New York


January one seems to come by faster every single year. We decided to be mellow this year – necessity, exhaustion and desire. New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays/events that is always a let down. Every single time I’ve planned it, it’s been a huge bust. So, we didn’t plan anything.

We had a very nice time at a small party in our building which R and I attended sequentially so that one of us could be with the sleeping kids. And then it was the big moment – I could hear the city all around me go crazy. And well after I was in bed, music was pounding from all sides of the building. New York definitely knows how to party.

A mellow evening was followed by a mellow start to the year – we sorted through thousands of books to figure out which ones are going to new homes. But more on that in another post…

20-somethings: spoiled and lazy

Why won’t kids grow up? Short answer: Because we let them, and because we fetishize youth.

That pretty much sums up the overly-long article in the New York Times that explores why 20-somethings refuse to grow up.

I’ve been stunned at the behavior of a lot of 20-somethings. They seem to be constantly finding themselves, making excuses “oh, toughest economy to graduate in”, and moving back home after graduation. Really? If the economy is so tough, man up and accept a job that you think is beneath you and yes, you don’t get to live on Park Avenue if that happens and no, you really shouldn’t continue to live at home either!

Oh, but that not possible because they are coddled and supported by their parents.

Nor do parents expect their children to grow up right away — and they might not even want them to. Parents might regret having themselves jumped into marriage or a career and hope for more considered choices for their children. Or they might want to hold on to a reassuring connection with their children as the kids leave home. If they were “helicopter parents” — a term that describes heavily invested parents who hover over their children, swooping down to take charge and solve problems at a moment’s notice — they might keep hovering and problem-solving long past the time when their children should be solving problems on their own. This might, in a strange way, be part of what keeps their grown children in the limbo between adolescence and adulthood. It can be hard sometimes to tease out to what extent a child doesn’t quite want to grow up and to what extent a parent doesn’t quite want to let go.

But, but… I have seen high-functioning 20-year olds – they get jobs, work their asses off, live within their means, go to graduate school, move out and live on their own, and even, gasp!, get promotions and establish themselves. So clearly it is not all 20-somethings who go through this phase.

Ah, but there, finally at the end of the very, very long article, it comes to the core of the issue – “emerging adulthood” is not something everyone goes through unlike adolescence.

To qualify as a developmental stage, emerging adulthood must be both universal and essential.

Oh. My. God. You just wasted thousands of words on a theory that basically justifies spoiled brats? Grow up brats. Parents, stop coddling your kids and pretending you are a self-actualized parent.

And the New York Times – please, can we not waste ink on the privileged, spoiled lot? Thank you!

Starbucks – back to its roots

When I was at eBay, Howard Schultz, the Chairman and founder of Starbucks was on the Board and he came to speak at one of the leadership meetings. They also handed out his book, Pour Your Heart Into It.

He was such an exceptional, inspirational speaker that I went home and read his book immediately. I loved it. It was the story of an entrepreneur. The story of a man who wanted to build a third place where people congregated – not work, not home, but a comfortable other place where they felt welcome.

When Schultz was no longer the CEO, it felt like Starbucks sort of lost its way. They tried things halfheartedly, became totally cookie cutter, and in fact, became a the soulless chain Schultz always wanted it not to be. But because of the talk and because of his book, I stayed a loyal Starbucks customer1.

The news release that Starbucks is going to offer free wifi is, to me, Starbucks going back to its roots. People today are ultra connected and their third place needs to be connected, comfortable and free. Starbucks is doing that. And it’s doing more. Not only is it free, they are welcoming you with a free paper – premium subscriptions through the Starbucks Digital Network.

Everyone talks about how this is very smart. And yes, it is. But, really it’s just Starbucks going back to the roots that Schultz always wanted for it. Welcome back to the helm, Howard Schultz. I hope you reclaim the company you started and steer it back on course.

  1. In fact, after not being in New York for a week, this morning I lost my FourSquare mayorship of my neighborhood Starbucks 

Alternative Schools

A Krishnamurti School concerns itself with education of the total human being. Knowledge and intellectual capability alone are not sufficient to meet life’s challenges. Learning to enquire, to observe oneself, to relate with other people and the earth, is the core intention of the school.

Towards the end of last year, Uttara asked me to share my thoughts on my early education in India. We both went to Krishnamurti schools which are Alternative/Progressive schools in India that were really ahead of their time and she wrote an incredibly detailed blog post about the landscape.

I didn’t have a lot of time since I was just starting my crazily intense graduate program, so I sent her a quick note which she reproduced in it’s entirety. Here it is –


– sense of self; not defined by the crowd. they really encourage this. it is awesome

– respect for authority, but a good amount of disdain for it as well. they used to allow us to walk out of class if we wanted. it goes to #1 as well.

– learned in a non-traditional way – going and examining leaves for science class. walking outside. unheard of in the traditional sense.

– exercise. daily instead of weekly at most regular schools.

– arts and craft – also a lot of exposure to this and very non-traditional stuff. i used to learn how to model in card board, papier mache, photography (at 7/8 years old). i mean, seriously, they made this part of the education, not something that was tacked on because it had to be.

– singing – lots of singing. singing classes, singing bhajans, singing carols. it was awesome.

– it just felt free and enjoyable. i used to love to go to school. i used to cry if i couldn’t go. now, there’s a reversal if there ever was one.


– unfortunately we live in a world where competition exists. where public exams exist. where there are, in fact, losers and winners. so, in this regard, the school was like an unreal bubble.

– it was really bad at preparing students for exams. i finally got taken out of my alternative school at the end of the 6th grade – when the first batch went through their public exams and things didn’t go so well. I went to a regular school with lots of mid-terms and test. i was paralyzed and had no clue how to take these simple little tests.

in retrospect, leaving KFI when i did was the perfect right thing. just like spending my youth there was also the perfect right thing.

I still agree with everything I said to Uttara. In fact, since September, we’ve had to go through the ridiculously gruelling pre-school process for our twin boys in New York City and as I went through the process, I’ve had occasion to think more about my own experience and about a progressive/alternative education. My time at KFI till the 6th grade was the most enjoyable time of my life. I loved school, played every day, had science class under the trees, lived life, loved life. We were really children without a sense of pressure.

I also feel that KFI enhanced my creative side. My love for photography was born there. An incredible teacher taught me photography and made me fall in love with the power of the image. He pushed me, he challenged me and he didn’t treat me like a 3rd grader. It was amazing. I am in film school today in part because of him. So, Damayan Anna, if you are out there somewhere reading this, a huge thank you!

The lack of pressure of academics and constant mind-numbing deliverables is something that you can never find in the real world or in a regular school. If childhood is to be enjoyed why not let children actually have a life where they don’t have to be “realistic” for a the first few years of life?

But herein lies the rub. When do you do the shift and how do you do the shift? Because at some point, whatever said and done, the real world has not come around to seeing things the way of the Progressive educational system. My sense of self and sense of confidence took a real beating when I changed schools. I moved in the 7th grade and went from being carefree and not thinking about “my worth” to being graded in a system I had no clue how to survive in. But fortunately for me, it was early enough before the public exams in the 10th grade. I learned to cope and, slowly, to do well. But in a system that grinds that students, that values different things. Sure you can excel at debates and writing and extracurricular activities, but you also have to be a scholastic machine in a way that the system expects. IF you can be both, you are a super-star. But purely being creative is not enough.

This is not an issue just in India. I recently saw Gotham Gal’s post about her daughter Emily’s angst around the SATs. Emily goes to LREI, a progressive school in Manhattan. In the US, if you go to a City and Country or an LREIs of the world where you are happy and creative but want to go to a college that requires the SAT, the reality of the process hits you because the school so far hasn’t been focused on students learning that way. It’s hard and horrible and Emily articulates the problem well. Fortunately for Emily once she gets through the SAT, she can go to a college that values her abilities and evaluates her the way she’s used to.

The issue is larger in India. In India, when a kid trained in a progressive school meets reality, reality is in the form of the public exams – the national exams that grade students across the country. A huge deal. And then college, where there are no real progressive colleges that I know of. So even if a child goes to a progressive school, at some point, they have to shift their learning method into the “regular” mode. Maybe the progressive schools in India have morphed since I went there to cope with having to deal with the “evaluations” that exist outside. That would be the smart thing to do.

J&G are still very young but it’s something we think about for them. What is the right answer? To me, there’s no question that at a young age, Progressive is the way to go. We managed to get them into a progressive pre-school. But do we shift at some point? Or do we hope that they are natural test takers? Or do we say, “ok, fine, struggle with the SAT, but enjoy school” and that’s that? What if they want to go to college in India? More questions than answers. Will the world move to a more progressive model? Here’s hoping.

What’s in that tab?

After a particularly horrible day today, I was decompressing when I found a song I’ve been looking for for a long time.

The song, called Praan (I discovered), is the song from the “Where the hell is Matt?” video. The song is fantastic (listen). What’s even more fantastic is that it is from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali. It is Stream of Life set to music.

Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day

runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth

in numberless blades of grass

and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth

and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.

And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

It is brilliant. It is on continuous loop and it gives me hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

But… back to the topic of the post – I tried twice to post the audio file to this blog. Both times WordPress collapsed. And that’s why I have In The Moment.

The tab is where I post stuff as I experience it. Quotes, songs, inspirational videos, creative brilliance, an image from the No on 8 protest, whatever. It is what I experience in that moment. I hope you’ll visit to experience stuff with me1. And since it is so much simpler to post there, the quick and little stuff will go there – more stuff and more frequently…

  1. yes, there’s a feed 

Adjusting to NYC

The Times has an interesting article about new settlers to NYC.

Newcomers suddenly realize either that the city is not working for them or that they are inexorably becoming part of it, or both. They find themselves walking and talking faster.

I went through a lot of the ups and downs after moving to the city, loving it on some days and hating it on most others. Moving from California was emotionally hard – gone were the open spaces, the greenery, the ability to be cocooned in my car as I drove along scenic 280 to work. New York was in my face. All the time. From the moment I stepped out, I was swamped in the sea of humanity. The subway was even worse and the concept of personal space was redefined.

But, much like the article talks about, there was a tipping point – where there was more to love about the city than to dislike. And even the things I disliked, I got used to. I learned to navigate the insane pavements – I got annoyed at the tourists who walked while looking up, shook my head at the newbies who walked three or four-across on the sidewalks; I became comfortable on the subway; I even find the people helpful! In fact, I’m so far gone that I feel pride at how cool the city is and defend it to the nay sayers.

“Every day you encounter situations where you have to step out of your safety zone, and it’s really kind of a self-discovery experience,” she said. “I see myself fighting it, but I also I see myself, every day, becoming a New Yorker.”

And that’s the reality – every day, I see myself becoming more of a New Yorker. And it is a pretty good feeling.

Jetsons-style grocery shopping

Each time you’re about to throw away an empty container — for ketchup, cereal, pickles, milk, macaroni, paper towels, dog food or whatever — you just pass its bar code under the scanner. With amazing speed and accuracy, the Ikan beeps, consults its online database of one million products, and displays the full name and description.

In a clear, friendly font, the screen might say: “Nabisco Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers 14.5 Oz.,” for example. Now you can toss the box, content that its replacement has been added to your shopping list.

After a few days of this, you can review the list online at — and if everything looks good, click once to have everything delivered to your house at a time you specify.

Maybe it’s not exactly a Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle. But at least it’s the Netflix of groceries.
State of the Art – Grocery Shopping Made Easy –

The next revision of this will be a smaller, lighter scanner. When that happens AND when (if?) they integrate with Fresh Direct or Whole Foods, I am SO there.


Enjoying the rain

originally uploaded by andy in nyc.

As adults, we don’t enjoy being in the rain. We may say we enjoy the rain, but it is as a distant observer – we ourselves need to be warm, dry and inside to enjoy the cool, wet outside.

I really can’t think of a single time in my adult life that I’ve been stuck in downpour and enjoyed it.

Well, all that changed last night. I had to head out to run some errands. It had rained all afternoon and so I convinced myself that it couldn’t possibly rain anymore (er, what?!) and head out blithely without an umbrella. Finished grocery shopping at Whole Foods and headed out to discover the torrential rain coming down.

After standing under the awning and whining with other shoppers about how we forgot our umbrellas, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I voluntarily got drenched… and had fun doing it.

So, I ensured my bag with phone and iPod was firmly closed and I stepped out from under the awning and crossed the street. I was soaked by the time I got to the other end. But I didn’t melt.

And by the time I got to the next block, I was having a great time. As I happily walked along, people standing in storefronts would smile and laugh. I just smiled back and enjoyed a leisurely walk home. It was brilliant. I was completely soaked through, but it was an awesome feeling! A warm shower and hot tea were perfect to round out my evening.

Growing up has many advantages, but when did I become so uptight that I couldn’t truly experience the rain anymore? I would encourage everyone to let go a little and play in the rain – at least once a decade! 🙂

New York’s message: have a rich life

Paul Graham’s article about cities focuses on Cambridge, Silicon Valley and New York. Each city, according to Graham, sends a message:

Cambridge says “you should be smarter” – it is the city of intellect, the city of ideas.

Silicon Valley says “you should be more powerful” – it is the city of startups.

New York says “you should make more money” – it is the city of wealth/finance.

I’ve had the good fortune of living in all three places and I disagree with Paul about his take on New York (I also have a quibble about Silicon Valley, but we’ll get to that).

Cambridge definitely has the intellectual vibe. You feel it everywhere you go. But Cambridge is tiny. TINY. Once I graduated, I moved out of Cambridge and it was a completely different story. Davis Square is where Tufts is. It should be diverse, but every evening as I walked home from the T1, old white men sitting on their porches would stare at me as if I were from Mars. I’d walk by thinking “Come on, people! It is 1997!!! What’s so unusual about a brown chick?!” Then there’s Boston. Can you say homogeneous?? Even if it had every smart person in the world, I hope I don’t have to live there again.

Silicon Valley is wonderful. I spent seven incredible years there. And it is definitely about startups. But it is not just about power. It is also about money – where more money puts you higher on the status totem pole. A lot of discussions in Silicon Valley2 are about who made how much by selling to which company at the right time. And even if the crass component of “how much” someone made is not front and center, it is hovering in the wings. The infinitely more elegant “he’s done”3 is a commonly heard phrase.

And now we come to New York. I’ll be honest – when I moved here from Silicon Valley, I was quite miserable4. I missed California – the attitude, the people, the work, the weather, the calm, the space… everything. But as I spent more time in NYC, the more I started to enjoy it.

Yes, New York has its share of finance “neanderthals in suits”, but you really don’t have to see any of them if you don’t want to. In NYC, I can go days or weeks without having a conversation about technology if I so choose. And I’ve gone 5 years without having a single conversation about finance. In Silicon Valley, even the accountants and lawyers work for tech companies! In NYC, I meet people who have never heard of Twitter, Skype, TechCrunch or Valleywag. These people are dancers, artists, museum curators, actors, yoga instructors, photographers, architects… and that’s just in my building!! And none of these people are focused on making more money – they are focused on making an impact on their field – on being the best dancer/artist/curator/actor/yoga instructor/photographer/architect that they can be. I don’t know where Paul lived, but I have never felt like finance people are crawling all over NYC. Not once.

Professionally, my life in NYC has been about film and technology. There are some great startups in this city and every day, I see more being formed. And NYC is the indie film capital of the country with one of the best film schools in the world.

Personally, I’ve been privileged to go to the finest museums in the world – The Met, MoMA, Whitney and Guggenheim, attend stunning opera and ballet, watch free concerts in the park, eat at some of the best restaurants in the world, visit art galleries that are discovering wonderful new talent, listen to leading classical artists from India and the rest of the world perform here, attend lectures by Nobel Laureates, and take some wonderful classes in writing and film.

New York really has almost everything you can ask for. And because of its variety, it allows you to tailor your experience of it. You could see New York as just the artistic capital of the world, or just the culinary capital of the world, or just the indie film capital of the world. Or, as Paul did, the finance capital of the world.

And to me that says that New York is an incredibly diverse, incredibly interesting city. To someone who is open to the wealth5 of diversity that New York has to offer, to someone who is willing to sample the different facets, the city’s message is loud and clear – you should have a rich life!

  1. the Tube, Boston’s subway system 

  2. This article and this one both capture the wealth focus of Silicon Valley 

  3. Implying they are set for life and need never work another day 

  4. In fact, back then, R would never have believed I could write a post like this 🙂  

  5. Pun intended