Tilak Rishi's weblog

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"A Pain In The Neck"!

“... and I often wonder where that expression 'a pain in the neck' originated from ...”
- Amitabh Bachchan (Blog DAY 2022)

I too wonder, though I used the expression, perhaps for the first time, in 1996 in one of my 'Letters to the Editor', published in San Francisco Chronical, the largest circulated daily of Northern California. We had just ended our long jetlag after moving to USA to be with our son settled as software engineer in Silicon Valley, the Mecca of computer industry. The first thing our son did was to make his mother feel that he badly needed her here to be of help to him in multiple tasks which only a Mom could do. He brought all his shirts with the request to remove all the tags stitched inside the neckline as he found them very annoying constantly rubbing against his neck. While his Mom immediately started unstitching the tags, I did what I love to do and had been doing back home in India for a long time – wrote my first 'Letter to the Editor' after landing in USA:
Calling All Clothiers
Could you kindly tell all clothiers not to stitch on that nasty tag inside the neckline, It really is a pain on the neck.
Tilak Rishi
  • San Francisco Chronical - Feb 18, 1996
I don't know if my letter caught the attention of any clothier, but I know for sure the editor liked the idea as he prominently published the letter in a box, attracting endorsement from many of its readers in their follow up letters.
As for the origin of the expression, even Google was of not great help, except for vague information:
'A pain in the neck' is a more polite version of the original 'pain in the ass' which originated around 1900. It started out as just 'a pain' as “He gives me a pain”, first used about 1300 from Old French 'peine', from Latin – condition one feels when hurt.”
I wonder how much this information works to quench the curiosity about the origin of the phrase, but the search itself was interesting as I came to know fascinating facte about some other popular phrases:
Caught Red Handed”: a person who is caught red-handed is discovered in the middle of committing a crime or doing something wrong. It is usually related to stealing. This idiom originated in the 14th century when the act of killing another man's animal and selling the meat was a common crime. If a person was caught with the blood of a freshly killed animal on his hands this was considered proof of his guilt.

Raining Cats and Dogs”: It means it's raining heavily. The phrase originated in 17th century England. Very heavy rain would occasionally wash dead animals through the street. The animals didn't fall from the sky of course, but the sight of dead cats and dogs being washed down the street with the rain caused people to joke it must have been raining cats and dogs.

Under the weather”: If you are 'under the weather' it means you are sick or unwell. This idiom originated in the British Navy. When a sailor became sick, he was kept under the deck or 'under the weather' so he could get well.

Money doesn't grow on trees”: The expression means that money does not come easily or without effort; you should be careful how much money you spend because there is only a limited amount. It seems to have come from a Japanese proverb that states, contrary to the above idiom, 'money grows on the tree of persistence'. In other words, if you keep trying and never give up, money will come to you.

We may hit a treasure of stories on the origin of so many phrases if we start digging as there is no dearth of information on the subject on Google and other search engines, but I doubt if it is worth the trouble till we wonder about the origin of another phrase. Then, of course, it will be a pleasure to put in all the effort to extract information on a particular phrase as I did for “A pain in the neck”.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy With High-tech Lifestyle?

The romance and the effervescence, the aroma, of the delicate art of letter writing, now encapsulated on a 'hard disc'. And the most beautiful part of the exercise – the wait – that look of anticipation at your door for the postman. To study from the expression whether he has something for you. The dejection when he does not and the elation when he does.” (DAY 338, March 27, 2009).
... I have never found an apple store, not crowded... our future lives are going to be a scream … that is conclusive, and the desired material required for this to be accomplished is going to come from such stores that tempt us with an half bitten apple … cool!” (Day 1979, Sept 15, 2013)

Here is a delayed response to Big B's above thoughts, which define our lives today and will always remain relevant. My first reaction on reading them was to instantly take a trip to the nostalgic pleasures of writing letters and receiving letters from our loved ones, handed over personally by the postman with a huge smile. The memories of those exciting moments are still fresh when we sent our 17-year son to USA for studies and would wait for his long hand written letters narrating his first encounters with the western culture, far away from home. Postman then used to be part of your private world and riding on his cycle he would wave to us from some distance with a broad smile, giving a hint that he has a letter from our son for delivery.

Not all tools given by modern technology, however magnificent they may be, can replace conventional methods which in many cases are more reliable, colorful and effective. This was amply, though inadvertently, proved at the world's high-tech capital, the Silicon Valley in California, USA. A college there, preparing to reopen after long summer vacations, continues to employ a contractor every year who brings his herd of goats to graze on the wild growth of shrubs, for days till the grounds are cleared of the wild growth. In the same high-tech Silicon Valley, a sewage-line plumber relies on the smelling power of his pigs to locate the leaking spot in the underground sewage line. Donna Karen, the world renowned fashion designer, has her home-gym in New York equipped with the latest high-tech fitness accessories, but the exercise she enjoys doing is to send her car and driver to office with her bags, while she walks to work. Indeed, there are innumerable examples where men and women have access to numerous high-tech gadgets, but they are happier doing things the traditional way. Can a pullover produced on the most modern knitting machine match the warmth and beauty of a hand made sweater, knitted with love and care by a loved one? Fax may be the fastest way to send your communication, but it is certainly not meant for men who make reading and writing a romance of life. Hands and human endeavor cannot be obliterated by computers, microwave ovens and the rest. Let us put gadgets properly in their place before we become all too willing slaves to them.

Wires, cables, gleaming metal and blinking lights – these are the tapings of the modern office. As much as I love my brushed steel Imac, however, the cold lights and white cords can feel cold and sterile. Without doubt many gadgets are great, even if they make life stressful. Cell phone is almost a necessity now, but then it makes you available 24x7, no matter what. Handheld devices give you access to email anywhere – why? Email is a communication device and can wait. Same for internet access on handhelds. A young scientist in India has now come up with a device that puts on your palm all that you had on handsets. Don't be surprised if very soon you see people reading their palm on the roads. There was a time when I felt very concerned for the man on the road who was talking aloud to himself. Poor man, I thought, must be under too much stress or worse still, a victim of nervous breakdown. No more concern or compassion for the man now. Not that I have become callous or insensitive, but because I know for certain that the man is not sick, he is only using his cellphone, discreetly designed to be invisible to others. And he has company, most others on the road doing the same thing, talking to themselves while walking or driving. To them it is the best way to shorten the distance to their destination, even if it may shorten the life of others on the road. A survey conducted in California (USA) concluded that cellphone users made a major contribution to road accidents and a bill was passed to ban the use of cellphones while on the wheel. Still, we need to be careful from those who delightfully defy such laws out of arrogance. Ironically, most of the time we all talk to ourselves when talking on 'phone. It is because of the prevailing trend not to pick up the phone, but to let the caller keep talking to the answering machine or record his voice in the voice-mail. Incidentally, answering machine is actually a 'no answer machine'. It loses its voice after the beep. You may keep talking into the machine but without expecting it to answer your queries. The right to answer rests with the owner of the machine, who may respond to your call at his will, or may not call back at all, depending on your identity as a caller. Unlike simpleton servants of the old times, who would pick up the receiver and respond, “Sahib kehte hein weh ghar par nahin (Master says he is not at home)”, the modern day answering machine is too smart to give a hint that the called one is very much there and listening to the caller's message on the machine. Gadgets like this motivate the modern man to play games with another man, rather than have the joy of reaching out to him with a warm response. But then this is how the world works today. Those others like me are likely to be left behind, who pause to ponder if the modern machines are a bane or boon.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bollywood Beyond Its Shores!

The Indian film world reaches beyond the shores of its own now in many aspects...”
  • Amitabh Bachchan blog (DAY 2017)
Very true.. And it's none other than Big B himself and “the lovely ebullient and fun filled best in the line” Kajol - looks as stunning standing with Big B on the sets of KBC in the picture in his today's post (Day 2020) as in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham - who played a major part in pushing 'Indian film world beyond the shores of its own.' Karan Johar's K3G was the first big hit overseas that did roaring business in U.S.A., U.K., Australia and the United Arab Emirates. My son's friend and colleague from their Sun Microsystems office in Germany met us when the film was running worldwide and said that K3G, also named “Sometime Happy Sometime Sad”, dubbed in Germany, had become a rage in his country and was doing better business than Hollywood movies runnig against it. Then followed yet another from KJO, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna – Never Say Goodbye - on the subject of infidelity that was declared the biggest Indian hit overseas. There was no looking back thereafter and the box-office figures of Indian films in the foreign market establish the fact that Bollywood films have finally carved a niche for themselves internationally, especially in the U.S. where they do more business than films from any other country. Besides, many big Hollywood studios want a share of the action in Bollywood’s busting film industry.

Besides Indian movies especially being made with an eye on the overseas market, the biggest contribution that is currently being made to push the envelop is what is popularly known as Bolly-dance. Mention Bollywood, today the first thing that comes to mind is the Bolly-dance. It is this phenomenon that makes Bollywood and cinema in India so very unique. 99% of the films Bollywood turns out are musicals full of incredibly imaginative, loud, vibrant and exciting scenes of song and dance. Bollywood dance scene is a piece of art, and it is the costume designer who adds to the art it's color. As the slow and steady progress of western culture imposes itself onto the East it is nice to see that somethings are being returned. Bolly-dance is starting to subtly but undoubtedly influence Western dance, specifically Hip-Hop and Pop. It cannot be over emphasized how special Bolly-dance really is to India's, and even world's culture. A small but significant example is when America's NBC show Smash goes Bollywood. NBC's musical drama pays homage to Indian movies with an elaborate performance. It's a dream sequence, set to the original song ''A Thousand and One Nights'' written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and is ­triggered by the strained relationship between Karen (Katharine McPhee, pictured) and Dev (Raza Jaffrey). ''They have dinner in an Indian restaurant and there are Bollywood numbers playing in the videos on the wall,'' says Smash creator Theresa Rebeck. The increasing popularity of Bolly-dance culture is not confined to USA alone, but spreading all over the world, from the West to the East. The other day we were watching our favorite Korean drama “Baby-faced Beauty” (episode 8) and the scene was the company anniversary party where amongst many other items of entertainment was the lead player's dance. And what a shock it was for her peers in the party, but still bigger for us, when she started dancing Bolly-dance on a hit Daler Mehndi song playing in the background.

Getting fit through Bolly-dance is a new trend amongst the youth in the West, especially America, which is becoming a craze. Bolly-dancing has become an exotic and exciting way of getting your body fit and healthy. It offers a fun and exercise workout, incorporating classical, folk (bhangra) and funk styles of dancing on popular hit songs from Hindi movies. It is an expressive form of movement based around the popular Indian film genre. It offers a fast moving and vivacious dancing workout that is great for enjoyable group exercise. Bolly-dance workout fitness centers are increasing by the day all over USA and giving a tough competition to the traditional fitness centers equipped with treadmill and other workout equipment. The other day, we were surprised watching Dr. OZ show on TV. This is today the most popular health related show in the U.S.. Dr. OZ not only recommended Bolly-dance as the best fusion dance form for fitness but also demonstrated live with some indian ladies on the stage and asked the audience to dance with them. London based fitness star and 'yogini' Hemalaya leads sexy, sassy fun workouts that she declares to be the best to burn fat and tone your whole body. As more and more expert advice on fitness favors Bolly-dance as the best form of exercise, this regimen has become a rage with the health conscious youth in the West at Bolly-dance workout centers as well as home – here is a link to one such example:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Not A Land Of Snake Charmers!

Prime Focus which started with four young entrepreneurs has now become an institute of perfection in post production and digital work for all the largest entertainment industries in the world. Most of the Hollywood special effects are done at Prime Focus in Mumbai – 'Clash of the Titans', 'Gatesby' and the recent sensational hit film 'Gravity' to name a few...”
- Amitabh Bachchan (Blog DAY 2018)

Prime Focus, and several such high-tech companies in India are today the prime focus of out sourcing by the biggest companies of the West, especially the U.S., and it makes us so proud of the fact. What a sea change from the time, not long ago, hardly any Western executives would dare explore India for IT outsourcing- what, isn't it just a land of snake charmers and fables where corporate westerner would feel lost in the culture, people, bureaucracy, red tape and get scared off by food poisoning and lack of infrastructure. And the US embassy was very reluctant to issue visa to Indian students for studies in computers - "There is no automation in India, why would you want to spend so much money on computer courses in U.S.A.?" - was the stock question of the Councilor interviewing the ambitious students striving to pursue computer courses in USA. That was in the Eighties when our son also faced the same question, but some how got through the grilling interview and was able to go to the US for higher studies in computers.

Now after two decades, Fortune 500 headhunters are always on the lookout for Indian computer engineers-the hottest commodities. American universities love the kids from India, and so do the American companies. Thousands of Indian engineers have come to the U.S. in recent years to work in computer and software companies. "Microsoft, Intel, Sun Microsystems-you name it, I can't imagine a major area where Indian software engineers haven't played a leading role. How many jobs have Indian entrepreneurs created over the last 15-20 years, hundreds of thousands, I would guess,"says Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and one of Silicon Valley's most important venture capitalists.

From India's perspective, the best part of the presence of Indian engineers in the U.S. is that each one of them is very sincere in saying the same thing-"I may be in the U.S., but my heart is in India." They have contributed to India's economic progress by the regular remittances of foreign exchange back home. The time has come, most of them are ready to return home to participate in India's ongoing leap forward in the Information Technology. The biggest brain-drain of the last two decades has become the biggest brain-gain for India in the last two years. They were the Indian- born, successfully integrated IT professionals in the West, that paved the way to and for India- built the first partnership with Indian outsourcing firms, helped open the Bangalore offices for their US IT firms. They were the perfect and trustworthy bridge for US companies to send back to India to set up shop there. Check out the bio-data for all the Indian heads for IBM, Microsoft, Sun, HP, Intel,..., all studied in US, worked for parent companies in US, then helped open up their offices in India. Of course, great brains existed within India itself from IITs and elsewhere that started Wipro, Tata, Satyam and the likes. This Indian success was the result of the perfect marriage of those engineers in India and the Indian-born engineers settled in the West, together influencing and convincing the West to take the first chance, the first step offshore in India.

Much credit for this brain-gain for the country goes to India's most modern and computer savvy Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi, who initiated automation in India. If Jawaharlal Nehru was the father of scientific advancement of India, his grand son Rajiv could be called the father of computer savvy India. His prime thought as Prime Minister was how to make India one of the most advanced countries in computers in the 21st century, and always encouraged Indian universities to give greatest importance to imparting computer courses and to bringing back Indian students who complete their studies of the subject abroad. This anecdote from my son's student days at the University of San Francisco is just one example of what Rajiv Gandhi thought was best for the country: Alok was in his third year at the USF, when to his greatest surprise, his room-mate in the hostel gave him a message from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi-- "India is all set to start computerization in a big way, and awaits your coming back after completing your courses in computers." The room-mate was son of Morocco's Prime Minister, who on official visit to India had mentioned to his counterpart that his son was doing computers in the US and his room-mate was from India. Rajiv Gandhi requested him to convey the message to the student from India through his son.

So, the companies like Prime Focus and computer giants in India have convincingly proved to the world that ours is the land of the high-tech brains and top software engineers, and no longer the land of snake charmers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Memorable UN Moments!

October 24 is the United Nations Day. On this day in 1945 the United Nations came into force when the five permanent members of the Security Council ratified the Charter of the United Nations. The United Nations was born of perceived necessity, as a means of better arbitrating international conflict and negotiating peace to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,...to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,...to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

History is rich with memorable orations delivered by the world's leaders as nations convene to discuss the critical issues of the day. From the impassioned to the provocative to the truly bizarre here are some of the most unforgettable remarks to come out of the UN General Assembly speeches in the last sixty years. To me the most unforgettable event at the UN remains the epic filibuster during a debate on Kashmir. Indian U.N. envoy Krishna Menon holds the record for the longest speech in the history of the U.N. Security Council. Noted for his eloquence, brilliance, and forceful, highly abrasive persona, V.K Krishna Menon started delivering a marathon 7 hour 48 minute speech in UN Security Council on Kashmir issue as a reponse to Pakistan Foreign Minsiter's speech a week earlier. In total it lasted over eight hours. Menon actually collapsed from exhaustion partway through and had to be hospitalized. He returned later and continued for another hour while a doctor monitored his blood pressure. This quote from the speech, delivered on January 23, 1957, is still relevant and remains the key to defending India's position and solving the Kashmir issue by the UN:
“Why is that we have never heard voice in connection with the freedom of people under the suppression and tyranny of Pakistan athorities on the other side of the cease-fire line. Why is it that we have not heard here that in ten years these people have not seen a ballot paper? With what voice can either the Security Council or anyone coming before it demand a plebiscite for a people on our side who exercise franchise, who have freedom of speech, who function under a hundred local bodies?”

He is not quite in Menon's league, but Cuban President Fidel Castro's debut speech at the U.N. Locked in at four and a half hours. A famous quote from his speech:
“Were Kennedy not a millionaire, illiterate and ignorant, then he would obviously understand that you cannot revolt against the peasants”

“Mr. President, call that toady of American imperialism to order”.
Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev provided one of the cold war's most iconic moments when, in an attempt to silence a Filipino delegate who was railing against Soviet imperialism, he issued the above epithet, removed his shoe, and began banging it on the table. The gesture has become a classic example of overheated rhetoric, but it shouldn't have been all that surprising coming from the man who coined the phrase, "we will bury you."
The Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman was invited to address the General Assembly for the first time at the request of the non-aligned movement, a coalition of developing countries that has been historically critical of Israel in the U.N., Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat took the stage wearing fatigues and delivered a blistering attack on Zionism. One year later, the notorious "Zionism equals racism" was passed and Israel's relations with the U.N. have been, at best, uneasy ever since. Here is the famous quote from his speech:
"An old world order is crumbling before our eyes, as imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, and racism, whose chief form is Zionism, ineluctably perish."

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega used the platform of the U.N. to assail U.S policy in Central America, particularly the financing of the Contra rebels and supporting the Somoza dictatorship, which Ortega said "bled the Nicaraguan people dry." The angry speech prompted a walkout from the U.S. delegation. "The people of Nicaragua may have to sit and listen to him, but I don't," said then U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters. A quote from the angry speech:
"Before consulting the hotheads who present various military options such as a military invasion: remember, President Reagan, Rambo only exists in the movies.''

Venezuela's theatrical president, Hugo Chavez, has always loved the spotlight that the General Assembly provides and it was never more in evidence than when, with a flourish, he compared U.S. president, George W. Bush, to Satan. Chavez also began his regular habit of using his speeches to plug books by prominent leftists authors, when he held up a book by U.S. professor Noam Chomsky. A quote from the speech:
"The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has regularly used the UN as a platform to rail against Western powers, particularly his arch-enemy Israel. In his 2008 speech he accused "the Zionist entity" of an array of crimes including causing the South Ossetia war. Another notable feature of Ahmadinejad's speech is the heavy use of religious rhetoric and his use of Shiite religious teachings. A quote from the speech:
"The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."

After 40 years in power, Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qaddafi spoke to the United Nations for the first time at this year's general assembly and certainly made up for the lost time. In his 100 minute speech most of Qaddafi's wrath was reserved for the U.N. Security Council:
It should not be called security council, but it should be called terror council”.

Most recently, it is Malala Yousafzai's speech at the UN that received standing ovation. Here is the most meaningful excerpt from the speech:
So here I stand...    one girl among many.
I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.
Their right to be educated.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy Karwa Chauth!

Happy Karva Chauth to all our dear female friends who observe the fast. May God bless you for fasting whole day for the health and long life of your partners, and grant you all your wishes!

Karva Chauth is one of the biggest traditional Hindu festivals celebrated mostly in Northern India by married women. Thanks to the influence of Bollywood films, the festival is now expanded to include the unmarried also for their lovers and the celebration is no longer restricted to women in Northern states but beyond their borders to wherever there are Bollywood fans. The ritual has also remarkably changed – from being strictly religious with fasting ladies collectively listening to Karva Chauth Katha in the evening and ending the fast on sighting the moon, offering food and prayer to the moon – to very near to a version of Valentine's Day for the hitched, for its full of romantic gestures like going dinner dates, gifting exquisite presents and even getting love tattoos. From being an occasion for married women to pray for their husbands' long lives to becoming a hugely popular trend that married and now unmarried women follow across the country, Bollywood has added in abundance to the beauty and glamor of the day. And taken it from being just a day of suffering for women to a day that truly marks the growing love and bond between partners - a special day for women to dress up, shop, celebrate and enjoy.
Bollywood practices this festival and ardently goes full 360 degree with showcasing it on the silver screen. Be it in films or real life, stars have celebrated this festival in full grandeur. Right from Kajol, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, Sushmita Sen, Amrita Rao to Kareena Kapoor have kept the day long fast to pray for the long life of their on-screen or real life husbands and boy friends. Their bright and colorful dresses accessorized with heavy jewlery and make-up have added to the festivities of Karva Chauth. While the fast is ideally kept by women, men sometimes make it special when they shower their better-halves with gifts and even fast all day as well.
Though we have seen Karva Chauth scenes in a few recent movies, one of the earliest films to have a Karva Chauth sequence was 'Maang Bharo Sajna'. Released in the 1980's, this movie starred jeetendra, Rekha and Maushmi Chatterjee. 'Biwi Ho To Aisi' is another movie that featured the festival in one of its scenes. However, the first film that showed a larger than life 'Karva Chauth' ceremony was Suraj Barjaty'a 'Hum Aapke Hain Kaun'. Suraj Barjatya, known to make family dramas, showcased Karva Chauth ostentatiously with the participation of the entire family. And that is what made it special – the entire family participating in the popular song 'Maye Ne Maye'.
Yash Raj Films' 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' (DDLJ) Karva Chauth probably marked the turning point of 'Karva Chauth' celebrations. The beautiful film made such an impact that people from all over India began to celebrate the festival. 'Karva Chauth' became the ultimate fast and the ultimate symbol of true love. And they even have the lovely traditional song 'Ghar Aaja Pardesi' when all the women come together with diyas and there is beautiful reflection of the moon in the water scene shot so beautifully. The movie made girls all over the country just totally fall in love with the idea of fasting for love.
Films like DDLJ and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam have also started the trend of lovers fasting for each other even when not married. Aishwarya Rai imagined Salamn Khan in the song 'Chand Chupa Aanchal Mein...' and not her reel-husband Ajay Devgan, while Kajol created an incident in which it wasSSRK who fed her the first sip of water while breaking the fast and not her going-to-be-husband.
The 'Karva Chauth' trend was carried forward by films like 'Judaai', 'Biwi No.1', 'Raja Hindustani', 'Humare Dil Aapke Paas Hai' , Karan Johar's 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham', the Amitabh-Hema Malini-starrer 'Baaghban'. Karan Johar movies are real good when it comes to celebrations. And the Karva Chauth scene in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham with Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor just made Karva Chauth the most fashionable thing to do. And yet again, Kajol and SRK rocked the Karva Chauth song with their lovable chemistry – 'Bole Churian”. Baghban had two Karva Chauth scenes. The second scene where Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini are not together is the highlight of the film.
The festival in films bring color and is a good way to show family unity, or the bond between a husband and wife. Sometimes it also helps bring to the fore the way the character feels for the loved one. It is more symbolic than anything else. It also helps in taking the story forward. Such social occasions in movies also lend to commercial viability of a project. One has the liberty to add a nice song and dance sequence, and do something nice with it.
Once again – Happy Karva Chath!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Big B "102 And Not Out"!

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has turned a year older but he is certainly not 102-year-old man. Well we are talking about his next film 102 Not Out in which we hear actor will be seen playing the role of a 102-year-old man. The film will be directed by Umesh Shukla and produced by Bhushan Kumar. Reportedly the movie will also star versatile actor Paresh Rawal too. 102 Not Out is about a man who wants to break the world record of the oldest man alive and to achieve his aim he needs to live another 17 years.”
  • Media report

We are totally looking forward to this cinematic experience. It means Big B will be striving to be a supercentenarian in the film – a person who has lived to the age of 110 or more, something only achieved by about one in 1000 centenarians. Even rarer is a person who has lived to age 115 – as of July 2013 there are only 30 people in recorded history who have indisputably reached this age, of whom only Misao Okawa is still currently living. The subject of the movie is such that it must be requiring much research on persons who have reached the 100-year of age or close to crossing it. May I contribute my bit to this research by relating my personal experience of being close to at least two such persons – my own elder brother and my next door neighbor - both in their nineties, about to cross their 100-year milestone:
First, our neighbor and a good friend, as only yesterday we wished her 'Happy Birthday” when she graciously invited us to a family reunion of three next generations – daughter, grand daughter and great grand daughter – gathered to celebrate her healthy normal life about to enter the league of centenarians. She lives alone in her 3-bedroom beautiful single home, her husband having passed away about five years ago. She does all her house work, including cooking, cleaning and gardening, herself with weekly par-time help from a paid cleaning woman and a gardner. She drives to downtown daily to buy vegetables and grocery and for any other needs. Most of her spare time she spends reading newspaper and novels, and also likes to visit us and enjoy interesting conversation, especially comparing culture and customs in her country and ours, over a cup of tea. Interestingly, one day she wanted my wife's advice on a very personal matter, which clearly showed the cultures of our two countries are as far apart as their lands are located on the world map. She said her son, 65 years old and living in Hawaii, wants to move here to live with her so that he may help her in day- to- day needs. My wife's instant reply was not to think twice to have him live with her and look after in her advancing age. A couple of days later she came to inform us that she has said “No” to her son as some of her friends have advised that his staying with her would interfere with the independent life she is leading and would be an unnecessary burden on her time and money. Anyway, that is her life, but what is important is how she is able to have absolutely normal and healthy life at her near 100 years of age. Her categorical answer is that she never followed her chronological age and always felt at least 20 yours younger - “I don't think old and I don't feel old, the trick is not to act your age”, she says. She also credits her longevity to her positive attitude which has been critical throughout her life. On her diet, she says she is scared of 'super-sized portions' which are the trend today and prefers eating nutritious food in moderation. But the biggest factor she attributes to her body being healthy at her age is, as she puts it: “Move it or lose it – you have got to exercise your mind as well as your body”. She never misses the daily Yoga class and the periodical Line-dancing practice at the Senior Center in our neighborhood, where actually she met us for the first time and became our friend. We were much impressed by her active life style in spite of her age approaching 100 years, and is an example for us in our advancing years.

My brother, settled in London, flies to India every other year to celebrate his birthday with our nephews and nieces and their families in Mumbai, most recently his 95th birthday. God willing, he plans to celebrate his placement amongst the centenarians too in India. That's the spirit that sustains him in his nineties and, hopefully, will do so after he crosses his 100th year. The cold London climate and its highly healthy food which he has been enjoying for over half a century since leaving Srinagar (Kashmir), may also have helped him to be fit and fine at his age. It was an interesting example of destiny playing a definite role in deciding where he would spend his life after escaping the wrath of invading tribals backed by Pakistan army who had almost entered Srinagar. He was then a bank manager and we had joined him from Lahore to have safe haven in Srinagar. We all were part of a panic evacuation by the Indian army in their planes and arrived in New Delhi. On his reporting to his head office about his leaving Srinagar under the unfortunate situation, his superiors took it as a serious lapse of duty his leaving the post after locking the branch, and decided to dismiss him. Fortunately for him, my father had just received a very sympathetic letter from his boss at the Oxford University Press, on his plight in the aftermath of Partition and offered to render any help he needed. My father immediately responded requesting him to provide a job to my brother explaining his dismissal under dire circumstances and what a luck, he got a job with OUP with all expenses of travel to UK paid. After serving Oxford University all his life since 1947, he is now living a relaxed life in retirement with his daughter on his side. His wife, who served Indian High Commission in London, had died of cancer many years ago. My brother's secret of living a healthy long life is simple formula which he firmly put to use all his life: “Don't worry. be happy”. Even the most tragic incident in life doesn't stop him to move on and somehow find happiness in new happenings. Always trying to be happy, he runs away from controversies and conflicting conversations and watches only feel good films. Worry is no word in his vocabulary and he is not at all worried if people call it his callous attitude. “Let them worry how I lead my life, I'm not worried. I'm happy as I'm and will try to remain so as long as I live”, he says.

Wishing Big B a long life of a super centenarian, not only in reel life in “102 Not Out”, but also in real life as the most beloved head of Bachchan family as well as the Extended Family he has created on his blog and loves so much.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thoughts Dedicated To Her Birthday!

October 18 is my wife Inderjeet's birthday. Tempted to post some personal thoughts  dedicated to the day:
The lives you live as wives, moms and homemakers, while going out to work - where can you, as women, get the greatest fulfillment? Ask my wife, and she will at-once answer, nowhere else than in a warm loving home in a joint family? She was lucky to have been married at a time when joint family was not history, but still struggling to survive the onslaught of the fast moving metro life, which disrupted families. She was doubly fortunate to have her mother-in-law as her best friend. Parents' presence in the house was not only a blessing, but also a big support to us, the working couple. It indeed helped us through many of the tougher times with child raising and childcare needs. Unlike many parents who may suffer through finding babysitters and childcare providers for their small children, we never had any such problem. Our parents were only too willing to watch our little one. In short, my wife had it all – nice fulfilling job, great kid, a comfortable home and much of the credit for it goes to her compatibility with in-laws who lived with her under the same roof. So, any career woman, when ready to marry, would be very lucky if she can join a loving joint family after marriage.

All good things must come to an end. Our only child was hardly four years when for the first time my wife faced the hard realities of coping with the responsibilities of a mother and a career woman, without the help of my parents, who had moved to another city to be with my elder brother. She soon realized that motherhood was not all a bed of roses, especially if you happen to be a career woman. She now had to strive to make it successful, which she succeeded doing wonderfully well. First thing she did was to thank God for having teaching as her career, which was then not as paying as the career in a company. But now as a mother she found it paid off exceedingly well by giving her ample time to raise our child. Incidentally, she saw the sense in so many matrimonial classifieds then, clamoring for brides from teaching profession. Her working hours were best suited to devote the rest of the day after school to bring up our boy and fulfill his needs. Then there were so many vacations – autumn, winter and the long summer – coinciding with our son's school holidays, she never was short of time for our child, although a working woman. So, lucky is the working woman who has a job that complements, not clash, with her home life. There is nothing worse than having a lousy job that leaves you drained at the end of the day and ill-prepared to face your family when you get home.

People are amazed that my wife can be a good mother, a good wife and a good principal at the same time. Indeed, it is not easy for a woman to work as well as manage her family, and this is where support from husband highly matters. I was pretty sure that working women cannot be good mothers, unless they are blessed with a family willing to do their part in insuring her success at home and work. And although the family may feel happy having Mom handle all the cooking, washing, and cleaning, it is an unrealistic expectation when her paycheck is required to keep the bills paid. Just as a working man depends on his wife to allow him time to work and be with his children, so should he return the favor. Household chores should be shared equally by the husband and wife if they both work full time away from home. The choice is clear - we can spend our time whining about the impossibility of the situation or we can work together to make it workable situation for all. With my absolute belief that we as parents would greatly benefit from joining together and sharing the trials and tribulations of parenthood, supporting each other, learning form each other, and lending loving advice and helping hand, I sincerely strive to play my part as a husband who is helpful. Let me elaborate my role by relating to an amusing anecdote: Our son was still in his elementary school when he upset his teacher by being adamant on answering incorrectly, which as per his teacher, was a very simple question of social studies. After she had taught the class the basics of our daily life from a lesson in the book, wherein it was clearly stated that in the family, the father goes out to work and the mother does the household, she asked our son, “Who makes breakfast for you everyday?” To which he replied, “My father makes breakfast for me everyday.” And repeatedly gave the the same answer in spite of being corrected by the teacher. We had to explain to the teacher that this was the only truth he knew. While his mother went to work early in the morning, I fixed breakfast for him and tiffin for the school, saw him off when the school bus came, and then went to office.

In order to get along in the world today, a woman must work, to earn a decent household income. I have always thought my wife is a remarkable woman because she has successfully raised our brilliant boy, kept our house running by supplementing the household income substantially, and remained a respected school principal for 30 years till retirement. She really is a good role model who is worth emulating by aspiring working mothers. Dream big and grab those opportunities that come along. No path to success is strewn with roses. But the going gets lot easy if the loved ones extend a helping hand.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lungers/World Food Day!

16 October is the UN declared World Food Day. The day, also known as End Hunger Day, is an opportunity for the global community to unite in an effort to help raise awareness of the global problem of hunger and to strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In the U.S., one example of World Food Day events is the Sunday Dinners that Oxfam America sponsors in collaboration with several other NGOs. However, the greatest devotion in achieving the goals of observing the day are seen in the dedicated 'langar' service in Sikh gurdwaras all over the world.
Langer is the term used in the Sikh religion for common kitchen where food is served in a gurdwara to all the visitors without any distinction, for free. The langer is open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. The institution of the Sikh langer, or free kitchen, was started by the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, creed, color, age, gender or social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ridden society of the 16th-century India where Sikhism began. There is a story on the origin of the langer institution:
When the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev, attained manhood, his father gave him 20 rupees and sent him on a trading expedition, impressing upon him that a good bargain makes for a good profit. On his way to buy merchandise, Namak noticed the pathetic condition of a group of poor men and decided that the most profitable transaction he could make with his father's money would be to feed them. When he returned empty handed his father reprimanded him. Insisting that true profit is to be had in selfless service of feeding the hungry, Guru Nanak established the institution of langer.
In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langer expresses the ethics of sharing, community inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. The institution of Guru ka langer has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of Sikhs in the task of service for mankind. Langer also teaches the etiquette of eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of equality of all human beings and provides a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary, particularly for the have nots. People from all classes of society are welcome at the gurdwara. Food is normally served twice a day, on every day of the year. Recent reports say some of the largest langers in Delhi prepare between 50,000 and 70,000 meals per day. At Golden Temple in Amritsar nearly 100,000 people dine every day and the kitchen works almost 20 hours daily. All the preparation – the cooking, serving and the washing-up – is done by voluntary helpers, known as sevadars. Besides the langers attached to the gurdwaras, there are improvised open-air langers during festivals and gurpurabs. These langers are amongst the best attended community meals anywhere in the world, upwards of 100,000 people may attend a given meal during these lungers. Wherever Sikhs are, they have established their lungers. In their prayers, the Sikhs seek from the Almighty the favor: “Loh langer tapde rahin – may the hot plates of the langers remain ever in service.”
In tune with the times, langers at gurdwaras in the UK have moved on from black or yellow dal (lentil) or wheat flour chapattis. Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Burmingham displays on a notice board at its entrance that a langer of pizzas and chips is served on its premises. On festival days more items are added to the menu for more than 100,000 Sikh devotees. All the items, including pizzas and chips are prepared in the gurdwara community kitchen. In San Jose, California, Governor Jerry Brown and other political leaders joined thousands of colorfully dressed Sikhs to celebrate the greatly expanded gurdwara at the Evergreen Hills, and enjoyed the lavish plate of the langer meal, made in gurdwara's echo-friendly modern kitchen and served in style in stainless steel plates with built-in bowls – spinach-and-mustered-leaf saag, mildly spicy dal, curries, potatoes, rice, raita, rotis, pickle, rice pudding and sweets, ended with masala chai. The big lunger hall had arrangements for both, whether you wanted to sit on the carpeted floor or use the sitting arrangement with tables and chairs.The same menu and arrangemen has become a permanent feature with further improvements on festival days.
Footnote: I have a confession to make. When my wife inderjeet, having Sikh background and quite conversant with Sikh traditions, asked me for the first time to have langer meal at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in New Delhi, I very reluctantly agreed as I was always under the impression that the food at the lunger was meant for the poor and the homeless who would be waiting for their turn in line to be served. On entering the lunger hall, I was shocked to see well dressed men, women and children from apparently high class families rubbing shoulder with the ordinary class while enjoying lunger meal, taking it as 'prasad', sitting on long mats along the floor. There was a bigger shock awaiting – the food was served in our row amongst others, by a person we knew well, the CEO of a reputed travel company and partner in my brother's business. Yes, most of the sevadars serving the meals were well- to- do people who were volunteering as duty towards the Guru Sahib and devotion to the cause of community feeding. They are the ones that truly celebrate the World Food Day in its true spirit, whenever they volunteer at the lunger.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Remembering Dussehra in Lahore

Whenever there is such a festival of the magnitude of Dussehra, I cannot restrain myself to go into the nostalgic memories of celebrating them in my growing up years in Lahore.There was something strikingly unusual about this golden land of dreams and legends. It was a heart-rendering experience to leave our beloved Lahor for good and seek refuge across the border that was created by the Partition of the country. Suddenly Lahore had become a foreign land. Nevertheless, I belong to a generation, born and brought up in Lahore, that even after a lapse of over six decades is emotionally attached to this great city as deeply as ever. My memories of boyhood are still fresh in my mind and often come back, especially when celebrating festivals and fairs, which were celebrated with pomp and show, as never seen anywhere else.
Lohdi, Basant, Holi, Baisakhi, Dussehra, Diwali, Id, Moharram, Gurpurav and Christmas were symbols of a composite culture, for all communities participated in them with equal enthusiasm. Dussehra specially was the most anticipated occasion to enjoy because of the Dussehra holidays in schools, from ten to fifteen in different schools, and the only holidays free of any home-work to worry about. The spirit of celebration took over from the very first day when Ramleela in almost every neighborhood was inaugurated by a prominent person from the area, attracting enthusiastic viewers, especially children who were for once allowed to spend late nights out. Ramleela processions attracted large crowds of people who would line up in bazars and stand on balconies of houses to be able to witness them. The great attraction was the parade of jhnkis or floats, elaborately set up on bullock-carts with a miniture stage where ameteure artists would enact incidents from Ramayana. Some of the jhankis depicted colorful scenes from the epic. Seated on them were also singers who entertained the surging crowds. The onlookers used to occupy vantage points in bazars hours before the arrival of the procession. The festival of Dussehra, which lasted nine days, concluded on the tenth day with the biggest fair on the banks of River Ravi, where the effigies of Ravan and his clan were burnt. Dressed in colorful costumes, people from all communities, from far and wide in the province, assembled there for fun and excitement and enjoyed themselves heartily. We always looked forward to the occasion enthusiastically and saved pocket money to buy playthings and other novelties. The shopkeepers from the city would set up stalls of sweetmeats, toys and eatables of various kinds. There were magicians, jugglers, acrobats, mimics, actors, singers and dancers who entertained the crowds with their performance, receiving rewards for the display of their skill. Full of mirth and merriment, the fair was attended in large numbers enthusiastically. There was hustle and bustle, merry- making and excitement wherever one looked, with people of all ages standing, staring and amusing themselves. It was easy to lose oneself in amazement at this splendor, tumult and commotion.
I was very happy to know from Yahoo news: “People in Lahore city of Punjab province celebrated Dussehra with pomp and pageantry. A large gathering was held at Krishna Mandir, Ravi Road, where hundreds of Hindus gathered to celebrate the occasion.” I was instantly reminded of the hit song of the bygone era: “Ye Zindagi Ke Mele Dunia Mein Kam Na Honge, Afsos Hum Na Honge.” Interestingly, the song was picturized in the backdrop of Dussehra Mela!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Birthday Party At Gurdwara San Jose

On Friday October 11, our son Alok celebrated his 50th birthday by taking us to Gurdwaraji Sahib at San Jose, California and spent the whole afternoon there in prayer before Guru Granthji Saheb and ending our visit with the sacred and most delicious dinner at the Langar Bhawan of the biggest Gurdwara in California.
San Jose gurdwara is a story of little to the largest: Late Pyra Singh Obhi and many other dedicated sevadars of the community founded the Sikh Gurdwara San Jose in 1984.The South Bay Sikh Community at that time was growing rapidly and there was an urgent need for a Gurdwara. Initially there were no funds available and Gurdwara started to rent an East Bay Community Center. After enormous obstacles, the Gurdwara Committee purchased a small building in East San Jose on White Road in 1986. Within a few months the Gurdwara Committee realized that the building was too small for Sangat. In 1990, the Gurdwara Committee purchased its first parcel of land at Quimby Road, and then bought other two adjacent parcels over the next few years, which brought the total land owed by Gurdwara to about 5 acres. In 1993-94, the Gurdwara Committee determined that it would be too expensive to build a Gurdwara here due to City and County requirements. In 1996, the Gurdwara Committee decided to buy 40 Acres of land near East San Jose Foothills. To build a Gurdwara at this new site, the Gurdwara Committee needed at least $10 million. The Committee requested Sangat to donate generously and also give personal loans to the Gurdwara. With Waheguru’s grace, Sangat gave overwhelming and extended support to the Gurdwara Committee.
As soon as the Gurdwara had enough funds available, after years of scrimping and saving, and sailing through the city's permit process, despite objections raised during three contentious public hearings, the Gurdwara-San Jose Sikh community decided to go all- out and build the biggest, most beautiful temple its members could afford. They spent $2 million to buy a 40-acre apricot orchard with sweeping valley views, then commissioned a design for an exotic- looking complex with towering onion domes, arches, columns and reflecting pools. With 94,000 square feet of floor space, the temple rivals the dimensions of the most reputed super markets and stores. Perched more than 500 feet above the featureless suburbia of east San Jose, and with domes soaring 60 more feet into the sky, the temple surely has become a landmark in San Jose's Evergreen district. The architecture is Indo-Persian, a fusion of Hindu and Islamic elements. Gurdwara Sahib features onion domes, frilled archways, fountains and panoramic views. The temple hosted an open house to show off the $32 million addition to its existing facilities, when hundreds of visitors, both Sikh and non-Sikh, toured the expanded temple. The temple's kitchen is planned to serve 10,000 vegetarian meals to all the visitors.
Located in the foothills of the Mount Diablo range on a former apricot orchard, Gurdwara Sahib is one of the largest Sikh temples in North America, surpassing in size and grandeur even the Yuba City gurdwara, which was considered the biggest before completion of the San Jose gurdwara. In 1969, Sikhs in Yuba City constructed one of the world's biggest gurdwaras, to commemorate 500 Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak. To celebrate the anniversary of the first installation of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, there is a huge celebration on the first Sunday of every November. The annual parade draws 40,000 to 50,000 from all parts of western USA. It is the largest gathering of Punjabis outside of India. Another big festival is held on the last Sunday of May. This Punjabi American fiesta is a much-awaited event and attended by people not only from the Yuba- Sutter area but also from neighboring states and Canada.
Indeed, it was the best ever birthday party our son ever had and most appropriate for the landmark 50th birthday. We shall cherish for ever our visit to Gurdwara Shib San Jose, the most magnificent gurdwara in America. Here is a link to view Gurdwara Sahib, San Jose, California, USA:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy 50th Birthday, Son!

Friday October 11, 2013, our son Alok is taking us for prayers at the grand San Jose Gurudwara and thereafter for a treat at the reputable Sunnyvale Turmeric restaurant. That is how he wants to celebrate his 50th birthday, the glittering golden year of his life.
50 years – how fast the time flies, looks like it just happened the other day only, when we had the joy of hearing the first cry of a very cute baby boy Inderjeet gave birth to, a week before her own birthday. As Alok, or Baba as we called him at home, grew up, his godly qualities of kindness, compassion and caring were quite obvious, and confirmed our belief that he truly was God's gift - God granting our prayers at the majestic Shiva Temple on Chur Peak at the height of 14,00 ft. in the interiors of Himanchal Pradesh in Northern India, which we had climbed earlier in one of our tracking excursions during summer vacations.
As Alok was kind to others, God was kind to him. When he wished to go to USA for higher studies after his school graduation, it was almost impossible to achieve this ambition - it was not an easily affordable wish we could fulfill, if some how we were to manage the money from our compulsory savings in service, the government would not grant permission to send remittances in foreign currency for studies abroad because of very stringent foreign exchange rules, and last but not the least, it was almost impossible to obtain the U.S. visa, specially by a boy who was hardly seventeen then. Nothing short of a miracle could help Alok cross all the three hurdles. And the miracle it must have been: Money – more than the sufficient money we arranged from our savings, it was the timely moral support of my Managing Director's words that worked: “Don't hesitate to send him, I'll see he is never ever stranded there for shortage of funds”; RBI permit: Jeet had a chance meeting with a Member of Parliament, very close to the Finance Minister, who went out of his way for the Reserve Bank to immediately issue the required permit to remit the fees in foreign exchange; U.S. Visa: it was entirely Alok's presence of mind throughout that worked for him while going through the most grilling interview for visa at the U.S. Embassy, especially his masterstroke when asked by the Counsellor that since there was no automation in India why go to the U.S. to study computers - “Some one has to start it in India too, and I want to be the one amongst them”. And Alok left for the U.S. for studies at seventeen.
After we sent Alok to USA, it did not take long for our friends to make him the main topic of conversation, some of them skeptical of our step. They thought that we had made a big mistake in sending our only son so far away, and at such a young age. They expressed concern that he might not be able to withstand the cultural explosion he would confront in the U.S., where drugs, drinking and dating started in schools. We did not care much for such comments, though some of the fears our friends expressed stuck in our mind and made us concerned about them. We, therefore, took it as godsend opportunity to see for ourselves how Alok was doing in USA when my MD offered us fully paid trip to the U.S. as reward for accomplishing an almost impossible assignment - persuading the central government to allow us to transfer our upcoming new project to Gujarat, although the industrial license was issued for setting up the unit in Rajasthan.
Our most important engagement in the U.S. was to visit University of San Francisco, and meet the Dean, for which Alok had already taken appointment for us. The Dean very emphatically brushed aside all our doubts about students taking to bad habits in American universities. We were not only relieved of all our worries that had arisen out of the fears expressed by our friends, but also felt extremely happy and proud to hear his parting words: “ Alok is not only eligible for merit scholarship on the basis of being included in President's Honor List for the year, but I also consider him a role model for other students for his exemplary conduct”.

Nothing in the world makes parents happier than seeing their children make significant progress in life. Immediately on graduating from the University of San Francisco, Alok got a good career break with Sun Microsystems, a computer giant of the 80s and 90s, to join their Java creative team. Then onwards it was a pure pleasure to watch him progress at Sun for 20+ years as Software Engineer, Principal Engineer, Chief Technologist, Director and Patent Holder for his invention of a system and method for a "debugger Run-Time-Checking for valid memory accesses for multi-threaded application programs". We were overwhelmed when Alok took us to the 7th Commencement & Alumni Reception-Carnegie Mellon University - Silicon Valley Campus, where Ray Bareiss, Director of Educational Programs, presented the Dean’s Return on Education Award to Alok with the citation:
Having worked for Sun Microsystems for 19 years, this year’s recipient of the Return on Education Award joined the Carnegie Mellon Software Management program, seeking to ‘step out of his comfort zone.’ Shortly after enrolling in the program, he was able to gain the skills and confidence to begin thinking and behaving like a leader. His actions were clearly recognized by his global peer group of 1,500 engineers at Sun, who nominated him to be Principal Engineer. But he didn’t stop there … he left Sun after nearly 21 years to start Yunteq, a software company developing key enabling technology for Cloud Computing …”

Cloud Computing, of course, was all the rage and passion for Alok till his startup Yunteq became one of the most sought after companies to acquire by the big giants in the computer industry. When he and his team at the Yunteq received an offer that they thought was rewarding enough for their hard work, Alok agreed to the Yunteq merger with Coraid, a well reputed company, that enabled him to move on to explore new trends in software, especially in social networking. Along with his first cousin, Arjun Rishi, they have founded Khaylo Inc., an exclusive social networking site for the sportsmen, that awaits official launching anytime very soon.
While we are anxiously awaiting and wishing rewards for their hard work in this new venture, we are happy to enjoy a very relaxing retirement with Alok and his very accomplished wife Ranjan by our side, both wonderful and very caring. Thanks to their giving us much of their precious time - taking us for a long drive on weekends to quaint little towns along California's most scenic Pacific Ocean Coastline, including us in all the fun on festival holidays they have and being by our side whenever we need - we are having such a blast as never seen before in our life. We are indeed blessed to have Alok as our son, and on his 50th birthday are so happy to go with him to the San Jose gurudwara and pray for his healthy, happy and prosperous long life:

Fifty candles mean you have cast a lot of light in the world.
You have blazed a lot of trails and shown the way for a lot of others who follow behind.
You have done a lot of good, and you're just getting started.
So take pride, and keep on shining.
Happy 50th Birthday, Son!”

Monday, October 07, 2013

Aravali Vihar Alwar Shows The Way!

Monday, October 7 is the World Habitat Day. The UN has declared the first Monday of October every year to be observes as such. This is a time to recognize the basic need for adequate shelter in a world where it is lacking for so many. It is also a day to draw attention to the continuing need for affordable housing and inspiring action to address the need.

The United Nations marks the day with ceremonies and messages praising the work of the world body and its partners but the celebration is blighted by campaigners' callous ignoring to ease the plight of a billion people that continue to live in slums. They don't have water, schools, sanitation or healthcare. Not only the effort to improve their living condition is lacking, instead mass evictions of people from slums is a common sight -- not just in developing countries but also in developed societies. France drew the European Union's ire after it banished Roma communities but the Roma also faced evictions elsewhere in Europe. India ejected slum dwellers from the Commonwealth Games venues. Evictions of slum dwellers in Nigeria have affected more than 200,000 people. From France to Zimbabwe to Cambodia, governments are destroying homes of some of the poorest people in their countries. Those whose homes are destroyed are failed by the law, they get no compensation and have no place to live. Such measures taken to “reduce slum populations' drive people further into poverty. It is time for world leaders to move beyond the rhetoric and take urgent action to protect the rights of people living in slums, especially in some of the worst concentrations of slums -- in Brazil, India, China and Africa.
Analysts say popular cinema that romanticized slums had engendered a new kind of voyeuristic tourism. Tourists now regularly visit slums in Mumbai, scene of Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire. Recent media coverage of slums and academic studies on the phenomenon have led to the coinage of a new term, "poorism," analysts said. Regular poorism travel tours now attract travelers to Brazil, Ethiopia and India. After the 2005 hurricane Katrina, Louisiana became a major site for poorism tours, leaving residents who were fighting for economic recovery with little choice but to accept poorism tourists as a means of income.

World Habitat Day was created with the hope that more people, particularly the Administrations worldwide, would become aware of the need for adequate homes. It is a global awareness day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and to remind us of responsibility for the future of our own habitats. In this context, I would like to record with appreciation the remarkable work done by the Rajasthan Housing Board in building new neighborhoods in small towns and cities where economically backward can boast to reside and socialize with their rich neighbors across the street. The idea is to inculcate pride in the under privileged of residing and mingling with the more prosperous, and at the same time to encourage the elite to get their feet on the ground by living alongside the less privileged. Aravali Vihar in Alwar, Rajasthan, is such an area where we moved to after surrendering our government accommodation in New Delhi on retirement. It was then a newly developed area where the Housing Board had built houses for three different categories – High income Group (HIG), Middle Income Group (MIG) and Low Income Group (LIG) and allotted to these groups on easy monthly installments. The salient feature of the scheme was that the houses in these three categories were spread over in the area in such a way that all the three groups co-existed as close neighbors and naturally socialized with each other, without any notions of economic disparity deviating their neighborly feelings of friendliness. This, indeed, was a very fine idea to discourage attitudes of class distinctions, which was successfully put to practice while implementing the Aravali Vihar Scheme.
Footnote: Though there was no difficulty in the way of the three economically different groups getting along well, I observed an amusing side effect of the exercise on the street vendors who went from street to street selling fresh vegetables and fruits to the residents right in front of their homes. One day sitting in our outer lawn we heard the vendor carrying mangoes in his cart loudly announcing mangoes at Rs. 50 per kg in the street near our house, but as soon as he came out of the street on the road in front of our house, the price instantly rose to Rs. 60 per kg for the same mangoes. On being confronted on this difference in cost, he tried to explain it as his kind gesture to cut the price for those who could not afford the high price. When we told about the vendor to a friend from the street, he agreed all vendors do this and offered to buy mangoes on our behalf next time to enable us to save on the price. Same thing happened with the area's cable operator. He charged us Rs. 300 for the monthly charge whereas our friend was paying Rs. 200 for the same service. When we asked the operator about this difference, he said my customers in the street cannot afford more than Rs. 200 and I cannot afford to forego their business.

All said, speaking seriously on the World Habitat Day, cities and small towns should try to create classless communities in their expansion plans, and Aravali Vihar, Alwar shows the way.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Remembering Gandhi's Valley Visit!

Gandhi Jayanti day always reminds me of my most memorable day of Gandhi 'darshan', the only day in my life when I saw and stood so near the Mahatma. My father had sent us – me, my mother and sister – to Srinagar from Lahore, to safely stay with my brother serving as a bank manager there till peace returned to Punjab, particularly Lahore, where communal flareup and fanatic frenzy were increasing by the day. It was during that most anxious time when thick black clouds of communal clashes were spreading all over in the neighboring Northern states that we saw a silver lining of hope and peace in the surprise visit of the Mahatma to the Valley.

Mahatma Gandhi, a symbol of non-violence, truth and moral values paid a 4-day historical visit to strategic and sensitive Jammu and Kashmir State during a crucial period in first week of August, 1947 and played a pivotal role. This was his life’s first and the only short visit in Kashmir which gave some turning points to course of events on the eve of Independence as well as thereafter by providing much-needed healing touch to the people in this sensitive and strategic border State. The Father of the Nation always had his hand on the pulse of the people and his gospel of non-violence, truth and sincerity of purpose had already won the hearts of masses in Jammu and Kashmir as elsewhere in the country. The visit was at a very momentous period on August 1-4, 1947 and had much historic importance for Jammu and Kashmir as well the entire country. It was a significant event then in 1947, but a spotlight on it now is also of much relevance for the people in this part of the country. Gandhiji’s message of peace and harmony has always stood the test of time and is so still very much relevant in our time now.

The Indian National Congress leadership: Gandhiji, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel and other stalwarts had been source of inspiration and ideology during the movement in Jammu and Kashmir for attainment of responsive and democratic governance in place of the monarchy. The struggle in Kashmir was spearheaded by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who stood by the high principles of peaceful method and uphold the Hindu-Muslim unity at all cost. The Sheikh was imprisoned at the time of the Mahatma’s visit. On August 1, 1947, Gandhiji reached Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir State, to an affectionate welcome and grand reception by Begum Akbar Jehan wife of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and about 500 women social and political activists. He freely met the masses in Kashmir then. The Mahatma did not address any public rally during his three days stay in Srinagar but held two prayer meetings during which he gave expression to his ideas, impressions and idealism and at the same time highlighted the supremacy of the masses. He admired the masses for their exemplary role during the freedom movement as also in maintaining exemplary Hindu-Muslim unity at a time when there were dark clouds of strife and observed that he saw “a ray of hope” in Kashmir despite communal frenzy elsewhere on the sub-continent.

After enactment of Indian Independence Act by British Parliament on July 17, 1947, the Paramount powers of the Crown over rulers of Indian States was to lapse from August 15, 1947 and Lord Mountbatten called upon the princely States to join either of the Dominions- India or Pakistan- by deadline of Independence Day (August 15, 1947). There was pressure on the ruler from Muslim League led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah who propounded two-nation theory while the people of Kashmir led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah totally rejected the two-nation theory. The Maharaja of J&K State was unable to take decision in this complex situation. The J&K State’s then Prime Minister, Ram Chand Kak, was removed within a short while after Gandhiji’s meeting with Maharaja Hari Singh during the visit. Mahatma Gandhi was all praise for the tallest leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah for his adherence to communal harmony, deep concern for down-trodden masses, democratic aspirations and nationalistic views. The Sheikh and his party, while firmly rejecting the two-nation theory, had consciously sided with the ideals of peace, progress, democracy and secularism.

During this visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja, Hari Singh and Maharani Tara Devi, cordially invited Gandhiji to the Palace and had an elaborate meeting. He was affectionately accorded traditional welcome with Arti and tilak by the Royal couple and also then young prince, Dr Karan Singh. (Interestingly, it was also the day when Prince Karan Singh and I passed Matriculation from Punjab University, both with very high scoring). Later, the details have been recorded by Dr. Karan Singh in his book titled “Heir Apparent”. Gandhiji during his visit also had met a number of delegations and preached his ideas and ideology both in Kashmir and Jammu. Mahatma Gandhi’s 4-day visit on August 1-4, 1947 to Jammu and Kashmir forms a proud page in the chapter of my life which I will cherish for ever.