Saturday, November 3, 2012

The US Presidential Campaign

I have always had Democratic leanings, both while living in California and now in British Columbia. The Republicans have always made me shudder, with the exception of Ronald Reagan from recent memory. Ever since I moved to North America, I have actively followed the Presidential campaigns, rooting for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. I was delighted at the election of such a charismatic leader as Bill Clinton as President, and overjoyed at history being made with the election of Barack Obama, but was devastated to see Gore and Kerry lose their respective campaigns. I also couldn't understand how the Americans could be so dumb as to elect Bush to a second term! Well, it's that time of year again, needless to say!

Like countless others around the world, I have been absolutely riveted by the nomination campaigns of both the parties, keenly followed the Presidential debates, avidly lapped up the poll numbers, carefully listened to all the political pundits and their analyses through their partisan prisms, and hotly debated at the water cooler and the lunch table at work as to who would make a better President, all without having a vote in the US elections, mind you! Only goes to show how captivating the US elections can be, even for those with no vested interest in America!

Next Tuesday will reveal who the next president is going to be, Obama or Romney. The polls indicate a closely fought race, a hotly contested election that is down to the wire, so to speak. As a lay person, my opinion is that this election is going to be all about the economy. The average jobless American needs a job in order to be able to bring home a pay check, pay the bills and put food on the table. It remains to be seen which candidate managed to convince the average American on that front, the incumbent or the challenger. It is that candidate, for sure, who is going to be the next President of America!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What the Hell?!?

People, in general, have always been fascinated by the concepts of "heaven" and "hell" and religions around the world use them to provide a moral compass to us sinful mortals. "Be good and prosper in Heaven, but if you are bad, be prepared to be tormented in Hell" has been the lesson handed to us by Christianity in particular. Heaven conjures up visions of golden mansions beyond the clouds, along gold-paved and diamond-encrusted streets, and people in long-flowing robes sitting at the feet of Jesus, enjoying eternal salvation. Hell, on the other hand, brings us images of both darkness and burning flames, pots of boiling oil and a grinning, horned devil enjoying his torment of all the sinners doomed to eternal damnation.

Like everyone else, I have always wondered why a loving God would punish sinners forever by sending them to Hell. My understanding is that the idea of Hell has been employed as a deterrent to people, to steer them from their sinful ways. Sometimes, love alone does not do the trick, and a little fear goes a long way in the moral policing of humankind. Though we have implicit faith in a loving God, we tend to stray away from the path of goodness at times, but the fear of the devil and the torment of Hell is sure to keep us on the right track, I guess. It's good for us to exclaim, "What the hell?!?" and keep on living our lives as well as we can, with our eyes trained only on all that is good and fair!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cyber Bullying

Just weeks after posting a chilling video on YouTube, Amanda Todd, a troubled teenager from Port Coquitlam, B.C., killed herself at the tender age of 15. Ever since, the media has been abuzz with comments and analyses about cyber bullying, in this case, by a suspected pedophile from the US who has managed to evade the authorities till now, after targeting Amanda and torturing her to the point of suicide. In the wake of the teen's death, education management and social media experts have all weighed in about keeping teenagers safe from cyber bullies.

"Internet stalkers" are out there aplenty, and Amanda had the misfortune of being lured by one such predator who convinced her to expose herself on a webcam and then used the image to blackmail her by distributing it to her schoolmates, teachers, and everyone in her social circle, when she refused to put on a more explicit webcam show for him. The hounding and the torture continued even after she changed schools, leading the tormented teen to take her life shortly after posting the YouTube video, comprising of handwritten notes about her lonely, haunted life.

Amanda Todd's life is a learning experience for all teenagers who need to be wary of cyber stalkers and pedophiles who troll the Internet. Children have to be educated about the dangers of exposing themselves to strangers on webcam, and also about the cruelty of bullying their peers like Amanda Todd. Amanda was not only victimized by her stalker, but also by her schoolmates who posted disgusting images and comments on social media, even after her death. The authorities should take all steps needed to prevent cyber bullying of any kind, punishing the perpetrators and teaching teenagers how to be good digital citizens.

RIP, Amanda Todd! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Having The Cake And Eating It Too!

Anne-Marie Slaughter's recent article in the Atlantic magazine , "Why Women Can't Have It All,"  has fanned the hot debate all over again if women can have the cake and eat it too. She is the latest high-powered female from the Obama administration who has inflamed the "mommy wars" to a raging inferno, by stepping down from her position as the first female director of policy planning at the US State Department, so she could return home to take care of her troubled teenager. 

Slaughter's advice to women is that they should "go out and come back", that is, they should go all out into the workforce to steam their way ahead into the upper echelons of power, but at the same time, be prepared to scale back and return home if the need arises, say, to nurture a troubled child. And that is exactly what she did. She says that in her days as policy director, she attended UN meetings with foreign ministers and heads of state, sipped champagne and mingled with dignitaries at President Obama's receptions, but she worried all the time about her 14-year-old son, back home in New Jersey, failing Math in Grade 8 and "tuning out any adult who tried to reach him."

Clearly, women the world over need support systems in place so they can juggle the harsh realities of career and home, and balance them out well. Women still don't seem to have it all, be it an elite government official or a middle class Mom. Women still have to put their high-flying careers on hold and return to engaged motherhood, whereas men don't seem to have this dilemma at all. Unlike Slaughter, it must be acknowledged though that most working women simply do not have the privilege or luxury of just giving up their jobs and staying home to nurture their children because it is imperative they bring home a pay check each month. And so the debate goes on, if women can have the cake and eat it too!

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Love Affair With Sleep

Let me confess that sleeping in on the weekends is my guilty pleasure. It certainly is a luxury that I loathe to give up, no matter what. I wake up faithfully at 5:30 AM every single day of the work week, so the weekend lie-in is something I look forward to without fail. A couple of hours of extra snooze on the weekends is what I need, so very badly, and it helps me catch up on all that sleep lost during the work week. Or so I thought.

Research now indicates that "sleep debt" can never be paid off by lie-ins, rather it will only upset the circadian cycle, which controls our body clock, in a big way. Sleeping in on Sundays will make it even harder to wake up for work on Mondays, and will make us feel more tired than normal, researchers say. The best way to go about would be to get a regular 8 hours of sleep every night. Easier said than done, don't you think?!?

It's been years and years and years since I've slept a full 8 hours every night, not with working full time and juggling house work as well. I'm the typical harried Mom and career woman, whose to-do list is endless each day, as I go rushing about in a crazy whirl and multi-tasking like there's no tomorrow! Sleep is undoubtedly a luxury for me, so much so that even when we're away on vacation, all I want to do is sleep in, and drive my men nuts, so to speak. So no matter what the researchers say, my love affair with sleep will continue, complete with those heavenly weekend lie-ins!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Punishing A Pedophile

The damning testimony by many child victims against former Penn State assistant football coach and serial pedophile, Jerry Sandusky, 68, saw him being put away behind bars yesterday for a period of 30 - 60 years. In essence, Sandusky is going to spend the rest of his life behind bars because there is no possibility of parole before the minimum 30 years, according to Pennsylvania law. This harsh sentence is something that he so richly deserves, though it is in no way going to mitigate the mental agony and suffering of all the boys that he sexually abused during his tenure at Penn State.

Sandusky has been convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, but what is most heinous is the callous attitude of the university officials towards the crime. Despite one of their own graduate assistants, Mike McQueary, having reported to them of having seen Sandusky raping a child in a locker room shower, the administration seems to have been so bent on safeguarding its own reputation, and hence sweeping the whole thing under the rug. Now that retribution is being doled out, the university has the gargantuan task of redeeming itself and atoning for its sins. And one can only imagine all the legal action that Penn State is going to be mired in, in the years to come!

Pedophiles have always been known to groom their victims before abusing them, and so did Sandusky, through his charitable organization for troubled boys. It gave him the perfect front and provided him with the ideal hunting ground to feed his perversions. Sandusky still insists he did nothing wrong, and is planning to appeal his conviction. He believes he is the victim of a conspiracy hatched against him by the media, Penn State, investigators, prosecutors, and others, and it only goes to show how perpetrators of such heinous crimes are caught up in their own warped realities. It also becomes the sole responsibility of the people around to stop such abuse when they see it happening and help the victims towards hope and rehabilitation.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Full Moon Angsts

I hardly believe in what the pundits foretell in the weekly and daily horoscopes in newspapers and magazines, but I still read them anyways, just for the fun of it all.  I also don't believe in all the hype about the Full Moon creating heartache and havoc in one's life. Sometimes though, when anxieties and distress build up, and there's a heaviness in my heart and the tears come pouring out of nowhere, and later on I realize there's a Full Moon, my sentimental, weak, emotional self begins to wonder if there's a grain of truth, after all, to the fact that Full Moons do cause a lot of tension and tears.

I have to state too that after the Full Moon is gone, for some inexplicable reason, all the down-in-the-dumps feelings just dissipate, making one look back in befuddlement about what all that was about! Is there any scientific truth at all behind the Full Moon angst phenomenon?!? To be honest, I really don't know. Just let me say that last week was one such for me, and I'm now back to being my bubbly, cheerful self, looking forward to all that the days ahead have to bring. The threatening rain clouds are off my horizon now, and I hope for many more days of sunshine, at least until the next Full Moon! :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Living Solo

I have always been afraid of living solo and used to dread the thought of having to come to an empty house after a hard day's work. I just couldn't understand my friend who always lamented about her sons still living at home with her and how she couldn't wait to get rid of them so she could have the house to herself. Of late though, I've begun to see her point of view, after all. Interestingly enough, households with just one person are increasingly on the rise, according to Statistics Canada, and the phenomenon seems to be spreading worldwide beyond the wealthy Western world. People live alone these days purely because they want to, and because they can.

A decade or so ago, living alone was regarded as something pitiful, but now perceptions have changed and it is more of a status symbol, screaming financial independence and economic well-being. It is being treasured by young and old alike, who have the means to do so, because it grants them freedom and personal control that is just not possible while sharing one's living space with others. To be the master of one's domain is highly appealing in that it reflects the aforementioned modern values of freedom and control that are highly prized in contemporary life.

To have the financial security in a wobbly economy leads some to make the conscious choice of hiving it alone. To be able to cook and clean and watch TV and soak in the tub without worrying about hogging others' space is a luxury beyond compare, and quite epic, so to say. I'm now beginning to see this side of living solo, and to all my friends who have decided to do so, I say without reservation, "More power to you! Have a blast!" 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Graduation Hoopla

Ever since I moved to North America, I haven't been able to understand why there's so much of  hoopla about high school graduations. Growing up in India, passing out of high school was a very down-to-earth, routine, normal event, and was something expected of every teenager. There was no celebration or expense of any sort to mark the occasion, but one was rather preoccupied with the business of securing college or university admissions thereafter. Even university graduations had nothing more than the customary picture with the convocation gown and hat ... Not so, here in North America!

Last Sunday, the kid (!) sauntered out of his room in the afternoon to announce quite nonchalantly, "Oh, by the way, Mom, I need to have my grad pics taken this week!" and this, after my having asked him repeatedly on Friday evening if there was anything from school we had to know. He kept saying there was nothing at all, so his announcement threw me for a loop, but I rallied round enough to make the requisite inquiries, and discovered that the photo registration had to be done online, and lo and behold, all the prime spots had already been taken since we had logged in at the very last minute! The husband eventually managed to book an appointment for Friday evening, but it was a mad rush after that, getting the hair cut and shopping for formal clothes and shoes, all of which had to be done after our work hours during the work week. And I do not even want to get into the nightmare of the shopping episodes here ... who knew shopping for a 16-year-old who has lost an incredible amount of weight could be so grueling! The suits fit, but the pants were all falling off his hips, if you get the drift! In addition, reading all the tips on how to prepare for the one-hour (?!?) photo shoot, the grooming steps to be taken with particular regard to haircut, shaving (no five o'clock shadows, mind you!), and how to avoid breakouts and cover up blemishes, suggestions for clothes coordinated from head to toe, etc., etc., just sent me into a tizzy. 

Well, the pilgrimage to the studio through weekend traffic and the snagging of a parking spot on Vancouver's busy streets saw us at the studio at 6 PM sharp, and so had sundry other parents with their respective kids, all dressed to the hilt. A studio employee ceremoniously explained to the three of us that there would be 20 shots taken in 4 rooms - the White Room, the Middle Room, the Composite Room, and the Library Room, and showed us samples on the monitor to look at. A 30-second video could be thrown in as well, summarizing what could go in the Yearbook, he explained. Personally, I thought everything was over the top - the dressing rooms, the shooting rooms, the waiting lounge, the state-of-the-art cameras, the digital displays and art work in every conceivable space - and was wondering if we were paying for the ambiance as well.

If you really knew my son, you'd know then that posing for the camera is anathema to him! His hitherto normal expression changes to one of utmost seriousness the moment the photographer trains his camera on him ... yesterday was no exception either. We tried coaxing him to smile, but after the shooting in the first room, I gave up, not wanting to torture him and myself, left the Dad with him and retired to the coolness of the waiting lounge, iPad in hand. "Fifty Shades of Grey" was too racy a read in the midst of school kids and their anxious parents, so I settled for the National Geographic until my men returned. The husband said we'd be lucky if at least 2 or 3 out of 20 shots turned out OK! On the way back, we were mad at the kid for having put us through the wringer the entire week, all for naught! Will keep you posted though, how the pictures turned out, for sure! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Violence In Society

The news media these days are full of stories of chilling premeditated murders, grisly rage killings, ghastly honor killings, gruesome shootings by disgruntled employees, mentally unwell students and other individuals, and macabre cases of dismemberment. Not a single day goes by without a news report of some killing of some kind somewhere. I used to be under the mistaken notion that Canada was a much safer place than the others, but not so anymore. Violence in society seems to be the new norm these days.

Just this past week, I read of a son being arrested for having killed and dismembered his mother and throwing her body parts in a suitcase into a B.C. lake. What a horrid way for this mother to have died with so much of violence at the hands of her own child that she brought into this world! And then there was the case of the spa owner and mother of three in Ontario who was hacked to death and whose body parts were scattered and thrown in the Niagara River and strewn elsewhere. These stories and more make us wonder how degenerate society has become in general, and how humans have become increasingly desensitized to violence these days.

I dare not go anywhere about the shooting rampages at universities and temples. Those once-hallowed halls of learning and worship that were so sacrosanct earlier on are frequently being desecrated these days with senseless shootings. And for a change of venue, movie theaters have now joined the list as well, as the one in Colorado where James Holmes mowed down so many of his fellowmen at the first screening of the latest Batman movie. What horrified me no end was the arrest of daycare workers in the US who were charged with making toddlers as young as three fight with each other.There were those monstrous adults, egging their wards to hit and punch one another, thus endangering the safety of the children under their care. What on earth were they thinking, one wonders, and where are we heading as a society, one might ask?!? There seems to be no known answer to the plague of violence, as pundits and analysts pontificate and take apart each case AFTER it has happened, but there seems to be no way to prevent these ghastly crimes from happening. And life does go on as we wait for the next wave of violence to hit us ... SIGH!!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Welcome, Work!

Instead of laboring on the Labor Day holiday, here I am on the last day of my summer break, in the last throes of my vacation fever! Delirium there was none, but enough time these past three weeks to simply vegetate, chill out, relax, rejuvenate, and gear up for the work weeks ahead. For some strange reason, I always enjoy the first part of my break, but an insidious lethargy and boredom seem to set in inevitably during the latter half. I couldn't wait for my summer break to begin earlier, and I can't wait to get back to work now - no wonder at all I'm your typical fickle-minded Gemini at that!

Nothing went according to plan this break mostly because of welcome visitors at home. I had intended to do some focused reading these past weeks, but was too preoccupied and fascinated instead with the antics of the toddler at home. Thus it was that I couldn't manage more than a couple of hundred e-pages of the Fifty Shades Trilogy bundle that I'd downloaded on my iPad. The books seem to be a crock load of crap anyways, judging from what I've read so far, so I don't think I've missed much. The usual summer road trip also did not materialize because our five- seat car couldn't accommodate the six of us at home, including our guests. The husband alleviated my disappointment to a certain extent by promising a trip to Hawaii on our next long break, so I spent a considerable part of my lazy days doing some research on our holiday destination and things to do there. I think I'm well-equipped now with enough information to write a travelogue on Hawaii!

So it's back to the grind from tomorrow, but a pleasurable grind, as I always refer to it. After a full day of workshops, it's back to the classroom and my wonderful students again. I simply can't wait to see all my colleagues and friends at work as well. And as always, I'm infinitely thankful that I have a job to go back to, and one that I love very much. Adieu, Summer, and Welcome, Work!!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Decibel Levels

Just a brief note to say how high decibel levels have  come to profoundly affect my sense of hearing these days, so much so they are more like an assault on my ears! I simply CANNOT stand people talking loudly, particularly when they are standing next to me. It makes me wonder why they are screaming into my ears, and I'm almost tempted to blurt out, "I'm not deaf, you know!",  but restrain myself from doing so out of politeness to the other person. I also wonder if my low tolerance to high decibel levels is solely because I'm getting older! :)

My teenager at home playing loud music on his iPod or iPhone, the husband increasing the volume on the television or on the woofer of the home theater, a family member talking loudly on the phone (local or overseas) or to one another at home, the car stereo being cranked up, at times even the baby playing loudly - such instances are intolerable to me that I just long for some peace and quiet around the house. The same goes for a stranger on public transit playing his/her iPod music loud enough for the whole world to hear, or my friend increasing her volume while sharing something with excitement, or a raucous party that I'm at, or the deafening decibel levels of a rock concert. The husband tells me that when he went to India after a gap of 6 years, he felt the same way about the noise levels back home, and kept urging family members to talk softly, though he could do nothing about the incessant honking of horns on the road!

The irony is that I consciously talk loudly in the classroom to ensure that every student hears me! The saving grace then, at least for me, is that I automatically tone my voice down when I get out of the classroom. The problem is that I expect people around me to do the same. Perhaps there's something wrong with me and I need to have my ears tested, or perhaps it's just that now that I've joined the fifties club, my intolerance for increased sound levels is growing in proportion to my age!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Toddler Tales

Our 2-year-old grandnephew, Kavin, is visiting us from Atlanta. It's been a long time since we've had a toddler around the house, so it was a long-forgotten experience for us, preparing the house for his arrival - dusting, mopping, sterilizing, sanitizing, and what not!Since his Mom has no time off from work, he flew in with his Grandma Anu last Saturday, and life has been so entertaining since then, watching all his antics and seeing the world through his eyes. The "terrible two's" they say, and Kavin is ample proof of that, albeit in a very endearing and enjoyable way.

My husband and I are Kavin's Granduncle and Grandaunt, but there are too many Aachis (grandmas) and Thathas (grandpas) around, so we were wondering how to introduce ourselves to the baby. Well, to make the story short, the husband is now "Kanna Thatha", but I am "Aunty", despite everyone telling him I'm "Grandma". So that's a hundred percent score with me ... LOL! We're still correcting him, every time he calls me "Aunty"! And my son is "Anna" (elder brother), not "Uncle"! The kid categorically stated, "I'm too young to be called 'Uncle'." ... so 'Anna' it is for now! I was teaching the baby everybody's names. "Thatha's name is ...," I would say, and he would complete it, "Kanna." "Anna's name is ... Dinesh," but when I said, "Grandma's name is ...," he promptly replied, "Aunty!" Ha ha ha ...

Everything in the house is Kavin's - the chair, the couch, the bed, the kitchen utensil, the medicine, whatever it maybe, "It's Kavin's!" The husband came home with a box of strawberries, his favorite, and also introduced him to blueberries. Instantly, the blueberries became his favorite, and when Kanna Thatha asked him for one, he covered the box with his tiny hand and said, "No, it's Kavin's!" And then there's the baby talk ... train is "choo choo", the ambulance is "wah wah" (imitating its siren!), toilet is "TT", and so on. Now all of us at home are so much into the baby talk that we're afraid we might forget the actual vocabulary while talking to others!

The baby has taken a shine to Dinesh and follows him like a lamb. We have to tell our teenager to be gentle with the baby, to which he goes, "He has to be tough. We have to raise him like a warrior!" Yeah, right! Kavin is used to watching his Mickey Mouse cartoons on his "iPa" (iPad), so when he sees me on the computer, he clambers on to my lap and asks for YouTube ... talk about wired kids these days! Having the little fellow around is like having a whirlwind in the house - just a bundle of non-stop whizzing and endless energy! He's a little thin now, so our mission is to make him eat healthy and put on some weight before he heads back home to his Mom. He has become so attached to us, we'll miss him terribly when he leaves ... and I bet his Mom in Atlanta misses him sorely now too! 

At the pier at White Rock Beach, Surrey

Love you, Kavin!!! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On Milestones And More ...

2012 has been a year of joys and wonders and pleasure and pain so far, all within reasonable bounds, but needless to say, this has been a very special year that saw two milestones reached in the month of June. On June 7, the husband and I celebrated our Silver Anniversary, and on June 18, yours truly turned 50, the latter still something quite unbelievable to me! There have been health setbacks and heartbreak as well in these months, but as my mother often told me to, I'm counting my blessings and thanking the good Lord for all His infinite mercies!

25 years of togetherness and marital accord is no small matter, and I take pride in the fact that the husband and I have managed not to kill each other during this period of time ... ha ha ha! Jokes aside, the chemistry between us is still as strong as ever, and has endured the passage of time. I have seen many a marriage crumble around me, but we have had a smooth sailing so far particularly because love has been the overriding factor, above all else, in our relationship. That, plus  understanding and respecting one another, and being proud of each other's strengths and also accepting of one another's weaknesses, have kept major conflicts out of the door. The husband is a Hindu, whereas I am a Christian, but we have never allowed religion to be a bone of contention or discord between us at any time in these 25 years. Well-meaning Christian friends and family keep reminding me that I should "bring him to the Lord," but I, for one, firmly believe that religion should be a matter of choice and not be forced on the spouse in the name of love.   Even if he were to have no religion at all, that would be fine with me as well (in fact, that is the kid's stance, right now). The husband and I still keep our own religions, and our marriage has stood the test of time because of our tolerance for each other's religion. Also, each other's family has been very dear to us - another factor that has cemented our relationship, I must say.

And then, of course, I've joined the 50's Club recently, much to my disbelief! As the youngest child in my family, I have always been babied by my older siblings. I also teach young adults at college and my constant interaction with young minds has always made me feel young at heart. Besides, thanks to some good genes passed on to me by my parents, I still look young enough, and I don't feel a day older than when I was at 25! Milestones apart, it is my fervent prayer that life continue in all its goodness, that we live each day in love and in happiness, and count our blessings every single day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

London's Magnificent Games

The Brits have done it ... the thirtieth Olympiad has just concluded in London, and what a magnificent show it was! The British media went all out to criticize the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but eventually had to eat crow, and while the world waited this time round for London to falter, all was well that ended well. We have to give it to the Brits ... they sure know how to put on a spectacular show! The games were off to a fantastic start and thereafter filled with everyday events of heroism, extraordinary sportsmanship, repeated breaking of world and Olympic records, and the inevitable cases of heartbreak as well, but the closing ceremony ensured that the nostalgia would last until the next Games in 2014, in Sochi.

Looking back at the Games, certain moments stand out above all else. The coronation of Michael Phelps as the unsurpassed Monarch of the Pool and the greatest Olympian of all time, with a record 22 medals - 18 of them gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze - is certainly the foremost of them, and quite staggering at that! Usain Bolt's phenomenal wins in both the 100 m and 200 m sprints on the track in two consecutive Olympics sealed his reputation as the fastest man on the planet, and as "a legend," in his own words. I, for one, would appreciate some modesty and humility in world-class athletes, but Humility certainly doesn't seem to be Usain Bolt's middle name. South Africa's Oscar Pistorius astounded everyone by competing with his prosthetic legs, and so was every single Canadian by the unfairness of the women's semi-final soccer game between Canada and the US. 

The closing ceremony was a fitting finale to all the high octane, adrenalin-filled drama of the Olympics, and Britain did itself proud with its long list of stars and pop names. The exhilaration and euphoria of the evening was quite palpable - Ray Davies and the Kinks singing "Waterloo Sunset," Annie Lennox belting out "Little Bird" on a great ship, Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen with their "We Will Rock You," John Lennon's ghostly though inspiring rendition of "Imagine," the not-so-young-anymore Spice Girls reuniting for one last time, Fatboy Slim, the Kaiser Chiefs, the Who, Beady Eye, to mention a few - you name them, they were all there to entertain and to enthrall!  

As Sebastian Coe, the legendary British runner and one of the brains behind the London Olympics, put it succinctly, " heroism and heartbreak" characterized the Olympics, and there were plenty of instances of both in these Games. All said and done, the Games were simply magnificent, no doubt about that at all! 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'm Baaack!!!

I certainly feel elated to have regained my blogging mood after a pretty long hiatus of over three months! So much has happened over this period - the good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderful, and a whole host of other experiences that just made me pause, take a deep breath, ruminate about things, and take stock of my life, in general. Mercifully, I have survived life's roller coaster (excuse the cliche!) and am still alive to tell the tale!

There are certain moments in one's life when the need to escape takes precedence over everything else, and so was it with me. For reasons that are too personal to state on a blog post, I just wanted to lie low for a while and take things slow, one day at a time. Now that enough time has passed for a breather, and I've regained my blogging self all over again (the redundancy here is intentional), I feel compelled to share the most wonderful things (if not the unpleasant ones) that have happened to me in the intervening time, in my subsequent posts, so watch out, world!

It's been three years now since I started this blog, and the inexorable passage of time has seen me grow in years and in experience... no grey hair yet, but certainly the wiser in my outlook on life! The learning curve has been pretty steep with its inevitable highs and lows, but I am simply and truly grateful to all my faithful friends and followers who have sustained me with their loyalty and support! Until my next post, I take leave with the following chorus I learnt as a child:
    "Whether the weather be good
     Or whether the weather be not
     Whether the weather be cold
     Or whether the weather be hot
     We'll weather the weather
     Whatever the weather
     Whether we like it or not!" :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In Memoriam: Vellaichamy Ganapathy

On Friday, April 20, 2012, we received the shocking news that our friend Ganapathy (whom I called "Annan," meaning "elder brother") was in a coma in Madurai, India. That was definitely a bolt from the blue, because we had spoken to him just the previous month and had no clue at all that he was dying. Well, we learned that he had liver cancer, and chose not to disclose it to anyone, lest they pity him or feel sorry for him. By the time they had diagnosed the deadly disease, it was Stage IV already, with virtually no scope for treatment whatsoever, and Ganapathy Annan chose not to distress others by revealing to them that his death was imminent. He had eventually told his wife, our dear friend Padma, that his days on the planet were numbered, and then only a few close family members were kept informed.

What was shocking to me, in particular, was that Ganapathy Annan had been a teetotaler and a non-smoker. During our 25 year association with him, we had never seen him even touch a beer for that matter. The cause then, had been his having contracted a Hepatitis B infection several years ago, when he had been in his twenties. With the agonizing knowledge of his impending death,  just two months ago, he had arranged for the marriage of his son, Karthik. Even Karthik had been informed of his Dad's cancer only after the wedding was over. All these revelations on that fateful Friday threw us for a loop, and we learned of his passing away the very next day, on Saturday, April 21, 2012. Ganapathy Annan had been my husband's colleague at Madura Coats, Madurai, and we had forged a bond with him and his family, and his extended family as well, down the years. Now it was time for us to reminisce about all the good old times, and pray that God be merciful on him and not let him suffer, that God give the strength to his family to bear their great, unspeakable loss.

My husband I were newly-weds 25 years ago, and Ganapathy Annan and Padma had two young children at the time. Our friendship was beautiful - visiting each other's homes, chatting into the long hours of the night, eating "kari dosai" (mutton dosai) at Konar  Kadai in Madurai, drive-in style, driving out of town on road trips, constructing our houses, watching our children grow, etc., etc., Then when we moved to the US, Ganapathy Annan came to visit us in California. We have very fond memories of all those good old times, and devastated as we are now at his loss, we pray that his soul rest in peace and that all his loved ones find comfort in the sweet memories they have of him.

RIP, Ganapathy Annan!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rich Parents

With its influx of millionaires from all over the world, China, in particular, Vancouver has been seeing a never-before-seen display of ostentation and wealth these past few years. From multi-million dollar homes to flashy cars to pricey yachts to admission into the elite moneyed clubs to endless rounds of golf and what not, there has been a spectacular hike in the extent to which flamboyance could possibly go. As can be concluded then, rich parents beget rich offspring, who in turn display their parents' wealth to unbelievable extremes. I have had students from all over the world who have no regard for money whatsoever, whose spending money each month could support a huge family in dire financial straits, just like that. 

No surprise then that one of my 19-year-old students bought himself a brand new Porsche, a few years ago, and proudly showed it off to all his friends, including the Instructor. Interestingly, I happened to notice that the teachers were all driving beat up old jalopies, as could be seen from the cars in the Faculty parking lot, but the student parking lot was full of high end cars - Lamborghinis, Porsches, BMWs, Maseratis, Benzes, and what not! And then there was this young girl who invited her classmates to her place on a Friday evening, and boy, what stories they had to tell, come Monday morning! Her house happened to be a huge estate with extensive landscaped gardens, and dinner was a lavish affair with a free-flowing wet bar and gourmet food served by uniformed waiters! Need I say more?!?

The police in Vancouver impounded nearly a dozen high end cars last summer for illegal racing on the highways, endangering others' lives, and it was discovered that all these cars were driven by the sons of new immigrants to Canada, some of them not even having a full driver's licence. The police decided to auction off the cars, but the boys were back again on the roads, their parents having bought them yet another new, flashier car! Money happens to grow on those proverbial trees for these families, What values are such parents imparting to their kids, and where will it all go, I shudder to think!?! The ostentatious display of money is sometimes depressing to lesser mortals who have to work hard for a living and struggle to make both ends meet, but the sad truth is that rich parents rule!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Time To Smell The Coffee

Happy Easter! I sincerely pray that this Day of Resurrection also be a day of revival of all our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I am enjoying a four-day Easter break, a mellowed-down version from last year's, when we went on a family road trip in the Pacific Cascades this time around. This year we couldn't do anything fancy since the husband had to work, but the kid and I just chilled out at home in each other's company, cooking our favorite foods, relaxing with a book, and sleeping in every day. We lead very mechanical lives day in and day out, and hardly have time to smell the roses, but this break, I'm having ample time to smell the coffee at home, so to speak! LOL!

Yesterday, we'd been to Queen Elizabeth Park to spend a delightful afternoon there. Nine years in Vancouver, and we'd never been to this awesome place before, the highest point in Vancouver at 510 ft. above sea level. My students used to laugh at me when they found out I'd never been there, so this time I was determined to make amends and make a visit to the place everyone keeps raving about. The park is a horticultural jewel, truly speaking, and its 130 acres of lush greenery with its ornamental trees and shrubs is a sight to behold. The Bloedel Floral Conservatory and its collection of exotic flora, fauna, birds and fish was well worth the entry tickets we paid for. The Quarry Gardens, the Rose Gardens, the pond with its brood of ducks, the picnic greenscapes for families, the sunshine and perfect weather, and the endless rows of cherry trees in full bloom made for a perfect outing. On our way back home, we stopped at Starbucks for some multigrain bagels, banana loaves and coffee, and picked up some Chinese takeout for dinner. All that, and all the time in the world this break to smell the coffee made this a memorable long weekend indeed! :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Life's Lemons

Sometimes life is really unfair. All the tall talk about good karma and "what goes around comes around" is crap. If one were to do good all the time, then why doesn't it come around to bless them and keep them happy? Time and time again, I have seen very good people being assailed by all kinds of misfortunes in life, while the evil and the wicked just thrive and prosper in life. There's a proverb in my native language that pretty much translates to a king (killing) punishing a wayward subject right away, but God waiting to (kill) punish the bad person. Now how long that wait is, is the tactical question that no one has ever found the answer to. Anyways, this post is not about my anger about those whom I consider to be wicked, rather it's just about the unfairness of life, period.

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade," the saying goes, but when life hands you one too many lemons, then what do you do? There's only so much one can take, and when there's a surfeit of problems, all coping mechanisms fail. It then becomes increasingly difficult not to succumb to the paralysis of the negative. Hope and activity are two survival issues or coping mechanisms that help us cling on to sanity, and were it not for those key aspects, all of us would be basket cases for sure. Hope for a better tomorrow, and immersing oneself in activity are sure ways of countering the negatives in life, and the better one understands this, the better one's chances of eventual happiness in life!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mega Million Frenzy!!!

The US has been in the grip of a mega million frenzy since January, when week after week no one seemed to pick out the winning numbers. Consequently, the jackpot increased to a dizzying, record-breaking sum of 640 million dollars or so last Friday, and people were allowed to buy tickets until 15 minutes before the drawing time of 11 PM that day. The ticket buying had reached such a fever pitch that the frenzy had crossed the borders into Canada as well. Watching TV one evening, I was quite surprised to find commercials on Canadian channels advertising the huge windfall and declaring that Canadians could play the lottery too. I could very well imagine the huge line ups at the border this might cause, with Canadians too wanting in on the action and dreaming of this huge windfall!

It was interesting to note that the lottery advertisements came with the constant reminder that the probability of winning those millions was 1 in 176 million - quite an impossibility to ponder about! To be brutally honest, the chances of one's dying on the way to buying a lottery ticket was more than one's chances of winning the lottery itself, but this didn't seem to faze the gazillions of buyers one bit! And to add to the excitement and frenzy of it all, TV news reporters were interviewing random people on the streets to share with the viewers what they would do if they won all that money. Most people wanted to quit their jobs, buy expensive houses and flashy cars, and go away on endless vacations to every part of the world. Some seemed to have belated flashes of altruism and added that they would help out extended family. No one said they would help out friends though, and very few said they would give to charity.

While individuals went out and bought tickets for themselves, offices had lottery pools galore. On a sobering note though, one has to remember that while it is easy for people to buy tickets in a pool and share their lottery dreams with their coworkers, the very same people find it difficult to share the money with their colleagues and lie about having bought the winning ticket individually, once they actually win all that money. Avarice blinds right thinking and deadens the conscience, and ugly feuding and lawsuits follow. Well, the results are out now, and this time round, three winning tickets have been bought in three different states- Kansas, Illinois, and Maryland. It remains to be seen if lawsuits will be filed in the coming days, as buyers gear up for the next mega million lottery up for grabs.

My take on all this hullabaloo is that the media is solely responsible for building up this kind of wishful thinking in people. With the country in recession and the global economy in shambles at large, and unemployment at a staggering rate, one should divert one's attention to rebuilding the economy and working out the unemployment problem. Sitting comfortably on one's sweet bottom and dreaming about that elusive pot of gold is not going to cut it ... so people, get off your lazy behinds and get to work, or at least go in search of some kind of work for a better tomorrow!!! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Working For Money

In the course of a recent discussion with my friends about what each one of us thought was the worst thing in life, it was interesting to note the various answers we all came up with. The one who had an infant at home said that she felt so alienated from her girlfriends after the arrival of her baby, and another said that having to go through the tantrums of her teenagers was the worst thing for her. Another friend said that not knowing when her adult sons would move out was killing her, while another mom with three young ones at home said that having her mother visit her and help out with her kids was the best thing, and now that her mother had returned to her own hometown, dreading the lack of help was the worst thing for her. The childless one, having listened to all this whining, quipped, "At least, you all have children to complain about. Not having a child is the worst thing I could possibly imagine!"

Interestingly enough, the one I seemed to agree with the most was the view of yet another friend who said that having to work for money is the worst. I paused for a moment to reflect, and thought, "How very true!" I know several people who have taken an early retirement, who live in multi-million dollar homes, play endless rounds of golf during the work week, and lunch on a daily basis at the exclusive clubs where they have life memberships. They are the lucky few who have already made their fortune in the world, or have spouses who can afford to keep them at home, out of the maddening job market. Some of us might be bored with that kind of a lifestyle, but at the same time I feel it would simply be awesome to be able to work for pleasure, and not "have to do it" for money.

I, for one, would love to have the luxury of a healthy bank balance, do the job I love when I please, take off on those elusive travel jaunts when I please, get back to school to do my Ph.D. when I please, and pretty much do what I want when I want, all without ever having to worry about making money. That kind of a life seems pretty far-fetched for now, needless to say, unless there's a mighty reversal of fortunes and a big bonanza just drops into my lap from the benevolent clouds above. Till then, my life will go on in the same manner, listening to my girlfriends bitch and complain and whine about the unfairness of life and secretly dreaming how great it would be to have the luxury of not having to work for money!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh, To Dance On The Mountains!

This Spring Break has been pretty laid back and sedate - nothing heart-stoppably exciting, no adrenalin rush, or anything of that sort! I am just grateful for the simple pleasures of life, being able to sleep in each morning, drink the freshly-squeezed lemon juice so thoughtfully left for me by the husband, read the papers leisurely, cook whatever the kid likes for the day, lie on the couch and read to my heart's content, etc., etc. Last Saturday, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we decided to take a drive up the mountains from which we live a scant 20 to 25 minutes away. We have gone up the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, and also the North Shore Mountains many a time before, but this time we decided to go up to Buntzen Lake and Belcarra, up past Anmore Village, on the Coquitlam Mountains.

The drive up the mountains was breathtakingly refreshing. It's a whole new world up there, and quite difficult to believe that this oasis of nature in the seclusion of the mountains is just a stone's throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city down below. It's bear country, needless to say, and the tales of bears coming down the mountains to feed on the apples, pears, and other fruits and berries in people's gardens, and on garbage if the fruits are not available, are legion. Man cohabits with the wild life up there - quite saddening to see how man has encroached upon the wildlife habitat in the name of development! Multi-million dollar homes boasting a lot of acreage and zillion-dollar views of the mainland below are plenty on the mountain - a zip code that advertises one's wealth and power, without question! And down below, as the mountains slope down to the waterfront of the bay, there are multi-million dollar homes as well, each one having its own private docking yard for the expensive sailboats and motor boats that dot the bay.

As we drove up the mountains, I was reminded of W.B. Yeats' lines in his "The Land Of Heart's Desire":
"Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame."
I truly felt that the faeries had taken me out of my dull world, and I was one with Nature, dancing on the mountains like a flame! A home or a cabin I may not have on the mountains, but that love for Nature I do have in plenty, and I promised myself that I would go up there as often as I could in the future!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Selective Memory

I was lying in bed last week, gazing at the full moon shining through my window, and as I marveled at its other-worldly beauty, a Tamil poem describing the moon as a beautiful damsel clothed in the blue of the skies that my father had taught me as a child, came to mind. As a little girl, I would lie beside my father and mother on a mat on the open terrace of our house in India at nightfall, and my father would point out to me the different constellations in the dark, velvet sky. On one such occasion, he recited this particular poem by Bharathiar, the famed Tamil poet, and those lines just stuck in my mind. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old then, and strangely enough, almost 4 decades plus later, I was able to recall the lines effortlessly.

Well, one thing led to another, and my mind was a beehive of memories, recalling choruses that I had sung as a child. Then suddenly, from nowhere, the moonlight filling my room brought out yet another poem, just like that. I had memorized "Abou Ben Adhem" as a little girl, and the lines came back to me with crystal clarity, as if it were just yesterday that I had learned them. Strange how the mind works! I cannot recall many things from the recent past, such as what I had eaten for dinner last Saturday, or the times I'd spent with friends at college, or my previous phone number in California, but many things from my childhood jump out at me when I least expect them to. I cannot fully fathom this selective memory process. While my brain seems to be growing new dendrites with each day of my life, and the ones from the recent past seem to be fading away, the older ones from ages ago that have been lying dormant in the nethermost recesses of my brain, seem to spring back to life unbidden. I wish I had a better understanding of the neural connections being made, but one thing I must admit, the human brain is a fascinating organ indeed. Its wonders and capabilities are unmatched, and speak for the unique creation that man is!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's Spring Break ...Yeah, Baby!!!

FINALLY, I'm there! After the laborious countdown of the days and hours, it's Spring Break at last! All my students and colleagues at work were actually relieved yesterday to be heading home on that much-awaited break. And last night, just the very thought that I wouldn't have to wake up at 5.30 in the morning to get ready to go to work, made going to bed very sweet. And oh yeah, the kid has school next week, so the fact that I'll be having the house all to myself is something sweeter and one that I'm looking forward to with eagerness. Solitude is bliss, and one has to enjoy it in the first place in order to be able to better appreciate it. The emptynesters might beg to differ, but with all due respect, it is a state of mind and being that is highly appealing to me right now.

The peace and the quiet, the freedom to laze around, hanging out by myself in my PJs, cooking what I please and when I please, not having to hear cries of "Ma, I'm hungry! What's for lunch?" or " I can't find my blue shirt! Oh no ... is it still in the laundry hamper?", having full possession of the TV remote control, drinking endless cups of green tea and reading my iBooks - all these and more may not seem much to anyone else, but they mean the world of a difference to me! Talk about small mercies ... Phew!!! The husband has promised a mini trip the following week, once the kid gets his break from school. That, and the plans to work out as much as I can are all on the cards for now. As my mother always told me, I keep counting my blessings, and there's plenty of time to do just that this break. Happy Spring Break to me! :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Fairness Craze

I posted the following Status Update on Facebook yesterday: "My son doesn't want to be fair-skinned, and wants to get a tan. When told that fairness creams in India were incredibly popular, he thought that was crazy ... black (dark) is beautiful, of course, but I had to veto the tanning thing! Teenagers!!! " Well, 16 of my friends had LIKEd this status, and it led to a whole discussion thread about how multi-national corporations sell the fairness concept in India, which was not at all fair. My friend Chitra commented that she wished corporates stopped stooping to the levels they do to sell fairness in India, and that it appeared to her that all cosmetic companies, MNCs, etc., who promoted the fairness creams seemed to have no scruples at all.

True, indeed! Fifteen years ago, the only fairness cream I knew in India was Fair & Lovely, but now there seems to be a whole host of them on the market. It's a shame how the corporates exploit people's craze for a fair complexion, and it's no big surprise then that American and European companies have entered the fairness cream market as well in these days of globalization. The worst part is that parents and prospective grooms perpetuate the demand for fair-skinned girls, as can be seen in the matrimonial ads in a country where the majority of marriages are arranged ones. Most of the boys want a FAIR AND BEAUTIFUL girl! I personally know quite a few of those dark-complexioned girls who were rejected by potential grooms because of their color, even though the girls were highly qualified and were earning on par with the potential suitors, and also some dark-complexioned boys who got exceptionally fair girls as wives, just because the boys were software engineers working abroad, mostly in the U.S., a seemingly "good catch" in the marriage market!

Another friend Amelia wrote, "The best part is when guys who are really dark want fair girls ... When asked why, they say that way the children born will be fair ... to such guys I would say 'What if the child turns out to be exactly like you??' " It is deeply rooted in the Indian way of thinking that fair is beautiful ... how unfair is that?!? Krithika, another friend, responded that her personal theory is that if a guy is stupid enough to think that fair is beautiful, then he deserves what he gets. and the dusky beauty who was rejected by him is the real winner. "Imagine being tied to a guy for whom beauty is skin deep. I shudder imagining being married to a guy like that!!!! Lucky escape for all those dusky girls!!!!" Nizam, went a little further to reflect that the grass is always greener on the other side, that while the Indians want a fair skin, the Westerners want to tan their fair skin, because to them a tanned complexion is more preferable to a pale one.

And so the fairness war goes on. At the end of the day, beauty is only skin deep, and the sooner we realize that, the better for us!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Burning Out

It's been a scant two months since the year began, but somehow I seem to be burning out already. Not just me, but my friends at work and elsewhere as well. It seems kind of contagious, this insidiously lousy feeling, a kind of lethargy that creeps into your being and deadens your soul. The weather hasn't helped at all. Winter seems to be the season when depression among people is at its height, and Vancouver's wild, wacky weather has contributed a great deal to this feeling of inertia - grey, overcast skies, snow showers, rain, hail, sporadic and weak sunshine, and the like. Just when we thought that Spring was already here, temperatures have plummeted again, and there seems to be just no putting away those winter coats.

The only reprieve for now is looking forward to our Spring Break, just what the doctor ordered for all that sluggishness and torpor! Sleep deprived that I have been, I'm just basically planning to sleep in each morning, and take things easy. There's nothing exciting looming ahead in terms of travel or anything of that sort, particularly because the kid has just one week of break, and the husband has no break at all, so it's just chilling out at home for me. I plan to catch up on my reading, as always, and cook some fabulous food for my son. He always comes to a locked house in the evenings, so it will be a welcome change for him to smell Mom's cooking from a distance, as he nears home, and have me open the door for him. Oh for the simple pleasures of life! Once the break is over, I'm sure I'll be energized and back on track, until I burn out all over again before the summer break!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


It is my fervent belief that daughters are more loving, more caring, more responsible, more attached to their parents and take better care of them in their old age than the sons. While this may seem to be like a generalization, my opinion has been formed purely out of experience, having seen very many examples of it in real life. Somehow, there's that invisible umbilical cord that remains till the very end, not just between the daughters and their mothers, but between their fathers as well. The daughter may grow up, get married, and eventually move out of the house, but the bond she shares with her parents, and also siblings, is too strong to be broken. I'm afraid I can't say the same of the sons who grow up and eventually go behind their wives. Of course, they do care for the parents in many cases, and there's no denying that, but it's more out of a sense of duty, so to speak.

Most Asian cultures think that boys are special, and in my own country of birth, the birth of a baby boy is more reason to celebrate than the birth of a baby girl. Statistically speaking, the number of female infanticides in rural India is staggering, and even among the educated elite, the boys-are-better mentality seems to be more common. Mercifully, however, the trend seems to be changing ever so slightly these days, but then again, while raising the children, the boys tend to get more privileges, special treatment and freedom than the girls. Girls grow up with several disadvantages compared to boys, but despite all that, they still tend to love their parents more. Parents realize only later on in life what a blessing daughters are! Daughters are to be held, loved, and cherished forever ... blessed are those who have daughters!!! :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reflections on Valentine's Day

Growing up in India, I had no clue what Valentine's Day was. The India of my childhood was a place of repressed and straitjacketed sexuality - no boyfriends or girlfriends, no dating, no kissing, no premarital sex, no living together, not even holding hands in public (even with married folks), very few love marriages, and so on. The very idea of celebrating a day for sweethearts and lovers was preposterous then, so when I returned to India for a visit after many years, I was quite shocked and surprised to see how attitudes and ways of life had changed radically. Valentine's Day is a huge commercial affair now, with card/gift shops at every corner, and young and old alike exchanging cards, gifts, flowers, chocolates, balloons, and so on.

When I moved to America fifteen years ago and witnessed the hullabaloo over Valentine's Day, I wondered what the hoopla was all about. Now I know better, that it's just a commercial enterprise, with businesses hawking their wares from brilliant diamonds to sexy lingerie and what not. Love seems to be a commodity-ridden affair after all, and breakups are just a part of life that people seem to treat casually. It's quite easy to move on and have a different sweetheart or spouse the next Valentine's Day. People go over the top in "showing" their love for their partners, and are quite matter-of-fact about breaking up with them as well. A case in point would be Brad Pitt who had filled his then-wife Jennifer Aniston's green room with thousands of red roses, and had spelled on the wall with rose petals , " I LOVE MY WIFE " - a gesture that was considered extravagantly sweet and had women swooning all over. Not long after, he cheated on her and subsequently divorced her. So much for Valentine's Day proclamations!

My students had left a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a cuddly teddy bear, and a box of sinful chocolates on my desk this year, but that again is a different kind of love. My colleagues never to fail to ask me what my husband gave me for Valentine's Day. When I respond that he gave me a hug and a kiss, just like every other day, they go, "What? No gifts?" Though both my men took me out for dinner that evening, I must admit that it's no big deal with us at home. I'm just grateful for all the love, support, happiness, and laughter we share, and do not need an expensive gift from my husband to prove his love for me. I'd rather we grew older together, sharing all the warmth and companionship of our relationship till the very end.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On The Path To Fitness

The path to fitness has always been a rocky one for a fickle-minded individual like yours truly. Well-meaning friends keep telling me that it is 80% of what one eats, and 20% of working out that keeps a person physically fit. Good to know that, but quite difficult to put into practice most of the time, I have to confess! And so it happened that my fitness went on a downward spiral due to lack of will power and sheer laziness. Unmindful of the havoc I was wreaking on my body, I let the foodie in me take control, indulging in all those delectable foods that are divine on the tongue but hell on the waistline. And when the foodie wasn't in play, the lazy slob took over, justifying unashamedly about using the treadmill as a clothes-horse. All this until the day I ended up at the doctor's office with an inexplicable shoulder injury!

Well, needless to say, the doctor's words brought on an epiphany of sorts - I had to get my act together in terms of food and exercise, and rehabilitate my shoulder, or else risk the chance of being stuck with a frozen shoulder for the rest of my life. The men at home had an agenda of their own as well, weight loss for the kid, and working out to keep that blood sugar under control for the husband, and now that we were on the road to redemption, all we had to do was to look for a trainer to sustain our interest and prevent us from backtracking into our sinful ways. Consequently, the treadmill has returned to its purpose of why it was invented in the first place, the refrigerator has more of healthy foods in it, and in general, it has been a radical change in lifestyle for the three of us.

It's been a glorious two plus months now, and we haven't looked back at all. I have regained a great deal of movement in my shoulders, can run up the stairs without huffing and puffing, can feel the various muscles in my body, and best of all, am just 4 pounds shy of the weight I used to be 15 years ago, as was stated on my first California Driver's Licence! YAAAYYY!!! We certainly are on the path to fitness, and have no plans of abandoning it anytime now or in the near future!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Teenage Behavior

Teenagers are a mine of complexities ... the deeper you dig, the more cf those complexities you unearth. As parents, or sometimes even as objective observers, we ask ourselves why these kids behave this way (read 'recklessly'), or what on earth is wrong with them. Adolescent behavior has always been a problem, and who better than Shakespeare in his The Winter's Tale to have summed it thus! : "There were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting." Times might have changed, but not the maddening behavior of teenagers down the ages!

I read a very interesting article on the teenage brain that helped me understand why teenage is the most tumultuous period of one's life. As our brain grows and develops normally, we learn through trial and error how to balance our impulses, desires, goals, and what not in a sensible manner, but in our teenage years, the brain works in a clumsy manner and has difficulty processing rules and ethics, and is governed more by self-interest ... in other words, a teenager is still going through a phase of "neural gawkiness" and since he or she hasn't yet learned how to use the brain's ever-growing, newer networks, they end up doing stupid things during that period of their brain's development. Throw in with that parental and peer pressures, and the stress of school life, and the physical awkwardness of their maturing bodies, and we have a very unique category of humans who are walking inconsistencies, and who vex their parents no end!

Sensation seeking or love of the thrill is particularly high in one's teenage years, and sadly enough, cause or lead to death in many cases. Ecstasy use, dope and other drug addictions, drunk driving, racing on the highways, teenage pregnancies, and a whole host of risky behaviors are outcomes of this dysfunctional trait of recklessness in teens. The only redeeming factor is that they tend to outgrow all these eventually, and adapt very quickly to the mature, adult world around them. It is the parents' responsibility then to understand their teenage children and help them realize that all their advice stems from the parents' own struggles as teenagers, and not at all to exert their authority by any means. Once the realization dawns about the potential pitfalls in the cruel world of reality, one's turbulent teen years are over at last, and mercifully so!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rogue Students

I have never, ever regretted having chosen teaching for a career. I love what I do with a fervent and sincere passion, and firmly believe that this is my calling and the classroom is exactly where I'm meant to be. I have had a generally smooth ride down the road and feel gratified to have shared my love for the English language and its literature with the countless number of students who have passed through my classroom. And when students from a long time ago reach out to me through social media like Facebook, and recall in particular a text that I taught them and that left an indelible impression on their minds, my joy knows no bounds, needless to say. In all honesty, my days at Lady Doak College, Madurai, India, were the best of the best, and the students in those undergraduate and graduate classes that I taught, occupy a very special place in my heart indeed.

In contrast, I must admit that my experiences in North America teaching international students haven't all been pleasant after all. Take, for instance, the time I was collecting the students' assignments for this particular university course, and asked the students to come up and leave their work on my table. One might think that students would be responsible at this stage of their education, so I was quite baffled when I counted all the assignments after class and found that I was short of one. It took me a while to go over the class list and figure out whose was missing, and when I questioned the student in the next class about his missing assignment, he swore that he had left it on my table. Since there was no way the assignment could have just walked off my desk, I knew the student was blatantly lying and took him to task for his behavior. The result was that the student wrote a nasty review about me, one that I took with a pinch of salt, and one that I didn't bother to worry about since I had informed the Dean about the incident anyways, and had learned from the other professors that he was a problem student after all.

Or consider the time when the Asian student in my TESL class openly asked me if I could fudge the numbers regarding her observation and teaching hours, that is, she wanted me to log in her required number of hours without actually having done any observation or teaching whatsoever. She seemed to have had the assumption that I was a corrupt Indian who would just go along with her hare-brained scheme of earning her degree without working for it at all. And then there was the student who flew into a rage and flung his paper on the desk in anger because he was unable to do the task given in class, unlike all his other classmates. There was also this older student who thought females ought to stay at home taking care of the husband and children and had no business teaching an English class! Trust me, they come in all shapes and sizes and ages from different countries, and are a stark contrast to those students whose adulation I revel in. It is this latter category of students who make me love my profession, and help me wake up with a smile each morning as I head for work everyday. Need I say more about why I have no regrets at all about my chosen career?!?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lunar New Year 2012

Enter the Dragon ... tomorrow is the Lunar New Year, and 2012 happens to be the Year of the Water Dragon! The majority of my students happen to be Chinese, and since we have Korean, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese students who also celebrate it as their New Year, we had a big potluck party at work on Friday - enough to make me gag and not go near ethnic Asian food for months to come! Nevertheless, we all had a blast, and one of the mixers was to ask each other about one's Chinese animal signs - quite an interesting way of finding out one's age, mind you!

Celebrations of this kind by the immigrant diaspora in Vancouver is very heartening and delightful, and it is always an interesting lesson in cultural diversity, as we learn about other cultures as they showcase them through their costumes, food, music, dance, handicrafts, and so on. One can sense their pride in their culture, as they establish themselves in a new land and are immersed in an acculturation process themselves. Two months from now, we will be celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, as we will the other festivals of Vancouver's multi-cultural population in the days to come. For now, Gung Hey Fat Choy! Xin Nian Hao! Happy New Year of the Water Dragon and may the Water Dragon usher in prosperity to all of us this year!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snow In Vancouver

One of the reasons I love living in Vancouver is precisely because we get just enough snow to enjoy it all, but never to the point where we consider it a nuisance or a hassle. Unlike our counterparts in northern B.C., or the Prairies, or the Atlantic Provinces, or in the Northwest Territories, who are subjected to the bone-chilling cold, windchill, blizzards, whiteouts, and what not of winter, we in Vancouver, welcome the snow with delight and gay abandon, and that's only because we know the rain will eventually come and melt it all away. Nevertheless, when the mercury dips to a low, anywhere near zero, we never fail to complain as well, which makes our fellow countrymen roll their eyes and exclaim, "Seriously, is a minus 6 degree weather COLD for you?!? Suck it up, you wusses, you have no idea what a minus 40 degree weather is like!"

And so it happens, Vancouver got its share of snow at last, mid-winter, and enough for children to squeal in delight and run into the yards and streets and parks to make their very own snowmen, with the adults on hand to help them in their enjoyment of this once-a-year wonder. It's magical indeed to stand at one's window and watch the outline of the world outside being defined by the white stuff, falling ever so softly and blanketing the plants and trees and grass and lights and rooftops in its own seductive way. Coming from a country of blazing hot summers, I find the winters in my adopted homeland full of mystique and charm and romance, as I view them from indoors, particularly from the warmth of my living room. I love to keep this romance intact, and I dare not imagine the brutality of the elements in the wilderness beyond. Winter is beautiful when one feels warm and secure, but not in the least when one is exposed to its fury, and I clearly belong to the former category of winter/snow lovers.

South of the 49th parallel, our neighbors are being pummeled by Old Man Winter, but we in Vancouver are wholly into it. I, for one, am on the side of Vivaldi, and enjoy the snow whenever we get our fair share of it. Here's Vivaldi's "Winter" from his FOUR SEASONS of 1725, that captures how I feel about the season:

"To shiver, frozen, amid icy snow
In the bitter blast of a horrible wind;
To run constantly stamping one's feet;
And to feel one's teeth chatter on account of the excessive cold;
To spend restful, happy days at the fireside
While the rain outside drenches a good one hundred
To walk on the ice,
And with slow steps to move about cautiously
For fear of falling;
To go fast, to slip and fall down;
To go on the ice again and run fast
Until the ice cracks and open up;
To hear coming out of the iron gates
Sirocco, Boreas and all the winds at war:
That's winter! but of a kind to gladden one's heart."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Puppy Love

Is there any human being on earth who hasn't had a crush on someone while growing up? I bet there's none, and those of us who vehemently deny it are just being deluded, in my opinion. Puppy Love, as one might call it, is an intrinsic and essential part of growing up, that magical attraction one feels and unspeakable chemistry that one has for the other person. In retrospect, from the vantage point of adulthood, it all looks ridiculous, and makes you wonder what on earth you saw in that person in your teenage years. Sometimes, you even heave a sigh of relief, thanking God you didn't act on that crush and take it to the next level, considering that the erstwhile object of your crush is no doubt a loser now, in your opinion. No wonder it's called Puppy Love then, and aptly so!

The danger in puppy love arises when it causes too much of a distraction to teenagers and sways them from their dedicated concentration on their goals. The final years of high school being the most crucial years of one's life, it becomes quite problematic when teens are caught up too much in the crush and are constantly thinking/dreaming of this particular girl/boy, only to slip up in their studies and not make the cut after all in high school. As teens, we don't understand that poor grades mean no admission into a good university, and that ultimately translates into mediocrity in life. The hormones raging inside us make us lose perspective of the importance of doing well at school, and for those of us who are weak-minded, there is always a lot to regret in our adult lives.

What prompted this post in the first place was something I saw on my morning commute to work - a boy and a girl so lost in each other, when everyone else was rushing to work and to school. The teens were so besotted and into each other, the chemistry between them so palpable, that I wondered how on earth they would be able to concentrate on studies that day at school. Not a good thing at all, the sane adult in me thought. And then again, I frequently see teen moms and dads on my way to work, with babies in strollers, with the mom definitely having had to drop out of school to care for her baby, and the father to get a low level job to provide for the young family, and with that money not being enough, having to live on welfare for the foreseeable future. All this because of the raging hormones, needless to say!

Puppy love is inevitable, but if one is able to recognize it as just that, and not be distracted too much as to fail at school or earn poor grades, then all should be well! Growing up certainly is complicated, don't you think?!!? Phew!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

Happy New Year 2012 to all my friends, family and loved ones! Here's to health, wealth, and happiness to all of us in the year ahead, and may all our troubles last as long as our New Year's resolutions. Speaking of which, yes, I have made a few of those myself, and despite the fact that I lack the strength of mind or the will power to see them through to the end of the year, I never fail to make them in the first place anyways. So here I am again, determined to stick to my exercise regimen, nurse my injured shoulder back to normalcy, eat healthy, maintain my body weight and dare not put back on the pounds I so painstakingly lost last year, catch up on my reading, etc., etc., to name a few.

If all the talk about the Mayan calendar and 2012 being the year of the Apocalypse should be given any sort of credence, then Carpe Diem should be the order of each day as it unfolds. Doomsday fears not withstanding, I am determined to make the most of each day and live life as happily as I can. I begin the new year, counting my blessings, as always, and being humbly grateful for all of God's mercies, great and small. I truly believe in karma, that what goes around comes around, so I'm determined to try my best in thinking good thoughts and doing good to others at all times. I am confident that Providence will guide my path and whatever gets thrown my way, I will be able to weather them all with His grace.

Happy New Year 2012 once again, folks!