Teacher’s pet

Feels good to be returning to this page after a long break of almost a year. This year long break got me a masters degree! Then, it sent me to a two month long vacation to India where I attended two of the most awaited ceremonies of the year, my sister’s arangetram (her first professional bharatnatyam dance performance on stage) followed by my sister in-law’s wedding. The year also lead me to a graduation walk and gave me an opportunity to host Neeraj’s parents and my own sister at our home here in Purdue. Yes, it was a fun filled year!!

While I was enjoying this past one year, I always had this blog at the back of my mind. Finally, it succeeded in pulling me here on the Teacher’s Day

The reminder of this day took me back to my elementary school or primary school, as we would call it. It had been a busy first week for us, as second graders, trying our best to learn English, Math and Science, one after the other. And then, one day, in the middle of the week, our new art teacher came in our class. I remember how anxiously we had waited for our art class, and finally it was here!! She was a new teacher and as soon as she entered, there was a breath of fresh air. She wore a beautiful printed silk saree and had white flowers in her neatly tied hair. She had a beautiful soft voice when she wished us Good Morning. Before we could settle down, she had already started writing her name on the blackboard with colorful chalks and decorative letters. We were awestruck with her artistic lettering. Then, briskly turning to her attentive audience, she asked us to write our own names in our drawing books with decorative letters. Suddenly excitement struck us and we got busy with our pencils and crayons, drawing our names. Dedication was visible with everyone’s tongue out and hands on colors. Where boys focussed on geometric straight lines for the letters of their names, each line sharper than the one before, girls were rounding their fingers for every letter to give them a curved edge. Meanwhile, our art teacher was roaming around between our desks, memorizing our names and admiring our art. We would know she is standing next to us when we got a strong fragrance of the flowers in her hair. Looking back at this first meeting with our art teacher, I felt this was the best way she could introduce herself with all of us.

As days went by, we reveled in the art of drawing, coloring, origami, etc. Our teacher would draw extensive scenes like a scene in the market, a rainy day, a day at the cricket stadium, etc. on the blackboard and they would all be life like. One day she drew a scene of our own classroom on the huge blackboard and the whole class clamored, trying to recognize themselves in the picture as she drew our caricatures. It looked like a mirror image of our class on the blackboard! And then, as usual, she would walk around our benches to see how we were drawing. My classmates would tug at her silk saree to get her attention towards their drawing. If she liked any drawing, she would raise it up in class and show everyone the good work. All of us would hope that our drawing be raised up in the class and we tried our best to achieve that target. Her craft lessons would end up with origami flowers, butterflies, airplanes, kites flying all over the classroom. Every festival of the year meant a new assignment specific to that festival and our homes were adorned by our own crafts like lanterns in Diwali and Christmas trees in December. We could feel our classroom gaining a new color everyday!

Very soon, our art teacher started taking extra art lessons at her home. Since we spent very less time with her at school, we started attending her weekend art lessons where we could indulge in more art activities with her. She would also help us with projects of other subjects, where we needed to do something creative. Her home was no less than an art museum, since she hung a lot of her art work, paintings and sketches on the walls. I remember a beautiful black and white pencil sketch of Mother Teresa, praying, and the only other color in the sketch was Mother Teresa’s blue saree border. Then there was a huge, artistic, intricately carved, golden colored wheel on one wall. It sparkled and looked magnificent. It was the replica of the wheel of Karna’s chariot, Karna being her favorite Indian mythology character. Then there was a beautiful sand painting of an aquarium. Our teacher told us that she had collected a lot of sand from one of their beach trips and made this painting. The blue water, several colorful fishes, sea weeds were all made from colored sand pasted on the paper and framed.  There were madhubani and warli paintings patiently waiting to be hung on the walls someday. The house simply bathed in her art and creativity!

As our school and weekend art classes ended, I would wait for my art teacher to transform into an equally loving mother. One would expect her talents to pass on to me. But it just grazed past me and showered on my sister instead. In my case, pen became mightier than the brush!

Today, this teacher’s pets are spread far and wide, all over the world and are remembering her for bringing color to their life! My friends ask me about their art teacher, her health and her art even before they inquire about me. And, I just feel glad that I willingly shared her during the day and two hours over the weekend so that other kids could receive a fraction of her creativity.

Mom, stay happy in your artsy mess and wish you a Happy and Artistic Teacher’s Day! Love you!

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Gully Cricket

This post is dedicated to all my wonderful friends from our good old Laxmi Narayan Nagar!

Fifteen years back when we were about 10 to 15 years old, we decided to transform our summer vacation into an extensive season of cricket. Not that we were bored of the “girly” indoor games. We had extensive original stories for the games of office-office, doctor-doctor, teacher-teacher, house-house, shopping-shopping (no idea why the titles were doubled up words). They would shy away any of the current seasons of television shows and soap operas. Cricket was more for the need of playing something different than the other regular outdoor games of those times, like lagori (seven marbles), hide and seek, tag, etc. And, with a group of fourteen girls, we could be a massive team together (with extras) or even split ourselves into two teams. Also, we knew that there will never be fourteen girls together in any other months of the year since about a quarter of this number were actually cousins of the permanent residents.

The search for a suitable piece of land began. After being driven out of the building corridors for fear of smashing window panes, the search for this land was all the more important. News was that a section of sunflower fields behind our building was being cleared out for constructing a new road. Using our own small tools, we set out to level the land as much as possible. Six medium sized boulders were fetched and they became the wickets, three on each side.  As soon as the wickets were laid, we received some curious visitors from the boy’s gang. As expected, the boys hooted, jeered at the sight of girls attempting to play cricket. But they ran away after witnessing the strength of the girls, quantitatively and qualitatively. Simple tennis balls were bought from our pocket money and cricket bats were stolen or borrowed from brothers and cousins.

Serious gully cricket ensued and continued every single day of the summer vacation. Thirty over games were our favorite since it took up the whole afternoon and early evening hours with popsicle breaks in the middle. Some real talents started brimming. Two or three athletic girls, who were also volleyball, basketball and karate champions in their school, proved to be great all rounders. The heavier ones were pure hitters and I assumed the role of a wicket keeper. Although, my role was more of keeping the ball from diving in the well under the tamarind tree. My position, thus, was in between the batsman and the well. Few of our concerned neighbors complained about my proximity to the well, warned me of ghosts living there and on the tamarind tree. Needless to say, that hardly scared me and I continued keeping in the same position. The training came in handy when I was part of a girl’s cricket team in the undergrad pharmacy years.

Over time, we grew better at the game and even got invitations to play against some other teams in the neighborhood. The boy’s gang also saw us evolve and became our coaches/advisors. At that time, it was crucial for us to rope in a girl who, we knew, played cricket at state level. Our captain and vice captain went to her house and convinced her to play with us in this neighborhood tournament over a session of maggi and bournvita. The tournament was a great success making our summer vacation the best one among all the previous and future ones.

We promised ourselves to continue with the game every vacation. But, the following year, our sunflower field was taken over by the municipal corporation and we had to resort to the narrow alleys between the buildings. A wide road was constructed over our cricket field and we cursed them all. Today, it is one of the most busiest roads in our neighborhood. The well behind my keeping position was covered up and the ghosts fled away. Although, the tamarind tree still stands there, lonely among the crowd of vehicles and hawkers, maybe missing those days of sunflower fields and the cricket pitch underneath.

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John Pothala

The next person for my cup of inspiration is John Pothala and he has a  blog called http://www.indiabybike.com.

Before getting to know about John’s blog, I got introduced to him through another blog called India Untravelled (indiauntravelled.blogspot.com). The place where I found my inspiration was the narration by John of how he became a travel blogger. His introduction by India Untravelled was, “John Pothala is 24 and hails from Hyderabad. In February 2012, he quit his job as a salesman for a major IT company, to go out and explore life. His first adventure started on 4th March 2012, and took him and his bike 13,000 kms around India and Nepal. Follow his journey on www.indiabybike.com.”

I have to confess a very interesting observation after I visited his blog. I read the “about us” page on his blog and guess what, he had a Purdue email id! After a brief wth moment, I searched him on facebook and found out that he was a class of 2009 Mechanical Engineering student at Purdue!!!

I have been relishing my discovery and also getting inspired from John as I read that he quit his job and bought a Royal Enfield to travel the coasts of India. Hope you like his blog!!

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This post again belongs to the category, “a cup of inspiration” and is a long one. So, make sure you have your cup of milk/coffee/tea ready with you!

There were a few television shows during our childhood, which we never forget, no matter how small we were when they were aired and no matter how much we have caught up on age. For example, the Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Ducktales, Chandrakanta, Mahabharat, Nukkad, Wagle ki Duniya, Dekh Bhai Dekh, and the list goes on. Few shows, like these, are produced rarely and they carve out a permanent space in your memories.

One such show, in recent times, was Dewarists. I have heard mixed reviews about this show. I know I am late to narrate my views given that the first season is long over. Nevertheless, here are my views and I loved the show!! I was actually confused if I should begin a “review” series to categorize this post, but then decided to add this to the category of “inspiration”, as it truly was inspiring for me. I read that this show had run into some legal battle over copyright infringement. So, not very sure when the next season is coming. Plus, many people argued their use of the word “Dewarists” being derived from the brand of whiskey called Dewar. As per Mumbai Boss (http://mumbaiboss.com/2011/10/17/tv-review-the-dewarists/), “it was just a canny way of making sure that journalists don’t leave out the sponsor’s name when writing about the show“. Ignoring all of that, the show has been a wonderful journey for me as I traveled through each of their episodes. Sneha Khanwalkar’s MTV Sound Trippin’ is soon to be added to this list, but she deserves a separate special blog space.

Coming back to Dewarists, as the producers put it, are defined as “game changers, individuals who follow their passions and make an inspired change realising that however formidable they may be, some things are just worth doing”.

“Our journey starts here, it’s the journey that takes us into the lives of musicians from different walks of life and brings them together to create a song. These musicians are dewarists, they have immense passion for what they do, they inspire others to follow their dreams and this is why their stories deserve to be heard. To discover the passions behind these musicians, watch them collaborate and create a song. Because some things are just worth doing.”

These words, exactly as narrated by Monica Dogra will reverberate forever in my mind, making this show unforgettable. It just reminds me that there are some Indian television shows, amongst the filth of reality shows and saas bahu soaps, that deserve a space in your memory. I had instantaneously liked Monica Dogra when I watched her in Dhobi Ghaat. Nevermind our choices in Indian cinema. When the whole world was busy detesting Dhobi Ghaat, we were re-running it just to catch up on the nuances of that film. Digressing a little bit more, I pay an extra attention to the diction, and Monica Dogra’s diction just had me focussed on her. Please don’t think that I am biased towards her accent. That doesn’t matter to me. I have respected the diction of many of my language teachers from schools, be it Hindi, English, German or any other language. Probably, what I mean to say is the way you throw your voice or the voice modulations that captivate me. And Monica Dogra did just that. It is hard to realize that this girl had speech therapy when she was young since she could not speak properly! Well, probably the therapy helped her to develop the voice that she has today. Apart from her voice, her style, her dressing sense is worth complementing. Another thing which I found noteworthy with Dewarists is the art of interviewing the musicians. No scripted questions asked, no interviewer visible in the frame. Just the musicians narrating their story of music against the backdrop of their own song.

As the starting words portray, the musicians collaborating in dewarists strike an unimaginable balance between their passion for music and modesty. Their creativity runs overboard and their humility keeps them grounded. Their unique styles of music render hope to many aspiring musicians to survive through the turbulent times and to be patient to get the required recognition. Where some of the musicians are from rich gharanaas, raised amidst music, there are a few mavericks who have no musical background whatsoever and have successfully carved out a niche for themselves. Their individuality, even if they are part of a band, stands out. Every musician has traversed the path full of struggles and it becomes clear that to achieve something you really want, it takes immense amount of struggle. It takes feeding oneself to a lunch of only bananas, scrimping and saving each penny, requesting and coaxing the event managers to let them play their songs for the crowd to gain recognition, etc. What remains constant among these vagaries of their life and struggle is life long friendships, desire to succeed at the cost of giving up one’s career or daily bread and the display of fierce stubbornness to stick to one’s originality instead of blindly copy pasting the bollywood masala to one’s band.

Now put these musicians together in an exotic location of India and what churns out is a tasty mixture of music and travel. Be it the by lanes of Pune, Mumbai, or Delhi or the greenery of Kerala, the rustic Goa or the grandeur of Mysore, arid yet colorful Rajasthan or the dense Kaziranga. Combine the folk music of a resident artist/artists of that location and the culture of a visiting musician, sprinkle a little bit of Monica Dogra in the background and the recording set of Dewarist to generate ten fabulous numbers. Unique lyrics, local folklore, dedications to the location, and mere day to day life have been the basic influences to compose these songs. Not only does it do justice to bring out the true flavors of classical music and folk songs, it also makes the songs sound contemporary.

Dewarists could be any normal collection of songs. What makes it special is the journey of the song, the composer, the singer, and the musician that can be experienced first hand. It is just a glimpse of the amount of efforts contributed by each artist in making the song. Appreciate the creativity and struggle of the musicians by viewing the entire episode of each song, instead of just listening to the songs directly. The stories of struggle of the various musicians are very emotional and inspiring and those emotions finally find a path to express themselves when the artists perform the final song! And then comes a silent prayer, may God give the same strength to every person who wants to passionately pursue their path of dreams.

Thanks to Dewarists for giving me multiple cups of inspiration through all of their ten episodes.

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Sidin Vadukut

Whatay can I say about this blogger. My very recent and probably, the very first cup of inspiration has been the blog of this guy: Domain Maximus at whatay.com

Go ahead and enjoy his writing. Before you do that, I will just quote one of the paragraphs in his recent post called “Olympics and other things”. I came across this blogpost through the status message of a friend on gmail and I was “oh my gawd ammazingly” inspired by this one paragraph:

Excerpt from “Olympics and other things” of Domain Maximus

“When did I start writing for a living? Let me see. I think it was sometime in early 2006. At the time I remember someone warning me of the repercussions of my career choices. Remember Sidin, they said, you will now play an eternal game of catch-up with your batch mates. They will make more money, see more places, eat better food and live in better homes than you. Can you deal with that?

I said yes at the time. But I really meant “Too late! Damn!”

Well I can tell you with great delight that that person was utterly and completely wrong. About most things.

I don’t make a lot of money or anything. But I earn enough to split bills with banker friends when we have dinners on the weekends.

But I have seen the Olympics and the World Badminton Championships. I have interviewed Aakash Chopra, Harsha Bhogle, Michael Phelps, Steve Waugh, Edwin Moses, Boris Becker, Nadia Comaneci and Frankie Fredericks. I have had dinner with Vijay Amritraj and Martin Scorsese. I have once carried 300 carats worth of diamonds in my hand. I have travelled to Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Holland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. I have flown in a modern jet fighter and in a world war 2 trainer aircraft. I have been taken on a guided tour of the Louis Vuitton manufacturing facility. I have been to the Lonar crater in Maharashtra, and listened to Leo Pinto tell me all about winning the Hockey gold medal in 1948.

And I’ve eaten at 7 restaurants with at least one Michelin star.

I say all this not just so that someone will update my Wikipedia profile. Or to boast. But to just tell you that doing what you want to do in life is not always a compromise of some kind. With some hard graft and some good luck things can turn out fabulously. Don’t let people sell you that “life will be rubbish but at least you’re doing what you want to” canard. Be optimistic.”

On that note from Sidin, I have had my cup of inspiration for today!

P.S.: This is no promotion (since bloggers like Sidin really don’t need any promotions), but a genuine inspiration 🙂

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For the spirit of India

I have been searching for a good day to revive my blog since my last post. And what better day to start again! The Indian Independence Day was yesterday and I am still high after our Independence Day celebrations. 
While, on one hand, its just a reason for me to finally write a post, it is one of those days when I miss being in India, in that typical independence day type of environment. Early morning flag hoisting, uniforms, national anthem, inspiring speeches, patriotic songs, reciting the pledge, all of that. The day seems tri colored everywhere and the national holiday gives a pause to the routine life of common people. All of us know, especially after starting to work, that it gives us a much needed break from our mundane tasks, being a national holiday in India. At the same time, I am sure that a bunch of thoughtful people grab this opportunity to pause and think. Whether it is a genuine celebration or just blaring patriotic songs on loudspeakers, we try to reminisce upon our freedom struggle.  We read about the achievements of our country till now, our shortcomings and how we can improve beyond this point. The newspapers, television, and of late, the social media are all busy reminding us all of the above. 
On that note, I attended the Independence Day ceremony organized by two Indian organizations at Purdue, Indian Graduate Students at Purdue (IGRASP) and Indian Classical Music Association at Purdue (ICMAP). A big thank you to them for organizing the celebrations of Independence Day and Republic Day, successfully, for so many years. I hope they continue to rekindle this patriotic spirit every year among us who are away from India. And like the Chief Guest of our ceremony, Professor Garimella said, “no matter how much we curse the state of our country every single day, this is one day when we all come together, appreciate our unity in diversity, ignore all the shortcomings for a day, enjoy the spirit of India and get passionate about our future”.
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The Food Cycle

“Long time no see” is what every tab on this page is flashing to me! Well, a friend mentioned to me today morning that he wanted to blog about a recent enriching experience he had. Very enthusiastically, I instructed him to blog as soon as possible before the passion of expressing his experience dies down. Having said that, my suppressed desire of writing a blog sprang into action. Suppressed due to a lot of reasons but still flickering underneath a pile of fresh experiences from our recent India trip.

The one thing we enjoy to the core on an India visit is food. Not only do we look forward to storm our favorite restaurants and road side vendors, but we also look forward to satiating our unending list of home cooked delicacies. Even though our mothers are willing to cook all our favorite food items, they slowly come to realize that the list consists of items that are cooked very regularly by them. There is no special effort required. “Arre, yeh toh mein hamesha banati hoon” (I make this pretty often) is what she says. I receive a few questionable glares, doubting my capabilities as a cook, when we announce simple dishes like poha,baingan ka bharta, kadhi, khichdi, rasam, sambar, etc. from our wish list. Its not a million dollar answer when I express that even these simple everyday items, when cooked by moms, taste fabulous. Its the perfect combination of fresh ingredients and love!

Another fact that goes unnoticed is that there is not a single time when we feel hungry! Its the constant cycle with which we are presented the food that impresses me. Few lucky ones like us have working moms striving to cook three to four meals a day, with relative ease which is beyond my understanding! So, when I am still trying to get out of bed, a glass of boiling milk is waiting for me. By the time I gulp down the last sip of milk, a steaming plate of breakfast is served on the table. Its like a magician and/or a juggler at work. While a thought of having a bath crosses my mind, my parents wonder if I will have my lunch too before a bath, like I had the breakfast. Hurriedly, I take a bath only to find that the lunch plates are ready and my mom is waiting to serve me hot chapatis. As I relax after a heavy lunch, mom is already making elaborate plans of dinner. No sooner do I recover from my afternoon siesta, a refreshing hot tea waits for me. Similarly, before I regain back from a long call with my best school buddy, dinner is ready to be served. If this is the weekend cycle, the weekday cycle is no different. Only difference would be that the lunch will be prepared and ready before mom leaves for work and all we have to do is reheat it. One would say, this is just over stuffing of food by parents waiting to pamper their under-privileged babies returning from the US. But, that is certainly not the case and surprisingly is a regular chore, repeating everyday!

I would willingly take the benefit of doubt upon myself that we do not have domestic help here and hence, should be kindly excused from this four meal food cycle. But, how many of us can even manage to cook one meal properly, everyday? And how many of us feel capable of taking up such a cooking responsibility of our own family, in the future, after handling our work pressures? Maybe our work is intellectually more stimulating than our moms, but do not ignore the vagaries of commuting in traffic that our moms have to encounter, which adds hours to their work. And like my mom says, sometimes the domestic help  is so unreliable that it is easier to assume that the help does not exist and get the work done on our own. Such perseverance in routine, despite the unreliability and busy schedule is unbelievable. Not to forget, they do not expect any help from their male counterparts, who, in some cases, have not even stepped inside the kitchen.

It was a huge coincidence that I happened to check Devdutt Pattanaik’s blog today and it had a small resemblance to my expressions. Do read his blog titled “The Talking Thali” whenever you get time: http://devdutt.com/the-talking-thali/

To conclude, an immensely stressful mom’s intention is to create unending memories for her kids which we pack and get to the US. Dedicating this post to Amma and Mamma, who have permanently bound us to their food cycle!

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