Sunday, January 25, 2009

Americanization of my English!

On one of my frequent trips to McDonald's, my son and his friends just wanted fries. I went to the drive thru.
"Welcome to McDonald's. Would you like to try one of our combos today?"
"No, thank you. Two Super-Sized fries, please," I said.
"And would you like fries with that?" pat came the reply.
"No, thank you," I said, smiling to myself. "I don't think I need fries with my fries."
"That will be 6.89, next window please." I don't think he realized what he said. It's almost like human automation. I remembered my first independent trip to McDonald's about 20 years ago, when I had just arrived in the US from India........

A polite teenager took my order that day. He could see that I was nervous.
"Five piece chicken nuggets, plain hamburger with a medium coke please," I said quickly.
"4'ereor2go?" He said, and looked at me.
I had no clue what he asked me. I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn't understand him.
"Thank you," I replied and gave him a big smile.
"4'ereor2go?" He rattled off again, shaking his head. He spoke even faster this time. I still didn't get it.
"No problem," I replied, with an even bigger smile. Maybe they were required to speak fast at fast food joints. What in the heck was he saying?
Anyway, we sorted that one out after a few minutes when I realized he was asking me "For here or to go?"!!

I've come a long way since then. You know, the journey from "shedool" to "schedule" is a short one, but can be embarrassing at times. And I've had my share. It's a learning process, a phase of adjustment to a different culture. Like when I was invited for a "Barbecue Luncheon" by my boss during my Residency training. I failed to notice the fine print at the bottom, which said: "Attire -- Casual." The word that stuck in my brain was "Luncheon." So I showed up in a three piece suit, neck-tie & all. And over there, I saw everybody wearing shorts! Some people had a T-shirt on.
"I have to go to a marriage from here," I lied to my host, trying to explain the abundance of clothes I had on.
"Marriage? You mean Wedding," he said.
"Yes," I said. "I've to go to a Wedding."
That's another thing I learnt that day. In India, you go to a "Marriage", here its a "Wedding!"

So you adjust to a new place with a smile, learn the nuances and try to fit in. But a credit to people here, they laugh with you and not at you.

I know now, when my daughter says someone is "Cool," that person is everything but cold. And when my teenage son says someone is "Hot," he's really not talking about body temperature!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The "Busyness" of being busy.....

Time goes by so fast. At least, that's what I hear all around. Is it really time that goes by fast or are we just not slowing down?
When we start a new job or business, we work hard to be successful. Before we know it, we are looking at a bigger house, a fancier car........ Then follow longer work hours and less time for ourselves.
"It's a rat race out there," people tell me. "You just got to keep going."
Well, excuse me, just pull out. That way we won't be in the race, and more importantly, we are no longer rats! Live life at your pace and not at the speed that the world around you dictates. We all should try to get our priorities straight. Each day, make a little time for yourself. Do something you love to do, not what you have to do. It's time well invested. Watching TV, reading, painting, writing, going to the gym, watching a movie, family time......whatever. It's like charging your batteries! It's rejuvenation for the next day.

Our home is the epicenter of our family's universe. Everything starts and ends there. No matter how much good we do for others, how much charity we dole out, how many friends we have, how successful we are professionally....... all of that comes to a naught if we don't have a happy and a healthy home. So leave work at your office. At home, relax and enjoy your family. Give a little time to yourself. Get out of the trap of being busy......sometimes we are busy just being busy!

"I'm too busy" is the catch phrase of our generation. Instant gratification is a requirement for anything we do. Recently, a marketing company surveyed a segment of the population for a new product--- "Quick dinner--ready in 90 seconds." And you know what the response was? "Who's got that much time to wait for dinner!"

Maybe it's not a bad idea to slow down a bit. Take a deep breath, appreciate the world around you, make real connections with people and follow a healthy lifestyle. Relationships will far outlast memories of vacations and parties. So don't be lured by life into becoming "busyness" men or "busyness" women!

Remember, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dancing into a New Year.....

The New Year was right on schedule, at 00:00:01 AM on 1/1/09, allowing millions of party goers all over the world to celebrate its arrival. I was at a similar celebration with my family and friends. There was a lot of wining, dining and dancing. So we all danced into 2009, wished everybody the best for the next 365 days and got lots of wishes and blessings in return. Well, I really couldn't hear much, with the DJ belting out pulsating Indian/Punjabi music at almost triple figure decibels. All I could make out was people mouthing words at me and I assume these were good wishes. Between all this, I did manage to squeeze in a Tennis-dance lesson from my dance guru!

So let me go back to the New Year Eve party....... I couldn't see much as it was dark, couldn't hear a thing people were trying to shout in my ear because of the deafening music, couldn't think straight because of alcohol........ and I still had a great time! Because I was surrounded by people who mean the most to me. So it didn't matter if I couldn't hear, think or see. All that mattered was that I was in a cocoon, a comfort zone made up of family and close friends. Maybe this is a symbolic way to begin a new year. A fresh start, a new enthusiasm and a positive outlook, closing your senses to everything else around you.

For the last time, some of us ran over the past year in our minds, boxing & sealing it in a mental attic. For the optimist, the New Year day brings with it the promise & potential of attaining new horizons, a fresh beginning...... For the pessimist, it's just another day.

We are a few days into 2009 now. Hopefully the enthusiasm for the new year can last for a long time, and the resolutions even longer. Some of my resolutions are already a little fuzzy, but I'm seriously going to try to stick with a few.

So in 2009......

"May we all be blessed to have the judgment to stay on the "Right side of Life" & the courage to take more than just a window-dressing stand for our convictions. May we all be blessed with the wisdom to find virtues in others, before their faults & to peek in at our faults, before we extol our virtues."