Archives for category: Family

I can picture child labor returning. My daughter is a college sophomore hunting for internships. My high school senior son, seeking university admission is counseled that his lack of internship experience puts him at a disadvantage and he is only 17!

interns-wanted

I remember the time when as a returning sophomore at Williams, a freshman asked me about my summer holidays. I had spent the over 3 month vacation at home in Delhi, mostly relaxing with friends. My day started with a sumptuous breakfast that was followed by another round of sleep, wake up and meet friends, have lunch followed by an afternoon siesta and then again hang out with friends until dinner. My freshman American friend Hal was shocked. It was so unlike an American student’s summer break, often used to earn sufficiently for term-time pocket money. I was glad India was not fast paced then.

A few years ago, one of the students from Williams contacted me during her summer break, asking to meet me. When I met her at home, I learned she was already doing an internship with a leading consulting firm. What a shock! Americanization of the Indian summer break was at my doorstep.

My family has not remained untouched by this new-spreading norm and last summer I had to see my daughter spending her entire vacation as an intern in Gurgaon. It has become a norm in the current times. However, the internship is an added bonus on her resume while she sends off her cover letters. Proof of success is yet to be confirmed.

internship-pic

As my son applies to study Engineering at foreign universities, he was told that many successful applicants at leading programs demonstrate their interest through internships they have held. Does that mean that 16 year olds are interning at General Electric (GE) now? If not GE, well somebody must be accepting them. What starts as a favor to a friend’s son, will well soon enough open the floodgates for survival of the fittest.

This trend of organized child labor or internships is certainly advantageous and helps the youth in making informed choices based on firsthand experience. But will they not be sacrificing their youth experience, is one concern that still rings my thoughts…

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On my way back from Japan, I stopped over in Hong Kong earlier this month. It was my first visit in ages. The main objective was to visit the Disneyland. This was the first visit to Disneyland for my youngest son and I; my wife and other children have been to Tokyo Disneyland before.  Why did I choose Hong Kong Disneyland for my debut?  Well, I felt that the lines for the attractions would be less; it has easy access from the downtown area, and the size would be manageable.

However, on reaching there, my first reaction was that the airport has moved further away from the downtown area. The taxi ride in now costs over 250 HKD. There are two downtown areas for visitors, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. We chose to stay in Kowloon at The Kimberley Hotel (about 900 HKD a night for twin occupancy, inclusive of taxes but excluding breakfast. That’s okay because there are a number of restaurants serving breakfast for about 40 HKD across the street).

The Disneyland:

In all respects, Hong Kong Disneyland met my expectations, and my family and I had a wonderful time.  The tour desk at our hotel would have arranged to get there at about 11, but we did not wish to lose even a single precious minute. So, we went there by taxi, which cost us about 200 HKD from Kowloon.

The advantage of a June visit is that it is the low season.  Additionally going on a weekday meant that the lines were manageable and we didn’t have to wait more than 12 minutes anywhere.  Starting anti-clockwise we visited Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Toy Story Land and Adventureland in order – managing 11 attractions by 3pm, at which point I had to take my daughter to the airport.

For me, the most memorable was the space mountain ride, which I repeated with my daughter and second son – although a bit scary for my youngest son. The other repeated ride was RC Racer at Toy Story Land.  I also remember the Mad Hatter Tea Cups and the Jungle River Cruise.

Though the food menu at Disneyland is extremely tempting, the actual food doesn’t live up to the expectations as created by the other attractions. I must admit though that I enjoyed a rubbery textured ice-cream for the first time in my life.  I guess you’ll just have to taste it – I can’t express it in words, except to say that it is worth it.

My wife and two sons remained till 8pm and managed to finish scaling the entire park. In the five hours that I wasn’t there, my son bumped fists with Buzz Lightyear as he walked by, enjoyed the Lion King musical and Mickey’s magic which was more than a 3D adventure.

My Sons with Buzz LightYear

Coming back was easy. There is a train (metro, subway whichever you prefer to call it) connection that gets you back to Kowloon rather quickly and at a more reasonable cost. Memories of this enjoyable visit shall remain with me for some time to come. I guess the adrenaline rush from the space mountain ride is just too addictive.

Earlier this month I had the chance to travel back to Japan on home leave. My youngest son is very keen about Ninjas and on his insistence we went to Ninja Mura (= Ninja Village) in central Japan. Though initially I went along as the chauffer, but gradually I became more and more engaged as a learner in this beautiful journey.

It seems there are a couple of Ninja Muras in central Japan. The one we went to was in Iga city in Mie Prefecture, known more for its beef than Ninjas. It is less than two hours’ drive from Nagoya, the home of Toyota and Mitsubishi’s manufacturing.

Ninja and ninjutsu (the art of the ninja, which is not a martial art)have become a part of the English lexicon. Appearing all the time on TV, in movies and cartoons, they are an established part of Japanese imagery now. I realized how little I knew about this element of Japan, and now I am able to share much more.

The Ninja Mura is a museum about the ninjas, with live demonstrations of their art, ninjutsu. The Ninja were agents of espionage and stealth hired by warring factions to gain intelligence about the activities of their enemies, and sometimes to assassinate them.

The interesting thing for me though was the fact that apparently ninjutsu originated in India. Yes, that is right. According to the museum, “those roots are found in the art of warfare that began around 4000 B.C. in Indian culture, was passed to the Chinese mainland, and around the 6th century, passed through the Korean peninsula and crossed over to Japan.”

The other interesting fact about the ninjas that also corroborates this India origin theory is the fact that ninjas were vegetarian. Yes, they were the vegetarian exceptions in the land of exceptional beef. For health, ninja avoided meat, fish, dairy foods and sugars in favor of a diet centered on whole-grain rice and vegetables. It seems they avoided meat and other foods that might lead to body odor to avoid being detected when sneaking or hiding.

There are so many more interesting pieces of information that are far better experienced than reduced to the written world, for example, my sons enjoyed throwing the shurikens (ninja stars). The younger one dressed up as a ninja and was even inspired to design his own ninja house once he grows up! We also saw revolving walls, trick doors, safe compartments, etc.

My second son and youngest son with a Ninja at the demonstration ground – The wood wall shows embedded Ninja Stars

The inspirational Ninja Mura can be enjoyed as a day trip from Nagoya or Osaka, though from Tokyo, I would combine it on a journey on the way to Kyoto, etc.

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