Wreath | Our daily bread

I have to get a Christmas wreath for my door. It is a tradition, regardless of where I am, to hang one up to mark the turn of the season. I usually get to it on the first of December, but I was out of sorts today. It shall have to wait for tomorrow.

The past few days have involved tedious, repetitive, manual labour at work, something that I try to avoid since my constitution doesn’t like very much, especially as it is not an activity that I enjoy. My hands feel as if they are dead weights. Thankfully, a friend nagged me into visiting my shady Chinese massage house where they occasionally take male customers for discreet purposes.

I received my first Christmas gift! This reminded me that I have to write and post cards soon. I tend to be unsystematic about it each year, and I find that I send cards out either in early December, or very late and they double up as New Year greetings.

There is a masquerade ball to attend on this Saturday. My friend, fierce Christmas merry-maker that she is, has agreed to kindly accompany me. That will make the event more bearable. I am not fond of having to fraternize with colleagues outside Monday-Friday work hours. I have questions of vanity to sort out – Should I wear black? Should I dance if there is dancing? Should I comb my hair? I like having these questions to belabor about. There are no wrong answers, and the ramifications of swinging one way or the other are minimal. They are more preferable to the deep-seated, gnawing, life-sucking queries that have haunted me for years.

It is my favorite season of the year, but I am yet to settle into my customary Christmas-spirit. I find myself in a state of unusual uncertainty about the holiday season. There is a tepidness to my festive gaiety. Copious consumption of hot chocolate hasn’t helped with that yet. I wonder if I expect 2016 to spring a final, curtain-down surprise.

Most of the New Testament was difficult to get through for me, when I had been a child studying catechism. It dulled in comparison to the colors and the stories of the Old Testament books. Yes, Paul used to write good epistles, when he could veer away from his sanctimoniousness. I liked John’s Revelations, which is a poster-child example of what mushrooms and lysergic acid can do for you. The most memorable, though, was the Lord’s Prayer. Mathew’s Gospel is one of the most accessible books in the Bible, self-contained, and explains matters neatly without being verbose. The Lord’s Prayer is a stellar example of these qualities that this book has. It is pithy, catchy, and easy to memorize. Most of us born into that religion know it by heart. Give us this day our daily bread. What do we need to live? What is bread? I had asked these questions back then. Now, far moved from belief and faith in gospels, I have a better inkling of what I need as my daily bread. There is nothing in my life which caters to the need. The need to give and take, to find balance in my personal and professional interactions, has been substituted often through writing, through creating and telling stories. Writing had been a balm in many situations where the cards were stacked against me, where there was more taking than giving. Things, predictably, are derailed when I am denied the ability to find solace in that. I find that I try, as I must, to make do with less today so that it may bring me more tomorrow. The struggle seems unceasing on some days, but everything that began must end. I have more faith in the wisdom of Ecclesiastes than in the promises of a gospel.



Closing out November. This was an interesting month in the country where I live. It was also an interesting month in the country I was born in. 2016 has been a tumultuous year, for many of us, depending on where we live. Globally, there have been changes alarming and drastic. Hopefully we will wind down to a quiet Christmas.

2016 started out with Bowie dying. I was listening to his last album tonight, in a fit of glumness, and I found I could not be glum anymore, not when his graciousness in meeting death and illness was so transparently present in his music. He was still a blue-bird, dashing and charming, theatrical to the end, willing to entertain as always, while not hiding the truths of his life for those who chose to delve deeper later.  Thanks, Starman!

In my personal life, it has been a bit of an up-and-down this year, especially post-vacation, but nothing as bad as the last few years, and for that I am thankful. It has been mostly logically expected situations though the heart does have its way of overruling the mind inconveniently and ever so often, and I am still mostly intact in my vacation-derived joys. I think I am determined this time to not let externalities break my joie de vivre too much. There are concerns about a trip home, about some paperwork etc, but tomorrow can’t be a reason to make today worse, when today has its share to tussle with.

For all of 2016’s miseries and unexpected drama inflicted on the world, it has been a quieter one for me, and hasn’t even been that bad compared to the earlier years; I am grateful. I am still mostly naive and trusting, but I am also finding in myself the strength to say no, which I consider a blessing. I have chanced to meet better people in general, in my work life and in my personal life, and that in turn has improved the quality of my own life and thoughts a great deal. Even in my disappointments this year, there has been a quiet contentment – mostly everyone involved had tried their best to be honest and fair, nobody had set out with malice in their intent – and the endings that had come had been truly for the best. It usually takes me years to make peace, to heal myself from harm and disappointment, but 2016 has been refreshingly different. Maybe I am growing up. Maybe I am finally seeing people who are more compatible with my temperament and working style.

For now, Bowie’s given a lot to take joy in. I am reminded of Thoreau’s bluebird, carrying the skies on his shoulders, flying free. I have seen a bluebird too this year, one that came to my roost in the summer, and left in the winter. It was a creature with heaven above and earth below, living in a way I dare not live, light of heart, short-sighted, not having any of my careful, detailed plans and schemes. It made the summer delightful, certainly, looking perfect amidst the flowers in the garden and the blues of my curtains and table-clothes. And in the winter, it deserted my garden for familiar and old places that still had warmth. Goodbye, bluebird. Stay safe in the winter!




Gang of Three

I was able to find the time to read three books this week. This is the first time in many years that I have had this luxury!

The first is SPQR (Senatus Populus que Romanus). It was a belated birthday gift from Sibelius. It is doing the rounds at his institution and has given rise to a new wave of interest in the Twelve Tables and the ideas around citizenship. He thought I might like it because I have inflicted a great deal of terrible Latin on him, misappropriated from the Aeneid and Cicero’s works (Caitline speeches).  I loved it not because of the Latin, but because of how detailed and well-researched the book was. It looks at the first millennium of Rome, from an early settlement to a little, bustling town, to the city it then became, and finally the heart of an empire. It examines the motivations of the Senate, the people, and how the balance between them led to the evolution of a democracy. The republic did not last. It gave way to the reign of the emperors, and the book looks at how the alteration of the old system ruptured the fabric of their state. I am averse to historical books, because they often cast speculation as fact, because they cast opinion as truth. This one was remarkably and refreshingly honest, marking speculation boldly and clearly when it ventured into the territory, backing up each fact with exhaustive citations.

The second was recommended to me because of the current political situation. It was Philip Roth’s Our Gang, a political satire portraying, supposedly, the times of Nixon. Though I have liked a few of Roth’s works, I can’t claim to find a great deal of reading pleasure in his writing style. He is sometimes too blunt for my tastes. Our Gang was an interesting story, and I found it did reflect some of the questions, concerns, and worries that many sections of the public today have about the current political situation. Roth might not be the writer I seek out everyday, but he is clever and sharp. It is as much a book of our times as it was a book of his times – an easy read, crude too often, but incisive, and pokes fun at so many parts of our society, at what we vote for, at what we vote  against, and offers some commentary on why things are as they are.

The third one was different, in a genre I don’t often venture to. It was a gift from a Kafka-doused cynic I know at work.  It was Jorge Luis Borge’s collected fictions. It was my experience with a work from him. I enjoyed the book immensely. Each of the stories was different, and yet the strains of mathematics and culture, of a strong sense of human caprice and virtue, was prevalent throughout. Aleph was, perhaps, the most beloved one. The Lottery of Babylon was one of my favourites. I giggled a lot at Pierre Menard’s attempts to redo the Don Quixote. Hakim’s story was too close to reality, as it goes to how to make cults and religions. Some stories were more solemn than the others. All of them were distinctive. I think I may be tempted to read Aleph once more soon, when I am able to read books at leisure again.

I capped it all off with a day of listening to Lady Gaga’s new album. It is a good album. Some of the songs I liked immediately. Others grow on me as I listen again. She is an excellent performer, of course, but I like her raw talents too – her voice and her lyrics are both strong enough to stand on their own, even without theatrics.


Big Easy | Thanksgiving

I made one of my impulse plans last week.

After the meticulously put together first plan fell apart with a whimper, I was at my wit’s end as to what to do over Thanksgiving break. So I hied off to New Orleans. Sometimes things fall into place without planning. It is shameful when that happens. Serendipity is not in my list of favourite things. In my case, the flights were going via Atlanta. So I backed off from my fierce decline of Elisabeth’s gracious Thanksgiving invite, and asked her if she could host me, please. She must have seen it coming. There was less than the expected amount of I-told-you-sos. I am grateful for that.

When her offspring heard of my altered plans, he took over the plan, and even managed to coordinate his outfit to have both the scarlet of his institution and the blue of Louisiana. He insisted on playing jazz all the way to our destination.

It was old and new, untouched from memory and drastically changed, to see the Rally’s and the Publix stores, to see the long queues outside the social security offices, to see the fall foliage at Emory, to see my southern magnolia sapling taller than it had been the last year, to see Elisabeth’s dogs and hot-house plants, to see placards of Trump and Clinton. I have fond memories of living in Atlanta, though those had been difficult times. I remember that the food had been warm and the people too.

New Orleans was different. Where Baton Rouge had held echoes of the recession and the tumult of changing times, New Orleans managed to be big and easy. She seemed suspended, mostly, in a state of timelessness. Though the reverberations of current-day politics were present, they were muted, compared to the other places I have travelled through, compared to the worry prevalent in the San Francisco area.

I have to admit that I did not enjoy the French Quarter as much as I had expected to. I had expected it to be lively. I had not expected it to be a mass of repressed humanity taking great pleasure in having permission to carry plastic glasses of alcohol on a street. It is sad that an otherwise beautiful place, full of art and performers, can be weighed down by people who find it a safe haven from the laws about alcohol in the open; those laws remind me of the Prohibition era in many ways. I am not the finest connoisseur of alcohol, but I don’t see why it is so regulated by these arcane laws. It only leads to desperation and darker alleys. Much of the French Quarter, understandably so, is halfway between what it perhaps once was, and what people need it to be now. The caricature was not what I had been looking for, but I was fortunate to find more in other parts of the city.

There is a lovely and impressive sculpture garden, around the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art. The last sculpture garden I saw had been in Seattle, and perhaps the occasional attempt at it in the Golden Gate Park. I enjoyed this one. The museum is lovely, though the air-conditioning is twenty degrees colder than the outside.

We went to the World War II National museum, and walked through the vicious, sad costs that war had made humanity pay. My travelling partner and I have strong opinions on pacifism and neutrality. While we discussed them, we managed to offend a gentleman whose father had served proudly and well. At times, it is easy to forget how deeply raw and emotional involvement in a cause like this can be. When you have given life and blood, in many, many ways, it is necessary for your sake, for your family’s sake, that you believe in what you fight for. I may be using the wrong words, but English perhaps lacks the perfect word to capture that two-way dependency between faith in a cause and fighting for it. Yes, having faith in a cause helps you to fight for it. Having to fight for something, even involuntarily, goes better if you learn to have faith in it.

The Jean Lafitte Preserve was another lovely gem. The marshlands reminded me of the voodoo novels and the John Grisham books I had read under the covers of my childhood bed. The mist was lifting from the water as we walked the first few miles. We later took a boat ride, on a contraption that reminded me so of that film Anaconda. I am not fond of reptiles, holding Eve’s grudge faithfully. I am still not sure how my travelling partner managed to trick me into going near them. Despite the reptiles, the preserve was beautiful, cloaked in secrets and possibilities, just as I had imagined it when reading those novels.

We attempted oysters bravely. After our last oyster marathon at Bodega Bay, we were a bit wary. These had no repercussions, thankfully. They were Gulf oysters, bland compared to the New England or the Tomales Bay ones, but because of that, they allow for many versatile combinations of spices and cooking methods. We had them chargrilled, scandalous as that sounds.

In keeping with the tourist traditions, we had beignets and coffee at a famous place. I asked for my sugar on the side and did not touch it, averse as I am to sweet things. Sibelius, proper American that he is, ate his with the sugar powder on his beignets.

I had so many new and tasty dishes this time around, starting with the dinners at the usual, recommended places and wonderful, wonderful brunches at whatever random places in the city took my fancy. I am not a carnivore on most days, despite my liking for oysters, so I had to launch a hunt for Southern vegetarian food, oxymoronic as that sounds.

Now it is time for Thanksgiving. I am delighted to be here, among friends. I am delighted that I don’t have to worry about cooking or plan anything. My daily life has been chock-full of people who are content to let me take initiative when it comes to work and grunt-work both, and it has been tiring. So I am delighted to be here, where Elisabeth rules with an iron fist, and I have no vote, and all I am required to do is play a duet, and to eat everything that is put before me.

Little Rachel is curious about my origins, because she has heard a friend say that Indians are Hindus, and we spent half an hour idling away on the wikipedia page about Saint Thomas Christians. A good deal of the rituals have Aramaic names, Elisabeth says, sharp as always. What do I say? A popular joke among the nuns at my  grandparents’ church, where I did catechism for getting my first communion, used to be that we are culturally Brahmin, religiously Catholic, and liturgically Jewish. As a child, it had not made sense to me. As an adult, I accept that there was no sense to it, except that a group of people wanted to have a sense of identity. Religion is an identity grouping, at its base.

Conversation moves to my hair. It is shorter now, much to my mother’s dismay. She grumpily said I might have waited until January before such drastic changes. Elisabeth says the longer hair suited me more. It will grow, I tell her. It doesn’t seem like a comforting answer. It gets me only a glare and more iced-tea.

I am writing from my little corner by the hearth, my feet trying to pick threads out of a worn and fraying carpet that my hostess refuses to replace for sentimental reasons, and cuddled up in the heat of a military-issue, olive blanket. After this, I will go make myself some proper tea, a night-time habit of mine that is much maligned around here.

I am reluctant to return, now that the vacation is over, now that I have to get back to reality, where choices and complicated circumstances still wait impatiently. I liked the procrastination, but now I have to go prepare for my Christmas trip home, for some paperwork related to my visa, for a life which is duller and lonelier, though I find joys in it nonetheless.

We will have the dark chocolate meringue pie tomorrow! Too many episodes of Southern Living, and Game and Garden, have elevated my hostess’s culinary skills. I learned to make excellent fried green tomatoes under her tutelage, four years ago. Maybe that is what  I will do when I get back. I will prepare them, and have them with tea.

Happy Thanksgiving.


andante | 2016

Another year, slow, wading through treacle, but with many memories of the beautiful and the wild.

There was Yosemite, under crystal clear skies, on rocks that loomed over the winding river and many waterfalls.

There was music and opera, in the first half of the year, and Sibelius racked up enough Delta and Jet Blue miles to travel the world in eighty ways. I walked the streets of Manhattan and took the subway, ate arepas at the street-corners, and browsed many bookshops. Saw a Bernie Sanders rally, and was swept by a movement that had embraced many, many thousands. I witnessed Trump’s New York election victory speech, during the first round of the Republican nominee part, and had marveled at his complexion which had stood out even from my far vantage point in Central Park. Sibelius took me to beloved places, to Boston and Vermont, to Connecticut and Maine, to Rhode Island, to Cape Cod and to Martha’s Vineyard. There was plenty of clam chowder and oysters.  There were whale skeletons. There were men who smelled of salt, of fish, and of the sea.

September had two eclipses, and I stayed up to watch one with much curiosity, and with the eclipses came a Kafka of sorts. Being dunked in existentialism and cynicism was quite jarring to my ways of life, especially as I generally try to avoid armchair philosophers, but life went on.

The second half of the year was quiet, though the past few weeks have been hectic. I am planning my holidays, planning what I need to do for the next year, planning to wrap up the little projects I had for this year. I am writing more. It hasn’t been easy to find the time and the quiet to do that, but I have become remarkably better at managing time over the last few years.

I spent Friday night eating foie gras on white tablecloths. I may very well end up breaking my  many-year record of losing weight over the holiday season. 2016 has been a year of many surprises, after all.

Saturday was slow and soft, and there was wine and cheese, with dear company. I enjoyed the food, and the conversation. It was one of those rare glimpses of meaning and connection that seem to be hard to find, coming on the heels of a hectic set of years weighed down by stagnation and oft-futile attempts to break through to a better place.

I have a new book!  I like receiving books as gifts, because they are personal, because they mean something to the person who gifts, or to the person who gets it. I am usually wary of gifting books myself, and stick to the safer side by giving Amazon gift-cards.

I have an appointment for a hair-cut. I hope that they will not attempt to give me bangs again. It hadn’t worked out too well that last time, when I  had been talked into it by a very beautiful hair-stylist lady, and I was repeatedly told by friends later that I looked like a Pomeranian, but my hair recovered fast and returned to the usual state of blissful chaos in the span of a few weeks.

Today, I spent time going over the annual entries of the last few years: 2015 (i and ii), 2014, 2013 (i and ii), 20122011, and took stock of the general state of affairs.

I have been promised that there will be tiramisu tonight.

I will go to the local park tonight to watch the super-moon. I hope others don’t get the same idea. I have had an eclipse on my birthday before, a few years ago. Dearly loved ones have expressed a wish that the full moon brings in better things, in as much as astronomical motion brings anything.

Discovered an excellent omelette place today, ambling through the local downtown area. Eggs for breakfast is one of my guiltier weekend pleasures, and one that I hadn’t indulged in for quite a long time.

A friend of mine quit her job and went hustling for DJ gigs in Las Vegas. I am quite impressed by her guts, and trust that her brilliance and skill will take her to success. It is frightening, to risk, to take that leap of faith, but I am happy whenever I see someone doing it. My own risk-taking has had an inverse connection with age. Maybe when that mid-life crisis hits, I will take my next set of risks.

Haskell has been my language of the year. I had toyed with it before, but this year had given me more time to learn, and I have so enjoyed the language. Perhaps due to my fondness for Lisp, I can program better in the functional paradigm than in the others. Haskell is easier than SML, and lovelier than OCAML. I like the libraries, and Euterpea is my favorite for lazy Sunday afternoons, like this one, to write weird and useless ideas in.

My gardening skills amaze me. I haven’t killed any of the plants yet. They are in bloom, the hummingbirds have claimed ownership of them, and there is no Miracle Gro so far.

Bowie and Cohen are both dead. I predicted Brexit and failed to see the outcome of the latest election here. This year has been one of flux and tumult, on many levels, for many of us.


Last November had found me lighting candles in a church in Newark. I had wanted a new job, a new place to stay, a new group of people to meet. Everything had been stagnant. I had been impatient for changes.

I had earlier taken a walk by the marshes, bundled up against the winds, sipping cold latte, wondering why stagnation was the theme of the year.

I had gone home, tired, to find Sibelius at my door, with tiramisu. Tiramisu let me set aside the weightier concerns of life.

This year has been a scattered time, of longing for a respite from dysfunctional work settings, of longing for home and a foundation, of longing for a partner, an equal, as remarkable as Nabokov’s Vera.

I did change my employer, eventually, half-way through the year.  So that is movement forward. The new place is much better, for me, in terms of the people I get to work with.

Change has been hard to bring about, and there is still a lot of stagnation. I am concerned about the lack of direction I have in my career – I feel that I carry my divergence within me, standing always at the crossroads of numbers and words. A birthday brings that home hard, harder with each passing year, and the uncertainty pertaining to where I can be long-term located is difficult to work around.

I have been trying to keep my head up, to take a step or three back, to look at what has been achieved, and at what needs to be done still. I am learning to pick my battles, to speak only what is absolutely necessary, and only when it is absolutely necessary. I am trying to temper my optimism with reality, curbing hopefulness that veers into sheer folly at times, about what can work and what can’t.

It is odd, but I feel that the next year will be calmer and more to my liking. The stagnation is a problem, but I am getting used to working around it, to put aside frustration and to focus on the changeable. Life can’t be held in limbo today just because of the uncertainty of the tomorrows.

Andante is my favorite tempo, to compose and to play. I am beginning to relish it as a way life too, after prolonged initial resistance. Living slowly is fine, I know now, as long as I live well.




The hyacinth called me many times today. I did not pick up immediately, since I had been with a friend. Wary of what the news might be, I called back, and heard about Leonard Cohen.

I rarely write without using a broader brush-stroke, when it comes to my personal life.  Many of my choices have been unconventional, compared to societal norms, that I feel reluctant to discuss it. This is one of the rare, handful of times when I feel compelled to.

I fell in love early. It was painful. It was difficult. It was prolonged. It took me a long time to fall out of love. Was it wise? I’ll never know. I sung many hallelujahs to my hyacinth, as many as he sang to his Marianne, for many years. In my singular state of suspension, I was a bird on a wire, hanging upside down, and in Leonard Cohen I found words and song I could not articulate or compose. He was my hero, and I felt that I was travelling in his wake, on paths he had tread years ago, of difficult love, of a difficult life, of every waking moment spent contemplating and reflecting on love and life and death. What I could not find in my peer group, or in my family, or in my lover, I found in his music.

I have had to leave behind whom I loved, because the hyacinth had not taken my offer seriously or because the hyacinth had not thought me capable of delivering on my promise. It had been a state I could not recover from, for years. It did not help that I was always a bit too old for my years, and had known my limits and abilities, my needs and my mind, and had taken myself more seriously than most others did. It does not matter now. It is all water under an old bridge. Time and again, though, I had been told that I was not light-hearted enough, not capable of living in the moment, etc. I had felt ill-equipped, and had felt that I was wrong for carrying about as I did. Cohen put a rest to all of that, the first time I listened to So Long, Marianne. I moved on, with my life, met many others, and met one or two who were quite like me. I knew, from data, that I was not particularly odd or different.  I was okay. Life carried on. Before that, before all of that, I had been a young girl of twenty, and only Cohen’s songs had been company.

I remember seeing him in concerts, sharing his well-lived life with the audience, self-deprecatingly, humbly, and carefully. I found the beauty in what he left unsaid, I admired his steadiness in not tampering with the sanctity of the private while venerating and celebrating love and life. Perhaps, now that I think of it, I found even echoes of my own thoughts in his opinions on religion and family.

I have cried many times in my life, and over the years, I have found his voice and words capable of soothing when I find myself desolate and alone. I had felt alien and unsure, time and time again, as what I offered was taken without reciprocation, and worse, taken without understanding the seriousness of it. Yet, I found solace in Cohen’s songs of failure and loss. He had found the strength to go on, each time.

It was love, though, that was the most remarkable. Every song of love he sung was a song of pain and struggle, of sacrifice and steadfastness. I had thought some of my acts and thoughts during my younger years to be influenced by puberty and teen-angst.  It was an over-simplification, and a false one at that. I know now that I take people to my heart, when I take them. Over the years, I have become more and more careful, in choosing whom to take. It has been a difficult path to walk, to not feel embittered by experience, to start afresh over and over again, and Cohen has been my salvation in times of doubt and confusion.

In times when I have been at a loss for words, when I have been suffocated  by emotion, I had turned to Cohen, and I had found in his repertoire something unfailingly.

I had known that he was dying. He had said that, in his latest album, in many of his songs. It does not make the news any easier to accept, though he had prepared his listeners for it, in his own way.

You taught me to value each connection, to give even when there was no receiving, time after time, to forgive myself and others, to never forget what had been there once. You taught me to acknowledge family, legacy, and history, even if not all of it was pleasing or aligned with my own ideas. I knew to love before I ever listened to you, but you taught me that it was beautiful and not wrong to love as I do. Thank you.


Denomination | Nomination

I heard about the denomination saga at midnight in my home country. I want to learn more, but I know nobody from my country whom I trust to be unbiased and objective to ask more. The last two years have been divisive, and the years before had not been easy at all. The national dialogue, and the local dialogue, have become splintered, have become narratives of us-verus-them.

Critical thinking and logic have fled the roost, and I have highly educated compatriots who find it hard to bring clarity of thought to social issues that they have emotional attachments to. It is tragic. The causes run deep and cannot be easily fixed.

The country is divided, and religion is something I strive to avoid discussing at all cost. I have strong opinions, but I don’t care to be judged or persecuted for holding them. My time and energy are too precious to be wasted on such discussions.

Sibelius is upset about the election. We were waiting on tenterhooks as they counted PA and MI, and his nervous comments nearly pushed me out of my usual calm.  Later, as I attempted to soothe his worries, he fretted so about the what-ifs, about what might have gone differently if Bernie Sanders had won the nomination.

I wonder too.

I have had the fortune to be there, for a Sanders rally in Long Island, and then for a Trump speech in Manhattan. This had been back in April. Sibelius had taken me to one of them by intention, and we had shown up at the other accidentally, after a stroll in Central Park, after a lazy day at the Met. I remember the kinds of people who had shown up at both the rallies, and I remember how fervent and hopeful they had all been.

Strange as it may sound, I had seen a common quality in the supporters. They had all wanted change, from the establishment, from the status quo, from the tried and the broken system they had been so far under. They had felt disenfranchised, they had felt deprived of voice and decision-making power, they had felt isolated and alienated, and vilified too, by a set of ideologies that they did not believe in, that they had felt weighed down by. The kinds of changes they wanted were different. So, I wonder, if Sanders and Trump had been running against each other, what would the electorate have decided?

Globalization has shrunk the world, perhaps to a nexus of city-states that are focused on technology and higher education in the sciences, and centres of finances and policy-making, and all of this has given rise to progressive and liberal group-think in those centers, and the rest of the population had been left out in the cold. Is it too late?  I see the same happening in many countries. The education gap is growing, and it has severe implications in terms of opportunities for improving the quality of life.

It is an unexpected set of developments. Nevertheless, here we are, trudging along, and quoting Ecclesiastes once again.

For now, I console Sibelius, and promise to make for him the Malabar Biriyani he loves for some reason. I can do that. I am yet to stop marveling at his beautiful birthday gift. It has been a difficult year, coming on the heels of a few difficult years. There are stars in even a black sky, though, and I am grateful for that.