Long Walks On Leafy Streets

2/15/2018 Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC.
A bit of a Valentine (Part I)

Today was an unusually spring like day after several weeks of unusually cold weather. This is our new normal weather, I guess, due to climate change. Anyway, it was nice to have the company of birds chirping while running in Green stadium. I was able to run in shorts and a T-shirt. It was one of the few days in the past several weeks that I have been able to do that. I am also just recovering from a cold that has persisted due to lack of proper rest and relaxation. Nevertheless I could not resist the temptation to see how fast I could run. Well, it turned out to be a bad time because after two miles I had to reduce the pace. It was nice to try at least, though. Speed is such an adrenaline booster.

It is also nice to be able to breathe normally and have one’s energy back – well, almost. Hopefully in the next few days I will be wise and avoid taxing the body and mind too much.
Today, while very busy, has been somewhat relaxing. Nicole is away on a work trip so I am taking care of Prashant by myself. But Prashant had a good day at school so he was relatively quiet after we got home and somewhat lived up to his name, which means the Peaceful One. I sang some old Malayalam songs while he was going to sleep. Hopefully those tender and sweet melodies would permeate through his consciousness. Those old movie themes from Kerala evoked memories of my childhood and the heart started softening. I don’t know if it is the weather or the spirituality or what it is but Keralites tend to be very soft and tender hearted, at least in the movie songs.

The semester is in full swing now. I am giving tests next week and students are starting get serious about the classes. It is getting harder and harder to find time to do research or even to meditate or go for a walk. On Sunday the 28th I went to my office in afternoon. I walked from Brookland metro in a steady but pleasant drizzle. It reminded me of the time when I used to go for Sunday walks on the C&O canal towpath for hours. Those walks helped clear the mind of garbage from the week. I don’t have anything like that these days except the 3 or 4 times I go running and a few hours on Sunday evening when I try to focus the mind and try to keep it in a meditative state. These things make such a difference.

Especially these days I find them even more valuable. As I wrote last time I had a rough few weeks in January. Even early this month when I was running in Rock Creek Park my mind was still processing emotions and thoughts from the shocks I had experienced. But running in cold weather really toughened up the mind. It brought a new determination and I decided that it is not a question of whether I would be able to contribute to the world or should I try to contribute but rather that I have to, that we all have to. This new resolve energized the mind and body that had been a bit down during the past year, due to hectic life at home and stresses outside.

This new determination was what helped me cope with the persistent cold. Even on the most difficult days when it felt like the body was ready to break down I was able to eventually keep my calm. I was even able to enjoy life a little bit. Last Saturday Nicole and I went to see a matinee performance by the Alvin Ailey dance group. She has seen this several times and this is the second time I am seeing it. It is quite a breath-taking show. I am glad I was able to go with her and it gave me great satisfaction to see her having a great time.

At this moment I would like to ask for your indulgence in a bit of reminiscence and celebration. I want to take you back to the evening that changed my life nine years ago and tell you about how I met Nicole on that evening. Why? Because she was born during this month forty years ago, not long before Valentine’s Day.

The summer of 2009 was a period of hope for me, after several years filled with disappointments in personal as well as professional life. All my ideas, algorithms and formulae had failed miserably, not just in mathematics but also for meeting and marrying the right woman. Having turned 40 myself a few years ago, I had spent the summer of 2008 in Hawaii, biked up Mt. Haleakala and hiked up Mauna Lea. It had energized me and given me a fresh outlook on life. It gave me a more open mind, ready to face whatever life threw in my way as opposed to thrashing about looking for something. Nicole had been through a similar, almost identical period herself and had come back rejuvenated after a trip to London.

A good friend of mine from CalTech whom we affectionately called DJ, once told me that when I meet the right person I would just know. Certainly I have met many women over the two decades when I was single and eligible. Several times I have told myself, perhaps this is the right woman. I have fallen in love many times, and gotten my heart broken perhaps an equal number of times. Yet I cannot think of a time when everything just felt right. There was excitement, anticipation, and hope, but there was also anxiety and worry and disappointment. Perhaps the very presence of excitement and anxiety should have warned me that things were not heading in the right direction. With Nicole it was more like a pleasant afternoon with a good friend whom you have known and trusted all your life. Sure, I would be lying if I said that there was no excitement or anxiety, but it was more subdued. It felt less like a roller-coaster ride and more like a drive on a winding but very scenic mountain road. You enjoy the scenery and the thrill of the drive but at the same time your mind is calm and you know that as long as you are careful you are going to be fine.

To be continued…

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