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Showing posts from January, 2013

Post Dead

Each time I read about yet another new thing to turn a dead person's ashes into,  I wonder about the pace of innovation and what it is means for death itself. Right now, the dead have a dozen options. Depending on who is making the decisions, the dead may not be able to departwithout drama  - have their ashes scattered the old fashioned way or be buried. 

Instead they may end up as a paper weight in their loved ones office or be hanging on their living room wall as a portrait - every idea involves loss of dignity. Imagine ending up on eBay, being bought and sold years after you are are dead, never having a final place of repose - something once considered the inalienable right of the dead. The premise of using cremains as medium is about preserving memory tangibly. Yet reducing a complex human life into a trivial, lifeless object, is possibly the worst way to do it.

Tribal Project

Interesting article on single parenting and I specially liked this part about another kind of family in which to raise a child

My 8-year-old son and I live in a shared flat with three other adults, a journalist and two doctors. We are like a family, just that we haven chosen each other because we like each other rather than because we are connected by bloodline. My flatmates teach my son skills that I don't have: One plays chess with him, the other piano, the next one soccer. By law, I am a single mother. By life, my son is a tribal project of the modern kind.

Back when I was raising J alone, I would have loved an arrangement like that. I had some help from friends who stepped in when the could with skills they had to teach. The hardest thing about parenting alone is not knowing if you are making the right decisionsand how some of them will impact the child over time. 

I have benefited from listening to DB's view of things even when I did not agree with him. His ideas have …

Highlighted Flaws

Who knew mending broken things could be an art form. Looking at these pictures made me think about flaws and the act of highlighting them to stand out confidently; if that translates to things more intangible than pottery. In relationships, fracture points are often around flaws - the others' or your own. And each time there is an argument or misunderstanding, the fractures grow uglier and there is lesser incentive to mend because the end product will look so badly blemished. Comes a point when all is left is shards and emptiness.

The usual way to fix what is broken is focused on hiding or obscuring the flaws - with the best craftsmanship you could never tell it was once broken. The entire premise of The Golden Bowl,for instance, is based on what it means to have such a well hidden yet fatal flaw in a relationship. The equivalent of kintsugi may be to celebrate the flaws, find humor in them, call attention to their existence and work to fill in the gap with something bold and even …

Role Models

Like the author of this article, I am always looking for a desi women born and raised in America who can be positive role models for J. Recently, we became acquainted with Ms T who along with having an impressive set of accomplishments at age twenty, is also a very down to earth young lady. She is driven by things she is passionate about and has taken a non-traditional path to achieving her dreams. It was a pleasure talking with her and I was eager to introduce J to her because Ms T had expressed interest in mentoring kids. 

High achieving and driven desikids with stellar resumes are easy enough to find, but getting to know someone who has been able to take the best of both worlds (east and west) and forge something unique, enduring and beautiful out of it is not nearly as common. I was most impressed by how self-assured and poised Ms T is - you could tell she had thought through the path she is on and has much to look forward to. As a mother, I have a lot to learn from such kids. I am…

Vignettes from Sea - Clustering and Aggregation

I have by now seen the all of my desi brethren traveling with me. It is about Day Four and as I had predicted we have not exchanged any smiles or pleasantries with each other. A desi woman alone on cruise with her minor daughter is an outrage even by the low Class C standards that no self respecting desi would want to dignify with their acknowledgement. But what is life without the outliers - the desi that falls outside the established cluster - happily there are some of those too. And so it happened that I ran into Dusky with Blue Eyeliner while getting myself a bowl of fruit one afternoon. She made polite small talk as she served herself and we parted ways smiling at each other. We were to meet by the coffee machine the next morning.

The thaw from the previous afternoon had now turned to into an ominous chill. This happens a lot in desi to desi interactions when one party has miscued the other party's "true" class. In this case Dusky with Blue Eyeliner probably had me p…

Learning from J

While J was in elementary school, I often used her to review my presentations for work. If she got about half of what I was trying to communicate, we were in good order. If not, it was back to the drawing board to simplify. Keeping material at third grade level is something I take quite seriously and J had been a very useful sidekick. Sadly, J is eleven now and in middle school. 

Quickly, she has outgrown her usefulness as my helper and turned into a vocal critic. I learn things from her all the time - she looks at what I have, is quick to point out how boring it is and how it would make everyone fall sleep. There is no pop, cool color palette or dramatic flair - it is just blah all the way. Why can't I be a little bit more fun ? She and her friends exclusively use Prezi at school and J is more than happy to sit me down and help me figure Prezi out. Some of the stuff they turn out at school is very neat.There was this one time, I was dealing with a complex visual with a bunch of te…

Change with Time

Reading this article, made me think of a couple of friends from childhood and youth. No one who knew them would guess how they would change over time. They seem to fit the profile :

But when asked to predict what their personalities and tastes would be like in 10 years, people of all ages consistently played down the potential changes ahead.

A- One of three daughters of an army colonel and his stay at home wife. She was a firebrand - the standard bearer for her other sisters and  many of us. Very bright and industrious, she was the most likely to succeed in our set. There was nothing A was afraid of - she would plunge head first into situations where the best of us might pause. She did not hesitate to speak her mind, make waves or enemies. Always fashion forward, A did not care if he style was considered risque by the standards of the day. No matter how bad the situation, she found a way to make it work out. And yes, she held the institution of marriage in very dim view. She w…

Set Free

DB's friend M was visiting us last evening. He has an adult son and is recently divorced. From decades of being married, having a home and responsibilities that go with being in a family, he is suddenly alone - free and with more options in life than he ever had before. While he is enjoying his new found freedom, he misses the comfort of familiar things. Being a musician and an artist, he is able to channel his time and energy into passions neglected for years in favor of  chores and responsibilities. We were talking about our experiences going through divorce and being single for years after that - the challenges of trying marriage for the second time. M was making jokes about his Facebook relationship status being muddied by his ex-wife wanting to be friends.

They are still in the early stages of emotional separation where it is hard to let go even if everything is sour, bitter and filled with anger. You want to hang on to rage and the object to vent it against. The door has been…

Desire and Drift

Lines from two poems on love and desire made me think about howimpossible it is to know your desire and how easy it is to drift from it.

There is this very simple wish for companionshipfrom Carl Sandburg's At a Window


But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.

and theselines that acknowledge distance from desire from A.R. Ammon's Continuity

I've pressed so
far away from
my desire that

if you asked
me what I
want I would,

accepting the harmonious
completion of the
drift, say annihilation, probably.

Reading the poems made two separate ideas coalesce for me - like they were companion pieces that were meant to be read together.There was once the need for a voice to speak to me at the day end and a hand to touch me in the dark room. Indeed, so powerful was that need that I pressed very far away from even knowing my true desire. And to make peace it is best to accept the harmonious completion of the drift

Vignettes from Sea - Sun, Islands, Palm

The pastel colored buildings, the toasty sun, warm breeze, the smell of conch fritters frying in hot oil, honking cars, colorfully painted taxis, loud music and the languid flow of life around me take me back to the home of my childhood.  Traffic is fairly chaotic but we are able to walk through intersections, in and  out of the winding alleys back to the main street. Policemen are controlling traffic the good old fashioned way using their arms and a shrill whistle. I tell J this is a little like time travel - I am back to being her age in small town India where I grew up. 

I show her trees she has never seen before - coconut, banana, papaya, custard apple, sugarcane, palm and mango. In the courtyard of our home, we had most of these trees - back then they were nothing remarkable; everyone I knew had them in their backyards too. Our neighbors had a gigantic jackfruit tree in addition to everything we had. Their guavas were infinitely sweeter than ours. I did not know that I would feel …

Vignettes from Sea- Entranced Youth, Mirthless Mom

Dinnertime on Day One after a full day of being at sea. J and I have scoped out the potential options for dinner and made our choice. Turns out that desis think alike even if they belong to entirely different classes. When we arrive to be seated, we are handed a pager and asked to hang around in the neighboring bar area for about thirty minutes. So J and I walk over to said bar to find a cluster of Class B desis occupying several couches waiting to be seated just like us. 

They give me a withering look of disapproval. The only open spots are at the bar and they follow me with their eyes to see if I will do the unthinkable - sit at the bar with a young child. You can never put anything past the clueless Class C types. I spare them the moral outrage. The rest of the world is scattered around but they have been unable to create a force field specific to their country of origin as the desis have done. We decide to hang around the stairs instead so I have a good view of the crowd and can al…

Vignettes from Sea - Ocean, Desis

Very quickly I realized that a cruise ship is a gigantic petri dish in which to observe human nature. The challenge is to find the most interesting subjects and be able to observe them over time. Readers of this blog would be aware that I am fascinated by all things desi being desi myself. A displaced desi that has not had the benefit for frequent visits and therefore continued growth in the home culture, ends up turning into a very odd species of desi ( I will refer to this type as Class C of desis)

I am one of those and so is DB. Our kind does not fit anywhere in the desi ecosystem. The second generation desis (referred to as Class A here) assume we are wannabes and treat us with disdain. They tend to have very tight cliques with no room for those unlike themselves. On the other hand, first generation desis (referred to as Class B) who maintain strong connections to home by means of enrollment into the local desi communities, semi-exclusive socialization with other Class Bs, buying …

Vignettes from Sea - Beginnings

From the time we first met , DB has insisted that it would be healthy for us to take a week or so off from each other every year - we had spent ten (me) and fifteen (him) years living alone and could feel claustrophobic if we did not get some alone time after a while.We had wanted for him to transition slowly into my household after marriage - taking six to nine months to complete the process. 

In reality, the logistics did not work out as we had wished; the move was much quicker and we were not ready to cope with the challenges that it presented. Surprisingly, J adjusted to him a lot sooner than we expected but the two of us were like Schopenhauer's porcupines. So once the dust had settled, he started to remind me that I needed to take a vacation with J, get away for a bit - enjoy some alone time without him. And finally this Christmas we were able to make it - a Caribbean cruise.

A mother-daughter trip is a very special thing - the first time to a new country even more so. J is no…