Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heroes Who Inspired, Moments to Cherish: A Take on the Winter Games!

Canada has been on a roll in the Winter Games these past 16 days! We started out on a rather sombre note with the unexpected death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run, just hours before the Opening Ceremony. It did cast a tragic spell on the very first day, but with due honour and respect to the dead athlete, the Opening Ceremony was a spectacular event that captured the true spirit and essence of what Canada is all about, and held the world in thrall. When the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, travelled by motorcade to light the outdoor Olympic Cauldron on the Waterfront, our hearts brimmed with pride and patriotism. It was one of those moments when one felt really and truly proud to be Canadian, native-born and naturalized ones alike!

There have been many heroes who inspired me these past two weeks and indelible moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The foremost of those is Joannie Rochette, the figure skater from Quebec who lost her mother to a fatal heart attack two days before she was set to compete. A lesser person would've succumbed to the grief and withdrawn from the competition, but this was the Olympics, the ultimate competition in sports, and Joannie chose to go ahead and compete. What grit, what will, what determination, what nerves of steel! There were 11,000 lumps in 11,000 throats that Tuesday as Joannie stepped on to the ice for the Short Program, and the whole of Canada carried her through her spins and twirls. Well, she went on to win the bronze medal for Canada, but in our hearts, she won the gold!

And then there was Alexandre Bilodeau who won the first gold medal for Canada in the Men's Moguls, a feat no Canadian had ever accomplished before on home soil. With his brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy, on the sidelines to cheer him on, Alexandre became a Canadian icon under 30 seconds! What a race and what a golden moment! His telling the media that his brother had been his inspiration, that he had no reason to complain while his brother had every reason to do so, and THAT exactly had driven him to train and excel in his sport ... well, words of wisdom from such a young man! This is the stuff that Olympians are made of! And who can forget the iconic image of Jon Montgomery taking a victory stroll through the streets of Whistler, grabbing a pitcher of beer offered by a bystander, and seizing the moment of his gold medal win in the Skeletons! Then there were the golden boys, the brothers Hamelin, Charles and Francois, who nailed it in the 500 m. and 5000 m. skating competition, and wiped out all the criticism of their dismal performance in the earlier races!

I will be remiss if I keep talking just about the Canadian heroes! There was my favorite, US short track Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno, who went on to win the most number of medals in the Winter Olympics ever! I have been following his performances in the earlier Olympics as well, and think this might be his swan song, but what a glorious career he's had! And another athlete who held the world spellbound was the 19-year old figure skater, Yu Na Kim from South Korea, who won the gold. She was AMAZING, for want of a better word, and scored the highest ever in the competition in the Olympics. "Queen Yu Na", she was dubbed by the media, and rightly so! Also, hats off to Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic, who was the favorite to take the gold, but had a gruesome crash in a training run prior to the race, suffered four fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, but still prevailed and skied with excruciating pain through three heats of cross-country sprints, and went on to the podium to win the bronze!

I can keep going on and on, but it's time for the cross- border showdown, the Gold Medal Hockey Game where Team Canada is pitted against its swaggering brothers from down South. The adrenaline is coursing through our bodies, the excitement is palpable, the frenzy is building up, so...

So long, folks! Gotta watch the game! Rest in my next post!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics

Vancouver has been Party Central these past two weeks! The whole city and the entire Lower Mainland of British Columbia have been awash with excitement and adrenaline, energizing the rest of Canada and spreading this feeling of euphoria across the globe. 2000 plus athletes and their assorted officials descended on this city on February 12, and there has been non-stop excitement, astounding achievements, breathtaking feats and record-breaking performances galore since then. The Olympic Cauldron has been burning bright, bathing all of us in its divine, ethereal glow. The surging crowds have been mind-boggling, the lineups at every Olympic pavilion and venue to be seen to be believed! Both bouquets and brickbats have been heaped on our collective heads in the past 15 days, and we Canadians have handled them with aplomb, grace and diplomacy, I must say!

One thing for sure that the Olympics has brought us is this surge of incomparable patriotism and nationalism. The streets of Vancouver, not to mention the Olympic venues, have been a sea of red. People proudly sport their red Canada jerseys, drape Canadian flags across their shoulders, wear toques emblazoned with CANADA on the front, flaunt their red mittens with the Olympic rings on them, and even the less subdued ones at least wear an Olympic or Canadian pin on their lapels. Every car boasts a Canadian flag, and so does every home. Even wheelchairs have a flag stuck to their sides. Transit drivers are dressed in the country's jerseys and jackets, and cute little babies are shown on television holding a tiny flag in their pudgy hands, taking in the Olympic action with their parents. The feelings of patriotism and pride have been tremendous, and the hysterical chants of "Go Canada Go" and the spontaneous, impromptu renditions of the National Anthem "O Canada" on the streets of Vancouver by the hundreds of thousands thronging the streets stand testimony to this fact.
The picture above shows Vijaay with Canadian hero Catriona LeMay Doan, two time Olympic Speedskating Gold Medalist, and one of the privileged athletes who lit the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremony

Canada has always been more subdued than its swaggering neighbor down South, but the Olympic Games have brought out the latent sense of pride in our country. We have had a sense of our national identity reinforced all over again by this epic event we've been hosting, and this has truly been an occasion to rejoice and revel in, a moment in which we're all proud to be Canadian! Visitors and international athletes, particularly the American ones, have gone on record stating how surprised they have been by the patriotism shown by the Canadians. Canada has won a record number of gold medals as of this minute and superseded the American powerhouse, not bad for a fledgling nation with a population of just 33 million! Canadian athletes may not have Owned the Podium, but have certainly been On the Podium for quality medals. When (not 'if') Canada wins the hockey gold in the men's game, as the women have won theirs, then the Olympics will be complete for all Canadians because "Hockey is Canada's Game." The Olympics may come to a close tomorrow, but the euphoria will definitely remain for a long long time to come!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sick, Down and Under!

For only the second time in my entire employment history, I've taken a Sick Day today. Whether that's something commendable or stupid is worthy of yet another blog post. I can't exactly say what's wrong, but it's just that this past week I've been feeling down in the dumps, generally nauseous and experiencing a chill in the pit of my stomach on and off. Yesterday was particularly worse, when as an instructor, I had to put on a normal, everyday face in front of my class on the outside, while on the inside I was a mess, stifling the urge to run to the bathroom and throw up, and just longing to lie down and drift into blissful oblivion. Not a very good feeling, I must acknowledge, in a rather understated way! My friend Gayane suggested that I should probably take it easy and rest at home for a day (we have a field trip together coming on Monday, so she needs me in good health by then!), so here I am, blogging from my bed in the morning!

I was SO looking forward to visiting the Olympic venues with my men yesterday, but everything had to be postponed for later till I felt better. I had to content myself with catching up with all the Olympic highlights on television, drifting in and out of an awkward doze all the while. I consider myself a generally healthy person, so this feeling of being unwell really sucks! The kid threw in his two cents' worth telling me the feeling would pass if I just ignored it: "Ma, you're nauseous because you THINK you're nauseous. Just stop thinking about it and you'll feel fine." Yeah, right! I don't think I'm a hypochondriac who's imagining it all ...maybe I did catch a bug or something, for that matter!

So for now, am lolling around in bed, just taking it easy and resting. My plan is to continue reading Henry James' "Washington Square" and drift off into sleep like an old, ailing woman. Maybe this enforced rest might do me some good and help me recover quick enough to venture out and take in the sights and sounds of the streets in downtown Vancouver, and be a part of all that Olympic fever doing the rounds. I'll take the Olympic fever any day rather than this flu bug I seem to have caught! Happy resting for now!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In Those "Hallowed Halls Of Learning"

Unlike Charles Lamb who wandered around the deserted, hallowed halls of learning at Oxford during vacation time centuries ago, I had the unique privilege of attending classes at British Columbia's version of Oxford, Simon Fraser University, albeit for a short while! I was invited to participate in a pilot project for career development practitioners in B.C., and though I'm not one, but just teach the Labor Market Focused Curriculum to new immigrants, I figured it would be a welcome change to my humdrum, established routine and gladly took up the offer. So there I was, with 14 others in the classroom, and boy was I glad I didn't heed my initial misgivings about the course!

I must admit I had a wonderful time getting back to school and playing the role of a dedicated student all over again with all the requisite reading, discussion, and general hobnobbing with my wonderful classmates. Strange how you meet all these fantastic people by "happenstance" who leave an indelible impression on you! And oh yeah, it would be remiss of me not to mention our professor, Kon Li, who did a remarkable job of keeping us on track, at the same time, imparting to us those much-needed career development theories and code of ethics. He was a well-informed professional who thoroughly knew what he was talking about, yet took care not to impose his ideas on us, but rather, allowed us the freedom to air our views, voice our concerns, and share our opinions with others in the classroom. See the picture below of myself with Professor Kon Li, courtesy of my classmate Suddhodan.

It is indeed sad that the course was rather short-lived, but then again, all good things have to come to an end, don't they?!? To have had such a wonderful experience with my phenomenal classmates was something more than I could've asked for. I must make a special mention here of Balkaran, Luke, Suddhodan, Morteza, Gina, and Camille who enlivened the class regularly with all their views, with the rest of us (Maria, Heather, Qais, Abdul, Jessica, Luis, Inge, Hae Eun, and myself) occasionally chiming in our two cents' worth.The best thing was that all 15 of us spoke and were heard! The funny part was that just because I answered one or two questions during the review, Suddhodan was joking around that he wanted to sit next to me during the exam, and on the last day, when the Professor told us that if anyone needed oxygen during the exam, in that claustrophobic theatre room, we should let him know, Balkaran piped in that if anyone needed oxygen they could always sit near Olivia! Yeah, right!!! I was laughing my head off, actually! The shot below, again courtesy of Suddhodan, who was thoughtful enough to have brought a camera to the class!

Let me say again that those hallowed halls of learning at SFU brought me invaluable experiences of knowledge, friendship, camaraderie, sharing, warmth and geniality, and I shall always remember each one of these people I interacted with. It was also a dream come true for me to be a student again (read my earlier post "Deferred Dreams Or Wishful Thinking?" - Sep. 2009) and I'm grateful indeed for some of these unexpected pleasures and joys of life! I'll take them, please, however small and short-lived they are!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homage To My Wonderful Parents!

February 5th is my parents' wedding anniversary and I thought it would be nicer to honour them on this day by taking out an In Memoriam ad in the newspaper, rather than on their separate death anniversary dates. This was published in yesterday's edition of The Hindu back home.

How young and lovely they look in this picture, and what a handsome couple they make! I have such fond memories of my childhood and I'm eternally grateful for all the myriad influences my parents had on me. I am what I am today because of them and I am deeply indebted to them for that! Being the youngest of four children, I led a very privileged life, in retrospect, and needless to say, I couldn't be happier! :)))

Thank you Mom and Dad, for all that you were to me! I love you and miss you very much!