Monday, April 28, 2014

X for XOXO

X is an another of the alphabets that leave you flummoxed in A-Z challenges. After thinking about X for Xerox, and the usual wordplay of masking the 'e' that occurs in most words to get an 'X' word, I just decided to go for the symbol XOXO.

Does this image bring back familiar memories? Yes, it is the good old game of tic tac toe on paper. Many of my college notebooks had this scribbled on their last pages, the outcome of sitting through some very boring classes. I was a regular student, writing down notes diligently, bunking occasional classes and struggling to look alert in some of the not so interesting classes. And this game along with doodling was something that did its best to make us look like model students :P

Of course, there is another XOXO that comes to mind, the one we use to sign off our personal mails to mean hugs and kisses.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for the alphabet X.
Picture is from Google images

W for winterhawks

Winterhawks is what the junior ice hockey team based out of Portland are known as. Just a few weeks after we moved to Portland,  S got a couple of free tickets to watch an ice-hockey game as a part of employee benefits at his workplace.We had zero idea about the game of ice hockey, but when you get free tickets, you indulge yourself. So googling about it informed us that Portland Winterhawks are one of the most successful teams that play in the Western Hockey league(Canadian-american cross country league). They are the only Oregonian team out of 5 US teams that play in that league and all the other 4 teams are from the neighboring state of Washington. Wikipedia also told us that a typical ice-hockey game lasts for about two hours and has six players including a goal keeper from each team on the rink where they aim to put the puck into the goal as many times as possible. On game day, we drove with a couple of friends to MODA center or Rose Quarter which is a multipurpose arena for indoor sports, concerts and the like in downtown Portland. It was a lazy weekend evening with crowds strolling leisurely outside the arena, but once we entered the actual arena, we could smell the sporty spirit in the air. Fans dressed in team jerseys, holding horns and flags were excitedly clicking pictures with Tom-a-hawk, the team mascot.
last minute touch-up of the rink
Game ON!!

Fun game during the breaks
Score board

As we settled into our seats, we were greeted by a giant ice-rink being cleaned and readied for the game. The crowd cheered as the team skated onto the ice to line up for the US national anthem. The opponents were from neighboring state of Washington and when the puck was dropped by the referee, the game began. For three sessions of 20 minutes each, the two teams battled it out on ice. Ice hockey is a very fast-paced sport and players were flying on ice it seemed as they maneuvered the puck, passing it, shooting it a the goalpost aiming to score a goal. There were a few skirmishes on the rink which the referees handles deftly, handing out penalties appropriately. Whenever the Winterhawks scored a goal, entire stadium was up on its feet, with fans pumping up their fists to the shouts of "T.N.T". Apparently the song "T.N.T Dynamite" by a hard rock band AC/DC is a sort of team anthem. Similarly power-play periods had the crowds chanting "Let's go Hawks" to drumbeats. There was the usual cheering squad that performed during the 20 minute breaks between each session. Fun games and raffle contest added to the fun quotient. With cotton-candy, popcorn and other munching goodies available, it was an indoor picnic of sorts. At the end of nearly 2 hours, when the final whistle blew and our team won(we are Portlanders after-all), it was time to cheer the victorious home-team as they took a victory-lap around the rink. All in all, it was a wonderful experience to watch a game of ice-hockey, in stadium for free :) We were lucky to get to watch two more games later in the season and needless to say the Winterhawks flag flew high victorious on both occasions. "Let's go Hawks!!"

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for the alphabet W.

Click on the photos to see enlarged images.

V for vacant

Parched earth cries for help
empty skies, empty tears-
miserly monsoon.
pause awhile, reflect
rest weary mind, aching limbs,
vacant bench beckons

This post is shared with Haikuhorizons and this week's prompt is EMPTY
This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet V

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U for undo

'Undo' is a command in most computer programs that allows the user to erase the last change made to the document and revert it to an older state. It is a very useful command for it allows us to rectify the mistakes we make. I have wondered many a time how would it have been if there was a undo button or command for our lives. At first thought, I would have wanted to undo many many things, but on pausing and pondering if I really wanted to undo, I honestly feel I would rather not undo anything. I owe what I am to all those moments and events in a way, for they have shaped my thinking, moulded my perspectives on life, toughened me, softened me, sharpened me, changed me. Basically they have influenced me in many ways to make me a better person and helped me evolve into the unique person that I am.

I cannot imagine the confusion that it would cause with each of us trying to undo a different aspect of an event that has already unfolded. No wonder, life does not have a 'Undo' command.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge and today's alphabet is U
Picture is  from Google images

T for transistor

The moment I hear the word transistor, the first thing that comes to my mind today is the semiconductor device, a building block of most of the modern electronic devices. But this was only after I took up engineering. Up until then, transistor to me was that little black box that relayed morning news while we brushed our teeth half asleep. It was the magic box was offered music lovers a chance to enjoy music even when they were traveling. Cricket buffs would get their dose of excitement via the airwaves as commentary rattled out from a tiny pocket transistor.

Aakashwaani or voice of the sky is what the national broadcast service in India is called and this voice was as angelic as it got for not everyone had television for entertainment. I remember listening to wonderful programs on Vividh Bharati,  chaaya geet, sangeet sarita, bhule bisre geet, ek hi film se, aap ki farmaish. The regional service would also air interesting programs, every saturday around noon we would tune in to listen to "baal jagat". I remember when I studied in the 2nd standard, a group of students from our school even recorded a program that was aired as a part of the show a couple of weeks later. The trip to the recording studio was something I remember even to this day for we sat in a glass room with lot of microphones and we could not hear anything from the outside. It was quite an experience. We sang a few songs and delivered lines of a student-teacher conversation sort of play. I remember some of the songs we sang for we had practised for months before the recording. As for the the play, I don't remember a thing. Soon television started airing more programs and we kids weaned away from the radio and got glued to the idiot box. Much later, in the early days of my engineering, FM radio started gaining popularity and with private channels joining in, airwaves offered more variety to the crowd on the move. City travel is now a long drawn affair with traffic jams and the FM channels offer commuters a chance to relax and unwind on their way to/from work. Only now, the good old transistors are replaced by cell phones and i-pods.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet T
Picture is  from Google images

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

S for salt to taste

"Salt to taste" is a phrase we often see in most recipes and it means the recipe you have prepared needs to be seasoned with salt as per your taste. And no it does not translate to adding so much salt as to actually make the dish salty but just enough to enhance the other flavors. Salt is found on every food table and in every kitchen across the globe. While today salt may not be all that expensive, there was a time when it was prized by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Wars were waged over salt. In fact the word salary originates from Latin word "salarium" which referred to the money paid to the Roman Army's soldiers for the purchase of salt. And of course how can we forget the role of salt Satyagraha movement in Indian freedom struggle. Salt is used as a preservative, to de-ice roads in the winters and a whole host of manufacturing processes.

The stand-out feature of salt is too much of it can ruin the dish, while its presence in just the right amounts can make a simple dish taste heavenly.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for the alphabet S.
Picture is  from Google images

Monday, April 21, 2014

R for Rhythm and rhyme

Drops of water on dry earth 
soon disappeared into nothingness. 
But when the drops turned to showers, 
Puddles formed and streamlets flowed. 
Lightning danced and thunder bellowed
while the aroma of wetness permeated the air. 
Rain it seemed had washed off the despair. 
Fresh looking trees and bright-coloured flowers 
gave the entire landscape a quaint newness, 
filled the weary minds with calm and mirth. 
Rain sure brought to fore a great many things- 
From myriad thoughts to unacknowledged feelings; 
Memories bundled up and hidden deep – 
All popping out as if awakened from sleep. 

The rhymes we learnt way back in nursery 
spoke of rain with enthusiasm and simplicity. 
With time, simplicity took a multi-layered turn – 
Rain could calm the mind, a heart - it could burn. 
From poems that elevated rain to a fabled plane 
extolling on its role in matters of the heart; 
to those shading it with hues of melancholy,
accusing it of wrecking cities and tearing lives apart
rain wove tales of the lost and found 
leaving us distraught, humbled or just spellbound. 

Rain stirs imaginations like no other, 
showcasing life for it is indeed its mirror. 
Visible or hidden, subtle or stark, 
rain-drops sure leave their mark; 
a lot like the countless moments of our lifetime; 
indeed rain is life, with rhythm and rhyme.

Q for quirky Q

The alphabet 'Q' is the second rarest alphabet to be used after 'Z' and for most part it is invariably followed by alphabet 'U'. It really is a queen of rare letters. Whenever I picked up the 'Q' tile in scrabble, I have fervently searched for a 'U' tile for that seems to be the only logical direction to proceed. I'm quite sure, many of you have been stuck in the same quagmire. Think about this queerness. Can you list out words that begin with 'Q' but are not followed by 'U'. Take quick peek into the dictionary in the quest for "q" words and you will no longer question this quaint quality or quirk of Q for your doubts will be quelled by the quantity of words with q followed by a u.

Don't quit, the answers to the quiz on Q (some of the words that begin with Q but not followed by U)-
Qawwali and a bunch of words with arabic origin like Qaid, QadiQasida

This was a quibble (a play on words)!! Ok I'll be quiet now, no more quips :P

Just one more , couldn't resist putting up this quote from Ambrose Bierce.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet Q
Picture is  from

Saturday, April 19, 2014

P for paper

Call me old fashioned but I would rather read a book made of paper held in my hand than read the same content on a tablet or kindle. The feeling of holding the page between your fingers as you read the book, pausing a while before flipping it as you continue your read is something that is out of the world. If it is a new book, the paper feels very smooth and somewhat crisp and in case of a book that has passed through many hands, the paper feels different, worn out in a way. There is a distinct smell of new books and a typical moist odor when the book has been re-read umpteen times. In case of e-books, this sense of smell and touch is missing and makes the reading experience a tad incomplete. 

Same goes with writing, the satisfaction I get when I scribble on paper with a pen or pencil in my hand is absent when I type the same on my laptop or cellphone. Not that I have a beautiful handwriting or anything, my writing is fairly neat and legible. It is just that it feels more complete when you feel the paper while you put down your thoughts. Yes, I know and agree that we need to minimize wastage of paper for ecological reasons. I only hope that the future generations too get a chance to savor the experience of reading from paper they can feel and writing on it with a pen in their hand. Technology and time have revolutionized  a great many things and simplified life, but at the same time they have taken away simple pleasures and added invisible complexities in our everyday existence.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet P

Friday, April 18, 2014


Her curls kiss his cheek
eyes closed, lost in reverie;
tryst under starlight.

Tryst under starlight,
 moonflower smiles like shy bride
as night closes in.

This post is shared with  Haikuhorizons and this week's prompt is CLOSE

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O for Olympic national park

Fog leading the way
Olympic national park is one of the many US national parks(around 59 are listed in wiki). This is located in the Northwest pacific region and is part of Washington state. The speciality of this national park is it encompasses three different types of ecosystems namely glacial mountains,  temperate rain-forests and pacific coastline. One can taste this diversity in a day's exploration and that is the USP of this place.  Just before the onset of peak winter last year, we decided to enjoy a short weekend trip to Olympic National park. So over the Thanksgiving weekend we drove up north to get a glimpse of the rain-forests and the mountains. We left Portland early that morning after a quick breakfast. With S in a mood for adventure for I took the wheel for the first time on such a long drive of over 220 miles. We arrived in Port Angeles in time for lunch and then drove to the visitor centre on our way to Hurricane ridge.The rangers there gave us details of what to expect on the summit, S decided to drive to the peak.Even as we drove towards the ridge, fog began closing in. Halfway through the drive was a vista point from where on a clear day one could see as far as Canada and also the volcanic peaks of Cascade mountains but that day it seemed like the clouds had planned a get together and we saw them fill up the valley.
Cloud get-together
A couple of photos later we were on our way to the top. As we got higher up in the mountains, the fog seemed to clear up. Snow had reached the ridge before us and we could see a generous sprinkle of it all around the ridge and the air was cold. So again it was a small walk around the ridge for most trails were out of bounds and the meadows of wild flowers that color the slopes during summer had chosen snow gowns for a wintry look. 

On our way to the ridge
The visitor centre at Hurricane ridge 

Hurricane ridge
Snow sprinkled trails
Around the ridge

Driving down from the ridge
The drive down the mountain was breathtaking, but with early sunset on the hands, we decided not to stop till we returned to Port Angeles. After a mountain walk, it was time to stroll by the sea. The city was decked up in festive lights and we even saw a motor-cycle parade of sorts. By nightfall we had to reach the lodge we had booked by Lake Crescent and that drive tested my nerves since it was narrow, curvy route and fog decided to up the level of difficult driving. After a tense drive, we reached the lodge and there we got to savor a special thanksgiving dinner.

Festive parade
Waking up to see that crescent lake is just a few steps from our room. The fog in the night had hidden it from us. We walked around the lake after our breakfast enjoying the slight drizzle that had decided to keep us company that day. A walk of under a mile from the lodge led us to Marymere falls. The walk in rain was a zen-like experience since the only sounds we heard was that of the waterfall cascading along the rocks, the raindrops on the leaves and our footsteps as we trudged along. Since it was raining, we only had our phone to capture the beauty of the waterfalls.

Lake Crescent
Marymere falls
We walked back to the lodge and then headed back to Portland but not before a detour to Hoh rain-forests on our way home. The drizzle in the morning had turned into steady rain as we drove into the visitor centre nestled in the Hoh rain forest. Donning rain jackets we enjoyed two trails of around a mile each. One was named "hall of mosses" and the other Spruce nature trail. Huge trees covered with brown and green mosses and the rain lent the trail a eerie touch. We felt like we were walking through the enchanted forest. Soon it was time to drive home after a magical weekend. The drive back home in the downpour was another unforgettable experience. Our next visit to Olympic national park might see us check out the La-Push beach (remember Twilight) and the Quileute river. Hopefully we wont run into vampires or werewolves.
Hoh rain forest

Moss Trail, Hoh Rain-forest

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet O
Click on the photos to see enlarged images.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N for neighbors

Yesterday when I was sipping my evening coffee looking out from the patio, my mind casually went back to my days in Bangalore. Those were the days when on weekends we would savor our morning cup of coffee (I miss that filter coffee big-time now but that's another story) out in the balcony. Appa* would be engrossed in the day's headlines, while me and my brother would be eagerly waiting to get a dekko at it, while Amma** would be busy putting rangoli. Now and then we could hear the occasional milkman or newspaper-boy cycling on the road and the flower-sellers rattling of the list of flowers they had to offer. Soon it  would be the turn of the vegetable vendors to start the day's business, pushcarts and cycles laden with fresh vegetables would ply about. One constant fixture while all of it unravelled on the street, our front door neighbors. No matter what time of the day or even night , OK not dead of the night but late in the night even up-to midnight our front-door neighbors could be found chatting amongst themselves or soaking in the sun. Their loud voices would sometimes wake me up just as I had settled into a pleasant dream. They would shout at the top of their voices even over the phone almost as if they were in direct conversation with the person at the other end without the support of the telephone network. They were friendly no doubt but quite nosy and sure enough had an enviable know-how about the neighborhood. In a way, they acted like a security system for there would always be a pair of eyes on the lookout. I used to get annoyed by their presence sometimes, but many times I even felt reassured that they were there.

In the apartments that we reside now, we do not even know who resides in the adjoining apartment. Sometimes while climbing the stairs, we see people who we know reside on the same floor as we do and we just exchange smile some times or just go about our work indifferent to human presence. I know with changing times, outlooks have changed and people realize the need for privacy. Then there is the proverbial busy life, no time for others logic. I wish there was a balance between nosy and indifferent neighbors. All said and done, man is a social animal and this means we need human contact beyond social media,  more of a face to face interaction and acknowledgement than boxed lifestyle.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet N

*Appa- Father 
**Amma- Mother 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M for mango

Mango is one fruit that has a special place in Indian homes. The leaves feature prominently in all auspicious undertakings. The fruit finds its ways into our mouths in a wide variety of forms whether in its sour yet sweet raw green form or the juicy and sweet ripe yellow version. Nothing tickles the tastebuds like slices of Totapuri with a sprinkle of salt and chilli-powder. Or you can choose to gulp down a glass of aam-panna to beat the heat on a scorching summer day. Bowls of aam-ras being polished off or slices of this yummy fruit disappearing in minutes is a common story of lazy summer afternoons. Many homes also stock up on their annual pickle quota by bottling up mango slices and pulp with a special mixture of spices. To cater to the sweet tooth, Jams, morabba, gulamba, avakkai, maavinkai thokku whatever be the form and name, just their very thought makes my mouth water. Many a times, these recipes are treasured and handed down for generations, off late this annual event is on the decline for today we can get a mind boggling variety of pickles in the market in almost all parts of the world.  Mango flavored rice,  chutneys, pickles, aamra-khand(shrikhand with mango), the list can go on. In fact, raw mango is used in place of lemon and tamarind in many preparations to bring twist to routine cuisine.

It is the national fruit of India and more than half of the world's mangoes are cultivated in India. The hindi name for this delicious fruit is misleading if you ask me. "Aam" as it is called in hindi also means common, but this fruit is anything but that. It should be renamed "khaas" aka special. There a nearly 400 varieties of mangoes to choose from and though today we can see mangoes in the market almost all year long, the taste is unparalleled only during the season of mangoes. So between late march and early july it is time to go mangoes about this king of fruits.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet M

Monday, April 14, 2014

L for light of life

Bright diyas amidst colourful rangolis
bring in joy dispelling melancholy .
Tiny lamps brighten the world,
so do the little pleasures of life;
inundating minds with zest for life,
lighting up faces with joyous smiles,
bracing us up to conquer darkness-
the darkness of gloom & ignorance;
sprinkling the colours of cheerfulness,
leading us towards delight &radiance.
To revel in this essence of life
share the light of knowledge & joy.
Spread laughter & sunshine
to experience serenity divine.

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet L

Picture is  from Google images

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K for Kauai

Kilauea lighthouse
Hanalei valley lookout
Kauai is one of the geologically oldest islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Nearly two years ago, S decided to surprise me with a thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii, a honeymoon of sorts for us. While the week long trip saw us visiting Oahu and Kauai islands, today's post is all about Kauai. We flew in from Honolulu to Lihue airport and stayed in a resort that was right by the sea. The rental car we booked was a mustang convertible, perfect for the tropical Hawaiian weather. It felt like a dream driving through stretches of green on the island of Kauai rightly known as the Garden Isle. We drove to the Kilauea lighthouse that is part of Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Here one can find a variety of migratory seabirds such as albatrosses, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds and the like.The ocean cliffs and tall grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds.

Our next stop was the Hanalei valley lookout, apparently one of the most photographed lookouts in Hawaii.

The day after that we drove to the Grand Canyon of the Pacific or the Waimea canyon. This canyon owes its formation not just to erosion but also to a volcanic collapse that resulted in the formation of this island.
Waimea Canyon 
Evening sun during our drive back from Waimea Canyon
Everywhere we drove around in Kauai, the one sound that we could be sure to hear was that of roosters crowing out.
Roosters galore!!
 The scenic beauty of Kauai boasts of a lot of movie appearances, and Na Pali coastline has features in prominent movies such as Jurassic park,  King Kong and Pirates of the Caribbean movies. We also went on a rafting tour along the coastline of Kauai. During the tour, we spotted dolphins very frequently, managed a glimpse of a whale in the distance and even bumped into a turtle when we walked around a portion of the coast where we had docked for a lunch picnic.

Dolphins swimming alongside our raft 

Na Pali Coast

Turtle we met during our walk along Na Pali coast

Kauai is also home to one of the few coffee plantations as Hawaii is the only US state to grow coffee commercially, and we stopped by one of the plantations as we drove by the island
Kauaian Coffee plantation

A boat ride along the Wailua river, took us to a fern grotto, a cave which had ferns hanging from rocks and boulders. We were even treated to a hula show during the boat ride.

Wailua river flowing towards the Ocean

Fern Grotto

Before bidding farewell to Kauai, we took a quick dekko at the Wailua falls nearby. The drive to Alekoko or fishpond attributed to Menehune, a mythical tribe brought our Hawaiian holiday to a close and we were left savoring the sunset by the shining waters surrounded by lush green flora.

Wailua waterfalls

Menehune fishpond

This post is shared with April A-Z blogging challenge for alphabet K
Click on the photos to see enlarged images.