Tag Archives: Christmas

The Miracle of Christmas

Growing up Hindu in cosmopolitan Bombay, I looked forward to Christmas with a sigh of relief. Christmas for us did not have the bearings and pressures of other Indian festivals, so we could just enjoy its beauty in a laidback fashion through common symbols like the Christmas trees, church bells, decorative snow made from cotton balls, and delicious plum cakes. After coming to America, Christmas became another avenue for justifying material greed that was validated by the culture as a way to celebrate this day. Nothing wrong with shopping, but that just as I had done back in India, I missed seeing the depth of Christmas. The legendary miracle of Christmas was only a fable to me until Christmas acquired a transformed meaning for me and my family.

Four years ago, much to my shock, I spent Christmas at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Florence, South Carolina.

My son was born two weeks past his due date after a strenuous, dangerous, and heart-breaking birthing process. He was taken for a routine checkup when he started having seizures. Doctors informed us that he would have to be rushed to a specialized NICU, an hour and a half away, since that hospital was not equipped to deal with serious health conditions in infants. What health condition I asked. “We suspect meningitis,” said a very concerned doctor.

The next morning, he was zipped up in a see-through bag to be put into an ambulance. I saw him clearly for the first time. Strong, calm, and big at 9 pounds, he looked nothing like a new-born. I blew him flying kisses as tears rolled down my eyes. Because of my own medical recovery, I would not be able to get to him for three days. 

Three days passed in agony. I walked through a large room that was the NICU. There were about twenty infants there, primarily premature infants who would be kept in the unit until they reached 40 weeks, the normal gestational period. The slow exploration of miracles started when I saw babies close to two pounds, being kept alive in incubators; surviving, fighting, wanting to taste life. On the far left in the back of the big room was the critical section. That’s where I saw my son. Among others, he looked like a giant. His dark eyes wide open and aware.

I held him for the first time on Christmas eve. At this point, any contact with him felt like a gift. I stroked his hair; did he even know that I was his mother? As I met the nurses that I had been distrusting of  (How would they treat him? Would they be kind to him?), I saw how they held him, like their own. They magically appeared every time he cried, as if they were telepathically connected to him. Truth be told, they knew how to care for him better than an emotionally and physically wrecked first-time mother. They had fed him bottles of donor breast milk, another gift in this process by unknown women.

“We were thinking about a feeding tube for him, but he took to the bottle like a champ,” said the nurse. By now I had established my own milk and on Christmas Eve I fed him the first time as well.

We awoke in a hotel room near the hospital on Christmas morning. I had imagined Christmas to be at home with a tree, presents, a fireplace, welcoming our first child. When we went to the hospital, I noticed for the first time that they had a Christmas tree in the ICU. Under it were presents with each child’s name on them. And right toward the front, I saw one for my son. When I headed toward his bed, I was introduced to a woman who had been waiting for me. She introduced herself as a chaplain and that she was here to pray for every child. As she prayed for his health, for a speedy recovery invoking a miracle from God, the nurses held me while I wept.

One of them said kindly, “The best part of our job is that we see miracles every day.” 

After the prayers, the nurses serenaded Samuel with Christmas songs: Holy Night, Silent Night, Jingle Bells. My heart melted when I saw these mothers sacrificing their own Christmas mornings with their children to be with these wonderful little souls. It was a glimpse of the selflessness that motherhood calls for, something that, in time, I’d learn myself.

Trolleys of gifts were being rolled around the room and I saw that each child had a small blue teddy bear. When my son received his, I read the tag on it. It was a gift to all the children from a little boy who had spent Christmas, in this very NICU, fourteen years ago. He did not fail to send gifts each year as a reminder of the victory of recovery. 

When my husband and I walked out of the NICU, we were met by an unknown couple. They took us aside and gave us a fifty-dollar bill. “We wanted to give forward to the parents of a child here today but didn’t know who to choose. So, we stood here thinking we would give to the next couple that walks out the door.” And that was us. “Go buy yourself a Christmas dinner. Merry Christmas,” they said.

On that Christmas, my life changed. Little miracles opened my heart to a new reality – that of the true miracle of Christmas. The story of Bethlehem was no longer a fable for me. I witnessed the miracle of birth and life, of a soul coming through the darkness. I was following the guiding stars of light into the unknown to experience the magnificence of a child. Through this suffering, my understanding of Christmas was transformed from a consumer to its real purpose.

After Christmas that year, Samuel started to make a miraculous recovery. He fought his lot well, and soon it was concluded that he was fighting E-Coli in his blood all along and was spared any life-threatening circumstance. In two weeks, he was back home with us.

This year, as a four-year-old, he embellishes the Christmas tree and makes stars and snowflakes, his giggles are a rippling reminder of the miracle that he is worth all the trials and joys. A living proof of prayers answered. 


Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her writings have appeared in publications including Times of India, Yoga International, Yogi Times, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, and anthologies of fiction and poetry. 

Come Celebrate The Holidays At Filoli

Holidays at Filoli is the perfect season to make special memories with loved ones and friends. The historic House and Garden will be glittering and glowing with festive cheer every day and night of the week through January 3. Filoli is one of a kind. With its 16-acres of historic garden the unique landscape provides the perfect setting to connect with loved ones and appreciate beauty.

For fun festivities join us on Mondays for Holiday Themed Nights! From Pajama Party to Solstice Night, we’re making Mondays merry and bright with a selection of jolly dress-up prompts. Match the theme and get a special gift. On select Saturdays in December our ever-popular Santa Saturdays are back with a twist! Santa will be located outdoors on our beautiful Woodland Garden Court. You and yours are invited to take a socially distanced selfie with Santa himself.

To get you in the spirit we’re hosting a Holiday Bar on the Woodland Garden Court throughout the Holiday season, featuring a selection of wine, beer, warm libations, and mixed cocktails. Cozy up to a firepit and enjoy a beverage of your choice. Festive food and treats are available at the Quail’s Nest Cafe by the Town Kitchen. Highlights from the menu include peppermint hot chocolate and tasty seasonal coffee drinks in addition to holiday cookies and confections.

The Clock Tower Shop is the destination for carefully curated holiday gifts and decor. Our outdoor Courtyard will be filled with holiday greens, specialty and dwarf conifers, garden sculptures and ceramics as well as unique varieties of camellias, daphne and azaleas. And don’t forget to look for our favorite tulip and daffodil bulbs! In the Shop themes of Mrs. Claus’ Bakeshop, Elves in the Toyshop, and Nature Wonderland come to life with beautiful displays featuring blown glass ornaments, tea towels, baking dishes, artisanal soaps, stuffed animals and more.

We’re open every day and every night of the week for you to enjoy the wonder of Holidays at Filoli to your heart’s content! Purchase your tickets online for Daytime or Evening Admission today, we’re open 7 days a week from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM. Advanced registration is required. Each year we look ahead with great hope about the joy this season will bring. We can’t wait to see you!

 

Santa Doesn’t Talk like that, Amma!

It was 7 am on a rainy winter morning in California. My dad had forgotten to buy milk the previous night. Fearing my mother’s wrath, he rushed to the grocery store. He approached those all-to-familiar automatic doors, did his a jig to activate the sensors, but the doors wouldn’t open.  He finally realized that the store was closed. 

Christmas morning. The only day of the year that American capitalism would pause in the name of religion. Christmas was something my family never paid much attention to. The milk that my dad needed wasn’t for Santa Claus, it was for my mom’s famous filter coffee. 

Growing up in America meant embracing some of the traditions that were foreign to my parents. When I was little, my mom hosted a Christmas party and enticed a family friend to dress up as Santa Claus. She invited the kids of her immigrant friends, excited to give us all an American Christmas. As the toddlers lined up to sit on Santa’s lap, we started crying when we heard his Indian accent.

“Santa doesn’t talk like that, Amma!” I exclaimed. All her efforts were sadly in vain.  

The next year she tried a different tactic. She stuck a crumpled $5 bill in a stocking that we had decorated at my elementary school. The greedy 8-year old me had written up a list for “Santa Claus,” and was sorely disappointed that none of my asks were met. 

“You’re Santa aren’t you?” I asked my mom. She sheepishly nodded her head.

In the years since then, Christmas became a festivity to appreciate. We would decorate a tree every year, put up Christmas lights, and give small gifts to our neighbors. It was not about the day itself, but about the season of joy and giving. 

After I went to college, this holiday became the only time I would see cherished friends and family. It was the only time the world would shut down because it had to, almost forcing me to consider what truly meant the most to me. It became a time of considering my privilege, my life’s luxuries, and the wealth of good people surrounding me. 

We are often overwhelmed with our rituals for Thanksgiving, Navaratri, and Diwali. Christmas, for me, has become a time of still, a time to spend with the people that matter. 

As I think back to all of the grocery stores, malls, and movie theaters that turned us away because we forgot that it was December 25th, I wish I could tell my kid self that those were the moments that mattered. Years later, I come home to a world that looks nothing like the one I grew up in: people are gone, people have changed, I’ve left home, I’ve changed. 

Traditions bring about a semblance of constancy, a yardstick by which we can measure how much has stayed the same. But the absence of custom brings deep reflection. Year by year, I don’t spend Christmas with Indian Santa Claus. We don’t put up lights anymore. I spend it with whomever is present in my life.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that life is fleeing. We can’t always count on traditions to look back on, largely because nothing is really constant. If I could go back and tell my kid self something, it would be to savor the “non-traditions.” Those mundane moments, though not recurring, are our reality.

Swathi is a junior at Duke University studying Public Policy and Computer Science. She hopes to continue to learn through the lens of her Indian-American heritage.

Rising and Falling with the Seasons

Winter solstice has come. A time symbolically used to celebrate the rise and fall of the sun. A time of year when we reflect on the past year and nurture hopes for the coming one. A time of year for reconnecting with friends around warm food and lights. 

I turned the thermostat up a couple of notches and the white light effused a warm glow against the curtains. As I surveyed the house, I felt a surge of warmth course through me. Dear friends and family were visiting, and I was glowing from the companionship. The house had been through a deep clean: which is to say that the closets were stuffed and groaning. I warned guests to open any closet with care: a dozen things could tumble out at any moment, I said widening my eyes. The adults laughed, while the children nodded with sincerity, but an hour later I found them playing hide-and-seek, and finding a place to hide in those very closets. Oh well!

As time spun its way through the evening, strands of conversation were coming together too. Light-hearted topics were interspersed with hefty ones and laughter was sprinkled with wrinkled looks of concentration. It was beautiful to hear opinions changing ever so slightly; of course, it was not without the exasperation of trying to string complex thoughts into words that would convince someone of their perspective. I marveled at humanity once again. 

“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” 

― William Hazlitt, Selected Essays, 1778-1830

Can we get better? Absolutely. We lose sight of the marvelous gift we have of empathy and of trying to understand one another. Moments in which we bestow upon one another the inestimable gift of attentive listening are irreplaceable. Like the stuffed closets the children found a place to hide in, there is always room for our own mindsets to grow and expand.

With all the additional means of communication at our disposal these days – whether instant or otherwise, we are so intent on telling the world what we think that I fear we may slowly start losing the art of listening, weighing, offering our opinions without being attached to our own viewpoints, and allowing ourselves the beautiful vantage point of changing our minds. 

The appreciation of merit from multiple viewpoints is an Art in itself. 

It is a lesson that Nature herself teaches us in the simple act of the changing of the seasons. How wondrously we admire the same surroundings for different aspects during different parts of the year? The bursting of new life, and flowering trees in Spring; followed by the joyous long days of summer with their blooms of flowers; the beautiful fall foliage; and the cold rainy winters enabling us to reflect, change and poise ourselves for the cycle to begin again. 

Each season brings with it a new physical aspect and a philosophical one.

I find winters winter a good time to look back on the year gone by; reflect on the grains that made up the texture of the preceding months, and those months layered upon years, like a tree, adding a ring to its makeup. A time for reflection of the past year and a time for hopes in the coming year.

Every year our hopes and aspirations for ourselves and our collective future differ. This year, given the state of political affairs in the US, and the deep divides that separate us, I hope we can strive towards truthful, honest dialogue. As we usher in the New Year, it becomes doubly important for us to remember that our strength lies in listening to each other respectfully; to engage in conversations sans ego so that we may learn to appreciate the beauty of human thinking and its many perspectives. That seems to be our only hope to collectively move towards a future that is filled with integrity and compassion.

As the French philosopher Simone Weil said in the early twentieth century, let’s bestow on each other the generosity of spirit so beautifully outlined in this quote. 

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity – Simone Weil

Now is the time to say thanks for all the small and big things in life. The time to appreciate friends and family. The time to appreciate the gifts of nature and of our place in it. The time for us to refocus our energies on what is possible and our duties towards society. I am looking forward to a new year informed by the past, yet open to the future.

Saumya writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com, and some of her articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle,  The Hindu and India Currents. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life and finding joy in the little things.

Five Reasons to do Yoga this Holiday Season

Holidays can be a busy time to say the least; in spite of the joy surrounding it, you are pulled in different directions physically, emotionally and financially. For me, every year when the holidays come around, I resort to yoga. Yoga has been a constant thread in my life, one that I seek especially when my cup is overflowing.

The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yujir which means ‘to yoke.’ The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is said to be equanimity” (2.48); “Yoga is skill in action” (2.50). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, “Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.” An asana practice helps us achieve the higher goal of yoga. For me, asanas create equanimity which furthers my intention and understanding of utilizing that skill in all action that Lord Krishna is talking about. Asanas help calm the mind to take on the world a little better everyday. So if you are overwhelmed with love, joy, stress, foodlists, shopping lists or just too much on your plate, consider yoga this holiday season. 

Here are five reasons to give yoga a chance.

Stillness

What I crave most is silence when I’m consistently going to holiday parties and hosting guests. Carving out a few minutes for silence can really reset the body and mind’s rhythm and re-center me so I can face life’s busy-ness again.

Poses I love: Balasana ( Child’s pose), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), Shavasana(Corpse Pose), Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath).

Detox

Who does not need a mind and body detox after the holidays? Inversion poses are really helpful for blood circulation and thus promoting detoxification and moving fluid to the lymph nodes.

Poses I love: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog), Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One leg dog), Salamba Sirsasana(Headstand), Dolphin pose

Digestion

All that turkey and stuffing along with endless gingerbread men keeping you bloated all holiday season? I find that my digestion is sluggish, especially paired with the colder temperatures. A few simple poses that aid digestion can go a long way. 

Poses I love: Bharadvajasana (Seated twist), Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose), Salabhasana (Locust) and Agni Sara.

Gratitude

The economic commercialization of the holidays makes us forget the true reason for their existence. Yoga makes me stop to give thanks for the opportunity to have and love family, community and God in my life. Giving thanks makes the chaos of my life worthwhile.

Poses I love: Apanasana (Knees to chest), Malasana( Yogic Squat), Ustarasana (Camel Pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Burning Calories

Okay let’s get real, everyone puts on those extra pounds during the holidays and everyone is seeking to burn calories. No time to go to gym? Yes yoga can help burn calories too! A vinyasa flow including the following poses can help tone and strengthen.

Poses I love: Plank pose, Utkanasana (Chair pose), Surya Namskar (Sun Salutation), Chattaranga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose), Navasana (Boat pose), and Agni Sara.

Preeti Hay has been a lifelong student of yoga. She has written for Yoga International, Yogi Times, India Currents and Khabar Magazine among others.

The Humans: An Average Family Amidst the Holidays

It’s possible, with art, to create something so real it almost becomes difficult to find meaning in it. The Humans, Stephen Karam’s fascinatingly mundane Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama, exists very firmly in that uncomfortable zone. Without hard scene transitions, music, or anything to bring you out of the story, the play provides a slice of life narrative that is almost excessive in its realism. 

Taking place over the course of a Thanksgiving dinner, the trials and tribulations of the Blake family are slowly unraveled through a long series of freewheeling conversations (and frequently, arguments). By the objective standards of capitalism, each of them has failed in some foundational aspect of their lives. It pushes an uncomfortable interpretation of the American Dream, that having a family that loves you and believing in yourself is not enough. That, at the end of the day, financial success or failure is in your hands, and if you don’t have it, you do not deserve to be happy. 

I can deeply relate to the series of awkward encounters as they play out, that sublime experience of socializing with people you love but don’t really know. This last weekend, I learned my cousin was planning on interning with a government anti-drug organization and was initially very surprised. Upon reflection, though, I realized there was no reason to be surprised my lack of knowledge about his decisions. I could tell you what sports he played in college, his favorite desserts and the name of his first girlfriend. But his values? His biases? His failures? Of these, I could tell you nothing. The play juxtaposes this clash of a family who don’t mesh in humor or personality, with brutal moments of honesty. Beyond that, the characters are fundamentally incapable of being honest with either themselves or each other. 

They express a deep unhappiness at the state of the world without identifying any particular source of this dissatisfaction. Indeed, that is the one criticism I can honestly level at this performance. The Humans is such an earnest and succinct play, that it’s difficult to know what, if anything, one should take away from it. Day to day life, after all, does not come comfortably bundled with inherent meaning. The Blakes struggle with economic uncertainty, trust, love and conflict like any family, and like reality I too struggled to know why it mattered. 

As a technical achievement, however, the San Jose Stage Company’s performance of The Humans is an absolute triumph, and a wonderfully authentic examination of the myriad ways the American Dream can fail.

Graham Smith is a lifelong writer of prose and lover of theater. He lives in San Jose, CA. mostly selling wood veneer, spoiling his parents dog, and purchasing very excellent books he won’t read.

“Like An Indian Christmas” — Diwali for an (Indian) Scrooge

My mother’s eyes sparkled as I knelt beside her. Her white chalk scraped against the entrance to our house, adding wispy flowers between rows of hollow diamonds and peacock feathers on the outer edges of her design. There was something trained about the way that she made  rangoli — it was as though her hand was an old friend of the dusky soil, remembering past legends and reviving familiar stories through the imprint of the chalk. As I silently memorized the small, silvery  intricacies, my mother handed me a plastic bag of blue sand. 

“Why don’t you try this time?”

For centuries, Diwali has been regarded as the epitome of Indian celebration. From rows of incandescent clay diyas lining the driveway, to the sound of fireworks splintering the sky, Diwali embodies the very qualities that make India memorable — its intensity, its vitality, and its festivity. Aptly named the “festival of lights,”  this holiday has existed to commemorate our small victories and bring the Indian community together. Thus, when the first brown immigrants trickled across western borders, they brought pieces of this celebration with them. 

The American-born Diwali was molded by its new frontier. Older, previous references to the term “Deepavali” were forgotten, as the North-Indian derivative rolled off foreign tongues with ease. Melted globes of gulab jamun wrapped in tinfoil were often traded for plastic boxes of Ferrero Rocher. When well-meaning white neighbors questioned the rangoli patterns inscribed onto the nearby doorstep, brown parents would respond with a trained nonchalance, “Oh, it’s for a festival in our culture. Like an Indian Christmas, y’know?” 

Like an Indian Christmas. The uncanny likening between Diwali and the hallmark of every December calendar was almost prophetic. Because as “big business” captured the very essence of Western life, Christmas emerged as one of American’s largest marketing opportunities. Shopping frenzies, radio jingles, ridiculous discounts on washing machines. When its white sibling raked in billions of dollars worldwide, it became evident that Diwali would have to follow suit to survive. The ancient “festival of lights” would simply have to be bigger, brighter, and better. 

I  question the better bit. I don’t mind watching businesses, from local Apna Bazaars to Indian boutiques, explode with popularity every year. According to data journalist Niall McCarthy, Diwali discounts brought in more than 20 million dollars through e-commerce and online shopping in 2018 alone. Almost any desi beauty parlor offers more than one “Diwali package” for the local aunty. Thousands of mithai dabbas are shipped across the country to sweeten tongues (and industry bank accounts). But amidst the dazzle of materialism, something always feels a bit lost in the celebrations. No matter how bright the lights, I still feel clouded by a strange obscurity.  

As an Indian-American teenager, I don’t want to turn one of my favorite holidays into a mere marketing campaign. It’s seductive to turn this holiday into a straightforward, “oh, look at the pretty lights” circus — but it’s equally exhibitonist, and reflects some of the worst aspects of the Indian-American mentality. The original Ramayana that we claim to honor told a tale of heroism, love, and primarily struggle. But the Ramayana of today represents a different kind of conflict: the internal battle with the Indian-American identity. To rescue ourselves from  a self-imposed Lanka, we have to celebrate Diwali for ourselves. Not for social attention, not to impress our western counterpart, but for honoring the true spirit and values of Diwali. . 

   Diwali isn’t an incarnation of Christmas. It’s a narrative of its own — one that is beautiful and utterly Indian in its neglected simplicities. 

The paper cone molded into my palm. Nine year old me was nervous, watching grains of blue seeping between the white lines. Rangoli tells tales of lavishness — of exuberance and wild color — but the real art comes through temperance. A little needless  spurt of sand here or there, and the design would lose its balance. But the first row of diamonds was complete, its white boundaries fading into the ground like an echo. I was handed a pouch of marigold yellow for the circles in between. And just like that, I was lost in the rangoli, my mother and I, learning to tame the unfamiliar American earth. 

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin and the Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. When she’s not doodling or writing poetry, she is most likely untangling her earphones or looking for something that happens to be — much like herself — lost.

 

editorial

Traditions Renewed

I once watched a movie which got me thinking about the traditions that I hold dear. I saw Kaadhal, a brilliant Tamil movie, that tackled inter-caste Indian marriages. The story went like this: Rich girl meets poor boy and falls in love. Poor boy resists because he understands the chasm that separates them in terms of class and caste. Rich girl persists, convinces him of a future together and they elope to get married. Rich family finds the young couple in the city and they use deception and kind words to bring the couple back. Soon, they use the full might of their riches to cause serious injuries to the boy and then force the girl to marry another. This story line was not fictional; it was based on a true story. That shook me to the core.

In the movie, the “us” versus “them” theme was in display. Rich versus poor, high-caste versus low-caste, divisiveness between human beings was at its worst.Even though it was a hackneyed theme, this movie was different. There was an undercurrent that asked: what are the identities that you hold dear, and how do you promote them? Are there some identities that should merge?

The sub-text in the movie got me thinking—do I hold an “us” versus “them” set of attitudes? And, the answer came to me almost immediately—in the way I cooked! For every festival, I took great pride in cooking exactly what I had watched my grandmother and mother do. I did not even change the kind of vegetable that I cooked—it had to be raw banana or yellow pumpkin. The list of what “I” did and what “others” did was long. And I treasured the fact that the meal that my children ate was exactly what I had been fed as a child. But in holding these rigid attitudes, I wondered whether I was missing out on learning new ways of thinking; equally valid ways of cooking and celebrating that I ignored because, in my mind, there was only one way to celebrate.

I started to question something that I had always held as sacrosanct. Given the sheer variety of Indian and American cherished food traditions, there was no dearth of recipes to try. I decided to try Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati recipes for festivals, eschewing the tried and tested Tamilian dishes that I was accustomed to.

When I hosted Thanksgiving, I decided to leave out Indian foods altogether. I couldn’t rely on throwing in ingredients with practiced ease. Recipes were consulted and new ingredients found their way into my pantry shelves. The celebrations were just as meaningful. In fact, the festivals that year took on new meaning for me because of the sense of inclusivess I felt.

In a very small way, I moved outside the confines of what I held tightly wrapped around my sense of self—my family, my food tradition and in essence, what was comfortable. It is comfortable to invite friends and family members to festival celebrations. There is a sense of camraderie that is precious and familiar. You don’t have to explain yourself, what you have cooked or what you are wearing.

That sense of familiarity will disappear if you were to try different recipes, while inviting a neighbor from a different culture into your home. Now, more effort will be needed. But isn’t that effort worth moving out of our “tribal” mentality?

Breaking bread around the table is the best way to bring cultures together from time immemorial. Along with the food, will come the flow of easy conversation—not the formal, transactional conversations held in the workplace. The kinds of conversations that build a sense of shared understanding.

As this festival season starts with Diwali, Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I hope that you will build memories where the unfamiliar becomes familiar and you build human friendships.

You will then receive more than you give. In boxing ourselves into just what is familiar or what comes easily, we lose out on what is truly offered—endless possiblities in life and the chance to make and remake traditions.