Letter to my unborn child...

Dear child,

You will be here in a few days and I feel completely unprepared. I was, what I like to call "baby ready" right out of engineering college. I had begun liking kids and couldnt wait to have my own. I waited 8 years for you to come in my life. And now that you are almost here, I feel completely unprepared.

I have no idea if I would make a good father. I was lucky to have a really great set of parents. They let me take my own decisions, let me make mistakes occasionally, form my own opinions, in short, they let me be, well, me. What else are good parents supposed to do if not this? There is no set Key Result Areas for parents. There are no finishing schools, no second chances (per kid). My parents I think did a good job. And still, there were times when I was really mad at them. Maybe it is a sign of growing up or something. Maybe there comes a time when you realise that for the halo our society creates around one's parents, they are after all human and they are susceptible to mistakes too.

I guess, this is the reason why I am writing to you even before you are born. I hope that when you read this at 13, this letter will be still written by your 29 year old father. And maybe he might be more understanding than your 42 year old father who has salt and pepper hair and who your girlfriends think looks like George Clooney.

I am also writing to apologise in advance. I am going to push my dreams onto your shoulder. No matter how good a father I try to be, I might sneak in a few words about IIT and how you should try and get into engineering and how MIT has the best labs and you should work there etc. I am telling you now - I will love you no matter what college you go to or what you decide to be in life.

Interesting people, I have found, do only two things - They either create something or solve problems. The really interesting ones do both. If you are doing this, you are doing life right. Your looks wont matter, what car you drive or where you live wont matter. It doesnt matter what your friends say, or your relatives or even what I say. Being happy matters. Being happy is an art and like every art form, it get better with practice.

Your mother and I love you very much. We already love you, even before you are born. We loved you even before you were conceived. You know what? I was 14 when I first met your mother. And she was just 13. It must be funny imagining you parents to be little, no? I remember saying to myself that she had the prettiest brown eyes I had ever seen. I also remember thinking that she would make a good mother. Amazing no? That the 14 year old me would feel that a 13 year old girl will make a good mother? But tell you what, in all the years that I have known her, my belief in her has only strengthened.

I wish I could insulate you from all that is wrong in this world. But I wont be able to do that. Come to think of it, maybe that is not a father's job. A father's job is to guide, I think, not cajole. If you find this to be incorrect, please let me know. There are going to be times in your life when you wouldnt know what you are doing with your life and where is your life going. Everybody will tell you to do what you love. But no one will tell you how to find what you love. I am sorry I cant tell you that either. Only you can find love, in work and otherwise. One trick that I have found is to listen to your heart more than your mind. Your mind is plagued with what they show on TV and what they write in the papers. Listen to what your elders say, including myself. But dont buy everything we say. Most 30 year olds I know dont know what the hell are they talking about. Extrapolate that to all other age groups. But do listen to elders and ask them questions. This is the only way to gain experience without experience.

We are people pleasers, your mom and I. There are very few who dont like me and I dont think any person in their right frame of mind would dislike your mom. Being likeable is not the same as people pleasing. Refrain from picking up that habit from your parents.

Make mistakes. It's very important.It's okay to fail at things. It is not okay however to not give your best. Think about it, if everyone halfassed everything what would the world be like?

Those who say luck doesnt matter are lying. But over time, I have found, luck evens out. Once luck evens out, only hard work stands tall. There is no substitute to hard work. At the same time, not everyone, no matter how hard working succeeds at everything. Faraday, found out the relationship between Electricity, Magnetism and light. One has to have some divine intervention to find that, I feel. But when Faraday was made to work in a glass manufacturing lab by his jealous boss, he failed miserably for 4 years! You might not succeed at everything. But succeeding at everything is not the aim of life.

Some of your friends are going to have better parents, maybe more educated or who earn more than us or they have better toys or have a good looking boyfriend/girlfriend. You dont know their story. You havent walked in their shoes. Dont be jealous. If you learn to do that, teach me how.

In closing, all I want for you if good health and a good life. Happiness and joy. Experiences and lots of trials and errors. Lots of love and an honest heart, my child, will lead you a long way.


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Sri Lanka, amaze me!

If the aim of travel is enriching oneself, I had the most enriching trip in my life very recently. This was to Sri Lanka. And I say this after travelling to 14 countries round the world. Travellers always want to see places different from their home, and I dont blame them. It does seem like the best value for money.

So, please note that I say, SL was the most enriching of my trips, it wasnt the biggest bang for my buck. That, probably would be Hungary.

Anywho, when I got married, I, in all my naivety made a promise of at least one-vacation-a-year to the wife. She very subtly reminded me in August that we  hadnt made any plans and it was already past the half year mark. So we decided to go some place most Indians never visit (we were wrong about that) - Sri Lanka.

In my head SL would just be a poorer copy of Kerala. I was partly correct about that. As our plane swooped in to land, as far as our eyes could see on either sides, were coconut trees. Vast, literally forests of Coconut trees. So much like Kerala, but definitely not a poor copy.

Private transport across SL is super expensive. This in spite of fuel and vehicles costing exactly the same as in India. Heck, even their oil provider is Indian Oil (which is renamed IOL Sri Lanka, yeah, smart). On our way from the airport, as we entered the city, we did get caught up in traffic. Ah, good old third world country, I thought. Only, there was no honking, no rash driving and almost no motorbikes on the road (Could a SLankan answer why this is?)

Now the enriching part - The roads, barely felt a bump on the roads. The traffic! I have never had cars stop for me while crossing the road in India. There are just too many cars and too many people in India, I thought as I crossed that road in Colombo. I am like the mother of that naughty kid in school. Everyone says he a menace, but the soft hearted mother I am, I cant find faults with the kid. My attitude towards India is the same.

The beaches, they are beautiful! The heritage buildings, the monuments are all well kept. They all seemed Indian or British, which is obvious considering it was Tamil kings who ruled SL for most of its history apart from the British who came in during the 19th century.

My point being, this country, a small island, war ravaged for 25 years, a part of the Indian subcontient, was more European than Indian. Again, I love India. But Sri Lanka probably has all the beauty of India and its people minus the filth, the honking, the dirty and encroached footpaths and the deafening noise of loud speakers.

So, what are the Sri Lankans doing right?

1. They controlled their population.The population of SL, the entire island is less than one such island in India that is hundred times smaller than SL - Mumbai. The population density of Colombo and Berlin (one of the lesser populated cities of the west) is almost the same!

2. They made education compulsory. SL has amongst highest in 3rd world countries (98%!)

3. They made cheap medical care available for its rural folk.

4. Resulting higher value of human life and better pay for even menial jobs. In a country full of Coconut trees, coconut is still costlier than in Mumbai. The reason - the wage of the person who climbs up the tree in SL is much higher than in India.

On our way back to India, we stopped at Chennai. We went around a little bit. Chennai looks a lot like Colombo. Only it's not. It took us a few hours adjusting to that fact. Less than 1000 kms away is a city that is so much cleaner. How? While sitting on the beach, looking far out in the Indian Ocean, the same ocean that is shared by both cities, we thought what should be done to make our cities that pretty.

1. We cant reverse our population. But we can try to diffuse the population to other cities. We have to come up with newer better planned cities. We need at least 100 cities of the same tier as Ahmedabad and Mysore. At least 100.

2. We have to make 2 types of education available. We dont want everybody to become an engineer. But we want everyone to read and write and think for themselves. Most engineers from India cant.

3. Improve the quality of cheap medical care in India. Govt hospitals have to be run better.

4. Improve quality of 3 things in the public domain - Potholes free Roads. 24/7 Electricity. Potable water supply. That is it. It is not that difficult.

Or maybe it is. Either way, we cant stop trying. It makes no sense to be a superpower if we cant even have 24/7 electricty. in 2015!

We had to catch a flight back to Mumbai from Chennai. We were crossing the road at the slow lazy pace only a tourist can manage when a Tata Indica, honked at us and woke us from our slumber-like state. We were truly home.

Note: Every morning I wake up and open my window I feel great. I am proud of my country. It took me 3 months of contemplation to write this post, call my naughty kid, well, naughty.

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