Travel Theme-Golden

The imagination is the golden pathway to everywhere.

Terence McKenna

For “Where’s my backpack” weekly travel theme challenge, I have selected photographs mainly from my travels in Italy (where the golden represents actual gold) and Las Vegas (where everything is colored golden!).

Link: http://wheresmybackpack.com/2014/12/19/travel-theme-golden/

st mark basilicaSt. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italyvatican museum ceilingsPainted ceiling at Vatican Citygate accademia florenceGolden Gate of the Baptistery at Florence, ItalyDSC03695The Venetian, Las Vegas, NevadaDSC03736Caesar’s Palace Hotel, Las Vegas, NevadaDSC04197Lincoln Center, outside the Metropolitan Opera, New York CityDSC04222Glass cactus, at the Museum of Art and Design, New York Citylit pillarsGolden pillars, Aria hotel, Las Vegas, Nevadarodin museumGolden Evening at the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Rainbow Color

White, the symbol of purity, serenity, peace…here is a compilation of images showing white in all its splendor. Enjoy!winterOf course, it’s winter, so I start with a snowy landscape in Maine..DSC04209This unusual sculpture in white at the Museum of Art and Design, New York City..white dress sculptureBridal white gown made of glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York…white sculptureWoman power- sculpture at the Corning Museum of Glass..DSC04185Fountains with white light at the Lincoln Center, New York City..white flowersWhite Flowers at the Philadelphia Flower Show..old faithfulOld Faithful Geyser erupting at the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming..

An unforgettable experience

electronic boyI have mentioned several times how much I love reading books. Well, I’d like to share a book I read while growing up that has stayed with me..the book cover is shown above.

The story is set in the former Soviet Union and is about a boy-robot who resembles a seventh grader. The robot and the boy happen to meet (when the robot runs away from the portmanteau that carried him) and become good friends. The robot starts going to school instead of the boy, Sergei Cheesekov. What follows is an instant catapult to stardom for the average schoolboy, who finds it difficult to grapple with the reality. Once the secret is revealed, the robot becomes a science advisor to the students, and remains Sergei’s best friend, who grows up to become a computer programmer (what he wanted).

That’s the summary..I first read the book as a sixth grader myself, and learnt a lot of stuff about math and science from the book. I remember them solving simultaneous equations, which I learnt to solve a year before they were part of the school curriculum (the Russians learnt them in seventh grade just as we did). I loved the book because it seemed that the children in this book were similar to us in India. Instead of talking about sports, dating and proms (unlike the American books I read about teenagers), the children here were worried about learning math and science and eventually finding careers in these fields, quite similar to the kind of pressure we felt growing up in the early 90s. The robot who was quite socially challenged, was still a star because he could solve math problems in seconds!

One of the most endearing episodes in this book was that of Sergei dreaming about the Pythagoras theorem (which applies to a right-angled triangle) and imagining himself in a land of two-dimensional people, who chase him away because he is three-dimensional. I loved this part to such an extent that in school essays asking us to describe a dream, I would recreate this scenario for several years!

I have read books that have left strong impressions on me over the years (Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, The Namesake, One Hundred Years of Solitude, to name a few), but no other book has stayed as fresh in my memory as this one. The book is available on Amazon.com but does not have any reviews. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to anyone between the ages of 11 and 18, and even older, even if the mention of Soviet Union evokes strong feelings.

I end my post with this poetic quote:

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The travel bug

I love traveling…the thrill of being in a new place is unlike other. I don’t mind if I cannot go far, I even love being a tourist in my own city, exploring new streets, museums and parks. Even when I am visiting a city for the second time, I try to explore areas that I have not seen before. Some of my reasons to travel (besides the usual- expanding horizons etc.) are:

  • Traveling makes one more adaptable. Even when your travel plans include the very best that money can buy, things are bound to go awry…no one can predict airline delays, bad weather, theft, rude encounters, food poisoning etc. The more I travel, the better I get at adapting to different environments. Now I am learning more about traveling with a child (and how carrying one jacket for the entire journey of a week is a terrible idea!!)
  • I get to take pictures! I don’t have any training in photography, and I have no interest in investing in a DSLR (it’s too large to carry, my son cannot be still for pictures, and it is distracting when you want a quick shot during a guided tour). So I just point and shoot, with unpredictable results but good memories!
  • Exploring someplace new boosts my spirits. Every single time. Irrespective of what is going on in my life.
  • Feeds my social media page (read FB).
  • Helps me get some exercise. Now I don’t exercise regularly, but I have no problem walking miles in a new place!
  • The more I explore, the more my preconceived notions are demolished. I have realized that most people, irrespective of their background, are kind souls, willing to help. And the most important things in life transcend all cultural differences.

I know, the last point got a bit heavy, so I’ll stop. Enjoy pictures from some of the greatest cities that I have been to!DSC03044Colosseum, Romesan francisco1Pacific Ocean and Sutro Baths at the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CALALos Angeles skylineistanbulSultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul, TurkeyrialtoRialto Bridge, Venice, Italycaesar's palaceCaesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

Yellow

mustard2In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Yellow.” <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/yellow/”>Yellow</a&gt;

Being Indian, yellow reminds me of mustard (Indian version) and fall (US version). This is not the clearest picture, but it clearly depicts what comes to my mind hearing “yellow”. This picture was taken in a winery at Napa valley in February. Mustard is planted to suppress the nematode population that can destroy young grapevines.

Lights

This is actually an intense, critical post, but first enjoy the images of well-lit areas and holiday lighting!
DSC03732

The Wynn, Las Vegas, NVDSC03718Aria, Las Vegas, NVDSC04179Holiday Lights, PhiladelphiaDSC04197 Lincoln Center, New York City, NYDSC04226Columbus Circle, NYC, NYDSC04204Shops at Columbus Circle

I have been in the US for a reasonable period of time now, and the one thing that I find quite appalling is the lack of adequate street lighting at night, especially in residential areas (suburbs). Now I am somewhat used to it, but in the beginning, I found it difficult to drive in the night on hilly roads and around the bends on pitch dark roads. Even the train stations are poorly lit! Considering that I, like thousands of people, leave home when it is dark and return in the dark, I think it should be an issue. Add to it the fact that almost everyone is wearing a dark coat in the winters!

Recently there was an extremely tragic fatal accident in our community near a train station where someone crossing the road in the dark was crushed by a vehicle. Since then, I personally have been wearing white down jackets and carrying a bright scarf. For runners, running clothes with reflective stripes are available to allow then to be seen in the dark, which is a great concept.

Anyhow, with the holiday season in full swing now, most of the houses have Christmas lighting, which helps in the dark in suburban areas. Of course, people living downtown don’t need to worry, there is plenty of lighting there!

Sorry for spoiling the fun, but I had to get this out!

Er…I do things somewhat differently, you see, I am a doctor…

No, I am not trying to prove anything here…I just want to give you a glimpse in to how being a doctor has irrevocably changed me….

  • My sense of right and left are distorted, because I always think of the anatomical positionNow this is fine as long as I refer to my left and right side, but becomes a problem when I name right and left according to the anatomical position for anyone in front of me….see the diagram below:4495541_origmontagepages.fuselabs.com
  • If you saw this image, you would say her left hand is on the right side of the image, but I would not. The concept of an anatomical position is drilled so deep in me that I will always label left and right in this position.
  • Needless to say, I also use words like medial and lateral, and proximal and distal quite commonly!
  • I routinely forget that normal people label sleeping positions as “sleeping on the back” or sleeping on the stomach”. Not me….I use the words “supine” and “prone” in common language..(makes it easier because my spouse is a physician too!)droppedImage_1www.paramedicine.com
  • Currant jelly” (sputum), “anchovy sauce” (pus), “nutmeg” (liver), “strawberry” (gallbladder), “cafe-au-lait” (skin spot), “watermelon” (stomach) are just some examples of what these food items remind me of. Each of these phrases listed above describes a pathological entity in the body. And I ask my patients on a regular basis if they have “iced tea” or “cola-colored” urine, which if present is suggestive of something ominous…
  • I have a legitimate reason to wear pajamas (read scrubs) to work…makes getting dressed in the morning much simpler!
  • I habitually postpone/ cancel my doctor’s appointments, while stressing to patients the importance of regular follow-up…
  • At the risk of sounding pompous, I would say that I can no longer relate to “Mrs.”… “Ms” is still better, because I heard that one before I became a doctor. Since I got married after completing medical school, I was already used to being called “Dr.”. So now I’m never paying attention when people call me “Mrs.”!
  • Happiness is…..not being woken up on call by the annoying ring of the pager..
  • Relaxation is…..being able to eat a whole sandwich without interruption..
  • Certain things that most women indulge in are useless for me….such as a professional gel manicure (nail-paint gets chipped the next day), maintaining long nails, wearing bangs on my forehead… the list is longer, but I am blanking on other stuff…maybe because I don’t even notice any longer!

That’s all I can think of right now….ciao!

Waterfalls

There is something about waterfalls that I absolutely love….While I do not have any photography skills, I love taking pictures of waterfalls wherever I find them. The cascading water reminds me of the constant motion of our lives….

Here I am sharing some pictures of waterfalls that I have taken over the last few years…akaka falls, hawaii                                  Akaka Falls, Big Island, Hawaii
bushkill                                           Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvaniael yunque                            Casa Falls, El Yunque National Park, Puerto Ricofalls yosemite                                  Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite National Park, Californiagrand canyon of yellowstone          Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, Wyomingniagara falls                                                     Niagara Falls, New York (US side)waterfall glacier                                 Avalanche Creek, Glacier National Park, Montana
waterfall                                               Great Falls National Park, Virginiawatkins glen water fall                                                  Watkins Glen State Park, New Yorkwatkins                                               Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Stretch out!

“You have the power to stretch reality to fit in to your dreams.”

-Anonymousopen upI love the statue depicted in this picture. It shows a woman perfectly poised on one foot, stretching out her limbs. Her posture is graceful like that of a dancer, and she faces skywards. I would love to adopt this woman’s stance, not just physically (although it would be interesting to balance myself the way she does), but figuratively…I would love to capture her spirit and  make it my own…

To me , this statue depicts an open mind willing to accept new ideas, willing to let the imagination soar; an open heart willing to give freely and spread love around; and open arms willing to embrace every living experience that the universe throws at her.

Unfortunately, such openness requires courage that not all of us think we possess. Instead of opening up, we get wrapped up in our fears and insecurities, and thus close all doors…we prevent new ideas from reaching us and get sucked in the whirlpool of our prejudiced thoughts. The lack of fresh air distorts our existing ideas, and we get completely enslaved in the quagmire of our deformed notions.

The outcome– fundamentalism, terrorism, ISIS and Taliban….The members of these organizations have shut their minds to external ideas, and follow their warped ideas, which leads to them committing gruesome crimes including murder of women and children.

I have described the worst case scenario, but we all probably know people who are stuck in a rut, unchallenged and uninspired. This statue is for all such people (of course that includes me) who need to stretch out; stretch their imagination and their limits!

Indian at heart

As I have mentioned previously on my blog, I live in the US (in Philadelphia). I immigrated to the US about 8 years ago from New Delhi, India. While I have imbibed American culture to some degree (more so at work), I remain a true blue Indian at heart. These are a few ways in which I keep my desi spirit alive in the midst of acculturation:indian flag                       Floral Indian Flag at the Philadelphia Flower Show 2010

  • I usually dress in western outfits, as dictated by work (don’t want to be gawked at by others), but never lose an opportunity to add an Indian element. I have worn my kurtas tucked in to pencil skirts,  anarkalis as dresses with tights and boots, dupattas as scarves…you get the picture. I also wear my Indian jewelry with all my outfits (including my gold wedding jewelry). Usually the effect is boho chic and unique, but sometimes it does backfire! When it does, I go back to wearing “proper” western outfits!
  • I cannot follow a recipe from another cuisine without adding Indian elements to it. Part of it is that I never plan and buy ingredients. Usually I pick up a recipe from the internet and modify it…So I have made pasta with cumin (jeera) and garam masala, eggplant bharta with basil (inspired by a Thai recipe), bruschetta with crumbled paneer, pizza with Indian-style cooked vegetables as toppings, etc. Again, the experiments are usually refreshing, but they do go awry once in a while!
  • Again, I add Indian touches to my home decor. While the background is all western and very modern with clean lines, the accents like cushions and wall art are mostly Indian…not a surprise since India has such a variety to offer in terms of arts and crafts.
  • I keep mentioning my love for books on this blog. Well, I devour every book penned by an author with an Indian name (never mind that they have never been to India, their books are always rooted in India)..So I have read every book by Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Rai Divakaruni, Bharti Kirschner, and so on.

These are some of the ways in which I try to solve the conundrum of blending in versus retaining my Indian fervour. The former is important because in general, an immigrant still wants to be perceived as well-adjusted in his/her adopted community (not to mention the not-so-subtle disapprovals of Indian practices and traditions). The latter, I think,  is important for the sanity of the first-generation immigrant, who can never fully assimilate in another culture. Settling in the US has made me realize what a stereotypical Indian I am…Before coming here, I had assumed  I was quite “westernized” (read liberal) in my thinking, but actually staying here changed my opinion.

My last paragraph sounds somewhat pessimistic, but overall I must say that it has been a rewarding experience to settle in this country. I’ll never lose my sense of identity as an Indian, though.

This reminds me of a feature from the magazine “India Today” many years ago about what it mean to be Indian. The one comment that I remember was that while most people across the world consider their natural citizenship a mere accident of birth, for  most Indians, their motherland has a deeper meaning, one that transcends subsequent mobility…once an Indian, always an Indian at heart!

Phir milenge! Alvida!

P.S. Check out how I find Indian elements in the US…(click on the photographs to see a slide show)

Random thoughts…

It’s difficult to stick to one theme today, so I am just stringing together some random stuff:

  • Love random statues scattered throughout the city parks…when I can, I do stop by to read what they are about, and it is usually some interesting historic tidbit (not surprising since I live in Philadelphia, where history of the US was made), but sometimes there are oddballs…check these out:Pankration-wrestling and boxingwrestlingthree boysI did not take a picture of the signboard here, but this was made for a wedding apparently…
  • I never used to cry while watching Bollywood tear-jerkers up until recently, but now I have tears streaming down my face while watching sentimental cliched scenes from the 90s movies  (even when I’m watching DDLJ or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai {names of superhit Bollywood movies} for the nth time)…I think it’s because I no longer have an image to maintain…I can better accept how inconsequential stuff like Bollywood movies affects me (not to mention that mostly I watch these movies alone now). Crying-picturememespp.com
  • I love being high up…as in the air, or on top of a hill, or a building, and looking down..While many people are afraid of heights, I get a kick out of being high up. Needless to say, I take pictures when I am up there…hot air balloon                             Philadelphia seen from a hot air balloonlake tahoe                                             Lake Tahoe from 10,000 feetBellagio fountains                        Fountains at Bellagio, Las Vegas seen from above
  • As a child, I read a Ukrainian folk tale where a king asks a clever girl to name the sweetest thing for all human beings, and she replies “Sleep”. The king is duly impressed. Now when I was young, I never understood it…why would sleep be the sweetest thing in the world?

Fast forward couple of years….now, going through year after year of training as a physician, having a child, and having experienced pain and anxiety, all of which lead to sleep deprivation, I finally realize the wisdom of this answer…

sleep

integratinghealth.net

Of course, I am talking about sleep because it is Sunday night, and I cannot afford to wake up sleep-deprived!

Au revoir!

Doctor Venus versus Doctor Mars

venus_and_mars_by_lisa_iris

Picture reference: www.lisairis.ca

I learnt a remarkable fact recently…Among the first licensed women physicians, there was an Indian woman named Anandibai Joshi, who studied Medicine in my current city, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along with two other women, one from Syria and another from Japan. A photograph of the trio from the year 1885 has recently made its way to social media and is also being included in tours of the city. Sounds almost like the stuff fairy tales are made of, except that there was a tragic end to the story, with Dr. Joshi dying of consumption (tuberculosis) at the young age of 21.

This serves as a reminder that women have been around in this profession for a long time. Nearly 130 years later, women still find themselves clamouring for equality in medicine, in some fields more than others.

While I am convinced that competence as a physician has nothing to do with gender, there are differences in the way men and women approach various issues, and in a male-dominated world, women may not always conform to the norms that are defined largely by males, and unfortunately perceived as traits related to success.

Some of the differences that I have realized are:

(The operational word here is difference. I am not trying to say that women physicians are better or worse than their male counterparts.)

  • Women tend to be perfectionists more often than men, and therefore are too hard on themselves at times. I feel many of us try to be perfect at every step of the way and sometimes get caught in issues that are perceived as insignificant by our male counterparts. On the flip side, this attention to detail may translate in to better patient care and improved patient satisfaction.
  • Women are conditioned to stick to rules and regulations. I think that is largely a result of our upbringing that tries to fit girls in to molds right from the beginning, while boys are traditionally allowed more freedom. Thus women grow up to be really good at following steps methodically, but tend to be less willing to experiment than men.   Again, in medicine, a lot of what we do depends upon doing the right thing the same way every single time, and women in general excel at that. Not everyone needs to be an innovator, right?
  • Women are more compassionate than men. While that is a great asset when dealing with really sick patients, it also means that the stress of taking care of terminally ill patients affects us more than our male counterparts.
  • I know my male colleagues always make fun of females for being “hormonal”, but it is true! We women do go through an emotional roller-coaster with our menstrual cycles! Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, euphemistically known as PMS, is a real condition, and affects women to different degrees. Add pregnancy in to the mix and emotions really go awry…Not just that, dealing with children and their physical and emotional needs can sometimes make us irritable and grumpy. Men who are in a more stable emotional  state find it really hard to comprehend this and this emotional lability can be really detrimental to our professional lives. (I really cannot think of any positives here, and I think we really need to be cognizant of our emotional friability, and detach our actions from our emotions at those times.)
  • Women are wired to seek appreciation, therefore being appreciated by co-workers, patients and subordinates is extremely important to us. Not so much for our male counterparts. In general, they don’t try to please everyone, therefore it is a lot easier for then to maintain their priorities and their sanity. Another sad truth is that women are less likely to be liked by other women in the group, while men tend to be liked equally by men and women. I think it is great if a woman can manage to earn every single person’s appreciation, but trying to win everyone over may not be possible, and one should not sweat excessively over it.
  • Unfortunate as it is, women with demanding careers are still held to task for their competence as homemakers and mothers. The world never ceases to remind you in myriad, often discreet ways that you may be great at what you do outside of home, but that does not excuse you from striving to be the perfect mother..Men are not held up to similar standards of parenthood. (I am not implying that men don’t have societal norms to conform to, but overall they are judged less than women are.) Therefore, I feel it is extremely important to be clear about your career goals, and how they fit in with your aspirations as a parent. Not everyone is cut from the same cloth, and not every woman physician needs to bake cookies for her kids….

Having said all this, I must confess that I have constantly tried to emulate my most successful mentors, almost all of whom are males. Only recently have I begun to accept that I am a woman, and wired differently from men. I just need to be comfortable with these differences (with the caveats mentioned)….

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