Friday, December 20, 2013

Pareontology

Parenting is a unique experience; Being a parent is a unique experience too.

There is subtle difference between the two. ‘Experiencing Parenting’ is what parents do until children are on their own. ‘Experiencing being a Parent’ is from then on. Parenting is giving unconditional love; Being a parent is to be, well, for lack of better words, taken for granted.

Our toddler already gives us cheeky responses. Suddenly, after last few years of unconditional love, getting back cheeky responses kinda makes one feel – a popular mega-serial dialog - “After all these years of love, after all I have done to you, after all the sacrifices – this is what I get?

But then I think about my own life. How easily I have taken my parents for granted. How easily I cut them off, in an important discussion – making my own viewpoint as supreme. They treated me as if I was a young prince when I was young and, lo and behold, here I was, acting as the King – reigning over them! And to think, they would have spent the same countless hours and days and months and years, providing me unconditional love just like how I have to my daughter.

My parents recently visited me in US. In a small way, they were actually conscious of what I think about their paraphernalia. “What will our sons think of us in these shoes, these suitcases?” It jolted me that they were now actually concerned about my opinions about them, their stuff.

And then I saw around me – figuratively. This was the same with my brother. He too towered over my parents. Yeah, there was an undercurrent of love but on the surface, it was always – Do As I Say. I saw my wife. She was the same too. It was as if the tables had completely turned. She was giving advice to her mother – guiding her to do this, telling her not to do that. Her mother was concerned about what she was doing and hence consulted her children to guide her the right way. Remember the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? In a way, we are all growing old to become the children that we were, but the movie depicts the case of Button in true physical sense.

During my recent visit to India, I noticed my father interacting with his parents, and alternately, my grand parents' outlook of my father. Frankly - I was taken aback. In fact, there was no change in the way he was treating them for years nor in the way they regarded him. But, since I had recently become a parent, I was seeing the world differently. From my grand parents’ view, and how they would have treated my father almost seven decades ago - to now, when things had changed so much.

But then it is not easy to show the same kind of affection that parents show to their young offspring when it comes to offspring showing love to the old parents. For one lighthearted reason, the recipient is no longer cute!! But on a serious note, we adults just lose the patience, and the love we have for our parents just stays as an undercurrent ebb. 

I tried to change myself too, to step back and think about the immense affection and love that was showered on me when I was a small boy (something which I could never have done if I hadn't become a parent myself), just before I start ranting against mom for some silly thing that she would have done or was about to do, but I just couldn't. For me – and I am sure, like for all of us – a mother is a mother, who is there for us to ‘blast at’, and yet she will always be there, with same affection and care towards us.

And this is all around us. My friends, cousins, relatives – irrespective of age and generation. This metaphysical feeling of us adults getting the upper hand over our own parents – and it is the same case each time that will go on forever: Parents sacrificed years together to give unconditional love and affection, only to become parents when they were taken for granted, and got their quota of advice and brickbats and anxiety from their own children. Such is this naturally unique and distorted cycle of a common man’s life.

It is fascinating, in a way, and depressing, in a way.

At this juncture, I can’t help but remember this excellent, excellent video which pretty much covers whatever I just penned.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar & Me

Once in a lifetime comes a man like Sachin Tendulkar…

The whole country, if not the whole world, is either talking or writing or seeing something about Sachin, and it is hard not to indulge myself into the heat of the moment. Well, what can one say, after so much has been said already by so many people. But then what I am writing now is not for anyone to read or anyone to rate my article. It is more for myself, as an outlet to the pent-up emotions of seeing Sachin go.

I am 33 now. One amongst the millions of Indians born in the 80’s to have experienced Sachin. 24 out of my 33 years have been embellished due to Sachin and it is immensely disheartening to see him go. My earliest memory of him, I guess like most others, is of that Pakistan match in Peshawar where he hit 4 sixers in an over of the famed Abdul Qadir.

During the early 90s, more often than not, India used to lose the match. India, although having had a World Cup victory in 1983, was still an underdog team and not as competitive as Australia or many other countries. And it was sad to see so many losses, consequently. And at this juncture came this 5’5 man who challenged the monotony and tried to give hope to billions of Indians for an Indian victory in every match he played. And because of this, he became famous. I am not sure if he had made debut now, when India is on a high, he would have become as famous. But this fact that when he stood alone when all around him wickets were falling down is what made him as unique as ever. In many cases, his score alone would be more than half of the entire team’s total.

Sachin, I came to know, wanted to be a fast bowler but was turned down, and he then took to batting. Despite his innumerous success with the bat, he even had the country rooting for him in 1993 when he took responsibility of bowling the last over to South Africa in Hero Cup Semi Final in Calcutta when the opposition needed only 5 runs to win. It was stunning to see him get India through to victory from the jaws of defeat even when he was not batting.

When he started, he used to come to bat at the death of the innings and he quickly became known for the extraordinary hitting, which was very much needed to win the match, considering the asking run rate to be hovering over or above 6.  So, one day in 1994 when I got up early in the morning to see India’s match against New Zealand, I saw Sachin batting and I feared the worst – that India was already 6 or 7 wickets down and it was still very early in the match. But I saw that we weren’t really so many wickets down and it took me sometime to understand what had happened – Sachin had opened the innings! And what a spell-bound innings that was! This was a brilliant game plan which I had never imagined could occur, but once I realized it, it made so much sense – especially with the 15 hour field restriction in place. If only he had started his career as an opener, he would have had so many more centuries under his belt.

And Sachin continued to cement his place in the playing eleven, for many years. By mid 90s, he was the pillar of the Indian cricket team. He stood constantly while the entire team changed year after year. The selectors only had to select the playing 10 since Sachin by default held his post with his consistency. Every match was seen because of Sachin. If Sachin was not in the game, the interest was halved.

As Sachin amassed century after century, a ‘Sachin century’ became the focal point. An automatic expectation came along with his entry every time to the pitch - a century was the least ask from him. In fact he became so consistent in his knocks that I started tracking his runs in every innings in a small piece of paper, to analyze it better. This was in 1998 and it was by far his greatest year since he amassed over 1800 runs in that year alone. And what I deduced from that small piece of paper stunned me. He was getting a century in every 3rd innings in test match and 7th innings in an ODI, and it kept getting better every match! So each time he came to bat, I was fervently praying for a century. He was easily breaking all records and I was eager to see him get to the top at the earliest.

1998 was a tough year for me since I was sitting for my 12th grade board exams. Everyone knows what happened between India-Australia in Sharjah 1998. There was this semi-final on 22nd April when Australia made 284 and India had to get a certain amount of runs to qualify for finals against Australia. With intense concentration and focus, Sachin ensured that India were past that score but a victory was quite improbable and even superfluous. And yet, Sachin continued to toy the bowlers and there was this amazing hit by him when Tony Greg, the commentator gasped “Sachin Tendulkar wants to win this match!” which sent goosebumps across the country. I can never forget that powerful statement. After this mind-numbing semi-final came the final on his birthday where again, he single-handedly guided India to a victory against a team that had not lost 6 straight matches in the tournament, and again with a brilliant century. These 2 consecutive centuries were the greatest ever I have seen. Added to this tension were the summer power-cuts at crucial junctures, the exam preparation. Boy, life was hard those days!!

The small piece of paper then became a full-fledged ledger where I started to track all his scores – both ODI and Test matches. Another thing I noticed was how well he used to play in the World Cups. His consistency (average) in the World Cups was unbelievable. When I noticed, he was already amongst the top 5 batsmen. So I started tracking this too in the ledger. I continued this for a long time until cricinfo took over! After the golden year of 1998, came some lull in the life as he encountered injuries, he took over captaincy and could not deliver much, etc. But the passion remained same, the expectation remained same. There never was a doubt that he will stop being part of the team.

1999 too was another eventful year. His father passed away when he was playing in the World Cup tournament. Despite this, he returned back to the team and made a wonderful 100 against Kenya. He also got his the then highest ODI score of 186 against New Zealand which was so good to see. In the same year, there was this brilliant 136 Vs Pakistan in Chennai which he fought so hard single-handedly to win the match but finally lost. This century was very poignant because he was in intense pain with his body and yet managed to get India so close to victory.

The same year saw Shoaib Akthar get Sachin out for a first ball duck in Eden Garden, Kolkatta. It was sensational stuff. This would make the viewers want more of Sachin-Shoaib. Sachin finally got the better of Shoaib in subsequent matches. Individual competitions continued with old great bowlers and new ones boomed. With Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan and other great bowlers. It was a pure pleasure to see the battle, to see the game embellished by these legends of cricket.

And slowly, things changed, India changed, the team started winning more and more games, I got into college and then got into a job and then travelled abroad, but whenever there was a cricket match, I always looked forward to see Sachin and his score. This never changed for over 2 decades. It never needed to change. His dream of securing a World Cup victory finally occurred under the leadership of Dhoni (whom he had nominated to BCCI for captaincy) in 2011. In the same year, he hit a double century in ODI (first-ever by any batsman). A Sachin retirement was something I never thought about because it just didn’t seem necessary. As he neared 40, there were talks everywhere – media, office, press, etc – and it irked me as to why we were pushing the icon to think about it.

It is said that he has groomed so many cricketers who shared the dressing room with him which has made them better players. There was this interview with Aamir Khan where Aamir revealed how Sachin used to predict the bowler’s next ball. Boy, such insight would help any batsman in the team immensely. And this surely has made India a better team now. Scoring over 300 runs in an ODI was only possible if Sachin did 80% of the batting but now this is no longer necessary. If Sachin gets out early, it doesn’t matter much now but back in the 90s, most television sets will be turned off and few people would have even ended their lives if Sachin got out in a pressure situation in a tense match.

In the same interview, Aamir mentions how each of us felt happy when Sachin hit a four or a six. If Sachin hit a century, we felt as happy as if we hit a century. This is so true. When he struggled with pain, the country suffered with him. When he cried (which was so rare), the nation cried with him. And when he lifted his bat after each century and looked up at the sky, the nation gave him a bow.

He has hit a 100 hundreds. Although I am blessed to have been born in the same era as him, I have been very unfortunate not to have witnessed even one of those hundreds live in the stadium. The couple of occasions I did have the chance to shout ‘Sachin, Sachin’ in the midst of thousands of people in Bangalore stadium, he got out poorly.

His retirement from ODI last year was a mild blow and without much fanfare. It seemed the country was prepared for it for a long time and with so many mini-Sachins now, he wouldn’t really be missed. But these last few days, when the public knows they are seeing him for the last time in the international arena, everybody has gone overboard to make the farewell special for the greatest sport-star son of India. His own farewell speech [and the lap of honor (as well as his last walk to the pitch to pay respects)] was extremely touching when he thanked all those behind-the-scenes people who gave us the Sachin a billion Indians wanted.

I used to collect a lot of articles written on Sachin. We used to subscribe for Deccan Herald in the 1990s and DH always had great photos of Sachin hitting great shots, and those clips adorned my cupboard. Wherever I saw a great article written on Sachin, I used to cut it and put it in a file folder. Soon the digital world grew and there was internet full of amazing articles on Sachin, stunning clips of his shots and even videos of his great games. So I stopped collecting. But deep within, he was always near me. Like an extended family.

I may never get to meet him personally, he may never get to know me personally. For him, I will be just another fan like billions others and there are far better fans for him than me - like those who have fasted for him when he was batting, who have flown countries to see his batting live, etc. And today, when I watched him bid adieu to the game, my soul ripped. There was this huge lump in the throat. I was controlling, yes, and there were no tears but it just hurt. Just plain hurt to see him go, and to not see him again playing, to not see his name on the Indian scorecard. It isn’t the life that I am used to. I have never seen it before, and never wanted to. His retirement, although inevitable, has caused listlessness. I keep staring blankly as if life has come to a stop. His presence in the team made us all look forward to life, to his enchanting, invincible and impeccable batting. It kept us asking for more, hungry for more. His hunger for runs kept us hungry and increased our expectation on him. And now, there is nothing. A huge void.

Tomorrow, life goes on, as usual. People go to office, children go to school, doctors go to hospital. Sachin Tendulkar, for the first time will not be in the next playing eleven, he will be out of sight, and out of sight is out of mind - soon he will fade away into the past. But what he has given us in his capacity as an entertainer has surpassed all expectations and will forever be etched in our memory. Sachin Tendulkar has made our lives special – with us just being spectators, seeing him, the Master, like a Maestro, in action.

Once in a lifetime comes a man like Sachin Tendulkar…and the pleasure was all mine. 
From the bottom of my heart - a big salutation to the greatest batsman of my time. 

Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sigh...

I have never written about Sachin although had the urge to write about him so many times - like millions who have already done so. I was satisfied to collect all the writings about him but today, as I watched him walk back to the pavilion a few minutes ago, I could not stop myself.

Perhaps I will write in detail later about 24 years of emotional roller coaster but now there is only a sense of emptiness that can never be explained, a void which can never be filled.

Sigh...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wishing on a Birthday

Since a long time now, it gives me immense pleasure to wish a person on his or her birthday. There was a time when I used to take great pains in maintaining important contacts’ birthdays. In high school, I started maintaining my friends’ birthdays in a self-created, calendar-sorted ledger. I kept updating this ledger for many years. I still have this ledger and it has about 500 odd entries although I do not update it any more.

It used to be fun checking this ledger for the next few days and reminding myself to wish the birthday folks. Since I kept doing this fairly regularly for a long time, some of the birthdays got etched into my memory, and I no longer needed a ledger to remind me whose birthday fell on which day. I could automatically wake up on any given day, check the date on the calendar and remember the person who had the birthday on that day. It was as easy as getting up on 6th April and knowing that it was my mom's birthday.

Over the period of my life, when I moved out of high school to PU college to Engineering college to my first company and then to the second company, and then within that company started hopping from one project to the other, this list of folks whom I knew and whom I liked and whom I liked to maintain contact grew and grew. Yet I tried my best to keep abreast on the growing list of birthdays and wish people as best as I could.

In some cases, the only day I ever spoke to someone – like past friends such as high school pals, etc. - was only on their birthday, and this once-in-a-year remembrance, that too on their special day, made them extremely happy and surprised and truly gave them joy. And on other cases, especially the older relatives, people realized it was their birthday only when I called them up and wished! And in other cases, there were instances when the person knew it was his or her birthday but their near and dear ones – like their own children or those who stayed with them under the same roof - never wished them. So hearing wishes from a distant person gave them this inner warmth – and I loved giving this joy, loved making the person “wanted” on the special day.

Some people were so overwhelmed - some “are”, even now – that they used to ask me how I remembered, what technology I used to keep myself “informed”, etc. All I had then was a simple notebook where I had stored their birthdays. But since the notebook was becoming difficult to refer to every other day, I started to use the basic technology – such as using a Microsoft outlook reminder, mainly because I knew I would always open this one software almost every single day. I had the birthdays linked to my home outlook client which was configured to my personal email id.

Thanks to gmail, which gladly took an imported version of any outlook stored reminders onto its server, and correspondingly to me starting to own an android version of a smart phone, the reminders now pop up automatically on my cell phone.

Technology is great.

So, now to wish the person, the only way for me is to login to Facebook since I don’t have the email id or the phone number. It is so easy to accept friends’ invitation on Facebook thereby the person is just a click away, anyway. So I login to Facebook and go to that person’s profile. I see hundreds of birthday wishes. My wish, I know, no longer gives joy or that ‘personal touch’ it once used to. The birthday gal or guy will wait until the day is over and give a one-liner comment informing how special the day was with the countless wishes. I miss that joy I used to get when I used to wish and I used to be the only person to wish or one of the rare few to remember the special day. I miss the ‘personal touch’. I feel sad for my ‘birthday wishes’ to suddenly become so ‘tiny’ amongst hundreds of other well-worded wishes. I suddenly feel like how a retired person feels when he is sacked because a machine can do his job better.

Alas. Technology is great but it lacks the human touch.

There was a time earlier when I used to ask for contact's Birthday after I had become reasonably close to pop that question. Now, I don't bother. Not because I can obtain this information after the 'Friend request' is accepted in Facebook, but because - when I now get a reminder on the cell phone about someone’s birthday, I just hit the ‘Dismiss’ button and don't even bother wishing. 

So, for those of you who were used to it - after a decade of my wishes - if you don’t see any more from me, don't think I lost the steam - now you know the reason why.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Kapathaka and Thadigudi-Thadigudi

Kapathaka!

This is now her new byword for anything and everything. Did you finish your milk? Kapathaka. We laugh. She laughs. Later in the day - Do you want anything to eat. Kapathaka. We laugh. She laughs. She knows we will laugh, and hence she makes up these funny sounding words just so that we will laugh. She makes funny faces since she knows it makes us burst out laughing. She does something that she ought not to, and we scold her and she mimics the same back to us in her own funny way, which breaks down our singularly strict facial expression despite our great strength in holding the laughter back – and we all end up laughing on the floor. 

And so it goes on every day. There was a time once when I did not know the difference between baby, infant, toddler (and pre-schooler – this one I hadn’t even heard before!) So when someone once said that toddlers were fun to hear speak, it didn’t make much sense to me – mainly because my daughter was an infant then and it was fun to hear her speak (gibberish!) then too! Gradually I came to know the difference and I acknowledge this fact that toddlerhood is so much fun too. While being a baby gave its own share of joy, toddlerhood adds a flavor of its own - especially because at this age, kids tend to speak the way we adults do, and hence this “imitated adulthood” coming from a tiny tot – complete with mocked up facial expression and body-stance – causes an unmatched hilarity. 

Added to this, now that toddlers are exposed to the world and are able to grasp things around them, they can recognize patterns and come to conclusions without us telling them. Once, my little one aged 2 then, was able to see the McDonalds signpost far away while on a car-ride and said “Hi McD! Wait for me! I am coming!” And it didn’t end there, she then looked at Mommy and said “McD said ‘Ok, I will wait for you.’ Come, let’s go to McD.” [This reminds me of McD’s famous Baby Swing Ad] And then there was this one instance when I was wearing a suit to office and she looked at me and said ‘Papa, you look like Obama!’ So funny! 

Everyday has at least one such unique thought that is so genuinely funny. And I realized that this is just not my daughter. Every child at this stage of life is pretty much the same and exhibiting these innocent funny one-liners. I guess even we were all the same too at that age, except that now we are the audience! These constant humorous one-liners are so hard to track and record that we forget so much so soon. When I read her first birthday post, I realized I had forgotten so much of our life with her (like how she used to laugh when I yawned, etc.) And alas, this Kapathaka might also soon become a thing of the past. 

And if the sentences are not funny, the situation is. Like when I used to come home from office during lunch hour in the previous city, she used to see me at the parking lot from the balcony and shout out the news of the day at the top of her voice “Papa, I finished poop!!” ROFL!! 

Well, having kids is not always all fun and no fret. On the subject of poop, when we were trying to potty-train her and she was all nerve-racky about this drastic change in her lifestyle – from pooping in the diaper to pooping on the potty – she used to cry a lot and her voice had so much begging and desperation of not wanting to poop that we used to feel helpless. But then when there came a time when she no longer could control, she used to run – wanting to run away from parents, to run away from potty, to run wherever she could as long as she didn’t poop. But this never helped her, and I remember thinking ‘What do we do now – this baby we gave birth to has turned into a running shit-machine!!’ Thankfully this period didn’t last long, and she got used to the potty. 

The saddest point in our lives so far with respect to Tontu was when the surgeon took her into the OR to suture her fingers due to the unfortunate accident that she had had in February 2013. She was drugged so much that she was delirious and in her brimful state of falling into an anesthetic oblivion, she was saying “I love you papa, I love you mama” and waved bye to me and my wife while the surgeon carried her away in arms. No crying, no shouting. That scene was a knockout and punched us both hard in the heart and soul. It was a never-to-forget and hopefully never-again experience. 

Now, she is at that point in her life, where she knows what is hers and what is not. This is my ball. This is my pillow. When she was eating ice-cream, we told her "You have to share, right?" and got a spoonful from her. The next day when we were eating chips, she told us "You have to share, right?" and gave it right back to us! 

The “giving-it-back” in fact happened first when she was about 7 months old. She, being an infant, was playing with something that her mother took away. In a spurt of uncontrolled anger, she shouted at her mother, right on the face. This was the first time ever she had done that, and immediately my wife got tears in her eyes. All those months of love and suddenly this anger in return! It was a strange experience. 

Over the period of years, we got used to this attitude and it is supposedly normal behavior of all children – part of growing up. And yet, it hurts in the corner of the heart when she says "Papa, you go away. Only Mama should make me sleep". There I am lugging myself out of the room dejected, when my wife points out a baby center website link which shows the normal tendency at this age to favor one parent over the other for certain day-to-day actions. 

While papa is not needed to make her sleep, papa is needed to tell stories. It is to papa that every evening now, she comes running with outstretched hands on the station platform when papa returns home from office – much to the delight of onlookers – as if papa was coming home from an international flight after a month-long outing! And then the short walk home from the station constantly chattering "Thadigudi-Thadigudi" (another pair of strange sounds invented by Tontu) holding papa hands. This combination of “Kapathaka and Thadigudi-Thadigudi” gives as much joy to me as did the similar-sounding tales of “Chamataka and Doob-Doob” which I used to read over 2 decades ago! 

And for providing this constant fun and laughter for the last 1000+ days, here is another post dedicated to my dear Tontu as a ‘Birthday present’, wishing a very happy birthday and loads of fun and less of ‘Time-out’s! Today, October 11th, 2013 is a double whammy of a day for her – it is not only her 3rd year birthday but also the only day in her life when she is as old as the exact difference of her parents’ ages!! 

Thadigudi-Thadigudi!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bench

Ok, now that I just had my last day in office in June, what next?

It was always a long time.... hmm, 'desire' - looking at my friends hither and thither - to stay at home for some time, without any office to go to, but yet get paid the same monthly salary as if I was going to office. If someone had told me during my initial professional days a decade ago that things like this happen, I would never have believed. Weird as it may sound, strange things like this happens and it is called being on 'Bench'. Well, I guess if bad things like cancer can strike people randomly, why not good fortune, eh?! And although I knew I was always very far from such good fortune, I always 'desired' to enjoy some quality family time while not compromising either on my cash inflow nor my leave balance. 

Be careful of what you wish, for it might just come true! Lo and behold, my desire came true in July 2013. At the time of spending my last days in office last month, I was filled with both a thrill of experiencing getting up on Monday morning with no office to go to and yet not on vacation nor unemployed, as well as an anxiety of 'what if I get allocated too soon to my future project'. Thankfully, status quo continued and I was gifted July 2013 as a paid vacation!

In my MTE post, I had mentioned that during our prime age, there is money and energy but no time due to office work. But now, I realized to my amazement, being on bench pulverized the MTE concept!! I had salary, I had lots and lots of time and energy for my age! Boom! We made instant plans of travel and explored places near to us until we felt we had done enough!

Now, being on bench for a long time is not too safe. You might just slip into unemployment. Thankfully to me, I started getting interview calls and just as I was wondering where next weather-wise, the Golden Gate is beckoning me. What with this new place being (almost) considered as Silicon Valley - birth of semiconductor chips, hence computer, hence software - kinda feeling that I am now headed to the roots of my profession...

The Place Where It All Began!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

'Last Day In Office'

In 10+ years of my professional life, I haven't had too many experiences with writing "Farewell" emails. Primarily because, if I got into a project, I stayed in that project for a really long time - so long that I had to beg my supervisors to release me. 

So, the first 'farewell email opportunity' that I got was when I (asked and) got released from my first project after 2+ years. But since hardly any of my previous team mates were present at that point of time, I gave it a miss. 

My second 'farewell email opportunity' came when I finished up my first onsite (US) assignment and was heading back home, after a short duration of 7 months. But my interactions during this short stint was limited to a handful of people and hence the farewell went only to that group but each of them said I will be back to US soon, so it didn't really feel like a "farewell" farewell, since I would continue to interact with the same set of people back from offshore.

Sure enough, I was back in US soon, and working with the same team. A year later, it was a deja vu, since I was heading back to India. In that period, I had interacted with quite a few people and when they heard that I was heading back, some of them really missed me. But again, like before, I would be 'still around' and interacting with same team members, and hence not really a farewell. Finally, when this project ended after 5 years, there was only one other guy in the team and it didn't seem worthwhile to write a farewell email. 

So, the 'real-deal's were only twice. Once (last year) when I quit my company after 9+ years and next (last month) when my 1.25 year old assignment ended in my new (current) company. Although the 1.25 year stint seemed small, the project which I was leading had made me interact with over 200 people in the short span since it was a heavy-impact high-risk initiative. So, in these two 'Goodbye' emails, I included all those whom I had come across in my professional life. Both just had a simple subject line of 'Bye' (although I was tempted a lot to say 'So long and thanks for all the fish'!) and a simple statement that my time had come to an end, with details of my coordinates for those who wished to keep in touch.

Responses to the farewell email ranged from formal nonchalant 'Congrats for new role' to real disappointment in seeing me go. It is these 'disappointment-reactions' that touched me most. Their disappointment almost made me disappointed. Some of the reactions, especially the ones where I had to break the news in person was heartwarming. It was as if the solid ground on which they were standing had shook. 

I am not boasting to state that I was like the 90s Tendulkar in the team where the whole country depended on him to deliver, but people's disappointment showed me how much I was valued and how much my work was appreciated. Some of their sentences, I could sense was coming from the very bottom of their heart. They did not polish it to make it better, they let their souls speak, sometimes even grammatically incorrect and some did not even express electronically as a response to my email - just a mere sad shake of their head when they moved past my cubicle was sufficient to let me know how they were feeling about my departure. 

It is then I realized how much I was wanted! I felt happy to have touched so many people's lives, and to have made them happy during my professional interactions with them. In my work and in my simple act of everyday duty, I had made my fellow team members happy. I would be cherished and remembered (even if not for a long time, even if not like The Little Master) by those with whom I had interacted. 

It felt good now to have left my previous company. For if I had continued to stay there, folks here would never have known me. It felt good to be leaving this place now too, for it gives me an opportunity to make more people happy as a result of my future professional interactions. 

I am sure this is the same with everyone. As I heard someone say the other day, everyone goes to office to do a good job. It is just ironic that you don't feel wanted or important until you are moving on. One does not get appreciation every day, and it is somehow reserved for 'The Last Day In Office'! That goes for me too: In that project where I stayed for 5 years, I expressed my deepest appreciations only as a response to the many farewell emails I received during my tenure.

In the same line of thought, as long as you don't keep moving on, you will not feel this importance nor worthiness! It is very much akin to what I had mentioned as a last thought in the previous year's post: it makes you wonder why you have not done this often!!

:-)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Veg and Non-Veg

There was a farewell party yesterday noon at office for a colleague of mine which I couldn’t attend due to a conflicting meeting. After the meeting was over, I was walking along the empty office corridors when I saw another colleague of mine who had also skipped the party (due to whatever personal reasons). She is also Asian but not Indian. She commented how good the party would have been considering that it was an Indian buffet, with such variety of food and how she loved Indian food and spices.

We went on talking about Indian food for about 20 minutes and during the course of the conversation, she came to know that I was a vegetarian. She asked me if I had become one, and I said I was always a vegetarian and brought up by a vegetarian family. I even went on to say that most restaurants and fast-food joints in my native city just served vegetarian food, and she - being a non-vegetarian - was shocked that such a vast majority of vegetarian people lived! (I remember a similar conversation my parents had with a bunch of Asian [non-Indian] teenage girls that they had met during a 3-day bus tour to Washington DC in 2006). My colleague being a knowledgeable person on all kinds of cuisine, spoke to me in depth on how she had cooked and tried eating many cuisine for a certain period of time, such as 3 months, to fully soak in their values.

In her opinion, being vegetarian makes you weak especially if you are used to eating non-veg. Since she runs for 2 hr stretches as part of her work out (she is a mother of two, by the way!), she can make out the difference when she is having non-veg and veg diet. She said she felt like she ran out of gas whenever she used to run for long stretches while being on the latter. However, she felt pure since she was not having meat, and this was more of a mental thing - for lack of better explanation. She even tried convincing her friend how pure she felt after eating veg for 3 months!

And since she reads so much about food, she said that eating meat might cause many diseases whereas eating veg will keep you healthy in the long run. As a parting statement, she joked that I will live 200 years since a vegetarians’ skin cells live longer and healthier life as compared to non-vegs; and I parted joking that my skin might live up to 200 years but my heart will run out of gas sooner, due to the vast variety of Indian sweets and oil-soaked snacks that I liked eating!

***

Today, I was chatting with a close chum of mine, whom I have known since decades and I always thought he was a vegetarian because he comes from a Brahmin family, the sect which preaches and follows vegetarianism. But to my shock he said he is secretly having non-veg food since a decade, forced into it by his peers, and fallen for the taste. For some reason, this shook my foundations and I could not chat further.

I couldn’t place what made me upset. Was it him defecting to the other camp? Was it the thought of how this news would affect his parents who had brought him up all these years as a Brahmin, and with whom he still lived. Was it because he was a non-veg since a decade and I never knew it so long? I came up with a list of questions for myself but never could figure out what made me upset.

It is not as if I am an anti-non-veg campaigner going around everywhere preaching about ill-effects and immorality of eating animals. It cannot be because what he was doing was bad, because eating meat is neither considered bad nor illegal. It is not like smoking weed or being an alcohol addict, because if it was, then I could have advised him against. I have many good friends of mine who eat non-veg, and enjoy it thoroughly too, and I have no qualms with them, nor do I advise them to be vegetarians.

In this particular case, for some reason (maybe because he was a close chum), I did feel an urgent sense of asking him not to continue his non-veg lifestyle though. But I didn’t even know whether to advise him or not. The only thing I could have advised, even if I wanted to, was not to eat meat because he was a Brahmin. I cannot ask him to think about all those animals which would be killed – because there is an argument that even plants have lives and vegetarians are killing lives, in a way, too. But to ask him to stop eating something just because of his religion didn’t hold enough steam, for I am not too much of a religious follower either. So I would have invited comments like ‘How much of a Brahmin are you, anyways?!’ So I just stayed put, didn’t comment and logged out of the chat window graciously, although my mind was in a complete state of turmoil.

The only way I could have let off steam from my fuming mind was by writing, and this blog post is the by-product.

Well, I guess, the best exit line would be: To Each His Own.

Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Two Years

This day two years ago, April 29th 2011, we landed in Washington DC airport. It was a big sigh of relief when we set foot on the US soil. When we went back from Boston in Dec 2009 to India, it was with a hope that we will return soon. But one thing led to the other, and we ended up staying for almost 1.5 years.

During this 1.5 years, a plan was formed. A vague plan but with a definite outline. It will be an understatement to say that this plan was accomplished for it was not just completed but it was completed with a flavor that even I did not expect. One of the pivotal moves was to shift to California, a place that I had dreamed of staying once in my life, after having heard so much about it.

Surprising part of it is that me being the kind of person to move with the flow of Life, things could not have happened if Life itself had not offered the stepping stones which led to the remarkable turn of events. There was a reason why I had to come to US. There was a reason why I had to quit the company that sent me to US. There was a reason why I had to move to California. There seemed to be a reason for every thing that occurred, and yet it was all in-line with the plan. I just had to grab it and go with it.

Part of the plan was to stay for a minimum of 2 years. I always remember those who wished me to stay for this duration, for they blessed like angels. And today, those 2 years comes to an end. Another check mark. There were highs and lows, but it had to be done. Again, for many reasons.

As if on a cue, the three-week India trip planned in the coming weekend is almost like a celebration for accomplishing what I had set out to do. It just so happened that the India trip got planned exactly after finishing the 2 year continuous stint in the US. It is akin to a pat on my back, although it just happened so, like the flow of Life. The plan, the vague outline - it is all like jigsaw puzzles falling automatically into place, after much deliberation.

There is much to decide about the next two years. Perhaps the India trip will give me time to think this through. For now, just livuring India.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Weather Journey

Ok, one more blog on weather, after a long time!

I am from Bangalore, India. Weather-wise it stays pretty constant: whether it is summer or winter or whatever month the Year churns up. So other than feeling a little sweaty in summer and little chilly in winter, ‘weather’ is a no-brainer. When the ‘weather’ section comes up in the news channel, it was time to change the channel!

I (bachelor) came to Marlborough, USA in March 2005. [Gosh, that was 8 years ago?!!] A huge communication mix-up and lack of patience on my part led me to make my own transportation from airport to home. As I drove in the cab, I saw white snow everywhere. It was a strange sight.

Gradually, I understood ‘weather’ in US. Which regions were colder, how colder, which regions were hot and how hot – and it wasn’t just about temperature. There were hurricanes, snowstorms, tornadoes and so much more that it just cannot be a ‘last section in the news channel’! It perfectly made sense to have a channel and website dedicated to US weather! A news channel that indicated how the weather would be for the following week gave an insight to the apparel that needed to be chosen. Trip plans were dependent on weather. Going for a stroll outside necessitated a temperature-check. Suddenly the whole life revolved around weather!

Cold was not just a thing to be annoyed about. There were many positives too. Such as snow. Fresh snow strewn over electric wires, over trees, over houses made the world look surreal. It made the world look pretty; it gave the eyes something different to see although it was the same neighborhood. Then there were the climate changes. October suddenly become a month to travel around seeing trees change colors. Whoever heard of trees changing colors?!! At least not me until the age 23!

These are not things which one gets to experience in Bangalore, nor does one even hear about. Here ‘weather’ was a real and “alive” thing, not just a theory mugged up to pass exams! Here there was a true meaning and definition to ‘seasons’ – it changed, and with it the wardrobe changed, stocks in retail stores changed, trees changed. Gosh, so many things changed! And it keeps changing quarterly in a year! It is suddenly fun, like being on a carousel where the view of things kept changing and repeating with a pre-defined frequency!

I was on and off US from 2007 through 2011 but whenever I was in US, I was within 100 miles of Marlborough. And then, we (family now) moved from the East Coast to West Coast in 2012. That celebrated state called ‘California’. I guess in some ways it was like a dream come true. I had heard so much about the state, had even visited SFO and LA during couple of long weekends. I guess one of the reasons I was so keen on moving to California was due to its weather too. Especially SoCal weather. It almost likened the weather in Bangalore. It removed the annoyance of wearing multiple layers of clothing from head to toe just to throw the trash out. Throwing the trash would take less than a minute, wearing the dress to venture out would take several minutes – including the time to dress up the little toddler who sees an opportunity to play with the snow outside and wants to accompany.

But, although the weather is great here, constantly in 60s and 70s, we almost miss snow and the changes that each of the seasons bring. Good thing though is that within a short 2-3 hour drive, we could experience pretty much all the things that each season boasts - especially due to the high mountains all around. There is snow, there are fall colors and there is even a desert nearby.

Here again there is no need to be so much dependent on weather. Most days, you will be fine even if you venture out in your shorts and sandals. Then it made me and my wife wonder. Folks from India who start off their US life in California will not find much of a difference in terms of weather. And then when they move out of California to the colder regions of US, they might miss California because of all that California offers. It offers cold when you want it & heat when you want it within a few hours’ drive, and ambient temperature at home town. In the other regions, if it is cold, it is cold all around unless you fly out far and if it is hot, it is hot all around unless you fly out far. There is not much of a choice.

Those like us, on the other hand, who happened to experience the East Coast before moving to California, can appreciate the ‘weather’ value of this state. It is like a pinnacle, an ultimatum that is attained after traversing through the harsh wilderness.

Of course, with comfort of the climate comes the discomfiture of the cost of living. And tax! And fuel prices!! It might or might not be related to weather, but it sure is jaw-dropping! I guess, in US it finally boils down to weather versus cost of living because both do not go hand-in-hand.

Anyways, this has been our weather journey so far. It might be the pinnacle but it might not end up being the destination. What cometh next is interesting to know…!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Medical Specialists

Often I wonder what makes a doctor specialize in one specific part of the body. What triggers anyone to want to look at people’s teeth all their lives? Or ears, or eyes, or skin? What makes anyone want to specialize on human body’s grossest part and become a proctologist? I doubt if it is because of the money or if it is because of the demand and lack of supply. Think about the dreams these doctors would have!
The thing that I don’t understand is this: was it a dream that they wanted to specialize in such parts of body or it just happened so? I can understand if it is the latter. What I call as “going through the flow of the river of life.” I can understand it because I relate to it better. Let’s say you are studying medical because that was your dream and you are as yet undecided what to specialize in – I can relate to this. You get average grades and the only specialized medical profession that accepts such grades is something that you cannot tell openly to your family and friends unless they talk about it to you because they are having a problem – I can relate to this too.
What I cannot understand though is that my experience with all these specialized doctors [either because I myself had a problem or I had to meet such doctors because of my family] is amazing. Their analysis and surgery is spot-on. Their humility is unsurpassed. Their confidence doesn't demand a ‘second-opinion’.
They cannot be doing what they are doing because they got into the profession by the ‘flow of river of life’ or because they got average grades. They are clearly doing what they are doing because they want to do what they like doing. This is what boggles my mind. This fact that the Supreme Being programmed a certain percentage of the population to aim for specialization in a unique part of the body to cater to Man’s natural “body” problems is what boggles me.
But for these ‘specialists’, it numbs the mind what would have happened to the rest of us.
But for these ‘mini-Gods’, ours could not have been a great world.
Other than just bowing inwardly and thanking the Heaven for these God-sends, there is nothing else to do when each time I sit helplessly in the hospital or in the waiting room of such doctors. Again, Saint Tyagaraja’s immortal words come to my mind:
Endaro Mahanubhavulu Andariki Vandamulu.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Loving, Doing, Living

Random questions during drive back home today...

To love what you do
or
To do what you love?

To live the way you love to
or 
To love the way you live?

To do what you love and not love the way you live
or
To live the way you love and not do what you love?

To love to live
or
To love to do?

Just love?
or
Just live?
or
Nike?

:-)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Health Check

Wheat bread instead of White bread? Check.
Daily green tea? Check.
Daily almonds? Check.
Taking stairs instead of elevator? Check.
Drinking lots of water? Check.

150 hours of moderate weekly exercise? Uncheck.
Keeping the brain challenged? Uncheck.
Brown rice? Uncheck.
Less sweets? Uncheck.
Saying “No” to Junk food? Uncheck.

Synopsis: For every good, there is an equivalent bad. This offsets Nature to either give a truly healthy life or a truly unhealthy life - and it all balances out in the end. At least, that is the hope!