SVL 1.13: Starting the New Year

15th January 2015


It’s a cold but sunny day in Sunnyvale as I write to you. The past three weeks have been filled with activity.
Santosh and I had a wonderful time in Atlanta and Florida, thanks to his wonderful cousins and their families there. I’m writing about it in more detail but it will be too much for one email so here is the short version of the Atlanta trip. The detailed version and photos will follow in a separate update which is work in progress.
2 week Atlanta Trip in 2 minutes (deep breath):
We went to Atlanta, stayed with Santosh’s cousin’s family, played with her five year old son, made a cookie house, left to Jacksonville, Florida, stayed with another cousin and her family including two more kids – a four year old son and a year old daughter on Christmas day. The next day we spent at Epcot, Disney which was a LOT of fun and the next day at NASA. On the 28th we stopped at a really nice beach on the way back to Atlanta. The very next day more cousins, nieces and nephews arrived from other parts of the East Coast and we had a lot of fun, singing, playing, watching Korra that night, going out for football and late night philosophical discussions the second day and playing Kabaddi on new years eve, finishing a Korra season and counting down together to the new year. The next day all 15 of us went to the temple from where the big gang started their long trip back. Santosh and I left on the third.
We celebrated my birthday at home. Santosh made me an elaborate meal – pandigai sapadu – festival food (consisting 10 items! -2 kosambaris(type of salad), thogayal (lentil mash), urlakazhangu kari (potato fry), arachhu vitta chinna vengaya sambar (baby onion sambar with sambar podi made fresh rather than using a stored one), ambade (look it up), rasam (similar to a soup), thayir (curd), sadam (rice), and golab jamun (one of the most popular indian sweets) ). He didn’t let me look at the kitchen let alone help! I was totally surprised because I had been getting conflicting smells for the previous 4 hours. Surprised, touched, special, loved. I ate so much, I couldn’t eat again during the day!
I got calls, messages, mails etc from lots of people from so many places. It felt very special.
Through the week
I went for the final session in Stanford on Monday. There is a farewell this Thurs for the postdoc who is leaving but any more of the work is minimal and I will be doing it remotely.

I started to work on a new personal project during the week. Thursday there was a meeting of Sunnyvale Cool to discuss the successes of last year and the aims for this year. I’ve been offered a leadership position in the land use campaign. I also went on an outreach to spread awareness about the proposed Dedicated Bus Lane on Friday which was fun but exhausting – a bit like a game – catching and maintaining people’s attention as they walk by and convey as much important information in as little time, getting their support in the form of petition signatures. I went again to bus stops to collect more signatures. The City Hall meeting about this proposal is tomorrow evening – there’s quite a bit of tension about how it will turn out.

Birthday Party

On Saturday Santosh and our niece arranged for my birthday party – my cousin’s family, his cousin’s family, an old friend of Santosh and a neighbour came to the party – each with at least one kid and the house was full of cuteness and fun! There were two cakes – black-forest and chocolate, and lots of food from Chaat house. I had a playlist filled with Ghazals, karnatic vocal and instrumental, Phil Collins and Pink Floyd, and to make it more mixed up, some celtic music. The kind of background music which takes you around the world. Our niece had made a game called ‘hot potato’, also called pass the parcel in some parts of the world – There was a box with instruction chits she had cut up. When the music stopped and you have the box, you have to open the box, close your eyes and pick one. Examples of dares were –

Say something special about yourself

What is your favourite number

Recite ABCs backwards



What did you do over the holidays  etc.

It was fun 🙂 Before the party, she had also helped me pick what to wear and accessories. She has a good eye for colour, and combinations. I wore the bracelet and earrings my Aunt and Uncle gave me in LA along with a blue, green and while skirt with a double top of green and blue sparkly butterfly. It was an unexpected and imaginative combination. She also asked me to wear my hair partially down for once and I did the same for her hair. We have a picture somewhere of us standing together with the same hairstyle 🙂

During the party her 3 year old brother and my 2 year old nephew got along very well, played with the spinning chair, shared it, sat on the floor thumping the ground and laughing. When the 8 month old girl wailed before her nap, the spirited 3 year old started saying ‘it’s ok, it’s ok’ to her from the chair and then got down to try and comfort her. He was also very gentle with her when he went around the room distributing otherwise enthusiastic high fives. He also did a new thing called ‘konji’ which means he will approach your shoulder carefully and kiss next to it. This is his way of being affectionate 🙂 Both the boys cautiously tasted the cake when I first cut it and fed it to them. My nephew kept going back for more.

City Hall

It takes a long time to write update emails. So on Tuesday, the City Hall meeting happened. When I went there early and overheard a bunch of older men speaking of how the BRT project will take away space for cars and picking up Speaker cards to address the council, I realised I need to speak against them. In the end, with many late comers, 16 people including myself spoke for the Dedicated Bus Lane project, and 9 people spoke against it. Felt pretty exhilarating and dramatic.

My speech was jotted in points on the back of the Meeting Agenda. I spoke about how so many countries have enhanced public transport, so why not the Bay Area? Traffic problems are going to get worse as new projects bring more people to this area because everyone wants to drive. Cars cause congestion. It’s a very car centric growth, we have to be more people centric – So many people benefit from it including the elderly, children, disabled, students and poorer people, many of whom are coloured and live along the ECR corridor. I talked about the cool new features which would be in this project and how sitting in a car with a dedicated lane for buses would make people stressing out in cars wish they were on buses, relaxing, using the WiFi or sleeping. My time was almost up so I mentioned that the younger generation is choosing against driving so alternatives need to be good. And urged the council to consider these things while thinking about the direction Sunnyvale will take.

I had several other points which I tried to give to others I knew would speak but even without coordination, the people who spoke for the project covered the crucial points! 🙂 One of the people who spoke against BRT added a snide remark ‘what would India know about public transport when they have people hanging off the sides of them’. This was clearly a jab at me and I was feeling a bit shocked at this when Santosh told me the only time someone will target you is if they feel threatened by you. I felt proud and happy at that. My brother and parents said similar things about it and I felt happy again to have made an impact.

That about brings us up to date. I will send the detailed Atlanta Story in the next update.

Hope your new year has also started off well.

Best wishes,


See also