Talking to the 6 year old in me

Last weekend – as our dear friend Rebecca agreed to babysit Sahana – we decided to go watch a movie together! Just me and Sangita. Sangita picked a non-commercial movie called – The Sessions – to watch. I had no clue as to what the movie is about. When it started out with a man who is paralyzed – I was expecting a miracle and thinking that the movie will end in a happy ending by Mark getting better! (It’s based on a real story of Mark O’Brien). How lame of me.

The movie is very touchy and moving. It shows a completely basic level of human nature which we don’t encounter in a day to day life. No drama, just great stuff. There is one scene in the movie which moved me a lot and I have been thinking about it a lot. In one of the scene – Helen Hunt who is the sex surrogate asks Mark – who is getting upset about how he is doing – to close his eyes and imagine the time when he was 6 years old in a nice place. Not in the body of the 6 year old, but as if he is watching the 6 year old version of him. Then she asks him to tell that 6 year old – There is nothing wrong with him, he is not the reason for his disability.

That was really moving. The 6 year old in me keep banging on my door asking for me to talk to him. After a lot of thought, I relented. I imagined a time when I was 6 year old. This was 1980, so we were in Bapatla, AP. After my school the best place to play was in a big pile of sand in our backyard. I would take a bunch of bricks and make them bus, car etc and drive them around – often resulting in some accidents. I watched my 6 year old playing for a long time and then approached him and said these 3 things-

  1. There is nothing wrong with you
  2. You don’t have to be perfect
  3. You are loved, always

I  know that this may sound very kooky – but there are 2 things to take into consideration. First, if you study time. I mean the time time, you will know that past and future are nothing but ideas – temporal placement of events in our minds. They don’t exist. To add a meta-physics level to it, you will learn that everything is happening at this moment. Irrespective of how hard it is for linear mind to understand it – I believe in that. The 6 year old is playing with those bricks right now as I type this. Second, the emotional release it had on me was immense. I just couldn’t take it and it explains why I had to wait like 5 days before I talked to the 6 year old – even for my imagination.

My Second Childhood

I grew up in India. All my education was in India. The only reason I got out of country was for opportunity and better life. With Sahana in my life I am experiencing something extraordinarily new that I believe wouldn’t happen again in my life. I am experiencing a second childhood. I have many bits and pieces of memory from my childhood. I remember some sweet ones and some sour ones. But what I am experiencing now is totally different.

I am part and parcel of American culture, but mostly contemporary. I mean if you refer to something from India which has roots in every kids childhood there, I would get it – but if you refer something related to American culture which every kid born here gets it, I probably wont. I mean I can read up history and politics and understand it – but I won’t be getting the essence of growing up here in this country – ever. Well until recently.

After Sahana turned like 14 months old – she has become more active with couple of things – TV shows (not much), language & education. Tv shows are fascinating because I had the same response Sahana has when she watched Elmo. I was surprised how well made is Sesame Street. When we watch Elmo – trust me I watch it with same intensity like Sahana does and I love it.

Language – Talking with Sahana and teaching her words has been a totally unique experience. The way she is picking up words and the way she remembers names is very interesting. Like many Indians who don’t speak much English but only written – there are some things which I do which usual Americans don’t do. A lot of Indians convert questions into statements and then add a visual or verbal cue in the end – signifying it’s a question. Like for example: “Do you like this?” becomes “You like this? No?”. I know it’s confusing. Similarly, when I ask Sahana – ‘Do you like this?’ – she would say “No”, and when I confirm by asking ‘So, you don’t like this’ (a statement) – she says “Yes”. I know this may not be special but thats just fascinating. I mean she understands – a question from a statement. And it took me 25 years to see the pattern in me (and other Indians) about that.

Education. I have always been fascinated by Education. I mean the whole idea of receiving knowledge from outside source. I mean a source outside of me other than my intuition and my reasoning. I don’t mean that the outside sources are bad but it’s been interesting to test out a lot of things at least for me to see how I learn better and how having better education changes things. My education made me who I am today. Escaping middle class in India. But I did had a crazy education. I was part of the boarding schools which competed on how long can you keep a student awake and make him sit in front of a book. They would make us get up like 4 am and would not sleep till 12am. Those were some crazy 7 years of my life.

But what made me stand out from the crowd during the period was how I was internalizing my learning and how I was spitting out a completely different notion of what I was learning. For example – they would teach us from 2-3 text books for a subject and we are supposed to write up what we understand. Instead of just filling up all the junk from remembering, I would draw stuff and make comparisons which was at least new to my teachers and they loved it.

Anyhow, when coming to American education – I am excited about how I would participate in Sahana’s learning and have my say in it. Only last year I learned the school system here and picking up on a lot of information from what Sangita tells me. I think I want Sahana to learn 3 things:

1. Mathematics – Whether or not if it’s a queen of sciences – Math is definitely needed not for calculating stuff but to expand ones imagination. I mean math is a science about perfect world. It proposes an alternative reality, one better than what we experience – but in a sense it’s perfect. I believe Math would teach Sahana how to imagine better and see things in her mind’s eye. I want to introduce Math as an art form and let her deduce her own things. Learn by exploring.

2. Science – If Math expands imagination, Science expands reasoning, causation. Science is cool because there is no BS in it. It doesn’t fool around. Whether it’s there or it isn’t. I want to teach her the curiosity through science. I want to strengthen her rational thinking through Science.

3. Computation – I think computation is nothing but problem solving. The tools, utilities and reminiscents are actual physical computers, programming languages etc. But where else would you get a world for yourself to create, craft and test out solutions for problems. Computation is tightly packed with Math and Science. Math gives one a liberty to imagine things and craft an ideal solution, Science builds limits and makes it more creative to solve it within the limits.

I know I am missing a lot of stuff in the list. The above 3 are the ones I am most excited about. I am having a second childhood experience through Sahana and what’s coming up for her. Super exited!

Google please make this…

I have a request for Google. I believe only Google can make this happen, well Apple can too but they won’t. Given how Google maps trump Apple maps and given how the usage of WiFi everywhere has gone up, I firmly believe this will be a great device. Here are the details.

– Create a GPS device with Google maps on it.

– This could be android based and it doesn’t really matter.

– I should be able to see the device through some Google interface.

– So, when I am looking for directions on my laptop – I should be able to save the directions and send it to my device.

– The killer feature of this device would be – in addition to GPS connection, it would also be connected to a cellular network.

– This device will take the cellular network and spit out a local WiFi network. Like what those Verizon MiFi devices do.

I believe this would be a cool device. Imagine if you can stream Elmo on Netflix to your kids in the backseat of the car (on their iPads or iPhones). Imagine that every address search you make online is saved as a maps search history on this device which you can conveniently use it. The device could be small enough so that when I am out of my car I can carry it with me and still use it as a MiFi device.

So, Google please make this device and I am willing to pay for it!

Meta Mode

I have been lucky enough to work with a lot of cool people all my life. I always wondered how cool it would be to work with the people I like – forever. Alas, it’s not gonna happen. But instead I thought that if at least we can keep a blog to talk and air our thoughts – that would be cool.

metamode.org is exactly that. It’s going to be a blog for me and my friends who have passion about technology and life in general. It’s an experiment and I am planning to go back in time and get in touch with all those cool people I have worked with and contribute to this blog.

Taking baby steps.

Incomplete Me

This post has been stewing for quite sometime and I think if I don’t just write it up as it exists in my mind, I would never come around to it. So, here it goes.

Recently my boss mentioned a very dear book to my heart – GEB and it kinda triggered the thought that I need to write this up sooner.

Ok, so Godel is my hero. For some unknown reasons I stumbled upon GEB couple of years back and since then I am a big fan of Godel. Recently while we were on vacation in Hawaii I read the novel – “Mad man dreams of Turing Machines“. A fascinating book. The writing style is filled with metaphors and it will be an extra twist every para you read. It also show cases how *crazy* like literally Godel was. I don’t care about it. I think all Geniuses are kinda crazy and all successful people are kinda psychopathic. That’s fine.

Here is what Godel’s theorem says – in very basic terms. Geometry arose based on certain assumptions which are called ‘axioms’ in mathematical lingo. Theorems are proved axioms. So, geometry has this set of axioms which were crafted some 2000 years back and based on those axioms there have been further Theorems proved and accepted. This is an exception to Mathematics. Nothing in mathematics is based on pure axioms.

So, a lot of people took a look at it and said, Oh that works well for Geometry and I wonder if we can do something similar with another part of mathematics – say Logic. So, a lot of work has been going on either to prove the basic axioms to be true or to transfer this methodology to other areas of math in 1930s. Whitehead and Russell just wrote an epitome on Mathematics and basically tried to apply the Geometry’s method to Logic.

Godel comes around and proves that any system built on assumptions/axioms will never be complete. In other words – screw you Geometry and Bertrand Russell. This was phenomenal.  A lot of people were pissed because this means that it’s useless for them to try to perceive their ideas and make the system complete.

So, where do I come into picture here? All my life, I have been striving for something. That something is “Perfection”. In every aspect of my life, I have always wanted to be perfect. I know, I know – it has it’s roots in my childhood. My dad wasn’t happy with my education. If I close my eyes, I can see that day crystal clear where I was in my 2nd grade and we were doing some kind of show at school. I was part of this show we were doing. I think we were showcasing the animals. I was dressed up as some animal, I don’t recall. But we were supposed to go up on the stage and say something and stand back. I was nervous probably or confused – heck I was just 6 years old. They gave these soda drinks to us to drink before we went on stage. I still had mine in my hand and I wanted to drink it. My turn came in and I walked on stage with my soda and froze and forgot what I had to say. Someone stepped in and pulled me back and the next kid came up.

That night – my dad, mom and sisters were in the crowd along with all other kids’ parents. I am sure my dad was disappointed. I knew something was off and I know he would be mad. As we walked back home that night. I can still recall the path we took to walk home. My dad walked in front of me and talked to me how disappointed he was to see me froze and how unhappy he was about it. It went on and on. I know there have been many other put downs throughout my life but this incident is still fresh in my heart.

What happened after that was and is much more painful than that actual incident. I have always felt this gap, this incompleteness within me. I am never happy with myself. I am always thinking that there is more to do and more to achieve. I always talk to myself that I am not good enough – just like my dad used to. This is the prime chatter that goes on in my mind. I am never enough or perfect. I know it sound terrible, but believe me I have pushed myself to do some crazy things only because of that talk. Even still I don’t think I am perfect or complete.

Recently I started to notice the other effect of this. I would have normally lived the rest of my life with this chatter but I have noticed that my chatter is expanding to the most dearest thing of my life – my daughter. I have observed that I am using the same critical lens which I inherited from my dad and use it on me, onto my daughter. I was shocked. She is 16 months old!

I had to think really hard and shrug that scary moment off. I am becoming my dad to my daughter. I was shocked. I put it on a back burner and let it on and have been thinking. So, this is where Godel steps in. I think Godel’s theorem not only applies to Mathematics but to any system in the world. This system of ME. If you think about it, my self-image is based on the perception I have about myself. This is subjective and highly volatile. Which means that I have to assume somethings to be true to just live. Which in my case is – I am not perfect. And all the rest of my life has been setup in such a way that I am trying to prove that I am perfect. But if I apply what Godel said, I can never be COMPLETE.

This made me realize the fallacy of my logic. This shattered my illusion. Today I drop this assumption. I know it’s going to be very hard since I live with this every moment but I am bringing in awareness that I am not perfect and I can never be complete in a sense I want it to be. I am human and I will be a mix of success and failures from my point of view. And that’s fucking OK.

It’s like all my life I have been trying to be something like ‘Sri Chakra‘, but now I realize that it’s actually a ‘Mandelbrot‘. Oh if you think beauty is in the eye, then perfection is in the mind.

Today is Father’s day and I have been thinking of my dad too. I know I just portrayed my dad as the villain but he was the best. He is the sole reason why I am what I am – in all ways. The open mindedness he brought to me, the learning he encouraged in me and the faith he put in me are all allowing me to be the person I am. I am proud of myself and I am proud of my dad. His only thing was  – restraint love – which he believed to be good for various silly reasons.

I am thankful for you dad. I accept the way you were to me. I release all negative emotions tied up with that day and every day onwards. I need to let go of it to become the person I am to be to my daughter. I need to step out of that perfect circle I have been trying to built around me.

I am what I am and I love every part of it. I will be the best dad to my daughter because of all I am and because of all I am not.

Happy Father’s Day People.

Bummed…

Today I am bummed. After like a year working with him, my boss is leaving the company and I have had great time working with him. It’s just one of those things I know I need to accept and move on. But this is my way of saying thanks for the past wonderful year and fun memories.

I think the last time I felt this bummed about someone professionally was when my Math teacher quit in my college and I was trying to learn as much of Number Theory as I can from him.

Bummer. The same feeling comes back like after 20 years. Just bummer.

Missing..

Recently when I was catching up with my friends – the topic came to Swami. It’s been a year he passed away and there are still so many rumors about the organization etc. My friends have always been skeptical about him and always wondered why I would be his devotee? The topic went on for a while as they questioned me and my faith (well rather gently and they are my buddies) – I told them that I have some little faith in some thing good in this world and don’t want to taint it with all the junk that flows around.

Swami has been gone for an year now. I never had a very close physical attachment for him, but I can’t tell if I miss him more now. My only regret about it is – and I am being very selfish here – when I went to see him last time, I did tell him that I will bring Sahana to him when she is 5 years old. I wish Sahana had an opportunity to see him in flesh and blood. Now a days Sahana has a new routine. Whenever she sees a candle she picks it up and wants me to light it in front of Swami. Anytime she sees a picture of him – she calls “Baba”. I just wish she could see him in person.

There are days I think about Swami and miss him. Tonight is one such night. As Sahana sleeps and I get a moment to gather my scattered emotions – I realize that I am just missing him. Not that he gave me any personal attention or anything but I always felt like there was this hidden cosmic thread that he wove through every moment of my life. I never saw it but I could feel it. Whenever I have asked for help from the depth of my heart – it showed up without fail.

Long time back when I used to live in East Coast and spent my evenings hopping between Bhajans and Centers – I collected a list of all bhajans that moved me a lot. I used to call it the “Cry List” – because they literally had the power to make me cry. I lost that list, but some Bhajans are still remnant in my mind and one such bhajans just hymns in my mind tonight.

Noisy in here

There are times I feel very disturbed and it gets to a stage where it’s completely noisy inside my head. Multiple things passing by completely aggravating my situation. Outside it’s all calm and silent. I can see things, people but inside it’s a warzone. The blaring TV hurts more and more, the stupid soapy story bleeds my mind. Nothing helps.

I was in a shock today. I happen to chit chat with a complete stranger and 20 mins later realized that I revealed things that I have been guarding for many ages. The shield was off and I caught myself a little too late. Then I realized that all this noise in my head is making my filters go haywire. I can’t figure out what to filter and what not to.

The last sane resort I have in this kinda of situation is to journal. Well, the actual paper journal. This blog is just an extension of what I write. I did that and feel a little stable but still tipsy. Don’t know, can’t think of a solution.

Ever wonder that there are times, where you want to just let it out, vent, veer, wobble, wander – and wish someone had a just a little quieter mind than yours and listen to what you are saying without interrupting every 30 seconds? Ever wonder that there are occasions where you don’t want to hear probable solutions to your problems but you just want them to hear it? Or may be it’s just me who wants to hear them out – out loud.

I feel that way now.

The Default Fall Back

There are times where I get agitated and worried. It happens not so often as I tend to plant my feet firmly. But sometimes I do get disturbed. Change is hard for anyone and sometimes I worry about the change that might come and affect things I have in place. I dig deep into worry and everything feels fickle and fragile. Then I go to my default fall back. The default place of security and safety which lies within me. Wayne Dyer says that there is a spiritual solution for every problem and I agree with it. My default fall back is to get quiet and become present. Here and now. Then my past flashes back to me and I realize how lucky my whole journey so far has been. How many times I thought I was going to drown but sailed out safely. I cannot count them. I feel extreme gratitude to this thing called my life and then I switch back to my default mode. The mode of being in the present and taking things as they come. Because I can’t control what comes at me, but I can control how I respond to it. Peace.