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Entries in Jr. (168)

Friday
Nov092018

Possibilities - a conversation

We were talking about the election results while driving back from school, when Jr. is suddenly all moping.. 

Me : What happened now?

Jr. : Everyone in my class will get to vote in the next election except me! I am the only one who will not be 18 by Voting day in 2020. Do you know how bad that makes me feel?

Me : you will get to vote in 2022. Big deal

Jr. : Who wants their first vote to be in a midterm election? 

Me : If I were you, I would be happy to vote in any election. Reminded her of the story I had already told her about my voting experience...

Back story: The only time I got to vote in India being an Indian citizen was when I happened to come home to Chennai from Varanasi and it was election time. I went to the booth and the guy there told me "you have already voted. now disappear before something bad happens to you!". My grandpa scolded me for going to the booth alone, instead of showing some rightful indignation. That was when I was 18 (Chandrasekar was Prime Minister..it was a short lived tenure). I came to the US when I was 20 and the next time I actually voted was in 2006 as a US citizen in a midterm election and voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger! Have not missed voting since then. No one has told me that I have already voted or turned me back. I drop my mail in ballot at the Cupertino City hall a few weeks ahead of the election and can even track my vote. However I do hear that people go through things like what I went through in India, even today in the US elections in many places. 

Back to our conversation..

Jr. : Could you not have conceived me two weeks earlier? This is all your and amma's fault that I don't get to vote. 

I was suddenly silent and upset. There are people these days who schedule C-sections so their kids are born on an auspicious birth star, a certain Chinese zodiac year, before Dec 31st so they can claim a dependent on their tax return, etc. etc. ( know of all above cases).. but trying to beat the voting cutoff?! That is new!

Then I thought,  she was not a planned C-section. Her poor mom pushed and pushed all day and finally after she almost came out, she got stuck and it ended up an emergency C-section. 

Me : You were two weeks late and past your due date. Your origial due date was Deepavali, but you showed no signs of coming out. We were in the hosptal instead where your mom had to go through a baby stress test. You were under no stress. So they sent us back home. If this is anyones fault, it is your own. You should have been on time! 

I knew that was mean, but there comes a time in a mans life when he is just plain tired of being the fall guy. 

Later I tried to make up for the outburst... with some luck.

Midterms are important.. sometimes even more important than the Presidential elections.. please keep saying that people. I have other reasons to support that statement now.

As long as Jr. takes her vote seriously, I am a very happy and proud father! 

Sunday
Oct282018

A toothbrush, napkin wrapper and an evening of shopping

Could have titled this post "three conversations" but that would be bland..

On recent Asia trips, I have started a new habit. Take the toiletries I use in the hotel room and put them in by backpack every day.. then bring them home, use them a few more times before throwing them. My little contribution to the "green earth" campaign? Actually not! 

A colleage told me that he saw a youtube video where the folks who come clean the rooms in star hotels in Asia, were caught on hidden camera, using the guest's toothbrushes in the toilet just out of spite. "Why take chances?" was my logic.

Came back from the trip and was about to throw the comb and brush (which had squished itself in my backpack and was not usable anymore) into the bathroom bin, and saw teh green glow of the sanitary napkin wrapper under the bin lid. Given my jet lag and my inclination to randomly burst out at my wife and kids for 24 hours after the trip, either when woken up or when asked to do pick up drop offs where I see myself unfit for driving, this wrapper put me on high alert. So the next day I was doing everything, as my usual being extra nice to my wife routine. Did not talk back, accepted last minute schedule changes, etc. I was tired and pissed off in general, but was okay with it.

Then we have a conversation where my wife asks me do take the kids somewhere, at the last minute and I said "fine!". My kids were genuinely suprised by this. After she left the house, they asked "what is going on?". She has asked you to do things quite at the last mintue since yesterday and you have been accepting this. This is the third time just today... Did you do something wrong? 

Me: Look, your mom has also been tired as I have been gone for a week. She is going through a busy time at work, has been doing all the driving by herself and also she is "aathula illai"!

"aathula illai" literally translates to "she is not in the house" and figuratively means "she is on her periods". The kids were rolling and laughing out loud. When I asked them why, they tell me that the only remaining box of pads was in our bathroom, and when they go to our bathroom to grab pads, they unwrap and put the cover and stickers in our bin.  The joke was apparently on me and I was being extra nice for no reason... I was going to ask "wait, how long has this being going on?" and was about to lecture them on the importance of using their own bin for their own trash as it is sending me wrong signals, and decided.. yeah, the joke was on me. It was okay to be nice to San even if for all the wrong reasons.

So I throttled back on the nice a little bit. I still had jet lag. An attempt to do yoga to fight jet lag ended up with me running out of the hot room to get rid of stomach acid and I really was unable to fight the afternoon nap, which ended up being more than a nap. 

I walk around after this "nap" in zombieland and overhear the wife and kids having a conversation about what to do on our 20th wedding anniversary. Instead of walking on by, made the mistake of blurting out,  "lets go somewhere local so we can have a day out and come back home by evening and celebrate dinner at home with family and friends"... the looks.. oh the looks I got in response! They were planning something else.. then the kids look at me and ask "wait ! isn't this YOUR anniversary as in both of you? so why is Amma planning something on her own. She said it is HER anniversary" . My response was "she is giving herself an award for putting up with me for 20 years! I might not even be invited to the celebration and won't be surpised if that happens!" 

This is shortly followed by me being asked to come along on a shopping trip. Went very very reluctantly because I was guilted into coming. Was answering phone calls outside a shop and was busy taking pictures of a crow inside the mall when we decided that one kid should go with each parent to shorten the shopping time.

Walked around with Jr. and found out through some Matlock / Colombo style detective work that she was going to go on a banquet with her Marching band and was planning to buy a "dress" for it. She tried some stuff and was not happy. Then I told her "it is cold out. you are doing straight to a dinner and coming back. just wear a nice shirt and a good sweater on top, which you have plenty of, no?" and she says "you are right. I will do that. it is a good idea!"  I was really surprised. Would I in this lifetime see my daughter become a value shopper like me? would she ever bargain with multiple vendors to find the base price and do a deal where they still make money and she would get a good deal? My head was racing with the possibilities!

Then we are having dinner and the little one says "I am Appa!".. I was a little confused. Is this some "We are with Paris" type thing she is starting, to make me feel better?! Turns out, she just realized that she eats just like me.. Her friends were telling her that she eats like a camel by moving her lower jaw out and she was watching me eat and realized she does the same thing. So, it wasn't some kind of solidarity movement. Just a bitter realization, but she was smiling and was giving me a "Guess there is no escaping the genes!" look. 

Later,  San shows me a few sarees online to see which ones I liked. Picked three on the a vs. b choices she gave and she said ...all those are old lady sarees. they are not "chinna ponnu" sarees... (Chinna Ponnu is little girl quite literally). On the one hand we have the bearded me trying to tell the world he is done with looks and has accepted his age while we have a chinna ponnu with two chinna ponnu's under the same roof. I did not even respond to that comment and just nodded, thinking "The generation gap between us is increasing rapidly!" 

Have realized over the last few months that it doesn't take much to make myself happy. I can be alone and reset myself. Can stare at myself in the mirror and come out with a "don't care" attitude. Feels more and more like I am forcing myself through the daily routines, as part of a responsibilty and commitment but take no joy in certain things like chauffering or even shaving anymore. San hates the chauffering equally as she does my beard. 

The life cycle was explained to us in middle school as a four stage process.. first stage, bachelor hood, 15 years of studying and being a good boy, then 15 years of married life and having kids, then 15 years of living in the forest and the last 15 of being an ascetic renouncing stuff. Now that retirement age keeps rising, even the Wikipedia entries for the four ashramas are being pushed to 24 freaking years each!!! I don't think I will live past 70 anyways, so the whole thing is messed up.

Maybe I have reached that stage in life where one is supposed to say bye to everyone and walk into the forest alongwith my wife, to live out our last years? Don't think "chinna ponnu" is likely to follow me into any forest anytime soon, or even a national park for that matter. It was my dream to rent an RV and just visit every national park in the continental US, go on long hikes and take time to photograph sunsets, with no time limit to come back to the parking lot. San used to share that dream, given we both liked long road trips before we had kids. I used to haul my camera bag and she used to carry my tripod and walk with me to watch / capture the sunset. Now I don't think all the time in the world is going to be enough for me to get to those same locations we visited before, from even the closest parking lots carrying that camera bag! 

My family tells me that my battery is low. I am not excited for anything anymore. I don't know why! Maybe I need a career change. Maybe all this travel has turned me into an emotionless lump. Maybe I am just too tired to fight the good fight on a daily basis. Maybe yoga has turned me into a very inward person who has become extremely selfish subconsciously (not my theory). Maybe I need some Glucon-D or Cinkara ?! (see, there is still a funny guy somewhere in there).

Still writing down these odd little conversations,  because this is what life is about in my eyes.. things kids say and do, how we evolve as children, as parents, how a mundane or not so mundane routine impacts us in ways that are deep, lifes little victories and defeats, perceptions right and wrong,  all over a span of few days, sometimes a few hours! 

A lot less grumpy today and the routine continues. Have to make an effort to find my interest in everyday things back to that stage where every little thing that my wife or kids did filled me with amazment and wonder. It is not their issue, it is clearly a waning of my ability to see the magic that is happening in front of my eyes. Need those special glasses back...

It will happen!

Saturday
Oct132018

All part of a busy life..

Jr. gets the same advice from me for pretty much everything this year. Given Jr. is in Jr. year, it is by far the most critical from a college preparation stand point. 

First she decided to have the Arangetram this year. I told her not to do it but if she did, it better be good and it better not compromise school. 

Second, she decided to go for her driving permit in summer. I told her not to do it but if she did, it better be good and it better not compromise school. 

Third, she decided to take Marching band this year in school so she can do band and marching band to get PE credits.  I told her not to do it but if she did, it better be good and it better not compromise school.

She has a tendency to try multiple things, not do well on multiple things and point fingers at other activities.

The Arangetram is done and the fallout of that w.r.t. exams is still being felt in the house. She did do a good job of it.

She has stopped driving temporarily and will resume in a month. While she did drive me around, she was a good and careful driver. Thank god she doesn't have mom's driving gene.

The marching band is still going on and it is one big time sink. There is three hours plus of practice twice a week and a game almost every week where it is another 4-5 hours. She likes it and is happy doing it, but it might be the one thing that helps Jr. point fingers at for grade misses. 

In any case, I can only watch her dress up and do marching band and enjoy her enjoying it. On top of all the games and practice there was a high school marching band expo where all high schools had their bands display the routines. I got to see this from the front row. It was great to see all the kids put in so much effort into this. 

Jr.'s high school music teacher was hesitant at first when he got the marching band back again last year after a long gap, but this is definitely a plus. The kids seem to thoroughly enjoy it and this builds a team spirit among the kids and it teaches them co-ordination within the instruments coupled with co-ordination with other members while moving around. 

Have been watching them practice since summer and they have improved significantly as a group in just 3 months!

Here is Jr. in her marching band uniform..

and a video of the Monta Vista school marching band at the expo..

At this rate we don't know were all this is going. We know she is doing a bunch of things and she is happy doing them. 

Given I never went through any of this in high school and grew up in a different place in a different time, all this just makes me happy and scared simultaneously. 

Hope she uses what she learns here to some value in real life and more than anything, hope she does go to college and have a career that makes her happy.

Tuesday
Oct022018

Being a parent has its perks

It has been a great weekend! Months of preparation went into Jr.'s Arangetram. First time she is doing a solo dance performance, in front of a large audience with a live orchestra. It is a new beginning for her to take her Bharathanatyam (form of south Indian classical dance) to the next level. 

Jr. has always loved dancing. Like most kids, she first performed THE CHICKEN DANCE! She would spontaneously dance to movie songs.. She then wanted to learn Bharathanatyam and tried out a local teacher, but she dropped it after a few months. Mostly ten year olds were substitute teaching her, as the teacher had to go to India for a family affair. Kumon took precedence and she stopped dancing. The next year she bugged us again and we decided to take her to Meena teacher in Sunnyvale. She loved Meena teacher. She has been learning from Meena teacher ever since.

Have been pretty much dropping her at the dance teachers house, once a week or twice a week, over the last eight or nine years, go do groceries, or have an occasional chai samosa at Bhavikas and go pick her up at the end of class and drive back home. It is a 20-25 minute drive, which was done with monotonous ease over the years.

There was a time, when I would go in and sit down to watch the lesson. That was when she was around 7 to 8 years old. Soon she declared that she doesn't want me sitting there and watch as she will "thappu panni" (make mistakes). So daddy was banned from coming to watch. She would practice at home, mostly with her sister competing for the mirror in her own cute way!

The only time I have seen her dance, is once a year during the Pushpanjali dance academie's annual day function or the occasional dance performance as a group in some temple or other. The costumes went from various paavadais to a borrowed dress , another borrowed dress, finally to her own dance dress three years ago!

If you read the posts in the links you will see three themes:

1. I keep missing my sister everytime I see Jr. dress up in a dance costume.

2. We are very critical parents, grand parents, relatives when it comes to her dancing

3. In spite of everything, Jr. loves to dance and she does it for herself more than anyone else

The dancing has also improved over the years. Last year at the annual day, I finally got to see her dance very differently from the previous years.

She wanted to do her Arangetram (solo stage debut) last year, but we sent her to India for an entire summer so she could spend time with my parents and brothers family. The event was pushed out to this year. 

Meena teacher and Jr. put in a lot of effort in taking her dancing to a higher level so she could do the arangetram. Given Jr. is a bold girl and I have no stage fright, was confident that somehow she will manage the stage part. I had never seen her dance a single song from her Arangetram at any practice. So I had no idea what was in store.

There were only two things, that kept me up at night the last few months. 

1. Her ability to hold one legged poses (my mom would eventually watch the video and she is a stickler for kids holding the Nataraja pose in an arangetram)

2. Her eyes getting irritated with the eyeliner.

Jr. has ended up in a hospital thrice with her eyes getting so irritated after an annual day performance because of an allergic reaction to the eyeliner. Was praying that it will not happen durng the event. She never wears it during regular class, practice or even the full practice she did the entire week before the event. Fortunately, she got no reaction this time. Her eyes were red, but not to the point where they had to be shut for hours. 

The first time I saw her dance the numbers was last Friday at a rehersal with her uncles. Yes.. there is a flashback in this post, that tops all other flashbacks.

Many years ago, when Jr. was a year and a half old, we visited Melbourne for the first time. San's cousins who were little kids then, went to perform on the Mridangam and Violin at a local music school function. We were in the audience and at the end of the event they said "if Jr. ever does her arangetram, we will come and accompany her!".

We have talked about it many times and Meena teacher agreed to have them accompany her, after we showed her videos of them performing at events in Melbourne area. Practice tapes were sent and things co-ordinated and I was oblivious of all the effort that San and an army of people supporting this were doing. Continued to play chauffer..

Last Friday, at the practice, was blown away by the improvement in her dancing. Had no words.. just sat silently in the car on the way back home with a realization that :

1. my daughter was no longer a kid

2. if she could switch her face from anger to scared to happy to sad, I should be very careful with her going forward.. this is a girl who would put a puppy face and bat her eyelids, to get anything she wanted from me at 4 years old, but that was her only method.. now she has some acting talent, my brain went on high alert!

3. I don't have to worry about the event

On Saturday evening, she got on stage and danced. She did it for herself more than anyone else. She made us very proud that evening. Then she told us "we should tell Meena aunty that I want to come back to the regular class schedule". 

Dancing on stage for the first time alone is all well and good, but it takes a lifetime of practice to improve at anything. Was very happy to hear her say that. As long as she keeps it up, we are happy for her. 

The first step in her dance journey was finding Meena teacher and Pushpanjali dance academy. The second step was this Arangetram. The next step is scheduling the first class after the arangetram. The step after that, is to keep going...

Do not have photographs from the official photographer / videographer yet. It will come in a week. Did walk around with a camera, during the performance, through a side door that goes to backstage and took some shots.. 

A big thanks to her uncles Venkat and Narayanan (aka Varun) for coming all the way up from Melbourne to accompany her,

Smt. Jayanthi Umesh and Sri. Ashwin Krishnakumar for supporting her with the Vocal and Flute

and Meena teacher who is nothing short of a miracle worker.

Sometimes I wish Meena teacher would teach Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics etc. also.. 

Jr.'s aunt Aditi was the MC for the event. 

Was too tongue tied at the end of the performance and opted not to speak. So I get to thank everyone in this blog for posterity.. the voluteers from the dance academy, friends and family who came from near and far, the folks we hired and the folks who volunteered for every aspect of the event, makeup, stage set up, decorations, sound, lighting, compering, taking care of the dancer, the artists, the attenees, video, photos, a very long list of things that I did not know, that have to work perfectly for an event of this magnitude to happen, our entire list of guests who came to the event or sent messages that encouraged Jr. on this event. 

After my wedding, this was the first time we had my brother, sister , San's brother and sister all be here in one location. Some of them made it with their families. We had 20-21 folks stay in a house where normally 4-5 of us are there. Now we have an empty house effect after everyone has gone. The silence is deafening. 

Two photographs that never saw the light of day.. they were taken during the still shoot for the invitation..

San doesn't get enough thanks from me, for making me see what could be, because she knows what our kids are capable of, has a wider imagination, and she is not soft on them like me.. THANK YOU SANGEETHA! 

You were right, again! The girl can dance!

Here is to Jr. and her continued dancing journey...

Saturday
Mar102018

Holi hai!

This year we knew that if we did celebrate, we would go to Foster city for a repeat of last years celebration. This event is very well organized with a nice DJ, great music and a lively crowd. We were not sure if the weather would co-operate. Even though it was raining in Cupertino when we left, it was nice and pleasant in Foster City. 

A sea of people celbrating and dancing together to music.. 

and the colors! 

did I say "sea of people" ?

although I pulled off this shot, the idea to make her lie down on the floor full of color was not mine. It was her friend Anika's. Any good photographer should always copy compositional ideas.. with pride! 

I have one child that co-operates for photos and another one that does not even show up to the celebration because she is going through a "photo-aversion" phase of life! It was heart breaking for me to miss the little one this Holi. Will wait for her to turn around.. 

My 5D Mark ii saw its toughest time today in the park, with fine color powder flying everywhere.. some kid threw powder directly into my lens. Still managed a lot of good pictures for the day (some of which will be shared in the events FB page). Spent a good 30 minutes cleaning the camera after coming home. It was a good thing that the 70-200 never even came out of the bag. Took everything with the 24-105mm.

The iPhone never came out, but wanted to try the portrait mode and got this shot in the parking lot.

Not happy with the way it defined the edge to cut portrait. Had a shot with the 5D that Jr. took just before we exit the park..

Used refine edge (to be fair spent 20 minutes on this image) but the end result is way better than the iPhoneX. Apple has to improve on the Refine edge algorithm to get smooth edges for shirts and sharp edges for hair sticking out..

There is no family portrait this year, but there is always next year...

Wishing everyone a happy Holi! May your life be filled with joy and color!