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Jul 28, 2012

The Long Flight Back

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“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

- Frank Herbert.


Dear Riddhie,
 
This kind of continues from the previous post ‘Winding Up’ and is essentially an account of our return trip and a little funny incident that happened en route.

We had started packing over the weekend of July 21 and 22 and after winding up kitchen and packing off utensils and clothes, the bags were weighed and re-weighed and opened up a couple of times all through the morning of July 25 when we were supposed to head out. Over the years, I guess you will side with your mom and label me a little paranoid about these things but then to my defense, I can only say that I like to be doubly sure of things specially when I am travelling with my precious little gem – You.

Needless to add, we arrived at the airport way before our schedule time of departure and were probably the first ones to clear our security checks and all. I had packed a little light than the maximum weight limit on all our luggage and eventually checked in everything including the cabin bags to avoid any last minute discomfort.

I was really apprehensive about how you would take to this flight home. An year ago, when we had started, you could fit in the little airline bassinet and had actually slept through most of your journey. Your sleeping pattern and behavior, after these twelve months had drastically changed and I was concerned that perhaps you will not take too kindly to be strapped up in your seat for 14 – 16 long hours.

airplane I would be lying if I say that I wasn’t relieved when I saw that you dozed off as soon as we were airborne. You nearly slept off the first full leg of our trip till Brussels. During the stopover, I decided to walk you around the terminal with a view to give you a chance to stretch your legs and we went about checking the duty free shops together. Belgium is famous for its dark chocolate and I decided to get some for your grandpa. I was holding your hand all this while and maybe left it for a few seconds to pick something up from a shelf and it was all the time you needed to run to a corner and the next thing I saw was you trying to lift a huge bottle of wine off the lower rack. I stepped up quickly and prevented the crash just in time and tried to dissuade you with candies and other things around but all you fancied in that store was that big glass bottle.

Thankfully, for us our next flight was boarding in short time and we could manage it without much further ‘action’. You slept through a larger part on this flight as well and were probably cranky for just about the final 45 minutes or so, which I guess were very manageable.
 
We stepped out of the plane and your Anupam uncle was there to receive us right at the terminal while the rest of the family waited eagerly for you outside the airport. You really did not mingle easily and held on to us the entire trip back home to the airport.

We had a lot of visitors over the course of next few days and there were a lot of social obligations to be fulfilled. I shall talk about your new discoveries and life back in India over the course of next few letters. Hope you enjoy it as much as I would keying them down.

Love,
Dad.

Jul 25, 2012

Winding Up…

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“Time is a circus, always packing up and moving away.”

- Ben Hecht


Dear Riddhie,
 
As you read this, I believe, all that remains with you from your first overseas trip is the bits and pieces you would have picked from my letters and the pictures that we clicked. At the age you travelled, I guess there are no memories, just routines which obviously change over time. When we started packing up to return to our home country, we were mindful of the kind of issues that you will most likely face while trying to settle down again.

It was equally difficult for your mother who had settled into a fixed routine herself. If you sift through the various photographs from this year, you will see a stunning change in your mom (she had managed to lose about 20 lbs, maybe more). The transition was made possible partially due to her dedicated regime and partially through her motivation to stay active to keep up with you.

For you, NJ was the place where you learnt to walk and utter your first sentences and made your first set of friends. We visited places and tried different things and even if this trip is one small brick in the wall of your entire life, it will remain special for more reasons than one. 

I guess I just made this post to give this chapter a proper closing. We had a good run thus far and despite all our ups and downs during the last year, it had been one fun filled ride. I took the following set of pictures
over the last weekend and a few of them turned out really well and kind of mark the end of your first US trip.

Union Last Days
I guess I will conclude this short letter here and follow it up with an account of our flight back home. The excitement in the family about your return was scaling new peaks on a daily basis and since we were planning to go back and settle down in our ancestral home for a while, I really wanted to see how you react to a whole different world altogether. So, more on that in next few letters.
 
Love,
Dad.

Jul 23, 2012

Saying Bye to Sandy Hook

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“If a picture is worth thousand words, a walk on the beach is worth a thousand pictures”


Dear Riddhie,
 
beach_quoteThis is a brief retrospective account of our last visit to the beach in the year 2012. During our stay at Union, Sandy Hook had become one of our favorite places to go to. On evenings when I returned early from work and if it wasn’t windy or cold, we would just drive down there to watch the sunset. We even found ourselves a little pathway that went from the road right to the rocks where we could sit enjoy the several shades of the setting sun. There are some very interesting pictures from the various trips that we made to this place and I am sure you would have seen them by now.

It was thus, only natural that we made one last trip before we packed our bags for good (till this point we had no clue if we would ever return). 

It was the evening of July 22, 2012 and we drove in to our favorite spot and sat on one of the rocks by the shore and watched the sun go down in its majestic glory on the western horizon. Here are a few pictures to relive the moment and the day – needless to say the fourth one where you are holding my hand and walking inspired me to make the quote I began this letter with.

Love,
Dad.
Sandy HookSandy Hook Sandy Hook Sandy Hook Riddhie

Jul 22, 2012

The Water Baby

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“Swim like there is no tomorrow, like today never happened and like yesterday wasn’t good enough”


Dear Riddhie,
 
The first time I took you to a pool was even before your coming to the US and I had made a little note of it in one of the earlier posts (Read HERE).

During our stay at AVE, Union you thoroughly took to water in the pool like a fish. We bought a couple of those cute bathing suits and some swimming diapers (of course) and took you to the pool and you simply loved it. It was pure joy watching you splashing and soaking in and having all the fun you could. The last few days of our stay here saw me come home a little early to take you to the pool on a regular basis. Now, if you ask your mom, she will tell you that an evening shower never really suited me but the way you laughed and played in water, I risking a running nose was really a small price to pay.
Pool Fun
There were multiple things which I wanted to do when I was growing up – learning to swim being one of them. However, I did not have access to either a pool or a swimming class until I had almost passed out of school – an age where it is easier to learn how to drown than to stay afloat. I still managed to learn a bit of what I could and though I might not be the kind of swimmer that will do multiple laps, I think I won’t drown easily either.

I am glad that you were not averse to water and enjoyed your time in the pool, even if it wasn’t much of a lasting memory. I hope to find a place and a facility for you to take this up seriously (when you grow up a little and in case you decide to) but for now, I will sit back and enjoy going through a few shots your mom took on one of our evenings in the pool and yes, they remain one of my most cherished moments with you from this trip.
 
Love,
Dad.

Jul 16, 2012

The Elevator Elation

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“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”

- Walt Streightiff


Dear Riddhie,
 
Maybe by now, as you read this, the world around you would have changed. It would have lost some of its color and perhaps a lot of its surprise. Life, as you know it, would be packed in a routine with a new elements to test your mettle on a daily basis.
 
As a father, I will try my best to shield you and protect you from all the world’s ugliness and its influence to keep your sunshine intact for as long as possible but then I am sure there will be times when life would conspire to tether your spirit to a pillar and present you with dilemmas that will make you yearn for these days when things are simpler and your choices far less complicated.

For all such times, let me share with you this little anecdote when one of the greatest joys for you was to just ride the elevator from our apartment floor down to the basement and back.
 
The story behind this letter is fairly simple actually. About the time when you started exploring your surroundings, everything within your reach was either what you liked to chew on or an amazing plaything. You loved being let on your own and enjoyed running down the hallway with little hops and a spring in your feet. Once outside the doors of the apartment, you aimed straight for the elevator and took delight in pressing all the buttons within your reach.

Initially, we tried to check your behavior and stop you but that didn’t really deter you and since we knew you would really grow out of this soon, we let you have your way for a while. Your joy knew no bounds when we decided to play along and educate you how to use the elevators and showed you which buttons to press and where to stand and all the little things about it.

Moving up and down in an elevator was no longer a routine thing after that. Each time we decided to step out, you would rush out to be the first one to reach for the calling buttons. It was endearing to see you enjoy and seek little pleasures like that. Even though you have stopped expressing such joy, every time that I am on on an elevator now, I am always reminded of this little video clip we shot on one of your ‘trips’ to the basement.
 
Riddhie, when you look at this little hazy clip years from now, try and look through the sense of wonder you carried as a little child – the amazement of the elevator ride, the awe and delight on seeing the button light up when pressed. These, my child, are prized possessions of innocence. Try and retain a fraction of that wonder as long as you can and let this wonder inspire you and fill your heart with creative dreams to paint a resplendent canvas. As long as I am around, I will try and keep pointing you to a rabbit in the cloud, a drop caught in a spider’s web or a little bud blooming through the crack in the pavement. I wish for you to be amazed by this beauty of life in little things and laugh with the same joy as the 2 year old you in the clip below.

Love,
Dad.
 



Jul 14, 2012

Moments Here & There…

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“ Some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about...”

- Charles Bukowski, War all the time.


Dear Riddhie,
 
I guess the above quote by Charles Bukowski says it all. This letter of mine is more like a reminiscence of little things that you have been doing lately. They are not much as such and probably a part and parcel of all babies your age right now. Nonetheless, they remain as dear to me as any other special moments that you and I have shared.

This happened on one of the afternoons around July 08. Your mom was busy running her daily chores and you saw that as an opportunity to sneak behind her and grab a pack of lentils that we got in our groceries. Before she could check what were mischief you were planning, you dragged the packet into the bedroom and began digging into it like a little monkey. Of course, your mom was keeping an eye on you the whole time and she saw this as a little opportunity to click you in action.

I remember having seen a similar act executed by your uncle when he was perhaps your age. During winters we would normally have our lunch in the verandah of the Sonipat house and it was one of those afternoons on a Sunday when the whole family was gathered and ready to eat, when your uncle Bunty, who was still learning to crawl, came up from behind and picked up about 4 ‘rotis’ and bit into them all together. I guess your grandpa clicked that moment and the picture should still be lying somewhere. Ask your uncle about it maybe. :)

Here is you in action, for now.
Monkey 
Another special incident around this time was your new found fascination for an American football. In one of my earlier trips, a colleague had showed me how to throw one and the kind of technique it involved. Back home, in India these balls were virtually unknown except as seen on TV or movies. I had actually picked this particular one up from a store to retain it as a souvenir from the current trip. I guess you were just hooked onto it for its shining color and the fact that you could easily hold it in your hands. The funny thing was that you were just not comfortable throwing it around. Perhaps, it was due to the fact that it did not really bounce evenly as the other regular balls you have had in your toy basket. I guess I got lucky with you moving about with it one afternoon and well, to cut the long story short, here is the set from that day.

The Blue Football
 Red Ball
 
Talking about balls, I am reminded of a reference I made in one of the posts earlier. (Read point 5. Baby and the Ball HERE). It’s not been very long since we passed the stage where you were initially ‘scared’ of balls and then were playing the ‘pup’ game. Though, you still are not quite there with your catching skill, you have been throwing and kicking it with a lot more will and intent.
 
The picture to the left here (with you and the red ball) is just a little shot of you with one of the balls that actually made it from US back to India.

Apparently, this is the one which scared you when we got it for you. :)

I guess in days ahead, you will have many more toys and will shift preferences from one to the other. I will, try and account these little things as part of your childhood till I can. Maybe one of these days, when you come back from your school or college, we will get to spend some time together and read one of these stories together and share a laugh and have more memories to add on. Until then…keep shining :)
 
Love,
Dad.

Jul 9, 2012

The Lipstick Lore

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“In our factories we make lipsticks, in advertising…we sell hope.”

- Peter Nivo Zarlenga (Author, The Orator)


Dear Riddhie,
 
I guess the title for the post says it mostly, but before I get down to the actual narration of the incident, let me just begin by sharing with you one little experience.

There was a time (long ago, now) when a girl came up to me and told me to go check a mirror (literally) implying that I was perhaps not in league with her concept of socially acceptable looks (obviously stating that I was ugly enough to come stand next to her, let alone ask her out at all). This remark confused me in the beginning and I was actually conscious of what I reflected in the mirror for a considerable amount of time. This made me experiment (foolishly, if I may add) with the way I styled my hair or dressed up until I met a few others who liked me for who I was and then I realized physical appearance and the concept of beauty is nothing more than being in harmony with one’s own self. Your looks, physique and other attributes that may appear attractive to others visually, are nothing but a function of gene pool which you can not really control (at least not until now). However, what you can control is how you keep yourself groomed and speak so as to influence and change the way people think about you.

The crux is that though your looks may carry you places for a while, you will need substance to your personality to be successful in the long run. Having said that I really wish that you grow up to be sensible enough to know where to draw the line. (Of course I can always yell at you for standing in front of the mirror all day long and taking hours getting dressed).

Smiley 2
And now for the actual story. It was the morning of July 07, 2012 and your mom probably left you alone for a few minutes in the room and stepped to the kitchen when you decided to explore her dressing table and pulled out a few things you had perhaps seen your mom use before – her lipsticks.

Going by the quote I started this letter off with, I still wonder if a 2 year old child actually cares about either color on the lips or hope (I reckon you probably do not even realize anything such as hope except anticipating a bottle of milk, when you need it). Maybe for you it was all about aping what the grown ups around do and just transcending it to your play. Now I guess, it somewhat makes our parenting skills questionable as why we would let you even copy such things and why before taking those lipsticks away from you, we sat down to capture your antics, but then I guess much as it is a learning curve for you being a child, it is very much the same learning experience for us being a parent. And then I must admit, that I tend to get a little overboard with my letting you ‘explore your own world theory’ at times. And then for the lipsticks, I guess I can’t really blame you. Your mother is one woman, I have known who can apply a lipstick while sitting on a bike, a Haryana roadways bus, blindfolded (YES, we even bet on it), while holding a baby, carrying a cup of coffee and even using her toes (OK, I made that last part up, but you do get the idea, right?). I guess some of her likes just passed onto you.

Anyway, to cut the long story short, here are a few pictures your mom clicked while you were busy putting on her lipstick.
 July 07 - Lipstick
I am sure that the days are not far when I will try to dissuade yourself from such games and infractions to help you retain your focus on things that matter. For now, I guess I will just sit back and enjoy you be my little monkey and swing along.
 
Love,
Dad.

Jul 4, 2012

Wild West City & Land of Make Believe

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“ Logic will get you from ‘A’ to ‘Z’, imagination will get you everywhere...”

- Albert Einstein


Dear Riddhie,
 
Let me begin by quoting Wallace Stevens here who once remarked that the imagination is man’s power over nature. I truly feel that if man hadn’t learnt to dream during the day, we would still be living in a forest and hunting down animals for our survival. Imagination makes you visualize what is not yet realized. It empowers you to live in a world that could be far more interesting than what we live in.
 
Imagining things and abstract thinking is not only a basic human instinct, it is also a force that one day can distinguish you from the rest of the flock – the key is you should be able to grasp an understanding of at least one medium to translate your imagination for others to transcribe. The power and will to soar the skies would have remained a fairy tale had someone not gathered the bits and pieces of science and put them to a design. And then of course, it takes a heart full of adventure and courage to implement the design to a working model and eventually greatness follows.
 
When I was young, the means and medium for children were limited. Though, my parents – your grandparents were educated enough to provide what was best for us, the quality of life and times were inherently simpler. With technology turning this world into a global village and all information available literally at finger tips today, things that were unheard or unseen before are much within reach and most often available in local markets now. What it means is that kids your age have so many more keys to open this world and its possibilities like none of the generations before you had.
 
Personally, we, as your parents have been trying to do our bit in helping you see things differently, letting you role play and do things on your own. Your mom in particular has been bending her back on a daily basis to be a part of your little games and let you ask a hundred questions every hour.

Our last two trips in the month of June 2012 were geared to let you see and experience such things. I figured you were still a little too young to probably comprehend most of what you saw, but I took my chance based on the fact that the movement and colors around you would simulate you to look back and laugh and feel happy. I reckon I was actually successful. The two places we went to were ‘Wild West City’ & ‘Land of Make Believe’.
 
1. WILD WEST CITY: This is a western heritage theme park located in Stanhope, NJ  that recreates an old western town through portrayals of real-life western characters and events. This place showcases over 20 live action shows daily in addition to having game and picnic areas, stagecoach and miniature train rides.

We planned our visit there on the weekend of June 17, 2012 and reached in time to see most of their action shows. Though you held on to me and your mom during the earlier part of the day, you enjoyed a larger part of your stay there. I got you close to horses and other farm animals and you kept squealing with joy. As I key this in, I remember having saved one of the sheriff badges that one of the characters gave you on that day. Let’s see if I can hold on to it till you grow up. Anyway, here are a few pictures from the day. My favorites on this set are the ones where you are firmly holding on to the candy I bought for you.
Riddhie - Wild West
2. LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE: This was again an amusement and water park with few decent attractions. What I remember distinctly is the cockpit of World War II aircraft, a model ship in the middle of the water park which would throw water from a huge bucket on people below and a couple of thrill rides that your mom and I took in turns. Though you were not really appreciative of a few rides that your mom tried getting you into, you loved running about and splashing in the water. I got a few very special shots of you in the water park that day which I am sure, you will cherish as much as I do.
Riddhie - Land Of Make Believe
In my next post, I will continue on a few other experiences you had during this time. As days passed, you became more receptive to the environment around you and started keenly observing things. A few funny incidents took place, which though aren’t much when you talk about them but still imprinted in my memory and of course some pictures. So signing off, until my next letter to you… 
 
Love,
Dad.


Jul 1, 2012

F.R.I.E.N.D.S - II

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“Lot of people will want to ride with you in a Limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down”

- Oprah Winfrey


Dear Riddhie,
 
This kind of continues from where I last finished talking about friendship as an important lesson and an integral relationship in life. (Read HERE). I am sure, by the time you will be ready to read this letter, your definition of friends and friendship would have undergone a sea change (perhaps more than a few times, who knows).
 
The picture below reflects a time when you were not even 2 years old. Ayah happened to be your best and perhaps only friend then. This set of pictures was taken on the Saturday of June 09, 2012. Ayah and you wore a similar dress and had fun playing and dancing and fooling around in the house.
Ayah and Riddhie
 
Ayah & her family moved to California shortly after and we saw them off at the Newark airport. Saying a goodbye was not easy since your mom had become quite attached to Ayah’s mom. Personally, if you ask me, I am not sure if they will be able to meet anytime soon now but your mom and Ayah’s mother both have been trying to stay in touch over Skype or web chat as and when they can. Their fondness and care for each other surpassed time, distance, religion, ethnicity or any other demographics that divided them.
 
And this is exactly where I want to begin on the subject.
 
Over the years, you will come across many people that you will want to bring home as your ‘friends’. I already talked to you in my previous letter to you about the three friends you can and should rely upon (HERE). But if you are still unsure, let me share a quick test that you can do and know if or not you should trust someone to be a friend
 
1. DISRESPECTFUL OF ONE’S OWN PARENTS: Take this as an early check. A person who is disrespectful to his own parents, can never be trusted to stand for you in your times of need. You might want to differ here and cite the reason to be an indifferent or a callous parent but no matter how you see it, even a bad parent would have kept awake on nights attending to his child’s food and hygiene needs. Someone who can not appreciate what his parents do or did for him can never see through your efforts or how you stand for him. My advise – see this as an early sign and stay clear.
 
2. WATCH OUT FOR UNLOADERS: Is your friend a whiner who seeks you as his/her personal therapist and only comes to you for unloading his/her set of problems? Do you actually end up listening to this person’s sob story every other day for a similar set of issues that he/she has been carrying for weeks or months? People who seek you as a vent for themselves will never have enough courage to stand up and back you up when you are down and out yourself – simply because their own issues will never end. Call them garbage unloaders and run before they pull you down in the dumps with them.
 
3. MEAN TALKERS/LACKING DIGINITY OF LABOR: Does your so called friends mock another person’s job or take a dig at how someone dresses up at work or simply feels that a certain piece of work or trade is too lowly for him to do (I am not talking about being a drug peddler but say a bus driver maybe)? If yes, show them no mercy and kick them out.
 
My child, I will perhaps talk about the need to have dignity of labor in a separate letter. But for now, on this subject, let me tell you that, one thing that I have learnt from my father – your grandfather is that when you don’t see a door, you can’t sit back and wait, you need to roll up your sleeves and pick a hammer and slam a window in the wall on your own. If you are too bothered about sweat making your clothes sticky, it won’t be long before you find yourself in tatters. 
 
4. ONE WHO GIVES YOU A REASON TO LIE: I think I have told you something like this elsewhere before as well. The test is simple, if at any point in time, your so called friends get you in a situation where you have to lie to save your skin, you clearly are in wrong company.
 
As on this day as I type this in, even though you are not old enough to understand it, I promise you one thing and that is no matter what the subject is, I will always make myself available to you to hear you out. I promise you not to make an opinion or try and correct you (though it will be way too hard for me) if you tell me that you just want me to listen. I am willing to hear out the agony of your acne break-outs, your break-ups, your peer issues, your crushes and everything else under the Sun that you feel like talking and I promise not to make a fuss or be judgmental about it.
 
In turn, all I expect you is to be honest with me and speak the truth. Nothing more. If you feel compelled to cook a story because of someone else, you clearly are going astray. Remember this, I am one person who saw you even before your mother did and your name is marked on my being till I die. Maybe with age I will become a little senile and gullible and I will believe a story you tell me. But, if you can go back and sleep peacefully that night when you lie to me, you will have already lost me as your friend.
 
5. ONE WHO GIVES YOU A REASON TO NOT BE YOUR OWN PERSON: You, dear, are unique in this world. There may be more than a hundred billion people on the face of this Earth but you still are your own person with your own reference frame, your own thoughts and your own actions and hence you are responsible and accountable for your own decisions. The world we live in just has two kinds of people – those who are awake inside and those who aren’t.
 
You need to realize the world and its material aspects are necessary but there is a superior goal to this life as well. A person who no matter how loyal, sincere or trustworthy is as a friend, if he makes you compromise on your individuality, is not worth even crying for.
 
Having said all above, let me tell you one more thing. At the end of it all, you will probably find yourself a little alone. Stay humble, be fair and be the sunshine you wish to see every morning. You may not get a thousand followers but trust me, the ones that you are left with after filtering others out, will be the gems that you will cherish forever.
 
Live within your heart, it’s a huge place to fill.
  
Love,
Dad.


Jun 30, 2012

The Pursuit of ‘Happy’ness

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Dear Riddhie,

Happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean many things to different people. Ranging from deep vested contentment to a frantic intensity, one can be happy in different ways and again for a variety of reasons. As a parent, I will wish for you to be always happy. Happy and content with what you are rewarded with after you have put in your due effort.

Happiness in an important lesson to learn and cherish in life. The reason I say this is because after a certain age and juncture in life, it becomes relatively harder for a person to find things he can indulge in and seek a refuge from the day to day rigors. It is then that one realizes that true happiness and joys in life are not meant to be searched and looked up outside but within one's own self.

Simple Joys - Riddhie Perhaps when you read this, you may not truly understand or appreciate what I am trying to tell you here. I guess it is a quest in its own right where every living being needs to seek his/her own nirvana. You are free to comprehend your own objectives and goals in life and develop your own frame of reference but I am sure a time would come when you shall have to sit back in silence and contemplate what you need in life and what you want to achieve before curtains are drawn. In that moment of introspection, people who are wise enough can attain a state of detachment with all worldly pleasures and truly find what is the essence of true happiness and one's reason for the entire journey we call life.

You were born out of your mother's womb and we walk with you in every aspect of your life as of now, yet you will have a life and destiny of your own. We, your parents will leave this world and pass on before you. You will have your own share of sorrows, your own set of struggles and your own share of happiness. Live life to its fullest and do not compromise on your integrity and self respect. No price is too high to keep your self esteem. Every day you should be able to look yourself in the eye and tell yourself that you are special and have a purpose in life. Let no one tell you that you can't do something. 

There is a special reason why I chose the subject of this letter as ‘pursuit of happyness’ and spelt it this ways. I did so because I also wished to mention and quote from a movie released in 2006 by the same name. Thomas Jefferson amongst other things in the declaration of independence quotes “We hold these truths to be self-evident – that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The movie I mentioned questions if happiness is something that can only be pursued and never attained and it is always an ongoing forward moving quest that shall never have a single fulfilling objective. If this were to be true then should we rather not enjoy the journey and this voyage than to lose sight of everything while keeping an eye on the final end? I shall leave this question open for you to understand and answer on your own.

If you can even comprehend the question, I guess I will have accomplished a larger part of my duty as a father – which is raising you well enough to understand the true essence of life. I am no spiritual guru to be defining your path but I as a parent I shall encourage you to ask questions and once you set out to find the answers on your own, your path will light up on its own.

PursuitI shall probably sit with you one fine day and maybe we will watch ‘The pursuit of Happyness’ together. Will Smith happens to be one of my favorite actors and I specially like him in the movie.

I shall close in with a famous quote from the movie itself:

Christopher Gardner: Hey. Don't ever let somebody tell you... You can't do something. Not even me. All right? 
Christopher: All right. 
Christopher Gardner: You got a dream... You gotta protect it. People can't do somethin' themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want somethin', go get it. Period.


Love,
Dad.


Jun 14, 2012

Riddhie gets a FB Profile

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“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it”.

- Erin Bury


Dear Riddhie,
 
As on June 10, 2012 I created your own FaceBook profile. Maybe this was unnecessary since perhaps by the time you are even ready to use it yourself it might just have lost its significance. But considering that you already have so much going on for you - pictures, your own domain name, email IDs, this blog etc., I thought it might be a good placeholder for maintaining most of your day to day information and consolidating things (if, and as needed). 

I shall probably hand out the reigns of your profile to your mom and we shall probably allow only a closer family group to ‘friend’ you and see how it goes from here for now. I don’t intend giving you the password and access to this unless you are 14 or more so don’t keep running up to me every now and then to add children from your class to your profile. Once you probably have the control, you are free to ‘unfriend’ your parents, but I guess we are staying and keeping a vigil until then.  

Anyway, this is more like a news update so I shall keep this short. Here is a link to your profile and your mom has your password safe with her. Go bug her if you want.

RiddhieFB  
And courtesy ‘thatababy’ strip by Paul Trap this is what I see you doing with it. FB   

Love,
Dad.



Stepping Out

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“You are born once, when you are out of your mother’s womb and again when you step out into the world…”


Dear Riddhie,
 
I guess by the time you are ready to read this letter there would have been many more chapters added to your ‘stepping out’ experiences. However, with this short post let me narrate the first incident when you decided that you were ready to take on this world all by yourself.

It was during the earlier part of our stay at Downingtown, PA when you started showing signs of unrest when confined within the house for long. Through the course of the day, if we stepped out, even briefly, you wanted to be taken along. The building where we lived had patches of green outside and every time you were let out, you wanted to break through the glass doors in the corridor (which were thankfully locked) and rush out to the open space.  

It was the afternoon of May 2, 2012 and I was working from home. You were playing with your toys in the living room and your mom kept a watch over you as she prepared lunch standing in the kitchen. I was engrossed in some office routine which called for taking some print outs. I tiptoed across the hall so as not to get your attention (lest you wanted to come along) and quietly stepped out of the house to the office complex in the building for taking the prints. I must have taken just 5 minutes in the entire course of my action and just as I was returning back to the apartment, I found you standing out barefoot and waiting in the corridor.

RiddhieAt first I just thought that you were probably out with your mom and my first reaction was to look for her and ask her why she allowed you to step out barefoot. But as I turned around the corner and took you with me, I was astonished to see your mom still standing around the kitchen. When I told her that I had found you standing outside in the corridor she was just as zapped as I was. Apparently, both of us were still unaware of the fact that you had learnt how to use the handle of the door and gained enough strength to open it on your own and that there was enough direction sense acquired to venture out on your own.  

For once we were both thankful that we lived in a closed apartment complex and that there was no way you could have gone out to the parking lot on your own. But, that day we got our first reality check that you were actually beginning to come out of your little shell and were turning into a little explorer of sorts. No longer we could just assume that you would be confined behind closed doors and walls of the house. A testimony to this statement was another incident that occurred when we moved back to Jersey but I guess that calls for another separate post. For now I guess the picture below says it all. (I took this at a place called Tyler Arboretum in PA when you ventured into this big wooden egg shell).
  Riddhie
Love,
Dad.

Jun 9, 2012

Beach and Friends…

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“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever…”

- Jacques Cousteau


Dear Riddhie,
 
I remember telling you about my fascination for the seaside when I accounted for your first visit to a beach during the summer of 2011 (Read Here). We continued taking time out to go to the shore areas as much as we could over any weekend that we could in days that followed. The last few weeks saw us frequenting the Jersey shore a lot more considering that our time in the US was drawing to its end. Needless to say you enjoyed every bit of these outings.

We went out with your friend Ayah and your Diana aunty in the last week of May and then a week later with Shaurya, your Roopa aunty and Sachin uncle who were visiting us from India.
 
With Ayah – We had a few very special moments captured from this trip. One of my favorite of these is where you and I were walking on the beach and you hold onto my hand tightly because of the incoming waves and your feet losing their grip in the wave washed sand. Then of course, there was this picture of you sticking your tongue out to lick every bit of the Mango ice candy that I got for you. I guess, I still can’t have enough of these pictures.
 

Beach1

With Shaurya – This turned out to be another special outing since you found Shaurya’s company totally binding and we as your parents were much more relaxed to just let you be. The weather on this day turned out to be beautiful and the boardwalk was surprisingly less crowded as well. I remember all of us just hitting the beach and then coming back to the car to change our wet clothes. My favorite moment from this day were you wrapped in an orange pool towel that we took with us and you quietly sitting down on the sand for a long long time. Only on a closer look, we noticed that the reason for your being all quiet was that you were actually sucking on a corner of the towel. Sharing a few pictures from the day…

Beach2

I am sure there will be many more instances in future when you will find your way to sand and shores and many more beaches around the globe. Perhaps in a few years, you will make sure that we are not hanging around your head as you hit the sand with your friends and yes, we won’t be there to call the shots forever either but all the same I want you to know that a part of me will always be by your side holding your hand and walking with you just as I did when you were learning to walk.

I will close this letter with a quote I read somewhere - “Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone”

 
Love,
Dad.

May 22, 2012

“Baybeeeee…..”

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“Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father…”

- Roger von Oech (President, Creative Think)


Dear Riddhie,
 
I shall keep this one really short and let the picture stand up for the thousand words it is supposed to make up for. I took this set one fine evening post dinner when we were trying to settle you down and put you to bed. Your mom brought out your bottle of milk but it seemed you had other plans. 

Unwilling to sleep, you picked up your doll which you fondly keep referring to as ‘Baybeeee’ and started patting her. It took us a while to understand that your patting her was the way we rocked you to sleep. Incidentally your doll’s accessories, amongst other things included a replica sponge milk bottle and after having patted your doll for about 10 minutes or so, you got down to the act of feeding it.

This was the very first time that you had done something like this and we were really amused at your entire role play. We as your parents stood there transfixed watching you do things as they came to you. For once, I was glad that I always kept a camera charged and ready at hand.  

Here are a few I clicked and I guess they more or less speak for themselves.

Feeding the Doll 

 
Love,
Dad.

May 18, 2012

I Scream.. Ice Cream…..

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I doubt whether the world holds for any one a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream…”

- Heywood Broun


Dear Riddhie,
 
By the time you read this and if I am around just as fat as I am now, I guess you would know that a major reason for my being so is my sweet tooth and craving for ice-cream :) I am sure as a father – daughter duo we would have shared umpteen cones and tubs by now but then I guess there is no story which doesn’t sound better with a scoop of pure vanilla and some roasted nuts. So, maybe you would want to go and get some before you read this further. :D 

I shall ensure that you have plenty of ‘sweet’ (literally) memories around with me in years to come. But for now, let me share this little incident which happened sometime around middle of March 2012.

We were coming back from a shopping spree after having our lunch at a nearby restaurant when I decided to stop by at a Carvel store (much against your mother’s wishes though) on our way back and picked up these little jars of frozen yogurt and chocolate chip ice-cream. You were probably exhausted from the day’s activities and were a little cranky and we decided to box everything and head home rather than have it there. 

Once we were home, I opened up the wraps and set those ice-cream jars on the table and went inside for a brief moment. I would have gone just for a minute or so, but I guess that was all the time that you needed. When I came back into the room, I saw you nicely perched atop the table and helping yourself to your choice of flavors, as best as you could. Since, you were still trying to learn how to use a spoon and all and it was but natural that most of what you picked in the spoon fell over your dress and arms and legs before it could make it to your mouth. Your mom was furious at you (understandably so, since that meant she had to give you another bath) but I was more amused and your struggle and wanting to try out every flavor and unwillingness to give up made an interestingly funny sight.

As always I jumped to get my camera and managed to click a few pictures. I guess, right when I saw you then I knew I would be making this post. I am sure in the years ahead these little joys of parenthood would be lost to realms of time but for now I can’t help going back and looking at these pics time and again and smiling. Here are a few for you to smile and come running to me…. :)

Ice Cream
 
Love,
Dad.


May 17, 2012

The First Few…

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The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences…”

- St. Augustine


Dear Riddhie,
 
I read it somewhere that when you don’t have enough dots to connect, you come out with linear solutions without a broader perspective on the problem. The entire design and way of dealing with problems changes when you have  a broader understanding of the human experience.  I guess it is thus both enriching for the soul and nourishing for the intellect to try out various things and gather all new experiences you can.

Having said the above, let me clarify that this doesn’t permit you to go and be wild and live on the edge all in the name of an experience and I would expect you to be wise enough to take a sound call based on your intelligence to know the difference between what is right and worth giving a shot and what is not.

Coming back to this letter, let me narrate a couple of your first experiences in the last couple of weeks. These are little things and probably do not account for a separate post but nonetheless worthy enough of you being told about them.

THE BOWLING ALLEY: Beginning in a chronological order, the Saturday of February 25, 2012 became your first visit to a bowling alley. To tell you something, I was first introduced to the game of bowling and the concept of a bowling alley through Archie comic books. Back then, during those years of my growing up, very few people around me could relate to the sport. It wasn’t until years later during the early 2000s a couple of humble 4-6 lane alleys mushroomed up in the “global” village of Gurgaon where we would go once in a while. I can still do fairly OK at the sport and when on this particular Saturday your Diana aunty invited us to join them for a game, I was happy to take you along and see how you react to the atmosphere.

However, the flip side was that it was a fairly long drive to the place and you kind of fell asleep on the way. We had a good game and though you only woke up by the end of it, you were delighted at the sight of people around and enjoyed seeing what everyone was up to.

Here are a few of your pictures from the day.

Bowling
THE BOATING EXCURSION: Actually your very first boat ride was when we took you for sight seeing at the Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty but I guess you were hardly a few months old then and could hardly make out a difference between a car and a boat so in effect this little boat ride we took on April 29, 2012 at the Marsh Creek State Park in PA becomes entitled to be called your first ever boat ride.

I was actually a little apprehensive to take you on board as I was unsure of how you would react to the entire episode and my fears were realized as soon as 15 minutes into the boat ride. You first wanted to stand up from where you were sitting and next wanted to hold onto a side and see water flow by. The next we knew, you were ready to take a dive and jump into the water. Probably you saw the entire lake as a big bath tub and were excited by the volume of water around you. Needless to add that it took us a while to take your mind off the jump and have you enjoy the view around. Somehow we managed to linger on for a few more minutes before deciding to cut short the ride and head ashore. It was interesting to note that once you were out, you wanted to go back in and enjoy the ride all over again. But, for us, I guess we had our lesson and decided not to repeat this until you were a little older to better understand the concept of depths and water bodies and boat rides.

Here are a few pictures from the day.

Boating
I am sure in posts ahead I shall have many more ‘firsts’ to talk about and maybe by the time you get to read all this stuff, most of these things would be so tried out that you would have lost interest in perhaps half of these things. Whatever, be the case, I guess I shall keep playing my part and document all I can, while I can :)
 
Love,
Dad.

Apr 27, 2012

The Busy Bee…

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Dear Riddhie,
 
This one is a short anecdote of one of the first times you got yourself busy on your own and did not care for any attention or constant vigilance.
 
The date was February 26, 2012 and your mom was out to attend a Zumba class she had signed for recently. We dropped your mom and came back to the apartment and had about 2 hours to spend before we had to go and pick her up again. My plan of action was simple – I had to keep you interested and entertained or busy with something so that you did not start crying for your mom.
 
So, together we kicked some ball, poured some juice, played some music and watched some TV. However, you were a little restless and nothing seemed to hold your attention for more than 10 minutes at a stretch. I tried all your toys, kept making funny faces and indulged you with chocolates and cookies and was about to run out of ideas when you went ahead and picked up an empty camera case lying about on one of the drawers in the living room. It was probably something you had not laid your hands on before and all of a sudden you were all interested in exploring the pockets and the contents of the case and sat down working intently at it with your little hands.
 
It was both funny and mesmerizing to watch you play on unperturbed and engrossed in your little game. An important lesson of life was reiterated that joys and happiness in life is often attributed to simple things and wants. I couldn’t help smiling watching you work that case with full intensity and your tongue sticking out. Needless to say, I seized this opportunity and clicked a few pictures watching you play and fidget around with the case and be my little busy bee. Here they are…
 
Love,
Dad.

Busy Bee


Apr 26, 2012

F.R.I.E.N.D.S

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“Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends…”


Dear Riddhie,

Friendship is an important lesson and integral relationship in life. I am sure as you grow up, begin your formal education and find your place in the world you would make many friends. There would be few who would stand by you and support you in your times of need and there would be others who would get you in trouble and drag you down with them. However, every person you meet would enrich your experience and will help you become worldly wise.  

Few days ago I happened to hear someone at work talk about how his youngest daughter who had just entered her teens doesn’t listen to him anymore and is obsessed with her phone and circle of friends. I would have passed the story lightly and attributed it to the failure of family structure in the American value system but I could hear the ring of true concern in the voice of that helpless father. He was sincere and his concerns were pretty much real and it disturbed me to think that one of these days I shall probably face a situation like that. 

Maybe I am being a little paranoid here but then I have personally known people who would sweetly and easily lie to their folks and do things I am sure their parents would have never approved of, all in the name of friendship.   

Very often we live ‘in the moment’ and lose track of the larger scheme and real objectives in life. You may want to go out and be there with a friend from school and give him/her a priority over your studies or lessons today but the chances are that in the long run, most of these people who you see on a daily basis today would be lost to the realms of time and the paths of their own individual lives. Also, my advise to you would be to try and remain unaffected by people who make you look bad today. There is a very good chance that you shall not even see those people ever again in a few years. 

No matter how many friends you make over the years there are eventually only three friends that you can and should rely upon – your heart that can tell you what is the right thing to do, your wisdom which can put together a plan to work upon and your hands which would eventually execute your plan. Trust me, no other friend or soul would ever come as close.

You are about 18 months old as I write this letter to you and already have a group of playmates and friends you enjoy playing with. We, as your parents can perhaps choose this and perhaps next few sets of your playmates and pals for you but I guess in a matter of few years, we shall find ourselves alienated on more than one ground and on one of these days you would set out to explore your world on your own.

When that happens, you shall always come across two sets of people – one who would call you and track you day in and out and talk all day long with you but who perhaps won’t be able to come and stand by you when you need a shoulder to lean on and another who would perhaps speak to you once or twice in an year but they would always be around when you look for someone to call upon. I am sure, I don’t need to add which type of people are worth holding on to.

Right now, your mom spends her maximum time with you. She takes care of your needs and teaches you stuff and plays with you and I try and pitch in as much as I can. We, as parents who are the epicenter of your universe right now, would soon outlive our ‘utility’ for you and in a few years you would perhaps be as knowledgeable as us, if not more. While I shall let your mom set the tone of rules about the house and discipline you, I would try and be your pal as long as I can keep pace with you. I have mentioned before in one of my other letters to you that I shall always have time to listen to you and hear you out. Whenever doubt engulfs your thoughts and you are unsure of the right thing to do, you shall always find me waiting on you ready to help, if you need any. Hope you grow up to be wise enough to see through the fabric of people and know and realize who your real friends are.

With this thought, let me conclude this letter and with a picture of you with your current peer group.

Love,
Dad.
Riddhie and Friends

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