Sunday, October 11, 2020

All About Me

I worked my ass off to get here;
None of this was easy for me.
I get mad when I see them complain;
Taking my tax dollars for free.
I worked my ass off at my private school;
Aced assignments (with tutors three).
Got into one of the best colleges;
My parents were proud as they paid the fee.
I worked my ass off at college;
Pounded on my MacBook every day.
Had my fun too, parties and girls;
The checks from home came my way.
I worked my ass off at my first job;
(My dad knew the CEO from the ‘burb).
They made me a manager in a few years;
I told my team how lucky they were.
I came to this country like everyone else;
In an A380: the drinks were free!
I found a district with the best schools;
Everyone around looked just like me.
I get mad when I see them complain;
Taking my tax dollars for free.
I worked my ass off to get here.
Why can’t they be more like me?

Monday, March 2, 2020


Anita knew the fork to use first, the one to pick next. She knew the way to drink soup, the specific method to scoop out broth and gently sip on it, tasting it before swallowing. She wasn’t old enough to order wine, but she knew how to do that as well. She could pick the year, knew the questions to ask, knew how to pour the wine out.
Anita was an amazing greeter. She loved going to the door when her parents had guests over, welcoming visitors. She knew whom to greet first, how to take their coats, help them get settled. She opened conversations when there was a pause, and she knew exactly how to measure pauses. Some silences were okay, some were not.
Anita’s friend from school, Qasim, did not know any of this. He had come to her home once, and made all kinds of mistakes. He slurped his drink loudly, burped after he finished it, and kept using the bathroom every ten minutes.
Qasim was a funny one. He kept getting As in all his tests, though you wouldn’t believe it looking at him. Anita always thought he looked dumb, with his drab clothes and funny way of talking. Anita’s mother actually thought Qasim had special needs, when she saw him at her house the other day. He wouldn’t look at her, and kept mumbling when she asked him polite questions, the usual small talk one makes with visitors. Not that it bothered Anita’s mother, obviously. Anita’s mother would have loved to have a child with special needs over to visit. She would have spoken about it to her friends for the next few months.
Qasim never said thank you, never said sorry, never blessed Anita when she sneezed. Not that Anita would sneeze very often of course, and even when she did, it was always gently, and quietly. Anita knew how to behave.
Qasim wasn’t born here. Anita didn’t know where he came from, and he wouldn’t give her a straight answer whenever she asked. She imagined he was from Syria. From Pakistan. Bangladesh, perhaps. She knew those countries existed, naturally. She often thought of traveling there when she was grown up, helping the needy and winning a Nobel prize for peace. She knew she’d do well out there — there were so many people who needed help. She wondered how they drank soup, and whether they used their spoons from the outside in, or the other way round. She’d teach them the right way, as soon as she got settled.
Anita had tried to get Qasim to hang out with her and her friends, but he always turned her down. She wanted him to be with her as she and her friends discussed music, books, and politics. She was an ardent supporter of diversity, and having a diverse friend would be simply awesome. She once tried taking a selfie with him, but she had to delete it as he looked really ridiculous in the pic. He had no idea how to pose, how to smile, how to look cool.
There was this one time when Anita gave Qasim her copy of the latest Wimpy Kid book, which she loved. She didn’t think Qasim read books, from the way he looked at it. Qasim held the book for a minute, leafed through some of the pages, and gave it back to her with a brief thank you. Anita asked him if he’d read it already, but he said he hadn’t. She tried to insist he take it, told him it was hilarious and he’d really enjoy it. Qasim just looked at her with those infuriating eyes, and declined again. She watched him as he walked away, bumping into the English professor on his way out, laughing with him at the book Mr Reid held in his hands. Wasn’t a Wimpy Kid book, though. It had a number on its title, with a picture of a dancing red soldier on the lower left corner. Maybe they liked books about war, she thought.
Anita wished Qasim would be like her. Enjoy the books she liked, watch the movies she loved, listen to the music she enjoyed. She wished he would learn to talk like normal people. Know what to say, when, and how to say it. Wished he would stop clearing his throat all the time. Wore better clothes. Knew the rules. Knew what’s proper, what’s allowed, what regular people did.
Wished he could be just like her. Normal, like everyone else.
(Originally posted here)

The Expensive Currency

Hate is cheap. Hate is easy to peddle, easy to come by. Hate is the currency used by leaders everywhere these days. Hatred against the other, the outsider, the invader, the bloodthirsty barbarian at the gate. The immigrant, the minority, the ones that infest. Those who have funny names, names that are difficult to understand, to pronounce, but are drop dead easy to tweet about.
Hate is the cheapest currency of all.
Then there’s the one which looks cheap, but isn’t. Difficult to come by these days, even for those who are rich with hate. The peddlers don’t quite know how to use this currency. They haven’t provided it, except as a way to stoke hate.
It’s audacious, this other currency. It motivates people. Animals. Living things. It’s what drives all creatures, humans included, to leave their homes and travel. Migrate in search of better pastures, better livelihood. Not just for them, but for their offspring. It’s the driving force behind evolution.
People talk about what they want. Food, water, shelter. Jobs. What they don’t talk about is what they actually need. That’s the expensive one, the currency that’s tough to come by these days.
The currency of hope.
You. The young’uns, the tweens, the teens, the children of today and tomorrow. Believe in this currency. Invest in it, nurture it, let it grow. Believe there is something better waiting for you.
You are our only hope.
(Originally posted here)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

He's here now.

He's here among us now.
The door that was tightly shut is open.
Not fully, but enough
For him to enter.

He knows his way in now.
And can enter again.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

For the birds, boxed.

I flat out refuse to watch Bird Box, by the way. There’s something about the smug way the movie was promoted that bothers me. Netflix pounding social media, strongly pushing the FOMO factor, creating this aura of unmissability. Screw that. 

I’ve watched A Quiet Place anyway. I get the idea. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Let It Go

"It's freezing!", I thought to myself earlier today, even though it was actually thirty one degrees below freezing. Or seventeen below, if you like your football played with feet. 

Funny how that phrase sticks with you. What could be worse than freezing, you thought when you visited Ooty as a kid, the temperature hovering dangerously close to the fifteen degree Celsius mark. What's colder than ice, the cubes that you find inside trays of plastic stuck in your kitchen freezer? You've not understood how ice is formed, never seen it outside of a refrigerator. You've never seen hail, never seen snow. You think of the movies when you think of snow. Yahoo! James Bond skiing. Ratheesh and a baby faced Rani Padmini. 

The highest temperature today was three degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest was one. One degree F. That's about -16º and -17º C. Not quite the temperature of that cube of ice when it floats over your uncle's peg of Johnny Black. 

So yeah, it was freezing cold today.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Two Years

So yeah, it's been two years since we made the big leap. The great crossing. The Tughluq move. The moon shot. You get the idea.

This is the point where I'm supposed to take an impassioned look at what's worked well, what's not, and reach a conclusion that it was all for the best. Or that it was disastrous and we need to continue going west all the way back to the east.

Life doesn't quite work that way, though. Have the past two years been great? Absolutely. Have they been tough? Of course. Are we happy, content and living the American dream? Not quite, not yet. Are we disillusioned, disheartened and planning to get the hell out of Dodge? Not quite, not yet.

Dickens said it best, I think.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

Then again, I turn to the kids. And bask in the sun.

No matter where we are, we will always have the sun.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I shouldn't watch TV

So I'm skipping through TV shows on Amazon Prime Video and come across one starring that actor, that guy who always plays losers and anti-heroes; was in Bad Santa? Has three names, like David Anthony Fernandez. Billy Ray Cyrus? Nah.

Anyway, so I start watching and sure enough, ole Stevie Ray Vaughan is in a bar drinking it up already. Dammit, I know his name. Was married to Angelina Jolie? Had a tattoo. Or maybe she did. Won an Emmy last year, I think.


Show's not bad, though. Haley Joel Osment's apparently pissed off this big bad corporation, headed by - oh, look! It's William Hurt! Or hang on, is it John Hurt? Always get them mixed up. Alright, I know this. John Hurt was the Alien-popping guy, the Elephant Man who died earlier this year. William was the Body Heat dude. Got it.

Phew, I'm back in the game.

Now this Kareem Abdul Jabbar dude. He was in Fargo Season One too, for crying out loud. He was playing himself of course, but he was awesome.

I'm seriously getting old.

Like literally.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day

Thirteen. She's thirteen now. I have no idea how she grew up so fast. From that evening when she was born, through her first day at day care, the first time she was injured, her first day of school, her first birthday party, her first movie, book, toy, friend...I remember them all. More firsts await her, await me, as she lives her life.

Lives her life on her terms, making her own choices.

Father's Day wasn't just yesterday. It started thirteen years ago, when she was born. Every day has been special, every day has been this father's day.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What To Expect When Expecting A Trip To Europe

Or How One Can Run Out of Funny Titles for Blog Posts


So you have your budget ironed out, your dates finalized, flight tickets booked and you are searching the Web for tips on how to make the most out of your European vacation. I'm not sure if this will help with all your questions, but here's what worked for me as an Indian traveling to Austria and Italy with two kids and one wife. Your mileage may vary.


A lot of people swear by renting a car and driving all over Europe, much like Shah Rukh Khan and other heroes from Bollywood movies. We didn't try it because we felt it could be expensive and would add an added complexity of finding parking, especially in big cities like Rome and Vienna. Moreover, we would be in Austria before April 14, the official start of spring, and all cars were required to have snow tires. Coming from Bangalore, where we hardly have tires, let alone snow, we decided to avoid renting a car.

We booked all our inter-city travel on trains, and used trams, subways, buses and Uber for getting around within cities. OBB is the site to use for all travel within Austria, and Italia Rail for Italy. I did try Trenitalia too, but the website chewed up my purchase and that was ₹5000 down the drain. I'm not going to link to their website, that should show them.

I would advise reserving your seats, if your booking does have that option. We made the mistake of not booking seats ahead of time for the fairly long journey from Salzburg to Venice, and had to stand for a while, with two tired children and four tiring bags in tow.

We bought metro passes in Rome and Vienna, and the card we got in Salzburg allowed us to not just get free rides in buses, but cheap entry to museums and other places of interest as well. Highly recommended.

And oh, all trains, buses, trams and bullock carts in Austria arrive on time. All the time.


Airbnb worked like a charm for us everywhere, apart from Salzburg and Hallstatt where I couldn't find homes we liked. Most houses were very well stocked up on basic groceries like bread, jam, coffee, Nutella, wine and beer. The time invested early on in looking at photos of the homes, reading reviews and interacting with the hosts over the Airbnb app was definitely worthwhile. The hosts were professional, welcoming and helpful. Special shout out to Thomas, Paolo and Giovanni, who went the extra mile to make us comfortable.


You have the option of picking up prepaid SIM cards from India based providers like Matrix and Roam1. I use this when I travel to the US, but thought I'd try out SIMs from local providers in Austria and Italy, as they seemed cheap - around €10 - and came with pretty good data plans. I did not have any problem with buying these in both countries, and setup was a breeze. 3G connectivity helped a lot as we could use Maps, look up places of interest on Wikipedia, check Trip Advisor reviews of restaurants and spam our family and friends on Whatsapp with pictures every five minutes. That said, quite a few places had free wifi, so connectivity really wasn't that big a deal apart from when we were on the road.

The Austria SIM card did not work in Italy, but the one I got in Italy worked in Austria, although I was told it would not. I'm still not sure why, but found it interesting.


We had picked the shoulder season, the period when winter eases off into spring and tourists haven't yet swarmed all over the place. India having school holidays in April helps too, as most of the western world has their summer vacation two to three months later. Now the problem with traveling to Austria around the beginning of spring is that it still gets really, really cold.

We have one kind of weather, we Malayalees, even when we are from Bangalore. It's almost always hot, and the temperature does not change beyond a couple of degrees Celsius when it rains. We were just not prepared for the wild swings in temperature in places like Salzburg, where it was fifteen degrees at 3pm and two degrees by 5:45. We had jackets and sweaters to be sure, but had not thought to pack scarves, caps and mufflers. Sindha offered me a dupatta, but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing one, of course. Would have looked pretty silly.

Useful Sites

We wouldn't have had such a smooth trip without two amazing sites: the very practical and funny Reid's Italy and the exhaustive Rick Steve's Europe. Pay special attention to Reid's suggestions around booking online for Museum visits, as it saved us many hours of long wait times. We could not do this at all places though, the dome in Florence for instance had a two hour wait. Equipping your kids with essential travel supplements like iPads and phones will make your wait easier, of course.

Trip Advisor was a godsend for restaurant, hotel and museum reviews. We also read several blogs, some for couples traveling alone, some for single parents with kids and some for single dogs traveling without puppies. Also, as always, Google is your friend.