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Turning 10: 2006–2016

26 Jan

Truesday Tales is on break this week, for the following reason:

I’m trying to remember whether there was snow on the ground that day. I know it was bitingly cold, the sky was a glorious winter blue, the sun shone like a superstar who couldn’t acknowledge his best days were behind him, and my biggest concern was fitting all my precious shoes into two suitcases as I readied to begin a new chapter in the country of my birth.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I casually wrote a post called Shoes Blues. I even uploaded a picture, because that’s what you were supposed to do, nobody only read words. All of two people looked at the post, not counting myself. Who knew what this whole blogging thing was, anyway? It was January 26, 2006, and life was about to change big time. Only, I didn’t know back then that it was the blog that would propel the biggest changes of all and remain my steadiest constant over the next decade. A page I goofily christened Wisdom Wears Neon Pajamas, after the bright orange Eddie Bauer pjs I happened to be wearing that very minute. Yes, imagination has always been my strong suit.

It would be interesting to look back at my journey since: the amazing highs, the stressors only a twenty-something can handle without turning grey, the lessons that chiseled away at me, the teachers, nasty and kind. But I’m on a tight clock with a wakeful baby and don’t want to sound like a granny reliving her heyday. I’m a steady sort, a creature of habit. I’ve had the same bestie for 21 years. Ditto favorite authors and hairstyle. I like my coffee exactly the same each morning, and only the Boy’s surprises aren’t stressful for me. So it’s not really a whoa moment for me that this blogaroo baby has lasted a decade, because it’s been such fun! Really, such fun. It married words and community and fresh ideas from some terribly sparkling minds. And gifted me friendships. A solid, warm, sustaining sisterhood. So much gratitude to the universe for it all!

This blog isn’t going to last another decade. I have my doubts about the end of the year. But that’s okay, because everything has its time, and other platforms were bound to shunt out this early form of self-expression. So pardon me if, between the books I race to catch up on and the simmering something on the stove (hey, can’t have a birthday post without an alliteration!) and Herr Toddlemeister’s shenanigans, we don’t exactly party here anymore. But thanks for all the fish. For reading, chiming in, telling me that you exist. For seeing the heart on my sleeve and treating it gently. Funnily enough, only a clutch of folks in my offline life know that I have a blog, and that’s exactly how we’re going to keep it, you and I. 😉

To 10! It’s been a whopper of a journey. See you next week for Truesday Tales?

Bear hugs and neon confetti,

Still in Pyjamas

 

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What A Difference A Year Makes

24 Nov

A year. It’s been a whole 365 days since this happened and I played a cheesy Disney song to announce it.  Clearly, I’m not going easy on the cheese anytime soon, for here’s a letter I wrote my baby today, on his 1st birthday, as I watched him sleep and plotted how to sneak in a few kisses while he couldn’t protest. Thanks for being patient with my absence from this blog and coming along on this journey with me. Things will be more regular around here, fingers crossed, because we have a new series starting on the blog next week!

~

My precious pumpkin, Daddy’s titto tapeto, our babyjaan,
Today is a day I did not dream of. Blame it on your Mummy’s limited imagination. I couldn’t look past my pregnancy beyond the point of your birth. I knew the months that followed would be a whirl, a blur, and require all my resources, so your first birthday wasn’t something I actively thought about. Yet, here we are. And I’m short one infant and tall on a trailblazing toddler.

I have frequently wondered after having you why people (and parents in particular) focus so heavily on the hardest bits of those early months. They go on about sleep deprivation and 360 degree life changes. Nobody actively comes up to you and simply says this:
It will be more wonderful than you ever imagined.

And it has been. It is.
Except for 3 hellish days in the hospital at 9 weeks old, when you smiled at us through a haze of 103 degree fever, every day has been pure joy, every moment a blessing, every smelly diaper as fragrant as Kate Spade’s latest perfume. Okay, I kid about that last one.

From beaming megawatt smiles starting at 6 weeks to calling out to passersby in the park to charming a planeload of passengers, people are your thing. In your universe, there are no strangers, only babies and big people waiting for the immense privilege of showering Your Royal Divaness with attention. First-born much? To steal a line from Plath, you endow the sun with gold, our gleaming California raisin.

Before you arrived, I was convinced you would be your own person, with independent attributes and characteristics. So it came as a surprise (and a burgeoning sense of alarm) to see you were so like me. Not just the shape of my eyes and my poker straight hair and large flat feet, you have a giant dose of your mother’s rather… umm, wilful, voluble personality, and poor Daddy doesn’t know what hit him. Two fire signs in the house are a shade too much roaring for your patient, gentle father, the love of your life and clearly your preferred parent.

I am your dal chawal, your constant, your everyday. You can’t miss someone who won’t go away. But Daddy, he’s your tandoori chicken, the cherry atop the icing atop the butter sponge cake, and my gladdest, most contented moments this past year have been watching the two of you together, mock-wrestling, giggling, grabbing hair and collars and using Daddy’s ears as handles while perched on his shoulders.

You complete us in ways we never thought possible. Physically, Daddy and I are ready to retire and nap for 7 years. As late 30s parents, the relentless exhaustion of it all has taken a toll, to be honest. But we wouldn’t have had you at any other time. Because it is now that we are mature enough to enjoy you without sweating the small stuff, stable enough to be a team and provide well for you, and old enough to know what matters to us without getting into skirmishes with other parents on their opinions and preferences.

With the exception of your refusal to sleep through the night consistently, you’ve been an easy baby, doling out radiant smiles to everything in your path, staying on a schedule like a clockwork mouse, adjusting your own meal and nap times as you grew, and amusing yourself while I tended to chores. You are secure in the knowledge that you can roam free, Mummy is a mere grunt away at any given time, and I love how you look back to check for approval for just half a tick before you hurl yourself into new discoveries or at an unsuspecting person not used to your friendliness.

And this is what I wish for you today, my solitary-candled babe: Fly into this world that so fascinates you, fling your arms around it, I will ardently wish for it to love you back. And when you need the comfort of home, my sweet child, your dal chawal will always be waiting.

Happy birthday, mein Liebling. Mummy’s got the whole world in her hands. ❤

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!

A Month of Milestones

15 Jul

I’ve been terribly remiss about blogging (as is apparent, how clever of me to point it out!) and am going to blame it squarely on eustress: good stress caused by positive life changes, in this case a new job, a visit from family, travel, several celebrations, and the contradictory urge to romance my couch and see no one but my Boy.
With that long-winded excuse out of the way, let’s collectively acknowledge some fun milestones in this, the best of months:

  • July 1: A bloggy birthday! Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas turned 6 and I did nothing but blow my blog a kiss. Finally, I understand all those couples who have to halt a moment and calculate how many years they’ve been married. The ones whose limbs are extensions of each other and those who think in twos. Not-so-Little Blogette and I, we’re at that comfortable juncture. I love her like an old shoe. She knows I’ll be back. I’ve been coming back for 8 and a half years. But in the meanwhile, there are sparkly heels to be tried. Oh, and speaking of heels…..
You likey?

You likey?

  • July 7: On this day in 1994, a girl tapped my shoulder as I sat on a class bench in front of her. “Excuse me, are you OJ?” she asked. “No, I’m Janice!” I replied huffily, knowing full well that she knew my name. What didn’t penetrate my thick skull was that she was trying to start a conversation. A lesser mortal would’ve run for the hills. She, she came back, and for the last 20 years has been my dearest friend, soul sister, and rock of Gibraltar (no connection to the one I couldn’t visit!) Her name means “Jewel of the World” and my lord, how she has shone me through my darkest hours. We now know why we weren’t given sisters: having each other, a birth sister would be a mere appendage.
  • July 9: Daddy blew out a ring of candles on a cake brought by SOMEBODY ELSE. HMPH. That’s right, snatch cake-sending rights away from your first-born now. That dethroned monarch business just never ends. But my Daddy, he had a birthday, and oh how the world is wealthier because his goodness dwells in it! (Still throwing that corner tantrum, though. )
  • July 25: SO excited about this upcoming birthday, not only because hell-0, it’s a BIRTHDAY, what’s not to be excited about, but also because it is another important milestone. Champagne and cake all around! Would it be terribly inappropriate to wear a huge party hat, get one of those tooter horns and be my very own one-woman parade? No?! See, this is why I love you guys. :mrgreen:
Here, make do with the cake our SIL baked on July 4

Here, make do with the cake our SIL baked on July 4th

~

In Other News…
When the Boy’s brother got married last year, I heard a strange word for the first time: “co-sister”. Apparently, in the south of India, this term denotes women married to brothers. Being a similar combination of un-Southern and irreverent, my sister-in-law (the one of cake fame above) and I cracked up over the term, came up with instagram hashtags for it, invented a co-sister ghetto sign, and even harmonized “Hey sister, co-sister” (Lady Marmalade). Can you tell I love her? Will I be forever banned from kanjeevarams and mallige for this? *beats chest at the thought of no more bisibele bhaath in her life and eyes some Angus divinity in its place*

~
My 18-month-old niece called me this morning. She is currently visiting family in Texas, saw her mother’s phone lying around, found my contact on it, dialed, and chirped “Hi OJ Mami!” When my uterus finally un-puddles itself from the floor, I can’t wait to watch her in mid-toddlerhood-almost-preteen action.

~
We’ve been taking visiting friends and family to this Gujarati thali place that serves the most amazing shrikhand and khichdi, among other delicacies, but I won’t be going back for a bit, because the last time I had 5 helpings of khichdi and they started looking at me funny and avoiding my gaze and I’m mortified that I might have eaten them out of business. This redness of face isn’t rosacea, my friends, it’s ignominy.

How do you solve a problem like more khichdi?

How do you turn a seventh helping down?

How do you walk away from yummy khichdeeeeeeee?

Ignore the glutton, she’s just being a clown.

 

~
Swimming: I’ve been the resident hippo lately, breast-stroking gently through cool, turquoise waters on these warm summer days while our American neighbors wear toddler-sized swimwear, chug beers, burn themselves to a crisp, toss their hair and pose, and do everything but swim. Most puzzling, this behavior.

~
Books: Sindh: Stories From a Vanished Homeland, by Saaz Aggarwal, and To Marry An English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD Wallace. Both recommended for history buffs, albeit very different eras and geographies.

~
Heard in the OJ-Boy home:
Me: I think I’m getting food-averse. I don’t think I’m so interested in it anymore.
The Boy: Good. Now we can buy a house next year.

How large can I make the font for HMPH??? 😡

Adios, my friends, pardon my future busybeeness, although I will put up a recently-published article before the month is out and would love to hear your thoughts!

Little Life, Giant Joys

5 Jun

Early last year, I began volunteering for a local nonprofit that supports literacy for visually impaired children in developing countries. This is where I was introduced to Sudha. Whip-smart, thoughtful, and uncannily perceptive, Sudha had arrived in the United States from India in 1998. She worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley (surprise, surprise!) until an event occurred that changed her life. Sudha began to lose her sight. The decline was steady and unstoppable, and soon, she could only perceive light and shade, and hazy shapes. Her condition compelled her to quit her profession and I can only imagine how challenging things must have been for the young family.

She took refuge in her immense faith in Sai Baba and spent her days supported and loved by her spouse, daughter, and giant circle of Baba devotees who popped in and out of her home all day to check on her, sing bhajans of praise, and volunteer for worthy causes. A magnet who was never short of goodwill or company, Sudha attracted well-wishers to her by the force of her optimism, faith, and incredible ability to deeply listen to words and the sentiments behind them.

In the course of our work together, we brainstormed, strategized, chatted, laughed and swapped unique cultural nuggets in the manner of people from very different backgrounds. I’d drive her to events, subjecting her to ‘80s American music that must be anathema to someone with a Carnatic vocal background. She’d laugh at my ardent meat-eating ways. I would rant about how most Indians simply don’t consider non-religious charity a part of citizenship. We would talk long and deep about karma, life purpose, and what drove us to believe in an underserved cause. A beautiful singer, she frequently lent her voice and heart to fundraisers for our nonprofit, singing devotional songs that made the audience choke with emotion. I, who didn’t know what a Hari Katha was before we met, was stunned at the energy she generated across the auditorium—not just through her vocal chords, but from a deeper, divine place.

In the later months of last year, I saw much less of her, engaged as I was with family weddings, visits, and travel. This past February, Sudha went to India for eye surgery and treatment, in the hope of improving her condition. The last few months have been a whirl of the everyday, and we weren’t in frequent touch. Until she called 2 days ago. Patiently, she heard all my news, getting excited over the small measure of positive updates I had to share. Finally, when asked how she was, she stated without fanfare–in typical Sudha style—that her surgery had been successful, and she could see her own hand!

Between my exclamations of delight and tears of gratitude and her quiet joy at this restored gift, she asked to see me—for the very first time.
“I want to see you, your face,” she said.
“There’s a lot to see!” I laughingly warned her.
And I haven’t stopped smiling since. We plan to meet next week, along with the wonderful colleague through whom we were lucky to be acquainted, and I can’t wait to celebrate this thrilling blessing that has me sniffling in gratitude and wonder and overall bleeding heart foolishness.

So each time you read about one more horrific rape, or yet another mass shooting, whether the California drought alarms you or the murder of innocents by right wing organizations makes your flesh crawl–or you’ve just had a decidedly crappy day and are perched high on your pity pot–think about Sudha and her miracle, and know that there is joy and justice on god’s good earth.

If you have a message for my friend and colleague, feel free to leave it in the comments space and I’m happy to relay it to her. Now hand me a tissue, will you? Unfortunately, through boon and bane, the consistency of snot remains exactly the same.

*deafening trumpet*

Aah. Much better.

Halve the Dozen

7 Dec

Me: I look like a potato.

The Boy: I look like a celery stick.

Me: Aww! Together, we make ….. a rather strange salad.

And, just like that, we turn six today. And your erstwhile blogger of dark thoughts is an annoying globule of mush. Blech.

 

Together

24 Jul

At the beginning of this month, I announced an unusual ‘giveaway’, where we were jointly involved in contributing and none of you knew who the recipient(s) would be. To my base pledge of $50, I would add $1 for every comment received on this post.

67 unique visitors to that post left their comment (one squeaking past the midnight deadline by 5 minutes 😉 ) and together, we raised $117. Sadly, 80% (yes, you read that right) of the unique visitors to that page chose not to share our enthusiasm, and I can only hope it was a logistical issue vs. one of attitude.

Why did I open this up to everyone when I could have quietly slipped my check in the mail, you ask? Why did I invite people from the blogosphere to share, knowing there would be some cynics, naysayers and indifferent folk? Put it down to a case of chronic optimism. Of knowing that it may be my money, but I need it to be OUR attitude. As much as I dislike being preachy and usually save my rather strong views on citizenship for other spaces, I know that alone, I am merely one person contributing to another’s life. Together, that effect multiplies manifold. You may not dash out with your checkbook or sign up to build stacks of sandwiches for the homeless just because of this small effort. You may already be doing things far greater than I will ever dream of. The money you may have raised for worthwhile causes will very likely have exceeded this humble amount we have gathered. But if I got you to think–for even a minute–about sharing yourself with the world, planted a seed about doing something similar or paying it forward in other ways, I’m going to bring out my giant feathered boa and do the chicken dance in circles. (No, I’m not ridiculous in the least, why do you ask?)

Our $117 will be pledged to Ummeed Child Development Center in Bombay, India. The stellar multidisciplinary team at Ummeed (consisting of physicians, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, mental health counselors, special educators, caseworkers, etc.) works to serve the needs of children with disabilities across all economic strata. Not only do they work with existing disabilities, they work toward early identification and remedial measures, since disability is a gradient. Nobody is turned away for their inability to pay, and a sliding scale based on income helps families give what they’re comfortable paying. Autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, mental retardation, emotional/behavioral concerns, attention deficit disorder, and occupational and speech disorders are among a wide range of disabilities they assess and assist. Inclusion is a goal, as they aim to integrate children of all abilities into the social mainstream. Ummeed serves the needs of thousands of families in my home city that have nowhere else to turn. Try this statistic for size: One therapist can comfortably manage a caseload of 35 clients. In the city of Bombay, a megapolis where levels of healthcare far exceed the rest of the country, there are 500 children with disabilities per available therapist. The need exists acutely, yet funding is hard to come by.

I have worked for Ummeed in the past. Some of my closest friends continue to serve there. Which is why I have an insider’s view of a truly wonderful organization that has, for the past 12 years, been the ‘ummeed’ (hope) of so many families.

Thank you for visiting my blog, for joining in, for inspiring me with your comments, and for being the vocal 20% that acted to make a difference.

Together is better. Together, we’re better. Give yourselves a round of applause. And now jump in for a group hug! 😀