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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Houston, we have a problem here

A language problem.

Sangram was telling me the other day how odd it was to hear one of his Indian collaborators say,'Forget about it!' in response to his,'Sorry about that!'Though it is quite the standard response in Indian English to an apology, we are now more tuned to hearing,'Oh that's okay!' or 'Don't worry about it.' Just as 'Be quiet' is a more polite way to say, 'Shut up!'

I used to say 'Chill Yaar!' a lot in college. In fact, I think I once said it to my Dad, and he responded, 'Nahi Yaar!' Not everyone is a sport about it. Someone I know was unfriended on Facebook (and in real life) because she responded,'Chill !' to a comment. At that time, I didn't realize that it can sound rude in certain contexts.

Language is a living, dynamic thing. Our usage and preferences also change over time with the environment. If someone speaks loudly, I feel why he/she is so rude? When most of the times, they are just animated. Maybe if we are aware of the nuances, we can avoid miscommunication in different cultural contexts.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guest post: Just another day in a working mom's life

Hi readers,
This is a guest post from my friend Sejuti. She wrote something and shared with me, which I loved. She doesn't blog so I thought it'd fun to post it here (with her permission). Love such spontaneous notes.

We met this really nice couple while sleigh riding with our 16-months old in Mt. Washington Resort. We had taken a luxury one-day trip, and since our brand new walker could not ski that year, we just enjoyed the associated perks without the physical activity. We got talking with the couple wowing over how well behaved our baby was, who blissfully went to sleep in his dad's arms. It was just magical, so pretty, with the sleeping baby, riding a mammoth horse driven carriage in the snow. Talking about the snow, it came up how our co-passengers were not used to snow in Indiana and it made life so much harder in New Hampshire. Like a stereotypical East Coaster, I think the only place west of us is California, but we learned that it can get pretty cold in Indiana too. I think I actually said aloud that if it's cold it might as well snow. The romantic in me will never die.

Anyway, so I admired the couple for moving across the country with a middle schooler and a high schooler. And here WE are, going on and on about can we really live outside of Boston? We both had moved our lives from a totally different country at 22 years with two suitcases, only to meet each other and have two off-shoots, a 4-years old Springer Spaniel, and a toddler after 10 years in Boston now. I also loved how the middle-aged couple kept their romance alive and decided to take a day trip, just the two of them. It so happened that their kids had school on President's day, but he had the day off and decided to make an impromptu trip out of it. So, there he quipped isn't it such an odd holiday, and I gushed how wonderful it was to get the day off! He then totally shifted his attention to my husband, the quieter of the two of us, and asked if his workplace gave the day off. It was such a harmless way his mind was programmed to function but just turned on the reality of the everyday world and the subtle bias that we face every day. It doesn't need to be an outrageous act, just little thoughts that need to change, little ways I can make a difference raising my son, little ways I remind myself I should not feel guilty for spending time away at work.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Where is home?

While watching Lion, I couldn't help but wonder that life might have turned out very different for Saroo if he were found sooner. He had an opportunity to change his life. But many other children are not as fortunate.

We can romanticize about what we called 'home' from a distance. However, those who stay back might be living through Hell.

Home is not about a place in the past. It is not where you sleep at the end of the day. It is where you keep all your dreams stashed and pick one each day and work on achieving them. Home is a voice that says, 'It is okay to fail. Let's try again tomorrow.'

My home is here, right now. And it is not a person, building, or room. It is where I can be myself without fear.

Love where you live

I am the kind of person who usually skims through a document before signing it. So when we were signing a lease renewal for our apartment, I read through the guidelines again to see if they had added new terms. I discovered a federal law called Megan Law, created in response to the murder of Megan Kanka, requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offender. I went to their site and made a search of any known offenders and violation.

My apartment community is spotless because the population comprises mostly immigrant employees and aging couples. The trouble makers are usually college kids whose only crime is the occasional partaking of the stinkweed that leaves the elevator stuffy. I just attribute it to their lack of knowing better. Mundu gele khaabe ta ki? It is important to take care of your head and not puff things that can mess with your spatial memory and cause you to forget where home is.

Anyhow, I go to this website and I get paranoiac just by looking at the mugshots. The San Jose Downtown, like any other I guess, lights up like Christmas with blue(offenders) and red(recent violations of parole) markers. Some of the police records make my skin crawl. 'Lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14 years of age' is especially infuriating because that is just the upper age limit. The scum of the earth walk around and breathe the same air we do after 5 years of jail time.

You may visit the website here

You have to sign a disclaimer to not use the information to blackmail a person, then you can put in your address and search within .1 to 10 miles radius. There are other search criteria too, but I think this is the more relevant one. Also, take note of the sidebar which includes Education and Prevention. It is especially important to teach children about saying no to any unwelcome touch or action.

The purpose of this post is not to spread fear, but to stay informed about your community and your surroundings.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Before we met

I often wonder...
Who we were before we met.
Every dream I had until now,
Everyone I loved, cherished, desired-
Seems in the distant past
Blurry, unreal.

The forms of black smoke
Gliding over me
Vanished in the light of the day.
But their screams remained
Resonating in my emptiness.
I held onto it because that is all I had.

On nights like this
I walked through the empty halls
Running my fingers on the peeling walls.
In desperation, I wrote ‘I believe!'
A thousand times over
On my body with a black marker.

I wanted to believe
That a different life was waiting for me.
I deserved to be happy.
I deserved to be loved.
I deserved to dream a little
Of you by my side.

Though it is by no means a poem, a friend picked a few lines from my composition and posted this. Thanks Chitra!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Customer Service Experience: CharityHowTo

One of my supervisors, Bob Bergstrom, recommended me the CharityHowTo website to attend webinars about non-profits. I purchased a gold membership for $89 per month which includes access to recorded webinars.

So ideally, if I select a recorded webinar it should be included in my membership. But due to some glitch, they were charging me again for the webinar and for the gold membership (which I am already getting charged for every month).

Obviously, it was very confusing. I tried to contact their customer service with a 617- (Boston) number. The first two times I tried, it went to voicemail. Then, someone named Amy called back on my number. She promised they wouldn't charge me twice and I should be able to access my library free of charge.

Not only that, the owner, Kurt Steiner,  talked to me after that.

Me: So, are you in Boston?
Kurt: We had an office in Boston, but we are in Panama in Central America now. I see you have a 617 number too.
Me: I went to school there.
Kurt: I apologize again for this. I have sent an email and left a voicemail for you. Our engineers are taking care of it as we speak. Is there anything else I can do?
Me: No, Amy took care of me. Thanks !
Kurt: Great! You have a great weekend!
Me: You have a good one too!

Nice, human conversation when I was expecting pre-recorded messages.

I know it becomes difficult for larger corporations to stay in touch with their customers. Hence, what we call 'the moments of truth' in customer service becomes increasingly negative.  Before the interaction, I was considering canceling my membership. Now, I know that someone feels responsible for the glitch and are trying to fix it.  Sometimes, that is enough.