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Jul 28, 2012

The Long Flight Back


“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.


Jul 25, 2012

Winding Up…


“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.

Jul 23, 2012

Saying Bye to Sandy Hook


“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.

Sandy HookSandy Hook Sandy Hook Sandy Hook Riddhie

Jul 22, 2012

The Water Baby


“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.

Jul 16, 2012

The Elevator Elation


“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.


Jul 14, 2012

Moments Here & There…


“ 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.
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 :)

Jul 9, 2012

The Lipstick Lore


“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.

Jul 4, 2012

Wild West City & Land of Make Believe


“ 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… 

Jul 1, 2012

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


“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.


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