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)

 

 

Theory of adaptability…

The bitter sweet meeting of perception and reality: 'Yay! I'm saved!!'

Will the boatman adapt to a life on the island or vice versa? How do we perceive change? The winter we left Australia our daughter was in year ten and son in year six in school. We moved to California and not only did we encounter summer overnight but also our daughter became something called a sophomore in high school and son a grade six-middle schooler. Suddenly she was to write tests and more tests called the SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Test) for college admission , CAHSEE- the California High School Exit Examination and working on her GPA. Before I realized the son’s cricket bat was in the garage replaced by a baseball bat, in my eyes- a club instead of a paddle! The Aussie rule foot(ie) ball too was replaced by the American football which by the way, didn’t seem at all like football.

In Australia we saw a few cricket matches in the Melbourne Cricket Ground and I recall the son jumping with excitement as the Aussies slammed runs after runs against the visiting Kiwis. Then for a game between Australia and India, he clapped and jumped for both the teams, sharing each one’s victory and losses. He was an Indian at heart but home was Australia then and both the teams had his loving loyalty. I recall meeting the daughter’s teacher at a Parent-Teacher meet and listening to his enthusiasm and words of praise for her writing as he wondered which school in Melbourne had instilled the love for English language and literature. He couldn’t believe that she was not a native Australian but that her early schooling and foundation of the English language and literature was laid in two non English speaking countries- Japan and India.

The husband’s brother married a lovely British girl so I have an English co-sister who moved to Mumbai and adapted the Mumbai way of life literally like fish to water. A few times cab drivers tried to take her on a merry ride assuming she was a foreigner but she set them right much to their astonishment as well as amusement giving them a piece of her mind with a string of local Hindi abuses. When it was time to get her Permanent Residence Card for India my brother in law as per the undocumented but prevalent law added a ‘suitable’ bribe with her papers which she snatched back right from under the agent’s nose and reduced the amount by half. She had learnt the Indian way of bargaining far better than her Indian husband and accomplished the task with a big disarming smile combined with a reproachful look, almost reprimanding the agent’s exorbitant price.

When we bought our home in California we employed small businesses to do some work before moving in. The business fitting the closets was owned by a Native American with the Comanche background. We drew the plan for the master bedroom walk- in- closet and I explained that I wished to have a place for my prayers. I have a collection of idols, pictures, holy water, holy soil, holy oil from all over the world so my place of worship has the Holy Cross, Bhagwad Gita, holy oil, water and soil from Jerusalem, Rosary, sacred cloth from a Mosque, Buddha alongside multiple idols of Ganesha and other Gods from Hinduism. My place of worship is like the United Nations of  multiple Gods from different religions/nations. Some have been procured by us as blessings during our travels while others are presents from friends from their pilgrimage. So, I went to great lengths to make him understand that I wished to have them together in one place and he cut me short with, so you want a place for your Pooja (Hindi word for prayer/worship) and it was my turn to be taken aback at the knowledge of the gentleman without any Indian background. His take of- ‘I have lived and worked long enough in the Bay Area to know Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and many other cultures.’

Last week I was away at Washington DC and prior to renting a car commuted by using the lyft app. In the two instances that I traveled by cab, the first driver was an Indian who told me stories of his daughter going to medical school and how he and his wife were managing with her aspirations, while the second driver was a retired government employee, an African American and he regaled me with stories from the Bible, his son’s wedding and by the time we drove up to Dulles International Airport Terminal we had animated book discussions on a couple of biographies we both had read.

I recall saying Jambo (greetings) while in Kenya, ohaiyo gazaimasta (good morning) in Japan and the other day when I was walking by a store at a local shopping strip a young Chinese strum his guitar singing in heavily accented Hindi, a Bollywood song and ending with aplomb, hands folded in salutations saying Namaste. While I laughed and commended his efforts he asked if I knew Shah Rukh Khan, the King of Bollywood. I tried to be funny and replied, ‘of course he is my neighbor’ only to hear the repartee, ‘oh really, he is my brother from an Indian mother.’

cartoon-wine-literature-library-saThe random incidents that I shared above are ordinary though unique, recurrent yet special showcasing our inherent tendency, ability, preference and wish to adapt. Unconsciously and continuously we evolve to encompass our environment, people, beliefs and customs. My faith that the world is a beautiful place despite the acts of terrorism by a select few gets reiterated by these little incidents. I smiled to myself as I read the newspaper that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is commemorating the Indian festival of lights Diwali by releasing a forever stamp  on Oct 5th 2016. While we adapt to our adopted country, our adopted country adapts to us!

How do you percept change? Do you react with optimistic positive thoughts or do you enjoy nitpicking? Do you adapt or do you attempt to change your new environment or maybe you manage to reach that perfect fine balance? Share your stories so we all know the speciality of ordinary random things…

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com & George Aldridge

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

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

Homecoming…

'With the kids back home and unemployed, it's hard to believe I ever suffered from empty nest syndrome.'

If we were having coffee I would tell you about some interesting discoveries I made starting last weekend. To say that it has been a busy time would be an understatement but I must add that it was a good busy, if you know what I mean.

It is that time of the year when most college students are homeward bound, school students are preparing for final exams, some excited about graduation ceremonies and others looking forward to holidays. Our home has a combination of the above. The daughter came home from college and the son is preparing for final exams, final concert and checking boxes of things to be completed before exams begin.

While the daughter is super organized to the point of exasperation, the son is super cool to take me to another level of exasperation. I do sound quite an exasperated mum! Before her exams began she called us on to make her to-do list which included ‘plan’ her packing, ‘organize’ storage in or around college, ‘sell’ books not required, bring back books mum might like to read, order cartons, when, what, how, where and why of vacating dorm room was strategically thought of, planned and executed. On Face Time conversations we were shown the sizes of cartons as she debated on what to store in the ones that were knee high as against those which reached mid thigh level. So yes, even the size of the cartons ordered for storage were given immense thought with height and weight considered. She was so meticulously organized that when I flew across the nation and reached her dorm with two empty suitcases I found four packed and sealed cartons waiting outside the room to be stored in my high school friend’s home. I can’t fathom till today how two girls sharing a tiny room managed to have six cartons  in storage and 4 check in suitcases each! Was there a bottomless pit hidden in a corner from where they magically kept producing fat books, thick notes, summer clothes, hangers, iron, iron board, huge boots, endless winter clothes and the list itself is endless! Her room mate’s parents were busy packing and taking boxes after boxes down to their car parked far away. And did I mention that it was raining and windy? I was super pleased that we were to move the next day, little knowing that Gods were laughing at our planning and us. 

By the time we moved the next day, most had already left and  I could park my rented SUV by the ramp with a few other parents. We all wore similar expressions which basically conveyed several degrees of ‘Oh My God!’ What have the kids accumulated! We smiled at each other, shaking our heads, rolling our eyes but nevertheless doing what needed to be done to get our kids home from college. Just as I was struggling down the ramp with a carton barely balanced between the daughter and me I saw this boy with a backpack and a guitar slung on his shoulders walking down the ramp whistling, pulling a medium sized suitcase. He too was headed home! And I smiled to myself as I visualized the son doing something similar when he would be in college. “Ummeed pe duniya kayam hain”- The world lives on hope is an old Indian saying…But then a friend burst my happy bubble saying that her son returned home twenty pounds excess baggage after availing of maximum storage facility. It dawned on me that it is not gender specific but person specific as to how much ‘stuff’ a student accumulates during a year in college.

865f0845b558686080ac054c63305e9dI did say that we were providing God with humor so while we didn’t get a rainy day during our move we were presented with high speed winds. My short mop of hair covered my entire face while I prayed that the wind would blow it away as I peered around to find the ramp to walk down without banging into another parent/child carrying another heavy load. We teach our kids ‘waste not, want not’ and the implications of that hit me hard in the form of an empty carton that the daughter refused to leave behind in recycling but keep in storage for future use. The large flattened empty carton I was holding on to with dear life in one hand while balancing somethings on the other became parallel to the road with the wind speed and the more I maneuvered the more out of control it went until it hit me on the face before bouncing off with a mind of its own on the road following another parent. The great big and small silly things we do for our children can be made into a best seller though on hindsight we are left with a lifetime of memories to laugh over, contemplate on and sometimes even share on blog posts….

Just as we teach about waste not want not, we teach few other things too, amongst them ‘do not talk to strangers and be punctual’ are quite common. So the daughter was taking me out for dinner and I was given the option to choose from five places around the campus, asked to look over the menu, given extensive description of each place and some of the favored dishes, ambience, time and cost. When I mindlessly chose one, I was asked why I preferred it over others! So I really perused over the menus extensively like I was going to write a thesis and chose one. As we walked to the lovely French restaurant we saw a dog walker with a cute friendly dog and I invariably got down on my knees to chat with the dog and we all got talking. After a lovely short conversation as we continued down the road, we saw another dog walker coming towards us and the daughter exclaimed, ‘now mommy, don’t talk to another stranger please else we will be late for our reservation.’

These little incidents make me I realize that life is a full circle. We try our best to raise our children to be good human beings and then dawns a day when we realize that the child has grown much and beyond our humble imagination and highest hopes giving parenting, love, adulthood and homecoming a whole new deep meaning…

Did you have these moments? What are the memorable moments of moving your child in or out of college/home?

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

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