The Story of the Lucky Bamboo and the Container that Holds it

When you leave, you leave so much behind.

I was fortunate enough to met him in person only a couple of times.
I insisted he at least briefly stop by one the parties we hosted during the holidays.
Despite his busy schedule, he swung by to just say hello to Amma and me.
That is when he brought this lucky bamboo.
He gave it to Amma, said hello to me and rushed off.
He didn’t even stay for dinner.

I was fortunate enough to live beside her as a neighbor for only about a year.
Then, I had to pick up and leave.
She is Gujarati but spoke excellent Tamil.
Ari adored her daughters.
She shared walks with me.
One rainy day, she made the most excellent sago vadais that I ever had and served it with chai.

These two people never met each other.

When I picked up and left CA, I left behind all the potted plants that people had ever given me during my 15 year stint in CA.
I left them with a girl Kavita Patel) who has a green thumb and who I knew would give the plants more love and attention then Appa or I ever did.
All the roses that had been brought to me over the years, that had been trimmed by Appa or Kumar, planted carefully, nourished with love and had blossomed in the spring…. I had to leave all those behind in the backyard.
I had to leave them behind because there was no place in the minivan after we had packed 2 kids, 1 dog and some bare essentials to start over our life in Austin.
There was just no space…except for the tiny lucky bamboo he had given me.

The night before I left CA, she had left a bag hanging on my door knob.
The bag had a plastic container filled with aloo masala and poori in an alumininum foil pack.
She texted me later saying that “You have several 1000 miles to drive in couple of days. I don’t want you to worry to stop for food. Enjoy the pooris and aloo masala.”

When I picked up and left CA, I brought a piece of each of them with me.

After we settled in, I re-planted the lucky bamboo he gave me in the plastic container she gave me.
Every time I water the bamboo, I say a prayer for them both and their lovely families.
I also say “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”.
Translation: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all”.

The He in the story is my buddy Gopal Kumarappan.
The She in the story is my friend Ami Parikh.

On Death & Survival

Picture this.

As far as you can see on the horizon, there is green paddy fields. The paddy is swaying wildly in the strong winds that are howling through your ears. Thunder starts rolling. The sky is darkening with black clouds as she is crossing the fields and heading back home in a rush. She is careful as she rushes…because she is carrying precious cargo in her womb. She pauses for breathe under a tall straight lean tree and hoping she can get back home before it starts pouring.

That is when lightning strikes that tree, rages through the trunk, cuts through it like a sharp razor and splits it in half. Sparks fly off. She screams and holds on to our womb in a instinctive movement that humanity has perfected neuromuscularly to protect its off spring.

That is one of the first stories of my early life that she told me over and over again. She instilled deep strength and incredible power within me by highlighting the fact that even lightning couldn’t hurt me.

She called me “A survivor”.

That is what I told myself over and over again as I grew up and struggled through every curve ball that life threw me and every time I got lost – “I am a survivor.”

That is what I told myself when life threw me into dark pits that I had to claw myself out of – “I am a survivor.”

She also said that that stormy day on the fields, the dark sky eventually cleared and the sun came out, shone bright and made the rain drops on the paddy fields sparkle like diamonds.

Over the last 4 decades she reminded me (her Leo daughter) to look up hopefully at the sky during the dark stormy times because the bright sun (Leo) will eventually appear.

On Sunday (July 30) evening, it was a bright beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies.
There were no dark clouds.
There was no lightning.
There was no storm.

Well, except for the storm that raged in my heart which was filled with grief and sorrow.

I looked at her lifeless beautiful face. I moved my face to her heart hoping it would rise and sink rhythmically.

Perhaps, this was just a bad dream that I could wake from.
Perhaps, if I remembered what she said and, if I looked up at the sky with hope…. perhaps, the storm in my heart would pass.

So, I moved my gaze from her heart and looked up at the bright sky. Tears welled up. I knew she would hate to see me crying. She wanted me to be always dignified…no matter what the situation was. I tried to keep my eyes dry.

I told myself over and over again – “I am a survivor.”

I gathered up every ounce of strength in the body, mind and soul that she had blessed and nourished me with.

And, then, I did the unthinkable.

The one that gave me life,
The one that cooked and fed me all my favorite food,
The one that strived hard to give me the great equalizer (education) of all,
The one that shared her love for prose and poetry with me,
The one that urged me to live a happy and good life filled with positivity,
The one that held me inside her womb for 9 long months,
The one that carried me in her heart for the last four decades,
The one I called Mommy,
THE ONE,
I fed her to the fire and watched her be consumed by it.

The crematory played Poet Vairamuthu lyrics that my brain failed to comprehend (but appreciated) as I sauntered out.

Then, I found a spot under a tree, closed my eyes, focused on my breathe and tried to meditate to soothe my incredibly brave and strong heart that had been ripped apart in places that can never heal during this lifetime.

That is when a gentle breeze came by to brush my cheeks and hair. Mom loved a gentle breeze (called ilan thendral in Tamil) as much as I do. I figured it was her away of trying to soothe me. So, I took the focus away from my pain. I turned my attention to appreciating the breeze, to feeling utter gratitude for her and the moments I shared with her.

My mom, T.S. Devaki, is survived by by a family that adored her, friends whose life she touched and her “survivor” daughter.


Thank you to my dear friends Subashini Ganesan and Punitha Nagarajan who dropped everything to rush to pick me up at the airport and drove me all the way across the state to get me to Daddy as quickly as possible. Even with all rush, Suba remembered to bring a big thermos filled with coffee to perk up my spirit.

Thank you to Chander Thathamanji Jayachander Uncle for rushing to spend the last few moments with his cousin (Mom) and bringing a beautiful and fragrant flower garland to adorn her.

Thank you to my brother in law Srinivasan Nagarajan (and his family) for rushing to be with Daddy and me and for carrying Mom during the last rites ceremony.

Thank you to my sister’s family members Karthikeya Sivasenapathy who have moved heaven, earth and everything in between to not only provide care for Mom but also arrange for a beautiful funeral ceremony for her.

Thank you to Chittapa (Daddy’s younger brother and Mom’s cousin) and Chitthi for being my pillars of support during these last few days and guiding Daddy through all the funeral proceedings.

Thanks to Kumar Nagarajan for rocking the airline reservation system to get me across the globe to be with family.

Friends – My heartfelt thanks to all of you for the outpour of your condolences messages. I am sorry that I have been unable to return each of your messages personally… please know that I deeply appreciate all of your thoughtfulness and encouraging words.


The crematorium played a Poet Vairamuthu song that soothed my heart last Sunday evening. But, due to my grief, I couldn’t comprehend or remember the words. I asked many folks who attended the funeral for the lyrics…but they didn’t know it.
One of the drivers who had brought me to the crematorium, drove me around town last week. I asked him if he remembered the lyrics. As luck would have it, he is a poetry lover like me. So, he did remember the lyrics. The song is called “Jenmam niRaindhadhu

Lyrics and meaning here.

Even if you don’t understand a single word of Tamil, the pathos in the song will evoke healing in your heart.

Exchanging Notes

The house is unusually quite because 1 is down.

Adi is out of town.

Ari and I are having a fun game that he started about 1/2 hr back.
We are exchanging notes on lil post it notes.
He is using my desk as the postbox to deliver notes to me.
He has asked me to use one of the stair railings as the postbox to deliver notes to him.

I love this game of exchanging jokes, puzzles and love notes.
These are the kind of games that keep me young.

Kumar is yelling for us to “stop it” and focus on our work.

Meanwhile, I have this big pile of notes that Ari would like me to continue writing back and forth on.

I wonder what he will say in the next note, and the one after that and one after that…..

Yo Austin – Give Them a Brake

Yo #Austin – Quit complaining about road construction on Mopac, 183 and on I-35.

Quit it. Right now.

Long time ago, Appa worked in a car company.
The company had imported German machines to do some modelling work to reduce the drag for the car hood.
Appa’s supervisor had picked him and one of his other buddies to be the only 2 chosen ones for that special work.

The German machines had to be confined within an air-conditined room.
Now, picture this. It is super hot in Chennai where the car company was located.
There was no air-conditining on company premises in those days.
If you are one of the chosen ones to do your work in an air-conditined room, can you imagine what an enviable spot you are in?

Not just that.
To optimize the usage of the machine, Appa’s supervisor decided to keep it running at all times with short breaks every 12 hours for the machine to cool down.
This meant, that Appa and his colleague had to take turns working day and night-shifts.

I clearly remember Appa eating dinner in the night and helping us get to bed.
He would don his muffler and work clothes and leave for the night shift.
He would come back in the morning and help Amma get us ready for school.

When I came back home, I would ask Amma if he got enough rest during the day time.

Of course, not. At the max, he would have gotten a 1 hour power nap.
He would have helped her. He would have helped out at the temple. He would have helped run some fundraiser. He would have run around all day.

Because, of his irregular work schedule, he got Mondays off.
So, guess what he did on those Mondays?
He would bring my sister and I lunch that was freshly cooked at home.
Some fresh made sambar, beans and potato.
Not just that. He would not take a bus.
He would bike about 7.5 miles to get to our school in 100F.
He would bring the food.
He would stay with us for lunch.
Then, he would wipe our mouth clean with a little towel.
He would say goodbye and then would ride the bike back again another 7.5 miles back home.

Let us fast forward now.

Yesterday night, I was driving back across Mopac Expressway from downtown.
I was rushing the kids back home to get them to bed.
Suddenly, the traffic comes to a screeching halt.
I was one of the fore-runners who saw how many police cars was trying to keep the construction workers safe.
I was one of the fortunate few who saw how the construction workers were using their cranes to lay down blocks and do construction to extend a lane on Mopac.

Y’all know how much of an impatient jerk I can be when kept waiting.
But, not yesterday evening.
I was very patient.
I drove cautiously to ensure the safety of the construction workers.
I wanted to role down my windows and say “Y’all are my heroes”.
But, I didn’t.
The only reason was I didn’t want to get another ticket from the cops for distracted driving and land in trouble with our very own Kumar who bails me out on every occasion.

These construction workers and cops are like Appa.
They are spending their nights away from their loved ones.
They are doing night shifts to enable humanity in their very own way.
They are putting our tax dollars to work.

So, please don’t complain about construction in and around Austin.

When you see them next time, on my behalf, blow them a kiss or give them a thumbs up and be thankful.

On What you are seeking and How it is seeking you

It has been almost 3 years since we moved to Austin.

Friends have been urging me to go see the beautiful peacocks that rove the Radha Madhav Dham grounds.

I went to Radha Madhav Dham a hand full times in the last few years. But, each time, I rushed in and out and couldn’t see the peacocks.

We had to make two visits to Radha Madhav Dham in the last week…last Monday and last Friday.

The boys told me they saw peacocks on Monday.

I still hadn’t see them.

Then, on Friday evening, I sat through an hour of traffic and finally managed to get to Radha Madhav Dham for a mini recital that my friend Anand-Ji had arranged.

It was late evening and my photo battery was ready to die. So, Arya found me a power outlet at the end of the main hall. I planted myself there and managed to click a few pictures.

One of my favorite Shiva songs – Bho Shambo – started playing. I was immersed in it and started having a mind conversation with my favorite dude of all times – Lord Shiva.

I truly adore him..for several reasons.
He is a maverick/non-conformist like me.
He doesn’t give a rat’s a** about whether people judge his looks or attitude.
Kumar says my quick temper and subsequent Rudra Thandavam matches Lord Shiva as well.

Anyways, on to my mind conversation – “Shiva, when can I come hang out with you on Mt. Kailash. When are you going to get me the ticket? It is high time. I have been waiting all my life. And, you of all people, know how impatient I get when kept waiting. So, get moving, my friend.”

That is right about the time Bho Shambo ended

Then, distractedly, I turn towards the glass door to look at the beautiful fountain on the Radha Madhav Dham grounds.

Guess what sought me out?

A bunch of peacocks and pea-hens. They were on the other side of the glass door……patiently staring right at me.

That is the right spot to end this story. So, I will.

What are you seeking?

What you seek is seeking you – Rumi.