The Truth Behind the Statue of 3 Lies 

In my younger days, I always wanted to study at Harvard. However, that wasn’t meant to be. So I guess somehow in subconcious protest, I never even visited Boston. This all changed a few weeks ago when I had to go to Cambridge on a business trip. I was in town for 3 days that promised to be full of work.  Much to my surprise, one of the days there was a power outage in the area, shutting down the office, and giving me a free afternoon to explore the town. The office was at the edge of MIT’s campus, but I was very eager to see Harvard. I had read that the students at Harvard give one of the best tours of the campus. So with my unplanned free afternoon I made my way to Harvard square to take the “Offical Harvard Tour”. 

The tour was amazing, taking us through Harvard Yard and many of the historic buildings and monuments. Our tour guide wasan enthusiastic senior, majoring in literature. She provided so much insight into the history of the University and also sharing personal stories about her time at the University. 

The last stop on our tour was very fascinating.  It was the statue of John Harvard, designed by the same person that designed the Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial. If you compare this to the Lincoln statue, you will see a lot of similarites in the way the subject is sitting. While this is suppose to be the Harvard symbol of truth, it’s known as the Statue of 3 Lies, which are displayed in the inscription around the statue.  


1 – This is not John Harvard, but modeled after a student named Sherman Hoar, who was the son of an early benefactor.  John Harvard passed away at a young age, and no one is exactly sure what he looked like, so this was a close assumption. 

2 – John Harvard was not the founder of the university, but one of the first benefactors. Harvard was intitally a public college named New College, started by the Massachusetts BayColony. On his death bed Harvard donated half his estate and his 400 books to the University that now bears his name. 

3 – The date the university was founded is listed as 1838. This was the year John Harvard has made is donation to the university. However, this is incorrect since New College existed since 1836 before the donatation from Harvard.


Ironically I was wearing Harvard Crimson on the day I made it here…..Always wanted to go to Harvard and so grateful for finally making it here. 

Rose’s Luxury – Michelin Star Dining in DC

Last year D.C. got it first 12 Michelin star restaurants, one of which is Rose’s Luxury  in Eastern market. I’ve wanted to try this place for a few years now, but they are only open for dinner and don’t take reservations. People line up several hours before the opening to get a table. I was lucky enough to finally be able to try this amazing food.

 

The line – all they way to the gentleman n the white shirt and just as long behind me
Being vegetarian, sometimes it can be a struggle at the finer restaurants, but the menu here clearly listed the items that can be made vegetarian.  Each of the dished I had tasted complete and not the leftover from complete carnivorous meal.

The meal started off with warm challah bread braided with chocolate rye served with a sea salt, honey, roasted caraway butter. The marble bread was such a really good balance of flavors.  It was such a beautiful start to the meal.

 

Next was a Asian inspired savory lychee salad with coconut habanero foam served over peanuts and mint.  It has similarities to a Thai papaya salad with peanuts and the spices. I was very hesitant to order this since I’m not a huge sweet, savory combo fan, but the waitress highly recommended it, so I tried it.  This dish was just spectral! I literally drank the left over dressing at the bottom with a spoon.  I think this was my favorite dish of the meal.

Following the appetizer was a rigatoni with vodka sauce with mascarpone folded in, some crushed red pepper, and fresh basil. While this sounds like a normal pasta, it tasted like nothing I’ve ever had before.  This had such a rich creamy texture but still very light and like any good vodka sauce had a nice spicy bite.

And finally for dessert I was debating between the Inner keeper’s pie and the coconut ice cream, so that chef sent out both for me to try. The pie is made out of a yellow cake crust, filled with a orange infused chocolate walnut custard toped with more walnuts, oranges infused chocolate mousse and milk cream. This was very rich and decedent but for me had an overwhelming orange flavor.  I could only eat a couple of bites of the pie – which very rare for me, since I really love desserts.

 

The Inn Keeper’s Pie
Luckily I had a backup.  I really enjoyed the second dessert the chef sent out. The coconut based ice creams was served with burnt coconut chips and a caramel type sauce. While it sounds really simple, it was more than just ice cream. It had such and amazing play on flavors and textures with the slight bitterness and hard crunch from the burnt coconut chips, against the freshness of the actual ice cream, mixed with the sweetness of the sauce really made the dessert very unique. 

Coconut ice cream compliments of the chef

This meal was every bit as amazing as I expected it to be. I literally relished every bite of this delicious food. It’s talented chefs like this that can take simple dishes we’ve had and make them into a work of art. It’s clear why Rose’s Luxury has a Michelin star. Slowing working my way through the DC food scene. 3 Michelin star restaurant check – 9 more to go.

Planes, Buses, Automobiles, and 40 hours – A Reunion 20 Years in the Making

I am so blessed to have some amazing friends. These are friends that have shaped my life and despite of time or distance are an integral part of who I am,  and the void of these friends would be felt very dramatically. One of those people is my childhood best friend, growing up in Philadelphia.  We had been inseparable all through elementary school, middle school, and made it to high school.  Her family is Greek, and through the years I had been adopted in the Greek culture.  In the middle of high school my family moved out of the area and her family moved back to Greece.  In the pre technology era, we used to write letters to each other and were able to stay in touch for a while, but between moves on both sides, we somehow lost touch.  A couple of decades go by, and I was unable to find her and I always missed her in my life.  20 years later, I get a message on Facebook from my friend and that weekend we talk for 5 years catching up on lost time like it was yesterday.  And the next thing I know I’ve booked a trip to Greece to see her and this amazing country.

The time finally comes to embark on my journey – with a couple connections –  Chicago, London, Athens and then a bus to a town called Volos were my friend lived.  The whole process was suppose to take about 16 hours door to door, a voyage worthy of a 20 year reunion.  The fun started on the first leg of the trip. The flight into Chicago was delayed, so I breathlessly raced through the airport to catch the flight to London, only to find out at the gate that the London flight has been indefinitely delayed.  At midnight, after waiting for several hours, when I boarded the flight to London, I knew that I had already missed the connection to Athens.  Once in London, I got myself rebooked on the next flight to Athens 8 hours later.  With the time that I had, the airline offered me a hotel room, but since this my first time in London,  I opted instead to take the Tube into London and sightsee for a couple of hours. This is an amazing story that will require it’s own post.

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Immigration and customs at Heathrow – part of the unexpected detour

Phonebooth and me
The iconic British Phone Booth – the classic tourist shot
I was totally exhausted when I boarded the flight from London to Athens around midnight. It has been over 24 hours since I started my journey with almost no sleep.  I thought I would get a few hours of rest on this flight, but instead ended up speaking to the person next to me.  It turned out that he was a Greek Olympiad, in London to train ahead of the Olympics.  This was June 2012, the year the Olympics where held in London. It was so fascinating talking to him and learning about his sport, sailing, and how he trained, that I barely got  any sleep on this flight.  He was nice enough to introduced me to his coach and told me he was going to Volos as well and he would help me get there.  The independent person I am, I didn’t think I needed help from a stranger – but I was totally wrong.  The coach was a really nice person, so I thought it would great company for the journey.

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The really nice man the helped me get to Volos
We landed in Athens around 2am, 12 hours later than the originally plan.  The nice gentleman going to Volos informed me that the bus depot where we take the bus to Volos was 45 minutes away.  We would have to wait at the airport till 5am for the local buses to start up so we could get to the bus depot. When it was finally time to catch the local bus, it took some communicating in Greek between the coach and the bus driver to determine if we were getting on the right bus.  With the coach’s help, we were able to determine the correct stop to get off at.  After that there was a walk into the distance to an unmarked building that was the bus depot.  There is no way I could have found it myself.  The coach told me to wait in the waiting area, while he got my ticket to Volos.  In my curiosity I look into the “ticketing” area.  It was an interesting scene – as the bus is released for standby passengers, a mob pushes their way to the ticket master and the first person to hand the money gets the ticket.  There was a lot of haggling in Greek on price and departure times.  If it wasn’t for him, I might still be sitting at the bus depot in Athens trying to figure out how to buy a bus ticket.  The bus we got tickets for was 2 hours later.  After all this, finally got on the bus for the 4 hour ride to Volos and the final leg of this part of the trip.

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The little café inside the bus depot still closed in the wee hours of the morning

End to end it was a 40 hour journey with very little sleep.  But getting to Volos and seeing my best friend after 20 years was worth every second of these unplanned adventures.  While trips (or life in general) don’t always turn out the way you planned them, this trip has taught me a lot and created some very cherished memories – I was lucky to get a trip of London, meet an Olympiad, and learned that the only way to travel is to depend on the kindness of strangers (and in turn provide that to strangers visiting your city).  This last lesson has really served me on all my subsequent trips. Its been incredible meeting the amazing people on all my trips, who have helped me and given me the true “local” experience (to read more about this please see French Hospitality). But the most important lesson is that for true friendship 20 years or 40 hours or even a lifetime are immaterial because once we met, we picked up right were we left off, catching up on decades like it was yesterday.

 Daily Post – Chaos Adventure

Themes of Democracy through music

I had the pridvilge to listen to the disciples of 2 amazing classical Indian music masters. Here is the link to the article I wrote on this and below is the text.


Embodying themes of Indian democracy, liberty and justice through music

Two disciples of world renounced classical artists Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia performed at the Embassy of India in a soulful musical event called the “Colors of Breath” on April 29. The concert by Deepak Ram and Anirudh Changkakoti embodied the themes of Indian democracy through music.

The themes of liberty, justice, equality and fraternity were performed by Ram, a disciple of Chaurasia, on the basauri. He was accompanied on tabla by Changkakoti, a budding young artist and disciple of Hussain.

The basuri , a classical Indian flute made out of bamboo ,is a very soulful instrument, especially when played by a seasoned musician. Playing the raags Upali, Jhinjhoti, and the Carnatic Raag Kirwani, Ram was able to evoke the themes of Indian democracy using the meditative sounds of the bansuri.

Raags have their own beat and pace, creating a distinct mood with each change in Raag. While the basuri was soothing and peaceful, the tabla was energizing and uplifting, offering a perfect balance to the powerful performance. Though young in years, Changkakoti showed that his talent and training are on par with the most seasoned musicians. His hands move to a pace that the eyes can’t keep up, producing an invigorating sound.

The performance was without any practice, in an unscripted manner, where both musicians were just speaking the language of music with each other, and delivering a mesmerizing sound in perfect harmony. While listening, it was clear that Ram is extremely talented and his maturity flow through his music. Though still young, it’s evident that Changkakoti has a successful career in music, and with his talent, truly the sky is the limit for this amazing artist.

Ram has lived in several countries and has toured the world performing his melodious music. A local to the Washington, DC, area now, he has composed eight albums and performed in dozens more. In addition to his training on the basuri, he is also a tabla player and vocalist, and teaches music theory.

Changkakoti is currently a college student at James Madison University. He started playing the tabla at the age of 3. In his young career, he has played at a number of prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Over the last 6 years, he has been training under the watchful eye of Zakir Hussain.

Grammy Winning Performace

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to mesmerizing classical Indian music in a very traditional form called Jugalbandi – where there is a free form of play between the musicians.  The performance was lead by Grammy Award winning musician Pandit Viswas Mohan Bhatt.  It was a moving performance in a very intimate setting where the audience and musicians were almost interacting with each other. It was an amazing expriance that I will not forget soon.   Here is the link to the article I wrote about it – Grammy Winning Performance  Below is the text from the article.


WASHINGTON, DC: Grammy-winning veena maestro Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and violinist H.N. Bhaskar, who are currently touring the United States, mesmerized the audience with a masterful jugalbandi performance at the Embassy of India in Washington, DC, on April 6. The two prominent Indian musicians were accompanied by local classically trained musicians.

“Raag, Rhythm and Repartee: A Musical Evening of ‘Jugalbandi,’” was hosted by the embassy, under its “Performing India Series,” which showcases various Indian performing arts.

Jugalbandi, in which there is no rehearsal, sheet of music, or script, is freeform playing of music based on the raag selected by the musicians and conversation is carried between them. This is a very difficult form of playing music and requires highly trained musicians to make the final product successful.  At the event, the musicians selected Raag Yaman Kalyan as the raag for the evening.

Bhatt, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar and an accomplished musician and composer, played an instrument he created called the Mohan Veena.  The Mohan Veena is a modified guitar with influences of a sitar, sarod, and veena in both physical resemblance, as well as in technique of playing the instrument.

The evening started out with soft, slow tones; however the music quickly took on an exciting pitch.  The chemistry between the musicians was electrifying and as the evening progressed, it was clear that the musicians were enjoying playing together, just as much as the audience was enjoying hearing this soulful music.

There was a flawless interaction between the musicians all playing their own unscripted music, yet creating one energizing sound, that can only come from highly evolved artists.  The intimate setting at the Embassy allowed the audience and the musicians to interact in symbolic manner, only enhancing the experience for all present.  It was as much a treat to watch, as it was to hear such great music being performed.  The evening ended with a few well know bhajans by the artist and by the playing of the Indian national anthem.

The musicians were honored with a roar of applause and a standing ovation, with which they flowed up with a small encore presentation. This was a world class event with world class artists that carry the torch of Indian classical music to this century.

Bhaskar, a prominent Violinist and composer , who first performed at the age of 8, has played at many famous venues including Carnegie Hall and Sydney Oprea House.  He is the receipt of many awards and has composed music for movies.

The three local artists, Krishna Ramdas on the tabla, Vijay Ganesh on the mridangam, and Sowmiya Narayanan on the ghatam, are all highly trained musicians playing very traditional Indian instruments.
Daily Post – Music

Cricket and Politics


Recently the Indian Prime Minister had visited DC for the Nuclear Security Summit. I had the opportunity to meet him outside the iconic Willard Hotel. Here is a link to an article I wrote about this event. Indian PM in America Below it the text of the article.

Even though many Indians have migrated through the world, their heart is still in India. That was exemplified on this Thursday morning as a group of Indian Americans gathered outside the iconic Willard Hotel, right across from the White House to meet the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who was in Washington, DC to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. Given that it was a working day, people had taken off work and started lining up outside the hotel as early as 7am to get a good view of the PM who came out for a few minutes to meet the supporters. Since there are many heads of state in town for the summit and the proximity the White House there was tight security around the hotel, with many streets in the immediate vicinity closed off to cars and pedestrians. However none of this seemed to be a deterrent for crowd that had assembled or the large media presence, both from India as well as local Indian media outlets.

Ever since his first trip to the US almost 2 years ago, Mr. Modi seems to get a rock star’s welcome in the US. During this first visit he spoke to a packed house at Madison Square Garden in New York and received an equally warm reception as he arrived in Washington DC. It was no different on this breezy Thursday morning where the mood was almost festive as the crowd eagerly awaited the PM’s arrival. There was chatting of “Modi” and “Vande Matram” with trirangs waving outside the Willard Hotel. Clearly Narendra Modi has struck a chord with American Indians. He’s been the face of change in India and has made efforts to put India on the map as a global and economic player on the world stage. This has resonated with Indians overseas that have left India, in some cases decades ago, but still want to see their motherland progress into the future. As true Indians, during the wait, many passionate cricket fans were streaming the India vs. Sri Lanka semi final cricket match and discussing the state of politics both in India as well as America with reporters.

Even in a short time, Mr. Modi has a way of connecting with a crowd. The In the few minutes he was outside the Willard, he made his way through crowd, making and effort to shake hands with as many people has he could reach. His raising from humble roots and his desire to bring about change has given him a huge fan following overseas. He has given Indians around the world a hope that India can live up the its highest potential and gain a seat on the world stage. It was a pleasure meeting such an energizing Prime Minister with a message of hope and progress. Weather it is politics or cricket, no matter what part of the world they live in, an India will always bleed blue.

 

 

South Asian Legislative Night

Last week I had the privilege to attend the South Asian Legislative Night in the Maryland General Assembly.  This event was hosted by Indian American members of the Maryland House of Delegates and was attended by many members of the Maryland General Assembly, the Ambassador of India, and representatives from Nepal.  The purpose of this event was to bring the South Asian Community together, especially in this election year.

To read more about this event, please follow the link to the article I wrote on this event for an Indian-American news source.

 

The 7 Star Experiance

Around 1999 I had seen a news report on the Burj al Arab – a 7 Star ultra luxurious hotel built on a manmade, private island in Dubai and the only way to cross the island is if you were a guest at the hotel or one of the restaurants. I was so in awe over the images of the inside, where everything was adorned with real gold and the suites start at $5000/ night.  It was at that moment I had decided I have to visit this place at least once in my life.  Over the years, my fascination with the Burj al Arab, as well as Dubai only increased my desire to see this incredible dessert oasis.

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My first view of the Burj Al Arab from Jumerih  Beach – the “commoners view”
Fast forward a decade or so……My childhood best friend, probably my first friend in life, now lives in Dubai.  We have know each other so long, that neither us remember every meeting.  Though I moved away and we both grew up in different countries, we would spend summers together and still share a deep bond.  As we got older we kept in touch, but hadn’t met in a couple of decades.  She had been inviting me to come to Dubai for a while and finally the starts aligned on New Years a couple years ago – I was able to spend 10 memorable days with her and Dubai.  By this point, my friend was a local, planning  everything so well for my visit – it was amazing catching up and seeing Dubai.

The one thing that was “too tourist” that she didn’t plan was a visit to the Burj al Arab. Given that it was the Christmas holiday time, the tiny city of Dubai was swamped with tourists and you could feel the crowds literally swell.  Once I got to Dubai, I called the Burj al Arab several times a day and spoke to everyone I could to try to get a reservation at any of the restaurants or even a quick drink a the bar (and probably driving everyone crazy with my manic enthusiasm to see the hotel). After several attempts, and a LOT of persuasion, we were finally able to get reservations for a 7am breakfast.  What started out as a solo mission, turned into a table for 7 and a memorable morning.

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The magnificent sunrise over the Burj Al Arab
Since we had a packed week of activities, we had a very late night before this breakfast.  Hardly sleeping a couple of hours everyone woke up and cleaned up as best as we could for this 7 star breakfast.  We got there early so we could explore the hotel a bit before our meal.  As we got on the private bridge for the hotel, this was the majestic viewthat welcomed us to the Burj al Arab, with the early morning sunrise in the background.  I had the excitement of a child as we approached the hotel.  From here we could see the sleepy Dubai waking up and the striking Dubai skyline glowing in the first rays of the morning sun.  Even the view outside this hotel was breathtaking!

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Sunrise over the Dubai skyline from the Burj al Arab
Once we got inside, I was just taken aback by the grandeur.  Everything so colorful and in real gold.  Dubai has refined the art of making things – the opulence of everything in Dubai is like nothing I have every seen – from tallest building in the world, to the huge malls, to the indoor ski slope. And for me the Burj al Arab was the crown jewel.  As we entered, the first thing we saw is a huge 2 story fountain.  Just this size of this fountain reminds you that you are in the lobby of a 7 star hotel!

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View of the entrance from the top of the grand entrance fountain
Once we get to the top we saw all the detailed gold work. Gold chandeliers in a gold ceiling with gold pillars…..A lot of gold – yet so classy!281

With 2 large fountains and amazing decorations everywhere, this place looks like nothing I have every seen.  Even the elevators are super ornate.285.JPG

But the most incredible part of the view of the Burj Al Arab is as you look up.  There is literally a rainbow painted before your eyes.  The V- shaped floors magnificently frame the huge open space created inside.  Adding to the beauty, the floors are painted in a gradient from deep blue to yellow, help up at the base with huge gold pillars.  This creates a feel of playful elegance. The sheer size of this space is regal.

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My decades old dream to see this majestic 7 star hotel was fulfilled on this trip.  So grateful for my best friend for making this possible for me. The images of this magnificent Burj al Arab will stay with me forever.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

It is so surreal going back, years later, to a place that once used to be home.  Where everything seems so familiar yet so different all at the same time.  Where it feels like you have never left, and then you question weather you had ever been there at all.  It’s so wonderful taking a stroll down memory lane.  IMG_0583

Recently I went back to Lower Manhattan and the first apartment I had ever rented, almost 14 years ago.  I lived at 80 John Street, which  was a couple block away from World Trade Center and Wall Street, where I worked.  There were very few residential buildings in the Financial district back then –  I think I could count them all on one hand.  This neighborhood would go quite at 5pm, but it really didn’t matter, since working 12 – 16 hour days was the norm for me in those days. It was more important having a place in walking distance from the office. There as just one convince store in the area, that has limited selection and was crazy over priced. There were only a handful of restaurants open in the evenings, so it has pretty much become a set pattern on which day we ate at each restaurant. If we ever wanted to grab a good meal or go out it would be a quick cab ride to the Village after work  at 10pm, 11pm, or even midnight. New York is definitely the city that never sleeps, and in those days, neither did I. The goal was just to be back home before the fruit guy sets up around 5am, otherwise it would be a long day at the office.  You only live once, so if you work that hard, you have to make time to enjoy life as well.

80 John St 2

Like most buildings in this neighborhood, my building was also a converted office building. The floor was gutted and walls were put up to create apartments. There was a long radiator that ran the length of the floor, and if I wanted my heat adjusted, I would have to go knock on the corner apartment’s door.

I have been back to New York many times in 14 years, and even back to Lower Manhattan a couple of times, but I’ve never ventured back to see that old street and the old building where I used to live.  This was my first apartment, and as with any first there are so many vivid memories of this place. This was my first time truly being on my own. It was the first time living in another state from my family, the first time looking for an apartment, the first time signing a lease, and the first figuring out how to live on my own. I was so young, and there is no better place to make you grow up than New York and Wall Street – you grow up very fast.  After those couple of years in Manhattan, New York has been engrained in me for life.  I still prefer walking to driving, eating out to cooking, and urban living to the burbs.

80 John St
The Entrance I walked through 100s of times.

So gtateful for all the experiences this apartment has given me.  The most unforgettable memory of this place will be of 9/11 unfolding.  From the sole window in my studio facing World Trade, I saw the 2 planes hit the north and south tower a couple of blocks away –  an image that is etched into me forever. Living here had taught me a lot and changed me forever. You can take this girl out of New York, but you’ll never take the New York out of me.

Daily Post – Stroll

The Best View of DC – In Autumn

Arguably the best view of Washington DC is from a rather unexpected place.  DC is very unique in its topography.  While there are some hills, DC is a relatively low city with a very low skyline.  The tallest building is the Washington Monument, and there are laws preventing new buildings from being built over 150 feet tall.  The top of the Washington Monument does have a great view, but it’s right in the middle of the city.  From here you can see snapshots of the city from the middle, but can’t see the total skyline. So the best view of the entire city comes from a high vantage point right across the Potomac River in Virginia – from Arlington Cemetery.  A cemetery is an unusually place to see “a view”.  But with DC directly behind you, as you cross Memorial Bridge you come to this regal entrance, with Arlington House sitting majestically on top of the hill – and from here you can see the whole city.  A view like this makes you forget this could be a cemetery.  With early fall setting in, the lush trees have taken on vibrant colors, only adding to the stunning beauty of this place.

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