Sunday, November 27, 2011

Did it matter?

Two girls. Same class. Same marks for the 10th board exam- 65%.

Girl 1- Her mom gives her a congratulatory card that says- "You did it!"

Girl 2- Her mom gives her the cold shoulder for an entire week.

I was pretty confused when both of them, many years ago, described their experiences to me on separate occasions. I remember Girl 1, very happy, eyes twinkling. That 65% was not such a great set of marks did not seem to bother her. She had done her parents proud. She was content.

And Girl 2, I remember her narrating her experience with some amount of sadness and shame. She had let her mom down and she had to work hard for the next exam. She was sad. I felt sad for her.

How the same 65 % could get reactions that were poles apart, was beyond me and my teenage mind.

Maybe Girl 1's parents had figured out what her aptitude was in and they did not think that 10th grade marks decided what she would become in life? Maybe they were cool like that?

Maybe Girl 2's parents just wanted her to do really well so that she could have more options when she finally had to make a career choice?

Of course, then , at 16, I wanted to be either Girl 1 or like her mom when I grew up. Not unlucky Girl 2 or like her cruel mother.

But you know what? Today the ending is a happy one. Both of them have done well in their careers. They chose Literature. Went to some of the best colleges. Girl 1 now writes for a leading newspaper and Girl 2 has a job that had her rubbing shoulders (almost) with some Bollywood celebrities.

So in the end, did the parent's reactions really matter?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving memories

This morning turned out to be a rush. I had everything planned out so we could all leave home on time- My husband to work, my baby to his preschool and me for some pampering at the salon. Until, my husband, at breakfast, suddenly reminded me that it was Thanksgiving night in the US. I know it’s not anywhere high on the ‘Richter’ scale to make a difference to anyone here in India... but it’s pretty high on the 'emotional' scale for us. We spent a good 5 Thanksgivings there and have some very treasured memories.

Come October and people there are so excited because it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas one after another. So as soon as September ends, you see folks beginning to decorate their homes, offices, shops, their yards and sometimes even their cars. And in the most creative, tasteful and funny ways possible. Taking a ride down to the local Walgreens in our neighbourhood itself was such a visual treat and a two minute drive stretches to 15 because you are stopping by to admire each house. 

We spent every Thanksgiving weekend with my mother-in-law's cousin who has been in the US for many years now. And she is one of those aunties we all have in our families. The one that is bursting with love and warmth. Always welcoming, always hospitable and always big-hearted. I don't know how she does it. But she cooks everything the holiday requires you to and all by herself and adds an Indian twist to it to suit the family's palate. Once it was Turkey, once it was one quail for each and once it was couple whole Tandoori Chickens. All we need to do is help set the table and gobble the absolutely delicious spread. We never felt homesick on the holidays and it was only because of her and her family. (Check out these pics!!)

The day after Thanksgiving Thursday is called Black Friday. For those who don't know what that it is: It is one of the biggest discount sales in all the retail stores- physical and virtual and people go CRAZY. The discounts are so high that I know of people who buy electronic items on this day, and then sell it for the full price while on vacation back in India making a huge profit. Yes, that is how enterprising we Indians are! So after giving thanks and stuffing yourself with turkey you form long lines braving the cold weather in front of your favourite store with cups of hot Starbucks coffee, sandwiches, tents and the works. There is always at least one incident of a stampede somewhere. I am not a shopaholic nor am I cut out for discount diving that might involve a stampede, so we usually prefer to relax, lean back and shop online. This is even better because the sale extends through the weekend and you can stay warm indoors. But you better update your antivirus software and be careful or else you could be a victim of Identity theft Monday!  

Memories came flooding in and we decided we had to call Aunty right now. They had just finished their dinner and we chatted with everyone there remembering the good times we celebrated together. Once we said good byes we realised we were running terribly late and that we had spent 30 minutes on an international call!   

So our morning was a rush. On one hand, we were in a frantic rush to get to our planned destinations for the day. And on the other, a sweet rush of wonderful memories made us slow down and think of loved ones that mattered. We all got to where we had to, Maybe a few minutes late. But that did not matter anymore.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Itching for a good read...

I did it. I dared to get two books from the library today. I have been yearning for it. To hold a book  in my hand and go away for a bit. Some where far away...

One is The Fatwa Girl by Akbar Agha. Happened to be on the shelf labeled 'Best Sellers'. So it better be good. 

The other is Brain Games for Toddlers and Twos by Jackie Silberg (whoever that is). Don't laugh. I could not resist. Unless you have one of your own, you have no clue how much entertaining  a two year old needs. I flipped through it. Seems quite interesting.

Honestly I have no clue how I will find the time to finish these books by the due date. But I am planning to sneak in some reading when I can. Like maybe for 10 minutes when I am done typing this. 

"How do you kill time?" 

I absolutely hate it when people ask me that. I NEVER kill time. I have no time to kill. I manage time. I will mercilessly grab any little extra time that I can get my hands on. 

Just because I am a stay-at-home mom, right now, does not mean I am jobless. Like every other mother and wife, I do a very delicate and dangerous juggling act. We run the house. We're facilitators. Because of us, everyone else gets to where they need to be, well-fed and on-time. We're on call 24 X 7. We women, we don't need to train for it. We're phenomenal that way. 

My quiet time is when my son naps in the afternoon for an hour and I am done with the high priority chores. Or past midnight, like now, when my boys are in bed. This is when I brave the relentless mosquitoes (itch, itch), munch on a midnight snack and catch up on some of the things that I love to do. That I have been dreaming of all day. 

To all you busy moms, hope you get to do at least one of your favourite things everyday...

PS: I am still figuring out how to choose images that are allowed for reuse. I think this one is OK. But I cannot seem to find out whose it is so I am not able to give it credit.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Miracles do happen

Two extra hours a day? Yes, miracles do happen!

jumping with joy! 
Picture by aachpach                                          

My extra two hours would spill all over my day. Stretching my happy moments and shrinking my not so happy ones.


- Some extra time to sleep in, in the mornings. Cuddle next to your loved ones in bed. Hold the warmth. Before you change into my Super Mom avatar and make the day happen.

- Some extra time to sip hot chai and read the taaza khabar(s).  To keep you updated. To have a world view.

- Some extra time in the hot shower. To freshen you up and get you smelling like a flower for the rest of the day.

- Some extra time in that seemingly difficult Yoga  pose. To remind you how strong you really are. In body and in mind.

- Some extra time in the morning kitchen. So that you can whip up that lavish breakfast for the family that you love.

- Some extra time at the spa. To treat your feet to some much needed massage. Those feet that carry you around; all the time.

- Some more extra time at the spa. So you can catch up on all that filmy gossip in their glossy magazines. How therapeutic!

- Some extra time to read that suspense thriller. That page turner that you can not and do not want to put down. Will he escape? Will they live happily ever after??

- Some extra time to finish that embroidery stitch kit. Your daughter loves teddies and this one has four! You've already picked out the frame and got the nail up on to the wall in her room.

- Some extra time in the park. Screaming happy kids. Picture perfect. Click!

- Some extra time to speak to Mummy and Papa. From once a week to more often. To hear their voices and share some laughs. Nobody is getting any younger you know.

- Some extra time at the cinema interval session. You need to stretch, buy pop-corn and make bathroom trips! 

- Some extra time in prayer.You could do plenty with some more serenity, courage and wisdom.

- Some extra time to play. At home. Scrabble, Pictionary and peek-a boo.

- Some extra time to  read. To the kids. One reading of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' is never enough is it?

- Some extra time to catch up with friends. On the phone. Face to face. Email. Voices that makes you happy. Cherishing memories and making new plans.

- Some extra time to blog. To write. To read. To feel. To laugh. To respond. To commune with fellow bloggers.

- Some extra time at the mall. You always meet many wrong pairs of jeans before the one Mr. Right finds you. Skinny, low cut, boot cut, straight or relaxed.

- Some extra time for a nice head massage. The one your husband always begs for.

- Some extra time during the cricket match commercials. So you can have garama garam pakodas to munch on during the last over.

- Some extra time for chores. To make that never- ending To-Do list at least a little bit shorter.

- Some extra time at family dinner. Wholesome. Hearty. Happy.

- Some extra time for the good night kisses to linger. Touch is such a beautiful thing.


This is my entry for the Surf Excel Matic #GetSmart Contest. If you would like to participate go here. Good luck!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Midnight mumblings..

Its past 12 AM. I should be sleeping. Especially after 2 doses of cough syrup and fever medication, but my nose is blocked and I could use a midnight snack and some conversation. Even if its one sided..

My microwave will beep in the next one minute and I am going to be chomping on some delicious leftovers from the Chinese restaurant we dined at tonight. Dinner was tragic with my son being whiny, me trying to control him and the ambiance being a bit too overpowering. There were way too many dragons and other scary looking mythological creatures hanging around. It was too dark. I mean if you cannot see what you are eating, only the Lord really knows what you could be eating. You think you can get away with stuff by dimming the lights too much? Hah! I noticed the red upholstery was torn and there were stains on the red table cloth and all the condiment pots were empty. But I'm not complaining. The corn and crab soup, the mixed fried rice and chicken strips in chilly sauce was delish! We wanted to order the highly recommended fried ice cream, but refrained; all three of us with our sore throats.

This reminds me of couple of other Chinese restaurant disasters..

One we frequently visited until they went through a much publicized renovation to make it authentic 'Indo-Chinese'. Now I read that the colour red for the Chinese means good luck and joy. But when you paint all the walls red, including the ceiling and then use a chandelier made of fluorescent bulbs under a RED paper lantern and use a red and white checkered table cloth which I am assuming is not a Chinese thing.. it is going to give everyone a head ache. And the food somehow did not taste all that great anymore.

Then the other, which again was a weekend favorite, but left us with a bad taste in the mouth, when we crunched on sand in the mixed noodles. Yes sand! And yes YUCK! We concluded that the waiter accidentally dropped the wok on the floor while packing our take-out and picked it all up- proper with broom and pan (YUCK), then packed it nicely and figured we would not notice. Fortunately none of us fell sick. But that's off our craving list forever. 

But don't get me wrong, these places are actually quite popular..I don't know why, but they are.

But the highlight of the evening was stopping by a book fair with up to 90% discount. There is something so wholesome about book fairs. Especially if some are used and read and slightly damaged. And if you get a book for less than one-fifth its price. Great! But with a sick baby on my shoulder, I hardly had time to relish the moment, but I managed to grab a couple of Jacqueline Wilson's for my niece. I have mentioned her here. I'm going to say it again. She is a certified book worm! So we all end up getting her books for her birthday.

Then we stopped at the baby shop to cheer my son up. He goes crazy over the stuffed toys and the cars ( or should I say vehicles- they have tractors and cycles and bikes and what not!), shoes and squeaky toys and strollers. We got a break. And he was in heaven for 20 minutes. Fortunately he has not got to the stage where he wants us to buy him every single thing there.

I am thinking I will sign off, grab some dessert and hit the sack. There is some absolutely divine tender coconut pudding my mom in law made. One of these days, I am planning to steal the recipe and make it and blog about it. Its just so yum.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Annoying orange?

So I gave my blog some colour. It has been too white too long.

I can't help it. I'm a Leo and fire is my element.

Its not too loud now, is it?

Anyways, if you are bored and have plenty of time check out these really annoying videos on YouTube.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

A walk to remember

I had written this post, more than a year ago, when we were still living in Chicago, but somehow forgot all about it. While decluttering my post list,  I read this again and some memories came rushing back. I could not delete it..

 'After a day's walk everything has twice its usual value.' ~George Macauley Trevelyan

In the past two weeks, one of the things I try to make the time to do is to take a walk outside. (From the picture I just clicked, you can see why. It is beautiful! Like walking into a painting. Yes, this is where I live!) I just ignore the mess my house is in and get myself out my PJ's,(which is terribly difficult after your night feedings) and the baby into the stroller quickly before anything can change my mind.

Once out, I thank myself. It is totally worth it. The sky is blue and bright and big and it liberates me. The grass is green and dewy and freshly cut and it refreshes me. A soft breeze is blowing through the leaves whispering hopeful secrets to me. The birds are chirping and to the tune in my heart. Once in while a little squirrel pops its curious head out of a tree or zips across my path surprising me. How many shades of green there are amazes me. The strong fragrance of the crab apple tree has me lingering under it for just a bit longer.

My baby is engrossed too. Eager to step out of the 600sq foot apartment, he giggles when I buckle him up in the stroller. He knows he has much to see, to discover,to marvel at. I hear some soft gurgles and I know he is enjoying himself.

I stop to take it all in. The whole view. I want time to stop with me. I want to frame this moment. Perfect. Cool. Crisp. Green. I click. I sigh. I start walking again. This is my retreat. This peace I feel is the peace I need right now. I feel no worries.

I pick up some fallen pine cones. I stop to click a few pictures. I make a mental note to appreciate the guys who landscape this place.I watch my neighbours going to work. I see some kids roller skating. Some shouts of frolic. A dog barking in the distance. I cannot describe how peaceful I feel.

I'm a little sad, we will be leaving this beautiful neighbourhood in a few months. This is one of those many things I will miss. Right now the grass is greener here. On this side.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Read along!

girl with book
Photo by Tom

No matter how well I have slept, which is rare, when you have a toddler who is only learning to sleep through the night; I am always so stiff and groggy in the mornings. I cannot help but envy my friends who very nimbly and quickly get out of bed as soon as the alarm clock goes off and are about their day. (They need no caffeine, no nothing!). But not me. I cannot function unless I down that hot cup of kappi and spend at least 5 minutes reading. I even refuse to stretch until this ritual is over. Of course, I have to make some exceptions when other domestic issues become a priority- like waking up late or a hungry baby wailing away! 

It need not be the News. Just something that is well written. In the mornings, when I am pressed for time, it’s usually the Hindu Metro plus or the editorial pages that I rush too. The words wake me up, shake me up and jump all over me, tickling me, reminding me why I love to read. Words that stay with me the whole day, words that play on my mind and the ones that make me feel alive. Words that inspire me to imagine, to describe, to scribble away. 

My niece, a certified book-worm has read some of her books more than 15 times. I get that. Some lines just have to be read over and over and in between and memorized. Like the famous "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice).
I am in awe every time I read something that describes emotions and feelings. I mean, gifted writers can with simple words and metaphors express such complex feeling, emotions and thoughts. It is like they were reading your mind. They said it just like you would have, if you could have said it the way they did. Or so you would like to think. 

That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” (Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’). Very true, right? For those not fortunate enough to travel and see things firsthand, there are gifted writers who through their words nudge you to climb up on to the open windowsill, sprout wings and dare you to fly. Fly over the roof tops and into the sky; around the world and even to another space and time.

Recently, there was a picture perfect moment in our bedroom. Pin-drop silence as father, mother and child were immersed completely in their own literatures. Father scanning his ‘gadget reviews’, mother making mental notes on a delicious recipe in a magazine and child smiling at the five little monkeys jumping on their bed’. I love our reading time! 

As I write this post, I am thinking mostly about the feel good factor 'reading' provides. But everyone, I  am sure, knows reading has its own benefits. From improving your vocabulary and critical thinking to learning about other cultures, traditions, histories, it stretches your mind and can even help to bust stress. I remember laughing out loud reading P.G.Wodehouse. It felt very good.

Not everyone can be a Paulo Cohelo. But let’s be glad there is one! Someone has to write a book like the ‘Alchemist’ so beautifully to tap you on your shoulder and remind you that “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 

I want to dedicate this post to writers who make magic with words. And the readers like me who thrive on this magic carpet ride- learning, living and loving life.

Happy reading!