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.