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Showing posts from December, 2010

Heat And Ice

One evening during the recent snowstorm, DB said to me "For snow to settle on the ground and turn to ice, the ground has to be cold. If it is sizzling hot, the snow will melt away". He has a way with metaphors. This one came about in the context of (and the challenges  resulting from ) my innate nature which is impatient, intense and restless. The snow turning to ice parallels the constant nurturing of a new marriage until it becomes rock-solid and stable. The parched earth reference is all too evident.

Conversation turned to other things but DB's impromptu metaphor stayed with me. As I watched the snow settle down on the tree-lined streets and become ice, I found myself thinking about what cooling down would mean for me. It would mean learning to let go of things from the past, not feeling the need to be in control of my life, learning to accept that I have and continue to be wrong about many things, allow the snow to settle at its own pace without worrying too much abo…

The Couple

The life of H and S (a couple I knew a long time ago) is one I have followed over the years because there are so much to learn from it. They met when he was a TA in her undergrad class. She was six years younger than him. They made an exceptionally good looking pair and seemed to have everything that mattered in common. In short, a match made in heaven. Her parents were disappointed in her choice of husband because they thought she deserved a lot better than H. The proverbial serpent in their marital paradise was socio-economic disparity between the two families. Her parents were tenured professors at a well-known university. They were also independently affluent. His father was a high-school drop out and worked with a traveling theater group. His mother had no formal education and worked odd jobs where she found them to support the family. They were both artistically gifted (a quality they had passed on to H) but had very little material success.  H for his part, had always excelled a…

Patching Jeans

I have a pair of very faded and comfortable blue jeans. The best I recall, I bought these at least five years ago and wore them to the exclusion of any other jeans I owned. This past weekend, I spent many hours patching and appliquéing my favorite article of clothing. By the time I was done, I was worn out and my jeans had acquired a fresh lease of life. The project was a labor of love and a form of meditation. There are friendships I have in the waning months of the year resurrected from the dead or near-death and nurtured back to life. Like my freshly patched jeans, they feel revived from the effort I just put into them. Unlike the jeans, I do not have a way to hold up my work and admire it. When I get off the phone with E for instance and promise to catch up with her again soon, I don't know for a fact that the friendship is healthy enough to survive the long periods of neglect, misuse and disregard. I wore my jeans this morning and both J and DB said they looked really nice. C…

The Great Adjustment Story

My grandmother lived to be ninety five and the family was relieved when she finally passed on. That is a sad fate for anyone. Her death gave me reason to pause and reconsider my own relationship with her which truth be told, was non-existent. With her gone, I was able to discern her good qualities better and make an effort to understand her not so good ones. It made me want to understand how did she become the person we all knew and so heartily disliked.  She was my grandfather's second wife. His first love and wife died at childbirth leaving him a heart-broken widower with a five year old daughter and a new born son. That son died a year later leaving him even more desolate. To shore up his dying spirits and get him some help raising his daughter, the family decided to get him re-married. The first wife was wraith-like, beautiful, well-educated and had a lot of artistic talent. She came from an aristocratic family and had been raised with care. She had been a true companion to my …

Real India

My cousin D has recently moved back to Bangalore after ten years here in the US. He came as a grad student and like many stayed on to live, work and make a home in this country. When we caught up recently, I found myself comparing his experience of Bangalore to mine (which is eight years old now). There is a certain timelessness about India which makes it easier on those who have been away for a while to adjust to the sweeping changes of the past decade. The recalcitrant domestic help, the teeth-pulling agony of trying to get some of the simplest chores done, the ubiquitous squalor and dust. D and his wife deal with those things just the way I had and the way our parents and grandparents had before us.  Yet, if one has the money and the willingness to spend it freely, D tells me that is possible to create a protective cocoon that leaves everything unpalatable out. The question of "Real India" becomes a very subjective one at that point. Those inside their cocoon see a world e…

Trying To Nest

As a first time home-buyer in America, I can't but think "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times;" for home-buying. There is so much information and misinformation wherever I look that I wish at times, I could shut out all sources and just trust my own instincts. On the one hand, there is a buyer's market - the prices have not been this good in decades, on the other the best deals coming out of the market condition are not exactly what we have in mind for a home.  It does not help that DB and I are still working out what the "ideal" home for our family would be. We have been going through the motions the last few months - finding a place we like online, contacting the realtor for a showing, coming home confused about how far reality is from what we had imagined something to be based on pictures and videos of the house. Then there is the talking and being shown around, being handed colorful brochure ware on those who would entice us to buy balanc…

Work Not Pleasure

For the first time this year, J had to study for a test and the we discovered she had no idea how to study for one. This came as a revelation to me and my first instinct was to panic. DB was a little bemused by the whole situation and asked the obvious "How would you expect her to know what to do when you've never showed her how ?" By the time I was J's age, I was veteran test taker. In India a nine year old does not remember a time when they did not take tests. I must have been taught in my time too but was so young that I have no recollection of it - I thought that test taking is instinctive not much different from breathing. We are now working with J, teaching her some basic skills she will need to succeed as a student. Reading this article about how the educational crisis in America is a moral and not a monetary one, struck a deep chord in the context of my recent challenges. J's complete unpreparedness for test taking in fourth grade is a telling example of s…

Another Haunting

MJ had returned from the dead for the sixth time since the beginning of their pseudo relationship. Many of Sheila's male friends had told her a long time ago this man was a bad news and the sooner she tossed him out of her life, the better off she'd be. He girlfriends warned her nothing good would ever come out of this outrageously stupid situation she was subjecting herself too - if she had an iota of common sense she should run like the wind. Yet, she found herself relenting to his 53rd email spread over a period of two years. The man was relentless - he just did not know how to give up, how to stop or move on. She wrote him back hoping this ghost from the past would finally be exorcised. The communication followed the ever so familiar pattern - flirtation, the instant spark of connection between two really good friends, the rekindled hope of how special this could be. While MJ followed his time-tested mo, Sheila tried something radically different - she gave him an ultimatu…

Comforters

Both my grandmothers and mother made a few kanthas for me through my growing up years. Even as a child, I was extremely attached these utterly comfortable quilts made from old cotton saris, layered and sewed together by hand to make qulits. These were labors of love that sometimes took months to finish and nothing comes quite close to being a "comforter" for the heart and soul as a kantha does.

The last quilt my mother made for me was when I was getting ready for college. It was possibly the most elaborate one she ever made. Once it was done, I could not bear to use and ruin it. Instead, I used it sparingly as a bed spread. I knew she would never muster the stamina and patience to do anything like it again. It would my last kantha.

Reading about how quilting has gone Web 2.0 thanks to technology, reminded me of those kanthas from a long time ago. Unlike a lot of things that have traveled around with me, the kanthas remained home in India with my parents. I miss them every y…

Talking About Money

For over eight years as a single parent, I straddled the fine line between talking too little or too much about finances with J. I was determined that she never felt "poor" in a material sense though I frequently over-compensated with emotional comfort just in case she did. To that end, J has never had (and to her credit, asked for) a lot of anything - clothes, books, toys and more. Instead I took time to do bead work on a plain white tee, embellished a jean jacket with embroidery and sewed on colorful patchwork on her jeans - there was a little bit of me in everything that was J's.  She has always had enough to be comfortable but not to become and extension of my ego dolled up in designer couture. I pride myself on being economical without being stingy but these measures are completely subjective. My friend or neighbor may have an entirely different view of me than I do of myself. DB for instance thinks I don't give the child nearly enough and that this a tender ag…