Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Introspection, Learnings, Memories, Us, Wishes

2017 – the year that was

There is pin drop silence in the house. Strike that, I can hear Da snoring his heart away. I can also hear some footsteps headed towards the bathroom, a sign that one child is up for the day. My tummy weighs like a ton of bricks from all the food indulgence last night. It was a cosy gathering. We met, we ate, we laughed and we dispersed with a full stomach and a light heart.

I have a couple of hours before the intensity of the day sets in. A time that I am carving out to reflect on the year that is coming to a close. As I look back on the year that has gone by, these are things that are at the top of my mind.

My paternal grandma, Andu patti, passed away in April. She had a really difficult end of life, with dementia wreaking havoc on her and the ones caring for her. Longevity means very little when it is not paired with quality of life. How our life comes to an end and when it comes to an end are not in our control; we can do all the right things and yet have an undesirable end. So taking proper care of our physical and mental health when it is in our hands seems not only responsible but also sensible.

I pushed myself to give back to the local community. I provided tactical support to a friend who stood for school committee, and played a small role in making our voices heard on a school related issue. I helped organize workshops in the local library and continue to edit the school newsletters. It was gratifying but I also realized, that they are very transactional in nature. Meaning, once it’s done, it’s done. This is an epiphany because it will help me choose where I want to spend my time and energy going forward.

I poured my heart and soul on my dance productions this year. I pushed the limits of what I can do and it was another humbling experience. There was wonder in knowing that I am capable of doing things that was challenging at the outset and there was also acceptance in knowing I come with my own limitations. Talent is something that we are born with, and we have no say in how talented we are. But striving towards our full potential is within our control; it’s not an easy path but one worth trudging on.

We renovated our house this year. We moved into this house a decade back and have worked our lifestyle around what was given to us, which worked well. The renovation gave us a chance to think about our needs and wants and how we want to customize the house to our personal preferences. For the most part, the project was enjoyable and I am proud of us for having taken the discomfort and inconveniences in stride. This project also gave me a newfound appreciation for all the details that go into the making of a house.

It feels like the outside world is filled with pain, suffering and destruction. My very liberal neighborhood was in the news for hate crime, there have been several break ins, and a life was gone too soon. This is within the short circumference of my neighborhood. Beyond that, if at all anything, the magnitude of the events happening are confusing, nerve wracking, and overwhelming. Yet, I am trying hard to not get hopeless. If we give up hope and faith, what else can we hold on to? We need to stay informed, be aware and push ourselves to do what little we can. If not anything else, be kind. I like to believe that kindness goes a long way in counter balancing the negativity around us even if we are not able to directly impact the events.  

I wish you a very happy 2018.  I wish you the freedom and courage to be who you want to be, relationships and friendships that matter, deliberation in thought and action, unshakable faith in your effort and values, compassion towards the self and others, grace and wisdom to handle the unknowns, bountiful little moments and happy surprises, unconditional love and acceptance, uncluttered mind, full presence and focused work, and a strong body and sound intellect. I wish you the best that life has to offer. In 2018 and always!

Hari Katha, Humor, Learnings, Little Moments, Memories, Writing

With Hari’s permission, I am posting the personal narrative that he has been working on. I love how writing is taught here, right from elementary grade. In this narrative, he is required to check for transition words, sensory language, zooming in, zooming out, grammar and spelling.


Bad Kitty!

When I encountered a lion, things weren’t pretty. It did not bite me. It did not scratch me. Instead, it peed on me. That’s right, I was a john for a lion, a once in a lifetime experience.

While visiting my uncle’s family in Bentonville, Arkansas, we decided to visit a famous zoo located 25 miles south of where we were staying.  Although the drive only took 30 minutes, it felt like eternity as my eight year old brain processed the fact that I would see animals which were uncommon in New England.

“Bang!” slammed the passenger door, arousing me.  Not missing a beat, I hopped out of the car and headed towards the zoo, thrilled about what experience awaited me. When we entered the zoo, I gasped. I was astonished at the chimpanzee swinging in its cage like a trapeze artist, a bear expertly balancing on a tiny red ball, and an iguana blending with its surroundings. The warm delicious scent of popcorn from a nearby food cart welcomed me with its lovely aroma.

“Come on Hari,” my mom instructed. “You should take a look at these majestic lions. If you need me, I’ll be in the reptile section.”

“Sounds fine mom,” I replied. I trotted towards the lions, and halted when I spotted them, their orange manes flowing in the cool wind. Standing a mere inch away from the smooth, black cage was a kid about my age, staring at the lion. Turning around, he beckoned me to come sit next to him. Immediately, I started sweating. I felt that standing that close to the cage would likely come back to bite me. However, my undying curiosity to see the lion prompted me to crouch next to the kid and face the lion. I looked in awe at the humongous lion which peered back at me as if saying, who are you, and why are you in my territory?

“This lion is awesome!” I whooped, expecting the kid to respond. Instead, the kid, whose gaze was getting more alarmed by the second screamed “Look out!” and quickly dove to the side. I however, did not have quick enough reflexes. A yellow spray of liquid washed over me, sizzling all over my arm. Embarrassed I scampered away, avoiding as many people as I could, only to bump into my mom.

“What happened to you?” My mom cried, her face turning pale as milk seeing me wet.

“Ummmmmmmmm,” I mumbled, feverishly debating in my mind on whether or not to tell my mom.

“Spit it out, what happened?” She insisted, pushing me to the brink of telling the truth.

“Oh fine!” I sputtered, “A lion leaked on me.” Instantly, my mom put a hand to her mouth.

“Come on, we’ll get you cleaned up,” she replied, extracting a bag of tissues from her purse.

As you can see, I have survived that traumatic experience, but am still trying to live down the fact that I was a urinal for a lion. Now, I always stand far away from the cages of animals knowing well not to repeat the same mistake twice. Nevertheless, I still have nightmares, imagining that yellow substance submerging over me. Most of all, I have learned to accept the facts, and laugh along with my family when they make a joke about that incident – I’m Hari, I was a potty for the king of the jungle, and I am proud of it!


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? 

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. 

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. 

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.  

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.


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!