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December 10, 2010

"Amma happy"

I have my share of raising-a-toddler-trials-and-tribulations to share but I am beginning to reconsider my original thoughts on raising a 2 year old. As days pass, she does so many astonishing things that they well beat the "trying" part of parenting (By "trying", I mean, the insistence on subsisting on nothing but cakes, popsicles and cheese; refusing to wear short sleeved t-shirts, sleeve-less t-shirts, shorts, the cutest skirts thereby rendering 3 whole shelves of her clothing obsolete; saying "Nathi", "Illa [Iyyya]", "No" about 36 times a day -- 36 times for each language...and more recently, "Naan thoongayen, enna diturb pannada pappa" -- I am sleeping, don't disturb pappa!)

The biggest thrill for me is the ability to meaningfully communicate with her (Like today morning, she woke up, smiled at me and said, "Amma nee azhaga iyuke"). The other day I told her I was feeling sad and she said "B~ maama edho sollitta" (B maama said something...), B maama being my manager! A week earlier I had told her if I didn't finish my office work, B maama will be angry with me! And the fact that she made the connection and assumed I was sad because B maama said something was pretty cool! When she just started stringing words together, she once stopped mid-walk (we were strolling around the house), drew a little air circle around my face and said, "Amma happy"...that was the highlight of the day for me!

The ability to express herself also means she now can clearly state what she wants and why and why nothing else will do. When she was younger, I used to ask her "Cake or pasta", "yellow or blue" knowing she will always pick the second option. Sadly, that is no longer a trick she falls for. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

I particularly like this phase because she is fascinated by stories! Stories from books and stories I make up. Her eyes grow wide and you can see the wonder in them, that the world is so full of brilliant stories to be discovered...you almost want to be her and listen to those stories the very first time so you can experience that feeling!

Oh and she can sing songs now...which means k and I get to pick our favorite movie songs and play them to her and she can actually sing them back to us (Ok, that is not exactly an educational moment but it has its merits such as playing her favorite song on youtube so some form of food can find its way into her mouth!)

It's almost like they have turned into real, little people who can tell us how things should be done instead of us always telling them what to do! And they are at an age where the magic still exists -- she really thinks we can heal with a kiss and God actually said thank you when she gave God the raisins, that there is a little butterfly baby that is waiting forever on our kitchen window, that the night lights become too hot and hence have to be turned off at night, that every morning the Sooooyiyan (Sooriyan -- Sun) has come to wish her Good morning, that Avvaiyaar paati is still making dosas on the moon...

Ah...to just believe in magic and tales. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

And here she is singing ♫"Lakde ki Kaati"♫

[Listen in Quicktime]

Yes
Current favorite book -- Bobo!


December 04, 2010

Let it snow...

It's snowing outside, baby is napping after bouncing @ BounceU for a birthday party and am hoping I can catch "Date night" (the movie not an actual date night, those don't exist post r~ :p) before she wakes up...


I haven't been doing much lately except reading books and doing the same ol'. L~ recommended "Into thin air" which was quite a haunting book that I struggled to get out of my head but finally "Mini-shopaholic" did the trick. Our workplace moved to a new location which is smaller and more claustrophobic than our current one. Thank God for work-from-home. I think if there were no work-from-home option, I might just quit.

Recently started watching Outsourced and Big bang theory (which I have been watching for quite sometime online) on TV every Thursday -- love it!

Hmm...can't quite think of anything else to write about. Mind and words waiting for summer warmth!

November 05, 2010

Happy Deepavali!

It's that time of the year again. For the past 10 years, deepavali for me usually means:

1. Emails/chats and more recently Facebook status updates about how everyone here is missing Deepavali in India -- the TV programmes, firecrackers, sweets, people...why did waking up early then seem like a difficult thing to do? Isn't not waking up or being woken up on Deepavali an infinitely more difficult feeling to experience?

2. Less than 50°F outside (This year, it's even colder -- it's 39°F outside) -- can't head out without layers...can still recall the cool, misty dawns of those days when the men folk would head out to burst the big crackers while I stayed behind happy with my fire sparklers, no Lakshmi vedi for me!

3. ISD calls from India and to India wishing each other a happy Deepavali...tinny voices over a wire attempting to share a significant moment of togetherness over miles and miles of distance...

4. Waiting for the work day to end so one can at least celebrate Deepavali the few precious free hours one gets after 5 PM -- How is it that Deepavali always falls on a work day?

5. Or in more recent work-from home-times, staring at my screen, willing the bugs away, sitting in my PJs on the couch with Jaya TV on mute -- wondering about warmer times and distant places...

6. Hurriedly dressing up and heading to the temple in the evening so at least one little bit of the day's tradition is intact -- Happy Deepavali God, stay warm!

7. (And finally)Weekend celebrations -- A get-together after Deepavali to talk about simpler times and a younger us...

Happy Deepavali to you all. May the day and the years ahead be filled with happy moments and togetherness!

November 03, 2010

Living in the head of a 2 year old.

Sometimes I wonder what goes on in r's head when she makes specific (and quite unreasonable) demands and expects to take them to completion. The other day, she insisted on wearing 2 pairs of socks inside the house and roaming about in them. She slipped a couple of times on the floor but still wanted to wear them. Yesterday in the mall, she wouldn't remove the gloves and hat I had put on her to check the size. Finally, I had to get another pair and scan that one to buy it! I trust the written word :p and usually take to  books to find answers to my questions (the non google type of questions which involve more thought than the shortest route to a park) but parenting is an ongoing lesson that I have picked up on more through practical experience than through books. Nope, doesn't mean I'll stop reading my parenting books. I will continue to do so, so I can at least pretend while I read that I am going to be an ideal parent but somewhere in the corner of my mind, I'll know that r already has a trick to get past my latest parenting tool!

No transition is easy and now we are trying out preschool for her (couple of hours one day a week) and she has her own thoughts about it and so far this is what I have gleaned out of her head: that she wants an exciting world full of colors and shapes and people, most importantly kids but she also wants her mom or dad to stand in the corner and watch so she can run to them when she feels uncertain. If only I could create such a world for her! I can tell she is getting a bit bored at home, even with a nanny, that her toys don't interest her as much. She still likes her books but a 2 year old can not read throughout the day! But in the outside world, she wants her mom or dad to stand guard for her and I don't blame her -- it's a scary world out there. So, she is trying to find her balance while we try to find ours with work and home.

My next book is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk Let's see if I can get something useful out of it!

October 20, 2010

About being back home...

Yesterday r~ and I went for a walk in the evening and while she chatted on about the sky and the moon and Avaiyar paati in the moon, I hugged myself bracing against the already chilly air and I guess against the winter to follow. The neatly lined cookie-cutter houses looked orderly, well-maintained yet distant. And that's the thing about this country. You can see the chandelier on inside the houses and the table already set for an early dinner but it's as if the house is bereft of conversation and sounds and people! An evening walk at this time in Madras would mean a friendly hi from at least our watchman and the few maamis rushing to the Krishnar temple right outside our house there...

I had this similar feeling of loneliness when I sat staring at the five huge suitcases that had to be unpacked. Suitcases filled with bits and pieces of home that I hoped would fill my house here with the same scents and colors that I had left  behind in India. We have been busy socially the one weekend that we have spent since we came back, thanks to Navaratri Golu but what now? It's as if this indescribable aura is all around us, when r~ says "Ellayum Indiala irukaa" or mentions people back home or when k is away for an evening, this aura pervades our house, shooting questions at me, "Is it really worth all the trouble?" But then, I could just be consumed by a sense of nostalgia and homesickness and attributing every small annoyance to the fact that this is not India. I would probably be fine in a few weeks when things have fallen back into a predictable routine here...I just don't know yet. All I know is, the evening when k had a bowling game was well on its way to being a pretty boring evening for me until I decided I needed to head out of the house and search for some people to talk to! So, I did that. Packed r~ in her cute blue sweater and went to drop by the Indian family's house that's just a few houses away from mine. After spending an hour there catching up with that maami, I felt better and headed back home feeling not so distraught.

I feel like k and I are picking up on small things to fight about because we are still fighting to settle back in this country after a supremely satisfying vacation in India. And as my dad predicted, r~ bravely adapted to the country change and is busy running about doing what she considers is her business for the day :) Although, I can tell she realizes more than she lets on -- she acts so excited and happy when people drop by home here, I can tell she wants the attention she had back...

So while I deal with the change and I guess myself, expect similar themed posts and feel free to speak your mind!

October 15, 2010

India - Days 23 - 30.

You heard of the phrase, "Mera dham gud raha he idhar?" (Not sure if I said that right) I think that's about how I feel here. I don't want to be back. I don't want to be home sick. But mostly, I don't want to be going back to work. Let's wrap up the India trip though before I talk about my current situation.

The remaining days in Bombay were just a whirl of shopping, good food, relaxation, luxury and Endhiran! I went to Shopper's Stop about 22 times to buy/return/alter r's cute salwaar kameez among other things. We spent a pretty fabulous day at the Taj Mahal palace, thanks again to L~. If all you have to do is live a life like that, am all for Bombay ;) It's a different world inside the hotel. It's actually a different world for super rich folks in India. If I could be rich in India, that would really be like having the cake and eating it too...but even the not so rich have full time help in the house, something I sorely miss in the US.

I must mention the eating binge I went on in India. I think I covered all the must-eat desserts, malai kulfi, malai kulfi rabdi, gulgand rasmalai, peda and even the chili icecream from Bachelor's (I do not recommend it unless you want a mix of reactions flooding your palate like this: it starts off with a nice "icecreamy" sweetness and then the cold sort of morphs into chili heat once it's down your throat! I could only take 3 spoons of it!)

I experienced monsoon rain in Bombay (although only for a short while) which was pretty cool. I got introduced to k's mom's tailor who functions from a small space in a "gali": rent Rs.500 per month. I visited k's uncle who lives in one of those uber cool houses at Church gate, a stone's throw from Nariman point: house value: 5-6 crores maybe? I walked down Nariman point and took r for a ride in the ghoda gadi at her request :) c tells me, Nariman point is where SRK looked at the stars and dreamt that he would be a star! So now people come here and talk big hoping they could pull off what SRK did :)

We had a teary farewell in Bombay as well (k's mom). r had a blast the whole time except for a pretty painful constipation situation. Oh! We also drove on the Sea link road (what's it called?) twice! That was pretty cool. Almost like driving in US because you get off it and see all those high rise buildings and you can't really tell that you are in India -- could be mistaken for any downtown view in the US. k's mom and I did a couple of auto rickshaw trips. At one point, we waited for 15-20 mins calling for autos and being ignored by the auto driver clan for some mysterious reason!

The surprising part was meeting someone who used to live in Lex, catching up with another friend who is still iving in Lex :), another friend who seems to be living the r2i dream :p and an old School friend!

It's 4 PM here and am sleepy, so rest of the story later. For now, pictures...

Inside Shopper's Stop watching the rain outside...

@ Taj Mahal palace

Fruit tart that vanished in a flash!

Laundry @ Taj -- can't get enough of these photos!

October 04, 2010

India trip - Days 20 - 22

Jotting down random notes before r wakes up or I have to run:

* I met an 85 year old lady who lives next door to k's parents. Her small 1 BR apartment has a showcase lined with neatly wrapped books. I asked her if I could take a look and saw that the books were not only wrapped in brown paper (remember the brown wrapping paper we used to cover our school notebooks?) but were also labeled with numbers. She then produced a ruled notebook that had an index of all the numbers matching them to the titles and authors of the books. I thought that was pretty neat. She said a girl who had just passed 12th standard had helped organize her books and offered to introduce me to the girl :)

* I bought Eat, Pray, Love from a dude selling a huge stack of books car to car while stuck in a traffic jam. Apparently, that's quite common in Bombay. But we usually don't get much time to negotiate. I bought this book for Rs.100!

* The other day while on our way back from Sab Kuch which is a cool restaurant that serves as it's name suggests, pretty much everything, and c was pointing out the sights of the city when I saw some 30 people sleeping right in front of a closed store -- Bombay is a mixed bag like that, you sort of never know what to expect. Back to Sab kuch...if you order pani puri here, a guy rolls a pani puri cart towards you and serves sanitized pani puri gloves and all! I ate falooda with kulfi here and decided I didn't care much for it.

* We went to p & c's house and the highlights there were the oonjal (swing) for r and seethaphal basundhi for us! Oh! I forgot the stick kulfi which r insisted on eating on her own!

* If I had to give one big fat reason why we wouldn't move to Bombay, that would be commute. If you don't have an AC car at your disposal, you are stuck. Yes, you can call from a cool cab but that takes between 30-45 mins to come and it's point to point. If you own an AC car and you drive, that's cool but parking is a pain. Day before yesterday, we decided wisely to go to InOrbit mall in Malad. Air conditioned, nice games, eats and I thought I'd spend an evening relaxing in the mall. But apparently, Bombay goes to InOrbit or one of it's sister malls on Saturdays and Sundays. Since the whole of Bombay was there, it was pretty much like being in an un-airconditioned place with loads of people creating loads of conversation noise and add to that the noise produced by all the gaming consoles. I had fun playing on the dancing game thingie -- what do you call it? But a half hour later, we were all set to leave the mall. The visit to the mall was anything but relaxing.

* Today went to Shopper's stop which is pretty much like any other shopping mall in the US except for the startling variety of colors and designs that you can never find in American clothes. Took an auto today and sweated my way through the afternoon heat and traffic fumes. Yup, traveling no fun here.

* The disparity between rich and poor is stark here. Even the kids learn that they can order some people to do their commands like the maid servant or the cook. If you are a rich kid in India living in a nuclear family, there is a high possibility of getting "spoilt" because you can get away with not cleaning your room, picking up your clothes ever or even setting foot in the kitchen. A maid serves you hot rotis or cold milk shakes and you get used to service 24/7. If there isn't a grand parent around to caution and if the parents are busy with work and life, then it's an easy easy life for the kids. Today I saw a teenage kid lying in bed watching TV at full volume while a maid swept and cleaned his room...to be fair to him, he probably did do his share of work but maybe he didn't and all he had to do is ask the maid to clean up after him...hmm.

Checkmarks and eats: Sab kuch restaurant, seethaphal basundhi, western express highway, corn kachori and stick kulfi, Temptations ice cream, InOrbit mall

October 01, 2010

India - Days 13 - 19

We celebrated r's birthday at New Woodlands Hotel in Chennai. My dad had hired a magician, Mr.Raja aka Kingzz for the day which was fun. His show was entertaining to the kids and adults alike. This was followed by a short video clip of r that I had put together -- sort of catching up on her life for my friends and relatives in Chennai. On 26th evening, we went to Parthasarathy temple again and from there to Ratna cafe. k took a second dose of the coffee there and I must admit, that was the best filter coffee I had during my Madras trip! That night we went to the beach to say bye bye before leaving Madras. r~ did her regular running-running in the beach and then we headed home.

The next morning passed in a blur. Before I knew it I was at the airport and although I had resolved to not cry this time, predictably I burst into tears just before waving good bye :( On the short flight to Bombay, I intensely disliked k for not wanting to move to India. Anyway we landed in Bombay and it didn't seem to have changed much since the last time I was here. The traffic and crowd here is a bit more than in Madras. New Bombay roads are cool, pretty much like US highway roads. I spent a couple of hours shopping with p~. The store, Sajani had a good collection of materials for salwaar kameez and the dude there was extremely agreeable:

p: "This dress doesn't need lining, does it?"
Him: "Yes, yes, you can wear it without lining, no problem"

p: "Hmm but will it look better with lining?"

Him: "That it will (वो तो हे)"


Then, when p is busy looking at a material, he tells me, "Buy your sister-in-law one more dress no?" and when he thinks I am not looking, he tells p, "You should ask her to buy more dresses, she is going to US no?"



Then, p took me to a tailor shop and like most places in Bombay, there was an infinity fit into a finite space. The small room had another smaller (3 feet by 3 feet?) room where I saw one tailor working on a tailoring machine and then I peeked some more and found two other tailors also sitting and stitching there in that impossibly small space. There were cloths and dresses lying everywhere in that tiny room. Finally, I asked him how he managed to keep his orders straight and he showed me how he stapled small bits of each dress material to the bill and another small matching bit to the customer bill. He also said something about writing the customer order number on the dress although I didn't see him doing that. He rolled up my salwaar and kameez material in a bundle and tossed it carelessly next to several other bundles. So, I asked him what happened if the salwaar and kameez material got misplaced and he said he can tell with a glance which salwaar material goes with which kameez material. And then there were the complicated patterns to select from -- how do you want the front next? V? U? Boat shape? Back neck? Hand -- puff sleeves? Sleeveless? Transparent sleeves? Short sleeves? We let him pick most of it since it was too confusing to decide!


We headed to Lonavala for a few days and stayed in a co-op housing bungalow there. It took me a while to get used to the concept. Basically, rich  man x wants a vacation home where he will stay probably a month a year. The rest of the year since the house needs someone to stay in it for it to be in good shape, rich man rents the bungalow to other folks. There is a cook who lives in the premises and you can ask him to cook what you want (and that is paid) and you have the house to yourself. We managed to co-exist with several life forms in that bungalow (humongous cockroaches -- now I sort of see why he wants people to actually live in the bungalow else it will be overtaken by cockroaches and their cousins and relatives!) and then headed out to Ambi valley (a nice scenic drive), had masala chai on the peak and headed back home. The drive back was tiring and we got stuck in traffic. Poor c (p's husband) drove all the way home and we collapsed on the bed (except for r who managed to take a nap in the car). Lonavala and the drive to the peak reminded me of Smokey mountains and Gatlinburg. Of course, you don't get the "world's best vada pav" in the Gatlingburg shopping strip!

Exhausted after a long day, so rest in pictures...

Best vada pav ever, recommended by c -- k had like 50 of them!

Cute pizza ad at a shopping mall in Lonavala

Malai Kulfi Rabdi at Kailash Parbat, Lonavala -- too rich for words!

Road side vegetables -- seeing this scene after ages!

The creator of the vada pavs!
Eats and Treats check marks :) -- Shir sagar (paav bhaji), Kailash Parbat (Dahi papdi chat), Raam Krishna @ Lonavala (regular punjabi fare and kulfi), Mega mall food court (Vada paav, "rose"), street vada paav and bhajia @ Lonavala, masala chai & corn bhajia @ Lonavala peak.

Chennai: filter coffee @ Ratna Cafe, samosa and gulab jamoon from Gangotri, South Indian parotha and mosambi juice @ Saravanas, Kashmiri pulaav and triple sundae @ Brindavan, Woodlands

September 24, 2010

India - Days 9-12

k returned back to Madras on 20th at some unearthly early morning time and l~ came home a day earlier than he had announced -- that was a nice surprise. I went to Ramanathan pathara kadai again and spent another bundle buying copper-bottomed stainless steel containers, a pressure cooker, nei jaadi (a small vessel to hold ghee) etc. The store had a computer but that was used more like a calculator to add up the total sum. The vessels themselves did not have any item number on them. The store folks just consulted an old ruled notebook to figure out the cost of the vessels. The store was extremely small but had everything!
We even bought a banana hammock and a dish rack there. Customer service there is based on how much money you have to spend. An old guy smelling of tobacco came to get his mixer blade repaired and had to wait the entire length of time we were there.

Ramanathan & Co

Then we headed to Shankara hall (Of course!) We spent an hour browsing there and I bought some golu bommais, an incense stand and picked out some wall hangings. My mom selected a 3D Parthasarathy wall hanging which was quite beautiful (all blue and gold). It's extremely humid here and somehow that's more exhausting than just being hot. I had an equally exhausting (although in a nice way) dance practice session and then we headed to Fisherman's Cove at Kovalam beach (courtest l~ who gets employee discounts there).

The view at Fisherman's cove is breathtaking. Blue waves crashing on the golden sand, green landscapes and coconut trees surrounding our rooms...it's a different world here. It's almost as if I am back in the US (clean, wide corridors, dim lighting, western toilets) until I see the innumerable Indian staff employed to maintain the 5 star hotel. With the exception of my horrendous hair style (think Monica style frizzy hair, thanks to humidity -- remember that FRIENDS episode?) , it's blissful here. Service is the magic word here. Press a button and a man appears to clean your room, get you freshly squeezed sweet lime juice, decadent desserts, press your clothes and fold them in neat little white covers arranged in a wicker basket, a rose placed on a leaf on top of the clothes (Seriously! Yesterday it was a red rose, today yellow).The men had an underwear shortage situation since they gave away everything to be laundered!

View from our room


Sathukudi juice -- my favoritest!

We went or at least tried to go on a boat ride yesterday. We walked in the hot sand, wore our huge life jackets, convinced r~ to wear one and then sat on the boat. But, the motor sound, the rocking boat, the waves crashing into the boat and on her face were too much for her to handle. So she loudly protested and we headed back to the shore. Then k~ and l~ went back to complete their boat ride. k said he swam in the Bay of Bengal (or at least floated with life jacket in the water) and that I should try it too (Fat chance).

Fresh-pressed laundry
We opted for in-room dining a couple of times and stuffed ourselves crazy but after a couple of times that got boring and so we headed to the Mediterranean restaurant nearby. We ordered some familiar and some strange sounding dishes and they were all tastefully arranged on a plate (Food network style plate decorations!) and four different type of desserts! Yesterday we headed to the beach and watched the waves which looked beautiful bathed in the moonlight (but a bit ominous at night) and the crabs which were everywhere. r~ ran about as usual and we just hung out in lounge chairs. She actually fell asleep at the beach. k did his first Ganapathy visarjan at the beach :) The guard said we couldn't go into the water at night but made an exception for our spiritual quest. Yesterday we tried a multi-cuisine restaurant where they took almost an hour to serve us our order. Then we took a buggy back to our room (Oh yeah, the buggy. It's sort of like a low-weight open jeep that works on batteries. To go to any place within Fisherman's cove, we need to ask for a buggy and the driver will take us to the beach, one of the restaurants, the spa etc. I endured some painful threading and waxing but the facial was neat and the detox tea they serve (jaggery, lemon juice and holy basil) is amazing! Looking forward to my "relaxation massage" today (and the detox tea even more).

We went to the crocodile bank yesterday which didn't seem to be that well maintained but true to its name did house a large number of crocodiles.We then went to Mahabalipuram. Like true NRIs, we hired a tour guide and that turned out to be a good thing. He narrated a lot of stories explaining the significance of each important landmark there (Arjuna's penance, Bhima's stove, Krishna's butter ball, the shore temple...) He pointed to a pillar which seemed like it had the carving of a cow and then he hid the cow's face and the carving looked like an elephant! Mahabalipuram was probably the highlight of the trip. The shore temple is pretty amazing...I'll put up pictures here soon - the beauty is better demonstrated through images than words.
Krishnar vennai

Shore temple

@Mahabalipuram


Back to the real world today evening...

September 19, 2010

India - Days 7 & 8

Today for a change we went to Guindy National Park. We probably covered 1/4th of the park and then got too tired and sweaty and so called it a day. The park is well maintained and can probably take up several hours if you plan well and wish to cover the entire park. r~ saw deer, snakes, porcupines, birds of Vedanthangal, monkeys, fish and even got to go on a swing. I didn't realize Guindy National Park was the hangout for couples until today. Everywhere I turned, I saw lovey-dovey pairs hugging, sitting next to each other and just smiling for nothing, staring into each other's eyes...you get the picture. Maybe this is where they enjoy some togetherness while also checking out some wild life!

~*~*~*

I always complain about the dresses that my parents send for r~ and me. They are always too tight, too loose, too shirt -- something is always off. Today I discovered the reason for the continuity in the pattern. My dad took me to our "family tailor" -- an old old man stared at me through thick glasses from behind the tailoring machine. He had one lone assistant in a small shop in Mylapore. After my dad repeated what he said twice, he took note of us, nodded and took the dresses from my dad (to be altered). I guess he is the "aagivandha tailor" and so we stick to him. At least he is better than K.R.Dressers who said he was busy and needed a minimum of 1.5 months to stitch stuff.

~*~*~*

We ate at Sangeetha's today. I don't know if I would have noticed this if I hadn't left India and returned but I definitely found some unsafe areas there. The restroom was completely wet and when I stepped out, I lost my balance a couple of times on the smooth restaurant floor (and this was with me carrying r~). The other day at a jewelry store, they had a full length mirror on what looked like a wall and when I stood in front of it, a man suddenly rushed out of what happened to be a door with a mirror on the outside. I noticed the small handle on the door later. If I hadn't moved in time, it would have been a classic Tom and Jerry scene with an RS shaped mark in the mirror :p

~*~*~*

Am overeating everyday! Today's menu was biriyani, raitha, crisp alu curry in the afternoon; thayir vada, paniyaaram, idiyaapam and filter coffee for tiffin and paav bhaji and curd rice and pulikachal for dinner. I keep thinking my dance classes will balance out the extra calories but it is looking pretty doubtful now.

~*~*~*

r~ is getting so much attention from her thatha-paati, I don't know how I am going to compensate for that back in the US. Plus she has the maid and the cook to entertain her, the driver and the watchman play small games with her. People people everywhere...what is a mom to do?

~*~*~*

I went to AVM sound zone in Alwarpet. Seemed like a nice store that I wish I had more time to browse in...I need to go to Spencers before I travel to Bombay...can't do a Madras visit without setting foot in Spencers!

~*~*~*

Everyone seems to be into cleanliness here. Every store I visit has someone sweeping the place with a broom -- Outside Apollo hospital, the jewelry store, Shanthi tailors, Nageswara Rao park, inside Sangeetha restaurant!

September 17, 2010

India - Days 5 & 6

I ran into someone from Lex at Parthasarathy temple. What are the odds of that  happening?! Today we went to Marina beach again because r~ can't get enough of it! A couple of days back on the way to the beach, opposite the commissioner's office right in front of the beach, a traffic police dude stopped our car. He said we had taken a wrong turn and insisted we we wrong even when our driver tried to talk and explain something. And then, the dude says, "100 Rs kudunga"! I guess the wrong turn is fine when 100 Rs enter the picture? I mean, it's nothing new but it made me mad.

I also went to the hospital to get some tests done. The endocrinologist was as I had assumed she would be. To the point, knowledgeable and quick to grasp the situation. She didn't complain that I did not have the recent blood test results, did not ask unnecessary questions, worked with the data she had and quickly diagnosed the problem. And the wait itself was not too bad although the general sound levels were a world away from that in the US. A constant buzz of conversation surrounded me even in the areas marked "Silent". But the staff was quick and efficient and really, they had no choice considering the number of people standing in line.

I always assumed learning Bharatanatyam in India would be a difficult job ("Muttilaye poduven") but the teacher here is not really strict. She is pretty much like my teacher in the US. Patient (of my mistakes) and passionate about dance although the workout here is a bit harder than in the US. Dancing in hot weather is as difficult as dancing in cold weather!

r~ reacts differently to the people here. She doesn't freak out when people touch her cheeks and her stranger anxiety is much lesser than in the US. Probably also has to do with the language since (for now) she is more comfortable in Tamil than English.

More later...not thinking too coherently now, pleasantly exhausted and ready for zzz.

September 15, 2010

India - Days 2, 3 & 4

Shopping: Service rocks here. If you have the cash flow, you get a personal shopper at almost every store here. I went to Sukra's to buy temple jewelry and all I had to do was read from my list and the salesman there got everything I needed and explained the choices I had. It was quick and very convenient. Ditto at Nalli silks and Citibank. The thatha at Nallis helped me choose the silk sarees and at one point actually picked out 3 sarees and said I must buy those!


Travel: Traveling in Chennai is a pain. No news there. But, if you have a car and a driver, you are sort of insulated. It's like travelling in a bubble watching the madness outside but shielded from it. Even if you own a car, it's quite a task to find a parking spot for any place. 2 wheelers dominate the road. But the stores themselves are a lot more interesting than stores in the US, mainly because these are family owned, mom and pop stores and it's refreshing to have people help us choose products instead of staring at aisles and aisles of products and having to choose, buy and assemble everything yourself.

We went to Marina beach which was fun. Nageswara Rao park was good for r~ although she couldn't really play in the toddler play area (too wet, too many puddles and very different from the "sanitized" parks of America) but it was nice to walk in the park and it was well maintained. We went to Parthasarathy temple which was surprisingly tiring (I know am not supposed to say that) but delightful all the same. r~ kept announcing loudly that there were Umachis (Gods) everywhere and at one point inside a Sannidhi said, "Velila polam, anga chillunu irukum" (Let's go outside, it will be colder outside). She was flushed by the time we finished but she enjoyed the temple trip.


Eat: I ate my "favoritest" foods in the whole world, South Indian parotha, kuruma, raitha and sathukudi juice from Saravana Bhavan! Ate Gulab jamoon and samosas from Gangotri. We have a cook at home for a short while but as with all service providers needs a fair bit of maintenance. She and my mom launch into atha-paati kathai (stories) often much to my dad's irritation because it usually results in us paying the cook for talking to my mom more than cooking :p Yesterday I had elumbichanga oorgai (lemon pickle) and spicy mangai (raw mango) with thayir sadam (curd rice).

People: Everyone here is more open about family matters in front of others, even strangers, except if it involves money :p And the relationships with neighbors, gate keeper, car driver, maid servant, milk lady are closer than in the US. So all of these folks were waiting to see r~ and came home to see her. The calling bell rings home several times a day and so does the phone and the cell phones in the house. Our house is going to sound disconcertingly silent when we go back to the US. People here also offer advice more easily than in the US. Another sight comfortingly familiar is the sacred marks on the foreheads of the people here.  Guests don't expect to be entertained here. So, it's perfectly ok to be cooking or cleaning or even paying bills while the guests make themselves comfortable at home. For kids, even without the better play areas, parks, large open spaces, India is a better place w.r.t the attention they get from people (More on this later).

September 12, 2010

India -- Days 0 & 1

Travel: The first thing I noticed in Brussels (Ok technically not India but let's let's assume it is) airport was the restrooms. I walked into a restroom area, saw the full doors and almost assumed I was in the wrong place. I have always been a supporter of restroom doors that don't stop 1/2 way through like shorts instead of pants (or 3/4ths) especially in those years when I was still new to the US but when the third person tried to lower the latch of my restroom door to see if someone was in or not, I discovered an advantage to the American style restroom -- you always know when someone's inside and the size and style of the shoes they wear!

I was thrilled when I saw that my snack for the last leg of the flight was Paav Bhaji. Welcome home RS. In flight entertainment for Jet Airways rocked -- The Devil wears Prada (4th time?), Athithi, tum kab aaoge, Karthik calling Karthik :)

♥♥♥

Service providers: Yesterday, the electrician came home because my dad had asked him to come and we realized he didn't have to fix anything, so my mom gave him 20 rupees and 2 mysore paks and sent him away.
"!"
In the US, that would have translated to $120 for just showing up.

♥♥♥

Mornings: Heard the Kokkarako Sevale sing it's good morning song yesterday morning at around 5 (because we hadn't slept yet) and today at 5 (because I woke up already)!

♥♥♥

r~: r~ has a lot less stranger anxiety here which is surprising because she is surrounded by more people (and more strangers) here than back in Lex. And if I spent a couple of months here, she would be a lot more fluent in Tamil (To her credit, she already speaks well in Tamil and I know that's going to change, fast, once I start school for her) than I can hope to make her given a couple of years in America. When we landed in Chicago and the lights were turned on in the aircraft, she said, "All done! Vandudthe! India vandudthe!" :) 

♥♥♥

RS: I have become one of those absurd moms sanitizing her daughter's hands in airports and other public places here. When did that happen?

Eat: I told the samayalkara maami that I wanted a lot more coffee than the one small tumbler she gave me and today she gave me a bigger tumbler of coffee (probably the biggest tumbler we have in the house) and it's still less than half of what I would have in the US.


More to come...someone is up :)

August 30, 2010

des-pardes

With the much-awaited India trip sneaking up fast on us, the foremost thought on my head is r2i (no prizes for getting that one right!) I am going to be spending almost a month in India and I want to utilize the time to think about r2i. I guess a month is not a great estimate of what life there will be like when we move there for good. But, it's better than nothing and it's what I've got. So, I plan to use the days focusing on the topic that has featured here most often :)

Aside: Until a few weeks back, I always told myself and I pretty much convinced myself I was here for the money (nice roads, lesser pollution, more breathing space literally but mostly it was for the money). But the more I get exposed to Indian kids, the more I am privy to the good traits they develop as Indian American kids -- the confidence is what is most striking. As a teenager, I had about one tenth of the confidence that teenager here have. Whether it is questioning authority or expressing creativity on stage. The ease with which they blend with people amazes me too. They have this ability to make you feel comfortable and want to interact with them. And that is something I never learned growing up in India. They are also more open minded (which may be a good thing or maybe not since this also decides whom they choose for a life partner, what they choose for a profession and so on) but mostly they are fun to be around. I often see them and wonder if r~ will possess a particularly endearing trait I noticed in one of them and then I tell myself maybe she won't because she will grow up in India and the ping pong in my head goes on for some time. But I am opening my eyes to the positive effects of America on kids whereas until recently I couldn't think of many...essentially I am rocking my steady r2i boat and I have no idea which way it's going to go (a swim in the water seems likely either way ;)

Wondering how best to document my trip (with r2i in mind) this time. I bought a really cute note pad with a beautiful R on the cover just for the purpose of jotting thoughts down where I don't have a laptop handy (I would have bought the notebook anyway -- it's available at BBB and it's amazingly cute :) Maybe I should do a blog post a day for 30 days and judge based on my thoughts and comments (of course) how tricky this r2i journey is going to be. Haven't really figured it out but whatever it is I decide to do, it's going to show up right here!

We will be in 2 cities (Madras and Bombay), so I get to see a little bit of both. I am hoping r~ will not fall sick (as everyone assures me she will). So internet connection permitting, I plan to write and write some more about how India has changed from the image in my head in 5 years! My last trip was in 2005 to get married -- it's been a long long time and I am quite excited about the trip.

I hope the forces cooperate and we have a peaceful trip to India. Meanwhile, if you think you have something to share about r2i, anything I need to keep my eyes open for or even charts/pros-cons and the like, do talk!

August 20, 2010

The nose piercing saga.

So, I figured I had learnt so much about nose piercings and the associated bumps by now that it would be a shame not to share the wealth of knowledge I gleaned from google with the world.

Not too far in the recent past, my dance teacher and I went to get our nostrils pierced after exchanging excited text messages that we should get it done; it's now or never!

We reached Bleed Blue, a small store hidden behind a nondescript campus building @ 10.30 PM. After a 45 minute wait, I bravely went ahead after mentally freaking out for said 45 minutes and got my right nostril pierced (much against k's wishes who declared that women look beautiful only if their left nostril is pierced, the north Indian style). My dance teacher went next and I was glad I went first because the needle was huge and it did hurt! I was too excited to listen to the piercer's instructions but I managed to focus and get the gist of it. It wasn't too comfortable for me to get to sleep that night and the next few nights but I was thrilled. I accomplished a daring feat! I got my nose pierced!

I took meticulous care of my nose and used the saline spray three times a day as the lady had instructed. One night, when I was telling r~ to be careful around my nose, k smirked and said, "It's all healed by now. You got it pierced 2 weeks before!" And so, like any devoted wife, I nodded and became a bit more careless about my nose. I used a qtip to clean my nose and in the process moved the jewelry quite a bit and assumed since it was healed, it was more important that I had a clean nose than not to irritate the piercing (Do not make that mistake no matter what your husband says!)

A few days later, I noticed a circular white crust/small bump right behind my piercing like it's twin sister. I was aghast! How could this happen to my beautiful nose. I turned to k with rage. He shrugged and said, "I told you, get your left nose pierced." Grrr. So I contacted the piercer and since she wasn't going to get any more $ from me, she suggested some remedies and said I had to be patient. That it took at least 3 months to heal.

Here are some of the remedies she suggested and I googled, hopefully some of this is helpful to you if you are fighting the bump :)

1. Warm water compress - Warm water in a cup. Soak cotton balls in it and press on your bump. Do it thrice a day, 10-15 mins each time.

2. Tea tree oil - Add a few drops of tea tree oil (available in natural food/whole food stores) to the warm water and do the same as 1. I tried this for 3 weeks. Not much improvement in my case. I also tried applying the oil directly to the bump. It just reddened it, did not help for me (don't try it if you have sensitive skin).

3. Aspirin paste - Crush a few aspirins with a few drops of water and apply on the bump. Leave for 10 mins or so and rinse with water. Do it three times a day. This seemed to sort of work for me. The bump got a bit smaller.

4. Chamomile tea compress - Same as 1. Dip the tea bags in warm water and press on the bump. This was the most promising solution. It really made the bump smaller and seemed to be working until

I started ignoring my nose during a week long vacation and then the bump grew bigger and when we returned, my daughter in a moment of extra energy flailed her arms and bumped the bump (The piercer had told me I could try this with a sterilized needle as a last resort). It bled and bled. I went to the doc, got it cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and now the bump looks much smaller. This however is not recommended unless you have a toddler at home in which case this will happen eventually :p

So, that's it. Wish me luck with my piercing and I wish you the same :)

July 29, 2010

Post vacation rumination.

Running barefoot (like her dad) @ Standford campus

It seemed like k and I hadn't gone on a real vacation for years and that was probably the case. Between parents and in-laws' visits and baby care, the last thing on our minds was a vacation. We did plan one last year but it got canceled due to unavoidable reasons. So, when I thought of traveling with a toddler and the long plane ride involved, I wasn't really sure if I wanted a vacation yet! But now that I am back, seems to me I needed not one but two vacations. I rediscovered the fun of seeing new places, new life styles and meeting new people (and familiar people who in the process of life had become not so familiar).

r~ had a blast -- she had a 19 month old, a 3 year old and a 15 month old for company and a sprawling house with stone elephants standing as tall as her among other things! Poor thing has a cold and ear infection now but still the experience was nice and different! I got to see different parenting styles (somehow we are all the same behind the various styles :), book shops, at least 4 different Indian restaurants (Komala vilaas, Chaat paradise, Rajjots, Saravana Bhavan), catch icy cold waves crashing against my feet, visit Stanford campus and catch up with my uncle and aunt. A part of me wondered why we hadn't settled down in the Bay Area...it's this thing I often do. Wonder how it would have been if we had settled down in the city we are visiting, hanging out with the people we are staying with on a regular basis, living lives similar to theirs...One of k's friends explained why the schooling system was not great in the Bay area -- not that it wasn't competitive but rather the opposite, it was so competitive, desi kids often ended up overworking themselves and yet feeling inadequate and so on and I almost felt like asking him if they ever thought of moving to Lex. Of course, the usual response to that question is a laugh and something like, "Is that even on the map?" But, vacation makes me think crazy thoughts and I had this sudden urge to get to know these people better and in my head, that meant that they move to Lex! My mind, unaccustomed to the lack of routine, does come up with some fanciful thoughts when am away from home!

The Bay area is a super fun place to live in but life there is literally on the run! You can walk out of your house and catch the train (a big plus for r`), walk a few minutes more into a book store and cafe or a hair salon or the post office and there are real people walking down the streets (a must for any desi or visitor from India!) and of course k rationalized with a bunch of reasons why we live where we live. The rational part of my brain agrees of course but it's fun to dream of different lives and a short stay often leaves an impression behind of the more glamorous parts of the experience and the place rather than the not so comfortable ones. Because in the short duration we spend there, we don't have to deal with the necessities of our daily routine -- how will we travel to work? Will r~ go to a day care? How much quality time can I spend with her and keep a job? Or can I afford to work at home? House? Expenses? These don't matter for the 10 days you spend in a different city and so what captures your imagination are the sights and sounds and the uniqueness of the place.

The trip sort of got me out of the sameness of my routine and broke the extreme focus on the minutiae of my life and it got me thinking of things I normally would not have thought of if I hadn't ventured out of my small town. And meeting new people is refreshing -- always manages to add new dimensions to our ways of thinking.

So yes, red eye flights, jet lags, ear infections notwithstanding, vacations are a good thing :)

July 07, 2010

Nose piercing, technology and r2i -- in other words, random!

So let's see, where do I start? I'll begin by talking about my latest obsession -- my nose piercing. I was so excited to get my nose pierced. It seemed like something daring and different and it still does seem that way except that I have a little bump the size of my nose ring right next to it! And yesterday, the lady at the gym started at it as she spoke. Arrrg. This actually reminded me of that episode in Friends where Chandler says he couldn't date that woman because she has a gunk of mascara sitting at the corner of her eye :p Anyway, I have two options -- ditch the nose ring or patiently wait out the bump on my nose. Not happy about either option.

Edited: So last night, I went to that piercing lady to ask if my nose was going to vanish under a big bubble. So, the impression I had of the lady was this: that she was hep and looked cool with all those weird piercings (too many for me but still...), she was efficient with the piercing and said, "If you have any trouble at all, call me, I am Kari" and I thought, "Gee! What a nice lady! And cool too!" Yesterday though, I came back with a different opinion of her. She saw me come in and the smile literally vanished from her face (probably because she knew I wasn't a paying customer -- just a "return visit customer"), she tried her best to appear disinterested in my...nose and my questions. She didn't smile except in the end to say, "Have a nice day!" and there was no, "Contact me if your nose vanishes..." kind of promises. k said the moment she saw my face, she sat down heavily on her chair (as if she wouldn't budge even if I sprouted a second nose!) So I came out thinking, "How did I ever think this woman was friendly and stylish?" Even her piercings seemed ugly. I guess external beauty really does depend on what goes below the radar. Anyway, I don't recommend Bleed Blue for this very reason -- pretty miserable after sales care.

I really didn't want to discuss my nose piercing in this post but at least it got me to write something. I am feeling sort of restless these days and I feel like I should do something really cliched like ditch facebook for a month or stay off the laptop the whole weekend or something like that. But, I bet that's what people said when cell phones were the rage and really it sort of blended into mainstream culture pretty easily. Maybe that's what will happen with social networking sites too. Everywhere I look, I see, "Catch me on youtube, twitter, fb, check our my blog blah blah". I had an interesting discussion with a friend the other day and she said she didn't really have a facebook account and didn't care for one and that got me thinking. She had her reasons of course -- privacy, waste of time etc. Nothing new there but still, I went ahead and made most of r~'s photos private on fb. I didn't go so far as deleting my account but I felt I had taken a step towards...towards something. I don't really know what that's a step toward! The other day, we went for a walk and k was staring at his new android OS cell phone for most of the walk. When he eventually showed me what he was staring at, I was hooked in too (it was an app that could identify a star if you pointed your cellphone at a star in the sky!) but still a walk is something pristine and peaceful and calming...a device in the mix ruins it! I feel like r~ is missing out on some basic experiences and growing up just like today's iBabies. Instead of listening to her grandma sing thamizh paatu or her thatha tell her stories, she is growing up (with me singing out of tune Tamil songs but also) listening to Nila, Nila on her Tamil DVDs and watching "Ennamma thozhi" on youtube.

The other day, I watched two 5-6 year olds spend a couple of hours sitting on the couch in front of a video game instead of out playing in the sun! I don't really know if r2i is the solution for helping a child grow up with a wholesome mix of things but I am not getting very far here with the desi experience. I try my best though with what I have -- I religiously speak to her in Tamil at home, restrict how much TV she watches (nothing except her baby DVDs and only for drinking her choco milk -- yes, she is that picky with her milk!), make sure she sees me or k light the vilakku and pray everyday but I feel she misses out on people-experience. Perhaps we miss out on it too. I am not a big fan of the huge combined family drama but staying in close proximity to her grandparents is something more beneficial than what she has here. And things that we struggle for here -- like teaching an Indian language or Indian culture will come naturally if we actually lived in India (instead of faking it :)

June 24, 2010

Philately and stuff.

We all dabbled at philately when we were kids. A few years later, the stamp books were forgotten and we switched to the next hobby. I never though "adults" indulged much in hobbies at that time. Hobbies was something kids did for fun. Some times it turned out to be a life long passion and I would picture the intelligent looking gentleman in glasses and a brown beard showing off his exotic stamp collection to admiring oohs and aahs but I didn't think the normal folks did much hobby-wise -- they were too busy leading lives.

So, recently k told me about a book he had read on retirement (Yes, he has been obsessed with that for quite some time now) and he said the basic advice in the book was sure, retire early, go for that world tour and sign up for that salsa class but have a fall back -- something you are passionate about and have been doing on a regular basis, something you can continue to do even after you retire so you don't start feeling depressed with the void that the lack of a regular work routine creates and the kids have gone to colleges, so there is no day to day "busy-ness" to keep your mind occupied. I wondered if this is a desi phenomenon, the result of not having completely integrated into the culture and life here? Would this be the same if I retired in India? Somehow, I think with the people and the sounds and the general life there, one would not have to worry about a stifling, suffocating loneliness post retirement. I am guessing one wouldn't have to worry about driving to the grocery store in the middle of winter and navigating the store with a walking stick either. Kids do leave the nest there too but a middle income couple after retirement can afford to get some tasks done at least with paid help and mostly, the grocery store will have an in home delivery method that doesn't cost an arm and a leg (The last I knew, it was still free). Even if I do retire in Chennai (let's assume) and say my kids are elsewhere, the maid and the regular folks still come home and I still have basic human contact even on the days I feel too tired to visit someone's house. Here, perhaps I would live in a city where I have similar retired friends and unless we make an attempt to drive by their place and spend time with them, it's possible an entire day passes with no real people talking and no one for company but electronic devices and the hum of the AC and refrigerator. I guess, I am just painting an overly bleak picture but every time I see old people struggling in Kroger to carry and manage their bags, I wonder if I am heading there by choosing to live in this country (not that I have made that decision already...I dwell in hypotheticals, you must know that by now!)

And so coming back to the question of hobbies...I guess the book states that if we pursue a hobby of our choice and invest time in it, make connections, find like minded people, that will keep us going through retirement. And perhaps if a week has passed without a call from the kids, it still won't be that bad because we still have basic human contact and we can still spend time with people we like doing the things we like.

Is that why k has taken to running, I wonder? Me? I am going to stick to books and dancing for now. Hopefully they will tide me through our lonely retirement but who knows, maybe I will be in India by then and just wishing for some quiet and peace asking myself why it feels like I am working even when I am supposed to be leading a leisurely, retired life!

Edited: I meant to pen this earlier but got distracted with other thoughts. I think the support system for desis in this country makes it harder to follow up on and be passionate about our hobbies. Given our Indian style of parenting where the kids are not exactly tucked in by 8.30 PM and you  have the rest of the night to relax, even finding little chunks of time where you can concentrate on your hobby becomes a challenge. And for every such chunk of time you find to focus on your hobby, it also means time away from your spouse whom you think you might not recognize in a crowd(:p) thanks to hardly any time spent talking/alone with him. The few free moments we get are spent discussing the baby or house chores. It's hard for a couple to find that one single hobby to spend time on together. Add it all together and you basically have chopped away at your quality time with your spouse for the sake of your hobby. So Saturday mornings find me alone with the baby when he is running or him alone with the baby when I am dancing and that's the price we pay for our hobbies. Somehow, I think it will be easier if we had close family we could leave our child with for those few hours or at least close family we can hang out with, with the baby, because the loneliest part of taking care of a child is the lack of adult company -- we all know that! And yes, we can hire a baby-sitter but I am not sold on the merits of that idea (yet). Where does all this leave us? With a happy toddler and zero date nights and our somewhat ignored hobbies :-)

Ok, I know this is a random post but managing toddlers means having no time to nicely organize your thoughts in little compartments and then express them (Time kidacha eduthuko illati aduvum illa!) -- so do expect more randomness from me.

May 25, 2010

Two men and a bird.

One sunny Saturday morning, I heard the sweet chirp-chirp of what I know now as a Starling. I turned about on the bed, smiled at r~ next to me and this time heard the chirps right above my head as if there were a bird incessantly calling out to me from the ceiling. I alerted k to this fact just like the past 65 times that I had done that and just like the previous times, he muttered an eloquent, "Uh uh" and went back to sleep inside his comforter. So I left it at that.

A few days later, k told me that he is going to Home Depot to do some "chores". This surprised me because k, like other husbands I know, tend not to take up initiative when it comes to chores (Yes, yes, broad generalization). They tend to believe that they live in self-cleaning, auto-organizing houses that prefer not to be interrupted while performing their self-auto-duties. So anyway, I left it at that.

A half hour later, he comes back with a long metal ladder strapped on to the top of our mini-van. "Need to sort this bird issue out", he said sounding very business-like and matter-of-fact.

"What bird issue?"

"The birds in the attic."

I give him a look that says, Ok, so you woke up now after a year to take care of that? 
Maybe 65 is the magic number, remind a man 65 times and he will get the task done asap.
Only in our case, asap turned out to be a bit longer than I expected.

So, he sheepishly admits, "The home depot dude said bird nests in the attic could be a fire hazard. So, I thought I should take care of it."

Strike out the 65 theory.

k valiantly unloads the metal ladder that seems to weight heavier than our house and leans it against the outside of our brick wall on the side of our house. There, about 200 feet high (or some similar dizzying height), there is an opening that our dear Starlings have been using as the entrance to their house -- the nest in our attic.

But you see, if you have ever lived through the experience of "driving birds out of your attic", you will know that step #1 is just that -- driving them out. So k proceeds to do the logical thing next.

Which is place our ipod player, volume turned max, in our attic (In case you are interested, no, he did not have to climb the ladder outside to place the ipod player in the attic; we have an access to the attic through our bedroom closet). The theory is (and you will notice by the time you read to the end of this post that several theories support the "driving birds out of attic" experience, most of which are flawed. The rest are untested.) that birds do not enjoy music that humans do. So, they tend to stay away from human music and humans. And hence an ipod player in the attic will drive the birds away. Ta da! So, all day long, the poor American Starlings hear Suprabharatham and an eclectic collection of Tamil and Hindi movie songs and then k announces that the birds have flown out of the attic.

Which leads us to step #2 -- Clean the attic

No complications in this step. Clean the nest from the attic. Make sure you take big trash bags with you to the attic. Step out with bag full of nest stuff.

And that brings us to step #3 -- Seal the opening so birds can't get in in the future.

k managed to climb the 200 feet ladder propped outside the house, somehow with a drill and drill bits (or whatever the thingamajiggie is called) in one hand, and cover the opening and nail it all down or drill it down or whatever the technical term for that is. And so we are done. And that is how you drive birds out of your attic.

Normally, that is how this happy serial would end. But, ours turned out to be more along the lines of a Sun TV mega serial.

The next morning, I heard sweet bird songs early morning and in my sleep nudged k and said, "Birds."
And then a few moments later, we both sat up upright with the sinking realization that we had sealed those birds in. They apparently enjoyed the music a bit too much and did not exactly leave the attic. They were just silently sitting there praying with MS.

So now enter man #2 of the "2 men and a bird" saga -- S.

k and S hemmed and hawed and tried to decide what to do with the stuck birds. Firstly we did not possess the infinitely tall ladder which was returned to home depot earlier because it costs $30 for every 4 hours! So to recap, the options are:

1. Do it the hard way -- climb the ladder, remove the nails, free the opening and let the birds fly home or fly away in this case. And then reseal.
2. Do it the harder and possibly more comical way which is to remove the opening to the attic from our bedroom closet, leave all the windows open in our bedroom and let the birds fly from the attic to the bedroom and out the window.

Thankfully, they decided against #2. Ok, so I thought k & S decided to go with option 1 but k tells me I am wrong. The wise men chose option 2. So, the men decided they would go up the attic from the bedroom, leave the attic entry open, leave our bedroom windows wide open and use the window screens as tools to lead the bird out our bedroom window (An hour prior to that, the men sort of waited for the birds to fly out all by themselves which of course they chose not to). Once in the attic, k had the bright idea to shine a pen light torch towards the bird in the hope of attracting the bird to the opening. The bird liked the light a bit too much and flew straight towards k. Of course, our brave man fought hard till the end which involved frantically waving the light and pushing the bird towards S. The bird took the hint and flew straight to S who at this point tried to wave the bird off with his window screen but in the process stepped onto our dry wall and then he sort of hung out in our attic. By that I mean, literally that -- his leg broke through the dry wall and sort of dangled below our ceiling inside the house!

Edited: k tells me they took a stick and a window screen up the attic. The stick to wave the bird towards the attic opening and the screen to protect themselves from the grave danger that Starlings are capable of inflicting on humans with sticks :p

In case, that wasn't clear, this scene should explain:
One man waving his pen light torch in arcs and his window screen with his other hand crouching in the dark attic. Other man valiantly trying to deflect the bird away with one foot dangling down our rest room ceiling and one scared little bird trying to figure it all out.

So bright idea #2 having turned out to be a spectacular failure, our men decided to fall back to #1. My manager was kind enough to lend us a ladder and this time k did it all by himself -- basically a repeat of the first part of this serial.

Long story short, the bird did eventually fly out. S's leg is doing much better now. The hole in our ceiling is fixed and drying now. k has realized that theories about driving birds out of the attic are just that -- theories and may not work out for musically inclined Starlings with a penchant for bright lights.

3" button / pin printed with hatchling, feeding, starling, bird, animal

May 14, 2010

Quality waste-of-time!

k and I are a perfect match when it comes to the matter of hanging out with folks (Y'all may notice I don't use the word perfect loosely especially when it comes to marriage stuff. Prefer to let other couples vie for the perfect couple spot; too much pressure to be one! Also, how will r~ learn the tricky art of mule-headed arguments unless we lead by practice? :p) So anyway, k and I are the kind of couple that need about 32 seconds to make up our minds when someone calls us to hang out with them.

Them: "So you wanna' hang out?"
k: (holding receiver and looking at me): "What time can we feed r~ and have her ready?"
Me: "Gimme 10"
k: "We'll be there in 15."

So that's the amount of planning we do when someone calls us. What's the word am looking for? It's not "people's person" -- that's someone people want to spend time with not someone who wants to spend time with people almost always...that's the word that describes us.

I have noticed some folks tend to keep some occasions private: anniversaries, birthdays and so on. They do cool, romantic things, fly to exotic places and come back to share awesome pictures with us. Some couples stay home and take it easy and just celebrate quietly. We, on the other hand, strongly believe in the "the more the merrier" cliche'. if k or I can squeeze in 2 additional people to the party, we would do so even if we had to spend 30 minutes convincing them that our home was a really hep hangout place and we would ensure that they would stay entertained the entire duration of their stay.

So given that, we (I should probably start speaking in the singular; k can say what he thinks in his expired blog if he wants to) or I am constantly surprised when people chose to opt out. No, am not talking about you or you in particular. This is sort of a sum total of my observations based on my 10 year stay in Lex. So anyway, why do people say no when you call them to spend time with you? Let's analyze:
  • They are booked for that time.
  • They do not belong to the "Oh...we are one big set of friends" camp.
  • They would rather go to the dentist (or as P~ would put it, "They don't like you, don't you get it? Duh!")
  • They don't like your facebook updates.
So to summarize, those people who opt out of get-togethers baffle me (maybe they really don't like my updates)! Maybe they really have important things to do with their free time than chat with me about my facebook updates. No seriously, I always wonder what the driving factor is to refuse an opportunity to share some face to face personal time in this increasingly virtual world. I guess kids are a good reason to say no. If one is throwing up on your tshirt the moment the invitation comes along, I suppose there is a valid reason to hold your breath and say no and then get your kid to sit down in the bath tub when you give her a bath (Don't get me started on that!). Another good reason is playing hard to get but wait -- we are not in College anymore. Drat! And I thought I was on to a breakthrough there deciphering the forces behind people's choices. I, on the other hand, got myself up the world's fastest, highest, all-est wooden roller coaster and my limbs shook for 30 days after the event, because while I detested and still do detest roller-coasters, I went along for the big gang (Unfortunately, the 2 other girls in the gang wanted to try out all the number 5, hardest rides. Ugh). Basically, I believe in the power of numbers; show me a big gang and I'll tag along for the ride even if it is to, God-forbid, King's Island (k, if you are reading this post, no, it does not mean we can take r~ to Kings Island. No, you may not pay random people to tag along.) And in this respect, k is just the same. When we were students and had a lot more free time, he would constantly look for excuses to call people home: we have thrown graduation parties, got-a-job parties, got-hitched parties, star-at-home parties (When Crazy Mohan and YGM were home), dal-bhati parties, golu get-togethers, New year's parties, birthday parties...you get the idea.

I suspect though that we are entering a time where we are so restless, constantly multi-tasking that the days of leisurely banter and "time pass" are behind us. We catch up online and are so caught up in our lives that we forget to leave some time out for wasting. Oh no, not to say I have mastered the art of zen living but am just throwing this out there and reaching random conclusions (because if you can't reach random conclusions on your blog, where can you?)


You know how in School, there's always this girl pleading with another girl to come...somewhere to do something, "Vaaayen! Nee vaaayen!" I suppose I am that girl now. I often wonder why I prefer to have a gathering whenever possible. Do I like the sound of conversation? Do I like the idea that I have a whole bunch of friends around me and that feels good? Am I bored too hang out with just k and to be fair to k, is he bored to hang out with just me and therefore we feel the need to invite 6 other people to dissipate it? Of course we have r~ now and she keeps us more occupied than 10 people can but even now, I prefer a gang to alone time. As one of my friends put it tongue-in-cheek, "As RS would say -- Let's get together and have some fun!"

Yes, RS would say that. And I guess that's just in my genes. Gotta remember to ask mom and dad if they were like that (Based on what I know, that is true) too.

Although sometimes, I think I go out of my way to spend time with people leading to situations such as:

"Hey, am going to get my eyebrows waxed, do you want to come along and share the joy of beauty?"

"Hey, taking r~ to the doc, wanna call it a play date and also grab a coffee with a screaming kid at Starbucks?"

I have always fantasized about living in the same town with the perfect set of people to hang out with. The kind of people who jump at the opportunity to make pots and paint them with you for example. Or eat at that tacky Indian restaurant that served GulabJamoons along with the plastic wrappers, warmed to perfection that other day. Or watch that Hindi movie that has the horrendous reviews just for the heck of it. Or waste a quality 60 minutes in your company.

Now, wouldn't that be something?

May 07, 2010

Jumble again.

Seems like I either don't find the time to organize my thoughts into a single coherent topic for a post or I do find the time but my mind doesn't want to put in the effort for it. So, here's a jumble again:

► I keep saying I really want to return to India for good but I guess at some level, I am apprehensive, sometimes scared of the prospect of going back for good and what all it would entail. In the end it seems to be whether I want to live the life I want, the way I want when I am healthy and young and then handle the tough decisions that life in America will throw my way when I am retired (Mainly to do with the dynamics between r's lifestyle and choices and how they will affect k and me) vs live a challenging perhaps difficult but fulfilling(?) life in India now with the chaos and color that family will bring and lead a relatively more peaceful old age to put it simply. If r grows up in India, she is going to be Indian (Duh ☼) and Indian culture will automatically be a part of her life. But my life is going to be dictated at least in part by others. Of course I can be a bad gal and ditch what people say. But really, what's the point of going all the way to live a life there when all you are doing is being miserable because you can't make the people that matter with their infinite demands happy ☺? So money and comforts aside, the r2i deal seems to sprout new tentacles each time I think about it.

► "That's my girl!" k says when finally r shows interest in a tiny racing car that he's been trying to entice her with since she turned 6 months.Automoblox Mini C9 Sports Car Yellow by AutomobloxAnd I was going to give him the mommy-knows-all lecture of "Don't try to impose your interests blah blah" and then stopped myself. I have been guilty of that too. I have been trying to get r interested in books since she was 6 months old and I believe I have succeeded but that's an example of me trying to impose my interest on her too. I guess there's a difference between imposing our unfulfilled dreams on our children and teaching them to love the traditions we love. And right now, it's more of the latter than the former. Maybe when she is 18 and wants to be an entomologist and I am insisting that she take a Literature degree, that's when I have issues to deal with ☺.

► I have noticed k (I should say men since I like to generalize based on k :p) don't do well with multi-processing. If I have asked k to do one thing and then I tell him do this after you finish, then he just freezes in his tracks and looks at me like I just spoke Ancient Greek to him. The whirring pace of one task after another in my head are no match for the precise, one task at a time only chugging that goes on in his head. And I have noticed he doesn't do well with too many choices. Even if it's just his clothes. The Spring wear he sports now has been exclusively hand picked by yours truly :p I, on the other hand, like most moms (Should I say women?) like to multi-process (Sometimes, I don't have a choice) and plan ahead. Wayyyy ahead. I like to have the if-then-elses in place in my head and plan out possible routes (Yes, yes, I do understand life tends to get unpredictable but I like to assume I have the power to handle the predictable at least!)...Mars-Venus I guess. Who knows?

► Anonymous blogging is boring. Firstly, it's hard to get a reader base if you are starting off as a nobody, just too much work to patiently write interesting niche stuff until you have people stopping by. But, if you already own a known home in the blogosphere, then this anonymous getaway is sorta not that appealing because it lacks the people interaction I guess. So anyway, I started writing (venting? :p) in this mom blog. A couple of reason I wanted it to be anonymous: moms tend to carry passionate views about parenting styles and I guess everything else related to kids and I didn't want to inadvertently write stuff that will rub other moms the wrong way; I wasn't editing, so just dumping thoughts from my head to the screen...so long story short, here it is: desi mom. Another blog? Until I set up my own website somewhere and aggregate all my blogs, a new blog it is plus am afraid I'll scare folks away from here if I keep writing twitter-style mommy blog posts here! Yada, yada...feel free to take a look, ignore, comment and all that good stuff. Like I said, blogs with no readers are sort of like unread books -- there might be good reading material in them or at least glimpses of it but you never know until you pick them up and read it :)

April 24, 2010

Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya


A few weeks back, in our dance class we had a discussion about happiness and sadness and their ability to move the audience. "You know happiness moves readers too, don't you? You don't always have to write stories that carry a tinge of sadness with them...", my dance teacher said. And I guess she is right. I do tend to stories with pathos more than outright humor and simple happily ever afters. After several comments from people that I ought to give that line of writing a shot, I did write "The prophecy" which for the most part was a lighthearted, feel-good story but that story was the exception. And I feel the same about this movie...

*spoiler alert*

It could have ended with a happily ever after and I would have liked nothing better but then the story and it's poignant moments wouldn't come back to haunt me with what ifs, would it? Boy meets girl, falls in love and they walk hand in hand into the sunset. All is well and we leave with a smile on our lips. But then it sort of fades into the background. When Karthik sits on the bench with her and explains why he couldn't have forgotten her -- her funny gait, her straight and curly hair and how he coped with the Jesse in his heart, the tears that fall from his eyes stay back with us because in the end, in spite of everything, it's all lost and they cannot be together. And somehow the poignancy of that situation outweighs the bliss of a happy ending.

This movie has touches of Alaipayuthey to it and the scenes just after Jesse's canceled wedding reminded me of the terrace scenes in DDLJ but then VTVsmacks us in the face with a surprise ending. And the what-could-have-been scenes that Karthik weaves into his first movie make the ending that much more powerful. Because, the audience is with Karthik and Jesse celebrating their union after what seems like a lifetime and then suddenly it all turns out to be a mirage, an unattainable wistful concoction of the mind and the palpable disappointment and hurt in their glances and words cuts through our hearts as well. I liked the way Gautham deals with the capricious workings of a woman's mind -- "Naan appadithaan", "Apo venumnu thonichu, ipo vendamnu thonardu". And the veiled vanity in Jesse's eyes when she asks, "You are crazy about me-nnu sonna? Yen?" is a dialogue nicely rendered by Trisha. Silambarasan as the forlorn lover is believable -- he delivers his lines with an understated flourish. An entirely enjoyable (although a tad repetitive) flick by Gautham Menon and the music by Rahman is to die for!

April 14, 2010

Me, me, me.

I suppose this post should come with a disclaimer of some sort so it seems acceptable to all people but I am going to skip the formalities because...ah well, I just can't be bothered. My pollen infested allergy-eyes can barely see the main content leave alone peripheral niceties.

So, I suppose I am still a new comer to this country and in a way, I am still learning the workings of the society and the way the system works here. One small aspect of the whole culture here that I am still getting used to is American weddings. Like George Lopez says to his wife, "Face it. This is not about you!" when he tries to calm an anxious bride whose wedding he is planning ("You are the most beautiful bride I have seen!"). I guess that lady in that episode (She is that famous desperate housewives babe whose name I can't recall) is who I am writing about today.

Yes, the day has to be perfect. Yes, it's magical and a match made in heaven no doubt. But really, to what extent should this blessed day be morphed to match an imagined, perfect wedding day, roses and doves and all?

I guess it strikes me as strange partly because of my background as an Indian. Our weddings are mostly about our parents. Friends and relatives of our parents throng our weddings while our parents stand proudly next to us and introduce countless faces that blur in front of our eyes (The sweat that pours from our over made up foreheads because of the glaring bright spot lights on us as we stand on the stage could be part of the issue). It is a big day for them. We, the bride and the groom are the cynosure of all eyes but in all, it is a bigger day for our parents.

Compared to that, here the day is about the bride and the groom only and mostly about the bride only. The focus is on love and romance and it should be but it also is on what one woman considers her dream day should be like. Down to the colors that border the trim of the bridesmaid's dress. It becomes more about the dress and the decorations and everything material...and how much a planner can match these expectations.

I guess I don't really have that much insight into an American wedding up, close and personal but at least that's what I see from popular television here. I guess in a way it's fun for the bride. It's the day she's dreamed of since she was a little kid (I guess Indian girls dream of getting into IIT when they're 5 :p)...but something strikes me as just off with this setting. Blame it on my brown upbringing...but I tell it like I see it, I guess.

Maybe I am just jealous because I didn't get a day of my own that I could construct bit by bit and watch unfold on D day (I doubt it)...but, who knows? There's more I want to say about this but can't sit out here any more...be back when the season changes. Accchhhhhooo!
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