Saturday, April 30, 2011

Speechless

J has recently hit a growth spurt - every time we check she is taller. A little bit of sass probably comes along with the territory as I was to find out recently. On evening, it was way past her bed time and she was still lounging on the couch watching Food Network with DB. After asking her to go to bed about five times in a row and being ignored, I finally lost my cool. "J, I am going to count to three and I want you out of the couch and in your room" I shouted from the kitchen. 
Cool as a cucumber, her eyes still peeled on the TV J says to me "Go right ahead, Mommy. I hope you learn to say your ABCs after that". DB and I could not help ourselves - we burst out laughing. Needless to say, I was not able to make either a witty or stern comeback to that. So, J took her time - about ten minutes longer and then retired for the day.
It occurred to me that she had managed the situation to her advantage - and she is not even ten years old. If she leaves me tongue tied now, how do I hope to deal with what she throws at me a few years out. For the first time, I am beginning to understand how being a first generation immigrant without the experience of having gone to undergrad or grad school in America makes it hard for me to take on J. 
Having had little to no contact with desi society in the last ten years has made J a product of cultural experiences that I have not experienced growing up. She is twice alienated in that she has nothing in common with my background and does not share much with her desi peers whose parents have made a concerted effort to give them the Indian experience abroad.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Culling and Surrendering

I always marvel at people who get ten times as much done as I do in day. Along with awe comes envy and disappointment with myself. So much on my wish-list and so little time. As the years go by, the days grow more and more crowded. After marriage, I realized that my personal time had all but evaporated. I now need to carve that time out of nowhere because all the hours of the day are spoken for. Yet I know of women who are able to raise a couple of kids, manage a home and a career and still make it to girls' night out every other Friday.
Reading this article where the author talks about the difference between culling and surrendering gave me pause. Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It's the sorting of what's worth your time and what's not worth your time. I have culled in certain areas of my life but overall my tendency has been one of surrendering - Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn't have to threaten your sense that you are well-read.
I have culled in my media consumption habits - skimming through a lot of books but rarely finding something worth reading in its entirety. My online reading habits are similar too. Television does not interest me so there is little time wasted there. I have refused to become slave to the smartphone and use what I need when I need it. It would not degrade the quality of my life tremendously if my phone lost a lot if not most of its smarts. 
But there is a lot else to life besides media one consumes. In almost everything else, I have surrendered. The odds of reaching the finish line do not motivate me to try to accomplish a partial goal. That would explain my envy of those who refuse to surrender to the want of time in their lives and find a way to do a little of everything that makes them happy even it that means not reaching the finish line in a single thing. So it is okay to have still born art and craft projects, piles of unread books, long list of unvisited places and more. It is okay to surrender to the impossibility of reaching the end and still have a sense of accomplishment.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Spellbound

I have written before of my disappointment with reading Jhumpa Lahiri's books specially because she has such amazing facility with language. From lesser talent, the reader expects a lot less and is not nearly as disappointed.
Finally, I read a piece by Lahiri that is completely satisfying. This is the kind of writing I have been waiting to read. Each word in this essay is like a smooth pebble, the sentences themselves so precisely balanced that one word less or more and nothing would be quite the same. If this essay was food, it would be an ethereal lemon souffle - delightfully light but far from frivolous. 
What I specially loved about this piece is that she made no reference to her immigrant roots or invoke her signature diaspora angst. Leaving those tropes behind, did not take anything away from the deeply personal voice of her writing, instead it rendered the piece universally appealing. This is the Lahiri that I've been waiting to read a long time.
I can't wait for her to write a volume of essays - if they are nearly as good as this one, it would have the reader absolutely spellbound.