Thursday, October 12, 2017

Storytelling time

The long day was winding down towards the usual predictable close.  It was 9PM.  My wife and I sat back to watch the first of many episodes of a chosen series for the evening.  Soon, it was midnight.  We were contemplating whether to watch one more or hit the bed.  We eventually ended up watching two more and went to bed.  It was 2 AM.  We got up late the next morning, went to work at a relaxed pace and got back from work late.  Nothing felt out of sorts.

Fast forward life by a couple of years.  The long day was winding down towards the usual predictable close.  My wife and I were scrambling to put the kids to sleep.  It was already 8PM.  The whole bed time routine is pretty mind-boggling.  Akhil would brush his teeth, which means I'd have to brush my teeth as well.  Even before he gets to the sink, he would say, "Appa, Brusss".  I would do the mandatory correction.  "Akhil, it's not brusss, it's brushhhhh."  He would let out an exaggerated, "Brusssssssss".  I'd nod, with tiredness oozing out from every cm of my body.

"Appa, read books", he'd say.  Some days are great, where both of us would lap up about three or four books in the next half hour to 45 minutes.  Some days, he'd have absolutely no concentration in what I am reading out.  He would be all over the place.  There is a book about this boy named David; he's a prankster kid who gets into all sorts of daily troubles.  Akhil would enjoy his travails.  "Appa, David pulling doggy tail.  Doggy sad".  Suddenly, he'd hear a dog bark in the neighborhood and he'd go, "Appa, Akhil scared of doggy." After a few more of such interactions, I'd say, "Akhil, it's time to sleep.  Appa will tell some stories and you can go to bed."  Some days, he'd listen to the stories from me and other days, he'd want his mother.  "I want Amma coming", he'd say and when that happens even if the heavens fall, he has to have his mom.

Anyway, whoever it is for the night, we'd go on a storytelling spree.

"Appa, I want spiderman story."

"There was this spiderman.  He would do Tsk Tsk, and weave a web from his hand to a building.  He would then jump to the building, and rescue the good boys from the bad boys."

I would wait to see if he could comprehend and converse with me.

"Appa, I want green spiderman story."

Of all the things in the story, I would wonder how the color piqued his interest.

"What?", I'd ask.

"I want green spiderman story", he'd grin sheepishly.

I would repeat the entire story and just replace spiderman with green spiderman.

Now, what?, I'd ask.

"I want blue spiderman story."

Thus, it would go on back and forth until he covered the whole spectrum of visible light.

At this point, I don't know about him, but my eyes would be drooping.  He'd be behaving like as though the first ray of sun just fell on his eyes.

He has a fascination for machines.  He'd want to know about the washer and dryer.  We would make up some story regarding the machines.

And then, the dreaded response, "Appa, I want green dryer story."

The cycle continues with every story.

The whole bed time routine brings to mind what Jerry Seinfeld said about parenting.  My wife and I laugh mindlessly at this brilliant summary.

The bedtime routine for my kids is like this Royal Coronation Jubilee Centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi-circle of emotional support. And I’ve gotta read eight different moron books. You know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? Darkness!

After all the stories, he'd want a couple of songs and then he'd say the words that I would be waiting for a long time, "Appa, I want to go to sleep."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The books of 2016

I would pick up a book and start reading.  I would read and read and read, maybe for two or three months.  I wouldn't want to give up on it just yet.  Let me try for a few more days, I would think.  And then, finally, I would just end the misery.  A hundred pages into the book, maybe, and I would never set eyes on the rest.  The scarring would be so deep that I wouldn't take any more books for the rest of the year.  And then, the year end, and new year resolutions and the cycle would repeat again.  I was embarrassed and hurt.  I wasn't like this.  I would read a lot in my school days as well as in my Engineering days.  It's just that with the advent of the internet, and YouTube and host of other streaming sites, the amount of distraction had increased manifold that I couldn't invest my time in books with the same amount of focus that I had in the past.  In spite of the many bleak reading years, I would still complete one or two books in a year and those were mainly fiction.

Personally, I was fed up of giving the excuse, "I just can't read anymore.  I used to read a lot in my college days." I realized that that was the lamest excuse I gave to others when discussing reading habits.  I could as well have said, "I have lost interest in reading books.  I just read snippets online and watch movies and series, one after the other." I could also not bring myself to say, "I have no time." The "not reading" habit was also affecting me emotionally.  I wanted to read but couldn't get myself to read books.  The feeling of not completing a book hurt a lot.  Only a fellow reader can understand what I was going through.

And then, after many years of huffing and puffing, in 2016, I set myself a pretty ambitious goal of completing 12 books by the end of the year.  I started with a couple of parenting books, then biographies, a couple in fiction and lots of non-fiction.  A couple of books later, I had got myself into a rhythm.  My TV time reduced a lot.  As soon as we put our son to sleep, we would quickly finish our evening chores and I would get into a world of my own.  It was my time.  I didn't want to waste watching TV or browsing useless stuff on the internet.  It was magical (not a hyperbole).  I could understand what makes Elon Musk tick.  What exactly happened to Christopher McCandless in Alaska? How to treat infants and toddlers with love and respect? The most riveting and emotionally draining book I read was When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi.  It was simply fantastic.  By the end of the book, I was literally in tears.  I read some really inspiring mountaineering experiences - climbers summiting Everest and K2.  I read about three or four novels. By the end of the year, I realized that I had totally grown out of fiction.  It didn't interest me as much as it did in the past.

Overall, I was happy to be back in the midst of books.  I also realize that there is a lot of time to do things that you really like.  After a point, reading was like an addiction.  I just wanted to keep going.  The target was 12.  But, by the end of the year, I had read 25.  Here goes my list of books that I read in 2016.

I hope 2017 can be as enriching as 2016 as far as reading is concerned. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Pre and post 2014 travel thoughts

It was some time ago, when my blog would have a couple of posts every year dedicated to travel.  Now, unless it is absolutely mandatory for me to travel, I don't take it up and so my travel posts have dried up as well (It's ironical that my last post was on my Amsterdam business travel, but I guess you get the drift).

Earlier, my wife and I would make detailed plans before visiting a place.  Naturally, we ended up visiting a lot of beautiful places in the world.  Travel changes you as a person - so many cultures to learn, different kinds of people to meet, taste different cuisines, explore beautiful landmarks, experience the local transport and learning day to day aspects of how people go about their lives.  The whole experience is truly fascinating.

When we explored Alaska, it was just breathtaking.  We thought we'd never see something as beautiful.  I mean how nature could be so pristine and welcoming was so hard to fathom for us, having come from densely populated areas.  Then, our next big trip was New Zealand and Bora Bora.  It was as though New Zealand was taking a dig at us - Do you think Alaska is the only place to offer something surreal? Bora Bora took us to a different level.  And then you realize that each place with its unique permutation and combination of mountains, hills, water and greenery, can offer its unique surreal experience.

Now, the priorities have changed.  We have a toddler at home.  Going to the nearby Target or Safeway feels like a vacation.  We do have to plan now, but on a different level.  How many diapers to take, how to stock our bags with toddler food, how to engage him if he gets bored (which means, you pack some toys in there) and so on.  It's a different ball game.  Apart from the mandatory India trip, we don't plan a lot of travel.  Just the sheer magnitude of things to consider is daunting.

Our day to day life is consumed with thoughts of how to go about managing our day (read son).  Like I said in one of the earlier posts, our routine is so well established that any deviation from the norm leads to all round chaos.  At this stage, we just don't want that.  I say this to my wife, "Travel can wait.  Let's give ourselves a couple of years more." I am not sure if that's the right approach.  But then, it's best to enjoy travel when you are mentally ready for it.

We just have to head out of the house, sit in the car and one of us would quip "Looks like we have to change his diaper." If that's not the case, then that would be the instant when he would want to sip his water bottle, which he would have thrown it to the ground.  And after throwing all the tantrums for a sip, he would again throw the bottle and the process would repeat, again and again and again until we reach the store.  We would reach the store and he would get on the shopping cart, get into all kinds of positions, some risky and some mind bending.  Every trip is an adventure.  When I say trip, I meant every trip to a grocery store or nearby.

Now, we just love to see all the theatrics that our son has up his sleeve.  It's fascinating to see his day to day progress, soak up his tantrums, cherish the love and affection that he displays time and again and explain the little things that arouses his curiosity.  This for us is more than what any travel can do for us.  There are different stages in life and life becomes great when you realize the expectations at each stage.  At this stage, we wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

So, coming to the point of travel, if somebody asks me about seeing new places, this is what I'd say "Oh, it's just the permutation and combination of mountains, hills, water and greenery." :-)

We'll travel the world.  Till then we'll wait.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Europe, then and now

In the year 2005, I landed in the Stuttgart Airport with my colleague and friend to a pall of chill wintry winds slapping our faces.  The snow flakes were flying thick and fast.  People back in Bangalore had advised me to take thick jackets and be wary of the snow.  "It's going to be cold at this time of the year", they said with the same expression as some of the characters in Game of Thrones say, "Winter is coming."  I was nervous.  Those days, I used to be nervous about everything.  So, I had packed long winter jackets, woolen caps, woolen socks, shoes that weighed a few tons, and thermal ware.  When I say I was packed, I mean it.  I had a check in baggage which contained all kinds of food items.  "I don't know what you'll get there.  I have also put some rice and lentils in there", she told me.

The canal running through Amsterdam
It was my first international travel experience.  I had a lot of apprehension and excitement in visiting Europe.  Somehow, Europe is a dream destination for everyone, what with the rich cultural heritage and traditions.  Europe evokes awe.  So, naturally, I was excited.  The kind of travel advice I was getting from colleagues was quite funny.  "You know a few strands of coriander costs 1€." I didn't know how important that information was, but I took it in.  I was advised about the S-Bahns and the U-Bahns, about the public transport in general, the general way of life, and so on.  Anyway, a lot of it was good advice that helped me soak in the European experience.  We traveled to a couple of different countries around Germany and overall, it was a lot of fun.  Those days, I was working in Bosch, probably the most respected company in Europe and even more so in Germany.  During travel in the trains, I would randomly be asked by the authorities to pull out my passport  for verification.  And as soon as they saw the Bosch ID card tucked in, they would feel guilty of even questioning me, "Oh, you are from Bosch.  You don't have to pull out your passport." When I narrated this experience to friends, they would say, "Yeah, it happens all the time.  We are Asians.  This won't be the last time." They were true that it wasn't the last time.  But about the Asian part, I don't know.  In the US, and in the bay area, something like this is unheard of.  The Indian and Chinese population is so well integrated with the rest of the society in the bay area that something like this happening is not even imaginable.  

Coming from India, I always found the calm and quiet way of life a bit disconcerting.  I was so used to seeing people back home.  Evenings after 6PM were generally quiet.  Not many people on streets, shops were shut at 6 PM.  On Saturdays, they closed at 4PM.  On Sundays, practically nothing was open.  This was in Stuttgart, one of the main cities of Germany.  So, I could imagine how the not so big cities would be.

After about 11 years, I am on a business visit to Europe, this time to Eindhoven, about an hour from Amsterdam in Netherlands.  Unlike last time, this time, our trip was planned just a couple of days before the actual departure date.  I did not carry most of the stuff I carried with me the first time.  What with having lived most of my last ten years outside India, I was more confident and sure of myself.  International travel was no more a black box.

High Tech Campus, Eindhoven
We spent a day exploring the city.   The air was wet thanks to the incessant drizzle.  For me, the weather is never important when exploring a new place.  I feel that whatever may be the conditions, one has to enjoy the setting.  Amsterdam is really beautiful.  The canals pass through the city at different places with streets along the canals decked with restaurants and houses.  It was fun walking around aimlessly.  Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and I could see why. We were hunting for lunch on Sunday and found that most of the restaurants opened only at 5 PM and the rest opened at around noon.  We had a good meal in an Indonesian Restaurant. Even though Germany and Netherlands are two different countries, there is a general commonality that cannot be missed - the calmness, history and heritage.

Then, we moved to Eindhoven, where the population is pretty sparse compared to Amsterdam.  When we reached Eindhoven, it was about 615 PM on a Sunday.  The city was practically empty.  We went to the High Tech Campus Area the next day.  My colleague who was travelling with me told me that the tech area had not changed at all in the last ten years.  Previously, it was occupied by Philips, but now, it was a bunch of companies grouped in the area.  It was ironic because the landscape of Asia and the US has changed considerably in ten years.  It is like time freeze, my friend said.  One of the local guys told us that even though the landscape was the same, the jobs number was good now.  We noticed that the cost of food was very high.  A decent dinner cost a person about 25€.

Fake Tulips on flower street
My stay in the Netherlands is only for a week, but the last time I was in Europe, I was here for about a couple of months.  I found the general calmness in the air a bit unnerving.  After staying in the bay area, with people always loitering around late in the evenings, there is always a buzz in the air.  I kind of miss that here even now.  In the bay area, I have never looked up Google to see if a restaurant would be open at 6 on Sunday evenings.  Even at 9PM on a Sunday evening, I can go to a Safeway or a Target to buy a gallon of milk.  Something like that is unthinkable here.

Things have changed considerably in the last 11 years.  I was single, ready to put in long days in Germany for work purpose.  A work extension did not worry me too much.  It was fun exploring different parts of Europe.  Now, that's changed, what with having to leave behind my wife and toddler.  My mind was constantly pegged to how my wife was handling my son, whether he was missing me and a million other things as a parent.  We had to put in long hours so that we could take the earliest flight back home, even if that meant coding and debugging for 24 hours straight.

The most popular mode of transport
My wife and I always dream of exploring different places in the world.  It's a fascinating experience.  We even think that we should have a stint in Europe for a couple of years.  I don't know if that would be possible, but I would love to explore Europe with my family and experience the laid back lifestyle that is just not imaginable in the bay area.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The reason

Nadeem looked into her eyes.

"Are you sure?", he asked with a glint in his eye.  "Or are you trying to trick me?"

"No, I am not kidding.  Look at this strip." Banu offered the smudged test strip to her husband.

Nadeem did not even have to strain his eyes to look at the two lines on the strip.  The two dark blue lines were clearly visible.  More than shock, he was utterly confused.

"How can it happen?", he asked her.  "We were super careful, isn't it?"

"I don't know", her voice quivered.

Five years ago, when Nadeem and Banu were getting married in a rather unconventional way at the marriage registration bureau, he had clearly told her that he did not want to have kids.  He had warned her.  Repeatedly.  In no uncertain terms.  He had explained his position as clearly as he could.
And during every single intimate moment, they never forgot.

"It was lucky you found me", Banu would say.  "Even I am not particular about kids.  Else you would never have found a woman for life."

Nadeem would break into a grin.  "I don't care."

Nadeem had seen the unwavering selfless commitment required by parents to raise kids.  He knew it was no easy task.  He felt there was no way that he could do any justice as a parent.  He had always thought of himself as a selfish person.  To show selfless, unconditional love towards anyone was not his way of life.  He had seen how his mother had raised him, his three brothers and two sisters.  He didn't even want to relive how much she had to endure to put her family in a comfortable situation.

In fact, Nadeem and Banu were asked the question many a time at family gatherings.

"Are you guys still not planning to have a child?", Nadeem's mother would ask.

"No, mom.  You can ask me repeatedly.  But, the answer is still no.  Nothing's changed."

"Why are you so adamant?", his uncle would pop the question.

The questioning from friends and family was relentless.

Fast forward to today, Nadeem couldn't still believe what he was hearing.

"What do you want to do? I want to have this child", Banu said.  She feared the worst.

"Don't worry.  We are going to have this child", said Nadeem.

Banu looked surprised.  But, she didn't ask any further questions lest her husband changes his mind.  She left it at that.

At the next family gathering, Nadeem and Banu conveyed the news to the family members.  All of them were pleasantly surprised, and of course, totally confused.  Nadeem's mother was truly baffled.  She knew her son very well.  Once he decided on something, nothing in the world would bring him to change his decision.  It was a quality he had imbibed from her.

"So, what made you change your mind?", she asked her son.

"It's true that we never wanted to have kids.  We were careful at every step.  But, in spite of all our efforts, if this child had the will to beat all the odds, then I think we should respect the strength and the will of the child to stay alive.  So, he or she deserves to live.  I can't fight destiny."

Everyone remained silent for a few seconds after Nadeem provided the explanation.  His mother was lost for words.  Tears were rolling down her cheek.

"Mom, why are you getting so emotional?", Nadeem asked.

"You have not changed at all.  Even as a kid you were like this", she said.

"Back in those days, in Iran, the ants used to hunt down the honey and help themselves to oodles of it.  The honey bottles would be filled with ants.  In order to beat the ants, we used to store the honey in bottles suspended in water in a large tank.  That way the ants wouldn't be able to walk across the water to get to the honey.  One morning, when we removed the bottle from the tank and opened it, we found a solitary ant inside the bottle.  One solitary ant.  I was about to take the ant out and crush it.  But then, you stopped me and said.  "Mom, if this ant could risk its life, cross the water and get into an air-tight bottle to get to the honey, it means it really needs the honey.  Let it go.  Let it have the honey." I still remember the day.  I don't know if you do."

"You used the same logic today with your child."

[Based on a lunch conversation with a colleague]

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The idea of it

I've wanted to do many things in life and at different stages.  Since education was enforced upon me at an early age, I really thought that my parents were doing a big disservice to me.  I would rebel.  Why should I study? Why can't I play all day? were questions I would pose to my parents.  In India, at least when I was growing up, I didn't have too many options.  First, you had to become an engineer and then figure out what you wanted to do in life. 

Over a period of time, you realize that you had to do something with total dedication to pursue your interests.  I used to envy the cricketers.  Wow, they are doing something that they really like.  I wish I could be like them.  Then, one fine day, my friends and I decided that we will play everyday in the early mornings.  We followed rigorously for a day or two before one after the other started dropping out on some pretext or the other.  And then after some days, nobody even spoke about early morning cricket routines.  My mother was very keen that my brother learn Carnatic music.  My brother has a gift for music.  But then, everything requires dedication and practice.  After some days, I don't have to say, but I think you get the point.  

Like I said in one of my earlier posts, the fact that everything turns into a routine at some stage does not help.  Being a cricketer feels easy, but hardly so.  Otherwise, everyone would have turned into a Tendulkar or Kohli.  It's just that the idea of doing something different feels good than the prospect of actually doing it.

 Often, I get into one of these introspective moods.  It doesn't do any good to me, and when I reveal what I think, it certainly doesn't please my wife.  There are many who think before they speak.  I certainly don't belong in this category.  

It was a couple of years ago.  I was telling my wife, "I am thinking.." Even before I could complete the sentence, she cut me off.  "This time, what?"

Wait till you listen to me, I said as though I was an epitome of thought and patience.

"Violin is such an awesome musical instrument, isn't it?", I said.

Knowing me, she asked in a puzzled voice.  "Okay, what are you thinking?"

"I want to enroll in a class.  I want to channel my inner musical voice to do something meaningful.  I don't have the ability to sing.  But, I feel, I will be able to do justice in learning to play a musical instrument", I said in a manner of "yes, I have made my decision" kind of confidence.  

"Do you know that the violin is probably the toughest musical instrument to learn?", she said as a matter of fact.

When a statement like that comes up, it becomes a personal challenge to prove her wrong.  

"Oh, I have always dreamed of playing the violin since childhood.  Don't discourage me now.  You have no idea how dedicated I will be.  In a couple of days, I will find the best violin teacher.  Wait and watch", I challenged her.

She let out a sigh.  "Praveen, you like the idea of playing a violin.  You don't actually want to play one.  Trust me."

So, I scaled the internet to find a violin teacher about ten miles from our residence.  I made an appointment.  My wife and I went to her place the next day in the evening.  

"Please watch me teach my students for half an hour.  And then, you can go home, think and then decide if you really want to learn the violin" was what she told me."

I wanted to blurt out, "No madam.  I am definitely interested."

My wife preempted my thoughts.  "Okay madam.  We will do as you say." We exchanged glances.

She had two students with her.  She was helping them with the posture.  "You should know how to hold the violin", she said.

And these were students who have been practicing with her for a couple of months.

And then, they followed the teacher's notes.  There were many jarring notes, obviously.   They played with excruciating difficulty.  It looked really hard.  I immediately felt that it required tons and tons of dedication and hard work.  It's not something I felt I could master easily.  

We stayed for about half an hour.  Then, we thanked the teacher and left.

"What do you think?", my wife asked me.  "Will you be able to handle that?"

"I think I can", I said with confidence evaporating faster than a drop of water in the Sahara.  

My wife smiled.  "You like the idea of playing a violin."

She left me at that.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Kindled Spirit

It's been a while since I graduated to e-books.  There is a massive amount of convenience associated with reading on a Kindle.  I don't have to toss and turn and adjust my position a thousand times when I turn the page.  And then, I don't have to listen to my wife who would tell me in no uncertain terms, albeit in a sleepy voice, "Praveen, please switch off the light" even if there was no more than a few lumens emitting out of the poor lamp.  I would sigh, sulk, and be tempted to get into an argument.  But then, I would still do the same things with just a little bit of difference.  I would sulk, sigh and switch off the light, and get to sleep and start browsing on my mobile phone.  There are other disadvantages associated with a physical book.  When I fall asleep, I would have no clue as to which page I was on when my eyes drooped.  So, I would have to rely on my memory to figure out the context and land myself in the vicinity of where I intended to be.  That was truly painful.  Of course I can wax eloquent about how beautiful it is to hold a book in your hands and feel the texture of the pages and smell the pages of a freshly minted book in a bookstore.  That can never be experienced in a Kindle but the other advantages far outweigh the hard copy.  And if the hard copy is really a big, fat, hard copy, then the light weighted Kindle is definitely a no brainer.

Anyway, I did not mean to write about the advantages of a Kindle over a hard copy when I started the post.  It's a different matter altogether that if I had written a post on the same topic a few years ago, I would have fought tooth and nail on the advantages of a hard copy. As always, I digress. I don't have to say how much my reading has dwindled over the years.  I always feel that the student days are the best days in your life.  There is so much time to read all and sundry.  During those days I used to think, "How I wish I am past the student life.  I'd have so much time to read books." Somehow, I would always (I should have put the "always" in caps actually) find an interesting book to read a day before a test or an exam.  I would put it off for a later date.  Magically, after the exams got over, I wouldn't find the book as interesting.  There was something magical about exams and distraction. All the great things happened during the exam season.  India's greatest ever test win happened a day before my Signals and Systems exam.  My brain was convoluted with thoughts of the test match and here I was trying to figure out the concept of Convolution in the exam.

Anyway, this was well before the internet era.  And then as other distractions caught up with my life, my reading was limited to what I'd find on the internet.  In the pre-internet era, I would read every tiny piece of every news article, including the editorials and op-eds of the Deccan Herald and the Times of India.  I would learn some new words, look into the dictionary and figure out the meaning.  It was a fascinating experience.  In the process, I also cultivated a bad habit.  I would sit on the floor during meal times and I would always have a newspaper by my side while eating.  My mother would yell at me but to no avail.  Even today, I have the urge to keep my laptop or Kindle by my side during meal times.  It's a very bad habit.

I am not sure how many read a long form article on the internet though (like in a New Yorker).  Recently, my friend was talking about active and passive watching  Active watching, he said is watching informative documentaries, while passive watching he said is useless stuff.  I think the same thing applies to reading as well.  Reading a gossip column on the internet would hardly qualify as reading.

One of the things I love being here in the US is the public library system.  The public libraries are truly phenomenal. I have a membership in at least three of them.  Actually, a membership in one is more than sufficient.  But, there is something exquisite about visiting libraries.  It's just an awesome feeling to step into a library, see a lot of kids running around with as many books as their hands can hold, and people standing in lines at the information desk asking questions about why their hold copies cannot be found or something as trivial as "Where do I find this book?" when you have at least five computers to help you search and find a copy of a book at a particular location.  For me, visiting a library is like visiting a shrine at the temple.  It's a devotional experience.  It just puts you in a different state of mind.  Anyway, I would go to a terminal, see the recommended books at the library, find one of interest and then find my way to the appropriate shelf to pick the hard copy of the intended book.  Like I said, for all the convenience of the Kindle, the feeling of holding a book in your hand is absolutely priceless.  I would browse around, pick about three or four books for the next three weeks.  My wife would do the same.  And then, we would pick a few more books for the little fellow.  My wife and I would grin at each other.  There is no way in the world that we are finishing so many books in three months, let alone in three weeks.  But then, it's good to have as many books as you can at home.  Even if you end up reading just a few pages in one of the books, I think it's still worth it to get the many books home.  You never know what you find until you start reading a book.  At any given point, I'd always have books on the hold list for e-books as well as hard copies.

There is the convenience of the Kindle but at any given point, our place always has e-books as well as physical copies.  At the end of the day, I'd always want to have books that I haven't read.  Even at the tiniest minuscule of time, if I feel like reading, I feel I shouldn't be in a situation wherein my lack of choice puts a hold on my reading, even if my reading lasts only for a few minutes.  Because, it's a great way to fall asleep holding an unfinished book instead of a mobile phone.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Days go by.  Months sail past.  Years fly by.  The one thing that remains constant is the daily routine.  You can change your routine once in a while, but when you try to stick to the change, that becomes yet another routine.  Oh, I should go to the gym thrice a week.  I should be reading daily.  I should be learning some new stuff.  I should write blog posts regularly.  All this is fine, but eventually, you've contributed to a routine.  So, I've realized that there is no escaping routine.

There are other things that keep me and my wife busy.  Rather, there is just one person who keeps us on our toes.  He is our, little older than a year, infant.  It's amazing how life changing a close to three feet tall fellow can be.  A few years ago, when I was getting married, one of my ex-colleagues told me, "Praveen, marriage is a life changing event, no doubt.  But then, you are two adults.  You will find a way to work things out together.  Wait till you have a baby.  That's what is truly a life changing event."  We didn't realize how true the statement was until we had our child.

Now, with the little fellow, we still have a routine.  With both of us working, having a routine is probably the best thing in life.  Anything out of the ordinary, anything that kills our routine kills our peace of mind.  The days are jam packed, starting at 5 AM and ending at 9 PM.  And then, we indulge in 40 minutes to one hour of Netflix or Amazon.  One hour.  That's it.  I am not kidding.  Sometimes, we don't even wait to watch the full episode.  We stop watching at some point.  By the time we finish, on most days, I would see my wife close her eyelids and say, "Praveen, let's continue tomorrow." Late nights for us end at 11 PM.  There is no luxury of late night binge watching.  One, we don't have the energy.  Two, we have to get up early in the morning, come what may.  In spite of that, I try to eke out some time for some things I just cannot miss, like watching the Federer Djokovic semi-final game a couple of nights ago.  Those days are rare though.

Yes, there is a routine.  But there are so many moments in the day that make the whole thing so worthwhile.  Taking care of a baby is stressful - mentally as well as physically.  The fact that we are responsible for shaping an individual's life can be overwhelming.  How do we make him eat better, how do we get him to sleep on time, what are the kind of activities we should engage with him, what are the books to read to him, what are the parenting books to read, how do we combat his cold and a million other things stick as a part of the daily schedule.  There are times he would throw the food away for no reason.  It's easy to lose your cool.  "Why are you doing this?" I would say in a loud voice.  And again, he would throw.  Kids do some(most) things for no apparent reason.  And then, I'd realize, "At this point, there is only one person who can control his behavior."

But then, now and then, he would find something really funny.  He'd pick a toy from his toy cupboard, find an instant connect with a car or a plush toy, look at us and flash the most beautiful smile, a smile that can only come to an innocent child, rendering everything else around us absolutely insignificant.  You have several such moments during the day and these moments make the whole experience absolutely worthwhile.

I read a passage several months ago.  I keep going back to the passage because every word is etched out to create magical sentences.  The last sentence, I would have read a few hundred times.  Now, we can really feel the meaning of that sentence to the last letter.
"Forty weeks come down to a mother's first moment, and everything changes.  Crying keeps her awake, but silence is deafening.  She'll teach him to walk only to chase him out of the street, out of a tree, and out of harm's way.  Then suddenly time stands still; long days and endless nights morph into years and as other mothers are chasing their babies, her baby is driving away.  The mathematics of motherhood: Days that last forever add up to years that pass in the blink of an eye."
In the midst of the routine, we find moments filled with boundless happiness and small joys sweeping aside the monotony that creeps into our everyday lives.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Krishnar Thaalattu (Krishna's lullaby)

Summer holidays were spent in the confines of our ancestral home at Pudukkotai, Tamil Nadu in the presence of many elders - paati (grandmother), athai paati (mother's aunt), thatha (grandfather), many mannis (aunts) and mamas (uncles).  There was an earthly charm in doing some of the mundane things as kids.  For us, they were anything but mundane.  Playing under the sun in a nearby maidaan (grounds) in soaring Tamil Nadu heat is no joke.  Our bodies would be dripped in sweat, and we would be coaxed by the elders to come back home for a break.

"Ennada, ippadi thoppala nenanjundu vandhurkel," they would say. (You guys are absolutely soaked).

"Go wash your hands and feet, or why don't you take a shower".  Taking a shower was pointless, because after a mini break of having lunch, we would head out again.  In a matter of minutes, we would again be soaking.

Being the eldest in the family, I was supposed to have responsibility.  My partner in crime was my cousin, who is just a year younger than me.  We would have our fights, plan our mischiefs together and figure out how to stay away from home from the prying eyes of the elders.  And then, slowly, every year, the members of the young troupe increased one by one.  In a joint family, with a collection of elders and young ones, there is never a shortage of fun and frolic.

The houses those days were very different from homes of today.  It was a long stretch from the front courtyard to the backyard with a number of rooms.  Our atthai paati occupied the oonjal (swing) at the center of the living area.  It was a long wooden plank, and whenever I go back to the days of my atthai paati, I can only imagine her occupying the position on the swing with kids on either side, and singing the lullabies for the kids.  With her loud, clear, crisp voice, she would sing,

Gopala Krishna Swamy Gokulathiley, Kuzhandayi roopam kondu vilaiyaadinar...

All of us were lulled into sleep thanks to the Krishna lullabies.  She had a whole collection of them, but the one that sticks in my memory is the one I mentioned above.

She would get up at four or five in the morning, when the youngest member of the household wakes up, render all the lullabies for about two to three hours.

Generations of kids have been soothed to sleep, thanks to the way it has been passed from elders in the family.

Now that my mother is here to take care of her grandson for a few months, she sings these lullabies to my son.  It gives me a chance to happily relive those glorious days of time spent in the summer.

I told my mother, "Everything is available on Youtube.  Let me Google it and bring it to you.  And you will see that this song would be renditioned in many different versions."

As I Googled, I was super surprised to see that there was not a single audio or video of the song.  In fact, there were a lot of people who had requested this song.

My mother also mentioned about Ananthamkaatu kummi, a collection of songs that were transferred to her by her atthai.

"I have the book at home, back in India, with all the lyrics", she said.

In an era when we try to digitize and preserve as much information as we can, it is surprising that some of the classic old lullabies that have been passed several generations down may be lost forever.  So, I told my mother, "Let's have your rendition of the lullaby uploaded to youtube.  At least, there will be some folks grateful for it."

These songs are true masterpieces that definitely deserve a wider audience.  That way, we will have a chance to sing these lullabies to the next generation of kids.  These classics deserve to be preserved.

Lyrics (in Tamil) - தமிழ் 
கோபால கிருஷ்ண ஸ்வாமி கோகுலத்திலே
குழந்தைரூபமாய் வந்து விளையாடினார்
ஆசனதீயிலே முத்து தொங்கவே
வாசுவகபிலஸ்தலம் மார்பில் அசைய

கஸ்தூரி திலகம் நெற்றியிலிட்டு யசோதை
கனகமுத்து கொண்டை சவைசூடினால்
முத்து மாலை சாற்றிய தோள்வளையிட்டு யசோதை
பத்திரமாய் தங்கத்தினால் அரைநால்லிட்டாள்

கிண்கிணி அரைநிறைய தங்கக்கட்டியே யசோதை
தங்கவளை கையிலிட்டு மோதிரமிட்டாள்
காலுக்கு தண்டையிட்டு காதிரெண்டிலும்
மகரகுண்டலமாசய கண்ணுக்கு மையிட்டாள்

யசோதை இடுப்பில் வெச்சு வெளியில் நிக்கவே
இறங்கி ஸ்வாமி ஓடினார் விளையாட
தன்னோடத்த குமாரரும் தானும் சேர்ந்து
ஜலக்கரை உள்ளே மட்டும் எங்கும் ஓடினார்

பிடிக்கப்போனவர் கையில் அகப்படாமலே
கூர்ந்து கிரஹம் தோறும் விளையாடினார்
தங்கநிறவட்டில்நிறை வெண்ணெய் சேர்த்து
தங்கமே பாலகிருஷ்ணா வெண்ணெய்வாரீரோ

எனக்கும்  ரெண்டு குழந்தைக்கும் மரப்பாச்சிக்கும்
அதுக்கும்கூட வெண்ணெய் தந்தாள் உண்ணுவேனென்றார்
மரப்பாச்சி வெண்ணையை உண்ணுமோ கிருஷ்ணா..
பெருத்தவாயாலே வெண்ணையை முழுங்ககண்டாள்

உறுதினத்தில் பகவான் கிருஷ்ண ஸ்வாமி
ஒரு ஜாமம் விடியவே எழுந்திருந்தார்
அப்போது நந்த கோபி எழுந்திருந்து
ஆங்கள்தோறும் மெழுகி கோலமுமிட்டாள்

கனத்ததொரு தாழிவைத்து தயிரைகொட்டி
கிருஷ்ணாவை பாடிக்கொண்டு தயிர் கடைந்தாள்
காலை மெல்ல தூக்கிவெச்சு இருட்டுவேளையில்
கிட்டேவந்து வாயாலூதி விளக்கணைத்தார்

தாழியிலே கையைப்போட்டு வாரிவிழுங்கவே
பூனைக்கு கொஞ்சமும்போட்டு தானும் உண்ணவே
மோரிலுள்ள வெண்ணையெல்லாம் வாரிவிழுங்கவே
மூச்சுவிடும் ஓசையை கண்ட கோபி

என்னடா பாலகிருஷ்ணா என்ன விந்தை
உன்னுடைய அம்மாகிட்டே சொல்லுவேனென்றாள்
உன்னுடைய அம்மாகிட்டே சொல்லுவேனென்றாள்
உருகி பயந்தவர் போலே நடந்தார்

கன்றுக்குட்டி கிட்ட போய் கதவை திறந்து
கன்றுபசுக்களெல்லாம் ஊட்டவேவிட்டார்
கறக்கயில பாலும்போச்சு தாயிரும்போச்சு
குழப்பயில மோரூம்போச்சு வெண்ணையும்போச்சு
அச்சுதானந்த கிரஹத்தைவிட்டு வெளியில்
நீ உச்சிதமாய் சொல்லும் குழல் ஊதி நடந்தார்

Gopala Krishnaswamy Gokulaththiley
Kuzhandhairoobamai vandhu vilaiyadinaar
Aasanatheeyiley Muththu Thongavey
Vasuvakabilasthalam maarbil asaya

Kasthuri thilakam nettriyilittu yasodhai
Kanakamuththu kondai suvaisoodinaal
Muththumaalai saatriya tholvalaiyittu yasodhai
paththiramai thangaththinaal arainaalittaal

Kinkini arannirayya thankgakattiye yasodhai
thangavalai kaiyilittu modhiramittaal
kaalukku thandaiyittu kaathirendilum
Makarakundalamaasaya kannukku maiyittaal

Yasodhai iduppil vechchu veliyil nikkave
irangi swamyodinaar vilaiyaada
Thannodaththa kumararum thaanumserndhu
Jalakkarai ullemattum engum odinaar

pidikkapponavar kaiyil agappadaamaley
Koorndhu graham thorum vilaiyaadinaar
Thanganiravattilnirai vennai serndhu
Thangame Balakrishna vennaivaariro

Enakkum rendu kuzhandhaikkum marapachikkum
Adhukkumkoodai vennai thandhal unnuvaynendrar
Marappaachi vennaiyai unnumo Krishna..
Peruththvayale Vennaiyai muzhungakandaal

Urudhinaththil Bhagavan Krishna Swamy
Our jaamam vidiyavay ezhundhirundhaar
Appodhu Nanda Gopi Ezhundhirundhu
Aangalthorum mezhugi Kolamumittal

Ganaththoru thanzhivaiththu thayiraikotti
Krishnavai paatikkondu thayir kadaindhaal
Kaalai mella thookkivaichchu iruttuvelaiyil
Kittayvandhu vaayaludhi vilakkanaithaar

Thazhiyilay kaiyaipottu vaarivizhungave
Poonaikku Konjamumpottu thaanum unnave
Morilulla vennaiyellam vaarivizhungave
Moochchuvittum osaiyai kanda Gopi

Enaada Balakrishna enna vidhdhai
Unnudaiya ammakitte solluvenendraal
Unnudaya ammakittey solluvenendraal
Urugi bayandhavarpolay nadandhaar

Kanrukuttikittapoi  kadhavai thirandhu
Kandrupasukkalellaam oottavevittaar
Karakkayil paalumpochchu thayirumpochchu
Kuzhappayil morumpochchu vennaiyumpochchu
Acchudhanandha grahaththayvittu veliyil
Nee uchchithamai sollum kuzhaloodhi nadandhaar

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The overwhelming moment

The fascinating aspect of life is probably the first moment of life.  That instant of birth is probably the perfect example of intersection of science and Godliness.  There is something miraculous about the whole thing.  It's certainly inexplicable.

He was supposed to have arrived four days ago.  At the beginning, we waited with expectation, which slowly transformed to patience and boredom.  We wanted him the very next instant.  Anyway, after all the anticipation and drama, he arrived the next day, with a splash and a wail.  To call that moment the most overwhelming moment of my life would be a gross understatement.

With as much information of pregnancy classes loaded into our heads as possible, we were thrown into the complex world of parenting.  Theory and practice are two different beasts.  I had found that out in my Engineering days and the real world scenario was no different.  So, on the first evening, at the hospital, my wife and I were gaping at him with a feeling of awe and fright.

The first night, all alone, with the little one, we had our self doubts.  The duty nurse walked in.  "Guys, do you want to place him in the nursery?"

My wife and I looked at each other.  We had discussed this scenario a million times before.  We were sure of what we had to do.  Yet, we were confused.

"OK", I said.  "No", my wife said.

"We'll see how things go tonight", my wife said.

Obviously, you will have no doubts as to whose decision prevailed.

So, ten minutes into that decision, everything went well as planned.

He was fed, his diaper had been changed and we thought that we were covered for the next three hours at least.  And then, out of the blue, he let out a cry.  It was not a quiet sob.  It was a piercing wail that could bring the entire ward down.

We looked at each other as though babies were just expected to be quiet.  It's very easy when sitting in a class as to what to do.

"What do I do now?", I asked my wife.

"What did we learn during the birthing classes? Let's just follow the instructions", my wife replied.

"What instructions", I wondered. I mean, I went blank.  All that I could hear was a high decibel wail piercing through my ears.  I was totally nonplussed to react.  Like I said earlier, theory and practice are totally different.

"Let me hand him over to you.  It'll be good for him to get skin to skin contact", I said.  I had to say something meaningful.

Nothing helped.  The cries did not subside.

"OK, OK.  Call the nurse.  Press the red button", I said confidently.  Calling the nurse was probably the only thing I was confident about.  That should have been the last option.  But for me, I thought that we had already reached the last option.

The nurse walked in.  She had such a confident demeanor as though she knew exactly what she was doing.  She held him for a few seconds.  She asked us a couple of questions about his feeding and diaper change.  We answered, rather less confidently.  At that point, we were not confident about anything.  If somebody had asked us what one plus one was, we might have hesitated to answer two.  Such was our state; so unsure of anything.

The nurse was smart enough to understand.  She smiled at us and said, "It's probably the diaper."

She quickly undid his diaper, and lo and behold, he had a wet diaper.  We heaved a sigh of relief.

My wife and I quickly said the same thing "Please take him to the nursery." We'll catch up as much sleep as possible at least as long as we are in the hospital.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Writing end of the year memories has become common trait, but I think it provides a great chance to retrospect and introspect the year that has been.  It's no secret that life has its ebbs and flows, and more often than not, they are way beyond your control.  You reflect and wonder if you could have done things differently.  If yes, you add it to the lessons learnt notes and move on to the next.  It's not always that simple.  The truth is, there are so many things in life that can tear you to pieces.  It is up to you to pick the broken pieces, put them back in order and move on as though life can only scar you so much.

It was a landmark year for India, as Narendra Modi was elected as the Prime Minister of the country with a stunning majority.  You could sense the excitement with the Indian diaspora even here.  Such is the magic of the man who rode the anti-incumbency wave of the Congress to clinch the polls in spectacular fashion.  The full use of social media by Modi was there for all to see.  2014 was certainly a landmark year for Indian politics.

Of course, as to be expected, India lost yet another overseas series during the English summer.  Honestly, it wasn't even disappointing.

The mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian airlines was one of the low points of the year.  Many a time, I have been concerned that Google and Apple know my whereabouts every second of my life.  In this day and age, it is hard to accept that something as large as an aeroplane could escape everyone's radar and disappear into oblivion.  It was deathly frightening, and in a strange way, I felt secure that my location could be tracked at all times.

Terrorism showed its ugly face this year with a number of deathly, chilling incidents.  I hope the world will be a better place next year.  What happened in Peshawar last month sends a chill down my spine.  Unimaginable and super scary!

As far as technology is concerned, there was nothing revolutionary this year.  It's kind of strange how consumer electronics is moving at a slow pace.  Everyone is releasing new phones, but I am yet to see the magic of 2007.   Revolutionary product lines have been replaced with minor evolutionary ones.  I am excited to see what 2015 will serve us.

On a personal level, my blog posts ground to a halt by the end of September.  Once you face a downtime of a couple of months, it becomes difficult to come up with a new post.  But, for the year that has been, it would have been unfair if I did not have a concluding post on a year that I will look back several years from now with gloating satisfaction.

At the beginning of the year, I had written

In Breaking Bad (Full Measure - Season Finale of the third season), Walter and Skyler White are house hunting and when Walter feels that his wife is apprehensive of their financial position in their choice of a good house, he says,

"We've got nowhere to go but up"

That quote best summarizes how I feel about 2014.

2014 has been all that I could ask for and maybe even more.  We were looking at 2014 with a lot of optimism, and it couldn't have started anyway better than a trip to New Zealand and Bora Bora.  The breathtaking locales and exciting uncertainties in figuring out new places are what make travel a worthwhile experience.

The Kawarau Bungy, South Island (Milford Sound in particular), Te Anau, Wanaka, Queenstown, Hobbiton and swimming with the sharks and exploring the coral gardens at Bora Bora are something that'll be some of the biggest takeaways of the year.  New Zealand is a fantastic place and any amount of description will only be less.  The pristine clear waters of Bora Bora is something to be experienced.  There was not even a flutter in the calm waters.  Breathtaking!

Overcoming several personal challenges from the pitfall of 2013 to an overwhelming 2014, personal experience has shown what a difference a year can make.

When there is a new addition in the family, it enriches life.  There is so much to look forward to with the new generation.  A new way of life, new challenges, exciting times and above all, new found hope and optimism.

It's fascinating how every year exposes some new personality traits in you.  It's exciting to think what the future beckons. Let us move towards 2015 with profound optimism and hope.   Still, there are several peaks to be conquered and pinnacles to be attained.  I am sure everything is possible.

But for now, I'll say this.  Several years from now, when I look back on my life and unwind the years, 2014 will occupy a special place in my heart.  It felt right from the first second on Jan 1, 2014 at 12:00:01 AM.

I am sure 2015 will only be better.

Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous 2015.  As a community, let us attain greater heights.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The quick witted

We get to interact with different kinds of people on a day to day basis.  Add a few kids to the mix, the interaction level changes completely.  It's always fun to get down to their level and have a nice discussion.  There is always a takeaway at the end of it; it's always a pleasant experience.  Their depth of interest in things always leaves me dumbfounded.  "How do kids pick up that? How can they be so smart and intelligent?"

Anyway, to cut a long story short, as we were house hopping for Navarathri, I happened to meet a cute little girl over the weekend at my wife's friend's place.  Kids are adorable, and this one was no different.  She was like a bullet train, asking million questions a second, expecting you to keep pace with her and belt out the answers.  She is just six years old.

"So, you and my father are school classmates?", she asked me.

Nope, I replied.

"Oh, so you and my mother are classmates?", she turned to my wife.

"Yes", she replied

"What about you?", she asked me again.

"I am sorry.  I have never been to a school", I said with a straight face.

"Oh, you have never been to school? Do you know how much you can learn in school? How come your parents didn't say anything?"

I know I missed a lot in life, I said truthfully.  I mean, we always miss things in life irrespective of time and age.

"So, you don't know geology? You don't know anything about rocks?", she asked.

"I don't know about anything.  In any case, how is studying about rocks helpful?", I asked.

Anyway, we went back and forth, and she always came up with witty questions, as well as repartees.  If there is one thing I enjoy, it's interacting with a bunch of little kids.  Time just flies.

After some time, she ran inside and got some chocolates.  She put one on my wife's plate.  Then, she came to me.  She carefully unwrapped the cover and placed the Hershey's kisses on my plate.

My wife and I looked at each other.  My wife grimaced.  Obviously, I was a benefit of the kid's largesse.  In fact, my wife gave me that look of "You asked her all the dumb questions and yet she gives you preferential treatment".  I was all smiles.

Then, I asked her, "Thanks for unwrapping the cover.  Why did you not do that to aunty?"

So, she replies.

"Aunty is educated.  She can do everything on her own.  But you are not like that.  You haven't gone to school and you need a lot of guidance.  That's why I am helping you out."

The room was in fits.  I couldn't control my laughter.

I did what any other person in my position would have done.

I gave her a warm hug. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014


The lack of identifying Raagas has never been a negative when it comes to appreciating good music.  At the end of the day, it's important to lose yourself in the realm of music, instead of worrying about the nitty gritty details associated with it.  That's what I like to say.  But, heart of hearts, I have a deep regret that I don't have the wherewithals to understand the grammar and finer nuances.  I have always felt that to understand and produce good music, it requires the divine being's blessings.  If you are a bad student in academics, you can always improve by working hard.  If you have a good training as a kid in sports, you can be good in sports.  But, when it comes to music, it's just a binary, as far as vocal is concerned.  You either have it or don't.  You can improve your musical skills only if you have it in the first place.  I am not ashamed to say that I don't have even an iota of it.  But I definitely feel sad about it.

Anyway, my parents are here for a couple of months.  So, my wife and I decided to learn some Dasakams (ten verses) of the Narayaneeyam.  My mother learnt it for close to five years, thanks to my friend's mother, who served as an awesome teacher.  So, my mother was keen that we pick up at least a few Dasakams before she heads back.  Learning the divine verses of Narayaneeyam is no easy task.  It comprises of 100 Dasakams, and requires enormous effort and concentration to be able to recite properly.

So, my wife and I decided one day to start the learning process.  My mother started the first verse with a basic Raagam.  For a person who has absolutely no knowledge of music, it's very hard to pick the basic, let alone finer, nuances.

She said that before chanting the first verse of the first Dasakam, it is very important to start with the sixth verse and then continue till the end.

In my loud, hoarse voice, I repeated,

तत्ते प्रत्यग्रधाराधरललितकलायावलीकेलिकारं
लावण्यस्यैकसारं सुकृतिजनदृशां पूर्णपुण्यावतारम्।
सिञ्चत् सञ्चिन्तकानां वपुरनुकलये मारुतागारनाथ

My wife, midway through the rendering abruptly stopped.

"Amma, I can't learn like this", she said.

"Have some dedication and sincerity", I shot back.

"How can anybody learn any music with you in the picture?", she said.

"You have changed the Shruti at least three times within the first couple of lines.  How do you expect us to keep up with this? Even amma will find it difficult to teach us."

"What are you saying? We are just starting the first verse and already, you have so many comments? I will pick up as the class goes on", I said.

"Not as the class goes on, but as many classes go, you may pick up", she said.

"Amma, you teach me separately", both of us said simultaneously to my mother.

"It's just the first verse.  You will only improve as time goes on", she said.

Anyway, this continued for a few days before we finished the first Dasakam.  It is a slow process, but then, what's the hurry in the world.

Learning is always a difficult process.  Learning it right makes it all the more difficult.  But then, when it comes to the chanting of the divine verses, there's a huge difference between reciting and reciting them right.

For everything, there is a divine hand.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Arranged marriage is a funny business.  It takes a lot of patience and many frustration prone conversations before finding the best match.  It applies more to the parents in conversation, as the match candidates are hidden from the vicious barbs thrown at each other.  Even now, my parents recount some of the funny conversations they have had with the parents of potential brides.

It was quite a few years ago.  Tamil Matrimony and various other matrimonial websites had capitalized on the dot com boom to come up with not-so-easy to use websites.  It is a complicated process to find the potential match, even though from a distance, it looks as easy as a click of a button.  In reality, it is nowhere close.  These websites have come up with various payment options that deciphering them is as complicated as reading your mobile bill.

Of course, there is the inherent complication of figuring out who is a suitable match for you.  Then, you have to match the horoscopes on both sides (girl and the boy) before you can proceed further.

In the Tamil Iyer community, there are subcastes of subcastes of subcastes of subcastes and so on.  Honestly, it is the soup of a soup of a soup of a soup joke, only with real life use cases.

The profile would clearly say

"We are looking only for Thanjavur Vadama" (which means you have narrowed the search base to 0.0001% of the Tamil Iyer population).  It's not like the city is busting with Tamil Iyers and there are hundreds of them everywhere.

Anyway, whoever is familiar with the arranged marriage system will know the intricacies associated with such conversations.

Thinking about some of them, we had a hearty laugh.  But, at the same time, it was/is totally frustrating to fathom some of the questions.

My mother told me she was on the phone line with an elderly gentleman.

"Mama, ungathu ponnu profile parthen." (Sir, I saw your daughter's profile)

Even before my mother could finish the sentence, the elderly gentleman shot back I believe.

"Mami, own houseaa?" (No translation required as it is pretty evident)

"Illa mama, naanga rented houseladhan irukkom. (No sir, we live in a rented house)

"Mami, phone vechurngo, phone vechurngo..."(Madam, please put the phone down, please put the phone down...)

It was an abrupt end to the conversation.

My father narrated to me and my wife.

"I had a frustrating experience with one gentleman.  I spoke to him on the phone for almost ten minutes."

"Sir, ungathu ponnu profile parthen." (Sir, I saw your daughter's profile)

So, he replies

"Payyan enna panran." (What's the boy doing?)

My father gave a standard reply.

"Enna sambadhikkaran." (What's he earning?")

"Sir, even I don't know what he earns.  Even I have not asked him the question."

So, after a few back and forth questions which was entirely based on income and other monetary benefits, he supposedly said this

"Sir, enga ponnuku nethudhan marriage fix aachu.  Nichyadhartam aduththa maasam." (My daugher's marriage got fixed yesterday.  Her engagement is next month.)

My father said that he couldn't believe what he had just heard.  So, he told him,

"Sir, are you not happy with the alliance?"

The gentleman was peeved.  "How dare you ask me that?"

So, my father replied, "What else can I say? You have been asking all kinds of questions about my son for the last ten minutes and now you say the alliance has already been fixed.  Make sure you don't spoil the current alliance."

Some of them are even more insane.  One of the requests wanted an only son with property.  Even the "with property" tag, I can understand somewhat.  But, why the "only son"? I believe they did not want any issues with property disputes.  That's like planning for eons, not just the immediate future.

Arranged marriages are driven by what's best for the bride and the groom.  It has transformed from inquiring about each others life style and character to how much net worth is associated with the family.

I don't understand how a girl or boy can be happy if he or she has to depend on his/her family for property or income.  Ultimately, if a person is not capable of leading a happy life with his spouse, I am not sure what use all this wealth check is.

I firmly believe that everyone is going to earn enough money for a lifetime, and no one has to depend on ancestral property and money to lead his life.  If you have to live life off of somebody else's wealth, then I am not sure what is there to accomplish in life.   And don't get me wrong, accomplishment is not defined by how much wealth you accumulate.

Anyway, I wrote this blog post not because I wanted to reminisce those days.  My brother has entered the race to find a bride, and believe it or not, years have flown by, but the questions asked remain the same.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


The good and bad thing about life is that you meet different kinds of people; some making quite an impression on you.  That's one of the things I like about travel.  It's not just the experience of seeing new places, but meeting some fantastic people along the way that makes a big difference.  That doesn't mean day to day life doesn't fetch interesting encounters.  All along, you have interesting conversations, and once in a while, you look back and think twice about what the other person said, and that's when you realize that the conversation has made an impact on you.

Bay area is all about crazy entrepreneurs and insanely smart people that you come across almost on a daily basis.  And they talk about how they have had successful exits from previous startups and so on.  It's actually pretty inspiring.

I came across one of the guys who I don't even know why he still works.  Apart from a regular job, he has side projects, and talks about passionate ideas.   He has been a part of four startups, out of which he has had two successful exits.

This is how the conversation went.

"How many startups have you been a part of?", I asked.

"Four, but only two were successful", he said.

"So, what are you doing here? You should be at home, retired and spending time on your hobbies."

He smiled and said, "I can retire if I want to.  I will be able to survive for the rest of my life.  But, what's the point in such a life.  I want to thrive not just barely survive."

I thought about this statement.  You don't just want to do well in life.  You want to do really well in life, and lead the kind of life you want to lead.

Ultimately, it's one life, and you better have the allowance to do whatever you want to.

Some conversations just strike a chord, and for good.