Posted in On such things...

On Baby names and such things…

-Dabbling with babbles-

I consider myself to belong to the baby booming generation. Don’t we all belong to that – at least all of us who have been fortunate enough to procreate? In the last year and a half, there were at least about a dozen of my very good friends who added new members to their respective families, in the form of babies. Or if I can quote one of my friends whose baby announcement read “Our home has grown by two feet”, I should say that my friends’ homes have witnessed 24 feet of growth all together, in a year or so. This is just my friends – given that I am not the type who has too many friends, this has got to tell you something, that there is a baby boom always, whether you belong to that generation or not.

Giving a name to your baby is not easy. That is what everyone told us. I cannot recall if our experience confirms to that general belief or not. But I do not think my wife and I had any difficulty in zeroing in on a name for our son. It was neither a very scientific process that we adopted nor an argumentative one. As one would suggest a name, we would discuss why we liked that name or why we didn’t. And when there were names that we thought both of us liked we would add it to our list. And when both of us ran out of names to suggest, we looked at the list and we had 3 names in it. Since we also had an agreement that said if it were a boy then I get to make the final decision and if it were a girl then my wife gets to, it was pretty easy. We did not buy any Baby names books – We did not Google for baby names to build our repository.

When a friend told me that they had to decide on their to-be-born-son’s name based on what the astrologers say, I wished him good luck. (The astrologers decide on some letters (or letter) that the baby’s name should begin with, based on the star alignment and other factors). Then you have to choose a name that begins with one of those letters given to you. Funnily, the star alignment is the same immaterial of which part of the country you come from. So I really do not know how astrologers from different states who speak different languages take into account of the lingual subtleties and the alphabetic bumps. More often than not, they do give some difficult letters to confuse the parents. I wonder if they actually get creative and test the parental vernacular skills in this process. Whatever the case may be, if the parents believe in such a Byzantine way to identify and be satisfied with their baby’s name, then choosing a name for your baby becomes more laborious & thrilling than conceiving and delivering the baby.

I called my friend to greet him, as soon as I was told that his wife had delivered a baby. I asked him if they had received the puzzle yet from India or not. He responded in the affirmative and uttered the 3 letters they were given. As I expected, there were 2 out of those 3 letters that were hard to choose a name from. Once again I wished him the best and hung up.

A week later, I called him again to ask him if we could drop in to see the baby. As our conversation drifted over to baby names, I worded my question in a scrupulous and a conscientious manner – “Have you decided on a name yet? I am sure you must have as you have already been released from the hospital…Hmmm…”

“Yes”, came an uppity response in a sanguine tone that I had never heard him speak with in the past, every time the conversation touched baby names.

“So what is it..?”

He told me what they have named their son as.

“Hmm…but didn’t you have to choose a name that begins with one of those 3 letters..?” I tried to remind him of those 3 letters.

“Well. This is his official name. But for our religious records and for home town annals, we have chosen a name that confirms to the astrologer’s norms”.

Then he told me what the other name of his son is.

He went on to add, “You know this is basically a string of names…we picked the first name that begins with that letter, now we have left it to our family to amass all the names they want to be strung to that first name..”.

“So this is a working name for now..??”

“Yep”

I paused for a brief moment before deciding on a germane way to put an end to this conversation on baby names and such things.

“Cool…Congratulations man! Seems like you have solved the puzzle..”

Posted in Travel

A Two year wait

Testing the Grand Canyon


When I boarded the plane two years ago from Phoenix to Detroit, I told myself that I would come back to conquer the Canyon again, because my May 2003 attempt with 5 others was sort of a “mission unaccomplished”. I tried to do a rim-rim-rim in two days and that being my first time ever in the Canyon, I realized I was not as trained as I should have been. The end result – I hiked about 26 miles after starting at the South rim only to end up there 26 hours later and after an unplanned sleep-over in the middle of nowhere. In the process, I learned a few lessons too.

The 2005 Canyon hike…

We landed at Phoenix on May 19, 2005 at about 8:30 AM local time. By the time we picked our minivan it was almost 10:30 AM. By the time we hit I-10 W it was past Noon. We reached Tusayan at about 4:30 PM that evening and by the time we checked in to our Holiday Express rooms, it was almost 5 PM. After making the family comfortably settled, my wife and I decided to drive to the park to do a quick dry run for our next morning’s rigor. Even though I had realized that I had forgotten to pack my knee band to give support to my ski-injured right knee, I was hopeful I would be able to get something in the general stores near the village. What a surprise! I couldn’t find any after an hour long search. So, I ended up shopping for a few more calorific items to fill my back pack. Some peanuts, some dates, some pretzel bits, some Triscuits, trail mix, apples, some Gatorade and 2 liters of water in pouches – I was all set for my Friday diet.

I called it a night at around 9:30 PM after washing the pasta, pizza, salad dinner I had earlier with a few glasses of water. Boy could I sleep! Because I had planned on leaving the hotel at 3 AM, as I wanted to reach the North rim by 5:30 PM in order to catch the Trans Canyon shuttle (I got lucky that day as they had an unscheduled one going in the evening) from the North rim which was scheduled to leave at 6:30 PM, I kept twisting and turning, till I saw the clock saying 2:30 AM.

 

May 20, 2005

At 3:05 AM, my wife, my father, father-in-law and my 1 year old son (who by the way woke up as per his Detroit clock) were all strapped-up, in the van and we were ready to go. When we reached the Yaki point, driving around the barricaded road leading us up there, it was 3:40 AM. I had my wife take a quick snap of mine as I adjusted my hiking pole – phew! Why did I have to do that? I broke it – or at least a part of it. They left at around 3:45 AM and there I was in absolute darkness literally not knowing where to go. My head lamp was bright enough but not enough to tell me where the trail head was. After a few nerve-wracking moments, I stumbled upon the trail head sign and it was 3:50 AM.

 

At the trail head (South Rim)

3:45 AM – At the South Rim Trail head


The first few minutes of my descent down the South Kaibab trail were terrible as I was finding it hard to walk in dark, even though my head lamp was guiding me enough. I did not need the pole for my descent so I had folded it and had been carrying it in my arm. There were a couple of occasions when I stepped over some rocks and skidded only to balance myself in the last second by resting my palm. At about 4:40 AM or so, I saw the first co-hiker of the day – the man was planning to do a rim-rim-rim in a day – of course it goes without saying, he was jogging the trail.

 


The River


The Black Bridge
Once I saw the sun’s rays break through the dark clouds, the beauty of the tall and naked mountains around me hit me hard. But unfortunately I was a man on mission which means I had no time to enjoy that beauty. My descent from that point on was consistent, healthy and to my own surprise, amazingly quick. Before I knew, I went past the Skeleton point and the Tonto Trail crossing. I reached the Phantom Ranch at about 6:35 AM. This was much sooner than what I had in my mind. I knew I could go down this trail real fast as it is pretty steep and takes you down from 7250 ft. to 2200 ft. (at the river) in a matter of about 8 miles. As I reached the canteen area, I decided to soak my face, feet and head with some cold water. Because of my running down the trail for some stretches, I had already developed some blisters on my feet. The cold water on my feet did help me and they felt better, albeit momentarily. I snacked on some sodium rich food and then on some energy bars. I was hoping the canteen would have something more solid which I could take for the rest of my hike. Unlucky or Ignorant was I. I couldn’t have gotten anything there till it was 8 AM. So I decided to ditch that good food urge and started at 7:05 AM from the ranch towards the North Kaibab trail.

 

Phantom Ranch

 

There were a few more hikers walking up the trail and I knew everyone was trying to beat the sun at the canyon. The hike up to Cottonwood is an ascent, alright, but the way trail goes along the creek, it makes you feel that it is not all that bad. Deceiving!

A few miles away from Cottonwood

 

I reached the Cottonwood camping area at about 10:35 AM. This was way ahead of my planned schedule. I was impressing myself again. I reenergized myself with some energy bars and some pretzel bits along with some trail mix. I refilled all my water containers as I exchanged pleasantries with some hikers going the other way. At 11:00 AM, I knew I had the toughest 7 miles of my life to walk.

Cottonwood

The ascent from Cottonwood is bad. As you hike higher, the trail inclination just gets worse and the hike becomes exponentially difficult. I cannot recall any reasonable stretch in this trail that can be considered easy. The North Kaibab trail is about 15 miles on the whole (including some plane canyon walk). In these 15 miles, you go from 2200 ft. to 8250 ft. But the last 3.5 miles or so is the worst as you got to climb almost 4000 ft.

I had slowed down considerably at this point. When I left Cottonwood, I was hoping I would be able to make it to the top by 4:45 PM or so. But as the climb progressed, I had to revise my estimate a few times. I was able to reach the Roaring Springs by 12:55 PM. A few hikers who were attempting a South-North rim-rim hike in a day, like me, went past me. As far as I know, they all must have started after I did. But I had no time for demoralizing myself with such thoughts. My goal was to make it to the top before 6 PM.

A gorgeous view of the Roaring Springs

When I reached the Supai tunnel, the last water stop along the way, I had been walking in shade for more than an hour and the rest of the hike only looked cooler. It was 4:45 PM and I was ready to roll the last 2 miles. At some point, I felt like I had a second wind. The quadriceps in both my legs which had probably been severely punished till that point and were giving me quite a bit of an agony during real steep climbs, suddenly seemed to have given up their revenge act. I was ascending at a faster pace. I now knew I had only less than a mile left. But it was almost 6 PM. I had started making fall-back plans. When I was about 500 ft. way from the destination, I conversed with a gentleman who was kind enough to offer me a ride from the trail head to the lodge.

Finally, at 6:20 PM, after 14 ½ hours of hiking, I did make it to the North rim. I had a couple of pictures of myself taken right in front of the landmark at the North Rim, before I got my ride to the lodge. There, the Trans Canyon shuttle driver was another nice person who was waiting for me for those few extra minutes, that I had delayed her. After desperately and frantically trying to reach my wife to let her know that I did make it to the North, so that she would not start driving, I just managed to leave some voice messages.

“Yes. I made it!!”

 

The North Rim Trail head

The shuttle dropped me at the hotel lobby at 11:55 PM. My wife was happy to see me in one piece and I was happy and thankful for all the courage & support she showed.

My legs were sore beyond words. I needed a hot water bath and that’s what I had before I hit the sack that night.

Today is May 22, 2005. My thighs and calves are still terribly sore. But all good pain. After all, I proved to myself that I could challenge myself and take upon that challenge successfully.

I made it!!! Wooohooo…

Some Statistics:

South Rim – 3:50 AM

Skeleton Point – 5:05 AM

Phantom Ranch – 6:35 AM to 7:05 AM

Ribbon Falls Diversion – 10:00 AM

Cottonwood – 10:35 AM to 11 AM

Roaring Springs view/diversion – 12:55 PM

Supai Tunnel – 4:35 PM – 4:45 PM

North Rim – 6:20 PM

 

Posted in Travel

Going global

-A Kansas side view-

The dragon economy is no longer dragging. In fact, it is making the rest of the world’s economy drag behind. As an Asian, I am certainly happy that there is no longer a need for the non-western world to be in the clutches of the west’s financial directives. But am I happy as an Indian?

The influence of the Chinese economy over its neighboring countries has been phenomenal. It is hard to believe that a country that is no. 1 in world population and has more than 40% of its population living in poverty, has managed to invest in international businesses and markets, so much so that there are some neighboring countries whose economy depend on China’s. By 2020, India would have taken over China as no. 1 in population. In terms of economy, the forecasters say that China and India together will dictate more than 50% of world’s economy by 2020. The United States of America will no longer be the most powerful economy in another 15 years. China will be. India is not far behind. But it is far behind when compared to China where a reformed communist regime is able to revolutionize the country’s global socioeconomic position. That is exactly why I am not happy as an Indian.

So why did I start writing about going global while I am sitting on a plane when I should really be thinking about how hot it is going to be in Phoenix? The last few days, I have been listening to a few different segments in the radio on Chinese economy and news coverage in America. There was an interesting discussion on how the US media is heavily localized. I have been a major critic of the American news media right from the day I got exposed to it. Whenever I get an opportunity to get caught up on news through BBC, for example, it is such a refreshing feeling. Even if I have to spend 30 minutes listening to BBC or browsing through their website, in those 30 minutes, in my opinion, you will get so much information on a wide range of issues & things from around the globe, which you cannot even dream of getting from any US news outlet, however long you decide to put up with it. This particular radio segment that I was listening to only reinforced my belief and the CEO of BBC world was very open in admitting that the US media caters to what the public wants. But I think the media needs to own some responsibility in directing the public in the right direction. The rest of the world is already gearing up to catering local perspectives of the world news to their audience. The American dominance will slowly end in those parts of the world where the American media had managed to infiltrate, especially in North and South Americas.

After all, it is time for the American media to do something sensible. Notwithstanding the conservative forces that have held the US media this long quite admirably without giving that seemingly biased feel to the commoner (who on the other hand as always thought that the liberals rule the US media), there still may be room for the aligned news forces to take a neutral stand on world affairs (not the Rightist view of foreign affairs) & develop and cater more issue focused news segments to the US viewers. Not just poverty and sufferings that the rest of the world is going through but more positive things.

Where does that leave me then as far as what I really wanted to write? Well, for now I am flying over Kansas – a conservative Midwest state. I am almost positive that the small town I am flying over now would have hardly heard of the part of the world where I come from and more certainly, it would have hardly heard of anything positive about that part of the globe. May be in another 20 years, even this town will go global.

Posted in Humor - General

The art of falling down

“The art of falling down”

-A cut and bruise narrative-

They say some people are prone to falling down. Some people are prone to falling down every now and then. Some are prone to falling down – over and over – time and again. I may belong to the last category, if you believe my wife. Last night was one such night. It was my turn – again. What was amusing with this particular mishap was the fact that I had a few seconds to think about the consequences of my falling down as I was falling down. This has never happened before.

My feet were bare as I climbed down the stairs and as I leaped towards a door totally oblivious of the furnished space in between. That space was supposed to have been empty in my imaginary world (which was superimposed on the real world until a few weeks ago). Those few seconds that would have cost me, had I turned the lights on to give some visibility along the rather docile path that I was treading, were completely worth wasting, in retrospect. But then again, that was retrospect in quotes.

The big toe on my right foot was the first to sense the unveiling danger. For the message to travel through the communication channel between your toe and other senses is normally like driving on an Interstate highway passing through a big city during peak hours. That kind of speed was absolutely not enough for my brain to have acted upon issuing any warning messages to my other toes on my right foot or my left foot. At that point when the bad news was released to my right big toe, it was all over. The sensory system was essentially preparing itself for all the formalities associated with a big blow and had given up taking any kind of precautionary measures, but instead was ready to alert the swat team to be on its “toes”.

That process of my sensory system getting ready for the accident and of it alerting my other part of the brain to send damage control messages, was the reason when my “normal” and the rational side of my brain had those few seconds at its disposal to think about the earthly effects of such a fall. There was a wicker couch whose leg was the first point of impact. Then there was an oval shaped center coffee table with a detachable glass top. To the other side was another wicker couch leaving just a few yards between it and the door that I should have grabbed without any of these interferences had my imaginary world still stayed real. The tumbling over the first couch was more or less pain free. Once I landed on the coffee table, I knew I had lost control of the proceedings. Actually, it was only at the moment I came out of my imaginary world. I saw this glass top slipping from its base because of my right and left tibia pushing them. I thought it was going to break into smithereens and bury my lower limb(s) with splinters & a pool of blood. Fortunately, the glass top glided slowly to the other side while one end found a nice resting place between the carpet and the left leg of the other wicker couch, thus preventing a free fall. Because this displacement created a big hole on the top of the coffee table my limbs got stuck right in the middle of the coffee table. I was trying to fall towards the other couch to get some support to do a quick balancing act. Before I could do that, I could already feel my tibia in both my legs being severely bruised and hurt, just because the glass-wicker combination is terrible. In the end, I managed to get a good hold of one of the cushions which acted as a brake on this chain of events. I finally fell on the other couch – my upper body on the couch, my lower body still stuck in the coffee table while my abdomen up in the air for a few seconds.

When it was all over, I told myself – “Man! How did I manage it again?” I rubbed my limbs as hard as I could, expecting it to give me some excruciating pain. I felt all the bumps as my hands glided over the ridges of my tibia, reminding me of all the many “great falls” of the past. It took me another 15 minutes (and the lights to be turned on) to figure out that I actually had an open wound as a result of a cut. Some first aid, some self pity, some spouse pity, some spouse care and some self-annoyance later, it was business as usual.

If I had maintained a diary with days and dates of all my “falls”, then I am sure I would surprise myself by going through that list as I sit down and blog. Numerous and many – but the truth is that I can feel the pain right now in my tibia. Like they say, “this too shall pass”!

In retrospect (sic), I seriously conclude that if falling down is an art, then I am an artist who has mastered that art quite well.

Posted in Humor - General

Cup Cakes and Taboo

Cup Cakes and Taboo

Cup cake is definitely not a taboo at my home. When we had to invite some 20 odd guests for our son’s first birthday party, cup cakes were a natural choice. The number of cup cakes we ordered far exceeded the number of guests who ended up eating them. So we have about a dozen and a half cup cakes resting in our refrigerators waiting to be consumed. It is not a fair game.

But “Taboo” is a fun game. How can you have your team members guess Katie Couric without giving them Matt Lauer, NBC, News, Breast Cancer and Today as clues? That is the game in short and the team I played for did pretty good. A little bit of general awareness, some creativity and may be some presence of mind are all you need to have some real good fun while playing this game, albeit beer is always a welcome “garnish”.

The garnish we had on our cup cakes was a colorful icing of “Bob the Builder” with some sprinkles. Now, I really do not know much about Bob except that he tasted good. But my son, who we think will get to like Bob as he grows older, was sure fascinated by the colors. He is just too little to finish all the cup cakes so he left most of them for the adults to finish. The adults – ?? Hmm..There were some who were sugar conscious and there were some who were calorie conscious. The rest of the crowd was basically just me and my wife. That is why we have a week long agenda to eat one cup cake every night till the baking trays are clean.

Cleaning was a little difficult after the party was over. But it is always a satisfying experience once I know that I will be done with my cleaning soon. It is even more satisfying once the cleaning is all done. By the time I finished loading the dish washer, it was almost 1:30 AM. With some good memories from the “Taboo” game we played and with some bad memories from the fact that I have a long Sunday ahead of me (yes..there are guests sleeping over), I decided to call it a night.