Alok - Son
In one of our annual vacations after our wedding, Sanovar was our dream destination, a very beautiful village in the interiors of Himachal, about sixty miles beyond Simla. After spending a day in Simla, we started our journey to Sanovar on horses, as the motor-able road ended at Kufri, ten miles from Simla. Most part of the journey was along a river that reminded us of the River of No Return. We covered the journey in two days, spending a night on the way in a forest guesthouse, where the waterfall, hitting the stones in the river, produced the perfect beat of the Sound of Music. It was a breathtaking sight when we reached Sanovar. Higher mountains surrounded the small village at a height of ten thousand feet. The natives of the tiny village had added color to the place, with their multi-colored dresses and cute hutment. Their Chieftain's log house had a charm of its own, with beautiful flowers blooming all around. He himself was also a very pleasant person with an impressive personality that commanded respect and reverence of the entire community. He welcomed us to the village on our arrival at the forest guesthouse on the outskirts of the village. And the next day he accompanied us on our walk on trails in the forest, on the way telling us tales revolving life in the mystery land on the mountains. The story that engaged our attention most related to “Chur Peak”, the highest peak in the area at a height of 14,000ft.
“The name Chur Peak came from king Chur who once upon a time ruled the entire area on these mountains. He did not have a son to continue his dynasty and felt distressed, especially as he grew older and older. Time was running out for him and the queen to have a child. When they had almost given up hope, the queen dreamt that they climbed to the peak and were struck by the sight; Lord Shiva was sitting there in meditation. They too sat at his feet in prayer. When Lord Shiva opened his eyes, he was pleased to see the king and the queen praying on the peak and blessed them to have a beautiful boy. In the morning she narrated her dream to the king, who immediately decided to climb up to the peak with the queen, even if it was too difficult for their age. With their determination and the elaborate arrangements made for the climb, they arrived at their destination but were disappointed on not finding Lord Shiva there. However, they still sat on the peak and prayed to Lord Shiva for a son. Within a year of the climb, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. There were huge celebrations and the king also ordered construction of a Shiva temple on the peak. Since then the temple has been attracting thousands of childless couples from far and near, who climb to the peak to pray for a child. Many couples come back to climb the peak again, this time to thank Lord Shiva on having been blessed with a child after they had prayed at the peak.”
We had been married for four years but did not have a child. We had been yearning for one. We thought our trip to Sanovar was a godsend opportunity to pray at the temple on Chur Peak. Next day we started on our climb early in the morning, taking the trails leading to the temple. By mid day we were on top of the world. That was how we felt looking down from the peak. Lord Shiva's statue built, made in stone, stood majestically on the mountaintop. It looked like the Lord was keeping a watch on his creation from Chur Peak. We both prayed to Lord Shiva to bless us with a child, as he had blessed king Chur and his queen, and thousands of devotees who climbed the peak after them. And Lord Shiva blessed us too. Jeet, my wife, was pregnant within weeks after our prayers on the peak. When we looked at the baby boy Jeet gave birth to, we had absolutely no doubt that he truly was a gift of Lord Shiva. As he grew up, his godly qualities of kindness, compassion and caring were quite obvious, and all the more strengthened our belief that Alok, as we named him, truly was God's gift.
Alok was brilliant in studies, but second only to the best boy in the class. Jeet once told him that if he worked a little harder he could easily stand first in the class. His reply was, “I know Mom, but that would make Rohit feel miserable as he is so used to standing first.” Jeet could only wonder at his compassion that motivated him to sacrifice anything to make others happy. As Alok was kind to others, God was kind to him. When he wished to go to USA for higher studies after his school graduation, it was almost impossible to achieve this ambition. The government would not grant permission to send remittances in foreign currency for studies abroad because of very stringent foreign exchange rules. Nothing short of a miracle could help Alok cross this hurdle. And there it was. Jeet had a chance meeting with a Member of Parliament, who happened to be very close to the Finance Minister. He went out of the way to help us get the government permission to send our son's fees in foreign exchange to the University of San Francisco, for his tuition and hostel fees. And Alok left for the United States at the age of seventeen.
Today, Alok is amongst top computer technologists in Silicon Valley and we are happy to have joined him here after our retirement in our respective jobs. The way he cares for us always reminds us of Chur Peak where we were blessed to have him born as the God's Gift.
Nothing in the world makes parents happier than seeing their children make significant progress in life. Within a few years of getting a good career break with a computer giant, our son had a very pleasant surprise for us. Our eyes were moist in those most joyous moments of our lives when he called us to break the news that he had bought a new house and wanted us to come immediately for its formal opening from our hands at the housewarming party he had already fixed after a fortnight. Along with the invitation he sent us our tickets for the flight to USA. He also told us not to bring any gift for the housewarming, as he had already made up his mind what he wanted from us and would tell us when we arrive there.
The housewarming party over and when all the guests were gone, he and our daughter-in-law disclosed what they wanted from us as our most precious gift for the occasion. They earnestly requested us to take early retirement from our respective jobs and join them in the States. This was not the gift we had prepared ourselves to give them. They drove us into the most difficult decision making moment of our life. On the one hand there was too great a temptation to be with our son to let it go, and on the other, we did not want to be amongst those parents who often unknowingly add undue pressure and stress on a young marriage by placing possessive time demands on a son or daughter. At a time when a younger couple is struggling with limited finances, establishing solid relationships, securing a dependable income, and learning to raise children of their own, overbearing parents can add unnecessary stress to a fragile marriage. We firmly believed that parents must do their part to support and strengthen the marriages of their children. Parents should be more concerned with the success and healthy condition of their child's marriage than with their own assumed rights to time with the family.
Keeping in view our above belief, we thought it better to discretely decline our son's request to move to the U.S. to live with him. We pleaded with him pointing to the modern day facilities of cell phones, email, iChat and the rise of social networking like Facebook, which make parents become the extended family over vast distances. Our son was quick to kick out our excuse saying even though technology allows families to keep in touch and share personal milestones more easily, nothing replaces the experience of actually living under the same roof with family. With families dispersed all over, technology helps to bring those families together now more than ever. But it just can't beat a hug or pat on the shoulder.
Our son used all his persuasive power to convince us to come to live with him in USA. His answer to our beliefs was his own firm belief that adult children and their spouses must also realize they have obligations and responsibilities to their elderly parents. This is accomplished through love and respect. As adults, grown children should not only be self-sufficient in meeting their own needs, but they should remove as many of the worries and emotional stresses from their elderly parents as possible. When ageing parents experience failing health, adult children have a responsibility to administer or see that proper care and support is in place. Though nursing homes and elder care facilities may provide helpful and needed resources in caring for invalid parents, institutions should never be looked to as complete solutions to elderly parental care. Love and emotional support expressed through touch and heartfelt conversation is the responsibility of children and family, not employed care providers.
Perhaps, thinking that his point of view might be construed by us as a kind of sacrifice of his privacy and personal life for his parents, which he knew we would not like, he came up with yet another, though entirely, different angle in arguing for us to live with him. If not today, tomorrow he will need us as a great help when he starts his family. Having the support of an extended family can help young parents through many of the tougher times with child raising. Extended families play an important part in assisting with childcare needs. They can come to the rescue when parents cannot see solutions to problems that they face with their children. Many parents suffer through finding babysitters and childcare providers for their small children. When these parents are attached to a strong extended family unit, child care is rarely a problem. Grandparents are only too willing to watch the little ones. Often, permanent childcare solutions can be found within the extended family that will give dependable care at a large monetary savings to young parents. People who cultivate extended family relationships are at an advantage emotionally and are often more successful in their personal lives. Both children and adults benefit from these relationships during times of great stress. They also reap the rewards when joyous events enter their lives. These are the people who will rejoice and be glad with you, as well as sorrow and grieve with you. You really can't lose.
Indeed, we could not have overemphasized our son's smartness and sincerity on the issue of extended family v/s nuclear family, and at the end of the day, we agreed to give him the gift of his asking for the housewarming. We made up our mind to join him by moving to USA.
Friday October 11, 2013, our son Alok is taking us for prayers at the grand San Jose Gurdwara and thereafter for a treat at the reputable Sunnyvale Turmeric restaurant. That is how he wants to celebrate his 50th birthday, the glittering golden year of his life.
50 years – how fast the time flies, looks like it just happened the other day only, when we had the joy of hearing the first cry of a very cute baby boy Inderjeet gave birth to, a week before her own birthday. As Alok, or Baba as we called him at home, grew up, his godly qualities of kindness, compassion and caring were quite obvious, and confirmed our belief that he truly was God's gift - God granting our prayers at the majestic Shiva Temple on Chur Peak at the height of 14,00 ft. in the interiors of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India, which we had climbed earlier in one of our tracking excursions during summer vacations.
As Alok was kind to others, God was kind to him. When he wished to go to USA for higher studies after his school graduation, it was almost impossible to achieve this ambition - it was not an easily affordable wish we could fulfill, if somehow we were to manage the money from our compulsory savings in service, the government would not grant permission to send remittances in foreign currency for studies abroad because of very stringent foreign exchange rules, and last but not the least, it was almost impossible to obtain the U.S. visa, specially by a boy who was hardly seventeen then. Nothing short of a miracle could help Alok cross all the three hurdles. And the miracle it must have been: Money – more than the sufficient money we arranged from our savings, it was the timely moral support of my Managing Director's words that worked: “Don't hesitate to send him, I'll see he is never ever stranded there for shortage of funds”; RBI permit: Jeet had a chance meeting with a Member of Parliament, very close to the Finance Minister, who went out of his way for the Reserve Bank to immediately issue the required permit to remit the fees in foreign exchange; U.S. Visa: it was entirely Alok's presence of mind throughout that worked for him while going through the most grilling interview for visa at the U.S. Embassy, especially his masterstroke when asked by the Counsellor that since there was no automation in India why go to the U.S. to study computers - “Some one has to start it in India too, and I want to be the one amongst them”. And Alok left for the U.S. for studies at seventeen.
After we sent Alok to US, it did not take long for our friends to make him the main topic of conversation, some of them skeptical of our step. They thought that we had made a big mistake in sending our only son so far away, and at such a young age. They expressed concern that he might not be able to withstand the cultural explosion he would confront in the U.S., where drugs, drinking and dating started in schools. We did not care much for such comments, though some of the fears our friends expressed stuck in our mind and made us concerned about them. We, therefore, took it as godsend opportunity to see for ourselves how Alok was doing in US when my MD offered us fully paid trip to the U.S. as reward for accomplishing an almost impossible assignment - persuading the central government to allow us to transfer our upcoming new project to Gujarat, although the industrial license was issued for setting up the unit in Rajasthan.
Our most important engagement in the U.S. was to visit University of San Francisco, and meet the Dean, for which Alok had already taken appointment for us. The Dean very emphatically brushed aside all our doubts about students taking to bad habits in American universities. We were not only relieved of all our worries that had arisen out of the fears expressed by our friends, but also felt extremely happy and proud to hear his parting words: “ Alok is not only eligible for merit scholarship on the basis of being included in President's Honor List for the year, but I also consider him a role model for other students for his exemplary conduct”.
Nothing in the world makes parents happier than seeing their children make significant progress in life. Immediately on graduating from the University of San Francisco, Alok got a good career break with Sun Microsystems, a computer giant of the 80s and 90s, to join their Java creative team. Then onwards it was a pure pleasure to watch him progress at Sun for 20+ years as Software Engineer, Principal Engineer, Chief Technologist, Director and Patent Holder for his invention of a system and method for a "debugger Run-Time-Checking for valid memory accesses for multithreaded application programs". We were overwhelmed when Alok took us to the 7th Commencement & Alumni Reception-Carnegie Mellon University - Silicon Valley Campus, where Ray Bareiss, Director of Educational Programs, presented the Dean’s Return on Education Award to Alok with the citation:
“Having worked for Sun Microsystems for 19 years, this year’s recipient of the Return on Education Award joined the Carnegie Mellon Software Management program, seeking to ‘step out of his comfort zone.’ Shortly after enrolling in the program, he was able to gain the skills and confidence to begin thinking and behaving like a leader. His actions were clearly recognized by his global peer group of 1,500 engineers at Sun, who nominated him to be Principal Engineer. But he didn’t stop there … he left Sun after nearly 21 years to start Yunteq, a software company developing key enabling technology for Cloud Computing …”
Cloud Computing, of course, was all the rage and passion for Alok till his startup Yunteq became one of the most sought after companies to acquire by the big giants in the computer industry. When he and his team at the Yunteq received an offer that they thought was rewarding enough for their hard work, Alok agreed to the Yunteq merger with Coraid, a well reputed company, that enabled him to move on to explore new trends in software, especially in social networking. Along with his first cousin, Arjun Rishi, they have founded Khaylo Inc., an exclusive social networking site for the sportsmen, that awaits official launching anytime very soon.
While we are anxiously awaiting and wishing rewards for their hard work in this new venture, we are happy to enjoy a very relaxing retirement with Alok and his very accomplished wife Ranjan by our side, both wonderful and very caring. Thanks to their giving us much of their precious time - taking us for a long drive on weekends to quaint little towns along California's most scenic Pacific Ocean Coastline, including us in all the fun on festival holidays they have and being by our side whenever we need - we are having such a blast as never seen before in our life. We are indeed blessed to have Alok as our son, and on his 50th birthday are so happy to go with him to the San Jose gurudwara and pray for his healthy, happy and prosperous long life:
“Fifty candles mean you have cast a lot of light in the world.
You have blazed a lot of trails and shown the way for a lot of others who follow behind.
You have done a lot of good, and you're just getting started.
So take pride, and keep on shining.
Happy 50th Birthday, Son!”