The pursuit of happiness


I have just returned from work and it’s been a regular day –not very hectic or a one that would totally sap the energy out of me. I look at my watch and its 8.30PM, hmmm not bad. I get out of my jacket into a pair of shorts and one of my oldest and scraggy t-shirts. Looking at it, I wonder why I even wear it now. It’s one of the oldest and has clearly run the course of its useful life, but it is the most comfy and just feels like second skin. Casting that thought aside, I pour myself a glass of single malt and park my ass in front of the TV in my new and improved living room (I have had my house re-decorated since the split and tried to just clear out a lot of the memories from the past). It’s been my ritual now and I am in my comfort zone – surfing channels, having my dinner and crashing to bed, hoping to get up in time to hit the gym before work.

I then realize, it’s a thursday evening and my daughter comes home tomorrow and I need to wrap up everything before the weekend so we can truly spend ‘papa-beti’ (father daughter) time together doing absolutely nothing on the weekend 🙂 all together, just the two of us….. I like that!!!! But something is different today and somehow in one of my moods, and I ask myself – AM I HAPPY? Just like all the other non-simple questions – this too must be broken down and analysed.

So here goes. My life has been pretty predictable since the split. I focus on wrapping up work during the week, enjoy the evening with my single malt and some actual real live friends 🙂 (and I have a few very nice ones) and spend time with the daughter on the weekend. It’s sort of a routine but I have gotten used to it. Truth be told, I have not really dated much since the split (since we are telling truths, have not dated at all really :)) but there’s been no time. Yes, I have missed a companion and there have been some occasions when I have had this strong urge to call my ex. But I was most likely a little wasted, alone and the logical thing to do was to delve into the past. But over a period of time, realization finally dawned on me, that I did not miss my ex, as a person. I really just missed a companion. While I didn’t like being alone, those times were few and far between and the hum drum and chaos of daily life really did not let me ponder on such thoughts t too much. I didn’t want to be in a relationship just because I was alone – that’s the worst foundation to a fresh start. So I brush this thought aside and think, yeah, am not sad, life is good and if am not moping about am happy……..Logical? Well, seemed to be.

That was 8 months ago. A month later, a dear friend of mine, very reluctantly and cautiously broached the topic to trying to set me up with her colleague. My friend, who shall remain nameless, like everyone else in the blog, works in a different city and my first reaction, was to tell her that she had completely lost her mind. Relationships were clearly not my forté and long distance ones to boot…phew…But I agreed, with the clear understanding that I was not committing to anything and if it did not work out there would be no hard feeling. Finally and above all, this mystery lady would need to understand that my daughter would always be the single most, top of the line, priority in my life. That was that.

Nothing happened for the next few weeks but co-incidentally, I was travelling to the city on work fairly soon and we were officially set up. For the sake of anonymity, lets juts call her X. As I got ready to go, I picked out what I thought was my best black suit (it was a formal client meeting), nice tie and a dress shirt which everyone told me really fit me well 🙂 I had been working out, so if the lady, got a hint of the decent chest and nice(ish) arms under the shirt why not 🙂 If you are back in the ring, might as well dress to impress. I also could not help but realize how nervous I was. It was like being seventeen again. The pressure to impress, the pressure make intelligent, good conversation, the pressure, the pressure the pressure!!!! Gawd, I dealt with professional client situations better than this…. Here I was worrying about meeting X. Why?

Cutting a long story short, I really did not make intelligent conversation and was infact a bumbling idiot. How I behaved that night was clearly not something I would like to reproduce in print but all I can say was that I was looking at all the wrong places (since I am telling the truth here – I thought she was smoking hot) and saying the wrong things :). I was like a puppy with my tongue hanging out on a hot summer day and drooling to my heart’s content :). My experience (here it is mine) is that men (read I) can’t make intelligent conversation when am distracted by hot women around. And the best part was that she knew it and was enjoying this 30+ year old man make a fool of himself. But I just knew that there was something there. By the next day it was as if I had known her for a very long time. She understood me, my idiosyncrasies, my tantrums, my attention seeking ways, my love for my daughter and also made me feel like a good man. It was a great feeling after a very long time.

It was not right but it was natural for me to compare situations now and with my ex and I realized that I was in a much happier (???) place now. Life was good, I missed X and not just ‘a’ companion and being in different cities, for the first time in 3 years I stared feeling lonely when I was alone. My logical mind couldn’t really understand what was happening here and I would always try and find some fault or the other and an excuse to be unhappy (?) and go back to the time of no expectations, no other person that I needed to worry about.

It was in one of those evenings with my single malt that I really got thinking all over again. I had been there and done that. I had experienced the entire expectations that came with a relationship. Was I ready for that all over again? I had been on my own for over nearly three years now. I was used to having to deal only with my emotions, my feelings, the expectations that I set for myself and no one else. Was I ready to make space for someone else in my life and not just in my closet? Was it really worth the effort anymore? As I had realized, I was not unhappy or sad. I had my own routine and I had made my peace with it. I had no time to think of anything or anyone else. Was it all worth it? Was I ready to start all over again? And more importantly, did I want to? I would be hitting the dreaded four O in a few years and really did a man need a companion after that? Was your life really not about your children after that????

Then I looked at the little girl lying next to me and I wondered – as a parent was it not my duty to think of her before I thought of myself? Isn’t that what being a parent is all about? I was now a father and was that not it…… How would she comprehend the entire change in my personal life and how would she accept or understand it? Was it not my duty to see what was best for her? And I would always have her….. She needed me, even if it was only on the weekends. Was that not enough? Should I not make her the sole focus of my life and make sure my being is really revolving around her. After all, I was her father???? I could never be ‘the mother’ but that’s the least I could do as her father……

I just could not figure out how to analyse this entire situation that I was in. In was torn in the need to be the best father possible and also embrace the woman who really made me feel alive all over again. It was really tough, dealing with what I felt was the guilt of at some level ‘betraying’ my little one of trying to have a life that had something more than just her. She would always be my little girl and would always need her daddy. Could I really risk trying to focus on something else? What if she were to need me at the precise moment that I was busy with my own feelings? What if she never understood why I was not there for her? Would she forgive me and more importantly, would she understand? And I just had no clue…..

I spoke with X and always told her of the dilemma that I was going through and she just told me one simple thing – to just go with the flow and see where this led. Why create the pressure of significant expectations and try and find fault and convince ourselves we could never be happy? Hmm… seemed like a logical thing to do.

But it was not the easiest thing to do. To top it all, how soon was too soon? It had been less than 3 years since the split? Was there not a required waiting period before I threw my hat into the dating ring and sounded out that I was ready all over again? Aren’t men expected to wait longer to ensure that they are not labeled as cads? When did this period really end and when would it be ok to be seen with a woman other than my ex? Would there ever be such a time? As always I never had any answers…

I did mention that my extended family (my friends) had really been very instrumental in keeping me together. Infact my ‘bro’ once told me ‘dude, whenever you are wasted and have the urge to call your ex – just call or text me….I will be your 2AM friend :)” sounded perfect. The one time that I did call him, when I was wasted and needed to avoid making a fool, he did not take my call and it was only midnight 🙂 Very sheepishly, he told me next morning “dude, I fell asleep. I must be the worst 2AM friend ever” The guy had good intentions and knowing that was good enough.

Coming back, X made such an effort for the things important in my life, my daughter, folks, my friends (see above :)) and just about all that I cared for that I just knew she could not get away. And the fact that my daughter got along with her like a house on fire really sealed the deal.

A funny ritual that has developed over the last few months – we had just started dating and X sent me a text at 1PM saying ‘lunch?’ I responded with a very cool ‘yup’. This went on every day and now it’s become of our daily ritual. Same time, every day. Now I don’t even respond and I feel she does not expect a response either. But if I don’t get the text I am as surprised as she when she gets a response 🙂 Life is good, it’s comfortable, and I seem to be a relatively calmer and dare I say a much happier man?

But it is also due to my realization that not everything is controllable and sometimes you have to pick your paths and make your own decisions and live by them. They will determiner greatly your own state of mind and happiness. It’s weird now, when I see my ex these days and I don’t feel anything other than a small amount of regret. I used to feel angry, hurt, frustrated and now it’s been replaced by just a tinge of regret as I think I don’t see her as anything more than the mother of my child. It’s really sad, since at one point in my life, she was my life!!!! I have moved on, made peace with the past, accepted my mistakes and hopefully never to make them again. Life has a strange way of making one see perspective…….

I remember reading recently, where a woman said that she hated the movie Jerry McGuire. The whole idea of someone else completing you just did not make sense to her. After all, we are all ‘whole’ individuals, so why did we need for someone else to complete us? We should be with someone because we want to and not because we need to or because they complete us. A very interesting take I thought…..

So what’s really been my take from all of this? Just two things really.

Firstly, that we need to be happy personally and that will spread. Are we just so caught up trying to find our happiness through others – be it our children, our friends, our spouse, our family, whoever it maybe that we forget that we are individuals too? My daughter needs me now but in a few years she will have a life of her own. Can I really live my life around her completely? Children will soon have lives of their own and can we ignore our individual needs at the risk of being a bad parent? My personal happiness makes me a better father and I think my daughter does notice that. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to find what makes us happy as individuals and make us better people? Just because I am happy as an individual does not make me any less a father.

Secondly, the absence of sadness is not necessarily happiness……… I could go on with my life, the absence of change and potentially realize that there would be a day when I would have none. My daughter would still love me but have her own life to lead. She will always need her father and just because I have a relationship outside of her does not diminish the bond that we have.

So as I ask myself the same question today, I think I have a definite answer, yes I am happy and it’s not just the absence of sadness. The only catch being that we all have to take out own paths to find this happiness. Sometimes, it may take us days and sometimes it may take us even months or years. But don’t we owe it to ourselves and to everyone we love?

The eternal conundrum


Just wait and watch out for the “hormone overdosed dude” she gets home to meet u…before u get the shotgun out reflect on the fact that in her eyes he is YOUR REPLICA!.  I was not sure what to make of this statement from my ‘Bro’.  Should I be worried that someday, my daughter, my little princess (who I hope will remain a cute little girl forever) would actually start dating and —–holy smokes—-get a guy to introduce to me???  I know these young fellas (I was one not so long ago) and I know what goes on in their twisted little minds :).

Or should I be happy, that my little girl would actually try to find pieces of me with some guy she wants to spend her life with?  So what I know for certain is that I don’t think any guy will ever be good enough for her and I will always see him as a loser.  Ok maybe not completely.  So I should be happy the she will find some loser who she thinks is like me 🙂 WOW, no one told me in parenting class 101 that I would need to deal with these kind of life altering decisions (in addition to changing diapers and cleaning soiled bums).

So I get thinking (I have been tending to do quite a bit nowadays) and think (ok I already said that before). When do kids really stop being your kids and when do you let go? Therefore the eternal conundrum – when does the cute as buttons little one become an adult with a mind of her own?  As a parent should I not protect her from all harm and make sure she is fine? Or should I let her make her own mistakes as she goes through life? Isn’t it one of the beauties of living that one really goes through so much and finally you have so much to really draw from?

My recent conversation with my 4 year old at 8PM on a friday as I drove back home from work

Kiddo – papa when will you get home?

Me – am driving baby I will be home soon

Kiddo – but why are you taking so long?

Me – because, sweetheart, there’s a lot of traffic as everyone is going home and papa is coming as fast as possible

Kiddo (without batting an eyelid) – but papa, why can’t everyone stay home so you can come home quickly?

All reasoning aside, can I really let such a sweet and innocent thing really stumble, fall, get bruised, hurt, cry, have her heart broken (by some jerk who was never good enough for her anyways), laugh etc etc while I put it all down to her tryst with life? As you can see, I quite suck at making parenting decisions and have no clue how to deal with this one.

As most wise people say (am told it’s no longer politically correct to say wise men…LOL) ‘time heals everything’ and I hope time will also provide me an answers to these questions and how to deal with such awkward situations. My dad, he was never the most expressive person when we were kids, but he always engrained in us that we had to experience our own lives and he and my mum would always be there for us.  For that I am eternally grateful.  I think I and my siblings are more independent adults primarily due to my folks. Not to say that we are not close to our parents but I think we have the ability to deal with whatever “googlies” (or curve balls as some people half way across the globe would say) the cosmic powers have to throw at us.

So, as always, I started off this rambling as an insecure dad dreading meeting the “hormone overdosed dude” and have reached the other end of the spectrum where am contemplating the little one flying off the nest and how to deal with all that would happen in between.

So my friends, now you know why the blogs are the ramblings of a confused man and I bet it all makes sense now……

It’s interesting now that I look back and think I have a lot more empathy for my ex father in law (may god bless his soul).  He was a very good man but somehow there was always something missing – he had a really quirky sense of humour but somehow I always felt that he held back when it came to me.  Maybe I did not try to hard (truth be told I was a much younger man and more truth be told…was quite scared of him too).  He was a man of uniform like my dad and had this aura about him which made me just a tad bit weak in the knees. So coming back to the point, I can totally relate to him now.  In me, he saw, a good looking but scrawny guy 🙂 (ok I was not the Greek god then that I am now :):)) and he said the same thing in his head as I do now “what the hell is my daughter doing with this loser? She can do so much better”.  We never really got the chance to bond but am pretty sure even if we did I would never have been able to measure up to the expectations he had for someone worthy of his daughter….

Such is life and I can see it coming across a full circle.

I recently read a small piece which I think summarizes the situation completely and really puts a lot into perspective for all us parents

Little girl and her father were crossing a bridge.  The father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter, “Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river”. The little girl said, “No, dad. You hold my hand.” “What’s the difference?” Asked the puzzled father. “There’s a big difference”, replied the little girl. “If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go”. 

So my little sweetheart, your dad will never stop you from discovering your own life and making your own destiny. But he will always be there to pick you up and put you on your way when you do have a fall.  Your dad will, most likely, never find anyone good enough for you but will accept that in your best judgment he is the best for you and accept the compliment that you see some part of me in him. And finally, your dad will never let go of your hand but he will learn how to slowly let go for you to find your wings………

Brothers in arms


Friends tend to play an integral part in one’s life and I may even stick out my neck – as much as family.  With family, many a time, one has to really consider that you don’t burden them when thing are not going right. No matter what they say, they will always worry and sometimes the pain it causes them is really not worth it. Friends, on the other hand, will always be concerned and be there for you but they also can be pragmatic and distance themselves emotionally from the situation.  As a dear friend puts it ‘sometimes you need to be transactional in your approach with a situation or person” devoid of the emotional baggage that may have been there. And family maybe cannot do it coz they are just so involved with you.

I believe that a fundamental difference between men and women really comes from their need or desire for friends. While a person’s circle of friends is largely driven by their personalities it is also, to some extent, influenced by their gender.  Without offending anyone, I think I have seen that women would tend to have more friends – the uplifter, the travel buddy, the truth teller, the girl who just wants to have fun etc. (truth be told – there’s some bit of Oprah and Cosmo in this profoundness :)).  So how many friends does a man need?  Well, a guy may have a lot of buddies but there will always be a ‘brother’ or bro…… There’s so much about the ‘bro code” that I will leave that for later.

I have been lucky enough to really have 2 bros in my life.  While they shall remain anonymous, like me, they entered my life at very different times and stages.  Yet today I cannot imagine my life being really complete without their individual contributions.

I met my first bro in school and we went onto become thick as thieves.  He was the cool dude who had a way with the girls. He could sing and very honestly there as not much that 16 year old girls wanted other than a boy to serenade them.  I never had that talent and we would always look upto him for juicy tid-bits and ‘lessons in smoothness’.   From 15 years old to now over two decades later, we have seen each other through relationships, marriages, kids and professional changes.  Today our lives are busy and we don’t speak as often but when we do – we pick up where exactly we left off – maybe a few weeks and sometimes a few months.  When we are together, we are still 17 year old ‘boys’ discussing the ‘girls’ that got away, the girls now and laughing at dirty jokes we found funny as adolescents .  He and I are living proof that boys are dirty boys, age notwithstanding.  We still laugh about how the higher power has gotten back at us by making us fathers of very pretty little girls :).  There are no expectations to continually be in contact or really keep asking what we are upto.  But we both know that the other will always be there when we need each other. I don’t see us any different even 20 years from now.

I met my second bro more recently, when I was going through a vulnerable stage in my life. I credit him for introducing me to the wonderful world of single malts. On that pure joy alone – he would qualify as a bro 🙂 but he has been so much more than that.  From giving pragmatic advice to counseling me to just beating sense into my head when it needed to be done. He was always there.  We met in the most unusual circumstances (which is separate blog in itself) and our friendship developed over some bar hopping, and half burgers in the wee hours of the morning (after all men in amazing physical shape as ourselves, could not afford the calories of a complete burger :)).  We’ve taken a road trip, got completely wasted and yet not been embarrassed the next morning…. Ok so it was more me than him…but that’s what bros are all about.  We can talk about sensible stuff (he talks more and I listen soaking in the knowledge being dished out) or just go back into the past when we were younger men, our school, the life and just be bumbling young men.

Funny story, that I was actually friends with his wife before we became bros….. She was my agony aunt and would listen to all my nonsensical rants and yet would give me common sense advice.  We have often laughed over her taking credit for connecting us and I can imagine her at some level being a little (just a little) jealous that I am actually writing about bros before I write about our friendship.  But she’s a sweetheart and would totally understand.

So I stand here today and realize that most men get through life with lots of buddies and maybe a bro and while I may not have many buddies but I have two totally cool bros who I would not trade for anything. So gents, take a bow for being such an integral part of my life.

If I had a hall of fame, you’d be the first on that!!!!!!!!!

Mums, kids and the other parent


 As I sit down to write this piece, off the bat, I visualize two very distinct reactions 1) from the few guys that do read this – “dude, stop acting like a chick” and 2) from more mature people – “this boy still needs to grow up and understand life”.  Well, what the heck, it’s my blog and I write what I want.

So a small context to the entire piece – I am a divorced man on the wrong side of 30 with a 4 year old daughter, who lives with me on the weekends and vacations.  It appears that I suffer from an uncommon ailment called “insecurity” of “the concept”.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a good looking, confident and very modest man 🙂  but I just can’t seem to understand the entire society’s obsession with maa kya pyaar (a mother’s love)  when it comes to a child.  So the title of this piece and “The concept”.

Ever since I can remember – for the male species and in the last few years for me as an individual member of this species, it has been engrained into our psyche that we are the lesser parent.  Talk about the weaker sex!!!!!!  So we may be the most accomplished, confident men but when it comes to a child (no less our child)….dudes….you are never in the race of being a model parent.  It’s like you’re preparing to run the marathon and Usain Bolt has already won the sprint gold…..

Having never been at the receiving end of any discrimination I got a first real taste of this discrimination (not sure what else to call it) when my ex-wife (including her large family) would continually tell me that no matter what I did I would never understand the depth of a mother’s love for her child.  So don’t get me wrong, my ex is a good person and a fantastic mother, but it’s not really my fault that I did not carry our daughter for nine months, or give birth to her…hell knows, I guess, if it was biologically possible…I might have done it…. (note to self – google up the man who recently had a baby before making such claims in future).  Does that make me any lesser a parent that my daughter’s mother? NO SIR.

So when we do have these discussions, which re quite animated after a few drinks, informed people, then quote studies and tell me how it has been proven that both parents are equally important in nurturing a child. But (and there’s a big one here), the same people will not bat an eyelid and quote the dreaded words “but she’s the mother you know, understand that” at the first sign of my attempting to assert fatherly dominance in my daughter’s life.

This entire concept was further beaten into me during the entire legal process of the divorce. Starting from well-wishers and finally my lawyer nailing the coffin and telling me that the law would also favour the mother unless proven otherwise.  It’s like being guilty until proven innocent!!!!! Sure, my work schedule is tougher than my ex (like a lot of men), but would the courts even consider custody to the father if the professional roles were reversed… Am not a legal eagle but I think I know the answer there.

So this whole “concept” has been irritating me for a while now and by the time I have reached here, the few readers that I have, have already logged off at the nonsensical rambling of a lunatic.  But I shall continue for the pleasure of the few that persist 🙂  So what did I do next….like any reasonable tech savvy person, googled up to see if there was some godforsaken formula or something where I could input some random data and see a result that said — dude, you are actually more important than your ex – to your daughter.  Alas (for my poor male brethren out there) there was no such algorithm. Can you believe that?

And that really brought me to the deeper question – WHY AM I COMPETING FOR THE LOVE OF MY CHILD?????? That little mite has so much love to give everyone that there is enough to go around and some……

Even though I do my best to ignore the obvious, realization dawns and I finally figure out that in a way, I am a still bitter about my divorce and maybe the pangs of guilt still exist that I could not make it work.  I have always been good at anything I did, (I did mention I am very modest) and the crumbling of the marriage was the first real sign of failure in my life and maybe a big bruise to my large but fragile ego.  I somehow needed to prove to myself that I was the better parent and that my exs decision to end the marriage (there’s goes one more secret down the drain) was not the best decision for any one of us….So this entire aversion to “the concept” appears really to be an effort on my part to consciously massage my ego.  At this point, the handful of men still reading this are like “dude you just lost your right to be invited to a boys night out and the next thing you’ll tell us that Titanic is your favourite movie”….hmmmm…. never really thought of that but no….it’s just to sugary for me….. More such realizations and I could be an enlightened one very soon….

Also, it never occurred to me to check with my sisters what their views were and how was their relationship with our father.  I know, there are some things that a daughter will always confide in her mother – her first crush, her first kiss or even her boyfriend but I just wish that would be me.  In my case, it would be even more unlikely since I have been convinced since her birth that I need to buy a shotgun the day my daughter hits her teens.  I was once a young man and I know :).

So this really has nothing to do with me competing with my ex but just the love I feel for my child. Is that any less? Then why is it always beaten down on me that “she’s the mother, you have to understand”.  To top it all off, during one of my random net surfing episodes I read an article (another proven study, mind you) that confirms that boys lose more in the absence of a father figure and not girls….WOO HOO… way to go on building the confidence, buddy!!!!! Somehow such ‘empirical pieces of evidence’ have a way of finding their way to me.  Reminds me of one of the episodes of THE Simpons – where Homer ends up seeing donuts everywhere…while I do love the show, I think my parenting skills are by far better than that of Homer’s…..

So where does that really leave me now…..All I can say is that I have a great relationship with my daughter but where the relationship would be 10 years down the line is potentially all up to me and the effort I make…. Hopefully at that point in time my insecurity would have gone (to some extent) and I would grab the love she doles out with both my hands. Maybe I will even have the courage to show her this piece and watch her expression as she reads it…. What she will say I don’t know but I know what I want her to say…..

Till then I just need to reconcile to the fact that ‘the concept’ will most likely always exist and there’s not really much that one can do to fight it……kids have so much to give and we waste the time trying to fit them into our moulds and make them our pretty little trophies to brag about….

So LADIES and GENTLEMEN (hopefully atleast one man has survived through this long, winding note), welcome to the ramblings of a confused man and many more to come.

In the words of the great poets of the modern era – JOURNEY – Don’t stop believing, hold onto that feeling, streetlight people……