Category Archives: Finding my footing

This is where my initial posts are logged. An easy zero point for me to return as I chart my graph of improved writing.

I simply remember my favorite things

My melancholic affect can betray what I am saying here. I slept last night without a smile and woke up this morning pained by the thought of having to open my eyes and keep them open for the next fourteen hours at least. All the while, knowing that I have to snap out of this limbo. Infact, the one reason I kept away from crying was that there was no water in the tap (water tank cleaning and repairs going on) – and the histrionic drama loving person that I am, I took it as a ‘sign’ that I need to take stock of my lacrimals too. (Now now, given that I am studying ‘personality disorders’ right now, such obsessions with phenomena should make me schizotypal, but I am scarcely the loner. Therefore, histrionics only it will be).

With no sun, and only a dark cloudy sky threatening to pour, I decided to bring back cheer. My first thought inadvertently was the following paragraph that I had drafted sometime in the middle of last year – sort of another ‘sign’ to resume writing in this space (or so I’d like to believe). Here, I take off on my self-indulgent essay of my happiness.

Imagine a pop-quiz. What is the four-letter word that uses the letters c, k? Okay, now honestly what were you thinking?

What is the four-letter word that starts with L? Did you say love? Or life?

I don’t know about you, but until very recently I never really acknowledged the importance of L.U.C.K. in my scheme of things. But the past few months have shown me how important it is to revere it, accord its space as a factor in my life, and treat it almost like I would statistically analyze genetic effects in disorders – ‘in case of common occurrences, it has a small contribution, but a contribution nevertheless (common disorder – small gene effect). In case of ‘special, serendipitous, momentous occasions that we would not otherwise think of or experience or expect, luck has a larger role to play (rare disease – large gene effect, if genetics has a role to play i.e.).

Undeniably, luck is everywhere it can be. At this point, I hark that I have only mentioned a noun ‘luck’ with no reference to its attribute as good or bad. I find it punctuating, that we choose to generally think of luck as being positive and rewarding and have a designated spot for ‘unlucky’ in our dictionaries. Isn’t it then funny that we go on to employ ‘good luck’ and ‘bad luck’ as befits our circumstance?

Speaking from and of personal experience:

I am always apt to flippantly claim luck and especially the lack of it, but never really stop and announce that I had experienced some sheer good luck. If things went well, it was because of my own hard work, God’s grace or my parents/teachers/well-wisher’s blessings and so on. Not once did I stop in my tracks and think that something good came of it because I was in the right place at the right time. Just plain good luck.

More often than not, I am cribbing about bad luck, which is fine. What is not fine is the fact that I miss the larger picture where the spot of bad luck is speck in a canvas coloured by good luck mostly. (Is it weird that when I paint this mentally, I think of the bad-luck-spot as a black or at the most red colour? Haha, someone should talk about well-entrenched prejudices!).

I’ve acknowledged this, and to a large extent my now-husband-then-fiance-or-boyfriend kept sprinkling it between conversations – to be cognizant of all the good luck we have, not just during a bad run, but even when during a small success. I have taken myself up on this – these days as I lose my optimism over putting together my career that I have been trying to put together for over a year now, I look at my husband or a picture of him and say – well, atleast I got something right ! 🙂

So while I struggle to be creative about my life, I remembered the sound of music that I have always enjoyed and a favorite song that my mom taught me about favorite things and about remembering them when I feel bad.

Here’s my list of things that make me happy – The ten things that first come to my mind.

1. Mornings

2. The sun, and the pitter patter of the rains.

3. Colours (and therefore watching project runway)

4. Words – reading, writing, listening, talking.

5. Warmth – literal and figurative.

6. A song that makes me loopy enough to play it over and over again through the day

7. Laughter. (Which explains why comedies are usually the movies I prefer watching – any language, with subtitles).

8. My husband. (things can be personalized)

9. My favorite shows – TED talks, Modern Family, The West Wing, American Dad, How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy. In no particular order.

10. Hugs.

Those were first ten things that came to my mind. Yes, I tweaked it a bit – but what fun is there to life without breaking a rule or two 😉

What’s your list?

P.S. The first news feed on my facebook home page was a friend’s status message – “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”

I should have added one more to my list – The Internet. 🙂

When I grow up, I want to make real, my idea.

`Thank you for your response!’

I have quite obsessively checked the dashboard of my blog to spy on how many views I got. 85 on the first day – Wow! That was surely unexpected, but more imminently elevating! Then crash! bam! the next day it fell to 15 and then 4, then 2, and finally I had them ducks making me cry ‘ZERO’ with alarming disdain, self-pity, indifference, and then some renewed resolve. I had a tough time convincing myself that I am no Nicholas Kristof or Jug Suraiya or Chetan Bhagat even (my peeve with his writing I shall reserve for my other whiny blogspace), to be entitled to a dedicated daily following. Correction – Not Yet. Not when some four people demonstrated persistent interest a day ago, and helped me sustain the confidence that this is a model worth building upon.

This week:

Jest aside, I have honestly been thinking of what to write here for the past week amidst the frantic typing of code for my data analysis and cover-letters inviting potential bosses to see how we can together marry numbers and statistics to diseases and drugs. I even thought of something today, but I will save it up for a dry day when I have no other ideas.

So I made a last minute decision (err, not entirely like George Sampson’s turnabout that well, quite changed his life) to write about an issue quite close to my heart. If I had to type the keywords, they would be – schools, India, education, hobby, career, vocation, creativity, business, encourage, counseling. Quite a few there, but I guess they encapsulate quite well what I am about to think aloud in this space.

“Never let schooling get in the way of your education”.

I can quite imagine Mark Twain, in the way I have envisaged him to be, bellowing aloud these famous words that apparently have not quite been traced back to his genius directly. Nevertheless, in my life it has been firmly entrenched only of late, with the entry of an almost-better half, here on referred to as Sheraton.

When one hears this propaganda at the least of once every fortnight, the cochlear nerves are bound to respond and let the brain know that something ought to be done about this. I believe, that the idea had become tangible in conversations with my brother-in-law, then new to the family who pushed me to leave medical school right in the middle of the academic structure and pursue a better aerated, less stifling option. However, going further back into history, I credit the roots of this concept mostly to my sister, R, whose epigraph should really read “Padhke kisne kya paaya?” (literally translated as whoever benefited from schooling).

My blog –  a business that schooling did not prepare me for.

I am here to sell my ideas for free, invite some criticism and failures, build upon my losses and capitalize on my gains, and refurbish my old ideas to more acceptable standards. (In the bargain, I hope to send down some pearls and marvels of wisdom 😉 ) Having said this, when I listen to Cameron Herold, I think, well I am an entrepreneur in a tweaked definition of the word. Writing and trying to make sense of this world is my business here, and that is exactly what I am trying to improve upon. Mark Twain and Cameron Herold together inspire me to write this post today, that I hope would help me fine tune my own ideas about how we see a link between the following keywords: kids, business, career, idea, money, dreams. Continue reading

Alice landing me in wonder!

Alice.

The first thing that comes to my mind is … wait a minute, not Lewis Carroll’s lost girl, but Randy Pausch’s program for 3D scripting. In his seminal talk in the Last Lecture series at Carnegie Mellon University, amidst his other achievements, Dr Pausch wonderfully talked about being an `imagineer’. He talked about directing the development of Alice, a 3D scripting program that was borne of his desire to earn his star inside the Walt Disney walls of fame. More than that, he wanted kids to imbibe his excitement for being an `imagineer’. That’s when, as he says, putting his Mad Hatter hat on, he steered Alice towards helping kids learn computer programming without them even realizing it.

What struck me most was the way his mentee Dr Caitlin Kelleher has now taken the program to the most unlikely users and popularized it among them – middle school girls! As part of her dissertation, she introduced the program as a story telling activity where young girls were actually writing software to narrate their stories. I absolutely understand and truly appreciate the gravity of their effort; especially given that I myself am struggling to learn the ABCs of programming and code for data analysis as part of my master’s thesis.

From Kelleher’s Alice homepage

“Storytelling Alice provides a motivating context in which to learn programming. A study comparing middle school girls’ experiences with learning to program in Storytelling Alice and in a version of Alice without storytelling features (Generic Alice) showed that:

  • Users of Storytelling Alice spent 42% more time programming than users of Generic Alice.
  • Users of Storytelling Alice were more than three times as likely to sneak extra time to work on their programs as users of Generic Alice (51% of Storytelling Alice users vs. 16% of Generic Alice users snuck extra time to program).
  • Despite the focus on making programming more fun, users of Storytelling Alice were just as successful at learning basic programming concepts as users of Generic Alice.”

What next, Dr Kelleher – inner city schools of Baltimore? (These are schools in the poorest and crime-stricken areas of Baltimore, and possibly the whole country). Imagineering it into those dark locations – that would indeed be sheer magic!

I visited CMU, Pittsburgh in November 2009 and this plaque adorns the wall next to the Randy Pausch Labs door. The bridge connecting the Computer Science and Fine Arts building has been built and it looks magnificent at night when its walls are lit up in neon lights. I was so fascinated and overwhelmed that I could not disturb the sanctity of that moment with a flash. A sacred place it is for me.

For someone like me who was taught LOGO and BASIC at a time when Windows 98 had stormed the world, ALICE would have been a delightful window into wonderland! If not me, for sure some other talented girls in class who either never had an opportunity or were daunted by the seemingly Y-chromosome inhabited worlds of `engineering’ and `technology’.

Looking forward, we can, in our capacity as alumni offer to sponsor such programs in our schools. More like a tribute to our alma maters, and a gift to our juniors.

Alice. Continue reading

Publishing Happiness

I wonder why we say, no news is good news! Surely, that’s not entirely true. Yet, as I see it, news that sells and makes headlines is positive only under extraordinary circumstances.  Sheraton sent me a Robert Anthony quote, “most people would rather be certain they’re miserable than risk being happy”. Indeed, bad news’ sell like hotcakes, and we cannot really be blamed for a despondent disparaging view of our world.

Global warming, national problems, natural calamities, and man-made wars notwithstanding, there is enough goodness in the world that makes us live out our entire lifespan; and that’s what I’d like to `stop press’ about.

Before I wander away from my introduction, let me welcome you to my blog on wordpress. I am Harini Sarathy, a  1983 born optimistic, sometime-wannabe doctor, sometime-wannabe epidemiologist, and a sometime-wannabe journalist. As a doctor and epidemiologist, your health and public health are my concern. Health is inextricably linked to happiness… and that should quite well explain why I am here to sell good news for free!

Haha. I really hope this pathetic piece of health promotion struck a chord ;) !

I plan to write once (twice maybe) a week after looking out for happy, inspiring, courageous, funny, rewarding stories that I believe must be spread around. It could be your story, or stories of hitherto unknown people. It could be Socratic philosophy or an indulgent essay. Whatever it may be, it will assuredly be positive and a happy reminder that the world around us, amidst all it’s problems and spills and scandals and calamities, remains and continues to be a great place to live in.

Welcome to my attempt at building a one-blog stand of feel-good essays. I do hope you will join me in getting mired in mirth.

HP.