Warning: Please be advised that the nature of this post is rather descriptive. Anyone whose sensibilities get affected quickly should avoid this post.

As long as I remember, I have been drilling into Taran and Roshan’s minds the importance of waste minimization and management, energy conservation, pollution prevention, climate change etc. I have a vivid recollection of holding them in my arms when they were infants and while turning off the lights talking to them about conserving electricity. Each time they bobbed their heads as any infant would, I would assure myself that this was an indication that they comprehended my monologue. I am pretty relentless in my quest to educating my kids so I grabbed every opportunity that came my way to instill these values in them, whether it was taking them to an “Earth Day” event (check link http://www.mycentraljersey.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080428/NEWS/804280337) to discuss recycling or taking them to the library for a “Save the Earth” event where they learnt the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle too” song. Hence, it was gratifying to observe, when inside a restroom at Borders, Taran was most concerned about the toilet paper that was strewn on the floor and such was the concern he felt about the environment, he proceeded to report the same to a store executive, “There is so much toilet paper wasted in the restroom. Now someone will have to cut more trees to get paper. So, please can you tell everyone not to waste paper?” Likewise, two years ago (when Taran and Roshan were 2), I distinctly remember making “pretend” phone calls to the LIE (Long Island Expressway) authorities as the boys observed some streetlights turned on even though it was bright and sunny. (Incidentally, these “pretend” phone calls continue till date.) On the very next day, they observed a streetlight turned on right outside their school. On realizing that their class teachers could not have it turned off despite their repeated appeals, they decided to take the matter in their hand and dictated a letter to their teacher to mail it to the Bridgewater municipal authorities. When I went to pick them up that afternoon, I was handed a copy of that letter by their unusually jaded teacher. And yet again, lately they have been insistent that I use their artwork as bookmarks so that it can be “reused”. These incidents had assured me that my efforts to raise environmentally aware kids had borne fruit but never could I have imagined that their passion for “saving the Earth” was so strong that they could “discover” an alternate source of energy!!!
Today, we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of “rajma” (red kidney beans), “chana” salad (chick pea salad) and beans. While my mom is a terrific cook, the triple combo of beans, beans and beans created a teeny weenie havoc in our stomachs, as a result of which, we all seemed to be engaged in a farting competition :<( One of these farts was a rather long-winding and audible one which caused Roshan and Taran’s eyes to pop and jaws to drop.
Roshan: What was that?
Me: Someone passed gas.
Roshan: OH! Can we fill it up in the Honda?!?!

Now, now, if only this would come true, we would all be standing with our butts facing the gas tank and in the process saving a mini fortune that we have been spending on gas lately. Gosh! I never knew I gave birth to a scientist!

Ritesh: Taran, Roshan, please do not touch my new laptop.
Roshan: But I want to go to Starfall.com
Ritesh: This is my new laptop (which, in reality, is not new). Please do not touch it.
Taran: Ok. We will not touch it today but please can you tell me which day will your new laptop turn old?!?!

Taran and Roshan love being outdoors especially on their scooters and bicycles. But I am not a huge proponent of them cycling on the driveway 'coz it is rather steep and have been a cause of multiple "boo-boos". After spending a mini fortune on Band-Aids and refusing to contribute any further to the top line of J&J, I told them they can not cycle on the driveway. Of course, Ritesh chooses to ignore the "rules" and not only does he let them cycle on the driveway, he himself cycles there and flouts another rule i.e. does it without his helmet!!! Taran and Roshan are mamma's boys and immediately point it out to him that he is flouting the rule. Now fast forward to today:
Today, while we were having a picnic dinner a.k.a dinner on our porch where the kids have a picnic bench, the boys noticed our neighbor taking his daughter and her friend cycling. When he let the kids all the way to the garage through the rather steep drive-way, Taran chuckled "All dads are the same. They just don't know!"

Last summer Infosys had a conference for the Client Facing Group in a resort in Puerto Rico and so the kids and I decided to tag along with Ritesh.

Our first impression as soon as we landed there was that it looked a lot like Goa with palm trees, rolling hills, pleasant breeze, concrete colorful houses (as opposed to the wooden ones we see in the US) but resembled US when it came down to the big signs on the roads, the stores, the cars and the dollar bills :<(. The view from the hotel room was spectacular with the golf course and lush foliage in the foreground and the misty mountains of the rainforest towering in the distance. The resort was a mix of comfort and excitement. Simply put, it can not get better when you have a beach and swimming pool in the backyard. While it was difficult to tear ourselves from the sand and the water, we managed to explore some parts of the island. Puerto Rico offers nothing if not diversity. On one small island, 100 miles long and 35 miles wide, we truly experienced thousands of years of history and four distinct cultures. It is aptly called the island of Enchantment. Narrow cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, centuries-old fortresses (we saw El Morro) overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, fascinating museums and art galleries, the oldest church in the Western hemisphere (San Jose Church), quaint shops selling local handcrafts, restaurants offering not only traditional Puerto Rican fare (I tried the famous Mofongo in Café Puerto Rico) but all kinds of international cuisine- and everything bathed by a tropical breeze and light drizzle is the magic that we experienced in legendary Old San Juan. We were lucky to have Ishmail, a very friendly native, as our cab driver who also doubled up as a tour guide. We were happy to hike through El Yunque which is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. Comprised of some 240 different species of trees, it is actually a series of forests, each one determined by its altitude. More than 100 billion gallons of precipitation fall each year, creating the jungle-like ambience of lush foliage, sparkling leaves, shining wet rocks, and shadowy paths occasionally pierced by sunlight. Spectacular waterfalls rush alongside its well-maintained (but slippery) trails. Taran and Roshan were delighted to take a dip in the refreshing waterfall and were so surprised to note the enormous size of the leaves in the rainforest they decided to bring a couple of them as souvenirs to show their "dadi"," masi", friends and teachers. We saw lizards, various kinds of bugs and butterflies but could only hear the birds and the ubiquitous tree frog, el coquí. The highlight of the trip was our visit to Viequez, an island of postcard beaches. It is so pretty, I wonder why Bollywood has not explored it yet. Viequez is a one hour ferryboat ride from the port of Fajardo on the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Apart from being known for its pristine beaches (we visited the Sun Bay Beach which has received attention recently as one of the world's best hideaways) it is famous for its Mosquito Bay or Bioluminescent Bay. While during the day the bay may seem an ordinary lagoon surrounded by mangroves, at night it seemed magical to us. We went on a boat ride into the bay and in the middle of the bay, the sailor provided us life jackets to swim in the water where there were millions of microorganisms or dinoflagelletes which are tiny one-celled creatures that light up as fireflies when disturbed. Roshan and I were lucky to get into the water and enjoy this psychedelic experience. Ritesh, who could not get into the water as Taran was asleep in his arms, felt it was all a figment of my imagination but I bet it was more a case of sour grapes ;>). Apparently Bioluminescent Bays are very rare and the one in Viequez is the world’s most spectacular (as per a test they had conducted, there were 418,000 dinoflagelletes per gallon of water!!!). I must add here that while there were almost 20 people who swam in the bay, I was the only non-swimmer! But a big thanks to Ashu, who provided more support than a life jacket did, a nocturnal swim in these luminous tropical waters was the most unforgettable moment during my visit to Puerto Rico.
Of course, several glasses and concoctions of Mojito contributed significantly in making the vacation super fun. After all, we did not want to be deprived especially when we were visiting the Rum capital of the world. The effect of the Mojito was enhanced by the salsa music that was played at the Tiki bar.

We loved every bit of the trip – the seafood, the smile that was plastered on the kids faces while petting the iguanas, the pool, the hospitality of the locals (especially Penny, the owner of our bed and breakfast in Viequez). But what truly made this trip a lot of fun was meeting a lot of new faces (Priya, Sonali and Samiksha were a joy to hang out with) and spending time with our good friends, Ashu (who has a whacky sense of humour), Aditi, their absolutely adorable daughters, Roshni and Ria and our adventurous friends, Aniket, Shruti and their fun-loving kids, Arth and Kabir. It was as if the kids had a playdate 24x7 while the parents had their share of fun, especially in the pool, playing pool volleyball, going down the water slide, dancing to salsa music and lounging at the bar. No wonder for very long I had a Puerto Rican hangover (in more ways than one)!




Aah! The joy of grandparents especially when you get a horseback ride on demand.

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