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.

harvard-square-with-uncle-and-aunt
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.

harvard-square
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.

florence-summer-2016
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.

on-a-florida-beach-with-d
Daiyaan and I on Marco Island, 2003

Commemorating a Disaster: 2 years and a few days later

It’s easy to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, a victory or a successful completion of something meaningful; but it’s excruciatingly painful to remember that particular day that your child was hurt, or your parent died, or your loved one left.

It happens to all of us; in one way or another, in small or big ways; tragedies and disasters are part of the human landscape and in many ways define who we are or who we become.

How does one get over that day, or that particular moment when the car accident happened; how do you remember that moment that you throw soil on the draped body of someone you truly love or that day you watched the disoriented face of someone you thought you loved, on a TV or hospital monitor, with the blazing lines of security lights flickering on and off.

Life is all about moving forward; every day, every minute is about that particular moment and the next moment that comes after that. The past is “water under the bridge”. Still, the past creates a context of who we are, why we are here and in a lot ways, provides clues to where we may ultimately end up. It’s impossible to forget the past and not acknowledge that these challenging times define our character and how we treat the rest of the world.

One of the first tragedies of my seven or eight year-old life was the day our little, happy-go-lucky daschund puppy disappeared. In our tranquil Joypahar, the absence of him wagging his tail, whenever I came down the stairs, was a void that took a few days to fill. Time went by; we made new friends and learned new sports and somehow filled that void.  Still I remember that sultry evening, when Bimbo never came back. We had people looking for him all over the hill – calling his name till it got pitch dark and my mom assured me that he would be back in the morning.

In my teens, it was one hot May evening, as I returned home after watching a play with some friends, there was the unfamiliar “woo-woo” sound of the ambulance on our doorstep – and I saw my father being carried away in an unconscious state to the hospital. I still remember the moment in crystal clear detail– the time of the pronouncement of his death – my dramatic mother wailing – while at age eighteen, I knew that the my life had changed, forever.

In many ways, my life has been defined by that incidence, on that fateful day. As the “ground beneath me shifted”, I started to climb, without hesitation and didn’t know that I could stop, rest, breathe or dream any more. I didn’t know where I was headed – or why I was headed in that direction. I had to run away from my past and move towards an undefined future.

Even though, that may have been one of those most important days of my life, rarely do I spend that day, celebrating or commemorating. I don’t say a prayer on that day or light any candles. If anything, I try to forget that day ever happened.

A little more than two years ago, I had another unique tragedy that changed the lives of all my loved ones. I have written a series of essays around that time as I was experiencing that tragedy in suspended disbelief; The First Day of the Rest of My Life or The Day After the Tragedy,  Jumping Into a Meandering River, Decisions with “No Regrets”,  are all essays of that time with no instructions of how to move forward in life.

Time has passed by; I have moved forward and so has everyone.

This year, on that particular day, my seventeen year-old and I exchange simple texts, “Do you remember this day, two years ago;” She replies, “I was just thinking about it”. We don’t discuss any further.  The wounds are still open and it still hurts to have a discussion.

Grief and mourning are part of all our lives; even animals grieve tragedy. We must give grief its due. How we handle ourselves during and after the grief is what defines who we are or who we become.

Some exploit the grief to become “victims” – orphans of a tragedy. Others take that tragedy and make something out of it – learn from it, not let the scars completely change their world-view.

If you let tragedy change who you are, than you must not have been that person in the first place.

Sunrise at Pompano

Tomorrow morning, as the sun rises over the clear-blue, I wish to walk the beach – notice the fresh layer of sand beneath my feet, touch the salty water, and promise myself to live the best I can, for however many days are gifted to me.

While tragedy may engulf us any day, we must find the new sand to re-vitalize our own lives and promise to live the best we can. Nobody said we have to live the exact life we lived in the past. The future, however, can be momentous and full of joy – if that’s what we choose for it to be.

I will look forward to that day when this particular month or that particular date will not be a considered a “black” day/month and I will pass without commemoration or memory.

Time heals all wounds; I know, that day is coming.

Instruction Manuals for Children : February 7, 2013

I wonder, like new gadgets, why there aren’t instruction manuals for parents to figure out the whims and vagaries of their new-born or growing children. Originating from the same genetic pool, how two children can be so different from each other, and have completely unique personalities!

One of them may sit next to you and finish her homework five days ahead of schedule – and the other one, not want to even start her science project until the night before it is due. One maybe fascinated by pets – another, allergic to everything; one can’t wait to get on my boat and sail away for days – while the other one holds on to my t-shirt – the entire journey!

Daiyaan and Shania 5 years ago!
Daiyaan and Shania 5 years ago!

When my first born came to this world, I had no way to prepare myself. There were lots of What to Expect in Baby’s First Year type of books but very little practical advice about your baby’s temperament or why she wouldn’t sleep the first night she arrived home!

I had no clue how to put this baby to sleep; after a few hours of trying to sing, generating hair-dryer or vacuum cleaner sounds (these are days before the noisemaker app on your IPod) and trying multiple motions, failing to soothe the baby, finally I placed her ear on my chest and allowed her to connect with my heart beat and warmth; she was out like a light bulb! I lay there, in that same position, for hours, afraid that any movement on my part would wake my baby up.

I remember my mother always bemoaning to her friends, “Baccha Manush Kora Khub Kothin” (It’s so very tough to raise kids); I wonder why my mom would say that it’s tough to raise children during her times. In our luxurious childhood at Joypahar, we had a nanny and also had a seven other help in the house; I don’t remember my parents ever needing to coordinate a babysitter; uncles and aunts visited us frequently and we had a wonderful support system protecting us. In those pre micro-chip days, we were not exposed to the demands of video-games, Twitter, Instragram or FaceBook. I don’t remember my Dad ever have to wonder if the length of his teen-agers’s skirt is appropriate for a birthday party!

Being blessed with two beautiful daughters, I sometimes wonder, what life would be like with more children. I watch parents, and their delight, when their older children return home for the holidays. They make their children’s favorite dishes and look forward to doing those common things that they may have done together, like a round of golf – or going to the spa – or baking together, or in the case of my mother, playing Scrabble or just arguing over political views!

If I regret about my personal circumstances, it’s that we didn’t have another child, in-between my two princesses. While I am grateful for what has been gifted, It would have been fabulous to have another daughter (or son for that matter) !

It has been a pleasure watching my children grow-up and take on their own personalities. Recently, Shania, my seven-year old rolled off my grocery-list from memory!  I don’t need to write anything down any more.  When she goes for a school –entrance interview, I watch her eyes sparkling with inquisitive possibilities.

In my recent role as a single-dad, my beliefs have been re-affirmed that, children are the most important and enjoyable occurance in life – for the period that they live with us. I have learned more acutely how important is stability, re-assurance and a safe place for them, to come back to.

Shania is just as happy with a project she can complete with me – versus a super-expensive gift! Daiyaan, my seventeen-year old, just wants to share her daily experiences – without my judgment or commentary! She watches my eyebrow curve up and smiles and gets the message that that part of the information may just be just TMI (too much information)!

When I go out for the evening, I love it when my daughters approve my attire or tell me to change my shirt! I love the simple rituals we have developed; as I cook dinner, and the children are completing their homework – or when we quickly step out to the balcony to observe a spectacular sunset and wish the day goodbye.

129

At night, when we read stories in bed, or say a quick prayer before closing our eyes, all of it becomes real;

It is the true joy in the discovery, of what we love about our unique and amazing children – without the instruction manuals!

Thank you God, for not sending instruction manuals with the children!

Neatly Packed Boxes of Life: August 7, 2011

  Image

I reserve the largest storage unit I find in a ten-mile radius; when signing the six-page lease for this space, I have no idea that this space would somehow hold the residues of most of my adult life.

When I padlock the climate-controlled space and walk away, I feel perplexed.

I am leaving so many of my memories in this 10’x 20’ space!

The bedroom set that I picked out of a show-case window in New Orleans and had to wait two years to afford; Shania’s new twin bed, that she personally picked out a few months ago.

The bicycle that Daiyaan learned to bike with, and my own bike that has carried Shania and Daiyaan on a child safety seat over 15 years!

As if, by leaving this continuum of my life, I have neatly packed and locked away portions of myself!

Kevin, a heavy-set, stubbled, mid 50 ish mover, laughs when he sees my little stuff – he calls them “critters”;   “if you don’t use this stuff in the next six or seven months, you will lose track and never use them again; when you feel like starting up again, you will want to start fresh – this stuff has too many memories”, he tells me philosophically.

I know what he says is most likely true; but it’s too difficult to put away the black Afghan that adorned two beautiful dining areas – and hundreds of friends and family enjoyed meals with!

I don’t know why I keep the $25 coffee maker, with which I dutifully made “deshi” style milky-sweet tea, every time there was a big gathering at our family home. I doubt I will ever again make tea for 20-30 people.

After giving away three trucks of stuff to charity over the last two weeks, still memories of good times linger on me – like the smell of incense, when you leave the potpourri store.

The storage company asks me for two alternate contacts – in case they can’t get hold of me; I put down the name of my seventeen-year old daughter whose childhood memories are also in that 10X20 space. Somehow, I just cannot imagine giving her that responsibility to sort this stuff out one day – “in case they can’t get hold of me”.

I have always believed that life’s all about creating good memories; Like anyone else, my life has conjured up sets of dramatic moments – high pitched laughter filled with friends and family and sad, long-on-tears, tragedy.

Also, I have been fortunate, to have built memories in six continents – in exotic locales and not so “illuminating” places. But wherever I went, in rain or shine, there was a good time – because there was my family there to share that moment with.

Sometimes these memory droplets show up in a dream; or, on a cloudy day they become part of our colorful perspective of life that we share with someone else, “I remember a few years ago, when, this wonderful thing happened…… “

As if these memorabilia connect, like a long tunnel, the moment we just left and the bright moment we are racing towards.

One can neatly pack away memorabilia, and put them in climate-controlled storage and not remember that they are there; but the memories of those good times, specially, with loved ones, are hard to lock away in neat boxes and walk away from.

I look forward to go searching for some of my memories in my residual 10X20 space.

Once in A Lifetime: A Tribute to the Parkson Team: April 2011

With the Parkson Team at the January 2012 Next Wave Meeting

Once in a lifetime, one gets a chance to do something special, work with a really special team, shape the future for a small part of the world – and, on top of all that, do something truly meaningful for the world.

I got that chance in Parkson.

I got the chance to be part of the Parkson team.

My first salute goes to those, who have been with Parkson, before I came on board in 2007: Mike Miller, Russ Cook, Barbara, Mark Parker, Francisco Camargo, Marianna Novellino, Andrea Gonzales, Jorge Fernandez, Adolfo Gonzales, Dave Mitchell, Irv Rubenstein, Chuck Morgan, Steve Rothenberg, Brian Lykins, Julio Moscoso, Edna Sugden, Chris Hall, Madhavi Batchu, Marty Unger, Mike Jacob, Louise Dunevant, Jean Grenier and many others, and of course, my compass, the one and only, Janie Wintermeyer.

Your support and feedback during these “almost” five years have been tremendous; your guidance has made this journey rich, and ultimately possible.

For all others, who have joined Parkson since Fall 2007, you have shaped this journey – this moment is yours, as it is mine.

Together, we have set a tremendous foundation for Parkson: a rejuvenated portfolio, newly acquired products, new brand, new team, new white spaces,  new world regions, a fresh perspective, a fresh approach to doing business: Treating Water Right!

If there is one thing I feel the best about the Parkson team today, is the completely confident spirit – the spirit that exemplifies that we are all together in this – and, together, we can achieve anything!

I am confident you will build on this.

After completing the 200 mile Ragnar Relay with the Parkson-MiOx Water Boys at Key West in Jan 2012: A Truly Once in a Lifetime experience!

This dream, is more yours, than it is mine. I just happened to be here catalyzing your thoughts.

The best days of Parkson, are yet to come.

In 2013, I am confident, Parkson will set a record for revenues and profitability.

Once in a lifetime, one gets to be part of a journey of this magnitude.

With Antonia Johnson, the owner of Parkson in January 2011

I am privileged that, for five years, the Axel Johnson Family and Michael Milligan invited me be part of this “Once in a Lifetime” experience. I am humbled by everyone’s support over these years.

I thank you for all your feelings towards me and my family.

I expect you to keep in touch. write, email, text, FaceBook, Linkedin or blog with me, and come visit.  My mobile number will remain the same.

At the end of the day, I have learned, life’s a series of snapshots of relationships. I like the snapshots that I have taken with the Parkson Team. I think you guys are a keeper!

Thanks everyone.

Let’s not say goodbye.

Let’s just say, we will see each other soon!

I didn't wear pink on the day the Women of Parkson commemorated the Breast Cancer Day - so someone gave me a pink scarf to wear! That's the Parkson Spirit!

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.

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!