Monthly Archives: January 2012

Chasing happiness #11

Honesty is not the best policy. Being in the middle of the life, I should know. I can’t call my mother old, and I can’t call those tiny bumps on my daughter’s face acne unless I want to offend them and prepare for an in depth review of my own physical appearance. But I still do, anyway.

The other day, I was in the car with my daughter, discussing the happenings of the day. I like to pick up my children from school/ after-school programs, always. It is that ten minute chatter while riding home that spills the most secrets. Once they have calmed down, composed themselves, they think and sort what they want to share, and what needs to be hidden.

“You know, my friends say I look like you, except for the wrinkles”.
She didn’t stop at that.
“When you smile, there are lines at the end of your eyes, but I don’t have those”.

We look alike, my older daughter and I. Same eyes, same smile, and the same height these days, at least until she grows taller. Once when I went to the school office to page her for a pickup, the lady mentioned “I don’t know your name, but I know whom you will page” and paged my daughter.

This year, during our India trip, we confused everyone in the family. We wore almost similar clothes, we moved around at the same pace, same length and texture of the hair. People wouldn’t stop commenting on how similar we looked. Of course the similarity was very evident when mother-in-law walked towards me with rare love in her eyes, thinking it was her grandchild.

So, I am wrinkle faced.
Age is relative I wanted to say, age is a number. If this had come in comparison with anyone else, I would have snapped and given a fitting reply. But coming from the daughter, it didn’t warrant any feelings of insecurity. Compared to an eleven year old’s still baby-smooth face, I was wrinkly. May be not so compared to other mothers of the eleven year olds. That was an honest truth.

I laughed at her comparison, and drove on home listening to the rest of the chatter that didn’t involve my face, or the lines on the ends of my eyes when I smiled.

This honesty isn’t something new. For years, I have tried to teach the kids to be truthful, share everything that feel with the family without sugar coating their words, picking and choosing them to sound politically correct. Make life simple, I tell them, tell the truth, that way you don’t have to spend your energy into building up a story to hold that lie.

Of course, I can’t follow the same rule when it comes to my life.
No, there aren’t any shoes in the closet that the husband doesn’t know of, or a secret wardrobe.

I lack courage telling the other mother that a career, and a parenting rule that calls for ban on excessive intrusion in my child’s “outside” life prohibits me from droning in the classroom, checking on the child every minute of the day, comparing their performance with other children. I end up thanking her for spending time in my child’s class and enriching their learning experience.

I lack courage telling the spinster calling me aunty that it’s high time she addressed her own insecurities about marriage and the life, and stopped putting down the people a few years older than her by calling them aunty. Married women are boring she says, they talk only about their husbands and children, hanging out all married women because technically almost all women her age have married. Instead, I tell her that this is what a husband and couple of children will do to you, travel, and enjoy your life while you can.

I lack courage being honest about simple things involving people that I don’t consider my family and friends so close they are already family. I was amazed at the brutal honesty of a friend snapping at a woman who passed some remarks on the friend’s amazing ability to handle two children and a career while she could barely manage to get dressed and drop off the children in the mornings. My friend had told her that if she has problems in her life, it wasn’t her problem.

I fear that if I end up being so honest, I wouldn’t be left with a single person to smile at when I walk out of my car. Brutal honesty has no friends. It has family, but no friends. I will continue my dishonesty, calling everybody special, beautiful and talented, and thanking them for the same lies that they tell me, mostly scared like me about the consequences.

Happiness today is being dishonest, slightly, so that I can continue smiling at people.
Happiness today is for the dishonest people in my life, who tell me I am beautiful, I am intelligent, I am talented even on the days I am lacking those traits.
Happiness today is having an honest child, even though they were the lines on my face she was counting.

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Chasing Happiness #10

It’s raining where I live.

There isn’t a storm alert, nor are we going to see snow at any neighboring altitude. Just rain. Pitter patter of the rain drops hitting the roof tiles at same interval, creating a constant white noise. The windows got a power wash, all the dust languishing in the net washed away, clearing the view of the world.

The trees surrounding the house were thinned and pruned last week, there was noise all morning, sometimes so loud the ears hurt. But the pain of that moment is justified, standing near the window, I can see the line of cars parked in front of my house, black-gray-white like the moods of my mind.

I want to step out in the rain, and receive the shower from the heaven with open arms. I want to get drenched, feel every drop of the pure water on my face. I want to see the water drip from the ends of my sleeves. I want to step into the puddle bare feet and feel the cold water on my soles.

I want to awaken me, like the thinned tree in front my house. I want to forget the fallen leaves, and busy myself to prepare for the impending birth of new ones. Beautiful rain, I want to submit myself to you, forget about the sunshine, forget about swaying with the winds, and just let your surround me in your white noise.

Instead I walk around in the house, close the doors, windows, and turn on the heater. Maintain the temperature. Maintain the silence. I step out, with the hood of my jacket covering my head, tip toeing into the backyard to pick a fresh orange off the tree. I wonder if I should wash it, and then laugh at my silly thought, zest the skin, fold into the batter, bake Madeleines to bring the smell of heaven to earth.

I try to forget the smell of the first rain, the excitement of the first rain. With two sick children in the house, I didn’t want to set a bad example. It’s hard, being a mother sometimes. There are little eyes, little hearts that are guided by you, by your actions. Now was not the time to tell the children how beautiful the experience of dancing in the rain was.

I remember my childhood. Coming home in the rain, drenched head to toe, forgetting to open the umbrella, forgetting there was a raincoat, enjoying every drop of water around my being, and getting a good scolding by my mother while she wiped off the water from my hair, and made me a hot cup of chocolate while I changed into something warm. It was fun, no matter how hard it was to deal with the medicine that tasted like cow pee when the body rebelled against the rebellion of the mind.

I smile, thinking of the special moments associated with the drops of the water that got recycled for a million years, creating a million unique memories. If the droplets could remember, someone danced in the rain. If they could remember, someone kissed in the rain. If they could remember, someone cried in the rain. They coated each moment, framing them and sealing them tightly, disappearing into the earth with them, as if they were burying them for eternity.

There was a knock on the door.
“Come, walk with me in the rain, we can get your car inside”, he said.
“No, the children are waking up, and I am baking”, I said.
“Go on, I am awake. I can turn off the oven”, she said.

I hesitated, but clutching his hand I stepped out into the rain, feeling the drops of water on my face, watching them fall in the hands that were clutched together, and then coating the love between those hands into a drop of water, vanishing into the earth. It was a moment of love that just got sealed into the earth.

It was a moment of our love.

Happiness today is walking in the rain because it’s not always dancing that brings joy.
Happiness today is baking in the rain because not everyone can smell the first drop of rain on the parched earth.

 

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Chasing Happiness #9

Fourteen years ago, a new bride would be sitting at her desk, engrossed in research to complete her thesis, perfecting the perfect, and the dark clouds would fill the sky, distracting her from the mission of her life, to be an Architect before she joined her beloved seven seas away. You miss him more than you love this, the lightning would say, lighting up that corner in the heart she would try to hide from the world.

She would push aside the hardbound Time Saver Standards and the stack of books she used for reference, and pick up a bond paper, or a parchment, or whatever caught her fancy, and using the best of her inks, would write a letter to the person brought the moanful misery to her life. I miss you, she would write, then tear that paper, do you miss me, she would ask in the next.

Passion would fill in the pages sometimes, agony of separation sometimes, it would just be a factual tale of happenings sometimes. Pages and pages that could make up a novel were written, sent across the world relying on the postal service, without backups, without copies of what was written. The trust and faith that this too shall reach surpassed the doubts that it would be lost somewhere in transit.

Some reached in a week, some reached in a month, some never made it, and there was one, a passionate one, that she regretted writing came one fine day when least expected, when the passionate moments she used to long for were already relived, when words were no longer used to convey the meanings. It went into the box, a box full of letters that would one day become a treasure, to be opened and read on the rainy days, sitting on a ledge near the window, forgetting the world.

Soon, the series of passionate mails were replaced by the longing of a mother and daughter. They wrote to each other about everything happening in their lives, including stacks of recent pictures, even though they talked to each other every day. There is something about the written words that makes you say more than the words that come out of your mouth. The unspoken, unsaid was traded across the oceans.

Life got busy at some point, sticking only to the verbal conversations, slowly replaced by the video chats that took over the letters like never before. Pictures were traded over the internet, and words exchanged with a face to relate to. The letters sit somewhere deep in the boxes, only things that I sign and date became the city hall application when I filed for my client’s permits.

Forgotten art of writing had to be revived, not because I had time to write, but because I had time to keep the art of writing alive, especially the glory of my beautiful handwriting. Beautifully calligraphy adorned the Christmas cards, each alphabet written with precision, with love, to the person I sent it to, to tell them that they are important, as important is my handwriting to the envelope. Once a year ritual, but that held on, mailing handwritten cards, and receiving handwritten cards.

All that frenzy over now, life is reset to the next year, only mail I will receive will be the Tax 2011 papers and the various bills. An envelope of a different color surprised me, as did the handwriting on it. There was a Christmas card that came from a land far away, from an Island Princess. The delight that it brought, the reminder it gave of the holidays that just passed was so simple and so special. It came on a day that I had taken all the cards off of the refrigerator, and stowed away all decoration until the next year.

Suddenly, by arriving late, it became special, special than the ones that came on time. I left it on the refrigerator, perhaps it will be there, with a handwritten message in it, till the Valentine’s day frenzy begins. Stacks of pink hearts will be traded between friends, and stacks of them will be all over the fridge, until I declare spring cleaning.

Reminded me of the passionate letter that came late, igniting the passion that only separation could bring. Reminded of the letter that my father wrote to a pregnant me, asking me to stay away from junk food, not because it affected me, when my daughter was already a year old. Reminded me of the proposal my uncle got for an arranged marriage, when his daughter was already two years old.

Happiness today is reliving that joyful moment the letter was written for long after that moment has passed..

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Chasing Happiness #8

This morning I woke at 4.30 am, gave a quick shower to the little one, put a load of laundry into the washer, and sat on the bed playing Word on the Street with her.  Those without children yet will probably think it’s the super mom syndrome being kicked up a notch, but those with kids know the scene. Sick child. Husband was on an all night care-giving mission, and I had to take over early in the morning. The fever is down now, and she is sleeping, and I am all energized, with a fresh and early morning start for the day.

I picked up Redbook and read an article about “Child No.3”.

This has been on my mind for a long time. When we got married, I wanted a big and beautiful family. Three girls to be exact. I always saw myself as that mother at the school drop off zone zooming in with a giant black SUV, and when the door opens, three girls with matching backpacks, hair bands and shoes get out, waving bye to their mom. But then, happiness came in between. Yes, happiness. New city, new beginnings, and new turns in life came exactly when we wanted to have our second baby. We were so happy in that new space of life that we didn’t want to make room for another person, especially someone who would disrupt it.

Then came the second one, and the new job, and the new house, and the brand new recession of the decade that it never felt like a good time to have another baby. Also, the second one was such a baby, we didn’t even feel we should have another baby. We didn’t cancel our baby plans, but we didn’t work on it. Last winter, the baby fever kicked in again.. one of my Facebook status read:  Today I feel like.. holding a freshly bathed warm and fragrant baby wrapped in a towel.. walk in no particular direction till my feet hurt without the worry about returning.. eat a three course meal at that restaurant on Green in Pasadena thoroughly enjoying each bite. On second thoughts I will just wake up my senses, smell the coffee, drink some with Kahlua and get on with life, as is…

Second thoughts won, needless to say.

My birthday last year became suddenly special. I turned thirty five. Not an age that I should be sharing with people, but then, when you want to have a kid, it becomes an all important milestone. So many of my relatives, and my friends went on to have children after thirty five, some even had their first one, all healthy, but long ago, my husband and I had decided that we will draw a line at thirty five. Probably because we started so early, and we didn’t want to be parenting almost all our life. Probably because we are not prepared for the stress that comes with late pregnancies.

After my birthday, we went to India. With two girls, it’s not easy even in a very progressive family where all the women work, and almost all of them are postgraduates. Everybody told me to have a third one, a boy. One of them, a shrill and annoying woman that I met for the first time, told me that I should have variety in life. I did tell her that we were talking about children, not spice jars jokingly, but she didn’t get the point. She kept insisting that this time it will be a boy, she knows. Probably she was an expert in some kind of a chart. Something about everyone asking for a third child, preferably a boy, totally turned me off. I no longer want to have another child, more so for the fear of it being a boy, looking like those desperate baby machines that won’t stop until they have had a boy.Being a girl has never affected my life in anyway, and I don’t have to have a boy just because that’s the only thing I don’t have right now. Oh, I don’t have that two hundred thousand dollar sari either.

Summer cleaning followed, and a vague Facebook status read:  In the dark corner of the closet, behind the dresser is a disassembled crib, nuts and bolts in a ziplock bag, tucked between the dresser and the wall. Lost in time, remembering my newborn babies that slept in a corner of the crib, my toddlers that climbed out it and one day grew out of it, and the unborn that never slept in it. It’s almost five years after my last, I list the item for donation. Content yet undone for unknown reasons.

That was the end of the baby fever. With the crib gone, and everything baby donated to deserving people, I declared the mission incomplete, but done. More than any other year, this year, during Christmas I missed having a cutie patootie baby in the house, the ones that I had are all grown, independent. They are still cute, still adorable, still my babies, and forever will be, but they won’t smell like one, ever. Smell of children now is a mix of monkey bar metal and black top, with some sweat, and with some fading deodorant and a fruity-flowery mix of shampoo and body wash that still left it’s scent somewhere on the body. One day when they grow up, when they can understand better, I want to be the “mom in the middle”, a foster parent, but as of now, this is it.

This year is a dragon year, I am a Fire Dragon, and the older one a Metal Dragon. My husband teases me, have a Water Dragon, it will be fun to see all your energies clash, but I won’t give in. At this age, when I should be finishing up my eat-pray-love moment and start being me, I won’t be a mother again. Yesterday my little one sprayed Victoria’s Amber Romance on me, and all night I kept smelling my hand.. smells almost like a baby. So much that I wanted to wake up my husband and tell him, it’s not Johnson and Johnson, it’s Amber Romance.. Guess I have found the fix for the smell of the baby.. now if only I could find a baby to hold whenever I felt like and give my unconditional love to.. without making my kids jealous, that would be perfect motherhood for me.

Happiness today is knowing my two girls complete me, and complete us.
Happiness today is knowing there is Amber Romance for those who miss the sweet smell of a baby.

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Chasing Happiness #7

Peace.

Ideally peace would be walking on the wet sand by the ocean, leaving my foot prints, watching them disappear as the wave crashed into them, alone, feeling the warmth of the sun above my head, and the cold ocean water under my feet..

Ideally peace would be standing on a cliff, watching the sunrise, sweat still trickling from my forehead from the strenuous trek that brought me to the piece of heaven, nature surrounding me, nature singing to me.

Ideally, a lot of things in life are not ideal. Such are the chaos of the times we live in, we try to survive in, peace is not exactly serene. Peace is not exactly nature. Peace is just a state of mind, peace is just a happy space that mind rests in, before we move on.

Yesterday I found peace walking in the aisles of Target.

Yes, walking the aisles of Target, listening to a vague loud song my tween plays on her itouch, interspersed with “hello” “bye-bye” “one-two” “yay” from the baby toy section, and the beeping of the scanners. There were no birds chirping, waves crashing, but to listen to any sound that didn’t say “mom” while pushing a cart with a list in hand was therapeutic. White noise is therapeutic than silence sometimes.

I walked into every section, without a list, without a time frame, without anyone interrupting my thoughts, I looked at every different sheet set they had, I looked at every little accent table they had, and I looked at the gardening section. It wasn’t the same as looking at the green and gold of the leaves in sunrise, but the amalgamation of colors that didn’t make sense actually soothed my eyes.

I went into the kitchen section, and without anyone reminding me that I am not the cooking and cleaning Domestic Goddess, I explored every tool in the baskets, wondering if I ever cooked, would it make life easier. Wondering will I ever cook for the sake of creating a beautiful edible color palette, or will it always be something to sustain life, no matter how tasty it turned out, it won’t be a piece of art I created.

I bought things that I didn’t need, it was peaceful, to know that none was expensive enough to bother about a change of mind warranting returns. I talked to the store clerk, asked the old man how his day was, how business was after holidays. I walked out of the store, without holding anybody’s hands, without pushing a giant cart full of stuff to load in the trunk, without plotting my exit path. Peace was shopping without baggage to weigh me down.

Happiness today is finding peace in the chaos, not waiting for peaceful atmosphere to help me be at peace.

 

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Chasing Happiness #6

“What’s the news?”
“All good, fit and fine”
“Congratulations, I am so happy for you”
“He said I can resume all exercises”
“Walking, jogging and err.. Bicycling too?”
“Yes, bicycling too!”
“Will you?”
“What will I?
“Bicycle?”
“Of course I will! The clear blue sky and the California sun are calling me to come out, roll the wheels, and explore the contours of the road, breathe in the freshness of the air and forget the misery of being cooped up in a car.”
Ugh, sounds very romantic, but this conversation between my husband and I was nothing but romantic. I am not a nag who wouldn’t let my man have his own sweet heaven, but after his accident and subsequent surgery last year, I don’t think I still have the mental courage to deal with the bicycle. It’s not that I am a chicken, if the risk is limited to only me, I can even attempt to climb Mt. Everest without having second thoughts about my lung capacity.

When it comes to people I love, I can’t. Last week, I was worried when the five year old daughter sat on a horse meant for seven year olds. She enjoyed the ride so much, went for a second round, but till she came back, I wasn’t myself. I have issues letting go. Control issues. In a conversation with a friend, I told her that the key to my happiness is thinking everyone belongs to me, and I belong to no one. That is happiness when everyone and everything is in control, under control. Usually it’s not. That’s when the same key to happiness unlocks pain and misery, and stress.

“Have your Doctor’s number on speed dial and call him if you injure yourself again”
“Will you pick me up after I am done with the appointment”. He surely was in a mood to tease.
“No. If you need to be in the bed again, arrange for a nurse”
“The Nurse, and I”
“You make it sound like an exotic and forbidden affair”
“Imagine her.. giving me a sponge bath..”
“Somehow that didn’t imagery didn’t translate to a very romantic occasion when I was giving one”
“That’s different”

I didn’t have time to argue about the lack of romanticism in my sponge bathing skills, more pressing matters needed my attention.  We declared an end to that conversation, so abruptly that we knew it would be revisited very soon, as soon as I gather all my ammo. International support/help line was dialed, and mother superior was consulted. As usual, she played both sides and gave an almost excellent suggestion, in theory.

Stationary bike. Bike in front of the TV she added, to keep boredom at bay. Put it in the backyard, and bike under the clear blue sky, and lush green surroundings. She tried hard to sell the idea. But husband dearest this time was smitten by the wind against his body. I could put a commercial grade fan in the backyard, but it won’t be natural. In the end I had to make a decision. A favorable decision that would please everyone, wouldn’t be too much work, wouldn’t have any risk.

Full-size long bed.
Yes, answer to all my concerns would be in a full size long bed. Sure we are conservative people, wouldn’t want to be caught in a long bed, but we have to roll with times and do what suits the occasion. I don’t know how I will convince him, but if all he wants is to enjoy the sun, rain, and wind against his body, I will give him that, and have the peace of my mind too. Load the stationary bike on the long bed, and drive at the speed he desires. End of all problems.

Happiness today is finding unreal solutions to real problems and trivialize them.

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Chasing Happiness #5

Ten brown tin canisters lined up the top shelf of my grandmother’s locked supply cupboard. They were interesting, mainly because they lacked interesting features like a bright red background, or a bright yellow stripe, or a picture of the celebrity endorsing them. So uninteresting was the brown background and the words written on them, they became an interesting addition to a house filled with shiny copper and brassware.

They were Ovaltine canisters from the early 1950s, used by mother when she was a child. A quick background information check on the canisters revealed that Mother Superior was born a skinny tiny girl who just wouldn’t put on weight. Much later in life she would struggle to lose every little ounce of fat that she added effortlessly, but then, when she was a little girl, a doctor had suggested using Ovaltine to help her stay healthy and add some flesh between the skin and bones.

I never tasted Ovaltine at all, grew up to be a Boost faithful, the  bright red and yellow canister with my favorite cricketer Kapil Dev’s signature “Boost is the secret of my energy” endorsement.  When I was young, the health drink with chocolate flavor was just used to break the dullness of the white milk and make it more exciting to drink, and promised some energy unlike today’s health drinks that promise to make you grow, make you the strongest. My generation wasn’t really that competitive. We just enjoyed our food, and our drink, did not make it a war against nature.

Last December I volunteered in my daughter’s school on the “Winter wonderland” day. We Californians are blessed with the sun and sand, but we do like the feel of fresh snow melting in our fingers. It’s a two hour drive to the snowy lands from where we live, so we decided to bring the snow where we are. I don’t know if the kids will ever appreciate the beauty of nature in it’s true form if they are spoiled like this, but sometimes, as a parent, all you want to do is give everything you can to your child. Winter wonderland was one such day. A snow blowing machine came to the premises early in the morning, and while the kids watched, blew snow on the playground. The kids were so excited, to play in the snow on a sunny day. Later when they were done, we had planned a hot chocolate-marshmallow-movie party for them to relax on the last day of school before the winter break.

We brought in slow cookers, and ladles, and hot chocolate. A mother had sent “Ovaltine”. I had never tasted Ovaltine before, and the closest I ever came to tasting was in my thoughts, worrying that the canisters my grandmother actually had twenty year old Ovaltine in them, and I would be served it with milk some day. That never happened because they were all empty, filled with knickknacks from my mother’s childhood my grandmother couldn’t part with. In them was a piece of history, coins that were outdated, small bangles that my mother no longer fit in, the face powder that she used. I made fun of her for saving all those good for nothing items, but now, as a mother I understand that she was not saving those things, she was saving a piece of my mother’s childhood in them.

We mixed the Ovaltine, and I was a little excited that my daughter would try something my mother enjoyed as a child. Like grandmother, like granddaughter.. she instantly fell in love with it, and when we called home and told her grandma about it, a simple chocolate flavored drink became a bonding moment for the two. They could make up an advertisement for Ovaltine, spanning generations. As I mix the powder into the white milk and watch it swirl around, turning the whole glass into a light brown liquid, I wonder how it would have been when my mom was a child. Did her mother also remind her a thousand times to drink her milk? Did she threaten her that if she didn’t she will have crooked bones? I don’t know, the older I am, the easier it is getting to imagine my mother as a little girl. There was a stage when I wouldn’t believe that she was skinny once or young once, unless presented with photographic evidence. May be as I am aging myself, getting to the middle of life, it’s getting easy to see on both sides?

Happiness today is knowing that life is not limited to “Like mother, like daughter”.
Sometimes it can be “Like grandmother, like granddaughter”.

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Chasing Happiness #4

It’s Day 6 of the 3-6-6 and I have only chased happiness thrice.
Time and again, I commit into something I really feel passionate about, and then, time and again, circumstances are such that I have to give up, and move on, with a little bit of guilt in my heart that heals with time. Making lists of my dreams, organizing my goals and putting all that aside because life called. No, it wasn’t anything urgent, it wasn’t life threatening. But I answered that call, broke a promise, and wandered around. Like smoking a cigarette and counting the rings, getting lost into the act and then wondering what was so mystic about those rings floating in the air, dissolving, disappearing as if they never existed. Except for the faint burning smell of nicotine, there won’t be a trace in the air, and except for that momentary high, there won’t be a trace left on the mind. That moment, it felt important, it was pleasuring.

Today was such smoking day.
I spent the whole day doing a thousand things that I can’t report as an accomplishment at the end of the day, no matter how hard I tried to look at the extraordinary in the ordinary. The fifty mile ride in a five mile radius, the random other mothers that I met in the parking lot, the new found knowledge that there is a lock for that tiny appliance that goes with braces, the sweet mocha freeze that lasted till it melted away, the macaroons that were so loaded I decided to be happy that each one had a gram of protein, the discipline of one daughter to sit and attend to her undone homework while the other was at piano in the music school, I don’t know what was extraordinary in them, and I didn’t see any rhyme or rhythm in those moments that would inspire me to write.

Tiger’s wife bulldozing the house did make me chuckle. I am not a psychiatrist, so I don’t know what her issues are, but when half the country is under poverty line, struggling to keep the roof on their heads, and food in their plates, this woman decides to raze down a property because she didn’t like it. She has the money and she has the mood, and I have an opinion. Caterpillar found work, so will a few architects and a couple of contractors, city offices will take a bite out of the new construction fund to issue some permits, like is all good, she might in the end, save some homes, and feed some people. She did create work, like the Stimulus fund creating work in my city, reconstructing the constructed. Last month, they repaved the street in front of my house. There were no pot holes, and no, there wasn’t even a fade in the parking lines.

Today, I picked up my phone and video chatted with my mother across the Pacific (this when I was parked!), marveled with her about the ease of communication these days, and compared it with the two day mail that she relied communicating with her mother, and together, we decided that technology has blurred the distance. Today, I picked up my children and heard about everything that they wanted to share, which included knowing that a friend’s friend didn’t invite another friend of hers to her birthday and that was so wrong, and that a friend is already turning six, lost his tooth in Kindergarten, and that was so unfair! Today I heard the romance of Bach rendered by the tender fingers of one daughter, while the other counted ten in her mind and four on her fingers. Today, I saw the first Linkedin mail from a recruiter, about a real position, with all the information to make it see legitimate. I did want to apply, had it not been the high of the four figure riding the January wave, or the pessimism that there are thousands over qualified and unemployed who will do anything to grab this opportunity. End of the day none of that translated into anything, but the rings of smoke that pleasured when they were blown slowly.

Happiness today is blowing rings of smoke, getting lost in those tiny circles all day and seeking a nicotine patch at night because the mind already forgot the pleasure of that smoke.

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Chasing Happiness #3

I am expecting a package. No, there are no diamonds in it or anything expensive that would need my signature, nor is it so big that I will need help transporting it to the garage. It’s a Kindle!

Two years ago, I put in a request to the technology department head of the household to buy me a Kindle. Yes, all requests technical go through the boss man, him being a certified technologist, it’s hard to bypass the authority. He thought it was a simpleton in me who wanted a e-ink reader, and upgraded my request, stood in line at the local apple store to buy me an iPad. Very lovely, the nicest and newest piece of technology that can also read books. It wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t read a single book, but downloaded game after game, paying for the apps with the book fund. I couldn’t read in the sun, I couldn’t read by the window, and it was a little heavy to hold and read in the bed.

Today I plan to get back to serious reading. With a tool that is for reading only, not a tool that reads also. A hot cup of tea, and a stream of day light from the window, a chair to cuddle, and any book at my fingertips to read. That is a luxury. It only helps that the work week was over an hour ago, children won’t be home for two more hours, and I have decided to look past the dirty dishes and floor that could use a good sweep. I can do all that later, but reading, I cannot. Prioritizing my happiness is the goal this year, so I will put me ahead of my maniac clutter conquering habits.

I look at the bookcases filled with books and wonder where they will go, in a few years when no one wants them, when the people who love the smell of real paper, the feel of it between their fingers are all gone. Can clouds make a wall of books of décor and instant inspiration to pick one up and start reading? Walking into Barnes and Nobles, I have found books that wouldn’t have searched for otherwise and fell in love with them. What would the future generations do? Read only things that are recommended based on their previous purchases and interests?

I walk into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, realize it’s been ages I brewed one for myself, it’s always the daughter who makes a cup, steeping the tea, adding honey and milk and handing it over. I open the dark wood box of special tea.. and find some flowering tea leaves. Watching the  tea bloom and make swirls of brown in the glass pot, I remember my grandmother, who didn’t have the luxury of drinking tea.

It was religious, it was political. Her father had banned the use of tea leaves in the household. But the lovely lady was so taken by the habit, and especially when it’s forbidden, it’s even more tempting to take that step against the rule, and do everything forbidden stealthily! She would smuggle the tea leaves on the corner of her sari’s end, and make a cup of hot water for herself, dip-dip-dip the end when no one was looking and enjoy her tea. I can only imagine the high it gave her, to sit in a house full of people and enjoy that drink without a care for them. Sort of the cigarettes in our generation. I do hear that she got caught and lectured later. But in our household, we firmly believe that she gave someone the idea of “tea bags”!

It’s 12.30 already, I have surfed the internet for an hour, reading threads of conversations in a group about books we want to read, shared pictures of my reading nook, and still no sign of the package. I will leave in a few minutes, and it won’t be here till 2 pm, and I won’t be home till 6 pm. I still won’t be able to rip the package open and say hello to my new reader, because we will head out for dinner. It will be 9 pm and I will still have the package in the back of my mind sipping a glass of red, as the ritual is, for Friday evenings. It will be 11 when I want to open the package, and dear husband will tell me to calm down and do it tomorrow, as no one else would want a kindle in the household. It will be 5.30 am and when everyone is deep asleep, I will wake up bound to my regular schedule, and tomorrow I won’t call my mom, I won’t head out for a walk around the lake, and I won’t clean the house. I will open the package and read..

Happiness today is getting something to read, not something that will read too.
Happiness today is making time to read, not reading when I have time.

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Chasing Happiness #2

Compared to the well planned layouts of the houses now, it was a weird house. It stretched good 1-6-0 feet in length, but there was only a forty feet width to it. The front door and the back door opened to different streets. I called it a train, with no private room, there were two attached houses with inter-connecting room, running a hundred feet long. Living room opened into the “room” and the room into the dining room, dining room into kitchen, kitchen into smaller kitchen and to the bathroom before it exited to the backyard. If you sat on a chair in the living room, facing the door, you could see all the way to the bathroom, provided all doors are open.
Every summer when the rich and famous retreated to their vacation homes, we retreated to this weird house called “grand ma’s house”.

There would be a reunion of sorts, unplanned. My grandma’s sister would drop in with her daughter and grandkids in tow, her brother would drop in sans wife.. and my only aunt lived next door, with her three kids. All men would be at work, and all who that didn’t share the same blood line would miraculously be busy with something else, in this case that only woman being the brother’s wife.

As if by order, the older group, two sisters and the brother sans wife would be in the kitchen, talking in hushed tones, mostly the sisters and the brother nodding and trying to say something. In the “room” between dining and living, the first cousins, my mom, her sister and her cousin would sit, all of them talking animatedly, giggling, and being the people they couldn’t be with us. I would always wonder, this laugh of my mother’s, I didn’t see it anywhere else. It was always a controlled, sophisticated behavior outside that room. May be the fact that she was born and brought up there, lived a carefree life laughing like that.. before she was a wife, a mother, a writer and more over, a lecturer- who didn’t have the privilege to laugh like she meant it at job.

Outside, in the living room, and in the patio would be us, cousins, first and second. I was the youngest and the oldest was eleven years older than me. She thought she was too cool to hang out with us, would sit and read a book with a provocative (at that age, a man and woman looking into each other’s eyes holding hands was provocative enough) cover, with a romantic title.  The rest of us would be busy playing, sometimes splitting into even smaller groups and sometimes as a team.

A typical summer afternoon from my childhood.
It’s been thirty years to that image I have stored in my heart, like a thousand others.

Yesterday, I was talking to my mother, and she mentioned that she is going to the death anniversary of her uncle. He is the man who nodded to everything his sisters said, when he visited us sans wife. One fine morning last year when I was making breakfast, my mother called me and gave me the sad news. As per the custom in my family, I took a shower, then lighted a lamp at the altar, prayed for him to find peace in death. After that we went out for lunch, and forgot all about the departed until my mother brought up the death anniversary.

I realized, all the people from the kitchen are no longer with us. My grandma, her sister, and their brother.. his wife too. Except for the memories of the vague afternoons from my childhood, that floods the mind on days like this, when it’s a death anniversary, or festival that we celebrated at their place, we hardly think about them. We don’t mourn their loss, or grieve for them anymore. May be they lived a full life, may be we were prepared to lose them, may be the end of their lives had a proper closure.

The “room” has only my mother now, my aunt had a heart attack and left us soon, and so did their cousin who left us too. I lived in a world far away, woke up to the news one fine day, and as I should, took a shower and lighted a lamp, prayed for them.. but this loss, I mourned, I grieved.
Long after the grieving period was over, I still remember them, miss them sometimes, miss them mostly because they made my mother a different woman. A happier woman. These days I see her share the same uninhibited happiness with my daughters, but it’s not the same.

If it’s all doom and gloom in the first room, with only a ray of sun shining in the room, the living room and patio are flooded with light, and sound. A group of eight kids, we have grown into eight families, almost each one of us with two of our own kids. I think that’s the reason we light a lamp when someone departs, to indicate that a lamp somewhere ran out of the wicker to keep burning, but there will be new lamps, there will be light..

Happiness today is knowing that there will be light.
Happiness today is knowing that all the memories of those departed are colorful and vibrant.
Happiness today is meeting those cousins, moving on with the compartmentalized life to the “room” while my mother moves to the kitchen, and letting our own children occupy the living room and patio.

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