Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving

During the first few years of my move to the U.S., I used to associate Thanksgiving with superficial things. A break from the daily grind. Grabbing the best sale the day after. Planning a getaway during the four-day weekend. But since then I have grown up. The days leading up to Thanksgiving are filled with reflection and warm sentiments. It’s time to just be. With folks that I hold close to my heart. To take out the Christmas tree and get ready for the holiday season. No wonder, it is a beloved holiday.

Here are some sentiments swirling in my head this Thanksgiving morning.

The fullness of life, the competing priorities, and the constant running around. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The family that accepts me for who I am. With the good, the bad and the ugly.

Celebrating friends we have adopted as family. The four desi families in our neighborhood will gather tonight for food, company and merriment. A tradition that has come to be.

The voice of reason. Even when there is a storm raging in my head, there is a voice of reason that takes a step back to look at the big picture, filters the noises from the issues, and gives me the much needed strength to be the eye in the storm.

TedTalks, Zen Habits, HONY, and the several memoirs I have read this year. I have leaned on them as I traverse the journey of finding myself. I have always been in awe of the spirit of human resilience, but the richness of these real life stories have taught me that I too can choose to be resilient.

Born in this day and age. The technology that allows me to learn Tamizh from my parents via Skype. The society that has diminishing tolerance for discrimination in the name of age, sex, or for that matter the choices we make.

On that note, I have to take leave of you now. I have two little people demanding pancakes and whipped cream on the side. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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Hari Katha, Milestones

Turning Nine

Barely able to keep my eyes open, I impatiently tucked Hari last night so I can finally settle down for my “me” time. Like I always do, I asked him, “what made you happy today kanna?” and without missing a beat he replied, “all the work that you did to celebrate my b’day amma” Ha, he had noticed the efforts that had gone into celebrating his special day. His acknowledgement of it touched the depths of my heart, and in that instant the exhaustion from running around the whole day melted away just like that. “I will do it a thousand times over for you my child,” I thought to myself. It’s precisely moments like these that make parenting experience the magical adventure that it is, isn’t it?

The other day I accidently knocked my leg on the dishwasher door, and whimpered. Hari saw me in pain. Without wasting a second, took an ice pack from the refrigerator and pressed it on my legs. All the while staying calm, trying to do what made the most practical sense with the maturity of an adult. No wonder I feel more confident and stronger when he is around, by my side.

More often than not, I tend to be hard on myself. Hari is the best antidote I could have asked for. With his goofiness, sarcasm and wisecracks, he constantly reminds me to not take myself so seriously. “Hari, I feel like I have had a lot of sugar for the past few months, so I am going to try stop eating sugar for this month” With mischief dancing in his eyes he said, “Good for you amma. But don’t worry, that will not inspire me to stop eating junk.”

He was required to do a cover page for his writing journal at school. The cover page was suppose to be a representation of who he is. He chose to do a collage that would capture all the special things we did together as a family. The smile on my face stretched a mile long as he drew a picture of our family to give that personal touch.

I cherish the sibling-ness between Hari and Ram – the protectiveness, the way Hari teaches Ram, and the pride that Ram is his little brother, and the unadulterated love he bears for him. I also love seeing Hari trying so hard to curb his frustration when Ram drives him bonkers – the gritting of the teeth, the rolling of the eyes, the tension in his being. Who better trainer than a little brother to learn to accept people for who they are?

Hari and I have a little game. When I say “I love you” to him, he would retort “I love you more than you love me”, and our silly competition would extend from there. As I fondly tuck away the clothes that he has outgrown, or the toys he is done playing with, I embrace them a little longer, thankful for all the good times we have had.

On your special day Hari, wishing you happiness, good health, lots of fun, and all the things that you wish for, today and always. Love you to bits little one God bless you my child. And yes, I will try not embarrass you with hugs and kisses in public, only smother you within the four walls of our house, cool beans?

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Memories

Guinness book of world records

The reading nook in Hari’s class has a copy of the Guinness book of world records, and the child is enamored of it. The book has sparked his ambition to do something groundbreaking and have his name featured in it. While he is still undecided about what record he wants to break, apparently juggling underwater crossed his mind!

There was a time when I too dared to dream of getting into the Guinness book of world records. I think I drew my inspiration from the Doordarshan show in the weekends. Curious to know what record I was aspiring to break? Ahem ahem, I wanted to be someone who can spit the farthest. I truly thought it was a dream worth aspiring for and even practiced it in the pazhakadai (back yard) during my summer vacation – stuffing water more than what my mouth could hold, spitting it with gusto, and measuring the distance to track my progress. Of course, the aspiration vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

I guess the Guinness book inspires us to think outside the box. Hey if not anything, a few decades down the lane it will give us much needed laughter on a tension packed week night.

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Experiences, Holidays, Memories, Us

Karthigai Deepam

As a Tamilian, I have never been able to celebrate Deepavali as a festival of lights. In my mind, it is Karthigai that I associate with rows and rows of lamps. Growing up, I was used to the practice of placing lamps at the front entrance during the month of Karthigai, with all of us eagerly counting down to the grand finale. And a lot of times, to my disappointment, the calendar that my clan follows would mark the Karthigai festival a day or two later than when the rest of the world celebrated. Despite that, it was a joy being part of the festivity – wearing pattu pavadai, setting the lamps with oil and thiri, arranging them in the living room, at the entrance, and even the bathrooms and constantly guarding them from the breeze. Not to mention the pride in my heart as I step back and take a look at the glowing house. Somehow my house seemed to always sparkle brighter than rest of houses in my street. That was my past. My childhood.

What about my present? The practice of placing the lamps at the front entrance has not stuck with me. But I do take out my lamps, and candleholders and arrange them on the mantle.I try to recite as much Kandha Sashti, one of my favorite slokams, as I can. Normally making bakshanam does not take a priority in my religious routine. This year, on a whim, I tried my hands on making pori urundai. “It’s sweet but not too sweet”, said the husband, and polished two to three urandais, which I am taking as a compliment.

On that note, Happy Karthigai to you all. Let the light in you shine brightly, now and always.

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Introspection, Learnings, Life

Dharma and Karma

The concept of Dharma makes sense to me. From the book Difficulty of Being Good by Gurucharan Das, I learnt that Dharma is a very relative and personal guiding principle. To some, it is the call of duty. To others, it is doing the right thing. To me, it’s the highest form of personal integrity. The voice of intellect that guides me, and brings clarity to the chaos that the mind creates. Over the years, unintentionally, I have begun to trust this voice of intellect and it *feels* like I am fulfilling my Dharma when I dare to listen to this voice.

The concept of Karma intrigues me though. A discussion I had with a couple of friends on FaceBook shed some light on the topic. Jotting down the pieces that resonated with me here for my reference.

Maha: I do not know much about karma other than the simple premise that what goes around comes around or as a friend put it, as you sow, so will you reap. But I find that explaining life situations in terms of Karma to be somewhat of an oversimplification. I just posted a review on a book called Waves. A life story of a person who lost her family to Tsunami. Then I wonder about the kids that get abused. Or about the kids that were killed in shooting. I mean these are outcomes that no human being deserves to undergo, no matter what your/your family’s karma is/was. The notion of Karma feels so unkind, and unforgiving to me. People should be allowed to make mistakes and evolve.

Friend 1: I guess we often confuse the two terms ‘fate’ and ‘karma’ . Karma is not fate. It is not any punishment either. It just is. neither good nor bad. It is not even about deserving. It is about the laws of nature. If you put your hand in a fire do you “deserve” the pain and blisters? It just happens eventually as an effect of your action of ‘putting your hand in the fire’. It is us who put the judgemental factors into ‘karma’. If we look at a poor person and say “he deserved it due to his past karma” then that attitude is an abuse of karma . Isn’t it? The crucial point is the moment when we lose our empathy and compassion in viewing the condition of another and we go about thinking “he deserved it” . “Deserved” is a word in the lexicon of judgements and karma itself is not driven by judgement … it is just being nothing more than a law of nature. That is my understanding.

Friend 2: Whether Karma is justified or not, whether it is reasonable in your opinion or not, it goes on. It is cause and effect. It is a fundamental truth of dynamics of life. you, a big bunch of molecule or a thinking machine, when you do something, you will have a consequence of what you have done. In reality, the consequence has ” started” immediately!!! you may realise much later or may not realise the consequence at all!!. When realising much later, you may not connect with the cause at all. This does not mean any lack of Karma property. Our inability to perceive and interpret properly does not invalidate Karma theory. It is one way of understanding the dynamics of life and be careful in guiding our ” free will ” for ” worthy” causes.

Friend 2:Theedum Nandrum Pirar Thara vaaraa.. greatest statement in any language. certain things can not be explained or understood by looking at only a ” local context”.. most misunderstanding comes due to lack of ” global understanding” and perception. If you work in a company and if it is suddenly closed due to loss or competition and if you lose job, you take a global view and say Ok for the loss of job, though you may be doing very well. you do not say ” i lost the job for no fault of mine”.. this understanding comes to you when you take a broader look of urself in a context. you did not do a bad stuff to loose the job.. the whole company , in another dynamics , is lost and you are a part of it. you are a part of it BECAUSE of the action you did in the past to ” join the company”.. certain things like tsunami can not be understood when u take a local view.. it is a global one u suffer because u r a part of a big system.

Friend 2: Also, we never even consider the good days we had on the beach front!!!! You enjoy breeze and sea view… did we create it/made it to enjoy it? sea has both tsunami and grand view, fish for your dinner etc.. for tsunami we question but food and great view we take for granted!! Anyway, Karma theory was discovered much like formula for solar and lunar eclipse — long time of observation, analysis, finding commonality, pattern etc. that Karma is foundation for all dynamics of life is as astonishing discovery as the formula which predicts the lunar eclipse days in 2014!!!!

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The closest analogy that I can come up to explain Karma is one of statistical models. I am no statistician, but my daytime job involves explaining the results of statistical models. I have supported linear statistical models wherein there is clear cause and effect relationship between the variables and outcome. I have also supported black box models wherein all you know is a set of variables produces a certain outcome, but you cannot isolate the variables to pinpoint the contribution of each variable to an outcome. Karma is no different. Sometimes the cause and effect direct and at other times it is clear as mud.

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Hari Katha

School Bus

For the past three years, we have been lucky to have Hari’s school bus stop right in front of our house. No such luck any more though. The bus stop has moved to the end of the street. My gripe is not so much about the distance as much about the other changes it entails. I miss our morning routine of playing ball with Hari while waiting for the bus. I miss having Ram excitedly wave goodbye at the school bus. I feel restless on days that I am not able to pick Hari from the stop due to work related commitments.

Ah, well, nobody said change is easy.

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