Trials of Motherhood

As more and more friends, acquaintances and family find out about our plans to return to India, they reach out to me and ask me questions. Among other questions of why we are moving, when we are moving, and where we are moving to, the one question that everyone unfailing asks is “What does S think? Is she excited?”.

When my husband and I made up our mind back in October, we decided to break the news to our 10 year old daughter. She thought we were joking at first, but then quickly realized we were serious. It took her less than a moment to start wailing in protest. She did not want to go. She would miss her friends. India was soooo hot! She hated the mosquitoes, the traffic. She called out every negative thing a 10 year old could come up with about India. After much cajoling, and explaining, a few hours later she had calmed down some. We distracted her that day by taking her on a long road trip to to my uncle’s place.

Soon after, we started our preparations, and she went about her life without much change. She told her friends, and as we told ours, they asked her what she thought – and she either said she didn’t want to go or shrugged her shoulders.

As we get closer to our move date, she is realizing that there is not much time left, that she will have to leave the only home she remembers, and leave all her friends behind. She realizes now she will have to get used to living in a much hotter place, go to a new school which insists on teaching French, and make new friends that she may or may not like. As I stood in her room, waiting to take pictures of her bedroom set, so I could put it up for sale, she spread herself across the entire width of her bed and started sobbing. This was “her bed”, in “her house”. “I don’t want to go!”, she wailed. Few days later, the same was repeated as we put garage sale stickers on some of her toys.

All of this was not unexpected, but every time it happens, it tugs hard at my heart, and wears me down. It makes me second guess our decision, and at the same time pray that it all works out in the long run. The parent in me wants my daughter to grow up and be an adaptable person, capable of making herself at home in any new place and culture. I hope she can pick up the best traits of the east and west and become an individual with a global outlook. As an adult, I hope she realizes the importance of her grandparents in her life, and loves being in touch with her large extended family. Over time I hope she can build an appreciation for the complex societal structure in India that is so often at odds, and yet somehow works.

At the end of it all, I hope she understands why we did what we did, and does not resent us for it. Until then, I will hold on to my heart and remember what a wise colleague once said to me about bringing up kids – “No matter what you do, or how hard you try, you can never quite shake off that feeling that you screwed them up!”

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The seller in me

Moving back home, or in general moving out of the US is no small logistics feat. I consider myself a fairly organized person, and after so many years of managing projects at work, this one still seems like the hardest one I’ve had.

For one, I am undoing the results of the last 12 years of reckless shopping that my husband and I have contributed to. O the things we have! I know it’s rather insensitive to complain about abundance, but when you find you have 4 or 5 of the same thing, three of which are unused, you really begin to wonder what you were thinking!!

Unlike my other work projects, there really isn’t much that I can outsource or delegate to anyone. My husband or I, and sometimes my husband and I have to look at things personally to decide which pile to put stuff in. Then, there are the times when we can’t agree if it’s worth the time to sell something, or we should just throw it out, and before we know it, we’ve already spent more time than it’s worth discussing the time it’s worth!

Growing up in a tambrahm family, I never really sold anything. My family sold an occasional vehicle, but that was it. I got my first taste for selling over the last few months, selling on craigslist and a few FB groups and distro lists. It did provide for some frustrating as well as entertaining moments.

  • $5 discount please! Oh I already bought it!
    I put up a set of kitchen appliances for sale. Desi lady calls my husband and says she is interested in cooker, asks where we live, how much it will cost. Then tells my husband she will need to ask her husband and call back. Husband conveys the same to me, so I call her offering to bring stuff half way to her place which she seems acceptable to. Then she bargains to reduce $5 out of the $15. When I refuse she points out it’s only $5. I point out its more than 30% discount she’s asking for. After finally giving in, I call her the next day asking if she’ll show up in the evening for the exchange, to which she coolly replies, she bought it elsewhere. I had fumes coming out of my ears!
  • Do you have the thing I want that you are not selling?
    I put up an ad for half a dozen kitchen items and send it the distribution list of International village apartments (could just as well be called Indian village apartments). Within 10 minutes I get a call, saying “I saw your ad. Are you selling a dosa tava?” I reply that I am not because I am using it, and that if I was, it would have been in the email. To that she asks “When will you be selling it?”!!??
  • Just checking if you’re really selling!
    I put up an ad on Craigslist, and I get all these messages – “Is it available?” or “Do you still have it?”. I respond that it is still available and ask when they can pick up, and that’s it, they vanish! It’s like they were just curious to see if I was really selling.
  • Spam!
    I advertise for a golu stand, and the people who respond have names like James and Ellen, and all of their responses say the exact same thing “I am interested in your Ad. Please contact me.”. Fishy right? I got off Sulekha after that experience.
  • GLWS
    I put up a hot item on the neighborhood FB group. Instantly get interest from a guy that says he’ll buy, but he can only come tomorrow. After dealing with #1 above, I am wary and let him know I cannot hold it for him. He gets jilted and says “GLWS, I don’t want it anymore”. I had to google GLWS – apparently it means Good luck with sale! Who knew they’d coin an abbreviation for that!
  • Bought at Target?!! No thanks!
    Tried selling some patio furniture on Craigslist. One guy goes back and forth about 10 emails in a day – How heavy are they? Did you use them? Were they outside or inside? Are there stains or not? Can you drop the price? When are you available? All answers are satisfactory, until he asks “Where did you buy them?”. “Target” I replied. “No thanks” was the response.
  • I can’t believe people still use this!
    Put an ad up for an old music system. Got an interested buyer who had moved to the US recently and didn’t have a car. So I drive 20 miles each way, and door deliver the old thing for $15. I get home and my phone rings, the buyer says I thought it would have USB, but this doesn’t even have that. I tell him I cannot drive back to pick it up, and he says “I didn’t think people would even have this kind of stuff anymore, or I would have asked!”. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry!

The hardest of them all is selling the home! It’s like trying to get your daughter married. You spruce it up, have it looking neat and bright, smelling good and well decorated. People come in and see it, then leave. Some don’t even respond with whether they like it or not. Others say “Nice home”, but don’t say why they don’t want to own it. It’s hard to fathom why nobody falls head over heals in love with the home that is like a palace to me, and the best place I’ve lived in.

All said and done, I am thankful to the people who did take things off my hands. To the others, I say – To each his own!”.

The Return of NRI Maami

I cannot believe it has been more than 5 years since I last blogged. Many friends, acquaintances and anonymous people have been asking me on and off when I would be blogging again, and after a few feeble attempts I gave up blogging. It wasn’t because I wasn’t interested or didn’t have time, but suddenly I felt like there really was nothing that I had to say, that was worth reading or listening to.

So, why then have I actually returned? Well, my life is going through some pretty interesting twists and turns and I think I may finally have something to say that is probably, just probably, of interest to some souls out there.

Over the last 5 years, I have grown older, wiser, grayer and chubbier. 40 isn’t too far away, and in anticipation of the mature years ahead, my way of thinking has changed. When the typical NRI conversation came up 5 years ago about moving to India, I had a long list of reasons for why I didn’t want to do it – everything from the India we know doesn’t exist anymore to why would I want to go sweat in that kitchen making three meals a day, and brewing coffee for unannounced guests all day long. However in the last few years, many things on that list have slowly lost their place of importance to me. Seemingly solid reasons have been overturned by more important reasons that tilt the decision in favor of moving to India.

So, over the last few months, we have been making plans and working towards D-day. Yes I am not just returning to blogging, I am in the process of returning home, back to being a non-NRI.

Hot Hot Hot !!


When all we desis talk of missing India and being home-sick, I don’t think we really had the Indian summer in mind, but somehow may be God thought he would be nice to us and try to replicate some Indian weather here in North America and brought on us this horribly hot summer. When we’ve waited all winter for it to get warm, so we could pretend to be outdoorsy people, we are welcomed by this sweltering heat. At least the local folks here, seem to enjoy sun bathing and putting on a tan, but for us folks from the Indian subcontinent, putting on a tan makes us go from looking brown to looking like unappetizing brownies. Becoming brownie aside, there are a few other inconveniences I have to deal with. 

The grass – The heat is killing the grass. We were away for about 4 days. Once we got back, our somewhat green grass had turned brown and crunchy. You might think I am overly attached to my lawn, but if you had been in my shoes last summer, you’d understand. This leads me into a somewhat unconnected discussion, but it makes for good talking anyway, so let me explain what we did last year. It was our first summer in the new single family home. The front yard lawn suddenly start balding in patches. After some serious “nachchufying” (banter) from me, my husband looked up the internet for what we needed to do to the lawn. Somebody said we should overseed it, so he went to Menards, bought a bag of lawn seed that was on sale and spread it around. It took a good month or so, before stuff started sprouting, and boy what a mess that was. He had bought some different kind of seed. This new variety of grass, lighter green, thinner, taller grass that grew faster than the rest of the lawn started sprouting all over the place. The lawn would look good for about 8 hours immediately after mowing, but by the next morning, the bright green tall grass would be all over the place. Ugh! Walking around the neighbourhood made me want to run a bulldozer over our lawn, it looked horrible. It went from looking like a balding 40-year-old to a 40-year-old hippie. I couldn’t figure out which was better, but both were definitely bad! So this year, after having shelled out a lot of money to a landscaping company so they’d save our lawn from our experiments, I was temporarily relieved to see it nice and green before the 4 days of heat that almost killed it. Now Mr. Baldy is back 😦 

Having a 5-year-old in the house through summer is very hard. Yes, I love my daughter, but she is not easy to entertain, if you take away TV. Having to keep her in the house and postponing the time she can run out of the house because of the heat is no joke. I kind of feel bad for her though, that here she waits for warm weather, and just as it gets here, I am already telling her it’s too hard to go out.

It is kind of amusing that I crib so much about this summer, because I’ve seen a lot worse in India. I’ve lived in Hyderabad, where the heat is so bad, you’d not want to touch the walls. We’ve poured water on the terrace to cool the house down, we’ve poured water inside the house, to cool the floors down, we’ve used air coolers, and desert coolers. We’ve dealt with regular power cuts by sitting in the dark on a pile of sand outside our house and playing antakshari with the neighbours. Those were fun times, at least I learnt the first 2 lines of a 1000 songs without knowing any more than that. I’ve also dealt with the heat in Chennai. It has to be the place that disproves that famous saying “Success is 10% inspiration 90% perspiration!”. Surely, if that was true, people in Chennai must have to be the most successful in the world! It’s that place which makes you re-consider the reasons for bathing – do you really need to bathe so you can generate fresh sweat, or do you need to bathe so you can wash of old sweat?

So, when the mamas and mamis coming from India remark “Chicago romba kuloor nu sonnaa, inga vandhu partha Madrasae thevalai polarke!”, I don’t really know what to say! 😐

Happy Summer you’all!

Hello.. Anybody there?

I can’t believe it’s been more than a year and a half since I came in here to write. What I’ve been up to all these days – pretty much the usual and I really did think I had given up blogging for good, but then, some folks persisted.

A few days ago, I exchanged some emails after quite some time with a friend from my past, and even though we hadn’t been talking or emailing for a while, he had been checking my blog for updates. When I told him that perhaps all the incessant talking for about 30 years had left me with little more to say, he insisted I try again, and even followed up with another email a couple of days later saying

Hellllloooooooo… I’m checking daily and yet to the see the blog. Is it taking so long to write one?

So, to my friend and his persistence and to others like him who may (I hope) still  be checking in every now and then, I think I owe another attempt.

So, to start off I must write about our weekend trip to Munising in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. This is our second trip there, and I think I like the place even more. It is probably one of the few places in the country (at least the ones I have been to) that are devoid of McDonalds. Small little town, by Lake Superior offers much in terms of beauty and time-pass. Here are some pictures:

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The beautiful scenery aside, I made a few observations while on the trip.

I realized that I am slowly beginning to like vacationing the American way. I prefer the smaller, un-crowded, less touristy towns that are calm and beautiful. That said, I haven’t reached the point of taking a vacation, just so I can read a book – I think that’s probably never going to happen and yes I would definitely prefer a Taco Bell in the vicinity.

The Munising area is popular for it’s many beautiful waterfalls. I couldn’t help imagine that if it was in India, people would not only make a beeline to visit, they would also make sure they showed up in colorful lungis and with their lifebuoy soaps. I don’t know what it is with guys under waterfalls – they bathe like they haven’t had a chance to bathe all their life. Here in the US, I’ve never seen people show any interest in bathing under waterfalls or may be I am looking in the wrong place. Let’s face it, water up in Michigan rarely gets warm enough for that.

On this trip unlike our previous one, we ventured into some of the local restaurants hunting for vegetarian food and were pleasantly surprised to find some options. When my husband commented how devoid of desis Munising was, I suggested that we’d know for sure only if we looked at Pizza hut. So, sure enough the next day at Pizza hut, 6 out of 8 tables were occupied by desis working on their pizzas. I guess it takes a couple of trips to venture beyond the familiar spots.

For the first time, we saw a July 4th parade. Apparently it is quite common for the different floats to throw out candy and for kids to pick it up. I have to admit as fun as it seemed to my 5 year old, I was a bit concerned about picking up (porikifying) candy off the road, but I was still egging my daughter to be competitive and collect as much candy as she could. I know – two very Indian traits at odds with each other. I am yet to decide if I should hide away the candy and pretend it disappeared. 😐

Then, I ate a vegetarian pasty. For those of you who don’t know what that is, its a U.P. speciality. Basically, its a saltless, spice-less samosa filling inside what tastes like pie crust dough. It could have been awesome, if it had some salt, chilli powder and garam masala thrown into it.

In all, it was an awesome vacation. Something that got us to unwind completely, enjoy the sights and provide ample fun for my daughter.  Hope you all are making the most of the lovely summer weather.

Happy Deepavali

A very belated happy Deepavali to all you friends out there. I hope all of you had a happy and safe Deepavali. It was on a weekend this year, which certainly was very helpful in making it a happy festival. As far as safe is concerned, we had no access to all those 100-walas and 1000-walas.. or for that matter to the bijli vedis, and hence was all very safe. Of course, we were’nt being very safe with our health. Like every other festival with the exception of Vaikunta Ekadesi, we ate an unimaginable amount of unhealthy food that I am pretty sure is the reason I feel heavier this week, and the same reason my daughter is sick with an upset stomach at home.

In preparation for Deepavali this year, I took the Friday off and spent most of the day putting my stove to work. My mother-in-law had already made a 5-cup cake and Manankombu @ Mul-murukku. On Friday, I started off making the badam cake using a recipe I got off the internet. I have to admit that it really was much easier than expected, and turned out very well. Right after, I attempted making the Kaajalu. My mother made it long ago, when we lived in Hyderabad, and we relished it a lot. Of course it appeared pretty complicated to make, and the end product looked very interesting. I asked my mother for the recipe and added a few things I picked up from the internet and the end product turned out really well.

We had bought our usual new clothes, sweater and jeans for me, t-shirt and jeans for my daughter and a shirt and trousers for my husband. I ended up wearing a silk saree though that my m-i-l got me for the Grihapravesam. It was late in the night before I was done cleaning up and setting everything to be ready for Deepavali the next day. My m-i-l made the Deepavali marundhu which a strong concotion of different herbs etc that are useful to act as an antidote for all the junk you consume during Deepavali. She also made the oil for the “yennai sasthram” – basically heated some Sesame Oil with an unbroken red chilli and anise seeds (omam). The night before Deepavali, the custom in my husband’s family is to make bajjis. Of course nobody wants to change such an interesting tradition, so bajji was consumed. That night, thanks to my co-sister V, we ended up putting on some mehendi and slept with our hands tied in plastic bags all night.

In spite of wanting to wake up early in the morning, it was 7 when I woke up with a jolt. My m-i-l did the “yennai sasthram” for all of us and we did our “ganga snanam” and wore our new clothes. That was followed by calls back and forth to India and other friends and relatives living in the US. It seems there wasn’t all that much of a fuss about Deepavali crackers this year. Kids these days think about pollution and their eco-footprints. We had our friends P, Fa and their daughter S over and ate a very heavy lunch. 

In the night, we had some sparklers saved from last year’s July 4 purchases. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of the long day, she told me she liked Deepavali – that made all the trouble so worthwhile!

And now for some pictures..