Wednesday, November 5, 2008

" They said this Day would never come ........"

"This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time,... to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. "
- President-elect Barack Obama at Victory speech at Grant Park , Chicago on Nov.4,2008.

It was Novemebr 4th, and the year : 2008. I woke up to my alarm like any other day , opened the windows , and saw a cloudy sky with a hint of sunshine . Would this be another disappointment like John Kerry's election night ? I wondered . The polls , even the exit polling in the morning were showing Kerry ahead - could it be wrong again ? But, this time , I had a confidence - I had met the canditate , Senator Barack Obama in April of 2007 during his visit to Oakland , and told everyone how he captivated the crowd , and that this man will win it all at the end . Like so many millions of people across the country, for me it was also "our" journey , and we have looked forward to this day , every day for the last eighteen months !

In between catching news, CNN feeds, and blogs - I sleep walked though work with a heavy mind. Where will I go to watch the results ? I tried e-mailing my friend Cristine , who came to all of the Debate Watch Parties at the hotel , only to learn she is out of town. I needed to be in a crowd , hold my apprehensions and look out for the results from four states- Pennsylvania , Virginia , Ohio and Florida ! During my lunch-walk I strolled into the Obama Campaign Office across the street . I had phone banked there the day earlier for a couple of hours . It was 3:30pm and everyone was still phone banking ! I asked Marianne where is everyone calling - it was 6:30pm East Coast time ? Alaska , there are a couple of Senate races there , you know - she said ! Wow - I will come back later , I stumbled on my words . I finished up at work , and started watching the early states being called . As I started my way back to the Convention center Obama Party , the fall of Pennsylvania roared though the airwaves ! The crowd had a deafening cheer for five minutes ! We have check-mated the McCain campaign at his only window to 270 ! The only thing to watch is how much the margin is going to be ! Then came Virginia , Ohio and Florida ! The crowd was hugging each other , strangers came up and threw arms around me and screamed , We Did It ! The elected officials came to the podium and started addressing the crowd , and it was absolutely great to see my state assemblywoman Barbara Lee - and I was so proud that she declared for Obama very early on !! Then came the moment - the two giant elevision screens were tuned into MSNBC - and they declared Obama the 44th President !! People absolutely went wild - balloons came down the ceiling , the music was turned on - and everyone started dancing !! McCain graciously accepted defeat - something that was missing in his campaign - and now everyone was waiting for the President-elect Barack Obama !

The speech was a riveting one , all eyes were fixed on the screens . Frequent chants of , "Yes We Can " , went up in the air . An older african-american lady standing in front of me broke down in sobs , a young white girl with tears rolling down her eyes was watching the speech while her boyfriend held her in an embrace from behind , and the scottish girl that I was talking to earlier wiped tears and inadvertently , leaned on my shoulders ! I could even see my coworker Anthony take down his glasses and try to hide his tears ! This evening , meant a lot to a lot of people . I had to hold myself back a few times , and finally decided to put my arms around my new-found husky voiced Scottish Obama girl ! The jubilation came back after the speech - a band started playing and a sizeable crowd moved in that direction - and she pulled me there as well. But, after sharing this once-in-a-lifetime moment , somehow we separated on the dance floor when she reunited with her college friends - giving me a faint apologetic smile as a goodbye ! Amidst all this , a woman photographer started clicking at our direction urging me to hold her tighter and clicked away as she was giggling all through !

As I came outside , the party was just taking hold in the streets . Cars started honking , people sitting on either side of the windows chanting "Obama ! Obama !! " drove down the alleys ! The mood was so festive , it was a sense of joy, a sense of relief ! Change has come , because we wanted change . My blackberry started ringing , my friend Chris wanted to go to a Pub. Sure, why not ? As we drove to downtown Berkeley , everyone was lining up the streets , jumping with joy and coming up to the cars ! In one instance , this girl came up and reached through the window and started pumping the horn ! Inside the bar , we were joined by a couple of other friends . One of them was V. In an hour Chris excused himself and went home . V is a great and fascinating company ! For an hour , I listened to her about how she missed Denver - not the city of course , but a certain person she met after she broke up with her boyfriend who happens to be in Denver ! But she was wondering whether she is missing this person out of her feelings , or due to the fact that he was so good going down on her !! "I think there is a direct relation to how much you long for someone to what depth of pleasure that person gives to you , don't you think ?" I told her I thought its quite the opposite because otherwise all my ex-girlfriends would be missing me terribly - this drew a huge laughter and a toast of drinks ! My blackberry started to jarr again -"I want to c the streets r u up ?" "yeah " "can u pick me up ?" "sure". I excused myself and started off again ending by the Emeryville Bay with the car parked facing the ocean .

I thought how I started the day , and how beautifully it is ending . The faint glow of sunlight started peeking through the patchy dark clouds . I looked on my side and she had fallen asleep on my outstretched arms . I nudged her a little bit . Its 4:15am .

As I came back to my place walking up the stairs and going past the balcony , I looked up at the distance again - It is a brand new day, a day they said would never come , And it is your day Mr. President , and we are with you !

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Salsa , Harry Met Sally and My Dance with M .........

I don't know when and how it started . And, I surely don't know how it will all end . But , I know exactly the day she walked into my life .

She came to see me on a lazy sunday with her friend right from the gymn - apparently to drop off an application - and as I happened to be there , I asked her if she is willing to sit down for an interview . She readily agreed , and said , If you can excuse the way I am dressed . I have to admit her gymn clothes - black tights and tank tops with a short jacket thrown over - was a distraction the entire time of the interview , but I desparately tried to keep my professional front up and peppered her with questions , Roanoke Virginia ? Tell me about Roanoke , What made you decide to move to California ? Tell me what challenges you faced in your previous position ? The interview was not that long , and as I ushered her out of the office and walking behind her in the hallway , I couldn't help but notice the swaying hips in front of me ! Much much later she would tell me that her friend had called her and said , you should meet this guy who is managing this hotel I interviewed at , he is Indian and cute ! And, she had said , thats impossible , I have to go and see ! And, I am glad she did . Now, before all of you equate me with our beloved Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas , let me categorically say that I never went out with her when we were working at the same place !

And, so the Dance began. Eleven years and counting . In Salsa , the steps are set : the guy puts his left foot forward , the girl puts her right foot back . And reverses in a rhythym : 1,2,Tap,4. When the guy goes forward , the girl moves back. But they never go far from each other.And since that day , we have been doing that dance. When we met that Sunday, I was with C , and she had a boyfriend. And C did not like the fact that I had hired another Kenyan girl ( a fact that I still don't understand why ) , and was constantly telling me that she knows ( by some magical powers usually bestowed on womenkind !) that this girl has a thing for me !
And so she began work and I would see her five days a week . In between watchful eyes of C , we went about working , sometimes talking about something other than work , sharing jokes , and on a couple of times giving her a ride home when she was left stranded by her boyfriend - but always maintaining our undeclared distance . And then , I moved to another company , and started my stint in picturesque Santa Barbara . It is here C and I had a brief fallout . C started a fight over nothing ( she had this uncanny ability to start a brush-fire out of plain thin air ! ) , and unilaterally decide we are through ( via voicemail of course ) and wouldn't answer any of my calls for days ( later I learned that she was going to Chicago and did not want to answer my questions regarding her trip ! ). And here I was , on a Pier in Santa Barbara watching the sunset and wondering what went wrong ! As I was flipping through my cell phone , M's name and number showed up , and I did not hesitate a second and called her . It was great to hear her voice , and it was also great to learn that she had broken up with her boyfriend as well. So, I asked her out that very weekend . She said yes . This is how our journey began - like the winding path by the mountainside - our times of togetherness and our times of being apart .

We went out that weekend , two bruised people , trying to make sense of each other and us . I took her to one of my favorite restaurants close to a movie theatre - Chin Chin in Marina Del Rey and we talked up a storm . About the time we worked together , how both of our relationships did not work out - and in the meantime went through four bottles of Merlot ! She loved Merlot ! Fortunately , the movie theatre was right next door , unfortunately , the four bottles of red wine had made us terribly unstable ! I still don't remember what movie it was - but we were more interested in each other than the movie ! Until, tipped off by an older couple , theatre security came in and politely asked us to leave ! We were happy to oblige . And, went back to the hotel I was staying at for the weekend. That nite was magical , like Eric Clapton with his guitar ! I knew exactly which strings to touch to make the exact desired sound - and we made good music all the way to the morning - as if I had known her for ages and knew exactly what she wanted , and we had put all our hearts and passion in every word of that song ! I had to run back to Santa Barbara in the morning for a meeting , and dropping her off at her place took a long time - she held on to me longer and I really wanted to spend another day with her . Finally, I drove off to Santa Barbara , and everything changed the next day.

It was Monday , and as I came off the meeting , I saw five missed calls from C . C was back , and wanted to talk to me ! Part of me could not wait to hear her voice , and I called her right away. She told me that she had thought things over and wanted us to be back together again . Can I see you tonite ? I kept thinking , should I , M's big soothing eyes , her loving gestures in the morning , her careless fingers ruffling my hair kept flashing before me - "Do you really have to be all suited booted for a meeting ? I still have the keys to the room !" . But , I wanted to see C , and like all the other people in their lives who came up on a fork on the road of life and instinctively made a decision that never lived up to be the right one , I decided to go back to C. "Yes, I will drive up to see you tonite ," I replied .

M took the decision hard . The next three months we kept our distance , not only in miles , but also in contact . I felt terrible about what had happened , and the fact that I started something that I was not ready to commit to totally. Between lonely walks on the Santa Barbara Pier , and my frequent drives to LA hugging the Ventura coastline - I thought about her , her big expressive eyes - and missed her . And finally, we started talking again. And gradually became very close in a different way. She accepted the fact that I was with C , and would listen with a chuckle when I would tell her about my ups and downs with her - but she would always be there. Things I could not even mention to C , she would listen with a glee - and soon we would confide in each other like never before . Deep down I felt a "tinge" when she started dating again, but would listen to her and give her my honest opinions.

Everytime I would drive down to LA , I would call M , and meet her for coffee or lunch. And , with every visit to LA , M and I grew closer and closer. I was in Santa Cruz managing a Holiday Inn when I found out C was "not with me ". It was quite devastating at the time . I was waiting for her to finish school , so we can move together to the city she would start her career in - at least thats what I thought. But I found out , she was seeing others while being in a relationship with me . And not as friends . In all fairness, maybe the long distance never worked for her , and she did not know how to get out . So, I had to do what I thought I could never do in my life - leave C and end the pain. We had split apart briefly a few times , never for more than a week , and she somehow knew that if she shows up at my door , I can never turn her away. And she did , drove all the way from LA to Santa Cruz - and showed up at my door . And, we broke up . For the first time in four long years , I felt free - and wanted to see M so badly . I felt , I could right the wrong I had done four years ago , and start again . And I was off to LA that very weekend !

I remember how I had to drop by C's work to drop some of her things she had at my place and she saw the bouquet I was carrying. " Who is that for ", she asked . "Does it matter?", I replied. "Why can't you tell me ?",she kept on. " I have a date ", I said . "Who is it ?" she insisted on knowing. " You know her , its M------," I told her . " I can't believe this ! Why her ? " with those words she took the bouquet from the back seat and started tearing the flowers on the street ! " Are you done ? I don't want to be late ! ", and I got in the car and drove to the next flower shop on my way to pick M up - our first date in four and a half years !

I had looked up this restaurant called " The Little Door " on third and Beverly - it was one of those warm Los Angeles evenings and I had requested a table in the garden , with candles on the table and a starry sky complemented with a great selection of French wines. First few moments , we just sat looking at each other , savoring a moment that each of us never thought would come ! And my phone rang , and it was work. I looked at her , told her it was work , and she softly told me , " Take it , it might be important." "Hello, Raj here ", and my front desk girl started saying ," Raj, sorry to bother you, but I thought you might like to know - we just received a big bouquet of flowers for you ! " "Flowers ? Read me the card , Sofi !" I said. " It says , It feels great to be with you - thank you for the nicest of weekends ! And signed , Love M---- ". I looked up at her , she had a quivering smile on her lips - M has this smile that when she smiles, her eyes smile too . "You do know you are the first girl that ever sent me flowers, don't you ? Thank you , and this is special ! ", I went over to her side of the table , and kissed her on the lips .

And so started our phase of togetherness ! Every weekend I would drive or fly to LA , and in between cafes , beach walks and dinners on the patio at Katana and The Strand on the Sunset strip , we lived up the romance . I loved the fact that she loved to read , and I used to spend my idle time in Santa Cruz looking for books for her ! Every time I heard her voice , I felt like driving to LA ! But, again, something was missing. Something got lost when two best friends became lovers . The guards went up, and we could not be free with each other like we used to . Both of us desparately wanted it to work ,but slowly we were realizing that the past is making the future slip away from us. I wanted to show how serious I was about her , and so I started looking for real estate in Mombasa, Kenya , where she is from . I found this parcel of land close to the ocean , the white sandy beaches of Mombasa with the blue waters of the Indian Ocean nudging it gently , would be the perfect place for us ! I remember my conversation with my father when I put it to him : " Where ?" "Mombasa , in Kenya Dad !" "Why would you want something in Kenya ?" "Well...umm, the place looks great , and....." " Talk to your mother !" " Hi mom !" "Is this true ? You want to put a down payment on a place in Kenya ? " " Yes, its true." "Didn't you tell me that you broke up with that black kenyan girl four months ago ? Your father and I were so happy that we even fed a hundred poor homeless people after hearing that ! " "Well, that was C mom , and I am with M now, she is also from Kenya " " Raj, aren't you in America ? You cannot find girls from anywhere else ? And how many of these kenyan girls are there in the States ?" " Mom, got to go, I will talk to you later !"

But , I was happy. Taking all the information with me I excitedly went to LA to show her the place I had in mind . I even had all the words worked up actually. I don't know where life is going to take us together , but I can show you where it will end . Imagine a little white villa with a thatched roof where you can see the blue waters everyday , walk the sandy beaches every morning , a place just for you and me ! Sitting across the table on the oceanside patio of my favorite restaurant Shanghai Reds in Marina Del Rey , I wanted to tell her all about it . I have something to tell you , I said. Actually, I had something in mind to tell you too , she replied . Well, why don't you go first M ! I looked at her not knowing what was coming , putting the Mombasa folder on my side of the table upside down. I was thinking all this week, I love the way we are spending the time , I always wanted this in a strange sort of way - but , I miss how we used to be , always joking about our lives, the people we meet , everything's seem so serious now, we are afraid to be open to each other , you know ..... With all the unsaid words in her eyes , she looked at me as the last two words - you know , came out of her lips - and I knew , I knew I would never get a chance to tell her about Mombasa , I knew I would never get a chance to tell her how I longed for this to work. And besides , I cannot get over the fact that you left me that morning , and my Mom kept asking me for weeks when are you coming back , because she knew I was with you that night - Raj, I can forgive , but I am a person that never forgets .... I looked away , unable to answer , the feeble light on the boat grew feebler as it made its way from the bay to the deep waters of the ocean , So, its not working for you , my sweet ? should we go back to being friends ? She looked down , and just nodded . I took her hand in mine and said , Its done ! Suddenly, we decided to give attention to the food in front of us , and she finally broke the silence pointing at the folder , What's that ? I replied , Oh its nothing , just some work papers !

And so, we kept close , but apart . We were not together , but never too far away ! The dance was on . Every week , we would talk about people we met, people we went out with, and how we felt .Some weekends we would meet in LA or San Francisco , have lunch or dinner with each of us bringing our partners in tow. And in between passing the plates or the bowls, in between a deep discussion on current affairs or new restaurants , that subtle look of I hope you are okay , that gaze of fondness with a little touch of hands , never left. In between all this , somehow we ended up spending two New Year's Eve together ( so, tell me , was I your plan D or plan E - she would jokingly ask me after showing up for a dinner and a night cap on the 31st ! - and teasingly add - you do know you are still my one night stand ! ) And so time moved along , with us updating our dating fiasco's and chronicles to each other.

And then, one January nite I made the blunder . I had just been to downtown San Jose at my favorite watering hole - Brittania Arms - and driving back past 2am . The worst thing than to Drink and Drive is , low and behold , Drink and Dial ( by the way, I drink very moderately , and I hate hard liquor ). As I was slicing through the cold nite on a lonely freeway , I picked up my cell phone and called her . It went to her voicemail. For the next ten minutes, I left her a lengthy voice message. Coming home , I went to bed until her phone woke me up the next morning at 10am . Her voice was serious , Did you mean what you said ? Hey M, how is your weekend going ? - I was completely blank , and could not for the life of me remember what I had emotionally poured out for a whole ten minutes the previous nite ! Raj , did you really mean what you said last nite ? , she repeated bringing me back on topic. I was thinking hard but nothing was in store on my memory banks , I was gasping for air like a fish puffing out of water ! You can't answer me , can you ? she kept on . Look M , if I said it , then I must have meant it ! I still don't know how I came up with that line . What did I tell her ? Don't tell me I proposed to her or something ? Can she play back the message to me so I can formulate my answer ? I firmly believe , no matter what anyone says , that you say what's inside you , and exactly the way you feel - when you are tipsy or drunk ! So, you don't remember Raj , do you ? Listen, why don't we talk about something else - when are you coming this way ? I tried to change the topic ! Never ! , she replied and hung up .

Even this anger of hers dimmed one day . It was summer approaching with all its vigor when I got a call from her - Hey , my one nite stand , its time to congratulate me ! she sounded excited. Well, congratulations then ! Did you get married ? or engaged ? or are you having a baby ! I teased her. Wild imaginations my dear , always your forte ! I accepted an offer to work for 18 months in Lesotho for a social project there and flying out in two weeks ! The thought that she is not going to be around , the thought that I cannot just pick and choose a weekend and drive five and a half hours and be with her anymore , stopped me completely ! The fact that whenever I am in LA we cannot hang out in Gypsy and Habibi near UCLA and kiss each other again and again before parting , suddenly dawned on me ! When , ahh , when are you coming back , M ? Year and a half ! Save all your stories for me Raj, since I won't have TV there , your escapades are the only things I can look forward to !
And so, she left . Somewhere in the tiny kingdom of Lesotho perched high up from sea level , she is waking up every day, going to her work in the dusty roads overlooking the plains and having an adventure all her own - far away from me . I don't know how much she thinks of me while staring at the sunset behind the mountains , or she thinks of me at all. How our lives have intertwined , how we have tried to be together and how we have tried to be apart - how we danced up close , and how we stepped away but never too far . It leaves you to wonder , how will this end , when the music stops where will we be ? Will we just bow to each other and say , it was a great dance and I enjoyed it immensely but we made all those missteps - maybe we will catch up at another song , and part ways ? Or in one of the coming New Year's Eve we will find each other again and somehow all those scars of life , emotions of hurt will fade away for something new , and never matter again !

For all those souls who always crave a romantic ending , here is the last scene from Harry met Sally ............

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thirty Feet Waves And an Evening in Capitola ...........

I looked at her and stole another glance .

Dark cascading hair , expressive eyes looking out to the ocean , fair complexion reflecting brightly on a not so bright afternoon - I kept wondering what exactly brought me here - I was on my way to Santa Cruz Pier , and suddenly exited when the familiar sign for Capitola Village showed up as an afterthought on the side of the freeway . I have been here numerous times , sneaked away from work on sunny days to Zelda's for calamaris and Newcastle on tap - and decided this is where I wanted to view the Thirty Feet waves thats supposed to come crashing on the cliffs , piers and beaches , if you believe the weatherman on all the major news networks the evening before. I walked up to the other side of the esplanade - and thats when she caught my eye . She seemed part of the ocean itself , winds whipping up around her , and her fingers making a feeble lazy attempt time and again to put those wavy strands of hair back in place . And , strangely enough , she sensed my presence and looked at me , parted her lips in an interesting smile , and returned her gaze back to the ocean . And , this is the time I realized , I desparately wanted to know her .

After another twenty minutes of glances , I finally walked over to her .

" Do you know how to swim ?"
" Excuse me ! " she looked at me with her inquisitive eyes .
" Do you know how to swim ?" I repeated .
" Maybe , I do .....", she seemed apprehensive now .
" You are here to see the waves , aren't you ?"

" Yes ", the smile came back on her lips , " So the waves brought you here too ?"

" Well, they said you see it once every fifteen years ! " I used my reasoning with humor .
" So, how is my swimming going to help you ? " she asked .
" As much as I like being washed away , I would prefer to be dragged back to dry land ! " And this made her laugh , and the smile brought lines on her face that was more inviting than before .
" So, I was thinking when the thiry feet waves hit the pier , maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea - to stay .... to stay close to you ! " I delivered those last five words without looking at her , and although I was looking intently at the ocean , I knew her eyes were fixed on me !

" I see you have dressed up also for your final journey , ha ha ! " , she was referring to my suit and tie , I guess.

" I had to rush from work , but I can lose the tie if it helps ! So, should we introduce ourselves now , or after you rescue me ? " I looked back at her , outstretched my hand and introduced myself -
" Raj "
" Chantel "
" Nice to meet you Chantel , I am glad you came to see the waves ! "
We decided to walk around the pier a little bit , and talk . At the Pier's edge we looked down together -
" Do you think this pier is gong to hold if thirty feet waves hit on it for a couple of hours ?" I asked .
" Good question ," she pondered .
" What if it doesn't Chantel ? " I raised the negative prospect .
" Then we both become part of the waves , Raj ! I always wanted to the see the bottom of the ocean ! "
This time it was my turn to stare coldly at those foamy dark waters and think of the horror .
" Where are the waves by the way , we have been here for an hour ! "

" I think the weatherman fooled us - its not happening today ! ", she replied .

" These waves are not even five feet Chantel ! Why don't we head for dinner ?"

" I don't have dinner with strangers ," she said with a mischevious smile .

" I see , how about some harmless coffee ? "

" Actually , that sounds great ! I know a nice cafe on the second floor - right there ! ," she brightens up .

We talked up a storm the next hour and a half over latte and lemon cakes , forgetting all about the waves . I learned about her - Chantel's mother is from Mexico City , and her father comes from India's western state of Punjab . That explains the fair complexion and the sharp features , I thought to myself . She is from Colorado , Boulder to be exact , and her parents met each other there . Three months before she was born , her father went on a trip to India , and married according to the family's wishes , and brought back his wife . And decided to cut all ties to her mother . I saw how her face clouded when she was telling me this , and the pain that was straining her thoughts . I listened , " You know , he lived in the same city where I was growing up , and he never came to see me - my mom used to get the money on time , extra money on my birthdays and christmas , but I never got to see him ! He wanted it that way . " I was at a loss for words . She continued , "He never stood up to his family , and left me and my mum in the cold ! ? " I had told her about my story in LA , how I had to struggle during my UCLA years because of my strained relationship with my parents and she aluded to that - "But you stood up for what you wanted , didn't you ?" " Its very hard Chantel , you have a lot of pressures on you , and some guys cannot escape that - I am sure he thinks about you , and one day he will realize that its him who has missed out ! "

" How about dinner ?" she said suddenly and changed the subject .

"Well , I don't have dinner with strangers , but I will make an exception tonight !" I replied with a smile , then a suggestion - " The Paradise Beach Grille downstairs have good food , want to try it ?" And we headed downstairs . During dinner , we noticed the elderly couple at the next table looking at us often . "They are trying to figure out about us Chantel ," I told her . " Really ! ", she seemed amused . I leaned towards her across the table ," Why don't we do something to throw them off ? " "Hmmm, what does The Raj have in mind ? ", she said smilingly. " How about a Gone with The Wind kiss to dispel any doubts that we just met hour and a half ago ?" I asked looking into her eyes . She started laughing , " I don't kiss strangers , and besides , with a Gone With The Wind kiss they would know we just met , how about you looking that way and me looking the other way for five minutes - then they will think we are married ! " At this, we both started laughing . And I looked into her - I do this on most of my dates - sitting across the table I look at the girl and talk to her in my mind without speaking a word - you know you have beautiful eyes , and I like the way you look at me , I like the way you nibble at the food too - and it invariably catches their attention , and they know I am looking at them admiringly . "What ?",she asks inquisitively . " Nothing ", I answered . She turned her attention back to the Seafood Pasta she ordered , and I still kept looking at her ignoring the delicious Halibut that was sitting on my plate . She looked up at me and saw me still admiring her , smiled and said , " I am glad I came to see the waves ."

It was dark outside , even if the waves were at a cresendo , there was nothing to see anymore. "What time is it ?" she asked concerned . "Little over Eight-thirty ", I replied . "I have to head back soon ". " No dessert ?", I asked . " The lemon cakes were dessert for me ". " Is your car in the next parking ?", I wanted to know . " I live just a couple of blocks , I will walk." We got out of the restaurant , took a last stride by the pier and looked at the ocean . You could hear the waves , you could make the silhouette of them coming and retreating from the beach - but everything was dark . The sky was getting darker with clouds when I got there in the afternoon , now it has completely hidden itself . I wanted the evening to go on , but knew it was coming to an end . I learned Chantel loves music and movies just like me , going to UC Santa Cruz , wants to be a teacher ( because I love kids , she said ! ) . I learned some memorable memories of her childhood , how she told all her friends in school that her father lives overseas , how she always wanted to own a boat when she grows up .

"Let me walk you to your house Chantel ," I said .

"Thanks ," she replied. And we started to walk , leaving the esplanade , the dark ocean and the strong winds - tracing the winding pavement hand in hand . The walkway arches up past the esplanade leaving the sandy empty beach and skirts the park with tall slender trees dotted with a few wooden benches . The winds whistled through the darkness , barely nudging the trees but with the crashing waves created a nice symphony for the evening . She clasped my hands a little tighter . " I love those trees , I come up here and sit here on the benches for hours ," she told me . " Its beautiful ," I replied , and then suggested ," You want to go on a detour ?" " Why not?" she said with all the enthusiasm in the world .

We broke off from the pavement walkway , went over the knee-high barrier into the cliff-like higher ground with trees and dirt paths . It was romantic, adventurous and very eerie . As we started towards one of the benches , she caught one of the tree trunks and I had to put my arms around her and pull her towards me to stop her from falling . And we both fell in the process , still in each others arms . Maybe it was the woods , maybe it was the mystical sounds of the waves , but in silence we started kissing - slowly and apprehensively at first , then with an urgency that we somehow knew that the earth has only a few moments from sheer perish . I caressed those wavy dark hair , held that beautiful face between the palms of my hand , and looking at those expressively soft eyes - planted kiss after kiss wherever I could find my lips haven't touched on that adoring face . My lips found her lips again and again , as if it was the center of the universe , where I have to come back to no matter where I go . I rubbed my nose with hers , showered kisses down the nape of her neck , and held her as close to me as I could as if the world would take her away from me . Somehow we made it to the wooden bench close to us , and feverishly tried to find a little more of us that we can feel and touch . The bench was wet with the dew from the evening , I wiped out some of it with the swipe of my hand and dumped my jacket on it for cushion . We could hear the sound of the waves , the wind making its way to somewhere , and the sounds of us together - on a dark night , in the midst of a wooded cliff we found a unique way to celebrate our existence .

How much time had passed , we could not tell - but we did not want it to end . Finally , we sat together on this wooden bench - she leaning on me with my arms around her and her jacket covering us - looking at the distance . The dim lights of the esplanade to our right , the trees covering some of the view of the dark body of water .

" Have you ever thought of something ? " she asked.

" What ?"

" Do you think someone's looking at our direction from the other side of the ocean right now?"

" Maybe ".

" Its strange isn't it ? We are looking at each other at the same time but can't see each other because of the distance - life is strange , isn't it ?"

" Life is never strange Chantel , life is always beautiful ."

I took Chantel home that night , we saw each other periodically over the next few weeks - couple of dinners , weekends with movies and outings , drive to San Francisco and a saturday sleep-over in Santa Barbara . We had great times together but her mood began to change as the month entered a new one and I could not understand whats wrong . I chalked it off to my being busy with work and the regional Holiday Inn conference I had to attend and her upcoming exams and her apprehension with it . And finally , one day she called . " Can I see you this Friday Raj ? Or are you busy ? " " No, no - I will see you tomorrow Chantel , do you want me to pick you up ? " " No, thats okay , I will meet you in downtown at the Italian joint ". "Okay".

And , she had news for me . Over dinner and in between minerstrone soup and spumoni ice cream - she told me that her doctor has confirmed she is pregnant ! This is the moment of truth for most guys in thier lives , and I could feel the waves of emotion pounding inside me . " Are you taking vitamins ? Are you eating alright ? ," I asked eagerly . " Are you crazy ? How will I face my mom ? I told her - nothing till I get my degree ". "Chantel , listen , I am with you whatever you decide - but I want you to be okay with it . We have to think this one through . I want you to be alright ." " You are going to leave me , aren't you ?" " Chantel, I never said that . You have to decide this calmly , and I promise , I will be with you all the way !" " So, you want me to get rid of it - you know I am Catholic ! So, ending this is the easiest solution, right ?" "Chantel , I didn't say that - I am with you , you have to trust me ! " She looked at me unconvincingly , " You, my father - you are all the same - you can just get up and leave ! " "Thats not fair , Chantel .....Chantel listen ...." She had already got up and started for the door . By the time I caught up with her on the Broadwalk , she was already near her car . My pleas and cries for understanding fell flat as she slammed her car door and drove off .

Little did I know , this would be the last time I will see her . All my calls on her cell phone , my frantic e-mails met with complete silence . Two weeks later , I saw her e-mail on my inbox: "Raj , sorry to leave you like this - but let me live my life with my imperfections - C." Just one line - brief , succint , no broad explanations . I raced to her house the next day - knocked on the door , an elderly lady opened and asked who I was looking for . " Can I speak with Chantel ? " " No, she went back to Boulder yesterday - she will finish her studies there ." " Can I speak with her mother ?" " Mother ? I am her aunt ." " Can you give me her phone number in Boulder ?" "You have to reach her on her cell phone if you have it ." " She is not answering her cell phone but I will try again . Can you please tell her Raj is looking for her , I really need to talk to her ." " I won't see her till Christmas actually " " Oh, okay ." I came down the steps to the gate dazed . It felt like she had disappeared as suddenly as she came into my life . And I have no way to find her again. I kept calling her cell phone the next two months - it became a habit , at the end of the day , on the weekends , when I am driving on a long drive to nowhere . I always hoped this would be the time she would unmindfully pick it up . She never did .

Six months later , the company moved me further north of Northern California . Chantel was still on my mind . What if she decides to come back and look for me ? On the last day , on a sunny afternoon when the sun was cascading on the lazy waves below - I stopped again at Capitola . Standing amidst those trees on the edge of the beach , I looked out at the ocean .

" Do you think someone's looking at us from the other side of the ocean ?"


"Isn't it strange ? We are looking at each other at the same time but can't see each other - life is strange , isn't it ?"

" No, life is never strange Chantel , Life is always beautiful ."

( On October 1999 , a storm surge rising to nearly forty feet on the Santa Cruz coastline washed away a couple on their honeymoon . Although the man was rescued , the body of the woman was never found . On January 2002 similar storm surge warnings were given across the coast again but never materialized .

The above piece is an abridged version of the short story " The Wave" narrated in the first person . All characters and the situations described are completely fictional. Any similarity to the characters or their situations in real life are coincidental).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hmmm , ReIncarnation ???? Naah !

I came across the picture of John Wilkes Booth , the infamous assasin of President Lincoln when I was going through a book on the Civil War in my college years and it was my younger sister Tarana who pointed it out to me : " This guy looks like you dead on ! Wow ! " Needless to say , she proceeded to proclaim her finding to every soul that came to our house the next two weeks and in the process , much to my consternation , might have jeopardised my secret advances on some of her friends ! But, when I first saw the picture , I was floored - it was as if I was looking at myself ! To be a look alike with a famous assasin is not very appealing , but over the years I took it in stride and made a laugh about it . When I was in Seattle , I found this photo studio where you can wear all these civil war era clothes and take a picture - and since I had a moustache then , I took a picture posed the same as the picture on top ! I tried unsuccessfully to find that picture to post on the blog but couldn't find it , and held up the posting of the blog for a while . Anyways , so whenever I hear about ReIncarnation , this picture comes to mind - but trust me , I neither have any memories of performing in a theatre nor do I have memories lying in a barn during the last moments of my previous life !

ReIncarnation is very debatable, and very romantisized . And, above all , not proven. All religions have touched on reincarnation in some form , but it is profound in Hindu and Budhist religions , and completely abhored in Islam. Budhism believes in Samsara or endless cycle of ReIncarnations , until the soul reaches the purest form of Enlightenment or Nirvana . In ancient Egypt , the bodies were enbalmed so that they can make the journey to the after-life along with the soul and they believed in Resurrection . Ancient Greek phlosophy also dwelled in ReIncarnation - Plato , Socrates and Pythagoras believed in it and Pythagoras even used to give details of his previous life experiences during his teachings . " At the end of my life ," Socrates said , " I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again , and that the living spring from the dead ." Although Jewish faith does not believe in ReIncarnation , The Kabala , the ancient teaching of the Jewish faith is full of stories on ReIncarnation more than a thousand years old . Native American teachings are firmly rooted in the belief , and The Rosicrucian Fellowship also believes in this phenomenon . The Sufis also believe in the rebirth of the soul to achieve eternal greatness . In other words , every ancient religion has touched on it , or based its spiritual progression based on its existence .

In Tibet , the mystical belief is the current Dalai Lama is the 14th Incarnate - and the way the Wise one is chosen is through dreams and signs of high priests . The current Chinese authorities issued a warning few months back that there will be no ReIncarnation without their approval - in other words , they will have a direct hand in determining the next Dalai Lama !

And yet , there is no concrete proof of it . The closest modern day believers have come to point out was Edgar Cacye - who would go on a trance and describe people's future , their health problems and their past . He even , supposedly , could tell what their past lives were ! Here is a ABC PrimeTime piece on an amazing kid who vividly remembers how he was shot down during WWII - this piece was actually fascinating -

Part 1 :

Part 2 :

And how about this BBC documentary ?

Well, however astonishing these recounts are , and however romantic it may seem , reincarnation as a science is hard to accept . I do not dispel the believers , they might be on to something that science cannot yet prove - but there are mysteries of life we have not unlocked yet . Life and Death and the Universe still fascinates us , and we do not have all the answers . But have you ever thought that if there is a after-life what would you do ? For me , after all the woman-problems I had in one lifetime , I wonder how many more problems would I run into ? Wouldn't you want to meet all the previous-life people that were your friends ? Worse , what if you run into one of your Ex-es ? Religions where ReIncarnation is a cornerstone , believe this happens so the soul keeps purifying itself - how many ReIncarnation washes would it take for my soul to come out clean ? I really don't want to lighten up a serious topic - but as I was browsing I came across this website : where after you answer some very thought-provoking questions you will find out what form you will take in your next life !! And so I filled it out , and it turns out I will be back as a " horse " along with a lucky 20% who will reincarnate in this animal form !

Well, a stud is always a stud , I suppose !

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rain, Rooftops and Memories .............

I don't know the day, the time when I first realized this - but I think I have a certain affinity and closeness to the rain. It must have been a day when I was down , early somewhere in my childhood days , and I had looked out the window - and the landscape was blinded with rain . And since then , everytime something is heavily weighing down on my mind and I see the skies open up - I feel my assumptions have been proved correct .

Well. January in the Bay area has been raining without end . Day after day , the rain came down at all hours - and I began to wonder when it is going to stop ! So much rain , that my apartment got flooded and I had to move temporarily for a couple of months until it can be fixed ! Still, all this rain evokes a lot of memories - my images of Dhaka , a city I loved which used to look so crisp and beautiful after a rain ! There , rains would sometimes come in between and during sunshine ! And , one of my favorite things to do when I would hear the rain coming down in torrents - was to sprint to the roof ! Every house , building in Dhaka has a roof ! And these roofs are not only places to hang clothes to dry on the clothesline ( no dryers ) or to fly kites , but these roofs are de facto "flirt joints" and the place for "escapades". When it started to rain , I would sprint up on the roof , and within minutes - know the "prospects" in the neighborhood ! And all the single uncommitted girls would come out like butterflies in the advent of Spring and literally spread their wings ! The rain somehow used to take away the inhibitions of a very conservative society and the girls , and guys , used to take the full oppurtunity of it . Personally , I would like to think that I just loved drenching in the rain ( which is true ) , but I cannot escape the very distinct possibility that seeing the girls and somehow connecting with them in between glances was also a reason for my affinity ! Roofs in Dhaka act as a social gathering place for teenagers and friends , and specially during the scorching heat of summer - a place to cool down in the evening and sip tea ! It is from one of these roofs my cousin looked at his future wife quite a few years ago , and found out that the temporary maid that comes to clean my Aunt's house also goes to clean her house , and the rest was history ! As urban traditions of dhaka love stories go - the maid became the courier , then came secret courtship , and finally marriage ! I remember a lot of things that happened on the roof - the first time smoking cigarettes with my friends , the extensive lessons I received from Lipi ( she was seven years older than I was ) and she took it on herself to teach me in the art of kissing ( I was , regardless to say , an ardent student ! ) and unknowing to her I applied my new found knowledge on her younger sister Shabana who I really liked on the same roof in the fading light of the evenings !! Both are happily married , and hopefully our mutual practice made each of us a better lover !

(The view of the rain soaked street from the window of my present apartment)

The evening I remember most is the day I had to say goodbye to my childhood sweetheart on the roof of an old building in a dusty northern town in Bangladesh called Rangpur ( someday I will write in details about this story ) - and in midst of this traumatic hour , the rain came down -slowly at first , then furiously , and we were still looking at each other , and did not move . She was trying to tell me that I should give up our fight , and how she was worried about my safety - and how I would get back to Dhaka with all her uncle's hired hands looking for me ! The rain has stayed with me ever since , I believe . I have to borrow the lines of one of my favorite Bengali poets Nirmolendu Goon here : " You are leaving , And there are tears - In the eyes of the Rain !"

Rain , is not that much fun in the Bay area - with work and driving , there is no romanticism in the rain here - and of cousre , there are no roofs ! But still , the rain leaves me in a different mood , or maybe because I am missing someone that my previous beliefs of rain-theory is stirring back in me . I want a warm rain , coming down not like a drizzle but a cascade - and a roof that I can sprint up to and roam around - and maybe I will find my adventurous years that I left back home come back to me !

Well, the guys doing the marketing for Kerala Tourism undaunted by the fact that the incessant monsoon is a deterrent for tourism , tried a great spin to their ad campaign : " Sometimes it takes water to kindle a Fire !" I cannot agree more Kerala !

And lastly , here is the picture from the movie "Notebook" - and this scene has been become a signature of the kiss in the rain ( I was going to put a Indian movie song in the rain , but this scene is much more pure ......) - this was not supposed to be a "sappy" post , but .......

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cry , my beloved Kenya , Cry ........

Whenever I think of Kenya , unlike most americans , I think of white sandy beaches on blue waters of a passive ocean , rather than giraffes and zebras and all kinds of wildlife in the safari parks . I am not Kenyan , and I have never been to Kenya - but Kenya is close to my heart . I count a handful of Kenyans as my close friends , and through them I have come to love their easy-going ways , their love to party and have a good time , and their embrace of me despite being not one of them . And, that is why , the images and reports coming out of this proud east african nation since the end of December - saddens me to the core . My beautiful , serene and exotic Kenya - the Kenya depicted in the movies " The Constant Gardener " and " I dream of Africa " - is in great pain , and there seems to be no end in sight .

Situated on Africa's East coast on the equator , Kenya is a pictuesque country inhabited by forty-eight different tribes , the largest Kikuyu , Luo and the Luhyia makes up 65% of the population . In a corner of the world dominated by strife and tribal differences which would commonly disintegrate into outright warfare - Kenya was an exception , it was always referred fondly as the Island of Calm . But, there were simmering tensions boiling underneath all this time , and it just needed a spark .

The British , with their customary disposition of leaving a conflict behind wherever they ruled under their empire , made no exception of Kenya . When the East India Company started to have a financial crunch , they decided to open the Kenyan farmlands to European settlers . Most of the lands appropriated were prime agricultural lands of the central highlands belonging to the Kikuyu tribes , and the people were forced into reserves . By 1948 , 1.25 million Kikuyus were restricted to 2,000 square miles and 30,000 settlers enjoyed 12,000 square miles of prime land . The European settlers also let 120,000 Kikuyus till the lands as tenant farmers on land which they owned once ! This created a continuing worsening scenerio where the farmers started migrating to Nairobi , and at the same time created a Kikuyu land owning class who joined hands with the British . By 1950's half the Kikuyu's had no land claims at all - a worsening poverty and deprivation created a deepening bitterness - and the Mau Mau uprising was born . Starting in 1952 , and at first trivialised by the British , the uprising gained strength despite having only basic rudimentary arms against a colonial army . Unable to stem the tide , the British and their local allies resorted to the extreme . In 1954 , the entire capital city of Nairobi was placed under military control and security sweeps were done throughout the city , and suspected rebel sympathisers as well as innocent civilians totalling about 77,000 people were forcibly led into concentration camps , and an additional 100,000 were deported back to the reserves . In apalling conditions, many died of disease and malnutrition . Despite gaining the upper hand militarily against an unco-ordinated and ill-equipped uprising , the British lost the outcome - and decided to grant independance to Kenya in 1963 , and Jomo Kenyatta , the nationalist leader , came to power . He consolidated power with his Kikuyu tribe forging an alliance with the Embu and the Meru 's and marginalising the Luo's . The Kikuyu's , with government blessing fanned across the Kenyan farmlands , and settled in lands not only left by the whites , but enroaching on tribal lands belonging to other tribes as well . And thus , the under current of tribal antagonism was born , and continued to manifest itself in power , politics and the social fabric of Kenya for years to come . And in every election , and there has been only a handful in Kenya , whenever the time to bestow power has come - so has election violence - which has to a large extent always traversed the path of tribal divide . But somehow , the resilient Kenyans had a way of their own to overcome the divide - tribal inter-marriages were common , and tribal identities were always the unspoken reality .

But, this time , the election of 2007 , was different . Raila Odinga , the leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) put together a coalition of the marginalised tribes and challenged the Old Generation leaders in Government led by Mwai Kibaki . Raila and the ODM had consistently bettered the ruling party in polls after polls before the election , and the prospect that people's verdict through the ballot will change the face of power for the first time in Kenya - made this a historic moment . Rampant corruption and cronyism had reached an unprecented peak , and people were ready to answer in kind . Marginalised Luo's , Luhiya and the Kalenjin's saw this as their chance of representation in power , and they rallied behind the opposition . On election day , people came out in droves , stood in line for hours , and peacefully cast their votes . But , for those who said the New day for Kenya has arrived , the ominous clouds had already begun to gather .

There were both President and Parliamentary elections at the same time . As the results began to trickle in , an astonishing picture was emerging . Raila's ODM , was winning across the board in parliamentary seats and ended up with 92 , far ahead of the 34 for Kibaki's PNU . Half of the cabinet was thrown out of power and replaced by unknown members of the opposition - but something strange was happening behind the scenes when the numbers for the presidential election was being revealed . Even when the numbers from remote areas of Kenya was already in , poll center results from nearby Nairobi were being witheld ! And, the numbers started to look suspicious for a number of reasons - one, numbers published at the polling centers did not match with the numbers stated when they were announced at the Commission ; Two, strangely the number of people who voted for the Parliamentary ballot was far less than the number voting for the presidential ballot although everyone entering the polling station were given two ballots ! ; and third, the mathematically impossible scenerio that more than 100% people had voted in constituency after constituency where Kibaki won handily ! It was as if someone was waiting to see what the margin would be in favor of Raila Odinga in the 19 provinces that he won , and then sat down with a calculator and figured how many votes they had to add to Kibaki's total in the remaining 2 provinces to have Kibaki come out ahead !! Waiting to celebrate a victory , the opposition and the people felt betrayed , and the Rift Valley and the slums of Nairobi erupted in anger !

Raila Odinga , the opposition leader , is from the Luo tribe . And Mwai Kibaki , is a Kikuyu . Overnite , the face of a stolen election opened the deep fissures of the tribal divide , and the anguish over lost land and perceived betrayals called for immediate revenge and protests ! Kalenjin warriors and Luo tribesmen descended upon Kikuyus who had settled in the Rift Valley , and opposing tribes fought pitched battles in the slums of Nairobi. What should have been a movement for democracy and people's will, instead became an ethnic warfare with horrific scenes of brutality ! The demons were unleashed on the beautiful swaths of Kenya , and left nothing but total destruction ! Families after families were uprooted , their houses burnt , people stopped and if found to be of a different tribe , hacked to death ! Churches where people went for refuge , were first blocked by mattresses at their entrances , then set on fire so the people inside cannot escape ! Human brutality at its ugliest, showed in every form in this conflict - from all the fractions , and specially the security services on people who came out for legitimate protests .My father used to tell me how brutal the Religious Riots during the India-Pakistan Independance and the following Migration was - how train loads of people trying to reach the other side were attacked with swords and hacked to the last man,woman and child , and the trains would arrive at the station with no live person in the compartments - only mutilated bleeding bodies ! And worse ,in Kibera , it was people who had no possessions to begin with in the slums , were attacked and their belongings put on fire ! One group of have-nots dispossesing the other group of have-nots , just because they are from the other tribe !

My circle of Kenyan friends widened during my four tumultous years with C , and I would meet a lot of nice people from all parts and tribes of Kenya. It would never dawn on me to ask which tribe they belonged to , but over time I would learn the names of the tribes and their uniqueness little by little . As there are a lot of people of Indian descent in Kenya I would be asked again and again whether I am from Nairobi or Mombasa whenever I was at a "Kenyan Bash" . And I loved to go to these Bashes - not only for the gorgeous stylish women but also for my developing liking for 'Tusker' , the Kenyan beer . The Kenyan Team always loses at the Rugby 7 Series but its supporters are the most faithful , ardent and boisterous ! And yes , I root for them every chance I get ! C and M , two women who has been close to me over the years , are from Kenya - one from Nairobi and the other from Mombasa . All put together , Kenya means a lot to me . And I have always deplored the Indian old conservative mentality of not integrating with the Kenyan African population while living in their county ( the worst glares I received when C and I would be walking in the Malls in Los Angeles were from old Indian couples passing by ! ).

Well, I am lost in this blog like Kenya is lost in this mindless tragedy . But I also believe in the resilience of its people . Although it is painful to watch the horrors unfloding at the present , you have to believe this is not the future . You have to believe , maybe this is the pain that will bring in a ' New Kenya ' - where old entrenched mentalities of power and inflaming of divisive politics will be swept away , where a more equitable distribution of land will give more sustainable survival to the landless , where a President wouldn't be holed up in his palace when the country burns and the people suffers , and above all , people will not be painted in their tribal codes but show the colors of a proud Kenyan nation !

Palaeontologists have discovered the earliest evidence of man's ancestors in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya - so there is some Kenya in all of us . So let us all stand and shed a tear with Kenya and say , Enough - this mindless killing has to stop - let us say in one voice , the verdict of the people has to be heard !

As I started the blog , I will leave with the images of Kenya that will always be on my mind , from the movie "The Constant Gardener " on the shores of Lake Turkana in the Rift Valley - beautiful , serene and exotic - my Kenya will forever remain....

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The New Year and a Life without T ..............

It was a Friday nite , December 29th and the Berkeley temperatures were on a free fall downwards - it was a day when Jessica Alba announced she is both engaged and pregnant at the same time , president Bush non-chalantly vetoed a defense bill on his desk , and the Patriots - much to my ire - were flying off to a perfect season ! And, this is the day T left .

Yes, T left for Lagos, Nigeria last Friday - final destination : Cairo, Egypt . She always wanted to know the Arab culture and Arabic . In fact, I met her when she came to see the Arab Film Festival in SF/Berkeley . And, we met by chance , on a sunny extended summer day in Berkeley , and we have been together since - until last week.

It was a very uneventful meeting , I had just walked into Dada's place , and there she was - clutching a cup of hot chocolate and trying to sneak a glance at me as I strolled through the dining room ( she really did ! ) , and on the way back , she was still with her hot chocolate when I said , " Hi " . She nodded , but did not say anything , and I kept walking !

I wanted to see her again , but my work at the hotel , and her volunteering for the Festival kept us from running into each other for the next few days . Until one afternoon when I was driving past Dada's house , I saw her opening the front gates and going inside ! Well, a Taurus always knows what he wants , and goes for it ! So , I did . I turned my car around at warp speed , parked and went inside the house hoping to catch her before she fades into the bedrooms upstairs !

And, I caught up with her halfway up the staircase ! Feverishly between catching my breath ( I attribute this to my not running since I moved back from LA ! ) , and coming out with the right frame of words - I tried to convince her that she should go out with me sometime ! Honestly, I don't remember the exact words that I said , but it kind of went like this :

"i kind of liked you when i saw you the other day , and i heard you are going back to Pasadena after the festival and i might not see you again - so when i saw you while driving past the house i had to stop and ask you - will you go out with me ? how about a movie and dinner ? - we can talk and find out more about each other ! although i have to tell you that you are looking at a thorough Bengali man who happens to be a Taurus - we are fantastically emotional , stubbornly faithful and of course , extremely gracious ! "
And I kept on and on , totally unscripted ! Until she stopped me and said -" Yes ". And we met to watch the festival movie - "Seeds Of Doubt" and then - "Kiss me not on the Eyes ". And we were together . I remember that we were talking in a cafe until midnite and then sat in the car and continued the "conversation" - until the street sweeper trucks called in the cops to move our car at 5am ! I still remember when I went to meet her in San Francisco for the Festival Celebration Nite and danced with her till 2am - and how awesome she looked in her "yemeni" outfit !

Yes, she is special , and we started in a very special way .

Isn't it odd that the first things you miss about the person are the ones that you would complain about the most ?

" Did you wash all the plates and forks before putting it on the table ?".
" Please do ."
"Why ? I washed and put them up yesterday ! "
"Can you please do it again ?"

"Why are we stopping ?"
" I have to take gas ."
"You still have a lot "
"Its a twenty minute drive !"
"Its cold , I want to go home first ! Its going to take longer if we stop !"

"Did you mapquest the place we are going ?"
"How will we find it T , you know we always get lost in San Francisco ?"
"No, You get lost in SF , besides its more fun finding out the place on our own , instead of knowing every little turn ! "
"Unbelievable ! You do know the movie starts in half an hour !"
"41 minutes Raj , I beg ,- always fuzzying up the numbers !"

"Are you listening to him again ?"
"Its not him - its Rufus "
"Yes, Rufus the Dufus ,T its 4am ! "
"Isn't he great baby ?"
"You do know he gives me a headache now with his ranting music !"
"I can't believe you said that - you have to unclutter your head , thats where you are getting your headache, I beg ...."

"Can I switch the channel ?"
"To what ?"
"Something else "
"I am watching the Tennis channel !"
"Babe, weren't you watching this same interview yesterday ?"
"what is your point Raj , now I missed two minutes of the interview and have to watch it again , I beg ...."

I could always depend on her , she was my biggest cheerleader . Every evening ,I would call to ask her what to bring for dinner and start home. I would climb up the stairs and dash to the bedroom to see how she is . She was there , and I always knew she was there . Every weekend we used to make plans and then just stay home ! And when , she had to go to DC , or I had to go to Miami , we would just miss each other so much and couldn't wait to get back .

This job in Cairo is great for her . This is just what she always wanted to do. And I will miss her terribly , I miss her today , and I will miss her even deeply tomorrow . But, I do not want to put the word 'forever' to this word 'missing' . One day , maybe that day would be a warm one , and the patriots would be rotting at the bottom of the NFL , and I will see her again - maybe she will be holding a cup of hot chocolate and sneak a peek at me and I will say 'hi' again - but this time I won't keep walking , and simply say - ' lets start , i have been waiting for you !'

Well baby - be safe, be happy , and as you know , there is someone here who will always root for you !

We used to jokingly ( or seriously ) refer to this as our song , so here it is :