Archive | April, 2014

City Sights

29 Apr

One of the things I love about NYC is the ample opportunity for people watching. I am usually preoccupied with Bandar and maneuvering her stroller through mounds of dirt and other things but the solo trips I make twice a day between home and her school allow me a lot of time for taking in the scenes and some reflection.
To some extent, people watching as I walk the busy streets takes me back to India. After living the last 7 years in other cities in the US where driving is pretty much the only way to get around , this is such a welcome change.
My favorite breed of people to watch are senior citizens. Here in NYC they have to be in pretty good physical condition to walk around so much and I really feel happy when I see active old people. They don’t walk fast but at a comfortable pace and are usually holding groceries or library books. I sometimes see couples – the man sometimes  holding the woman’s elbow and steering her gently or just holding hands as they wait for the traffic signal. It fills me with a certain warmth and I imagine the husbadoo and I together at that age – picking up a few light groceries to make a simple meal. I really hope and pray I can grow old with this man.
I assume the older people I see here are reasonably well off and own the apartments they live in. I hope they are not renting and paying several 1000 dollars in rent at that age or are at least in some sort of long term inflation protected lease scheme. I dream and wonder how they made their millions , was it in investments, family money?
I do some quick math and realize we will never be able to afford to retire in this city and I for one am totally okay living somewhere else in my old age. This is fine for us now but I think I would like to be somewhere slow paced compared to here.
I think your 70s is really the perfect old age to be. The few people I see who seem older sadly seem to be in bad shape health wise. Our own grandmothers are really suffering in their late 80s and 90s in India and seeing older women who vaguely resemble them makes me sigh. I still see these people trying to take a few steps with a walker and a young, health care worker or caregiver by their side. I have seen the really irritated looking caregivers and also ones who also seem gentle and kind and encouraging.
Apart from the older generation, I also love  observing nannies with the young ones under their care as they go about their day in the city.  We live in a highly residential area and child care for children under two costs apart from costing the earth is hard to find. For parents with over one child, nannies end up being the cheaper option. Also I can see why most parents would prefer to keep their newborn at home with a nanny rather than at a childcare facility. We did the same till Bandar was 15 months and honestly it would have been my first option if we could afford it in NYC.
Nannies make a reasonable amount of money here in the city apart from paid vacation time, holiday bonuses and health insurance inclusive packages. For starters , most of the nannies are really well educated. A mom in my book club was telling me how she had Yale graduates apply for a full time nanny position she advertised!
Most of the nannies I see on the streets seem to being very professional and capable.  They are talking intently to the older ones and teaching them about traffic signals. They efficiently handle a screaming toddler tantrum on one hand and skillfully push a stroller with an infant using their other!
So incidents like the one I mention below I am sure are few and far between.I was walking back after dropping Bandar off at school, I noticed 2 nannies, each pushing a double stroller on the streets. They were hurling abuses at each other in jest but really words you would not want to hear used around kids. They did not follow any traffic signs and crossed busy streets carelessly. One was constantly on her cell phone  while the other kept interjecting with bad language. I watched them for a few streets and finally turned a corner to go home. I am part of a moms group with over 2000 moms in the area. Within 2 hours another mom had emailed the group with exact descriptions of both nannies and their charges asking the group if the nannies were in their employment. I added my two cents on what I had seen. Within the next 4 hours, another mom replied saying one of the nannies was employed by her and she reached out to both of us on details of what we had seen. The other nanny apparently worked at her neighbor’s. I do not what the final outcome was – did the nannies get fired or did they just get a warning. But either way,it made me glad to think that mothers here watch out for each other and had a way to report any wrong doing. If nothing at least the two nannies and others realize that they their behavior doesn’t go unnoticed .

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10 years later…

26 Apr

I should ideally title this post a #100HappyDays post but it is really so much more than just that.
It was Thursday and I started off the day by dropping Bandar at school. I came back home and finished tons of office work. At 1 pm I decided to meet the husbadoo for a lunch date. I showered and left the house , walking towards his campus. The weather was heavenly and I was quite warm at my brisk pace. The university campus is a mile from our place and it was only my second time there. I have seen bigger campuses in the US but somehow the grandeur this particular  school imposes as it stands majestically in the buzz of the city simply takes your breathe away. I waited for him and saw my hot husband come up to the gate. Maybe it was just that being in a campus brought back our college memories – hanging out by our big engineering campus gates in Bombay , also bang in the middle of the city buzz. Just that the stalls selling honeyed nuts and hot dogs had replaced our dirty but delicious sev puri wallah of days yore. Anyway, seeing him walking towards me with a broad grin just had my pulse racing and brought up tons of memories:)
We were indecisive about where to go for lunch and ended up going to the Farmers Market by the campus and bought some mini pizzas and cookies. We decided to eat them on campus in the large quad. We sat down on a sunny step with hundreds of students around us and started tucking into our pizzas, stopping to exchange and sample the other person’s .
We spoke about plans for the weekend and for life in general. About where we would end up next. About how depressing it is sometimes that parents are aging and cannot come as often as we would like to visit us and Bandar. About Bandar and her school and some recent tantrums she’s thrown. About research papers on the way.  About looming job changes.  At one point , he sighed and rested his head on my shoulders and I patted his mop of hair. My boy, my nerdy,silly, idealistic boy. So grown and mature in some ways, a fabulous father. And in other ways,  still just the dreamy , charming boy I fell in love with some 10 years ago.
We reminisced about sitting in our largish quad during college munching vada pavs and that such head resting antics would not have been allowed in our rather conservative, government college. Heck, ours was the college with a rope between boys and girls during socials. But we did have our fun in other ways back then. ;p
We discussed if life had really gotten any better in the last 10 years since we sat in a quad and decided unanimously that it had. Back then life was complex – we had exams to pass, further studies to figure out, one of wanted to go the US while the other wanted to stay in India, parents on both sides to convince.
Life now was still uncertain – we honestly don’t know where we will end up once his research grant ends here and we have a little Bandar to support and nurture. I have a career to grow and it is being much neglected right now with working remote. We are by no means as settled as our folks would like to see and we are a few years older than we imagined we would be at this career point. But the most important and only sure thing we know now is that we are going to be together through it all. And that is all that finally matters.

#100Happydays – Happiness in randomness

23 Apr

So Bandar is currently off from school for Spring Break. I was surprised that kids this young actually have a spring break. Guess it is intended to give the teachers a break.
So she has been home since Friday.
As we both have regular office work though, it has been quite hard managing her.

Some random stuff from the last 4.5 days-

– Friday was relatively a breeze as my work is really light on Fridays. The husbadoo was at work almost the entire day on Friday while Bandar and I had a cosy day at home.
– We took Bandar to the park on 3 consecutive days – Fri, Sat and Sun and she had a blast. I especially liked the fact that she is so brave now. Loves the large slide that even freaks me out a little, loves climbing some other weird structures and has overcome her fear of walking on sand. We were very surprised when her teacher told us that she was hesitant to walk on sand a few weeks ago but a few weekends at the park have really toughened her.
– Bandar walks to the park and we just carry the carrier in case she gets tired. Saves us some trouble of taking the bulky stroller out.
– She hates leaving the park and we have to pretend we are leaving her behind and walk to the gate. She merrily waves good bye to us and is happy to stay and play. On Sunday, I had to resort to trashing her sunglasses unless she came with me and it worked. Other suggestions to get my kid out of the park are appreciated and welcome.
– I made pretty delicious Pad Thai to get our Thai fix at home on Saturday! I make this at least once a month and use this recipe with minor changes like whole wheat linguine, well marinated pan fried tofu, sauce with tamarind,soya sauce, jaggery and chilli powder.
– We had a nice long walk by the river on Saturday and though it was a tad cold ,we all came back so rejuvenated. The Cherry blossoms are out and it all looks so beautiful at sunset.
– We had yummy sandwiches for dinner on Saturday and Sunday. The husbadoo is the sandwich whiz in our household but I learn t some neat tricks from him which I implemented on our Sunday sandwiches. We used a mixture of hummus and ketchup on the bread, a salad of spinach , red chilly flakes and raspberry vinaigrette dressing was added to the sandwiches after they came out of the oven, a few pieces of avacado were baked in the oven over the bread and get nice and melty and other fresh pieces were used as a finishing touch. Overall result was super yummy.
– I took Bandar on an Easter egg hunt on Sunday while the husbadoo went off for his cricket game. She and I both had fun looking for eggs and meeting some other kids and parents.Though it is a lot of work managing her alone, i love that she and I are getting some mother- daughter time.
– Monday was really hard. The husbadoo came home at 2 pm and all my meetings were shifted to the afternoon to ensure I could watch her in the morning. I had her down for a nap just before he came home and sat down to work. I was exhausted though from the morning and couldn’t snooze with her as it was a working day. Think that made me feel crappy all evening and even quite sick and overwhelmed. I
literally collapsed after work at 6:30 pm and the husbadoo gave me a decent neck massage for 5 minutes that actually helped me feel better. On other occasions the massage would have been longer and it would have led to more interestingactivities but a certain little monkey had to be attended to and fed. Oh well, ample opportunity for other activities.
– Bandar got up literally in 1 hour after she lay down to nap on Monday afternoon. Usually she is a little cranky after her afternoon nap, especially when she is not fully rested but the first time the little monkey woke up with a broad smile asking for her dad and tottered up in her post sleep unsteady haze in search of him in the other room. Such a daddy’s girl!
– I made only day and brown rice for dinner on Monday and added a green bell pepper dry subji hastily to accompany it for Tuesday lunch. I know they were both average as I made them in a hurry but the husbadoo relished it. Thankful for atleast one non fussy eater in my life!
– After I got Bandar to sleep at 9 pm on Monday night , I had exactly one hour before I started a global conference call with my Asia team. I used the time wisely to go on a grocery run. Was so nice to get out of the house by myself and enjoy the crisp spring evening .
– Bandar is getting so good at imaginative play and amazes me with the stuff she says and does. I have to do a separate post on her but some of the stuff we have been doing include throwing a birthday party with a pretend cake baked for her stuffed toys, rowing pretend boats,crawling around as newborn babies!
– I was exhausted by the time the husbadoo came home today (Tuesday) to start his childcare duties as well but he surprised me with some bubble tea that instantly cheered me up.

Eating Out

22 Apr

One of the major reasons I was excited about moving to NYC was the food. Specifically, the multitude of options in existence for vegetarians. So it wasn’t like i was starved of options when eating out in Austin,TX – on the one hand going out for BBQ was my work team’s idea of a perfect outing and I have spent far too many work lunches eating peach cobbler and ice cream at these places through the years. On the other hand though, the husbadoo and I have taken some of our carnivore friends to some of the best brunch spots in the city by all lists , which coincidentally is all vegetarian. Thank God for the Austin hippies !Essentially , we knew where to go. We had our spots and stuck to them. What’s hard in NYC is the fact that there are a plethora of options to choose from but when you eliminate those you don’t want to traverse 1 hour in 2 subways trains to get to , then eliminate the ones that meet our price range for a casual meal out you are left with a very small selection.
 
We have had a few bad experiences recently that make me think we are either unlucky when it comes to picking a place to eat or just plain stupid as we tried a few spots without scoring the reviews online.
Let’s take Friday evening. For a few years now, we have this thing of eating out or ordering in on Friday nights. I can be ‘good’ and watch the calories, cook healthy all week but I absolutely look forward to a binge night on Fridays that involves food not cooked by me.
We were in Central Park with Bandar for a good hour and decided to leave around 7:30 pm  and hunt down some Thai food. Our only good find so far is a good 20 minute walk and Bandar wasn’t in the best of moods. Plus we knew there would be a wait.
So we hopped into an Asian Fusion place that seemed to list the usual Thai fare with tofu options for vegetarians. We had an extremely rude waitress who shrugged and said she did not know whether the dishes we wanted to order would have oyster sauce, said the chefs did not speak English and she couldn’t couldn’t communicate with them and her final exact words were – “If you are so picky, you probably shouldn’t eat here!” Something about what she said hit a nerve. Maybe it was the fact that we were ravenous that day. We picked up an irritable Bandar and left. We decided to try another Thai place we had seen close by but were scared to enter when we saw a big notice saying the sanitary grade was pending! There was no way we were eating there. So we decided walk to our standard tried and tested Thai place but ended up seeing this lively Mexican restaurant on the way.
So in we went. Again bad choice as after eating some of the best Tex Mex in Austin , our expectations were extremely high.
The husbadoo asked me to share a Watermelon Basil margerita with him and as he very rarely orders alcohol , I agreed to share an overpriced but delicious drink.
My veggie quesadilla had beef it it so we sent it back and waited over 20 minutes for it to be replaced. Instead we all shared the husbadoo’s fajitas which were sub par. When the quesadillas did arrive, this time they had tons of broccoli and squash.I had clearly specified the spinach and mushroom mix, I was too exhausted to send it back the second time and told them to box it up to take home. You would think they wouldn’t charge for it after the beef fiasco but they did!
So we ended up paying over $ 45 for an average meal. A quarter of the broccoli filled quesadillas were eaten by Bandar the next day and I trashed the rest. What a waste! The only bright moment was Bandar loving the mariachi band at the restaurant and them playing the “chicken dance” for her. She wanted to get out of her high chair and dance and she did!
I spent the rest of the weekend deciding I was done with impromptu eating out in our neighborhood and would instead cook more at home. Alas, this resolve will wear thin next Friday!

#100HappyDays – Some recent happy moments

18 Apr

So the husbadoo is thrilled to have found a cricket club here. When we lived in Texas, he was part of a pretty serious cricket league and later a captain. So one day of the weekend was dedicated to the sport but that hardly bothered me. He would wake up really early, pack his own snack, kiss me good bye and drive off to play his game.I would wake up late and maybe go for a grocery run, shop with my girl friends, go out somewhere with visiting family members and Bandar and he would be back by for a late lunch usually in an exceedingly good mood even if they lost as at least he had a chance to play .He has really been missing the sport for the last few months since we have moved here. I was a little less thrilled about him starting his NYC cricket career as firstly our weekends here have been just the three of us in the cold, secondly Bandar is fun and all but a real handful sometimes for one person and lastly the game timings here are 11 am – 7 pm which sucks as it means we lose the morning, afternoon and evening.
Anyway this Saturday , Bandar and I had a lovely nap and woke up to eat her favorite- popcorn.I pop it in coconut oil and it is so damn good. We then set off to the library and spent a fun hour choosing books and reading several there. She didn’t want to leave. We then went to the park for a full 2 hours! I was exhausted running behind her. The last half hour, I started feeding her dinner. We then finally came home! Such fun! I had a surreal moment when I caught a glimpse of myself on a shiny shop window. Just me and and my little girl out in the big city. I am looking forward to Saturdays now. It also means the husbadoo comes back in a happy mood which is a win – win all around.

Sunday we took my visiting aunt and uncle to Whole Foods. Bandar loves this store. She walks around picking random fruit to add to basket and often drags the basket with wheels around. She is riot to watch. We laugh tons as she goes around pulling a fruit from here and another from there and pushing anyone who tries to stop her. I usually remove the fruit she picks before we check out but this time we came home with her picks – one random green apple, one juicy pear and a navel orange.I will probably make custard and fruit salad with them this weekend!

Eating lovely hot onion sambhar and rice. My mom doesn’t enjoy cooking much and though she does prepare a decent meal, my aunt is the one who got the cooking gene from my granny. I make Tamilian food about 2 times a month and though the husbadoo loves my sambhar it just doesn’t taste like a typical one. I got my full year’s quota of Tam food this week and loved every bit of it!

A clean house. My monthly house cleaning appointment is a gift in give myself and this time the lady over performed! She even washed Bandar’s bottles. I noticed this only when I started on the task later in the evening and was just really touched. It wasn’t part of her job description. There are some super sweet people in the world.

Triumph

17 Apr

Honey, we did it!The last few days posed a unique challenge and we came out victorious. I am so proud of us.
My aunt ( mom’s older sister) and her husband were staying with us for 4 days. This aunt was the main opposition that we faced over 8 years ago when we first broke the news of our ‘illicit’ affair. This aunt was the one who berated my poor parents when stories of me dating a ‘north Indian’ boy leaked out through the cousin grapevine. This aunt reduced my mom , her adoring younger sister to a sobbing mess and told her she had ‘not raised her daughter well’. I do not blame her for completely wrecking my relationship with my parents for a good 2 years but she had a large part to play. This aunt riled my aging grandmom against my mom and dad and my poor dad had to work years on end to get back into his mother in law’s good graces.
I was exceptionally nervous to face this aunt a few days leading to the wedding and spent the majority of my time trying to avoid one on one time with her.
Since then though, I do think I have matured and have realized that it is better to face my fears head on. She might say something hurtful, but I am trying to forgive and forget and move on . So since our wedding, we have met her a few times and  you have been your charming best on all these occasions.
I was so nervous about their visit to NYC and our home and dragged you into an argument before they arrived this weekend.  I was worried what they would say about our house, our lifestyle and even adorable Bandar whose vocabulary is mostly English. I spent a furious 48 hours trying to teach Bandar a smattering of Tamil, shouted at you to shave and  numerous other small things. For a short time there I was ashamed – ashamed that we were not ‘settled’ in the traditional seonse, lived in a 5th floor walk up instead of a conventional house in the suburbs and had a child who refused to learn her mother’s mother tongue. How ridiculous was I ? What was I trying to prove and to whom? And why?
I need not have worried at all. They loved the sunny, well lit apartment, the ringing of church bells from across the street and only cribbed about the walk up a handful of times , that is totally reasonable given their age and physical condition . Bandar of course , amused them in her usual endearing way like only an innocent child can and you my dear, took the cake with your charm. No one would call you an introvert as you drew them into conversation and picked out topics of interest to them for light discussions  ,and I honestly think they are so comfortable with you now, way more than their own standoffish son-in-law. You graciously ate the food that was cooked, even though it might not have been particularly what you would have liked. And last night on your birthday instead of getting to choose the Italian restaurant you were dying to try , you gave in and we went to a South Indian restaurant instead. You were such a sport about this and I know I would have sulked and cribbed if I had to give in to accomodate your extended family. At the end of it, they were not particularly pleased with the meal but I still see the evening and their overall visit as highly successful. 

Honey, I know you endure everything and do whatever you can for my happiness since the day you asked me out almost 10 years ago. The ‘parental approval’ saga is behind us by a good 5 years now but I do not think I had mentally and emotionally patched all the broken relationships till this weekend. Somehow in a strange way, these 4 days were the end of some longer forgiveness journey I had to undergo. You have stood by my side every step of the way and for this I am thankful.

Though you are but 15 months older than me, you are definitely the mature, understanding and accommodating one. Your 30 th birthday came and went by yesterday and though you didn’t particularly care for many of the small and big gifts I gave you , I am adding one more to the list – I promise to bring in my compassion and maturity to future issues pertaining to your immediate and extended family. This itself will reduce our arguments by over 50%. Oh,  but I am still going to bug you about shaving! Even when you are a lazy 90 year old!

#100HappyDays – Happy moments from my trip

14 Apr

Silly me! I thought I would have more time on my hands to blog when I traveled for work. Phew! It was an exhausting 4 days and I glad to be home.
It’s still weird to call NYC home but it was oddly comforting to arrive at JFK and take the subway home, immersed in the throngs of people. I actually missed the sirens, the crowds, the dirt and everything in the short time that i was away.
Of course,  the people make the place home and I was just glad to return and hug my lovely husbadoo and Bandar.
I was a little wary as to how Bandar would behave when she saw me. The last time I traveled about 6 weeks ago, she sulked a good 30 minutes before letting me hold her. This time though she came straight to me and wanted me to pick her up even before I had washed my hands. The husbadoo surpassed all expectations in holding down the fort here. I must have married well and am truly blessed.

Some happy moments from Austin that pale in comparison to the return above-
Having a good heart to heart discussion with my manager about my career. It is not necessarily progressing at the rate that I want but it was good to know that the path to get to my goal is definitely interesting and will keep me stimulated and challenged. A few alternate paths also were discussed last week that make me feel hopeful and positive about the future.

Walking down the aisles at work and bumping into all the friendly faces. Innumerable people came by to hug me and ask how we were doing in NYC. I miss these small things now that I work remote.

Meeting my buddies. It was so much fun catching up with some true friends and the dinners at their homes , outside, playing board games till midnight on a working day all filled my heart with so much warmth and joy and  I can go a few more months leading this solitary life in NYC.

Planning a on the spur trip with the above mentioned friends, the husbadoo and Bandar. A spontaneous discussion on travel plans led us to book tickets for a Caribbean getaway with our best friends in a  month’s time. Now for planning the itinerary and details.

Going out for meals without the husbadoo in Austin to our frequented places was a tad sad. Nevertheless, I got my fill my Tex Mex and returned stuffed.

Driving my car. I am usually not  fan of driving at all, it tires me and I am not a confident driver at all.But I have missed being behind the wheel and it was fun to drive my car to work like I have done for the 6 years before we moved.