Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Going to America

Going to America- -
Malayalam Manorama, Copyright 1966 (click for larger image)

It can be so hard to know the implications of our very next endeavor. Back in 1962, when my mom was 6 months pregnant with me, my dad was accepted into a surgical training program in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a program that was tough to get into and he fully intended to return to a teaching post in Kerala, a lush coastal state in India. But once there, the faculty urged him to "go to Chicago" for hard core trauma experience, in a surgical residency. So he shared the long term value of such a move with my mom, changed plans and sojourned to the Windy City. When I was around 2, my mom joined him and I was dotingly taken care of by my grandparents, particularly my mom's parents, I believe. Finally, just before turning 4, my father insisted that I join them in the U.S.

Given the price of air travel, the most prudent option was for me to be chaperoned by Air India flight staff. My dad's dad, Chachen, a PR minded trial lawyer, implored the largest local paper to "see" the editorial opportunity that was right under their noses: that the youngest Indian to ever travel to America was leaving in 2 weeks. This idea sold its way on to the front page and that shot is seen above.
From what one of my dad's sisters, Baby Auntie, shared just a couple of years ago, the actual excursion was pretty unpleasant (for me, that is). I was under the impression that all my dad's siblings, and his parents, were getting on the airplane with me. As my dad's family has 14 children and he is the 2nd oldest, many of these siblings were not much older than me - - and we played closely together. So what a fantastic idea! Getting on a jet plane, with all of them?? I was out of my mind excited at such a prospect. My aunts and uncles were mortified by the reality, and no one had the guts to clarify what was really going to happen. I was a bit puzzled when my dad's dad was the only one that walked on to the 707 with me. And shortly after the stairway was rolled away, they brought it back. "This child is making a ridiculous fuss. He can't fly with us. No way." So Chachen, more stubborn than me, calmly and smilingly walked back on board, this time with a bag of candy. Damn that candy.
Upon landing in JFK, I vaguely recall a man walking up to me with a Tonka truck and saying, "Santhosh, I am your daddy." It was our first meeting. I was about to turn 4. What a glorious moment, eh?
I have thought often about the sheer sacrifice my parents make. As I have two boys, one nearly 6 and one who is 4 1/2, the notion that I see them for the first time at such an age is remarkable. Had my dad known that his 6 month program in Scotland would "take him 4 years forward" before he saw his child, I am not so sure he would have boarded that plane. And reaped the benefits of that action. But we cannot see what the future holds. And arguably, that may be for the better in the long run.

First Passport Photo 
India Passport Agency, Copyright 1966 (click for larger image)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


So for the last 6 or so months I have been taking a shot at meditating each morning for around 20 minutes. After some exploration and reading, I have settled on repeating 3 passages, generally repeating the shortest one more than the longest one. To be clear, these are prayers, and for those who are truly atheistic in their outlook, this blog entry will probably be a waste of time. Two chants are homegrown and the last is a classic Catholic Prayer. The homegrown entries:

  • I pray I am with you thru the baptism of today. The focus is upon me NOT forgetting in times of stress, that I for one, can begin to believe I have been abandoned by God, when in fact it is the opposite: I have abandoned my engagement with God. This insight was first brought to my attention thru the passage "Footsteps in the Sand." Ever since, I rarely say phrases like "Dear God be with me" as I know he already is. Baptism refers to the way we immerse ourselves in each day.
  • I pray I will explore, discover, develop and appreciate the Talents, Treasures and Time granted to me, and optimize them in Your name and to your benefit. I was struck by the phrase "talents, treasures and time" the 1st time I heard Fr. Tom in our church mention it; it pretty much covers all that we have at our disposal, eh? What we are born with, what we earn or create, with whom we establish relationships, and the time we have in our hands to do all this. And it is so easy to take this for granted, to not look for and discover the gems placed under our noses, to not nurture them into greater fruition, nor fully appreciate it. And of course, to not fully apply them in an industrious manner. This chant is to elevate my awareness to such pitfalls and help overtly counter such missteps.

The "classic one" is the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. I have always found the words in this passage have profound weight and wisdom.

I am unclear how this has impacted me - - I did not determine any metrics by which to assess changes in my day to day ways, and cannot say for certain my behavior has really fundamentally changed. But I have come to greatly enjoy this morning tradition to settle myself before the day begins.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Full Flight - Basketball

One revelation to me is that at pretty much any age, we can show athleticism at remarkable levels. In watching Paul and his peers play basketball (and similarly soccer) I see bursts of intensity that are eye-popping in a manner not much different from what is demonstrated by a pro. Here is an example, a fast break (there are only fast breaks in toddler basketball). The rush of bodies down the court, in pursuit or in exhilarated observation of the ball handler was just pure joy for us spectators.

Breakaway - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mementos from Susie Annie

Here we see the traces of a few doodling sessions that Paul, Sidd and Susie Annie had. It includes favorites of each party: Honey the bunny; bullet trains; balloons; more bunnies; and more bullet trains.

Standing by the Siddo/Paul/SusieAnnie Masterpiece - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)