Audio Books – am I a convert?

Many years ago, my archives tell me I wrote this about audio books. I am happy to say since then I am changed. I have embraced them with open arms.

Am I still the person who loves the touch and feel of a book and page turner seeking ultimate satisfaction is the information I am consuming? Absolutely.

Have I also learned to embrace the electronic version of books that allows me to carry my own personal library in a device that neatly fits into my handbag? Absolutely.

Am I now totally in sync with listening to a book on my drive to and from home to beat the traffic woes? Absolutely.

Which was the one that took the longest to adapt to? It for sure was the audio books. Why did I then choose to give it a try? Like I said earlier, traffic can be an absolute pain in the rear and even though I was listening to the radio as I drove, it did increase stress levels when you are at a standstill and not making much progress. Now turn on an audio book and you want the ride to last longer because that allows you to listen to one, two or three extra pages as the wait maybe. It gave me this zen feeling that there wasn’t much control I had over the traffic but I could choose to enjoy it with the company of a good book. Could I get the same state of calm with the radio? I probably could but it took a book to bring me that state.

Secondly, I love to read medical books. I for some reason have a much harder time reading them then listening to them. When the content of the book is not a story or a plot, I find myself enjoying the auditory medium a lot more than the paper version. While I my lose attention and focus on the paper the audio and the narrator keep me captive in the content. I am less likely to give up on these books when I am listening to them.

Again, do I get a lot of reading done with audio books? Absolutely! Once I get home, my life is controlled my more factors than just me. The interruptions most times takes the joy out of focusing on a book. Between the kids and the seniors and the dog, there isn’t a dearth of distractions. The time in my car is time I own and allows me to get through my reading list in 30-45 minutes intervals sans interruptions. Does that chip away at the list of books I want to finish? Totally!

On the downside, a bad narrator can really make it a lousy experience of an absolutely amazing book. I recently listened to a book that was a bestseller and absolutely gripping but the narrator ruined the whole experience for me.

In addition, audio books have turned me back into the recluse I was back in my teenage years. My commute was my time to catch up with friends and family and now with an engaging book, guess what activity takes a backseat? My socializing. Does that upset me? Occasionally but at the end of the day, if the listening continues and the socializing takes a hit, I guess it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which way I am more inclined 🙂


Mind map of a different kind

Mind mapping was a technique that I learned many years back to help me visualize and memorize concepts I needed to cruise through certification exams I was then pursuing. The saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That has truly been something that has helped me in my learning abilities. I am known to have an incredible short term memory. Ask me something that happened years back and I am absolutely useless but ask me the phone number that I saw listed on a cardboard sign along my drive home from work for painting houses and I can recite it back for days. My mind sees patterns in numbers and similarly images for anything I need to memorize. Back in my school days I could recall the exact location of the answer in the textbook to a specific question. It is an all different problem that some times I couldn’t recollect the content of the said section 😦 My brain processed it mostly through visualization and hence mind mapping was an invaluable tool.

Now to the present, Raul is preparing for a super complicated competition that involves insane amount of memorization and assimilation of content. He has been pouring through a plethora of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) to recognize and name the different characteristics presented. He often at night parks himself on my bed and requests that I quiz him. I present the image to him on three different views and he comes up with the term associated with that image. As I look at these images with him, they all look to me like identical blobs. My respect for his ability has risen tremendously and last night out of sheer curiosity I asked him how he differentiated between these images to identify the differences and the term associated with it. He then walked me through the images and pointed to me patterns in each image that caught his eye. If one image had a triangle within it, another one had a snake, a third one an arrow and a fourth one a horseshoe. The pattern was different in each but pattern they all had. He then explained that was what he used to help him differentiate each image and the associated term. It was an awesome exercise to go through once he pointed this out to me. Kudos to the child for coming up with his own schema to crack this exercise. He was mapping the mind in a way that worked best for him. I realized then that his method of retaining information was similar to mine except for the fact that he can recollect things from a distant past as well.

Just one example of everyday events that smack you in the face and highlight ignorance. I resolved myself to many more years of learning from any source that is willing to cater to a curious mind…

Words heard around the house

… these days are

Neuroanatomy; Neurohistology; Neurophysiology; MRI, Brain Facts and the list goes on.

Conversation snippets that float in the air:

  • Amma , did you know they actually place a real human brain for competitors to identify parts of the brain? Isn’t that cool?
  • Amma, do you know there is a patient diagnosis section?
  • Amma, did you know this link enables me to slice and dice the various components of the brain?
  • Amma, I talked to Dr. F and she advised that this author’s version of the neuroanatomy atlas is much better than the one by this other author.
  • Amma, did you know my friend has annotated this book and made note cards for each of the sections in preparation for the competition?

The did you knows are endless. My brain spins and my eyes gloss over. Information overload is the malady I face. But none of that registers on the child at home as he excitedly prepares for one of the most challenging competition he prepares to face in a few weeks. I simply ask him if all of this excites him but the answer is in his eyes visible to anyone who looks. That gives me joy. The knowledge that this isn’t forced or required but a true thirst and passion.

It takes me all the way back to the day when it all started. It was the day the two of us fought and argued for hours – me to instill in him the importance of honoring a commitment and for him it was simply not wanting to look stupid due to lack of preparation. On that day Amma won using her mom card to force the child to compete to simply keep up his commitment. On this day she is blessed that the child listened to her and put in the most meager of efforts that paid off immensely in just a few years.

Today he says, “Amma, I am glad you made me do this!” and she thinks it is all him, his effort, passion and perseverance that has got him this far. There miles to go Raul, but just know that I am proud of you regardless of outcome. You and Meg are truly a blessing and my joy!

Travel – the travails…

…or not?

The OH and I have always loved traveling and visiting new places. The pleasures are varied to the senses. We love seeing new places, exploring new territories, tasting new flavors and meeting new people. We love every aspect of traveling and have done our fair share of travels over the years but in a more restricted way. With little kids, the travels had to be planned to be child friendly. But the one fact that made it relatively easy was the kids. They were mostly good travelers and definitely gave us no reason to stop these trips. From the time we decided to take Meg on an international trip two hours prior to our flight departure to the time we traveled with a 2-month old Raul to a loud concert in LA with his ears nicely covered with ear plugs and muffs, we have pretty much dragged them through it all.

Circa to the present and they both enjoy and love travel just as much as we do. They being older now are a joy to travel with. They explore the places with us, are more than happy to taste the local flavors. Thanks to the OH, they are total foodies and that makes travel all the more exciting for them. But now with them being older comes the challenge of scheduling these vacations. Everyone’s schedule has to be accounted for before even a weekend vacation is planned. The OH & I have also realized that it only a few more years before the kids have their own careers to worry about and family vacations are going to be a thing of the past. With that comes the restlessness and the urge to plan more of these in a shorter span of time. Every vacation planned feels like a small victory in itself. It irks us when the kids give us grief about the timing and most times makes us super sad when they are willing to let us go alone because they would rather focus on other commitments as it relates to their career and education. We find ourselves on the other end of the spectrum, asking them to miss school or college to keep our plans a possibility.

I occasionally complain to friends and family that they make a vacation that is paid for feel more like they are doing us a favor. I wonder if it is just easier to let them do as they please and plan travel for just the OH & I. But at the end of all that is the realization of how much we enjoy our times together and how we just need to keep working through the challenges to make as many of them a possibility for as long as we can pull it off.

We only know too well that at the end of it all, when we look back on the years past, it is these memories and experiences that we come back to cherish and relive. These experiences enrich us and make us and the children who we are today and who we will be in the years to come. That makes all the money we spend and fights we have worth the effort. At the end of the day, we do travel more now that we have in the past.

The price of doing the right thing

Do you still do the right thing?

  • If it means one has to compromise on the life they want to live?
  • If it causes angst, unrest and lack of mental piece?
  • If it makes you want to hate the very people you shouldn’t ever have to dislike?
  • If it leaves you with negative thoughts when you are otherwise content and in a happy place?
  • If this is reason for you to be judged and evaluated and burdened with expectations instead of being understood, appreciated, not mistaken and loved for the efforts?
  • If it makes you want to be selfish and rude?
  • If the consequence is to bottle up one’s anger and unhappiness leading to being rude and angry at the very person who needs patience and tender care?

What in this scenario is the right thing?

  • To learn to accept current reality and find happiness in that state?
  • To actively seek the change that will bring you happiness but causes near and dear ones to be hurt?
  • To convince self that “This too shall pass” when in reality that is possible only when the unthinkable/unacceptable happens?

So much unease and so much unhappiness. Is doing the right thing worth the price for any of the humans involved?

Him @ 16

I skip one year and now where do I even begin… They do say kids grow fast and clearly whoever said that first knew what they were talking about. If the cusp of 14 and 15 was all about growing tall, looking good and personal hygiene, the cusp of 15 and 16 has been all about drive to excel and in school and in fitness viz. part nerd – part jock. I tell myself that it could have been a lot worse and this is one I am most happy with 🙂 Now for his milestones…

  • Sweet sixteen was the year he decided he didn’t want Amma/Appa planned birthday parties (after trying to get him off that practice since he turned 10.)
  • Chose to get done with his SAT. This experience made me realize I am not even in the same continent as Tiger Mom. In fact I threatened to not drive him to his exam if he took one additional practice test.
  • Moved away from games and toys to focus on his new obsession – cracking his academics and focusing on fitness.
  • Fund raised close to $1000 from family, friends and the neighborhood to help build 3D printed prosthetic hands to ship to countries where kids could benefit from these artificial limbs. He also with guidance from the OH collaborated with two organizations to make this possible. He convinced his classmates to help him assemble these hands and got his crowning moment when he was featured in the local news channels for his accomplishment.
  • Decided to channel his energy working out and eating healthy. If the latter part of last year was all about ingesting calories, the first part of this year has focused on cutting carbs/portions and eating healthy while still getting his calorie intake for the day. Food has been all about measuring, weighing and timing. When he isn’t in school he is at the gym or progressing in Tae Kwon Do.
  • Was an inspiration to us in self-control, drive and motivation. If he chooses not to eat in a restaurant in spite of being the foodie that he is, then that’s what he has done. He is unwavering in his objective and gives no creed to peer pressure or when others mock him at what he does. He even got his sister into working out and ingesting her proteins 🙂
  • Got his learners permit and started driving lessons.
  • Mr. Know-it-all that he is, can argue till he exhausts the other person to give-up the fight. It was a year for him and his sister to understand and accept their political leanings. It was also the year of one too many heated discussions on a variety of topics at home.
  • Did his fair bit of travel around the world to Australia, Fiji and Costa Rica and got to hang out with family and friends during those trips.
  • Grew more mature and better capable of managing his time and stress levels.
  • Began cooking his own meals to cater to hunger pangs at all hours of the day and night and to ensure his caloric intake was on target.

Her @ 19

Her 18 was all about going to college and acknowledging that she is an adult. And 19 of course has been all about her exercising her right to be an adult and wanting to be consulted, wanting to make her own choices regardless of approvals and identifying her career path. A glimpse into the milestones from the latter half of 18 and the first half of 19.

  • Graduating from freshman to sophomore in College
  • Dancing to her very first Bollywood song in public after having danced Indian classical dance for 12 years.
  • First international trip alone as part of a study abroad program to London, Prague, Vienna, Dublin and Berlin.
  • First birthday spent away from Amma & Appa when she got to party at a club till 2 am. Was still spoiled with a fancy cake and a lovely home cooked meal from a special special friend who is in my life courtesy my blogging.
  • Moved into her own apartment with friends where she now was responsible for cooking her own meals and keeping her space clean. She got to exercise her personal decor style in her cozy hideout.
  • Was busted by her grandpa for stocking beer in her apartment refrigerator 🙂
  • First year she took the car to college and started her commute back home during the weekends by herself.
  • Managed to continue dancing and be part of her dance school production of the play “Much Ado About Nothing” in classical Bharatanatyam.
  • Coached us into getting used to seeing less and less of her thanks to her crazy schedule at school (or so she claimed!!)
  • Worked on her first paid internship in corporate America on her first summer break from College.
  • Tried to steamroll her way into making a crazy trip that would have had Amma & Appa sprout a head full of gray. Fortunately the powers above were kind to the them and the universe conspired to not make this a reality.
  • It was truly her year for travel. In addition to the places listed above she traveled to Australia, Fiji and Costa Rica.



Back in this space – one day at a time

I think of this hideout often enough. Every time something important happens, my first thought is to visit this space to record it so it stays to be savored at a later date… but the intention stays an intention and time moves on. Do I not miss my writing? Do I get into bouts of writers block? Do I succumb to laziness? Does life intervene? The answer to all the above questions is a resounding “YES”. Have I wondered if I should just shut this space down? Again the answer is a “YES”. But then again it is my home, my place to be myself, to not be judged, to document snippets of my life as is, my joys, my sorrows, my state and my ruminations. As I read and edit essays my kids write to apply for internships, awards and admissions, I am assailed yet again by the yearning to write, to communicate, to document to myself my thoughts and daily mundane happening that bring with it a wave of nostalgia whenever I happen to revisit the page. That tells me I am not ready to close this home. I have things to say and this is my safe haven. I will return to drizzle, spill or pour my thoughts as I please each time I sign on. Am I here to stay, only time will tell. But for now I just know I will visit and sporadically print my mind on electronic paper and free ink and the only cost is my time…

First love

We go for our usual training run. He suddenly insists that he wants to follow a route he has never requested before. All reasoning goes unheeded. He wants to stay the course he chooses and wishes to be indulged once. So he is.

The path takes us down the road that has a huge park. Men in white are batting, bowling and cheering. He watches them wistfully. He comments that his team is playing that day. He notices and recognizes the team members. He keeps walking but his eyes follow the path of the bowler, the batsman and the fielder. His mind takes him down memory lane when he was one among them until age caught up and he had to let go to give the youngsters a chance. He wanted to leave when he was still valuable to his tiny team in a corner of the world that plays in a league for sheer recreation and love of the sport.

The body has let go of the sport that the heart refuses to. He watched them till his eyes could catch a glimpse of them. He didn’t say a word and he didn’t need to. She saw it all in his eyes, in his silence and in her familiarity of knowing him for 22 years. She smiled at him and felt with him. She couldn’t help but capture this memory for eternity in this space she is convinced will jog her memory cells when she needs it the most.

First love, it never does leave you! It may take a sabbatical when life intervenes but it always comes back to haunt you…