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!!!!