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

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.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

third wave


A lovely start to the day, going up the riverwalk with L... Then a chat with my sister who said that a third wave is expected in India by the end of the year... After that, everything felt very off for the rest of the day. 

I made a summer soup for dinner in the InstantPot (stove's still not working), but left everyone to their own devices and put myself to bed with a bar of chocolate.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

a two-hike kinda day

I needed TWO hikes today.  

First was the usual one with L, getting to the MSU gardens just as the sun was beginning to skim the tops of the waterlilies and set off the frogs like blobby, plopping fireworks. 

Later, I managed to somehow ruin the stove when some lentils boiled over. Now I wouldn't be able to make the raw mango dal, a summer staple from my childhood. I made do by microwaving the chunks of mango and adding it to some canned cannellini beans. A heaping spoonful of turmeric, the tadka I'd made earlier, and a good potato masher... and I could imagine it came from a kitchen long, long ago untouched by canned beans, a potato masher, or a microwave. L showed up like a lifesaver bearing an electric skillet she had in her basement, and I used it to make aloo parathas later. 

I'm glad I made it to Ted Black Woods with BS after all that. The woods were lovely and deep--as was talking to B. I needed that.

(L doesn't mask outdoors, B does; I am ok taking my cues from whatever my companions are comfortable with now.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

minding the gap




I think about this a lot; and I feel a lot of guilt and sadness. The panic some of my school friends in India are feeling about their kids being ineligible for vaccinations (because too young and thus unprioritized in the face of vaccine shortages) hurts even though I can access vaccines for my own kids.

I'm also dismayed--In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

At's graduation redux!


At is in graduation robes again, the sibs are wearing ties, we got grandparents and family on FaceTime/WhatsApp...

It was a bit chaotic and didn't go completely as planned, but this international photoshoot is the closest we're getting to a graduation party this year.

🙂

Saturday, May 22, 2021

passing/passage


The blue blob is me with Scout's face wedged into my hip and what seems to be his preternaturally elongated body is actually part Huck. 

At went to Alma to visit friends (he's post vaccination and also an adult ¯\_(ツ)_/¯); Big A went to work; Nu had been irritable and took themselves off to bed early.

So this was me for the rest of the evening as I started and finished a novel--Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half--in one long gulp. I read the parts about passing breathlessly--racial passing + gender/trans passing. And it began to feel like being an immigrant is also somewhat like passing--in the sense that you leave an old self behind, propelled as much by necessity and accident as by some form of selfishness/self-centeredness. 



Saturday, May 15, 2021

shit shit shit


The first signal is my head turned 
sideways, listening for him
my dad too, listens to me,
he warns me of shit.

This was literal: he identified each 
congealed hazard on the trail.
"Look out for the dog shit,"
he said. "OK--horse shit."

Or sometimes even: "I don't know, 
kanna--some kind of shit here."
Huge oceans connect us now;
my finger tenses on redial.

------------
Red Cedar River, this morning with L.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

dissonance

On the one hand: Getting to hang out with dear (vaccinated) friends at a brewpub (first time in 14 months); planning to get Nu to a walk-in vaccination clinic this weekend now that vaccinations have been approved for the 12 and above set.

On the other hand: Whatsapp messages on cousins' chat sharing fundraisers for treatment for people they personally know; Facebook posts about relatives in India sick and dying.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

unsee, undo


The urn, a yearning
pressed into bruise
into battle

I know this word, I 
mouthed it until I 
learned its taste 

Save me;  save my 
past--words, bring 
me to rest

My heart breaks and breaks and breaks: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/21/system-has-collapsed-india-descent-into-covid-hell 

Monday, April 19, 2021

please distract me

I found some late hellebores and early daisies by the pond to distract me... Then work with students took up the rest of the day.

My social media is heartbreaking right now, with Indian friends looking for leads on plasma, drugs, ventilators, hospital beds... 

My sister and I were wondering if our parents should get tested--I was worried about further exposure, but apparently there are teams that do home visits. 

Late (very late) last night, a bookclub friend posted that their little one had broken their arm and that they were headed to the E.R. Big A was working in the ED, so I checked with him and gave them his work cell.  This morning when I thanked Big A, I told him that when he's away, working nights, taking care of populations usually under-cared for, I feel I'm doing something good for the world too (although all I'm actually doing is wandering around insomniac and doomscrolling). 


Friday, April 02, 2021

Daffodils Etc.

It's spring in England, and my mother visits,
So there is her readiness in colonial desire 
like urgent rain--where squandered things 
find great reception. Electronic billboards! 
Gargoyles in Oxford! Museums are free!
Hunger satisfies easy when you're eager.

Until one day at the grocery checkout she sees
daffodils--papery, plastic-wrapped, "solitary"
not a "never-ending line," "dancing," or "gay."
And Amma--at least a third-generation learner 
of Wordsworth's praise--is first silent in disdain,
her outstretched words rebound as if swindled:
"This? This is what he made such a fuss about?"

In her contempt, I hear comparisons--to the
languor of unkempt jasmine, lotus, plumeria... 
the warm, unlocked softnesses of oleanders, 
parijaths, ixoras... In her derision there hides 
history's list of pain, the sharp bite of the ruler 
when she couldn't say "jocund" right (at least).
And Babu: fish and chips were disappointing too.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

I first wrote about Amma's reaction here--so many years ago.

Picture is from Daffodil Hill at the Radiology Gardens earlier this week; they seem to have been bigger this time last year?

Friday, March 05, 2021

Very Sari

I wore a sari to work yesterday because I felt festive + I want to normalize saris and the difference they embody on my PWI campus. It was one of the intentions I had shared at the beginning of the term with my WGSS class, so when I showed up all floaty and colorful, they seemed quite happy and proud for me. 

I may have tied it too high ("where's the flood?"--the snarks at my high school might have asked), but for the most part, I was comfortable and didn't trip. The tripping thing has been one of my most frequent excuses, so I had to re-evaluate why I don't wear saris to work. 

Other Indian aunties are wearing saris to everything from construction jobs to yoga to designing spacecraft. Why don't I?  I really do think it's because all the ones I have are gifts and meant for festivities and too shiny or drippy with zari/fake pearls/pompoms/gems/stonework. I need a sari wardrobe for work--but I feel weird buying stuff for myself so soon after a day when I got so many presents.

This one, BTW, is a 'house sari' discard from one of my mom's visits. In fact, it was from her first visit when At was a newborn, so it's nearly 22 years old. Very nearly vintage. Wild. 



Saturday, February 13, 2021

Concise Bharatha

This isn't my birthplace and I am 

louder for my heart is misplaced;

I dwindle but first I do no harm.

Then I turn calm, you must come 

too--time shrugs on, on its own. 

*

He hugs the walls when he walks

my sister says of our dad.

We should have bars in the shower 

my husband says of my dad.

I think of my dad--


mightiest of his four brothers

how he sat all his brothers on his 

meaty biceps--or was that Bhima

also second-born--I'm confused

by the words rolling in my mouth.

*

It's easy to break, ask water--what's 

next in the shadow of time's coming.

Of first learning to trust every day's 

ordinary dance, stepping to calm, 

to harm; saying: I'll take it.


--------------------------

Notes: 

My father actually has six brothers, but my youngest uncle is seventeen years younger than dad and so the five older brothers were routinely referred to as the Pandavas in dad's childhood. Dad, although affected by polio as toddler, was somehow also the strongest and sportiest brother--captain of several teams in both school and college. 

I routinely confused stories about dad and Bhima when I was a kid. Still do. I don't know if seating all the brothers on his arms was a dad thing, a Bhima thing, or a dad thing inspired by Bhima... and I'm not going to try to find out. Naturally, I was shaken when my sister told me this morning how weakened he's become because he looks not very different in photos and when we video chat. 

The Mahabharatha because it is so long (the longest!) and has so many embedded frametales sometimes works on me as a reminder of how life is transient. Lives get lost in that huge narrative, and somehow recognizing individual insignificance is calming? Here, I'm reaching for an abridged version of that fatalistic calm.

Distance is a huge in the pandemic, and I yearn to see everyone 'back home' knowing it may not happen for months or even this year. So the other part of what I was trying to do was to call back to the old country "Bharat/Bharatha."


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pongal 2021


Most years we're already back at school before Pongal comes around and the usual celebration is something hurried when the sun is no longer high in the sky.  

This year, we got to celebrate in the sunshine and make our offering at a reasonable daytime hour, with fragrant narcissus and paperwhites rounding out the pongal rice and jaggery laddu on the offering tray. To the millenary vedic sun salutation sloka*, which I was translating for the kids as I went, I added a prayer for enough Vit. D to help us through the pandemic. 

Cousin P had sent the cousin groupchat a set of truly lovely pics of their traditional celebration replete with sugarcane, outdoor hearth, and silk-clad kids. So I sent this pic back to balance things out. 

Not pictured: The very un-Pongal looking kids, one in the Phoebe Bridgers limited edition Punisher sweater they got from their older sib and the other human kid in the pink Mean Girls/Karl Marx mashup tee I gave them.


----------------------------
*Japakusuma Samkaasham Kashyapeyam Mahadhyuthim,

Tamorim Sarva Paapagnam Pranathosmi Divakaram

[You radiant as the Japa flower, heir of Kashyapa, the creator of days

destroy my darkness and all corruption I pray to you, O Sun.]