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.

2 years…since we arrived in Austin

2 years…since we arrived in Austin.

I would like to say we arrived in style….but nothing would be further from the truth.

We were tired from driving 1800 miles.

At the CA end, we had said tearful goodbyes to our dear friends.

At the Austin end, a stranger named Ravi C (my SIL Rema’s friend) showed up at our apartment to welcome a crazy family that had decided to leave everything familiar behind and start over. It takes one to know one. I think Ravi showed up to show his support and approval because he had done a similar move several years ago.

We brought minimal supplies…the kind you would take on a weekend camping trip.

The rest at they say, is history.

We have been welcomed into people’s hearts and homes with such warmth. Thank you to all my sweethearts that carry such a sweet heart. Y’all make Austin weird and fun for me and the family.

I still continue to miss CA friends. But, for now, Austin is home.

I wonder how long this Austin life will last…before we pick up and decide to be a nomad again. It doesn’t matter….because as long as this lasts, I’ll make every moment count.

The story so far:

Leaving CA:
http://ambalbalakrishnan.com/2014/08/12/moving-to-texas-the-lone-star-state/

Finding Austin to be another home:
http://ambalbalakrishnan.com/2014/09/03/settling-down-in-texas/

Carnatic Music : Varnam Mashup : DIY Austin Raga Labs

It all starts with an idea.

During one of our numerous chats, my sister-in-law Rema Hariharan said she and I should collaborate and bring DIY RagaLabs to Austin. Rema’s daughter was part of Indian RagaLabs twice before, both times in Houston.

It was our desire to put Austin on the map of Indian Raga!

That is how our fun, exhilarating and enriching journey started.

We reached out to Sriram Emani who gave us a green signal and enthusiastic thumbs up. He also forwarded us a super-organized email with information on how to put together a DIY RagaLabs.

He also introduced us to Shan Rao who was person behind the Bangalore RagaLabs. Shantala spent an hour with us over skype and poured so much valuable and practical tips (planning, giving creative license to participants etc) on how to put together a successful lab.

Rema and I also reached out to our buddy Sangeetha Sampath Sairam who is a carnatic musician and participant in Bay Area Raga Labs.

From Day 1, Rema knew that our local multi-talented artist Poornima Rao should be the Creative Director. Poornima is a “vainika” and vocalist, originally from Mysore area who has collaborated with local teams on creative productions. Her work with Stage Sanchar was quite amazing, as any Austinite lucky to have watched the show would tell you. Rema said Poornima has a natural knack of bringing out the best in children, and with that our stars lined up for the next step.

Over the next few weeks, we short listed participants. Rema reached out to parents and we set up a first intro meeting. From the first meeting, the chemistry between the young participants and the Creative Director was obvious.

Next for next month, Poornima ran 2-3 hours practice sessions over the weekends. Every attempt, the participants came together better. The violinists practiced together themselves to ensure they are in full sync with the singers. Families took turns hosting the meetings. There was much laughter and fun. There was chai, chaat and chats.

When we got ready to do the audio recording…it was almost bitter sweet. Because, all of us realized that the weekend meetings are drawing to a close. We recorded over 5 hours in Dan Benkmens studio.

Rema and Poornima spent several hours in Dan’s studio finalizing the audio for the video recording the subsequent weekend.

We completed the video recording on one of the docks on the Colorado River. One of the parents, Priya, was kind enough to help us through the reservation process for using this gorgeous location. We were fortunate to have professional photography by Balaji Janakiraman, who is one of the parents of the lab participants.

Throughout this journey, Sriram was always just an email away. He responded back to our queries promptly. He gave such great and candid feedback on the audio and video recording to polish it off.

I’ll miss hanging out with the DIY Austin RagaLabs group.

However, all good things must come to an end. Or should it?

Rema already has some more ideas and plans. I wonder what fun project we’ll collaborate on next.

I hope you enjoy the fun music, the ethereal location and most importantly…I hope you will feel the happy vibes from the happy participants. They are the music torch bearers that we’ll send off into the future.

Don’t miss the candid shots and interviews at the end of the video.

Thanks Sriram Emani for a fun RagaLabs experience.

So, now, without further ado, here is the video that started of as just an idea in Rema’s mind.

Nature vs. Nurture

#‎Harsh‬ ‪#‎Nature‬ meets ‪#‎Nurture‬ in Austin today.
Thunder…lightning…pouring rain.
Guess what parents do?
Form a long pick up line to get the young’uns.

My hypothesis: There is no end to humanity. Why? Humanity will continue to thrive because it has gotten so good at caring for its young over eons.

April Rains in Austin

I lost track of which day of rain it is in Austin. It is probably the wettest April in Austin ever.

Austin is soaked in rain in the last few days.

Today morning, as I was getting the boys ready for school, the sun peaked out from the east. The sun’s rays went through the water drops on the trees making them glisten. As though that scene alone was not beautiful enough, the sun rays caught the water as they were dripping down …making it look like golden droplets were dripping from the sky.

I tried to click several pictures. But, not one of them does justice to the sheer beauty of what I saw today morning.

My fascination with how nature plays out in everyday life will never end.

Austin’s greenery is soaked in beauty today.