Iniya Putthandu Nalvazhthukkal**.
Wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.
Picture from my very first Vishu arrangement.
Yes, we are back. Can’t promise the original frequency of posting though, but we will surely try. I know, I know, you’re all burning with questions (all 8 of you) and I hope to answer all of them here.
I got married y’all! Yeah, with all the fanfare and the traditional rituals. SEV wonderfully expressed his thoughts at the time here. I haven’t been able to articulate everything I was feeling in such beautiful words. The one feeling I know I will never forget was that when the tirumangalyam was being tied around my neck. Everything I had been hoping for, planning for, culminated in that one moment. Memories of our times together were flashing past me intermingled with visions of our future together. The atmosphere at the wedding hall was electric. And as hard as I tried I couldn’t turn around catch the expression on my mother’s face (the videographer captured it perfectly though). Some day I think I will understand everything she was feeling that day.
The 2 weeks that we were in India post-wedding saw us both battling the flu. Of course that didn’t stop us from visiting our relatives or visiting the temples my mother-in-law had planned on taking us to. The feeling of being in a new home and adapting to the ways of a whole new family can be a little daunting at the start. However, the fact that I knew my in-laws very well even before the wedding (advantages of a love marriage you see!) made the transition really easy. I just wish I had a little more time to learn everything from my MiL!
And I finally made the decision to move to live with my husband – I knew I couldn’t make a relationship work with distance added into the picture. Many conversations with SEV, my parents, my in-laws and my friends (who were all very supportive, bless them) resulted in us making the decision to move. So we had a month to pack, dispose of stuff and move. We had arranged for movers and that made the whole experience completely hassle-free. I totally recommend my moving company to anyone moving across states – they were very professional and very thorough.
I must say, the experience of setting up a new home together is completely unmatched. Just watching everything fall into place like it always belonged there is almost magical. I was always told that knowing someone very well and living with them are completely different things. So I went in expecting the worst. But I have to say, I know SEV in and out and he’s an absolute delight to live with! His roommates were indeed lucky. 🙂
This date marks the 3 year anniversary of my arrival in the US as a wet-behind-the-ears naïve girl with dreams in her eyes. The last 3 years have been an incredible journey. A journey of friendship, heartbreak, love, frustration, success, failure and so much more. A journey of growing up – of flying away from the protective nest that was my home. A journey of the eventual transformation of a girl to a woman. A journey of realization of one’s strengths and weaknesses – leading to some semblance of wisdom. A journey of the quest to learn and acquire knowledge – and the incidental learning of many other things. As I sit and reminisce about the last 3 years, I cannot help but wonder if I truly have a reason to rejoice and celebrate them. Or should I just think of it all as a bittersweet experience, something that had to happen because – such is life.
I guess I would like to begin by thinking about all the things that made me regret having made the decision to leave my country and my home. I still miss my family just as much as I missed them the day I left. I still wish I was there to watch them grow up and old – I wish I was there to watch my little brother cross one milestone after another. I wish I was there when my mom bought something she had always wanted, to see the expression of excitement and the raised pitch of her voice to go with it. I wish I was there to watch my dad punch the air during a cricket game and to get him started on a discussion on politics and stock markets. I wish I was there to help out with the household chores and even to get yelled at for not doing something right.
I truly miss the rush of activity, the sights and sounds of the different times of the day. The smell of the early morning coffee, the sound of the velaikkari washing the utensils, my mom cutting out the weeds in the garden and my dad trying to help and ending up shearing my mom’s beloved flowering plants instead, my dad going into my brother’s room to wake him up (after being yelled at by mom for snipping up her plants), the sounds of the autos and buses, the sight of the dust rising up and settling down in their wake, the cows assuming the world is their toilet – I could go on and on about every single detail that is such a part of India’s myriad personality.
But that is about all I miss and about all the reasons I have to be even if only slightly bummed out today. I think I do have more reasons to be happy about. I cannot even begin to describe the experience I had of living alone, away from home where there was no Mommy to cook food on time, no Daddy to take care of the bills and the finances. There was just me and my measly grad student salary that had to cover the rent, groceries, bills and so on. I cannot believe I managed to even save up a small amount every month. I realized just how well my mother had trained me to be able to run a household independently. I could cook and clean and not let the house be infested by bugs and roaches as I had seen happen with my other counterparts. I realized that I have a keen aesthetic sense and combined with my OCD, I managed to make sure our house was always hospitable – our house was like home.
I learned the hard way that people are not always what they seem. That there are people who will think evil things even if you truly meant them no harm. That there are people who expect the world of you and yet will not move a muscle when it is their turn. And should you so much as refuse them a favor that no sane person would do even for their own kith and kin, you instantly become the bad guy. That the only people who truly make you happy are the ones who have the good sense to understand your every action. No one else is worth it.
I learned that when your need is driven by money, no matter how well you do, you just don’t get the chance to prove yourself. And that quitting when I’m at the top of my game is how I usually operate. I also learned how much I hate loans. And how I have always made sure I repaid mine well in advance of the pay period. I learned how much I love to drive. And how much an inanimate object can mean to me. I discovered that I am not one to skimp on something I really want. And I am also not one to crib about something I don’t have – I am actually one of those people who make the best of what they have and pro-actively seek means to better their situation, if they so wish to.
I realized that going to grad school and getting your doctorate degree is no indicator of how smart you really are. And that smartness also really means nothing – how you treat yourself and others around you is really all that counts. That it’s better to know how lucky you are to be with someone than to wonder how lucky they are to be with you. That confidence is one thing, and arrogance quite another. That realizing the difference between the two is the difference between being smart and being thick.
That high heels actually make me look good. And that tall girls don’t need high heels is a myth. That in a few years I will not look like I do now, so I need to make the most of what I have. Especially since I live in a country where everything goes. And that convincing my mom of this has been some of the toughest convincing I have had to do in a long time. 🙂
Looking back on this post and the last 3 years, I do believe I’m happier than when I started out. And I probably wouldn’t change a thing in these 3 years. But none of them can keep me from going back to where I belong. And if I ever forget that, I have this post to remind me of what is out there, and what will eventually take me back home.
When we were kids, going to Madras meant that we could take as many cold showers as we wanted, without the risk of catching a cold. And of course, the existence of a shower helped a lot. The bathroom in our house in Bangalore did have an outlet for the shower, but no shower head. So all it was really was just a tap at a great height. But the house in Madras had two different kinds of showers in each bathroom. There was the one which was directly overhead, which meant the water would fall right on the top of your head, which was always fun after you got home from a day of playing outside in the sand, hot and filthy. It was also very big and very blue (or maybe it seemed big to my own tiny self) and that bathroom had a fancy shower curtain, pink with white flowers. The other bathroom had the one which was at an angle, placed in the corner of the bathroom, at the joint where two walls met. This one was small and silver colored and would squirt water on your face, leaving the hair almost dry. And the best part was, there were always shower caps if you didn’t want your hair to get wet (which was what I used to get yelled at for a lot because I was a constant victim of the common cold and wet hair was a surefire way of catching one). But then, I used to get yelled at anyway because even if I used a shower cap, at the end of it I would fill it up with water and play around with it, making the inside of the cap all wet and useless for the next person to shower.
We used to wait eagerly for the holidays because holidays meant one thing: going to Madras. We went every time we had any extended period of holidays and the summer holidays were always the best. We got to meet all our cousins and the 6 of us would play together and with the neighbors’ kids, get our asses kicked, not understand half the things the other kids said (our Tamizh was too brahmin for the Madras kids and their Tamizh was far too local to Madras for us to understand), fall down and hurt ourselves, hurl things at each other, flick water-bombs* into buckets of water and watch them explode, pluck green chilies from Samuel Uncle’s garden, trouble Adyar thatha’s Alsatian, poke fun at pakkathatthu Pavithra who was flat footed and couldn’t run very well, make our grandma yell at the top of her lungs to come in and eat, twist grandpa’s garden hose into an entangled mess. It was like the holidays transformed us normally chamathu kids into these monsters that just needed the salty Madras air to let go. Or maybe it was just that our parents were usually out and we were left under our grandparents’ supervision; and they were always too soft on us anyway.
And in the evening after it was dark and everyone had to go back inside, we would shower and change and sit outside in the porch, with the cool sea breeze flowing through our hair, listening to grandma and grandpa tell us stories of the old days, of the times when our parents were kids and it all seemed magical and so much more fun. And the times when Murali Mama came were always the most fun, because he always had the most incredibly funny jokes to tell us, which would have us doubling up in laughter. We would run around trying to catch the fireflies that showed up sometimes, or just talk and pull each other’s legs. Being the only girl on the maternal side of my family had definite advantages. I always got to sit on thatha’s lap and I got yelled at a lot less than the boys too. On the other hand, during navaratri I also had to endure the endless trips to all the maamis’ houses for golu and sing at every one of them. The boys would hide behind the big wooden screen and snigger as I was leaving. But they were always magically there to welcome us when we got back to steal all my sundal (chickpeas curry) packets. I even suggested to my Mom once that there should be one common golu venue and all the maamis should call me there and make me sing only once and be done with it, but the idea wasn’t really a big hit with her and only earned me a menacing glare and some mumbled words about “Madonnannu nenaippu“.
At dinner we would all sit at the big round table and have our mothers yelling and beating us because we were all too picky while grandma would tell them off for yelling at us. It was fun to watch the people who always yelled at us, being told off for a change. We had short forms for everything: RS – Rasam Saadam (we actually call it Saatthamudhu, but that would clash with Sambar so we left it at Rasam), SS – Sambar Saadam, TS – Thayir Saadam and so on. And of course, being the only girl, I had to stick around after dinner to help the ladies clean up while my sniggering cousins ran off to bed and got the best places underneath the fan. But then thatha would come along and chase off the boys and let me choose where I wanted to sleep. I always picked the spot right next to him, which was the most coveted spot. He would then make us all brush our teeth one by one and then turn off the lights and launch into his very famous Munsaami stories. Munsaami was the protagonist of all his stories and was a very naughty boy who always got into trouble for something that started out as noble. His friend Kandsaami had frequent cameos as well. The incredible thing about this, I realize now, is that thatha always spun these stories offhand and built them up as he went on. And the sheer imagination he had never stops to amaze me. Munsaami stories continue to be funny to this day. So after about half an hour of funny stories, crazy laughter and not-so-funny comments thatha would finally end the stories and admonish us to sleep. We, of course wouldn’t sleep, we’d be waiting for thatha’s breathing to become heavy and for him to start snoring, and then we’d launch into our incessant chatter again. Sometimes we’d get loud enough to wake him up and he’d yell at us to sleep, but most of the times we would take care not to wake him up. Sometimes I would sleep in the other room, where my mom and her sisters would be sleeping with my grandma, and I would fall asleep listening to them gossip about inconsequential relatives that I knew nothing about.
I miss those times and I wonder if my children will ever know what it is like to be in a time as magical as the time I have spent with my grandparents and cousins, my wonderful, amazing childhood. And that brings me back to the one thing I have known ever since I set foot here. I have to go back.
* Water bombs are seeds that when put into water burst open and make a “click” noise.