Sunday, December 21, 2008

The "Long Good-Bye" syndrome!!

The other day we were at a friend's house, getting ready to leave after a get-together. I called out to my son to get ready to leave.
"Do we have to leave right now? There's a NBA-basketball game on." he said.
"We're leaving in a couple of minutes." I was firm.
"What stage of good-byes are you in?"
"Stage of good-byes?! What do you mean?" I didn't get the question.
"I mean has Mom said bye to everybody?" he asked.
"Well... she's starting to----"
Before I could finish, he turned around and yelled to the other kids--- "Hey guys! The good-byes are just starting, so we are good for the next quarter." And he ran down to the TV room!

Was he right? Do we take that long to say our Good-byes? I was standing close to the stairs leading up from the basement, so anybody leaving had to pass by me. The party was winding down so I started to observe the good-byes all around.

The men moved fast-- a quick thank you, a hand shake and they were on their way...... well not quite.... they had to wait for their better halves to catch up!
And now to the better halves........ all wearing radiant smiles, in addition to shimmering dresses and sparkling jewelery. The ladies were laughing, giggling and seemed to be in no mood to leave. Every lady had to have a one-on-one good bye with every body else in the room. There was the small talk, a hug, something whispered in the ear....... it seemed as if the party was just beginning! A friend of ours, went by me a few times after saying his good-byes each time to everybody and to me. He came back every few minutes, looking for his wife. The intensity of the good-bye weakened each time and by the fifth time, he just looked at me, shrugged and nodded towards his wife. I just shrugged back!
And finally, when the ladies were ready to move, there were misplaced purses, footwear, coats, kids?!.... (just kidding, yaar!)...... My son had been conservative, they could have watched the next two quarters of the game!

Does this happen everywhere? Or only at parties that I go to? Now I know why my wife actually had two small benches placed by the main entrance in our house. It's for people to sit, who get tired while good-byeing!!

But I guess there's a reason for the long good-byes. It shows that you are among friends, and you don't want the party to end. You want to hang out a little more, laugh a little more, no... Punjabis don't gossip!!! The party ends when you are in your car...... Well, let me correct that.... in summer, my wife has said good-byes for half an hour sitting in our car on the host's driveway! So I guess the party ends only when you reach your own driveway. In a Punjabi party, a 5-second good-bye is unthinkable. The long good-bye is an important cog in a very big social wheel of the Punjabi culture.

"You can only be friends with individuals you trust, and above all--- laugh with."


Sunday, December 7, 2008

So where's the party?!!!

This past weekend we were invited to a few parties. On a particular evening, our toli (a boisterous group of friends) went to four places in a space of five hours. In between those five hours and four different places, I laughed, connected with some old friends, made a few new ones, enjoyed some great singing, danced a wee bit, drank a little..... and sometimes confused our hosts and ourselves whether we were arriving or leaving! There was some good-natured leg pulling, gentle ribbing of all husbands for not being able to even spell romance, much less be romantic......... routine stuff that goes on in a successful, loving marriage! The five hours went by real quick.

So where was the real party? Well, yuppies call it party-hopping!

For me, the party is where my friends are. If that evening is an example, the party was where our toli was! We weren't party-hopping, the party was hopping with me, my wife and our friends! It doesn't matter where the physical location of the party is, what matters is the crowd that you are hanging out with. When you are with people with whom you connect to, the time and place are irrelevant. Time has a tendency to fly. Its a blur of good times and camaraderie.

For me, the five hours that evening were well-lived!

We are thankful for having a great group of friends. It is a blessing when the distinction between friends and family is blurred, and we are blessed many times over. Cherish friendship that is sincere. Be proud of your friends, their friendship and never be afraid to express it out loud, no matter what the circumstance. If the friendship is real, then you are friends at all places and at all times. I've never seen a part-time friendship work!

It's that time of the year, and there will be parties galore! Hope each one of you has a great time. Enjoy the parties, the people, the spirit of the season and here's wishing you all --"A Very Happy Holiday Season."


Sunday, November 30, 2008

The key is to look busy!!!

We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood full of friends. Hosting a party is no big deal, as we have an abundance of eager, sincere helpers. Let me share with you what happened last time we had a party at our house.......

That Sunday morning, my wife was busy decorating and organizing our basement with a couple of her friends. On occasions like these, I help her by staying out of her way! But like a good husband, I asked if there was something I could do, even though the Redskins game was only a few minutes away. I was banking on the fact that generally she doesn't trust me to do much.
"Well, three things" she said. "Get the soft drinks, get the tables from our neighbors and pick up some fresh flowers." I was shocked! There goes the Redskins game.
"Sure, honey." I even managed to smile. Just then, the doorbell rang. One of our friendly neighbors was at the door.
"All ready for the evening? Need some help?" he asked.
"," I lied. "I just need to get the tables, flowers, soft drinks--"
"You know, you look tired. I'll get the tables, Doc Saab! I know who has them. You take care of the flowers and soft drinks."
"You sure? I hope it's no trouble..." I tried to protest (mildly), but he was already on his way. Well, that was one-third of my job done! Thank God I looked tired!
Then the doorbell rang again. Through the glass door, I could see that it was one of our other friends. I pulled out my shirt from one side and tousled my hair (what's left of it!) before opening the door.
"Man, you look busy. Anything I can do to help?" he asked.
" It's just the flowers, and the soft drinks and the tables----"
"I'll get the flowers. You get soft drinks and the tables." He looked at me for a moment and said "Lie down or something, you look fatigued."
"I will. You sure the flowers won't be any trouble---"
"No formality, yaar. It's done."
"Thanks." Wow! Two down, one to go. Only soft drinks to get. My brain raced furiously. That one chore could be easily worked in at half-time. I could watch the game after-all!
I sneaked up to our bedroom and put the redskins game on. And the door-bell rang again! My heart jumped for a moment....Was it possible that even the soft-drinks?...... I suddenly had a brilliant idea. I grabbed a sweatshirt and wore it inside out, made sure that my undershirt showed, and rushed downstairs to open the door to another of our friends.
He stared at me for a moment. "Do you know you're wearing your sweat shirt inside out?"
"Oh really! I'm sorry. I've been so busy today---"
"You need help? Need to get something?"
" it's just the soft drinks, and the flowers, and the tables----"
"I'll get the soft drinks. Isn't there a Redskins game today?"
"Redskins? Oh yeah...I completely forgot about that. Are you sure the soft drinks are not a problem?"
"Worry not, Bhaji. You take care of the flowers and tables."
"Thanks," I said and zipped up the stairs. After a while I called out to my wife, "You doing okay, honey?"
"Yeah," she replied, like the trooper she is. "Few things left to do. Are you sure you can handle the stuff I asked you to do?"
"Oh, anything for you, honey. I'll manage somehow." I settled deeper into the couch with my remote.......

So the next time you come to a party at our house, if I look tired, I actually will be. Because after reading this, nobody is going to help me!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The difference between Price and Value......

We spend a lifetime trying to make it good in life. We work hard and try to do well in our lives to provide for our family, accumulate assets, property, save for retirement....... The parameters of success vary for different people. Some feel good driving an expensive sports car, for some it might be owning a fancy house, for still others it might be reaching the pinnacle in their profession. And for most of us, its a little bit of everything.

As we grow up, our upbringing defines us later in life. The values and morals that are instilled during our formative years guide us to negotiate the tricky curve balls that life will throw at us, off and on. As we grow in years, our ambitions and wants sometimes will tempt us to stray from the right path. Occasionally, for some people, it's hard to realize that there are no shortcuts in life. Because once you take the shortcut, you lose direction and it can take a lifetime to get back on the right track.

For children, among the things they value the most are their soccer or basketball Jerseys or a small gift they received from their best friend....... not because these are expensive, but because these things reflect their pride of being part of a team or a friendship. As we grow older, in this journey of life, sometimes we get confused between the price and value of things that we come across. For example, if you receive a gift, its easy to know the price of that gift, but it takes a genuine person to know the real value of the same..... and that's a sum total of the thought, effort, love and affection that got the gift to you.

So what's the most important asset we build over our lifetime? According to me, it's relationships. There is no value or price we can put on any of them, whether be it with family or friends. And every relationship is unique, and if it is a true affection or bond, it will stand the test of time. It's always a two way street, and never works one way. Relationships with genuine people on both sides, are stronger after a crisis, mature over years and bring soul into life. The joys of material things are transient, the warmth that a positive relationship brings lasts forever.

Many a times, two like-minded people will hesitate to express to each other that they would like to be closer....... it's an opportunity lost. If you want to take a relationship to the next level, let ego not come in the way and express it out loud, with words or actions. What you get out of a close relationship is absolutely priceless!

P.S. -- The above post is a result of a discussion between a "philosopher" friend, my wife and myself!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Fitting" into a Gym!

On persistent reminders from a friend, I finally joined a gym.

The first day I went, I almost turned back because I thought I was in the wrong place. I was not expecting to see a resort-like lobby, well-dressed staff (with neckties and all!)... Anyway, after the initial confusion, my wife and I registered. And then off went my wife with a friend of hers to "workout" and I was left alone to fend for myself.

I went up the stairs and passed a few jocks whose biceps were approximately the size of my thighs! I started to have visions of myself with Salmanesque bulging muscles..... This place was good! I walked to the Fitness Center and there was a sea of machines! I hesitantly walked over to one and tried to figure out the handles, bars, knobs.... I squeezed myself between two handle bars and gave one of the handles a heave. The next thing I know.... something smacked me on the back and I was sprawled on the floor! God, I hope nobody saw that. Just then, a voice piped behind me --"Arvin Uncle, you were sitting on the machine backwards." I looked up to see a couple of our 10-year old neighborhood kids staring down at me with a pitying look. "You know, they do have a Yoga room at the other end."
There goes my sporty, toughie reputation!
Hey guys, let's keep this amongst ourselves, okay?"
"Coldstone ice-cream gift-cards?" they asked, looking very innocent. "Oh, alright...," I replied. Smart kids!
I picked up my sore back and made a beeline for the Yoga room. For some peace and quiet now! There was a "Open Class at 7 pm" sign outside the room. Good! There was nobody in the brightly lit room and I settled down in one corner. After a few minutes, a couple of huge men walked in...and I mean they were big! Their tight T -shirts could barely contain the rippling muscles. "Is the class here?" one of them asked.
"Yeah, at 7 pm," I replied. Can Yoga build up a body like that? I started feeling good about this gym again. A few more men came in, and each of them seemed to be bigger than the other.

The instructor started barking out instructions -- "Warm up a little....relax your muscles and then take off your shirts..." What was that again....? Take off your shirts? I was confused.
"Which aasan is that?" I asked, not to anybody in particular.
The guy in front of me turned around and glared at me, "Whom are you calling an ass?" he growled, flexing his eye popping biceps.
" I meant which Yoga-aasan is that?"
"Yoga? Hey bro, this is a body building class." I turned a beetroot red and hurried out of the room and ran into my wife in the Fitness Center.
"Hi honey," she smiled. "Look at your red face! You must have had a wonderful work out."
I just nodded, not trusting myself to speak. She continued. "We should come here every day and be fit."
"Yeah honey, I'll try to fit in too," I replied.

But I'm getting used to it now, the machines are more friendly and I don't venture into any room till I know for sure what's going on inside!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hats off to ladies everywhere.....

My wife is visiting India these days. Its been a week since she left and its been seven long days. The condition of our house can be best described as...... chaotic! The race against time begins every morning, as soon as I wake up.

By the time I get downstairs, I'm already behind by a few minutes.
"Hey dad, where are my socks?" my son calls out.
"Your socks? look in the...the... sock closet. " That's the best I could do, between juggling cream cheese and bagels for breakfast. Even to me, my answer sounded lame.
"What sock closet?" he asks back. I pretend not to hear.
When he's ready to leave, I notice that he is wearing socks.
"Hey Simar, so you found your socks," I smiled.
"Yup. I called mom."
"You called mom? You called India to find your socks?"
"Yeah, dad. Can't go to school without socks. No shirt, no socks -- no education!" He smiled and rushed out of the house to catch the school bus.
Just then my daughter hurries down from her room, getting ready to drive to UVA, where she's a second year.
"G'morning, dad. What's the hindi word for appreciate?" (She studies hindi as a second language at college.)
I did some quick thinking, in between getting the dog out, throwing bread into the toaster, ignoring the persistent phone ringing.........
"I don't know, Neety."
"But didn't you study hindi in India?"
"I did, but I wasn't very good at it."
"Mom would know. So when is she coming back?"
"In a week." A deep sigh escapes me.
"You sure you can hang on, dad?" I can sense that she's a little worried.
"Oh yeah. I'm fine." God, I'm the one supposed to be taking care of her!

This is a micro chasm of life in my day when Kamna is not around. Things go a little crazy, a little unstuck around the house. I've realized that she's the glue that holds our lives together, makes things go smoothly without the hiccups. And she does this, day-in and day-out........ and she works......and she cooks....... and provides counsel to so many people we know..... and the household chores...... the list can go on and on.

The other aspect I miss is her company, the daily chit-chat about "stuff", the spontaneous laughter, the impulsive run to the movies or restaurants..... I guess she really does "complete me". (Excuse me, Tom Cruise!)

And I'm sure this story is repeated in all households, all over.

So hats off to ladies everywhere......

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Laundry Challenge!!

The other day my wife said "Can you put laundry in the washer?"
"Sure, honey," I replied. I strode to our laundry room and saw three separate piles of clothes. I put one of them in. There was so much space left in the washer, so I picked up the second pile and put that in too. And there was still some space left. I love my wife, so I said to myself --Let's get in the third pile too, so she won't have to to this when she gets back. So in went the third pile of our son's bright colored T -shirts. Then I looked around for soap and I put a scoop in. My wife's going to love this! All the laundry done before she returns home!

Then I noticed a bottle of bleach next to the soap. Didn't I just put in some white clothes too? So in went a cup of bleach. I slammed the laundry door shut and looked for the "Wash" button. To my surprise, there was none. There were fifty other buttons and tiny flickering lights, as if I was looking at the dashboard of a fancy sports car! I tried making sense of the words delicates, cotton, sturdy etc. And why was "hand wash" labeled on the panel? If I was going to hand wash my clothes, I wouldn't use the machine, would I? And what in the hell is fluff? I thought fluff was the frothy stuff floating on top of a Cappuccino!

And then there were numerous options for water, warm/warm, cold/cold etc. etc. That was confusing. Do clothes really care about the temperature of the water they are being washed in? It was winter, so I punched the hot button!

But it was done. I felt proud, the laundry room looked so clean. I could hardly wait for my wife to return. And when she finally did, I just looked up and said, with a smile "There's a surprise for you in the Laundry room."
"My God, what did you do?" she said and rushed up the stairs. And then I waited for the sweet nothings to shower down. Instead, I heard a shriek. I looked up and saw her holding her favorite white top, only..... it seemed to be faded pink.
"That one is just like your favorite white shirt."
"This is my favorite white shirt" she replied, rather frostily.
"So why did it change color?"
"Why don't you tell me, sweetie." And take my word, there was nothing sweet in that "sweetie." The rest of the conversation......... Well, I'll leave it to your imagination!
Now there's a Laxman rekha around our laundry room, and I dare not cross it.

But I realized then that clothes suffer discrimination too. You see, as my wife patiently explained to me, the delicates don't get along with the cotton/sturdy ones, and the whites definitely want to go it alone in the washer, as they don't mix well with the colored clothes!

So, my fellow men, mow the lawn, hang a painting, do whatever...... but if asked to do laundry, just say no and walk away. It's too complicated for simple souls!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One way or the other, blessings will seek you.......

A number of times in our lives, circumstances evolve in a manner that favor us and we attribute that to luck. The common phrase "Being in the right place at the right time" is overused. Maybe it's not luck....

An interesting fact we don't realize is that if our planet was one hundredth of the current distance closer to the sun, life would not be possible on Earth because of extreme heat. Similarly, if our planet was one hundredth of the current distance farther away from the sun, life would not be possible because of extreme cold. Gravity, the lunar cycle, the solar system...... is this all luck that everything is so perfectly aligned and works like clockwork? We take all this for granted and don't spend much thought on it. But I believe there's a higher power that controls the mysterious depths of our universe and indirectly, our existence.

I am sure everybody has had an experience when everything just fell into place and the day turned out to be perfect. The other day, our friends (who are also our neighbors) had their wedding anniversary and could not make it to the gurudwara (temple) like they wanted to. On the same day, my wife was not planning to go to the gurudwara but for some reason, she felt like going and made it there with another friend. She got some extra langar (blessed food) and on the way back, ran into our "anniversary couple", outside of their home. She shared the langar from the gurudwara with them. If either my wife or our friends had been 5 seconds late or early from that moment in time, they would have missed each other that morning. So was that luck? Maybe........ Or maybe God looked out for this couple on their special day and used one of their friends as a vehicle to get the blessings to them!

God does not play favorites, but rewards people who have been sincere and whose faith is strong. On the other hand, He might give gentle reminders, in different ways, when we go astray. Hence the phrase -- "Good things happen to nice people."

Blessings come in numerous ways, some we are able to recognize and some we attribute to luck. All we can do is to keep our faith strong, be sincere & honest, and stand up for what's right.
So is there such a thing as luck......?

Maybe it's all "hard work and blessings!"


Monday, November 3, 2008

Writing is not always literal........

We were at great parties the last couple of nights. There was good food, sparkling fireworks, great company, and a wonderful host families. The fire-pit on the patio spread warmth and glow around, adding to the festive "Diwali" spirit. And of course, the unique brand of Teen Patti, in which the fun part was the free for all after every hand!

A lot of folks came up to me to talk about the blog, most of it complimentary. Then our gracious hostess came up to me and said --- "My husband wants and likes to write, but these days he's so involved with our kids that he has no time for anything else." A simple, honest statement, but with profound connotations.

From that one statement, I came to know our hosts from last night a little more, and my respect for them jumped a lot higher. I believe her husband (our hard working host) is writing, maybe not literally. He is writing the initial chapters of their children's lives. And these initial chapters in the voluminous dissertation of life, are the most important. The values, the ethics and moral boundaries that one inks in during the childhood formative years, will decide how the book of life reads as our children go out in the world and forge a path of their own.

I do believe, to some extent, in fate and destiny. Everything happens for a reason and every dark cloud has a silver lining. Relationships that survive storms are stronger after the crises than before. And our children, like everybody else, will face some bumps in the journey of life. The time that we spend with them, the emotional strength that we instill in them now, the relationships that they form with their friends & family will determine how they ride out these bumps.

So a big thank you to our hosts for a very entertaining evening and a bigger one from me for reinforcing one of the important lessons of life.

As a wise man once said, "If we don't nurture our children well, all the success, fame and money we earn means nothing."

P.S. -- (In reference to a previous post)--- to all the Madhuris out there who were a little peeved, the "strobe advantage" is for people like me and not for lachak vali dancers like you!!!!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Politics is "Cool" these days!

Teenagers discussing politics? And involved in campaigning? And actually believing that they can make a difference...... Now which movie is that? Well, its real life these days! My daughter in UVA follows Obama's campaign stops, my nephew in VTech went to an Obama rally! Till a couple of years ago, the eligibility for discussing politics was to have gray hair. Not any more.

These days, its the talk of social events and get-togethers. People who are not immersed in the latest polls and numbers are in a small minority. The grassroots effort by Barack Obama has inspired a generation of Americans and changed the political landscape. Millions of new voters have registered, most of them young people. And that in itself, can only be a good thing for our nation's future.

Whether Obama wins or loses, America is on the cusp of history. I hope we all realize that by voting in this election, we can be a part of this major historical event. So rearrange your schedules and vote for whomever you want to on November 4th! And its the patriotic thing to do.

And talking about patriotism, a lot has been made of it in the last few weeks. Experts and pundits have weighed in with their definitions and the "true meaning" of patriotism. Why is it that this question only comes up about every four years, and generally in the election year?

For a citizen like me, and I'm sure for many more like me, patriotism is a feeling, an emotion that comes from within. Nobody can quantify that feeling. No party or person has a monopoly over this feeling. Patriotism is not color-coded, nor does it run more or less in either party.

Anything we do that strengthens the social fabric of our society falls under the umbrella of Patriotism. Whether it's coaching little league games, voting in elections, helping your neighbors....

So be "Cool", vote in this election and be forever a part of America's history!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

The "Strobe Advantage!"

This is the time of the year when the sun sets early, it's getting colder by the day, it's cloudy, rainy....

But the bright spot is the hint of holidays around the corner. The spirit of the festive season shines bright, especially in the Indian culture, with Diwali (festival of lights) almost here. And that brings us to the numerous parties that celebrate the occasion. And the parties bring us to great food, camaraderie with friends and also to.........dancing!

Being rhythmically challenged myself, dancing poses an interesting proposition for me. There are people at these parties whom you can't keep off the dance floor, and then there are others whom you can't get on the dance floor (a minority, of course!). I think I fall somewhere in the middle. The dance part always starts off slow, with the confident few venturing onto the stage. After a few drinks have made the rounds, liquid courage takes hold. The infectious rhythm and beat of the famous Punjabi music takes hold of demure ladies with shy smiles, and transforms them into instant Divas! And then its shimmering dresses and glittering jewelry on the dance floor, with sometimes reluctant husbands in tow.

Talking of rhythm, my problem is timing. No, no.... not what you are thinking! Its the DJ timing. Just when I start moving to the beat of a song, its over and the next number comes along! But I manage somehow and my wife helps me along. My main concern is not to hit people around me with flailing arms and not to step on toes. I try to remember Will Smith in the movie "Hitch"..... something about Q-tips and screwing on light bulbs!!

But at a recent party, I noticed something very encouraging (at least for me!). The dancing was at full swing, and my eyes rested on a gentleman, dancing under the strobe light. Every move seemed perfect, every gyration in sync with the ear-splitting beat of the dhol. Was that dude moving or what! But was he? I looked a little closer and realized that he wasn't doing much at all. It was a result of the visual staccato of the strobe light. Then I paid attention to others around him. Everybody seemed to be an incarnation of Hrithik Roshan and Madhuri Dixit!! There were great dancers, no doubt, but the strobe light effect took even average dancers to a new level.

My enthusiasm level shot up and I strode confidently onto the dance floor, making sure I was right under the strobe light! And then I let myself go...... flapping arms and all. Was I dancing to the rhythm and looking good? You guys tell me. I was off the floor as soon as the strobe light went out!

In golf, we have the "handicap", in dancing I think we have the "strobe advantage"!

Whatever one may lack in skill, one can more than make it up with enthusiasm!!

By the way, a very "Happy Diwali" to all of you, from all of us (Chawla's).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A wonderful Saturday!!

Last Saturday was one of the most wonderful weekend days for me. You want to know why? Because I did nothing!
Nothing? Yeah, nothing..... nothing at all. And sometimes, believe me, it's not easy to do nothing.

To start the day, I got up late and still had the luxury of slipping in a few more winks. There was nothing planned for the day. There were no meetings scheduled, no deadlines to meet and no social events. It was a clear, sunny fall day with a cool, crisp breeze. It was one of those days when it's a little chilly in the shade and just perfect in the sun. So I stepped out gingerly on the patio and plopped myself in one of the lounge chairs. The warm sun enveloped me in its embrace and made me cozy.

After a while I joined my son and his friends for a quick backyard basketball game. When I got exhausted (which didn't take long!) I made a beeline for my lounge chair again. Then I cajoled the love of my life (my wife) to sit by me and then it was heaven.... both of us soaking up the sun, watching kids play, talking about "stuff", listening to the soothing sound of our landscaped backyard waterfall, and more importantly -- doing nothing in particular.

I didn't want our morning to end. I would have wanted it to go on endlessly, but as is true in life, all good things do come to an end. But I felt so good, so happy and complete that day. So that set me thinking........

Maybe we should do more of "nothing" off and on. It might not be easy, but believe me, its worth a try. We all need and should have friends for a variety of reasons. We enjoy good company that we relate to, we need our egos boosted off and on, we need somebody to laugh at our jokes, to share our joys with, to lean on in hard times, to get advice when we are not thinking straight...... friends do all this for us and much much more that we sometimes don't see and realize. We are after all, social animals.

But occasionally, once in many many moons, try doing "nothing". Its just you, your wife/husband/significant other, your children and the tranquility of knowing that you are surrounded by people you love the most and vice-versa.

I had a blast doing "nothing", and I wish you would try the same sometime. Its not going to be easy, but give it a shot. (I never realized it, but in the fast paced world we live in, its quite difficult to consciously do "nothing"!)

You just might surprise yourself. I know I did.


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Golf experience!!

"Do you Golf?" Somebody asked me the other day. "Yes, I do." I could say that as of a few weeks ago, when I picked up a golf-club for the first time. But then I followed up with, "Do you Football? or do you Basketball?" The guy looked at me as if I was a little off-center and walked away.

But you tell me, if I can golf, why can't I basketball or football? I can go skiing, golfing..... but not basketballing or soccering or footballing? Well, we'll let the English language wizards decide this one.

Back to "golfing" now. My experience so far can be best described as interesting. Initially, my thoughts were --- "All you got to do is hit that ball with the bat.... sorry club. How hard can it be? Whack the ball, for pete's sake!" Well, as you can imagine, these thoughts perished the first day I was at the driving range. After 4 weeks of off & on practicing, I feel blessed every time my club makes contact with the ball!

I have great golfing friends, all with good intentions. So I've had a barrage of suggestions and tips. Most of those have helped me. "You lifted your head" is the standard line for me when I make a bad shot, and I do that more often than I make good ones! They are worried about the distance and direction of their shots. I just want to hit the ball, it doesn't matter where it goes, as long as it lands more than 10 feet away!

So my journey into the mysterious depths of golf is just beginning, and I have a long way to go. I have teachers with good intentions all around me, so I think I'll make rapid progress. Hopefully, one day, I too will be more worried about the distance and direction of the shot than mere contact.

And I hope I'm always more focused on my own game, than of those around me. So here's my golf-anthem----


Stay tuned for future updates on my game!!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Heartwarming Trip down the Memory Lane.......

The big eyes, the innocent smile, the cutest face you could ever imagine, crowned with dark curly hair........ The face captivated me when I was at a recent party. And for a second I wondered why. You see, I'm in my mid forties and she is 13 months old! And then it came piling down on me..... her face was eerily familiar to my daughter's when she was her age (my daughter is 19 years old now). So I stepped towards this doll-like little girl and there was this unexplainable, instant connection. She came to me willingly and for the next 2-3 hours, I entertained her and she took me on a wonderful trip down the memory lane.....

In those 2 hours or so, my daughter's childhood years flashed by. And it was almost heaven on earth! I was back in time, reliving the first smile, the first steps, the occasional pout.... And somehow, I can't explain how, I felt that this little girl probably sensed what was going on and helped me out by sticking with me for the whole evening. For that brief period of time, it was the good old days again..... when nothing came close to the excitement of watching her smile, when she's the boss and you do her bidding, when you voluntarily lose connection to the world for that moment and it's just you and your child.

How I wish the clock could be turned back! But I know that can't happen. Why do children have to grow up so fast? But this little bundle of joy did take me back in time and helped me relive some wonderful childhood memories of my daughter. But that's the cycle of life, moments in the past are gone forever and what's left is memories to cling on to.

The next time I meet that wonderful little girl, I don't know whether she'll remember me or not, she might have another favorite person that evening (maybe one of her aunts, whom she totally ignored the day I was the chosen one!!) But thanks a million to her, that day she helped me connect to a beautiful period in my past and flooded me with wonderful recollections of the great time I had with my daughter when she was growing up.

Make every day special, create beautiful moments, so that you have wonderful memories to look back to!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The daily blessings in disguise!

A wonderful person and a dear friend recently sent me a thought-provoking e-mail. It outlined a number of daily, mundane, inconveniences in our daily lives which stress us out so much. It flashed back to the tragedy of 9/11. The same inconveniences, annoyances and delays saved so many lives. Somebody had to drop of their kids at daycare out of turn, another person got a cut on his foot and had to stop at a drugstore to get a bandage, somebody was held up in traffic...... All of these people were late getting to the twin towers and because of that are alive today.

Maybe all these daily little bumps on the freeway of life are a part of the master plan. And what, might you ask, is the master plan? The answer would be a resounding "No Idea". The planner and architect is God and only He knows!

The next time you are held up in traffic, delayed at an airport, etc. etc....... Deal with it. It maybe a blessing in disguise. Take everything in stride, accept it as a part of life. And it's a lot easier said than done!

Taking these tiny road bumps in stride can be extrapolated to accepting who you are as a person. "Type A" personalities would have the toughest time with accepting their limitations. People who always want to be ahead of everybody else, want to be better at everything compared to people in their social circle will have their stress level through the roof when faced with these daily road bumps, however inconsequential these might be.

I'll try not to complain the next time I'm stuck in traffic or delayed at an airport or....... (so many other things). It'll be hard but I'll try! Because somewhere in that delay, in a hidden corner of that annoyance, could possibly lurk a blessing.

To be happy, embrace life as it comes and accept it with all its joys and pin-pricks.

Remember, happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Meaning of Life

An age old question with a million answers! And we are still confused. So let's try it again. What is the meaning of life? Maybe we are not asking the right question. Maybe it should be -- What are we supposed to do with our lives?

Now that's relatively easy to answer. Let's do the politically correct one's first --- be good citizens, be honest, work hard etc. etc. and the list goes on. How many of us actually do that?

One thing's for sure -- we have just one life to live. So it would make sense to make the best use of it. Each day that passes us by is never coming back. So again, I guess it would make sense to make the best use of every single day, every passing moment.....

So where does God fit into all this? My thoughts.... God gives us this wonderful gift of life. What we do with that gift, is up to us. Life teaches us lessons every day, some easy to understand and some tough to swallow. We make mistakes frequently, but a lot of us will not admit that. Some us will try to shove our mistakes under the blanket of "bad judgement" or "bad luck" or the popular phrase --"being at the wrong place at the wrong time." First of all, why were you at the wrong place anyway?!

So an elementary school lesson -- if you make a mistake..... Admit it, Learn from it and Don't repeat it. If we follow this basic principle, life would be simpler and happier.

Our life is what we make of it. Where ever we are today socially, financially or professionally is because of the choices we made during our lifetime. It doesn't help to point fingers. Every one has to fight their own battles, however small or big.

I do believe there is a higher power watching over all of us. If we do something dishonest, something immoral, it will catch up to us down the road, someway or the other.

The end result of life is to be happy and content. So be happy and satisfied with what you have, rather than being miserable about what you don't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Happiness Dilemma!!

"Are you happy?" Heard that one before? Or even better - "Are you positively happy?" We were sitting after dinner at a friend's house a few days ago and this question came up.

It was a very educated group with doctors, engineers and businessmen. The answers were varied and surprising. A few drinks had made the rounds before and so the conversation was free, uninhibited and flowing. So what is happiness?

Is it contentment? Being rich? Success professionally? Or maybe a combination of the above. Does a good round of golf qualifies you to be happy? Yeah sure, till the next time you play!

Personally, I think happiness is an all-encompassing term. One might be happy professionally, but miserable in personal life or vice-versa. We do things that make us happy. Vacations, fancy cars, jewelry, dinners, name it. But are these events planned to make us happy or to relax us? So maybe relaxation brings us happiness.

That's it then. Contentment + relaxation = happiness. Or is it? I don't think it's that simple to be content or relaxed all the time. Because life comes in the way. And life brings new challenges every single day, big and small.

But I'm sure that all of you will agree that there's no harm in trying to relax or be content. Let's relax, take life as it comes and not push too many buttons (literally and figuratively)! Be satisfied with what you have and thank God everyday for blessing you with a happy, healthy family.

Be happy for your friends and neighbors, share their joys and sorrows. All of this is easier said than done, but try it.

You might just surprise yourselves.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's the little things, those tiny moments......

Recently, a friend of mine bought a new car for his son on his 17th birthday.
"He's going to remember this forever," he chortled. Both Father and son were extremely happy, and rightly so.

But would the young man, the receiver of the magnanimous gift remember this forever? Probably.
Would this be the fondest occasion that he would associate his father with over his lifetime? Probably not.

Not?!! What could be more exciting, more thrilling than getting a new car? Well..... think about it...

It's the little things..... the encouraging pat after a tough basketball game.... the enthusiastic thumbs up from the bleachers.... the occasional bear hug for no reason.... the gentle brushing of the forehead to check on your child when he was not well..... never missing a little-league game no matter what... These are the tiny moments that make a huge impact on children.

And this is your legacy for your child. So that they can carry it on to their children in the future. Acts of spontaneous love and kindness, things that you do without giving a second thought... that's what our children will remember.

Spend more time with your children, your family. It might mean living in a smaller house, driving a less fancy car, but it's worth it.

If we mess up our child's nurturing, all the success and money we earn means nothing.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The "True Friend" question

In our lifetime, if we have one true friend, we got it made. A lot of people complain that they have lot of friends, but not one "true friend".

So that brings us to the obvious question-- Who is a true friend? Is there a "Friendometer" by which you can measure the "trueness" of a friend? Well, a true friend is one who does not have to shout over the din of other friends to make himself or herself heard. He or she understands you, does things for you and DOES NOT expect anything in return. And that basic ingredient of every relationship---trust-- your true friend has to be full of it. Between true friends, trust has to be complete and implicit. If you have to explain yourself to your friend again and again, he or she is really not your true friend. A true friend would never stop you from making new friends, because he or she would be secure of his/her place in your heart. I'm sure I could go on and on, but you get the drift.

But another question-- Do we really need a true friend? What's wrong with a bunch of good friends partying together, vacationing together (and the current male-bonding craze) golfing together? And that's right, maybe having a true friend is over-rated.

But if you search your heart, you will find a vacuum if you don't have one or two "true friends." So I don't think you need a true friend, but it's great if you do have one. Life becomes brighter then, it's more fulfilling, more soulful. It helps if you have one person whom you can open your heart to, and there are absolutely no pretensions, no hang-ups. There is no fear of repercussion, no apprehension of being scorned.

A lot of you might snicker at this philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Tonight when you lay down at night to go to bed, when the lights are out, and the world is quiet, think about it then.

And remember, to find a true friend, first be one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where art thou, Courtesy?

I came to the United States of America in 1988, full of hope and high expectations. And America treated me well and is home for me now. And I am proud of the fact that I am a citizen of this great nation. But something has happened in the last 20 years that worries me, pulls me down.

My favorite commercial 20 years ago--- Wells Fargo Bank ( I think), where a couple of horse drawn carriages come up to a crossroad and they politely wait for each other to go first.... and people 20 years ago reflected the same kind of mannerisms and culture in that commercial. And I loved it. Life went along at a slower pace, people smiled more, were more relaxed.

And now fast forward 20 years.... the saleswoman at the mall helped me, but with a frown on her face. Made me feel as if she was doing me a favor.... when I go to work in the morning, a lot of drivers around me are tense-looking..... We hear about aggressive drivers all the time (at least in our metro area)...... People are in a rush, they smile less, have more deadlines to meet....

So what happened since the last 20 years? Maybe it's me, I'm older now (46-- yikes!!). Maybe the passing years have given me a different perspective on life. Maybe I'm taking the time to "smell the roses" now. Was I one of the tense drivers on the morning commute 20 years ago? I just don't know...

But how I miss those days. An act of kindness and courtesy in the morning, something as simple as a smile and a good morning nod by a complete stranger, usually set me up for a good day. I felt doing the same to somebody else.... and a cascade ensued.

Could we go back to those days? Or something close to it. "With gas prices like these? Ain't gonna happen," my friends tell me! But I think we need it more now than at any other time. A little dose of politeness, with a little extra helping of kindness will go a long way in tiding us through these tough times. Cynics would say--"These things are not going to put food on the table" or these days "Ain't gonna fill up the gas tank". And that's true, but the heartburn that you get at the pump watching the dollars roll four times faster than the gasoline gallons, would be a lot less if somebody had shown some kindness, compassion or courtesy that day!

Remember, it doesn't cost you a thing. And you better believe what somebody wise said a long time ago-- "The best thing you can wear to improve your looks is a smile."