Cruise On

carnival-valor-cruise-2016-and-2017-718
Enjoying a sip under my “CRY” hat                                               Photo credits: Rashmi Kheni

The much hyped-about cruise trip was almost coming to an end. After 5 days of witnessing and experiencing gluttony and extravagance,we were more than ready to debark, an average of 5 pounds heavier than when we embarked. Post glory and gloating in the West Caribbean bound cruise with fun-loving friends, reality struck on our drive back home. This time there was exhaustion in place of excitement. There was also a sense of relief and hope of finally tasting my home made rasam and curd rice and revel in its simplicity! The great catastrophe was yet to strike the entire family on our home-bound journey, though ‘catastrophe’ would be a slight exaggeration 🙂

Little did I know when hubby dear plonked down on the bed that he had no intention to get up from there for the next 3 days, rather he was unable to. My kids were not to be spared either from the attack of microorganisms that we decided to bring home as souvenirs. The thermometer literally traveled from one mouth to the next. I transformed overnight into a la Florence Nightingale- a coughing one at that. I am starting to wonder what kind of life must it have been for the real Florence Nightingale. How did she survive it all? Well, the following days saw doctor’s visits lined up and increasingly dwindling resources of my medicine cabinet. Come night, the stage is set for duet cough performance by my husband and I, resembling a jugalbandhi of sorts, that could put the maestros to shame! If there is a term called coughomaniac, we should be awarded the best coughomaniac couples. Days are busily scheduled with usual rounds of gargling, steaming, humidifying and gulping down pills after a meal of hot soup, yet through this all, none of the social media indulgence was to suffer. Facebook profile updated – check, Whatsapp greetings exchanged – check, long-distance calls made – check!

I accidentally spot myself in the mirror, only to realize my face is a far cry from the glam girl I posed as in the cruise. In its place, all I see is skeletal remnants reminiscent of the ruins we saw in the Mayan temples of Chichen Itza in Progreso, Mexico. During this time of distress, I was alighted by life’s small joys like when my thoughtful daughter gifted me a set of 6 essential oils proving how well she had read my mind. Thank God for daughters! I also found my favorite “CRY” hat that I gave up hope of finding after incessant search. I had thought I lost it to the bowels of the ocean when it decided to resurface out of no where. I cried out of joy just the way I did after spotting that vibrant, florescent fish swerving in and out of a perfectly folded coral reef off the coast of Cozumel. Talk about life’s simple pleasures!

As I am snuggled up in my blanket in the living room sofa this New Year of 2017, I am reminded of yin and yang – the theory of opposites, the concept of balance. Just like we thrive in life’s luxuries, happiness and sunny side, we should also be ready to embrace the downside, the little inconveniences and the pain. This too shall pass. At least there is solace that it is only physical!

Duck-like!

Long drives have a compelling way of taking your thoughts on uncharted pathways that form a complicated mesh you find yourself helplessly entrapped. That is my mind at work, usually on my long commute to and from work where the heavy thought traffic easily beats the busy roads outside any given day!

So queer are the ways of the human mind that ‘living in the moment’ is a state that is not yet mastered. I often muse if this is an unconquerable feat for human mind, this state of being in the present, where you don’t wallow in the self-inflicted suffering from your past or angst for the future. Come to think of it, a high percentage of our thought process is rather futile than productive. Our brain is effectively a rerun of mindless thoughts of situations that threaten to destroy our ego, security, reputation, power to name a few. We are yet to imbibe the true essence of mindful meditation that offers space to accept any situation the way it is and find solutions for problems with a clear mind. Evolution has rendered us a far superior species at the loss of the art of simple living. What seems like an immeasurable leap from the stone age for human beings in terms of civilization is a battle lost in the areas of conscious living.

As a stroke of relief, my thoughts are interrupted at the sight of the placid lake beneath the bridge that my car moved at snail’s pace on. I spot a few ducks wading peacefully as if to put my over-thinking existence to shame. My mind is now in reverse gear in an attempt to undo the inconsequential thought process, to reclaim the energy wasted on the unplanned detours. These simple creatures teach me a thing or two by modeling the ‘living in the moment’ mantra. There is a sudden wave of stillness and contentment that inevitably strikes me at the daily sight of this natural wonder, it is almost humbling. I look forward to those moments of quietness inside with great diligence and regularity that I find myself craning out of my car window onto the vast water body below for my daily dose of sanity. Thank goodness for such lovely creations in nature, there is respite from the craziness of our over-driven mind. If only we could have such duck-like moments in our lives more often, if only we realized the need to slow down and really see and feel what is around us, the word ‘stress’ would never have existed in our vocabulary!

My dear sister!

When tears welled up in my eyes

For seemingly no reason,

And my heart felt unusually heavy

On a particularly gloomy rainy morning

Dear sister,

I knew it was for you,

Who left us all stumped

Looking for the shards of our own lives

In the maze and the haze…..

I see the sunflower that is your face,

and the sun that is your smile,

I wake up in pain

To know it’s all in vain.

I had longed to be in the warmth of your laughter

Just one more time, before it was all over,

I had wished for one last time to revel in the aroma

That wafted from your hearth

On lazy summer mornings,

I had wished to be that child who followed her big sister

To the temple, to the pond, to the fields and beyond

Just one more time, before it was all over.

Maybe it is selfishness, maybe it is greed,

I can’t help but hold tight

To the safety net of my loved ones

Before I know it is all over!

I knew the reality of death like never before

It carved in me a truth I’d never ignore

No matter what, you cannot relive past

Live this moment and feel the love

Of the loved ones, till the last single breath!

Just the way you lived and left a trail

My dearest BIG sister!

Sunflower_head

-An ode to my lovely cousin who left us all

to render this world a less brighter place….

Backyard birds

In India, it was much easier to dispose left-overs since there were takers outside the household. That way, we redeemed ourselves the guilt of wasting edible food. But, when I came to US, things were very different. There was hardly any option for disposal of excess food, that eventually made its way to the dumpster. Every time I had to throw away unused food, my heart gave out a silent cry, for we were raised not to disrespect food. Well, all I could do was sigh! This was when I was living in my old apartment.

www.gardenofpossibilities.com
http://www.gardenofpossibilities.com

When I moved to my new house with a nice little backyard shaded by oak trees, I decided to hang a bird feeder on one of the branches and a bird bath next to it. For a very long time the birds were feeding from the grains that I refilled into the feeder, and unwillingly shared it with an uninvited guest, a squirrel, that was quite a boss himself. It is a joyful experience to learn the survival of the fittest, the teamwork and the unity in diversity lessons rendered by nature. I could watch them to no end as a silent spectator from my porch! Sure enough, my backyard was a source of sheer entertainment for our entire family.

squirrel-proof-hanging-bird-feeder

It was one of those days, when I was going to throw the leftover lunch my daughter brought home that it struck me to dump it under the backyard tree that might be interesting for the birds or squirrels. True to my gut feeling, the bits of food that were strewn disappeared in no time. The backyard friends had had a feast on it! Probably they found it much tastier for the change in flavor from the usual. From that day on, it became a ritual for me to salvage food that had no takers at home and ship it to my extended family of birds and animals! Their choice expanded from the plain store-bought seeds to a wide variety of cereals, rice, bread crumbs, fruits and so on. How much better can it get, with food, water and rest in and around the oak trees? And there are all kinds – red cardinals, swallows, ravens, sparrows, hummingbirds and their arch rival, the squirrel himself! As more and more of my nature friends flock for food, little do they know their mere presence in the vicinity of my house is enough to fill my moments of solitude with meaning.

 

Mom, is there tea?!

http://www.picturesnew.com/tea-images.html
http://www.picturesnew.com/tea-images.html

Our daily rituals and routine give us so much comfort and coziness, we hardly notice it because it is part of our everyday life. Making tea is one such ritual in our household. Since I was a child, drinking mid-morning tea in the cute little steel cup that mom poured fresh and dad served hot, was a stamp of love. It never left me even after marriage, crossing seas and making nest on foreign land. In fact, I made many friends for life over ‘chai'(Indian milk tea) relished over breakfast tables. Such is the impact of some rituals in life that, without them it feels empty and devoid of meaning.

I have always made tea keeping up with tradition, no matter I had company or not. And when my husband is around, I would have him for company. That was till my older one turned 14. Once she got a sip from the flavorful ginger tea I was enjoying on a cold winter day, she got instantly hooked on to it. Now it became 3 in the family to share the tradition. Not for too long. My younger one followed suit this past winter, though she hates ginger! For some reason, she loved the taste of ginger in tea and made an exemption. Now making tea has become a celebration for me for there are more takers. The process is cathartic to my senses; it imbues the essence of who we are as a family. When friends come over, the mere presence of tea is enough to bring an unknown connection where bonds are created and heated discussions occur, sometimes hotter than the tea itself. Nevertheless, the end result is that of good camaraderie and intentions.

In our house, the frequency of preparation of tea is twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening. These days, that is all my kids look forward to, coming from school. They couldn’t care less about snacks or meal. The evening tea has a special ingredient of care, companionship and anticipation for the loved ones who soon would seek their abode for the day. Yesterday was different. I was lazy and chose to make my instant coffee, and settled myself cozily on the couch. And in came my daughter, exchanged pleasantries and went straight to the kitchen to muse, “Mom, isn’t there tea?” A sudden rush of mixed feelings smeared in guilt came to me as I had always associated its preparation to warmth and comfort in the family. I hurried to the kitchen and put a pot of water to boil, humming to myself!

Miss you!

2013-07-13 06.56.59

My second daughter is away on a summer camp, and I sense the emptiness the younger ones can create in our lives. It is as if the second ones are born for the sole purpose of their parents’ entertainment. They can come in many flavors-  quiet, funny, naughty, kind, stubborn, yet they all seem to fit the description of the ones that fill up your life with their ever-present charm. As for my younger one, she is an omnipresent gentle breeze, a face of sanity in moments of craziness, an embodiment of love!

From what I have observed amongst my friends and family, the younger ones seem to have it all easy, they become the constant tattle tellers, the tantrum throwers, the ‘my-way or the highway’ kinds, the happy-go-lucky, the ever-pampered souls and above all, the super-spies who constantly have their special antennas up for their older siblings’ acts. Your older one tries to be her real self, and lo comes the  sly little reporter with a mini crime report on the ‘big bad bossy one’, until mom starts her yelling routine! They get to skip a shower, coochy-coo on mom’s lap, sleep with their feet dirty, sneak in the pantry for a forbidden treat. And the list goes on……….They have that immense potential to make the parents feel that life would have been drab, if not for them.

I feel something missing when I am not anymore woken up early morning from my younger one’s kisses all over my sleepy face. The quietest sweetest baby girl, who barely had tantrums, full of shyness and deep care is already an independent, strong-willed, fun-loving, still caring teenager. Today, I miss her bed head, her hour long morning chat sometimes about her dreams the previous night, sometimes school and friends, sometimes about her future family plans! I miss my shopping buddy, my wardrobe planner, my chores helper and my partner counselor .

I don’t see today my little one who fills up the house, who scurries from her dad one moment, to her mom the next and then her older sister for a quick rendezvous or an elaborate chit-chat depending on the mood. As much as she is the calm and quiet one outside the house, she is the chatter-box, the crazy comedian and the one always-in-action in our household. Though she has been in my life for the least number of years, it is from her I have received the most number of hugs and kisses! There is no dearth of love when she is around. And I am sure, once she is back from camp, I would grab my share of hugs and kisses that I right now yearn !!

Case of a missing shoe

Something missing!

As I sped past the usually commuted highway for the 1000th time, I noticed something that was out of the ordinary. A shoe on the curbside cast away, forlorn, neglected. Just a single shoe without its pair. The sight brought a sudden knot to my throat as thoughts not very pleasant crossed my mind. Could it have been from an accident where the shoe of the victim was thrown mercilessly off its owner, or could it be that it flew off from behind a speeding truck where memories are packed as part of a moving venture, or may be a lonesome side-walker had to desert it in an attempt to run away from a predator. Whatever it was, the sight of the lonely shoe brought eerie and discomforting thoughts.

I drove on the same road next day and saw the same shoe unclaimed and still intact as if to remind of many bitter truths of life. I still wondered, ” why just one shoe, where is the other pair”, and kept driving ahead. Third day, and the shoe was still lying there orphaned, unattended, abandoned.  It surprised me to feel the pain with the same intensity that pulled my heart’s strings the first time! It evoked in me the truth of loneliness, of separation, of transience, of negligence and heartlessness, only difference was it could have been life itself……

credits:Dulyposted.com
Realization

Mother’s Day

   MOM

Mother’s day is around the corner and I muse about the true essence of motherhood. Do you become a mom just by virtue of giving birth? You are a mother but not ‘mom’, necessarily. The essence of momness is earned, not bestowed. Mom is not just another role that you perform in ways of feeding or dressing or educating your children, it is nourishing and enriching the young minds in emotional and spiritual levels!

Momness, if you think about it is not a qualification due to maternity itself. It is in fact, an abode of sanctity; it is a testimony that love, care and kindness still exist on earth. As far as there is flavor of motherhood on earth, there is still hope! You see subtleties of it in nature, in trees, in animals and all things living. It is owned solely by those who give birth – to goodness, to strength, to peace and above all, life. I see it in my own mother, who is momness personified. I also see it in my dad’s eyes and feel it in my brothers’ voice, as well as in random acts of kindness from near and dear ones, or a neighbor or sometimes even a stranger.

Penguins
courtesy:http://cuteanimals.cosmobc.com/

If I were to take even one-millionth of an ounce of pride in being a mother, let it not be for the lives that my womb delivered but for their journey thereafter! How would I come close to qualifying for a mom, if I weren’t to exhibit an iota of humaneness from the standpoint of another human,  if it’s not my shoulder that my daughters choose to cry on, if I couldn’t read the angst in their troubled minds, or know the meaning of unspoken words? Motherhood is not a right, but a privilege that has to be earned from mutual love and respect, by letting go and not clinging on!!
Needless to say, it is not in the untouched souls, the crass creatures, or the ruthless ruler. It is rather a light breeze that smells of jasmine, and brings music to your heart as you feel the gentle hands that lay on your shoulder. Hail the existence of momness!

 

Pre Empty-Nest Syndrome

An Ode to Motherhood

 

Mansa Prasad
Watercolor: by Mansa Prasad

I see the choice sheet from my daughter’s school lying on the table and I feel almost numb.  Usually the choice sheet springs me into action as I buzz around my kid debating on what courses she should take(as if she could care less) and feel part of an important decision-making process. This year is different. Yes, my older one will be a senior in High school in a matter of few months, and gone off to college soon after! Somehow, the thought makes me sombre, as if struck by reality. I am swept by sheer bitter-sweetness, as I feel unprepared for the moment of separation. The sense of emptiness creeps in on me, like I am already missing her laughter that reverberates the entire house, or the sly footsteps that approach from the back to hold me in a tight embrace with slender arms, to kiss me good night.
Images flash through my mind, the bundle of joy swaddled in warm hospital clothes, the curly locks and toothless smile, the terrible two that went on to become terrible ten, the lanky girl with long legs who loved to climb trees, and even more loved the water and pretended to be a mermaid and never stopped dancing, and never gave up tantrums and brought drama in my life, not to mention the infinite pranks played on her innocent younger sister or any friend who happened to be a prey!! She the manga girl, the gamer tomboy, the artist with nails painted sometimes in color, sometimes black and sometimes everything in between in all possible designs. As the colors from her paintings adorn my walls, so do they bring life in my heart and light up my soul!

2013-08-24 13.36.05
Artist:Mansa

If I could award anyone for my parental skills and wisdom, it would be her, my first one, the one who brought me the honor of motherhood, with all its challenges and self-doubt. Yes, we have seen it all, the mother-daughter duo, we have been through the ups and downs in our years of bonding, the meltdowns, nagging, the laughter, the hang-outs, the craziness, chit-chats, the little secrets and subtle undercurrents of mutual love and respect.
Today, the self-proclaimed strong mom stands defenseless, frozen at the sight of a choice sheet that suddenly reminded her of the seventeen long years that passed in a fleet, in a heartbeat. Soon, her child would no more be dropped off to school, nor will she wage the battle of SAT words. In no more than four years, she would see her second one follow suit, for that she has to brace herself, to be in the empty nest. And that is the law of nature, the circle of life.
As she, my daughter, moved on gracefully past me, I saw through my tear-stained smile the creases that formed on my weathered face, and nodded as in self-affirmation. I reminded myself the quintessential quote by Khalil Gibran:

“Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself……”

 

My dear Camry

2013-08-12 13.01.07

Before I landed in the Land Of Opportunities, I only knew of 3 necessities in life – food, clothing and shelter.  Life in USA brought in the fourth necessity – a car, a quintessential part of a typical American lifestyle. All first generation immigrants like me would know the burden of meeting a new necessity, as if already existing three are not enough.  We knew  a new addition to our life is inevitable, and that came in the form of a brand new  1999 model Toyota Camry. Unlike now, she was a cool chick back then!

Recently, my husband and I decided to buy a new car, as we felt that our Camry had served us long enough. That is 15 long years, which is equivalent to 100 years in human age. The day of purchase, we reached the car dealership,talked to the sales agent, got ready to pay for the new car, when we were thrown this question by the manager, ‘Do you want to trade in your old car?’ I realized the familiar lump in my throat that I felt only during poignant moments with fellow human beings before. The truth dawned upon me that, time  has come to part with my dear Camry that remained a loyal companion for all these years. I didn’t give heed to my logic brain’s reprimand and scoff at my attachment to a piece of junk metal. Instead, I waited with bated breath to hear on the price my priceless car would fetch, when my emotional mind traveled years down memory lane.

The car, one of our first possessions of the new beginnings in the new land, has been a silent witness to our struggles, insecurities and angst in the initial years, typically associated with first generation families. My Camry has seen it all, my triumphs and failures,  my anxiety of  parting with my daughters on the first day of their  kindergarten, my pregnancy and delivery of the second one, our excitement driving to the airport for the much awaited trip to the country we call home , our incessant small talks and fights as a family and all the fun, shopping escapades with my dear friends! She served us with no complaints for a long decade and a half, with dents on her back and paint peeling off, still so beautiful inside!

I was woken from my reverie as the sales agent approached us with the quote on our car, and my husband looked at me and knew to dismiss the deal. Yes!!! My breath fell even with the realization of being able to hold on to my ‘Comfort blanket’ a little longer. One day for sure, I have to let go of her and she would cease to be a part of my life. Till then, let me find comfort in her mere presence on my front porch. I can’t stand enough by the truth that a car IS a necessity, not a luxury when it makes its way into your heart!