Petrichor

10 Jun

A.k.a. June Swoon

The sky is overcast. We may even see six drops of precipitation if we are lucky. I’ve been in California long enough to not count on it. Build my hopes, only to see them knocked down with one poof of a blowaway cloud. So I’m going to close my eyes and imagine:

The road from The Bombay Store to Flora Fountain is slick and glistening from the first monsoon showers. The air crackles with wetness. Coolness. Pointy peaks of exhilaration. I am, absurdly, alone as I run along the streets, swooping through my imagination, in a world bereft of traffic and noise and fumes, starring in my very own silent movie.

Kala Ghoda approaches, and I irrationally resent my phone for auto-correcting my favorite landmark. No time to stop by at Rhythm House today, deserted just like these streets. In this version of my daydream, people are erased. No one is allowed to alter the synergy between me and my city, permeate this sacred space between us with their own agenda.

I am flying, my feet barely grazing the tar, embracing spaces and memories: the synagogue, art galleries, and museum. Cinema, antiques, and almost-love. Silver jewelry from my teenage years, nights out at eateries too unhygienic for my upbringing. Wooden steering wheels at the Yacht Club, crispy duck, a burger now banned, the wooden lattice of the Time & Talents club, and finally, the sea.

On the eve of my 29th birthday, as the clock readied to strike 12, a horse-drawn carriage pulled up by this very waterside, a surprise from indulgent friends. Off we cantered into the night, these two sweet men smiling at my elation, as I waved and blew kisses into the ether of a city sinking into uneasy slumber.

I must not halt, for the dream will end, and with it, a part of me lovingly coddled. Onward I stream to Sassoon Dock, Colaba Market, Navy Nagar and Land’s End, auto-correct repeatedly frustrating my typing efforts and reinforcing my distance from home. The evening is green as it drips toward night, and my city is a vacuum: no people, no creatures, all mine mine mine. I morph. I inflate. Giantesque, I rise above dusty skies. And gather it clattering: bridges, buildings, salt water and trees into a clumsy, awkward, heartbroken embrace. We rock, we croon, and I hum with a lover’s instinct.

Looking down at my arms, a pair of eyes–exactly mine in a smaller face–stare inquiringly at me. A chubby fist explores my moist face. My world self-folds into a soft muslin envelope, awaiting future summons. The clouds have long dissipated. For now, I am back in my baby’s familiar, sunny universe again.

The Blogger Formerly Known As OJ

20 Apr

Helloooooo! Greetings from Namibia!

Just kidding.

Or not.

Because SAHMhood is sometimes like being in a desert. Maybe on a desert island. Where you just got done weaving your colorful hammock of artisan rope and are about to climb into it when wait! Laat Saab needs his doodoo-on-the-rocks. Make it a large one. Oh, and could you have that ready in 3.457298 seconds, because there are some pretty pitch-perfect wails coming your way.

So.

I’ve been doing grrrrreat you guys! Just GRRRReat. Training for a marathon and all. Don’t you just love my dedication? We begin training at 6 am (human alarm included in the package deal) and basically drop dead after Diaper #7. The obstacle course, where I get to skip over Blue Ellie and Hormuz the Horse in a bid to dash toward Moaning Myrtle’s just-born twin is where I truly shine. I even have one ankle left to prove it!

And in other news, we now have a Very Valuable Cooking Aunty. Seriously, that’s her name. Or not. I can’t share it with you because then you’d take her away from me and I’d be left to wallow in my dal-less state. Cooking Aunty is a proper Poon-jabbi, so the Boy, drawing on his Dally childhood, educated me about the ways of Them Up Nawth. Apparently, I need to address everything with a ‘jee’. But Cooking Aunty looks at me funny when I ask her not to add the Dhaniajee to the Bainganjee. Why jee? Am I blundering jee? Me, the poor heathen from Bombayjee.

Cooking Aunty firmly notified me that she is ‘vag’. And I’ve been hurling all 700 lbs of puppy fat at that imagery, but it won’t budge from my head. Or ‘had’. You pick, jee. In the meantime, we’ll continue eating…you-know-what jee.

Oops, there stirs my Pork Chop. I have 6 seconds to share the rest of my exciting life with you:

6. I subscribed to Birchbox, received my first box in March, and OMIGOD YOU GUYS! The Boy just got bumped to Love of My Life position #3. You wants this product. You needs this product. You totalutely musts this product. Review coming up soon! (10 years is ‘soon’ if there are no posts in-between. Technically speaking.)

5. I had this divinity last Thursday. And walked the streets of San Francisco LIKE A NORMAL PERSON (a.k.a. Carrier of One Small Handbag). Am I shouting? Could you plug those ears? This could get out of hand.

4. I’m attending what promises to be an interesting event at Santa Clara’s University’s de Saisset Museum this week. The universe and its grandfather(jee) knows about my fascination with the partition, so this should come as no surprise:

Voices of Partition

Thursday, April 23, 2015, 6:30 p.m.

Nearly 2 million people died and over 15 million were uprooted during the 1947 Partition of South Asia. Explore the Partition through a free screening and crowd-sourced survivor footage followed by witnesses sharing their stories. This program is co-presented by the 1947 Partition Archive and the de Saisset Museum with support from API Chaya.

 

3. The Ghost of Reader Past:

The Ghost of Reader Present:

women-and-weight-loss-tamasha

The Ghost of Reader Future:

2. I need cropped white denims for the Spring that don’t look like Jack the Ripper went blade-happy on them. Gimme label/store/link suggestions, y’all!

 

1. We made it all the way to #1! Woot!

Okay, that was my downtime for the decade. See you in 2025!

Just kidding.

Or not.

As they say in OJville,

bye-shy, jee!

*poof*

Lovelocked

11 Mar

January 31, 2013. 5.30 am. Silicon Valley.

The peal of my ringtone pierced the dark, as I groped in my sleep for the ‘phone. “They’re taking him in,” said a familiar voice at the other end. “I’m on my way,” I responded before the line went dead and adrenalin kicked in. Three hours later, I was buckling my seat belt as the aircraft taxied on the runway, ready to begin its transatlantic journey.

January 30, 2013. Time unknown. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

He was all of 28 and engaged to be married at the end of the year. His fiance was an ICU nurse at a prominent South Bombay hospital. That is all we know of him, other than the fact that the crash killed him instantly. And in his death, he gave a new lease of life through his organs to no less than five people, my loved one among them.

Present day. Silicon Valley.

It’s been more than two years since the incidents above. I’ve moved homes, switched jobs, acquired another car, waddled through a pregnancy, and now have an infant (yes, we graduated from Senior Newborn last month!) Yet, there has not been a day since January 31, 2013 that I have not blessed and thanked this young man’s soul for his generosity, foresight, and incredible humanity. There has not been a day since January 31, 2013 that I have not pondered on how to pay it forward. Finally, last November, two days before our Liebling made his appearance, I took the plunge.

Ever since I can remember, my hair has been a topic of discussion. Friends and strangers would admire it at social events, Daddy would be upset every time I cut it, guys in college wrote shayaris and poems about it, and you folks were so generous in your compliments even when it wasn’t the point of the post. I suppose I took it for granted, because I’ve always been somewhat indifferent to it, maintaining that it is my mum’s genes and father’s regular oiling–and nothing I did–that are to be credited. I’ve worn it long, short, and every length in-between. It’s been occasionally highlighted, been its natural color and texture for most of its life cycle, and kept generally clean but otherwise not particularly obsessed over. Even now, with a few strands of white in it, I feel no dismay, for it is but the natural progression of things and vanity is not among my many faults. And yet, I can imagine what it must feel like to lose it. To have to go out in public and have people stare because you don’t conform to the norm. To have the choice of whether to grow it long or chop it off taken away from you. And because I can give no other organ while I am alive, and really wanted someone to benefit from it, I decided to give away my hair to Locks of Love.

In May 2014. I was in my first trimester.

In May 2014. I was in my first trimester.

Two days before our son was born, the Boy, somewhat sad but supportive as always, drove me to the salon and my trusted stylist Stefanie took care of things.

In November 2014. Two days before our baby was born. I loved how wavy pregnancy made my otherwise straight hair!

In November 2014. Two days before our baby was born. I loved how wavy pregnancy made my otherwise straight hair!

It was quick, painless, and joyful. Some little one somewhere (or two, since Stefanie said it was a lot of hair) would have a wig of natural hair to make their cancer journey easier. A weight, both literal and metaphorical, had been lifted off my head. And the smile on my Boy’s face as I walked out assured me he approved as well.

Chop chop!

Chop chop!

That was more than 3 months ago. Since then, I’ve enjoyed my shorter, more manageable locks that gently graze my shoulders and keep out of my busy way. I’m grateful for the shorter length, since my baby has taken to grabbing strands with gusto. I may very well be as bald as him soon if this continues. And because childbirth has given me a newfound and immense respect for the human body, I will know better than to take it for granted when it grows back.

The purpose of this post is to share what’s been in my heart and on my mind, and to humbly request you to think about it as well. It is such a miniscule act in the face of that nameless young man’s charity that I would be embarrassed if you praised it. (So don’t!) Do think about being an organ donor. Each of us has the power to bestow life. And in the meantime, if all you have to give is your hair, you can now do it in India as well. Someday, it will age, grey, and fall off anyway. But as long as it’s healthy and on your head, you’ve got a lot more than a child who could do with some.

Have you ever committed to donating an organ? Please share in the comments section and inspire the rest of us.

And pssst! You guys are the first to know: I’m planning to grow it so I can do this again. :)

A Comprehensive Dictionary of Parenting for Beginners

3 Feb
  • Diaper: A piece of absorbent cloth Mummy wears between her legs because between feeds and singing and communing with the washing basket, a toilet is a once-familiar entity in a faraway universe.
  • Sleep: Word not found.
  • Blowout: Since we’re in polite company, let’s just say it’s not the fancy things a dryer does to your hair.
  • Midnight feast: Sod Blyton, sod Mallory Towers, it’s a full blown party of one to which a certain someone’s parents are very reluctant invitees.
  • Rocking: Formerly used as a descriptor for parties and weekends, this calorie-burning tool is the perfect substitute for pumping weights.
  • Shhhh: What you find yourself saying to the person responsible for 50% of Creature, because:
    1) That’s the sound you emit most these days
    2) Advanced language is highly overrated
    3) I just may be incapable of sophisticated communication at this point
  • Fun: Non-REM cycles of shut-eye.
  • Schedule: That hilarious entity that people who haven’t birthed a person ask you to share. Also known as “When’s a good time to chat?” Erm, 12 years sound good to you?
  • Jelly: Formerly an edible substance, now an apt descriptor for your mid section. Also, how your innards feel when a newborn smile is bestowed.
  • Sleep: Word not found.
  • Doorbanger: A special kind of Beelzebub spawned for the sole purpose of waking your finally-asleep child.
  • Anticlimax: Fitting into your pre-pregnancy jeans a few weeks after delivery, only to have them puked on three minutes later.
  • Social life: Be grateful you have the latter word. ‘Nuff said.
  • Auto pilot: Discovering yourself swaying side to side long after the baby was put down.
  • Freedom: One whole hour of your body being your own. 60 entire minutes. That’s 3600 seconds of alone time. What Marquez meant when he wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • Sleep: Word not found. Stop making up lingo.
  • Parenting: An extreme sport designed to challenge every ligament in your body and synapse in your brain. Not for the faint of heart, this lethal activity will put you through the shredder and your entrails will emerge smiling.
  • Spouse: Trusted general of your tag team. Your partner in tasks of increasing difficulty. The one who has your back and frequently rubs it too. Future old age home roommate if you mess up this gig.
  • Luxury: A hot shower. Water! Soap! And preferably no one else in the bathroom.
  • Love: An abysmally inadequate word to describe the tidal wave of tenderness, fierceness, punch-me-breathless-with-mineness, indescribable biologically engineered response that comes with the territory. Universally unique. Uniquely universal. Blabber blabber. Gufhndslsladpoo.
  • Romance: Having a free hand to hold your hubby’s.
  • Spatial intelligence: The higher ability to know your boob from your face. I’ll get there. Someday.
  • Pain: You think you know all about that from going through labor. And then you watch your child being punctured by needles.
  • Blessing: Lying in bed at night, parked between a snorer and a tooter, congratulating yourself on landing two gorgeous men.
  • Insanity: Loving every bit of this existence and not wanting it to change a jot. (Wait…could the poop be less ummm…poopy?)
  • Sleep: Persistent little gnat, aren’t you? Come back in 20 years, I’ll have an answer for you.
  • The Business of Fish

    16 Jan

    This piece first appeared in the December 2014 issue of India Currents magazine. I’d love to hear your childhood food memories! Share? :)

    ~

    Among my earliest childhood memories is a shot of thrill up my spine on hearing a certain raspy, faraway voice calling “Paaplet! Kolmi! Bombil-waleeeaaay!”

    That was Moti, our family fisherwoman for three generations, hawking the just-caught contents of her woven basket to a lane of Parsis willing to pay top rupee for their palates. Much hubbub would follow, as someone, typically a domestic or child tall enough to reach the window, was sent to wave her down. “Yete!” she’d screech, with all the decorum of a hurricane ripping through an island, and begin her ascent to our top-floor home, green glass bangles and thumping gait announcing her presence long before she huffingly-pufflingly made it.

    Moti smelled of scales and salt and the sea, odors I came to associate with happiness. In a Parsi child’s life, especially one stereotypically expected to manage her own kitchen in adulthood, an education in fish is vital. The lessons of laal pani versus safed pani, and using your finger to scoop under the gills to check for freshness are Fish Purchasing 101 tips. The nose is your savviest instrument, and one as undiscerning as mine is a serious liability. Then there is a banquet of bliss to choose from—all those varieties of fresh and saltwater fish, seasonal and available the whole year through—bangra (mackerel) and raawas (salmon), boi (mullet marine) and boomla (bombay duck), and the thrill of discovering bonus gharab (roe) in one of your chosen future meals.

    It is a messy business, the selection of fish. Not for those who aren’t accustomed to ooze and blood and scales. Its parts callously lopped into diagonal chunks, its silver-grey body glistening enticingly, a pre-purchase fish is a thing of beauty. It is here that I realize the staggering power of social conditioning, for a joyous childhood ritual that entails a dead creature’s guts can only be that.  Or perhaps it is a lesson in focusing on the end result: the perfect, well-seasoned accompaniment to a meal of dhandar. H.e.a.v.e.n.

    A trusting rapport with your machhiwali is expected to be one of life’s most enduring relationships. And when she moves on to a better place, where crispy-fried boomlas (I’ve mentioned them three times already in 300 words, can you tell they’re a favorite?) are dished hot and fresh by harp-strumming cherubs, you know better than to mess with the line of succession—her daughter or niece will become your supplier. Our Lady of Piscine Perfection is now Moti’s niece Tanuja, who has discarded the colorful nauvaris of her Koli roots and the ginormous beaded nath of Moti’s era, but thankfully, none of the accent or the mannerisms that we almost expect of our fisherwomen.

    It is a centuries-old communication, this unique and frequently amusing haggling between housecoat-clad Gujarati speakers and the shrill and shrewd sellers of fish. Odd words fly in Marathi, exclamations peak like stiff egg whites and many an eyebrow does a Prabhu Deva, with flung arms for company. Accusations of looting and starving little children are routinely hurled, as both parties bemoan a time when the catch was fresher, prices cheaper, and their respective communities were pretty much the only inhabitants of Bombay, apart from the Sahibs.

    The last time I was in Bombay, I partook of this ritual gladly. From carrying out round thaals (plates) to pile the carefully-selected purchase on, to washing each piece carefully under running water, scrubbing the scales and poking fingers into icky crevices, anointing each piece with flour and salt, rubbing the mixture in, letting it sit 10 minutes, and then washing everything one more time, I was never more closely connected to my bloodline. It came to me easily, though it was the first time I had actually done it from beginning to end. I was a natural, I felt at ease. I had learned my lessons well from years of bearing witness.

    Here in America, the process is supremely sanitized. Cleaned, deboned and ready to cook, artfully-arranged slices are put on display, eliminating consumer participation in so many crucial steps of the acquisition process. It reminds me of a time when a friend confessed she hated having a C-Section. “I feel cheated of a natural birth,” she had said, “I know I should be grateful for a healthy delivery, but I can’t help feeling duped.” Oddly enough, this is exactly how I feel walking into my neighborhood Safeway or Chinese supermarket—clinical, disconnected, disappointingly sterile.

    I can imagine how hard this must be for vegetarians to comprehend. They are as much products of their socialization as I am of mine, but the human relationship to food is an intimate one, and in a gourmand community like mine, it includes passion, devotion, and obsession. Having incorporated so many elements not quite our own on the long road from religious refugees to a privileged, respected, and still relatively unknown minority, our cuisine and its methods are understandably something we Parsis are immensely proud of. (So if you have considered offering a thoughtless suggestion like “Why don’t you turn vegetarian?” please know we’re already debating how much spice to marinate your brain in for those breakfast cutlets tomorrow.)

    From what I’ve learned in my score and 15 years on god’s bounteous earth, it is that life has a way of presenting precisely what you fight. So a fishless future isn’t the worst fate that can befall me.  (I’m so glad you can’t see my dilated pupils and crossed fingers right now.) But I also know that I am the honored carrier of the DNA of a long line of fin fans, and this—both the process and the end result— is one of my life’s joys.

    For Unto Us A Child Is Born

    25 Dec

    …Unto us a Son is given

    ~Isaiah 9:6-7

    Nope, not referring to Jesus.

    Tunneling through me in record time in a determined bid to flag off the holiday season, our wee Liebling made his entrance into the world last month. Specifically, into a room full of cheering nurses, an ecstatic daddy, a relieved doula,  and our darling gynecologist, who I am convinced is the planet’s most amazing doctor.

    it's a boy

    Was I in the room too? I suppose so. But somewhere halfway through that first wail, as he was lifted out of my body and I lay back relieved and thankful for not pooping after all, I suspect I ceased to exist in the way I had for 36 years. Without moving a muscle, my sense of self took a quiet step back, and I watched my heart float outside of me and lodge itself firmly into that tiny, wriggling body. This feeling, it isn’t love. It’s unadulterated biology. And us, we’re the mere puppets of a flipped switch.

    I’d have burst into song, had I the energy and wherewithal after an intense labor sans pain medication, but this played in my head instead, and since I’m doing such a botched-up job of this birth announcement, I’m going to rely on good old Disney to convey my emotions:

    Over the past month, I’ve been high on happy-making hormones. (Clearly, birthing a human does nothing to change pre-existing alliteration allergies.) Except for the day he turned a week old and I wept that he’d head off to college soon and leave us. Apparently, there are parents who stand outside their kids’ dorm windows and secretly follow them on their honeymoon and I don’t know why you’re looking at me that way, I’m only educating you about the world, really. I’d just watch over him from a safe distance. Of 3 inches.

    In other news, these lines will never mean the same thing again:

    • Our father in heaven (He’s been turning cartwheels between burping sessions.)
    • Blood on the dance floor (Before the poop came the goop. Bleedin’ bucketloads of it.)
    • Ice ice baby (The nicest present the Boy has ever given me is a handmade icepack on our wedding anniversary, three days later. Heaven, heaven!!)

     

    So there we have it. Seven years since the day we met and knew this was to be, we’ve been married four, moved continents, made a home and a life together in a gorgeous corner of the world, and created a person we hope will share our love of bacon and potty jokes. (What? Everybody has their dreams!)

    Now excuse me while I take off to get my fix of milk-and-skin-and-mewling-and-spit-up. We hope you’ll wish us well and pardon erratic blogging behavior. There’s a little babe-on-a-nose that needs all our besottedness.

    Merry Christmas! Joy to the world! Earth today rejoices!

    Reheat, Serve

    30 Oct

    This past month, I’ve been revisiting definitions of home. Specifically, how my notion of the word itself has changed, from an intensely familiar brick-and-mortar space bearing my history and tales of generations of family, to new lands: both geographical and synaptical, and finally to the person I come home to roost with each day. It’s a fascinating concept, this little word, but I have no bandwidth to say anything new about it presently. So here’s another reheated (read previously-published) piece from India Currents magazine about home, histories, and belonging. What do you think of when you think of home?

    ~

    Three Fates

    We sit at a table crowded with spiced, steaming tea cups, a study in diversity. One whose bronzed, gleaming skin carries tales of her ocean-framed ancestors. Another, pale, fair, with whispers of ancient Persia in her veins, and the third, of the same people, her bloodline mapping the landscape of two great nations.

    Between us, live roots and displacement. Among us, rock movements and plane rides and boat journeys from 1200 years ago. We are of people who have shifted. Whose sensibilities and histories have shifted. People who once belonged, then belonged again, spun in cycles of precarious identity. Ripped from their homeland by threat, under duress and desire to build a life beyond living.

    Around this table covered in cheap formica we sit, the Buddhist from Colombo, the Parsis from Karachi and Bombay, who have known other lands as rank strangers, then intimately, as a secret shared on a one night stand. We congregate our beings around disposable cups of chai and unleash our stories.

    Time, it melts away. We jump off a cliff in the 10th century, swing past invasions, conversions, and long bloody, migrations, crash land into civil war and hurried overnight departures, past the smell of burning flesh and singed spirits, yank and sow roots stripped to rawness, touchdown in subcontinental cities where lineage marched to a temporary tune, then continent-hop over to Africa, to North America, the luckiest among us belonging only to two places,  now gathered here in these cities around the Bay, where a microclimate, a microculture, a microuniverse of one can safely exist.

    Turning around in unison, we nod to our waiting ancestors. It’s alright, we say, you survived, and then revert to the vapors rising out of our drinks, to punctuate our sagas with a period.

    Through the hollows of their eyes, Fate stands silently by, eraser in hand, knowing her day will come again.

     

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