Grandpa

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

– H. W. Longfellow

I miss you already, Grandpa. You were my greatest and only inspiration. While no one can replace what you mean to me, I carry with me every word and moment I have had the honor of sharing with you.
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Rebounding to Normalcy

Since I last wrote, the Germans have won their 4th World Cup, I have learned how to read music, regained most moving ability of my finger, read a few more annals of Jeeves, turned 28, returned to the pool *does joyful backflips*, discovered another part of the city, planned out my September travels to New York (again!) and Texas, and put my foot beyond my circle of comfort. Good?

Birthdays, as I have repeatedly stressed over the years, have always been a big deal in my20140724_201707 family. We’ve always a had a party, complete with cake and games. The days, or sometimes weeks, preceding this event are spent shopping for new clothes and selecting an array of gifts.
20140727_165426Since I’ve spent the past four years away from family, I normally take it upon myself to do all of that. This year was no different. A week’s worth of shopping and accumulating useful things for myself all in the name of celebration. What did I treat myself to? A vast selection of clothing, just because it is a necessity, a MacBook Air and Bose QuietComfort earphones. My parents added to that with a very lovely diamond pendant (I am yet to receive it!!). The day of my turning 28 demanded a chic, if I might say so myself, haircut and a visit to the spa for some well20140723_180131 manicured nails. The colleagues indulged in delicious ‘gourmet’ do(ugh)nuts and my new found family of Chicago based friends took my out to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in the city. Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula marked the close of another fantastic birthday bash.

My return to the pool possibly topped off that week, if truth be told. I was nervous as I pulled on my swimsuit, having taken it out of its five week prison in my desk drawer. The familiar scent of chlorinated water put me at ease almost instantly.  The motions came back in luxurious rhythm, almost like I’d never been away. Just the stiffness, or lack thereof, in my left hand alerted me to the difference in my swimming dynamic. I really felt like a fish in water. My version of banal commonality, the everyday routine, has near been established with this and I am a jubilant gym rat once more!

I have always been bothered by the fact that I cannot read music. I have a good ear for music 20140809_202645 and can effortlessly pick a tune, sing and play it be ear. I know the difference in pitches and quite early on identified that I was partial to minor scales and other off-beat notes than the regular ones. Certain rhythms speak to me and I can easily identify instruments and composers. But being unable to sight read music, I have always considered a great failing in me. Naturally I set forth to rectify that! Coursera has been of great assistance in this pursuit. I’m on my second music theory class and can proudly proclaim that I am now capable of actually reading music! So much so that I even designed a tattoo centered on the treble clef!

As summer comes to a height and close and I wade through the many tasks that August has ushered in with it, including the necessity of traveling back to New York and setting foot in Texas which I am utterly preened about, I try to wrap my head around the basic necessities that make waking up every day worth it. The dawn of a new day has always signified, for me, another prospect to pick up something new. A novel thought, an introduction, a tread upon unfamiliar territory, perhaps, while keeping in sight all that I’ve gathered up so far.

The Best Laid Plans of Knives and Men

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Expressing gratitude 🙂

The past two weeks have been rather single handed (pun very much intended!) with just the regular things happening and some very regular things fallen off the daily routine owing to this large cast I am wearing on my left hand. I’m making the best of it though, looking at the bright side of it all and discovering that even a self-confessed cynic/realist is capable of enjoying this little bump in the road.

Owing to the presence of some hefty bandaging on my hand, I am consigned to using one hand and a finger and have decided to resort to plainly listing out things that have happened and what I have learned, discovered or otherwise observed in the past week.

(I ought to mention that all medication/drugs/pills were administered by medical personnel and or or prescribed for me).

  • Everyone has had a ‘crazy’ accident – The gasps of sympathy and grimaces of revulsion that have
    greeted me preceded wishes for my speedy recovery, minimal pain and several revelations of injuries, of lost digits of the hand, unmovable parts of claws and paws and the like. I only wondered why no one bothered getting all of it fixed.
  • Non-responsive limbs are very very unnerving – The human body (and mind) are terribly complex and no matter how carefully you guard yourself and it, s&^! does happen. I, for one, would willingly do whatever is necessary to regain control of my body. It belongs to me.
  • Surgeons are fantastic people – mine was, at least! Calm and brilliant with a sense of humor. He allayed my shock and rising fears with just a few words, treated me like a child and ultimately fixed me. I appreciated that he actually talked to me, explaining not just the procedure but also gathering information and then relaying the situation, treatment and risks, in a very thoughtful manner. As a friend with medical experience would to one without.
  • Preparing oneself for surgery is stressful – The thought of being in a dreamless drug induced sleep while people in scrubs operate on you is extremely disturbing. They were all names floating in my head – they were the ones that prepped me, poked things into me and provided me with confidence that I was in good hands. I’d be alright.

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    The pills
  • Drug induced euphoria is good while it lasts but horrible after – I don’t like it. The flashes of light, lethargy, hunger and, in my case, the pain. I wanted to be off pain killers – Vicodin – as soon as possible. I wouldn’t willingly do that again.
  • Post-surgery cravings are strange – I hadn’t eaten for over 18 hours, not even a sip of water. However, food was farthest from my mind the morning after. I did hanker for a chunk of Hawaiian bread roll with vegetables. No idea why. I am attributing it to the medication.
  • More time during the day – Everything takes twice as long, but I still seem to have more time for myself. Possibly because I am not running around as much, or biking, or swimming, or shopping 🙂
  • Swimming really is my addiction – Until my finger has begun to mend to a good extent I will need to stay out of the pool. 80 laps in 40 minutes, two and a half years, some 45 pounds lost and now a month’s hiatus 😦
  • Everything seems closer and hence walkable – I can’t operate any type of vehicle for now and prefer to avoid public transport when I can for fear of hurting my injured hand. Chinatown (and bubble tea!) is only a 10 minute walk away from my apartment! I can explore the city during lunch break – the chocolate factory near my office, cafes, and food trucks.
  • Being able to keep your senses together in dire situations helps – I smiled from the get go. Through the pain, the nervousness, the decision to be operated upon… All around me swore they would have broken down had they been in my shoes. Internally I was freaking out, hyperventilating when left alone urging myself not to collapse. It helped me get through it. Of course, I cried when I informed my parents, and whimpered in my drugged stupor when I desperately needed an emotional release. But that was it. My reasoning was only, “If I disintegrate now nothing will be accomplished.”
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\m/ always!

Just Breakfast

Who knew opening a packet of bagels could result in a traumatic experience?

As with most sharp objects, I treat knives with a extremely heightened sense of cautiousness because the thought of being on the receiving end of a sharpened metallic bit, quite perfectly shaped to cause bodily harm, does not appeal to me one bit. Or to anyone, I should hope! Unfortunately, that judicious handling was not enough. Two days ago, exactly a month to my birthday, I ran a sharp knife right through the radial intrinsic tendon (I later found out) of my left index finger. Now, as I type with nine fingers, my forefinger stiffly moving with the rest of my hand and not really contributing to much else, I wonder what induced me to attempt to take a knife at a piece of tape holding close the bagels.

It happened in a split second – the knife in my right hand jammed right into the left, just above the joint, and the blood began to flow. I rushed to the restroom only thinking, “I can’t swim with a cut this big!” because I’d seen some white bits showing through the crimson red flow. I nearly lost consciousness, hyper-ventilating, as two of my colleagues washed up and bandaged my finger up. Half in shock and half delirious, it is a wonder that I managed to walk to the emergency center to be told that I had all but severed the tendon and needed to see a surgeon. A few hours and a lot of blood late20140624_171532r, the hand surgeon very patiently explained the situation, showed me what I had done, gave me a rather thorough tour of my gaping wound – to the bone, muscle and tendon! – and told me, while patting me on the back, that I would require surgery to reattach the tendon else I would have to live with a deficit in motion for ever even if my body successfully adapted to a lazy finger.

Now I sit here with a bandaged hand sporting four stitches and some derma-super-glue, unable to relieve my woes in the pool, pleased that I didn’t cause any damage to my nerves, skeptical and beginning to freak out about the surgery I am scheduled to have in a few days. The worst of it all is that helpless feeling when trying to get my finger to respond to me. I know my brain is telling it to move, but I don’t see it change position. It is extremely frightful when your own body refuses to listen to you.

I go in to a weekend of a birthday picnic, TILT and a steakhouse dinner for another’s, breakfast with one more, all the while dreading the dawn of Monday when I will have a regional block – a nerve numbing of the entire arm – and be sedated for most of the day. The recovery should, I was promised, be easy, but the internet (blast the amount of information we are privy to!) confidently tells me that I ought to be in therapy for 4 weeks and should get back to full motion within 10.

I woe the lack of physical exercise in this period having proved that keeping fit helped me get through the blood loss and shock with more ease than most. I can’t swim for a while now and must make do with running or some other activity which does not require the use of my hand.

From my sluggish and lost forefinger to you, until after the surgery at least, beware of knives!

Summer of Jeeves, Football & Human Sacrifice

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John Hancock Center rising into a summer sky

I fell prey to the media hype surrounding The Game of Thrones last year, folded and bought the books (because it would have been immoral of me to watch a TV series before I read the written word!), finished the first four books in six or seven weeks during my commute, and kept the fifth unfinished for a year. Until I found out that the 4th season was coming to an end! It took me less than a week to finish reading A Dance with Dragons. Of course, in keeping with true George R. R. Martin style, I did gasp in wonder at the end of it. Piecing together the history of A Song of Ice and Fire is a chore in itself and I look forward to reading World of Ice and Fire, just to gather my bearings before book 6 arrives, hopefully in 2015!

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Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure

I have, in the mean time, been immersing myself in the world of Jeeves & Wooster, the TV series and the works of Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. He is my father’s favorite author, the style of writing and situational comedy of it possibly being the lure. One can never tire of Bertie Wooster’s exploits and the fact that it is Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry that brought them to life makes it even more enjoyable. The Anglophilia in my life continued as I (FINALLY) watched Mr. Eddie Izzard live at the Chicago Theatre! Just two weeks ago! His opening line was “Let’s talk about human sacrifice” and for the next two hours regaled the lot of us with fantastically intelligent and sensibly silly situations that make up the essence of his Force Majeure tour.

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Biking to work

The Midwest lived through one of the coldest winters in a long time which saw the Great Lakes freeze over about 90% of the way, and the Chicago River also glaciate with the unrelenting onslaught of bitter cold. This, for the first time in very many years, had me yearning to see and feel the sun. I, who has claimed to despise solar heat, now find myself  wishing for warmer temperatures! The thought of wearing dresses and skirts and tops without the necessity for a jacket of any sort is appealing. I’ve been biking around the city when I can, overloading my shoe closet with wedges and open boots, pulling out cotton clothes and begging for an ounce of warmth so that I might immerse myself in Chicago’s summer while it lasts!

The summer of 2014 is obviously an exciting one for any football fan. The World Cup at Brasil! For someone who has watched and played football from a very young age, determining which teams to support at the club and national levels, it is very very bothersome to have people jump onto the fan bandwagon when during (i) the World Cup (ii) the Euro Cup (iii) when a team begins to win. It’s good sport and everything, to see thousands of people joining in the fun and celebrations. A common cause, if you will, to see one’s team through to the end. It’s an emotional 90 minutes; I remember crying when Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy two years ago. But, if you are going to join the ‘true’ supporters, do not presume to know the sport better than them! I love gaining followers for my team, but if that’s going to happen only every 4 years, you’re not the one I want to watch a game with.

Anyway, I’ve been a steadfast follower of Der Mannschaft. There’s a certain charm in their way of playing football that enamored me from the early 90’s. Obviously, Jurgen Klinsmann’s influence on them also played a huge role in my rooting for the team. I do not claim allegiance to any one player, just the team. So, go Deutschland!

It hasn’t yet begun, summer in the Midwest, in Chicago, the city that transforms into a fantastic vibrant purveyor of a few warm months. I look forward to it!

Spring Hopes

As the change of seasons tease us here in the American Midwest, what with the seemingly never ending cold, Chicago has suddenly burst out from under the grey blanket to reveal its wondrous beauty.

I ventured out for the first time today with the aim of reveling in the colors that the city has to offer. A promise of spring.

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Self Hydration

The title of this post is in the very literal sense, to begin with at least. I have been ill, down with a fever, chills, cough, uncontrollable sneezing… the package, if you will. It is not a pleasant experience because I lose my sense of taste for a certain period of time and am suddenly only able to consume, if at all, copious amounts of flavored liquid in the form of soups – chicken noodle or egg drop for protein, orange Vitamin Water and warm water. Thus hydrating the humble self that wants to remain under warm knitted blankets. I couldn’t, however, remain under blankets, for I was on production support, which meant that I had to deal with releasing my applications in addition to troubleshooting and solving any issues. It is, to me, one of the most interesting parts of my job because what I have learned when on the on-call roster amounts to more than what my regular work could have granted me. A lot of people dread it because it puts you in the spot, but I revel in it.

I began this year, as I mentioned in an earlier post, traveling. I didn’t really take a lot of time off last year and it did take its toll on me, in that things became a little monotonous – as much as it possibly can for a person who does something new/different every weekend! I needed the jolt of invigoration. Being by myself does that for me. Be it sitting at a coffee shop with a P. G. Wodehouse or Jane Austen novel, or driving some place with Strauss (Johann) playing in my ears. I needed something other than swimming, which in itself always relaxes me. It is fun going places by yourself. I enjoy it. It sparks off something in you. A sense of freedom and calm repose. Except for me, travel always means discovering things. Whether it is in a place I’ve been to before, or a new one. I have stumbled upon some absolute gems of places – bookstores, museums, neighborhoods, dessert shops, restaurants, art stores, antique stores, parks, quite beaches… And I have met an array of interesting people with whom I might share very little or have a lot in common with. It has always been an experience I remember.

I am a city girl, having grown up in one and chosen to live in one now. I like the bustle of it and cannot imagine not hearing the cacophony of motor vehicles every morning. I do, however, long for some sort of respite from it every now and then. I do drown it all out when I swim, when I hear only the splash of water and the sound of my own breathing as bubbles float past me. Going places, though, proves to me that everything can still surprise me. How many ever times I have done it before. Self discovery, self hydration.

What’s Past is Prologue

Four months, a New Year, a family visit, three vacations, a promotion and a bonus, fancy restaurants and coffee shops, a feDSCN3522w thousand dollars short, 15 pounds lesser and 2 sizes smaller, new friends, a music class, a new phone, 1000+ pictures, and 25 revisions has lead to this moment: a cup of coffee – a fancy peanut butter latte! – two cups of English Breakfast tea, a butter croissant, a Pandora One subscription and the decision to decisively break the silence and write.

It has been too long. A lot has happened in that time and if I do not say it all soon I might never get to eternalizing it on my blog, which has become the only holder of a written account of my life. Or at least those parts I wish to share with the internet.

20140422_184827Where do I begin? Work? Yes, that journey is nearing three years (come June) and it has proven to me what I am capable of. My job title was recently altered to be ‘Senior Engineer’ owingDSCN3154 to two promotions in two and a half years. It’s a rather ego boosting position to be in when most people wait at least four years to get here. Receiving the highest possible rating two years in a row did not make me wonder what I was doing so spectacularly because I have no idea how to do it otherwise. I am not boasting here, that’s me being humble and very honest. When you love what you do, wherever it is, there is no possibility of you giving it less than your all, is there? You just do it because it is the only way you know how to do it. It’s not a choice. There is now the conscious blanket of the need to deliver. It isn’t pressure, just a more visible position that makes me feel that if I stumble way too may people are going to notice so I cannot afford to make any mistakes. Or if I do, I need to be able to get over it smoothly. That said, I really enjoy where I am now. Working and living life the way I’ve really wanted to.

I rang in the New Year with my parents as we traveled down the east coast. While most of our time was spent in the state of NewThe Golden Gate Bridge York, we managed to have a well overdue family vacation, enjoy the frigid cold of my beloved city of Chicago, and re-bond. It gave the rest of my family cause to worry because my parents approved of and delighted in my lifestyle (see previous posts regarding marriage eligibility, family honor, blah blah) but that has been relegated (finally!) to the zone of, “Mind your own beeswax, please”. Hopefully that stays where it is and I can move on! Traveling. Yes, that bug has caught up with me. I have been to New York City twice this year, watched Placido Domingo perform live, seen the wonders of a frozen Niagara Falls, thoroughly enjoyed the Polar Vortex because moaning about it wasn’t going to make it go away and usher in the sun, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, walked an average of 10 miles a day for 7 days in San Francisco and NYC, and have resolved to continue to explore Chicago through food, tea/coffee shops and books.

20140430_204541The one thing I have always maintained, with arrogant resilience, is that I know my own mind better than anyone else. This ought to be true of every person. If you don’t know yourself, well… I’m not sure. I like having my own identity, weirdness and normalcy combined to form an exclusive being. As you grow up, you do pick up traits from others but you make them your own. The past 27 years of living and observing has taught me that an uncertain and unthinking mind only leads unnecessary troubles later, as has been repeatedly proven by members of my own family who have, and are still, dealing with their digressions and half-opened cans of worms with no closure in sight.

The past defines us, yes, but it only provides us with a skeleton upon which we place a bit from the moment we are currently living in. The past is prologue.

 

 

[Most of the past four months can be depicted in pictures – http://instagram.com/srutsam]

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10,000 Days and More

There aren’t very many people with whom I am acquainted that would be excited over something as trivial as their 10000th day of existence. When I reached it, I was. I celebrated with a performance of La Traviata at the Lyric Opera. That may sound pretentious but it is true. It still remains that I love the opera and classical music, even if it makes my friends call me posh.

IMG_091210000 days and counting, really. Let’s get back to that. Yes, everyone who is past 27 and a half years of age would have hit this milestone. I would not have remembered had I not had the sense to mark it on my calendar some years ago when I originally did the calculation. It also gave me a reason to write about some of the things that have happened to me in the past six months since I no longer have the urge to complete half-written and forgotten blog posts.

Since my last post, I’ve become even more involved in swimming. More than I ever envisioned myself being. I hit a lovely record of completing 50 laps or 100 lengths, in 50 minutes. Yes sir! It is feat enough for me. Almost two years since I re-discovered my love for the pool, chlorine allergies and all, and I’m still going strong. It’s just the feel and sound of the water against me. My mind revels in those moments of zen. I fell I am at absolute harmony with the water because it really is only the sound of my own breathing I am aware of. That and the splashes as I splice through the calm waters. Without my full conscious knowledge of the fact, I have shed nearly 40 pounds since I began! I shocked my mum, when she saw me last month, and my dad, just yesterday.

Apart from my several gadgetry acquisitions in the latter half of the year, which included two tablets – I’ve always wanted more than one OS!! – to satisfy the geek in me, several books and immersions into the German language – which I still find fascinating and largely interesting despite the very many rules and exceptions and formations – I received some rather ego-boosting news on the professional front.

My manager, now former, left me with an exceptional mid-year review. The highest rating that one can merit, actually. It was humbling as much as it was an attestation to my aspirations. While I’ve always known that I’d prefer to be on the managerial side of things in the long run, I never really thought it would show just two years into my career as a software engineer. I’m good at programming, I love code and the nuances that come with sitting in from of everything tedious about it. I still revel in it. But apparently I’m also very good at the other side of it, the processes and people part of any job. I was put into the position of making all those decisions only because no one else on my team seemed to want to take on that responsibility. Now, I’ve grown so much into it, that I hold ‘true 20131208_150255qualities to become a feature team lead‘. Yeah, it’s enough of an ego rub there. The humbling side of it for me is that fact that I did it all unknowingly. I was taken by surprise when I received the news. It just made me resolve to work harder towards it. It did nothing to change my attitude to the work I now do because I know that I still have time to make a lead. I need to stock up on experience and be more comfortable and accepting of people. I have that much more to learn because it’s a much tougher position to be in.

The end of another year approaches, marking my fifth winter in the mid-west and the cold chills of Chicago, a city that I have grown to love and call home. I have grown in my independence and strengthened my resolve and hold upon life. I have learned and lived through another year’s worth of trials and achievements, and while there are many things I would not want to face again, I know that I have become a better person because of all of them. Here’s to another 10000 and more!

Behold a few sights that did capture me so.

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“There are book…

“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and […]