January 25, 2011

{Facebook or a hug?}

Since the release of the book 14 months ago I have tried to be structured in posting my blogs every Tuesday night, Denver time.  I have to confess that many a time I have asked myself if I was writing just for myself or if anyone ever reads what I write.

This most recent trip to India gave me a reason to be energized and recommit to writing on schedule.  Before I start again, I acknowledge a few key experiences and thank a few key people who gave me the motivation I needed.

Calcutta to Mumbai, early morning flight: 
It was a 6:20 am flight to Mumbai.  I had to be up at 3:30 am.  Ma and Babuji (dad) were up early for us to enjoy a cup of tea before I left home.  Once I made the long drive to the airport, and then the equally long line through the security, I was relieved to be on the plane and in my seat.  Initially I thought the person next to me was kinda strange.  That early in the morning he was humming some tunes and writing something down.  At first I was quite irritated, but when we introduced ourselves I realized he was THE Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, one of India’s premier vocalists.  As we started talking very soon Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty mentioned that he was in Denver and heard about my book.  I did not have a copy with me but I promised to mail him a copy ASAP.  It was only when we went our ways that I realized that our conversation during the flight was mostly about parenting and not about the music of the talented genius.  I got a chance to know about his academy and how he interacts with students on a one level, giving them confidence and enjoying every moment.  It was simply wonderful to connect to a man of this level of talent on a personal level through our common interest in enjoying every teaching moment and the relationships that matter to us.

Mumbai, Oni’s shoot:
My brother Oni asked if I could send copy of my book to a client of his, Swati, who was attending one of Oni’s video shoots.  I obliged.  That afternoon when I reached the set I met Swati. She was at one corner of the shoot, reading a book, my book!  She was intrigued by my being there, and soon started asking me questions.  Then she decided to get back to the book stating she was near the end of the book.  I was touched.  “Wow. She finished it in one sitting! Nice,” I thought.  Once she was finished she had an expression of satisfaction and said that she would love to share the book with her daughter.  We talked a little about the content of the book and parenting challenges.  Later that evening as I was driving back with Oni, and he explained who Swati was (one of the top creative minds in the field of advertising in India), I recalled hearing the name Swati Bhattacharya mentioned by my friends in the field.  I was now in awe.  I could not believe I was in the presence of the Swati Bhattacharya, creative genius, and all we talked was parenting stories.

Mumbai, Oni’s shoot round two:
Suparna, who works with Oni and over time has become a sister to me, was listening to my conversation with Swati.  At one point I referred to a particular blog post and Suparna simply could not hold back.  “I have read it,” she said beaming with confidence.  She went on to tell me how she is a regular to the blog and reads all the posts.  I was amazed and grateful once again.

Since my return I have been energized to connect with my classmates from IIT Kharagpur. In the Facebook game of sending friend requests and accepting requests, I got a message from Samaresh Mukhopadhyay who posted on his wall a video of me speaking on the book.  In his personal message to me he talked about his life’s challenges and how he has had to make conscious choices to balance life. Then I heard from Amitesh Mukherjee who shared some stories about him and his wife taking their kids out to dinner.  Prosenjit Dutta talked about how the video moved him and Saibal K. Ghosal said, “I am once again reminded that it's easy to become a father but it's a lot more difficult, but fulfilling, to be a ‘Dad’!”  But one of my favorites was a message from Diganta Das. He wrote “We all get the moments - just this morning my seven year old wrapped herself around me and said – ‘Isn't it (the hug) better than Facebook?’”

Wow.  In the last two weeks, the book connected me to Pandit Ajay Chakrabarty, creative genius Swati Bhattacharya, Suparna, Samaresh, Amitesh, Prosenjit, Saibal, Diganta and many others. Even though each of them are the leaders in their professional fields, in each case the book and the blog gave me the opportunity to connect with the individuals on a deeper personal level.  There was no formal rehash of professional accomplishments.  Instead, the spontaneous words were all from the heart.  I thank each of you for sharing.

As Raka and I discussed the scope at the outset of the journey of the book, she, in her typical wisdom stated, “The mission of the book, Dad, should be to touch one more person.”

Initially I was confused. Until that time I had defined the mission based on the book’s sales. Once Raka explained, I thought I got it, but I still had a question. I asked Raka, “What happens once we touch one more person?”

She looked at me with an expression that she could not believe I was asking that question.  She said, “Dad, then we touch one more person.”

Thank you Raka. The book and your vision have helped us touch people, one person at a time, and connect at a deeper level. 

But do you always have to be this wise?  :)

I love you baby!

January 18, 2011

{True Happiness}

What is better than watching your superman-brother work?  I got the answer last week when I was in Mumbai, India.

It was the last day of my trip and Oni, my brother, was shooting an ad in a suburb of Mumbai.  My amazing nephew Agni and I were both excited to attend the shoot as there was an artificial rain sequence scheduled to be filmed. 

I got there before Agni since the young man was still finishing up his nap. Agni arrived at the set close to the end of the shoot. The dynamics changed immediately. There was excitement in the eyes of all the tired team members who had finished another long day of filming.  Everyone was eager to share their role with Agni, and Agni got to climb on top of the water tank and see some of the other filming highlights.

That’s when the magic really happened.  Somehow Agni found his way next to his dad, and held his hand. After a few more on-set observations, Agni and Oni started walking back to the car, holding hands. The excitement in Agni’s face was out of this world. I also noticed the smile on Oni’s face – it was no ordinary smile. Father and son were cherishing their moment together where both were truly happy that the other was there.

As for me, I was just happy to be there and capture some of the moments in my camera.  Enjoy.

January 4, 2011

{The "Last" Cookie}

My Dearest Raka,

As you get ready to embark in the journey of life and I bake the last cookie for your High School finals, I realized that when life closes a door, it opens a window. Initially I was sad and resisted making the last cookie.  I guess most dads feel a weak moment when they want their baby to remain their baby forever. Maybe that was the reason I accidentally left the “secret stuff” at Whole Foods last night.

But today as I started baking, I realized I need to find new reasons to celebrate and bake cookies for you. I have already thought of a number of reasons to celebrate in the future, it isn’t difficult to find reasons to celebrate a star like you. 

This last set of cookies is a reflection of life’s challenges that are ahead of you.  First I thought of marking them, but then I realized that life does not come with “markings” and you will have to figure things out as you go, so here they are: 

Raka's Last Set of Cookies Before Finals
-          To mark of sweet moments in life, I have some orange flavored cookies for you.
-          For moments of celebration with friends, I have some hazelnut flavored cookies.
-          For moments when you will be a little unsure in life, there are chili lime flavored cookies
-          For moments those are tough and initially will shake your confidence (just for a moment before you come out with flying colors), there are chili cookies. 
-          And then there is the plain chocolate chip cookie to celebrate everyday life. 

Of course as a dad, that too of my only child, I worry as you prepare to leave the nest and leave your mark of Raka-ness on the world. The more I get to know you, however,  I more I realize that you are more ready than I was at your age, (not that this is saying much).  Your wisdom, your maturity, you caring for others, and your sheer brilliance in everything you do makes me sing the old Gatorade song, “I want to be like Raka.”  (Since you were not in the picture then, the song went “I want to be like Mike” after some guy named Michael Jordan.)

Good luck in your finals baby!

I love you and you ROCK!