What Mayan Calendar?

Now that the Mayan end of the world scenario has mostly been debunked, I suppose I really have to:

  1. Let the kids finish college (read: stop spending that tuition money on handbags and shoes)
  2. Unpack those boxes from the move from Indiana to Florida
  3. Stop thinking (and therefore eating) that piece of cake may be the last one I’ll get to eat.
  4. Finish that cross stitch that I started when pregnant with my first child, who just celebrated her 21st birthday last week (but first, do #2)
  5. Stop making bucket lists of lofty (read: unachievable) goals – mostly of visiting exotic places, writing the next great American novel and publishing it, winning the Nobel peace prize (or literature)

On the other hand, Boehner and Obama really have to figure out this fiscal cliff thing.

Would love to hear from my alert readers as to what they have been procrastinating on, in the hopes that the world will end on 12/21/12.

           To read more about the world not ending in 2012, click this.

Hope, Change and Jalebis

It’s been 2 days since the nail-biting finish to months of campaign watching, wringing of hands over reports of voter suppression, elation/relief at the gaffes by Romney and team that slowly revealed the truth about them, anger over republican ideas on “legitimate rape”…and I can’t stop smiling and feeling relieved it’s over, and it’s gone the way of the people.

The last time, in 2008, which was also the first time I voted as a citizen of this great experiment called America, we had spent watching the election night coverage at my friend’s house. A whole bunch of us were there, excited for the historical night. We had some doubts, but were mostly optimistic. This time, though I was alone at home, since Raj was traveling and I was dreading the prospect of watching it alone – the stress was killing me!

So, the new me called some friends over. To make jalebis! I say the new me because I’m discovering myself all over again since we moved from the corn fields and cold winters of Muncie, Indiana to beachy, marshy Florida. And kind of surprised at what I’m finding in me! I had left behind some longstanding friendships__ some true, some dysfunctional but all comfortable__and started anew, not knowing a single soul in Florida. Just like 22 years ago when I got married, moved to the US, then quit my job, got pregnant and moved to Muncie. The difference was, we were just starting our lives together then__raising 2 children, a job, a career and building our future took care of any anxiety about making friends.

But last year was different. Our kids were both in college. It was going to be a clean slate for me again__ but this time, I had no day to day responsibility of kids or a job to keep me occupied. I had to find things to do to make myself from going crazy.  But, I’ve realized over the past year, that people are people, and most are good, normal people just like us. Once I got over the mental block of extending my arm in friendship first, it got easier and easier.

I am now happy to report a small group of friends that I can call for almost anything__be it an illness,  to go to a music concert or  desi movies with,  to go shopping, or to come make jalebis with me on a week night and watch Mr. O getting reelected! And these girls have full time paying jobs, and kids living at home!

Well, they came, and we made jalebis and jangiris! I had the batter ready, one filled the ziploc bags to pipe the batter into hot oil, we all took turns making crazy swirls in the hot oil, and one dipped them in the sugar syrup. My husband kept calling every few seconds announcing the latest electoral vote count. It was better than a bar! Noisy, smoky and full of laughs. We finished just about the minute when Ohio was called for Obama and Karl Rove started unraveling on air. We all sat around the tv, and took a couple of pictures with my cellphone to mark the moment. And I instinctively picked up the phone and dialed my Muncie friend’s number – at whose home we had watched the last election. Then noticed that she had posted on my facebook wall almost at the same time!

There is change in me – we are, after all, organic, and without change, we might as well lay down and die. There is new confidence about my ability to start over and a renewed faith in people. There is hope that I will build friendships that will last a long time. Like the ones I have going on, long distance. Best of all, there is at least four more years of (what I am predicting to be) a historical presidency!

O eating a jalebi! Coincidence? Don’t think so!

Here’s a video of a professional chef making jangiris that we found on Youtube. While ours aren’t this perfect, (it is only our first time), they are GOOD! We celebrated Obama’s reelection with fresh hot jalebis/jangiris!

Conversations With My Daughter

A little background for this conversation:  unless you’ve been living in a cave in the US or you’re living elsewhere in the world, you have by now heard all about Todd Akin’s brillance on rape, forcible rape and how women’s bodies naturally shut down pregnancy in cases of rape.

As aside: I knew an actual living human being who said the same thing – about 20 years ago – needless to say, my respect for him plummeted after that. And another one, actually may have been my boss at the time, who got annoyed with me when I said “just abort” a couple of times during a conversation – I was talking about a COMPUTER PROGRAM that needed to be killed and told me sternly “don’t say just abort”. He was deeply offended that I’d use that term even for a computer program.

My suspicion is that a majority of the republicans including Paul Ryan share some form of this view (life begins at fertilization, let’s get rid of Planned Parenthood, all abortions need to be made illegal even in cases of rape, incest and other such inane ideas), but most are smart enough to not say it. So, I’ve been campaigning hard with my kids to vote this year – they’re both of voting age for the first time in an election year. But to my disappointment, they’ve been been a little apathetic on the subject. It’s been bothering me and Raj. My mind has taken on its usual course of self-flagellation: have I failed as a parent? Are my kids going to be uncaring, uninvolved citizens?

So today I called my daughter, all prepared to give a speech on the importance of voting, especially as a woman. Here’s how it went:

Me: Daughter, have you been following the Todd Akin story? You know about the definition of ..

(of course, I don’t actually address her as “Daughter”)

Daughter (D): Oh it makes me so angry I don’t want to talk about it.

Me: Then here’s why you need to vote. It’s really important considering..

D (Laughing): Of course I’m going to vote. I just say I’m not going to because I know it annoys you…

Me: (speechless): ….

Kids!

Keya And Joe

Thanks to several of my friends’ encouragement, I took the next step in serious writing – I joined a Creative Writing course. My first assignment was to write a short story (upto 1000 words) with the following criteria: My character has fallen down a mine shaft and has to rescue herself/himself after two days. The only things he/she has are a mini flashlight, dental floss, a set of keys, a pair of thick socks and some pretzels.

At first I was stymied. I’m not the adventurous type, and would never seek out a mine shaft to fall into. I’m not very physical. Climbing out of the mine was out of the question. So I improvised. Here’s the story, after several edits (thank you Donna and VTK) and critical feedback from my child. Hope you enjoy it!

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Keya And Joe

Author: Srilatha Rajagopal

Keya felt the beginnings of a headache as she slowly opened her eyes.  She shook her head to clear her thoughts and tried to remember where she was, then wished she didn’t. The last thing she remembered was going to the Beaver Creek Seven Eleven around the corner from her hotel to get some pretzels on her offshore assignment from India. On her way back she had wandered off down a side road with the abandoned building and peeped in.  Now she was waking up in a dark shaft with rough walls.

She got up slowly, and took a small step. A little pain, but nothing seemed to be broken. She fumbled in her purse which was still attached to her shoulder and took out the flashlight she always carried.  “Time for some exploring, little K,” she said to herself.  She found a bigger “room” that held a cage-like structure with wheels. There was a dangling board that read:  “A good safety record means happiness for all. So keep up the good work, men.  Be Careful.”

She stepped on something and screamed. It was a skull. “Breathe, K, breathe,” she told herself to ward off the rising wave of panic. “Where there is a skull, there should be a body.”  As she flashed the light, she found scribbled on the floor of the shaft, with what seemed like charcoal: “Goodbye, my darling Jill and daughter Megan. Know that I am dying a painless death. Love always, Joe Lovell.” She felt incredibly sad and fought a wave of despair.

She thought of her parents back in India.  She thought of her grandmother who had loved her more than anything in the world and had passed away last year. She wondered if they would ever know what happened to her. She sternly told herself that line of thinking was not going to get her out of this hell. Think positive, she reminded herself. Her headache was starting to get worse and she wanted to sleep. A concussion from the fall? She couldn’t remember if sleep was good or if it made it worse. But didn’t have a choice as sleep overcame her.

She dreamed that she was back in her grandmother’s house and playing with her neighbor’s son, their favorite game of tying strings through a match box to make a radio. Only the string became a snake and the neighbor’s son became her grandmother. She was calling Keya to come eat her favorite lunch, pooris.

She awoke with a start.  Had it been a few hours or just minutes? She felt ravenous. She counted the pretzels (twenty) and ate four, not wanting to get thirsty. She cursed herself for not buying a bottle of water.

She explored the cage some more. It was rusting and looked like it would crumble if she touched it. Nothing useful there. Back to Joe and his scrawled love note.

She wondered what message she would leave for her parents. Mom, I would kill for some pooris right now.  I want to watch the silly old movies you’re always begging me to watch with you. I’m sorry I laughed when you spoke in your broken English to my friends. Appa, wish I had laughed at your silly jokes instead of rolling my eyes.

She stepped on something sharp and metallic, and turned the light on it.

A radio!  Was her grandmother giving her a message? She picked it up and pushed a knob. Dead. She pulled at the antenna. She turned it over and found the damaged battery compartment. Two AA batteries.  The same kind in her flashlight!

Okay, this was going to be tricky. She carefully pulled out the dead batteries, and kept her left fingers in the compartment. Opening her flashlight’s battery compartment with her other hand, she pulled out the batteries and put them in the radio, carefully lining them up one by one, in the blackness. But there was a problem. They kept falling out. Out they went, back into the flashlight.

“What should I do now, Joe?” she asked the skull.  Joe didn’t seem to care. She dumped the contents of her purse on the floor.  A piece of paper, a pair of thick socks, and… dental floss!

“I know you don’t like to floss, but do you want to have your own teeth when you’re 40?” her American dentist had scolded her. “Damn you, Dr. Dentist,” she had thought childishly at the time, but had gotten the floss nevertheless and kept it in her purse. She took it out and tied it around the radio’s battery compartment. She turned the flashlight off, and in the darkness removed the batteries and slid them through the floss into the compartment.  It took about two hours to finally get them positioned right.

She turned the radio’s knob and held her breath. Long seconds went by. Nothing.  She knew exactly how Houston felt as a satellite returned to Earth.  She turned the other knob. It crackled to life. Her ingenuity had worked! All she had to do now was to wait for someone to hear her.

The sliver of opening at the top of the shaft got darker. She guessed she had been at the shaft for a day and a half. She was about to doze off when suddenly, the radio crackled again. Her nightmare ended as quickly as it had begun. She was picked up by the “Eagle One” ham operators a few miles down the road, who called 911. Rescuers were followed by the local radio crew and the Channel 5 news.  The Beaver Creek Times headlines screamed the next day: “Visiting geek saved by ham operators.” There was an uproar in the media about unmarked abandoned mines.

Keya went back to India, carrying the memories of the two days spent with Joe the skull, but her best memory was the light in Megan’s eyes when Keya gave her father’s message to her mother.

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New Year’s Ramblings

Here’s wishing a very happy, safe and healthy 2012 and beyond to my 5 ardent readers, 3 of whom are family – take that, Huffington Post!

My mind is right now too cluttered with all kinds of ideas, thoughts, analyses, etc that I need to clear some of it out or will explode into a 1000 pieces like Vikramaditya’s head would have if he knew the answer to Betal’s puzzler and didn’t answer.

A year-end update from our family:

After a brief, but real scare, my daughter seems to be on the mend from her concussion.  She had to take an “Incomplete” on two of her finals as she was not allowed to study until completely free of symptoms.  But, she rocked in her other two classes with high A’s.  Michigan is a tough school to get B’s, let alone A’s!  We’re very proud of her.

My son seems to have adjusted very well to college life.  Brings home huge laundry loads, and unwashed dishes, found some really good friends and mentors, but still misses us when he goes back to school!  That’s all a mother wants for her children right?  Happiness mixed with a healthy dose of homesickness 😉

My husband is probably tired from taking care of all of us during December – and is back to work!

I have finally adjusted, I think, to being a well-balanced emptynester mom.   I felt sad when my daughter left, and didn’t get up from the couch for 4 hours after my son left yesterday, but have bounced back.  I am happy as long as I know they’re happy and safe.  It took me 3 years to get to this point!  Keeping my fingers crossed it sticks and is not a passing phase in my growth spurt.

The holidays were totally relaxed – no real plans and we took it one day at a time.  Played some carrom, watched movies, ate a lot, just hung out.  My son and I watched all 3 Godfather movies.  It’s one of our favorite things to do.  With my daughter, I like to watch classic chick flick (countless times of Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Sound of Music, Beauty and the Beast), paranormal stuff (still can’t watch Paranormal though).  Started playing ‘Words with friends’ with the kids yesterday.

Raj and I were pleasantly surprised at a couple of dinners with our neighbors and friends – the kids totally enjoyed interacting with us on grown-up terms (I was going to say “adult” but I think that term has been permanently tainted for me growing up in Chennai where ‘A’ stands for ‘adult movies’.).  We watched, with wonder,  as they made jokes that were not based on body functions or bathroom humor, talked intelligently about all kinds of topics,  and entertained our friends!  Wow.  When did they grow up?

Had a great new year’s party – only Indians, specifically Tamils, can pull off a NYE party where the dress code was black tie, (but we saw everything from saris, salwars to cocktail attire), the food was Chinese and Thai with Indian appetizers, the drinks were punch and Margaritas, the theme Casino Royale,  and end up with a sensational party!  Great job, organizers!  You worked very hard.  As my friend said the next day, I now feel part of this community – only 3 short months ago, I knew not a person here!

Ah…how can this end without mention of ‘kolaveri’.  Let’s just leave it at that.  Yes, watched it, and a few remixes.  Personally thought the one with Shivaji clips was hands down the BEST.  But, whoever has that kind of time to sync it so perfectly?

Happy new year, all!  Mayan end of world predictions aside,  let’s all have a great year!