Friday, December 29, 2006

Is it 2007 yet?

What a year 2006 has been!

For my immediate family, it has been stressful year on the home, career and marriage fronts. It's been tough, but isn't that what life is? We're not all living the good life of a Paris Hilton and frankly, I'd rather not be. It's all been a blur since last May when everything started falling apart. However the stars began to shift in the last quarter, and we can see better now. This is the time to pick up the fallen debris and make our choices -- either toss it or use it to rebuild or find another one.

There have been many exciting and positive events in the year especially related to children and friends. We've built stronger bonds with our friends -- learning that their laughter indicates deep-rooted strengths we all should have. When you're down-to-earth, everything falls into place.

This year, we've watched in amazement as a child was born, while others took their first steps into kindergarten, high school, or just up the stairs. My parents hit a few health related road bumps this year, but were able to recover nicely and move on to their next adventures.

My writing efforts started off with a bang and reveleation this year, but then had to take second stage with other events in my life. So, hopefully, I'll be able to steer that back on track this year.

By the way, my sister, friends and I have been superstitious about deaths coming in 3's. When James Brown died early this week, I wondered if there would be 2 more. They would have to be "legends." Then came the news of Gerald Ford, and I was a saddened. I was extremely surprised by his interview with Bob Woodward, which he asked to release after his death. I've always been impressed when people ask for such things to be witheld until a death. In a way, it brings a certain diplomacy to Ford's name that he did not want to give his opinion publicly. No doubt that his words and opinions would have ricocheted off the political walls.

Anyway, I just read Saddam Hussein has been executed. This seems more surreal than anything.

This makes it the 3 legends this week.


This is a photo of a sunrise as seen in my backyard. The backside of the house faces east and we can see a beautiful sunrise from any window facing that side - bedroom, bath, kitchen.

We can also see the moonrise and an on full moon nights, our house is flooded with a glowing blue light from the moon. As the moon moves, there would be silvery light in our foyer at 3 am.

Just a reminder that every sunset guarantees a sunrise.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Songs

These are my top 3 popular Christmas songs:

1. "Do They Know it's Christmas" by Band Aid
Lyric-wise, this is lame. However, it was 1984 and I was in love with Simon LeBon. There was Paul Young, Boy George, Sting, Bono -- singers whose pictures I carefully clipped from Teen Beat to grace my bedroom walls. This song was played continuously and I mean continuously since the proceeds would help Africa.

And, we watched the video continuously as well, waiting for that glimpse of Simon LeBon followed by squeals.

2. "Last Christmas" by George Michael
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, You gave it away
This year, to save me from tears

I'll give it to someone special

Is there anything more heartwrenching than a true love betrayed? The line about this year shows he's moved on, has a plan, but is still looking over his shoulder.

3. "Christmas Wrapping" by the The Waitresses.

Raise your hand if you remember "I Know What Boys Like" and "Square Pegs"! I used to watch "Square Pegs" and if you can squint at oh-so-smooth Sarah Jessica Parker, you can still see a skinny geek with glasses and frizzy hair.

I love this song for its movement of the lyrics. It starts as a frustrated song with "Bah Humbag," but then moves through a year's worth of encounters with this guy. I love it because at the end she does get to be with the guy for Christmas. That's the kinda Christmas magic some people need.

Even though I'm thirty-something and married to a romantic and loving person, I still remember what it's like to be twenty-something and angst-ridden about relationships or lack of a relationship. Single people think married people were simply born married. They forget that we have been alone, sat by the phone, not sure whether to call or wait or deciding how to hang up! We've looked around a restaurant to see if there was someone better to hang out with than our date. Or, sitting on a train after a horrible date and wishing you were in a Meg Ryan movie and the right guy would simply sit next to you.

So, when I hear a song like this, it reminds me of all those moments of anxiety when my family used to sit around and wonder how are we going to get Ashini married. They used to complain to the nosey aunties, "But she's so picky!" There is an unbelievable amount of pressure to marry in the Indian community. As if being in an unsuccessful relationship wasn't tough enough, you add your own guilt to the unsuccess.

And, at the end of the song, she does get her guy. (Interestingly enough, my husband's family thought he'd never get married either because he is really "picky"!)

So, it's that same Sarah Jessica Parker-Square Pegs phenomena. If I squint hard, I can see a girl who can't believe she's married with a beautiful family -- she's still giddy that a guy kissed her.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 22, 2006

On the Job Training:Motherhood - Bratz, Barbies and Girlhood

A friend pointed me to this article by Meg Talbot, printed in the New Yorker: Little Hotties. I found absolutely realistic since I'm living this strange phenomena and the article is riveting because it dives into the history of popular dolls and how the marketers have controlled a generation of girls and parents.

First of all, I hate the Bratz. They're little tramps. They wear too much make up. They look like they got stung by a bee on their lips and are having an allergic reaction. They have no nose. Their eyes are just too alluring ("meet me in the bedroom"). They don't do anything except party and shop. What the hell are they all about? The article pointed out, "With Bratz, the company is selling the notion that divahood is something for girls to aspire to, with or without a talent to go with it." And, why do I want that for my daughter?

Annika started asking for these dolls when she was 4 and I said, "Not until you're six." She was cool with that and would tell her friends. Well, six is around the corner and I'm going to have to do a quick step now. I was hoping they would die down in 2 years, but these little hos have gotten stronger! She knows I don't like them, but I'm worried that my forbidding them will make them more enticing. However, I know where I stand on this and I can't allow or accept them. (I am publicly declaring that if she receives them as a gift, we will return them.)

She loves her dolls -- a few ballerina Barbies, a Princess Jasmine doll, a nice Madeline doll and she'll be getting some wholesome Wee Friends dolls. By the way, Holly Hobbie is back -- it's the granddaughter of the original Holly Hobbie! Nickelodeon has revived her and I think she's really cute. I have no problem with little girls playing with 'teen' dolls, as long as their belly buttons are covered.

On the other side of the doll spectrum are the American Girl dolls. I'm not a big fan of American Girl dolls either. Mostly due to the obscene marketing techniques. You buy the $100 doll. Buy the doll $50 pajamas, and then another $50 to buy another set of pajamas for your daughter to match the doll's. They do cool things like customize your doll - so we could get a "tan" doll with dark curls that looks like her. But why? I'm not a totally mean mom - I let Annika browse through the American Girl catalog and we did take her to the American Girl store on Fifth Avenue. We just look, we don't buy anything.

I think that article pointed it out succinctly:"American Girl dolls -- expensive, innocent-looking, and old-fashioned -- are on one side of a class and cultural divide. Judging from the families you see shopping at American Girl Place, the dolls appeal disproportionately to well-off white parents willing to spend whatever it takes to help prolong their daughters’ childhood. Bratz and My Scene Barbies, by contrast, are peddling the toy world’s version of gangsta chic."

Most of the women I've talked to whose daughters have American Girl point out it was a gift from a grandmother and now they're looped into getting the accessories. However, I did see a mom sit and circle items in the catalog, which she gave to her mother-in-law as a Christmas wish list for her daughter.

By the way, I loved playing with dolls myself. I actually played until I was 11, believe it or not. For me it was creating my own stories or enacting a story I had read. I loved to look for little objects throughout the house and turn them into items for the dolls. I remember specifically playing right before bed and first thing in the morning. My mom used to get so annoyed because I wouldn't do anything else.

By the way, I find myself in a weird position when I'm scolding Annika to get ready for school and she wants to play with her dolls. It's like those weird out-of-body moments when people are floating and looking at themselves. But, now I'm in my mom's place and Annika is begging for just a "little bit longer"!

Annika has a small dollhouse and at the time, she was too young to take care of the furniture and accessories. So, I had put away all the extra pieces. She still plays actively with the house and her miniature dolls, but she uses her imagination. For example, she has a shell collection from the beach and the large shells have become as beds for her miniature dolls. She picked up an old lipstick holder to use as a bed and mirror. She has Disney Princesses mix with a half-naked Mowgli and a tiny blue-haired Trollz . She narrates and plays all the roles. I know I had to nudge and show her how to play when she was younger, but she really took off with this. I love watching her play and be creative.

Isn't that what doll play is -- imagining and creating a world of your own. It's not the pumped up Diva or matching pajama or customized doll bullshit.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Little Women

Last night, I watched 1949 "Little Women" on cable. It has June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, blonde Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Margaret O'Brien as Beth. At that time, these were huge stars, even Margaret O'Brien was known child actress. The 1994 version with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, and Christian Bale is also a fabulous movie.

I loved Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" series when I was young. I remember hunting for "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys" at the library.

To those who are not familiar with the story, it's about a family of four sisters in New England in 1860's. The father has gone to fight in the Civil War and the mother, Marmie, holds the family together.

The central character is Jo, whom Louisa May Alcott based on herself. Jo is a self-assured tomboy and a creative writer. Meg softer and longs for pretty things, but bears the weight of being the eldest in the family. Beth is kind, generous and musically inclined. And, Amy is the youngest, free spirit and self-absorbed.

This is a great story of relationships within a family and outside. Yes, things are rosy sometimes and more often than not, they aren't. Also, the sibling relationship is so unique where brothers/sisters are close to each other to hurt them, but then also forgive and move on.

When I read these books I identified with Jo's passion for writing and storytelling. In the movie, June Allyson's Jo is telling Laurie why it's important for her to write and he doesn't get it. She writes in the garrett of their house, seeking her private space.

I also identified with Meg since I was the oldest in my family and you forever have to be "responsible" for others and set an example.

As for Amy, she makes me so mad. If anyone in literature deserved a slapping it would be Amy March for throwing Jo's manuscripts into the fire in a spoiled tantrum. Actually, there are many moments when selfish Amy should've been disciplined. (Come on, Marmee, wake up!)

Beth.. yes, dear kind Beth. My favorite scene about Beth is on "Friends" believe it or not.
Joey is reading "Little Women." He's enjoying the book and Rachel asks, "Did you get to the part where Beth dies yet?" He stops. He chokes, "Beth dies? How could Beth die!?" Then Rachel comforts him and takes the book and puts it in the freezer. Everyone loves Beth.

By the way, I tried to read "Little Women" again about 6-7 years ago. Somehow, I couldn't get through it. It didn't flow and seemed forced. However, it's probably because these characters are already embedded in my consciousness, I couldn't reintroduce myself to them if I tried.

We're all like Laurie - watching the March family from a window and wanting to be part of them.

On the Job Training - Motherhood : The Grandmother

When we went to CA, we left our daughter with my parents. They get to spend time bonding and we get a chance to be on our own. Total win-win situation!

Anyway, I was unpacking the bags since we had taken at least 4-5 bags for my daughter to take there filled with clothes, books, dolls, shoes and whatever she needed for a few days. I was unpacking her bag and figured I'd toss everything into the laundry.

Lo and behold, mom did her laundry! I was so happy to find washed and folded clothes in her bag.

Then, there a small bag of gumdrops and candy in there. Annika was delighted with the treat.

I looked further and found a small necklace and earrings that my mom had given to Annika. When I showed it to Annika, she said there should be one more flower earring.

I felt good and thought this is what going to your grandmother's is all about. I didn't have a chance to build a relationship with my grandmothers since they lived in India and died by the time I was 14. I feel closer to my grandfather with whom I kept up an airmail correspondence when I was in high school until his death when I was 18. So, in my opinion, I value the grandparent and grandchild relationship because it's something I did not know. Even though my mother-in-law is in India, Annika will have a stronger relationship with her through pictures, emails, phone cards and frequent flier miles.

Anyway, I felt all warm and fuzzy and called my mom to thank her. She said not to mention it because they are thrilled when Annika comes to visit.

Then, I got a 10-minute verbal lashing about "neglecting" my daughter's health! How she's "malnourished", smaller than other American kids, I need to feed her banana & egg milkshakes every day, give cod liver oil vitamins and if I sell Annika the idea she can grow tall and healthy, she'll agree to do everything I ask her.


Yes, she had good suggestions and I asked her what foods Annika actually ate there. It takes this 5 year old at least 1 hour to eat a cheese sandwich. She just loves to talk, but also likes certain foods only. I'm not worried about her right now - just the wasted time that goes into every meal reminding her to eat.

I think she'll eventually eat everything. I refused to eat tomatoes until I was 11. Healthwise, she has her growth spurts so I know she's growing well.

AND I know my mom is telling me this for our own good -- really, if your mom doesn't tell you something, who else in the world will care to? BUT, you can't help but feel your mom doesn't think you're a good mother. My father, on the other hand, gave me compliments on the way Annika is being raised and he could see certain things that I've taught her.

I think it's that whole mother-daughter communication gap. One says something and the other hears something totally different.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

San Francisco Postcards from Home

We're back on the east coast and I wanted to share some more of our adventures. By the way, this is only my second time to CA (San Francisco both times).I would like to go to LA and San Diego next. I like San Francisco and CA as nice places to visit, but I don't think I could live there. There's something about the city that I can't connect to, though I know many people who swoon over it. When I visited cities like NYC, Paris, Venice, Montreal, and even New Hope, PA (which is a big village, not a city), I think, "Yeah I could live here." But with SF, I'm not feeling it. There's a latent lure to the west coast due to the career opportunities there. However, the funky landscape coupled with high cost of living makes our decision clear. We like the green rolling hills of PA and its quirky northeastern culture.

"Will Sell Husband for Wine" Country

My husband pointed to a t-shirt in a shop and made a glib comment that this might be something I would do. I paused to consider.

Last time we came, we did the Napa Valley wine tasting trip. We drove around, randomly stopping at small and large Disneyland type wineries, where you dodge the tour buses for parking and try not to trip over families on picnics. I was also pregnant last time I was there and kinda just stood around a lot since I couldn't partake in the tastings. I vowed this time would be different.

So, on Sunday, we decided to try Sonoma County wineries. We loved the open spaces, the quiet landscapes, you could see the olive trees all over and smell rosemary in the air. We definitely enjoyed this more than Napa.

Here are my picks from the wineries we visited:
Gundlach Bundschu - Chardonnay Sangiocomo Ranch : You take it as artistic license when wineries start describe their wines with "Complex aromas of granny smith apple, meyer lemon, pineapple and toast". However, this was on target - the crisp apple flavor was right there! This vineyard was beautiful and they offered a tour of their cave, which was interesting.

Cline Cellars - Marsanne Roussanne :This was the first one we visited and enjoyed the experience - it definitely looked like a beautiful place in the summer. I liked this wine for its fruity flavor and smoothness.

Cline Cellars - Zinfindal: We had tasted this at the winery and then found it at a "world market" downtown. We enjoyed this wine with Afghani dinner at Salang Pass. The guys loved this with the grilled kabobs and it went well with my vegetarian dishes. (By the way, the bolani at the Afghani restaurant was awesome - square aloo paratha!)

Gloria Ferrer - Blanc de Blancs : Ah, a sparkling wine! I had a yen for some bubbly when I had seen our hotel serving mimosas for a brunch. This was nice, dry and not very sweet. This winery offered an excellent view, though we could barely stand out there for 10 minutes before we ducked inside to warm up.

The Mystery Spot

We were told to go here. So we did. Kinda knowing what to expect, but not really.

ere's the deal with the Mystery Spot: there's something funky happening with the gravitational pull in that 150 meters. (I got a B in Physics in high school, so I don't really understand any of the magentic and gravitational explanations or lack thereof). Alls I know is the ball rolled up the plank! We thought we were standing straight but we were leaning about 40 degrees! I did a handstand on the wall and my husband was doing backbends (you have to take a picture when your husband finally bends over backward!!)

I felt really dizzy in the funhouse and felt like I was drunk - I held onto the railing. Gravity pulling the wrong way disturbs your equilibrium and I felt lightheaded for at least an hour.
We were annoyed that there were no signs warning you about this. If we were healthy people and felt dizzy, what about people with blood pressure issues, heart conditions or

There are no birds or animals in that area and the trees grow in bizarre formations - branches on one side only or one tree was corkscrew. See, nature knows when something is wrong and doesn't need a compass.

Check out the slideshow on the site and I can attest that all those pictures really happen. I wish I had more pictures to share, but our rechargeable batteries died in the middle (we were told the magnetic forces screw up batteries and cameras). We had to go get new ones. Here's a picture of our guide standing "straight" on a table.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Postcard from San Francisco!

I'm in San Francisco this weekend on a long overdue vacation. We're having a good time, although it is raining on and off. That stinks because it cuts short the walking, which is the most important part of sight-seeing in SF. We're struggling with our itinerary, trying to make the best of the non-rain weather (sunshine was shortlived). We saw the Golden Gate Bridge in cloudy, windy weather, from the distance with the sunlight breaking through and another in rain, which was not fun!

Anyway, the fun points have been unplanned. We ran into a parade of 100 or so "Santa Clauses" on Fisherman's Wharf. Apparently it's a pub-crawl "conference' but people were dressed (or undressed!!) in various Santa outfits. It was great and we took some pictures with them.

We did the pilgrimage to Ghiradelli Square and had super-rich hot chocolate. They should put a warning on the sugar/chocolate levels before you order a large. In Sausalito, we went to the No Name Bar and had fun chatting with Ilse the owner. (If you see her, tell her we said hi -- we're the group with the guy who couldn't drink beer because he was hungover from the hot chocolate).

We went to Chinatown via Lombard Street -- I held my breath and prayed on this roller coaster through the city because it was dark, rainy and we didn't know where we were going! How do you live in a street that is at a 45 degree angle??

Our friends had told us to go the Stinking Rose, so we checked it out. The food was alright, but atmosphere is fun. We had the garlic ice cream, which was like eating vanilla ice cream with a dirty spoon.

We asked the girls at the restaurant where to go since it was soggy and rainy. One suggested City Lights Bookstore.

We went to the bookstore and got lost in it. I used to say Farley's Bookstore in New Hope, PA was my favorite, but this wins! We were jumping up and down in the Third World Fiction room. We wrote down names of authors and books that we want to read. There were books that I had not seen on bookshelves - Amitav Ghosh's "Calcutta Chromosome", Samrat Uphadhyay, Nedjima, Anita Nair. There were anthologies of Modern Indian Literature. Plus, Orhan Pamuk and Naguib Mahfouz. I couldn't believe this collection because there were some obscure South Asian books that I have on MY bookshelf and did not get the popularity that Lahiri and Rushdie get, such as "The Dancing Girl" by Hasan Shah.

I was thrilled with the collection of literary journals. I'm always sending my poems and stories to journals and don't see these available at Barnes & Noble. So, I spent some time reading poems.

The poetry room was inspiring -- a whole shelf of Neruda! There was a lot about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation. However, this morning I just read more about City Lights and learned they had published "The Howl" in 1956. They were right on the website -- this is a literary mecca!

So, we went into this bookstore to get out of the rain and it ended up being a worthwhile find.

Anyway, the sun is peeking in and out. Let's see where we end up today!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


If "Bubbles" are my soothing expressions, then Firecrackers are my bursts of energy. Some people call these sections "random musings" but mine are not so random as I have thought about it.

1. Iraq Study Group
In a time where we have Task Forces and Czars as names of goverment committes, what is with the Study Group? This sounds like a group of people, cloistered in a library, surrounded by tomes and papers about Iraqi history. It's a soft word that reminds you of a Bible Study Group or a Math Study Group. I suppose giving them a softer name brings down the sense of urgency and the critical work they are doing. So if you're called a SWAT Team, chances are you're not doing much?

2. At the Gym
I go the gym pretty regularly and always like people watching. If I had my own gym I'd have some rules.

  • Cell phone reception should be cut in the cardio area. How can you work on a treadmill and still be chatting? What does the other person hear: "Hey..puff..pant..yeah.. I'm at the gym..puff.., it's ok..go ahead.."
  • People should have novels removed from the cardio area. Again, how can you read "Da Vinci Code" while on the treadmill? People who are reading are also working at a really slow pace. Their heartrate is probably higher when they're sitting in front of a computer. So, you're not respecting your body by giving it a full attention work out. Also, you're not respecting the book because you're distracted and not giving it full attention either.
  • People who have excessive amounts of make up, have a genetic propensity for svelteness and/or just come to socialize should have a separate area. They hog up the equipment by just sitting there and chatting or parading. Again, another unworthy distraction.
  • Another rule is the dress code. I've seen a 65+ year old man wear a half-cut shirt with cut off jeans. He was in good shape for his age, so you have to applaud him. But, does fashion wisdom not come with age? I've also seen men who think Fruit-of-the-Loom shirts are appropriate work out weare and they're not. They're underwear. Muffin tops on biker shorts is also a no-no. Lastly, don't get me started on the dark socks with sneakers!! (I would hand out free white socks if I could).

3. Why do bands like Black Eyed Peas come on the scene with songs like "Where is the Love" and "Let's Get it Started" and then switch to raunchy numbers like "London Bridge"?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Haiku This!

So, among the many calls for submissions I receive, there was a recent one for haikus. Specifically, there should be haiku about wine (red and white).

The last haiku I wrote was in 4th grade:

Lonely boy and girl
on a rainy Saturday
Soon the sun comes out.

It was published in our 4th grade class magazine and I also provided illustration (a dismal looking boy and girl, peering through a window with their tears mixing with the raindrops).

Since then, I haven't written haiku, so I took some time to browse haiku books at Barnes & Noble. I remember haikus being about nature, trees, cherry blossoms and such. Those topics don't interest me, so I stayed away from the haiku. I was pleasantly surprised to find modern American haiku writers that took the Japanese style of 17 syllables and ran with it.

Here are some online samples.

Creative Haiku
Erotic Haiku
Ocean Haiku

Reading through these sites, I can see the seriousness of the art of haiku. I've been doing free verse for so long, it was hard to restrain myself. However, it was fun trying to force myself to think within certain guidelines. While poetry is all about selecting the right words, the syllable constraint made it tougher to choose the right word.

Here are my haikus. Even if they don't win and appear on wine labels, at least they made my site.

1. Red

So the Merlot turned
a pirouette, tossing
a bouquet in the air.

2. White

The Sauvignon Blanc
smiles and sparkles a bit
of summer in a glass.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


My family doesn't have a fixed tradition for Thanksgiving; we're huge Christmas enthusiasts though.

When we were young, we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving really. It was all about turkey and my mother was vegetarian. So, we didn't have to celebrate it. There was one year where we didn't have plans and expected to go out for dinner. We were shocked to find all the restaurants were closed. So, we came home and mom whipped up something.

Somewhere in my teens we started meeting family friends, who served American and Indian food. You had roast turkey and apple pies next to shrikand and puri. It was funny how we used to love the American food, until we went to college. After that, we'd just go for the Indian food that we missed so much in the dining halls.

As kids we started our own customs. No one was allowed to eat until we went in a circle and said what we were thankful for. We snapped at newcomers who started eating. It started off as "I'm thankful for my family. I'm thankful for this food. I'm thankful for my friends." and over the years, people added "I'm thankful for getting into the college of my choice" "I'm thankful for my husband-to-be."

When the families started moving away for school, marriage, and retirement, the group dissolved. I think it has to be at least 10 years since the group met. After that, we've done Thanksgiving with my family or with friends. We haven't had a fixed tradition. The most we can call a tradition is sitting around with Black Friday circulars and planning our route. This year we're celebrating the holiday weekend with lots of friends.

Last year, we met my sister in Florida for the long weekend. It was great because she did a fabulous job going over the top with her china and elaborate fusion recipes. She "desified" the turkey and mash potatoes by adding masalas and we had an apple kheer. (I will have to post this recipe - it's to die for!).

This year, we're unable to meet her, and it's a tough time for her to be away from family and friends. However, I think it's the expectation of the holiday that make it tough. It's not about how big a turkey you can make or the stuffing or general concerns of American gluttony.

It's not about how many relatives you can fit under a roof. There have been psychologist and "experts" on radio and TV advising people how to handle stressful situations with relatives. I know someone else who was grumbling about going to meet her family for the long weekend. (If it's such a chore, why do it?) I know what it's like to have relatives that make everyone uncomfortable. Fortunately, two of them have become ex-relations to everyone's delight.

So, Thanksgiving is a lot like New Year's Eve. It gets so built up, and then if nothing spectacular or Hallmark happens, it leaves you deflated.

It's about being thankful for what you have in your life and who you have. It's one day where we have to put the brakes on and look around us. "Hey, I don't have X, but you know, I have Y and Z. That's not bad." We have family in India who are in our thoughts all the time. My family lives in other states. My college friends are scattered all over the country. So, while we're not sitting together and passing the stuffing, we know they are part of our lives. And they keep us strong and keep us going.

Thank you!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Behind the Wheel

There's a soccer mom in a driving an unwieldy minivan, SUV or H3 - get out of the way!

True, lots of families are opting for the bigger vehicles to accomodate their family load. Car seats are the biggest instigator towards the need for room. Once you have 2 car seats in a sedan, it's impossible to get another passenger in there, unless they're Lilliputian.

Anyway, we've managed to stay clear of the minivan, though I always wanted an SUV. However, I test drove a few and felt they were too big for me. I'm only 5'2" and felt overpowered by this. machine behind me. My friend who is barely 5' loves her van and says that it makes her feel more powerful. Interesting.

By the way, we have a sexy silver station wagon now. The station wagon is our vehicle of choice because you get the space in the back and comfort of driving a car. I can call our wagon 'sexy' because Angelina Jolie drove it in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." So, yes, I often get mistaken for Angelina when I'm driving it. (not!)

~ Behind the Wheel of a Large Automobile ~
I had learned to drive in my father's ugly green station wagon. He bought it used for a steal and we kept it as a 3rd car. He said, "Learn to drive in this and you'll be able to drive anything." True. Just because I can, doesn't mean I like driving everything.

When I was in college, my mom's friend asked me to drop her to the Trenton (NJ) train station in her minivan and just take it home. Sounded easy enough. However, she took me to the station by an unfamiliar route and once I got there, I was disoriented. I started going the wrong way and ended up in the 'not-so-nice' area of downtown Trenton. The problem with "not-so-nice" areas is you don't know who to ask, where to stop or what to do. So, I kept driving around until I found streets that I recognized. Driving a huge vehicle I had never driven before made being lost more stressful.

By the way, just because someone owns a large vehicle does not mean they know how to drive it. Minivans and SUV's are parked haphazardly or they are driven too slowly or too fast. We had friends who traded their Toyota Sienna for a Camry. He said, "This was to make it safer for the people in our town." Apparently, his wife had banged way too many cars trying to park the monstrosity! I congratulate them for acknowledging that big cars are not for everyone.

~Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, Yeah! ~
I have an excellent driving record. I received one speeding ticket when we were on our college road trip (my friends were great and all split the costs because they knew they egged me on to speed). I've been stopped a few times, but have been fortunate to avoid tickets.

~ Parallel Universes ~
I'll publicly admit I had to take my driver's exam twice. The first time I failed and cried uncontrollably. My father assured me that it was fine and he and my mom had failed the first time. "So, it runs in the family!?" I wailed.

The examiner said I did not stop at the sign (bullsh*t!!) and I messed up parallel parking (so I almost knocked over a cone, it didn't fall did it?). My father and I worked on parallel parking in the big green station wagon. Second time I tested, I sailed through it. I made sure the examiner felt it when I stopped.

At my daughter's daycare, they had a circular driveway for drop off and a parking lot on the side. With small children, you want to park close to the front door. So, you had cars, minivans and SUV's moving in and out of the circular driveway. This is where I truly learned to parallel park! It's cold, rainy, and there's just one spot in front of the door, in between two vans. I would suck it up and park, for my daughter's sake. Now, when I find myself gliding into available parking spots without thinking about it. So the protective instincts of motherhood helped me park!

Now, my daughter takes the bus to KG. We have a long driveway, almost like a private road that leads into our development of 4 houses. The school bus comes at the end of the driveway. She and I will walk or drive, depending on the weather. After she leaves, I'll drive in reverse and back into my first neighbor's driveway, and turn so I could drive forward to my house. I realized my reverse driving skills are improving and now I'm backing into parking spaces, which I always thought was too painful to do.

Again, motherhood is helping my driving skills! So, hopefully some of the misdirected minivan drivers will improve over time.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dor - Review

We watched Nagesh Kukunoor's latest film last night and it's absolutely wonderful. It's as if you're watching a beautifully laid book on the screen - each page turns another wonderfully scripted scene.

The film starts in the lovely mountains of Himachal Pradesh, focusing on an endearing couple, Amir and Zeenat. He is a soft romantic and she is a harder than nails type of woman. She knows exactly what needs to be done, including how to win people over. The other couple is a traditional Rajput couple, Shankar and Meera. Their love and affection is so touching and charming.

Their paths cross when Zeenat embarks on a journey to seek Meera, a woman she's never met nor knows how to find. Yet she must try because she has everything to lose if she doesn't. En route, she finds Behroopiya, a struggling and comical actor, as a companion and conartist to help her.

The last character in this movie is India. The film takes you to where the clouds greet the lush mountains and you can feel the chilly morning air. You become envious of the villagers who live a simple life because what more do you need in life than those mountains? Then, the film sweeps us to the vast open deserts of Rajasthan. You could feel the dryness of the sand on your face and the heat of it beneath your feet. Again, the simple life of the Rajasthanis is also appealing.

The diversity of India is not only in her people, but in the landscapse. One country -- a fraction of the size of the US -- has Himalayas on the top, golden deserts in the middle and lush tropics and beaches in the south.

Gul Panag is absolutely riveting - you can't take your eyes off her intense ones. I've seen Ayesha Takia in bollywood films, like "Socha Na Tha," so her acting in this film shows her true potential. And, Marathi boy Shreyas Talpade is a lot of fun. I loved him in Kukunoor's "Iqbal" as a talented deaf cricket player. He's got a charming face and very open eyes.

This movie deals with sensitive topics such as treatment of women and widows in India. I think I wept through most of this movie anyway. At the same time, it's very beautiful and uplifting. I'm really grateful to the filmmakers for bringing the real women of India so up close and personal to us. The woman whose face is under a dupatta has a personality, a love and fire within her, which is more often suppressed by society.

I love Nagesh Kukunoor's films such as "Iqbal" and "Tein Deewar," which was so well written. (Here is my post about "Iqbal"). Actually, Kukunoor is a personal hero of mine as he was an engineer in the US and gave it up for his true passion in filmmaking. By the way, Kukunoor pulls a Shyamalan by playing a bit part in the movie. Eh, these guys need to just hire actors.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bubbles (My Poems): A Mid-Autumn Night's Dream

A Mid-Autumn Night's Dream

A friend beckoned me to Cabo San Lucas. I wasn't sure.
"Come and see it. Then decide if you want to go."

There were islands there now. We could hop to each
by wading through crystalline waters.
Total wade time was six minutes.

There were warm breezes awakening the palms.
The edges of the brown sand melted into blue-green ocean.
My toes broke into the shimmer of the sand,
leaving an imprint to be washed away momentarily.
The air lifted and lightened everyone.

"I will stay!" I decided.
Yet, I only have the clothes on my back.
I'm not ready for swimsuit season.
My daughter is dressed only in an orange swimsuit.
What about food? Everyone else brought bhel-puri.
My husband and I now have to help construct
the underground passage to the islands.
A menage of friends, parents and Disney princesses
came to my side. It would be fine.
Think of the six minute wad.

So, I stayed until I awakened.


As a side note, this dream obviously indicates how much I long for a vacation! I'm happy to announce I'm slowly stepping out of my writing funk. (Thanks for putting up with the simple poem above!)
  • Reading Hillary R Clinton's autobiography is a good mental palette cleanser. Historical and political Americana is always good for encouraging creativity. I don't find myself comparing my own writing to hers.
  • Colored my hair one rich mahogany color. It was kinda uneven with some touch ups in the middle, plus natural summer highlights. Only two people noticed and they are really good friends. :-)
  • Speaking of hair, I plan to grow out my bangs. Last summer, I ran into a hair stylist I used to go to in college. He said, "Are you growing out your bangs?" I told him no and gave my standard instructions for my bangs. He made a face. I asked, "Wait, why did you make that face?" He thought I should grow them. Well, fine, but not today. I have a big party tonight. So, against his better judgement, he cut them and gave me a fabulous hair cut (got lots of compliments!). Anyway, now I'm going to take his suggestion. I've had bangs since I was in college. No wonder people say "You look the same!" to me. If it doesn't look right, then off with them. It's only hair.
  • I'm taking Monday off. My plans are to work on 2 articles and go to Marshall's to look for a new purse. There has been something especially freeing to tell people at work, "I'm going to be out on Monday." In reality, it's 8 hours. However, with my job the impact of missing 1 day could be actually 2 days worth. But, they'll survive.
  • The Democrats have taken over the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the House (in line for Presidency right after Dick Cheney!), Rick Sentorum is officially not representing me, my values or my state and Rumsfeld is gone! Britney came to her senses and kicked out the dead weight. Astrologers have been predicting November to be a critical month for positive changes. I think these changes on the national level give me assurance about upcoming changes on the personal level.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Block and Write

How ironic my 101th post should be about writer's block.

I usually tell people there's no such thing as writer's block. It's all self-imposed. Truckers don't have truckers' block. They just keep on truckin'. Writers have to keep on writing.

Since last Spring there's been a lot of things in my life on the homefront, family and work. I feel I've had to shoulder a lot of emotional and sometimes, physical burdens. I have had to be strong for a lot of people. Some of it has gotten better and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Others are still open and all we can do is hope for the best, knowing it will all come together in time. Nothing in life is permanent. Bad times end like good times end.

I feel that my creativity has been a victim of this unexpected stress. It's been sucked out. I've lost passion for writing and tapping into my creative Spirit. It sounds very Oprah-esque, but I really do believe in my creative Spirit.

When I write poetry, I close my eyes and type. I listen to my thoughts, not editing or correcting, just listening and writing. Oftentimes I open my eyes and am amazed by what I've written. I've found old poems and do not remember writing them, though it's definitely me. (Ok, now my faithful readers are saying "chick's gone psycho from the stress." Maybe.). I would write a few poems a week - sitting in a weekly meeting, waiting for a file to unzip or process. Whenever and wherever it struck me to write, I wrote.

Last April, I got organized about my writing and tapped into my project management skills. Organizing my poems was an overwhelming task. I have them on disks, on work laptop, home PC, work notebook, pieces of paper in the kitchen and wherever I was when the creative spirit moved me. My other problem was I would come across Calls for Submissions and would miss the deadlines.

I estimated I had 16 hours of poetry compilation into one master document. I don't have 16 hours to spare in my life. However, I do have 1-2 hours over 8 days so I could handle that. I created a Word document table to track submissions, highlighting upcoming dates, contact info and recording what work I sent (filename, date, etc.) I was quite on top of this and saw immediate successes to being organized. I started categorizing and indexing my 200 poems.

Now, it's Fall and the stress of this summer has zapped me. I was bringing working on spreadsheets rather than my creative efforts. I've had to write "Missed Deadline" on my tracking form.

I need to get back into my creative efforts, but lately my work has been book reviews, articles and blogs. I don't know if anyone has noticed by I'm posting other people's poems and not my own anymore. I preferred to redesign my blogsite rather than write when I had a quiet evening to myself. I picked up an anthology of poetry off my bookshelf and was so disinterested. I'm actually reading Hilary Clinton's book right now. (I've had my head in Rohinton Mistry, anthologies by Indian, British writers and multiracial writers for the last few months. I need to clear my palette).

I'm not sure what I need to do to kick start and wake up my creative Spirit. I've trying doing a Yahoo Search on "Writer's Block" and found some "ok" websites that tell you basic things. I searched "find passion" and ended up with personal classified listings (oops! wrong search words!).

I used to write about this stuff and give advice to others. I have a few books for writers. My favorites are Gail Sher, "One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers" and Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird".

However, I don't know if that's enough. I need to find that spark, a fire, ma raison d'etre for writing. I think I need to do something different in my life - take a trip, take a risk or step away from the uncomfortable rut.

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Halloween Badmash 3

Shortly after I posted my last blog, she announced to me, "Next year I want to be a rock star."

I asked her if she knew what that was and she said yes.

"I just want the make up and the colored hair. You can spray it. I think it comes out. I'll ask Ashley. So I want to be Mermaidia and a Rock Star."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Halloween Badmash (Part 2)

I had posted the comic below because it reminded me of Halloween when I was 5 or 6. My parents were working-class Indian immigrants and didn't really understand the importance of Halloween to a child. My mom took me trick-or-treating in a chanya-choli, as an "Indian girl." I wanted the Cinderella mask and costume but that was an unnecessary expense in her eyes.

In later years, my siblings and I were creative and made our own costumes from household items - hobos, gypsies, clowns and even a Greek goddess (I was a mythology fanatic when I was 12). We've always loved dressing up for Halloween and even did it in college. My friends and I trick-or-treated in the dorm and ended up with half a bag of chips and beer.

Anyway, we're having fun with my daughter, Bubli, who loves to dress up no matter what. (It's Saturday 2:30 p.m., time to put on a poofy dress.) So, just about every Halloween, she ends up with 2-3 costumes such as a princess, a cat, or Minnie Mouse.

This year, we talked about being a fairy and a Barbie princess. When we bought her the doll last year for Christmas, they gave a free costume, which I hid it until now. The dress was identical to the doll's, so she was thrilled. Her eyes widened when I showed it to her it was reversible.

For her fairy costume, she has a lovely dress from her ballet recital. It's olive green, small flowers and embroidery on the bodice and a soft skirt. It reminded me of a wood nymph or a fairy if she wore wings, which she already has. I mentioned the idea to other ballet moms and they said, "Wow. You're right. It does look like a fairy dress!" I had bought a Dollar Store a wand, so it would be something new. This probably won't fit her again so she should wear it this year. I'm done with my costume planning. Or so I thought.

Well, she wore her Princess dress to the Halloween party/parades at her morning and afternoon KG schools.

On Monday morning before school, we talked about her Fairy costume for trick or treating. However, she refused to wear the ballet dress.

"It's green. I'm not going to be the green fairy. I'm not going to be the yellow fairy. I'm not going to be the blue fairy. I want to be pink fairy!"

I pulled out the wings she had. "Those are butterfly wings! They're not fairy wings." (Oh, I had no idea.) I suggested we decorate the wings with glitter and gems. She paused. Then continued.

I showed her the wand. "Fairies don't have wands. Only Tinkerbell does." (Oh, so they just do magic without a wand?)

So, I suggested she be Tinkerbell! She has a green dress, a wand and I can put her hair up. "She's ugly. Fairytopia has long pink hair."

She proceeded with a meltdown and I was really mad now. I told her she would have to be "Indian Girl" if she didn't stop this behavior. I'm not going to buy a whole costume, but just wings if she wears the green dress. She was really mad at me and didn't even say good bye to me when she got on the bus.

Just a disclaimer here - in spite of the tantrums, Bubli is really a good girl. She's not a whiny or overindulged child, though she has her moments. However, she is a very strong and independent girl. Since she was 2 years old, the daycare had told me that Bubli knows exactly what she wants. I thought it was average stubborn toddler behavior, but they told me she has a different personality. She definitely has to want to do something, you can't force her. This applies to eating, taking a bath or getting dressed.

Anyway, I was asking a five-year-old to make compromises. I should have managed her expectations earlier - she had told everyone she would be Fairytopia and figured it was a store-bought costume when I never intended it to be.

I went to Target at lunchtime just to check this Fairy business. I saw she was right. Fairytopia wings are different. However, I wasn't going to spend $25 (sale price, $35 orig) on a costume she would wear at night. For the record, the green ballet dress cost me $40 and was better quality.

So, I found another pair of fairy wings and some cute tights she could wear again. Fairy wings, by the way, have glitter and flowers and butterfly wings don't. My friend suggested I give her the wings by acknowledging positive behavior rather than the tantrum. For example, "You were very good this evening by listening to mommy and daddy."

That evening, we did not talk about the costumes and continued our routine as usual. I was cooking while she played her Reader Rabbit games on the computer.

As we were getting ready for bed, I asked her if she still wanted to be the fairy or just be Princess for trick-or-treating.

"Mommy, I'm not going to wear the green dress," she said quietly. "I'm going to wear an old pink dress and we can decorate it." This was one of my earlier suggestions.

I was surprised at how calmly she stated her position. She knew what she wanted and defined her stance. She would compromise on the pink dress, but was not going to bend on the green. I felt like I learned something about the art of negotiation from her.

"That's a great idea. I'll give you fairy wings and something special for your hair." I had some purple and pink hair extensions from a Dollar Store once. Again, I had tucked it away and took it out for the big reveal. She was in awe. We picked out special glittery tattoos.

So, Tuesday was Halloween. My work encouraged people to wear costumes for our Halloween party. I don't care to wear costumes to work, so I wore black turtleneck and pants. I asked Bubli if I should wear her butterfly wings. She was thrilled.

"Here let me help you. You helped me get ready. Now I can help you," she said holding the wings for me. "Oh, you look pretty!" (Really? Is the power of wings that strong to turn ordinary working mom into a magical butterfly? Does the cosmetic industry know about this?)

That night we got ready to go trick-or-treating with friends. I showed her the wings and she loved them. I suggested two pink party dresses and she chose the best one. It was white silk bodice with pink silk skirt and tulle overlay. There was a flower at the waist that matched the flower on the wings. I always thought it looked like a Princess dress. Now, it was a fairy dress.

I put the pink and purple thing in her hair, glitter on her face, gave her rosy cheeks and lips. She looked gorgeous! Running through the neighborhood, she looked like a little fairy. She is also a little charmer and chatted with the hosts at every house. She showed off her wings and glitter.

Anyway, it all ended well, but it was a day of anxiety for me, especially when she didn't say good bye to me on the bus. I suppose there will be many, many more power struggles ahead.

I was happier that she got into the spirit of creating your own look. By the way, she mentioned that next year she wants to be Mermaidia (Apparently, the fairies in Fairytopia turn into Mermaids.) I am checking the clearance tables now!

Side note: The pictures of the Fairies in this blog are by Cicely M. Barker. We have her pictures from a Flower Fairy Alphabet and listen to the CD as bedtime music. For me, I enjoy the poetry and for Bubli, it sets the perfect music for dreams.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Halloween Badmash

This is my favorite comic from -- brings back very vivid childhood memories.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On Being Five: Royal Pains

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
King Henry IV, part II: III, i

So says Shakespeare and my daughter.

She had her Halloween party at school where she was dressed up in full Barbie Princess regalia - lavender, pink and white tulle dress, silver crown, matching frou-frou in hair, Ariel plastic shoes.

In the evening, we cuddled up to watch "Annie," a favorite movie in the house (it reminds me of my grandmother actually. She didn't understand English, but enjoyed this movie immensely because of the singing and dancing kids).

Anyway, A asked me to rub her feet because the plastic shoes hurt her. (As if I forced them on her?)

Then she said her head hurt. I was concerned and asked her about it.

"Because I was wearing the crown."

Such is the pain of royals of which we plebians know not. Yet, we do our duty and rub the head and feet (given exact instructions on where the pain is, when it's being pressed effectively and if a foot is being ignored).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Il Postino, Pablo and Poetry

I was listening to my one of my favorite CD's yesterday - the soundtrack to Il Postino.
I received it as a Christmas present years ago and it's absolutely a treasure.

The first part of the CD has Pablo Neruda's poetry read aloud by actors. First of all, I love literary readings performed by actors because they know how to bring life to the words. Julia Roberts reads "Poor Fellows" and you could feel how much the words resonate with her as a celebrity. When Andy Garcia reads "Tonight I Can Write," you just want to cry along with him. Ralph Fiennes, Sting and Ethan Hawke read other poems and well, you just want to be with them.

The other half of the CD is instrumental and to me, it all sounds the same. It's pretty much the same theme song performed by different instruments and given different titles on the CD cover.
Anyway, I can't believe I haven't talked about Neruda on my blog yet. I love his poetry and if I learned Spanish, it would be only to read the his work in the purest form -- his own language. There is such an unashamed sensuality and passion to his poems.

I have always loved and identified with the poem below. To me, it not language or admiration between two lovers, but my feelings toward my daughter, especially the bolded lines (bolding is mine).

I Love You As

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,

or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms

but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;

thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,

risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.

I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

so I love because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,

so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,

so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Now, as a poet, I find this poem always strikes a crisp chord in me.


And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

Here's one more that I had found and saved:

In my sky at Twilight

In my sky at twilight you are a cloud
and your form and colour ar
e the way I love them.
You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lips
and in your life my infinite dreams live.

The lamp of my soul dyes your feet.
My sour wine is sweeter on your lips,
oh reaper of my evening song.
how solitary dreams believe you to be mine!

You are mine, mine, I go shouting it to the afternoon's
wind, and the wind hauls on my widowed voice.
Huntress of the depths of my eyes, your plunder
stills your nocturnal regard as though it were water.

You are taken in the net of my music, my love,
and my nets of music are wide as the sky.
My soul is born on the shore of your eyes of mourning.
In your eyes of mourning the land of dreams begins.

Monday, October 16, 2006

On Being Five - Discussing Politics & Religion

We were driving to ballet and the roadsides are sprouting election signs. One of the candidates in our area is Raj Bhakta of "Apprentice" fame. He actually has his mug shot on the sign.

A: Why are the signs there?

Me: Well, he wants us to vote for him. Remember we went to the voting booth at the firehouse last year?

A: Yeah. What's his name?

Me: Raj Bhakta.

A: Is he Indian?

Me: Yes. (I didn't want to get into the details of his ancestory)

A: Are we going to vote for him?

Me: Welll...(no, because he's a Republican and I'm a registered Democrat. And, even if he's Indian, I'm still not going to vote for him because PA has enough Republicans going to DC. Isn't that more important? Wait, how do I explain that to a five year old? Let's change topic!) I will vote for someone else who I think can do the job. You know, PA is going to vote for a new governor!

A: Oh! I know what a governor is!

Me: Really? (suddenly impressed with KG in the public school system)

A: Yeah, from the "Sound of Music."

Me: (pause. thinking. He was a Captain. Did anyone call him "guv'ner"? Wait, that's "My Fair Lady") Sound of Music??

A: Remember Maria?

Me: Oh, wait! That was a governess! Not a governor.

A: Oh. (pause. thinking) What do you call the others? The ones who wore the white and the hats? Are they governors?

Me: No, they're nuns.

A: What's that?

Me: (deep breath) They're Christian. They pray all the time.

A: Did they have to study hard?

Me: Yeah, nuns do have to study hard.

A: So, they studied hard to be in the movie?

Me: Yes. (pressing on the gas pedal to get to ballet faster!)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Part 18 For What There is No Training

I wanted to remember all the mothers who in the last two weeks sent their children to school and learned they would not return home.

The Amish community is very close to home for me, so the pain of their tragedy is felt deeply. And there are mothers in other parts of the US that are also grieving.

I always remember a woman who lost her son to the Columbine tragedy saying she kept her son's laundry untouched, just so she could hold onto his smell a little bit longer.

We all want to hold our children closer to us and having our hearts brutally torn is unfathomable. The Amish community has comforted themselves with "It was God's will." Yes, you can say maybe that child's purpose was to bring 8 years of joy and happiness to those around her.

There are so many senseless acts of violence against children all over the world. I've been thinking about Gandhian philosophy a lot this week and how does one turn the other cheek when there is violence against the weakest and smallest. He always said change starts with one person and I hope that can be done. We can see how many lives would have been saved and different if one person had decided not to move forward that day. It is easier to take the violent approach than the nonviolent one, which require one the face fears head on.

I cannot look at this butchery going on in the world with indifference. I have an unchangeable faith that it is beneath the dignity of men to resort to mutual slaughter. I have no doubt that there is a way out.

M. K. Gandhi


To be honest, I saw this Hindi comedy movie "Munna Bahi Lage Raho" this week. I thought it'd be another slapstick comedy, but was suprised by the theme of Gandhian philosophy -- bringing in the man himself to do the preaching. It was a great movie in that they used every day examples and how basic philosophy of truth and nonviolence do have a place in our world.

I recently helped a friend deal with a situation. She was ready to walk out, avoid confrontation with another person and give up. If she did that, it would exacerbate the situation, affect many people involved and break relationships. Remembering the lessons from this week, I told her she had two choices - either walk out or confront the other person. Walking out would be the 'violent' option and open discussion would be "nonviolent."

Fortunately she chose the latter. She found her strength by finding someone to support her during the discusssion. That's ok. We don't have to do everything in life by ourselves. (Refer to my "Confessions of a Supermom" post about having real expectations). The discussion was worthwhile and they will have to compromise and work. However, that work will be a lot easier than try to live and deal with the disasters.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Part 17: Confessions of the Super Mom

So, I got another article published on ABCDLady's Oct issue. This month it's about Time Management for Moms. I didn't tell my husband because I know he would laugh. How could I be the expert on time management? I'm always late, ill-prepared and just frantic at the last minute. Maybe that's why I feel like I need to work harder.

It's a great article with lots of ideas I gathered from my friends, but I just wanted to share all the incidents that happened since I wrote that article.

1. There was a field trip on Wednesday and I did know about it. She had a meltdown in the morning because they always wore red shirts on field trip days and she couldn't find it. I found it, got her dressed and pulled up to the school at 9 am. Also, learned in the car that we left her bookbag at home. At the school, kids were getting on the bus. We hurried inside and met another mom and girl, who was having a meltdown "my class! my class is leaving me!" We both were confused as to what time we needed to be there. But, the teacher told us it was 9 and the kids were fine. So it ended well.

2. During dinner on Monday, I suddenly thought about Julianne's birthday. We received the invitation a week before. It was on the fridge where I keep invitations, but it was under the school calendar. Her birthday was on Sunday and I was to RSVP last Thursday! My daughter was a bit distraught about missing a party, but I told her that I would try to arrange a special playdate. I sent the mom an email apology for missing the party.

3. I went to Back to School last night. I realized there were 2 family photograph projects due last Friday and we didn't do. Like my article says, I check Annika's book bag every night and never saw papers about this. I asked the teacher whether she sent a note for this. She said it was on the reverse of the school calendar (remember the one on my fridge?). She said not to worry and she'll be sending Oct calendar too. I know we're in KG and don't have formal grades, but it seems bad to miss 2 projects.

Shall I continue? We all strive to be super moms, cover all the bases from the home front, school and work fronts and it's hard. There's no way we can be perfect. Though I know that intellectually, it's hard to absorb emotionally.

By the way, I loved Elastigirl from The Incredibles. Yes, she's an animated character, but I felt she was real. My favorite scene in the movie is when she checks out her butt in her uniform. She's a mom, she has birthing hips. Yet, she wears thigh-high, kick-ass black leather boots! Like her, we're stretching ourselves so much. Right now I have a lot of stressful situations at work, home and personally. I think most of the demands, guilt and need for perfection is self-imposed.

So, if you have read my article, please know that we're not superheroes.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Going on a Roman Holiday

Now that Audrey Hepburn is in my head (thanks, GAP) and I need a vacation so badly, I think of my favorite movie, "Roman Holiday."

I remember watching this movie in high school and falling in love with everything about it. My favorite part is where she runs away and lolls about Rome by herself, indulging her own whims, getting her hair cut (a true makeover story!), eating ice cream on the Spanish Steps and finding freedom in a few moments.

That's me. Always looking for my own quiet time. I love to explore cities and new places by myself. I have no qualms about doing that.

My father loved this movie too. He fell in love with this movie back in India. He liked the romantic idea of walking around Italy with a pretty girl. His favorite was the scene at la Bocca de la Verita where Gregory Peck pretends to lose his hand to the Mouth of Truth and tricks the Princess.

My husband is a "Roman Holiday" fan, though I don't think he has a particular scene or moment he loves more than another.

We went to Italy for our first anniversary - just 3 days in Rome, 2 days in Venice and 1 day in Florence. I think Rome is a lot like Mumbai. Upon entry, you wonder where you are and want to leave. The people, the pollution, the chaos. Then, within a few days, you're so in love with it and don't want to leave. What were we thinking with just 3 days in Rome!

When we we came home, we rented this movie. It was exciting to pick out all the spots we had seen. It became a travelogue for us.

In Rome, we had to go see the Bocca de la Verita and actually rushed to the church right before closing. We practically tripped over marble ruins trying to get there. We made it just in time and took our pictures. Of course, they had a shop within the church where I bought my father a small souvenir replica of it. (He was thrilled with it!)

I had also insisted we go to the Piazza D'Espagne to see the steps. This is romantic on the literary level for me because Keats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning had lived there; there's now a museum dedicated to the artists. I was so excited.

Lo and behold! The Steps!

There were about 1000 other tourists taking pictures, students hanging around and Italians on cell phones all over. There were Punjabi men who set up shop to sell t-shirts and souvenirs at the base. How was I supposed to sit and eat gelato with my Gregory Peck? I was so upset and just wanted to leave.

I actually fell in love with Piazza Navona. Loved the cafes, the gypsy singers, and the artists. We actually bought some artwork from a street artist on our last night there. It was about 10pm and we only had $20 (USD) bills. Every bank was closed and we couldn't find an ATM. The artist said he'd accept the American cash without converting it. We found some Americans who exchanged it with us. We finalized on the artwork and were so excited with our purchase. Unfortunately we lost the artwork when we moved to our house. All we have left is the story.

"Roman Holiday" was on TV a few months ago and I had to stop flipping. My daughter was with me and kinda bored with a black and white movie. Then I said, "See that girl? She's a princess." And immediately, she snapped to attention. She watched a few minutes, but I know one day when she's older, this movie will let her dream.

I think this movie turns us all into runaway princesses, charming Gregory Pecks and Romans.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Non Fashion Statement

I'm not a fashionista. Never been mistaken for one, never posed as one. For me, dressing well is concerted effort. When I grew up, I had my sister say, "You're wearing that?". Now, as an adult, my husband will look at me and say, "You're wearing that?". I don't intuitively know what's going to look good off the hanger.

At work, I go for the classics - black pants, button down shirts, sweater sets (not "matchy-matchy" though). On weekends, it's jeans, t-shirts, kurta tops or some kind of different shirt. I get compliments from people for being 'put together' and I embrace those compliments because I have to think about clothes. When it comes to accessories, I rock! I love earrings, necklaces, bracelets. I buy off-the-rack jewelry and then deconstruct it by taking off extra baubles. Then, it becomes more me.

Anyway, I try to find things that suit myself and my personality, rather than trends.

So, last night I caught the new GAP ad with Audrey Hepburn dancing. Wow, what an awesome ad! Really well-edited, music is fantastic and it's flawless. How else can you get Audrey Hepburn to advertise for you. So the news is skinny pants are back.

Why, oh why? I ask.

Over the last 10 years, we've been brainwashed and instructed to stay away from tapered legs and go for the boot-cut, wide legs. This creates a more balanced silhouette, per our friend Stacy and Clint (TLC's What Not to Wear). We look longer and not like a lollipop on a stick.

Oprah's magazine this month has some new skinny-pant looks, so even they are trying to sell this concept to American women. They're showing styles suitable for non-Audrey Hepburn body types.

I'm not buying it though. I think you have to dress for yourself and your own body and not follow trends blindly. Just because GAP is running out of ideas and has to go back fifty-years for a look, we have to rush out ourselves?

I want to stop seeing chubby teenaged girls with "muffin tops" coming out of their low-rise jeans. American children and teens are facing obesity and the fashion is to go tighter and lower? Teenaged girls are the most insecure about their bodies, have surging hormones storing fat in the wrong places, and they're wearing tighter clothes that accentuate their "womanly blossoms." Unfortunately, with teenagers, they will want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Again, I don't get it.

I see my daughter has a fantastic sense of style (not inherited from me obviously!). She can put things together really well, and I only interfere when she wants lime green top with magenta skirt or the orange top with the purple skirt. The tops and skirts actually look really good together in terms of style, and would look great were it not for the colors!

By the way, there's one person at work who I know who will be happy about the skinny pants. She has been wearing leggings with big shirts since the 80's. So, I guess if you're consistent and don't care to slightly update yourself, trends do come around again!

Oh, speaking of leggings. I'm shocked, shocked, shocked to see leggings under the skirts! I wore these back in college! It was my "look" back then - lots of layered clothes. Now young girls at the mall are wearing the same thing. Crazy.

What's next -- denim jean shorts with black tights?
(Raise your hand if you wore these to parties in the late 80's/90's and thought you were so cool!)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On Being Five: Dreams

"Do you know why I come into your bed?"


"Because I have bad dreams. Then, I come into your bed and I have good dreams."


"Yeah. And then I go back to my bed and take the good dreams with me. I turn my pillow over so I will have good dreams too."

*~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I let her come to my bed if she has bad dreams. After a few minutes of warm cuddles, she becomes quite comfortable in my bed. Then, starts kicking, turning, sleeping horizontally, on top of my head, and any other twisted position she could conjure. Then, I pick her up and put her back in her bed. Then, we all fall asleep happily in separate rooms.

However, I loved how she came up with this analysis and explanation about her dreams.

It really is wonderful being five where you are balancing on two worlds. I think when kids are younger, they can't separate reality and fantasy. Five-year-olds will question fantasy, but they choose to accept it as reality. I think that's the charm we find in them - the wide-eyes and the easy laughter.

I've always thought 5 was the perfect age to be.