Experiences, Experiments, Family, Little Moments, Memories, Milestones, Us

Solar Eclipse 2017

The total solar eclipse of 2017 was an underwhelming experience in our part of the country. From what I saw on the live streaming of the eclipse, for folks who experienced it first hand, it was spectacular and profound – the temporary darkness smack in the middle of the day, the sudden chilling of the air, and the realization that we are all connected by this cosmic energy. I can only imagine!

We too had our share of fun. Yesterday, Da had made a contraption out of a carton for our viewing. It was super fun parading in and out of the house to catch a glimpse of the sun and the moon playing tango.

I hear we will be in the path for the next total solar eclipse in 2024, so better luck to us then.

See that crescent shaped sun? 

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Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Kids, Little Moments, Memories, Now

Kids and summer break

The kids are on the last week of summer vacation. The past 6 weeks have gone by in the blink of an eye. Another milepost in the passage of time. Barring a couple of weeks, the boys  have been attending summer camps. Between my dance productions and all the construction work, that seemed to be the fair thing to do. 

It gladdens my heart to see Hari rested and relaxed. He has had his fill of cricket, baseball and books for the summer. The poor child has been suffering from allergies this month, must be a combination of pollen and all the dust floating around with the construction work. It must be frustrating to have fragmented sleep but the child has been taking it in stride – “I sneeze and have runny nose, but I end up slowly drifting  off to sleep. So don’t worry about it amma”  

Ram has been fervently working on Perler beads, teaching himself from google images and youtube videos. As I write this post, he is trying his hands on 3D designs. When he is not working on fuse beads, he is lost to the written word. The child sure knows to enjoy his own company. We have read so little together this summer. Our reading during breakfast is currently non-existent. Partly because I have not made the time and partly because there is very little eating going on at breakfast when reading is involved. We just need to find a way to sneak in some reading time together. I am not ready to let go of that yet.

We still have not figured out the extra activities for the school year. For Hari, we have a rough sense. For Ram, some homework is still in order. 

I am not ready for back to school yet. I have neither spent quality nor quantity time with my rambunctious bundles of joy.  No matter what else I may have accomplished, the summer still feels incomplete.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” I console myself in an act of self-compassion.  I cannot have it all. But the bigger truth is, even when I may have been clueless about their days, I have been quietly soaking in the finer things that parenting entails. Enjoying the glint of naughtiness in their eyes, swelling with pride when they save treats for each other, loving them all over as they peacefully drift to dreamland, taking in the sight of them deeply engrossed in their books, and watching them devour cookie dough ice cream with anticipation although they have had it a million times. 

This summer has not been a summer of going away, beach trips, bike rides or even play dates. It has been a time of quiet presence, simple living, and glorious nothingness in our household. 

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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, Food, Gratitude, Little Moments, Memories

What’s cooking?

The list of homemade food that I have been making has steadily grown over the past few years. From homemade yogurt and dosai batter, I have graduated to making ghee, milgai podi, pickles of different kinds, paneer, hummus, ginger garlic paste, thiratti paal,banana bread, muffins, and I even experimented with making regular bread once or twice this summer.

I don’t think of myself as a passionate cook. However, I have finally figured out what motivates me to cook. I like knowing what ingredients go into the food that we eat. I like to make things from scratch without any pre-processed ingredients. I believe in eating clean, eating right (that we generously eat junk is a story for another day). I love understanding the properties of individual ingredients, the chemistry that develops when they come together and how they influence the taste, texture, smell and look of the finished meal. I love problem solving for missing ingredients. My kitchen is the place I am most spontaneous. When I have guests over, I put a lot of thought into planning and prepping my meals so I can offer them dishes that they like, avoid things they do not like, without having to spend all my time in the kitchen.

It only took me 15 years to evolve from a clueless cook in denial to a mindful one who has accepted her role as a primary provider of meals. Most of this evolution comes from seeing and talking to passionate cooks.

As a child I was a finicky eater. I didn’t/don’t eat curd, a blasphemy for folks in my clan. I ate very selected vegetables and for the longest time, I ate food only if it was hot.  But even for me, I am pleasantly surprised by how much of my childhood memories is associated with food. Hot hot venpongal with gotsu during puratasi sanikizhamai, onion vatha khozhambu and potato roast on Sundays, mango milk shakes and custards during summer, thakkali thokku and vengai sambar. Thank you amma not only for working around my finicky taste buds and cooking simple flavorful food  but also for being on call when I have a cooking crisis. And of course, for regaling me with Venkatesh Bhat recipes!

Laksh, food is probably the least discussed topic in our conversations. But your conviction about how food is a medicine and how much love you pour into making meals for your family has mostly certainly rubbed on me. Thank you for sharing your passion and for introducing us to cheese dosai and heart shaped dosai for breakfast. They have become a staple in our house.

I am also greatful to my friend P from college.  I love the little tricks and tips that she shares with me during our weekend calls. Many of my cooking adventures are sparked by the seeds she plants in my head.  “Oil is friend and water is enemy for cast iron”, “Just put a karandi and let the milk boil, thiratti paal is easy to make”  Or the way she tells how much she likes chopping vegetables or rolling chapatis. I have learnt to see cooking from a different lens, thanks to her.

Last but not least, I am thinking of my maternal grandma fondly as I type this post. She cooked up a storm every time we went. Oh how many varieties of sevais she made in one go (paruppu, ellu, thengai, lemon, velam, curd! ). Wow, patti, just wow! I just wish I had understood that cooking for her was an expression of love. That the only way she knew to shower love was by laboring in the kitchen. Thank you patti, thank you, for loving, caring and cooking.  

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Family, Food, Gratitude, Holidays, Kids, Little Moments, Memories

Good old Family Time

Once you lose momentum, getting your rhythm back is a challenge of gigantic proportion. I have been drafting this post for the past couple of nights. The tardiness is not due to lack of intent;  it was because yours truly literally fell asleep midway typing this post. With that disclosure out of the way, I hit the resume button on my gratitude journal.

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I clean the house, one room after the other, in an attempt to make up for the lower decibel levels and to help us get back to routine after a precious week spent with family. As I put the things away in their place, random memories from the past week flit by.

I stumble on my niece’s small heart shaped lego piece and a smile plays on my lips. This was one of her precious possessions, one she kept a very close tab on, not letting it out of her sight for a minute.  This little doll, by that I mean my sweet niece Shraddha, is a charmer. Atleast she knows the way to her athai’s heart.  With a twinkle in her eyes, the four year old picked her potato fry and commented, “Athai, potato is my favorite kai, thank you for making it so crispy.”  The look of delight and wonder on her face as she hung the barbie ornament in the christmas tree is a sight tucked in my treasure trove of memories. The way she strung letters or stretched her spelling to read and spell were moments of athai pride.  The home depot apron and the rolling pin tickle memories of our cooking adventures this week – the mutter panner, the aloo paratha, and the banana bread. The crayons, markers, the inflatable toys, all carry stories of cousins bonding and the delightful unending conversations amongst them, especially the pretend game lovers Ram and Shraddha.

I call Da “ukil” just like how my little nephew Amrit calls Da (ukil=uncle, athimber is too hard and too new for a soon-to-be-two year old, so ukil it is!). This past week Alexa has been part and parcel of our family fun. We would have listened to  Baa Baa blacksheep a hundred times. My nephew listening to the words as his body swayed  to the music. The squeals of delight as he saw the train chugging under the christmas tree or the way he screamed in excitement when Da returned from work or led Hari and Ram by his tiny finger to where his whim took him.  

I also enjoyed making childhood comfort foods, the combinations that amma used to prepare. Jeera sathumdhu, paruppu thogayal, kathrikia kai, arachuvitta khozhambu, mysore sathumdhu, vendakai kai, so on and so forth. There is something warm and fussy about sharing these simple childhood favorites that you grew up eating with the one you grew up with. I enjoyed seeing the dad in my brother Sathya. The tenderness with which he talks to his daughter,  the rolling up his sleeves to feed his children, and the sermonising the difference between rights and the wrongs of life to his kids. Also, how he pitched in to clean up after dinner, just the way we were taught to do as children.

My sil Wini is everything that I am not. Very paandam in all her endeavors. Be it carrying herself well or tending to her children, she does it with elan. Also seeing first hand how to eat in moderation, such self discipline this girl has! Most of all I loved seeing what a mindful parent she is, knowing her children inside out, paying attention to their rhythms.

All in all,  I am deeply grateful for the moments – small, big, rich, delightful, and everything in between that this week brought. I am thankful for the opportunity to have them in my turf for some good old family time!  

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Family, Gratitude, Life, Little Moments, Memories, Uncategorized

Relationships that matter (Gratitude Journal – Day 3)

My parents thought of Sundaram mama and mami  as their anna and manni (older brother and sis-in-law).  Sathya (my twin) and I considered S akka, their only daughter, as our elder sister.  They were our neighbors in Bhelpur, Trichy.  We have spent several nights gossiping in their house as a family, have gone to many movies together, and have coined insider jokes that only both our families understand.

Akka is one person who mails me every day. Yes. Every. Single. Day.  If there are breaks or long silences, it’s because I have slacked.  Some days, it’s a one-liner regarding day to day mundane stuff. On other occasions, we go through streaks of emails with profound conversations. She has kept me part of her everyday world and ditto with me.

Today, her daughter, who I think of as my niece visited us with her cousin. How nice it was bonding with these two smart and nice kids. This was my second time seeing P.  The last time I saw her, she was wearing her mom’s oversized chappals as a toddler (about 18 years back!). Her stay was short but sweet. We had several little moments today – skyping with akka, having P talk with my parents and brother, goofing off at Harvard campus, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Of course, my most cherished little moment of all, Hari and Ram bonding with her and wishing that she had stayed longer. I thought it would be apt to share this drawing that P sketched for Hari 6 years back. 

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Today, I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for this relationship that has made an imprint in my life, withstood the test of time and distance, and has spanned across generations.

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Experiences, Hari Katha, Little Moments, Memories, Ram Leela, Uncategorized

Kids and summer news

We have been basking in the glorious summer weather in our part of the world. As we cross the halfway mark, I remind myself not to get too used to this warmth. The icy cold hands of winter is just around the corner.

The kids were home for the first three weeks. The first week was spent in the company of one of my close friends and her family. Her son N celebrated his b’day with us. It was a week filled with endearing moments – Hari got to be the big brother that the little kids looked up to, Ram and N bonding over pokemon, pretend play and legos, N’s twin sisters regaling us with sweet toddler antics.

Ram and Hari are in the same camps all through summer.  I am pleasantly surprised by how much the boys are enjoying being in the same campus.  Hari checks on Ram in hallways and Ram hangs out with Hari at recess. There are even days when the boys co-ordinate their t-shirts so they can be “twins” at camp.  All on their own accord. That’s going to change for the next two weeks as Hari will be on a Trip and Adventure camp. And that’s good too, the kids will be on their own doing their own thing.

Hari is enjoying his summer baseball games. He is also indulging us by working on his math skills. While sports continue to be his first love, he definitely seems to be acquiring a taste and liking for crunching numbers. Once he overcomes the inertia, the wheels start spinning and whirring quite effortlessly.

Ram and I have been reading together a lot this summer. We read George’s Marvellous Medicine and Phantom Tollbooth. Ram’s penchant for picture walking has inspired me to practice my non-existent drawing skills.  Nothing original, just copying illustrations in his story books.  It’s true that the deer I draw looks like a cow and the only flower I seem to be capable of drawing is a tulip, but when there is an eager little person sitting next to you, sharing the paper, unleashing his creativity, enjoying the companionship, you plod along.

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