Saturday, December 27, 2008

Looking forward to 2009!

Just a few days from now and 2008 would be known as 'last year'. Time to make new year resolutions! Frankly speaking I have never made any such list in my life and felt that it was a stupid concept. I never understood why we had this trend of making up to-do lists at the beginning of a new year. Why not anytime when need arises?

But now I get the point. It is just a way to keep life interesting and keep ourselves on our toes; keep us motivated to see our resolutions succeed within a year. In some cases just get us started. What better time to make a start then the New Years!

So here I am ready and all set for the new year. This year 08 has been a very exciting one for me and I wish and look forward to an even more happening and exciting next year.

At my Art of Living class, my teacher told me how she used to make a list of her new yr resolutions and even asked all her family members to keep one. At the end of the year she and her family look back on their list and proudly strike off what they managed to reach. Those they could not was carried forward or buried under. I thought this was a really cool idea. Wouldn't it be a great treat to see, many years from now what our aspirations and cravings were and how they change?

I am listing down My wishes and Resolutions for 2009 here so that my Friends who do read the post know about it too and may decide to keep a wish list for the new year.

1. I want to learn to play a music instrument - when I was little I had joined a class to learn Harmonium. But I never survived beyond one week of class. As a kid I feel I was more of a rebellious kind; did not want to do something cos my parents said I should do. Well, I did not have any interests either; so that kept me dull and boring. Now I want to learn the art of music; any instrument. I have few preferences: flute, drums, tabla, harmonica (my Dad had bought one from Kuwait when I was little and love I it), violin.

2. Collect songs and download to my ipod/cell - While driving I always listen to 103.5 kiss FM and am very fond of the songs that they play there. I don't understand the lyrics so well (thanks to my hearing abilities and understanding the varied accents) but I have managed to type the songs on my cell phone notes as I listen to them. But I have never managed to look for the songs and make the collection accessible whenever I want to listen to them. I wish somebody can do it for me :) I can try listing down the list as a post. It is going to be hilarious cos I know the words don't match. For instance, what I thought was 'i wanna breakup with u' was actually 'i wanna makeup with u' in one song. hahaha But nevertheless would be a good try to get some help to fulfill one wish.

3. Learn Tap dancing - Many many years back I had seen Aaditi as a small kid do tap dancing. I was very impressed and fascinated by the dance and thought I should learn it too. I never got the chance; but now I think I have more chances of finding a tap dance class in the neighborhood.

4. Be a Social Media Enthusiasts and involve in related activities - As part of my recent assignment at work I have got exposed to the idea of Social Networking and its concepts. I want to be able to learn the latest trends in social media and get connected to the right sources on the web. I want to dedicate a solid X amount of time to blogging, twitting, FB and the like everyday. I want to learn about open source and the what and how around it. I have not yet thought how I can benchmark this wish. I will add when I think of something I can share.

5. Visit India - I want to be able to make a visit to India - my home town Goa this year. I have not been there in a while and think 09 should work out for us. It is my Dad's and Mom-in-law's 60th birthday and an aunt's 25th wedding anniversary. Would be just great if we could plan our vacation around that time. Or may be one of my friends get married; and I get to attend a wedding :)

6. Attend part 2 of the Art of Living class - Earlier this year I attended the part 1 course of AOL and it has been very positive for me in terms of seeing the value of life and one's existence. I was able to let my guard down and embrace life with more energy and love. But I feel I have still come soul cleaning to do :) Jokes apart, I would really want to do the course. Part 1 was done out of curiosity but part 2 is a must do for me.

7. Volunteering Activities - I want to get associated with volunteering activities whenever I can. Every time I think about it I put it off thinking that let me first settle in a place where I know I will live for a while. With the kind of work I do, there are uncertainties of location of placement. But I feel it is just a bad reason not to get started. In past few months I have come across many people who can help me with this. I only have to get started.
I talk a lot about this with my friend Tushar who also works in same office as me. But sadly I have not been able to contribute in anyway. On the other hand Tushar had donated blood after we started talking about it. Isn't that cool.

8. Buy a New Car - This wish I believe can wait till end of 09 unless we buy some other car which will help us get rid of the present one. I have no complaints against the one we have right now, but its an old one. A brand new would be so much more fun and safe too.

9. Drive on freeways - Its been more than 4 months that I have started driving independently in the US. But I have never drove on freeways. Firstly I never got a reason to go there and whenever we did, my husband Navin used to drive. I always complained that why Navin did not give me a chance to drive whenever we met and most of times we would end up in a fight. Eventually he did give me the car keys but I used to be too annoyed to drive. I felt he did not trust my driving, but now when I think about it, how could he when I myself did not. :) So all well that end's well. And I want to end well by taking on the roads. My friend Anees at work has offered to accompany me. I should not delay or he may change his mind :D

10. Read Books - I have to admit. I have been very bad at this. All of a sudden I get the urge to take up reading. I go to the library (there is this big and lovely library where I live) and pick up 10 random books that interests me at that point of time. I don't read a word but make sure I return them before expiry date. Sometimes if I am travelling I pick a book or two and somehow read at least one if not both. But at that time reading the book is all I can think. I cannot enjoy anything else or even concentrate on anything else till I finish reading the book. I want to change this habit. My resolution is that I will pick up at least 5 books to read in the new year. I have few topics in mind and want to pick a book around those and not any random book.

11. Learn Sewing - I want to learn sewing and make a quilt. I wish to buy a sewing machine too and take up this project. I have even thought about what I want to make. Fingers crossed, and I will be quilting soon!

12. Painting - As a kid I used to draw on my bedroom walls :) My mom she is so sweet; we got the walls repainted but she has still kept the part which I have messed up cos she thinks that was sweet. It was not very long ago I was very impatient to start painting. I went to the store and bought painting brush, colors, canvas and all I need. Now I only need to paint!

13. iPhone - Almost forgot! I want to buy an iPhone soon :)

There are a few other things like swimming, work out, learning new cuisines that I want to add but they are not in forefront for me. And also there are other things more important like job, work, family which cannot be part of new year resolutions.

Hope you guys make up your resolutions soon. New year is not too far!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Favorite Babies!

Sparsh and Rudra are the cutest babies I know. Wanted to share some of their pictures I had clicked whenever I happened to meet them. Rudu lives right across my house; so I have loads of her pictures.

Both are growing so fast! I remember seeing them within days of their birth and they were so tiny. Having known their mommies Aarti (Sparshu's mom) and Bindiya (Rudu's mom) even before the little ones were born, makes them all the more special to me.

To see more of Sparshu and Rudu click here. Also check out these videos listed on YouTube.
(I hate my voice in all the videos :P)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

When will this end?

It is almost one week since the terrorists attacks in Mumbai. I wish I could express my feelings of anguish, hatred and depression and put it all out here so that I get a good night sleep.

I was on phone with Mom and my relatives in Mumbai on the day when I got to know of the horrible news. The news that was being telecast on TV as a gang shootout continued for three days and ended in over 170 people killed in the horrendous massacre.

Those 170 people could have been one of my friends or relatives or me. The media coverage showed bleeding bodies, crying injured people, some hanging at the windows waiting for help and rescuers. People articulated their experiences at the tragic incidence. Some video coverage showed bullets shot at people passing by the busy roads of Mumbai.

Some videos showed the faces of terror while others showed the aftermath of the episode. So many lives lost; none of them ever expected that it would have been their last day to live. So many families lost their beloved ones; the gap will never be filled again.

I wish I had a remedy to the pain and suffering in the world or at least someone did. I look upon nature to bring peace and happiness to everyone and wish humans respect life in its totality.

It has been a very saddened week with Mumbai attack news running through my head all the time. I pray to God that I get the strength, courage and opportunity to do my bit to make this planet a place for everyone to live with peace and harmony.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A fun Saturday evening

Weather forecast for saturday was light snow showers and rain. Due to bad weather we decided that we will not have the entire project mates to the party. So it was just few families get-together at our place. I was very excited and looking foward to meet everyone; specially the kids.

It was about 8:30 pm and I was running late. I was busy cleaning the house and getting all set to welcome the guests expected at 9:00 pm. Suddenly it strikes me.. .ah I forgot to get the rotis from the Indian store! Oh my gosh. People are expected anytime, so I could not leave the house. So I called Kripa; 'Need a small favor. Can you pick some rotis from the Indian store on the way to our house?'. I am sure Kripa would have cursed me; giving an unplanned task specially when Shweta( his wife) must have already been running late with the cooking and getting Ashi (their sweet daughter) ready.

But guess what! They decided they would prepare the rotis at home. In no time they prepared tasty parathas. Thanks to Kripa's assistance, Shweta quickly made the parathas and were just 15-20 mins late. Cannot compare the ready-made rotis to the hot, fresh, ghee covered yummy parathas.

Shyju and family were first to arrive. They were the only ones to drive more than 14 miles to our house and were right on time. Hats off... specially with a small kid at home it is tough to meet the deadlines :) Ann (their daughter) was bit unhappy to be woken up from her sleep. Moreover it was so cold to add to the irritation. She cried her heart out as she entered the house. But she was very pleased to get a bunch of cute stuff toys in an attempt to make her quiet.
It did not take much time for her to settle down in the new place. She is the cutest baby and I loved playing with her. Preeti (Ann's mom) made chhola and it smelled delicious.

Next to arrive was Sugu and family. He has 2 sons; Harish and Hrithik. Harish is in grade 1 and very adorable. He is great with kids and loves playing with them. All evening he was playing with the little ones and made sure he entertained them while he was awake. He made himself at home right away.
Hrithik is the quietest baby I have ever seen. He looked very cute in his dogie winter cap. Anu (his mom) made sure he lied down in a comfortable place and he laid there all the time. He woke up, slept, woke up again and slept again :) He was very happy to just be on his own.

Anu made vegetable cutlets. The cutlets were a winner from the start! Sugu claimed he made those but we all knew Sugu cannot lie ;). Anu also made the tastiest vegetable biryani I have eaten. I am not lying.

We missed Venu and Madhuri. Venu was in great spirits on Friday and added excitement on the idea of having a get-together over the weekend. But unfortunately Aryan (their little baby) fell ill and was down with temperature. They are just back from India and it will take a while for the young one to settle down. Hoping to meet Madhuri and Aryan soon.

It was Anu's birthday the following day. I had baked a cake for her. Also Aryan and Ann had recently celebrated their birthdays too. We did the cake cutting. Anu also shared with us a little secret; Sugu gifted her very special diamond pendant! I hope Navin reads this and learns something from Sugu. But I know what he would say; 'See, Sugu took 5+ years to get a pendant. So you can wait a little longer'. :)

There was lots and lots of food! It was a potluck and everyone had made delicious items. Shweta had made paneer capsicum and I could not resist having just one more paratha with paneer sabji every time. Finally I stopped myself with a final half paratha and when Kripa looked at the half eaten paratha, it became a joke; him saying 'How can anyone eat half paratha'! he he Well, what can I say. You have to stop yourself somewhere right? So I decided to stop on one last half!

The kids had a gala time. We decided to play poker. As we laid the poker chips to get started the little monsters made their way right at the poker chips! Well, well, well! What was I thinking when I planned to play poker at the party and got the poker set from Tushar for the event. Frankly speaking I thought the kids would be fast asleep at the time. It was mid-night but the kids were as wide awake like an owl would be.

I am glad no one took the picture of the mess with the poker chips; else Tushar will never share the poker chips with me again ;)
I had a smaller poker set with me. So we gave them to the kids. They played football with the chips and hit and yell with the poker chips while we enjoyed a great game. Preeti took care of the kids while we were playing.
Sugu and Anu were playing for the first time. Everyone had their bit of luck last night. Everyone won a game or two except Sugu. In fact, Anu had an awesome beginner's luck when she almost won the first game. She had a straight! but I dunno why; for some reason I looked at her cards (I was helping her initially) and did not see her chance of winning. And I asked her to quit in the last round! After that she never asked me for help ;)
After an hour or so we decided we would have the last round of poker. Everyone started with big bets. And guess what? Sugu was the winner in the round and so was the one to steal the game. Lucky Sugu! He adds in the end 'I am a champion, you guys didn't know'. I am sure he didn't know either ;)!

After the game of poker, Shyju taught everyone Black Jack! It was very funny actually. While he was explaining, everyone was asking him silly questions. 'Why should I give you money?' 'Why should I add up?' 'But I have more than her, why did I lost against her?'

Finally, the mango pie was awaiting to arrive. After enjoying the tasty desert everybody left.

All in all it was a great evening. Here are a few light moments from that evening.

Shyju playing with Ann's toys :)

Hrithik the cutie pie playing with his elder bro

In the end, Ashi was wide awake while other kids slept

Ann baby!

Shweta will kill me for taking this pic :)
She is a slow eater and was one of the last people to finish dinner

Anu relaxed as her baby was fast asleep

Sweet Harish!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy birthday and belated wishes - Anu, Ann and Aryan

Here is one video taken while the kids having a good time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Excitement blown away

Tushar, Anees and I were very excited that we would be doing a good cause by donating blood this weekend. Little did we know that some 'unkind' U.S. rules would blow away the act of 'kindness'.

I had donated blood in my office back in India a couple of times too. Donating blood is the least we can do to save lives. And why not do it when we are healthy and young? I got myself registered for Platelet Apheresis at the Heartland Blood Center in Schaumburg. Cancer patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, victims of traumatic injuries, and patients undergoing open heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive. Platelets can be stored only for 5 days and hence the need is vast and continuous. Besides, I had not donated platelets anytime; so was curious to know what it is and what the procedure was.

I logged on to the site and read through all the information posted for donors. I made sure I covered all the pre and post donate conditions and precautions listed out there. Person has to be above 18 yrs of age; above 110 pounds; should not have any major diseases mentioned on the site; not have had tattoo in last 1 yr; and hence forth. I did qualify for blood donation and so very excited about the whole idea.

I was not able to get any appointment except for the 7:00 am to 9:00 am slot morning on a Saturday morning. Getting up early for a good cause; sure - why not. I wanted to do it as soon as possible so this Saturday was the earliest I could get else I had to wait for few more weeks. I was surprised at the same time happy to know that all slots were filled; that means many people are involved in this kind deed.

They had mentioned that it is recommended to eat something within the four hours preceding the donation. Now, does that mean I had to eat at 3:00 in the morning? I did not want to take a chance of fainting or trouble the staff in case I felt ill because of not eating after the donation.

The previous night I got Chinese noodles parcelled from one of my favourite restaurants. The quantity was enough for two people! I was very hungry after work so had an early dinner and went to bed. Normally I don't sleep before mid night, but I did not want to miss the appointment; so slept at 8:30 pm itself. Well, that's not it. I also woke up in the middle of the night to eat the rest of my dinner :) I was well-prepared for my task!!!

I reached the blood center few minutes before time. The lady at the reception was very helpful. She started my paper work early even though the office was still not open. She made me fill some information related to medicines I take, illness if any and Travel. Travel? Well, I was not sure why that was needed.
Since it was my first time at the center, I was told that they would not be able to do Platelet Apheresis but can do the Whole blood donation. I was fine. I should have called in earlier and checked on this. But anyway. It would just take 10 minutes now and not 2 long hrs. It would have saved me some time this morning and I could have planned better.

I was directed to go and sit in a small room; I knew this was it. The real deal; time I was waiting for. She went through the form I had entered. Which state in India are you from? I said Goa and spelled it out. "You are going to hate me for this." she said.

What was it? She showed me a book with the rules for eligibility. Against India it was typed 'DEFER'. I did not know what that meant and neither did she know why it was marked deferred for a particular country; specially India where more than 10% immigrants are from India in the U.S. She called her colleague for help. She explained.

Well, the FDA rules say that a person eligible for blood donation should have stayed in the U.S. for at least 3 years from today. That means I should have been the the U.S. since Nov 2005. I was surprised and disappointed at the same time. Who would stay that long in a foreign land? Won't we visit or travel in between? Well, if you have travelled for a period of say 1 week then the time gap should be 1 yr. OMG! I felt bad; and dizzy. Thank God I had had a good meal :)
The lady told me that I should wait for 2 more yrs to donate. What! That was very sad indeed.

Here I am eager to help and some rules in the country are stopping me from helping mankind. I felt very bad and angry on the U.S. rules. Isn't my blood good enough to help someone in the U.S.? I tried to make sense out of it. I knew it was for security reasons and the FDA knows what is best for the people. The lady at the center was very sorry I could not donate; and I was early too. But she said she appreciated my gesture.

Once I was home, I looked up on the site again.
It said - Due to Malarial risk, anyone who has traveled outside the U. S. or Canada should check with Donor Services Staff to determine eligibility. Among others, regions at risk of malaria include most sub-Saharan African and many Asian countries, some states of Mexico, areas in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cost Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Haiti and others. Refer to staff for details.

So India fell under the Malaria Area. How I wish India as well as other countries mentioned above were safe like any other healthy countries in the world.

I should have checked with the staff before registering. Someone else could have used my time-slot for donation. Anees and Tushar both did not qualify either. So I got their appointments cancelled so that their trip to the center was saved.

Waking early was good anyways. I now have a story to share and can help people be aware of such rules in the future.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Glad to meet you!

Last night I had set the morning alarm at 8:00 am but unusually I woke up at 6:30 am this morning. Since I was awake, I thought it would not be a bad idea to check out the apartment gym. It had been more than 3 months I had been to this 'not so exciting' place; at least for me.
I was surprised to see two other people almost half way through their workout already. Last time I was there at this time, I got to see only the cleaning service folks. I was happy to know people still do use our apartment gym :)

One of the people on the treadmill welcomed me with a sweet smile. Now, a smile from a strange
r and that too in a place which can get dreadful at times, was good enough to give a kick start to my morning workout.

Since both the treadmills were occupied I decided to try the Elliptical. One of them was lying on the floor, broken into pieces. I climbed the other one. It made a cracking sound and I was not sure if it was the introduction to my weight that caused it to cry out loud! I did not want to claim the 'last person using it' tag for the equipment; so decided will wait for the treadmill. The lady looked with the same familiar smile and said "They need to replace those". I agreed.

Soon I was on a treadmill and the new Friend and I were working out on equipments side-by-side. I am Linda BTW she said. Yes, friend had to have a name too! I told mine and we talked about how badly this place needed renovation.

Earlier, Linda was walking on the treadmill, and her hand bag fell off the machine and lots of papers fell off from her bag. Only later she told me that she was a writer and worked for kids. No wonder she
had so many papers in her bag.

She asked me where I was working. I told her I was working in the IT department and that she might be interested in taking advantage of a discount for family and friends at my client stores. So that was how I got her email id and I promised to send the coupons to her. She was in a hurry saying that she had to pick a friend at work and left.

I continued my workout and in a little while was ready to leave. Suddenly I saw Linda's hand bag lying near the treadmill. I was not sure if she would be back; I assumed she wouldn't as it was already quite some time since she had left. In the hurry to leave early she had completely forgotten about the bag. I decided to leave the bag at the leasing office and drop her an email that she could pick it from there. I was happy that I had taken the email address from her.

I drove back home and first thing wrote her an email. But unfortunately the mail bounced back! Now I knew I had mistyped the email address in my cell phone. Why don't the 'g's sound like 'g's and 'p's sound like 'p's to me! I need to work on my american accent I thought.

Now what do I do? What if she comes to the gym to look for her bag? I had to contact her and let her know that her stuff was safe.

I looked for her name over the web. 'Linda Piepenbrink' and gosh! I found so many links on the net. I was very excited; one- I was sure that now I would get her cell phone # and secondly- I came across a person who was famous. At least to some extent I was sure. On the internet, I saw her books on sale on ebay, amazon etc.

I managed to get her office number and dropped her a voice message. But what if that's her old office? It said Wisconsin and I was not sure if anyone would go for a workout early morning if they had to travel to work so far. I looked for her on facebook and luckily found her in th
ere. I left her a message on facebook too.
Later I dropped her hand bag at the leasing office.

When I was in office I was happy to get a reply from Linda. She said she would collect the bag from office and was thankful for taking care of her stuff. And I was glad to have met her.

My trip to the gym got me a new friend along with few calories off.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Where on earth!

This Post is my dedication to the spectacular beauty of Manali and Rohtang Pass. It was my first long distance trip with Navin and I am so happy that the we decided to go to one of the most amazing places in India. It has been more than a year that we visited Manali but when I recall or look at the pictures from the trip, I can still feel the freshness in the air and enjoy the stillness of time.
I could never imagine what a true 'Himalaya ki Godh main' experience would be. It is like nature has uplifted you to an entirely new space where you get a chance to witness God's craftsmanship. Manali is rightly called the 'Valley of the Gods'.

We took an overnight bus from Delhi to reach Manali early morning. Manali bus stand is right in the middle of the city; you get the feel of a small town. A look around and you will see tons of autos, small restaurants, travel agencies, small and big hotels, souvenir stores, open chai (tea) shops, shawl shops and of course many many tourists. Yes! Tourism is a major source of income here.

After a long, bumpy, tiring bus ride, it was a pleasure to enjoy the spectacular view from our hotel room. Long pine trees everywhere with snow peaked mountains in the background enveloped by wide open sky! The scotching heat of the month of May in Delhi was already faded far behind. Another interesting thing I should mention were the apple trees! I had never seen apple trees in my life. And in Manali you can see them everywhere. And lots of big red roses too! Beautiful.

(Click on the pics to view enlarged photo)

We decided to go around the city for the rest of the day. There are quite a lot of tourist attractions within walkable distance.

One of the big attractions was the 'Hadimba' temple; famous for the exquisite wooden carvings. Hadimba is the wife of the Pandava brothers Bhim and is the local deity. We were lucky to get to attend the festival at the temple which happens every year in May. I remember we were standing outside the temple and were very hungry; there were no restaurants close by. Suddenly we see a line forming outside a small hut-like room for Prasad. You can see Navin standing in queue for the Prasad :) We both thanked God for the perfect timing! Really.
There are a lot of buddhist temples to visit too. Infact you get to see a lot of buddhist monks and sages everywhere you go. I remember we took an auto to visit these places. The auto driver said that you guys go around and come back in 1/2 hr. When we came back the driver went missing. Navin sat in the auto took a ride in it! Or may be he was just posing in that pic!
One thing we learned from Day 1 was don't fall for the innocent looking locals sitting outside temples renting Manali traditional dresses or more specifically the ladies holding the giant Angora rabbits. You have to pay 10 bucks to click a picture of the rabbit! We had just reached the Hadimba temple and I saw a cute rabbit sitting on a table. My quick reaction was... 'Ah such a cute rabbit...let me touch it'. A lady came by and put it in my hands. I was so happy on the sweet gesture! Navin pulled the camera out for a quick pic and the lady demanded 10 bucks! 10 bucks is not a huge amount but we felt cheated. But nevertheless I was happy to hold a huge rabbit in my hands. But let me tell you; they are not so clean creatures and give a not so pleasant odour. Besides the Angora rabbits are so big yet so delicate like a huge ball of fur.

And oh yeh! We took the 'must take' picture in the traditional Manali dress. An old lady was renting the dress. These folks tell different price to everyone. There were another couple who had just rented the dress from the lady. Navin started talking to the guy. The old lady thought that we were checking the price of the rental dress with the other guy and was very furious. Hehe. Anyhow, we did get to know price the guy paid!
Another interesting place to visit was the Vashist hot water Natural Sulplur springs. Vashist is supposedly a holy sage with some relation to Lord Rama. There is a small Rama temple and a Vashist temple near the Springs. The Vashist temple is a rest area for many Sadhus who keep moving around. I was very amazed to see the natural hot water springs. Again, something new for me to experience. There is a small place where the hot spring water flows and a bathroom like structure is constructed around it. There are separate areas for gents and ladies. You will be surprised by how hot the water is; it is almost unbearable to put your feet in it.

Solang Valley is another big attraction near the city. It reminded me of the song 'Dil Deewana' from the film 'Maine Pyaar Kiya'. The valley is very scenic with huge open area covered with green grass and overlooking the snow covered mountains in the background. The valley is always crowded with visitors to enjoy the para-gliding. We were too scared to try any of that! It is more like a fair event with balloon sellers, many chai/food stalls around the valley. Oh yeh, and how can we forget the guy selling Shilajit. There are these people going around who sell some ayurvedic medicine called Shilajit. There was this one guy who kept following us wherever we went; no matter how hard we tried to dodge him. That guy kept pointing out Navin's spectacles and said that he has the best medicine in the world which can cure the eyes. He used to say "Aap paise mat dijiye. Bas humara naam aur pata likhke rakhiye. Wapas jane par paise bhej dejiye". Navin was very annoyed with the guy and would have blasted him off if he showed up one more time.

River Beas originates in Manali and the spot is called the Beas Kund. Beauty of Manali is enhanced with the river Beas flowing across the city. Navin tried his hands on river crossing too across the river Beas at the Solang Valley resort. There are a few funny videos too which I should upload :)
One day we did a 14 Km river rafting along river Beas. The water was freezing cold! And the trainer tried his best to make sure I was soaked in water by the end of the 'cold adventure'. Navin, trainer and me - just the three of us on the raft! My teeth chatter when I think of the freezing water come rushing to wet us. Besides the water I enjoyed every moment on the raft. The rivers flows along huge mountains on one side and the local roads on the other side with people bending over the fence to have a look at you. The mountains are a spectacular view; it is very rocky with rocks in the shape of huge pebbles.

The roads in Manali are narrow and rocky. There is a small bridge over the river Beas which you need to cross to go anywhere outside the city. Only one vehicle is allowed to pass over it at a time. With no traffic police, it is worth seeing how vehicle owners make their way over the bridge.

The best part of the trip was arriving; we had been waiting to start our journey to the 'Rohtang Pass'. In winters the roads to the pass are closed and open only around mid of May every year. We were lucky to make it just in time. It took almost 1 1/2 to 2 hrs to reach the top in a van but the view was just breath taking. It was a bumpy ride with lots of twists and turns along the road. There are tons of scenic points all along the road. As you go higher up, I could feel the air getting thinner and colder.

This is the view we get all along the way. Look all around and all you see are the snow covered mountains, hidden behind the clouds; giving you a feeling of comfort and happiness that there is some place on mother earth where nature does all the talking and not humans. You realize how small and fake humans are before the mightiness of real and pure existence. The calmness in the place forces you to stay in the present; you can hear your heart beat; makes you listen to your breath. You can smell the freshness in the air. The trip up above was very fulfilling.

As we moved along, we could see many small areas between mountains where people had set up small tea/snacks shops. People were enjoying skiing and snowmobiling too. We decided to go further ahead as far as the roads were open.

It was getting colder as we moved up the mountain. It gave a feel of what the soldiers at the Ind-Pak border may be going through specially in harsh winters. I however cannot imagine how anyone can have the vigour or zest to take lives in a place which feels close to heaven.
Btw, on our way we saw couple of people on motorbikes too. I am sure they must be having backaches after their long ride. Finally we reached a point where the vehicles could not go any further. We parked the car and started walking in the snow. A few minutes of walking and suddenly we came to a wide open snow field. There were many people around; it looked like a festival. Everyone was wearing bright colored snow suits; some were busy clicking pictures; others learning to skii; one place we saw a couple playing in the snow. They used to walk by a small slopy area and roll down in the snow- the way they show in the movies. It was hilarious! The entire place was surrounded by mountains. You could only look at them with a feeling of awe and admiration.

We tried skiing for sometime; took a ride on snowmobile too; that was so much fun. We met a few people who were selling tea and coffee in this cold. When asked how they managed to travel all the way on top of the mountain they told us that they used to stay overnight because the transportation was very costly. Sometimes, tourists were very kind to allow them to travel with them in their vehicles.
Soon we had to head back to the hotel else we would be caught in the traffic on the narrow slopes. We didn't want to leave but were left with no choice. But Rohtang Pass will continue to remain a very special experience for Navin and me.
Next day we decided to explore a small and beautiful village named Naggar about 25 kms from Manali. The houses in Naggar are very small and are located all along small hills.

Nagar has a beautiful ancient palace amidst the greenery and mountains. The palace had beautiful wooden carvings. A movie was being shooted while we were at the palace. We also got to know that Kareena Kapoor was in Manali to shoot for Jab We Met too. We hoped we could get a glance of her sometime but we were pretty happy to rather enjoy the real beauty :)
There are many temples to visit there but now I have lost count. However we came across an interesting temple. The pecularity of that temple was that the pujaris of the temple were ladies! The lady preist told us that men of the city would travel away for business (I think we said business or may be war) and they had to look after the deity.
That was the end of our special trip to Manali. We were lucky to enjoy the wonderful weather of the month of May and enjoy some fun adventure trips which were open in summers.
Do plan a trip to Manali atleast once in your lifetime. You will realize how enjoyable it is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It is a small world after all!

It was a nice lovely morning; 29th Sep 08. All of the ES (Enterprize Solutions) folks living in Chicago Area had gathered for a Cruise party at the Wacker Drive in Downtown. Since Navin is part of ES group, we got to participate in the boat ride along with the other ES folks.

All people were very friendly and warm. Never did I know that one of my team mates who was supposed to join my team beginning the following day was also at the location. I knew Anubhav Srivastava was part of ES group, but I was not aware that he was from Chicago too. Or else, I would have tried to look out for the new face amongst the huge crowd of 75 odd people and get introduced ahead of time. Anyways! ES party was a good fun time and we all headed back home.

Next day, at work I was introduced to Anubhav. As we were talking, we realized that we had been to the same cruise a day earlier and must have looked at each other or even got introduced. But neither of us recollected clearly.

At work, Anubhav was sitting next to my desk. Navin happened to call me and we started talking in Konkani over the phone. The language sounded familiar, and Anubhav asked, 'was that marathi?' When I told him I am from Goa and we were speaking Konkani, Anubhav mentioned that he had spent two years during his higher secondary in Goa and knows Konkani too. Interesting! So now, we both knew we had a common language to talk, specially as a code language at work; in case we need in future ;)

What year did you graduate, was our next question. 1997 12th Std! Oh, I finished HSSC the same year. Now, we were both very excited. Meeting someone from your place (even though he lived there for short period), moreover when you are in a foreign land, is a different feeling all togather. Goa is such a small place and I was sure if not me, some of my friends or relatives may know him. Thats what happens in Goa!

He told me that he was living in Bicholim. Bicholim, now that is not very far from Mapusa; the place where I lived in Goa. Ah, north Goa, so now we have more common things to talk about. My immediate question was, which college? There can be some chance he studied in St. Xaviers because Bicholim is not very far from there. But he said, he studied in Bicholim itself. Hmm, Ok I thought. 'But I travelled to Mapusa for XII class tuitions? Ahh! Now, there were fixed set of coaching classes in Mapusa where almost entire XII class in the college used to take.

We started listing down some of our tuition teachers and like we guessed, we had been going to the same coaching classes! My my, I meet someone from Goa and then he happens to be in the same place where I was many many years ago! We even matched the class timings. :) What a coincidence and yeh, such a small world.

Now, what else can be common. We had had enough of shooting questions at each other and getting amazingly sync responses! I gave it another go; I could not resist. Since he was from Bicholim, I was sure he knew one of my friends in Bicholim; one - since he was from same batch as mine and must have gone to same college and secondly - Jayesh I was sure must have been famous in his hometown :P. No particular reasons for his popularity, if you get to meet him, you will just know!

And Ola! How could he not know Jayesh, who apparently was one of his best buddies. He told me Jayesh is currently in the US and he speaks to him very often. Wow, now that was cool, isn't it? Jayesh is also my good friend and we are from a common college group.

And that was one of the last links we shared. I am so glad, I came across another new friend and coincidently we had lots to talk and that too in Konkani.

We both had one thing in our minds that day! This world is a small place and you never know whom you will come across the next minute; most of times you will be happy to know the unknown faces.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An old story - Tie ki Story


Been a while I posted something... I will very soon... have a few incidences in mind. Till then I thought I will share an interesting old story with everyone. I hope you enjoy it!

Dated Aug-25-2007

I cannot stop myself from sharing a funny incidence from all of you which neither Navin nor I will forget...atleast for sometime.
Yesterday, I was free from office pretty early... so thought will get myself some clothes that fit!!! :) I went to Pantaloons, one of the very few options we have here in Mangalore. Shopping was not at all enjoyable; with me having to try out 2 size bigger clothes all the time:'(. Well, lets not go there. Let me tell you the actual kissa.
I was almost done, when i thought.. Navin ke liye bhi kuch leti hoon.Kya le.. hmm... itna kharcha ho gaya already... hmm... kuch offer hain kya.. .aise sochte sochte I decided, I will buy him a TIE! Few days back we were trying to figure out which tie would go on a shirt he was wearing and nothing from the collection that he had matched!!! He needed a solid color, probably navy colored tie.

So here I was trying to find a navy solid colored tie in the store.
I went to the tie section, and there were plenty on sale. Some Allen Solly offer, buy one get one and many more too. But I just couldn't find a solid navy! Ok i thgt, I shall settle with any solid color, but none were good enuf...others too expensive ;-)Finally I got hold of a sales represen to help me search one. Bahot dhoondhne ke baad he came to me with one. A silky, navy, solid colored tie. I looked at the price tag... 249. Ah.. perfect :-)!

I was already tired with all the trying out of clothes, re-trying out more, earlier.I went to the counter and the guy at the counter started scanning each item. Hey the tie does not have a tag. He enquired with some people in the stores. He was checking 2-3 tiems. kitna discount hain.. 20% off? 30% off? I was like. itna kya hain... tie ke liye. 20 ya 30 kuch bhi dalo... jaldi.. i want to go. Quickly I did the payment and took an auto home.

Later, at home, Navin and I sat to see what all I had bought. I somehow managed to hide the bill from Navin. Usko pata nahi lagna chahiye uska tie kitne ka hain aur mere kapde kitne ke! Then showed him the tie. His first reaction - Ah... silk one... nice one... Must be expensive. I said its OK :-) Just for you :-P (Mann main socha...249.. not bad)But he insisted to see the bill. To our amazement, we saw one item marked as 2490 Rs!!! What the hell was that? My jeans? Or oh.. yes.Probably the had a 50% discount. But then why did they not reduce the price by half? I just could not understand! Man. 2500 ka fhatka.. lekin kispe?
We matched the bar code for every item we had,one by one. Nope. None of the things I owned. To phir??? One last item. The silky navy solid colored tie!!! There was no tag to that tie:( even when I bought it. That TIE costs us 2500??? Navin, pls pinch me. Navin ne socha rahega.. pinch?? ek lafaa de deta hoon. We are like... Dude, do u really want that tie? But they don't take the sold items back.

Now what? Is it really worth 2500? Meri jeans se bhi mehenga??? Ok.. a nice tie but itna..! Kya tie itne mehenge hote hain kya... I had never bought one. Navin is like... haan hote hain.. lekin mujhe nahi lagta Infy main koi aise pehenta hain. Shayad Bangalore Infy main pehente honge.. :P hahaha Tears rolled down my eyes... mera saman tere se sastaa! ahh. :-)Phir maine khud ko bahot samjaya. Finally I said, Navin, you can keep the tie... 2500, thik hain... 60 dollars hi to hain. No problem. Then bahot nautanki ke baad we decided, that I should go back and try returning the tie.

So today, i somehow dragged myself to Pantaloons. Yesterday I had already made a scene there. Scene mhanje.. HMM Ok.. Ok.. I'll tell...when going into these shops, if you have any hand bag you need to keep it at the entrance itself and the gaurds will give you a token inreturn which u use when taking your stuff back. Now, what happened was... I took the token and lost it when I was going around in the shop. :( and that idiot gaurd was not ready to return my stuff without the token! I somehow managed to get my bag back :(!

So many people already knew me at the stores from yesterday's incidence. Abhi bolenge.. aa gayi madam. Kapde wapas karne? mehenga tha? To liya kyon? Abhi akhdenge. But I was ready to give a shot.
Now, this time too I met the same gaurd and this guy was not ready to take the bag inside! haha. God.. help me. It was raining and I had wrapped the clothes in 2 plastic covers and did not want to open it there at the entrance. What if the clothes get wet... and what if they don't take it back, though I knew they would never take it back! anyways. I wanted to finish the whole exercise ASAP!

I went to the counter. I said... I had come here last evening. Ibought one tie... it costs 2500! I read the price as 250 odd. The tag was not clear. I don't understand. How could you put 2500 in my bill? Baazi unpe i thought ;-) The guys at customer service also looked confused. They entered the bar code from the bill into their system.'Madam, we are sorry. actually the bar code entered was of a suit!'WHAT!!!?

So all the tears, and sleepless night that I had? All thetrouble of going back to their store? Was cos of a mistake by YOU guys!??? Now I was raged, I want my money back. OK OK We will pay youthe amount in cash was what I could hear :-) :-) :-) The tie cost me 230 something.

I came back to office and told Navin. Abhi yeh useless bolta hain 2000 ki treat chahiye! Thode log pet se hi sochte hain ;-)Anyways. Happy to end this incidence here.

So...........? Abhi sablog suno. ALWAYS check your bills when you go to buy anything. And don't laugh at people when they do that. A smarter Shreya would have never let her husband know that she later got the money back and the tie was never 2500!

Would have been a real scene to see Navin wear the tie proudly showing off...thinking it is still 2500 :-). Will share a picture of Navin with the tie anyways ;)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Necessity v/s Passion

I am waiting for my train to start from my work place back home. I do this every day from work but today I am late. It is almost 8:45 p.m. It has been a very tiring day. Tired by complaining of work, thinking why things couldn’t have been better, what if I was doing things differently, why don’t I change few things, blah, blah, complain, criticize, condemn.

Train master announces – “Obviously, Train is going to be delayed 7 minutes”. 7 minutes? Are you kidding me? I am already 3 hours late to reach home! And now they make me wait 7 more minutes? And who can believe how long the 7 minutes will be. I heard the ‘Obvious’ announcement 15 minutes back already.

There I go again… complaining, grumbling. Well, today’s day will go by and I will not even remember I spent significant part of my day grumbling. So who cares?

Do successful people have such frustrations? I am sure they do. All humans do because no place is perfect even if you are perfect, or you want to believe that you are. Either people around are idiots or the whole situation is just not right. Then what do these successful people do? Don’t they complain? Needless to say they don’t waste their time crying like someone like me would.

They are too focused on important things in their lives than to even think about other things that can cause a bother. Their complaints would be – How can I better things? What do I do to make things better? How can I do things differently? How can I change few things? My work suck but how can I enjoy what I do?

And that’s the difference between me and them. Both me and they work hard, both think hard. But the difference between what drives me and what drives them is ‘Necessity’ v/s ‘Passion’.

Btw, 7 minutes is almost 30 minutes long now. Grrr!

Thinking about focus, one thing comes to my mind. I have been struggling with weight problem ever since I was in college. I tried different diets, joined gym. I would carry on with a plan for may be max 10 days (recalling optimistically). And then back to square one. In fact at times 2-3 squares behind square one.

Lady behind just cried out, “This is bull$h&*’. (Train journeys are fun, get to see so many expressions, so many people!) Btw, the lights in the train are now turned on.

So, what was driving my focus to become thin? Necessity! I wanted to loose weight. I wanted quick results. I tried for 10 days but at the end of it I was too tired and frustrated. I did not see any benefits and I gave up too soon. I was too lazy to keep going.
But have you not heard of stories of people who went from size 10 to size 4? What did they have that I lacked? I know the answer. Passion! They had the passion and worked towards their passion.

The train has started moving. So, not everything is dark and bad today. I finally will get to go home tonight (before mid-night).

So where do I get the passion from? I was talking to one of my friends one day. I started complaining about work and he told how he did not like his job either. Then for a moment we started talking about what we could do for living if we had an option not to do things that bother us. Though we knew that some things may not be practical in near future, I could feel a new energy in me. We were so engrossed and came up with so many innovative ideas. Just thinking about the new ideas, my work did not feel so bad it did before the chat. I had a great day at work after that.

Abhinav Bindra won a Gold at Olympics for India couple of days back. During the award ceremony, he was so calm and confident. He had an ‘I know I deserved to win, I am good at what I do, I knew I could win Olympics gold one day. I worked hard for this’ look on his face all the time. I looked up his profile on Wikipedia and was surprised to know he is 25 yrs of age and CEO of a company. After Olympics he is going to get monetary benefit of 2 crore rupees. Boy! What an achievement. And how was he handling sport and business? I know it is his passion for both that drives him every day and there was this golden day where we reached the peak of success and got rewarded for his passion.

At work, I have got a chance to interact and work with many people who are passionate about their work. And how do I know they are passionate? Well, they deal with similar people I do, they work around similar things that I do. And they are successful. That’s because they want it so bad, it’s their passion. They know what they want and work towards it no matter with whom they have to deal with or what they need to do to reach there.

I believe that one who is passionate, crazy about anything will achieve it, will get it against all odds. There are NO EXCEPTIONS.
And those who do things just because they need to it will never get what they want. However hard they work or whatever they do. They will never be happy because necessities will change with time and finally they will give up. There are NO EXCEPTIONS.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chicago 'on fire'

It all started with Piyush this morning. He was in the hall, lazing on the couch smiling all by himself, waiting for his first Bakra!

I was first one to wake up. Went out to the kitchen, hardly even opened my eyes, trying to find a vessel for the tea. I hear Piyush pass a remark, 'dekh yaar aaj kitni snow ho rahi hain'. KYA? snow? 'Nahi' I cried. I ran to the balcony door. I was supposed to take the car to office today, it was my turn.

'Yeh mere saath nahi ho saktaa! Aaj hi hona tha. That too when I decide to drive to work.' And to my amaze, I could see everything so 'white' outside. May be right within I wanted it to snow and that too heavily, so 'white' that no one could drive today and office was called off. And then I hear the slogan of victory, 'April Fool, april fool'. Ahh got me that time. Good one Piyush.

Now I knew what made the prankster have that witty look to his face all morning. But now, it caught to me too. I had to pass it on to someone. I go right to our room and tell Navin... 'Hey no office today! Its snowing.' But the same prank does not work with everyone. Lesson learnt on 'April's fool day'! Anyways. Popat hua :-)

But now, we were a team! Piyush decided to target his office folks while I took the responsibility of my office folks. And Navin, well he was supposed to support both of us. First one on the list was Mutthu! Piyush called him up and told him that there was a big office issue and he needs to log on to the system immediately. Their boss is looking out for him and he better get going and know what to do. Hahah And he believed every word. He panicked for a while and when he was told, its just an April Fool's day prank, he thanked Piyush :-) hahah! He is the only one to thank anyone for playing a joke on him. But he did not forget to use his favourite dialogue 'Kya reh! Idiotic Fella!'

Now, it was my turn. What should I say that would make people believe me? I hardly interact on any production issues with my office people that Muthu's prank could work for me.

So we decided to put Chicago on fire :-) I would say that there was some terrorist attack or something in downtown. There was a curfew in the city (believeable? Well, I could not believe people would fall for that). For safety, office have been closed and people advised to stay at home. CNN, Fox are flashing this news as high alert!

First one aimed was Payal! Tring Tring. 'Elooooooo?' She had just woke up, infact our call had woken her up. Thats the best time to make people believe you. So I narrate the whole news to her. SUCCESS! Payal ka reaction, 'Gyan to aaj jaldi office gaye yaar. He did not know anything'. Poor thing. Happy April Fool's Day Payal! :-) But the best part was when I asked her, Payal tu office jayegi? She says, 'yaar, meri aaj meeting hain. Main ready hoke baithti hoon. Agar curfew nahi hua then I will go to office aur nahi to I will work from home'.

Wah kya dedication hain! Too much.

Phir baari aayi Prashanth ki. Piyush called his manager Prashanth and he too was ready to believe every word. He was watching Fox news and says, how come they are not showing it on the Fox news? Piyush says, dekho dekho CNN pe hoga! Bolte hain, acha kaunsa channel? :-) haha

Divya was not picking her phone. So I left her a voice message. The same news, ofcourse. She told Mumeena, her roommate about the news. Mumeena then called me. Navin answered the call. He sounds very sad and even gives Mumeena the statictics of how many people have been injured and killed in the horrible event. Morever says that Shreya is gone to some hospital to see someone. What? Hospital? hahah what was that. Jhooth bhi thik se bolna nahi ataa. But so what! Mumeena asks in her typical style, 'tell me one thing, how authentic is the news that poeple have died'!

Another person to fall for the prank was Sohani! He went straight to the tv set and started the news channels. Initially we thought Sohani would be the difficult one to fall prey to us but it was our lucky day! :-) He starts looking for the news on every news channel haha.

And ofcourse Tushar. He was the coolest one and calmest of all to respond. Infact his reaction made us believe he was happy.. may be cos of the day off we were expecting :-)

All in all a very naughty and lively morning. Thanks to the master mind behind Chicago fire, Piyush.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lost Keys!

Today a funny thing happened.

Navin uses our car to go to office daily. So anything and everything related to the car is directed to Navin. By this I mean whats the car mileage, where are the car papers, insurance registration, expiry, taking to mechanic, or for that matter even where the car is parked or where the car keys are kept!

I am only an infrequent guest who get a chance to sit in the car if we decide to go out over the weekend. And as far as me able to drive the car goes, forget it!

But over a couple of weeks things have been changing slowly. Against all odds, I manage to get hold of the car keys (gets very tricky at times, baht mehenat karni padhti hain) and after lot of persuation I am given the pleasure to drive!!! Well persuation on both sides. One - making Navin comfortable and assured that I CAN drive and other times it is making myself ready and excited to drive.

Last evening Tushar and Navin had to go for a swimming class and luckily (for me) they decided to travel in one car. And even more luckier was that they decided to take Tushar's car. Hee hee. Now that left me home alone ofcourse and more importantly with our beloved car.

It was the first time as far as I can remember, I drove alone by myself. So, here I was, happy and excited to exploit my freedom to take on the roads! And most importantly not have someone at my side who would usually have his heart in his mouth every time I stepped on the gas and who was ready to have an heart attack any moment.

When I came to office this morning, I get a call from a very panicked Navin. 'Where are the car keys!?' huh? 'I dunno. you drive the car, you should know.', I shout back. The funny thing was I had got the car keys with me to office. Boy, how I enjoyed the crack in Navin's voice. He was getting late for work (thats a every day story) and had been warned a couple of times by his manager. Well, don't think it was a wicked prank I had planned. It just so happened that the car keys remained in my purse after my infamous road trip (well, I would prefer to call it a road trip, so what)! And isn't it the driver's responsibility to make sure the keys are available when needed? But while I was talking to Navin on the phone, I knew the other duplicate car keys were at home and he could use them instead.

But thats how human minds work. You don't find the usual things (which you feel you own) in the usual place and you feel nervous. You want to blame someone before even looking for other options. In this situation, Navin was calling to blame me for not returning the keys to him, whereas I was blaming him for not remembering to take the keys back from me!

And why am I writing this as a blog post??? Like you know, the lazy me started writing this post the day the incidence happened and seemed so interesting. Now its almost a week, and I picked it up in between to finish off what I started with. And now it doesn't seem so interesting.

Anyways. Atleast keeps my blog spot space occupied :-)