Monday, February 04, 2013

Right or Wrong?

I have never felt so sad about doing what I perceive as the right thing for us.

This weekend we cut down a beautiful sugar maple which hovered right above our roof… In spring time with new leaves peaking through, this tree would have been the a sight to behold.. I can still remember waking to the chirping of the birds outside our bedroom window.. now I wonder if I will ever hear them again.

Practically, we did the right thing, with hurricanes getting bigger and bigger, having a huge tree above our house would be a liability we can do without.

Then why do I feel like a murderer? Why do I feel this awful sense that I have wronged ??

This is in fond memory of a tree that once was ….

Saturday, July 14, 2012

An long overdue obituary

There are so many times in your life when you tend to look back at life what is past and then sigh… some of them filled with that feeling of correctness, the content … and some that of regrets.

Yes! Regrets,.. a human nature is such.. always second guessing at what may have been.. always thinking about how you missed that opportunity .. how perhaps life would have moved on a different track (not necessarily the right one but different nevertheless).

Amongst these zillion peeps down the memory lane.. I have always regretted what I think was my biggest failing ….. I have always wished I could turn the clock back on that one and do things differently.

You would understand this ache in me, if you have ever had someone you loved pass away and when you look back .. u wish you had snatch some personal moments with the loved one, before the death snatched them away!

My Favorite cousin, Suja, was always this person I loved… my fondest memory of her in sitting with her my parents room, she wearing a white nightdress my mom had given her.. me playing with her hands and telling her this movie story (excruciating and painfully detailed) which was my then favorite. She smiling, asking questions, seeming genuinely interested in listening to me .. at the end saying “I want to now see this movie, your story just mesmerized me” and me glowing with pride on having evoked the desire..

Now when I look back, I can see how kind and sweet that really was. Would I ever be able to listen to someone for more than an hour on a topic I really did not care about? And yet be so gracious and so delightful.. I am not so sure..

She was that kind of person… a nature lover… a animal activist …I sat beside her, reading books about volcanoes, and nature…she was a born story teller, could make anything sounds magical… the prettiest amongst us cousins.. she was the one with a heart I could connect with, with whom I could share my ambition of being a pilot, with whom I could talk about joining army.. with whom I could really discuss the things I really wanted to do…

As I grew up, I never loved her less, but I did not seem to spend as much time… perhaps life got in way.. and then when I was in my senior year (12th grade) she feel sick suddenly…  she was sick for 4 days.. and I thought I would go and meet her… I kept pushing it out and by 5th day she was gone…. Forever from our lives .. the brain fever just grasped her away.. .and I never ever got to say how much I cared, how much I loved her still.. Till the date, I feel awful about being so immersed in my teenage life.. I cry for a chance to see her smile again, to tell me go do what I want to .. alas! I never can, I never will.. and all I have of her are few memories and a wish that I was not so selfish then …

Sometimes when I am living my life now, I often find myself wondering what would she have tought of me now? Would she have liked what I have become? … I have no answer.. but just regrets.. for not having “the Suja” in my life anymore…

Friday, July 06, 2012

A Buffet Lunch @ Malabar Hills, Elmsford

A lunch with your old colleagues is always a delight.. given of course, you liked them at the first place. I meet my old colleagues once a month at restaurants around the office area. Of course, the number of folks getting together seems to be getting smaller with each meeting, some leaving for another job, some retiring.. sigh!

So  for the last few times, we have been exploring Indian restaurants nearby. Perhaps by the virtue of me being Indian, I qualify well (amongst the acquaintances) to be  “the Indian” food connoisseur.

So this time around, we ended up in Malabar Hills, Elmsford, NY.

The d├ęcor of the place is nothing extra ordinary, in fact quiet on contrary; nothing about the place stands out. Of course, while I appreciate the ease of parking (A plus in Westchester), I would not choose this place for a romantic night out with my other half.. .. but on the other hand, I think it is perfect for a lunch with colleagues or friends. 

And the food… well, let’s put it this way.. it is one of my favorite Indian restaurants in Westchester County for buffet, which is saying a lot, since I am not particularly huge fan of buffet. I have always held on to the idea that the buffet food screams of similar tasting items, lined together for the newly exploring taste buds.Yes Yes! I am biased, but there have been very few buffets which have evoked any other opinion from me.

However, at around $11 per buffet, the good thing about Malabar Hill buffet is that each item seemed to have a distinct individualism. The Sambar (and I am a stickler for this, since my mom makes the most amazing one) and the idlly, were pretty good, dosa’s not bad either. Cabbage Subzi, Cholle, Saag Paneer and Kheer which are the usual buffet items in any Indian restaurant were well made and distinct in their tastes as well. However, my favorite was perhaps the onion pakoda’s (Onion Fritters) and yes! I know fried stuff always tastes good…. However, you would be surprised how many can taste rancid if not made fresh. .

I think the buffet is reasonably priced, however, I do balk at the prices if ordering for individual dishes. I think they are  pricey, but I guess Indian food always is….!! So, if you are not an Indian, or do not make Indian food at home, and do not mind paying for dishes which you really want to choose and eat, this is a reasonably good place as any (much better than Royal Palace, Passage to India, Mughal Palace)

So, Another buffet lunch meet up in Malabar hills? Sure, bring it on, I am game!!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Leshan Gaint Buddha (A day trip from Chengdu, China)

With a claim of being the world’s biggest Stone Buddha, sitting tall at 71mts, how can one miss seeing this wonder just a few miserly hours away?

Roughly about 2.5 hrs away (100 KM) from the Chengdu City center, the Leshan Buddha makes for an easy day trip.

Build by the river banks by a monk, to calm the water “monsters” it is definitely a sight. Amongst the oldest statues in the world, this Buddha is craved onto a cliff in sitting position (perhaps to give it more support?).

There are 2 ways to seeing the Leshan Buddha,  (a) via boat, from the River (where apparently you see the most picturistic views) (b) A trek down the steep staircase, starting somewhere near the head of the Buddha to the very feet of the Giant.

We choose to trek down and were soon engulfed in the huge mass of tourists.. mostly local Chinese people, coming to see this ancient statue… As we stood in the snail paced lines, I had locals coming and asking to take pictures of me. Perhaps, they had never really seen a brown Indian Woman…. Nevertheless it was a great way to pass time: Taking pictures with dozens of Chinese locals, none of who spoke English.. posing and smiling with each of them, trying to interact using signs …

And as we walked along the queue, we realized, that perhaps, just perhaps, China does not understand the concept of queue and waiting to take your turn very well.. we had some pushing, shoving, trying to get ahead sort of people.. and eventually, we decided to form a human wall of 3 , which could not be crossed .. and that worked really well..!!

I had a woman behind me, probably angry, trying to shove her way through… almost shouting .. . but since I do not not understand Chinese, and she could not speak English…and frankly since there was no emergency… we learned to ignore her and she us …

And soon as we reached the bottom, near the foot of the Buddha.. she rushed past us and looked as us with a total look of victory!! Sweet! No words were needed to translate that to us !

From the foot of the Buddha as you gaze up.. u realize just how tiny you really are and how perhaps insignificant you stand in this world …. Was I awed? No.. but I was impressed, by the sheer size of it, by the sheer age of it and by the sheer effort it must have taken to build at that age and that time (803AD) ….

The long trek down to the Buddha
At the foot of the Buddha.. a then we Gaze up.. behold the biggest Buddha of them all !!
At 90 RMB, the tickets were not exactly cheap, and for those with small kids, consider taking the river boat rather than the trek down to the Buddha foot.. However, it is definitely a sight to see near Chengdu and well worth a day trip…

A first: Venturing into China as a tourist for the weekend

I will start with this disclaimer “I do not know a word of Chinese” and traveling in China without a Chinese speaking native seemed like a huge challenge.

However, with a weekend in between the meetings, it seemed like a waste of time in a country of such depth and culture like China, to not explore. So here I was with a few of my colleagues (who I had managed to convince) all set to sightseeing.

Now there were two main issues to be resolved, where should we go and how? The where part was easy.. Leshan Buddha, Panda Park and Local Market, seemed the right amount of things to do at the right pace…why would I miss out on seeing the world's biggest Buddha and the world's cutest living slobs! Yay! the agenda seemed right.. 

Now the biggest question for non native, non-chinese speaking folks is "how to see the sights at your pace, all by yourself". Well, turns out when you work with China team, it can be resolved rather simply (I call it cheating.. but hey! whatever it takes)... I simply asked one of our Chinese colleagues to help book a air conditioned taxi for us.. and one lesson I learned while she was booking our Taxi was “always haggle in China” . It was pretty amazing how well that worked… the price started from 1200RMB and ended at 340RMB … So, if in China, haggle away!!

Armed with a few English to Chinese translations (thanks to our Hotel concierge, I was all set with most important things like “Toilet”, “How Much”, “What Time” etc.. you get the flow… ) I was ready to see the sights..

The driver was amazing.. did not speak much, spoke no english, did not play Chinese music.. just drove at an even pace (probably slow for China) and the whole trip was a breeze.

We spend 9 hours with him and he waited for us patiently at each spot and took us from one place to another, all our communication was done via sign language and at the end of the day the total cost of the taxi, gas, driver’s food was just 650RMB.. Not bad for a private tour, done at your own pace.. with the cost being shared equally amongst the 3 people.. it was barely a burp..I would do it again in a heartbeat..

The bottom line, traveling in China can be reasonably cheap, provided you have haggled the right way and have some good references..

For timebeing, after my first taste of China as a tourist... I am dying to explore China at leisure with my other half and the baby….. it should be fun…

A day with Panda’s (@ Chengdu China Giant Panda Breeding Base)

A weekend in Chengdu, thanks to some extended client meetings now allows me to vouch for the fact that “Panda’s are really the most adorable, cutest slobs you can ever see”. Their black and white fur, tinted with brown dust makes them definitely one of the most photogenic bears around the world. Albeit, note that the  word “bear” can be held debatable, they apparently  also classify as belonging to Raccoon family. However, I think bear sounds much more huggable that raccoons, so I choose to use the bear classification.

At 60RMB (approx $10) the entrance tickets are rather affordable. We choose to just walk around the park, rather than take the trams provided. Armed with the panda park map, available the ticket center, we set out gaping and looking at these near extinct animals. A true bamboo lover, these panda’s do actually survive on the nutrient deficient bamboo alone, with a capacity to gain up to 350 pounds.

These Panda’s are not really “wild” per say.. but I cannot imagine them being very quick in wilderness either.. the calmness which surrounds them and the zest with which they eat those bamboo sticks can be defined in one single word : “ZEN”… truly asian..

Apparently, all the white Panda’s worldwide are Chinese property.. I like to call them “Chinese Citizens” (Ahem!!) , sounds much more dignified don’t ya think?. …and boy! Are these citizens treated well.. 200 acres devoted to their preservation effort, huge open enclosures, devoted cleaners, unlimited bamboo supply.. these Panda’s seem to be doing well. Yes, definitely much better than that in zoo!

And Whilst I forget, you can actually hold the Panda’s, but of course, as is with everything, it comes with a nice sizable price tag attached to it. At about 1000RMB, holding the Panda is not exactly cheap and I decided to savor the cuteness from afar with no regrets.

Towards the end of our visit, we bought a few “gifts” from the official store at the entrance of the park and as we walked outside saw a whole bunch of stalls with “panda” items selling for much cheaper prices right outside.. well, since China does not really have a “return goods” policy, we had to make do with what we bought… but perhaps next time I will be smarter..

At the end of it all, I have to admit the white ones are the ones who evoked a lot of “ohh !! ahhhs” from. me. The red, while cute in their own rights, nevertheless paled in the “cuteness meter” next to the white Panda’s. Well, who can deny “Po” is much more adorable than “Shifu”  in Ku Fu Panda.. now I know why!!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Being You: The everchanging defination

A relationship is a funny thing.. in some ways it defines the very meaning of being you and in some it changes so many things that there is essentially a new you. Whether you like the new persona that you now are is a question you strive you answer.. sometimes the changes is like wave .. it just happens naturally and sometimes it is like a bend around the road, which you have to take…

A mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend….all very important relationships and all influencing the very core of being you… . An introspection at those rare silent moments makes you startle at this person you have become along the way.. so many things new which were not there earlier.. some good and some bad…

The bad are the ones which make you wonder how you got there and what made you make those decisions… some regrets ? yes, perhaps, but you move on.. you shrug away those .. decide to make a change (whether you do or not is another question) and force your thoughts away from this haunting new/disturbing  piece of you…

And it is then, you think to yourself.. “perhaps, just perhaps, there are still pieces of me, which are truly me.. good pieces of me.. totally undiluted, un-influence able, and still fillled with hope/lust/love ”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kindle : A travel Companion

I get to catch up on my reading while traveling and it is one of the few pleasures of a business travel I have come to enjoy. By far, kindle is my favorite electronic gadget and I find myself immersed in the world of words.

Ipad lovers would beg to differ and of course their claims that Ipad can do so much more is so true.. however, the beauty of Kindle is simply that.. you can read without distractions !!! Immerse yourself in the kaleidoscope of words… build your own world, where letters rule and make your own kingdom, let the words take hold of your imagination and let the magic work. …. Kindle is a definite hand baggage must have for me!