About shivam04

Unexplained phenomenon

Of whims and fancies

I had a whimsical start to the day. Nothing gives me more joy than a 1:1 walk on a crisp and lovely winter morning. It was a perfect way to start the week and my day. My buddy D and I enjoyed a brisk walk that left us sweaty and exhausted. But it was fun, and it was brrrr cold. My cashmere poncho was definitely not enough, but the walking generated enough heat. Now I hope I don’t fall sick 😦

D and I are best-work-friends. We worked together for a short period of time but we know just enough about each other’s world that we can be good advisors to each other. D helped me a lot when I was struggling with my professional lows earlier this year. No one will believe what an empathetic fuzzy bear he can be. I do and I am spoilt.

I have him and my girl gang, my peers and my bosses, and my team. I am spoilt for choices when it comes to having a strong support system at work.

My girl gang is just the three of us who worked on my old team. We make up a rather small but mighty ra ra club. I discuss all my highs and lows with them. And they do too. We love this little nook of ours where we talk about everything – unfiltered. Whether it is a nasty meeting or one of those moments when you feel like the only woman in a sea of men, we come to each other’s rescue and offer solutions. We also sing praises for each other. Mostly V. I am not blessed with that skill. Singing praises does not come naturally to me.

Support systems are very critical to my work life. As a manager and lead you go through so many ups and downs and blows and battles, that you want someone to share your war stories with. Someone to heal those bruises and comfort your ego once in a while. My support system rocks. It is diverse across genders, roles, experience and opinions. I know that I can lean on them. 😊 I hope they all feel the same way too!

I am exceptionally chatty today.. but let the good times roll.

Today, I had a nice time coaching someone about how to prioritize his opportunities . I realized then how love to see people grow. From what they are to what they can be. Often times I cross the line. People don’t always wants that push. But I feel so disheartened seeing potential go waste. So I do my bit. I have a few successes so far. Too few to count, but I know I helped those people look beyond what they thought they were capable of.

The person I am coaching was on the verge of quitting. And I offered him three alternatives. He took the weekend to think and today we sat down to evaluate his options and reach a decision. He made a good decision. And I planted another sapling that will one day become a tree. I know that this tree will not give me any shade. But in my heart I will know that this tree was once a sapling that needed a little help and a little nudge and I had some tiny role to play in it. In fact I was telling someone last week that although I am not CEO material. I am definitely a CHO material – chief happiness officer. I also think it’s a more worthy goal to have. Just my 2 cents for myself.

While we are still rolling …Someday I’d like to work for the Aspen Institute. Yep. That some day is far away. But I know that in some way, I want to be associated with that organization. After working for Google, other tech firms don’t quite make much sense. So once I am finally bored with my job, (note that I usually don’t let that day come so easily. I’ve never quit a job because it was boring. I make it what I want to do and it stays intriguing), one day when I am done playing program manager or whatever it is that I do, I will go work voluntarily for the Aspen Institute. Of course I will be 55 then and not have any mortgage to pay and hopefully Tara will be a Fulbright Scholar …. alright let’s stop here 😉 whims and fancies is the theme for the day. But hey – you got to dream only then they will come true.

On that note I met someone yesterday who said that I should quit my full time job and become a full time blogger and write till it becomes so natural for me that I can keep writing for good. Nice idea. But not practical. May be I can be a full time blogger when I go work for the Aspen Institute.

I told ya’ll – my day was whimsical. It’s going to be that kind of a week. 🙂


Winter sunshine plays hide and seek, the cold wind brushes cheek to cheek. I come out to play and run, and this world becomes so much fun!

Yes I am back to running – last week started well but a mid week burnout led to bad results. But I am back at it this morning. The gush of cold air in my ears and the warmth of my own body are two of my motivations. The wind is like a cleaner. Like a vacuum cleaner. It cleans the cobwebs of my mind.

As the knees and the shoulders become loose and the legs find their rhythm it’s like observing a fine piece of machinery in motion. The warmth it generates is very purifying. Running to me is like a dip in the Ganges.

Why I don’t do it often is a mystery to me. I wish running was like writing so I can fit it in whenever I want. But I need the right shoes and the right leggings —- you get the point.

On that note I was feeling very tired at work yesterday. I don’t know what it was but the drill of meeting to meeting was getting a bit tiring. So I wanted to go out and take a walk for 15min to go get some fresh air. As impossible as that looked based on my calendar, it turned out just fine. A meeting ended early, and I could step out and inhale some fresh air. (It was such a joyful walk. I hope no one noticed when I kicked my feet in air celebrating a little achievement)

On the personal front, Project Timtim is about to begin. Tim Tim is how the stars shine and that’s how I feel Tara’s presence in my life. So what better name for her sixth birthday project than – Project Timtim. I want to complete it before it’s time for JLIT next year.

In another 2 weeks I will be reflecting on the year that went by, right before we take the winter break and head home for ten days of family time. I started this tradition four years ago when one fine Christmas morning I felt an urge to go home just like everyone else was doing around me. And I asked myself – why not? I know it’s just 10 days. But it’s 10 days every year. I know flights are expensive, but if I cannot spend on this then what can I spend on? So those were simple questions to answer and we got into a habit. I want to keep this habit going for as long as we can. Our families look forward to it and so do we. And just like everyone else we also go home in December 🙂 I am not the fish that swims in the direction of the current. But in December this fish likes to go home, just like everyone does.

I wonder when US will be home for me. Or will it ever be?!

let's teach how to IP

I am thinking of teaching a few instant pot cooking classes for my friends. I have convinced them that it makes life a lot simpler, and hence they are onboard with the idea. But now the tough part – drive adoption. Let’s make it clear. I get nothing from Instant Pot for doing this. I like to simplify tasks – all sorts of them. And Instant Pot is my simplification mechanism for cooking. So is, my air fryer, vitamix and rotimatic. But IP gets to rule them all. It really is a better way to manage your cooking.

Anyways so as I was looking into how to go about this new project. I found out that AirBnB offers a good platform for this. I can out up my class as an ‘experience’, cook and then eat what you cooked… you get the point. Now I don’t have a lot of time on hand to go into this type of a project. But I thought it was a cool idea.

Anyways, I plan to kick off my first batch of ‘IP chefs in training’ next week with a few close friends. Let’s see how it goes. Best part, it does not have to go anywhere. If it simplifies their daily cooking tasks, I’d have met my purpose 🙂

Yesterday I made lemon rice in the IP. It turned out fine. I also really liked the Quinoa Upma that I tried the other day. I need to write that recipe so I don’t forget it. Of course my favorite party is the no touch pasta that take no supervision from me to cook. I love IP, and it has definitely made me an efficient cook. Let’s spread the love.

Winter Soups

I get bored of the typical vegetable dishes very easily and am always on a look out for more interesting ways to eat our veggies. Winter is fun because you can always make winter soups with the roasted root vegetables. If you don’t know what I am talking about.. read on.

The sheet pans are my best friends in winter. Toss in any of these veggies below in a lot of olive oil , salt, pepper, or any other herbs that you like, add some garlic and shalllots to them, and roast at 375-400 for 30min until you see some charred corners.

The veggies I usually use are – cauliflower, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, butternut squash, beets, tomatoes, carrots, and parsnips. You can make a combination of carrot, and tomatoes, or parnsip and carrots, or cauliflower and sweet peppers. Be creative!

Once your veggies are roasted, put them in a sauce pan and cover them with broth (home made is better, but honestly, use whatever works for you.) Add some salt, and pepper. Bring the veggies to a boil, and then simmer for 15 min. The veggies get soft and puree easily after that. Toss your mix into a Vitamix or use a hand held immersion blender, and puree it up.

Some times I like to dress up my soups. Like today we were having cauliflower with sweet pepper soup. I fried some garlic and shallots in avocado oil, and added all spice to it. I garnished the soup with this mix and it added a different flavor. If you don’t want to dress it up, just drizzle some olive oil or pepper and voila!

You can also use these soups as pasta sauce base. Another delectable way to enjoy your veggies.

Looking forward to a soupy winter 🙂

so much to be thankful for…

I have so much to be thankful for this season…

We celebrated Tara’s birthday at school and then at dinner with our friends and I could not help but relive all her birthdays from last five years. Her school teachers are like our extended family. This was Tara’s last birthday at Learning Links. So special. I wonder how birthday in big schools will be like. I also don’t know if I am looking forward to it.

At dinner we celebrated with a few close friends who have been with us ever since her first birthday. It was nostalgic for all of us how time just flew by.

Yesterday we went to check out schools for Tara. The big schools. Phew! Intimidating experience for me, and Tara too. The classrooms are so much bigger, and the kids also looked to be much older. Or is it just me who thinks my tiny Tara is not old enough for these classrooms. Well she still have 9 months to go before sessions start. Overall the school seemed nice. But both Agam and I were concerned about the demographics. In a class of 23, there were 15+ south Asian kids and a few Asian kids and no Caucasian kids. We love Learning Links for its diversity. I am super anal about diversity. I want Tara to have a more diverse and multi cultural experience than I did growing up. Her current friend circle is very diverse and we love celebrating different rituals and festivals together, learning a little about each other’s backgrounds. I don’t want that go away as she grows up. We know that our options are rather limited so we are going to get more rigorous about our school visits in December and make a call before we wrap up the year. Sigh! This is as confusing as it was to buy a house.

After school visit, Tara wanted to go back to her “real” school and Agam went back to work. Since I had taken the day off, I went to Coupa Cafe and worked on my project from 10:30am- 2:30pm and published my first writing experiment in the open world. Sure it is not perfect. It is full of errors in fact. But I put it out there, and now I want to do this more. I had to start, and I did. Of course the credit for this goes to my ex-manager who challenged me to get started this year. And Agam, who also published his book of Haikus earlier this year, with the same intention – let’s put it out there. I promise to not take another five years with my next experiment. In fact I already have a couple of ideas I will be working on. So let’s see where this takes us. And the best part is that it does not have to take us anywhere. These are for Tara. She will have these when we are gone.

On a lighter note, I was working half day today with Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories, playing in the background. The title song got me hooked. I’ve listened to it all day now. This happens a lot to me. I need to hear something 500 times to get over it. This has been the way songs go since since….umm….1999. And when I love a song, I have to send it to Agam and ask him to listen to it in like umm.. umm.. 5 seconds from when I sent the link. So that happened today. I sent him a blast of text messages to drop whatever he was doing and listen to the song. He was in a meeting so my incessant texts were not helping. And when he did…. of course he loved it. And we happily added yet another Japanese composition to our favorites list. It was nice to enjoy a day where my biggest chase was finding a donwloadable version of my favorite song. See, it takes very little to make me happy and de-stress. Finding songs 🙂

And so with that starts our thanksgiving break. Except for a one night trip to SF to see the lights, enjoy the latest restaurants in town, we have zero plans! I am loving it coz it means I get to cook 😛 I don’t like turkey, but I have some fresh goat keema, and keema pav is on my mind ;D

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble

the next right thing…

“We can’t be everything to everyone and still be true to ourselves.”

As someone who loves to play with words, often times I come across sentences that express thoughts so purely, that I wish I could have written them myself. That’s how I felt when I heard this dialogue in The Crown last night. Season 3 is here, and it is the best yet. The entire season is a lesson in leadership. You have to watch it to believe me.

We saw Frozen II this morning. There were 21 of us. 10 kids and 11 adults. It was sheer joy to see the kids enjoy the movie and giggle their way through Olaf’s gaffing moves. There was enough entertainment for adults as well. I must admit that I enjoyed the movie. I went with really low expectations, but was delighted to see something a little more than just a sweet sister’s tale. Elsa and Anna are brave. They are sharp, and they do the right thing. And when they don’t know what the future holds, they do the next right thing. It’s a good lesson to teach to our kids. Because more I experience it, life is just doing the next right thing. There is no game plan. There is no mystery to be solved. It’s just going one day to another, one week to another, one year to another, doing the next right thing. And the “right” is determined by the maturity of your faculties that you are blessed with, at that point of time. This simplifies things. At least for the short term.

While Agam and Tara were at a birthday party, I marched off to enjoy some afternoon sun. I realize how I cannot just walk. I sprint. I observed my pace, and tried to cautiously slow down. But when walking by myself, I cannot walk slow. It was strange. I love my solitary walks. They clear my head. But I have been bad about them ever since I witnessed the boy who was tossed in the air by the merciless driver, back in June. Excuses, perhaps. I need to go back to my daily walks. Just don’t know where to find the time. Excuses again. Perhaps!

Today, I wrote thank you cards for my team, and stamped and sealed the holiday cards for our friends and family. I love this time of the year. It’s so gratifying to reflect on the months that have passed by. This was a tough year on a few accounts. The first six months were especially grilling. Tara’s diagnosis was hard. It still is. But we have come to accept it. Losing a young cousin was also hard, but life seems to have moved on for his family, and for us. Helping a friend with her mother’s last rights when I was not even there for my own father’s funeral, was an experience, tormenting and yet gratifying at the same time. I know I was given this chance to experience what I did not, so I can settle in my mind and heart what happens when people die. All I ever experienced was absence, and grief that comes from absence. I did not experience the farewell.

But despite the personal and professional upheavals that this year brought, it did go by rather quickly. I distinctly remember writing thank you cards for my team last year. All I did this year was do the next right thing. It was never clear where things were heading, I just did the next obvious thing, and looks like I managed just fine. Or did I? Only time will tell.

For now, it’s Tara’s birthday week. My munchkin is turning 5 this Tuesday. And I know she is the wildest, yet most caring 5 yr old I know. She is a blend of all things Agam, and all things me. And I love watching her grow into a fine little girl. So confident, so happy, and so full of life.

I pray for her joys to be plenty, and her worries be just a few.

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