Coco and the Afterlife

We saw Disney/Pixar’s Coco yesterday. What a lovely movie, seamlessly melding story, song, and screwball situations to create a soufflé of laughter and tears. At the essence of the story –– the dead have their own life, until they are forgotten by their family; only then do they truly disappear.

What happens when we die? Where does the consciousness of the departed go? Form changes to emptiness, but is everything lost? For those left behind, family members and friends, reminiscences have to be as unreliable as their memories. So what is left, and for how long?

Starting with Mexican culture, and the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, Coco creates a fantastically imagined afterworld, where the dead are alive, and living their lives, just like in the real world. If they are still remembered in the afterworld, they can travel into our world on Dia de los Muertos, and see their family. Unless they are forgotten by their family in the real world, which is when they disappear from the afterworld, to a place that even they don’t know.

If we continue this belief, how might it change in our age, where we can rely on technology to help us remember? Will succeeding generations continue to remember more of the earlier generations, and for how long?

Just because of technology support, I don’t think that memories will become infinite, and we will remember all our previous generations. Life will continue to get busier making remembrance an active requirement. Parents will need to spend time with their children to make sure they remember their grandparents, great grandparents and great, great grandparents, not to mention step parents at different generations.

While technology can capture our predecessors in photo and video, equally, technology generates so many images that sorting, filing, and summarizing will again need to be an active effort. Just like each of us carry large photo libraries, yet often have trouble finding a key moment, we may carry records of past generations, but never examine these records. We will be swamped in a “sea of remembering.”

So I believe that technology will not solve this problem of remembering our past generations. Only the active act of remembering can keep our past generations alive, and Coco, made with all the brilliance that technology can muster, shows us it doesn’t require technology. Just the desire to remember.

 

 

Thanksgiving Day Observations

Nalin

Yesterday seemed like a good day to think about what I’m grateful for. These would be adversity, family and my puppy (dog).

“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”
—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, AS YOU LIKE IT

Adversity grounds and challenges us. One aspect of adversity is that it is nothing more than missing future expectations. We lost the round in the debate tournament, and won’t go on to the elimination rounds. The contract went to the other team. The offer extended was turned down. The meeting didn’t go as planned. At this point, we can resist and feel sorry about the adverse circumstances, still desiring the missing future. Or we can accept, and see what information this holds. How can I improve my performance in the debate round? Why did we lose the contract? What was missing in our offer? Why did the meeting go off track?

As we think about these reasons, we challenge ourselves for the answers. This requires examination of the evidence, creativity in coming up with solutions, and the drive to change our behavior for next time. These hard but necessary steps keep us motivated, help us grow and change for the better. All due to adversity, and so I am thankful for its “sweet uses.”

I’m thankful for my family. My immediate family that supports and loves me. My extended family that I only see from time to time, and talk to, infrequently, but still has warm feelings towards me. My friends with whom I have shared experiences and have common past. They infuse my life with richness and joy, and I am thankful for their presence.

Finally, my new puppy. Always happy to see me with his wagging tail, a welcoming sniff, and numerous licks of affection. Ready to offer his belly for a belly rub. Curious about every sound, smell and new individual he meets. He is full of life, and he reminds me to appreciate every day.

Thanks to adversity, my family and my puppy, for enriching my life by adding experiences and joy to all the moments of daily life!

Frustration And Success

This is the story of the visa applications for India, for my parents through Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS), San Francisco.

My parents recently became US Citizens, and having been in the US for almost a year, wanted to go back to India. However, a US Citizen requires a tourist visa to visit India. Since my parents were previously citizens of India, and India does not allow dual citizenship, they also had to renounce their Indian citizenship. The Indian Embassy and Consulates in the US (including San Francisco) do not allow direct access to visa applicants – all visa and other applications are handled through an outsourcing company, CKGS.

The CKGS website is poorly designed and did not address my question – How do I apply simultaneously for Renunciation of Indian citizenship and a Tourist Visa? I called the phone number several times, only to alternate between a busy signal, or a 15 minute wait time that required me to keep pressing a button on my phone keyboard, to continue to be connected. Once I reached a person, and explained my situation, I was told that the website “widget” would allow me to do that. Also, that I could send in the both the Renunciation application and Visa application in a single envelope.

I couldn’t figure out the CKGS widget. I also couldn’t find how to send both Renunciation and Visa applications in a single envelope. Filling out the Visa application was very complex – it required a handoff from the CKGS site to the Indian Embassy site, and then back again to the CKGS site. It took me 2 days to assemble the full paperwork. I also couldn’t get a timely appointment for a personal visit to submit the application at CKGS, so I submitted four separate applications via courier for my parents – 2 applications for Renunciation, and 2 applications for Visas.

The CKGS tracking system showed receipt of the Visa applications, but for Renunciation indicated that the Indian Passports were missing. That stumped me, since I had sent the passports in the courier envelopes. So I made my first trip to the CKGS office in San Francisco to see if I could sort this out.

I met with Jennifer at CKGS reception. Jennifer patiently heard my situation and then went into the back office to find out what had happened to the passports. After a couple of clarifications, she finally located the passports. CKGS staff had opened the Visa applications and seen the reference to the Renunciation applications, but did not see the Indian passports (for Renunciation) in the Visa application. So they marked the Renunciation applications as missing documents. Jennifer found the Fedex envelopes for Renunciation with the missing passports, so the applications could proceed. I requested Jennifer to confirm that all the documents were in order for Renunciation – in case something was missing, I could provide it right then, since I was already in their office.

Jennifer came back after an hour and told me that all four applications had been checked and were complete – there was nothing more for me to do. So I left the CKGS office. Later that evening, I again checked the CKGS tracking system. This time the CKGS tracking system said that I was missing a document. I needed to provide a notarized letter stating that my parents were staying at my address in the USA – one letter per application.

I drafted the letter, and then got all four copies notarized over the weekend. Then I made a second trip to the CKGS office in San Francisco. This time I met Gregory at the front desk. I explained the situation to Gregory, who took the letters and added them to the applications. I asked Gregory if my application was now complete and would be forwarded to the Indian Consulate for processing. He replied that they would leave for the Indian consulate later that day.

Two days later, the CKGS website indicated that they were still awaiting the notarized letter to complete the applications. I made a third trip to CKGS. Fortunately, I met Gregory again, who recognized me from my last visit. I asked him what had happened to the applications – why were they still showing missing documents. Gregory went back and checked. Apparently the applications were complete, but were sitting in the inbox for processing by CKGS staff. Gregory said that he pulled out the applications and specifically requested the staff member to process the application. He assured me that the applications would leave the CKGS office that day.

The next day, the application status had been updated as complete and on the way to the Indian Consulate. The turn around time to get the visas at the Indian Consulate was just one day. One day more for receipt and processing by CKGS, then the weekend, and finally one more day for delivery by Fedex.

Total time to get visas for India – 2 1/2 weeks. Total trips to CKGS, San Francisco – Three.

My recommendations for others who are in a similar situation:

  1. Personally visit the CKGS office via an appointment to hand in your visa application. This will ensure a complete application, or at least let you know what is missing, and allow you to provide those documents.
  2. Prepare to visit the CKGS office in San Francisco, if you send in your application by courier. Calling the help numbers on the CKGS website is useless, since the call center is in India and they have no knowledge of the specific situation at an office in the USA.
  3. Leave enough time for this entire process to have hiccups. You will be very stressed if you have already bought your tickets (like we did) and don’t have your visas in hand.

The whole process was very stressful and frustrating, but this was the view at the end. Yay!!

Airport - 1