Desi Fahmuhlee

13 Dec

I am halfway through my India trip and am ready to embark on the second leg. This time with my family. Yeah! To be fair, this first leg without the husbadoo at his place hasn’t been terrible but it obviously is not the same as being home with your parents.

I have met so many of the husbadoo’s relatives this time around, ones he himself has hardly interacted with. Most have been really nice and welcoming. Of course desi style detailed gossip is a part of these meetings. Here are some general themes and tidbits.

Why do we live in rented accommodation in NYC, unlike so-and-so’s sister’s daughter’s uncle who lives in a palatial mansion with a backyard in the middle of Iowa or some other mid western state.

Several pitiful sighs at my grey hair and weight loss and lack of nutrition in general. When I mentioned I had 7 more pounds to get to my pre marital weight and was planning on buying an elliptical, an older aunt almost wept in agony.Aren’t dry fruits plentiful and cheap there? Why don’t I eat and nourish myself?

Surprise that we don’t have house help in any form. Why don’t we make use of the lovely desi dabba services you have in NYC, a well traveled aunt asks. Because I enjoy cooking and we don’t eat Indian food everyday – my answer surprises the room as they now visualize their prince (the husbadoo) starving on cornflakes and bread.

Ohhh this one opened my eyes the most to how a large part of modern India still lives. So on this trip, I had the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of the husbadoo’s second cousins. Ones he himself had little to do with growing up. Our kids are the same age and I spent an evening with these women. We are maybe similar in age but their upbringing and living situation is so different from mine. They grew up in a joint family, married into joint families and now live in two bedroom apartments with in laws and their spouse’s brother’s family. They spend mornings in the kitchen from the crack of dawn and afternoons with their kids and evenings with a large social circle in the apartment complex. They appear to love their life, as I do mine. They shook their heads sadly when they heard I manage Bandar all alone most days, and cook and clean and work! I on the other hand on this trip, have learnt that this joint family system works even in this day and age for some women and if they appear fairly happy and satisfied, all is right in the world.I am just a total misfit for this kind of arrangement and hope and pray that if the time comes I can escape it or mature to do it gracefully.

Comments that I am surrounded by ‘radiation’. Radiation from my laptop for work, from my mobile and tablets.I have stopped trying to explain this one.

General sadness that we don’t get time to go on a pilgrimage each year. What do I even say to this one?

Shock that Bandar isn’t potty trained. Again if we lived in a joint family in India, she would be now.

The coming years

11 Dec

Conversation with Bandar

Me: Bandar, are you ready to use the potty?

Bandar: No Amma, one day.

M: But when Bandar?

B: When I become three. I will use the potty and get a scooter.

M: What about when you are four?

B: I will get a puppy! But I have to pick up its poop and give it a bath.

M: What about when you are five?

B: I will get a baby sister!

M: What about when you are six?

B: I will go to Disney World. (after some thought) With my baby sister.

I try and end the conversation there. This is a frequent one we have with her at home and we usually stop at six.

B: What about when I am seven , Amma?

M: (Surprised now)You tell me. What about when you are seven?

B: I get a baby brother and then when I become eight, I will take him to Disney World!

Phew!

Play

24 Nov

Two has got to be the best age yet . Yes, there are the tantrums (the terrible twos are a real thing , in case you had your doubts), stubbornness raises its head and you realize you are dealing with a headstrong little person. But despite all that there are the thousands of moments each week, when you just look at your spouse , smile and agree that this is by far the best decision you have ever made. The fun family dinners, the restaurant visits, the festivals you decide to celebrate in your own way, the playground visits , oh the talking, the inside jokes you start having as a parent and child, the vacation excitement – it all starts now. I just cannot leave out the actual play we indulge in everyday.. it has become such an intricate part of our evenings and we make good use of all the toys we have at our disposal. Bandar understands and participates as we weave a story around her toys and excels at role playing and she even does voice and personality modulation for different characters. None of the stories and play acting is genius, it is merely entertaining , interactive, silly and keeps parent and child engaged for hours.

I am one of those people who has a lot of very detailed childhood memories. I was an only child for over eight years and played for hours with my toys and imaginary friends , to the point my parents were a little concerned. My mother -in-law tells me that the Husbadoo spent hours with his toys as a child too and that she often worried about the whoops and war cries from his room when he played with his soldiers and forts. So maybe its no coincidence that Bandar loves imaginative games.Or maybe it is just what all kids do at this age, I don’t know.

Till recently I thought I was the master of creative play in the house but looks like I was totally wrong. Here is what the Husbadoo and Bandar made out of her blocks – a princess carriage for her little figurines. A Disney style parade was held later that evening.

Bandar's princess carriage

Bandar’s princess carriage

Random Again!

21 Nov

Here we go with some randomness from our lives:

  • In the last 24 hours, I have had 8 slices of Pizza. Yes, this is the size of a complete medium pizza. So I was swamped with work and bored to cook yesterday, we decided to order pizza. Now the options were a large pizza from a really nice store or 3 medium pizzas from a chain for a few dollars more. What do you think we choose? The 3 mediums, of course. Bandar , who was recovering from a bout of fever and had not eaten much at all for a few days , perked up soon as I mentioned that pizza was being delivered soon. She ate a slice and took a few bites of one more. This 1.25 pizza slice eating spree of hers made me so happy!
  • As Bandar was sick, I had a nanny at home, from the back up care option my company offers , for a few hours each day this week to watch her. As I work from home, it means I sneak away to work in the guest room, while the nanny watches Bandar in the living room and other bedroom. On Tuesday , the husbadoo was working from home too. So we were cooped up in the guest room – sadly, working! Hmmm..conference calls and faculty apps do not lead to any sort of romantic moments.
  • I am going through such mixed emotions about my India trip which is in a week. I am excited and nervous. Nervous only because the husbadoo isn’t going to be with us and I am spending two weeks with his family , without him. I am a grown ass woman, so I need to snap out of this nervy Nellie mode and deal with it. I did this last year too but it was for a shorter time and also certain things have happened since then..things have been said on both sides and though we Skype and chat with my in laws almost each weekend, and I have long phone conversations with them as well, we somehow never talk about the mean things that were said and I just feel being under the same roof for two weeks might make some of these uncomfortable conversations happen and I am really nervous it. My strategy is to try to spend several hours outdoors, visiting relatives and showing Bandar Bombay.
  • Maybe it is my recent Austin visit, but I am having some weird blues since I have been back. The whole career not going anywhere from working remote thing, the whole OMG we need to make more to survive in NYC thing, we are 30 – when is this phase going to be done thing! But snuggled between the husbadoo and Bandar each night I realize that being together right now is the only thing that matters right now. I just need to hold on to that happy thought during the day.
  • I am researching elliptical trainers to buy this holiday season. I lack the dedication to work out on a mat at home and maybe seeing a machine in the house will motivate me to get on. I am getting ready to make the $$$ investment but already feel sorry for the delivery guys who will have to bring up a 100 lb machine up 5 floors. This has got to be human cruelty.
  • I started using a slow cooker. I have an electric pressure cooker which I love and the slow cooker option was something I had not tried at all till recently. The only problem is that my house smells of delicious desi spices for about 6-8 hours as I work and I constantly feel hungry. Yes, the elliptical is much needed.
  • Our 4th floor neighbors finally removed their Halloween decorations. The frightening skeleton had been on for 45 days now as he had gone up well before Halloween. Bandar was petrified and refused to climb the stairs! I made up several stories of him being a regular boy who had simply refused to eat his food and had hence reduced to a mass of bones and been thrown out of his house, and though she listen to this story each day , she didn’t pity him or befriend him at all.  So imagine hauling almost 30 lbs up several flights of stairs. Add a few more pounds for our winter gear.
  • Oh and this foolish story has to be told here. A few weeks ago, I absentmindedly got Bandar downstairs without shoes! I decided in one foolish moment that I had no energy to take her back up, so gave her strict instructions to sit on the bottom step and wait for me , while I ran up to get them. What a stupid, stupid idea as our building faces a busy main road and residents keep coming in and out in the morning hours and Bandar is just two . Bandar was safe for those maybe 3 minutes but gave a resounding scream when one of the residents wanted to cross her on the bottom step. I almost fell down the stairs getting to her. Even though nothing happened, I tortured myself by thinking of the “what if” scenarios. I gave Bandar terribly tight hugs that morning and all she randomly said was “I love you too and I am your child, Amma. I will scream if anyone comes near my step, Amma ”.
  • I have so many random tasks to do in the next few days but the most fun one is getting holiday cards made. I scanned our computers for a nice family picture from the year, but I only have one suitable one of us from vacation in April and we are in summer clothes. Do we need to be in fall or winter clothing for holiday cards? So we have requested our one, sole friend in NYC to take a few of us this Sunday.
  • Second on the fun list to do, is getting a mini Christmas tree .Bandar is old enough to understand now and is so excited to decorate it. As Bandar and I will be in India on Christmas Day, we plan to celebrate it with the husbadoo on Dec 27th when we are back. Excited!
  • We are sadly missing the most magical time of the year in NYC.I am not unhappy about missing the cold, but do wish our previous India trip plans had materialized with Diwali in India and Christmas in NYC together. But there is always next year I guess !

The week that was

17 Nov

Playing back the week with the highlights. Long post head… skip if you don’t like the mundane!

Saturday

Bandar had a fancy schmancy haircut! A few months ago, the husbadoo cut her hair and though he did a decent job , it had started to grow back really unevenly, especially her bangs and Bandar perpetually looked untidy.  We had been postponing a professional cut for a while. A kid’s haircut in Austin was $ 15 and in NYC it is $ 35. This is at a specialty kiddie salon. I debated taking her to a small adult store that does kids cuts too but I recently read a scary email on my mommy group where a small child had been hurt badly with the scissors at a cheap adult salon. So that decided it for me. I decided to suck it up and get Bandar a good cut at the right place. I am so glad I did this too. It gave me an awesome business idea if I ever go that route. This is a money maker! Bandar loved this place – they had toy cars for the kids to sit in while they got their haircut, bubbles were blown around them, they got to pick a video to watch and got a little toy at the end. Bandar also got a professional hair consult. This part makes me giggle – it was a serious talk on next steps in growing Bandar’s hair out and we were strictly instructed on how to train it, how to tie it and most importantly NOT CUT IT OURSELVES! Hehe. Anyway, Bandar looks much cleaner in general now without a mass of heavy bangs on her forehead .She has also finally agreed to let us start tying her hair and we had a fun 30 minutes at another store picking out new clips.

We went to a local dosa chain – Hampton Chutney, after her haircut.This is an NYC chain that sells dosas and sandwiches with exotic fillings. Arugula, portabello and goat cheese dosa , anyone? I like the fact that this place actually brings the exotic dosa to American families with a set of fillings that they are familiar with. I love seeing little toddlers of various races holding dosas like wraps and taking bites as their parents tuck in. I stuck with a standard masala one which though decent sadly always seems missing some seasoning , the husbadoo had a sandwich and Bandar actually asked for her own cheese dosa which she ate a quarter off before we helped her with it.

Once home, I spent the rest of the day cooking as I was leaving on a work trip on Sunday. I made palak paneer, chole, a bell pepper and besan dry subji, chocolate pancakes, custard, quinoa salad and adai batter. The idea was to cook enough to feed the husbadoo for a few days and to make life easier for him as he goes about preparing Bandar’s fresh food each day.

I then did some packing and got set for my early flight out for the next day. As I only physically go to an office every six weeks or so, it is always fun to prune through clothes and decide which ones I would like to be seen in during my visit. Needless to say, I always overpack and almost always come back with a few new shirts each time.

Sunday

Sunday flights just kill your weekend. Though it is barely a 3 hour flight, the whole shuttle to and fro the airport adds to the time. I was unable to take a Monday AM flight this time as I had early morning meetings on Monday, so that meant Sunday was my only option.

Being at Austin airport and the city in general just brings back a flood of memories each time and I desperately miss the husbadoo. I do miss Bandar too but somehow Austin was our place and it is the husbadoo with whom I want to reminiscence with.

Anyway, I got to my friend’s place and after relaxing for a bit, we went out for dinner. We went to a south Indian place which was really good – Suprabath and I had my second dosa of the weekend and nice fluffy idlis. I don’t know if I have said this before but like most Tamilian kids, I started appreciating idlis rather late in life, when I don’t have access to them regularly.

We then watched Million Dollar Arm which I highly recommend and lazed on my friend’s couch before turning in for the night.

Monday

I was up and out of the house at 6:45 am. Sadly, the latest I left for work that week was 7 am. Something I am not used to at all, working remote really spoils you. I stopped to buy tacos for my team at the best taco place in Austin – TacoDeli. I usually try to go in there atleast thrice during a trip but sadly could not this time and this was the only taco I had during my entire trip. The rest of the day was only work – I was in all day meetings that did not go as well for me as I wanted. I had dinner with my team at a BBQ place that surprisingly had a decent veggie burger and I avoided the fries. So yeah for me! I did have a glass of wine though.

My friend’s husband left on a work trip which was perfectly timed to give us some girl time and we lounged around and scoped Netflix to find a random show to watch – Reckless. It starts off with everyone making out with everyone and is such a mindless watch but we stuck to it and watched an episode each day.

Tuesday

I started the day early again and had fairly satisfactory meetings and redeemed myself for Monday’s performance- atleast in my head. I had lunch at the cafeteria which was a cheeseless made-to-order pizza and spent the day in more meetings.

I got to the parking lot at 4:30 pm , excited about a shopping spree with my friend that evening and started my car, only to be hit a few minutes later as I reversed. Ughh..ugly car accident which fairly should have been the other guy’s fault for speeding on campus but as I was the one reversing, it is always considered my fault. I should have looked around better too , I guess. My poor car might not ever be the same again. I have been dreading this moment since we bought a high end car almost 5 years ago and it finally happened, just as we finished our last car payment. One hour later we had finished campus police and local police procedures and I was on my way home to my friend’s house with dangling car parts.We managed to kick specific parts in (that sounds brutal, doesn’t it) and the car looked less damaged than I originally thought a few hours later , but at the very least,the back bumper still needed replacement. Sadly my deductible had to come into play for the body work. What are the odds of this happening when I drive once in 6 weeks. Pretty high if you consider I am a nervous , bad driver.

Anyway, my friend cheered me up by making me look at the bigger picture of minor damage and no one being hurt and I was cheerful enough to go shoppingJ We went to the Domain and I bought a few things for my impending India trip gifts and we had dinner at the Steeping Room.  I temporarily forgot about the car for those 2 hours but felt horrible when I saw it again on her driveway once home.

Wednesday

I left the house bright and early again for my medical appointment at the campus doctors- this is my yearly physical for my insurance. All things look good except my Triglycerides have gone up 40 points and are at 125 in one year! Whew – carbs and sugars I guess! My waist is down an inch and half to 26 inches which is nice to know and my cholesterol and sugar levels are fine. All this doesn’t negate the fact that I need regular exercise though – need to get back to Jillain Michaels videos that did wonders for me 6 months ago.

I spent a good chunk of the morning figuring out car repair plans, and roping in a team mate to kindly pick up the car for me next week. I then realized I had only half a day with a car left and rushed to do some more India trip shopping at Kohls and Ross. MY favorite cheap hangouts from days of yore. I also picked up lunch – Pineapple fried rice from my favorite fusion Asian place – Fire Bowl. Considering I was fasting overnight for the blood tests, I was ravenous at 1 pm.

I dropped the car off for repairs and my friend picked me up for some more shopping – this time at the outlet mall. I just bought two dresses at Loft which did not break the bank , being on clearance and all.  Size 4 at Loft appears to now fit me like a glove, though of course, I want to make it into a size 2 without the ugly bulges. H&M is a stupid other story where size 8 pants are difficult to roll up my thighs.  I also got a shocking pink cardigan from Banana Republic. The cardigan over random tee or sleeveless work blouse has become a signature look for me now and I needed to add to my colorful cardigan collection.

We had dinner at Tarka. Seriously, love their Paneer Biryani – no irritating veggies –only yummy paneer and fragrant rice. Maybe I overdid on the rice but I was so acidic and uncomfortable  that night that I throw up a little once home and felt better . TMI!

Thursday

My team mate picked me up for the Texas Conference for Women. Loved this – 5000 women from all walks of life attending inspiring sessions on leadership, career development and work life balance issues.

Fun advice from the day – Get a professional headshot for LinkedIn and ensure you show your teeth when you smile. Apaprently, it builds more trust!

I loved every bit of the day, except the nasty veggie lunch – don’t even ask me what it was. I spent some time around the expo floor – sneaking in freebies like Vitamix sponsored fresh juice samples and vegan , gluten free macaroons that tasted exactly like coconut ladoos!

Once done, another friend dropped me off at a team event at the Domain. I spent some time shopping (for the India trip, I swear) and then met my team for drinks. I had a tasty cocktail with vodka, ginger ale and lime and then a glass of wine. I nibbled on carrot sticks and pita chips and had a fun time with my team.I got dropped off at my friend’s place by a team mate and caught up with team gossip on the way. Who said guys don’t gossip? I felt handicapped without my car in just 24 hours  but it let me bond with various people that I usually don’t talk to on my regular trips, so I guess that it one of way of looking at it.

Friday

I made my way back to NYC. Nothing much to note, except that my shuttle ride from Newark Airport to the city took longer than my flight from Austin to Newark! I got home tired but excited to see my babies and spent the evening cuddling them and ordering in Thai.

Playing Host

5 Nov

My mom is a wonderful hostess. My sister and I always had the best birthday parties – lovely homemade food and creative, fun games.  The games seemed to get more creative and fun as we grew older and I think I celebrated my birthday well into my teens. The food each year was so well thought of too– some classics that we loved remained the same each year and other new ones were introduced to surprise us and our friends. Her dinner parties for adults were also pretty awesome. Living far away, I haven’t been witness to any in recent times but she keeps me posted over the phone and even now her menus are elaborate, the décor, lighting , the cutlery -the prep she puts in to plan everything surprises me . She does have house help but that said her enthusiasm , energy and execution are pretty much spot on. My parents often hosted dinner parties on Saturday nights when I was growing up and I remember the extensive shopping for groceries, prep and the actual event. The nicest part of the whole thing used to be my parents, sister and I cleaning up after the party, my mom washing the exquisite cutlery by hand, while dad dried everything and we kids went around the living room and kitchen picking up scraps and trash. We would talk about the evening; discuss the badly behaved kids if any, discuss what the women wore and other things before sometimes sitting down for some additional dessert well past midnight. We would then have a lovely set of leftover options for Sunday meals.

These dinner parties and the work involved however, don’t come close the huge task of hosting the people who stay at our place. We had a steady stream of relatives and friends staying with us for a few days at a time as I grew up. Maybe it was because of dad’s transferrable job, but as soon as our cartons were unpacked in a new city, the hordes of guests would start to arrive. Mom took it all in her stride though and really went out of her way to ensure their comfort. Amazing meals, immaculate guest rooms , a steady stream of snacks, packed food when the guests went out sight-seeing, planning excursions and shopping trips with visiting ladies  – all this she did with balancing a full time job , two kids and a husband. I believe she still goes over the top when my sister’s friends have sleepovers at our place and her friend’s love coming home. My mom thrives on playing host and seems to enjoy the whole thing immensely, despite the work it involves.

So growing up with this, I just know no different and now that I have my own little family unit, I strive to be a great host. But I have miles to go before I perfect the whole thing. We have had quite a few distant family members visit us in NYC in the last one year. Our recent guests stayed with us about a week last month. My mom gets super excited when I tell her we have family visiting and she starts her trans -Atlantic planning for me and gives me loads of ideas. They are merely ideas but I of course, want to execute them all perfectly. Undoubtedly, It is a lot of work . For one, the cooking three continuous meals is hard to pull off for me. Next , the sight-seeing leaves me exhausted and resentful. And on top of that, if it is the husbadoo’s distant family who is visiting, as was the case recently, I am so stressed about impressing them that it overwhelms me.

The other hard thing in all this for me, is the fact that the husbadoo wants me to do bare minimum- not kill myself making different breakfasts each morning, not worry about packed lunches on all day site seeing trips and to order in Indian food when we return really late from site seeing with them on weekends. I don’t agree with any on this – offering just cereal for breakfast to middle aged Indian family members is unacceptable in my book, packed food when they are out sight-seeing on a weekday without us is a must as I don’t want if I don’t want them spending their hard earned money on food on the go, and us ordering overpriced NYC Indian take out that I cook better myself is not an option .

So we argue in hushed tones behind closed doors. He tells me not to kill myself and that impressions don’t matter anymore, that we are married now and have a child and who cares what people think. He reminds me of certain relatives of his who I slogged over hosting over the last few years but who continue to hate and judge me for illogical reasons. I argue that I am not asking for his opinion in any of this – I am simply going to do what I want to do and that all he has to do is help with the toddler and stay out of my way.  So we go on and on each time we have visitors! I don’t see either of us backing down from our stand anytime soon and I am sure we will have plenty of more visitors through our life and plenty of more arguments about this.

P.S. This last set of visitors we had were fairly easy to take care of and I successfully pulled off all the things that I had planned during their visit. I spent a few days feeling just good about their visit after their left and some weird sense of achievement.

Daddy’s Little Girl

4 Nov

Even if I don’t write about anything else that happened in September, I need to quickly blog about my Dad’s visit. He spent about two weeks with us right after Bandar’s birthday and it was a much needed change for all of us. After the business part of his trip was over, he spent his days at home with me and it was fun to take a break from work during the day to play a game of Scrabble or Chinese Checkers with him or to have someone to make some ginger tea for.

Bandar , who has always been extremely  fond of my mom but never really spent a lot of alone time with my dad clung to him within a few days of his arrival and waited for him to return from work in the evenings.  He took over school pick up and drop off duties during those ten days and took Bandar to the park every evening. For once, I was glad to live in NYC as it meant he could go about without being depending on us to drive him around. He watched Bandar all evening as I cooked or worked and she now sings quite a few Kishore Kumar songs in her strong American accent. It’s such a riot to watch her.

Bandar sadly still doesn’t sit down patiently for a slightly complicated Enid Blyton story and prefers simple books with tons of pictures but nevertheless I think she did enjoy the stories he told her.

We tried to keep our trips outside Bandar centric and managed a museum visit and a zoo visit. Surprisingly dad enjoyed these as much as Bandar.

I had the task of coming up with healthy meals all through his visit . Given that he doesn’t eat rice and that I don’t make rotis, this was quite a challenge. Let’s just say I introduced him to whole wheat tortillas and quinoa on this visit. But he was a sport and ate and complimented everything. This trip also was perhaps the first time, my dad saw me as a real adult – running a full household, managing a toddler and of course, working.  Somehow we have always had some form of help during his last few visits, unlike the do-it-yourself life we lead currently.

I think I have posted this before here, my wedding probably happened only thanks to my dad. After 3 years of riding the parental disapproval wave, I broke down once on a family holiday in San Francisco and I think seeing my sob miserably did it for him. That appears to have been the turning point in his view of my relationship and from that point on, he arranged the family meetings with the husbadoo’s folks , convinced his parents and spent several months trying to convince my maternal relatives. Him orchestrating the whole thing really means a whole lot more to me than I ever let him know.

. At this point, us going back home for good remains a very distant possibility. So I worry about aging parents and often wonder if mine will ever agree to stay with us for a few months when they retire. Their longest trip here has been 3 weeks and I wonder how they will fare if they were to stay a few months. In the meantime, these refreshing , short visits are precious memories I cling on to and think fondly about as I go about my day.

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