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

Thursday, March 17, 2022

the wearing (and eating) of the green


At came to dinner after ages, and although we don't "celebrate" St. Pat's day, I appreciate the Irish so much for their anti-colonial struggle, especially as they shared that liberally with the Indian freedom movement--there's a reason our flags are nearly identical, right? 

Anyway, I had a dinner of mostly green veg, Irish Champ, and green cupcakes ready, but Big A and At missed each other by seconds. Nu and At found an episode of Derry Girls to rewatch, and they picked the one with the Ukrainian exchange student because...


Photo: Our entryway Ganesha has been decked out in some gaudy green this month.




Sadly, the family photo isn't here 

Sadly, the family photo isn't here 
the child mounted the front steps
as his dad stepped into the garage 
in timing orchestrated sitcom style
time pleats like a fin on a paper boat

as today's yellowing sun is ripening 
they are learning in a city of twilight
how to travel on paper boats that trail
hellos and loves in their soggy wake, 
the ridges now closing over; just water


Saturday, March 12, 2022

and another one

Ok! 

I did it and it seemed to go well and it was very gratifying. Extra thanks to Nu, who helped me position and photograph slides and thanks to the two fellow panelists who said they'd already put in orders for the text I'd worked on. 

Also, I surprised myself by finding enough time to run 4 miles (a lot for me), pre-prep a stir-fry for dinner, check in with LB and KB and wash my hair. Sometimes a big event day has me shoving everything else aside, so this felt like a moment of growth. 

I rewarded myself by finishing the novel I'd been reading, and am unwinding in the bliss of not having to show up anywhere--in person or virtually--tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Twos-day!

For some reason, I've been so excited for today. I like palindromes and liked learning "ambigram" and was plain delighted that today existed.

I guess all the coincidences of the day had something to do with today's mid-soak epiphany that the Tamil endearments "thane-y" and "maane-y" translate handily to "honey" and... "deer" (not "dear"). 

____________________________________________________________________


A Sonnet on Coming Halfway Across the World

For we are everywhere a palimpsest of us
and the karma and the kismet of meeting 
is multiplied by the distance of continents
fussy with farness, a dance of catastrophe. 
What if we should fail at loving each other;
what if language cleaves us with difference?

 It was in childhood I first heard of love--
on the radio, songs speaking endearments
in Tamizh, singing O thaneY, O maaneY...
these cupped invitations that connect us:
thaneY is... honey; maaneY is... deer, but
still homonym enough to arc from error
to hope--like words I carry as souvenirs--
we two/too are alike, steadfast, and dear. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

(before my parents' arranged marriage)

When my mom was trying hard to be my best friend
(so I too would share, so I wouldn't decide to die)
she once told me how in the late sixties
she'd take the 21 bus from her college
to go "flirt" at the university library

Heading home meant rules and four younger siblings 
(and college was only to make her marriage worthy)
so she'd stay back to read trashy novels 
knowing dudes were watching her 
from neighboring desks

I feel a flicker for mom in her carefully pressed saris
(pressed under her mattress if she missed the dhobi)  
knowing she'd never be allowed to work
using the few years she had
for freedom, for fun

she told me she never looked directly at any of them
(I mean, that would be to risk a bad reputation) 
but there was one bespectacled dude
who seemed a very serious type
she didn't know his name

graduation results went up, and he asked how she did 
(she was too taken by surprise to counterfeit, so)
she told him she got a third class--i.e. a "C"
he turned on his heel--and she laughs-- 
she never saw him again

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

anniversary!

The anniversary of our first date! Who knew on that epic first date like... decades ago when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and hung out all day eating in three-four different places that we'd still be celebrating all these years later. We usually do a long walk, but we're both on deadline and the day threw us some surprises, so we went for a "Downton" before dinner in the backyard instead. (Nu grabbed a couple of pictures of us!) 

I think I used to write about those early days long, long ago. In other news, I miss NYC.  

In very serious news, which I've shoved to the back of my consciousness in order to function, my sister texted to say my mom has just tested positive for Covid (but not my dad... yet). Dreading the next few days.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Pongal-O-Pongal

We're a couple of days late, but today was the day I could gather the kids for a Pongal celebration. It was a brilliant day to honor the sun... our second snow Pongal. And at least we got to celebrate it this year...

I've always loved Pongal, amongst many other reasons, for giving me a second chance at beginning afresh. And I definitely need it this year. 

My mom calls the sun "pratyakshadeva"--the god who makes himself visible to us every day (not necessarily in Michigan, but you know...) and I love that. 

I have to say, Hinduism comes back to me in unpredictable ways...  Klara's literal sun worship in Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun didn't strike me as odd at all because I've been there. Ha.

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. 

the waiting game

Just waiting to go home to Scout and I'm in that space where everything feels surreal, and other people seem alien. All I've done to...