Little Women

As far as I can recall, Little Women was my first “big book”. I was in 5th grade, and my sister V had to read Little Women in her “non-detail” class (remember those?). I decided to read along, and was totally mesmerized by the lively lives of the four sisters. I totally identified with Jo (tomboy, voracious reader, writer, didn’t like to dress up, was clumsy – too many similarities with self that I found striking even at that young age). The book that V’s class read was quite abridged, if I recall right. But my interest continued, so shortly thereafter, I hunted for and devoured Good Wives and Jo’s Boys as well.

Big shocker in Good Wives (if you’ve read the book, you know where I am going, don’t you?). Jo refuses the young, handsome, fun, and filthy-rich Laurie, and marries the portly, 39-year old (practically one foot in the grave in those days!) German Professor Bhaer!! Jo and Laurie were such close friends, soul mates even, and seemed just so perfect together. Even worse than Jo and Laurie not getting together, Laurie actually turns around and marries Jo’s younger sister Amy, ugh! I remember that I was totally crushed to read it back in my teens (perhaps because I identified so much with Jo, it all felt so super personal).

Last night, I found an old copy lying around, and eagerly tucked in to re-read some parts of it. And, of course, made a beeline for the chapter titled “Heartache” to see if I understand any better why on earth Jo refused Laurie. Didn’t understand it any better – indeed, the chapter just gave me heartache again (as evidenced by the fact that I am ranting the next day on my blog like this!). Seriously – what twisted, perverse thinking prompted Louisa May Alcott to come up with such horrible mis-pairings?!

The closing of “Heartache” has always haunted me.

“Oh, Jo, can’t you?”

“Teddy, dear, I wish I could!”

That was all, except a little pause. Then Laurie straightened himself up, said, “It’s all right, never mind,” and went away without another word. Ah, but it wasn’t all right, and Jo did mind, for while the curly head lay on her arm a minute after her hard answer, she felt as if she had stabbed her dearest friend, and when he left her without a look behind him, she knew that the boy Laurie never would come again.

Sigh! Jo’s choice – after all these decades since I first read the book (and some 150 years since the book was written) – still drives me crazy and makes me want to shake that girl till she sees sense.

So. If you made it this far (thank you) and know what I am talking about, who gets your vote – Laurie or Bhaer – and why?

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Navarathri Golu

The biggest festival that we celebrate in my household, Navarathri Golu, started earlier this week. While on vacation last month, I woke up one morning at 5 am and sat in the balcony of our hotel room enjoying the pre-dawn view. As I waited for the sun (and the rest of my family) to rise, decided to – what else – organize my Navarathri schedule. Feeling fantastically idle, decided that this year, I will invite my friends on at least two days (with a couple of backup days thrown in), and also make one of those days a week day (really do not know how I came up with this!).

That week day that I hosted was yesterday.

While I don’t think I will dare host on a week night again, had a really nice time last night. I had only invited half my usual list (the rest will visit tomorrow), so had a fantastic relaxed time chatting away and connecting with everyone that visited. Woke up this morning after only three and a half hours of sleep (all that adrenaline, whooo!), happy as a lark and actually caught myself singing while making breakfast (and let’s face it, what are the odds of that ever happening?!).

You ready for some philosophical, sleep deprivation induced rambling? Yeah, that’s what I thought. 😉

As we were getting back into routine after vacation, I noticed that I was feeling strangely disoriented and isolated. Working from home is very common at my work. While that is a fabulous arrangement to have (and I wouldn’t trade my couple of days per week at home for anything), it doesn’t really set you up to foster meaningful friendships at work (hard as that is, to begin with). It wasn’t just that, though. Over this past year, I have been feeling increasingly distant from one of my closest friends here. No disagreement or anything at all, just that her social circle is way larger than mine to begin with, and it looks like she has moved on with friends that share common activities and interests that I cannot, for the life of me, pursue (believe me, I have tried). I see the logic in all this. Plus, I am aware that I am not in middle school or high school to get my knickers in a bunch over friendships. Still, the gradual but unmistakable distance from a friend that I thought I was super close to has me feeling quite off balance. “Che, what first world problems are you coming up with”, I chided myself, as I drove to work one day brooding and mildly discontented over my current social situation.

Anyway. After low grade whining to N off and on for a couple of weeks now, surprised to notice self suddenly being super happy and singing while severely sleep deprived. I think of myself as an ambivert (not your wallflower, but not a party animal either) but perhaps it’s time to feed the dormant extrovert in me. And to cherish and enjoy the numerous awesome friendships that are still alive and kicking right in front of me.

How very timely, Golu offers more than enough opportunity to do just that!

Looking forward to a fun week of dressing up, singing, sundal-ling, and gossiping away with friends old and new. Happy Navarathri to you! 🙂

August

(Written on August 30, 2017)

I am writing this while lazing around on the super cozy sofa in the balcony of our room in Nusa Dua, Bali. Lying on my tummy, feet up in the air behind me, taking in the sights, sounds, and distinctively sweet smell of the tropical ocean air.

Pretty close to sheer bliss.

Why only “pretty close”, you ask?

Well. We are almost at the end of a loooong vacation in South East Asia. Our travels took us to Bali, Java, Singapore, and we will catch a bit of Taipei (especially, Din Tai Fung) before we head back to JFK. Suddenly wonder if the “F” in JFK stands for the word that I am now thinking, as I briefly consider all the work that awaits us at the other end of a different ocean.

But first things first. Vacation was absolutely glorious. We did so many different things, some of which were quite a stretch for me.

• Rode electric bikes through the streets and through rice terraces in Ubud
• Made batik art work and silver jewelry (both of which didn’t come easy to me)
• Played with monkeys at the Monkey Forest in Ubud
• Watched four live performances and learnt a ton about the local culture
• Ate insanely delicious food at almost every meal
• Pined and searched for Indian restaurants everywhere (ok, that was just me)
• Visited our friend A and his family in Singapore (thanks to A’s wife N for the yummy thayir saadam that hit the spot!)
• Braved the AWD ride, and intense dust and sulfur smells to visit the awe-inspiring Merapi volcano
• Oohed and aahed at the achievements of Singapore after talking to people there and visiting the National History Museum
• Rode the cable car, the zipline and the Segway at Sentosa (no more Segway for me, my friend, ugh!)
• Bought several over-priced books at the amazing Kinokuniya
• Bargained like a pro at the little markets in Bali (and got majorly tsked-at by two disapproving munchkins)
• Squeezed through the crushing crowds in Little India, Singapore to visit Murugan Idli Kadai (super yum!)
• Visited numerous temples, including the stunning Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Java
• Celebrated two birthdays (little N turned 15 and I turned 29 years older than her)
• Enjoyed lingering over late dinners and animated discussions with the munchkins
• Lounged by the pool soaking in the sun (Vitamin D!) while little A swam (and little N worked in the hotel room – after all, she is a rising high school sophomore, and not an idle snidle like the rest of us)
• Fought and bickered a few times, especially in Singapore (jam-packed days and hot, humid conditions don’t do wonders for your good-humor, I have discovered)
• Cuddled and quickly made up too

I know that I am leaving out many other things. Like I said, it’s been a glorious vacation. Hard to capture everything in words.

We are now spending the (almost) last leg of our trip at a fabulous beach resort. Our days here are lightly packed. Mostly relaxing and taking in the room service and ocean air, yes, but also, unmistakably, getting ready for what’s coming. If August has been awesome, September promises to be super busy. Little N is already revving up, little A starts middle school (serious OMG!), and our busiest (and most fun) festival, Navarathri, falls in September this year.

I feel refreshed and ready to get back to our “real life” after this vacation, which has been one of our longest ever. But am also super thankful for the next few days that will give us that much needed pause between vacation and work, as we prepare to hit the ground running one more time.

Grace

I am working from home today. Somehow, these WFH days end up being way busier than you think they would be (they should really be called WTF days, I say!). Spent most of the morning hidden upstairs working away and yammering on the phone. Did pause to congratulate self that our cook, R, was coming over today, so didn’t have to ponder the one question that I find absolutely nerve-wracking – “Mommy, what’s for lunch?”.

Dropped R home at 2:00 pm after she made some delicious lunch (aloo parathas, paneer capsicum sabji, and sabudana kichdi – super yum!!). As I drove her home, we were commiserating with each other on our busy mornings. R mentioned that she had been out cooking since 6:30 am, and that as soon as I dropped her at home she was going to make dinner for her family, since she still had another cooking job this evening which would go on from 4 pm till at least 7 pm.

Man, felt like a total a$$hole for whining to her about my busy morning. And told her that I hoped that the rest of her week is easier, and that I felt like sitting down and having a cup of tea after just hearing about her busy day. Which, come to think of it, was also a dumb thing to say. I mean, if someone is overwhelmed, I don’t know if it’s reassuring to hear “oh no, you are so overwhelmed”. Anyway, that’s what I said.

I was blown away by her response.

“Do you want to come in to my house? I can quickly make you a cup of masala chai”, she offered – 8 hours into a 12 hour, entirely on-her-feet, work day.

That, my friend, is what they call Grace.

Blackboard Wisdom

This is a tough week at work for both N and me, and little N is super busy with her summer course as well. The atmosphere at home is pretty intense already, and it’s only Monday. Decided to spew some pep talk on my kitchen blackboard – some pearls of wisdom to give hope and sanity to the busy bees (mostly self).

Nice, no?

Flash Back

After a nice dinner out to kick-off the weekend, found myself with absolutely nothing to do this evening. Rummaged through the bookshelf in our bedroom looking for some old forgotten book (love the comfort of re-reading). And stumbled on my diary from my pre-teen years (yes, that fossil!).

Found this letter in there, preserved carefully for soooo many years (ok, might as well make that decades).

I must have been 11 then, in 7th standard. Pen-pals were all the rage, I recall. I was beyond thrilled to receive this (unsolicited) letter from (what I imagined) was some dashing 14 year old in the UK.

After reading and re-reading the letter a few times, I giddily ran to Appa. I distinctly remember standing in the kollai of Thatha and Patti’s house (why? perhaps washing up after a meal, who knows?). Anyway. I breathlessly informed Appa that I had a letter from a kid named Nick Waspe and asked if I could please write back to him. “Is that a boy? No, no writing back to this boy.” was all Appa said as he walked back into the house. I remember standing there in the kollai looking at his departing back, soooo disappointed, but yet not saying a word. That was the end of the discussion (take note, little N and little A – such parental obedience displayed by your fabulous mother). I didn’t even think to suggest to Appa that perhaps I could write to Nick’s friend Andrea (a girl, as he puts it). I really pined for a pen-pal for a while after that, I remember (at least till non-stop studying took over in 10th grade and thereafter).

I know that I have a strong memory and all, but looking at this letter today, I could viscerally recall the twinge of disappointment that my 11-year old self felt. Looking back, I wish I had rocked the boat a little and asked Appa for a reason as to why I couldn’t write back. Perhaps he didn’t actually feel that strongly about my writing or not writing. Perhaps I could have worn him down if I had asked a couple of times.

Was it Lewis Carroll that said “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”? Satya vachan! 🙂