A Backward Glance

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Yes, let me use Edith Wharton’s memoir as the launch of, and frame for, this post about my own privileged life.

Background. I come from a rule-abiding, moderately religious, upper middle-class, educated family that is risk-averse, grew up believing that the Ramayana and Mahabharata are more real than allegorical – history not mythology – that there is really no sharp line between mortal and immortal, between humans and Gods, between past and present, that the flow of time is an illusion, maya, as is the material physical world, a veil to be lifted to actually see, a divine glimpse, darshana, what is  – steeped in the post-Vedic Brahmin culture of Vedanta, less Sankara and more Madhva, playing it safe, living a life of dharma,  by following, simultaneously, all available paths to liberation, mokshabhakti, jnana and karma – praying to all Gods, sometimes sequentially but more often collectively, staying out of trouble, not rocking the boat, following – no, mastering – the rules. And then, as a 11 year-old, I saw this quote of Picasso (who I had not heard of then, but now own one of his pieces):

Master the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.

Little Boy. Cricket! One of my favorite shots to watch (and to play, when I could) is a leg-glance, with a flick of a wrist, au fond re-focusing the energy of the fast ball hurled at your ankles, an elegant, effortless display of hand-eye co-ordination, impeccable in the timing, nonchalant even, to hurtle it toward the long leg fence, a streak of early morning dew parting the way for a red ball hissing through the freshly cut sea of green grass, and enjoy, along with a hundred thousand appreciative fans erupting with immense satisfaction at the loud clang as it ricochets off the metallic board, the smiling umpire signaling, lazily, the boundary with his right hand, oscillating horizontally, as the hapless, giant bowler raises his sweaty, muscular arms in exasperation, his eyes scorching the Gods, wondering why the heavenly showers are falling on the little master of a batsman, this blessed Sunday morning. West Indies v India. Chepauk Stadium, Madras.

Travels. I am writing this in Delta Sky Lounge, at La Guardia, because my flight back to Pittsburgh has been delayed, due to lightning and thundershowers.

Yes, I now have the luxury of slumming it in First Class!


Sitting in the lounge, I started to read the Introduction of The Paris Review Interviews vol. III, by Margaret Atwood:

For North America at that time (1953) was a place where only the making of war or money was considered a truly serious pursuit: writers were respected only if they’d made it financially. Eudora Welty summed up this attitude in one of her stories: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”

This is the source of the quintessential American question! I had no idea, until now, although, I have used it many times, most notably in 2007, when I was asked to give an INFORMS plenary, in Seattle. (I know many of you were there!)

What I found also striking is that nothing seems to have really changed since 1953 about war and money!

I was also musing at the NYT article this past week about Asian Americans:

Inside the Diverse and Growing Asian Population in the U.S.

I did not know that (1) Indians were the second largest immigrant group among Asians, just a shade behind Chinese (4 million v 4.1 million), (2) that our median income was so much higher than other immigrant Asians, literally off the chart 😳, and (3) most surprisingly, higher than natural born Indians (our kids! perhaps as they are still young? or they are becoming “American”, that is, following their passions – taking life easy, becoming French – that may not lead to high-income careers, because, we, immigrant parents, are getting too soft😏).

New York. Staying at my usual haunt – Mandarin Oriental – with a commanding view of Central Park and wonderful skyscrapers, adjacent to Amazon Books, my favorite book store in NYC, I strolled on to mid-town on a particularly hot day, yesterday, and, to my joy, stumbled upon an Amazon Go store! Since I am going to be teaching MBA classes in the Fall, the core OM in particular, I decided to go through the “process flow” of how one can, as an Amazon customer, also enter the store (for the first time), purchase an item (actually just pick it up), and – with no check-out line or anything  – just leave with the item. It was awesome. I bought organic coconut water (120 calories, if you must know) as I continued my stroll down to 9thand First, into the Immigrant (Wine Bar), followed by a short walk to meet my sister, to celebrate my 56thbirthday a few days from now, at Barbounia (20th and Park, has a wonderful bar, and great appetizers).

It has been almost a year since my 55thbirthday post that paid homage to Proust: When I was young.

Looks like the incoming flight has arrived at the gate, folks walking out with their backpacks and such, and we should be boarding momentarily.







  1. Oh yes, I was there. I invited you to give a Keynote at INFORMS Seattle (2007) and chaired your session. It was quite fun, as usual. Cheers, Kathy

    1. Yes! That was my first plenary, and in 2017, you invited me for the DSI Plenary in DC. I did MSOM plenaries in 2008, 2014 and 2017, and POMS one in 2015. This year, if I recall, Jay and Pinar are/were the plenary speakers at MSOM, POMS and DSI. Time marches on.

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