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! 

2018 – a recap

It’s almost time for the annual reflections. There is a lot that happened this year. A lot that I am thankful for, and a lot that I am just surprised at. We traveled a tiny bit more than planned. Both of us switched roles, and in Agam’s case, he left Google. I found hope and some promise in my humble attempt at understanding leadership. Tara grew up by leaps and bounds, and with her so did we. 

It is fair to say that this has been a swift year in passing. It started with our trip to India and Singapore, and will end with a trip to India.

Our travel highlights this year were a quick trip to San Diego to meet Kiaan, followed by a getaway to Monterey, followed by a long and fun trip to Australia. Then Dadu and Dadi came to visit and we went to Monterey with them again, followed by Maui on Labor Day, Seattle some time in October, and Cabo on Tara’s bday. In between I went to Boston for Jeeju’s graduation, New Orleans for a work summit, and Austin for a work trip. That’s a tad bit more than I like, so I am going to keep it light next year. I am dying to go back to Yosemite next Spring, and with Dadi completing her PhD in Spring, the much awaited trip to Greece is due as her reward. An annual pilgrimage to Hawaii and may be we keep it at just that for now. Of course we will wrap up with India in December. 

Health highlights – not much to note. Agam and I both did poorly on that front. I kicked off my walks this spring and continued through the summer. But the DST screwed up with my plans and winter has been harsh. I started a weekly strength training routine and that worked out fairly well. But it is not enough, and needs to be supplemented in 2019. I am so glad to have rekindled my love for walks though. It is like meditation. It is so hard to find time with just myself, but this year my morning routine allowed for more of me time.

Tara highlights are plenty. She is turning into a chatter box. Not sure what I was expecting. Her vocabulary and ability to frame complex sentences, and her natural style of oration is way beyond what I thought kids at this age possess. She finds joy in helping. She oscillates between a mellow kind kid to a fire cracker on a pretty regular basis. And I love that about her. It mirrors my own moods 😛 She enjoyed her music class this year with teacher D. Next year she will start an art class at CSMA.

Work front was just way too tumultuous. I grew the team, built a strong team culture, got us all grooving to the beat of moving forward, set some ambitious goals for the year, and then I went and gave myself away to an exciting unknown. I promise myself to never do that ever again. I don’t have the heart to leave what I build. I am still reconciling with my decision to leave a warm, strong, excelling team to go follow my lofty idealistic unknowns.

I am a fighter when it comes to making people do the right thing. I channelized my impatience, and righteousness to fight bureaucracy and yielded marginally productive results. I did not stay long enough on my old team to see it through, but I hired the right successor to take charge and continue the fight.

I learnt a lot about people, their incentives, their learning styles, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and coaching, this year. I tried hard to balance the heroic IC and the humble manager sides of me. I think I did OK. But I am sure there is scope for improvement. I did get a promotion. So that was nice too. But then again, I am just catching up to a trajectory I let go off when Tara was born. No regrets.

On the cooking front, I baked a lot less this year. We had several get togethers – the Spring Giving brunch, Holi lunch, summer party when Dadu and Dadi were here, and then Tara’s Bday + Holiday party. We met up with some friends after decades. The social scene was pretty heavy. And I’d like to slow that down a little in 2019. I need more “we” and “me” time next year. Work is bound to get more hectic and demanding, so I need to carve out time for Tara, Agam and myself.

I read more, but not enough. I like to keep some week nights for reading, and I had relatively less free week nights this year. By the time I hit the sack, I was so sleepy, and tired that I did not indulge in bed time reading as much. Need to work on my week night schedules. The problem with loving your work is that you start doing it as a hobby during any free time.

I wrote a lot. It was not as structured as I would have liked it to be. But something is better than nothing. Writing is my release. I don’t like to associate incentives with it, because it defeats the purpose. I prefer it to be a vocation. But it’s quite possible that I am convincing myself of this excuse when in reality I am just simply lazy. I did promise VC that I’d do it some day though. Perhaps that’s what retirement is for. I realized that I cannot store thoughts, I need to let them out. If I let them brew a little, I should be able to write some short stories. But I like to let them go, so they don’t occupy my mind. And that’s the challenge.

One can say that Rupi inspired me to be more lyrical this year. I went back to dabbling with hindi/urdu poetry. I feel embarrassed to even use the word poetry to describe my lyrical ramblings. Truth is that I find it very meditative to write in hindi/urdu. I recall the words, find their meanings, look for the right word, and weave it all together. It is an activity that completely disconnects me from my environment. As the time I have for myself shrinks, I need to find more activities where I can get the maximum return on my time. Writing in general, and writing poetry in particular are both great for that purpose.

In terms of giving, I found more ways to give this year. I am not going to list that here. But I felt like by giving in ways that I did, I received a lot back. So this cycle shall continue.

Here’s something that I will always remember 2018 for – a powerful passage in a book I read in a book shop in Seattle.

IMG_9992

This year, I felt positively challenged in my pursuits. It was rewarding, gratifying, and ethereal in some respects. I learnt that good things happen to those who wait. That plans are just plans, life always takes over. And that finding myself is the only way to close the pot that has been open for a long time. I am the lid I am looking for.

We leave for India tomorrow. A happy home awaits us 🙂 See ya’ll in 2019!

Chase

Today I graduated from mediocrity, to excellence in my own eyes. ‘Medicore’ is a label my Dad bestowed on me when I failed to get through a decent engineering program at IIT. I wish he had instilled the fear of mediocrity in me a little early in life. If he had, I might have not disappointed him with my dismal results in JEE and DCE exams. I have lived with that monkey on my back for my entire adult life. Today, the monkey goes back to the jungle.

We all evaluate our life using different measures. I don’t chase money, titles, and the awards, but I chase impact, and appreciation of the people I work with. I feel very accomplished tonight. And I am not going to be modest about it.

Performance reviews become more and more meaningful as we grow up. They represent a pattern. They are also a good indicator of how others see you. It is a big component of self awareness. It is important to me that I am perceived exactly as I am. And as I read some of the reviews tonight, I did well. And with that achievement, I am graduating from mediocrity to excellence, in my own eyes.

I want to very concretely define what it is that am I excelling at. It is hard. I am told that I bring people together. But that cannot be enough. I resolve conflicts. That is also not enough. I inspire teams to move forward. That too is not enough for me. I need to know more specifically what am I excelling at, and what do I need to keep doing. Surprisingly, no performance review ever delivers that message. It can only be answered by self reflection.

I’ve thought about this, and as of tonight, and perhaps I am rushing it since I am very tired, I am excelling at growing a team, leading them with a strong vision, stretching them to be the best version of themselves, and bringing teams together for the common good of my employer. And for tonight, that’s enough. But I know that starting tomorrow, it won’t be enough. I need to find that one thing I can excel at, moving forward. The chase is on.

I like this chase. It helps me get better. May it continue. As long as it is me catching up with a better version of myself, I should be OK.

 

 

Conversation with a self encouraged story-teller

As I get more serious about taking writing more seriously, (yeah that’s a lot of serious talk in one sentence), I need to unlearn some of the things the world has taught me. I don’t lack the ability to take a happenstance and narrate it in simple and soul hugging words. What I lack, is the ability to imagine and create.
 Today I don’t create. I simply narrate. And if I want to be a story-teller, I need to learn to create and not be limited to what the world has taught me. To think without limits is an ability a story-teller must possess. I don’t think it is difficult to get there. It is like meditation of some sort. And with practice and patience I can do it. I just need to embark on the journey to start creating and I need to start now.
I do think that having dealt with too much practicality and reality early in my life, imagination is not something that will come easy to me. But I don’t think it is impossible. Well Impossible is Nothing! I just need to find my strengths.
Observation is a big part of imagination. If you don’t observe, what will you base your imagination on? Now that is something I am good at. And as I confessed to Agam not very long ago, I observe too much. I observe every reaction, every smile, ever grin, every shrug, every shiny eye, every smirk, every damn emotion or movement that can be captured by this human eye. I observe all body movements, all uhs and umms. I am observing even when I am  not actively looking at something. My sub conscience is always observing, like a beacon out there grabbing all signals – involuntarily of course. May be everyone is like that. And I won’t be surprised if that’s the case. But oh well that’s how I feel anyways.
 The good thing is that I have learnt or rather coached myself to observe but not analyze. Analysis can be biased and clouded by experience and preferences. Observation is simply raw data. If I use the observed sample set to imagine. I think I can do many creative things with that data set.
Phew.. all this and more, thanks to Nilanjana Roy’s candid interview in NYT. See link here A Conversation With: Author Nilanjana Roy – NYTimes.com

Individuality

When I was a child, I did not know much about individuality. I was attracted to friends who were like me. There was definitely no conscious effort behind these pairings. It was just that it seemed to be a comfortable choice to make. And then I grew up to realize that my closest friends and I had nothing in common and that was exactly what I loved about their company. They offered such fresh perspectives on almost everything that I enjoyed seeing things from their lens and shared my reflections with them.

By the time I got to college, individuality had been established as a prominent cornerstone of my persona. I realized how life was going to get tougher as I proceed on this route. I was always the fish that swam against the crowds. And needless to mention, I also got into trouble because of that. But that is who I was and I was not going to change myself.

Then I came to the US. Luckily for me I found the society that I was most comfortable in. It is woven with diverse threads of individualism. Each thread is so strong and so unique, that the resulting fabric is par excellence. That was when the rubber met the road for me. And I have been enjoying this solitary road trip, ever since.

In between all this, I fell in love with a man who was a perfect match to my complete self. Let me elaborate. I have read those romantic novels that talked about the notions of “love completes us” and other such BS. But now these themes disturb me. When books and movies profess this notion of one completing the other, they are diverting the attention of the future generation from individuality. We are all complete in our own self. We don’t need someone else to complete us. And therefore statements like –“what a lovely couple, they complement each other” are baseless. And if you disagree with me then you are admitting that you are incomplete. Now how does that feel?

We are all complete humans with our flaws and our qualities and all other attributes that make us unique. Our life partners are people who match us in spirit, intellect and values. We are both complete in our own selves and together we are not ONE, but TWO strong individuals.

I digressed. We all live by certain strong principles – the key tenets of all our decisions, the value pillars on which we build our lives. And I believe that individualism is one such tenet that I inherited. I did not have any other influence in my childhood other than my parents, and both my parents have a role to play in who I am today. They harbored in me the spirit of inquiry, and the strength to form my own opinions and take my own decisions and live by them through thick and thin. Thus my individuality is something that I cherish and cannot do without.

But lately I have observed a couple of patterns. The first one being that people consider individuality as a taboo and seek shelter in community. To comply is by far the simplest thing I have come across in life. What takes courage is to create. Create yourself, your values, your relations, your opinions and your perspectives. When you create the framework of logical thinking from your own experiences and knowledge, reasoning becomes extremely simplified. When you borrow the framework from the society, it takes time to get the nuts and bolts in place and those cracks result in the gaps in your reasoning.

In the end, just make sure your actions are yours, and not those influenced by the world around you, because after all we are simply a sum total of our actions. And if your actions were not yours, then whose lives have you been living?

My second observation is -what we seek from our friends when we are 8 is different from what we seek from them when we are 12 and that is different from what we seek from them when we are 16. But somehow for me, the counter is stuck at 16, and I am still seeking the same elements from my social circle that I sought back then. I am still hungry for those fresh perspectives and that ability to reflect on things with one’s own lens.

You are ripe with your own experiences. You have your very own light within you, throw your own light on the object and tell me what you see. I can guarantee you; no two people see the same thing even when they are seeing the same object. Share your reflections with me and I will share mine. Look deep, find the new, and tell me, and I will also reveal. Don’t see the world with the eyes with sore eyes, and report back what I can find on the news channels. Intrigue me, and I will reciprocate.

I want you to show me worlds that I cannot see. I want you to be YOU. And I want you to let me be ME

Just one of those ramblings, that I will revisit when I am 40.

 

About writing..

It is a very nice feeling when people tell you that they relate to your writing. I write because I think too much. And I don’t want to discount my thinking by allowing my thoughts to drift away and go undocumented. I write because that is how I clean up the corners of my mind.  People do meditation, they work out, they cook, they take up dancing – I just write.
I write for myself. I write so I can read these thoughts at a later point in life. I like to read my old posts and laugh at how immature or insecure I was. It helps me reflect on what I was and what I have become and gives me confidence that I can nurture myself to be someone better.  I have been blogging since 2005, and I have archived every detail since then in the cloud. But instead of making this about me, I want to write about people who come to my blog and leave a note of reflection.
 People, who don’t just come and browse, catch up on gossip in my life and leave. They come and reflect on their own lives through my posts. There are also a bunch who might not leave a note on the blog, but send me an email, a Facebook message or +1 my posts. About people who tell me directly what these words mean to them and how they live each moment with me, as they read my posts.  
This is not a thank you note by any means. I think these simple acts reveal a lot about who you are. You have no fear in communicating your thoughts. You don’t hesitate in engaging in this virtual dialogue – about your life and mine. You don’t hesitate in appreciating someone or for that matter critiquing someone’s work or habits. You are honest with yourself. You don’t act in stealth, but in open. You don’t read and move on; you ponder. You don’t simply take from people’s lives, you also give.
Some folks are shy about voicing their thoughts on an open platform, and some think they might get sued for commenting on the world around them. Some people think they cannot find anything appropriate to comment, and some feel they might be invading someone’s privacy by commenting on their posts. Whatever be the reason, I feel that there is lots of learn from each other.  And blogs are a great way to go about it. It used to be uncommon to write in public about the fears and jubilations that we experience. But not anymore. We live in an open world where we share open networks and open relationships. It is time we accept that as a way of life.
Often in my blogger’s regret phase, I think about taking the blog private. But I fight myself out of this notion, and bring it back up. Why should I hide something from anyone? Stealth breeds fear. Open dialogue builds confidence and also a certain commitment to yourself. If you start thinking about who is going to read this and what they will interpret out of it – you will begin to write a story that the world wants to read. This is my story as I experience it. I have no audience but myself and I have no motif but my growth.  

Delhi Belly

One does not need a reason to go to India. But this time, I had repeatedly spoken to Agam about the purpose of our India trip. It was to serve as a blast of energy for our families back home.  There had been some ups and downs. It almost felt like a series of unhappy happenings had plagued the environment. For starters, some of us lost our father, some lost their husband, some had to go around doctors for eye checkups and surgery, and someone was managing so many things all by himself – making sure he is there to support all others around him.

We wanted to distract everyone from their usual routine, and stir up the environment. Get the Brahmas excited about the upcoming wedding, the Khullars stirred up with activity in Hari Nagar and the Gandhis excited about future vacations, their adorable photogenic daughters and life ahead in general. We wanted to make them all happy. We had a very tight itinerary, but we managed it cover a lot of ground in these few days. I loved the complete orchestration of activities. It was nice to sit back and see the plans form and merge and collapse and form and finally get implemented.

We landed in the wee hours of Saturday morning and spent the next day eating and then eating more, and then getting ready for the party in the evening. I think the party was a great idea to jumpstart the vacation. Especially in summers, it would have been impossible for us to go and meet everyone in person, so this was just perfect. We met some of our favorite people and shared the happenings since the last few months and also the plans for the upcoming ones.

And then we started the drill – Kamakshi temple, dinner/lunch at some favorite restaurants, monsoons, shopping, super fast darshan at Bangle Sahib, more shopping, family dinners, day spend with Valya Bua, family visits, giving gifts/receiving gifts, meeting friends from way back in time, more family visits, bailey shots, Delhi Belly, Chole Bhature from Haldirams, Chaat at Bikanerwala, birthday parties, birthday cakes and the last and final day spent with my favorite people all together in Hari Nagar.  And then we boarded the flight back to SF. Oh what a fun time spent in Delhi with our loved ones, a whirlwind trip, one that helped me replace my memories from the last trip to Delhi. I indeed needed this trip.

So this how I think our brain works. We visit places and make memories and those memories are what we remember about those places. In my mind, Delhi was associated with Papa’s death. Delhi was where I rushed to when Stuti told me that he is no more. The home in Hari Nagar was printed in my memory, as from the 13th day ceremony, full of people with sullen faces. My memory of my mother’s dazed face had to be replaced by something more cheerful, or else every time I thought of her, her sad face came in front of my eyes. My last memory of my Dad is him waiving at me from the security line at the SFO airport, right before their flight back to Delhi in 2009. That’s how I will always remember him. Luck favored me and I didn’t have to replace his cheerful face with that of him, after his soul had departed .
So I wanted to replace my memories from the last trip with new memories, of the world after he had left. And that’s what this Delhi trip was all about.
Now when I think of Delhi, I remember the fun time we spent at the party with my nieces and my family, seeing my Mom and sister at home on Saturday evening before the party, the trip to Kamakshi temple and the short discussion that followed it, the gift opening session at Naraina, the yummy Rajma Chawal at Stuti’s, shopping trip to gold suk with Bua and Momma, my super active Mom, running around making sure her son in law is fed , mango kulfi at Bikanerwala, followed by Mishti Doi, watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Paris pictures with Jeeju, Mumma, Stuti, Aunty and the niecos, cutting our bday cake at Hari Nagar and waving the final good bye to Momma and Papa at the airport. That’s what I remember of Delhi – and that’s what I want to remember until our next trip in January.

Delhi rocks.. it is still the city I will happily swap with any destination in the world.

June .. is for anniversaries !

It was our first wedding anniversary last Saturday. We celebrated in indulgence and style at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. I surprised Agam with a booking at the hotel for the night of June 4th and we both enjoyed the day at the resort, sans gadgets and other distractions. But all that while, a thought kept lingering in my mind – “what is it exactly that we are we celebrating?”

A silly statement on facebook turned out to be the actual answer to my question – we celebrated a year of commitment to each other. That’s pretty much all there is to celebrate so far. Isn’t it? I don’t fancy phrases like “celebration of love”. Of course there is love, that’s why you are married; there is more to this equation. And commitment is a big part of it. There are other variables, but commitment should stay a constant for the marriage to last.

This 26th of June, will be my mother’s first wedding anniversary without Papa. I have been thinking too much about this and I need to get it out of my system. So bear with me here. The question on my mind is – “can I still wish my Mom, a happy wedding anniversary?” The answer of course is “Yes I will”. But it took me sometime to process this thought. I am a result of this marriage that still exists. So what if one of the partners is no more in this world. I want to still thank my Mom and Dad to bring me into this world. And we should all still celebrate it. Just like we did for all these years. I want to take my Mom out for dinner, just like my Dad did. I want her to know that marriage does not end with death. It stays on. We as kids should forever celebrate our parent’s anniversary, since it is for this union that you and I are here.

Deep within – we all have these fears lingering in our mind. Some of us combat them head on, and some of us jostle within ourselves, trying to find answers to some of this randomness in life. Whatever be the means, I believe these fears must be addressed and acknowledged, else we cannot move on. And so I will celebrate my parent’s wedding anniversary, this year as well.

to cook with love…

Just like driving my ultimate machine is like playing a symphony; cooking in my kitchen is my version of dancing at a ballet. Laugh if you want, but it is the same fervor.

I am not an artist. I never aspired to be one. But I do find parallels to art in my life. I derive an artistic pleasure in throwing raw things into a vessel, adding a dash of spice — and making something that pleases the senses in my mouth. I love the colors in my kitchen. There is a reason I like to keep my spices in glass bottles; simple things to make me smile when I am there.

I discovered cooking when I was in hostel and the food that was served in the mess was beyond edible. It was distasteful and uncooked. And I realized that just by adding some spices brought from home, I could make it edible. Those days I only modified the food that was cooked in the mess, didn’t really have the bandwidth and resources to cook from scratch.

But then I came to the US. You better know how to cook when you land up in a place like Boulder, CO. Indian food was expensive and difficult to find. Unlike others, I used to look forward to my turn for cooking while I stayed with two other girls in Boulder. I discovered how much cooking calms me down. I may be loud in my demeanor, but even I seek silence and cooking is my escape.

Yesterday, Agam spent most of his day at Maker Faire and I had the house to myself. There was a lot of chopping, slicing, sautéing, baking, sprinkling, sieving, boiling, steaming, stirring, smelling and tasting. It was fabulous. I loved every moment. I did not multi-task. I cooked one dish at a time. So the aromas don’t get mixed up. The occasion? Friends from office were coming over for lunch. Cooking for 2 is boring. Cooking for 16 – and that too from different countries and ethnicities is FUN! You want to make sure they get the taste of Indian spices, but you don’t want to overwhelm them.

It is not just cooking. It is the presentation that excites me. I can spend hours tirelessly shopping in World Market, Crate and Barrel and some times Marshalls (not too often though! – I get so lost there) looking for the right prep bowls, serving bowls, platters, cups and trays and the like. And then there is coriander and mint that delicately sit atop the dishes.

When I was taking care of my guests today, I was actually dancing a ballet. I used balance, precision, and emotion to serve to their needs. There really was a beat in my mind when I was enjoying myself today – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df-eLzao63I

Enough said. I think the source of all this inspiration is my loving husband, who loves to eat and is never short of words of appreciation. Muchas Gracias !

a good friday recipe

I had the best Friday last week. No, seriously – it was THE best Friday ever. It started with bathroom wars, since Agam and I were getting ready at the same time, to catch the 7:57am Caltrain to San Francisco. Our prime destination was the French Consulate but we took an unhealthy detour – The Creamery. We rode the train together and indulged in the spring sunshine and breakfast at The Creamery. Try it – you will love its coffee. It is different.

Post breakfast we went to the Consulate to get our French Visas stamped for our upcoming vacation. After that we both headed our own ways; I went to the SF office and Agam walked back to the Caltrain station to ride the train back to Google. After finishing some pending work, I headed to La Mar for the Annual TMT Lunch. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet like minded consultants. Post that we went to June Jordan School in SF, for Impact Day planning (more on that later); and then I returned home and sipped coffee in my patio with my husband.

We actually ended up going for Bridesmaids later that night, which for the record, was very hilarious and entertaining. It was a slap on the face of all the presumptuous bitches and a sweet triumph for someone like me who is WAY TOO REAL TO DEAL WITH. And the evening ended with a meal with Agam at Shah.

And so it was a wonderful Friday!