Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Status Updates..

The G is away and wont be back until the weekend. So I have been driving myself crazy, wondering how I will spend the nights. As sundown approaches, the fear is slowly beginning to border on paranoia. But for now I will think of happy things.There are several things on my mind, mostly unrelated and hence this is going to be a bullet post.
#1. Strange, how subservient we become to human companionship. There was a time when I would go for days without talking to anyone and never even realize. I was happy. I was content. But marriage has impaired that part of me. I thought I was looking forward to some lone time by myself but really, it feels pretty dismal. And as the sun goes down, I`m beginning to feel a little tingle in my heart. I`m making mental know..lock the back door, keep the front lights on, close the kitchen window, pull down the shades of the den, remember to take the knife to bed etc etc. Last time when The G was away, I had decided to hole up in a motel. Some found it strange..even weird. But trust me, I was comfortable. But this time we are having The G`s friends over for 3 days during the weekend and I have tons of work to do. And moreover, at some point I have to grow up. So here I am, by myself. I guess I`ll be just fine.. hmm..
#2. The D.C trip was great, the high point being a visit to the Holocaust Museum. It deserves an entire post and so I wont mention much - except that it was a very solemn, overwhelming experience. After a four-hours sojourn inside the museum, I sat there by myself at the Hall of Remembrance and heard an old woman recite the names of the victims one by one and saw the flame burning. And then I thought of all the hate and the alienation in today`s world and the gruesome aftermath of it all (be it the Middle East or Darfur or be it my own country), and I realized that nothing has changed. We have learnt nothing from History. I sat there for a moment to reflect. I said a silent prayer and called out their names, all those who disappeared and never came back. And I thought, I will still  keep my faith and I will keep my flame burning. In spite of everything, Oh please let us all keep the flame burning..
#3. Spring is here, People! And it is just so beautiful! The sky is so blue. The flowers are blooming. Bright colored children flock together under the April sun and I want to sing out aloud. One look at these pictures and you`ll know why.

#4. Simon & Garfunkel have a reunion Spring tour and they`ll be here in the Twin cities on the 8th of May! The G got us tickets for the concert. It was supposed to be a birthday surprise(4rth May, if anyone wants to wish!!), but I found out somehow! :):) I`m still so, so excited about it. Imagine! I grew up listening to these guys. I share so many fond memories. And now I will be listening to them live!! :):) Not only them, Joan Baez in July and tada!!(For Sagarika especially) ROGER WATERS (The Wall Tour - and his last) on Oct27th!! Yes!! LIVE!!!!
(For the uninitiated, Roger Waters is The God I worship. Of Pink Floyd fame)
#5. Lastly, I wish to thank each one of you who sent in best wishes before the grad school interview. Looks like I made it through this time :):) I received an acceptance letter and I`ll be starting school this fall, after all :) Life suddenly seems to have taken a start!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April, 2010 - Remembering Dad..

It`s been one whole year since I lost my Dad.
But sometimes it feels just like yesterday..
April 11th, last year at this time, I was with Dad.
I remember staring straight ahead at the cardiac monitor. Steady. Cold. Unflinching. I remember looking long and hard at Dad. And praying for the end to come..It didn't matter that I wouldn't see him anymore..death didn't scare me anymore. But the suffering did. As I watched the doctors in their last attempt at CPR, I sat tying my shoe laces, while my mother went around packing our things. There was no space for anything other than immense relief.Dad was at peace.We were finally going home.Pain didn't scare us anymore. The worst was over, I thought.
Little did I know that I would be learning about pain soon enough. That it would forever lurk in ordinary things. In the lonely moon. Or the strum of a wooden guitar. In the laugh of a two year old. Or an old, discarded record player. Little did I know that the surreality of it all would come back in waves, to haunt me forever.Destiny whiplashing again and again, until I would be on my knees and begging. While other people my age learn to live their lives and not just exist, I learn how Destiny negotiates it terms and collects its dues. And I shall never forget. The smell of Destiny. Like the distant rain on a breeze. Elusive. Slippery. A harbinger of dark clouds and thunderstorms. And then some easy rain.
Death is baffling. I roam around, touching familiar objects and photographs, listening to familiar songs and I smile.I think of picking up the phone to talk to Dad.And then I remember I cant do it anymore. And that is when it hits me. It hits me so bad, I want to crumble up and die. And then I think of Dad and all that he would want me to be. And I go about, making him proud. Like I always did.
One hot afternoon a week ago, the doorbell rang. Standing outside our home in Ranchi was a rickshaw puller with a bouquet of white flowers in his hands. As Ma stood there in perplexed silence, he extended the flowers towards her and said," I know you have a prayer service for 'Sahab'(Dad) today. I came by to pay my respects. 'Sahab' gave me dignity. Today I respect myself and the job that I do because he always respected me."
When Ma narrated this to me over the phone, suddenly it all became clear.
The presence of that one rickshaw puller who cared, is far, far more worthwhile than the coerced phone calls or plastic presence of extended family who dont.But it doesn't matter to me anymore. I no longer feel bitter or angry. I have learnt to calibrate people and level my expectations accordingly. And sometimes not at all. In other words, I have grown up. And even though I`m still grappling to come to terms, I am trying. Trust me People, I am.
- I joined a music club, because I had a compelling urge to be near people who shared the same passion, people who made beautiful music, just like Dad did.
- I started guitar lessons.
- I got a few stories published.
- I made a couple of friends(and lost a potential one too!).
- I worked hard towards joining grad school.
- I worked hard on myself. I still do.
When Dad left, I kept his wrist watch with me. Time stopped at 3:19pm that April afternoon. And I wore it on my wrist as a reminder of all that I have lost. Today as I celebrate Dad`s life and the hundreds of ways he touched mine and so many others`, I decided to wind up the watch. It will not bring back lost time, I know. But it will herald in brighter ones.

This will be my last post for a while, People. I will be flying to Washington D.C tomorrow.
Any readers from D.C? I hear this is the busiest time of the year in terms of tourists. But all that I hope to cover in two days is the Holocaust museum. I`ll be back soon. But before I leave, I want to convey my heartfelt gratitude to all you people who have been there for me during the most traumatic times of my life. You have been my most loyal supporters, my well wishers. You have been there with a warm word or a hug or a smile, just when I thought I would die. And you have helped me stand up and dance once again. Thank You People. Thank you very much..
So long! I`ll be back soon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The thin ice..

Today afternoon, like most other afternoons, I walked into the coffee shop and saw my favorite table occupied. I almost always sit here because it has room for 6 people and I like to spread out my laptop, books, cell phone, iPod, coffee mug and what have you. Today there were two girls with colored hair(purple streaks, if I may add!) and layers of make-up instead of clothes (second generation Indian American undergrads(read wannabe) -I could tell from my previous experience).
* I normally never comment on appearances, but then again, I have my moments!*
I walked up and put my back-pack on a chair."Do you mind if I sit here?" I asked. They gave me the once-over. Exchanged looks(pbly because of the sindoor-shankha-pola).One of them thus spoke, "Err.. yes we do. We have someone joining us. If you want you can sit for 5 minutes," she cooed and then both of them burst of laughing (?!!).Allison,the girl at the counter, who was privy to the whole scene, insisted on buying me coffee to make up."Its on me," she said as she went around trying to find a seat for me. No one joined the two girls. They left after a while.
I am stunned. But more than that, I am terribly, terribly angry!
What is it with the Indians born and raised in the USA?
No really, what`s with all the cockiness huh?
What about my appearance was so lousy to warrant a filthy stance like that?
I am still fuming.
You can spot them from a mile - second generation Indian Americans(henceforth referred to as SGIA for convenience!), born and raised in the USA.
You can spot them by their outrageously inappropriate clothes(given a particular situation), their reckless attitudes, their strange loud ways and their stranger accents.Gross generalizations, I know( The G has a SGIA undergrad as a student, who is exceptionally brilliant and does excellent research!).But I am feeling mad enough to make an outrageous, sweeping statement like that! What is wrong with them?
The issue here, however, is not that simple. Far from it, in fact.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who`s doing research on second-generation Indian American children.She says that as a group, they are typically discriminated against in schools, by their peers. They are frequently referred to as 'Coconuts'(Brown on the outside, white on the inside(?!!). We all know that children can be ruthless that way. The incidence of such alienation, it seems, is alarmingly high! So the SGIA children, born and raised here, find themselves at war. They have to walk the thin line between 'Indian traditions'(their only reference being the occasional trips back home and the wisdom imparted by rigid/insistent parents) and unforgivably savage peers. They are literally at war. With themselves! Which can sometimes manifest in bizarre ways. The inner turmoil they must feel, sometimes get directed at the wrong people at the wrong times! And so, while I have had the good fortune of meeting warm, accepting Americans, my interactions with the Indian counterparts have been grim, at best.
I cant help feeling a little sorry. And I wonder if these children ever grow up to be healthy adults. At some point in life, do they grow up to be comfortable with their own identities as well as those of others? Or is this something that one cannot generalize at all?
Last night we went out for dinner with a bunch of friends. One was an Indian family with a two-year old daughter in tow. The wife is a good friend of mine. And every time I saw her pick up the child, talk to her and answer her myriad questions, I couldn't help but smile. Her was a woman who was content to stay at home and raise her child(as opposed to working, after graduating from a top engineering school in the USA). And what`s more - she is very happy. I cannot imagine the lil one growing up into the stereotype I just mentioned above. Same for my nephew,the little devil growing up here. I cannot imagine him turning into one of the children I just described!
When I was growing up, I didn't dare be disrespectful of anyone. I still remember my mother`s steely looks literally stabbing me to the core, when I made fun of a neighbor`s son who couldn't run as fast as I did. I will never forget the lecture she gave me that day.And then I also remember all those times when I was sassy,rude,impertinent to the point of being nasty - mostly when Ma wasn't around to drive home lessons with a brick bat! And I cant help wondering.
Does the growth of a child into a wholesome adult depend solely on the kind of parenting or are there serious social/environmental influences in the development chart? And if that be so, are the children back home in India really any different?

If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear stained eyes
Don't be surprised, when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
With your fear flowing out behind you
As you claw the thin ice

- Pink Floyd

Friday, April 2, 2010

Time out of mind..

A very big 'THANK YOU' to all my blog buddies!
I couldn't have made it without all your good wishes and pep talk!
The interview went very well - no unpleasant surprises!
I think I just might make it to grad school after all!

My head is reeling and I`m feeling faint!
I have been studying for the past 6 hours!
And I have managed to cover pretty much everything under the sun.
(Now you know why I havent visited my favorite blogs in ages now!)
People, trust me, I have worked harder than anyone ever has for an interview.I decided that it is better to be over prepared than have surprises sprung on me(which incidentally,they probably will anyway!). But nonetheless, I think I have worked pretty hard. And in spite of this, if I screw up or don't make it for whatever %#&$&^&*^ reason, then it`s just too bad..
I will simply end up as a waitress in a coffee shop, write stories and play my guitar on rainy Saturday afternoons(which I long to do anyway).
This is the last post before the interview, which is on Monday.
I will spend this Friday evening studying. Tomorrow I will rehearse my answers in front of the mirror and then spend the evening at a salon! Sunday,I will eat out my brain and then The G`s..
And all this for a grad school admissions interview!

(If I sound neurotic, that`s because I`ve probably lost it. I mean literally!)

So wish me luck People. This means more to me than you could ever, ever imagine..

"People on the platforms, waitin' for the trains..
I can hear their hearts a-beatin', Like pendulums swinging on chains.
When you think that you've lost everything,
You find out you can always lose a little more..
I'm just goin' down the road feeling bad,
Tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door

-Bob Dylan