This weekend I took a mildly irrational trip all the way from San Diego to Hanover (near Boston) to meet a old friend of mine, Tarang Agarwal. We met each other at Canadian Academy, in Kobe, Japan in 1999 I think. We were really close friends, but in 2000 I moved to India, (and shortly thereafter, he moved to Cincinnati I think). And this was the first time in the 9 years hence we met.
I fondly remember our lengthy email arguments about a variety of topics (the most prominent being that of global warming), and always a touch on the conditions in India. Since he continued studying abroad, he'd always keep me updated with the advanced topics he was studying at the time. I also remember how jealous I was at times since many of those topics were of interest to me and we hadn't gotten there yet. Then again, once I got into 11th and 12th, I got my happy share of education with my JEE coaching. He (predictably) went onto pursue finance at Dartmouth University, and I (even more predictably) went on to pursue engineering at the IIT's. It was fun catching up on our respective academia, even with my absolute lack of understanding of finance, and his dislike of engineering (and physics!).
He showed me around campus. Being my first time on a non-Indian campus, I was quite impressed with the amount of money that went into building the university. The wealth of resources was mind-blowing. However, I'm quite certain that I'd never want to do my undergraduate in such a university (and I was never more convinced of the same until after the trip). I enjoy the discipline and simplicity at IIT, and of course the over-the-top geekiness in peers. Needless to say, I find the abused freedom at these campuses very disturbing. I would imagine some responding that I don't have a life; something I would completely agree with from an outsider view (though personally, I think I've redefined life and my definition of fun is different from what most people would define. In that frame of reference, I'm having the time of my life).
On a mildly tangential topic, a lot of people have asked me how life in the States is like. I have to reply, meh, so-so. The place is gorgeous, and amazingly well kept, but the sheer wastefulness of the society here is terrifying. The needless amount of plastic, fuel and electricity used is just wrong on so many accounts. I see so many (easy) ways that the country could improve on it's sustainability though I'm not sure how good of a response it would meet with. I also am disturbed to see a lot of bad PR about conditions in India, and it's educational system. India still faces enormous economic challenges, and the scale in terms of population, cultural diversity, etc. in my opinion could not lead to a different state of affairs (ok, it could be better without the corruption, etc.). And of course, the food here is horrid (at least for a vegetarian), and the coffee can serve no purpose other than a utilitarian one (atleast for me), what with it's bitterness and lack of milk content!
What I would give for a hot dosa and some nice filter coffee...