Dasu Chittappa

Dasu chittappa.  The youngest of Appa’s three brothers.  A simple, sweet, generous and gentle soul, always ready with a smile or a quick joke. My earliest memory of chittappa is from his late 20s, when I was not quite 5 years old yet. Chittappa, V, and I would have breakfast together almost every morning, sitting on the kitchen floor in Mandavelli – V and I cross-legged and Chittappa with his legs stretched out endlessly on one side.  Chittappa would sit there regaling the women of the household with his stories as they bustled about. I (always motivated by food) kept one ear open but stayed on target. V, on the other hand, would be all eyes and ears on Chittappa (and get yelled at by Amma that the clock was a-ticking). I remember Chittappa calling me “keda” and me calling him “Uncle Dasu kandu” in return (luckily, we both outgrew that phase very quickly).

I remember watching Chittappa’s circle of friends standing around the front of the house every evening for hours talking in the fading evening light. I remember wondering what they talked so much about. I remember Chittappa bringing V and myself rare stamps and magazines like the Illustrated Weekly when he returned home from work.

As teenagers, V and I prayed that we would climb the seven hills of Tirupati on foot (I think we prayed that we would do this if we got the first rank in class or some such triviality – Good lord, really!). Chittappa, by then in his early 40s, offered to accompany us on our climb, and so off we went, the three of us. I remember Chittappa also carrying a bag filled with water and snacks for us, and me and V clinging on to him on either side super fatigued with all the walking and overwhelmed by the hills just looming (and looming) endlessly in front of us. I remember being totally amazed that once we reached the top (and V and I plopped onto the bed to rest our weary legs), Chittappa actually went walking again with Appa to figure out the logistics for our temple visit that night.

When Appa passed away in 2011, Chittappa would accompany us to the ceremonies every day. On one of those days, the priest asked me to make rice balls for the departed as part of the rituals, and gave me a bucket of water to cook the rice with. As I was getting started, Chittappa stopped me. “Don’t use the water from that bucket. Mani would not have liked that. He always liked to drink Aquafina. Let me go get a bottle of Aquafina, use that to cook the rice.”, Chittappa said.  I was so touched.  It was so impractical and yet the only thing that made sense to me during that difficult time.

Amma is in India now. Every day, over the past couple of months, whenever I called to speak to Amma, I also usually spoke to Chittappa. On some days he would talk politics, on other days he would ask about W (“do you keep him indoors, really?”).  Sometimes, he would inquire why I had not called at my usual time (even though I would only be a few minutes late). I loved bantering with Chittappa, his voice filled with laughter and sometimes sounding startlingly like Appa.

Chittappa turned 70 earlier this year.  He would have marked his 70th by celebrating his Bhima Ratha Shanthi next week. But he is not here with us any more. He passed away today after suddenly collapsing (on his wedding anniversary) and being critically ill for a couple of weeks. Just like that. It is so hard to believe that he is gone.

My Uncle Dasu kandu. May he rest in peace.


Sh*t Just Got Real

November 12. In 2010, this was the day that N got a big promotion at work. It was also the same day that Appa first told me that he felt his illness was something major. I woke up this morning and remembered the date. “Something important is going to happen today”, I told myself out of the blue (I do these things, really don’t know why).

I went to my first meeting at work. It was with my colleague J, who I have worked closely with for the past couple of years. She has been an incredible mentor to me, and my cheerleader. She has been instrumental in helping me advance so much within my company in a very short time. As I sat down, she smiled at me. “I have some news. I am retiring in February.” I have always been amazed at her high energy levels and her no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-me demeanor. I knew that she was turning 60 in December, but it never occurred to me that she would retire anytime soon.

So. I sat there gaping at her as she told me her news. And finally collected myself enough to convey my congratulations and wish her a happy retired life with her husband. But here’s where  the sh*t gets real. We just got a huge contract with a major client. I was always going to play a significant role in driving this new contract in the years ahead. But I saw J being a big part of this for at least the next five years. Guiding me, (sometimes) chiding me, being that safety net to catch me, if needed, while I learned the ropes. And suddenly, that’s not how it’s going to be anymore.

I just started reading Book 7 of the Harry Potter series. After hearing J’s news, I feel like Harry Potter, who must find and destroy the Horcruxes after Dumbledore has just died. The enormity of it is slowly hitting me. There is something scary about the buck stopping with you. But I think I will do ok. I love a challenge, especially when it’s work-related (which comes easier to me than, say, making murukkus or laddoos).

J’s around for the next three months. Man, I listened to her in today’s meeting like I have never listened to her before. So much to learn. So little time. Wish me luck.

The Boy Who Lived

#4 on my “18 for 2018” was to read the Harry Potter series. Just finished Book 4.

Man, what a writer, this J. K. Rowling. I am just blown away (me and everyone else, huh?). A little late to the party, I know. But also, wondering if she is konjam crazy. I mean, how could this woman create all these dozens (hundreds?) of new words (bobotubers, skrewts, hippogriffs – you know what I mean) and then just carry on casually as though it’s the most natural thing in the world? Maddening and mind-blowing at the same time.

Also, fascinating how the books are just getting darker and more disturbing as they move up in years. Just like Indian movies, I said to N earlier. Miss the (relative) innocence of Book 1, sigh!

So. Onto Book 5 now. Little N informed me that we own all the Harry Potter books (yay!) so I walked around the house looking in all the various bookshelves for Book 5. Finally found it in little N’s room.  It was as she said. Half the book is missing. But I still feel lucky (see how fabulously positive I am). The first half of the book – around 300 pages – is intact. Let’s face it, I am not going to wade through more than 300 pages in one night (those days are long gone, machi). Dinner is done and so are the dishes (although, truth be told, it’s take out night, so really no dishes to be done).

Ready to dive into whatever is there of Book 5, and just leave the missing pages for another day. 🙂


Report Card Feeling

I have always loved receiving report cards (you knew I was a geek, didn’t you?). When the teacher would (perversely) start handing out report cards in reverse rank order (rank 39, then 38, then 37, and so on), I would be standing there almost smacking my lips when the count down would get to 4, 3, 2… Satisfactorily landing on 1 sometimes, but not always. Which made it all the more exciting – the uncertainty, the anticipation, oooh la la!!

So. That’s my “report card” feeling. And I have not had that report card feeling in a long time. Until now.

Why now, you ask?

Well. All these years, when I (used to) open my munchkins’s lunch boxes at the end of the school day, one or both would have at least some leftovers. And sometimes, the whole lunchbox would come back home intact. Quite discontented, I would empty out their boxes and load them into the dishwasher wondering what in the world I could do better.

Finally, after all these years, when little N has reached 11th grade, I had an aha moment (verrrry slow on the uptake – seriously). Bought lovely looking thermos lunch boxes for my chickis. And started sending warm (if not steaming hot) lunches to school. Suddenly, looks like lunch from home is a lot more palatable (my poor babies!). I am getting empty lunch boxes from not one but both munchkins on most days.

On most, but not all days. So here it is again – that uncertainty, that anticipation. My report card feeling. It took me a while to realize, but that’s what it is.

Do you have a distinct, recognizable “report card feeling”? And, more importantly, when do you feel it? 🙂

Wisdom from Winston

Our blackboard currently reads – “What can we learn from Winston today?” (yes, I am having a prettttty idle Sunday). The family has not come up with any responses yet (after all, they are just starting on breakfast) but I (surprise!) have come up with a few gems.

You ready?

  • Give unconditional love to those around you
  • Keep trying until you get what you want
  • Long afternoon naps are the BEST
  • Love, food, shelter, exercise, play, and rest – what more do you need in life?
  • It is awesome when others clean up after you
  • You don’t always need to follow someone else’s agenda (aka pee pads are just a suggestion)
  • It is pointless to cry when no one is around to baby you and make you feel better
  • Try new things at least once
  • If someone is barking at you unprovoked, be sure to show them what you think too

And last but not least,

  • Never underestimate the importance of being cute 🙂

Simple Pleasures

Sondham oar aanandham, bandham peyr aanandham…”

I am in the middle of whipping up dinner for three (N has a dinner meeting tonight, and W has already eaten). Dinner tonight (as on most nights around here) is quite simple – paruppu, tomato rasam, vendakkai roast (yum!), and rice. As I chop and sautee furiously with one eye on the clock (after all, little A has her flute lesson to get to this evening), I am suddenly struck by something.

All three of my munchkins are gathered close around the kitchen island where I am bustling about. They are each busy with their own thing, peacefully coexisting. Little N is working on a chemistry lab report, little A is practicing flute, and W is circling the island expectantly (but quietly), waiting for me to accidentally drop some food (not happening, buddy!).

It’s nothing special and so super special at the same time. This moment of closeness. You know what I mean. Makes me so happy. 🙂


I asked the family what they would like to focus on to set the intention for the upcoming school year (yes, I do these sorts of quirky things).

What N, little N, Amma and I came up with.

Little A wants to focus on this guy during the school year.


But I think he gets a ton of attention already, thank you very much! 🙂