The American Dream


I had the honor of attending a US Naturalization Ceremony today. It’s an event where immigrants who have gone through the system are officially granted citizenship… the proverbial end of the long winding road.

The event happened at Faneuil Hall (Fannie Hall) in Boston, in a hall quite similar to the Ellis Island Immigration Hall in New York harbor. The immigrants are seated in the main floor area, which has a dais and a row of desks in front of it. Guests sit in balcony seats looking down upon their friends and family on their special day.

Faneuil Hall

The first step is called a check-in. The immigrants line up and walk over to the desks upfront. Men, women, and children of all colors, shapes, ages, and sizes, representing countries from every corner of the globe… each of them coming from their own unique walks of life but ending up on the same road, inside this hall.

They now have to verify some documents, have one last look at their green cards before submitting them in, and in return, are given another document along with a handheld-sized US flag. As they stand in line you see a mix of excitement and nerves. For some, this is the end of a tiresome journey towards the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But as they stand but a few feet from it, I wonder if some of them stutter in their next step at the thought of renouncing their home country’s citizenship, something that has defined a major part of their identity through this very immigration process.

They pick up the flag and turn around to walk up the center aisle back to their seats. And the raw emotion at that moment is there for all to see. Pride, joy, relief, euphoria, almost every emotion you can associate with success and accomplishment. They look up at their family/friends in the balcony and wave the flag like a trophy, with a big smile on their faces. I even noticed a balding, upper-middle-aged man with furrowed brows and a stern, labored expression standing in line. After submitting his papers and picking up his flag, he turned around and look down upon it. He too stared at it for a couple of seconds and broke into half a humble smile as he continued his walk back. It was a look of a tired man who was probably thinking to himself, “wow, I made it!

The rest of the event was fairly ceremonial. A US district court judge arrived and sat on the dais. The representative of the USCIS proposed a motion to grant the immigrants citizenship under recommendation from the USCIS and Department of Homeland Security, and the judge subsequently granted the motion. This was followed by the judge presiding over the en-masse taking of The Oath of Allegiance, at which point each of those immigrants officially became a Citizen of The United States.

Oath of Allegiance

Before leaving the hall, the judge spoke to the audience. She gave a poignant speech about what it means to be an American… a naturalized immigrant in a nation of immigrants. She spoke about their rights, privileges, and responsibilities, and their duty to the world to always represent America as the symbol of hope and freedom for everyone, everywhere. She even named the 72 countries from across the planet that had contributed their own colors to America’s rainbow of diversity in that hour. She then presided over an en-masse recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.

While I had heard that these ceremonies were an interesting but quiet affair, the thing that stood out the most was the humanity of it all. As the newly anointed American citizens walked out of the hall with brand new certificates of citizenship, you could see what being an American meant to many of them. Tears of joy streamed down the faces of two women, a daughter who was able to bring her burqa-clad mother into the country, possibly from an oppressive war-torn one. An African (now African American) couple who were with their interpreter, expressing their happiness, an Indian man and his wife who had probably started their journey more than 15 years ago… and many more people probably feeling for the first time in their lives, what it truly means to be free.

Today, for the first time in my 6 years in this country, I watched America being America. And it was a beautiful thing to have experienced.

The Closed Closet – Gay Pride


Here’s my problem with the whole Gay Pride and LGBT Rights issue… Well, it’s the fact that there shouldn’t be one.

If you’re a homophobic purist who opposes LGBT rights, you may want to open your minds up a bit when you read this… Let’s make this simple exercise. I’ll enumerate a list of most heard arguments against gay rights and then I’ll just place my comments on them.

  • It’s against my respective Religion and a threat to it
    No, I don’t claim to have read every holy book from cover to cover, but, I’ve read and heard enough from those who have.
    Hinduism encourages all humans to attain ‘moksh‘ (Inner Peace and Freedom for the Soul), and this can be done by realizing and embracing one’s true nature. More to the fact that homosexual behaviour was not only discussed, but, also discussed in ancient Hindu scriptures and sculptures.
    Exhibit A: Khajuraho.
    Christianity, according the Bible actually mentions a few sentences like ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination‘ which have always been interpreted as a clear ban on any homosexual activities, but, some interpreters believe that there is no line in The Bible that explicitly acknowledges homosexuality, let alone oppose it.
    I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again: Blind faith in Religion is the biggest hindrance in any society’s progress.
  • It’s not natural for a man to sleep with a man, or woman with a woman
    Correction: it is natural. Gays are born that way. Genetic research has shown that at least 45% of heterosexual females have been physically attracted to other women at one point in time in their lives. Oh.. and just FYI. Only 10% of the whole World’s population is left-handed. (Yep. 10%. How unnatural must that be!) Sorry about the clichéd ‘Science vs. Religion’ angle, but, Science wins (again).
  • Denying the child a father or a mother makes the growth environment unnatural and harmful
    There is no evidence to suggest that having two moms or two dads affects the psychology of the child in any way. American Psychological researchers have endorsed legalization of gay marriage.
  • Lack of procreation is a threat to the survival of mankind
    I’m sorry, but, gay couples aren’t stopping the straight ones from reproducing, are they? Mind your own bedrooms.
  • Marriage is the union of a Man and Woman
    Correct. Which is why the move to ‘legalize‘ gay marriage.

Here’s some other reasons that deserve more of a sarcastic snap than a logical answer:

  • homosexual_rainbow_flag-500x375-300x225It will encourage straight people to become gay
    Erm… how?? Genetic mutation? Psychology?
  • There will be a lot of discrimination
    Yeah, it’ll be the end of fair and civilized society as we know it.
  • Immoral
    Correction: Anything that hurts a fellow human being is immoral.
    Exhibit B: Racism: Immoral.
  • We should teach those drifted souls and minds to cure them into being straight and train them against the immoral wrongness and sins of homosexuality (Damn, I couldn’t wait to write this one)
    OK, firstly, the LGBT community doesn’t have a disease that you speak of curing them. They are perfectly normal human beings, probably with a bigger heart than the rest of us.

    Second, OK no, we’ve already covered the immorality and religion points. Next.

    Third, and again, these people didn’t choose to be gay. They were born this way.

    They didn’t just smoke-up one day and suddenly say: Hey… Here’s an idea!!! Let’s stop being attracted to the opposite sex. Let’s love each other instead. That way we’ll get discriminated, hated and looked down upon so much that we may have to fight for our basic rights. We might not even get support from our parents and get kicked out of the house! Sounds like fun, eh? Haha… Ha. Hahaha… Ha.. ZZzzzz!

    They didn’t choose this life. It was given to them and they have embraced it. It would be most human of us to accept them for who they are and treat them equally. Even special treatment and being extra nice is a form of discrimination. Let them come out of their proverbial closets free from the fear of being treated any differently than anyone of us.

The LGBT community is not robbing us of our rights. They don’t wanna hurt us. They just want to be accepted for who they are: Normal Human Beings. It’s important to know where to draw the line… To not interfere with how people live their lives, as long as they don’t interfere with our’s.

Love and Let Love. Live and Let Live.



Chicago Cares… Oh, Yes, She Does! #MyChi


Today was the 21st Annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon! The day Chicago gives back to the lesser privileged sections of the society. 5000+ volunteers, corporate members plus organizers. I was fortunate to be a part of it through a friend of mine interning at one of the corporate partners… Yes, families and friends were welcome.

Chicago Care: Image Rights Not Mine.

Chicago Cares: Image Rights Not Mine.

So our group was assigned to go to a Public School in south Chicago and we volunteered to paint the corridors on the first floor (which, in British and Indian terms, is actually the ground floor). Oh, did I mention that they transported us between the school and Daley Plaza in those standard American school buses?? Damn, was that exciting!! 😀

Anyway… It took 4 hours of labor with lunch in the middle ending with our hands, clothes, hair and shoes (still) covered in paint, but, we finally managed to turn our assigned corridor from lime green to a light bluish-green. The other groups completed their projects well on time, too. From painting the other corridors in different colors to creating mosaics and drawing hopscotch squares in the playground, all was done well. The 900-odd students of Hedges Elementary are in for a real treat when school starts after the Summer. Meanwhile, we headed back to Daley Plaza for food and drinks.

In a very touching gesture by the kids themselves, all the walls were lined with charts with art work and ‘Thank you‘ messages for the Chicago Cares volunteers. There were probably about 250 of us at our school, and all it took was one Saturday afternoon to make a difference to a public school, its students, parents and everyone related. It’s a wonder what impact 5000 like-minded Chicagoans could make in one day. Thanks, Chicago Care, for making me feel so proud of being a part of a beautiful society and a City that gives back to those who need it. See you next time! 🙂

Here are some pics. I don’t have pics of all the corridors or the mosaics, etc., but I’ll try to upload link them here when Chicago Cares releases them.

We're all Posers. That's my favorite chart. :)

We’re all Posers. That’s my favorite chart. 🙂

3 of the 5000+ Goodfellas.

3 of the 5000+ Goodfellas.

Artwork on the stairwell, made by the students themselves. Genius!

Artwork on the stairwell, made by the students themselves. Genius!

My Beloved Shoes, stained.

My Beloved Shoes, stained.

The After-party at Daley Plaza

The After-party at Daley Plaza

For those who haven’t done any volunteering/social work yet: Please do so. The feeling of Euphoria and Pride at the end makes every iota of exhaustive labor completely worthwhile. Go ahead… Play a small hand in making a big difference. Cheers.

9 Reasons Why Posts Like These Are Annoying

  1. There are so many of the same topic (and with same points) on different forums that you know probably it by heart
  2. Even the topics don’t make sense sometimes!
  3. The “OMG SO TRUEEE!!!” shares by your friends don’t make it any better
  4. You don’t relate to 50% of the points
  5. The .gif clips are independently funny, but not always related to the respective point
  6. Some points are deliberately made up to increase the count
  7. Like this one!
  8. Each one of them ends with a nice sweet message that targets ‘Aww‘s from the reader. (Cue ‘Aww‘)
  9. Coz 8 seemed too less. 😛

Musings of A Lone Traveler


They tell us to travel alone. Its recommend it a lot. That, and traveling without your cell phone or any device. Now don’t ask me who ‘they’ is. You know… They!!

They mention something about the joy and serenity of sitting alone in a picturesque landscape, sipping local delicacies (read: beer) and not having to tell the world about it by checking in with a selfie.

Like, why?? Selfies are awesome! They’re like the best thing to happen to individual self-photography since the invention of timed shutters and the tripod. Also, my parents would kill me for suggesting that I travel without any communication.

But, yes, I can see where ‘they’ are coming from, having experienced the ‘no-selfie-required’ moments myself. Like most college students in Mumbai, I’ve had my fair share of Goa trips where I’ve spent many evenings watching the sunset and some morning sunrises at the beach. Shack seats in the evenings and in ankle-deep water in the mornings… Deep breaths, deep thoughts and good music. Irrespective of company, you’re connected to a different zone. I recommend those, too.

Flying alone on the other hand, is a completely different story. It’s a brilliant fusion of being completely alone, but, being surrounded by unknown people throughout the journey. An opportunity to be your own self at the cost of being judged by strangers who will be in that same huge, metallic cylindrical bird for the next 6-15 hours. A chance to enjoy your own space within a cramped economy class seat.

While it’s an interesting thing to look forward to, its normal to hope and extremely important to that your neighboring seat is either a quiet somebody who will mind their own business, sleep with their head straight and without snoring… Or, second on my preference list, a pretty girl who would give you company for wine and a bit of chit-chat. Nope, never been fortunate enough to get the latter. The rest of the journey is rather peaceful. Eat your meals. Watch some movies or TV. Look out the window. Sleep at will. Buy a book at the airport. Yes, I read only when I travel. But thankfully (and hopefully), given my target career path, my reading time can only go up along with my flying miles. #WIN!

I also prefer the window seats just as much as I did when I was 8. The difference being that I don’t have to fight my sister for it when I’m alone. I love looking out the window for the first and last 30 mins of the flight. Try to find interesting locations in the city if you’ve never been there before or try to identify familiar places if you have. All the way from the terminal, taxiing, runway and into the skies and the other way round. I become a 10-year-old each and every time.

In my latest solo journey halfway across the planet, I had a transit at a European airport without WiFi. For future reference, the Istanbul international airport, doesn’t have free WiFi ( 😮 ). So, after fighting my inner voice that said “Burger King, dude!! Burger King!!“, I bought some overpriced Turkish salad and made my way to a 6-chair table with just another man sitting with his laptop (What’s he doing without WiFi?? OK, maybe he has his own portable modem or something. Stop over-thinking!!).

After 10 minutes, he asked me to guard his laptop and bag while he went and grabbed something to eat. Being Indian and living in a world where the only things non-flyers remember and remind you about the airline industry are the terrorists, air crashes, hijackings and most recently, MH 370, its questionable to trust strangers. But, I was alone and left to my judgement. And to be fair, his accent seemed friendlier and more trustworthy than that Turkish salad was threatening to be to my digestive system. I agreed. He came back in 5 minutes with a slice of Pizza. Turns out he was Canadian. See Ma, we can trust strangers sometimes. Most travelers are nice people. The world could do better with more people who trust.

I like flying alone. A window seat, a good book and unlimited Chardonnay. Perfection at 38,000 ft above sea level! Which is not to say that I’d like to travel alone all the time; but, it’s a different experience… One that frequent travelers must have regularly and the less frequent ones should have at least once. Don’t forget your devices, but, don’t let them interfere with the experience, either.

Bucket list it.

Happy Travels! 🙂

M-:o-ther’s Day


4 months of secret-keeping… A couple of insiders for backup… A difficult semester… and 22 hours of travel from the US to India culminating into a successful Mother’s Day surprise!

Although my flight got delayed by an hour and in strict adherence to Murphy’s Laws, my queue for immigration moved the slowest when I joined in AND my luggage took ages to arrive on the belts. Lesson Learnt: A wine induced in-flight power-nap really helps. I finally got a cab and headed off home on the familiar Mumbai roads and landed at the doorstep at roughly 7AM.

As it turns out, the delays didn’t make a difference. There was a party at home the night before and everyone had slept just a few hours ago. So my dad opened the door, stares at me for 2 seconds and says, “Are you crazy?” It was rather insulting. He could’ve shown some disbelief on seeing his son at the doorstep. C’mon, he thought I was halfway across the globe. I just laughed. Typical Dad reaction. He became more cheerful after a few minutes 🙂

My sister knew I was coming. Went to her room. She had half an eye open.


“Yeah, Hi. Lemme sleep now. Bye.”

Two for two. Actually Three for three.

Went to mom before that. Dad said he’d wake her up instead of my giving her a serious heart attack. So, I went in a few seconds after him.

“Look who turned up.”

*groggy eyes* “Who? (\-|) “

*I walk in*

It takes her a good part of 5 full seconds. But the \-| slowly turns into a :O and then into a 😀 with hands clapped to her cheeks.

Although she was up and moving about, she was in shock for almost 5 hours… Meanwhile, I get mom-made breakfast and watch her prepare my 2 favorite dishes for lunch while complaining about how hot it is in India in a typical ‘Indian returning from US’ style. Somewhere close to noon, she finally says, “So, I guess it really is you.”

Mission Accomplished. Happy Mother’s Day. 🙂

Everyday English Words and Phrases Invented by William Shakespeare – The Birthday Boy


Today is the 450th birthday of the King of The Quill from Elizabethan times, and probably the best English writer/poet/actor ever – William Shakespeare.

While there’s no need to explain how complicated and silly the English language can be sometimes, we should not forget the contributions that this great man made in simplifying it for us. Here are some of the everyday English words and phrases that Shakespeare gave us, and the place where he first used them. Some of them are really quite surprising.Shakespeare


  • Bet (n) (verb)
    Shallow, King Henry IV, Part II – Act III, Scene II
  • Cold-Blooded (adv.)
    Constance, King John – Act III, Scene I
  • Elbow (verb)
    Kent, King Lear – Act IV, Scene III
  • Hint (n)
    Othello, Othello – Act I, Scene III
  • Luggage (n)
    Prince Henry, King Henry IV, Part I – Act V, Scene IV
  • Negotiate (verb)
    Claudio, Much Ado About Nothing – Act II, Scene I
  • Puking (verb)
    Jaques, As You Like It – Act II, Scene VII
  • Secure (verb)
    Queen Margaret, King Henry IV, Part II – Act V, Scene II
  • Unreal (adj.)
    Macbeth, Macbeth – Act III, Scene IV


  • All That Glitters (Glisters) is Not Gold
    Morocco, The Merchant of Venice – Act II, Scene VII
  • “Knock, Knock!” “Who’s There?”
    Porter, Macbeth – Act II, Scene III
  • Good Riddance
    Patroclus, Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene I
  • Break The Ice
    Tranio, The Taming of the Shrew – Act I, Scene II
  • Fair Play
    Miranda, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I
  • It’s Greek to Me
    Casca, Julius Caesar – Act I, Scene II

 Beautiful, eh?

Thank you Shakespeare… And Happy 450th Birthday. 🙂

Source: Google, duh!

Phoenix or The Flame?


A few days ago, I read that scientists had finally solved the mystery of the chicken and the egg. An age old question that baffled people more than the all elusive value of x: Which came first?

The Answer: The chicken came first because there is a particular protein in the egg that can produced only by a hen. Without it, the egg cannot exist. So the mystery was closed not directly, but indirectly, by proving the impossibility of the opposite.

On not so dissimilar lines, I wondered about the same question about the phoenix and the flame: Which came first? The beauty of the answer lies in the fact that there can be none, for the Phoenix is a mythological creature of fire.

Its a question of opinion and background of a person. A staunch believer in ancient Greek/Egyptian/Persian mythology may chose to not answer the question claiming that there is none, and that its a truly infinite circle. Some believe that it rose from an erupting volcano or something. But in claiming its existence, they leave the doors open for scientists to do what they do best: ask where the infinite loop started and answer the question.

One answer could be that neither the phoenix, nor the flame came first. Ok, not exactly neither. But the ashes of something else gave rise to the phoenix. Not that plausible, but hey, this is mythology. Magic and Mythology go hand in hand. You’ll need to have a decent imaginative quotient for that.

The other answer is that the Phoenix came first… as an evolved creature. Even for a mystical creature to rise from the ashes, it should have been the burnt remains of a phoenix in the first place. How can a phoenix just rise from ordinary ashes?? This is in compliance with the indirect technique. Disprove the possibility of the opposite and there you have it. Scientifically, it makes more sense than the previous option.

Personally, I subscribe to the first option. Let the aura of the magic of a mythological creature remain. It also helps to maintain the beautiful mystery of its origin.

The rest, as I said, is a matter of opinion.