No Longer 18

I’m no longer 18. I can feel the difference. After decades of celebrating my 21st birthday, the strain on the bones, tendons, joints, muscles and ligaments is obvious. Every time I submit an ID document or fill in a form, the fact that I’m from the previous century hits me hard. With my bank balance smaller than my slim waist, my retirement seems too close for comfort. So how do I cope with the huge void that is created as my youth creeps away to give way to greyness, baldness and presbyopia.
* My friend zips around in a BMW as he takes us to his beach facing holiday apartment. And me?  My trusty Hyundai Xcent is smaller, but has taken me through beach roads, highways, wilderness, hills and city streets. My C grade hospital-provided quarters has a great mountain view with no shared walls. Peaceful!
* What is a man without a Royal Enfield bullet bike. But…..No cash, no quads means no bullet and no thud-thud-vrrooom. This however saves me the embarrassment of stopping at traffic lights and slowly keeling over to one side as bullet weight overpowers my quads muscle power. So my 100cc TVS Wego will do – once I get that battery changed and the bike serviced.
* Dad jokes are no longer acceptable at home and at my workplace. My son detests them and my daughter doesn’t care – unless I pair the humour with funny faces and weird sounds. I fear i may get lynched if I try them anymore. So I now target my humour at my ever forgiving church. Gently interspersed into worship sessions, WhatsApp messages and broadcasts, they still draw a few laughs. What good is a church that does not forgive and accept a man with all his defects? My Church rocks!! Forgiveness flows so freeeeeeely
* Turn grey, turn green: Suddenly plants seem to be a good idea. Not eating them – I still prefer meat (as legally permissible). Every morning, watching the greys on my head in the mirror  gives way to the sight of a bright splash of green (and some yellow and brown and even black) on my narrow balcony as I see the plants fighting for survival. One in ten actually survives  the onslaught of my brown thumb. This is the exact opposite of the grey survival rate where ten in one survives…. whatever that means.
* I ordered a set of badminton racquets for JJ and me. I ended up with tennis elbow even before it arrived. I tried jogging. Two sessions of energetic concrete running and I was looking up the anatomy of the knee to see what the source of the pain was. Every time I meet my Orthopedician friend with a pain or strain, he is very curt and to the point. “These are usual degenerative changes that come with age, Benji”. My fitness suffers and my cholesterol soars.

Now let’s get to the numbers. All amounts in INR (Indian Rupees)
Beach house – 8 digits,
BMW – 7 digits,
Royal Enfield Himalayan – 6 digits,
iPhone X – 5 digits,
Cajon – 4 digits,
Cycle – 4 digits,
Pull-up bar – 3 digits,
Coffee beans – 2 digits.
So then the fervent prayers and negotiations started with furtive glances of bank statements. Am I worth it? Let’s get digital:
8, 7, 6 – eliminated at first glance. C grade quarters with mountain view, Xcent and Wego get the job done as mentioned above.
5. Moto X still has an X in it. Maybe I won’t notice the rest of the name. Done!
4. JJ has a good sense of beat and rhythm. Maybe he needs to get into percussion. Trip to Bangalore, music store visit. Pearl Cajon. YouTube Tutorials. Done!
4. Cycle – too dangerous for Vellore roads. Hmmm…  Maybe AnaPops  would love to be pushed around the KPTR campus in a tricycle. She’s 2 years and would dig one. Orange is her favorite color this month. Done!
3. “J – Do you want to show off your muscle power on a pull up bar?”
“Yes Appa”
2. “I’ll make sure you wake up and smell the coffee every morning honey”
My 7 year old leaky Breville 800ES still brews a strong coffee every morning as espresso flows out of the portafilter and fills the morning kitchen with the fresh smell of roasted, brewed coffee while the kitchen counter overflows with water spewed out of all its other parts. Way better than those instant coffee mornings! All this at about Rs. 10 a serving. Ordered online every month.

7 am: So here I am! Sipping freshly brewed coffee on a green(ish) balcony watching the sun rise behind majestic mountains. The fresh morning Vellore air mixed with a large dose of silica dust is dangerously addictive. I shower a little water on the pots and wish my plants for the morning – for some of them it will be their last, but they don’t know that. They don’t need to know that.
6 pm: And here I am again! Pushing my giggly daughter in her bright orange tricycle through the KPTR campus roads to the library. We watch the moon. We make funny sounds as she struggles to understand that joke about the stars and the moon. We stare at the cobwebs on my parked Wego. We dust the Xcent and fish out an old toy from the back seat of the Xcent where it disappeared during last weeks 500 km road trip.  We then fly up to home in the lift. I walk underneath the unused pull-up bar a dozen times and finally sit on the cajon to belt out a beat to the dagger-like stares of family. Ten little fingers sacrifice homework for a keyboard jingle and 2 little feet dance to the unrhythm. The cajon shudders as it remembers it’s first nervous public appearance in Scudder Audi a few weeks ago. The thin line between music and noise is crossed many times
8 pm: A nine year old shovels carefully prepared  food into the mouth of a 2 year old to the sights of Cocomelon on my X4 and apparently that is enough to fill the home with laughter.
9 pm: As I start preparing my worship set for Sunday morning, I inject in the usual quota of dad jokes inbetween songs. The lovely aroma of dinner fades away and  the gentle voices of 2 children praying end in a chorus of Amens. My Moto X4 plays soft music as little eyes close slowly.
As my degenerating ligaments and tendons beg for rest, we talk about our twelve years together. It seems like it was just yesterday that we kissed for the first time,  and today our hearts beat next to each other for the millionth time. My sore muscles stop complaining.

Age is just a number, and for most of our lives it’s 2 digits. The only thing that can’t be numbered are life’s little blessings. And the only way to realise that it is to actually try counting them.
Yes….. I’m not longer 18.


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Praise Him Moon and Stars

Some doodling with iMovie, Graham Kendrick and lyrics and put together a lyrics video. Maybe I’ll do this for older songs that are difficult to find on youtube – have to browse through my old CD and hard disks to see if I can get out some gems from the past.

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The Cup

To the pessimist the cup is always half empty. To the optimist the cup is always half full. To the Psalmist the cup is always overflowing

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Giver of Life

Its not always that a Sunday School / VBS song gets chosen as the key song in a worship set, but ever since I heard the children sing this at our Church Retreat, it stuck in my head and I decided to take up the task of building a worship session around this song. We decided to let the children ‘lead’ this song by singing and doing the actions with us. I often feel that we ignore children during times of ‘worship’ at Church. God laid it upon my heart to let the Church know that the children are just as capable of worshiping during the time of singing at Church. I also wanted to let the Church know that Sunday school and VBS songs are not fun songs that kids jump around to, but have lyrics and meanings that are as deep as some hymns and worship numbers. Of course, the music tends to be kid-friendly and the lyrics are child-like! I also find that during worship time at church, new parents are a little disconnected as they tend to their little children. If the children can join in and participate in the time of worship, the parents (often tired) get a precious chance to immerse themselves in worshipping God and also experience the thrill of seeing their little ones respond or participate in Church.

Armed with these thoughts, I slowly was guided to put together a set of songs that centered around the fact that God is the Giver of Life and the Giver of Love – based on James 1:17 (All that is good, comes from above). As the songs fell in place there was an overwhelming sense of intrigue when I realised that with an amazing God as giver, the real joy was when our hearts yearned for the good things from above and hence we could receive from God the things that mattered. Our response to this receiving from God was a heart of worship! To God be the Glory.

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Fretting and strung up about a cracked bridge

Is this the beginning of the end. My Pluto guitar is about 12 years old and has been the main guitar I have used in my life. You can read the short story of how I got the guitar here.

When we were returning from Australia in 2014, it got damaged in transit – Malaysian Airlines refused to let me carry it on board and asked me to check it in. I had to sign a waiver and that was it. It still sounded great even after this damage – there were cracks on the body in front and probably one of the support beams inside. I’ve used it immensely till now. It continued to sound good, but recently the bridge has started cracking where the saddle sits. This will eventually kill the bridge. Presently, a trained ear will easily pick up on the fact that the tuning is not perfect. Add to that a cracked beam on the inside and probably a slightly warped fretboard.

I’ll still use it as it sounds good enough and a new guitar will cost a bomb. I’ll take a while to get used to anything new. But the hunt has started – reluctantly. This looks like the beginning of the end for my Pluto guitar.

What do you reckon – should I repair the bridge, get a new bridge or just get a new guitar. Let me know!

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Tremble – Worship @ Church

To cut to the chase, I had built the worship set today around the song “Tremble”. I had the usual hurdles before I reached church – stringing together the medley was not easy, only Surina was available to help and the weather was rainy and gloomy. I thought that the worship session would be the calm through all this. I wasn’t prepared for the tremors that shook me before the beginning of the service. I first discovered that the key to the mixer was not available – but that was an easy fix and Neelavenan Annan found it for us. As JJ and I set up the mixer and microphones we hit the next major hurdle. With just twenty minutes to go, the laptop refused to boot and was stuck at the first screen.

I desperately texted the church requesting someone to bring a laptop, but most had already left. The church laptop was not in the office and the new laptop ordered for the worship team was still not set up. We didn’t have a working HDMI-VGA adapter for my laptop – the one in church was broken. Things were shaky but not hopeless – Ravish said he’d bring a HDMI-VGA adapter and Sharon/Faith said they would bring their laptop and try to reach on time. Would that be good enough and quick enough?

After multiple attempts, we decided that those keys marked F1-F12 could help us. They didn’t when we tried. After a desperate prayer we zeroed in on F12 again. As we kept it pressed, the key slowly coaxed the laptop to go into some boot menu and we did a one-time boot. Bingo! After a little whirring and some frowns, the old Dell laptop booted, albeit reluctantly. We managed to practice the main medley and then the Church service started. The darkness (frozen boot-up screen) literally trembled and gave way to prayer and I really needed God to calm the raging sea inside of me as we seemed so rushed when the service started. Arpudh smoothened out the mixer and we felt Gods solid presence lead us through the time of worship.

I’ll leave you with a few thoughts I have shared on our Church website and add the worship audio to this diary. Hope it blesses you.

The Bible is filled with references to trembling, shaking and shuddering. Raging sea and troubled waters are all calmed by the immensely powerful name of Jesus. Mighty mountains will tremble before the Lord. Demons shudder at the mention of His name.The same power is seen when he calms the raging storms in our hearts if we give our hearts to Him and stand on the solid rock of Christ. Just a word from Him can bring peace and still to our lives. 
Song List
You shall go out with joy
God is good, we sing and shout it
My hope is built
Here’s my heart
Jesus, name above all names
Still (When the oceans rise)

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Microsoft ‘End of Life’ Discussions in the ICU

(Warning: Hypothetical Conversation only included)

So I had this end of life discussion with a Microsoft employee who’s father was extremely sick and was probably not going to make it. 
Me: Your dad is very sick and is on multiple life support medications and machines with continuous dialysis. He has multiple cannulae infusing medications and more tubes monitoring his vital signs. He appears to be unresponsive to everything. 
Him: Doc, have you tried disconnecting and pulling out all the tubes, cannula, wires and monitors, turning everything off for 10 seconds, putting them all together again and then powering everything back on. 
Me: That would result in a hard reset of his life. 
Him: And what exactly is that Doc?
Me: All data and malfunctions will be wiped off and he will be restored back to factory specifications with basic software only. 
Him: …and….
Me: If you believe in reincarnation, it means that your dad will die and will be reborn as a newborn baby somewhere else. If reincarnation is not true then we cannot recover any data. We may be able to use some internal parts on another entity as an organ transplant.

I think he understood how sick his dad was that day.

Note: This is very definitely a hypothetical situation and no such event has ever happened. I apparently need to put in a note to this effect to avoid getting sued by Microsoft or penalized by the MCI/NMC

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Here’s My Heart Lord – Worship on 21st July

I led worship this Sunday at Church. I just loved how all the songs fell in place. I had listened to the theme song “Here’s My Heart” by I Am They more than a year ago and loved it. I somehow knew it would make it to a worship set one day and this was the chosen Sunday! With the theme revolving around HEART, ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’ was a natural opener. The fun part came when I took Anaya to the park with lots of swings and slides and hoops, etc and watched her run all around happy. The Sunday School song ‘Happy All the Time’ kept playing in my head and as I sat down to piece together songs for the worship session, literally forced itself into the plans! It felt God-led and even though I considered dropping it, it stuck on and was a blessing when we sang it in Church! The mix of Change My Heart and Refiners Fire fell in place as I sat on the bed strumming the guitar pondering on the theme. Surprisingly Becky asked if I would use these songs at worship time when she came to now the theme. Lovely Lord came out of poring through a song book and the Hymn ‘Take My Life’ again was a natural addition to the song list.

Once again, for the key song (Here’s my Heart) I looked through the lyrics to match the words to scripture references and it was an amazing experience for me and for the Church – here’s a link to the video with the lyrics and Bible Verses.

“The word ‘Heart’ occurs a thousand times in the Bible. It symbolises the individual,   and often refers to ones desires, knowledge, emotions and more. Giving our heart to God is surrendering our life to God completely. When we open the eyes of our heart and see that God is loving, compassionate and truthful, we experience the power of cleansing and the joy of freedom – the kind of joy that makes a child run helter skelter in a playground! God is lovely and all powerful. In Him there is no evil. He is trustworthy. It is safe to give our heart to Him. He will speak the truth and protect our hearts and our lives from the lies and hatred the world spews out. He will purify it through the refiners fire and make us holy and pure. Don’t you want to give your heart to Jesus?”
Song List
1. Open the Eyes of My Heart
2. Happy All the Time
3. Lovely Lord
4. Here’s My Heart
5. Change My Heart / Refiners Fire
6. Take My Life

Worship audio – Worship powerpoint

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Not Enough Publications!

In an academic institution, a large part of progressing through a career is having enough publications to get to the next rung. It’s a battle I was aware of when I joined, but have not been motivated enough to fight well. Maybe I’m not equipped, maybe I’m not a battler, maybe I’m just plain lazy. “Not enough publications” is a yearly ordeal I hear every June as I settle into a stagnant life in my C grade quarters and I find myself unable to remove the Asst. in my designation. This is also an easy excuse for not being allotted a car park at work. But it hasn’t impacted on the joy factor in life thankfully. Only my overall impact factor on the academic world has been, tragically, close to zilch.

I’ve now started using “Not Enough Publications” as an excuse for everything to try and twist this academic disability in my favour. Here are some (possible) scenarios:

1. (At work): Doctor Sir, why can’t you discharge my child. He’s already 1.5 kg and gobbling milk through that NG tube.
After 15 minutes of explaining our discharge criteria, parents were adamant.
“I still can’t discharge the baby dear parents”.
“Why doctor ji”
“I don’t have enough publications”
(After a round of hugs and tears)
“Doctor, we’ll stay till you say he is fit for discharge”

2. At Radisson Beach Resort:
Me: “Could you upgrade our room sir”
Receptionist: “Are you a Club Member sir”
Me: “No sir. But I don’t have enough publications”
Him: “You can take the Royal Suite sir”

3. Auto guy: “80 RS sir”
I give him a 100.
“Do you have enough change sir”, he asks.
Me: “Not enough change. Not enough publications. Keep the 100”
Everyone is a winner.

4. “I won’t be able to help with music at church this Sunday”
“Why Benji”
“Not enough publications”

5. “I’ll skip dessert”
“Why honey”
“Not enough publications”

6. JJ: “Appa, could I have a new Lego set for my birthday, please?”
Me: “No JJ”
“Waaaaaaaah. But why Appa? I used manners”
“Appa has manners too, but not enough publications”

7. “Sir you are eligible for a lifetime free Platinum credit card sir”
Me: “That’s ok, I’ll skip this offer. Not enough publications”
“Sir, then you can have our titanium card with more benefits.”

8. “Benji, you don’t update your facebook status often. It’s been a loooong time”
“Yah machhan. Not enough publications”
Publish or Perish they told me. I know which way I’m headed. If you don’t see this diary updated in a month, say a silent prayer for me.

Posted in academics, fun, general, work | 3 Comments

Wilted….. Revived

I have a small balcony garden that has made it to my blog on a couple of occasions. Summers in Vellore are harsh and the plants don’t like it since the sn sun shines directly on this side of the building through most of the day. I usually water the plants in the morning before I go to work. However, there are days when I can’t and by evening a couple of them start to wilt and droop.

What surprises me is how they revive soon after I water them in the evening! I tried a time-lapse video over an hour or so and you can see how they perk up:

Now there are some downsides. By allowing it to wilt, I usually end up losing a little bit of the plant – a few leaves can never revive. Also if this happens too many times or if I skip a couple of days, I end up losing the whole plant. Well, this is something that I need to think of when I try to keep my life green and rich with Christ. Regular watering is needed and if I don’t do that I may need a revival of sorts!

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