Ramblings of an overworked mind

What a month this has been! Work has been absolutely crazy, leaving me with no time for myself or the blog.

I reach back home tired and drained, with little will to do anything but flop down on the couch with a cold bottle of water and a book.

Sadly for me, though, the book I’m reading is doing little to hold my interest. It seemed interesting enough – a story on Chandragupta’s cunning about 2,500 years ago and a cunning political king-maker in the present day. But the treatment is shoddy, the characters aren’t well developed and the plot is little snippets of political games in the past and future.

But I find it really hard to leave a book mid-way, and so I’m plodding along with Chandragupta’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi, just waiting for the infernal thing to end.

One good, actually great thing, that I achieved this month was finally understanding the exposure triangle in photography. The combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO finally worked! I’ll share some pictures when I can bear to open my laptop again.

Just waiting for this month to end!

Harnessing the power of social media

I jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon less than a year ago, and am constantly amazed at how my “community” has expanded. I’ve bonded with fellow bloggers, met people who share the same interests as I do, learnt from some of the most inspirational figures of recent times, and followed breaking stories as they happened – minute-by-minute.

As I used the platform and starting interacted with people, I heard their conversations, learnt more about their lives and supported and cheered with them as they triumphed or grappled with life. So what if a lot of them stay half way around the world, or if I haven’t met any of them and probably never will? The conversations and friendships built are real enough. Which is why if one of them were to tell me about a social cause and ask for my support, I would help out to the best of my ability.

And I wouldn’t be alone, as a whooping 84% of the social media savvy aged 30-49 and 55% of those older than 50 used conversational social media to discuss philanthropy. The Philanthropy 2.0 research project also found that 20% of survey respondents between the ages of 30 and 49 gave more than $5,000 through social media discussions, demonstrating the huge potential for social-media savvy fundraisers.

Twestival Houston

Image by .imelda via Flickr

The funds being raised by leveraging technology are astounding. Twitter users alone donated more than $33 million to the American Red Cross fund for Haitian earthquake victims. Innovative companies like Twestival, which realize the potential of 140 characters and hashtags, are using social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. Of that amount, $15,734.53 was raised in India alone.

2:46 quakebook

Image by taotsu via Flickr

Using the power of hashtags and retweeting, individuals too can make a mark. One recent example is that of @ourmaininabiko. Using an idea that was sparked in the shower, he sent out a tweet calling for eyewitness accounts and personal stories on Twitter. Less than 45 minutes later, the first submission came in. Based on the more than 80 submissions to that single tweet, 2:46 Quakebook was born – a Twitter-sourced collection of personal accounts and pictures of the 11 March 2011 Japan quake and its aftermath. The book is a collaborative effort between bloggers to help raise money for Japan – the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Japan Red Cross.

India recently witnessed its own political revolution of sorts, and a big portion of that battle was fought online – through the creation of a website and by leveraging social media to spread activist Anna Hazare’s message of anti-corruption. Millions of people across the nation joined Hazare in person and in spirit, as he sat on a fast-unto-death outside the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. His demand was for the passage of a Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s ombudsman Bill) that would give more power to the people to fight corruption in all areas of public service. Candlelight vigils and peaceful protests were organized around the country, forcing the government to accept all of the demands put forth by the activists and backed by the common man, corporates and Bollywood stars.

Social media has truly emerged as one of the most powerful Web 2.0 technologies. Not only does it allow us to forge strong friendships, it enables us to spark ideas that turn into revolutions that lead to the ouster of dictators, bring about social change, and raise money for those in need. Ultimately, how we use and leverage it depends on us.

Have you ever made donations or volunteered your services by leveraging technology?

Sweet little things

201. There Will Be No Divorce Lately it seems like almost all my friends are going through a tough time with their marriages. So many of them are getting divorced, or the love is long gone and they’re just staying together for practical reasons like their children or finances. And in most of the stories I’ve heard, it’s almost always the husband’s fault that things aren’t going right. There are the cheaters, the beaters, the emotionally detached ones, the downright insensitive ones. Every time I hear their stories, I send out a silent “thank you” to God.

I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful hubby. Yes, we have fights. There are days when he drives me absolutely nuts. There have been times when in the heat of a fight I’ve wanted to give the whole marriage thing up. There are times when I think he’s an insensitive jerk.

But even now, after 13 years of knowing each other and 7 years of marriage, my heart skips a beat when I look at him. Even now, he does the sweetest, most wonderful things for me.

Heart-Shaped Box Like never forgetting birthdays or anniversaries – a lot of my friends are amazed by that…

letting me sleep in on weekends while he finishes up the laundry…

just knowing when I’ve had a stressful day at work and turning the TV off to talk to me or give me a massage…

sharing the dinner heating and clearing up chores…

making an effort to come out with me on weekends even though sometimes all he wants to do is stay at home…

giving me my space…

letting me be all silly sometimes…

making me feel like a girl and a woman – I don’t know how he does it…

being cool with me having a slumber party with my girlfriends…

making me a fresh fruit gateaux because that’s one of my favorite deserts and he makes it so well!

smoke in a glass (3) straightenedYes, I love the husband!

And with all the marriages breaking apart around me, it’s so wonderful to know we’re still rock solid, and to see other men out there doing special things for their girl. Like Debra’s husband Tony, who made her this wonderful chocolate cake!

So here’s a toast to the husbands we love and to remembering the little things that make our marriages tick!

I believe…in magic!

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen

Image via Wikipedia

I believe that our beliefs change as we age. When I was around five, I believed in the fairy godmother and the tooth fairy, I believed that wicked witches and jealous queens existed, that there was a forest somewhere filled with enchanted creatures that can talk, and that mushroom rings meant that there had been a council of fairies…

But of course, as I grew up, I lost the magic somewhere. Life became a what you see is what you get deal.

Neale Donald Walsch: Handsome Guy!  (or: How b...

Image by ToastyKen via Flickr

That changed again, when I met the wonderful man who was to become the hubby. We got married despite great odds, only because I believed that this was going to be. Since then, I have slowly opened up to the mysteries of the universe. I read a lot of great authors and some wonderful books, especially Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversation With God series. Now, again, I believe in magic.

I believe that we have a loving, compassionate God. That we are made in his image so we can go out and experience life, embrace it, warts and all.

I believe that things happen because we choose them – the good as well as the bad. Our thoughts shape a lot of our life experiences, so I believe in choosing good thoughts.

angels are here

Image by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

I believe that angels exist. They don’t have to be of the winged variety. That stranger who found an envelope with office money that I had left at the phone booth and came running after me to return it was an angel – I didn’t have enough money to replace what I would have lost that day.

I believe that we can see God in the natural beauty around us, in the moment before dawn, in the innocence of a child’s laugh.

These are some of the wonders of the universe that I believe in.

What do you believe?

On My Bookshelf: March

stack of books, Ballard, Seattle, Washington

Image by Wonderlane via Flickr

March has been an excellent reading month! I was fortunate to have read a variety of books, all of which I enjoyed. How often does that happen? 😉

What seemed to be a Young Adult novel was actually quite interesting and complex. Heather Gudenkauf’s These Things Hidden was a beautifully crafted story with well-rounded characters (look out for the review, coming soon!)

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

Image via Wikipedia

I read Gary Taube’s excellent book titled Why We Get Fat and What to do About It. Debunking the calories in calories out approach to weight loss, he takes a look at nutrition research and the obesity epidemic, making a strong case for a high protein, low carb diet.

Amish Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha, part 1 of his Shiva trilogy, was a rip-roaring read! He’s combined legend and stories from Indian mythology and pained Shiva not as a God, but as an ordinary nomad from Tibet. Absolutely brilliant! I’m waiting for the next part with bated breath!

I’m currently reading Kunal Basu’s The Japanese Wife – a collection of short stories. Interesting, so far!

What have you been reading this month?

I love my life!

There are days when I find myself moaning and groaning my way through everything, and then those other truly wonderful days when all’s right with the world. I don’t know about you, but me, I can yo-yo between the highs and the lows and the in-betweens pretty quick. For all those not-so-high days, there are a few things that I need to remember…a few reasons why life is so beautiful.

I’ve been blessed with a good workplace – the timings are great, work-life balance is pretty good, people are OK, work’s not too bad…

…there are days when I wish I had more work and days when I wish I had less, but hey, at least I’m not staggering under the weight of unending work!

I love being able to drive down to work – I’ve been doing that since about 5 years now. Yes, the traffic can suck, and there are days when the insane number of vehicles on the road drives me nuts, but I still enjoy my drive…my music…my thoughts…my pace…my freedom!

Watching the rain through my windscreen

I love my girlfriends! I enjoy our plans to meet up over the weekend, or on Friday night…our spur-of-the-moment plans to meet for lunch and shopping…our gossip sessions and our crazy giggles.

There are so many, many things to love – like my crazy cat Pepo and my darling hubs…my peaceful home and quiet neighborhood…my loving parents and crazy sister…the bright sunshine and God’s beautiful, natural world…it’s a long, long list.

Life…it’s beautiful!

What do love about your life?

It's magical when technology meets art

Think New York, and what comes immediately to mind? For some it’s Central Park, for others it may be Times Square, and still others may think immediately of the Statue of Liberty. Me? I’ve always thought of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The main points of attraction for me are its Egyptian art, European paintings and sculpture and medieval arts collections. I could spend a couple of days at the museum…wandering through the Temple of Dendur – a large sandstone temple that was given to the US in 1965 and was assembled in the Met’s Sackler Wing in 1978 – and examining the many Egyptian artefacts scattered through the Met’s 40 Egyptian galleries. Then there are the European masters – Monet, Vermeer, Cézanne, Van Gogh…the European sculpture gallery, with a reconstructed 16th century patio from the Spanish castle of Vélez Blanco, and the collection of Medieval art, divided between the museum and The Cloisters.

NYC: Metropolitan Museum of Art - Sackler Wing...

Temple of Dendur, Met, NY Image by wallyg via Flickr

So you can imagine my delight when I read about the Google Art Project, which brings together over 1,000 works of art by more than 400 artists. Using its Street View technology, Google has mapped 17 museums from around the world, including the Met, allowing you to take a stroll through the museum from the comfort of your own home. Each of these museums has selected one image that Google photographed using some amazingly advanced technology so that you can zoom into it in great detail – maybe greater detail than would have been possible if you were seeing it hanging on the museum wall! You “can zoom in to see Van Gogh’s famous brushwork or watch how previously hard to-see elements of an artwork suddenly become clear – such as the tiny Latin couplet which appears in Hans Holbein the Younger’s “The Merchant Georg Gisze.” You can also create a collection of your favourite works of art, add comments and share it with friends and family.

I clickety-clacked my way over to the site immediately and immersed myself in the beautiful works of art available online. As I slowly work my way through the site, I’ll start sharing my collection of favourite artwork, so stay tuned!

You can read Google’s blog post announcing the project or go straight to Google Art Project.

Excited? Hoping to find a particular museum or a favourite artist? Tell me about it in the comments!

'Tis the season of love!

ROmance Comic Postcards

Image by PinkMoose via Flickr

Happy Valentine’s day my sweets!

What a beautiful day this is – a day to celebrate love – love for yourself, your family, your pets, your significant other.

Scratch beneath the surface of the commercialization, and you’ll see that this can be a beautiful day indeed…a day to pamper yourself and your loved ones just a wee bit more than you do usually.

Here are some ideas for you.

For yourself:

  • Have a bubble bath with candles, wine, some music, a book
  • Indulge in your favorite foods – forget about health food for a day – indulge in some yummy cakes or lasagna instead
  • Dim the lights and meditate. Try some of the meditation music and guided meditation clips on my blog
  • Meet up with your girlfriends for  a day out in the town
  • Spend the day doing something you love – photography, art, cooking…

For your significant other:

  • Try doing something extra special that they wouldn’t expect – for me, it would be cooking up a meal!
  • Rekindle the romance – light some candles, put on some soft music, curl up together and watch a movie…or talk…or…
  • Go hiking together
  • Leave a love note on the steamed up bathroom mirror

Need a last minute valentine gift idea? Try one of these!

Got any ideas of your own? Tell me!

Happiness is…

Bring Back My Happiness

Image via Wikipedia

  • Licking an ice cream cone on a hot summer day
  • Catching up with friends for a leisurely dinner at the end of the week
  • Lazy Saturdays at home, curled up with a book
  • Coming home tired and irritated to find Pepo (my cat) in a playful mood
  • Long conversations with the husband that start out as you’re turning in for the night, and go on until well past bedtime
  • The feeling of oneness with the Almighty
  • Planning our next vacation
  • Taking a day off work for no particular reason
  • Going out with the camera and returning with some really great photographs

So, what makes you happy?

The minefields of an inter-religion marriage

Recently, one of the the husband’s relatives invited us over for dinner – it was a small birthday celebration for their four year old daughter. Since it was Muharram (the Muslim period of mourning), they weren’t doing anything fancy, but it was the first time we would be going to their house, and it was a child’s birthday, so we had to take her a gift. The only problem was, it was a weekday, and getting back from work, going to a gift shop and then for dinner would have been tricky.

The (supposed) solution: We thought we’d give her a story book I had picked up for another friend’s four year old daughter (we never ended up visiting them, so the book was still with us).

The problem: I got home from work, found said book, looked at the list of stories, and thought uh-uh! You see, it was a beautifully illustrated Book of Classic Indian Stories for Children. The problem? The huge number of stories from Hindu mythology. Sample this:

The Brahmin Who Ate Up A God
Bhishma’s Sacrifice
Krishna and Kalia
The Kidnapping of Sita
Shiva and Sati
How Ganesha Got His Elephant Head

Almost the entire Hindu pantheon was in there! Of course, there were other stories too, but the Hindu mythology stores outnumbered them by a huge margin.

Here’s where the minefield comes in:

1) It would be the first time I was going to their house, and they lived with parents, who are likely to be a lot a bit more conservative than youngsters.

2) It was Muharram, so a gift like this would be hugely inappropriate.

3) Since I am a Hindu, it would look like I’m trying to force sell my culture on to their daughter.

4) It would might spoil relationships.

Ridiculous, I know. But given the whole Hindu-Muslim divide and how difficult it has been for some of the older people in the husband’s family to accept that he married out of religion, and a Hindu to boot, the book was completely inappropriate.

One of the husband’s aunts finally accepted me and said she “realizes that I am a girl who has been brought up with excellent values” and admits that she “treated her very unfairly” after eight years of marriage – yes, eight!

So, the only solution was to make a mad dash to the market before the shops shut down, which we managed – barely. We bought her coloring books and crayons. Said gift was a HUGE hit with the young girl – she finished coloring two pictures while we were there! – and the dinner went off very well.

What can I say? It’s all in a day’s work! 😉