Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jazzing up my life!

I am learning Jazz.

When I was a kiddo, I loved flinging my arms and legs around with music. My parents and other elders doodled upon me and exclaimed in unison, " Wow this kiddo is a real dancer!"
It made me happy and I just swayed myself more vigorously.
Needless to say I didn't remain a kiddo for long. In school I recall how my dance teacher pulled me out inevitably among a bunch of kids and made me stand and stare at the rest. I attributed her behaviour to her and not to my dancing abilities!
Then came BITS, Pilani. Most of my time there I was happying writing aritcles, stories, poems and notes for my classes. But in my last sem, the dance bug bit me again. I took part in DW - Dance Workshop. I learnt Charleston, Twist, Tango, Jive, Waltz and performed on stage with other workshopers. I loved the experience.
In UCLA there are myriad opportunities to express yourself. Classes are held from rock-climing to caring-for-herbs and encompasses dance from all over the world. There are Bharatnatiyam lessons too! I learnt hip-hop for a while here and then my classes became too hectic for me to dance comfortably. And I left.
This being my last quarter here, I decided to be more serious. I took up Jazz.
The instructor is a man who dances so beautifully that it makes you want to do the same. He moves his body with such ease in such painfully difficult steps that it makes you wonder whether you are made of wood while he is made of rubber!
The dance and yoga classes or for that matter most other classes are populated with girls. No wonder then, in our class there are 15 girls and 2 guys. My friends say thats the case with any other dance class here. Thankfully it isn't a pair dance and so the ratio is unimportant.
The class begins with fluid yoga, moves on to balancing acts and then the Jazz routine. By then everyone is sweating away to glory.
I like Jazz and I am hoping that by the end of the quarter I will be able to raise myself from the depths to the heights and justify those elder's comments!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Illuminating young minds!

I am a teaching assistant this quarter.
I am teaching Circuit Analysis.

Its funny feeling to see people come to listen to you. And actually jot down notes on whatever you blabber! I remember myself as a student - writing down every word that left the professor's mouth, but its a different feeling to observe others do the same to your words! To be honest, its a little unnerving!
The first class I had to take, took place at 8am. Crawling around the campus at that early hour, I was pretty surprised to see people actually show up for my class! My class began with a smile.
"Good Morning, I am your TA", and then started my first formal lecture.

It's easy to convince yourself when you are understanding something, but it becomes equally tough when it comes to presenting something so that someone else can understand. Especially students who expect you to explain to them in their own language.
It funny seeing my hands all white and chalky after writing on a board and not on paper. Its funny to have office hours. Above all its rewarding to see the smile of comprehension on the faces of the students after your explanation.
Lets hope my blabbering gets these kiddos through their course!


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Six Flags and still alive!

I am not referring to international convention of 6 countries.
I am referring to dare-devilry.

I went to Six Flags. In a small Santa Clarita city, resides this deadly attraction. Its a theme park meant only for the hot-blooded creatures. I am not one of them and it took me a trip there to realize.

We took a bus from Westwood early in the morning. The bus was huge and we were the only passengers. Through 405 and 5 Freeways the bus drove on.Mountains with hovering clouds and green valleys passed by. Los Angeles is beautiful - it felt more so during the early morning ride.My Chinese friend was busy taking photos through the bus window!
We reached Santa Clarita Transit station and awaited another bus. According to someone in our group, that wait was the deadliest part of our trip. It was unusually chilly and windy. We froze to the bones. No amount of joking, jumping or juggling with bus options, helped our cause. We kept freezing. Finally our bus arrived and we landed at our destination. For the uninitiated, it helps to know a little about American Theme Parks. Here they try to make it a wholesome experience for the guests. It's not as crowded as Indian ones and yes definitely neater. Food stalls flood the place and cartoon characters populate the road.

The first ride, or "starters" as my friend put it, was called the "Gold Rush". It was a roller-coaster ride. As soon as you were seated, you screamed. In a span of 3 minutes, daylight was knocked out of my senses. Up up up up and then swoosh it fell down- I grabbed onto my seat-belt. I felt weightless, couldn't scream (sign of being totally scared), shut my eyes and prayed. In afterthought, I feel it was really a starter. Worse was yet to come!
Next came "The Riddler's Revenge" - another roller-coaster ride. It had ups, downs, twists and turns. The seats were different, and the safety belts even more. I took a deep breadth and away I went at the speed of sound. All the centripetal and centrifugal forces that I hardly paid attention to in my physics class, came back to extract their pound of flesh! I felt the forces pressing down against me. Add to that the chilly winds that tore at my face - you have an ideal setting for a horror movie.
As if getting down from it alive wasn't enough, I went walking towards "Colossus". White structure and white toy train. "Wouldn't be that scary", said my fearless friend. I smiled weakly and sat straddled between multiple belts. Someone announced that people with motion sickness and weak heart are advised against the ride. Before I could contemplate my condition, Colossus took off. By now I knew what I had to do........ or so I thought. Hold on tight, shut your eyes, pray and oneday the thing will stop. However, Colossus had different plans for me.
It started off slowly and safely, lulling me to believe that things were great and before I could shut my eyes, it tilted sideways and fell...literally. In other rides, if they fall they do stop after sometime...Colossus only knew how to fall at different angles. It twisted and shook- trying its best to shake off the passengers - while I hung on for dear life! Its moves and shakes shook me to the bones. Meanwhile my fearless friend N, was having the time of his life. While people gritted their teeth to stop the fear, he took snaps, smiled around, lifted his arms to show his joy and generally had a good time. I must admit, I admire his bravado......or whatever that was!!!

That was the end..for me. The moment I touched Mother Earth, I promised I won't take a step towards another roller-coaster. My fearless friend went on to enjoy crazier rides like "Batman" and "Psyclone" and came back smiling. It was his second trip to Six Flags - in the first one he had already been to all these.
There were only two rides that I sat in after that. A swing called "Bucaneer's Boat"(populated mostly by kids) and a small car driven on ground in "Go-carting". Those were my type!
Our day ended with a bus trip back home.
I suddenly realized that I had been really brave that day. Atleast I had survived through those rides I took. Maybe many years from now, when I look back at myself, I can ask with awe, "How in the heaven's name, did I sit on those?!!!"