Sunday, January 31, 2010


Vishwanathan Anand, Gary Kasparov, and any other vodka named chess players of the world, know that to be a great chess player you have to be able to plan and strategise, be steadfast, and have a pokerface. So, what do you call a person whose idea of planning and strategy is 'what's for breakfast?' To whom steadfast means stepping quickly, and pokerface is a song by Lady GaGa? (Dumbass, idiotic moron, and stupid are not on the list of possible answers.) What you get is me (in a good way)!

I first attempted chess at the tender age of 10 and learned very quickly that I stunk at it. It kind of became obvious when my younger brother could beat me in 4 moves. I stopped playing, vowing never to touch the black and white pieces to the checkered board again. But alas, my 7 year old decided she wanted to learn to play. Damn!! I swallowed my disgust, (and a lot of bad words) and diligently set out to teach her the basic ins & outs of the game. The knight moves 2 and 1/2 spaces, the rook can only move in a straight line. The queen is your most powerful piece, but she too, like the rest of the pieces can die if you aren't careful.

Every night for the last month, I have been challenged by an almost too eager child, whose ambition in life is to beat me, then challenge and beat her father, and ultimately challenge my brother (who went on to become the chess champion of his school). I have, for the moment, kept  from her the vast world of competitive chess, in the fear of unleashing hell on that world. Her skills are still too rudimentary to cause a stir in the game. Where she lacks in skill, the child definitely makes up in emotion. Every game lost is followed by an angry outburst of accusations that I am better than her because I play better. How do I tell her that she's the one who makes me play better than I've ever played in my life? Every move I envision her playing is surprisingly different from actuality. I have no choice but to be at the top of my game, because she makes me think like I've never done.

To counteract the frustration, I downloaded a chess program on the computer for her to practice. The child spends at least an hour everyday playing against the computer, and always loses. But never have I heard her cuss at the machine. Why? Losing is losing, anyway you look at it, right? Yes! But computers don't console after you lose. Neither do they encourage, wipe your tears or reluctantly play again. They play, unemotionally, as they are programmed to do, adding very little human to the being.

So it was with some astonishment (& lot of reluctance), I accepted her challenge to play again. When asked why she couldn't play with the computer, I was told "Amusive Chess', as the game is called, is anything but amusive. Losing wasn't fun and she wasn't learning anything from it. That night I realized why.

Checkmate mom!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Please, Thank you, & Shut up

Actions speak louder than words. Whoever said that obviously hasn't lived in my house. Language is the crux of human sustenance and survival. Studies, from all over the world, agree that children who learn multiple (2 or more) languages before the age of 8 have a higher IQ, and are socially more adaptable. That said, my house is filled with Chameleons.

Every member of my household is proficient in at least 3 languages. A fourth or fifth languages have also been learned at a partial proficiency level, meaning they know enough to get in trouble. But the major problem arises when, a set of well learned languages are manipulated.... no, mutilated in such a way that a listener is left stunned and completely confused.

Example: Aaee, maza eye is dukhing. (note: there are two very different languages in this one sentence.)
Translation: Mom, my eye is hurting.

Bet most of you were left blinking in confusion. I had to ask for this sentence to be repeated 3 times before I got it, with a mix of non-verbal signals (pointing at the eye in question). But this is just the tip of the ice berg. My daily communication skills have transcended the mere mortal level to a new alien like language that only my children seem to speak. The crazy thing is I find myself not just understanding, but communicating with them with the same gusto.

Child psychologists and linguists have emphasized the parental role in language skills acquisition, which in plain English means monkey see, monkey do (or in this case, speak)! So, that begs the questions; how badly am I screwed up? Are my language skills so rudimentary (I'd like to think extremely advanced) that my children are fluent in gibberish? I was under the impression that I was rather good at languages, but, admittedly a number of linguists would cringe at the callousness with which I use certain words and phrases. I know my husband does, and he's no linguist!

To see exactly what kind of damage I'd inflicted on my young children, I have conducted an experiment to see  how many times these kids said a particular word. For the ease of the experiment, the word chosen was 'shut -up', since I've been known to use it often. The results were frightening. Although, the older two used that particular word a lot, the youngest used it the most. To counter this research, I also assessed how often the children used 'Thank you, please, and sorry". The following was a short conversation between my middle child and me, during an argument between them.

M to sister : I don't like you. Just Shut-up!
Me: M, please don't be rude to your sister.
M to Me: Ok, sorry.
M to Sister: Please Shut-up!

Now that's using your manner! Looks like I cut out my work for myself. I think this monkey has to clean up her act, for the little monkeys to do good.  Shame the warning bells didn't go off when I use the same bad words my mother used to use.  In the end, we all blame our mothers.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Under shoulder boulder holders

Imagine. Luscious lace, soft satin, tight spandex, hot hemp, all in a myriad of shapes and colors, covering nearly every woman's most treasured, & mostly private assets. Breasts. Lately, however, the kind of exposure this duo has garnered in the media, has been a little disconcerting. The latest fad is the declaration of one's bra color on network sites like FaceBook. Now, I have to admit that I joined the bandwagon and bra-zenly declared mine, but not before I completely understood the underlying cause. Breast Cancer Support.

It seems every news worthy tit-bit is aimed to support breast cancer, be it research, physiological trauma, psychological aspects or pure aesthetics. This is great, considering breast cancer is one of the leading cancers claiming female lives. But, ultimately the biggest point is missed. More women die every year of heart attacks or heart related issues than than most cancers combined. So, which color ribbon do I wear for that, one that specifically supports cardiac health in women? (Please note: this has nothing against men. Heart disease is considered the leading cause for mortality in men and that is a big issue in and of itself, which I am an ardent supporter of.) The fact that even without the risk factors adding up for breast cancer, 1 in 5 women will have heart disease based purely on her history, geography, psychology or enviroment-ology. Why then does having a healthy heart take the backseat to breast cancer? Is it less potent in it's final blow?

It would be completely unfair to dismiss one over the other. There is a need for educating women, to not only do a breast self exam every month, but also to check what lies beneath at least once in a year or two. Women need to be proponents of their own health, which invariably would lead to them being proponents of their family's health. There in lies the crux of the problem. Getting women to think about themselves for preventive care. Oh, there are plenty of women who do take care of themselves, but that number is minuscule compared to the vast majority of those who don't. We all make excuses, but our health shouldn't be the target.

So, the next time a friend asks you, regardless of your gender, to expose your colored underwear for a health cause, ask the simple question: what about MY health, when do I check that? The answer is far simpler than any of us let's on, and lies inside us...literally. When you do decide to flash, make sure it's also for you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

God, Where art Thou?

God is great, because he made man in his image! Right? WRONG!! Men (humans) are great, because we are God! That is the premise of Dan Brown's latest book 'The Lost Symbol'. The theory has been around from time immemorial but this guy really puts it in your face. This book has also reconfirmed my belief that the human race is capable of anything. This author's imagination for one. If humans were God why would there be war, crime, bloodshed in the name of religion, hatred against each other, and the continuous destruction of our planet? Don't expect to find the answers in here.

This book is not for the religious fanatic or for those who believe God is great. It is also not for those who refuse to believe in conspiracy theories. It's got it all, murder, mystery, technology/ science that would blow your mind (unless you helped make it), chases, historical facts and a strong dose of 'are you kidding me?' But what stuck out, at least for me, was the constant reference to God or the Higher Being, being synonymous to humans. I am not religious, so the idea that I am capable of godly things because God is in me, didn't seem too far fetched. But the use of an ancient religious faction being the only one to deduce this possibility made for an author's clobbering.

The reviews given for this book were, at best, mediocre. Yes, it has a great story, which keeps you guessing till the middle. But the overtures of God, throughout the book, kind of made it feel like I was reading propaganda. Although in the author's defense, he would make a great PR guy for God. The historical details were vivid, giving the story a genuineness that comes with a well researched book. Made me want to revisit Washington D.C, just to check out all the mentioned places and compare notes. But overall, I'd have to agree with the critics, it was a mediocre work, when compared to some of his earlier works. That's got to be tough, especially when he clearly had God on his side. Oh well, at least I can expect the movie to be better.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolutions 2010

2009 sucked!! Marred with death, accidents, blood, sickness, disease, and my demonic personality, last year is definitely not on my 'Best year of my life' list. In fact, I'd go as far as to wipe it out of my memory if I could, but one can only hope. No, I want no repeat of 2009! And to ensure that it isn't, I have taken it upon myself to make a few resolutions to counteract the curse. I usually don't make resolutions, only because it is a conflict of interest with my personality type (Not crazy, I was thinking more on the lines of volatile). So, here are my 2010 resolutions:

1. I will not scream at my kids! This doesn't mean I'm not going to get mad with them...and they have been fore warned. I have come to the painful conclusion that my blood pressure and heart can only stand a particular decibel, of my own I shall strive not to go above a medium level growl.

2. I'm going to take my financial bull by it's horns. Not literally! I have foreseen, due to the unrelenting efforts of my husband, that if I was left to my own device, I'd be a pauper. So, I'm going to make sure I know exactly where and how much my husband's life insurance policy is worth. Kidding aside, I believe it's extremely important for women to be financially savvy, and I'm gonna get me some savvy.

3. I will completely ignore stupid people around me; unless, of course, they really piss me off. This one's going to be hard, since I'm constantly surrounded by stupid people. An addendum to this point would be: I'm going to increase my tolerance to stupid people's stupidity.

4. I'm going to learn a new skill. I know old dogs don't learn new tricks but I thought I'd give it a try. I've decided to learn at least one new skill every year for the whole year. Daunting task, I know, since my interest level in most things last as long as a hot molten chocolate cake in front of a chocoholic.

5. Do my bit for the environment. Did I tell you, I've taken to gardening? Fruits & vegetable are going to be the focus, because, as someone wise once said: you can't eat flowers. I've already started by planting my very own staple vegetables; potatoes, onions and garlic. As long as I'm not expected to cook them!

6. Travel to at least one new destination. The problem with this one is that it depends a lot on the bull and his horns. I've got places to see all marked on my world map but the price of pins is steadily getting expensive.

7. Teach my children to be strong in body, mind & heart. I think this is tied into most of the points mentioned above, so if I manage to achieve even a few of them I know I'm doing my children a great service.

I realize, everything we do depends on the choices we make, even if we think we have no choice. I've decided to shape my own future by making some better choices than in the past. No more wishing and hoping! Because, when I achieve my goals, I know, I've changed my life.