Beyond the horizon

Beyond the horizon - Reboot Social

By Paolo Gardino https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADome_greenland.jpg

A few weeks ago I met Myrtle Simpson. The lady is well over 80.

In the 1960s she became the first woman to ski across Greenland with four others on an unsupported expedition.

As this wonderfully feisty lady recounts her adventures to a small enthralled group of mostly women, she says so many things that make so much sense.

“Don’t assume the answer is no, you will never know if you don’t ask.”

“Your family is most important, even if it means you climb one less peak or go on one shorter expedition.“

But the one thing that really stayed with me and has been echoing over the last many days is the answer she gave to someone who asked her, “why do you do what you do – why the mountains, why the exploration?”

“I want to see what is beyond the horizon,” she answered calmly. Simple and yet so profound!

Over the last many days I have wondered what it was about her answer that struck a chord with me.  Then, as I lay supine on my bed staring at the ceiling and reflecting on life in general (my favourite Saturday routine), it suddenly came to me.

I left India 12 years back to come to Canada.

I had a very comfortable life with the usual trappings of the upper middle-class Indian family – cook, maid, chauffeur, and most importantly a mortgage-free home (oh yeah!). Yet there was a hankering for something more, a desire to move, to leave, and to explore.

My friends and family thought I was nuts.

“Why?” “Don’t rock it.” “Stay, we will promote you.”

There were dire warnings: “You don’t have a job, what will you do?” “You don’t have Canadian experience, no one will hire you…“

It went on and on.

Strangely, I too could not articulate what was pushing me – the “why?”

My most oft-repeated answer (very banal) was “doing it for the kids”.

Fast forward to this Saturday, 12 years later (yeah I must be slow), I woke up to the realisation that like Ms. Simpson in the 60’s, I wanted to see what was beyond the horizon. I wanted to explore to stretch my boundaries, to push myself into the unknown, to take a risk.

Gratefully what was beyond the horizon was this amazing country, a beautiful mosaic of different cultures. A land of immigrants where every beautiful tile in the design had its purpose, and, opportunity to shine.

It was not a melting pot.

I did not have to become mush to blend in; I could be me and live in a kind caring compassionate and ever so polite environment.

I got a job beyond my dreams, I made friends, the children thrived and we learnt more about kindness and goodwill than we ever imagined.

We learnt this from a stranger from whom we were buying some equipment.When he realised that we had no way to take things home other than on the bus (could not afford a taxi then), he put us and the stuff in his car and drove us home. We learnt from our neighbours who dropped us to the train station during winter so that we did not freeze while waiting for the bus. We learnt and learnt and most importantly learnt to pay it forward.

What was beyond the horizon was a country I am proud to call my home.

Thank you, Ms. Simpson, for helping me articulate my ‘Why?” albeit after 12 years.

Kiran Ramnanae - Reboot SocialKiran Ramnane is an extremely curious person who is also a mom, a corporate educator and a Leadership Coach. Having travelled extensively her passion is exploring the diversity of human beings and cultures. Kiran lives in Oakville, Canada with her husband Satish and their dog Zoe. Her favourite place is home and her favourite thing to do on any day is curl up on the couch and read – anything!

 

 

A 90-minute flight to Philadelphia that cost me over $3K

My concerns about flying have little to do with the security screeningConcerns about flying - Reboot Social

I am afraid of United Airlines.

For that matter, I am afraid of most airlines. I feel that they always have the upper hand.

It may have a “flying while brown” element to it.

Though, I must admit that these days I am a little bit more convinced about the randomness of the “additional screening” process at airports. When an eighty-year-old grandmother gets pulled aside for “explosive trace detection swab,” I know the system is not randomly picking me every time.

I digress.

My concerns about flying have little to do with security screening. It has got to do with the unilateral decisions that airlines seem to be able to make with total disregard to passengers.

We live in a capitalistic society. I won’t complain about the airline’s ability to capitalize on market demand by charging passengers exorbitant fares when they can.

So, when I paid Air Canada over C$1200 for a return flight in economy class from Toronto to Philadelphia for a business trip, I was not overly worried.  After all, it was the NFL draft week in Philadelphia. I was booked for a night at the Ritz Carlton. I was looking forward to it.

To put things in perspective, I can generally fly to New York LaGuardia, which is about the same flying distance, for less than $300. For that matter, I can fly to London Heathrow and back for under a thousand dollars.

Once again, my issue is not about the fare. It is more about what I get for the fare.

Should there not be some expectation of performance on the airlines’ part? What can I take for granted for the high fare that I paid?  At a minimum, a confirmed seat on the return flight?

As I found out, high fares don’t guarantee you much.

I arrived at the Philadelphia airport to catch my return flight to Toronto, only to find out that the flight was delayed – the incoming flight had not arrived.

As someone who flies often, I have a couple of theories on routine messages that I get from airlines.

If the airline staff tells you that the incoming flight on which you are planning to depart is delayed, I hear “your flight may be cancelled.”

When the airline’s online application tells you that they are unable to allocate you seats online, I interpret it as “the flight is oversold, you may be bumped.”

After about a two-hour wait, my worst fears came true, my flight was cancelled.

Air Canada did not have a flight later that day. They were not going to try to rebook passengers in another airline going to Toronto. The cancellation was attributed to “traffic congestion” at the destination airport – Toronto Pearson.

As the stranded passengers milled around, the lady at the airline counter made it clear.

“There are no vouchers, nor are we offering hotel rooms.” “And, we are unable to rebook you at this time. You will get a communication from the airline at some point regarding your rebooked flight,” she went on to add.

At some point?

For those of us who were not satisfied with her message, she handed out the number for Air Canada’s Customer Service department.

The call to Customer Service was short.

The automated message made it clear that due to the high volume of calls, they were unable to handle my call nor take a message.

The message redirected me to their website.

“Thank you and goodbye,” there was no attempt at niceties as the system hung up on me.

The website was not much help.

After having taken me halfway through an online form to rebook my flight, it let me know that I had to call Customer Service for resolution. The same Customer Service that hung up on me.

I was in a bit of a quandary.

There was no way of knowing when I will get rebooked. If I went back into the city and had to come back to the airport for an early morning flight, that would not be efficient. So I decided to stay at the hotel attached to the airport.

The cheapest room at the hotel set me back C$475 for the night. Around 11:00 PM, I got my rebooking info. I was booked on a flight leaving at 6:30 PM the next day.

For me, that was not an option.

I had to back in Toronto for some in-person meetings that I could not miss. So I decided to take a chance and buy the only available business class ticket for a 9:00 AM flight back to Toronto.

The return flight cost me another C$1350.

I still had to cancel my rebooked return flight.

After waiting for an hour on the line, I reached an agent. She informed me that I could cancel my rebooked flight, but she could not credit me the cancelled fare right away due to complex calculations that she was unable to make.

I had spent $3025 thus far on my flights and related issues.

I still had to eat.

Fortunately, I was on a business trip!

What if I wasn’t? What if I was travelling with family and children? How much money would I have had to shell out to get home?

What happened to the concept of reservation, and the guarantees that come with it?

What if other services adopted the airline model?

Imagine getting to your vacation destination to find out that the hotel had overbooked and decided to bump you!

What if your Doctor could bump you?

What if your child could get bumped from his or her college admission?

Where do you draw the line?

Eating raw leaves in the name of nutrition

Eating raw leaves - Reboot Social

Which One Would You Order?

When the report from the medical clinic referred to me as “obese,” I took a double take.

The reference was in the Body Mass Index (BMI) section of the report. My family doctor had suggested a series of preemptive risk avoidance tests at a facility specializing in stress tests and the like. The report included a few brochures on nutrition, diet, and general well-being.

My bruised ego aside, I was concerned.

I made a mental note to go easy on the beers.

I have never been on a diet, nor cared about nutrition. I just assumed that whatever I ate had enough nutrients in it to keep me going until I got to a reasonable vintage.

Time to rethink that. Or, not.

If dieting simply meant that you could eat everything in moderation, I can work with that.

Some of my friends seem to have adopted more regimented versions of it. They count the number of nuts they eat, measure the amount of rice they consume, and eat raw leaves.

Growing up in India, eating raw leaves was never considered a food option. Cows ate leaves. Keeping that background in mind, you can understand why I am not a big fan of kale juice which is apparently good for you.

I remember the bewildered look on my mother-in-law’s face when the server put a large bowl of garden salad in front of her. It was her first visit to Canada.

As I knew it, a salad meant, cut up vegetables – mostly cucumber, tomatoes and onions. While things have changed, rice (or wheat) remains the staple for humans, and at home, seafood was the main side.

From a body weight perspective, I had always considered myself as being sort of middle of the pack. Sure, I won’t win any bodybuilding competitions; but, I can still fit into a pair of 32-inch-waist jeans.

I had my logic. I try to stay active. I play squash and tennis a couple of times a week.

Then there is the Fitbit, which I don’t use any more. I had figured out ways to get my step count in. Of late, my health concerns have generally been focused around my knees and elbow which take a pounding on the courts.

So, if you lead an active lifestyle, do you still need to worry about nutrition?

Harvard Food Pyramid Reboot SocialGoing by this recent post titled Healthy Eating, looks like you do. Looking at the top of the Harvard Health Pyramid shown here, I can tell where my BMI score needs work.

When you start paying attention, you hear a lot about nutrition and dieting. It’s like man buns, suddenly, you see them everywhere.

However, there appear to be many schools of thought on diet and nutrition, often contradicting each other. For instance, when did coconut oil become the next best thing to sliced bread? Wait, sliced bread is not such a good thing anymore, unless it is whole wheat. This post in the Irish Examiner sums up a few contradictory nutritional recommendations that exist out there.

Does food have to be just fuel for your body? I know a few people who think that way.

In these days of meal replacement shakes and energy bars, I feel that there is room for tasty food that is also healthy. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy good food.

Planning to order the 4 oz. steak with a side of broccoli this evening…

Five traits to yearn, earn, and reset life….

At an early stage of life, if you could choose five traits that could shape your destiny, what would they be? Five Traits to yearn - Reboot Social

Have you ever thought about it?

Choices are a way of life. We develop our instincts and start making choices based on circumstances and needs.

When I aired this thought with my wife, I got a ‘Don’t-waste-my-time’ glare. She suggested that ‘How best to annoy your partner’ may make a better subject.

I had better success with my teenage daughter.

Her immediate response was “What are your picks?”

Not wanting to influence her, I asked her to think it over and let me know. I was impressed when she came back with her choices. One stood out, “eliminate procrastination.”

I could use that!

That got me thinking.

What are the five traits that I believe are worthy of yearning and earning?

So, here they are:

  1. Courage

Perhaps the most important quality for me.

Courage makes us take that leap of faith, helps us bounce back, make us realise our shortcomings, enable us to form opinions and speak up during difficult times. Courage just cuts through the fear of the unknown and makes it an exciting path to explore.

Funnily enough, courage is not always born with you. A combination of life experiences, and most importantly the support of friends and family (in my case) play vital roles in developing that courage and ingraining it as a part of one’s character.

One of the boldest decisions we made in our life was to move countries with a 90-day-old infant. Being first-time parents with little knowledge of parenting, it was daunting. We set off to Botswana in Southern Africa, and to date remember with gratitude all the help we received from the people there. We settled so quickly that we ended up owning a house in a span of two years.

But, sometimes life needs a hard reset.

It was time for us to make another one. A major one.

Leaving aside an established way of life, we migrated to Australia, lock, stock and barrel. No friends, no relatives, no job, and a two-year-old girl who did not understand or speak English, in tow.

In hindsight, one of the best moves in our life!

Check out my previous blog post ‘A True Blue Aussie.’

  1. Clear Thinking

Undoubtedly one of the best facets of the human mind – to create thoughts.

Often, we are presented with things and situations that are ambiguous and complex. The ability to think clearly in such times stands us apart.

Again, I draw from personal experience.

My wife, a Chartered Accountant, was into her sixth year of employment at a small company. She was well settled and had grown with the company. The crazy hours were tolerable, but the boss who would call at 6.30 am on a Sunday morning asking her to book flight tickets was not.

Life, once again, needed a reset.

The next offer was a step-down both in terms of career and earnings. She set her priorities, conceptualised the next couple of years until she caught up with the earnings and did not turn back. She now works for a former Australian Olympian athlete, enjoys her role and the non-existence of bullshit and earns heaps more than what she used to.

  1. Artistic Mind

As kids, colours attracted us. Sound, smell, and taste followed. It is safe to say that everybody is born with an artistic bent of mind. How well do we nurture it? Each to their own.

I have never ring-fenced artistic virtues into music, photography, painting etc. There is a broader horizon – ‘appreciation’. This triggers us to step out of the box, perceptualize, and weigh in.

Did you know that Jeffery Katzenberg of Walt Disney came up with the idea of Lion King based on happenings in his life? An artistic mind to an epic musical! ‘Lion King’ and ‘Simba’ the lion connect with us instantly for the morals.

Imagine Charlie Chaplin’s ability to make people laugh in the era of silent movies!

  1. Charm

I believe this is an acquired personality trait and one that evolves continuously. It is unique, easily identified, appreciated, highly inspirational, and influential.

Each one of us would have had role models at different stages. I have had my fair share. In my early years, I was fascinated by the soft-spoken, diplomatic types. Then came the suave and the smooth talkers, followed by the assertive, and commanding personalities.

My ‘chain of charms’ is a combination of reality, facts, empathy and genuineness. Identifying interesting traits and their impact on others has always been intriguing for me. Using your charms can be likened to playing poker. Only the beholder knows their possession and when to flash the right charm at the right time.

Something we all practise day in day out – Right?

  1. Sense of Humour

Don’t we all know that one person who thinks he/she has the best sense of humour, but is truly a pain for others?  Multiplier effect, if it’s your boss at work.

Sense of humour is pretty similar to comebacks. Not everyone has that timing and if we let the moment go, it’s hard to recreate one. The best sense of humour emanates when you are being true to yourself. Our ability to empathise, self-deprecate, and intelligently conceptualise, intertwined with natural instinct and delivery can leave a mark.

With a comeback queen in my wife, and a daughter with a sense of humour, most disagreements at home seem to finally end up in a big hearty laugh.

The list above is not a stocktake of my haves or have nots. They are rather qualities that could have made me a better-rounded person at a very early stage of my life.

Remember the quote “Sow as you Reap?” Exactly!

So, what is that one trait that you wish you had?

If you liked this post, please take a moment to share it with your social networks and connections. It helps us reach more readers.

Ajith Kalliat Thazhath - Reboot SocialAUTHOR: AJITH KALLIAT THAZHATH

Ajith Kalliat Thazhath is a simple bloke with interest in husbanding, parenting, sports, fitness, music, books, beer, wine, spirits, and movies. A qualified Chartered Accountant, he works as a Banker and lives in Sydney with his wife Radhika Rajan and daughter Durga.

Are mothers of children with life-threatening illnesses “chosen”?

Mothers of children with life-threatening illnesses

The epidural was a game changer.

It was the first time in 25 years that I did not feel the throbbing unrelenting pain of arthritis in my lower back.

wept with joy.

It was the sweetest experience of my life, prior to my daughter Anakha’s birth. The fact that it got rid of those pesky labour pangs, was secondary.

Having had a chronic childhood illness myself has made me unusually prepared to be Anakha’s mother. The routines and rhythms of disability, such as timing daily medications, planning and managing energy outputs, modifying her diet, daily exercises just to be able to move, pain management, the social stigma of using adaptive equipment, and long-term hospital stays, are not foreign to me.

Before she was stricken with this terrible life-limiting illness, I was already worried that she may inherit my form of childhood arthritis.  I constantly watched her for signs of joint and muscle pain.  I even used to joke that if anyone was prepared to deal with a childhood illness, it was me.

Ah, the irony!

Anakha’s path is so much harder than mine, but I have walked a similar path.

At the age of 10, my back started to hurt.  Much as Anakha’s physical regression was at first dismissed, my back pain was chalked up to growing pains.

It was not until I was 22 that a rheumatologist recognized the signs of Juvenile Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of childhood arthritis that affects all joints, and a few organs.

It can be tiring and painful. Flare-ups come and go. Medication and exercise regimes must be strictly followed to attempt to stave off permanent damage. I spent 2006 walking with a cane, cursing those cold Ottawa winters and slippery sidewalks.

People have made comments at how slowly I may walk at times, especially on the busy streets of Toronto, or wonder why a youngish woman is waiting for the elevator, or wearing ugly orthotic shoes with a beautiful dress.

I know that Anakha and I together will inevitably face similar situations.

Mitochondrial disease exhausts her. A day trip to Niagara Falls can deplete her energy reserves for a week. She has minor and major regressions of skills, or flare-ups, from time to time. Her leg muscles are trapped in spasticity and painful cramping.  Her medications and therapy regimes must be strictly followed to give her the best chance at survival and quality of life. She uses several types of specialized equipment for mobility.

People are already commenting at her eye crossing, her limited speech, asking why a 2.5-year-old cannot yet walk. And as she gets older, and spends more time around her peers, the questions, stares, and social stigmatization and isolation of disability will only get worse.

But I persevered. And I am confident that Anakha will do the same. Because no matter what we may face, we will just keep going. Walking and rolling, inch by inch, and with a smile.

Mama can show her how.

The mothers of children with life-threatening diseases or special needs are inundated with well-meaning parables and poetry, telling us that we are somehow chosen by God (whatever God you may believe in) to walk down this difficult path.

Maybe we are, or maybe it is random chance, I cannot presume to know.

But I am so glad that she chose me.


Savitha Thampi - Reboot SocialAUTHOR: SAVITHA THAMPI


Savitha is a corporate/commercial lawyer, with a specialty in intellectual property and media law. She is proud to advocate for the rights of children with special needs. Her current focus is finding education opportunities for medically fragile children. Savitha can be reached at savitha.thampi@gmail.com.

Globalization, through a wedding

Globalization through a wedding

Photo Credit: Daring Wanderer

Technically, there is no such thing as a simple Indian wedding.

You take the complexity to another level when you do an Indian wedding in Canada, and the groom is American. Throw in remote management by my daughter who was living and working in New York City, the picture is complete.

Globalization, through a wedding!

For instance, my daughter and son-in-law wanted forty guests at the wedding, my wife wanted four hundred.

We settled for two hundred. And that was just the beginning.

I remembered Rudyard Kipling “Never the twain shall meet!”

Managing the guest list was a challenge. How do you tell your friends that your daughter is getting married, and they are not invited? Fortunately, the venue had capacity restrictions, which gave us a genuine and logical excuse.

I tried to stay on the sidelines.

My wife reminded me that I only have one child and had to be more involved. So I tried to get involved.

I quickly realized that the wedding industry is big business, irrespective of your culture or background. You can be sensible and get married at the Toronto City Hall. You can have fifteen of your friends and family in tow and it’ll cost you around $250.

Or, at the other end of the spectrum, you can book the Art Gallery of Ontario for approximately $400 per person.

Once we got realistic about the budget, we needed to bring a number of logistical components together. At a high level, the type of ceremony, the venue, the décor, the food, the entertainment, the officiating, the photographer etc. are normal components of a wedding.

It is when you bring in the cultural twist that it starts getting complicated.

Multicultural weddings are the embodiment of globalization at the people level. Every component of the wedding can be handled two different ways.

It can get taxing on the guests who have to potentially be prepared to attend two ceremonies spread over a long day. Fortunately, in our case, the two families were not overly religious. The decision to keep it as a social event rather than a religious one was welcome to both parties. A single event with a few Indian rituals and some American officiating seemed like a perfect middle ground.

As venues go, the old bank building, converted to a modern hotel, was great.

But, we were unsure if it could handle all the traditional lamps that were going to be lit. What if the fire alarm gets triggered halfway through the ceremony? Rain is considered a good omen, but the sprinkler system drenching the guests would not be. The Venue Manager reassured us that she had seen her share of “fire pits” at Indian weddings. She was right.

The décor guy we contracted was not of Indian origin but seemed to understand the general requirements of an Indian wedding. He waxed eloquent about his experience with “mandaps” and “havans,” until my wife asked him,

“Can you get coconut tree flowers?”

For a minute he appeared stumped, but quickly recovered and promised to look into it and get back to us. And sure enough, he did. He had found a supplier – a Sri Lankan grocery store that imported and sold exotic flowers on the side.

Globalization!

The food was next. What do you cater to an eclectic group of people with diverse tastes and preferences? How far will the caterer be willing to stray from traditional fare?

Once again, it was evident – culinary globalization. The caterer could provide traditional steaks, spicy Indian curry, or a vegetarian dish as part of the main options. And for the folks experimenting with the curry, there was the sorbet to cleanse their palates.

The choice of music played at the reception can have an impact on how involved guests get. A mix of traditional wedding songs and dance hits, mixed with some Bollywood favourites seemed like a good idea. The band was comfortable playing all the current hits but safely deferred to taped music for the Bollywood pieces.

Globalization in music is obvious when the opening credits of a Denzel Washington movie plays “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” a Bollywood hit.

Photography in a multi-cultural wedding can be tricky.

As the photographer focused on candid moments, we had to explain the significance of certain wedding rituals to ensure that she captured them as they happened. The images from the wedding party depicted snapshots of sartorial globalization with the guests wearing a colourful mix of sarees, dresses, sherwanis, and even a kilt.

As the pundits debate the merits and demerits of globalization of world economies, globalization at the people level seems inevitable.

All I have to do is look at my own extended family…