13 October 2017

A classic from Ghulam Ali

“Itni muddat baad miley ho
Kin sochon mein ghum rehtey ho?
Tez hawa ne mujhse poocha
“Ret pe kya likhte rehtey ho?”

Kaun si baat hai tum mein aisi?
Itni achche kyon lagte ho?
Humse na poochho hijr ke kisse
Apni kaho, ab tum kaise ho?”

Roughly translated…

“We meet today after such a long time
What thoughts are you so lost in?
The strong wind keeps asking me (sarcastically)
What am I trying to write in the sand?

What is so special about you?
Why do you look so beautiful (to me)?
Don’t ask me about our separation, please
You tell me – How are you doing these days?”

20 September 2017

Do you want to be a Collector of Experiences along with me?

For a person who gets easily excited by a few Likes and a few Comments on my blog posts, I am certainly overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of visits, and hundreds of likes and wishes left on Facebook and LinkedIn on my post about stepping down from my current job.

The number one question posted is “What is the next big thing”?

Well, the answer might underwhelm you. Or not surprise you if you have known me for some time. Following a time tested pattern, I am going to take another year off before I look for a job. The purpose, as always, is to recognize that time is the only truly finite resource we have and therefore, I need to optimize how I spend that time the best I can.

And like every previous time, the focus will be on
(*) Do something for myself – like learning new skills, developing new habits etc
(*) Do something for and with my family (both my immediate family and my family in India)
(*) Do something for the friends, people I know and society at large

I keep a long list of items in my bucket list. Following are the ones that I am getting started on immediately or want to get started soon. Would you be interested in joining me?

(*) For myself: I have enrolled in motorbiking classes (and a lot of safety classes). I am going to get myself a motorbike and go for pleasure riding up the mountains, by the lakes, by the ocean line … It is not about the speed but feeling the wind and getting to know nature in a whole different way. I have been inspired by and mentored by some of my really good friends – Magesh, Avi and Danny to name a few.

(*) For my family: Nikita and I are getting into some serious volleyball playing. Sharmila and I have drawn up some initial plans on a few great places we want to see as a family. We are looking into Galapagos, Bali, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Banf, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Australia …. Hope to knock off at least a few of them… I also want to spend more time with dad and mom in the next one year. Did I mention, my great friend Roger and I once picked a country at random – Mongolia – and decided that we need to visit that country and find out more about their people? Well, this may be the year!

(*) For others: I have already enrolled and started working as a volunteer in a hospice in Atlanta. I now have 6 patients that I spend time with – most are about six months from what is euphemistically called “transition”. They have come to the end of the runway of that only finite resource we have – time. I want to share some of mine with them.

I am also looking at helping out academia and smaller companies if my prior experience can be helpful (not for financial returns though).

So, that is my initial list. As the list progresses, you will see them in my blogs and posts.

Of course, the old ones – mixing drinks, running long runs (maybe one in Antarctica?), meeting strangers, digging up old people from my past, terrible jokes, playing the tabla, writing more (with fountain pens and digitally)…. I hope to continue with them.

So, here are my questions –
A: Do you have any passion that coincides with mine? I would love to partner up with somebody in a few more steps in my life.
B: Do you want to pick up a new passion? Were you waiting for somebody to just give you the push? Let me know. I might get excited about it. I will be there to push you then.
C: Can you think of how you can help me achieve my goals? Know some professor who might be helped by me? Know some company that can use my experience? Know some old person or dying person who can do with me listening to them or talking to them?

I am up for it…

In the past, the year offs were – according to both my family and myself – the best times we have had. Would be great to keep up the trend… As my friend Avi keeps reminding me – Twenty years from now I will be more disappointed by the things that I didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

So that is my plan.

And yes, at some point of time – around this time next year, I will be looking for a job to pay for stuff. I will reach back at you again then….

In the meanwhile, would you like to be a Collector of Experiences with me? (Suzanne had first told me about this phrase). I will leave you with a thought today…

Watching my patient friends at the hospice who know there are a few more days to live, I bet you they wake up every morning with one thought “One less day left”. And yet, that “One less day” is a truthful statement for all of us – every morning. How many of us recognize that and therefore focus on truly what is important to us individually in life – versus let today flow thru like yesterday was and let our priorities and calendar be driven by other people and things?

8 September 2017

A beautiful couplet

“Waiz! Teri duaon mein asar ho
To masjid ko hila kay dikha
Nahin to do ghoont pee,
Aur masjid ko hilta dekh”

To understand this beautiful couplet, one needs to understand the basis for Sufism – which was a liberal offshoot of Islam. The proponents of Sufism – the Sufis – composed a lot of beautiful poetry around three things that could purportedly put you in a transcendental high. The spirit of God, the intoxication of alcohol and the beauty of your woman. Some would argue that they actually merge at one level.

In fact, there are some interesting duels between those three concepts. This couplet is one of them. The poet is saying…

“If your prayers have that much power
Then make the mosque sway in front of me
Or else, come sit with me and take a couple of sips
And watch the minarets swing in front of your eyes” !!!

3 September 2017

A good commencement speech (abridged)

Sixteen years back almost to this day. the then Coca Cola CEO – Brian Dyson – had given a wonderful commencement speech at Georgia Tech here in Atlanta. Anybody who wants to read the full text can see it here: http://www.markturner.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Whistle-Brian_Dyson-Georgia_Tech_Commencement_Sept_1991-p3.pdf

I have taken the text and edited out the parts (in ellipsis) that were mostly examples to make his point – if you want to get the gist of his message. There are two core messages – what it takes to succeed and the need for balance. Here it is:

“I think the ingredients for success <…> are: vision, knowing what you want to be when you grow up; confidence, knowing who you are; and luck, or what I would call being in the right place at the right time.


<...>

The first ingredient in the secret formula for success is vision — what you would like to be. Because remember that we all live under the same sky, but we do not have the same horizon. A vision is different, I think, from the short-term goals that characterize a young life. These are often set for you by teachers. parents, advisers. They all have, to one degree or another, some stock in your life, and they quite appropriately set goals for you.

There’s no harm in taking advice, but now you will shape your own destiny. Now you need a larger vision.

<…>

Another ingredient I mentioned as being important to me is confidence — a basic acceptance of what I am and a realistic understanding of what I am not. It is an understanding of your potential.

To realize this potential, you must be at peace with yourself. You must focus on your strengths and attributes, and you must develop them to the max. I think I was in my twenties when this truth finally dawned on me, because until then I had been thrashing around, trying to be all things to all people. It doesn‘t work that way. Confidence in your potential means you can look anybody in the eye and not be in awe of them. Confidence is seeing an equal, level playing field.
So there you have it, my ingredients for success. Vision, confidence and thirdly, luck. Don‘t think that if you have vision and confidence, luck will come looking for you. Sometimes you have to make your own luck.

Lastly, I would caution you that as intelligent and active participants in a dynamic society like America, you must bring balance into your lives. Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit — and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls ~ family. health, friends and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked. nicked. damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

<...> ”

2 September 2017

Friday evening music….

“Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se Maine Dekha Jo Saanware
Tum Door Nazar Aaye Badi Door Nazar Aaye
Band Karke Jharokhon Ko Zara Baithee Jo Sochne
Man Mein Tumhi Muskaye Man Mein Tumhi Muskaye”

Roughly translated…

“From the window of my eyes, when I saw you – my Loved One
You seemed far, I saw you very far away
(And then) When I closed the windows of my eyes, and sat thinking
I saw you smiling; I saw you smiling in my own dear heart”

29 July 2017

One more from Ghalib

“Koi ummeed bar nahin aati
Koi soorat nazar nahin aati
Maut ka ek din mu’ayyan hai
Neend kyun raat bhar nahi aati?”

Roughly translated.. (Improvements always welcome…)

“I don’t see any hope coming my way
Nor a visage of a solution meets my sight
That death will come one day is definitely true
Then why is it that I cannot sleep all night?”

23 July 2017

Back to the future…

This is where our US journey had started. Nearly a quarter century ago, after getting married in a court of law in India, we had headed out to the US. And this was the airport that we finally had stopped our journey in. After thirty hours of flight or so, I was completely dazed and thoroughly ill equipped to understand anything foreign (e.g. I had entered a “Restroom” at the airport thinking that is where I could catch some rest during transit 🙂 Don’t blame me – in India, we called them “Toilets”).

In any case, our entire married life has been in the US and it all started at this airport in this country.

We come back to this airport every single year.

21 July 2017

Slowing down…

Last evening, not having anything better to do, Sharmila and I went for a walk on the boardwalk by the beach. After a bit, we found some rocking chairs lined up along the walk under a street lamp and decided to settle down in two of them. With our plastic coffee cups. Which were filled up with red wine 🙂

I had some powerful “living in the NOW” moments. First, the picture does not do full justice to the ambience. What you do not see is the roaring noise of the waves in the dark in the front. Or the strong sea breeze leaving a very pleasant feeling as it kissed the skin.

It being dark, nothing of the mighty ocean could be seen. Except for the dotted lights of a ship here and a plane there against the large black canvas of a moonless night. What could be seen is a lot of people walking on the boardwalk under the streetlights. It has been a long long time since I had sat down and relaxed and just watched people. You know just watch them as they come and go.

There were old people shuffling along, there were families strolling with the adults having some meaningful discussions and the kids just frolicking along, the young kids in whatever would be considered today’s fashionable beach clothes going in a group, the clearly well to do lady in high heels and the seemingly homeless person with all his belongings in a bike he was pulling along…

I had completely forgotten “people watching”. Just sitting there. Watching them go from left to right and some more from right to left. In a completely non-judgmental way. You know – like they say being “in the flow”.

And then the mind wavered. And speeded to the past. Not sure whether it was the breeze on the skin or the dim streetlight, the mind time traveled in a jiffy to the summer nights in Durgapur when I was barely a kindergartener or possibly in first grade. My dad had an “easy chair” (a cross between a foldable hammock and a lounge chair) and in those sultry evenings, he used to sit down outside in the light breeze. I would join him and sit in a small chair. Pulling up the chair closer to him, I would incessantly ask him questions about those blue twinkling stuff in an otherwise dark sky. And watch anybody who went by the sole streetlight that would be lit up half a block away…

Keeping up with the speed of life, they say is a big challenge.

I find slowing down far more challenging.

24 June 2017

Winding down the week with a classic from Mirza Ghalib

“Dard se mere hai tujhko beqaraari haae haae
Kya hua zalim teri ghaflat-ashiari haae haae
Tere dil mein gar na tha ashob-e-gham ka hausla
Tu ne phir kyun ki thi meri gham-gusari haae haae”

Roughly translated… and any help from experts in Urdu in refining this would be much appreciated…

“You seem to be oblivious to all my pains, Oh, my!
What an oppression of your total carelessness you inflict, Oh, my!!
If you did not have the strength to deal with the vagaries of pain
Why did you, once upon a time, offer sympathies for my pain, then?”