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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Entries in all part of life (177)


The double red line

Everything in my life right now is linked to Yoga. Even this blog post. Not sure if this is true, but Gandhi is said to have mentioned that on a normal day you do your yoga and on a busy day you do it twice, or some such thing. Even if he had not said that, it makes sense!

The last week was a good one, because I did not fall sick. Nothing incubated inside of me after that Asia trip and ravaged me a few days later. The week felt like it had 10 days though. Sometimes you just get into that mode of improving your batting average at work and the more you focus on it, the more balls seem to come your way! It was that kind of week. On Friday, my voice started to crack. That is always an early warning sign for the impending aliens to put me back in bed. One thing leads to another and I am thinking.. "Hmm, I am behind on my yoga attendance and this may be the day to do two classes back to back". 

This is not the first time I am going to a yoga class twice in a day (did 4 over a 24 hour period two years ago with a good nights sleep thrown in) or doing two classes back to back. Usually, I look at the schedule and make sure it is not the "tough love" teachers in both the classes to pace myself and take a breath here and there when we get to the "I am definitely going to die on this mat today" part of class.

The first class was taught by a teacher who is from the "tough love" school. Her default is to kick my ass in class. Just at the exact moment, my head is filled with "best standing bow EVER!" she will go "Sundar, kick harder! you are not kicking hard enough" and I will be screaming inside my head going "that wasn't enough? that is all I got lady! Any more kicking and my head is going to spontaneously combust and you will have to scrape my smoking remains off the mat!". I would get the same feeling from when I was at the toll booth on 680, trying to collect every last quarter, nickel and penny in the car to make the 5$ toll, or risk a 27$ fine only to find that I am 17 cents short!  

All said, made it through the first class! After a quick internal debate with myself on the sanity of going back into the hot room, the side that said "why not? It cannot get any worse!" won. Drank a packet of Vitamins (and the 5g of sugar and electrolytes in it) and went back in. Took a nice 10 minute nap and before I could finish an evening dream of doing a better standing bow, the bell rang and the next class started. 

This time, I did not check the schedule to see who was teaching the two classes. Even if I HAD seen the schedule, it would not have made a difference. The next teacher who showed up, had taught me maybe twice before. Both those classes were overflowing with people and she didn't give me any corrections. This time was different. She knew it was my second class in a row...

If you have watched enough National Geographic videos, you will know that a lioness knows which gazelle is most likely to end up dead at the end of the short video clip, even before she takes the first step towards the watering hole. I was that Gazelle! Okay, that was stretching it a bit far. If you got visions of me gracefully moving through the savanah, let me stop you right there! The comparison is purely for the "dying at the end fo the clip" part. There was no grace, no strength or any sign of a fight left in me, or so I thought. It is one thing for the lioness to know which Gazelle.. but I wonder how the cameraman knows which one. He seems to pick it out with as much accuracy as the lioness.. and if a lioness and a cameraman know..why are the gazelles not able to know as well?!  Where were we? Too much Planet Earth in my head right now. Getting back to the topic...

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is like infinity and 1 is next to nothing, my strength was a 5 and flexibilty was a 3 during the first class. At the end of that class, my strength was a 2 and flexibility was  5! You become suddenly aware that bending comes easy and holding the bend is incredibly hard. 15 minutes into the second class, we are doing the first back bend and the teacher goes "you are already relaxed Sundar. Go for it.. bend!" and I went back in one smooth motion and didn't stop. Almost fell backwards after I could see the baseboard on the back wall! That is as far back as I have ever "back bended" standing up all these years.

Then I promptly panicked. The realization that there was not enough strength to get that heavy head and upper body back up hit me. Tried to come out of the posture immediately and there was a rush of blood from somewhere to somewhere.. and the next thing I know, was sitting down on the mat. For a few moments, everything was white and the teachers voice could not be heard. She was saying something to me but my ears shut down. There were an uncountable number of Jedi warriors fighting in my forehead with light sabres.. or was it an uncountable number of people using vacuum cleaners?!  Maybe it was Jedi warriers with vacuum cleaners?! It was hard to tell.

For reasons unknown to me or anyone else in the Universe (except probably my wife), I got back up and kept going. At some point the teacher mentioned she was picking on me to make sure I didn't go into "auto pilot" mode. Translation: "Not going to let you make it easy on yourself. It is my job to make sure you push yourself past that point". Went along with it and did my best ever, on a lot of poses in that class. There was some cramping, but came out of that as well and finished it still breathing. To an average Nat Geo cameraman, it might not have been very impressive, but I came out of that class alive and well!

After class we are having a chat and the teacher goes "I was going to pick on my fiance who was in the class. Didn't pick on him enough. Was trying to make sure you don't take it easy on the 2nd class". I told her "you don't have to say anything to him, to pick on him. You just have to look at him!. When my wife looks at me, I know one of two things...

a. I forgot to do something or

b. I did something wrong in a way it was not supposed to be done

a look is enough!"

Everyone had a good laugh and I started driving back home...

Isn't life like Yoga?! In the almost 19 years of married life, there are the same emotions you go through on the mat that get repeated over longer time frames outside the yoga room. Everything from elation to disappointment, but only fleeting because you know it is all good in the end! and there is the red line..

When San gives me that look, I know that the first red line has been crossed! Something has been forgotten or done wrong. Now it is a question of seconds.. the clock is ticking. If the mistake can be identified within those precious few seconds, sanctions can be avoided and wars can be off the table. Problem is when you don't know that you have crossed the red line. 

This could happen when you have screwed up on multiple fronts and are trying to figure out which one got you that look from your wife. You forgot to wash the dishes.. no, you forgot to put the clothes in the dryer..no, she is at her laptop with that look.. you forgot to print and sign that damn thing at work and our printer at home is out of paper or toner or you were supposed to tell your boss something or you forgot to file your reimbursement or .. or.. or .. your head spins as you try to correct any and all mistakes within those few seconds.. kind of like you try to correct that standing bow with the teacher staring at you.. 

What have you done?! not lock that knee? not stretched that hand? not looking at the right place? not kicking hard enough? The teacher is still going "Sundar.. come on?" They won't tell you, what it is that you are not doing for an agonizing second or two!

(had some fun just now with Jr. recording me doing a standing bow that  I used to do almost 7 years ago, almost 3 years ago and close to present day.. right after munching a lot of carbs while watching Superbowl with friends)

That is when you cross the "double red line"!  Be it home or Yoga room.. that is the "don't make me come there and show you!" look which by now elicits a Pavlovian response from me :

1. Hang down head in shame

2. mutter something to myself

3. realize that I was definitely in the wrong, given my track record 

4. find out if there is any chance to undo the damage real fast

At home, chances of undoing damage fast are a hit or miss, but in the hot room... we do everything TWICE! Thank god for small favors. So I do get to show that what is being said has been understood and corrected in "take two"!

As I write this post, have crossed three red lines and one double red line already. But it shall pass. When you are surrounded by folks who have your back, life is good!


Cognitive dissonance in a Chinese Hotel

Travel for the year is done. That was 13 trips to Asia in 2017. Of the 26 legs across the Pacific I managed to get upgraded to Polaris aka the "business economy" class 4 times exhausting most of my miles. On some back to back trips, my company got me biz tickets one way and that was another 3 legs.  The one thing I am am trying to do if this back breaking travel keeps continuing is to plan ahead and get more polaris tickets upfront. Travel is fine, but for this type of international travel, my body is having a tough time dealing with this. That is one main disadvantage of working for a startup I guess. We don't have the bargaining power or leverage with airline companies to get discounted bulk ticket prices like the big companies. One last wing view for 2017...

All that said, I did my best on those flights, took my food with me wherever possible and managed to minimize my travel related sick days to the lowest it has been in the last 4 years in 2017! I also think it correlates to the consistancy of doing Yoga at late hours or whenever possible and to waking up at 2 or 3AM and eating cookies or some carbs.

We use the term "biological clock". I think there are multiple clocks. One for sleep wake cycle, one for breakfast, lunch and dinner and another alarm clock that gets you up when you are a light sleeper. Not all these are synchronized when you don't see the sun for days or when you keep switching time zones. In 2017, my issue was not with sleep. I managed to overcome sleep related jet lag issues. It was the stomach related ones that got me a few times. 

My last trip was interesting. I am noticing that Chinese hotels are getting big on Christmas. Have not seen this in any of my previous trips. Sure that the POTUS is going to claim this as another one of his big "victories". Mega displays in hotel lobbies and my Chinese friends are surprised and going "we don't even do this for CHinese new Year. don't know what is up with these guys!"

These were really fancy.. with moving snow etc.. see the video!

I have also started watching infomercials in the local TV channels when in China. They definitely seem to have some creative products. Not sure if this is original or not but the format of the informercials follows the usual QVC types. 

 Then there are little things that I noticed in these hotels. The nice glasses with color only at the bottom..

Then there was an entire display of stuff on the coffee table, all available at a price. I am not used to this in previous hotels. The first thing that got my attention was the water bottle. It was almost 9 USD. Then after asking they gave me 4 free local brand water. Apparently this Evian water is much sought after by international tourists who are willing to pay the price!

Was also not used to seeing Durex on the table in any other hotel. It said "you will be charged if you open this packet" and it was one expensive Durex is what I thinking when my eyes were drawn to a big red box on the right. 

I had spent a good two hours in a cigarette smelling taxi from airport to hotel and was already tired. My brain was getting confused signals after reading the lettering on the box..

It clearly said Emergency Package but the lettering did not suggest something "bad" with the font or the colors. So my first thought was "what kind of emergency package comes packed like a goody bag filled with fancy tea bags?". Again this was one expensive package for whatever emergency it was. You opened it you "will be charged"

I have no idea what those items are in that box. After being married for almost 20 years and fathering two kids, still scratching my head on what those things in the pack were. Was tempted to pay the 20 bucks just to open it and end my curiousity and then decided against it. What is the internet for than to answer such questions?

So I guess this is all sex related. First you have a 10 Dollar problem. If you screwed that up, no pun intended, then you have a 20 dollar problem. If you screwed that up as well, then you have a 20 Million RMB problem in 20 years when you will have to buy your kid an apartment in Shanghai so he can get married. If they had done their marketing right, they should put some real estate fliers on the other end of the table.

Then there was the sunset. People keep telling you that China is polluted, especially in the big cities. Over the last few years I have seen some days where the Sun is not visible though the smog and days when there are blue skies and clouds. Well I guess a lot of it depends on where and when. While the news reports claimed that it was going to be bad air days, I found it to be pretty fresh. There was a beautiful sunset while being on the road for 2 hours towards the hotel. 

Watching the sun go down always resets any and all dissonances!

2017 was a tough but good year for work, home and yoga. It felt like two years but the good thing is it is coming to a close. Have to make the most out of the last few days over the holiday weekend to recharge!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a wonderful new year! 


What we take for granted..

Even something like a ring finger can be very important. Yes, it is for a ring and I didn't know how much I used it on a day to day basis, till I got the damn wart on it.

I thought "I am right handed and this is on the left hand ring finger. should be able to manage this thing easily". Only three things got hit because of this

1. typing was not easy. but that was mangeable with one 7 finger typing.

2. could not wash dishes and that was not easy for San the last three weeks

3. Yoga. If you see the number of poses that do not have the words "grip" or "interlock fingers" or "pull with your hands" or "grab" with your hands, there are maybe 5 or 6 total. Makes it an interesting exercise. 

Still it has healed nicely although very slowly and I am not exactly sure if I just replaced the wart with an even larger scar tissue?

While you might be grossed out with the pic, this blog is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to such detailed chronicling. So as a social service to other people who are thinking "should I take up the offer to do this Liquid Nitrogen treatement instead of getting injected with acid which is a slower process", I say "It depends, on where and how prepared you are for keeping that area dry and working around a giant blister".

Also made it to China and back and celebrated a birthday with the constant irritation in the back of my mind, all without taking pain killers. Hind sight being 20/20, should have listened to my family and friends and taken some pain killers the day after the thing opened. Was worried about getting liver or kidney damage and my worry about starting to use them on a regular basis again for back pain post the regular China trips. 

On the last trip, I ended up in row 72 when there were 73 rows on the plane. One of the ground staff joked "The tail is the safest place on the plane Sir!" and I mumbled something. It may be the safest but it is the turbulentest.. if there is such a word. Sometimes you are in Seat 1A. Sometimes you are in 72A. The good news is that once you land and can get a good days rest, things start to come back to normal.

Coming back to the finger, it is now feeling normal and bendable. No more bandaids. No need to keep it dry. I can go do yoga and try to interlock all 10 fingers and {grip, pull, grab}myself as instructed and stay put in asanas. The rest will automatically get back to normal now that I can do this.

People worry about getting addicted to pain killers, alcohol, other drugs, etc.

I may already be addicted to Yoga.

It is a lot less worrysome compared to other addictions but I do feel very pissy when I miss yoga for more than 3-4 days in a row. Managed to stretch in the hotel rooms and airports and do backbends in the aisles on airplanes where they prepare food with permission from the air hostess. They all know me by now and when the rest of the folks are in cryo freeze midway across the Pacific after their meal and the lights go off, I ask them "can I stretch here?" and they go "sure sweetie" and watch me in amusement as I do a half moon, hands to feet pose, eagle pose and end it with a leg stretching with head almost touching the dirty floor.  It is good to get your head below your heart in the middle of sitting for hours in the same seat. One of them asked me "does that help?" and I said "kind of. I have to go back and do an entire yoga class to feel normal again. something is better than nothing!" and she nodded in agreement. 

There is a lot more we take for granted and most of the stuff I describe is first world problems. There are people with limbs missing who come do yoga. So this is actually no big deal, an annoyance at worst. If you are facing a choice of treatement for warts, evaluate your options carefully!


Never pick your middle aged dad to help with assignments

Jr. learned that lesson over the weekend when she asked me to videotape her baking for a school assignment. Given she wanted a "high quality" video, I used the 5D for the video shoot while being worried that it had a focus issue. Luckily shot it with the 70-200 mm lens which seemed to work fine. 

The only mistake she made was in picking me to do the video. I stressed her out with a lecture on the value of money, trying to be perfect, not waste things, be fast etc. Pretty much micromanaged the thing and lectured her. It is not easy to work with me or work for me.. or live with me for that matter. So while watching this video I realized that I owe my wife, kids, friends and colleagues and especially my boss an apology for being so pushy and demanding and being obsessive compulsive in a lot of ways. The only people who are immune to this influence are my yoga teachers and yoga buddies. 

At the end of it, the cookies came out very tasty. The little one helped big time in being moral support for Jr. as well as coming in and providing her expertise in fixing mistakes during the baking process. 

The smiles say it all! 


Once in a lifetime.. or maybe twice

As a child I vaguely remember going through a total solar eclipse as a kid of 8 or 9 in India. The local priest had said that the eclipse was specifically bad for my birth star of "rohini" and I had to be kind of quarantined.. or maybe it was my brother that got quarantined and I was in by association. Total solar eclipses meant folks stayed indoors and the ones whose birth star got a hit stayed 16 stories underground.. no I am kidding. They also stay indoors but get to cover their forehead with darbai grass (which apparently can absorb harmful radiation).. 

That was in those days. Last month I got another chance in this lifetime to "see" a solar eclipse that was spectacular. I had plans to even drive somwhere to see the totality, but my office did not plan for it. We had a meeting set for 10-noon. As a photographer, even if not Oregon, at least I wanted to go to some local mountaintop, set up the camera and go for some kind of time lapse composite shot. On a whim I took my camera bag with me.

When I went to work, we were in for a nice surprise. All of us got solar eclipse goggles and we were watching it from the parking lot. I just set up the camera in my office and took shots through the window.

everything looked unreal for those two hours. the colors on the trees and cars were so vivid ! 

Threw in all ND filters one on top of the other (ND2, ND4 and ND8) and it was still not enough! The sun is very powerful.. so I waited for clouds to cover the sun partially and got some shots! 

but the one above was with my iPhone! one of my colleagues pulled out his Huawei phone and got some amazing shots. That thing had a leica camera on it with shutter speed and aperture controls! I could not match those with the iPhone.. the 5D mark ii with a 70-200 and 2x extender.. that got some decent shots..

Was very happy to be able to see this. It was also a nice experience sharing this viewing with colleagues. Bunch of geeks enjoying an eclipse together!

Who knows, maybe time and space will be in my favor and will get to see an eclipse in totality in some part of the world sometime!

Was worried that in spite of the ND filters the lens would have been damaged. So far it seems to be okay on subsequent portrait shots!