Posted in Dance, Family, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Life, Little Moments, Wishes

The journey

Unbeknownst to me, tears were streaming down my face as the recital came to a conclusion. They were not tears of joy or sorrow; they were the culmination of an experience that was so profound that it brought the vastness and depth within me to the forefront.  The guru, holding the hands of his sishaya, bowing to the audience in reverence, in humility. The audience, drenched in the experience, elevated and humbled by it.  Perhaps, this is what they mean by the soul in me bows to the soul in you?  

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The recital was also tinged by a pang. One that comes from the knowledge that I can only be a rasika. The one that is dazzled but not the one to dazzle. The one that tried but the one that did not go much further. 

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Hari, Ram and I headed to the attic, our weekend sleeping arrangment. We exchanged notes on the day’s happenings. It was a milestone day for Hari. He played in adult cricket league with a red ball (that’s a milestone for wannabe cricketers).  He got two wickets, gave more runs than he would like, which was partly attributable to the size of the field, and he ended up umpiring as well.  Ram naarated his deed for the day – how he helped appa with yard work and shopping for pavers for the patio. Then, I told him about the evening, how I wished that all the people that I loved could experience what I did – something that was bigger than the self.  

I drifted off to sleep reliving the dance. The concept of yathi that I learnt in the workshop last week so beautifully articulated in the dance. The geometric patterns of the yathi shown gracefully in the mridangam, damuru, nandi’s tail, and the waves of ganga. Bharathiyar’s poem gnyayiru – are you the sun that gives light to darkness or are you the one to kill it? – narrated through dance. One form of art blending with the other. Then came the story of the Ganges – her origin, her role as sustainer of life (birth, maturity, and death all found in the river), and her current plight. A dance item that made me reflect on the sanctity of life forms and natural resources. Then came Rama’s virakthi at losing Sita. Shringara is pervasive in Bharatanatyam but more often than not, it is the heroine pining for the hero. This one was unique portrayal of a heartbroken hero. A sweet reminder that shringara is not exclusive to women. The finale was fitting with Krishna mukunda murari – we are born alone, we die alone, but we live together. Why criticise, why blame, why not treat each other well? 

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I woke up this morning earlier than I wanted to. Ram drifting to me, his arms instinctively reaching out to my body for the warmth. The recital from last evening still fresh in my mind. The brilliance of portraying the cow’s tail for gopucha yathi. The way the night that was described as a kadhali, shown elegantly. The eyes darting left and right in all speeds for mrignayani. The swaying and dancing of Krishna.

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Downstairs, I can hear Da. The man, who loves his glory sleep, is up bright and early, making tea and breakfast. He has a full day of chauffeuring the boys to towns far away for sports practice. He takes it in stride, without complaints, without expecting me to ease the load for him. Ram is mildly upset that we did not wake him early. You still have plenty of time, don’t stuff scrambled eggs in your mouth, drink some water, I remind him while I am sipping my morning tea without a hurry in the world. Hari comes down with a super stuffy nose, “I had the worst night with my allergies amma.” He was sleeping right next to me, and I had no clue. Why can’t I be that kind of mom that turns the world upside down to make her child’s life easier? I don’t say that to him but chide myself in my head. I just tell him I wish I was awake with him so I could have done something to make him feel better. “Don’t worry amma, if it was unmanageable I would have woken you up.”  

Seeing the morning play out in front of me hits me that I am not needed, I am wanted. That I am loved for who I am, with my imperfections, without any conditions. How lucky am I? 

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Being loved by my family unconditionally reminds me to be gentle on myself. Self compassion trickles in.

It’s true. Life is not a level playing field. We are born with our uniques abilities, strenghts, weaknesses and circumstances. There are some things that are not within our control. There are some things that are within our control that we do little about. It’s ok. It’s ok to be the one that tried. It’s ok to be human. And I remind myself again – it’s not a means to an end, it’s an end by itself. It’s the practice. It’s all about the journey. 

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Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Little Moments, Ram Leela

Primal

With a throbbing headache and incessant coughing, the child woke up feeling miserable. “Amma, take my temperature. I know I have a fever.” I placed my hand on his forehead and then his neck, and knew that he did not have a temperature. “You are feeling feverish kanna, but you don’t have a fever,” I tried to convince Ram.

We did the usual things that we do when we have a coughing child at home – two pillows stacked on top of each other, the third one resting on the two so the child can sleep in elevated position, and a mug and a bottle of water next to his bed for possible throwing up scenario. “Amma, can you sleep next to me?” the child asked. Of course, anything to make you feel better, I responded and settled down on his twin bed.

The child while still coughing, relaxed a bit.  His head resting on my chest, as I wrapped my hand against his body. My belly rising and falling, his hand rising and falling with it. His breathing in synch with mine, we slipped into a rhythm, and the child drifted off to sleep. This is what primal feels like.

Posted in Experiences, Family, Us

Taking the high road

I can feel it. The anger. Simmering, boiling, waiting to erupt, to only leave a trail of destruction. I hate that it has such a hold on me. But I am also thankful that I am aware. That I am feeling angry. That it is a fleeting emotion. Of the sullen faces at home if I succumb to it.

The very simple, enormously difficult, and the only sensible thing to do is to not react. Give anger the time and space it needs to pass. To just sit tight. The damage is done, what good comes out of fighting over spoilt milk?

Somehow writing these few lines has magically calmed me down and allowed the intensity of the emotion to pass. Da, who is blissfully unaware of what’s brewing in my head and is snoring away to glory, must thank his lucky stars that a domestic disaster has been averted (or has it? Only time will tell!).

In case you are wondering what this hullabulla is about. I warned about icy driveway and walkway last night. But according to the facts he had in front of him (warmer temperature), there was no need to rush to the store to get salt because the chances of having black ice is unlikely given the temperature. Not only that he asked me to check if my shoes have worn out. Grrr….!!! Poor Hari had to pay the price by slipping and sliding in the walkaway when he returned from cricket practice late last night.

That’s  my friday morning quota of much ado about nothing. Thanks for reading people. 

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Life, Loss, Memories

A full life

In the company of her children, Raji patti passed away yesterday. Amma said she witnessed her last breath, rising from her belly, traveling through her chest, escaping out of her mouth. The next  moment she was lifeless.

Patti had been steadily deteriorating and all signs of end of life was there. And it was getting clearer last morning that it was just a question of time. Everybody surrendered to the ultimate reality and was by patti’s bedside reciting Vishnu Sahasranamam  when I spoke to appa and amma last.. Barely clinging to her life, and with likely some suffering from within, she seemed to have acknowledged everyone and even faintly smiled.

I am grateful that she is not in pain anymore. I am grateful that she lived a full life and that my children, especially Hari, has memories of her.  I am grateful for all the love she showered and the prayers she offered for us. I am grateful that my mama provided top notch care for her. I am grateful that my parents visited her whenever they could, and were fully present for her.

I was not as close to my maternal patti as I was to my paternal patti. But there was love, affection, blessings, well wishes, food and a childhood filled with indulgences. Last time I visited, which was several years back, I remember enjoying every morsel of the meal she had cooked, and I made sure I told how much I relished her cooking, although I did not quite appreciate it as a child.  I brought with me her exquisite bead work, which will always have a place in my gollu and in my heart. Amma told me how people have been pouring in with high praise for her generosity. She had truly won many hearts. 

Rest in Peace patti. Love you and miss you.

With none of my grandparents surviving anymore, I  feel like a layer of my safety net has been pulled from under my feet. And I tell myself, I will carry each of them with me in my own way.  Lord Rama and bakshanam will always remind me of Nana thatha.  I will work on green corner, and our yard thinking of Babu thatha’s love for plants.  I will put in a little more effort to be in touch with my extended family just like Andu patti did. Raji patti always expressed love through the food she served, and she inspires me to put in more love in my cooking. 

I feel so lucky to have had a rich childhood filled with memories and indulgences from my grandparents.

Posted in Experiences, Family, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Memories, People, Research, Travel, Trying, Us

Goldstars

Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth in Happier with Gretchen podcast have a segment called Goldstar and Demerit. Think of Goldstar as a pat on the shoulder or a smiley face 🙂 and a Demerit as a kick on the bottom or a frowning face 🙁. In a fit of silliness, I started doling out Goldstars and Demerits to the kids during the trip and somehow it has caught on. Every now and then, the boys now come up to me and ask , “Do I get a Goldstar for cleaning up?” “Do I get a Goldstar for doing my homework on time?” I think it is beginning to mean something to them, I can see their eyes shining at the mention of Goldstar. Funny, what started of as a joke is evolving into something more meaningful. 

Why not some travel related Goldstars to all of us?

  • Goldstar to Da, for taking the plunge, and booking the tickets. I kept dilly dallying, procrastinating and feeling utterly overwhelmed. Not knowing where to begin, I conveniently resorted to inaction. Also, Goldstar to Da for constantly making conversations with the Ticos to get local knowledge on places to visit. Thanks to him, we visited the botanical garden and learnt about the artisans shops, which we would not have uncovered otherwise.
  • Goldstar to Hari, for carrying us through this trip with his spanish. He has had only two years of training at school, so is not an expert by any stretch of imagination. Yet, he conversed with the driver, the shopkeepers, and the restaurant folks. Thanks to him, we did not feel the pinch of visiting a country that spoke an unfamiliar language. Mighty proud of him!
  • Goldstar to Ram, for being a trooper. The child had ear infection, bronchitis, and was coughing throughout the trip. But he held on, did not complain, and was eager to take in the travel.  
  • Goldstar to yours truly, for ensuring the house was in order before we left and that our routine would be seamless following our return. I also read up a lot and familiarised myself with the Costa Rican culture prior to the trip.
  • Goldstar to my friends, P and V. We went to Costa Rica from New Jersey. P’s place in NJ is like a second home for us. We go there without even packing our toiletries. Not only did we have a good time there, P helped us with all things that we would need before and after travel. My childhood friend V, did the housekeeping for us here, and welcomed us with home cooked meals and groceries for this week. Truly, I have the best of friends!
Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Milestones, Us

2018 Year end report

Time for year end review post. What were the mile markers in this year’s journey? How did we do as a family?

The year started with all of us settling down in our renovated house. It was a humongous relief getting the house to ourselves after living with the construction noise, clutter, dust, uncertainty, and intrusion for close to six months. We hosted our immediate and extended family for Hari’s poonal function, our neighbors for thanksgiving, and are hosting the weekly Destination Imagination meetings. Many evenings, we are huddled together in the home office to finish up on commitments related to school, work and others. Weekends are spent watching movies as a family cosying up in the media portion of the attic.  The day is not complete without Da and Hari chilling out in the attic tossing a few balls and hitting a few shots in the attic. Ram has made use of every inch of his room, and has been royally kicking us out should we not honor the rules that he has set. All in all, incredibly thankful for the big and little moments that the renovation had made it possible for us.

Soon after that we got knee deep in poonal preparations. It was a ton of work, money and planning. It was an enjoyable and learning experience. It was a very humbling one too because you realize it takes many hands and all stars to align to make it happen. Lucky for us, our friends and family were such troopers! Loved loved having all the little humans gathered under our roof. Every once in a while, we, meaning I, guilt Hari into doing his sandhi or atleast the Gayathri mantram. Other than that, post poonal life has been business as usual for the chap.

We had Aaru and family stay with us for an additional month, and my parents for the next few months. T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L for the joy, for the bonding, and for the opportunity. And oh, our yard saw some pruning, trimming and planting, all credit goes to amma and Da. They made my dream of having rose bushes in the front yard happen. We did local stuff and celebrated festivals with appa and amma. Hari and Da went to San Francisco and Washington DC for cricket tournaments.

Fall went by in a blur with back to school, navratri, diwali, halloween and thanksgiving. A ton of stuff packed in these months, there was hardly any time to breathe.

Hari and Ram have lapped up all the affection they got from the family during their stay and have lavished them in return. They have been working hard on school and other activities. Private baseball did not work out for Hari this year but he has channeled all that energy towards cricket. School is keeping him on his toes. He has taken advanced math course and that’s been the training ground for him and us as a family for high school. Ram’s academics has ramped up too. His sole mission is to do all things required of him, so he can just relax and get bored. And I can tell you, there is no better motivator than that! Da has done well, and the highlight for him is taking up managing the Destination Imagination for a small group of kids. It is not easy work and I proud of him for doing it with enthusiasm, without an iota of resentment. As far me, the year was a mixed bag. Worked on a really interesting project at work during the first six months. I could not take up dance class due to schedule conflicts. I helped organize the diwali event for the town this year. I embraced a little bit more of technology in Sunday school. I have languished on my eating and workout habits. Going easy on myself is not an approach that works for me. Lesson learnt!

How did your 2018 go? What are you proud of? What are some lessons your learnt? 

Posted in Family, Gratitude

Slow Saturday, Remembering FIL, and Dinner Hack

Hello all the nice readers of the blog. How has your Saturday been? Busy? Relaxed? Meh?

I had a relatively slow Saturday with not much chauffeuring around. The time saved in not shuttling the offspring for classes was spent on inefficiently doing the weekend chores. The saving grace is, I made a dent in de-cluttering our home office, and did my bit with raking of the leaves.

It is around this time of the year that my father-in-law passed away twelve years back. We don’t do the devasam ritual that our tradition calls for but visit the temple instead. As I saw Da praying at the temple tonight, my heart went out for him. It must be tough and lonely to have lost both his parents. I reminded myself to be more kind to him; it is not going to compensate for his parents’ love but kindness always amounts to something even if we are not able to put our finger on it. We were reminiscing about appa tonight and Da recalled that he was a kind person and always did what he could to help people. He acted with integrity in all circumstances. He was lavish about buying books for Da and Aaru. Da is a voracious reader, and all credit goes to appa for kindling the love for reading. Appa also took immense pride that his son had earned a ph.d. He truly considered that accomplishment as the brightest feather in his cap.

After looking at all our options for eating out tonight, we chose to come home for dinner. As I rummaged through my freezer, the leftover dhal makhani from thanksgiving get together came to our rescue. This is so totally a life hack that I am following going forward. To freeze some leftovers for evenings like tonight wherein neither cooking nor eating out is appealing, and you want something to magically appear on your dinner plate without being inflicted by decision fatigue.

Ending the post with a gratitude to my neighbor, who texted me reminding us to park the car in our driveway as the overnight street parking restrictions kick in on the 1st of December. Thankful for neighbors who look for you!