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.
2) Don’t send my kids to school with weird pickles on their sandwiches.
3) Do learn how to make things like brownies and cupcakes. When it’s my kid’s birthday, make these things from scratch and don’t buy them in the plastic containers from Shop-Rite.
4) Make interesting and exotic dinners, like Spaghetti and Meatballs or Fettucini Alfredo. Don’t serve rice and daal at every meal.
5) Do not wear bindis. Do not wear anything resembling dots on my head.
6) Do take my kids to fun places like Disneyland and Six Flags. Don’t wear saris. Wear cool jeans and shorts, like the other moms.
7) Do let my daughter go to the mall on Friday nights to hang out with the rest of her friends.
8) Do teach daughter about facial hair. And what to do with it. Teach her how to shave, wax, whatever. Don’t let her walk around feeling like a hairy gorilla.
9) Do watch other movies with my kids other than Indian movies. Learn how to be comfortable with watching kissing scenes in front of my kids, like the other cool moms. Don’t make the kids leave the room if a kissing scene does take place.
10) Don’t make my kid pray all the time. Pray less. Sometimes praying too much can give your kids a headache.
11) Don’t yell at my kids if they say the word sex. Sex is not always dirty. Sometimes, sex is just a question on a form.
12) Don’t take my kids out of school every year for a few weeks to see family in India.
My list of dos and don’ts was fairly black and white for me. Whatever my mother was doing was a “DON’T”. Whatever the other moms were doing was a “DO.” Apparently I had great respect for my friends’ mothers, their mom jeans and their ability to whip up a box of Duncan Hines baked goods at home.
I look back at this list and what’s clear is that I was obviously afraid of being different. I wanted, so very much, to be like the rest of my friends. I wasn’t thinking about how cool it was that my mom still embraced her culture so much. I wasn’t really thinking about how amazing it was to eat the sabzis and the curries my mother would make every night to go alongside the daal and rice.
So what if a few kids made fun of those differences? Buck up, I want to tell that kid now. Learn how to be different. Embrace those things. And for Pete’s sake, don’t worry so much about hairy legs. You will have a lifetime to worry about that.
Well, not really, if you get married.
In that case, you generally get most of the winter off.
Still, I want to tell that young girl that one day, she will be writing a post, much like this one, and will salivate at the thought of her mom’s homemade pickles on her sandwiches or eating her mother’s cooking that night. That it’s ok that her mom couldn’t shake and bake like her friends’ moms.
I will explain that she was comparing apples to oranges.
Or better yet, Apple pie to Ladoos.
My mom never had reason for me to question her cooking, especially when her samosas kick the Tri-State area’s ass.
I wish I could explain how precious it would be, that time when she is young. And how much it means to let her hold on to it for another day, another year. And if that means not letting her troll around a dingy mall so that she is less likely to get felt up by upperclassmen in the empty part of the parking lot over by J.C.Penney, so be it.
I would love to tell her how one day, those trips to India will teach her more than any textbook at home could. How those trips will inspire her to think beyond the world she lives in. To look beyond those walls and beyond the privilege she has been born into. How they will be the only way she would have had memories of her grandparents or cousins who are now gone. How maybe understanding the journey her parents took to get to the United States, might help her appreciate the ties they still cherish.
The customs they hope to keep alive.
I totally would back her up on the praying thing. Praying too much still gives me a headache.
But I would love to maybe give her a different point of view.
Maybe just a little perspective.
“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
- Khalil Gibran, “The Prophet”
“Last morning, I peed my pants.”
“Last morning, I got a boo boo, Mommy.”
“Remember? Last morning, Shaila hit me.”
These are all things my three year old son, Nico, can say on a given morning. You would think that “last morning” might mean yesterday, or the day before yesterday morning. But no. Last morning can really be any morning that happened in the past. Heck, it might even be an afternoon or an evening.
We have a lot of stories about “last morning” going on in this house. “Last morning” basically is a sum of all our yesterdays; it’s where the accidents of our past took place and where we lay our mistakes to rest.
I look at my own past, kind of how Nico does. A lot of memories of yesterdays seem to jumble up together. I don’t often remember the order in which all the memories take place but they sometimes stumble upon each other when I look back at them, forming a mosaic of “last morning” type of scenes.
Last morning I had a baby named Shaila. (Granted that morning was almost six years ago now. Just stick with me on this one).
Last morning, I suffered through terrible post-partum depression, which lingered on when I had my second child, Nico, two years later.
Last morning, I started to question the marriage that John and I built together.
Last morning, the questioning grew stronger.
Last morning, John and I wondered if we were quite right for each other.
Last morning, John and I separated.
Last morning, I went and bought a house.
Last morning, John and I realized that we wanted to work on our life together.
Last morning, I had to “return” the house, just two weeks before going to closing.
Last morning, I lost some people I really cared about. Only a few of those lost actually were to death.
Last morning, I cried. Shit. I cried a lot of mornings.
Last morning, I laughed. Some mornings it was easier than others.
Last morning, I drank too much wine. In my defense, it was really in the last evenings.
Last mornings were hard.
Last mornings are now just a series of my yesterdays.
The past few years have been hard for me. Hard meaning things hurt, I hurt, I have been through things I didn’t expect and I have felt a sucker punch or two (or three) that I wasn’t quite prepared to handle, last morning. Heck, I don’t know if I am prepared to handle them THIS morning. I know I feel things hard. Even before I started writing this blog, I always seemed to accessorize my most often mismatched outfits with my heart positioned right on my sleeve, where everyone could see it.
Maybe even poke at it a little.
“Kiran’s… sensitive,” is how my closest friends might describe it. The friends who have been there for me on my last mornings and continue to be there for me might describe it as something else outside of my own hearing. If they are honest, the words “impulsive,” “constantly searching,” and “dreamer” might be a part of their description as well. I know they love me, but I think I confuse them. I think we handle our last mornings differently. I would say they do a better job than me.
They would probably agree.
The last mornings of my recent past where I started to juggle a full time job with motherhood, marriage with my own independence, family with my need to still be my own person were tough. I imagine that they are for a lot of mothers and fathers like myself who have felt their last mornings implode on themselves. I also know that there are many who handle it all with much more grace and wisdom than I have been able to manage, across all my last mornings.
My last morning were not always joyous and no, they didn’t always fit into a nice little package that I yearn to re-open on rainy days.
I feel like they belong in my past, where they will stay.
Still. Regardless of the challenge I might have felt in the most recent years of my life, there were so many gifts I got last morning.
Last morning, I had a beautiful daughter named Shaila.
Last morning, I was blessed with an amazing son named Nico.
Last morning, I rediscovered my marriage.
Last morning, I realized how lucky I am to have many of the people in my life who have chosen to stick around.
Last morning, I realized how lucky I am to have my parents, and John’s parents, alive and a part of our lives.
Last mornings, while challenging, were also really quite amazing.
And I need to remind myself of that. Whether it’s Nico tattling about his sister when he talks about his last mornings or whether its me, trying to make sense of a few years full of last mornings I once had trouble navigating. Last mornings pave the way for a new today. And maybe an even more amazing tomorrow.
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.
“Is Kiran’s family Anti-Semitic?”
“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.
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.”
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.
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!”
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.
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?
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:
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.
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!
I come from a family that doesn’t always share. I mean, they share food and clothes and they pray together a lot and things like that. But things like feelings and whether we are angry or whether we are sad? Stuff like that?
That stuff, we don’t share as much. I would dare to even say, that when we do? We don’t do it that well.
This whole blogging thing has been hard for my family. It’s been hard that I have shared things that were not only mine to share. It’s been hard when sometimes they don’t understand why I feel the need to be so confessional. Why can’t you maintain some boundaries? they ask. It’s mainly Papa, who thinks I have diarrhea of the keyboard, with no filter on to keep the shit from flying out.
The thing is, I actually do. There is A LOT I don’t write and I don’t say here, knowing how it can impact others once I push down that first domino. In retrospect, there are some things I wish I had refrained from sharing. Of course there are also things I don’t share because if I do, you can see me for what I really am. An often insecure woman, with big dreams and sometimes little faith in herself. Someone who talks with a bravado she rarely feels, but hides behind humor or sarcasm and cheerleader type euphemisms like “Love wins!” or shit like “Don’t stop believin’!” Like I’m fucking the lead singer of Journey.
Not Steve Perry. The other one.
The truth is that there are some days where I really wonder if love wins. I wonder if dreams are just a distraction from accepting disappointment. I wonder why someone else would believe in me when I don’t have much faith in myself.
I don’t like myself much on those days. Truth is, I don’t like most people on those days. It’s hard to be loving, kind and supportive of others when you can’t even be those things to yourself.
A lot of bloggers will ask other bloggers, what’s your end goal? Some really want to blog, because they love the act of blogging itself. And let me be clear, blogging is different from writing. Blogging is not just the act of writing a post, it’s being interactive with your readers, finding other work that you love and want to support, working with other bloggers to build communities and encouraging and evangelizing others’ writing.
It’s a LOT of work.
Sometimes I am good at it. Most of the times I am thirty steps behind, trying to catch up to be a “good blogger.”
The Facebook page thing is the hardest. I feel like whenever I am most honest on it, I lose people. And that, I’m okay with. Once I stop being real and just spit stuff out to please others, nobody is going to be happy. It’s not sincere. It’s fabricated.
I would make a joke about Manti Te’O except it’s a bit overdone. Plus, we all had fake boyfriends and girlfriends. Right? Hello?! George Glass, everybody. Jan Brady started the trend a long time ago. I’m sure George Glass died an untimely death as well at some point.
Anyway, I like blogging. I think I will always be a “blogger.” But what I really want to be, like many other bloggers as well, is an author. Of books. I’ve got the blog thing down. Songwriting will always be a part of me.
But I want to publish and feel the pride of dreaming and crafting and writing stories that touch people. And that’s scary. It’s really freaking scary. There are some days when I look around and feel like the writing here is something that people love and there are other days where I know I have fallen short. That something was just missing.
And gosh. Who doesn’t want to write a fucking book? If I had a dollar for every blogger I knew who wants to eventually write a book, I could actually quit my job so that I could stay home and write a goddamn book.
I have found a few bloggers who don’t want to write a book or get away from blogging. They use this as a way to help promote a business or a brand. Make some extra money for the household.
And now I guess you know why I do it.
So I’m putting myself out there. This is it. This is me. Naked. Varicose veins, stretch marks, muffin top and all. Ok, ok. Don’t worry, Papa. I’m putting on a robe.
Better now? Ok, good.
I have decided not to give up on it. Even though sometimes disappointment seems like a shadow that I can’t get away from. I have decided to have some more faith in myself. Even on days when I stop believing I have “what it takes.” On days when I read David Sedaris and cry like a baby because my wit and attempts at humor will never compare to the masters I admire.
And well, I have decided to believe that love wins. Because I like who I love, even if it hurts. Even if I bleed. Even if it’s not reciprocated.
It’s still worth it.
So give yourself a hug.
Ok. Stop now. I don’t want everyone in your office to think you’re a freak.
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 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.
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.
Trust me, my family is getting enlisted BIG time.
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).
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.
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.”