Escape while you can!

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Unless you have been living under a rock in the last few months, then you know the media has been buzzing constantly; first with endless US presidential election campaigning, then the US election night, Indian PM demonetizing the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 bills and then the final cherry on the top: Donald Trump winning the elections to be the 45th President of United States. While all the outside news has been constantly hammering on in my mind, the twists and turns of life and work have also kept me constantly busy.

For as long as I remember whenever life overwhelms me, I have turned to books and reading. Like Hermione in Harry Potter, when faced with a problem I have looked for answers in books and library. So it isn’t surprising that in whatever little time I have had lately I have read voraciously. When there is so much drama happening in real life, one doesn’t want to read anyone else’s life drama; even that of a fictitious character. So I picked up couple of books from science fiction and fantasy genre. Fantasy genre is one of my favourite genres and if the book is a fantasy thriller….my life is all set! I mean who is thinking about real life problems and presidential elects when you are hot on the trail of aliens trying to invade earth or a wizard trying to save humans!

For science fiction this time I tried a book called The Three-body Problem written originally by a Chinese author Liu Cixin and translated in English. I just finished it yesterday and it was one of the most interesting science fiction books I have read; it was mainly about how a group of people are sick of the current state of humanity and decide to invite a race of aliens to save the human kind. It resonated with me because this is exactly how I feel about human race today, where we are completely losing touch with our humanity. While realistic it was also thrilling, fun and educational. Today I picked up Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I have never read any Ursula Le Guin, but have heard wonderful things about her writing and I am excited to start the book. The other one I picked up was Fool Moon by Jim Butcher which is the book 2 in the Dresden Files series. Most of the books in this series can be read standalone and I have read a couple of them in no particular order; but this time I decided to start reading the series in its right sequence.

I have always loved to read thrillers, mysteries and adventure stories.  I guess I have always looked for a way to escape the reality even if it is for a little while, if I can get a fun ride with a wizard or an alien during that escape I am more than happy to get on it!

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Lands we leave behind

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More than half a century ago a man left the green fields and farm lands of western Maharashtra to try his luck in the glittering city of Mumbai. His mother had passed away a while ago and he left behind his father and younger brothers with the promise to bring them to the city. In Mumbai he found friends, a small place to live, got his degree as a certified accountant, and a job. Eventually he started his own company that manufactured chemicals and trained his brothers to manage that company. That man was my uncle, who brought his younger brothers from a small rural village in Maharashtra to Mumbai, give them better education and to give them a chance at a better life. Once he came to Mumbai, he never went back to the village except to visit the other relatives there every now and then. He got married and found matches for his brothers one by one, including my father. Everyone started their families in Mumbai and nobody gave a thought to return back to the village. The second generation of my family (my cousins and myself) decided to come further away to improve their lives and a few of us immigrated to the USA. Like our elders before us, we have not given much of a serious thought to going back to our lands. Like my uncles and my father who were immigrants to Mumbai and eventually became citizens of Mumbai (called mumbaikars), we have slowly become Americanized.

People all over the globe move from their home towns and home countries and become immigrants elsewhere. Mostly they move for a better life, better opportunities for families, and sometimes just for the sheer adventure of living unmoored in a new place. I moved away from my home when I was young to find a life different than the one I had back in India. Maybe like my uncle I thought this was the right move to have a better future; but unlike my uncle I didn’t have to bring any of my family here with me.

When you move far away to make your life better, you leave something behind…usually elder parents, other family. You lie to yourself saying you will be back one day but you never get back. Whether it is moving 350 km to Mumbai or 10000 miles to US, it is a move where eventually you will never look back. You have to make a life where you move in order to be successful, but the happier you are in new place the guiltier you sometimes feel about all that you have left behind.

I don’t know if my uncle ever felt the guilt or worry about his move decades ago (he wasn’t the kind of person to talk about his feelings), but he was very happy when his daughters moved to US, he felt that like him they were moving on to something better in life. I just wish I had asked him about all this when he was still coherent, I wish I had talked to him about how to immigrate when you leave half your life behind.

An un-broken heart

Have you ever been in love? Beautiful isn’t it? To fall in love in this harsh world is a wonderful thing, and to be loved in return is the most beautiful and lucky thing. Because when two people decide to commit each other through everything it makes life worth living.  It doesn’t make life easy, because it’s not easy being in love, but just that the hardships will be worth it.

But not everyone is lucky to find someone to love and be loved in return. Sometimes (I would like to say most often) love is one-sided, kinda like driving in one way lane. Sometimes it is unrequited and sometimes even after all your efforts you cannot hold on to it. There are many though who say, “What’s the big deal about love? You could become fond and generate affection for anyone with whom you spend a lot of time.” But I would say you want is love, affection and fondness is for your pet not partner. The elusive feeling in which you sometimes compromise not because you have to, but because you want to for someone. With a broken heart most people take two directions, either they fall for everyone in a rebound or swear off a relationship and find it very difficult to trust anyone. Though eventually mostly sane people manage to save themselves and pick up pieces of broken heart and glue it together again. They get on with their lives but like a glued object you can see the cracks on the heart, because of course there is no statute of limitations on a broken heart. Like cracked objects which can be used again, the heart slowly learns to set itself right and trust again.  By the time it cracks again, the heart has learned to make itself stronger and learn to take care of itself.

Then the heart looks around, and finds so many broken friends walking around, hiding behind the smiling faces and troubled eyes. It realizes being broken is part and circle of life which is so complex and at the same time so simple. All a troubled heart and head needs is someone to hold on in the hour of need and love. Someone to trust wholly, completely, without judging and someone who will care for your heart the way you would. And that is exactly what love is, exactly that simple, easy and exactly that difficult and complex to find. But if they can find the Higgs Boson, then of course you can find love. So just tell your heart to hold on and if you already have someone to love then hold on to them, because you have just found your elusive Higgs Boson.

While in Rome

One’s assimilation skills are very closely related to their social skills. Whether it is when living with someone or living in a different country. It is as simple and as complicated as, “While in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Because sometimes assimilation is not just doing as the Romans do, but also changing your thinking which sometimes changes your identity- which I think is what scares most people. Assimilation is what makes America a melting pot and sometimes great. J

When living in a different country, assimilation sometimes threatens your identity and your uniqueness. As someone who has lived and worked in United States for last 7 years, I have seen some of both; those who completely refuse to blend in, intent on maintaining their nativity in the foreign land, and those who become native almost completely in less than the time it takes to speak the word native.

While it is quite admirable to blend in the culture of a new place, it is quite a loss to let go of your own rich culture. The tradition and values with which one grows up are unique to their place and when you let them go completely it sometimes feels like you are ashamed of your values. There are people I know who would whiten themselves if they could to let go of their Indian ‘brownness!’ And then there are some who refuse to let go of their past. They strictly adhere to their culture without bringing anything more to it; eating the same food, watching the same kind of movies and above all hanging out with people from your region. While most people say food and movies aren’t a big deal, it’s the very window which opens you up to new things in life. There’s no bigger cultural experimentation than experimenting with their food. But refusing to try new things is how cultures become stagnant.

The real smartness is in bringing your own flavor to the new culture that you are trying to fit with, which leads to cultural and personal evolution. When you bring some Indian-ness to your American culture is when you start appreciating both the cultures and thus can pick and choose your values. Kind of like hanging out at a bar with your American coworkers discussing Oscar Wilde and Devdas, and like adding bit of curry powder to your pasta! J