Posted in Experiences, Hari Katha, Holidays, Kids, Ram Leela

India Trip (May 2012) – Part 2

The earlier post on our trip to India was turning out to be longer than I had intended, so breaking the tale into two parts.

– No matter how much we  change as people, some things never change. Like the comfort of eating home cooked food made by amma, that too your childhood favorites. With all the dishes spread out in the kitchen, eating from plates that we used as kids, and yapping away to glory. Priceless, wouldn’t you agree? Likewise  counting on appa to tell you the directions. The one time that I went on my own, I called him a gazillion times to guide me. He will always be my hero when it comes to directions!

– Anywhere we went, we went in taxi. The traffic and the heat really made it overwhelming for us. I know I speak like a typical NRI. But honestly, the Chennai traffic or the heat for that matter, is simply hard to ignore. Also, I kept hearing horror stories about power failures. I am told that Trichy and Coimbatore had scheduled power failures at night this summer. It’s another thing that every house has an inverter that keeps the essentials running, even then scheduled power failures at night says something about the mismatch between demand and supply.  I guess that’s the price we pay for stretching our resources thin.

– Given that the trip was only for a couple of weeks with two out of town trips and a wedding thrown in between, I had kept my expectations around meeting friends to bare minimum. Nevertheless, it was fulfilling reconnecting with some friends that I had not spoken in ages, and with friends that I was speaking to for the first time.  It was like we have always been in touch.

– Given the heat, short duration of the trip, and a super clingy child, one would think that shopping would take low priority. But no sir, not for me. On the contrary I shopped with gusto. I was going to India after three years, how could I not play catch up in the shopping arena.

– The purpose of the trip was to attend my cousin’s wedding. I still remember the first time I saw her as a one year old sitting in the hall devouring her quota of milk for the morning. And lo behold, here she was a grown woman turning a new leaf in her life . Really, where did all the years go? and how could I not be part of this occasion? Lucky for me, all the stars aligned and the trip materialized. Being one of the eldest grandchildren in the family, I always thought of my cousins as little kids. This trip gave me an opportunity to know and bond with them as adults. Today as I write this post I think of them as mature adults doing remarkable things in their own ways.

– The wedding was held in Coimbatore, also one of my favorite cities in India. I lived in Coimbatore for three years, during my undergrad years. So this trip brought back fun memories. Riding pillion with my chithappa, the ADU days, the bakery and shops at R.S.Puram, my dance class in Puthur, Siruvani thanni, and the Panchamuga Aanjineyar kovil. And yes, managed some shopping in Coimbatore as well. In fact my best shopping for the entire trip was in a small fair that gave me more bang for the buck while supporting a small scale business.

– The wedding itself was fun packed catching up with second cousins, and extended family. I particularly enjoyed how Hari bonded with everyone, from his cousins to mine to my dad’s uncles and aunts, and the groom’s side. He took care of himself at the wedding hall. Conversing in broken tamizh with paricharargal (cooks) and making friends with them. Engaging in cricket conversations with anyone that cared to listen.

As he grows up, Hari might forget most of what happened in the trip. But what matters is this time he experienced the stay to its fullest, and  he was so much at home in India, in the places where I grew up, with the people that I grew up with. Likewise for Ram, given his age at the time of the trip, he may not remember his great grandparents, but seeing him in person has made him so real to them and has brought much contentment. Just by these two measures, this trip was a grand success.  

Posted in Experiences, Hari Katha, Holidays, Memories, Ram Leela

India Trip (May 2012) – Part 1

Given that our India trip was three months back, this post is dated. But I wanted to jot down some lingering memories before they faded into oblivion. Be warned that this is a long tale meant for personal recollection.

– When I told my friends that I would be going to India by myself with two kids in tow, they thought I was a brave soul. “Are you sure you can manage two kids on a long flight”, they asked.  Truth be told, I felt braver knowing that Hari would accompany me. Hari has good presence of mind, thinks of a problem in terms of solutions, and is very observant. As we entered the flight, I heard him mutter to himself, “I am older than Ram, I should protect him.” It’s another story that the sense of responsibility vanished every now and then, for which I was glad because it meant the seven year old was as he should be – carefree! The trip made me realize how much I have come to count on him to listen, to lend a helping hand and be my companion. The perks of having your little one grow up!

– While Hari was super excited throughout the trip, Ram had mixed reactions. Overcome by jetlag,  heat, and the unfamiliar surroundings, the poor child chose to deal with the change by being clingy. Suffice to say that he insisted on being glued to me at all times and staying at one arm distance from rest of the clan. And as long as these requirements were met, he was a jolly camper, taking in the activities around him with glee – the lorries and the autos, the dogs and the cows, the car and the train rides, and the mamas and the mamis. Tell you, India truly is so full of life.

– Hari’s highlight of the trip was watching the Chennai Super Kings vs. Delhi Dare Devils match at the Chidambaram stadium. Due thanks to my parents and chithappa for making it happen. My parents went above and beyond to have his dream come true. And as a reward, the child was deliriously happy..!  He wore his Chennai Super Kings t-shirt and hat, got his face painted, and simply enjoyed every second of the match. To date it is the first thing that comes to his mind when we talk about our India trip. Did I forget to mention that he managed to have a good collection of IPL t-shirts, which he insisted on wearing every single day in the sweltering heat? Yikes, those t-shirts come in ugly colors and uncomfortable fabric. Honestly, I couldn’t wait for the excitement to ebb.

–  The trip also gave me some precious quality bonding time with my paternal patti. This is the first time I was seeing her after thatha passed away and it was heartbreaking to see her without thatha. She kept reminiscing about our childhood days, and recalling how thatha always thought of me as his chella pethi till his very end. The trip meant the world to me as much to patti. I was so glad she had an opportunity to see and get to know the kids better and vice versa.

– We made a day trip to Trichy where my maternal grandparents live. The drive itself was a ton of fun, with lots of yapping, playing and reminiscing with my parents. Trichy holds a special place in my heart because majority of my school years were spent in this beautiful city that is full of character. My maternal patti is an artist. She makes beautiful art with beads. I have seen her works all my life, but it is in this trip did I truly appreciate the beauty and the talent behind the framed art, and took the time to lavish compliments on her.  I promptly looted a few of them as keepsake. Patti is a good cook as well and I have never seen anyone labor like her in the kitchen. Have you ever tasted homemade sevais? It is a South Indian delicacy akin to noodles that is very labor intensive, to put it mildly. She would dish out a bunch of flavors – lemon, coconut, lentils, jaggery – for us to devour. Instead of relishing every bite of it, what would we ask her? 2 minute maggi noodles. Sigh! Anyways, I digress. She had cooked up a storm that day. The next time I complain about having to cook, I will think of my 83 year old patti who does not have access to frozen veggies, and pre processed food, and does everything from scratch purely because it’s her way of expressing affection for her loved ones. Age has taken a toll on my thatha, but recalling all the fun days we had with him seemed to cheer him up. That will be a topic for my post some other day. Our trip to Trichy made me realize how distance and time creates fondness like no other. What was once taken for granted is thoroughly cherished with the passage of time.

– On our way back, we swung by my school, which is a very scared piece of my childhood. The good old Banyan tree under which we gathered innumerable times, the cycle stand that was proof of the discipline that the school espoused, the P.T. area that has seen me flunk in shot puts and long jumps, the humungous playground that hosted our heats and sports day, our classrooms in front of which we have knelt down as punishment, the talking and the socializing in the bathrooms. To say that I was drowning in memories from childhood is an understatement. It felt like I was retrieving memories out of every brick in that building. Sharing this slice of my childhood with my children meant much to me.

Continuing the rest of the narration in second part.

Posted in Experiences, Inspiration, Learnings, People

The Year of the Rose

I do not remember distinctly how I landed on Shubha’s Weblog, but I have been following her for more than a couple of years. Subha is a published author. She practices mindfullness and has a nearly two year old in tow. I look forward to her posts, not only for the reading pleasure they bring but also to learn from her practice of mindfullness and apply it to my living.

Accepting myself for who I am, with my own strenghts and weaknesses. Being aware of what Hari and I call as our “judging voice” and letting it go. Being magnanimous with my follies and treating myself with compassion.  Just be, here, now, in this moment. These are few things that I have been inculcating in my life, thanks to wisdom from Shuba’s posts and other bloggers on my Reader list.

Subha has recently published a book called The Year of the Rose: Reflections of a new mother and lessons in mindfulness and loving-kindness. The second I read the announcement on my reader, my dilemma was not whether I should buy the book or not. But whether I should get a soft or a hard copy. I chose the hardy copy version because I knew I would want to read the book over and again, which is what I have been doing ever since the book arrived.

Please  check out Subha’s space, and if the writings resonate with you, do consider purchasing her book. I can assure you it is time and money well spent.