Saturday, December 31, 2016

The God File

My brother is responsible for getting me hooked on to a number of things.

From TV shows and different genres of music, to the NFL and Ethiopian cuisine, Basil George has impeccable taste and he is my go to guy when life gets boring, and/or when I am in need of money.
Many years ago when he brought home a cassette tape of Metallica’s live performance with the San Francisco Symphony, my non-identical twin Sanjeev George and I were still getting over our love for hard rock, which by the way was courtesy Basil as well. Barely a month before this he had introduced us both to 'Bon Jovi' and 'Def Leppard'.

I won't forget how the three of us sat around our home theater system, which was basically an old Sony car stereo with a couple of cabinet sized speakers, holding our breath not sure what to expect.

Three weeks later we graduated from the School of Rock and enrolled for higher education at the University of Heavy Metal.

I could tell you that the reason I stopped listening to heavy music was because Mom was annoyed by it or that dad wouldn’t allow me to grow my hair more than an inch above my scalp, but the truth is, I was starting to dabble with insomnia at the age of 15 and my attempts at head banging were literally falling face first.
Some of my best childhood memories consist of us three brothers sitting around and discovering new things together for the first time.

I was very excited when dad brought home our first computer.

When the person who installed it got up and left, us three brothers were looking at the bright screen with the same question on all of our minds.

What should be the first thing we do with this amazing device?

We exchanged looks.

Where were we supposed to start?

I am very grateful to Sanjeev who in that moment, opened up a word document and typed in the sentence, ‘Thank You Lord for this new computer’, we watched him as he clicked on the 'save as' button, and named the document as the ‘God file’ before closing it.

Pretty soon, Sanjeev and I started updating the file with everything that happened to us that we were grateful for.

It's almost 15 years later now and each of us three brothers live in different cities, but the God file keeps growing bigger by the day.
Last week tonight is an Emmy-winning tv show that Basil asked me to watch about a year ago.

John Oliver headlines this half-hour weekly special that summarizes the big events going on in the world in a very funny manner.

As usual, his recommendation was spot on.

Watching the show soon became a part of my weekly schedule.

HBO recently aired the finale of its 3rd season.

John wasn’t happy with the way 2016 turned out, the last segment of the show highlighted everything that went wrong this year. 

They even interviewed a bunch of people on the streets of New York and everyone seemed disappointed with 2016.

There was a lot of suffering, some of our favorite artists and athletes died, many of us had personal struggles to overcome and all different forms of heartbreak to deal with, and while on a usual day watching last week tonight gives me many reasons to laugh, John’s year-end review was pretty disheartening.

Here is a link to the video.
Needless to say, when I started my own review of the year gone by, I started thinking of everything that didn't go as I planned. The misses, the losses and all the disappointments.

I was about to put a premature end to my assessment of 2016 and walk away when my eyes fell on the God file sitting quietly on my computer.

It had been a while since I made an entry in it so I scrolled up to the top and started reading everything line by line.

Images from the entire year passed in front of my eyes, like a masterfully designed slideshow.

As it turns out, 2016 was a very eventful year for me.

There were the big happy moments - Moving to a new city, making new friends, my brother's graduation, the cubs winning the world series, then there was getting through the scary stuff - being exposed to identity theft at one point, worrying about the health of the people I really care about, a couple of near misses on the roads, but I guess what really brought a smile on my face was a reminder of all the little things I was able to accomplish this year, from getting a credit card to buying a new microwave oven, it all added up.

Maybe 2016 wasn't the best year of our lives, but come to think of it, when was life ever perfect?

In many ways, we are stronger, wiser and I'll grudgingly admit, a little older than we were 365 days ago, but here is the best part, through all the joy and the suffering, you and I survived, we made it and for the most part, we did it with a smile on our face.
As I sign off on 2016 for the last time, I would like to leave you with a quote from the show How I met Your Mother.

It's taken from a scene where Lily finds a list of things Ted is saying goodbye to before he leaves New York and moves to Chicago.

She tells him:

“You wrote down all these things to say goodbye to, but so many of them are good things. Why not just say goodbye to the bad things? Say goodbye to all the times you felt lost, to all the times it was a ‘no’ instead of a ‘yes,’ to all the scrapes as and bruises, to all the heartache. Say goodbye to everything you really want to do for the last time, but don’t go have the last Scotch with Barney — have the first Scotch toasting Barney’s new life because that’s a good thing, and the good things will always be here waiting for you.”

Before the clock turns 12 tonight, I hope you are able to say goodbye to everything that brought you pain and heartache in 2016, and I hope you able to reflect on all the good things that happened to you as well and hold on to them as you step into the new year with hope.

If you are wondering what plans I have for tonight, I'm working, someone needs to keep an eye out while everyone else is partying right?

But before I leave for the hospital I will find time to update the God file and type in the words 'Thank You Lord, Thank You for another year' :)

Until Next Time


Friday, December 9, 2016


Radio in India was stuck in limbo for the longest time.
All India Radio, more popularly known as Akashvani-the national broadcaster dominated the air-waves for nearly half a century.
Although both my parents recount listening to their respective Murphy radios amongst their most precious childhood memories, growing up I rarely tuned in, except of course for those 'once a blue moon' occasions when the TV wouldn't work and a cricket match was being played somewhere.

Not to discount anything from the station whose line-up was unique and entertaining in its own way, there was something missing. New music was rarely played and upcoming breakthrough artists were never featured.
Then in 2001, Radio City came to town.
I kid you not, the days that followed were dominated by an unprecedented newfound interest in FM radio.
Newer stations blossomed throughout the country, on-air advertising became the norm of the day and Nokia literally seized the day by stepping in and releasing phones with built-in radio tuners that went off the shelves sooner than they arrived.
Since there were millions of people listening in each day, it was hard for Radio City to serve everyone's best interests.
Requests for all kinds of songs were pouring in from every nook and corner of the city.
Sadly for me, it so turned out that not many people liked the kind of music I listened to and thus, the shows that I liked got pushed to the later hours of the day.
But that didn't matter, I was up all night listening.
Bangalore's very own Rohit Barker soon became my favorite RJ.
Mr Barker knew exactly how to enhance his audience's listening experience. He mixed the new with the old, the classics and the fresh hits with such finesse that it was hard not to be impressed.

I remember very clearly how he brought James Blunt into our lives. 
He shared a true story of how James overheard a group of girls singing his song in preparation for his concert scheduled for the next day, He happened to be living in the same hotel as them that night.
After patiently listening to their rendition of his song through the walls he tapped on their door and walked in to a room full of unsuspecting teenage fans and gave them a personalized performance of 'You're Beautiful' on his guitar.
Apparently the girls screamed till the next morning after he walked out.
Rohit then played the song for me to listen, and it blew my mind away.

The next morning I was more than eager to rush to my musically inclined and recently 'head over heels in love' friend Gajanan Babu and asked him if he too was listening in the previous night.
"I absolutely loved it". He said, his voice trying to match the excitement in mine.
"So are you going to try and get Barker to dedicate it to your girlfriend tonight"? I asked him.
"Of course not". He snapped back at me.
"Haven't you paid attention to the lyrics, the guy in the song doesn't get the girl at the end".
That's when it hit me.
It was a beautiful song, but it wasn't exactly a happy one.
If you were inside my mind at that exact point of time you would have heard the loud sound of glass breaking.
I couldn't listen to the song again, at least not with the same joy as before.
The next song of Mr. Blunt that would hit the air waves about a month later was 'Goodbye My Lover'.
That was pretty much it for me.
I realized that regular listening to James Blunts songs could be potentially injurious to my health and so I voluntarily checked myself into music rehab for a few days, detoxed with the help of some heavy metal and all was well again, for some time.
For some reason, a few weeks ago this image randomly just appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. 

I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the couch in my living room.

Growing up I was never really been a big fan of graffiti.
Most of the images I saw on the walls were obscenities spread across my neighbors walls or under flyovers and bridges on the road, making an already dirty wall even more appalling to the bystander.
To change the prevailing pattern, the government back home made a smart move of giving talented artists statewide the opportunity to use these walls as a canvas to express themselves in a more appealing and pleasing way.
The programme was moderately successful.
Dingy unkempt walls across the city were slowly but surely replaced by stunning art work.

What was once an eyesore was now something to behold.
Chicago has an amazing art scene.

Add to an already large list of museums, galleries, the art institute and innumerable exhibits, an impressive array of graffiti and murals spread all across town. Riding around in the bus as much as I do, I have seen my fair share of freestyle art often so impressive, it has at times taken my breath away.
In the past six months that I have lived here there is one particular mural and a fascinating message written on the iron fence right next to it that grabs my attention almost every Friday when I head out to the clinic.

The message, 3 words. You Are Beautiful.

Its funny, I must have seen it at least 50 times now, but on every single occasion it both surprises and uplifts me in equal measure.

As I explored the city further I started seeing the same message sprawled across several walls, billboards and sign posts. I went back recently to see if there was a connection and Voila! I discovered the 'You are Beautiful' project.
What began with 100 stickers and an idea in the mind of a young artist named Mathew Hoffman, has now blossomed into a global phenomenon.

All Matt wanted to do was send out some positive vibes into the world, and to just say that he succeeded is a gross understatement.

I remember reading a short story about a young man in a train who was distracted by an elderly co-passenger travelling with him. This other person constantly changed his seat, put his hand out of the window and appeared to be dropping what seemed to be seeds on either side of the tracks.

Annoyed by the constant disturbance he eventually confronted the man and asked him for an explanation

The man just smiled back at him and continued doing what he was doing.

When the journey ended he headed to the station master's office to file a complaint against his co-passenger.

It broke his heart to learn that the man he fought with was actually a deaf mute who frequently travelled on that train route.

"What was he doing with the seeds"? The young man asked the station master.

"When are you heading back home"?

"2 months from now". he replied.

"You'll see", the station master replied.

"You'll see".

The man left the train station somewhat perplexed.

Life continued and he got over his guilt surrounding the incident.

When time came for him to head home, he found himself alone in the train headed in the opposite direction. He was reminded of the old man, and he tried to distract himself by looking out of the window.

What he saw nearly drew him to tears.

Both sides of the tracks were now lined with beautiful flowers of all sizes and shapes that had grown out of the seeds planted by his co-passenger earlier.

Image result for train tracks flowers
I have learnt over the years not to take the little things for granted. A smile, a pat on the back, a hug when you are feeling down, a 'Keep Going, you're gonna make it', or a 'Don't worry, it gets better'. Not just because I think it is a good thing to do, but because I have often found myself at the receiving end of these gestures and it has pushed me forward in ways I cant explain.
Such is the power of the little, random, everyday acts of kindness.

And whether it is James Blunt serenading a bunch of his fans, or an old person trying to add a little beauty to the world, an unknown painter turning a bland wall into an alluring work of art or a young Matt Hoffman walking around the city with stickers reminding people how beautiful they are in their own way, in the words of the great Mark Twain, No act of kindness is ever Wasted.

Until Next Time,