On Fear Of Fears

Conquering your demons. Fears. Phobia. Whatever you call it, I am talking about that thing that nags you at 4 am in the morning. It could be something small  (why can’t I make a decent biryani), or it can be climbing Mt Everest. I have them, and assume (read: hope) you do. In all sizes, shapes, and forms.

And as I get older – if only I get a nickel for every time I say that! – I have been making an effort to knock these out one at a time. See how many of these I can get rid of in this lifetime.

When I was not quite ten, I used to be afraid of the dark. My mom’s best friends lived in the house across the street and after dinner most nights, she would go to their house and chat with them while my dad was at work (he used to work in shifts). Sometimes I would need to come back home to get something. This meant crossing the small residential street to go across to our house (which was the top portion of the house that we rented from folks who owned the house), climb the stairs, and walk across an open terrace to reach our portion. The second floor (or the first floor as they call in India, and the first floor is called the ground floor) contained just the bedrooms of the owners, so there would normally be nobody at that time, and therefore no lights. The terrace would be usually lit by the light of the moon. I used to be terrified to go alone but over time, I reasoned to myself that there really was nothing to be afraid of, of course ghosts weren’t real, and would make the trip and back to mom.

One of my cousins also told me recently that she thought I was very cool because I used to wade in the farthest when we went to the Marina beach in Madras.

I was jolted into being aware of my many fears when a friend casually, and not at all in a mean way, commented that I had a lot of fears when I froze in fear at her 5 lb dog. Fear of the dark, fear of water, fear of heights, dogs, rollercoasters (yep, I’m not so much fun, but I’m great for watching your stuff while you have fun), and for a very brief, but scary time, fear of highways that I talked myself out of—fears that somehow crept up in my adult life, fears that didn’t exist in my childhood, or my adolescent days.

I have finally completely gotten rid of the fear of dogs (at least the domesticated, pet kind) when my daughter brought this little guy into our lives. Now I have gone to the other extreme, and scare away friends with photos of Kashew, and have become that person who seeks out dog owners to pet their dogs on walks, and is constantly sharing dog videos to my family.

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I also learned to finally completely ride a bicycle a couple of years back, with my son’s help – read all about it here. What can we call this fear—fear of balancing? (“what do you mean, completely ride a bicycle?” Well, before that, I never was actually sure I rode it myself – someone may have been holding on and I sometimes wonder if I did really ride at all.)

So last weekend, when lunch plans came up, an opportunity presented itself to face one of those fears head on. This is not so much a fear, but a social awkwardness. Raj had some appointment, and I didn’t feel like cooking or eating left overs. And I was really really in the mood for a pancake. So, I told Raj I would pick up a pancake from a local pancake place.

Raj: Pick it up and eat in the car? Why don’t you eat it there?

Me: Eat it there? By myself? All alone? In a public place?

Raj: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Well, I don’t like eating by myself if I can help it. Eating is a social thing for me. I can do breakfast by myself, at home, but that’s about it. When Raj travels, I try not to cook and make do with something I eat over the sink for the same reason. I grew up in a family where at each meal there was a guaranteed minimum six people. For 26 years. And I never really got used to eating alone.

As for lunches, I can do a smoothie on the run by myself if I’m running errands. But for lunches I need at least one more person, unless I’m working through lunch and eating at my desk which is not very often.

But to eat by myself in public? Doesn’t that mean I’m friendless and uncool? But the said opportunity got in my face, looked at me square in the eye and dared me.

So I went, armed with my phone and my ipad as a backup in case the phone died. As luck would have it, at the restaurant they said it would be a 40 minute wait and I almost sighed in relief. See, I’d tell Raj, it wasn’t my fault, I was ready to do it, but it was a 40-minute wait and I was too hungry.

But then, they said wait! There is a community table (I shuddered). If we can find you a place, you’re in.

At first it seemed like the worst idea. But on second thought, this was actually a great “dip a toe in” kind of situation. I would sit with total strangers, and if anyone looked funny at me, I would pretend I had come with one of them.

The community table was a high table that had 8 seats and six were occupied. One vacant seat across another lady, and one with a set of 3 frat-looking boys. I chose the one across from a lady who looked like she had come alone, and hoped she wouldn’t leave while I was still eating (which she did).

After I placed the order (one humongous multigrain pancake, and a kale tonic), I got busy with my phone. A few minutes in, I looked up to see what all the people who had come with friends/family were doing. Cool, everyone was on their phone. Hey! This ain’t so bad, after all. I didn’t feel out of place at all.

When the food came, I actually put the phone down, and ate, people watching. And found that it wasn’t as awkward or uncomfortable as I had imagined—even after my imaginary friend across left while I was still eating. Nobody looked at me funny, or with pity.

That’s one more down. With about 97 to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Birthday Letter To My Daughter

Hi baby,

There was a time, long long ago,  when I was your world and you were mine.

When you would sleep in the crook of my arm, my warmth like a protective blanket around your tiny body.

When you were obsessed with Barney the dinosaur, and we lived it – I was Lucy and you were Tina, and we played the big sis-little sis characters all day long.

When you were fascinated by the book “Are You My Mother” by Dr Seuss, the first book I ever read to you. At nine months. You didn’t understand it then, of course, but would sit still in my lap for hours, making me read it over and over again. It became your favorite book.

When you came home from Montessori, crying “amma, Mica called me a watermelon”. And we learned Sandia meant watermelon in Spanish.

When you asked me “Who’s coming home, amma?” seeing my frenzied cleaning of the house. In my defense, I was pregnant with Ad, and living with a wise cracking 18 month old who spoke in complete sentences since she was a year old.

When you were fascinated with numbers, and I was partly shocked/partly amazed that someone who had come out of me had (and still has) a favorite number. 8!

(On that note, this year, your and my age are inverse of each other – ha!)

When I knew of and could control every outside influence in your life, and keep you safe and warm.

Do I wish for those days back? Some days, yes.

But if I am honest with myself, I think I am done missing your childhood. Because, as an adult, you’re even more fun!

Top Reasons Why I Love Having A Grownup Daughter

I love that you and I can grab a drink now and then, and just be cool! Go to a bar if we want to, although I’m no fun after 10.

We can have mature, adult conversations where I come to you now with all my problems, and you analyze it like the psych student that you are, and tell me to get my act together.

I love that we laugh about people and things – Appa, also other things and people, and ourselves. But mostly appa.

I love that you let me borrow your clothes, sometimes! Some people will no doubt think this is atrocious. Who cares!

I have always enjoyed shopping for you, but now I love shopping with you. (Remember the purple French beret that you refused to wear? I still have it, saved for your child, whether it’s a boy or a girl)

It’s so much fun to dissect the dynamics/interactions after a party, and find that we mostly saw the same things!

I love that you’re venturing out of your basic food groups of more kozhambu, fried potato, and Taco Bell 🙂 Onward and upward to the likes of coconut rice, and korma! Maybe one day you will like pulav?

I love the dedication and the caring that you show for your chosen path in life. And I love that you know that it is what you want. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life! Kudos to you, kiddo!

I love that you are such a good mommy to Kashew. You’ll make an amazing mom to a two-legged, human baby when you have one!

But mostly, I love that you have come back to me – for a while there in your late teens, it felt like you were far away!

You are an amazing human being, and I wish for you to achieve everything that you deserve – and do it with grace, kindness and humor, with good health, and the love of friends and family.

Happy Happy Birthday, Kannamma!

Lots of love,

Amma

 

 

Stupid Stuff I Have Done

Read this In Huffington Post

Young, naïve, and stupid:

Getting my head stuck between two bars, at a friend’s friend’s place, where I had wandered off by myself to their terrace, and looking down to see what they were all up to. I must have been 8. I did eventually wiggle my head out of the bars…yep, no cell phones back then and I didn’t even know the person whose house I was in. Ah! To be young and not afraid of embarrassment.

Throwing coins at a hungry dog who was chasing me, for the bread in my other hand, and running…

Leading a group of girls in performing Ganesh puja after school, at school, and getting caught. I will never forget the disappointed look on the principal’s face. I was in 6th grade, I think. Not a clue why I did this (maybe rebellion?) – it wasn’t out of love for Ganesha, or pujas, heck I was barely 12 years old…but I have to laugh that my illegal activity was leading a few girls in a spiritual activity. Not smoking, or other such normal stuff.

Doing homework for a mean girl at school because she said she wouldn’t talk to me otherwise…(elementary school!!) Although, this habit of doing anything for a perceived friendship continues in a milder intensity even now, but I’m getting somewhat better at recognizing it and applying the brakes…

(Thank you to the friends who encourage me to not give a damn with those kinds of friends. You know who you are!)

Not applying to a really good school for the +2 years of my schooling (11 & 12th grades) which my grandfather had asked me to, because the school’s uniform was a mustard color sari.

(Irony: ended up in a school, whose uniform was green skirt, mustard blouse and green half saree. Don’t even ask about the sports uniform! Hideous. I could not buy anything green for a very long time… also, grandfather yelled at me for a good one hour)

I should know better. Right? In my twenties, thirties and beyond…

Calling a taxi to go to the airport in New Delhi, at 4 am, and going alone because I didn’t want to wake up/ ask any of my 5 male coworkers that early. Got a good “what kind of an idiot are you” lecture from said coworkers. This is probably one of the most dangerous stupid things I’ve done in my life, considering the reputation of Delhi as the rape capital of India.

Driving in blinding rain with my driver’s side window down, because dammit, I couldn’t see a thing! Engine got flooded, family laughed for years.

(I like to think Raj looked at this as endearing, and I-love-Lucy-esque. Like the episode where she’s sewing something on a carpet, and sews it on to the carpet.)

Dropping my brand new ipod in the tub. It was attached to the headphones, which were attached to my head. And I moved…

Ordering to a trash can at a Taco Bell drive through while my daughter sat there dying in the passenger seat, laughing.

Forgetting to order in the drive through line at Starbucks, and going all the way to the payment window, while my daughter is cringing in the passenger seat and begging me to just skip it.

Was so busy yelling at my daughter for something, while getting out of a parking garage, and hitting the yellow parking cones. The expression on her face and the laughter that followed was priceless!

Watering a silk orchid. For weeks. Until my son watched me once, and asked “ma, you know that’s a fake, right?” SMH.

Those are all the memorable ones. I’m sure there are countless others I’ve blocked out. My daughter is reminding about the stupid conversation on Pinocchio that my husband and I had recently. Not a clue what she’s talking about.

Oh and I almost forgot.

Writing it all down for the whole world to read… and hopefully get a good laugh. I did.

 

 

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Even the dog is rolling his eyes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Post On Raj

Everyone who knows me well knows I like lists. So here goes a list of my favorite things about the most important person in my life, on his birthday. The list kept growing, and I had to cut it short to make sure someone’s head doesn’t 😉 just kidding, darling!

Top Reasons Why I Love Raj

  • I love that you have a sense of humor and can take the constant ragging by me and the kids.
  • Also love that you don’t give up on making corny jokes despite all the groaning. And the bad singing. Although have to say, the jokes are starting to grow on us!
  • Love that you are there for me through all my drama ventures like a rock and I can always count on your unwavering, loving, kind support, guidance, and your willingness to roll up your sleeves and help me with whatever I need, no questions asked, no judgment passed, just pure unconditional love
  • Love that you get me flowers when you know I’m upset – no words needed
  • For being the best father for our children, for providing them with the best opportunities
  • For being a nerd, and for making a lot of our vacations partly museum forays which the kids appreciate now, for nurturing open discussions on any topic at the dinner table
  • For taking a genuine personal interest in pretty much everyone you meet and not in a calculating, “what can I get from this relationship” way; especially people who worked for/with you, and caring deeply about their families, and their troubles
  • For being such a kid magnet, and the way you just adore and play with little kids and babies; at your age, it must be exhausting 🙂
  • For being an inspiration and a role model to me and the kids to be better human beings
  • I feel incredibly fortunate that in all our disagreements over 27 years, you have never once made me feel small or humiliated, and have always made it safe for us to have open discussions on anything and everything
  • I love that after 26 years, you still say thank you when I make a really good meal! Or just a good cup of ginger tea.
    • Corollary: In the early days of our marriage, when I was a newly-let-loose-in-the-kitchen-bride, and didn’t know how to make that most basic food of south Indians namely rice, or couldn’t tell the difference between toor dhal and channa dhal, you never complained and ate anything I made (not that you had a choice) – be it the rasam which was basically tamarind water with chili powder, or the burnt offerings I put on the table fairly regularly. In fact, you started to prefer the burnt toast, curries, dosai, and anything else I could burn.

Your tolerance allowed me to grow into the decent cook I am now!

  • Also: Did I mention you are mature, drama-free, have absolutely no ego issues, non-reactionary, read manuals and follow instructions, make coffee in the mornings, take my car for oil changes and maintenance when that orange light comes on (I still don’t know what that means), didn’t yell at me when I flooded the car’s engine driving in the rain with the window down (it was raining heavily, and come on, I couldn’t see), or dropped the brand new ipod you got me for my birthday in the tub the very first day, secure enough to sometimes watch the Real housewives with me and actually get involved in the stories, planted a whole row of lavenders because you know I love lavender (and I may have demanded it), and…you do so much more that I cannot list everything!
  • In general, you treat me like a queen, even when I don’t feel like one or deserve to be treated as one

Finally, I love that you are you –  kind, funny, and intelligent. Core values that we share.

I pray that our children are as fortunate as me; and they find/have someone just like you in their lives.

May all your dreams come true – every book read, every project finished, and every place you want to travel to, traveled.

Happy birthday, my Rasa!

 

 

 

 

The Nine Stages Of Navratri

Refurbished an older post for Navratri 2016.

Hope you enjoy it!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/57df119be4b04fa361d99de8?timestamp=1474241114891

 

India 2016: A Travel Diary – Part 2

 

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Tulsi/Vettiver flavored water at Mahamudra

Part 2 of India 2016: A Travel Diary

Chennai 2016: A Photo Journal

 

 

First view of Chennai

First view of Chennai

 

Who needs a u-haul?

Who needs a u-haul?

 

 

A relic from the past! Presswalahs still exist!

A relic from the past! Yes, Presswalahs still exist, and no they don’t write newspaper articles! Took this picture with his permission.

 

Who remembers Aavin Flavored Milk? It was so good!

Who remembers Aavin Flavored Milk? Had it from the milk booth across my in-laws place, twice in two days! It was so good!

 

My mother-in-law At The Dining Entrance of Mahamudra Restaurant!

My mother-in-law At The Dining Entrance of Mahamudra Restaurant!

 

Tulsi/Vettiver flavored water at Mahamudra

Tulsi/Vettiver flavored water at Mahamudra

 

 

A drive-by view of the Mylapore kovil tank

A drive-by view of the Mylapore kovil tank

 

Kapaleswarar Kovil, Mylapore

Kapaleswarar Kovil, Mylapore

 

We didn't try this old relic of Mylapore!

We didn’t get to try this historic homestyle restaurant of Mylapore!

 

Where it all began-my wedding spree was purchased here by Raj's family!

Where it all began-my wedding saree was purchased here by Raj’s family!

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