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

Friday, January 07, 2022

"Powerful beyond stage and screen"

My parents were such huge fans of Sir Sidney Poitier, they had us kids watch all their favorites on VHS. 

I must have thought of them as documentary, so imagine my horror and surprise when I got to the USA and realized that racism hadn't been neatly resolved decades ago.

But in these past decades, I've come to appreciate what an amazing trailblazer he was even "beyond stage and screen" as Bernice King notes. 

Rest in Power, Sir.

__________________

Vaguely related: I gave At this this Desmond Tutu apron for Christmas and the Rev. died the very next week; At gave me this edition of In the Heat of the Night and now Sir Sidney is no more. How jinx-y are we?

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

an international call

 


If you called my extreme condition: you might 
diagnose sister love--but do you know  
about the side effects

when my phone tells me it's her calling
--nausea, dry mouth, anxiety, 
shortness of breath

she knows this and inserts a subject line 
even as I--"hello?" "All's well, Akka,
I just called..."

 international calls are ordinary yet hide
like a virus inside information 
 finding a way to threaten

despite the softness of my sister's voice--
noisy futures sometimes dance 
alongside the old world 

international calls will make me watch--
make me guess who'll partner next 
parents, cousins, other loves

"I just called..." she says "one million cases..."
she says "I wanted to tell you all
 to be safe and careful."

Of course there's no way to be careful enough
(home is: a high school student,
a fast food worker, an ER doc)

I'm in the literal woods now (the metaphorical 
end of the sea), until the sun unhooks itself 
from a cloud shaped like a headache

and sails into the sky without even a cough
just this high, bright, and bored god
bearing messages--but not for me

-----------------------------------------------
Pic: Sunrise at Baker Woods. The phone rang as I was taking this picture, and I panicked when I saw it was my sister as it was kind of an unusual time for her to call me. She was calling because we--the U.S.--topped over a million NEW Covid infections yesterday. She wanted to ask the family to be safe and careful. But how? 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

trance


it's like breezes open my mouth
to pour in 
salted happiness

but how well do I know myself?
sleep (do not) want to sleep

so tonight becomes a cartwheel 
of love on sliding sands

the glow of my amma, dad, uncle, 
aunt, and sister at a bonfire

the rap of waves half a world away
in harmony with my heartbeat

and here's me waiting for something 
wild    to wish me goodnight

------------------------------------------
Pic: Picture of sunrise on the beach (Bay of Bengal) from a trip mom, dad, and Chelli took to visit VM and AA. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

for you too may have / questions about this story


                                                                             
                                                                      the tongue a knife probing                                          
our mom didn't tell this story 
till she was safe home again
how traveling to Chennai 
in the rains--she said--they 

                            the cleft palate of memory 
couldn't tell which was river 
which was road... and then 
went skidding into a ditch...
thanks to the gods--she said--

                           the smile tucked up in secret
thanks to all the gods some
villagers were passing and
they were kind and pushed
our car back onto the road  

                            the lips nudged into detail
then softly: but... they said
some mean things in Tamil 
like uncle is a terrible driver 
who shouldn't have a big car 

                             the gummy words murderous
even more softly: aunty and I 
were in the car, so they said
look at those fatty gundechis
just sitting on their bottoms

                             the mouthful of arguments
But I still told uncle we should 
reward them, give some... thing?
But he said no, that wasn't fine 
they might ask for more next time

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I know the generosity of Tamil people well. When I was pregnant with At, people would keep offering me food even if all they themselves were eating was a paper cone of sundal or peanuts. I am beyond horrified-ashamed-saddened that my family didn't offer anything--payment/a ride/money for coffee-tiffin to the people who may have saved their lives in the middle of a cyclone. (The cheeky, irreverent humor checks out too.)

Friday, November 19, 2021

Karthika Deepam In Michigan

So I got my own lights festival after all 😁. KB drove down from Alma and took me to see the tree lighting downtown. Huge crowds everywhere, a lovely full moon, a lit up capitol building, a sparkly nondenominational tree, and holographic fireworks.

I'd been panicking on what to do about dinner since I would get home after five, but Big A stepped up and made his amazing Brazilian seafood soup and his famous tapioca pao and then Kate brought homemade chocolate macarons (with cardamom! because I'm Indian!) and we feasted.

I know some very good people. And they make delicious things.
 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

pooja-fun

I'm heartsore I cannot be in Pondycherry ("is it full of ponds and cherries?" baby cousin A asked once) tomorrow. 

The pooja is tomorrow, but I bet everyone's already assembling now--finding empty bedrooms, screeching helloes, making plans, and having so much fun for Kartika. As Big A reminded me so helpfully yesterday, it is unlikely that I will ever be able to be at Kartika pooja because it's such a busy time in the academic year. 

We usually did the big festivals like Diwali and Pongal at home or with the other side of the family, but the November full moon festival was always the big event for all the cousins on my mom's side. For many years after I came to the U.S., my favorite aunt would sweetly save the turmeric-soaked wristlets for me to pick up on my next trip home, but I haven't been back in years at this point. The nostalgia is hitting hard this year.

Baby cousin B has been sending pictures on cousin chat to keep me in the loop. This picture has so many of my favorite things--the sea, the little Ganesha temple, the tulsi maadam, the new swimming pool, the effortless green everywhere... Gah. I just wish I could be there for at least 24 hours.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

the soft dark


Darkness feels deafening tonight. A student at Nu's school has been missing since last week. I do not know this young person or their family, but many of my local friends do. When I asked Nu if they'd seen the missing child recently, they said that they hadn't "in years." That was such a stark reminder that disappearance comes in many forms. 

I caught a picture of this close to full moon through our skylights just before bed--darkness, shadows, dead leaves, and all... it was nevertheless a kind reminder that in an another part of the world, huge numbers of my family are gathering to celebrate the Karthika full moon soon.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Shanti Bhavan

This is near Bangalore where my sister is... An amazing story of students overcoming--honestly--unimaginable odds. Here's one:

     "The mango juice tasted funny.

That's how Kusuma started her personal essay when applying to U.S. colleges this year.

Kusuma was then 3 years old. She had 2 older sisters. They lived with their mother, who was raising her 3 daughters on her own.

The family traveled from village to village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, hiding from money lenders who often threatened them with violence. "For years, I had struggled alone, desperate to feed my kids," says Kusuma's mother, Yashodha.

After a long and tiring day, her mother offered all three girls the juice. Then she drank some herself.

"My sisters and I happily gulped it down, ignoring the tingling sensation on our tongues," Kusuma wrote. "I remember my mother was crying, and after we finished our juice, she gave each of us a kiss and told us to go to bed. I woke up in a hospital bed with a tube in my throat. Later, I learned my mother had laced the mango juice with pesticide in an attempt to take our lives and her own."

Saturday, September 18, 2021

people-ing

A long walk-talk with KB yesterday; I begin to feel I can handle the world again.

Early morning chat with my sister; figuring out all the things on our list for this year--many of them impossible without a passport (which I don't yet have as everything's so backed up). But she makes plans seem possible anyway.

Midday yoga in the forest with Nu and L on either side of me; a sort of peace washes over me.

Garden party at our place this evening; the comfort of sharing food with CF, SB, SD, and AH and others. 

Talking to strangers on an FB Golden Doodle page about Scout's difficulty walking; lots of new things to obsess over and bring up with doc/E.R. visit in 48 hours.

Baby cousin K and her partner J arrive tomorrow; I get to spoil them. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

instant classic


I smile every time I look at this picture of mom and her siblings weak with laughter (I bet it was something my uncle said) at my aunt's 60th birthday weekend.

And I love that this picture was taken by my baby sis who dutifully took tons of pics because I couldn't be there.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

birthdays and first days


It's my grandmother's birthday today, so this picture of her just before she got married at 16 has been doing the rounds on cousins' chat. As has something I wrote long ago.

First day of classes today... I panicked hard yesterday, despite having taught in person all of last year. But the usual combination of over prepping and the endorphin-adrenalin rush of being in front of a class kicked in and all was well. Finished up work with a small reception at the president's house for being on a search committee that met all summer long.

When I got home, Big A was napping ahead of a work-night, At was off canvassing, Nu was in the basement knuckle-deep in a paint project for a class. So I grabbed my Culver's dinner from L's fundraiser for Peacequest, queued up some Felicity on ye olde laptop, and ate with Scout and Huck for company. 

A bit of an anticlimactic end to the day, TBH. 


Monday, August 30, 2021

check-in

I video chatted dad for his birthday last night (by myself, it was already morning in Bangalore) and this morning (with the rest of the fam). Video calls are better than audio-only calls, because it's easier for dad to understand what we're saying when there's visual context. I wish I could have been there. I miss my parents.

<<<Amma sent me this picture of a long ago beach day--I guess the beach has always been a happy place for me. When I showed this picture to At and Nu, they chortled at tiny me. One of them claimed: "It's like you took your face and put it on a child's body." I mean, I was a child once.

It's EM's birthday too (just goes to show how astrology doesn't work as she's nothing like my dad!) and BS's first day as a prof. so I took them cake to sweeten their special days.

The rest of the day has been little fires and email fire-fighting and finishing up final edits and diagnostics... classes start tomorrow! I'm my usual mixture of yikes+yippee.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

I find myself falling




I have tried falling down
the way you used to 
whole flights at a time
it's impractical

how it now reminds me 
of my grandfather
atoning what he'd done
--it's typical

what you did for laughs
he did because 
he'd left mother crying
made invisible

all the mislaid expiations
in search of love
where we are, the border
of admissible 





Pic: I turned in some stuff in on... Submittable. Ha.

Friday, July 30, 2021

today in vignettes

An early morning walk with L after SO MANY days. Between her travels and mine, it's been way too long. The Radiology Gardens (where I snapped this pic) had a fundraiser, and we bought a giant planter of coleus each and lugged it around with us.

At took me to the car dealership earlier in the morning to drop Bluey off for a two-year service. When the check-in person asked if I needed a loaner or a ride back home, I felt so proud telling them that I "brought my son." The son in question was amused that when he stopped to get gas, I hopped out to help him, but was so lost around all the slots and buttons after two years of plugging in Bluey.

A boozy cousin B called as we were getting dinner on the table. A bunch of cousins are getting together at his new beachhouse in Pondicherry and he MISSED me. I've been seeing pics on cousin chat since, and everyone is talking about a big reunion in December. Today I'm pretending (even to myself) that this might actually happen.

And today is officially the day Nu picked their new name. We had tried a name that started with "N' for a while. But then one day as I was getting dressed, I saw Big A's money clip with his initials, and the thought that At would be able to use it one day slipped into my mind...  I wanted that for Nu too. Nu's new name begins with "A" too, so they'll still be the "Baby A" who debuted here in 2007. And even better, it kind of starts the same way as their old name, so I can course correct before I reach the end and avoid slip-ups. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

our mother would hate this poem

I dreamed I was listening to my
parents' fight from decades ago 
when they were fighting always
and always passive-aggressively

my father sounding patient
my mother sounding smart

neither of them listening to each other...
from our room: my sister and I listened,
grading them--not on how right or wrong 
they were, but how not mean they were.

our mother lost our ratings
for our father lost the fights

afterwards, he wouldn't talk to her for days...
every time she happened to be in the room,
he'd be whistling or humming something 
to show how he didn't care and didn't hurt--

like at all--not even a little bit
even we kids didn't buy it



Monday, July 12, 2021

island times


Off to San Juan Islands --> 
Friday Harbor --> 

Day tripping to Cattlepoint, the lighthouse, lawn games, barbecue, dancing, laughing and snarking on cousins' old Chennai stories about 27D (bus # not Apt. #), cousins learning to play the parai, slideshows, baby cousins, laser-point astronomy demos, and chatting until I fell asleep on someone's couch... 

I have this seascape with the seagull on "loop" mode on my phone and know that I'll come back to this when I need a mental/emotional breather.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Loveliness


It has been magical. This gathering of happy faces and hugs... congratulations, commiserations, reminiscences, and sweet sillinesses. Turned out, seeing A+M getting married was the cure to my pandemic year.

So much group dancing practice, group dancing, dancing with Big A. Turns out I still remember all the words to the Spice Girls, and when the DJ slipped into Bohemian Rhapsody for a minute, Big A and I promptly decided... it was a slow dance. Ha. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

weather or not

Rain again today; lots of it! But we snuck some other stuff in there as well. 

Met up with DD and TD who are visiting Lansing after 15 months for a walk outside and a catch up. 

Pride Parade was rained out, but the kids and I went to Salus Center's open house and my gay babies got some merch to supplement the stuff they got at our in-home pre-Pride party yesterday. 

I made "leftover rice" for dinner (rice from Indian takeout; bean and corn salsa + tomato, cilantro, and onion salsa from our pre-Pride-party's "rainbow nachos;" veggie sausage, seasoned potatoes, frozen veggies, a pinch of garam masala, and a couple of teaspoons of ghee... voila).

Then the weather alert system started going off on the radio and our phones, and tornado sirens started up too, so we all trooped into the basement (Scout and Huck anxious, Big A needing to sleep before work) for an hour and half of weather-mandated family time 😅😂.

[Pic: We found this highly apropos duo of national flags outside Salus! My parents were so delighted by this photo 😇.]

 

Monday, June 21, 2021

old school laughter


to sit down with strangers talking talking
talking, the sun stunning in its brilliance 
like our laughter, sounding like we never 
heard of hurt, happy as an escaped key
I start, you finish, then we restart again  

the sisters say: "quiet now, settle down"
they turn their backs, snort their grace
and then we're off on one more round... 
odd how though it's made only of sound
laughter never loses its meaning--or place

[Pic: Waterlilies at MSU Radiology Gardens]

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Fathers' Day*

The kids and I called my dad last night (already Fathers' Day in India) while my sister was making him a "full English breakfast." Everyone was super excited and happy and talking over each other and couldn't hear very well. My dad legit couldn't hear us, I suspect 😞.

At and Nu took Big A brunch in bed and got him a couple of cans of the beer he likes and a very VSCO beer cozy. They said all they knew walking into the store was that the kind Big A likes had fish on the logo... they nailed it.

Pic: My one fancy nursery planter splurge didn't make it too long before it was colonized by a family of house sparrows in the most beautiful, mossy nest I've ever seen. But now the baby birds have flown and I am going to see if I can rejuvenate the planter.

* I'm going to punctuate it this way and not this.