Friday, February 9, 2018

To Measure Off Another Day (Letters to Parth - 20)

Dear Hardyk, my pixel, my frames per second,

You are a big boy now, reading big books, thinking big thoughts, and asking big questions. These years are very important since you go from being a big boy to being a man. That comes with a lot of troubling changes. I used to hate it when I was your age and people would tell me oh how you have grown, what a big boy you have become. You start seeing yourself and your place in the scheme of things differently, and realize that school and studies, picnics and festivals, pride and prejudice are not what real life is made of. Like a wart that will not go away, they are part of life, and you will be gasping for the air that you know is out there, the air of being an adult, free to do what you want. Being treated like the big boy you are will sometimes feel suffocating. You will sometimes wonder how anyone can survive the hypocrisy of society. You will want to change everything, save the world, put sense into the heads of everyone. All of us have had to go through this time of coming to terms with the way things work. Growing up can be full of surprises, surprises that you don't see coming, sometimes surprises that you don't see till you are past them.

I have never been very fond of surprises, and usually get very uncomfortable even with the nicest of surprises. Life has its own courier service to deliver the packages we need the most. Even when you are not ready for a package, it is assuring to remember that life knows us better than we do our selves. At home, we keep reminding ourselves how fortunate we are to be at the mercy of the law of cause and effect. If we had a say in things, or if we were in charge, we can only imagine how big a mess life would have been.

When we get to unwrap the package, sometimes, we do not like what we see. Some of us experience anger and bitterness, while others view it as fate or destiny or a curse by the powers that be. Some others believe that we actually choose our packages, living out promises made in unfathomably distant past, many incarnations ago. What we choose to believe too is not always in our control. Sometimes, our choices are dictated by our environment, other times by the degree of pain the different choices promise. I cannot imagine what you might have chosen to believe to process my absence in your life, but it must have cost you a package. Or three. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sin To Covet Honor (Letters to Parth - 19)

My Dear Parth, My Borobabu,

There was a time when I would struggle to watch each day pass without you. Days went to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, but the challenge of living with your absence, not knowing what you do, think and feel, did not diminish in any way. Some say time heals everything. I know from my being that that is not true. What I do know is that time proves everything that is in need of being proven. Like dough waiting to become bread. You are my son, and I love you, and nothing anyone has to say about it can change that. Sadly, that does not make the pain of the present any less. This applies to most things in life that one cherishes.

How did you celebrate your birthday this year?  What gifts did you get? What do you read? What do you listen to? What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing? Do you know I exist? What do you think of me? My questions are endless, and I listen hard each day for the answers. I do not know when you will read these letters, and I do not know when we will be together, but I know that everything in life is circular, that no power can prevent that which is to be. How I wait for the day that we will be together, when all of us will be done with this seemingly bitter dessert of our own making.

Devank, your little brother, had his first "birthday" birthday this year just a week before yours as he completed three years. Last year, your Thammi died just before she could come to Hyderabad in August. The year before that, we were struggling to redefine our beliefs and were in no position or state of mind to have much of a celebration. He was quite thrilled this year to be blowing out candles on his own cake instead of being a spectator.

The desert of our own making has also surgically dissected our national colors into saffron and green, and during festivals like Moharram or Ganesh Chaturthi, we proclaim our identity by waving flags and wearing headbands. The fact that we all bleed the same blood, that our fears and hopes hurt and uplift us just the same, that we all depend on forces greater than religion or politics to awaken, ablute and actualize eludes us all. The strength of this illusion is amazing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thammi (Letters to Parth - 18)

My Dear Hardyk,

I tell myself that you would have clicked through on your birthday, and not finding a post, been miffed a little. Which is fine, since miffed is many times better than, for example, custard apples. Good for many reasons. That is why the posts on this blog at least have dates. Belated birthday wishes!!

Your Thammi, my mother, because of whom I have a birthday and because of which you have a birthday, spent all her Augusts in Hyderabad. It was her way of being with you on your birthday. This year too, she and Dadu had planned to be here. She was a rock star if there ever was one. She died in the early hours of July 28 after a brief illness. Even though she was so sick that she needed to be taken out on a stretcher, she made sure she was dressed in her best, and even asked the ambulance attendants to take a picture on their phone so we could see later how she went.

You can find out more about how she journeyed on in Tipu kaka's post here. She made sure to write about her life so you can learn about her when you are older. Her first book is called When Your Granny Was A Little Girl and her second book, about Dadu's mother, is called Mother-In-Love. She was 79 when she died, she started writing when she was 76, and she still had a couple of works in the pipeline.In the days to follow, we slowly began to see how her absence had meaning on so many different levels.We had a very nice send off party for Thammi, with people remembering her through song.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ones and Zeroes (Letters to Parth - 17)

My Dear Parth, my Flying Circus,

In a few days you step into 10. Devank turns one today. I wished him for you last night itself.

(He’s dev’ing fast and learning about sleep and hunger, heights and blows, Mia and you. Dadu and Thammi enjoy his company as does he theirs. Of course, none of them can help missing you. We wake up each day believing it to be the day we all meet. Seven indescribably strange years have passed since we last saw you. Meaning or joy cannot change the strangeness or the pain of the years, nor can the knowledge that greater joys lie ahead. Matter of time. Rejoice.)

I have a few daddy blogger friends – they write blogs about their experiences as fathers. I have been too busy playing with Dev to get down to that, but a lot of the stuff they think and write about is very interesting. I really wish I had the dedication or the opportunity to write about these experiences without putting myself into the writing. Since I can’t, I rarely try. Communication is one such real cool thing. How do we learn how to speak? It obviously means we have all the words and their meanings stashed away somewhere in our head. When we grow up as babies in a multilingual environment, we learn to stash them away in separate spaces. We possibly identify one language as our primary language, or the most important one, and I wonder how that gets decided. We link languages to the people who speak them and switch unconsciously to using their language with them. We event invent our own secret groups and languages that only insiders will understand.

Brodsky's Child, Oil on Canvas, 16" x 12" unmounted

People who study brains and computation say all of this stashing away of information happens in ones and zeroes. The basic functional units of our neurological system can create data patterns out of ones and zeroes by using chemical on-off switches. With the help of the body, the mind can also extrapolate this idea of representation in verbal and visual ways – like speaking and writing. The branch of science that deals with these complex but fun things is linguistics and is in many ways related to mathematics.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Baby Brother (Letters to Parth - 16)

My dear Parth, my Sunshine!

You must have wondered how come there wasn’t a post for your birthday. Well, Madhavi and I had been putting the final touches to the nicest gift we could ever give you. It is a baby brother, someone to love and hold and look out for. Yes, you are now Dada to a little brother who is still mewling and struggling with nutrition and growth. His name is Devank and we call him Kuttush now because he is very small. In a few years time or sooner, you will be able to play with him and show him how you do your thing. I know you will love him like nobody's business. Hope you had a super, super birthday.

In the process, I also got to see how grandparents and grandchildren bond. Your Dadu and Thammi, my Bapi and Mom are here to live with us and have been on their own as we were in the hospital for nearly a week. During this time, they only saw pics of your brother - kind of like how they see your pics and miss you. Here is one from the first time they held your brother. (They tried but couldn’t get through when they called on your birthday. They cry whenever we speak about you.) I do so wish you were able to spend more time with them.

We have so much to catch up on, some of which you will find on my other blog, and so much more that will turn into remote memories of even more remote memories. You are now a big kid and surely rule your roost well. For me, it is an enjoyable struggle to create order out of time and needs. I so look forward to when all of us will be together.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Did We Get Here? (Letters to Parth - 15)

My dear Parth, my leading man,

We are at that time of the year when the coolness of Hyderabad winter has given way to the heat and dryness of summer, and just as one must take care when it turns cool at the end of the year, one must take care now. Stay out of the sun as much as you can, and drink water frequently. I know you wonder why I have not written you for so long. I trust you looked up my other blog to see what was going on with me. The good thing is that I know that you will figure things out, and correctly, and that our intent to be whole and happy will manifest no matter what chooses to stand in its way.

One of the struggles that I had in writing you in these recent months was the fact that you are growing older, and that your questions are changing, and you need honest answers. Truth, love, attachment – these are funny things. While on one hand truth is beautiful and eternal, on the other, it is like a river that washes you clean, perhaps more brusquely than you would like. That washing clean can sometimes compel you to rethink and review what you believe. This rebuilding of one’s worldview, liberating and exhilarating as it is, often comes with a lot of pain and disillusionment. Love makes you long for the growth and happiness of the person or thing you love yet it hesitates when that growth implies pain. Attachment, like love, can sometimes stop you from doing the right thing, because doing the right thing might result in temporary suffering for the person (or thing) you cling to. It takes a lot of conviction, courage and strength to do the right thing especially when it causes pain in the immediate future. I am grateful for the blessings of that strength, and I am certain you will find it too.

That is not the only reason I did not get to write you on this blog. Like many good daddy bloggers, I too have often set out but have not got far, and a lot of what I wrote went into the never-neverland that is the drafts folder. The time is gone when we could do the babysaurus moos and the hand jive and come away feeling fulfilled. You have started learning that neither the finger nor what it points at are the real thing. The signs are everywhere. By the time you become a grown man, these things will be forgotten, but these are truly times of manifesting change. There will be mistakes along the way and we will have to learn to acknowledge our humanness, but we will also see how man is capable of redeeming himself and that he is worthy of the gift of evolution. We will take pride in our civilization. These are not easy things to believe in when you look around you, but faith is never easy. It is tested and abused repeatedly, and with good reason, since it is through this battering that it gains its power and magnificence.

The last four decades saw the world redefining itself a few times over, but almost entirely in the context of economics and trade. Technology grew at a rapid pace, and there were cycles of what we call boom periods when the economy brisked up. Every boom is typically accompanied by a bust, so we saw a few of those too. Along with this, there was the end of communism as we knew it. Our education system teaches us to think in binaries, in pairs, in opposites. We were taught to believe that the opposite of communism was capitalism. Capitalism (like Hinduism and Buddhism) is faith in the principle of capital. If you had capital (which commonly means money and property), you were valuable. If you didn’t, you were still of value, in the potential you had to earn capital. Communism, very broadly, is about being comme une, or like one, and treating resources and mankind as if we were one big family. Big families have their own problems, so it wasn’t too long before it fell through. It tried a little to fit in with the times, and you had various shades of socialism and euro-communism, but none of it stood a chance when compared to the glamorous, all-lit-up allure of capital.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


These are lines (by Max Ehrmann) that have stood me in good stead; I trust they will you too.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and
listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your
career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about
love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mummy, What is Rape? (Letters to Parth - 14)

My dear Parth, my big boy,

Over the last few months, everyone has been very caught up with the incident that happened in our capital city, New Delhi on December 16, 2012. A group of men hurt a young girl and her friend very badly in a dark, empty bus and then threw them out of the moving bus. The friend survived but the girl died after struggling in the intensive care unit (where patients who are very unwell are treated and intensively cared for 24 hours a day) in India and Singapore for thirteen days till her liver, kidney, brain and then finally her heart collapsed. Across India, people were very angry and upset about the lack of safety for women in our cities. I usually write about such things on my other blog, because I believe it is our responsibility to be good human beings and leave the world a better place than we found it. But writing about this incident was very difficult for me. I wanted to write but could not. I kept avoiding it.

But I realized the most important person I needed to share this with is you, since you are the future, and while you have a right to understand things your own way, sometimes the world around us can distort untruths and present them to us as THE TRUTH. I am still struggling to write this, but what better way to make a start than by writing them down for you. I will write as I think, since I know that you are clever enough to piece them together in the way that makes most sense for you.

Though we are in most ways no different from all other animals, there is one thing that sets us apart from them. We have the power to choose our actions based on our sense of what is right and what is wrong. For most animals, staying alive, creating new young ones, making their families big, their homes large and keeping themselves strong is way by which they measure what is right and wrong. In the process of evolution and by learning to live as a community, we have acquired what is known as an ethical structure, a moral code that is different from that of other animals. Do you know what ethics means? It means responsibility to those who are not you, it means responsibility to others. And morals is a way society decides what is responsible and not. As you study, you will learn more about the dynamics of ethics, but for the time being, this will serve as a starting point.

Nature made males and females differently. I do not know why, but I do see that it is a fairly efficient system. Tasks of providing and securing the welfare of the family unit and of giving birth and nurturing young ones have been divided between men and women. In the process of this differentiation, nature has made sure that the system works. Each of the sexes have been given qualities that are attractive to the other, so that they feel drawn to each other and form a bond that will lead to the creation of a family unit. This has been achieved by engineering biological differences that are controlled by chemicals called hormones. Hormones are those things in your body that makes you feel equally repulsed and attracted by the opposite sex, much like a blanket in early spring, where you feel itchy if you pull it on and cold if you don’t. This is the bond that makes it possible for us to give rise to a new generation of human beings, little babies like how you (and all of us) once were.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

IPTA's Robuda (Letters To Parth - 13)

Dear Hardyk,

Christmas is here again. How time flies. It seems yesterday that I was writing to you last Christmas. I hope you are keeping well, studying well and playing well. I dream of you often and in my dreams, you have grown, with long arms and legs and ears. I have grown a little too. It will be so much fun when we do meet up.

The best part of writing to you is that perhaps this is one of the few places where I can be myself in all my madness. Thanks to all the people who follow my writing in other places, I often have to pretend to be very sane and wise. One should always try and be what one really is, no matter how impossible it might appear. At least some of the time, don’t you think?

All of this week, people have been demanding stronger sentences. While some like short sentences, others prefer longer ones. Many have been demanding the death sentence. The death sentence is actually quite simple. For example. Ravi Shankar died. Sheila Dixit promised stern action. Narendra Modi won. Sentences can be difficult but none are unbearable. None. Though you might be looking forward to a game, I would much rather listen to some music with you. Come with me. Santa Claus is for real.

I heard Ravi Shankar first on an album called West Meets East with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and to this day the enchanting experience is fresh in my memory. This was when I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, and I had no context for what I was hearing. I remember thinking of the sitar as a complex and large instrument compared to the sound of the violin. The picture of the two men on the LP cover is also still fresh in my mind. Both of them were lost in the intensity of their playing. I thought to myself that music was indeed a very strange thing. On one hand you had the temporality of rhythm which on the other you had the spatiality of melody and harmony. In 1967, West Meets East won the first of three Grammies that Ravi Shankar would eventually be awarded. I do not know if it happens to you, but I have a big problem of association as far as memories go, so at the cost of being called crazy (it is a valid psychological thingummy called synesthesia), I will also add that the Menuhin-Shankar music was purple, somewhat Friday and curly.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Are You (Letters To Parth - 12)

Dear Parth, my Springing Lion, my Soaring Eagle,

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! It is your birthday, happy birthday to you, in a flat monotone, since the happy birthday to you song is owned by the Time-Warner corporation and all public use of it without payment or permission is a violation of their copyright. Do remember to have two extra pieces of cake on our behalf. Your Thammi and Dadu have already sent in their wishes for your birthday a day in advance as they wanted to be the first to wish you, as have Tipukaka, Chandreyeekakima and Cousin Mia.

It has been a very long time since I wrote to you. Though I do not get to know about how things are turning out for you, I am assured that you are busy building an unshakeable foundation that will let you manifest your fullest potential. The universe has its reasons for testing my resolve to be able to be with you, and I am doing all that I can to live up to the test. You will be happy to know that I am winning, and that my victory is yours too.


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