Monday, March 5, 2018

The great Indian hypocrisy

My wedding was a whirlwind one. We decided to get married and P cancelled the planned engagement to get married instead. Everything happened in a blur of two weeks. The first time, my parents, cousin and his wife, visited my in laws's house, was when my mother in law broke down before my mom and sister in law, and cried and cried. Saying that she never wanted P to marry me; that she had pointed out that I had flaws in my teeth, flaws in my eyes, I was adopted, but P insisted on marrying me (Neither am I butt ugly nor is she Aishwairya incarnate but that's another matter!). How she was worried that she was losing her son etc. Both my mom and sister in law were taken aback at this sudden spew of insults and tears, but being the kind of amazing ladies, they are, they took it in their stride and comforted my mil.

Fast forward eighteen years, I am still waiting for that one visit in which everything is peaceful, my mil hasn't taken every opportunity to hurt me and we could peacefully co exist. It hasn't happened once.

She is a bitter unhappy lady. Still complains about her house, her city; that she has lived in forever. Has always desired moving to the US. Complains incessantly about India, all the things about India that are to be criticized - the crowds, the pollution, the lack of infrastructure, the garbage; never once looking at situations with a grateful eye. There is a complete lack of any gratitude or satisfaction in her life. The only people praise worthy in her life are first and foremost herself and secondly her daughter. If there is any time left over, then it is her favorite brother and lastly grudgingly P. All the good things that P might do are all because of her suggestions, of course. Every story is around how she is super smart; all woven in her own fabric of imagination. She has not sustained any relationships - family or friends.

Between the two of them, they have never hosted or supported any of their parents in their old age; only agreeing to help, as per their convenience. P has a maternal aunt - a widow with no children of her own; who his Mom used to call over for every celebration or festival. This aunt is a very kind loving soul who was also very artistic and a splendid cook. She has cooked and cleaned and been the backbone for many a festival meal at my mils'. Of course now that this aunt is in her eighties - deaf, frail and almost blind; my mil absolutely refuses to let her stay over at their place. Using her health as an excuse. It breaks my heart. This lady who has never gone out of her way to help anyone; never been there for any old parent; never done anything unless she had something to benefit, this lady now wants to move in with us, rightfully. Its her son's house and its his duty.

Apart from the stress of how will I deal with this high maintenance pair who never seem to be satisfied with anything, I am struggling more with the injustice of fate. How do these people who have lived so selfishly all their lives have an assured comfortable and cushy old age? How is destiny so unfair? Why does it let people who have brought nothing but joy to others and helped countless others, it lets these people live and die in solitude? And how does it provide for the best things in life to such self centered people?

I cannot seem to get over the unfairness of it all.

P casually said that if it was your parents, I would never have said anything.

That was when I realized the double standards life we lead here in the US. At least our generation i.e., I do think the younger generation is more smarter and clearer in their priorities in life. On the one hand, we pretend to be feminists, we pretend to be equally sharing the work load of home and work, we let our wives study and work as much as us but in the end, we expect her to suck it up and put up with our parents, no matter how much of a pain, they might be. Because that is what a good Indian daughter in law does.

I told P never to even say that so nonchalantly - that he wouldn't even have made a fuss if it was my parents. Because he has never been and never will be in that situation. Lets imagine if the tables were turned for a minute, would he be Mr. Mahatma Gandhi and magnanimously invite his in laws over to move in with us?

My parents have always always treated and held P in the highest respect and love. Always been careful of his feelings, the son in law is treated as a King in Indian households. Everything is catered around him. He is always praised and appreciated. Never inconvenienced and if he is, in the slightest way possible; then they profusely apologize.

My parents also have a high maintenance daughter in law and my Mom has always chosen to look the other way and to ignore her shortcomings. My Mom has pretty much been full time cook, house keeper and baby sitter on every visit and over the years, they have formed their own special bond - my Mom and her daughter in law. They built their relationship over the years to where they have a place of friendship and gratitude now.

Mine has gone the other way - from the minute I stepped into their household, it has been shattering one notion of a happy family after the other. But as they have invested into their goose to lay their golden eggs, it is time for their son to repay his debt to his parents. And me as his wife, should meekly go along.

I am so afraid of how this is going to test our relationship, the effect it will have on my peace and happiness and whether it will turn my daughters's world upside down. But this I know, it is up to me to decide how I will let these people affect my life. It is to me to decide if this is a punishment to bear or a debt to repay. A debt which I did not rack up but which belongs to my husband. I will do my best to shake off this dread, this impending heart attack that I feel upon me - every time my chest hurts after holding in all the unshod tears. I cant die for these people. What will happen to my sweet little girls then? I will shake off this helplessness and fight for my family - my relationship, my peace and our memories. I will not let a jealous bitter person snatch away my joy from me. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

If you didn't post it, did it not happen?

I love Facebook, it connected me with my birth dad and for that I am eternally grateful to that platform. For the joy, the pain, the tears and the closure, it has given me. I no longer wonder about my roots, the genes I have inherited and if he had any regrets not having me in his life. The truth is not always kind but its up to you to absorb the harshness and to look for the lessons learnt, in the journey of obtaining the truth.

So I do love Facebook, I love looking at the status updates of various far flung friends and relatives, applaud them on their achievements, offer condolences on their loss and get tips on hot travel destinations or that restaurant they tried or the wonderful DIY decorations someone made for their kids's parties. I even borrow P's phone some time for a change in scenery :) None of it personally affects me (yet) (I think :)).

Some friends of mine get aggravated and upset by the various social media - forwarded articles, debates and show off posts get to them personally and a few of them have deleted their accounts or exited the groups to avoid this frustration. I also know many of these folks who post every single minute of their life and every minor achievement. I know what goes into getting that perfect picture on a windy frigid afternoon when all her daughter wanted to do was to sled with her cousins, but she had to freeze (literally and figuratively) while her Mom adjusted her hair for the perfect winter day picture with the perfect tagline "Zero degree temperature wont stop us ha ha" etc. It also takes on an even bigger obsession for others, where now I have begun to suspect if they do certain things only to keep their online persona propped up?

And what does that say to the rest of us who do not constantly share every detail of our lives on Facebook? Does that volunteering activity that we did, no longer count because we didn't post it online and it didn't get liked by hundred people with whom I barely exchange a phone call with, ever? Does the fun that I had with my kids when we baked dozens of cookies and ate half of them right away, the cookie batter licking, mess creating, sugar rush giving activity; does that count if I didn't post the yummy pictures online with a profound tagline of my "quality" time with my kids? What is the healthy balance here?

I also write a private blog only for my kids - its shared with family and family friends only. Sometimes my kids will say "Oh mommy, quick, put it on the blog". I hope the day never comes when they think of doing something because it is blog worthy material. All of us are living our own mini reality show series as we capture every event, every activity, every moment and try to showcase it in one media or the other. When we get all stressed out because our phone died and we couldn't take a picture of that magnificent sunset we just viewed.

We ran into acquaintances in Florida, and upon exchanging travel itineraries, the couple panicked for a brief moment when we told them we had just visited Siesta key. They panicked until they remembered they had already been there, a few years back. Peace was restored upon that realization :) They nonchalantly talked about seeing dolphins frolic in the water at another beach and ticked off all the "must do - must see - must eat" items on their list, per popular public opinion sites. Watching wild dolphins in the water is not an everyday thing (for me) and I pray and hope that this wonder of nature, travel and spending time with each other, never ceases for me or my family. Because ultimately at the end of the day, that's what matters, the memories you make, the security and love you feel; these emotions are absorbed into every core of your body making you healthier and stronger for the day that's to come. The happiness that filled my heart as I walked down the beach, hand in hand with P, the girls running ahead of us is enough to sustain me for the next mini obstacle or disappointment to come in our lives. And it doesn't matter that I did not post my joy on Facebook.

So while I do post updates myself and enjoy the updates posted by my friends, look forward to updates from people I have not been in touch with for a long time; love my Facebook people watching, picture surfing; I also have no more patience left with the people who do not make an effort to actually be the person, they portray to be on social media, to also take a minute to acknowledge and thank their support team when they are busy posting personal accomplishments and to stop inconveniencing the rest of their party only for that perfect shot.

So lets all remember to thank our spouses who stepped in and picked up the slack (because slack there will be) when you were out training for that marathon or shining on work assignments and you post that achievement as soon as its complete; acknowledge that friend of yours who took efforts to throw an awesome party that you so enjoyed (and she doesn't take to FB to post minute by minute account of it) and offer thanks to God for the vivid beauty that he created and you enjoy on your expensive vacations around the globe. Lets be more thankful, more humble and more present! And lets always remember that only because someone does not post it, it does not mean they do nothing worth while in their lives. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Villains in real life

Most Indian movies; the over the top dramatic ones, the tear jerker ones, the horrifying hold your breath dramatic last ending ones; have one or multiple villains in the ending. The hero or heroine or hero/heroine's loved ones are/is tied up while the villains contemplate how they will die. Should they be pushed out of a plane? Should they be fed to the alligators or sharks? Should they be shot? The more dramatic ones have more innovative methods of a tank bubbling away with mysterious dangerous stuff; should they be pushed into it? Or should they have a slow painful death? The American Mission Impossible movies always show a variety of tools to imply a slow death. 

These movies/books with similar plots and descriptions always scared me, gave me nightmares and made me uncomfortable. I distinctly remember leaving a book on a plane because it had awful descriptions of how a husband and a wife were tied and tortured in front of each other. That book has given me the chills and the creeps for years now and I still cannot forget it. And now I am haunted by the thought of what if it has landed in some insane person's hands and he actually has ideas now :( 

But I digress. We have our own villains now. My Dad is tied up and we are all too, along with him; helpless and powerless in front of these villains. The villains come in many forms - MSA Multiple systems atrophy, PCP cerebral palsy, various forms of advanced Parkinsons.  There is a train headed towards us and nothing can stop it. There is no solution, no hero to save the day! No miracle drug, no amazing doctor with cutting edge research. Just imminent death but wait a minute, lets thicken this plot. 

We don't know what kind of death. Will it be going blind followed by choking on your own food and then dying of pneumonia? Or will it be being bedridden, completely unable to move, eat or speak and then die of heart failure or respiratory infection? Or will it be a fall at the wrong time in the wrong place which will paralyze. The possibilities are endless, the outcome is all the same. The events have been set into motion and we are all helpless tied up victims. There is no knight in shining armor in the form of doctors, medicines, alternative medicines, therapy to save him (and us) from this fate.

Whoever is up there writing my Dad's life story sure does have a cruel sense of humor. Because he has given him this disease where his mind will stay exceptionally clear until the end. So that my Dad can clearly feel, see and understand every single betrayal of his body. I would not wish such a fate on my worst enemy. 

Which makes me wonder again about the fairness in life. Have you ever looked around and seen these people - they are the ones whose presence is never comforting, soothing to anyone, not even to their loved ones; who have words that hurt, actions that cause pain and who never have done anything in their lives for any other human being except to benefit themselves. Have you also seen how they tend to live long healthy lives? Of course they still complain about their lives because they always are in a state of dissatisfaction. I am sure all of you also know at least a few people who were so immensely loved and needed and who passed away way before their time. I guess this is life! 

Life again teaches me how we are never really in control and to be grateful always for all the good things we have right now. In the present moment, in the current situation. Because no one knows whats around the corner. I will never complain about any trying situation because there are more awful situations to trump those trying situations. Always be grateful, always be thankful, always hug your loved ones and be in the moment. And I hope that there are only good things around the corner for all of you (us) and bad things/situations/conditions fall away. 

Please keep my Baba in your thoughts and send good healing vibes his way. Thank you! 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What is a friend?

I use the term "friend" very generously. If you are my colleague, I see you everyday, I have vented to you and we chat about your life and mine, you are my friend. Apparently this word has different connotations to different people.

As I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I try to remind myself to be accommodating and accept things/people/views different than mine without having to swing people over to my side and see things exactly as I see them. It was this trait that helped me listen patiently to my babysitter defend Trump's campaign, to dismiss how he was a womanizer, to dismiss how he disrespects women and to actually listen to the things that make him an attractive candidate to a section of the voters. I learnt something new. And I left it at that. This is conservation of the limited energy I have :)

Well back to "friend", I remember remarking to a work colleague of mine, someone who I had gone out to lunch with, heard about his divorce and ongoing life situation and challenges first hand and chatted with on a daily basis. I remarked to him about someone else that "Grace is my friend" and he jumped back and said "Whoa whoa whoa, that's a big statement!". I wonder if he would consider me his "friend".

Yesterday our big boss was telling the folks who sit by me to be nice and say good things about the company as I had not yet accepted their offer. Or she would have to move me by pleasanter people. And I said No, I like it here, these people are my friends. And one guy immediately remarked "That is a very strong word to use" I don't know if I would say that.

I remember saying to my brother's wife that I think of her as my sister and she had retorted that she thought of me as her "friend" and not her "sister".

Learning from that episode, at one point I had said to my husband's sister that I think of her as my friend and she remarked "Hold on, it takes me a long time to consider someone my friend and I don't think of you as a friend".

These statements had hurt me very much at that time. But now I realize that a "friend" is different things to different people. And that it does not reflect on me - it is them not me.

So today I am grateful that I do have lots of people who call me their friends and I get to call them mine. I am very grateful that I also have a handful of friends who call me their soul sister and their best friend forever. I am also grateful that my husband, my classic introvert, thinks of me as his best friend :) And I am grateful that God has given me the wisdom to accept the different definitions of "friend" with different people and to let go and continue on..

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dayyyyyyy twoooooo of Nablopomo

Its day two and I am already struggling to think of what am I grateful about today!!! S has a bad cough and cold. Every time she gets sick, two days later I am sick, a week later she is fit and fine, two weeks later I am still struggling!!! I woke up today with my throat burning like it was on fire! The entire day stretched out soooooooo looooooooooong.

But I am super grateful for my job. I took the summer off and as soon as I was ready to look, God plonked this contract opportunity right in front of me. The controller loves me and wants to hire me and I went right back to work after my wonderful wonderful summer off. I am thankful to God for the break I could take and for giving me a job when I was ready to go back. Incredibly blessed!!

I was doing so good on my diet and exercise; did I say I lost 18 pounds over the past four months!!!! Diwali has put some of it right back :(( And now being sick makes me want to reach for all the unhealthy creamy cheesy fried, chocolatey, gooey yumminess that makes my mind feel better (temporarily).

So maybe I should talk about my diet here. I had put on 20 pounds over last summer - sheer side effect of taking prescription asthma medicines that I should not have taken in the first place and pushing stupid quantities of albuterol and other steroids which had no business being in my poor body. But I will not dwell on the past. So this year, when I took my break, I also ran over to a medical weight loss solutions group here. They put me on a 800 calorie diet with meal replacements for the first month and Oh man, what a huge shock it was to my system!!! The first few days I only thought in terms of three hour installments - I could eat a snack/bar/shake every three hours and it was gone within minutes and I would be staring at my watch waiting for the next one. But slowly the hunger pangs ceased and my body adjusted to eating smaller portions. And then the mind focused on how I turned to food every time I was bored, sad, tired. It was very hard getting rid of this habit of wanting to eat every five seconds and to divert my mind to other activities; to dealing with the root cause of every emotion instead of throwing coffees and chocolates at it, to drink water when you think you are hungry because if you ate lunch thirty minutes ago, there is no way you are hungry in 30 minutes! My dietitian said many folks mistake thirst for hunger. I was amazed at how much water you should drink and how much I actually did. And I thought I drank a lot. This first month made me more aware of my thoughts and my body and how I reacted to situations and adjusting to portion sizes. We started adding back regular food slowly and now I am back to a regular diet (reduced portions). But I did lose 18 pounds so far.

Working out daily during my break carved out my muscles, made my butt tighter and gave me a new high. I also managed to "walk" a half marathon to accompany my super star 64 year old brother who has turned into a Forrest Gump ever since he retired. He walks about 14 miles every single day!!

I am so grateful to have these opportunities to take care of myself; a husband who lets me have time to focus on my health and to have the courage to take those steps of enrolling in a weight loss program and to stay focused on my diet and exercise plan. Next eighteen pounds are going to be the hardest but I am hoping I slowly trudge along and make it to my goal weight. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New month resolution :)

I am a very open person. I am a very vocal person. I blab out my deepest fears and worries and feelings out to my family, my husband, my closest friends. Over the years, I have found that as life gets busier and busier and everyone around you is juggling many balls and plates and many balls on those plates; it is a bit trying for everyone to listen to you vent about the same things over and over. 

That's when I realized how valuable my poor blog is (to me). It cannot roll its eyes, cannot talk back (I have been pretty lucky never to attract any trolls), cannot judge or wont remind me when I do or say things that I said once upon a time that I would never do.

So when Swathi shook some of us bloggers from slumber and asked if we would all do a Nablopomo (?) together, I jumped at it. I want the chance to be regular at something. I do many things for a while and then slack off! I need to get into the regiment of being regular. So lets see how it goes; a post for every day in November!! Daunting!

I have decided that I have whined enough on this blog. I am going to call out things I am grateful for - every single day. 

So today I am grateful to be living in a city that celebrates diversity. I went to S's kindergarten class to talk about Diwali. Took along a collage of pictures of fire crackers, rangoli, plate full of Diwali goodies, the girls with their cousins lighting sparklers etc. Took along a beautiful star lantern, some battery operated lights and some diyas. Took along a lot of Diwali goodies to arrange in a big platter to share with her teachers and class. S and I dressed up in Indian traditional clothes. I shared two stories of Diwali with the class - one of Rama's return from exile and the other of Narakasura and how he was destroyed by Lord Krishna (his wife). Explained that the gist is the victory of good over bad. How each of us should light a lamp inside us and get rid of the bad thoughts and embrace good ones. Do little things like not be mean to our friends/siblings, be helpful and polite and shine with happiness like the little twinkling lights and bring joy to everyone around us. The class went around and shared one good thing they will do today. They devoured the sweets and the savories and even the teachers tried all of the items and declared their favorites. All in all it was a lot of fun!! The principal of the school also stopped by to thank me for sharing our culture and festivals with the class. S was beaming with joy the entire time. 25 kids walked away with a slightly better understanding of Diwali and wished each other "Happy Diwali"!! So grateful for my girls to go to a school where they embrace diversity, so grateful to live in a city where no one looks at you strangely for wearing a traditional get up, so grateful to be surrounded by teachers and inquisitive young minds who want to know more about Indian traditions and customs. Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The best teacher in life is life itself!!!

Life continues to kick our ass and teaches us long painful lessons. We hope this is the last setback, tomorrow might bring good news or next week for sure but next week comes and goes and so does the week after it. Every sunny cloud seems to have a dark lining to it; the minute we start getting hopeful or optimistic about one thing, it immediately proceeds to fall apart. You know how they say that you can bear your own troubles but you cannot bear to see your loved ones in pain. The same way I am really done begging the Almighty, fate, the universe to send some good cheer P's way. Yes, he procrastinated and dilly dallied and hurt his own career but this has been punishment enough. Please please please cut him some slack and give him a break!

SO big painful lessons learnt:

1. Your attitude when you are waiting, is far more important than the results of the wait. I need to remind myself everyday to support and cheer P. These might be one of the most unhappiest days in his life and I should atleast make sure he knows I am by his side and understand.
2. Look for the good everyday. Celebrate small successes. We are so fixated on the things we know we deserve and should achieve that we sometimes forget to celebrate and be happy about the small things we get and sometimes without any effort, along the way. I have a contract opportunity within days of my job search and I should be happy and excited about it. Money is money is money after all!!
3. Count your blessings - all those things that we take for granted until we lose some. This is the first time in my life that I am actually worried about our financial stability. I had never even thought of it in my twenties and thirties and now on the cusp of entering my forties, I worry about our employment and finances :(
4. Health is wealth. If you are fit and healthy, you can take on the world :)

With that I am going to go sleep and hope with all my might that tomorrow indeed will bring good news or I will count by blessings one more time and hope that we are almost there, this too shall pass!!