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

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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

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  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

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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! 🙂

Come India, Let’s All Hate Arvind Kejriwal

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Funny country, ours is. We love to hate. We are so fed up of our own miserable problems and pathetic administration that we just need a media-created effigy to direct our hatred and burn. Beyond logic. Beyond rationale. Beyond the levels of tolerance and sophistication that one can expect from a country that boasts itself as the world’s largest democracy.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal humbled in the recent national elections. Just four members from his party got into parliament and Kejriwal himself lost by a mammoth 337,000 votes at Varanasi to the next PM of India, Narendra Modi. Honestly speaking, it was a stupid move by AK to challenge Modi at Varanasi. He could’ve contested from his home constituency, won his seat in parliament and actually made a difference from inside over the next 5 years. Isn’t that why he split from Anna Hazare in the first place??

The hate for AK started earlier this year when he resigned as CM of Delhi within 49 days of being voted the majority government. Yes, he betrayed the trusArvind-Kejriwal-2014-Picturest of Delhi, and the whole country, the eyes of which were constantly upon him. The disappointment turned to hate and we coined terms like Farjiwal, Fekriwal, Bhagoda and some of our trademarked Hindi swear words which never cease to evolve every-time they’re mentioned. In more ways than not, justified.

All he asked for this week was forgiveness and another chance. He apologized to the people of Delhi, and India. He conceded his mistake and inexperience. Gave his reasoning, and came out pleading for a chance to make things right.

And what do we do?? We lambaste him on social media, accusing him of dramatics, calling him all sorts of things, talking about flogging him publicly and what not! Not to mention his supporters being called AAP-tards and baboons (which, thankfully, is not racist in India).

Nobody wanted to touch AK before the elections. He came out and blasted the most influential people in India for corruption and money laundering, and nobody had the balls to do anything more than denying and reverse accusing him on the news. But now that BJP has swept off the elections, Nitin Gadkari comes along and files a defamation suit. Amazing things power does to people. [Correction: The case was filed a few months ago. Yet, of all the crimes people can commit, we see sense in filing a case for calling someone ‘corrupt’.]

Kejriwal, sent to judicial custody, refused to pay the bail/bond amount of Rs. 10,000 and said that he’d defend himself in court. Why do we accuse him of being above the law? Any defendant has the right to not pay the bail money. It’s an option, not a law. And he said he’d defend his stand in his court hearing. He’s not answerable to the pedestrian unappreciative masses on social media. Wake up and see sense, people. Hating him won’t get you anything.

Back in 2011, he went to jail for similar charges. Back then, he was just an activist, not a political leader. It was easy to pick on him. He didn’t pay the bail even then. He was seen as a hero back then. Why wasn’t that perceived as above the law? Our very own national hero, Mahatma Gandhi, was sent to jail by the British. He was offered bail for as little as 1 Rupee, but, he still declined.

We reelect criminals to parliament. People with blatant corruption charges, people who have more black money than most people earn legitimately their whole life, rapists, uneducated, worthless ministers. Everyone is forgiven and voted back to parliament.

Why not Arvind Kejriwal? A clean record, a degree from India’s premiere technology institute and so many more qualifications that could bring the more than half of the current parliament to shame… and most of all, clean intentions a good heart.

I don’t expect this article to be received well by most of you. I’m probably just another AAP-tard baboon on your timelines. Your hate for Congress and AAP has blinded you too much to read or hear anything against anyone remotely related to BJP, let alone trying to look at it objectively.

But, to those who see sense like me, I hope you’re in Delhi. Give him another chance. He’s a good man.

India Has Spoken. Your Move, Modi!

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Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the news. A mandate nothing short of a landslide which sees the NDA Alliance sweep across the world’s largest democracy in the elections of 2014, with BJP themselves getting more than half the seats in the Indian House of Commons (Lok Sabha). Narendra Modi well on his way to becoming the next Prime Minister of India on the 21st of May.

So Mr. Narendra Modi…

Firstly, Congratulations to you and the BJP. Not a single exit poll analysis across the Indian Media could predict such a clean sweep. The Congress destroyed and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) brushed aside like a speck of dust.

Secondly, let me introduce myself. I’m not your biggest fan. I admire your leadership. But I am against the idea of a BJP majority government. As always, I made my opinion clear in public forums resulting in your national bandwagon of supporters calling me a variety of names. You make have heard some of them… like AAP-tard and a few chosen Hindi/English swear words. Some of them you may not have… Like desh-drohi (as if not supporting you and the BJP amounted to betraying the nation), Pakistani (coz, apparently, being Pakistani makes one the enemy of India)… and a few more cuss words.

As much as I like to think of myself as a neutral observer, I will admit that I am an AAP admirer. Kejriwal was a normal guy like me. Living the common man’s life, when he decided to drop everything and take on the most powerful, corrupt, unethical and immoral factions that ruled and ran our country. His message was simple: Honest, clean, people-centric governance. ImageHis inexperience cost him, but, I still believe that over the next few governments, he will save India, not you.

Although, as an Indian, I do hope that you do. You’ve been given 5 years and 340 seats of a House of 543.

Mr. Modi, you have been chosen to pull India back from its economic, social and democratic downturn in the last 5-10 years. The absence of a coalition doubles the responsibility and expectations that 800 million voters (not including me) have put in you. You have become a demigod… The Savior. Having said that, you also know that most of your Modi-bandwagon voters are just anti-Congress people who were introduced to the Modi wave at the right time. Remember… we are fickle.

This brings me to the reason I’m writing this post: You talked the talk in your obviously successful election campaign. It’s time for you to walk the walk.

Winning the elections is not your objective. Saving India is. Watch the news. Listen to what the people expect of you in the next 5 years. Development, education, progress, clean and good governance, political transparency, cap in inflation, healthcare, growth… the list goes on. You have made people believe in the ‘India Shining’ dream again. Its time for you to deliver.

Personally, I have never been appealed by the idea of you and your party ruling India. Here’s why:

  • I fear that your party’s medieval Hinduist ideologies will take the country backward with its divisive politics
  • I do not believe that the so-called Gujarat Model will work for India. Gujarat is a unified state of like-minded people. It’s easy to ban beef and alcohol in Gujarat. You can’t do that in Mumbai, or many other parts. We’re a secular country, not a Hindu country
  • Hell, I even believe that the Gujarat development hoopla, on which you have based your entire campaign, is a farce. Some Gujratis tell me that the development you’ve done is only in some pockets and not pan-state. That essentially puts you on level  playing field with any other party ruling any other state.
  • Your government will have the same crucial flaw that Dr. Manmohan Singh’s had in this last decade: a Corrupt Cabinet. You may be a dedicated and honest man, but so was MMS. The primary difference being that you’re more vocal than he is. His party and cabinet failed him. Cabinet ministers can still siphon off thousands of crores of Rupees right under your nose. That’s where your true test is.

Having said all this there’s no denying that you have the faith of the people. Not Hindus or Muslims. Not the rich or poor. No castes, no religion, no gender… The whole country has unequivocally put its faith in you. I only ask that you repay it, multiple fold. I’m may be an AAP-tard, but I’m an Indian before anything. I will be happy to concede that I judged you too soon if you can deliver even half of your promises. You will have proven me wrong about you; and India will grow and shine. We will truly rise from a 70-year old potential superpower to an actual global superpower in rightful standing.

Go on Modi. The country is in your hands, now. Set it right. Jai Hind!

M-:o-ther’s Day

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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.

“Hi.”

“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. 🙂

I Got Off The Plane

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Wow… 10 Years since THAT Day… The Finale of arguably the greatest show on Television – FRIENDS!

It’s not even surprising when we watch the whole series over and over and laugh each and every time just as hard as we did the first time.

It was a perfect episode wasn’t it? Capturing most of the highlights of the series, showcasing the peculiarities of each character and tying up the loose ends with a perfect blend of emotions that left the everyone laughing and sobbing like children at the end.

  • Phoebe
    Marries Mike and presumably lives a wonderful life ahead, being the eccentric, blonde, happy-go-lucky character she is.
  • Monica
    Showcases her OCD a bit, breaks down the Foosball table.
  • Chandler and Joey
    Have a rare moment of emotion between them. A Goodbye that officially made ‘Bromance’ cool before the word even existed.
  • Ross and Rachel
    Finally made it. 🙂FRIENDS -- NBC Series -- Pictured: 'Friends' finale key art -- NBC Photo

The last line from Chandler was the epitome of his character. Making everyone laugh when they least expect it. An emotional Rachel suggests getting coffee one for last time, and he replies “Where?” Apart from that, we saw Gunther’s confession of his feelings for Rachel, the return of Phoebe’s cab, The Philangy, The Duck and Goose and one last sweeping shot of the house.

Yes, I just watched the episode again… and choked up a bit in the end.

This post is just a small Thank You to the whole cast and  crew of FRIENDS. David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Courtney Cox and Matthew Perry. Not to forget the creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman and the rest of the team.

For the emotional roller-coasters, incessant laughter, beautifully paced subplots, nothing overdone… In short – the best Television Series anyone of any age could wish for and relate to for 10 glorious seasons.

THANK YOU!

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

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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

Words:

  • 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

Phrases:

  • 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!