Wednesday, August 20, 2008

India Shining and I will be right there with Her!!

You know, a beautiful day when the first thing your husband who gets up much early in the morning and has read up on all the Indian/ world news online, while you celebrate your midnight dreams and now whose first precious “good morning” words to you are “India claims another medal”. And before you properly open your swollen eyes and an over enthusiastic mouth to claim the gold, he rushes to fill in the millisecond delay with the “still very awesome” Bronze. I absolutely don’t mind it. I love any kinds of metal. Metal is expensive.

Sushil kumar in free style Wresting. Thats wonderful news. And, I get even more excited and fall all over in love with India and Vijender Kumar whose existence I did not know of until his claim to the Bronze, (maybe silver God willing or Gold) in Boxing at Beijing Olympics (he has yet to win it but since he is in the the semi finals, its understood). I have a soft corner for boxers because my father was an amatuer boxer and my paternal uncle was a school champion and one time district boxing champion. He is no more with us, God bless his beautiful soul.
I am ecstatic, jumping over the moon such "macho" feats, Air rifle (gold), wrestling (bronze), Boxing (silver/bronze). I am jumping with joy (with a secondary motive of losing some pounds) before I breathin the "desi khushboo". SH goes on to inform me that we have yet another chance to win a medal with wrestler Yoginder still in action. I am now exuberant and on the ninth cloud by now.

I go into a rhetoric when SH declares that the sports that do not have much publicity hence nominal sponsorship (monetary support) are the ones that are now making the “more than a billion” Indians very proud. I trump on the oratory mode, “I don’t think the winners go into the arena thinking about money; it is always the love for the game. It is always the love and the dedication and a heavenly force that make them work hard and claim their place in history in spite of all the hurdles. Yes, some support (moral and monetary) is always welcome. But when you are in love, every adversity is just another encouraging push.

Once SH leaves for office instead of doing what I need to do I wind up online doing what I want to do- checking the medal count list on the official Olympics Games site. I read the news that Joginder lost the semi finals which would have secured him a bronze.
India right now has 1 gold, 1 bronze (wrestling in free style) Sushil Kumar. I have no words to express my elated state. I just wish I was in Beijing to witness this moment myself. I want to scream, hoot, cry and laugh loud till I go hoarse but alone in my house, I will content myself with this rampant blog post.

Right now, I am busy finishing my draft number two for the publication (but I had this OCS to run this post) and then have to pack, unpack and repack all necessities and infinite sets of gifts on both sides of the family, for the long Indian monsoon holiday rush and festival season. After a short hiatus at Singapore, I will see you in my Des.

Excited that I will watch the rest of the Olympics with the Indian perspective on Indian news networks and not just watch the American athletes on NBC.

The Indian media will give me wholesome news since they are not restricted to only Indian athletics. Somehow, I feel Indians rejoice for anyone who is good at their action/games, and overly skeptic of their own brood. Come to think, it’s a lot like how I picture my parents, super-critical of every action of mine while the next door neighbor’s kid was always better. Hmmm..

So congratulations Vijender and Sushil. Congratulations to Yoginder too (though he lost the semi finals) for bringing focus on their choice of sports and to India. For the love of the games and for our country and with the hope that our country recognizes it’s potential. Cheers to every athlete and their families who love the action and don’t see it as a stepping stone to a job securing exploit. You totally elate me. And Sushil's expression says it all.

I am glowing because India is shining all Gold, Bronze and with positive energy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Rakhi- Sharing Memories

Since the earliest of my memories you have been a part of my life. I have never been able to ignore your presence try as hard as I did. I was happy being an only child but you came and conquered all by your sweet and calm nature, while I retained the naughty pixie title . When you grew older, I thought I would have a comrade who would join me in my pranks and you did not disappoint me. But when ma used to catch us red handed you would make an innocent, sweet angel face and run to hide, leaving me to take the blame and beating. Yes, I was the elder one- wasn’t I responsible for teaching the innocent younger one all the naughtiness of the world? And, you grew up to be a quiet, sweet natured boy who never complained, while I was the defiant elder who was always ready to challenge the authority. Everyone always compared us because we looked like twins and yet so different.
You always had a very sweet singing voice while I did not sing at all. But when you joined school, people heard you sing and they expected me to be a good singer. Finally when I realized I am not so bad a singer, I was really proud for both of us. Remember, how we dreamt to become a singing sibling duo like Shaan-Sagarika?

I remember at school my identity was as your elder sister, while yours was as my younger brother. That is how inseparable we are. I have always looked up to you even. And even though I am the elder you have been the moral and iron support for me. My friend, therapist, advisor, sometimes a strict one. I remember all your friends and our relatives who came to you for advice or just wanted to unburden their troubles on your young but reliable shoulders. And you would come to your room with a migraine because you never learnt to complain and took every tough blow quietly. And you never asked anyone for support in your times of trouble. I have always recognized that strong character in you and I respect you for that and so much more.

I never liked to be an elder sibling, the one with all the responsibilities to be the model child. Now I realize, that it was because I knew how hard it is to be better than you. You are the best.
Your best of best qualities is to have truly realize, that Parents are next to God and must always be revered. I remember there was a time you refused to communicate with me. You were rude and vague. When I finally confronted, you said, it’s difficult for you to respect anyone who disrespects your parents. I still haven't changed much: I still feel the need to question authority and assert my views and choices. Your policy of never to question Baba is really a classic sign of endurance. But you taught me a very big lesson, my brother and my respect for you is unlimited.

It’s been many years since I personally tied rakhi on your wrist and that’s alright because I am always next to you when you need me just as you are always with me. Its been four years since I stopped sending you thread rakhis because you refuse to wear it for the whole day. And so I specially designed and ordered an Om bracelet for you which symbolically represents my being with you at all times and my love for you. It was wonderful talking to you and I am so glad you are wearing the bracelet.

Happy Raksha Bandhan, Bhai.

Friday, August 15, 2008

15th Aug: Indian Independence Day

Happy Independence Day

The Independence Day is the celebration of freedom of colonized India from the British Raj. For some it means partition of Indian and painful separation. But for most Indian patriots, its the celebration of the birth of independent India, our motherland. This yearr she turns 62 years old vibrant and glorious. Independence literaly means, freedom, "Swarajya", end of colonization, suppresion and so on.
But it has one more meaning for me. 14th Aug 2004, late night I bid farewell to my parents and friends and on 15th midnight boarded the international flight which flew me across the Pacific. Early morning of 15th Aug I landed in San Francisco. The song Freedom playing wildly on my mind.
"Give me Freedom... so I can Live... Freedom so I can Give".
Four years away from my beloved family, precious friends and beautiful homeland. The day has come to mean so much more important and different.
Our personal life experiences give the most revered and celebrated occasion such personal meanings for each of us. Independence and freedom means to let our dreams take wings and fly us to beautiful far lands but never forget the route back home where our life’s true essence thrives.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michael Phelps the world's Best and Abhinav Bindra's Blog

This blog was supposed to be about Michael Phelps. And so I will mention him first. He is surely the best of the few we have as an inspiration and an excellent example of dream accomplishments.

I will digress a bit but still stay on the "best of" topic. On Bindra again.
I am getting into the habit of checking the daily "Blog of Note". And guess whose blog is of note today??? Abhinav Bindra.
7 posts old. Starts on 5th Aug and wins a gold on the fourth day of Olympics and will be back home soon. I sincerely hope for this Olympics blog to keep going and hope he talks about his practice, his Athens Olympics debacle and his life time dedication and finally the realization of his lifelong dream, to inspire youths about dedication and positive focus.
Here is a video clip of the award ceremony. During the Indian national anthem, I felt goosebumps and my eyes moistened. Its an awesome feeling at these proud moments. I am hoping for another medal from Paes and Bhupati duo. Tathastu.

Back to Phelps: 11 Olympic gold medals for this one extraordinary individual, the champion swimmer Michael Phelps. He too is very efficiently showing the world its first in his own way.

Till now in Beijing: 5 events, 5 gold medals, 5 world records.
Just watching him was an absolute magic. And just while watching him compete I kept thinking of the most efficient and powerful sharks and elegant quiet whale. And, I found magazine cover.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You and Me and the Bird's Nest: Olympics 2008

In my excitement I took pictures of the Television while the ceremony was going on. So here are some:

This post started the night I watched the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing but somehow got delayed and now we have the first individual Gold, the first ever for India. And suddenly the whole of India and every Indian is excited about Olympics and Sports (other than cricket and football. Yeah, hockey is long forgotten. We did not even qualify in Beijing.).
When I got the news that India won a gold I was elated, not because an Indian had won "it" The Gold atlas but a wholesome reliefe that the long due job is finally done.

More than a Billion people and not one who is worth the iron (I mean the Gold). Of coz there is. Abhinav Bindra initiated it and I am hoping more will follow. What I am worried about is the commercial and political advantages that people start thinking of. I am happy for India, Bindra and the sports fraternity to find another baby to fiddle with but I have my own apprehensions as well. Reminds me of the year when Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai brought the titles of world beauty and India was the focus of the beauty world. The whole mollycoddling that followed and all the pageants on television were obscenely troubling to me.

Thankfully, Olympics is not to be taken so lightly. It required lifetime of dedication and devotion to ones talent and art, so I am hopeful and pray the very best for the Indian sportsmenship. Bindra who, according to the newspapers, belongs to a well off family did not have to depend on the government facilities to forward his practice. But now I hope and pray the government will care for the upcoming sports prodigies of Mighty India.

Now, about the spectacular opening ceremony; it was SPECTACULAR, awe inspiring and quite intimidating. And these are not just my words but the words used by the NBC commentators. Everyone was simply stupefied by the Chinese spectacle and surely that is what their intentions were. It was an expensive display of power and superiority but whatever it was intended for the foremost intention was to be loved and appreciated and so it was. I loved it; I just can’t stop gushing at what a magnificent assortment of extravaganza it was. For some reason the only American network with the sole rights to the Olympics Games planned not to show the Live Opening ceremony. So everyone in US could only watch it 12 hrs after it took place, along with the deluge of advertisements. Still loved every bit of it.

While I write about Bindra, I want to mention Raj Bhavsar, the 27 year old Indian American Gymnast who finally made the US gymnast team this time. The US gymnast team won a bronze and I was able to catch the late night Olympics recordings and the interview of the gymnasts. I feel happy for Raj. Bhavsar makes the Indian American community proud.

Note: You and Me is the Olympics 2008 Theme song.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wonderful Day Means being a Kid (again)!

The colorful festoons especially made for the last summer class. Moon, my friend of almost 2 decades (17 yrsto be precise) and I had been planning to get together and have a girl’s day out. But for some reason or the other things were not happening the way we would like it. Last week we promised to have lunch together and that very evening she called to inform that her husband has had an accident. Thankfully, he was not hurt but the car was totaled. I was eager to help but she said her other friends would take care of everything and so I need not worry.

She had told me that her 2 yr old had his last summer class the following week. I wondered what she planned to do but then stopped thinking about it since she never asked me for any help. But, this time luck seemed on my side. I am the only known friend of hers who drives and owns a car. So Moon asked if I could take her to the community center for Aarush’s last summer class. Thats how, my wonderful day began to take shape. I got up early, robust and in high spirits, although I had no idea what to expect from the day’s experience (but I was sure I was going to build some happy memories and I did).

The community center is near the DMV so I knew the area pretty well. It’s on a green patch with a big play ground for young adults and adolescents and a separate play ground for toddlers. They also have a green patch with barbecue oits for families to share picnics. That gave me a nice impression of the whole community center. We reached as the rest of the toddlers arrived and started with the class. The tutor had made colorful festoons with a floral pendant with the name of each kid in the class.
On the last day of the class the toddlers were suppose to make pizzas, story reading time, painting session, craft time, snack time and then sing a song time: All in an hour’s time. If that is not fast and fun what is?

I became a kid along with Aarush. He did not even understand what he was required to do, but I did and was sure excited. I was eagar to help Aarush decorate his Pizza. which was followed by story reading time about five Monkeys getting ready for bed and being naughty, reminding me of my (in) famous childhood, if my relatives should be believed. There was painting time which Aarush enjoyed while I did his photograph session. Then there was craft time which I enjoyed just as much as the kiddo himself. It was such fun crafting with stars, glitter, and play doh. I made myself quite proud and took some pictures of my creative works. Aarush showed his expertise with the scissors cutting every bit of my creative arts and being looked upon with envy by the other kids who could not even hold the scissors properly.

There was a musical- song and dance by the class. One about fishes- thats how the kids become familiar with fish types like Tuna, Sharks, salmon and dolphins. I was almost an adolescent before I knew tuna and salmon, while seeing one was few more years away.

Then there was a song about Pizza which was followed by food recess when the kids were given the baked pizza and apple juice. It was such a happy and carefree time, that left me feeling exhilarated and content. After taking some pictures we happily trotted back to Moon's house to feed the pair of hungry adults and after the kiddo went to sleep continue with what we do best, one of my best ever gossip session that I had in a long long time.

Here are some of the pictures from the day's activity.
The tiny Pizzas made by the kids- with cheese, olives and pine apple toppings.

My creation with the Play Doh and stamps-

This was made together by Moon and me. The face by me and the body by Moon. And named by Aarush. Of coz no points for guessinf the name now.

Story Time and the class from far corner.

God, please lets replay this day again. Atleast some version of it.

The Wonderful Day when I become a kid again!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Did you arrive here? Why not share that with all!

I have written before about my constant broken attempts at keeping a journal. My paternal grandmother kept a journal throughout her life. Sometimes she would read to us from her diary. When she lost her husband to cancer, and after a couple of decades when she lost her young and very vibrant second born son to the same epidemic. She took refuge in her diary.

My grandmother had studied in an English medium hostel run by a group of nuns in Calcutta for a year because her father thought that his adolescent motherless daughter needed some good female role models in her life. But after a couple of semesters of staying away from home she was taken back home because my Great grandfather found life difficult without his youngest child and only daughter. But those few days living in the residential school were enough for her to understand that personal journals are ones best friend and will always be patient with you.
She inspired me.

Like my grand mother, I went to a hostel since I was seven years of age but unlike her, my tears did not affect my parents sensitivity and I lived through ten years of precious moments that were lovingly named “Golden Years” by my class (The teachers called our class the most intelligent batch and the terrible nightmare that came true in the same breath, but those stories some other time). But as disorganized as I was (am) I always jotted my innermost sprites on the first scraps of loose paper sheets on sight, mostly my father’s official register sheets and lose them just as easily. That’s how my parents got to know how much of a shock and jarring case I was. Of coz I was mortified and promised not to write from the next time.

But, my love for books and adolescence brought me to new authors and role models. I read “Daddy Long Legs” by Jean Webster and soon after I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Anne Frank. This really hit at a spot; we were approximately the same age. And this was the first serious introduction to the holocaust, the way it affected countless children’s (actually the world) lives and death. Our whole class read the book around the same time and it affected each of us equally and inspired many of us to start our journals(some wrote stories and novels). But, I had one trouble. I could only write when I felt something intensely. At that young age the only thing one truly feels is rage(me thinks!). And so that is what it was and still is (now I have intense feeling of love as well :-)).

So last year when I started reading blogs of strangers and more than once felt a familiarity with some of them I felt connected to a level; a part of that imaginary community and felt the camaraderie that I lack in my present state. But commenting on posts just did not seem enough. I have so much more to share. And, thus here I was again, this time not afraid to share what I truly believe in, feel inside- in my heart and in my mind. I am confident this time that my writings will not be destroyed anymore- good or bad- read or unread. Reflected upon by fellow companions or not. I am here this time.

The only thing I still have trouble understanding is the widget craze. I fail to understand why people put certain widgets to count how many people are reading their blog, which country they are logging in from and so on. Why do you care? When those people are not making the effort to acknowledge your feelings by leaving you a thought, what makes you want to acknowledge them and build your hopes on them? These thoughts came to my mind because after a long time I finally received a couple of comments. Thank you Goofy Mumma. It made me very happy.

For some time I did not tell many people about my blog. But, gradually I told a few friends about it- trying to test their reactions. Most of them emailed me back in spite of my constantly urging them to leave a comment they felt more comfortable emailing and now after these many months even the emails have become less frequent. I don’t blame them. They are still just as precious. Some never referred to my journal and some just never contacted me after I told them about it (ohh.. they are alive, I assure you!).

Thus, my serious disinterest to count who has read my blog reflections. I have my moderation option which for now seems safe enough to keep me away from hooliganism. But, still the comments make me happy.
So, if you are reading me and feel anything that has anything common with me and my feelings, why not share it with me? I want to know, I have friendly company :-))

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ocean's calling, I need salty air !

SF downtown panaroma from Pier 39
The first time I saw the number one tourist spot of San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf was on a blind date. Of Cos, my attention was very much divided between the date, the beauty of the place and the dull feeling of homesickness. . The market place reminded me of Delhi's Jan path, the sun till 8pm reminded me of Bombay, the Gaylord's restaurant at Ghirardelli Square, reminded me of everything wonderful there is to be born an Indian. Since then I have been back to Fisherman's Wharf countless times now. These trips are made, at the spur of the moment and without a camera in hand. So, although I have infinite beautiful memories of this much loved and appreciated tourist place, there are not many pictures. Quite a few times we have escorted friends and relatives to these places and pictures are taken by them on their cameras, with a promise and sincere intension to share the pictures as soon as they upload them on their computers but those times are blue moon.

The Ghirardelli Square from the back, on the way to Fisherman's Wharf. This was the old chocolate factory now an elegant shopping center. The Gaylord's Indian Resturant is here (note the red light).
One of the reasons San Francisco is called a romantic metropolitan and much loved by each and all is because of its floral decorated streets. Actually all the Bay Area city downtowns have beautiful, clean and proudly decorated streets.
The very steep Lombard street. Note the cue of the cars waiting to zig zag on the road with the most curves; Lombard Street. I took it from the moving car (will share the curveous street pic soon).
So I took this very seriously fun job in my hands. The mammoth task of buying “imported” gifts for all the relatives and treasured friends is happening with vigor. I have been buying gifts for a long time and storing them in one of my suitcases. But, can shopping for just anything ever be done with till we decide it is? SH was happy when I told him that I would like to buy some specific SF souvenirs from Fisherman’s Wharf. SH jumped at the chance, proposed a lunch date of crab sandwich and clam chowder. I love the popular, crab sandwiches that SH was introduced to by me and counts in his favorite food list and clam chowder that I had for the first time on my Monterey trip with SH. I remembered to take my camera and captured every stop, almost every curve and a “world famous” San Francisco steep. We reached around lunch time and went straight for the restaurant. We decided to go to a different restaurant instead of my favorite joint. The d├ęcor was beautiful but the food was a disappointment. Not like my favorite place, hear you. Unlike the lunch the day was super fun and an absolute smash. The temperature predicted was 55F. It’s almost the end of the summer and beginning of fall, which means end of the fog, in true Bay Area language. But, that was not what the weather man forecast read for today. Anyways, I prayed and hoped the best. When we reached downtown it looked fog filled. But by the time we parked, the sky was blue, the sun shined bright and while it was breezy enough to blow us off shore, it was not very cold. Or maybe we did not feel the coolness in the breeze coz we were sprinting from one shop to another only stopping momentarily to exclaim at the street performers, musicians, the wax museum displays, and the funny Ripley's museum where they have more crowds of people standing outside the building than inside. We jogged and shopped, ate and shopped, took in all the beauty and shopped; Pier 39 was robust and bustling with eager tourists. I sure looked like a tourist myself with the camera in hand and going in and out of every souvenir shop in sight going and adding one more shopping bag with a San Francisco Logo on it.

A prisoner escaping from Alcatraz is depicted here. It is automated.

Wax and Brangelina

The wild seals who have adopted Pier 39 as home.

The Golden Gate Bridge through the haze and the ferry.

The Pelicans against Alcatraz Prison. Each time I look at it, it reminds me of "The Great Escape" and school days.
In the end we stood and gazed at the hazy Alcatraz, the Golden Gate at the distance and the hilltop downtown against the setting sun. It was a beautiful sight to take in. We asked a tourist to click "A couple" picture for us, spent some cozy minutes gazing at the beautiful bay, watching the hazy gold sunset, the lazy seals and the busy pelicans- delightfully content we trotted back home.
This is Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the beautiful reasons that made Tony Bennett croon “I left my heart in San Francisco” and for which he won two Grammy Awards.
NOTES: Title: Taken by a song written and sung by Peggy Lee (1962).. All the photos have been shot by the author.