Thursday, June 11, 2015

Now where is my kite...or is it a bird?

Okay, okay…it does feel like a sequel to my earlier snapshots during important milestones in our daughter, Srishti’s life. To go back in time you may want to read my thoughts when she turned a teen here and when she turned 18 here

So what prompted me to revisit my analogy of flying kite and my experience as a parent…she just turned 21 last month. Over the period of last three years she has moved out of our home and started living by herself in her college campus at Rutgers University, NJ. I am still very proud of the fact that she managed to get a full scholarship to take care of all her expenses for her four years’ stay in college. However, I painfully realized that she has been spending more and more time away from me…although her college campus is less than one hour drive from our home, her home! At times, I don’t get to see for a couple of months!!!

Is my pain justified or should I be proud of the fact that she has become an adult or can I be both pained and proud??? After all, she is trying to find her own rhythm in life with study pressure to get admitted in a medical school to become a doctor, mundane jobs, hobbies, BFFs (Best Friend Forever for the uninitiated!), and boyfriends…not in any particular order!

Back to the kite analogy, I feel good that my kite is still flying high but when I don’t see it visually then I feel unsure and may be a little concerned. During these three years, she has made certain decisions which were against my wishes but that is okay. She is big girl now and does understand what is good and bad in life. Yes, I did want my kite to fly in one way and the kite went to another. It may be the winds at that height or may be the kite has metamorphosed into a bird with its own mind and does not want to be attached to me anymore!!!

I will have to wait and see if this kite has become a bird. I think that my not seeing Srishti is like my kite going behind the clouds at times and I don’t see it. It doesn’t mean that she is gone away from me, it just means that her life’s rhythm has taken her away for a while. I know that my love towards her (the string which keeps my kite flying in the sky) is as strong as ever.

Whether a kite or bird, one thing I am absolutely sure is that she has found her own place in the sky. She loves life and I am sure that she will have a great one. How much of that she shares with me is her choice. I have a sense of satisfaction that as a parent I provided her my best and what she makes of it is now her call. I am not the one who is going to pull the string and bring the kite forcefully back to myself.

I will always look lovingly at the sky and hopefully see her owning a piece of it. Every time she comes back to me, I will give her a big hug, spend some good time with her and then watch her go back to the sky. The sky that we both share with rest of the humanity, yet carve out a piece for ourselves. My joy and my pride would be to see her fly higher than I ever could in my life. Hey, isn’t that what parenting is all about???

Friday, January 4, 2013

Parenting – now what to do when your kite’s flying high?

Alright, to really appreciate this piece you will HAVE TO first read my previous blog on parenting which I wrote almost six years ago. See here That was when my daughter just turned a teenager. What prompted me to write now are a little retrospection and a lot of introspection when I deal with her as a college going young adult.

I know, I know that sequels are BIG whether it is Hollywood (Spiderman, et-al) or Bollywood (Dabangg, et-al)!!! However, mine is not a sequel but a continuum and a growth of my parenting philosophy with the passage of time.   
I think that my daughter has emerged from the most tender, tumultuous, and confused teen years as an intelligent, outgoing, and adventurous young adult. She worked really hard and very smart to earn a full scholarship for her four years of college education. So, in my kite flying terms, my kite is flying reasonably high in the sky. However, this has not come to fruition without its share of challenges – past, present and continuous!!!

Back to my analogy of flying kites, if you have ever flown a kite you would know that how difficult and risky it is to control it when it is flying way up in the sky. The string which connects you to the kite can be snapped by you pulling it (kheench) rashly, broken by strong winds, or can be cut by another rival kite in the sky. This becomes all the more difficult when you are in an unfamiliar terrain and when the wind is changing direction all the time. Same has been the case about parenting for me in a country, different than the one where I spent most of my life. It is a different time, a different generation, and a different culture. No matter how much I try to acclimatize myself to all this (sharing the experience of getting the first tattoo with my daughter!), there are times when my ideas conflict with that of hers. Trust me, it is not easy when confronted with arguments which defy traditions, but are logical and rational. Try telling a person of a much older generation about equal rights for women and appreciating diversity – in sexual preferences, religion, ethnicity et-al.

What I have a learned and keep on learning every day is that flexibility with strength is the key to success in parenting. So, many times I give-in to my daughter’s logic and many times I stand firm and draw the boundaries which need to be respected. I know, it is a delicate dance and will vary from parent to parent; child to child; place to place; and time to time. Come on, me and my wife of more than 20 years’ does not agree on most of things when it comes to parenting. It is the same with flying kite as it varies for the type of kite, the skies where it is flown, and most importantly the person who is flying it. However, one thing is for sure that rigidity and lack of flexibility WILL only break – whether it is a relationship or the string that attaches you to your kite flying high in the sky.

Monday, December 31, 2012

My late Naani’s (Grandma’s – Mom’s Mom) home

My late Naani’s home in Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi is going to be demolished and rebuilt in January 2013!!!  I got this news from my Mom a couple of days ago. My maternal uncle who is living there now wanted everyone to have a last look at the old home and invited all the family living in New Delhi – my parents; my brother and his family; all my aunts; all my cousins and their kids. I understand that everyone had a great time, fondly looking at each nook and cranny of that home. It is a huge home and was built almost 60 years ago.

Sitting here, thousands of miles away, my heart filled with mixed emotions as the childhood memories of visiting my Naani’s home ran through my mind. Like in a time machine, I was transported to the years gone by. We used to live around eight to ten miles away from my Naani’s home. We would visit my Naani almost every weekend. My older brother and I were the first of the many-many grand children that home has seen. Being first, we were always doted by our grandparents and our four aunts and two uncles, yes it is a BIG family :-) I remember the atrium like open area, right in the middle of the home. I used to love to see the rain drops coming from the heavens on a rainy day or enjoy the bright sunshine on a cold winter day in that area. Gone are those days when I would climb up the huge guava trees in the compound and pluck those yummy and juicy fruits. I would eat them ripe and eat them green, sometimes till I got a tummy-ache! Where are those days when I would go to the terrace and fly kites the whole day long!! Play with colours and throw water balloons at passers by!!! Burst fireworks during Diwali or pre-Diwali days!!!!

That was the home which witnessed wedding of my uncles and aunts when it was decked up like a bride or groom itself. It witnessed the chapters of  our lives unfold, one after another, some were happy, some were sad – like when we first lost our Grandpa (NaanaJi) and then our Grandma (NaaniJi). It witnessed the birth of all my wonderful cousins and all of us growing up. It witnessed the whole family assembling every Raakhi day and every major festival. Now that home is going away, being brought to ground and a new one would be constructed at the same place.

The born optimist that I am is looking at it as the beginning of a new chapter. I am cherishing the fond memories I had of that home and wishing that the new building will make more happy memories. That is what life teaches us with going away of someone or something we loved – celebrate and remember the life of what has gone away and do not mourn the fact that it is no more there. Writing this, on this last day of year 2012, my heart fills with happiness and gratitude for what the life has taught me so far. There is nothing called perfection in this life and change is the only constant...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Running my first full marathon and how life is like running a marathon

I know that it took me some time in capturing my thoughts and sharing with my friends but better late than never :-)The idea to run a full marathon struck me when I turned 45 in November, 2010… talk about midlife crisis!!!  I did a lot of online research and talked to some folks who have been long distance runners. I found a training schedule which would have prepared me for my full marathon around June, 2011. Soon I found that the big day would be June 12, 2011 at Lake Placid, NY. If you recall, winter of 2010-11 was one of the coldest ones in North East United States. As a result I did most of my training indoors on the treadmill, either at home or in hotel during my frequent business trips. Lucky for me, in early 2011, I started an engagement in Los Angeles where I started training outdoors in the warmer weather. The worst part of running long distance is that it is a very lonely sport. However, I found an engaging solution, i.e. listening to audio books on my smart phone while running. One is engaged in the plot and the characters and time flies away. It also helped me catch up on lots of reading, including the Stieg Larsson’s trilogy which started with “The Girl With Dragon Tattoo”. With every passing week I really liked spending time on long runs and started looking forward for the big day. As I came closer to the D-day, I started checking the weather forecast in Lake Placid during the weekend of my run. Sure enough, the whole weekend it was supposed to rain and especially heavy on the day of my run. Now, I have never practiced running in the rain. I again started researching online to see what I would need to do different to run 26.2 miles in rain and made some last minute changes. The week of my run, I took a red-eye flight from LA on late Thursday night, reached NJ on early Friday morning, left for a seven hours drive to Lake Placid on Saturday morning, stayed in the hotel overnight, and early Sunday morning woke up to join hundreds of fellow runners…phew, that was my week!!!  I finished the full marathon and enjoyed every 5.5 hours of it in pouring rain on a hilly terrain!!! I will share with you how this experience was like life itself. Before I do this, here, check it out, search for my name once you open this link,

This experience really made me think that how our lives are also like running a marathon run. In marathon all the runners start together and as time passes some people go ahead and others fall behind. As more time passes, people who were pacing themselves well and were initially falling behind now go ahead of the pack. In the end, what is important is run “your own” race well and complete it with great satisfaction. Similarly, in life, all of us have experienced how we started together as siblings, friends, fellow students or even fellow workers. As time passes, some become more successful than others and some fall behind. As more time passes, these roles are sometimes reversed. In my opinion, one should lead one’s life with one’s own values, beliefs, and pride. If you are behind your peers, don’t lose your heart and more importantly; when you are ahead of them…don’t lose your head!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How modern life sharpens your focus

As a kid growing up in India I read the story about Arjuna, the famous warrior prince of the epic Mahabharata. He was a renowned archer. As a student he was told to practice his skill by aiming at the clay pigeon’s eye from a distance. Such was his focus that when aiming for his shot he could only see the clay pigeon’s eye, rest of the scenery used to fade away from his vision.

Now move to modern times to my humble life as a guy living in Princeton area of New Jersey and working in downtown Manhattan. My commute uses multiple modes of transport, wifey baby drops me at the bus station in the car which is 3 minutes ride, bus takes me to the train station, the express train drops me to the next train station, the second train takes me to the World Trade Center terminal and from there I walk 12 minutes to my office in the Wall Street area. Phew, friends this is my everyday morning commute which takes around 1 hour 45 minutes. I am an early riser who wakes up every day at a crazy hour of 4AM to do some reading and yoga on alternate days and to be out of the door at 6.35AM. To know how this schedule has sharpened my focus…to ridiculous limits, read on.

One fine morning my alarm clock woke me at 4AM and I thought what the heck, I can use some extra sleep. I reset the alarm clock to 5.45 which would have given me barely enough time to be out of the door at 6.35. Sure enough, at 5.45 I woke up and completed the 3 Ss(S**t, Shave and Showered for the uninitiated) and drank a cup of juice. I woke up my poor wife and dragged her half asleep to my bus station. Now my bus comes at 6.40 and I wait in the car on cold mornings till it comes. On this fateful morning I kept on looking at clock .41, .42, .43, .44, .45 and the bus is still nowhere. Now I called up my buddy on his cellphone who takes the same bus from the previous bus stop. My buddy answered the phone and in a sleepy voice asked me that why the hell I am calling him at 3.45AM!!!

Here is the explanation, what happened was that previous night my six year old had fiddled with the digital alarm clock in my bed room and set it at 3 hours ahead. All this time after waking up I was staring at only the minute digits of the clocks…the one in my family room, the one in the car…remember me looking at the time in the car “.41, .42, .43, .44 and when till .45”, all that while I did not even look at the hours side of the digits. Now friends, that is called the supreme focus similar to what Arjuna used to have while taking an aim. So you must agree with me now that the mechanical life of modern times sure sharpens our focus.

Oh, back to my story, we did come back home from the bus station, now what we did with extra 3 hours at hand and with kids sound asleep is classified :-)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Parenting – keeping your kite flying high

Being a father of just turned teen daughter and a young man of six I have always been intrigued by the various parenting techniques/theories preached by the “experts”. To add to this distinguished list here is my own – parenting is like flying a kite.

As a kid growing up in New Delhi, India I used to love flying kites, especially during the month of August and more specifically on August 15th, India’s independence day. That is where my expertise in flying kites comes from. To fly a kite you off course need a kite, a reel of thread, good weather and some breeze. But before I move to why parenting is like flying kite, let me introduce you some native terms and its meaning in plain English. “Tunka” – tugging at the thread lightly, “Kheench” – pulling back the thread and finally “Dheel” – letting go the thread.

Alright, now that you have my background and the native terms clear in your mind let us come to the subject matter. You might want to re-read the explanation of the three native terms as I am going to use these and not the plain English in my theory. Every parent wants to see their child become very successful in life and reach for the heights just like one wants to see one’s kite flying high in the sky.

Talking about kite first – to fly the kite one has to tie it with the thread and provide it with nice weather and with some breeze. In the beginning just to put the kite in the air one has to let it go in the air a little, let it catch the breeze and then do the Tunka and give some Dheel. The combination of Tunka and Dheel keeps the kite in the air and some times when the kite goes wayward you have to do Kheench too. This deft combination of Tunka, Dheel and Kheench get the kite stabilized in the sky. Once that happens one has to give more Dheel, i.e. allow more thread to take the kite go higher in the sky. You feel ecstatic to see your kite soaring in the air, though the higher it gets the farther it gets away from you. At the end of the day you know that though your kite is way up in the sky…it is still attached with you through that thin thread.

Same is true for the kids. By birth, adoption or maybe through marital misadventure they are already tied to you. One has to provide them the right environment to learn and grow (ala good weather and breeze) right from the beginning. At early age itself they should be allowed some level of independence (ala Dheel) so that they can be more confident. From time to time we have to check them (ala Tunka) to make sure that they are doing the right things. Sometime if they go wayward we have to pull them up too (ala Kheench). If you provide them the right environment and use the Tunka, Dheel and Kheench like an expert, you would see them grow into fine human being. Once they are old enough and responsible enough you have to let them go and take their own flight. It would be a sheer joy to watch them take on the world and reach the heights of their chosen fields. All you have to do is to keep that thread of love and compassion intact so that you are always connected to them.

Hey I have flown a lot of kites high in the sky as a kid but as a parent I am still at an initial stage. I am sure that if I keep on using my kite flying lessons in parenting, one day I will see my kids reaching the higher grounds than what I could ever reach in my life. That will be the happiest day of my life. All I have to make sure is to keep that thread of love and compassion as strong as ever…as that would be the only thing connecting me to them.