Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Cross posted at Desi Momz Club.

Bhai (brother in Hindi)

Bhai and I have always been close. Despite the 7 year age difference. Or maybe because of it. I remember being advised of exactly what boys thought about when they were talking to girls. And yet my head was unceremoniously buried under a pillow during the age inappropriate scenes of 'Pretty Woman' and 'Basic Instinct'. Bhai would discuss his relationships though he wouldn't kiss and tell. We would talk about anything under the sun. He's the one who introduced me to Western musicians and told me to like it if I wanted to be cool :). I turned to him when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I went clubbing with his friends and him. We have been drunk together. It's that kind of relationship.

And yet, as he faces the toughest challenge of his life, I find myself looking for excuses to bring up the thing that I know disturbs him the most and yet not finding any. I know that talking about it brings him pain and anguish, so I let it be. And yet I know the problem continues with no solution in sight and I long to talk to him, to understand what he's going through. For my peace of mind. And maybe to be of help.

Temperamentally we are very different. I'm the firebrand. The one who always knew what she wanted and went after it. I was never too bothered about what my family or friends would think as long as I was convinced of the rightness of my path. He, on the other hand, has always been devoted, and the ideal child. Always concerned about how his actions will be viewed. Making sure that our parents were happy and their dreams for their children fulfilled. The 'good' boy. Popular among all our family and friends. Leaving me feeling many a time jealous of his easygoing nature and his ability to attract people.

The last few months have been tortuous as the reality of his situation has become clearer to us. Clearer, only because it has become too much for him to bear, and he has chosen to share. But that too in snippets. All of us feel it acutely and yet don't know how to help him. He doesn't want to talk about it. I feel helpless. We all feel helpless.

You're wondering why I'm writing this now. Changing the pleasant tones of this wonderful blog.

Because I need to say this to him (even though I know he won't be reading this) -

"If you need someone to talk, without judging you, or forcing you to take action, then you know where to find me. I love you, Bhai".

I can't say this to him directly though I talk to him about random other bits regularly. It's one of those things. But I'm so glad I have him and I know that I can depend on him anytime. And he has me. Always. That's what siblings are for. This is my parent's best gift to me, ever.

Squiggles Mom

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Holiday Series - Chennai

After the slight melodramatic experience of the previous night, we got up early the next morning to head out to visit DD's Atthai (Bua or father's sister) and her daughter. This was the reason for our day trip to Chennai. We had last met her at DD's sister's wedding, a year and a half ago. In the meantime, she had lost her mother, DD's grandmom, whose funeral DD had been unable to attend.

Amongst all my in-laws, DD's Atthai is my absolute favourite. She's a gentle sweet lady with a generous heart and a gracious manner. Whenever I've met her, she's embraced me with an open heart. There is no artificality, no fakeness. Just genuineness. Unlike DD's maternal family, who have more money but no heart. You'll hear more on that in the Cochin episode. But that's later.

DD's Atthai isn't well off. She lives in a poorer part of Chennai in an old run down colony. But we didn't go there. We agreed to meet at her daughter's place as they felt that would be more convenient for us to find. From the moment we entered till we left, we were constantly plied with yummy food prepared freshly in front of us. They took Squiggles from me and fed her. DD and his aunt and cousin, kept chatting, sharing news, including me where they could. Even though there was a language barrier (I know no Tamil), it didn't prevent us from enjoying each other's company. As they say, communication is only 10% verbal. Through all that was at their disposal they made us feel warm, loved and very welcome.

I'd also made an effort to wear the sari that Atthai had given me at my SIL's wedding. She was so pleased and I was happy to have made the effort. I'd even remembered to wear my Thali like a good South Indian bahu :)). Not to mention the bindi that I always forget to wear. I guess I could've worn a salwar kameez and it would have been perfectly fine. But I wanted to wear what she'd given me. I don't know when we will be visiting her again and it seemed right to show in my own way, that her present had been worn, that I had liked it and was happy to wear it.

I guess I'm feeling nostalgic so I'll put up a picture from our visit. It doesn't feel right to put their picture up but edit mine out, so you can finally see what I look like :). I'll probably delete it later. Photo deleted.

And no, that handsome young boy is not DD! He's way too young, thin and good looking :)). DD's probably twice his size *grins*

Sweetheart, if you're reading this, you know I love you, don't you?

And the generous soul that she is, she had presents for each one us. Money that they probably needed for medicines. She refuses to take money from my father in law. She has too much pride, she wants to fend for herself within her means. Despite knowing her nature, my mother-in-law bought the cheapest sari for us to gift her. And my MIL can definitely afford much better. I don't understand why people give gifts according to the income of the people they are gifting to. Surely it should be according to what you can afford. Judgements like 'they will not know how expensive it is' always irritate me. Feeling deeply uncomfortable about the presents my MIL had asked to give her, I had urged DD to buy something for her grand children when we were in Delhi. And I'm so glad we did. Of course, we were no match for her or her blessings.

The day passed way too quickly. DD's nephew was sweet enough to play the violin for us. And when I requested, his Atthai also sang a couple of songs for us. It's very traditional, isn't it, in South Indian families for everyone (who can, of course) to perform for guests? And people are so appreciative too. It's something that is missing in the North, I think. If at all there is a performance, it is invariably linked to the latest bollywood numbers. Some kid shaking their chest to 'Dhak Dhak Karne Laga'. It reminds me of the snake dance from 'Bride and Prejudice'. Which was hilarious :).

Some people know how to be happy with very little and I can only hope to learn from that.

Next stop: Kalady, Kerala (near Cochin)

Thank You God

For creating daughters.

For finally giving me someone who realises that I have been to a nail bar. Who not only notices the bright cherry painted on my toe fingers but also appreciates the subtle french manicure on my hands. Someone who doesn't take 5 days to comment on my now pristine feet. But someone who comes at a super fast crawl and tries to take off the nail that's just been painted a bright red. Someone who even tries her luck with the subtle cream on my hand nails.

Thank you God, for giving me a daughter. Now I no longer need to depend on my husband for appreciation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Holiday Series - '100 days' in Chennai

We were so glad that we hadn't missed our flight from Pune to Chennai. But this was soon followed by irritation when we learnt that the flight was delayed by 45 mins. After all that drama! We got to Chennai quite late and went straight to our hotel. We had a lovely room though none of it registered at the time and we just crashed.

Of course, the paisa vasool person that I am, when I learnt they had a jacuzzi and steam room in their health spa and it was complimentary, I couldn't resist heading down there for a short while before retiring for the night. This, despite having been on the road since 6 that morning. After I convinced DD that he really wasn't interested in that kind of relaxation, I left a sleeping Squiggles in DD's care and went down to the spa.

It was 10pm. There was an attendant there who kindly showed me around. I don't know why, but I was surprised to note that there wasn't anyone else around in the ladies section. I had the whole spa to myself. I was quite pleased. The chap switched on the jacuzzi and the steam room and left me to it.

I quickly changed and got into the jacuzzi. As the water was gushing around me, I closed my eyes to enjoy.
*I know this post is supposed to be about why we were in Chennai but I think the digression is worth it. In any case why am I justifying myself. It's my blog. huh. How you people manage to influence me without even a word, I don't know. Anyways, let me get on with it.*

Maybe 30 secs passed, maybe a minute. There was no sound except the sound of the water bursting through the jets in the jacuzzi. And yet on its own, images from a movie I had seen at least 10 years ago floated in my mind. I opened my eyes. There was no one there. It was eerily quiet. Somehow I felt I would have felt better if there was someone else around even if it meant that I would have to share the jacuzzi with a stranger. This was a top hotel in Chennai and really I had no reason to feel uneasy.

I closed my eyes again. And the image of Madhuri Dixit, Saeed Jaffery, blood and more from the movie '100 Days' flitted in and out of my mind. If you have seen the movie, then you may remember there was a scene with a murder in a public swimming pool. Let's just say that by this point I had ridiculous visions of potential safety issues. And really I wouldn't call myself a fanciful person. But sometimes you don't know yourself.

I got out of the jacuzzi and decided to use the steam room. I love the steam room. So, I bravely conquered my misgivings and entered the steam room. The steam was thick and heavy. I could barely see anything. I groped around and found the bench and sat down. Alas, my mind had lost it. Or maybe it was fatigue. But within a couple of minutes I was worried that I would faint and die there and no one would be the wiser. Or worse, I would be unable to get out of the room because I couldn't see much. So, with a resigned sigh, I got up and left. It was not meant to be.

And this from an educated, sensible, non-fanciful, unsuperstitious person. What can you say? I'll come to the point of our Chennai trip next time.

Until then.......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Holiday Series - Shirdi

We had an early morning start the next day. Shirdi was a good 3 hours drive away and visiting the shrine could take anything from 3-4 hours depending on the queues. We were on a tight schedule. We had to get to Shirdi, do the darshan and return to catch an evening flight to Chennai.

To make sure we gave ourselves enough time, we left at 5.45 in the morning and headed out. Squiggles was in my arm, snoozing away. I started to nod off and maybe slept for half an hour. After that there was no sleep possible. The road was absolutely crazy. The road was full of potholes and our speed had reduced drastically. Half an hour later, it was already clear it would take much longer than the 3 hours we had designated for the drive. DD has been before and managed to reach within that time but either the roads must have been much better or he must have made a mistake.

By the time we got to Shirdi, we had been in the car for 4 hours and 15 mins. If darshan took the average 3 hours, there was no chance we were going to make it back in time for our flight. DD was really concerned. I kept trying to tell him there was no point stressing about it. It was important to do the darshan with a clear mind and heart and if we missed the flight, then well we would just take the next one to Chennai. The problem, of course, was that we were supposed to fly out from Chennai to Cochin the next evening. So any delays would have a knock on effect on the whole trip.

As we got out of the car, a fellow quickly ran up to us and said he could save us time by taking us through a shortcut to the mandir. All we had to do was buy the prasad from him. After hesitating for a bit, pretty sure it was a rip off, but too worried about how busy it was likely to be, DD and I headed to the shop and bought loads of prasad. The shopkeeper asked his mundu to take us through the shortcut. Obviously, when we got there, we realised he'd just led us to a side gate and we would still have to queue. No surprises really.

Shrugging it off we went towards the gate only to be told we couldn't take Squiggles' diaper bag inside as it was too big. Even though I argued that it had her milk and food in it, they wouldn't budge. So, I quickly took a bottle of baby food and some water and the driver rushed back to place the bag in the car.

An enquiry at the gate revealed there wasn't much rush and we should manage to do the darshan in less than an hour. DD was much relieved. We hurried inside and luckily it wasn't very crowded. We joined the queue of devotees. I'm not an outwardly religious person and visiting temples is not something that I do for my own spiritual contentment. DD is a very staunch believer of Sai Baba and this trip was for his benefit. Plus, I thought it would be good for him to take Squiggles to the place that he had so much faith in.

It was nice to see groups of devotees singing aloud, clapping their hands and moving along to the tune in the queue. It gave me a sense of what brought people here, so far away, to wait in long interminable queues for a 30 second sight of an idol. It's the faith which lends credence to any religious site and it was true of Shirdi as well.

I'm a firm believer that in religious places there shouldn't be VIP queues and entries. After all, in front of God, everyone is the same irrespective of their social status. As I looked around me, there were people from all walks of life. And here we were, all standing together with a common goal. The community feeling felt good and I guess this is why there are religious and social entities, to provide people with a sense of identity.

Very soon, we entered the chamber where the statue of Sai Baba is kept. We offered our prayers and prasad and left. To be honest, I didn't get it. It was so crowded inside. People were jostling each other to get a view. There was no sense of peace or calm in the atmosphere. I saw a guard push a few people because they wanted to linger in front of the statue. It seemed so unfair. Some people have spent a lot of money, money that they probably can ill afford, to visit this place which symbolises the centre of their belief and yet all that they get is 30 secs and the humiliation of being shoved around just because they are poor. But then again, it is the faith and the belief. And I guess if you believe, then you can erase everything around you and concentrate on the power. I don't know. I came back feeling slightly disappointed. After hearing so much about the place, to not get enough time to absorb the atmosphere left me feeling a bit..... I don't know.......cheated maybe. I guess that's the price you pay for being part of a 1 billion group.

We hurried out and got in to the cab and made our way back. Some speedy driving from our driver ensured we made it exactly an hour before the flight was due to depart. As we entered the terminal, we heard that the flight was delayed by 30mins! Phew!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Holiday Series - Pune

Ever since I've known DD, he's been going on about Pune. Even though he spent only 4 years there, it's a city full of wonderful memories from his engineering days. All that daredevilry which I see no signs of today, did take place in this town which is famous, at least in our household.

So, when we decided to visit Shirdi with Squiggles, it was but natural for us to go via Pune and spend half a day there. I was really looking forward to it. I wanted to experience the city which had shaped DD from a boy to a man. And put pictures alongside the word-driven landscape in my mind.

We took an afternoon flight from Delhi and got to Pune in the evening. DD's excitement was palpable. All along the drive from the airport to the town, he kept exclaiming about how things had changed, how much more populated the once deserted area was. He kept giving me advance warnings of upcoming changes to the road - 'there's a bridge on the left' or 'we'll be taking a right turn next'.

We reached the hotel and quickly fed Squiggles and headed out to visit his old engineering college. It was already dark and I was quite hungry so I cajoled DD into getting me something to eat first. So, we picked up vada paus from Joshi Vada Pau Wala - the most famous guy in town turning these street snacks out by the dozen a minute. We continued on our way. Our first stop was the boys hostel. It was a strange feeling to be at a place where there were so many memories associated but none of them your own. I tried to imagine the boy that he must have been and ran through all the anecdotes he'd told me over the years. DD pointed out his room to me. He also spotted a guard who had been there even when DD was around. We went in and took a few pictures. And then made our way to his college.

I was quite impressed actually. Somehow, I hadn't expected a nice green lawn and imposing building. I have to confess that the name (M.I.T) made me think of the famed US university and I felt this was probably a wannabe. However, it wasn't their fault that Maharashtra and Massachusetts both started with 'M'!

We wandered around for a while. I saw bikes parked at the entrance and was instantly drawn to DD's tales about his adventures with his mates and ex-girlfriend on the bike. I stood back taking in the sights and trying to imagine him there, in a setting which I hadn't been part of till now. It's always nostalgic visiting a part from your past. And it's even more so when you visit the past of someone so close to you. We visited his department building, checked out the labs. DD pointed out the carpentry workshop where even today chairs made by students littered the ground outside. Many photographs later, we headed back to find a place to eat.

Normally, when we're on holiday it's my job to find us a place to eat. And since I'm a foodie, I will invariably agonise over the decision and take an inordinately ridiculous amount of time pondering on our options. But for once, it was DD trying to figure out which restaurants were still open and where I would like the food. Finally, we went to a cosy place near the Osho Ashram - an open air cafe called Prem's. Even though it had a very desi name, it had a very cool feel to it. It had al fresco seating, with dim lights and small candles flickering on tables. Red checked tablecloths covered tables. There was a busy vibe to the place and yet it didn't feel crowded. It was a place that DD frequented with his college mates and it was reassuringly unchanged. I spotted several tables with college goers. One group was celebrating a birthday, they were all dressed and a girl had a particularly lovely voice and was singing. The beautiful sounds filtered across to us and I could see why it had the potential of a place where memories are created. We put Squiggles to sleep by joining two chairs to make a bed (I have Mala to thank for this amazing idea which I have unfailingly used ever since) and enjoyed a leisurely meal. She woke up just as we finished and proceeded to howl loudly. As I stood up to walk her, a western lady came up and scolded me for being selfish and having an evening out at the expense of Squiggles' sleep. She went on to complain that she couldn't understand why Indians kept doing this..... blah blah blah. An irritating end to a wonderful day. We had to leave early the next morning for our trek to Shirdi. But more on that later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Squiggles is Papa's girl.... already

What sounds greet DD when he returns home from his first day at a new job?

Papa....*more excitement and shrieks*

Papa Papa.

Lucky chap. He was grinning from ear to ear.

Now 'Mama' is not something that's ever going to be said...... Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Monday, April 14, 2008


We're back. Just in case you were wondering, we have been travelling all over the place since the last few weeks. And no, I am not exaggerating. If you're not convinced, then here's a list of places we've been to in the last 4 weeks.

1. Delhi, North India
2. Pune, West India
3. Shirdi, West India
4. Chennai, South India
5. Kalady, Kerala, South India
6. Ernakulam, Kerala, South India
7. Kumarakom, Kerala, South India
8. Darjeeling, East India

And no, we were not trying out a new compass nor did we get lost. We were just reviewing all the new Indian airlines, budget and otherwise. See, some people have the best jobs. And according to Squiggles, Kingfisher wins hands down in the premium category and IndiGo in the budget category.

This whole Bharat Darshan was possible only because DD has switched jobs and was on a month's gardening leave. I was a bit envious of his month off but then I realised I've been off from work for a year as well with no end in sight. So, umm.... I really shouldn't be feeling these hot pangs now should I? But who says I have to be rational? Hai koi ma ka laal..... nahin na. Thought so.

Anyway, watch out for the holiday series.

I hope you've been well. :).