Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Recap

2012, what an astounding year it has been. Not that I reached the moon or found God, but the curve, my life has been rolling on for last 365 days, held some amazing reflections of my past and few of the various probable futures.

Today sounds like a perfect day for me to sit back and take a quick glance of what all conspired in 2012 that perhaps changed my life and made it better or worse. I thought to make this recap a little  theatrical and dramatic but then decided to be short and sweet. So here are some of the bullet point attractions of my journey from end of 2011 to end of 2012

  • California - Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, San Diego, Escondido
  • Virginia
  • Nebraska - Omaha
  • Kansas City - Kansas state side as well as Missouri state side
  • Ohio - Cleveland
  • Michigan - Holland
  • Wisconsin - Lake Geneva, Madison, Rockford
  • Massachusetts - Boston
  • Texas - Dallas, Austin, Waco
  • Indiana
  • Washington DC
  • Illinois - Chicago and suburbs
  • Missouri - St. Louis
  • India - New Delhi, Vadodara, Ujjain, Indore
  • UK - London
  • Promotion
  • Multiple projects/clients
  • Customer & Corporate appraisal
  • Resurrection of the artist
  • Publicly recognized and appreciated for my artistic skills
  • 2 paintings officially sold
  • Drastic avatar change from 10 inch pony tail to military cut hair
  • Reunion with old school friends
  • Unofficial low profile casual Date after almost 3 years
  • Watching a Hindi movie in theater after December 2008
  • Made some new friends but in strange ways
    • Mobile games like Words With Friends
    • Instant messaging like Whatsapp
    • An email sent to me by mistake but addressed to a person who shares name with me. Surprisingly, this person and I are good friends now
  • Got into reading books, of course outside academic ones that I used to for a very long time. I never hated reading but never liked reading from books.
  • Reaching out to needed ones and helping them financially with frequent monetary donations
  • Working for cause for non-profit groups
  • Lost a good colleague/friend - change of job
  • Retrogression of Green Card processing dates
There must be some more but seems like my brain is blacked out to recall them, one of the side effects of growing old everyday :)

But I am glad that Life was on toes for the entire year of 2012 and it took me to different levels and places that I had forgotten long ago. I guess that's a good sign. Let's see what 2013 has to offer.

Wishing you all my dear Readers a very Happy & Prosperous New Year and a blessed one too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I met my match - my iPhone 5

Good morning, driving to Office, very cold out here, -2 degree C”, was the message I dictated to Siri this morning while driving to office to respond to a friend’s message on “Whats app Messenger

No matter what the World thinks and competitors say about Apple, truth is that Apple still has the lead when it comes to sales and customer pull. I don't want to sound like an Apple fan because I am not a true Apple fan except the fact that I am an owner of iPhone for last 5 years, but it’s true.
Despite the fact that Apple was criticized for its taller and not wider design, flaky maps and what not, one fact that still remains on top of all is that Apple broke yet another record of selling its new iPhone 5, the 6th generation iPhone.

For the last 3 years I was planning to let go my 2nd generation iPhone, iPhone 3G because with every day passing by, it was getting worse and worse with its speed, performance and space. But every time a new iPhone came out, for some or the other reason, I failed to buy it. On my 1st upgrade cycle, one of my relatives wanted to have an iPhone, so I upgraded my line and gave the new phone to him. I was stuck in another 2 year cycle of contract with old phone but it wasn't that bad until few months ago.

Lately, my phone started telling me that I am aging now and you need to find another partner. This reminds me of the starting line of the iPhone ad in which Jony Ive, Sr. Vice President Design says, “when you think about your iPhone, it’s probably the object that you use most in your life, it’s the product that you have with you, all the time”. For me, it truly is the thing with me 24x7, besides Internet of course. I still remember my first day when I unwrapped my iPhone 3G on March 28th 2008 gifted by my brother and sister in law. I was shocked and my half-wife sitting by my side was thrilled to see me surprised. My first call was to my brother to thank him for such a wonderful gift and I said “main kya karunga yaar is phone ka, mujhe normal sa phone hi bahut hai, all I need is a device that can call and get calls” (translation: what will I do with this phone, I just need a simple easy phone that can dial and get calls) and he laughed and said, keep it and my sister in law said, I’ll ask you after 2 days if you need it or not. It’s been 5 years and I am still with iPhone. I won’t say it changed my Life but It truly changed a lot around me.

I waited for quite some time to make up my mind and go for a new phone and this September when Apple launched its new iPhone, I knew I was going to buy it. All started with pre-ordering the phone at AT&T website and getting my phone shipped to Virginia where my brother lives as my line is registered to his address. Phone was shipped last week and I was informed about it on time. I couldn’t wait to hold it and play with it but I had to for 7 more days until my brother and I meet in Boston. Last Saturday, finally the moment came when I did the ceremony of unboxing the phone again but this time with my family by my side. The moment Apple Logo flashed on the phone, I knew I met my match. Perhaps God made matches in heaven; mine was made by Apple at Cupertino, California and assembled in China that travelled from Virginia to Boston to finally embrace me and live with me in Chicago.

As usual there were several debates amongst our family on iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III, Android vs. iOS but am glad that I wasn't cornered this time in minority. The key players were strong on Android side but iOS didn't lose its ground. Now when I have my own toy in my hand and I've had good chance to play around with it for 2 days, I think I won’t regret upon my decision. Not that Samsung is not good, it may be better than iPhone 5 in many aspects but for me, it is a worth upgrade and money paid for good. There was a time when I used to launch apps on my iPhone 3G and would stare at the screen for more than a minute for the app to show up or in some cases to know that app crashed and now the app launches and is ready to use even before I realize that it’s up and running. It’s funny but when I installed “Words With Friends” on my new phone and launched it, the app came up so quick that I forgot that I was on new phone and I was still staring at the screen thinking that it is still loading. Same happened when I first loaded my blog on the newly designed Safari. It loaded with lightening fast speed on LTE (Long Term Evolution). I couldn't believe that my phone could be so fast. My first reaction to that was “Wuhoo, this is Super Sonic" and I showed it to my brother and my elder nephew came running to me asking show me Super Sonic speed (he’s just 6 and learnt this new word from one of his school friends few days ago). My sister in law said she should have recorded the entire episodic event of “Me meeting my iPhone 5” coz’ I was thrilled like a baby with glitter and shine in my eyes.

Well, the thing is, for me and for all those who have an old phone, no matter an iPhone or a Samsung or some other smart phone, upgrading to iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S-III would really be a journey from Earth to Mars but if you already own an iPhone 4 or 4S or a recent edition of Samsung S series or other equivalent smart phone, upgrading to iPhone 5 probably makes no sense.

I am so far satisfied with my new Toy, my partner in crime, my iPhone 5.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Art Competition - A Fun Family Event

Sometimes I wonder what a Family I have got. Don't take me wrong, nothing bad about it. On the contrary, I am a part of a crazy but amazing family. As back as I can remember in my life, all my vacations have had something really unique about them. We all siblings have done uncountable naughty things, spit fruit seeds on people walking on streets from home terrace, eve teasing, troubling neighbors, bunking primary school classes, flirting with opposite sex in young, very young age, blowing fire crackers in people's backyard, you name it and one of us probably did in one or the other way.

I still remember how our daily exercise of washing terrace with water used to turn into water Holi every single evening at our grand parents house and how annoyed our elders used to get. All those creative games, 1 minute game shows, fashion shows that we used to organize on top of our terrace, kite flying, playing cricket across terraces were few of the daily activities of our summer and Diwali vacations.

As we grew old and got busy with studies and careers and families, all these things took back seat and we kind of forgot that how much fun we used to do when we were young, not that we are not young now but when we had all energy and no tensions and worries.

Something magical happened last month and thanks to today's great Technology, we all family members once again came close to each other virtually from all around the globe and not just close but like 24x7. Being everyone in different time zone, someone was always awake and free to ping others. We all created and joined our own family group on Whatsapp and shared all sorts of stuff, jokes, breaking news, gossips, recipes and what not.

And from this 24x7 live networking came the idea of resurrecting the long forgotten family activities. One thing that I never mentioned anyone is that every member in my family has got some kind of artistic skill, not to boast about it as I am sure every family and its members has unique abilities. We have awesome cooks (some self made and some professionally educated), superb artists (very few but most of them including me keep trying our hands with colors) and some are amazing writers, orators, poets and guides.

We revived our lost spirits with an art competition and gave everyone a month to come up with something. For adults, the topic was Kashmir and for kids of all ages was their Super Hero. We never expected what would be the outcome of this initiative but every second day one or the other family member kept reminding the group about the deadline. Some had sleepless nights and some probably even took anti-anxiety pills and the last day crossed the limits of excitement when I had to reach out to everyone so many times reminding them that the Deadline of Sep 30 ended few hours ago but me being on US time zone, everyone was allowed late submission. What an amazing day it was. We had quite some creative skills display. Winning or losing was not the motto of the competition, the goal was to bring everyone back to the same page which we forgot to turn long ago and I am glad that most of us participated in high spirits and best part is that everyone enjoyed it.

Now we all are looking forward for the next fun idea and who would come up with. I guess, next in the line would be poetry or something related to writing and I am sure if that is the agenda, we'll have a big competition as all big guns will also come down in the battle field.

Here is the outcome of the collaborative effort put in by all of us in our first joint event. Names of the creators are still unknown amongst us too, just to keep it to the hilt of excitement.

Monday, September 10, 2012

When hobbies get paid...

I never thought that a visit to the grocery store could open new doors and bring opportunities. About a month ago I was at the nearby Indian grocery store doing my routine monthly "Desi" shopping and while I was at the cashier to make the payments, I started talking to the guy (half owner of the store) in general about week and plans for long weekend and work. When he asked me about my plans for the long weekend, I told him, I would perhaps be at my house doing some paint work. At first he thought, I was talking about painting walls or windows in my house but when I told him about canvases and sketch book, he was kind of surprised and asked me if I have any to show him. I immediately took out my phone and showed him my work. His expression changed from surprise to mesmerize and asked me if I can do him a favor. I asked what and he said, his son is a big fan of the famous Lightening McQueen and a hand painted painting would be dream come true for him. Without thinking much, I said, sure. I will try my best to make him happy but can't promise anything soon.

A month went by and I still remembered my promise but unfortunately, I didn't get time to sit and paint a canvas for his son. Finally last week, I bought a canvas and did some picture hunt on Lightening McQueen, saw the movie again (which by the way I have already seen more than 20 times with my elder nephew) and started my work on a Saturday morning. 

I was half way done and got a call from one of my distant relatives that they are visiting so I decided to stop it. I usually don't stop in between but I knew this would take lot of time especially when it comes down to detailing. I didn't want to but had no other choice. Unfortunately, rest of the day was spent outside home and couldn't complete it the same day. I was worried if I would be able to finish it good or not because of Acrylics (they dry within minutes as compared to Oils, which takes hours and days, so it is next to impossible to add shading and effects). But I think I was lucky the next day and I was able to add some more colors and shades and details to complete it.

Yesterday, I was at the store again for some quick things to buy and the guy was happy. He asked me for the cost and I, as always was not comfortable in asking for money so said nothing but I guess he was expecting this from me so he had already got me a Gift Card. I was touched and felt good at the same time because for the 1st time, my work was appreciated in terms of returns. Thus far, everyone who has appreciated has appreciated for the work and effort but this time it came with returns. For next few minutes this guy spent some time with me pushing me to publicize my work and skills and make it visible to people and asked me to prepare a catalog that he can display in his store. He even asked me if I can give him pictures of my work, he would add them free of cost to the coming Diwali flyer that he is working on right now for mailing to the store customers.

I am excited and really looking forward to this now. I already have some things planned up but let's see when they are realized :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wonderland for the Kids in DCFS

Just a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my personal experience of working for a good cause and how nervous and excited and thrilled and satisfied I was before and after the work was done. Imagine, if that small task of painting walls could bring me so much happiness and joy and a feeling of accomplishment, what would the artist be feeling right now who with her team worked night and day to bring a new Life to the room. When I saw the pictures of the finished room, there was only one thing I could say and it was OMG (Oh My God).

The artist who spent an entire week in this room did a fabulous job in bringing life in the room. Without much saying, I would like to share the great effort and creativity of her and the team who made this room a real wonderland for kids who are tormented by the hardships of life in such a small age and who look forward to the World we live in with arms wide open seeking someone to embrace and a heart filled with love and compassion.

Every single thing in this room is hand painted and hand made. The canopy on the ceiling, the King chair and upholstery on it, drapes, the cabinetry, everything is hand made and didn't come from some factory and assembled in the room.

Hats off to the entire Team.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Work for a Cause

I have asked this question to myself so many times in past and probably will ask this so many times again in future. What have you done today that was not for yourself but for the community, for the people and for some good cause with no self interest in it? 99% of the times, there is no answer to the question.Thanks to one of my co-workers at office, today I had an answer in real sense.

It was a wonderful experience and an awesome feeling after spending 4 hours with a team of people who are down to earth, experienced in Life and have had faced numerous challenges and ups and downs and not to mention, older than me in every sense.

This morning when I woke up, I knew it would be a different day. I was little nervous and a little shy about the fact that I didn't know how I was going to do what I was going to do. Although, I am pretty comfortable in what I was going to do when I am alone and in my own environment but this was going to be an experience of Lifetime and sure it was, a worth learning curve that will be of use for the rest of my life.

I was to be at the Department of Children's and Family Services (DCFS) in Elgin at 10:00 AM as a volunteer for painting the main room. I was excited because I was expanding my scope from small brushes to rollers and professional tools and from canvases to walls but at the same time I was nervous because I had never done this kind of work. Well, first of all, I never got the chance to do this kind of work because in India, labor is cheap and easily available and secondly, I never had this kind of attitude of doing these kinds of jobs by myself because there we always have someone for something and that something is not for you because you have something else to do.

So I woke up the same time as I do on Saturdays, did my morning chores, had my tea and took a quick shower. For a change, I didn't have to think twice today for what to wear because I had to be in something that's good to be wasted. As usual, I don't like to be late, so I started from my home at 9:30 AM and was at the DMV (the office where you get driving license in US). I didn't know if DCFS was inside DMV or around DMV, so called my co-worker, Christine, to ask her if I am at the right place or need to drive somewhere else. I was at the right place so found a place for my car and parked it. Within minutes, Christine and her team from the Church was there who work as volunteers for various kinds of projects.

I was quickly introduced to all the members and it didn't take me more than a minute to get comfortable with all of them. I sometimes wonder, if I am an old soul in a young body. Chris unloaded the painting material from her car and I picked the bucket full of rollers and tools and walked upstairs on the 2nd floor (1st floor per Asians). We walked through the aisles of DMV to the elevator and as I was walking, I recalled the day when I came to this DMV for my License test back in November 2007. It was a short walk in the lobby upstairs and at the end was DCFS. The outer room was to be left as it is but the main inner room was to be completely washed off and painted.

Doug was the Project Manager for this so he explained us all what needs to be done. His wife (sorry, forgot her name) after knowing that I am an artist too, showed me on her iPad all the things that they have planned for renovating the room. The theme for the room is of a Castle and all graphic, character paint work will be done by Tracy who will be working later in the week. So as every member came in and brought all the material, rugs were laid down on the floor and we all stood in a circle holding each others hands for a prayer. I had an intuition about this and I really wished while I was driving to this place to have this prayer because I wanted to see and feel Christian culture (we do the same in almost all religions in India) and I was glad that the work started this way. As soon as the prayer was done, we picked up our rollers, filled the trays with yellow paint and Doug assigned tasks and areas to every one. He took the higher painting job and the ladder to climb and I was given the job to paint as high as I can (up to 7ft high). Roberta had brush to fill up the corners and holes that rollers failed to paint and Chris took the rollers and concrete walls. After a quick brief lesson of how and what to do, I was all set to paint the walls (dry wall and concrete wall). Though, I will admit, I didn't feel like painting one side of wall because it already had very nice work done with dolphins and ocean, but had no choice. The order was to paint all the walls with the base color to provide Tracy (Pat Grace Green's daughter) a clean slate for her graphic work. The 1st coating took time and almost 2 gallon of paint was used but was done pretty neat. All nooks and corners were painted with thin brushes. We waited for the 1st coat to dry and as soon as the walls were dried, 2nd coat was applied. 2nd coating didn't take much time or effort, it was quick and smooth and by the time we were done, all 3 gallons of paint was used up to the last drop.

In the meantime, other ladies who were not painting cleaned up the outer room and setup the table for the lunch. We all cleaned ourselves and stood by the table as Doug said the Grace (prayer before the meal) and we all filled our stomachs. There was a lot of food from ham and turkey sandwiches to home made salsa by "Pat Grace" to watermelon, grapes, chips, cookies, soda and juices. I couldn't eat the sandwiches but salsa, grapes and watermelon was more than enough at that time of the hour. Finally, the work was done and I took permission and bid goodbye to all the members.

Other team members would be working for rest of the week that includes tiling on the floor, setting up the castle and furniture, 3rd coat of paint to match the castle walls, drapery, cushions (Doug's wife is sewing them herself), cabinetry and tables and toys. Once all that will be done, the room will be ready again for the foster kids to meet their care takers or parents who are in custody or situation because of which they cannot stay together.

A day worth spent....Here are some pictures.
(Doug explaining what to do, Lois in white)
(Face front: Roberta  Back: Janette)
(Christine caught in action..Chris told me not to publish this picture in office newsletter)
(Joined by Gary later on during 2nd coat)
(Oooo the tasty food)
(Janette and Helda. Helda works at DCSF and is retiring on 16th)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

D and D

Don't worry, I am not talking about Drugs & Diseases. This is another one from my so infamous Dream tales that makes me crazy and wonder what is it that my mind and body wants to tell me. Some people may find me crazy or even insane but honestly I don't know myself if this is because of me aging and growing old or getting close to insanity or perhaps just another dirty games played by my mind. But whatever it is, these dreams are taking me to new dimensions of research, study and beliefs.

I woke up this morning wondering what was going on in my dream and why the hell I had such a dream. But I knew that I wouldn't possibly find any answer to that, so I picked up my phone and started Googling (yeah there is no such term) about Dragons, Dragon Birth and Dragons in Dreams. Apparently, I am not the only one looking for something keywords like this. Google slapped 100s of matching results but my mind was not ready to dodge all of them that early in the morning and my eyes were not comfortable to concentrate on 3.5 inch screen of iPhone. So I just tapped on top 2 links and read as much as I could with those sleepy eyes. After reading those articles and relating to my dream, I still couldn't figure out what the heck this dream was all about :)

Let's see if anyone here can interpret or come up with a different philosophy...

I find myself with my brother in the dream in some house, appears to be ours but different than what it is in reality. We are kind of on the top floor standing in a huge balcony (almost like a terrace) with buildings in front of us. House is on the corner block with an elevated rail track running next to it. I don't know if it was early morning or late night but a couple drove by our house and somehow we got hold of something from them and they just left. It's very blurry now but from what I remember the couple seemed to be in tension or mental pain and stopped by our house. I was standing on the main door of the building (perhaps the entire building is our home) and the lady opens up the window and hands something over to me and without saying any word, just drove away in speed.

... Probably nothing here in the dream but a different time

Next I remember is a baby Dragon standing on our terrace/balcony and we both brothers kind of playing with him and preserving him (hiding) from the world. Dragon seemed to be friendly and happy to be with us. He was trying to fly and made several attempts by jumping and eventually flew high. He saw us standing on the terrace looking at him flying high and he just came back to us.

... Can't recall if there was anything here in the dream

He is all grown big and is very good friend of ours. He understands our actions and likes us. One day we let him fly because we are expecting a gathering and no one knows about the dragon and we don’t want anyone to know either else he would become a part of some freaky science experiment. Everyone on terrace is enjoying and suddenly I feel pain in my stomach and head and I fall down on my knees  holding my head and as my eyes get closed in pain i see a vision of a dragon birth. A big egg and dragon trying to break the shell to come out and then suddenly another vision shows up with a pregnant woman running in some abandoned area looks like a factory or wrecked ship where she gives birth to a dragon.

And before i woke up and opened my eyes the last thing i remember is seeing our dragon flying to our balcony again

Now, there were some vague thoughts that came to my mind but I’m sure none of them applies here.

Is my Half wife pregnant and somehow my inner self knows it and is trying to tell me about it? Well, definitely I am not the one responsible for her pregnancy if she is, I can't be (I need not say the reason but I know I cannot be) but she could be pregnant with the fact that she is married for over 7 months now.

I can't recall of anyone else around me or in my knowledge, who is pregnant and due to deliver soon, except for a friend of mine whose wife is expecting her delivery in December, but why would I get a dream about them?

One of the articles I read about Dragons in Dreams say and I quote " let yourself get carried away by your passion. This kind of behavior may lead you into the hands of enemies." Now, if it is for me, I am fine but why would I have my brother in the dream helping me out? Does this mean that I was doing something wrong and my brother being my brother was helping me knowing I am wrong? The same article also says "...In eastern cultures, dragons are seen as spiritual creatures symbolizing good luck and fortune". Ha Ha this made me laugh because for a very long time, I have not seen any good luck or fortune.

Another article that I was reading about Dream with giving birth to Dragon says "...seeing Dragon represents a tyrant and an unjust ruler. Giving birth to a dragon also represents a child who will be a great speaker or who will be known by different names, or that he might become a fortune teller or a monk, or an evil person, or a bandit who will be killed later". Wow now that is something frightening for anyone, though I don't understand who could I relate this to. I hope I can relate the former part to someone but definitely not the latter.

Different opinions and stories can be found on internet about Dragons in Dreams or Dragon Birth in Dreams. What do you think?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Girl with many stories

A day spent with colors and canvas but worth the time spent. I enjoyed painting this particular canvas of a girl face Graffiti which I call "Girl with many stories". From beginning to end, it was so captivating that I just kept clicking picture of it's progress after every major change. In fact at one point of time I even changed the color of the left side of the face (see image 8) but it didn't work out so well, so painted it back to what it was.

The final output is quite different than the original one which I referred but if I would mimic the original then what's my creativity, right? I hope the canvas tells stories.

It would be nice to know what you people think about this painting.

Enjoy !!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Wedding Dance

For quite sometime, I wanted to do something different than what I usually sketch or paint and just a few days ago, I came across this image while browsing Internet and I knew that this has to be definitely tried.

After returning from work yesterday, I picked up my Canvas and drew the outline of this picture. At first I thought to leave the sketch as it is and paint next day but couldn't resist from throwing colors in it. At around 9 PM I sat down with my set of brushes and colors and started painting this. Around 2:30 in the night or should I say morning, my work was done and I was ready to sit back and relax.

In between,  once I thought to stop and continue next day but couldn't do that. The end result is not same as the reference I used but from a painting stand point and for a beginners level I guess, I did a Okay job :)