Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Shakal-e-kitaab or Facebook, as it is more popularly known, is a $15 billion worth phenomena that has swept the social networking world. I think million new applications are made everyday (exaggeration…duh!!). Although these applications can be annoying but the site is still very addictive as it keep updating you about your friends. So, now I know if R is shopping for shoes (ha ha!!) or M is perked up coz the payday is coming soon (lol) or G is craving Greek food (wink) or Ri is wishing everyone a happy Halloween. Oh that reminds me Happy Halloween to everyone from my side too.

Last week Facebook showed me the real power of social networking. As many of you know that my Dad was in the Army, so I have traveled a lot and changed 11 schools till my 12th grade (blah blah blah). There are some obvious perks of an Army lifestyle, you get to travel to many exotic places that you would never visit otherwise, Army canteen has always been great for buying goods at sometimes half the price than retail, making new friends all over the country and meeting people from different backgrounds. There is one big disadvantage to this lifestyle though, forgetting friends as you move from one place to another. I have lost touch with almost all my school friends because of this wandering. I have made lots of friends over the years but there were two that stood out, Sree and Anuj.

We were living in Meerut, the city known for its Hindu-Muslim riots, and my Dad had decided to put me in Kendriya Vidhyala School from St. Mary’s Academy as the former was an Army based school and made it easier for us to move in case of sudden posting in between school years. It was my first day at school in 8th grade. I was a very shy kid in those days (still am **sharmaying**) and was eating my lunch alone in the class.

“Hi, my name is Prashant and this is Anuj. What’s your name?”

“Ricky **eating aloo ka paratha that Mom had made in morning**”

“This is your first day at school, right?”


“Which school did you come from?”

“St. Mary’s Academy”

“Oh!! What percentage did you passed your 7th grade with?”


“Want to be friends?”


This was a start to one of the best friendships of my school life. They both were the smartest kids in class, trying to outdo each other to come first. Sree was a South Indian genius with varied interests. He would make helicopters by carving wood, knit his own sweater for winters and come to school on his grandfather’s antique bike. Anuj was a very typical UP ka ladka, very conservative but very smart. Sree used to live in Army Cantonment area, while Anuj lived in old part of the city called Begum Bridge. We would often hang out at Sree’s place as Army Cantonment areas are usually nicer than rest of the city. We would play cricket, study together and goof around, all day long. Sree’s Mom used to make some of the yummiest Rasam with rice and Idlis, that we would end up eating after a game of cricket in the nearby maidan. This was my daily routine for the next 2 years until it was time to move on.

We moved to Dehradoon, while Prashant moved to Chennai and Anuj stayed in Meerut. I kept in touch with Anuj by snail mail but over time the mails stopped coming. I made new friends, moved from one place to another, settled in Canada but could not forget our friendship. Infact, the only sole picture of us three during Prashant’s birthday is etched in my head like a Mohenjodaro carving on stone.

Few years back, I was searching for someone on yahoo and instinctively searched for Sree. I got one hit with the same name; I emailed him and got a reply after a week, saying that he was the same Sree from Meerut. I replied him again but never got the reply back, so assumed that someone was playing a prank. Last week, I decided to try my luck in Facebook and again got one person with exactly same name. I left a message and got a reply after 2 days that he was the same Sree. But this time I was sure he is the right guy because my name in Facebook is Ricky but he replied me by my non-nickname. I got another message from him today, telling me where he is, what he is been up to and remembering old times. Unfortunately, even he has lost contact with Anuj.

This may seem like a small thing for most of the people reading this mail but for me it is a big thing. All my friends on Facebook have friends from school except me and I would always wonder what Sree and Anuj would be doing at this stage of their lives. Thanks to Facebook, now I know about atleast one of them…

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Trip to Remember (continues...)

Next day we got up early…errr…at 9:00 am that is. Got ready and headed towards the town as we were hungry for breakfast. On the way we saw these trolleys going on top of the mountain and the sight was straight out of some James Bond movie. As we had already made plans to bike on the trails, we decided to go to the trolleys next time. But first we went to McDonald’s for our breakfast as we didn’t want to spend too much on food and we both are fan of McDonalad's breakfast.

View from the McDonald’s

We then rushed to check out the bikes for our biking hikes but were disappointed to found that all the cheap bikes were gone and the one that were available were costing a fortune. We decided to go to the Information Centre to find out other things to do apart from biking. The first thing that caught my attention was the pamphlet for Gondola Ride, the same trolleys we saw in the morning. We asked about it at the information desk and were surprised to know that the rides were almost same price as the bike rides. We still decided to ask about bike trails and were told by a very French lady that there are not many as most hikes are accessible by foot only.

Our mind was already made and we headed straight to the bus stop towards the Gondola ride. On the way to the ride we remembered our “trolley” incident back in India. I was in 4th grade then and brother was in KG. We were stationed in Panchkula, a small suburb of Chandigarh. It was home to very famous Timber trail trolley. Our cousins were visiting us and we all decided to go. We reached there and we (me and my brother) developed cold feet. Actually, my brother always used to do what I would do, so its fair to say that I developed cold feet and we decided not to go on the trolley. Our cousins tried all there tactics to persuade us but to no avail. Finally, they decided to go without us, while we played on the swings.

Gondola Ride to Sulphur Mountain

As we reached near the Gondola ride, I noticed there were no swings and so there was no escape this time around (lol). The height of the mountain looked daunting but we believed in the Swiss technology and went for the ride. The ticket checker was a very friendly guy and asked where we were from. Disappointment came on his face, when we said Edmonton because he was thinking we will say something exotic like India. The trolley was for four people but if no two people were available immediately, they were letting two people go together too. When our turn came, we were seated with an American couple. As the trolley started to move upwards, my stomach started to churn and the American lady facing us said “I am so afraid of heights”. My brother joked, “So, you mean we can’t dance during the ride”. We all had a nice laugh about it on the way but as we were going up, the view became out of this world. All we could do was admire the creation of God with winding river, snow laden mountains, pine trees below us and the clear sky with few specks of clouds. We didn’t even notice when the 8 minutes passed and we were 7000 feet above the sea surface.

View from the trolley. The building from the top is the same Fairmont's Hotel that we clicked the night before.

After we reached the top, there was a long hike to the uppermost part of the mountain. The view was amazing as we could see Rockies from 360 degrees and the topography of the place was something that cannot be described in man-created words. The hike was good with few slippery steps because of the ice. On top of the mountain there was a room which was preserved as it is since the 1960s. It was the room that was used by a Geologist who trekked the mountain alone more than 1000 times to record his data. Peeking inside the closed door was fascinating with things preserved from that era including canned food, bed sheets, his letter, pencils, log files and logs to keep him warm. The only sour point was outside the room where people had scribbled their names and professed their love. Guess what was most prominent name, “Rahul love Nisha”. Give Indian people a historical monument and they will not lose a moment to express their love by ruining it. I should have taken its picture but was too disgusted by some Rahul who am sure came alone and wrote name of his imaginary girlfriend Nisha.

Banff from top of the mountain

It was time to head back as it was getting late but I kept on clicking pictures all around the Rockies so as not to lose this beautiful moment. We went to the restaurant near the trolley and had a nice meal before going down and acting goofy on the way, as this time we both got the trolley to ourselves. We still had 3 hours to pass the time before heading back and so decided to go hiking near Bow River. The hike was beautiful to say the least except that me and my brother had a nice fall on one of the trails. Although, it was worth it because we hiked to a very secluded area near the river and sat right above the river admiring the beauty of the place. The most beautiful moment was when we saw a newly married couple taking their picture with the Rockies as the background. Alas, it was time to go back. We reached our place and left almost immediately, leaving behind the Rockies. It sounds like a cliché but it was indeed a trip to remember for us. We cannot wait for summer to arrive and go back to Rockies, this time for camping. Anyone interested?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Trip to Remember...

We had been planning this trip for a while, so when we came to know that one of our friends was going to a conference to Banff, me and my brother decided to tag along. It was a short one night trip as we had to come by Sunday and do seva at local mandir. I changed my Friday shift from evening to morning and left work at 1ish. My brother and couple of friends were waiting for me and we decided to go as soon as I came out of the train station. The road journey was pretty typical with a stopover at Tim Hortons (Canadian equivalent of Starbucks but only cheaper) for coffee in between.

It’s amazing how the geography of the land changes as soon as one arrives near Rockies. The first indication that Rockies were around the corner came when we saw cars coming form the other side with snow on their bonnet. Suddenly the Rockies came to the view from nowhere. Beautiful snow had covered parts of Rockies like a white sheet trying to cover the harshness of the mountains with softness of the snow. We were all enjoying the beauty of the place and in no time we were in the beautiful town of Banff. We checked into the hotel and our friends freshened up and went to their conference.

Me and my brother decided to go out, check out the town for the evening and have a nice meal somewhere. On the way to the town we clicked some amazing pictures but the night was setting in and the picture quality was not coming out that great. The first thing we noticed outside our hotel was a deer lazily grazing without a care in the world. Ah, we were in God's own country.

The Banff market was under renovation but even then it was buzzing with people. It reminded me very much of Indian hill stations like Mussorie, which are always buzzing with tourists. We checked out some bike places and decided to go biking the next day. Surprisingly, we were spell-bound by the the mall in the middle of the town. The Mall was the most unique we had seen ever. It looked more like an Opera house with wonderful architecture and sculptures of real life skiers all around it.

After going through most of the market we decided to have our dinner at a Thai Restaurant, Thai Grill.

The ambiance of the place was beautiful and serene with sculptures of Buddha all around and an exotic bright orange color for the wall. Brother decided to order Pad Thai, while I picked on an exotic pineapple rice dish and exotic it was.

Loved the dinner except that one of the small chilly stuck in my throat and almost choked me. Yea yea, I have become that typical NRI, who speaks like “kitne mirchi hain isme, kaise khata hain tum log”…lol.

We ended the night by trekking back to the hotel but on the way saw one of the most amazing sights of the famous Fairmont Springs Hotel, which is an amazing, gigantic hotel in the midst of jungle over the Bow river and is very Switzerlandish. The sight of the hotel in the night was a sight to behold; we actually had to stop at the corner side to admire the surreal beauty of the place. We could not wait for the adventures of the next day to begin.

(to be contd.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Will you marry me…errr…again??

My Chachu is the most romantic person that I have ever met. I don’t remember the days when he married my Chachi but kisse of those days still lingers in our family talks. They had an arranged marriage but my Chachu being the guy he is/was decided that he would not marry the girl without knowing more about her (apart from looking at the picture taken at some photo studio). So, he did what most girls will consider creepy…lol. My Chachi was the punjaban from Jalandhar and Chachu was UP ke bhaiye-types. So, he told his parents that he is going on a trip for work. Instead, he took his best buddy to Jalandhar and they both would stand behind the tree near Chachi’s house and watch her. There are some unconfirmed reports that he met Chachi in that trip but Chachi have never confirmed the reports and calls it the figment of Chachu’s imagination…lol. Anyways, to cut the long story short, he married my beautiful Chachi but made sure my grandparents never came to know about the trip.

Few days back I was talking to Chachi and we were remembering those joint family days. My Dad being in Army was away in Kashmir and so we lived in a joint family with cousins, uncles, grandparents. Those were fun days as we had so many cousins to play with all the time. I asked Chachi, what she remembered about me (narcissist me) when she got married. She told me how when she got married and made lunch for the first time, she asked me, “Ricky, how is the food?” and I said, “Aap toh itni choti choti rotiyan banate ho, mere mummy toh itne bade bade banate hain” (You make such small small rotis while my Mom makes big big rotis). I was surprised that she never forgot my review of her first roti in our house. I think one reason I could have said that was because I was very close to Chachu and suddenly with Chachi around all his attention diverted towards her. He used to smuggle her every night while we would be playing, to go to movies, restaurants, shopping etc etc. Anyways, with time I became very close to Chachi too esp. after Chachu moved to US. After 6 years of struggle, he moved Chachi and cousins to US but by then Chachi had become my confidant.

This is the 25th year of my Chachu-Chachi’s anniversary and to celebrate the day, my Chachu decided to re-marry my Chachi, once again. So, all our close relatives (incl. my Pa) in US, India came to US last week. It was an elaborate marriage with 7 days of function, right from Mehndi night to Baarat to Doli, all the functions that they couldn’t enjoy the first time because either it was their first marriage…duh or we couldn’t afford at that time as a middle class family. Mom couldn’t come because she recently had an operation and me and my brother couldn’t join either because of some visa issues. I am now waiting for Chachi to come to Canada and cook some parathas for me and believe me, this time my review will be errrr…the same as she still makes chote chote parathe compared to Mom’s wade wade aloo de parathe…lol

Here’s wishing the couple many such marriages to come with themselves as dulha dulhan of course.

P.S: Recently, when I joked with Chachu about why he is re-marrying he said, “Ab tum bacche toh kuch kar nahin rahee, toh mujhe laga main hee shuravat kar doon phirse”…lol