© Santosh Subramanian – Some rights reserved - Under Creative Commons

Friday, August 15, 2008

The falling leaves...

I need to visit our office in Des Plaines, Chicago, IL atleast once every month as a part of my new job. During these trips I get a lot of time for myself, and me especially being a person who likes solitude once in a while to recharge, have kind of started liking these trips. It was during one of these trips, I met Dave, the cab driver.

I had called for a taxi from my office to my hotel on my first day using a direct dial number available in the office telephone. The taxi came up on time & when I walked out, there was this elderly person, in his early 70s driving a
Dodge Grand Caravan who had stepped out of his cab & waiting for me with a big smile on his face. He was heavy built with lot of wrinkles on his face & my first impression was - "Is he going to drive me back to my hotel? No way!". He had this big smile & asked me the address. I promptly told him the hotel name in Schaumburg, IL which would be around 8-10 miles from my office - And he said he is not very sure of the directions and is trusting on my spatial orientation!

Gosh! I started thinking why I got into all of this... a very old man who could barely carry himself, driving a minivan, trying to take me, who has no clue of the geography of Chicago, to get into a hotel where I checked-in the previous midnight! Anyways, since it was too late for anything and I didn't want to dissappoint this elderly gentleman, I decided to hop in & take the risk.

He was very happy that I threw in my bag at the back & joined him at the front (I wasn't sure where I will end up - if I leave the whole navigation to him) and he started off with a conversation. A wide range of topics starting from foreign policies to tax rebates to war in Iraq to price increases to everything that is currently going on in America. I just kept on listening, occasionally giving my opinion when asked. Few things that really stuck with me are :-
  • Dave had served in the United States Navy for a brief amount of time
  • He was an electrician by trade & had worked as one for around 35-40 years before retiring
  • He lost 2 of his children in the War (One in Iraq & the other with some peace keeping initiative elsewhere)
  • He started to work AGAIN as a cab driver after the fuel prices started shooting up and it became increasingly difficult for him to meet his ends
  • He had undergone 2 open heart surgeries & has been advised not to go to work for more that 4 hrs at a stretch.
  • If he had a chance to get Mr.Bush near him sometime, he will smother him to... (God knows what will happen...)

Though I had read a lot of horror stories on the impact that the wars have created on familes, this was the first time that I got to meet a person who has a first hand experience and it moved me a lot. This gentleman, who had spent the whole of his life working, paying his taxes regularly, served time in the armed forces, lost 2 of his children who were just out of college to the wars because of the power politics in the international arena.

I felt very sorry for him & was thinking what I would have done, if I was in such a situation. I am definitely sure that I don't have that levels of resilience. Who knows, I might turn one if subjected to such a treatment... remember Senapathy in the Kamal Hassan movie -
Indian? Somebody rightly said - Criminals are not born, but they are made; by the society...

I used the google maps application in Blackberry to figure out where we are & used that to navigate back to the hotel. He was impressed by the device & mentioned that his employer had given him a GPS, but he is too old to learn how to use it... I did not know what to tell him. Finally, I reached my hotel, thanked him for his company & hospitality all through the drive. I took his number and told him that if I am in the city again & wants a ride somewhere during his working hours, I would call him.

The conversation left a hangover in me, which took more than a couple of days to get over with...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mind Speaks

I had a very interesting debate on parenting with a family friend of ours who visited us last night. Though the debate digressed into different tangents during the course of the debate, it brought out a lot of insights into the value system that each of us have & how they differ from person to person, family to family & even culture to culture.

The primary discussion started of with how we can raise our children as ‘good’. The first tangent was in terms of the differences in understanding of what it means to be good. The definition of good was different based on each of ours’ perception. While I stood the ground that good means being a ‘good human being who is complacent with what he/she is and who is empathetic to his environment consisting of their near & dear ones and being sensitive to the larger human population’ – (Phew! That is a large definition). Whereas the definition of ‘good’ for the other person was - ‘being financially sound and having unlimited access and capability to own most of the commonly nice things in the materialistic world’. The best part of the discussion-turned-debate was that we did not really define what our own understanding of good is – and went on putting forward points in to each of our argument.

We are a working couple, both of us being in the highly demanding IT world. It easily takes away at least 12 hours of your everyday time in some way or other. And I strongly feel that to raise a kid giving him/her the best, the family need to come to an understanding that one of them should go on the fast pedal while the other should do an easy sail so that it achieves the dual objectives…

1. ‘Quality time’ can be spent with the child
2. Backup in case of difficult work situations (e.g. you getting fired from work!)

Our friends who, after marriage, one of them decided to chose to be a house wife feels that it was a biggest mistake that they did. Because they felt ‘everything’ was in the reach for working couples but their way was more of compromises because they felt that they did not have the ‘reach’ that money can bring in & was a staunch believer that both husband & wife should step on the gas pedal & the environment would take care of the rest.

A fundamental assumption at this juncture for our friend’s argument is that a support ecosystem exists to support the endeavors of the family – which is partially true in most of the cases, but not ours!

And this led to the discussion on what is priority for each of us – Money (which can be quantified) or Quality of family life (tough to be quantified because they are subjective). During the discussion, somebody mentioned that I am making an assumption that one of the parent having decided to go slow on the career doesn’t mean they will spend quality time with children if they are not motivated to do so. That was a point that I totally overlooked. I was under the impression that the best thing that any parents would like to do would be to spend time with their children & they don’t really need a motivation factor to spend time with children. (Not an understatement because I am doing that currently & I just love that)

A raw awakening in our lives… Mind speaks…

The debate went on for some more time until one of us decided to raise the peace flag, raise a toast for the enriching debate & then decided to have our dinner…

The point that I want to make here is that mind is complex. When you start speaking your mind, you make a lot of unhappy people around you, but you will start finding inner peace.

And I am not surprised that even after centuries, we still fight on race & religion, we still have reservations, we still justify a murderer, we still talk about the human rights of a rapist, we still talk about the laws preventing voluntary death…

Yeah… The mind is complex…