Friday, February 12, 2016

Time Travelling Thoughts

Do thoughts time travel?
On New Year's day in the year 1879, at 6 Melcombe Place, Dorset Square, London, in a building that does not exist at this time, was born a baby boy. A year later, he lost his father to a disease that still affects an estimated 9.6 M people. Tuberculosis. His name was changed by accident at baptism from Henry to Edward. His ancestors were what one might call a group of democratic socialists, these days. I think this came to bear a whole lot of influence on his writing in later years. He exhibited four key characteristics: curiosity, a free mind, a belief in good taste and a belief in the human race. Nearly thirty years later, he started a novel named "Lucy" at the time. When it was done, the novel resembled a rich concoction of warm and fuzzy optimism. Fourscore and eleven years later, he died. Only after being nominated for the Nobel Prize some thirteen times.

A Theory of Cities and Smells
I did not know the guy. If you are reading this, then you already knew that and quite certainly you did not know him either. I have this theory, you see, and that's what I want to tell you about. I first formulated it three years ago and have since laid it on many an unsuspecting friend as a lunch or dinner conversation. So, here goes: As the name suggests, it is about cities and smells. My hypothesis (which I define as true until proven wrong for my purposes here) is:
Every city, let me teach you, has its own smell!
So simple, you think! Indulge me, anyway. I lived most of my life on shores of a wild sea. As soon as the plane's wheels violently kissed the tarmac, I could smell it before I could see it. The salt of the sea in the air. A pervasive smell just about anywhere. When I lived in the city where a singer Whoopi Goldberg introduced as Ceylon Delong is from, I could again smell it before I could see it (or in this case them). Oh, 420 (pot) friendly Montreal! And, these days, I clearly smell pollution. Again all pervasive that I can hear my lungs screaming at the top of their ...

They do!
By now, you're wondering where is this going? You see, I did not know Henry-accidentally-named-Edward. But, THIS got me SO excited I had to write about it. Fivescore and five years later, Henry's thought snuck (or sneaked, if you are so inclined) into my head. I did not know him and I did not know he had thought my very same theory-thought, before me. It crushed me a little to know it's not my own, original thought. But, then again, who is to say it is not?

Conclusion: Thoughts do time travel.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Last year was what it was because of the people. What it was is for another post but while on the bus stuck in traffic, I started to define each one by a line taken verbatim from our conversations or by a quote. The result follows. (I strongly suspect this might just be part one!) 

அம்மா Love conquers all.

அப்பா Always do your best.
(Together, these two form the kindest and capable-st people I know!)

Koki – I can’t even do one thing at once. So, I do many!
Sometimes, this one also lives by – You don’t have to save the world. Just being a good daughter is enough!

Sadhana – Can I have one more chocolate, please?
To her mother: If you keep scolding me, I’ll run away to Canada.
In conversation: 
Me: Are you happy? 
Sa: Of course! 
Me: What makes you happy? 
Sa: Everrrything!
(She is full of surprises! She can also talk about Angela Davis, Billie Jean King and gender equality. And, to think she’s only seven.)

அவ்வா – (always in my memory) Of course, it’s happening in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?

The trio (A, G and S) – The Rock. My Rock. They rock.

Prof. L – In conversation, for context:            
Me: But, I have really low tolerance towards failure and I am so old. It sucks!
Prof. L: (jumping in immediately) Yes, I’ve noticed. You have to realize failure is inevitable. It’s going to happen. You have to do it. Regardless.

In the same vein,
Samir – Of course! I won the Rhodes Scholarship and failure hasn’t touched me at all. 
(In case, you’re wondering, he was entirely sarcastic although I have a hard time believing this completely invincible, wildly successful geriatric specialist has faced that soul crushing defeat I’m referring to!)

AnitaI believe in you.

Nidhi – Every cloud has a silver lining. If it doesn’t, it’s not a cloud. And, hey, there’s also the sweet rain with the darkest cloud. Oh, almost forgot about the rainbow after!   

Tori – I am all about that bass, bout that bass, no treble. 
(She specializes in serving up loving-kindness with sass.)  

Chelsea – Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. (Also, the brainiest person/scientist I have the privilege of knowing)
Nirmala Rajaram – Stay humble. Stay foolish.

Joel – Delegation is key. But, of course, know your stuff too.

Pat – (beaming smile) I am good! Always good. 
(His response on any given day, rain or shine. Even when it’s the morning of the day he has to let go of a member of his team).

Nick, the real Tintin – You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!

Ari and PD – Have you eaten, Swaa?

Narayana MurthyYou know Deepika Padukone? You remind me of her. She had to go to Bombay, an unfamiliar city outside of her home and work hard to make a name as a top actress. It’s remarkable!

Heather – You helped me too.

Ratna – Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away.

Gordana – Party hard. Work harder.

Maria – It’s okay to not know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.

AnoopYou know what, Swathi, it’s my life’s mission to eliminate open defecation.

Jim – If you Google me, you won’t find anything on me… we turned several businesses around and then sold them. I’m the guy in the back fixing things.

Prof. Steinberg How can I help you?

Abhi – Courage is not the absence of fear; rather the judgment that something is more important than fear.

Tullio – (after delivering some out-of-the-world hilarious jokes) You have to be careful with the jokes you crack in public. Never know when you cross the line! (winks)

Ginette/Guru – Dance. There’s nothing else I would do with my life.

Shambhavi –  Live. Love. Laugh – a lot.

Mike – Good crying or bad crying? (Also, Song of the Builders by our shared favorite poet).

ShivaliIt is time to move into uncharted lands. If you want to do something you have never done before, you have to do something you have never done before. If you want to go somewhere you have never gone before, you have to go somewhere you have never gone before. You cannot do something new by doing old things. If you want your life to change, you have to change your life. So go ahead. It's safe. And it's also...about time.

DavidTo live is to slowly be born.

Julia, Kathleen and MOOS family – (varying versions of) Don’t go over to the dark side.

Ina – Squat(h)i (Yeah, I am amazed at myself for picking this word-line!)

Maliha – (after we fan-girl talk about Elon) OMG! He’s awesome! I can’t get over it.
Laura – The great isn’t something accidental. It must be willed.  

Liam – I don’t know how but I’ll fix you! 
(He plays in a band and is currently developing a theory of music on my musical "tastes" in order to get me to listen to music and is a neuroscientist on the side. Oh, and he makes podcasts. About the brain. Not music.)

JessThis is already so beautiful!

Omar  alright merci

to be continued...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Identity crisis

I graduated. Months ago now. I was good at school. Always have been. And, it's taken me one train journey with a head cold to unravel and start finding meaning in all my supposedly logical and rational (note to self: redundant choice of words, sacrificing efficiency for emphasis has become a thing) decisions since birth. Or more precisely - from the time I picked the red pencil in my right hand and not my left. Yes. Seriously. Why didn't I use my left? Or, wait, why am I not ambidextrous?

So, back to the original point - now that I am out of school, what will define me? Who will the rule-abiding, prof-and-parent pleasing, sincere student that was good at math and motor design now be, in the real world? What will her real job be? To be honest, I have been at a real job for over five real months. Gotta say, the real world is pretty fun. It has its moments of real pain (and paperwork. Immigration Canada! Give me my freaking freedom back!) but mostly I really love the people I work with. Sure, I stick out like a sore, brownie thumb and my accent officially belongs in no man's land (when your friends from India think you have a N.American accent and your friends in Canada think you have a hint of a British accent and your Indian friends in N.America think your accent is from Bangalore and you think it in fact, is still very much Indian ... that's when you know your accent needs asylum status in no man's land) - BUT, I am having fun. So, what's with the whole identity crisis mode? Is it induced by the nausea of a closed train compartment dancing precariously on its wheels as it moves forward, exacerbated by the fact that my small lungs are competing for precious oxygen with large lungs of mostly male and slightly bulky strangers? Maybe!

But, I don't think it's my mild claustrophobic nature slowly showing up three hours late on a four hour train ride. (Don't get me wrong - I am grateful for the non-punctuality). What then is the cause here? I did graduate University once before and worked for a "Big 4" consulting firm before I didn't know who I was or what I was doing and started on a journey to design motors half way across the world where a white, pesky thing covers the ground 8 months of the year. The journey, of course, didn't stop with designing motors but led on to design toilets. Yep, you read that right. Toilets. And, now, I talk about toilets and telecom products in everyday conversation with black coffee and whole grain bagels. How did this happen?

WAIT! Would something else have happened if I had picked the blue pencil with my left hand?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Find it!

Find the positivity. Find the grace. Find it and hold it and cling to it like it is your lifeline and only breath of air before everything sinks. Find the silver linings. Hold them in your lungs and search for them in the bubbles and rubble of all that pours down around you. Find the bright spot in the dark clouds, listen for the sounds of the birds when the winds pick up and tear down the house around you. It is there, shhh, it is there, it is always there and it is waiting for you to reach out with both hands, bloody and shaking, and hold tight to it like it is the last thing you will ever learn how to let go. Find the glory, the glory through the ache, and understand that it is what we can endure that defines who we become. That it has never been about the punches we can throw, but the punches we can absorb and still stand up from. It is the standing up, it has always been the standing up and the refusal to lie still and quiet as the numbers count towards ten and the knockout becomes complete. Rise my soul, rise through the flame and the ash, rise through the waters that fill the spaces under your arms as the crawl towards your throat. Rise and find the grace, for it is all around you. Find it. Find the grace.

~ Tyler Knott Gregson

Thursday, January 22, 2015

This actually happened!

After a long day spent tackling a part fictitious problem for a fully real organization, Mr. D cracks me up. Of course, he has no idea why.

Mr. D: Do you speak French?
Me: Un pah!
Mr. D: Ha ha! So, you speak English and Indian?


Recruiting season was quite a hilarious ride for me. I didn't expect to enjoy it this much but the unforeseen fun I had did take me by surprise.

Recruiter: I am impressed with your accomplishments. But, your driving experience concerns me.
Me: What are you talking about? I don't have one to concern you
(Recruiter: Precisely!)


Being brown and being tan are not one and the same thing. Or, are they?

S: Hey, you look so tan!
Me: Yep, it's all year long.
S: Wow, really!


Being Indian in Quebec warrants for some strange culture clashes that later evoke laughter.

J's father kisses both my cheeks as is customary in this part of the world. I awkwardly oblige. Then, he winks and says, "You come from country where no kissing in public, no?". Of course, he knew that and yet...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Frozen Frames

There are these moments with these people. In the elevator. In a crowded train. In an empty train with no one and nothing but the space and the air molecules between you and them. When you are just about to turn down an aisle in PA on a frenzied Friday and your OCD stomps in. You stop in your tracks bringing to a momentary stop the rhythm of the collective pulse of all the shoppers. And, unapologetically holding the cart in front of you, you lean backwards to check if you have missed anything. And, in that moment, you catch their eye. Them whom you did not know lived and breathed and shared this planet until this very moment when you shared the light rays bouncing off your eye lenses. In that moment, although they are unknown to you, they cease to be unseen.

They don’t have to be a stranger. They can be the casual acquaintance with whom you deconstructed a life puzzle. If only by fortuitous timing. This morning, this happened to me. I could not have not noticed that bright sunshiny yellow jacket. Even if I had tried. They were standing there ear pods plugged in their ears and thick glasses perched on their nose. And, there was a moment’s urgent hesitation to just keep walking past them. It is the easier path. The path of least resistance. At that moment, their head turned and they could not have missed me either. Even if they had tried. We entered into a definitely genuine yet laborious exchange of pleasantries and updates about each other’s understandably exciting immediate future. Of course, there is something seductive about the impending immediacy of an un-occurred event that has not yet shattered or surpassed the built up superhuman expectations. We, then, could have promptly said goodbye and walked away. Yet, we did not.

For the next several minutes, we stood there talking about what motivated us to study our respective fields. I have a lot of time these days and I spend a lot of that in my head. So, I am reflecting on life, and connecting with others at that subliminal level, and relying on those shared moments to understand why things unravel sometimes and are just perfect some other times. It is impossible to justify my numerous decisions that are still continuously weaving themselves into a carpet of my remarkably colourful existence. An existence that makes justifications irrelevant. Maybe if I tried and maybe with some help, I will understand that. As a means to that end, I have deliberately slowed and in that I have found ways to connect. As a result, there is a collection I am slowly building up. A trove of treasured moments.   

Don’t get me wrong! I love running, too. In fact, till this point, I have been running at what might even qualify for a breakneck pace. I have devoted much of my young life on sharp productivity for sustained performance. In turn, I have flirted freely with the inevitable darkness and experienced the full force of unwieldy being. I know all too well that point. That point called giving up altogether. I am lucky and grateful that that point was not a destination. I would like to believe I have learned to stay connected, to slow and not to self-destruct.

Tonight, as I replay today, it flashes forward in slow motion, dwelling delightfully on each frozen frame. Amidst the bustle of learning a new language, figuring how to run an NGO, a passion pet project, putting down the words necessary to graduate, learning a new choreography, attempting to produce radio, and desperately trying to not break my neck or leg on an icy sidewalk, I have become of a collector of these frozen frames. I do not have all the answers. I do not know what the balance is. I am going by my gut. I am going by feel. And, right now, how this feels feels right.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

All of our selves

We are happy/ We are sad// We stay calm/ We get mad// We are eloquent/ We do fumble// We are articulate/ We also mumble//

We are gentle and savage// We are whole and damaged// We are garrulous and reserved// We are fresh and preserved// We are green and gnawed// In time, mellow and marred//

We are obtuse/ We are astute// We are sincere/ We are synthetic// We are kind/ We are cruel// We are bound/ We fly free//

We are joyful and cynical// We are casual and methodical// We are approving and critical// We are emotional and physical// We do falter and fall// In time, we' walk tall//

There are so many of us// There are so many of them// All of them in us// All of us is them// When we all deem as one// My work here is done//