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!

India 2016: A Travel Diary : Part 1

Returning after almost 4 years to India, on a partly vacation but mostly work trip for the first time in 26 years, I get a different perspective of this big, complicated, complex, pulsing, alive, in turns frustrating and enchanting, country.

India grabs you by the scruff of your neck and makes you pay attention—there’s no ignoring her nor being indifferent to her—she won’t let you. You are forced to feel—angry, elated, happy, content, frustrated—sometimes all in the span of a day.

In no particular order, here are all the feelings and emotions that run through my mind as I navigate this ancient, modern, fighting, big democracy!

The pain and the pleasure:

The frustrating thing about India”, said the great Cambridge economist Joan Robinson, “is that whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true.”

And it’s this phenomenon, while nothing new for India, and certainly nothing new for me as I lived the first 25 years of my life here, that really hits me this time.

I enjoy a luxurious meal in star hotels, and on my way out, am faced with dire and unspeakable poverty within a hundred feet. I get depressed after every great meal.

I travel in cars and while the cars are stopped in heavy traffic, children as young as 5 or 6 risk their lives, stepping in between the stopped cars, selling flowers, trinkets etc. I hate bargaining with them and end up paying whatever they ask. My justification is at least they’re not begging.

The conundrum is, am I really helping them or hurting them? Who is the money going to? Shouldn’t they be doing homework or be in school? Why do some things never change in this country? I don’t mean to pontificate, or sound like the typical NRI visiting and criticizing the homeland—really, I don’t. It’s just that there’s something about this that just weighs heavily on me this time for some reason.

And the dogs! Now that I’m a dog person thanks to my daughter’s mini dachshund Kashew, my heart breaks at every street dog that’s lying on the street, not quite begging, and not aggressive, but clearly resigned to its fate and lives on the charity of whoever cares to feed them.

(Raj absolutely put his foot down on giving them our leftover breakfast: ‘I don’t want 10 dogs chasing us every time we step on to the street’ and so we worked out a compromise and give the food to the grocery shop guy at the apartment who agreed to feed them.)

The other thing that I struggle with is how easy it is to get cheap manual labor for almost anything. I know that sounds like I have lost my mind, especially when I think of how I complain about how expensive it is to get anything done by a person back in the States.

But hear me out. While I understand that it’s the practical thing to use manpower in a country whose population is second only to China, and this is how economies work, I’m still mildly discomfited and shocked every time I get served—from having a cup of coffee delivered to wherever I’m sitting in the office, to getting almost anything delivered with just a phone call.

Let me explain this with some context. There are two rituals I observe every time I visit. The day after I land, my dad takes me to Adyar Anandha Bhavan, popularly known as A2B, a south Indian fast food place. (This time it got delayed by a day because I went straight to my sister’s place in Bengaluru. My sister mentioned that my dad couldn’t wait to take me there!)

The other one is shopping while jet lagged–everyone should try it. Sometimes I look at stuff I buy after I’m back home in the States and have no memory of buying it! Anyway, after a hearty mini tiffin at A2B loaded with ghee, my youngest sister takes me shopping. These are two rituals I must observe, and observe I do, every time. So off we went, the day after I landed here, having packed off my little niece and nephew to school. (The six year old niece very generously offered to stay home from school to help me shop).

I bought a few saris, and needed the blouses made and had no time to get it done in Bengaluru. Now I’m in Pune, on work. So we went this weekend, to the famous Lakshmi Road in Pune (“you have to experience Lakshmi Road at least once” said a colleague), in search of a tailor.

For Chennaites, imagine Ranganathan Street during festival time—or anytime, really. Lakshmi Road is Ranganathan street on steroids. We went in a car, past many shops, and many, many people. If we didn’t go in a car, all we would have had to do was stand at the starting point, and we would have been pushed by the people. And we found this place called Bizzeeland, suggested by a friend who knew a tailor there. It’s a 5-storey building, all five floors occupied by tailors. Imagine! 5 floors of just little tailor shops. It’s a dream for an Indian woman.

We told the driver (yes, we had a car and a driver provided to us) to come back in an hour or so and walked to the store. By now, I’ve been here for a week, and am not paralyzed when trying to cross the streets and can make it across, albeit with a death grip on Raj’s hand. And to think that just 25 years ago, I used to make fun of the returning desis frozen on the streets with panicked expressions! Karma is a bitch! But then I digress.

My friend had called ahead for her tailor to come down to the ground floor to meet us and take my measurements for the blouse. He delivered it the next morning (which in itself is a tiny miracle by US standards), it needed some alterations, and back we went to Lakshmi Road, braving the crowds. He made the alterations while I waited, and tried on. Raj casually mentioned that it was hard to make the trip to his place, and he immediately offered to bring it to our place the next day, with a catalog for the remaining blouses.

Ladies, haven’t we all seriously dreamed about this exact scenario? And yet, I felt awful that he had to come to our apartment on his holiday (the tailor said: “tomorrow all shops are closed, it’s a holiday for Lakshmi road. I’ll come to your place with the blouse.”)

While it was a dream come true, there were also these tiny pinpricks on my conscience. If I had confessed it to Raj, who’s getting a little tired of my sometimes misdirected conscience rearing its head about every couple of hours, he would have said “you’re helping him by giving him business—don’t be so dramatic!”

He would probably be right.

But the child labor and the dogs! That still hurts.

lakshmi-road

Lakshmi Road in all its glory!

The ugly:

The thing that infuriates me, and that has not changed one bit is this: everywhere I go, especially in shops, the men seem to think my face is roughly about 6 inches south of where it actually is. Raj tries to tell me not to dress in sleeveless blouses or western attire, even baggy tshirts when I go to places like Lakshmi Road. But me being me, I refuse to alter the way I dress. I think the leery jerks need to change their behavior, and treat women as fellow human beings and not as sexual objects. The tailor, who had every opportunity to be a leery jerk on the other hand, was a gentleman!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The underlying attitude has deep roots–movies that glorify girls falling in love with ‘bad’ boys, age old attitude of ‘boys will be boys’ and countless other forms of cultural cancer, and has manifested itself in many ugly forms–Nirbhaya, Jyoti, and countless others who have given their lives come to mind.

Pure Joy/ Sigh of Relief:

The restaurant scene has pretty much exploded in India. It’s truly a mecca for food lovers. The variety of cuisines, the service, the convenience of not having to ask “does this have any meat stock?” on everything you order! Love you, sweet India!

Rajdhani

A resplendent meal at Rajdhani Restaurant – traditional Rajasthani/Gujarati meal of many courses!

Hot punch Guava juice! Guava juice with a kick with chilies and spices...to die for!

Hot punch Guava juice! Guava juice with a kick with chilies and spices…to die for!

I’ll stop here for now, look for the next installment of my stream of conscious post soon as I head to my beloved Chennai this weekend!

 

 

 

 

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