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.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Edna St. Vincent Millay Poem

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why (Sonnet XLIII)
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

I never thought too much about Edna before, but I came across this poem yesterday on and thought it was beautiful and melancholic.
Photograph is The Kiss, Paris 2003 by Gavin Martin.

The Queen and the Soldier

The Queen And The Soldier
- Suzanne Vega

The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door
He said, "I am not fighting for you any more"
The queen knew she'd seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside.

He said, "I've watched your palace up here on the hill
And I've wondered who's the woman for whom we all kill
But I am leaving tomorrow and you can do what you will
Only first I am asking you why."

Down in the long narrow hall he was led
Into her rooms with her tapestries red
And she never once took the crown from her head
She asked him there to sit down.

He said, "I see you now, and you are so very young
But I've seen more battles lost than I have battles won
And I've got this intuition, says it's all for your fun
And now will you tell me why?"

The young queen, she fixed him with an arrogant eye
She said, "You won't understand, and you may as well not try"
But her face was a child's, and he thought she would cry
But she closed herself up like a fan.

And she said, "I've swallowed a secret burning thread
It cuts me inside, and often I've bled"
He laid his hand then on top of her head
And he bowed her down to the ground.

" Tell me how hungry are you? How weak you must feel
As you are living here alone, and you are never revealed
But I won't march again on your battlefield"
And he took her to the window to see.

And the sun, it was gold, though the sky, it was gray
And she wanted more than she ever could say
But she knew how it frightened her, and she turned away
And would not look at his face again.

And he said, "I want to live as an honest man
To get all I deserve and to give all I can
And to love a young woman who I don't understand
Your highness, your ways are very strange."

But the crown, it had fallen, and she thought she would break
And she stood there, ashamed of the way her heart ached
She took him to the doorstep and she asked him to wait
She would only be a moment inside.

Out in the distance her order was heard
And the soldier was killed, still waiting for her word
And while the queen went on strangling in the solitude she preferred
The battle continued on.

I used to listen to Vega's songs back in college. Remember "Tom's Diner" and "Solitude Standing"? I used to put on my headphones and listen to the tape as a meditative tool, lying on the dorm bed and unwinding my brain.

This song always stayed with me as a poet for its simplicity and the ability to tell a complicated story. The plot is quickly established and the characters are familiar. It has a fairy tale appeal with the surprising message. It moves very quickly.

I always loved the line, "And to love a young woman who I don't understand" because it makes it seem that men and women do not "get" each other and that is a fact of life. It's not a Mars/Venus phenomenon, but what it is and always has been. Also, the soldier's request for it makes male/female relationship become on of the pleasant struggles in life. The soldier wants that since he's seen enough of war and death that ensues.

This song came to mind earlier while listening to the news. In times of war and the unknown motivations of our leaders, it makes us realize that our story is not new. It also shows the common man being more grounded than the queen, and the queen is so vulnerable inspite of her strong facade.
Those we deem as powerful are probably the weakest and use their power as a shield. And, the soldier chose to question and once he had the upper hand, she destroyed him for his actions.

(photograph of Arundel Castle, West Sussex England is from

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

I shouldn't be surprised by the 9/11 coverage, but it's hard to watch the replaying of newscasts and these other films. I heard one radio doctor say that children who do not have a concept of time may find the constant replaying of the disaster disconcerting - i.e., they would think it's happening now.

I don't understand why we need to see this. 9/11 has not been forgotten. It's part of our every day reality. We wake up to news about US soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq, Afghani children who can't go to school, the Iranian president's pronouncements against the west and the suffering of Lebanese families who can't recieve aid. These are all consequences of that day and the actions of this country.

Of course we all remember that day. I was in a morning grad class at that time. We left the classroom at 10 and there was a crowd in front of the TV monitors in the hallway. Someone explained to me that it was terrorist attack, hijackers at the WTC and Washington. I quickly called my husband and asked him if we knew anyone who was there, and thankfully he said no. I called my sister and father, and they were home and had not turned on the TV yet. My sister used to work at WTC and still had friends at her old company in the 2nd tower. She was trying to keep tabs all day with other friends who worked in the surrounding buildings. My cousin and uncle later had a trying day as they left NYC amidst the chaos.

I rushed home after the 2nd tower fell. I felt like planes were dropping from the sky. Everything was chaotic. I stopped to buy bread and felt incredibly guilty. How could I do something so mundane?

That day, we had my sister and my husband's brother come over. My mother-in-law was with us and I spent so many hours just holding my daughter, who was 7 months old. She represented all the goodness and promise in the world that was left. I remember we all needed to come together and wished for world peace in our way.

At that time, I was reading "Cracking India," which is about the Partition of India and Pakistan from the point of view of a young girl. After spending hours glued to the TV, I looked to the book for distraction. However, I had reached the section where Lenny's world changes overnight. Now that we just witnessed this tragedy, I understood exactly how this could happen and change your view of the world. We went from feeling light to feeling suddenly vulnerable, exposed and frightened of our neighbors. I met Bapsi Sidhwa at a writer's conference last year and I was able to tell her how her book paralleled events for me.

After my class, I had stopped at the computer lab and everyone was glued to the TV monitors. There was a Russian classmate, who leaned over to me and made a comment about this being America's problem and we could 'go back to where we came from, you know?" I just said 'ok' to her. For me to go back to where I came from would be to go to NY.

I call myself a New Yorker at heart. I grew up in Queens, migrated to NJ in my early teens and out west to PA after marriage. I worked in NYC and loved the rhythm of the city. I still do. I remember going to the WTC after work with my sister. There was a bar downstairs (it began with M?). After a drink, we'd have to catch the train back to NJ. I remember running through the towers to the Path station and it took me a long time! That's part of the whole disaster that stuns me. The size, the enormity of it. How could people even get out of the building that big?

When I would emerge from a subway downtown, I'd look for the Towers to orient myself. When I was midtown, I'd look for the Empire State building. Invariably, I'd still walk in the wrong direction. We have a photograph of me when I was 3 against the backdrop of the NY skyline. The twin towers are still under construction. I remember when I was a little older my friend Ken and I would argue about which building was taller - the WTC or Empire State. We had nothing else to do in the backseat on roadtrips anyway.

After the towers fell, the only pictures you saw were the ones of the towers in flames, lit like wild candles. I hated those posters and shirts that came out later with pictures of the towers on there. I did not want to see them at all. It seemed obscene.

Then after some time, I sought out pictures of the towers. In the opening credits of "Friends" or in a movie that showed the NY skyline. It suddenly seemed comforting, reminscent of simpler times.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


The Apple Tree
- Dorothy Parker
When first we saw the apple tree
The boughs were dark and straight,
But never grief to give had we,
Though Spring delayed so late.

When last I came away from there
The boughs were heavy hung,
But little grief had I to spare
For Summer, perished young.

I feel strongly about the last line this year. Summer slipped away so quickly. Living in the northeast, we feel the seasons. I always wondered what it'd be like to live in a place without drastic seasonal changes, like FL or AZ. I don't think I would miss the seasons. I thrive in the sunshine and warmth.

Fall, albeit beautiful in its colors, is very grim to me. We're finding beauty in its decay. The smells of autumn we cherish are only the fallen leaves mixing back to the earth. It's almost as if it's a last exciting show before the curtain falls. Then the theatrical crew cleans up and leaves the stage bare, revealing its harsh structures.

The weather today is in the 80's and there is still much green on the trees. Because we live in the northeast, we treasure our time with summer as long as she'll stay for us. While I love warm weather, I also love the vibrant greenery and lushness my state has to offer.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Part 16b - Who is going back to school?

Well we survived this week. She and I waited at the corner for the school bus. She danced and twirled around while I feared she'd twirl right into traffic. I would hug and kiss her good bye, and help her to climb the big steps on the bus. She would sit in the first seat and wave to me with an excited smile. From behind the tinted glass, she looked so small. (What am I doing? Where is she going without me!? Where's her booster seat? What kind of society is this?) I would brush away a tear and walk to my car. For the first time in years, I am driving directly to work, not stopping at the daycare.

There's been a lot of excitement this week about the first day of school. The saying is that you get to relive your childhood through your children. That's definitely true. However, childhood was not always popcorn and butterflies. Now, all those anxious memories of school are surfacing!

The Bus

My sister and I used to walk to elementary school, but took the bus in middle and high school. It was at the corner and we could just about hear the bus come down the street. I think of all those days we had to wait in the heat, cold, and rain with kids. We had to drag our instruments, tennis rackets, gym bags and book bags to the bus stop. There was always commotion in the morning; we couldn't miss the bus because my father had already left for work and we'd have no ride. We would finish eating our toasts at the bus stop. There's a foggy memory of Mom bringing a mug of milk to the stop for myself, my sister or my brother.

Now, I'll be waiting at the stop again. Fortunately, the two of us could wait in my car at the corner so we won't have to withstand the elements. However, we do have the morning rush in the house. My daughter is a slow eater and we've got a routine of begging her to stop talking and keep eating. I'm working on getting organized in the morning to eliminate any last-minute rushes. Again, I'm feeling anxious about missing the bus. I could easily drop her, but that's not the point. You're committed to taking a bus.

Yes, I know she's in kindergarten, but she has homework. We have a blank calendar for September, which needs to be completed with the dates and color.

I'm getting panicky about homework because I was not disciplined about it as a child. I think all three of us had this problem. We did not have a set schedule for doing homework. We'd come home, watch TV, play outside and it wasn't until after dinner we settled down to do it. Then we would be yawning while my father explained math and chemistry to us. In high school, we'd come home around 7 or 8 from tennis games or music rehearsals. We would settle down to do it then. I remember doing homework first thing in the morning or during other classes.

My husband also confesses to hating school and homework. He was in the Indian school system, which is much tougher and has a lower tolerance than the US system. He said he consistently was in trouble for not doing it, and maybe more so because his mother was a professor. He just makes a face about how much he hated school.

My first question to parents with school-aged children is, "When do you do homework?" Most of them say they do it as soon as the kids come home. They know there are too many distractions to delay it. I'm going to start now so both she and I will become disciplined about this.

Other Stuff
I've gotten a bunch of papers about fundraisers and activities. I don't particularly like doing the fundraisers, such as the entertainment books. Really, who can you sell it to if every school is doing it and your friends are in the same boat as you? I'll gladly make a donation to the school in lieu of peddling wrapping paper at work.

Circle of Life
If this is all part of the circle of life, let me tell you, it's quite a dizzy ride!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On the Job Training: Motherhood - Part 16: First Day of Kindergarten

Woke her up this a.m. and told her she's no longer my "baby doll," just my "doll." (held back tears).

Looked for the camera, turned it on and read "Change Batteries." Looked for video camera and thankfully that was charged for a change. Asked her questions during breakfast and learned she really has no clue what the first day of school means. I told her she'll be doing this now until she's 22 at least.

Warning (Bragging Mom Ahead): She looked absolutely cute! She wore a pink collared dress with a white sweater, new pink & brown shoes that we bought last night. I did two little half-French braids and let her curls come down. It was a bit freaky how much she looked like me on my first day of schools -- but aren't you supposed to be like this? (Just because my mom did this to me, I feel I have to do this to her.) I was surprised no one else wore a dress, but my girl is really a girly-girl so any excuse to wear a dress is perfect for her. If she could've worn a tiara, she would've.

We went with her for the orientation day where she played with just about everything -- puzzles, piano, books, coloring, blocks. We asked her what she planned to do the rest of the year. Met the teacher who was nice.

I was reading an article on getting kids ready for KG and it pointed out that KG teachers are probably the nicest people on the planet. That makes sense. Every teacher or office personnel we met this morning looks like they had consumed bowls of Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops for breakfast. (I was pining for the rest of my coffee!)

After the 2 hours there, we returned her to private daycare/school where she will continue the rest of the day. They have a full day KG so she will do public school in the a.m., private KG in the afternoon + aftercare.

She was having fun and this all seemed normal. Then I met the other KG teacher, Ms. H., a bubbly, sugar-cereally young woman. She handed me a "gift," a ziploc bag with a cotton and tea bag with a note attached:

Dear parents:
Here is a little gift for you as you leave your precious one with me on the first day of school. As you hold this cotton ball in your hand, the softness will help you to remember the gentle spirit of your child. After you've gone home and dried your tears, make yourself a hot cup of tea. Put up your feet and relax. Remember that together you and I will work for your child to be the best they can be.

Thank you for entrusting your child to me for the coming school year. I will do my very best every day to be your child's guide in learning and exploring this bright, new world they've stepped into.

She should've added the tissues!

Tomorrow - she rides the bus alone to school.
(*sniff* *stifled sob* *sniff*)