Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A True iCon

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of  the heart, you'll know when you find it."

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." These famous quotes are by none other than the great Tzar of Technology - Steven Paul Jobs or otherwise popularly known as Steve Jobs of Apple. I read his book - iCon. I got hooked reading about this man, whom people worship and look up to as their idol. The name is revered worldwide.

An adopted child, a college drop-out, with a burning passion, to create something different right from early years seemed to be setting a stage for achieving something great. Working out of a garage with his friend Steve Wozniak they created the first Macintosh. Subsequently Apple went on to create the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad as we all know. His work in three different genres - computers, music, and movie animation speaks for the genius Steve Jobs was.  This man had that Midas touch. He was the driving force with his intuition of futuristic outlook and made Apple the most successful company that it is now. His motto was to build a great product which had to be great looking, smart and at the same time be user-friendly. You just have to listen to his talks and you will be mesmerised. His Aura and charisma became an inspiration for millions across the world.

At home, my husband and kids are technology enthusiasts. I am still in the old, traditional mode and often get teased by them. The first Computer that we bought was in the year 1996. I remember when I came back from my mom's home after my first baby, this was the surprise that my husband had in store for me. When he explained its working it all turned out to be Greek and Latin to me. I was too wary of even touching it leave alone using it, considering the cost!

As the kids grew older, discussions centered around the latest technology, to which I was a mute spectator. And when the discussion turned to Apple products there was always that dreamy look of wanting one, but the price being a restraint. The first Apple product that came home was the iPod in 2007 when my husband had gone to the U.S. Children just couldn't wait to lay their hands on it. And it was time for celebration when it made a grand entry. All of them were totally mesmerised with it. Since I love music, I too enjoyed listening  to music on it. This was our first experience of using an Apple product. This was followed by the mini iPod. I remember there were extra stickers of Apple when we bought the iPod and the children stuck it right on top of our Samsung T.V. When some guests visited us they saw the Apple logo and asked us when we had bought an Apple T.V? Steve Jobs would have had a fit of rage at the very idea of T.V, as he thought television made people dumb.

A few months back my husband decided to buy a new laptop. We went to the Electronics store and were looking at different models. The sales person there routinely pitched in monotonously about the features of various models. But I could see my husband eyeing the far end of the counter and yes I should have guessed it was the Apple counter! Apple have their own trained salespeople I guess. When that guy started explaining the features, I was stuck by the difference. Here was a guy who was not just doing his job, but he actually loved it. The passion, the awe and the reverence with which he explained the working of the MacBook, I was wonderstruck. He was totally an Apple fan. This I have noticed is not restricted to one store - you just check out any store, the Apple counter salespeople are different. So our love affair with Apple continues with another addition to the Apple family - the MacBook Air.

So even if you are not so much into technology, I would still recommend that you read the book and listen to Steve Jobs and you will know why he is truly The iCon and motivated me to write a blog post.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Open Streets - Fun day on a Sunday

When all the world leaders are talking about climate change and discussing ways and means to find solutions to this problem, I thought that the idea of "Open Streets" was a step in a very small way to work towards this goal.

The free and open road without the fear of vehicles whizzing past
I saw the posters and heard the radio spots about something called "Open Streets" being organised on 20th September - a Sunday, in the area where I stay. We got to know that there would be no traffic allowed in the entire residential layout. We were curious to know what this was all about, and so my husband and me set out to know more about this novel idea. As we came out of our apartment the first thing we noticed was a group of people assembled arguing with the cops as to why vehicles were not allowed to ply. Maybe they were not aware that vehicles were prohibited from 6.00 am to 9.00 pm.

Walkers and cyclists having
a good time
As we continued, I noticed for the first time how wide the roads actually were. After eons we found we could walk freely as we pleased, even right in the middle of the road, without having to look around for those impatient drivers in their cars or autos or the blaring horn from the bikes or the buses whizzing at breakneck speed. This I thought was ultimate freedom. Added to that was the bonus of breathing in a lungful of fresh unpolluted air. Later I learnt that the pollution level i.e., the particulate matter had come down by close to 30% and the noise decibel had dropped to 11.5%.

The traditional Pagade game
Just as we turned a corner, several children were whooping with joy and riding on their bicycles and skateboards all over the road. They reminded me of my Enid Blyton Books where they would describe children coming back fresh from summer vacations looking all rosy and rounded. This was no summer vacation, but the children their cheeks all red, eyes glowing and smiles not leaving their face was a sight to behold. The children had just found what it was to be a child once again - Happy and Carefree. We saw several families walking down with their children, all of them sweating profusely because be it kids or adults we have now gotten used to walking less. I thought this might just do the trick of bringing down the national index of people suffering from diabetes and other diseases caused due to lack of exercise.

As we walked down the road, people had crowded around a potter who was spinning his wheel and children and adults alike trying their hands in creating their own version of vase, bowls, and other odd shaped articles which they then carried proudly back with them. In another corner, children were sitting on the road and painting with great concentration. Some children with their parents were using the road as their canvas and drawing beautiful figures with different coloured chalk. There was one that captured my attention and that was a huge figure of Lord Ganesha drawn by a boy who I came to know was actually living in a hutment closeby. What talent!

Games like Chess, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers were being played with gusto on the road where the Chess Board, Snakes and Ladders were actually drawn on the road, and children were rolling out the huge Dice and going up the ladder and walking down the Snakes literally. An old man was playing  chess with his granddaughter with curious onlookers cheering them.

The giant chess board on the road
That day children and adults got introduced to our traditional games of Twelve Houses played using shells, Pagade the age old game mentioned in The Mahabharath, Five Stones, Lagori, Carrom, Badminton, and so on. Families got together with other families who till then were complete strangers forming teams to play Cricket, Football, Hopscotch you name it. It was all there being played by one and all as one big family.

As we were walking back, we saw a group of teenagers trying to fly a plane which they had modelled out of thermocol, and using the law of gravity after several tries they got the plane to fly and land with thread being used as the navigation aid. They got cheered and applauded from all the bystanders.

We missed watching the play that was organised and the evening show where a Music Band was playing. But I must say this was one unforgettable experience for me.

The most positive aspect that I saw was that people had gotten away from all kinds of electronic gadgets that gets them so hooked up. Mobiles on that day if used was for the sole purpose of capturing the pure essence of joy and festivity all around us. The reason for having an "Open Street" was different, but as a parent I saw that this was the perfect way to once again rekindle the joy of bonding as a family which was sealed that day between parents, children, grandparents, neighbours and strangers alike. It was like one big Family Day Out. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The little guide

I was standing on my terrace the other day and seeing all the fun that children in the apartment were having. Evenings are meant for fun and play. So they were there out in hordes indulging in various activities; little ones on their tricycles, the older ones on their bicycles, some zipping past on their roller skates, the older lot playing cricket and so on. Observing children can be a very enjoyable affair, don't you agree?

It was then that my attention was drawn towards an old man with a bag hung on one shoulder walking very slowly with the help of a walking stick. Holding his hand and walking alongside him was a little boy who I guess was not more than three years of age. It looked like the grandfather and grandson were going out for a walk.

As I watched them, the old man was concentrating on the path ahead, walking carefully and beside him  holding his hands was the child who was carefully guiding his grandfather along the path. He would point out and tug at the old man's arm if he thought the path was slightly uneven and veer him towards an even stretch.

After a while he let go of his grandfather's arm and walked a few paces in front of him and then turned back and waited to see how his grandfather was progressing and when he saw that his grandfather was close to him he would again walk a few paces ahead and wait. Then the little boy changed his course and started walking behind his grandfather all the while keeping a close watch. His attention was so totally focused on his grandfather that when some of his friends called out to him he did not respond to them. Such was his concentration! For a boy who was all but three, the care that this little child took of his grandfather was quite amazing. It was as though he knew that it was his responsibility to take great care of his  grandfather.

As they both progressed slowly towards the last stretch till my line of vision could follow, I could see the little boy had started marching smartly in military style with his grandfather walking behind him and when they were almost close to the gate the little boy turned back and gave a smart salute to the old man. Then I could see them no more.

I found my spirits soaring at such a wonderful sight that I had witnessed. This looked like a very small incident but the sensitivity and empathy shown by the little child was exemplary. I silently saluted this little guide and sentinel.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An ode to home scientists

It's now a little over Twenty Five years since I graduated from college! It somehow did not look so long ago. But there we were the graduates of '88 batch celebrating our silver jubilee of graduation with overnight stay at a resort planned and organised by some of our classmates followed by lunch hosted for our lecturers who had taught us. The D day was ushered in with giggling, laughing, talking, accompanied by oohs and aahs as each one of us had met after so many, many years.

As I looked around me at all those lovely faces, my thoughts raced back to those times when as gawky, gangly, pimpled teens we had entered the hallowed portals of one of the prestigious colleges in the city. There was a lot of energy, vibrancy in the huge campus which added to our bewilderment, as we had just left the secure cocoon of our school and were stepping out into an alien world.

Once we settled into the new environment, we began an exciting roller coaster ride. Our stream was Home Science which included various interesting subjects like child development, nutrition and dietetics, home management, family relationships, textiles and clothing and so on. As part of the curriculum there were several theoretical as well as practical aspects that we had to fulfill. Textiles and clothing saw us all busy trying to learn embroidery stitches, stitching frocks, blouses and so on, struggling to get things right and in accordance to the specifications that our teachers had set when we hardly knew how to thread a needle!

The nursery children who were taught by us as part of pre-school education would ask us smart questions, as if on cue, while we were being evaluated by our teachers, leaving us fumbling for the right answers. :-(

Then it was that time of the year where as part of our role to manage the cafeteria, all of us would plan out mouth watering menus, try and work out the proportions and quantity of ingredients that we required, shop and prepare, and then sell it in the campus. This was generally a big hit with the rest of the college as one can understand the enormous appetite that teens have. The quantity of food that we struggled to make from previous day would just disappear within minutes of us opening our food counters!

In our final year we had cottage stay where seven or eight of us would have to live together for a week along with one of our lecturers, in a cottage within our college campus. The idea was to give us an experience of running a home within a budget and getting our group dynamics right. Starting with choosing a name for our home, matching the decor and the interior accordingly to planning the menu, cooking, cleaning and attending classes - all at the same time. God help the lecturer who had to put up with our amateur cooking!

At the end of the stay we had to invite our parents for a party to show them how good party hostesses we were along with our cooking prowess. Elaborate party menu was planned and cooking would start from previous day. Finishing touches would still go on till the last minute as there would generally be utter chaos added with kitchen disasters. The scene would be straight out of the television programme "Hell's Kitchen". All these however added to a very exciting and unforgettable experience for each one of us. No wonder then, with these kind of whirlwind activities we did not realise how five years zoomed past. Because of all these experiences where as a whole class we were all involved in each and every activity brought us all closer than we realised.

And now after twenty five years I looked around at all the beautiful ladies picking up threads from where we had left twenty five years ago, as though we had never been apart, talking about each of our families, our dreams and our experiences with life till the wee hours of morning. Yes, we all had our ups and downs, but there was an inner strength in each one of us to surmount these and move ahead in life with a cheerful smile. And that is what Home Science as a course had taught us - to value human relationships. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bidding adieu to school years..

31st January will be etched in my memory for the simple reason that it was my son's Graduation Day. Yes! he completed sixteen long years of his school life - Playgroup to twelfth grade.

I remember his very first day of school. There was my baby, all set in his new uniform with a cute school bag and a snack box setting off to school on the first day with his dad and grandfather (I missed it as I had just had my second baby). We had photo sessions before he set out. I felt happy as he did not create any fuss and within a week he had settled down well in school and was enjoying. The journey had just begun.

Fancy dress events saw him being M.F. Hussain painting away to glory (later the teachers told us for a two and a half year old child, he really had a great sense of art), or competing as a chef on sports day activity, or reciting rhymes dressed as a fisher boy - these are but a few images that flashed through my mind.

Initially it was the carefree days which saw him participating not only in several sporting events like learning the intricacies of table tennis, cricket, football; but also pursuing art work, chess, calligraphy or drama classes along with his studies.

Attending all the parent teacher meets, cheering him on during his sports events, appreciating his art work put up during the school exhibitions, or cheering him loudly while he performed on the stage - we have been there at each and every event of his.

Finally it was the culmination of this wonderful journey on 31st January. It was a very nostalgic moment for all of us parents to see our children, walking up slowly in their gowns towards the dais. The feeling was indescribable. The inspiring speech made by the Director of the school, the motivational talk by the chief guest, and of course parents perspective given by me - all added to the poignant moment.

With dusk setting in, it was an ethereal scene when all the students with candle in their hands sang the school hymn proudly. As the final strains of the music died there was a hush everywhere as each one of us were coming to terms of our children growing up into fine young adults.

As the evening progressed there was joy and much chatter over a sumptuous dinner organized by the school. While parents and teachers were going over nostalgically over several events which they recalled, humorous anecdotes were narrated;  the children (and of course the parents) were busy capturing that one moment with their friends on cameras.

Finally it was that time - bidding adieu. I thought all these friends who have been together through thick and thin will now go their different ways. These friends whom I had seen growing up right in front of me, who used to come home either to complete projects or on night outs or on birthdays. There were many, many memories flooding through my mind. So it was with promises to keep in touch and an adventurous future beckoning them that we bid adieu.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Escape to freedom - a real life adventure

Age need not be the criteria for one to have an experience of a life time. Sometimes one undergoes such experiences at a very young age. This was the saga of one such person whom I got to know. This girl who is now in her early twenties had this to tell me.

She hails from a village where once upon a time her grandparents owned farm lands. As is the case many a time with the farmers where they depend on the vagaries of nature and on the money lenders over a period of time they could not sustain to retain their land and slowly lost all their land. They were reduced to a poverty stricken life.

This girls parents had four girls and one boy. The father being a drunkard, used to eke a living working on others lands. Once a person came to their village and told the villagers that he had come to recruit people to work in a far off place promising good pay. So about ten families opted to go to that land of hope. Now this girl was at that time about 6 years old and hence they left her older sisters and her brother at their grandparents place and took their little one along with them.

Within a few days these people became aware that the promised land of hope had reduced them to being bonded laborers! Everyday they were herded into a van and taken to a quarry where they were made to work for long hours. Food was provided. After work they were taken back in the van to the tents where they were put up. The catch was they were not allowed to go outside the perimeter and they were paid meager wages.This was the way they ensured that these people would not run away! They were actually like prisoners of war. The children were also not spared and they were made to work along with their parents. As this place was in a remote area with no habitat around, these people did not even know the name of the place.

The next part reads like an adventure. After a few months these people decided to escape form there. Since they were living in isolation and several miles away from civilization they did not have any means of contacting the outside world. They decided on a plan. Every night two members from the group would venture out to chalk a route to get to the nearby village. They had to do this very cautiously as they had to be back to work the next day morning. Day after day they would go further and further and finally one day they were able to locate a villager who gave them directions to the closest village. On the day they decided to escape, they set out clandestinely and luckily made it to the closest village by early morning and as soon as they saw a bus boarded it.

Since they had very little money, they were not able to go to their village. In order to earn and save enough money to go back they had to work.They landed a job at a coffee estate. This again turned out to be a nightmarish experience for them. All of them had to stay cramped in one room. This little girl also helped her parents with their work. One day there was trouble at the estate. The workers went on a strike demanding better pay and better working conditions. The situation got out of control and some of them got hurt and bruised. Finally this girl's family decided that they had to go back to their village. Atleast they had freedom there. And that is where they are now. The three elder sisters of this girl are married and this girl with her sister and her brother is now working here.

As she finished, I was awestruck by the fact that at such a young age this girl had undergone such extreme experiences which normally we only read about. But here she was right in front of me. I salute this girl and many like her who with sheer grit and determination have come so far in life despite all the odds that life has doled out to them. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

My little superheroes

The moment my children get to know the dates of the release of movies of their super-heroes, we are into constant reminding mode to book tickets for the movie (not that we need to be goaded, as we still enjoy our childhood super-heroes) and that is how this Sunday we landed at the theater to watch "Man of Steel". We thoroughly enjoyed the action, the emotional drama and the histrionics woven into the movie so superbly.

The usual story of Good triumphing over the Evil is something which has been written about since time immemorial. However in this case, the Heroes are coming from an alien planet flying to dizzying heights like Superman, or are born out of a scientific experiment gone haywire to make an ordinary mortal like Peter Parker weave a web of spell around us by becoming the Spiderman, or get dressed in a highly sophisticated experimental suit with which Batman protects Gotham City. One has to just go to the theaters to experience this journey, as irrespective of  age or country that one belongs to, one can find people thronging to embark on a journey of super adventure with their favorite superheroes.

When I was a kid, I never got a chance to read any of these comic books. So sometime in the seventies when the first Superman comic was made into a movie and released, I became a fan of Superman. The love for the super-heroes grew once we started seeing them on Television, Sunday after Sunday. And, I still hum the jingle of Spiderman.

When my children were around three and five we took them to the theater to watch their first ever Superhero movie 'Spiderman'. After watching the movie, there was no respite for any of us, as we were pounced upon from their 'imaginary high-rise buildings' like tables, chairs, and beds and were trapped in their web as they went about saving the world from the bad guys. All my tablecloths disappeared only to be found swooshing and trailing from behind their backs a la Superman and Batman. The day they were gifted with Superman and Spiderman outfits their joy knew no bounds. It became their second skin until they outgrew it. The outfits have now been given to my nephew who now almost eats and sleeps in it!

Even today the saga continues. Every now and then my younger son sighs and tells me "how I wish I could fly like Superman or spin a web like Spiderman, Mama". One of his dream is to create an Ironman suit. Amen to that. I guess we will never ever outgrow these Superheroes, as each one of us has this dream of soaring into a world beyond our imagination.