What’s in a name…

Been a while since I wrote about all that has been happening. The funny, spooky, hilarious, thought provoking, sad, debatable, happy, heartwarming, nonsensical happenings in life that make the unnecessary details.

jk_cartoon768In my home country India, naming a baby is a major auspicious landmark event. Each part of India deals with the naming ceremony of an infant in a different way, some going close to a war while deciding the nitty gritties of who the baby will be named after, who will have the honor of naming the baby, which letter should it begin with, should it rhyme with the sibling’s or the parent’s or grand parent’s names. In parts of South India, the name could include the names of father, caste, village or other details to emphasize upon the pedigree or how majestic the background was. In the previous decades, I kid you not when I say that some babies have gone without a name for the longest time because the feuding family members couldn’t agree on one. It was not mandatory to write a name on the birth certificate then.  To add fuel to the confusion of naming a baby, where I come from the name ought to have a profound, deep, interesting, beautiful thought provoking meaning meant to leave the one hearing it dumbfounded or even mesmerized and yes not to forget, it is also called the ‘good name.’ We then add further chaos by giving the same person another name, only the polar opposite of the good name, which is the ‘pet name’ or the ‘nick name,’ usually ridiculous sounding few syllables.  Seriously, I still recall our previous generation asking, “And what is your good name please?”

So, having given the above background on Indian names I must share that the daughter is named after a furniture store I loved in Kuala Lumpur. As in, I didn’t love the furniture, I just loved the name of the store. I guess we are kind of unconventional. The son’s name is made up of  ‘only’  twelve letters of the alphabet and when he wrote it the first time as a three year old, that is, when he fitted his entire name in one line of his notebook his teacher and I shared hugs and high fived. Talking of names I am reminded of the time in Tokyo when I picked the daughter from school and walked home pushing the son’s stroller chatting about her day and she regaled me with stories of a game they played.  She answered my query of who all were playing, with “Keito, I, Lou and me.” I corrected her that I and me were not to be used together while explaining the difference as well as usage and asked again only to get the same answer. “There was I, Lou, Keito and me.” Uh ho. And again the same. It took me a while to realize that ‘I’ was actually the name of her friend “Aai.” In the current days, I should probably sigh, my bad. Gosh, English is getting stranger by the day. In one of the central states of India, mother is called ‘Aai’ or ‘I’ and a dear friend from that state was taken aback when while living in Australia she heard her teenage boy’s friends calling her Aai just like her boys. To be fair to them, they thought that was her name having no idea that they were calling her mum.

Each country pronounces names in its own unique way as we realized while we lived in Kuala Lumpur. Initially when the husband and I would walk into parties together, we would hear ‘so many balloon’ while walking in, so much so that I would turn around expecting to see balloons behind or around us. Thank God for divine intervention because we soon realized that I Sohini, was somany and the husband Varun, was balloon. Somany Baloon, indeed! Probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life also happened in this lovely city. When new at work I came across a lot of men by the name of Encik and assumed that was one the favored names amongst parents when naming their bundle of joy, something like a Jack or Tom in America or an Aditya in India. comics-cyanide-and-happiness-doctor-woman-721628I remember the daughter had five Adityas in her class in Mumbai. Well, before I could literally put my foot in my mouth, my misconception was driven away by another newly appointed colleague who smiled, laughed, laughed loudly, laughed even louder as tears ran down his cheeks to ask, “Er, you are new to Malaysia, are you?” On hearing an affirmative reply the gentleman, the highly amused but very kind gentleman said between guffaws, “Sohini, Encik is not a name, it means Mister!!!” I should probably say ‘my very bad.’ Since that day I admit, I google a country before going to live there. Forearmed with knowledge from google I will not think that Senor is a popular name in Spain or Mexico or even parts of California! To give myself the benefit of doubt, google search started only in 1998 and the Encik episode is pre google era. There, am excused for my faux pas!

While driving in Jamaica with the husband and his colleagues we were stopped by the police as the colleague was found to be driving above the speed limit. The policeman stared for the longest time at his drivers license, looked at him apologetically and asked as to how his name was said. Our friend replied, Kalancheri Ganapati Krishnan Hari Haran. The policeman further went on, “So I should write Kalancheri?” And our friend said, no that is my village’s name. The policeman then wondered if he could write Ganapati Krishnan and our friend corrected him, “No, no, that is my father’s name.” Finally Hari Haran was written on the ticket. Then the patient and courteous policeman man gave his hand and said, “By the way, my name is Joe.” I must add that it was fun to watch the ticket receiver and the ticket giver laughing uproariously on an unsaid but shared joke.

I am pretty sure that by then God was guffawing at us because next we were transferred to Accra, Ghana where it is common practice to have the day of the birth as the infant’s name.  So we were suddenly surrounded by a number of Kojo, Jojo born on Monday, Kobby, Ebo for Tuesday, Wednesday was Kwaku, Yaw for Thursday, Kofi for Friday,  Kwame for Saturday. Go on, look up one of the most famous Ghanian Mr Kofi Annan’s birthday- April 8th, 1938, a Friday.

We Indians are really name snobs! We take great pride in the given name, its origin, meaning etc and I do give all credit to my adopted country -the great nation of the United States of America, where in my community itself that comprises of Swedish, Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hispanic, Ukrainian, Australian, Pakistani, Israeli, Iranian, Russian, Indian, American and many more nationalities, we all pronounce each other’s names, initially probably with a struggle but eventually with aplomb and pride irrespective of nationality.

Do you have a story about how you named your baby? Or is there a story on how you got your ‘good name?’

Picture courtesy: Myfuncards & cyanide and Happiness (explosm.net)

 

 

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The theory of connectivity…

b8f476489a91234379f2630ce3b5fb80The other day I wondered what I could write about next and sent out messages on whatsapp to a few of my friends in Australia, Singapore, India and here in the United States trying to get some fresh ideas. One topic turned out to be common between Mumbai and Melbourne and that is what I am writing about today.

When moving from Mumbai, my friends warned me that Melbourne would not be as warm, open and friendly as Mumbai. They felt that no other place could have a neighborhood like ours in Mumbai where we walked in and out of each other’s home even in our pjs sometimes borrowing a cup of sugar or a bunch of cilantro. And when we moved from Melbourne to California our Melbourne neighbors had exactly similar thoughts as those of our Mumbai neighbors. They couldn’t imagine that a neighborhood in America could be as great as theirs in Australia. When we moved homes within the same city in California my old neighborhood had concerns about the warmth of our new neighbors. I realize now that there was one  common aspect between all the  places that helped us and that is connectivity. And by that I don’t just mean the ways and means of connectivity but also the wish to remain connected.

I realize that one can be as connected as one liked to be or as disconnected as one wished. Distance, time difference, language, culture, religion, race and color are absolutely irrelevant in being in touch. With the advent of mobile phones followed by free calls with face time on I phone, free messaging on Whatsapp, viber, skype and the likes, today I am more connected than ever before with my neighbors, friends and family whether they are in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe or America. The world has shrunk many times over and beautifully so. The street where our first home was in California had its own neighborhood google group where neighbors stayed connected for any messages/information that couldn’t be reached in person. Then there is a next door neighborhood website where one registers with one’s address and gets information on all that is going in the extended neighborhood, right from town planning, theft, lost pets, babysitter,  homework help/yard work help, sale of old furniture to tickets to concerts.  Living in the Silicon Valley our neighborhood comprises of employees of Apple, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle and many more and it is fun to watch the great minds from different countries put up the annual July 4th party with universal appeal to the multi cultural, multi lingual residents of various age group with a taste for diverse cuisine. The beauty of the party is that not even one meeting precedes the event since the whole planning is done over email right down to the menu to avoid duplicating. This year one very inventive mind ironed his shower curtain, duct taped the corners and hung it over his garage so we experienced our own  open air theater as we sat watching, eating amidst kids shooting hoops while the sun went down. Internet is such an amazing tool that it connects not only the neighborhood but also brings the world faraway within reach.

I can never forget the times the daughter was in hospital for long durations and was throughly bored confined to a room with limited visitors. I thank God for the same connectivity as our family and friends around the globe made efforts to keep the teen entertained. When a friend from Mumbai wondered what she wanted, she thought that she was asking for the impossible as she giggled, “I want to see Mumbai rain”, “I wish to see Mumbai traffic and auto rikshaw too (a three wheel contraption which is a blessing in Mumbai to commute short distances).” The next day the friend forwent driving to work but rode in that three wheel helpful contraption-the auto rikshaw in pouring Mumbai monsoon rain and called her on facetime. Her wish was granted, simply! With a lump in my throat I watched my girl enjoy something as simple as Mumbai rain  with glee all over her face while confined to a hospital room in California. I sent a silent thank you to this friend and many others who gave their time, used technology to give themselves in ways one wouldn’t have imagined possible a few years ago. Technology has indeed revolutionized connectivity but it is actually people’s thoughts and endeavors that give fuel to that revolution, otherwise it stays a rebel without a cause. 

tumblr_lrpkrzvAYZ1qdwck5o1_500.pngThe heights of connectivity that I have witnessed in our own home was the kids watching tv shows together with their friends. Now say, what is so special about that? It is unique because the friends were in different continents and time zones so each one was either waking up at an obnoxiously early hour or staying up dreadfully late. They were happy to skip sleep to watch tv shows together for the joy of discussing it over extended time while and after watching it. Twenty years ago overseas phone calls were so prohibitively expensive that they were not only infrequent but also short. And today all one needs is the wish and the wifi. I am amused at myself when I make quick calls to friends overseas while cooking some of their specialities for instruction and tips.  At times Face Time is used as visual aid.

Where has your wish and wifi taken you?  How about sharing how wi fi has changed your life, perception of people and relationship?

Picture courtesy: Andy Singer & http://www.comicstory.tumblr.com

Food for Thought…

imagesI proudly looked at my handiwork of cutting the avocado into two perfect halves and lifting the seed out with the whack of the knife. No big deal for most but for a woman to whom avocado was a stranger for the first thirty years of her life it my friend, is an accomplishment par excellence. Drum roll!!

Leaving home adapting to new places, people, culture, traditions and FOOD has been a constant in our lives. Growing up in a small town in India we thought we were adventurous with food as we ate culinary delights from all over our vast country where the simple potato, beans, peas, carrots are cooked differently in every corner of the country. The north makes drinks with carrots, mix it with peas, beans, potatoes for curry or even dessert in the form of carrot pudding. A part of south uses it in lentils while another part  uses it with coconut milk to make stew. The people in east believe in eating fish with everything, carrot, peas, meat, rice or dessert while the west spices up everything with a tinge of sweet. In the 1970s and 1980s many Indian restaurants proudly offered ‘continental food’ in their menu and if you dig deeper there is nothing called continental food really. Precisely, there is nothing continental in food. It may constitute a variety of food served under one roof, pasta, noodles, fried chicken or even a sandwich which by the way was a big deal when we were kids. Of course we also ate Chinese- the Indian Chinese which would make a Chinese dive off a cliff in indignation and shock.

The first time we lived overseas was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I thought we were mighty adventurous to try the Queen of Fruits Durian. Durian looks like jackfruit but it wins hands down to be the stinkiest thing ever to be eaten, grown, seen or avoided. Kuala Lumpur introduced us to roti canai (a kind of Indian bread served with gravy), nasi goreng (fried rice popular in South East Asia), Mi Goreng (fried noodles), Ice kachang (shaved ice with beans and anything under the sun).  Every thing was a discovery! I would read about a certain dish expecting it to be sweet and it would turn out to be a savory. At work I was surprised to find people gorging on boiled eggs, fried eggs, chicken and rice garnished with shallots and dried fish for breakfast. That was their go to food, comfort food comparable to the baked potato in the United States. In Zambia we were introduced to the meali meal basically maize flour and the locals used it for a variety to cuisine. When I expressed my wish to cook chicken and also teach it to our Zambian help he nodded wisely and said of course maaadaaam! Hearing a cacophony in the kitchen I rushed down to see two huge, really gigantic, well fed chicken fluttering in his hands while he delightedly looked on to me showing off his prize products ready for cooking! I didn’t have the heart to cook those two thereafter and they made a happy cosy home in our backyard often chasing the help’s kids or getting chased by them. I felt both the kids and the chickens were having a good time and that is the only time I came close to seeing chicken smiling.

7343d52d5d0637a88290007408569663In Japan our home was near a blowfish restaurant and I would hear about the expertise needed to cook that deadly fish, as in if gourmet food could kill this one was it! We became adept at using chopsticks and eating sushi and sashimi while introducing our Japanese friends to tandoori chicken, paneer tikka from North India and dosa, idli, uttapam from the South. Surprisingly, they loved my tea and I fell in love with theirs though I am told that both are acquired tastes. In Australia, the son’s class had an international cuisine day and with lot of expat children in the class we saw cuisine from everywhere, Sudan to Singapore. A local  family proudly presented vegemite and toast as they felt that was true Aussie cuisine. The Indians had turned up with the whole nine yards and I got the impression that most were overwhelmed by the variety presented between the mere four Indian families. We do love our food and we are not shy about it, are we now?

Fresh off the boat America  hit us, shocked, amused and overwhelmed us with its gigantic serving sizes in food and drinks. Small, medium, large are known all over the world but grande, venti and trenta? Hello, who wants to dive into a coffee and drown? I believe trenta is a whole thirty fluid ounce and people do drink it! Then there is this Italian restaurant near our home which gives one free pasta/ spaghetti or whatever you order to take home for every pasta you eat in. Buy one and get one free taken to another level surely and the soft drinks just keep flowing. There is no end to refills until explicitly requested to stop and I feel the poor wine does get a step motherly treatment, no refills unless explicitly requested.

I baked sweet potatoes today and smiled to myself reminiscing  of the time we ate baked/boiled potatoes in India. They were cut into pieces, liberally mixed with chopped raw red onions, green chillies, cilantro, lemon juice, red chilli powder, crushed black pepper mixed with garbanzo beans and with a nice little whack of the hand mixed well in a little pouch made with leaves. The Aussies baked their potatoes by throwing spices, mixing flavors, splashing herbs to present quite an exotic yet simple dish of baked potato while the Japanese took it to another extreme with wasabi, miso, scallions and thousand other ingredients all of course very finely chopped, intricately decorated, delicately presented so much so that I hated to spoil the effect by digging into it. Then we came to America and discovered the version here- the baked potato was wrapped in a aluminum foil and was just that- a potato wrapped in foil and baked! A small container of sour cream sat neglected in the corner of the plate and trust me, the family and I burst out laughing. There is so much fun and joy to be found in our differences.

Why all this talk about food when the world is on a perpetual diet? Just to remind us that food is not just something to get rid of hunger. The scope of food is beyond that. It binds people just as it unites them. It is a discovery- of people, culture, regions, countries, geography, history, chemistry and even physics. The Italian cuisine in Italy tastes vastly different from the one cooked elsewhere and it is not just the tomatoes. Closer home the Italian cuisine in California is grossly different from the one in New York as is the Indian, Japanese or any other cuisine. The reactions of food- the chemistry, the ways and means of cooking – the physics are all intriguing. If my mum were alive today she would be tickled pink to find me switching on my gas stove without a gas lighter or a matchbox but with a simple turn of the knob that worked as ignition.

Food- Yes, there is a lot to it, far more than it will ever get credit for. What have your experiences with different cuisine been? Do you feel that it forms a connection? Does it make you stare at your plate in awe or gasp with wonder or at times proceed with caution or maybe eat at own risk…..

 

Picture courtesy: http://www.santabanta.com & http://www.twentytwowords.com

A world full of heart…

'Stocks rose on the news that random acts of kindness today outnumbered random acts of violence.'

I truly believe people are inherently good, sometimes we just have to pause a moment, breathe in and wait to savor it because more often than not that goodness just happens, unfolds and passes by taking us unaware just like sunrise each morning. Today’s post is dedicated to all those unknown people, perfect strangers actually who knowingly or unknowingly touch a life, making random incident memorable, turning  traumatic events bearable, to be talked about, reminiscing over a cup of coffee, glass of wine or simply…

I recall the time the son was a baby, a mere 4 month old happy cuddly little fellow with the widest gummy smile and eyes glowing with happiness. He was born with a congenital kidney problem and needed multiple surgeries. That was in Mumbai and after painstaking efforts from the nurse, wails from the son and silent tears from me an IV line was set up on his podgy little arms. After the first surgery he was discharged from the hospital with the IV line on for the next few surgeries as no one wished to put the baby through another trauma probably saving the doctors, nurses, mum and dad too from the same. So there we were headed home with the husband driving, trying to reach the four year old daughter waiting for us, while I sat behind with our boy who happily grinned at me from his basinet as though sensing that we were going away from the place where he was poked and prodded. Suddenly  we were flagged down by a cop. The husband ‘apparently’ had driven through an amber light turning red. Unlike the United States, one doesn’t hand over license/registration while sitting in the car when stopped in India, but gets off to stand by the sidewalk with the cop with  an explanation/license/registration/cash-bribe, and not exactly in that order. I viewed the two talking in the side view mirror and was surprised to see them walking towards the car and next the cop peeped inside to see me and our boy whose big toothless smile was still in place probably only getting wider. The cop and the baby exchanged toothy/gummy grins as if sharing their own little joke.  He saw the IV and looked again at the two of us, dropped his notebook back into his pocket, gave me a little salute and bid the husband adieu with a big hug and instructions to take good care of the baby and drive safe. Yes that is Mumbai…a city full of heart.

It is not surprising to encounter these warm incidents in Mumbai. The city indeed is full of heart. It gets battered with bomb blasts and rises up the very next moment with everyone walking an hour or more to reach work with public transport suspended. It gets flooded and the city that was supposed to grind to a halt continues to move, with neighbors helping each other, picking up a child, reaching food or even sharing groceries with supermarkets closed or sold out.

London is famous for being cold, weather and otherwise, no offense intended but I feel it has the most amazing heart. Another time the husband had flown to London on work and on landing at Heathrow airport saw my text message that the daughter was admitted in hospital. At immigration when asked the purpose and duration of his visit, he told  that he was supposed to be in London on work for 3 days but was going to take the first flight out as his child was in hospital. The immigration personnel picked up the phone and murmured a few words and an airport ground staff appeared to escort him through the quickest shortest way to baggage claim and customs, reaching him back to the United Airlines Global desk in a few minutes skipping all lines and waits. And United Airlines, not exactly famous for its great service on grounds or inflight wasted no time having him back on the same flight that reached him to London and soon he was flying home having touched down in London, cleared immigration, taken baggage, gone through customs, back in with new ticket, check in, security check in less than two hours!

In Tokyo our friends visiting us forgot their backpack containing a high end camera with multiple lenses and a $ 1000 in cash in the overhead compartment of a train. On lodging a complaint with the Station Office we were directed to wait at the exact place we had disembarked and check in the train when it returned in 43 minutes to be precise as it had a circular route. He was convinced that it would be found exactly where it was left since it had not been deposited at the Lost and Found department. Robbery was not an option even considered. We never really  expected to find the lost bag but there it was exactly where forgotten, waiting for its rightly owner having escaped both theft and bomb disposal squad.

During one of my walks in the neighborhood park, I was getting to a point of discomfort since another walker, a young man kept looking at me very blatantly every time we passed one another. I didn’t believe that I was unsafe but nevertheless felt hesitant until he stopped in front of me with a big smile and said, “you are wearing Kathmandu, you must be from Australia.” For those unfamiliar to the down under, Kathmandu is like the Nike of Australia- everyone does it!

 

'Beauty is on the inside.'

Last few weeks my brother-in- law was visiting from India and we had been hiking pretty often as I showed him the sights and sounds of bay area. He couldn’t get over the fact that strangers walking past each other either said hello, how’s it going? or remarked on the good old weather or simply nodded. There was always a courteous, respectful acknowledgment. In a world rocked by terror these simple etiquettes go a long way in building better communities.

Do you recall the moments when perfect strangers made your day? Or does an incident with an unknown make you break into a smile or feel grateful and blessed? Reminisce those  and share,  let the world know yet again how wonderful it is….

 

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com

Highway to hell…

 

'I bet there was a story behind this.'

It was my 18th birthday. Many aeons ago of course! And my father gifted me something that was on top of my wish list. I am not aware if things have changed now in India but when I was a teenager, one could appear for a behind the wheel driving test after the age of 18 and I was gifted enrollment in one of the few ‘Driving Schools’ owned and managed by a dad and his two sons in our small city. It entailed the ‘uncle’ driving to our home at a specific time five days a week for a month to pick me up and teach me about clutch, brake, acceleration amidst rules and regulations. We drove only manual transmissions those days. Some days the ‘big brother’ would come and if the younger one came he was addressed by his name by all the learner drivers. He was still in his twenties you see. In India anyone who is or looks over the age of 30 unfortunately for him/her is addressed as aunty/uncle and anyone under is either the big brother/big sister. Names were used only for the pals/buddies.

Day one would entail driving a big bulky ungainly heap that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s though by the fourth and last week we would have proudly graduated to a very sleek new age sedan, basically covering four different types of vehicles over four weeks. On the day of my driving test at the RTO (Regional Transport Office) my boy friend came along with his friends to wish me luck as I went for a drive with my instructor and the person testing me. I knew I had a scope of failing if told  to stop on an incline managing the clutch and brake but luckily for me we didn’t drive to the hills. After a few question answer sessions came the trick question- ‘mam, can you change car tires?’ Huh! Seriously? No one, including the instructor had prepared me for that and with my heart dropping to my stomach I shook my head murmuring no. The instructor was asked, ‘you people don’t teach them tire changing ?’ This was the dude instructor, not the uncle or the big brother and he tried to make a joke while I interrupted saying, ‘I can’t change the tire but I sure can get it changed by the boyfriend.’ Surprises do not cease because I passed. Apparently my driving was perfect though I should watch the speed and marry the boyfriend. I took all the advices…and yes he changed a few tires too.

I might have mentioned in one of the previous blogs that when we plan, hope, anticipate, we should always look up to see if Gods are laughing. So you bet, they were in splits, laughing at what was coming next because you see we moved to a country where I couldn’t continue to drive on my International Driving Permit or Indian License after a certain time. So Vic Roads (RTO in India, DMV in the United States) in Melbourne Victoria, Australia, required that yours truly do a behind the wheel driving test to get an Aussie Driving License, after an online test and a hazard perception test and a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from my Indian Driving License Authority. Seriously! I was most indignant and while I did the needful I gently protested at the unfairness of it all. My friends with license from anywhere in the world USA, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and even tiny countries like Lesotho got an Aussie license across the table by presenting the license issued by their country and poor me, after years of competent driving on Indian roads of the 1990s amidst cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, bicycles, rickshaws, cows, pedestrians, road side vendors and sometimes even people just standing and chatting was the one who needed to appear for a test. Highly amused at my disgruntled musings the Vic Road employee testing me laughed, ‘lady, where you come from even a blind person would get a license.’ Our reputation preceded us or so it seemed. So I zipped my mouth, did the test and needless to say, passed.

Had I taken a peek into heaven I would have seen the Gods ROFL because next we moved to America and  California didn’t recognize my Aussie or Indian license so off I went to do the written test followed by the behind the wheel test. No other song and dance about the hazard perception or No Objection Certificate. I wasn’t alone in my predicament as the husband too did the whole nine yards but his test became the American scene as seen in  movies and sometimes read in newspapers. Just as he was driving into the DMV premises his car got shot at. Yes, seriously and truly, unbelievable right? I, waiting by the curb heard a big bang and looked around to find the source wondering why, firstly the husband had stopped the car so suddenly with both the occupants looking shell shocked and secondly why were people ducking behind bins, trees or flat on the road? I was fresh off the boat you see and unfamiliar with sounds of gunshots in real life. So the DMV employees summoned the Highway Patrol and cops while I called the car service station to arrange for it to be picked up for replacing the shattered windscreen and get a loaner vehicle in the interim. After thorough investigation it was deduced that the shot was fired from ‘just a simple’ pellet gun and was probably a stray or meant to harm the new shiny car in the unsafe neighborhood. And I thought to myself, welcome to America mate!

Man to lady with hair straight out: 'Not easy being a driver's ed teacher, is it?'Why this sudden talk of driving and tests? Well, the daughter has to start her lessons soon and she thought she would  become familiar with the rules by clearing her doubts as we drove. Such were the queries- what are you doing now? I am pressing the accelerator. And now? Still pressing the accelerator. Hmmm okay, and now? Still the same. Then I heard her exclaiming what! You can’t just press the accelerator and leave it? What if there is an itch in  your toe, what if there is something stuck under your foot, what if you get a cramp, what if…..And I thought God help her driving instructor. Have you sat with your teens while they practiced and honed their driving skills? And er do you have any hair remaining?

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com & http://www.jantoo.com

Mama Mia…

Funny-Mothers-Day-Cartoons2So it was the Mother’s Day Weekend! Right from President Obama to my help including the handyman who came by to fix the air conditioner had words about it. While the President spoke about respect to the mother, equality to women and support to parents, the Help murmured a shy Happy Mother’s Day before she left. As we bid each other adieu I asked her plans for the oncoming weekend and she laughed- “Oh my madar is visiting from Mehico, she will cook for us all so I can catch up on laundry for the entire week. I will head to the laundromat.” The handy man/electrician fixing the air conditioner tightened the last screw, checked the insulation and said, “I would come by tomorrow to finish the job you know but (rolling his eyes) it is Mother’s Day so the boys and I got to do something.” He looked so troubled that I had to laugh and added my two bits of wisdom, just make the lady feel special. The man’s twenty eight year old ‘boy’ helping him grinned sheepishly in shared plight. What would make the mother happy? How to make her day special?

Funny-Mothers-Day-Jokes1-1Special? Feeling special is relative holding different meaning to everyone. For some it may be expensive presents and elaborate meals while others might cherish quiet family time. Some go all out while others take it just as any other day. Some enjoy huge celebrations while others sneak away in depression. Most though would give an arm and a leg for that clean garage and yard work! The hubby and son have been in the kitchen since morning and it certainly seems to me if there was a saying that “the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach”, there should be a new one that says, “when you love somebody, cook them a meal.” Though I must admit their culinary skills are displayed all through the year and are not limited to one particular Sunday. When we were kids, we didn’t celebrate a particular Sunday as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. In fact India was introduced to Valentine’s Day only in the late 1980s and awareness of Women’s Day came in much later though the way Women’s Day is being deciphered and celebrated with each passing year, the Man needs to have a day dedicated to him soon- The International Men’s Day.

I got to know of Mother’s Day in Jamaica when the husband walked in carrying the little daughter in one arm and flowers in the other. She smiled gleefully delightedly aware that something special was happening and handed me my first Mother’s Day present. Lo Behold…I was introduced to the concept of this special Day in 1998 and immediately called my mum/ mum in law in India to wish them. I must admit I felt quite foolish when my mum wondered aloud what was the wish about though she graciously added thank you. With our new found knowledge of the existence of these special days the hubby and I conscientiously called our parents on their respective days and these gentle people born in the 1930s and 1940s laughed, smiled and seemed to humor the silly children of the 1960s. If they could see the commercialization of the day now, I wonder if they would still be amused or shocked at the extravaganza. At the cost of sounding cynical I don’t think it made a difference to our parents to be wished on one particular day of the year instead our regular calls to them gave them the happiness of a thousand Mother’s/Father’s Day everyday. Yes, we simply called our parents whether we lived in the same city or ten thousand miles away in a different time zones just to say hi, how are you? This simple gesture of one call beat any celebration of one Sunday of the year!

Mothers are generally simple, happy with random things like an odd shaped stone picked up by my then four year old brought me much joy and I still cherish various art work depicting me. So what if I seemed to have one arm longer than the other, hair resembling cotton candy, cylinder like body wearing a big toothy smile- the fine arts of my then little ones warmed my heart and touched my soul. Today I laugh exasperatedly when my super organized daughter shares her color coded planner with Plan A and Plan B for an entire semester on google spreadsheet with us and I again laugh exasperatedly as I see my son struggling to make a simple planner for his forthcoming finals on a white board. I heard out a mum who bemoaned with concern as her newly minted freshman at high school didn’t have a date for the prom while another was concerned that hers was spending too much for dressing up for the event. One mum was upset that her child was socializing ‘too much’ while another thought she was lucky as hers didn’t have a social life. One thought her teen was not eating enough while another was thinking of putting hers on a special diet and exercise. One worried about her child’s impending divorce while the another was concerned about the child’s child’s, yes the grandchild’s food habits!

Moral of the story is wherever you are, when you are mum you worry of things no one would worry about. You are concerned about everything including er hmm shit! Relate to it? What are your mommy moments- the joyful, the heartbreaking, the heart in the mouth, heart dropped to stomach, the touching moment, the funny moments, the exasperating moments, ah those endless moments…And surprises of surprises, as I googled to find a suitable image for today’s topic I found this website”www.mothersdaysmessages.com!” Really!!!

Picture courtesy: http://www.mothersdaysmessages.com

Mother of controversies…

'Just for me. My mother-in-law is coming to visit.'

The mother- in-law! Love her or hate her, can’t do without her. Whether  sharing a warm friendship or nurturing a cold war she can not be ignored. Whether best friends or sworn enemies, she is ‘present’ in all marriages.

Whether living in Mumbai slums or a penthouse in New York, when a group of friends get together informally the discussions can include anything under the sun or below the earth but one topic might just be common- the mother in law. One can read and write realms on this omnipresent major figure having direct and indirect influence on ones lives. Men are known to shiver in their shoes at her thought and women have had sleepless nights. Movies, soaps, songs, poems, short stories, long ballads, fiction, non fiction have been dedicated to this regal being in all seriousness and in jest. 

The mother in law came into my mind while at coffee with friends when one declared that she was playing ‘office-office.’ Seeing my blank expression she explained that with the mother in law visiting for a few months, she devised the perfect peace plan which entailed no weapons of mass destruction but only her being out of the house for the entire day. So despite being unemployed she left home all dressed up in business attire with precision at nine am every morning to return punctually in the evening after a ‘hard day’ at work. It is definitely hard to leave with clock work precision everyday, more so when one is not employed! She with all goodness of her heart decided the best way to cope with the new entity living with her was to stay out of her way. Another friend has the mother in law living with them since the time she came to help with the new born baby. The baby is a high schooler now but the mother in law is a permanent fixture and the duo have devised a perfect way to live with each other in peace and acceptance, sharing chores and having their respective days to invite friends  over and even go dancing.

Marriage can be a long educational happy merry ride, but the wedding takes the cake. I had heard a friend accepting a marriage proposal on the condition that her mother would be living with them and the love of her husband was strong enough to welcome the mother in law as a constant in their lives. This, in India is extremely unusual and even today the practice of parents arranging the children’s marriage is highly prevalent. So what if the child is a thirty years old adult with a job and capable of making own decisions, the parents more often than not arrange the marriage after careful scrutiny of the prospective bride/groom from all perspectives literally including health, wealth, prosperity, family, background, education, religion, property owned and sometimes scaling new heights of investigation they would even check food habits and whether teetotaler or not. The groom’s mums would be keen to know about the culinary skills of the prospective bride while the bride’s parents would prefer the groom to boast of a fat bank balance and stability of employment.

imgres-1Some mums in law cheekily take the liberty to inform the newly weds the list of likes and dislikes of their sons/daughters while few others might include some of their own favorite things too. Most mums in law are known to be all-rounders, having knowledge of everything, willing to dole out a word of advice, direction, instruction, suggestion, order, guidance be it on career, home, clothes, culinary skills, raising children and even on how to handle the spouse!

Mine is the hippest of all I say. Soon after marriage we were to go to our condominium ‘informal’ get-together and the mum in law and I came out of our respective rooms to join our respective husbands. While I stared in surprise at her heavily made up face, well styled hair, glittering gold/diamond jewelry and shining attire she seemed shocked to see my choice of clothes, make up and jewelry, saying, oh you aren’t dressed yet! Go quickly and get ready while I had thought I was appropriately dressed to the nines for the occasion with my chiffon dress, touch of lipstick and pearls. We have been part of each other’s lives for more than two decades now and have come to terms with our many contrasts, be it attire, thoughts, behavior, likes and dislikes but the sole similarity that binds us together is the love for the same man, her son – my husband.

Everyone has some anecdotes about their mother in law- all inclusive of the good, the bad and the ugly!  Come on admit it! Have guts to share your story? Just so you know, my mother in law has no knowledge of this blog. And neither has yours!

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com & http://www.someecards.com