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

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

Elephant on the Move: Inflection Point in Bangladesh: Jan 2010

   

Painting by Goutam Chakroborty
Painting by Goutam Chokroborty

 

There comes a point of time, in the life of a nation, when things are on a path of change; it’s a generational change. It’s a change, both material and psychological, that is different from its previous generations. My visit to Bangladesh this winter only confirmed my feelings about this emerging nation and the inflection point that it is experiencing with chaos and hope, uncertainty and confidence. There is something unprecedented going on here.   

My first interaction with the Bangladesh of 2010, happens on the plane to Dhaka. The “shonar manush” (golden people) that I meet on the plane, on their way back from their work in the Middle East, are different. Five years ago, when I travelled these routes, there was a fear in their eyes; today, I see confidence; they don’t just stand around accepting their fate, they ask questions, help each other and move forward. They have trendy haircuts and wear funky sunglasses to catch a nap; I hear twenty cell phones beep around me, as our planes land on the Dhaka runway.   

Bangladesh receives more than $10 Billion of remittances from 1+ million migrant workers in Middle East, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei and to a lesser degree many EU nations and the United States. They are the lifeblood of this nation. They provide sustenance to every service, production and retail sector in this emerging nation. They are the single largest source of income for this emerging nation.   

Even the airport is expanding with new terminals. The number of airlines queuing to ferry people back and forth to Dhaka has doubled in the last 3 years. The lines through immigration and customs, while cumbersome and illogical, moves ahead.   

At the hotel, the staff is impeccable in their service. Their English is good and they genuinely want to help you to achieve your goals. The rooms are bright and dynamic. The food is extra-ordinary. The car service we use is meticulous in keeping time and flexible beyond comprehension when we want to stay out till 4 am in the morning. Bangladesh, is becoming more of a service oriented nation and a customer service culture is developing more than ever before.   

On the roads and markets, the traffic is incomprehensible. As if nothing moves. But it does. Things do keep moving. We do it make it to the dinner parties (albeit late). Everyone starts dinners around 9 pm.   

While stuck in traffic, I discover the amazing new Radio Phoorti (Fun); one of the tens of new FM radio channels that broadcasts weather, sports, politics, music and traffic: all the ingredients of new Dhaka life. This amazing new media has spawned a great music industry in Dhaka in just over two years. There are now hundreds of music stars and bands coming out every day. In the past, we would go and seek out one or two new bands or musicians every year. This year, there are so many, at the neighborhood CD store, that I couldn’t even count them. Interestingly enough, when I ride with two of my friends (who in the past, listened to western rock bands), they play Bangla music on their CD players. One of them, introduce us to the #1 song in Bangladesh “ Bahir Bole Dure Thakook, Bhitor Boley Ashook Na” (The outside says stay afar, the inside says come closer), a beautiful melody, both symbolic and amazing in its reach.   

Through interactions and coincidences, I meet three new entrepreneurs, in their twenties and thirties; the first one is a twenty something software engineer, graduated from the US and returned home to start a software services company. He tells me about his dream of taking his company public in <5 years. Next, a cousin, tells me about the land he has recently acquired to set up a solar power plant that will supply industries in a certain region of Bangladesh; the third is a couple, who are setting up the first sports bar in Bangladesh in the next sixty days. Their market research on menu options, target marketing concepts, is just amazing. This is the new face of entrepreneurship of Bangladesh that I have never seen in the past. These folks are not stuck with retail or garments or real-estate; they are helping Bangladesh branch out to services and completely new economic activity.   

Upon the advice of a friend, I visit an art gallery in Uttara, with an amazing collection of charcoal and oil on canvass. I acquire a small piece of an emerging artist and view many other great artists. I am most impressed by the work of Goutam Chakraborty, the owner of the gallery. His own series titled: Elephants, has a level of brightness and dynamism, notwithstanding the symbolic nature of the Hindu God of wealth, that is amazingly reflective of the current Bangladesh I see out on the streets.   

I enjoy a cold coffee with a friend at the Coffee World, where wi-fi is free and the waffle-sandwich is amazing. We talk about emerging HR trends in this nation. Everywhere, I notice hope, prosperity, anxiety and dexterity. As if the nation is shrugging off its brooding past and looking forward to an amazing future.   

Of course, not everything is perfect. But in my lifetime, never has everything been perfect in this land. Roads have always been congested, there has always been poverty, and corruption and some religious zealotry. But overall, as I talked to people in the markets, and streets, I feel a palpable sense that things are moving forward. I hear lamentations from my business friends that there is no support from the government; in fact the government is instigating the laborers for more wages. When I attend the different rooftop parties with live bands and free-flowing booze, Manolo Blahnic shoes and bright red Tandoori ovens… I am not certain that I can fully agree with my rich friends lamentations.   

Elephantine or not, Bangladesh is on the move. Things are changing. The young crowd, the generation which has grown up post the military juntas of the 80s, is changing this nation forever. Global Warming maybe changing its coastline, but, I see hope in the ambition that the problems here will be solved by the people here, not necessarily by the consultants of the treacherous multi-lateral lending institutions.   

I look forward to visiting this land again. When Ieft twenty five years ago, things were dismal in its view; I never anticipated seeing the changes that I see today. At the doorstep of 2010, I envision Bangladesh as a Middle Income Country in 2015 and beyond. The Elephant is moving forward.