Upgrades of Life. March 2018

Late last year, I upgraded my IPhone and my car; same brands, just newer versions and different models; The IPhone X is a delight to switch from my news, to texting, and then to music, and my phone battery doesn’t die; the Audi Q5 overhead sunroof, along with Audi Pre-sense, which tells me about approaching traffic, and with Appleplay, makes my morning commute more productive and long distance driving definitely more enjoyable.

Some upgrades, in accessories, are definitely good.

When you leave your birth land, to find a my new country, is that a good upgrade?

When one leaves a boss who is described as, the bear from the movie The Revenant, scratching your eyeballs out every morning, is that an upgrade?

When one moves on, from high-school friends, who don’t really understand or empathize, to build your own new community, is that an upgrade?

Our lives are full of choices; sort of “forks in the road”. I have written in the past, of being at an intersection or crossroads – with decisions to be made. Not every decision, is an upgrade. On the other hand, if one is willing to do the hard work of research, and is committed to the investment, one can choose to make that turn in the fork, an improvement.

I made a choice, some thirty years ago, to leave my loving, warm family, and move thousands of miles away, to a whole different land – and start fresh. Many of my friends stayed behind and made their lives in Bangladesh – and then others have gone to Europe or Australia. No one ever is in the position to judge, why or how someone makes that decision to leave home – and one cannot consider these decisions upgrades or downgrades – who am I to say that my life in the US is an upgrade from my friends who chose to live in Bangladesh, or, for that matter, move to Australia. What’s most important is that they are happy and content wherever they have chosen to live.

Even since moving to the US, I have lived in some 11 homes, in 8 states in 33 years. Once, my young daughter came from school and asked if we were in the witness protection program! At least twice during these times, in Denver and Fort Lauderdale, I felt that I found my home and was going to live there forever. Then life changed; an amazing career move led me to Florida, where I thought we had built permanence. Then disease struck our family and we had to make a drastic move out of Florida.

I always wanted to live in a real city, coffee shops and crazy restaurants in every corner. I wanted a walkability score of 90+, coupled with heady intellectualism. When we moved to Cambridge, we found all that and more. Museums, a vibrant cultural scene, beautiful green spaces, and access to a coastal town, Ogunquit or Provincetown, in 90 or so minutes. I meet the most curious and intriguing people here; our dinner conversations are often about Blockchain and artificial intelligence, and the number of new fusion restaurants here are beyond my count. From late April to late October, Cambridge is a wonderful place to live. However, I also crave those blue waters of Florida, palm trees and that afternoon drizzle, soothes my soul.

January 2017, on my 50th birthday, I finally decided that however many days I have, I want some Florida in my life. So, I took the plunge and decided to build something which I could eventually call my home, at least for a portion of my life. Sometimes, in life, upgrades are necessary, and then other times, you know you gave up something good, that you just want back, even if it’s for a portion of your life.

There are other decisions, that are quite easily made, even if someone makes them for you! No regrets about leaving that annoying boss who makes you cringe every day, or puts their feet up on the desk while talking to a customer in their office. No regrets about letting friends go, when they bring you down more than they lift you up – however long that friendship maybe. In my experience, work or friends, if they are not willing to listen, or be “additive” in your life – should be upgraded quickly – without regret.

After a long day of dueling decisions, argumentative employees, fighting crazy traffic, when you return home and your twelve year old asks you, what’s the highlight of your day Daddy?, and you respond, without hesitation, dinner with you, honey!… that’s when you know, that some things in life are best just the way they are, without upgrades.

Beautiful sunrise by my new home in Oakland Park. Not upgradable

The Sunrise Last at the beach by my home in Florida. Not Upgradeable.

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I Like Where I am : February 2018

Last week, preparing for a routine colonoscopy (one of those uncomfortable things one has to experience after turning 50), in the early haze of mild anesthesia, my mind wanders. For a change, there is only a light angst, making me think, what will happen to my children, if something happens to my physical self.

The curse of a single parent, with no “back-up” parents, is that you worry incessantly, in your hypothetical absence, what will happen to your minor children. You understand that one is constantly vulnerable to changes in health or external circumstances, but that doesn’t mean you stop worrying. You buy extra life-insurance, you draw up a detailed estate plan, you have conversations with your loved ones, asking them if they will look after your children, and provide them with guidance. But there is always this lingering concern, at the back of your mind.

Moments before my last such hallucinogenic state, I remember wondering exactly what an 8 year old Shania may have done, if I somehow managed to escape during a routine check-up.

But today, Shania is a teenager, and Daiyaan is over 22 and working, paying bills and making her way through this world.

When I observe them together, fighting, arguing, doing sisterly things together – but at night, leaning on each other, when watching their favorite TV show, somehow I accept that, they will be ok, if something happens to me. It’s not going to be easy; but it’s also not impossible. I have also collected enough “together” memories, to leave them Facebook reminders, and digital moments that will spark joy, love, excitement and other emotions, that we commingle to build a life.

With this sense of relative “relief” comes a sort of satisfaction; a deep breath.

As the fog settles, the mind explores. I start imagining, what if something unexpected does happen during routine procedure. At this point, I am looking for bright spots. I think about my smiling mother.

This is the first time, since her passing a couple of years ago, I am in this state of mild cognitive disrepair and I get into an imaginary conversation with her; joking, cajoling, asking me how I have been and how the girls are doing. She asks me what I had for breakfast and if I had brought her back some “Baklava” from the US. We play cards, she makes those facial gestures or little noises, that only she could do. My father, joins us, quietly, smiling – not saying much – thirty years of silence has made him even quieter in my sub-conscious.

This entire haze-filled imaginary interaction, somehow makes me relaxed and fills my heart with an unanticipated calm and joy. To believe that, one has loved ones, on many dimensions, and that escaping from one dimension to the other, may not be as ominous as most organized religions want you to believe.

I want to live forever in my current dimension, no question. But I am also neither concerned, nor sad, about going to the other dimension(s), when that inevitability arrives. A sense of relief, and calm settles in and I float along.

The nurse asks me how I am feeling and if I am ready to put my clothes back on. Outside, in the waiting room, my guardian, Daiyaan awaits to take me home. She flew from Florida to Boston last night to accompany me back from the hospital to home. We discuss lunch, what I want to eat, and the rest of the day. For this day, our roles have reversed and she has become my parent.

On a cold, wintry day, I roll down the car window and let the happy fog of anesthesia slip out, as I take a fresh breath of air. For now, I will remain in this dimension and continue collecting memories with all these amazing, loving people around me.

Today, I like where I am.

Serendipity, Happenstance and Toast with Guacamole


I do believe in serendipity and happenstance.

And I believe that things happen for a reason. At that happening moment, often, we don’t realize what that reason maybe; over time, we understand why this just needed to happen.

Also, I see, that the series of experiences I have had, were just preparing me for this moment of time.  

Today, I closed on my first holiday-home (and possible final home) in Oakland Park, Florida. For seven months, I have been following the construction of this home; cinderblock by cinderblock, windows, doors, electric wires and tile work. As if, I am preparing for a child to be born. 

When you talk about serendipity or happenstance, on this same date, I arrived in the US, some 32 years ago. Maybe the date is just a coincidence.  

I started my new life in this new country, bursting with desire and ambition. Even after so many years, my heart and mind are just as excited by possibilities of love, friendship, a great meal, or a bottle of wine.  

This morning, Shania, my twelve year old and I drive to sign the paperwork at the closing office; all the way, I keep thinking of the first home I bought on Merrimack Lane in Toledo, some 24 years ago. I remember the night before the closing of my first home; my mom and I kept talking about the concept of buying a “home”. She was worried that if I bought a home in the US, I would never return to Bangladesh. She was right.  

She sat with me through the signing of papers, insurance and documents. At the end she asked me, “Bujhcho, shobkichu?” (Did you understand everything?)  

Today, my strong Shania sits with me, quietly, for more than hour, while we go through some 30 signatures, deeds, titles, insurance….all of it. Later, she acknowledges, it was really boring, but she didn’t bring her headphones to the closing because she thought it was impolite. I am grateful she is here; I believe she is here for a reason more than, just that I asked her to be there. Just like my mother, twenty-four years ago, she is is providing me strength and support to nurture my dreams along.  

We get home and Daiyaan arrives; we unpack boxes and put things away. We are sleeping on air mattresses tonight, just like camping. Sheets are unfolded. New dishes are put in the new dishwasher; new towels are hung up. All to the girls’ favorite music – dancing, joyful and bright.  

In the evening, my friends Toby and Ray, bring champagne. We toast in our new glasses, nibble on tapas, listen to good music and break out into utter goofiness. I feel like I have been designing and planning for this day, all my life.  

The goal tomorrow is to make breakfast for my girls, at our new home.  

Multi-grain bread with Guacamole, sunny-side up eggs on toast, and a sprinkling of Sriracha. Orange juice, hot tea or coffee.  

This is a great day for my family. 32 years from landing in this beautiful place, to 24 years from learning to buy a new home, I am here today because I have been preparing for this day. This is no coincidence. This was meant to be; Guacamole toast for my princesses, and a hot cup of red-rose tea for me.  

Our First Drinks at our New Home

The Celebration of Half-Birthdays!

Every morning we wake up, with the renewed possibility of doing, learning, singing and loving more, than yesterday. During our individual journeys, we take little steps, that deserve kudos – or big milestones, that deserves a big slap on the back!

However old we become, however high we rise, we still like to believe in the celebrations of life and its eternal mysteries.

Celebration of birthdays has always been a big deal in my family – much more so than any particular religious rites or rituals; I remember my childhood birthday parties; elaborate with balloons and delicious cakes, hide-and-go-seek games and pinning-the-tail on the donkey. My favorite birthday present was, when my uncles or aunts came to visit us, in our far-away hill-top residences of Chittgaong.

Since my first-born’s first year, we agreed that birthdays take way too long to return, and we wanted to celebrate her life, more often. Hence, we created  “half-birthdays” and started celebrating! They have never been an elaborate affair. Sometimes it’s a just a small cake or a nice dinner wherever the birthday girl desires. Sometimes we had friends or family to celebrate with us. Last year, for my seven-year old’s half birthday, we built a cardboard castle that she and her friends had the best time decorating – while their parents and I had the opportunity to sip some good wine and make an evening of it.

Shania and her friends built a cardboard house for her half birthday 2011

This year, I told Daiyaan, that since she turns 18 next year, this is her last “half-birthday” as a before she turns an “adult”. I make a reservation at a decent Asian fusion restaurant in Las Olas and invite a couple of her best friends to join us.

About half-way through the day of the actual intended celebration, I get a text from her that she really doesn’t want to go out tonight and doesn’t want me to spend the money on a fancy dinner; I respond with a 😦 sad face symbol) . I remember her first half-birthday at Merrimac lane – with her Godparents (Abdul and Fazilah) and a cake!

As the day progresses, we keep chatting, and I realize that something has changed her mind and I guess our dinner is back on schedule.

We enjoy a wonderful dinner, filled with Sashimi, Sushi, Asian style tapas and green-tea ice-cream, On the way back home I ask Daiyaan, what made her change her mind, to help us celebrate this occassion.

That afternoon, she got a text from one of her closest friends, that the doctors have told their family that this is most likely their Dad’s last holiday season with them.

Hearing that, my daughter, on her own, realizes how important celebrations are and that, just because we can celebrate together now, is no longer a “given”, every year.

Daiyaan and I at her half birthday celebrations 2012

One cannot force a celebration on anyone. But it is important to recognize every day, that it can be a new beginning – a new life.

The fact that we have lived another “half-year” – I believe, is worthy of celebration. It doesn’t have to be a “super-duper” expensive party – with gifts and champagne. It can be a simple dinner, where we sit back and acknowledge the true gifts of our lives and simply look forward to enjoying every day and every night of the future.

Life, is too short to miss ‘Half Birthdays’!

Daiyaan’s Half Birthday 2012

Happiness in All Forms: Sweet Sixteen Years: May 19 2011

My Princess and I

When I think about the first day I met you, I still get goose bumps.

It was a bright Friday morning; I was fatigued from being up for more than twenty-four hours – in ardent anticipation of this arrival. There had been all sorts of stories told, questions unanswered – and sanity questioned: too early, too late; too young, too old; everyone had an opinion that you had chosen to make an arrival!

May 19 arrived and Dr. Gibbs told us that it was time.

Almost in a hurried silence, you arrived – and filled up the world with your music. The first time I heard your voice, I had tears in my eyes. When the doctor gave you to me first, I was shivering. How does one hold a minute old baby!

There were scurried nurses – running this test and the other. They wanted blood. To me, they were like Dracula sipping out little drops of red from my baby. I watched you throw your tiny arms up in protest on the weighing scale and just felt like touching those little fingers.

They didn’t let us take you home that first night – and we were worried. But over time, they bundled you up and I put you in a car seat in my little Corolla to bring you home to Merrimac Lane. We had assembled a white crib for you, and a play pen, a musical bouncy chair, lots of toys and an abundance of love strewn around in all the right places.

The first night you were home, you didn’t want to go to sleep. I remember holding you closely on my chest and letting you listen to my heart beat, as I lay down on the bed.  When you grew silent and fell asleep – I wanted to hear you breathe. That moment, I knew what it meant, to “jump through fire” for someone you love. I lay awake, for a long time, without moving – just so that I could hear you sleep.

Daiyaan's First Day at Home

You don’t know this – but even today, some nights, I walk into your room, just to hear the sound of your deep breath as you sleep. It gives me a great comfort that you are safe, and resting, that I cannot describe in words.

Sixteen years have gone by.  

I realize that I have not been there, every day or night of your life. I know that I didn’t know how to wrap a diaper when you were born. I didn’t know how to give a baby a bath – or how to make you stop crying when you wanted to see something/someone. All I have known is whatever hurt you, if I hold you close to my chest, you may stop crying and fall asleep.

I remember your Kindergarten graduation ceremony when you said that you wanted to bring all those people that don’t have homes – to our home. I watched you sing and dance on the stage – on several occasions. I loved your musical renditions in Bangla or English.

When we first traveled to Canada, or Bangladesh, or other exotic parts of the world, you have always been shy and conservative – but never reluctant. You’re not a connoisseur of great new foods or fruits. But in some ways it’s easier to settle on a Mickey D’s hamburger in Prague than it is to understand their cold mushroom soup.

Music has been our common bond. I have learned to love new music with you: Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna, Beyonce, Plain White Ts or Pink. I like hearing about your friends or their idiosyncrasies. In some ways, I realize that you give me a small window to your world through these conversations or music. Thank you for the latest song you posted on my wall: “Count On Me” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeIJ26h_Eug.) You know you can always count on me!

When I travel to another part of the world, whenever I see a blue dress, shirt or pair of earrings – I think about you and how much you love the color blue. I can see you swimming with the dolphins in Cancun in that azure of the Mexican Riviera.

When we are out together on the boat, I see you in a different world, when the deep blue of the ocean touches us both. Your serene eyes give me a glimpse of a world that I may never fully understand.

You have grown into a beautiful young woman. Almond eyes, coffee complexion, sharp features. Some say that you look like a model. I refuse to hear that. To me, you’re that little girl that runs to me, as I enter our home from the garage on Rustic Redwood Way. You have always filled my world with joy that I never knew existed.

Thank you for a being a great daughter for sixteen years! And I look forward to (at least) the next ninety-six years, of this unadulterated happiness!