While watching CNN and BBC, the news commentator warned, “The images from Haiti that we are about to show are very graphic so please have you children step out of the room.” Indeed the pictures were graphic and disturbing. Yes, they exhibited reality. Images of piles of bodies caked with dust and blood being dumped in mass graves served the horrific jolts that the news media promised. But on the flip side I am not sure if the frequency with which they were shown was required. To me it also violated the respect we owe to anybody’s remains, irrespective of their country or religion. I am also very concerned about the impact of such pictures and news on children.

For the last several years I have noticed a surge of graphic images whether it was a natural disaster (Tsunami 2004, earthquake in China 2008) or an act of terror (Mumbai attacks 2008 or the several bombings in Pakistan). Every newspaper/ magazine has carried extensive articles and distressing pictures about these. And then there is YouTube and other websites that have heart wrenching videos and photographs that provide a bigger impact wherever and whenever you want it.

Things were different 25 years ago. I remember my childhood. My dad encouraged me and my brother to read the newspaper every day. For the most part newspapers had coverage of the government and its policies, the happenings in our nation and around the world. Pages were dedicated to business, sports, entertainment and of course the weather, but then that was largely a terror free world. Sure, natural disasters struck once in a while but the pictures were muted. Perhaps a picture of the site of an earthquake, walls broken, roof crashed on the floor, but not of human remains. Clearly, we grew up in a different world.

Don’t get me wrong. I read/watch the news everyday and totally understand and appreciate the value of the Internet. But I am perplexed when I have to explain these tragedies to my 5 year old twin boys. I do not encourage them to watch graphic images of such carnage but on the other hand I have always encouraged them to read the newspaper. In fact it is my son, Taran, who runs to the driveway every morning to get the newspaper and reads the headlines and the weather forecast to us. Over the years/ months, he and my son, Roshan, have asked me numerous questions about such events:

· Why did the earthquake strike Haiti/China?
· How many people died?
· What will happen to the houses that are broken?
· What will happen to children whose parents have died?
· Why did the bad guys kill so many people in Mumbai hotels?
· Why did they burn the hotels in Mumabi?
· Why do we have to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq?
· Why did the bad guys crash into the world trade center?
· Will God punish the bad guys?
· But how will God punish them….they are already dead?

Clearly, their questions indicate to me that they not only see the violence and carnage, they feel it as well. How do we explain such events to children without affecting their sensibilities? How do we make sure that the fear of unforeseeable circumstances, whether a natural or man made disaster, does not occupy a place in their heart and erode their confidence? Sure, we strive to give our kids the love, affection, sense of security and strength that most families give their children, but is that enough?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. Do you?

To donate to Haiti follow the link:


Images above are courtesy Huffington Post and BBC

My ode to a friend (name withheld for privacy reasons) who turned 40.

Dear friend,

You have many avatars - the high flying executive/golfer,
The doting husband, the ever-loving son/brother
To your friends you are Mithunda, Anna and even Rajesh Khanna (Indian film stars)
The gracious guest who conjures up amazing margaritas.
You drive your friends to their destinations
And even attempt to move them from a chair to horizontal positions.

Now give us some credit. We all (your group of friends) contributed to your level of maturity.
After all life is not about age but experiences and one’s capability.
But hang on! Don’t mention this term, “maturity” to your wife (stockbroker); lest
She will calculate YTM with extra focus on rate of interest.
Or she will send you to Labquest to check your level of cholesterol
And you may end up with a prescription of Lipitor.

But medication apart, enjoy! You’ve aged like wine, you’re nice and fruity,
And you are ready to celebrate the fabulous forty.
Some may be jealous or may poke fun. Ignore them.
They are ignorant. Unaware that age equals wisdom.
After all you are aged to perfection.
But remember: the past is gone; the best is yet to come.

So dear friend, You are 40 years young today.
In your honor we all feel convivial as we jubilate.
We toast with rasam, sambhar and idli.
No shots?! :<( What else do you expect at a celebration for a "Gulti"!
Our wishes come from the bottom of our hearts despite the abstinence
Enjoy your day, your year, your life ‘coz you deserve every bit of happiness.

This morning President Obama announced proposals to place new limits on the size and activities of big banks. I was glued to the television while I watched the President reprimand the banks but I did not expect that his speech would have an impact on my family. Read below to know more about it.

Roshan: Ewww! What is this black black in the "Matar paneer" (peas and cottage chees)?

Me: Umm! They are onions. Sorry, they got a little burnt.

Roshan (sermonizing...or rather giving it back to me): Weren't you focussing?

Me: Well, I was watching President Obama's speech while cooking.

Ritesh (smiling): And the first collateral damage was the "matar paneer."

Me (taking it in my stride): Actually, it was the second. The first was the market.

Roshan: What did he say?

Me: Well, let me put up the link for you. (At this moment we watched the speech and I explained it to the boys as well as I could)

Taran (who was trying to process it all): Didn't you vote for Obama because he did not want to fight in Iraq? And didn't he say we should use our words and not fight with Iran?

Me: Yes, you are right.

Taran: And didn't he get the peace prize? What is it called....Nobel?

Ritesh and me (in splits): That's correct. He got the Nobel Peace Prize.

Taran (completely baffled): And didn't he like peaceful men like Martin Luther King?

Ritesh and I (rolling on the floor with laughter....much to Taran's chagrin): Absolutely correct.

Taran (with an incredulous look): And look, now he wants to fight with his own countrymen....with the banks!!! You might as well would have voted for John McCain!!!

P.S: Read/Watch President Obama's speech at http://www.cnbc.com/id/34975288

I had been thinking of buying a pashmina shawl for a long time and in my last trip to India I visited a few stores to shop for one. In one such shop, the store attendant was delivering her usual sales picth, "This is handmade. It is the finest cashmere in the world. And see how smooth and warm this is. And of course, pashmina shawls are heirlooms." Immediately Roshan interjected.

Roshan: Maa, what is heirloom?

Me: Something that is passed from generation to generation.

Roshan: OHHHH! I understand. So when you die, we will get it.

Me (not really happy to be reminded of my mortality): UMM! Yes.

Roshan (very matter-of-factly): Maa, then please can you buy two? So that when you die, Taran and I get one each!!!!


It's that time of the year again when while bidding Adieu to the year gone by and welcoming 2010, we wish to share with you how we fared in 2009.

We moved! Yes, finally we did it. We began thinking about it when Taran and Roshan were born. But, as both, Ritesh and Nidhi, grew up hearing, reading and watching 5 year plans, it got hardcoded in our sytems. So this year when the boys turned 5, we finally decided to stop procastinating and promptly bought a house. Please visit us in our new abode. We would love to have you over as long as you don't mind the rooms that are not yet done up and the boxes that are yet to be opened. After all that is our next 5 year plan.

The house buying/selling process proved to be a blessing in disguise for the US economy.
Nidhi now knows all the Home Depot staff as if they were family. In fact Home Depot is planning to feature her in their new marketing campaign titled, "If she can fix it, so can you."

Travelling was another perk that came out of the home selling process. While the realtors and their clients were viewing the house, we were away enjoying Washington DC, Bar Harbor and Acadia (Maine), Toronto and Switzerland. While in Switzerland, we travelled extensively on the Swiss trains, thanks to the Swiss rail pass we bought on the first day of our 2 week trip. On a single day, we boarded as many as 13 trains. We have been told that it is a feat that should be recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records. On the flip side, we have been informed by confidential sources that the Swiss Train Authorities have blacklisted the Idnani family.

After Taran and Roshan's success on the ice, Ritesh and Nidhi decided to learn ice skating as well and join the boys on the rink to make it a "family sport". After a few lessons, when Ritesh began asking questions such as, "What is the statistical probability of me using the one foot glide?" and "Is my learning curve evening out?" causing the instructor to squirm in her skates, the couple decided that it is best if Ritesh sticks to his weekend siestas while the rest of the family race each other on the ice.

Taran and Roshan have had a spectaculor 2009. They are enjoying their Kindergarten year. They are always eager to learn and happy to share stories about their family with their class (we all know where that came from). They have also become avid chess players winning the "New Jersey State Team Championship" trophy for their school and tieing for the second spot in the state (for their grade level). They also participated in their first Nationals and won the third place team trophy and the 1st place trophy in the "Under 600 rating" section. The boys have now taken upon themselves to coach their parents. Please wish them good luck in this herculean effort. They are unaware that they are not playing with a full deck. But then maybe, it could be their 5 year plan.

Happy 2010 to all of you. May the New Year bring happiness, success, good health and good luck to you and your loved ones.


The Idnani Family

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