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When brinjal became eggplant!

Feels great to get to blogging after a long time. 

Now that I am leaving the US after 6 years, I am feeling nostalgic. I will blog about all my memorable experiences here. But to start off, I will tell you about my first day here!

I still remember the first time I landed in pardes! A few of Jay’s friends had come to greet us at the airport.  And they were Indians! I felt at home – at least a little. We loaded our bags in the car and sat in the back seat. Seats belts had to be put on – first change I noticed here. I did not hear my friend honk even once (that doesn’t happen in India) and driving through almost perfectly disciplined traffic, we reached home. A dear friend of ours got rajma! Ahh, another reason to feel at home. The aroma felt familiar. I opened the fridge to keep the rajma and saw a yummy chocolate cake there. It was made my yet another now dear friend of mine! Hmm! There it was –yet another reason to feel at home. I felt, “arey!  pardes is not all that bad!” But there was more to it…

The first thing that struck me about this place was the SILENCE. It was very quiet all around. And Jay only added to that silence. J Away from the “shor” of homeland, I started feeling a little out of place. I started missing all the sounds, of the cars honking, tv playing, music blaring and the most crazy thought I had was – “oh dear! Dogs don’t bark here!”

Jay saw my glum face and decided to cheer me up. Cooking never fails to cheer me up, so he decided to take me to a grocery store to buy what I like. I put on my jacket and we started walking on a quiet and dark street of Pasadena. The deserted street led to a signal. It was red and the hand signal giving it company on a cold night was also red. I started running across the street. Well, I was used to doing that in India. If you are an Indian, you know what I mean, don’t you? Anyway, I felt a strong pull on my hand and a loud voice near my ears, “STOP!! You will be fined for Jay walking!” I thought to myself, “jay- walking?? What does that even mean?” Jay did the explanation. With raised eyebrows and a puzzled look, I knew at once that rules were respected here.  I mean in India, a red signal doesn’t mean anything to anybody. I have seen a huge traffic jam (in Mumbai) in the middle of an intersection while a signal is still red. You see – new country new lessons. So I pressed a button on the signal and waited and waited for the hand signal to turn white.

The grocery store felt far away. A short walk seems much longer with a quiet husband, even quieter streets, and a cold night. Outside the grocery store, a car stopped for us as we walked by. “My oh my”, I thought, “such respect to pedestrians!” You see new country, new experiences! Inside the store, I looked at the cost of the vegetables in wonder! “Three dollars = 150 rupees for half a pound of tomatoes!!” I soon learned not to convert dollars to rupees- an advice I still cannot forget. I gazed at the onions, garlic, apples and oranges in the store. They seemed like monsters in front of their lilliputian counterparts from India. I hid all the monsters in my bag and walked back to the signal. This time I did press the button at the signal and winked at Jay.

In the warmth of our house, I started opening the packet of brinjal. I stared at the white tag on it which read, ‘Eggplants’. Soon brinjal became eggplants, ladies fingers became okra and coriander leaves became cilantro for me. You see new country, new changes. Jay and I had a good meal with eggplants, rajma and rice. We retired for the day…

On the bed, as I closed my eyes I saw images and heard sounds of India! The crowded airport, my parents waiving to me at the airport, the tears in their eyes, women clad in saree, the golgappa wala, the old aunty selling corn, children playing in sand, cars honking and the pressure cooker whistle blowing. I missed the charm of the chaos and the crowds of India! Why would one miss the crowd and chaos, some of you might ask. Well, it is one of those mysterious things- you either feel it or you don’t! With moist eyes, I said “Good night” to Jay. And he knew I terribly missed my des in pardes!

Do you have any such “day one” experiences to share? I would love to hear them!

More in the next blog. 

Sushree

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The echoes of an empty house

Packing! Oh, I can assure you that ‘packing’ can cause disharmony in an otherwise harmonious marriage. So much work to do and just two pairs of hands available! Well, the disharmony part is just a small part in the whole affair of packing. In reality, it has been way more than that for us. It brought with it surprises, helped us relive many long lost memories, and have time together,  away from the routine tensions in life! It also brought to our glaring notice the dirt that was comfortably tucked under the sofa, the fridge, and behind the book shelves!

Lost photographs, favorite dresses and of course, favorite books resurfaced after a long time. The discovery of photos was the best part! Jay and I were engaged in endless dialogues about each memory embedded in the photo. Well, a dialogue between us is almost always a monologue! All I can say is that the monologues were fun, for both of us! Also, I found a lot of my favorite children’s books in a box that was hidden in the closet.  (The same closet which got a lot more attention after I watched the movie, Monster’s Inc., for the first time!) It was a pleasure to find this treasure trove of mine. Jay found his old spectacles which he loved; at one point, more than me! Packing forces you to use hyperboles a little more frequently. Pardon me for that please!

Why are we packing? Jay and I are moving into a new apartment. It is in Pasadena and very close to where we live at present. Will I miss this house? Yes! What will I miss about the house? Everything. There is a memory tucked in every corner of the house. I will miss the window of my kitchen as it provided the much needed ventilation during my cooking. I have also stood by that window for long times thinking about my next blog! Jay has stood there for long times with his hands in his pockets too, thinking about enigmatic equations. I will miss the window in the living room. Why? They let me see my winged friends pecking contently at the grains in the bird-feeder. We will miss our winged friends the most! And there are just too many things to list here.

Packing is almost done and we are ready to move into our new apartment. Tomorrow, this house will be empty, yet filled with our memories – memories of pleasure and pain, excitement and fear, love and leisure! These beautiful memories are what I call the echoes of an empty house.

More from the new apartment!

Sushree

Rock and roll on a canoe

Three pairs of scared eyes and one pair of curious eyes stared into the depths of the ocean. A few seconds earlier, the ocean floor was visible and the pebbles on the floor had given us some solace. The pebbles and the tiny rocks had made us feel safe. But now we could only see waves that rocked our canoe. No signs of the comforting pebbles!

We were not too far from the shore but because it was our first time, our hearts raced when the canoe started wobbling. And all of us started arguing with each other. I said, “Why don’t you row in the opposite direction to mine, it will help maintain the balance?” Jay said in a voice which clearly displayed signs of nervousness, “I am doing that. Will you calm down, please?” Puzzled by this conversation, Swati said in a calm voice, “Why are you people so scared? The canoe is just rocking a little bit. ” Amused by her question, Pravin explained, “Do you know how deep the water is?” Once this question was asked, four pairs of scared eyes rolled nervously on the boat. No one was looking around at the vastness of the sea or the beauty of the scenery around, we had just one thing on our mind – get back to the shore as soon as possible!

At such times, imagination is a dangerous possession! I asked Jay, “What if we topple? How do I ensure that the water doesn’t enter my lungs? I should be safe if I can float without panicking, right?” Jay turned back and gave me a stern glance which meant, “Can you please keep quiet and calm down a little?” The unkind waves wobbled the canoe a little more, making our hearts race faster. You see, one might have read in books – overcome fear, don’t be overwhelmed by it. But alas! It did not work for any of us. Finally, Pravin steered the canoe in the direction of the shore. We reached the shore 15 minutes after we had ventured into our first experience with canoeing. But we had paid for an hour. In the midst of this high tension atmosphere, came a pleasant surprise. The person who rented us the canoe said, “I will not charge you guys for 15 minutes.” We finally smiled at the gesture of the kind person.

The muscles on our faces relaxed, heart beats stabilized, and we sat near the shore with feet buried in the warm sand. In a few seconds, we looked at each other and laughed aloud! We were embarrassed, but the rock and roll on the canoe was a great experience nonetheless. The next time, we will ensure that we learn to swim before venturing on such ordeals. And carry a little more adventure in our hearts to brave the waves!

But all is well that ends well. We finally splashed in the frolicking waves with the comforting pebbles below our cold feet! (Yes, I mean ‘cold’ in more ways than one!)

Sushree

It’s sunny in Seattle

Drizzly. Dreamy. Romantic. Green. Beautiful. All these words fit one place, at least for me. Seattle! We landed in the setting of one of my favorite movies – Sleepless in Seattle three days ago. Incidentally, it also happens to be the city where my sister lives.  And yes, it was drizzling when we landed. But I did not see anyone with an umbrella. When one of my cousins (who also lives in Seattle) heard this, he said, “The people who carry umbrellas are usually tourists. Those who don’t carry umbrellas have probably lived in Seattle for a long time.” It made sense. I was quick to make an impression that people in Seattle enjoy rain much like the people in Mumbai – half way across the globe, but the same things are cherished. My thought changed just a little when two days later, someone said to me, “You live in California. I wish I could go there. It gets gloomy here sometimes.” Hmm. This time I can draw similarities between people living in Seattle and Bangalore!

After three days of drizzle, finally, yesterday was a sunny day in Seattle. The sun brought with it the much welcome warmth and a variety of colored birds that I could see from my sister’s balcony. When it is sunny in Seattle, always follow a rule. Pull out summer clothes, step out of the house, and enjoy a rare rendezvous with that moody, honored, dignitary that graces the beautiful city only occasionally! We followed the rule. Jay, Swati and I set off to visit a place which is the largest building in the world when measured by volume. The building is adorned by murals comprising over 9000 square metres of pressure-sensitive graphic film. It also covers six factory doors and the majestic mural has been registered in the Guinness Book of Records. If your fingers are not yet at the keyboard to search the ever helpful Wikipedia, and your eyes are still on this page, let me tell you that I am talking about the Boeing building in Everett, Washington. Boeing is the world’s leading aerospace company. And why did I give you these facts? Oh, that is because the tour guide repeated it so many times that I thought she probably wanted us to disseminate these information to my co-habitants on this planet! The real reason for the facts being repeated over and over again was to entice people to buy the Boeing aircrafts! The costs of the aircrafts range from a modest 200 million to a slightly exorbitant 350 million. And did I forget to mention they don’t accept credit cards? They accept only cash or cheques! So be prepared for that! Interested? (wink wink)

Enter Boeing’s assembly building. And experience it through my eyes! The Boeing building is like a small city with over 20,000 employees from different cultural backgrounds working at the same time! It stays true to the amazing fact of being the largest building in the world in terms of volume. It is huge. And wherever your eyes reach, you can see humungous planes standing still. Some of them are waiting for the wings to be attached and some of them are waiting for the engine to be installed. But they all stand with a sense of pride, enjoying the views by the curious strangers like Jay, Swati and me. We stood on a balcony inside the building and while our tour guide was explaining how the planes are assembled, my ears paid attention to her. But my eyes were scanning the floor (which was one floor below us) of the factory building. I could see people from various ethnicities who wore badges of Boeing and were busy assembling a part of the wing of a Boeing 747 plane. I also saw some people sipping the famous Starbucks coffee (Seattle boasts of the first Starbucks outlet) and munching on Snapea chips (a relatively healthier version of chips) while others worked at the flat screen computers! So much action in one building and one could see it all at once. Now back to the star of the place – the planes. We saw Boeing aircrafts – 777, 787, and the 747. We saw the assembly lines for the planes too! And we also saw the huge cranes (used to move parts of a plane from one location to another) in action. It was amazing to see the amount of effort people put in to enable you to take the journey to meet your loved ones! I love planes; they bring your loved ones to you. They also carry food from faraway places to make them available at your doorstep, and they offer you breathtaking views when you glance through the window inside the plane!

For me the most special plane right now is the Boeing 747! Why? My parents are traveling in a Boeing 747 to come and meet me!

I leave you with the picture of a  ‘Dream lifter’. You can read more about it here.

http://www.boeing.com/commercial/787family/dreamlifter_fact.html

More of Seattle in the days to come.

Sushree

The invincible!

When I say the word invincible, what comes to your mind first? A woman’s heart, a baby’s innocence, the fury of nature, our deepest desires, endless disturbing thoughts, unflinching faith, or the human spirit? Well, I guess the list ends at infinity!

For me, the invincible and ever so intimidating is – the kitchen SINK! Yes, the one where you clank and clutter your vessels after relishing a sumptuous or not-so-sumptuous meal. It is almost as if the sink contrives plans to entice you to eat or drink to ensure its unfair share of attention. For instance, you would have just cleaned all the vessels while humming a song to ward away that evil spirit of boredom, and in just a few minutes, you would feel a deep desire to eat a chocolate cake. There you go! You have to dump the plate back in the sink! A few hours later, you sip coffee, or drink a glass of water, and again the sink gets filled! I tell you I am extremely troubled by the attention seeking sink! It never lets me rest in peace.

The sink not only demands but commands attention! And did I mention my favorite line – ‘Savor the simple pleasures of life with a cup of chai!’ only adds to the attention the sink receives!

Sushree

 

A distracting and drizzly day!

It is a drizzly day in Pasadena again! Throughout the morning the roar of the thunder and the extremely bright flash of the sky’s camera distracted my attention. There was no respite in the evening too. I was sitting with my laptop and it was 4pm. It was raining outside. Suddenly, the room lit up and in the next moment it became a little dark. It was as if the sun was trying to get my attention by playing hide and seek. I tried hard to focus on my work but I just could not. A cloudy day, the sound of rain, the clouds hiding the sun and then letting it peep out once in a while– a perfect recipe for distracting my attention. Well sometimes resistance is futile, so I shut my laptop, kept it aside and stared out of the window.

The first thing I noticed were the tiny birds shivering in the tree. From their red forehead, the sound of chirruping and the experience with the bird-feeder, I could tell they were male house finches. The second thing I noticed were the tiny droplets hanging precariously at the edge of the branches. The shiny tiny prisms looked amazing against the heavy showers of rain! And then I noticed the bright green leaves. As one of my friends put it, “The leaves look greener after the first shower.” Well, so true! Isn’t it? And of course I noticed the playful sun teasing the foliage!

These are the days I miss India the most or should I say my mother the most! Why? I know for sure she would have made hot pakodas (fries) and hot chai for me!  I miss you mom, for the pakodas and of course your ever growing love! Today, I have to painfully drag myself to the kitchen, cut the potatoes, soak sabudana (tapioca), mix the masala, heat the oil and fry the pakodas myself! But hey! Life is not that bad, I have someone very dear to share it with! Yes, the same person who makes “special appearances” on my blogs all the time! Jay. He is busy with writing his thesis; otherwise he would be the one frying the pakodas! (Why?Oh that is because I always act like a damsel in distress while frying pakodas in the scary hot boiling oil.) Anyway, I finally dragged myself to the kitchen and made sabudana pakodas!

So here is the photo of the outcome of a distracting drizzly day! Looks yummy?Image

What do you do on a distracting drizzly day?

Aside

A beautiful day!

It is cloudy and chirpy in Pasadena today. I can see the clouds gently caressing the mountain and the first signs of life on a bare branch. The life on the bare branch makes me wonder – Would the flower on the otherwise bare and lifeless branch look beautiful had it not been for the stark contrast to the branch? The clouds caressing the mountain make me wonder – Wouldn’t the lonely mountain be happy today as somebody is caring for it? As these thoughts creep into my mind, I feel compelled to write a poem on the simple pleasures of life.

The simple pleasures in life!

The shadows on the mountain

The clouds caressing the mountain

The sunlight peeking through the tree

The lightening flashing across the sky

The tall palm trees dancing in the wind

The sprouting beauty on a bare branch

The colours of fall

The rustle of dried leaves

The whisper of the wings

The eggs in a bird’s nest

The tick-tock of the clock in the silence

The rhythm of the heart beating

The roar of the ocean

The tranquility of rocks in the ocean

The waves kissing the shores

The shimmering waters in the moonlight

The mountains cradled by the water

The child learning to walk

A baby trying to talk

A mother’s gentle stroke on the hair

A father’s comfort in despair

The tick-tock of the clock in the silence

The rhythm of the heart beating

The smell of wet mud

The smell of an old book

The aroma of delicious food

The steaming cup of tea

The molten chocolate in mouth

The cuddling up next to loved one

The innocent hug from a toddler

The smile of a stranger

The tick-tock of the clock in the silence

The rhythm of the heart beating

Can be heard and cherished

Only in peaceful and placid waters

To assuage and appease

The troubled waters in the mind

Don’t forget to notice these

Simple pleasures in life

They make your life

That is ever so complicated

With its riddles and puzzles and mazes

S I M P L E !

What makes your life simple? Are there any simple pleasures around you that you tend to ignore?

Sushree

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