Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Everything in reverse

As I was going through the manoeuvres of starting for India, I could not dissociate from the fact that I would be doing them all in reverse a few weeks later. This mental preparation does not help, cos I don't think it's even a valid preparation, it is just a reality check. Just an exercise to keep the feet grounded. 

Goodbyes are always hard. I should have become an expert at them now, but no portion of practice makes me one. The farewells to family was tear laden. It was like everything going back. Like a movie film being rewound and the characters ridiculously going through the motions backwards. But  the emotions are ten fold heavier. I might be stretching the metaphor but we landed in Bhubaneswar at 8 in the evening and we were starting around 8. The take off from Delhi to Bhubaneswar was at 5 and so was the return from Delhi to Abu Dhabi. The timing seemed to be rubbing off a lot. I consciously reminded myself of the  feeling of quiet joy that was there two weeks ago. Just to remember and reminisce the good parts. But deep melancholy just kept washing over and what I could only feel was how far I was going, from my family 's touch. From their close physical presence. From the big house at the end of a dusty lane which is still home. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A near perfect wedding

The D day came with a lot of anxiety. The auspicious time for the wedding was set at 1400 which has gave us ample time to get ready. The information that the strike would reduce in its impact after noon also made the possibility of a trouble free wedding more prominent. Lichie was to be ferried to the beauty parlor for her bridal makeup. Under normal circumstances she would have been royally taken in a car. Even I was supposed to get a 'party' makeup. But papa had to take her in his bike avoiding the main roads. There were some ruffians who stopped and cross questioned him when he was returning. But he managed to get home safely. This made my travel a bit of an additional risk. So I gave the beauty treatment a miss :( 

The coordination of cooking, the groom's procession, the bringing of Lichie back to the venue, all were done in a bit of a round about way since the main roads and four wheelers needed avoiding. Everything took longer to get done. But everything got done and got done to near perfection.

No function of the scale of an Indian wedding can be without its disappointments and issues. In fact more than the good parts we tend to discuss what went wrong. On the wedding day in the midst of the wedding rituals there was a sudden need of a yellow saree. Mummy had to go home and get it urgently. The priest painted a picture as if the wedding would not proceed without one. But  he carried on as normal and mummy missed a very important ritual of 'inviting the groom'. The yellow saree and never used and mummy missed her last chance at doing an important ritual. She still rues the fact.
After the wedding since it was getting late, there was no time for photo op of close family with the newly weds. 

But the most disappointing was another incident. Lichie's in laws hosted a gathering two days after the wedding. It was close 7 hours road trip. We started in the right earnest. But a few minutes on Pumpki started getting car sick. She was sick a couple of times and then drifted off to sleep. Then Chiyaa got sick too! She was sick two to three times. Then they started taking turns and within 1.5 hours journey they had vomitted around 5 times each. Mummy thought it was not wise for us to continue since the children would get dehydrated and famished and asked for another vehicle which would ferry us home. She and papa continued since Lichie would be waiting for them. We were all miserable. Both K and I were eager to make the trip and had spent hours deciding clothes and ironing them. Lichie was eager to meet us and mummy and papa felt very bad at leaving us with the poorly kids. At home I tried researching means to get to Lichie's place by train. But it seemed too tedious. I was advised against it since the journey and return would really put  a strain on us. We had a perfect staycation at home. I have not been a lot in our Bhubaneswar house since the year we moved in to it after construction was when I moved to my hostel for graduation studies. So being in the house, taking care of the locking and water and lil nuances was a very different feeling. 

With the gathering at Lichie's in laws drawing to a close  wedding was officially over. I was not looking forward to the return. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

At home

Getting home was just the beginning. There was packing, meeting and greeting relatives, eating gorgeous food, dressing up in some really fine clothes and of course taking pictures - lots and lots of them. 

The wedding was on the 24th and there was an elaborate function at home on 23rd. Towards the afternoon we started hearing news that the next day was going to be a state wide strike aka band. We did not take it so seriously. The issue was not one which would take root in the state's capital. Towards evening another political party lent it's support to the strike. Things were getting intense . Papa and mummy started getting calls from people. 'What to do tomorrow', ' what are you planning on', 'how will you manage', ' is the wedding still on at the stated time ' were some of the absurd but troubling questions being asked. My parents came back with the same standard reply 'the wedding is happening' and 'we trust God, things will be taken care of'. There was a point in the evening where mummy broke down. She just felt too overwhelmed. We all rallied around her and she felt better after sometime. The day of rituals, catering to guests, packing food and sending off along with the anxiety of the strike took a toll on her. We had a ritual in the evening when we had to goto a goddess' temple to pray. The chanting and the prayers made us all feel better. There would be challenges but as the cliché goes 'we would overcome'. 

It was time to get into action. There was lot of arrangement around the food and the decoration and the car which would bring the groom. The car in charge  initially said that he was scared to get the car out. My cousins had to call a few well placed officials to ensure that post noon there would be no issues. Still the driver was a bit nervous to drive a decorated car through a main road. The owner of the tours service said that he would drive the car if all failed and he was not able to get a driver. Eventually on the day it was the owner who drove the car. The DJ confirmed that no matter what he would be at the venue with his equipment for dhinchak music.

 The estimated number of guests was 800. With the strike being fully functional the number dwindled to 500. We had to let go of some of the raw materials for food.  There was an advance of Rs 2000 which had been paid for a type of fish for a dish.   It would have been a risk going all the way to the vendor and getting the fish. So it was decided to bear the loss of the money and not go for the dish. The mutton was to be procured from a place called Salepur 350 kms from Bhubaneswar and brought to Cuttack around 30 kms from Bhubaneswar. The mutton vendor was not willing to come all the way to Cuttack so a few of my cousins had to drive to Salepur. A three hours journey followed by staying awake to ensure that there was no adulteration of the meat. Indian weddings are indeed a feat. Another prized item was prawns of which 30 kilos had been ordered. My uncle got in touch with a few restaurant owners he knew in case they would be able to get a few kilos. Eventually we were able to do away with 7 kilos. 

People were pulling all sorts of strings. People were involved to the hilt. All our paternal relatives started at 3 in the morning to make it to Bhubaneswar before 6 which was the start time of the strike. It was amazing to see their efforts. My sister and I  are not actively in touch with them. And they all came with their families and with such enthusiasm! I did not recognise a lot of them. But it was brilliant catching up with them. It was like old times when going and meeting them was an yearly activity. Cousins who were 5 years old were 20 now. Uncles whose marriage I had attended as a child were grandparents! It was exhilarating to meet all of them. 

A  distant  uncle came from Bahrain cos he could not resist the chance of seeing 'Lichie as a bride'. Another acquaintance who was papa 's student and later my teacher came from Canada.  A colleague of K's whose dad happened to be papa 's colleague caught up with us. It was just amazing! It made me feel so connected. It was buzzing. It was psychedelic. It was stimulating. It made me feel at home.

Getting home

My sister's marriage was something like an imaginary longitude in our family's timeline. Papa said he would come to the UK to visit us 'once Lichie got married'. My parents had plans with investments and places to visit 'once she got married'. I used to look at stuff in shops and say to myself 'I will get this for Lichie 's wedding'. One time mummy, the kids and I were walking through the markets and there was a street artist playing music. Chiyaa started dancing. Mummy said ' I hope to see them dancing like this for Lichie 's wedding'. I think I have made it amply clear how much we were looking forward to it. We hoped and prayed for the event. 

Once the alliance was fixed, we could not wait to make the trip to India. As I said in my earlier posts, we kind of defined everything as 'before India trip' and 'after India trip'. I had no interest in working and strangely neither did K. I kept thinking what would the kids wear for this occasion and that. My wardrobe was totally sorted by mummy and sis - more by my sister - every detail considered including makeup and accessories. Mummy had also laboriously worked on the children's dresses and stitched them herself. But she wasn't sure of the measurements and hence I had to get some backup dresses for them. K's attire was again taken care of by sissy. 

We packed carefully considering we had two young kids and a very long journey. We had a transit of 4 hours in Abu Dhabi. Then a domestic flight from Delhi to Bhubaneswar after a halt of 4 hours. We had anticipated that 4 hours would be adequate to finish immigration, claim baggage and rush for the next check in. But Republic Day celebrations played spoil sport. Our domestic  flight was advanced by 3 hours which would have made catching the connecting to Bhubaneswar impossible. The next flight was after 10 hours. We had no other way but to reschedule. Since it was a very long wait, again we were left with no option but to book a day's stay in the airport hotel. 

Thankfully we came to know this information a week in advance which made planning easier. The day we were to reach Bhubaneswar was the day of our 10th marriage anniversary. Mummy had kept a prayer at home since she had to offered to do so once Lichie's marriage was finalised. It was a coincidence that the prayer and the anniversary were on the same day though it made sense later. Now with us having to catch a later flight, we would not be in a position to attend the prayer. We spent the day of our 10th marriage anniversary in an airport hotel. 10 months ago I was planning an elaborate trip to mark a decade of wedded ... coexistence. Once K was out of job, I totally ditched that plan. He got his job and Lichie got hitched at the exact same time. So I looked forward to a grand family get together to mark the event. A week to the date and how luck played it's trick. We were to spend the day in a hotel.

We tried to pep ourselves by saying that we would visit places around. We had nearly 10+ hours of wait which would be adequate to step out to nearby Dwaraka. But on the day, we were beat. We reached the hotel and Pumpki and I were the first to hit the snooze button. K and Chiyaa had plans for the complimentary breakfast but a 30 mins wait proved too much for tired eyes. They too slept off. 5 hours later we woke up rejuvenated. Had an elaborate photo session in the hotel lobby and then made our way to the boarding gates. 

The mandatory rest did well for us. We were pepped up. Reaching Bhubaneswar after close to 36 hours seemed - well I dont have words. I can't express it. It's not like I am filled with jubilation. It's not like I get all emotional and exalted. I think the word is content. It's the same feeling as sitting down after standing for a long time. It's the same feeling as just closing the tired eyes for a minute. It's just feels good.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hope is a good thing

There are many  things one hopes for. As a child I hoped to do well in my 10th and engineering entrance exams and get a job at the end of graduation. These were pretty deterministic dreams with a lot depending on ones efforts to study and do well. 

As an adult I remember in the recent past hoping for a child. When we decided to have kids, every month was on tenterhooks. We hoped to be surprised and even a couple of months' wait seemed long and had us rushing to the doctors. When we were assured there was  ' nothing wrong' and 'these things take time' we hoped. Again the hope had scientific backing and there was nothing to panic. 

When K was searching for his new job last year, that was another phase of cautious hope fulness. We hoped he got a job soon. The failures disappointed us, but again we were hopeful that as he prepared and gave each interview with increasing confidence, it would be a matter of time. 

There was another thing  that I have hoped for a very long time. That my sister finds a life partner. Someone who would share her feelings and emotions and be a partner in the true sense of the term. This has been the most non-deterministic and the most fatalistic wish of all. Finding someone to spend an entire life time is daunting. Add to this our Indian culture which heavily involves parents, clans,.celestial bodies, 33 million or something dieties of the pantheon and most crucial the two people getting hitched - and you have a perfectly randomised lottery system. 

I chose the person I had to marry ( I do not call marriages as love or arranged - cos all marriage have love and all marriages are arranged). Though it eliminated some variables it had a fair share of maneuvering. My sister had not found anyone she liked. So the onus came on my parents. Well meaning relatives, family friends, neighbours - the usual suspects came with prospective alliances. That did not work out. Though we are a very scientific family we had to accommodate "horror scope" matching if the other party were insistent on it. Some alliances fell through these cracks. Other times there were more tangible and rational reasons - educational qualifications not matching up, employment of one which might force the other to quit or relocate which might not be easy, sometimes physical attributes like weight, height, hair ( yeah important things them!) while at other times the would be "partners" did not like each other. Time went on. There was a steady flow of proposals and rejections. Scarcely did we realise that it had been nearly 5 years in our unsuccessful search.

We tried the Internet  route. The newspaper route. There was a trickle. But no success. In the midst I had my two kids. Mom had to leave papa and sis to support me whenever the need arose. She was super pragmatic about it. She could not magic a marriage by just being around. She rather do something tangible. Last time when I went to India, I could see the desperation in my parents. Though Papa is a hugely scientific person, I saw him adhering to some advice from well meaning people  and doing temple trips on on some days. Desperate times! We kept hoping. We took solace in words like ' she would definitely get married', ' she would find someone great who is destined for her ',' she would get someone by the end of such and such time' and so on. We hoped. I am an optimist. I hoped for the event one day. But this was not a deterministic algorithm. There were too many variables. Too many unknowns. Too many possibilities. Too many vagaries. Bad things happen to good people too. What if it was not a happily ever after for my baby sister?

Forced and frustrated many times I tried to convince her for alliances she did not have her heart into. I gave arguments like 'it's all an adjustment game end of the day', ' nothing really matters' and many such abominable platitudes. Acquaintances  gave examples of girls who had gone for one criteria over another  and having a failed marriage. There were snide comments that there was not enough 'effort' on our part to get her wedded. My parents were not compromising. But there were moments of frustration on their part too. It did not help that all her batch mates were married. It definitely did not help that cousins younger than her were getting married. But what could one do?

One could hope. 

Mummy was totally dismissive when an alliance came and the mother of the boy said that the horoscopes had matched. *rolls eyes* Mummy was starting to UK in a day and gave the lady my sister's number. There had been many such calls and it was something like a business as usual step. Mummy started to the UK and one fine day I tried calling my sister and her number was engaged for a very long time. She later said that she had been talking to the guy. I gingerly asked how did go. To which her reply was ' as usual.' They had decided to meet over the next few weeks. She had had many such interactions. There was no reason to get our hopes up. After  a couple of weeks when the boy's mom called saying that he really liked my sister - it was not a big surprise. There had been such instances before. The surprise was my sister had called a few minutes prior stating that she was OK to proceed with the alliance. Thus, the people who really were needed to make the decision had made the choice. 

There were no parental pressures, no brain washing, no coercion. The adults had chosen. In fact the developments were so stunning that it seemed to be happening to someone else. All the sooth sayers' words, all those horror stories, all the happily ever after stories - nothing made sense. It was all a rumble. What shone to me was the WhatsApp status message my sister had kept for a very long time ' have a little faith'. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New year shew year

What a start to the year it has been! And this better not be the trend. Pumpki had a bad case of cold and fever around mid December. Her appetite was gone and she was miserable. Thankfully since Chiyaa was around for the Christmas holidays she was a bit entertained. 

I had a redness in my right eye on Christmas Eve. There was no ache or pain so I ignored it. But 3 days shy of year end, the eye was very sensitive to light. I went to the local doctor and he was very concerned about the redness, the photo sensitivity and the size of the pupil which was smaller than the healthy eye. He referred me to the eye doctors and I had to rush to the main hospital. 

Hospitals here are in a state of their own. It was a long wait. Then there were some pretty intrusive checks on the eye. It was Pumpki 's birthday and here I was in a hospital. I felt like rushing home and cuddling her. But in  a way it seemed a bit like divine coincidence. Two years ago I was in the same hospital for her birth! And look here. Life has a strange way of coming around and surprising you!

The doctor was not able to diagnose the cause and ordered a host of blood tests. She consulted a senior and I could hear terms like scleritis, sarcoidosis, auto immune. And all the time I felt ' yayyyyy I know those terms. I have seen House :P' 

I was to come back for the reports and further checks a week later. In the interim I was on steroids and pain killers. 

The medicines seemed to work like a charm. We had a very enjoyable 29th and 30th. New year's eve was very good when we managed to find a play area where the kids went crazy. I could not have asked for a better end to the year.

But I definitely could have asked for a better start. I woke on 1st with a raging fever. I was feeling funny the night before and had promptly popped a paracetamol. The fever OMG. It sent shivers down my body and I could barely stand up. I felt very bad leaving the kids and taking a nap. But I had to get my strength up since a nearly full work week stretched ahead. 

I popped pills like crazy. The fever would go down only to come back again. Day 3 the occurrence of fever was over but my head hurt like crazy and my nose and throat was totally blocked. It is very easy to ignore the nose on a good day. When cold and flu come calling, boy we realise the importance of those two nostrils. Breathing through the mouth with the backs of the throat getting dry is not a pleasant feeling at all. The headaches were so bad I used to wake up and night with it. It was horrendous.

Day 6 and I definitely felt better. Someone else did not. This time it was Chiyaa. We have a travel to India in a week. So I promptly kept her off school. I allowed her to rest and recuperate at home before the condition aggravated. She still has a cold but she should hopefully be healthy in time for the travel. 

In other news, Pumpki started day care every alternate day. She cries when I drop her, she is crying when I pick her up. But she naps and she will hopefully settle down. For some things we have to wait for time to even things out. 

I have been to work once and intend to go tomorrow. It is not that cumbersome given that I am using private taxis. They cost money but they are convenient. Once in a while they are affordable but to get to a strict working pattern I need to think of sustainable means of transport. This trip to India is a watershed. We have  to take stock of things again once we are back. February is more like the January this year while January seems like..... well January. So this year we have two Januarys. :(

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rounding up

The year ends today. What a year it has been! The same time last year I was having the jitters about going back to work after a years maternity break. I started nervously. A year is a long time. The 10 mins walk to the train station from home in the dark winter morning seemed terrifying to a nervous person like me.( I am nervous about many things.  Anti socials grabbing my handbag. Someone shoving me and running away. Missing the train. Getting on the wrong train.) But it all went swimmingly. Work kicked off and I was engaged in some really fruitful projects. I also managed to retain my job through a redundancy cycle. The year turned around a full circle. My four hour journey one way from Ipswich to Leeds turned to a 40 minutes as we ended up retuning to Leeds. 

We had landed in Leeds thanks to K's assignment. We left Leeds because of his change of project. We ended back in Leeds due to a voluntary decision to accept a job here. A job which came after a four months long struggle. Trust me struggling is not a cup of K's tea. He works hard but breaking the shackles of 13 years of employment for something new was definitely new, challenging and frustrating. He had ventured towards something he had never done. Coupled with it was a change of career path. It was very daunting and very unnerving. By God's grace we made through the phase and it was going to be Leeds all over again. 

The idea of movement back to Leeds made me realise how wonderful Ipswich was! It was the perfect honeymoon. Our house was in a picturesque locale. The school was fantastic. I cannot vouch enough for the amazing swimming and karate classes Chiyaa went to. Pumpki 's would be daycare was conveniently located within the premises of Chiyaa 's school. I had a state of the art- the best I have seen in my years in UK - gym within 10 mins walk. I hugely enjoyed some real endorphin inducing gym sessions. And I came across some very very good people. I connected, forged friendships, enjoyed to the hilt our quaint stay in Ipswich. The rain hater in me loved it even more because East Anglia is one of the driest regions of the UK. What I enjoyed the most was WORKING from HOME. I loved it loved it loved it. I loved the lack of distraction of interacting with people. I loved the seclusion. I loved the lack of decision of 'what do I wear today'. I loved my 'office corner' and working away in oblivion and coming to Leeds once a month to let people know that I existed. Now that we have moved back the facet that rattles me most is the hidden demand by my supervisor to come in to work more frequently. I am hating the idea of day after tomorrow when I have to entertain the idea of going into work more often. It borderline depresses me. But we got to do what we got to do. I hope the routine will kick in sooner rather than later. 

Working from home came with added benefit of perfect balance for a working mom. I thoroughly enjoyed being a mom this year. Yeah you heard me right. My kids are growing. And being someone who looks forward to the future rather than sighing with nostalgia ( yeah I do that too once in a while), I enjoyed the independence of my kids. Now we are able to enjoy activities together rather than worrying about logistics. Travels are getting easier. Even a small  activity like going to the pool which would otherwise be back breaking is becoming an enjoyable experience. The kids are bonding wonderfully too. They fight savagely over the same toys. They console each other when one gets upset. They crawl onto my lap and snuggle like puppies. I love every bit of it. 

In the extended family there was a much awaited wedding. And after 10 years next year there will be another wedding in our family as my sister will tie the knot. The year will start with a bang. I am nervously excited about what will pan out. I hope we will have summery summers, crisp autumns and bright winters. I hope the sine wave of our lives over the next year is manageable crests and troughs. I hope the new year comes with enough good and bad and enough humility and strength to cope through either.

Here is wishing each and every one a very happy new year!

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