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Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Looking Back…Moving Ahead…

It has been more than a year since I started this blog. Although technically the blog was created with the customary “First Post” in december of 2008, this blog was mostly updated in 2009. So a big CONGRATS to myself for having the patience to keep writing for a year and an even bigger THANK YOU to all of you who stopped by and commented on my scattered thoughts.
The main reason I started this blog was to capture the most important moments of my life but as you all can see I have not done a good job at it. So here is an attempt to capture some of those lovely moments in a recap. Each should have been a complete post in itself, but better late than never. Hopefully I am not too late to write this yet another customary post.

January :
– We kickstarted our new year with an adventurous snow mobiling experience in Lake Tahoe, CA. It was just a one day trip with some close friends. We all had a wonderful time exploring the pristine trails in the frozen Lake Tahoe valley. I have done skiing before but this was so much better. It felt like gliding on the snow, minus the pain from the skiing shoes and the constant falling on your behind.
– In Jan, I also celebrated my 28th birthday. Though not a big achievement but it was made special by the most precious and thoughtful gift I got from Hubby. He gave me back my childhood memories that were locked up in an old cassette.
February:
– In Feb, we celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. Which only meant more inquiries from hopeful parents and in-laws about the progress in the baby-making process. If you are Indian and married with no kids yet, you would know what it means. In India it is anybody and everybody’s business to do such inquiries, and you are expected not to punch them in the face to let them know it is none of their bluhdee business.
March:
– In March, we took a short vacation on a lake house. This was also to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
April:
– I dont have any pictures from April in my laptop. So definitely didnt do any outdoor expeditions. But i am assuming we must have gone for short hikes nearby.
– A close look at my inbox reveals we were mostly out on appratment hunt that month, but ended up renewing our existing lease anyways.
May:
– In May, we went for a cherry picking experience. Something we hadn’t done inspite of staying in the bay area for past 3 years. There were other fruits to pick too, like nectrines and peaches, but i liked picking cherries the most. You could eat as much as you want but if you want to collect and take it home you have to buy them at a very nominal price, way lower that the super markets. I feel it is a really great way of doing business but when I see some people wasting a lot of fruits, thats when it becomes disgusting. The farmers actually have to post signs reading “Please do not waste, take only what you need”. Shouldnt this be implied anyways??
June:
– With summer already kicked in, we found ourselves planning more and more outdoor activities. Thats when we also realised we had never been to Niagara Falls together. So we planned our long pending trip to Niagara falls. Well Hubby did most of the planning offcouse, from booking the flights to selecting the hotel and getting the rental car etc. It felt so nice going there again after 4 years. I had been there before with friends when I was living in New York, and wowed by the beauty of it I had decided to come back again with Hubby. So this was kind of like a mini honeymoon for us 🙂
July:
– In July we had our very first camping experience, and sadly could not have any more last year after that. But I am planning another one this year, maybe end of next month to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. Hopefully bay area gets a little bit warmer by that time.
August:
– August set the ball rolling for meetings and reunions with family and friends. I met my brother after 2 years. He came to visit me while on a short official visit to US. We also celebrated raksha bandhan since his visit was timed roughly around that time. It was quiet an emotional experience as I did the traditional arti and tied Rakhi on his wrist after a very long time, almost 5 years. He tried give me some money in return in the arti plate as per the tradition, and I refused saying there is really no need for any gifts or money as he is the younger brother. But he insisted saying it was the first time he was giving something he earned himself. My little brother, who always asked money from me for small stuff like movies, shoes, clothes etc was now big enough to buy me gifts with his own money. 🙂 I remember as kids, when we celebrated the Raksha Bandhan or Bhau Beej festival, dad would give him presealed envelopes to give to me and my other cousin sisters when we did the Arti for him. Dad would have separate envelope for his own sister and we always fought with Dad about how he kept more money in his sister’s envelope and less for us. My brother had been waiting for the day he no longer needed to take the money from dad to gift his sisters. You cannot refuse him after that, can you?
– We also went on a one day short trip to Lake Tahoe again while he was here and did parasailing. It was a thrilling experience as we were lifted upto 1200 feet in the air by a rope. The initial fear and the cold wind were totally forgotten as we saw nothing but the vast expanse of blue-green water below.
– I also had my very first blogger meet.
September:
– One of my cousin moved to California for higher studies. She came to visit me 2 weeks before her school started. So that month was mostly going sightseeing with her and later we also drove all the way to southern Califonia to drop her at her university. It is surprising how being away from home brings people so closer. She was as happy to be with us in her initial days in US as we were to have some one from the family over. Needless to say it was hard saying good bye to her as we left her alone in her hostel. She hugged me as I was about to leave and we both started crying, right in the lobby of her hostel oblivious to other people watching us. There was silence in the car as me and Hubby started our return journey back to home except for when we called her every hour to check how she was doing.
October:
– We went on another trip, this time to channel Islands National park. They are a group of 5 separate islands in the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara. Due to time restriction we could not cover all 5, we only did 3. What an experience it was. These islands feel so good in October when everything is dried up, I cant imagine how wonderful they would be during spring. These islands are also totally isolated from the mainland and only few companies ( well actually only 2) have licenses to take tourists to these islands.
November:
– In early November, Hubby went to Paris, without me. Yes, you heard it right,he went to the most romantic city alone, for work purposes 😦 Offcouse he compensated by bringing back loads of gifts for me and a promise that he will take me there. But unless you see a post here in the future about it, it would be fair to assume he has not fulfilled his promise.
– In November I also met my best friend after 2 years. She lives in New York with her husband and a kid and when she said she was planning a visit to california I was ecstatic. I met her in NY when I first came to this country. Being away from family for the first time, we were both very homesick and eventually found best friends in each other. It was sad she only stayed with me for a day but I am glad we could make the most of the very little time we had together.
December:
-In Dec, I had a 10 day shutdown at work from Christmas to new year and fortunately Hubby Dear also managed to get a week off. So we set out on another road trip. We went to San Deigo and then Death Valley, and also picked up my cousin on our way who was more than happy to join us. In San Diego we went to the zoo, which was huge but boring since the animal looked grumpy and sad. We also went to the sea world but the best part of the trip was a visit to the Wild Animal park. Hubby had reserved this photo caravan tour where you get to feed giraffes and rhinos and take pictures with them. That was the most amazing experience on this trip. Later we drove to Death Valley and were mesmerized by the vast desert, huge natural salt pans and the best part, sand dunes. Death Valley experiences record high temperatures during summer, which makes it difficult for visitors to step out once the sun is out. I am happy we went there in winter.

Looking back at the events of the past year I feel I had a rocking 2009 and wish the coming years brings more joy and is equally rocking.
Moving ahead in 2010, I promise to be more patient and forgiving, two qualities I was born without. I also promise myself to keep up my fitness regime, the one that I have been following rarely for the past few years but managed to keep up with since the begining of this year. An lastly I also want to promise myself to update the blog more often and we will soon find out if I am able to keep up with it.

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I dont understand what makes people want to celebrate birthdays at midnight. Whats with people who want to be the first one to wish someone on their birthday? Its not like the person was born at midnight and so the cake cutting ceremony has to happen exactly at that time. If anything check with the person what exact time the person was born and try to keep up with that.

Back in the younger days the only way to celebrate was to getup in the morning, put on your new clothes just bought for the occasion and then mom would do the traditional tilak and aarti for you. You would then go to school in your new dress. School allowed students to wear regular clothes instead of uniforms on their birthdays. Thats how the entire school would find out it was your birthday that day and would wish you. Sometime during the day your teacher would let the entire class celebrate your birthday by singing the birthday song and then you would distribute the chocolates and candies specially brought for this occasion to your entire class. Sometimes if it is your best friend or close friends birthday you would get 2 candies instead of one. I remember bringing it home to share with my little brother. In the evening you would invite the neighbourhood friends for a small party. Dad would get the cake and some potato chips and candies and some fruit drink (mostly Rasna) for the party. You would blow the candles and everyone will clap for you and you cut the cake. Mom would take the cake inside to cut into small pieces and bring dishes filled with cake and chips for everyone while everyone else gave you whatever small gift they brought for you. All the kids would get some return gift if any, although that was not a compulsion at that time as it is nowadays. Nothing fancy like they do nowadays, a single pencil or small bag of chocolates would suffice.

Everything was so sweet back then. There were no phone calls waking you up in the middle of the night or disturbing you throughout the day. Whoever wanted to wish you would personally come to see you. As you grew older and went to college, the celebrations took a different form. You stuck to just celebrating with your closest friends instead of the entire class. You would go to some restaurant for snacks where you would typically pick up the tab as a gesture of treating your friends on the occasion and the evening and dinner was reserved for family and close relatives who stopped by.

Crashing at someone’s home at midnight was unthinkable due to potentially disturbing the parents and in some cases even grand parents. I think it is mostly in US that I got acquainted with the weird method of torturing someone by depriving them of sleep right on the night of their birthday. To top it off an even weirder ritual began of applying the cake/icing on the face of the birthday boy/girl… At midnight??? Really??? When you are already in a sleepy mood, washed your face with a scrub and applied night cream and about to fall asleep after a hectic day maybe?? And it does not stop with just a slight application of cake on cheeks, in most cases that I have seen, it is more about painting the entire face with the cream from the cake and also coating ones hair with the cream. How can this be fun? I feel it is simply disgusting and feel terribly sorry for the person for 2 reasons. First he/she has to spend hours after the caking ceremony in the bathroom cleaning up the creamy stuff from face and hair. And next probably the entire night or next day cleaning the mess left in the kitchen or wherever the cake hitting took place. What happened to those simple-no-mess ways of celebrating?

Maybe I am still old fashioned in this aspect. I prefer quiet celebrations. I prefer spending the day with Hubby or maybe just the closest friends. I would love to go for some nice dinner and/or movie and only answer calls during the day time. I wish no one disturbs me at midnight by either showing up at my door or with endless calls. Even if I get labelled as the boring person who never indulges in the fun I can deal with it. Coz birthdays are meant to celebrate the person and not torture him/her by hitting with cake, right?

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A Surreal Experience

I had my very first blogger meeting last week. And that too with a blogger whom i have been reading for years (much before I started blogging myself) and admiring for the variety of topics she covers and the amazing enthusiasm and efforts she puts in to concoct each wonderful post of hers. Her remarkable zeal is evident from the fact that she wrote about our meeting the very same day while on a vacation here in US and it took me week to come up with a decent enough post. In fact I contemplated not writing anything coz she has written so beautifully that it is difficult to match up to her level. But then blogging is not about matching up to someone, it is about documenting your own experiences to stay with you always. Plus this blog needed an update and a new header, hence the header. It is from my Niagara trip 2 month back not related to the meeting but just thought it is time to make some change on the blog, too lazy to play with the color schemes etc so content with changing the header for now.

Oops too much of diversion, back to the topic of the post.

So I had found through some comments exchanged with her that she has family in the area where I live and i expressed my wish to meet her someday if she travels this way. Little did i know my wish would come true so soon as she had to travel for a wedding in her family. I had read other bloggers write about their meetings and wondered how would it be to meet someone whom you only know through their thoughts. Never done anything like that before in life. But eight months into blogging and i had already planned a blogger meet.

As the day of the meeting came closer i grew more and more anxious of the meeting. I was glad to find her as spirited as I was and all the initial apprehension i had about how will she be, what things to discuss etc etc vanished instantaneously. She invited me to meet her folks and they were as welcoming as she is on her blog. She had brought some thoughtful gifts for me. A beautifully designed ethnic pouch for keeping cell phone and a delectable raw mango drink mostly made in Maharashtra. The surprising fact was the drink was made from apple sauce and i am still amazed how can apple taste like mango.

We had so much to discuss and so much of catching up on each others lives that time seemed like running out too soon. We started talking right from when she got into my car, through our dinner, on our way back to her house and even at the entrance of her house as I got out to say goodbye. Our topics flowed so spontaneously and soon we were talking away nineteen to the dozen and before i knew, it was already time for her to go. So much still to left know about this person I respect for all the courage and boldness she shows in everything she does, her thoughts with which I cannot agree more, and her willingness to share her experience with others.

It is good to be able to put a face to a name and I am glad and thankful for this wonderful surreal experience of meeting her in person.

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As I sat on the dentist’s chair while he cleaned my teeth I wondered, how amazing are the perks of the dental insurance that I have, or rather the perks of working for a company which provides a decent dental insurance, that for approximately 6 dollars a month, which adds to 36 dollars for six months, you can get your teeth cleaned by a dentist who is a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and flossing and brushing done by his assistant.

But what amazed me was not just the fact that my teeth were cleaned by a person who must have paid boat loads of money to reach where he is now, (off course he also performs other complicated procedures too which require lot of skills) but also this whole concept of dental insurance and the 2 office visits per year that are covered with it. I wish we had this concept of dental insurance in India. At least I would have taken better care and wouldn’t have to go through 3 root canals, two crowns, and a wisdom tooth extraction and practically have every tooth filled with silver before I turned 30.

I have very bad teeth. Even though I brush twice daily I have tooth decay in almost every tooth. I don’t understand what should I attribute this to? Is it neglect or lack of calcium or my fear of needles?

Yes I have a tremendous fear of needles that poke in the softest parts of your body and visits to dental clinic have only increased it. When I was a kid I would bear the tooth ache and not tell anyone lest I would be made to have yet another visit to the place I dreaded the most. Dentist visits were never happy for me and every time I decide to see one I would feel the same trepidation grip me.

I was may be 7 or 8 years old and had to get one decaying tooth extracted. Since it was paining very badly and I couldn’t bear it any more I realized that getting it yanked out was the most correct thing to do. I agreed to go with my father to visit this new dentist who had just recently moved into our area where we lived. The dentist though fully alerted by my dad about my aversion to the dreadful thing in his hand, decided to venture alone and guess what I bit his finger while he was injecting the local anesthesia. And I think I bit him so hard that my father had to hold me down while he attempted his second. This time I wriggled so fast that I somehow managed to break his needle itself. My father had had it by now. He went out of the clinic and called out for some random guys standing near the corner of the road to come and help. I don’t actually remember any of this but it was described so many times to me that I can almost imagine how it must have happened and every time I visited a dentist the only thing I would prayed for was that the injecting ceremony gets over quickly and painlessly. Though with age I learnt to better control myself and not bite fingers of people who are actually trying to help you, but the basic trauma of something poking me still remained. Maybe that’s how I could survive through the 3 root canals that followed.

The dental sciences have advanced tremendously and the root canal I had last year in US did not pain at all. It was also quick, took just about 30 minutes compared to the many sittings one had to go through 10-15 years ago. Back then the dentist would keep on screwing a needle into a cavity that he has made in your tooth and remove all traces of your root that connected to the nerve. A friend of mine once told me that he had to be rushed to emergency the previous night for a tooth ache and the doctors there recommended a root canal to save his tooth. I described the root canal process in so much detail to him that the next day he got his tooth extracted. Na rahega baans na bajegi baansri.

Even the X ray machines have improved. Earlier the dentist would make you hold a small piece of plastic against your teeth while he took the X ray and later got it developed or washed or whatever they have to do at some other place. Now we directly see the X Ray image directly on his computer the moment it is taken. And some of them even have the more advanced OPG machines where you just have to stand and the imaging machine revolves around you to take the X ray of entire dentition and jaws.

The biggest improvement of all is the suction pipe. It sucks out all the water, saliva, blood and other fluids that fall into your mouth as a part of the treatment while the doctor works on your teeth undisturbed. Though I was a bit skeptical on this one coz I didn’t know for a long time if they actually washed, changed or sterilized the suction pipe that goes in your mouth. They should be disposing it for sure, but I had never seen them do so in front of my eyes and hence the doubt. Also felt foolish to ask the dentist. Finally mustered up some courage to ask my cousin brother who just recently set up his own clinic and he confirmed that they do change it.

I had my regular teeth cleaning appointment few months (actually a whole 6 months) back and had started writing this post then but life caught up and this post was left half way in the drafts. I was reminded of this post when I saw a reminder for my next teeth cleaning appointment in the mail last week and thought of reviving the most traumatic memories of some of my dentist visits. But when I look back now at all my encounters and hearing more horrible stories from other people who either had to undergo surgery to get some tooth extracted or had to get implants, I feel maybe mine were not that appalling after all. Baring a few exceptions in the front set, the rest of them are in a pretty good condition now, after the fillings offcourse. And I hope my final surviving set of 31 stays healthy hereafter.

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Coz they are so much fun to grow with. What else? If you are blessed with a sibling who is just as crazy as you and understands you better than nobody else then your childhood is nothing less than a fun ride. I am writing here about my younger brother but most of these apply to sisters as well. And most of these are also true for the significant other in you life, but they walk into your life after 25 years, after you have lived more than one fourth of your life, after you are done with the most innocent, fun, carefree part of your life, your childhood. And while you have choices when it comes to selecting your significant other, you can only rely on God or your parents to bless you with a sibling.

Today I shared my blog with my younger brother. He is the only person other than my husband who knows me in person and now knows about my blog. He knew that I started a blog but I hadn’t given him the url yet. We were chatting today and he wrote something I did not like and I threatened him that I will blog about his carelessness. Obviously he cared less but what followed, flashed almost my entire childhood in front of my eyes. Memories of the fights we had and how we made up after each fight. How we would over power each other and made the other swear and say sorry. Actually…Only he used to over power me in a battle of strength and hold me down till I agreed. I used to resort to more crafty techniques like hiding his most important things to get back to him. And the method of swearing was very unique. You had to pinch the neck only with right hand and repeat the entire sentence without omitting any word. Like say “I swear by God that I will never touch your things again”. And swearing with left hand held to your neck does not count. It is funny how he still remembers this coz when I asked him to promise that he would not share my blog url with anyone, he said it exactly the same way we used to. Only now since we were chatting he had to actually type it and added “with right hand”.

So my dear brother,

I am sorry for reading your personal diary, (remember that Gandhi diary) the one you kept at the age of 10 but were brazen enough to write “The one who reads this diary is a @#$%&!” Gosh! How many bad word you knew at that time. I am sorry for reading your never ending story of rail, pail, gail, sail, tail etc. who were all different kings or something and kept attacking each other. I am sorry for prying in on your personal things so much. But I couldn’t help it. You tell me, if at that time you had found anything of mine would u not want to know more about it. Anyways, as compensation you are welcome to read my blog.

You used to write poems in the night and used to wake me up at 2 AM in the morning just to hear them. You paused to explain me the words you knew I would not understand. And in the end also explained me the entire message you were trying to convey in your poems, since your poems were so complicated in nature and I really did not have the patience at 2 AM to understand it on my own. You messed with my stuff and managed to get away with it. You hit me the worst when we had a fight and the only thing I could do is hide in a room with a door that could lock from inside. Mostly that would be the restroom since our bedroom door did not lock properly. When I was being silly and stubborn and refused to eat food over a fight you carried me to the dinner table. You persuaded me when everyone else gave up. You had my back always and stood up for me when needed. You picked up a fight with a guy twice your size just because the crook said something about your sister. You were always there to comfortably share family issues with. Only you can understand where I come from. You are the one I miss most about living in India. And even though I sometimes felt that our parents had you because their first child was a girl, I am so happy that you were born. Love you!

Okay… there, now I have said it all. It’s your turn now. Use your poetic charm and leave a nice comment.

Your loving, prying yet caring
Sister.

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Souvenirs du passé

Few months back when I visited my home in India I found a cassette that I used to record voices on. No one had touched any of my stuff since I left for US, which is almost two and a half years. So the cassette was lying in the dust with all other junk I had left behind. Since it was too precious to leave behind this time I brought it with me. But I couldn’t listen to it since I didn’t have any cassette player. Thanks to the advanced technology all the cassette players were replaced by mp3 players or ipod docks.

It was actually my uncle’s cassette. He was the only one in our family who had a tape recorder, when we were kids. He had recorded voices of me, my younger brother and my cousin 1 (his son) and cousin 2 and 3 (my aunt’s daughters) on it.
Little voices singing nursery rhymes. Little voices fighting for who will sing next. Little voices getting prompted by elders to speak their names in the microphone. Little voices getting irritated and cranky. Wow…It sound like a treat for ears now. And even more for the elders of the family who no longer hear those same little voices. Who just have them in their memories somewhere.

When we grew up (meaning when I was in junior college) I used the same cassette to record songs sung by me and my cousins. We liked to record our voices and then play them over to see how we sing. It sounds so silly now, but we actually sang all the hit songs from that time and all of them one after the other. We sang so many that towards the end my brother got so irritated that he started adding his own sound track of irritated comments to it. We also later coaxed him and cousin 1 to sing and as sweet as they are, they obliged by singing a duet.

All these sweet memories were locked up on that cassette which I could not play now. I even thought of buying a small player just to hear this one cassette but eventually got busy in work and daily activities and forgot about it, till last week when Hubby Dear (HD) surprised me with a very thoughtful gift. It was my birthday last week and HD gave my memories back to me but this time they were on a CD. He got the sound track from the cassette transferred on a CD.

And when I heard it, it brought back all the memories as if it happened yesterday. It revived all the silly fights over small things. How we called each other names and teased each other to the point that someone cried and one of the elders had to step in. How we fought and swore never to talk again and yet were so excited to meet up the next time.

We used to get together mostly on Rakhi and Diwali. These were the two days of the years no one missed. We even sometimes celebrated Rakhi on the following weekend if we had to accommodate someone who is not able to make it on that day. But getting together as a family on these days was a must. But as years advanced so did we and went on to pursue our respective careers. Cousin 1 and 2 had to go out of town for studies. I came to US just before they finished their studies. Every year one of us was always missing. Last year when I took my long pending vacation and went back to India to spend Diwali at home, my brother had to travel out of the country for work. In the next few years Cousin 2 may travel out for further studies. I wonder if we can ever get back together like we did before. Or is it only through these sound recordings that we have to relive those moments.

The most beautiful moments of life are the ones we spend with our near and dear ones. These are treasures that you preserve in your heart for years. You may never get to spend the same time again, but the memories you have made are enough to cherish the moments for the rest of your life.

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