Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mr. Mom - part deux - DISASTER Strikes!

48 hours left for Mona to be back in town. We had almost made it through the month without any major mishaps. All of us were starting to lose it a bit but the end was in sight. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Finally on Saturday, disaster strikes.

I took Aanish and Ayaana out for brunch and we left the apartment without taking a key with us! Had a good brunch, stopped by the library, picked up some groceries and came back when we realized that we had no way to get back in the house - 2PM. Well, not such a big deal. Mona had left a set of keys with one of the neighbors (bless her - she anticipates the impossible). But luck was not on our side. The neighbors were not home. They were away at a resort and were not going to be back home until 7PM. OK. Our housekeeper, Pushpa has another set (thank you, Mona) and she has to be in the building somewhere. I head to the security to find out that she has already signed out and left the building. Mona had left her cell phone number with me so I called her - turns out that this was not the correct number (and given the state of the things, probably I was the one who took it down incorrectly!). I know Pushpa also works in apartment 401. They must have her contact number. Guess what, nobody's home. I rush to the Home Care office to see if they can help us get in the apartment from the roof - no such luck.

So now we are stuck outside - with no options left. I have bags of groceries that need refrigeration and a couple of cranky kids. Ayaana came to the rescue and tracked her friend down in the building who volunteered to store the groceries in her refrigerator. We decided to head to the mall for a movie. We had to kill time until 7PM. I realized that I did not have sufficient cash for movie tickets but had my ATM card handy. No problem. Stopped at the bank but could not remember the pin for the life of me. Wait, wait. Before you pass any judgment on me, I don't use this card very often. Well, I had my American Express and figured we can get through this.

We get to the mall fighting traffic along the way, make our way through a long line of cars making tight turns in the parking lot at the Forum (my favorite activities, all of them) and get there. There were no English movies playing at any of the theaters around that time. Our only choice was the Tamil movie, Enthiran and nobody voted for it. So we killed some time at the mall (eating cookies & popcorn, browsing at Landmark, shopping for a laptop cover) before we decided to head back - 5PM. Drove back to a Coffee shop near the apartment and hung out for an hour - 6:30PM. Tried reaching our neighbor but no luck.

Came back to the building and spent an hour in the game room playing table tennis with the kids until our neighbor called announcing that he was in the building. Hallelujah! Finally got into the apartment around 7:30PM, ordered some pizza, started watching Harry Potter 6 with the kids and passed out.

As it turns out, it was actually not a bad day at all!

Friday, October 29, 2010


It's been nearly four years since I have been living in India and finding the right balance between my desi-self and American mindset continues to be elusive. These years have helped me a lot to get back in touch with the Indian in me. Two decades in the US (especially during my 20s and 30s) had made a complete American out of me. As Americans, we value our individualism and personal freedom. I love the ability of Americans to be self-critical and laugh at themselves. We also tend to be direct and to the point. We are focused on execution and getting things done. We like order and structure in our lives.

India on the other hand is defined by relationships. You can't help but not be connected to the larger whole (whether you like it or not!). As Indians, the feelings, needs and emotions of others are very important to us. Indians have a sense of humility and an amazing yearning for knowledge. The journey is more important to us than the destination. We thrive in chaos and make things happen inspire of lack of order and structure (the 2010 Common Wealth Games will stand as an example).

Yesterday, I moved a step closer to my Indian-ness. A couple of colleagues at work helped me in this shift. Somebody remembered a comment that I had made at a recent event about the elegance of a South Indian outfit for men - Pancha Katcham. It is white/cream in color. It is a 5-yard strip of cloth that is draped around the waist and sort of looks like a skirt. It is knotted in five places (for safety?). This is worn with a white shirt. My colleagues not only purchased a complete outfit as a gift for me but helped me put the outfit on (believe me, you need help doing this). It was a fascinating experience for me and I was touched at their thoughtfulness. They were as excited to see me in this new outfit as I was to put it on.

A symbol of transformation? Maybe.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trojans in Bangalore!

Yes, you heard it right. USC has opened offices in India - Viterbi in Bangalore and Marshall in Mumbai. Few months ago, the dean of Viterbi, Yannis C. Yortsos, was in Bangalore and an event was hosted for the alumni resident in Bangalore along with prospect students. I couldn't believe the number of Viterbi alumni who showed up for the event. I had no idea that so many alumni from USC were living in Bangalore.

Last weekend, associate dean Raghavendra hosted a dinner for the alumni at the Taj West End. Saw a lot of new faces, met a lot of interesting folks and made a couple of new friends. Raghu ran us through a brief presentation on recent changes at the university. The place looks nothing like it did in '86. It has also moved up in the US News and Word Report rankings (even beat UCLA!). His presentation was followed by introductions of the alumni. I was asked to talk about an interesting anecdote from my days at USC, which I did (not fit for print!).

BTW - I was the second oldest alumnus ('87) at the event! Hard to believe that Aanish is now applying at USC for his undergraduate program. My, how time flies!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Being Mr. Mom

Mona's been gone almost 2 weeks and I am playing the role of Mr. Mom (a lot better than Michael Keaton did in the 1983 film if I say so myself). Managing the house and kids has really not been that bad. Aanish and Ayaana are old enough so I don't really need to worry about them getting home from school and making themselves a snack and perhaps even order pizza for themselves.

What is challenging and continues to amaze me is the number of little stuff that one has to keep track of - such as turning off the water heater, leaving the bag & coupons for milk outside the door, watering the plants, remembering the schedule of music classes etc. etc. Multi-tasking at work just does not seem as challenging but my brain seems to morph into jello the moment I arrive home. Luckily there hasn't been a major disaster yet and I hope it stays that way for the next couple of weeks. We seem to have managed fairly well and have not blown up the house yet.

But I do miss Mona - especially dumping my woes on her after a particularly challenging day at work. It's not the same without her :(

Monday, October 04, 2010

Incredible India!

India pulled it off!

India is hosting the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi this year. For the past several weeks, the media has been speculating about India's ability to pull it off. There was a constant stream of media reports about shoddy construction, filthy conditions around the stadium, security concerns and criticism about the games anthem composed by A. R. Rahman. All of this coverage created doubt and anxiety in the minds of most Indians while games officials did their best to assure everybody that things were not that bad. The cost of the 2010 Commonwealth games is estimated to be a staggering $2B USD and everybody expected a world-class show for that investment.

Yesterday was the opening ceremony and everybody's fears were laid to rest. India put on a magnificent show and proved to the world that it can. The show was spectacular with amazing pyrotechnics, thousands of performers and an incredible sound and light show. 7000 athletes from over 70 countries are in New Delhi to take part in the games. All the last minute glitches were sorted out in a manner that is uniquely Indian and order has emerged out of the chaos as it can happen only in India.