Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reconnecting to our roots....


For me, traveling to India is always exciting. The moment you near your hometown, no matter how long its been since you were here last, your heart races a little bit and a thrill traverses your inner self.

I met a lot of my friends and relatives on this current visit, some that I had not seen for the last 10-15 years. And the connection was instantaneous. It was as if I had always been here and had been a part of their lives all these years. Its good to renew bonds & relationships, it makes you feel more at peace with yourself.

Everyone is born into a family. There are no options for a newborn to choose a family! So I guess after Life itself, Family is the next most important gift from God. As we grow in years, our families grow too. This results in varied personalities, divergent views and different values. Occasionally there will be friction and a clash of ideas. As a result, family members sometimes drift apart. Aren't we then distancing ourselves from one of the first gifts that God gave us? Well, that's just my perspective. I think the strength of the "family thread" should be stronger than any divergent idea, value or faith.

Friends, on the other hand, we choose. Friendship is a gift we give ourselves. As these relationships develop, sometimes the distinction between friends and family becomes blurred. And that is a blessing. Here's an interesting paradox..... "We look for friends amongst our family, and something akin to family amongst our friends." If you consider some friends to be like your family, then for you, it is your extended family. It's more fulfilling if the feeling is reciprocated, but it should not matter if it is not. One measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention.

The deeper we know our roots, the stronger is our personality. A person who does not appreciate his or her roots, is like a ship without moorings.

"Seek out your roots and you will find your life" ~ Winston Churchill

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jai Ho, India!!

On my current visit to India, I boarded a train for a short trip. A gentleman was struggling to hoist an obviously heavy suitcase on to the overhead luggage shelf above the seating area. A uniformed gentleman, presumably a railways Ticket Collector(TC), hurried over to help him. Both of them managed to get the big suitcase situated onto the luggage shelf.
"Thank you," the passenger said to the TC. "You were very helpful."
"You are very welcome, sir" the TC replied, scribbling furiously on an official looking note-pad. "And here's your challaan (monetary fine)." The TC tore off a sheet of paper from the note-pad and held it towards the passenger.
"Challaan? For what?" The confused passenger asked.
"For putting your bag on the luggage rack. Its too big," the TC said.
Now the passenger was really confused. "But... but you helped me put it up there!"
"I sure did, as any responsible citizen would help a fellow citizen. But as an official of Indian Railways, I have to penalize you rupees 200 for putting the bag where it doesn't belong." The TC was very polite.
"I have to give you 200 rupees fine for something that you helped me do?" The passenger was clearly irate now. All of a sudden, other passengers joined in. Vociferous opinions flew thick and fast, mostly in favor of the now fuming passenger!

As the heated discussion went on, a overhead announcement blared-- "A 1-yr old child traveling on the train has become suddenly ill, so if there is a doctor on board, would he or she please help in Coach 3, seat number 15?"
So I got up and the TC looked at me. "You are a doctor?" I nodded affirmative.
"Please follow me, Doc sahib." He started to walk away, looking back at the passenger. "I'm going to come back to collect that fine."
"We'll see about that," the passenger replied. "You look after the child first."

As we got to Coach 3, there was a crowd of people standing around the sick child and his parents, all giving their opinions as to what was wrong. As far as I could make out, none of them were even remotely connected to medicine. And there was a lot of advice being directed at the parents of the child including never to travel by train ever again, the color of clothes to be worn while traveling, to hold the child upside down, the type of food to be given to the child before, during & after travel etc etc.

This is India. Situations that are exasperating and amusing at the same time, occur everyday. Everybody will give you advice on everything, it really doesn't matter whether you asked for it or not. But the indefatigable spirit of the people and their overwhelming faith in a higher power never ceases to amaze me. The eternal optimism, the hospitality and the abundant energy of a billion people overshadows the corrupt politicians and as a result, India ticks along.

Jai Ho, India!

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sophistication is all in the mind!

Recently, we were invited to a "Sophisticated" party.
"So I guess jeans won't cut it then?" I mentioned to my wife.
And she gave me one of those looks. "Jeans?" She looked heaven-wards and walked away, shaking her head. "And you better be prepared to slow dance at the party."

The words "slow dance" are enough to make any grown man cringe. You know, regular dance I can manage. You shake a leg, move an arm.... and the strobe light takes care of the rest! "Slow Dance" is a different animal altogether.

So what does sophisticated really mean? Am I sophisticated? Are you? I don't know about myself. I really don't. I guess its the people I know, people I work with, my friends who should decide whether I am sophisticated or not. Well, one catch here though..... the person who makes that judgment, better be sophisticated too. It's a catch-22 situation!

So what makes people sophisticated? Is it the way you dress? Talk? General behavior? Education? A bit of everything might be the right answer. I know from personal experience that it's definitely not money!

I think every section of society, every social circle, sets its own bar regarding the threshold of crossing into their own elite world of sophistication. We are all drawn towards that world instinctively as we grow in years. Consciously trying to act sophisticated never works. Here's how the dictionary defines sophistication :

"Having acquired worldly knowledge or refinement; lacking natural simplicity or naiveté."

Anyway, I survived the "Sophisticated" party by just being myself. There were no major gaffes on my part and I seemed to blend in with the elite crowd without a problem. And the slow dance..... it was a piece of cake. Just simulate ice-skating in slow motion!

So I think..... "Sophistication is not how you look in fancy clothes, but how the clothes look on you. Its not about how much expensive jewelry you carry on your body, but how you carry yourself. Its not about how much money you make, but how humble money has made you."

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The food is always tastier on the other plate!!

I've noticed a couple of things when we go to a restaurant with close friends. As we march in, there is a rumble in every stomach and we order food like kings. Bring on the drinks.... we'll have this....and that.... and of course the other. And "you betcha" we're going to order dessert tonight after our dinner!

When the food is finally served, after we all have overdosed on bread or tortillas (depending on which restaurant you are at), everyone is more interested in what the other people have on their plate. Nobody even looks at their own food! There is a sudden flurry of activity of hands armed with forks moving around and across the table to get a "taste" of everybody else's food.

Compliments like "Umm..... very tasty," "Yummy" are generously thrown around. By the time I get to my food, the hunger pangs are gone, the anticipation is over and the food, though good, never tastes as good as my neighbor's on the table. Maybe its because of the initial round-the-table food tasting frenzy. Sometimes I am tempted to switch my entire entree with my neighbor!

And now for dessert.... or maybe not! "I'm sooo full, I can't even think of dessert," is the general line going around the table. Then comes the check and there's a polite scuffle, as everybody wants to pay. And then some of us will go over the bill.... "Did we really have six daiquiris?" "Did we order two of these?" I guess we did....we were hungry!!

One thing I don't understand is why the bill is called the check. Maybe some of you can enlighten me on that. And then as the popular saying goes..."A good dinner is only as good as the talk that follows." And talk we can! Recently, at a dinner outing with friends, we were literally escorted out of the restaurant as it was past their closing time. So we hopped to another restaurant nearby (for coffee) that had late hours, and after a couple of hours we were escorted out of there too, as our conversation flowed well past their closing time!

One last thing, as we are talking about food & drinks. The other day I went grocery shopping and picked up lemonade. The label on it said--- "Made from artificial flavors." The next day I found myself in Home Depot to pick up furniture polish (I think it was "Pledge"), which also had a label on it--"Made from real lemons"!

Shouldn't it be the other way around?

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