Tag Archives: love

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.

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. 🙂

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!

Book Review: Salaam, Love

25 Mar

Two years ago, aboard a Eurostar train to Paris, I spent a two-hour journey reading a collection of essays called Love, Inshallah. The book was a pioneering effort for 2 important reasons: it showcased Islam in America in all its glorious diversity, and it projected a strong female voice, breaking cultural and religious stereotypes of docile, homogenous, powerless women trapped in a world not of their choosing.

When I blogged about Love, Inshallah, I did not know the women behind the book. Turns out Ayesha Mattu, one of its two editors, had read my post and knew who Orange Jammies was when we met as part of a writers’ circle. Why am I telling you this? Because I need to insert a disclaimer that by the time I read Salaam, Love last month, Ayesha was (and is) a friend.

IMG_20140301_124942

[Credits: OJ, her MotoX phone, and good old Instagram.]

 Islam. Is there any other word you can think of that conjures up stronger images, reactions, and sentiments across the world? Have any of you been told absolutely nothing, positive or negative, about the religion and its people, whilst growing up? The faith of 1.6 billion people around the globe is the subject of debate, attack, defense, paranoia, curiosity, and wild conjecture. Stereotypes are split sharply by gender, and the men usually get a bad rap. My own experiences with the faith are best reserved for a longer post, but know this: I have formally studied both the religion and its early culture, so I speak from a platform of at least some knowledge.

Salaam, Love is a sort-of sequel to Love, Inshallah. This collection of 22 deeply personal and frequently heartrending narratives by American Muslims smash the supposed monolith that Islam is perceived to be, and are shared by those who are typecast perhaps more than any other group I know: men. Frequently believed to be a conglomerate of beards, skullcaps, and patriarchal tyranny, Muslim men are the mythic bogeyman that women not of the faith are warned about. Looked at askance by even their own gender, it is often thought they have nothing to say, let alone feel or reflect.

Related from their perspectives and experiences as men, as Muslims, and just people, the book shares with us the passion, heartbreak, loss, confusion, imperfection, and intimacy that comes with being human. From within the framework of personal definitions of the faith to far outside it, these men: native-born Americans and immigrants, gay, straight and every orientation in-between, Caucasian, Arabic, South Asian and born into other faiths, tread delicate territory as they navigate their relationship with themselves, loved ones, and their identity, all the while leaving the door wide open for us to follow their journey. From infertility to infidelity, sexual confusion to questioning tradition, the gamut of their experiences leave us enriched, educated, and often plain agape.

The ‘unfeeling male’ stereotype evaporates before our eyes. The ‘benevolent patriarch’ melts into an unrecognizable puddle. And the ‘men don’t talk about their feelings’ notion? Smashed beyond smithereens. Where is the seemingly violent man who forces his will on life and women? And the pious one who holds dear his prayer mat? We meet agnostics, anti-traditionalists, believers, and those crippled with self-doubt. As we lurk, voyeurs in their vulnerable worlds, we soak in their reflected humanity, feel their pain, and exult in their expressions of happiness. Gender lines dissolve, and all that is left is unabashed, universal emotion and a strong sense of being people.

It is to the book’s credit that it allows us to build absolutely no preconceived notions and offers the literary equivalent of open-heart surgery. This is a brave, groundbreaking, and compelling collection that more people need to read, not just in America but around the world.

You can read the Love Inshallah blog here and purchase Salaam, Love from one of the several links on the home page. This is not a promotion or paid post. I only share with you stuff I enjoy myself! 🙂

 

Rain Again

13 Mar

This piece was originally published in India Currents magazine. Written as an opinion piece for a print publication, it is longer than the usual post, so sit back with a nice cuppa. 🙂 And share your favorite memories of your favorite season (I’m hoping it’s the monsoon!) Oh, and for other rain-related posts, read this and this.

~

Three and a half decades ago, on a late July night in Bombay, the rain came clattering down on the red-tiled roof of the Parsi General Hospital. Just a few hours earlier, my mother had delivered her firstborn, and I lay in a bassinet under ultra violet light, tiny and jaundice-ridden, strangely soothed by the rumble of thunder even as other babies wailed and started.

In the years that followed, the only thing that made the start of the school year tolerable was the monsoon that accompanied it. Through the warm downpours and rising waters of my coastal city I would wade, delighted by the damp and the puddles and my red Bata gumboots.

My first solo travel experience happened at 18. And as the train wound through the emerald northern Maharashtra countryside, my face mirrored my elation. It was August, a steady stream of raindrops splashed my tee-shirt in the doorway, the wind was in my face, life lay waiting for me, I was young, and thrilled, and free!

Die-hard fans of summer can keep their king of fruit and the steaming, sultry weather that comes with it. Each year of my life, June was the Holy Grail, and the anticipation of rain was excruciating. Sometimes the clouds would gather, then flit away. Every pore of our bodies spewed humidity. Who could blame the brainfever bird in its near-hysterical state? I would fly between trees in agony if I could! Finally, at long painful last, the sky would darken, the drops would descend, falling faster and faster toward the eager earth, and all life would stop to watch  the miracle unfold.

Even as animals scuttled away to safety and dry spaces, human beings would emerge to partake of what was surely heaven’s blessing, laughing, splashing and exulting in the headiness of this grand new season. As the days turned into weeks, these same ribbons of water would cause damage to parts of the city, washing away homes and flooding the roads with their ferocity, but in that first moment, they were welcomed like god himself, all of his creatures rising to celebrate this magnificent arrival.

Indian movies are frequently accused of filling our brains with associations of rain and romance, but as a child I watched none. And yet, I cannot imagine anything more romantic than the end of summer and the lushness, virility and borderline-obscene greenness of this reckless season. Not for the monsoon is the polite chill of winter; not for the rains are the persistent claws of heat; this is a time for unbridled joy and a celebration of life and all that perpetuates its cycle.

My personal definition of rain was a downpour, one in which we could barely see beyond the cascading sheets of water. Anything less was a mere drizzle, and the sheer number of words used in India to describe rain based on its volume never fail to amaze. There is varsaad for rain—audible but not blinding; there is jhoptu for a brief, forceful shower; there was chhip-chhip for a slight drizzle; and naago varsaad for that rare combination of simultaneous rain and sun. There are also dhor maar (pouring) and ghela ni kani (like a madman), my favorite kind of precipitation. And these are just the Gujarati words! Then there are the Marathi rhymes our maids taught us about their beloved, benevolent bestower of prosperity on the fields back home.

The scent of wet earth is a cliché that’s been done to death—for a reason. Have you ever smelled anything that drove you to greater elation? That scooped you right up and plunged you straight into your childhood? That made you long for this unique and precious Indian phenomenon on this continent so far away?

When the skies turn stormy in our home country, Indians across the length and breadth of the land quicken their steps. They emerge onto rooftops and terraces and into narrow gulleys, calling out to friends and neighbors, their eyes trained skyward, their fragile hopes clutched deep within their hearts. The first drops are intercepted before they can embrace the earth, a collective gasp encircles the air, and exultation and dancing are de rigueur. No matter what their age, religion, or station, the advent of the monsoon is the Great Indian Equalizer for my people. In the land of a thousand festivals, this is probably the most universally celebrated and uniformly welcomed. And when that first deluge is done, leaves drip leaky silver missiles onto freshly cleaned streets, and to be sure, it has washed some of the dust off our souls.

When I landed in San Francisco on Valentine’s Day three years ago, I was newly-married and eager to join my spouse. It rained for six straight weeks after my arrival, and even as I laughed about being duped by “sunny” California, I could not have felt more accepted by my new patch of sky. Today, as the state battles the severest drought in its history, that gentle rain is but a memory that I hold on to with hope. A rainless existence affects me in ways deeper than just the physical. It strains the connection to my past, highlights the flaws in this Valley I am learning to befriend, and keeps me hankering for home.

It may sound dramatic, but it’s true: a lack of stormy weather parches my soul. I become unreasonable, forgetting the potholes and waterlogged streets of Bombay, and unfavorably comparing my desert-surfaced skin to the dewy glow of a season run wild to the strains of Hariharan’s “Indian Rain”, the aroma of ginger tea, and the crunch of freshly-fried pakodas. I swear up and down that I’ll visit Bombay this very monsoon, I rail at the maddeningly blue skies, and even as the rest of America faces extreme, dangerous weather, I can only wallow in my own drop-less fate as I watch the country of my birth drifting away on drain water.

Maybe it will rain before the winter is over. Maybe it will compensate for the chronically cloudless air. Maybe it will pour down in sheets as penance, and drive the weather channels into a frenzy. If this indeed manifests, as thousands across this state will it to, then in the midst of it all, remember to watch for a lone Indian woman standing in a parking lot, soaking it all up and deliriously reclaiming her connection to her ancient skies.

St. Valentine: Smartly Single and A Patron of the Plague

14 Feb

This Valentine’s Day, because we’re sodding balls of mush, because the OJ-Boy romance is far from typical (who gets a book on financial investing on the very first V-Day of their relationship? I do!), and because it is my moral duty to educate you about the reality of this cotton candy-filled, chocolate-centered, gooey-as-snot emotion, here is a compilation of my Twitter hashtag ‘Things Marrieds Say To Each Other’. I don’t guarantee sappy, puppy-eyed romance. But I do promise this: Someone, somewhere was made for your sense of humor. And blessed are those who land them.

~

“I’m an equal opportunity farter.”

“I love how effective our communication is. The morning greeting beautifully boils down to one word: “COFFEE!”

“I have photographic rights. When we married, you signed off on them.”

“Isn’t Cheteshwar Pujara that Bihari festival?”

“I never find anything soulful. Except maybe a shoe.”

“I will share my life but not my plate /The depth of my heart isn’t quite that great.”

“My needs are simple. Coffee and a little Tiffany.”

“You had me at correct punctuation.”

“Oh good lord, don’t pass out! That’s not my toe lying on the carpet, it’s the Band-Aid!”

“You’re my ardhaangini. So I get half of every cupcake.”

“That’s your ‘We’re getting late’ sigh.” ~   “Yeah, and…?”   ~    “Aaaaargh!! I can identify your various sighs!”

“You’re too far away.” Apparently, six inches of separation is terribly much.

You know that awkward phase between sizes?”  ~   “Hmm.”    ~   “You don’t know! You’ve always been 1 size! Just PRETEND!”

“Ear-digging can be a dangerous business. I just found chocolate shavings in mine.”

“‘Bheeda’ and ‘eeda’ rhyme. That’s proof that they’re meant to be together.”

“My camera, my house, my wife,” he says, when I accuse him of being a stalker. Damn such sound logic!

“It’s MENstruation, not womenstruation, and yes, you can tweet that.”

“You’re so much more than a pretty face.” ~ “You’re so much more than a wild imagination.”

“Sometimes people are broken and imperfect, you can’t reject them because of it!” ~  “Baby, it’s a WAFFLE.”

“I think I’m getting bucktoothed.”

“What do you call someone whose farts knock people out?”  ~  “What?”  ~  “Gaseous Clay.”

“See you in my dreams,” he says, blowing a kiss from his pillow.”Oh, and make dhansak while you’re there.”

“I’m not cooking dal. Then you’ll have a bad air day.”

Me (digging into his IHOP pancakes): “Babe, these are two of the three pillars of our marriage.”

“I’ve had better luck finding a spouse than a coffee table.”

“In this new year, may you realize the critical importance of coasters.”

“I’d say your eyes are my windows to the world, but now you have Twitter.”

“Ooh, baby, you’re so fly!” ~ Me to the Boy every time he takes a plane.

“Even the inside of your nose is cool and nice.”

“I share my LIFE with you. Now you want my mawa cake as well?!”

“It’s so hard to walk around hearing the Canon all day!”  ~ “Wow, that must be loud.”  ~ “I mean Pachelbel’s.”  ~ “Oh!”

“Bless you…now that you’ve sprayed your germs on the wall.”

“That’s it. We’re moving to a nudist colony. I’m not doing the laundry anymore.”

“Repeating verbatim what your spouse wants you to say.”

~

Happy Sweet-Saint-Whose-Head-Was-Chopped-Off Day! Don’t forget to share the things you tell your beloved in the comments section! 😉

Under the Redwood Trees

5 Feb

There is no feeling in the world comparable to standing on a forest floor, surrounded by redwood trees as they quietly, mightily graze the sky. It wasn’t a feeling I was familiar with when we first moved to Northern California 3 years ago. An acutely urban creature, I am completely at ease amidst concrete and glass towers, maddening traffic, and the ceaseless buzz of humanity that characterizes metropolitan cities. Be it New York, Philadelphia, Boston, L.A., Paris, Washington D.C., Miami, London, Seattle, San Francisco, or my own Bombay, I have felt a sense of comfort in city air. I have never known nor craved the outdoors, or wanted a home with a sprawling garden like some folks dream of. The streets were to get to places. Who aimlessly rambled outside their home when there was so much fun to be had with indoor pursuits? So when I first walked into a redwood state park 40 minutes from our home, a never-before hush descended on me.

There, in patches of sunlight that struggled through dense treetops, I experienced an exquisite sense of aloneness. Not to be confused with loneliness, no, just a feeling of being the only human in that cool, scented universe, being watched by companionable flora and the creatures that call it home.

Occasionally, there were others who passed by respectfully, with a nod and genial smile, their sneakers crunching along the path, babies on their front or bottles of water on their hip. Then, I was alone again.

The silence pressed in on my eardrums. It is amazing how deafening a lack of sound can be. There was, quite literally, nothing. I strained to catch a distant chopper. I recognized the sound of my breath. And all the while, I was dwarfed by these magnificent natural marvels that have stood guard for several centuries.

I touched their tannin-tinted bark. Imagined what they have witnessed. Has their environment changed so much in the last 500 years? Some trunks lay horizontal, their gnarled roots exposed. Others formed a ring around their Mother Tree, a mammoth entity worthy of awe. A carpet of ferns sprawled around them, gleaming emerald-gold in the slanting light. Embarrassedly, I hugged one of the slimmer trees, my arms wrapped around its solid girth. Bloody Californian, I mocked myself inwardly. But there was wisdom in soaking up their energy, and I was conscious of doing just that as I loitered, no particular plan in mind, no agenda, just a wish to be.

Deeper in the woods is a river. Jumping across stones, I stripped my socks off and wiggled toes in an icy stream. I’ll never be Huck Finn, it’s true, but for someone for whom taking off footwear outside the home is a Parsi version of haraam, you’ve got to concede it was a beginning!

The sun traveled, ruling a cloudless sky. Such welcome warmth in its friendly rays! I inhaled the pungent, heady scent of our ancient friends one last time, then turned and walked toward ‘civilization’. And this worshipper of all things urban knew an unexplored part of her had awoken.

~

I leave you with pictures from an afternoon jaunt to Land of Medicine Buddha and the ‘Enchanted Forest’ in the Santa Cruz mountains, and hope you experience the peace I did. Click on any picture you wish to view larger.

[Credits: Instagram on my Google Nexus phone, and the charming Land of Medicine Buddha.]

The Season of Rust

23 Dec

I wrote this post 2 months ago, but clean forgot about it in the non-stopness that has been life lately. Apologies for the delay, especially since it was a time-relevant subject, but without any further delay, here it is.

~

Northern California has two seasons: sunny-and-pleasant, and sunny-and-mildly-chilly. And oh, three- drops-of-precipitation-before-the-sun-colonizes-the-sky-again. For about 2 and a half days a year. Last week, we awoke to Season Two. And felt a delicious shiver on throwing off our down comforters and savored that warm, milky coffee a teeny bit more.

The leaves have changed color. Like an earnest child who can’t quite catch up with his peers. You love him for trying, but you know he’ll never make the League of Sporting Champions.  He’ll always be the one with “Good effort” on his report card, and a slightly patronizing smile from his teacher, glory reserved for his siblings further east.

The pumpkins are out in all their plumpness. And if, like me, you enjoy the national color of this blog, you’re in for a treat, because it’s everywhere.  Crunch through piles of raked, dried foliage in your chocolate suede boots, wonder whether you can sneak in a swim for a few days more, and smile as your favorite hot drinks make a comeback at Starbucks. Apples and caramel abound. The soups are hearty, there are spices in the air, and ovens begin their annual overtime. Suddenly, sugar is a friend.

But this time of year isn’t special just for what it offers. It carries the promise of what lies ahead: Halloween costumes and Bingo night. The sparkle of Diwali, the colors, the lamps, the family time, the mithai. Thanksgiving, our annual mini-moon, and another year added to our legal partnership. Bringing home our Christmas tree, stringing lights while drinking eggnog and spiced cider, picking out new ornaments to add to our collection, watching our holiday traditions—The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol—baking brownies and hosting our annual Christmas gathering. Playing Holiday Radio until it comes out of our ears. Singing hymns into the clear, starry night. Spending time with loved ones, exchanging gifts, Christmas Day dinner and the food coma after, and festivities until another year is properly welcomed. All of this, permeated with that delightful winter chill that has us wrapped in light scarves and jackets, with not a snowflake in sight.

This year, our already-busy season is topped with two special family events. The excitement mounts. We trade updates about outfits and coordinate schedules. Calls fly across the globe as we prepare for visitors and make lists of places to take them.  Much lies ahead. We bubble with plans to celebrate. But for now, I’ll enjoy the moment. Watch another leaf drop and the season turn, as I grab the chance to stand still. The pleasure of anticipation is half the fun. But the other half lies in letting the future take its time.

Here’s a toast to the season of rust. As the earth evolves, so must our destinies with it.

Et du?

18 Dec

“OJ Mami,” he says with all the breathlessness of a critical revelation, “milk has 2 names: last name Du and first name Du.”

And with that, my 4-year-old nephew gulps down his glass of cocoa.

(Yes, yes, I only married the Boy for his genetic material, so sue me.)