Sunday, 7 February 2021

Player 4


Player 4 has entered the fray.  

Code Name: Kaju Noe.

Excited, Nervous, Scared, Much Wow!

More updates later.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Beckett Learns to Bike

That's the post. That's it.

She learned how to ride a bicycle this week. Wednesday, August 19th, 2020, to be precise. Pappa is a very proud father.

I couldn't do diddly squat when I was 5. I didn't have a bicycle either. She's had one for a couple of years now.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

The Petal

Presenting Beckett's first original story, The Petal.

Goes from Interesting --> Fun --> Spooky --> WTF


Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Lesson

Beckett recently taught me a lesson about incentives. 

We can title it -  The unintended consequences of misaligned incentives. 

She has a habit of unleashing a Masterclass on or around her birthdays.

Every day she cleans her room, she is promised a dollar. No money changes hands, but if she cleans her room enough number of days, a dollhouse, a lego set, or something that she might like is on the table.

She doesn't usually keep the room clean unless yours truly throws a hissy fit. So she has less than 10 dollars to her name yet.

Last week, she decided to clean her room. I had just thrown one of my hissy fits.  The apartment was in an especially abhorrent condition. My hissy fits work sometimes because I threaten to throw away all of her things that are strewn across the house and not in their rightful place.

She cleaned up the room and lamented how much time it took. 

As a wise father, always eager to impart some wisdom, I immediately let told her 'If you keep things in their right place, the room won't get dirty in the first place. So you won't have to waste time cleaning it.'

I was beaming with pride, almost patting myself on the back, having taught the 5YO critter a valuable life lesson, when pat came the earnest reply.

'But if I don't have a dirty room to clean, I won't get my dollar for my dollhouse!'

My jaw drop was a sight to behold.

The pesky munchkin had bested me at my own game. Fair & square. Made me a prisoner of my own device.

And she was not being sly or devious. She was genuine.

So we changed the incentive structure. Now onwards, for every day that the room remains clean, she gets a dollar to her name. No need to clean if the room is already spic and span.

The lessons I learned/relearned that day:

1. The big one that Charlie always talks about. Make sure incentives are aligned. Misaligned incentives create unintended consequences; and then it is turtles all the way down.

2. Some times fear (hissy fits) is a greater motivator than greed (dollhouse).

3. The incentive has to be big enough to engender action. A dollar a day is probably not good enough.

5. Maybe the $ should exchange hands. The physical manifestation of the reward is just as, or maybe more important, than knowing that you received the reward.

6. Sometimes it is about removing friction and not about the incentive. Reduced Friction > Material gain.

Sunday, 12 April 2020


We've been sheltering in place for the past three weeks. It has made me feel like an incredibly lousy father. 

Work seems to have taken over my entire life and whatever is left has been taken over by fatigue. 

I have been an absentee father while being physically present.

This is not the work's fault. It is mine. I haven't actively managed the environment or set limits and prioritized Beckett over myself.

I need to help myself break this vicious cycle and take Beckett's next few months just as seriously as I take mine or Ridecell's. 

Sunday, 1 March 2020

25 Years Later

February 23rd was my father's 25th death anniversary. I was almost 13 when he died and right now it just feels surreal that we made it through 25 years without him. He was almost 40 when he died and would've been an unimaginable 65 (I cannot imagine him ever being this old) today. 

So here is a bittersweet, some times with its light moments, some times dark post about my father; about how I remember him, my joys, pain, regrets, hopes, gratitude and more.

When my father was around 8, old enough to understand life & death, but young enough to not understand consequences, he once called the fire brigade to rescue a crow who had managed to entangle itself in the labyrinth of electric cables that littered his 8 building chawl. My blissfully unaware, yet visibly mortified grandparents trying to figure out why the firemen were looking for him thought that he had indulged in some act of arson. The crow survived and the firemen didn't seem to mind being called to duty to save a life, even if it was corvid and not human. Pappa was a genuinely caring person.

On one occasion, at a wedding, when asked to hurry up, he put some Dal-Rice in his pockets so that they could leave and he wouldn't have to go hungry. My flabbergasted grandparents realized this halfway on the journey back home and did some serious facepalming. Pappa was really obedient but also knew how to look after his own interests.

Pappa used to fly kites on the terrace of his chawl. When my grandfather would come home from a long day of teaching students in school and at personal tuitions, he would run back home and open his books to give grandpa the impression that he was studying. He topped through much of school doing the bare minimum needed to get by - something that would come back to bite him in the backside as he grew older and competition kept getting stiffer.

His pet name in the chawl was Todo (both syllables pronounced the way you would pronounce 'Go'). This was FYI and has no relevance to this post at all.

Pappa studied to be an Architect but ended up working as a Banker. He took up a job while studying supposedly to support the family, but I think it was to gain financial independence and didn't finish his bachelor's until after he got married. He would've been a very good architect. I think taking up the banking job was the biggest mistake of his life but probably saved our life from absolute ruin when during his illness and after he died.  

He was at the Bombay Stock Exchange building (his office) the day of the serial bomb blasts in 1993 and survived unscathed because Mom had packed him lunch that day and he didn't go down for a bite.

Instead of coming back home to his worried family, he went out with his best friend from the office to celebrate having escaped death.  

I don't have a specific first memory of Pappa, but it would be one of three things. Him reading me a bedtime story, him playing some old Hindi songs on our Sanyo tape recorder, or him picking me up from somewhere.

He gave me my love for books and reading - particularly English. Mummy would do most of the Gujarati storytelling, but Pappa would do almost all of the English bedtime reading. I think he was particular about English reading because he was not well versed in spoken English. It probably was a career impediment, a self-esteem issue in post-colonial 70s and 80s India, and he wanted to ensure that his children didn't have to face that issue.

One of the other things my parents did was get me subscriptions to children's magazines like Indrajal Comics, Champak, Chandamama, Tinkle, and the Russian comics Misha. I always had something to read growing up.

Pappa bought me my first local library subscription when I was 8 or 9. A Rs. 60 deposit and a Rs. 40 per month subscription fee with one book borrowing at a time. I read an insane number of Chacha Chaudhary and Archie comics through that arrangement before graduating to the Famous Five when I started getting access to my school library in Standard 5.

The last book that we borrowed through that subscription was a copy of Atlas Shrugged. We never returned that book and I ended up reading it when I was 17. Changed my life.  

When I was 4, I dropped a glass bottle while trying to serve water to my uncle and then cut my hand while trying to pick up the pieces. It was a bad cut and needed stitches. Even during that chaos, my father asked me which Doctor I wanted to go to - Mehta or Dalal. It was a bad question to ask a 4-year-old who had no clue what either of those words meant. But even at 4, he wanted me to make my own choices.

He once helped me write a pen pal message on a helium balloon that we then let fly in the sky. Around 3 weeks later we 'received' a letter from 'Australia' in reply to our balloon. I was thrilled to receive a reply from a pen pal. It was only after he died that I saw that letter again among his papers and realized that it was Pappa's handwriting and both smiled and cried a bit.
Pappa also gave me my love and repertoire for music. I know almost the entirety of Hindi movie music starting from the 50s and the 70s & 80s Western music thanks to him. We had a Sanyo tape recorder that we used to listen to music.

Some of my fondest musical memories are listening to songs of Julie, Chitchor, Saranga, Paying Guest, Baton Baton Mein, and The Greatest Hits of Kishore. There was also Madonna, Abba, and Tina Charles that I can clearly remember.

Pappa very consciously was my best friend along with being my father. He thought that his relationship with his father was distant and awkward and he wanted his children to be comfortable sharing with him anything and everything. This was his way of ensuring that we found company and counsel at home rather than search for it in friends or strangers. 

As a result, my first sip of alcohol was with my father, I learned my swear words from him, and I also discussed my first crush with him.

(The cigarette in my hands is a candy cigarette. Not a Tobacco one. The one in my father's hand is.)

Now for the bad.

My father had a grey side to him. He was professionally neither successful nor happy. We weren't poor but we weren't well to do either during my childhood. I'm reasonably sure that he felt bogged down and trapped in his circumstances. He also had a healthy ego & pride that prevented him from asking for any kind of help. So when he was not my father, I'm not sure he lived a life that he loved. 

Pappa also was prophetic in a bad way. He would utter some eerie things that would eventually come true. The trouble was that he didn't realize it when he said those things in jest, but one of those things said in jest also killed him. Towards the end of his life, from about 6 months before he met with his road accident, his behavior made me feel an inevitable sense of doom as if whatever was going on was not sustainable, and that something had to change. You can call this coincidence, but it is also scary. This is why I'm extremely averse to saying anything negative, even as conjecture or jest.

Pappa was my biggest champion and best friend. His death shattered me in ways beyond the loss of love, guidance, and companionship. His death made me, Atman, and my mother the object of pity, very well-meaning pity, but pity nonetheless. Till then, I'd been raised as a ferociously independent, self-reliant, bordering on being an asshole fashion. It took me many years of finding my voice, breaking free from well-meaning family members, rebuilding my confidence piece by piece to internally feel not pitied upon anymore.

It has often, as blasphemous as it may sound, come to my thought that maybe whatever happened, happened for the best. That may be any other way would've been worse and led both me and Atman down a path much farther away from the one we eventually ended up taking. That may be what was in store for him, had he lived was a life probably much worse than death. This thought simultaneous preys on my mind while helping me make peace with what happened.

My father didn't die from the accident, he died from meningitis that resulted from medical negligence in the aftermath of the accident. It has left me with a healthy distrust and some hatred of doctors who view patients as cases and not as human beings.

In the past 25 years, I've regularly had dreams of him. Every single one of them has been a nightmare. Invariably, every one of them is premised on me discovering that he is not dead, that he is alive. And every one of the situations in the nightmare is a Faustian bargain where he is either a changed person who isn't my father anymore or alive but in a bad shape, or dies again after my discovery that he is alive. I wish to have happy dreams about him.

The hopeful.

My father would've been incredibly proud to see the men Atman and I have grown up to become. My biggest regret is that he didn't get to see us grow up. But I'm grateful beyond measure that he left us in good hands - of our mother (My mother is one badass superwoman about whom I'll write someday later) and grandparents; he left us materially secure - we always had enough; but most importantly, in the short almost 13 years I had with him, he left me with enough stories, wisdom, and a trail of breadcrumbs that would help me find, make, or reshape my way whenever I needed it the most.

I wish everyone a father like mine, minus some of his foibles, and with a lot more time than I had with mine.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The Beckett Podcast

So I started recording a Podcast with Beckett the past week.

This episode is a delicious conversation talking about everything from firetrucks to friends - both human and imaginary.