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  • 16 Mar 2021 12:43 PM | Anonymous

    by Tharegha Manoharan

    On March 6th, Mrs. Usha Verma, Mr. Sathvik Sethi, Dr. Kamolika Roy, and Dr. Uma Chandrika Millner, mental health professionals and community advocates, joined Ms. Shubh Agrawal and Ms. Achint Singh in a conversation about mental health in South Asian communities.

    In many South Asian families, there is a common preconception that mental health is “not a problem” or their children were “just seeking attention”.  Despite the diversity of Indian cultures, the close-knit Indian community that is based on long lasting relationships places significant importance on societal opinions and undue emphasis on societal acceptance. As a result, when children approach their parents needing help, some parents feel fearful and are ashamed about what society might have to say. This idea of collectivism — or the practice of giving priority to a group over an individual forms the basis of stereotypes.

    Many families have moved to America in search of a brighter, better future for their children and next generations. Most have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to build a better life. So, when a child tells a parent about problems they are facing, some parents feel guilty about being inadequate providers. They wonder why their child is suffering despite what they have.

    Although there might be many reasons as to why one might go through stress, depression or anxiety, the pressure to succeed is much higher among the South Asian community. Because our parents may have worked really hard to get to where they are today, youngsters feel stressed about living up to those high standards. While the stereotype of South Asian students might be as “nerds'' or high achievers, that becomes a problem when society always expects you to fit that role.

    One important thing that everyone must not fail to understand is that you don’t need to be the best to be successful. You can have many flaws as we are human beings after all. But how you overcome your fears, how you treat friends and family will really determine what kind of person you are.

    In addition, there is a danger that people brought up in this culture think that “I need to tolerate suffering” or “I can’t change my circumstances” or “Someone else is having it worse, so I shouldn’t get help.” These are all dangerous mindsets.

    Unfortunately, there is also talk of invalidation when we seek help. In India, mental health might automatically mean going “crazy”. This might also be a reason for why South Asian parents might not be comfortable talking about these things. They might feel shame or guilt for their child’s thoughts. They might even tell their child that their feeling is “wrong”.

    Since mental health is not widely discussed in India, there is a good chance that parents genuinely do not know what to do in such situations. Seminars, like this one, are important as they encourage conversation within families. Normalizing talk about mental health should make people feel comfortable talking about it.

    Coming from India, we also sometimes fail to acknowledge that our culture, our religion, and our spirituality provides several solutions. The best therapy may be culturally congruent. By talking to people in our culture and religion may help in positive ways and lessen the likelihood of dropping out. Most importantly, by not addressing the issue, things could worsen and impact other aspects of your life. 

    As a community, we need to normalize situations and conversations around mental health. If we have a problem with our body, we find a doctor to help us out. We should treat mental health the same as finding a doctor if we have a problem with our thoughts and feelings. One must teach that there are no reasons or situations not to ask for help. The point of family and friends is to provide support for each other through tough times. If we are afraid of talking to our own family, then that defeats the purpose.

    You can click here to read a poem about this issue, Happy and Kind, by the author. 

  • 16 Mar 2021 12:20 PM | Anonymous

    by Tharegha Manoharan

    Good mental health,
    Is equal to having immense wealth,
    Because the happier we are,
    The more we can shine like a star.

    Happiness is not measured
    In the number of treasures,
    But the simple, full, feeling of satisfaction,
    After achieving a difficult action.

    Mental health should be treated,
    Just like physical, when it’s needed.
    There should be no excuse
    For anyone to recluse.

    The more we can help each other,
    The more we can understand one another.
    It’s important to reassure,
    And make sure everyone feels secure.

    In the South Asian community,
    There is a lot of opportunity.
    Everyone has come to the United States,
    Dreaming of the experience that awaits.

    No doubt that every, single person
    Has worked very hard,
    Praying their situation wouldn’t worsen
    When giving their future generation a wild card.

    Since mental health education,
    Is not widely talked about in the Indian population,
    The developed generation,
    Needs to learn to grow communications,
    And provide a foundation for unprepared situations.

    As there are many expectations,
    There should be an equal level of motivation.
    Giving less importance to reputation,
    And a freedom for imagination.

    Mental health needs to be,
    Talked about; in order to foresee,
    The possible hindrance,
    That might block off your brilliance.

    Conversations should become common in families,
    So that everyone can live their life without any negative mentalities.
    Normalizing these conversations,
    Will strengthen relations,
    And bring happier generations.

    As humans, we might
    Fight for survival of the fittest.
    And though this might seem right,
    Happiness itself is the treasure, and it is the richest.

    Asking for help is not weak,
    Because it will make you stronger and unique.
    Family will always support you,
    Even if they seem rough from the other view.
    After all, that’s what family is for,
    To lead, guide, and more.

    Our measure of success
    Should be measured
    By our happiness and kindness.
    Not in our company’s progress
    Or wealth in excess.

    Anything can be discussed,
    With the caring people around us.
    Problems should not be faced alone,
    Because people unknown
    Will often come running
    To help you become amazing.

    Society is built on expectations,
    But we should know our limitations,
    And not try to fulfill others’ aspirations.
    Although there may be fluctuations
    In your determinations,
    A good society will always aid.
    And no matter how afraid,
    Don’t feel outweighed,
    That's why family and friends stayed.

    Don’t let the pressure
    Get hold of your pleasure.
    If you need to talk,
    Those who were with you since you first walked,
    Will back you up,
    They’ll help you strive, they'll hold you up.

    So don’t worry,
    Or run in a hurry,
    Take time to enjoy the view,
    If it’s truly what you want to pursue.

    Don’t stress,
    You can still achieve success,
    As long as you are happy and kind,
    You are perfect, defined.

  • 16 Mar 2021 12:13 PM | Anonymous

    By Diya Sadhu

    Has life ever existed on Mars? That is the question asked by a host of scientists, particularly a team of them working on the Perseverance mission. This new initiative, established by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is meant to explore the possibility that there was, or still is, life on Mars. It is particularly fortunate that technology has advanced to the point where cosmic robotic exploration can help scientists test this thesis on Mars, the closest planet with a substantial chance of life. 

    NASA’s Perseverance Rover accomplished its first drive on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021. The world watched as it explored the Martian landscape- more specifically Jezero Crater. While this crater is one of hundreds on Mars, what sets it apart is that scientists believe it to have once held a body of water. The inflow and outflow channel surrounding the crater serve as evidence that the lake was once there- and that it was once filled to the top with water. Katy Morgan, the Deputy Project Scientist for this mission, claims that Jezero Crater contains “one of the most beautifully preserved delta deposits on Mars”. Not to mention it creates the ideal living conditions for a diverse set of microorganisms to survive. A combination of these factors made Jezero Crater the ideal landing site for this mission. 

    The NASA team worked tirelessly to improve their model in order to complete this important  mission. They updated Perseverance to accommodate new scientific goals such as  a new microphone feature. The microphone will add another of the human senses, of hearing, on another planet. Another updated feature of Perseverance, is its new-found movement.  Unlike its previous model, Curiosity, Perseverance can self-drive for up to 200 meters per day while simultaneously creating a map of the ground as the wheels drive over it. The crown jewel of these improvements, however, remains the drills. The chief engineer of the mission, Adam Steltzner, explains that these drills will collect samples of Mars, and use them as a target for their next mission. This way they hope to get the samples back to Earth by 2031- a gateway Steltzner claims could help scientists “unlock the secrets of Mars”. The rover will also be carrying a helicopter named Ingenuity for which this will be its first test flight. 

    This event breaks two records as it would be the first time mankind has flown an aeronautic machine on another planet as well as bringing back to Earth the only rock sample from Mars. Even though the rover has only completed a fraction of its entire mission, the team at NASA already considers it a massive milestone in humanity’s journey to explore Mars.

  • 1 Mar 2021 2:36 PM | Anonymous

    An exclusive interview with Desh Deshpande for ISW eSandesh
    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    Many small businesses and non-profit organizations are started by people with pure passion and a good heart. A few fortunate entrepreneurs see their ventures take off while many face daunting failures. Even successful ones often lack the operational experience needed to scale and establish their business; to take it to the next level. How does one approach and overcome these obstacles?

    I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Desh Deshpande, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist who has been through this multiple times, to have him shed some light and impart his advice to our readers. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.

    Desh, you are a leader and philanthropist who has been very successful in doing this over the past many years. I wanted to have a quick chat with you to see if I can transfer a small piece of your experience and motivation to our audience.

    Let’s start with your transition from the academic world into your first significant job, can you share your thinking or mindset in making that change?

    Please click here view Desh’s Video answer.

    What are the top 3 things an entrepreneur should keep in mind after launch and preliminary success?

    • Establishing and communicating a compelling vision is very important. It helps you attract great talent, good board members and advisors. It will also help mobilize resources.  Doing anything meaningful in life is hard. You need to have a story that explains that while you are setting out to do something hard, it is well WORTH doing.
      • For example, Akshaya Patra stands for making sure that no child is denied education because of hunger. This is a very compelling vision that brings in a lot of people together to serve a worthy cause.
    • Building a cohesive egoless team that is open minded is particularly important. The organization must navigate through many challenges and hence a team that works together is key.
    • Being a good listener and listening carefully to customers is also very important.  Entrepreneurs are passionate people and love what they do.  However, success comes from customers loving what you do rather than you loving what you do.

    With respect to finding resources, how would one go about securing it? What are some things that have worked for you and others?

    • You need to clearly define mileposts that show that your effort has a chance to reach the promised land.  You must then manage your resources to make sure you reach the next milepost.  Showing success by reaching meaningful mileposts makes it so much easier to get additional resources and to fund your journey to the next milepost.

    When it comes to scaling operations and keeping up with the demand, what are some foolproof approaches to be taken?

    • Make sure that demand is real
    • Make sure that you have enough resources to deliver the goods and collect the payments to fund the next order
    • Make sure you have a well-rounded capable team that can execute

    What are some recommendations for adapting and pivoting when needed?

    • The reason to pivot is either what you are trying to do is harder than you thought, or no one wants what you are trying to do.
    • Being objective about carefully reviewing both these reasons is especially important before you decide if you should pivot.
    • If you do pivot, earlier the better.  As they say if you must fail, fail fast and fail small.

    Is running a nonprofit organization different from a for profit business? If yes, how do they differ? How are they similar?

    • Non-profit organizations energize the founder and everyone around them by the noble nature of the cause.  However, most of the time they lack resources and the talent to execute.
    • On the other hand, in the for-profit world there is a natural feedback loop. When a customer pays you more than what is costs you to make the product that confirms you are headed in the right direction.  This type of feedback is hard to get for non-profits.  Non-profits need to go out of their way to make sure that their beneficiaries are indeed benefitting from their efforts.
    • For example, Akshaya Patra does a fabulous job of being connected with their beneficiaries, the students. They make sure that they get a hot nutritious midday meal at school that they love. They serve local cuisine to children so that children really enjoy the food they are served.

    What are some tips to running a successful organization, be it for profit or non-profit?

    • Honesty, Integrity, knowing what you don’t know from what you know, ability to delegate and always keeping the team focused on the mission of the organization.

    Thanks for your valuable time and thoughts. Any last words of advice or encouragement for our budding entrepreneurs to keep in mind as they go through the different phases of establishing an organization?

    • The world continues to change rapidly in every aspect.  As the world changes, each of us have an option; either we lead the change or grudgingly accept the change.  An entrepreneur is the one who leads a change to make it a better world.  There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to lead a change.  When you take on a challenge and make things happen, it is the most fulfilling feeling you can have in life.  I am sure most of you are driven and want to be a part of the positive change.  I wish you all the best.
    BTW you can view Desh’s interview with Aamir Khan referenced in the video clip on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/SUzfmSeL1Rk
  • 1 Mar 2021 1:56 PM | Anonymous

    by Tharegha Manoharan

    Click image to hear Tharegha read her poem

    The great Mt. Rushmore,
    Is open to take more.
    The 7th president, Andrew Jackson,
    Now needs an action.

    Shall he be added?
    Or is it considered invalid?
    Shall he stay?
    ‘Cause how can he be on display?

    All of em’,
    Are white rich men,
    Again, and again.
    Can’t there be anyone else?
    Many in our great nation have acquired progress,
    And their paths are unique ways to attain success.

    Such as Martin Luther King Jr.,
    To Susan B Anthony, Maya Angelou,
    And many more, thought to be losers,
    Who took the impossible, and pursued.

    But, back to our question,
    Is Jackson a worthy suggestion?
    Does the man who not only owned slaves,
    But also traded them, and sent them to their graves,
    Deserve a monument among our nations’ braves?

    Although some may admire his victory,
    And affectionately call him “Old Hickory”,
    Those who lost their culture, dignity, family, and entire life,
    Forever call him the “Sharp Knife”.

    The only reason they agreed,
    Was because they thought they would get something in return,
    For them to succeed.
    There was voluntary Indian migration,
    But only a small number were in cooperation,
    As they were expected to a move to a new location.

    In 1823, the Supreme Court,
    Decided on a report,
    Claiming the Indians could occupy US lands of gems,
    However, they could not be entitled to them.

    The Cherokees decided,
    That in order to save what was left of their land,
    They needed to be undivided,
    And not follow the government’s demand.

    They tried to resist,
    In hope their nonviolent strategies,
    Could help them coexist.
    Large-scale farming, slave holding, and Western education,
    Were all things they tried to help a new generation.
    But this just made their white friends
    Jealous and resentful, and wanted their ends.

    In 1830, President Jackson,
    Took an action,
    That caused dissatisfaction.

    He pushed a new piece of legislation,
    Which was a regulation,
    Allowing him to negotiate removal treaties,
    The Indians saw as greedy.
    He compelled Indians to give up their lands to their unwanted guests,
    And move West.

    Although this was all supposed to be voluntary and peaceful,
    Because of their love of their land, the Indian people,
    And Jackson persistently insisted.

    As the people’s culture was in subsidence,
    Believing they were children in need of guidance,
    Jackson took on a role that was patronizing and paternalistic,
    Making them believe this change was optimistic.

    Removal could save them,
    From the depredations of the whites.
    They could go to a new area,
    And not suffer from malaria.
    They could govern peacefully,
    And live on successfully.

    For the next 28 years,
    The United States government interferes,
    And southeastern nations are in tears.

    Many of the tribes refused,
    The Seminoles believed their treaty was bruised.
    This lead to war after war,
    And at the door,
    The US had to pay the remaining to ignore,
    And move on towards the West shore.

    The Creeks were forced out,
    Because of the problems about.
    The Chickasaws were tricked,
    With a treaty in conflict.

    All in all,
    The US recalls,
    They kicked out 46,000 Native people from their land,
    To the 25 million acres in the West,
    Which opened up white settlements, slavery, and more stress.

    With all these major problems,
    Caused by the US government’s wobbly columns,
    None other than Andrew Jackson,
    Who definitely does not deserve attraction and more,
    Fails to be part of the majestic Mt. Rushmore.

  • 1 Mar 2021 1:45 PM | Anonymous

    Aavjo, Au  revoir, Auf Wiedersehen

    Most languages are quite abrupt when it comes to an end of a relationship, even a temporary one.  The words used are good bye, salaam ale kum, see you, till then.   A few like French, German and my mother language Gujarati imply that we’ll meet again for sure.

    It was the pandemic that made it difficult and somewhat laughable that I could not go to the bank to deposit a few checks that had accumulated in my wallet. I was angry, upset and wondering how I got myself into this situation. After a period of self-isolation, I saw the humor in it, and questioned why I let myself feel so miserable about it anyway. So, I wrote an article about the incident from that angle. A few people read it and that encouraged me to talk to the eSandesh publishing team, part of our own ISW.   They published it in the eSandesh newsletter and encouraged me to continue writing and contributing as often as I could.

    That was more than eight months ago. Now I have found it harder to come up with new topics and with just a handful of stories left, I decided to take a break. As I said before, Aavjo in Gujarati means “Come back” and I hope I will.

    With that I am also inviting the writer in you to let loose your thoughts and let your pen fly over the paper, or is it mouse and keyboard?  Get in touch with the ISW editors and give them some of your work. They are very encouraging and helpful. Let the writer in you come out and make new friends.

    So  …   Aavjo for now.

    Pravin Trivedi

  • 1 Mar 2021 1:40 PM | Anonymous

    By Priya Vaidya

    “If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan

    Volunteering is a noble act to take on regularly during our routine lives. I believe this gives immense satisfaction at a personal level and it helps the community and strengthens one's commitment towards society and humanity at large. This past year has been particularly challenging due to a pandemic where many volunteering opportunities were inaccessible and not possible due to social distancing.

    Just as we learnt to do many things virtually like socialization, learning and shopping, you can also do "online volunteering" with this very useful list of resources and links. This is a useful resource for teens, highschoolers, college students as well as adults who can make a huge difference to the community by giving their precious time and utilizing useful skills they possess. Browse through this extensive list of options and find something that suits your skills, time availability and your interests. Good luck!







  • 1 Mar 2021 1:34 PM | Anonymous

    By Keerthana Balakrishnan

    On Saturday, February 20th, the members of SAYAA, The South Asian Youth Activists & Allies at ISW,  hosted a movie night for the film, 13th. This powerful movie discusses the history of racial inequality in the United States, especially focusing on the African American community disproportionately placed in the nation's prison system. Ava DuVernay, the director of the 13th, created this documentary with a powerful look into how the modern-day prison labor system links to slavery. 13th  discusses America's 150-year history of race, imprisonment, and minority disempowerment. Especially during Black History Month, this film allows us to learn and understand how we can use our resources to help aid racial equity efforts.

    Prior to the movie night, SAYAA invited those attending and others  to donate to groups including the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester (https://www.bgcworcester.org/). Donating supports those who are disproportionately impacted by economic downturns, and even a small donation will make a huge difference. Along with this movie night, SAYAA had been encouraging many to donate throughout the month of February and the link to donate will be closed on March 7th.

    Although Black History Month may be coming to an end, it does not mean reflecting on the injustices do as well. No matter who you are, it is our job to stay aware of current events and speak up for those who do not have the voice to do it for themselves. SAYAA is committed to speaking up against racial inequality, beginning a dialogue, while also increasing our own self-reflection of the role South Asian communities can play in supporting social justice and promoting activism to combat such trends.

    If you are between the ages of 15-35 and are interested in joining us or learning more, please contact sayaa.eb@iswonline.org with any questions or inquiries.

  • 1 Feb 2021 6:59 PM | Anonymous

    by Ragoo Raghunathan

    In the previous issue of Your Professional Self, we talked about Imposter Syndrome and how to deal with it. One of the questions that came about from reading that is how do the real imposters deal with their feelings and what are some lessons we can learn from that?

    So, here I’m referring this time to a follow-up article by Amber Naslund, who is a Principal Content Consultant at LinkedIn and has been a Writer, Author, Marketer and Speaker for over 20 years. With her permission I share an article about this topic for our audience. Please let us know your thoughts.

    But Why Don't The Actual Imposters Get Imposter Syndrome?

    Sometimes you look around your industry, or business as a whole, or the world of "influencers" and think to yourself...how is it that person doesn't seem to feel a lick of imposter syndrome?

    Or why do the charlatans and the hucksters seem to conquer the world with wild confidence while the rest of us sit paralyzed with self-doubt wondering what the hell we're doing out here?

    I've got a couple of things for you to keep in mind.

    Perception is Rarely Reality

    I happen to know a bunch of really powerful, successful people that I've met along the way in my career.

    High-powered VCs, investment bankers, entrepreneurs, attorneys, C-suite executives at companies you know well.

    I also know a bunch of people who hawk their influence or their "secrets" or their multi-level marketing schemes with an apparent utter lack of shame, peddling their brilliance and their mastery right alongside their knockoff Rolex.

    But I've got news for you.

    All of these people? They feel this stuff too.

    They don't always talk about it or let you see it. But it's there sometimes. The key is that they don't ever let it drive. Meaning they feel it...and they do things anyway. They let the doubt ride shotgun and they accept that it's there, but they don't make decisions from that place.

    It takes a lot of practice to do that. You have to continually work on courage and conviction and trusting yourself and you have to be wildly willing to screw something up and find out that you were wrong without letting that utterly destroy you, or letting your inner attorney use that as evidence in the case you're constantly building against yourself. Simply put, you have to be willing to - as they say - feel the fear and do it anyway.

    The carpetbaggers do so out of desperation; they know it's just a matter of time before they get called on their nonsense, so they've got to hurry up and capitalize on whatever opportunity they can before the walls come crashing down and they have to move onto something else. You know the type. You've watched them re-invent themselves with a new schtick every year or two. Stop worrying about what they're doing or not doing. They feel it, they're just not telling you.

    Successful people also question themselves all the time. But they actually care about the outcome. They care about things like integrity and reputation and their self-doubt serves as a governor on the engine - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But it's from a place of actually caring about what they do and how they do it.

    But they also know one critical thing that helps them use it as a force for good.

    Discomfort Is A Sign Of Growth

    Successful people are rarely stagnant.

    And no, I don't mean the bullshit about waking up at 3am everyday and hustling hard and all that stuff.

    I mean that they know they have to do things that occasionally make them uncomfortable because they know that new things - things with high potential - feel different at first. Hard. They're willing to be perpetual beginners and suck at things and question their skills because they know that's the first step to getting better at something. You can't be an expert before you're a clumsy beginner.

    Over time, they're willing and able to actually internalize their successes. To look at what they've accomplished and instead of downplaying it, embrace it. This also takes practice for a lot of people. We're taught that humility is important, so we have a hard time looking at things we've actually achieved and letting ourselves feel good about it. But it's important to know what's working and to appreciate how far you've come so the unknown roads ahead feel less daunting.

    That's how you learn to trust yourself. To say "wow, this feels weird. I'm in new territory here and so of course it's going to feel unfamiliar. It's normal to feel a little intimidated by the people who do this well already, but the only way I can get to that level of mastery is to wade through the messy parts of learning and growth. And because I've done that before in other areas, I know that - even if I can't see the outcome today - I'm capable of finding it."

    So the next time you're feeling daunted, unworthy, or otherwise like you don't belong somewhere, I want you to reframe that feeling as a good sign. That means you're not stagnant. You're moving toward places that are new, different, bigger. And it's likely that the people you're looking up to are feeling their own doubts along their own path.

    Oh, and by the way? Someone is probably looking up to you, too.

    You've got this.

  • 1 Feb 2021 6:30 PM | Anonymous

    by Pravin Trivedi

    MBTA. What a mouthful. And intimidating! Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority. Try that in one breath… Quite a daunting task, isn't it? Why is it that sometimes the T looks like an old tram, sometimes like the subway, and sometimes like a real diesel train? And he used to wonder what about the Boston T party? Found out it has nothing to do with a party… nor the T! But on with my story.

    “So, is this the T then?” said the elderly woman with the southern drawl.

    “No, this is not the T!” said the conductress gruffly. She must have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed. Or too early? Or had she not gone to bed at all? She certainly did not look like someone who would have been up late at a party.

    “Get off at South station and then take the Red Line.”

    “Oh is that where I get the T? And what is this Red line? Should I not take the T, and is the Red something also the Freedom Road?” Her eyebrows knitted in confusion.

    “Look ma’am, I don’t have the time for a chat now. After I get all these passengers their tickets, I'll talk to you.”  And with that she departed ungracefully and in as much a huff as she could muster.

    “I wonder what has got into her?” thought the Texan, a little crestfallen but not quite defeated. Being cheerful by nature, she looked around to see who else she could entice into a conversation. The New Englanders, true to nature, withdrew hiding behind their papers, looking out of windows so frosted and dirty that you could see nothing beyond. Some simply shutting their eyes as if in a trance or asleep as soon as she looked at them.

    The crowded 8:15 pulled out of Framingham with bells clanging and the shrill horn at full blast, stopping the traffic on Main Street, and made its way to Boston. For a while, the Texan looked crestfallen, with no one to talk to. Her husband was slow in getting on the train. Ever since they were married forty years ago, he had never kept pace with her. She always led the way. Even the two grandkids, Jeff and Mike, 7 and 5, were somewhat slower. They were sitting two rows, away with their mother, her daughter in law.  The kids were jousting and trying to get her attention. Mother was asleep. They desperately wanted to know if they had to drink the T. And when would that be? Why can’t we get a doughnut, grandma?

    Suddenly, grandma found her prey. He looked like a nice quite old balding gentleman, trying to read his book, but also trying to see if he could help. He was a little more than a couple of seats away. He had just lowered the book when she caught his eye. He looked at her, and seemed to smile. Later she learnt that he was always smiling. 

    She saw him move a little and that there was space on the seat next to him. She mustered up her courage and decided to negotiate the short distance and sit next to him. That was easier said than done. When she finally got up and walked the few steps, she lost her balance and fell on him. Gentleman that he was, he tried to catch her to ease the fall. She ended up in his arms instead! Finally, quite out of breath, they disentangled themselves and sat side by side as the train slowed down to a halt at Newton station.

    “I am sorry madam, I was trying to tell you that the station was close. Sorry if I hurt you in any way.” The words struggled out of him. She still had her hand with the pocket book wrapped around his neck and seemed reluctant to let go, as if she really needed it for support.

    “Forgive me for being presumptuous but I was heard you asking for directions to take the T?” he said.

    “What do you mean?'' she said, pleasantly surprised that he had no foreign accent as she had feared. His words were still incomprehensible to her. They felt like music, and she thought she had never heard anyone talk quite so quaintly, except in the movies. Certainly, no one in plain old Plano, Texas.

    While this was going on, the daughter-in-law was getting worried. She had watched as her mother-in-law lurched down the aisle, making her way up the carriage and nearly smothering the stranger in an embrace. What was she up to?  She signaled to her father-in-law to come over and keep the two kids from getting away while she figured out how to break the two up.

    “Watch these two, and no matter what they say, don't let them get away. I got to go and rescue mom.”

    “Why, what’s she up to?”

    “No time to explain, I got to get there before the train starts to move.”

    Depositing the grandpa next to the two kids’ she made her way quickly down the aisle. Seeing her approach, the stranger moved closer to the window to make some room. She thrust herself in the little space left as her mother-in-law seemed reluctant to make more room.

    “Hello, so nice of you to join us. Doesn’t the motion of the train motion seem just like a bullock cart? You must be careful when you move. You must be her sister,” he started to say.

    He felt he had the older woman completely entranced but was in danger of upsetting the younger one in case she felt insulted. Before she could respond he continued, “My apologies for being presumptuous, you must be the daughter!”

    Her face brightened up, and she stammered a few words of a muffled uncertain greeting.

    “Mom, why were you bothering this nice young man?” she said sternly.

    “What may I ask is a bullock cart?” she smiled sweetly turning to the stranger with whom her older companion was talking.

    “We were doing fine until you butted in.” said the irate matron.

    “You are so lucky to have such a lovely companion. Of course, she is looking after you, talking to a stranger in a train. You cannot be more careful these days,” he said. “I was just asking her whether she needed assistance in getting anywhere in Boston, since I couldn't help overhearing our wonderful overworked but rather abrupt conductor.”

    “She was plain rude to mom,” she said, trying to get an even keel, and establish herself in the conversion. The slightly irritated mom looked on feeling a little left out of the conversation but thinking she could regain control of the conversation.

    “We want to go to Quincy market.”

    “How did you get on the train? You seem to be from some other place than around here. Did you get any directions? Are you visiting? It must be difficult for the two of you to manage the kids and get around this big city in rush hour?” The questions poured out of him.

    “We live in Plano, Texas, and are vacationing here.” the younger one said.

    “My son has a conference and he asked us to go to town on our own,” the mother blurted at the same time.

    As they were conversing, the father was showing obvious signs of impatience with the grandkids. He also wanted to know who the women were talking to. Seizing the opportunity, the mother whispered in the girl’s ear, “Go look after them, I can handle this.”

    The young one reluctantly returned to her brats, but not without flashing a ravishing smile at him while bending over and holding onto his hand in a firm goodbye grip.

    “Go,” said the matriarch shoving her away, finally getting her to release the brown man’s hands that were beginning to turn blue.

    “I think there are such lovely places to visit in Boston. You may want to take the kids to Fenway park on a tour. I am sure they would like to brag about the winners and the Green Monster.”

    “I am sure if you knew where you were going, it would be fun. Otherwise, you spend more time getting lost in a big city.”

    “Yes, and that is not fun.”

    “And what is the Green Monster?”

    “Oh my! Don't let the kids know that, especially if they are Red Sox fans.”

    “I don't know what they see in the game, but they are glued to the TV screen whenever baseball is on”

    “Well, at least you know where the kids are.”

    “You got a point there,” she finally agreed, touching him lightly on his hand.

    He sharply withdrew, as if stung. Then thought about it and slowly put it back. She pretended not to have noticed either movement.

    To be continued ..... 

    The MBTA PArt II

    “Getting to Fenway is complicated. Why don’t I make a slight change of plan and accompany you to the next train connection? That way I will not worry about your getting there.”

    “No, no, no, I will not hear of it,” she said. As they were arguing, the train slowly lurched, swayed, and squealed to a stop in the dark caverns of Back Bay. Almost everybody got up to leave, and so did she but she felt his hand grab hers and he said, “No, not this station.” 

    She sat down and made no motion to take her hand away.

    As the compartment emptied out, the rest of the family made their way down the now empty seats around them. When she realized that they were close, she suddenly withdrew her hand as though stung. He pretended not to have noticed it. The young one did not miss it, though.

    “Hello, are you all going to enjoy the historic city of Boston?” he asked the three he had not yet met. “And what would you like to see? The museums?”

    “Yuck!” said the kids.

    “Now that is no way to talk to someone you have just met. Why don’t you tell him your names? Come on now.”

    Once they were introduced, he again picked up the theme, “I bet you would love the lightning demo at the Science Museum! And they have a life sized the dinosaur. Or would you prefer to sit in the bleachers and stare at the green monster?”

    “Yippee,” both kids screamed at once. Neither grandparent understood their enthusiasm but were pleased that the stranger's infectious charm got them in his spell.

    Grandpa was quiet but as the squealing died down, he muttered, “It is nice of you to take us to the T.”

    As the train’s wheels screeched into South Station. The kids were impressed as he pointed out the sleek 150 mph Acela train on the far track.

    “What is that big building?” the kids asked him.

    He scratched his head for a moment. He was not all that familiar with the city.

    “It is a big, tall Boston building,” he said rather casually. “They make baked beans there. Big, tall special beans, and that is why they call this Beantown.”

    “You are making this up, aren't you?”

    “Isn't he fibbing mom?”

    “That is not a nice thing to say,” mom admonished them while looking at him with an impish smile on her face. “You are, aren't you?”

    “Can he come with us mom?”

    “Can you come with us, sir? Can you take us to Fenway?”

    They had encircled him on the platform and felt trapped.

    “I am sure the nice man has somewhere to go. Stop harassing him and thank him for showing us the way,” the older woman said slowly, watching his expression keenly.

    “I wish I could. But I need to go to my school,” he said. “But I will make sure to put you on the right train to your destination.”

    The children were silent. Dejected.

    “And if you get a chance, take the duck tour,” he said.

    Immediately they were fascinated, again under his spell. He could have led them anywhere. Their mother kept watching him, with concentrated attention.

    “You go to school? Aren't you...,” trailed off one of the twins.

    “John it is not nice to...” admonished the mother.

    “...say that I am too old to go to school?” he laughed.

    “Please don't mind him”

    “I am not offended. Listen pals, you are never too old to learn. Always remember that.”

    As they walked into Boylston station, he saw that the old man was busy trying to get his wallet out and he warned him to be careful of being mugged.

    “Well, this is your station and platform. I will put you on the right train. You get off at the next stop. It is that simple.”

    He saw the young woman scribbling something on a scrap of paper in her hand.

    “Ah, here is the train,” he said as the green line screeched and ground to a halt. “Come on, and get in, they close the doors quickly sometimes.”

    As they climbed aboard and shook his hands, the woman slipped him a piece of paper unnoticed by others.

    The old man said Thank you and slipped something in his coat pocket.

    They left him dazed as the doors shut and the train moved off with an awful screeching sound.

    He pulled out a crumpled 10-dollar bill that the old man had stuck in his pocket. Too late to give it back as the T had left.

    He slowly opened his other hand holding the scrap of paper the young woman had slipped him. There was a phone number, and shaky handwriting.

    “Call me after 10 p.m. They will be asleep.”

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