Showing posts with label The Old Country. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Old Country. Show all posts

Friday, November 13, 2020

The stuff of horror

Tomorrow is Diwali and I want to get this down in the hope that I will be able to set it aside for a little bit. I've been carrying it around since yesterday when I read a thread on Mona Eltahawy's Twitter (since then, I've seen a few news outlets calling it the "Kashmore Tragedy"). The details are so horrific I can't say them out loud without choking and I don't really think I could pass it on to anyone else.  

But the story keeps going around in a loop in my head, knotting now and then around the old nodes: the precarity of being a single mother; how difficult it is to love and grow a girl child in this fucking patriarchal world; the horror of captivity and unending rape; lives where people move across the country for a job that pays about 250 dollars; knowing people are out there victim-blaming--saying things like 'bad choices' and 'where is the father?'; what care and support are available to the mother and child; why support wasn't available to them previously; the courage it took for the mother to go to the police instead of prolonging the cycle; if the police treated her with respect; the bravery and compassion of the ASI (assistant sub inspector?) using his wife and daughter as decoys to catch the rapists; were the ASI's wife and daughter given a choice in the matter; worried for the ASI and his family now that his name and likeness are all over media; knowing there's so much more abuse I'll never even know from within safe spaces in families, communities, and professional + emergency services. Why are so many men/humans such trash? 

On the Enby parenting group, one parent recently asked what our own lives might have looked like if we had the freedom of gender choice we support for our children. I know I've always wished for genderlessness, especially in professional settings. And in so many other settings, I'd have loved the possibility of having what Wanda Sykes calls a "detachable pussy."

Tuesday, October 27, 2020



Yesterday's Vijaya Dashami offering was an almond and apricot honey cake. (All gone!)

Dussehra is one of the many opportunities to renew and reset in the Hindu annual calendar. And I spent yesterday hopeful for all kinds of pandemic and election magic.

Today I quietly panicked in the car on my way home from teaching and made a list of things we'll need to stock up on. (Not because I anticipate shortages, but I DO NOT WANT to be out there.)

Sunday, August 16, 2020


Walk-and-talks with At and Nu (frequently up and down our driveway) are full of insights, jokes, and discoveries, but I guess we didn't expect actual physical discoveries like this mossy rock just off the path.  Was it always here? How did we not see it?

Here on the magic rock, is my little woodland Nu dappled in sunlight and lost in thought (they're very into plague doctor philosophy and aesthetics right now).

Another discovery: the story "Amma" by Sindya Bhanoo in Granta, not just set in my hometown of Chennai, but IN MY SCHOOL! OMG.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Mid-August Notes

It's India's Independence Day and today's dinner is supposed to be reminiscent of the flag (maybe you have to squint a little bit?). I'm not a fan of the ethnostate India is under Modi, and I miss-miss-miss old-style India-day "unity in diversity" celebrations.

It was Fall term prep all day over here. Also, locking down meetings next week in my calendar helped--instead of holding hazy, all-day items in my head, I now have specific times and that's doing wonders for my general sense of preparedness and well being. 

I kept getting adorable texts all morning from bestie KB and mock called her out for procrastinating via text message. Then I went off on a tangent myself and did some editor-stuff for the current issue of Jaggery (needed to be done, but not right now). At least it got done?  I did a ton of other more normal procrastination as well, putting stuff in various online shopping carts and re-watching a few eps of Veep.

Monday, August 10, 2020


It was in Chennai that grandmother first died, many years ago
so it's surprising she is here today, her words pleating
back and forth with mine

Wanting ghee-fried bakery bread topped with three sugars
Walking slow slow as though ready to change 
her destination at any time

Then lullabies are on the radio; she sings to her five babies 
(and the infant son who came and went
so quick after my mother).

In her lap, my toddler mother had tried to console her, said: 
"Don’t cry mama, or see--all your face powder  
will wash away

and oh, everyone will know your skin is as black as Kali's."
A hand on the cheek is tender, yet cousin to a slap,
darkened heads fold into armpits like birds.

Skies blur red as if we break open every night--they're lost 
in other stories, arguments--I'll listen for a while, 
before I can open my eyes.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Round and Round

The day began with what we thought looked like a sky smile (you can see it better if you kinda squint a little like we used to have to in the olden times with magic eye pictures).

Lots of work through the day including the hard work of discussing Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility with colleagues at my PWI.

I ended the day by making really, really pretty bowls of poke for dinner. It was my 'Boss Day' so the kids helped extra, and shelled all the edamame, grated the veggies, and shredded the nori. All this despite being tired (Nu) and stressed (At--from his thesis). So much love.

We have been watching two eps of Avatar: The Last Airbender (free on Netflix RN) after dinner--like it's a prescription. I've watched the show passively before--when At used to catch eps out of order on Nickelodeon in the oughts and then again when Nu rediscovered it via At's DVDs a few years ago. But this is really my first time paying attention to the dialogue.What a sweet show! And apparently we're not the only ones taking solace in this classic in these times of strange and change.  (Also, the kids seem to get a kick out of finding out the sanskrit origins of terms like "Agni Ki" and "Bumi" from me.) 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

"Indian Enby Menarche Celebration"

Perhaps there was something portentous about the red lilies Nu planted this week... we celebrated with the red velvet cake they decided was appropriate. Big A made them a card with a "Congratulations" followed by a giant period and we all thought that was hilarious--that morning's laughter was definitely a celebration. But the South Indian in me needed to celebrate Nu more.

I googled "Indian Enby Menarche Celebration" and got nothing. My own menarche was marked by a wedding-level gala replete with catering and professional videographer--but it was too focused on "womanhood and fertility." (It wasn't as lavish as this video I found online, but quite close!)

So we did things our way. We got grandparents and aunts on video calls and read Nu a dedication that focused on their maturity, strength... their ability to reinvent themselves. We kept some elements of the traditional ceremony--anointing with turmeric but connecting its deep roots and healing capabilities with family; playing Carnatic music, but especially Bharati's song about his "kannama" hoping Nu would appreciate the fluidity with which he uses this feminine form of endearment for Lord Krishna. At brewed them a pot of spearmint from his own veggie plot, Grandma S made them a slideshow, the Bangalore grandparents and A Pinni beamed the whole time, N Pinni read her Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise."

Nu got the traditional trays of offerings (fruit, pampering products, books, and a ton of girlie presents), and we added rainbow-themed sandals, bag, visor, and sweetened the deal further with unlimited screen time for the rest of the day.  I think the pictures do a good job of demonstrating my earnestness and Nu's own enjoyment in all the ceremonial love. 😍 😍 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sitting Witness

Although my dad is more likely to read the sports section of a newspaper than pick up a book of poetry, his school experience of the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati would get him so fired up that he'd declaim "Thani oru manithanakku unavu illayenil intha jagaththinai azhithiduvom" frequently. So I'm no stranger to Bharati's radical outrage, the threat/aspiration to burn the whole world down if even one person is harmed. 

 I can mourn the horrific murders in the midst of this pandemic of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd and don't find myself distracted by other actions a grieving people may undertake. But in case anyone hears it, thinks it, or needs it--here is a lovely primer of "How to respond to 'riots never solve anything.'"

And please donate, if you can. Every one of us with a credit card in this family (At, Big A, I) have donated independently of each other this time.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Weight

This picture accompanied that awful story about India's sudden 21-day lockdown and the thousands of migrant workers who had to set off on foot for their "homes" hundreds of miles away as public transport had been halted.

And I look at that small child (center, front) carrying the toddler nearly half her size, and I look at the instinctive half-smile of the child carrying the large sack on his head, and I don't even know what to do.

Where are they going? Where are we going? What can I do? Everything feels really *heavy* right now.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Each one reach one

(The lectures I got via FB messenger on how this was a government-instigated distraction were valid, as are the considerations that my parents are retired, in the danger zone age-wise, and genuine about their concern and support for healthcare workers. On we go!)

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Happened upon this graffito in the Hagedorn Woods yesterday. 


Have been feeling increased anxiety about Corona and Big A's proximity to it at work (they finally have masks and tests, and are beginning to see an uptick in cases). My mom has been lovely about sending me WhatsApp messages of support and prayer every day. Big A has been joking that if anything goes wrong he’s going to shame her on FB for “not doing it right.” 😂

Tuesday, March 03, 2020


It must be getting closer to my birthday! It means my parents have sent me Amazon gift cards, and since we no longer support Bezos with our own money, this gives me a chance to do some relatively guilt-free Amazon binging. I need waterproof hiking boots with deep treads, so away we go (online).

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Beauty

I am two years ten months old,
beloved first-born: am told my face 
is open as windows, my smiles gems
of happiness, when baby sister is born.

I remember being taken to visit
Amma and the wrinkly new baby 
too in the hospital, in the morning, right 
before I have to go to Mrs. Pinto's "school."

And I remember the chill of nerves
the clunky thump of suspense, feeling 
so sneaking clever when--patting her tenderly, 
I tell my parents: "Baby sister--Chelli Paapa--

is so, so beautiful; I don't want to go to school."
My ploy creeps on, it has lived many lives
it has floated past memory's borders, 
the recall slowly fading.

When I retell it now, on this whole other continent, 
my own kids chortle, roll their eyes, call me 
"playa." My face is a window, is a mirror, 
my face is a door that lets the lie in.

 But my parents have told this story for decades,
in a haze of earnestness, claimed 'blessings
--love or beauty or children, or the hazy
necessity of whatever comes next.  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Meanwhile in India...

The littlest cousin married her longtime love, and this photo is also full of people I love. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

I do declare

Nu (whose finger is in the picture) and I found this Vivek Velanki exhibit by accident. His grandmother, whose passport is the first exhibit is from Madras (like me!). 

I recommended it to the poco students at MSU.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Gifts From Afar

So the flowers we sent my parents  were delivered, and they're just as lovely as they looked in the catalogue...

The cake? We're all still giggling at the writing on this: