- Last family vacation before Natasha heads out to college… Jul 23, 2016
- Introducing the three to you… Jul 23, 2016
- Nikispeak – Pokemon Go! Jul 23, 2016
Getting off the airport train, I told Nikita who was looking for Pokemons (or whatever it is that they look for in that game) on her iPhone: “Niki, we are on vacation. You have to enjoy the sights and the surroundings”
She: “Dad, I have seen this airport so many times”
Me: “If you are going to be obsessed with Pokemon Go, we could have stayed back home”
She: “Dad, I do not have an obsession. Just an unhealthy interest” !!
- Now that she has “Kaine”… Jul 23, 2016
- Seattle style welcome!! Jul 24, 2016
- Ah! those pesky little things called “children” Jul 24, 2016
First day of vacation to celebrate the impending passage of Natasha’s next step in life – leaving us to join college. While many parents have gone thru this phase in their lives, for Sharmila and myself, this will be our first. It will be interesting to see how each one of us internalize this passage of our own lives – the balancing of the joy of seeing her grow to be her own woman on one hand and then breaking out in sweat at night realizing that if we walked over to the other room, she is not going to be there, on the other…
Today, she is going to see some of our very old friends who often helped us manage her when she was a mere baby. Many of them have not seen her since those days (and have never seen Nikita!). It probably will not make a big mark in her mind, but for me, it will be momentous watching those “intersection points”.
There is a fascinating poem by the great Lebanese-born American-settled poet Kahlil Gibran called “On Children” that does an exemplary job of setting the parent – children perspective in the larger context of Life.
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
But seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
As living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might
That His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that is stable.”
- Why “Sleepless in Seattle”, you ask? Jul 24, 2016
- There must be something in the water of Seattle Jul 24, 2016
Met five of our very old friends from Dallas to get this first day in Seattle started in high gear. Four of them were also colleagues from a prior job life. Here is the funny thing – in the fifteen years or so that has gone by, not a single one of them has changed one single bit since I saw them last. Not an ounce put on, not a strand of hair lost… unlike… ahem… yours truly 🙂 I blame Atlanta water for that 🙂
It was great to catch up with Pawan, Rajeev, Bindu, Sanjay and Sansern and the kids!! There were some really funny recollections of the past – the He-Li, She-Li story and the Larry Mason feet traveling in first class to Newark story… to name a few.
I need to come back and spend some more time here…
- Funny! Jul 25, 2016
- Mount Rainier! Jul 25, 2016
- Making new friends!! Jul 25, 2016
Sometimes it is about meeting old friends… sometimes it is about making new ones. We visited Sharmila’s school friend – Saimoon and her family yesterday. I met her and her husband Indranil for the first time. Needless to say, we found out a lot of common friends from our past! The girls – Natasha and Nikita took to Saimoon’s daughters (they are similar age groups) very quickly. We had a great time all around!!
- That was a pleasant surprise! Jul 25, 2016
Next stop was to meet Piyali – Sharmila’s senior from her engineering school – and her family. I remember having met Piyali and her husband – commonly referred to as “PPD” – long long time back when they used to live in Houston. I think our common friends – Indrani and Aniruddha – had brought them over to our place in Dallas. This was way before any one of us kids.
Funnily enough, yesterday, I did not even have to start to find out what common connections we had. We walked into one such immediately as we stepped into their house. Ashok and Bipasha – our dear friends from Dallas – and their daughters were staying with them on their way to Banff! Turns out Ashok and PPD were classmates from their engineering college!!
But the best part was meeting Piyali’s mom. Like every Bengali mom she kept a hawkish eye on my plate and glass. Every time I had finished my food or drink, she would immediately indicate to her daughter to replenish it. Ah! What would we ever do without our Bengali moms and their care in our lives!!
- Rounding up the day with the good old Aroras… Jul 25, 2016
The best was kept for the last. Visited Gagan and Bharti at their place. Gagan and I worked together in my first start up experience. We had no kids and the four of us had grown very close. Those start up days demanded so much work, we barely used to go back to our apartments to sleep. Sharmila and Bharti used to come over to our office and I recollect them learning roller blading in the corridors of our office over the weekends while we pounded away at more code. Well, Gagan was pounding away at more code. I was just eating those free chips and food we used to stock up 🙂
One challenge of keeping the Aroras for the last was that we missed a few other i2 friends who were there at their place and had left by the time we came over. We missed Sanjay, Priya, Vijay and Mamtha. We did manage to stop Atanu just as he was escaping!!
Getting to see the three of them and their kids was the best ending of a day in Seattle. For the first time ever, after dragging Natasha and Nikita thru four meetings of our old friends thru the day, even they declared that it was a great day for them too!!!
- If you wondered how Martians feel among earthlings… Jul 26, 2016
- Dead, but not out… Jul 27, 2016
- For once… Jul 27, 2016
- Trying out an Oregon winery… Jul 28, 2016
- It is all about having fun… Jul 28, 2016
- “Tubewell” !! Jul 28, 2016
I cannot recollect ever seeing one of these in this country. In India, of course, we grew up with these – at least my very early part of life when we were in a village. We used to call it a “tubewell” (and sometimes “hand tubewell” to differentiate from “deep tubewell” that was becoming common in our farms. I also remember a favorite bath time game (we kids used to gather around such a “tubewell” and some adult would keep pumping and we kids would take turns to take baths from the buckets getting filled) was to get an elder cousin to block the spout with their hands and a couple of pumps later, there would be a huge fountain coming out from the top drenching everybody nearby!!!
Saw it for the first time in my life in US in a rural setting in northern Oregon.
- The hike on the southern slopes of Mount Hood Jul 28, 2016
- Mount Hood my witness… Jul 28, 2016
- Mount Jefferson Jul 28, 2016
- This is like our family favorite waterfall… Jul 28, 2016
I have run by it, I have hiked up the trail to the top and beyond, Sharmila, Niki and I have visited this before. Natasha was the only one left… so, this time we made a full family trip there. Together, we have made it to Multnomah Falls about 5 times.
Incidentally, if you magnify the image, you can see all the three girls on the left edge of the bridge looking into the camera!!
- Off the beaten path… Jul 28, 2016
- Juneau, Alaska! Jul 29, 2016
- Smooth sailing… Jul 29, 2016
- Mendenhall Glacier Jul 29, 2016
- Walking back from the edge of Mendenhall lake Jul 29, 2016
- One of them never runs out of words… Jul 29, 2016
- Like a white hippo… Jul 29, 2016
- Glacier highway. Jul 29, 2016
- Where the glacier is melting away into the lake… Jul 29, 2016
- The practicality of it all… Jul 29, 2016
Sipping my first cup of coffee and looking out into the completely cloud engulfed town of Juneau, I called up my mom for our daily call. The girls were sleeping and I had a lot of time at hand. So, today’s discussions with mom went a little deeper into her local weather than it normally does. Of course, she had numerous questions about Alaska. In her mind, Alaska is a huge sheet of white ice that we are all slipping uncontrollably in with every step – perhaps brought down by the weight of seventeen layers of clothes she has conjured in her mind that we must be wearing. I did not bother to mention to her that I was talking to her wearing shorts and a polo shirt. That could have quickly degenerated into a “thanda legey jaabey” admonition.
Going back to the weather in her place, after complaining about heat and rain (and the only reason she did not complain about cold is that the temperatures have not gone below 80 deg F (26 deg C) yet), she concluded that the best would be if it would rain during the night and have bright sunshine during the day.
Now, that did not compute in my mind. I thought rains during the day would be good to bring the temperatures down in that oppressive humid environment. Also, for me, I cannot see the beauty of rain fall if it happens in the dark of the night. After thinking thru a few more angles, I asked her “Keno bolo to?” (“Why so?”).
“Jama kapor sukhatey hobey na?”, she promptly replied.
So, apparently, come hell or high water, she needs the bright sunlight during the day so that she can dry her bundle of washed clothes everyday!!
That was very funny to me. Just the silliness of my assumption that everybody has a washer dryer and that drying clothes to her trumps all the discomfort of a muggy, hot day…
“Tai to, tai to”… I hastened to agree!!
- Nikispeak – How to encounter a bear Jul 29, 2016
Last afternoon, as we were driving around the Mendenhall area, I overheard the two girls sitting in the backseat discussing what to do if we came up on a bear…
Tasha: “You slowly back out”
Niki: “What if the bear is too near?”
Tasha: “Then you run”
Niki: “What if the bear can outrun you?”
Tasha: “Then you lay down and just act dead?” [I think she remembered a story of a person who did the same and the bear, convinced that he was dead, walked away]
Niki, was completely unimpressed with the tactic of simply laying down in front of the bear and then acting dead.
“That is silly”, she said. “The bear is going to be – Wow! FREE MEAT!!” 🙂
- Soaring thru the clouds Jul 29, 2016
- Yellow dragonflies!! Jul 29, 2016
Per capita number of airplanes and helicopters in Alaska is many many times more than the rest of US. Because most of Alaska (more than 90%) is not reachable by roads, these are the most common options (other than boats if you are off the water) both for business as well as tourism. I tried counting the number of non-government non-military airports in Alaska in Wikipedia (including seasonal airports and seaplane ports). I gave up after counting to 400!! Just to understand how akin these are to car parking lots, only 8 of them have control towers!!
- Bird’s eye view of Juneau Jul 29, 2016
- These spiders – they are everywhere!! Jul 30, 2016
- The bald eagle Jul 30, 2016
- Off from remote Juneau… Jul 30, 2016
- After less than ten minutes of flight… Jul 30, 2016
- Walk down the beach trail… Jul 30, 2016
- Real skeleton of a humpback whale Jul 30, 2016
- Bartlett Cove Jul 30, 2016
- Random shot from the trek Jul 30, 2016
- Second trail walk – Forest trail Jul 30, 2016
- Tree carving! Jul 30, 2016
- Too funny! Jul 30, 2016
Where we are staying is so remote that there is no cell phone connection and no (gasp) internet connection. During our walk, we came upon a National Public services building and the two daughter got stuck there and refused to move. You might have already guessed this but the NPS offers free wifi connection (mostly for hikers)!!
- Lazy sea lions Jul 31, 2016
- Very cute looking bird – a Puffin Jul 31, 2016
- The Cormorants Jul 31, 2016
- Picking up four hitchhikers Jul 31, 2016
During the boat ride, we spotted and picked up four folks in canoes. They had been in the water and islands for eight days. Apparently, this is a common pick up point for people who go out canoeing and then after they are done, they wait here to be picked up. After coming back from the boat trip, met another couple who were packing up their canoes to set out in the evening…
I was asking the folks in the canoes what kind of wildlife they had seen. Apparently, their sightings ranged from bears to wolves to wolverines. I think I am going to stay back in my boat 🙂
- Lucked out with this shot Jul 31, 2016
- Mount Fairweather Jul 31, 2016
- The Roys against the Margerie Glacier Jul 31, 2016
- Freeloaders!! Jul 31, 2016
- First bear sighting… Jul 31, 2016
- Second bear sighting… Jul 31, 2016
- Third bear sighting Jul 31, 2016
- Whale watching Jul 31, 2016
- Got drinks? No ice? Jul 31, 2016
- Marble Mountain in the distance Jul 31, 2016
- One more dead tree caught my attention… Jul 31, 2016
- The sheer drop is imposing… Jul 31, 2016
- Amazing color of the water… Jul 31, 2016
- That is a swift journey for the water Jul 31, 2016
- Interesting strain in the rock… Jul 31, 2016
Again, while scanning the mountains for bears and mountain goats, noticed an interesting strain in the rock formation. Most of the rocks here are of uniform color and composition. There was a sudden exception – and I think I saw only one such exception – of a rich vein of what appears to be ferrous composition. (notice the rich red-brown part on the vertical section of the rock).
- Landslide Jul 31, 2016
- Perfect U-shaped valley… Jul 31, 2016
- Margerie Glacier Jul 31, 2016
- Another look at the Margerie Glacier Jul 31, 2016
- Close up of the vertical face of the Margerie Glacier Jul 31, 2016
- John Hopkins Glacier Jul 31, 2016
- Close up of glacier ice Jul 31, 2016
- Reid Glacier Jul 31, 2016
- Forgot the name of this mountain Jul 31, 2016
- Beautiful play on the White, Green and Blue palettes Jul 31, 2016
- Green trees giving way to hard rocks… Jul 31, 2016
- Soaring over the glaciers… Jul 31, 2016
- Early morning by the dock Jul 31, 2016
- Checking out the local flora Jul 31, 2016
- I am not sure how helpful that was Jul 31, 2016
Before stepping into the wilderness, we read up the instructions thoroughly on what to do if we encounters a bear or a moose. If the bear charged us, it said “Stay Your Ground”. I would really like to see us not moving with a hulk of a bear bearing down on us. That is not going to happen. The one about the moose suggested that we run if the moose chased us. I am like “Hello – I do not need instructions for that. Anybody with any sense of fear will show a clean pair of heels. Do you have any special tricks or insightful suggestions?”
- Local berries Jul 31, 2016
- Some more local berries Jul 31, 2016
- Great contrast! Jul 31, 2016
- Local flowers Jul 31, 2016
- Some more local flowers Jul 31, 2016
- Yet, more local flowers Jul 31, 2016
- The lichens have taken over Jul 31, 2016
- Mushroom and Fungi Jul 31, 2016
- At the water’s edge… Jul 31, 2016
- Final flora shot Jul 31, 2016
- On the move again… Aug 1, 2016
- Lunch at a local restaurant in a small village… Aug 2, 2016
- Flyfishing in local Knik river Aug 2, 2016
- Reeling it in… Aug 2, 2016
- Braving the rains… Aug 2, 2016
- First helicopter ride Aug 3, 2016
Fifteen years back, when Natasha was only three and Nikita was not there, the three of us landed on a glacier in a ski plane. Today, we decided to try a helicopter to land on a glacier. Off we go – Jon Elsass, our pilot, and the four of us on a brand new helicopter to attempt a landing on the Colony Glacier…
- We landed!! Aug 3, 2016
- Twenty mile valley Aug 3, 2016
- Finally Sharmila got her wish!! Aug 3, 2016
All this week in Alaska, Sharmila lamented that she did not get to see a moose! Not any more! We spotted a bull moose way below in the valley. In the big picture, it is off center to the right. The inset has a magnified picture that I was able to capture with the zoom lens as the helicopter circled the moose…
- Mountain Goats!! Aug 3, 2016
- Unique airport Aug 3, 2016
I was aware of these kind of small airports but had never been to one. As we took off from Girdwood airport, we circled once over this small bright color (almost looking like a DHL brand) airplane getting ready to take off. Notice something about the runway? It does not have asphalt on the top. It is a dirt road runway. I had heard of these runways but saw it for the first time. (Also, it is a very short runway – only 2,100 feet).
- Top view of the glacier right at the face Aug 3, 2016
Once advantage of an helicopter over a ski plane is that I could ask the pilot to just hang tight in one spot as I took shots. This is an amazing view of the glacier from a thousand feet up right where its face is (where it melts into the lake).
While most of the glacier is very smooth upstream, right near the face, there is a a long stretch where there are these long deep fissures. The fissures go real real deep. I have to research why this is so. My guess is the shearing force from the top of the ice layer as it tips off into the lake is creating this?
But the other thing to note is the amount of rocks and gravel the glacier has scooped up and is carrying with it. Note all the dark brown colors among the deep white and blue formations!
- Birds eye view of the glacier’s face Aug 3, 2016
- Another view of the glacier – this time from the front top Aug 3, 2016
- A perspective in time… Aug 3, 2016
Every year, a new layer of snow up in the mountains creates more pressure on the layers below till it starts solidifying as ice and then crystallize. 10 feet of snow gets compacted into 1 foot of ice. But it takes 20 years for that process to happen.
The face of this glacier is about 200 feet. Quite some of it is under water. This is a particularly slow moving glacier. At barely a couple of feet a day and at about seven to eight miles long … you do the math and you realize something…
Those dark blue patches at the bottom? Yeah, they were part of the glacier before I was even born!! In my defense, I have had a much more active life 🙂
- Wait till I show this picture to my parents when I am in India next… Aug 3, 2016
- Setting out for a trek on the glacier… Aug 3, 2016
- Top of the glacier can be very desolate and lonely… Aug 3, 2016
- One shot of the family together… Aug 3, 2016
- Taking it all in … at Beluga point Aug 3, 2016
- Nope. No Pokemon here. Well, then let’s take selfies!!! Aug 3, 2016
- Dog Sledding! Aug 4, 2016
To get a slice of life in Alaska, we went to a sled dog tour. First, I have never seen that many dogs – 90 of them in one place. Second, the Siberian huskies look way too adorable. These dogs are built to run over hundred miles a day. For day after day after day. Running is what they are born to do. Some of these dogs have been Iditarod race winners (that is a 1049 miles route!!!). When we went there, I could not believe how rowdy those dogs were. We were explained that they have sensed that we have come to go for a ride. So, each one is jumping and barking “Pick me, Pick me”.
We picked thirteen of them to pull our carriage. There were three carriages in all. The dogs were so overexcited to get a chance to run, it was a task just to hook them up. There was even a senior dog walking up and down trying to calm these young dogs down. It was amazing watching the monitor dog bark at low volume to keep everybody calmed down. Most of the young ones were listening to the adult dog as much as my teenagers listen to me!!
After a two mile sled run (on dirt roads, not snow), when we came back, it was almost startling to notice how quiet every dog had become – the ones that went for the run and the ones that did not. They had realized that the run had come to an end. Now they wanted to be cuddled. Natasha and Nikita went ahead and paid cuddling attention to each one of our thirteen dogs.
If you ever wanted to know how intelligent dogs can be, you have to try interacting with some of these Siberian huskies!
- The weak points for every Roy in the family Aug 4, 2016
Be it Kalyani or be it Atlanta, there is a time tested way of melting a Roy heart away in our family… hand any one of them either a baby or a dog. And if it is a baby dog, you have hit pay dirt. There are not too many things that will make Sharmila snatch something away from her daughters (yes, it happened and Natasha and Nikita has made every effort ever since to ensure that she will never forget it 🙂 ).
Most people carry big boxes of salmon and other game when they leave Alaska. For a moment, I was afraid that I might have to buy a couple of new tickets to fly some dogs and puppies home with us.
Truth be told, it was for the asking. Nobody asked me though. They just kept fighting among themselves…
- Last event in Alaska Aug 4, 2016
We were done with our trip. We still had a couple of hours at hand. Took the family to visit our office in Anchorage. Sharmila had great curiosity to see our cameras and sensors and how they are loaded on our planes. It was a great sunny day. I was fairly sure all the planes would be up in the air collecting data. Fortunately one of the planes – Tango Bravo – had come down to the ground for some checkups. We went to the hangar and had Sharmila, Natasha and Nikita get in the plane and see how we do things.
Also got a chance to say Hi to my colleagues in the office…
- One last intersection point for the vacation Aug 4, 2016
We flew in to Seattle around midnight and had a night layover before we headed out. The girls were all sleeping in in the morning. That gave me enough time to sneak out of the hotel early morning and go meet Raghu Ram. We used to work together long time back in the same company in Dallas. Then he moved to Seattle and I moved to Atlanta. We came very close to meeting each other twice but failed in both occasions. This time, I made it though!!
Was great catching up with him over a cup of Seattle’s very own Starbucks coffee. Other than catch up on family and old friends, I also got some insight into some of the challenges of the high end clothing retail industry.
It was great catching up with Raghu after over a dozen years or so..
- And now for the last leg of the journey – coast to coast flight… Aug 4, 2016
- From the rest of the Roy Family to Natasha… Aug 4, 2016
That was a great family vacation before Natasha heads out for college.
We were fortunate enough to see some incredible sights and visit places that we had never visited before and perhaps will never again do so. We saw some majestic animals and birds, petted some really cute baby animals and witnessed some beautiful trees and flowers. We went for long walks and then ate at some quaint local eating joints and wineries. We had some thrilling first time rides and stayed in places with no phone or internet connections. Wherever we went, we made new friends – from Serbia to China to Philippines to Honolulu and met up with the old ones to say thanks for the privilege we have had in crossing our life paths with theirs. We had the occasional fights between the girls and we had the incredible never-seen-before bonding moments between them.
This adventure comes to an end.
And now, Natasha, your adventure begins.
From the whole family, we wish you the best that life can offer you. Like our adventure this time, do not forget to step out of the beaten path. Do not be afraid to venture out in your own way. Seek your own path in life. See the unseen sights, the seldom visited places, experience the lonely paths. And that is what will make all the difference.
Do not get caught up with the so called big things in life. It is the small things – that stopping to pet the dog one more time, that going to the small eatery that supports a whole family, that going back to the gift shop to pick something for a friend – those are the kind of things that makes life meaningful. And somehow, you will realize some day, that when you take care of the small stuff, the big stuff somehow just happens.
Do not forget to try. Fear is our big enemy. Sometimes all it takes is a stubborn refusal to accept the alternate. Just like you volunteered to sit at the window of the helicopter inspite of having inherited a morbid fear of heights from me – you will realize that when you open your eyes a teeny weeny bit, it is really not that bad. And it is that teeny weeny step that emboldens you to completely open your eyes and enjoy life the way it was meant to be. But it does take that small teeny weeny step first.
The glaciers, in many ways, were the perfect metaphor in life. The journey seems slow at times – painfully slow. And just as in the case of the glacier, in life too, when you feel you are burdened with enough weight, there will be another round of snow that will be dumped on you. But it is that pressure that creates the crystals. The best in you will come from your moments of stress – seldom from the moments of levity. The key though, is to keep that forward movement on. As long as you keep pushing forward, the direction seldom will matter. Eventually, even at a glacial speed, you will seek your own valley and then burst out in the form of crystal clear water that will rush down to meet the ocean of serenity.
And in that process some amount of friction will be necessary. That is the beauty of life. To be true to your own self, you will have to stand up for something. And whatever it is that you stand up for, there will be opposing forces and therefore friction. And that is not a bad thing. Without the friction of the glaciers, new landscapes would not be carved out every year. Without an ability to take on heat, you cannot expect to lead.
But above all – and this I mean in the most sincerest form – never lose sight of the fact that it is people who matter the most. People are people and things are things. People – any one – has to trump things – any thing. Wherever your life takes you, get to know people, talk to them, make friends, empathize with them. They are following their own life paths. A few steps together makes both of you a better person. Regardless of who you are, try to remember that you are more fortunate than many others. Being fortunate counts next to nothing if you do not share with less fortunate ones.
And never forget people that you were fortunate enough to cross paths with. Whenever you get a chance, revisit them and remind them that you are who you are because of a lot of influence of lot of people like them. Some small influences, some large influences. But each one of them worthy of your gratitude.
Some day, your path, like all our paths will come to an end. When we will look back… we will see a melee of people behind us… never the things we carried with us.
Now go forth in this truly exciting adventure that we fashionably call “life”.