Salt and Pepper

I am so tired and yet so happy about how I spent my energy this week. Especially tonight when Tara and I hung out at the book shop, listening to great music and reading our respective books. It was perfect chill-pill time to end a very very exhausting week. Agam joined us after an hour and we enjoyed our fall night stroll in downtown. A befitting end to a whirlwind week.

Last night I slept for 8 hours straight. For the past 2 weeks, my night sleep was split into 10pm-2am and 4am-7am shifts for almost two weeks. The schedule took a toll on my energy levels. But the night shifts were worth it. I definitely realized the importance of a good night’s sleep. I need my 8 hours or I am dysfunctional. But lately I have been challenging that. Not something I want to do often.

The week was crazy in other respects too. We had our annual team summit on Tue-Wed and a team fun event in Half Moon Bay, on Thursday. A team summit is like a family wedding. A happy one to that. I love meeting people from different parts of the world and hear their stories. It is so much fun to put faces to names. I thrive on the energy I derive from my interactions with people. So I usually look forward to such events. So energizing! But since I had a night shift and a day shift, the event left me super tired and exhausted. So much so that I didn’t want to even roll out of bed this morning. If it wasn’t for Tara, I would have just slept and taken the day off.

Tara is turning 5 in a few weeks. I just cannot believe how time flew by. As always there are plans for a whole week of celebrations. We start on Nov 22 with Frozen II with all her girl friends and their parents, then dinner with Super Daadi, Krishna Auntie and Joel Uncle on 23rd. Followed by celebration at her school on 26th, followed by dinner with her favorite Uncles and Aunts that night. And then we end it with a bigger kids party at Pump It Up on the 1st. We make up for the lack of her siblings quite well. Phew. On that note, this is going to be our first Thanksgiving in Bay Area.

Although the week went off well I failed at a personal commitment. And I am sort of regretting it. The Jaipur Lit Fest had organized a writer’s contest called I-write. And after much consideration I had decided to send my short list of meaningless poems to the contest. But the deadline was Nov 14th IST. And given how my week went, I ran out of steam. I was 70% there, but I could not find the time and the energy to take it all the way. I didn’t stand a chance. But once again I disappointed myself with my inability to take my personal goals seriously. I mean, if I can stay up for work why couldn’t I stay up all night to finish writing snippets for each of my poems. I don’t know why. Or may be I do and I am just afraid to accept it. Anyways, I am disappointed in myself. I feel like I should still complete it and keep it ready for another such event. So what if it is worthless. At least I will finish what I started. May be I will spend a few hours on it this weekend.

At a summit group dinner, I looked around the room bustling with people. My team spread across the room, engaged in animated conversations with other folks from the team, having a good time. It gives me a lot of happiness to see a group of people having a great time together. I slipped into my moment of reflection and as a result ended up sharing a very candid chat with a peer at work about what we expect from our professions, ourselves, and why we work. I don’t know what motivated me to start the conversation. But I am glad I did. Behind all the serious faces, is a human, willing to tell you more, if only you will take the time to ask. Given that we were both on our nth glass of wine, I am pretty sure I don’t remember half the conversation. But I do remember feeling quite blessed in his company. Summits are like a family wedding. Full of moments that becomes sweet memories. That conversation will always be etched in my memory.

I spent a lot of energy, socializing this week, so I am looking forward to a quiet, coffee and a book type of weekend. The fact that it is starting with some writing is also a good sign… I bough Angela Duckworth’s GRIT. Let’s see what it teaches me this weekend..

to silence and calm.. and GRIT

Awe-struck!

Experiencing Awe is a beautiful thing. It nourishes your soul to the brim. The dilating of the pupils, a little fast heart beat that settles into a slow one, bringing a lot of peace to the entire body. The grin from ear to ear that sometimes gets coupled with a few tears. And that overall feeling of splendor. The reassurance that “this” is also happening “here”. In this world we love to berate and judge. That in the middle of a work day, or a movie or just an evening walk, you can find so much meaning, and joy! Being awe-struck is more fulfilling than the day’s first cup of coffee 🙂

Why am I talking about this very limitless, and boundless thing, like awe. Because I experienced it a few times last week, and was so refreshed by it. On Friday I decided to work a little late in the office. Late by my standards anyways. When I left the office the sun was about to set in 10 or less minutes. So the golden light was illuminating every single leaf, ever since twig of a tree, and creating an amazing scenery. The eucalyptus trees were shining, their white tree trunk glowing in the sun’s light. And the mountains in the backdrop were glowing in fall colors. The contrast was beautiful. As I drove on Eliis Street the sun began to set and I watched the colors in the scene change from golden to blue in a matter of a few minutes. I realized, this is the last evening of 2019 when 6pm looks like this. After DST, it will get dark early and I will miss my sunsets. And that feeling, combined with the dynamically changing scenery around me made me awe-struck. I was smiling ear to ear and warmly hugging the moment I had just experienced. That moment is never going to come back.

When I came back home I told Tara about my awesome experience. She was a little distracted but I know she understood me. She said, “awe, did you want me to there with you when this happened?” And I was “awe-struck” again. How did she know? And how is this almost 5 yr old so perceptive? Well, I hope she grows a thicker skin by the time she grows up.

Prime Now has a new series called Modern Love. It is based on the stories shared in the NYT weekly by the same name. If you like the column, then you should also read Tiny Love Stories, a sub genre of Modern Love. I have a secret desire to some day send my scribbles to Tiny Love Stories. My problem is I am not a love story type person. So I find it a little hard.
Anyways I digress. Modern Love is a well made series with some fantastic actors, like Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel, John Slattery, Olivia Cooke, Andrew Scott and James Saito.

Eight stories, that hint at the times we live in now and how love takes shape and form in the most unusual ways. I won’t give away the plots here, but it is a must watch for anyone who enjoys a well made show with fine acting. I have a few favorite episodes that I know I will go back to time and again, just like some of my favorite Mad Men episodes.

The series Modern Love also struck awe in me last night. Well first, I am aching to visit NY. I love that city. I also love to hate it. I wish I could take parts of it, and re create it here in the Californian sun. Sigh! I am always in awe of NY and it’s grit.

But I digress again. I was awe-struck by the profession of acting. It must be so difficult to be someone who you are not. To emote, to evoke the feelings you need to in order to shoot a beautiful scene. It must be so hard to detach from the role when you go home after a day’s shooting. When I saw Margot at Ken’s funeral in the last episode, I felt moved by her poise. Her silence. I found it hard to believe that she was acting. How could she be doing that so well? If I ever took up acting, it would take a toll on my emotional balance. I’d get so attached to the characters. I mean I do that while I am reading a book, forget trying to play the character. Sigh! I am so glad I am not an actor. 🙂

I think, going forward, just like we count our blessings, we should also count our awes 🙂 The three awes I experienced over the last 48 hours refreshed me and lifted my spirits high!

To more awe-some experiences 😀

Wild flowers…

It’s true. I only come to write when I am low. So here I am reversing that trend.

A lot happened in the last 10 or so days. Some fun, some intriguing, some loving, and some enlightening. We celebrated Diwali with our little bay area family. I love to see the house bustling with energy and the chillam chilli of the kids 🙂

Three years ago, after we moved to this house, we had a planned a mega Diwali + Housewarming party. But precisely 7 days before the event, Agam broke all possible bones in his left leg, and we had to cancel all the plans. I did not dare plan a mega event after that for three years. Oh well, all wounds heal with time, and we learn to face our fears. Diwali party was fun, and the Diwali pooja was even more fun since Shreya and Shekhu joined us that night and we giggled our way through the artees.

In the last two weeks I went through an accelerated phase of self discovery as I was debating a career choice. The pace of this process was exhilarating. I don’t rush into decision easily. But I felt like I was being put under intense pressure. I opted out of that intensity, took the time to have some productive dialogues with people whose perspective I value, did some soul searching on what do I really want from myself and my career. and finally decided to turn down an opportunity. It was quite promising on paper, but entailed compromises that I don’t want to make at this point in my life. Once again, the people I choose to work with played a big role in my decision. Only time will tell how this will work out for me in the long run. But I am spoilt and it is hard to find what I finally have. And what I was seeking for four years.

Truth is that I am growing. Perhaps more like a wild flower, than a curated rose. Google in that way is a funny place. It allows for quirks like me to exist, and in most ways thrive. Some of us are not meant to be the curated rose in a flower show. We are wild flowers that add color and energy wherever we grow. I am not someone you put up on a pedestal. I am at home amidst chaos. It’s my happy place.

But the best part of these last ten days was my performance review. It was an honest reflection of my efforts. And I appreciated it. I LOVED the fact that I got some really spot on constructive feedback. It is something I observed in myself, and was not very proud of it. But I was going to simply put it behind me. I am glad I got called out for it. Not once, but four times.

I crave honest feedback. And it is so hard to find in this #metoo and politically correct world. I always feel that if people care about your success, they will take the time to tell you what you can improve on. The last time I received a review like this was almost a decade ago. I even wrote a thank you note to my manager after reading my perf. It’s the second time in my career that I have done that. I kid you not, everyone else has been just fluffing it up all this while.

Anyways, I am a happy camper. And I need to learn to keep finding my middle happy path that takes me to this happy camp that I love to hangout at. I sometimes meander, but in the end I am glad I have the sensibilities to find my way back home. 😀 Sometimes you need to experience the world outside the bubble to appreciate your place in the bubble even more. May this bubble exist for some time, actually a long time 😛

A rather strange and embarrassing thing happened today. I was in the middle of a few different activities – responding to an IM, listening in to a meeting, and at the subconscious level somehow thinking about Papa. I realized that, when someone asked me something and I almost responded as if I was responding to Papa. I even started off a sentence as, “But Papa…” It was so shocking, and also disturbing. I minced my words and avoided the embarrassment. After the meeting I went for a coffee break and wondered what Papa was doing there in the middle of my work day, appearing in my sub conscious.

I think I know what he was doing. He had come to check in on his wild flower 🙂

gist of it

I attended a wonderful keynote by Dr Abhijit Banerjee, at Google today. He and his wife Esther Duflo won the Nobel Prize for Economics this year. I have read some of his work before and was very interested in hearing him live. His keynote was quite short and delivered some really positive and inspiring insights. His five take aways on solving for Next Billion User’s problem were –

  • Ignore global trends. They somewhat lie.
  • Augment not transform
  • Don’t fear the obvious
  • It does not have to be new to be innovative
  • Look through the user’s eye.

Such simple advice and yet so true. I think his list is an example of his advice – “don’t fear the obvious”.

I think sometimes we over complicate things. We like to solve for tougher problems, which is always more rewarding, but in doing so we sometimes over complicate the problem and hence over engineer the solution. I have seen this time and again and in some cases I had a voice, and I was able to avoid it. And in some cases it was obvious that my voice was not welcome, and there I gave up. But this is even more important when you are solving for the NBU. Their problems are deeper than our problems. Let’s not solve with super apps, let’s solve with deeper understanding and empathy.

NBU is of a lot of interest to me. For several reasons. Being an underdog myself, I like to bring up the underdogs, root for their success, and take them across the line. There is joy in that. My dad found that joy by serving for Lions Club. He organized blood donation camps, and limb transplant camps, and eye camps. I just attend a summit and take notes.

The message of augment not transform is another favorite line from my old, yet glorious consulting days. While my employer sold transformational project plans, I looked for quick wins, smaller augments. Sometimes that’s all that is needed. Transformations are expensive. In an NBU context, even more. Sometimes you need to re-think the problem, but sometimes you just need to solve it.

Perhaps I am just a risk averse person and hence my views jived with that of an academician. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Elon Musk. But I don’t get inspired by him. I am inspired by the insights Dr Banerjee shared today.

Lately, I am increasingly finding myself in a state where I just don’t care enough about expressing my real view point. And when I do I get exhausted. May be that’s why women leave the workforce. It gets too exhausting to keep that edge. You are not meant to be in the game anyways. No one is counting on you to win it.

I was telling a friend at work the other day, sometimes I feel I have seen this movie so many times. I know how it will end. I know the drama, the ego, the fall, the climb, the competition. It’s almost not worth playing it anymore. But we are humans. We have temptations. We commit the sin and bite the apple sometimes, and then we feel disappointed.

Dr Banerjee said, “Trying and failing is better than failing to try.” It stirred something within me. I am failing to try what I want to do. I am losing energy on things that will never satisfy me. And not even attempting to do things that will likely give me more joy. Hmm.. note to self, do something about your joy!

On a high note, our project “get Tara healthy” aka improve her iron levels, is yielding positive results and we are thrilled about it. It is always nice to see your efforts yield positive outcomes. Even better when you have the data to support it.

I am glad I was able to attend the keynote today and get another jolt of inspiration. I was running dry. Glad I found it so close to home.

Adrenaline

Two weeks ago on a Friday just like today, I tucked Tara in bed and left for a whirlwind trip to India, for work. It was furthest I’d ever been from Tara ever since she was born. And it was also the longest I was away from her. I tried not to think about it. The more you think about something the more it consumes you. Sometimes you just go through the motions for the feelings to settle. The fridge was stocked with food that could last a week. I packed all the five days of lunch boxes with food that I know Tara can eat on repeat, without much complaining. Yes, Rajma Chawal was on the list. I did what I could – prepare. And then I left. She and I chatted about her taking care of Daddy. And that if she was going to be a good girl, there were two science experiments kits were on the way.

It was good to meet Mom for a day, go shopping with her, and enjoy chai with her. Enjoyed her home cooked delicacies and before I knew it time was up. Met my in-laws, and Agam’s Nana and Nani who had not been keeping well. And attended a few hours of Durga Puja on Saptami evening. In fact I enjoyed my first Anjali. Even BUa squeezed a few hours to come meet me before my flight. And caught up with my little nieces and sister for a couple of hours.

To be in India the same week that we lost Papa was little odd. I thought it would weigh down on me. But truth is my days were so packed, that I could barely remember the dates.

The five working days in between are a blur. I felt like was experiencing some 24 hour time zone where there was no clear segregation between day and night. Just those few hours when I crashed before the sunlight woke me up the next morning. I did not get more than 15 hours of sleep over those 5 days. I was experiencing an adrenaline rush that was driving me forward. I cannot believe I even found 30min to shop for a pearl string for my Mom’s bday. I was on a call all through those 30min. So weird.

Anyways, it was a fabulous experience. I have traveled a lot for work, but never to India. It was a special experience. I don’t mind doing it again. It’s like being a part of the show you love watching. I had some very insightful conversations with a lot of people on this trip. From the cab drivers and security guards, to Googlers who were traveling with me on this trip.

I fell in love with the minarets of Hyderabad. Each one is so unique and so dainty. The city is special. So much history, and so much literature comes from it. I did not step out of the office much, so there was no Char Minar to be enjoyed. But I will definitely make a trip next time.

I have a lot of cherished memories from this trip. Mostly with my team, while we were driving this rather ambiguous initiative forward, in Gurgaon. I truly experienced a #onegoogle effort on the ground. I’d like to believe I had some part to play in creating it. But the company was splendid. And the goal was worth it 🙂 Adrenaline helped!

But my favorite memory was when I received a surprise gift from the local team in HYD. The day before my departure from HYD, I met the teams and shared a few insights with them, heard their stories and encouraged them to keep the channels of communications open even when I am back in US. We took a selfie to freeze that moment in our memories. The next day the team got the selfie on a coffee mug and gave it to me as a gift. I had urged them to think of magical experiences we can deliver to our clients, and in return they gave me magical delight. The mug appears to be an ordinary black coffee mug. But when you add hot liquid to it, the selfie appears. It was truly magical. And more so because they made it happen in less than 12 hours. I don’t know what magic they did. But it was so special 🙂

I flew Air India on this trip, and it was a wise choice. Or a lucky one. I slept 14 hours on my flight back. And was super refreshed to meet Tara on Sunday morning! She had been a good girl and her science experiments were waiting for a review with Mama!

It was a whirlwind trip unlike something I have done before. An adrenaline rush, I could not quite explain, forget recreate. And a bucket full of memories of the people, the food and the places I visited.

When I arrived in Delhi, there was a Google cab and security guard who picked me up from the airpot. He said to me, “You have come on the first day of Navratri. It’s the day Durga comes home. It’s an auspicious day. You will have a successful trip.” He was right. I did have a successful trip. And Durga’s strength is probably what I can attribute that adrenaline to.

२४ घंटे

यह जो २४ घंटे मैंने घर पे बिताए

माँ का आँगन, सुबह की चाय

एक प्यारी सी नींद और

चुपके से दो चार आसूँ भी बहाए


माँ के कुछ परदे खूँटी पर लगाए

कुछ देर टी॰वी॰ देखा

कुछ ख़रीदारी की और गोभी के पराँठे दबाए

और दोपहर में ख़ूब सारी बातें की और फिर नींद के ठोंके लगाए

कुछ तस्वीरें दिखाई और तारा के बड़े सारे क़िस्से सुनाये

माँ की तबियत का हाल पूछा

और बस इतने में ही २४ घण्टे ख़त्म होने को आयें

और फिर चल दी समेट कर माँ की प्यारी दुआएँ