Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: Life

Remembering a great teacher

1995 was a difficult year for me. I had finished the 8th grade at Indian School Muscat. However, instead of joining the 9th grade with my friends, I had to move to an entirely new school, Indian School Al-Ghubra, which was much further away and worse, was our arch-rival. My first few weeks at the new school were horrible. I missed my friends terribly; everyone was a stranger and I had a hard time adjusting to the way things were done at the new school. My first mid-terms were a disaster. While I had consistently scored in the 80’s to 90’s in my old school, here it was a different story. My grades were pretty bad. Looking back, I think it was mainly due to the stress of moving to a completely new environment. I was unsure of myself and I simply wasn’t used to the way things were done.

I still remember when I got my Math paper. I had scored a dismal 37.5 out of a 100. I was shell-shocked. I had never scored that low on a math paper. As I stared at the paper, tears welling up in my eyes, I heard a gentle voice tell me, “It’s only the first exam. You’re new here and I’m sure you’ll do better next time…” I looked up to see my Math teacher, Mr. Vida, looking at me with a little smile on his face. I didn’t believe him then, of course. More urgent things were at hand, namely soon-to-be irate Indian parents whom I would have to answer to, at home. It seemed rather insignificant and pointless to me at the time. But looking back, I can see it for what it truly was: a concerned and kind teacher taking the time to comfort an obviously-distraught student.

Over the next few years I became very familiar with Mr. Desmond Vida, and his wife Mrs. Pushpa Vida, or as they were known around ISG, “The Vidas”. I used to go to after-school tutoring sessions for Math at his place, which in addition to being extremely helpful were also quite simply, fun. A lot of my classmates were there and our study sessions regularly had less-serious interjections were we all laughed and joked, along with Mr. Vida. Those four years at ISG were formative and extremely important since they played a huge part in molding me and shaping me into the person I am today, and the Vidas were a huge part of that.

Mr. Vida didn’t simply teach us Math. He did more than that. He was a mentor and a guide who helped his students realize their potential. He consistently encouraged us. This was especially poignant to me, a student who never really fit in with the “learn-by-rote” mentality of the Indian system of education. Oftentimes while I was wondering if something was wrong with me, he would remind me that no, there was nothing wrong, I was a smart kid, and that I was simply better at applying knowledge than regurgitating it (an opinion that was vindicated years later when I finally moved to the US for college and started acing my Math classes).

After 10th grade, Mr. Vida taught us English. He was as effective in English, as he was in Math. He didn’t limit himself to the syllabus, but deliberately went outside it. We would hold long discussions in class about the subtleties and nuances of the prose or poem we were examining. To help us understand our lessons better, he had us present plays on some of the subject matter. I fondly recall those after-school rehearsals, still.

I graduated high school in 1999 and Mr. Vida was there to congratulate me and everyone else. He told us how proud he was of us and that we would all go on to do great things. That was over 13 years ago. Over the years we kept in touch intermittently through email and eventually, Facebook. Mr. and Mrs. Vida moved to Australia and continued doing what they do best: teaching.

Then this morning I found out that Mr. Vida had passed away due to an accident. I read the words, but they didn’t register. The kind, intelligent, jovial man in my mind’s eye didn’t jive with what I was reading. I was shocked. Fate snatched an exceptional man away from us, before his time. Like I said before, Mr. Vida wasn’t just a teacher. He was an exceptional human being. He guided us without telling us what to do. He encouraged us and helped us along when we faltered. He was never one to patronize either. Even though we were still somewhat childish, he understood that we were on the cusp of young adulthood and treated us with respect, and without passing judgement. He was always there for us to turn to if we needed help. When I heard the news, long-dormant memories came flooding back: the laughs, the jokes, late-night Math tutoring sessions before exams, and especially before the 10th grade board-exams. The play rehearsals where we’d end up fooling around (much to Mr. Vida’s consternation) rather than doing anything useful. Cruel irony then, that these fond memories were now tinged with sorrow.

Mr. Vida, you were a wonderful teacher and you were an inspiration. I am honored to have been taught by you. You will be missed, but not forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cruz and Mrs. Vida in this difficult time.


Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwaraha
Guru Saakshat Para Brahma
Tasmai Sree Gurave Namaha

Translation:
Guru is verily the representative of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
He creates, sustains knowledge and destroys the weeds of ignorance.
I salute such a Guru.

Ten years

So ten years ago, I started college. Yeah. Ten years. I remember the ten years before that, and they seem very long compared to these last ten years that have gone by. As people always seem to say… it just seems like yesterday, and I can vividly remember each of these last ten years. It has been an amazing decade for me. Friendships that have been through a lot, that have gone through trying times, and that have come out stronger. Experiences that have shaped me and changed me, from a wide-eyed college-kid into an adult.

Five years ago, I made a similarly introspective post and I wondered where I would be five years from then. Well, so here I am. 27 years old… almost 28… I’m a veteran of a war and I’m finishing up my military service, I’m a citizen, I’m gainfully employed at a job that I absolutely love, I still own a house and a car, and finally, last but not the least, I have found that special someone I’ve been looking for my entire life (and let me tell you, she’s AMAZING). There were many times during the last ten years that were hard for me… but I somehow got through it all, and actually ended up on top when all was said and done.

Looking back at my early days in this country I laugh at myself when I think of how naïve I used to be. But I guess that’s a part of life and it’s probably something that everyone goes through. All in all, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself. So, here’s to another wonderful ten years.

It’s hard to talk about this

I put off writing about this for a long time. Mainly because I didn’t want to think about it, and also because I wasn’t sure what I would really say.

My grandmother passed away last week. She was 72 years old. She was on life-support for a few days, but eventually she passed away – peacefully.

When I first found out, I didn’t feel anything. I don’t think I understood (and I still don’t completely) that she was gone. She had always been there for as long as I remember. I looked forward with anticipation every year to the day when the summer vacation started. That was when we would leave to go to my home town.

Some of my earliest memories of her, are of her teaching me different mantras and nāmams. Every evening, during the evening prayers, she would teach me one. Then in the morning, she would make me recite it to her. That summer I learnt a whole bunch of them. Sadly, I do not remember many of them now.

A few days ago, I sat down to eat dinner. I reached into my cupboard to take out a jar of dried mangoes. As I looked at it, tears welled up in my eyes. My grandma had made that for me. Dried mangoes are my favourite. Every time I’d come to India, she’d make sure she made some from that year’s crop of mangoes – these were made from mangoes that grew in our house. When she grew older and could no longer make them on her own, she had our house-maid make them, but she would supervise the entire process. I think that’s when I realized that she was truly gone. A little thing like that jar is what finally made me realize. But I know it is going to be harder for me when I go to India again… when I see her room… the pūja room…

The consolation is that she passed away peacefully, with my grand-dad, my dad, my mom, and my aunt by her side.

Whatever it is, she is in a better place now. And even if she isn’t here in this world now, she will live forever in our hearts and minds.

The Subject is Irrelevant

Sometimes I think that I know all there is to know about certain people who are very close to me. I even trust them implicitly. Then something comes along and blows it all apart. It took me about a year and a half to come to this decision. I didn’t realize how hurt I was until today, when I came to know more about the situation. It was pointed out to me that I was being resentful. I hadn’t realized that. I was going to try and mend things. I figured I could try my best – because I still have fond memories of an old friendship.

This was a person I trusted completely, and who was very close to me. Things changed – for the worse. I saw a side of this person that I never knew, existed. I was hurt. Even still, I figured that maybe there was something worth salvaging.

But then I found out something new. Something I had always suspected. Something that hid in the dark corners of my mind, that I didn’t consciously want to confront. Something I never really verified, or tried to verify. Until now. It’s a betrayal of trust that runs too deep. Some might say I am being inflexible. I don’t think so. A friend you cannot trust, is no friend at all.

Thoughts

So this whole “going to war” thing is a huge deal. Obviously. There are many reasons why I don’t want to go, and then there are reasons that I must. But anyway, that is not the point. Sometimes I think that getting away from here for about a year would be good. An escape? I don’t know. It feels like it sometimes. But I prefer the euphemistic term “welcome reprieve”. I like to think that things may change when I get back…

I find myself seriously questioning certain facets of my life. First, am I happy? I guess I am… but it would be more accurate to say that I am mostly content. My job is a pleasure – I do what I enjoy doing most – writing code. But at other times I feel seriously apathetic about my life. I mean, I go to work from 8 to 5. I pick up my dog, Honey, from Sadhana’s home (I am really thankful to her family for taking care of her), I spend maybe half an hour there with her parents and grandma, and of course, Juju and Nimbus. After that, I come back home. I check my mail (real mail), pay bills, have dinner, write some of my own code, and then I head to bed. That’s it. That’s my day… how boring.

I sometimes want to go back to being in College. Each day was different. But then again, when I was in college, I wanted the stability of a normal job. I guess the grass is greener on the other side. My friends are still here, but of course, they have their own lives and the things that they need to do. My family is here and I do talk to them on occasion (although I should call my mom and dad much more frequently). They’re always there for me and I have never felt neglected by them.

I guess things changed a lot when I graduated. When I was in school, there was always someone I could interact with on a regular basis. Now that’s not there. It’s much harder for me to interact with any of my friends because I don’t see them that much. I guess what I am saying is that I feel pretty lonely at times. In response to that most of my friends might be saying “get a girlfriend” and some might even say “go get married now”. As far as the second one goes, please, I am only 23. The first one? Well. I am picky. Not that there is a serious lack of women to go around, but the fact is that I am picky about who I want to be with. No, I’m not on the look out for “that special someone” and I don’t believe that there is any one person with whom I am compatible. I’m sure there’s a whole range. But of course, that set, when intersected with the ones that my parents would find compatible, leaves a much smaller set. But still, it’s one that can be worked with.

So now you might be saying “so what? just date someone for fun!”. Can’t do that. I consider it a waste of time. “WTF?!”, you say. Well.., let’s say I date a girl… I go out with her… and then what? Eventually there comes a point when I have to break it off because I can’t make the committment. I am going into the relationship without the intent of ever making one, so logically, what is the point? I guess it would be different if it was mutually agreed upon that there wouldn’t be a committment, but that is rarely the case. So in that sense, am I looking for someone with whom I can have a long-term committment? Yes. With can being the operative word. That word has a lot of import. I have to think about what my parents want as well. They would want me to marry a nice, Malayalee, Hindu, Nair girl. I am not averse to that at all. In fact, that’s what I would like ideally, because then my parents and I are in total agreement. Some of my friends say that I am closing out a lot of options if I think of it that way. Yes, that’s true. I am aware that as an individual there are definitely women who I am compatible with, but aren’t any of the things that my parents want (for me). Therein lies the problem.

An Indian Marriage isn’t just the union of two individuals. It is the union and alliance of two families. In that sense, I can understand the cultural isolation that my wife could feel in the presence of my family, and vice-versa. And also the awkwardness and lack of any common ground when both families meet. But then again, there are cross-cultural marriages that do work, and work well. So I guess I am saying is that I don’t want to go through the trouble of it all. Which in a sense might be chickening out. I myself am not sure what it is. There are certain things I want, and I think I might have them better if I were to be with a woman who is aligned as closely to me as possible. For example, I consider my culture very important. My customs and traditions are very important to me. This is something I would like to pass on to my children. And this isn’t because of some misplaced sense of pride or superiority. No. I consider culture and tradition to be something that has evolved over a period of so many generations and so many hundreds of years. Something built upon the traditions and observances of the generations that have passed. I feel I should try and preserve as much of that as possible. Otherwise, something precious will be lost. I might be able to make it work with a girl from a different culture – something that is still close to mine – a girl from Tamil Nadu for example. Tamilians and Malayalees have reasonably similar languages and customs. But even still, between these two similar cultures, there are a vast number of differences… and with differences, arises the possibility of conflict (but isn’t there conflict in any marriage?). What if she is as concerned about her culture as I am of mine? What would the children learn? Would they be confused? Would it be cause for conflict between she and I? Almost always, one side has to give way. The children end up knowing one side better than the other. Is that a problem? I don’t know. When I was younger, and therefore more idealistic and naïve, I thought I could easily make it all work, and it didn’t matter who I married. Somewhere along the way I realized that real life isn’t so simple.

I guess my dilemma right now is that I don’t know if I’m limiting my options too much. I can’t say. Most of my friends have someone special. Sometimes I find it hard being around them sometimes because I feel that I’ve missed out on that aspect of life. It would certainly alleviate a lot of the loneliness that I feel… But then again, I’m only 23… a lot can happen in the next few years.

So… am I being too picky? God knows… but that’s also why I think it may be nice to get away from all of this for a while… get everything in order.

I can’t believe I wrote all this crap on a public website for the world to see. Someday I am going to read this and laugh… or regret writing it… or possibly both. Is there such a thing as a regretful laugh?

Sad Day

I just found out that my friend Arun’s father passed away today. I only found out about it after reading Ed’s log. It was too late to go to the funeral since it was earlier in the day. I pray that God provides him and his family the strength to bear the loss.

I need a Soulmate

I need a soulmate. I think the closest one right now is my buddy Nasser, who pretty much has the same train of thought as mine. It’s uncanny at times.

But seriously… I was talking to Vibha yesterday and I said “Do you think you would be interested in finding out about the etymological differences between certain words and consonants in Malayalam and Tamil?”. I wasn’t surprised when she said “Umm… No.”.

Yeah, pretty nerdy right? Yes, it is and I need someone to understand me on that level! Is there anyone? I mean I really find stuff like that interesting… and other stuff too… I have no hope.

What I Can’t Have

There are many things in life that come to me easily. There is, however, one thing that eludes me. I cannot have it no matter how hard I try. Very much like Tantalus’ grapes.

But I am not disheartened. I believe even if I may not eventually have what I want, it is the struggle to have it that counts. In the end I better myself.

Mistakes

I really should learn from past mistakes…

Oh well, maybe things will eventually fall into place.

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