Over the years, One World Trade Center or the Freedom Tower has become what you see below. We have seen it evolve while witnessing our own evolution. And last weekend, we visited One World Observatory at One World Trade Center.
Over the years, One World Trade Center or the Freedom Tower has become what you see below. We have seen it evolve while witnessing our own evolution. And last weekend, we visited One World Observatory at One World Trade Center.
Though I didn’t win the challenge, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I thank everyone who voted for me. Much appreciated. Attaching my longlisted entry below for a quick read. Thanks.
I am one of the several longlisted to win a very short fiction challenge. Please read and vote.
Since there’s only one URL for all the stories, you’ll have to travel some nonfiction distance.
I was in Starbucks in Town Square, a two-minute walk from my apartment. The coffee store is not spacious, and is part of a high-rise building, sitting on the first level in a corner by the Hudson River. It has a restroom that remains open to all, although the Restroom only for Customers marker on the door is missing.
This coffeehouse has long remained my first stop to drink any espresso. My favorite spot inside is a corner at the far end of the store.
After the barista, Stacey, filled my tumbler with blonde roast, I walked a few steps before peeking to my right to see if the brown chair and table at the far corner was occupied. It wasn’t.
When I sat there, the restroom was to my left. People walked toward me before turning around to wait in line if the restroom was occupied. The bottom half of the wall lining the length of the passage was wooded, matching the brown hue of chairs and tables; the top half was an off-white coat suggesting completeness; the ceiling – an unadorned stretch of pipes and cables – infused rawness. Next to the restroom was the Employees Only room, where stocks of beans, muffins, croissants, cheese Danish lay fresh on iron shelves; although the room remained locked, employees accessed it also to change when their shift was over.
The more professional they looked, wearing green over black with a Starbucks cap crowning their pride, the more casual they were, sashaying around when it was time to head home. Employees – young or old – mostly wore ganjis and shorts after the completion of their shift in the dying weeks of summer. I remember a girl who had a language makeover, too: at work, she’d welcome everyone with a smiley “Hello” – post which, a cheerful “FO Dude” when a co-worker teased her.
To my right was a big stained window, framing not only downtown Manhattan but part of the Hudson River, where rich people had docked their yachts.
The blonde roast tasted more pungent. The rays of the setting sun outside were almost dead in their reflections off the mast of a three-level luxury yacht, docked very close to the window. The river ripples, serenely pallid under dock lights, moved in the direction of the sun, which, now devoid of its rays, looked a tint of orange.
Glancing at the bottom of the yacht, I saw a head pop out of the first level. He was a yacht cleaner in a white V-neck and yellow pajamas, with a piece of cloth in each hand. He replaced the pieces of cloth with a muffin in his left and coffee in his right hand. His Starbucks cup startled me. I wondered as to when he’d visited the store: it would’ve taken him ten minutes of a U-turn walk from where he was. But if I could open the window that Hurricane Sandy couldn’t break, he’d be in the store in ten seconds. He shifted his half-eaten muffin to his right hand, holding it along with his coffee, leaving his left hand to wave at me.
He appeared to be in some discomfort, jumping up and down. Then, gripping the US flagpole that was tied to a railing, he looked stiff in an army posture, as though ready to negate a drone attack. I cursed the insensitive yacht owner who’d probably locked the restroom in the yacht. How could a poor soul disobey nature’s call?
I was helpless, but soon he wasn’t. His face glowed under the orange sky. His smile appeared to grow into muffled laughter; he blew me a kiss – which I rejected – and when he blew me another, I thought that was enough. But when I watched him closely through the developing blurriness of my contact lens, I learned that his gaze, its line of sight, was angled a few inches away from me, in fact over my head to a target perhaps to my left. Just then Stevie Wonder crooned I Believe on the jukebox. As I turned to my left, I saw Stacey standing right outside the stockroom, blowing kisses back, which again went over my head.
She smirked at me, indicating that I’d made a fool of myself. I stared at my computer before closing my eyes; the sound of her footsteps receding. She’d disappeared for him, and he was also not there, anymore.
I usually take stairs from our sixth-floor apartment to go down to the first. I like the walk – it’s healthy – what’s not is the smell of cigarette smoke in the stairwell.
Cigarette smoke might smell different outside as air nudges and splinters the thickness of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Since the smoke – be it thick or thin – is injurious, most public parks are now no-smoking zones. But, when you smoke in the wrap of a closed structure, the thick white stays, and can commute up and down through the stairwell.
No Smoking is written in faint red – on each floor – on the grainy walls of the stairwells in our high-rise building. Since the faint illegibility might be the excuse for smokers to take their drags, the building management taped a warning on the stairwell doors: It is not permitted to smoke in the stairwells.
There are four stairwell doors on each floor, and 36 floors.
Not permitted? Really?
Some culprits continued to smoke.
Nobody could catch these smokers red-handed for they didn’t know their smoking schedules. And it’s unfortunate, either way, that the odor lingers long after the smoker has stubbed the cigarette butt and left for his abode.
Why don’t they smoke in their abode?
They love their family to death.
Last month, the management issued another warning: It is ILLEGAL to smoke in the building.
ILLEGAL. In caps. A severe step. Two print outs for each door. Double the budget.
Illegal worked. YAY!
Smokers are people, after all. Soon, the smoking zone outside the building swelled. And, there was no smell in the vertical shaft of the building. For a fortnight.
This morning, a strong stench greeted me in the stairwell. The more penetrating the smell, the more probability that the smoker was in action. I slowed my steps down, each foot soft and investigative in its landing. I reached the first floor. At the other end of the corridor was an exit door. I saw him, his back facing me.
He had opened the exit door; his right foot partly out as a door blocker. A cigarette was burning between his fingers; a strong wind rushing the smoke in.
“Excuse me, sir, the stairwell is filled with your smoke,” I said.
He turned around, his big eyes; his foot unmoved. “But I’m smoking outside.” He was wearing a carmine t-shirt.
“The wind’s pushing the smoke in.”
“Not at all.”
“I live on the sixth floor – could smell it there, sir.”
He took a step out, still holding the door. The corridor continued to suck the smoke in. “I’m outside now.”
The last I glimpsed him, he had an awkward posture: right hand on the door, high-strung left fingers holding the cigarette, left foot tapping the concrete, t-shirt ballooning behind him.
The wind was harsh, but for all his hard work, he was still breaking the law.
There’s something about windows. In the words of Quentin Blake: You see, I don’t draw from life at all, but I do look out of my window a lot.
A window is alluring as it gives us a view. What we access through it may have varied overtones: a life away from life, the blossomings beyond our reach, frightening us as much, the high altitudes.
Some taboos thrived in our home in Delhi. Meeting male friends was fine if they didn’t belong to rogue families; females could be friends only from a distance. Our precious lives mirrored pensive sadness.
As a teenager in the mid-90s, I was a victim of my previous generation’s regressive outlook, which had shown no signs of letting up. Their puerile conduct bound and confined me such that my superficial layers had remained unpeeled, pushing me to maintain the status quo of my limited social interactions.
Then came the dial up connection and world wide web, which turned me inside out.
With an email account on Yahoo in the year 2001, it was easy to sign up on Yahoo messenger. Soon I was in several group chat rooms: abusing Pakistanis and Australians because their teams beat India in cricket matches, flirting with (hopefully) women from Bulgaria and Hungary because they pinged me first, becoming a Slovakian woman myself to excite equally curious chatters. A certain resurgence kept me going and I was everywhere, mitigating melancholy too. One deterrent was the eldritch sound the dial-up made in the middle of the night, waking up my parents in the other room. But they got used to it and which prevented my rebellious bubbles from bursting.
AOL had acquired Instant Messaging Client or ICQ, a simple program that made abusing or flirting user-friendly without pop-ups. My stint with MSN Messenger was brief, using it to fight with a friend who’d only used MSN.
As time passed, I was making friends from as far as Honolulu to as near with a random chatter in Delhi; the fiery virtual world made me poised and assertive; there was nothing to lose. I was meeting my friends in the real world, too, which didn’t appear rosy enough to have the pull of permanence. What then felt permanent were anonymity and ubiquitousness. I chose to leave my aggression for the evenings, post the howl of the dial up.
A friend suggested Orkut, a social networking site that was quietly replacing the few real rendezvous we had. The best of friends were thrilled to be connecting online, sharing their recent profile pictures, which eliminated the need to see one another frequently. The polished stillness of these pictures simply belied the truth of the moment, as what was captured in a flashy edited-version moment was a poor indicator of how a person would appear when in the real world. Instagram deepened this divide.
Skype, which Microsoft acquired for $8.5 billion, brought me closer to family and friends, especially after I’d moved to the US. But Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion and made sure I was addicted to it. I was on Twitter too, but unaware of how I’d publicize my views since everyone was tweeting. LinkedIn tempted me, but who cared about professional networking: if the quest for freedom from arrested development was the A of the alphabet, professional networking was Z — was a long psychological stretch.
Facebook changed everything, and after it bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in Feb 2014, we knew that the influence of social media was not disappearing any sooner.
I’ve been a member of a school WhatsApp group for two years. The friend who created it remained the admin for long before he – upon consensus or otherwise – democratized it by making every one of the 50+ members a group administrator. Most members are based out of India, the rest spread across the globe. Meetings among friends became rarer. Two guys (including the one who created the group) who were best friends had a financial tiff. One had allegedly owed the other close to half a million Indian rupees.
When their coffee didn’t brew in person, the lender brought up the matter of his roasted ground beans in group chat. He tried brewing it by way of naming and shaming the borrower and his family, not realizing that using profanity wouldn’t separate liquid coffee from the used grounds. The borrower – with not much as a convincing explanation in his defense to the group – was yet to roast his coffee beans.
Now since everyone was group admin, the two barista protagonists deleted each other, one after the other, and they could repeat this feat because they were being added instantly upon deletion by some friendly group members. Hurt not only by the naming and shaming but also by being deleted, the creator of the group, who’s also the alleged borrower removed everyone from the group before adding them (minus the lender) and becoming the sole group admin, like before.
Their coffee hadn’t brewed in person because the edited glory of their online presence had uncharacteristically replaced flesh and blood of their human presence. The lender’s trust of the borrower had died alongside the death of the humans’ valuing one another; the e-intimidation as opposed to a heart to heart talk became the norm. Nobody was surprised. Weren’t we waiting for this?
In contrast with how it was in the mid-90s when the hunt for freedom stocked up its shares on a single window, the year 2017 has forced open many windows without offering a wholesome view. These rusty and creaking windows are blinding us from any possibility to view, witness, and experience the real. Precious lives still mirror pensive sadness.
My Yelp/Google review points:
1) My wife and I had two tattoos each, done at Hoboken Body Art over the years. We loved the place.
2) Last week, she got her third tattoo, and yesterday, I was to get my third.
3) For our first four tattoos we’d paid $80 each. We had four free touch ups but never used them, saving HBA’s ink and artists’ time.
4) Last week, J – the new/head artist – looked at the design my wife had drawn: her mom and dad’s short signatures, a musical note on either end, and a heartbeat linking them. He said he’d charge $160. Which was double what we’d paid previously for more or less the same work. Also, we’d given him print outs for the design, making his job easier. He was clearly overcharging since my wife’s tattoo was 30% smaller (as requested by her) than originally planned.
5) He said, “I’m a very famous tattoo artist. You know me.” His eyes awash with pride as he let out a squeal of laughter. I smiled without a clue about who he was. I suggested that I too would get a tattoo and we’d pay $125 each ($250 in total). I even said that for my design I was willing to forgo the symbol on either end (like the musical notes my wife had) if the total was $250. He said his final price was $300 ($150 each), and it was clearly understood that if he was charging the extra $50 we both would get the same kind of work. (One tattoo = $160, both = $300; same work.) I was not keen, but my wife had made up her mind to get pricked. It was her birthday week.
6) So, last week, she got her tattoo done. We paid him $160. I told him that I’d get mine within two weeks. He said he’d charge me $140 referring to the $300 package. All was well.
7) On Saturday, I called HBA twice within a span of 5 minutes for a time with J at 12 pm the next day (yesterday/Sunday). Both times A – the front desk manager – confirmed the appointment.
8) When we arrived at HBA at sharp 12 pm yesterday, A said that J was running late due to a Light Rail commute issue and that we would have to wait for 30 minutes. Now, we have a toddler son who accompanies us and it gets difficult when there’s a waiting period. However, as suggested by A, we went out for a walk, grabbing some coffee at Bwe Kafe, and came back half hour later. But it was not before 1 pm that J arrived. No hint of apology from him.
9) J looked at my design and said he’d charge $160 since it had a symbol on either end of the heartbeat and parents’ short signatures. I reasoned that we’d agreed on a $300 package (not $250 where I was willing to forgo those) and that I was only getting what my wife had got. $150 each. Nothing extra.
10) J didn’t remember the discussion we had seven days prior. Since A was not party to the discussion he had no clue.
11) J didn’t give me a good vibe even the previous week, appearing slightly intoxicated. He was a cry baby who kept bragging about his skills. And yesterday, he was obnoxious, rude, and unprofessional. One, he came an hour late. He said “people have to wait even at doctor’s.” Two, he wanted $320 total. From $250 to $300 to $320.
12) Why weren’t we given the appointment for 1 pm? It turned out that A had tried to reach J on Saturday, but could get hold of him only Sunday morning. If A had informed us Sunday morning not to come before 1 pm, we wouldn’t have wasted an hour.
13) J was smoking indoors in front of our child. A Big No!
14) Forget about an apology, he was accusing us of being amateurs, unprofessional, and annoying. He said he’d come all the way from his house for us and that he was being insulted; that his each hour was worth $160, completely forgetting that all of us value time. My wife and I are professionals and we can’t wait for an hour at a tattoo shop. How are we amateurs, unprofessional, and annoying?
15) A apologized to us three times; he even tried to hand a $20 bill to J for his Uber expenses. Perhaps, J wanted those $20 from us after he’d made us wait? If he hadn’t taken Uber, he wouldn’t have been at the shop before 2 pm. Apparently, A didn’t want to lose us, but J, a greedy and self-centered blockhead, wouldn’t care.
16) It’s unfortunate that our relationship with HBA has ended. They should get rid of artists like J — I say this because HBA used to have professional, well-behaved artists.
17) Appointments should be honored — it’s between HBA and the artists. No apology from J was very discourteous.
18) Such a waste of our time, energy, and the $25 we Uber-paid for commuting from Newport in Jersey City. There are so many tattoo shops nearby, but we paid the price for our HBA loyalty.
19) Three of our friends had been to HBA upon our high recommendation. Not anymore.
Now: it wasn’t that we couldn’t have paid the extra $20. In fact, we were planning to tip him. What enraged us – how odious his behavior was: last week, a trailer; yesterday, a performance.
Establishing a good vibe between a tattoo artist and his customer is crucial. If there’s a lack of respect, a customer might not trust that his artist would do a good job. Imagine, a tattoo is permanent, and nobody wants to be scarred for life. We are required to sign a consent form before the procedure, making us legally vulnerable.
I went to bed thinking everything happened for the best, convincing my wife in the same breath that she need not worry about her tattoo.
Our child began his swimming lessons last month.
When he’s in the pool, he smiles and splashes water on other children, but when they reciprocate or retaliate, he gazes at me. (His eyebrows shrinking together = he’s complaining.) From the comforts of the lounge chair, I could only gesture him to focus on his lessons.
When he’s out of the pool, he’s shivering, his teeth chattering, legs struggling to move, feet unsure of the wet concrete.
Last week, as part of the drill, all the kids had to wait in line before they jumped in the water. But before he jumped, he said, “Up to my head,” while pointing his finger up and trembling enough to win his master’s empathy. His robust sound, rare in public, echoed off the arched glass ceiling, eliciting laughter.
“Up to your head?” his swim instructor retorted.
We knew he was not ready to put his head in the water yet.
After that session, when he was standing under a hot shower in the locker room, he stressed that I tell the instructor that he should always do, “Up to my head.”
Glancing at his face, I saw that the space between his eyebrows shrank, the shower sound muting us.
Pret A Manger has always impressed me with its offering of healthy, fresh, and seasonal food. I have frequented its shops in New York City and was aware that it had opened its first Jersey City location in Newport Center mall. So, when I received a mail from the Newport Center informing that the sandwich chain would not only open today but give away free breakfast/lunch, I was thrilled.
Barnstock brick-tile gives the brand a reclaimed finish
I wanted to make it to their 12 PM lunch giveaway, so had set a reminder for 11.45 am (I was in Starbucks working on a story). At 11.50 am, I was standing outside the shop, perhaps the 50th in line. Glancing behind me, I could see a big crowd. The line snaking down possibly all the way to the entrance of the mall. And since the entrance, which was beyond my view, was perhaps jammed with people queueing up for the freebie, the mall security devised a plan to move the crowd up to line in the opposite direction. This would ease the regular foot traffic entering and exiting the mall.
The clip here shows the constant movement of people as they line up for giveaways.
The prospect of eating a fresh bowl of salad and cold pressed juice kept me enthused. When my turn came, I picked Chicken and Avocado salad, and cold-pressed Watermelon juice.
Chargrilled chicken (antibiotic-free), avocado, grape tomatoes, lemon juice, mesclun, dried cranberries, and roasted walnut.
After consuming the delicious freshness, I did a digestion walk, ending up at the front of the chain again. The lunch giveaways had ended, but two friendly representatives were distributing free fruit cups. I picked a cup each of melon medley and grapes.
Summing up my love for Pret A Manger and its inauguration in Newport Center, I was not expecting to receive a voucher that another representative gave me for a free coffee or tea.
Such a beautiful day! Thank you, Pret A Manger.
Target, the retailer, announced that it would remove signage that has long communicated separate aisles for boys and girls. Boys’ aisle had toys and action figures; girls’ had dolls and costumes.
The reactions that came pouring in post the announcement were divided among the shoppers. Some complained that the removal of signage was preposterous. That boys and girls would always be boys and girls. I too thought the signage was necessary as it carried forward a long-held tradition, also saving shoppers their time. But, when some shoppers welcomed the announcement and I understood why they did, I scrapped my deep-seated rationale, appreciating Target’s move wholeheartedly.
The belief that boys can’t wear pink or girls can’t play with action figures is a fundamental mistake. If a boy wants to play with a Barbie doll or a girl wishes to imitate a superman figure, let them. Let us not decide what they should have or which aisle they must avoid. When we make these decisions, we apparently are limiting their evolving worldviews. What let-them-be will do is that when they grow up, they may be far more schooled about gender diversity and complexity.
If a girl loves action figures, her inclination to take up a sport or join the military in the future might be natural. Similarly, a boy’s fascination for dolls may, in later years, put him at ease when caring for a baby as a father. Being natural helps.
Sugared drink manufacturers will do anything to make consumers sip Coke, Pepsi and other sodas. They were covertly funding some scientists to come up with findings that a good exercise could offset a bad diet.
There hasn’t been a single evidence to prove that if we exercise every day, we can eat anything. When food enters our system, it causes metabolic and hormonal changes, and exercise can only do so much. Science says that the more sugar we consume the more pressure we put on the insulin to process it. Insulin will gradually lose its power and make way for diabetes and other diseases.
Isn’t this shocking enough that a can of sugared drink has 15-18 teaspoons of sugar?
People drink their coffees and teas without sugar, leading by example how much they value their health, only to then drink a can of sugared soda.
I can’t believe that I’ve been away from blogging for almost four months. It’s a long time and yet it’s not, as though a truck whooshed past in slow mo.
I sent a couple of stories out during those months. An online journal accepted a story. I was thrilled. They publish a new piece every Monday. So I waited to see my piece appear on their website. I was desperate to write a post here linking it to the piece. I waited.
Eight weeks passed and Mondays continued to be menacing. I considered writing to the editor to check on the date of publication, but feared that my email query might be perceived as impolite. But, when the story didn’t appear last Monday, I wrote to them and got a response within an hour, that my story would publish on May 23, 2016.
I rubbed my eyes, scratched my head, comforted myself thinking the month of May this year was still away.
No. We’re already in August and the year mentioned was 2016. Huh.
There was a note in the editor’s reply that though my story would certainly appear on their website, it might also be in print if chosen for their yearly anthology.
I wanted to send a mail seeking clarification on the bewildering year-long gap between the dates of acceptance and publication. But I stopped, and surfed their website. The contributors, whose stories have appeared, are published writers with some having been published in ten other journals. This journal – with categories like fiction, non fiction, academic, poetry, and multimedia – chooses one piece from among these categories every week. The last short story under fiction was published six weeks ago.
Math: 4 pieces per month multiplied by 12 is 48. Since their reading periods – when one can send the stories – are three months in the beginning and three months in the middle of a calendar year, they possibly accepted 45 stories for publication before they accepted mine. They claim that they receive hundreds of submissions every year.
Which means May 23, 2016 is rewarding; a truck whooshing past in slow mo is comforting.
My legs shivered. I feared that the glass would break.
But a note that was written on the wall in bold letters THIS GLASS FLOOR CAN WITHSTAND THE WEIGHT OF 14 LARGE HIPPOS redbulled my limbs. A dozen-plus hippos might not be heavy after all, and tragedy could happen – went the thought in my head. My moist palms.
It was sunny that morning, but Toronto trembled in the December chill. The observation deck of CN Tower with this straight down view could terrify even those without acrophobia. The glass floor was 1,122 feet above the ground.
I walked baby steps, but some children ran the length of the floor. I stepped on to a side, and squatted, placing my hand on the glass. My sweaty palm left cold trails on the glass.
You are safe: 256 square feet of solid glass – five times stronger than the standard required weight – should be the only thought in your head.
She’s quiet, but there’s a flow
of unvoiced thoughts, her glow
has warmth of color, they blend in,
like the bows after the rain.
She smells pure
like the dews of the morning grass
her presence, her lure
seen a gerber in a vase?
She smacks his forehead
might hurt — glad it’s a sign
that she trusts his word
as they toast Mumm Cordon.
But: like a gazelle, she’s ahead,
in a jungle, as the lion pursues
she finds a cave, is almost dead,
she sees that he sees her virtues.
In a world where happiness is rare,
where pretense is the new care
she loves as he lays bare
his truths, nothing more to share.
Refreshing is the breath of the spring,
when awash in the warmth of the sun,
their shadows are proportional, they grin,
their creating memories, moments of fun.
Now she isn’t quiet
her words sound right
she sees that he sees her,
gives him permission, her.
Clouds may gather, dusk may approach, people may whisper – the Empire stays true to its name.
For Day 4 of my B/W Photo Challenge, I show you the 360-degree views from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
Seeking happiness among the concrete?
I link Sabiscuit for this challenge. Sabiscuit is an impressive blog.
For Day 3 of my B/W Photo Challenge, I present to you the Yacht man. I captured these moments one evening from the living room of our apartment.
He was up on the mast, repairing the halyard. When I was clicking him I wondered: what he’d eaten for lunch, if he’d fought with his family that morning, and weirdly, if he’d added coke or soda to his vodka.
I figured by the end of it all that I had forgotten to eat lunch, fought with family in the morning and that, I would’ve added soda to my vodka.
I link Blewbird for this challenge. This blog has several breathtaking pictures.
I first met him in the fall of 1996 when he, in an ironed kurta-pajama, passed by me, and whooshed the door open to his small office. I was lazing at my desk, waiting for the Director, who I’d been hired to assist. The morning was overcast and light barely filtered through the window at the entrance, but the pure white of his cotton made the day appear brighter. I was young, and it was my first job.
It took a few months before the Director recommended that I work for Kailash Satyarthi – the Chairperson of Bachpan Bachao Andolan/Save The Childhood Movement (BBA) – whom we fondly call “Bhaisahab.”
His costume though it was bright, had an air of intimidation, because we’d witnessed all our lives in India, the white-adorned politicians who would often vanish after they’d won the elections, not delivering on their promises. Though I knew Mr. Satyarthi wasn’t a politician, I’d still braved through, with raised brows and wet palms, the jitteriness of my first formal meeting with him. When a 6-foot man, bespectacled, with black beard and hair neatly parted and slicked to the side, breezed into the room and glanced at me, I stood up, holding out my hand when he did his, to shake, and poor man, he had to wipe his hand with a kerchief, as he advised, “You don’t have to worry at all.”
The softness of his voice belied his domineering posture, and the nicety of his demeanor made it easy for me to want to work with him for next several years. He was a presence of immense hope. If we look at his graph – until the moment he won the Nobel Peace Prize – he had given thousands of voiceless children a smile, touching their hearts and enlightening them with his never-say-die attitude.
In my 9 year stint with him, being responsible for his schedule and travel as well, I’d spent most of my time in the office than at home with my family. And the only reason I could pull that off was that I worked for a man, who I rarely saw in a state of exhaustion. He traveled domestic and international, extensively, with the mission of eliminating child labor; and the success of Global March Against Child Labor, under his leadership, proved that, with partnerships and collaborations, groups and teams, we were cruising along to end the menace.
Way to go. His travel continued for days on end, and yet, one fine morning only a couple of hours after he’d arrived from a trip to the US, he was in the office – fighting jet lag – to meet with a local organization, which had come to him for guidance. He’d welcomed them, and stressed how if everyone involved in the movement displayed the passion the mission demanded, the endeavors would yield results. And he’d also warned that the path to mission’s success faced stiff opposition from more quarters than we could imagine — but so long as we didn’t devalue the power of our collective conscience for the sake of the cause, we were right on course. His philosophy and pragmatism kindled each other in the design of his thoughts, where children became the only focus.
He was running high fever one day, but still wanted to lead a team to raid a factory in North Delhi, where some details earlier had suggested that the brick kiln owner was employing forced child labor. All of us had requested he let somebody else lead the raid so he could recover, but his stubbornness was nonpareil, and he wished to go. I remember I’d handed him some pills of paracetamol for fever. A day later, when he’d returned with his team in a foggy evening, he looked fresh, with dozens of rescued children following him into the conference hall — where he stood in a corner, unattached, smiling at the children, who cheered and celebrated their new-found freedom. His detachment, I thought, was a moment during which he pondered upon the day gone by, when he and his team had conducted another riskier raid, converting its success into the laughter that reverberated in the building. His fever pills were intact, and his fever only worse, and he tossed the first one into his mouth, and informed us that he’d better get rest, and stepped out, into his car and disappeared in the fog.
I remember he had a couple of meetings in Germany and an important one in London, but his UK visa had expired, and he had to leave within two days. We were not scheduling anything in the UK because we knew we had to renew the visa. I remembered a get-together that BBA had, the previous week, and a senior visa official from the British High Commission had been in attendance, and I remember how he’d admired Mr. Satyarthi and the organization, and had left his visiting card. I called him around 3 pm to check if renewal of the visa was possible at such short notice, and he asked me to meet him in the embassy with Mr. Satyarthi’s passport, and by late evening the same day, his visa was renewed. The next day, I’d written to BBC HARDtalk, a popular show where global leaders are grilled, sending them Mr. Satyarthi and organization’s profile, asking if he could be interviewed – since he had a day to spare in London – and by next morning, I received their confirmation that they’d be pleased to have him.
Later, when I updated Mr. Satyarthi about these two developments, he patted on my back and said that he was proud of me – to which I said that I hadn’t done much, and that he was a known figure fighting for a just cause, and somebody only had to contact the right person at the right time.
Years passed, and his hair and beard turned grey and he began to look weary. One weekend, the entire office went to Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation center for rescued child laborers in Jaipur, to spend time with the children. And I remember we were playing volleyball, during a recreational period, and Mr. Satyarthi looked washed-out, but when somebody lifted the ball for him to smash, his strike had so much power that I had to duck my head on the other side. He has always been too mentally strong to allow fatigue to weaken him, and I know that his commitment for child rights will stay alive till his last breath.
Behind the glitter and glamour of the Nobel Prize are his incredible patience in handling complexities, live-in-the-present motto, taking risks to life, seeking truth, and delivering on the promises – the qualities he was born with, and which made his actions for the children languishing in slavery, be counted.
I left the organization in 2004, but I followed its activities online, and I’m so thrilled that 10 years later, Mr. Satyarthi won the prize after being in the running for it for several years, as per the Nobel Committee. But for me he had won it much earlier, when I’d realized that his passion and mission were noble enough.
Isn’t this shadow a sign that all is well? At White River State Park in Indianapolis.
Sad folks may not like their shadows though some might seek perspective in them. Happy folks, however, may brag about their shadows, and some may take pictures.
If a shadow, which is immune to being judged, looks imperfect, it’s normal. What is not normal is when imperfection in some makes the rest think they are bigger or stronger than they really are.
This nighttime picture of Balzac’s, which is a sought-after coffeehouse in the Distillery District in Toronto, shows faded brick walls, a stylish chandelier, high ceilings, and a lit window. But what transpires below on the first level among a crowd of people, who’re chin-wagging and tittle-tattling while sipping the in-house roasted coffee, may be hard like the brick, classy like the chandelier, empty like the ceiling, and bright like the window.
You, a bitter reflection of your past acts, now realize how your egotism scared your friends away; how you were unsurprisingly certain that one day, you’d sit here to sip alone with no one to talk to. The lonely you glances up, hoping that someday things might change.
He strummed tune after tune on the Venice beach boardwalk in Los Angeles.
His shabby attire belied the soulful melodies of his performance. He endured, plucking the strings, reaching the broken hearts with “Careless Whispers” and the confused minds with “Make me Pure.”
I saw a liplocked couple standing by a restroom, never wanting to unlock; and a marijuana addict who smoked another joint with teary eyes.
The performer was a homeless marijuana addict himself and he, after hours of non-stop plucking, hollered, “I haven’t eaten for days,” and went back to strumming.
Outside the Museum of Royal Houses in Santo Domingo, though this ice cream vendor was eating his lunch, he was ready to sell his cones and bars as he stood up at the sight of the oncoming steps. He was taking another bite when he heard the click of my camera snapping this photo. He scanned my body language hoping that my steps would lead to him, which they did. I bought a vanilla cone.
Since his food depended on those sales, I asked him if he’d ever eaten his meals in peace. He said, “Sales give peace. One cone, more? please.”
I’ve had quite a journey with the World Trade Center in New York City.
When the dastardly act of 9/11 happened, I was on vacation in a remote village in South India. When the news spread in the US, it was evening in India, and since we’d been out all day and were exhausted, I’d retired to bed without watching television. Next morning, my grandfather woke me up to tell me the news, and I’d spent the rest of the day in front of the television. It was hard to believe.
In late 2002, I had an opportunity to visit Washington, DC and New York City, but couldn’t travel due to personal reasons. In 2008, my wife and I moved to the US, renting an apartment that gave us the downtown Manhattan view.
Of the four towers being built in downtown today, the Freedom Tower is almost complete and will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and fourth tallest in the world. We’ve been witnessing its growth from our apartment; the incredible progression from infancy to adulthood has been a stupendous feat; the skills, the workmanship, the will, and the conviction to regain what was lost.
Never taking the apartment view for granted, we’ve been awestruck – mornings and evenings, days and nights, weeks and months – by its evolution, majestic presence, and symbolism of hope and freedom.
You touch the feet of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, and you’ll study at Yale.
Did I touch his feet when I toured Yale University? Yes
Could I study at Yale? No
Grab the bull by its balls, and it’ll bring you financial good luck.
Did I grab the balls? Yes, the cold bronze
Did the grabbing help? No
Lastly, on a Halloween night:
Do I need that mask to be called a devil? No
So I am a devil? Yes
Do I hate myself? Not yet
Happy Ending or Nappy Ending? Happy ending, hopefully.
As I was taking this selfie, my shadow humanized the incomplete snowman who looked better and fitter.
An Impromptu Poem
Their love’s not strange
Like all fathers and all sons they are,
Their equations can’t change
For how many years there are
A father and a son
They wait for the Sun,
In the middle of the night
When the Moon shines bright
The father tries again
The forecast predicted rain,
Clouds shroud the Moon
The son cries soon
Rain lashes at the windows
Flash, the Moon goes,
The son isn’t sleepy
The father is weepy
Then he croons Little Piggy
The rain’s jiggy jiggy
Clouds clear, the Moon returns
The Sun’s still far, off the light turns
The father and the son
After the day’s fun
Embrace sleep and night
For morning’s first light.
I captured this from the window of my apartment. After Nor’easter and Polar Vortex, icy river has been a common sight.
There was no sun for most part of the day yesterday with temperature hitting 0 F. Then: in the chill and gloom of the evening, the sun appeared out of nowhere, giving the melancholy a glittering break.