LB “Double” U…

Go fall, come winter. Go winter, come spring, so on and so forth. Seasons, or¬†quarters in¬†particular din’t really seem to make a difference until lately. Perhaps the course of a true Masters student’s life is rather restricted to a particular circle. We are either caught up with courses and lab work or events, part-time jobs, and potlucks. And woosh! Life has taken 10 weeks away from you without your knowledge. Things from A to Z, and everything in between happen during this period. The impact hits rather late. Mind you, often the impact is good. Having drawn more pleasure than pain from it, I would like to lovingly call it LB “Double” U, or Life Before Undetermined Unemployment. ūüėõ

The applause I received right after I came to the US was the best one I could ever receive. Unforgettable and precisely more unforgivable. Moving on from morons to Math 541, I made one of my best friends here (Thanks to Matlab). I often wonder what took the 12 of us to get together when we practically were neighbors. I recall going on a 3 day trip to Florida and being bullied by a “frienemy”. Oh, how I hated her then. One very important and¬†advantageous aspect of LBUU is its unlimited extent of the ability to make mistakes. There are no standard set of rules,¬†responsibilities,¬†immigration issues, tormenting credit card statements, insurance policies, taxes, healthcare plans, investments, paying bills on time, and grocery lists. Most importantly, there is no undue pressure from your parents to bring home their future son-in-law. ūüėÄ ¬†Life seems so much simpler and easier. The mistakes we make then, we get an easy chance to learn from them and rectify them, to an unpredictable extent of course.

Being single in its literal sense, is so confusing. I had friends who constantly paid my bills on time and ¬†kept in mind that we should never run out of milk or toilet paper. The saga of watching weird shows like Rakhi ka Swayamvar, cooking authentic Indian food to celebrate no occasion, eating homemade cake (with nuts) on plastic plates, sharing limited yet delicious machoorian, putting off cooking to watch Kitni Mohabbat Hain, long (really long) and meaningless conversations and petty¬†arguments on staircases, silly sticky notes to show that you are pissed at somebody, sharing episodes and downloading illegal torrent files, the tiring act of cooking and cleaning on the same day, watching a series of Manirathnam’s movies in a row, starting to watch a series and making your friends addicted to it too, playing¬†inappropriate and loud music, the pride in bringing home the 1st bottle of delicious scotch, borrowing an onion, a cup of milk or a few jalapenos from your neighbor,¬†making fun of unreasonable customer demands,¬†laughing at stupid jokes, crying, consoling, grumbling, giggling, gossiping, common enemies, breaking mirrors, the innate curiosity about who is dating whom, having a favorite girlfriend with whom you chit-chat into the night, fighting with her and still being in love with her 3 months later, taking¬†impulsive¬†decisions at 3.30 AM,¬†the¬†practiced photo session¬†for graduation, unnecessary and necessary shopping in the mall, the memorable birthday parties and gifts (with¬†balloons on the¬†ceiling¬†and intentionally purchased eggs, milk and tomatoes), AC that relentlessly refused to work, girls¬†night outs, dressing up and putting on make up to just take pictures, mixing lots of rice, ghee and pickle and eating from a common plate, being¬†possessive about ring tones,¬†dozing away to land on your friends shoulder in the middle of a boring film, a trip to a sober city that turns out to be unlimited fun owing to the company, one particular melody that you sing in chorus all day long, handling the GPS, wanting to be a part of the conversation happening in the back seat and trying hard not to piss off the person who is driving, anger, jealousy, hatred, not talking to each other, the drama during that period, the people who put up with our¬†meaningless theories, midnight walks/hangouts, late night maggie treats, debating on which restaurant to eat in when the available options are but 5, ¬†the ease in being able to talk to your friends by directly barging into their rooms rather than employing a chat window or webcam,¬†the pain as you watch each person move out of your apartment, recalling this kind of stuff and smiling at it and I could go on and on if you let me. Although I have moved ahead and away from there, my heart still aches when I see a junior put up a picture of OUR staircase on¬†Facebook. Yes, it does, very much. And if all these memories flood back to you when you hear 219/119, you would agree with me too.

Choice…

Owing to available diversity in almost everything, Is making a choice a pleasure or a pain? The way we chisel our life often depends on the choices we make, the decisions we take. Knowingly or unknowingly choice has its own, often unacknowledged, role to play in any individuals life. Most people do not have a single protocol that they would like to ¬†follow. I¬†definitely fall among the ‘most people’. Okay now, I know for sure that the first thing I want to drink in the morning is a cup of hot filtered coffee, but making a choice begins as early as during the breakfast time. I rarely have a gut instinct for this morning ritual. I stand in the kitchen for a while playing in my mind, the pictures of flavored oatmeal, eggs and bread. The game isn’t over when I choose one of them. It moves on to oatmeal: with strawberries, peaches or blueberries (?) (I¬†spontaneously¬†ignore the banana’s) :P, eggs: scrambled, poached, bulls eye, or boiled (?), bread: plain, toasted, or sandwiched (?). Phew! Crazy right? Can you imagine the chaos in my head when I stand in the closet staring at my¬†wardrobe¬†and wondering what to wear on a date? I’m am not sure if I’d be considered¬†judgmental but I would like to assume that this entire confused criteria is a “girl thing” (it may not be totally true). Moving away from trivial choices like food and clothing, often life’s journey puts you at crossroads where you have to make life altering¬†decisions. I vividly remember making TWO such choices and in detail below, is one of them. ūüôā

Exactly a decade ago, this very month, I had to commit to an area of study. Throughout my childhood, my career dreams varied¬†outrageously¬†between becoming a doctor (cardiologist), a lawyer, a¬†politician, a writer or an actor. Engineering was exempted from my list of¬†choicest careers¬†attributing to my fear/hatred for Math. So, in June 2001, I CHOOSE to stick to the¬†surgeon¬†calling in my head and took a major in Biology, Physics and Chemistry. I had seemed to turn a deaf ear to the threats of failures, late nights on over turned buckets (under the yellow bulb), no video shows, study during darshans, sleeplessness (dozing during prayers or at every other chance) and enormous tension that could cause your head to explode. Anyways, I dwell on those 2 years as the most memorable ones at school. We were deliberately divided into the PC girls (Physics, Chemistry) and the AE girls (Accounts, Economics). Whichever group we belonged to, we felt an upsurge of joy during the¬†Sanskrit¬†and English classes for two reasons. One, we would get to meet our AE girls, (we couldn’t adjust to the¬†division after 10 years of togetherness) and two, we would get 40 minutes of¬†uninterrupted sleep. ūüėČ I always loved Biology, the Chemistry teacher and hated Physics for all reasons. I still remember gulping my heart down my throat and tasting a few salty tears when I opened my Physics notebook to check my 1st Unit Test marks with shivering hands (I had scored a 27/50). ūüė¶ I never fared well in Physics, ¬†ever, even with high doses of night outs and night food (bread with sweet malai). My choice also deserves a certain amount of credit for helping me realize who my “bestest friends” are. Together we cried, together we laughed and together we fought to¬†achieve¬†our respective goals (I am reminded of how a friend, Natasha always consoled me when I scored low in Physics and I did the same for her Math). Anyways such was the pressure that I still continue to dream about giving my 12th grade boards all over again and I wake up startled and sweaty. Also, I have learnt that standing by a choice is as hard a making one!

All in all, 10 years have gone by, and I am proud that I did learn to stick with the sciences despite the hardships. I feel like a cockroach, an ace adapter and a¬†survivor. ūüėõ Perhaps not exactly to the surgeon part, but at least to being a researcher. At the current moment, I am an unemployed graduate, with no sort of regrets. My position is similar to a man from my dad’s favorite book, Maha Prasthanam (particularly in the poem “Sandhya Samasyalu” meaning evening¬†hassles) by Sri Sri ¬†(a Telugu poet). My dad used to read this poem out to me from time to time and I remember being intrigued by this young unemployed man who is practically penniless and yet goes to Udipi Sri Krishna hotel one evening, and there he is caught in a dilemma, to make a CHOICE between a plate of Semyia Idli and Badam Halwa (perceptually¬†more expensive). Well, the choices we make and the pain we undergo to abide by them! Actually it is justified, life is not always a bed of roses right? It sure has its worth, cause at the end of the story, we are the ones who solely rule our lives and it is in our hands that our choices and happiness lie. I’m glad, I choose what I choose. ūüôā

Note: I must acknowledge my good friend Deepika Gurung who gave me this wonderful idea to blog on choosing our majors. She was my English/Sanskrit study partner too. Will always love you girl.

Yes, Indeed… The Gods Must be Crazy!!

Yugas (certain time period according to the Hindu mythology) have come and gone. We believe, there has been the Sathya Yuga, Thretha Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and the current era- The Kali Yuga. We have read from our holy books and learnt from our older people that there have been 9 avatars and God will manifest again for the last and 10 th time, during the Kali Yuga (supposedly a man on a white horse with a sword in his hand). Would we humans, who are considered the most intellectual animals owing to our ability of discriminating between right and wrong, have undoubted trust in the descent of God to earth? How would we like to see our God on earth? Do we want to see Him with four hands, three heads, riding a horse? If God ever incarnated thus, with a Thrishul in one hand and a sword in the other, would we be brave enough to approach him without the fear of death (because, knowingly or unknowingly WE ALL have sinned at some point in our life). And, God really concerned about us, if He happens to come in a human form, can we offer Him anything more than a parasite called doubt?

In the bygone times, the society was infected with one Ravana (who was blinded by his lust for Sita), one Kamsa (who was tainted with greed and anger) and one Hiranyakashipu (who suffered with supreme ego). These asuras (demons) met their end in the hands of ¬†Rama, Krishna and Narasimha respectively. Today, we have in every human, shades of these asuras. We are constantly wavering between Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (attachment), Madha (pride) and Matsarya (envy). What should be our destiny be then? Should God take ‘n’ number of forms to slay each one of us? Well, God must have just decided otherwise, to cure all of us with the strongest weapon in His possession; LOVE. So, yes God MUST be crazy! Or else why would He be on a wild goose chase trying to lead people (He created) to tread the path to Moksha (liberation). Little did He know that we, so called civilized humans, can offer him nothing more than this parasite called doubt.

Faith, more than a mere word, is pregnant with enormous abilities. It can move mountains, wake up people from the dead and cure cancer. Yes, faith can! Love, more than a mere word, can keep you happy, make you fly across oceans and turn water into wine. If we could just turn these two intense emotions towards God, our life would be Bliss (Ananda). But are we ready? No, we have something else to offer; this parasite called doubt.

Most people are skeptical about God. Does he exist? Can He hear me when I visit the temple/church/mosque? Does He know I am lying to my mom/dad? Can He feel my pain? The concept of Godliness isn’t limited to a particular form, a room or a place for that matter. God is beyond time, place, the body, and the mind. God is the Atma in us, not to be seen but to be¬†experienced.

Ever since I began to dwell on the concept of God, say when I was 5 years old, the only picture that came to my mind was Sathya Sai Baba. If you form an immediate opinion that my stay in His school for 12 years might have caused this, let me make it clear, if the opinion was rubbed on me, it could only be done so for a while. Eventually, we grow up and learn to think on our own. Faith and love, are both unreasonable and unpredictable. They happen to you with such an intensity that you cannot help but surrender yourself. To me, there is one God and He is omnipresent. Such is my faith, that I find it foolish if people fight over different forms of God. I have been to temples, churches and mosques. I am proud to say that I see Sai Krishna, Sai Rama, Eshu Sai, Allah Sai and Buddha Sai. Baba never formed a cult that ought to be followed, it was love, love and love all the way. His Life was His message. He taught us that we have in each of us, God. He is present in us, above us, below us and around us. The true definition of Aham Brahmasmi. He rather than announcing himself as God, asked us to find the Atman within us. It is only when we find in ourselves, and in those around us, the spark of Divinity, can pure and permanent Ananda be attained. Divinity just shows up, all the time, be it in a friend who cares about you when you are in need, your mother who cooks your favorite meal, a cashier who comes out of her way to help you at the bank, a bus driver who drives you back home safely, are all forms God.

It indeed does surprise me, that the media challenges the reputation of a person who never asked for charity, or hero worship. Journalism has sanctity and that, we have sent to the dogs.¬†Journalists are supposed to carry news as it is, not to channelize public opinion, not to rub their disbelief on people. We devotees are here, still trying to cope up with the fact that He is not physically present with us anymore and this is the way the media plays with public emotions. Whatever happened to unbiased journalism? Will it ever be possible in our country? If all Baba cared was the wealth, why din’t He leave a will? Why didn’t He walk around wearing jewels like a bag of gold? We are ready to let go of hundreds of politicians, business men and actors who have black money in weird,¬†unbelievable numbers, yet here we are like chickens running behind donations. I am willing to pay a lump sum amount to anyone interested in ¬†showing to the people, the social work that was done and that continues to be done by Sai. But hell no, as humans all we seek is the downfall of good name. Perhaps, people are too sophisticated to trust the advent of God in Kali Yuga and choose to ignore the good that happened. Well, my definition of God is a person who comes to your help even without you asking, showers immeasurable love on you and constantly ensures you that He is there with you always no matter what, when your so called kith and kin behave nothing but humane.¬†I would like to say here, that not even a blade of grass moves without the will of God, He is the “Natana Suthradhari” and we are mere puppets in His play. I ask, do get your facts rights before you make meaningless¬†allegations. And if you have never been to or experienced Parthi ever, or donated a penny of your savings, you are disqualified to make an opinion. Pray, my outburst pertains to a reaction you would give if I told you, your mother or father were actually not your parents.

Whatever said and done, each person is entitled to have a point of view and I am nobody to impose my faith on people, but if my faith is questioned or offended I will voice out my feelings.¬†People need not believe that He is God, but at least learn to respect the man for what He did. Who educated me free of cost, right from my books to my toothpaste/brush for 12 years – Baba. Who has given water and been giving water to drought struck districts in AP and TN, including my city (Anantapur) -Baba. Who offered free medical treatment to thousands of people I know and I don’t-Baba. So yes, He is my God, an embodiment of love. I could go on endlessly, and even if all the trees on earth were made into paper and all the water in the oceans into ink, it would be a challenge to comprehend Divinity.

Well, readers I have found my God in the Kali Yuga, if you are an¬†atheist, I’m not sure what exactly to say, but to the others, “You can still wait for your God to descend (with due respect), riding a white horse, with a sword in His hand and (if He comes) in Him too I will see my God”.¬†¬†For, He taught me to flush out this parasite called doubt, and love unconditionally. He shall protect me as the eyelids protect the eye. Period!

Confessions of a Chocoholic.

If God deserves credit for creating man, then man deserves the same for coming up with the chocolate. My love for chocolate goes back to when I was 5 years old. Someone I cannot clearly remember just decided to make me smile and offered me a bar in a color that was neither my¬†favorite (yes! I liked Pink), nor¬†appealing. Little did I realize then, that in my hands laid something that would enslave me for the rest of my life. Often, I believed that the root cause of my passion for it originates from the fact that as kids we were always controlled and denied the right to embrace this sinful thing with our mouths. I vividly recall a dream about having a chocolate fountain in my hostel dorm the night I saw “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. And yes, I did feel a stab in my heart when the 5 golden tickets were out and Charlie Bucket hadn’t got any. I sure felt his pain (Of course, that kid didn’t share his joy with me after he found the ticket ;)). There were times when I actually prayed to Swami to have¬†Dairy milk distributed to us on darshan days. It made my heart jump with joy if there was a huge colorful chocolate cake (baked by foreign devotees) in the Sai Kulwanth Hall.

Now, all grown up, I wonder “Why doesn’t this desperation to have a bite die”? Oh! Yes, I am addicted, proudly. Its not the rules or restrictions imposed on me, it is purely passion. Sometimes, quite thinking races my mind back to IMAX, Hyd. This was the place where my dream came to reality, the chocolate fountain. I¬†fantasize picking up marshmallows, running the sexy¬†syrup over them, opening my big wide mouth and enjoying it. The gates to heaven open only when you lick the syrup off your fingers and lips with a loud smack. The only way reality hits me hard, is the voice of the storekeeper saying “Madam, Do you want another one because other people are waiting”. Every time, the guy says this I vow to myself that one day I will be rich enough to have my very own chocolate fountain right in my living room. Coming back to licking chocolate off your fingers, I thank my school for not allowing us to use the refrigerator, as my life would have been totally purposeless if I hand’t known the bliss of the melted chocolate. ¬†Me and my friends find¬†absurd¬†pleasure in waiting for the chocolate to melt and then licking it off our fingers. Trust me, I feel shamelessly guilty for¬†believing that it’s better than kissing my boyfriend.

God is one, he is¬†worshiped¬†in a number of forms. Cocoa is one, and I worship its every other form. Be it a C. cake, C. brownie, C. ice cream, C. slush/shake, C. candy bar, C. coffee (dangerous love), C. gloss/perfume, C. milk, C. sauce, and the list can go on and on. It is however not complete without the Lindt chocolates. These are tiny drops of an adjective that hasn’t been defined yet. Nuts become wondrous drugs when added to chocolate. I share a level of¬†compatibility with nuts, because the nuttier- the tastier. They can be¬†unbearably¬†nutty and you can still keep up with them :P.¬†¬†On every visit to India, I carry about 20 lbs of ecstasy¬†wrapped up in small packets. When my mom sits down and opens everything into a cauldron,¬†to do the mix and match with equal distribution, I secretly wish I could keep everything to myself. I am quite unsure how much truth lies in the myth that chocolate controls depression, but I sincerely hope it is the prescribed drug to every disease. That is because in the literal sense it is a drug and I am addicted to it!