June 16, 2021

{Father's Day 2021}

This year to celebrate Father’s Day, I created a mini documentary featuring stories from nine dads from different parts of the world.

I had a blast listening to the dads and fascinated to see how dads all over the world are connected by a common thread…. how dads who normally do not show much emotion, break into a ‘smile from the heart’ when they talk about their kiddos.

Enjoy!!! Share with your loved ones in your life.  

Thank you Partha Sinha, Tom Ryan, Scott Zabilla, Chad Burmeister, Lucas Clarke, Clint McCaskill, Selvan Lehmann, and Oni Sen

{Touch the life of one more person}

Right after I wrote the book Raising A Father, my daughter Raka and I had scheduled a meeting to talk about the marketing of the book. I prepared a cool PowerPoint presentation. Raka patiently listened to my whole hour long presentation, and at the end, she asked me “Baba, are we hurting for money?”  “No…not really” was my response. Next, she asked “Then Baba, why are we stressing so much? Why can’t we just have fun with this book?”

I pushed her by saying “Do you have a plan?” She smiled and said, “The plan is to touch the life of one more person.”  I asked her “So what happens after we touch the life of one person?”  She said: “Dad you touch one more person.”

This lesson has helped me through the journey of this book, as I have been fortunate to touch the lives of incredible human beings. One time I was speaking at a very small Rotary gathering that was hosted by Janet and her husband Bruce.  Janet and Bruce have been married for nearly 60 years; and when you see the way they hold hands and smile at each other, it felt as if they had fallen in love for the first time all over again.

So, at the end of the presentation, they took me out for dinner, and I had to ask them this question: “What is the secret to your marriage?”

Bruce taught me that in order to appreciate each other in a marriage, you really have to hit ‘the search stops here’ button hard. Only then can you appreciate what you have.

Second, you have to showcase your love everyday. Yesterday, the love you showed doesn't matter today and you must wake up today to share your love.

And finally, the coolest lesson I learned was from Janet. She taught me that every marriage, just like a business requires a risk management plan. She explained to me that her husband Bruce is the nicest kindest human being. But then she smiled and said “Men by nature at times, make silly goofy mistakes.” She and Bruce used to spend hours together doing risk management drills back when Bruce travelled a lot with his job. One evening when Bruce was traveling in California, he called her late at night and said, “Hey you know I met this person, and I think she asked me out.” Then Bruce was very proud to share how he implemented the risk management plan.

That was a huge learning curve for me, because sometimes we take relationships for granted. We tend to be very happy with relationships when everything is fine and peaceful. But when we hit troubled times, the plan to navigate the hardships together defines the relationship entirely.

The journey to Raising A Father has been filled with priceless lessons such as touching the lives of one more person, the biggest lessons I've learned from my daughter Raka. I will forever cherish the lesson.

August 10, 2011

{What a day at work!}

I have been looking forward to August 9th and August 10th, as I was scheduled to do a focus group in town. These are long days starting at 8am and going until 9pm with me on my toes, moderating customer feedback.  But the reason I was looking forward to these particular focus groups was because Raka was to work with me for the entire day, on both days. I simply could not wait for this to start. The evening before the groups, I went out snack shopping for Raka. It reminded me of the snacks she loves for lunch and it was my way of reliving her high school days.

When Tuesday morning finally arrived, Raka was ready, looking professional as ever and ready to rock the world. She was her usual confident self and cautious at the same time, as these are important clients of ours. 

Most of the clients she would be with that day have been in our lives since my corporate days at Pizza Hut. It was during that time, on a September morning, Raka was born. Hence most of the clients present knew Raka from the time she was a baby, but today she was there to assist me as I moderated the groups. Wow, how time flies.

I hit the first roadblock when on the way to the facility, we were stuck in a bad traffic jam. Raka immediately came to the rescue. "Dad, exit here." she said, "Then turn right and then left on Hampden," and sure enough we were on our way. Of course it does not take much from Raka to impress me, but with her navigating and with me following her directions, it was the first sweet moment of the day.

The work day was simply amazing. It was wonderful to see Raka interact with my clients as she jumped at every opportunity to help. In between groups when I was taking a break she had a big smile on her face, every time I saw her. Then she would whisper to me, and remind me to eat and stay well nourished. I used the first break I got in-between groups to brag to my clients about Raka's accomplishments, especially about her being nominated for Top 40 under 40 by Advertising Age magazine when she was only 13. Normally these focus group days are long and tiring, but each of the moments with Raka made the long day go by fast.

As we drove back home that night, Raka was tired after her first 12 hour + work day. I was too, but I realized that the days like these do not come too often. Wednesday will be another day with Raka, another enchanting memory with my princess. After this, whenever I will moderate focus groups on my own, I will remember every moment from these two days and cherish the memories we are creating now.

I love you Raka.

August 2, 2011

{Monopoly Then and Monopoly Now}

Raka loved playing Monopoly when she was a kid. I was not sure if she still loved Monopoly till last weekend when she invited me to play it with her. I was excited. Soon we had the board spread out on the floor and the two of us were surrounded with cash, property, and cards flying everywhere.

Within a few minutes of starting the game I was lucky enough to have both Park Place and Boardwalk. It was clear from Raka's expression that she wanted them badly, but being the property dealer, she handed over the property cards to me. Soon after that I built hotels on those properties, and the second time Raka landed on the property, she looked at me and said, "Guess the game is over. You won, Dad." 

As Raka and I cleared the Monopoly board and put all the pieces back in the box, I looked at Raka and realized that she is not a baby any more. Earlier she was not happy to lose, and would try really hard to win. Today she plays to win, but she did not define the game with a win or loss. 

As I was putting the Monopoly box away I remembered a game of Monopoly with Raka when she was seven years old. My parents were visiting from India and my mom, Raka, and I were playing the game as my dad sat next to us reading a book. Raka was not having a good game and between the intensity of my mom and me, the poor girl was having a tough time and I suddenly realized that she was not enjoying the game. She was simply going through the rituals. Even the way she was rolling the dice was halfhearted, but she was still sitting with us and playing. Just looking at her made me feel bad.

I invited Raka to the next room and asked her how she would feel if she was winning instead.  Her eyes lit up, but then she said right away, "But Dad, I have no money and cannot win."  I told her not to worry as I had a plan. Quickly I wrote a handwritten contract, which stated that Raka and I were merging our businesses and she was the new owner.  To make things official, I went to my dad and asked him to sign the contract as the commissioner. Now she was excited. Of course when we got back to the game and revealed our contract, my mom protested strongly against the "un-gamely contract," but Raka could not be stopped. She was fully into the game now. Soon she was collecting rent, increasing her property values, and eventually won the game.  That night, before she went to bed, she gave me a big hug and said "I won Dad. Thank you."

Of course after Raka went to bed, I got lectures from my mom for not playing by the rules and not being a good example to my daughter.  But I just did not care. To me the fun of the game was defined by seeing Raka smile – I just could not stand seeing her sad. I argued with my mom that these contracts are very common in real life and soon Monopoly would incorporate them.

Raka is not that same Raka today.  After I put the game board away, a teenage Raka gave me a hug before she went to bed. I thought about that game ten years back and today's game. Surprisingly, I was not happy to have won today's game. In fact I was sad it was over. I wished it went on longer so that I could enjoy my game with Raka even more.  With her going off to school, these opportunities won’t come often and I want to enjoy each of them. A longer game is better than a short game that I win. Earlier she used to beg me to play with her; now it is going to be my turn to plead with her for a game.

I love you, Raka.

July 26, 2011

{High School Graduation: Then and Now}

The year was 1982. I had just graduated from High School and my eye was single to just one University, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. There were five IIT campuses at the time with a common entrance exam to get into those. When my name was selected out of all those who took the IIT exam, I was beyond thrilled. I still vividly remember my rank among those who took the exam: 1,363rd. With age, I may not remember very many things from the past, but I vividly remember that day. 1,363rd was my freedom number.  It marked my taking control of my life and being ready to leave home.  I do not know where my confidence came from to feel like I could survive alone in the world outside, but I felt ready. When I think back, my enthusiasm was a combination of me running from home and me wanting to experience a new world outside, both happening at the same time. I had no fear; I had no idea what I should be afraid of. My parents did not give me a big lecture; it was left to me to choose my path in life.

Raka graduated from High School . She is all set to go to NYU. She does not have a number ranking as I did, but if she had one it would surely be better than mine. As I see her celebrating with friends and living up every moment of her last days in High School, I can also see the overflowing excitement in her. It is the same excitement I felt in 1982. 

I am, of course, scared. The world today is a tougher place than the world I jumped into. All I had to do to be safe in college was to stay away from the group in A-Top. The A-Top was a corner wing of our building where eight to ten students lived who were allegedly into drugs. Once I learned how to stay away from them, my life was full of friends, sports, debates, plays, and yes, academics.

I do not know the exact complexities of the life of a high school student or college freshman now, but I know that it is way more complex and tough than it was for me to just avoid the A-Top. It feels like life allowed me a bigger field to play in, with huge margins of error. For Raka, the playing field is much smaller with the margins of error significantly more narrow.

Of course as I write this, I am torn between trusting and worrying. Raka has earned my trust with her actions time and time again, but I cannot help but worry about her.

So Raka... relax, breathe, and enjoy the moment. As I keep telling you, the best is yet to come. Love you baby!

July 19, 2011

{Affairs in a Marriage}

In the last few years, there have been quite a few instances where the topic of "affairs in a marriage" has come up in discussions with my friends. The discussion usually follows one of three directions:

1. Shared blame: In this perspective, couples view the affair as a mutual fault. It is not just the fault of the person who had the affair. Both partners must look back at the void created in a relationship which sets the stage for a third person to enter the relationship. Instead of only blaming the person who had an affair, the other partner looks at his or her role in the marriage as well, examining how it might have possibly contributed to the onset of an affair.

2. No Big Deal: This perspective comes from couples who support open marriages. Even though this is a small group, this group is quite passionate about their belief that marriage is a partnership where open connections with others takes the stress off each other. They believe it strengthens the relationship in the process.

3. Die Mr. Bond!: This perspective is taken by the spouse not involved in the affair. The blame is one sided. There is anger, hurt, and disbelief. Even though it is not admitted openly, the desire to get even with the betraying party exists deep within.

I do not know the right way to approach this situation.

Talking about Arnold Schwarznegger's affair with friends, I realized his take was totally different than mine.When one takes a job, one must be committed to the job and understand the consequence of failure. If you hire a baby sitter for three hours, you expect all three hours he or she will attend to your child. It does not matter if your baby sitter has to go to the bathroom or make a phone call, the expectation remains that he or she still has the responsibility to watch the child.

The same rule applies in a marriage with children. One must understand the commitment he or she has made to the children. The individual should not undermine the consequence of failure by thinking that he or she can most likely get away with it. In fact, by talking to a lot of parents, I learned a simple rule that helps one be in the present and make the right decision. It is,

 “Behave in the same way away from your spouse as you do when you are around them. That way you have nothing to hide and no worries about getting caught.”

I believe that each of us act differently in various situations. Our actions are driven by different reasons. For example, it is not that I do not like to drive faster than the speed limit. We all know it can be fun. However, I do not know if it is the adrenaline rush I get from speeding that is more tempting or the feeling of control I have by knowing I can possibly prevent myself from getting caught due to my car radar. Either way, one day I did the math and I woke up. I realized the consequence of getting caught is not something that I want to risk. There were a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest one was that I needed to be a good role model to my daughter, Raka.

I also realized that I was not smart enough to guarantee that I would not get caught. As a result, I automatically committed to a more mature lifestyle. I am still keenly aware of my temptations to drive faster than the speed limit but now I always have a plan to overcome this temptation.

This evolution of self did not come because I think speeding is wrong. It was a result of wanting to be more mature, and understanding the bigger picture of life.

I completely realize the temptation for an affair can be a much, much stronger urge than the temptation to speed. However, having a plan of action ahead of time in either case is what makes the difference.

July 13, 2011

{What happens after she goes to college?}

How will I stay in touch with Raka after she leaves for college?  Our connection is strong today.  Though, when we are apart, we don’t connect very often.  An occasional brief text message or phone call is all we usually exchange, and those occasions are only when she shares something amazing that she has done.  The good thing is our time apart is normally followed by time together where I cook her favorite meal and we enjoy dinner together.  There are also times when she cooks for me – I truly cherish those meals. 

Other times we both sit in our designated areas in the living room, she in the futon and me on the couch, and we watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men on DVR.  (Although we recently had to drop Two and Half Men as it got more sexually explicit and I simply could not handle it.) We are quiet, but we can laugh and watch together. Even loading or emptying the dishwasher becomes great when we can do it together. 

Come September, the connections we share with the occasional messages will be sparse. 
On one hand, I am excited about her going to NYU and starting her journey as a new adult. On the other hand, I have to admit I am struggling as I think about how to continue our strong connection from a distance.

It feels like it was just yesterday that I was at her very first graduation at montessori.  It also feels like it was just earlier in the day when I attended her middle school graduation. Time flew fast and every moment was a blast. Even though I can try to put on a brave face and say I will not miss her, it is simply not true.  I will truly miss my baby girl who has become my dear friend. 

I am also sure that the connection that we share will evolve into something even sweeter so that I can cheer her on from a distance.  For those of you who read the blog, do not worry.  I will continue to find things to celebrate in my baby girl’s life and keep writing with the pride and love that only a die-hard fan can feel.