. The love for a city, a place, a pigeon hole is so terrified of change. And the logistics is only least of the problems. It takes quite some time to fall in love with the place you’ve moved in. And once you are firmly settled in the comfort zone, it is difficult to come out of it. But then as they say, change is inevitable.

In my twenty three years of existence, I have lived in three cities. Two in India and one, in the United States. And three months in a fourth city in the United States, that did seem like a lifetime. A wonderful one at that. I’ve been away from home for six years. Or rather, away from family. Four years of bachelors in Chennai and twenty two months of Masters and job search in the US of A.

But it was a family in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the coming together of the most appropriate four characters. Each markedly different from the other, yet united not just by their quest for a better resume, but also attitude, respect for each other and the tolerance levels. I couldn’t have found nicer room mates. Ours was apparently the cleanest house at NC State. Or rather one of the few houses that was NOT infested with bed bugs! Why? Because we cared. None of us was the quintessential grad student having no time in his hand to do some basic household chores, cook daily or eat properly. The Crest Rd apartment did not have such rules. We cooked daily, never compromised on spending for food, vacuumed the house regularly and had as minimum furniture as possible. The learning curve is steep when you start living alone trying to co-operate with a bunch of people. Most folks don’t realise that and are never ready to change themselves in a certain way.

Raleigh, as a city, is all about tranquillity. With its myriad of oak trees giving it an effect of an enclosed township within a city, it is not difficult to fall in love. For all its boastings about the presence of Research Triangle Park and a fast growing US city, it is a lot cleaner and quieter compared to other major cities in the east coast. It’s probably due to the absence of a snowy winter. But given that, the weather can get quite unpredictable and at the same time, nice in a way. A rich academic culture with three major universities in the area, I’ve always felt Raleigh is the ideal place to lock your doors and get a degree, or open your doors and start a career!

To repeat, I did not have the traditional when-will-this-end type of grad student life. Not that we had a Bessie to go to on Sat evenings, or had a popular hangout in campus to order one coffee and sit for 3 hours. No, not like that. That was still a far cry. Just that, I quite enjoyed my 22 month stay in the United States to the fullest. I think I can say that about my room mates too as far as life in a broader context is discussed. We shopped at the Indian store regularly. Every week that is. Our bills at the Indian store alone has often touched $100, for a week. Why? Because the Ghee we bought last week got over thanks to Pongal and Kesari on Saturday! Or it would be time to buy that bag of rice. Absolutely zero tolerance when it came to food. Grad students are not supposed to live like that! Thanks to a responsible, matured beyond age room mate, who had become a mentor of sorts, we had the comfort of a car from the second semester. We had our regular trips to the temple. A weekly visit to the Indian restaurant during summer when we had all the time in our hands. We went on a number of road trips. I drove some great cars that I would probably never be able to buy in my life. I enjoyed New York City to the fullest. And so on. This was also the period when my writing improved incredibly. I became more regular in the blogging circuit and the concept of blog friends started emerging. Soon there would be more readers than posts, more friends on the net than in school and more accessible to contacts online than the next door neighbour.

Such all encompassing experience has to bring a lot of good into you. It prepares you for the life ahead in more ways than one. I have had to make some important decisions over the last six months. And the wisdom behind those decisions has a lot to do with the experience in a new country, new environment and the interaction with some new wonderful people. I returned to India about two months ago and though it was not hard, it was an uneasy decision to make. The last three months in the US were spent in New Jersey. At a beautiful house with some beautiful people. I wondered why I had not discovered them earlier. Much earlier. But better late than never, and am sure this relationship has a long way to go.

Remember that you have everything to gain when you get displaced. Try as much as possible, to get lost in this big bad world. It could turn into the greatest lesson of your life.

(This was inspired by Dsplaced, a project started by Jinal Shah and Mansi Trivedi)

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33 thoughts on “Switching Coordinates

  1. This was seriously an aweesome post. A really good read. Sometimes it really takes the right people (and of course the right food) to completely MAKE the experience, and you were obviously very fortunate.

    I’ve been to Raleigh, and I do love it. The larger lots, the exessive greenery, the relatively predictable weather (everything is predictable compared to the Snowy north!), and the people.

    Adi: Thanks! Lol @ food. Well, by US and north east standards, it is highly unpredictable!

  2. And out of curiousity, how did you find these kesari eating roomates? Are they all from India too? Did you know each other before?

    Adi: One of them was a relative of my best friend from Bombay. The third one was his friend and senior from college. The fourth one was through Orkut! :)

  3. Wow..I could relate to the post so much..ofcourse I didnt have the amazing kind of roomates you had.. but agree on everything you learn on being displaced. I can say I learnt many life lessons during my two years of grad school here!

    Wonderfully written..am sure I cant put it in such words!

    Adi: Life lessons indeed! Thanks!

  4. Nice one…your grad school experience seems typical of those who live in non-big-city areas. Grad school in NYC is a very different thing, but we have a lot to learn from u guys I guess!

    Adi: Yep, typical to small university towns. Definitely not NYC! You cannot get a car and roam around the city in it, can you?! :P

  5. Cooking friendly Room mates and cleanest Grad student rooms sounds awesome !! You might have had a wonderful time with them in the room as well as in the Road Trips ..

    I wish you have Good times to come in Jersey too :D
    ATB

    Adi: I am in Chennai dude! Not Jersey! Thanks!

  6. Well written! Somehow, I never had a chance of living with roommates for extended times. (For convenience sake, lets say I either prefer to fly solo or share my room with only people of opposite sex!)

    Adi: Nee thirundha maata! :P Thankoo!

  7. That was a refreshingly serious post from you. You are right, change as much as we balk at it intially, tends to bring out different aspects of you, mostly an awareness and most definitely growth :)

    For a sec I thought you were moving again!

    Adi: Change is good. Who Moved My Cheese is such an underrated book. It should be included in everyone’s syllabus or something. Not moving anytime soon! But definitely sometime in the future! :D

    • “Who moved my cheese” was definitely included in our syllabus. Back when I was in the 9th grade, we had one hour a week of mandatory “personality building” classes, where we read such books, and watched movies about how smoking kills you.

  8. I absolutely * loved * this post – grad school life never had to be about roomies that hated each other, or people that ate a slice of pizza (because you CAN) and drove-through all the time. I’ve enjoyed a fair bit of emptying ghee cans making pongal and trying out ennai kathirikka and puli vazhakka – and I can safely say – those were some of the nicest days.
    Displacing oneself works out well on so many levels – profound and otherwise ;-)

    Adi: Danke! Ennai kathrikka and puli vazhaka? OMG!

  9. you know what is weird. my elder brother went to ncsu in 2000 and his address as I remember was 1615,crest road. somethings just dont change!

    Adi: Ok! This IS weird. I was put up at 1615 Crest Road too!

  10. Nice post, dude.

    I didn’t know Raliegh can have such an effect on people. Reminded me of my school stories. My xg was my roomate in LA so she kept the house clean. :P

    Adi: Roommate? Did you actually graduate? Oh, never mind! :P

  11. considering that i’ve lived at home all my life, had people cook for me, clean for me, etc this post actually makes me want to experience displacement!

    oh yes, that is a compliment :P :)

    Adi: You should. Soon! Thanks!

  12. Seems like you have finally managed to get into the finer details of life.

    Thank you for reminding us of the same :-) Needed that after a hard days struggle with excel files. pdf’s and people.

    Adi: Glad to be of help! :D

  13. hehe.. what a contrast to my life..

    i wash clothes once in 3 months.. clear out rubbish incl. rotten food in my room once in 3 weeks.. go to classes once a fortnight.. eat absolutely anything i can lay my hands on (eels, crocs, squid, octopi, cuttlefish, deer, snails apart from regular stuff like chicken/mutton/beef/pork/fish/prawn).. not sleeping days together.. not consuming food for days together at times..

    in fact my room is a mini-tourist attraction kind of place.. a lot of my non-indian friends come over and open the door and show their girlfriends that they have psycho friends like me and hence are cool by association..

    one thing we have in common – i like my life too.. and i too spend lavishly on food.. (k make that 2 things)

    Adi: Hahaha, that is probably closer to the quintessential grad student!

    • See, this is closer to what I associate with studying in the US (minus the eating weird stuff part.) Must be an undergrad thing. :)

      Seriously though, my issue has been that I’ve had good friends and good roommates (most importantly one that cleaned after himself and paid the bills on time), and never one that was both. That should explain why I had 6 addresses in 4 years of college!

      However, I’d share many of the emotions you’ve associated with your grad student life with my life in the Bay area. One of only two places I’ve actually ever missed.

      Adi: Good friends and good room mates. Nice way to put it. I think this is the more popular case. Not everyone is as lucky. And probably with you switching addresses every now and then, it just had to continue in US too!

  14. Adi,

    You have an excellent flow while you convey your thoughts!!

    True, have good set of roommates is an issue with many of my friends who are grad students and they always complain to me online about their illustrious roommates who cant keep things clean!

    basically attitude match agalana roumba roumba kashtam!!

    i hv been here all along …. so may be when i relocate i think i will be able to relate more!! Enjoy Chennai :)

    Adi: Thanks! Yep, Chennai for now. :D

  15. reat post!I read in some other blog:”I hate NRIs who come as guests to their own siblings weddings,and make their and their entire family’s lives revolve around Visa stampings”.I hope you have come out of that crazy cycle!

    Adi: Hahaha, I don’t know about that. Definitely not that seasoned NRI!

  16. wow , nice post! Brought back grad school memories, not so good ;–) You see I wasnt as lucky as some of you, to have amazing roomies. I had roomies all the time.
    But yes every ‘displacement’ does teach you something new.

    Adi: Thanks! Haha, you should write about it!

  17. You beat me to it!

    I don’t know why I’m saying this, but I see the skills of summarizing long-ass events we acquired in SVCE!

    You should tag these kind of posts with the word teleportation. Maybe the Russians who read this will come up with something sooner.

    Adi: LOL. It’s probably true dude. SVCE has helped somewhere. Teleportation eh? I should try!

  18. My apartment is a far cry from what your apartment sounds like. We don’t have bed bugs but insects, yes. There were once 6 ppl living in my 2-2 and there were the suitcases of three other people who had left for the summer. Very rarely do you find someone who felt more at home at work.

    Adi: Hahaha, I’ve *seen* a lot of such apartments but never lived in one!

  19. That was a great post!! Good people make all the difference!
    But personally,I’ve lived in Chennai for most part of my life and just cannot think of shifting far away… Eeks! Too scary!!!

    Adi: Thanks! Yes, once you are accustomed to a place, it is very difficult to pack the bags and leave. Especially considering the packing and unpacking thats involved once you are family!

  20. Its quite interesting how we both came to Raleigh and found amazing people to live with.. completely different set ups though.. 1615 and 1707 ;-)
    But like you write, I doubt if I could’ve found more agreeable folks!

  21. Hey machan,,semma post.. i could totally relate to what you were saying although mine was kinda different.. not as lucky as u with roomies and I was the quintessential grad student who spent/is spending more time at the lab than home.. but i do make it a point to see that home is like “home” and not an oversized garbage bin..

  22. I stopped by your blog after a long time and after reading this I was like WOW! :)

    Pongal, kesari! I haven’t had them for months now :P

    Thanks da! Hope you are doing great :)

  23. Very nicely written and I am wondering who that beyond age roomate/mentor is! No doubt he is a mentor for people like me too.

    Good Job Adi!

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