Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Software You will copy with risks to penalties and criminal procedures.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Downton Abbey

My expectations from Season 5.

Mr. Bates will be innocent of the murder of Mr. Green. He might have gone to London, but Green's death was an accident. That vile creature met poetic justice finally.
Anna Bates (née Smith) will have left the horrors of that night behind. Hopefully, she will be expecting a kid with Mr. Bates, not because I think it is important but because it was a sign of a happy marriage in those days.
Mary Crawley will become more down-to-earth and choose Blake over the others, not just for his impending baronetcy but his expertise in practical and theoretical farming which can help the estate become profitable. Also, she needs a strong-willed man like him, not a feeble one.
Tom Branson has been mourning longer than Mary. It seems unfair that Mary has a desire of suitable suitors while he gets approached by the most unlikely ones. However, Miss Bunting might provide fuel for his ascent in a political career. She speaks her mind and he needs to be a little more assertive instead of feeling grateful to the Crawleys all the time .
Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess I like her the way she is. Acerbic. I think she is Julian's favorite. She gets the best lines in the show and was in Gosford Park (for which Julian won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay). I wish she were kinder to Mathew's mother though.
Daisy Though I want her to stay till the end of the series, I hope she takes Mr. Mason's advice and looks after his farm, starts her own business of jam, jellies etc. and grows into an independent woman.
Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. It is about time those two were together.
Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham should be less of a pompous ass and become a pragmatist. He gets on my nerves sometimes. I was happy when he was away in America and Mary had an unimpeded say on the way things were run.
Isis should have puppies. Lots of them. And they should race each other on the green lawns and sprawl in the summer sun.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ajju Dadu

I came across him on Facebook group  and the liking was instant. He is one of those people I sent a friend request to with the intent to know him better. Ajju dadu (dadu= grandpa in Bengali), as we lovingly call him,  is a fascinating person. He was born in Rangoon, Burma in 1933. After Rangoon was bombed, his family fled to Calcutta as refugees by boat, reaching in 1942.

Dui purush

When he was 11, he acted in Dui Purush (1945) and shared the screen with one of the most veneered actors of Bengali cinema- Chhabi Biswas. Fortunately, I found a copy on YouTube and played the movie for him when we had him over for lunch in October 2013. Sixty-eight years later, he still remembered how beautiful Chandrabati Devi was.

The wars
'During WWII, a lot of GIs on the Burma front got sick with tropical diseases. There was a U.S. Army hospital, close to my home in Calcutta. One evening, I was returning from a swim at the Dhakuria Lake (now Rabindra Sarobar) when I saw a lonely GI sitting by the water. I went up, spoke to him, and invited him for dinner. My mother was delighted. She had three sons in the Air Force (two had died in the war). Soon, our home became a center for lonely, young GIs. I was into pen-pals at that time and one of the GIs I connected with was from Lewiston, ME. We corresponded for several years.

In 1955, I was in Delhi. My pen-friend’s father sent me a letter letting me know that he and his wife would be visiting Delhi and they wished to meet me at their hotel. I did so and found out that he was an economist and was in India on a State department assignment. I told them that I wished to come to the U.S. and they suggested I sent them my resume.  I did so and I received a certificate sponsoring me to come to U.S. It was signed by Dr. Charles F. Phillips, President, Bates College, Lewiston, ME.

I went to the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta and the Vice Consul, a huge, affable African- American man, told me that the Indian quota was full as, until 1956, Indians could not become citizens, due to the Asian Exclusion Act.  Therefore, all the Indians in the U.S. were lined up to get their green cards. I was literally on my way out at the door when the official said, “If you were born in India, you'd have to wait six years. I told him that I was born in Burma. He said, “That quota is open”.  I got my Green Card in a week.

I spent a semester at Bates College, Lewiston ME and then volunteered for the draft.  I served two years in Georgia and North Carolina, in the then segregated South.'

His first love
'I went to Northwestern to study journalism. I worked part-time waiting at tables at the Mather Home for retired women.  One of my fellow workers and students was a young woman. We were the most unlikely couple but we became friends soon.  Karen was my first love.  We celebrated our birthdays together, her twentieth and my twenty-sixth, on July 2, 1959, as she was born on July 1 and I was born on July 3.  Our parting was bitter.  She went on to become a famous Hollywood film actress.

Three years ago, I had a dream that Karen was sick and dying and I had gone to visit her. I dismissed the dream. In July of 2013, I googled her name and found to my horror that she was dying of cancer, was broke and was soliciting donation on “Go Fund Me”. I sent some money and also wrote a message to her private site. She replied with her personal email and included her phone number. It was a warm and loving message and she asked me to call her. I did not do so, to my eternal regret, for complicated reasons. She died early in August 2013.'

I came down with a back-ache and went to an acupuncturist, who asked me if I had been under stress. I told her about Karen. She had seen her movies and knew one of Karen’s close friends, who lived in New York. The next time I went to see Abigail, the acupuncturist, I took an album of photos of Karen that I had taken in July 1959, also one of me taken by Karen.  She asked me if I had considered sending them to her family and I said I did not know her family.  By the time my treatment was over, she called Karen’s friend in NY who called her husband, who said he would be delighted to have the pictures.  I sent the pictures to Stephen, a movie producer.  He called me and thanked me warmly. He said that Karen had mentioned me often and that I was mentioned in her memoirs, that she completed the night before she died.  Stephen had been married to Karen for 24 years. He was 23 years her junior.  Karen was 74 when she died.

I left Chicago in 1963 and lived 25 years in SF. I got married and my daughter was born in 1967.  I took an early retirement from working as a Unit Supervisor in Child Protective Services for 25 years.  I have had a number of jobs since then: nine years with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents at Lincoln Child Center, two years at the SF VA Medical Center, two years at East Bay Recovery, a year counseling federal parolees, two years at Community Health for Asian American. My last part-time job was with Catholic Charities in Oakland until my program was cut short due to budget problems.  Since then I have been working part-time with family survivors of murder victims. Presently, I work with three Latina families who have been victims of violent crime. I have also worked with a French-speaking Haitian refugee family.'
Swimming with the dolphins
Dadu suggested  that we should try Wild Quest: Swimming with the Dolphins in the Bahamas. He said, 'If you don't pursue them, they'll come to you.' He was on an island named Bimini, where incidentally, most people had Hindu names like Aatma etc. Explaining his love for dolphins, he said:

When I was eight, Rangoon was bombed and we fled to Calcutta, our ancestral city, as refugees. As our boat streamed out of the Irrawaddy River into the Bay of Bengal, a school of dolphins leaped in an arc out of the water. I asked my mother, "What are those?" and she replied, "Those are shushuk (Bengali for dolphin)." "What does it mean?" It means we shall have peace in our lives from now on."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Asha- an interview with Padmanava Sen

Millennials are often cited as the Peter Pan generation who prefer to delay their rite into adulthood, shun responsibility, and feel entitled to privileges they had while growing up- without having to work for it. But  I also know people about my age who commit their energy to several causes like: urban agriculture, sustainability, education etc.

One such person is Padmanava Sen, a batch mate of SG. I met him in California through common friends. This is an interview with him about volunteering in general and his association with an international non-profit called Asha.

1. Tell us something about Asha.
Asha, which means "hope", is dedicated to the support of basic education of underprivileged children in India. Asha for Education is an international non-profit organization and has around 50 chapters in US, nine in India and 5 elsewhere. Asha's primary focus is on education because we at Asha believe that education is the most effective means to solve the problems of poverty, population explosion, and to bring about long-term socioeconomic change. Since its inception in 1991, “Asha for Education” has supported more than 800 educational projects in India disbursing more than $26 Million USD. In 2013 alone, around 170 projects are supported with 13+ crores INR. Asha runs completely on volunteers and around 1000 volunteers across the World make it happen.

2. How did you get associated with it?
I joined Asha Atlanta Chapter in June 2006 after seeing a flyer in university notice board (Georgia Tech). After the first meeting, I was more or less sure I am not leaving Asha anytime soon. The reason that it is 100% volunteer driven, decentralized and non-hierarchical, made the decision very easy. I have moved out from Atlanta in 2010, I am still involved with almost all Atlanta projects (around 6 currently) till date. In 2009, I started my life in Central Projects Team with Cyclone Aila relief and currently coordinate across projects for RTE and other related issues being in India. In last 5 years, I have served 2 years in the board of directors as the Director of projects which gave a lot of exposure given the ~200 project portfolio of Asha.

Asha has not only helped me to stay connected to my country during my stay in USA it has helped me to realize the important things one can do in their spare time in the spirit of volunteerism.

3. What advice do you have for those who want to get involved?
Do not believe that everything will fall in place unless we get directly involved in the implementation of laws, in the education system, in women empowerment, to provide basic necessities to every human being on earth and in the process of giving equal opportunity to every child irrespective of gender, caste, birthplace and birth family.

Do not underestimate your own potential and overestimate the current systems in place to take care of everyone. Stop thinking about doing something and act; find 2-3 hours a week to volunteer for a good cause, a cause that you think is important. While you get involved, put the shoes of the underprivileged and think what is important to them. The definition of requirement should come from their side not from your viewpoint. Get the culture of giving and volunteering in your systems and teach the next generation to the same. Unless we help the unlucky ones, every success is tainted and every moment of happiness is incomplete.

Suggested further reading: His blog post Why volunteer

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Water conservation

On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in California for drought. While we just exclaim upon the absence of rains during the winter, the farmers and fire-fighters are on high alert. It is not the first time that the state declared a drought emergency. California has a climate prone to occasional dry spells. Though agriculture uses 80% of our water, we can do our bit by reducing water consumption voluntarily.  Here are some doable tips for water conservation:

  1. Cut shower times. Avoid using the bath tub.
  2. Repair leaky faucets. 
  3. Don't let the water flow while you brush or shave
  4. Set you load to proper size while doing the laundry. 
  5. If you own a lawn, time your sprinklers
  6. Cover your pool, to prevent loss from evaporation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My way

Sometimes, I wish I could see the world like I could a couple of years ago. That doesn't mean I am old. But I have seen enough to learn not to take every thing at face value. Sweet words mean nothing until accompanied with action. A brutally honest friend is always better than the sweet talker with empty words.

I am a little less narcissistic (I know! I know!). Have not given up taking selfies though. But most importantly- I don't think I need to validate my existence by gaining approval from others. Not that I ever cared much for that. People thought I was courageous. Bold. I was just plain stupid.

On second thoughts, it was more sensible to listen to my inner voice even when so many thought that I was taking a risk. 'You can do better' they said. I followed my heart. Now they consider me wise for not listening to them. What an irony!

If I could advise my younger self, I'd say  again what I had said to myself then. 'Don't give up hope.' And do it your way.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The taxonomy of desis

San Jose has so many desis, I sometimes forget that I ever left India. Of course, like any other population we have a few types:
  1. The Friendly Desi:  They'll always greet you with a smile and make genuine queries about  your welfare. However, they need to know that certain topics like salary or when the other person intends to start a family etc are considered beyond the scope of civilized conversations.
  2. The Jackass: You know the guy who sits in front of you  in a movie and texts incessantly like his life depended on it? Go out, make a call, come back- what is so difficult?  Or the guy who never cleans his gym equipment after use.
  3. The Stinky Desi:  My Lord, why do your clothes stink of curry all the time? Even I cook every day but I make sure I keep my  apartment well-ventilated. Also, clean the vent-filters once in a blue moon. Yours have advanced stages of lung cancer. Febreze is a wonderful product too.
  4. The Snob Desi:  Best not to comment on them. They know-it-all and have-seen-it-all. Few things   excite them anymore. They expect other  desis to  serve them  though they don't like  them at all.
  5. The Ideal Desi: The 'be-like-him' guy of the family.He is well-mannered, well-read, well-traveled.  His education has opened his mind to the world. He has no prejudice. He knows which cheese to serve with which wine. He is a courteous host and a balanced human being.
There are others sub-genres in the species too. Please don't feel compelled to belong to one of the five classes.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

What do you have against NRIs?

I am vexed. That is putting it mildly. Every day I see anti-NRI sentiments on the social network. Stories about how the Americanized children forget their parents. How they begin to eat beef, worship Satan and their blood turns black from their sins. Hear this-not every NRI is a devil incarnate or a lallu (whom the ex-gf married for money)

First things first. A lot of parents in my generation filled our minds with the equation, America = success. Now, we have taken every test possible and gone through the torturous hours of a visa interview where the better part of the day is spent waiting in a queue like we were dead and at the gates of Heaven - waiting to be sorted for our past deeds. After everything we go through- to settle in a foreign country, to start from scratch, to make new friends, to begin to enjoy new cuisines and cultures -wait a second! Wasn't that the point of my education?

My school principal once said that education isn't complete until you have pursued it overseas. In my young mind, he had a point- wouldn't it be wondrous to know  people living in other countries, have friends whose name I found it difficult to pronounce, and to learn from people who have a different background -with  the only common thread : pursuit of knowledge?

Of course, the second thing is: money. I know NRIs in US and elsewhere who send money home regularly or at least readily on emergencies. Businesses like Xoom thrive on remittance. Nobody ever mentions that. NRIs are the devils who give away their hard-earned money without any expectations. Quite contrary to the popular belief propagated in movies where NRIs go home only to sell the paternal house.  Conveniently failing to mention that no one else wants to deal with the legal fees and lawyers.

What I am saying is- there are two aspects to everything. Some choose to return to their native country because they prefer the life there. Some choose to stay on because they love it where they have settled. Stop being spiteful because someone's circumstances or choice is different from yours.