February 28, 2014

A Dream Relived

Meera woke up shaking, her palms tinged with sweat. It had been the same dream again, awakening her at the same screeching stop. Like many such nights, she sat thinking if she had seen more this time. If she only knew what it all meant she thought, when she heard Veer cry from his room. She carried him to her bed and put him next to Vijay who was in a deep sleep, oblivious to the turmoil she was going through. Deep down she did not blame him, it had been so long now that it had been beyond him to empathize with her every time she went through this. She knew she was in this alone.

It had been a difficult morning, like how it always was every time she got the dream. She rushed in to her parent's house to drop Veer before work, just having enough time to say Hello. “I will call to talk to you Ma!” she shouted as she closed the door behind, only pausing briefly to look at the picture of Manju. Though it felt like she was with her just yesterday, it had been three years since the accident. But only Meera knew the void it had left inside her, which had only grown bigger with time. Though she was surrounded by so many loved ones, she had nursed this wound on her own. Everybody had assured her then, that her little one who was due to arrive in a few weeks would get her through this loss. But every time she was with her son, she had missed Manju more. It hurt her deeply when she thought that her sister never got to meet her son.

Meera checked the time again, while Vijay drove to the airport, his flight was leaving in two hours. She had planned to talk to him about seeing a doctor while he was away. He had been suggesting it for so long now and had given up when she had shown no interest. This time she knew she needed the answers, she finally needed to connect her inside to her outside again. “Will miss you Vijay” she said not knowing how to begin, while he steered the wheel frantically to reach the airport on time. “Just a matter of three weeks,” he said his voice softening, “Call me anytime.”

She looked back in the rear view mirror to make sure there was no one while she backed the car. It was the same eerie feeling she felt every time she looked behind her, there was always that expectation. It was a good forty minutes drive to her parent's place, she was planning to stay for the week with them. The thought of Manju immediately followed as she braved herself to spend so much time amidst all the memories left behind at their childhood home. There was a lot of traffic with very less space to move, allowing her thoughts to move away constantly. There was roadwork ahead with a detour sign, she followed it blindly still deep in her thoughts. The roads eased a bit, while she accelerated, the thoughts getting stronger, the streets getting blur. She suddenly stepped on the brake, the car came to a screeching stop. It seemed like she was in a reverie, but she was conscious enough to get out to see if everything was okay. A little girl came running across the street and picked up the puppy near the car, her mother closely following her. “Sorry about this,” she said “We had just unleashed her for....” she paused, and Meera could not hear the rest. She looked at the puppy and it all came back. It had always been their secret plan to bring home a puppy as their parents had never agreed to let them have one. They had spent days figuring out ways to convince their parents and had even thought of a name. They had grown and matured beyond this childish ploy, but it had never stopped to amuse them every time they had spoken about it. “Sorry again,” said the mother “we will take her back to the store, we are putting her up for adoption today”.

Meera sat in the car and looked smiling at her new companion in the rear view mirror, while she called Vijay. “Didn't know you would call so soon”, he said as soon as he picked the phone. “I didn't know either,” she said “Just wanted to tell you I will be okay”. She drove home thinking of how she would explain about little M2 now sitting in her car to her family, and for the first time she felt an excitement taking over the voidness inside her.

February 27, 2014

Gift of the gab

It is amazing how some people are born with the gift of talking, smooth talking I mean. I am generally pretty good at reading another person's mind and intentions. Even if somebody plans to work their way around me, I can sense it when they are even planning it in their head.

But smooth talking is something I just don't get, and takes me sometime to realize that the other person has taken me for a ride. It might be something that I need from someone, for which I would have just called and asked for it.  I have had people call me and talk to me about everything else under the sun, and said how I did something so well. At this point I am still clueless and then they suddenly ask what they wanted from me. It is as if everything said minutes ago holds no value.

I don't get why someone would not just ask directly, it irritates me to no end that they just made a fool of me all along while their only intention was to get something from me. Maybe it is an art in itself and some people take pride in it. But to me it's a gift I want to do nothing with ever!

February 26, 2014


Another fag end of the day writing! An exhausting day with the kids, I had planned to write after they slept. Exhaustion + A giggly two year old refusing to fall asleep = A mom asleep at 9 PM.

Found something interesting I read and this is what I would have written about. Maybe will write about it another day. But for now leaving you with the link.

Would you Orchestrate your way into something if you cannot achieve it the straight forward way? A couple's way into Sochi; playing for another country!

Hard to relate, how some people do it for things big and small. Orchestrate their way around!

February 25, 2014

Encounter on a Train

There are some encounters with strangers that can change your life forever. I had one such encounter with a lady about eight years ago when I was travelling on an early morning Amtrak train to Washington DC from Central Virginia for a job interview.

These were days when we were yet to become slaves to smart phones, and polite conversations between passengers were existent. She was "middle-aged" to my then young eyes (I had a rather broad age group labelled as "middle-aged" then) and had a kind of sweet smile that just spread good cheer around. After a few exchange of smiles and nods, she began a sort of a conversation. I spoke and she signed. It was one of a kind! I was so preoccupied with my interview, I could have cut off, gone into my shell, read a book, gone to the pantry for a coffee, gone to sleep. But I just could not stop conversing with her. She borrowed a sheet of paper and pen and wrote down her questions, while I read and replied back to her. She then wrote a letter to me describing how happy she was to meet me, about how it felt good when people were nice enough to take the extra trouble to make a conversation with her.  About how it is so nice that people have smiles that cheer others and make their days. About how she thought I would do great in my interview and be selected for that position.

And she teased me about how I was newly married. I was married for a year and a half then and found it strange she called me newly married. I thought of her on our tenth wedding anniversary and understood what she had meant!

I still carry the letter she wrote to me. I think it is one of the most generous letters I have ever received. A letter filled with so many positive comments and good wishes. Not everybody gets so generous with their words and wishes. It almost felt like it had some magical powers, especially when I felt it later that day in my pockets, as I received the news of being selected for the position I interviewed for!

February 24, 2014

If I could freeze time..

I spent most part of today sorting clothes the kids had outgrown. Such a mundane task,and I had already put it forth enough, but what I had not expected is the range of emotions this would make me experience, and in two folds.

Each piece of garment came with a package of hidden stories, joyful memories, and a stark reality that kids grow up too fast! Just when I looked at a dress and thought A wore this just yesterday and a feeling of sadness would take over, another typhoon of emotions would take over me reminding me Av will be ready to wear it next year already!

If only I could freeze time......

February 20, 2014

Joy of a First!

I just sent my first entry ever to a writing contest. The jubilation is not for having crafted a work of art and got all the editing and punctuation right. It is to celebrate the joy I am feeling for having been able to achieve this. Never mind if I managed to get only a couple of hours of time to write, edit and send on the day of the deadline. Like all feelings of firsts, this is unmatched. I could not have done it without my friend Shruthi's prompting. Thanks Girl!

February 19, 2014

Out of this World!

I have been following the Mars One Mission for some time now and am still as amazed today as the first time I heard about it. Of course there is some 8 years left before the first humans launch, but I will sure be following this with keen interest. Think of how huge a deal it is to buy your one way ticket to go out of this world, travel seven months, step onto the Red Planet, (oh and if you thought your adventure is done, your wrong it just begins!) figure out how you will survive there for ever!

Source: www.mars-one.com

And in the meantime as this private organization is figuring out the feasibility and the funds, and are going over the selection of these candidates I have an interesting suggestion! Reality show for the selection process anyone?? More people will know about this mission, the funds will be raised in no time and we will know all about the forefathers of Marslings! And with sensitive issues like religion in Mars already thrown into the picture, there is a lot of promise in store for the show. And since I have not yet read of a plan like this anywhere I would like to claim copyrights for this idea. ;)

Balancing my plate

I skipped writing my blog post yesterday, and this post is "for" that. As in the case of most of the days, I keep some time to write at the fag end of the day, and yesterday was one of those days with several things cramped when I was in an overcharged state wanting to take on too much. And when the fag end of the day did come, I did not have an ounce of energy left in me. And I am known to have several such days constantly. I just "take on" too much, in others words.

In my mind, I think I take on what makes me happy. I have began to realize, that the driving force for me to be happy and feel fulfilled is to have a sense of achievement. Be it personally, at home, when I was working outside the house, in the business I run, in the volunteering work I do, with the kids, in my writing, socially. I love that feeling of achievement and if I don't have a constant dose of that, I am not happy. So the issue I think, maybe I am wrong, is not how much I take up, but not knowing how to prioritize all the tasks I have at hand and having to constantly send a few things to the back burner.

I have tried a few things, and they worked great for a few days and then its back to the same.

-  A fixed schedule ( Ahem, let that B now, it wont work with my family)

-  To-do lists ( There comes a time when I need a List to remind me to look at my many lists)

-  Organize things to the Tee ( Tried my best, but gave up after sometime..gets really tiresome)

-  Take a few things lightly ( I was just not being me, a big no no)

-  Don't take on more ( It is very hard to say no because I get tempted)

-  Break things into smaller tasks ( This works great actually, till there are too many of those small tasks from various projects and takes over you!)

So do you have any ideas / suggestions that have worked for you, and think might work for me to balance my full plate of tasks?

February 17, 2014

Old Commercials

There is a certain unexplainable joy in viewing the videos of old commercials that you grew up watching on television.

The popular ones that were telecast for months and sometimes years that you still remember every line of it. The catchy ones, whose jingles would stop you just when you were heading to the bathroom, because you did not want to miss it however badly you needed to go.

The ones you could relate to the most and spent your day imagining your in it and perfecting the lines. The ones which had actors you had crushes on. The ones which would irritate you so much that you would walk away or switch channels.

The ones that were your groups' favorite and how you would all giggle and comment on it together. The ones where your parents would turn off the TV, and after a few years you had those Aha moments when you realized what was going on! The ones that brought smiles as it happened to you, the emotional tear jerkers even in the few minutes they would run, the hilarious ones, the silliest ones, the ones that your whole family joked about together. The list is endless.

How we would watch them not knowing that with them we were making memories for so many years to come!

February 13, 2014

Will be back....

Dealing with "double trouble", being snowed in with about 8 13 inches of snow and a bad case an of allergic reaction probably to poison ivy or something (though I did not consciously come in contact with anything suspicious). Basically I am not able to function normally and can't wait to be able to drive out and get some stronger medication.

Will be back soon...

UPDATE - It turned out to be an allergic reaction to an antibiotics I took last week. Just learnt it is possible to react a few days after the course of medication is done!

February 11, 2014

Oh the Things You can Do with Dough!

Play dough has by far been one of my favorite activities to do with my kids. I guess I had always labelled myself as being "artistically challenged" in arts that did not involve words. But with these colorful mounds of dough, the possibilities were endless. So in the process of encouraging the kids to play with it, I have enjoyed hours of creative time myself. And the irony is that I had been introduced to this first when someone had told me never to get her play dough as my house will be a mess! Nothing that cant be dealt with, as long as you don't get it on the carpet of course!

A played with it well until about 5 years, after which it was hidden in fear of the little Av putting it in her mouth. This was one of the last few times she played with it.

We are so glad it is back in our sight from the past few months. Av loves it and though she is still learning ways to enjoy it, there is so much that can be done with it. Before she was at a safe age to play with it, she always played with homemade Roti Dough during her ones. But now we have started to have some fun times together creating things with Molds and Cutters and sometimes creating a story scene like this one.

Oh the things you can do with Dough! I don't think it is easy to run out of ideas for things to do with this amazing stuff, just like how it was probably really difficult for Dr.Seuss to run out of ideas for writing books!

February 10, 2014

Small Joys

I have always wondered if most people's fondest memories are from their childhood or when their kids were small. There is always a preciousness that comes with that innocence and with which even the smallest of things become fondest memories.

Once someone told me to make sure we make many opportunities to allow our children to make happy memories of their childhood. I was deeply inspired by this and told them about the trip we were planning to Disney World that year. I will never forget the reply to this; kids don't need only big expensive trips to make memories, even small fun outings with the family can remain etched forever.

This is so true, a simple thought but overlooked so easily. If you have any doubts, peek into your mind's memory box like I did, it will be filled with many of those small joys and memories.

February 7, 2014

Rituals - Part 4

Continued from here

Leela returned from a successful day at work, she had been able to be with herself during the whole day. She lit the same jasmine candle as the night before, and closed her eyes in meditation. She could see visuals of Amma calm during her evening prayer. Every evening she had lit the lamp and prayed while Leela had watched her observingly. “Prayer helps you to slow down from your busy day Leelu”, Amma had said with the same glow on her face at the near end of the day, “I never miss it for my own good, have you ever seen me not sleep well in the night”? Leelu smiled thinking of Amma’s snores that had seemed to be right in her ears all night, while she sipped a glass of Chardonnay listening to her favorite melody of Mozart.

It had been a week since her last visit to Dr.Wang’s office; she had called them that morning to cancel the appointment. After a long time, she was thinking clearly and it had taken her by surprise how much a week of Amma had changed her. She had made the calls on that day to her parent’s lawyer who provided her with all the information she needed. Her flight was leaving in two weeks. She was finally going to the place where she had left a part of herself three and a half decades ago. Then a child, now an adult; but she hoped this would help her relieve that ache she had felt for so many years.

The flight was long, and Leela had slept most of the flight after having worked till late hours for the past two weeks. As the flight landed, she felt the biggest knot inside of her. Her rental car and driver were waiting for her, and she thanked the lawyer for making sure she was provided with a bilingual driver for the trip. It was the last leg of her journey, the 160 kilometers to that quaint happy town that she had called home.

To be Continued...

February 6, 2014

It is not easy to be the second born

I was born second, so the world I came into is nothing like the world a first born comes into. Everything is different, tried and tested.

In my "BIG" sister's words, I never had parents of my own. I had to share mine with my sister from the moment I was born, whereas she had 5 years of having them all for herself. Okay fine, I do have an extra person in the house to play with, and fight with. But see even here, it is getting all about her. It always does.
Time for me is not taught in terms of hours and minutes, it is measured in terms of what my sister does. So there is this time before she goes to school, and the time she comes back from school. And the time she plays, does her homework, and the time she goes to classes. My day is based around her schedule. And what does she tell my parents at the end of each day, that they love me more than her. Doesn't she see how it is, it is always all about her!

Have you seen our house? There are no pictures of me hung anywhere. There are so many of my sister in different poses, and when I ask them "Where is me there", the family goes in flashback mode with stories behind those pictures. "We will put up yours soon", they say, I have been waiting! My "new" clothes come out of boxes, books have a tear or two, toys have something always broken, it is rare that I get something new. I am always observing and thinking how will I ever tread on that path set by you.

I have heard my parents telling people how I make their heart melt, and my sister boasting to her friends how cute her sister is. But what is the point of all this cuteness I say! If only I could have been the first born and told my sister what to do! I try my best even now, reminding her every time of whatever my mom reminds me. She looks down at me and says "Remember I am seven Av, you are only two". How different is two from seven I say!

It is hard for me to look out at the world right now, for all I can see is my sister and right now she is my world.

-- Perceived thoughts of a 2 year old

February 5, 2014

Winter Olympics frosted with fear

As we all wait eagerly for the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics, there is more fear than excitement in the air in Sochi today. It is sad that the affairs of the world manage to touch and takeover something like sports as well. From the threats of terror attacks, to Sochi being in ground zero for Avalanches, to a rumor of travelers to the games carrying explosives in toothpaste tubes, to conditions and comforts there reported to not being up to the mark, to sports journalists reaching there and reporting how it is the Worst Games Ever even before it has started! We have heard a lot about the games even before it started, and all for the wrong reasons.

My heart goes out to the sportsmen there waiting eagerly to live those moments they have been dreaming about all their lives. Right now fear should not have been one of the emotions they are going through. I only hope their dreams do turn into momentous events. And we all get to witness good sports played in the true Olympics style.

Sometimes, you really do wonder if it is time to do something to make the world a better place. As of now Google has left this job to the youngsters of this world.

February 4, 2014

Learning to Read

A has always been a kid who liked to play and who liked to learn while playing. She attended a preschool that encouraged and taught this learn while you play philosophy, but they did teach kids at a comfortable pace, without pushing the kids too much. For the love of reading books, I started seeing signs of her getting impatient when she could not open a book and take it all in, if we were busy to read it to her. So these are some of the things we did, without realizing how much they would help her in being able to read.

How it all started (Phonics) - I don't remember formally teaching her phonics for the consonants. I think somewhere while learning the alphabets, she picked up the sounds of each consonant with the examples that came with each letter in picture books, games, etc. Like B for B-b-b-ball, was probably how she heard it right from the beginning.
For the vowels, I did introduce short vowel sounds to her. I had drawn a chart for her with the letter and the word indicating the sound. And these words she kept as parameters to remember the short vowel sound of each vowel all the time. Oh the fun part, she got to draw pictures of each of these in her chart making it pictorial and fun for her instead of remembering just the sounds.

A - Apple  ;    E - Elephant ;  I - Icecream ; O -Octopus ;  U - Umbrella

The game that changed everything - It was 4 winters ago, when we were snowed in on many days and had ran out of all ideas for fun that we came up with this game. The theme in her preschool for that month was Gingerbread Man and she had taken a liking towards the phrase "Run run as fast as you can, you cant catch me I'm the gingerbread man". So for the game, we wrote this phrase on the white board and took turns to change one thing (either change a letter or remove a letter) and made the other person read it. For example, "Run run as fast as you tan, you cant catch me I'm the gingerbread man". The phrase got so hilarious as we went that she could not have enough of it. We played this game for days, and she learnt so much without even realizing it.

Reading and Spelling Together - It just made more sense to make her spell words as she learnt to read. So this we did simultaneously and it helped a great deal. She did not write much then, and a fun way of doing this was Magnetic letters that were permanently put up on our refrigerator. When I was busy cooking, she would sit at the refrigerator, and we would play a game of Can you Spell? The key to playing was that we were both players, so she thought of words and asked me to spell. And when she used k for c and e for i, I always praised her. And later went on to explain how there is a group of people who decide which is the standard way of spelling each word. And though her spelling is one way you can do it, this group of people had decided on this other way.

The Beginner Book Series that gave the Confidence - When most of her friends would read Bob Series, she would never like to read them. It was a tiresome task to make her read it and after a couple of attempts I just gave up thinking she is just not ready for reading. But she would get picture "story" books and point out at words while I read the story to her. I did not understand why she did not do the same with this famous Beginner series. Until we got a new Level 1 Reading book called Dick and Jane from a series, just for fun. That series changed it all. The book aims on teaching reading but has a story in it, and that was the key with A. Also each book has a story with the same repetitive words, so that by the middle of the book, kids are more familiar with those words. Not sure if it was just her, but this series worked for her though many people swear by the Bob Series.

At the end of this, her confidence about reading had gone up so much that there was no looking back. And this was all not premeditated or formally thought process to teach her reading. It wonderfully happened by chance, that we did a few things that worked best for her. I am not even sure if the same set of things will work for Av, as each kid is different. But since I have been asked by a few people, I thought I will put it all in one place for reference. I am sure I will be referring to the same in the future for Av, but whether it worked or not the second time around, I will be sure to update.

February 3, 2014

The sky's the limit

Does the way the sky looks bring back an old memory to you? It definitely does for me! The feeling is lovely, as though the sky just put up a picture for me from my past.

Like a cloudy sky just before it rains reminds me of my hometown Bangalore. It brings back memories of school days, jumping in puddles, watching it pouring outside with a book in my hand, dancing in the balcony or the terrace, my mom making something yummy to eat perfect for the weather and so many more memories. It is like rain and Bangalore go hand in hand.

A gray sky with the clouds spread across the sky like a blanket reminds me of my graduate school days in Utah. It reminds me of a taxi ride we took when the sky looked like that and the driver explained how that means that it is soon going to snow. Reminds me of the mountains in the city of Logan in Utah and the crazy graduate school days.

A clear blue sky reminds me of our first drive from an airport in Baltimore, when we first moved from Utah to Virginia. It reminds me of how green Virginia looked in that summer month.

The night sky has so many associations too. I was amazed for the longest time how the moon looked different in the USA from how it looked in India. So many memories from dinners on the terrace with my family during summer vacations to walking back home from school around 2 AM, to camping trips gazing at starlit skies. 

There is scope for so many memories to get associated after all the sky's the limit!