Jan 30, 2012

For the price of two lattes

It brings tears to my eyes to know that people abandon their kids because of poverty.  It saddens me that I indulge my picky eater with foods of his choice when there are orphan girls grateful for two meals a day.  I am thankful every day to be there for my kid when he is sad, angry, hurt or just wants a hug.  As I hug my child at night and put him to sleep in his comfy bed, I remember that there are girls sleeping on thin mattresses laid out on the bare floor of a large hall with no one but each other’s company to comfort them.  

As I watch kids in my son’s cafeteria throw away uneaten apples, unopened juice and milk cartons and even sandwiches they brought from home, I think of the 108 girls sitting in orderly rows in the big hall of Vaidehi Ashram in Hyderabad, India.  They are waiting to be served a simple meal of rice and sambhar (a thin lentil soup with some vegetables thrown in) which they will finish without wasting a single grain of rice.  But not before they sing a hymn of thanks for the food they partake. 
 Lunch time

It is not very often that I am at a loss for words but this post turned out to be one of those that took the longest time to pen.  It is easy for me to complain about the sordid state of affairs, be it on blogger ethics or Facebook superficialities.  But there are times when I am thankful to have befriended some wonderful people on fb who, unlike me, decide to do something about a problem rather than complain.  Siri, of CookingwithSiri, is one such generous soul who always manages to amaze me with her positive, upbeat attitude.
Recently, she moved back to India and instead of complaining about the cultural shock that comes with moving from US to India, she got involved with Vaidehi Ashram, a refuge for orphaned and destitute girls.  She was so moved by what she saw and experienced there, she decided to help raise funds for these deserving girls and make their life a little bit better. 
Vaidehi Ashram

A week into the drive, she has already made significant progress with the fundraising.  But more is needed.  Besides, Siri has managed to score some awesome raffle prizes for you to go with each $10 raffle tickets.  Among the things you can win through the raffle, there is a Kindle, some awesome cookbooks from authors like David Lebovitz and Ammini Ramachandran, professional photo prints and kitchen gadgets to make your life easier.  For a complete list of raffle prizes offered, click on this link to Siri’s blog.  If the prizes don’t inspire you to donate, here is a little information on the Ashram to convince you to participate in a good cause.
The girls
Vaidehi Ashram for destitute girls houses some 108 girls (3 to 22 years) who are either orphans or who have been abandoned by their parents.  The ashram is managed by Mrs Suvathsala, who is fondly called Mataji (mother).  Along with some eager volunteers, she takes care of the girl’s upbringing, their education and vocational skills.  The girls are housed in the three big halls of the ashram where they all sleep communally with open cupboards on the walls reserved for their personal belongings.  
The stories of how these girls end up in the ashram are heart wrenching like the story of the youngest girl Samatha who was found wandering near a railway station with her baby sister.  She could have suffered a worst fate if some policemen hadn’t brought her to the ashram where she is in now in the company of girls who understand her plight and are able to give her emotional support and some semblance of normal life.  For more information, read the following two posts by Siri:

Sitting thousands of miles away in a quiet American suburb there is not much I or you can do except donate a few dollars and help spread the word.  Make that $10 you would otherwise spend on a lunch date or two cups of latte go to a worthy cause.  

Love their smiles
Here is how the fund drive works.
1. Buy a Raffle Ticket (or 2 or more)

Each raffle ticket is worth $10 (or Rs.500). You can increase your chances of winning the giveaway by buying more than 1 raffle ticket.

For Example, a donation of $20 will fetch you 2 raffle tickets which can be used to choose on any of the raffle prizes. You can use all your raffle tickets on one prize (in turn increasing the chances in the lucky draw) or on different prizes.

2. How to Buy the Raffle Ticket

Use the link below for making your payment. Once you click it, you will be directed to the fund drive and raffle page. Use the widget to make a payment via Paypal or credit.

Once the donation process is completed, please forward your payment confirmation message to info(dot)siri(at)gmail.com, clearly specifying the raffle prize you are interested in.

Within 24 hours, your name and contributed amount will be added to the ‘Fund Drive Supporters List’. If you want to stay anonymous, please let Siri know in advance. For any correspondence/questions/queries, use the comment section or the email address mentioned.

Fund Drive Supporter's List and the List of Raffle Prizes

Go on, make a difference in someone's life.

Jan 25, 2012

It is rant time on DSM

Well, what do you know? I kept my word and am on schedule for the fb rant thanks to the dark, wet, rainy morning we have today in the sunny state of Texas.  We are spoiled here with warm skies and 70o temperatures in December.  It puts us (at least me) in a foul mood when the skies are cloudy and the weather turns dull and wet.  Contrary to what Indian poets and imaginative types would have you believe, this desigirl does not share the romantic associations that are imparted to the rainy season of the Indian subcontinent.  For me, rains always bring about images of dusty roads turned to muddy mush, damp clothes, and dark homes lit in the middle of the day with yellow fluorescent bulbs.

So you will have to excuse me if I am not in the best of moods when it starts to rain even though my adopted country’s concrete and asphalt roads don’t get muddy and the only thing to fear while out and about is flash flooding.  There are no damp odors emanating from clothes or bedding. No traffic jams to navigate through, no potholes to jump over, not even open drains for the kid to float his paper boat in.  The only redeeming feature of the rainy season in India is the sweet, earthy smell that we fondly call gili mitti ki mahak (smell of wet dust).  But I am denied that in the land of concrete and grass lawns, perhaps because I prefer to stay indoors when it pours and curse and rant about the bounty of water falling outside my window.
This brings us to the fb rant that has been long time coming.  Over the years, I have added and then edited, deleted and hidden from view friends, bloggers, and relatives for various reasons some of which are listed below.  And on gloomy days like today, I still manage to get irritated because people constantly find new ways to up the ante. 
The game fan:  I played Lexulous, the fb version of scrabble, for a couple of months with a vengeance. I was hooked on it all the time.  So believe me when I say, I understand why you play Farmville, Mafia Wars and other assorted games.  Just don’t inflict your friends with imaginary acquisitions of sheeps, horses and planting of crops.  Go work on a farm instead of bragging about that fictional crop you harvested.  And please do not feel obligated to announce your general knowledge quiz score. That is just sad.

The “I have 400+ friends on fb dude and I don’t remember if we were friends before you unfriended me so I am sending you another friend request”:  Yes, we know you like ‘friending’ people for personal glory. I just won’t be the one that tips your friend count from 499 to 500.  

The You Tube linker:  We all love a good tune but not all of us have the time to listen to ten songs you post on your wall every other day.  Spare us your refined taste in music and stop cluttering our walls.

The quotable quotes person:  A long time ago, when I used to work in a small office, our bosses’ sanctimonious secretary used to send out thought of the day to the rest of us.  All we did with them was snicker behind her back and smiled politely at her when asked if we read it.  She never got the message but I hope you have. 

The religious, the political and the dietary fanatic:  I do not care what your religious, political or dietary preferences are.  Do not ask me to forward, subscribe or endorse your belief system by sharing them on my wall.  On the same note, I have blocked or hidden some of your posts if they contain graphic pictures, misleading photographs or poorly sourced articles intended to sway me in your direction.  It does not make me appreciate you or your cause. It just makes me think of you as a bully who deserves to be ignored.  You are entitled to post what you wish on your wall. I am entitled to complain about it and block it on my wall.

Cryptic word of the day:  If you have something to say, just say it. Don’t make people guess it by sighing on your wall (*sigh*), posting colon and two close ended brackets for a smile or a ‘Yay’.
The juvenile, delinquent language users:  My nephews, nieces and younger cousins in their teens substitute the word ‘da’ for ‘the’ and continue other sordid trangressions on the English language even when there is no word limit or messaging restriction on fb.  I wince and bear it because I realize they think it is cool and hip to write that way, they are young and they don’t know any better.  But there is no excuse if you are an adult who does not comprehend what the problem is when corrected.  

The ‘Like’ button err…. liker:  Yes, I know it is hard to comment on just about every post your 300+ friends post every day.  You do not have to show your presence by hitting the ‘like’ button every time, all the time.  To me that is just a shallow gesture to register your presence.  I would rather have your thoughtful comment once in a blue moon. That is not to say I do not hit the ‘like’ button occasionally. I do when I am in hurry or when words cannot express how much I liked that particular status.  
Kale in color.
That my friends, is my short list of things I have been complaining to my friends on fb for a while.  Since I was in danger of being unfriended by them, I decided to vent out on DSM and save the few friends I have left.  Do you have a rant about the social media you would like to share?  Feel free to do so in the comments below or write a post and let me know.  I will add your link to my post below. It feels good to let it all out.  I know I feel good, even though it is still a gloomy, wet day.  

Jan 19, 2012

New beginnings and all that humbug…

…is how I have decided to lead my first post in 2012.  As usual, I have started another year with nary a clue as to where it will lead me.  Last year saw me busy with my school and getting used to the routine of a kindergartner.  As a result, there was sporadic activity on DSM and my fiction writing suffered.  By the end of the year, I was off facebook and twitter, effectively abandoning my blog.
Start of the day.
Facebook and twitter are lifelines for a blogger, a channel for keeping in touch and interacting with blogger friends.  It can also be addicting and a major time suck.  More often than not, it is an outlet for the narcissist in all of us.  I found myself tiring of the minutiae of every day happenings on my wall and engaging in debates and discussions on controversial topics, from archaic practice of Karwa Chauth to the practicality of using steel plates and doing away with disposable ones.  As entertaining and fun it was to get into controversial subjects what put me off fb was the simpering, fawning platitudes some bloggers bestowed on each other.  And don’t even get me started on the frequent use of the ‘like’ button by some who will remain nameless! 
Tea and steamed rava idlis.
Finally, I had enough.  One sunny day in November I quit cold turkey.  No post announcing I am quitting, no response to friends and above all, no more jumping in controversial discussions or suffering smarmy, sycophantic comments.  It was a quite though a bit boring existence but hey, I made it up more than enough by reading a few books I had been meaning to pick up.
Way with words.

The first one was Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which had been on my reading list for the longest time and was our book club pick for December.  It is an entertaining read  about a stiff, retired British Majoy and his romance with a widowed Muslim shopkeeper of a quaint village. Author Helen Simonson brings the characters and the village to life in her first attempt at fiction.
Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is an epic in every sense of the word.  I have been a fan of his work since I read Luka and the Fire of Life last year. His style of magical realism makes for a very entertaining read if you know your mythology.   Norton Juster’s  Phantom Tollbooth left me wondering how I had gone through life without reading it.  Just to get out of the world of magic and into some tragedy, I decided to start reading up on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and yes, it is a series of 13 unfortunate events that fall on three orphan siblings who somehow manage to survive every grim situation when lesser men would succumb to their fate and give up.  Hopefully, reviews for some of these books will be written shortly as well as a longer rant on Facebook practices that tick me off.  The later will probably come before the former.
For now, I am concentrating on learning the complexities of my DSLR that the better half got for me last month.  I have been shooting photos of food and family and boy, is it a big learning curve or what?  I had to open the obligatory flicker account to be able to get critiques and tips from fellow photographers who have had so much more experience and expertise in these matters.  Won’t you visit it too and give me your feedback?

In this year of presumed apocalypse, here’s to new beginnings, heartfelt rants and some good food, photographs and regular blog posts not to mention all the humbug that goes with it.

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