Gratitude, Life

Hanuman Chalisa

Every month, a few of us meet at a friends’ house to sing Hanuman Chalisa. We do this in honor of a departed soul. It’s a healing ritual for the family hosting and for those of us that gather.

I am eternally grateful to…

  • Vilasini aunty for taking the time and effort to rally a bunch of elementary children to teach Hanuman Chalisa. I remember it like yesterday. All of us would assemble in the common hallway to learn from her. Aunty has given us a gift of a lifetime.
  • Appa and amma for steadfastly playing Hanuman Chalisa on Thursdays and Saturdays. Without that repetitive listening, the gift would have evaporated into thin air.
  • M.S. Subbulakshmi for being the voice of Hanuman Chalisa. For her Bhakti.
  • My faith for giving us something to hold on to at the darkest of times.
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Experiences, Experiments, Gratitude, Life, Little Moments, Ram Leela, Uncategorized

Tenderness and Meditation

For the first two to three hours of the work day today, I was consumed by fire drills. Thankfully, things turned around as the day progressed. I am deeply grateful that days such as today are an exception rather than the norm in my work world.

Ram and I spent quality time this evening. We recited some slokams together, played scrabble and ended the day with meditation. The guided meditation asked us to think of someone we love and send happy thoughts to that person. As soon as we closed on the meditation, the child eagerly said, “I kept you as my friend amma. I sent heart shaped wishes to you.”  Such unconditional love only a child can radiate! So grateful for this willing child who will grab every single opportunity to soak in and bond with me. I am thankful for a quiet low profile evening. Deeply grateful to Sangi for pointing to this very useful link – https://annakaharris.com/mindfulness-for-children/ on a fellow blogger’s post a while back.  Ram loves the meditation audio and looks forward to this part of our bedtime routine. I do too!  I also use it every weekend in my Sunday school. It feels like the right way to start and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us as a class.

On that note, tudlu, see you tomorrow!

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Gratitude, Life, People

Family and Home

I take the train at Newark, NJ Penn Station to return home. Like last time, the time before last time, and the time before that, the place depresses me. A sense of misery takes over me as I see jobless, homeless people loitering around. The telltale signs of poverty is there for me to read.  I wonder what their story is. I wish life was a level playing field. I pray that their circumstances change and that they have better days ahead.

I sigh heavily and send thanks to the power above for giving me a darling family and a welcoming home to return to.

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Life, Me, Uncategorized

Hello!

Yes, I am very much alive and kicking. The lack of updates has been because I have been drowning in a sea of commitments. The few times I came up to the surface to catch my breath, I couldn’t make myself put pen to paper. I felt so out of touch. I felt like what I had to say was inconsequential. It felt like there was nothing left to say. Truth be told, life has been anything but normal these past few months. We have been working very hard as a family since this summer with barely any downtime. First, it was my dance production, then it has been renovation at home. I have also been volunteering like never before. The downside to all these activities is that there has been very little time for anything at all – to rest, to relax or to reflect. I do hope to make time and reclaim my life back. Slowly but surely and steadily!

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Dance, Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Memories, Milestones, N40

Me, myself and my dance

Life beckons and I have to heed to it. Yet, I linger, wanting to soak in the sudden emptiness that I am feeling. For the past six months, dance has ranked high in my list of priorities. For the past six weeks, dance has been the center of my life. The critic in me chides me for not doing more, for not trying harder, for not making the most of the opportunity.  Yet, the pragmatic in me acknowledges that while there is always room to do more and be better, I did the best I could on any given day. Some days my best was good enough and on other days it was not.  And that’s part of being a human.

I have given my bare minimum to my family for the past several months. Dance is to me what sports is to Hari. In that we share a connection. A connection that is born out of setting your heart at something, working on it, feeling jubilant on some days, feeling disappointed on other days, and knowing that true strength lies in picking ourselves up every time we fall. Hari has shielded me with his pep talks, “Just imagine Ram and I waving at you amma if you get the jitters.”  He has held down the fort stepping up to be there for his little brother in my absence. And Ram what can I say about this little one, our very own Krishna? Dance has given us the gift of new bonding experience. I just love to sing “Avani rohini ashtami yele aradhajama nerathile avadharithaya” as I give a cheek rub to him, a rush of love washing over me. Da has been the pillar of support I have leaned on. Where do I even begin? Suffice to say that he walked the talk and did so wholeheartedly, doing all the heavy lifting, and making sure that the kids do not get shortchanged. I don’t think I would have been as unwavering in my support for him if I were in his shoes, so not for a second I take his support for granted. I am especially thankful to him for nailing the big picture in my head – it’s rare to get an opportunity to do something like this, outside of the commitments that life thrusts on us, at this stage of our lives and I should remember to derive positive energy from it and not get distracted with the noises. 

Over the past six weeks my dance mates and I have spent close to 30 hours per week in dance practices. I would love to say that all that time was spent dancing, but that’s not how it works. You wait a lot, then you practice some. Going after your passion may sound like pure bliss and all lofty. But the truth is even for pursuits of your choice, they come with their share of baggage. We were preparing for a 3-day dance event, one that we knew was going to be a labor of love. Taking care of the practical aspects was the easier part. It was the emotional part that involved a ton of hard work. To stay focused, to push oneself harder, to not get lost in the stories we tell ourselves, and to practice self compassion.

Some days were more challenging than others and a little TLC went a long way in building that resilience muscle. One of the best parts about the dance camp was the support group we developed and the plethora of opportunities we had to get to know each other as individuals. We rooted, helped, inspired, provided constructive feedback, showed appreciation, and hugged each other. On the day of the performance, we complimented each other on how we looked. I think it had less to do with makeup and costumes and more to do with how fond we had grown of each other. They say friends come into our lives for a reason, season or a lifetime. Only time will tell what path our friendships will take. One thing is for certain; the summer of this year will go down in the books of our lives as a time that weaved us all together in a shared experience, and from knowing  that we all gave it our all no matter what else was going in our lives.

I feel immensely thankful to my teacher for her bold vision and audacious dreams for her milestone production, and getting all of us pumped up about it. I am deeply grateful she introduced us to one of the finest teachers and choreographers, who we fondly address as Thiru anna. One who believes that everyone is capable, that imperfections are part of being a human, and that mistakes are ok but to remember to never lose the happiness one derives from dancing. It was a blessing to be part of anna’s creative process and seeing first hand how even a small act can be elevated to a higher level with willingness, creativity and effort. Such a precious and rewarding experience. 

If you had asked me last week, I would have told you that I can’t wait for this week to come. What I expected to feel was relief at being able to move on with other aspects of my life. What I am feeling instead is an emptiness that comes from having to let go something that gave an intense sense of purpose and pushed us beyond our comfort zones. I don’t want this emptiness to end, so I prolong. Checking whatsapp messages, refreshing facebook page, and going through the motions of the past six weeks, and itching to do more. 

Dance means different things to different people. To me, bharathanatyam is my Zen. It helps me discover more about myself,  be accepting of my strengths and weaknesses, quench my thirst to learn and grow as a person.  And for that I am eternally grateful and incredibly blessed. 

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Experiences, Family, Food, Gratitude, Hari Katha, Humor, Kids, Life, Little Moments, seasons

Baseball Tales

Hari began the baseball season with lofty statements. “I live for baseball”, “Baseball is my life.” I looked at the better half, who takes his role as nurturer of sports passion of his offsprings a tad seriously, and saw stars dancing in his dreamy eyes. And what do you know? Before I could say baseball, the father-son duo had signed up for three teams – school baseball team, town baseball team and the club baseball team that Hari has been part of since Fall. And did I forget to mention that the second child was already signed up in Fall?

For my part, I did what any sensible mom, who has the unenviable task of planning two mini dinners atleast three days during the week and once during the weekend (and let’s not even get into calendar management please), would do. Closed my eyes shut, sent a prayer to Varuna bhagawan – let it rain, let it rain..!

The regular season is drawing to a close and I am happy to report that the household has managed to survive and I might even add that the reluctant baseball mom has become an eager cheerleader.

I am happy for Hari. The season bestowed him with a variety of experiences, from being benched to being glorified as the MVP.  He was flying high one day and heartbroken the other day. He felt like he was treated unfairly one day but was able to take a step back the next day and see the decision in perspective. He worked hard and took responsibility for improving his game. He climbed the batting order and learnt new ways to pitch.

Ram is having a great time swinging his bat and playing ball. As a parent from Hari’s batch put it, at that age you can ask how the game went knowing that you will always receive a confident and happy answer. Besides at this age, there is more excitement over snacks during break time than playing ball during game time. Da coached Ram’s team for the second year in a row. 

Now if you will excuse me, I have a pre-game dinner to pack. My life is going to be dull and empty once the baseball season is over… Not really!

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Family, Gratitude, Life, Loss, People, Uncategorized

End of an era

My paternal patti, Andu patti as we called her, passed away yesterday afternoon. This week she would have turned 88 years old.

Some memories are more vivid than others. The early part of my childhood is rich with memories of my thatha and patti. As an infant, I grew up under their care in Bombay, which I don’t have a recollection of. My earliest memories of them are from when we were in Madras during my childhood years. I remember tagging along with patti wherever she went – visiting extended families, going on hospital visits, sleeping overnight in kalyana chathram, going to Bombay to visit my chithappa, and staying in my athai’s house. I remember the identical pedal pushers (I think that’s what it was called, a cross between capris and jumpsuit) she stitched for my cousin and me. I remember building parks and zoos while setting up golus. I remember her fascination for gymnastics and dance.

My grandparents went to the US for sometime to stay with my chithappa and family. I remember looking forward to letters from thatha and patti. I also remember the stories patti would narrate after her trip – the clean roads and the speed limits. She would write stories from I Love Lucy show in a notebook so she could narrate it to us. She learnt to make French braids from the shows she watched in the US and would practice it on me.

The year before I got married, Sathya and I stayed in my chithappa’s house with my grandparents, chithappa, chithi and cousins. My patti’s sari for my wedding matched with mine. I remember how deftly she would wash and dry her 9 yards sari. I remember the joy she would take in making and distributing bakshanam. She sewed her own blouse for the longest time. Making herself useful to others was very important to her. She was the eldest daughter in her family and the eldest daughter-in-law in the family she married into. She was the matriarch in our very patriarchal family. She has touched so many lives, in small ways and big.

The last few years of her life was very rough on her. She was resilient, bouncing back from hip surgery and several falls. If physically taking care of her was hard, seeing her deteriorate physically and mentally was several times more painful. She did her best to stretch her time here.

A shout out to my parents for taking care of my patti with dignity and to the best of their abilities. Their lives have revolved around patti for the past few years and for the past several months they cared for her like an infant, anticipating her needs and tending to her. Her life came to a full circle, right in front of our eyes.

Patti, we miss you. I feel fortunate to have had all that time with you and thatha. For all the love you showered on us. We love you in loads and will keep you in our hearts forever. Rest in peace.

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