Gujarati Wedding

When in kitchen I am like a fish out of water. I know to make tea and Maggi. A strong self sustenance model right there. I am not much of a foodie. I think I got this from my dad. He’s not much of a foodie himself. Our philosophy towards food is more on the lines of “Udaram Bharanum”.  Serve my dad karele ki sabzi or something exotic like Afgani Nargishi Shahi Korma, ask him how it was “I am Stuffed!!! Fulll!!!!!!” that the response you’ll get. His review is more quantitative than qualitative in nature.

My cousin sister fell in love with a Gujarati guy and wanted to marry him. My uncle was against it, so she came to my dad for help. Dad met this guy, his family; he was assured that they were nice people. So he told my cousin that if her dad doesn’t marry her to this guy he would. Suddenly and almost instantaneously my mom, my dad and I were elevated to be “The People” to impress for the grooms family.

It was a wonderful wedding ceremony. A beautiful mix of Maharashtrian and Gujarati traditions and customs.  I learned a lot about Gujarati culture from this whole affair. There is a common myth that Garba is played during Navratri. That’s false, cause just a day before the wedding I got a call from the groom saying “Garbo night che.”. Gujaratis need smallest reason of happiness and to from a circle and start Garba. Coming back to the wedding, the food was amazing. A wide assortment of Gujarati delicacies were at offer. There was dhoklas, patra, khaman. There was ofcourse Undio. Then there were some trick items as well. It looked exactly like a normal papad but they called it chora fail. Then there was another item which also looked exactly like a papad but it was called Mathari.

Now I don’t like to waste food. I eat everything that’s been served to me, whether I like it or not. But the problem was here there was nothing that I didn’t like. I kept eating and the servers kept serving some more. I was almost done with my lunch when the grooms Mamaji came along with a few of the grooms cousins. They had a big bowl filled with Gulab Jamuns with them. Mamaji kept forcing “Ek Gulab Jam to Chalse!!”. I had already had a dozen puris, shrikhand ,rabid, patra and dhokla, everything. Still I just couldn’t resist the temptation of that one more gulab jamun being offered. Now of course it was the grooms mamaji how could I say no to him, it would be so disrespectful and all. So I nodded ok for one more. The moment I said I’ll have one more, Mamaji and all the cousins standing next to him pulled out a spoon and served gulab jamuns one each. Now I had five gulab jamuns to finish. I took a deep breath, stared at my plate for a while and dug in. I somehow managed to have three more gulab jamun. To say it like my dad does I was Stuffed!!! But I didn’t like the prospect of having to leave something on the plate. I was absolutely full now. My eyes were bulging out of their sockets. I held the forth one in my hand and stared to breath heavily. I needed moral support. I looked around; all of the great Marathas from my side had already surrendered, conceded defeat and left. I was the last bastion standing. My will to accomplish this herculean task was dwindling. That’s when the grooms dad saw me, he approached me from behind and tapped on my shoulder and said “Revade beta, if u finish this they will bring some more.” I had given up, I could eat no more. I just slouched back in my chair and exhaled a sigh of relief. I closed my eyes, for the next 15 minutes as I just sat there.

There have been very few times in my life when I have felt food on my plate and this was one of those times. So if there was any learning from all this, it was don’t under estimate the power of fafdas and dhoklas. I have a Gujarati friends wedding coming up. I have already started conditioning my body for it. I will be fasting for a few days before the wedding and then a few days after as well.

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Ig Noble

Good afternoon fellow toastmasters and guests. A grand welcome to Annual Nobel Prize ceremony 2014. Without wasting much of your time I would like to take you straight to the prize distribution ceremony.

This year’s Nobel for…

PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY, USA, CANADA]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.
Ahhh why do you all look so perplexed? Ohhh wait did I say Nobel Prize before no, no, I meant Ig Nobel Prize 2014.

Since 1991 the magazine “Annals of Improbable Research” have been organizing the Ig Nobel Awards. The ceremony is co sponsored by Harvard Radcliffe Society for Physic Students and the Harvard Radcliffe Science Fiction Association. Each year in September a gall is organized in Harvard Sanders Hall where ten prizes are given to research work from around the world. Research work which would make you Smile, then think. The Ig Nobel is intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, to spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. The awardees are presented with an Ig Nobel Trophy by Nobel laureates, a piece of paper signed by Nobel laureates accrediting the research and 5 trillion dollars in cash. Well that’s 5 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. Zimbabwe has so much inflation that their central bank actually prints 5, 10, 50 trillion dollars bank notes. Also keeping with the spirits of quirk each year the Ig Nobel trophy designed base on that years theme for the awards. This year the theme was food and so the trophy was designed as a bottle of ketchup on a dish fixed to a black pantry tray with fork and knife. They are always imaginative with the trophies one year they just handed out a big piece of rock to the awardees. After the award distribution each awardee is asked to explain his research in one minute. In case they go longer a sweet little girl comes up to the stage and starts shouting “Please Stop I am Bored” till they actually stop their presentation. Similarly after the Ig Noble awardees are done the Noble laureates are asked to give full technical description of their work in 24 seconds and summarize it in 7 words.
On a serious note, do you think the research work mentioned before was just silly. Well if you look beyond the quirky exterior, the core of is extremely important for mankind. Take this years award for the arctic sciences which goes to the study of reaction of reindeers to men dressed are polar bears. With human so closely co habituating with wildlife wouldn’t it be of any relevance to us to study the effects of human habitation on wildlife.

Ig Nobel brings a ray of hope for me, for once I can actually hope to achieve something nearly Nobel in life. My friends and my parents especially say that I am very lazy. I am actually collecting evidence and doing statistical analysis of the patience and perseverance it takes for me to do nothing at all. I hope once I am done with this research you would definitely nominate me for the Ig Nobles.

There is so much more that is worth mentioning about Ig Noble but time is a big constraint today. Google Ig Nobel and you can enjoy the full video of this event or past events on their official website and also on YouTube. I can guarantee you some laughs, if not enlightenment to you.

Not So Clichéd after all!!!

Good afternoon fellow toastmasters and guests. When asked to introduce myself, I thought I could sum up all my life’s achievement in one single cliché of contemporary Indian. “Hi I am Omkar Pendse, I am a Computer Engineering, with a MBA and I am working in IT”. But looking back in time for today’s icebreaker and recollecting all the sane and insane things I have done. I think it not so clichéd life after all.

It all starts with an alliance of marriage between two distinct and very eccentric families. My family is like, Yin and Yang of the Chinese symbol. On one side, my father’s side we have everyone, that is Engineer or skilled technician. On the other side we have connoisseur of finer things in life. My maternal grandparents, my mother, her uncle’s all are accomplished musicians.

Apart from the things happening at my home, my childhood had been fairly similar to any others. Both my parents were working so I was looked after by my maternal grandparents. I used to run around the house distracting my grandpa in his daily riyas. He would catch hold of me and say “Omkar sing Desh rag.” “What do you mean you don’t know Desh rag, don’t you sing Vande Mataram in school, Now that’s Desh rag, come I’ll teach you.” I never grew to become a musician but I did learn the art of good listening and appreciating good music. My father on the other hand taught me to work with machines & tools.  I remember when it was time for us to replace our old TV, my dad and my uncle made our new TV. Yes, you heard me correct. Unlike a normal family who go out to electronic store selects a TV set and the dealer delivers it to their home, we actually built our own TV. In those days the government was encouraging sales of Do It Yourself electronics equipment kits so that people could learn how to build and fix electronics equipment.

In seventh grade I learnt the business of wholesaling and retailing from my father when we went out to buy firecrackers for Diwali. The next year I made my first elevator pitch to start firecracker retailing business, and found an angel investor in my Dad. My dad was more excited with the idea of me doing business and learning to do business than even I was. But people didn’t see what he saw. When I left my grandparents house with my bag of merchandise, grandma called up mom to say “Swati if you’ll were in such dire needs of money why did you tell us, why does poor Omkar have to go door to door selling things?” Anyway I got 5000/- seed capital from my dad and made a whopping 3000/- in profits. I was probably the self made richest kid in school that Diwali.

All through my school days I played club cricket and did trekking in vacations. Like any other fifteen year old I wished to be Sachin Tendulkar. But I soon realized the difference between having an achievable dream and an unattainable fantasy. Just after SSC I was picked up by prestigious Elf Academy. I was preparing for Kanga League, when I fell on the ground, breaking my wrist. With plaster on my hand I still went to the academy everyday to be with the team and see them practice. Watching all the other kids around I realized that I was good at cricket but there were others far more passionate and determined than me. So I made a deal with myself college and cricket during the weekdays and trekking on weekends. With the new found collegiate independence I stayed true with the weekend part of the deal, cricket lagged behind. Trekking has given me some thrilling and exciting experiences but I’ll reserve those tales for some other day.

With the long list of engineers in my family, I had no other option but engineering after SSC. In Engineering I learnt a life lesson. “ATKT was the greatest equalizer of all”. Mumbai University plays this insidious game to dish out ATKT to all. KTs are not to be frowned upon, for a true engineer flaunts them with pride just like a worrier flaunts his battle scares. KTs aren’t there to close doors on you but they are there to make you realize how determined you are to open the closed doors.

These experiences that I shared today are only a few of the many dots in my life. A book can’t be judged by its cover and no person can be compartmentalized in clichés. I am looking forward for dots yet to come in my life with a hope that when connected the dots form a beautiful picture in the end.