Everything Will Change In A Year: April 20, 2019

I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”

Last Weekend, April 13, A beautiful day in Ogunquit, ME

As I look back a year, with or without the help of social media, so many things have changed, for me. Especially, in the lives of my children. But also, in my own life.

Last Spring, I was a pensive from the roller-coaster feeling from my constantly changing role at work; I was also in pendulum motion, from my home that I love, in Florida, to the cold of Boston. I had a feeling that this Boston chapter of my life, has to come to a close soon. And, by Fall, my role ended; allowing me to seek what I have wanted all along.

This Spring, I am ready to move to Florida, permanently.

Some things have become more certain, and other, more dispensable things, people or feelings, have dissipated. There is no lingering nostalgia about losing these feelings, which didn’t serve me.

My children have made tremendous strides in a year.

After a re-defining 2018, Daiyaan graduated college in 2018 and found her professional footing, bought her “dream” Jeep (that she has named Natasha, after the singer Natasha Bedingfeld) and now wants to buy her first home this Summer/Fall. She is starting to put down her own roots, in a place she loves. She has chosen a healthy lifestyle of balance. She took her first ever solo trip, and conquered Puerto Rico; she has grown up.

Last Spring, Shania, competed to become her Middle School Vice President and won! She has switched from softball to golf and today, loves basketball as her main school sports; instead of acting in plays, now she is co-directing, for the second year, a school play! She was accepted to attend the prestigious Dana Hall school in Wellesley, MA, but instead, is heading to be with family and joining the pre-law program at her new choice school in Florida.

As their lives unfold, and I see these two beautiful women take their next steps, I enjoy listening to their musings, and life interactions. The new friends they make, and the relationships those fray over time. I tell them my stories, from that particular time in my life that maybe relevant to their experience.

Even though I was raised as a teenager in a different continent, in a completely different era, with no electronic gadgets, or Google, to help answer my questions, the struggles of all awkward teenagers, or young people defining their dreams, are still the same.

Whether you are 13, 23 or 52, Constantly, we search for belonging, love and certainty; it’s tough to accept that none of these feelings are constant, and just to maintain an equilibrium, is a lot of work!

This morning, five of my close friends (same age group), are in deep pain: one from a broken hip (from a fall), another from domestic abuse, and one more, with cancer. Two of my best childhood friends lost their mothers in the last weeks – I knew these loving moms – I have eaten meals with them at their dining tables; having lost my own mom a few years ago, I know that big hole in their hearts are not healing soon.

I pray that my friends have the courage and support to bear the pain they are feeling today. When you experience pain, the depth, the excruciating nature of it, numbs us. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make you feel differently.

Like last year, I know with certainty, this year, there will be those moments of joy, and sadness. You know there will be a Spring of hope, and the still of Summer.

I know, that whatever incremental, or disruptive changes we are experiencing, pain or happiness, it too shall pass.

It fatigues me to think that, the pain and frustration of the political turmoil we experience today in the US (and resultantly, the world) will only sharpen in the next twelve months.

In my adult life, I have seen and experienced progress, and I don’t give up hope, but I choose to take a long view on history. While things are not perfect, I see progress in health, well-being and innumerable sources of joy.

This weekend, in my little microcosm, I am again, taking a good look at everything and everyone around me.

Acknowledging and accepting that change is continuous and constant – I will do my best to appreciate all those gifts that I have in my life today. I am grateful to the Universe for the love, beauty, health and contentment that I am experiencing today.

I know, everything will change in a year.

Hanging out with Daiyaan and Shania @Portsmouth, NH
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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.

A “Bucket List” Concert at Red Rocks With One of My Favorite People in the World!

Going to a concert at Red Rocks is awesome; going to a Jason Mraz concert at Red Rocks is super – awesome! Going to a Jason Mraz Concert at Red Rocks with your seventeen year-old, who introduced you to Mraz’s music, is one of those super –awesome, bucket list moments!

It is a mild Monday evening, when Daiyaan and I walk towards the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheater.  This is our fourth concert together; but the first one away from home.

Daiyaan and Zain @ Red Rocks!

Six weeks ago, when Daiyaan told me Jason Mraz was playing at Red Rocks, I wanted to experience this amazing venue and event with her. Three years ago, my then fourteen-year old and I started sharing each other’s music as a way of connecting. One of the first songs I was introduced to was Lucky ; that Spring, I wrote my first blog 15 minutes of Freedom mentioning how I decided to buy my first convertible driving in the open, with Lucky was playing on the radio.

When I hear Jason sing Lucky at the concert, I have tears in my eyes – thinking about all that has happened in my life over these four years.  As if, through music, Daiyaan and I have traveled in some parallel universe that is somehow protected from everything else that happened in our real world.

The air gets chilly as the sun sets and the surrounding red rocks glow in the dark; a half-moon appears far away. We put our jackets on. Talking to your “almost-adult” child about the conspicuous smell of pot in the air, is always intriguing.  There is a certain air of festivity around us. The attractive blonde next to me offers me her drink!

Red Rocks: waiting for the concert to begin!

Christina Perri opens the evening with her amazing voice; when she sings, Jar of Hearts, I am overwhelmed;  the lyrics resonate with the circumstances of a particularly difficult time.  She also sings A Thousand Years and one of my favorites Arms;  It is the perfect beginning to a beautiful evening.

When Mraz walks in, to perform his hip-pop-nuevo jazzy-folksy songs, all  9000+ people stand up and enjoy the bright music and dance along. With every song, I feel, there is a story, a connection to some part of my life. There are more than 25 songs and each one gets better, acoustically, and through vibrant melody.

When I hear  the lyrics of “93 Million Miles”, it reminds me of my journey away from home:

“Oh my beautiful mother
She told me, son, in life you’re gonna go far
If you do it right, you’ll love where you are
Just know, wherever you go
You can always come home”

I dance when Mraz sings Bob Marley’s, “Don’t Worry, About a Thing “. He tells us to look at the person we came to the concert and tell them that “You are Loved” – sharing that moment with Daiyaan is priceless. When Daiyaan leans and puts her head on my shoulder, I know the joys of fatherhood.

At this moment – with rocks from maybe a million year ago surrounding me – I  think, what an amazing stage God built, for music lovers. I feel fortunate, to be here, to enjoy this, with one my favorite people in the world!

This morning, walking through the Denver Airport, Daiyaan reminisces about yesterday and thanks me for bringing her to this experience. Normally, she is happy to return home after a vacation. Today, she wishes that we had one more day in Denver. She also adds that after watching Jason Mraz live, no other music sounds real!

I know we will be back in Red Rocks. Maybe it’s not a bucket list thing; maybe it’s just a new family ritual; where we travel across the country to be where God intended music to be – and someone as beautiful and talented as Jason Mraz or Christina Perri sets the stage on fire.

Mraz finishes the concert with his amazing I Won’t Give Up; on this great night, in this great location, listening to this great song, I can only think of Daiyaan and Shania.

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
There’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up

Relevant and Contemporary: February 2012

Recently, I remembered my first camera – a gift from my dad – back in the late 1970s, when I was maybe 10-year-old – A Kodak Instamatic – an original, that captured my imagination. Every time I see those fuzzy, non-digital shots, it’s overwhelming with emotions – that smell, the touch or the flavor of a certain time captured romantically through the lenses of this great device.

While the need or relevance of the photographic technology has evolved over time, Kodak, the corporation failed to contemporize itself over time.

Organizations that don’t re-invent their mission – their reason for survival – are bound to head the same way. IBM (and many other corporations) did an amazing job of re-inventing its mission and delivering on stakeholders’ value – reinventing their “buggy whip” to what people really want and need.

If you look at nature, there are many things that don’t need continuous re-invention or refurbishment to remain relevant or contemporary. The smell of fresh rain on grass, the froth on the crest of the wave, clean air, warm sunshine or timeless pleasure of your child’s laughter – derives happiness wherever, whenever.

A parent-child relationship, (typically) needs no re-invention. Somehow, you hurt every time you see your child getting hurt making the saying, “You can only be as happy as your unhappiest child” a reality.

Many other relationships, while relevant, may need re-invention or redefinition.  There are “reasons” and “seasons” for friends; school or college friendships are developed with a reason during a certain season. But as the school term ends, and there is not enough commonality of interest to keep us going, the friendships also fade away.

With advent of new technology, often, we hit the “Like” button to each others’ status’ or family photos on Facebook – but for all practical purposes, that’s the limitation of our “friendship”. I meet friends after decades and find that after a few sentences about where they live, or what they do – we struggle to maintain a dialog. To keep a solid bond of friendship, friends must also remain relevant and contemporary in each other’s lives.

Relationships, without maintenance and sustenance, feel the strains of time. With effort though, those common bonds can be re-energized, refreshed and rejuvenated for a very long time. True friendship, I believe, can have an infinite life-cycle! However, it doesn’t come without some work and effort.

Every time, I get together with one or more of my five high-school buddies, I feel like a child! We spent two years at Notre Dame College (Dhaka, Bangladesh) where we laughed, cried, fell and picked each other up. There’s something deep inside, that connect us in six countries in four continents. We may not exactly be relevant or contemporary at the moment we meet, but we quickly pick up where we left the last time and want to move forward into our new realities.

Like organizations, at the end of the day, our lives and relationships need to be meaningful or contemporary in the environment where we exist; one must recognize the current circumstances and renew the existing ties and bonds that enrich our lives.

After capturing the imagination of billions of people and helping us remind of our fond past, the name Eastman Kodak, may one day disappear from this earth; but with true commitment, we don’t have to disappear from the lives of the people who make a difference in our lives.

As I celebrated my 45th birthday rolled around this year, I received my first wish from a friend couple (Abdul Rahman and Fazilah Alauddin) in Malaysia. These two are special in my life because I met Abdul in college – and they became the first couple friend we had, early in our marriage. We met their extended families, friends and vice-versa. They are the Godparents of Daiyaan and we coincidentally arrived in Kualalampur in very early days of their eldest child’s life. We may not see each or talk to each other every day – but the memory of our times spent together remains fresh.

I want to keep connecting and contemporizing with my loving and caring friends, in London, Kualalampur, Istanbul, Vancouver, Dhaka or Toledo; as one grows older, it becomes clear that at the end of the day – our lives are nothing but a series of collective relationships.

To maintain these relationships, we must be willing to make the sacrifice – of time and energy – to stay in touch, to keep ourselves relevant and contemporary in each others’ lives. Sometimes it’s a holiday card, sometimes it’s a simple phone call, and if the opportunity arises a face-to-face visit. Whatever the circumstance, we must let our friends know how and where we are today. I realize that it’s a two-way street. I commit to do my part to remain relevant and contemporary.

Tumi and I (Tumi aar Aami): October 2011

 

Tumi aar Aami!

 

Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, board meetings,  customer meetings and industry events stack up my calendar; in twelve weeks, I end up with equal number or more trips. Some may be short over-night jaunts – while others, long-haul travels to the remote corners of the world.  Traditionally, this is a busy season with long-term contracts, customer visits,  budgets and annual operating plan designs and presentations.

Two or three dress shirts (at least one white), two pairs of slacks, a suit or a blazer, enough
underwear and socks, a pair of gym shoes, shorts and Under Armor t-shirts – maybe a sweater for the cold or a pair of shorts for the warm, are packed neatly and quickly. A shaving kit with it’s translucent plastic section (for airport security) is always stocked with trip essentials.

For over four years, my constant companion during these trips have been my black carry-on suitcase and computer bag; I never check bags  and I have traveled to all continents with this “regulation size” ensemble –that I have everything I need during these getaways stored in these two companions. When some Asian or Middle Eastern airline tries to take
away my small ebony friend (too heavy or too big), I cringe and try to sneak them in, around these nasty gate agents.

Over time, my suitcase and computer bag have become really good friends that silently
carry my minimal cargo – without much conversation or drama. On a rare occasion, when I check my carry-on – I feel alone and vulnerable on the flight; as if one of my limbs is missing – I keep looking for it on the overhead compartment; I watch it come down the airport conveyor belt in dismay. I feel, I have it let down, by not carrying it on the flight. For two days, it may not respond to me solitary, silent conversations!

The wife of a very successful and wealthy professional, once told me about the last two
months of his life, battling cancer in a hospital in a far away land. Even though they had collected homes in many different parts of the world, and had every luxury at their disposal – during his last two months, he lived with the two suitcases that he had packed with his own hands. As if, towards the end, like a tree in distress, he shed his leaves, and came down to the core essentials.

Recently, I read an essay on Steve Jobs, where I learned about the minimalist Jobs and his
passion for simplicity in his personal life. The essay said that Jobs, for many years lived with very spartan and simple furniture. His forceful simplicity allowed him to concentrate on what he believed in so passionately – just the bare essentials. This forced life-style also impacted his design thinking on the miracle devices that impacts billions of people around the world.

Management Guru, Ram Charan, travels the world and doesn’t have a place to call home. His laundry is sent back to his office and he keeps going from city to city
spreading his mantra to CEOs and senior executives of the world.

At the end of the day, when we are ready to head back, most of us, take nothing with us.
Unlike historic Egyptian titans, who may have been buried their weight in gold or their favorite mistress or pet cat, most of us will be buried simply or cremated nonchalantly.

This morning, at 5:15 am, in my sterile hotel room, I re-pack my my black carry on
and all its contents quickly, to be out of the hotel by 5:30. Like a trusted friend, it yields to my pressure and squeezes in the new baseball hat that I have bought at the University bookstore.

I head outof the hotel, one hand free, one hand pulling the double-mounted black
carry-on, aptly named Tumi (in Bangla, the word tumi (with a Spanish sounding t), means “you”). Tumi and Aami (I) jump into the silver rental, and start our journey to another airport.

This simplicity of our journey, reminds me that there will come a day, when Tumi won’t be coming with me.

On this early, frosty morning, however, I have a friend journeying with me – wherever my
future takes me.

Searching For Lighthouses: June 2011

Two years ago, my family’s new-year’s card had a saying, “Lighthouses are like good friends. They shine bright whether the sky is blue or grey.  As we pursue our dreams, we search for the beacon that guides us back to our core.” This was accompanied by a beautiful silhouette of the four of us walking towards our Lighthouse.

I had received many comments on this card – and how it reflected the values of our family.

Two years is a long time. Our lives have taken on different texture. Our family composition is changing and we have each become a different person through both success and adversity.

But the lighthouses in my life have remained vigilant – and continuously supportive. The number of calls, emails, Facebook messages I receive every day, from four continents, is sometimes mind boggling.

That’s why, good friends, are so valuable in our lives; like a lighthouse  a friend won’t judge or discriminate against us. During our most difficult times, we can count on our lighthouse friends to be there – looking out for us, showing us the way to safety.

A few weeks ago, I was searching for a place to get away, from all the current chaos of my life. At my therapist’s suggestion, Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, made perfect sense. Surrounded by shimmering blue sea, the cape provides amazing, real Lighthouse “hugging” opportunity.  

What better way to start searching for your own soul than to really look into your friend’s eye – and see a reflection of yourself. I booked myself at a B&B close to Provincetown for a few nights started my journey in earnest.

For three days, I kept walking the streets of little towns, coffee shops and small vegetable gardens, in search of lighthouses and friends.

Cape Cod Lighthouse

At the main Cape Cod lighthouse, I went to the observation deck, where the lighthouse was originally located – and sat there, repeatedly listening to Anoushka Shankar’s “Beloved” on my IPOD; this mesmerizing tune amazingly intermingled my eastern sensibilities with this beautiful western sun, breeze and the blue ocean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyREq70I9TA&feature=related

So many stories just kept moving through my head!

Breakwater Lighthouse

At the Breakwater Lighthouse, I walked the half mile stones to view this amazing structure sitting next to a small farm-house structure. One has to walk through the thorny sand dunes, to get close to the lighthouse. But when you get there, and look at this lonely structure, at the edge of adversity, innately, you feel safe.

First time in my life, I have taken such an alone vacation; no agendas, no masters – just me, my IPOD and my undiluted curiosity. I was apprehensive about this lonely journey to a new place – where not a soul was known to me – and I had no natural inclinations.

In some ways, these four days freed my soul.

Staring at the Cape Cod lighthouse, I realized that this journey in life is not really that alone. We find companionship in strangers – we seek someone to share our feelings with. However, nature mandates that all we can really find are temporary alliances. Nothing in Life is Permanent, reminds me a childhood friend!

I am grateful to God for giving me so many lighthouses in my life. Starting with a doting family and loving children – friends near and far, that I know will guide me in my difficult times. These Cape Cod memories are attached forever to my sensibilities.

Friendship, Cotton and the “Pause” Button: August 2 2009

There’s nothing simple about this friendship.
 

It goes back ~ 30 years with middle school gawkiness branded all over it. Recently, I had the opportunity to share some beautiful time, over several weekends, with friends from my childhood. Some of them, I have stayed in touch with over the years. Others, I connected with after ~ 25 years.

Whether over a glass of chilled beer, or some wonderful Spanish food in Las Olas or a dinner at our home, it seemed that our friendship was just put on a “pause” button. When we resumed, the doors of the memory banks opened up quickly, and generously.

Remembering those wonderful “addas” at the home of a friend in (Paribag) Dhaka, or the trips we had taken together to Chittagong, or the times we would bicycle around Dhanmondi Road # 21… all colorful pieces of a kaleidoscope of memories, vibrant and rotating in multiple prisms and becoming more together as the light shines through.

Why is it difficult (almost impossible) to make great friends like these, over again?

As we grow older and move from city to city, we do make good friends, no question; yet the fabric of our new friendships, are different than those we started 25 or 30 years ago.

Maybe it is because of the vulnerabilities of our mutual circumstances at that time, or the common circumstances that created webs of memories that intertwine into something we define as: happiness.

These “vintage” friends, with whom we have many childhood memories, tolerate our past idiosyncrasies and don’t judge our current circumstances. There is no real pretension of who you are or where you come from. The texture of this relationship is like organic cotton, smooth but with some rough spots; durable and meaningful…connected at the core.

Recently, few such friends came together in Chicago at the high school graduation for a friends’ son. We relish the grilled lamb and chicken biriyani, music flows from all dimensions, the rain soothes our souls when we catch up on the past and talk about the future with anticipation.

In a relatively short time, we chill back and remember our past: The taste of the hamburger at “Peter’s Canteen” at St. Joseph’s, those stressful school exams, or how our parents never really understood us (or supported what we wanted); we talk about the anxiety of getting into a US University or getting a student visa at the American embassy in the mid 80’s. It’s this shared sense of anxiety, uncertainty and common ambition to seek something higher, that brings our experiences closer.

We take extra effort in discussing how we can’t impose our views on our children. We want to be “friends” with our kids. My fourteen year old senses our friendship and comes to tell me how nice these friends are. Some of them are actually “cool”. The DJ plays a mixed series of music that brings back many memories of our high school/college days.

The party never seems to end. We continue on a velvet sofa at the lounge singing along with old Bangla or Hindi songs that we know another common friend of ours did such an wonderful imitation of Runa Laila, “Aire, megh Aire”.

It’s 3 am. Someone orders a pizza… we talk about going by Lake Michigan to watch the sunrise; we never even make it out of the door. Just sitting there and talking about nothing discernible. Some friends have fallen asleep right beside us… still cannot pull ourselves away from the group.

Inherently we understand the limitation of our time together; this preciousness of fond memories that we are trying to always stretch like elastic.

It’s good that cotton does stretch a bit; with a little bit of care, it lasts for a very long time; the color may fade over time, but faded cotton still has a wonderful feel when you wear it after a long time. It soothes your soul.

Looking forward to storing my cotton carefully and wearing my friendship… for a long long time.