28 September 2018

Friday evening unwinding

“Deep chhilo, shikha chhilo
Shudhu tumi chhiley na boley alo jollona
Bhasha chhilo katha chhilo
Kachhe daakley na boley mon katha bollo na”

The lamp was there, as was the wick
But without you, there was no spark of fire
Words were there, as was my voice
But without your beckoning my heart remained mute.

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14 September 2018

Is it just me?

It used to be – when I was half my age, I could not stand Rabindrasangeet (Tagore’s songs). I found them to be slow and too easy to sing or play with. To be sure, I am one of the rare Indians who went thru a full engineering and MBA course without ever getting into or listening to Western music. I was more about the sophistication of the songs that originated from the Sufi movement and that included Nazrulgeeti.

As I age, I find myself inexplicably attracted to Rabindrasangeet. They are still slow and easy to play with. And that is exactly what I like. The one difference is that as I am forced to slow down, I find meaning in the songs that completely escaped me.

Just like a singer friend of mine two decades ago had predicted will happen to me!!

Be it songs, motorbiking or life, I am finding that momentary speeding up is easy. Slowing down and staying steady is so much more difficult. And yet that is mysteriously attractive.

“Tomar khola haowa 

Laagiye paaley, tomar khola haowa

Tukro korey kaachhi 

Aami doobtey raaji aachhi

Sokal amaar gelo michhey 

Bikel je jay taari pichhey

Rekho na aar bedho na aar

Kuler kaachhakaachhi

Aami doobtey raaji aachhi

Tomar khola haowa”

“Your gush of fresh wind

Has touched my sails

And tore away my anchor

Now, I am even willing to drown

My morning has gone in vain

And my evening will follow soon

No! No! Do not tie me down

To anywhere near the shore

(For I want to be blown away by)

Your gush of fresh wind… “ 

 

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12 September 2018

The year is coming to an end!

The year is coming to an end!!
It was almost a year back that on Oct 1, I commenced my year off from work to explore life. For the fourth time. Every time has been better than the previous time. The structure is always the same – do a few new things for myself, do a few things with the family and do a few things for the community.

The report card for the whole year, looking back, has a few hits and a few misses.

The following are of the category “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

🙂 Learnt how to motorbike!! At the age of 52!! Have already posted nearly 4,500 miles (7,200km) under my belt. A long ways to go to be super confident (those dratted right turns around mountain corners 🙂 ) but I will get there some day, I hope!

🙂 That amazing Mongolia trip with Roger. It is a hard life they live but what a once-in-a-lifetime experience!! Those blank boarding passes, the sleeping in a new “ger” (nomad’s tent) every night, the alcohol made from mare’s milk, the sanddune-as-your-bathroom routine, the eagle on your hand, the experience of vast nothingness…. I do not think too many things can top that for me.

🙂 Some of the best family times – those international trips to countries we visited for the first time – Indonesia, Thailand, Aruba, Cancun (Mexico). Those 10 days of completely destination-less road trip with Sharmila. That Hilton Head beach vacation for just the two of us! Those trips to see Natasha in New York!

🙂 That character-building experience of spending a year in hospice units. Especially the memory care unit. Watching palliative care unit patients come in and then go away. Setting a perspective in life. And making every moment with them so momentous

🙂 Tried to push the minimalism curve. The closet now has literally one third of the clothes I used to have. The shoe closet? Reduced 90%!! (Have to admit – I am one step away from my dry cleaner missing their promised date from having a wardrobe disaster!)

The following belong to “It is all about human relationships” category

🙂 Continued with that old habit of running from my second time of year off. Ran in over half a dozen countries. Ran into a hostel mate in Cancun. But the best part? Running with Nikita – the latest runner in our family. She is faster than me. My slow speed never bothered her as much as my insistence on taking a picture together did!

🙂 Speaking of proud moments with daughter, watching Natasha grow up. Just in the last six months, she went to Germany and then Czech Republic by herself. And then went to Ghana. She is there now even as we speak for the next six months. To put this in perspective, first time I got a passport was when I was 10 years older than she is. And nobody in our entire family has ever set their foot on to that dark continent called Africa. Now she has!

🙂 Met so many unique people – remember finding that domestic help from the seventies in that remote village? or finding that farmer – who came in a ragged jacket – no less – who would put me up on his shoulder so that I could pick a tamarind or a mango from the trees in our village when I was not even five years old? finding Steve Martin’s birth place and sending a picture of that house to his mom? so many parents of my friends that I grew up with… that young entrepreneur from Colombia, those security guards and Uber drivers from Ghana and Burkina Faso… what a tapestry of people weaved my life!

And then there was the category of “Keep up with the habits”

🙂 Kept up with the learning cycles – new puzzles, new words, new word origins and lately everything about Africa!

🙂 Finished writing about 42 different gins from 1 different countries. Way too many cocktails. And now on to learning everything about mezcals. Read 6 different books on these subjects.

🙂 Almost completed finding all my elementary, middle school and high school teachers and visiting them. The last one was during Sharmila and my aimless road drive.

🙂 Got lot more disciplined on food and sleep habits.

🙂 Called 3000 people to wish them happy birthday!

🙂 Called my mom and brother daily!

🙂 Played tabla – mostly to our dog Jay Jay, who is not exactly known for his high standards in music!!

🙂 Now, have readers from 132 countries reading my blog!

But there were things I wish I had done better

(o) I ran a lot but not how much I used to run before. Frankly, for the third time in my running career, I find I need some inspiration or goal to push myself.

(o) I never could get myself into mediation. I wanted to. I gave the time. But I have not yet learnt the trick how to control my mind.

(o) I helped a few Year Up students and mentored them. I wish I could spend more time with them. I know they wanted to. And that is a regret I will have.

(o) Similarly, five budding entrepreneurs let me advise them as they built their companies. But I could not spend as much time as I wanted to. Or, as I understand, they wanted me to either. That is another regret I will have.

Nothing was more frustrating than the ones that I missed miserably

🙁 I always wanted to take Sharmila and Nikita for a couple of boat rides in local lakes this summer. Never got even one of them done.

🙁 I tried my best to see how to be a teacher in a high school or an university. I was even willing to do it for free. In spite of my best intentions and a lot of effort, I came to the conclusion that the bureaucracy of the process to do so was so high that I will never be able to get myself there.

🙁 And then there were the life changing events of my dad having a brain stroke and losing his right side of the body and then fighting back to get most of it back. Only to see my very healthy father in law who I was close to move on from this world.

Something good from my failures did come at the end though…

I was very frustrated that I could not get myself in a position to teach high school kids. I wanted to teach Math and Physics.

But I have been able to take that failure and pivot it to the next best thing. I will now be able to combine my wanting to help K-12 kids in school and a little professional ability to run businesses as I move to my next career move. I will join my new set of team mates who are focused not only helping the common student but also in identifying the specially talented ones as well as the ones who have special needs so that every one can have the best education and life for themselves.

Further, my new team mates are focusing on helping detect early signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other mental degeneration … you know like the ones I was spending my hospice hours with.

The year off could not have gotten any better!

The year off could not have ended any better either!!

Please accept my sincere gratitude to all of you who have spent time with me in the last year or encouraged me in my journey in large and small ways (you will be surprised how small things like encouraging comments in Facebook or my blog mean a big thing to me when I read them later).

And wish me luck as I start another new chapter in life with another incredible team.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180912005995/en/Alpine-Investors-Entered-Agreement-Acquire-Riverside-Clinical



17 August 2018

Friday evening decompression…Faysal’s poetry

“Jo bhi dukh yaad na tha, yaad aaya
Aaj kya jaane, kya yaad aaya
Yaad aaya tha bichhadna tera
Phir nahin yaad ke kya yaad aaya.”

Roughly translated…(Avinash, care to take an alternate crack?)…

“All the forgotten sorrows, came back to me today
Who knows what all I remembered today
Memories flooded of your separation from me
I can’t remember what all I remembered after that”

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3 August 2018

Friday evening decompression…

Ghulam Ali singing Nasir Kazmi’s compositions..

“Main to aaj bahut roya hu,
Tu bhi shayaad roya hoga.
Mere chumey huye haathon se,
Auro ko khat likhta hoga”

Roughly translated (improvements welcome)..

“I have cried a lot today
Perhaps, you too cried a bit.
Those hands that were kissed by me
Must be writing letters to somebody else”

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20 July 2018

Do you wake up in the morning and feel happy and contented?

This is a remnant post from our destination-less journey that Sharmila and I undertook last month. My school friend Partho, his wife Jaya and his daughter Rohini and the two of us had just spent a beautiful evening on the Jersey shores – entirely unscripted. Finding a place to have dinner was a little chore but we did find one and settled down there.

Not sure how the discussion progressed but I soon found myself in a familiar zone. I was the only one fighting for one side of a debate – pitted against three others in this case. Rohini kept a diplomatic silence thru the debate. I can argue for a case with so much passion that I can come across almost self righteous – triggering many an opposing view from others as an instinctive reaction. This case was probably more than that.

Again, I am not terribly sure how I landed up there but I know I was explaining the concept of “Memento Mori” (remember, you will die) and how that drives what I do. In essence, I wake up every morning and remind myself that I am going to die. I have one less day left. And that helps me set priorities on what is truly important for me that day and over the longer horizon. Many of the things I have done in life will be considered counter-intuitive. Some may even call them stupid. But as I explained that evening, it all starts with the end. In fact, I think I talked about the book “The Top Five Regrets of a Dying Man”.

There was spirited – and I am not merely pointing to the spirits in the glasses – pushback from the other three. A big catalysis was that discussions around death and regrets cast a negative cloud on the the whole perspective. Such a gloominess should not be the framework of how we live.

In fact, after about twenty minutes of back and forth, Partha succinctly put it – “Do you wake up in the morning happy? If you do, that is all”.

I resisted all the knee jerk reaction to give an answer. He repeated the question. I let him know that I understood his question. And strangely, I found myself very conflicted to answer that question. I let him know that I will think about it and see what I come up with.

Frankly, nary a day passes without me thinking about that conflict for some time. And I am still not sure where I am on it. Thought it best to pose in front of you.

At the root of it, the conflict is the following: Does contentment work against improvement?

If I wake up very content and happy everyday, would that imply that I will never seek how to better myself and achieve them? On the other hand, if I am constantly thinking of proper priorities because of an impending end, will I be incapable of fundamental happiness?

This question can be extended from the individual to the larger human kind… If everybody imbibed into the “Pura Vida” spirit of Costa Rica, would we make great strides in our lives? Doesn’t fundamental change for the better come a lot from being unhappy with the current state of affairs – that triggers the desire to change the world?

Wake up every morning with a sense of happiness and contentment – for we do have a lot to be happy and content about?
Or
Recognize that the number of mornings left is down by one and refocus your life to make it more fulfilled at the end of it?

Is there a way to think of this where they are perfectly compatible with each other?

What do you think?

P.S. Sharmila, Jaya and Partha, I hope I have represented your side of the argument well here. I know I have my own biases and that can come in the way of articulating the opposing view.

29 March 2018

Beautiful words from Agha Bismil…

… rendered unforgettable by Ghulam Ali

“Unke jamaal-e-rukh pe
Unhi ka jamaal tha
Woh chal diye to
Raunak-e-shaam-o-sahar gai…”

Roughly translated… improvements always welcome..

Her face was resplendent with
Her own lustrous glow
And when she got going
So did the beauty of the sunrise and sunset

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26 February 2018

Memento Mori!

Chapter 12: Paragraph 36.
Last lines of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

“You have lived as a citizen in a great city. Five years or a hundred – what’s the difference? The laws make no distinction.
And to be sent away from it, not by a tyrant or a dishonest judge, but by Nature, who first invited you in – why is that so terrible?


So make your exit with grace – the same grace shown to you”

As I read somebody else put it…
Death is the final act in our play of life. No need to fear it. You know it’s coming. Just make sure you act the hell out of your role while you’re here.