Family, Gratitude, Life, Little Moments, Uncategorized

Gratitude

Appa and amma have returned to India after a four-month stay in the US. I just have two words to sum up my feelings – deep gratitude! 

I am thankful that this trip happened. I am thankful to the co-passengers who helped my parents on their onward journey. I am thankful that they were here, guiding us and taking part in the poonal festivities. I am thankful that they were part of our day to day living and minutia for the past few months. I am thankful that the kids lavished love and affection on them, and were pampered in great deal in return. I am thankful that we had a nice long summer, anything less weather wise would not have been kind on appa. I am thankful that my maternal patti did reasonably ok healthwise in India, which meant amma was able to stay here with some peace of mind for as long as they stayed. I am thankful to all my friends here who socialised with them and made them feel included. I am thankful that appa and amma did all their health check up, and came here armed with medicines, and other precautions. I am thankful that the one time when we needed medical attention, we received it without too much hassle. I am thankful to technology, to skype, to whatsapp and to net banking for allowing my parents to take care of practical matters while they were here away from home. I am thankful to my chithappas for being a phone call away when they needed. I am thankful to appa and amma’s neighbors for keeping an eye on the house, for missing their presence, and for helping them ease into their routine on return.

Much gratitude to the universe and the higher power. All the stars had to align for the trip to happen. 

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Experiences, Family, Food, Gratitude, Life, Little Moments

Little moments for the summer

I have been wanting to resurrect the Little Moments Thursday series. As the name implies, it attempts to celebrate the little moments in one’s life. I like the idea of dedicating a day of the week for this because as they say, anything that can be done at any time, seldom gets done. I have written a Little Moments post every now and then but not with the consistency that I used to at one point of time. 

LMT is a concept a dear friend came up with. The idea being we all get carried away with the day to day living or the curve balls that life throws at us that we forget to make note of the little moments that get sprinkled along the way.  To me, it’s one more reminder to be grateful for life’s blessings. It is not an attempt to see life through rose tinted glasses as much as it is about not allowing our lives to be defined by its challenges alone. Apart from taking my happiness quotient several notches higher, I like that in the process of writing about my little moments, I tend to journal the details of my life that otherwise tend to fade into the oblivion. 

Today, I am counting the little moments I have had this summer.

  • Seeing my parents as grandparents. It’s true that they have been grandparents for 13 years but given that our India visits tend to be very brief, that side of them tends to get overshadowed. I have enjoyed seeing my kids hugging and kissing them, Ram playing UNO with amma, Hari calling amma the goddess of dosai, and appa teaching Ram how to apply butter on his bread.  I have enjoyed the videos that my sis-in-law Wini sent, of my parents reading and playing with my niece and nephew,  during their stay with them. 
  • After searching far and wide for sari blouses that fit me, turns out my mom’s fit me well. My mom is leaving her kalamkari blouses for me…!! I love love kalamkari, have always loved it, even when it used to be designs on bedsheets and diwan sets.
  • Sharing kitchen duties with amma. Most of the time, amma takes over the kitchen making simple delicious food for us to devour. I enjoy cooking for them too. So we split our duties, taking turns so one person is not getting burnt out. Who does not like a break from kitchen duties?
  • Taking my dad for shopping. I not only like his choices but admire his keen eye for details. The rest of the boys in the household run a mile a minute should I mention the word shopping or will roll up their sleeves to buy what we call as Ramarajan t-shirts (the polyester ones that sports folks around the world wear – this is a term we coined at home after the tamizh movie actor who tends to wear colorful attire on screen) in our household.
  • Watching Da lavish affection on my dad – it’s genuine, spontaneous, and very child like. Pure as white. 
  • Watching my mom take delight in gardening and our garden getting a facelift.
  • Oh speaking of garden, love the three little rose bushes we have planted in the front yard. The yard has graduated from being despicable to being tolerable to the eye, thanks to amma and Da’s toiling.
  • Watching Sherlock Holmes with Hari. The first time I watched, it was with Da, and turns out I ended up sleeping for most episodes as we would watch it on ipads in the comfort of our bed. Hari is not hooked (the child does not like mystery) but doesn’t mind because it would mean he gets TV time which he would not otherwise get. And just like that I have started watching R rated shows with my offspring!
  • Exchanging food with my dear friend V. When I cook something on insta pot, I share it with her so she gets a kitchen break. When she cooks something delicious (which is often), she spares some for me. 
  • The kids hopping and skipping to V’s house for milkshake every Wednesday. V’s son S coming to our house to bake cake. I love being part of his growing up. 
  • Reading Hari’s journal entries during vacation. The child is not a big fan of writing but writing is a fundamental skill, can’t afford to be sloppy in it. So the deal is to write a little paragraph every day. The child always had a ending that had a nugget of wisdom like “If you have hit rock bottom after all, the only way to go is up”, or “My biggest learning for seventh grade is to not judge a book by its cover.” I enjoyed getting a glimpse into his teen brain.
  • Sleepovers with Ram. I love love sleeping next to him, squished in the twin mattress, his legs resting on my body and his head laid on my arm.  Love cannot get any more primal than this. 
  • Watching Ram read, read, and read like there is no tomorrow. My greatest fear is the child will run out of books of his liking at the library. 
  • Speaking of reading, I have been reading quite a bit this summer, and loving every minute of it. I learnt a little trick from my sis-in-law Aaru. She has this amazing ability to stop whatever she is doing, and grab a book to read. She can read when there is a crowd surrounding her, she can read when she has had a tiff with someone, she can ready just about anywhere at anytime. Reading is her sanctuary. Watching her read that compulsively did tickle my instincts to read. The trick that I learnt from her is to not wait for the perfect moment to grab a book because in this phase and stage of life, that is not going to happen.  It also makes reading a way of life. So gold star to her…!!! 

There were some challenges too this summer but I am deeply grateful for the little moments that made it a memorable one.

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Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Kids, Life, Uncategorized

Of goals and intentions for the school year

They are growing up fast and furious right under our noses. Ram is in 2nd grade, and Hari is in 8th grade. The highlight of this summer for them was spending time with my parents. The kids have basked in the love of their grandparents for the past few months.

Before the first day of school, we set intentions for the school year. For Ram, the only goal is to build daily habits. The more and more I read about habit forming, the more and more I am convinced that what we do on a daily basis matters. So much more than what we think. That’s the mantra I have been chanting all this summer, especially to the older one. With Ram, setting expectations and getting him on board with the expectations, is the crucial step. Once that is done, with some enforcement from our end, the child is generally good. He is a true Upholder at heart. The big caveat is the“some enforcement” part, which falls on yours truly lap, who is quite the slacker.

For Hari, the child has a lot going on. So the goal is to commit to those things that he is truly interested in. We will also work on basic life survival skills – daily habits, keeping a good attitude, building support system, making choices etc. The child will be in college in five years, and taking responsibility, practicing grit and becoming resilient do not happen one fine day. It has to built, cultivated and nurtured over the years with some tender, love and care.

I too have a goal for the school year. I am not by any stretch of imagination a Helicopter mom, let alone a Tiger mom. Mainly because it’s a lot of hard work and requires you to put your child’s need ahead of yours . For many many moms or all the moms that I know, this comes naturally. Unfortunately, that is not my instinct. I put my own pursuits and needs ahead of my kids. The good news is it works for us. The bad news is I am missing out. So I am setting a goal of being involved and engaged with my children’s learning experience this year. 

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Holidays, Introspection, Life, Me

Intangible connection

I open the calculator on my computer and type in 2018 minus 2001 and the answer pops out as 17. Of course, I knew the answer and didn’t need a calculator to do the math that my second grader can do in his sleep. But one feels the need for validation when the brain tells one thing but the heart feels something else. It simply cannot be 17 years, says my good old heart. But of course, it is, refutes my sassy brain. God, 17 years is a long long time, it does not feel that long ago. It absolutely does not! So goes my heart, utterly in denial, that I have been away from my home country for 17 years.

In the initial years, I remember meeting an Indian who was away from the country for a long time and  did not know about Sachin Tendulkar when I spoke of him. I fell off my chair. How could you not? He is practically a God for a nation of over billion?

Fast forward 17 years…

I am very much that person today. I know very little about what is happening in India. Having lived most of my adult life outside of India, I feel disconnected to the dynamics of day to day living in India. The excitement of visiting India is overshadowed by the anxiety over logistics and practical difficulties. The India of today feels so alien to me. 

And yet…

I go an extra mile to go to sunday school to be on time for special assembly to sing the Indian national anthem. I tear up every time I sing Jana Gana Mana. Yes, Every. Single. Time. No rhyme or reason, no exaggeration. I hang out with the desi moms from Hari’s cricket group, and can’t help but notice that the conversation feels intuitive and effortless. I swell with pride when Hari quizzes me on Indian states and capitals and knows more than what I do or when Ram sings, oodi vilayadu papa. I go out of the way to stay involved in the local Indian American organization so we can bring exposure to all things Indian to the broader community. When conversations on Whatsapp revolve around how NRIs, and non-citizens, do not have the eligibility to complain or comment about  the Indian state of affairs, it stings. All I I want to say is, I still care. Is that not reason enough?

Being an Indian has become that intangible feeling that does not scream out loud but a subtle and comforting presence that I carry with me at all times. 

Happy Independence Day India. 

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Gratitude, Intentions, Introspection, Life, Little Moments, Now

Reflections on a Sunday morning

I can hear the vibration of the washing machine, the tumbling of the clothes in the drier, the white noise from the refrigerator, the sound of my tapping on the keyboard, and Hari sneezing as he is waking up. Sans that, the house is quiet. Ha, solitude, sweet solitude!

  • My mind is wandering to the past and the future even as I train it to stay in the present. To be HERE and NOW, the simplest, the most logical, and perhaps the hardest thing to do. It is worth striving, I tell myself. Make room for what you feel, don’t get lost in the stories in your head, I remind myself.  
  • Last week, I drove irresponsibly and got reprimanded by a complete stranger. As much as I felt ashamed and embarrassed, and wanted the earth to split open and swallow me, I felt a certain calmness in realizing that sometimes it takes a knock on our heads from a stranger to get us grounded in HERE and NOW.
  • A friend posted a video of her sweet family on the second death anniversary of her husband. My heart sank. Why does it always take tragedies and hardships that are bigger than what we face to remind us to make the most of HERE and NOW?
  • Have you ever noticed that when the big picture of our lives get shaky, we don’t sweat the small stuff. The everyday annoyances and frustrations are dwarfed and we are more tolerant and accepting of them. On the other hand, when the big picture is gleaming, the small stuff takes monumental proportions, they are so hard in the moment, and we are intolerant. The HERE and NOW is a tricky place to be in although that is the only place we all should be in.

Gotta go, my HERE and NOW beckons!

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Gratitude, Hari Katha, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Little Moments, Ram Leela

End of school year

I am lying down on my belly, my legs swinging up in the air and hitting down on the ground  playfully, as I thumb through Ram’s workbook from school. Akhil is lying down on me, his belly on my back, peeking at the book that I am thumbing through and explaining the details on the page every once in a while. It’s a rare moment. One I keep intending to have but never end up having. Finally, I have the time and he has the inclination to go over what he has been upto at school.

I take delight in knowing the nitty gritties – oh he knows to do 2 digit and 1 digit addition, he has been taught to identify coins based on which US President is on the coin, he has been tracking the pumpkin growth from the seed to sapling, and there has been a lot of learning about guppies and pillbug just like Hari did, he has been learning about maps, and he has been introduced to poetry.

“Hari, do you think you can take a moment to reflect on your seventh grade, and write a little something for me? I want to know what you thought of your seventh grade?” Dead silence is what I hear in reply. I can hear the talking going on in his head. Writing is boring and reflecting is even more boring. Who does that anyway? Still, it’s mom, she is asking, what choice do I have? So he obliges and whips up something for me. The crux being, “form my own opinion and not to piggyback on someone else’s” He went into seventh grade thinking that he was going to hate it because of all the things he had heard about the team he was assigned to but came out of seventh grade feeling like much fun was had!  

I have been very hands off with both the children this school year. Fall and early winter went by with renovation work, early spring and rest of the school year was full with upanayanam preparations. I have been feeling very out of touch, very uninvolved and incomplete this school year. As I closed the last of the pile of materials that were sent at the end of the year by Ram’s teacher and read Hari’s year round up write up, I heaved a sigh of satisfaction. I finally felt like a mom who knew what her children have been doing at school, albeit in hindsight. Hopefully more real time next school year. 

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Family, Gratitude, Intentions, Life, Little Moments, Milestones, Wishes

Old friends, new neighbors

I wrote the below post (modified some parts here) about my childhood friend, V,  in my old blog in 2009. V is the kind of friend you can text and ask, can you get me thoor dhal? And then two minutes later, add, can you also get me some cooked thoor dhal ? She is the kind of friend whose door you can knock on at 4 am to drop off your first child while in labor with your second child and head to the hospital knowing that she would take care of your child better than you would.  You can ask for all these favors without feeling like you are imposing on her. We don’t label our friendship or talk for hours together but it’s a quite, reassuring bond where no explanations are needed or the intent ever questioned.

Last week, V and family moved into their newly bought house, which is two houses next to ours.  Sweet lucky coincidence!.Here’s wishing her and her family sweet moments, big and small, and happy memories as they settle in their new abode.

My association with her was through my brother. She and he were in the same class through secondary and first two years of high school. Then our paths crossed in 11th std. That was when we ended up in the same class as we opted to pursue commerce, economics and accountancy for higher education. I remember sitting next to her on the first day of class. Or am I making this up in my head?  I am not sure and that minutia doesn’t seem to matter after all these years. We hung out with each other. A lot. At intervals, during lunch hour, outside school, at the temple, in our houses, during tuition classes. Chitchatting about school, friends, family, this, and that. There was never a shortage of topics. I was fond of the BHEL quarters that she lived in, enjoyed some of aunty’s delicacies, deemed it a privilege being in the company of uncle, and took inspiration from her brother. I knew her extended family and friends by names.

After those much cherished couple of years, it was time to bid adieu as my dad’s job took my family to different places. We kept in touch. Wrote to each other regularly. I looked forward to sleep overs at her place whenever I visited Trichy and she came to spend a couple of days with me in Coimbatore. A few years rolled by in this manner. Then she got married, four days after I got engaged. Want to know the best part? Both of us were heading to the same destination after tying the knot- Boston. Who would have thought and how special is that! Her being here made a big difference to my transition. You see there were a plethora of things to discuss  – married life, America, India, setting up new home, groceries, cooking, cleaning, school days, deals, vacations. And who better to discuss it with than a good old friend?

After all these years, I think of her as family. Someone who knows my history and someone with whom I have grown up. Someone who will remind me of the person. We have seen each other undergo a number of life changing events. I have seen her in labor, hours before she gave birth to her son. I have seen her grieve the loss of a loved one two months later. I have seen the warmth she exudes on her mom, and the pillar of support that she is to her family and friends, Acceptance and Faith are words that come to mind when I think of her.

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