Connection Dil Se

‘Most of the new age technology is superfluous and we can do without most of the gadgets.’ That’s what I had always thought. Were we not happy and stayed connected with our friends even when there were no mobile phones and even landline was a luxury? Life went on smoothly even without computers but now… I am forced to change my opinion.

Technology can do a lot more than connecting your boss to you on a lazy Sunday afternoon like it can connect old pals, old school and college friends.

I had never ever thought I will even know the whereabouts of my class mates from school, college or univ, and the thrill of getting connected to school and college friends after two decades is unexplainable. Thanks to Facebook , the memories of Economics dept are again fresh, It is as if nothing has changed, we go back 20 years in life and we still live in those times when we could discuss for days the most trivial issues. When Nikhil tells me that he is looking forward to becoming an adult and enjoy the freedom, I tell him “we too felt the same and now we look back to those days with nostalgia.”

Another fact which is nothing to do with technology, Basic human nature does not change, it only reaches it ultimate as we grow old. Those who were serious earlier , two decades later are little more serious now. And those who were non serious are perhaps gone worst and take nothing seriously now. Some liked to yap yap, they yap much more.

HOPE for underprivileged child

Most of us have the desire to do some philanthropic work but don’t know for whom to do and how to go about it. On the other hand there are many children who are unable to pursue education due to financial constraints. There is a wide bridge between the people who want to help and the children who are in need of assistance. HOPE is a small effort in this direction. It provides a data base of children who need financial assistance.
As of now six children have been identified who need financial assistance for pursuing education. They may drop out for want of assistance. A little help from the donors will be instrumental in putting them on the right track in life.
How you can help:
• Sponsor the fees/books/school bags, shoes etc of a child
• Monitor the child’s performance by meeting him/her at least once in six month

No cash transactions involved. The sponsors are advised to pay the school fees directly to the school or provide assistance in kind and not give cash to the recipient
Till now six children have been identified for this assistance. Five school girls and one boy for PUC 2nd year. Within 24 hours of launch of this initiative we have found sponsors for 5 children. The target is to provide assistance to 10 children during 2009-10 academic session.

Sudoku Mania

Since I first laid my hands on a Sudoku puzzle a week ago, all one can find around me are pencils, erasers and Sudoku puzzles. Arranging 9 numbers in 9 by 9 grid looked impossible but looks are very deceptive. What really looks high funda need not be when you take a pencil and eraser in your hand.

Today I could solve a medium level puzzle without any assistance. Yes I have done it!
Well it is not me alone. If I am breaking my head over something why leave rest of the family in peace. Now post dinner time in our living room is more appropriately called Sudoku time; kids hubby all take one puzzle each from easy to medium to hard to evil level.

I am reminded of the ‘Goldilocks and three bears’ when daddy bear sips porridge from the biggest bowl, mama bear from medium sized bowl and baby bear from the cute smallest bowl but in Sudoku this order may be in reverse.

To Cheer or Not

I am not an ardent cricket fan but IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket season is too action packed to be overlooked. It keeps the nation busy by giving each one a subject to debate upon like should we have desi cheer girls instead of firnagi? Should they wear traditional Indian consume may be a sari or a ghagra choli ? If yes, what should be the length of the blouse incase they will have a blouse on et al.

The second edition of IPL Twenty 20 Cricket Tournament this year will not only deprive Indians of that irresistible star studded high glamour quotient live sports extravaganza but also gives them more time on hand to scrutinize the contesting candidates in the elections.

IPL vs Elections – the country had a choice between holding elections or IPL on Indian soil. The government chose to have elections in India and send IPL abroad. The alternate route of sending elections abroad would have been a more popular choice.

Holding the IPL matches during election time would have made sure that the matches will go on smoothly as all criminals and their associates will be on election duty. No wonder the crime rate in India invariably goes down during election time. The owners of the teams are obviously cheering as it means more money and less khit pit over dos and don’ts. The fans in Pakistan are cheering as they will be able to watch their heroes in action. The cricket fans in South Africa are shouting from their roof tops and are too ecstatic to welcome international cricket teams home.

Not sure, if IPL should still retain ‘Indian’ in IPL. Well ‘I’ also stands for ‘International’. Indian politicians are cheering as any militant attack during the election time would have sealed the fate of the political party in whose state the attack would have occurred. It gives them a saving grace and yet another chance to parrot ‘India is not Pakistan, it is safe’.

But for hardcore cricket aficionados, the real action has no comparison with reel action.

The Bored Generation

“Mom, I am bored”
How many times in a day do you hear this complaint? At least five or may be countless times. This is more so during holidays.

Two months summer holidays is a stressful period for parents especially working mothers. The new generation is a bored generation. Even with 24×7 T.V channels, computers, play station, X- boxes and summer camps the children are bored to the core.

Our holidays many summers ago were very enjoyable and a true stress buster. We either visited our grand parents or a truck full of cousins and aunts visited us. The curtains drawn to escape from bright scorching sun, it was non stop chit chat, ludo, snakes and ladder and marbles in the back yard. The host was never hassled about how to entertain the guests and from where to order pizza for them (as there were no pizzas then and eating out was an exception and not routine). Lack of space never bothered the host. Post dinner time was even more fun, lolling over the mattresses on the floor; we treasure fond memories of childhood. Our working mother never felt that the guests over stayed, even two months stay was less.

Now cousins are too busy to come or even the host is busy ferrying children from one activity class to another. “If cousins come then who will look after them during the day? They will get bored” I wonder how did such formalities originate between first cousins?

However it originated but I must confess that in their hankering after grabbing too much from life our children are really missing out the real childhood.

Will this ever happen in India?

March is the appraisal month. The Self Appraisal is the first step in the month long appraisal process in which every employee fills in his achievements, any accolades received from clients/managers during the year, areas of improvements, strengths , aspirations and goals for the future year.
The goals have to be strictly SMART (Specific Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time bound). Each goal has to be clearly mentioned with a fixed timeline. The appraisal next year will review how much of it one could achieve. Framing SMART goals gives clear direction to the aspirant and is the first step towards realizing your goals.

With election season round the corner, it is only natural to compare companies’ appraisal process with that of the country. Why there is no such appraisal system for the politicians who are responsible for the health of the country? Company appraisal directly impacts the career of its employees and which in turn is related to the health of the company. Ditto for the country.
Every party’s election manifesto talks of removing poverty, regular water supply, more jobs opportunities, better road conditions et al with no time lines , no specific goals. Individual appraisal impacts one professional and one single organization but the appraisal of the contesting candidate has an impact on the health and the future of the entire country.
What if a country is run like an organization! The credentials of a candidate are scrutinized fully before assigning him the responsibility of running the country. Clear policies framed with SMART goals, strengths listed, areas of improvements demarcated.
Sample this – Twenty roads will be repaired in the first quarter with monthly quality checks by the quality team, government schools will have to face the audit by external auditors to avail the aid for the next year…. Will that ever happen in India?

When my kids taught me how to do Sheershasana…

Eight months into it and I am addicted to it. I hate it when the alarm croons …’if you seen it and you mean it you have to go …’ from teriyaki boyz – tokyo drift at 5.20 am. But once I am up… I am up. Even if you are one or two minutes late, you have to squeeze in your mat in between forty odd people of all sizes and shapes. Initially all asanas looked difficult as how much active you are in your daily life, yoga is totally different ball game. With time, I was able to touch my toes with lot of pull and push. I felt elated to do most of the asanas with ease leaving bak asana and bhuja peera asana. In Bhuja peera asana you put your body weight on your wrist and forearms. I am scared to even try this as I feel I may twist my wrist in the process. This asana is meant to make your wrists and forearms strong. Once I tried doing this and oops …my wrists were paining as if I have fractured my wrist, I wonder whether bhuja peera means giving pain or relieving pain.
When I thought I was really comfortable doing yoga then the instructor introduced us to Sheershasana. This looked very easy, I tried doing it but the more I tried the more I fell let right and centre. I really couldn’t do it but I was embarrassed as people half my age and double my size could stand upside down in a jiffy. The instructor would do this asana only once in a fortnight, he had a fixed routine for every asana. I knew 2nd and last Friday of the month will be for topsy turvy asana , I would try my best to escape this like staying late on Thursday so that I have an excuse not to go for yoga on Friday but this didn’t go on for long.
Now Rahul and Nikhil had a task to achieve – teaching their mother how to do Sheershasana. First they took a day to get the hang of it; once they got it they put me through the grueling routine. After a few falls I was able to stand on my head of course against the wall. “You have to throw all your body weight towards your upper portion of your body and while in position take your feet as close to your head as possible and then take it up and there you are standing upside down”.

Who is responsible for the mess?

“History is a boring subject and what am I going to gain by mugging up what happened two centuries ago and which king ruled over which country.” – Nikhil my son who is appearing for 9th std hates History and he tells that with pride. We always have a war of words when I ask him to study History.
I love reading about kings and their wealth but the way they depict and describe in school text books it does appear very boring. Moreover school text books are not updated regularly.
Yesterday I was teaching him Economics. In a chapter on Poverty, they have explained about poverty line, how it is determined and what was the poverty line in 1975 and how poverty is the result of British policies… blah blah. When I was studying Economics in college, these were the same things I had studied. Out text books haven’t changed at all. And most importantly for how long will we keep blaming Britishers for the mess we are in, how about the mess that our politicians have created since Independence and continue to create. Are they not more responsible for the state of our country and not letting our country grow?

Who is a millionaire: Slumdog or Christian Colson/Danny Boyle?

I am confused not because why Jamaal Malik could speak fluent English and that too in British accent, also not how he got his name ( Jamaal is a Muslim and Malik is a Hindu surname) but I am confused about what has really appealed to people about this 2 hours movie. For sure movie goers don’t go to see filthy slums and all that comes along with it. Have people found the slums, the open drains and children playing on the mound of garbage so beautiful? Sure not. SDM portrays out of the box thinking and it is very creatively done. Two truths – first truth this story can be about any slum dweller minus the millionaire part. The second truth – this movie is a hit at the box office and has won 11 nominations for Oscars (that’s old truth now). As they say the proof of the pudding is in eating. Since Slumdog is doing very well it means it has made lot of business sense for Christian Colson to produce and Danny Boyle to direct this movie. Would this movie still be a hit if it wouldn’t have got a single nomination for Oscar? No idea. Anil Kapoor dominantly portrays himself in all the photographs splashed in media about Oscar nominations as if he is the main character, the fact is though he has screen presence throughout the entire length but he has a very insignificant role. It would have been the same thing even if anyone else were there in the hot seat.
Now Slumdog has shown us Dharavi – India’s biggest slum and introduced us to real slum children.
“How pathetic!”, “Nice movie but sad, how people live in these conditions!”, “Inhuman, we should not take kids for this movie, why show them these truths about India!”, “What foreigners must be thinking about India?” That’s how most of us would have reacted after watching this movie. Britisher Danny Boyle has made loads of money by showcasing India’s poverty, dingy slums, maimed beggars and the world is going ga ga over Litika, Saleem and Jamaal- India’s slum kids. The truth is this movie is half real but for the three slum kids who were picked up from Dharavi slum to play three main characters. Their natural acting made a BIG contribution to its success. The least the producer can do is take charge of their life, send them to best schools and support them economically till they become adults and open the doors of opportunity for them to become real life millionaires or else they will remain as slumdogs.
Caution: Don’t take your small children for the movie. Some scenes in the movie leave inerasable impressions on the mind. And yes, adults must watch for the pleasure of watching an Oscar nominated movie

Hong Kong

High rise buildings is the first thing that you notice as you drive from Hong Kong airport to your hotel. This airport is claimed to be world’s largest airport. I don’t know if it is the largest but it is really massive. HK is a concrete jungle; you will crave to see patches of greenery. In spite of hardly any trees or plants grown on the sides of roads there is no pollution. at least you don’t feel it in the air. It is all very clean. Hong Kong and Thailand offer different things to tourists and cannot be compared . HK is very well planned bu it was all very mechanical , it is like any western country which is now getting tinges of China.
Disney Land Resort was great but if you have been to US Disney World then it is a baby. Euro Disney in Paris is bigger and better than this one. If you are staying in any of the hotels inside the park Hollywood Hotel or Disney Land resort then you get one complementary visit to the park so you get two days to the park at the cost of one. If you rush up you can finish it in one day. There are no wet rides, only dry rides. Both these hotels are excellent but only Disney Land Resort hotel offers breakfast with cartoon characters, also it is quite much expensive as compared to Hollywood. If you are staying in any of these hotels then you must spend some time going around the hotel. It offers exotic locations for photo shoots, models of cars used by Hollywood actors in the hot movies are on display so you stand against them and get your pics clicked. You can spend hours together going and looking around the place. Christmas time is very colorful time and is good time to be at the park, the shows are superb you should not miss any of those, if you are in hurry miss the rides but don’t miss the shows they are awesome. The park is open from 10 to 8 pm. It was warm even in end of December but next day it snowed in China and HK became very cold so during winters you need to carry both kinds of clothes.
I love to make new friends when on a holiday. We met Praveen and Vibha and their 5 years old son Aryan, a cute happy go lucky family from Kolkata. . It happened to be Aryan’s b’day that day. Rahul and Aryan got along very well.
Ocean Park is another must on tourist list, in fact this one takes more than a day so if you are short of time, start early. Here too don’t miss the shows; if you are adventurous and love the thrill of rides then this is the place for you. There are lots of thrilling rides. Turbo drop tops the list. Do not even venture into this if you have a weak heart. It first uplifts you to a height of 100 meters and then suddenly drops you down in a free fall. Though you are fully tied and secure but it is a virtual free fall, it is worth trying once. Just the thought of it is enough to scare your wits away.
Besides Ocean Park, Peak Tram is another place which will keep you occupied for one evening, it also houses Madame Tussad museum, this one is not as big as the one in London but if you have never seen original even this one is very good. Nikhil had a great time getting photographs clicked with each and every wax statue. He wanted to post all those on orkut. In our 10 days trip we took 1500 pics altogether. I preferred the times of non digital cameras with rolls. The pics came out better coz you thought twice taking a pic but in digital you just go on and on without even anyone or anything in frame. Moreover nothing like the luxury of getting your rolls printed and watching the album whenever you want , though you can do even in digital camera but it is not a must and you end up not doing it. It is almost three weeks since we came back but still haven’t sat down to view all the pics. I hope I get the time to look at these pics before the next vacation. During our last trip to Europe we took with us seven rolls, I love to look at the colorful pics in the album. Well, advanced technology comes with ifs and buts
Coming back to HK, Ladies Market gives you a taste of India; it reminded me of lajpat Nagar, Delhi. Here you will find women selling all sorts of things from bags to clothes to souvenirs in make shift market. This market tests your bargaining skills. Living in India this is not a problem for us. They will quote $ 600 HK and give you for half of it. If you want to enjoy and soak into it, you need at least half a day or else you can pick a few things in an hour and done with it.
Night Market though it is called men’s Market but it is for all – you get lots of chunky jewellery, clothes, bags, toys. Here too negotiation is the rule of the game. If you want to savor typical Chinese food at reasonable price then this is the place. It is open till 12 midnight. I appreciated two things in HK – firstly lot of ladies are working women , anywhere you go you see ladies are manning the show. Secondly it is all very safe to be out even till 12 night. We were out till 11.30 with children roaming on the streets but can we think of staying out in NY, Paris, Delhi or even Bangalore ?
HK is a gourmet’s delight if you are a non vegetarian and is adventurous enough to try new varieties. HK is not very expensive but it is more expensive than Thailand.
If you are going all the way, you can cover a few near by places like Macau; there are day’s conducted tours from HK.
Like all other countries in South East Asia, HK too takes tourism really seriously and earns good revenue from it. There are lots of places of tourist attraction, it is best to dedicate five full days for HK.