Ram's Blog

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Question of Agency

I was raised in a house where we never said Grace. My father did, however, invariably thank the cook for preparing such a wonderful meal.

The Fantasy of Fifty

The women stayed up past
Their self-appointed bedtimes
The men they drank well past
Their self-apportioned quotas

And we talked of this and that
Deep into the night

(She said)
You guys look just the same
Which seemed a little strange
As many years have passed

But when I looked
I saw that it was true
These are the faces that I knew

Back when our kids were small
At soccer in the fall
Or at the camporee

The sparks fly up
The flames die down
But the coals keep burning red
Until the morning

How could this come to be
This quirk of memory
Has time been standing still

Has familiarity
Buffed our faces free
Of all the things we’ve shared

Or wiped away the masks
That flatten out our pasts
Affording us a glimpse
Into each other’s souls

The sparks fly up
The flames die down
But the coals keep burning red
Until the morning

In the bathroom light
My eyes are deep and dark
With bags as black as coal

I was so surprised
When I looked into my eyes
I didn’t know myself

It’s the fantasy of fifty
The fantasy of fifty

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Here's to 2005

So, what happened in 2004?

Well, none of the important things changed:  same wife, same kids, same job, same house. 

Laura got a new job, working in the Budget Office of EPA. 

Arvind is four.  He started the year still liking Thomas the Tank Engine, but then he got into super heroes: Superman, Batman and the Superfriends, watching the tv cartoons and reading the comic books, hitting up his parents and grandparents for ever more elaborate super hero costumes and pyjamas, refusing to wear anything but a super hero costume (accessorized with the appropriate cape, natch) to school or to bed.  As soon as we had gotten up to speed on the lingo and had acquired sufficient super hero clothing so that we were not doing laundry every night, he, of course, moved on, leaving us the state of uncool parenthood where I expect we will be spending most of the next twenty years.  Now he is into PowerRangers and Scooby Doo.  I’m sure by Spring it will be something else.

Ravi is 18 months.  He has picked up all the human-type skills, like walking, talking, eating solid food and watching tv.  He thinks Arvind is the coolest – follows him around and imitates whatever Arvind does.  Ravi now enjoys Thomas the Tank Engine, so hopefully we’ll get another round out of the super hero stuff as well.

The house has a new coat of paint, new steps, and additional flowers/bushes/ground cover.

We traveled quite a bit this year, mostly short visits.  We went to Rhode Island in February, to Manhattan for Padma and Salman’s wedding in March, to Lancaster County, PA to see Thomas the Tank Engine and Amish people in April, to New Jersey for JJ’s 60th birthday party in May, to Chicago in June, to West Virginia and Virginia in July to see steam engines and Harini/Umesh/Avinash, to Rhode Island in September and to St. John, USVI for a week of sunny relaxation in December.

I was reading Greek history early in the year: Herodotus, Thucydides, Arrian and Plutarch’s Life of Alexander.  I had moved on to Roman history (Gallic Wars) in Latin when I started biking to work which severely cut into my reading opportunities.  I read some Jane Smiley, a Paul Bowles novel, a book of I.B. Singer stories, and I finished Derek Walcott’s Selected Poems while we were in St. John.  No writing except for some song lyrics.

I got a 20GB mp3 player this year, so I have spent a lot of time moving my music collection onto the device.  The CD’s went fairly quickly, but the analog 2/3’s of the collection takes almost twice real time to transfer, so I have many hundreds of hours left in that project.  It is nice to listen to things I haven’t heard in many years, but I am finding that the audio fidelity has declined significantly in the interim.  No original music this year, although I am hoping to put something together in 2005.

So what else.  I rode my bike 10 miles to work most of the summer/fall, which was great.  The route took me along the C&O Canal, the Potomac river, the monuments and the mall, and my mp3 player came in handy.  I played soccer most of the year (twice a week in the fall).  No tennis.  I watch a lot of European soccer on Fox Sports World and RAI.

The Red Sox won the World Series.  I thought I would never see it.  I cried, I called my father.  For my birthday, Arvind got me the DVD.  I still haven’t watched it.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Here's to 2016

A lot of unhappy things happened last winter: the house fell apart, I got reassigned to work for a sociopath, my dad died. It was stressful, and when bad things started piling up I needed some coping mantras. One mantra was "well, at least my dog still loves me". The other mantra was "you know, I think the Red Sox are going to be good next season". I spent a lot more time with this mantra, because baseball is a game of infinite possibilities and also because Appa and I had shared a lifetime of Red Sox fandom. So trying to fall asleep at night, and hoping to keep the sadness at bay, I would go over and over in my mind how the Red Sox winter moves could play out, successfully, over the season to come.

Then winter turned to spring, and we sprinkled Appa's ashes in Narrow River, and spring turned to summer, and I was unhappily unemployed, and through it all, the Red Sox sucked. It all went to shit: every bad possibility came true and every fail safe backup proved inadequate. I followed every game and they remained mired in last place.

And now summer has turned to autumn and uutumn has turned to winter, and it is finally time to say goodbye to 2015. The Red Sox have been active this offseason and, who knows, maybe in 2016 it will all work out.

And if not, my dog does still love me. So here's to 2016.

Saturday, August 01, 2015


The story is that before I was born an office colleague gave my father a Jade plant leaf. The leaf sat in a glass of water on the windowsill above the kitchen sink in Kendall Park, and by the time I was born it had sprouted a small set of hairy, white roots. On leaving Kendall Park, to accommodate our growing family, the leaf was wrapped in a wet paper towel and deposited in one of the many moving boxes. When we arrived in Rhode Island the leaf was eventually retrieved and planted in the dirt of a small clay flowerpot. Having moved several times myself I find the wet paper towel survival story to be somewhat improbable, but not outside the realm of possibility. In any case, I have very early memories of that first Jade plant in a corner of the dining room and of a second Jade leaf sitting in water above the kitchen sink. They were watered regularly and periodically repotted and they grew into glorious bonsai-style trees which outlived him and are still alive today.

In my house we have one houseplant, a Christmas cactus. It has been with us a long time. I forget if it had to travel in the moving van but if not we bought it shortly after we moved in. It sits in the original plastic pot on a narrow windowsill in our too-small kitchen and I have never repotted it, just like we have never redone the kitchen. Still, I water it regularly and it is not unhappy. In fact, it blooms quite reliably at Christmas, lending an authentic festive note to the celebrations alongside the hothouse Poinsettias and the stiffening corpse of a Pine tree.

Arvind’s Biology class has been studying Mendel and tonight his homework involved Punett diagrams. Calculating the matrix cross-products takes him only an instant, but drawing and quartering the squares is a hard, laborious task. I watch his hands as he works and outside of the nails bitten down to the quick his fingers are precisely like mine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Mattress

The mattress is probably 45 years old. Queen size mattress with a box spring, a metal bolt-on frame, and a dark wood headboard. Amma might have replaced the mattress when they moved to the house in Kingston ten years ago but I doubt it. It is definitely the same headboard.

After Appa’s strokes they rented a hospital bed and Amma slept on a cot next to him. Getting the bed was quite easy – the order went directly from the hospital to the medical supply company to Medicare – certainly easier than lying down on random beds in the middle of the afternoon while wearing all of your clothes in the Mattress Discounters showroom. To accommodate the hospital bed the mattress and everything else moved to a somewhat precarious position leaning against the wall in the hallway.

Returning home after Appa died Amma didn’t want to sleep the in bedroom, so we left it alone for a few days. The medical supply company took the hospital bed back and I folded up the cot and put it in the closet. When Uncle Bill came he and I re-assembled the frame in the bedroom and moved in the mattress and box spring so we would have a little more space.

When Uma arrived I switched to the bedroom so she could take the study. The mattress wasn’t uncomfortable, but I still slept poorly amidst a series of bad dreams.

Saturday, March 07, 2015


The Atman is eternal,
Indestructible and unknowable.
Unborn, eternal,
Unchangeable and primeval,
The Atman is not slain when the body is slain.
The Atman can never wetted nor killed.

Be like Jeeves
She said
So we flitted
And arrived
In the beat
Before conscious

And carefully
Are in usage
And never
What they mean.

To the specter
Of a tumbling
With strangers
In the disguise
Of yourself.

Is the very
Hardest act
But what else
Is there to do?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Should Have Told You

I should have told you I was planning to decamp
You should have told me you were leaving with that tramp
I should have told you
Yes you should
I should have told...
I wish you would
But you didn't so I just assumed the best

I should have told you that my heart was growing cold
You should have told me that you'd started feeling old
I should have told you
Yes you should
I should have told...
I wish you would
But you didn't so I just assumed the best

The heart of love
Beats in the pulse
Of daily conversation

You should have told me
Yes I should
You should have told...
Oh if I could
But you didn't do I just assumed the best
I was a fool but so were you
Now let's get dressed