Sunday, February 28, 2010

When life reminds you what living is all about...

In a regular health check-up 15 days back, when my mom's TMT (Tread-mill Test) showed baseline positive, little did we know that we were going to go through the worst patch in our closed-knit family life.

Meet my mom: 52-year old, slim (she proudly proclaims she is "almost size zero" and she is not kidding, believe me), health conscious (she is done with the advanced course of art of living, and has been practicing yoga, pranayam, om vilom, sudarshan kriya and what not for more than 2 years now), very active (she teaches English in middle and senior school) - she has no family history of any heart ailment, she is not diabetic, no BP problems.

In a follow up angiogram, and then angiography on 18th Feb, mom was diagnosed with severe blockage in all the three main arteries to the heart - 80%, 80% and 90%.
We all were shocked - the doctors were slightly taken aback too.
Life defies logic, they say.

Science could not help us ascertain the reasons but scientific advancement helped us take immediate remedial actions. Mom went in for angioplasty - there were multiple complications and I do not even want to recall what was going through all our minds and hearts - we helplessly held onto faith - hating god for putting mom through this and at the same time thanking him for guiding us to the right course before anything worse could happen.

By God's grace, the operation was successful and mom's been recovering well.
We had a family reunion after almost a year - given my work schedule, Priyank's college, mom's school, dad's work, it becomes difficult to synchronize vacations - but we all realized, so blatantly - our strength is in our togetherness - that is living - cherishing our love and the bonds that bind; happiness is here, within - we cannot and will not give up - together we can fight, and win; so what if we are not together on festivals so many times - when our hearts are one - when we are together and for one another, life's a sparkling Diwali, a benevolent Christmas, a colorful Holi, anytime, anywhere.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Noughts and crosses
Fights and kisses
Weddings and funerals
Hatred and love
Beauty and the beast
Curses and blessings
Dawn and dusk
Despair and hope
Smiles and tears
Nightmares and dreams
Friends and enemies
Success and failure
Poverty and opulence
Oasis and barren lands
Nihilism and faith
Zeniths and nadirs
Open ends and new beginnings
Relativity and absolutes
Decadence and morality
Progress and deadlocks
Heads and tails…

Always one and the other
So brace yourself
It’s a world of paradoxes
That harmoniously fit in
To form a balanced reality

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2 States

Inspite of the fact that I am no big Chetan Bhagat fan, I could not resist the temptation of picking up a copy of 2 States on a recent visit to a book store.
2 States could pretty much be the story of my marriage too, except that it was lacking in all the dramatic paraphernalia, the dysfunctional family syndrome and the extreme emotions that make up Chetan Bhagat’s novella.

I do not think there exists another nation so diverse in its cultures, peoples, beliefs, and languages as India. Travel from one end to the other and you would be asking yourself if it was the same country?
My boss in LA once asked me, so was it a cultural shock when you first landed here? I was like not at all. We Indians have enough cultural shocks traveling from one state to another that it is actually a relief to be in a place where all people atleast speak the same language.

What happens when a UP Brahmin girl brought up and based in Delhi decides to marry the “purest of pure” Tamil Iyer boy from Madras (Chennai, it is now)?
Ofcourse, there are the initial fireworks – My dad asked me in disbelief, “Are you serious?” I was. The “how’s”, when’s”, “who’s”, and “why’s” followed.

The most difficult is obviously the WHY!
“Why do you want to marry him?”
I like him.
“Why do you like him?”
He is nice
“But why him?”
No answer to that one!

The next set of questions, even more flabbergasting.
“Why did you not tell me?”
What am I doing now? I am telling you.
“No, why didn’t you tell me when it happened?”
When what happened? I love him and want to marry him, and I am telling you that.
“Why didn’t you tell me when you fell in love?”
No answer to that one too!

Fortunately, the course of our love was not very turbulent. My mom readily agreed. Vish’s parents were also very welcoming.
My dad took some time but happily came around after asking a trillion and more questions such as how will his hyperactive, slightly spoiled, “feminist” and completely stubborn daughter adjust in Chennai, in a South Indian family set up; the distance between Chennai and Delhi (I forget in what unit); what about the language barrier, how will Vish handle fights and my mood swings (not that my dad doesn’t think much of me, I think he wanted to give Vish the worst picture possible in the vain attempt to dissuade him :)!); family background (so important in an Indian wedding); can the wedding be in Delhi – North Indian style?;
And patiently Vish did answer in great depth and as genuinely as he could – I am sure he did not know the actual distance between DEL and MAA – I think, love makes you patient and persistent ;)!

Then, came the onslaught of curious relatives: Is he dark? (And I thought “fair” was considered important for a woman); Does he speak in a madrasi accent? (Is our Delhi/UP accent something we should be very proud of); They consider fish vegetarian, no? (No!); Does he always wear a lungi? (WTF!); Do they get fresh milk in Chennai, there are hardly any cows seen on the streets of Chennai! (Ok, do the stray cows in Delhi supply the milk?); Do you get atta – wheat flour, they only eat rice, no? (That’s a genuine question :)); Do they wear silk all year round? (Kinda, but silk is a natural fiber!); Do they have pubs and malls in Chennai…do people go to discs? (Yes, please ignore the ignorant North Indians); Do they cook all their food only in coconut oil? (Cudn’t give a damn!); South Indian men like only “healthy” women no – u see all those movies. (No response to that one!)

Our families coming together brought in a lot of cross cultural awareness. Many myths were shattered, and some firmly reestablished.

Everybody learned a few facts, first ofcourse, that there is more to an Iyer Madrasi than oiled hair, geeky looks, engineering degree, and overseas relatives; Tamilians have tasted inter-state and international cuisines, though curd rice still remains their favorite dish; Not eating “paneer” does not make them any less normal; Delhites are more flamboyant but we also observe traditions like they do in the south – only maybe not at early morning unearthly hours; We do not and cannot understand how a DJ can be substituted by Carnatic Music at a wedding; Just like everybody in the south is not from Madras, everybody in the north is not from Punjab;
More importantly - Moms on both the sides are fiercely protective of their sons; Relatives in both the states can get pesky; Everybody loves gifts;
And most importantly finally it’s not what community you belong to but who you are that makes all the difference – Generalizations are superficial!

All’s well that ends well, they say, and I agree. The wedding went off smoothly – North Indian style with my dad making some improvisations like making me sit on his lap for the “taali” (any need!) – and yes, I did wear the complete nine yards during the “pheras”.

Post the wedding, life’s changed – only slightly.

Sambhar-sadam goes along pretty well with paneer makhani, as does masala dosa with chhola bhhatura ;)!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The games we play...

Remember the days when summer vacations meant hoarding board games for the long, hot afternoons, when the Christmas break was not all about video gaming and Internet surfing, when families got together and played games at the dining table rather than facebooking on their individual laptops?

I belong to the generation that got caught in the e-revolution only in their mid and late teens, and therefore, often feel nostalgic at the site of the Games section of a Landmark or a Toys R Us store.

Last year, when we came back from the States, I made it a point to stock up on my favorite board games, and secretly pledged to play them as regularly as possible. As is understandable, the latter required immense effort in terms of begging hubby dear, cajoling my brother, tempting my MIL, and luring almost every visitor to our place. I must boast that it has been quite an achievement, and hence this post is a pat on my back for the refreshed memories!

A few snapshots of the games I like; suggestions to add on are most welcome!

Scrabble - An all time favorite - also a game that I hope to win always and succeed quite a few times! Vish and I have the most interesting love-hate conversations ranging from heart-felt affectionate banter to mild profanities to the most gruesome allegations (a case in point, whoever gave you an English Lit degree with the kind of vocab you have - this comes especially when I have no alternative but to add an 's' on a 'reasonably good word made by his highness), when it comes to this game :).

Monopoly comes next in my list - The only reason this doesn't make it to the No. 1 slot (even though I am addicted to it) is because in my 26 years of existence, I have never ever won a single time -My most memorable games have been with M and S over fountains (slight exaggeration - crates, maybe?) of red wine (well, usually red :))!

Ludo and Snakes & Ladders, I agree, are the most mind-numbing games ever.
But, I still love the aimless rolling of the dice to get that '6' to start the damn game...

And I truly adore the sucker at no. 99...


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