Letting Go


So my daughter coloured her hair blue. I stared through the phone: trying to tell myself it was my imagination. It was not. It was a riot of blue.

Seeing me wince, she said, ‘Amma, I have been wanting to do it for a long time. And do not worry. It will wash away with every shampoo.’

I suggested dryly that she immediately take one. Her original thick black hair was so beautiful! She laughed.

Then I paused. It was her hair and her choice.

Art of letting go. Very tough for this particular mother, but it had to be done.

We talked about the philosophy lessons in the new quarter.

I decided to wait for the raven to return when it wished.


Having stubbornly rejected the idea of a  small, steaming chocolate cake for dessert, my daughter looked expectantly at me. Now let Amma bite the bait. I could see  in my imagination those sleeves  being rolled up for a fight. ( ‘Whatever Amma says has to be negated’! Yippee!)

Then I paused. It was her tummy and her choice.

Art of letting go. Very tough for this particular mother, but it had to be done.

I ordered  the chocolate cake for myself. Little girl ordered a milk shake. Five minutes into the eating, she scooped up the cake with her spoon. The shake was ruthlessly pushed towards me.

‘I changed my mind,’ she explained.

I tried to maintain as neutral a face as possible.

Ahhhh, there was something to this art of letting go!

As I sipped her milk shake, I reflected that I had always loved the colour blue.




Stringing Words Together With Love

Excerpt from my daughter Sandra Nair’s novel, to be published in 2018.

ScientiaThe Knowing Link’


Richard Mitchell
A beautiful diamond among teachers.
An inspiration for generations of students.

Author’s Note (TO BE READ FIRST!)

I’m sure most readers would notice something familiar about the names of the characters- each of them is named after multiple scientists. I used more from the field of (theoretical) physics and mathematics than others. Call it a personal bias. After all, those are the two subjects I’m pursuing degrees in 🙂

My dear Dr. Richard Mitchell, I borrowed your name for one character (Who, btw, is nothing at all like you. After all, you love cats and cats love you!), and your personality for another. The character that I put the most emotional effort into, who also happens to be my personal favorite, Isaac Sklodowski, is (very loosely) based on you. I remember how fond you are of Mr. Isaac Newton (as seen in the first problem set for Math 20B, Winter Quarter 2016,  UCSC). I hope I did justice to your dedication as a teacher. Oh, FYI, readers can picture Isaac as David Tennant in the role of the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, albeit with black hair and eyes.

This work is a fictionalized account of what happens when physics and spirituality encounter the first year of college in the US. I admit, quite a few characters and incidents were inspired by real life. If you recognize yourselves, but feel bad for whatever reason, please keep in mind that the only reason you are there to begin with is cuz I ❤ you guys. Every one of you. Yes, I suppose that includes my eleven-year-old sister, who is, believe it or not, an even more outrageous version of Julia the bionic cat.

Finally, the real girl behind Scientia has a very important message for the real boy behind Richard. She says, and I quote: “The theoretical physics you put in so much effort over the last couple of years, be it QFT or various mathematical methods, would be completely wasted in a corporate environment. Do a favor to yourself as well as future generations of scientists. Consider continuing in academia. We need more of those who are willing and able to share the knowledge they acquire.” She really means it sincerely.

Sandra Nair


Kathu, I am so proud of you! For not only being a good student, creative writer and a loving daughter (affectionate sister? Cough, cough! A cat got my nose:) but also a lovely, beautiful human being.

Life is a mixed bag. You might end up with  certain people and circumstances who do everything they can to laugh at your dreams and go out of their way to harm your interests. However, for each such person and set back, there will be a wonderful human being on the path ahead: an unexpected friend, a great teacher, a caring mentor…all from the Universe’s never ending bounty.

Stay rooted, stay creative, stay happy. Never under estimate your own inner light. It might kindle much needed light and warmth in many sensitive hearts.

Happy New Year. Happy New Book!



Chasing Christie


My little girl asks me whether I can guess who the murderer happens to be.   I am yet to finish the book. The novel is ‘Sleeping Murder’ by Agatha Christie. I have experienced enough of this world and read enough of Dame Christie to venture a serious guess even at the middle of the book. I suggest a name and she sniffs: ‘ So you did read the ending!’ I laugh.

I tell her that Winston Churchill had guessed the murderer by the middle of  the play ‘Mousetrap’. His wife Clementine apparently sniffed:’Of course not!’ Guess who turned out right at the end. Yes, your hunch is as good as mine.

The fan club of Miss Marple is steadily increasing in my home. From Bertram’s Hotel to A pocket full of rye, Miss Marple’s sharp brain has my child fascinated. And I am glad.

Miss Marple  subtly teaches the importance of  classical literature to young readers. From the Duchess of Malfi to The Lady of Shallot, there is a  literary clue in each of her books for the prescient reader. And a practical approach to life and love and all that is good and bad. I find Miss Marple formidably intelligent when it comes to second guessing human nature with all its foibles.

I tell my kid that her granddad introduced me to Agatha Christie. I was thirteen. She laughs that Amma was too old when she started Miss Marple. I agree humbly.

She knows all about the episode of Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance and come back. She had watched it in a Doctor Who episode. I let her interpretation stay magical.

‘Which is your favourite Miss Marple novel?’ She is quizzical now.

Without a moment’s hesitance I answer: ‘ The mirror crack’d from side to side.’ I have loved the book and all the various visual depictions of that true classic.

‘ I liked it too.’ She nods her head.


‘ May the old dames win’, I grin.


Walking in Beauty


She is bubbling with her enthusiasm about Mathematical Physics. Half of what she is  telling me- especially about  the Calculus classes -goes above my head. I watch her animated face as she speaks about a senior who is enrolling for a Masters in Perimeter Institute, Canada ( her dream) and has deferred his PhD admission to Stanford by a year. “One day, Amma, I will be there!” I have absolutely no doubt that she speaks her destiny.

‘My child, I wish to tell her, keep this faith alive. For every naysayer who had dissuaded your dreams in a thousand ways by not supporting you, by laughing at girls dreaming big, by mocking you for ‘not fitting in’, you have always had those few critical people who stood by you like a rock. In life, for every hundred people who could not care less about you, you will find one  genuine well wisher. That solid love is more than what the little green sapling needs to thrive in this world. Every battle won with sweat and tears of dedication creates way for a wonderfully tasting feast of celebration. But the warrior needs rest and recuperation too.

Do not get caught in the fancy trappings of what ‘success’ is acclaimed to be by the world. The quiet scientist who toils away in her laboratory and advances the cause of Science, leads a life which illuminates the way for humankind. Perhaps her coat is stained and sweaty. Perhaps it is not. Perhaps she is not known outside her circle. Perhaps she is.  These are irrelevant.What matters is that when she sleeps at night, there is a joy of having another beautiful day to wake up to and live her dream.

May learning light up your way. May your dreams come true. May you remain humble and grounded. May you always think of leaving this world a better place with the gifts that you were born with. May you follow your bliss and your true calling. May the right teachers appear at the appropriate time. May you always remain my bubbling and happy child.

Tremendously grateful for the gift of hearing you passionately describe your Calculus classes and your wonderful professors. Stay blessed. May your light brighten the life of all whom you meet in your life path.’

‘Amma, you are not actually listening!’ She pouts.

I smile. ‘ Your Amma still has nightmares about her engineering maths.’

‘ Yes! You should have studied Byron instead. No issues! Ok so you know what professor…’

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of countless climes and starry skies

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes…

Ahhhh, Byron. You did get that one right.



Wisdom Is An Elephant


So the Science Fiction aficionado goes ahead and wins a  student writing contest. She is also invited to attend the conference of all similarly inclined souls and read out her winning entry.

When I gape at the wonder of it all, my daughter laughs. Her heroine is called Sofia and she has a cat called Davetta. Sofia reads Werner Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy in the dead of night. And she hates authoritarian figures. By the way, her cat is bionic.


Her sister gifts her a  cute pink baby elephant- yeah, a stuffed toy. The elder one  takes it by the tail and twirls it around with amusement.

‘Why is it pink, eh? It creeps me out,’ she opines.

‘It is adorable and small and pink. You better treat it respectfully,’the little girl is firm.

‘It looks rather ominous,’ laughs the elder one.

‘What is ominous?’

‘This elephant.’

‘Meaning of ominous?’

‘Er, not very auspicious, let us say.’

The younger one casts a baleful glance at me. I am all for getting the elephant back from such an  irreverent  new owner.

But finally, the sisters strike a compromise. They christen the elephant Sofia.

As I wonder on its fate, the elder one says consolingly, ‘Amma, it means wisdom. I will make it befriend Electra, the startled cat toy. Besides, we will make them  unofficial mascots of our Physics lounge.’


With all the wise ones around, I ask one question. What are interstitial spaces?

Sofia’s leap of victory had been in the  sci-fiction writing contest with that  peculiar theme. Her  story title was ‘Knowledge beyond Logic’. Heisenberg was an adored Ancient in its weave.

Does a pink elephant befriend a cat?  Would such friendship occur in interstitial spaces? As my mind puzzles over the uncertainty of it all, I remember Heisenberg in a most  happy, weird way.

‘Revere those things beyond science which really matter and about which it is so difficult to speak.’

Sofia or Electra, pink or black, young or old, elephant or cat, Physics or Spirituality, we are bound by infinite reams of love and laughter. And my story, if I ever were to write on interstitial spaces would be on that. And two laughing sisters.

The Gods at the bottom of my glass always have their faces.




Wrestling With Nay-Sayers!


When I sat down with my little girl to watch Dangal, I only knew that it was about girl empowerment. That it would empower me as a parent, I realised  soon afterwards.

I watched a father battle against all odds, not the least being the self -limiting thoughts of his daughters themselves,  to make them international champions in an arena considered taboo for girls. I felt immense pride and  a sense of strength on watching the Phogat Sisters!

Actions speak louder than words.We have heard this sentence so often enough that we have started devaluing its merits, like a cliche.

More than any speech or seminar on girl empowerment, this movie- love in action veritably- has  communicated the message of human potential being gender neutral and the skies to which souls can rise, if guided properly.

What does it take to withstand mockery?

Courage and self confidence!

What does it take to excel in life?

Courage and self confidence and support!

What does it take to make a mark for yourself?

Courage and self confidence and support and unflinching faith!


We have a conversation : My little girl and I.

“Amma, there is a girl in my class. She says girls should study just enough to manage home. Men are the bread winners, so the property should go to them. If women go out to work, who will take care of the home? ”

Ahhhh! That age old devil in a new generation mouth- indoctrinated right from childhood, about what she can be/should be/will be. That  old crone of  misogyny. You  have destroyed many lives, millions, all across the world, through the ages.

“She must have heard all this stuff at her home, eh?” I comment, as I eat my food.

“Yup! She says her father and mother agree on this- so they must be right. Family is always right, she says.”

“So what did your friends say? All agreed?”

“No! We all laughed at her,” she says, drinking her milk.

Lovely reaction.

“I told her that all our teachers were women. They also take care of the homes, Amma. You too work, don’t you? Chechi topped  and Saloni di topped the school!”

“Have you heard of Rosalind Franklin?”


“Denied Nobel prize? She should have got it with Watson and Crick for contribution to the discovery of DNA structure. She died early and was not recognised for her great work for a long time.”


“Marie Curie did not have it easy either. Did you know that? Women in Science had a very tough time to be recognised on their own merit. People sort of believed that they could not be Professors or do research or win Nobels.”


“Is it not?”

A pause.

“So what do you think of those lady wrestling champs?” I ask her.

“Their father…said they will become champions.”

“Family must be right, eh?”

She smiles.

“For every family which says girls cannot study, or become anything, there is another family which says they can! Question is, what do you tell yourself?”

“Amma, may be I will practise badminton now!” she says.

This time, I smile.

Thank you Amir Khan! In this world, we can always do with  more lights that show the way.