10 Things I hope to do every birthday from the next one onwards

Here are 20 things I hope to do every single birthday from the next one onwards, in the hope that I will  continue to make enough money to do all these or most of these in times when i don’t have enough :

  1. Feed 10 kids who haven’t had a feast in a long time.
  2. Buy warm clothes for an elderly person known or unknown
  3. Hug and thank a public worker who does a thankless job
  4. Contribute to the operational costs of someone who needs a treatment in India known or unknown
  5. Plant a tree
  6. Buy someone a book they’ve long wanted to read
  7. Not use any electrical equipment or motor vehicle unless one of the above tasks demands the use of one
  8. Call up 5 friends I haven’t spoken to in 6 months
  9. Donate money to the Asha Lata Kendra School in Bokaro Steel City, India. This school teaches physically disabled children free of cost.
  10. Meet and thank an army personnel or a policeman for keeping us safe!

My inspiration comes from this video I saw a few years ago.

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Genuis of Drug Cartels

Rodrigo Canales explains beautifully in this TED Talk how the drug cartels are a wonderful organization of organized crime and what drives them to be such an elite organization. He doesn’t however forget, in all the praise for the precision of their business acumen, that they are the cause for the loss of life of a lot of young children and teenagers.

I think in addition to all the usual reasons for not trying drugs, the fact that it took a few teens’ lives for those few grams of drugs to reach my pocket, is a much stronger reason for me to refuse the use of such a substance, similar to how I and many others have refused to use animal skin, blood diamonds and firecrackers in India as a protest against poaching, slavery and child labor.

Theatre

I was talking to my mother today and somewhere thru the conversation we drifted to my early days in school when i used to take part in skit and drama competitions. We don’t call that theatre in India not when you’re 10 -15 yrs old. But we do take it as seriously.  We didn’t have theatre as a subject in school, it was more in the form of competitions and invited voluntary participation of students. I was extremely interested from a very young age.

I remember the first time I was on the stage for a play, I was in the 4th grade. And the play was based out of a village. In India in small towns and villages a common form of entertainment used to be watching this guy make his pet monkey perform tricks like jump over a stick, go through a ring etc. Just a street circus of sorts. So a scene in this play had a guy play same. I was one among the villagers who come and watch the guy do his stuff and then had to disperse. We all converged to see his act and then he was to declare that the show was over, which was our cue for dispersing and then he’d fold up his belongings and walk out. During the actual performance, soon as he declared that his show was over, the others dispersed, I was just so engrossed in the play that I stood there watching him fold his belongings and then a few seconds later I sort of woke up from the moment and turned around to see myself standing there alone. Startled, I ran to the back-stage.

Apart from it being a very stupid thing to do and a forgettable moment for an actor on theatre, it did make me realize how real theatre was and how i loved to watch him do his thing right in front of me.

I later went to the senior school and continued to participate in theatre. In one of such scripts I was playing the role of a brahmin priest. It required us to have a bald head look. Now the work around in the make up room was to have us wear a football bladder on our heads. The color of the bladder is usually close to the skin color for no known reason to me. But we were to wear that bladder on our heads and there was a hole on the top of it through which a long braid of hair to look like a priest. Funny it sounds now that I read it. The issue was that the bladder was tight. A tight-fitting, air tight rubber membrane like thing on your head on a summer evening in india isn’t the most pleasant thing to wear. On top of that the room we were sitting in didn’t have fans (I have no clue why we were made to sit in that torture chamber, probably because that was close to the backstage to make our entry easier). Oh and we were wearing polyester kurtas which are bad for summer season. They make you warm. In my knowledge there have been very few instances which have tested my patience more than this. I had to sit with all that make up and bladder on my head for a couple of hours. I finally got onto the stage and this time luckily everything was flawless. I went back home and told mom all of this and she was in splits. It still leaves her in splits.

I later participated in a couple of more skits and plays with a little bit of dialogues this time around. And then came the opportunity I was looking for, a lead role. The script was about a husband who has a very dominating wife and he always lands in trouble with her or something of that sort, I barely remember. We practiced extensively for that. I was probably in the 9th grade by then. And there was a moment in the play right in the beginning where the husband asks the wife to find him a glue tube to seal an envelope or something, and the wife hurls the tube at him, which he’s supposed to catch. Since the scene was within the first 5 minutes of the play, I was a little nervous still. I generally take a few minutes to warm up and ward off the stage fear. The initial minutes are a little nervous after which I dive in and play it out well. But this was the beginning and in the nervous energy I fumbled and dropped the stick of glue my ‘wife’ threw at me. That left the crowd in splits because it really helped the character get it’s image right early on. And I didn’t realize it until later when we’d won the first place and one of the judges mentioned this while explaining the decision. We’d won a competition where I was the lead role. I still beam at that achievement. It’s one of the few things I was good at, and had I known they teach acting as a degree in colleges I’d have gone for it rather than studying computers.

I later also acted and directed in a play in my undergrad school where there was a moment I blacked out half  way into the play and I was supposed to abuse the character standing in front of me. The dialogue went something like “Shut up you Idiot!” and I blanked out staring at my friend, not knowing what to say next. He realised I’d blanked out, and so he says in a not so hushed voice “Shut up! “, and I go “Shut up you Idiot!” with both of us barely able to contain our laughter on the stage. Gulping the laugh we carried on and of course that remained a story in the group for a while.

I think it’s the realism of a theatre act and mishaps and cover ups like these which attract me so much to the art. The energy of looking at the audience’s eyes and talk to them directly. To be able to look at a distance and say something, to be able to throw your voice, to interact with someone else on a stage for real, to choreograph, to understand a character, to live another’s life and to be perfect at that moment of deliverance without second takes.

I wish to go back and write a few plays and act in a few as well, and probably learn the art academically.

Drink up…

Nostalgia

I just happened to check my Facebook and an old friend had sent me a page to be liked. She has developed a game on Android. I asked “What if I don’t like your page?“.

“Do it for old times’ sake dude.” she said. I smiled and said.. “You mean, for the times we caught dragonflies?” And after a pause comes “Oh… those dragonflies! What good old memories!”.. I smiled..

As a  kid of 5 or so I would go to school in the school bus and would return in the afternoon. This friend of mine also returned at the exact same time. So we both would get down from our respective buses, high five and start walking back home. There would be lots of dragonflies on the grass by the side of the road. We’d stop and get into the stealth mode and slowly sit down on the grass keeping our eyes fixed on the dragonfly. One swift sweep of the hands and there you have it in your hands. A blue dragon fly in one hand, a green one in the other and we’d walk back home slowly. Many a times she’d catch a couple for me. I wasn’t too good at it initially but she was a pro. Her hands moved so fast. I was almost in awe of her skill. We’d make the dragonfly lift a little twig and observe it fiddle with the twig. About 20-30 steps later we’d be home and we’d set them free.

Those walks where we discussed dragonflies remains etched in my mind. And to revisit them 20 years hence with the person you spent those days is pure bliss. I think the fact that you find friends in unexpected ways is one extremely interesting aspect of life, also what sticks in your mind and what doesn’t.

Life is beautiful… So drink up…!!!

Last 3 months

The last 3 months have been different. I had spent about 10 months in Buffalo, NY, going through 2 semester of my Masters degree in Computer Science.

I met some interesting people, inspiring and wonderful professors, experts in their fields, humble and broad-minded. Some PhD holders and others having a heavy industry experience yet open to a 2 line mail without salutations. Willing to listen, appreciate, encourage and treat you like an intelligent student.

Then I came here to Denver, Colorado for an internship. I was entering the industry that I had longed to get out of just a few years ago. Struggled for 2yrs before I got into the university excited about exams and lectures instead of quarterly reviews and weekly meetings. But here I was back to the 9-5 schedule. I was apprehensive, with pre-conceived notions and ready to react at the first chance given to me.

A week or two into it, and I realized I was among another set of learned people, who respected my intellect, and treated me no less. People who were in the industry for over 25 yrs now, almost having seen the first Apple Macintosh and Windows OS ever and still alive and working in the industry. And yet when I was presenting what I had created at the end of 2 months, they listened to me intently, had questions to ask, and had the humility to applaud me in a meeting for my efforts!

It’s strange how and when a sudden thought passes your mind. I was sitting on the shit pot today and it crossed my mind how I am a week away from finishing this short stint with this company and these people and yet, how I had witnessed myself perform really well at times. I also realized a very important thing that I had achieved. I’ll try not to sound too technical, but in one of the meetings in the first couple of weeks here, I had made a suggestion about a change I thought would look good to the application that this team was already using.

I had made the suggestion knowing almost nothing about the application. I had downloaded the application just a couple of days ago. And while making the suggestion I, without intending to, made it look like a plan more than a suggestion. Hence it came across as “I plan to introduce these changes in the application so it does so n so better” as opposed to “I suggest we look at so n so as a possible improvement in the application.”

As I look back today, the application has those suggestions in place and runs like a new Mercedes Benz on an autobahn. And I was building the application without really knowing if what I had in mind was actually possible. I just kept asking what should I do next in order that this works, in order that this will make that work and so on. And really I had made a blind promise and I have fulfilled it.

How many times do you encounter such moments of small triumphs which go unrecognized. I remember I have done this a lot of times. Seeing the metro run up the station and I’d make a dash to the platform in the hope that I’ll make it inside the metro in time even though I know equally well that it might get better of me. Betting on a 50-50 chance and jumping inside the metro just when the doors close behind you! It’s a triumph! Yet you barely just smile, recollect it for the next 10 min and forget it. But only if you’d missed it, you’d brood over it for the whole day!

How unappreciated are smaller victories in life! 🙂

Let’s learn to celebrate…

Drink up…