Category Archives: Opinion

What I Love the Most About Jamaica?

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I carry a million pieces inside my heart of the faces I have seen, the sights I have absorbed, and the lessons I have carried. For a vacation destination, I pick new places to add to the over-brimming chest of treasured memories instead of returning to the same place each time.

And yet, here I am, along the sandy beaches, the bamboo trees of Jamaica eating at the same restaurants, staying in the same resort, climbing the same waterfalls. But why?

I realized the reason why today when I and Sahir were battling the thundering, slamming onslaught of Dunns river, climbing atop slippery boulders.  My nervousness stemmed from two reasons. One, my husband and I had to split. So, it was just me and Sahir. Second, he was an eight-year old I fiercely protected and just taking care of myself was a task as I am not athletic, never had been and the source of all my adventures stemmed out of companionship with my husband and without him, I was unsure of my sure-footedness.

So here we were. Dunns river had made its way to the beach. The cool water blasted itself into the Caribbean Sea, it came smashing down boulders as tall as four feet. Sahir and I started.

I glanced back at Ali who was taking care of my little two. I followed Sahir but ten feet in, the water roared in maddening fury, it rumbled in trembling seizures, and the water threatened to release the grip of my trembling feet along an almost vertical climb of the falls. Sahir whimpered. I whimpered. I glanced back. Sliding down the falls was not an option and going above made me want to cry.

At that instance, a set of sure hands reached for Sahir. Two girls (teenagers) held him as I mouthed a thank you. Suddenly I realized, taking care of Sahir was not a problem any more. He had already brisked away good fifteen feet from me. The problem was me. I hollered from behind and asked the locals to wait for me. I would never catch up, I was sure of myself.

Another set of hands, grabbed my hand and took me along. They did not leave our sides the whole journey, lifting Sahir in pools more than three feet deep. Some of them did not know each other, but they formed a chain with me and my son, and I knew then why I crave Jamaica anew each year as though it was a whole new destination.

Sure, Jamaica has the beaches and all-inclusive heavenly retreats. But that is not why.

Sure, Jamaica has the green, calm rivers amongst its lush green mountains. But that is not why.

I return to Jamaica because of its people. Midway, we stooped to carve our names at the river bottom, on stones. One girl wrote, Tori 2018. A boy wrote, Gary. Sahir wrote his name. Tori smiled and said, “Next time you come, look for your name.”

I smiled.

I was here seven years ago when I had climbed the Dunns River Falls with Sahir, an eight-month-old infant and all I had to fend for was me. And, here we were seven years later. Maybe, in seven years we will return to find Sahir’s name who visited Jamaica as an infant, now as an elementary-school-aged kid, and who knows in the future as a teenager.

I love Jamaica for its people, for its laid-back culture, for people idling on the street, for children wearing blue school uniforms walking from the school in the evening, for colorful hats, for simplicity known to so many few. The place has endured and yet, if you peek into the eyes of any of the locals you sense true happiness. Back in our car, in the parking lot of the falls, a family opened champagne and cut a birthday cake atop the trunk of their car. They lacked the fancy-themed birthday parties, the luxuries people in the west get accustomed to. The broken shacks along my window on the ride back showed the brunt of countless hurricanes, and the endurance and perseverance of the people who hold stranger’s hands assisting them through the falls unconditionally. I lack a photo with them or the knowledge of their names or their lives or their tribulations, but I will carry them in my overloaded heart and pray they keep their joyful, giving spirit intact through the long, meandering journey of life.

Ya Mon, Jamaica!

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Innovation Begins at Birth

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Observing my toddler bypass English words, I try to teach him and use gibberish instead to explain himself made me pause and think. My gibberish is his meaning. It is not him, it is me.

Like religion, language too is assimilated owing to the environment babies are born into. They pick up and learn the traditions even though we are all born without a religion, without man-made traditions but not without brains. A human brain is well-developed compared to other animals at the time of birth. Babies love from birth. They cry when they are hungry. They recognize mother’s voice and smell. But it is the peripheral inheritances such as religion as well as language they adjust to.

We must teach the little guys the ways of our world. Sure. I wonder though how did the aboriginals conform. Information channel should not be one sided, from adults to children. I feel children, even babies, have a lot to teach the adults.

And, number one lesson I have matured to accept is that children should be given the freedom to innovate and change things from an early age. They are tiny in physique, but they should be given the same respect we give adults to make decisions because their perspective is fresh, stems out of curiosity untainted by the ways of world we as adults grow to accept and conform to.

For innovation, we must be free and unafraid to question. And, children growing up innovating as kids will continue to innovate as adults, and that is a key to a healthy society.

I will thank my youngest for the lesson he taught me. I will forever endeavor to keep my mind open to other lessons he has instore for me.

Another Year is Coming to an End

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An end of a year is a paradox. To celebrate a new year, one must say goodbye to the one left behind. In each year we gain and we lose making it an emotional affair. As the world newspapers begin to count the deaths and the notable births, the gaffes and the wins, individuals walking down a street are doing a similar exercise inside their minds. Here is my tally of how I did that I can openly share with the world!

Pluses

A sister and a reunion
My brother got married, its side effect was a sweet addition to our family and a get together of cousins, nephews and nieces and aunts and uncles. The experience provided a firm grounding.

Glaciers, Mountains, and Mocha Brava
Under the towering mountains of Alaska while we searched for wild life (and the meaning of our lives!) beholding giant glaciers, daily we drove through cute huts serving endless espresso and Mocha Brava treats. We gained the Alaskan experience in 2017.

Books
While I am behind in my general reading for pleasure this year, I did write two+ books, I submitted one and got rejected.

MINUSES

Three Notable Rejections
I received three rejections to one book in 2017. I am rewriting it based on one good feedback I got from one of the rejections. I am not giving up, not yet.

Net neutral

  1. My eldest kid lost five teeth, and five new ones grew back up!
  2. We celebrated five more birthdays and said goodbye to one more year of our lives but kept the experience gained from the spent year!
  3. My relationship ended with one employer and a new one took its place.

The beauty of a “New Year” is to let go the negative, start over when you fall, and embrace the goodness of life year in and year out. Happy New Year to you and tell me what your pluses and minuses and net neutrals are for 2017!

 

 

I Will Not Undersell Myself Anymore

I have the luxury of working in the tech industry. Because of that, I am proud of breaking the stereotype that engineering cannot be for girls. I code. And, no matter where I am at in my career, I will always be that girl who started her career coding.

One thing, I as an Asian techie professional have grown to accept is a lesson I wish to pass to all alike regardless of gender, race, or origin is to  lean in.

When I became a mother, it is true I had to walk past some opportunities. It is true when opportunities came my way, I wondered if I would be able to do justice to the opportunity because being a good and available mother was important to me. Today when those thoughts enter my mind, I scold myself.

This process is called underselling yourself.

When you are capable and you let go of these opportunities and settle for less, frustration builds in when you feel you could do more with your career. Frustration also hurts when others in position you passed are less experienced and potentially less capable but they stood up for themselves. And, you ask yourself did you undersell yourself? Let go the fear, my friend, and embrace your capabilities freely.

I have learnt to not undersell myself because frustration is more costly than the work life balance we all have to do, singles, couples, and parents. Work life is not my issue alone. The world is engaged in that affair. And if they can, I sure can too no matter my background.

So, I say to me fellow women and men professionals alike, do not undersell yourself. Reach for the stars.

Why I Decorate a Christmas Tree Every Year?

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I am not religious, and I am not Christian by faith. If you ask me specifics about any religion, I will meet your glance with a blank stare.

But each year, I decorate a Christmas tree.

Here is why.

Happiness.

Of all the strife in this world, decorating the tree is a happy moment. It breaks everything else that has been said and done the days before. No other act compares to decorating a tree for the sake of decorating a tree.

Togetherness

It is an activity that we all do together, the kids and the adults – making the journey from a bare tree to multi-colored piece of work.

Brightens every day

Once lit, it brightens your area every day, like a steady source of light.

A tree is lit in our living room, and it will brighten our days for a month I suspect after which a void will stand where it once stood but only until another Christmas, another end of a year when it will reappear.

 

The Distracted Human

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The plane screeched to a dusty halt. I rubbed my puffy eyes. I had survived my first flight ever, one that lasted over twenty-four hours with a stop in Bucharest over Air Tarim, Romanian Airline back in 1998. My cheeks remained moist from the heartfelt goodbyes I had exchanged with my lifelong friends from school.

I was a school-goer no more as I stepped foot in the crowded JFK terminal onto the waving hands of my father. In my handbag, I held tear-stained letters I wrote to all I had left behind.

My first important chore upon reaching my uncle’s home was to mail those letters out.

A week later, my father and I drove to St Louis, and I started my first gig in America – an undergraduate student of Computer Science.

It took me another week to buy an international calling card. On that day, a dense foggy Saturday, I slipped out of the back door of my apartment crumpling under the chill of Midwestern August (coming from the burning Indian summers,) I cautiously walked in between rows of cougar lake apartments on campus with all students sound asleep and only a hint of a bird chirp in the air.

I reached a payphone, entered my pin, and let my heart hammer inside my chest. Across the globe, my childhood friend picked up and responded to my hello with a hello.

I choked to complete the conversation.

A week later, I received my first letter, my trembling hands opened and cheek-drenching tears welcomed.

I was old-fashioned back then, still untainted by emails. I am old-fashioned today living in the same world somehow transformed away from the hand-written notes traveling at 35,000 feet across to electronically transmitted binary code messages over the internet lacking the gratification of the two-week long wait. Communicating has become that easy.

With easy, come the blue-glow-lit faces, talking to each other through their phones even when it is just a table that separates them in a restaurant, they smile through the cloud on which they are texting each other from.

The new human is distracted by the phone. And, the old human in me, can’t forget the joy of ink spilling into a blank sheet of paper that took several hands to make it to the loved one.

That is the paradox of life – where we are and where we used to be and what distractions we allow to tear us apart from our reality.

Give Your Child the Gift of an Unrushed Life

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The world is scrambling at a maddening speed. I am perplexed where it is headed and why the rush and yet, sun rises in a lightning and sets shamelessly eating monotony for breakfast. Life, like sand, keeps slipping between the fingers.

Stuck in the middle of all this chaos are little souls who keep no business with schedules. They are involved with sweet business with earthworms and slugs, they search for rainbows over rainy skies. They make sand angels and emit sweetest pitter-patter of the world. They dream of houses with go-carts and rockets. They are the innocence we lose as adults. We get so used to the status quo, the politics at work, or demands of daily lives that no toy in the marketplace can replace the innocence God gave them at birth.

What happens to sap that innocence out to make them adults?

Rush.

Rush to get places. Rush to grow up. Rush to make money. Rush to rise up the chain.

Rush.

So, if you must gift them just one thing – skip past the toy aisle, cancel that meeting you put on the calendar to please your boss, and take the afternoon off. Break that routine. And, linger with your child like you were a child yourself, not aware of the seriousness of life. Children are gifts only for some to enjoy during certain parts of their lives. Because they grow up. Teach them now before it is too late to be unrushed. Career can wait. Promotions can wait. But time we have with each other never returns. So, teach them how to live their entire life, unrushed, just the way God created them.

I do nothing!

“I do nothing,” she said.

I cocked my head up with a furrowed brow. My pen screeched an abrupt end to its scribbling in an unintentional, crooked line. “She does nothing,” reverted in my conscience in a million echos. The slogan rang endlessly in my brain.

The uproar inside my mind was so agonizing I pulled up Wikipedia to learn what the people of the world did. How many were doctors and how many were engineers, how many janitors, how many rulers?

But she did nothing.  Eh….ehh…sigh. Something did not add up.

57% of women are in labor force according to the US department of labor. What about the 43%?

What about those who take care of others and are unpaid? Do they do nothing? Of course, not.

Yet, why does one have to wear nice clothes, sit in a meeting, and bring home a paycheck to be somebody?

When this individual woman said she did nothing as though grooming little hearts, preparing them for life was not a worthy enough chore to be called something, it rang a painful chord in my heart.

I am a working mother. I pride the work I do. And it is true I am unable to stay at home being a full-time mother. To me, getting ready for work, parking beneath a building I call my workplace, and say, making presentations on PowerPoint is paramount to my identity as an individual.

What is a woman who stays at home to take care of her family and home? A house wife? When did being a wife to a person became a profession? And how did it amount to the statement, “I do nothing.”

But you do, my friend, you do. Even though I am unable to do your job full-time. You are a smile generator, a worry squeezer. You are a care giver, a self-less person who puts others before your own self. You don’t do nothing. You shape the future of the world by nurturing the future into decent human beings. What you do is priceless.

You do plenty. Never ever say, “I do nothing.”

Which Job Is Stress Free?

I know what I want. It is not wasting away on an island doing nothing. That is not my idea of bliss. Keeping my mind occupied is goal number one. A close second is keeping the mind occupied with meaningful work! But after a rough day, all I want is that mango martini on that deserted beach with only the sound of crashing waves. And I wonder to myself, what job is stress free?

What makes a job stressful?

Too Much Work

If work continues to outnumber the time we have in a day, guess what? It is fighting a losing battle. Fatigue is not caused by how much work one accomplishes in a day. Fatigue comes from the amount of work pending. It is exhausting to hit the sack knowing all that is left to do. Even more exhausting is the knowledge that no matter how hard I work, the workload is going to increase disproportionately.

Time away from loved ones

When you love your work beyond words, you do not count hours. More hours you contribute, bigger the joy. But there is a line in the sand. If work keeps you from people you love the most on a routine basis, the balance tilts. When you are away from family a lot, it matters if it is from your own personal choice or your company’s demands.

Feeling of helplessness

If I control my workload, how much and when, wonderful. But when corporations expect employees to problem solve with their hands tied, the feeling that here is nothing I can do to make this problem go away is frustrating and stressful

People People People

Once eating lunch with colleagues, we were exchanging notes on what we wanted to do next in our career growth. Most talked about roles and responsibilities. More money? Sure, why not? When my turn came, my answer astounded others. I wanted to work with people I respected and got along with. Period. For me, my work life is people, period. It is about making relationships. A bad relationship can make you feel alone and desolate at work and conversely, can be a magnet that brings you to work with imaginary springs under your heels.

In my opinion, realistic goals and cautious autonomy yields best results. But let us say, we land a job with great people, good money, manageable workload, great work-life balance, would we be stress-free as a floating leaf in a gentle breeze?

My heart stops short in saying no. Because stress also comes from your heart and your reaction to circumstances. Some people can operate in stress and continue to spend time with their families and shrug it off. Some toss into the night.

Managing stress is a direct consequence of your attitude. And I will leave you with a quote I remember vaguely from my ancient history…

You cannot change the world around you but you can change your attitude and when you change your attitude, you will find you have changed your world.

What We Can All Learn From The Solar Eclipse?

It was that type of an event where a gaggle of women working out together pulled out their phones in the middle of a workout to check the weather for. The solar eclipse was a big deal. And as the astronauts, scientists and regulars like me cheered, the philosopher in me also chimed in with an emphatic yes, yes it was great, and I hope most people in and around its path took a moment’s pause. Yes, I hope we thought about what the solar eclipse meant not just in the grand, scientific manner but in life in general. With my philosopher hat on, witnessing the moon eclipse the enormous Sun taught me a few lessons.

All darkness is transient

Darkness falls and it moves away. In life, when the going gets tough and it feels like we cannot take the darkness another second, remind yourself darkness will travel out as hurriedly as it rushed in. Hang in there.

The enormity of life

Our lives revolve around a tiny sphere. Ever stood under the shadow of a giant mountain and felt small? Well, the solar eclipse reminded us of world outside of our tiny troubles consisting of real objects in motion, and how do such large bodies in motion maintain such order? How close are we to chaos, after all?

There are things beyond our understanding

It is okay to admit to blind spots and to realize so much of our own life is outside of our own control. It is easy to feel the control when focusing on objects around us, finding the right job, tackling work problems, finding the right life partner, but in the grand scheme of things, really, are we the masters?

Something so small can eclipse something so large

How can the little stuff bother great humans for life on end? A tiny Moon, 400 times smaller than the Sun, is capable of eclipsing it, taking from it its light, its power even if for a few moments. Conversely, never judge a person by how less they have. A small person can move great things by doing the right thing at the right time. Nobody is too small to succeed. If the small pebbles can hurt the most, small efforts can pay off big dividends.

So I will thank the solar eclipse of 2017 for reminding me how small I am compared to the grand scheme of the universe and lending a unique perspective to me, one that I will carry close to my heart as I get ready to face a new day in the morning.