26 August 2009

The Kennedy that gave me a thumbs up.

I read about kennedys for the first time in the Readers Digest, India Edition. President John F Kennedy's father made his wealth in smuggling drugs, the literary piece said. He amassed enough that he now wanted a stake in the country's official power and cast his sons in the political net. The only thing I understood as a kid was John Kennedy as a President of America was shot. But didn't know why then. Now I assume, that his father's enemies may have got something to do with it. We didn't talk about American Politics then. Shiv Sena , the Sharad Pawar fodder and the highly dramatic Indian politics was more than sufficient to add extra flavor at the dinner table. When the discussion would peak my father would say, "Can't you guys show equal enthusiasm in your school work?", at which point the heated discussions would slowly wane.

Fast Forward late 1990's - When Junior JFK died it created NEWS and was the story for the day and several days after, even when he held no official capacity. I was in the US then. The thought that went through my mind over and over was - Isn't that a charmed life - JFK's son and Onassis's oil money, this guy definitely has struck not gold, but platinum! The impression that I got from the media then was - the Prince charming of America and a potential presidential candidate was snatched away young. Those days I was more worried about school, career, moving and gave less thought to what happened in washingtonian politics.

Later in school,when I took clases in washington, it was a very matter o fact to discuss about people in politics. I was even asked, Did I know of a man named kennedy? I learnt from classmates (much senior to me ), How Sr Kennedy wanted to make an investment in official power politics and that is why the kennedys are into politics. The kennedys are trust fund babies and politics was a hobby for them. This was what my washingtonian classmates who worked in good positions in the government told me. So now I had some interpretations about the kennedy's from americans themselves.

Few years later I was in the building of the congress , meeting various state senators aide in promoting an issue that I struggled with. I was also at a protest march. Standing on the road that leads to Capitol Hill I was at one of the traffic signals with the banner that read," Don't punish me for following the law". One of the cars that stopped at the signal had rolled down their windows. I saw a guy whom I recognized as Senator Ted Kennedy. I looked inside the car and waved my banner at him. He gave me a thumbs up. This is how close I got to one of the people in America's political history. It is not a big deal, but a memorable one for me.

Edited to Add: As I was seeing the funeral on TV, the prayer that echoed in my mind is: To have the courage to go on in my pursuits. Success is yours. There is always enough light and courage to make this world a better place.

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20 August 2009

Mullings and More

The weather is humid. It has been like this for days. At night if it rains it is a blessing. But the next morning the sun is blazing in all its glory. I have a ceiling fan at home and I enjoy the breeze. My friends are shocked when I say I do not use air conditioning and the windows are open at night. Friends say I am cheapskate, but I am just economical - quality over quantity.Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. This is a lesson I learnt from my father who grew vegetables, fed the cows, made sure the hens were back in its cage ( for lack of a better word) when the sun set and learnt his school lessons under a kersone lamp, because there was no electricity in his village. Today He told me what he tells me everytime I talk to him over the phone - "to believe in myself".

I said it was easy for him to say that because he did well for someone who did not know the language when he came to Bombay. He even risked letting go a cushy job at the Bombay Muncipal corporation where he started as a junior engineer. When the
Shiv sena's accused him of employing Laborers from Tamil Nadu he was relentless of not letting go his employees only because they were not localites. Many of his colleagues and some good friends at work were the Maharastrian marathi manoos itself. My mother voted for the shiv sena . I never understood all those political dynamics growing up. They emerged victorious for having a small business in a land where their ancestors did not live. And this was the 70's.

In many ways my father's and my life are similar. He migrated, I immigrated. But I had many leverages which he did not have, but he made sure that I did. Better schools, More resources, but I know for sure something is lacking in me. When I sit back and evaluate myself today I realise that I am underachieved than what my father was. I told him this in unexplicable terms . In his reply there were only 3 words. "Believe in Yourself". May be I need to push the envelope, get out of my comfort zone, take risks..Is that what he meant ?

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