Tag Archives: adventure

Spiritual Sundays

7 Apr

The Boy and I, by virtue of living in crunchy granola California, have turned increasingly spiritual and high-minded. Afloat on an ocean of good intentions and noblesse, we invite you to share this beautiful, light-radiant journey with us as we experience it each Sunday:

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Our first act of worship feeds the soul (and other assorted body parts). Gently-poached eggs rest calmly upon a pair of perfect crabcakes, drizzled with hollandaise and a smidgen of paprika. Completing the holy trinity is a side of herbed potatoes that can be best described as divine. The benediction virtually spills out of us and far in the distance, angels tune their harps.

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Consider it your fabulous fortune that you are about to be enlightened: Did you know Zoroastrians in India worship 3 grades of fire at 2 different kinds of fire temples? Agyaris, temples of the lesser fire, are places of worship where the fire consists of only 11 different varieties (from the homes of artisans, farmers, soldiers and civil servants, priests, etc.) Atash Behrams, temples of the greater fire, house a perenially-burning entity (as does an Agyari) that is the combination of 16 unique fires. Why am I sharing this today? Because the picture above is our version of an Agyari. Prostrating before Tiffany-blue platters and paying homage to lemon-print cushions, the Boy and I worship Our Lady of Immaculate Homesteads.

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Our next pilgrimage takes us to this vibrant green wood, a good indication of afterlife beauty. The hum of humanity falls away, and all at once, we are enveloped in A Great Calm. Here, we rest on this bench and ponder Questions of Significance. Like whether we should have ordered one pancake less that morning. Or whether almonds should be coated in dark chocolate or caramel. If our stomachs weren’t that loaded, we would feel our souls levitate.

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Turning our attention to more earthly pursuits, we gaze upon the wonder of this valley. Deer watch us from a distance, and so pious are we that not once do we discuss the venison cutlets at the Rendezvous in Pondicherry. Somewhere beyond those purple-hazed mountains lies an abbey that I would run into after trilling about hills and music and my heart wanting to sing every song it hears.

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At the entrance of our favorite forest, we take a moment to breathe. Heady from the oxygen-and-pine-needles high, we resemble whirling dervishes, spinning our sins away. Our veneration, friends, is about to get intense.

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The forest floor greets us, an emerald ocean of universal compassion, swathing us in its cool, unjudging love. It is the natural equivalent of the Hugging Amma, and we demonstrate obeisance by furiously capturing it for posterity. This is one deity that must grace our humble home.

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Presently, we chance upon a stream, and proceed to wash away our sins by wiggling toes and splashing each other’s sinful faces. Did you know we need to wash before we enter the inner sanctum of an Agyari or Atash Behram? For every cleanliness-obsessed Parsi, there are three rules on how to scrub behind the ears. Heaven seems just around the bend, as we are tempted to float on our backs and sail away to a parallel plane, where our spirit guides dole out personalized M&Ms in silvery gauze gift bags.

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But then, gentle reader, we chance upon this. And our wretched spirits soar to the tops of these cloud-cossetted trees, awed by this magical Land of Wishing Trees, and never mind the mixed Blyton references, have you ever seen a 5’9″ woman this dwarfed??? Even as our bodies shrink and our souls expand, we whisper gratitude into the ether and thank the universe for landing us plonk in the middle of this paradise.  Newly awash in this unique redwood incense, we turn homeward, blessed for being able to choose our definition of spirituality, and for this, the best of Sundays.

 

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Love All: A Tennis Tale

5 Jul

This is a little story. Not a giant news headline that will shatter any records. In a world buzzing with soundbites, it will be a mere unnoticed blip, but it is a story of adoration. Of respect and national pride. A story of people I have never met, but who succeeded in warming my heart with their affection and hope. And a story is nothing if it doesn’t give us that one elusive reason to believe. For that reason alone, this is a tale that needs to be shared. Spread its small sweetness to your friends.

*And if you haven’t left a comment on the 5th birthday post yet, it’s not too late!!! Go do it now. 1 comment = $1.*

~~~

Remember my uncle who lives in England? He is a doctor. Such an excellent physician is he, that he serves as the official doctor on call at Lord’s (yes, the cricket mecca) and Wimbledon. He was on a cruise near Norway last month, when word got out on the ship about his tennis affiliation and he received a rather interesting request. A few stewards and bartenders approached him hesitantly, clutching an envelope.

“What is it,” Uncle M asked, when one of the group mustered the nerve to offer him the missive.

“It’s a letter for our hero,” they said simply, “If you see him at Wimbledon, will you give it to him from us?”

That’s when Uncle M realized that all the men standing hopefully before him were Serbian. Their hero: countryman Novak Djokovic.

“Sure, I’ll give it to him,” smiled Uncle M, “But I can’t guarantee he’ll read it!”

Relief and smiles broke out among the band of men, who respectfully pressed my uncle to at least pass it on if he got a chance. They chattered excitedly among themselves, thrilled that their words of affection and praise had found a messenger.

Then, they waited.

“Anything else?” Uncle M smiled, tickled and moved.

Nobody bothered with a reply. Within seconds, mayhem had broken loose and every Serbian worker on board the ship had materialized on the deck to be part of a group picture. Men in crisp white uniforms and beaming smiles arranged themselves in rows amidst a hubbub, a camera was produced, and pride, hope and adoration clicked themselves into the photograph when that shutter did its job. Hurriedly, it was handed to my uncle and it was safely tucked away in his luggage along with the letter when he disembarked in England.

My uncle now has the task of delivering the wishes and hopes of Djokovic’s countrymen. It is anybody’s guess whether the Serb will rise to victory in Sunday’s final, but I get the distinct feeling that regardless of the outcome, something beautiful has already been won. And love, ironically derived from the French l’eouf (meaning egg), has a lot to do with it.

7 Years of Blogging: An Incredible Journey

26 Jan

Frosty beginnings

It was a wintry Boston day. The kind where the sky is azure, and the cold bites into your marrow decisively. Strewn around me were the material possessions collected over 5 years of living in the country, waiting to be crammed into two mid-sized suitcases and flown home with their owner.

“What is a blog,” I had asked him, and wondered if I could write one. The concept of readership didn’t cross my mind. Bored with the task at hand, I lined up my precious babies and took a picture. “Shoes Blues”, I labeled the post, and whined about whether they would all fit into my luggage and new existence.

I shut the browser, and shortly afterward, my bags, and watched as Logan airport dropped away.  I thought leaving America would change my life. The seed I had planted on the internet smirked at my naiveté and bided its time.

~~~

Germination

January 26, 2006, started a chain of events that I did not have the foresight or imagination to envisage. My quiet entrance into the world of personal blogs was encouraged by exactly two readers, the love of whom I will always be grateful for. Unexpectedly, the circle grew. Warm responses, delightful banter, and amusing comments from complete strangers ensued. My Yahoo! 360 circle of friends expanded into a co-ed dorm, where we all hung out, displaying our words and quirks in a manner so genuine and honest, it was impossible not to be touched.

Those first years were the most prolific. I blogged for the sheer joy of sculpting sentences, creating fiction, and recording life’s quirks. Quite simply, because I could. Mostly flippant even when I wrote from the heart, I took neither my writing nor its platform seriously (and still refuse to do so with the former). As I navigated the last years of my 20s, my little corner on the WWW became a repository of angst-ridden poetry, nuggets of fiction, and first date howlers. And looking back, how my connections sustained me! Aunty G, Manju, Mina, The Mad Momma, Sabiha, Dezann, Suzy Tay, Lonely Prince, Naoman, Sa’ad,  Rajashree, Shail, Summer, Mariah,  Anamika, Pallavi, Rajni, Anindita, Twisted DNA, Revathi, Amrita—bloggers, readers, compatriots all, their emails, comments and calls flew in from all over the globe, making me laugh with the race to comment first (FTC!! we’d shout), partake of their intriguing worlds, and thank the powers that be for this new dimension.

~~~

Born-again OJ

And yet, I took a break. Rather, was forced to by technical difficulties, as the 360 platform creaked to a painful end. Without their familiar home, the words went on vacation. (Okay, as did I—but they went first!)

Turns out it was only a quick trip around the corner, because six weeks later, this post went up, and I set about making this new home cozy and inviting. The neighborhood was more upscale and the living space plusher, but it lacked the casual, popping-in-and-out-to-ask-for-sugar atmosphere. But then you all arrived. So many quietly read and departed, making no announcement of their existence. (It’s still not too late, you know!) But some others, they said hello, and to them I am thankful. And to the odd troll who trawls through my posts, you do wonders for my hit rate.

~~~

Wired

Personally, my blogging journey has seen me through a long-term relationship, its gut-wrenching, soul-sapping end, the hilarity of the dating dance of my later 20s, my first meeting with the man you all know as the Boy, along with our courtship, engagement, and wedding, and seven years later, I stand before you as someone this busybee from Bombay least expected to morph into: a contented married woman in suburban California.

This virtual platform—not a jot less real than flesh and blood—watched me move continents (twice), re-embrace my city, only to see it receding yet again from an airplane 2 years ago. Through jobs and businesses, and changes in career and pace, Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas stood patiently on hand, as I force-fed it, ignored it, and worst of all, was indifferent to it, while life led me on a merry dance, and I, with my sixteen left feet, bumbled along.

I found myself eating gouda toasties and chattering with my mouth full (sorry, Nana!) to someone I met 7 minutes ago. I found myself finally putting into words the feminist ideas I witnessed growing up. I found myself published elsewhere, thanks to this unique calling card. I found myself face-to-face with the people behind monikers and pseudonyms to brainstorm how we could help 26/11 victims. I found myself refusing money to shove paid links down your throats. I found myself walking into a stranger’s home to check on her after reading just one heartbreaking post, and her wedding present to me affirmed my faith in my actions. I found myself on the receiving end of genuine affection. I found myself cheering on a queer woman I had never met in her struggle for acceptance. Truth be told, there were simply no strangers anymore. Blogging made me reach out, look within, and wear my heart on my sleeve. It brought me dear friends, some admirers (!), and enhanced my life in surprising ways, but the best gift of all was that it brought me home to me.

~~~

Did it really happen?

Make no mistake: I still write for myself. Very rare are the days when I give a thought to responses before hitting ‘publish’. But now I see blogging as something more than strung words, and would be foolish not to acknowledge the connections it has enriched me with.

To honor this gift, I invited 7 fellow travelers, all key to my online trail at some point, to share their thoughts on what this platform—and our connection— means to them. Over the next week and a half, these guest posts will appear exactly as they were sent to me, so you can witness how this phenomenon affected us all. The writers are human beings who amaze me, whose generosity with time and affection gives me hope for the world, and whose dexterity with the written word is a humbling experience. These are women of strength, of opinions and integrity, true citizens of this planet, and each one has warmed my spirit with her unique charm. I thank them for the pleasure of their company, along with the many unnamed others along the way, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear reader.

~~~

Kisses on the wind

This post would be incomplete without a shout-out to my most regular commenters:

Aunty G: You’re one in several billion, and your limericks make my day (and everybody else’s!)

Dipali: Big hug! It gladdens my heart that you’re somewhere out there.

Alice: I’m happy you find wonder in my land. (Couldn’t resist! :mrgreen: )

Sukanya: Being sincere and generous in equal parts with your compliments is a truly special gift and you have it.

R: In your comments, I see my younger self, and it’s great to relate. 🙂

~~~

Forward

Like all paths, this too shall end someday. Maybe it will be this year, or some years hence.  Regardless, in a life littered with unknowns, where pain and poetry blend, I am thrilled—and fortunate—and (insert your own word, I’m too busy mopping the weepies) that I went on this incredible journey of a lifetime.

Group hug, NOW!

Dragonworks

31 Dec

And so it is that we come to another end. Symbolic, obviously, for a shift occurred a while ago and the earth changed, and I with her.

2012 was all about peaks and troughs. Of extremes, learning, and deep realization. A momentous year, of change, insight, and revelation. Like a train changes tracks mid-route, but not quite as seamlessly, I halted, regrouped, and reassessed. Was aided in startling ways by unexpected travelers. I discovered who my very own jedi were, and who wished me harm. Other people became surprisingly irrelevant as I turned inward and focused on my own growth. In the finals weeks of these months of tailspin, more curtains parted than ever before, a path confirmed its existence, and the knowledge I bear became surer, firmer, and better defined.

Gifts abounded. Some were snatched away, others atrophied, yet others morphed into opportunities to burnish the self.This has been less a year and more a journey. And, just as a road has mile markers, today is merely one such in the hike I started longer ago than memory permits.

I leave it to an all-time great to tell you how I feel:

And since we’re on the subject, and not because I wish to boast, oh no no, not at all, listen to this:

Three days ago, I stood in my aunt’s inhumanly immaculate kitchen in San Diego as she flung a casual hand out and asked, “Who was that English singer? The one who died?”

“Cliff Richard? Engelbert?” I asked, trying to rifle through memory for singers from her time.

“No, the Parsi one,” she persisted, “He was quiet, and lanky, with buck teeth.”

“Wait…you mean Freddie Mercury?”

“Yes, that’s what he called himself later, isn’t it? I knew him as Farrokh. We used to play together in Panchgani, and he went to boarding school there.”

“You hung out with Freddie Mercury?”

“We were just 11!”

“YOU HUNG OUT WITH FREDDIE MERCURY??????”

“Look, here’s a picture.”

And so it was, that with a clap of thunder and a strangled scream, this gentle lady with whom I share our fathers’ bloodline, watched me yell for the Boy, disintegrate on her marbled floor, and call out “You knew Freddie Mercury!!!!” until the men in white coats arrived to haul me away.

Happy 2013, my friends.  Don’t stop me now. Much lies ahead.

A Week in Bullet Points

5 Nov
  • Our trip to the East Coast was fantastic. Everything we wished for and more. One of those rare periods of time when everything went off seamlessly, without a glitch, and we created stronger bonds and happier memories. No, I’m not gushing. This time was truly precious and we will always cherish it. For me, it was my best trip ever, to any place. And in the fray for that title were the surprise trip to Mussoorie to see Ruskin Bond and our pretty plush honeymoon in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.
  • It was also surreal. We walked around on campus, with me interspersing our contemplative silence with stories of “Here’s where we marched against the war in Iraq…” and “Here’s where we all lay down at 3 in the morning to watch a meteor shower….” and “This is where I watched the plane hit the second tower…” and I kept expecting the guys from the Engineering School to call out, “Hey, Bawi!” and to see my Swathi, flatmate and darling friend, scuttle down University Hill like the white rabbit, announcing she was late. I half expected to hear Prof. Evatt’s Texan drawl, to turn the corner and have Prof. Guiniven tell me he’d never met an Indian he didn’t like (and I’d retort that I had), and to witness one more candlelight vigil at the Hendricks Chapel. It was like time had formed a vacuum corridor and sucked out most of the people I knew and replaced them with fresher faces who looked at me blankly. But those who remained remembered me. And I was engulfed in warm hugs and exclamations. It was good to be back. It had been too, too long.
  • I surprised myself. Did not shriek or cry like I’d imagined I would. Laughed and exclaimed a lot. I visited my first apartment. Rang the bell, was buzzed in, and begged to be let in to see the first room I paid for with my own money. The suspicious Chinese student looked at me like I was Saddam Hussein and waved me away. I had on an angora beret for Pete’s sake, I wailed to the Boy. Who in their right mind would wear fancy headgear if they wanted to bust an apartment?  😦
  • New York City was the perfect starting and ending point for our trip. Devoid of any powerful memories, it is neutral ground and I can view it any way I choose to. And we chose to have fun! A day of Manhattan-ing at the Met, in Central Park, and on Broadway (Watch Mary Poppins! It’s excellent!) with the Boy’s brother and cousins was so enjoyable, even though we all had sore feet from all that gadding about. I spent an afternoon with an old and dear girlfriend. And it’s true what an ex-colleague said to me on this trip: You don’t realize how much you’ve missed someone until you see them. The City brought home how alarmingly soft we’ve grown in California. This was the first time since we moved in 2011 that we used public transport. Yup. You can close that jaw now. No wait, let me finish. I was the prissy princess who sanitized her hands each time she rode the subway. Okay, now I’m all done. Oops, too late, a fly just sauntered in.
  • I visited the place where awful things had happened to me. And stared it in the eye, cursed under my breath, then out loud, blew out bitterness like smoke rings, and then let it go. I faced my demons and made my peace with the past. I will carry its lessons for a lifetime, but I cannot be burdened with its weight anymore. Wonder of wonders, there were no sniffles, and I suspect that had to do with the rock standing by my side through it all.
  • I also found my Gujarati grandma, sitting right where I had left her 7 years ago, and knew I was home. Someday I will share how special this delightful 85-year-old is, her life story, and her progressive beliefs, but for now, all I’ll say is that she embraced the Boy like the son she never had and told me my piyar had been waiting for me all along. Life is too short, and good souls too many, to love and be loved by people related only through blood.
  • Even so, my brother was the highlight of this trip, though we met way too briefly. I hadn’t seen him in nearly two years, and this meeting did us both good. Siblings become even more precious as we grow older, do they not? That I got to see him in Boston, my favorite city in the country, was the icing on the dark chocolate torte. My baby brother made lassi for me. *sniff* And offered us homemade kaju katli. *blubber* He’s all growned up now. *desperately searches for a tissue* He was still eating leftovers from our dinner together, 4 days later. Praise the lord some things never change.
  • On this journey eastward and pastward, places, memories and people melded to form a potent amalgam in our lives. We met new family, old friends, my American parents and bonus grandma, both our only siblings (as as textbook first-borns, the Boy and I feel a shade responsible for these 31- and 29-year-old men respectively), ex-coworkers, advisors, mentees, and then we met one additional person: the old me.  The Boy quite liked her, I think. This was the last bastion in the list of places that have made me who I am, and also the most significant. And I was glad he could meet the 20s me, and the places that sculpted the person who eventually became his partner. Me, I smiled at her quietly, and told her she hadn’t done too badly for herself. She tried her best and gave it her all, and for that I will always love her.
  • We came home sated. And so, so much richer. How can anyone who acquires a pair of chocolate suede boots not be fabulously wealthy? Immediately upon our return, our life and friends here swarmed around us busily, and even as we were swept along, we know we’ll always look back with gratitude at this most blessed of times, a moment when life truly came full circle for me.

Poop Goes The Weasel

3 Oct

I’ve recently switched doctors and my new one wanted to conduct a series of routine tests, so last week, I traipsed along to the clinic, empty sterile container in hand, to donate some pee to the lab. Walking toward the entrance, I noticed a man—middle-aged, Asian, balding, with slightly rumpled clothes—headed toward the entrance as well, with a bottle of stool sample in his hand. And so began my not-so-pleasant reaction to the swishy brown contents of his bottle. All conversations in my head will hereafter be italicized:

Eww! Gross! How could he just bring poop in a transparent bottle like that? At least cover it with a paper bag! Some people.

Swish, swish, swish went the poop, as the gentleman stepped into the clinic lobby, with me a safe distance behind.

Disgusting. It’s so runny. Good thing I haven’t had any breakfast. Seriously, I get you’re a recent immigrant, but watch and learn, my friend! No. Scratch that. You’re not my friend. No friend of mine would walk around with poop in public view.

Poop-swisher took a seat, bottle in hand and on full display, while I chose one at the other end of the waiting area.

Really? Holding it so close to you like it’s your lost lover? You’ll die of an infection, man. Oh god I’m going to hurl. This should be illegal. There are kids with compromised immunity in this place. Have you no concern for the wee ones of the world??

Poop-swisher stared benignly into space, clutching the watery contents of his intestines.

I don’t believe this. Why couldn’t he just do it in the bathroom here, like everybody else? Maybe he has a performance anxiety issue. Maybe he had one of those tiger mums who said “Poop now or forever hold your piece.” Well, he’s sure holding his piece now!

Poop-swisher adjusted his position and I looked away for a moment, to give the impression I wasn’t turning cartwheels on the inside and emanating guttural gasping sounds of disgust.

Holy guacamole! He’s raising it to his mouth! Omigod, he has Pica! Somebody get mental health medics in here! Noooooooo! STOP IT! Don’t drink that!!!! I’m gagging, oh lord I’m gagging, I need the bathroom. Now!

Wildly looking around for a nurse or medical aide, I saw Poop-swisher from the corner of my eye, calmly take a swig from his bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappucino, screw on the lid, and put the bottle beside him.

Oh.

“…………..”

 

If you ever repeat this incident to anyone, dear reader, you and I are OVER.

Time to Be

16 Jul

Today is my Roj birthday. And I am home alone. My first birthday present was my cleaning lady. She landed at my doorstep earlier than scheduled, ensured my home is gleaming, and watched with interest as I stamped chowk patterns outside my doorway and filled them in with dots of color. I looked up at this perennially smiling Mexican lady with her limited English vocabulary and giggled in my head as I wondered how I would explain Parsis and their customs.

It is a windy day and my drapes are billowing. My off-white and beige living room, with pops of Kashmiri design and color, is scented with temple incense. Calming and cleansing, it leaves me feeling more pious than I am. I proceed to the kitchen to make a traditional birthday lunch: dhan dar and kolmi no patio. Generations of Parsis have conjured up and consumed this divinity and I thank the lord for landing us on Indian shores, for Persian food, sans heady desi spices, is not to my taste.

This is always a special time for me, between the birthdays of the Parsi calendar and the Gregorian one. Typically not one to scrutinize my existence to within an inch of its….well, existence, this is the span of time I permit myself to reflect on the year that was. (Okay, I lied. I do it right after Christmas too.) Invariably, I am flooded with gratitude. A lot of which has to do with my loved ones. Recently, though, I have begun noticing subtle shifts in perspective and priorities. I’d much rather spend quality time with those I cherish than gad about town doing Things To Do. I enjoy solitude, even seek it. And I like taking myself on adventures. Experiences matter more than possessions. Establishing connections with our community wins over rubbing shoulders with people at a one-off party. I can easily identify and better support the causes I value and feel strongly about. My life doesn’t have a bucket list because impending death doesn’t form a backdrop. Instead, it has a checklist. Take a solo road trip, check. Paint my nails mint green, check. Swim with dolphins, check. Be part of a flash mob, check. Meditate regularly with my gentle friends, check. Talk about writing instead of just doing it, check. Witness redwood trees soar to the sky, a big happy swoosh. Learn to dance without falling on my face, oh my god, CHECK!

I was a fairly reluctant bride, because I didn’t want my life to follow the age-old beaten path of marriage-babies-mind-numbing-domesticity, but I realize so much of my freedom to drive off on a whim, count squirrels in trees, contemplate a shift in career and get to know daily living on first name terms comes from my anchor-with-dimples and the wonderful support system around me when he is away. I live each day richly. Deeply. In joy. And gratitude. With mild cuss words thrown in when things don’t go as planned. Even as I strive to better so many parts of me, there is basic contentment about who I am that goes way deeper than the bags and baubles I like to acquire. Not for one second do I believe that any of the items on my lust list are critical. They’re fun, sure, and I adore surrounding myself with aesthetically pleasing things, but it’s only my karma that’s getting me an upgrade to the specific Godiva-drenched realm of heaven I aspire to retire to. So permit me this indulgence of navel-gazing, life-mapping and blessing-counting. This mid-30s wisdom is so precious, my jammies are shining brighter than ever. Come, join the glow worm gig. Interesting times await.