All posts by Ramnik

From an early age I wanted to make connections with people from across the globe. Allowing emotions to escape the deep recesses of one’s mind, and be spilled into a sheet of paper for the world to read lays an opportunity for reader and writer to combine in a nameless bond, one of oneness, and intrigue. It bares a private part of the writer for all to see. It is daunting and exciting. If a written word can dissipate the worry from another heart, if a written word can bring to a face a smile or a tear, then that connection is complete, and a word shatters the physical distance and brings souls together in harmony and joy. This is my dream, only a dream at the moment. When I was 15 years old, we got a new English teacher. She spoke so beautifully and clearly and made me want to be a better person. Despite my age-old struggle with language(s), I was fascinated by the world of writing. My teacher inspired me to be a constant memory keeper. I feel at some level she taught me how to think. Now years later, I am blessed with a career and a family that keeps me busy. However it is that 15-year-old in me that is knocking on my heart and via this little personal web site, urging for outlet for my life-long aspirations of writing and as well as begging for validation of all the dreams, old and new that just do not go away. So, here I am on word press with my own website to see where my dreams take me.

Why want everything when you can have one key thing?

I stood behind a long frozen queue of heads rocking my newborn.  When my turn came, the lady on the other side of the glass glanced through my pile of official papers with keen dexterity.

“Is that all you have?” she asked.  I nodded with another question, “What more do you need?  Answer-less, she pointed me towards a seat propelling me into an endless abyss of wait.  In the shadow of hours that floated by, whispers rose to higher pitch.  People began to march to the window, furious, some sufficing with fuming looks, others roaring at the young lady.

“I am just doing my job” she would respond timidly.

Finally when my turn came, a male officer stood beside the young lady, sifting through my papers-birth certificates, school-leaving certificates, the only remnants of my childhood scribbled in ink on paper.  He was still dissatisfied as though not seeing what he desired to give me his stamp of approval.  He asked me a series of questions, in response to which I pulled out yet another certificate of my grades from high school.  With a perplexed look, he asked, “why didn’t you provide this before?”

“Because you asked for ‘all I have’ and I didn’t know what that meant!” I let my stare meet his.

Why couldn’t the Consulate where I had spent an entire day just give me a list of documents they needed?  This outward experience of mine propelled me into an inward tirade of thoughts about my own desires over the span of my life.

Aren’t we all, to some degree, similar in wanting everything?  We want it all in our lives, career, family/friends, house, etc.  And in obtaining everything, who knows, we may get the one thing we truly desire!

Truth be told, there is always something missing, for a working woman on an overseas trip, she may carry the trepidation of the welfare of her kids hidden in her heart.  Or the thorn that pricks a homemaker’s heart is one of a career abandoned, even if for the time being.  That is the harsh reality of our worlds, for every achievement there is always a road that’s left behind.  That is what everything entails – things we have, and things we do not.

But how do you realize what you really want in life?  Especially, when wanting “everything” is cluttered with so many conflicting desires.  And, how important is it to siphon it out?

My experience taught me a lesson that I hold dear.  Wanting everything can be misleading, even to your own heart.  Focusing on one or two ambitions is the key to success.  That helps you to cherish what you are pursuing and “give the moment at hand” your very best, remorse free.  It helps you to look ahead instead of pandering to every road not taken.  It de-clutters your chest of desires so only the important few remain.  And, it gets simpler to grasp the chosen few without risk of distractions from the unimportant wants.

What often needed is a reset.  The following habits can help.

  1. Take a break
    It was a crisp day in March.  At lunch time, a bunch of us sat enjoying the warmth of precious winter sun in outside patio.  It also happened to be my first day at the job.  A fellow colleague sat next to me.  That day happened to be his last at the company.  When I asked him where he was headed to next, I fully expected a response one where he would tell me the name of the new company or try to hide it.  But I was not prepared for the response.
    “Nowhere; Just taking a break.” he responded calmly.
    I reconfirmed just to be sure.  His confidence unsettled me.  He was doing something I could never get my dutiful mind to do.  I lived my life by the book-go to college, get your degree and job, get married-you know how the story goes.  I charred in silent envy for I lacked the courage to reset my life.A break necessarily does not have to involve quitting your job, it could be a long vacation; it could be things you do in a day.  For instance, within the boundaries of a day, a break may be spending alone time at a lake watching the water shimmer away.

    In my last semester in college, heavy in debt and income-less, my aim was very clear.  My aim was to become debt-free, to be in a position where I paid my bills on time never having to worry at the first of the month if my rent check would bounce again.  When our survivor instincts are high, it is easy to see what you want.We live in a perfect society where we are pressured to be perfect parents, be perfect partners, etc.  Sometimes it takes losing the anchors we put in for ourselves and let ourselves free fall to meet our inner self again, which takes me to point number 2:
  1. Allow Failure
    A friend of mine, a hard worker, fresh out of college landed herself a contract as a techie at a small telecom company. She felt lost at the job, the environment was hostile.  A couple of months later they let her go.  She described that day with painful precision of how she was escorted out of the building in a matter of minutes.  Knowing her, despite being unhappy at the job she would have never left by herself.  In hindsight, the company letting her go was the best thing that could have happened to her.  It gave her downtime to reflect on what she really wanted in her life.  And, she came out of it stronger and happier.  The experience taught her it is OK to say no to certain jobs, that she can choose even if it takes time.  She went on to make great strides in her career since.
  2. Persist
    Once you do pick a road, stay on it.  It is easy to keep resetting your life again and again especially when you successfully kill the fear of failure from your heart.  You learn from your mistakes and pivot but do not give up on your dream.

So, to my fellow human beings, life-long dreamers, good luck in finding your true desires and be fearless in the journey to pursue them.

 

Tread Gently, My Mir

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Not like a mother doting with love
More like a lover afraid to indulge the heart
That pines away in secret love affair
Writing a thousand love letters
Stashed away in wooden drawers

Overworked paparazzi with a fancy camera lens
Shuttering, Stuttering, opening and closing
Noting each smile, each frown
Breaking and unbreaking my heart in a million pieces
Waiting around the corner for your next move
A tear waiting to drench the cheek

So, just like that wordless, nameless, countless lover
My Mir, my knight in shining armor
Keeping me awake into the night
You danced away in pious grace
Tread carefully, my love, my mir

You may not see the veiled admirer
Being killed with an innocent smile of yours
Bruised with the sheer intensity of love
My Mir, my buddy, my loving treasure
Tread Carefully, my Mir
I love you beyond hearts can imagine

Live Well, My Mir
And when you go out there
Remember your first follower
Will be loving you endlessly for times to come
So, tread carefully, My Mir
I am so in love with you!

The Walking Snowman

It was a beautiful crisp winter evening. Few flurries hung suspended outside. Little Sahir sat there staring out the window with joy in his heart he felt each winter. He rarely sat still but waited patiently for his mother to finish her kitchen chores. He had some exciting news for her. But he was afraid she would not believe what he had to share. As she came with her coffee mug oozing warm vapors and sat next to him, Sahir wasted no time.

“Mama, I want to tell you something about my day.”

That elicited a quick response from Sahir’s mother who was used to asking Sahir all sorts of questions about his day, but always hearing the same response, “good”. How can all days just be good?

“Great, I am listening,” she exclaimed with anticipation.

“Mama, I climbed on top of the snowman in our backyard, and it started walking.”

Sahir’s mother chuckled in response. “Wow, that’s some awesome imagination!” was all she said as Sahir suspended his head low disappointed. He whispered to himself, “except it wasn’t imagination.”

Why wouldn’t anyone ever believe him? He walked over to his father who was pressing buttons of his phone.

“Papa, guess what?”

“What Lolo?”

“I sat on a car and it just started moving.”

“That’s very nice. You want to drive a car?”

“I did it, for real!”

A few hours later as the dining table was cleared up, Sahir’s parents overheard their children talking.

“Guess what Dua, yesterday I sat on your big yellow horse and it started moving.”

“Woooooow” gasped Dua. They both erupted in crackling laughter. They emitted out sounds of a horse galloping, imagining riding it through the forest as their parents glanced at them fondly.

Soon the day ended in darkness and silence of the night. In the morning, while Sahir’s mother performed the daily monotonous chores thinking, may be it was possible for all days to be the same as one another. She peeked out in the backyard and noticed something peculiar. Sahir’s snowman was still intact under the cold, but it indeed, had moved. Sahir must have moved it, she explained to herself.

But from that point each morning she walked up to the window. And, each morning the snowman shrunk a little and moved a little. One day she grabbed hold of Sahir who had long stopped talking about him climbing on top of things to watch them move.

“Sahir, you want to tell me more about your ride on the snowman?”

Sahir did not answer. He was busy making buzzing sounds and rolling his favorite orange school-bus toy back and forth.

“Sahir, are you listening?” repeated his mother.

“Yes”

“What happened to the snowman, did it move again?”

“No”

She sounded disappointed and didn’t probe him anymore.

That night dense fog enveloped the area. It appeared as a still from a scary movie with mystery shrouded in each nook and cranny. Her footsteps were gentle as she climbed down the stairs careful not to wake her family. Despite the fog, the outdoors was lit from the reflection of all the snow on the ground. And up very close you could see for a few feet past which the fog drenched the view in total whiteness. She could hear the crackling laughter, mumbled conversations as her heart raced. She imagined herself part of an animation movie except the crackling of the wooden floor beneath her feet was real, the coldness of the door knob to the backyard was hand numbing, waft of ear reddening winter breeze was chilling, and the sound of snow crushing under her feet was ambient as the laughter grew louder and louder.

And at that moment, from under the canopy of the fog emerged the waddling snowman with a shrill voice with Sahir atop it, his hair rustling up and down, his cheeks red with cold and eyes closed in joy. Round and round they went buzzing and electrifying.

And, the next morning, nothing had changed. Fog remained suspended in the air. The children worked on their omelets and fussed over milk. As Sahir’s mother stared at her son, with fresh memory of his hair flying in the air and cheeks red as watermelon. It must have been a dream, she dared not cross check.

As Sahir put his plate in the sink he winked at her and disappeared into the garage on his way to school.

That evening as temperature rose and lifted the fog, out came the sun, and the snow man melted away. There was an old carrot and couple of sticks where it once stood. The snowman was gone but little Sahir’s mother could never forget what she saw on that foggy night, and it didn’t matter if it was real or just imagination.

10 Funny Traits of Indians

No matter the country, or the nook or corner of this dispersed world we live in, no matter how diverse and unlike one another, there seem to be an invisible thread that ties people of India together in habits that survive generation after generation. Here is a made-to-smile list of 10 traits that binds Indians in harmony with each other.

We do not say no

Especially when it comes to committing to time, we always say yes. Forget about expecting to hear things just the way they are from an Indian. It is not in our nature to say no, even when no it is from far, far away, we are people pleasers at heart. We prefer to hush down our grievances quietly. We are the keepers of the hearts, the masterminds behind the power of efforts to make time no matter how difficult the time commitment is.

But we are late a lot

In our lives magically things go wrong as soon as we commit to a time. Children take longer naps, traffic piles up on road, phone rings, and anything else that can go wrong, goes wrong. These mishaps have been happening to us for so long that we are expected to be late. If miraculously we reach Indian events on time, the hosts too are not ready. So, we embrace our fate and never question it. We feel lucky in the middle of chaos. We do not try to inform of our tardiness, we expect that people expect it.

We eat dinner late

We laugh at westerners who eat at 6, our tea and snack time. We are hardworking people who work late into the evening. We enjoy our dinner at 9, even 10 at night.

We sleep late

So what we eat dinner late. We also sleep late. We party till late.

We start our day late

We reach work after broad day light. Our need to party at night compels for a morning that is laid back. We get hung over without an ounce of liquor. We are fun loving chilling type.

Our no gesture is same as yes

Ever ask an Indian a question and received the classic nod of the head from side to side and a “Uh-huh”? Then you have experienced another classic Indian trait. Our yes and no sound alike. We expect you to understand and read our minds as we do for each other. Ah that “uh-oh” is a yes, and that other one is a no.

We don’t fancy system

We have befriended chaos. We are familiar with lack of system. System to us is mechanical machine-like order that stresses our otherwise carefree heart. We cannot withstand so much order, a little mishap we love. It keeps our feet grounded and our hearts humble.

We are social fund raisers

Turning normal get together into kitty parties, we collect money to organize more fun, and gifts. We love to exchange gifts like no other community in the world. A friend of a relative of a friend, got engaged? Hooray! Time to collect funds for the next gift card. Friend of a friend moving out of town? Time for a farewell, and a farewell gift, here comes the fund collecting basket.

We love the dance and music and loud colors

It is no wonder Indian movies involve dancing in all corners of the world be it mountain side of Switzerland or deep blue lakes of ladakh, we know how to party with loud music, songs, dancing, and colorful clothes.

We treat our guests like Gods

Only expect an Indian to give up their master bedroom for their guests. Hospitality comes naturally to most of us.

Stereotypes have a quality to them. Some of us may have broken these light hearted stereotypes but there just are a few idiosyncrasies that are Indian forever. So next time an Indian says yes and is hours late, shrug it off and smile.

I Gave My Daughter Away

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I have been blessed with lots of wondrous gifts life has to offer. I embody a laid-back carefree spirit.  After I graduated twelfth grade I had one aim in life and that was to be a mother. I never imagined working, and was content trying new recipes, learning to stitch my own clothes, and other qualities of people like me – “the home scientists”! That is one reason when the first respectable marriage proposal came my way I accepted it with glee in my heart, and purpose in my soul. My journey had just begun.

Within the first year of my new life as a married woman, before heartfelt reflection on who we were as married adults, before we had our first passionate fight and before any anger or resentment ever seeped in, I was blessed with my first daughter. We named her Miriam. Being a mother completely uprooted me, lifting me into another world, not one akin to my dreams, more mind-wrenchingly intense and devastatingly beautiful. I wept when she bawled and I sobbed harder when she split into her first smile.

And, soon after finding out I was pregnant again I embraced that reality with open arms as did my husband who was now spending longer and longer hours at the shop he started not too long ago. He was still learning the tricks of the trade and learning how to stand on his two feet.  After delivering my baby with pious grace my mother taught me, without a scream, I welcomed another baby girl. We hadn’t yet picked a name when we brought her home.  She was not even a week old, while we were weathering a sleepless life passage, when I heard the quietest of whispers coming from the living room from the darkness of our tiny bedroom.

Miriam lay asleep as I rocked my newest bundle of emotions in my arms and peered through the transparent white drapes. Our neighbors were talking to my husband who was nodding back in what appeared to be an agreement. Soon the men rose and hugged each other in a strong embrace, one reserved for very near and dear ones. I hurriedly turned as my husband, who had never raised his voice at me, locked the door behind him and marched towards me.

“You may want to sit down,” he said turning the light of the bedroom on.  I did as asked, holding my newborn and stroking Miriam’s hair, wishing not to break the peaceful spell of her sleep.

“Those were our neighbors…” he started his ramble. In the mangled monologue that followed, he explained to me like a tutor how unfortunate the Patels were to not be able to conceive and before we got too attached to the littlest baby girl, we could gift it to them. She would be in the neighborhood and would grow right under our noses.  We could visit, and they would gain an offspring and we had nothing to lose.  And, they had promised us a large amount of money, one that he could invest in his shop, he explained.

 

I wish I could say I revolted, or was mildly repugnant.  I cannot explain if the reality of things hadn’t registered yet or I was trained for years the art of saying yes, but I simply yielded.

Next morning, at the first streak of dawn, we bundled our nameless girl in her best clothes, packed all her essential items like diapers, wipes, milk bottles, clothes, blankets, wash cloths carefully folded and hand pressed which was similar to a sendoff of a girl at the time of marriage.  I watched the tearful Patels shower their affection on her and then cradling her, recede around the bend of our old dilapidated street, too narrow for a car to fit in, with menacing odor from the open drains whose stench hadn’t reached my nostrils until that morning. With those walls of homes closing in on me, I embarked on my own private battle between the passive submissiveness on the outside and an angry witch inside my heart.

Because I had given my daughter away.

That night in my sleep my hands kept reaching to my left feeling for my newborn as though it hadn’t yet registered with them, that she was not there, and never coming back.  The next morning I was so restless that only one thought comforted my agitated spirit.  So, when I heard my husband’s approaching footsteps back from the shop, I ran outside to greet him and beg him to bring my daughter back, and that I had changed my mind.  His hands were full of bags.  He unloaded a flurry of gifts he had got for me and Miriam and told me how the money was already helping him kick start his shop that hadn’t done so well up until then.  He could pay off his debt.  He was elated.  Me?  I didn’t utter a word.  I held my head low, rose like a slow-motion picture plot, moped to the kitchen and made him his cup of evening tea.

I made dinner next.  Next morning, I and Miriam walked along the street to get groceries.  I clutched on to Miriam tightly, stressed if the passersby would dare ask me for her and I would not say no. I toddled along with my toddler meekly with breasts soar with unwanted milk, like a brace broken from a torn-away hug too soon.

I transformed as though from a butterfly to a caterpillar miraculously backtracking in my life in haste. I washed the utensils in kitchen with fury, slamming the steel against steel, letting droplets of water spring further and further away like a fountain creating an orchestra of utensil banging music.

And, I and my husband of two and half years continued our fight-less journey with unspoken grievances that I now lugged around buried inside my heart.

A year later I found myself in the cold embrace of the hospital yet another time waiting impatiently for a boy, except it was another girl. He came, he saw, and he turned around without touching the little girl and disappeared into the night – my husband, this time not hiding his disappointment. Or I wondered if he too had tasted his share of the guilt pie I was savoring all by myself.

I waited a painstakingly long time for each day to rise and fall, behind fluttering curtains, meandering corners of streets for takers of another of my girls, but I welcomed the days that turned into weeks, months and years without occurrence.

After 4 years, we tried yet another time for a baby. And, in the span of all these years, living so close to the Patels, not once did we pay them a visit or invite them over. So much so, I never walked in the direction of their home street, avoiding it like a hypochondriac avoided germs. But after the fourth baby turned out to be a girl yet another time, and I walked into our living room finding Mr. Ravi Patel, the same Patel from that wretched evening when I unfriended my own soul, I lost it. My husband invited me to a seat at the table. Instead I stood there petrified like a stone.

He wore an expensive suit and spoke politely in a polished accent and in front of him laid a stack of pictures of a little girl I did not need to see. I stared away listening to the bargain of yet another informal adoption this time on the premise of uniting two of the sisters.

I leapt forward, springing the table with herculean force and toppling it over. My husband, taken aback, screamed without inching forward towards me as fresh flow of warm tears sprang down my face.

I was having my first passionate fight of my marriage, seven years in the making, in the presence of a stranger, the very villain that initiated my miraculous downfall as a mother, as a human being. I uttered no words and left the men standing in shock certain that they knew my answer. I packed all of our bags, girls and mine in mad fury and instead of bolting out I lay down on the bed waiting for my husband to finish apologizing for my behavior to Mr. Patel. I planned to leave openly. When he came back in, he parked himself on his side of the bed with a heavy thud.

“I turned him away,” was all he said not demanding justification for my sudden outburst and lack of control.

I wish I could say the words comforted me and that it could reverse the years of rift it created in my marriage but it did keep me from walking away that night. And, I couldn’t hold the grudge against my husband much longer. It was me I had to forgive, because no matter what I did or didn’t do, I would always be that mother who gave her daughter away.

The Murmur of a Silent Heart

Dreams are but vapors of a passing downpour
The rustling from a vibrating tree
The murmur of a silent heart
That speaks to no one, shows its face to nobody

Dreams are but figments of reality
Bits of truth garbled in a cloud
Not what you can touch or hear
Aliens the world embraced as real

The fresh scent of wet grass
the aroma of violet wild flowers
the tickle from a gentle breeze
You think of me, and I weep in delight

Our worlds collide, we crash and burn
Wake up and you are not there again.
Ah, another dream it must be
The world we conjured up in disguise

Replayed, edited, reframed and reimagined
Craftsmanship of a directorial debut
Of a habitual dreamer
Walking in another’s shoes

Dreams are messages from another world
That exists but for you
It is yours to annihilate or adorn
Yours to cherish or loathe

Why it is Vital to Fail?

We are fast learners. Little setbacks instill quick and easy lessons. For instance in the life of a student, they learn how to prepare for any exam counter intuitively.

“Read the physics book from the first year BSc (Bachelor of Science) program,” advised a fellow hard worker in 12th grade once.

He had learned that his physics professor chose questions ahead of grade and to really crack the exam, we all not only had to peruse through our fat physics book, but sometimes skip portions of it and just reach for that book from university. After all, how important is hard work, if your score is still mediocre?

We wake up each day, hop out of bed, clean up and go to work. Why?

“I have to put my kid through college” once replied a coworker of mine, answering an innocent question of mine (Why are we here?) in the context of a big picture.

We were feverishly occupied with a “do-or-die” issue, way past sunset. Doom was written on each face. We were the unwilling participants of the steep demise of our day. Our loved ones were told to not wait for us for supper that night. We had failed but yet not allowing ourselves to fail. We were busy putting in all the fixes, all the measures to be able to deploy before daybreak a feature our customer yet hadn’t felt love for.

Without failing, we sustained endlessly. A little bandage would fix a little leak. What was needed instead was an epic failure, one that halts your life, changes your lifestyle and makes you ask yourself the question, “Dummy, what are you doing in your life?!”

That reset is terribly important!

My childhood was one of being fiercely sheltered by my parents. Now, a mother of two, I observe I shelter my kids just as I shelter myself out of an age-old experience.

There is a cost associated with a lack of failure. I feel success of certain magnitude warrants failure of a certain magnitude as well. Because both succeeding and failing catastrophically reside in the same place of risk taking.

When J.K. Rowling was writing Harry Potter, she was a single parent, and had no money. She did not have heat in her apartment, so would write in a cafe. She was rejected 12 times before a small London house picked up “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” But what if she had settled for less? I do not mean succumbing to the 12 rejections, I mean she did just the usual – wake up, pay bills, sleep and avoid the possibility 12 or more failures?

Fail instead to rise to a better place. Chase your dreams like a fanatic. Do not let another day burn itself away. And, if you find yourself failing hard, remind yourself that victory may be so close as long as you do not give up. Brush off the dust, stand tall again and do it all over again.

For Sale By Owner – Planet Earth!

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The United Nations (UN) has decided to put Earth for sale! This decision has outraged the public and sent angry waves across the globe. UN supports its decision, citing that humanity stands at important cross-roads. With a future that is precarious, and new demands from the wealthy, looking to relocate, for one-way missions to outer space, has coerced them to ponder over the future of humanity. Public, especially the middle-class and the poor are deeply offended by this decision.

This decision deepens the rift between the rich and poor. Those lacking wealth are left to fend for themselves. If humanity has to move, all are not created equal. UN defends its stance that putting the planet for sale is not a secret nod for the rich to fly away but rather a cry for help to save what’s left right here on a planet that has served us dearly for millions of years. Although internally, they may agree that this is a nod of approval for those that can leave, to do so. The human footprint is so big, that with a few departed beings, may very well be the right thing to do at the right time.

But, all this discussion sparks more questions than answers a few! Will a new singular owner protect what remains from the imminent ice ages, super volcanic eruptions, shrinking coastlines, parched drought-ridden states, drowning plains and mountain ranges raging with fire? Or is it what it appears – the biggest dictatorship ever. United Nations hopes that an owner that will invest their huge capital on planet earth, will protect it in a manner all of us have not for free. The shrinking poles, and cries from the scientific communities have been ignored for decades. The countries are so divided to even thrust their trust on the scientists, some blaming the recent climate atrocities on a normal cycle, so much so that they are certain of mistakes in their formula. Public is divided into two groups. One that are non-believer deeming all forecasts as nothing short of fear mongering. And the other camp, that think there is nothing they can do even if the dire predictions are accurate.

United nations disagrees. After thousands of summits on global warming, and fractions within the scientific community themselves, the UN is convinced that whether the climate change is temporary or permanent, it cannot be ignored. Without consensus and clear ownership of the entire planet earth, we all are failing every day. And, without the move to a single ownership, the status quo prevails. And status quo is one of disagreement and inaction.

Not all are indignant at this decision. The activists whose voices had been drowned over the years by constant infighting are rejoicing at this recent outcome. They feel vindicated and are certain that this will bring to limelight the issues they have been pioneering.

Owning a planet is not a new idea. 10 years ago, when Mars mission got the backing from private investors with spaceships and organized programs to send people to Mars, Mr. Tatum Heisings became the first person to own a planet. He paid a whopping billion US Dollars for it. He heads all missions to Mars and holds the fate of millions that will depart for Mars, in the first venture next year. NASA is not very thrilled with this extra oversight for all their projects concerning Mars but Mr Tatum Heisings, some argue is now more powerful than even the president of the most powerful nation on earth. The sales didn’t end at the red lifeless planet of Mars.

Since the sale of Mars, all planets have been put on sale from the burning Mercury to the freezing dwarf planet of Pluto. Some people feel this is a joke. There are questions around ownership and the price. What authority does the UN have to sell something that isn’t theirs to begin with? Or is it just pandering to the narcissistic pleasures of the wealthy? The future will tell. For now, all we know is that our home, the planet earth, in all its beauty, and all its flaws, is up for more changes, one that involves mass exodus. The scientific community predicts major impact of this sale. From changing borders, to more laws, changing education curriculum to changing foods will be just the tip of the iceberg. Though time will be the ultimate test, we know this today, public will sleep a light sleep from now on.

The Woman With Friends

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Our day trudged along like an old lady. Our gait mimicked the fatigue of a long winding day as we sauntered into the Himalaya restaurant of Plattsburgh, NY. Just a couple of weeks before we arrived in Plattsburgh, two dangerous fugitives meandering their way up to the Canadian border had been shot, one dead and other caught alive right in our vicinity. With this knowledge fresh in our minds, we slouched in our chairs in the middle of a painstakingly long wait for our Tibetan food. Sigh!

As we waited in our outdoor seats in downtown Plattsburgh, I observed an American restaurant next door. A waitress who wore heavy facial makeup brought two big Beer mugs to the family seated across to us. Perched up with two fat books, a young lady, wearing black slacks, sat alone with an empty plate and empty glass. She had already finished her meal. Hurriedly, she signed the check, got up and marched away. My snoopy gaze followed her out of the restaurant, and found its anchor on three women across the street. The one in the middle, pregnant in her homestretch, was wearing a striped beige and brown dress. She was thrusting a stroller carrying a girl that appeared to be around 4 years old. The young girl lay limp and uninterested in her surroundings. Something about them enraptured my attention and I sat there gawking quite unabashed. Why was I fascinated by them?

Maybe because they represented something innocent my adult life had sacrificed. Center of conversation, the pregnant lady, in the middle of a long theatrical narration, slouched forward and shook her head left and right. The response from her friends was one of deep compassion as they shook their heads acknowledging her tribulation.

As for me? My fascination took a turn, I now gazed in envy. The women had what I ached for, close girlfriends in the same town as me, whom I met every other evening; I emptied my heart full of problems or vice-versa. And, here in Plattsburgh, New York, were three women doing exactly that. In front of my eyes, flashed images of the support they provided each other and specifically to the woman in the center with the baby on the way and another child in the stroller – who seemed most vulnerable of them all. Was I right to judge what I saw?

I was about to find out for myself when the woman in black, pulled out and lit a cigarette, taking big gulps, savoring each inhalation of the black guck. And, now I raged for a whole another reason. I turned to my husband.

“Look at that woman; she is smoking in front of a pregnant friend of hers and her daughter!”

The response of my husband was trenched in philosophy hinged on society, and the marketing campaign of cigarette companies. And, as though there was nothing more wrong with my outside world then I witnessed what was “the more than worst” thing in my opinion.

The smoker in black, hung the hand holding the cigarette on her side, and gazed straight ahead. With that, she quite unassumingly, stretched her hand near the lady with a child. And, to my dismay, expecting lady’s hand reciprocated and seized the cigarette with same sly dexterity. Hesitating, she took the cigarette, put it in her mouth, as her eyes closed in relief and she puffed her own big black one.

Agony! They didn’t linger there longer and started to walk towards the red light. The cigarette had exhausted their conversation. And, very soon they disappeared around the bend of the street with the vulnerable woman guarding the baby inside her womb with a cigarette in her mouth, puffing along the way.

Not believing the transformation of events, I ignored the waiter that brought our food. Was I right now to worry for the strange lady’s unborn child? Was I wrong to judge the quality of their lives by what I saw? Regardless, I learnt a valuable lesson that day as I glanced at my children – never judge a book by its cover – things aren’t as they appear to be. And, I learned a smaller, not so obvious lesson as well-to count the blessings in my life.

Escape from Chicago…

Have you ever woken up with a longing to take your car and just drive away? Have you ever just wanted a plan/itinerary ready for you to run with without your spending any time on research? And, what if you can have that plan free of any cost ? Read on…

From various trips I have taken at various times in my life, I have compiled for such enthusiasts a road trip, where you escape the big city traffic and go to something quite opposite…nature and seclusion. Here is a plan that is budget-friendly, vetted on the peak July 4th time with hotel, restaurant and of course attractions recommendations. If you reside near Chicago you can take this plan as is, or take pieces of it…My hope? To save you time and if nothing else, give you the pleasure of visiting these places without having to move an inch from your couch. Below is the overview of the trip including distance in miles, cost, and tips. At the end, you will be able to click on START and then go from Day 1 – Day 10 on subsequent pages.

TRIP: Chicago – Glacier National Park, Montana at Canadian Border and back via the Rockies in Colorado…

Route

Distance: ~4000 miles
Cost: ~$3000
Tip #1: Get an annual national park Pass for $80 before this trip[available over phone or the first national park on trip – Badlands, SD]
Tip #2: Drive the most fuel efficient car, and get AAA membership
Tip #3: Best time to do this trip – SUMMER MONTHS
Tip #4: Pack a jacket!

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
there is rapture in the lonely shore,
there is society where none intrudes,
by the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
Lord Byron

This is one of my favorite road trips of all times. It ranges from rugged Badlands and carved mountain sides, to majestic range of the Rockies featuring turquoise blue lakes, weeping walls, erupting geysers, bison, bears, and Antelopes!

My aching longing for this trip is how beautifully it removes you from the world by taking signal out of cellphones, tablets and drawing you so close to loneliness that you are forced to reflect and take in the calmness of being fully present in the immediate surroundings.

Here is overview in pictures and click on start at the bottom to begin. All days are linked. You can also access this itinerary in the menu “Plan Travel”..Enjoy!

IMG_1039 Badlands National Park
IMG_1065 Mount Rushmore, SD

IMG_1177Montana

DSC_10041Glacier National Park, Montana

IMG_1530 IMG_1537 Yellowstone

IMG_1645Teton National Park

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