Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Night Of Haunting

Each year on the last day of October, ghouls, witches, vampires, zombies, and all things evil take to the streets of America. People of all ages can be found dressed up in costumes that they might not wear on any other day of the year. For, it is on the 31st of October that Halloween, which over the years has come to mark the official end of summer, is celebrated.
As you begin seeing pumpkins, jack o’ lanterns, bats, gigantic spiders, cobwebs, friendly and evil ghosts and witches on their flying brooms, in the front yards of homes, and at store fronts, you know that Halloween is fast approaching. But not every one chooses to dress up as something evil or scary. Younger children stick to their favorite cartoon characters or animals or generic characters such as angels, firefighters, pirates, and so on. Often the popular costumes each year are influenced by major events or hit movies.

Armed with colorful bags and baskets, they visit homes in their neighborhood seeking candy and other goodies. Kids knock at doors and ask, “Trick or treat?” and you are supposed to answer “treat” and drop something nice in their bags. Never say “trick” unless you wish to find your car splattered with eggs or your yard littered the next morning ! Trick-or-treating is an essential element of Halloween celebrations in the US and as the day draws closer, stores are flooded with bags of chocolates and candy.

The night of haunting as Halloween is also known, has its origin in an ancient Irish celebration known as All Hallows’ Day. This Catholic day of observance in honor of saints was commemorated on November 1 in Celtic Ireland while October 31 was commemorated as Samhein, the Celtic New Year. Over the years Samhein came to be known as All Hallows’ Even’ or Halloween, meaning the eve of All Hallows’ Day. The Celts believed that on the last day of the year, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred.

According to them, this allowed the spirits of those who passed in the preceding year to mingle with the living and find people to possess, so they could continue in the afterlife. So, in order to prevent this from happening, Celtic villagers would douse the fires burning in their homes and dress up in ghostly costumes, making as much noise as possible in the hopes of scaring away the spirits. This custom was brought to America by the Irish immigrants who landed here in the late 19th century.

The prominent colors associated with Halloween are black and orange. Black signifies death, night, and evil while orange indicates fire, autumn, and pumpkins. Pumpkin carving contests are very popular during Halloween and when a candle is placed inside a carved pumpkin it turns into a jack o’ lantern. Myths abound about the different symbols and imagery of Halloween.

Malls, libraries, schools, all have their individual Halloween celebrations where children can go trick-or-treating and have a good time with friends. Pumpkin patches, haunted mansions, and haunted trails are set up in various places which afford good photo opportunities and also entertain youngsters. For adults, themed parties are the norm and in big cities such as San Francisco, entire streets are marked off for revelry that runs late into the night every year on Halloween.


The film and television industry does not lag behind and comes up with specials such as new and old horror flicks, documentaries, and contests with lucrative prizes. All in all Halloween is a time for everyone to have fun, dress up, eat candy, and scare the living daylights out of friends and family. So, let’s all get together and say….. “Boo”!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

‘Champs XI’ Clinches ‘CricBay 2009’ Grand Finale Trophy

The finals of ‘CricBay 2009’ tennis ball cricket tournament were held at Thornton Junior High School, Fremont, recently.Based on the league games, the participating teams had been divided into three categories—Silver, Gold, and Platinum.The Platinum grand finale was played between ‘Champs XI’ and ‘Squared Leg’, with the former emerging as champions.

In the Gold category, ‘The Immortals’ defeated ‘Eagles’ after the match went into a ‘super over’. In Silver, ‘Thunderdawgs’ won against ‘Megastars’. The chief guest at the event was Rajesh Padhi, West Coast representative of USACA (United States Cricket Association) who was also recognized by the ICC for his women’s cricket initiative in the Bay Area. Sam Rao, bureau in-charge, West Coast, The Indian Express, North America, was another eminent personality who graced the occasion.

Sixty-eight teams from all over the Bay Area participated in the ‘2009 Regular Season’. Over 200 people attended the event including CricBay players, spouses, and children. The sponsors for the tourney were Dr Prakash Advani DDS and Associates, Precious Dental Care, Swathi Tiffins, and ERP Factory.

Started in 2006, CricBay, a platform for the cricketers, by the cricketers and of the cricketers, has fast gained in popularity in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having started with 28 teams, the organization is run by volunteers, who work tirelessly to make this form of weekend cricket not only enjoyable but highly competitive.

The backbone of the organization is the website www.cricbay.com which contains everything from forums to blogs to statistical data of teams and individual players. Rajendra Badadare, national cricket coach, Team USA Under-15, is also a member of CricBay. Badadare plays for the CricBay team Cheers Cricket Club of Foster City. CricBay plans to partner with Padhi and Badadare for the development of women’s and youth cricket in the United States.

Press Contact: press@cricbay.com
Pics by Sheshu Shenoy and Ranjeet Mankikar
Inputs from Sunil Shenoy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blending Tradition With Chic

It’s that time of the year again. The festival of lights, gifts, and everything new is right around the corner. All the players in the consumer durables segment are out to woo the spending public. Innovative, colorful, appealing advertisements have started popping up everywhere!

Leading brands have all launched their respective Diwali collections. Clothes, jewellery, electronics, vehicles, chocolates—you name it—everything is being sold with special discounts or bunched together with lucrative offers. There is so much on offer that it becomes difficult for you to choose just the ‘right’ gift or the ‘right’ things for your own indulgence!

‘Shop till you drop’ seems to be the mantra this season. If you are contemplating getting some new jewellery for yourself or someone you love, it might be a good idea to put that on top of your shopping list as, like every year, gold prices are set to soar and touch new heights.

According to Hemant of S L Shet Jewellers, “Branded jewellery and gold coins are in demand during Diwali. Antique jewellery especially the kind with ‘temple work’ is also a favourite though it is more on the expensive side”.

He added that sales usually pick up a couple of days ahead of Diwali. “Many in the Gujarati community choose to buy gold coins on ‘Dhanteras’ as this is considered very auspicious”, says Hemant.

Beauty salons don’t lag behind either. Many of them come up with attractive offers during the festival seasons and Diwali is no exception. Says Roma Nayak of the Lakme Salon, “We usually offer special packages around Diwali, but as of now they have not been introduced this year. Whenever there are such offers, our clients benefit a lot”.

When it comes to giving or receiving gifts, many people now prefer gift vouchers. Gift vouchers can be obtained from leading establishments as well as some private banks in the country. Also known as gift cards, the advantage is that one does not have to spend time worrying over what to choose for a gift.

Since most stores in India do not issue gift receipts which make exchanging duplicate gifts easier, the recipient is also saved from being stuck with two similar gifts!

“Gift vouchers are a good option because they allow the recipient to buy whatever he/she likes. I would rather give gift vouchers of banks which can be used at many merchant establishments”, says Manohar Kamath, an entrepreneur.

However, if he had to buy a gift for someone, Manohar says that he would do so keeping in mind the receiver’s likes and dislikes instead of being swayed by discounts or festive offers.

“I am planning to buy crockery, kurtas, and salwar suits to gift this Diwali. I am going to buy myself a nice sari or a salwar suit also”, says Sarika Sharma, who does not believe in giving gift vouchers.

Traditional outfits with heavy Western influences are in vogue this season in both men’s and women’s wear. For functions like the Diwali puja, saris remain a favourite, especially the ‘concept sari’ better-known as the ‘readymade sari’, closely followed by embellished kurtis teamed with leggings.

Swarovski crystals are being used in abundance all around; be it on kurtas, cholis, or in jewellery.

In the men’s segment kurtas and churidars in silk or blended silk and cotton are the hot favourites with the accent being on accessories—embroidered belts, and ethnic mojris. Though pastel shades are the reigning favourites a splash of colour can be added to the outfit with a bright chunari around the neck.

Apparel merchants in the city are stocking up on the latest fashions and can feel the pulse of their customers. Says Shailesh Jain of Mayuri, “Fancy saris are in great demand this season; especially those which are tissue-based. The ‘patli pallu’ is also back now”.

A price range of Rs 1500 – Rs 5000 is preferred by most of his customers. Jain adds, “We also have a 10-20 percent discount sale upto the 31st of this month and sales are expected to pick up soon as this offer has just begun”.

All in all, ‘traditional, yet classy’ seems to be the theme for this Diwali.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dedicated to Cricket - CricBay.com Creator Sunil Shenoy

Cricket is not just a game for us Indians; passion might describe it better. So, it should not come as a surprise that cricket enthusiasts in the Bay Area, here in the US, have carved out a league of their own. A group of them put their heads together and came up with the idea of a tennis ball cricket league in March 2006, organizing different tournaments all through the year. CricBay (Cricket in Bay Area) has ensured that there is plenty of cricket to go around!

What is unique about this league is that there is no formal governing body or committee to regulate and manage the teams and events. Volunteers from the participating teams are responsible for deciding the venue, setting up the field and communicating all necessary information to the players. Another interesting tidbit — quite a few of the players and volunteers hail from Dakshina Kannada.

"CricBay is a dynamic volunteer league providing framework/support to like-minded cricket teams. It's a fantastic democratic organization which will continue growing to enable years of fun, competitive, tennis ball cricket in the Bay Area. Thanks to all the hardworking volunteers who have accomplished so much with so little,” says Jignesh Trivedi, captain of the Dixon Landing Dawgs.

Suraj Dalvi, manager of the Weekenders, couldn’t agree more. "Transparency of finances and having a say in the rules and regulations are the reasons why I would claim that CricBay is one of the best cricketing organizations,” adds Dalvi.

The league has three major tournaments every year — Regular Season, Playoffs, and Fall Open. The league follows a quasi-knockout format wherein teams play for each position on the ranking ladder. This means that all teams play about the same number of games as the winning team.


Anand Lakshmanan, vice-captain of the Weekenders, feels the concept of losing teams continuing to play for other positions is ideal since “this takes away the nightmarish logistics of the team management trying to find a team to play every other weekend. This also ensures equal amount of fun for the winning and losing teams till the end of the season and urges the teams to remain competitive.”

Most matches are held on the home ground of one of the two participating teams whereas the umpires would be from two other teams from the league. This helps ensure impartiality and speedy resolution of disputes that might arise during the course of a game. The schedule is planned keeping in mind umpiring assignments and a few rest weekends in between to provide for rescheduling of abandoned games. Umpires for the semi-finals and finals are chosen from those nominated as the best by the teams during the course of the playoffs.

Sunil Shenoy of Kaup is yet another person who has been dedicated to the cause of cricket in the region and CricBay. Shenoy’s love for the game is evident through the website www.cricbay.com which has been designed by him. CricBay.com has an efficient cricket statistics management system that keeps a tab of all the matches organized by the league. Rankings, scores, match schedules and team lists are all available on the website which is being improved upon with each passing day (www.cricbay.com).

This website also acts as a forum for discussion and interaction between the member teams (http://www.cricbay.com/volunteercommunity.asp). Shenoy hopes to have the software fully developed sometime next year.


Some excerpts from an interview with Sunil Shenoy.

1) Who came up with the idea of such a cricket league?
There are a lot of teams in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. We (the teams) got to know each other through tournaments and felt the need for a democratic community to arrange cricket matches and bring the teams together. That is how in early 2006 we decided to start CricBay.

2) What prompted you to set up such a website?

Cricket is a passion for most Indians and I am just one of them. Web development and design is also a passion of mine. A couple of years ago, the idea of developing a user-friendly online portal to maintain cricket statistics came to me. Since then I have been working on the cricket statistics system step by step. The formation of CricBay speeded up development of this system. With priceless inputs and contribution from our SQL guru Anil Rao, the process has been smoother and swifter.

3) How many teams does CricBay have?

We started off the first tournament, CricBay Regular Season 2006, with 28 teams and this year the number stands at 68!

4) Does every player have a login/id on the website or only the team captains?

Anybody can register on CricBay.com (http://www.cricbay.com/register.asp). A player must have a registered account on CricBay.com to enter his scores. The access to materials on the website is limited to the role assigned to the user. For example, the team management has the ability to add/remove players from their team; the volunteers have access to a privileged set of documents, and so on.

5) How are disputes and issues resolved?
CricBay has communities (listed on http://www.cricbay.com/volunteercommunity.asp ) that handle all CricBay activities. Any CricBay member can also be a member of these communities. The disputes are handled by the Community for Rules and Appeals (CoRA). If there is any dispute, the team captain, the manager, or the umpires officiating the game, report it to CoRA by email (we are in the process of developing an automated system on cricbay.com to handle this process) which in turn passes judgment after listening to all those involved.

6) What other features do you plan to introduce on the website?

Ever since its launch, CricBay.com is being improved everyday thanks to inputs from fellow community members. There is constant development and every day new features are being planned or added. I would not like to specifically list out the new features that are coming up but want to urge visitors to the site and members to keep a watch on CricBay.com. There are numerous features being added and there seems to be no end to development of CricBay.com at this point.

To Brother, With Love

It is a festival unique to India; one which celebrates the special bond that exists between a brother and his sister—a bond of love and trust that can withstand the worst that life has in store.

‘Raksha Bandhan’ is right around the corner and the store displays are filled with ‘rakhis’ of numerous hues and sizes. Girls and women look through the various designs on offer, unable to make up their minds on which ones to buy. There are rakhis are not meant just for one’s siblings and cousins, but also for friends who are then known as ‘rakhi brothers’.

When we were kids, the rakhis were usually handmade, crafted painstakingly over many days, and the return gifts, albeit simple things like chocolates or a soft toy, were bought with hard-earned pocket money saved over weeks.

In those days, on Raksha Bandhan day, I would get up early to prepare a ‘thaali’ with a lit lamp, vermillion or ‘kumkum’, a few grains of rice, and some sweet dish on it.

Then, in turn, each of my brothers would sit before me. After applying vermillion on their foreheads I would tie the rakhi on each one’s wrist; next was the ‘aarti’ followed by the sweet dish.

If it was a younger brother, he would pay his respects by touching my feet before handing over the gift. In the case of an elder brother, I would be the one saluting him in a similar manner after receiving my gift.

As we became adults with busy lives and demanding jobs, inevitably the rakhis were store-bought and the gifts became fancier; cosmetics, watches, or other expensive accessories.

Today, in fact over the past few years, I send most of my rakhis through the good old postal department. The reason being—those who receive my rakhis every year live miles away, making it impossible for them to drop by on Raksha Bandhan day!

Considering the number of people who choose to send rakhis through them and realizing their importance in making this festival a memorable one, the postal department has also come up with various innovations over the years with waterproof envelopes being the latest fad!

The last couple of years, even my sole sibling—my younger brother, has received my rakhis through mail after he moved to another part of the country. This year, he has moved across to another continent!

Instead of the elaborate preparations involved in making the rakhis and then tying them, now there is no option left but to send ‘e-rakhis’ and SMS wishes on that day.

The gifts of course are delivered on time—one just has to place an order online or pick up the phone and everything is done; at a price, of course.

The world has become a smaller place thanks to technology, but is it also turning into a place that lacks the human touch?