Turning Back Time : October 2016

I woke up from a disturbing dream, and felt sad to the core of my heart. The dream was sweet and nostalgic; I was listening to my mother as she was talking about the good old days, when we lived in Joypahar. We were playing Uno, over a cup of milky Cha, a few Nabisco biscuits, and talking up a storm.

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Playing Uno with Mummy, Denver 2003

Within my dream, I realized, I was in the midst of a dream, and that soon I would wake up and the moment would be over. I tried to tell my Mom, but the moment was so joyous, that I couldn’t bring myself to reveal what I already knew as the truth.

I wanted us to remain happy, just like that moment, just with that cup of milky cha, over that game of cards, raising “gopshop” to a whole different level.

I am certain, we all have those moments, where everything just feels right;  the lighting is right, the temperature, the mood, the music, and most importantly, the people you love, and care about. These are precious times, times to cherish, sip like a good wine – just before you know that these come to an end.

Recently, my Aunt and Uncle came to visit us from Dhaka, for a weekend. We sipped a wonderful cup of latte while walking around Harvard Square, on a sunny fall morning;   took a swan boat tour on the Boston Commons lake, and discovered the magic of bonsai at the Harvard Arboretum.

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Hanging with out with my favorite Aunt and Uncle, Rita and Aziz, Sep 2016

I had that same feeling; I knew these few days are precious – and we took it all in the best possible Bangalee way – food, music, adda! I am grateful for these three days I got with these two wonderful people, who make me happy, every time I see them.

Over the last thirty years, as I have left religion, something else has been on my mind about these joyous moments, old and new.

Major world religions talk about the gift of reincarnation or afterlife. So therein lies this possibility of heaven (and hell). There is a small chance, they remind us, of meeting those people we love, in life after death.

However, in my non-religious views, and the lack of confidence in heavenly interactions, I feel deeply saddened by the fact that I will never, ever see my mother again – not in this lifetime, or another. She will never remind me to walk straight, or eat slowly, or ask me about how we are doing; what I had with her, is done.

Deep breath.

I know I cannot wind back time.

But another really conflicting thought enters my consciousness. I am thinking of my beautiful daughters, my sister, or Matthew – those that surround me with love today.

Cupcake Eating Jan 2016
Harvard Square, Jan 2016

Every night when I kiss Shania goodnight on her forehead – or when Daiyaan is visiting us and we have samosas together, while arguing about this or that, these moments are also limited and they too shall come to an end.

After this life, I will not see any of these loved ones again. This churns me inside and out.  Suddenly every second feels so much more precious. There is so much beauty on this earth – and I have so much to be thankful for – that I really don’t want this life to end.

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One of those perfect moments, with Shania and Atiya, Summer 2016

 I realize that every moment is precious with our loved ones. This time cannot be repeated – and it cannot be reincarnated. It is, what it is; it is all about NOW. And I have only responsibility – to make it as joyous, for myself and for them.

It’s a cloudy, drizzly Sunday here in Cambridge. Shania has a sinus thing going this weekend. We decide to stay in and just chill around the house. We have left-over Italian and watch a Disney movie together. We toast some samosas, and make hot tea, to keep us company.

At the end of the movie, Shania thanks me, for being lazy today and just hanging out with her. I am grateful to her, for reminding me, at this moment, at this point of completeness.

Not looking back, not winding back time, not even looking forward. Just Now.

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Daiyaan and I on Marco Island, 2003

Who’s Got Your Alarm Clock?

My PDA buzzed with its callous tone; one of my high-school friends, had a heart attack this week and is in the hospital; three arteries clogged with things that are not supposed to be there; my High School Friend.

It’s not supposed to start this early; I just shifted into third gear.

There is so much to do, so many places to see, books to read, embraces to relish. Our kids are still so young. I am not ready to face these consequences. With a friend’s ailment, comes the inevitability of my own future ailments and then …

Nope; not ready yet

Both my wife and I lost our dads when they were in their 40s. We both have lived through the trauma of losing young dads and not knowing, why this had to happen to us. My dad’s siblings and friends carried on with their lives without much adversity; they show up during the annual commemoration milad (prayers) but really, my dad’s departure, hardly put a kink on anyone’s plans, except for his own.

As his immediate family, we have also moved on. At the end of the day, in dying young, the person who departs, has the greatest loss; I always wish my dad had the chance to watch the amazement on my four year old’s face listening to the story of Sleeping Beauty; or, wish he could listen to my fourteen year old’s sweet melodic voice when she sings “If I were a Boy”. If this happens to you, you have to be the only and ‘biggest’ loser.

Every day of our life is a gift. One must learn to enjoy life; accept our own (and other’s) shortcomings and live with the vagaries of nature. Instead of fighting nature, we should find some sort of a balance with it.

The fact of the matter is that, it will happen to all of us. It’s just a matter of time.

I read somewhere, if you think you will live for another 20 years, take a ~1000 marbles (1 for every weekend that you have to live) and put them in a large transparent jar. At the end of the weekend, take one marble and put it in another transparent jar. This puts a very different perspective of how you may choose to spend your weekends and the rest of your life. Make every effort to make every weekend (and day) count; filling them with things you enjoy doing (instead of what others tell you to do).

Life is too short to work jobs we don’t like or live in cities that suffocate us, or be stuck in miserable relationships that aren’t accretive to what we always imagined our life to be. Life is too short for sitting through boring dinner conversations or listening to tunes we don’t enjoy.

Sometimes, it’s ok to Eat Your Dessert First; we don’t have to wade through the four other courses.

We can eat healthy food, exercise, take in the best of what nature has to offer. At the end of the day,we have very little control over how long we may live. But we do have control of how we live. In one of my favorite Hindi movies, Anand, the hero commented , “ Babumoshai, zindagi bara hona chaie, lamba nahin” (Sir, life has to be big, not long).

Let’s take a step back and evaluate where we are today.

Most of my peers and contemporaries are in their early 40s. At this stage , we are, who we are; It’s kinda tough to try and have a personality transplant. If you always wanted to be a tennis pro, like Andre Agassi, that’s probably unlikely to happen anytime soon; so let’s accept that reality.

But if one truly enjoy tennis, we should go out and play some, take lessons and make sure we (try to) fulfill our dreams, whatever they maybe. We cannot let others tell us that we can do something at a certain age (or not).

Only we determine our own destiny.

Choose. Dream. Aspire. Build.

I heard an NPR essay that, statistically, happiness has very little to do with material wealth accumulation; it’s all about autonomy (ability to choose), community and social support structure and the kinships we build. As example, people in New Zealand are far more happier than people from Norway (even though, Norwegians earn far more than our New Zealand friends) because of their social structure. It is critical to have a few good friends or a community of kinship. It is the sense of belonging to something, hopefully, greater than oneself.

It is very important that we stay away from people who stress us out (irrespective of how close of a relative or family friend they are). I have an Aunt who is never happy about her (or anyone elses) circumstances. I have tried (and successfully managed) to avoid meeting her in the last 20 years! It’s just not worth spending another minute with people who make you miserable.

Happiness, however academics define the concept , must have a lot to do with the level of stress we avoid/generate for ourselves. This in turn, must have a connection to our physical/mental health.

There are some (non chemical) things that just put a smile on my face. If singing makes one happy (as long as it doesn’t add to the misery of others) we should sing all the time. At this stage of our lives, one must try to do more of what they truly enjoy and do less of what they detest.

We need to go for our annual physicical check-ups (even if insurance doesn’t cover it). If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us.It’s our life and our loss.

Let’s watch what we eat, exercise moderately, drink a glass of red wine (if your belief system allows it), meditate, if possible, and try to enjoy the people (and things) we think are fun. Let’s do more of it. It’s ok. We have worked hard at this and deserve it.

Let’s choose to live, today. Save, but also make time to enjoy life.

Do we really need a Wake Up Call for life and happiness… a friend to die or have a stroke …. to realize that we have only one life to live and our happiness is tied to many others?

Come on, we’re smarter than that.