Five favorites-Books

fall colorsA book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.

–Salman Rushdie

Well said, Mr. Rushdie! No wonder your writing makes it to my list of favorite books!

So here’s the list (in random order):

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

An epic saga of the Buendia family over 100 years, the book is like Mahabharata set in Latin America. Reality and hyperbole merge seamlessly in this book..

2. Midnight’s children- Salman Rushdie

Historical events (Indian independence), unbelievable characters (eg. the girl with saucer-shaped eyes), intertwined with folklore and magic, this book is a treat to the senses. Midnight’s children refer to the all the children born at the midnight of Indian independence (August 15th 1947) who can communicate with each other telepathically…did this pique your interest?

3. Long Walk to Freedom-Nelson Mandela

An autobiography of Tata Madiba, the book chronicles his political struggle to end apartheid, his decades of imprisonment, and his regrets at being a poor father to his children even as he was the father of the nation. The book is actually fairly fast-paced for an autobiography, with no trace of self-grandiosity.

4. The Kite Runner-Khaled Hosseini

A book about deep friendship, betrayal and living with a guilty conscience, it is a remarkable book that spans two countries-Afghanistan and the US. Loved it more than the other books by the same author.

5. A House for Mr. Biswas- V. S. Naipaul

A book that introduced me to the Indian diaspora living in Trinidad, I love it for the simplicity of its story-telling and the undercurrent of satire. Obviously the work of a master story-teller!

Would love to hear about your favorite books!

Realizing differences

I have mentioned previously that I immigrated from India to the US (Philadelphia, PA) 8 years ago. Over the years, I realized certain things I had heard about but not seen:

  • It feels way colder here than in India, even at the same temperature. It’s because of the icy Arctic winds. I had read as a child that the Himalayas protect India from the polar winds, and therefore India has a milder climate as compared to China at the same latitude. I had no idea how true it was till I came here- no east-west mountain range in North America to protect us from the polar vortex!
  • Static electricity is so bothersome here! And there is fierce lightning everytime it rains. Never experienced natural electricity to that extent in India! Makes sense for Benjamin Franklin to have discovered electricity in Philadelphia.
  • I had heard the song “These are a few of my favorite things..” from the Sound of Music as a child. My favorite line was “Silver-white winters that melt in to spring…”, except that I had no idea what it felt like. I also read a lot of poems about the arrival of spring. Living in India with a milder winter, it was hard for me to appreciate the significance of spring. Now I do…it is amazing how the bare trees of winter give way to the blossoms of spring! I love the cherry blossoms in spring, that bring a promise of warmer weather every year..

That’s all for today..ciao!

benfranklinStatue of Benjamin Franklin at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

snowSilver white winter…cherry blossom festivalSpring with cherry blossoms in Washington DC

Mother-in-law’s cushion

I read about this phrase today, and just had to write a blog post about it…read on..

This refers to the humble cactus plant and no prizes for guessing why it is named so….it has thick succulent leaves (cushion) but peppered with thorns!

Personally I am fascinated with cacti, especially the tall Saguaro cacti from Arizona that are more like armed pillars. Also, I am too lazy to water potted plants, so cacti are perfect for me to add some greenery to my living space.

Here’s some more on cacti:

  • In Native American culture, cactus stands for endurance and bravery. It is also symbolic of maternal love -takes very little (water) from the earth, stores vast reserves of water (love) in its succulent body, is fiercely protective of its parts (family), and will lash out at anyone (thorns) who jeopardizes its existence.
  • According to legend, Aztec Indians established the capital of their empire founded the capital of their empire on a spot here they saw an eagle perched on top of a large cactus.  The scene has now been captured in the flag of Mexico.
  • Many cacti are now on the endangered list.
  • Cacti make great gifts for someone going through a hard time, as a symbol of endurance.
  • You cannot feed a cactus too much water…you’d end up killing it!

P.S. Now of course I have a few images for your viewing pleasure!

The first 4 photographs are from Berkeley Botanical Gardens. cacticactus2Saguaro cactus cactuscauliflowercactus leavesYellow and green cactus leaves- Horticultural Center in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniagetty centerCacti at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, Californiamexican flagFloral arrangement of Mexican flag at Caesar’s Palace Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

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!

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