20 July 2021

This leaf caught my eye

Early morning, I was having my cup of tea sitting outside in the porch. It had rained overnight and everything outside was drenched. I was looking at the birds being very busy as they went about their daily bird-routine, when this leaf on the ground caught my eye. Went downstairs and stepped onto the wet ground to take a close up picture. Very interesting how the color difference is split right down the middle!

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18 July 2021

What has Holland got to do with an autistic child?

This week, in our annual all company meeting, we hosted one of the special needs (autistic) students and his mom. These are the kind of folks that we make products for (actually to help them and their teachers). We also hosted the CEO of the company the kid now works in. You can guess that he has become a fully functional socially contributing kid now.

I will write about the kid and his mom later (awaiting permission to publish their picture). But this piece is something the mom (please allow me to refer her by that till I get permission to publish names) read out when she was asked during the Q&A session – “What went thru your head when you realized that you kid has special needs?”

It is a piece (some call it a poem) written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987. The picture her is of the author and her son Jason, born with Down Syndrome.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND!!

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says,
“Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

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15 July 2021

Can I pack all my clothes in one suitcase?

The other day, Sharmila and I were hanging out with some friends and I was gently chiding her about all the clothes and shoes she has – that she never wears. I do not remember most of the rest of the discussion (no, she did not hit me on the back of my head causing me concussion) but I remember how the ladies agreed that they do not want to be seen twice in the same dress. I am sure, in the past, it was possible to abide by that rule and still wear a dress twice if the people to be met had not seen the dress before. Today, of course, with any party getting memorialized forever with obligatory pictures in social media – that wiggle room has gone right out of the window.

However, what I remember most is that Sharmila immediately retorted “You have lots of clothes in the basement too”. I brushed her comment aside chalking it up to be a defensive reaction from her.

But later, I did reflect upon those discussions and got stuck at that comment. While I certainly have far less clothes than her, it is true that I have a lot of clothes. I am defining “a lot” by stuff that I wear only a few times in a year.

That drove me to an uncomfortable realization that I probably suffer from the same challenge that I ridicule others about. Why do I have so many clothes? Why do I need 5 running shirts when 2 should be enough? Why do I have so many office shirts when 4 should be enough? (Even that, in these days of work from home, I am not sure I need all 4).

Lest it be ever said that I lack the capability to go from an awkward realization to a crazy decision faster than you can cry “Uncle”, I managed to conjure up my next personal challenge.

Can I live my life out of a suitcase?

Not all my stuff, mind you – for, it would be difficult to fit my motorbike in any suitcase – but at least, all my clothes, shoes and those stuff. Anything I wear. And if I buy anything new, one compensatory item has to go out.

No doubt I will be ridiculed for this clothes project – if not for anything else, for insisting on thinking inside the box only – but then again, I get ridiculed no less for my choices in what I wear anyways.

Have any of you ever tried such a project? Shridhar and Suzanne, I think you have some experience in this kind of minimalist living, right? Any tips on how to plan, what mistakes to avoid etc?

First thing first. I have to call dibs on the biggest suitcase we have in our house now!

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14 July 2021

Every time I see that building…

Circa 1975. Sometime in December, as I reckon. It was getting late that evening and my parents had not come home yet. They had gone to Benachity market for some year end shopping. My sister and I were in charge of our 5 year old brother.

Around nine pm, my parents finally showed up. Apparently they had difficulty in getting a rickshaw for hire. Nonetheless, my dad was very excited. Dinner be darned, he immediately unfolded the piece-de-resistance that he had purchased. A fairly thick – certainly the thickest I had seen till date – book called “Book of Knowledge”.

It was a book of General Knowledge duly categorized in chapters like “Science”, “History” etc. Most of my early knowledge about the world came from that book. I have searched for that book after my parents died but it was nowhere to be found. Smart money is on the guess that they gifted it away to somebody in our extended family.

In any case, that night, even as my mom fixed dinner, you could not separate my dad from that book. He kept on reading the facts and figures – and loudly too. I suspect, he felt that knowledge would transfer to his three kids thru osmosis if only they heard it.

Post dinner was no better. I had not even had a chance to lay my hands on the book. Now mom and dad were together reading the book. Not seeing much point in it, I went off to sleep.

Next morning though, dad’s interest had waned considerably. Perhaps he had finished the book cover to cover, I had reasoned. Which was impossible – it was a 800 page book. But those days I was gullible and was not into big numbers. I still was trying to figure out my 20s tables.

But I did leaf thru the book that morning. The first chapter that got my attention was the ones that dealt with records… you know like the longest river, highest mountain and all that. Remember, I come from a country, an education system and certainly a set of parents where – at least then – you had to be “first’ in studies. You might remember how my parents were disappointed that I did not come first, second or third in my first marathon in Athens, Greece. I blame that conditioning for being attracted to the chapter that dealt with ‘first” in various categories.

One of the early facts I had learnt that day was “The highest building in the world”. The book said it was “Sears Tower in Chicago” and gave some statistics. Completely ignored the numbers (like I used to ignore the years in history books) – but that name stuck with me.

For the next fifteen years, I do not think I got to know much about America – let alone point out where Chicago might be on a map – but I knew about Sears Tower. And so did my dad. I know that because it would be one more of those questions he would inflict on any unsuspecting kid if they happened to meet him.

I am fairly sure he died fully committed to the belief that Sears Tower is the tallest building in the world. Of course, it is not called Sears Tower any more (Willis Tower, if you care) and is not even in the Top 20 in the world now. But trying to explain that would be like trying to convince dad that Yugoslavia is not a country. Yes, another favorite question of his was “What is the capital of Yugoslavia?”

As luck would have it, I happen to work in that city of Chicago now. Twice a month now, I fly into the Ohare airport. Almost always, the airplane flies up straight from Atlanta, swerves to the east into the Michigan lake and then makes a straight-line west bound route into Runway 9L/27R.

On clear days like today, just as we approach the lake shoreline, I get this view. Immediately, I my eyes go to the Sears Tower and for a few moments my mind is taken back to that night in December of 1975!

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13 July 2021

A familiar spot

“You will not know me sir…”, I started my conversation with the gentleman who had just stepped out of his house when I rang the bell. If I could get a penny every time I have started my conversation with a stranger with that familiar refrain of “You will not know me…”, I would be a rich person today. Well, maybe not as poor, at least.

“My name is Rajib Roy…” I continued.

“Oh! I know you.”

That floored me. “You do? How?” I stammered. I started looking him up a little more purposefully. Perhaps we had worked together in the past?

“Oh! We still get your mail,” he casually answered.

“Ah! so you know of me, then!! Indeed we lived in this house for nine years. This was our first house – for my wife and me. Both my daughters were born in this house. We have a lot of memories here.”

“Why don’t you come in?”

“No. I am between meetings in Coppell and Mansfield. I thought I will just swing by to see the house from outside.”

We stood there and talked about his family – his five kids and how two of his young daughters have converted my library cum music room into their bedroom. And the neighbors we used to have then. After a few minutes, I told him that I needed to go.

“Would you mind if I took a picture of the house from the front?”

“Sure thing. If you don’t want to come in, you can go to the backyard from the side gate to take pictures.”

And with that I got the two shots in this picture of the first house Sharmila and I had bought and moved in to. That was 1998. Sharmila went into labor literally the day we had moved our stuff. Natasha, Sharmila and I – we all moved in together a couple of days later. I still remember opening up boxes after boxes looking for a spoon to make coffee the day after we all came back from the hospital!!

The backyard – specially the pool and the water behind brought back rich memories of the two girls. Pool was their favorite spot. Their friends used to come over and have pool parties fairly regularly. (In our friends’ circle and in the neighborhood, we were among the first ones to have a pool those days).

After taking in the view for a few seconds, I had a “Bye Bye Pool” moment like my father in law as I withdrew!

I am fortunate that work lets me still come back to Dallas and re-live some of the memories of those beautiful days long gone!!

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13 July 2021

Wonderful evening with the Whitneys!!

That was some fun times spent with my crazy friend Roger and his family. I had not seen Shauna, Spencer and Emma for quite some time. It was great to meet Claire too!

We talked about the time when I gained respect from the passenger sitting next to me when he realized I knew Roger personally. And of course our trip to Mongolia. And that time we kept razzing a very young Spencer with “Whatever dude! You kissed a girl!!”

But my best reflection of the evening is that the discussions between my psoriasis and Emma’s tattoos, I think we covered all topics skin related 🙂

Hope we can get the two families together for a vacation some day!!

13 July 2021

The precision makes very little sense

I was cruising in our Airbus 321 this morning to Dallas when I wanted to check our flight map and the following screen came up. Note the figure against distance traveled. Throughout the flight, the system kept updating the distance, but always gave it till the second decimal digit in miles!!

Think for a second. That makes no sense right? A second decimal place in miles would mean about 50 feet. The plane itself is three times as long. At 31,000 feet height at a speed of 500 mph, it takes us less than a tenth of a second to cover a second decimal in miles.

It is an irony that my flights get delayed by hours but I am given my flight progress in less than a tenth of second accuracy!!

13 July 2021

Who makes up these answers anyways?

This is one more of my pet peeves about something making no logical sense. I was completing some mandatory security and compliance courses when the quizzes got me completely stumped. Not that I did not know the answers but that there was no way to truthfully answer them.

Look at the first example. “All of the above” is the right answer. But the aforementioned “above” includes an option “None of the above”. So, if I say All of the above is true, then I am also saying None of the above is true. That is a paradox that cannot be solved.

Take another one. The second example. The first option is “Answer 2 and 3”. That choice makes NO sense. If that was actually the answer, then that means “1” (which is this option itself) would be true too. Only thing that would make sense is to make it a complete set and say “Answer 1, 2 and 3” (1 being this option itself).

These folks might be experts in security policies and all that but not in logic. But then again, whoever has ever accused any government or corporate policies to be logical? 🙂

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