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I love New York

No... its not because we actually found and ate Iraqi food on a whim

No... nor because we got out of the theater and saw swiftly passing clouds, with a full moon... overlooking midtown and thought... "hey... lets go watch Sweeney Todd"

No... not even because we only had to walk for about 10 minutes before hitting a theater and actually found a show that was playing 10 minutes later.  And, side note:  the movie was brilliant!  Although, for one of my readers afraid of the sight of blood... you might want to stay away... :)

No... I love New York because as I was walking back home, on an unusually warm winter evening, with my chicken kabob leftovers in tow... after watching a movie that had all of the trimmings of a Shakespearean tragedy, but music that somehow put you in a weirdly good mood... I went to the subway... and was waiting for my train.  Someone started strumming on a guitar.  I turned around to see 3 kids, around 15 years old, strumming amateurishly on a guitar.  I started to move away, not wanting them to sing badly and ruin the tunes in my head.  Then, I realized they were simply borrowing the guitar and returned it to its rightful owner.  A black subway singer.  He started lightly strumming, and then started with a rendition of "My Girl".  Soon, an Asian flautist joined him.  A couple of Latino girls sitting on the benches starting clapping and singing along.   Two couples from Kazakhstan that were talking about Ali G and Borat started swaying gently and taking photos.  A couple of Jewish kids with yamakas and NY Giants jerseys started clapping and singing along.  Tired parents, with even more tired babies in strollers... happily singing.  And, it wasn't a weird, tacky, Christmasy, United Colors of Benetton thing at all... it was just people... with all the familiarity of being at a family reunion... singing... and rejoicing. 

And, just like that... all was well with the world. 

Mommie dearest

No... this isn't going to be an epic rant or something hilarious done by my family (although both of them are entirely possible)... its just a simple story.

My mom has, since I was a baby, always told me about this story of when I was young.  Apparently, when I was about 5, and she was pregnant with my sister, I used to bring her these Fefol tablets.  I have no recollection of this, of course, as it seems that most of my memory was constructed after the age of 5.  Which would explain why I also have no recollection of an apparently amazing trip to Darjeeling, replete with magical sunrises, an uncle who gave me too much candy and my first visions of snow... but, that's another story for another time.  Anyway, so my mom always uses the Fefol example to remind me, and most of the times to my embarrassment, other company of my kind and caring nature. 

Well... a couple of days ago, I got a care package from the parents.  The idea of my parents sending a care package is very new.  To both of us.  I think its something they've learned from their friends in the U.S.  But, since we haven't been here long enough, it has, what I can only describe as, as very Sampat family feel to it. 

The care package contained:

- 4 ziplocked bags of sukha bhel (I had asked for this)
- 2 ziplock bags of sev
- 2 bars of Nestle Crunch
- 1 opened bar of half eaten European Milk chocolate (no doubt got from here... the BEST thing to happen to Skokie since Pita Inn)
- 1 ziplock bag of gud

This is a big step up from when they used to actually mail me cereal.  Except, they would take it out of the box to reduce shipping costs, so I would just get the plastic bag of cereal with no box, which is really annoying, by the way... along with some ziplocked bags of M&Ms.  The chocolates, in this package, were probably my dad's idea.  Both of us share a fascination for all things chocolate.  The half-opened bar and the tacky Nestle Crunch were probably my mom's idea/what was left in the fridge.  But, no matter... I enjoyed all of it...

But, the purpose of this whole story is that one ziplocked bag of gud.  That one little bag of crumbs of gud instantly brought back flashes of childhood, summers, monsoons, Bombay, crows, and hanging out with my mom.  It was such a simple thing.  Whenever my mom was at home, and I could spend time with her, she was always making us something to eat.  In hindsight, I think she felt guilty for not being home as much as the other moms who didn't work.  Since her whole family has a huge sweet tooth, there was always something sweet being made.  But, my absolute favourite thing would be to get up on my tippy toes, reach up to the back of the orange formica cabinet in the kitchen while she was cooking, and pull out the little rectangular white plastic box with the red top that had my treasure... my gud.  Some people find solace in washing dishes, ironing, meditating, cleaning up... mine was in that gooey mess at the bottom of that dubba.  I can still smell my mom... still in her night gown, usually on a Sunday morning... it was the only time in the week that the house wasn't in a mad dash... with cups of milk, Complan and bits of breakfast flying around.  It was the only time we could, as a family, relax... in a city and lifestyle that didn't allow us the luxury of being able to relax.  And, I remember... she would initially tell me not to get my hands in the gud... but, I knew she didn't mind.  I would only eat a little nibble at a time (a very annoying characteristic of mine, as my sister will attest)... and we would talk... about school, about her work... and I would help make her pooris, or rotis or parathas... and sometimes her favourite crow would come by the window sill and she would give it some roti scraps.  Other times, my dad would come in and be silly and see if he could help out (he couldn't)...

Things changed... we moved to a new land... a land where windows rarely opened.  Fresh air was unnecessary and often unavailable... everything was centrally controlled, anyway.  I started college... my sister got busy with school and new friends... my mom took on unfamiliar roles at new jobs and tried to fight stereotypes of being an educated, English speaking, brown woman trying to explain to people where India was and why some of us actually spoke English.  Dad, in the meantime, tried not to feel humiliated at being turned down for jobs that people 15 years his junior would have scoffed at back home...

And yet... like most immigrants... albeit privileged, educated immigrants... we made it through.  And, the family meals, though less frequent... still occurred.  And this thing known as a microwave gained a new importance in our lives.  And, my sister would scour through the fridge and eat everything and anything in sight.  And, the little plastic box of gud was replaced by a steel can... and it was no longer gooey... because it was no longer hot and humid... but, I still got up on my tip toes to reach for it... still well-hidden... in the back of the wood cabinet...

Speaking in tongues...

I've always had a fascination with languages.  Ironically, coming from a multi-lingual country to the U.S. has only made me appreciate language that much more.  There's a comfort in one's own language that, for me, English has never been able to provide.  Sure... its the language I use to communicate complex thought because that was my medium of instruction growing up, and I never bothered honing my Hindi skills to that extent.

But, really what got me thinking about this was today.  Today was, by all accounts, a really shitty day.  I welcomed the Winter Solstice by sleeping in most of the day.  My lack of enthusiasm for life combined with my not eating well for the last few days resulted in a lethargy that I haven't felt in a really long time.  And then I spoke with a couple of my friends and it was just routine conversations - one about being at an airport, and another about a job interview.  And, we were just speaking in our usual Hindi/Urdu/English mix.  And, for no reason, it lifted my spirits.  Made me feel alive again.  Made me realize how much I miss being back home (in India and Chicago) and being silly.  And, weirdly enough, made me miss Maryland.  My desi roommates.

Chuck you Farles...

I tend to be a bit of movie snob.  Most of my friends know it.  I refuse to watch crappy Bollywood or Hollywood movies and end up looking like a fool when mainstream movies are brought up in conversation.

However, over the last couple of weeks, I have seen (over and over and over) ads for this new movie "Chuck and Larry" starring everybody's favourite Adam Sandler and Kevin James.  The premise is simple and homophobic.  Two straight, white men decide to become domestic partners in order to exploit the few, alleged privileges now available to same sex couples. 

I know its not even worth my energy trying to critique this movie.  It would be like trying to critique the mess that is the US foreign policy.  Its just too simple. 

What bothers me more is the fact that this movie is rated PG.  PG??? You mean a 7 year old kid can learn how to be homophobic from a really young age??  Great!  That's just great.  Why don't we have a movie with tons of Asian/Black/Latino stereotypes, insult transgender folks, demean women, and make fun of people who are disabled...

Oh wait... never mind...

Buzzed entry

They say that alcohol brings out the truth in you... stumbled my way home and all the while... all I can think about is her... despite everything... despite how good I looked... how I got stares... despite it all... all I can think of is coming back home and wondering how much better this would have been... how much...

And then I check the blog... and, of course, I see an entry about me... of course... I'm not over her... we still have the connection... how the hell do I get over her??

Listening to Paki Mix #1 and Matti mein mil jayenge (pronounced just like it is in Kutchi) and Ranjish hi sahi... how the fuck do you forget all of it???  years of this... years of connections that everyone seeks in relationships that was so easy... so effortless... no... there were troubles... it wasn't paradise... but, despite it all... there was something else... it wasn't love... love sells itself at street corners... no, it was more... it was much more... i don't even know the word for it...

I told her I would always be there and always be a friend... but, its so easy to relapse and start thinking of days gone by...

I wish I believed in some sort of God... maybe there would be a way out of this then...

Dreams of my grandma

A long time ago a friend of mine told me that dreams were like poetry... they were only interesting to the person actually reciting them since both tended to be so personal.

Although I saw my friend's point, I couldn't disagree more.  Like a lot of people, I have a kind of strange fascination with dreams.  I think its mostly because they remind me of my dad's storytelling days when instead of reading to us, he would make up these stories in our cramped little 2 bedroom apartment about these two engines called Raju (a steam engine) and Kaju (an electric engine).  The stories were accompanied with hand gestures, sounds, and since we were in bed, I would usually look at the shadows on the ceiling of the traffic on the street and pretend that the car shadows were, in fact, Raju and Kaju.  And, ultimately, aren't dreams merely an adult version of that innate desire to be a child again and escape and be carefree?

So, valiant readers... here is my dream that I had in a very brief 2 hour nap today:

I was in a car with my grandma.  She was driving and I was in the passenger seat.  It was an American car, because it was a left-hand drive.  My grandma, of course, was still Indian and not used to driving on the right side of the road.  She was wearing this scarf around her head, tied kinda like Audrey Hepburn from one of those old 60s movies, with a knot just below the chin (this was a direct result, I'm sure of watching "Wait Until Dark" in Bryant Park last night).  In the back seat was a couple.  They switched from being K & J (friends from Chicago) to M & A (friends from DC).  Both the couples are very similar in that they're very "safe".  You know... the sort that would put on their seat belts even though they're sitting in the back seat.  Anyway, my grandma was driving pretty rashly... which is kinda funny, because she's got only one good eye left, really... though she claims it does the work of two.  Anyway, we're driving up to a bridge and she's kinda swerving all over the place (onto oncoming traffic) and then back to the right side of the road and the couple in the back are freaking out.  I'm kinda freaking out, but in more of a fun, roller coaster rideish sort of way... which is funny, 'cos I'm not the biggest fan of roller coasters... maybe the thrill of this being real... at least in the dream... was more interesting to me.  So... we're driving in this mad dash and I start to tell her to slow down and she gets angry at me and tells me that I can get out of the car if I'm gonna talk down to her... then she does one of those screeching halts and I realize we're at a video store... and the whole reason for rushing was that we had to return this DVD on time...

Anyway... I woke up out of this dream with a smile on my face.  Mostly because I dreamt of my grandma who I haven't talked to in a while.  Keep in mind that this is the same grandma that got me to cross the tracks at Andheri station and then argued with the ticket collector when he wanted to throw both of us in jail and tried to use her age to her advantage.  This is also the grandma that learned to drive a Ford Model T in the 1940s when women weren't even seen much on the streets of Bombay, let alone driving a car.  And, yes... this is also the grandma that gave me an appreciation of spicy food when my mom's side of the family was heavily invested in developing my sweet tooth.  And, this is the grandma that would pickle raw mangoes for hours and lay them out on newspapers in our living room floor during the summer months, only to have us pick through them and eat them while squeezing our eyes shut at the tartness.  And, I still see her face whenever I yawn at a dinner table, because she used to smack me and would say that I was insulting the food by yawning at the dinner table.  And, she was the same tomboy who used to swing off of banyan tree branches in her village in Adoni until she was married off at the age of 13.

I've heard she hasn't been the nicest mother-in-law, and she's stubborn and she's not the best with her finances. 

But, to me... she's always my one-eyed, 90 year old grandma with the heart of 12 year old.  She's my Motu and my Kastur and I know that when I see her again, I'm going to still enjoy watching her entire stomach jiggle when she emits her loud, full-hearted laughter.



I guess you could say that I've led a pretty sheltered life, in that I haven't had to say too many painful goodbyes in my (nearly) 30 years that I've lived on this earth.  I mean, sure... it was hard to move from India, from Chicago, from NY and now from Maryland.  But, I guess I've never really had a whole ton of friends, which in a strange way makes it kind of easier.  I won't lie... saying goodbye to S. was one of the hardest things I've ever done... knowing we were done was a much more painful journey that took a lot longer...

Today, our higher ed cohort met for a final dinner in DC and there were about 15 of us including spouses etc.  I thought of it as yet another social engagement... not realizing that it would really affect me later.  I am still not sure about why it affected me... after all, I hadn't seen some of these people in nearly 5 months!  I think the reason is because, after a long time, I've made some solid friends and it was very effortless.  I came to MD thinking I would be here for 2 years and take a job and move on, which is exactly what I'm doing... but, along the way, I had a ready-made group of friends that I hung out with and socialized with (some more so than others)... that was just gravy.  And, they helped, each in their own way, to make suburbia a little more tolerable. 

For the first time, I'm thinking that NY may not be all that its made out to be... at my core, I think I'm just tired.  Tired of moving.  Tired of making new friends.  Tired of goodbyes.  Tired of explaining myself and my history to new people and talking about the same shit.  I just need people to understand.  And, I need to settle.  Maybe NY will be it.  It needs to be it.  Its been 30 bloody years... I deserve to get a little rest.  And, find someone... maybe...

The worst part of all this is that I haven't even said my toughest goodbye yet... fortunately, its going to be a much softer landing... at least until August... because my roommate A. will be visiting his gf in NY... but, I know... I just know... come August... when all the initial charm of being back in NY has worn off, A's visits (and calls) will decrease, family will have come and gone, friends will have visited and we will have shared meals... after all that... I know exactly the feeling I'll have.  Its the same feeling I get when I come back from India and wake up to my first American morning... and look for my niece bouncing up and down on my bed... look for the parathas with the aam ras... look for the hubbub and activity that I'm used to in Bombay... and realize... i'm back in the US.... yes... it will be exactly that feeling.

Maybe this is why the Hindi word for "goodbye" is actually phir milenge or "we'll see each other again"

Once in a blue moon...

For a long time, I've been fascinated by full moons.  They hold so many different memories...

A full moon is when you celebrate Id and have that yummy sevaiyan from Kader's house downstairs

A full moon is when women break their fast of karva chauth

A full moon is the night when Ani took me to watch godawful Superman to get my mind off things and we had a long talk after

A full moon was August 4th

A full moon is the night when Matt yelled at me from Irving Park and had me run downstairs because the moon was hanging low and was enormous

A full moon through the window of the passenger seat on a warm evening with a slight breeze...

A full moon through the hazy, smog filled skies of Bombay and through the suburban window of my room is still one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen

Death and the maiden

Well... its been a while since I posted and there have been a lot of things going on.  I went to Orlando and Chicago, but most importantly I met S.  We haven't really talked since I met her over a week ago, but it was a very interesting encounter to say the least.  We spent well over 4 hours together, and even though it was never awkward, it was definitely weird.  I was happy to see her, but the encounter also made me realize everything I already knew.  She's married -- its never going to change.  I still have feelings for her -- its never going to change.  She is never going to leave him -- its never going to change.  The last idea nearly shattered me... not so much that night, but later.  But, not so much selfishly anymore.  I just want her to be happy.  I don't know what will happen with us.  But, I just want her to be happy.  Or, at least content.  This past Friday when I was sitting out on the porch in 40 degree weather smoking sheesha with Alecia, I made a comment that "I could die right now and I'd be happy'... she kind of laughed it off... but, it was true.  It was a feeling of peace that I had got after a very long time... in no small part, I'm sure, due to the tobacco... we smoked... just the two of us... for damn near three hours. 
S, if you're reading this -- watch Dor please.  Don't let it just sit idly by.  Its a great movie.  I'm sure you'll sit up and put your hands under your chin and watch it.  Take it with you to Miami.  I really want you watch it soon.  As dreamily idealistic as it is, it uses Bollywood cliches in such a gut-wrenchingly sweet way that its hard not to just smile... even at the hardest moments. 

In other news... I still haven't gotten around to my papers, but at least I've started applying to jobs.  There's a very small, insignificant little light at the end of my abyss-like tunnel.