Friday, October 31, 2014

The Maple Tree

Photo courtesy: Meena Arvind ©2014

There stood a maple tree, right outside my door.
It adorned our front yard by standing tall,
and concealed our windows by guarding us all.
I used to sit by my table hoping to work,
but there were times when I was lost,
watching my maple's magnificent charm. 

Little birds flew by and made it their home.
Some just sat there and chirped all along,
while a few others, pecked at the bark.
I could recognize a few, like, one I was sure
was the American Goldfinch which was all yellow and light.
Then there was this little red bird,
that reminded me of the ones from "angry birds".

I did watch the branches sway gently,
And the leaves waving to the rhythm of the wind.
I could hear the rustles when the wind blew,
Making my mind sway in it's happy sweet tune. 

Seasons changed and so did the tree.
Spring looked lovely and fresh,
with green leaves and blooming buds.
Branches looking all ready to hold the new leaves
and welcome new birdies.

Then came the summer rains that lashed the ground,
Watering and washing the green around.
Warm summer evenings called for music from the trees,
Well, I wonder was it the crickets calling for their mates or
Was it the raspy sounds of the katydids?
I was never sure. 

But of course, I did know that
it was not the singing pests, cicadas,
for, these began their songs only at twilight.

Months passed and now it is fall,
The season of harvest, pumpkins and all.
The autumn foliage looks bright and nice,
With shades of yellow, red and green.
Sometimes with a dash of orange,
the season looks very bright, yet cold inside.

Withered leaves falling on the ground,
Changing colors and colder eves,
Even when they crumple and descend down,
there is a rhythmic dance to watch it fall.

As I watch my strong maple tree,
shed its leaves, colored and not,
I wonder, how does "it" feel,
with winter approaching fast.
In a few months, it will be all bare,
Just standing tall.

Or is it, yet standing tall?

© Copyright Meena Arvind 2014.

Watching the beautiful K-town paint itself in lovely colors of Fall and smelling pumpkin spice and watching pumpkin carvings and lovely Halloween costumes, I thought I will try penning something about my favorite maple tree.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A verse for one of my "maash"!
Thank you image using Google Images
As I post this my thoughts are with a person who was (still is)  like a guru to me. Or should I say is my guru. He was a mentor and a wonderful guiding force. For some reason, I somehow lost all contacts with him. The last time I emailed or heard from him was when I invited him for my wedding. I post this poem thanking him for being a great teacher. He is Ravi, a corporate trainer. I called him Ravi maash (as that is how i used to address him. maash is the malayalam word for a male teacher).

A small verse  from one of my poems I wrote long back. It was titled as "NEP- Never Ending Poem". The plan was to write it as long as possible on a topic as generic as: Life. Anyways, I am not too keen on posting the poem that I have written so far as I think it is still incomplete and the end for it has a long way to go. This is just a small part of that poem. Part of the poem had verses penned by my teacher, this sir. Of course, the verse posted here is from my part.

I had planned on writing a post this Teacher's day. However, as always I had stopped my writing half-way through and hence, the writing sits on my drafts. That is when I realized I had written a paragraph dedicating to this person and thanking him for being a wonderful teacher.  He is a multifaceted person who was also a trainer by profession. He was talented in music, debating, speeches, writing great ad copy. He has experience in training, advertising and management. Always with a positive outlook and spirit in life, he has been responsible in teaching me many valuable things that I still remember every time I work or look at a problem. There are only a few people in life whom you will respect and learn from and he was one such person. He introduced my writing abilities to a music director, who had initially only known me for my music. That gave me my first break and chance to write an ad jingle for which this composer was composing music. When his friend (a director and DOP who made short films and documentaries) needed someone to write a script for a documentary, he gave me a chance to try my hand at it. It was for a documentary on information technology and differently-abled (Blind NGO story).  Even though that did not go really well and I was not of much use for them (except partially) the knowledge and experience I gained from this interaction was and is great.

If I were to think of a teacher I respect and equate that person to be wonderful teacher and human being, it has always been and will be my DAD. Ravi maash changed that and made me appreciate and respect him just the way I respected my dad.  Of course, with my higher ed here in the US, i have now met many more wonderful professors (specifically my advisor).

Anyways, I thought that even if I missed writing a Teacher's Day wish, it is better to be late than never, so here is my special thanks to this great man who has been a wonderful trainer. Wherever he is now, I wish him and his family a wonderful time!

This post is for Ravi maash.

Gratitude is the soul of a life, truly lived
Belief is the lantern that treads one safe,
With a pillar as faith that can shape us right!
These are the ones, which sail us through
The waves of life, 
where the tides of shark lurch towards us, 
making us shiver in fright.
The three good ways will show us our path
To come out of the waves, unhurt and brave! 
-Copyright © 2013 Meena Arvind 

See you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bye- Bye September and Hello October !

Pic courtesy: Google images
As i wrote last month (or was it August?? ;)) about how i will use this page to keep writing about my preps and motivate myself for that, here goes my start for the month of Oct. Well, it is already a day over in October! Woah! How fast! Isn't it? So, bye bye September and hello October!

As a new month begins, new hope blooms and everything feels positive. The fear, of course is that the time is on a roller coaster ride. It is just zooming past at the blink of an eye. I am still working on my proposal and trying to figure my niche and interest. It seems like a long journey. Some days are hard, and most others are harder!

In the meantime, if i have to update about what is happening the past few weeks, then I should talk about the events we organized in Knoxville for our Indian Student Organization-Manthan. Even though I could not spend all my time at the events, I enjoyed whatever little I did. I am glad to be a part of such a vibrant, positive, sweet and in short- an awesome team. We participated in two back-to-back events. Asian Festival (the first of its kind in Knoxville) and also the International Festival (a usual one that we have at our school/university). We had a great event turnout and also did get a decent profit! Of course, we won the award for 2nd best stall at our International festival. So, in short- I just love being a part of Manthan 2014-15! The perils of being a married (hoping to make it sound responsible :D) grad student is that, I miss out on a lot of fun that I could have had if I were single (Arvind, take note :P).

We designed a t-shirt for this group and it has been well appreciated. We also hope we make pretty good profit by selling these :). We are selling it for $10 as a fundraiser for our organization. The next big one that we are waiting for is Diwali (Nov 2nd celebration). And yeah, when I talk of Diwali, afterall, "Dhwani"- the music group might get back for Knoxville Diwali special! Hopefully my musician hubby might perform too!

Manthan T-Shirt for $10. :) Pic Courtesy : Meena Arvind
And hey, how can I forget to mention that it is almost the 8th day of Navratri! Can you believe it? It is super fast. Even though I wanted to keep kolu (Koluveipu), two reasons stopped me from doing so. One was the fact that my maternal aunt (valiamma/periamma) passed away a few weeks ago. She was a wonderful woman and one of my favorite aunts. God bless her soul! Anyways,  since the start of Navratri was the 3rd day of her death, decided to not to keep it this year.

The other reason was of course, simply the obvious: lack of dolls (Indian bommais - idols of gods). Anyways,  I wish "someone" could ship a few dolls for me so that next time i could start with this fav festival :) (hopefully that someone knows whom I am talking about!). Tomorrow is Gandhi Jayanthi, Lal Bahadur Sashrti ji's birth day and of course Saraswathi poojai/Adachu pooja/Durga ashtami as we wish to call it! I will write more about it tomorrow (Oh yeah, i have to get in to the habit of writing something everyday :D).

So, good night and have a blessed night!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Dhwani" of Life.

Semester has begun again. New semester, new classrooms, new students and of course, new perspective. Why else would one look forward going to school or work everyday unless they get something new :) I have titled this topic as "Dhwani" of life. Well, "Dhwani" means sound or the "echo". Everything we do in life teaches us back something, it is like a new music that we learn to sing  or dance as we please. I titled this topic because of a couple of reasons. The first one is about an article I read yesterday.

It is about a 99 year old lady named Lillian Weber. It was such an inspiring article. She, at the age of 99, stitches and makes one dress/clothing a day for children in need. This is for a project called Little dresses for Africa. She starts her morning stitching a new dress for a child and completes it by afternoon. What was beautiful about it is that, the lady wants to complete 1000 dresses and she has now done 800 odd dresses. I was also surprised and inspired to see that a group of women all aged over 80 started doing this in 2011. What a soul! Her life's "dhwani" is that she gives back something to her society even at an age, that most of us would wonder - how can we fend even oneself ? I wish I can contribute something like that as long as I live and help echo my music in a positive way to the world.

Why else have I titled this as "Dhwani"? It is because I finally participated in the local India Fest, that is usually organized by the Knoxville Indian community. This was my first time. When a friend (Manasi) suggested that we sing and perform for a group song, I agreed. Of course, the idea was to get a chance to interact and meet more often and also not miss an opportunity to sing on a stage once again (It has been a while). The meetings, the differences, the similarities, the text messages, emails, the food, laughter and of course, the hard work paid off yesterday. We got some great compliments by the "generous" and kind audience. I wished my hubby was home and in town yesterday, for he would have also performed something and yeah, been there to hear us live. This would not have been possible without the help from our partners (three of us in our team are married) - 2 A's and a B, along with the help of few  of our friends who helped us find the karaoke tracks.  We sang the patriotic medley of Telugu song, Tamil and a hindi song. We sang, "Sreelu pongina" from "Leader" Telugu movie which was followed by the pallavi and charanam of "Ninnai Charanadainthaein", a song from Bharathi movie composed by the great Isaignani Illayaraja sir and written by Bharathiyar :). The last song was the charanam from the "Maa tujhe salaam" version composed by all time special favorite ARR ji. I have to thank my team mates-  Manasi, Keerthana, and Preethi for being a great team and making "Dhwani" a success. Yes, "Dhwani" was our team name! That name aptly suits the idea of our group- music. It was nice to be a part of this, as I got to meet some new friends  and learn something too.

Dhwani-Posing for the picture after the performance. © Copyright Meena Arvind 2014. Picture courtesy Preethi Aravind

This event made me realize how much we cherish our past and the heritage when we are away. Things that seem very trivial are appreciated and celebrated. The joy of small things :) With changing times and burgeoning technology, the borders erode, people unite, we come closer but the culture prevails. Sometimes it is the old one and sometimes the new. Nobody wants to leave their culture behind. They continue it and cherish it. If they leave theirs, then they choose to adopt another. It is sometimes like a melange of colors. When an artist paints, the wall brightens up with colors that form a new image, a new idea, a new thought, and sometimes a new paradigm.

The event also helped me realize how much I missed my friends and family every time I turned around. Just like those colors on an wall, every friend adds a dimension to your life. It is not just give- and- take but it is more like a bond that never breaks (or never should break). Why am I saying this now? Well, I remembered every close friend of mine, whom I have met so far when I walked around the event grounds. I smiled when I realized that the new ones I meet today are already forming bonds that will last for a long time to come (hopefully and at least for me). I really missed my hubby and also missed one of my dear friend (Ramya) who left Knoxville last year and moved to a much bigger city (Houston). I wished she were here today and may be she would have been a part of some dance show too! I was also glad that a couple of my friends at university - LaVerne and Ivonne decided to come in and spend some time too. I should have emailed a lot of them but was busy and missed it!

And about the event, even though, I did not stay back for long as our performance was during the first part of the first slot - 4:00-5:15, I enjoyed the ones that I watched before our performance. Also met fellow Knoxvillian and Indian, Gayatri Mahadevan who creatively choreographed a very simple but excellent kids dance that showed the diversity and the unity of India (I loved her enthusiasm and spirit!). She runs a dance school in Knoxville (Nrithya Masala). There was also a Bharathnatyam performance by Nupura dance school (I presume) students.  It was beautiful to watch these little ones enjoy their performance as much as we enjoyed theirs.

These beautify the sense of community and collective ability of people to create wonders. Despite all the differences, ego, attitudes, challenges and all things that are complex, life teaches us the simplest truth that collective unity is much stronger than anything. Of course, an individual can be the reason why something starts, but then that individual would need a group who follows and help make him/her a success.

Just like how each one of you who read my blog and comment and encourage me to continue, help this blog remain alive and make it special and wonderful for me to write more often! And on that note, I sign off with a promise that I will be more regular on this page and hopefully use this page as a pad to work during my qualifiers preparation. Good night! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The addictive "wall"
Image taken from KoSong blogspot

Staring at the "wall" of her facebook page,
She felt she was not really "active" and "smart".

The profile picture did not gather likes and,
her so-called friends did not bother to talk.
Neither phone calls nor emails and no intention to chat,
And she did know she was just feeling lost.

All she could get was a "hi" when she buzzed,
most times it was only the "seen" labels and text.

Though she felt that the whole world was busy,
chatting and sharing many stories.
They posted the photos on all pretext,
and shared every bit of their life in a text. 

Her mind was blank and thoughts all wary,
Nothing to pen or paint on the "wall".
She wanted some peace and be at ease,
Just forget the mess and get DE-stressed.
She tried and she tried to stop staring at the "wall",
 and "unfollow" the ones she didn't know.

Alas, if only.....
it were that easy. 
She tried and she quit
for, the wall was something she did not want to miss.
She just sat looking at her empty white wall.

© Copyrights Reserved - Meena Arvind 2014.

This is a poem inspired from one of the many articles that I read about how Facebook actually depresses most folks (NPR 2013). I am only linking just one of the studies here. There have been many videos that have gone viral (ironically through FB) that shows how social media has actually changed the way people position themselves, feel about themselves and others. This is just a fun poem and being a woman it was easier to use the personal pronoun "she".

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Anniversary special !

Picture from Personal file -Meena Arvind photography
          Three years ago, this very same day, 8th of June changed a lot of things in my life.  It is the day, I finally got married.  I cannot believe how the time has just flown by. When i look back, I am not sure if I can even believe that so many years have just gone by so quickly. Through these years, we have grown and evolved as individuals and also as a couple. There is a lot to learn when we walk together. We have had our ups and downs as we walked this path, but isn't life all about editing and using it the right way? Just like we like to edit and crop our pictures to fit the profile portraits of our social media space? Isn't that the way we want people to remember us :) Just as was said by Goffman. Our brains have that capability to edit and tune only to what we want or like. So, all those ups and downs have actually made the journey beautiful. I would surely not want anything else.As the saying goes, "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance".

            3 has always been one of my favorite number. My best friend group- Gren, Dava and I have always planned on meeting on 3rd of March :) 3/3. Of course, we have never been able to meet. But that special day we make sure we exchange an email or a note or a call or may be just a text message! Somehow, for my anniversary, the 3rd also has a special place. Why? Well, only because, for the 1st, we were away in different places and for the 2nd, we were busy with different things and all that we did was just a dinner time. This year, we have the whole weekend to be around and nag and bother each other :D So, here is a thank you to my dear hubby who has had the patience to handle my blah-blah's, demands and sometimes total nonsense. On a lighter note, what more could he do :D  Lolz! On a serious note, just wanted to wish a wonderful anniversary! Happy Anniversary, honey. Thanks to the Almighty for all His blessings!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On women (for the lack of a better title !)
Picture courtesy: © Google images

Bako Haram. Well, I am sure you must have seen this in all (atleast most) news media. Of course, the news has gained more popularity due to the protests by the women in Nigeria and also the power of social media in helping this gain some attention #Bringbackourgirls.

It is horrendous and terrifying that something like this has happened in today's world. It somehow seems likes everything around us is only going backwards and not getting better. Leaving all the natural calamities aside, the other things that could take mass lives are: man-made calamities! Battles and wars have been waged for long. Lots of human lives have been treated with contempt and have been enslaved, dishonored, ostracized and slaughtered. But the barbaric acts of society has evolved over time. There are a few things which are very very rare and probably difficult to even think would exist. However, the atrocities against the vulnerable has constantly remained. Vulnerable is a relative term. Who is vulnerable? Sometimes, it the gender based, sometimes color, sometimes age, and yet at times, race and nationality. On Mothers' day I think it is important that we understand women and their stance in society. The terrorists capturing young girls at gun point and that too over 250 of them in broad day light. The parents are even scared to voice out their protest for the fear of their daughter/s being singled out. The terrorist group's point is that women should get married and hence should not have any education. How nonsensical!

Things like rape only seem to be increasing throughout the world, more than what was present earlier. Women are still considered to be those who have to go by what men tell them to. I am not writing here saying women have to fight for their stance, but the irony is that they are forced to! When we people talk or think of feminists, they think of those women who fight rules, probably stay single, or may be date you know "very open" men, work in bold careers, may be atheists, dress without any taste for fashion or what not! Well, not really, feminists are those who fight for equality. Why should someone fight for equality? It is only when it is not given. The fight for gay rights, the fight for rights of people of varied race, gender, everything is only because, the one in power overpowers the other. Stops the other from being able to go on with their life.

Even educated men and women have that mentality. Why can't they look at every human being as individuals who are capable of living their own life.Laws and rules should be there to help people not get hurt or in trouble because of each other. I have noticed that women are still told that after marriage, the only way to walk is their husband's! Well, nothing wrong as long as it is mutual, as they are a couple and they need to work together to lead a good life. As mothers, women tend to naturally take care of their children and husband, the always self-sacrificing altruistic nature of mothers make them look weak. Is that weakness?? Someone being nice about their thoughts on their children and family does not make them weak. I have a friend who has been asked by husband and her in-laws to not have financial independence. Well, of course, they want her to work but they want to hold the power to her credit and debit cards. How is that fair? Mind you, they are educated, working and people living in cities. It does not stop with that, she does not have any right to spend money on anything that she wants to! The choice of sharing a joint account in bank, the choice of sharing the expenses, the financials all comes with mutual respect and trust. If I do trust my husband, and of course, he does too, then us holding a joint account makes sense. When it is two of us working and having separate accounts, then, of course, it is a good thing to have independent accounts. Why would someone think that is not the way of an ideal and good wife! Unreasonable, I would say. To add to all that, women who take care of their own parents after their wedding is not a good daughter-in-law. How on earth is that even fair? The point I want to make here is not the daughter-in-law, mother-in-law fights or norms, but it is against these so called norms that actually tend to act as barriers in how women are treated. When these norms dictate the way one lives or is expected to live, then it becomes a problem. Hegemonic views leads to issues that do not allow another individual, irrespective of gender to grow. Now, yeah, one can argue saying, isn't that subjective? Not necessary, just because a country does not allow women to dress the way she wants or does allow a women to dress the way they want, does not make one better than the other. 

Just because, women makes a decision to either give up her career or probably not take up more promotions to help take care of family does not mean, she has to be told not to handle her life, her way. She has every right to lead her life as much as a man. Shouldn't it be a mutual way to help each other.  I make these comments based on what I have heard from a lot of them over time. It is a surprise that none of these change even after so many years. It probably is only on the rise. Now, going back to mothers' day, I want to wish every mother (or more so, every woman), a happy mothers' day for being that special, wonderful and beautiful being on earth, especially mine :) for bringing me (and my brother) up and handling me (and my brother)  and of course, loving me (and my brother) unconditionally.

Also, praying that the government of Nigeria is able to fight back the ghastly terrorists and save the girls from being sold off! # Bringbackourgirls.

Every individual deserves to lead a good life. What is good, is a decision that one has to make based on the rational and emotional needs one needs to satisfy. Unless that is leading to someone's death or is disturbing the peace in society or nature, the path one chooses is one's own.

Take care.