Saturday, August 29, 2015

Internet...what a terrible thing to waste!


One look at the FB time line and u get the feeling how "closed" minds WE have about everything and anything!!
The thoughts...ideology....tradition....culture....wife....GF...children are the best and this is it. And lets not forget the biggest of them all - ur religion! We had once last chance to experience "others" at no cost and we are screwing that up too.
It gets over, even before it begins folks....the journey to something NEW!
Good luck for a journey from yourself to yourself! (with a total distance of travel a mind boggling zero miles in a period of avg 80 years!!)
Internet...what a terrible thing to waste!!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A rebel with a cause..





After a gap of 20 years or so met up with a few old frnds . They come from different backgrounds and socio ec status. They all are hard working, model citizens and good people who broke the glass barriers in the US and moved many notches up on the career ladder. They are living a dream they saw while siping Thambi ka cutting chai in Mumbai. Yet, I found them to be struggling with a few issues which bothered me. Gone are the days when we used to meet each other and solve engineering or applied mechanics problems. These new problems are tough ones are they are mostly the following:
1: The indifference of the wives
2: The growing rebellion of the children
Lets talk about the rebellion first.
It is romantic to be a rebel. Is that’s why these 17 year olds turn into rebels? What is it? It is downhill slope which only adds misery to life of all concerned parties then why we see more kids joining its rank?
Since I know the personalities of my frnds, I can take a calculated risk of analyzing it.
I think the word “huge disappointment” comes before the word “rebellion” comes into play. Them kids when they are going to school, they pick up images and construct a life for themselves. The father mostly has other more workable plans. You throw in no communication and a full blown rebellion is at hands.
Sometimes even communication does not help.
In the known history, there is no bigger rebel I know of other than Aurangzeb. History books are full of his letters detailing his trouble in managing Deccan with meager resources. Since Deccan was full of non agri land and had water shortages, he is seen constantly begging for more land from either Gujarat or Karnaktak from ShahJahan. ShahJhan allowed none and ridiculed him. You throw in his sibling rivalry with Dara and we have a rebel who did not stop rebelling even after ShahJahan was buried inside Taj Mahal.
Later on, all his remaining life he can be seen rebelling against his four sons. He is seen humiliating them in Darbaar and all that good stuff.
Management 101 says “discipline in private, praise in public”, but I guess when you are a king you make ur own rules.
Now, we see new Auarangzeb showing up in modern homes.
The way my frnds are dealing with the issue is this: Those with the money are saying “ My way or the high way”, those without major bank balance have reconciled by saying “ its happening in every house – Vidi Ka Vidhaan. Kiya Kar sakte hain?”.
The other fact that emerges from these stories is that these rebels don’t rebel against any Tom, Dick and Harry. It’s always against someone they love deeply. Additionally they don’t move an inch from the spot the first rebellion broke out.
You all remember the famous scene of Shakti between Dilip and Amitahb at the sea. See it again. Even though Dilip wants something else from that meet, Amitahb still stuck in the past. Not moving an inch.
Sufiism is the way forward someone said. I think its gross injustice to expect these kiddos to think like a sufi at at the age of 17 or so.
I think we should meet them where these rebels want us to meet. Eye to eye. Gentle talk.
Father son relation is the best one in my opinion and can be a source of real fun. There is no better sight than to see a father with his hand on the shoulder of his son watching the sun go down at the nearest sea. Life is all about seeking breadth taking moments. Here is a man who wants best for his son… here is a son who obviously wants to return the favor to his father for all the hard work he did in raising / educating him. They have a lot more at stake then they acknowledge.
In regards to the fist issue, I believe every woman deserves to walk 6 inch above the surface of earth while she is with his man. She undergoes many changes in her after marriage and needs assurance from his man. In the words of an American philosopher Jeff Shipman, “for a woman a pregnancy is like a head-on collision of car. Every part of her body gets affected sometimes beyond repair”. A man must still treat her the way he treated her in the first spring of their life.
A man must make her feel special every time - All the time. All you need is ability to speak ur heart…honestly….humorlessly!
I have done it. It works every time!
Good Luck!!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Khud Kashi



Jab barson Se bichde Hue Ek Dost Ne
Achanak Mil Kar
Poorani Tasveeron Main Tumhen Talash Kiya
Pucha
"Yaar, Ye Kaise Bichad Gayin?"
Aur Jab Koi Jumla Mada Ko Nahi Aayaa
To Chand Toote Hue Lafzon Ne
Kisi Palkon Se Gir Kar
Khud Kashi Kar Li!

(C) Shahid Parvez Sayed, August 15th, @ 1 am

Jimmy Carter - what a journey!





Someone taps on my shoulder. I turned back.
“Hi, I am Rosalynn”

I found an elderly women greeting me with a big smile. I just saw her on stage with Jimmy Carter. OMG. She is his wife Rosalynn. She was the first lady of the US in 1976-80. What an honor! She herself came down to greet us. I was not expecting that.

We were in a Church at Plains, GA. hometown of the Carters. I have been his fan since my college days at Georgia Tech, so when I found out he teaches at Sunday school of the church, I drove to Plains, GA 160 miles south west of Atlanta. One of my first project in has named Jimmy Carter Blvd. gotten a National Award, so I had one more reason to go.

We shake hands.

“I reckon you guys drove from Atlanta?”
“Yes we did. She just got here to the US and this is her first time outside ATL. I wanted her to see Mr. Carter on her first visit”.
“Oh that’s so sweet.  I am glad both of ya’all you cud come. You gonna stay for the picture?”
“Yes we will”
“We will see you then”
She said and moved on to her next guest.

You can safely flashback to the time when her husband was the tenant of the White House and you could imagine her greeting and exchanging pleasantries with the kings, queen and dictators the same way.

My appreciation of Jimmy Carter is not an accident. Even though he was the President before even I cud spell America, I am deeply touched by his entire life.

He has done so much for the World after losing the second term that it will take pages after pages to write them down. The most significant one I think his peace initiatives in every conflict the World saw after 1980. His involvement in ‘Habitat for Humanity’ by constructing cheap houses for poor has been remarkable.

He has been a man of deep deep convictions. For example when he was the President and Iran Hostage was crisis was raising the passions in America for a military strike. He had the choice to drop half a dozen nuclear bombs on Iran, he refused to do so. He negotiated and then authorized a rescue operation which failed miserably making his second term impossible.

American resentment for Iran was at its height, he and his advisers knew this is going to hurt in 1980, yet he stayed true to his belief of “killing each other’s children is no way to peace”

What a story the Carters have!

He went to my Alma Mater Georgia Tech. He used to joke about his career path by saying “ I am a son of a farmer, trained nuclear engineer, worked on first Nuclear submarine, was President of the US and sell peanuts for a living!”

I had driven my then in-house girl frnd to Plains, GA hoping she would fall in love with him. I wanted her to volunteer her time to ‘Carter Cente’ in Atlanta.

As we drove around town square, I was hoping to see his picture all over. There was none. Any street named after him. Nope. I was shocked as I am used to politicians of all hue, size n shape welcoming me with maa-baap smiles in every town I visit in India. No sign of Carters here.

We asked for his Museum. We were directed to his high school which was converted to a Museum. We walked around the classes and halls thinking how it must have been those days.

On our way back I asked the old lady at the main reception about where can I see Mr Carter. She said in the evening you will see an old man cycling around the main road – that’s him!

It turned out she was the classmate of President Carter while he was in High School, same high school where she was sitting then!

PS: Even though Jimmy Carter lives in the land of Satan, please google him or read one of his books and be surprised what it will teach you and your child. We are in a global village and chances your daughter and sons are not gonna be getting born-grow up up-marry -bear children and die with in 5 miles of your house. They cud go as far as 5000 miles. They need to learn a few things about others.

Mind it!

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Graves..




Ye Qabar Kis Ki Hai? - I ask a group of men standing by a 15th century tomb.
"Pata Nahi. Poorani Hai bahut.."
I climb up to take a look and realize that they were the graves of two women. This is very rare to see women in Medivial India given so much respect by building tombs over them. I am thinking who they cud be? Malik Ambar's women? Malik Hameed or Fateh Khan's wives.
"Dunno who they are but they are the graves of two women of the same age". I declare as I climb down from the graves.
"How do you know they are women?" asks a man who approaches me.
"I know" - I say with dramatic authority.
"Aap Ka Naam Sir?"
"Sayed Shahid Husain".
I move on to see the hillock behind the tomb that has captured my imgagination. A small hill with a lone tree. What a place to sleep forever. All I wud need is a 50x50 plot. I can plant a yellow / orange Gulmohar tree there and thats it. I am thinking what to do as I hear a murmur in crowd.
" Uncle pahunche hue hain....Sayed Sadaat...oonchi family se. In ko maloom hoga"
"Suno bhai?"
"Ji Sir!"
"Yaar mujhe Dafan Hoe ke liye woh Jagah Mil Sakti Hai? Woh ped ke neeche wali?"
That guy reacted as if he just saw a ghost. His mouth went dry as he gulped some saliva to moist it.
" Haan kiyoon nahi!" He managed to say.
"Kis se Baat karni hogi?"
"Sir yahan ke trustee se...."
I gave him my number asking him to inform me how much will it cost and what are the formalities.
Two weeks later as I am sitting with my frnds practicing my humor, I get a call from an unknown number. This was from the same guy.
" Sir, Main ne Trustee se baat Ki. Woh Kehne lage woh Jagah Dargha Ke Upar hai. To is se Dargha wale Baba ki insult Ho Sakti hai. Aap neehe kahin batayen mil jayegi"
My frnds heard the conversation. They too saw ghost!!
It looks like Death has no frnds..
Autumn, 1992, Atlanta
I have booked my flight to India. I am going home. I am happy - yet apprehensive.
I feel like a warrior who faced insurmountable challenges, but remained steadfast in his determination to achieve his goal. A warrior who did not indulge in any act that he can’t share with his family n frnds. A warrior who sacrificed budding romances because he knew he will eventually return and did not want to get tied down to a country for wrong reasons. I have seen many in the US that came for education, but lost the sight of that goal and drifted in wine and women never to return….
I am keeping date with my destiny. India is my Karma Bhoomi as I had decided long time back. It’s time to walk the talk.
The night before my departure Dona invites me for the last super at the same restaurant we have been frequenting all these years. She tells me “ Whenever you return Shahid, it will be the same here”. (And she will keep her words, as I will see her again in 1999 and will realize nothing …not even the smell of her house has changed”. She is an angel….
After the dinner, I wanted to say good-bye to my frnd Ted Schelling. Dona drives me to his home. It is pre-mobile days, so I call Ted from pay phone at the lobby of the restaurant and take directions to his place. I write that address on a piece of paper I find in the restaurant lobby. We meet him and his family. Dona drops me back late at night. SK in the meantime has done all my packing on my behalf. Frndship it is…
Years later Dona gives me that piece of paper in which I had written the directions to Ted’s home. Apparently, I might have dropped that worthless piece of paper in Dona’s car after reaching Ted’s home. Dona must have found it while cleaning her car the next weekend. It was junk, yet she did not junk it. (The only other people who would not throw anything with my handwriting are my mom and my last in-house girl frnd). Blessings they are...or were...oh wait...
I am at the airport. All teared up. I have never worked in India and don’t know what awaits me in work scenario. I have some relations that needed to be entangled from the web of miscommunication… life is not going to be easy …not this fast.
Good byes are always tough for me. In my chilhood Maa had left me with my relatives after admitting me in class 1st at Chor Bazar Muncipal Urdu School. I had experienced the cutting away of my heart in two pieces at the age of five…. So its psychologicaly painful for me to say good-bye. (Mom still cries when I mention that morning when she left me to fend for myself…. off course I am glad she did. Else I wud not have gotten education in that badlands of U.P.)
When Steve says “ This is it man!”… I cry like a kid. I did not realize till then my little world has already taken roots in the soil of America. I had beautiful caring frnds that took care of me like a family. My roots had grown in that soil unknowingly…and am uprooting it. When I was falling in love, actually I was not just falling in love with A or FDR but the system…the culture…the air.
But, my world awaits me in India. There is no turning back now.
It’s a chilly autumn morning as my flights takes off from Hartsfield International airport. I look down from the window at the world I am leaving behind. I hear:
“ India is a dumpster…don’t go there”
“I love you. How do want me to meet you knowing that in a few months you will go back and I will never ever see you again?”
“I never thought I would fall in love with someone from overseas…. I love you with all my heart Shahid”
“You took a big leap from a municipal school to Georgia Tech, why undo it all? Don’t go back.”
"Ye Aasmano main kiya talash karta hai? Chal Cheetah 3 main tujhe Taare dikhataa hoon!!"
“This is home Shahid, this is home…there is no India for me now!”
Autumn, Mumbai, India
I reach Mumbai at 7pm.
And India refuses to recognize me immediately.
It’s a shocker I was not prepared for. Never thought about it. Have I changed? What part of me has been changed by America? I never picked up anything that did not meet my sensibility criteria then how come I am not recognizable now? I had frnds who never encouraged me to be anything but myself...I did not even pick up the damn accent?
I am confused. I am angry!
A story of a Hen and her chicks comes to mind.
A hen had 9 chicks. She used to hang out with them. Take care of them. Feed them. Protect them. One day the 9th chick fell into a drain full of colors. When he came out he went back to join the rest of his brothers. But they all refused to recognize him. They were seeing him in different color, while he was not aware of any colors on him.
The hen throws him out of the family. You are not one of us ..
Its been a while I read that story. I don’t remember how the story ended for that chick.
Just like I don’t know how this one is going to end!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Love, Dona!




July 2014, 6:30am, Small-town, USA.

A white Audi driven by a woman in her 40s going way below the speed limit on a State highway The woman, Vice President of finance company has slowed down her car because she is having trouble seeing the road. The reason why she cant see the road is because she is crying...the reasons she is crying is because radio in her car radio just played a song called 'Red' by Taylor Swift.

"Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street
Faster than the wind, passionate as sin ending so suddenly
Losing him was blue like I'd never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met
But loving him was red
Loving him was red!"

The night before she had a surprise from a long lost friend. They re-connected after 25 years. They shared the gifts and ironies that life brought to them since that fateful night when Atlanta played Minnesota for the World Series in 1991.

She stops by the shoulder of the road, takes her contact lenses off and cries heart out. 

Winter 1991, GA Tech, Graduation Day

I am standing with other students in the University Stadium for the commencement ceremony.  My friends Dona, SK, Ted, Steve, Gortitude all are in the audience taking pictures. Speeches are being made as my mind is racing in all directions. It’s a flashback time. The images from past three years of struggles to get to this very moment are flickering one after the others.  My heart is in turmoil but am smiling like all my classmates standing along with me. The one person I am missing most at this time is my father.

I think a father -son relation is the most complex of them all. Complex, coz here is a man you want to be your idol, yet you be your own man. Even though you want to be a lieutenant, or a vice captain in his team, yet you feel immense urge to lead just one time. You respect him but you want your father to go "wow" just once for you.  I know a graduation ceremony is not a wow going moment, but it does not hurt to see what he is thinking of this act.

"Shahid Parvez Sayed, Masters, School of Civil Engineering", comes the announcement as I walk to receive my degree from President Dr. Crecine.  Later during the reception I go and meet Dr. Crecine again and apologize to him for causing him trouble on the championship game day in 1989. He smiles and says " Not a problem. I am glad you called. Its so good to see you graduate today despite all the hardships your endured".  

Winter 1991, Poona Restaurant, Duluth

SK has given a party to celebrate my graduation at this Indian restaurant in Duluth. We are having fun. SK is a great talker and is keeping all in splits.  We are sitting by a table next to the window. I am feeling confident about my future, as getting Masters from GA Tech is a big deal. Not many successfully graduate from there.  

The only problem is that I do not know that the future will take me back to the same table of Poona restaurant in 1998. I will be wearing a white shirt, black bow tie and serving food and water to the guests. One day Ahsan Rashid wud walk in the restaurant (Ahsan had played a role in the play I had written), upon seeing me as a waiter he is shocked.

I take glasses of water for him. He gets up and hugs me, then introduces me to his family and kids.

Later that night when I wud call India.

"Main Haar Gyaa. I am coming back" - I have tears in my eyes as I narrate the Ahsan Rashid incident to my official girl frnd whom I have left in India. 

" Aap to Ameer e Qfila hain. Aap Kaise Haar Sakte Hain? I am with you. We will get thru this." - She tries to lift my morale up.

Lets save that story for some other day!

July 2014, Small-town, USA

The white woman in the Audi is still crying.  What is she crying for? She has everything that people dream for - a big house, kids, and great job - everything. She worked hard and faced all the challenges that life threw at her. She is an independent minded strong woman - still she is crying like a baby?

Tears that coming our of her eyes are drowning the words like Kaafir, Gentile, Non gentile, Malacchi, Dalit, black, white, brown, Americans, Indians, Shia, Sunni, 24, 26 and all other labels that bigots use to discriminate against other humans and to keep the world divided.

Taylor Swift still singing…


“Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes
Tell myself it's time now, gotta let go
But moving on from him is impossible
When I still see it all in my head
Burning red
Burning it was red”

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Love, Dona!




Fall 1990, GA Tech

"So you guys walk in the middle of the road in India?"

That is when I realized that I had her walk in the middle of the road even though sidewalks were empty. We were walking to aimlessly on campus after the class. God, she is smart. I thought. 

"Actually in India, the sidewalks are occupied by illegal hawkers, parking and slum dwellers. So in order to get anywhere faster,  one must walk on the road. See, what challenges we take in order to reach our destination." I tried to make light of the situation.

"There is no such challenge here; we can go back to the side walk!"

Walking with her was fun. White top, brown long skirt and flowing hair and tons of smiles used to be my company as we wud come out of the lecture room. I have not seen anyone enjoy the winds and weather like her. She was in love with nature and nature loved her back. She still looks as if time just passed by her, without taking anything away from her. 

Mirza says her smiles were not as a result of weather or the wind - but you. Your presence. I don’t know…may be that was the case.

Winter 1990, GA Tech

My graduation is getting closer. I am busy with International Student Festival and my duties as the Senator of the School of Civil Engineering. Life is good.

One evening it was raining heavily when she stopped by my apartment. We still go on a long drive. Somewhere near I-85 and Piedmont an insect gets stuck in the Viper of her car. She stops the car and gets out in the rain. She removes the entangled insect and places it on the RCC wall on the side of the road. She gets back apologizes to me for a sudden stop.

"Poor thing, he would have died stuck in the Viper blades"

I am thinking what a beauty of a heart she is. That was FDR with her real character and personality. I feel deeply for her in a heartbeat. That was not a pre-planned act but a spontaneous one. Our spontaneous acts are the windows to our real character and inner beauty.

As she gets behind the wheel I am thinking far away in the future. If we get married grow old together and when  Kids are gone. And we are sitting in the porch of my house and if she asks me "Why I married her?” I would use this example, this very moment to tell her why.

It’s time to see Dona now.

There is this girl I want to talk about...
What about her?

I am with Dona on our monthly meal at a Vietnamese restaurant. I brief Dona about FDR about everything. Dona, being the practical person, raises some legitimate questions. I would like to skip that part for now.

However, I decide to overlook her objections and do what my heart was saying. But there is something else is in store for me. FDR started backing off on me. I am surprised at this change of behavior. Phone calls were reduced and long drives became less frequent. I am wondering what’s going on. On our last day of the class FDR writes the exam paper before me. I know she is up to something what it is?

She leaves the class room in a hurry and after getting out of the classroom,  she shows me a card. She sticks the card in the door handle. I finish my paper and run after her. She is nowhere to be found. I open that card. Written in silver words were her last words....

My immediate reaction is anger. 

Spring 1991, GA Tech

One day, I go to the computer room of the college and see her with her friends. My heart stops at her sight. But I take a U turn and head back. She runs after me. She stops me out on the middle of the street and starts explaining something. I am just staring in her eyes and thinking how long before I would be able to see these eyes so up close?  I will be in India in three months and will never return.....will I ever see her like today.

I don’t remember what case FDR made for her behavior. I don’t care for the reasons. I am an egoist who does not believe going down to the knees should even be part of any healthy relationship.

I still do not know what caused her to take a U-turn on me. I wonder if Dona asked her to leave me alone. Did someone wanted me to return to India without any baggage? I dont know. 

To this day - I don’t know!

I n the meantime, I have completed all the  requirements for the Masters Degree and  the department has approved my petition for graduation.

I am going to GRADUATE, Finally!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Love, Dona!




Blog ( Sept 8, 2008) continues:
I used to feel protected while hanging around you. I used to enjoy those long drives with no destinations. Your talks of contributing and changing the world still live in my imagination. My writings and films do show a flavor of what we used to talk back then. I have not changed!
One day, when a bully made me realize that " America is not your country", I was feeling depressed and down when you showed up and took me to the library. Thrusting the constitution of the United States in my hands you said, " This is as much as your country as theirs, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, Shahid!".
You always pronounced my name right. I was surprised and wondered where and how you learned to pronounce my name properly. It’s been so many years now and yet my friends and colleagues don’t call me Shahid, I am Shaheeed to them. The other day Mullah Luis's FPN called my name properly. I missed you!
In spite of being such a gem of a person you had complexities too. You never allowed me to take your pictures. One evening, while we were driving under a moon lit night, I wanted to take your pictures. I had bought a camera for that purpose. You said no and that was it. I pleaded and cited the magic of moonlight dancing on your face, the poetry of the moment, the lovely environment. But you did not relent even at the cost of me remaining upset for a few days.
However, a week before my departure to India, you came to my apartment with a few pictures. This time I did not even ask for them. I don’t remember what happened other then that Shakir was not in, and I was watching Atlanta play Minnesota for the World Series. I was totally engrossed in the game when you showed up.... I took the pictures from you but did not open the envelope as I was waiting for a commercial break. In a few seconds you did a reversal, and announced you not only wanted to go but also would like to take the picture back as well.
I still have those pictures...
I always admired your ability to rise above the petty boundaries of religion, border and color. You wanted to " go work in a third world country and contribute". You were a global citizen even before it became a buzzword. Mullah Luis says “by working and living in Montana you are like living and contributing to a third world Country. You have kept your words!" :)))
Ps: I found you on classmate’s finder web site. It provided me all the information about you like where you are now, where have you been since leaving Tech and whom you are married to? What distance you have traveled!'
PPS: I am no going to call you ...am a man of my words!
Blog Ends
July 2014.
I connect with her and get an immediate response. (Age mellows everyone and am no exception). After initial surprises, I share my blog post. She reads the blog and responds. Every response and the thought behind it makes me smile and is worth a poem, a painting, a film – or a Taj Mahal.
- " First of all the the color of my eyes is Hazel Green and not just Green!"
- “ You sleep at 3AM, I wake up at 4 AM looking at the maps of India!”
- " I want to know everything that happened after that night!"
- "That night cud have gone either way. I was getting pulled towards you and was even preparing to go with you to India. You were so upset that you cud not notice the turbulence inside me."
Let me take a time out here….