Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    The night of July 22nd, 2002, is one that I will never forget. Preparing for a night-trek, I spent the whole day trying to get as much sleep as I could. This wonderful overnight trek from Katraj to Sinhagad was organized by Pune based 'Saahas.com'. It started off with around 35 of us reporting at the Swargate bus stop at 8:30pm - ready with our raincoats, water bottles, torches, and of course, full tummies!
    After a delay of 45 minutes, the bus rattled off to the Katraj tunnel from where our trek finally started at 10:30pm. We geared up our energies and started off.
     It was a pre-full moon night. The brilliant moon above us and the westward winds around were our constant companions - encouraging and soothing us all the way. The path looked well-trodden by men and cattle alike. Around 20 hills, making up 18 kilometers had to be covered  by us in one night. The first path saw us in a state of manifold battle - physical, psychological, and 'nocturnal' as well! We covered this part, occasionally pausing for a sip of water or a peppermint, taking off after intermittent breaks. The moonlight, exuding and aura of yellow enlightenment, was a constant source of illumination. Torches came out only after 3:30am, when the curtain of monsoon clouds came down on us.
     There were frequent encounters with fireflies, which appeared like stars strayed from their celestial path. On the one hand, were these natural flickers, and on the other, were the lights illuminating Pune from a distance, giving the city a neat and trim look. So are the ways of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) - burn lights throughout the night and bless us with power-cuts in the peak of summer!
     As it darkened, the path started becoming confusing. As if on cue, the bright arrows, perhaps marked by some other groups, shone and directed us to our destination. Towards the last 3-4 comparatively difficult hills, trickles of sweat were drenching us completely. Lungs began to heave and lactic acid started building up in our legs. Thanks to the rains, making the path more slippery; we literally presented a "slide" show! Clouds stepped down, closing the picture in front of us and making our torches futile. After a few halts, the canvas the front of us filled up.
     We continued our stride. Time was passing, with each moment seeming too long, too tiring. Slowly darkness started bidding us goodbye, giving way to the first rays of a perfectly bright monsoon morning. Chirping birds and dripping dewdrops made a gorgeous morning scene.
    At 6:30 am, we hit the road, midway to the top of Sinhagad. The downhill climb through the lush green valley took us to the foot of the fort. Hot refreshing tea and Parle-G biscuits at a dhaba was the need of the time. After our cuppa chai, we boarded the bus back to Pune.
     The whole of 23rd July was also spent in trying to catch up on my "zzzzzzzzzzzz"s. After all, an overnight trek has to be balanced by a whole day of warm baths and long snoozes in bed!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Knit and Bonded

Finals done! Phew! This was one difficult semester.  I was tidying up my desk and keeping my notes away when I came across something given by a friend earlier this week. It was a Red Maple leaf…dried and intact. He gave it to me the night before he left for India. I took it from him giving him a what-is-this? kind of a look.
He and me are constantly pulling each other’s legs and generally joking and laughing around. So I was surprised yet confused to get the serious looking leaf from him. Seeing the question mark on my face, he just said, “Think. I will talk to you soon”. I went upstairs and got back to my books to study for the finals I had the next day. I remembered something and thought about the leaf…observed it carefully…the dried, pressed fall leaf…with its color and intricate network intact. Thoughts rushed to my head but I saved them to be penned down in this blog after I was done with my exams. 
Rohit is my colleague at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. We enrolled at the same time in Fall 2007…he for MBA and me for Biotechnology. After graduating, starting a company with Amit and Ganesh, he was leaving for India for some days/months to help his dad in his work. The four of us have been very close friends and now a year after graduation, it was time to disperse. Once while driving to Charlotte, Rohit mentioned he is going to India in April and is not sure when he will come back. We were all singing and joking in the car till then. The moment he said this…something struck me. We meet people, we become friends, have an amazing time together, and suddenly we go our separate ways. When he told us about leaving all the memories rushed in my mind – our movie nights where the 4 of us would huddle around a laptop, the late night coffee at Cool Beans, Starbucks, the talks about diet and exercise (Rooooo! :)), the life discussions at Beezers, golf, etc, etc, etc. I realized there were tears streaming down my eyes. Amit had no idea what was wrong with me. Ganesh and Mudit thought that I was crying because Rohit had scared me talking about the Wolfman attacking me (had just watched the movie). But it was the thought of the memories of the wonderful times I spent with these lovely friends and the fact that no one is sure if it all can be replayed that made me sad.

When I looked at the leaf the other day, I realized what Ro might be trying to tell me. The Red Maple leaf was old, dried, separated from the tree and the other leaves – yet it was undamaged - red-orange in color with its veins intricate and intact. 
It said no matter how far we all might be from each other, we are still bonded intricately, delicately and this bond needs to be cared for. A slight fold will break the veins, break the ties. It also said leaves fall, leaves fly and reach different places…but they are still the leaves of the same tree…still connected, still identified. True friends can grow separately without growing apart. 


Saturday, April 17, 2010


Someone has said: Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
“Should I do this? Should I do that? Is it OK? What will they think of me? What if anybody laughs at me? Will I even be able to do it? C’mon I am not a kid to do that?”…have you ever heard these rattling conversations going on in your own mind? If yes, then stop ‘em! Don’t take yourself too seriously! Haha wait! You may say…what?? Don’t take “myself” too seriously? Am I not important for myself? Of course I should think about myself and for that I need to take myself seriously! Well…I beg to differ. As ironic as it may seem…you will enjoy more and love yourself more if you do not take yourself too seriously. 
 I would do this too and think about people’s reactions to what I do…what I do coz I like...love to do. I would think twice before going out and jumping around in the rain all by myself. What would passers-by think of me if they saw me? – I would think.
Be ready to laugh at yourself. I read this somewhere: “Don’t take yourself too seriously...angels fly coz they take themselves lightly“  True ain’t it? If you think you are falling…get up face it…laugh at it and the silly mistake you might have made…restart and finish a winner! Coz if you don’t take yourself seriously, you’ve got a chance. It’s when you take yourself seriously and you begin to believe all this bullshit that you can really stumble. This is a very good thing to remember when you are fighting resistance – the “perfection – induced” one. Don’t hesitate to do something coz you think you are not good at it and might go wrong. Go ahead! Go wrong! You might come with something new by not adhering to a standard protocol. 

You don’t need a conscious reason for doing what you want to do. You don’t need anyone’s permission. “Because I feel like it” is a good enough reason for you. Now of course I will not wake up at like 2am and dance to loud music. That is like doing what I feel like and overstepping other people’s boundaries. There’s a difference between not doing something because you would harm other people, and not doing something because of what others might think about you. Ever watched children playing? They do all sorts of fun things, silly role-playing, climbing trees, crazy games… and they absolutely don’t care what others think about that. After all, it’s okay for a child to be acting silly. When you stop taking yourself too seriously, you can really have fun! Just get in touch with that creative I-don’t-care-what-others-think attitude. Just like a child, you simply do your own thing and enjoy it.
But then there is another extreme to this. Read this experience of mine. I had gone to Charleston in March with Amie, Roshni and Shirin. We visited the Charleston market by the port. This market, located in a tunnel-like structure, had all sorts of handicrafts and interesting trinkets. There was this woman sitting outside the market weaving lovely cane baskets. I aimed my camera to capture her and her art. As soon as she spotted me…she hid her face! I was like what…? Then I realized…this small town old woman…shy, modest, apprehensive about being stored in someone’s chemical memories – did not take herself seriously. Her awesome art was strewn in front of her…but still she was shy…down-to-earth. Here is where you need to be proud of yourself. I would have been. Confident and sure that you are good, you have ability, you make a difference.  

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten”
-          Natasha Bedingfield
Remember this from the Pursuit of Happiness: “Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. You got a dream; you gotta protect it.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Hows the weather today?"

Just an everyday thing that I observed and felt like writing about - "hows the weather today?", "hows the weather there?", "isn't the weather great today?"
I call this the all-purpose element - WEATHER!
Want to start a conversation with a total stranger? use the weather-question; want to stop a boring conversation? divert it to the weather; are stuck in the middle of a conversation and are thinking of a new topic to continue on? use the weather again!! Blame it on the weather i would say.

But its so handy! It has helped me several times to weather away boring conversations, to kick off new ones, and continue talking just for the sake of it.
Just a small 'evryday' thing of whether weather is to the cue!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Life – situations, indications and the selectively superstitious mind

Y’all might ask me why I am writing a blog on negative things instead of sharing happy happy stuff. Haha!So well…sometimes it happens that all things just are tied together and pushed on us. I am referring to the positive and negative situations, both.
So this past week I was dead!! Half dead due to dance and singing practice for the diwali function + classes + teaching + lab + public transport!! And my remaining half death occurred due to this package of negatives!

Monday saw me attending lectures the entire day and going to lab after that at like 4pm. I use the public transport and have to take two buses to reach lab. Guess what?  Climbed in the wrong second bus!! And to its favor it goes in a totally opposite direction from the Richland hospital where the cancer lab is.  So yeah I wasted like an hour there. So you might say “big deal! One hour of life gone – does not matter!”Haha! Yes! But it did matter to me coz I had to stay in lab for an hour extra – it was a time-bound experiment. So when I reached lab, I had this uncontrollable urge to have the tiramisu at the canteen there. But alas they were out of it! I wearily took the elevator upstairs and into the lab. I realized that the results from the previous step were not as I had gotten them before. Had to redo some things now. Frustration! 

Tuesday – no neuro class. That means go to lab early. I board the right buses this time…reach lab, look at my mouse cells. Look at my immunofluorescence staining. It does not look good.  My cells are contaminated!! The whole lab is!! All of us have lost time and efforts and cells. Arrrgh! Ok I start afresh. I stay in lab till like 8 pm. Tired, I decide not to board the bus and take a cab instead – its faster. I reach home, pay the cabbie, give him a tip and come upstairs to my apartment. I fish my pockets for my wallet (card holder) to keep the change.  And guess what?! Yeah you guessed it right!! My wallet was missing! I searched my bag, tried to remember where all I went in my apartment after entering, went downstairs and traced my path back home from where I had gotten out of the cab – all in vain. Dude! It had my credit cards, my driver’s license, my health insurance card and my SSN card.

I was in tears – almost! Called up the cab office and told them what had happened and requested the cabbie to check his car for my black leather wallet that might have got camouflaged in the seats of his cab. His negative answer made my being almost in tears to actually shedding tears! Frustration that had reached its acme + tired mind + tired body + tension = I plop my bag down on the floor and sit down with a thud and almost break my pinky!! My poor little finger! I cry even more. Amit and Rohit call up – I am crying. They come to my apartment. I block all my cards and call 911 (God knows what they can do in this situation). Within 10 seconds, the cabbie calls up saying he has found my wallet under the seat when he was cleaning his car!! Thank G!! I go to meet him and take my wallet. Pay him like $20 for being such a kind soul and call up the SSN office to place a fraud alert. 

So yes – too much in two days right?? Say yes please! I could not handle more. Every instant of these 2 days I asked, “why me?” I was even wearing a new charm (a gift I received) around my neck that would keep the evil away. In spite of that so much bad together? Well, it was not so bad if you went to dissect each and every situation. But the cumulative effect had a toll on me. I sat thinking – is this so called “protective” charm having a negative effect instead?? I decided to take it off. But my friend Niranjan said “don’t do that…the charm has probably gotten rid of all the bad at once – and all that follows will be good!!” I didn’t have the heart to question it either – coz it was gifted to me by a person closest to me. 

The next day – Wednesday – my day started off as usual with biochemistry. I was awake in class – positive #1, my teaching went off well and students were happy – positive #2, lab went off not as bad – positive # 3, dance n singing practice rocked – positive # 4, saw a shooting star on the way back home after practice – positive # 5! Niranjan said “I think u shud wear it cuz I think it got out all the bad days for u. That shooting star is a sign of good days to come!” haha! Thanks dude!! I wore the charm around my neck again that night.

I have never been superstitious. But these things guide your mind into thinking…what if ‘this’ happened due to ‘that’? Are these simply coincidences? Or is there a meaning to belief? Does one always dissect situations and look for indications life is giving? Or is it only when bad happens that you question it? Things bundle up and happen so much together that you feel like abdicating your place in the being. But at the same time a positive splash after that confirms that there is a higher power – playing these games, making you stronger, patient, optimistic, humble. I read somewhere that courage means to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends. So should I be proud that I am alive and kicking in spite of cumulative frustrations? Does that make me strong? Yes! Everything that doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger. Everything that does, makes me start afresh! 

This intricate web of life's ups and downs make it worth living and an ineresting mysterious adventure - something to look forward to always - with anxiety or anticipation. 

God allows life to be rocky. His challenge is not to let the rocks grind you into dust; but to polish you to become a brilliant all-withstanding gem. Right? So here’s a thumbs-up for all the pebbles turning into gems!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Romancing the Wind!

Beat the heat. Stay at home or at the office in a controlled atmosphere. Live a calculated life. That’s one way to exist. And then there is another in which you don’t keep hanging out at coffee joints and bars every waking hour. You just pack whatever comes to your mind and run for some adventure.It is this second way of life that fascinates me. This blog is about an adventure I undertook almost 6 years ago. My window to adventure was opened by the Pune District Board Sailing Association (PDBSA) in summer 2003 when I went for a sailing and windsurfing camp arranged by them at the backwaters of the Khadakwasla dam (Pune, India).
An hour long bus journey took us to the campsite at Khanapur Sneh Seva. It was a pleasant ambience with tents and a few rustic structures. After a wonderful lunch we were introduced to the technical terminology and theory of sailing. The first lessons were on learning the ropes – literally “ropes”. Our boat – the Enterprise Class – was introduced to us with its bow, stern, port, and starboard sides.
The first day comprised only of rigging the boat. A pair (a crew and a helm) was to be in-charge of one boat. We became aware of our strength and the tearing skin on our palms when we pulled the halyards of the sails to secure them on the boat. The first rigging took me and Radhika almost 15-20 minutes. After all this struggling and pulling, the boat had to be unrigged for practice! Arrghh!! What a waste, I thought. However, after continuous rigging and unrigging, our time reduced to 3 minutes!! – though this was achieved towards the end of the week-long camp. The scorching heat of the day urged our bodies towards the water to cool off. But the rule was “Life jackets on, or else get out of the water!”
After each day’s sailing lessons we played games, had dinner, sang songs around a campfire and then spent the night tossing and turning in our sleeping bags - thanks to the terrible mosquitoes buzzing in our ears!
The next morning, the sun was out shining brightly, laughing away as our skins tanned and charred. To outwit him we literally had to butter ourselves with sunscreen. It was day 3 and we were gonna actually start sailing. First we had to go as crew with our instructors. The first outing found us confused and longing for an Avomin to ensure a pleasant passage! This first journey is always a psychological battle as you try to convince yourself that it’s not gonna kill you!
The boat has to be balanced by the crew by hiking out of it. This is done by securing your feet in the foot straps and leaning out of the boat backwards (against the wind); and enjoying the water splash on your face while you struggle to prevent the boat from losing balance.

From day 4 we were taught helming. A sail boat always has two people – a helm and a crew. The crew’s job is to balance the boat and adjust the foresail so that it directs more wind to the mainsail. The helm plays the important role of navigation by adjusting the radar. He also has to control the mainsail. The tension on the sails has to be adjusted according to the whims and fancies of the wind. A little tilt to the leeward side and down you go for a capsize, with the boat submerging in diverted waters! But you know what? – ironically – capsizing is a breathtaking experience which every sailor must have! I capsized twice and just managed to prevent it once. Our daily score was a whopping 5-6 capsizes per day.
The sailboats and the wind surfers dotting the glowing Khadakwasla waters added a completely new dimension to its magnificence. Evenings were the most beautiful, with the wind becoming heavier and colder and the sun setting with a splash of gold! The glitter and the lilting sound of water coupled with the crimson of sunset all around, gave me a feeling of being on the edge of the world.
The able guidance of our instructors helped us have a taste of this wonderful and adventurous sport. The thrill of the breeze on our faces and the water below us, the adventure of capsize and the fun-filled time spent with the entire group made us forget our bruises and wounds acquired in those 7 days!