Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Philasaphee of Ze Vegabond Rock

The ultimate proof that you have arrived in life, I verily tell to thee, – is having your own Vegabond rock

What pray, might you ask, is a Vegabond Rock? At this point I adopt a solemn wise look and tell you a brief history behind the philosophy …er… philasaphee

For several years before and after 1920, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs participated in a series of motor camping caravans, which have been described as the first notable linking of the automobile with outdoor recreation.

...But the party did not exactly rough it. No one slept on a bed of boughs or subsisted on fish caught in the stream. Separate sleeping tents, each with the occupant's name on it, were provided … A dining tent about twenty feet square, set up convenient to the sleeping tents … A basic supply of food staples was carried in the  kitchen truck … Frequently local people dropped by the camp with gifts.

...As the group moved along, headlines blazoned, "Henry Ford Demonstrates He's Not Afraid of Work; Repairs His Damaged Car," "Millions of Dollars worth of Brains Off on a Vacation," "Genius to Sleep Under Stars," and "Kings of Industry and Inventor Paid City Visit." Columns were filled with stories and trivia about the famous quartet … The Vagabonds were accompanied by newsmen and photographers who reported each man's every move and hung on his every utterance. Almost all of the newspapers in the country reported and theaters showed Ford, Edison, and Burroughs engaging in high-kicking, stair-jumping, sprinting, tree-chopping, and tree-climbing contests.

...Sometimes in August 1919, the four people carved their initials in a piece of rock which was named the vagabond rock … became the cornerstone of Ford's manufacturing plant at Green Island, New York...

Jim recently saw a replica of that stone preserved in the ford estate museum in Detroit.

Sooo…? You sport a bemused look. These rich and famous guys etched their initials on a stone but so what? Can I not etch more than just the initial but my name and that of my whole family-n-friends on a piece of rock – and not just any rock mind you – in pucca white marble!  That way not just moi world arrive, but my whole family-n-friends would arrive (as they are always expected to in marriages and naming ceremonies – but that’s a different story! Thankfully!!!)

My solemn wise look starts to appear significantly more solemner at this. In fact it now bears a definite wise owlish resemblance as I utter the following pearls of wisdom –

Etch, no doubt you can, I daresay as well as the next person. Why, people are etching away entire mountains for the metal ores. Our esteemed politicians get their name etched every time even a Sulabh facility gets inaugurated. But is that the same thing as the Vegabond rock?  

The matter is not of etching, my young Padawan, (Jedi apprentice, not chi-chi)  - it is the love with which the etching is received by people – of your time and the future – which determines the degree of your arrivalhood.

Vegabond stone, not only made to be the cornerstone of a manufacturing plant with a replica of the stone being available even today in the Ford Estate Museum in Detroit; but also at the time this stone was etched – in a seemingly inane act  - it was widely celebrated by people - the media and the general Janta literally followed these people around where they went and hung onto their words and deeds. Not because they were rich themselves – but because they had the capability of making a difference to others lives – they truly were Geniuses. The same way, if Big B or Tendulkar, etched something I believe it would be equally revered – because of the amount of Joy they give to us. There can be no doubt that Big B has truly arrived. Just see the fan he has. Same goes for our little master blaster.

Coming back to the Vegabond rock – I feel it symbolizes the love of people of a bunch of geniuses who truly  had etched their names in people’s hearts. No doubt, it was also an well orchestrated PR exercise by these world-wise people. But the PR worked because they were celebrated on the first place. The piece of gray rock – the replica which I regarded reverently in the ford museum a few weeks back at Detroit represent a combination of all that.

Etch that well, my Padawan, and you shall have arrived…

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Homeward Ho!

Slowly, with an air of confident reluctance about it, the United Jumbo takes it position outside of Gate 97 at SFO airport. I wait for the doors to open so that I can settle down and take a nap that I have been dodging for weeks now. However, since I am a full hour early, the nap and I will have to elude each other for some more time. I don’t know what it’s with me and airports – I either arrive really early or at the nick of time. Strange. The sky is overcast but thankfully the weather in San Francisco is not as inclement as it currently is in the east coast, where thousands of flights got canceled in the last couple of days.

The weather here was, in fact, so good that I spent a happy day taking in the sights and sounds of this very beautiful city. A trip to San Francisco always brings back waves of memories of the numerous visits to this place. Perhaps age makes me sentimental, but standing on Pier 39, I couldn’t help reminisce about a time almost a decade back when I had spent a day with my classmates here and did all kinds of funny stuff. Ah, youth!

Last Sunday was Superball, hence the crowd was understandably thinner (just right for my likings). When you are spending a day by yourself – your best company is your thoughts – and thoughts seem richer when you aren’t submerged in a screaming crowd. Thoughts of a Father naturally gravitates towards his child, and all through that day – I missed my little Rudraditya – who is currently on a trip of his own, on way to my brother's place in Jamshedpur. How nice would it have been to be here with my entire family! Someday soon, I promise myself.

In SFO, if you have time to kill, (sounds gruesome, doesn’t it?)   You do the cable car. Slowly it will wind its way through the city while you still down on a wooden bench on the top of the bus carelessly listening to the chinglist (Chinese-English) commentary of the tour guide. I like this better than the bigger hop-on hop-off buses. Still I never understand why all such touristy buses go through Chinatown, even recognizing the fact that the tour guides almost always are Chinese – who are a big group in Frisco. If there’s a point there, I have missed it. Anyway, the part of the town that I love the most is the district that has these old Victorian houses. The “Painted Ladies” for me are always associated with the Full House series. The City Hall and the public library area have many times tempted me to stop and look but that hasn’t happened yet.

Somehow all such tours seem to build up the excitement for SFO’s crowning glory - the Golden Gate Bridge, which usually appear towards the end the trip. The first time I had seen it was also with a group of friends. That time we had walked down the entire length and I believe I saw Chun Yun Fat there that time. No one recognized him, strangely, as he walked across. I should have taken his autograph I always think.

A sunny day is good for your soul I say. A couple of weeks back a freezing Detroit had all but sapped me out of joy. Stepping through a one-feet carpet of snow is surely not as much fun as the movies make them out to be.

Well, while I was pondering over the trip, the efficient flight ground staff have been crawling all over the aircraft getting it ready. Other passenger have started coming and I spy the boarding-card-collecting-TTs (boarding attendants I think they call themselves) making sorties to the front desk. Anytime now the gates are going to open and soon I am going to sleep in the clouds!!!

Bon Voyage!!!

PS: Written at SFO airport and published from home :)