I am Indian. And I love Curry.

The Proof is in the Bacon

me and ma

This one’s an oldie but a goodie. I hope you enjoy!

My kids are little toothpicks. Skinny, all lean limbed with very little body fat on them. I don’t like it. I wish they were, I don’t know. Meatier? Chubbier? When they get sick, they quickly lose what little weight they already have and fall into the 0-5 percentile on the charts that they show you at the Doctor’s office.

Those charts are a little silly, don’t you think? A child’s height and weight is going to be some indicator of health, but you can’t abide too much by those charts. I mean, they are comparing my little children to the rest of the American population. Since my background is Indian and my husband’s is Italian and Puerto Rican, it would be much more accurate if they compared my kids to other kids who are:

1/2 Indian

1/4 Italian

1/4 Puerto Rican

Right? 

But that’s hard to do. And since America is a melting pot of cultures, we are a melting pot of genetic makeup as well.

A lot of times my kids aren’t even on the chart.

“Zero Percent?” I ask at the Doctor’s office. “What the hell does that even mean?” Can you even exist at 0%? Do they have a negative scale, like -5 – 0%, -10 to -5%? I mean, WTF? How do you categorize all the 0% kids? (These are the questions that keep me up at night, apparently).

We do feed them. I promise. If anything we try to give them fattier foods to put some meat on the bones. The net result of that is that John, me and Heather, our Au Pair, all gain weight while the kids stubbornly hold their positions at their  0 – 10% mark.

I try not to worry about it. I mean, they are healthy kids. Just little.

John gets freaked out about it more than me. I try to remind him of what both of us looked like in our childhood pictures. Not that different from our kids in that way.

Gangly, stick figured like. You could see my ribs till I was about ten. I had teeth that were too big for my face, until I was about 20. Then I remind John about his mullet, which has nothing to do with being skinny, but it’s still important that we humiliate each other about these things.

Seeing how freaked out John gets reminds me of how concerned my own parents used to be about it when I was younger.

Yeh kitni skinny hai?” (She is so skinny!) an auntie would say while literally squeezing what flesh I had off of my cheekbones, shaking my head from side to side. “Khahti he?” (Does this little punk eat?)

Ha, lekin kya karenge? Khaathi hai nahin, na? Oos par bhi, zero percent mai hai!” (Yes, but what are we going to do? Bitch never eats. She’s in the zero percent.)

Arey, zero percent hai bhi? Kaise, kya baat?” (What, they have a zero percent? I always wondered what they did to those little bastards!)

My parents would take me to the doctors. They were sure something was wrong with me. My pediatrician, Doctor Rahill, who oddly reminded me of a mix of Mr. Rogers and Steve Winwood, would tell them again and again that I was fine.

Again.

And again.

Finally, Dr. Rahill just broke down under the weight of my parents’ constant concerns over my weight and their good for nothing visits. I always got the feeling that he wanted to shake them and say, “I mean hello, there are starving children in India!” Instead, he suggested that my mother just give me the most fattening foods we had on hand. And basically to give me what I wanted to eat.

But aahll she vaunts to eat is potahto chip and ice cur-ream. Vhat ca-an I do?” My mom asked.

I like bacon. And pepperoni,” I volunteered, quietly from the examination table.

VHAT?” my mom asked.

Bacon. Pepperoni. I love that,” I said, piping up this time. My mother was giving me “the look.” But I didn’t care.

In unison, both Dr. Rahill and my mother spoke.

That’s great! Bacon and pepperoni will put some meat on her bones,” said Dr. Rahill, happy with the solution. I think he even gave my mom a prescription that said, bacon.

Ay, hey Raam! Hey Raam!” (Oh, my lord Raam. How did you give me this child of the demon, Raavana?) my mother said with her hands on her forehead, shaking her head in disbelief.

My parents do NOT eat beef. They do NOT eat pork. My parents think that eating pigs is like, the grossest idea in the world. Because pigs will eat everything. And so if you eat a pig, you are eating everything. I mean, there is an accepted analogy that is used in popular culture that even talks about pigs in conjunction with shit. Examples are:

Kate was like a pig in shit when she got those tickets to see Neil Diamond!

Brad was like a pig in shit when his “Penthouse Magazine” got delivered earlier than expected!

It’s so gross for them, that it’s like how I imagine I would feel if someone told me I had to eat horse meat. Or my neighbors’ little kitty cat down the street. Or watch “Full House” reruns all day.

A little like N to the O.

Hell to the NO.

So here is my mom, with basically a prescription to just let me eat shit, like literally, SHIT, in her mind. She went to Food-Town, dragging me by the arm and muttering under her breath, where she threw a few packs of bacon into the cart. She threw in a stick of pepperoni for good measure. I’m surprised she didn’t throw it at my head, to be honest. When touching these packets, she did it gingerly with her fingers, as if to minimize contamination. She then went to the drugstore and bought those face masks. You know, they kind you might wear in a hospital, while painting, protecting yourself from disease.

OR about to serve shit to your kids.

It was like she was packing to go to war. A soldier. Armed only with some packs of Smithfield brand cured meats.

We got home and the first thing she did was open ALL the windows. She turned on the attic fan. She put on her mask and brand new plastic gloves and was finally prepared.

This was turning out to be quite the operation.

With the exhaust fan running on the stove, my masked mother made me a whole pack of bacon. She never cooked bacon so she didn’t know what it was supposed to look like, but I remember it being really burnt. She also didn’t know what a serving was, so she made me a whole pack in one sitting. The smell was noxious to her. “Oh Gawd” she muttered over and over again, slightly muffled through the mask, as I joyfully inhaled the sweetest scent of burning fat.

And so I sat at that table, in heaven. Eating a plate full of bacon that was burnt beyond recognition. Sitting in the small kitchen of my childhood home in the freezing cold. Like a pig in shit, I couldn’t have been happier.

I will never forget the taste of that bacon.

Joy.

Parents make sacrifices for their kids every day. In that moment, on that day, I never really considered how challenging it might have been for my mother to do those things to make me happy. There are moments when I parent now that a memory will strike me from out of the blue and I will think to myself, “Did I even say ‘thank you?'” As a sometimes overly angst-ridden individual, I seem to remember the times my parents and I have been at odds with each other, and I focus on those.

But in these other things? These memories that go beyond money, ceremonies, celebrations or accomplishments?

There is a richness in them that I sometimes forget.

But one blast of the smell of bacon, even today, 30 years later, and I am right back there. At that table. Goosebumps on my arms.

Saying thank you.

I don’t know what it is about food your mother makes for you, especially when it’s something that anyone can make – pancakes, meat loaf, tuna salad – but it carries a certain taste of memory.  – Mitch Albom

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!

These moms totally had it going on.

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.

Namaste,

Kiran

 

My Teenage Dating Chronicles

I have a story to tell you guys. You might not believe it. But I swear, it’s all true. Every stinking word of it.

When I was younger, well…I wasn’t really a hit with the boys. I know. I KNOW. This is hard to believe since now I am so obviously ridiculously, ridiculously good looking and charming. But suspend your disbelief for just one minute, however hard that might be and go back in time with me.

When I hit my teens, I was awkward and shy. A bit pudgy, with braces and Jersey hair so big and so wide that it made Medusa look like she was a shampoo commercial model. Friends, it was bad.

But then things changed. The pounds fell off when I ran cross country. A teeny weeny eating disorder didn’t hurt either (another story, another day). The braces came off and I figured out (somewhat) how to work with the mop that God (yes, thank you for that God) gave me.

So around 16, I blossomed. Ok, maybe that’s too strong of a word. I wouldn’t say that I went through a case of the ugly duckling turning into a swan. Nothing that dramatic! But I was a more attractive duckling, which was progress and which helped confirm that a daily dietary supplement of my mother’s samosas was not conducive to weight loss.

I also got the whole facial hair thing under control. SCORE! This achievement involves a serious fist pull. You see, I’m Indian. And I have dark, coarse hair. And it sprouted on my face with a profound enthusiasm that I could not match, much less conquer alone. After a very unfortunate incident with a bottle of Nair when I was 13, I finally became a pro at using hot wax. No easy feat for a young teen with a small forest growing on her face.

So now, I no longer had a moustache that rivaled that of Mr. Kakos, my very Greek AP English teacher. Huge improvement folks.

And so all this happened. And I started hearing the word. Pretty. And people were using it to describe me. ME. Well, sometimes. Again, just roll with me here.

That's Me - 2nd row curly hair!

 

I’m in the second row – 1st on the left.

And yet friends, though I bought the milkshakes to the yard with all these changes, nobody came a-knocking at my door. Sure, we had some Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, but other than that – nothing. My phone wasn’t ringing off the hook either.

I had guy friends who were great, but nobody was romantically interested in me. I use the word romantically loosely, because we were in high school and all I knew about romance, I learned from watching Guiding Light and Fred and Daphne’s obvious sexcapades on Scooby Doo.

Was it the knowledge that not so long ago, I slightly resembled a yeti? Was it the fact that any time someone did call me, my strict, Indian father would interrogate them relentlessly?

“How do you know her?” Um. School, Papa.

“What do you want to talk about?” Math. Like, duh.

“How many girls have you deflowered?” Ok. No he didn’t. But I am sure he wanted to.

I remember being in the cafeteria one day hanging out with a guy I had been friends with for a while who I had a huge crush on. For the sake of this story we will call him Don*, because a few friends from high school read my blog. He said something really sweet to me. Something absentmindedly and God I don’t remember what it was. I think it was something like “Oh Kiran, you’re so great” accompanied by an affectionate nudge on the shoulder.

I recognize now that you say things like this to lost puppies and sympathy crushes. You know, to people you know that like you, but who you don’t have feelings for.

At the time though, I wasn’t that cool. (I know, I told you to suspend your disbelief!). So I mustered up my courage and said, “Well, Don. You know I think you’re great too.” And I could have left it at that.

But no friends. I did not. I did NOT leave it at that. Instead, I added, “Like, yeah. Like, I like you.” Fucking idiot I was. When over 50% of your sentence uses the word like, you officially qualify as a moron.

This is when Don said to me, “Well, Kiran, I like you too.”

“Really?”

“But you know I can’t date you.”

“Why?” I asked, perplexed.

“Because of what you are.”

I paused for a second. Wow. Harsh!

“Wait. Because I’m smarter than you?”

The next thing I know, the bell rings and we are surrounded by friends and apparently the boys aren’t dating me because of my lack of milkshakes but because I’m smarter. Well, at least I knew what the problem was.

When I told my friends about what happened though, they saw things a little differently than me.

“Because of what you ARE?!!”

“Yeah. Because I’m smart.”

“No, Kiran. Because you’re Indian!” my friends informed me. Apparently he had been overheard talking about it with a friend and had been a bit more clear about my unsavory characteristics.

Oh. OH.

Every other brush with dating in high school ended disastrously. I wasn’t often in the running, but when I was, it was not usually very smooth sailing.

And you know, while it sucked that a guy didn’t like me because I was Indian, I kind of am still proud of my first response. Because that’s who I was. I was a smart little cookie. Sure, I had shitty taste in footballin’ men, but I had some balls to take a chance and tell someone I liked them. It took courage for me to do that. And sometimes having courage is a lot more important than getting to make out with the high school quarterback. That’s the story I’m sticking to anyway.

Stay tuned for more adventures in awkward, Indian teenage dating….

XOXO,

Kiran

Live from Lisbon, Portugal, where I should have been in bed a LONG time ago.

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.

 

My paternal grandparents. “Dada” and “Dadi”

I love how my grandfathers look in the “Nehru” jackets, named after the influential politician Jawarharlal Nehru, father of Indira Gandhi. I see a little bit of myself in each of their faces, but I inherited most of my features from my mother’s side.  I look at my Dadi and all I see is my own father’s face. Although, his eyes are definitely my Dada’s. Nobody is smiling, because taking pictures in my family is a big deal, and showing your teeth is considered “unattractive.” Too “proudy” as my mother or aunties might say.

I’m a girl from Jersey who teased my hair in gravity defying hair styles. My hometown is close to Bruce Springsteen’s and Bon Jovi’s. I love pizza and bagels and I miss how in New Jersey, when someone cut you off, you usually got that little hand wave in the rear view mirror. Nobody seems to do that in Virginia.

NJ – that’s part of where I am from.

But do you see those people in the pictures above with their stoic expressions, posing at the  portrait studio? That’s also where I am from. It’s a big part of me that doesn’t go away. It’s not just the music or the food or the nuances of culture that make me hold on to that. It’s memories of climbing guava trees barefoot in the summer as I played hide and seek with my cousins. It’s memories of the smell of the early morning dew when I woke up in my father’s village. It’s holding my Nana’s hand as he took me to the market to buy me some lemonchus (candies) from a vendor in a wooden stall.

It’s so much more than I can say in one post.

I don’t really know yet if I clearly know where I am from. There is a quote from author Hugo Hamilton that hits on some of my feelings on this question.

“Maybe your country is only a place you make up in your own mind. Something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it’s not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you’ve been to. I’m not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don’t have to be like anyone else. I’m walking on the wall and nobody can stop me.” (From The Speckled People, A Memoir of a Half-Irish Childhood)

For me, where I am from is not a place on the map. It’s the collective stories, events and people in my life who have shaped that. It’s a combination of nowhere and everywhere, I like to think.

I think most of us are from there.

Where are you from?

Get out the Map

“Mom, where is your family from in India?” Shaila asked me the other day.

“Your grandparents are from a state called Bihar.”

“Where’s that?”

“Well, it’s in the North.” I explained, “If you were looking at a map of India, it would be at the top, near a country called Nepal.” I explained.

She looked at me blankly.

“Here, I’ll show you.” Rather than pulling out a handy map though, I had something much better.

“Mommy! What are you doing?!!” Shaila yelled at me, diva hands on hips and all.

I had pulled up a pant leg in the middle of the mall, figuring I could find some vein formation on my legs to show her the geographical landscape of India. It didn’t take long to find an imperfect asymmetrical peninsular shape of India on the map somewhere on my right cankle.

Or should I call it my rankle?

The map of India I had found even had a vein that looked like the Ganges river running right through it. If you felt it the upper-left corner, you could probably feel the mountainous ranges of Kashmir in it.

I don’t know when my legs became so veiny. It’s not something I particularly pay attention to since they are hibernating behind jeans, warm pajamas and yoga pants most of the year. But I know that the years have not been kind to them.

Previously one of my best physical features, my legs now look like they should be used to teach my kids lessons on geography. Instead of taking my kids to the planetarium, I can draw out the Big Dipper and Ursa Minor on my legs instead, giving them hours of joy as we trace the constellations and tell stories about vengeful Greek gods who cursed some women with varicosity.

Childbirth can be terribly unkind and humbling for many mothers. Despite the way that I represent myself on Facebook or on this blog, the pictures are often a facade. It’s like I am wearing one big SPANX girdle thingy and have found a way to wrap it around my life to make all the loose skin, muffin-top and puffy eyes that are going on, somehow look pretty.

There are days when I look back at my body pre-baby and then compare it to the one I have post-baby.

I will not tell you which side is “winning,” because technically, we are all “winners.” But I will say that my butt is a lot bigger, my hips a lot wider and even my feet have grown.

So, like I said, not calling anyone a winner or loser here, but do want to make sure that if “more” is “better” than I am doing something very well and am ahead of the pack. Like a fine wine, you could say I have improved.

Fuller bodied?

I would say that this is all just part of the miracle of being a mother. That I find this all quite rewarding. But there are days where I don’t at all find it fair. Right now, Nico is going through a “I love my daddy so much and who the hell are you, woman who calls herself my mother?” kind of phase. He goes through this every few months and it does little for my ego as a parent.

Tonight he started crying when he realized I would be putting him to bed and not Daddy.

“Nooooo!” he yelled. “But I don’t want you. I want Daddy!”

In an attempt to distract him, I took off my knee high boots and rolled down my sock.

“Do you want to see Disneyworld? Florida?” I said, trying to find it somewhere on my legs. Like Murphy’s Law, I could spot Georgia, Kansas, Utah – lots of other states against the landscape of my legs.

But not Florida.

Not until later anyway. Just for the record, It’s on my left leg, upper thigh. It does sit next to California, but I’m not going to be a purist about my leg art.

I try not to let Nico’s words hurt. He’s too little to appreciate the 10 months I had with him in my belly. Maybe one day he will get that and some of the other ways I love him as a mother.

In the meantime, I am going to go and trace New Jersey on my right quad. There, it’s next to Wisconsin, but my kids are American and prone to geographical ignorance anyway, so I’m not too worried.

Namaste,

Kiran

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

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

Who Put the White in Snow White?

When adults would read me Snow White as a child, I always marveled at the beautiful Princess’s beauty. Her loving mother had wished for a daughter with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as coal.

Wow. She sounds pretty.

Except…. (Sound of a record scratching)

Back the fuck up, yo.

Skin as WHITE as snow?

Hmmm.

That’s me in the back with the pink shirt and the glasses.

I was raised in a pretty homogenous small town in New Jersey, at least when I was young. It started to become more and more diverse as droves of New Yorkers from Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens started to move a little further out to raise larger families in bigger homes, where they could still commute to the city. When I graduated from high school, my yearbook reflected faces from around the world.

But when I was younger, like in elementary school, there were just a few faces that were the other side of tan, scattered in a sea of white.

One of them was mine.

I remember my friends always being perplexed when it was time to draw a picture of me. I could turn out anything from yellow to orange, red to burnt sienna. Sometimes all in the SAME picture, guys. My favorite was when one of my friends tried to mix black and white together and I just ended up looking like a freakish zebra kid.

Talented kid, that one.

You can see there was some diversity in this picture. There’s Aimee Moy in the back. She was my one Chinese friend throughout Elementary School. There is Terence in the middle in the front row. I don’t know where he is – he moved that year, but he used to sing his ass off in the bathroom, I remember that. The Indian boy next to Terence* is Rajiv. He was my next door neighbor and also Indian, so OF COURSE, he was my “boyfriend” which made us just want to pull each others’ hair out even more. There was Jonathan**, sitting at the end of the front row – half Filipino and half white, he was one of the few “mixed” kids I knew.

At home, the messages I received around skin color were no less confusing. As I heard of cousins’ marriages being arranged, when asked if the girl was pretty, the answers were usually along the lines of “ha, bohut gauri hai.Yeah, her skin is whiter than a holy cow’s milk. or “Chehra meh taura sa paani hai.” Which literally translates to, her face has water in it.

I don’t know what that means, but it had to do with the girl not having a very white face. Or maybe being bloated.

The message was clear, the whiter you were, the prettier you were.

Bollywood movies played in the background of my house and the message was confirmed. Most of the beautiful Indian actresses were  fair-complected,  sometimes with light colored eyes. Scroll down and see some of the examples….

Typical.

 

 

Do you guys notice anything similar about these women? Do you? DO YOU?

They all look like they can bloody be cast as Snow White in a Bollywood version of the movie.

I would never look like these beauties. Five minutes in the sun and my skin would darken, throwing my mother into a panic as she wondered if she would ever be able to find a suitable husband for me. At the time, she and my father were still under the illusion that they would be making that decision for me.

Aw, parents. You gotta love them.

There was this one commercial that started playing in my later years of elementary school in the middle of Indian movies. It was for a cream called “Fair and Lovely.” Basically the commercial starts out with a boy and his parents seeking out a prospective bride. The boy sees the girl and thinks she is pretty but is a little disappointed because her skin is not “white” enough. The girl’s mother senses the boy’s discomfort with her daughter’s skin color, so she buys her somewhat tanner daughter a little old “Fair and Lovely” and makes sure that her “homely” daughter applies it every day.

After a strict regimen of just applying the skin cream, the girls complexion starts to lighten. She is transformed into a whiter, and obviously, according to the ad, much prettier version of herself. By the time the boy sees her at the wedding, he is mesmerized.

He turns to his mother, “Vow, Mom. Look at her skin! Kitni fair and lovely!” (How fair and lovely. Oh and look at what a racist jack ass I am!)

The boy and girl marry and ride off into the sunset.

It’s like, so magical, in a really disturbing, ethnophobic and backwards kind of way.

Anyway. The summer before I went to high school, I went to India with my parents. And I saw the billboard ads for “Fair and Lovely” ALL over India. And I saw how it magically transformed these girls’ lives.

So of course I had to have it.

I would slather it on my skin to the point where I actually started to look whiter right away. I mean, imagine if you took  ten layers of Nivea and just let it sit on your face. I thought if I let it “marinate” and “simmer” a little, I might get results faster. I would sit there and sometimes look in the mirror to see if I was whiter. What, it’s been twenty minutes?

Damn. Still not white.

I don’t know if it ever worked. To be honest, a minute in the sun and I catch color, so I could never keep up with enough applications of “Fair and Lovely” to stay ahead of the “whiteness” curve, as I like to think of it now. When I came back home, I started playing high school sports, so was out and getting tan and no amount of “Fair and Lovely” was ever going to negate the effects of that.

I don’t know what my mom ever did with all those tubes of “Fair and Lovely,” but I know I didn’t need it anymore.

Eventually, I learned to love the skin I was born in. Because by then, my metabolism had caught up with me, so I had other fish to fry.

Just kidding. Kind of.

I don’t eat fried fish.

My husband is half-Italian and half Puerto-Rican. With me being 100% Indian in ethnicity, our kids are quite a mix. I love their exotic features and their beautiful skin. And I know one day they might have questions about skin color, but I don’t think they will be quite as startling as mine. They are growing up in a much more racially diverse environment than I did. Northern Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is one of the most racially and internationally diverse places we could have settled. I love that about our area.

When they watch TV, they will see faces that look like theirs. I don’t think I saw any Indian faces on mainstream television till Apu made his breakthrough performance on “The Simpsons.” There are TV anchors with names like “Kiran Chetry.” There are more Indian role models in mainstream American culture like Mindy Kaling, Kal Penn, Padma Lakshmi, just to name a few.

Heck, one of these days, they might even cast Indian doctors on some of the medical shows. Because of course, that wouldn’t be too true to reality or something. Where is Dr. McCurry already, people?

Anyway, I was 14 that summer I tried to make myself white. I like to think that I was just one step ahead of Michael Jackson on that one. A true trendsetter.

As a bonus, I have found some current “Fair and Lovely” commercials for you to watch. Between laughing and gasping in extreme horror, I just ask you to forgive me by ever being influenced by this shit.

This newscaster’s career dreams were always being held back by her skin color of course! Until she decided to take charge!

In this one, one of the girls is accused of “doing cheating” because she saw results faster than the other girl. But the other girl didn’t apply the skin EVERY day like her. Idiot.

At least they are gearing it towards men too! Thank goodness! The stunt double always gets out shined by the much whiter hero until he finds the mens version of “Fair and Lovely.”

A career changing move, you’ll see.

This girl’s dreams of being a Cricket announcer cannot be realized until she is like, whiter. I love how teary her mom gets to see her daughter living her white dreams to the fullest.

* If you have seen Terence, please let me know. None of us in Old Bridge, NJ  have seen him since the first grade. I don’t remember his last name, but he is known for singing loudly in bathrooms.

** If you have seen Jonathan Gross, also let us know. None of us have seen him since he moved from Old Bridge, NJ in the fifth grade. Apparently he is too smart to be on Facebook.

Also, would you guys click on this button below if you want to see me selected as one of the Top 25 Funny Mom Blogs? You can vote from now until Feb 13th every day. I was nominated late so I’ve got some ground to make up for. Help me validate my funny! ;-) XO.

Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms - 2013 - Vote for me!

Namaste,
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.

Like Masala Chica

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MEET KIRAN

I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....

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December 2014
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