And the meek shall Inherit

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No God

Last week, being a short work week, I spent time at home, mostly with the little guy since Seema was busy with her Pharmacy license exam coming up on the 3rd Dec. The week was mostly uneventful, spent attending to the capricious whims of a two-year old. And a little bit of post T-giving shopping, mostly stuff for the kid, and reading. Lying on my bedside ‘Books to Read’ list were Brysons ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ , Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom and Dan Brown’s ‘Angels and Demons’. Out of sheer anticipatory titilation, I opted to read the Dan Brown novel, and oh, what a colossal waste of time it turned out to be. Talk about a C-grade Bollywood masala, or maybe worse. Serves me right, as I should have known better from reading ‘Da Vinci’ and Robert Langdons 2-minute puzzles.

On the bright side, saw Peter Weir’s remarkable WWI movie ‘GalliPoli’. Outstanding Stuff.

Listening to NPR radio, a few other stories that caught my attention:

One of the more compelling essays on atheism that I have read in recent times, by Penn Jillette, the chirpy one in the ‘Penn and Teller’ magicians duo. No philosophical overtures, no theological or moral biases. Simple logic. Check it out here.

Excerpts from Majorie Williams book ‘Woman at the Washington Zoo here.

Williams died in January of liver cancer. She was 47. She'd been diagnosed at age 43, a mother of two young children, then 5 and 8. Doctors said she'd live three to six months. She defied that prognosis and she lived three and a half years.

This article here tells the story of a small band ‘You’re your Hands Say Yeah’ and the buzz they generated via MP3 blogs. Musicians looking for a break are increasingly turning away from conventional forms of promotion and toward the more populist venue of the Internet. MP3 blogs, Web-based music magazines, and online record stores all offer small-time bands a chance to reach a wider audience.

I wonder if this is what the future of blogs is goings to be, where people access their favourite blogs for recommendations on movies, books, restaurants, music, technology and just about everything else under the sun? Except for a life partner, maybe!!! Like I would be more inclined to check out a movie or read a book if recommended by one of my favourite bloggers, than by some unknown book critic on Amazon or NYT. Maybe, I'm on to something here....hmmm...note to myself...deserves another thought...what do I have for breakfast?, which one?, granola, rasin bran....renew that....

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Enroute to Godhead

Reported in the Telegraph:

Pilgrims flock to see 'Buddha boy' said to have fasted six months

Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha.

Devotees claim that Ram Bomjon, who is silently meditating beneath a tree, has not eaten or drunk anything since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago.

Ram Bomjon
Ram Bomjon maintains his vigil in the shade of his pipal tree

Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager's forehead.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Redemption is here, as a 15-year old, fasting under a pipal tree. More tea, anyone?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Crash (2005)

Watched this amazing movie ‘Crash’, a few weeks ago and was meaning to write about it, but well, not much spare time these days, they are a tic-tocking. As ShoeFiend has lamented so eloquently in one of her recent article about the paucity of time in our lives these days.

But I digress. Excellent movie which tells stories about a black detective (Don Cheadle) and his Hispanic partner/lover, an Iranian family, caught in a post 9/11 public vitriol, two young black carjackers with painted views on everything , a Caucasian District Attorney (Brendon Frasier) and his wife (Sandra Bullock), a racist, bigoted cop (Matt Dillon) and his rookie partner (Ryan Phillippe), a Latino carpenter and his family, an upwardly mobile black couple and a Chinese couple.

This movie attempts to look at the prejudices that each one of us is besotted with, without exception. Most of the time we stereotype people, and prejudge them depending on their race, color, sex, mannerisms and external appearances. The best part about this movie is that there are no characters that have been depicted as outright good or evil. Each character, like in reality, have their own shades of insecurities and prejudices. They react differently in different situations.

A fast paced narration, criss-crossing story lines, crisp editing make this an extremely watch able fare. The story around the Latino carpenter, his attempts to provide a better life for his family and the tragedy they get embroiled in is really neat. Also Sundra Bullock does an excellent job of portraying a neurotic victim of a carjacking. Pretty unusual for Miss Congeniality.

Check ‘Crash’ it out, you will not be disappointed. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Run, run the ants are coming

KOLKATA (Reuters) - A woman receiving treatment for diabetes at a state-run hospital in Kolkata lost one of her eyes after ants nibbled away at it, officials said on Tuesday.

Check out the entire story here.

I'm gonna jump everytime I see an ant cross my path!!! What kind of hospital is this, anyway?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Killing a baby

Can you believe that such monsters are allowed to become parents? CNN reports.

A 4-month-old girl died when her inebriated mother fell asleep on top of her while breast-feeding, prosecutors said.

Lorinda Hawkins told police she fell asleep about 15 minutes after she started breast-feeding the baby February 23 because of her intoxication, a criminal complaint said. When she woke up about an hour later, the baby was pale and wasn't breathing, the complaint said.

Check out the rest of the story here. Truly depressing.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Keeping Cox Zipped in

The Michigan political landscape has been abuzz with the State Attorney General Mike Cox, admitting to an extra marital affair in a much publicized news conference. This revelation came after a protracted battle with his arch nemesis Geoffrey Fieger, a big-time Southfield, Michigan lawyer. Fieger, apparently threatened to out Cox's extra-marital affair, in an attempt to get Cox to drop charges of campaign finance contributions. A contrite Cox, left with no choice, dragged his teary wife Laura (why do sleazy politicians always do this), for a news conference, where he laid bare his sordid affair. The media is having a field day with this story.

Check out one of the first articles in Detroit Free press here. Oh, how drab life would be without politicians.

Unusually warm fall weather in Michigan for this time of the year. The temperatures have been in the 60's and with T-day just around the corner, there is no sign of any snow anytime soon. Hope it stays this way.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"Sid"e Stories - Nov 2005

Its been long time since I’ve written about our sonny boy Sidharth. At 27 months, it seems like now how much more of this do we have to go through. The tough years, they say, are only just beginning!!!

Argggggg…..Somehow, now we fully appreciate the adage “Terrible Two’s”, is not just something that that fledging parents have coined for literary gratification. It’s a rite of passage, into parenthood, and consider yourself lucky, if you come through this with no grey hairs or even with some hair left on your head. At least, that’s how we feel about it.

Above and beyond keeping up with the tantrums of a two year old, our misery has been compounded by the fact that can be attributed to one dim-wit scurrilous “Eureka” moment, when we decided that our son was now ready to be “Potty Trained” and bid good-bye’s to those ever dependable Huggies diapers. Big mistake. He can stay in diapers for the rest of his life, for all I care!!!

That single, spontaneous, oft thought, imprudent decision is now wrecking havoc in our lives. There are now damp, wet patches all over the house, on the couch, stairs, foyer, beds, carpets and the floors. Clorox disinfectant wipes can now be found in every nook of the house, including the garage! It sometimes becomes difficult to discern if tiny bits of candy pieces have been strewn on the floor or its an infants processed food that somehow made its way out of the pants. Unless one gets down on all fours, to get the nostril inches from the offending mound, does one realize that it is what you feared it was. Hell, where’s that bottle of Pepto?

Traveling someplace is a call to frayed nerves. Not many strangers take well to the sight of a grown man, sniffing the rear of a child, when they are eating. Any mention of “Shoo Shoo” or “Potty” by the young un, is a DefCON 4 or 5 or whateverthehell level, rush to the nearest loo. Many times its too late by then, the payload has already arrived. Houston, we have a problem. There is a DVD supposedly, in the library, which offers parenting tips on “potty training”. Ah, a ton of crap, I tell ya.

Nowdays, somehow Sidharth seems to have grown an attitude overnight. There are distinct likes and dislikes, for everything. What he sees, eats, listens or hears, everything has been categorized in that little CPU. Some of them more forceful than the others. If a food group does not have “chicken” or “fish” as one of its ingredients, its met with instant disapproval. Plop, it lands up on the floor. Candies, cookies, pastries, suckers, pops are always welcome, with little regard to the time of the day. Vegetables are meant to be spit out, religiously. No amount of enticing can help ingestion of healthy nutritional diet. Even a lecture on starving kids all around the world falls on deaf ears.

Sanji Bob (Sponge Bob) and Nemo are his favorite TV characters. Any books with loud pictures and animals will get his attention. He then starts tearing the pages. We have paid a small fortune to the library, for damaged books. Bugs fascinate him.

On weekends, father and son go swimming at the neighborhood Community center swimming pool. All is well until we hit the shower after the swim. Try getting a 2-year old and yourself showered, in the same stall. If one does not pay attention, because of soap in the eyes or any other nefarious reasons, body parts will get pulled or prodded. Try soaping your knees standing up, you’ll know what I mean. All this aggravation is well worth it, since he has a rocking time in the pool, with the slides, fountains and other kids.

Sidharth’s vocabulary is now growing at a rapid pace, thanks in part, to the daycare that he now attends full time, 5 days a week. We try and get him to speak Kannada at home, with little success. Much to our consternation, even his Kannada is accented, like the stereotypical “gora” British, they portray in Hindi movies. There is no “Yes” or “No” responses to questions posed to him. Its either “Uh-huh”, when he concurs or a forceful “Nah” when something does not meet his approval.

There is a repertoire of poems that he can belt out on cue. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Humpty Dumpty, Johnny Johnny being some of his favorite ones. Bedtimes invariably always end with “Goo Nite…Don’t let the beg bugs bite…..Okayyyy….” and the “Okayyy” part keeps repeating until he elicits an OK response back from us. Most nights I’ll respond back “OK.OK..”. He’ll then turn around and sleep.

He can now name all our friends and their children, and no amount of prompting will make him suffix names with Uncle or Aunty. Unless its Yash, who is a year older than him and his Guru, where propriety mandates that he is addressed with adequate respect, and therefore the respectful “Yashu Bhaiya”, while addressing his mentor. Yash’s mother deserves no such reverence. She is simply addressed as Nita. Or Patita for Pratibha, Radhika and Seema, as in his mother.

Rabbi seems to be his favorite singer as every time we put him in the car he demands “Bulla ki Jaana” to be played, repeatedly. Sometimes he sings along “Mulla ki haana mainu kaun”. Repeatedly. Groan. We aren’t taking any road trips anytime soon !!!

Often I try and look for that quiet little bundle of joy that we got home almost two years ago. All the features of that baby are now fast disappearing. The puffy cheeks, the drooling mouth, the sleepy eyes are now fast forming features that befit impish little boys. I need to look hard, with my face pressed close, to his sleeping face, to try and gawk at the baby that came home with us, from the hospital, on a fine summer day, over two years ago. And then I see, somewhere in that sleeping face, the baby that he was until a few months ago, and how he was supposed to stay, for the rest of his life. Afraid not. Until he wakes up again. “Shoo Shoo”…Potty.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Running a Marathon...well, half a Marathon

On Oct 23rd I ran the half-marathon in the Detroit Marathon, in aid of the charity organization ASHA, which does yeoman’s work for underprivileged children in India. ASHA raises donations by facilitating several sports/cultural/social events, all around the world and the entire staff of ASHA workers is made up of volunteers, hence no administrative overheads. These volunteers, mostly students, devote much of their free time to help out projects sponsored by ASHA in India. Their devotion, commitment and selflessness in pursuit of this common good is truly commendable.

This was the email that I had sent to my friends, colleagues and acquaintances to cajole, beg and threaten to part with a minuscule portion of their savings account hoardings, for a good cause. Many of them, to my eternal gratitude, have donated generously, making me that much prouder, of having made the right choice in friends, and taking up this glorious and arduous cause. So if you still feel inclined to contribute for my run, dear reader, please don’t hold back. Go forth, be kind and be generous.

Hi All

Recently, over the past few years we have experienced the fateful vagaries of life in every imaginable form, man made as well as natural. Be it terrorists flying airplanes into buildings or setting off bombs in subways or tsunamis, earthquakes, torrential rains, hurricanes Katrina, Rita, ravaging mankind, we try and make sense of everything that is going around us. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense, but we have every reason to be thankful. Thankful for a relatively safe life, a relatively good standard of living and the support of a family structure, that not everyone has the good fortune of having.

Our children have access and avenues to a stellar futures, good education, and access to some of the best professionals for health care and above all, caring, loving parents. And that's how life is supposed to be, for every single child in the world. But sadly its not so.

Asha for education , is a non-profit organization that does exemplary work in India, for the education of under privileged children in the remote recesses of the country. This is a volunteer organization which functions on the donations and largess of folks such as us. Over he past few months I have had the privilege of knowing some such ASHA volunteers. Their commitment, selflessness and conviction for the task at hand is indeed commendable. Week after week they devote their personal time and effort to organize events to raise money for ASHA.

On Sun Oct 23, I will be running the half marathon and trying to raise money for Asha. 13 miles…count them1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 miles. Wow. For someone like me, who primarily, until now, flitted through life working the channels on the TV remote, considering it exercise, this is, truly a big deal.

So with that being said, where else could I turn to but folks such as yourself, for your contributions for this cause. Any amount of donation will be greatly appreciated, be it the price of a McDonald's happy meal or the expense of an evening out at the restaurant or the cost of two tickets to the movies. Remember, any amount, however small, will truly be a big deal.

Please give me, whatever you think is right, as cash or post a check made out to 'Asha for Education', posted to my home address below, to sponsor my run. If you wish to pay by credit card, please use this secure link for your donations

Any way that you wish to give will be fine. This money, will be well used for the under privileged children in the villages of India, who spend their lives surviving on the benevolence of strangers. Thank you all for everything. Thanks for the support, thanks for the encouragement and thanks for taking the time to read my request and most of all thank you for your friendship. For that, I shall remain, eternally grateful.

Thanks and Regards

Sunday 23rd Oct, was supposed to grey, wet and cold and I got up dreading the day because I had not practiced, even a short 3 mile run, for all week. Ajith, who ran the Chicago marathon the previous week, advised me to take it easy, and so I took it easy, Very easy, as a matter of fact!!

Peeping outside the window at 5 AM on race day, my spirits rose at the sight of a mostly clear, cloudless sky. Cold, but no rain, I thought to myself. But one can never predict the Michigan weather, and it was supposed to rain at 9 AM. One of the Asha volunteers Ajith, our driver angel for the day, offered to drive us to/from Detroit downtown, where the marathon was being run. Driving back with aching knees and calf muscles and a sore butt is the single most agonizing chore after a grueling run. My better half didn’t think running a marathon was that big a deal that it warranted a trip to the finishing line!!! So the ride was manna from heaven, without the worries of having to fight traffic on the way back.

We reached Detroit downtown around 6:45 AM, with the race scheduled to begin at 7:30 AM, and met the entire ASHA team in front of the famous Detroit downtown landmark, Hockeytown restaurant. There were 4 relay teams from Detroit and Flint Asha chapters, 5 individual half marathoners and about 5 full marathoners.

What a sight it was, even with the temperatures dropping to low 40’s, the excitement and the energy was palpable. Runners sparsely dressed, overdressed, bundled up and unbundled, were stretching, jogging, huddling, laughing, jumping and generally milling around with intense looks. One could not feel any less enthused, such was the positive energy around Comerica Park and Ford field on that day.

We made our way to the start area, which has sections marked, depending on the speed of the runners. Since I am a relative tortoise in the world of marathon running, with a clock speed of approx 10.5 minutes per mile, I made my way to the back of the starting lineup. Before the start, there were politicians gabbing away, ministers sermonizing and up-an-coming singers belting the US & Canadian national anthem, on a raised platform near the starting section of the race. Gawkers and onlookers had gathered along the starting line to cheer the runners and I felt like a track superstar and could hardly suppress my excitement. The starting lineup snaked around for nearly a mile long with approximately 14,000 runners, walkers and wheel-chair participants taking part in the run. It was a fun, carnival kind of atmosphere, albeit a bit cold.

When the countdown began, sections of the runners started clapping and cheering wildly as they began their arduous run. Off we were to the stains of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’, and indeed, a beautiful day it was. The sun was out, it was in the low 40’s, not too much wind, just near perfect running conditions. We had started our run nearly 11 minutes behind the marathon leaders at approximately 7:42 AM. The timing chip is tied to the shoe lace and keeps track of your individual race time.

My runs usually start out slow, typically 11 minutes per mile and then over longer distances, I tend to get into a rhythm and my timing begins to improve. So at the beginning of the race while running through Detroit downtown, there were a lot of fast walkers, with their funny assed walking styles, overtaking me. This is not good, I remember thinking. At some junctions, it was getting difficult to run since the entire street was occupied by walkers or slower runners.

After about 4 miles into the run we could see to the Ambassador Bridge which crosses into Canada. Running through Mexican town with the gringos playing the mariachi and runners shouting our requests for Margaritas and Enchiladas from roadside onlookers, was quite an experience.

As Mexican town ended, we came up on a side street and I lifted my head to look at the Ambassador bridge. The sight that met my eyes will stay with me for a long time. Absolute surreal. The bridge was filled with runners crossing across to Canada as the sunlight was streaming across our faces and I remember thinking to myself “This is my Pamplona, the charging of the bulls. I’d rather be at no other place but right here, right now.”.

The sight of Detroit and Windsor Canada from top of the bridge was something to behold. By this time, my rhythm had set in and running was on automatic cruise control as I jogged into Canada. Look Ma, I’m running across countries now. Forrest Gump, I have become !!! Windsor is the border town in Canada and does brisk business with Casinos, restaurants, bars, cheap Canadian drugs from the pharmacies and strip clubs. Sadly I couldn’t stop for any of those in Windsor, er well, maybe later. Windsor is connected to the US via the Ambassador bridge and the Windsor tunnel, which has been laid out beneath the river. From the Canadian banks, you can see the majestic Detroit downtown skyline.

Almost half the distance into the race, fatigue was setting in, when I was mercifully joined by Ashish Mody, a fellow Asha runner. The next 2-3 miles seemed like a breeze since Ashish and me were cheering each other on. We were counting down the miles at every mile marker. It was important to stay well hydrated as well, so water and Gatorade were welcome distractions. It broke the monotony of running.

The Windsor tunnel was another surreal sight with the tunnel filled, wall to wall, with runners, many of them screaming, singing and wisecracking. The custom officials and the immigration officers were grinning widely to welcome the runners, a sight you never get to witness normally. The exit from the tunnel had the crowds waiting to greet the runners with flags, placards, screams and shouts. Our Asha team volunteers were a part of the crowd, and what a boost it was to hear your name being called out after running for nearly 10 miles.

The last 3 miles, through the Detroit downtown was grueling with the knees, calves, heels and even my toes beginning to hurt. Ashish kept me company and only the thought of the entry into Ford field kept me soldering on. Never has the sight of the home of the losing Detroit Lions, Fold field, been so appealing to me and as I ran through the tunnel onto the field to rear the roar of the rapturous crowd, applauding the runners, taking every moment in and watching myself on the big screen TV above the stands. Two hours, Twenty two minutes, Twenty Two seconds is what it had taken me , to run 13.1 miles. Check out the results here.

The finish line is now just a blur in my mind and I only remember hurrying out for the free massage provided by some health center masseuses. Whoa, masseuse rule, baby. Oh yeah. That massage made me nearly complete, but I was still limping over the next two days. Walking around like a pregnant woman whose water had just broken.

So why did I do it? Because I can. Also because money collected from generous folks, will help children in remote villages in India, towards a better life. I did it for my son, for my family and friends, for my health, and just as a validation that nothing is impossible, with the right amount of hard work, fortitude and the right attitude. I did it to associate myself with a wonderful bunch of people at ASHA who collectively do so much, and who give so much without taking much in return. For the feeling to be part of a team, to work together, towards a common goal, and to feel good, when that goal has been achieved. I did it, because it felt like the right thing to do. Yes, I did it.

Chicago 2006 – 26.2. The full marathon. Rahul, JT, the gang from ASHA and me. Join us, if you can.