Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Final Countdown

As some of you have guessed and most of you now know, today is this blogs 4th anniversary. However, the countdown was for a different reason, so read on.

Why did I ever start blogging? When I was in India (2004), I was introduced to blogging by
Abhi and Alap. I did find it weird at first. What do I have to write? My life is not even remotely interesting and I am hardly opinionated. I thought I would use this blog as an online journal. A repository for random thoughts, events, stories and reflections, right down to answering the question - Why Me?. Perhaps some memories or not so interesting news and musings. I thought my grandkids would read this and think I was such a rockstar. But with time as this blog evolved, I realized there was more to it. I was confident some chick will read this, think I was so cool (What? I can cook and I can iron clothes - isn't that what every woman looks for in a man?) and go "Marry me!" Jokes apart, there was a difference between writing a blog and scribbling in that pink heart shaped diary everyone has (come on! I know you have one of those).

I realized a blog could be the outlet to my different interests. My ability to play with
words, explore different areas and invent new recipes. And looking back, I have four years of documented "Apoorva's Life". Right from the hotties I stalked, the salmon kebabs to being chased by monkeys.

But above all this, I have come to know some amazing people. Some like and some not-so-like minded people. People from different countries and people from different professions. Doctors and artists to research scientists and photographers. Some I know superficially and some have turned out to be really good friends. And this by far has been the most rewarding part of blogging. Every post feels like an event I am hosting where everyone stops by. Some stay around for a while and interact. Some peek by (and leave with the free beer). And I, play the humble host!

However, have you heard of that person who hosts a party just because people expect him to do so. That he no longer enjoys it the way he used to, but hosts it. When I started blogging, I started slow and as it grew on me, I blogged more frequently. I loved it. I was blogging almost every other day. Then it became a weekly affair. Perhaps it was blogger's block which set in. Perhaps I just got wary of my surroundings and it limited my creativity, or my freedom of speech (text?). But I never got over it. I should have stopped long time ago. Long, long time ago. But I dragged on and almost made this blog look a ghost town. If you visit a blog few times and are greeted by the same post, you know its almost dead.

Yes, I should have stopped long time ago. And what I should have done then, I would rather do it now! Its time to shut this part of my life and start another that I have been contemplating since many months!

However, this is certainly not the end of our interaction. Well, at least I speak for those who have a blog (or have me on facebook). I will be visiting your blogs and many of you know that I do respond to emails or posts on my 'Wall' faster than I answer my phone! And why do I feel I will reappear someday on the blogosphere. Perhaps back here, or perhaps somewhere else.

I was talking to a friend few hours ago and something hilarious came up. I was almost about to say, "You know I am going to blog this!" and stopped myself short.

This might take time getting used to.

And before I leave, I know everyone is looking at me for those departing words of wisdom. Most of us spend our life thinking of doing many a thing, but never get around to doing it. We blame it on time, and our ever packed schedules and working at jobs which majority of us are not in love with. Remember life by what you did and not by what you wanted to do. The right moment to do what you always wanted to do, is NOW! And stop caring what the world thinks!

So looking back, did I achieve any of my primary objectives? Will my grandkids think I was a rockstar? Forget my grandkids, my Dad reads my blog and has decided to disown me! And as for that hot chick who was supposed to stop by my blog and say, "Marry Me!", all I can say is she is very lucky! She has not yet missed out on her chance to do so!

See you around!

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How do you celebrate your blog's fourth anniversary?

Any suggestions? If I like your idea, I'll send you a little anniversary gift! You have 24 hours to reply.

.... Happy Birthday Joshienizer!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

To A Different Beat...

If there is anything which comes close to a personal high, then this might be it.
*Warning - rather long post ahead*

"So you guys ready for football?", I asked, as some 15 faces stared at me, most of them confused.

When a colleague asked if I knew how to play soccer and was willing to coach a soccer team, I jumped at the opportunity. The challenge being it was a Special Olympics team. 15 athletes, girls and boys, mentally challenged to some capacity. Quite a challenge I thought. But it did make me nervous. How was I supposed to interact with them? I started doing the groundwork. Reading up on how to interact with these athletes. Took the required tests that a coach is required to take and here I was, July, Day 1, in front of 15 individuals who might have never seen an Indian guy, asking them if they were ready for football.

I was greeted with complete silence.

"Is that a yes, or a no?", I asked, deep down wondering if I was doing it right.

And then one voice out of the crowd says, "We are here for soccer!"

In the United States of America, its soccer! And soccer is what has consumed a good part of my life for the last three months. To say this experience has been out of the world would be an understatement. It has thrown out its challenges but at the same time its made me interact with the human mind on a completely different level.

The first day I was in a dilemma on how I would mix in with these athletes. Very soon I realized you interact with them just like you would interact with any person on a day-to-day basis. Just one rule - for every word of criticism, have five words of encouragement. It might take them a little longer to react and perhaps a little longer to understand, but they do get it. In the end, they do execute plans to perfection. As is normal with anyone who starts playing soccer, the aim is to shoot a goal. And thats what everyone was trying for on the team. So you had 10 atheletes run after the ball and shoot a goal. It was like a herd, all moving together, sometimes tripping each other in an effort to get to the ball.

Yes, it did take time to make them understand what is defence. It did take time to make them understand offense. But in the end, they did get it! It did take time to make them understand the importance of passing. To spread out in the field. To tackle. To take corners. Throw-in's. It did take time to make them understand, no matter who shoots the goal, the team wins! And it took many words of encouragement for them to brave the heat and the cold for 45 minutes. But in the end, they did it all.

By the end of September, passing was more important than scoring a goal. Defense was at par with offense. And it didnt matter which position you play. It didnt matter who scored the goal. The team won. Passing became more important than scoring and defense became the powerhouse on which the offense built their game.

Last week of September, we headed for the regional play-off's. We lost our first game 3-1. I could see some disappointed faces. But that was the warm-up cum wake-up call we needed. What followed was a complete decimation of the opponents. With scores ranging from 1-0 all the way to 5-1. The regional tournament being a league, rather than play-off's, we ended up taking silver (the first team which beat us ended up with on same points). But that put us on way to state level which was played this weekend (10/11 Oct.) at Detroit.

There were 4 teams from my area and we rented a bus and some 60 of us drove down to Detroit. It was one fun trip. We had games on Friday followed by dinner and a dance after which we turned Best Western upside down. This was followed by games on Saturday. Like I said, after that first match loss at regional, we were a team transformed. What followed after that loss was an unbeaten run all the way to the final. And the final had all the drama one could ask for. We trailed 0-1 at half-time. A rebound off our goalie went straight to one of the opposite team's forwards and it was an easy shot into the goal. Half-way through the second half, DN took a shot from mid-field and it sailed into the right corner of the goal. 1-1. What followed was a penalty shoot-out which we comprehensively won. And we were very proud to show off our Gold medal!!

Hall of Fame moment:

- The goalie was a girl (ER). Some people were concerned about this, but I felt she was the best goalie I had ever come across and I was adamant that she be goalie. Once she walked up to me and expressed a desire to play forward. We let her play forward and she shot a goal. She loved it, but she came back as goalie coz she knew this is where the team required her. "If you stop a goal, I say you have scored one", is what I said to her and she just smiled. When the finals went to a penalty shoot-out, she came up to and said, "I hate shoot-outs". "This is where you get to be the hero", I said, "Dont let even one past you!" And thats exactly what she did. She put her body behind the ball, she dived, she took a ball on her face. She cramped a thigh muscle but she didnt let a single ball through. We didn't even have to go five kicks a side. When she blocked the fourth kick, we were up 2-0. And I ran and gave her this huge bear hug. And she hugged me back and said, "I still hate shoot-outs, coach!" There was one guy on my team who shot close to 10 goals in the tournament. But ER was my hero (heroine)!

Hilarious/lovable moments:

- EC was a cookie/brownie monster. He was playing for the junior team (I was not his coach), but I used to interact with him quite a lot. I was walking to the players area when I saw him returning from a game (which the team had won). He had just eaten a brownie on the way and his lips were all smeared with chocolate. He saw me and made a mad dash, shouting, "We won, I shot a gooooooooal" and hugged me, his face going smack onto my shoulder. Rest of the day, I was walking around wearing a shirt with chocolate colored lip marks on its shoulder.

- During practice, we had our back-up goalie (EV) in the nets. Someone took a shot which went over his head. EV walks up to me and says, "Not fair. No goal. It went over my head." "But EV, thats allowed. You have to stop it", I said. "No!! No over my head! No GOAL" and he stomped off.

- During a match I had EV as goalie and the other team had to take a corner. They had no idea how to take a corner. EV walks up with an athlete of the opposite team to the corner, places the ball on the corner, waits with the other team athlete till the opposite team players show up on our side of the field. Then he talks to the other athlete telling him how to kick the ball. All this while I am going crazy on the other side of the field, shouting, "EV!!! Get back in the goal! You are the goalie. If she kicks the ball, we dont have a goalie!! Get back, get back..." All the spectators are rolling in laughter.

- I sent EV in as sub during the final. "You are playing defence and you mark # 10. Dont let him past you. Bring him down" EV is a 5'2" little fella. #10 from the opposite team was a 6'1", 220 lb Afro-American. EV follows #10 like a hawk. And swoops in when #10 gets the ball. First, he goes for the ball, misses it. Realizes the ball is out of reach and #10 is getting away. So he takes one big swing at #10's feet. Hits. #10 limps for a second, but still has the ball. EV head-butt's #10's stomach and sends #10 rolling over. Ref calls foul. EV looks at me, fist up in the air. "Coach, I brought him down"

- AX was the most hilarious guy around. Everytime you look at him, he would smile. He could eat anytime of the day. He got along very well with me, and was this totally lovable guy with an amazing sense of humor. His passion was dancing. During the regionals I caught him
on video just dancing by himself. As we went to state, I asked him if he could teach me to dance. "I suck at dancing AX. All girls run away when they watch me dance.", I said. "Oh, cute", was his reply. At the Friday night dance, he decided to give me some tips during 'Who let the dogs out'. I have him on video over here.

- During the regionals, some cute teenage (17-19) university girls came around for some campaign they were working on. AX did an Elvis imitation and got them totally hooked. After sometime he walks up to them and says, "I turn 30 this Saturday. You are all welcome to my house for an all night party"

The Moment Of Truth:

Its Friday night and all the special olympics athletes were dancing. It must be a few 100 of them, dancing away. The DJ turns on some slow music (Unchained Melody) and most athletes are dancing with their mom, or dad. DN (who had a habit of saying coach after every second word) walks up to me.

DN: Coach, you should dance coach!
ME: Nah DN, I am good.
DN: Ask some girl to dance coach.
ME: No DN, I am good.
DN: You like a girl coach? This is where you ask her to dance!
ME: I cant! My wife would not like it.
DN: You have a wife?
ME: Two!
DN: Two?
ME: One in NY, one in India.
DN: Cool! (walks away with a huge smile on his face)

I used to do my little bit - organizing an "adopt a family" over Xmas at work, volunteering to hand out food to the homeless during thanksgiving etc. However, it left some quentions lingering. This was a completely different experience. It kept me mentally stimulated (very important for someone like me), and I got an understanding of how the human mind works on different levels. It taught me to lead, to follow and in the end, just enjoy and not bother what happens. Its taught me never to give up. When we trailed 0-1, none of the players gave up. We just kept going at it. Its made me apprecite life much more and once again ask myself why we run this rat race in our everyday life when in the end everyone goes back to mother earth. Its made me appreciate people who work in many a thankless jobs/professions.

Some of the kids stutter, and stutter so much that it might take them a good 20 secs. to say "Hello, how are you?" Can you imagine the patience level when you have to work with them everyday? DN, the lead scorer on my team had the biggest mood swings. Half-way through a match, he decides he does not want to play because he has to conserve his enery for another sport which is a month from now. How do you convince him in the middle of the game? Can you imagine saying something and then repeating couple of times just so the other person understands it? Can you imagine doing this everyday of your life?

Finally, what do we do in our everyday life to make a better community? Sometimes, you need to live a different beat.

... 3 days to go!

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Women And Malaria

Was talking with a friend and the topic of her matrimonial search came up. More so, the topic of a particular boy passed on by her parents came up, on which she commented, "He is too hairy"

"Hairy? I dont get you women! Its a problem if he has no hair and now its a problem if he is hairy. Did you know more money is being spent in a cure for hair loss over a cure for malaria? And its because of you women! I mean, how many times have you seen a chick go - I dig your bald spot? I tell ya, malaria exists because of you women!", was my rant. And I was confident that I had cracked the puzzle to why malaria was not yet eradicated.

That... till I wondered how many $$ are spent on silicone implants and botox?

So howz this as a deal? Men stop admiring "well endowed" women and women start admiring bald guys? And together, we can eradicate malaria?

P.S. - No points for guessing I am once again thinking of trying out the bald look!

....6 days to go!

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Skydiving - Check

Thinking - I seriously hope this guy on my back is not gay!

Did I feel something poking my ass?

Probably not. Perhaps somersaulting at 10000 ft. should be of higher concern than any poking. Is this even supposed to happen? The world sure seems weird upside down!

Need some orientation... time to get out the drogue (and breathe)

OK, this feels brilliant! I am gonna have spiked hair when I land!

Time to pull the cord. The canopy opened. God loves me!

Ok, so it was a crash land. There are times when having a huge soft padded butt could be an advantage!

Yes, I am DA MAN!

I think everyone should do this once. The 40 second free-fall is absolutely amazing and when you glide underneath your parachute, the world looks surreal! For two weeks, I have been trying to dive and for some reason the weather Gods were against me. Too many clouds. And this weekend was supposed to be no different. We spent Saturday night dancing at a friends wedding all the way to 3 AM and then I get a call at 8 AM asking me to look out of the window. Nice sunny day and not a cloud in the sky. And so we were off for skydiving. I kept yawning as I got into the jumpsuit. I kept yawning as the plane gained altitude. And I think I yawned during the free-fall. The instructor was rather amused at how I was all zonked and not jittery in any way. He actually checked to make sure I was not drunk!

I have a video of the entire free-fall, but am too lazy to rip the DVD. So meantime, you guys can enjoy this little preview of the build-up which a friend shot with my cam. And if I ever get around to it, I'll update this post with the freefall video.

Till then, I think you should skydive. At least once. On a cold Michigan Fall day. And have the wind cut through your skin. Its mind-numbing!

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

How To Lose Your Friends And Alienate Yourself

Its Friday night. Well, effectively, Saturday morning. And the temperature on the east of Lake Michigan has dropped to a good 39 F. With the sudden chill thats spread over, RC and I decide to make this a Blockbuster night. FYI - Blockbuster night means renting DVD's from Blockbuster!

Now RC has never seen Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. And ages ago I had mentioned how I happened to find this movie so.... different! Well, different in a nice way. So despite many a protest, RC decides to rent Eternal Sunshine.

So there we are, sitting in front of the TV, munching pop-corn and watching the movie. I have made several attempts to sneak away and log onto the computer but RC insists I should keep her company. "If you so highly recommend a movie, you should watch it as well", are the the exact words.

Its an hour into the movie and I am so totally out of my mind. I love this movie, but tonite is so not an eternal sunshine night. Its more like an Incredible Hulk night (speaking of which, I was thinking of a remake of the Incredible Hulk which would star yours truly and would be called the Incredible HUNK. The first person I bounced this idea off almost died of laughter and hence I changed plans. But now I think it might make a good comedy. Anyways, I digress). Now those of you who might have seen the movie would know the Korgis -
Everybody's Gotta Learn sometime is part of the soundtrack. And those who know me, know that I cant sing to save my soul.

As Kate Winslet walks onto the screen.

Me: (singing) Change your heaaaaaart, Look arounddddd you...
(I get a stare from RC, who has probably heard me sing for the first time)

Me: (singing) Change your heaaaaaart, it will astoooooound you

RC: OK, stop!

Me: (singing) I neeeeed your lovingggggg....

RC: I missed out on what they were saying. Shut up or I am going to beat you up! (waves remote at me)

Me: (sings) Like the sunshiiiiiiine
-whack- -whack- -whack-

Me: Oh yeah! I like that! Hit me more!

RC: (rolls eyes and goes back to watching the movie)

Me: (sings) Like the sunshine....

RC: Why dont you surf the net?

What can I say? Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes!!

The world is against me. I was typing this post at 1 AM and the net went off. I had no option but to return to Eternal Sunshine....

... 10 days to go!

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bull By Its Balls

Current sentiment on Wall St.

My buddy Sharma reflecting on the Dow Jones 777 drop!

The Bull is being kicked on its balls!

What I was not aware of was how the traffic to my blog flows when the Dow Jones fluctuates. On a normal day, my blog will get anywhere between 50-60 hits (yes, no one reads my blog). However, when the DOW goes crazy, everyone runs to my blog. As you can see, the day the Dow dropped, # of visitors to my blog jumped 10 times, and the next day, it jumped by 20 times.

So when the Dow drops, all of Wall St. turns to my blog!

...12 days to go!

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