A proposal in Lincoln Park, Chicago

I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. – Algernon: The importance of being earnest

My friend Vikrant shared this on Facebook and it triggered a 20 year old memory.

First of all, I don’t entirely agree with Algernon. I’m in vehement agreement with his last sentence for sure. Nothing romantic about proposing? Now that’s a bit unfair.

American men have a fine tradition of proposing to (and often surprising the living daylights outta) their better halves. I happen to know two such proposals.

My ex-colleague and friend Laurie was ambushed at the finish line of her first marathon. Soon after her fiancé hugged and congratulated her, he quietly muttered “Are you ready?” to his buddy and, upon getting confirmation, went down on his knees and proposed. Laurie, already flush with post-race endorphins, would have one more memory attached to an already momentous day. And there was no need for a payment to Marathon Photos.

Our friends Jason and Julie had a long relationship before they tied the knot. Along the way, Jason did a 6-month teaching-English-in-China gig. Along the way, they did TWO around-the-world backpacking vacations. During their second soirée (chronicled beautifully here), against a picturesque backdrop in some exotic island, Jason proposed to Julie. There were no selfie sticks back then and no friend in tow but I’m sure that moment is forever etched in their memories.

My story is a bit different.

How I recall Lincoln Park ‘hood

Met this gorgeous girl on Jun 15 at a networking event in an art gallery in Chicago. I was deeply smitten. By the end of the evening I had made enough of an impression for her to acquiesce when I casually closed with “Hey,  I enjoyed talking to you. Could you share your email address so we can catch up sometime?”

Six weeks later we were on our first date. Later that month (after date #10 or so), I was announcing to my Evanston friend “she is the ONE and I would propose to her one of these days”.

My friend predictably responded with “What’s the hurry? Take some time before you pop the question.”

Of course I ignored him. Which is not to say I proposed to her on date #11.

Dinner at Copper Chimney. Nicholas Payton concert at the Jazz Showcase. Dinner at Shrees in Downers Grove. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan concert in Downtown. Dinner at the Indian Monsoon. Fareed Haq and Rudresh Mahattappa concerts at the Green Mill. Bike rides down Lake Shore Drive on the GS-700ES. Walk from Grant Park to Field Museum of Natural History to catch R. Carlos Nakai in action. Chicago city orchestra. Dave Brubeck with Bobby Militello. An all-night road trip to Wisconsin punctuated by a 4 am stop at Denny’s.

At some point the biweekly trysts turned into daily sojourns. We couldn’t spend enough time with each other apparently.

Having a 700cc Suzuki bike as the sole form of transportation added to my courtship cool quotient (I reckon). My Evanston friend’s Saturn and my Park Ridge friend’s Accord came in handy for some planned dates. Chicago’s public transit network bailed us out rest of the time.

But winter was approaching and I wanted 4 wheels.

Oct 11 dawned. I bought a Saturn SL2.

That was the evening I would propose to my girlfriend but even I didn’t know it until the precise moment.

It was a Friday evening and we were watching an 80’s era Hindi movie in my apartment.

I wish I remembered at which point in the movie it happened. All I recall was that there was some kind of whitespace (it was a VHS tape so couldn’t have been a commercial). A rare flash of deep certitude overcame me and I knew it was time.

I popped the question.

The beautiful face with perfect eyes and exquisite nose became suffused with incredulity and spoke.

“Oh my God! Are you sure?”

“Yes”

“Can you give me some time to think about it?”

“Of course. Take your time.”

(A few minutes later)

“Yes!”

Bingo Little had found his Rosie M Banks.

P.S. For the next few days, she’d keep asking me “Are you sure you meant it? Because if you aren’t.. or have any second thoughts, I won’t hold it against you.”

To which I’d keep replying “I couldn’t be surer.”

P.S (2). So there you have it Vikrant.

The triple jump running plan for marathoners

Pic courtesy bobtrump.com

Pic courtesy bobtrump.com

The triple jump, sometimes referred to as the hop, step and jump or the hop, skip and jump, is a track and field sport, similar to the long jump, but involving a “hop, bound and jump”: the competitor runs down the track and performs a hop, a bound and then a jump into the sand pit.

I’m sure about it. The triple jump running plan for marathoners (abbr. “TJ Plan”) does not exist today. How do I know? I Googled it of course. Once I hit publish, this blog post shall become the oracle.

I know one person in Chicago who wouldn’t cast a second look at the TJ Plan – Judith Johnson Brown, my flute teacher from Old Town School of Folk Music. Sixteen years ago, Judith was a striking woman in her late 40’s who could easily pass off as an aristocratic British woman with a natural American accent. My unsuccessful attempt to learn the silver flute was before I discovered the pleasures of running so I couldn’t appreciate the fact that Judith was a daily runner. I recall her once saying “Oh! How I hate winter mornings when the ground is frozen. I can’t run and I’m miserable rest of the day.”

Back then, I thought to myself “What an obsessive compulsive woman. She runs nearly throughout the year, even during Chicago’s brutal winter months and she complains about missing the odd morning run due to extra inclement weather.”

There are a lot of daily runners out there but I’m not one of them. There’s also no danger of my becoming one of them. If you are like me, the rest of this post might be of special interest.

The TJ Plan is very simple.

1. Tempo run on Tuesday
2. Interval run on Thursday
3. Long run on Saturday

Unlike any of the plethora of celebrated (or notorious) training plans which have elaborate ramp up, ramp down and taper profiles over a 12 week duration, the TJ Pan offers NO mileage guidance.

Should your tempo run be 5k, 8k or 10k? Whatever. Just get your ass out of bed and run as hard as you can. And yeah, feel free to convert this to an easy run if one of your slower runner friends is feeling particularly chatty that morning.

Should you run 400m intervals? Or 800? Or 1600? Doesn’t matter. Maybe start with 400s. If it feels easy (even at faster pace), move to 800s and then 1600s.

Ok – so I lied a bit. The TJ Plan has a distance guidance – but only for the long run. 25k would suffice though ideal recommendation is 30k.

The beauty of the TJ Plan is that it plugs in seamlessly into your racing calendar with a few minor alterations. Say you are racing on Sunday X, you skip the [X-1] regulation 30k run.  If you are a bit old fashioned (or too much into this ‘taper’ business), drop your long run mileage the previous weekend (Day [X-7]) to 20k or (if you really must) 16k. Depending on how hard you raced, drop some mileage for long run Day [X+7]. That’s it.

Who should NOT follow this plan?

  • If you derive a disproportionate amount of pleasure from your race day performances (compared to your long training runs), then the TJ Plan is probably not for you.
  • If you are looking for a certain level of certitude that you will get faster within [X] months, then the TJ Plan is probably not for you.
  • The incorrigible daily runner of course.

Then who SHOULD follow this plan?

  • You should have run at least 5 marathons to date.. and at least 2 in the last calendar year.
  • If you derive nearly as much pleasure from your long training run as your races, then this might be worth a whirl.

But why TJ Plan?

It’s all about maximizing happiness, you see. Sure – all runners get a special high after running a race, especially if they’ve achieved a PB. But why restrict (& delay) happiness to only a few times a year? Why not once every Saturday? The hop (tempo) and the skip (interval) are but a rhythmic preparation for the pleasurable long jump.

A PB might be awaiting you at your next race but don’t let that get in the way of current happiness. Run happy. Week after week.

What kind of runner are you?

Haruki Murakami (Pic: courtesy operatic.wordpress.com)

On the way I passed a few other joggers, about an equal number of men and women. The energetic ones were zipping down the road, slicing through the air like they had robbers down their heels. Others, overweight, huffed and puffed, their eyes half-closed, shoulders slumped like this was the last thing in the world they wanted to be doing. They looked maybe a week ago their doctors had told them they have diabetes and warned them they had to start exercising. I’m somewhere in the middle.

This is how Haruki Murakami, famous novelist and marathon runner, describes himself in What I talk about when I talk about running. You realize it’s a self-effacing assessment only after you finish reading his memoir. It reminded me that I’ve long wanted to create a catalog of the different types of runners – a diverse group that’s somewhere in the middle. Here’s a partial list:

  • Pic: courtesy runnerimg.com

    The let-me-tell-you-everything-that-happened-last-week runner who is

  • Definitely not the same as The Talking Runner (subject of next week’s post – The Talking Runner is a parallel to PG Wodeshouse’s Oldest Member and RK Narayan’s Talkative Man)
  • The Loner Runner
  • The listener-who-won’t-talk Runner
  • The Chic Runner
  • The I-run-so-I-can-eat-whatever-I-want Runner
    • Very different from I-run-so-I-am-a-finicky-eater Runner
  • The Group Runner
  • The Social Media Runner (who shares details of every single confounding training run)
  • The Social Runner (runs occasionally, rarely forgets to bring a camera and never misses the post-run breakfast)
  • The Bottle Carrying Runner (whether it’s a 30k training run or a race, you’ll never catch this runner without his trusty water bottle)
  • The Gear Toting Runner (iPod Nano, heart rate monitor, waist pouch laden with fluids, head and arm bands, shades and running cap, maybe even a running jacket)
  • (And of course) The Barefoot Runner

What kind of runner am I? During my Chicago running days (a scenic route alongside Lake Michigan from Diversey Street to Navy Pier — sometimes even upto Balbo Street), I was a Loner Runner and always had the Walkman preset set to  93XRT (rock station). Water fountains at regular intervals meant I never needed to carry a bottle. As I trained for my first marathon (training routes were Sunnyvale and Los Altos roads), I shed the Walkman but remained a Loner Runner.

My last 4 years in Bangalore have been low on solo running and high on group running — probably the single biggest driver for my increased monthly mileage and increased race participation. However, m solo running roots are very much intact  — still quite comfortable with solo 30k+ runs. My gear toting waxed in my initial Bangalore years and is now on the wane — currently at Garmin, sweat band and bottle for 20k+ training runs; cap and Gu gels get added for the race. My Social Media runner persona was probably at its peak in 2010 (Facebook’ing all my long runs and tweeting just about every other training run). Thankfully, that persona has undergone significant attenuation.

On a somewhat related note, I was really happy to read about Bubba Watson winning this year’s Masters. I loved this quote from his post-win interview “The thing is, golf is not my everything.”  That’s exactly how I feel about my running these days. I’m really enjoying running, hope I’ll continue enjoying it for decades to come but… it’s not my everything.

So what kind of runner are you?

That one perfect drive!

The Golf Omnibus - 31 tales from the green by the master

Following is an excerpt from PG Wodehouse’s A Mixed Threesome – one of many beautiful golf stories from The Golf Omnibus. The scene being described is that of the story’s protagonist (Mortimer Sturgis) executing that perfect golf swing. In the narrative below, the inimitable Oldest Member (who stars in many of Wodehouse’s golf stories) is speaking in the first person view and Mortimer Sturgis is speaking in the third person view.

A moment before he had surveyed his blistered hands with sombre disgust.

“It’s no good,” he said. “I shall never learn this beast of a game. And I don’t want to either. It’s only fit for lunatics. Where’s the sense in it? Hitting a rotten little ball with a stick! If I want exercise, I’ll take a stick and go and rattle it along the railings. There’s something in that! Well, let’s be getting along. No good wasting the whole morning out here.”

“Try one more drive, and then we’ll go.”

“All right. If you like. No sense in it, though.”

He teed up the ball, took a careless stance, and flicked moodily. There was a sharp crack, the ball shot off the tee, flew a hundred yards in a dead straight line never ten feet above the ground, soared another seventy yards in a graceful arc, struck the turf, rolled, and came to rest within easy mashie distance of the green.

“Splendid!” I cried.

The man seemed stunned.

“How did that happen?”

I told him very simply.

“Your stance was right, and your grip was right, and you kept your head still, and didn’t sway your body, and never took your eye off the ball, and slowed back, and let the arms come well enough, and rolled the wrists, and let the club-head lead, and kept your balance, and pivoted on the ball of the left foot, and didn’t duck the right knee.”

“I see,” he said. “Yes, I thought that must be it.”

“Now let’s go home.”

“Wait a minute. I just want to remember what I did while it’s fresh in my mind. Let me see, this was the way I stood. Or was it more like this? No, like this.” He turned to me, beaming. “What a great idea it was, my taking up golf! It’s all nonsense what you read in the comic papers about people foozling all over the place and breaking clubs and all that. You’ve only to exercise a little reasonable care. And what a corking game it is! Nothing like it in the world! I wonder if Betty is up yet. I must go round, and show her how I did that drive. A perfect swing, with every ounce of weight, wrist, and muscle behind it. I meant to keep it a secret from the dear girl till I had really learned, but of course I have learned now. Let’s go round and rout her out.”

I could wax eloquent about the sheer beauty of Wodehouse’s writing but that’ll have to wait for another day. The quintessential sporting truth in this story is that the amateur sportsman, every once in a blue moon, experiences that “moment of perfection”. If you’ve read the above account carefully, you’d have noticed that Mortimer Sturgis doesn’t really know how he hit that perfect drive. He’s trying his best to recall (& desperately hit the Record button in his brain) all the things he did right in pulling off that effortlessly perfect drive. The tragedy is that he might never hit a drive like that for the rest of his life.

I’ve been fortunate in experiencing two “moments of perfection” in two separate sports. Read on.

Perfect drive on hole #9 in Schaumburg

A disc golfer preparing to putt

A well-kept secret in USA is the sport of disc golf. For the uninitiated, disc golf (or “frisbee golf” as fondly referred by the non-puritanical) is a sport modeled on golf. Instead of metallic clubs and a ball, one uses different types of aerodynamically specialized flying discs (driver discs, approach discs, putter discs – you get the idea). Instead of a hole in the ground, you have a metallic basket with a receptacle and chains. Disc golf aficionados refer to regular golf as stick golf. Unlike stick golf, which require  large areas of water-guzzling well-manicured grass and legions of golf course designers, disc golf is one of the more environment friendly sports. A colleague and good friend (Gary Smith) introduced me to this sport in the fall of 1995. For the next three years in  Chicago I played disc golf every opportunity I got and, believe me, I created many opportunities as well.

As you can imagine, there’s an entire science behind the making of these flying discs. There are understable discs (that curve from right to left on a right-hander’s backhand throw), overstable discs (that curve from left to right on a right-hander’s backhand throw), beveled edges and harder plastic for driver discs, softer plastic for putter discs, heavier discs for windy conditions, you get the drift…

In the early days, my friend (Gary) had already invested in a complete set of flying discs while I was making do with a very light yellow-colored 99 cents Frisbee (bought from a K-Mart or a Walgreens). We were playing at a Schaumburg 9-hole course for the first time. By the time we reached hole#9, Gary had a comfortable lead and I was playing for — what else — pride. And then it happened. In a manner similar to Mortimer Sturgis above, I took up position and let it rip. And watched – with frozen feet and widening eyes – as the dainty yellow butterfly-esque disc soared majestically like a Jonathan Livingstone Seagull belying its humble plastic moorings and landed — a mere 10-feet away from the hole. Gary and our two other friends watched with dumb disbelief. It  turned out to be the only time I out-drove Gary that day — with my cheap, light and sub-optimal flying disc. Powerful emotions coursed through me.

Unreal 10k run on Feb 7, 2010

Three weeks after I had successfully run my third full marathon (and my first Mumbai Marathon), I resumed my short runs. Those days, most of my non-weekend running was done in the late evenings (when I generally tend to run faster) – on the concrete driveway around Raheja Residency. 7 rounds for a 5k, slightly under 14 rounds for a 10k. On that eventful evening, I realized after a few rounds that I was running faster than usual – my Garmin told me it was a 4:40ish pace but I wasn’t huffing (strange I thought!) I passed the 5k mark at 23:04 and that’s when it hit me. I had run my fastest 5k (as part of a 10k run) and I was not going all out – something special was afoot. I did slow down during my final 2-3 rounds but I still finished in an unbelievable 47:26 – beating my previous best by more than 2 minutes. There’s no danger of my repeating (forget beating) this performance in this lifetime. The high resolution Exhibits (A and B) below are courtesy my pal Dheeraj.

Garmin Forerunner 305: unreal 10k on Feb 7, 2010

Sustaining a 4:45 pace for 10k? No way I can repeat that!

Memories of an American Life – 4 years in Chicago

Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive between Diversey & Fullerton – part of my fave running stretch — till Navy Pier (Pic: courtesy flickr.com)

I originally wanted to start a post called “Ten little things I miss about America” and then realized it should more on the lines of ‘memories that I treasure’ (true true!) rather than a life that I miss and crave (at least not yet!). Sixteen years of American life were spent in 3 cities (Houston, Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area) so this is going to become a three-part series. I’m going to allow my stream of consciousness to flow with little filtering (P often wonders whether I have ‘any’ filters) – the only exclusions would be grand tourist sights like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. So here I go in no particular order…

  • Running along Lake Shore Drive between Diversey and Navy Pier often times at 10pm and not being the only soul on that stretch
  • Dining in umpteen multi-ethnic restaurants in Lake View/Lincoln Park neighborhoods
  • Riding the different L trains between Lake View, Downtown, Belmont, Park Ridge, and Evanston
  • Driving north on Lake Shore Drive and continuing on Sheridan Avenue through Evanston, Wilmette, Highland Park all the way to the Wisconsin border
  • Walking on Michigan Avenue (aka “The Magnificent Mile”) during festive Christmas time and in sub-zero bone-chilling wind chill conditions (ducking in and out of stores)
  • Summers in Grant Park (Taste of Chicago, concerts, jazz festival, oh.. so many events)
  • Listening to Fareed Haque mesmerize the audience at The Green Mill with a custom-built guitar-sitar
  • Experiencing the young trumpet genius Nicholas Payton at The Jazz Showcase
  • Watching Jethro Tull at Tinley Park following a loud warmup session from Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • (Dating days with P) Watching R. Carlos Nakai perform the native American flute at the Field Museum of Natural History
  • Zipping around Greater Chicago on my rocket (ahem, 1985 Suzuki GS-700ES) – thanks for protecting me, oh guardian angel
  • (Dating days with P) Out of the world performance by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – the pride of Pakistan
  • (Dating days with P) First Dave Brubeck concert at the Orchestra Hall (I think)
  • Riding my Suzuki from Chicago to Omaha with a gas tank cap held tight with tape. This is a blog post all by itself (maybe someday after I retire)
  • Returning to Chicago and getting caught in a thunderstorm. Riding an hour in soaking rain before stopping at a motel close to Des Moines, Iowa
  • Bungie jumping in Wisconsin along with Ganesh – childhood buddy who intersects three of my place circles (Bokaro Steel City, BIT Ranchi, and Chicago)
  • (Dating days with P) After training for a Chicago-area Half Marathon for 3 months, woke up late on race day and missed the start (by one hour). Oh well! apparently the auspicious time hadn’t arrived for me to run marathons
  • My first Starbucks coffee – in an obscure Dominicks location – next to the Park Ridge offices of SEI Information Technology
  • Meeting P for the first time in a Chicago art gallery. What on earth was I doing in an art gallery?? As the wise old men say “it was meant to be”
  • Watching Big Daddy Kinsey, Junior Wells, and a host of blues luminaries in Blues Etc and Blues Chicago (didn’t mind the smoke-filled ambience those days)
  • Playing disc golf during lunch time with a group of like-minded fanatics at an ‘object’ course in Park Ridge
  • My first winter morning in Chicago. Icicles formed on my wet hair as I vigorously scraped the ice off my 1984 Volkswagon Jetta
  • Watching Jean Luc Ponty perform at Navy Pier
  • (Dating days with P) Watching Ian Anderson perform, as a guest artist, at the National Flute Convention in downtown Chicago (Grant Park? I think). He had the cheek to poke fun at the flautists’ “puckered lips”
  • A glorious year at Old Town School of Folk Music (on Armitage Ave). They made me feel special even though I had little talent for playing the silver flute. Thank you Judith Johnson Brown.
  • Watching Ulele at their CD release party on Morse Ave (North Shore) with Michael and Marilyn and two of their friends (Deidre and Ms. X).
  • My first veggie Thanksgiving at Anthony Clarke’s Arlington Heights apartment. Anthony & wife were fellow bikers (from Maryland) who took my apartment sub-lease (while I moved to my Lake View apartment).

The social graph reacts to our move

Back in July, in typical Kuruganti style, I sent an email to the vast majority of my social graph about our planned move to India. It was a rather painstaking process since there’s no easy way to pack all the relevant email addresses into a Bcc field. Using Facebook as the mother lode, I systematically sent batches of email to my social graph over a period of one week.  I would have loved to have met all of you Bay Area (and Portland, New York, and Chicago) folks but last minute logistics prevented that. I hope to meet many of you in Bangalore and the rest of you in Bay Area (when I make a business trip). I was overwhelmed by the heart-warming responses – some of which validated my rationale for starting this blog (see Why the urge to blog now). This post is part-tribute and part “Reply All” to my social graph. Hope you’ll enjoy it. I’ve organized the responses into a few different categories and included responses where appropriate.

A sense of surprise, shock, admiration, and… lots of questions

  • It’s very exciting to hear that you still have the courage to start a new life.
  • Great decision. I admire it.. Good luck for your future endeavors.
  • What a brave decision, I am sure your parents/in-laws are very happy. Tell me more, how did you finally make this call?
  • Wow! I didn’t know you are moving. Are kids the primary driver?
  • Wow!!  This is a big and sudden news to me!  What happened?  Why this move all of a sudden?
  • I am very surprised to hear this. You mentioned you would be staying at Bangalore. So did you land on a position there?
  • Best of luck!  Have you taken an offer in India?
  • Wow! What a change…. are you going back for “long term” (i.e. more than 2 year)?
  • Vishy! Holy cow! Wow-what a big change! Will this be a permanent move?? In any case, please take care and looking forward to reading your blogs of the farewell trip.
    • We are thinking of “long-term” as a sequence of “short-terms” 🙂
  • What happened to Graspr?
  • I wish you all the luck. Are you starting up an office for Graspr?
  • Wow!  i’m dying to go to shasta. Are you moving your start up to India?
    • Graspr is alive and thriving. I decided (in April) to move on to my next adventure in life – which turned out to be this move to India.
  • Are you starting a new business in India?
    • No. I accepted a role with Adobe India to manage their Shockwave/Director business.
  • Vishy, best of luck.  Sounds like just going to be closer to your brother will be worth it.  Stay in touch.  I keep telling myself I need to get to India one day and it would be great to look you up!

Warm Sendoff

  • Congratulations to you and your family, Vishy.  I wish you well.  I’ll be following your blog and can’t wait to read all about your journey. Obviously, I won’t get a chance to look you in the eye to say goodbye, so here’s a hug. You’ll probably be back in the US for a trip before I get out to Bangalore, so please reach out if/when you happen to be here.
    • You bet!
  • We will definitely miss you guys here, I was looking forward to some of those hiking trips now that the kids are handling the walk up the hill 🙂 Seems like you are having/had an interesting time before taking off -a road trip, hmm.. tempting..  I would definitely follow what you guys are up to via the blog and stay in contact.
    • Hey – let’s do a family hike next week we meet (either in Bangalore or in the Bay Area).
  • It’s nice to have worked closely with you again towards the end of your chapter here in the US — It was a great pleasure and honor to back then, and it was truly cool to have collaborated again this year. I know we’ll stay in touch and I hope to see you in India when I come down sometime, so just want to wish you and your family the best during your transition. 🙂
  • Sorry to hear you’ll be leaving here, but congrats on the move and the next steps for you and family!  Sounds like an exciting decision, and the right timing all around.
  • Good luck to you with your endeavors! It’s awesome that you decided to move back to India and good to see you’re leaving in style 🙂 Quite a trip you have planned to get to JFK.
  • Hey dude, sorry it took me so long to get back to you, life is very busy w/ a baby. So, this is good news man!  That farewell tour looks pretty fun! I’ve always wanted to do that.  Do you have time to get together for lunch before you depart?
  • Good luck back in India. Let’s get lunch before you go. BTW, I am leaving Yahoo! soon. Give me a call and let’s catch up.
    • Sorry I ran out of time.
  • Thanks for the update.  What an exciting new chapter for both your family and career!  Best of luck to you in all your endeavors and adventures.
  • Good luck with the move! That’s a big change – hopefully it will bring you closer to your family. I myself am thinking of ways to make the move up to Oregon to be closer to home…On your way through Oregon, make sure you wave to my mom and brother in Eugene – and if you happen to make the detour to Bend, you may try to picture me living there! My sister is already there with her husband – I just got back from visiting yesterday. We’ll miss you and your many talents here in the States! Maybe I’ll be touring parts of India one day soon (vacation – would like to visit northern India) and will be able to wave to you from afar – or better yet, share stories in person over a cup of tea.
    • As it turns out, we did stop in Eugene to have lunch. I could have sworn I saw your twin sister at a Starbucks. Look forward to seeing you in India – now go ahead & plan that trip! 🙂
  • WOW … that’s a big move!! I wonder if there’ll be how-to video on some site somewhere … Your farewell tour sounds like fun. We just came back from a long weekend in Shasta, which was really good fun. Fires are calming down now, but we saw some pretty cool sights like a huge water bomber landing on the lake. And then within an hour, we were up in the mountains, throwing snowballs! Only in California. Anyways, good luck with everything and stay in touch on FB!
  • Call me if you’re in Chicago for more than a few hours – I’d love to say hi!
  • While in NYC, feel free to call me for lunch. America will miss you!
  • Good luck to you and yours, Vishy.  I live in Portland, OR now.  Let me know if you’d like to have lunch or something on your swing through.  Don’t feel obligated though.  I know the scheduling can be tight on this sort of trip.
    • So sorry I couldn’t get to meet with you folks in Chicago, NYC & Portland.
  • Thanks for keeping me updated of your status. It is my privilege to get to know you. I enjoyed our conversations. Enjoy your journey! I will read your blog about the journey. Good luck to your new venture.
  • Best of luck Vishy. Have a wonderful journey and have fun settling in – I hope everything goes smoothly for you. I look forward to hearing about your future success!
  • Wow, life is a journey, enjoy it! I guess this means you’ll miss my mead class in August. 🙂 Keep in touch on linkedin, will ya?

Active/Passive “should-wes”

  • For a definition of “should-wes”, check out The two types of Indian immigrants.
  • This is great.  What are the plans.  I am excited for you.  One day I will join you.
  • Really cool decision. I might probably see you there soon. We are waiting for my husband to finish his MBA before exploring the option of moving to Bangalore. That is my husband’s hometown. Wish you all the best!!!
  • I read your blog. I like it – I appreciate that you are honest about your feelings. I wish you and your family all the best and success. Going back to India after staying here for so long really requires courage. I salute the determination. We tried it twice (that time we didn’t have any kids) but couldn’t do it. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t do it later again. Anyway have a nice trip and keep in touch.

Fellow immigrants who returned home

  • Wow…what a big move…First thing first, I wish you have fun traveling to the mid west before your long flight back and wish your family the best. Well, you know i made a decision removed my family to my home town Hong Kong 2 yrs ago. It was a huge move to my wife and son, and taken us months to pack and unpack stuffs (both mentally and physical stuffs)…2 years gone by, still a little adjustments here and there, but overall we love it.
  • Glad to hear about your move back. I came back in 2002 after spending 13+ yrs in US. We are loving it here, no regrets on the move. If you need any tips on adjusting back, let me know. Too bad you did not consider Chennai, it has the best of several aspects, and a very good quality of living. I visit BLR often, keep in touch.
  • Congratulations on your move! I remember well, how we’ve talked about this issue when we moved in 2002 (gosh it’s already 6 years that we’ve left the US). While for us it took about 2 years to really arrive back in Germany we are now really back home and happy about how things went. We’ve had a wonderful time in the US but it was also the right decision for us to get back to our roots. I am sure that your move back won’t be always easy and it will take time to really settle back home. I wish you, Poonam and the kids all the best. I hope that one day our paths will cross again. Hope to see you guys some day. In any case, if you ever come to Germany please ping me! And one day, I will go to India and I will visit one of the chicken stores (with life stock) in Tamil Nadu that Rani had always talked about. Take care and all the best.
  • Good to hear this and welcome to Bangalore. You may be aware that I have moved back to Bangalore last year and still working with Yahoo. You can reach me at [x]. FYI, I am residing in HSR Layout.
  • I was just in New Dehli and visited the Taj a few weeks ago.  I’ll be in HK for at least another year, if you ever decide to head east, let me know… Good luck on the move, and have fun on your tour of America!
  • Wow what a decision! Thanks for keeping me posted. i am glad that you finally made your choice which seems to be after much thought and debate. An Indian friend once told me all Indians, no matter where they are on the globe, all have one home traced back to india. now that you are heading back to this home of yours, i wish you all the best 🙂

Warm reception from the folks in India

  • Welcome to India. You always wanted to return. All the best. Will see you in Bangalore soon.
  • Welcome home Vishy 🙂 Wishing you & your family a safe & enjoyable journey…
  • Glad to hear that you are coming back to India. Nice journey plan, in fact gr8!!  Wonderful idea to visit all the places before flying back to India :). Let me know, if you are going to Bangalore via  Mumbai.
  • Thank you for the update. Best wishes to your new movement to India. Good thing is that India is close to China, so welcome to visit Beijing! 🙂 Enjoy your farewell tour ahead.
  • Cool man !! Welcome back ! So which co. r u joining here ? Another startup 🙂 Let me know when u r here, we will catch up. my # is [x]. looking forward to meeting u and the additions to ur family 🙂
  • Aha! Certainly Bangalore’s gain!! Hope you have a great ‘farewell’ tour and a smooth relocation to Bangalore.

Looking forward to seeing you folks in Bangalore…

  • Best of luck to you and your family back in India! Hope you have a smooth move, and enjoy it in Bangalore. I will be there myself shortly — maybe we will run into each other.
  • Wow.  That’s pretty cool, Vishy.  Have a great time out there.  Next time I’m in Bangalore I’ll give you a call.
  • Love the blog, excellent writing, keep it going. The very best of luck with your new journey. Bangalore is home for me, so hopefully will meet up when I’m there… Cheerio.
  • Congrats on the move… One of the gigs I am looking at could put me in Bangalore a fair amount.  You will have to show me the ropes….  When are you all arriving NY?  I would love to meet you out for drink/dinner if you have the time.
  • Wow! This is a huge move! Best of luck to you & your family Vishy! Will this get you closer to your wider family? I’ll ping you next time I’m in Bangalore …
  • Good luck – I will catch you in my next visit to Blore. Sorry to see a good friend leave from the bay area! I know you must be very busy, but let me know if you have some bandwidth to sync for maybe 1/2 hr over coffee and catch up before you leave.
  • duuuuuuude! I think this is a good thing? Bad for us.. good for India. I’ve never been to Bangalore, but if I do perhaps I can look you up. Same goes for you if you ever make it to Austin/Texas. Seems like you’re going the ‘northern’ route to NY though.. heh. Man! Well.. best of luck.
  • Wow! Sounds fantastic. Have a safe and enjoyable trip back to India. Do stay in touch. I visit India on business every couple of months and do stop over in Bangalore, so hope to meet you there once you are well settled.
  • Wish you well on the move…what is your plans when you get to bangalore.  I am there every 2-3 weeks. Let’s definitely stay in touch.
  • Good for you. I have heard wonderful stories about folks returning to India and really enjoying the good life and reconnecting with family and culture. Enjoy your US tour and stay in touch. My partner and I are looking to vacation in India next year. Please stay in touch as we might like to stop by and visit you in your new home. Cheers and best wishes on you new endeavor.
  • Wow! Big move. Hope to see you in Bangalore some day.
  • Have a safe, wonderful journey.  Hope the transition back to India is smooth for you.  Perhaps I’ll track you down the next time I’m in Bangalore.
  • All the best to you. I hope my travels will once again bring me to Bangalore, and if so, I will definitely be in contact.  Travel safely and keep well.
  • Wow!! That’s amazing news. I’m really happy for you! I’m also glad to have someone to visit if i’m ever in bangalore again. 🙂 Please keep us all up to date. Good luck!
  • Wow that is big news!!!! Would you happen to have some time before you leave the bay area to meet up for a coffee or something? Would love to connect before you head out to BLR. My in-laws are in BLR and we do visit every time we go back.

Why did the Kurugantis immigrate to America?

Pic: courtesy indianamerica.wordpress.com

Sometime in my 2nd year of engineering at BIT Mesra, I first dreamed of coming to America, getting trained as a computer scientist, doing cutting-edge research and becoming wildly famous – you know, the usual dreams that 2nd year engineering students have. 🙂 With a single-minded focus, I threw myself into the application process for graduate studies – acing the GRE, writing Statement of Purposes, obtaining recommendation letters, etc. Four years later, on Aug 15, 1992, I boarded a Lufthansa flight to Houston to start my MS program at University of Houston. At this point, I was neither thinking of settling down in America nor did I have a definitive plan to return to India – my operating philosophy was simply to wait and see how my career progressed.

Two weeks prior to my arrival in Houston, an intelligent and attractive young woman from Bombay took a different flight to Chicago. She was headed to Loyola University to pursue her Ph.D in neuroscience. Her motivations were far more idealistic, focused and driven. After watching her mother battle Multiple Sclerosis (a disease neither well-understood nor well-researched in India) for years, she vowed to join the thousands of worldwide researchers in the quest for a cure to MS. Unlike my wait and see approach, she resolved to return to India after completing her Ph.D. Our paths crossed in Jun 1996 and inevitably changed both our lives. After a year-long romance (short by American standards, long by Indian standards), we got married.

I’ve thought long and hard about why I dreamed of America in the first place. I’ve come up with two plausible reasons.

  1. Books are where dreams begin. I was a serious bookworm during my school years. It is not an exaggeration to say that I devoured 5-6 books a week (when school was in session). My earliest images of America were of the Wild West which was fueled by a heavy diet of Louis L’Amour, Oliver Strange’s Sudden, and Zane Gray. My reading then moved to adventure, intrigue, and science fiction where I encountered the likes of Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler, and Isaac Asimov. Somewhere in the zillion mentions and portrayals of America (wild west, MIT, and CalTech), I became fascinated and wanted to see and visit America. By the time I reached college, the resolve became stronger and turned into professional hunger.
  2. By the time I reached BIT Mesra (my undergraduate alma mater), I had heard of many many folks (especially engineering graduates) who had immigrated to America to pursue graduate study. One of my friend’s brothers (who was already a professor at University of Pennsylvania) had won the prestigious Presidential Young Scientist award. All these social proof points added to my determination to pursue the (Indian) American Dream.

16 years later…

Pic: courtesy caminodesantiago.me

16 years? Well – to be more precise 15 years, 9 months & 5 days since I came to America from India. Chasing the American Dream I came.. first to the University of Houston to pursue an MS in Computer Science. Two quick years later, fate played a role in whisking me off to Chicago (& not San Francisco Bay Area). I had resolved to drive to SF Bay Area if I didn’t find a job within 30 days of graduating.

Two companies made offers within the first 2 weeks – Dallas-based American Airlines and a little-known consulting firm (SEI Information Technologies) in Chicago. By all accounts, I should have accepted the former offer – who doesn’t want to fly to a new American city every weekend (especially if you are in your 20’s). What excited me about SEI was the group’s focus on the exciting field of in-car navigation systems (this group eventually merged with the sister company Navigation Technologies). Navigation systems, GPS applications, and A* algorithms were a clear draw. The Chicago vs. Dallas factor clinched the decision for me. What I didn’t realize until 2 years later the real reason why I had moved to Chicago — to meet and marry the woman of my dreams – Poonam.

Poonam graduated from Loyola University with a Ph.D in neuroscience, accepted a post-doc position at Stanford University and we moved to the Bay Area in July 1998. Ten great years later we’re approaching the next inflection point in our lives. We are moving back to India – there, I said it!

Coming up next…

  • Why were the last 16 years so incredibly great? Why did we come to America in the first place?
  • Why are we moving to India? And why now?
  • Whither India? Which city are we moving to?
  • ….
  • So much more….