cuimhne albannach

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I left the lab the other night, getting into my car, going through the usual rigmarole of adjusting seat belts, switching on the ubiquitous mp3 player, and putting the car into ‘R’. The first chords sounded…

When I wake up yeah I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you

…and even as the drums kick in, I’m transported back to Hogmanay 2005.

We had left the house after the usual passing of time for the New Years’: some alcohol, some snacks, some dinner, some music, a lot of laughter and fun. Aberdeen had one of the bigger street parties in the UK, and we didn’t want to miss the best part. Even as we entered Union Street and found our way through the crowd and hit the randomly sighted people we knew… the countdown had started.

New Years was ushered in by the crowd of over 2000 people screaming.. as the final echoes of the scream died away.. the distinctive chords were struck. The crowd had turned as one towards the stage.

When I go out yeah I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who goes along with you

All at once, the crowd bayed an anthem of their times… and we joined on yowling away to our best. Someone took up a Scottish arm dance, and before we knew it, we were circling each other, linking arms, breaking away.. banging our feet, clapping our hands together.. dancing like so many others around us. I remember at the time, one of the highlights was the fact that random people around us joined… most importantly Scottish girls πŸ™‚

If I get drunk yes I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you
And if I haver yeah I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you

The chorus came once, twice…and we joined in the best we could. We didn’t know the words, the band, the song, the people around us. But I remember that the Scots around us had clapped us on our backs, and joined in our dance, stamped feet in unison with us, and at the end of it all, hugged and wished us a happy new years. We didn’t know them, nor they us.. but the smiles and the nodding stays with me now.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more

My eyes came back to focus… on the parking lot I was in. The rhythm still gets me… I was banging my feet in my car and snapping fingers to a long-forgotten beat. The song was slowly reaching its end, I reached out to play it again. It shouldn’t have to end,Β  I should be able to go back in time to where I want.. when I want. Especially to the times in Aberdeen.

Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

No matter how many years pass, Scotland can never really leave me.

The Proclaimers500 Miles
cuimhne albannach = Scottish memories (roughly)

goodbye aberdeen

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[originally written on the 22nd, posting today for various reasons.]
i sit in a plane this saturday morning, and i think back to a saturday afternoon nearly two years ago; when i tentatively poked my head out of a similar aircraft. i look out the window, across the two seats separating me from them… and see an airport that looks the same.

it seems like yesterday.

as cliched as it may sound, it was a rare bright sunny day when i landed in aberdeen all those months ago; and i remember coming out of an airport wondering what i would find. i remember being struck by the classic scottish scenery, and looking at the winding roads as i rode to a hostel that i had been told about by a guy i was yet to meet. and today, here i am, having explored nearly everything there is to see in this place.
today i don’t know when i will come back. but come back i will. someday.

so many things have happened to me here over the last two years. and all those memories come back now. the life my friends and i led as independent students. struggling together those initial weeks. none of us knowing much, but not wanting to appear clueless. finding out exactly how clueless. looking for part-time jobs. celebrating when we got them. me, actually finding out how every minute in an hour can be valuable enough to earn the five pounds.

starting this space as recreation, and finding the outlet that i may have been looking for. finding people who can relate to it all. finding how weird daylight timings can really be so funny. or so depressing. celebrating that first diwali. marvelling at our first white christmas. a chaotic new year. realising why poets go into raptures over spring. summer, and the real aberdeen finally coming into view. road-tripping for the first time, and discovering one of the most beautiful countries in the world at our doorstep. finally attending rahman’s live concert.
and suddenly my course was over. we were all, technically, “done”.

heading back home for the first time in year since i came to the UK. realising just how much i missed it all. graduation. discovering london. experiencing the coldest winter in 50 years in scotland. and the hottest summer. both seasons the longest possible. road-tripping again, this time trying to see everything. applying for a US visa, to go the next step.
and i’ve finally got it. i’ve spent 2 long weeks winding up. and i’m going home. before i go away again.

all these months later, i think of the things we did. we worried. we looked. we applied. we lived it up. we lived it down. we wondered what would happen to all of us next. we watched movies. celebrating everything under the sun. discussed why that porn star did “it” that way. as well as about the principles of economics. and theology. relating all three topics. i remember going from hopeful and focussed to frustrated and cynical… and finding i was never alone.

we were like a family. we said it jestingly, but thats what we were. there for each other. all the fucking time. and once you’ve seen a guy in his underpants, there’s not much left to hide. and i know we guys will probably always be there together, all the fucking time. docboy, with his gentle smile and that nod of understanding. probably completely corrupted the poor chap’s vocab. richybaba and his practical attitude.. love it or hate it: you have to accept it. i’ve never wanted to throttle someone more. and get away with it. dhiru showing his drive, and mostly irrefutable logic. and one person who cusses even worse than me. i learnt :). toro, or “william”, getting things done, cooking up a storm. one of the guys you’ll be lucky to meet, luckier to be friends with. all of them. i could just go on about the times spent together; the parties, the craziness, the joy, the frustration… life.

and yet there were so many more. ashwin, a gentle giant of a man. bijay and the widest smile i’ve ever seen. lakshmi, her cherubic face. rajiv, a fellow movie addict. mithun, a dude who just hits it off with everyone. the list continues. subrato, a crazy depth of so much.. and crazier about so much more. kunal, ashay, neha, bharat, rajesh(s), harsh… and others – all of us coming together in our little highland city of aberdeen.

i know i’m going to miss it all. a lot. its become like another hometown. the beauty of granite. westburn park; one of those places you never get enough of. the beach: two degress colder than the coldest water you can expect. union street, the VSA charity bookshop (the cheapest books ever !), ASDA, Morrisons, the sprawling campus of my uni, my homes at urquhart road and seaforth road, our “own” merc showroom… and so much much more. its finally sinking in now. its finally over.

its finally goodbye aberdeen.
i’m going to miss you.

god bless sam wanamaker

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went to the globe theatre in london to see ‘titus andronicus‘. shakespeare wrote his plays for the stage, and this is best seen when you go to the original setting for the performance in the 1600s. the props, the music, the setting, the dialogue… and most importantly, the acting. brilliantly done, emotions and actions made it brilliant in every way. something i would recommend any anglophile to experience. you just can’t imagine it anywhere else. the best tickets are the cheapest, in the yard in front of the stage.. and you become part of the play. i loved every moment of it.

the thames walk (a mini thames path) is another very under-rated, unknown experience. along the river, following a beautifully marked out path; with signs and pointers towards the interesting and notable points along the way. a good summer day in london, with the breeze and the sun and the sights… something very rare indeed for such a city. i ate dinner sitting on the wall overlooking the london nightline; the lights, the water.. and the ‘feel’ of london all around you – a time that one can really absorb like no other. and being alone only adds to it all weirdly enough.

and sam wanamaker is the man who realised shakespeare’s vision 400 years later, and gave the world the oppurtunity to realise how macbeth’s lament was truly meant to be.
the goosebumps explode.

my first job

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today was the my last day at my first job.

i have done work before, it was mostly in college. not all of that can be said not to be “work”, but it involved my working voluntarily to accomplish various things. placement secretary, organizer and volunteer at festivals, magazine editor.. but i never considered any of these a “job”. even if that does sound cheesy.
it was college, and just some of the things one does.

then i came to aberdeen for my masters, and for the first time in my life, was self-sufficient. friends, totally there. parents, always. but when you’re alone, you’re alone. and so, learn to take up your own expenses. yep, i got a part-time job. sales assistant, safeway – soon to become morrisons.
i still remember when i started work – it was a december evening in 2004. absolutely no idea what was to be done. some dude was assigned to coach me (on-the-job training, i believe the official term). 4 hours later, i walked out of the store. i’d lifted bread, arranged yoghurts, had a 15 minute break, and earned 20 pounds.

i remember the zing i got when i saw the pay in my account 2 weeks later. i’d made rent, barely. but i had earned it. lifted bread, arranged it, “faced-up”, “closed-down”; everything.

its been nearly 18 months since then. i’ve learnt how both stores operated. i’ve done everything from lifting bread to finishing the night load, reductions, cleaning, promos.. everything. i worked my ass off last december (on 2 jobs) and finally got myself a laptop. i managed to cover most of my expenses since december 2004.
and now its over. i have to move on, i will talk about ‘why’ soon.

it wasn’t the greatest job. but it was my first.
i called it ‘menial labour’, but going to that store 2-3 days a week at least helped me keep track of the week. i learnt to get up at 5 am, to go to work. and not sleepwalk; actually be wide-awake. or something like it. i learnt every song that played in the store by rote. thus, i can never listen to the ‘notting hill’ soundtrack again. i learnt of store management, and realised that education does indeed help; something my managers showed they were lacking. i found how to truly appreciate summer, and the fact that everyone will come to the store to pick up supplies in summer “dresses” πŸ™‚ i don’t think i can ever look at bread and cakes in the same way again. i think this will be the root for some paranoic hate for them. i found friends in “misery”, and we found that misery in company becomes fun. or something like it. i learnt of scottish cuisine, and have decided that vegetarians in scotland have no sense of taste. i know my store inside out, and am pretty sure i can locate anything there blindfolded. i got my family gifts, and found the joy of being able to see that smile when you earn for something and manage to give it. i learnt to switch off my brain and work there, so that i don’t lose my brain in the mind-numbing nature of the job. i learnt to think about 3 million other things, while doing monotonous habituated work with your hands. i was amazed at the number of little things that no-one else notices in such places. i realised how nice people can be, and how well-mannered. how ill-mannered too, but that is another story. how people do appreciate us store-boys.
most of all, i learnt of the back-breaking nature of such work. i’ll never forget that little guy who gets everything on the shelf everyday.

after all, i was that guy.

to pass the evening..

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its a beautiful evening here in aberdeen.

its not been the best of days.. getting up at 6 5.30 am to do menial labour isn’t exactly my idea of a good day. plus, or rather, minus there’s been no sun for the whole day. there’s been daylight, but thats very different from actually seeing those golden rays of light.
nope, we’ve had a dull day.. cloudy, but not rainy as it usually is. luckily not cold.. just about pleasant temperature too. for those who will wonder.. it has been getting steadily chilly over the last week or so.

anyway, back to what i was saying. after such a dull, dank day.. one would think that the evening would round it all off by becoming absolutely crappy. rain, wind.. well, the symptoms are all there.

but.
but, its beautiful. the clouds have a blue hue, and what little of the sky can be seen is contrasting beautifully. glints of what are either the vestiges of daylight, or the first rays of the moon glint around the edges. there is no real gale that we usually experience here, rather a pleasant breeze.. that makes it perfectly suited for walking around.
not that i’m in any mood to do so. walking around under those halogen lights in the store takes its toll. did i mention that doesn’t really make my day ?

the little that i did roam.. i passed my college grounds, and there in the distance i could see the buildings lighted from within, and the cathedral spiral rising from between them.. framed by this picturesque sky; across the lawns of the field between me and the sight made for one pretty picture.
and i had to write about it.
so here we are.

installed the ‘collapsible more link 1.0 Beta 2‘ for wordpress, seems to be working fine. let me know if there are any problems. Also, this LJ-cut type plug-in is so cool.

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the last nights

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it feels like a journey of a lifetime, but it is only a return home.

sunset as i leave aberdeen. through the window on the left, next to me, the sea shimmers in golden light. through the window on the far right, fields flash by; bright in the final sunlight for the day. the UK’s famed countryside is golden as the day comes to an end.
all too soon, the sight passes & the familiar green surrounds the highway. the bus speeds on to london.

it is 11 in the night, we’re out for a midnight walk here in my friends university. we come out of the block of hostels to be faced by the football field. in the night, one cannot differentiate between the land and the sky in the distance.

i sit on the dewy grass and let the cool night air flow over me. the division of land and sky is a little more visible. i am almost lost in the darkness, a large shrub behind me and the nearest lamppost about fifteen yards away. i lie back on the soft grass and look up at a starry sky. pinpoints appear as i scrutinize the night sky. all at once i feel it close down on me; and yet open up. i cannot see the moon around, and in the lack of its light i can disappear into the stars.

it is peaceful, supposedly. my mind wanders in the silence and ranges to the many questions that remain…