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submarine visit

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A couple of weekends ago, my college friend visited me for the weekend. I took him on a tour of San Francisco. We did the usual circuit: Golden Gate, Fisherman’s Wharf etc.,  But we did one thing that was unusual, took a tour of the submarine that is anchored somewhere along the pier (right next to where all the tour boats pick up or drop off people).

I had never been inside a sub before. It was amazing.  During the tour, the brain was picking up the ever so subtle rocking of the ship. It was a little bit uncomfortable.

But what struck me most about the submarine itself was the layout of the beds, the crew quarters, the officer’s quarters, their “recreation” area, the kitchens (yes! you read it right, there were two kitchens, one for the crew and one for the officers), bathrooms, and the washer. For some visuals, see pictures below…

Beds right above the torpedo bay

Backgammon and chess - recreation on the dining table

The submarine dormitory- crew sleeping quarters

Washer cum Bathroom for the crew

Additional sleeping area

The officers have private “bedrooms”!

During the tour, I tried to imagine the lives of the service men and women who put themselves at extraordinary risk and discomfort to defend the freedoms we enjoy.  Post their tour of duty most veterans live out their lives in modest to difficult circumstances, largely abandoned by the nation(s) they defended. I say we should be showering them with economic benefits for all the sacrifices they mad(k)e. This dole is absolutely well deserved. 

To all the military men and women, I salute you for your motivation, bravery, and sacrifice. Thank You!

For the rest of you, I urge you to take a tour of the submarine, the next time you are in the vicinity. If you care to think about what you see, I am pretty sure it will add a new dimension to your worldview.


Written by asterix98

March 27, 2011 at 5:26 am

Seven months later…

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Father Time marches on relentlessly. Unbelievably, it has been seven whole months since Lechi’s passing!


In these intervening months, I have realized this. During the time I was caring for Lechi, I was reacting to the mental and physical humiliation wrought on her by the ravages of the Voldemart of medicine. This reaction was manifest as a deeply rational response, in that, it was based on an understanding of the underlying biology, the capabilities of the state of the art in medicine, and the necessity of being a pillar of strength, to help Lechi through this enormous ordeal (I remember one time she was in her wheelchair and I was preparing her for bath when she looked at herself in the mirror. She was quite distressed by the growth on her neck. I had to lie through my teeth to console her that it was not as bad as she really thought it was. Maybe, Harischandra {his ideal life involved two virtues: never go back on your word, and, never lie, no matter what} needs exposure to situations like these to understand the virtues of lying). In effect, I had mentally dedicated myself to service Lechi’s every need to the best of my abilities, wherever possible. I did not allow myself to be overwhelmed by any of the extended ramifications of the situation (I must add, office work helped immensely to keep the mind occupied. Of course, we couldn’t have done without the tremendous support provided by the family).  I even carried this behavior to the logical extreme of thinking about and planning in advance for the final journey (As it would turn out, seems like Lechi anticipated this and surrendered to Yama the same morning that I was going to meet the funeral director!). In all this, I had an outward showing of raw emotion (as in crying) only on three occasions: first, the day I learned about the diagnosis, while driving. Second, the day the doctor came into the hospital room and gave us the “game over” news, and third, some minutes after Lechi’s passing, when I went into the bedroom to wake Mahati up, so that she could say her final goodbye. In short, throughout the ordeal, I had the demeanor of a clinical, hard-core rationalist.


This veneer started to unravel, almost immediately after Lechi’s final breath. I have noted elsewhere, in these blogs, that I wanted a pillow for her, so that she could be comfortable, when she was being taken away. Later that same day, I was whispering in her ear, that she would not be alone at the funeral home, and that I would be thinking of her. Grief, can stretch the rational fabric very thin. She has unfettered access to your pysche, announcing herself, at the oddest of times(in conversations, in the middle of work), in the oddest of places (shower, while shaving, in the car, while watching TV, in performing the monthly ceremonies, in a restaurant. Modern science tells us, that multiple universes are a possibility. I have wished for Lechi’s existence in one of those alternate realities. Just this afternoon, I happened to be near her dentist’s office and it triggered a whole flood of emotions). During these visits, Grief, can wreak enough havoc, to choke you up and tear you up. While I have not invoked a God, I do admit to have conjured up many irrational possibilities for maintaining continuity with Lechi. I had led Mahati on, with the notion of building a “Wish Machine”, so that she could bring back as Mahati says “you know who”. But, I am slowly abandoning this idea, as I learned from her school psychologists, that this could cause Mahati to completely mistrust me when she realized it was all make believe. Longer term, that is not at all good for our relationship, is the warning.


 Mahati’s mental gyrations have been even more tumultuous. When we were in India (mid to late August) she made it a point to share mom’s passing, even with strangers. My mother even observed her talking to herself, on her favorite swing (yes, she had discovered a go to spot in the complex playground). Nights were when she would miss “amma” the most. At other times, she has been upset watching kids interact with their moms. Over the past few months, there have been very violent outbursts (bloodshot eyes from the crying and a very strong urge to hurt), triggered by something very trivial. Initially, I would react but it took a lot of learning, talking, and patience to let these storms pass.  These episodes have started to subside. She has a good counselor at school who introduced her to another kid and they have exchanged notes. This was very important in that it has helped provide her the right frame of reference, as well as realize there were other kids like her. Now she is bolder in invoking “amma” in conversations. In fact, Lechi is my brahmastra, “secret weapon” that I very sparingly use, when I sometimes need her to comply. It works ! I have tried to come through for her but it is a continuous learning experience. On many an occasion, I have fallen woefully short. The “mom/amma” bar is really high! {I acknowledged this to my mom when I first came to the United States. I can still see how hard my mom (as does my mother-in-law)  tries to help with the situation. Truly amazing!} In spite of my middle-age, I still turn to her for relief.  This is probably my biggest source of despair, that my child will never know or have much of this infinite, indefatigable ocean of love, and always available resource called “amma”.  In general, dads are dispensable, moms are not. Old jungle saying : Dad-hunter, Mom-nurturer. That is the challenge I must step up to.


The ordinary has never been more desirable. I say ordinary because intact families take it for granted. Lechi and I enjoyed each other’s company. One of our favorite things to do together was watch Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie serials. I miss that! As I was putting together a slide show of Lechi’s life, many photographs from the trips we had taken together, really reminded me of the good times. {Incidentally, Lechi seems to have had a premonition of sorts even before she was diagnosed. She always asked me if something happened to her would I remarry. In the same breath, she would ask me to promise that I wouldn’t, which I did, and have every intent to honor till my time ends. A few days before she breathed her last, I was wheeling her towards the balcony, as she wanted to look out. She said in a weak drawn out voice,”Suresha…” paused for but a moment and then made a sound “tch!  …paravalai vudu (its ok) “.  I immediately understood what was on her mind, said so, and reiterated my promise. } I remember the many conversations where she aspired for a relatively simple life and was even looking forward to and imagining how our retired life ought to be.  As someone said, “Life happens when you are making other plans!”. On occasion, I do find myself mentally reaching out to her for bouncing off ideas or in making decisions. I also discovered I had only started to really know her and there were many unfinished conversations.  I have also felt, if I only knew we had so limited time with each other, I may have done things differently (for example, time spent doing my MBA would have been worth a lot more had  I spent it with her and Mahati instead). Even a heated exchange or disagreement is more welcome than this void. There is so much to be said just for the simple presence, and nothing more, of someone you love. In some ways, I miss caring for her, as it afforded me the opportunity to always be around her.


There is absolutely no doubt that Life as we knew it has fundamentally changed for Mahati and I. Mahati feels vulnerable enough that I have to negotiate, long absences during the day, with her. It seems like when Lechi was around, there was some intangible tacit purpose for everything I/we were doing or trying to achieve. Now that, strangely enough, seems to have disappeared. There is an ongoing effort , on my part, atleast, to determine the right balance between career choices/ambitions/priorities versus being there for Mahati and paying attention to her needs. One thing that I have lost for sure is the capacity for fitful sleep. Some days it feels like I have slept a lot only to discover the clock is showing 1 or 2AM. Thankfully, insomnia has spared Makat. Afternoon naps are more restful. Sometimes I do worry about what it will take to get Mahati safely into adulthood. Our changed lives means, I have to put in place living trusts, insurance, and the like, so a dependent minor, is adequately taken care of.


Amongst the most undesirable activities I have had to engage in, over the past few months, include removing many of Lechi’s social footprints, such as canceling her mobile phone service, credit cards, changing titles, changing ownership of bank accounts, etc., It was very uncomfortable.


But Life must go on. I am reminded of a song my dad used to sing around the house.  The lyrics go like this


When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Written by asterix98

March 10, 2011 at 8:42 am


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I finally got around to listening to a really wonderful interview with Brian Greene on Fresh Air. 

Some of the themes discussed

  • String theory is science bordering on science fiction, but some science fiction does become science fact over time.
  • multiverse – multiple universes, our universe is one of many universe populating a grandiverse
  • Possibility of the same interview in another universe?
  • Universe is infinitely big, but matter can only arrange itself in a finite number of ways. (deck of cards example)
  • Assumes physics on earth holds everywhere in the cosmos (support : we can look out to billions of light years and it all seems to hold)
  • origin and evolution of cosmos – (a variation on the multiverse theme) inflationary cosmology. big bang theory. Does not tell us what happened at time zero. Repulsive gravity. many big bangs.creates many universes.does not rule out that the same laws hold in these other universes.

(My color commentary)

Seemingly crazy idea justified as working with the arcane math inaccessible to common folk(math is a sure footed guide to how the universe works). Visiting  these parallel universes possible through mathematical journeys.

Following this there is a really intriguing discussion on quantum mechanics and its ramifications.

  • quantum mechanics. not relevant to larger things but is important at the smallest scale
  • probability vs Newtonian determinism
  • QM says you can only predict the likelihood of where a particle will be. How do we go from probability to a definite outcome. Physicists do not understand this yet.
  • Hugh Everett postulated really two parallel universes (one particle here and one there).Every experience is based on particles. Every possible reality happens in its own universe.

The multiverse notion is highly controversial.Because there is no way to interact or prove multiverse existence.

A ginormous revolution if multiverse theory is  true. (following the trajectory of copernican revolution to discovery of  multiple galaxies and our sun being one of billions of like stars) leading to “fantastic upheaval of our understanding.”

There is also an excellent discussion of  the macro scale (theory of gravity) to microscale (quantum mechanics) and where the twain shall not meet necessitating string theory. The discussion sort of culminates with the grand unknown of all “What is time?”

All in all, highly recommended listening. Guaranteed 34 minutes of intense cognitive pleasure. (Terri Gross is a really fabulous interviewer too).

As I was listening to it, I couldn’t help thinking how theologians and charlatans (at least the eastern sort) must be licking their chops, falsely assuming that multiverse theory affords them some scientific fodder, to fit the fantasies of yore and recast them as very deep and prescient understanding of the nature of the grandiverse.  The Sai Baba like and Siddha believers, if they latch onto this, will go on a rampage treating this new enlightment as complete validation of their far out beliefs. I can also see the now spin doctor Deepak Chopra profiting even more from weaving this into his healing sermons.

I also couldn’t help thinking our personal lives span many universes depending on the role we play. Also, our mental universes, inspite of the same physical reality, are sufficiently different, that they may as well be independent universes.

At any rate, all of this thinking is as far out as the science itself.

I am reminded of three quotes I heard somewhere on the radio or read it someplace.

Time exists so that everything does not happen at once. Space exists so that everything does not happen to me.


Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

Written by asterix98

March 4, 2011 at 3:46 am

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