The Salt Of The Earth

About two years ago, I read an article about a talented individual who had shown a lot of promise at a young age. She was the top of her class, the captain of an under 19 cricket team and a person who was destined to make a positive impact on the world. Sadly, a small accident made her lose her lose mobility of her limbs and she was confined to a wheelchair. In spite of her special needs (which isn’t well supported in India), she graduated college and took up a job that sustained herself. She had even started an organization called SoulFree to help other people like her. I was inspired by this story and wrote my first check to help them. I could not contribute a lot during my Masters and once I graduated,  I started contributing to SoulFree again.

preethi-about-us

As a part of my yearly goals, I wanted to swim in open waters this year. I found an event near my city and registered for the 5km swim. I hadn’t participated in the open water events before and for the past year I had only been swimming in the indoor pool at the university. The highlight of my swimming career was when I swam the Micheal Phelps 10Km challenge almost a year ago. Theoretically, the 5k seemed doable but I hadn’t covered over 3km in one session in a while. The event was a good opportunity for me to get a practice routine and correct my stroke a little. I also wanted use this occasion to raise money for soul free. A few years ago Sarah Peck swam Alcatraz and raised 33,000$ for charity water. Inspired by Sarah, I found a site online called Milaap which helped me transfer money to SoulFree in India. I contacted Preethi who encouraged me to raise money for the wheelchair donation drive that needed funding urgently.

11063641_972100089499081_861648044034880420_o_1456358012_1456358073

I assumed if I ask my circles to donate we may be able to contribute 500$ (~30,000 Rs) which would account for three wheelchairs but soulfree needed thirteen. It was far more than I could contribute personally and I would get to learn about crowdfunding. It took a while to setup but we finally created a campaign on milaap. I started by asking friends individually, first over the phone and then reminding them over email(s). I made a list of people who I knew would contribute based on my relationship and their financial situation. I assumed Preethi’s story would move people who woud read it but I needed to validate my assumption which turned out to be true. Luckily, I seem to be surrounded by generous people and we raised 500$ within a week. I was happy with the outcome but I emailed my friends as much as possible. Thanks to people’s generosity, on the week of the swim we reached 1500$ (~1Lakh) which was 60% of our goal. This was thrice the amount I hoped and I figured it was a good place to be.

Thursday!

13007256_10209212157159887_6240590181274552307_n

I planned to go to Miami with a friend but sadly due to poor planning I ended up going alone. I booked a cheap Airbnb with good reviews about 15 mins away from the event. I had a promotional offer from Lyft so I planned to use it to travel. The Airbnb turned out to be a very small house with lots of decorative lights, cute dog and hidden stories. It was run by a Cuban senior citizen called Maria with help from two of her house guests. The house had a vibe of having an eternal Christmas with lots of cute little dolls. On the first day, I walked around the beach and was accidentally dragged into a Turkish restaurant by a very attractive woman. I have a hard time saying no and this lady looked almost enthusiastic about convincing me to spend my money there. Her eyes behind the makeup were fatigued and bored, she knew I didn’t have a lot of money but I looked like an easy kill. I asked for a quiet place to sit and worked on a blog post that I had been putting off. The restaurant was pricey and I have learnt to say no now. I bought some items from CVS and retired for the night. The Lyft driver during my return journey could not understand English and I used Google translate to speak to him in Spanish.

Friday!

The next day, I got up early and contacted the race officials and asked for a place to practice. They recommended I try the Jewish community center pool. It was very sunny and the water was much warmer than the pool at the university. I knew the sunscreen was critical as I needed to prevent my already tanned skin from deteriorating further. I swam in intervals of 30 mins and got out of the water to add sunscreen on my face and hands. I did that for 6 sessions after which my body was dehydrated because of the heat. I knew this stress test was the most vital practice for the 5k swim as I needed the outdoor exposure. My arms were uncomfortable because of the direct sunlight and warm water so  I occasionally swam with fists to alter the circulation in my hands. At the end of the session, a coach told me that she had been watching me and was amazed that I had been swimming for three hours. She had been teaching a child with special needs to swim the mile and said she would be cheering for me in the race. I remembered my coach had given up on me when I started out but my dad taught me how to swim. Today, I am a long distance swimmer thanks to his effort and encouragement.

Saturday!

On Saturday, I got a call from Milaap’s community manager Athira saying that they were willing to take over the project and help us with the rest of our journey. She said that she will take an additional two days to set up their process and I can continue emailing my friends. Preethi was excited about the development and I was happy to form this connection between the two organizations. Preethi had bigger plans for SoulFree to start the first rehabilitation center in India to help people with spinal cord injuries. Milaap would back SoulFree with their marketing campaigns and I felt it would be the baby steps needed for Preethi to receive the critical mass for her organization to grow. I had two more days to raise funds but I had exhausted all my contacts so I was content with reaching 66% of our target. I had to register for the event and practice in open waters today so I put that as major priority. Sadly, the event organizers didn’t have proper provisions for me to practice, I had to change in a portable restroom and deposit my bag at the registration kiosk. I met an elderly gentleman(John) in his late 60s who said he had completed the 5k before and was planning on swimming the 10K tomorrow. He offered to help me out by watching over me while I practiced as it wasn’t safe to swim alone. I got into the water and it was strange to walk in muddy shallow waters. I started swimming after walking a few steps and it felt very natural. The sea gave me additional buoyancy and I was able to swim easier than swimming at the pool. I am not the best at flip turns and was glad that I didn’t have to do it every 30 seconds now. I aimed for the ships in the far corner and started swimming towards them.

It was different from swimming in the pool, where I could clearly see where I was headed. I had to glance up every now and then to steer in the right direction. As I swam for a few minutes, the salty water got me nauseated but I managed to stay focussed on the goal. To be honest, I had no choice as I could not stop and hold anywhere!. As I crossed the halfway mark, the currents pushed me towards the shore and I was able to see plants and weeds underneath. Suddenly, I noticed a distinct feature jutting out of the weeds, it looked like a tail……!. I ignored it for few seconds after which I reasoned it could be a SHARK!. I quickly turned around and used the adrenalin rush to swim very quickly towards the nearest dock, which was 10 mins away. I was hopeful about being safe because the tail wasn’t moving. To be honest, the alternative was not a painless way to leave the earth. After a few steeled minutes, I reached the dock and was glad to see John waiting for me. He told me that there are no sharks here and I probably saw a debris of a broken ship. I then swam for about 20 more minutes and got back as John recommended I rest before the race day. The beach didn’t have showers that day so I had to go home. I had food at a vegetarian restaurant, walked at the beach nearby and came home early because of the rains. Maria, my landlady gave me some soup and vegetables and told me that I was like her grandson. I was moved by her gesture and slept early.

13007332_10209212157079885_6156924219567402077_n

Sunday.. Race day!

I woke up early as I had a bad dream in which I was late for the race by an hour because my friend switched off my alarm. In my dream, I was annoyed when I realized it but I immediately reconciled thinking that I probably should have told him earlier. I decided to go to the event immediately because I was in it to swim. I then woke up to see that a friend(Abhinav Asthana) had donated ~400$(25000Rs) which pushed us to 85%.  This was the highest contribution by far and it also renewed my spirit to complete the donation drive. I sent a reminder email to my friends who were most likely to donate and then I contacted more people whom I had forgotten but were less likely to donate. I was ready at 8:30 even after waking up at 5:30. The Lyft driver I met was a Spanish speaker again we conversed with each other through google translate. I thanked him for driving me there and I went to the registration desk. They told me to check in my bags and report to the starting about 10 mins before the race started i.e. at 9:50. I kept my bags inside and was really thirsty but noticed that all the cash in my wallet was missing. The only water available could be bought by cash for 2$. I decided it was too late to and I walked towards the starting position. Luckily for me, they were giving away free energy drinks for participants and I took one and quenched my thirst with a few gulps. I kept a small bag with a towel in a secluded location and wore my trunks. They had given us disposable anklets which were meant to track your times. As we gathered, I spoke to a few people who said they had participated in the event before. They told me about the dangers of being accidentally whacked by competitive swimmer and I could avoid it by swimming at the sides. Then the announcement caught my attention.

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE ARE NOW READY TO START OUR 5K SWIM”

CROWD ROARS

“LET’S GATHER AROUND FOR A DRONE SELFIE!!”

Screen-Shot-2016-04-12-at-4.50.20-PM.png

It was exciting to see people bursting with energy, there were people of all age groups participating in 800m, 1 mile, 5k and the 10K. We each had different colored caps which helped us distinguish each other while swimming. The under nineteen boys were to go first followed by men, girls and then women. I saw the children start off enthusiastically and then it was our turn in a few minutes. We were supposed to swim into the track which was a mile long, swim for 3 laps around it and return to the starting position. I knew, I could swim the distance but was intimidated by the thought of being whacked. I decided to stay clear of others and let them pass ahead of me.

“5…4….3 …. 2 … 1 … GO!”

I waited a few seconds till everybody was about a 50m ahead and then I started the race, I noticed that the water was extra murky today. My goal was to complete the first lap as soon as possible because the 5k girls, 5k women and Miami mile swimmers with the pink cap would be behind me shortly. I swam on the outer rims of the track and the winds helped me stay away from the track when I was swimming closer to the beach. I swim with bilateral breathing but couldn’t turn towards the direction of the wind. I turned right and occasionally forward till I reached the first buoy where I had to take a U-turn and swim in the opposite direction. The turn was tricky because I had to take a larger curve to avoid all the other swimmers. While swimming in the opposite direction i.e. westward I had to breathe in the left direction and couldn’t swim in the right direction as the winds were too strong. I occasionally found myself in between a group of swimmers and I imagined being followed by a shark and swam in the north-west direction to swim outside the track. As I finished the first lap, I noticed people cheering as the mile swimmers were completing their race. The second lap was easier but I tried speeding up a little because I was slowing down (procrastinating). I found it harder to swim with the currents pushing me. I assumed this swim would be like any other practice where I would be playing a song in my head or thinking some happy thoughts. Sadly, the water refused to let me do any of that. I was in survival mode and I had to be constantly vigilant for other swimmers or mindful about my sense of direction. In the midst of the swim, I  remembered master Oogway’s quote. “Your mind is like this water my friend when it’s agitated it becomes unclear but if you allow it to settle (taps his staff) it become clear”. I calmed myself down and got a rhythm and continued swimming, I was mindful of the time as I wanted to complete by 2hrs. Though that calmed me down, I wasn’t quite at peace to swim in a periodic rhythm as I would have hoped because I would slow down when I had to look up. I wish I had practiced sighting (looking forward) which is an important part of open water swimming. I finished the race in 1 hour 48 minutes which is not bad for a start considering this was my first gig outside the pool.

13015592_10209212147519646_6500078036299059818_n

After the race, a volunteer(Margaret) noticed that I was alone and convinced me to take some pictures of me with the race medal. I was not keen on it but I took the picture for the sake of memories and sharing with my family. She and her husband told me about traveling to Fort Lauren del instead of Miami to save money next time. They also suggested I stay at South Beach because it’s safer there. I thanked them and called home to tell my parents that I am safe. I went back home and took a shower and cleaned myself. I traveled to the South Beach and ate at an Arabian restaurant which had a lentil soup. I had a long walk on the beach and played with the sand to make a gigantic Yin Yang. I returned home and booked a ticket for the Miami bus tour the next day.

Monday!

The bus tour started with me rushing to the city center. The tour guided recommended me to try the art district which has a nice view of the graffiti in the houses. I got off the bus and spent about an hour taking photos in the Wynwood neighborhood. I liked the “stop wars” from Yoda and Peter Tunney’s work. His work was writing things like “Gratitude”, “Everything will be ok”, “You are amazing” and “All is well” using newspaper clippings in the background without proper spacing. To be honest, those were the words I needed to hear then and was soothing to see it. I got off the bus and took the ride to the center. We then toured the upscale Coral Gable neighborhood and ocean driver.  I got to know about the history of Miami and the art deco buildings that were preserved there. We saw the awesome multimillion dollar houses and passed occasional ships along the way. It was a wonderful experience to be in the magic city.

Tuesday!

I woke up early on the day of the flight but I missed the flight because of an accident near the airport. The Lyft driver dropped me off at departures which has a tram to the main airport.The authorities were kind enough to give me an alternative flight and I reached home a few hours late. In retrospect, Miami trip was filled with people who were passionate about life. Miami is known as the magic city and the city of dreams. I was able to see it reflected in it’s people, who were immigrants from neighbouring islands. They went about doing their daily jobs and worked hard through odd jobs like driving Lyft to make ends meet.  Some people had a language issue, they could not speak English but they were learning English through Duolingo. My landlady “Maria” worked all day and was very helpful inspite of being an octogenarian. The elderly gentlemen in the mid sixties was an inspiration too, he was retired but would run marathons and swim across reefs. All these people were humble, extremely passionate about ambitious goals and smiled in spite of their tough lives. A friend of mine suggested that people like them are called “The Salt Of The Earth”. They are the cogs of this gigantic ecosystem that we have and sometimes we may not give them enough credit.  I feel, I need to learn to be like them. Humility, professionalism and passion are qualities which I feel are vital towards making a larger impact. For various reasons mine had dwindled and this adventure helped me revive it a little.

IMG_0855_1461551944

I came home and emailed a few more friends and we were able to meet the campaign’s goal a few days ago, it was a magical experience. This journey through crowdfunding, swimming and meeting people in Miami has given me hope. I have learned that an ordinary person like me can make a small difference thanks to the support of generous around me. I am grateful for my friends and family for supporting me in this adventure. A special thanks to Milaap, Preethi from SoulFree for giving me this opportunity to contribute. Hope to try something similar in a few months, feel free to contact me if you are interested in helping out early.

P.S. Here is the complete set of photos of my trip, I am not a good photo grapher but hope you get to enjoy a bit of Miami.

https://www.facebook.com/vikramkamathc/media_set?set=a.10209212058077410.1073741830.1199684978&type=3&pnref=story

 

 

Being a Brahmin

Recently, I met a European gentleman at the pool who noticed my sacred thread. He commended me about following my tradition. I felt good to be praised for something which only my parents valued, It was also a rare occasion when I received praise for my tradition.

As a Brahmin, I had been ridiculed a lot in my school days. My friends interrogated me   about my diet and looked disdainfully when I told them that I used to eat fish. It so happens that I come from a small minority of brahmins who are pescatarians from ancestry. Usually, most brahmins are vegans and not eating meat is an attribute of being a brahmin. I seemed like a renegade weirdo to my classmates. It was easy to be singled out when a long dangling thread sticks out of you. I remember kids at the swimming camp talk out loud and wonder what was the significance of wearing this thread i.e. being a Brahmin.

So what is being a brahmin?

Screenshot 2016-04-15 at 5.54.12 PM.png

Honestly, I can only answer what it is for me. Upanayan a ritual signifying coming of age in Hinduism, it’s now done to boys because it was discontinued for women a few centuries ago due to historical reasons. It is meant to make you wise and grant you access to the holy scriptures i.e. becoming a Brahmin.

To me, it started out as a humiliating experience. I was asked to shave my head by my parents (which was optional) and I had to hide in my native for a month for my hair to grow back. I wept as the barber shaved my head and  my cousins laughed at me. In their defense it seems really funny right now, I am also grateful that there was no youtube back as it was recorded on tape :P. In retrospect, I had to be assertive to my parents about shaving my hair or should have reacted like an adult. To make things worse I was short and people would tease me for my height. I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire and I stayed back in my native. In all honesty, it was a fun experience at my cousins and I am glad that my baldness helped me spend time with them. In spite of everything I did my prayers dutifully and even do it today. It became my mini morning ritual so I guess it made me a slightly better(or at least cleaner) person because I did my ritual.

The ritual is pledging our Divine Mother who is the supreme deity of Hinduism to purify our sins. She is considered very sacred and a lot of other gods need to be worshiped before asking her to bless us. To be honest, until recently I didn’t know what the mantras meant, I have been babbling them at high speed out of force of habit (Gods are probably like “What the Heck was that” to my prayers). A few months ago, I looked up their meaning online and made a google doc. This small task led me to read more about Hinduism, I learned about Ishwara, Brahman and got some better insight into my own culture.

There’s a Zen saying “The way a person does one thing is the way they do everything”. I don’t think this can be generalized but I believe Sandhya Vandhanam was supposed to be a morning ritual to keep people healthy. Doing that one act probably made men and women of that time disciplined, which might have led them to become wiser. My opinion is that religion, gender, race and physical attributes are items you enter in your driver’s license. It should have little or no effect on how you drive through life. It’s ultimately what you do in your journey that matters. Also, learning a little about your tradition isn’t that bad.

hqdefault.jpg

On a totally different thread,  I am visiting Miami to swim at Swim Miami for charity. If you can help us out please contribute here https://bitly.com/soulfree_milaap. It would also help if you could contribute by sharing it on your network.
  

 

 

P.S. link to my google doc if you happen to be a Hindu Brahmin from my community.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AW-MAAENMQQTVhTARZmuL7r9Wt0CK6b42g3eHDNxXtY/edit?usp=sharing

 

House by the side of the road

I moved to Pittsburgh eighteen months ago. I rarely travel and prefer to spend my time indoors. I found it difficult to find apartments while moving to the new city. To make apartment hunting easier, CMU conducted a meetup in Bangalore to build connections and meet people. We had a happy hour session after an extempore about life in Pittsburgh from our seniors. My inferiority complex coupled with shy nature led me to walk out of the event. I wandered for an hour before I took a rickshaw home. I searched online and ended with a basement and a hall as my potential housing options. I decided to take the hall as my friends commented thar the basement was a difficult place to stay. I called the contact (Veeru) and agreed to take the place in B708 at Kenmawr Apartments.

WEB-9569.jpg

My cousin was kind enough to help me in my first day in Pittsburgh and he dropped me at Kenmawr. My first impression was that the apartment was messy and it seemed that I would have little or no privacy while staying in the hall. I hoped that this would push me out of my comfort zone and help me come out of my shell. I got to learn a lot from my amazing roommates and am lucky that they chose me. We had a lot of fun in past year, travelling to temple, eating at Tamarind, playing Liar’s Dice(it’s like poker) and cooking together. During my stay, I also learned how to cook ( a hundred others will say I still don’t), I understood the importance of earplugs (My roommates discussed a lot :P) and finally I learned the value in helping others.

When I first entered the apartment, my prospective roommate (Mama) offered to travel to my hotel to help me carry my stuff. I was shocked and amazed by this kind gesture. People find it hard to help friends in need but this person was willing to dedicate a few hours to carry the luggage of a random stranger. My roommates (Sashank, Veeru, Ravi and Mama) always made extra food so I could have enough to eat. I usually came late at night and there would always be something kept in the kitchen. I rarely cooked (many will say I shouldn’t be allowed to) but my roommates weren’t selfish or vengeful for me not taking initiative. I used to be engrossed in my assignments and they were compassionate enough to help me selflessly through my difficult times. I was lucky to spread their hospitality to a few of the guests who came to Kenmawr for conferences.

The day I left I learned another very important lesson, doing good is it’s own reward. Irrespective of how many people I helped move, I moved my luggage out of the apartment alone. Luckily, I am a minimalist so I could move my things in an Uber. To be honest, I was secretly hoping someone would help me move out (at least the Uber driver for a tip). Sadly, nobody did, I came to learn that self-help is the best help and I should not expect others to help me because I helped them. I’m not wise enough to comment about Karma or God but I enjoy helping others and that should be a reward in itself.

1915062_182378888783519_6493772626300018890_n.jpg

I was requested to return to Kenmwar to supervise cleaning after Christmas. Another acquaintance of ours lived next door and I was curious as to why they called me all the way there for a simple task. Anyway, I dropped in to see that the apartment was a “HUGE MESS”. It was a wreck, there were garbage bags filled with junk everywhere and furniture that needed to be moved out. The cleaning lady (Rebecca from DustbunnyExpress) was expecting far less garbage compared to the wreckage she was supposed to deal with that day. To add to her dismay, her colleagues had bailed on her and she had gotten her teenage kids to help her clean. She had allocated two hours for the job and cleaning alone would take her three, she also had to remove the furniture.  My inferiority complex and shy nature prevent me from speaking up but I had a strong urge to help them that day and that out weighed my insecurity. I was disappointed that the owner had left out the gore details about the apartment and felt that it was wrong on his part. The cleaning lady was sportive, she took it as a challenge and decided to clean the wreckage herself. I was impressed with her positive attitude and decided to help them.

Growing up, I aspired to be a superhero like Spiderman. They portray a weak, scrawny kid like me who magically transforms into a superhuman because of a spider bite and uses his skills for good. To me, compassion is that radioactive spider that helps me come out of my shell. I was sad that the kids had to work so hard on a Saturday afternoon. I am weak and can barely open sealed jars (I didn’t eat a lot of vegetables growing up). Nevertheless, I told the lady that I would help and carried all the furniture outside the apartment with her son. The 17-year-old kid was much stronger than me, he easily managed to carry things and I used to be out of breath in minutes. Seeing us struggle, the building janitor helped us by giving us a large movable trash can, this made our work a whole lot easier.  In two hours we were done and there was only cleaning left to do. The lady thanked me and said she would handle it on her own.

I walked away with my muscles aching and returned to the room in an hour. They were almost done and I could listen to them giggling and chatting with each other. It reminded me of my times with my mom when she took us to carry groceries. I used my spare time for a quick drawing to convey my gratitude to the cleaning lady. She was happy with what I gave her and even added it to her facebook page :). I was impressed by her sportive nature and recommended her to the building manager.

10373521_182379735450101_26366975811159802_n.jpg

It’s amazing how a little compassion can turn a shy, weak person like me against my nature. I am unable to speak to people when my life depended on it for finding apartments but was able to help a stranger because I cared.

“Let me live in my house by the side of the road. And be a friend to man.”

It is a verse from a poem which says people live secluded lives or go on tedious journeysaway from society to find the meaning of life. The author argues that other people are no different than him and they have positive and negative characteristics that are in him. He ends the poem by saying that he chooses to lead a meaningful life by metaphorically living in a house by the side of the road so he can help people around him. I think there’s wisdom in those words, helping people in small ways through random acts of kindness is a very positive way to live. Hope to build on this skill, thank you Kenmawr for helping me get started.

I guess we can’t have superheroes in the real world. The real world needs real heros. (Kickaass)

P.S. My superhero is and always will be Sudha Murty 🙂

Happy New Year!

 

Dual decade dream: The trip to Washington DC

Twenty years ago a little boy peaked at a photograph in his father’s hand. The photo portrayed a majestic African elephant charging towards the world in all it’s glory. His dad was standing right next to it smiling and with an air of confidence in his poise. The scene captivated him and it was imprinted into his mind. He later learned that the elephant was a wax figure in a museum in DC.  He patiently waited for twenty years to visit Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to witness him realize his dream.

We planned a trip to DC for the 4th of July weekend with most of our wing members (dorm mates) from my undergrad. We had an initial head count of 10 people, but we ended with 3 when people heard that I was going. My friend “The silent guardian” and me “Write wing” decided to take the greyhound mobile. “The boy wonder” flew to DC. We rendezvoused at a protest near the White house and were stunned to see it flocked with so many people. We took a lot of pictures around that area to interrupt tourists. This never-ending stream of confusion concluded when the security guards chased the tourists out and then us. We decided to check into our hotel next.

The boy wonder had booked a very cheap hotel on the outskirts of Maryland which may have been controlled by the mob. “The boy” made me pay for the hotel as the card “miraculously” stopped working :P. We headed back to the city because we found the need to utilize our daily passes to their full financial extent. We loitered around the memorials took a lot of photographs of us posing next to the monument, posing as if we were not tired of walking and weren’t sleep deprived. Well, our ride was at 5 AM and I ended up watching Big Bang Theory instead of sleeping to recharge myself. Once we had enough pictures when photoshoped could fool people into thinking that were smart, good-looking and rich (It’s a new icon in the latest version) we decided to go have dinner. We chose a Mexican restaurant because I had a craving for flat bread and “the boy wonder” thought they were cheap.

“The silent guardian” used his gadget that used satellite technology to guide us to the hotel (would have been faster if I hadn’t dropped it earlier I guess). We walked quite a few dark alleys and didn’t draw attention to ourselves by yelling “I’m Batman” (Leave the boy wonder a voice mail saying you want to sell him something and he will be happy to return your call and repeat the same). After traveling around the entire neighbourhood following the gadget, we saw that the restaurant was next to the board that blinked “Mexican Grill” (Who would have known?).

The restaurant was playing a Spanish television channel and was light with dim red light. It had a guy in a suit singing (some would say yelling) to a tune. We pretended that weren’t new to this kind of stuff and sat calmly in our seats. The waitress blinked a lot at the silent guardian. She kept side glancing at him and rolling her eyes. The boy wonder told me that love was in the air, meaning him and I would have to sleep outside our hotel rooms that night. When our bill arrived the boy wonder tipped the waitress lightly and ran out of the restaurant. This was a ruse to prevent her from falling in love with the silent guardian. Fortunately, she didn’t chase us after we left the restaurant and we can never visit that “Mexican Grill” again ….. EVER.

We would have slept well if it weren’t for the boy wonder’s fascination of elephants which turned him into one when he slept. We decided to procrastinate for a few hours by attempting to break into a company website. This would have gone for the whole day, if the silent guardian hadn’t interrupted us by saying “YOUR GRANDMOTHER, YOU SPENT 200$ TO DO THIS IN A HOTEL ROOM OR SEE DC?” (In a hoarse voice in Kannada). Our escapade  started with memorials and our routine of posing so we could be photoshopped and added to our timeline. We were hoping the sunlight would make us look fairer than we actually were so our friends would feel bad about their complexion.

Once, the boy wonder had enough photos for his matrimonial site we decided to go to the Museums. We paused in between to have icecream cones. We did a quick stop at the botanical gardens in DC where Jurassic Park (The old one) was filmed. We visited the Aersospace Museum, where they had the original equipment from the space visit. It kind of killed the magic after reading the conspiracy theories. The boy wonder and I tried a flight simulator. The silent guardian found two people locked in a closed space, that rolls and twists as they scream mildly disturbing. The goal was to fly towards the enemies and shoot them, but I read it as roll the plane in random directions and make your friend swear. I think, I hit 20 by the time we were done. 

We were finally headed to the Museum. It started raining heavily and I ended up squeezing into the boy wonder’s umbrella(Because I lost mine, don’t tell me grandma!). We reached the elephant which was swarming with hundreds of people. The Museum had extended the hours that day so “The silent guardian” and I decided to visit the museum to learn something, but the boy wonder decided to take a nap to rejuvenate for the photo. Towards the end of the Museum hours, we managed to take a photo of the boy wonder that looks almost as bad as his driver’s licence. We asked a random passerby to take our photo and he managed to take a snap with all of us blinking and said it’s a great shot.

We went to Jefferson Memorial next, saw the fireworks which lasted for almost half an hour. In India, we can hear the sound when a cricket match ends (which happens all the time). It’s an incredible sight worth watching anyway. We walked a lot and reached on time to catch the last bus to our hotel. Since the Mexican grill was out of the question, we had dinner at iHOP. We all slept well that night because we were exhausted.

All of us were happy that the trip ended well with the boy wonder fulfilling his dream. He was also happy with the fact that I paid for the hotel. We were glad that he waited 20 years to take a photo next to an elephant instead of using photoshop ten years ago. If you have a place you want to visit, just wait two decades and my team from Gotham will be happy to take you there.

Credits:

The boy wonder: NR

Write Wing: me

The silent guardian & Photo credits: Sisya

I wanted to add a satirical tone to our squeezed trip to DC, added a little of Melodrama from the Batman to make it theatrical. My friend Sisya took these amazing photos, kudos to him :). Satire was just to get over the writer’s block, hope you enjoyed it.

-> Photo Album

Do the dishes!

It’s been a while since I wrote because I procrastinate a lot these days. I things would change after I moved to a new country and changed my name but I was wrong. Since I started cooking on my own, I realized that the vessels pile up if I don’t wash them on time. A good strategy to solve this issue is to wash them immediately. Postponing leads to a accumulation of vessels and eventually a dirty sink. It takes lot more effort to clean heaps of vessels than a single plate. “A stitch in time saves nine”.

c00971b1d798f62c8714e82f8a13fa9aa9b48bcf9faf0fc618f5190afd9b765b

Often, I find myself stalling because I find a mental threshold towards the task at hand. I justify that I will solve the task better later and and defer it. I find that a task postponed stays in the back of my mind and slowly seeps my energy. Having a lot of pending activities loads the mind and reduces it’s efficiency. As a minimalist, I find the need to keep everything clutter free (even my mind). It is optimal to finish off small tasks quickly so that the mind can be at ease. I find it easier to bike when I have less items in my backpack. I picture the tasks as items in my backpack, It is easier to reduce the burden immediately rather than carrying for a mile.

tumblr_ngsphdpXKw1rhgxx1o1_500

Some tasks I face are really difficult and it seems smarter to postpone it (Washing a cooker). Breaking down a difficult task into smaller components is another strategy I find to be useful (e.g., Soak cooker in water, scrub with soap, rinse …….). Disintegrating and working gives me confidence that I am making progress. I guess that’s how they build the Pyramids of Giza.

95a6aab94b7d29a107b6927ef44008666356990b

Procrastination also applies to a lot of interdisciplinary domains like doing the laundry, taking bath, or expressing your feelings. I know from a very reliable source where a person had a huge crush but didn’t express herself on time. She eventually wasted a lot of time stalking, trying to text her crush and reading depressing books to recuperate. Finally, it was resolved by eating chocolate icecream and some patented self hypnosis techniques. We all know that chocolate is a panacea but she could have saved a lot of time by expressing her feelings.

Chocolate-Did-you

I’ve satirically  portrayed a childish emotion but often pent up emotions are very serious and raw. It’s easier to express indignation now than to throw a tantrum later. It is simpler to express a crush now than to be heartbroken later. It is easier to express gratitude now, rather than receive spite later. Sometimes, it is not appropriate to express feelings openly. It could be wise to express it in person in a subtle manner. If that is not an option, I think journaling or meditation are good alternatives.

hey-arnold-diary

I’m a procrastinator myself but of late, I have been trying to fix this issue. Hope some of my ideas help you wash the dishes and clean your sink!

Hitchhikers Guide to Puttur

Puttur a small town located near Mangalore. My parent’s were brought up there. I travel there annually during the summer for a function. To make it interesting, I have written a parody of my visits there.

xwing

Travelling to Puttur by car is very complex. You can only do it in the break of dawn through NH 48.142 which appears between NH 48 and NH 49 during 6:00 AM  and 6:52 AM in the morning. The highway has a minimum weight limit so it is required for you to stuff your car’s trunk with dirty laundry and outdated  goods to make up for the same. The highway portal has a higher chance of revealing itself when people travelling are very uncomfortable. It is advised to bring as many people as possible (A car sick child or a grandmother is a bonus)

The road to Puttur is guarded by an evil Jinn which annoys you with History lessons if your car has an interesting aura. To prevent imminent death from a boring History lesson, people make the car atmosphere as dull as possible. It is recommended to play songs first recorded in tape recorders about a 1022 times for the safety of the passengers .

Upon reaching Puttur, the bags must be carried out of the car in sets of Fibonacci numbers (starting at 3) by the passenger with the largest head (Me). Fish and vegetables which are hard to pronounce are part of the staple diet here. It is heinous to serve your own plate and the duty is allocated to your Aunt’s third cousin (Who comes out of the kitchen once a year to serve  you). Communicating with her is very simple, all she hears is “Serve me more”. The only way to convince her to change her mind is by challenging her to a cooking duel conducted annually at Madison Square Garden. She currently holds a streak of 24 wins.

Conversations in Puttur are pretty intellectual, people ignore mundane topics like “The meaning of life”, “Self Actualization” or “Women psychology”. They converse about neighbor’s  second son’s third internal marks, Grandpa’s second cousin’s toe surgery or “Why melody is so chocolaty”.  (Complex topics like potatoes, onions and kittens were not discussed around  me). There are about 245 rules while conversing. They are inscribed beneath the belly of the village cow Bella. You are given only one peek at her belly on your 18th birthday for 12.4 seconds and are never supposed reveal what you saw. So ideally whatever rules you learn may never be known/remembered by other people gathered… It is coined to make life interesting. Well known rules include talking only to people in the opposite corners of the room, ill logical statements supersede logical ones and minimum time limit of an hour . General trend of any discussion starts with the initiator broaching the topic, the mediator talking about his daughter’s 6th grade marks and the rest of the group scratching various parts of their body and repeating the scientific names. Points in the conversation needs to repeated four times with anger, frustration, sorrow and hysteria ( Order depends on your star sign and the length of your third toe). The winner is judged by the neighborhood cat and she/he has to take a victory lap around the city repeating the equations of motion as a rap.

IMG-20140418-WA0000

The temple is a sacred point in the Puttur. It  is heavily funded by a wealthy man on CID’s most wanted list. It is a known fact that you get whatever you wish for during the festival if you push 3 old women, stamp on 14 children and jap 2 relatives on the nose. Asking for selfish desires like world peace or solving poverty is considered sacrilegious and the miscreant is punished to 7 years of Windows 8. Pious parents generally pray for the downfall of all their neighbors children’s grades. Youngsters pray for the well being of their ex-partners, fiancee and the tea shop owner who ratted them out to their parents.

Vehicles in Puttur are required to travel as per the combined locus of a circle, hyperbola and an inverted parabola in the 2nd Quadrant. Crossing the road is quite literally the solution to a 4th degree differential equation. Accidents are very rare during the day and by a sheer coincidence there are a few lady drivers during that time. It is rumored that ladies gain their abilities to drive after sunset but find it impossible to drive if you have garlic in the vehicle.

The Village fair is equivalent to a mall but people actually buy items from stalls here. The fair starts in the evening and concludes when the ice cream stalls run out. It is customary for strangers to meet at stalls spontaneously and inquire about your personal life. “Your Kids have grown taller and thinner” is the code to start/stop this conversation. At nights, to make people (un)comfortable while returning home, grandmothers sit in front of their window with their lights on. (Their silhouettes are believed to scare off evil.)

Sleeping in Puttur, prepares youth for the only real hardship of life (Marriage). You end up sleeping on the floor or couch to harden yourself. Bed bugs and mosquitoes are considered sacred here, Hence a blanket must never be washed nor mosquito coil can never be lit. Returning to Bangalore is easy as broken sleep caused by bed bugs and mosquitoes is a prerequisite to open the portal outside this place. The exit portal is monitored by a Succubus who seduces you to move to Indonesia and work at a perfume factory (Which she is a huge stake holder). To keep the Succubus from devouring passengers, it is vital to to ignore her. Passengers do this well by talking to seats, rear view mirrors and (very) rarely among themselves. The exuberance of reaching Bangalore safely prompts people to honk randomly and break traffic rules to feel at home again.

“Hope you liked it. Honestly, My native is a very normal. I like to let my imaginations get the better of me sometimes”

 

The Hunter’s Moon

wolf howling

People often wonder why wolves howl at the moon. Some legends claim that the moon’s lover was cursed to our realm as a wolf. He howls at her every night to attract her attention. Sadly, he has not succeeded for centuries.

 

 A long time ago in a place not too far from here lived a Hunter. He scoured the nights in search of a healthy game. One night, he spotted a healthy doe at a waterhole. He took his aim but resolved against firing after seeing a little fawn near it’s legs. He took leave but noticed a tiger lurking near the waterhole. Overwhelmed by emotion, he shot at the tiger to save the doe and her child. His aim wasn’t true and the deadly beast charged for him instead. A hungry man’s melee skills don’t match that of a ravenous carnivore but the Hunter’s struggle for survival gave him an edge. He managed to wound the beast with his axe and it escaped into the darkness. All was in vain as it had already delivered the fatal blow. As nature took it’s toll, the Hunter was incapacitated by the loss of blood and fell unconsciousness.
The spirit of the forest had observed the course of events, She was impressed by his compassion and healed him by pouring her own essence into him. When the hunter awoke, he was mesmerized by this girl who glowed green covered in vines. He tried to touch her but it lead to excruciating pain and he recoiled. The spirit left him to wander the forest. Seeing her leave, he felt his fatigue return and passed out again. The next morning he awoke dizzy and shaken by the ordeal. The burn scar on his arm and the bloody vest were the only evidence to the event. The Hunter was never the same again, he would visit the spot hoping to glimpse the spirit. Eventually he lost interest in hunting, singing and his village. Nothing made him smile and he became obsessed with finding the spirit. He left his village and lived in the forest to see her. Months turned to years but he persevered.
Over a decade later,  he felt defeated. He had no reason to live except his insatiable need to meet the forest spirit. Love is a form of energy. Without a purpose to channel it in the right direction, it’s like a bomb set to explode. He aimlessly wandered to seek a fill the emptiness in his life. He saw two men chopping a tree. In his delirious state, he charged at them like a madman. The villagers had coined rumors of a cannibal living in the jungle. The men ran for their lives, leaving the tree unharmed. The Hunter felt a strange kind of peace for saving the tree. He assumed the role as it’s Guardian, protecting it’s flora and fauna from the treachery of men. He couldn’t come to terms with killing animals to survive and resolved to eating nuts and fruits. He channeled his love for the forest spirit towards protecting the jungle. Nature rewarded him with strength, enhanced his senses and acuity. He used the forest vines and roots as an extension of himself and could easily ward off any humans attempting to defile it. He dressed in vines for camouflage and also because it reminded him of the spirit.
Healing the Hunter with her essence had wounded the forest spirit and over the course of time it aggravated . As she grew weaker, the forest started dying, the rains eventually ceased and it lead to a period of great drought. The animals migrated, crops died down and the waterhole started desiccating. The Hunter wanted to save the forest at any cost. As a boy, he had heard legends about a monk who lived in the mountains. He was rumored to have a deep  connection to the spirits. After weeks of hiking, the Hunter completed the treacherous journey to the mountains. He reached a cave where he saw a frail man meditating. The monk suggested he let go of his attachment to the forest to seek his answer.
The Hunter meditated day after day over this. As he started detaching himself, he grew frail and weak. Nothing nourished him enough, his health deteriorated and in a matter of a few weeks he was ominously close to death. His spirit was too intertwined with the forest for him to let go completely. He decided against this method and returned home. The forest was decimating and he was just in time to witness it’s demise.
The Hunter was disconsolate, he was dejected for doubting the old monk’s ways. He sat under the banyan tree and meditated. He discarded water and food and concentrated on letting his love the forest fade. He recalled saving trees, scaring poachers, tending to wounded animals and slowly detached his feelings for them. He eventually ended at the memory of saving the doe and his encounter with the spirit. It took all his mettle to conquer this part of his mind. Upon succeeding, he connected with the cosmic energy of the universe. He could feel it’s energy in every atom of life around him. He sensed the forest spirit dying.  He channeled all his spiritual energy towards healing her. His effort healed her, but the Hunter had used all his cards in his endeavor. It was more than his spirit could handle and death was imminent. As he lay there dying, the forest spirit returned and he died in her arms. Decades ago the spirit had given her essence to heal him and he had done the same that day. It rained for weeks and the forest slowly healed.
The villager have celebrated this miracle for many centuries since that day. They believe the forest spirit listens to their songs and mourns for him. Strangely, It always rains when when the songs end.
Inspiration: Dogs barking at night!