Friday, July 25, 2008

Garden Disrupted

I had a totally different post penned, till I spoke to my mother this morning. That’s when I heard about the Bangalore blasts. 9 blasts and two people killed?? First from shock, I moved to sadness for the loss and finally right now I am in a stage of absolute anger. I love Bangalore, being the city of my birth and where some of my relatives and most of my friends reside.

The ‘garden city’ with its beautiful Lal bagh and Cubbon parks formed the backdrop of most of my summer vacations. And later my home, when I entered my first job after college. I love the streets adorned with flowers due to the cool breeze that that the trees sent our way , during the hot summer months. At it developed into the Technology city, the old beauty still remained a part of its charm from the high arches of St Josephs church to the subtle beauty of the Bull Temple . It’s a place of co-existence, Hinduism and Christianity having their influences over malleshwaram and cantonement, the traditions of Sankrathi and Christmas mixing with gen "Y" pub culture. Bangalore has changed dramatically the last couple of years, the travel congestion can beat any developed country in the world. As more people started moving towards the work all night and party whenever you can, the city has got a bad reputation in the press, largely also due to the call center culture. The real estate prices are so exorbitant, that most of the single people there have to room together or get into paying guest accommodations, to save a little bit of their income. But in the end, the city makes you addicted to it. Right from the mouthwatering food all around, to the warmth of the people from all walks of life, Bangalore dances to a separate beat.

So its with horror, that I stared at the news articles, proclaiming that Bangalore was rocked with bombs !! Its sad that the most peaceful city I had known , is now a target for terrorists. It was bad enough that the residents of city, had to grapple with incomplete flyovers, polluted air and the cabs that ferreted employees around trying to kill them. But to have bombs go off near the places, where most of them live is even worse. Terrorism seemed to come home direct to their doorstep. For years we have read articles about Kashmir and the northeast India, grappling with outside sources trying to get power.Somehow, even though they are an intergral part of our nation, the terror seemed further away.But a taste of it today in Bangalore , even though I am 11,000 miles away , I can sense the terror and anger, that I am sure that every one of my friends and family are feeling right now.Considering the political turmoil we went through,with the no confidence motion, I hope that the Indian parliament wakes up to reality. While they are internally fighting and trying to get their people,into the most lucrative cabinet positions, the outside world is intruding in. As much as India grows, she has to combat the forces, that do not want to see her to reach her true potential.

Sometimes I just want to scream my head off when I see the headlines with the political party struggles that happen. I don’t expect the politicians to be like Gandhi or Nehru, the times have changed and so have the external forces, that affect the country. But when will they ever get to a point where the good of all overrides the betterment of one. Party Men burning effigies when insults are passed in parliament , shops and hospitals shutting down for random caste issues and long processions celebrating a politicans birthday have to be stopped. We need to mobilize the ideas, within each working individual into actions that affect us all. The brave army men stationed across the country are not enough to protect the geographical mass of India. It’s the people who need to bond and think of a solution. If the government and people work together, these explosions should and will be a thing of the past.

It’s so easy to get carried away with day to day problems that we encounter. But for our generation and the generations coming after us, we have to leave a legacy of peace, and I pray to the divine above, that every human thinks of peace first instead of picking up a weapon of harm.

For the thought, I want to reproduce here a poem from my favorite poetess


by: Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

MEN say the world is full of fear and hate,
And all life’s ripening harvest-fields await
The restless sickle of relentless fate.

But I, sweet Soul, rejoice that I was born,
When from the climbing terraces of corn
I watch the golden orioles of Thy morn.

What care I for the world’s desire and pride,
Who know the silver wings that gleam and glide,
The homing pigeons of Thine eventide?

What care I for the world’s loud weariness,
Who dream in twilight granaries Thou dost bless
With delicate sheaves of mellow silences?

Say, shall I heed dull presages of doom,
Or dread the rumoured loneliness and gloom,
The mute and mythic terror of the tomb?

For my glad heart is drunk and drenched with Thee,
O inmost wine of living ecstasy!
O intimate essence of eternity!

Keep thinking ppl

PS : I just read that Randy Pausch passed away. A true inspiration to me and millions others, I pray for his family and his friends to find strength to continue .

Friday, July 18, 2008

Walk me home

Let me paint a scene, Man excited , almost whistling the Indiana Jones Theme song . Woman, staring at her watch, having a bunch of papers in her hand and wishing she had brought her IPod along

What do you think is happening?........

That was K and me car shopping through the last two weekends. Being in the US for two and half years, I have been through the harrowing (yes, harrowing to people who really don’t care the difference in transmission between Camry LE and XLE!!) two times.

The car shopping ritual is one as old as day Ford decided to try out an engine driven car in the 1800’s. I actually compare the ritual of car shopping to a major case study worth its salt in any MBA classroom. First there is a mad collection of data from numerous site from to , then a intensive study on the cars shortlisted, a group discussion with pals on their car performance and then of course a survey. If you know a friend of a long lost friend who bought a similar vehicle their number materializes out of thin air for a long call on a weekend. Did I mention that I as a wife have limited say in this matter, other than the color and if the car looks decent.

If the gods actually smile upon us, after all these discussions we arrive at one or two options and land up in the bustling Car dealership. Suddenly out of nowhere is a blue/green shirted (depending on Toyota or Honda) salesman, who proceeds to tell you that the car chosen is so good, it might just end world hunger. As he leads you through the glittering cars ( of course we have to do this at high noon , everything looks bright and pretty ), my eyes catch some other wives who are trying to intently staring at their cell phones while their husbands are salivating over the new sports models. They look at me with a sympathetic smile, as they know that I would be in the same place in another two hours. So as the salesman leads us into the car for a test drive, he has by now our whole life history. These guys can work for the IRS. Talking about how expensive the gas prices are, he leads K directly into “You know back in 2000, when I first arrived” saga. The car that he shows is definitely the costliest one with all the upgrades. Leather seats, navigation system, sun and moon roof. By the end of the drive, you get to believing that without the moon roof, there is no way in your life your ever going to see stars. The drive itself is quite painful, as the salesman guides K through the safest routes, he keeps up a conversation with me, “The wife” on Indian food. I mean I know I look well fed but I never thought I looked like a chef in an Indian restaurant

When we return, the sales guy acts as if a light bulb has gone off in his head. I’m pretty sure the light bulb has been firmly in place, since his quarter targets came in. As we exit the car, he looks us over and says “ if you don’t have kids right now, you can have a better option”. And then “Tadaaa – it’s the sports model”.
I feel K’s pulse get higher, on seeing the smooth lines , the V6 engine and the Indiana Jones theme starts humming all around us. This happened the first time we car shopped, we bought a sports edition. Sadly, that was totaled in a road accident and so we were back on a July afternoon. I know I’m doomed till I look up and see another couple making their unknowing way into the car lot. As the salesman moves away for another case history, I take refuge in an old Indian saying “This car is bad luck” to get K out of his trance. Like every guy and gal knows, there is no arguing with that logic ! :D . Something christened as bad luck can never be updated to lucky again. So as K longingly says good bye to the sports model, we walk towards the 2008 older version cars, whose miles per gallon is so bad, my monthly salary would be just sufficient to fill the gas tank. As the salesman sees us in that 2008 lot his smile becomes a lot wider. These are the cars; they are desperately trying to get rid off. As he extols their virtues, he comes to the major selling point, they are selling them for $5K below MSRP at 0%. “That’s practically free!!” , he says. Yes sure, if you consider $18,000 dollars free.

Few more cars later K and sales guy furiously typing out numbers on the calculators. Another light bulb goes off, the salesman offers us Pre-owned cars. Four hours into discussion, I feel my mild headache go into overdrive. As I give K my Meenakumari, “I’m dying” gaze, he picks up another bunch of papers, brochures and websites and tells the salesman we will be back the next weekend. Though the sales guy tells us that any offer expires the moment we leave the building, we take our chances.

As K wraps his mind around the leasing options, I look out on the sea of cars and memories came flooding back . My dad bought his first car, when I was born . From the Ambassador to the Maruthi, dad didn’t have much choice, but he opted simply for the most economical option. Somehow though his license plates always added to the number 3. So when the car came home , I ran out only to see the plates ,added the number , and screeched in surprise when it did add to 3 . Even now, my dad has his trusted 1994 Maruthi. He sees it as an essential help for daily life and as per my mother , his first wife :D !. “A car looked after well, will treat you well” is his motto. Now however, as the options have increased, so has the complexity of buying a car or any other vehicle. Back home, its was easy as walking in , putting in your order and getting your car a few weeks later.

With the environmental crunch we are facing, what’s scary is the number of cars on the road. Each type of car has a separate use. The Van for Kids and car pooling, the sedan for city driving, the Jeep for adventure and hiking. What happened to one car to suite all needs. Also the US government is considering restricting the speed limit on Highway driving to 55 mph to reduce the consumption of gas. But its sad, because people have so used to speed of 70 mph that its going to hard to get them back to lower speed limit.

People say that life gets complicated. But after these experiences, I think we complicate simple stuff. We want everything wrapped into a perfect package – costs, looks and of course efficiency. Sometimes, its just easier to accept things as they are - four tires, transmission ,engine and seats, not the answer to your dreams. So I think for me, I’m going to start walking more and you really can’t criticize the vehicle that’s moving your feet around :D !

Btw, if you pass a car dealership and see a woman despondently staring at her IPod, wave or smile, it just might be me!

For the joke
The Microsoft Car
At a recent computer expo, Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five-dollar cars that get 1000 miles to the gallon."

Recently General Motors addressed this comment by responding,
"Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?"
And . . .

1. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car.
2. Occasionally, your car would die on the freeway for no reason,and you would just accept this, restart, and drive on.
3. Occasionally, executing a maneuver would cause your car to fail, and you would have to re-install the engine. For some strange reason, you would accept this too.
4. You could only have one person in the car at a time, unless you bought "Car95" or "CarNT." But then you would have to buy more seats.
5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five percent of the roads.
6. The Macintosh car owners would get expensive Microsoft upgrades to their cars, which would make their cars run much slower.
7. The oil, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single "general car default" warning light.
8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.
9. The airbag system would say "are you sure?" before going off.

Keep Smiling ppl


Monday, July 14, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who is the best Superhero of all ?

Spent a lazy weekend, watching WALL-E , which I definitely recommend and trying to clean up my house. Of course, cleaning for K & I seems to be a continuous process, since I came to America. So every Sunday, when I wail I miss India, K knows that is more because I miss my maid and ironing guy.

As we were waiting for Wall- E, the new trailer for Batman shot across the screen. As I watched one of my favorite actors, Heath Ledger, give his maniacal smile and bring life to one of the most hated, batman villains, I also glimpsed at the tortured batman. Even though Christian Bale plays the part well, my favorite has always been Michael Keaton. He fit into the debonair, bachelor with all the gadgets really well. He had angst, but he also has the steely resolve to help the defenseless. As you guessed by now Bruce Wayne aka Batman aka the Dark knight was and is my favorite superhero. He has always been my favorite as he is human ( was not born on a alien planet), creates his own fighting gear ( does not use radio active spiders) and of course has a lot of money (Do I have to explain that one ! :) ).Phantom came in a close second, due to the amazing comic books that came every week to my library and to round the top three up, it was Spider man. Any kid living in India in the 90s could hum the tune of Spiderman. Screening on Doordarshan just before the weekend movie, the spidey costume and antics amazed me and for a while, I did look around for radioactive spiders. But seeing even a normal one made me run in the opposite direction.

Coming back to the present , the new Batman movie looked slick ,dark and terribly exciting. But I felt a strange sense of melancholy. It was simpler when heroes where portrayed in shades of white and a little grey, you know the good guys versus bad guys. Comics have grown up along with us, and now every hero has a complex history, that makes every decision be tied to a life and death situation. Heroes, with no back stories also fall flat at the box office or the comic stands. So its natural, that the writers try and input as much humanity as possible. But should humanity always lead to tears and unbearable situations. I understand, Peter Parker as a freelance photographer, unable to pay his bills, his electricity goes out on him and girlfriend dumps him ,that will make most people buy a glass of bear and throw darts at her picture, but to have him turn into a Dark version of Spiderman to terrorize people , seems to go against the basic truth that this was a hero created to avenge his uncle's death. I loved Iron man, with its humor laced dialogues, but I am kind of hesitant about part two, when Tony Stark, is going to confront his alcoholism. Its almost like the greater enemy is not on the outside terrorizing demons but their internal struggle for good. While reading the comic books, you always knew that the hero of your choice was going to succeed in the end. Bash up the bad guys, swing across ropes to the scene of the crime, and lets not forget get to kiss the gal in the end. Seems more and more of the story has the superheroes do a lot of the kissing and thinking, before any of the action,which in turn is dark and bloody.

So I wonder, do I miss the action in the simplicity of the scheme or I dislike that reality somehow touches these men of steel, spider or bat ?.I think it’s a mixture of both. I love to see the good guys win, same as I would like to see happily ever after in every film, because it transports me to a place where good always triumphs. So with that hope I will continue to see every comic strip that converts into a movie. But if they convert Asterix or Tintin into movies, and make them into lost souls, I think that will be the day I give up on the comic section !
On a better note, I would like each one of you who reads this to let me know what kind of superhero you would like to be . I would like to be the Girl in green tights. That way I will always stay slim on comic strips and be an environmentally friendly superhero :D!

For the joke

Tom and Clark were standing on the roof of their building drinking a few beers on their break and Clark said, "Hey Tom, did you know that if you jump off this building, after you get down so far, a draft will pull you back inside the building on the third floor?"

"Get outta here," said Tom

"No I'm serious, watch me."Clark hopped off the building and sure enough, he was taken in by the draft at the third floor window. He took the elevator back to the top and Tom and a security guard that arrived were standing there, Tom in awe.

"I can't believe it." Said Tom."I know you should try it Tom."So Tom hopped off and plunged into the ground.

"Superman you're an asshole when you're drunk." said the security guard.

Keep smiling ppl


PS : For non comic fans like K, the Pseudonym for these super guys are Clark Kent = Superman, Peter Parker = Spiderman, Bruce Wayne = Batmand and Tony Spark = Iron man :) !

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Way we were

I have not been blogging the last week, due to the California wildfire., No I am not anywhere near one, but my sinus were clogged with the air being so bad, that I couldn’t get through typing one word without tearing up or sneezin.
So apologize to all my regular reads, I will be surely around to post my comments this week.

This week was hectic to say the least, but a trip to Napa seemed to blow the spider webs away and this week I’m nearly back to my cheerful (ahemm! ) opinionated self.

A pal of mine had her interview published in the paper and I am so kicked for her. I remember the time in school when we all used to sit around and wonder what each one would be. She would always be the optimist, and everything had a fairy tale ring to her view of things. To my utter delight, I noticed not much had changed. She still managed to stick to reality but made the article seem to be so filled with happiness. Congrats Sheets, and best wishes again for an amazing future

Discussing school with a couple of friends, this week really had me wondering about the paths we choose. I know a lot of people say that we grow into adults when we face reality. But is reality a pair of glasses we put on to see the world in a harsher light ? . I know personally, that in my school girl dreams, I wanted to change the world for the better by the time I was twenty five and meet my charming prince by the time I was 26. Though the second happened (K is reading this :) ), the first dream now I realize requires time, money and lot of dedication However I also know that I need to handle family first, before changing what lies outside. Donating to a charity or working for voluntary organizations does go a little way towards eradicating illiteracy or poverty, but the head filled with ideas seems to now look onto the obstacles facing those same ideas. I know for a fact that I didn’t dream of sitting attached to a laptop 12 hours a day, but in reality I know that work will help me get to a better place in the end. And I don’t mean monetary, but that definitely has a part to play. Its because Bill Gates is financially secure (understatement, I know!!) that he is able to quit and work with his foundation. How many men and woman can do that? Its not merely a requirement to gather wealth but also a need to be responsible to the people who depend on you. And as you grow that responsibility seems to grow not only towards family but towards yourself . A pal of mine said it would be a non stop cycle that we take on - family, kids , retirement and finally death. That sounded so bleak to me!It's like to we keep earning only to survive till the day we die.

When I did my Masters, there was always a thought in my head ,that after I get sufficient experience I would quit to join a voluntary organization .We at school, were so filled with ideas and notions, it seemed to be easy to do our jobs, but yet commit to a higher cause. I know that some of my friends do both and are super beings in their own right. But most of us get sucked into the daily mechanisms of meetings, calls and emails.With barely enough time of rest and quiet, let alone cleaning up the world or even for a game of chess.

This story on PBS however gave me a much needed boost. Purnima McCutcheon seems to encompass, all things that I would like to do. To leave a high paying job, to help people in need , captures the essence of our humanity. It takes courage and a good heart. Also it takes a minute to step back and let go of all the adult requirements we have.

I know each person wants to go back to their childhood dreams, be it as simple as flying a plane or as grandiose as changing the world. And if we reach deep inside and look for that place, which we imagined as a child ,I’m sure that the letting go of our current problems would be a much easier task to do

Now for the smile

Area 51
You've heard of the Air Force's ultra-high-security, super-secret base in Nevada, known simply as "Area 51?"

Well, late one afternoon, the Air Force folks out at Area 51 were surprised to see a Cessna landing at their "secret" base. They immediately impounded the aircraft and hauled the pilot into an interrogation room.

The pilot's story was that he took off from Vegas, got lost, and spotted the Base just as he was about to run out of fuel. The Air Force started a full FBI background check on the pilot and held him overnight during the investigation.

By the next day, they were finally convinced that the pilot really was lost and wasn't a spy. They gassed up his airplane, gave him a terrifying "you-did-not-see-a-base" briefing, complete with threats of spending the rest of his life in prison, told him Vegas was that-a-way on such-and-such a heading, and sent him on his way.

The next day, to the total disbelief of the Air Force, the same Cessna showed up again. Once again, the MP's surrounded the plane... only this time there were two people in the plane.

The same pilot jumped out and said, "Do anything you want to me, but my wife is in the plane and you have to tell her where I was last night!"

Keep Smiling ppl