February 22, 2011

{A New Scrabble Champion}

Over the holidays this last year Raka and I were able to sit down for a game of Scrabble. It was a long, drawn-out affair and close throughout the entire game but the final score ended at 330 to 334. Raka won! It was the first time Raka beat me in Scrabble and it was one of the best games of Scrabble I have ever played.

As we were clearing the board and getting ready for dinner, messages began popping up on my Facebook page.  I was getting messages from my nieces and nephews around the world about how Raka beat me in Scrabble. It took me a while to realize that Raka had posted the score sheet on Facebook. 

Cool, the war was on.  I was sure that the next time I would win.

After the holidays, school started for Raka and I made a quick trip to India. Consequently, we did not get another chance to play Scrabble until just last week when Raka installed an app on my iPhone called “Words with friends.” With a few clicks she installed an online word game that resembled Scrabble. I looked at her in amazement. She set my username to be GolferPro12 and explained to me I should not post my actual name in the gaming arena.  (I am glad she takes online security seriously.)  Once she installed the app I got an invite from Raka to play my first online scrabble game.  I was excited.

The game has been going on for nearly a week now and is just now coming to a finish. This time the scores are not that close.  In fact, they have not been close from the beginning. Raka is leading 287 to 235 with 10 more letters remaining. So, unless there is a last second Hail Mary on my part, this game is heading towards another loss for me. I am posting a copy of the score sheet. Don’t worry, I have changed Raka’s game name, as I have learned from her that I should not disclose her online identity here.

I have to confess I played this game with full seriousness. It is good to see my daughter win, but it is more fun to compete seriously with my daughter. Raka and I have been into Scrabble ever since she was a kid. Initially, I would play for both her and for me. I remember a classic statement by her during one of those games when she said, “Dad, are you making sure I am beating you?”

I have to say, Raka, that today you may be beating me, but, watch out! Good old Dad is ready for a comeback. Maybe a little yoga or meditation between moves is all I need!
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February 21, 2011

February 14, 2011

{Looking back at Valentine's Day}

Another Valentine’s Day is here and soon it will be history.  Soon the retail stores will remove the red hearts and start replacing them with Easter merchandise. Seasons change fast, so do emotions. Some feelings though, linger with us.

This Saturday Raka invited a few of her mid-distance running buddies over for a mini Valentine’s Day party after their run. Early that afternoon I started cooking and getting ready but the kids came in a few minutes earlier than I anticipated. The kitchen was not as ready as I would have liked but they were happy to have hot food. As Raka and her buddies huddled across the dining table they nibbled on the heart and kissing-lip shaped cookies and candies I had set out, but most of them were still on the table when the left. I realized (again) that they are not kids anymore.  I realized that they are much more grown up than I give them credit for.

I started thinking back about past Valentine’s Days with Raka. Earlier we went and bought Mickey Mouse Valentine cards. Then we used to print them at home – I remember both of us huddled in front of the laptop trying to choose the perfect clipart for that year’s Valentine. Then came the magical year, it was early 2000 and a new millennium. The Hindi movie craze of that time was Baghban. There was a song in the movie that was dedicated to Valentine’s Day, called Chali Chali and Raka loved the song. To surprise her and her mom, I planned a Valentine’s Day party in the basement with lots of white and red balloons. It was an evening to remember. Raka danced her heart out with her mom and me to Chali Chali. We took a lot of pictures and she drank a huge bottle of kid champagne. When the night was finally over Raka had a huge sugar-induced stomach ache to match the size of that bottle of grape juice.

The next morning Raka’s mom and I were looking at the pictures when she mentioned that it was very odd that there were hardly any pictures of her and me.  Most of the pictures were of Raka and me, or Raka and her mother. I thought for a second and stated that there are times in life, when a couple feels their love through their child. But still, Raka’s mom’s words stuck out with me.

The next month after that Valentine’s Day was the rockiest time in Raka’s life as she learned that her mom and I were going to get a divorce.  By the time Easter came that little girl’s life was changed forever. Since then Raka has gone through a lot of emotions, but pain and uncertainty were always the underlying emotions that overwhelmed her.

Valentine’s Days have come and gone since then, and even though we have not talked about it, I have seen memories of the past in Raka’s eyes. The song from Baghban simply got erased from our home.  Even though divorce arose out of differences that could not overcome between her mom and me, in the last eight years I have felt over and over how a married couple with kids should try their hardest to stay together for the sake of their children. Love does flow through the children to parents, and sometimes so does pain. Seeing the pain a child goes through after a divorce is reason enough to try one more time before pulling the plug on a marriage.

This Valentine’s Day, as I see Raka becoming a young lady and getting ready to fly away into the larger world, I hope and pray that the life ahead for her is full of love and happy memories.   She has turned into a beautiful young lady and fills the life of everyone around her with caring and love.  I am sure there are more Valentine’s Days with brand new happy memories in store for her.
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February 8, 2011

Super Bowl Evening

How time flies!
Raka and I enjoyed our own Super Bowl party at home.  After a relaxed morning, we sat down and got ready to watch the game.  We had chili chicken, cooked Indian style, and then Raka wanted tea made the “Indian way.” 

I was confused for a second before I realized that she wanted “true chai,” the way it is made in the street side tea stalls in India.  It is made with blended tea leaves (ground almost like coarse coffee ground), and boiled with milk and water.  The blend of the tea and the ratio of milk and water is the secret that makes each roadside tea stall different.

I made the tea and naturally the authentic tea had to be served in tiny earthen cups, just as it is served on the street side in India. The cups are super-sized, only the small way. I served Raka her tea and by the time I sat down to sip my tea, Raka had gulped down her third cup. 

As I enjoyed my cup of tea, my mind went back to the first Super Bowl we had watched together.  It was 1998.  Raka was four and half years old and I had just joined Papa John’s in Louisville, KY. Raka was in Denver.  Denver was playing Green Bay.  Raka and I were on the phone constantly and Raka had one question, “Baba, did the Broncos win?” I kept telling her, “No, not yet.” Undoubtedly, by the time the game was over, Raka was fast asleep.

Suddenly, back to the here and now, I heard Raka’s voice calling, “Baba, wake up, the game is starting!” I sat up and realized that I had dozed off as I was thinking about Raka and the 1998 Super Bowl.  How time flies.  Back then, Raka was the one who needed a nap.  Today, I was the young one in need of an afternoon nap.  Back then, I would explain to her what was going on during the game. Today, Raka is fluent with all the rules of football, knows the players, and is rooting for Green Bay to win. 

Next year Raka will be away at college, watching the game with her friends.  We will be back to talking on the phone, but most probably texting instead of being on an actual phone call.  It will be special too, but instead of thinking about next year, let me just soak up the game this year.        
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February 1, 2011

{No School Day}

This Monday, after school, Raka stopped by on her way to her mother’s place, grinning from ear to ear. It was another one of those treasured “guess what, Dad!” moments.  She was celebrating the momentous proclamation that school had already been cancelled for Tuesday.

I seriousy could not get why a seventeen year old was so excited about a “No School Day.”  I started with an, “Oh” response, but Raka’s enthusiasm could not be curbed.  

“Dad, no school tomorrow! Can you believe that?” she went on to say. Raka had been looking forward to a “No School Day” for ages and it was finally hers for the taking.

I was mildly excited for her and gave her a hug before she backed her red Nissan Sentra out of the garage. I stood there watching till the car left the driveway, then let my mind drift back to my childhood. I recalled myself as a little boy, waiting for the school bus on rainy days, hoping and praying that there would be no school.  I was required to wait at the bus stop till 9:30 and if the school bus was not there by then, I could run back home. I remember one day when the bus never came and I got to celebrate my way home. My victory lap included my umbrella folded up under my arm in the pouring rain and the most creative route imaginable as made sure I stepped on every puddle as I walked back home. Somehow, that “No School Day” had its glory moment burned into my mind forever. I told myself, “How could I forget that?  How could I not feel what Raka was feeling?” And I was glad that my seventeen year old was still enjoying the simple pleasures of life, “Nirmal Anand” as I called them in India.

Today is the “No School Day”.  It is finally here.  It is -10 F outside and feels even colder.  Stay warm Raka my baby, enjoy your “No School Day.” I hope you get at least one more before you leave for college.
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