Monday, December 31, 2012

A Letter to Shifrah and Annika

It's midnight and the both of you have been asleep for a few hours now. The reason I write this is not to tell you how much I love you both, I'm sure you know that by now but to share with you some of my thoughts as a father, a young father, well a young-ish father anyway.  When I get older and 'wiser' I'm afraid I may lose a some of the idealism and the restlessness that I now have and it is very important for me to write this down now so that you may be able to understand these thoughts when you grow up.

You are two fine young children and I can see the makings of two fine young ladies and there isn't a day that I am not immensely proud of the both of you. But I can already see that the weight of this world and our society impose itself on the both of you and that worries me.  Obviously this is more so with Shifrah due to your school, your homework and also because you are an elder sister who is expected to grow up just a little quicker than you would have liked.

Before you know it, you would be caught into what we fondly call the 'rat race', despite our words to the contrary you will feel that the world at large (and even us your parents) measure you by the marks that you score or the rank that you get in class.  You will be taught that success in life depends on those very numbers or worse yet, as young ladies, the men you marry.  You will be encouraged to do creative things as long as they are socially acceptable like painting or singing or playing a musical instrument but those too will subject you to a rigorous regime.

With my experience of the both of you, you will rebel at most of these things and then accept, some if not all of these social do's and don'ts, eventually.  We all do.  I honestly do not know if these rules are right or wrong.  I do not know if a strict school or college brings out the best in people or stifles creative minds neither do I know if our social rules, especially the ones concerning young women, protect them or enslave them. What I do know is this, that there is but one life to live and I urge you my darlings to live it to it's fullest.

When I say that it does not mean that you break all the rules and live a life that you generally see in the movies but to live it like you have extracted the best of each day.  Most people I see around me are consumed by some quest or some need, it may be for work, money, fine things, popularity, a fitter body etc.  This quest is every consuming yet unattainable. I have yet to meet a business man who says I have all the money he needs or movie star who says he/she has reached his/her pinnacle and is done with all the fame.  We move around like zombies, with only this quest in our minds, yet we don't realize the gifts of the world that surround us!

I read somewhere that if life was like a glass jar and the most important things in life family, friends, good deeds were pebbles and the less important things like work, money, fame etc were sand, you need to fill your life with the most important things first, i.e. the pebbles before you find space for the less important things i.e. sand.  If you fill the jar with the sand, there will be no space for the pebbles.

Even at the most important times, things like marks or ranks are teeny tiny grains of sand.  Yet many of us make that mistake of filling our lives with them.  The highest of marks, the best of colleges and the most sought after jobs (or husbands for that matter!) do not guarantee happiness.  Happiness is not something that you get from anything outside yourself, it is within.  There are a few exceptions to this though and mine are when Annika calls me 'Appa' or when Shifrah tells me 'I love you', I can barely contain the tears of joy.

If you have to be consumed by something, let it be that realization that you are given the gift of life, a gift that can only be realized by the sharing of it with others.  Being a part of a society does not just mean following it's rules but also being an active contributor to it and lending a hand to those who need help through thoughts, words and deeds.

Ever since Pattimma's passing away last year due to cancer, I have begun to realise one thing that all that we have in life, our possessions, our talent even our family have been given to us for a reason.  We are not owners of anything but are trustees.  It is for us to maintain them well and to use them in which ever way God intended us to use them. Hence hoarding or being foolish with them only goes against what we should be doing.

Another thing that will happen as you grow is that there will be a lot of guilt thrown at you because none of us can do things the way all of us think we should be doing.  In this, if there was one voice that you should hear and hear clearly, is that of your own conscience.  Realize this that all of us (even the ones that have forgotten their childhood)  some point in time have gone through the same issues and felt the same way too.  I used to think that my parents were very studious in their formative years and they have never had the issues that I faced in school and college. Only later did I realize that Thatha had almost done all the same things that I had done and gotten into trouble in the same ways too.  By the way, one of your great grand mothers had been known to jump the odd college wall to bunk classes by the way.   One of you parents has done this too.  I'm not advising you to follow their footsteps but in case you do, you sadly will not be the first in the family.   When you are both done with college, let us do swap stories of all the things that we have done, till then this is all you get!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gobsmacked!

It is said that everyday you learn something new, I don't know if it's true but what I learnt today blew my mind away! Invisible Nail Polish! Yes, you read that right, there is such a thing! It makes your unpolished nails look like, well, unpolished nails.

This is extra special! I mean the male equivalent of this would be drinking tap water and calling it an extra mild beer! I know talking about something like this could end up sounding very sexist but trust me ladies I never written a word about the electrodes during a facial or logic of stilettos, hell I have even bravely ignored waxing and phenomenal underarm products but this, is SPECIAL!

Nail polish isn't a big deal really, some form of cellulose and a solvent is all it takes but the kicker is the colour, that elevates the very basic (and dirt cheap ingredients) into something women pay a lot of money for.  If you take that element of colour away from the whole thing then it's basically worthless, UNLESS you can put it in an extra small bottle and price it something obscene then apparently people will buy it.  A M A Z I N G!

I've truly wondered if there ever was a 'widget' (in it's true meaning) sold and boy now I know it's been right in my medicine cabinet! I'm hoping to start a line of invisible mascara...wait... don't tell me there is such a thing too!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My Father to my daughter- Random Ramblings

Earlier this evening I was sitting in my living room with my 3 year old daughter in my lap and both of us were watching a cartoon streaming on my cellphone. My wife was sitting next to us and feeding my daughter and those 30 minutes or so were by far the best moments of my day.

As we were sitting there, I couldn't help but remember the time when my Father was a teenager, living in Madurai, his whole world view came from sitting next to an old radio in the middle of the night, tuning on to the scratchy radio channels from across the globe. I have a vision of him lying down in the middle of the night, on his bed on the floor next to the two foot long valve radio, with a faint green light of the radio helping him navigate the vast oceans he was crossing with each twist of the radio knob. I'm sure he still has that radio stashed away in his attic. I think, most of the things he likes to do were shaped during those idle hours, like his love of rock and roll or his keen interest in world politics, his fascination for any scientific thought and writing. Even today my Father doesn't throw away newspapers or magazines till he re-reads them (which is usually months later) and cuts out interesting articles for his library.

During this weekend, I had the opportunity of taking a road trip with my parents. And like in all our trips we ended up discussing many things under the sun. The topic veered on to education and my father was categorical that the quality of education now across the world was very poor compared to that which was available to his generation. As such he believes that children today are mislead with vocational based education that makes them specialists in one area or another in a quest for being a 'success in life' but he doubted if these kids got a well rounded education.

Honestly, I don't know the answer to that one. in a way I know that my daughter would have access to a form of technology and probably the best of what the educational system had to offer, things that my father could not have even conceptualized in his teenage years yet, it also could be that she would take them for granted and not use them to their fullest potential. I think it's drilled into everyone's head that they need to succeed, though they have a very faint idea of what that success means. I guess 10 years ago, I would have thought that success in my banking career meant a country level role but now that I've reached that I don't see what the fuss was all about.

I realize that whichever period of life you belong to, you are what you make yourself out to be. The benchmarks of success and failure are very personal, they need to be and as for me off-late being a father, a husband and a son seems much more important than any other role that I play in life & as such, my life is full.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kinda Sorta Maybe

So today I decided to change my life completely (again). Which meant the following:

a) Being more organised at work
b) Getting back to the gym and set a target of reducing some obscene amount of weight
c) Plan on registering for PHD and promptly dream about being included on the New York Times op-ed team along with Paul Krugman
d) Have a 'farewell-to-greasy-food' lunch and decide to go on a strict diet
e) Brushing my teeth twice (during the same day too!)
f) Updating my blog with an 'I'm back!' sort of a message

I did all of this today. Usually, this decision is accompanied by the buying of a new notebook and a pen (a fetish me thinks), if I didn't have to pick up my daughter from school I'd have probably done that too. Looking at my blogging record for the last 4 years these lightbulb days happen at the frequency of once in six months, ie, around the time to renew my gym membership or the mid-point of my annual membership when guilt overrides laziness. Thankfully this feeling lasts a day or two and then I'm back to my usual jolly self.

Getting back to the gym is the toughest, since it was the one thing that I was any good at in the past. I still remember the days when I would swagger into the gym, chest held high, surreptitiously checking out my own 17 inch biceps (ok it was 16.5 but hey how about some artistic license?) on the mirrors around. Today though, I crept inside the gym like a mouse, a very very well fed mouse. It was the usual crowd at the gym, the fit people and the plus sized people (If my BMI is 35% am I allowed to use the word fat without it being considered offensive?). Anyway the treadmill that I started on had one of each next to me, the fit guy walking super slowly and the plus sized guy running hard, I'm guessing this was need based cardio work out. Within ten (very long) minutes realised how unfit I had really become, I was huffing and puffing at a speed which used to be my 'cool down' speed.

As I was going around, I met this other guy who was overweight like me and seemed to be huffing and puffing around himself. Like to ships in the middle of a desert (nope I'm not wrong in the usage, thats what we both looked like), we chatted up. He started the conversation by saying "You know I used to be really fit 5 years ago but....", we got along pretty fine from then on.

Anyway as a result of today, I could either get super organised and super fit or get back to doing the stuff I've been doing, but the crazy thing is that I'd never be satisfied with myself anyhow. I don't think I ever have.

There is always going to be some facet or facets of mine that I would feel was lacking or that I was not good enough for something I was doing and have a list of things that needs a radical change. I've felt this way all my life, as if I'm a work in progress on a slow trudge towards some distant ideal.

Now how do I change that?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I've been around...

It's been a long hiatus from writing and this isn't even a tentative attempt at being back, just a random rant that has very little chance of being published. Anytime within the next five minutes, I prolly will delete this draft and move on in life. It's not that I've lost the appetite to write, I do have it but when I sit in front of the computer, I'd rather be on facebook or be reading random stuff...

I've had an interesting time the last month or so, hectic travel, lots of meetings, a quiet holiday and a light bulb moment. I'm not going to write about the first two but really about the last two. (This post is about the holiday since the lightbulb moment needs a bit more time to write about)

A week before Christmas we headed off to sunny Goa for a few days. The trip in itself was uneventful, we drove. We reached Goa just before the bulk of the tourists from Europe landed on the beaches (thanks to the weather caused flight delays out there). I soon realized that I'm so hooked onto work that it took me about 3-4 days to shake off all work related stress out of the system and start to relax. Once you detox all the work out of your system and give the blackberry a break, hanging around and doing nothing is quite fun! Anyway, these are some random thoughts on that trip,

a) Goa isn't really for the Indian tourist- In the sense that you aren't the first choice customer any hotel or restaurant or shop prefers. Maybe it's racism, maybe it's commerce but Goa creates a lot of opportunities for you to whip up righteous indignation if you are a brown skinned person. Like the time we (self, wife and the lil 2 1/2 yr old munchkin) were turned away from resort after resort when we were looking to use a swimming pool, after being looked up and down or even being told that the guests would be sunbathing and they might not like us around. This wasn't just an isolated issue, over the last five years we've been there 4 times and pretty much every day we run into some casual form of racism thrown our way by our fellow countrymen (and women). Yet the reason why we love Goa is that it is spectacular place, for every douchebag you meet you generally wind up meeting someone genuinely nice as well and plus the food is quite something else.

b) Indian women have spectacular legs! - They honestly do and you notice this only in Goa. The reason why I single them out is simply because, they are the most well kept secret in our country and our women go out of they way, often going to extreme lengths to avoid getting tanned (my favourite is the bicep high gloves that is worn in Chennai's heat). In Goa though they seem to have come to some kind of a truce with the Sun. So one seldom gets to see so many women wearing shorts in the rest of the country. It's nice to see people loose their inhibitions and leave their complexes at the Goa state border. In a country where getting two shades darker means a whole different life, this is quite a refreshing change.

c) Vacationing doesn't mean relaxing- When my cousin's found out that we were headed to Goa for a week, they had a lot of ideas on what we could be doing there, the many places to see etc. Thankfully, we did nothing of the kind. We woke up late each morning, had a long meal times, spent most of the time on the beach and had a whale of a time doing it! At the end of our trip, my thoughts were clearer and I felt that my body really needed the break that it got! Of course, my cousins think we've wasted our time but hey, it was worth the waste!

d) A Norwegian Rebuke- At our guesthouse there was this other family from Norway and we got to know each other during breakfast times. One of our conversations was about the poor in India and how they could not imagine how people cannot be moved by children begging on the streets. As we were talking about it, the lady suddenly burst out that if this was in Norway they would make sure that everyone was taken care of (and made a kind of a hugging sign with her hands, yes, language was a bit of a barrier). The way she said it and the look of reproach that she gave stuck in my mind. While I know that poverty eradication is a long term vision and not something that we can achieve so easily, yet it is also clear that not all of us (and I firmly include myself) are doing our bit. We talk about it, we have some arguments that we use to rationalize our inertia yet we know deep down that it's all bullshit. To be honest, a lot of folks prefer poor people to be exactly where they are. What would we do without our cheap labour, our maids, cooks, gardeners, drivers, right?