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

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

the lift we needed

So buoyed by the surprisingly good election results in India! There has been such severe repression of press and academic freedoms over the last ten years under the fundamentalist and egocentric leadership of Prime Minister Modi, and that has been fractured by the secular INDIA coalition winning 232/543 seats today. 

Modi's victory is pyrrhic--he will likely still become the P.M. for a third term. But for the first time in a decade, there is a solid opposition bloc in parliament, and he will not be able to have unconstitutional, non-secular, Islamophobic, crony-capitalism bills passed so easily (or at all).

People who celebrate my Boss Day--I mean, who else but my immediate family--started saying the results were a Boss Day present to me! It was funny and SO sweet to see texts from my sister and At both pop up with identical language simultaneously. The exit polls had been so doctored to benefit the ruling party over the month-long election process, so the results took everyone including pollsters, psephologists, and pundits by surprise. 

What a wonderful glimmer of hope that India will fulfill its destiny as the biggest democracy in terms of more than just numbers. I spent so much of the morning just beaming at my computer screen enjoying the memes and gifs and schadenfreude (they lost in Ayodhya where they destroyed the mosque!) and texting with friends and (the progressive) cousins. So proud of my home state of Tamil Nadu that gave the BJP exactly ZERO wins. So grateful to the students, professors, journalists, farmers, and impoverished millions who protested and resisted Modi's fascism in every way they could.

Pic: I love this quote from journalist Ravish Kumar: "Not all battles are fought for victory. Some are fought to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield." I think it applies to every battle I'm engaged in. Our fights are, at least in part, so people being oppressed know that other people see their struggles and will fight for them. To know that we/they are not alone. 

Sunday, June 02, 2024

the week ahead

Nu's final exams are this week. But they're not feeling well. If they're still feverish tomorrow, I'll have to see if they can take makeup exams later in the week. 

Big A will be back tomorrow! Even better: He can take the summer off from the residents, so he won't have to travel to Milwaukee again until October. He has this whole upcoming week off, and we're so excited to do all our usual things together.

It was At's Boss Day today, but they were in meetings, so we celebrated by having a pizza delivered to them. I have no idea what At's week looks like. I guess I have a grownup kid! 

Things aren't so well in the world, but I've donated and called this week plus studied my Arabic, and made sure I'm paying attention (and drawn attention where necessary). Not sure what else to do at this point.  

My project deadline approaches. It's terrifying. But also, it'll be so freeing to be done with this stage of it. And then I'll be able to work on different things. Yay! 

Super long convos with mom and fave uncle and aunt this weekend. And a couple of girlfriend hangs planned in the coming days. I'm so lucky in all the people I love and who love me back so well.

Pic: Huck popping up to check on me. She's usually curled up at my feet at this point in the day, but tonight, there was some urgent toy-tugging that needed to happen with Max.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

crossed lines

A long chat with my mom who is back home from staying with her newly bereaved sister for a week and everything is Just. So Sad. 

My aunt wants to stay in her house because she has memories (I used to fall asleep watching TV and he would settle my head on his shoulder, she said. SOB). But people are worried about her living on her own. Last year, the family had a collective meltdown when I, a grownass woman, took public transport by myself, so I know a bit about how that feels. 

My aunt is increasingly estranged from her only child who seems to be treating her badly. Plus her in laws and kid seem to be more into how the property is going to be divvied up etc. instead of consoling her.

I also heard my dad CRIED when he tried to console my aunt. This is my mom's BABY sister, and she was eight when my parents got married, so he's been there all along, and he's so sad for her. 

Naturally, this made my mom worry about my dad's heart and health.

And then I got a play by play of several family members sniping at each other, a video of the accident someone recorded and only my mom and her brother have seen, the sweets she took to one of the rituals, plans for the ashes, how amazing my sister has been ordering food for dozens of people at my aunt's, the CONSISTENCY of my uncle's corpse... etc. I hadn't talked to my mom in a week and it was a VERY LONG catch up, is what I'm saying.

My favorite story about my aunt is when she was eight and starry-eyed about her new brother-in-law (my dad) and excited about her oldest sister's wedding in general and managed to insert herself in nearly every wedding photo frame until the photographer had to give her candy and plead with her to allow him to take some pictures of the bridal couple by themselves. I've seen my parents' wedding album; this appears to not be apocryphal at all. (smile)

(And I'm struck again by what is time? That eight-year-old with her crossed arms and sassy stare... how does life take us from there to this sad and lonely place?) 

Pic: This one makes me chuckle ruefully. It's from last week's hike when I wore bike shorts and now I have a tan line halfway up my leg so it looks like I'm walking around in thigh-highs all the time. Is there anything I can do about it?

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

ugh edition

Alice Munro died... last week. I only just found out. Although it seems like she hadn't written since the Nobel Prize, I liked knowing she was in this world. I will reread some stories in her honor tonight.

Bluey (my car) has been at the dealership since JANUARY. I'm so used to just plugging in to charge since 2019, and I am so over going to the gas station every few days now to pump gas in this loaner they gave me. Plus, I miss Bluey! 

Our air conditioning isn't working. We were told it wouldn't last the season when we moved in eight years ago, so I should be thankful we got those extra years... and I am. (But still salty we probably have to spend $$$ now.)

U of M used chemical substances on their students and took down their encampment (Tahrir) after 30 days. It happened at 5:30 am and the organizers sent a text requesting people to show up... but I was asleep. Many of the Jewish Voices for Peace students are now in hospital with chemical burns. How can a university attack the students in their care!??

Pic: The solarium smells so good because one jasmine blossomed. Just one. I had to peer closely and follow my nose to find the one true bloom (bottom right). I can't imagine how heady it would be to have the whole bush in flower! (I mean I know how heady it would be from my India days, but I'd be delirious with happiness if I could replicate that here.)

Saturday, May 11, 2024

drop by drop


My baby uncle, my mom's youngest sister's husband, was named for King Sibi who was willing to sacrifice his life for a dove. As a kid, I always imagined my uncle was kind.  

And he was. 

One of my earliest memories of him is as a newlywed trying to impress his new niblings (me and my cousins) with a party trick he'd learned at college. The objective was to drop a coin into a glass filled to the brim without spilling any water. 

My uncle would dip the coin into the glass, but then quickly withdraw it as if too nervous to actually let it go. He did this about four or five times and then finally released the coin into the water, where it sank without displacing a single drop of water. 

The "trick" was that every time he dipped the coin into the glass, he was removing a drop or two of water when he withdrew it--after doing this enough times, it became safe to release the coin because the glass was no longer as full. I think of this as the drop-by-drop method (like Anne Lamott's bird-by-bird, or AA's one day at a time)... an exercise in chipping things away through small and steady measures. 

My sister told me that our baby uncle died in a road accident today. The narrative arc between that newlywed trying to impress a gaggle of new niblings and today's news of dismemberment by an 18-wheeler makes no sense. It doesn't even seem real.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

it's old and faded now

Although we always felt some pity for her by that point in our visit 
when our Dorakanti grandmother would lament that though she'd yearned for daughters 
all her life, all she had been given were six sons 
and that was why she loved her granddaughters so much
my sister and I would remain stiff and unbending. 

We had heard that Dorakanti grandmother had been mean to our mother 
when she was a new daughter-in-law 
and that made her eternally unpleasant in our eyes. 

We were stiff as scarecrows inside Dorakanti grandmother’s embrace
stiff and unfriendly to the children from next door summoned to play with us
and our interactions with the special snacks made for us were cursory.

We paid attention when it was story time, but only silently
and only because it was dark and no one could see our eyes stirring to the story 
the punctuating “umms,” which were our duty as audience, needlessly parsimonious and slow.

Dorakanti grandmother’s stories were strange in that they never began with a “once upon a time.”
They all began, “in a place,” “in a village,” “in a town.” 
It was as if these stories where the prince fell in love with the princess 
after chancing upon just one filament of her preternaturally long and fragrant hair 
or where the young prince battled tigers to impress his mother
--as if these stupid, unnatural things had happened just a few weeks before we came to visit.

And at the end of the story when the prince married the princess 
or the young prince was crowned, there would be a big celebration 
and grandmother would launch her punch line:
“That was when they presented me with this sari,” she would say, 
holding her sari out for us to touch, hoping we would scoot closer to her. 
It’s old and faded now, but it was rich and shiny when they gave it to me.” 
And we’d reach for her sari politely enough, 
even knowing that our fingers would be snatched up and kissed, 
but we’d remain curled up around ourselves, my sister‘s hand in mine.

And although I'd will myself to fall asleep quickly
knowing dad would take us home the next day
I'd wake as grandmother stroked our limbs before she left the room
stretching each of our legs in the half darkness to their furthest length 
so we'd "grow tall in our sleep" and not take after her.

________________
Pic: Max getting his zoomies out. All I have to say to this puppy I love so much is "I'm going to CATCH you, Maxie!" That's it, he'll play keep-away for the next five minutes. Scout played this way too, so I enjoy this on so many levels.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

what we are built for

in the days when the kids were smaller
and my parents younger
and they lived here 
six months of the year
                                the only time I'd get mad at my dad
                               (my mom and I squabbled
                               every other week
                               or so)
                                                was when he'd look at my husband getting
                                                 ready for a training run
                                                 and declare he wasn't
                                                 "built for running."
                                                                                 my dad... my corporate bigwig dad
                                                                                 had two secretaries once, but now 
                                                                                 dutifully transcribed stories 
                                                                                 the grandkids dictated 
                                                                                                                       my dad who titled himself the president
                                                                                                                        of the fan club our sweetly narcissistic
                                                                                                                        toddler so desired...
                                                                                                                        that dad
was telling me my husband--who 
was spending hours running
every day--was unsuited
to running
                                But dad. I'd say--he's run marathons
                                what do you mean he isn't
                                built for running? And on 
                                and on we'd go.
                                                            my dad had had polio when he was five
                                                            his withered left leg still hurts, his
                                                            uneven legs (like these lines)
                                                            limp every step
                                                                                    but that dad didn't care how his body was built, he 
                                                                                    had "persevered" to become the captain 
                                                                                    of his school's soccer team and cricket
                                                                                    team and wrestled in college     
                                                                                                                        so it didn't make sense then, but now I think
                                                                                                                        he was saying my husband wasn't built
                                                                                                                        for running hours every day when
                                                                                                                        I needed help with our kids

Thursday, April 04, 2024

so very sari

I've been meaning to wear more saris to work, but it is almost always too cold during the teaching year in Michigan. But today was Honors Day, and I wanted to honor all the hard work by students by dressing up for their presentations + had to judge a set of awards + attend a child advocacy event + head to the fancy awards dinner later. (AND IT'S ALSO MY BOSS DAY!) 

So a sari it was.

Five yards of chiffon held together by some optimistic pleating-tucking into a petticoat, two safety pins, and prayers. It all held together great, but I did have to wake Big A up to button the back of my blouse for me. I have no idea how anyone could do that without help. 

Pic: My sweet colleague CP took a full-length pic of me in my office, crouching on the floor to "make me look taller." 💗 The sari and blouse came from my sweet aunt when we were in Bangalore last year. I may or may not have posted this on the secret Skirtathon page Sarah mentioned.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

some backstory... and a Boss Day

Some backstory to yesterday's poem.

Our grandmothers were first cousins, so Sunil was a distant cousin--although that doesn't matter much in the  Indian context (something that's unclear in the poem, and I should work on it). Our grandmothers were as close as sisters--closer, as they had no sisters and lived in a big joint-family mansion where they had private tutors--so they were together all the time. They were really close--they always talked about how they breastfed each other's babies so their babies would feel like siblings and think of them (their aunts) as mothers too.  

It didn't work out exactly like that. My mother would go to her aunt when she fought with her mom, but later there was some family drama (our grandmothers fell out in their sixties) and mystery (things people won't talk about). Stuff that came out as what Nicole rightly called "mixed things." Nance found the ending surprising--something else I'm working on. I was trying to express how it felt to have someone in my peer group die... like the beginning of the end. As I mentioned in a comment to StephLove, Sunil died of a heart attack, so that feels as though our bodies are going. 

Pic: It's the puppies' Boss Day! Huck and Max got new lick pads and love them. 

(It's not their actual Boss Day, but it was too bewildering for Scout and Huck when we celebrated them individually, so we picked the 18th of the month to celebrate a puppy Boss Day. Max's "smile" cracks me up.)

Saturday, February 17, 2024

the first cousin to die

for Sunil

I'm always eight, you're always fourteen
in the long time ago that lasts forever 
I know now I'll never see you again

you have other people to haunt and anyway
 they probably want to hang with you--
the dad you lost at two, your young uncle...

all those men in your family who died young
it's why your mother, grandmother, sister 
 dote on you, as if to try to keep you forever 

I wondered how you had more friends than books
I confused you too--I remember when you 
congratulated me about my school exams, 

and seemed so confused why it was important...
 I mean--you were so rich you didn't have to work
--and I don't think you did even at 40, right?

but you were always kind... if a bit ganja-fueled 
when a single kindness could keep me happy
for days. I wonder at my dad saying

I shouldn't be alone with you... I feel you loved 
my gentle dad, wished he were yours
in the sheerness of the childhood--

which brightened us up... now only if this end
too could lift us up... instead it sets us adrift... 
as if to warn us we're going... extinct 
_________________________________________

Pic: An icy, windy day--but oh, such brilliantly blue, sunshiny skies. A long walk with Big A to the MSU Baseball stadium. 

Thursday, February 08, 2024

on not meeting expectations

I don't like my grade the student says
You're not from here, are you?
the student says

So where are you actually from? 
(India!) I thought so...
student smiles

I got the assignment wrong because
of your language (English?) 
the student says

It is so rude of you, the student says
to say... that my assignment 
didn't meet expectations
____________________________________________

Note: This came from a long and unsettling office-hour exchange with my one disgruntled student today. It felt demeaning and I was so... crushed. Luckily, it was also the day our PR team had alerted me to an alumni interview which spoke glowingly of me, so I had some balance. But I'd been working on a new version of our land and labor acknowledgment, so it also felt like I'd been wrestling with issues of prejudice all day. 

Pic: No pic today--it was too, too hectic. My Thursdays are so long that they've become standard Subway-for-dinner days--Big A picks them up between his clinic and hospital shifts.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

"bougainvillea, sing your song"

I grew up with bougainvillea brambles practically growing wild over all over the neighborhood houses, walls, and gates even under drought conditions. Needless to say, nostalgia plays a big part in how much I love these plants--got to love their hardiness and range of color too. 

Back home (in Michigan) I have two bougainvillea plants I got at the specialty nursery, and one manages to put out a few blooms in the summer and the other one is dormant (or dead :/). 

So it always surprises me when I'm in tropical climes and they seem to be growing untended the way they did in my childhood. (Especially if it's in the U.S.--they do that in California, Hawaii, and Florida AFAIK.)

In Cabo, they seemed to be using bougainvillea as hedges and cropping them pretty closely, but nothing could keep these plants from showing off a little bit. 

Pic: A Bougainvillea hedge. I took this as a reminder that we're on the cusp of Spring, and soon we'll be awash in scent and color. I took a long Boss Day walk by myself this morning to say goodbye.

#LaterPost

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

all the things

Wow. What a day. 

Freezing rain all day, so I moved my classes online and then was committed to sitting with my laptop all day.

I also got into it with the very pro-Hindu nationalist people on my WhatsApp. Hope springs eternal in a teacher's breast I guess. If even one of them stops to reconsider their exclusionary stance, that would be helpful. But I can't do this every day--it's exhausting and draining and makes me question what kind of world I'm living in.

Then Big A woke up grumpy and I pushed back (I mean, he's not a toddler!) and then we fought on text for a bit. Then he "hearted" something I had said in snark and then I felt bad and then the fight was over. Just like that.

My car has been in the repair shop since Monday and they don't know how to fix it--they're waiting on input from the tech team. I was so alarmed by this, that I texted "Is my Bluey [what I call my car] OK?!? 😭" to the family chat... except I sent it to the repair shop by accident... and they texted back "We should be hearing something today. Bluey has a bit of a boo-boo." And I laugh-cried in embarrassment. 

Motaz Azaiza the passionate Gazan journalist has evacuated Gaza. He did such great work, and I'm glad he's safe, and so humbled that he's only 24!

So many of my U.S. friends texted me in a panic about Trump winning the NH primary... but I don't know what to tell them. Is the option really "Genocide Joe?" The lesser of two evils just seems more like the other evil day by day. 

And finally: another day of back pain. Whomp-whomp.

Pic: An icy Red Cedar through the railing on the Sparty (not official name, I think) bridge. From my Monday walk. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

"go not to the temple"

I'm feeling frustrated about the huge celebrations in India and worldwide for the temple Hindu fundamentalists have built over the mosque they destroyed (and the blood of the people they've killed). 

My Twitter and FB feeds are mostly progressive articles and quips, but my WhatsApp (elementary school pals) is chockful of people sharing pictures and claiming they're just celebrating and that it's not at all political. How could anything that caused the deaths of over 2000 innocent people and has led to the current wave of intense and ignorant Hindu fundamentalism be unpolitical? All these (high-caste) Hindu women posting random and adulatory details of the temple! I wonder if our non-Hindu classmates--the Sikh, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Parsi, Periyarist Dalit kids--have already left or are just staying silent. 

On the cousins' chat, my cousin very helpfully posted a picture of themselves drinking out of a mug labeled "liberal tears." I was going to say something cutting, but this is a troll move and I'm not responding--anything else would be a reward for them. 

Pic: Tagore and "Go Not To the Temple." Friends have been posting a lot of Tagore, and while this is not his best work, I've been resharing it. It would be easy to ignore me, but it's a bit harder to ignore the Nobel-winning author of the Indian national anthem. 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Happy Pongal!

Imagine my delight this morning when the sun rose magnificently for the first time in (many?) weeks as if to show up for the Pongal sun celebration. 

Close to twenty years ago, I was writing on ye olde blogge about the range of procrastination the various Hindu "fresh start" dates allow. Nu and I were laughing about that at pooja today because At and Nu loved to use the term "fresh start" after they encountered Will Ferrell (their childhood fave) saying it in The Other Guys.

In any case, I've always thought of Pongal as a day to reset any New Year resolutions that didn't take.

A younger and wiser cousin wrote on the cousins' chat:  

The sun symbolizes energy, positivity, equanimity, discipline, consistency... adopt one value that you feel you need in life and practice it for the six months that the sun moves to the north.
I probably need all of those traits in my life, but may pick equanimity--I could certainly benefit by being less emotional.

Pic: Max and I are out by Scout's memorial around sunrise. Scout always came out with me for pooja. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

"I believe that children are the future"

My mother once told me that even when she was mad at me, something (sweet/funny/adorable) I did as a baby or toddler would flash in her memory and it would help her get over it. I can safely say this is how it works for me too. 

I mean there's no way my kids are going to meet every arbitrary milestone and make only perfect decisions. Things could get "bumpy" any minute/soon and the one thing that centers me is thinking about how much must be going on in their lives right now, because all they ever did was always only sweet/funny/adorable once. (And in the meantime, I bite my tongue until someone asks for my advice.)

Actually, I think it works for everyone i.e., people who aren't kids in my life too. I think it was in a Jennifer Weiner novel, where the protagonist finally finds a way to get along with her unhelpful MIL by thinking back to her being a neglected baby. I've frequently used that trick to find compassion and understanding for people when they're being jerks.

Pic: My loves--Max, Huck, Nu, and At--hanging out for a moment before we headed to the temple for New Year's Day blessings yesterday. I hope they'll always find warm, cozy places to rest... and that I can make those places for them if they need me to.

Monday, January 01, 2024

leap

How tired the world
how long the way
how we have been 
survivors for over
365 days

may the new year 
be kind, enormous,
hold us in peace
may it gently--
24/7--teach us

to resist, to vary 
history's encore--
the hum of hope
its own language
in 2024
__________________________
Other New Year's Day poems:

Pic: Our holiday card!

Thursday, December 28, 2023

things are still up

Our Christmas tree is still twinkling away, our menorah still has stubs of candles from the last day (birthday candles... we ran out), our porch decorations are still up, my snow globes are still out, my little nativity set (catholic school holdover) is still on the altar, the holiday card holder is full, and there are too many cookies for even Nu to finish. I'll be putting away most of this stuff before the start of the new year (except the holiday cards, I like seeing everyone's happy faces and hang on to the cards until it's Spring at least). My spirit is still up too.
*
I love birds and elephants, and I'm so touched when new friends notice and make note. At Diwali KM gave me one of those Phil Walters' bird silhouettes that you stick into a tree and last week AS sent me a set of "Guide Birds." I'd seen it in a catalogue and liked it a lot, but couldn't justify buying it for myself. As a gift, it's so perfect in every way. Each of the seven birds "corresponds to an inspirational word, such as joy, courage, and generosity" and I look forward to meditatively picking one every day when I light the evening deepam.

Pic: On my overcrowded altar, guide birds shelter under an elephant lamp.

Friday, December 15, 2023

sentimental offerings

Another festival of lights at CB's "Winter Warm Up Party." It was beautiful--my neighbors J and E from across the street sang the blessing (I'm more used to reciting it) as we lit the menorahs (I did two). 

Big A's in Milwaukee until Sunday, so I took Nu with me. As always, they protested having to go and as we walked home, raved about how glad they were that they went and how much they love "community." I guess I do know best after all. Ha.

I am a sentimental mess just from reading Nicole's account of The Small One (Q: Is this the first time I've cried at a Wikipedia entry? Ans: No.). I love its theme of offering up devotion in whatever small way one can. "Little Drummer Boy" is another great example of this. And now I'm thinking of "Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame" that I first encountered in Anatole France's version in my French textbook. And now I'm thinking of how much my mom loved that story when I shared it with her, and how she connected it to the story of Kannappa who did all the taboo things (offered meat, spat water, put his feet etc. on the deity) out of love and devotion. And this in turn reminds me of a scene in a Tamil movie whose plot and title I've forgotten in which the Hindu heroine who is in love with a Christian boy goes to church to pray for him. But she doesn't know any Christian prayers, so she recites the entirety of an 8th century hymn-paean written for Durga in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. It's a moment my mom and I found both funny and sweet. It's a hymn my mom and I love. And now I miss my mom.

Pic: A forest of candles at CB's "Winter Warm Up Party."
 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

it's beginning to look

a lot like a bit like Christmas. CF, my dear friend who moved to South Carolina sent us a beautiful Christmas centerpiece, JG sent us treats from Sunnyland Farms, AK sent a blooming amaryllis, SV made a donation in memory of Scout. It seems my girlfriends are into sending things that are more like experiences, and I love it.

Counterbalance: My uncle told me that there had been a fire in my sister's office building in Bangalore. My sis then sent me a video of the 20-story fire. Scary. A student whose poetry I love received a rejection. Sad. One thinks we'd be able to protect the people we care about from harm or disappointment, but we're so limited.

Pic: CF's centerpiece--I lit the candles to send her a thank you photo. Bonus peek of Nu snacking in the kitchen.

reading between the flowers

I think teenager Cass makes a terrific point in  The Bee Sting  when she is irritated with the ubiquitous nature themes in poetry:  “You go ...