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Growth in Isolation

Social distancing is the need of the hour. The fear of the deadly Covid-19 is everywhere. We all are aware of this pandemic. Suddenly there is a lot of free time and so everyone is confused about what to do. Be it television, radio or whatsapp its the same fear everywhere. As we isolate ourselves this fear seems to be gripping us even more. This stress needs to be reduced before it starts affecting our relations. All we can do is to keep our distances and pray that a vaccine is discovered soon. Until then we all need to find a way to use this time. This is the opportunity to look at your lives, find out those dreams and work on them. With schools and colleges closed, one needs to find ways to spend quality time with your family.

I have always wanted to read books randomly but always picked those about which I had heard. The day before the library was closed, I went there and browsed through the stack. This time it was not the bestseller list or recommendations, it was any book which intrigued me be it the title or prologue or even the book cover. Similarly there are whole lot of hobbies one can take up. It is important to do something creative with all the tension around. Go ahead, pull out the old guitar, clean it and start playing it. If possible make a video and share it on social media. Your effort will definitely inspire many. Watch a movie and put up a review or make a video of that recipe and share it, organize the closet or find an online course. If not anything start meditating but do not allow the negativity to stop you from discovering yourself. Let there be growth in isolation. As the times are getting tougher, let us pray that a vaccine is found soon.

Father’s Magic

My clipboard at the end of college

There are few rituals we used to do before exams like preparing a schedule for studies, questions for last minute revisions, ensuring stationary was up to date, etc. One of them was to pull out the clip board and clean it. I had a brown clipboard. By the time I was in fifth grade, my clip board was so scratched that it had started looking old and worn out, just like the bark of an old tree. A week before the exams, I told my father, its looking so old as if it was older than me (I was 10 years old then). My father smiled and said “Leave it to me”. Two days later, there was a bright yellow clipboard at my study corner. I was surprised because a yellow clipboard was not available in the stationary stores that I knew then. That year everyone asked me about my clipboard in the exams. I was so happy that I wrote my name twice on it. The bright yellow always brought a smile even in the nervousness of exams. I continued to use the clipboard till the last exam of my college.

One might be wondering Papa must have brought a new one but my father was practical. In spite of all the scratches, the clipboard was good enough to continue a few more years. All the doors of our house were being painted at the same time when I mentioned my old clipboard. My father painted it with the left over paint and then nicely quoted it with varnish. It was properly dried and placed at my study corner. These were the moments when the magician in my father came out. There are many instances when our fathers become magicians in addition to being our friend, philosopher, guide, cheerleader and parent. On this occasion of Father’s Day, let us take an opportunity to appreciate the creative genius that we have as our Father. Happy Father’s Day.

An evening with Musical Fountain

Summer is the time to be outdoors. An evening with a cool breeze is the best time to spend with family and friends. Most of us go out for dinner but the dinner becomes memorable when we have it outdoors. On a nice summer day, after cruising on the three rivers of Pittsburgh, me and my friends decided to have dinner at the station square.

The rhythm of the station square fountain with the music has always impressed me. Whenever I went there, it was always soft music. That night the fountain was dancing on rock music. I had never seen it before. The water came out in different colors. It was majestic. The place was full of kids. Each time the water came out, they would clap. We looked for a restaurant with a view of the fountain. Although we were hungry, we waited till a table on the patio was available. Once seated we ordered our food. The best part of eating outdoors is no one bothers about being loud. Dinner with a fountain dancing on rock music along with the cheerful laughter of kids, is simply mesmerizing.

When we look back, the time spent with family and friends brings that warm smile on our faces. We often wonder about special locations to be with our dear ones but its the company which makes the place special. The best place would be a location where one can speak and laugh as loudly as one wants. A simple meal with the loved ones on a moonlit sky or a garden with cool breeze is all one needs to create those special moments which become treasures of memories.

First Bicycle Ride

It is May, the month of summer vacations in India. I am still moved by the Bicycle Museum. I was remembering my 9th birthday when my father gifted me a bicycle. I was expecting a kid’s cycle with training wheels but I got a regular bicycle for grown-ups. I was not even tall enough to ride that bicycle. For the first two days, it was a big challenge to be able to pedal. My father tried to help me for one week. He would never let go the cycle. I was unable to learn. After that he had to leave the city for work.

The day after he left, I tried and tried but was barely able to pedal. Everytime I mounted the seat, the cycle would tilt on one side and I had to get down. Those were summer vacations, we would cycle till late night until our mother would call out for dinner. A few days later, on a late evening, I thought about staying on the seat and trying to balance the cycle instead of stepping down. I put my feet on the pedals, positioned myself on the seat and tried to put my weight on the other side when the cycle began to tilt. The cycle was steady for 2 seconds and then it happened. I fell down and immidiately felt the ache in my knees and elbows. But I didnt have the time to pay attention to it because I had discovered the trick to balance myself on the seat and that after balancing one must continue pedalling to keep the cycle steady. I was so anxious to confirm this discovery that I forgot the pain, again mounted the seat and balanced my weight. I started pedalling as soon as the cycle was steady. My mother was just about to call out for dinner when she heard me shouting “Mom!! Look I can ride a bicycle!!”. She saw an excited me cycle towards the house with bleeding knees, scratched elbows, torn frock and a triumphant smile. She congratulated me and then started tending my wounds.

That day I learnt the first ever lesson of life. Our parents, siblings and near ones would always be there for us. They would support us but to achieve our dreams and aspirations, it is we who have to put in the effort. In the process, even if we fall, they would tend our wounds but to learn if need be we have to fall. One has to leave the fear of fall to achieve their goals.

Happy Holi

The festival of Holi is an opportunity to bring out the mischievous side of a person. It occurs towards the end of winter in the month of march. This is the last festival of the academic session before the exams. Its the best time to say sorry. The dry colors are ready a day before. Traditional sweets are prepared in every house. We visit each house, put color on each other’s faces and have sweets. Its the only festival where one does not need to dress up.

My colleague mentioned his daughter has given him the list of colors to bring. This reminded me of the Holi when I was in Sixth grade. A new liquid color was in market. We (me and my sister) had requested our father to bring us that color as well along with the dry colors. My strict grandmother declared no liquid colors. My mother tried to pacify us by saying those colors don’t get removed easily. On the day of Holi, we had played with dry colors and visited everyone’s houses. Still the feeling of enjoying the festival was not there. My sister was almost in tears for the liquid colors. My grandmother had a long list of activities which included cleaning the prayer area, taking a shower, plucking flowers and then performing the ceremonies. The moment she started these activities, my father, who was quietly watching us, handed us the packets of liquid color. He always had a solution for all problems. After that me and my sister had the time of our lives, coloring each other and all our friends. My mom was right, the color didn’t go easily. Even after multiple washing and scrubbing the next day I went to school with one ear red and one ear green. My sister had a red cheek and blue chin.

Holi, the festival of colors, is the time to forget the wrongs of the past and make new beginnings. Even if people dont speak the same language, you can simply put color on each other and hug. As if to start life like a blank canvas and fill it with colors of joy, happiness and love. I hope this Holi fills everyone’s lives with colors.

P.S. Just incase you are wondering what happened in school, the teacher had a hard time controlling her laughter standing in front of a class of students with Rainbow colored faces.

Meeting Santa Claus

One of the most cherished events of Christmas is arrival of Santa Claus. His loud ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and the jingling bells can bring smile on any face. As a kid, I used to wonder what might be there in his big bag. I always thought he dressed in red and white. While walking across downtown, I came to an exhibition in Winter garden. Although it was -4 degrees Celsius outside, the presence of warm smiles drew me towards it. The place was every child’s fantasy. A huge Christmas tree with ginger bread houses all around it. A live orchestra playing Christmas carols. But the most amazing part were the Santa Claus of the world. It seems he is known by different names in different countries and each culture has its own representation. But the sparkling eyes, genuine smile and the adorable personality was common in all of them. As I walked past each of them, I felt as if I am transported to that country, waiting like a child for my Santa to arrive. It seemed as if I was meeting Santa Claus differently. The aroma of cakes, muffins, biscotti and hot chocolate added the festive flavor to the event.

Santa Claus can bring smile even in freezing temperatures. It reminds me, a genuine warm smile can win our hearts even on the coldest day. Often we are so carried away in our day to day issues that we forget to smile properly. Sometimes a smile from a dear one is all we need to solve the biggest of problems. Maybe that is why festivals are held, just to remind us to smile, meet our dear ones and be happy. They are also the time to go out and enjoy the city. So the next time if someone asks you to describe Santa Claus, make sure to mention the smile because his outfit may be different but the smile is the same genuine, adorable one.

Heart winning Event

This years shopping

There are so many questions in mind when one is moving to a new city. ‘Will I be able to adjust here?’, ‘Will the city accept me?’, etc., are just a few of them. These questions make a person nervous, which was my condition when I moved to Pittsburgh. Three weeks after I came here, a book fair was organized by Half Price books at a nearby hall. The streets were lined by small boards mentioning the sale. The moment I saw the boards, I felt so glad. The sight of a book fair always fills my heart with joy. It reminded me of the bookstalls at my hometown and cleared all the uncertainty and nervousness immediately.

The fair also consists of records and dvds in addition to books. The hall was extremely crowded when I entered. My excitement was boundless at the sight of rows and rows of books. There were books on fiction, cooking, photography, science, self help, etc. The collection had classics like works of R.L Stevenson, Jane Austen as well as new age authors like Danielle Steele. I discovered so many new authors here. It felt so nice to see so many people who enjoy reading. People had their shopping carts full of books. You can speak to any person and get knowledge on authors. People had come with their toddlers. The excitement of the children at the site of books was marvelous. I was moved to see parents encourage their kids for reading even in this age of gadgets. This event connected me to the city in such a way that I never felt I was new here. It just became my heart winning event.

This fair happens only once a year and I make it a point to attend it. These days people have to move to new places for job. When that happens, one should not crib about missing the old place but look out for events in the new place. These are the windows to the culture of the city. They are an opportunity to relate to the city. In fact they give us a chance to find new things about ourselves. So the next you face a transfer, remember to check the events that take place in the new city. You never know, the city you are going to may just be the one, most suitable to you.

A cluster of Museums

Its not often we come across places with historical significance. Today was a beautiful day. A nice breeze blew which urged everyone to move out of their homes. It was an opportunity to explore parks. While looking for a park, I discovered the Frick Art and Historical Center. It is a cluster of museums spread over 6 acres. One feels like travelling through time as the neighborhood around it has an old world charm. A warm smile greeted me as soon as I entered.

The paintings of Madonna and Christ in the Art gallery filled my heart and mind with positivity. There is a beautiful lane through the garden to The Car and Carriage museum.

One is immediately transported to the era of black and white movies. The carriages remind you of aristocracy. Each vintage car has unique identity making it an owner’s pride.

What really amazed me was that there were cars that were used to spread awareness about voting rights for women. It reminds us of the struggles that women went through to get the voting rights. They also showed how the evolution of Cars brought changes in women’s fashion. I next passed through the playhouse where soothing music was being played.

The greenhouse has an amazing collection of flowers and plants. There is also a Café, library and gift center. I did not have a ticket for the Mansion so that left me with a reason to visit again. A colorful garden surrounds all the buildings. Helen Clay Frick (1888—1984) was the driving force to preserve the Frick estate and allow it to open to the public after her death. One can feel her presence everywhere through the exhibits displayed around the area.

An exploration is successful when it leaves one with a purified heart and an enhanced mind. It also helped me do my daily walk as the garden was simply mesmerizing. So the next time, its a beautiful day and you feel like an explorer, make sure Frick Art and Historical Center is on your list.

Discovering a Sunny day

Farmer’s Market

It was a bright, hot and sunny morning, the day when you see everyone in sunglasses. The lazy person in me said “Lie down, listen to music and read a book”. “This is just the right day to go out and explore the place”, said the explorer in me. There was a debate between them, each giving the benefits of their proposal. Ultimately the explorer won. I drove to the community park to see the Farmer’s market. Be it vegetables, bakery products or honey, each vendor greets you with a warm smile and is eager to tell you about it. Every product has the human touch of the person who created it. Its a clear indication of how you feel when you put your heart and soul into developing something.

The park was throbbing with life. Each shade had a story to tell. One shade had a community meet, another had a family picnic, a wedding was going on in third and so on. The smiles of the people seemed to be synchronized with the brightness of the sun. The highest excitement was at a kids baseball match. The ground was surrounded by parents cheering their kids. It seemed as if a fair was near the baseball ground where people sold fresh lemonades, beads, sunglasses, etc. The small kids in the park, personified freedom. They ran, shouted, laughed and cheered. It reminded me of my school days when all that mattered was to live the moment. The sights at the park made me happy, contented and energized for the entire day, something I wouldn’t have experienced if I had stayed back. The Sun seemed to have infused everyone including me, with extra energy. We often tend to take the easy way in life but if you stretch out a little and wander, you will discover way more than you can imagine. Here is my discovery, a sweet and spicy strawberry-Jalapeno jam, which I had never seen before.

Option for an Individual

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

There are certain things which take you back to special moments of life. I recently had one such experience when I stood in front of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It was raining heavily but I felt as if I had gone on a time travel to the first day of College. The 19th century architecture reminded me of my college days in Baroda University, which was established at the same time. How grown-up it felt to say we are leaving for college. There was one thing common in the first class of each subject. The professor suggested a number of books for each subject. We asked one of the professors how were we going to cover so many books in one academic session. The professor smiled and replied, those were books on the same topic by different authors. It is up to the student to select the book he or she wants to refer. Initially we referred to the books which were popular choice among seniors. But the curious ones could not resist the urge to explore all the books suggested by Professors and that lead us to the amazing stack in the library.

I entered the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in the same time travel mode. The entrance at the stack had welcome written in various languages including Hindi. The stack of a library is a special place. There is always pin drop silence although there are people. The atmosphere is so serene that one can almost feel the presence of knowledge. If knowledge were to have a fragrance, it would definitely be there in the stack. There are rows and rows of book shelves and benches on either side of the wall. There used to be a break of 3 hours between our theory and practical classes in the first year. We used to spend this time in the library. As I walked in the stack, I remembered how we referred to each book and then chose the one which suited us the most. It is so similar to life. We all are presented with an array of options be it work or hobbies but most of us go for the popular choice ones. We forget each of us is an individual and has unique abilities. Maybe its laziness or the fear of being different which prevents us from pursuing other options. But I feel, when we pursue the option which suits us we develop our personality. We feel satisfied and enlightened, something which is very rare in today’s life. So the next time you have to choose from an array of options, make sure to check each and select the one which suits the individual “YOU”.