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!

My beautfiful orchid

We  (my husband and I) recently built a house.  As happens when you have a new house and guests, we got a gift – a beautiful purple orchid.  Now, my history with orchids has been a tale fit to be on a show about unsolved murders.  And I have steadfastly stayed away from them for over 15 years, resisting all temptation to try “just one more time” not to kill one.  But this was a gift.  Maybe it’s a sign that someone up there thinks I am now mature enough to handle one.

So I took care of it.  Short of singing to it, I did everything else.  Interacted is the word I recently picked up from a local plant nerd.  Watered it when the soil looked dry, went very close to it and looked at it with tender love at least once a day.   This has been going on for about a month now and happily the orchid hasn’t died.   But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  And my bubble, alas, burst yesterday.  For the first time yesterday,  I felt brave enough to touch the soil as I watered it one more time.  And thought, “hmm…that feels strange.  The soil doesn’t feel wet. It absorbs the water, but where does it go?”

And then the horrible thought flashed in my mind.  Could it be?  NOOOOO!!! I touched the flowers.  And the bud that looked like it’s never going to bloom. I just attributed it to the fact that orchids take a long time to bloom. Like months…right? And the blooms last forever.  And realized what my son had known at first sight.  Yep…I had finally done it.  I had been watering, caring for and talking to an orchid that is a member of the …artificial, silk plant family!!!

This was the second time as an adult I felt utterly foolish!  (I have had several such moments in my childhood, but I gave myself a break when I became an adult and reset the count to zero).  The first being when I  accidentally dropped the brand new ipod (one of the actually useful gifts from my hubby) attached to the headphones attached to my ears, while having a bath – enjoying some music – on the very first day I got it.  I never lived that one down with my coworkers, my husband and the kids.

But wait… if you thought this was the end of the story, you don’t know my marriage at all.   My son was harassing me about it last evening when my husband was eating his dinner.  And I said, “wait let’s ask Appa what he thought” and asked him cleverly, without clueing him in,  if he had ever watered the orchid.  And that sweet, equally foolish husband of mine didn’t disappoint me.  He sheepishly said “yes, I did this evening when I came in.  Why? Did you already do it?”

Ah…can you show me another couple who are totally made for each other?

Aside from all the joking, I also tried very hard to find a moral, a message in this story – because that’s what all Indians worth their salt do.  And I did.   Nurturing relationships that are fake and have no future with a lot of care and time is futile.  As I realized recently.   So there.  My PSA for the day.

Florida Driving 101

Turn signals: There are two states of turn signals when driving in Florida.  On or off.  Mostly off.   Have followed cars on the highway for miles with the turn signal indicating left, on the left lane.  My son said to me recently: “So do you not believe in turn signals anymore?” after I made a few turns without indicating.  Guess I’m officially a Floridian now!

It’s a race to nowhere:  I need my space – personally and on the road.  But it’s hard to find in Florida.  I would speed to avoid being rear-ended on the highway, only to have the follower speed up to catch up with me!  It’s a lost battle.  So nowadays I go all passive-aggressive by driving slightly above the speed limit (to justify staying on the left lane), and my followers eventually give up or get disgusted and pass me.   No shame in driving the speed limit!

Speaking of speed limits – it’s like the weather:  Or as they say in Massachussets, the motto here seems to be “You don’t like our speed limit? Wait a second – it’ll change.”  Seriously, I’ve driven thru 2 mile stretches where the speed limit ranged between 45 and 65.  And not in any ascending or descending order either.  Ah… the games they play!

Pretty much all the drivers here fall into one of these categories:  old, lost, new to Florida, tourist, or all of the above.   After a while,  one tends to give up and just enjoy the good weather, the mild winters (73 in February? who can be in a bad mood with that kind of weather?), and the sunshine!

Watch this space for more insights into driving in Florida as we continue to assimilate!

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!

Home is…

Between September of 2010 and September of 2011, our lives have undergone a lot of changes.  I quit my job of 13 years, my 2nd and youngest child graduated high school and started college making us that dreaded demography, and led us to the much looked-forward to phase of our lives known as emptynesters, Raj took on a position in the senior leadership team of the company that acquired his previous company, and last but the most important of all, we moved!  From the cornfields of midwest which we called home for the last 20 years, to the marshy swamps of Florida!!

It’s been 3 months and it’s finally starting to feel like home!  I had had a mild panic attack while packing up in Indiana about having to start all over and making a new home at this age!

Home!  What makes a place home? This is my 15th home where I have lived more than 3 months – and not permanent as we’re building a house while renting this year.

As I think about this,the  following pop up in my head:

  • I have 2 neighbors who are very very nice, and have made us feel very welcome.
  • Raj and I saw a snake on the beach by the boardwalk but we were so cool, and unfazed.  Now alligators, well that’s a different animal! I have seen one alligator so far, a baby one.  I am not sure I am ready to cohabit in peace with the alligators yet as most Floridians do, but will cross that bridge later!
  • We met a bunch of Tamil folks – one of whom used to work with me back in 1985 – 90 when I first started my career with CMC in Chennai!  What a nice surprise!  We are so happy to be able to converse in our mother tongue, and have our pick of Tamil people – by age, by interests, because we speak the same language, by whatever!  Back in Indiana, there was one other Tamil family.
  • I am kicking off the Cross Cultural Book Club next week with ‘Persepolis’ – a story of childhood in post-Shah, Islamic Iran told from a child’s point of view.  See here for details.

 Okay so my bookclub has only 2 confirmed members (one of them being me) and a tentative one, but hey, it’s a start!  The idea is to read only books on other cultures (other than American) and written by a non-American author.  I am excited to be able to continue this tradition from Indiana, and hope to meet some cool interesting people!

  • Our house is coming up nicely!
  • It’s been a year since I resigned – on the upside, I have not gone insane.  It is, in fact, the opposite of insane!  My kids and Raj can tell the difference – I am more patient and less harried!  My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner, when my kids were still at home!
  • I still dress nice and haven’t fallen into the ‘frumpy housewife’ trap.  On the downside, I have gained some weight!  With such wonderful stores like Publix and Fresh Market so close by, and an Indian grocery store only 15 minutes away,  it’s hard not to!
  • I do exercise more – yoga twice a week, bollyaerobics taught by a fellow Tamil girl – it’s a great workout!
  • And have had one lesson in carnatic music – one of those dusted off dreams of mine!  Also taught by a Tamil lady!
  • But the number one reason,  the king,  the one thing that lets me  know without a doubt I feel at home is, drumrolls please…

 I’m starting to get annoyed at the folks who share the road with me 😉  Initially, it was “oh look at these drivers – so nice, and driving under speed limit.  I really should start driving the speed limit.  Maybe Florida will cure my road rage”.  But now, it’s “ok lady – are you hoping to get anywhere today?” My daughter used to say I need a bumper sticker on my car that says “Angry Driver”!

         Home sweet home, baby!