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'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 :)
© Ramya Sethuraman, All Rights Reserved.