To Delhi, with love

Today I saw the most beautiful sunset in a while, enroute from Delhi to Gurgaon. And the most beautiful full moon in the sky at night, in Gurgaon.

Delhi skies you are cursed by the pollution that blankets you each day. Yet, there are days like today when you delight me with your splendor. Your contrasts are bewildering. But your resilience is inspiring to me.

Under that blanket of smoke, lives hope that only I can see. Everyone around me either doesn’t care or has given up on this beauty that is Delhi. Yet, I insist that your days will come. Your reign will come. And you will survive, and perhaps one day, even thrive.

Cheers to the spirit that defines you and force that brings me to you, again and again. In despair, in awe, in excitement and today, with hope.

2019 – a recap

Let’s do the usual.. Things that went well and those that didn’t. Starting with those that did not go so well –

Tara

Tara was diagnosed with celiac after five months of tormenting diagnosis. The blood draws, the endoscopy, the ambiguity with each specialist that we met during the course of diagnosis. It was all very new for Agam and me. And of course extremely traumatizing for little Tara. We were told that she is likely the youngest kid to be diagnosed with Celiac. 

Family

We had to cancel our well planned and much awaited trip to Greece with Amma and Papa. It was so disheartening and exhausting to cancel all bookings and incur the losses that came with it. But most disheartening was that I could not keep my promise to celebrate Amma’s PhD how we had planned to. Quite a disaster.

A tryst with life and death and in between – 

I lost a cousin. My eldest cousin who carried me on his shoulders when I was a lil kid. I still can’t believe he is no more. A half lived life. A grieving mother. 

A few months after that I witnessed an almost hit and run accident. I saw a human body tossed in the air, and land a few inches away from my feet. His blood on my shoes. It all worked out in the end. Paramedics arrived on time, and a police case was registered. But these two incidents stirred me. 

I still shiver when I walk by the intersection where the accident happened. And I will never forget the day when we drove to Half Moon Bay since I was feeling a little low, and as soon as we arrived, my Mom called to tell me that my cousin had passed away. No one had told me anything about his illness and the fact that he was in the hospital. I could not tell if I was cold with the news or the chill in the air at the beach. 

We witnessed a friend go through the pain of losing a parent to cancer. Things you read in books actually came true. I ended up arranging for the funeral and got a first hand experience of facing death and departure. It was tormenting. But it also offered a closure on my own half lived experiences. I was offered this opportunity and I am thankful for it. But it was so disheartening to see my friend struggle with the expenses associated with medical treatments in the US, while dealing with the grief of losing her mother to cancer. 

I sucked at prioritizing myself –

I dropped out from my daily walks in summer and was unable to get back to them for a variety of reasons. That meant that my ‘simple to follow’ health regime failed and I fell off the wagon. Walks make me happy. I failed to prioritize my happiness.

Tara got her celiac from me. But I refuse to go through the diagnosis. I have severely reduced my gluten intake. But that’s about it. I don’t have the energy to go through the cycles of diagnosis. I suck at prioritizing my own health. And this year was no different.

There were a few upheavals on the work front too –

I went through some major challenges at work with respect to org transfers. Something that should have been bureaucratic paperwork turned into a project that consumed energy and patience of multiple people involved. I wish the whole process had been easier on everyone. More than my time and morale, I was very troubled by the time my leadership had to spend on this issue. For once in my life I became the “problem child”. A phrase borrowed from my class teacher in middle school. She used to always tell my father, “Mr Khullar, you don’t need to come to PTAs. Your daughter is not a problem child.”

I experienced dissonance between how I operate and how my team perceives me. Some of it was us just getting used to each other’s styles. But it was a difficult phase for me as a manager to operate in an environment where I was not sure what to trust and how to proceed. I thrive on trust, and for a whole quarter, I experienced something I had not been exposed to ever in my professional life – lack of people’s trust in my intentions. It was a major professional blow. It was a first, and hence I probably took it more personally. It was quite a journey.

I struggled with the “what do I want to do with my career?” question a lot this year. I am in a strange place where the teams I work for see value in a certain skill set that I for some reason take for granted. And the skill that I thought I had is slowly rusting away. So I struggle with – “How do I add value currently?” vs “How do I want to add value in the long term?” I don’t think I got any clear answers. But I simplified my choices based on where I am in my personal life, the current team/environment I am in and boiling it down to whether I am driving impact today or not. The good news is that there is no near term crisis to solve. The bad news is I will slip if I don’t see a future in what I am doing. I need to see the next step in whatever I do. It encourages me. I don’t see a clear next step for myself, from where I stand today. And it is OK for me to not have that until I work for the team I am in, but this equilibrium is sustained by a few forces, and any movement in these forces can de-stabilize my situation rather quickly.

As a result of all that was going on at work I experienced a bout of impostor syndrome. I switched environments within Google. And this adjustment has been a little challenging. I was quite impatient with myself most of this year. I fortunately had a lot of patient people helping me along . I don’t think I could have survived it without their patience with my impatience.

I also experienced my first, mansplaining. Cannot believe I survived 36 years without having experienced it. I have a thick skin for things like that but I realized how that might not be the case for other women. Sigh! 

And now onto the happy stuff – 

Tara and I did some projects together, like Project Nemo – where we picked family pictures for our walls. It was a lot of work and lots of planning. We did a few other mini projects like engaging her in kitchen work, and encouraging her to help her friends and teachers in school. She and I also created some stories and poems together. Most of our projects were quite successful 🙂

Lots of time by the water. I LOVE the ocean. And I had my share of ocean time this year. With two Hawaii trips, and several beach trips to Santa Cruz, Dana Point, and Monterey I was a happy crab. Oh also on our Kauai trip we also saw the Milky Way studded in the sky. That was a major YAY!

I baked less, but cooked a lot. We did not have much help through the year, so I figured out newer ways to simplify dinners and Tara’s meals. We made a lot of bowls – Acai Bowls, Poke Bowls, Egg and veggie bowls that were a great way to eat a lot of nutrients in a fun way. And learning how to make acai and poke was simply splendid..!

I got a lot of very good advice this year. Across a spectrum of topics and from a diverse set of folks. To ask for help does not come naturally to me. But a lot of times this year I was in a situation where I didn’t know the answers and I leaned on my support system to guide me. It was so gratifying to get all the help I needed. And a lot of hugs too. Talking to people helps me clear my mind. It’s literally the best thing that happened to me at work this year. I spoke to a lot of people from different parts of Google and even outside Google. Rich conversations full of insights, guidance and feedback. 

Tara’s has a great sense of rhythm and she is quite lyrical in her conversation style. It is a joy to see this world from her lense. She appreciates the beauty in simple things. She seeks joy in being helpful to others. She is a good child. She is more like a friend than a daughter to me. I hope it stays that way.

More about Tara

Tara started hiking with us. She is such a champ. We did six real hikes with her and made some lovely memories on those hikes. Her record is 5.4miles. We want to do a lot more next year.

We started watching movies in a theater with Tara. We saw, Toy Story, Frozen, It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and Secret life of pets. It’s a lot of fun watching movies with her 😀

I went on an adrenaline packed trip to Delhi and Hyderabad for work and ended up spending 24 hours with Mom and attending the sixth day of Durga Puja. It was wonderful to get undiluted time with Mom. And the trip made me realize how I am capable of stretching myself across roles. It was a very insightful trip for both professional and personal reasons.

Despite how the year started, I turned the tide on perf and feedback from team. Lots more to do. And a lot more trust to be won. But at least I don’t feel insecure in my environment anymore. Impostor continues. I think that’s going to stay for a bit. I am still not certain about how to navigate the environment and if there is a road ahead for someone like me in an engineering organization. But for now, I definitely have a packed year ahead and I am looking forward to drive the projects I am undertaking, including ramping a team in India. 

I am not sure if this deserves a mention here, but I finally found what I thought I was joining Google for, now almost five years ago – a dose of idealistic leadership that I can observe and learn from. I was tired of seeing siloed, self-promoting leadership styles at Google. I wondered if I’d ever be led by someone I’d actually respect, and want to emulate. And my wish has finally been granted. It is very satisfying to work for someone who makes it easy for you to determine what is the next right thing to do. You can call it empowering. But it is a bit different than that. It’s more like, let’s operate from first principles, and see how far that goes. And if that doesn’t work then do the right thing and I’ve got your back. I had experienced this type of leadership a decade ago. I thrived in that environment. And I feel like I am thriving again. Well let’s not jinx it. 

Although, I have been blogging since 2005, this blog has been around since last 10 years. And I’ve been writing a recap for the year over the last ten years. Being consistent with my passion is definitely a Yay!!

Last but not the least I self published a short and flimsy collection of some sub standard and grammatically abhorrent poems. It was a birthday project for Tara, and I got the inspiration from my ex-manager. She likes to challenge me. D’uh knows me too well. But I am glad I put it out there. My next project is already in the works. I hope to publish it before Tara’s 10th birthday 😉

Overall this year, Agam and I faced a few storms, and raised Tara with a lot of love and effort. She will start school in 2020 and we know there is a lot of change ahead of us. As we try to manage our careers, spend time with our families, travel, take care of our health and that of our parents, and raise Tara, may we also find time to take care of ourselves, and each other. We need to take out some “we” time. We did better this year with a two nights when Tara was home with a sitter. But I think we need a little bit more.

Thankful for all that 2019 gave us, and waiting to kick off 2020 with a lot of enthusiasm and hope.
We leave for Delhi tomorrow for our annual pilgrimage. Cheers to happy times.

Happy Holidays! 

Weekend rumblings

I should totally write down the stories I tell Tara every night. She thinks they are hilarious. She also asks a ton of questions as I tell the story, which helps me clean up the plot a bit. It’s a fun creative project to wrap up the day. Story-telling is definitely a hobby I discovered after I became a parent. My imagination is rather weak. But I am decently good at all the voice modulation and light weight animation. Regardless, Tara looks forward to the stories. And then she narrates them to Daddy next day 🙂

It was Noah’s birthday party today and I could not make it. Packing with Tara around is a nightmare. So I had to give up on the party and pack our bags while Tara and Agam went for the party. I am very emotionally attached to a few of Tara’s friends. Noah is the most sensible and sober five year old boy I know. He is so caring, and helpful. And he is super polite. Tara and Noah are like yin-yang. It’s true, opposites attract. I was so sad to have missed giving him a tight hug on his special day. 😦

Last Friday our team went for Star Wars. It was ok-ok. It’s a masala Bollywood movie with a bit of everything. Of course my favorites are the droids. They have a new one D-O. Cute as a button. Two dialogues that stayed with me – “No one’s ever really gone.”and “Never be afraid of who you are.” More on those another day. Half way through the movie I texted Luke and asked if he remembered Rey and his tryst in a galaxy far far away. He chuckled and sent me a gif that made my day. We were on the same team little over a year ago and were fondly referred to as the Luke and Rey of the team. I find my masters wherever I go. More like I need my masters wherever I go 🙂

On Friday night we went to Da Sichuan to wish our Sichuan Dadi happy holidays. She is quite a character. Refused to seat me until Tara and Agam came inside and then carried Tara to her chair like a baby. Sichuan Dadi and I celebrated a decade of knowing each other. It was comforting to spend time with her and of course enjoy our usuals. She makes delicious dishes for Tara with gluten free tamari and guides us on what else Tara can eat from the menu. I am a sucker for this love. It’s so pure, so self less and so nourishing. Tara sees it too. She and I talked about Sichuan Dadi at bed time. She asked me why I call her Sichuan Dadi. And I told Tara a bit about the family we are born into, and the families we adopt. They are both precious and giving. Not sure if she understands at this age. Some day she will.

Watched Once Again, again on Friday night. I don’t quite know what I love so much about the movie. Probably the maturity of the characters, powerful expressions, quiet pace. Or just the salt and pepper hair of Neeraj Kabi 😉 I am always stirred by that movie and end up lingering with the characters a little longer, and usually something creative comes out of it. “Will you come?” is probably something Tara (female character in the movie) would have written.

Anyways, I tried a gluten free apple crumble this weekend. I was not impressed. But Agam loved it. Tara, not so much. Need to work on perfecting the recipe. That was likely the last baking project for 2019.

I’ve started writing a 2019 retrospective. So much happened this year. Phew! 10 days to 2020!

Will you come?

If I ask you to accompany me
To an alley full of possibilities
With no future no past no strings to last
Will you come?

If I ask you to see this world from my lens
And see it’s beauty in despair
With no promise to fix no intent nor care
Will you come?

If I ask you to let me be your shadow
For it has been long and windy road
With no need to lead nor to follow
Will you come?

Because, yesterday

I think you had asked me to stay back
You wanted me to walk with you.
Not too far. Just a few steps, together.

I think you had smiled with your eyes
You wanted me to acknowledge your glance.
Not overtly. Just a blink of the eye.

So, tonight if I ask you to join me
Let us walk side by side all night
With no promises no prejudices nothing wrong and nothing right
Will you come?

A tad bit sad

आज अगर मंटो ज़िंदा होता तो हैरान होता
पहले ज़मीन बाँटी और अब पहचान भी

जाने क्या हासिल कर लेंगे ज़मीन पर लकीरें खींच कर
ज़रा सोचो, क्या बांट सका है कोई आसमान कभी?

Just a tad bit sad about the affairs in India. Ended up writing a few couplets out of sheer frustration.

Sky is pink

For some reason I decided to watch Sky is Pink. Depressing, and too long. Waste of my time. It wasn’t the only thing I did for myself today that was a waste of time. I had a terrible sprain in my neck today. I could barely move my neck and was in utter useless state all morning. To my surprise I even found a massage appointment for 30min at lunch. How proud I was of actually taking the time to care for myself. But – that was also useless. Waste of 30min of time and massage points. The sprain did not get better and except for oodles of cream on my neck and hair, nothing good came out of that massage.

As I was typing this Bua sent me a message to share that she has started having mental conversations with me. And I kid you not. I have too. I was imaging what I want to do with my nieces when I am with them, while I was driving to work. I need to catch up on their almost teenage life. It brought tears to my eyes thinking of my time with them. And also seeing Bua’s cute message. Hahah I am tearing up just thinking of the memories to be made 🙂

There is just so much to wrap up before our flight next Wednesday. I really need this break. I need a reset. Agam is right , I fill my empty hours with work. I need to get better at it. I will.

Take the time, eat the cake

After work tonight, I went to Books Inc. to buy holiday gifts for my team. The gift wrapping was going to take some time so the gift wrapper told me to come back in 20min. At first I decided to sit in the bookshop and catch up on my email. But then I was reminded of an old mentor friend who used to tell me to take the time and eat the cake.

So I went next door to Paris Baguette and ordered myself a delicious strawberry cream cake. They make the best cream cake possible. Light on sugar, soft as sponge and delicious cream with fresh strawberries. At first I felt so stupid ordering myself a piece of cake and sitting by myself in a corner. But then I decided it’s been quite a year in so many respects. Why don’t I just take the time and eat the cake. And listen to holiday songs while I do that.

So I did just that and celebrated me. I am always disappointed with myself , but today I just reveled in the force that’s within me that keeps pushing despite my flaws. I don’t believe in perfection anyway. So here I was enjoying this broken and messy me 🙂

There is a reason for my despondence. I met Rosie after three years. She still works at FRC as a barista. She seemed happy. She made me realize how some people will be happy just where they are. And there are those like me who hop and jump and skip and run, chasing that very happiness.

To each their own. I am going to go back to my hop and skip and jump and run, year after year. But, at least I took the time to eat the cake today.