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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Dreading that day.. 

Jr. is part of a student exchange program and is spending the spring break in Asia. Given dads struggles in Asia over the last three years to get around, get the right food etc. and realizing learning Mandarin in your forties is not easy no matter how many languages you already have a grasp of, asked her to take Mandarin in school as the language.

She thought it was a good idea and went with it. Her Chinese is already way way better than mine, given she spends an hour at least on it every day and I spend 20 mintues in the night on days I get a chance. Also that brain is more moldable!  

We dropped her off on a rainy evening to go be part of a 9 day trip to put her Mandarin to test, be with a host family, make new friends and have an experience that she will remember for a long time..

We are going through a partially empty nest syndrome this week. The house feels empty because the mom daughter or sibling fight noises have reduced to nothing! 

I know that I did this to my parents and left the house and have not gone back, but my brother stays with my parents. Not sure if either kid will stay with us the way things are going.

The little one does come and sleep on my hand every now and then. So this morning I told her

"do you want to go to 

Daddys arm college of engineering,

Daddys arm college of Medicine,

Daddys arm college of arts and sciences or

just stay with daddy?"

She gave me a shy smile and said "Daddy, you know I will have to go to College somewhere right? Don't worry, I will come back!"

Know she means it, but things will change. Made that same promise to my mom and went back on it because things changed, I changed. 

Later in the day there was a discussion about that conversation and daddy was being psychoanalyzed and the conclusion was "maybe I am scared of being alone with my wife and worried about getting her undivided attention".. 

Now that day, I dread! Right now anyone she turns her attention to, is under pressure and the three of us take turns. Imagine all the power of that glare concentrated on one person.. I will be like those ants burnt by sunlight being focused by a water drop in one of those National Geographic programs!

It is going to be an interesting time when the kids are off.. 


Technology challenges..

It has been an interesting two days. 

The last few days, there has been a problem at work where a duct spews out bursts of cold air directly above my head. My office has been trying to figure out the root cause and come up with fixes for it by blocking the vent with cardboard, building paper dampers to direct it away from my head etc.. In the meantime, I got a nice cold, thanks to that and the highly changing bay area weather. 

As most of you know, my solution to all ailments is to try doing Yoga in the hot room first before going to the doctor or resorting to any pills. So after scheduling a bunch of late night calls post 11PM, I decided to go do Yoga at 8:30 in the night. It was mildly drizzing when I went into the class and things were, lets say "pleasant".

When the class ended and we came out, there was cold winds and water coming down in intervals in sheets! I am guessing these were more than the 20 mph gusts. This was way stronger. At several points on the way home thought the Leaf was going to fly off the road. There was also a lot of palm leaves falling off the trees and flying around. 

In all of this I did not realize that there was no power in the neighborhood. I drive to the garage and the thing is not opening. I called my wife and she goes "there is no power in the house and the entire area". 

So there I am in my yoga shorts, all sweaty, with cold rain and winds trying to manually open the garage door and park my car inside.. and a gust of wind litterally sends a wave of water into the garage! 

Finally I parked the car and closed the garage door. By now any residual body heat from the yoga class is gone and I am shivering. Then I tell my dear wife "I will go take a quick shower and eat what you have made. good thing we have the flashlights". 

A few minutes later, I realize that the flashlights are the least of the problems. Turns out that the water heater we have installed as part of the new construction which is tankless, energy efficient, reduces our gas bills etc. etc. doesn't work when there is no electricity! It didn't matter anyway. It was not going to be worse than the rain. So that was the shortest coldest shower I have taken after a hot yoga class. 

Then came the dinner part. Wife says "I made stuff for you, but it is all cold. Maybe you can reheat it on the stove because you cannot microwave?"

By now I am conditioned to try everything manual have a low expectation for any gadget. So I know the pilot lamp won't work (it didn't) and use a matchstick to try and light this stove. Turns out that only the back burner turns on without a pilot. These guys have some interlock on the other stoves! 

Finally managed to reheat some stuff and eat with the flashlight and look at my phone... it has <20% charge! 

Went to the battery pack that was given as a company souvenier which is always in my travel bag and that had no charge! 

We both drive a Nissan Leaf. That means if you don't have power all night, we have to fight for the car with the most charge left.. It is a new interesting dynamic in our house.

It was a hard lesson on how dependent we are and how much we take for granted! I managed to muddle through the day and keep my thoughts going. Deifnitely feel better now, thanks to another yoga class, no manual door openings, a nice hot shower, hot tea.. and more importantly a house that is back to 68F instead of 56F!

This afternoon I was thinking about the folks in war zones. People in first world countries have no clue what those folks are going through. We are making it all worse for them by our every day thoughts and actions and what we support knowingly or unknowingly. We also take a lot for granted. The biggest rights we seem to cherish are our rights to stupidity and our right to be irresponsible when it comes to the rest of the world and the planet. At least that is my feeling right now.

A bad vent, a storm for a few hours and an all night power cut are able to make a dent in my life. That is just sad.

Time to spend more time with nature and improve my immunity to cold weather. Also time to do something about all this guilt for everything that is happening in the world! 


Aging gracefully

Isn't that what it is all about? 

Jr. has a photo on her phone and every now and then she pushes it to my face.. It has a picture of a boy having a conversation with his dad.. Boy says "dad, I just turned 18" and the dad goes "when I was your age, I was 19!"

Everytime I say something or launch into the "when I was your age.." monologue, she looks down at her phone, finds that picture and holds it up like folks hold garlic or a cross in front of Dracula! 

Apparently I am older and getting to be begrudginly older, mistaking my experience for wisdom. 

Was having a conversation with a friend recently and he was telling me "you should be really proud of yourself for coming to the US and doing so well after all these years. you have worked hard and made it. do your daughters know how hard you had to work?" and my response was "they don't but I am okay with it now. I worked hard so they can have anything they want. why then bring up the fact that they should know the value of that? Didn't I do all this so they don't have to? They will have different challenges in their life and they should give their kids what they didn't have"

It just rolled off my tongue and maybe I was thinking out loud, but an hour later kept thinking about what was said.  What are the challenges they are going to face that they would not want their kids to face? 

My grandfather told me once that does not matter how much money you have or save.. after 7 generations it all goes though a cycle. if every generation does better than the previous after four generations it comes back down again. I thought that was ridiculous.. but maybe it makes sense now. If you are not challenged in certain things in a life time, those attributes may not be things on the "to fight for" list for the next generation, wealth just being one such attribute. It could be freedom, health.. many things and it might be in a family or as a community. I can see now how that can be possible!

The kids are growing up fast and they are sending me into some deep introspection mode on almost a daily basis. They are my kids but sometimes it is interesting to see that their logic and reasoning is very different from mine because they are a product of a different time and place. 

It is not better or worse. Just different. Takes me a few seconds to put things in context and I move on. 

Right now the trick seems to be not in accepting that my kids are the product of the way we raise them and their surroundings, but in accepting that I have changed so much over time. When your world view and your views about yourself change a lot over a few years, it is difficult to not think about your old stance when interacting with your kids.

Fortunately, they are both mature enough to let me know I am full of shit on a daily basis and I am now mature enough to smile and take it in my stride, knowing that they will get to be in my place in the not so distant future.. 


Jr.'s dancing takes another step forward

Today Jr. performed at the Pushpanali Dance Academy's annual day. She has been learning for at least 8 years now and has been practicing when she gets a chance. She loves to dance and she has come to a realization that her performing is directly proportional to the practice!

She did pose for photos before the performance (now that I have studio lights set up!) and there were some good shots during her performance..

Kept thinking about my sister today because Jr. is a splitting image of my baby sister! 


Here is a video with a few snippets of the 10 minute Thillana performance..

and a few photos that were taken in between shooting video snippets!

My baby is a big girl now! As a dad it is not an easy thing to accept.. but I will go through the learning curve and hopefully get on the other side of that curve soon!

As long as this makes her happy, it is all good!


Four Trophies and a T-Shirt

After we finish the 60 day challenge at Bikram Yoga San Jose, there is a "Challenge Party" a couple of weeks later. Everyone who finishes collects a trophy and says a few sentences about what made them take up the Challenge, what they learned over those 60 days and their Yoga experience in general, especially if they are first time challengers.

This year was my 5th time finishing this challenge. Did share my thoughts on the challenge at the party.

The question that lot of you have asked me can be summarized as "you go almost every day when you are here? so what is the point of this 60 day challenge?" and the short answer is?

The challenge makes me realize what I take for granted. Normally if it it raining outside or if I have a fever, sore throat, too many meetings that go in late and are stressful, I have the option to say "will skip today and go tomorrow", but not during the challenge. Once that day is past and the last chance to go to class at 8:30PM is missed, that day is not coming back. 

It teaches you that when it is time to make a choice between having a dinner and crashing vs. going to yoga late at night or doing back to back classes over weekend to make up for travel, the tougher decision is the one you have to make when challenged. That spills into real life, when it is time to roll up your sleeves and do the right thing by your work or with your kids or family. 

This year, the trophies changed to a T-shirt. The family likes this move as they would rather see me in newer T-shirts!

 While colleting that shirt, had an idea to take a shot of me doing balancing stick pose (Tuladandasana) with the awards on my back wearing the new shirt. 

However, this is take 6/8 and it required the support of wife and both kids to execute. In class you hold it for 10 seconds. I had to do this pose for more than a minute and a half back to back .. guess the knee locking went to the dogs by take 6 and the leg is not as high as I thought it was and the head is not as low as is should be! Need to put a mirror on the sidewall of the new home studio to help me make adjustments.. 

There is no substitute for a mirror!

As a wise man once told me (translation : as Brad Colwell told me two months ago), "pain is temporary, but a photograph is forever!" . Should have done a few more takes.. but the folks got tired of having to place those trophies on my back within that 10 second window and take them back just when I could hold it no longer. 

I also had to put up with snarky comments after every take like "your posture sucks. Your leg is not up yet. why can't you just hold on a little longer".. I wanted to launch into a long lecture on "come and do this 6 times back to back and then talk .. etc. etc." but held back. I needed their co-operation and they were giving me their valuable time for this crazy idea of mine. So took a few deep breaths, smiled and said "please, one more try"!

See, the yoga helps!

Now for the usual graphs and charts. There was travel and bugs during this challenge as previous ones, but rain or shine (more rain than shine this year) and sickness or health, showed up and did the best I could. You can see that the last three years has seen me finishing the challenge with lots of doubles, thanks to travel. Sometimes I just wish to be able to do this yoga once a day and take that for granted, but you all know my lesson learned already.

This is the weight chart. Have to analyze this throughout the years to see trends. Within the 60 days, seem to go from a 150 to a 140lb range in last few years possibly because of Christmas vacation weight gain?! 

Here is the data since the excel data collection was more or less regular.. 

It has been stable more or less over the last five years and that is a good thing. 

Have made new friends over the years and during the course of this challenge and learned a lot more than "don't take things for granted". 

Definitely recommend folks to try this 60 day Challenge, even if you are new to Yoga. It is a morphing experience. You definitely start as a larva and come out a butterfly in those 60 days or something close to that, and you learn to assimilate a few things on the way and leave a few things behind as well that don't serve you!

On a side note, my wife never tried dancing but was my biggest critic when she watched me dance. Now we have three people who are armchair critics of my yoga poses. 

Sadly, they are getting very good at the critiquing thing and their points are all valid! 

So there is more to work on....