Nine years just flew byThu, 27th Jul '17, 7:10 pm::
To celebrate our 9th anniversary this year, we did something completely different. We decided to thoroughly clean our porch together. It took five hours of cooperation, understanding, and hard work. While that sounds like a pretty boring way to celebrate an anniversary, I thought it was kind of cool. Had we tried this even 4 years ago, we'd have had 3 arguments, 2 hours of delay, and one big mess at the end. But I'm proud to report that our porch is clean without a single disagreement. Maybe that's what maturity and growing together is all about :)
Love you Juliet!
Happy 60th Dad!Sun, 16th Jul '17, 2:00 am::
We had an amazing time in Kolkata, India last week celebrating my dad's 60th birthday. It was a very short but fun-filled trip and the memories we made will last a lifetime. Earlier this year my dad said that he wanted to come visit us in Florida for the summer but I wasn't too keen on that because that would mean he would be away from all of his friends and family on his 60th birthday. So instead I suggested that we have a party in India and invite everyone.
It took about 6 months of intense planning and organization (his favorite activities) and last week about 60 of his closest friends and family arrived at Sun City Resort in Mandarmoni for a weekend of fantastic food and fun activities. From private water-park hours to foot massages on the beach, he planned countless activities to entertain everyone from kids and young adults to my 85-year old grandmother. The only thing I didn't let him plan is the game show that my sister Roshni, my wife Juliet, and I put together for all the guests last Saturday evening.
Over the past 3-4 months, I developed a customizable game-show app that runs in any modern web browser, does not need internet access, and displays videos, gifs, and team score on a separate monitor that can be hooked up to a projector. During the main event, Juliet was controlling the app from a laptop while my sister and I were walking around the room with wireless mics, coordinating the games. The games could have easily been played without the app but having a big-screen that showed funny videos, played background music, and displayed team member names and scores enhanced the audience's experience. Kind of like how well-made PowerPoint presentation can improve a product demo.
We pitted our dad against our mom in a "Race to the Big 60" and played 7 rounds of games (6 of them made by Juliet, remainder by yours truly). During each round, 3-5 guests would randomly be selected to join my dad's team and similar number to my mom's. Then we would explain the rules, Juliet would start the timer, and the conference room would erupt into a pandemonium. I am so happy that every single guest excitedly got up to play and many were trying to influence the game play from the audience. While I would love to take credit for the extraordinary audience participation, looking back it is clear that the simple reason everyone was so excited to join in was because they love my dad and this was a celebration of his lifelong friendship, generosity, and genuine affection for everyone he has ever met.
Juliet and I spent a lot of time making each game and thinking about what we could add or remove to make it more exciting, not just for the players but also the audience. For instance, in the "Auditions for Indian Idol" game where 4 members of a team sing 20 songs out loud and their 5th team member standing 10 feet away has to identify the song, we gave all the members of the audience birthday noisemakers (whistles, horns etc.). What transpired during that game can only be described as raucous cacophony.
In the end, my mom's team won narrowly by 2 points. After the game, many of his friends took the mic and shared memories and stories about him. The most wonderful gift he received was from a friend's daughter-in-law Purvi - a beautiful album of family photos with handwritten notes by all of us. Juliet and I gave him a set of custom-etched Jenga blocks and asked the guests to write a few words on each block to remind them of their friendship and love when they play the game.
Beside the games and fun activities, this was a huge experience for us because it was Naveen's first trip to India and the first time I got to hold my sister's son Aayansh in my hands. And naturally, this was the first time Naveen and Aayansh met. There were lots of cute/funny incidents but my favorite is when Naveen woke up in the middle of the night and started to pat Aayansh's back just like I do when I try to put Naveen to sleep.
So much happened during the short time we were in India that it is impossible for me to write down everything. But the most important thing that happened is that my dad spent an exciting and memorable weekend with the people closest to him and I got to see him insanely happy.
Choosing to be meTue, 6th Jun '17, 3:05 am::
As a kid, the most confusing thing for me was how adults behaved with other adults. Grown-ups were usually pretty nice to kids but it was clear that there were a lot of behind-the-scenes tallies running during their interactions with each other. From deciding which family members or friends should get an invite to determining the appropriate gift for someone, there sure were a lot of rules and regulations for being a proper adult. Naturally, I absorbed every bit of social etiquette and norm I was exposed to, so that I could easily navigate the adult world of adulthood like a proper adult. And turns out, it works out pretty alright.
Except when it doesn't. It turns out, not every situation I encounter as a grownup has an established handling procedure. Dinner-table seating arrangements? No problem! Trusted coworker shockingly spreading false gossip? No standard operating procedure that I could just follow. It took me a while to realize that how we handle situations that deviate from the typical social routine, is what really defines our true personality. We are defined by how we navigate uncharted waters. Until I realized this, I kept trying to apply skills I had previously learned to new situations, hoping for favorable outcomes. It worked out for me as well as a random coin toss - 50/50. I was not happy with this but it's the best I could do.
Then one day, during some heated discussion on what the proper course of action should be, I just said to myself "I will give more than I take because that is who I am and want to be." Suddenly, all of my dilemmas were resolved! I didn't have to worry about what the appropriate gift card amount would be for someone who may or may not have ever sent me a gift. I didn't have to worry if I should spend more effort helping someone who rarely helps me. I didn't need to keep running tallies of everything everyone ever did! I could just do what I can, when I can, based on how much I care about someone. Most importantly, I would rather do more than less because that's the kind of person I have chosen to be.
I realized that I could choose to be someone who does not do tit-for-tat. I could just decide to be someone who always gives more (money, time, love, attention) and does not care much about exact reciprocation. Of course relationship is a two way street but if I expect it to be equal all the time, then it's not a human connection, it is a business transaction. There are definitely some negatives to taking the give-more-take-less approach. The additional effort usually goes unnoticed and comes at a cost of time, money, and sleep. But it still works out better for me because it makes life so much simpler.
This is a failure of the Golden rule (treating others as one would wish to be treated) and happens because we underestimate what we get and overestimate what we give. Always giving more than I get resolves this nicely and saves me from headaches. Maybe I am foolish for not trying to maximize my net gain in every relationship but that's ok. I choose to be like this and will continue to do so until I decide otherwise. That's the best part about being an adult - you can choose the kind of person you want to be.
This too shall passMon, 1st May '17, 1:15 pm::
I am having a hard time coming to terms with the passage of time. It's been 17 years since I moved to America, 13 since I moved to Florida, 9 since I got married, 5 since we moved to our current house, and 2 since our son was born. I feel like in the blink of an eye, those numbers will go up by a decade and I will be left wondering where all the time went and if I made the days count.
Things have been a bit rough last few months. My dry-cough returned in March and persisted until April, when I broke my left wrist (5th metacarpal fracture). I got surgery about 2 weeks ago and have had gnarly metal spikes poking out of my hand. Being a lefty, it has made things a bit difficult. Earlier this year we lost our cat Pearl and last night we lost our ever-so-loving Chihuahua Jack to old age.
Jack came into my life when Juliet moved in with me 9 years ago. He was Juliet's baby and she took him everywhere with her. Even though I was never a huge dog person, Jack became a part of my life and I grew to love him like my own child. I spent countless hours securing our fence so he wouldn't get lost in the neighborhood, installed cameras all around my house to find him when he inadvertently managed to do it anyway, setup a raised-loft in his cage for comfort and hygiene, and installed a heater on a separate electric circuit in the porch to keep him warm in the winter. Last night, with the help of my friend Carlos, we laid down Jack to rest. All of us, including his best friend Ladybug will miss him dearly.
I often tell myself "This too shall pass" when things are tough and remind myself the same exact thing to ground myself when life is great. But the one thing I never realized is that the more I say it, the more time passes and I never prepared myself for decades flying by.
Today happenedMon, 27th Feb '17, 1:45 am::
Someday in the future when life feels unfair and unbearable, be it stress, sickness, or sorrow, I hope I read the words I am writing today. I wish to remind my distressed, distant self of not the most momentous days of my life but rather ones like today that were uneventful but warm, fleeting but nurturing. We spent the whole day at home, had nice home-cooked meals, took Naveen out to play in the backyard, cuddled our pets, briefly chatted with the neighbors, played a simple board game as a family of three, saw my buddy Arthur's new puppy on video-chat, watched a series of short comedy clips with Juliet, talked to my parents back in India, paid some bills, and finished up some work projects.
Nothing amazing or devastating happened today and that's the beauty of it. Days like today are the adult-equivalent of adolescent summer months that instantly fill us with fond nostalgia. As kids, boredom was the norm and so summer adventures were exciting. As a grownup, I expect to be perturbed every day and so days when nothing extraordinary, good or bad, happens are welcome. It doesn't matter if I am going to get a surprise refund or an unexpected bill, both mean I now have to deal with additional paperwork.
Dear Future Me: Our favorite days are like today when we simply exist and experience. You and I often forget what truly makes us happy and sometimes think that material success, fame, or even recognition matters to us. I want to remind you that the only thing that you and I really care about is spending time with people and creatures we love, preferably in nature. Maybe that is not always possible but remember, that is always the goal. No matter how you feel now, just remember that today happened. And even if seems impossible, it will happen again.
Naveen - Year TwoSun, 5th Feb '17, 6:20 pm::
Can't believe Naveen is turning two this week! We took some family photos earlier this week and had a birthday party for him today. It was a blast. We're all just relaxing now. Back to normal routine tomorrow.
It's Christmas Day and things are finally alright. Last few months were hectic and I've barely had time to sit and relax. Our kitchen remodel project was completed earlier this month and we rearranged the living room furniture after that. The house is clean, the Christmas Tree is 🔥lit🔥, the family is asleep, and I just got done wrapping presents.
I'm looking forward to welcoming 2017 next weekend. 2016 was a grueling year personally and I hope the efforts I made throughout the year will come to fruition over the next decade. Not just work and house but also new relations and old friends. The year asked a lot out of me and I did my best to deliver. From weddings and galas to funerals and emergency room visits, this year had it all. I don't think there was a single week in the entire year when something awesome or awful didn't happen.
On the bright side, my sister had a health baby boy, Naveen joined a wonderful school, Juliet passed her boards with flying colors, and I mostly met my resolution of spending more time with the family. On the numerous not-so-bright days, I learned the value of pushing forward and doing what I needed to do without letting my emotions get in the way.
Even though there was no particular accomplishment this year that I can proudly list, I'm content with what I can best describe as my gradual increase in stoicism. Rushing both my kid and my wife to the ER on separate occasions while remaining calm and careful were experiences I hope to never go through again but I feel I came out of them stronger and better prepared (thankfully both ER visits ended up OK). Death of pets is never easy and I had to deal with more than my share of that this year. Add to this unexpected issues at work, emergencies of the social kind, and a never-ending list of paperwork, projects, appointments, and doctor's visits and you can see why I'm proud of just making it through the year without becoming an emotional wreck.
No matter what comes my way next year, I think I am better prepared to face it today than I was a year ago. And that's something I'm happy about. Here's to the passage of time!
Congratulations to my sister Roshni and brother-in-law Aashish on the birth of their son Ayaansh! I am officially a "Mama" (Maternal Uncle in Gujarati) and Naveen finally has a cousin :) Not sure when but can't wait until we all meet for a fun family gathering.
This past weekend we attended my college friend Chris' wedding up north and traveled around Philadelphia. We stayed at my wonderful friend Megan's house and she took us to Schuylkill Center’s Wildlife Clinic. We went to museums, ate greasy food, and spent quite some time just walking around downtown Philly. My buddy Arthur came to visit us and we watched classic episodes of South Park. All in all, a fantastic weekend thanks to great friends. And as always, here are the photos.
MotivationTue, 1st Nov '16, 2:20 am::
I find myself at an unexpected place in life. I am used to clawing my way out of problems when things go terribly wrong. I am familiar with waking up stressed every day and striving to stay focused amidst a score of distractions. But I am struggling to motivate myself to accomplish some big but necessary goals because things are already going according to plan.
In mathematical terms, when life's at -1, I know how to push for a +1 to arrive at a comfortable net 0. But now that life's at a chill 0 and I need to push it to +1, I am having a hard time propelling myself. Looking back at how difficult life was at -1, I am thankful that it has been at 0 for such a long stretch. But complacency kills even the mightiest and I am no exception.
We are getting our kitchen remodeled. Juliet and Naveen are healthy and doing well. My sister is days away from delivering her first child. And I have my hands full with work, personal projects, and social events. Literally nothing to complain about. And yet I find it difficult to motivate myself to get to the next level.
I spent some time thinking about the possible root causes but haven't arrived at any eye-opening conclusions yet but I did recall something from my college years that I'm going to try again. When I had to write a long paper but had no motivation to do in-depth research or write detailed arguments, I simply wrote a rough, inexact outline in one quick burst. Seeing an incomplete and potentially erroneous draft frustrated me enough to fix and expand small parts of it, slowly getting me closer to my final goal of a well-researched, comprehensive paper.
When it comes to my work of writing code, I think I'm going to quickly write a basic framework with an unacceptable number of bugs and gradually fix them until the number of bugs is acceptable. It sounds tongue-in-cheek but it's pretty much the motivation behind Exception-Driven Development. Why waste time writing code to avoid bugs that nobody will encounter when instead you can use that time and energy to fix the worst bugs and user issues?
I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow pumped up to hack away at my computer but I do know that picking a better approach could help me concentrate even when my brain says "Eat some snacks and watch another episode on Netflix..." Here's to motivating myself!
DiscoveryTue, 4th Oct '16, 11:45 pm::
As I celebrated my birthday with my family today, I tried to think of something profound about life, growth, and age but couldn't. I was living in the moment and there was nothing deep or touching I could confer with anyone. I can share my political views or opinions on economic policies instantly but I can't dredge up my own feelings and emotions without a lot of contemplation.
It's been like this for a few years now. For a while I thought it was just because I was living on autopilot doing all the routine things like work, chores, and child-care but lately I've realized it is something else - I am no longer a big mystery to myself. A large part of growing up is finding out who we really are. At age 18, I didn't know if I was the kind of person who puts family first or career first. At age 24, I didn't know if I wanted to stay in one place or travel around the world. At age 30, I didn't know if I would give up on my dreams and goals for an easy life or continue to work hard. Today I know the answers to those questions, as boring as they may sound: family-first, stay-in-one-place, and continue-to-work-hard.
I don't think these are choices that one can make; I believe these are innate traits one has to discover for themselves. You can't choose what makes you happy, you can only choose to accept it and be happy or reject it and be miserable. For years, I rejected the fact that I am a homebody and forced myself to travel a lot but it didn't make me as happy as I hoped it would. Only when I accepted that I am someone who likes being at home most of the time and occasionally likes to travel, did I start enjoying both being at home and traveling.
There is still a lot about myself I don't know but most of it is about how I would deal with adversities that I have not yet faced. From dealing with my kid's future teenage angst to health issues I could have later in life, there is much I will have to discover about myself as I age. Until then, I prefer to ponder over the joyous unknowns - how I will react when Naveen writes his first computer program, what will I tell Juliet after she cooks the first meal in our soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen later this year, what will I do when I get the news of my sister's first baby in the next few weeks?