Archive | April, 2012

Paris Amour

30 Apr

The first time I met Ceej at a common friend’s party, he poured wine over my pizza, all the while yammering in a French accent, leaving me in splits. And no, neither of us was the least bit drunk. (In fact, I’ve never been drunk, but don’t let this declaration distract you.) Over the years, it became our funny routine–him spouting English in a French accent, me cracking up every single time. In Bombay, in Goa, in Stratford-upon-Avon, and London. And now, we were meeting in Paris, where the accent could come home to roost.

It was he who knocked on the door and received a bear hug from me. We were in Paris in the springtime–with a weekend to live it up!

Come walk/sail/ride with us through the city of amour:

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[Credits: OJ and her Olympus E-PL2 DSLR. And the stunning capital of France.]

But would I bore you by droning on about the touristy usuals: gawking at the Tour Eiffel, hopping on and off the Batobus, elbowing Chanel-crazed Chinese tourists at the Galleries Lafayette, whispering up at the Rose windows of the Notre Dame, taking in views of Paris from Sacre Coeur, downing one too many nutella crepes, cruising the Seine, nibbling at escargot and pain au chocolat, pinching oneself in disbelief at the Louvre, traipsing down the Champs Elysees?

Excitement of another kind lies in a political rally, a mere dozen days away from national elections, where a tourist from California was swept up in a frenzied crowd chanting “Nicola! Nicola!” and waving the colors we know as the Juliette Binoche movie trilogy. The mob hustled, the roar grew louder, the police were on high alert, children were passed from shoulder to shoulder, and little old ladies strained to wave to the President, who, having finished an impassioned speech, drove away in a massive convoy. Couple that with the Paris marathon and I’d call it a pretty eventful weekend. Even if we missed the Moulin Rouge thanks to a strep infection.

Ceej and I parted ways, he to Geneva, me to London, and we knew we’d meet in another country, another city, but he knew, and now I do too, that there is none like Paris in springtime.

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Some OJ While You Wait?

28 Apr

While you await the next installment of the Paris trip, here is a little something to divert your attention from the fact that I’ve been all over the place and unable to update the blog.

The founder of InterNations, a global community of expats, asked to feature Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas as a recommended San Francisco expat blog. I just liked the way it sounded.

Here’s my interview on their website, large nose and all.

Be good. I’ll be back.

 

Come Meet Me in Gay Pah-ree

23 Apr

The trip to Paris began with a blunder. On arriving at Ebbsfleet to board the Eurostar to the city of luhhhve, the puzzled stationmaster shook his head and said ¨But this train left at 5.58 in the morning!¨ So much for a darn 24 hour clock.

A 100 pounds poorer (how I would love to substitute the word ´poorer´for ´lighter´. Don´t let me distract you now. Carry on.) but not to be vanquished, I was on the next train to St. Pancras, the station from which subsequent trains would leave. Fresh ticket issued and a sandwich consumed out of sheer boredom, (missed trains clearly aren´t excitement enough), I awaited the boarding announcement by counting men in pink shirts. Having been exposed to only Yanks in my youth, apart from our very own desi boys, European men are a subject of fascination for me. They´re…well, so….different. And they wear pink. Yes, I´m very descriptive that way.

Cut to me on the train, chugging along the Chunnel, admiring yet another pink-clad person, and reading this interesting collection of narratives. Gare Du Nord station arrived soon enough, and there I went, hopping off the train, into a taxi and zooming along the streets of Paris, who welcomed me with light and Louvre and a tilt of the head that sighed Óne more admirer´. Oh these stunning cities. How hard it must be to be them.

¨I´m here already,¨ he had said over the phone, and I went up to the hotel room. No, scratch that. I´ve seen seashells that are larger. As I sorted my things and readied to end my 36-hour, multiple time zone day, there was a knock on the door. There he was, smiling broadly, and I hugged him in excitement and relief.

(To be continued…)

Tea in San Francisco, Lunch in London, Supper in Paris

18 Apr

I simply had to put that title down for posterity (or until WordPress decides to pack up, anyway) because who knows when it will happen again. Because it sounds cool. Because this jet-setting life is always somebody else’s. Because my work trips have involved bussing to the zoo on good days and a dash to the kiddie bathroom on not-so-awesome ones. So yes, I wrapped up my last day of work at 8 pm on a Friday, sent out one more email on Saturday (because I’m obsessive that way), whittled the weekend away and, come Monday, let out a long screech of pre-packing/shopping/getting-shit-together panic.

Never mind. The title should tell you I made it. Here’s how:

After saying goodbye to the Boy like I was sinking with the Titanic, I made it to the bonsai buckets they call plane seats these days. Now granted, I’m chubby, but my legs can’t have grown longer in the past year, no? Virgin Atlantic, it’s a pity real life isn’t Twitter, else you’d have a big #FAIL from me on that front. Nine and a half uncomfortable hours later, that included a stewardess’ generous hips near-smashing my shoulder (No, you cannot ask “How do these things happen to you?” I don’t know.) our plane swooped down onto Heathrow tarmac and my heart took flight.

Ever since my last visit almost two years ago, the Boy has had to put up with a daily buzz in his brain that whines “I want to go to London” in a loop—in my voice. Sometimes people have such problems.  Anyhoo, he now reports it missing and I think I detected relief over the telephone line.

Eynsford greeted me with a pretty curtsy. You look as charming as ever, I said, and the sun shone in agreement. Bags dropped off, my uncle, aunt and I were off to the neighboring village of Otford for lunch.  (For matters of comparison, and between you and me only, Otford is the pretty sister, while Eynsford is eye-poppingly gorgeous, and I’m sure many childhood complexes still fester ‘tween the two.)

Fish pie at The Bull and poking around in the antiques shop happened in quick succession, and it was home again, home again, jiggetty jig, for I had a train to catch. Mere mortals fly 10 hours and whine about jet lag. People in orange pyjamas go the extra mile and channel, and cross over into neighboring countries. In an episode of OJ meets Eurostar and emerges triumphant, my journey to Paris began.

Coming up next: Paris and its pretty boys.

Stay tuned.

Here Goes Nothing

11 Apr

So I have this friend. Who, being staid and risk-averse and most things Good Indian Girl, went from degree to higher degree, job to better job to business to management position, through life and across continents, not missing a beat. Sometimes, she worked two jobs at once. At others, she ran two businesses and found time to volunteer and consult. This was the way it was meant to be, and she plodded on safely, her life busy and full.

All was well until, one day, something began to tug at her. Take another path, It whispered, poking her side until she noticed. But being who she was, she ignored the Voice and went right back to doing what she did. The Voice waited, then reappeared. How about we think differently for a bit, it asked, standing next to her and making her jump. You again, she said, and eyed it suspiciously. What if, what if, what if, it began chanting, bouncing up and down like a 6-year-old on one too many sugar pops. Go ‘way, she grunted and turned her back, you’re irrational and I don’t succumb to mere feeling.

So the Voice, now visibly chubbier, took up a post at a corner and picketed silently. Each time she’d stride past, her hands and mind full of Things To Do Next, it would grin cheerfully and raise a placard. Coward, it said once. Quit your job and assess your options, it ventured another time. My friend battled each suggestion with admirable logic. Took her adversary by the horns and pumped a powerful dose of reality into its veins. I’ve never been one of those flighty people, she said with pride, and her life’s work bore testament to her claim.

But she wasn’t prepared for what came next. The Voice was joined by a comrade. Then, another one. Then one more, until solitary sentences burgeoned into a choral cacophony, beseeching her to peep out of her walled courtyard and listen. My friend turned to her spouse. He was her sounding board and her voice of reason. He would validate her beliefs. Do it, he said, quicker than a heartbeat. This is your time. And with that, her resolve began to falter. If I leap, will the net appear, she worried, flipping the idea in her head over and over, like a cerebral version of the mushroom turnovers you find at Trader Joe’s. What is my path, she wondered another time, and agonized over being indecisive. It will come to you, said her confident spouse, and she wondered if she should believe him.

And so it went on, in shuffling, halting steps, until she bit the bullet and turned in her notice. The gasps at work could be heard echoing across the Palo Alto foothills, and she berated herself for being the Fool Without a Plan. Less than a year ago, she had been lucky enough to snap up a job in barely any time, in an economy that still showed signs of struggle. Yet here she was, tossing away sense and stability. Enough already, she told herself. It’s done, so suck it up and look ahead. And, in her usual optimism, she began to open her heart, ferret around for possible desires, and put together a Plan.

First, there would be travel. To places old and new. A visit Home, some exploration of new lands, and the soaking up of experiences would kick-start her journey. Several weeks later, she would return to the homestead, poorer but wiser, and consider next steps. Some volunteering, perhaps. A little writing, maybe. The Plan allowed for loose, fluid boundaries, and she would go where a path appeared. And if all the ambiguity ended up driving her batty, she would shoot the Voices with her secret weapon and skip straight back onto the narrow again. And that reassured her considerably.
***
How did you guess this was not about my friend? You, gentle reader, never fail to impress me. Wish me luck and safe travels, won’t you, as I embark upon a trajectory of unknowns, still somewhat questioning my mental equilibrium and newfound “taking time off to travel” American-ness. I board a flight tomorrow. The first of various modes of transport that will have me in 3 continents and 5 countries just this month. I take with me a quivering heart, a buzzing brain and a sore back that will miss the darling bed the Boy and I adore. And no, he will not be with me (that’s alright, I’m not panicking or anything, that lump in my throat is just phlegm). This journey is mine alone. If he joins me later, I will graze my knees on the ground with gratitude, but for now, I’ll have to reacquaint myself with OJ and hope she is satisfactory company. Will you come along for the ride?

 

How To Love A Boy With Autism

4 Apr

He gets off the bus, takes my proffered hand, then half-hops, half-skips in a straaaaaight line to the entrance. Patiently, he waits for the mechanized door to close, then presses the handicap access button that swings it open again. Still skipping, he makes it over the threshold and fixates on the lines on the floor. Several moments and some coaxing later, we go jump-jump-jumping into the classroom, where he puts his name on the paper school bus, to triumphantly announce his arrival. Exhausted by the effort, he looks up at me, his slanting eyes reflecting the sweetest smile, and I can’t help but strongly feel I was meant to love him.

Little C is 5 years old, a sturdy fellow with poker straight hair, slits for eyes and the occasional sudden laugh. He vocalizes in echoes, has inexplicable meltdowns, loves the security of straps and boundaries, and lives in his own world of strained communication and minimal social interaction.  C, who has only ever kissed two people—his mother and me—has an autism spectrum disorder.

We started off in a loop of unknowns, him and I, both newbies in a pre-kindergarten classroom. Quickly, his position escalated to Most Difficult Child, given his tendency to flop on the floor and resist efforts to remove him from inconvenient spots. That he radiated joy and was at peace with himself even amidst the anxiety that is typical of being on the Spectrum was overlooked by those keen to help him-fix him-pour him into a preset mould. I chose to be his one-on-one person every time I was in the classroom.

And there have been interesting times. Frequent battles of wills, the need to be hugged, chortles when tickled, tears for no apparent reason, grabbing my hand to be let out of his seat, and sometimes just to sit with me, my boy and I, we’ve come a long way. He still chooses to skip in the back of the class during Circle Time. Just this afternoon, I tried to get him to chase me and he looked the other way. But there is trust. And that incident, one afternoon, when he climbed onto my lap, drew his face to my cheek and pushed his puckered mouth against it, in a special Little C version of a kiss, followed by a wide grin on his part and stunned immobility on mine.

I must’ve been your mother in another lifetime, I tell him telepathically, not really expecting the message to get anywhere. But with that logic, I will have birthed dozens of children, my hoo-ha busier than the Suez Canal, because that storyline plays in my head absurdly often. Still, the feeling persists, and I brush it aside for more tangible things—like giving him his chewy toy and putting on his pressure vest.

“Squeezes!” I say, before hugging him tight, and he enjoys the sensory input before going all 5-year-old-boy on me and squirming away. I will be with Little C only one more time, before our paths diverge and we walk away. Correction: I will walk. Little C, my ray of sunshine, will skip-hop, skip-hop, to the beat in his own head, in a way he and he alone can. And I will collect one more stake in a heart that is littered with half a lifetime of such memories.