Archive of ‘Family’ category

Straight to Voice Mail

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My parents like to talk on the phone. A lot. I am not particularly a phone person. I keep my calls short and I prefer being with people face to face. My friends know I am not the best at returning messages. I mean, I DO. It’s just a question of when that might happen. Text me, and you’ll have your answer right away. Call me and you might be waiting till your pre-schooler enters middle school.

So I’m not a phone talker. Which means, I’m not the best phone caller. This really bugs the shit out of my folks. When my parents don’t hear from me for a few days, they will undoubtedly call me in Virginia all the way from New Jersey. They would call every day if they could, and sometimes they do, but they try to temper themselves a little bit and play it cool.

As if I’m not on to them.

I don’t know what my parents think is going to happen to me or my family if we don’t talk for a few days. They try to be smooth about it. Let’s say it’s a Saturday morning and our family is out of the house at a soccer game for one of the kids. Let’s say that during this time, they try to call us at home. Nobody answers.

So what comes next? Well, naturally something terrible must have happened to us at 9 AM on a Saturday morning if we are not answering our phone. These suburbs we live in can be a cesspool of violence and turmoil when you look past all the shiny SUVs and minivans. I may have even chipped a nail. So my parents panic and call me on my iPhone. I don’t hear it because I am a running around like a crazy person, watching my 6 year old play soccer, yelling inappropriate things at the 15 year old referee and generally acting like I am watching Arsenal play and not a bunch of little girls who still don’t know what a semi-colon is.

Imagining the worst now. “Vhat if she is in a ditch? Or vhat if she had accident?” Now they start to panic. So they call John’s phone. He doesn’t hear because he is the team coach and is trying to cordon 6 year olds into some semblance of order on the soccer field, no matter that one of them would much rather play Duck, Duck Goose.

My father’s call goes unanswered.

The day passes and we finally realize that we have three messages from my parents, ranging from cool, “Oh, vee just vant to make sure you are gud!” to “Nobody is answering phone. I have called both of you… Ok, call ven you can…” The message sounds dejected and morose, as if John and I were sitting around plotting ways to ignore my parents.

I know I sound like a bit of an asshole when I say this, but these calls stress the shit out of me. Not because I don’t love talking to my parents but because if I am not available when they expect me to be, they assume that I am dead in a ditch somewhere or potentially ignoring their calls.

It brings back to mind the summer that my parents sent me away to camp. Hindu Heritage Summer Camp, to be exact, somewhere in the middle of nowhere the summer between 4th and 5th grade. I wasn’t particularly pumped to be leaving home for that long and I didn’t really know that I wanted to learn all that much about my Hindu heritage because, well, I was 10 years old. Most 10 year old American Hindu kids don’t want to learn about Lord Krishna. I could wax lyrical on Madonna, but not so much on Lord Ganesh, if you know what I mean.

So my parents sent me away to camp, which turned out to be pretty cool. I think they burst into tears when they dropped me off but I was alright. I was ok. I was with my older cousin, Shivam, and we were convinced that we could keep our shit together for the few months we were there. Besides, there were a TON of other Indian American kids just like us there and we already could tell that most of them hadn’t come to train to be yogis. I breathed a sigh of ten year old relief, ate some Skittles and moved on.

Imagine every camp song that you know and make it Hindu. Well as Hindu as you can to a bunch of American kids whose parents are all Indian immigrants. So well, that’s what they did. I remember singing along to the melody of John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads” but in our own special Hindu way,

I hear the conch in the morning as it wakes me up

My counselor reminds me of my Hatha Yoga class

And stumbling out of bed I get the feeling that I should

Have stayed in bed today, but no way!

Seriously, I wasn’t missing no dang Hatha Yoga class. Not even at 6:30 in the morning.

So things went well. Friendships were made. It was like any other camp I guess, except for the fact that the people who ran the camp were all wizened Swamis in long orange robes. No matter, my camp counselors still dressed like Madonna and would sing Whitney Houston songs with us, so there was some balance.

The thing was, somewhere along the lines, I forgot to send letters home to my parents. This was a very egregious offense. The worst kind. I don’t know what bad fortune they felt had befallen me at Hindu Heritage Summer Camp, but apparently the wheels in their heads were turning and I am pretty sure they started regretting sending me to a camp that was five hours away.

And so one morning in the mess hall, Swami Dev got up and gave a long speech to all the young citizens of the camp and told us how important it was to keep in touch with our families while we were away. He then went on to read a letter from a very concerned parent who felt that their daughter had forgotten them and who couldn’t understand why she couldn’t find the time to write a letter.

Of course, Swami Dev was not one for subterfuge, so he looked directly at me in the mess hall as he read the letter, making me want to curl under one of the hatha yoga mats.

So, OF COURSE, I went and wrote the letter. And I DID miss my parents. But you know, people. 10. I was 10.

I look back at those memories now and think about how my parents feel about needing to connect and I realize that no matter how much I complain or bemoan their need, I need it just as much. And I think about how fortunate I am to have the gift of parents who care (especially after watching Breaking Bad. I mean, can you even believe Jessie Pinkman’s parents?) And while I have never been a meth dealer like Jessie, a part of me knows that those calls and those letters and the not giving up on me would not stop.

One day, I’m not going to have this. One day, the phone won’t ring in my house and move to my cell and then John’s phone as my parents try to locate me. I won’t get to feign annoyance as I tell my Dad, “YES, Papa. I’m OK.” I don’t know when, but I know that like most things that we are blessed with in life, this cannot last forever. One day, they will be gone and my phones will still be there.

And God, I will miss that incessant ringing.

There may be days when I am tired. There may be days when I am stressed. But I hope that my parents realize that every time I hear their voices, I understand it’s a gift. Unless they are being annoying… Well, even then.

As I write this I realize how much more I need to make an effort to run to the phone to catch it when it rings. While I still can.

XO,

Kiran








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!

Under the Bleachers and Far Away

“When I grow up I want to be a slut,” said no girl. EVER.

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The other night I was talking to an old friend about nothing and everything. We somehow ended up talking about a reality show, since everything in my life has about two degrees of separation from the Bravo Network. The subject moved to the storyline of one of the the women that appears on this show. I don’t know her, but she seems like a really sweet woman with an amazing personality, which says a lot for anyone represented on reality television. I think it’s fair to say that 80% of them DON’T seem like real “quality” people. Quite the opposite, even.

Anyway, I would guess that this woman is about 40 years old. I can’t say for sure, but she seems so nice, like she would give you the shirt off her own back.

Apparently, however, she has a reputation for not having a shirt on her back.

“Yeah, I heard she used to be a real slut in high school,” my friend mentioned casually. “My friend Rich went to high school with her. Apparently she used to have a reputation and used to go down on guys under the bleachers.”

Hmmm.

I thought about the woman in question. For the past few years, she has lived her life on television and allowed people to see her as a mother, a friend and a wife. This is reality television so take it for what it’s worth, but she seems kind, she seems loving and she seems like she works hard to have a good life.

But for whatever reason, to some people, she will be known always as the “girl who used to go down on guys under the bleachers.”

Over twenty years ago.

The whole conversation made me sad. I don’t know, nor do I care to know what choices this woman made about her sexuality when she was younger. I doubt they define her and I highly, HIGHLY  doubt that any male who participated in the activity is still remembered by anyone for whatever it was that he did under the bleachers with her.

Which takes me back to how I started this post. When I was a little kid and played dolls with my female friends, we talked about our dreams.

“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”

“When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut.”

“When I grow up, I want to get married and have two kids named Chanel and Coco.” (Ok, ok. Only once).

You know what I didn’t hear?

“When I grow up, I want to be a whore.”

“When I grow up, I want to be known as the girl who gives guys a good time.”

“Maybe if I work really hard I can become a pole dancer one day.”

No, these are not things that I hoped for as a young woman. I don’t remember any of my friends having those aspirations either.

The names that women are called for choices they make around their sexuality are brutal and meant to debase. We might not live in the day and age of a Scarlet Letter, but society shows a woman a huge double standard when it comes to her sexuality. It’s no wonder that the names women get called who are deemed as “too sexual”  carry such a stigma. They are meant to cause shame. They are meant to devalue her.

Which is why, as a woman, I make a conscious effort not to look at another woman as “a slut”, as “a whore”, or any of these other terms that get thrown around a little too comfortably and reduce a woman’s identity to the lowest common denominator. Society might be telling me to call her such a name.

I choose not to.

We’re playing on the same team here, sisters.

When I look back at high school and I look at the girls with a “reputation”, I see things a little differently now. They weren’t professional hookers at 16. They were lost and they were confused and they could have done with some light in their life.

To any girl I may have judged in high school because perhaps I’d “heard things about you,” I’d like to apologize. I look back at the young women you were and while we may not have always run in the same circles, I certainly judged you. I regret that and wish that instead, I had extended a hand in friendship and supported you.

Maybe if you been given a little more light and less judgement in your own life, you might not have mistaken love as one night of the quarterback’s affections.

I made my own mistakes later in life, I will admit. My college years were fueled by insecurity, pain and alcohol. I don’t really want to know what names I might have been called. I do know that my sorority named me “Most Likely to Hook up at a Mixer” which wasn’t even fair because I didn’t even go to mixers.

I don’t think that those years define me, but they certainly play a role in shaping who I am today. The sum of my parts are not comprised by my best days alone. They include my mistakes and my weaknesses, which I believe I continue to learn from.

I hope one day I can watch my Bravo television in peace, with my glass of wine in my hand, the kids tucked into bed and the dishes miraculously done. Where I can watch a woman act like a moron on national television while she drinks too much chardonnay, flips over a table and pulls her friend’s hair weave in a cat fight.

Just doing what they do on any given Tuesday.

Just don’t tell me what she did under the bleachers 20 years ago. I don’t care.

And neither should you.

XO.

Kiran








Why Don’t We Just Chill?

I don’t have many friends who are models or on television. I do have a handful of friends who I sometimes get a get the opportunity to see unexpectedly, like when I’m waiting for a route canal and open a magazine at the Dentist’s office. This never becomes dull – I get excited every time. I still think it’s cool when we see our friend Craig peddle pretzels in commercials on television or notice my friend Sang’s cousin, Gene, on the Tempur-pedic brochure at the mattress store. In fact, I am pretty sure the reason we bought a Temper-pedic bed was because Cousin Gene looked like he was having so much fun on it. In a PG kind of way, of course.

The other person I see from time to time is my friend, Jennifer.

THIS is Jennifer.

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Every once in a while I’ll open a magazine and see that beautiful face smiling back. Every time, it’s a wonderful surprise.

Jennifer and I met almost 12 years ago when were being whored out for charity.

Ok, well, not exactly. We were in a “Buy a Date” auction to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. So, not “technically” whored out, but yeah. Pretty much.

Jennifer moved out to Los Angeles about 7 years ago. We’ve stayed in touch, mainly so I can tell her how excited I am every time I see her in a magazine or on T.V. (“Hey, that’s my friend Jenni! I KNOW her!”). I love her perspective on racial identity, feminism and just, you know.

Being awesome.

I wanted Jennifer to share something with you today. She is on an amazing journey – one that she is documenting to share with women everyone.

Check it out.

I don’t remember exactly how Kiran and I got roped into the “Buy a Date” auction.  I do remember that some blonde chick convinced us it was for a good cause so we agreed to do it.   Now that really I think about it, I agreed to do a lot of crazy things in my mid-twenties.

Wearing a red strapless gown and a “Hello My Name Is” sticky badge with a number instead of my name, I watched as The Ballroom filled with people. I was seriously regretting my charitable contribution.

“What the hell was I thinking?  I can’t do this.”

Thank goodness for Kiran. Looking completely amazing in her black slinky dress, she oozed the confidence I longed for.  She gave a quick pep talk and I was almost convinced I’d survive the evening. We made a pit stop at the bar for a couple shots.  Now, I’m ready.

“Let’s do this.”

As I watched Kiran sashay her way across the stage, I admired her fearlessness; it gave me the courage to attempt to do the same for my turn on stage.

Honestly, after the MC announced my name, I don’t remember one second of my time on stage.  The only reason I know I came out from behind the curtain, didn’t trip over the hem of my dress and fall flat on my face is because someone gave me a picture a couple weeks later.  Yes, an actual Kodak piece of paper.  The photo showed me, with a real smile not the terrified one I imagined, standing tall center stage.

I’m so thankful to have a friend like Kiran. Her beautiful spirit has inspired me in more ways than she probably knows.  She’s a thoughtful, supportive friend and a loving, hard working mother who dares to share her authentic self, which is one of the boldest things anyone can do.

I am honored by her invitation to contribute on Masala Chica.  Here goes nothing:

After ending yet another relationship, shortly before my 35th birthday, I had a serious freak-out moment.  Actually it was more than a moment.  It was like a panic month…or three.

Talking to my therapist about marriage, babies and all the grown up stuff people do, I felt behind, like time was running out.

You know that scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally is in her bathrobe crying and saying, “And I’m gonna be 40…Someday.”  Well, that blubbering chick might as well have been me.  Forty was five years away, but looming.

The cold hard truth:  My biological clock was ticking, ticking so loud that everyone around me could hear it.  I had to figure out a way to slow it down.

After weeks of research and soul-searching, I decided to freeze my eggs.

Recently having its “experimental” label lifted, egg freezing is technically known as oocyte cryopreservation.  It’s a break-through technology where a woman’s eggs are extracted, stored and frozen indefinitely.

Unlike men, a woman’s fertility begins to decrease significantly after the age of 35.  In other words, as a woman ages so do her eggs.  Women over 40 have a two out of five chance for a successful pregnancy.

You know what I find the most fascinating about this information?  I didn’t learn it until I was 35!

Women spend the majority of their lives practicing pregnancy prevention.  It’s just what we’re taught.  No one talks about FERTILITY until they’re the position where it has drastically diminished.  So the question becomes – how do we get women to start the fertility conversation sooner?

To get and keep the conversation going, I decided to share my egg freezing journey in a documentary film titled Chill. The goal of the film is to empower and inform women about the reproductive options science and technology have made available today.  Unlike our mothers and grandmothers, we are no longer strictly limited by the time frames of nature.

I know egg freezing isn’t for everyone, but it’s important for women to know it’s an option.  I chose to do it because I didn’t want to feel pressured to find a partner just so I could have a family. I also wanted to preserve my chance to have biological children.  By freezing my eggs, I’ve extended that possibility.

There have been some notable changes since my eggos went into the freezer.  First, I learned more about fertility in the last year and a half than I have in my entire life…Did you know our ovaries have follicles?  Yeah, well, I didn’t until about a year ago.

Seriously, most of the changes I’ve noticed are emotional.  I no longer feel rushed to choose a partner.  Most of all, I have less anxiety about what the future holds for me when it comes to family.  I’m so grateful to have taken this journey and I look forward to sharing it with you through Chill.

To read more about my egg freezing experience, check out the Chill blog at http://www.chillthedocumentary.com.  If you’re interested in spreading the word and supporting the film, check out our Indiegogo Campaign. Thank you!

I am glad I got to bring you Jenni today. I think it’s amazing that she is documenting her experience to help other women who might be going through this as well. Help her voice get a little louder and the documentary get more support by sharing this.

Love,

Kiran








Finding Myself on the Map

A lot of people ask me the question, “Where are you from?” I know most people ask because they are curious about my ethnicity, not because they want to know which state of the Union I identify myself with. But I am never really sure, so often ask, “What do you mean?” I will respond without hesitation once they clarify. In some cases, people are actually asking about the state I am from, after they catch the subtlest hint of what remains of my Jersey accent.

When the question is about my ethnicity, the responses I get range in nature from slight head nods to outward enthusiasm to the highly offensive. Here are a few examples:

I love Indian food! I love Indian culture. That’s so cool.” An enthusiastic response.

Wow, you’re pretty for an Indian!” Yeah, that’s a very informed thing to say. No, it’s not.

You don’t look Indian. Are you sure there’s no white mixed in? Somewhere?”

DOT, not feather, right?” Yes, I have seen “Good Will Hunting.” You’re hysterical.

I have a friend who is Indian. Do you know him? His name is Sunny Patel.” Um, no. Oh wait, you’re Italian? Do you know Bob Russo? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Do Indians really eat monkey brains?” Thanks for starting that rumor, Indiana Jones. No, as a matter of fact, a good portion of India is vegetarian.

Oh, you’re name is Kiran (pronounced kee-rin)! Do you mind if I call you Karen instead? Kiran is too complicated.” No. I’d prefer you call me nothing at all.

You just don’t look Indian,” said with a head tilt, skepticism laced in the answer. This obviously from an expert on physical traits of Indian people.

Wow. Your English is really good. I can’t even hear an accent.” The only accent I am guilty of having is the slight Jersey one, courtesy of the state I spent my childhood in.

I don’t get upset any more. In the past, I was a little firecracker about a few of the comments above. I would get angry or defensive and rail at the ignorance of the comments. Sometimes I would express how pissed off I was directly to the person, but oftentimes afterwards, where I would think of all the witty ways I should have replied.

There were times in my life when I wasn’t so comfortable being different from my friends, different enough to be receiving this question. I am sad to admit this to you now, but there were times when I was  actually happy when someone told me that I “don’t look Indian.” It seemed safer to be identified as something else. Something less, I don’t know…

Foreign.

Last weekend, we packed up the kids and drove up from Northern Virginia  to visit family in NJ and NY. Our Au Pair, Heather, came with us. She isn’t very familiar with Indian culture (she’s from Wales) and so I spent a lot of time explaining small things to her along the way to help her navigate a little easier. There was a lot to tell her, but I still don’t think I prepared her nearly enough.

While I am American, I genuinely do consider myself to be blended in my identity – sort of a citizen of both worlds. Walking into my parents home is a reminder of how influenced I am by the culture.

Let me walk you through a normal scene.

Imagine opening the door and immediately being embraced by your parents who have been calling you since you left home to find out where you are in the journey (usual answer “We’re stuck in Delaware”). They mostly do this so they can time when the food should be ready, because they want it to be just perfect when you get there. You can smell the aroma of the chicken curry and the lingering hints of the masala (spices) my mother used (Turmeric? Garam masala?) and immediately head into the kitchen to see what other goodies Ma made. Through the corner of your eye you can see the colorful pictures of the Hindu gods which grace the wall. Some put up thoughtfully, others placed on other walls haphazardly. Your mom asks you to eat some prasad that she brought home from the temple. To eat it is like receiving a blessing from God. You pick an almond out – usually part of the mix. Prasad is considered sacred, so once it has been presented to the Gods and a prayer ceremony (puja) is performed, to decline an offering is frowned upon. Most importantly, none of the prasad can be thrown away or wasted. As you enter the family room, you  can detect the smell of the sandalwood incense my mother had burned earlier.

There are so many other things which assault my senses, bringing me back to the world I was raised in. And it’s comfortable to me. None of it seems foreign because it’s what I know. We usually settle on the couch, ignoring the buzz of the Bollywood videos playing on ZEE-TV (THE Indian channel for most Indian-Americans) which is pretty much on all the time when I go home. My mom asks me if I want her intoxicating chai. I decline and ask for a coffeee instead.

It’s odd straddling two culture like this sometimes. Marrying a non-Indian also accentuates the differences within cultures. However – this is what the immigrant experience entails. Usually the children of the first and second generation will be raised the way I was.

While most people who know me realize I am Indian in ethnicity, I think seeing me in my home surroundings is always a bit of a shock to them. It’s an eye opener, that’s for sure. It’s like I gain some kind of unspoken street cred. New Delhi style.

Here are some pictures of my grandparents, which both hang prominently in my parent’s family room, slightly crooked and much higher than eye level. These are decorating guidelines my parents do not care to know or abide by. I only saw my now deceased grandparents once every few years. They were my largest tie to India, and once they were gone, some part of my connection to India loosened a bit.

My maternal grandparents, Nana and Nani.

Five

A lot of my friends don’t remember their childhood. I think that’s strange because I seem to have so many memories of my childhood and I wonder sometimes if my memories are real or just fragmented narrations that I have mentally pieced together through pictures. Birthday cakes, favorite dolls, memories of parties, family and Jordache.

Lots of Jordache.

I think the year that I started to remember with clarity was around 1981. I was five.

That year, my mother took me to India to visit family. It was the first trip that I actually remember, although I had been there before. Going to India was no easy jaunt across the ocean. It was a long flight to New Delhi, with a never ending connection at Heathrow, a bustling place where my mother and I lost our way around for a while. Luckily, my mother was eventually able to steer us to the Duty Free to load up on Dunhill cigarettes for my grandfather during that break, so we got something accomplished before boarding the second leg.

Minutes seemed like hours on those flights and there were no conveniences of iPads or cell phones, heck any wireless form of gadgetry, to distract me along the way. By the time we were greeted in New Delhi, I was beat and could barely stand on my feet in the line for Immigration. But I shouldn’t have bothered to blink because whatever break we had was brief. We would then jump onto an overnight train to take us from New Delhi to a smaller city, Patna, which is closer to my parents’ childhood towns. Actually, there was no jumping involved, but there was some form of bribery that had to take place before we were able to buy tickets.

Par for the course, I would come to learn.

From Patna, it was another 1 1/2 day journey to my mother’s hometown. To my father’s, another couple of hours. These latter legs were on rickety, stifled trains, where men hung on to the train by the sides or sometimes sat on the top. These trains chugged over beautiful rivers and mountains that weave their way through the state of Bihar and I would look through the horizontal iron bars on the windows at the women washing their laundry on rocks by the river as the train passed by.

By the time we made it to close family, I was in shell shock. Nothing quite prepares you for India when you see it the first time. Nothing prepared my five year old self for the things I would see, both beautiful and heart-wrenching. The coolies, who transported our luggage on top of their heads, on a wrapped scarf running at top speed with luggage I would struggle to roll on a cart today. The rickshaw drivers, who drove carriages full of people attached to the back of their bikes, their sinewy legs straining under the effort.

The beggars. Of all ages. Children. The elderly. Some without limbs. Some blind.

It was overwhelming. And scary. Kind of lonely. I didn’t speak much Hindi at the time, so I was surrounded by voices and a language that was painfully unfamiliar. When we went shopping in Patna, I didn’t understand why my mother argued with salesmen that were her brothers, not realizing at the time that she was engaging in the common Indian act of haggling and although she called the men “Bhai” and they called her “Behen,” both sides just wanted to get the better deal. These were not, in fact, my uncles. Which is a good thing, I guessed, since by the time we were done with those deals, I don’t know how brotherly they felt towards my bargain hunting mother.

Even at five, it was a shock to my little soul to realize that a good deal of the world lives in poverty. And I was shocked to see all the indifference. It didn’t make sense to me at all. Why was nobody helping these people? Look at that little girl with the torn dress, holding her little sister on her hip. Look at that man without any legs who is scooting himself with his arms to make it across the street. People would walk down the street and pass by a child who was crying on the side of the road. Why is nobody helping them? I wanted to cry, as our rickshaw drove past them. I saw dirty children, babies, being balanced on their mothers’ hips as they thrust their change jars into the air, begging.

I know now that you have to have seen a great number of people begging in your lifetime to not even flinch. I have to tell myself that because I can’t believe it’s in our inherent nature to ignore a small hand reaching out for help, asking you to please, please help them? I remember being so angry, even then at the people around me who could not look at or acknowledge the beggars. Indifference had made them blind.

I burst into tears frequently and was always pleading with my mother to let me give them some money. But there was never going to be enough and we only had so much to give. I was never in India long enough to get to the point of indifference. I wonder if I ever will.

My family actually thinks my sensitivity to poverty is a bit … much. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s just that they have accepted. They harden their shells when they land on that side of the world and they can enjoy beauty in the other things that are around them. I think this is called having a thick skin. But my skin is not like that. It bruises easily and my heart beats wildly and without apology on my sleeve for the whole world to see. I have tried to hide it and have willed my skin to thicken, but some things I can’t change about me.

I empathize with my family too though – after traveling with me for extended periods of time, it must becomes quite annoying to look over and see me with tears running down my face. Again.

“Stop crying,” my mother would say to me.

“Bu-ut, bu-ut, I ca-an’t,” I would sob. I was 5 then.

“You can’t give them anything. This is totally organized. It’s a racket,” my sister said, pointing out the ringleader as I was doling out money to two little boys, who were working me over “Slumdog” style.

“Bu-ut, bu-ut I can’t NOT do anything,” I said in between tears. That was the last time I was in India. I was 22 then.

I still don’t think I can. NOT cry.

NOT do anything.

I’m 37 years old. I have been on this planet for thirty-seven winters. And summers. I like to think I am a little older and wiser now at 37 than I was at 5. But the further I am from India, the further the harsh reality of that poverty seems to me. The longer I wait to go back, the less clear the eyes of those children become.

In a way, I think I am avoiding that part of India the most.

It’s strange what you remember from your childhood at different stages in your life. My daughter, Shaila, is five and I can’t help thinking about how different her first five years were from mine. Sometimes I look at her face and the face of the young girl on the street begging for change in my memories becomes Shaila’s. And I want to cry. Because I AM grateful. That Shaila is here and she is mine. But I am NOT grateful for what has become of that child on the streets in India. The many children on the streets. For that child, and so many others, I am sad and ashamed all at the same time.

Coming back to live my life felt like a crime. I felt like I was complicit in something terrible. The five year olds I played with in America talked about Barbies. The five year olds I had seen in India had no food.

It was a heavy burden to carry at that age.

Even as a child, even at five, I knew that I could have had a very different life. That my soul had swept into my neat little, temperature controlled life while someone else’s was begging on the streets of India.

That trip to India is when I started remembering.

When I was five.

Kiran








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