Friday, November 7, 2008

EUT08: Paris

Paris was a breeze, since it was my 5th time there. Already knew the metro system and had all directions to places, metro times, ticket prices etc in the excel sheet. Our hotel was 10 mins walk from Alesia metro station. Refreshingly, the room was huge with 3 single beds. So each of us had his/her own piece to claim for cluttering. Obviously Aarnav did not want his own bed and wanted whichever Baba (Anant) chose. This past 6 months at least he has been Baba's tail, wanting to do, eat and wear anything that Baba would. So I have been having some alone and peaceful time for myself, at least until Aarnav decides that he wants to tag along with me.

So once again after dragging the luggage to the hotel, we crashed for sometime and then freshened up headed for the city.. We saw Arc du Triumphe, walked on the Champs Elysée's, saw the Place de la Concorde, just spent some time in a Jardin, whose name I don't remember now and Pont Alexandre III. The bridge is really very beautiful with elaborate golden and black carvings. We saw boats sail lazily on the Seine and had dinner and returned back to Alesia. On our way back we stopped over at a supermarket to pick up some breakfast for the next morning, since breakfast was not included in the hotel. We picked up some milk, cereal, juice, mineral water, ice cream and fruit. The ice cream was gone by the time we walked from the store to the hotel :-).

The Louvre Museum and Eiffel tower were planned for the next day. We decided to go to Eiffel first in the morning after our little packaged breakfast. By the time we got to the Eiffel by Metro, Aarnav was fast asleep. We dedicated the rest of the afternoon to the tower until Aarnav woke up. Once he woke up he actually got to see the Tower and wanted one of the miniature one's for himself. We bought a little red Eiffel for him for a EURO and that was enough to satisfy him. Little boys, little demands. Then we headed to the Louvre museum. Once we got off at the Louvre Rivoli metro station, we could not find 5th time there was not helping. I found some “Desi looking” guys selling water bottles on the street and just took a chance and asked them for directions in Hindi, and it worked. We were in front of Louvre in no time. We clicked a few pics here and there and waited to get in the museum. It was 5 pm by that time, and discounted tickets were available from 6 pm onwards. So we just spent some time going up and down on the stroller elevator inside the glass pyramid. Aarnav loved it a lot and could not get enough of it, and an hour flew by. We then got the discounted tickets and followed the way to the Monalisa looking at the map. I have to say that all my experiences with maps inside the Louvre have been confusing. Not one time have I found the way in one shot. Anyways, we saw the entire museum, even the parts that we were not interested in, while looking for the Monalisa. The Monalisa needless to say came at the end of our search. Anant could not stop laughing when he looked at the size of the picture. I had raised his expectations and in addition to that we had been looking for it for so long while inside the Museum. He had thought that the picture would be BIG, occupying a whole wall. I told him that the beauty of the art and not the size of the picture, was important. Anyways, that did it to our enthusiasm and we grabbed one of the benches in the art gallery and rested our feet. We had been walking the whole time since morning that day. It was 8 pm already and we all were hungry. I satisfied Aarnav's hunger a little bit by giving him left over pizza from the previous day. We then walked out and wined and dined in a Chinese-French restaurant. The food sucked big time, but the wine was Good.

Tired and sleepy, we returned at around 10:30 pm to our supermarket, to stock up on breakfast supplies and water for the next day. Our train to Lucerne was the next day afternoon, so we took it easy, woke up late had a late breakfast... Aarnav had his song and bath for an extra long time in the extra large French tub and used up all the little liquid bath gel bottles to create his bubble bath. All in all a fun morning. We packed and left for the train station to catch our next train to Lucerne, Switzerland.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

EUT 08 – London, Lets get it started.

Once we reached London we were in the flow. As the song goes we were runnin' runnin' and runnin' runnin' and completely in the zone. We had our day by day and hour by hour Excel sheet ready. We specially made that so that we would not have to spend time in figuring out the what, where and how about things to do next. After we landed in London Luton airport, the Excel told us to take the Greenline bus, the number, the fare, the place to buy tickets, the place to board it from and the place to get off. We reached Baker Street metro station and took the Bakerloo line to Paddington station. The excel gave us directions to our hotel from there and after circling the hotel a couple of times we finally realized that it was our hotel and checked in. The room was basic with a bed, bath, television and closet. The best thing was that it was on the Ground floor in a 4 storey hotel with no elevator. The staircase was about 3 feet wide and so to get our fat asses and suitcases up would have been a nightmare. The complimentary English breakfast was served down just one flight of stairs in the basement.

It was drizzling a little when we got out for a stroll after freshening up. The excel sheet told us we could either do Hyde park which was a 5-7 mins walking distance from the hotel or the Marble Arch which was a couple of stops by the Red Double Decker bus. We took the Hyde park option, but walked in the opposite direction of the Park. That was the disadvantage of getting too much in the 'Zone' I guess, occasionally it meant that we were like a couple of Asses just following the carrot (the excel in our case). Anyways, we realized that after we had walked for about 10 mins and decided that we were too exhausted and called it quits. We ate at a nice Malaysian Restaurant which had got 5 stars in the airlines restaurant review. It was worth it. The food was bellisimo.

The excel advised us to do East London that day. We followed all instructions word to word (with occasional common sense intervention) and did the Tower bridge, Tower of London, London Bridge, St. Paul's cathedral, Cleopatra's Needle, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We stuck to the public buses and tubes for transport and it worked it a charm. Hats off to the public transport system of London. Even with a child and his belongings, which can be really bulky, we had no problem traveling around. But traveling with luggage and a child and his belongings...... now thats a different story. Anant's pumping metal for all these years came in real handy there. It came in handy and worked all of the times except for one. On the day we came from Inverness, we came by tube to Paddington. Now the Bakerloo line is in the depths of Underground hell. The first escalator was the longest, steepest and narrowest one. I took Aarnav by the hand and one backpack and climbed onto it. Anant managed to pull our 2 big suitcases one backpack and Aarnav's stroller on the escalator and our journey to the surface began. Not for long though. One of the suitcases slipped from its position on the steepest part of the escalator. Anant tried to maintain his balance, but one after the other all the stuff slipped and took Anant with it. He did a complete 180 deg flip and landed on the bags a few feet below on the escalator. He would have slid further down if 3 nice Sikh ladies would not have broken his fall. We all managed to get everyone up and safe in the end. Henceforth on all escalators we would take only what we could carry, deposit it on top and come back for the next. It was not like someone would run away with a 23 kilo bag while we were transporting the least we hoped so. This is one incident I will never forget, and believe me, I forget a LOT of incidents.

Back to past present, we docked at a Bangladeshi Indian restaurant and had an elaborate mughlai dinner. Aarnav met his first love there. The Tarka Daal. He had never liked it in any of the restaurants that we had been to in Colorado. But ghar ki murghi daal barabar, and bahar ki daal was like murghi to him. He hogged on an entire adult serving of it along with rice and a little bit of sabji. I was almost in tears to see my skinny dude in love with food for the first time. Seeing him eat that way had made my day and we all had a restful night and were ready to follow the excel sheet the next day.

The next day was West London's turn. We took the tube and then the bus to Oxford street. We saw the Marble Arch and then decided to goto Hamley's toy store in London. I remembered Hamley's as an awe inspiring toy store from the last time I was in London in 2002. This time it seemed like a vertical toys r' us to me. It was incredible how I felt so different about the same place after a few years in mega polis.Anyways, Aarnav played with the wooden train station model literally for hours. He had been asking for a Spongebob toy for a long time and we bought it for him finally at Hamley's after paying double the price in British pounds. But Aarnav was happy and we owed him that much, for being such a good boy until then. I remembered my colleagues statement one day when cribbing about how demanding Aarnav was getting. He told me ' Sanika, little boys, little problems, big boys, big problems'. It helps me deal with my emotions when I am irritated with Aarnav.

After Aarnav's shopping it was my turn. I visited Clarks, Primark, Mango, Mexx and Zara. Did not buy a thing from those places, but made a lot of mental notes of snapshots of what to buy once I am back in the US. It did not make sense to buy any of the stuff in British pounds. I told Anant how awful we looked in comparison to the hot-shot, fashion-week round the year kinda people of London. I made a resolution that henceforth I would not be a tightwad and spend money on exclusive items. We ate dinner in Aarnav's sasuraal, the bangladeshi restaurant. Anant's patience had given up by that time and we headed back to our pigeon hole.

We woke up, checked out and took the tube to King's Cross station to catch the Eurorail to Paris. We were all excited since the train whisks you under the sea though the famous Channel Tunnel, also called the Chunnel, to Paris. Goodbye London, we loved you. Bongiorno! Paris.

Friday, October 17, 2008

EU Trip - Scotland

We were greeted by rain when we landed in Edinburgh – the best small country in the world. We took a taxi to our first pit stop, The Globetrotter Inn. It is a cute little upgraded youth hostel. We were a little worried because a youth hostel brought an image of bunk-beds and common toilets to us. But since we had inquired earlier and confirmed that our room will have a double bed and an 'en suite' we were confident that we would have it. As promised our room had a double bed and and 'en suite' and nothing more. That means no toiletries in the bathroom. Thankfully I had taken every scenario under consideration before we packed and so we had all the necessary stuff. The youth hostel was on the bay and hence had mind blowing views. The land was covered with lush green grass and wild flowers, the little houses around had beautiful flower window baskets and hangers, there were fruit trees and flower trees laden with produce and we could see land, water, forest and mountains all in one glance. It looked like the land of the gods. Heavenly. All our travel fatigue was lost after seeing such beauty. We left the hostel a couple of hours later and took the hostel shuttle to the Edinburgh downtown. The downtown was a different kind of beauty. It is on the top of hills with valleys having train tracks and gardens. The Princes Street is the main street and has the best views of all the historical buildings, gardens, Castle Hill and Edinburgh castle. We walked along the street for a while soaking in the views and then headed for dinner to a nearby Burger King. Henceforth, we would goto a McDonalds or Burger King in every country we visited to get a ballpark figure of the cost of food in those cities. We spent around 20 GBP at the BK for dinner. That was expensive by US standards but was not wallet emptying. We returned back by the shuttle and called it a day.
The next day was our GreyLine tour of Loch Lomond, The Trossachs & Stirling Castle. It was scheduled to be at 9:00 am from downtown. We were so tired and jet lagged that we woke up (inspite of the alarm) at 7:30 am. The next shuttle to DT was at 8:30. We got ourselves together and made it to the shuttle. We fought with traffic but missed our tour bus from the planned location. We were not going to miss this tour. I took the back pack and ran through traffic hoping to catch the bus somewhere praying that like us it must have stuck in traffic somewhere ahead. Poor Anant ran after me with Aarnav in the stroller. I kept on scanning all the white buses that I could see on my way and finally after 10 mins of sprinting I found it. It had stopped at a traffic light. I ran across the light and banged on the door. I could tell that the driver was startled but he did pull over for us. We got into the bus after apologizing for being late and thanking him for stopping for us. I still cannot imagine how Anant dodged all that traffic while pushing Aarnav in the stroller. We would not have made it to the bus if either of them would have given up. Kudos to you both! I love you guys.
The tour was fabulous. The Trossachs, Stirling castle, the boat ride on Loch Lomond with its pristine views of mountains, castles tucked away in the thicket, the green of the grass was just so serene. We had a simple lunch of lentil soup, bread and some sausage at a local restaurant and returned back refreshed. After a quick dinner on Princes street again we returned back to the Inn. The next day was our trip to Inverness.
We got into the bus on time for this one and traveled through the beautiful countryside to Inverness. The Town is very pretty, green, hilly and laid back. Our B&B was fabuloso and walking distance from downtown. We dropped our luggage in the B&B and then headed by taxi to Clansman Hotel harbour to hop onto the boat ride on Loch Ness. I had already raised Aarnav's excitement telling him that we may see 'Nessie' the monster in the loch somewhere. We took the ride on the Loch and I was surprised to see that 60% of the people on out boat were desi's. Not used to seeing so many desi's in Colorado. Reached Urquhart castle and spent sometime roaming around it. Anant wanted to read about the history of the castle, but surprisingly we could not find a sign or board anywhere stating any. We then had a quick bite at the visitor center and returned back to the city. We spent sometime walking around the Main street market and shops. There was a stunt show going on in downtown with a man lying on a pin-bed and a lady attempting to stand on his abdomen. But all the ppl watching the show looked shady so we did not spend too much time there. We saw the Inverness castle, some kilt stores, some bagpipes and headed for dinner in one of the 5 Indian restaurants. We had some exquisite Vindaloo and returned back to the B&B satisfied. After some movie watching on our Huge LCD TV at the B&B we packed and caught some z'es. The next morning we had an elaborate and delicious english breakfast cooked by the B&B lady and headed to the airport to catch our plane to London. The airport ppl were genial and again most of then were desi's.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

EU Trip 2008 - The D-Day

On the D-day we took the airport shuttle to the airport. Our route was Denver- Detroit-Amsterdam-Edinburgh. On arrival at the airport we were told that our flight to Detroit was delayed and hence we would go to Memphis instead of Detroit. The northwest clerk at the baggage checkin counter told us to do a kiosk checkin since there was a big line and lot of chaos. We could not scan our passports through the slots since we hold Indian Passports, and they are not scannable. So we told the clerk that she will need to check us in the old fashioned way. I asked her how would we catch our next flight which was supposed to be from Detroit to Amsterdam, since according to the new plan they were sending us to Memphis. She was confused and then told us we would reach Amsterdam as planned. So my next question was will we have to go from Memphis to Detroit to catch our flight to Amsterdam. For some reason that seemed to have pissed her off, since she told us we would have to wait for 5 hours more if we needed to goto Detroit so badly. What kind of comment was that!!!!... I told her that I was confused as to how do I catch my next flight since the route was now changed and that did not mean that I have to fly through Detroit. The dimwit (her name was Kimberly) then told us that she will put us on another flight from Memphis to Amsterdam and that it would reach Amsterdam at the same time as the flight from Detroit would have reached. This was all I needed to hear and all the previous remarks were totally unnecessary. Well but not for our bonehead apparently. Before she gave us our boarding passes, she scribbled 4 S's on them. I did not ask her what it was as I had no more patience to talk anymore with her. So we headed to the security check. Thats when we learnt that the 4 S's meant that we were Quad-S'ed. It seems, every one in 10 people are randomly selected by the computer to head towards special security screening. Well I did not think that we were chosen too ramdomly though after our long chat with Kimberly. They opened our carryon bags and removed everything in it, told us to seperate out all liquids and gels into ziploc bags, remove all metal, shoes etc from your body and pass through the T-Ray scanner, after which they frisked us manually. Aarnav was made to pass through the scanner 3 times just because he kept jumping all the time when inside it. Now I did not know that this scanner is a controversial machine until afterwards when Anant told me about it. I felt extremely humiliated and broke down into tears. This was not a good start for our trip ahead. Anyways I calmed down in the train to the terminal and cursed Kimberly some more to get it off of my chest. Then we took our 3 flights without any more action thankfully and reached Edinburgh safely. Our trip had started finally.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Europe Trip Sept 2008 - The Planning Stage

Anant and I really wanted to make a EU trip before we got back to being pregnant and having sleepless baby screaming nights again.
We wanted a trip to remember since we know that once the second baby came, we will be so deep into parenthood for the next 5 years at least, that we may not get a chance to go for such a trip. And plus once kids are a little older they are hardly going to be interested in visiting monuments and churches and basilicas. All our trips in the next 10 years would be to the likes of Disneyland, Waterworld and Elitch Gardens. So for the next 10 years this was going to be our last big trip that we take for ourselves. Of course there are the India trips, but they don't qualify as vacation since we need vacation after coming back from them.

Well atleast we started off planning like this, blissfully unaware of what was in store for us. Anant was not as blissful as me though. He thinks pretty realistically about things, and he tells them as they are. Unlike me where I am a little “filmy”, thinking that nothing will go wrong and we will be able to do everything according to our planned schedule (which was jam packed) and plus have a second honeymoon while we are at it. Well I like that about us in a way. I am pretty optimistic most of the times and Anant usually does not have an opinion about anything until he experiences it himself. I bring my enthusiasm and my fun, and he gets his wisdom to the table. So while I was like, “ I cant wait to go on our fabulous vacation trip, I want to have some crazy fun”, he was like, “Lets get to our first destination safely first, and then we'll see how it goes.”, “We need to take it easy San, don't get disappointed if we cannot do all the stuff from our checklist”. It annoys me many times when he says things like these and brings me down to earth from cloud nine. But I have learnt too many times now in the past 5 years, that his way of thinking causes less pain and disappointment. So that's what I told myself throughout the planning stage of this trip, “Keep realistic goals, Sanika, don't get carried away”.
There was too much pressure though. Last trip for the next 10 years, keeping realistic goals, getting the schedule for each day and every hour of each day of the trip, keeping in mind Aarnav's nap-time, potty-time and eating time, and cramming all spots and countries that I wanted in the 3 weeks that we had. After the schedule was ready we would begin the booking process for the flights, hotels, trains and tours and then apply for the visa's.

Shubhasya Sheeghram was the way to go and so we started with the planning on Dec 27th 2007 at 10 AM sharp. We made a rough list of countries that we would like to visit. My abundant EU experience from my Amdocs days came in real handy. Scotland, London, Paris, Spain and Italy made the first list. After looking at various guided tour options and many a Google mapping hours later, Spain was out of the picture. We finalized the start date and the end date of the trip as well as the start point and end point and made the flight bookings accordingly. Everything in the middle was still unplanned. I had already been to Scotland, London and Paris before so planning the number of days and spots was not tough for those. Once We came to Italy, we realized that we had two days too many for Italy. Anant bringing in his wisdom said that we should give those days to Paris so that we could relax there. I was totally not interested in spending 4 days in Paris. Secretly I had the craving to squeeze Switzerland into our plan, especially since we would have to pass through it anyways while going from Paris to Italy. A few hours of emotional blackmail later, Anant agreed. :-) So there was our final list. Scotland, London, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, Florence and Rome. Now all that remained to be done was hotel and train booking and some local tours and tickets if necessary. We did our research on EuroRail and railpasses. Ordered them when they were available. We devoted 3 hours every Saturday and Sunday for the next 5 months for the hotel research and booking. We were 90% done by June 2008.

Next on the list was visa's. We got the UK visa after getting fingerprinted the n-th time. The fun began when We found out that we needed to apply for the Schengen visa to the Italian consulate. Italian consulate are “Bade Log”. They needed both of us to fly to Chicago consulate for a 15 min interview which would determine whether we got the visa's or not. They is no loop hole. Anant was so furious, that he yelled to the lady on the phone that he had no intention of spending another $700 in flight tics and hotel reservations on top of what he was already contributing to their tourism department. He told me he would cut out Italy completely and return back to Denver from Switzerland. I saw my house of cards come crashing down. “Wait Hon”, I told him, “let me find a way to make this work”. I spent the next half day frantically getting all info I could on the internet about Schengen visa policy and consulate policy. And there it was a trick to get the visa's without any hassle. Schengen visa needs to be taken from the country where we spend the maximum number of days in EU. It was Italy for us. But since that was out of the question, I made cancellable bookings in hotels in Amsterdam and Brussels, for all the days that we were going to be in Italy. The Netherlands consulate is the only one that had the option of giving the interview in Denver and did not require us to fly to faraway lands for the interview. We removed Italy completely out of the itinerary and showed to the Netherlands consulate that we were going to be in Amsterdam and Brussels. After a 5 min interview and a few candies later we got the Schengen visa's from Denver. I promptly canceled all our Netherlands hotel bookings and used the visa for Paris and Italy. Phew!! we would complete our trip now and it was going to be so mind bogglingly awesome. “Earth Calling San! Do you copy?”.We are all set now, yippie.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What is Love

I have this habit of reading thoughts, proverbs, phrases etc. for passing time at work. I think I understand things better when I read other peoples point of view on it. It makes my thinking more spherical. Anyway, yesterday I was reading about LOVE. Maybe I was trying to find purls of wisdom in my five year marriage. Maybe I was feeling like a teenager in love eager to find what more was out there of the stuff that I was feeling. I just Googled it expecting to get good meanings of the word. The faithful Wikipedia called it the “Central Psychological Emotion”. There was someone there who even went to the extent of actually giving a comparison of scientific models to show how Love was modeled in Biology and Psychology. That sounded, well, meaningful but did not strike a chord. So that was not something that I was looking for. I kept following links in hope of finding something that would resonate with what I was feeling. Well I did find one that came pretty close.

“To describe love is very difficult, for the same reason that words cannot fully describe the flavor of an orange. You have to taste the fruit to know its flavor. So with love.”

I liked this for two reasons. One because of the abstraction used in comparing love to a fruit and the second because whoever thought of this chose a fruit which was sometimes sweet and sometimes sour. :-) Thats the truth about Love isn't it? It is sweet for the lucky one's who have just fallen into it, sour for the one's who have to live without it and a little bit of both for the ones who eventually stand after having fallen in it. Its when you stand in it that you actually know the meaning of unconditional love. Unconditional Love is the only kind of true love there is. Saint Paul said “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”.

You can tell if you love someone when your heart aches and races, your face is flushed but your hands and feet get cold, you stomach turns and you get tingly all over at the sight of that person. Its either love or you are seriously coming down with a deadly illness..ha ha ha. But then again isn't real love like a lifelong illness that once you get, you can never get out of it? I don't know what it is to fall out of Love. Thankfully I say for myself. Coz I don't know what I would do without it. I would be lost. Love helps me find my way, everyday. My road to self-discovery is paved with Love. My ability to love keeps me going. Thankyou God for making me one of the lucky one's.

P.S: My 2 year old son Aarnav cannot say "Love" but his favorite song right now is (in his words) "What is la"

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mein aur meri tanhai.....

This is my favorite shayari by Gulzar from the film Silsila

"Mein Aur Meri Tanhai, Aksar Ye Baaten Karte Hain
Tum Hotin To Kaisa Hota, Tum Ye Kehtin, Tum Vo Kehtin
Tum Is Baat Pe Hairan Hotin, Tum Us Baat Pe Kitni Hanstin
Tum Hotin To Aisa Hota, Tum Hotin To Vaisa Hota
Mein Aur Meri Tanhai, Aksar Ye Baaten Karte Hain

Ye Raat Hai, Ya Tumhari Zulfen Khuli Hui Hain
Hai Chandni Ya Tumhari Nazron Se, Meri Raaten Dhuli Hui Hain
Ye Chand Hai, Ya Tumhara Kangan, Sitaare Hain Ya Tumhara Aanchal
Hava Ka Jhonka Hai, Ya Tumhare Badan Ki Khushboo
Ye Pattiyon Ki Hai Sarsarahat, Ke Tumne Chupke Se Kuch Kaha Hai
Ye Sochta Hoon Maein Kabse Gumsum
Ki Jabki Mujhko Bhi Ye Khabar Hai, Ki Tum Nahin Ho, Kahin Nahin Ho
Magar Ye Dil Hai Ki Keh Raha Hai, Tum Yahin Ho, Yahin Kahin Ho
Majboor Ye Haalaat, Idhar Bhi Hain Udhar Bhi
Tanhai Ke Ye Raat, Idhar Bhi Hai Udhar Bhi
Kehne Ko Bahut Kuchh Hai, Magar Kis Se Kahen Hum
Kab Tak Yoonhi Khaamosh Rahen, Aur Sahen Hum
Dil Kehta Hai Duniya Ki Har Ik Rasm Utha Dein
Deewaar Jo Hum Dono Mein Hai, Aaj Gira Dein
Kyun Dil Mein Sulagte Rahein, Logon Ko Bata Dein
Haan Humko Mohabbat Hai... Mohabbat Hai... Mohabbat Hai...
Ab Dil Mein Yahi Baat, Idhar Bhi Hai, Udhar Bhi "

Film: Silsila.
Lyrics: Gulzar.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

To Return, or Not To Return : that is the question

This is the question that every Non-Resident Indian has asked himself/ herself many times. I was sure that I wanted to return back to India in around 10 years. That was 5 years ago. A lot has changed in these 5 years, in India and in my opinion as well.

Recently, I have started to put my reasons down on paper. Reasons, I want to go back – thats Option 1- and reasons I dont – Option 2. I have to say none of my reasons are logical. They are all emotionally driven because my attachment to India is emotional. If I come to think of it, am I really attached to India? Or is it just my hometown, Mumbai? To answer that question I asked myself another question. If I decide to return back to India, would I be happy to live in say for example, Bangalore, or Delhi? The answer came quiet quickly to me. It was No. I am biased towards Mumbai. Infact I would not give the time of day to any other city in India. Well to relax my obsession a little bit, I would not mind living in cities around Mumbai. Cities like Navi Mumbai, Lonavla, upto Pune all sound the same to me. As long as I can access my beloved Mumbai any day I want.

So far it looks like Option 1 is already contingent on Mumbai. Lets look at the various points that I would need in order to make Option 1 possible. This answer comes quickly as well. I need to live a content – aka emotionally fulfilling – aka happy and comfortable life. Wait a minute now, “comfortable” is a very subjective term. For me comfort is living with my family in a home that has 2 bedrooms and 2 baths atleast, having good food 3 times a day, having a car, having some kind of domestic help, good educational system for my children, being close of family, investments for retirement and then some. :-) Ok so my definition of comfort is pretty cliched then. But that is not all I need. Being happy involves more than material pleasures for me. Many people have told me, “if you have enough money, you can have the same or better standard of living in India, than here”. For me this statement has no meaning. I lived a happy life with a decent standard of living (for Mumbai) coming from a medium middle class family. I had basic things in life, no show-shine as they call it. So I know that I dont need a lot of money to be happy. If I want to live happily in a world, the world around me needs to be happy first. If I live in paradise, I know I will be happy. Paradise is any place of complete bliss and delight and peace – by definition. The place is made by the people who live in it. Unhappy, discontent people make for a unhappy place.

The thing that breaks my heart when I go back to India now is the plight of the street children. Poverty is not new in India, so why is it now that I have suddenly started noticing it even though I have been in an out of the country so many times before? Maybe because I am a mother now and my motherly emotions are stronger than ever. It breaks my heart to see children begging on the street, maimed and hungry, being abused, left to die even sometimes. I cant help but see that many of them are unwanted, mere byproducts of lust, or sometimes just a product to be made money from. I see them everywhere now, when I visit, their silent eyes screeming for a chance. I want to help them all, cure them of their suffering, give each of them a chance to make someone of themselves, being joy and smiles into their lives, give them a chance to become better individuals, show them the path to endless is just extremely overwhelming. A tornado unveils in my heart every time I see a street kid crying.
Can I really live in a place, where a day does not go by when I dont cry at night, because I feel helpless and angry?

There is no shortage of unfortunate godforsaken children in the United States either, but people have invested a lot of time and resources in efforts to make the situation better. You would not see kids hungry, abused and dying infront of you in day to day life. Thats is the reason it sticks out like a sore thumb when I come to India. People in India say, westerners only photograph poverty, naked street kids etc when they come to India. Just sit back and think carefully, what would you photograph if you went to a foreign place? You would photograph the things that you have never seen before and are completely out of the ordinary for you, right? So thats what they see and that is precisely what they photograph. The statement that there is more to India, than just poor people is cowardly at best. There are castles and temples and lots of wonderful things in other countries too, and its sad that the uniqueness of India lies in its Indifference.

I cannot cure my country from poverty, but I can atleast help a child get a better life. That would be doing my part and my duty to my country. I have now decided that my visits to India will not be vacations anymore, they will be missions, dedicated to helping kids. I am fortunate to have a family back in India who is already driven in this task and I will be more than happy to join them and help in any way I can.

So wait a minute, what conclusion does that bring to the eternal question of “To Return, or not to return”? The answer to that, looks like, is not easy. I can be happy and give my all and help only if I am mentally strong and emotionally stable. I can do that living here, in the US. If I return to India for good, I fear I will break. Handling emotionally draining situations is not easy for me. So for now I will stick to where I am, try to work on my passion in the best way I can and never forget that “...this is just another day for me in Paradise”. Another day in this Paradise, trying to create a Paradise for someone else.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Turning 30 – End of an Era

Well I have always thought of the day I will turn 30. Since the time I was 24 or 25 probably. I remember then, I used to feel like that time will never come and the world will probably cease to exist or something and I will forever be 25, not because I feared what the 30-ies will have in store for me, but because I loved my 20-ies so much, that I wanted to be stuck in time. Even when I was in my teens, I always wanted to be in my 20-ies. That was for a different reason though. Being a teenager was horrible for me. I was angry a lot and was unsure of what I really wanted. I was aware of this fact all the time and the only thing I was sure about was that once I turn 20 I will magically have a clear idea of what I wanted.

And thankfully I was right. I did know what I wanted and was lucky enough to get it. That made me want even more to stay 25.

But, as you can see time did actually pass and now I am 29. It is my last year where my age will begin with the number 2.

A lot has happened in the past decade. I got my Bachelors and Masters degree, Worked in a few companies, earned a decent amount of money, bought a house and car, saw half of the world, fell in love, got married, had a child, and even gained a decent amount of weight! (What?... it is a package deal).

I also learned about the not-so-rosy facts of life. This down-time in life made me appreciate what i have and learn the most important emotion according to me – Compassion. I have real friends and I am more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t live by someone else’s definitions of what I should be, how I should look or what I should wear. I have a clear idea about how I am going to raise my son and where I want to be at 60 and the most important thing – I know how to get there.

So why the hell would I want to leave my twinkling 20-ies behind and step onto the unfamiliar 30-ies ground. I say now, why the hell not? What have I to lose? Well, ha ha ... Now isn't that convenient. Yes it is, but here's my take on I have a choice? I can be 30 and crib about it or else I can suck it up and live with the same (or better) standards that I am right now. I am surely not going to commit the same mistakes that I have learnt from in my 20-ies (Really?.. History does have a way of repeating itself). Who can tell until I actually go for it. (Again, like I have a choice!)

It makes me curious now about what the other side of the hill has in store for me when I hear women saying "welcome to the club. It only gets better," and listening to the people who had a hard time turning 30 say things like "it all goes downhill from here" and thinking to myself... "not for me!”

There are times when I have a dejavu about the way I think sometimes. Isnt this the same way I used to think when I was 16? Have I really changed in the way my thoughts proceed? I would like to think that I have matured in that sense, but the teenager in me still lives and thinks in the same way and even gets angry and wants to throw things. But the 20 something woman know better and talks her out of nasty situations. I have a lot of such silent one on one conversations with myself and I wonder do we really change a whole lot as we get older? We dont change – I think – we only get wiser. I dont fret over whether everyone likes me or not. Now, I like who I am and if someone doesn't, I don't give a damn.My husband and my son are the most important people in my life, and my priorities are set right.

I have done, achieved and experienced a lot of things in the past decade and truthfully I am waiting to open the treasure chest for the next decade. I believe whatever happens, happens for the best and life goes on whether you want it or not. “Live like you were dying”, said Tim McGraw and that is exactly what I am going to try to do in the next 10 years. After all life begins again at 40 anyways. :-)

So cheers to 30, Bring it On!!!!