Sunday, January 24, 2016

Enlightenment from Milk

Teenager, India

Early in the morning. Go to the milk store and get a liter of milk packet. Daily.
“This is the way of life.”

Mid-twenties, USA

Weekend. Get 2 gallons of milk from supermarket. Refrigerate and use daily for entire week.
“Wow, what a comfort. Why don’t they learn this ease of life in India?!”

Mid-thirties, USA

Knowledge about common diseases such as cancers, et al. Enlightenment: Fresh food = Best life & no diseases.
“India knows best! Why don’t US learn from India?!”


Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Screen

I was standing at the grocery store payment line and there was a young mother ahead of me. Her daughter was sitting on the cart watching a video on the smart phone. The daughter was about 2-3 years old, no more. It was the mother’s turn now and the grocery store cashier greeted her. The mother greeted back in turn and the daughter continued to be engrossed on the phone.

While the mother kept all the items from the cart onto the conveyor belt, the daughter kept looking at the video on the phone. While the grocery store cashier billed each item, the daughter kept her eyes fixed on the phone. While the mother placed all the items back onto the cart and paid the cashier, the daughter continued to look at the phone. The cashier greeted the mother to have a good day and the mother greeted him back, and still the daughter continued to stare at the phone. Then the mother started pushing the cart out to the exit and the daughter still had her eyes fixed on the phone. Soon, she was out of the store wheeling away to the car in the parking lot and I could still see daughter looking at the phone.

I was aghast and literally my jaw dropped. Right in front of my eyes, in a matter of couple of minutes, I saw how the daughter was completely robbed off her favorite childhood game of ‘Pretend-play shopping’. I know this because I have seen how my daughter can pretend play grocery shopping for hours. In the house, my daughter acts as if she is shopping for me and my wife;  and sometimes she is the cashier, taking all the items and scanning the bar code, punching imaginary buttons, taking cash and returning change or using visiting cards in place of credit cards, greeting people, etc. Not only is this fun for her, she has also learnt about the real-world human interactions. In a few years, I am confident she can do the same things that anyone is expected to do in a grocery store.

And in this instance, the daughter of this mother completely missed the whole thing. It was as if she was inside a movie theater all through. She was so much into the video that never once she lifted her head. She totally, totally missed the environment - the transactions, the real-life scenario, the greetings that was happening all around her and was so lost in the digital world that she will have a hard time coping up with the true life in a few years if this is what she keeps doing!

Pretend play is one of the most important stages of childhood. It gives children a huge opportunity for imagination and the only way we can fuel the young mind’s imagination is by giving them the experience of real-world happenings. I have been to couple of really good Pretend Play museums such as the ones in Irvine and San Jose and these have miniature grocery stores amongst many things. Children like to play forever at such places – but only if they know what they are in the first place!! 

And here, it was as if a crime was happening right in front of my eyes and I was about to shout out to the mother! The child was robbed a little of an essential part of her childhood and the mother was the culprit! The child had to know what just happened and the parent totally denied this experience just for the sake of keeping the child quiet! Seriously, these children are our future and it is parents’ responsibility to raise the next generation the right way and this definitely was not the right way!

Of course, this is just an iota of an incident. The book ‘The Big Disconnect’ showcases an alarming amount of such experiences and a trend that is threatening the entire next generation due to the digital world. To quote from the book – apparently, youngsters are having challenges in attending interviews because it deals with hours of human interaction and the teenagers are so caught up with screens now that even a 30 minute continuous interaction with another human being itself is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with! I am like….'Wow, really?!!

Sadly, the digital “screen” is actually screening away the real world from the next generation. For all the parents out there – go easy on the “screen” with your kids. It just isn’t worth it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

HVD 2015

A piece of hand-written poem given by me to wifey on 14th Feb 2015...

You have cough.
I have lumbago.

I give you cough syrup.
You massage my back.

I give you kashaya
You apply moov to me.

You have subconjunctival hemorrhage.
I have running nose.

I put eyedrops to you.
You give me tablets.

I apply small ice packs to your eyes.
You give me coffee.

No, we are not old.
We are in our early 30s

Celebrating our 7th Valentine's Day
The way we ought to celebrate our 70th!!

Happy Valentine's Day!!

:-)

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Timing

About a few years back, I was staying in the city of Irvine, quite close to office. Hence the commute to office was in self car.

One fine day, just as I pulled out my car from the apartment parking lot and started heading towards the apartment exit, I noticed a car right in front of me. I did not bother to memorize it, since there didn’t seem any need to anyways.

However, in the evening, on my way back to apartment from office, just as I turned into the parking lot entrance, I noticed this same exact car right in front of me again, just like in the morning! That seemed like quite a coincidence (but still not blog-worthy…hehehe!)

Then, about a few months back, I was staying in the city of Walnut Creek, not-as-close to office as compared to Irvine. Hence, the commute to office was in public transportation, familiarly known as BART to those who live in the Bay Area.

One fine day, just as I was walking towards the apartment exit towards the BART station on my way to office, I noticed a man walking right in front of me, like hundreds of other office-goers on any work day. I did not bother to memorize his height or apparel or walking style or anything else, since there didn’t seem any need to anyways.

However, in the evening, on my way back from the BART station to the apartment, there was this same exact guy again! Walking right in front of me, just like in the morning!

Boink!! (read ‘blog-worthy’…hehehe!)

I was quite taken aback! Look at the coincidence and the sheer timing of it all. Out of thousands of cars in Irvine, out of thousands of folks living in Walnut Creek, out of thousands of minutes on a given day, I had that same exact car and this same exact man coming right in front of me – both morning and evening! And what are the chances of two such similar instances occurring in a man’s lifetime?! Wow!!

And, to top it all, I am the only one in this whole wide world, aware of this seemingly-ordinary-and-yet-quite-extraordinary moment! Because the person who was driving in front of me in Irvine and the person walking in front of me in Walnut Creek were not aware that I was the same person behind them at those precise moments!

It was like a show put on by Mother Nature only to me! Felt absolutely exhilarated!!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Unethical Vs Smart

Scenario 1: In the 1950s, the Irish Church in the name of cleansing this world, took in unmarried mothers, sold the fatherless children to willing American parents by forcefully making the mothers giving away their loved ones in exchange to hefty donations. The money was good for the Church, and a part of it went to the local Government as a bribe to ensure no law was ever constituted to stop this practice from continuing. So, the Church got the money, the Government got the money, the American parents adopted Irish children and all seemed fine, but the mothers lost their children unwillingly, the children felt abandoned by their own mothers not knowing why leaving them traumatized for the rest of their lives. [I got this by reading Philomena Lee]

Scenario 2: In the 1990s - I had this thought when I was in India - drivers caught speeding in their cars had a very easy way out. If the speeding fine was, say, Rs 200, one can get away by paying Rs 100 as a bribe to the cop. So the driver loses Rs 100 but its better than losing Rs 200. The cop gets richer by Rs 100. For the driver, Rs 100 didn’t matter much, so its ok. For the cop, Rs 100 mattered a lot, so it was a great way of making extra money on top of a meager salary. The only compromise was that the Government wasn’t getting its money due to speeding drivers. And, of course, the rich speeding drivers did not bother about getting caught anymore because they knew how to get around it by greasing their cop-captors and hence continued speeding. The biggest compromise was that speeding, at times, led to accidents.

Scenario 3: A software X made by Vendor A is perfect for the project that I am working on currently in USA. However, Vendor A is not competent enough to deliver a near-zero code quality and on time. Another software Y is being used by Vendor B, which is not actually fit for this project, yet can be tweaked to be used. So, the question was asked to the project technical lead: Which is the right software for this project and who should execute it? It just so happens that the technical lead for the project is from Vendor B. So, although he knows that software Y is not perfect for the project, he gives his recommendation to go with Vendor B due to faster time-to-market and good code quality. But the underlying essence of the recommendation is self propaganda and profit for Vendor B. More revenue and higher profit for Vendor B means better bonus and better paychecks for the technical lead himself. It’s a compromise to the project, yes, but it is a smart way of making own life better.

Foot note: In 1950s in Ireland inside a religious place, in 1990s in India with law-enforcers, in 2015 in US with elite high-grossing software companies. This small pattern shows that this feral human tendency of getting one’s own way at the cost of something (or someone) else has always existed and will always exist. It seems unethical, yet this is what motivational speakers refer to as ‘Being smart’, ‘Survival of the fittest’, etc.

Where to draw the line?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Excellent Shopping!

Once I went shopping in a well-known clothing retailer and selected many clothes for purchase. It was a long time since I had shopped clothes, so I didn't mind the massive shopping really. Finally, I reached the check-out counter and the agent scanned the price tags on all the clothes. The bill came up to almost $200. Customary to this shop, the agent highlighted the savings of almost $80 due to discounts, coupons, sale, etc. on the bill and said,

“Your bill is $194 and you have saved $78 today. Excellent shopping!

As he said the last two words, he looked at me and genuinely smiled. I was amused at the hollowness of it all. “Excellent shopping” because I saved $78? Does he really think I am so dumb as to think I saved $78? Everyone knows that the prices are always bolstered sky high and then reduced by 50% with a big SALE board on it or CLEARANCE sign. So, for a dress costing $5, it could be very well tagged as $50, and then a “SALE 50% OFF” depicting price shot down to $25, which still gives the retailer an immense five-fold profit. I give absolutely no value to the ‘savings’ portion or ‘Today you have saved…’ portion in bills that almost all retailers now produce.

Anyways, I thanked him equally hollowly, and made my way out of the clothing retailer. I guess I would have been happier if he had called out and told me that he was kidding and, in reality, actually intended a befitting pun –

“You spent $194 on these worthless clothes?!! Really?! Wow, excellent shopping!! Clap-clap-clap!! Thank you for your patronage and for my salary!” 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hilarious Innocence

Now it is “All day long, all day today!” Whatever that means! But more than incomprehensive phrases, Tontu has become a master at innocent-intelligent conversations!

One evening, during a stop-over on a long day of driving, she told me, “Papa, you are a good driver!” I was flummoxed. How did she know good driving and bad driving at such a tiny age! “Why do you say that, Tontu?!” I asked. “Because you drive us to so many places!” Boink!! Such innocence!!

These kind of incredible conversations are a commonality these days. But alas, it is so difficult to keep track of all these gems. There was this other day when we were walking and the sky was filled with orange streaks of setting sun, and she said “Wow! I can’t believe my eyes. It is like dream come true!!” The phrase “Dream come true” was something that I learnt in my middle school during an English class when there was a short story with the same phrase, and here is my daughter using complicated terminology such as, well, 'complicated', 'rocket-ship', 'astronaut', 'aurora borealis'.

She looks at the map and says 'New York', 'Boston!' She has grasped that there are cities like New York and Boston somewhere on the map. Come to think of it, I might have been in early teens when I even heard about a city called New York!! There was this one day when we were coming back from Alaska with a stop-over at Seattle, and she was jumping in the flight shouting "Seattle, Seattle, Seattle"! It made me remember a day in my childhood when all of us cousins were going to the small Indian town of Nagamangala in KSRTC bus and shouting “Nagamangala! Nagamangala! Nagamangala!” What a paradigm shift!!

Tontu’s reference to NY might have been due to her granma who just visited her recently and we were talking about her experience in her port-of-entry. These offline discussions which are not really with her, sets off some strange 'memory captures' and out it comes at some later point in time, thereby stunning us!

This 'mem capture' capability has also led her to remember some small prayers and some songs. But the improvisation of these songs to whatever comes to her mind at that point in time makes it all the more great. She being a great fan of Where is pointer” rhyme, improvised it to Where is KC” (KC being my pal) when we were searching for him one day at a picnic area. I mean, that is just brilliant!

And then, there are some hilarious instances. Like when we go to vacation, she is all excited. When asked why, she says “Because I love the hotel bed!” Apparently for her, 'Vacation' is synonymous to staying in hotel and the bed in the hotel is what she likes the most. What with it being bouncy, she can jump away to glory!

Then there is this time when she glances at the house-maid in our India house when we are Skyping, and says she is Cinderella (on days when she is wearing blue saree) or Tinkerbell (green saree) or Belle (yellow saree). She looks at my mom and says her dress is not matching. She spies her granma hiding behind a pillar (in the process of Peek-a-boo-ing) and says "Silly Dragon"! ROFL!

Now that she goes to pre-school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, she tracks each day very closely. So, one day, she said-
Is today Monday, papa?"
Yes
Are you going to office?
Yes
But don’t’ go! I miss you!
I need to go to office to earn money, Tontu. With money, I can get new toys to you!
With that consolation, she finally agreed and I was able to go to office. The next day –
Is today Tuesday, papa?"
Yes
Are you going to office?
Yes
Ok! Go to office, earn money and get me new toys!
Huh!! “But I miss you, Tontu. I don’t want to go to office!
Its ok, papa. Don’t miss me. I will come to station in the evening to pick you up!” LOL!!!

And so it goes on, every day until it is weekend when she gets super excited because I will not be going to office for 2 full days! That is when I witness her playing all by herself with the umpteen toys that now occupies pretty much one quarter of our apartment home! All of a sudden, she is a teacher, imitating her own pre-school teacher, by sitting on a high chair and arranging and talking to all her toys as if they were her pupils! Another time she is a driver. All the dining table chairs are moved to the room and she has built an imaginary car and she is on the driver’s seat driving, asking all of us to do “Katchak” which means latching up our imaginary seat belts! And then she is sitting on her new tiny chair and working on her laptop just like her daddy! If she has been to a restaurant lately, she is a waitress taking our order. If we have been to the doctor’s, she has an earphone using a stethoscope and checking our heartbeat. It made me remember Salman’s Kabhi Tu song where one person dons so many roles! Using this same eagerness of kids wanting to be everything, someone came up with this brilliant idea of Pretend City and Tontu had a whale of a time being a doctor, a dentist, a waitress, a fire-fighter, a banker, a construction worker, a cop, a car-driver, a librarian, a painter, etc. etc.! Oh, I forgot about another of her favorite at-home activities - standing high on the sofa arm-rest and then pushing herself all-out into the cushy seat-buckets as if she is in a swimming pool, diving!

Speaking of swimming pool reminds me of the recent pool party that we had at our apt. Tontu had this nice tube around her waist and the tube gave her unprecedented freedom! She realized she no longer needed anyone to hold her. She could come out of the pool, fall into the pool, move around by kicking herself, and pretty much do everything without anyone so much as touching her. It is amazing how sweet the taste of freedom is, for she was outright asking us not to touch her or her tube in the pool. After all these years of taking her to the pool for her enjoyment and carefully watching over her, here she is asking us to keep us to ourselves! So much for parenthood!!

But it is good to see her enjoying her own freedom and expressing her individuality. At home, she has this tendency to keep changing her dresses every half hour. So whenever she asks us to change her dress, we keep saying no. So, now she gets into the room, closes the door, pulls up a chair to get herself some elevation and picks a dress of her choice and puts it on all by herself. Out she comes to living room, and says “Ta-da! Surprise!” We are like, “Here we go again!

And then there was this one day when we were at the park and she was playing slide all by herself. It was almost time to go and another girl of her age came over to her and they both started playing – which was nothing but just climbing up the short few steps, sliding down the barrel, running back to the steps and doing it all over again. They did this for about ten times and we kept calling her. Tontu was having too much fun to leave her new found friend! So she kept following her friend despite many shout-outs. And then at one point, her friend realized that we were calling and so she took Tontu to a side (behind the steps) and spoke to her, perhaps convincing her to ignore her parents! It was like two tiny conspirators, and they looked so funny! It was so synonymous to what many children do to parents when they are adults – like girls who are being secretly convinced by their ‘boy-friends’ to leave her parents house in exchange of a world filled with love!! - and I was witnessing something close to it already!! It was downright hilarious.

These “Hilarious Innocence” instances are so many that it is hard to keep track, and many of them slip through our memory. One day, we asked her to write 1 to 10, and she wrote 1, 2 and 10! There was this other day when her mom was teaching her the meaning of her name “Paavani”. My wife told her it meant “Purifier” but my daughter recognized only part of the word. So she asked “My name means ‘Fire’?!” And remember that iPhone post?

Come to think of it, these episodes are true for any toddler or a pre-schooler, including ourselves in that age. It is just that no one logged it in any form and, just like that, it is lost forever. We recently saw a Kannada movie ‘Naanu…Nanna Kanasu’.  It can be considered as the prequel to the famous English movie ‘Father of a Bride’. While the latter covers only the wedding part, the former covers pretty much the entire life cycle from the birth of a daughter till she gets married – and, most importantly, the gamut of emotions that a Father of a Daughter goes through.

Although it is great to see her growing taller and taller, and learning more and more things that this world has to offer, it is quite heartening to see her distancing herself from us parents even though it is minuscule. It is as if we are missing doing things to her – making her asleep, feeding her breakfast, giving her bath, putting on her dress and shoes, buckling and unbuckling her car seat – the list goes on. Just like that she grew out of it all and became independent. It is a time for both pride and melancholy! A video that I saw reminds me of how a duck relies on its ducklings to “Just do it” despite all odds, without so much as teaching, and how fortunate most of us humans are, to talk and teach and generally “Be there’ for our children…

Well, here’s to ‘Being There’ and ‘Feeling Proud’! Tontu turned four last week, and this blog-post is another web-based (and hopefully immortal) gift from her dear daddy!!

Happy Birthday, Tontu!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's The Hurry?!

The time was 9:02 AM and I was rushing through the financial district streets of downtown San Francisco. I was already two minutes late to my 9 am meeting and it was still a good 5 minutes for me to reach my office cubicle on the 8th floor of what was once the tallest building of San Francisco in 1922.

Come to think of it, I was rushing since morning. It was with haste that I got myself ready after forcing myself to wake up, it was the sprint from my apt to station that made me catch the train that at least ensured me of being able to attend the 9 am meeting albeit late, and here I was sprinting again to office.

Then I looked around me and saw something that I had missed looking all these days: Apparently everyone around me was rushing too! It dawned upon me that even when I was sprinting from apt to station, pretty much everyone was either running or briskly walking. The train itself was a super-fast ride that covered over 25 miles in 37 minutes (an impossibility to match this time on road when compared with peak hour traffic). And even here in the SFO financial district, people were whizzing past one another, dignified men in suits were skateboarding and cycling – all in the name of hurrying. And it was just not the young and dashing – even the oldies were trying to keep up with the running clock.

If I had to just stand still on the pavement, frozen solid, and record the movements around me – like one of those time warp videos – it would be almost dizzy! Everyone is rushing!! If I am standing still and focusing on the very necessity of this rush, I can’t help feeling – is it really needed?! It is one thing to work but it is another thing to work always under the pressure of a time-ticking guillotine. What is time after all? It is just a man-made instrument! Since when did time become so important! Since “time immemorial”, apparently! Anyways, I guess it is just the "lazy" me who gets these weird thoughts!

But is it really needed for the projects to have such tight deadlines that make every team member to rush, to skip breakfasts, skip lunch too, or go to fast food. The very phrase ‘fast food’ indicates the hurry. Of course, we all know the nutritional value of fast food and the effect it has on the body (and thereby life span) in the long run.

In essence, I guess, we are just rushing to our own graves!! 
Now, What's The Hurry?!!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Cough

I hate cough. I despise it in all its forms. Even its spelling! It sounds like cow-ugghh! I am just coming out of a terrible coughing bout and it was as bad as it always is whenever my body catches onto this virus or bacteria or whatever it is that causes cough. Bottom line is when I start coughing, I keep coughing. And I so want to get rid of it!

It all began with a mild sore throat which I knew was not really mild. I could sense its fury right then. So, to nip it in the bud, I started with salt water gargling. There are times when it does get nipped and the world is a happy place. But I was not so lucky this time around.

The next day, sure enough, the sore throat had led to mild cough accompanied by running nose. Sometimes, it runs its course through a common cold with dripping nose (no cough) and then the cold too goes away and again the world is a happy place. But this time, the cough persisted while the cold took control of my body. As always, with running nose comes irritation and fatigue – BECAUSE IT NEVER STOPS. It is like having a reservoir inside your nose!! I am sleeping, and at 3 am in the night, I can feel the watery leakage inside my nose. It right down tickles you out of your sleep. This happens despite the Vicks Vaporub rubbed generously over the throat, neck, chest, feet, back and wherever the population has applied and found it working wonders.  Even inhaled from steaming water. And despite all this, watery leakage continues. Whats more annoying is that this leakage accompanies a mild fever that kind of makes you lethargic.

Ok, so I now had to quickly get rid of this Tickly Leakage along with the ensuing Flu. From the nearby pharmacy store, I got hold of a Tylenol For Multi Symptom Cold. In fine print, it was written that it was effective for cough too! Wow, this seemed a wonder drug surely – killing flu, cold and cough all in one shot! I started with once-in-4 hours 20 ml dosage. There was surely some improvement. The leaking stopped and gave way to solid mucus that now started coming out in great chunks.

Solid mucus surely is the sign of The End being near! A few drops of Saline Solution and all will be well. Six drops in each nostril. But alas, it only led to some sniffing but nothing else. A colleague took one look at me sniffing away to glory and said I was short on Vitamin C. Apparently a body rich with Vitamin C will produce enough antibodies to kill whatever it is that causes common cold and cough. So she gave me a box of Berry-flavored Emergen-C powder pouches that had to be mixed with water. I kindly refused her offer, bought a bigger box of my own and from that day onwards started with one pouch a day in the morning. Now that wasn’t too hard.

Ok, so now this Mr Solid Snot started secreting by gazillions - thereby making me visit the restroom almost twice in an hour to blow out my nose completely – an activity that used to take almost 10 minutes each time - only to come back to cubicle finding it full again! I did some research to see why my body was producing so much snot. I was shocked to find two things. Apparently, almost a liter of mucus is produced daily – so I might as well forget about getting rid of all that snot by blowing my nose – and mucus was good for the body! Anyways, now it was blocking my nasal airways thereby forcing me to breathe through my throat.

Remember this throat itself is not that great in shape. There was this constant coughing. So my throat now had to take this additional responsibility of supplying oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Fallout of this is that the throat starts getting dried up very fast because there is lack of saliva movement and whatever is present for the general lubrication is getting evaporated fast. Outcome? More cough! For cough to be kept in bay, the throat has to be kept moist and wetty so that the dryness will not cause the cough reflex. Not only that, this solid snot was getting clogged in the airway too which was like adding fuel to cough. So I had to think of something else to destroy the new enemy Mr Solid Snot along with this cough that kept increasing by the day. As a temporary solution though, I got myself a flask of hot water which I started sipping regularly. Apparently, being hydrated is one of the first steps when having cold and cough. I even got a bag of Halls chewable tablets to keep the throat hydrated and reduce the cough reflex.

Then I did some more research to understand if I was taking the right syrup or if I should be taking something else. Apparently expectorants was what I needed since it had the exact task of draining mucus by thinning mucus and lubricating the respiratory tract. A key ingredient of an expectorant syrup is guaifenesin. The Tylenol syrup that I was taking did not have this ingredient. No wonder nothing was happening. Off I went to pharmacy store again and this time I got a Mucus Relief syrup which had 400 mg of guaifenesin. Surely this ought to drain out Mr Solid Snot!

A couple of shots of this new syrup and all hell broke loose, which I knew would happen anyways. Good thing about it was that I knew I was at the peak stage, and the only way now was to go down. Like being at Logan Pass on Going-to-the-Sun road! Mr Solid Snot got broken down to a million shrapnel and if the cough was one per one Solid, it was now one per shrapnel!

More colleagues came to help. Many gave advises but one gave a small box of cut ginger, and asked me to keep biting one at a time until I got better. I started doing that and boy, was it spicy!! Back at home, I smashed ginger, poured honey and put turmeric into boiling water and had it in huge gulps multiple times. My mother-in-law went a step further and mixed garlic and jaggery by hand and asked me to eat it raw. It was like eating fire!

Then my mom suggested boiling garlic in water. Alrighty! Here we go – drank that stinking “garlicized” water and ate that stinking garlic. All to no gain. It was as if I had not done anything. Cough continued like before and shrapnel continue with same frequency.
Tired of what “outside pharmacy stores” offered, I then looked into the home medicine cabinet. Well, there was this Kid’s Benadryl. Why not?! Two spoonfuls. Honey! Sure. Two spoonfuls every two hours! After all nothing can go wrong with more honey in the body. Remember reading so much goodness about honey!

Frantic searching in the tablet box led me to Cofday tablet which I had got from India – thinking then about the inevitable. Gulped one without even thinking twice. In a short span of time, I had about a dozen things acting against that virus or bacteria in my throat and nose. Come to think of it, it was like Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Surely there was no way that cough can hold up against so many guns shooting at it. I even had visions of going to that fantasy black man in The Green Mile who could just hold my throat, feel my pain and spit out all my evil worms from his mouth thereby relieving me from my troublesome cough!! Or, something as mechanically simple as replacing my throat and nose with brand new defect-free parts with warranty!

Although there seemed to be signs of relief, I was not convinced. This time, the cough was even more during night time. I lie down and I used to cough. So I stopped lying down. I was sitting upright till 2 am in the night just so that I didn’t have to cough. I knew that I had to take something with more of dextromethorphan since that would suppress the cough. Almost all syrups and cough tablets had this ingredient. I took the Tylenol syrup again which had a good amount of this suppressant. Then I messaged by cousin who is a doctor and she told me to take ibuprofen as a starter and an antibiotic if it persisted. Ibuprofen worked like a charm and I slept like a log. I followed the same steps as highlighted above for one more day and this time the coughing spell was reducing. However, this entire cough spell was now causing ache in the ribs and jaws! So I contemplated taking an antibiotic – Levobact, which I consider as a magic cough pill for me since it is very powerful and almost always works. But I only want to take it when it is too much to handle (like just before going to the doc) and this time, I felt it was almost nearing the end. So I saved it for the next time.

My wife hates cough too but she hates medicine even more. So she relies entirely on her own immune system to tackle and kill the evil aliens in her body. Usually she succeeds within a few days. But me on the other hand, rely entirely on allopathy, homeopathy, apathy, empathy, sympathy, whatever-pathy! It is more of a belief thing more than anything else. Like looking at a piece of paper bearing God’s photo and believing He is the Almighty. It is all in my mind that if I take something, it is going to solve the problem. And this medley of medicine-taking with its multitude of side-effects usually ends up in a battle one against the other and causes the ailment to prolong for over a week. I know that it is a brick wall but yet I keep going and banging my head against it.

Finally, after almost 10 days of non-stop medication, one fine day I stopped taking medicine and relied on the antibodies inside my body to get me back to normalcy. Couple more days of short bouts of cough and finally, lo and behold, there were Blue Skies all around.

Life like this, breathing with the nostrils effortlessly and mouth not barking like a dog incessantly, was unimaginable a week ago. Ah! What a joy it is! The joy of Simple Breathing…!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Addictions

It was a beautiful day. The time was about 7 in the evening. The breeze was soothing and gentle. The whiff of the air was relaxing. The Sun had not set still and there was sufficient light for us to see from our 3rd floor apartment balcony the ducks and a dozen ducklings wading through the pleasant community stream. The ducks and ducklings gave tremendous joy each evening. It was now a family ritual to take in an eyeful of them each evening while we sat on the balcony for a few minutes. It was astonishing – and in a way disappointing - to see how fast the ducklings grew.

To enjoy this serene beauty, my wife and I called out to our 3 year-old daughter who was slumped on the couch with the iPad. I remembered that conversation I had overheard about someone’s grandson teaching his wife about how to use Kindle and how apprehensive I myself was then about Tontu not being able to do that because she didn't even have access to the gadgets. Well, she was now quite an expert with iPad and would have taught my mom quite a lot indeed! But alas, my call-out when unheeded. The game on that hand-held digital device was much more addictive to her than the natural beauty surrounding us in the balcony.

Now, who is to blame – if indeed someone needs to be blamed. Is it us parents, who have made these digital devices handy in the living room or is it her who has submitted her senses wholeheartedly to the digital world?

The iPad in our house is the most sought-after device. Sometimes I have felt like having 3 of them so that each of us in the house could use it at the same time! There was this one time when it fell down from about 3 feet and the screen went all black. It was like a full stop in the ease of access to the digital world! But when I googled, I came across this link and boy, were we grateful. A few pats on the back, and lo and behold, it was back in action. Then a few weeks later, on a hot day on our birthday we had visited a nearby attraction and kept the iPad inside the parked car and when we came back, it was all black again! I then read this article and was shocked to hear at the Genius Bar that I needed to spend $250 to get it replaced! I remember how we mourned for the loss of all those great pics still in the iPad gallery which were not backed up. The loss was unbearable. It just showed how attached we had become to it in less than 30 months. In 2012 we didn't even own it and life was still beautiful. So, just when we thought all was over, I came across this seemingly brilliant thread and again, lo and behold, after a few kneeling sessions on the iPad, it was back in action! So much for the “Genius Bar”!

Anyways. Back to our discussion in the balcony. It just got my thinking back to our own childhood lives and how we used to handle the outburst of technology. In the mid-90s, the Cable TV had started booming. I was in my High School and my brother was just getting into college. I must really appreciate my parents for being bold enough to go with the Cable TV plunge despite us just getting to the turning point of our academic life. I mean, it would have been a big decision for them at that point of time. Us being kids would not have thought much but now that I am a parent I am sure what must have gone through them then. They would have thought of spending that Rs 200 more every month and at the same time, it was more like a candy for the children than anything for themselves. After all, it was more Star TV with English soaps then than the regional ones that we have now. And at the same time, it was such an addiction that could have seriously hampered our education. And yet they went ahead and got it installed, with great confidence in us.

Even now I remember that day in April 1998 when SachinTendulkar was going ballistic against the Australians in Sharjah and I was sitting for my Board exams – an important turning point exam of my life. I could hardly concentrate on the studies when I knew such an important match was going right in the living room TV. And it was just not that instance. There were these Steffi Graf Tennis matches, umpteen just-released movies, MTV, WWF, Fashion TV and what not! My parents could have so easily got the Cable TV cut-off just so as to ensure I could not be distracted, just the way many of our relatives had done.

Many of our relatives had gone the off-air route for years now just so that their children can be rid off the TV addiction. What a great sacrifice from parents’ perspective! This was in mid-2000s and at this time there were great many really interesting regional episodes, something which used to make the then parents themselves addicted and yet, they had gone ahead and switched off the TV for good, for the sake of their children’s education.

So, which route is better?

As a parent, keep the ‘addictions’ near your kids and have enough confidence on your children so as to make them good judges themselves to know when to stop and when to use
OR
Keep the house completely devoid of ‘addictions’ whatsoever without even wanting to test if the children can exercise a good control on themselves.

I guess the answer becomes evident when the question is taken to the next level: When house is the world and ‘addictions’ are anything in this world to which a man can get addicted to…

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Lost Half Hour

Nowadays I usually wake up at 7.10 AM. But there was this one day when I had lots of work, and hence wanted to reach office early to get most of the work done before the usual grind started. So, I woke up at 6.40 AM which was a clear 30 minutes early. Very happy that the first, most crucial step (forced getting up) was accomplished successfully, I went about the morning routine in the usual gusto but with a slightly relaxed attitude since I was way early.

By the time I was done with breakfast, read the daily news, checked mails, and left home, it was 7.59 AM. Usually I leave home at 8.22 AM, so I was still 23 minutes ahead. I reached the BART station and waited for my train. The first train was so full that there were no seats to sit. I was so dependent on a seated onward journey, giving me just that wee bit of time for a short nap enabling me to be afresh for rest of the day that I skipped that train and waited for the next one. By the time, the next train came, I noticed with dismay that the time was 8.17 AM, just 10 minutes short of my usual train departure.

Over my attempt to get 40 winks, I heard over the PA that due to some mechanical issue, all trains towards SFO was delayed. When I finally got down at Montgomery and started walking towards my office, I saw the digital time hosted on Chase Bank office as 9.10 AM. Everyday, I would see it as 9.12 AM. By the time I reached my desk and saw the time on the phone, as I usually do, the difference between my usual arrival time and that day was so minute that it was, well, just a minute! [Now, that was too tempting a sentence to pass up!]

So much for waking up a full 30 minutes before!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Birthday Present

Once upon a time, there was a king called Bhu. He was like a dictator in the small town that he lived. Everyone in the town feared him. He had three wives. Undoubtedly married off against their own wishes by their fathers who preferred giving away their daughters to the King from whom they might have presumably taken huge, non-repayable loans.

The last of the wives could not endure and enjoy her life as a wife to this dictator, although she bore him 4 children – 3 sons and 1 daughter. And thus, one fine day, she chose an ill-advised 'different' path. Her daughter was then just 9 months old. Thinking what evils may befall on this female child without her protection, the wife decided to take this female child too along with her. Just when she picked up the infant and started, one of the older sons told the mother that he will take care of the female child while she finished ‘her business’ in the house backyard, not really knowing what his mother was up to. Something made the mother give the daughter to her son. 

This act of giving involuntarily symbolized the son to be the protector of his sister. That son did indeed take good care of his sister and she grew up to be a fine young princess. She got married to another fine young King called Vij and the two of them bore 3 children – 2 princes and 1 princess.

The princess differed from her parents in thought and principles. While the parents always thought (like Socrates) ‘Others first; Us next’, the princess always thought ‘Us first; Others next’. Yet, even with this basic difference in thought, the parents doted on the princess because, well, she was their only princess! And with this plethora of love & freedom showered on her, the princess grew up to be a very competitive young teenager. She particularly excelled in sports and had the traits of a 'Fighting Warrior'.

Specially notable was this last year in her college when she aimed for top 3 awards that the college bestows upon its graduation students each year: The ‘NCC Trophy’ for participating in NCC; The ‘Championship Trophy’ for indoor and outdoor sports; The ‘Best Girl’ who tops in all categories – academics, sports, cultural events, NCC, NSS, etc..  

To achieve this, she planned meticulously. She checked with her mentors about how many points she can get for what activities. And she depended even on others since there were games where she had to play ‘Doubles’ and even ‘Mixed Doubles’ to get points. So she enquired around and chose her partners carefully so that they were skillful enough to win each game she played. This was especially true to win the 'Triple Crown' award which is given only for First Place winners in any game in all 3 categories - Solo, Doubles, Mixed Doubles. The pure challenge of winning this award made her adrenaline pumping and hungry for success!

And to get the ‘Best Girl’ award, she had to not only win the Championship award but also participate in almost all extracurricular activities such as cultural activities, NCC, etc. She had confidence in winning in sports and singing and dancing, but she hadn’t enrolled herself in NSS and NCC. So she got enrolled into those too, and learnt the basics of knotting and using rifles – just sufficient to get a certificate. She was good enough to get the NCC Trophy for one of the categories.

The heat was on now for the Championship Trophy. She had won in almost all the games and the competition was almost feverish. Every day and every night, the tension was palpable! Each night she would sit and calculate the points, and plan for next day’s victories. During the last few games, she knew she had enough to get her through but still she fought till the end victoriously to ensure her closest competitor was sufficiently some points away. And thus, she got her second aim fulfilled – The coveted Championship Trophy!

Alas! Despite being in the top charts for all categories considered for the Best Girl, she was not chosen as the Best Girl. She was heartbroken. But she later came to know that, in the past, this award was always politically biased. She, actually, was never even in contention! And hence, the girl who was chosen for Best Girl ended up being good only in academics but with not much contribution in sports or other extracurricular activities.

Albeit this loss, the Princess who dreamed high and almost reached the stars ended up being the Girl with the most awards – with her name being called as the winner, one game after the other, over and over again during the College Day Awards Ceremony with resounding applause. To highlight her achievements in brief, she had won 3rd prize for Group Folks Dance, 3rd prize for Group Patriotic Song Competition, NCC award, Inter-collegiate Table Tennis Runner-up award, Indoor Games Champion award, Triple Crown award (for Table Tennis), 10 Second Prize awards and 9 First Prize awards in various competitions and finally even the Grand Championship Trophy award!


And thus, the walls are adorned with so many trophies that it occupies an entire unit! She might have been unlucky not to get the Best Girl award then, but she remains an exemplary achiever and a True Champion! So what if she didn’t get the Best Girl award then, she gets my ‘Best Girl’ award hands-down!! In retrospect, if King Bhu's daughter had not been saved by his son, the world would never have seen this champion nor would this story have been scripted. And nor would I have found my 'Best Girl'! 

For this Champion, who created history in JG College Hubli between the years 2004 and 2005, who persevered against all odds and came out with shining glory, I dedicate this (hopefully immortal) blog post as a humble birthday present, so that the epic success story can always be remembered with the same feverish joy which she felt when she received all those awards!!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Morning Blues

It is with great irritation that I get up every working day. As if blaming Nature as to why it became Morning so soon, why did Time run through the Night so fast, why did Man create the concept of 'Working Hours'. 

It is a great nuisance to see the alarm shouting. In fact 'nuisance' is putting it too lightly. 'Loathsome' is more like it. And this repulsiveness makes the body clock wary of the alarm clock, resulting in the body waking up just minutes before the alarm sounds, as if to declare its victory over the alarm clock and reduce the alarm clock's worthiness of living to mere nothingness. This situation of an 'automatic getting up' before even the alarm sounds is even more annoying. Like pulling out one's hair. Every working morning. Five days a week.

Then I thought maybe this is because I sleep late in the night. Perhaps if I had my seven to eight hours of night sleep, the morning blues will go away. So I slept early and slept fitfully all through the night. And yet, in the morning, the same feeling when I had to force myself to become awake. The same irksomeness while drowsily making my way to the bathroom. 

In that faded half-sleep, half-awake state it dawned upon me that sleep had nothing to do with morning wake-up part after all, if that wake-up was forced. It was actually unrelated to an extent. Forced waking up part was just plain irritating boneheaded feeling that will always stay irrespective of the quantity & quality of the preceding sleeping hours. Every working morning. Five days a week.

Maybe I should get into a job (or become my own boss!!) wherein I can go to office only when I want to go. 
So that I can wake up only when I feel like waking up. 
A world without alarm clocks. 

:-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Evolution of "The Good Night Ritual"

About 12 months ago.

Me: "Good Night, Tontu!"
Tontu: "Good Night."
Me: "Sweet Dreams, Tontu!"
Tontu: "Sweet Dreams."
Me: "Sleep well, Tontu!"
Tontu: "Sleep well."
Me: "Don't get up in the night."
Tontu: "Don't get up in the night."
Me: "Get up late in the morning."
Tontu: "Get up late in the morning."
Me: "Ok, Tontu?"
Tontu: "Ok."
Me: "Good Night!"
Tontu: "Good Night."
Me: "Sweet Dreams!"
Tontu: "Sweet Dreams."
Me: "See you tomorrow!"
Tontu: "See you tomorrow."
Me: "I love you."
Tontu: "I love you."
Me: "You love me, Tontu?"
Tontu: "You love me."

Tontu was two years old & she was repeating my Good Night "ritual". Perhaps because she couldn't understand back then, she thought this was a tradition that needed to be followed before sleeping...

***

About 8 months ago. Sometimes.

Tontu ( addressing to me): "Good Night, Tontu. Sweet Dreams, Tontu. Sleep well, Tontu. Don't get up in the night. Get up late in the morning. Good Night. Sweet Dreams. See you tomorrow. I love you. You love me, Tontu? Hmm? Hmm? Ok!"

She had memorized the ritual and wanted to get it done with it in one shot!

***

About 4 months ago.

Me: "Good Night, Tontu!"
Tontu: "Good Night, Papa."
Me: "Sweet Dreams, Tontu!"
Tontu: "Sweet Dreams, Papa."
Me: "Sleep well, Tontu!"
Tontu: "Sleep well, Papa."
Me: "Don't get up in the night."
Tontu: "Ok."
Me: "Get up late in the morning."
Tontu: "Ok."
Me: "Ok, Tontu?"
Tontu: "Ok."
Me: "Good Night!"
Tontu: "Good Night."
Me: "Sweet Dreams!"
Tontu: "Sweet Dreams."
Me: "See you tomorrow!"
Tontu: "See you tomorrow."
Me: "I love you."
Tontu: "I love you too."
Me: "You love me, Tontu?"
Tontu: "I love you too."

She could understand what I was saying and she was actually responding back to me. Notice that my sixth and the last statements have now become superfluous.

***

Now. Sometimes.

Me: "Good Night, Tontu!"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Good Night, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Sweet Dreams, Tontu!"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Sweet Dreams, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Sleep well, Tontu!"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Sleep well, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Don't get up in the night."
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Ok, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Get up late in the morning."
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Ok, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Ok, Tontu?"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Ok, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Good Night!"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Good Night, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "Sweet Dreams!"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "Sweet Dreams, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "See you tomorrow!"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "See you tomorrow, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "I love you."
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "I love you, Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!
Me: "You love me, Tontu?"
Tontu (hearing me but looking at her mom): "I love Mama!" Accompanied by a hee-hee!

Now she was responding but instead of responding to me, she was playfully improvising her responses as if she was responding to her mother, just to irk me and getting humor out of it!

***

It is this development of brain which is so fascinating to see in a growing child on a day-to-day basis! Makes one's life worth living!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Power of Music

What is it in music that causes an ‘awakening’ of strange feelings? After all it is just a bunch of sound waves of different frequencies and different wavelengths – if I may put it lightly in a scientific way. And this ‘First principle’ of sound (that it is just a vibration) was jarred upon me when a family friend of us mentioned it matter-of-factly when we were watching a Carnatic classical music vocal concert.

A full fledged Carnatic classical vocal musical concert – as you may know – contains one or more of accompaniments such as violin, Mridungam, Ghatam, Flute, Veena, etc. in addition to the main artist’s vocal ability. When you break it down, it is all mere sound waves. And these mix of different sound waves (with differing frequency and wavelengths) bearing down in each of audience ears – when each artist gives out the best in him or her - evokes these strange ‘wow’ effects, these ‘shabash’ pat-on-the-back gestures, these goosebumps (check out the video in this link and the reaction by live audience) that finally culminates in an applause by one and all which is truly amazing!

And if it is not just about the ‘complimenting’ effect of the sound waves. Dr Kunnakudi had carried out a musical program to bring forth rain by the natural power of music. There was also an article I had read about how music was played to save a person from a fatal disease. With such powers within these ‘magical, mystical sound waves’, it is hardly surprising to note how easily one gets transported to a different era just by listening to songs of some movies – the ambience which would have etched into one’s memories.

In my case, to note a few, the moment I hear any of Hum AapKe Hain Kaun? songs, I get transported to a distinguished (full-blown) AC theatre in Hyderabad where I saw the movie with my cousins. I can still remember us in that theatre seeing the movie counting the innumerable songs. The same happens when I hear Taal se Taal Mila – the movie which some of us college friends saw in Abhinav theatre in Bangalore. Then there is Veer Zaara song. This always evokes the scene of me driving back from Niagara Falls to Boston because we colleagues heard them over and over. And then the Dil Chahtha Hai song evoke the memory of me trekking on the Kudremukha Mountain with some of my school friends. This is because we kept singing this song repeatedly while climbing the steep mountain amidst pouring rain. Each of these instances denote a different era – and however far the year goes back, the memory is always as powerful.

This theory got another dimension added when I saw my daughter listening to a particular song and reacting in a unique way. In most cases, she listens to the songs that we put in the house – be it Bollywood or devotional or Carnatic classical – and some of them she likes a lot (and she wants us to keep repeating) and the rest she just doesn’t seem interested so much – so she just carries on without bothering to listen nor ask us to stop playing. But there is this one song from Aashiqui 2 movie which automatically makes her cry – and cry real bad – whenever it happens to come on the TV. And it is not what she sees in the video of the song but it is the ‘song’ song which itself makes her heart cry out each time she hears the song. And this is the only song that she wants us to stop immediately it starts.

Once, we even experimented. She was in this real jovial mood and happy and rolling over with laughter. So we told her that we will put this song and that it was no big deal and she can keep laughing since it was just a song. She agreed. With this, I even kept her occupied with funny faces and making her laugh out loud when the song started. She was still laughing looking at me when the song was 5 seconds old and for a strange reason, she started getting tears in her eyes. She was still laughing. So I thought perhaps it was the ‘laughter tears’. Then she stopped the laughing and asked me ‘Papa, why are there tears?’ The song was now perhaps 15 seconds old since inception. That’s all. Then, all of a sudden, the dam broke and there she was wailing and crying her heart out. She ran away to mom and asked the song to be switched off. Just like other days.

Now, she hardly understands Hindi. So she does not know what is being sung. So it is not the lyrics. The experiment proved that it is not the video either, since she was not seeing the video when she started crying. It is the music and/or the way the song is sung. She is 3 years old and anyways - this is a new movie that got recently released, so there cannot be any 'bad memory' associated to this song. That leaves me with the ‘other dimension’ thought:

Assuming there is weightage in ‘Rebirth’ theory, can music evoke emotions from a prior life?

Boink!!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Health, Money, Life, Death

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Sigh.