Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Blues

The past couple of days have been stressful for me. The stress comes from making some decisions that I am really torn between. Having made 2 short 10 day India trips within 5 months gap to attend my parents 60th and my brother-in-law's wedding, there is a need for me to make another trip within the coming months. To someone who thinks that India trips are definitely not a fun vacation, since it involves the physical strain, jet-lag, adjusting to the different personalities, expenses etc. this comes as a hard decision to make. 3 India trips within a year!!! The airlines ticket prices with the increase in fuel have sky rocketed. A flight from SFO to South india via Europe costs $1910 these days. Also, at work, it looks totally unprofessional when I have to approach my boss (however flexible they may be) to grant me time off to go to India for the third time within a year's span of time.

While it is sure nice to meet parents, family etc. and enjoy mom and mil's cooking, the trip turns out to be packed with activities, temple/pilgrimage visits, without a day's rest and becomes so hectic. I am sure that this is the case for most of you where you have an agenda on an India trip, not to forget the back and forth between staying at your place versus in-laws. All this assuming you are on good health, imagine getting a viral infection, a stomach bug and add that to the trip, as well. The hardest part comes after I return, to get back to the routine- both at work and at home, getting caught up on the piled up work, jet lag etc.

If I decide not to go for the third trip, which is what I am leaning towards at this point, my family is unhappy, since it is for another festive occasion and they don't want to go ahead with the festivities without my presence. This puts me on the spot and am feeling guilty, since they are going to cancel the festivity because of my absence. If I make up my mind to go, everyone is happy, except me, since I feel that I've been forced to make this trip, which I don't want to go in the first place. So, ultimately, it boils down to whether I want to be happy or guilty.

Decisions, decisions are always complex, more so when family is involved.

What with all this on mind, I am looking forward to the weekend and my anniversary. Hope that blog is more cheerful than this one.

Have a fabulous STRESS FREE WEEKEND.....

Monday, June 23, 2008

The "Secret" Tag

A-kay tagged me, thanks to her and the secret tag rules, I have to reveal 10 secrets about myself. Not that I am a very secretive person, since I am known to be a blabber-mouth, but, I guess this requires some introspection into myself to see what secrets can be unfolded out of me. So, without further adieu, not in any particular order-

1. I am very strong-willed and totally unflexible in most of life situations. Poor K keeps bringing this to my attention time and again.

2. I've always wanted to be a class leader and happily been that for 4 years during my under grad years.

3. I enjoy and relish my own cooking or home cooked meals better than any fancy restaurant, especially on weekends when I thoroughly savor every bit of my own food.

4. I get angry when someone disturbs, irritates or teases me while I am eating.

5. I had an open awe and admiration, not, so secret, since the whole college teased me about it, for my 50year old white haired HOD, who resembled the white haired Kamal in the Indian movie.

6. I can't get along well with people who are equally short-tempered as me, be it younger, same age or even older folks.

7. For a selected few close friends, I will do anything to help them and will always remain loyal, one such friend is my best friend from college Subha.

8. I have never eaten non-vegetarian food throughout my life and will probably never try out.

9. I like most tall, well built African American basketball NBA players. I think they are really cool guys.

10. Last, but not the least, I enjoy reading Mills & Boon, Harlequin romance books featuring Sheikhs.

Now, passing on this secret tag to Na_an, Cham, Laksh, Bavani and Aparna.

Let the secrets unfold....

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Prescription for Happiness

A few weeks go KQED had a late night program on Deepak Chopra who talked about his recent work The Happiness Prescription and also about his book "Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment". For those of you who are not familiar with him, Deepak is one of the most well known physicians in the world for his mind body medicine programs. He has written numerous books, released hundreds of audio, video, CD-ROMs on spiritualism and health. He is best known for his approach to combining conventional western medicine concepts with natural Indian healing techniques for promoting spiritual health and well being. More information on the Chopra Center and his programs can be found on his website .

As K and I sat listening to his talk late into the night, I found myself taking notes of his speech(for those who don't know me, I am so into taking notes, a habit that started in college and continues into work and home life, making me too organized at times). I needed more than a piece of paper to keep track of the contents of his speech and so here I am blogging away.

Deepak's talks are often very clear infused with subtle humor here and there to spice up the content. According to him, a prescription to achieve happiness amongst humans depends on 3 factors- 1.Biological set point, 2. Meditation and 3. Cognitive therapy. After all, happiness is a more than a sense of feeling or a state of the mind that all of us want to achieve and remain at.

1. Biological set point- This is dependent on whether you see the situations in your life as problems or opportunities. It is genetically determined and results show that you can take medication/drugs which will improve your seratonin uptake in the brain and make you feel happy. But, this lasts only for a while and once the medication wears off, the happy feeling goes away.

2. Meditation- While there is a common misconception that meditation is for those who are into spiritualism, etc. it is proved that by meditating for a few minutes daily, the pre-frontal cortex of the brain gets activated and releases dophamine, oxytocin and seratonin like hormones that changes the set point for happiness.

3. Cognitive therapy- When we get rid of a firm belief that is making us depressed, we will become happy. He quotes Buddha as the original cognitive therapist.

Corollary 1- Life situations determines our state of happiness. For example, if we buy a home, win a lottery etc. these are all factors that will make us happy. On the other hand, life tragedies such as loss of a loved one, divorce, etc. make us unhappy. It is remarkable to note how life situations determine our state of happiness.

Corollary 2- Voluntary actions determines our state of happiness. The choices that we make give us gratification but last only for a short time. These are transient and fulfilment occurs when we have a sense of accomplishment and gives us long standing happiness. The golden rule is to make others happy if you want to be happy. This comes from recognizing that we are part of a greater being/world.

He refers to Buddha's Four Noble Truths namely Suffering, The Cause of Suffering, Cessation of Suffering and the Path to attain Happiness to understand this concept better. According to him, like a physician, it helps to follow these steps to determine why a person is unhappy.

1. Diagnosis- Humans go through suffering. Life contains suffering amongst other things, it is important to diagnose this.
2. Causes of this condition- People are unhappy because they grasp and cling on to impermanent things etc. Identify the causes of suffering in our lives.
3. Prognosis- This is ending the condition that has been caused/created by us.
4. Prescription- This is the fun part where the doctor gets to prescribe solutions/medicines to get rid of the condition to make the person well.

This was the essence of Deepak Chopra's talk on his prescription for happiness. While many concepts here are hard to understand at first and even more difficult to practise on a daily basis, it seemed like he had all the right solutions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bay Area Desi Women Bloggers Meet

Blogging has now become something that many of us pursue, in our spare time or we even make time to write about stuff. Be it a cooking recipe that you tried or a movie that you want to review or a fiction short story that you want to share or simply a place to keep track of life's happenings, we all blog for different reasons. While, we visit blogs from all over the globe, there is always a spark of interest when you stumble across a blog from the same city or place that you blog from.

Well, that having been said, Bay Area is vast and the desi poulation here is mind boggling. Wherever there are desis, food is a key topic. Indian cuisine is extensive, there are so many varieties of dishes- North Indian, South Indian etc. and it is amazing how many new dishes you can gather out of all the culinary bloggers who are so generous in sharing their recipes with the rest of the blog community.

Thanks to A-kay and a few other bloggers in the Bay Area who met and formed a group for Bay Area Desi Food Bloggers earlier this year. With several potential interested bloggers, me being the only non-food blogger in the area, after a bunch of emails, we met on Saturday, June 14th at the Passage to India Bakery buffet as a larger group, with some newbies joining in for this second get together , including me, Cham , Uma , Mansi and Radhika . Some of the bloggers who had already met for the first time earlier in the year were glad to meet up for second time and they included The Cooker , The Taste Tinkerer and of course A-kay .

It was an interesting group of women who had taken the time off from their weekend routine, kids etc. and special thanks to one blogger who drove down 2 hours from Sacramento for this meeting. While we all had different backgrounds, some even spoke a different language, some more talkative than others, the time just flew by as we made introductions and were warming up.

Hope that the other bloggers in the group, who couldn't make it for this meeting, will be able to come for the next gathering. A pleasant experience in meeting with strangers, hopefully will continue.

Friday, June 13, 2008

To Dear Appa on Father's Day

As Sunday is Father's Day and I am missing the presence of my dad here with me in US, thought this would be a good time to jot my thoughts on the occasion. Also, knowing that my dad reads my blog regularly, this is something he will enjoy reading, hopefully.

As an only child and a daughter, I am my dad's favorite and vice versa- he means the world to me, in every possible sense. As most daughters would agree, a father-daughter relationship is very special in its own way. My experiences with my dad have and continue to be the best cherished times of my life.

My dad was a small-scale business owner who ran his own factory and pursued his passion of working for himself. He was always known amongst family and friends for his strong decision making skills, easy to get along with personality and his simplicity. Unlike some fathers who don't play a role in their child's life, besides providing monetary support to the family, he played a significant part in sharing the burden of managing the home and raising me along with my working mother. I fondly remember my childhood and early school days when my dad would iron my uniform, polish my shoes, tie my laces and carry me to the rickshaw to take me to school. Also, my dad can cook and I adore him so much for his helping skills around the kitchen, he is an expert in making tea and is the one who makes the morning beverages for mom and me.

Appa is attached to his motorbike, since his Guindy Engineering college days when he had a Bullet, then a Java bike to his Hero Honda days which he had until recently. Growing up, he taught me to ride a bicycle, got me my first one in 5th grade, then taught me to ride a two-wheeler on his bike around the playground, got me my first "Sunny" in my 10th grade. I can't think of a time when I've asked or wanted something and he has denied it to me, sometimes, I guess that is why people think being an only child spoils you. He spent lots of money putting me through a self-financing engineering college and then funding me for the most part of my masters education in US.

Growing up during my teenage years, there were many a times when the two of us would get on the bike and go watch a night show movie or go to the ice cream parlor. He would talk about his college days and all the fun he had hanging out with his buddies, my dad was a cool guy at college and still is a cool type to me. What is interesting is, that we share a lot of common interests- like we both love listening to similar music-both filmi and classical, have similar food favorites and even think alike in many situations.

Appa is very religious minded and spends his days now listening to religious discourses, music concerts and reading voraciously. A staunch believer and follower of hindu customs who taught me everything I know about upholding values. I only wish that I could proudly say that I take after my dad in all ways, but, that would not be entirely true. He raised me like a son, giving me ample freedom (though he didn't like any of my male friends) and put his trust on me.

Wishing him A Happy Father's day and to his health and well being. Thank you for everything you've given me- you are the best.

"A Father Just Like You" by Anonymous

"I just want you to know
you mean the world to me,
Only a heart as dear as yours
would give so unselfishly.

The many things you've done,
all the times that you were there,
helps me know deep inside
how much you really care.

Even though I might not say,
I appreciate all you do,
Richly blessed is how we feel
having a father just like you."

Monday, June 09, 2008

NBA 2008- Basketball Fever

While America is raging with the NBA fever as the Boston Celtics clash against the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals of NBA 2008, I too am catching up with this fever.

To give a little background on how my obsession with this sport started- When i landed in Boston in the fall of 2001 to go to graduate school, I ended up staying at my aunt's place for the most part of my student years. My cousin who was born here was in middle-school at that time and an active basketball player, a point-guard for his school team. While, the two of us spent time shooting baskets outside the house, I also got to go along with my aunt and uncle to see all his games and slowly started getting more familiar with the rulles and terminology of the sport. Many of my weekends were spent in driving with them for miles to take him to play his varsity games etc. Slowly, middle school basketball interest transformed into watching NBA, and of course, the Celtics became a local favorite.

While, I've not been watching every game in the eastern conference and western conference, the Celtics clashing with the LA Lakers is something that cannot be ignored. The Boston Celtics have not won the NBA championship in more than 20 years and the Lakers had their last winning in 2004. So, its more than fair for me to support the Celtics, given that they really deserve to win. K thinks that being a Californian now, my loyalties should be towards the Lakers, but, I am not budging. While, he is rooting for Kobe Bryant, the Lakers superstar to dunk, I am cheering my head off for the Celtics superhero Paul Pierce to continue his phenomenal shotting record. Our living room with the 52" plasma TV (watching basketball on high definition is simply super) comes alive during those last few minutes of the fourth quarter.

Games 1 and 2 were played in Boston on last Thursday and Sunday and the Celtics beat the Lakers 108-102 last night. With a NBA pro coach like Phil Jackson (whom I whole heartedly admire) coaching the Lakers, its indeed hard to imagine them not play hard. The Celtics coach Doc Rivers has indeed brought this team together and including bench players like James Posey, Leon Powe who seem to shine through along with cute Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, it is a treat to watch them all play.

With Game 3 coming up in the Staples Center in LA tomorrow night, am counting the hours, I am sure that the Lakers will play hard defense on their home territory. Hopefully, theere will be all 7 games played to satisfy the quench of fans like me during this NBA season.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Hike to Stanford Dish in the Foothills

Photos: Visual Art Services, SU

Now, that its summer and the weather outside is glorious, there are weekends when we decide to do short hikes in and around the county parks etc. in the Santa Clara valley area. Last weekend, K and I went to the Stanford dish area located close to the I-280 and foothills. The Foothills are primarily a habitat conservation area whose trails are open to the public for taking hikes, jogging and of course to breathe in the beautiful panoramas of the peninsula. The dish is located on Stanford University property academic reserve private property and is free to the public.

The Stanford Dish is a radio telescope that was built in 1961 and is a 150-foot diameter Dish, that is still actively used for research and teaching purposes around the Stanford community. It is operated and maintained by the SRI International and owned by the US government. It is actively used to scan distant planets and galaxies.

The hike is approximately 3.5 miles around the loop and begins with a steep-ish 20 minute hike that is a sure test to your knees. Be prepared to get sore tender glutes the next day. It is absolutely a great work-out during summer time and it took us roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes to walk around the dish. The trail is paved and goes up and down. Cool hay art called "Making hay" statues greet you at the entrance to the hike and good views of Stanford's Hoover tower, Dumbarton Bridge, SF etc. can be obtained as you trudge up and down the hills.

I never realized how much I miss open spaces and furry woodland creatures (tons of squirrels cross ur path), we even saw a bunny rabbit, until coming here. What was amazing is there are folks who jog this entire dish area, you can also see different kinds of people, students, families with kids being pushed up the hill on their strollers, old people who are fit and agile to take this intense hike.

The Dish is not just used for academic programs alone, but, is also used for environmental restoration by the Stanford Conservation Biology program (to study the type of brown native grass that grows here) and for habitat conservation purposes, as well.

If you live in the Bay area and would like to get some good workout, a hike around the dish will surely shake some muscles and burn that fat.

Have a great weekend....

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Booky Tag

I've been tagged by A-kay, to do this booky tag. While, I am not a major fan of tagging, but, this booky tag seemed different and intellectual to follow. Also, I just finished reading "The Mango Season" by Amulya Malladi yesterday. Hadn't heard of this author before, until one of the bloggers recommended her other book,"Serving Crazy with Curry", but, since that one was out in the local library, I picked up "The Mango Season".

Before, I go off track to discuss the book- let me follow the tag rules-
1. Pick up the nearest book
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next 3 sentences
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you

"See the Saptarishi?" he asked, pointing at the constellation of seven stars shaped like a question mark."For the longest time I couldn't see Arundhati," he said. In the Saptarishi constellation of stars, the last but one star at the bottom, which is Vashishtha, has a small star revolving around it, and that is Arundhati. The myth is that if you cannot see Arundhati, you will have bad luck....lots of it.

Now, a little bit on the book..Amulya Malladi has portrayed all the characters in this book with a touch of realisticness. The story revolves around a software engineer Priya who returns to India for a visit during the summer months where mango season is in full swing. Coming home to Hyderabad after living for 7 years in the Silicon Valley, Priya is torn between the two worlds, the people in her life from both the worlds. Not only does she have to battle the differences in life style, intense family politics, personalities etc. but, also carries the herculean task of letting her family know about her American boyfriend Nick whom she is living with and has a relationship with. The Mango theme is very much carried throughout the book as the author shares recipes of Avakai pickle, mango pappu, etc. The book is a fast read and depicts clearly the family values, concept of arranged marriages and traditions of India.

Per the booky tag rules, encouraging bloggers to read a book that they might have forgotten or missed reading, now tagging-

1. Spillay
2. Sachita
3. Na_an
4. Balaji
5. Bavani

Folks- don't feel compelled to do this booky tag, if you don't want to.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Awkward Situation

From the time I started working, I've always used the Caltrain to commute to work. It's just convenient to take the train as your daily commute, since you can relax, beat the hassle of traffic and of course save up on GAS bigtime. Given that my employer pays for my caltrain pass, this has been my preferred commute. Caltrain is very popular in the Bayarea and gets you to and from San Jose to SFO in an hour's time or so.

My boss retired in late January and we got a new boss (who was hired out of retirement), quite ironical. She is not really new to me, since she was working in my department when I first started in this job and then moved to another department and came back again. We used to take the train to go home in the evenings during those days.

Last week, we bumped into each other at the train station on our evening ride back home. While we both sit in adjacent offices and have lots of daily interactions on work etc during the day. It was surprising to see her at the train station as well, after work. Considering that we both have the same 10 minute walk from our office to the station and we left separately. Well,things have changed since the last time we were commuters, meaning, she is now my direct supervisor, it does feel weird to be at this close quarters with her. While we were chatting as the train pulled in, I was about to bid her goodbye and go find myself a seat in a different car and she said that she would do the same. Not only did we both end up on the same car, but, she invited me to sit on the next seat beside her. We started talking a lil bit about our lives, she told me about her family and enquired about my background as well. She also shared that she would get off the train at the same station as I do, she lives in walking distance to my house- can you beat that!

It surely feels awkward for me to interact with her at work, commute back on the train with her after work and also know that she lives in the same neighborhood. While, she is so far nice, very pleasant etc. it still feels strange for me to have this sort of interaction with her. I guess maintaining a healthy distance with one's boss is always good. This will be one awkward situation that I need to handle tactfully.