Friday, November 28, 2008

Feeling of home...

It is the Thanksgiving weekend. While Mumbai is dealing with endless hours of terror, we (especially those of us who do not have CNN) are flooded with advertisements for local Black Friday offers. My cousin, her husband and her adorable young daughter were visiting us after many months of failed attempts - random events coming in the way of their plans each time. India's 9/11 on 26/11. We talked about it to each other on the phone. Emailed friends who had relatives in Mumbai. I read news reports and blogs and watched NDTV's coverage late at night while the rest of the family slept. You read and read and read...yet that reality is so far away. You can feel the terror in your bones when you are physically there. But it feels almost farcical to think that I actually feel the terror that the people there in Mumbai felt. Life here goes on as usual. What do you do? Do you not entertain your guests? Do you not let your children enjoy a holiday break? You feel and yet you go on. And that makes you feel like you don't really care. Very unsettling feeling.

Prices slashed big time for plasma screen TVs. It is all over the news. Advertisements bombard us on TV. In all the years that I have lived in America, I had never stepped out on Black Friday for shopping deals. I am not much of a shopper but I had been curious about the Black Friday frenzy always. I was amused by tales of how an Indian neighbor of one of our relatives stormed into some department store to grab the rice cooker that was selling for $5.00 or some such insanely low price but had to contend with another hand placed on the only piece left, a Chinese person who loved rice just as much I suppose. They battled it out and the Indian person had the satisfaction of emerging the winner after experiencing the thrill of the chase when in fact he could have afforded to buy a very expensive rice cooker at full price.

I watched NDTV late into the night. I could not believe my eyes when they were showing this one commando on Nariman house shooting away - I was confused if this was the norm - to show such strategic operations on live TV?! I read blog posts and newspaper articles and went to bed very late at night. I had wanted to get some thing in particular for my cousin's daughter and I knew that I would not have much time during the day to go get it for her without her insisting on coming with me (in which case my cousin would have insisted I not get her one more gift). I knew Kohls was opening it's doors at 4.00 a.m. for Black Friday specials and I thought it would be a good time to go and get it over with before the kids woke up. I woke up at 5.30 a.m. and got ready and drove to Kohls at 6.00 a.m.

My first time going to shop at such an unearthly hour. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the parking lot completely full and I had to go around and around and finally found a spot in the far end of the lot. I walked in and saw that there were no shopping carts or bags available. I didn't need one since I was only going to get some trinkets for my niece. I paused and looked at some, didn't find what I had in mind and decided to walk to the children's section. I got there and saw that people were all standing in line and shopping. Wait, no - they were not shopping. They had finished shopping and were waiting in line to pay. That was the line snaking through three long sides of the store leading to the cash registers. I had never seen anything like this before. And honestly I didn't even think these were any great deals. I instantly decided to return home since it was just not worth standing in such a long line to get a couple of tee shirts or trinkets.

It was early dawn when I was driving back home. It was Shobha De on NPR talking about the Mumbai situation. About how she used to stand outside the Taj hotel when she was a little girl and wonder if she would ever be able to afford even going into that place let alone be married there. And that her daughter was to get married there 10 days from now and that she "absolutely" would go ahead with those plans if the hotel were to be back in business etc. Mumbai on my mind all along. Even as I blankly drove to Kohls and back. But in a strange way so removed from it all. Like there are times when you know someone you love is no more but the reality does not sink in at all because you are so far away from it and just cannot feel it physically. I had that feeling when my cousin passed away from sudden complication from her cancer, a month after my father passed away. My father's demise was very real to me because I saw him physically that way. But my cousin, I still cannot come to grips with that reality. That when I go back home, she will not be there at her lovely home.

I came back home and went upstairs to see what the kids were upto. KB had woken up to go the bathroom and had asked for me and had cried when he saw I was not home. But he calmed down in a minute and was in bed just when I walked in to the room. I did not even wait to change back into my night pants again. I just got into bed and asked KB to come from his little toddler bed and sleep in our bed. KG was asleep in her crib. The room was dark. It was nice and cool. I pulled the comforter over myself and KB and snuggled close to him. He has had a cough for a week now. He coughs mainly as soon as he wakes up or is in the lying down position. I made him sleep in an inclined position on two pillows and rubbed his back. I thought of the little child and her mother who were rescued. I really did feel for them. That kind of terror when you don't know if your child is going to be safe the next minute must be gruesome. I honestly felt a feeling of thanks - to the powers that be - to have the pleasure and privilege of being able to snuggle next to my child and provide him the comfort for a minor cough and feel a sense of home in that moment. I wonder if the terrorists know of such feelings - is it that they were not loved? Why would they do this to innocent people? To innocent children? The world is too complex, the questions too many, answers too few. But that moment felt full and happy and I clutched at it thinking once again about how vulnerable we all are and how people must have been enjoying such moments when terror struck them in Mumbai. I can never comprehend the mind of such terrorists who would be willing to destroy families mercilessly. With such conflicting emotions, I pulled KB closer and prayed for their safety in this cruel world and fell asleep for another half an hour.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life - stories and games - that's all it is.

I have been out of the blog loop for a while. Partly because after a long time, I have started sitting downstairs either reading the newspaper or magazines or watching TV which I had not done in a very very long time. B and I used to be "Law and Order" junkies but it has been a very long time (probably a year) since we sat down to watch an episode. He falls asleep when he takes KB upstairs to sleep and I don't enjoy watching it alone . I started staying downstairs to watch election related news and some nice PBS specials they had around then. And somehow that again got me started on a little TV watching after every one went upstairs to sleep.

Back to the main story - since this post is all about stories. KB's obsession with "sthories" (as he says it) is something I wanted to write about. Everything to him is either a game or a story. He goes to bed every night listening to a story - title suggested either by him or by me. And wakes up and tells me the story he heard the previous night. (This morning he told me "The Deicer" story). And during the day he makes me tell so many stories that I am beginning to forget where reality begins or ends. For ex, I was driving back with KB after doing some grocery shopping. On the way, we saw a young teenager being given a ticket by the cop. I told KB casually that that "Anna" was being given a ticket because he drove past a red light. (I just checked the recording and remembered what I told him!). KB pauses to think and immediately says, "Sollu maa, Andha Anna story sollu maa". And then the prompting (from KB) starts.

Me: Andha Anna drive panninde irundhan. (That "Anna" was driving). Suddenly he drove past a red light, traffic vandhundrukkarcheye (he beat the red light even when there was so much traffic). Police officer andha corner'lendhu pathundhar (police officer was looking from the corner). He turned on his car lights and came behind Anna's car.

KB: Appram Anna?

Me: Appram Anna ange poi car'aa niruthitu police officer'ku wait pannan (he waited for the police officer)

KB: Police officer sonnar Anna kitte?

Me: Police officer sonnar Anna kitte," WHY did you drive like that? You know you can ram into the other cars if you do that. You know you are not supposed to do that", appdintu kochindar. (PO got mad at Anna).

KB: Udne Anna sonnan police officer kitte?

Me: Anna Sonnan, "Sorry police officer, naa inme indha maari panna maatein (won't do it again), I will be careful. I didn't realize I was driving so fast"

KB: Police officer sonnar...

Me: Police officer sonnar, I am going to give you a ticket. I will let you go this one time. But if you do it again, I will be very upset".

KB: Appram, Anna?

Me: Anna OK sollitu, car'le yerindu chamatha careful'aa drive pannindu ponan! That's it. That's the end of the police officer and Anna story. (Anna got into the car and like a good boy he drove away carefully).

You can imagine many many such incidents that happen every day. Each one is a story. My cousin and her family and my mami were visiting us for a week. We went to a farm where the four kids were playing on a hay stack. One of them scraped his leg while jumping from a tall one. And there it was - the story of that evening. And that night KB's bed time story was "The litte boy and the hay stack". We go to the beach and on the way to the parking lot, KB sees a man changing the tire in his pick up truck. All along the drive back, KB asked me to tell him the story of "The repair truck". I went to visit a friend today and her son cried saying his finger hurt and she looked at it and said that some thing might have poked him. So on the drive back it was the story of why the kutti boy cried.

If KB is sitting at his little table and painting he says, "Mamma, naa painting game vladinkein maa" (am playing painting game). If he is doing some tracing of letters he says, "Mamma I am playing tracing game ma". He sings some random tune and I sing along with him he says "Singing game vladlam maa" (Let's play singing game). If he and KG pass something like a juice carton to each other when they are sitting in their car seats, he says "Passing game vladrom maa".

I wish I could keep life this simple. What ever happens around me, it's a story that I am witnessing. What ever work I do, it's a game I am playing!

There is so much I think of writing about the things they do, but I just don't get to it. I thought I should at least write down about this "story" phase that KB is going through so I don't entirely forget this a year from now. This was a kid I used to worry as to why he only liked lift the flap type books and not story books. Now every picture he sees in either the magazine or the newspaper is a story, every random thing he sees as we drive by is a story and this is apart from the stories he actually reads in books and stories we make up for him at bed time. I managed to record a mini session with him reciting some stories. Including "Malia and Sasha get a puppy dog" where "Obama Uncle" goes to the animal shelter and gets them a Black dog with white spots and they all take a plane and go to the White house!.

He dreams of stories too I think. He stirred in his sleep (the restless sleeper that he is) and when I patted him, he said, "Fire story sollu maa" because he saw an Olympic torch like thing on the roof of a restaurant that evening before he went to bed. When I mentioned the word flame in that story, he said, "Yen throat'la kooda flame irukku". And I thought to myself, "Wow, he has a sore throat and he says his throat is in flames?". I was totally puzzled. Until I talked to B and discovered that B had told him the story of how B has a sore throat too and how the phlegm (which KB thought was the same as flame) made his throat ache.

If any of you want story ideas, feel free to email me, I will come up with random gibberish stories for you since I have stories coming out of my ears!

Good night!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And thus we decide who will lead the nation!

The much anticipated Election day is here. In an hour or so (by the time you read this for sure), it will be close to "prediction" time. And then the exact numbers. The winner at hand. Who will make the first announcement? Will they bungle it up like they did in 2000? No, I guess not.

I went to vote this morning - I had considered early voting or vote by mail but decided to just go to the polling booth. I had actually wanted to take KB along - but practical issues made me decide against it. I had to be there before the place opened to make sure I was back home before B left for work. KB was asleep then. And despite going before the polling place opened, there was a long line - but thankfully it moved quickly and I was back home in about 45 minutes.

It was exciting to vote especially when the whole nation is so excited about having the power to elect their president. Somehow, this time around you can feel the pulse of the nation as it comes together to choose its leader. Even in my family this time around, my nephew has been writing blogs and working non stop campaigning and making calls to voters. Two of my sisters have been volunteering at the campaign booths and all of us siblings have been having so many email discussions and arguments about all this. In a strange way, after having children who are born citizens of this country, I feel a greater sense of belonging here and a greater eagerness to be part of the voting process. I am hoping that by the time the next election comes around, the kids will be more independent and I can actually get involved a lot more and volunteer some time and effort towards all this.

I am sure some of my dear blog pals can guess who I voted for. But in honor of my dad who never used to tell us who he voted for, just for kicks, I too will leave it to guessing.

Waiting for the headlines to strike!

Power to the people!

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Hope all of you had a nice Halloween! We had a great time with both kids thoroughly enjoying trick or treating. We visited a bunch of wonderfully decorated haunted houses...humongous spiders on the drive way, fog and smoke coming out of the lawn area, skulls strewn we near the door, boom, a man shouts and jumps out from the side wearing a scary mask. I was leading the pack with two other friends and their three girls behind me, KB and KG.

KB and KG are probably too young to be scared - they looked unruffled by it all. KG's first time trick or treating though she wore a costume last year too. KG dressed up as "Piglet" this year and KB as "Spiderman". Speaking of spooky stuff greeting us at the door, we had KB's "skeleton" art work put up on our front window to greet the trick or treaters.

KB wore the costume to his preschool too (I am just going to call this school M preschool here on). They had a little Halloween parade and the kids went walking through the large field in their costumes. They had cup cakes decorated with green and yellow whipped cream and "bone" candy as toppings. They filled up popcorn into transparent gloves and gave those to the kids as well. Over all, the kids had a great time that day.