Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A moment to preen

Nattu was asked to write a poem as part of her Language Arts class last school year.  She brainstormed with me different topics.  Even though she has not experienced gender discrimination, she has seen couple of instances of it when she visited India and used to ask me why girls were treated different from boys.  She has also seen her paternal grandma behaving the same with her dad and her aunt. This poem was born out of that idea. Her poem was chosen from her grade and was published in her school book

She Always Wondered Why

The cry of the newborn pierced the silence of the night
The smile on the father's face vanished at the sight
The mother knew why the father was distraught
And was worried about her child's fate.

The father wanted to kill the girl
But the mother would not allow it
The baby got a chance to live
And live she did in her own way.

As she grew she noticed little things
Her brother always got the best of everything
Attention, Love, Praise, Toys, Food
While she dealt with what was left over.

She was the topper in her class
Always a kindred soul
Earned rewards and got recognition outside
But never at home
Never from her parents.

She always wondered why
Why she is told not to play because she is a girl
Why she cannot laugh loud because she is a girl
Why she is told girls cannot argue
Why she cannot have a choice
Because she is a girl.

She went to college on a full  scholarship
Landed a job after graduating
But her parents never acknowledged her success
She always wondered why.

Once she had her own kids,
She asked her mother one day,
Why was she treated differently from her brother?
Why was she discouraged from doing things?

And in that moment
Her mother was struck with shock
What have I been doing to my own daughter?
Tears well in her eyes as her mother told her why
Her brother was favored over her.

The news enraged the girl
She was shocked and angry that just because she was a girl
She was treated differently
Does gender affect how much you love your child?

From that day
She always remembered that piece of her childhood
As she was raising her own son and daughter
She made sure to treat them equally.

The day her mother told her
That was the day her whole life changed
That was the day she found out why
She always wondered why.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


So the dreams are back.  The vivid ones where I recall every moment of the dream. Saturday night I had one such dream.  I am in a bus next to a window seat.  My good friend is next to me.  The bus enters an empty parking lot.  It is going pretty slow and I see my dad and mom standing there.  I scream 'Appa' and he looks up to see me in the bus.  I tell my friend 'See there.  My dad is standing there.'  She says 'yes I can see him.'

I reach out my hand through the window and he holds my hand tight.  I keep saying 'appa, appa' and he walks alongside the bus holding my hand really tight.  My mom has a happy face and is waving to me.  The bus then is about the leave the parking lot.  My dad gives me one last squeeze to my hand and lets go.  I keep looking at him till the bus turns around and I don't see him anymore. 

Even in that deep sleep state,  I could feel the squeeze and tightness in my palm.  Felt like he was right there with me.  It felt good to see his face so clear in the dream.  When I mentioned this to my mom, she was happy that she was next to him in the dream. 

I hope he visits me often and makes his presence felt.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Table Tennis

Our old house had a back yard.  Not too big but was big enough to house a well, a bathroom, a place for washing dishes, a stone for washing clothes and quite a little bit moving space.  It was partially covered with tiled roof and the remaining  was open with a wall separating two neighboring houses.  We had a big brass vessel which was used to soak clothes before washing.  This vessel got stolen one night and that triggered a house remodeling project.  We closed off the back yard fully and remodeled it to house a new kitchen.  In this remodeling process my dad wondered what to do with a teak wood door that could not be reused anywhere.  He decided to make a dining table out of it and thus we got our first and only dining table.

This dining table could seat 6 comfortably and can accommodate up to 8-9 if we squeezed in.  We never used the dining table if it was more than 8.  We moved it aside and sat down on the floor.  This table morphed into our table tennis table during hot summer afternoons.  We placed two tumblers on either side and kept a wood plank and this was our net in the middle.  We initially played with hard bound notebooks and then my mom took pity on us and got us cheap bats.  The boys from my neighborhood played well and I had to keep up with them.  Since it was my house, they were forced to give me turns too.  I started playing with them and enjoyed every moment of it.

After marriage never got a chance to play TT or ping pong as they call here.  We then bought our own TT table and played in the garage.  My husband does not like playing with me so I only got a chance when we had guests who needed a fourth partner.  I taught my son to play.  It was a long arduous process testing my patience but he learnt well.  We still don't play at home since the garage is full of other junk now and the table stands folded in a corner.

At my work place there is a game room which has a TT table.  I look wistfully when I see people play but never gathered courage to ask them to include me.  In my new team, I saw my project manager was playing with another person one day.  I went to him later and told him that I play TT too and if he would include me too.  He asked me the next day and we played for half hour.  I was so happy to play the game that was part of my childhood memories.  He said he knows two more people from our extended team who play and that we can play doubles sometime.  I have been playing for the past three months and every time I play, I go back to being the teenager who spent hours playing the game on our door turned dining table turned TT table.  I am thinking of joining classes to hone my skills.

I now have to clear out the garage and set up the table so that I can play with my son again and maybe get my girl interested in the game too.

Friday, April 28, 2017


While practicing for one of dance program, a co-dancer mentioned about a volleyball tournament and how they are looking for players.  I was excited to hear that and told her that I had played during school and college days.  I was not very good but loved to play any sport.  Here was another opportunity after almost 20 years to play the game.  I signed up for the tournament and we came as runner up.  We have been playing most weekends when the weather is good.

My boy also accompanied me during the initial practices and enjoyed playing the game.  He was much better than me in setting and placing that he used to coach others how to do it in his style.  The ladies loved having him around.  He never liked playing on my side since it always ended up with us fighting.  He always joined the opposite team to spite me when I missed his ball or drop.  We had so much fun going to the games.  In two years, he has grown out of that phase that now he feels awkward to come play with us.  The ladies miss him in the court, but he does not want to play with us anymore.  He says he is not challenged enough when he plays with us.

We have two state players in our team who coach us.  There is so much friendly banter and we have so much fun.  There are women who have never played the game and a few who have played in school.  Our fitness level sucks and we are working on that too. 

Every weekend we look forward to playing and get sad if there is rain in forecast.  We get home made snacks to eat after our game.  We take turns and the messages that goes back and forth to plan is hilarious.  I don't participate much in those conversations but it is still a fun bunch to hang out with.  Our age group ranges from mothers with young kids to ones with kids in high school.  What I enjoy the most is how energetic I feel when I play the game I used to play when I was in school and getting an opportunity to play after all these years.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Dancing always fascinated me when I was young.  Bharatnatyam in particular.  I wanted to join classes.  Like any middle class tambram family, my mom said 'it is an expensive art.  We cannot afford it.  Besides, you cannot dance after a certain age but you can sing at any age.'  She put me into music classes.  But dance still held its firm grip on me.  We were members at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club and there would be at least a couple of dance programs every month.  There was also the yearly dance festival that followed the music season in December.  My mom would go to music concerts while I would be interested only in the dance programs.  She wouldn't take me to many but she still was interested in watching the best performers during that time.

I would come back and mimic their steps.  I would watch those 30 mins programs that would come on DD and would want to try out the abhinayas.  In school and college, my friends would not take me for dance programs once they knew I have never performed before.  My mom would be embarrassed to know my interest in dance and not showing such inclination towards music.  I do love to sing, but I always wanted to dance.

After I got married and came to US, I would go to the local Tamil sangam programmes.  I would see people perform but never thought much about it.  Then college, work, kids happened and life moved on.  10 years later, I started volunteering at the Tamil school as an associate teacher.  The kids performed during annual day celebration and I would help my daughter with her steps and costume.  Couple of more years later, the adult volunteers decided to perform during Pongal celebration.  Couple of mothers asked me if I would be interested to perform.  I was pleasantly surprised that here is the opportunity I was waiting for my whole life.  A chance to dance.  I thought 'why not? Let me atleast try.'  So showed up for the first practice and it was ok.  The body was stiff, the grace was there in some movements but not in others.  It was pure fun.  Laughing and giggling, remembering the steps, deciding the costume, worried about wearing a saree and dancing, the whole experience made my heart lighter.

That performance was well received and I have performed every year at Tamil school after that.  The girls I performed with took me under their wings and we became a tight knit unit.  We ventured into performing at other programs too.  One of them found out about a Bollywood dance class offered for adults and showed interest to join.  I too went with her to see how it was.  It is a fusion of workout and dance.  We sweat a lot and laugh a lot too.  Good workout and great rapport.  Since the class is from 8-9pm, once a week, I am not worried about dinner or other activities.  It has been three weeks and I enjoy every minute of it.  My kids are excited to see me on stage too and have no complaints with me going for my own class.

I came to know recently that there are many adults who have started learning Bharatnatyam after coming here.  Same story as mine, parents did not send them and now they do it because they wanted to.  Some have completed arangetram.  If only I had known this earlier, maybe I would have done that too.  My daughter still tells me that if I can start now and I may complete it in 8-10 years.  I don't have that kind of patience now.

My mom still not too happy with my dance ventures.  She enquires if there are any such music classes and why I am not focusing more on singing.  Dance is what makes my heart light, dance is what keeps my confidence high, dance is what took me out of my mental agony four years back, dance is what gave me my friends that I have now who have stood by me, dancing makes me forget myself.  I may not be the best dancer, but dancing sure puts a huge smile on my face. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Toxic People

There are few people in my life who just erode my self esteem and confidence.  Every time I think of them or talk to them, they just pull me down.  I have removed a few from every day life but when such people happen to be close family, it is very difficult to cut off completely.  How to not remain unaffected is something I am still struggling to find a balance.

Even if I have not spoken or kept in touch with such a person for two years, all it takes is a phone call for them to spew venom again.  It takes days for me to get out of that episode.  My mind gets filled with garbage of the past incidents and how I could have reacted a different way or could have taken a strong stand against them.  Something I may never do but the instances and incidents play non stop in my mind.

I have regained my pride and self esteem only in the past couple of years and don't want to lose it again.  Even when I remain at a safe distance from the toxic people and have conditioned myself to not get affected, I am not there yet.  Yes, I am able to bounce back much quicker, but the few days before I bounce back is hell.  I am so filled with rage and self pity that I don't like myself much when I am in that state of mind.

When I pray, I sometimes struggle not knowing what to pray for.  My peace of mind or asking to keep such people away from my life or clearing the darkness in my mind quickly.  Whatever it is, I want to get back to normalcy soon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Change is the only constant thing in life.  My life has been a roller coaster for the past 5 years and I yearn for some kind of normalcy at least for a certain period of time.  Things keep coming one after the other that there are times when I don't even get a breather between two events. 

Something similar is happening right now.  Last four weeks has been so emotional for me.  And unfortunately this has nothing to do with my dad's demise.  If it was because of my grief, at least I would blame my emotional ride on that.  But there are issues that I am pulled into that I cannot come out of.  I don't want to come out of it because it involves people I love.  I have a feeling appa has put me in his place and is looking at me to see how I come out of this.  I seek his guidance all the time and think how he would resolve this.  I see a lot of appa in me as I go through my way of dealing with situation.  I can see I am unable to take sides.  I can only see what is right and what is wrong and not see who is right and who is wrong. 

I keep asking questions why I am put through this.  The 'Why Me' question has been a constant.  Unless I change the situation, there is no way it is going to change by itself.

Yesterday there was a change in workplace too.  I got swapped out with another worker from another team for project reasons.  It was initially difficult for me to understand but by the end of the day I knew it was the best decision for the project.  I started with my new team today and whatever little I have seen of the product, I am thrilled.  I can see myself growing in that space.  Maybe this is the best move for me.  I may not have initiated any of this, but I am ok to embrace the change.

This was not easy before.  I would get stuck on 'why me' for too long.  Now I am able to get over the 'why me' much quicker.  I keep asking 'why not'.  That calms me down.  In front of the bigger picture, these small changes don't hold importance as before.  Does this mean I have calmed down from inside that such changes don't ruffle me for too long.  If so, so be it.