Dangerous Drives

This week’s news of Tiger Woods’ SUV veering off the road down a slope on a curving road brought some memories of dangerous drives. More than a decade ago I took up a job that was based in Dubuque, IA. The place of work was about 90 miles from my home in Madison. While driving back and forth everyday was possible it would have taken ~ 3 hours or more of commute time everyday and during winter even more. The workplace was in downtown Dubuque, which is a nice little town in Iowa. There were quite a bit of out-of-towners who had joined and some of us probably added some color to otherwise lily-white Iowa 😀 Dubuque is just on the other side of the mighty Mississippi river driving in from Wisconsin. It’s got colleges and there is some mining history too. Main tourist attraction though is around Mississippi river and National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is a cool place. There is one casino around and a few more in the vicinity. Driving between Madison and Dubuque everyday would have required quite a bit of concentration and with me working long hours preferred to stay in a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) place in Dubuque during weekdays, driving in on Monday and driving back home Friday evening.

The B&B I was staying in was on top of a bluff with a cool view 😎 of the river at some distance and other places around. I had joined in spring which is among the better times of year, in terms of weather, around these parts. With office being in downtown and no office parking available my daily routine was driving in from B&B, parking car at a public parking garage and then walking couple of blocks to workplace. Steps repeated in reverse in the evening. Of course on Monday morning would drive in from home to parking garage and on Friday evening drive from parking garage to home, come hell or high weather! The shortest route (through 3rd street) from B&B to public parking space and back is quite steep. During warm weather the somewhat floating feel while driving down to parking space was amusing. Came winter and the routine joy of driving turned into a scare, on snowy days especially. Each day my heart used to be in my mouth as I drove down to work and drive back to B&B literally required stepping on the gas 😊 Used to drive to work with prayer on my lips everyday, even God might have been gotten a bit tired of me 😂 (It did my confidence no good that during the 2 years I stayed in this B&B my car hit a patch of black ice and skid off the highway while driving in from Madison on a particularly bad weather Monday morning, about 20 miles from Dubuque). 👎 There was another route to work through 5th street but that was even steeper with added bonus of the road curving for more driving fun. 😂 Suffice it to say the joy of rolling down the windows and driving the freeway on a clear, sunny day evaporated fully by the time winter came calling. 😢Upon learning about Tiger Woods’ unfortunate car accident I googled Dubuque steep roads and sure enough 3rd street and 5th street figured at or near the top of “10 streets you’d rather not have to drive in winter” under “Dubuque’s Most Treacherous Hills” in a local newspaper ( https://www.telegraphherald.com/…/article_67339e4c-d321… ). I guess driving from or to a place at an elevation with view comes with a price when driving conditions are not good. Consider myself lucky for escaping without an injury for the 2 years of heart stopping driving moments during winter. Tiger wasn’t lucky, hopefully he recovers fully quickly 🙏

Oh s–t, it happened

In my recent visit to India I had layover at Zurich airport. Layover means opportunity to stretch legs and freshen up. After my flight landed off I went looking for restroom to wash face and get rid of bloated feeling after a long flight. In the US airports restrooms tend to be open and more easily accessible. At Zurich airport to get to the restroom a door that looked like an exit had to be opened first to make it there. Looked more like making one’s way to a super secret Swiss bank vault 😀 Ladies’ toilet is located at the same level and to reach men’s toilet two flight of stairs have to be climbed up. For someone like me, who has tendency to step out the elevator every time the door opens, it was a recipe for disaster. After I transacted my business I rushed out. And then it happened. After climbing down 2 flights of stairs I instinctively reached out to open the first door in sight 😀 Was red faced with embarrassment on seeing a lady coming out instead of seeing walkway towards the flight gate. Apologizing profusely I averted further disaster by opening the right door. Folks from Europe, you got to take into consideration guys like me when you design the layout for toilet access at the airports 😀 I prefer the open US access where it’s difficult to make mistake even for me 🙂 I bet even if a Swiss happens to read this blog he/she will not comment as it will go against another Swiss trait: reputation for neutral position. Right? 😉

P.S. Few hours elapsed before I thought this experience could make for a blog piece and decided to take a picture of toilet entrance. By then passenger traffic to the toilet had increased as they were using the restroom before boarding their flight. Felt like a weirdo as I was trying to get one clear picture of toilet entrance without anyone appearing in the photo. Hopefully folks who saw me did not feel the same 😀

Another Spiritual Journey

Recently visited Mumbai in India after a few years. Every visit to India is quite an experience and this time was no different. After living in a small town in the US for many years I myself now have to follow the advice I give to folks from here who are traveling to India for the first time: Be prepared for the sight and sounds and go with an open mind just to soak in the atmosphere. The sight of so many people and the sound of traffic can be intimidating for the first time visitor as it is even for someone like me born and raised there. Like other great, major cities of the world Mumbai is always buzzing with activity and change is the only constant. Where once a 10-storey building might have towered like a giant a decade ago the same building might look like a runt of the litter now. And I am talking about distant suburbs on the outskirts of the city and towns outside the city limits! The pace of change is so rapid I could hardly recognize surroundings that I was once familiar with. In a land once known for mystics and spiritualism today capitalism is well and truly alive and kicking 🙂

It was good to catch up with folks old and new. Folks from earlier generation appeared to have grown much older (I am sure they felt the same about me 😀 ). Met batchmates from school and college and it was good to see everyone doing well in their professions. Visited my alma mater and even there old is making way for new as school is being redeveloped for a newer and bigger version to meet the need of changing times. It was good to see neighbors drop by and offer help to parents, respect for elders is very much present. Some even insisted on being given opportunity to help. One main difference between West and East is the individualized culture of the West compared to the community culture of the East. Not to say one is better than the other but it is just a different way of living. Vertical expansion has led to many high rise buildings all over the city and beyond. Which brings its own good and bad. Taller structures have led to green spaces within the community. To cater to the high end buyers businesses have also set shop nearby which obviates the need to go downtown or midtown for shopping or entertainment. Flip side is additional demand on resources which the existing infrastructure is not geared to handle and lot of traffic increasing local travel time. Multiple road projects going on simultaneously also adding to commuter woes. Real estate prices have gone through the roof too. Always amazed and thankful for the time friends make to meet for anyone visiting from outside though. The spirit of the city lives on though in citizens who put up with a lot and still find it in them to care and share.

Yours truly likes to go for walks occasionally. The experience of walking, be it in a wooded area or in anonymity in a crowded street, is spiritual. One either takes in the beauty of surroundings or just learns to stay unaffected by the crowd or noise and be a dispassionate observer. Which helps in developing into a non-judgmental observer and taking everything in one’s stride. In one such walk I got lost. 😀 For the ride back home I hired an auto rickshaw. The driver was from different part of town, not familiar with the area I was in. He asked me to show the direction and I ended up seeing half the town as we tried to make it to my place asking folks along the way for directions couple of times 😀 Did not have time to try more such adventures. All in all the whole visit was quite a ride with some new connections made, some old connections severed and a few connections revived. Which is what life is about: making new memories, erasing some and remembering some old memorable memories. On my return it was great to see my wife receive me at the airport and be back in surroundings that are more familiar now. It was good to be there and it’s good be back. Life is a journey generating a ton of memories along the way to last a lifetime!


Among interesting things I look out for on long drives are town water tanks. Although most of them are big they come in different shapes and sizes.
Some are tall and imposing
Some are stout and strong
some are purely functional in design
Some have more character/color to their design
Some are bald at the top
Some sport telecommunication equipment at the top!
I wonder if they always store water at least for a particular number of days for all homes they provide water in a town like a specific # of gallons of water. The most important purpose they serve is provide the most precious liquid of all that is colorless, odorless and flavorless at its purest but nothing else comes close to providing satisfaction when thirsty: drinking water! That in itself is great but for The Raj they serve few other purposes that are equally important 🙂
1) They provide welcome change to the scenery and keep the drives interesting
2) When they have the town name printed in huge on them they provide relief for these old brown eyes in figuring out which village/town/city I am in and
3) Help in guessing how close to the destination I am at a particular point in time (without depending on GPS). The fun is as much in the journey as in reaching the destination!