As the recent American politics is no longer making sense to me, I can’t help but share an experience from earlier this week.
Nitin & I were seated next to a Brazilian family in this trendy, upscale restaurant on Rodeo drive. Our seats were so close to theirs that a conversation was very natural. Although at first I had wished that we should have asked for a more private, romantic table, I changed my mind as our conversation with them continued.
This Brazilian family of four, who was now living in Columbia, had previously spent few years in Switzerland and Brazil. The father, who was an executive in a multi-national company based out of Glendale, had come for work to LA with his fashionable wife, 8-year old son and probably 13 or 14 year old daughter. Unlike Nitin & me, this classy family assimilated perfectly into the creme de la creme of Rodeo Drive.
Myriad topics such as Rio-Olympics, politics (of course), world travel, etc. came up with the parents. Nitin & I also had a fun conversation with the two children who were very interested in talking about sports and international languages.
Finally the shy 8 year old popped a question to us – Are you for Trump or Hilary? To which the 14 year old instantly replied – Of course they must be for Trump! So the 8 year old turned to us and raised his eyebrows with a funny expression and in half disbelief said – are you really for Trump!
We were delighted and laughed at seeing that the 8 year old would believe anything the elder sister would say. The father was half-embarrassed and half-curious himself as he laughed nervously, but still awaited our response.
Nitin & I let the suspense build up for couple of minutes but the 8 year old had an almost disappointed look on his face that his new favorites had just done something that he quite disliked. So we broke the uncertainty and replied – Clinton. We expected a hurray from him. But instead the 8 year old groaned really loudly and said, Not Clinton! Ofcourse this surprised us given his previous sentiments and expressions. So we inquisitively asked if he would have preferred Trump? To which both the kids replied without wasting a second – No! Bernie!
We were incredibly Wowed by their declaration and were speechless as we did not anticipate that the children of their age would understand the difference in the various candidates, let alone have any interest in US political arena. We clarified that their question was to choose between Trump and Hilary. However. we too preferred Bernie and were very sad that he wasn’t in the race any more. But there was no more consoling to the kids. They were both dismayed that neither of the two candidates running for US Presidential election were up to the mark for the job.
Children and adults around the globe can see through the phony candidates that America is about to elect this year. This election is no longer about liberal versus conservative choices. It is a fake show and no one is buying this sh*t any more.
While growing up, I always wished that India would also become like America, in the sense that the people would have complete freedom, money, and equal opportunities. I believed in the ‘American Dream’. Although no-one had taught that to me, I knew it, wanted it and believed in it more than anything else.
Without any relation to America, I felt an akin like attachment to America, a country where honest, hard working, innovative and creative people are rewarded. I always carried the impression in my mind that in America there was no corruption, wrong were always punished and everyone was fairly treated. I felt like the American people were the most open minded in the whole wide world. And that only the really deserving leaders made it to the top here. It made up for me, in many ways what my own country could not do for me.
This is why I feel betrayed today. I am disheartened that the American politics is almost as corrupt as it is in my own country. Whether it was George W Bush before or Donald Trump now, they are as tacky, unpolished and vulgar as the rest of their kind elsewhere in the world. Whether it is the reason behind Black Lives Matter or Occupy Movement, my dream world is falling apart in front of my eyes.
With the change of scenery on the political battleground, I too feel as disconsolate as the two children from Brazil. I feel as if this world is sinking in a black hole, with no truthful, genuine leaders left any more to give me hope or to whom I can look up to for invoking peace, justice and prosperity.
Imagine a sleepy and charming beach town on a tiny sliver of peninsula emerging from the southeast coast of Belize. Here Nitin and I woke up to a stunning yellow sunrise over the calm waters and for as far as you could see into the infinity, there was only the blue of the sea and the sky. We ate a skimpy breakfast in a rush, tossed our bag-pack on the beach chairs and pulled out a tandem Kayak to enjoy the azure Caribbean water. As always, I was over-enthusiastic – Yahoooo!!! We are going to Kayak, baby!
We had begun on the right foot, quite literally. We had managed to sit in the Kayak without turning it upside down, marking our first success of the trip already. An island far away from the hotel was visible on that crisp morning, and in that moment of exhilaration, it felt easily attainable. We decided to kayak there, ignoring the Caribbean breeze that was starting to pick up. Left right, left right, left right we kept paddling towards our mission… the mystical, mysterious island.
As time went by, the wind got stronger, waves got bigger and our hearts started pounding even faster. Our Kayak glided up and down with the gigantic waves creating a roller-coaster effect. We were scared but we covered our fear by celebrating how close we were to the island. Before we knew it, we had arrived what appeared to be an enormous isolated island of Mangroves. The water surrounding it was so shallow and crystal clear that we could see the rock-sized stones beneath us. We felt giddy with excitement on having made it. We did a couple of hi-five with our paddles, took a few selfies and videos using our water camera. But our cheerfulness was short-lived. The wind-gods over-powered us and they were fierce. Our kayak was jolted several times and thrown against the Mangroves. We were not overturned, yet, but we were drowning in water as the monstrous waves continued to crash into our faces.
We frantically began to kayak back towards the hotel, but the wind kept pushing us backwards. Boom, crash, splash, the Caribbean wind and waves had shown their true colors. We were paddling really really hard but were moving at a snail’s pace. After two hours of having left the mangrove island, we became famished and tired. We had no food or water, sun was growing hot overhead, salty water was burning our skin and the wind was withering our not-so-strong arms. We hardly seemed to be getting anywhere. Our mental and physical strength was waning.
We were exhausted and worried – What if our bag-packs got stolen from the beach? What if we never made it back? We were starting to lose hope, existential questions started coming to mind, not just of food and water but about family, life and death, what had we accomplished so far in our lives. Our fear and nervousness slowed us down even further. There was not a single soul around us in the sea to whom we could send our SoS call. What if they don’t find us, ever? With this intolerable thought, we managed to find some more strength and synchrony. Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and it will promisingly lead to a rewarding experience.
It dawned on us that we didn’t have to make it back to the hotel, we simply had to make it to the mainland, so if we kept rowing sideways along side the wind, we would touch eventually touch the mainland some where and from there we would figure it out. Once we had this strategy, there was a renewed sense of purpose and energy, a silver lining in the sky. Although we were in the unplanned third hour of testing adventure, we propelled very mechanically, ignoring all the blisters, sunburn and body aches. There was a fresh determination to reach the mainland by hook or by crook.
We were so focused on the rowing that we barely noticed when we hit the beach. I shrieked with elation of having made it alive. We jumped out on the sand and did a little happy dance. As we ate a much deserved fruit plate and drank a cool pinã-colada, we recounted all the events in the last few hours. We sat and laughed at the wide-ranging emotions we had experienced in the middle of the sea. We had gone from enjoying the serene peaceful waters, to counting our last minutes on earth to this haven of a beach and fruit plate in a matter of just 3 hours.
We had drifted quite far away from the hotel, later we calculated it was about 5 miles. After a nice long break, we resumed kayaking from this unknown beach back to our hotel by keeping close to the land, which was less windy and felt safer.
The fatigue of previous 3 hours didn’t bother anymore as we had found renewed confidence in our abilities. We had not only proven to be a successful team but had also corrected our poor past records forever.
At the hotel, we found our bags in tact. We wanted to tell everyone on the beach who was sun-bathing and enjoying that pretentiously innocent Caribbean breeze that we had just gotten a little carried away.
Several months ago someone living in India dismayingly declared to me during a conversation – There are no poor people in India anymore. This was news to me because it is a commonly known fact that 70% of India’s population is quite if not abjectly poor. Talk about “what is on the periphery of our vision, continues to stay on the periphery and we don’t see it.” Just two days later he shared with us an absolutely adorable picture of his family in the verdant green fields of India sitting on a bullock cart driven by a very old, thin and frail man with white hair, chocolate colored skin, un-shaven, un-groomed white beard, with his skeleton structure showing through the dirty white tattered raggy kurta and cotton half pants, with a desi style topi, very much a part of this picture but my friend had clearly failed to notice or acknowledge as poor. Maybe it was the smile on the poor man’s face that disqualified him from being considered as poor. Or maybe in my friend’s world, rich people sometimes like to dress in rags and look so weak and frail.
Anyway, that dialogue has inspired this post. Not everyone who is NOT begging or NOT starving to death, is NOT NOT poor. What I mean is, they don’t always have to look poor (especially as you imagine poor to look like) or always die of poverty in order to be or prove that they are indeed poor. In fact, most of the poor India are living a hellish of a life and ‘d be rather dead but are not. So they strive to live as best as they can.
Here is a pic of a (poor) lady who we commonly fail to notice or see as poor. I called her the invisible cook because her presence in our world is usually not noticed unless she doesn’t turn up before we get hungry. In my home, she is helping us out temporarily while mummy is resting after her surgery.
Saku-ben’s eyes are crossed but she looks beautiful to me in her delicate features and unassuming smile. Her skin is dry, stretched and rough but her spirits couldn’t be higher. She is a single mother with one daughter and grandchildren with a temporary roof over her head. She walks her way to every single home where she cooks in her ragged rubber slippers. Although thin and frail looking, she has the stamina of a sportswoman, that somehow constantly reminds me of a bamboo tree. She works non-stop and extremely hard from early morning until late night. She repeats her sari every second day. She uses the dreadful public bathrooms and yet she is always showered and clean. Her meals are the most simple and amazing Desi (Indian) ones I’ve ever had.
On the first day of my arrival, I complimented her cooking and then assumed that I had made it evident that I liked what she cooked. But since then she calls me to taste the food to check if it was OK every single time she cooks. Very soon I realized that it wasn’t whether the food was okay or not (because it was lip-smacking every single time and she also knew it, her shining face told me so) as much as the compliments that I gave her after tasting the food that she craved to hear. Just that one sentence I say, twice a day, probably, rather, most certainly, makes her day! (And now it makes my day too.)
Her curiosity is perky and really excites me. She likes to ask why for everything. I haven’t asked her why she asks so many whys all the time. That habit of hers irritates the heck out of bed-ridden mummy who wants to simply say “because I said so”, but I have a feeling, from the sparkle in her eyes, that this otherwise illiterate woman probably feels like she learnt something new every time her why is answered.
Yes she has a mobile phone, because it helps her stay connected with the families whose homes she has to go to work, but it is a luxury which is not misused for her family gossip or WhatsApp (like the rest of us people-with-money-and-time do) and it indubitably does not make her UN-poor.
Saku-ben, the invisible cook, is indeed poor, who can not afford to lose a single family’s work else her family will most likely go without a meal that evening.
Poor people like her, just like the rest of us, also want to look and feel normal. Nobody likes to feel poor, not even the poor people. They also desire dignity and self respect. And like her, they too wish to earn their way through this life through hard work and honesty. We just need to have a little more faith in people and show kindness in our behavior.
When I used to live in India, Pappa used to hand draw maps for me so that I could learn the roads and get around the city on my own. His all-time favorite story is that when he first came to Ahmedabad many decades ago, he had first walked around the streets as that was the best way to know the streets of the new city.
Right now I have come home on a visit after couple of years. Ever since I left, the outskirts of city, especially the areas surrounding our then new apartment, which were hardly visited at that time, have now become prime areas of the town. There are new roads and new buildings everywhere. Many of my known landmarks have also changed. While I recognize all the old roads, I am lost in the world of new ones.
Yesterday I decided to take out my old scooty and go for a ride on my own in Pappa’s spirit of exploration and get a sense of belonging. (Of course) I got lost on the way back home. Ended up going in a huge loop around the city only to return home by following the only road I recognized, simultaneously staring at all the new buildings around me, trying to put old and new pieces of this puzzle together. Upon reaching home, I got very excited about my mini adventure and told Pappa, who got an anxiety attack hearing this. An hour later, he very enthusiastically came to my room scratching his head with one hand and holding two papers in the other. (See attached picture).
“This is still a work-in-draft” he explained, “I have to put some more landmarks and roads in it, but let me show you how the new roads work.” He was also a bit worried because one of the roads that flowed from the top paper into the bottom one was slightly mis-aligned when both papers were kept together. He intended to re-draw the entire map after showing this to me.
I reminded him that while these maps were worthy enough to be send to Google Maps and that he needed to be sent on a boat from centuries ago as a cartographer along with the world explorers of that time, he need not re-draw a more perfect map!
This, is my genius dad, whom now I have put to task to draw maps of some more of the other newly developed parts of the city and he is thrilled about this new assignment :)
Don’t let a little superstition ruin someone’s (probably your beloved daughter’s) life.
Although I had read this a couple of months ago, the memory of a recent post on Periods (for (open-minded) Adults only) on Twitter is still very very fresh in my mind to the extent that I keep playing it over and over in my head at random times sheerly for the truth of it – her words couldn’t be more true – “I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species.whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way…”
Belonging to a “modern” world, living independently in US, earning my own way through this life, talking and thinking big things about women’s liberation and women’s equality, I am left shaken since a conversation on my first night in India some days ago (as I visit from California (sometimes when one starts living in a certain world, one might forget the truth of other worlds that exist in parallel)); as this young married but separated maid (living with her parents) who works at our home was packing left-over dinner for her younger brother and felt necessary to clarify to me that she was avoiding touching the food with her hands (hence the use of spatula) because she was in time and that she should not commit sin and bring bad luck and make the food inedible for her brother by touching it even by mistake during this time.
The manner in which she narrated those sentences (using 3rd person instead of 1st), it was clear to me that it was not something she understood but just something she had heard repeatedly over the years and she had simply recited those exact sentences to me like a parrot. It occurred to me that she must have been thinking about it in her mind when I walked in. She had been brainwashed to believe that she was dirty this time of the month. The irony of this thinking couldn’t be more obvious than now when she was bringing food on her brother’s plate and still made to believe she could be dirty at any time in her life.
I had a strong urge to make her sit right there and tell her otherwise. I thought of telling her that, in fact, we worship women who are in Time and that it was considered a very fortunate thing to happen and that in fact she should touch the food with her hand to bring good luck. But I knew better than turning her into a rebel at 11 PM on a random evening of her life as I did not know the consequences she might face had I taken that rash emotional step without thinking it through. What if she blurted what I told her back to her family and got beat up. That wouldn’t be helpful at all. I felt so stupid as I realized that I had never given a thought to what I would do if I experienced something like this (which is very common in India) first hand.
If anything had to be done about it, it had to be properly thought out, planned and implemented, not randomly try to change one person’s mindset without changing the environment they lived in and get them into trouble. For all the activist thoughts I have otherwise, in this one moment, I felt humbled as my heart truly sank while reality slapped me in my face.
As I am writing this blog, it is becoming more and more certain to me that although I am feeling helpless at the moment, I will do something about this when the time is right.
The morning after I wrote this blog, I got invited to a Goddess Puja at a neighbor’s home (We Indians are not only very religious, our religious beliefs are highly ceremonial and very frequent). My otherwise very kind and progressive mother gently reminded me that “I hope you are not in Time, otherwise you can not go for that Puja (for the fear of it being a sin)”. I had forgotten this cardinal rule ever since I moved to the US, where my life hasn’t stopped even once because of periods.
This is such a common superstition in our culture that even the most progressive women/people believe in it very honestly and staunchly. I rebelliously asked the same question to her that she has heard me ask for several years in my childhood – “But isn’t the goddess a female too Mummy? Haven’t the Gods made me like this?” She left me alone because she secretly agrees with me.
As a child, when I was IN TIME and my (highly religious and old) grandparents were in town, every one in and around my house, who had no business in my Periods, knew about my personal matter and I was asked not to enter the kitchen and kept away from all Gods because I was considered Dirty. Of course, it wasn’t just me who was subject to this funda, all women in the house were. Everyone knows this system in our culture, no-one has to be taught or told. All the Beautiful Dirty Women, in good intention, believe, accept and follow it very sincerely. Essentially, they have all accepted they are DIRTY when IN TIME.
It isn’t enough that we feel PMS-y, moody, in pain and sick during these Periods, now we also have to feel highly embarrassed, ashamed and shitty. It is a very subtle way of making women feel inferior.
I am about to share a secret as this seems like an apt time and space.
After I was past my 10th grade, I learnt how to hide my periods from my family and since then, I have lied shamelessly to everyone who reminded me about MY TIME. I have, in fact, gone to ALL the ceremonies and temples while having Periods that I wasn’t otherwise allowed to attend (and some times my mother knew but chose to act ignorant because I know in my heart, she agreed with me – Don’t ask Don’t tell). I can assure you through my first hand experience, NO bad luck was ever brought. I had secretly fought for my right.
This thought process and culture can and will NOT change, until every parent starts letting go of this superstition against women and is willing to take a chance. Sometimes bad things may happen, but I hope the educated, wise and intelligent people of our society will put a little mathematics to work and associate that random bad luck to probability rather than a woman in Time.
The only way to change this taboo is by worshipping the women in Time around you, especially inviting them to all special, religious occasions where they are otherwise uninvited and by treating them normally, with love and care. The only dirty thing about Periods is our taboo-ed thinking about it.
As there is no daylight savings in India, I had never heard of such a thing in my entire life … until … that fateful Sunday October 31st, 2004.
It was my 1st quarter in my MBA class. It had been just a couple months since I had just moved from India. A critical team assignment was due by Noon on Sunday October 31st. Everyone on the team was supposed to email their part to Sean by 11 AM that Sunday morning. He was to summarize it, wrap it up, put a bow on it and then email it to our professor before Noon.
Side note, I didn’t know in the beginning that Sean was actually pronounced as Shawn. When my MBA began we were verbally introduced to our teammates so I knew my team had a “Shawn” on it, but it totally confused me when the handouts had no “Shawn” on the list. :-)
When I opened my eyes on Sunday morning, I saw with great horror that my watch said 10 AM. I was supposed to be up at 9 so that I could finish my assignment by 11, but I had overslept! There was no way, No Way, NO WAY I could finish everything in an hour. I knew I had 2 hours worth of work left.
I jumped out of my bed with a lightening jolt. My heart sank instantaneously. Shit. How could I be so irresponsible! I got a terrible sinking feeling in my gut. I was worried and tense. This could be doomsday for my career, I thought. I had never felt this nervous before. I didn’t know what to do. I began to weep out of worry and guilt.
With wet eyes, I went straight to my computer and opened my homework until 5 minutes later I noticed that my computer said 9:06 AM. But my watch said 10:06 AM. I looked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I wondered what was going on. I rubbed my eyes. Was I dreaming? Was my computer also acting up now? Was I getting a panic attack?
And just then my roommate (my angel) Shibani woke up and said loudly – today is the end of day light savings, we gain an hour, yay!
It was a YAY indeed.
After 10 years, I still get confused about which way my clock should turn during the start and end of Daylight savings, but there is no inkling of doubt in my mind that in FALL I gain an hour.
Reading the book Lean-In by Sheryl Sandberg has triggered this blog.
Even though I was born and raised in a society where women were expected to look pretty and make babies since as early as the age of 21, my mother had a different dream for me. When she herself was 8, she had begun cooking and took care of family meals. From 12 years of age, she had to care for her younger brother (who is 12 years younger) as if he were her own child despite my grand-parents still being alive. She would have to ask my father for money and permission every time she wanted to buy something because he was the single-earning member of the family. These are just a few of the several examples I recollect. As a child, to me, it seemed like a pretty dim picture. It wasn’t because anyone had been mean or disrespectful to her, they were all living the way the society was that time. However, she just felt that the whole thing was very unfair. When I was born, she dreamt of herself in me with all the freedom (of choice and life) she had ever imagined. Till date she happily and proudly reminds me how I am everything she had ever dreamt of being.
She had decided that I would earn a living for myself, I would be taught to think for myself, make my own choices and become successful. My kind liberal father supported her decision. So, as they tell me till date, I was raised like a boy and I am to them what an elder son in the family is like. This was also the reason why they literally kept me away from skirts, dresses and kitchen (despite all my family members strongly criticizing them for the kitchen part) and encouraged me to wear shorts and pants because they wanted me to focus on my work and education rather than my looks or boys (which was also criticized by extended family). My education, work, and all-round development were prioritized over everything else in the world, including their own life or happiness. Till date I question and doubt myself of being able to ever make such sacrifices for my children as they did for me.
I vividly remember the day after I turned 18 when my maternal grandfather (a highly influential figure in my life and a successful lawyer himself) informed me that there were some very good “prospects” for my marriage on the horizon if I would consider it; and I strongly declined it saying that I wanted to study further; and my mom who was secretly over hearing this conversation through the kitchen door looked proudly at me.
On a regular basis, I would be given examples of many of my aunts around me who were suffering because they did not take control of their lives when opportunities came their way. “Look how abjectly and sorrowfully they are living now”, my mom would say. “Look at me”, she would continue, “is this what you want to become? No? Then study and work hard, no one has ever died or failed because they worked hard.” I took her pretty seriously. Now when I look back, I find it quite amusing that my life was filled with characters whom I did not want to grow up to be like. For the longest time, I remember thinking proudly of myself as a rebel, until I realized, it wasn’t me, in reality my mom was a rebel.
They brought me up to believe that I had tremendous capabilities and that I could achieve anything I wanted. I remember going to my mom feeling dejected on various occasions and she saying to me in kind but strong tone “There is nothing that you are not capable of doing.” They treated me equally to my younger brother. We both had equal opportunities, equal love and were considered to be equally competent and capable, to the extent that I never realized that not all girls get such equal treatment or feel this way. If I was found looking in the mirror for more than 5 minutes, gossiping, talking on the phone for more than 10 minutes, I would get an elongated hearing from my father (& this has continued till date).
Unknowingly all these experiences taught me to not take things personally when anyone criticized me. If there was ever a bias against me because of my gender, I never realized it. If ignorance is bliss, this was it. Maybe I had subconsciously assumed and accepted the common view that the men were considered ‘superior’ in the world than women and that my goal wasn’t to rebel against that view, rather, it was to rise above despite the challenges and change the perception by leading an example. I began using my gender as an advantage and strength instead of weakness.
This helped me navigate through situations in my career and life that otherwise could have bogged me down. It also helped me be bold, so for example, when I was negotiating for my salary twice over last 5 years, I would first discuss at length with my husband and then negotiate hard (although I was nervous while doing so), as if I deserved it. I usually got what I asked for.
More recently I have concluded that it wasn’t like I did not possess the internal barriers that the book refers to. Only that I tried to fight those internal barriers subconsciously and certainly did not let the external barriers hold me back. And this was because of my parents who had leaned in and paved the path for me. They weren’t perfect but they made my life.
She was sitting alone outside the old church in the main square of the small spanish town. She was not literally alone as the square was full of children and parents, lovers, and tourists. The clock had just struck 9 in the evening. Shops were closing their shutters, and music from bars was getting louder, street vendors had finished packing for the night but fountains were still dancing. Children were playing and and street performers were still around. There was one more hour to go before the crowd would begin to disperse.
But she was lonely. She had just had a squabble with him while they were exploring the streets outside the main square. They parted ways after the quarrel and since she had left first, she had no idea where he had gone. As she was walking away from him, she had considered going back…after all, how would they find each other? They were not carrying their cell phones and it was pretty busy in the main square. But she was too angry to think logically. She wasn’t going to give in this time. Now it was his turn to woo her, she thought.
Thankfully they both knew how to get back to their hotel in this new town they had just arrived at this morning. But he had the keys and it was too early to head back. They had not had dinner. She was starving. They had wanted to go for dinner to a cafe nearby that they had both liked. It was right there, facing the main square on the right side of the church. She could still go. But she didn’t want to go alone as she knew he wouldn’t go without her either…which meant they still cared about each other. The day either one of them went alone to a place where they both had wanted to go, that special connection would be lost forever. They both cherished this unspoken rule. So she found this spot outside the church which was away from the crowd hoping that he would come looking for her and would be able to spot her here more easily than elsewhere.
She noticed the woman selling balloons, old man selling ice-cream, kids everywhere like pigeons during the day, the local business owners walking back home, families taking pictures and lovers in middle of embarrassing public display of affection. The warm breeze blew softly and her tears started drying. Almost 10 minutes had gone by and he had not come. She kept looking in the direction from where she had walked out on him. She had hoped that he would follow her, but there was no sign of him. He was never the normal types, he always took her by surprise by his lack of understanding (or was it disregard?) of the norms. She wished he wasn’t that way, but he was and that’s why he was different. He was not the type who would follow her anywhere she went or do anything she said. He believed in truth and honesty, even of the emotions. That is why she was with him.
Maybe he was more upset than she had assumed him to be. Or maybe they were just falling out of love like couples do. She couldn’t recall what they had argued about any more. Then what was she so upset about? That maybe he was right. That she wasn’t trying hard enough to change. But she was always like this, had he ever considered that maybe only his view had changed.
This was unbearable. Maybe the only solution was to separate. Her heart sank at this thought. She recalled the days when they had just started going out and were crazy about each other. She would have never walked out on him then, but she had now….was this an indication of loving less than before? She recalled how her silliness used to make him happy. She could imagine his smiling face. As her anger began to diminish, she thought that she had let him down. It was her fault, yes it was indeed her fault. Her heart sank even deeper and a chill passed through her spine.
He was right that she was not earnest in her effort. She went to him every time she got into trouble, but how many times could he be her guardian. They both were paying for her faulty choices. The root of their altercation was not today. The root was in her choices and not doing what she should have over the past several years.
She began to feel hopeless and wanted to desperately weep. Warm salty tears began to roll down again. Her stomach was growling, her head ready to burst and her body wanting to lie down. She was absolutely, crushingly depressed. Where was he? she painfully wondered. Just then she saw a man walking towards her. In the darkness of the night and the yellow street lights, she could only see his figure. He was most certainly headed in her direction but didn’t look like him.
Juan had a disarming air of friendliness. He was a tall, good looking and carried a big smile. He walked up to her and flattered her…You are the most beautiful lady in this square. She hadn’t heard those words in a long time. In her state of depression when any consoling words would have made her feel better, these unexpected words were like a drug that could have saved a dying man’s life.
He seated himself next to her facing the main square with feet dangling and conversing. He said he was a barber and ran his own business. He talked about his family. Then he asked her…who she was, where she was from, what was she doing here, how long would she be here. She was indeed taken by surprise by this unanticipated but a pleasant conversation. He was casual and smooth, it was hard to turn him away. She should be looking for him but this fellow had appeared like a silver lining in the sky. She wanted to hold on to it just a little bit longer.
Soon they realized that he knew only little English and she knew even lesser Spanish. Their limited vocabulary of the other’s language was imperfect and their pronunciations wrong. He became she and cousin became aunt, India became Indiana. Sentences became funny exchanges and they both laughed heartily. She had not laughed like that in a long time. As she giggled with Juan, she was reminiscent about those days when she had earned herself a reputation for being able to laugh endlessly and tearfully on jokes.
As both eased into each other’s company, they began to converse in their own respective language. He in Spanish and she in English. They could not understand each other but they continued to chatter. Soon they were joined by Juan’s friend who knew slightly more English. The friend became the translator. As he translated to Juan that she was waiting for her beau, she realized that she could never verify whether he was translating correctly.
Juan had lifted her spirits. And he was also noticeably flirting with her. He had taken her hand in his own and held it. Had she been single…she stopped her thoughts…she wasn’t. How much time has gone by? she thought feeling guilty. She looked at the watch and got up urgently, taking Juan by surprise. Fifty minutes had gone by since she had been waiting outside the church. Juan who was trying to convince her to stay soon realized that her eyes had started to wander in the crowd. He had lost her. She was thinking…Where was he? She should look for him.
The friend tried to take a picture of Juan and her knowing they would likely not meet again. But in the dark the picture turned out awful. She knew in her heart that these bittersweet moments were best etched in her memory forever…when she would recollect this evening later in her life, it will be sweeter without the picture. This was serendipity. So she deleted that blurry photo and bid goodbye to Juan. He kissed her on her cheek and said…You are gorgeous, I wish you be my friend. She smiled knowing the precious healing he had provided to her self-esteem and returned the peck on his check and muttered thank you.
She decided to start her search with the café. He was standing just around the corner in the shadows of the café, sobbing quietly and shaking his head. She was greatly relieved. He was a big man, but with the heart of a child, she thought. As soon as he saw her, he opened his arms. He held her longer than usual until the tears stopped and his breath steadied. He apologized and admitted that after she left him, he had meandered around a bit more in anger and then forgot where they had split paths. He had gone up to their hotel looking for her. When he could not locate her anywhere, he decided to linger around this café hoping that she would turn up. He was starving but did not want to eat there without her. He had been waiting for the last half hour. But it didn’t matter anymore. They must make the best of the rest of the night there.
He put his arm tightly around her waist like he used to in old days and took her for a stroll around the main square. It dawned upon her that he was still as much in love with her as he had always been. He was still the same. Only she had changed.
This is copyright material of Chandni Sheth and must not be re-published or printed or used in anyway without permission.
Although it takes 40 minutes to reach Will Rogers State Park from my place, I still go for a long run by Santa Monica on Saturdays. It is invariably 100% times refreshing and invigorating and we feel that it is worth the drive. Coming from the valley which is usually 10-15 degrees warmer, the cold wind of the beach always hits me at first. But a few deep breaths, swinging of arms and legs and heart pumping music gets me going.
Once I’m on the track, it is impossible not to be perked up and feel alive. The stylish unique homes built on the side-walk are attractive and they secretly make me absurdly curious…who lives here, must they have designed this home, do they walk about naked inside, maybe they are all artists or actors, maybe they live alone and write, or maybe they like to cook while watching the sunset, what would I do if I lived in one of these homes, … and on and on and on my mind wanders to the point that I begin laughing at myself for these uncanny thoughts.
The track takes me under the pier and on the other side of it. I love that that section is always crowded. I have to make my way through bikers, runners, rollerbladers, beach bums, good and bad guitar players, homeless people, and just those who like to hang out in other people’s way lost in their world. There are kids, dogs, gays, retirees, married couples who are fighting and young couples in love, just friends hanging out, visitors for site-seeing, people of all colors and kinds. I feel as if hundreds of stories are woven at the same time and told to me silently through them. One of these days after my Oct race, I will get a pic of all these and post them on my blog.
Running back to my car is almost like time for introspection. The sunset is always gorgeous. It gets quieter as people start to leave. The sound of the waves becomes distinctly loud. I think of the pacific – the world on the other side of pacific and inside the ocean. The child in me wonders if there is a Little Mermaid in there?
Many times there are sail boats to be seen, I think of where they may be going or coming from. I often times find myself dreaming about how life must have been centuries ago when voyages by some brave adventurous men thousands of miles across the waters changed the map of the world.
The drive back home via Topanga Canyon is curvy and like Nitin likes to say, a perfect place for ambush. He says that almost every time we drive through the canyon. In fact, he has said it so many times, that when he does not say it, I still hear it. No matter how much of a hurry we are in, we always find time for a quick stop at our favorite spot on the Top of Topanga that presents to us the gorgeous views of the Valley.
The adrenaline pumping run combined with the blissful natural surrounding brings out the philosopher in me. When I leave Los Angeles, I will always fondly remember my runs in Santa Monica.
My mother handed me a short poem in Gujarati language when I was getting ready to leave my home after my wedding. While times have changed and such feelings don't ring true as a result of weddings anymore (they did during her youth)... I am very well aware that she has felt this way ever since I moved out of our home to come to the USA to pursue higher education and better life.
She always used to say that it was a way of life for the baby birds to grow into adults and eventually fly out of the nest.
Every time I read these beautiful lines, they leave me with a knot in my throat. She is a strong woman and I love her infinitely.
I have tried to translate it in English here:
Finally the end of sleepless nights has arrived,
Eventually the wedding ceremonies have come to an end,
Now this mother is back to the daily routine,
She is counting all the household items one by one,
And arranging them all with care,
Plates, bowls, glasses, utensils,
Nothing has been lost,
Everything is in place,
All of a sudden she remembers something and,
She stops in the middle of the hallway,
Her eyes are now filled with tears,
As a bitter question comes to her mind: Where is my daughter?
Original Poetry in Gujarati:
આખરે ઉજાગરાનો અંત આવ્યો
લગન ઊકલી ગયા
માં હવે ઘરની ચીજવસ્તુઓ ગણે છે
સંભારી સંભારી મેળવે છે
સંભારી સંભારી ગોઠવે છે
થાળી, વાટકા, ડીશ, ગ્લાસ,
બધું બરાબર છે
ક્યાંક કશું ખોવાયું નથી
કશુંય ગયું નથી
અચાનક કાઈક યાદ આવતા
ઈ ઓરડા વચ્ચે ઉભી રહી જાય છે
આંખો માંથી ટપકું ટપકું થાય છે
ખરો ખરો પ્રશ્ન: મારી દિકરી ક્યાં?