Sunday, June 2, 2019

A 2nd Miracle

Reia graduates. With flying colors.

On April 2, 1997 a tiny girl weighing 850 gms (1.87 lbs) and whose weight dropped to 770 gms (1.69 lbs) was born and spent close to 2 months in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) of Bombay Hospital was born. And when I held her for the first time, she seemed to fit in my palm and I wondered, what was to be. Nevertheless we had a miracle baby. One that no one expected to make it. Except her Mom, Ives, who always believed in her daughter. She was premature and was born after just 26 weeks. We hadn't even got around to picking a name. And were so hassled , we couldn't even come up with a name. So we just got rid of the "F" from our elder daughter's name Freia, and named her Reia.

As it turned out, Reia was a fighter, and fought her way slowly but surely putting on a few gms at a time, to where we could take her home. We took her to preventive physical therapy sessions and she got glasses she refused to wear at 2.

She grew up to be a bubbly, enthusiastic child who loved life and lived life queen-size. She was a kind of a bully, albeit a cite one, which she continues to be. Both a Bully and a cute one. During the intervening years, we found early on that she had not one not two but all 3 of the learning disabilities. Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia. Academics were a challenge for her, especially in the Indian context where all the knowledge acquired during a semester is tested in 1 exam at the end of the semester.

We would have happily allowed her to dropout and get home schooled. She refused and loved school in-spite of the challenges. She shifted schools in the 9th grade so she could take alternate subjects that were relatively less taxing. And when I was temporarily moving to the US on work, she chose to check it out. As luck and fate would have it, we ended in Wilton, CT in a wonderful school with some amazing teachers. And she graduated.

They were supportive and not only did she manage her classes, she managed to make it to the Honors list on each of the 12 quarters she was there. We were happy for her and though she'd be done with school. She had other ideas. She decided to take up college. And joined SCAD in Savannah, GA.

With a lot of hard work, a good school, amazing teachers and some guardian angel friends she did well. Once again, she managed to be on the Honors list. And the person sending the mails happened to be Jesus. So every quarter, we'd get a message. Jesus has come. Again.

On Friday, she graduated. "Magna Cum Laude". i.e. "With Great Distinction". Something I didn't think could happen in my wildest dreams. Not the distinction. Just the graduation.

Joined at her graduation by her grandmom, uncle, aunt and cousin.

Her Scad family that made it possible: Tiffany, Caroline & Michelle.

Graduating Class Photo - 2019 

At this point I have no words to express my awe and delight and so will end with:

"Congratulations. You have done what I never thought possible. Go out there and make a difference. Not only to yourself and your family, but to the world at large."

Reia always insist on proof. So just in case ever forgets, "Here's the ploof", :)

Sunday, May 26, 2019


Last weekend, Ivy, Reia and I drove to Atlanta after dropping Freia off at the airport on her way to NYC for a BTS, a K-pop group concert. And that's another amazing story. Can't put too much in 1 blog, else will runout of this blogs most difficult part - Content. We had decided to visit the Georgia Aquarium, often billed as the US' best aquarium. And Ivy love aquariums. I was hoping to slip in a visit to the Coca Cola factory in Atlanta. Because, I love Coke.

The drive to Atlanta was uneventful. Both Ivy and Reia were sleeping peacefully and I was tempted. To sleep. Adjust about managed to keep awake. After a 4 hour drive we arrived at the Aquarium. And the first thing we realized is that the Coke factory and the Aquarium are in the same complex, side-by-side. A auspicious start to our visit.

The new me has decided that it makes sense to spend a little extra and get the insiders tour. And so we took the insiders tour too. We arrived at 11:30 and took the tour of 12:30. As we went in, we noticed that there was a Dolphin show. And my theory is that you need to finish the popular shows early on, else the lines get longer as the day goes on. And we got lucky that we were able to walk in, just as they were warming up to start the show. As in all US productions, it was flawless. And amazing. Both the trainers and the trainees. In this case the dolphins. The clock was ticking and it seemed like we'd miss the insiders tour. As soon as the show closed, we ran. And just managed to make it.

The tour was fascinating. There were a zillion things I realized I had no idea about. And after the tour it went up to a gazillion. Both about our environment, and everything else that's in it. After the tour, we went through all of the exhibits that were there and timed ourselves to see the Seal show. Once again a flawless show. I keep wondering how that are able to make the animals literally dance to their tune. Here's a quick photographic preview.

And for a closer look at the Georgia Aquarium, watch this.

Georgia Aquarium Tour & Review with The Legend

We had finished visiting all of the aquarium shows as well as the exhibits. And it was around 4:30. Didn't know if there was sufficient time to visit the "World of Coke". It showed as shutting at 5:30. We went to the counter and found that there was a guided tour starting in a few minutes. We bought the tickets and went in.

Another fascinating visit. While there were zillion things including a photo op with Coke's long time mascot the Polar Bears, the highlights for me were 3.

Holding the actual Olympic torches held by the Olympic athletes.

and tasting over a 100 world-wide Coke flavors. Including my all time favorite, Thumbs Up from India.

And of course, the often heard but never seen secret vault that holds the secret formula.

And here's a quick photographic preview of some of the other interesting exhibits.

At the end of the trip, we tiredly set off back to Savannah. Where once again, Ivy and Reia decided to sleep, while I drove them back. And this time around, I was actually wide awake.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

06897 @ the Scad Fashion Show

On Friday Reia's collection was being showcased in the SCAD Fashion Show. Even before the school year had begun in 2018, Reia very much wanted to be a part of her Senior Class Fashion Show. However she felt that most of her classmates were way more talented than her and she was unlikely to make it. So much so, she did not want us to be in Savannah during the event.

Ivy and I decided that we should be there. Especially if she didn't make it. To give her support and to let her know that there are a zillion fashion shows ahead. As it turned out, we didn't need to do any of that. Reia's collection was amongst those picked and we could attend and bask in some of the reflected glory from her.

The town of Savannah is always filled with SCAD hoardings and posters. And we were able to find quite a few for the fashion events. Freia didn't want to be left alone and so she decided to join us and arrived on the morning of the event.

Reia had designed shirts for the 3 of us to wear at the event. The theme of here collection was "06897" the Wilton zip code, the place where her fashion journey began. And the school that taught her that it's okay to be dyslexic. You still can shine in any field you choose. And she chose fashion.

The 3 of us set off for the event and arrived an hour early so we could get ringside seats. Seems like all the other guests had the exact same idea and we were lucky to get the last few from row seats.

All of the outfits on display were really good, although I'm probably biased. When Reia's models walked down the ramp, I felt that they were the best - definitely biased. I was beaming in pride at what Reia had managed to do.

But she couldn't have done it without 3 people she calls her assistants, "Tiffany, Caroline and Nikita". In my mind, they are her guardian angels. Always there. Even when she didn't need them. Thank You - Tiff, Caroline, Nikita.

Time for me to shut up and for you to have a look. And make your own judgements. And if its anything less than "Awesome", I don't want to hear about it.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Does Privacy Matter ?

It's said that we've sold our soul to the Google overlords. And most of us have resigned ourselves to the probability that anything we've done or are doing leaves a digital footprint and that the Google and Facebook and Amazon and Apple and ... have access to it. And will sell it to the highest bidder. And many accept this as the price for being connected.

The privacy conversation took on a new and interesting dimension when a couple of days ago Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, said in an opinion piece in the New York Times,
"the company is so big and powerful that it threatens our democracy".

The opinion piece is a must read.

It's Time to Break Up Facebook
The New York Times

" ..,
We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.

It is time to break up Facebook.

We already have the tools we need to check the domination of Facebook. We just seem to have forgotten about them.
... "

And Zuckerberg's response is troubling.
Zuckerberg says breaking up Facebook “isn’t going to help”. With the look of someone betrayed, Facebook’s CEO has fired back at co-founder Chris Hughes and his brutal NYT op-ed calling for regulators to split up Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

“When I read what he wrote, my main reaction was that what he’s proposing that we do isn’t going to do anything to help solve those issues. So I think that if what you care about is democracy and elections, then you want a company like us to be able to invest billions of dollars per year like we are in building up really advanced tools to fight election interference” Zuckerberg told France Info while in Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

This reminded me of a talk I had seen by journalist Glenn Greenwald who shot to prominence with the Edward Snowden files and on reviewing, I realized that what Mr. Greenwald talked about over 4 years ago (Oct 2014) is even more relevant today.

Why privacy matters
Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see -- and write about -- the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States' extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you're "not doing anything you need to hide."

My take is that whether we accept it or not, we need to be aware of what's at stake and decide and think about, "Is what we are getting in return for selling our souls worth it ? Or not. And if not, what's the solution ?"

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Can Twitter be saved ?

Who else to better answer this question than the founder and current CEO. Here's his take on the subject in a conversational interview.

At the risk of being over simplistic, my 2 cents is that a relatively simple problem is being made complex and then the solution to the complex problem becomes even more complicated.

Here are 3 simple rules that could simplify the #1 issue. And its #1 not only as described by users but by Jack himself.

1. Disallow anonymous users to retweet, comment or have followers.

2. The current policy uses Conduct not Content. This should be changed to use Conduct and Content. Content can be as harmful, if not more harmful than Conduct.

3. The primary score to decide whether content is "Abuse and Harassment" should be by the receiver of the abuse. And the default should be to automatically block it. And the human review should be when the person whose retweet or comment is blocked, requests for a review. This will reduce human intervention required significantly.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Indian Elections 2019

Tomorrow I vote in what is the world's largest democracy. Except that not everyone votes tomorrow. Mumbai where I'm from goes to the polls tomorrow. It is Phase 4 of the 7 phased elections. And the counting of all 7 phases will happen simultaneously on May 23rd.

The idea of this blog was to give an understanding of the scope and complexity of the Indian election system. And like in most things, found that others had already done much better a job than I could hope to. Here are a few that will give a very good sense of the Indian elections.

India Lok Sabha election 2019: How the world's largest democracy votes
Global News

India elections: All you need to know

The world’s largest election, explained
Milan Vaishnav and Jamie Hintson

India election: World's biggest voting event explained

2019 Indian general election

And for those of you who have Netflix, do watch Hasan Minhaj's take on the Indian election. And while I disagree with several of his points as untrue, you don't need to agree with everything to like the episode. A definite must watch.