Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tough Love

The reason why we are fat is because McDonalds does not serve healthier food. They do serve fruits and salads but they still serve a lot more burgers and all the advertisements are geared towards selling more burgers.

The reason why we are in this credit mess is because the government did not regulate the predatory lending practices that several mortgage lenders participated in. They should have known better not to allow such loans. It’s not the fault of the consumer that the practices allowed the borrower to buy a house that is way beyond their means.

The reason why gas prices are higher is because OPEC countries are conspiring to keep the prices up and maximize their profits. They should increase production and reduce the upward pressure on these high gas prices. The government should step in and warn these countries not to mess with us.

Today Phil Gramm said that we are a nation of “whiners”. Barack Obama jumped at the opportunity and said that the McCain campaign is out of touch with the economy. As much as I am a supporter of the Obama campaign, here is a sobering thought; Phil just might have hit the nail on the head.

We are fat because we eat whatever is cheap, tasty and easy. We are in this credit mess because we rode the bubble till it burst trying to make a killing. We have high gas prices because we drive 50 miles to work in an eight cylinder, four-wheel drive SUV.

So it just might be time to examine what Phil had to say. Though he is denying the interpretation of his statements, I think that a true recovery is hidden in accepting responsibility of our role in our own downfall and stop whining about it.

Mcain and Obama are both distancing themselves from these comments. But maybe the smarter thing to do is to embrace it and work with it. After all you wouldn’t let a kid get away with blaming other people for his or her problems at school. Then why should you let a nation get away with it.

Tough love might just be the right medicine.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Bicycle

I sat on the horizontal bar but he was the one actually riding the bicycle. I was only a mere passenger. The world seemed very simple. I was five and he was probably twenty four. He was my larger than life cousin who lived with us and was my best friend in the short five years of my life. With wind in my hair I was a free bird. Then it happened, my feet got jammed in the front wheel and he was petrified. He quickly stopped and checked for damage. Then we wheeled the bicycle to next corner store and I was awarded a candy for my silence. Of course, the first thing I did after getting home was to announce that I had my leg jammed and got myself a candy. The incident still lingers deep in the recesses of my memory that I relive once in a while with a broad smile on my face.

Yesterday I spoke to him over the phone across the seven seas. He sounded very different. Years have passed and life has come a long way. He was fighting back tears telling me about his father who is battling a quadruple bypass surgery and a massive stroke. But he still made sure to ask me how I was doing. I wish I had more comforting words for him. I wish I could bring a smile on his face the way he does for me.

I wish I could get back on that bicycle and smile again with my brother.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Offended

Barack Obama mentions that people are so disillusioned by politicians that they have stopped voting on the issue of the economy and always stick to moral issues while casting their votes. According to his rivals, this is insulting to the intellect of the people listening and they should be offended. Well I am not! As a matter of fact I think that even if Barack is not right about his analysis, the spirit of the statement, that people have become cynical about the political process and its impact on our day to day challenges, is obviously lost on these people. So there, I said it, I am not offended and I am actually flattered that someone is addressing the issue of cynicism in politics.

It is shameful the way people tell us what should and should not be offensive to us. That is what is really an insult to our intellect. I think I have a brain of my own which will tell me when I think of something as offensive and I will then do the needful.

Thanks, but I will do my own thinking.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Keeping a journal....

A clutter bug, I am torn between collecting miscellaneous memoribillia and between tossing away unwanted junk. As a child I saved everything with any sentimental value- birthday cards received from the sister, letters from friends and aunts, photographs, clothes, presents, etc. But in the recent past, I have learnt to close my eyes and throw away all these letters and cards and unused gifts with the objective of clearing up storage space and making room for my growing collection of "stuff".

Recently on a cleaning mission in my mothers house, I came across bundles of old letters saved. Letters written by me, my sisters, aunts to my mother over the past years. I opened each letter, read through it and found myself smiling as I was transported back in time recollecting the events detailed in the letters. Letters with a hand print of her granddaughter, gossip that was hot at the time. The cards my mom had saved brought a smile to my face. But I decided to close my eyes and throw it all away, in the process clearing up several shelves of storage space.

I realized that I had in fact forgotten the events written in the letters, but reading the letters, immediately brought these incidents rushing back to my mind.

I found a diary I had maintained from 2000 to 2002. I was 23 years to 25 years. In the diary I had written about significant events in my life. I saved interesting cartoons from the local newspapers, interesting things I had learnt, articles I had come accross, jokes, sermons. I wrote about certain events that had taken place in my life which had a tremendous impact on me such as my first stay in a college hostel, the death of my dear friend who was my aunt, the death of a local priest who I admired for his dedication to his profession.

During this period of time, I was going through a spritual journey of sorts and had detailed all my thoughts and opinions. It was quite refreshing to read it all again recollecting everything I had goe through and experienced. Some thoughts made me shy or ashamed and I was quick to toss it away.

Most of all, reading through these old memories made me realize how wrong i had been so many times. My life had taken a completely different path than I had imagined. People who are now very precious to me had entered my life over the years. People who were once very precious to me had left my life. One of the most astounding factors was that problems that had once been overwhelming had vanished completely. Decisions that were so hard to make had been made and forgotten. Worries and troubles had vanished. Many joys had been forgotten.

keeping a journal, especially an electronic one, will occupy less space. I hope to jot down my thoughts, my opinions, what I learnt, the mistakes i made, the troubles that worry me. Years later as i read through it ,i know it will shock me to see where all i have been, who all i have met and the journey God brought me through, the miracles he performed, the gift he gave, the people he brought, the joys he brought, the wonders of life, the beauty of life, the gift of life.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Club contest

Friday I attended my first Toastmasters area contest. The setting was a conference room of a reputed Semiconductor company. The turnout was rather slim compared to my expectations. However, our club was very well represented and it was a jolly good time. I had managed to get into the contest by winning the impromptu speech contest at our club. So I was sufficiently nervous about having to perform on the stage.

But the real highlight of the show was the three prepared speeches made by relatively senior members of various clubs. What impressed me most about the experience was the ease with which the waltzed on stage and delivered their speeches. Not a care in the world. They showed no signs of effort or pretense. It was quite astounding.

What is it that makes us nervous about talking in front of a crowd? For me it is the sensation that people are watching me constantly expecting me to be interesting. I also have this perennial fear of looking the audience in the eye because I am scared I might forget what I have to say. But most of all I think it is a fear of making a fool of me that scares me the most.

I didn’t do too badly in my speech but I once again failed to make any eye contact or effectively add humor to my talk. Next time around I plan to take the lessons learnt from those fabulous speakers and try something new. Pick a few people in the crowd and use them as my targets. I will talk to them the way I have a conversation/argument on my dinning table with friends and family. I will not care if I forget my words. My entire focus would be to convince these few people.

Until then.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Journey and Character

Heard this from a friend over lunch:

"You need talent to get up the mountain. But you need character to stay up there."

Another one goes:

"Its not the destination but the journey that matters."

The problem is that I am in such an almighty hurry to climb the mountain and get to the destination that I doubt if I am building any character or enjoying the journey.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Come on

A year back it was Anna Nicole Smith. All leading news channels couldn’t stop talking about her death, her baby and everything else that surrounded her. Never mind that there was a war going on, an impending housing crisis and oil was at all time highs. Just when that was dieing down and you figured that the channels will focus back on the issues at hand, there came along Britney Spears and her little escapades. Not to mention the other minor distractions such as Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, The DC madam, the airport restroom rendezvous and everything else that kept us at the edge of our seats.

It’s almost as if the channels have decided that I am incapable of digesting real news in a decent fashion. Everything has to have drama and intrigue built into it. There has to be a sense of celebration and victory, anguish and defeat. Nothing in between seems to matter anymore. Is it that people can’t consume news in a normal fashion? Does listening to news have to be like reading a novel? Naming the ongoing primaries “Ballot Bowl 08” seems to almost insult my intelligence.

But it all came to a boiling point when CNBC spent two hours yesterday discussing the gory details of Spitzer’s rendezvous with the New York hooker. This is a business channel that is designed to appeal to the business community looking for investing information. Apart from the obvious joy of watching the sheriff of Wall Street falling in such a spectacular fashion, the viewers have little interest in watching the Governor making his way through midtown traffic, on his way to his office to tender his resignation while the anchor and his guests shamelessly dwell over inconsequential details of his life thus far while the financial markets are roiled in a credit crunch, a swelling inflation, a drowning housing market and a plummeting dollar.

Really people! Not only are you insulting my intelligence now, but you are also wasting my time.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Why Obama!

As the primaries began I really didn’t care much for the process. My first experience of the primaries was lackluster to say the least. The contenders were uninspiring and really couldn’t speak two sentences without sounding almost apologetic about running the campaign.

That was four years ago. Today I have a whole different perspective on politics. Not because my cynicism for the process has decreased or that I envision a country that would transform into something completely different under the leadership of Barack Obama, but because I “HOPE” to see some of the critical changes that I yearn for in the nation’s political scene. Even if Barack Obama doesn’t achieve half the things he says he would, I would still be glad to see him get ahead in the primaries and move on to win the presidential elections.

Over the last eight years I have watched in utter dismay at the way politics has degenerated in America. In the late 90s, when I began following politics, Clinton was embroiled in his scandal and politics was once again proving to be a dirty business. However the country was in a spectacular economic boom and no one really cared. All that ended with the stock market collapse of 2000 followed by the horrific events of 9/11. Rather than using the terrible events of 2001 as a motivation to bring the country together, both parties have effectively split the nation into two along the lines of fear and panic. The current administration has used the leeway that it was given during the time of war to push its own agenda and further alienate people who disagree with them. The democrats have done no better and their recent success is only a product of the ill will created by the current administration.

Hillary Clinton represents one of the leading faces of the Democratic Party during this unfortunate time in American politics. The Republicans view her as the symbol of partisan politics and fear her as they would an arch enemy. Barack Obama however is relatively new to the scene. He represents the face of a leader who is untouched by the brutal political battles waged in the past eight years at the national level. Though he is accused of being inexperienced and new to the political scene, I believe that he brings forward the opportunity to look beyond the hostility between the two parties and work on building a consensus driven government. He seems willing to accept things that are good beyond the Democratic Party if it addresses the needs of the nation even if it means embracing ideas that came from the opposite side of the aisle. I found it laughable that Barack had to be apologetic about the fact that he had inadvertently complimented President Regan for being a transitional president. Hillary Clinton was belligerently attacking him on this issue during a presidential debate. This kind of an uncompromising stance demonstrated by Clinton during her campaign makes me believe that she would only work to further tear this country apart. What the country needs today is to come together and work hand in hand to resolve the daunting challenges that lie ahead. The nation has no time or energy left to watch politicians bickering over trivial things while keeping the greater task of nation building on hold.

Most of us admit that we are moved by Obama’s speeches. The reason why it is so awe inspiring is because he truly believes in what he says. Most great orators successfully capture the minds of their listeners only because they talk passionately about things they want to change and influence. This passion translates into moving speeches which make believers out of people. Obama has this gift and I believe he also has passion for nation building. This passion will translate into his ability to bring both political parties together, leaping over the mundane differences and extreme beliefs. He will be able to build consensus among both Democrats and Republicans and will achieve great things through this unity. If he can do such a fantastic job of bringing so many people together during the primaries, imagine what he could do while working with the Congress and the Senate.

Today we stand at the crossroads. The path ahead for this nation is challenging. The road ahead, whichever we might pick, will have its own set of challenges and successes. However, we need a leader who will take us all together on this path forward rather than split us along various belief systems and send us on our own merry way. Barack Obama demonstrates the very essence of a great leader with his passion and sincerity.

Barack Obama might be a rookie in Washington, but his passion is real. He truly wants to create a political scene that is beyond partisan battles. That to me is what the nation really needs at this juncture.

A consensus builder!

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Winning Horse

Boom Boom, they called him. I was mesmerized by the man. He was young, energetic and unpredictable. He dove around on the hallowed courts of the All England Club as if it were the courts in his local neighborhood. He showed no respect or contempt and was full of energy for the game. Boris Becker was my idol. I held my breath as he lost another Wimbledon final and craved for one last title. But it was never to be.

I have always been fascinated by the underdog. Something about the unpredictability, the exhilaration in the victory, the agony in defeat and the rags to riches story always attracts me towards it. Be it Indian cricket, Becker, Oakland Raiders, Cameroon, Brett Favre or any other underdog, I have always had the perverse pleasure of being on their side. I think it is the great high that I get when they win against all odds that makes me go with them. Something about consistent champions always turned me off. Even a graceful champion like Sampras was not in my good books.

But the agony of getting behind the underdog is rather painful. I am sure if I was a fan of the Australian cricket team I would have been a much happier person. But then where would the excitement level be? This Sunday Patriots will play the Superbowl and arguably they are the best team with an unbeaten season. But for some reason I can’t get behind them even though I have no affiliation towards the Giants. I will root for the Giants and cringe as they lose to the champions. It is going to be another painful end to my NFL season.

For once I wish I could put my emotions aside and bet on the winning horse.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Contagious

See if this brings a smile to your face. It makes my day every time I see it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E25cGeY13M0&feature=related

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Politician speaking

There is a lot to be said about the ability to speak. As I watched Barack Obama speak after the Iowa caucus, the environment was electric. He was a man possessed by his emotions. Words rolled off his tongue and he made believers out of people in that room and even the ones watching him on television. Today the mood was subdued. He lost a hard fought battle in New Hampshire and his voice was calmer and more measured. However, even with a change in tone the man did not skip a beat.

Hillary spoke from prepared notes. She spoke well but the fact that she looked into a piece of paper to lead her on took something away from what she said. She spoke pretty well but it just wasn’t the same. I really believe that she would be a completely different candidate if she would speak from the heart and not from the notes.

I did my first Toastmasters speech on Sunday and I have a whole new respect for people who can speak without any aid. As I prepared my speech the previous day I tried to squeeze in a number of things that I wanted to say. The speech was a little longer than I could afford and yet I kept it in there. However, I was particular that I speak without notes. When I got up there it was as though I was in a trance. I spoke about most of the things that I had noted down, but I missed a few as well. The common thread in the feedback was that I did not use notes. Most people seem to appreciate that. When I sit in church listening to the sunday sermon I always tend to listen to priests who speak without notes. They always seem to speak with a lot more passion about things that are more relevant to day to day life rather than the things that people expect to hear in a sermon.

What does that say about prepared speeches by politicians running for office?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Rain

I walked out of the house yesterday and the sky was draped with ominous dark clouds threatening to unload its fury upon me. The air in my lungs had a brisk and wet feeling about it that took me back decades. For some reason rain or the anticipation of it always transports me to my grandfather’s house. There is something about the Kerala rain in its entire splendor that makes me nostalgic about childhood.

Summer vacations always ended with the beginning of the monsoon season and I never got to see the rain gods in all its fury. However, if I was lucky they graced me with a couple of visits before I had to go back to my urban living. The few hours before the showers exploded from the sky, the earth always appeared to be coming together to greet it. The wind begins to snake through the trees and the leaves begin to rustle with anticipation. The soil exhales an aroma that only a person in the moment can describe. The light becomes a somber grey just in time for the spectacular show of light and sound. What a spectacle!

Then the skies open up. I remember sitting outside the kitchen door, on the verandah sill watching the rain soak the grounds. I watched the water dripping from the brick tiles and filling up the gutters with nowhere to go. Everything appeared a little more greener than it was a few minutes ago.

Now it is raining outside. Something about it does not appeal to me as much as the time I got my feet wet from the raindrops that wiggled its way down the old wooden roof in that cold dark verandah. I wish I was back in that moment. But even if I was I guess I will never hear my grandmother calling out to me from the kitchen admonishing me for getting wet in the first monsoon rains.

Rain is not what it used to be.