Long Walks On Leafy Streets

7/1/2020 Peabody St NW, Washington DC    
It has been over four months since I wrote last time, and it would be an understatement to say that a lot has happened since then. Indeed, our lives have been shaken up quite a bit. You have the global pandemic on top of all the other crises such as climate change. In the US you have the drama of impeachment trials and the protests against systemic racism among the innumerable other scandals of the current administration. On top of all this there is an election looming in which our very democracy and ability to vote hangs in balance. These are historic times. It is up to us to make sure that green shoots spring and new flowers bloom from the ashes of this inferno.

Personally, it has been a challenging time for me, and it has been difficult to find time to write.
But now for the time being at least it feels like the storm has subsided a little bit. I hope to write more frequently during this summer to make up for all the lost time. I am grateful to be able to open up my heart and express my thoughts, especially during this time of social distancing. I plan to write a lot of short posts instead of waiting to write long ones.

Accordingly, I will conclude this post with a brief recap of what I have been up to during the past four months. Less than a month after I wrote the last post, in early March the virus started spreading dangerously across Washington State and California. My parents, who are around the age of eighty, came here to stay with us. During spring break (mid-March) it was announced that Washington, DC will go into lockdown mode and everyone, especially older people, was advised to stay home and take all precautions. Accordingly, we kept my parents almost entirely at home. Nicole and I also worked from home while Prashant's school closed. I spent spring break preparing for online teaching, something I have never done before.

Until the end of April when classes and exams ended it was pretty much like boot camp. Every day except Tuesday I would wake up, cook lunch for the family and teach two classes online for a total of about 3 hours. The extra half an hour for each class was spent in doing problems. Then it would be my turn to look after Prashant. Nicole would sit with him for his online classes in the morning and I would give him lunch and make him do a small math or reading lesson before letting him watch his favorite programs. He has become quite an expert on animals by watching Wild Kratts and Octonauts. After that during whatever time was left I would have to prepare for classes, grade homework etc., Friday evenings instead of going out I would do the week's shopping. Grocery shopping itself became an ordeal, because every moment I was worried about catching the virus and infecting my parents with it. I went at a time when very few people were in the store and washed my hands several times before and after shopping. Then I would come home and wash all the groceries in soap water.

Needless to say, this was a tense time with two very elderly people and one restless boy in the house while both of us were trying to get work done, and the virus only made the work harder because the working environment was also difficult. Everyone is worried about layoffs and the future of work. Anyway, we made it through it. Then in May I was working extra hard to write a paper. It has been over five years since I published anything and given everything that is going on, I was desperate to get something done. Nothing is guaranteed during this time and I didn't want to make it worse by not publishing anything. I enjoy working on mathematics, especially trying to solve problems, but working under such pressure is a bit difficult. Nevertheless, I managed to spend a lot of time on it and even enjoy it. I think I can say without exaggeration that never in my life have I worked with so much concentration and intensity. The good news is that I feel like I am a better mathematician now, able to delve deeper into the subject and get truly immersed in the beauty of the enchanted forest that is mathematics.

I didn't solve the problem I was working on but did manage to type up something based on my work on it. I was a bit worried that no editors of any journal would find it interesting but to my great delight I got mildly positive comments from one of the leading experts on that problem. This was at the beginning of June and since then I have been revising the manuscript. Just typed the latest draft and formally submitted it today.

At the beginning of June also my parents left for my sister Jayashree's place. While I must admit it was a bit of a relief in one way, the two weeks after their move were also nerve-wracking. My parents quarantined themselves in their room and stayed extra cautious during that time. Thanks to God's grace they are doing well and staying healthy.

Around that time also the protests started. It was profoundly disturbing, especially for Nicole. I am hoping and praying, as are all of you, that the forces of darkness should not succeed. Not just in the US but all over the world, especially in places like Brazil, Russia and India where authoritarianism is gaining the upper hand by playing on divisions in the society and drumming up nationalism. I am donating money and thinking of ways to help with the election. I am also organizing a meditation group for some friends and colleagues at Howard University. I did join the protests on one Saturday, meditating in front of the White House for about an hour and a half by myself. It was the longest I had meditated in a while. I thought I was sitting for twenty minutes but my watch told me otherwise. I must say I went there with a lot of fear and anger in me but at the end of it I was able to feel compassion not just for the victims but also the people in the White House. Somehow when you are close to a person it is easier to feel compassion for him or her.

Directory Previous