Friday, September 28, 2012

lost charm

I had taken a liking to Reader’s Digest from an early age. The love affair started when I had visited India during my annual school holidays and we had stayed at my grandparent’s home in Cherai, Kochi. My grandpa was a lawyer and was also an avid reader so he had a large collection of books – but mostly Malayalam. So one day I wandered into his little library and looked around for something to read and the only ones in English were the Reader’s Digest magazines dated back to the early seventies.

The books had been untouched for ages and pages were quite brittle and about to fall off so I had to be careful with them. Anyway I was too young to read some of the articles and so I stuck to the one liner jokes that appear at the bottom of the page randomly and also the ‘all in a days work’. I used to sit there for hours going through the jokes and a few articles. My mum noticed that and the next thing she did after getting back to Dubai was fill out an annual subscription form for Readers’ Digest. Mum is an avid reader as well but does not have a collection like what grandpa had.

Over the years ( the eighties and nineties ) the quality of the Readers Digest has fallen of the cliff. I feel that it just lost its charm. It has become more of a medical advertisement magazine than anything else. Less articles, less real life stories and most importantly less quality jokes. They had just killed the magazine with fold in ads and useless offers and marketing materials. Lately after a long gap I bought another copy of the Reader’s Digest and nothing much has changed and sad to say I would not think of buying another copy ever. In those ninety pages there was probably one article that engrossed me and not definitely worth the price and time.

Grandpa passed away a few years back and probably mum has kept his priceless collection of books. The house got sold and my mum brought his arm chair and his cot to our new house and has kept it in one of the rooms just as a remembrance. I am sure it brings back memories for her and it sure does for me too.

I long to go back, sit on his arm chair and open up a seventies version of Reader’s Digest again :).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The content yellow cabbie - Paré

We got picked up from the Wesley Hospital after our doctor’s appointment. “Hop in guys” said the cabbie. I got in the front seat and J squeezed in to the back of the Toyota Prius. This was my first electric car ride :).

Soon we were on our way to pick up our car from service.  The Filipino cabbie loved to talk but I was hoping to just have a quiet ride. Anyway it takes all sorts to run the world and I was forced to listen.  Turns out that he was interesting to listen to and at the same time a bit different since he also liked to listen; he would ask meaningful questions and seemed well informed about the ways of the world business and economics minus the appropriate business jargon of course.

Anyway after he dropped us off he got me thinking as well. Over the last two months I had been bitching about how monotonous my professional life had become as this was the first time that I had taken up a desk job and I was getting to the point of needing a bit more excitement at my work place.

Talking about monotonous jobs, my “pare” cabbie (paré – Filipino equivalent of the Aussie ‘mate’) has been driving a taxi for a good part of his 22 years stay in Australia and the surprising part of this is that he was not bitter at all. He didn’t complain about low wages or traffic jams, high taxes or rising medical expenses, instead he talked about how he and his wife had two daughters and that they were going to graduate in the next two years and how life in Australia has been great. He talked about all the good things in life. He also talked about the phase in his life when he was jobless but I guess he accepted that as part of his life’s learning experiences.

Paré encouraged me to see joy in little things that you have as a part of your life and not talk and think too much about what you don’t.  My old folks in Dubai often remind me of a quote they have read somewhere.. “If you have a roof over your head, have access to three square meals a day and if your parents are still married – then you belong to the top 1% of the fortunate people in the world”.

J writes down a few good things that happenes in her day before she goes to bed. Whether it is someone who smiled at her in the city or the bus driver who greeted her… she writes it all down. I might start that too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good Friday .. Saturday, Sunday and even a Monday :)

I just had one of the best Easter ever.. We went camping at Fraser Island for a couple of days and it was just brilliant. Four of us, full camping gear, a turbo charged 4.7 litre Nissan Patrol and plenty of spirits.
After a four hour drive to Rainbow beach we took a ferry to Frasers and then we were in a completely different world all of a sudden. The whole island is a white sand island with natural forests, beaches and freshwater lakes.

After we arrived, we drove along the beach which was a new experience for me and I was told to be careful about washouts which can be quite dangerous and the sand was very wet in certain areas. I had driven a lot in the deserts of Middle East and was very used to the dunes but this was slightly different. Although not as challenging as the desert driving – this was more fun than dune bashing.

We found our way to the camping ground and pitched our tents and set off for the lakes.. This time we had to take the terrain track and this really tested the 4.7 litre engine under the hood. Again a fairly new experience for me... Everyone enjoyed the ride although it was getting dark and we had to get back to our tents soon.

We rolled out the cooking gear and sat around the stove to keep ourselves warm and after a lot of wine and food we changed the focus to ghost stories and J gets the creeps with anything related to the supernatural. And to add to the creepiness we were pitched next to a tree, the kind we find in the scary movies. Since there was not much lighting around there were a lot of stars visible in the sky – had never seen so many even when I had spent countless nights in the desert staring at them. Like they say there is something about the sky down under.

Next day we set off early and drove along the beach to the famous Maheno Wreck and spent time taking pictures and all along the way we stopped at natural bodies of water, dipped in the beach, played a round of cricket ( yes we brought cricket gear too ). It was good full all the way.

Then we went inland through a rough terrain track to get to Lake McKenzie which is the deepest fresh water lake there. The water was amazing and swimming in lakes is much better than in the sea. We spent hours there trying all sorts of fun stuff like synchronised swimming, holding breath competition followed by beers :)

Then after more of terrain driving we got back to the camping grounds for another night under the stars, wine, bbq and a game of monopoly.. This monopoly had Australian cities as properties. We were pretty upset as there was no Brisbane Station ( though there were Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth ). Wonder if there is an Indian edition of Monopoly with Kochi as a station:-P

Next day was all gloomy as it was the trip back home.. So we did a bit of driving around in the morning then packed up our gears and set off for our return journey. All in all it was a great experience would love to do it again sometime may be to a different island or maybe head to the mountains for a change.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Michael Kasparov ?

The MBA classes are going great so far except for the fact that I have already dropped a subject from my over ambitious plan. I like my weekends to be weekends :) and don’t want them to be spent in a class room. So yeah no more weekend classes.

Often in the class we have these group discussions where you have to randomly form a group and introduce yourself and chat about a topic that is posted on the board and it was on one of these sessions that I came across this very familiar looking Aussie bloke. Finally I figured he looks like a cricketer from the Australian team and I thought I should tell him that. So I said hello and introduced myself and he asked me what I do and where I live etc. He told me that he does some coaching on and off and used to play a bit of sport etc etc.. Oh sports !! that got me talking and I asked him what his sport is and who he coaches .. and he says “I am not sure of you have heard of the Mumbai Indians.. I am their bowling coach” And I go “ So you are Michael Kasprowicz.. aren’t you ? “ He nods with a smile.. Ha you should have seen the excitement on my face as this is the first time I am meeting a sports personality. I mean WOW.. Out of the blue I ask him.. So you have met Tendulkar ?? .. oh damn.. What a silly question.. He said of course yes ( with a ..’what a weirdo’ look on his face ) .. and then we talked about how he is also the Australian Goodwill Ambassador to India and he is interested in building relations etc ..

I get back home after class and wake up J who was half asleep and told her that Michael Kasprowicz was in class with me.. and she goes Michael Who ? Oh damn.. no one to share my excitement here.. so I call up my dad in Dubai who is a diehard cricket fan.. woke him up from his sleep.. and he goes.. oh yea WOW nice.. isn’t he the South African Rugby player ?? That conversation didn’t last long.. Went online and found my brother in law in Delhi on Skype and I immediately called him and broke the news to him.. and he goes.. “ WOW bro – it’s really cool to have a chess player in your class.. Michael Kasparov” Okay this is not going well at all. All my excitement wore off in a matter of minutes. J couldn’t help laughing at all this.. and finally I rang up another friend of mine in Brisbane and told him..” oh yea btw there is this Aussie cricketer who no one’s heard of in my class.. called Kasper”.. and he goes – WOW.. Kasper is actually in your class? Did you shake hands? What did he say.. I mean thats AWESOME! And then we went of to discuss ashes and the famous Brisbane tests and how Tendulkar belted him etc etc.. but had to say he was a damn good bowler at his peak as he used to bowl alongside the likes of McGrath who was the best seamer in the world.

I was so glad that I could share my excitement with someone that night. Also since Kasper is good friends with Tendulkar I am hoping that I can coax Kasper into introducing me to my legendary hero next time he visits Queensland :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

OMG !!

What am I doing here? I don’t belong here! Can I still withdraw ? Will there be a penalty? .. these were the thoughts that were running through my head as I entered the waiting area for the orientation session for new students of MBA at the University of Queensland Business School.

As I entered there were three men and a lady all suited up to kill and typing away on their PDAs. One of them glanced over as I entered and sized me up with a what are you doing here look. May be I should mention that I was in a pair of jeans and a shirt but I think I was presentable. Hmm.. I felt intimidated at their corporate like activities and was wishing deep inside that they are not my co students. Should I shake hands? Say hello? I really didn’t know – so I let it be and when and sat down in the waiting area cursing myself for not dressing appropriately.

My thoughts immediately turned trivial as the lift opened and in came a spikey haired 20 something guy with jeans well below his bum and a shabby T-Shirt and more like announced to the secretary that he is here for the orientation. *phew* At least I have a proper shirt on :)

More students strolled in all casually dressed and towards the end it was the suited up corporate wannabees that felt out of place :) .. And the classes got away, a lot of mingling, chit chatting etc etc went on for a whole two hours and all of a sudden I felt a lot more comfortable. We talked about work and family and travel and rising expenses. Most of the students were sponsored by the company except for me who might get approval for expensing my car parking charges let alone my tuition fees. Yes I am paying through my @!@#hole for this over rated course. Really hoping to god that this is worth the time, effort and money.

J has been all supportive of me doing a part time course and made sure I had a new notepad and pen and she even gave me her HP Mini for my classes. Last night we called up her parents and my parents and my grandmother just to let them know that tomorrow is my first day back to Uni after eleven odd years. Granny as usual already set her hope high all over again asking me to top the class and bring glory to the family. I wasn’t surprised. But then what caught me out was that when she was speaking to J ( oblivious to the fact that she was on speaker ) she mentioned to her that I am a total bum when it comes to studying and to keep an eye on me. J agreed trying to suppress her giggles. Hmm.. I guess granny just wanted to encourage me with all this talk about ranks but she knew exactly what I was capable of.

Anyway I thought I’ll just blog about this special day. Two years from now I shall post a picture of me from my graduation ceremony :) and secretly hoping to prove granny wrong as far as my performance goes!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

wet wet wet

Ever since we landed in Brisbane people at work has been telling me about the great floods of Brisbane over the last century. On one instance they even showed me the flood lever marker showing the level of water reached at each of the floods. Most of the conversations ended up with ..”oh well we won’t have to worry about them floods anymore .. cos we have the Weivenhoe Dam..” and since I have heard that statement over and over I really didn’t worry much even on the morning of the day when the floods actually hit us.

The floods covered the basement, ground and the first floor of our apartments, but we were safe and sound on the fourth. Although at that time we didn’t feel all that safe as we saw the water rising up by the hour. Just when we thought it had stopped rising and things are going to get back to normal soon – the power went out and warnings of a king tide was out. But luckily we had seen the worst of it by then.
Here are some pictures from our suburb – luckily no one was hurt and during the whole “flood” experience, we made some new friends in our apartment building and learned to support each other during the testing period. Thanks also to our friends with whom we spent a few days till the flood waters receded.

Now Brisbane is almost back to normal thanks to a no holes barred effort from the Queensland government and more importantly the helping mentality of fellow Queenslanders. I was completely taken out by the amount of voluntary workers that registered and showed up for cleaning up the city.. “our city” as I would now like to call it. We did our part too we were out cleaning up the basement with the rest of the tenants, also donated a decent amount for the Premiers Flood Donation.

This is the first time that I have seen a whole country come together for help when it was needed. And it was not just talk but actually coming out and getting their hands dirty so that your neighbour has an easier time cleaning up his backyard.

As I am writing this post there are cyclone warnings out in the north of Queensland – but I am not a least bit worried. When you are in a community like this there is nothing to worry. Cyclone ?? I would say “bring it on...”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Socially Un-Networked

Back from a holiday to Dubai and India - visited parents, relatives and friends and dined, drank and laughed at old jokes and new. Two weeks just flew past and here I am back in Brisbane with some good memories and a massive jet lag. Back to work - but I guess what are sick days for after all :-P

Last month J was all excited about her first trip back home after marriage and was happily shopping for little things to take back for everyone, basically just small mementos or fridge magnets or stuffed toys for all her little cousins. We had different classifications such as “gift cousins”, “chocolate cousins”, “only a phone call cousins” and “lets meet them next time cousins”, making sure she didn’t miss out anyone etc etc.. In the mean time she had also announced her countdown to the start of the holiday on Facebook. Not much time passed before she was contacted by various ‘friends’ here at Brisbane with a list of things that they wanted to be brought back from India. She being ever obliging agreed unwillingly. Pretty soon after the list was compiled our trip was ending up like a delivery service. Even wondered if we should change over from Emirates to DHL Super Jumbo.. hmm. We had people coming over and dropping things off for us to take to Dubai and extremely pushy offers to be dropped off and picked up from the airport. Finally I had enough and put my foot down and said I am not brining in anything from Dubai or India. We had one set of guys who had their two year old son call us up and ask us if we could bring him the milk powder from Kerala – and this was after some heavy prompting from his pushy mum in the background. The extend some people go to is unbelievable *sigh*

It has been two weeks since we got back and there is no news from our milk powder friends. The book that they also requested for, which required me driving down to a different village in India at 10 PM at night through what seemed a ghost town in order for me to pick up, is still lying here at our home in Brisbane. I guess it wasn’t that urgent at all. Oh well..

Soon we got alerts in email with “you were tagged” on FB. So there were caught having fun with some of our friends who we had met during the short trip. This left the others friends who are also on facebook, wondering why we didn’t bother visiting them or giving them a ring, let alone take picture with them. Wonder if we will hear from them again. And to top it all off one of them even tagged us in a picture of a stuffed toy we had gifted their kids with a caption “from J with love”. This must have left some impression on the other “non gift” friends and in Kerala this is enough material for starting a family feud.

So I guess we have been socially un networked from a few friends…

I read an interesting article about Mark Zuckerberg who had to pay USD 65 million to keep a bunch of uni students quiet about them claiming that he stole their idea while working together on a same project. Apparently Mark delayed the project they were working on and in the meantime launched Facebook which had a striking similarity. Difference they called it “dating” and Mark called it “networking”. Talk about play with words.

And the other talk of the town is the commonwealth games about which the less said the better.