Archive of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ category

Letters to Myself: When I Have a Teenage Kid

When I was a kid, I used to write “Letters to Myself.” This may seem odd and no, I don’t have multiple personalities. I just wanted to make sure that as an adult, I didn’t forget about all the “horrible” things my parents did to to embarrass me while I lived under their roof. I figured if I could warn myself in the future and help prevent my children from suffering the same kind of embarrassment that I had been through, we could potentially break the cycle. Thus leading to less money spent on counseling sessions, which would be a win-win from any perspective, because even my parents would agree that we shouldn’t waste money. I didn’t start the letters until I was in middle school, but I think I covered my bases pretty well.

So without further ado, let me present you with the teenage Masala Chica’s list of parental “Dos” and “Don’ts.”

1)   Don’t wear saris when I pick my kids up from school. Try to be cool like the other moms and wear jeans.

Not wearing mom jeans = uncool!

Simply Slammed

I know that things may seem quiet around these parts. And while the blog may seem quieter than usual, things have been anything but quiet around me. Being committed to my full time job and family leaves little time during my waking hours for much except at night and into the wee hours of the morning.

My head, my thoughts, my words, my inspirations are running at a million miles an hour as I’m working on launching a business which I explained a while ago is a dream of mine, called Simply Om. This has confused some who look at it at the surface level.

“Um, so Kiran. You’ve been dreaming your whole life about opening an Etsy shop?”

Technically, no. Although I think Etsy does rock.

Simply Om is another road in my journey. I knew I needed to do it when I started this blog a few years ago. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and there were times I thought, well maybe it’s not my journey to take. Especially when I realized how “not easy” it really would be. But dreams are rarely “easy.” I guess I just wanted to explain a little bit about where this dream comes from.

I also know that to many of you who read Masala Chica, I’m just a girl who likes Les Miserables perhaps a little too passionately or an Indian-American who has a few funny/irreverent stories to tell about straddling two cultures. But those things, along with other glimpses you have had into me through my writing, probably make Simply Om not so much of a stretch, but an extension of what you know of me.

I feel like I have enjoyed sharing a lot of myself with you on this blog. In turn, your responses, letters, comments and stores have been a big inspiration for this adventure.

Given how wonderful you all are and all that, I may as well let you in on (bore you) a little bit more than I have.

A big part of Simply Om is not just about jewelry, clothes, India, yoga or fashion. It’s about creating awareness, which I want to explain. Note: If you don’t understand, just nod and say, “OM” and smile. That will make me feel better. You might even be able to relate to what I am about to describe.

I love Indian culture! My dad has a Ravi Shankar album I listen to when I get high. When I was a little kid growing up in America, there was little to no knowledge of Eastern philosophy and culture in mainstream American culture. Short of what people knew because they had an uncle who had done some backpacking in Nepal or had been to Woodstock, there was very little about Indian culture that the Americans I knew understood. And like a game of telephone, what was known could quickly be re-interpreted or changed around.

Just as an example, did you know that the swastika is originally an Indian symbol? The word, “swastika” comes from Sanskrit and literally means,  “to be good.” When you break down the word, it is formed of tiny, beautiful messages:

“SV” means “good” or “auspicious.”

“asti” means “to be.”

The swastika is used in almost every Hindu ceremony and has nothing to do with celebrating the atrocities of the Holocaust. The Nazi party literally took the symbol, reversed it, and put it back up on its flag. I remember on our wedding day, during the Hindu ceremony, John’s dad saw the swastika on the priest’s books and didn’t know what that was about. He tapped John on the shoulder in the middle of the ceremony.

“Son….”

“Yeah, dad?”

“Is Kiran’s family Anti-Semitic?”

“Huh?”

“I’m just saying, Son. Not sure what you’re walking into on this one, ” and he pointed to the swastika.

My poor father-in-law, wondering if his son had married into an Indian Skinhead family.

Ah. Memories.

I sometimes wonder if Hitler knew what he was doing, taking a symbol that meant so much to so many people, most of them hovering on the “wrong” side of tan, and sullying its meaning by making it synonymous with hatred, death, genocide, intolerance and white supremacy.

Knowing what a monster Hitler was, it was probably his way of getting in an extra jab at lots of brown people around the world. He seemed big on destroying the spirit of many, many beautiful things and people.

I look at that lesson, however and think about how easily things of beauty and light can be changed into something completely misunderstood if people aren’t taught about it.

People say “namaste” a lot but don’t know what it means. I kind of want to help change that. Growing up, I would often say, “Namaste,” to relatives without really thinking about what I was saying. It’s similar to how I ask and and answer the question, “How are you?” Rarely taking the time to thoughtfully answer or give the party on the other side of my question a chance to really, really answer. I think I use the word, “Namaste” almost carelessly.

After all, it’s just a word.

And it is.

But it isn’t.

It’s so much more.

As I got have gotten older and started to learn more about its meaning and the different interpretations of it, I have found it to be such an unappreciated word.

“The divine in me sees the divine in you.”

“In you I see the divine.”

“The spirit in me recognizes the spirit in you.”

At the end of a yoga class I will be the first to say, “Namaste” to my instructor. I try to think about the divine spark in me or her, in you and the man in the corner who takes this yoga class as he is handling a life that makes him feel anything but divine these days.

But I am usually thinking about if I have time to grab a latte. What will be for dinner. I am still slightly annoyed at the lady who almost ran me off the road just before the class.

I am not saying that those things aren’t important (ok. maybe I am, me with my huge first world problems).

I just think that believing in that spark can be really grounding and inspiring. There is something beyond the blood, the cells, the organs and the matter within all of us. It’s a soul, it’s an energy, it’s a spirit that needs nourishment.

Namaste. Say it.

It’s big, guys.

People are still scared of what they don’t know.

And it makes them say really weird things.

In San Diego and some other school districts in the country, there is a huge controversy about children doing yoga in the schools. The programs have been instituted to help children relax, learn how to breathe and learn how to stretch. However, the storm that has resulted from this is somewhat shocking to me. Many people look at the program to encourage yoga for children as an attempt to brainwash or indoctrinate Eastern religion.

I am scratching my head a little bit.

They’re teaching children how to meditate and how to look within for peace and for comfort,” one of the parents against this told The New York Times. “They’re using this as a tool for many things beyond just stretching.

I was so taken aback by this statement that I said something about it on Twitter and Facebook. Those responses surprised me too.

I don’t do that stuff. I find my peace through God, not within myself. Kids should find peace in the Church, not in their minds. Oh, and I do Pilates to stretch instead.

Um. Okay.

We live in a world where we are looking at more guns as the solution to many of our problems. We have a mental health crisis in this country and children dealing with unprecedented anxiety levels further heightened by our kids being constantly connected through social media.  Suicide is one of the top 4 causes of death for American youth aged 5 – 14. It’s in the top three for youth aged 15 – 24. Bullying, cutting, eating disorders, drug and substance abuse are things most American children are very aware of, if not personally touched by, by their early teens.

Is helping our kids find internal peace really so scary?

Is learning to breathe and maybe love and accept yourself (a little more than you already might) a bad thing?

If you think those things are “taboo,” or “against God” in some way, can you please explain why?

I used to think this was a rhetorical question, but now I am realizing that it’s not at all.

**************

Yes, Simply Om will start out as a jewelry company. A jewelry company inspired by yoga and tenets of ancient Sanskrit texts that need to have a place in this very chaotic world that has forgotten how to breathe sometimes. Yes, I also know that this is a bit of a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

What can I say? “Hello, pot. Would you like some Fair & Lovely?

I will learn how to breathe again. But every step I take to get this company off the ground gets me closer to a steady state of breathing.

I can really breathe now.

Follow up posts I hope to share with you this week….

1) Why you don’t have to look good doing The Downward Dog to be divine.

2) A behind the scenes look at the first Simply Om photo shoot which involved freezing our butts off, tripping over lots of deer poop and having a not very om’ed out lady in a golf cart yelling at us.

Yeah, that was simply crazy, but fun. Complicatedly fun, even.

3) The ultimate vision for how Simply Om will work with and empower women in India.

Maybe? Maybe even around the world.

Dream big or stay home and reheat a frozen samosa. That’s kind of my philosophy on this, anyway.

Thank you, friends. Thanks for the letters, the support, the well wishes, the many questions and the constant encouragement that I can do this thing.

Can’t wait for you to be a part of it too.

Namaste,

Kiran








My Husband, the Teeth Model

The ladies at our dentist office love my husband, John. I think it has something to do with how friendly and smiley he is. Maybe it’s because he never gets cavities. Whatever it is, they are seriously crushing on him.

I have thought this was cute. It doesn’t really bother me. When John missed his appointment a few weeks ago because of some last minute work travel, he forgot to call the office to cancel. I had an appointment two days later and as soon as I walked in, the receptionist looked up from her desk and jumped up to greet me.

“Oh my God! Is John okay? We are so worried about him!”

I could feel the eyes of the other patients in the waiting room looking me up and down. What had happened to this John person? I could almost see them asking. (They had not yet updated the fliers, so his celebrity was not yet on the rise in Northern Virginia). I was so confused as I hadn’t realized he had missed the appointment and I also didn’t realize his teeth were that bad that the office staff would be so concerned.

At this point, one of the hygienists ran out from the back and said, “Oh, what happened? This is so unlike him!

As opposed to so like him?  Based on what?

And so I apologized for John (thanks, John) and had to spend the rest of my cleaning listening to how great my husband is, and how funny he is, and oh wow, he must just love our kids soooo much.

Seriously. They got this from his teeth?

“He seems like such a great husband. And he’s Italian! I love Italian food!”

Es, ee ith ithalian, buth thigh I the thun that thoes the thooking” I also tried to explain that he is half Puerto Rican, but it was hard to get out with that suction thing making a ruckus and my mouth wide open.

“Oh bless his heart! I bet he cooks for you all the time!”

“Thar thou thucking thidding mhee?” I tried to say, except she told me to spit.

I don’t know what John talks about when he is in the office. And I don’t know he can get a word in edgewise during his cleanings because he is a bad flosser, so they must have to use the time he is there to really get in there.

So all I remember thinking was “How the hell did you get this from his teeth?”

As I left the office that day, the receptionist yelled after me from her desk, “Tell John to keep his next appointment! We don’t want him to break our hearts again!”

Huh?

So then the next day, John goes to the office for his appointment and comes back home all happy and beaming like Ponch from CHIPS with a story to tell me. Most people would probably get reprimanded for missing an appointment and get smacked with a “no-show” fee at most places.

But not John. And not Dr. Han’s office.

Instead, they asked him to become one of the “faces” of their office and be on their website and all over their office walls. They want to hire a photographer and have a photo session so he can flash his pearly whites so his fan club can swoon all over his pictures every day.

“Now we can look at you every day!” they told him.

You could tell he was trying to be humble about it, except of course the part where he wasn’t trying to be humble at all.

“Isn’t it funny how you used to model and I’m the one who gets asked to be in the pictures?”

“Yeah, it’s hysterical.” I said, not really laughing but still finding it odd that his teeth have some special “something” that mine will never have.

The “IT” factor. For teeth.

He was so excited. John’s best friend has modeled as a side job for years and we see him on TV in commercials and in magazines all the time. I could see John already putting his portfolio together and thinking about how many commercials there might be where he could play a call center rep from Mumbai. But then I had to remind him that while he has the loveliest smile in real life, anytime a camera is pointed at him, he becomes Chandler Bing and clams up.

And of course he remembered that is a bit of a problem but I think he is going to try and wing it. I mean, you don’t want to lose an opportunity to have your teeth displayed all over the office and website of your local dentist.

Once in a lifetime opportunity, John. You MUST take it. Carpe the hell out of this one.

I will let you guys know how it goes!

***********************

And so now you know about how John’s promising modeling career started. I haven’t quit my job just yet, but if he keeps smiling like that, I’m hoping he can even land a Bollywood gig or do stunt work for Wilmer Valderama.

 








Closer to AMAZING

“I’m trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
 And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life after all”

Some of you know this about me. I love music. (Look at the top menu bar. It takes up about half of the drop downs). It is one of my greatest passions and has been since I was a child. Musical influences have had a huge impact on my life.

Music has been love and warmth when I felt I had none in my life.

Music has been inspiration when my mind and heart didn’t know which way to go.

Music lifted my soul like love, or what I thought was love, often couldn’t.

I discovered the Indigo Girls when I was in high school. They were an anchor for me in a time in my life where I couldn’t even find my way back to shore. They centered me, grounded me, and opened my eyes to what was missing in my own life.

I don’t think I understood the enormity of what the Indigo Girls were saying when I first heard “Closer to Fine” in high school decades ago. Perhaps if I had, I would have realized that I wasn’t so alone, that there were people who were dealing and coping and getting by.

And in the end, it’s only life after all.

Yeah.

Amy and Emily from “The Indigo Girls” are without a doubt two of the most influential musicians in my life. While I always loved the Indigo Girls, it was in my mid twenties that I really turned to them. I had come out of a bad breakup and was a little worse for the wear.  After begging, and Begging and BEGGING and B!E!G!G!G!I!N!G! my ex to take me back (he didn’t, but I wasn’t really asking or anything) and then telling him I hated him (I didn’t, but I DID, but I didn’t, ya know?) and then drinking and crying to repeat this vicious cycle, I decided I needed to well…

Maybe find a hobby.

So I did what I knew. I put on my running shoes and I ran.

And ran.

But it wasn’t enough and I just wasn’t having my “Forrest Gump” moment. I needed something else. Something other than the following options which I had exhausted and had done little for me:

  • I had to stop calling my ex and calling him bad names while pleading with him to come back to me. I quickly realized that this was bad form. Not pathetic, exactly. More like, extremely pathetic.

Les Mis Holiday Adventures – Part Deux (That’s 2 in French)

Sorry, this post is a little later than promised and I know many of you are biting your nails and waiting with baited breath for me to hit publish. Oh, you’re not?

Alrighty then.

So I started my adventures in “Les Mis” over the holidays, writing in this post about how I had seen it twice in one day. I consider that to be pretty extreme, hard core movie lovin’. Sure, I didn’t sleep in a sleeping bag to get to see the first show – I’m not that pathetic. Especially not on Christmas. I mean, even for people who are crazy about something like “Twilight,” – well I think even those guys would look at me weird, which is pathetic because hello. They are in love with vampires.

It’s about perspective people.

So yes, I saw it that second time. And I walked back into the house twirling and singing and dancing.

“ONE DAY MORE,” I belt out, making large operatic gestures with my hands. My kids usually enjoy it the first few minutes. But then they are like, “Mommy. You sing nice. But can you please stop?” and I have to be like, “Come on, just one more verse?” or “Wait, wait, but this is the best part!” And they just look at each other, roll their eyes and turn back to me and let me finish.

And just know that I sing the ass out of this soundtrack. I do it all in the character voices. So what if I sound a bit like Sean Connery when I do Jean Valjean’s parts?

It’s authentic, guys. And has anyone thought it odd how only “Les Mis” makes it totally reasonable for a play that takes place in France to have everybody talking in an English or Scottish accent.

Even if they’re American? Or Australian?

And then I put out a poll on the blog’s Facebook page. Which is a smart way to parent, I think. Put it out there and make it democratic.

The gist of the question was this: “Can I bring Shaila, age 5, to see “Les Mis” with me, one of the things I am so passionate about in this world. John thinks I am crazy, but I’m not. Right? Right?”

I was waiting for all my friends and readers to tell me that “mother knows best!” and all that stuff. But it didn’t quite work out that way.

The answers were a resounding:

No.

NO.

Hell to the no.

These were the responses I got. Opinions ranging from “Guuuurl, you be CRAZY,” to “I’m calling Child Protective Services on yo’ ass” were thrown out and I realized I would not bring Shaila. This would be a love we could not share for some time. I was on my own.

See how I did that? Get it? Eponine sings that song … Ok, fine I get it. I am a geek. My “Les Mis” jokes are a bit obscure.

So, when my parents came to visit us a few days before New Year’s and while Ma was making her amazing chicken curry, I sat around the kitchen table with a bottle of champagne making mimosas and set out three glasses. I reached out to serve Ma and Papa.

Me: “Ma, do you want some?

Ma: “No. It make me too much gas.”

You might not understand what that means, but it made perfect sense to me. Papa declined too, but I had already popped the cork so what could I do?

So I sat there with my parents shooting the shit while they each had a glass of red wine and I had a bottle of champagne to make apparently enough mimosas for a sorority tea party.

It was FUN. And then I came up with the GREATEST idea EVER. If I couldn’t bring Shaila to see “Les Mis,” perhaps I could bring my parents? I mean they were of age and we could also take advantage of a senior citizen discount.

And so in my slightly buzzed state, it was decided. I would be taking Ma and Papa to see “Les Mis” in the movie theater while John watched the kids the next day at noon.

So the next day, the three of us bop along on our merry adventure. We get to the theater and grab some popcorn and head to our seats. This is hard for my dad because he has a cane and is legally blind, so he had to go really slow. I don’t have a particular need for speed, but I felt bad not realizing how uncomfortable and long the walk must be for him in a movie theater with no light on to guide him.

I felt terrible about that. So, better planning required on my part next time.

He was a trooper though. We got settled into our seats, me sitting in between the two of them. The previews started. I couldn’t really hear them, though I was aware of the loud crunching of popcorn resonating in my ears IN STEREO.

Am I the only one who realizes how loud her parents chew in public?

So, the movie started and I was immediately swept into another world. I sat there and watched when about ten minutes in, I heard someone snoring. Yes, it was my father on my left. Completely passed out. Now I was not going to wake him up, because it won’t end well. When he used to fall asleep when we would re-watch seasons of “24,” he would awaken in a panic and ask as he adjusted his glasses, “But where is Chloe?” It didn’t even matter if Chloe was IN the episodes. Heck, it didn’t even matter if we were watching “24.” I couldn’t wake him up and risk having him yell something like, “Has Chloe broken the code? Did she find Jack?” during “Les Mis.”

I let my father sleep and miracle of all miracles, he seemed to come to on his own.

I leaned over to my mother. “Do you know what’s going on, Ma?” I asked.

Yes honey. It’s not too bayd.”

Good. So about 30 minutes in, when one of the characters becomes a prostitute and the audience is watching a gut-wrenching, terribly sad scene, tears running down many a face, Ma leans over and taps me on the shoulder.

OH, THAT’S BAD,” she announced in her Megaphone Voice. Yes, having to turn to a life of prostitution because you can’t get a job to feed your daughter is a little bad, I would think. Um, to say the least.

yes, ma, it’s bad.” I said, trying to whisper.

“VHAT?!” she asked, leaning in to hear better.

Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but Jean Valjean is the main character that is in the movie. It starts with him, it ends with him. About 40 minutes in, during a critical scene between Fantine and Jean Valjean, you know, the guy whose life we have been watching develop the LAST 40 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE, Ma leans over, grabs some of the popcorn I have taken back from her and says, Yeh kaun hai?” (Who’s this guy?)

Ma,” I whispered, just loud enough to be heard over Papa’s snore. “That’s Jean Valjean. You know, the same guy from the beginning of the movie.” ?

She looked perplexed.

“Ma, he’s been here since the movie started.”

I still don’t think she got it.

And it hit me. How could I forget that my mother has trouble telling white people apart? I mean, she has trouble telling anyone apart other than Indian people and she messes that up sometimes too. The only white person she could pick out of a crowd is Tony Danza and that’s because my mom thinks “he’s the boss.”

If you know what I mean.

At that point my father’s head fell on my shoulder and he started snoring fully in one ear with my mom eating popcorn at the highest volume in my other.

We went on this way for the remainder of the movie, Papa popping in and out of nap mode, waking up and catching himself before he yelled, “Has Chloe broken into the mainframe yet?!” Ma sat there and kept hitting me if I cried.

Oh Gawd. It’s just movie, dohn’t be crybaby.

We had a good time. No, seriously. It was awesome. I am so glad my parents went with me and I kind of love that they went to go see something I loved that much, just because I asked them to.

Well, asked. And then begged. And then begged some more.

Something still tells me that Shaila may have appreciated it a little more (no, don’t call CPS!), but I was glad to be able to have that day with my parents.

Cheers,

Kiran








Over at Scary Mommy…

I wrote a post over at Scary Mommy called, “I Would Do Anything For Love, but my Boobs Won’t Do THAT.”

Well, that was the original title, but I told Jill to call it whatever she wanted because she knows her shit, it’s her blog and I could NOT get that darn Meatloaf song out of my head.

If you are here, thanks so much for coming. I hope to get to know you better at Masala Chica.

That being said, let me tell you a few things:

1) I curse. A lot. Not at people. Just at air mostly. If I say fuck, just pretend I said, “fudge” or “muggles.” It usually works out. I promise I will never curse at you.

Well, unless you curse at me first.

2) I am Indian-American and I write a lot about growing up in a family that straddled two cultures. I will write as an Indian and as an American. You might get to see both sides of me. Think of me as a female Gandhi. With more hair, less wisdom and who drinks and curses more than Gandhi did. Oh screw it.

Think of me more like an Indian Sandra Bernhard.

Yeah, that’s better.

3) I love Les Mis. I saw the movie three times. This by no means indicates that I am not busy. It just means that I suckered my husband into watching the kids for a total of at least 16 hours so I could pretend I was Fantine.

4) I get really bent out of shape about a few things. Like people who blame rape on women or movies. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. OF course. Unless it’s weird and twisted and misogynistic and makes light of violence against women or children. Oh. And those people? Yeah, I probably will curse AT them. Not very Gandhi-like, I know.

5) I tweet over at “The Twitter” as @kferrandino. Give me a holler and let me know you’re a reader so we can connect!

Namaste,

Kiran

 

 








From Jersey to Washington, With Love

Hey, so. I have a favor to ask. No, don’t worry, you don’t have to get naked or sing, or be naked while singing. You don’t have to cook or clean. Nothing hard at all. See, doesn’t that put things into perspective? I am going to ask you to do something which does not involve nudity, singing, cooking or cleaning.

Sounds like a decent gig to me.

I am putting an entry in for a contest over at Indiblogger.com, a blog community for Indian bloggers like me, or others who live in India. They are putting together the top 300 submissions, which will also be evaluated by how many votes/likes they get. The submission has to be 500 words and serves as a “teaser” for the short story they might later ask me to submit if I make the top 300. That will be a LOT more words (Maybe 3500?).

Could you maybe go to the Indiblogger site and click like?

Could you maybe even ask a friend who you think might like the idea to like it?

The winning stories will ultimately be published in a anthology/collection from Indian authors on love and will be published by Harper Collins.

Thanks for your support. And thanks to Renee at http://rasjacobson.com for making me think it might be something worth reading.

And if you know any friends who might want to participate, encourage them to enter as well.

*****************************************************

The flight from Newark, NJ to Washington, DC looks like it’s finally done boarding. I’m in the window seat ready to place my jacket on what appears to be an empty aisle seat. One of the last passengers to board the plane, an elegant Indian woman whom I judge to be in her fifties, stops alongside my seat.

“I think that’s my seat,” she says, smiling.

“Of course,” I say, placing the jacket back on my lap.

It’s a short flight from Newark to the Dulles Airport. I’ve been up in New Jersey, making last minute arrangements for my wedding, which is scheduled a month from now. I look at my watch, trying to estimate the time I’ll be home if the plane lands on time.

“What a beautiful watch,” the woman comments.

“Thank you,” I say, looking up at her and smiling. She has a lovely warmth about her and I can’t help but find myself drawn in by it.  Before I know it, I am extending my hand and introducing myself.

“Hi, I’m Rachel,” I say.

“Nice to meet you, Rachel. I am Madhu,” she says. “I’m going to Northern Virginia to visit my daughter and her family,” she volunteers.

“Where does she live?” I ask.

We speak about her daughter and her new home in Reston and how this is the first time Madhu will get to see her new granddaughter, who is only 2 weeks old.

“I had to come all the way from Mumbai. I stayed with family in Jersey for a few days and now, I will finally see my granddaughter.” She smiles and holds her palms tightly in her hands.

“Wow. That’s a long journey,” I say, always with a knack for stating the obvious. She nods.

I motion to my engagement ring.

“I was up in New Jersey, making some last minute arrangements for my wedding next month.”

“Oh! That’s lovely,” Madhu says. “Tell me, Rachel. Is this a love match?”

It takes me a second to realize what she is asking.

“Oh, yes. Yes! It’s a love match. I met him and you know, BAM, I fell in love,” I laugh, finding myself playing with the beautiful solitaire on my ring.

“That’s wonderful. So, you are in love then. What a wonderful thing to be. To know.” She smiles. But she seems somewhere else.

“Haven’t you been in love?” I ask. There is something sad about the idea that this beautiful woman with the melodic laugh sitting next to me, may never have known love.

“In love?” Madhu laughs. “Yes. Yes, I have been in love.” She looks at her own watch.

“Well, it looks like we have some time before we land at Dulles,” she says, smiling at me, a twinkle lighting up her hazel eyes. “Do you think that’s enough time for me to tell you a love story, Rachel?”

I nod, reclining my seat back. Something about Madhu’s voice tells me this is going to be good.

****************************************************************

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is running with input from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

So, that’s it. I know it’s just a “glimmer” of what I hope to put together, but if you can just go over there and click like, I will never ask you to sing naked again. I promise.

VOTE—-> Click on this link. Then click Like. If you want, you can do this EVERY DAY.

Trust me, my family is getting enlisted BIG time.








Les Mis Holiday Adventures – Part 1

I don’t remember when I first learned that “Les Miserables” was coming to the big screen, but I am pretty sure I jumped up and down and screamed like I was a 12 year old girl with a new training bra at a Justin Bieber concert.

I know that there are people who find “Les Mis” to be cheesy. Let me be clear that I am NOT one of those people. If I was on a deserted island that had electricity and a CD player and a wall (because you need to have an outlet somewhere) and I only got to pick one CD, I would pick the original London “Les Mis” cast’s recording in its entirety.

Not to push things, but I might also ask for some chap-stick, a razor and some soap.

When I was 16 and in the High School Choir, our teacher, Mr. Diehl introduced me to “Bring Him Home” from “Les Mis.” It’s the song that the main character, Jean Valjean, sings to God, asking him to save his adopted daughter’s true love. Instead, he asks God to take him, for he had lived his life.

“If I die, let me die. But let him live. Bring me home.”

I remember falling in love. With the song. With this character, who would give up his life to ensure his daughter’s happiness. With Mr. Diehl, whom I had been previously upset with for not letting us sing Diana Ross’s “Do You Know Where You’re Going to?” My brother, who was always excited when I showed some passion towards something other than MTV, bought me the dual tape soundtrack.

I remember going to my room at night and looking up at my ceiling as I would listen to song after song. Pretty soon, I knew every line of the soundtrack, and it was committed to memory. I would weep to myself as I cleaned my room and heard Jean Valjean asking, “Who Am I?” I wanted to scream, “He’s Jean Valjean, bitches!” as the tears streamed down my face. Once or twice (or maybe like a hundred times) when a crush of mine went unrequited, I would sing along with Eponine, the beautiful brunette whose love for Marius, the brooding student revolutionary, was forever doomed in “On My Own.”

When I was in my twenties, I finally saw my first love showing at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. In my life, I have seen the play for a total of four times at the same theater.  Every time I brought more than enough tissues but still ended up with a sea of snot and tears running down my face.

When the movie came out on Christmas Day, I knew I needed to be one of the first to see it.

I got John to agree to go with me the day after Christmas while Heather, our Au Pair, stayed home with the kids. Things did not start off well. During the lunch we grabbed before the movie, I realized that I had forgotten the case for my Invisalign braces. In a MacGuyver-esque move, I decided to wrap the braces in a cocktail napkin and slip them into my pocket.

The theater darkens and about three minutes in, I start crying. I know, I know. It was just the previews, but still, that new Tyler Perry movie looks intense, yo. So you can imagine that during the film, perhaps the tears might come quickly. They did. I wasn’t about to get up and miss anything though and all I had was the napkin with my Invisalign braces in them.

Oh well, a cocktail napkin would have to do.

As I snotted and sobbed into my single lone cocktail napkin for the next 3 hours. I felt like I had been granted a Christmas gift that I had been waiting for for years. When John and I left the theater, I could not shut up. About how brilliant it was to bring back Colm Wilksinson, the orginal Jean Valjean to play the Monsignor who saves Valjean’s soul in the movie. About Anne Hathaway’s incredible performance. About how much I wish they had cast someone other than Russell Crowe as Javert, the officer whose life purpose had become chasing escaped ex-con Valjean. The brilliance of casting Sascha Baron-Coen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers.

John said he liked it, but I think he was just saying that to make me happy. When we got home, I told Heather, our Au Pair and friend, about the movie.

Oh, I can’t wait to see it!” she said in her lovely Welsh accent.

Ok!” I said, putting the coat back on that I had just thrown on the chair.

Ok, what?” she asked.

Ok, I’m in. Let’s go! That’s cool, right John? You’ve got the kids, right?

He looked at me like I was crazy, and perhaps what he saw that moment WAS craziness because he did not argue. Not for too long anyway.

And so I went back to see “Les Mis” again, this time with Heather, on the SAME NIGHT.

And I decided I wanted to share this thing, this movie, this experience, which had been such a big influence on my own life and my own love of music, with my daughter.

But I was conflicted. You know? Because, well. She’s only 5 years old. But she is a mature 5 years old. If that makes any sense. Anyway, I talked to John about it and that went really, really well. (He said no and asked me what the hell I was thinking.) And of course, at that point, I decided I would put out how crazy I am on the Masala Chica Facebook page.

Here is what I posted:

“I keep trying to get John to agree that I can take our five year old, Shaila, to see “Les Miserables”. I know. I know. But if i close her eyes through a few bad scenes, I figure it should be alright. what do you think? (I grew up on Indian movies where I saw tons of violence).

Thoughts?

Would really appreciate it.”

Of course, everybody agreed with me, which you can see if you go to the post written on December 28th.

Ok. They didn’t. At all, really. My favorite response is the one from Masala Chica supporter (in this case, dissenter, Sabina). Go and “Like” the page and add your own comment.

But don’t you fret, I did manage to see it a third time all before New Year’s Eve. Just in case you were worried for me.

More tomorrow on the “Les Mis Holiday Adventures.”  Tomorrow’s post has a special guest appearance from Ma and Papa and a lesson on why you shouldn’t start drinking champagne in the middle of the day.

Kiran

P.S. Sneak preview – this is Ma and Papa, at our wedding reception seven years ago. Ma is like a typical Hindu Desi woman. She is the original “Village People.” Papa is just like Gandhi, and not just because he is Indian and bald. Wait, now, that I think about it, he may not be like Gandhi at all other than those two things.

But he does remind me of Belle’s Papa in “Beauty and the Beast.








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