It has been almost six months since I posted my last blog. Time flew. Days became months before it became years I realized its been a while and I need write something.
Change is only constant in life that we all know and nothing can stop it. Many changes have happened in the last six months of our life. I changed my client, moved to a new house, competed in Toastmaster International Speech competition, closed few more houses for my homeowner clients and made progress in Toastmaster education level.
Let’s start with the exciting one, moving to our new home in Sugar land.
Archive for the Category ◊ Personal ◊
It has been almost six months since I posted my last blog. Time flew. Days became months before it became years I realized its been a while and I need write something.
Drum roll please….
The Winner of Division O Humorous Speech contest is Vijai Thirnageswaram.
I was so happy to hear that announcement yesterday during the Division O contest. I am still trying to get over the Jet lag from last week trip to India. I was worried whether I would be able to deliver properly after lots of preparation and I was able to pull it off. Thanks to my coworker and coach Pat who helped me along the way starting from tuning the speech to hearing me out and giving suggestions on pronunciation and every things else to win up to this level.
It is the first time ever I came up to this level in any Toastmaster contest in the past 11 years with Toastmasters. It is not easy and I know any challenge/contest is not an easy thing. It takes lot of time and practice. Practice is the key. So I took it bit serious after winning the club contest on Aug 23rd. I worked with Pat to change the speech to add more laugh lines and able to win the Area contest on Sept 18th. Immediately started working for the Division contest since I have to leave India for a week trip before the contest. With Pat’s help, we trimmed and tuned the speech again for better and practiced before leaving India. I got back on Monday Oct 15th and I was totally tired and sleepy due to Jet lag which made things worse. I kept telling myself, just one more day and try to get ready for it and it may be life time chance, never know right!
Started practicing with help Aruna(my wife) and Pat and got ready for yesterday speech. We thought we are all set and went to the contest with Projector and laptop to set it up. We found out that we are missing the clicker which I practiced with to move the slides. Bit upset and tensed, didn’t find it. So we have to jump to back up plan and asked Pat to move the slides as speech progresses. It did distract my speech flow but did work out well than I thought and got good laughs. I totally enjoyed giving the speech and actually forget few lines in the middle but able to caught back up and finished it. It was a great experience!!!
In the below picture, I am with District Dignitaries and other contestants from different Area. Pat Snyder is standing behind me. I owe it to him everything for all his help.
Now we need to start again to get ready for the District contest which will be held at District Conference on Nov 17th. I am really excited and hope to do my best and try to win it.
Am I really humorous to win the first place in the Hess Houston Toastmasters 2012 Fall Club contest held on Aug 23, 2012 at Hess by beating 2 other contestants?
That’s a question which I asked myself after winning the contest. I would say, my speech seems to get some good laughs that day to grab audience and judges attention to win the contest. I am not say out of humility. I know how much I practiced to give that speech and deliver the way I wanted to bring laughs from people. What I am trying to say is, I don’t know that one speech fully determines my comedic ability and capability.
People who have watched me give speeches have told me that I am good talker who can deliver great speeches. Some have told me that I do have humorous touch in my speeches. I do agree, I can put together any speech of a topic of my interest in fraction of minutes without much preparation. I like to have stories and humor aspect in my speeches to make it last long in their mind but I certainly lag the skill of making the full speech humorous. To say, I am a humorous speaker is totally overqualified. But I been trying to get good at it and working on improving that skill so it can come easily.
By entering into this year’s Humorous speech contest, I took the challenge to myself being a long time(11 years) toastmasters to get good at preparing and delivering good Humorous speeches which will last long in people heart. I hope winning the club level contest is a big boost and surely increased my confidence level to work more and perform more in the Area level. I am going to try to do my best with all friends encouragement and wishes.
Thank you everyone for their support.
A recent a news about Spelling Bee contest won by Snigdha Nandipati by defeating eight other finalists is the highlight of many parent discussion around the town. She is the fifth consecutive Indian-American winner of the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in the U.S.
She is 14years studying her eight grade tied for 27th place in the last year contest. She studied 10-12 hours on weekends and 6 hours on weekdays to prepared to reach this accomplishment. She received an amount of $30,000 in cash, a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond and a scholarship of $5,000. She and past winners are always an inspiration to the young indian kids to do more instead of just watching TV and playing video games. Click here to check out more…
In past few years, Indian kids emerging as U.S. Champions in various fields. Like Snigdha, there are other US youngsters from India decent who made to the news by winning various awards. Here are few,
Nitin Reddy Tumma – 2012 Nobel Prize for Juniors/Intel Science Talent Search Winner for his research on cancer pathogenesis.
Shree Bose - Winner of Google Global Science fair 2011 – Discovered a process to improve the treatment of ovarian cancer patients.
Ramya Rangan – Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement 2011 honoring her as a top achiever in America in advanced placement math and science.
Bradly Ivan D’Souza - Presidents Volunteer Service Award for 2011 for finishing more than 1100 hours of community serviced.
You can read more stories about these young chaps at the recent article posted at siliconindia.com and show to your kids to inspire them on their journey to achieve their dream by never giving up on them.
Source courtesy: siliconindia.com
Thanks to my friend and neighbor Suresh who gave me the immense pleasure to read one among the best speeches I ever read by forwarding the script. It was the speech by Mr. Nipun Mehta. It is the founder of Service Space, a non-profit organization initially called as Charity focus. I did more research about him after the speech. I was amazed to find out that his philosophy and his teams mantra was give without no strings attached which is the actual meaning of giving lost in this internet era.
I really enjoyed reading every para of the speech and able to take away plenty of life lessons which I want to follow and share with others. I loved the phrase where he said, don’t just go through life — grow through life.
It wouldn’t be fair if I kept this wonderful speech to myself and decided to share with my friends and visitors of my website. Don’t just rush through the pages, just take some time out of your busy schedule and read it with quite background. You can feel it inside your inner soul.
Below is the script of the speech he gave at the IVY League Graduation ceremony. Enjoy it.
pathsaremadeby_walking.pdf (42.6 KiB, 108 hits)
I also found a TED talk which he presented about Give, Receive and Dance. An interesting speech as well.
It’s four families with 8 kids ranging from 2 to 13 and 8 adults, what could you expect other than a fun time at a place where you can forget about everything. It is everyone’s dream vacation land, Walt Disney world. We just got back from our much awaited trip to Disney world, Florida. It was 9 day trip, 8 night stay in Orlando. I cannot just say that we all had great time because that’s just an underestimated statement. We had loads of fun but as every Disney world visitor says we needed a vacation after a vacation. We came back with great memories to add to our photo album. Here are some Tips, Tricks and Thoughts from dream vacation with few pictures which should help you plan your dream vacation to Disney world.
Planning is Key
As many of you know, I am a strong proponent of planning ahead of time instead of figuring out things at the last minute. It really helped in our long 9 day vacation to Florida. Everything went as per plan and we all had great time spending reasonable amount of time and money wherever needed. I started planning 3 months in advance from the place we want to say, which park to go first, where should we eat and which rides are good and so much more.
Tip: Either buy The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012 (Unofficial Guides) or lend from your library. I borrowed from library and scanned the pages needed and printed them out to help us every day on our schedule.
I started looking at Disney Resorts, Westgate resort & Costco offers referred by few friends and checked out vacation deals from websites. Nothing came close to renting a villa to stay together directly from the Owner. We stayed at a Solana Dream Villa in Terra Verda Resort and paid $120/night for 6 bed/4.5 bath with all other usual stuff. It is not a luxury villa but we just wanted something to stay and eat together. It was only around 9 miles from Disney, not too far and close to all the shopping and eating places. It worked out great.
Tip:We saved few hundred bucks by going directly to the owner instead of the middle management companies. Here are links for the resorts around Disney which sends emails to owners directly,
Tickets & Fastpasses
As a frugaler, I always look out for deals on everything. I know the theme park tickets don’t come cheap so sweeped all over the web. I only found few deals which can save couple of bucks. I also made sure to be careful in avoiding timeshare deal tickets. I didn’t find any deals which can save good money but I finally ended up getting a good deal after talking to Billy from Billy Boys. They sell discount tickets in their website TicketMomma.com. Good thing, I didn’t have to buy the tickets until I get to Orlando. I just got email confirmation about the deal and later called them when I got to Florida and picked up tickets personally before heading out to the park on the first day. They accepted credit card and even offered 2-3% discount if paid cash but we didn’t have enough cash to pay for all our tickets. So I ended up paying via credit card otherwise we might have saved few bucks. They been selling tickets for 10+ years in the same place and they are legitimate and don’t try to sell you any timeshare deals.
I should tell about the FASTPASS system in Disney parks. It was a great, great idea and helped us so much. We used the touring plan suggestions from the guide and couple of adults always go out to get FASTPASS before we head to check out a show or ride. Once we get back from that one, we will get FASTPASS for another ride and go to the one which we got FASTPASS earlier. Their ChildSwap system also helped much so we got company to go with you all the time and kids where able to try out second time. Thanks to Disney for offering FREE!
Tip: Try to follow the touringplan from book and get FASTPASSES for the ride you like to go before ahead and check other out and you will cover most of the rides.
Theme Parks to visit
We want to have fun visiting as many park possible but at the same time we don’t want to visit every park out there in Orlando. There is Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and lot more small parks. We decided to go to Disney which is well known and ranked first in our list. We also decided to go Universal park either for a day or two depending on our tiredness level.
Now comes the decision time to choose which park to first and later in the Disney world. Since I almost completed the Unofficial Guide and bring important print outs. It helped us on every decision from which park to go, which ride is good and plan for the day. As per the book, their recommendation was to head to parks in this way, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. We discussed and decided to follow their tips and also took the weather into consideration. We did EPCOT as our first park.
It is a decent size park but lot less rides compared to others. We did the Living in Land ride, Soaring which was great. We checked out Captian EO, later Mission Space which made me sick a little bit. Then Universe of Energy show which was fun and Space Earth ride. We didn’t walk the international country side of park instead cut short to hit few countries and ended with the Illumation Fireworks show.
Animal Kingdom was our next park. We felt the heat a bit more since it was all wandering outside instead of shows in a/c hall. We hit the Kilimanjaro Safari ride first, later Mt. Everest Ride and couldn’t go to Kali ride due to technical problems. We hit the Dinoland and finished the Dinosaur ride. After lunch, we went to Swirl ride in the Dinoland few times and ahead back to Kali River water ride. We bought Pancho’s from walmart to protect us from getting wet. I still got wet but not a lot so I should say it helped a bit. We checked out the 3pm parade and headed to other side of the park using train and kid enjoyed the petting zoo. We ended our fun time at park by checking out the It’s tough to be Bugs which was cool show and did twice as there was no queue.
Since the park closed early and we got to villa bit earlier than yesterday. It was not too tiring so we want to test our capacity and thought it be a won’t bad idea to head to Magic Kingdom. Not really, we found that it is going to rain on the day we plan to go to MG so thought better switch it and finish the big park on the day it’s clear and not raining.
It is the big park compare to other Disney parks and got little more rides and shows. We first ahead to small kids area and checked out Winne the Pooh ride waiting for 30 mins or so while some of us went to get Fastpass for Splash Mountain. Later some checked out “The small world” and later saw the Philamagic show which was fun. We headed to Splash Mountain ride and took the ride which was thrilling so I tried one more time. We get to catch some pictures with the Pooh and Tiger. We had to hurry back to take the PeterPan ride, finished lunch and we aheaded to Tomorrowland. Used FASTPASS to go to Space Mountain ride and check out the 3pm Parade enjoying cold ice cream.
Later we checked out another show across Monster Inc which was ok and saw the Mickey stage show in front of the Magic Palace. Then we headed to Adventureland but missed Pirates of Carribean shows as it was closed due to mechanical problem. Took Tiki boat ride which had fake animals along the way, it was relaxing and fun. Took a break and later gone to Haunted mansion which wasn’t up to expectation. We had more time to kill before parade so we gone back to fantasy land and took kids ride carousel, saucer spin and gone to check out Electric parade and couldn’t get good spot. After that we wait for the big laser show and fireworks at 10pm. It started 9:45pm and it was amazing. It took us more than an hour to get out of the park as everyone wants to get out and transportation was limited. If you want to enjoy till end, that’s what happens and you have to patience and be prepared to stay late and save snacks till end so you won’t be tired out of hunger.
We are so tired and wanted a break before head out to other parks. Since we got package which came with water park admission. We headed to Blizzard Beach Water Park around 12pm and had superb time in the water. It was short but those 5 hours flew fast with great fun rides to try out. I tried every ride except the big one with kids. I even tried tubing multiple times and ended with rafting ride with the family. We left and headed back to villa, refreshed and gone to an Indian restaurant to taste some good Indian food. Next day we plan to go the last park, Hollywood Studios.
We ahead to Hollywood Studies, last disney park on our trip. We again reached the park little late around 9:30am. Started with Disney Junior show for kids, next Great American Movie Ride and Voyage with Mermaid show. We can only get Toy story FASTPASS for 2:30pm only. Had lunch and gone to Tower of Terror and headed to Toy Story Ride which was different and fun with my kids. We had to go back and do Rock Rollercoaster near Tower of Terror. I tried twice with kids and it was great. Later headed to Indiana Jones Show, Star Wars Ride and check out back stage tour and walk around a bit. At end, we walked back to Fantasmic show around 7:30pm to get some seats. We sat close to the water thought it would be good to be close but won’t recommend it. Due to wind, water got all over us. Sit on top seats or may be in the middle. It was one of the great show I have ever seen, excelled with lights, fireworks and action. Don’t miss it.
Universal Kingdom – Island of Adventures
Our last park was the Universal Kingdom, Island of Adventures. I did most of the rides except the big HULK and Dragon roller coaster ones. All the rides more thrilling and little scarier than Disney rides. I happen to get my iPhone wet in one of the ride and it finally crashed. That’s the sad part of the universal park visit. We were also able to get Caricreature done for second son Akhil since we had one done for my elder in Universal Studios, CA. It was another tiring but fun day at the park.
We initially thought of going to both Universal parks but decided to do only one and plan to take rest next day as we have to drive back home. On the 9th day, we took a short ride to Tampa and hit a clear water beach for couple of hours and came back and prepared to vacate the villa. Last day we started early around 4:30am and hit hard to reach Houston around 9:30pm.
Tip: If you going with kids, always take stroller and lots of drinks and snacks so they won’t get hungry and ask your food from the stalls. Don’t try to go every show or ride, be selective as per your group taste and follow the touringplan as much as possible.
Kids had a blast. They just want to keep going on the same ride again and again. Since we had too many things to cover, they were satisfied trying only 2 times. My son who is exactly 48inch tried every ride atleast 2 times with the help of FASTPASS since he had great company his cousins from India. They were tired at the end of the day but get right back next day to go to another one. Bring strollers if they are less than 8-9 years old as they get tired and won’t be able to walk at the end of the day.
Every day was long day starting from 6am to get ready to get to park around 9-9-9:30 and ends around 10-11pm. It was bit tiring after walking back and forth to the rides and shows. We took 2 vans, 8 people in each one. In each van, two adults swapped periodically and drove to avoid tiredness. We took break while going to avoid driving in night. While coming back we just pushed to do it all one day and we did it on time as well.
Disney Park got every aspect to entertain both kids and adults of any age. They have really thrilling rides as well small rides for kids. The shows were really fun with 3D aspects and some exciting factors. Total package for a family and must to visit place for a family with kids atleast one time or one time every few years. Overall, we all had wonderful fun vacation and will surely go back again after few years with my grown up kids.
Let me share an interesting story which I came across from email forward by my cousin.
A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agree that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on
opposite sides of the island.
The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land and he was able to eat it’s fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren!
After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, there was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, again there was nothing!
Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing!
Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.
As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”
“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered. “His prayers were all un answered and so he does not deserve anything.”
“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”
“Tell me, O God,” the first man asked the voice, “What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”
“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”
For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone, but those of another praying for us.
This is too good not to share…
My prayer for you today is that all your prayers are answered. Be blessed.
“What you do for others is more important than what you do for yourself”
— End —
At a big ceremony organized by Houston Immigration dept and presided by Federal Judge, I officially become US Citizen by taking oath along with 1400+ immigrants on Jul 20,2011. From just being an Alien, I sworn in as Citizen of America in just few minutes. From saying ”Jai Hind“, I was asked to sing “Proud to be an American” song . It was an unforgettable and emotional moment with mixed feelings ran in my mind. I was excited but at the same time bit mentally troubled when I thought about cutting the cords with my mother land India.
Hail from a small town called Kundrathur located near Chennai, India and born as the eldest son of a middle class couple, it has been a long way to get here and becoming a citizen of one of the biggest country in the world. It is a remarkable milestone to achieve when many millions of people wanting to come to this land of opportunity. My wife said, it is a great accomplishment from where I am from and being a first generation degree holder to first generation Indian American in my whole family. She said, I should be proud of it. I totally agree with her and proud of it. But I am unable to accept the fact that I need to delink myself from India, stop saying Indian and start being a American. It is not an easy change and difficult to transition immediately and anybody who loved their homeland and settling down in different country would agree with me on it.
I am a person who likes to remember the path travelled and believe that will help to keep myself balanced and drive me to do the right thing in future journey. India gave me everything from Life to live, Family to depend, Education to nurture, Religion to follow, Culture, Traditions, History to celebrate, Degree to start life, food to devour, Cricket to enjoy and so much more for almost 24 years. It molded me from being a child to an adult for the first leg of my life.
You might wonder why I become citizen of America if I am love my country so much! There is always a reason behind a decision. “Things sometimes happen for reason and God only knows it”. I am a big believer of that statement and like to follow that and my instincts most of the time. Many indians think that people who go to US, stays in US because they like to earn more money and live the luxury life. That’s not true anymore. That is the thing of the past, nowadays people live in India experience the same luxury and has similar earning power. For example, Indian software professional earns more than American counterpart and has everything from house, car and fun stuffs. There is not a lot of difference compared to the life style but there are other strong reasons which makes their case to stay behind.
When I came to US in 1998 for short visit, I never thought I would come back again. I came back again in Feb 19th, 1999 and made USA my home since then for almost 12 years now. This country has gave me so much by transforming me from a young adult to a grownup Business man. It allowed me to venture out and find the real me, opened doors to adventure lot of things from learning to Swim, Ice skating, Skiing, accomplish higher things like running a Marathon (I could never imagine doing it in India)by challenging myself, experience the fun of ballroom dancing, starting my own business, passing CFP exam, practising as Realtor and more to come. It has been a long journey to reach this milestone which I never thought I would but I am happy to be here.
Being born from India, I was attracted to America especially because of the way of life, which is easy going. I was literaly buttered by the American mind set. It is not about spending more than you earn mentality. It is all about Freedom to do what you want and when you want it. Nobody is going to stop and nobody really bothers you whether you dress like joker or real men. Everyone live their own life to fullest without worrying about others and try to be happy. They are trust worthy people and don’t really pull down anybody leg do to go up in the career ladder.
Individual privacy is very much respected. Another aspect, everything is easy and really process oriented. That makes your daily life easier. Even paying high taxes doesn’t bother us because you get the facilities of good school and healthy school system without partiality. Finally, one doesn’t have to worry about corruption/bribing someone to get things done. It doesn’t affect us, ordinary person life in anyway. That’s the important thing. I sometimes feel guilty for get away from the trouble back in India and neglecting the mother land to settle in US. But that’s not true. I can speak for myself and every NRI around the world, being far away make us feel more closer than ever to our country and every one does something or other possible to help and develop the land which helped them grow.
Becoming a Naturalized Citizen of America might be a big deal but it doesn’t change a thing in my daily life. Being said that, it does comes with lot of perks which helps to shape our future. For example, Social security benefits for family, allow us to create Living Trust to secure the asset, voting rights, free entry to many foreign nations and few more. Sometimes good stuff has side effects as well. It is going to be hard to get used things like getting a visa/entry pass to visit India, losing the privilege to vote in India and restricted access to purchase any land in India and few more. These process changes can be handled but emotional aspect while visiting India is going to be tough one and I hope time well help me to get over it. We also hope to go back to my mother land some day when I achieve and get to my goals and ready to retire but you never know time will only show us the path.
I usually get a daily dose of inspirational and motivational thought from “The Secret” author as The secret scroll in my inbox. Today I got something which was good and thought provoking. It is about “Change” in life.
We grib about changes in life and wonder why its happening to us. We never was an happy receipent of change because we don’t like it for many reasons. We either have to change ourselves to adjust to the change which we usually don’t want to do it. So we don’t invite change with open heart but if you understand that change is part and parcel of life and it has to happen in order for our survival. I am sure you will accept it open hands.
Here is the snapshot of the scroll,
When things change in our life, often we have resistance to the change. But if you understand the structure of the Universe, life, and creation, then you will understand that life is change, and nothing ever stands still. Everything is energy, and energy is in continual motion and change. If energy stood still you would be gone, and there would be no life.
Change is always happening for the good of you and for everyone. It is the evolution of life.
I hope you learnt something in this post about change which helps you to adapt for any change in life with some openness…
Let’s welcome change for good life…