Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Just couldn't resist bragging about this ...

These days, I have been spending most of my evenings mentoring high school students for a Robotics Challenge. It was fun working with a bunch of creative minds. It also helped me get through the misery of missing my 'mom and dad' who returned to India after their wonderful 6 month stay... Will soon blog about our spectacular tour to all the corners of the country...

Coming back to this blog, the regional robotics challenge was held in Atlanta last weekend. We were one amongst 47 teams participating from nearly 9 states. Our two year old team was dwarfed by the presence of several other veteran teams who had been participating for years with sophisticated robots made with sponsorships from NASA, Intel and other biggies.....Now,that didn't stop us from successfully pulling a big upset in the year's challenge. Yes... we emerged as champions by beating all the favorite ones.

The match that spread over two days made the kids go through several stressful circumstances. It challenged their decision making skills. Above all, It helped them showcase gracious professionalism towards others. It is all about maintaining a positive competitive spirit throughout the game towards your peers.
I should say that they had consciously inculcated this spirit during the entire exercise of Robot building.

Initially, Our team emerged to the top spot during the qualifying matches surprising everyone. Things were rosy and several folks gathered around the team with requests to pick them as our alliance partners for quarter finals. As always,the good times did not last long.. The very next day, We started slipping down due to technical failures in the robot in the last few qualifying matches. The teams that wanted themselves as our partners failed to pick us when they moved ahead of us in the rankings. The topmost two seeds ganged up and forged a formidable alliance. We as the eighth seed were not picked by any of the higher seeded teams as partners, who the previous day had made requests to pick them as our partners..... our team had to deal with this tough reality...We being the bottom most seed in the top 8 got the last chance to pick our partners. By then, all the best teams were already cherry-picked by the higher ranking ones. Nevertheless, our team captain judiciously picked two overlooked teams from the remaining lot as partners who despite being ranked far below us were performing strong during the qualifiers. At this point of the game, We were the least expected to win.

During quarter finals, Our alliance had to fight the undefeated first seeded alliance. Out of the blue, we defeated the invincible 'top seeded alliance' adding total thrill to the game. The fight then stretched to four games(win, tie, loss, win) finally resulting in an underdog win. This was the best part of the entire robotics competition.... Then there was no stopping, we began winning all the following matches moved to semis,finals and bagged the regional championship. It was a feel good moment for everyone of us. There were low moments in the game when these kids could have easily given up.... but things went worse only to get them all united and fight back . They showcased great inner strength and positive attitude throughout the game. It was a well deserved win.

I felt really proud to be their mentor..........
I told myself..."miracles do happen, often quite late in the game and they do so for a reason..."

Our team website: Flying Platypi
First Robotics Challenge:

The final international level contest is scheduled on Apr16-18 in Atlanta.... Hope we repeat this magic again...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Top of the World!!!!

Enjoying every moment with Dad and Mom right now....
Will Soon blog about it!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

March for BABIES...


I am participating in a fund raising walk on April , the 26th to gather financial support for research on Prevention of Premature birth and Birth defects. If you are interested in donating to this cause, You can do it at my personal page.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In Their Shoes

When I woke up this morning, I expected the day to be no different from every other day of my existence. I wake up, eat, go to work, come back home, watch TV and then go back to sleep. It's mundane ...after all, Isn't it?

Well, Not Really!! Little did I realise that there were tons of things that were going perfectly right everyday in my life that I failed to appreciate the profundity of being alive and wholesome in mind and body.

Today turned out to be one of those days when my heart was filled with gratitude and appreciation for the gifts that I have been endowed with. I had the opportunity to delve into the minds of some of the bravest ones who put a bold fight every moment struggling to break open the hard walls that harshly confine them both mentally and physically. I happened to watch this documentary in HBO on the lives of Autistic kids and their family. It documented several months of their hard work to perform in a musical. The enormous emotional stress undergone by the parents to understand their kids condition was evident.Every moment of the documentary was heart wrenching. The kids had to put a great deal of effort to gain control of their movements and senses. Their mind and body repeatedly failed to cooperate and every simple task was uphill,arduous, painstaking... Yet,They don't give up.

The best part was their performance before a crowd. I was infact sitting at the edge of my couch while watching this part on TV. One of my anxious moments was when a kid played "Twinkle Twinkle little star" in his violin.. He was so proud and happy after playing it. The pride with which he glances his mom at the end of it is a priceless watch.

It felt great to see all of them performing with confidence. At the end of it, I involuntarily clapped my hands and shared their pride and joy. The gargantuan applause from the crowd cheered the kids and their family...And for me, The whole experience was exhilarating. It was a revelation. It would be one of those special moments that I would fondly recall in future...

Check their Website: Autism: The musical

End Note:
If you haven't noticed, I changed the BGM of my blog to suit this post. It is one of Philip Glass' minimalistic pieces which was popularised in the movie "The Hours". I find it simple,intriguing, resonating with the nethermost part of a complex human mind much similiar to Raja's theme in Mouna Ragam...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la..

It was 1:30 A.M when I finally finished packing and wrapping the gifts purchased for my sister, BIL, pedhamma and pedhanayana for christmas.
"Better head to bed or risk missing your flight in the morning", I said to myself.
I was sure that I would not find time to do a thing once I arrive at my sister's place. I usually get swarmed by my little nephews and hardly find any time to spend with others in the family. I disappointedly went to bed cursing my poor planning and time management. I felt bad for having not made a christmas card for my nephews who had been eagerly awaiting my arrival for weeks.

5:50 A.M, At the ticketing desk of Delta Airlines

Me: Hi!
(showing my e-ticket to the ticketer).
Ticketer: Sir, You are late,You have missed the flight.
Me: What? Are u sure? Isn't it supposed to depart at 6:45 A.M ( I showed her my e-ticket)
Ticketer: Well, The ticket that you purchased from Orbitz has the time printed in it wrong. Sorry about that. I can put you in the next flight to New York city without any additional charge.
Me: Thanks a lot! When is it?
Ticketer: At 12 noon.
Me: Are you serious? :(

Well, I was disappointed as I would be missing my favourite poori-aloo prepared by my pedhamma for breakfast. In lieu of it, I would be served with a rebuke from my Akka(sister) for having not checked the time of departure in the website. On the other hand, I was happy that I had 6 more hours to make a wonderful christmas card for my nephews.

I wanted to make a picture collage in the card. So, I went back home to pick my favourite snaps of kids & family, then headed to CVS store to develop them and then to St Michaels to pick art accesories. I spent nearly three hours shopping around, thinking about a theme and finally had enough time only to cut the developed snapshots. I packed the cut pieces and art accesories in my backpack and boarded the flight at noon.

I made full use of the flying time in making the card. I glued pictures and added few lines advising my nephews to share their toys, to work together and not to quarrel in the coming year. I finally finished and signed it as SANTA. The person who sat next to me gave a broad smile after looking at all that I have been doing.

Well, I realised that I was in a very happy mood. I was excited about Christmas and the new year. I also found everyone around me in a jubiliant mood. I thought that it was the advent of christmas that made everyone of us merry.

I still had around twenty minutes to reach new york city. I closed the christmas card and happily placed it in my backpack. I then asked myself, "When was the last time when I found myself and people around me as excited and happy as they are today?"

It quickly brought back wonderful memories of pongal that I used to celebrate in my village. I would wake up on this day to see my mom and Ravana athai cooking pongal in the yard. I just loved watching the boiling pongal. I would run towards the yard only to be rebuked by athai who would then ask me to take a bath before coming to the fire place. I would be given an oiled head bath. Neatly dressed, I would go and sit next to the fire stove made of red bricks.
On this day, Pongal was made outside the kitchen in the yard, in an earthen pot smeared with manjal (turmeric powder), adorned with white and kumkuma thirunamams. The stove in the yard was made with red bricks and was fuelled by split fire wood. The bricks would also be smeared with manjal and bore namams and kumkumam pottus.
The other visual treat on these days was the sight of the huge kolam that Jayanthi akka would draw in the front of our house. She would start the piece of art with the preparation of canvas. The loose ground soil would be stiffened by spraying a mix of water and cowdung. When dried, it provided a dark brownish-green canvas for the kolam. She would then draw kolam with rice powder or powdered white marble. After completing the kolam, she would border them with a thick red paste made using brick powder.

The next attraction is the cowshed. Cows would have been cleaned by Arumugam anna or Periyavar thatha. They would be fully ready for the procession on the next day (on Maattu pongal). The cows would be decorated on the next day with balloons tied to their horns. Arumagam anna would also have their horns painted.

The whole ambience would be filled with a unique blend of fragrant agarbathis and smoke emanating from the fireplace. A loud discordant song (usually of L.R Easwari or Sizhkazhi Govindarajan) from the nearby temple would serve as the background music.

During these days everybody in the village would be in a very good mood. The entire village would be bright and the streets were adorned with colourful kolams. One would also see dried chewed pieces of sugarcane lying around at the side of the red streets.

This sweet remiscence came to an abrupt end when my plane landed in NEW YORK city. I was filled with excitement and got ready to be received by my sister. Eventhough the reminiscence was short-lived, it set a cheerful mood that prevailed during the entire trip.

During the entire Christmas vacation, I had been consumed with a joyous feeling. I also found people around me in a similiar mood. The jubiliant mood prevailing in New York city during christmas eve reminded me of the mood that prevailed in my village during pongal.

I felt sad that my nephews would never be able to experience the same kind of joy that I had experienced in my village during pongal. The occasion that they associated with activity and cheer was christmas. My sister and I did our best in our own ways to make it memorable for them.

I am sure that they would joyfully recall as to how their mom erected a christmas tree, decorated it with pine cones, stars, wreaths, dolls..quite similiar to how I recall my mom decorating the house with thoranams of mango leaves and garlands of yellow chamandhis. Just as how the new clothes brought joy to us during pongal, the gifts provided similiar joy and excitement to my nephews. I am sure that they would also associate christmas occasion with the visit of their maama and joyfully recall how he delivered "christmas cards and gifts" from Santa.

Christmas Tree in our house
..... other trees in the city here

Photos by Kurrodu

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Friday, October 05, 2007

A Moment of Revelation

I got out of work early today. It was supposed to be a very eventful day at work as my colleagues planned a short picnic in a neighbourhood park for the afternoon. Several games and fund raising events were planned for this day, weeks in advance. Unfortunately, I chose to stay away from it. Thanks to my palette expander ( prior stage to braces), which I had them placed in my mouth, a couple of days ago. As a result of which I can hardly bite or chew food. The worst part was that I could not roll my tongue with ease. It crippled my speech and totally distorted my pronunciation of words. Inorder to avoid embarassing myself at the gathering, I chose to stay away from the crowd. I spent the whole afternoon alone at the office, complaining and fretting over my condition.

After a long day at work (my condition made it seem even longer), I had to make a trip to walmart to buy some stuff for cooking. As I entered walmart, I saw this guy (seemed to be in his early 40's) well dressed and walking aimlessly towards me at the entrance. He seemed to have less control over his body movements and not normal. Momentarily, another old guy leaped forward from behind, pulled his hand and led him towards another direction.

The old guy asked me and others nearby to excuse his son and then moved ahead. I was moved by this scene. I was all the more impressed by the confidence of this old guy. He was lean and weak. He bore a broad smile in his face and looked very confident. I felt sad that he had to take care of his son in his old age. His confidence trivialised my complaining during the day. It was indeed a moment of revelation.