Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Incident

Long story, Cut short - I shouldn't have done that. Confined to my bed room, I observed the Facebook videos that went viral. It featured me dancing with joy after I won the Mumbai Marathon in record time. It was a memorable moment in my life.
I wish that day didn't exist. If I could erase a day from my life, it would be that day.  I ceremoniously stormed inside the room, proudly facing the media and big shots from the fashion world. I tripped down as my eyes caught the attention of a big Bollywood celebrity seated in front of me. 

Tears roll down my cheek copiously as I move my wheel chair away from my laptop.  Doctors say it was an Extreme case of a fibial aneurysm and my Fibial Artery stopped supplying blood to my right knee! 

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Saare Jahaan Se Achha. NOT

Us Indians get deeply patriotic when anything comes to our country. We are divided amongst each other but when it comes to Pakistan and China, we stay united. Internally we fight against each other in the name of political parties, castes, religions, eating habits and what not but we get goosebumps when we hear our national anthem being played! 

I remember writing about Indianness when I was young. It was a tender age at which I realized what Indianness was! But as I grew up and my mind matured, I realized that there is not like that. It's just that we all are fighting an imaginary war against each other. Indianness in its true sense is the feeling of being an Indian. It involves focussing on key issues that our nation needs to address in order to prosper and working together as a single force. At the end of the day religion, castes, and politics matter the least. These are the forces that tend to destroy a growing nation. Our country will over take China as the most populous country in the world. That isn't something worth bragging! Despite being the most populous country, China has attained several feats that we would still take ages to reach! In order to replicate those feats, India needs to focus on key factors affecting growth. PM Modi has been trying his best in focussing on such factors and addressing key issues. But what are we doing as Indians? The talented Indian lot has flown out of the country while the rest of the talented lot are busy focusing on their personal goals. Quite Selfish! But who is there to worry about the nation. All that is left are the Hate Mongers and greedy politicians who don't leave any opportunity to divide people. 
Firstly, we need to unite internally and not just when we are provoked by Pakistan or China. We have lots of internal enemies and problems that we need to tackle first.  Various sectors such as Education and Healthcare needs to be reformed and revived. Every Indian should have a right to free education and healthcare. The government should focus more on research programs and offer incentives to students expressing interests in programs that will make the country proud. At the end of the day its the country that is important to us. 

It is stupid to say that Sarei Jahaan se achha ... No, we don't even stand close to that. There are many small countries that have seen enormous growth. Japan in 1945, Singapore in the 1950s and other European countries have made massive progress over the years and it is never ending.  On the other hand, we are just growing population wise. Many might disagree with me but at the end of the day yes that's the truth. 

 This post is written for IndiSpire
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I am convinced you cannot truly understand your own values, your own culture, your own station in life until you are exposed to the values and culture and conditions of another country.Traveling in Jordan will help you understand all that.Americans generally don’t know the difference between Lebanon and Jordan and Syria and Egypt. Jordan suffers by association. All are war and upheaval. Without fail, the first question asked after telling someone you’re going to Jordan is, “Will you be safe?”
The country is an oasis of tranquillity in the turbulent Middle East. The economy relies heavily on tourism. Three years ago, tourists had to schedule their itinerary around what and when hotels were available. This year? Pick a place. Pick a hotel. Discounts available.
Airline standards are not homogenous. From Frankfurt to Amman business/first class is three contiguous economy seats with the middle one vacant. A moveable curtain arbitrarily divides economy from first, depending on the number of business/first customers.The Cliff’s Notes version of Jordanian politics. It’s a constitutional monarchy with a king, an elected parliament and an appointed government. However, the king has wide-ranging legislative and judicial power. He can disband parliament, fire government officials and overturn judicial and legislative decisions. I worked at a university like this. The president was the king; the faculty assembly was the Parliament; deans and VPs were the government officials. I felt right at home in Jordan.

Seatbelts are required when flying over Israeli airspace. No Allah Akbah in the aisle when flying over the Holy Land.
We are met at the airport by locals associated with our tour company. We are a tour of four. The associates have already secured the required visas. We are escorted to a separate passport control line, then around security and out to a waiting van. An hour has been condensed into fifteen minutes.
Queen Alia Airport in Amman is new and high and bright. The outside roofline is a succession of gigantic saucers standing vigil, looking over and through expanses of glass as though to ensure there is peaceful behaviour among those who enter and exit the Kingdom.
Three things required for potentates to stay in power in a developing country; roads, health care and education. Roads allow local commerce to be national commerce, national to be international. Good health and education allow citizens to participate in and garner the rewards of commerce. The king will stay in power.
There is no one at Shawbak Castle except a well-wrapped man selling rugs off the back of a truck, the ticket guy and we four. Expansive crusader ruins on an imposing mountaintop. The Crusaders may have died of boredom because no one was foolish enough to attack.

When a lamb is born, they take it from its mother and lay it close to a donkey. This becomes the lamb’s mother image. When the shepherd wants to move the flock, he straddles the donkey, off they go and the sheep follow.Landscape between Amman and Petra is like the Sandhills of Nebraska, but with rocks instead of sagebrush.
We are asked if we would like to drink camel’s milk. The first time you drink it, you throw up, have diarrhoea and chills and shakes and deliriums. But after that, it is good for you.
The Mövenpick in Petra is billed as a five-star hotel. Hotels are complex machines. The owners sent the directions with a few pages missing.
The staff are learning by doing.Guest at the front desk: Could you confirm that I’m in room 303? There’s someone else in there.
We return to our room after dinner to find a message on the TV screen welcoming NaYee Ng. We are pleased to welcome you to your home in Jordan.
The only places allowed to sell wine and/or beer are the Mövenpick and a couple restaurants. You want wine, sir. You can buy wine in Aquaba. That’s a four-hour drive south.         
Our Petra guide is named “Mock-mood”. He teaches anatomy to biology students in a university, is a tour guide and helps his father herd goats. He wants 12 children because his father had 11.
Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world. Every millennium God painted the highlands near Wadi Musa a different shade of cinnamon. The highlands grew and became mountains. One day he dropped the palette and cracked the mountains. And men call it Petra.
The quality of the goods in the government tourist shops is much better than in the shops on the street.
The Wadi Rum (Rum Valley) is a red desert valley with wrinkled pound cake outcroppings drizzled with charcoal shale. Hard to determine if it’s a mountain range eroding into dust or a desert that is congealing into mountains.
Riding through the Wadi Rum is a journey back to when the time was born. We see bedouin, camel and sheep herds and the majesty of geology. It should be experienced in the sand-blown back of a corroded pickup, not from the inside any more than a shower should be experienced inside a plastic bubble.
There are four of us in a camp designed for a dozen. A barrel is fitted in a hole in the sand. Wood is burned to charcoal. Lamb and chicken and vegetables and freekah (wheat) are lowed on a grill then covered with foil. All then covered in sand. Three hours later the food is removed. It was enough for that dozen. We sit on rugs in a tent. There are utensils.   We eat with our fingers. The lousy wine is fine.
If sleeping on the ground in a pup tent and eating beans from a can is at one end of the spectrum, our camp in the Wadi Rum is at the other.
I can’t float in a pool. I can float in the Dead Sea. The water has a sticky viscosity that cradles you like a liquid hammock. On a windy day, the white caps are Dream Whip.
The attendant slathers me in charcoal-colored mud avoiding only my eyes and ears. The mud sits for ten minutes, then back into the sea to wash off the mud. Next, a shower to wash off the sea. Revitalizing, restorative, rejuvenating, ah yes. But like the wine in my glass, how long will it last?
There is one thing Jordanians cannot do. They cannot swim in a pool, for much the same reason Americans cannot saddle a camel. The locals thrash and splash. When I walk by, I consider jumping in for the rescue.
There is one thing Jordanians do not do well. Bartend. Google Bartender School in Amman, see what you get. A craft beer is Amstel.
There is a battalion of Indonesian service personnel working in the Ishtar Kempinski Hotel on the Dead Sea. There is only a platoon of guests for them to serve. They are trained to expedite their duties, with no one else around, they expedite on us.

Perhaps there is a strategy to inadequate signage. Guests thus explore the far reaches of the resort in search of an elevator 20 meters from their room.
 In the near reaches are a half-dozen meandering pools accessorized by palm trees and lounge chairs and views of the hills of Israel across the sea.
The hotel has a second lobby; the place is too big for only one. We stumble across a Pan-Asian restaurant that we thought was either a secret or a rumour.
There is a small, tidy, modern mall not far from the hotel. It has a nice coffee shop. We sit on the lanai overlooking the sea and Israel. I hear gunshots, my wife says. I listen. My dear, that is the sound of bubbles circulating through the water in a hookah.
Our driver from the Kempinski back to Amman was named Nadir−call me Nick. He studied at the U. of Illinois−Chicago and lived there for 20 years. What do you miss about the U.S., Nick? Everything.
Nick crossed the street. He understands his culture and values and station in life. He came back.
Now he wishes he were still across the street.

 Dr. Rodney Romig is the award-winning author behind the Dr. Dan Trix mystery series, seven standalone novels featuring an intellectual hero whose adventures take readers all over the world. The latest installment in the series, Solar Flare, is available now at amazon.com.
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Friday, August 11, 2017

The White dress

The White dress
It was not in his nature to bend and it was not in her nature to break. They both were Tom and Jerry, a lovely couple, who once used to be best friends who got married.  He loved her but never did anything to express his affection towards his beloved. She liked him initially but after marriage, she realized that they were not made for each other.

Everyone was jealous of this lovely couple when they walked hand in hands.  Life was never the same after marriage.  He promised her a life of togetherness but these days they seldom spoke to each other.  It was a day in the winters of 2015.

It was a breezy evening. As usual,  Bindu had prepared the dinner for her husband Anuj. It was a special day in their life. It was the day when they both met each other for the first time at the tender age of 14.  Bindu was raised in a small town of Nilgiri. Anuj's family had settled in Mumbai, the city of dreams for many. Anuj's father had migrated to Mumbai in the early Nineteen Eighties in pursuit of better opportunities.  He soon married a pretty woman belonging to an affluent family.  This couple was blessed with a baby boy whom they named Anuj. Anuj had everything that he could even dream of!  He possessed all kinds of gaming devices and gadgets but he craved for true love. Anuj's father never wanted his children to forget their roots. It was the reason why he always took Anuj and his brother Shivay to his ancestral village in Nilgiri. It was during those days when Anuj got a glimpse of Bindu who was helping her mother in the farm. There was something peculiar about her. The way she smiled, the way she walked and the way she spoke. Anuj was instantly attracted towards her. They began to talk and Anuj, Bindu and Shivay became good friends. 
It is said that time flies but as time flew Bindu and Anuj's bond became thick and strong.  They both were fond of each other. Anuj would visit her during his vacations and there wasn't a single moment where he didn't think about her. She stayed in his mind and visited him in his dreams. She was magnificent!  Being raised in a metro city, Anuj was modern and had many friends who used to hang out with him only for his money. But he craved for true love and there was a void in his life. Bindu filled that void. With their parent's consent, they both tied the knot. 
It was the best days of her life. Bindu loved Anuj and she was a part of his life. They both completed each other. Anuj wanted Bindu to be modern and dress up like how the girls dress in Urban cities. Being born in a village, she abided by cultural values and wore traditional dresses. 
It was a cold night. The cake was placed on the table. Anuj sang the happy birthday song.  
"Happy Birthday Bindooooo...ooo" Anuj sang.
He gave her a box.  Visibly excited, she quickly removed the gift wrapping. Bemused, she looked at her gift. It was a royal white dress, embroidered and neat. It was an elegant looking dress. 
"My heart dances in joy and desires to see you in this attire." Anuj  said and asked, "Will you fulfil my wish?" 
Speechless, Bindu stood there for a moment not knowing what to say. 
"What's wrong?" He asked, curiously.
"This dress won't look good on me," she said and placed aside the dress on the box.
Furious Anuj snapped back at her, "Oh C'mon this is my wish!"
"I never asked you for anything more," he requested.
"Anuj.. understand," Bindu said, her eyes fixated on the dress.
"I am not used to wearing this kind of clothes,"  she said.
"Whats wrong with this dress?"  He asked.
He put his arms around her shoulder and asked, "Tell me!"
"Tell you what!" she asked.
"Whats bothering you?" He asked.
"Life isn't about the clothes that you wear. It's  about the values," she said and continued, "since childhood, I was taught great values and I place humans first!"
"Costly dresses don't amuse me!" she grimaced.
"I am sorry, Anuj,"  she said.
There was a deafening silence for few minutes. 
"I am not asking you to go naked," he yelled.
"Anuj... mind your words," she said and went inside her room.

The birthday turned out to be a disaster. It was the first crack on their bond.  Cupid had slowly started drifting away from their life. She was upset with him and the way he spoke. His words resonated in her mind every night she confronted him.  Slowly it turned more into a formal relationship. He only spoke when he wanted something from her. She cooked delicious food but things had changed drastically. He no longer appreciated her beauty and they were getting accustomed to this life. 
Two years passed and her eyes chance upon the white dress that lay in one corner of her closet.  She started missing Anuj.  
She badly wanted to get the old days back but it was too late.  
"I love you Anuj," she would scream in his absence and tears would copiously roll down her cheeks.
She desperately wanted him back. She wanted to hug him tight and wanted to tell him that she was her world. 
She took out the white dress from the closet. 

The next morning, the 7 AM alarm blared violently.  Anuj had his breakfast and left for his office. He used to work from 8 AM to 6 PM and used to come home late.
As soon as he left the home,  she freshened up and cleaned the house. She recollected that Dum Biryani was his favourite food. She quickly wore the white dress that her husband had gifted him two years back. She looked like a princess and looked stunning. 
She wanted to fulfil her husbands wish, a wish to see her in the white dress. 
She pulled the curtain aside and looked out at the window.
The clock struck 5 and a familiar hand touched her from behind. It was Anuj! 
"I love you," she hugged him tight. 
He smiled at her and said, " I never lived a moment all these days without talking to you." 
"I desperately wanted to talk to you but I realized that you were mad at me," he continued," I am sorry for everything."
"Forget all that has gone. Bygone days are bygone!" she said and continued "How do I look?" 
"I loved the village girl more..." He winked. 

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