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

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

"as bright as ten million suns"*

Ganesha Chaturthi today (basically, Ganesha's birthday)! I'm not super religious, but I do find joy, peace, and solace in celebrating the rituals I was raised with.

It was a teaching day, so I moved pooja until after work. I always fast on Ganesh Chaturthi until I can break my fast with the pooja offering, so it did mean that I fasted all day. It was extra interesting because I brought pumpkin cake and almond pastries to work to celebrate. 

But I survived hunger (and temptation), came home, made dinner, made a prasad-and-fruit-plate for pooja, had a peaceful pooja, and a nice dinner (and later cuddle) with the fam. 

#AdventuresInPracticingAMinorityReligion. There's a new Michigan bill that would make more minority religious holidays official state holidays. I appreciate how considerate that is, but also, the religious observances in Hinduism are so numerous, I doubt it it'll make more than a dent. Ha.

* Title: I love the sloka that compares the brightness of this god of beginnings to "ten million suns."

Pic: Huck and Max planning to take naps on me. (And yes, we got a third couch for the rumpus room so we can all sprawl a little more.)

Saturday, September 09, 2023

game on

Saturday is chore day around here, so after I watered and tended to the zillion (rough estimate) indoor plants, vacuumed, put away laundry, and cleaned, Big A and I set off for what we thought would be a long, chatty walk. 

If we'd been the least bit interested in American football, we'd have known that MSU had a home game today. After a summer of basically having all of campus to ourselves, we were startled to see a football stadium's worth of people pouring out of every street and building. I mean, it's their campus, not ours--but it didn't stop us from feeling somewhat affronted. Ha. 

And then I decamped to go do things with friends. As Nu hugged me goodbye as I was leaving, they dolefully asked if they were having dinner without me again (I got home late after student activities yesterday too). I felt momentarily guilty, but Nu and Big A take any evening I'm gone as a mandate to order junk food they love, so I know they actually have a great time. 

I had a great time with two sets of girlfriends too. 

Pic: We're pretending to be mannequins because we were all dressed up and there was this empty storefront. It's too bad the glare ruined the concept a bit, but I still love how fabulous the voluminous salwar suit my aunt gave me when I was in India looks. 

Thursday, September 07, 2023

my busy-ness

All my teaching days feel long this semester, so I'm going to stop thinking/saying that because it's not helpful. It is super helpful that Big A (and Nu) have dinner ready and the table set by the time I walk in through the door though. 💗

I'm grateful for the vacation weekend and a super busy social weekend coming up, but it does make everything feel a little more breathless and non stop. I'm going to prioritize some quiet and relaxation next week. (Promises, promises.)

I finally started giving people the gifts I brought them back from India and I feel like such a September Santa. And I finally washed the suitcase of clothes from my India trip. For the record, I returned nearly a month ago--but at least the backlog is getting addressed? Also: I'm all caught up with early grading and I managed to tuck in a walk with JG (and even VV who joined us halfway) into today--so yay me?

Pic: I'd planned to use a pic of Max post his first haircut today, but Maya proposes and Max disposes and all that--so instead, here's a picture of Max back from his latest "project" in the backyard.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

"but Murugesha, Murugesha; do you have a trunk?"

This is officially a crazy story. I hope to do it justice.

A month ago, my old advisor at Oxford posted a sweet photo of herself at the door of her office on the socials. It reminded me of all the times I'd shown up at that office excited about an idea or terrified about exams and seeing her open that same door with that same welcoming gesture. I "loved" it obviously. She mentioned that a visiting cousin had taken that photo and I asked her privately if that cousin was from my part of the world (the name didn't sound like it was from hers). The cousin was indeed from my part of the world, and my advisor mentioned that her husband's aunt had married a South Indian cricketeer named Murugesh. 

Now Murugesh is a fairly common name, but the first time I heard it was because the person succeeding my dad at this one position in Vizag four decades ago was named Murugesh. And the only reason I've remembered that was this: Murugesh and his family would soon be occupying the beautiful company house with a full house staff and fancy furniture after we left. There was one table though that had turned a bit rickety, and we had shoved a trunk under it to stabilize it... but of course we'd be taking that trunk with us when we moved away. My dad made up this song about all the stuff the new family would enjoy in the company house, the final line of the song was "but, Murugesha, Murugesha; do you have a trunk?" (For the rickety table, LOL.) It had a catchy tune and we thought it was hilarious and over the decades, we'd sing a snatch of that song and laugh when it came to "but Murugesha, Murugesha; do you have a trunk?"

Back to the present: I asked my dad if Murugesh had been a cricketeer; he had. I asked my advisor if her cousin's dad had worked in Vizag; he had. It was the same Murugesh! (My dad had added an extra syllable to M's name for some old-timey flavor.) And then a spate of emails via my advisor about memories of that house, neighbors, romances that had transpired between the new family and our old neighbors, and then sharing the famous (in our family) song. (And yes, it was summer, but my advisor is a very busy academic with talks to give and books being published and whatnot... she was so kind to facilitate this discussion.) And because I happened to be visiting my parents when my advisor was emailing back and forth about this, it gave us so many nostalgic things to recall and enjoy. 

When I was six years old, I did not know that I would connect with the protagonist of my dad's song over 40 years in the future...

Pic: I couldn't find a pic of Woodroffe House in Waltair Uplands. But this is a picture of Waltair Club home to many childhood shenanigans and whose verandah kinda looks like Woodroffe. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

celebrations

It's EM's birthday! It's my dad's birthday! AD is in remission! It's a blue moon! It's a blue moon and a super moon! It's raksha bandhan! 

After work, I was in and out of the house all evening taking soup to AD and pastries and presents to EM (whom we celebrated over dinner last week). Many folks do all this commuting everyday with their kids' activities and sports and... wow. It's a lot.

Our rakhi days are different from everyone else's. This year, only Nu is wearing their rakhi on their wrist; At is wearing theirs on their ankle (work doesn't allow bracelets), and Huck and Max are wearing theirs on their collars. The kids--human and canine--have been tying on rakhis and promising to protect each other for as long as I can remember. But the years are distinct. This is Max's first; we missed Scout. I looked back at last year's celebration, and it feels like a different pandemic world!

After dinner, we called my dad to serenade him with birthday songs and then went outside to look for the blue super moon. My city kids (pointing at a distant streetlight) "Is that it?" (Face palm.)

We finally found it later and higher in the sky--so, so lovely!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

un-doing

Baby steps today: Just one meeting, a tiny handful of emails, a short walk, an easy meal. I keep reminding myself of my spectacular relapse after I overdid things earlier this week. 

Easy does it. 

Unrelated: I can't stop thinking about the food situation with my parents, sis, and BIL. I knew they had let some household help, including their cook, go during the early stages of the pandemic. What I didn't realize is that now everyone just orders food online and then they eat separately and at different times. So all they're eating--sometimes even at breakfast, and almost always at lunch and dinner--is restaurant food. Each one according to their own schedule and by themselves. 

The worst part is that the food is frequently limp, unappetizing, and unsatisfying by the time it arrives, so it seems people eat more than they would otherwise. My BIL won't even enter the kitchen, my sis is too busy with her job, and my parents are too old, so this isn't a problem with an obvious solution. I made soups and stir-frys while there (for the kids mainly, but there was enough for everyone) and everyone acted like it was the most amazing food in the world (although it really wasn't!). My sister takes such good care of my parents and I didn't want to be a dick; so I didn't say anything. But mealtimes were such a time of togetherness growing up and I feel so, so sad that it's not the case anymore over there. 

Pic: Look! A medieval-looking turret on our way to get Big A some coffee at Biggby! 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

a recording

I can't claim K.L. Saigal as a favorite--in fact I remember laughing about his face on this precise album cover with my sister (rude, I know). He's of my grandparents' generation, but my parents grew up on his music and loved him. This is an LP, they listened to him on old Gramaphone records--one song to a side. He's considered to be a bit of a bridge between hindustani classical and film music.

I don't know why I'm blabbing so much instead of just saying that I played this album and in the cool night air with a cricket chorus, it took me right back to nights in my childhood--being in bed and hearing snatches of my parents post-bedtime life as they played music and chatted in the living room.

I thought I'd just play a few songs, but I'm on the second side now enjoying the absolute romanticism of Urdu lyrics: Jab dil hi toot gaya, hum jeeke kya karenge? (Now that my heart is broken what could I accomplish even if I continued to live?)  

This was such a prized possession for my mom... I'm sad thinking why she's in a season of giving her favorite things away. I'm so unready for anything to happen. I burst into tears last week when my dad tried to have an end-of-life talk with me. And then I kept going back to it my head on the plane yesterday where I unknowingly picked two dad-centered movies (Atrangi Re and Aftersun, both recommended) and cried some more.

Pic: In the solarium at night playing old records.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

poyi-ostha

Back home, it's inauspicious to say you're leaving--you're supposed to say, "I'll go and come" (meaning I'm leaving now, but I'm coming back later). "Poyi-Ostha in Telugu; "poyitu-vaaren" in Tamil. Guess I've left and come back to one of my homes.

It felt so good to see Big A's dear face when he picked us up at the airport, such a shriek I did shriek. Max is huge and can now bark, Huck is her crazy-dainty self, everyone was just so excited to see each other. 

I've since watered the zillion plants; cleaned the things other people don't care/know to clean; unpacked our suitcases; refilled the hot tub; cleaned the tiled floors (the big vacuum is tomorrow); cleaned the space around Scout's memorial, etc. etc. I'm not sleepy in the least. Might read and/or do some laundry next. 

Pic: I brought some of the old vinyl records from my mom's collection back with me. She loves music and used to have shelves and shelves of records--now only a couple of suitcases since my parents moved in with my sister some years ago.  Some of the albums have numbers pasted on the corner: This is from when my mom organized them into genres and had my sister and me help by cutting numbers out of an old calendar (this was before home printers) to catalog them.

Friday, August 11, 2023

out...

Somehow I didn't sleep a wink last night. I guess my sleep schedule is officially fucked in every time zone. 

Anyway, I was up because At dowloaded the new Salman Rushdie--Victory City--on my phone and it mentions people and places I'm connected to (my dad's family claim to be descendants of Krishna Deva Raya's palaiyakars/poligars). I'm finding Rushdie's alternative retelling and the female protagonist spellbinding.

I did sleep for a few hours this morning after packing. When I woke up, I walked in on my mom and Nu watching Taylor Swift videos in the living room--it was adorable. Then it was a quick trip to the temple, delivering a small present for the flower-seller friend's toddler, calling everyone to say goodbye, and the beginning of saying goodbyes at home. Mom and dad rode with us to the airport although non passengers aren't allowed to enter the airport, and it was SO tough saying goodbye. I always thought Scout looked a bit like my dad, and my confused mind is really making a mess of things.

We're now through airport security (which was long, slow, and overly thorough) and at our gate at last. I pulled out my credit card for the first time on this trip when I tried to buy the kids a snack at Starbucks, but they wouldn't accept foreign credit cards (this is an international airport, so I'm mystified). 

Pic: At and Nu: the hungry and passed out edition.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

doing better

Everyone's feeling better... 

Yay!

And just in time to travel back...

My kids and parents are quick (and so sweet) to reassure me that although things didn't go according to plan, they're really happy to have had so much time together. We've spent a lot of time watching movies, swapping playlists, and telling old stories these past few days. Not as raucous as when we first arrived, but nice in its own way. 

I wish we were being safer--as a better Maya said, when we know better we should do better--but we haven't been doing that.

Pic: A pic of Nu, mom, and At from my sis. Sis and I finally got some one-on-one time together and she encouraged me to come back without the kids next time. 😆

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

we could ride backward into memory

we could ride backward         into memory
meeting people      who were bad 
for us,      who        ruined weekends... 
ruined our lives         for nothing stays
illustrated  and  irrefutable,       we were chaste 
with  longing like       determined children
weeping          around a wedding cake

Pic: Near Gingee Fort last week.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

got me good

We're those people now, leaving a swathe of sick people in our wake. After years of masking and being careful, I am so disappointed in myself. There are no OTC Covid tests to be had, and the doctor told me to "relax" when I asked for one (At laughed). 

Anyway. I'm sick now. Other people are, thankfully, on the mend. I suppose it's a good thing we already had such a great time, because this part sucks. 

Yesterday, before visiting the temple, I stopped at a street stall to get some flower garlands for an offering. They're made as always with fresh flowers and held together with knotted banana fiber. When I asked how much it cost (the unit of measurement is the span of the flower-seller's forearm),  she held up four fingers: I thought it was four rupees, but she meant forty. Everything is the same except for prices. We had a good laugh together.

Pic: Pushpa (her name translates as "flower") selling flower garlands by the temple. Photo with permission. (Bangalore) 

Monday, August 07, 2023

how could I live so far away?

how could I live so
far away?
I guess I didn't know 
I could
life is such a hard thing 
to chance
you can leave a place
and then find
it always stays on you 
like fine sand

And Ten Notes From Today: 
  1. Mom, aunt, sis, and brother-in-law are sick; At and Nu appear to be recovering. I feel so conscience-stricken about my germy kids and worried about everyone else with a side of I told you guys to mask up when we were in the car together!
  2. I may be developing misophonia... and also the bands of howling street dogs were... interesting the first couple of nights, but not anymore.
  3. Big A has already neglected my flowering plants to death. But Huckie and Max are well loved, so I'll keep him.
  4. Had to say goodbye to family who came up from Coimbatore and Chennai to hang out with us... I miss them already. 
  5. Esp. VM and AA--seeing them wrap At and Nu in the same kind of unconditional love that saved me when I was a teen has been such a joy.
  6. It's Monday, so we've had to stop partying all night. I haven't left the house all day.
  7. I got so much cash on Amazon India gift cards, which I cannot use from the US, so I've ordered a ton of stuff and it remains to be seen if we'll receive it before our departure date.
  8. A realization that I have a very special position in the family as the oldest grandchild/nibling--it's nothing about me, any ol' baby landing into this family just waiting to love on their big sister's baby would have done. I just happened to luck out big time.
  9. The class I picked up as an overload due to a colleague's sudden departure was cancelled. Alleluia. I did it mostly out of a sense of duty--the extra cash would have been nice, but the extra time will be sweeter.
  10. I had a Zoom meeting with my editor in NZ this morning. It was a fairly routine meeting, except when they sweetly said "you get to weave the web," I was taken aback because I heard it as "you get to wave the whip." Umm, no.
Pic: At's picture of me by the sea last week. (Pondycherry)

Sunday, August 06, 2023

"my so-called vacation"

The title for today's post comes from At, who knows Nu and I have been watching My So-Called LifeTBH, for reasons I haven't yet unpacked, I never actually thought of this trip as a vacation at all. 

At is still sick and now (as of this evening) Nu is sick too with similar symptoms. My sis was able to order the antivirals for Nu online and it was delivered to our door in less than an hour. That part was impressive.

Two sick kids and two vulnerable grandparents in the same house = not so impressive. 

There was a get together for us at another aunt's house earlier today. At was unable to get out of bed, but Nu still seemed well at that point and I didn't want my aunt to feel totally disappointed, so Nu and I showed up with the rest of the family. But then we made our excuses to return home early so we could be with At. 

Nu really wanted to ride in an  auto-rickshaw, so we took one home by ourselves. And despite all the dire warnings, nothing terrible happened to us. TBH, one uncle, two aunts, two cousins, and my sister came to see us into the auto though. I love them all so, so much, but it's also a bit much.*

Pic: Nu and me in the auto-rickshaw being bratty and hamming it up. When I look back on this pic, I can kind of tell Nu is about to get sick too. (Bangalore)

 *I'd kind of forgotten how over-protective my family can be. I'm still getting frequent earfuls about how--on Friday--I took an auto-rickshaw someplace instead of calling home to let them know to send a car and driver for me. Like what? I'm so old and I've been out on my own in the world for so long! And I take public transport or drive myself. Anyway, I'm a fan of auto-rickshaws, especially because they're smaller than cars and can weave their way through Bangalore traffic better. 

Saturday, August 05, 2023

living loud

When Big A texted at 10 past midnight to see if I was still up, I texted this picture of family waving back at him--it's only ten past midnight, everyone's still here! 

You won't find Nu in this picture because it's late and they'd had their fill of social interaction. 

And you won't find At in this picture because their fever had spiked and they're in bed after we went to the hospital earlier in the evening for a consult, tests, and antivirals. (There's a chance it could be dengue, although we haven't been bitten by a single mosquito, and of course it could be Covid--either of which could complicate things by a whole lot.)

I've had some lovely conversations with my dad on this trip thanks to his amazing new hearing aid. This morning he was telling me about a sib who died in infancy and their family dog who died from grief soon after (that's the family story, anyway), and I started to cry about Scout. My dad was upset about making me cry, but actually, it was such a relief to be able to do any of this--talk to my dad, talk about Scout, hear a story I've heard 10,000 times before, etc. 

Pic: Part of my loud and lovely family. The sheet of paper in VM's hand is a blueprint for the big family reunion being planned for next year. (Bangalore)

Thursday, August 03, 2023

a happy place...

Reunited with #1 favorite uncle! 

These three people I love so much, the sunset over the sea, and the family's little Ganesha temple make this a picture I will keep coming back to...

Pic: Nu, VM, and At at VM's place in Pondycherry. It always looks the same...

#LaterPost

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Home is where...

Home is where they take candid pics of you after you've been traveling for two days and are unwashed and puffy and texting your husband while your human kids loll on you.

Pic: At, me and Nu in a huddle. I actually love this pic of us. (Bangalore)

#LaterPost

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

the people we came to see...

The people we came to see, namely my mom and dad, look lovely and exactly the same...

Except they move so much more slowly now and take way more pills than they used to.

Pic: Amma and Dad at sunrise. (Pondycherry)

#LaterPost
 

Monday, July 31, 2023

travel is tiring...


...even if all you've done is gotten boarding passes, gone through security, and found your gate...

Pic: Nu and At flopped out two hours in, even before our first flight out of Detroit. 

#LaterPost

Sunday, July 30, 2023

last day

I over watered my zillion plants hoping they'll be ok while I'm gone for the next two weeks at least, took a long two-hour walk by myself to say goodbye to all my favorite places for a while, took a long soak, finished all the pesky chores, submitted materials a week ahead of deadline for the course I got suckered into, helped At and Nu with their packing, made a hearty breakfast casserole that'll serve us tomorrow too, played with Huck and Max all day, and just said goodbye to the garden and the fireflies and Scout at his memorial...  

At is already here tonight, and it was so lovely to pop into both human kids' rooms to say goodnight.

Just a few more odds and ends to squeeze into my bags and I'm ready!

Pic: Max, Huck, and Big A. I'm going to miss these guys so much!

an unfolding

I have been dreaming of people invisible mountains I exhaled  into existing twisting, quickening and though  short-lived as grass, are seeds...