Wild things…

First snow of the season in 2012! The boy and the dog couldn’t wait to get outside. The boy bundled up and called the dog to follow. I captured two happy souls and some happy moments in my camera!

Playing attack
Advantage Ryan
Who's taller?
You give up, Ryan?
Tag, you are 'it'!
I need those gloves!

Ryan believes Sage will outlive him. He will designate somebody to take care of Sage when his time finally comes. We tried to tell him, dogs don’t live that long. The thought brought tears, so we let it rest. I hope when he is a grown man, looking back upon his childhood, he will remember these happy times he spent with a big, yellow dog by his side.


The foodie

I spend a considerable part of my day planning meals for my family (read my spouse). Yes, I admit that, even at the cost of being labeled domesticated. I can even use that as an excuse for not working outside the house. If my husband was slightly easier to cook for, I would be out there pursuing my career, minting money. Alright, maybe not, but that is a nice thought. What I am trying to say is, Sean has become increasingly difficult to cook for. He calls himself a vegetarian, which is fine, I can live with that ONLY IF HE ATE VEGETABLES!!!!! The list of vegetables that he doesn’t ‘love’ is quite long. It is easier to cite what he eats than what he doesn’t. But I am not going to go into that. I think of nutrition, protein intake etc for the family, consider my options, which are very limited and then plan a dinner. It is no easy task, believe me when I say that.  Also, please don’t forget I am inherently lazy, so  I don’t cook meat or fish for the children or myself. We get our protein mainly from different kinds of beans and lentils.

When we are invited to a dinner, I groan inwardly. Don’t get me wrong, I love to socialize and I am not the one to pass up a free meal. I cringe because I have to do the embarrassing and unpleasant task of informing the host that Sean is a vegetarian and they will have to think of vegetarian menu for him. To be fair to him, he doesn’t want any fuss made over it. He says he can just eat salad but I don’t like to see him nibbling on rabbit food all night. So it is really me who is the trouble maker here. Before I go out to the dinner, I tell my kids to mind their manners and then turn to my husband and say, “Please eat whatever is offered!” Why I say that to him? This is why…

In my first year in the United States, I volunteered as an English teacher in Hispanic Apostolate. I made some wonderful friends. One lovely Peruvian woman invited Sean and I to her house for dinner. Her family was so gracious, the house was beautiful, we had a great conversation. They had planned some exotic cocktails for us but we are non drinkers, so we declined the hard drinks and stuck with water. I believe they were slightly disappointed. After a fantastic conversation about Sean’s trip to Peru, his years in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, my experience in US, their experience as immigrants in this country, we were invited to sit at the table. That is when things started to go wrong, embarrassingly wrong. Sean is allergic to mangoes and  he doesn’t eat shellfish because they are bottom feeders. The first course served was a delicious salad piled high with mangoes. Mangoes are such a delicacy, of course, only if you are not allergic to them. Sean did his best to continue inane conversation so the hosts wouldn’t notice he was skipping the first course. Didn’t work. They were very attentive, asked him why his plate was empty and poor Sean had to admit he was allergic to mangoes. Oh, the mortification! But more followed. The main course was a delectable dish made of…….scallops, shrimp, mussels, bottom feeders, delicious, super yummy bottom feeders. My husband doesn’t touch those. I felt my face turning red. Sean tried even harder to continue conversation, speak Spanish, whatever to keep them from noticing his plate. He piled on the rice on his plate and kept eating plain rice, but the family noticed. Let it be noted he doesn’t touch white rice because they are empty calories.  Again, he had to admit he didn’t eat shellfish. I kept my eyes on the food, simmering in misdirected anger against Sean for putting me through this. My friend jumped up, got a steak out from the fridge and put the steak on the grill. A steak, for my vegetarian husband!!! HELP!!! Sean did eat a little meat those days, very little. I kicked him hard under the table  mainly to vent my anger and also to make sure he didn’t blurt out that he didn’t eat steak. We waited a while for the steak to cook and be brought to him. He ate it, rather faked it. The entrée was cleared, it was time for dessert. Dessert was  a mousse cake – mango mousse cake. I don’t know who was more embarrassed that day, the gracious, wonderful hosts or us. I ate so much to compensate that I felt bloated the entire car ride back home. That may have been ONE of the reasons I didn’t say a single word to my newly wed husband during that car ride, who kept glancing at my stern profile nervously.

If you ask Sean about his eating habit he will say “Oh I am so easy to feed, just give some dal (lentils) and alu (potatoes) and I am happy!” Seriously! Just don’t ask my vegetarian foodie what vegetable he eats, that question might make him a little uncomfortable!

I am brown and I smell of chocolate chip cookies.

The golden skinned children, as we call them.

Sahana was born to a brown mom and a white dad in New Delhi with light skin, brown eyes and brown hair. In parks and play grounds, well-meaning people cooed over the baby, turned to  me, the brown mom and asked if I was the ayah (nanny). I was indignant the first couple of  times, ‘No, I am her MOTHER!’ Once the novelty of being the first time mom wore off, I found it humorous and replied, ‘I am her ayah and mother rolled into one!” I am not sure children notice the color of skin much, but I distinctly remember the day Sahana looked at me with wonder and said “Mom, you are brown!!!” She was close to three and I honestly think that was the first time she noticed my color being different from her.  Before we had children, Sean and I sometimes wondered how our children will feel about being of mixed race because children desperately needed to belong. Sahana had no problem, whatsoever. We told her she was special since she belonged to two countries and she truly believed us. Fluent in Hindi, Bengali and English, she mingled with her Indian friends and her American family and friends with equal ease. In fact, she loves to be different, loves to be noticed. In a Ravens (football team) pep rally, she  was the single brave soul who dared to wear the jersey of the nemesis, Patriots (a rival football team) and sit  right in front to be noticed. To this day, she revels in her uniqueness at having two ethnicities, Irish American and Indian. As a little girl, she boasted to anybody who would listen, “I am half American and half Indian”! Later, when she learnt percentage, that changed to “I am 30 percent American and 70 percent Indian because I was born there!”

Young Ryan was very different. He was born in the United States. He didn’t feel he needed to belong to two countries. He wanted to be like most of his preschool friends, white and American. He loved his Indian mom but denied his Indian heritage. In fact, he got angry if we pointed out that he was darker than his Caucasian friends.  He noticed the difference in our colors early on. He always identified as mommy and Sahana being from India, while daddy and he were from America. Unlike his sister, he didn’t want to stand out, didn’t want to be different, he just wanted to blend in. I felt sorry for him and it would be a lie if I said I didn’t feel bad about his attitude towards part of his heritage. I noticed a gradual change in his outlook towards his ethnicity when he went to kindergarten. Slowly he started to acknowledge his difference from his other white friends and felt good about it. Two things helped, school and our dog! We are fortunate to live in a very diverse community. Once he went to school, he befriended children from India, Pakistan, Korea, China. School talked about our differences, read cool books on how wonderful it was to be different, how special. That helped. He started telling people he had not one, but two countries. Our lab mix, Sage helped as well. Ryan considers Sage his dog brother and shares a wonderful connection with him. Ryan, a die hard Ravens fan sometimes roots for the arch rival Steelers, when they are not playing the Ravens. Reason? Sage was born in Pennsylvania, (Steelers are a football team from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania). A Ravens fan rooting for Steelers, that, my friends, is true love! If Sage is a mix then it is OK for Ryan to be a mix too. Now he is proud to call himself a mutt like Sage. I do tell him he doesn’t have to go that far but….

Sometimes, when I go to have lunch with Ryan in his school, his little friends pipe up with the refreshing innocence of a six-year-old, “Are you Ryan’s mother? But his color is different than yours!” So now he introduces me to his friends this way, “Oh this is my mom, she is brown because she is from India. And I am part Indian too, but I am not brown because my dad is from Boston!” The other 6-year-old he talks to, generally gives us a blank stare and says “Do you want to play ball?”

The cutest thing both my kids say to me is “Mom, your color is brown and you smell of chocolate all the time. In fact, you smell like chocolate chip cookies!” I like the sound of that….. a lot. Maybe, just maybe I can bottle this chocolate chip fragrance and sell it to make some dough? Hmmmm….let me think about that one!

Dating a white guy.

I started dating my “white” husband in mid nineties in a very parochial (I think) place called Kolkata, India. A white man with a brown woman was a rare sight in those days in my city so we got our fair share of snide comments and stares, bumping-into-telephone-pole kind of stares. We roamed the streets of Kolkata, the gardens of the National Library, the campus of my university, exchanging ideas and learning about our vastly different cultures in the musty yet magical Kolkata evenings. We even sat on the grounds of the infamous Victoria Memorial (supposedly anti-social activity is rampant there in the evenings), till the ‘peace keepers’ felt we were disturbing the sensitive morality of the city by sitting next to each other and drove us away, along with other amorous couples. I believe, it was there that I was called a “lady of the night” keeping company of a white man. I have to defend my earlier statement of Kolkata being extremely parochial here, where ever we went, we met a relative, a friend or an acquaintance of mine. And since I was sneaking out to meet my boyfriend, that was a ‘slight’ inconvenience.  I don’t even want to talk about what happened when one of my aunts saw me walking down the street with Sean, holding hands.

Our romance survived all the surreptitious rendezvous, or in other words, sneaking around and we decided to take the plunge. My wedding was the first Catholic mass I ever attended. Growing up, I had dreamed of getting married in a white wedding dress, they looked so ethereal and beautiful in movies. Yet when the time and opportunity came to get married in one, I opted to wear a sari. I got married in Catholic ceremony, wearing a golden and black sari,  Sean looked dashing in a tux. After the homily, the priest started giving the communion. I followed Sean’s lead through out the entire mass, like a two step dance routine. I kneeled when he did, stood up when he did, sat when he sat. So when he extended his hand to recieve the communion, I did the same. I am pretty sure Sean  pinched me then, to deter my enthusiasm, although he denies it now. Instead of giving me Communion,  the embarrassed priest put his hand on my head and blessed me. I was slightly miffed as I went through the rest of the ceremony.

Catholic wedding.

It was important to Sean to incorporate some Hindu traditions along with the Catholic. For him our marriage was not just a union of two people but also a union of two cultures and two religions. He wanted to know “what  can we do that is a Hindu wedding ritual”? How would I know? My focus in a Hindu wedding was always on fun, frolic and food. Did I ever pay attention to the rituals?   So we did the very basic sindur ceremony where the bridegroom puts vermillion powder on the bride’s forehead, after we exchanged rings. I was just ecstatically happy to sign the marriage certificate and be done with it, but the rituals, both Catholic and Hindu, were important and meaningful to my husband, I respected that. Even the euphoria of marrying the sweetest guy didn’t take away the feeling of being slighted by the priest. I asked Sean why the heck was I denied the bread that everyone got, that too on my own wedding! That was NOT a nice way to treat a bride! He explained I had to be a Catholic to receive the body of Christ. I felt discriminated against, but let it slide. Later, when we went to enter the Temple of Jagannath in Puri, in India, Sean was denied entry for being a non-Hindu, I was appalled again. How can one be kept out from the house of God?

We decided to go to Cyprus and Israel for our honeymoon. Cyprus, because Sean had a meeting there, and Israel, because we felt it would be symbolic to go to a place where a new religion began, like our new relationship. Getting into Cyprus was easy, those island people were pretty laid back about the difference in the skin color between my husband and I. But Israel? Oh, we confused them. Those young immigration officers weren’t sure we were telling the truth when we said we were husband and wife. I have no idea why our relationship  would  matter to Israeli immigration, anyway! First, here was a brown woman and a white man, who claimed they were married, second, my passport said my maiden name and third, we didn’t carry our marriage certificate. They detained us for more than three hours along with some unfortunate Palestinian travelers, and asked us the same questions again and again, “Who is he to you?” and “Who is she to you?” “Why did you choose to layover in so and so place?” etc etc. It went on and on, till Sean smiled and said, “No matter how many times you ask, the answer is not going to change, she is my wife, I am her husband, we are here for our honeymoon. And why we chose to fly the way we did? Because we got a better deal with the airlines. Do you have any other ideas?” Finally, they let us go with the warning that we should stay in Israel and not stray into the West Bank.  We, of course, promptly forgot the advice of not straying into West Bank, Sean’s organization has an office in Ramallah which we visited along with several other places.

Painted white at our Indian wedding.

A year after our Catholic wedding, we went back to India to have an Indian wedding. My country, I am sad to say,  has a white skin fetish. Abiding by ‘the whiter the better’ rule, women spend a fortune on fairness creams and lotions to lighten their skin tone. Being dark is akin to being ugly, in most cases. When the beauty parlors do bridal make up, they lather foundation on the face of the bride. The face and neck turn very white while the other exposed body parts remain the original skin color, brown mainly. The same was done to me. Sean saw me at the reception hall and exclaimed, ‘What have they done to you? If I wanted to marry a white woman, I would have found one in the US!’ Between smiling and greeting over three hundred people I reproached my husband for reverse discrimination. What does skin color matter, white or brown, he is head over heels in love with me for my inner beauty and he better remember that!

We had our share of misunderstandings mainly due to our cultural differences. My poor husband, trying to be romantic (????) referred to me as “chick” one day and I let him have it! I thought the word was insulting and demeaning, to him it was complimentary. He didn’t know what hit him. Finally, when he figured out what caused this outburst he burst out laughing. Chick was supposedly a cute endearing term that was meant to convey the woman is young, attractive….whatever!  There were others, I didn’t get the humor of Saturday Night Live, or Jerry Seinfeld for that matter. And when he said, “Are you bringing your pocketbook?” I gave him a blank stare. What in the world is a pocket book?  He didn’t understand my Indian English and phrases sometimes, especially when I used phrases like “Come on, don’t give me that cock and bull story!” “Cock and what?????”

Most of the times we laughed about it and learned about each other’s culture. Sometimes we got into fights and argued about who is right.  At the expense of sounding like a Fisher Price advertisement, we literally laughed, learned and grew together.  And then came our golden skinned children….How they dealt with their ethnicity is another story. Sort of a sequel to this one.

Three day weekends

Do you remember in one of my earlier posts I described Sean as funny, loving yet lacking in culinary expertise? If my husband ever wrote a blog about me, he would probably write ‘she is funny, loving, a delightful woman but lacking in an eye for detail, when it comes to cleaning.’ At least I hope he will say those nice words before the critisicm, just like I did for him.

Sean is a man of many words and a man of even more actions. He doesn’t like to sit still. If he does sit still at a party, or a social gathering, he has this very embarrasing habit of falling asleep. On these occasions, I make it a point to sit next to him, just to give him a vicious nudge from time to time, to keep him awake and focussed on the conversation. Anyway, my workaholic husband doesn’t take it easy on our three day weekends. My house shines and sparkles after he has had a go at it. This weekend was particularly good since the husband and the kids cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for me. The good man did loads and loads of laundry, cleaned the floors, took off the stove exhaust and cleaned the dirt and grime! Goodness, just discovered he organized my freezer! Help!! Can’t find the green beans. I am lost without my controlled chaos. Anyway, what did I do this weekend? I reigned over everybody like a queen, read books, wrote blogs, checked mail and Facebook, photographed the kids and the dog. In a nutshell, didn’t lift a finger to help my family. When I tried, out of guilt, I was shooed out of the kitchen. Ok then, twist my arm, folks.

My husband travels quite a bit. When I say to my mommy friends, ‘Yeah, Sean is gone for 10 days’, they say, ‘How fun. Now you won’t have dirty clothes and dirty towels on the floor, no food on your couch. You have complete control over your house for 10 days!’ Most of the times I faithfully admit, he is the picker upper in the family. Chances are he will come back and find dirty towels and clothes on the floor (I am just saying, I am really not that bad), they give me a look which conveys ‘Girl, you don’t know how lucky you are!’ Very rarely, when I am feeling particularly grumpy and tired for doing the ‘single parent’ thing for a while, I stay quiet and let them get false impressions, just out of spite.

Don’t get me wrong, I do keep my house clean. As long as you don’t look closely at the corners and under the beds when you come to visit. Over three-day weekends, Sean takes those dreaded closer looks and gets busy. It is my way of letting him feel indispensable, really. Also to keep him awake during the day with a lot of action. So after this 3 day weekend, I am sitting happily in a very clean, shiny house. Right after I publish this I am going to check how much can I let it slide before another three-day weekend comes around. Oh, darn! Where did he put the calendar now?

Thank goodness for the “accident”!

The breeders had a “The Lady and the Tramp” moment. Their beautiful, purebred, shiny black labrador retriever did the unthinkable. She got out and fell in love with the neighbor’s sheep dog of insignificant repute. And the accident happened. Thank goodness, since one of those accidents came to our house and moved straight into our heart. We named the “accident”  Sage.

Sage at 8 weeks.
I was told I shouldn't snoop around but you never know, I may find treats.
All that play is hard work.
The human pups were totally faking it.
He uses me as a pillow sometimes. I love it.
Homework helper.
All grown up at age 2

We foolishly committed to getting Sahana a dog when she was 10. Oh, we heard all the “I will take care of it, feed it, walk it. You don’t have to do a thing!” We didn’t believe her for a minute. But we are gullible, indulgent parents, we gave in. Sahana, predictably, doesn’t feed him, doesn’t walk him or doesn’t take care of him, but she loves him with all her heart. Mom and dad, the suckers, are fine with that. Sage does many jobs in our house. Oh no, not ‘fetch the paper’, ‘open the door’ kind of jobs. He doesn’t do any of that. He does make himself available to Sahana when she suffers from her momentary preteen angst. She swears, stroking Sage gently, helps her calm down. He sits by Ryan’s feet when he reads, he listens yet doesn’t offer any criticism. He makes Sean feel like the most special man on earth when he returns from work (I know that’s my job, but a little word ‘delegation’)! For me? He is my sounding board. I talk to him all day, ask his opinion on things. He agrees with me, ON EVERYTHING! Never talks back, which is so refreshing! Oh goodness, did I just confess I talk to my dog all day? I am sharing much more than what’s good for me. Let’s say I think aloud, Sage just happens to be in the vicinity. Bottom line, all four of us agree, thank goodness for the “accident.”

A moment of silence

I opened my front door to let the children in the other evening when I felt a pinkish golden light wash over me. In fact, the whole world had taken on a hue of reddish gold. A bare, winter landscape had become a scene that a painter would give anything to paint. The trees had lost their natural splendor, yet their silhouette against the backdrop of the radiant, amber sky, made the scene surreal. Seeing my silent, upturned face, both the children turned around. The three of us stood there, at our front door, in complete silence for a few minutes. Then Ryan said in a hushed whisper, ‘Mom, take a picture!’ The moment of awe that I shared with my two children will be etched in my mind forever, even after they have flown from the nest. I am thankful to the universe for this  glimpse of beauty that we shared that evening. The picture of the sunset is beautiful indeed, but the picture that I have in my mind’s eye, of two little faces mesmerized, humbled by the inexplicable beauty of the world that they are going to inherit one day, is invaluabe. That is my treasure.

Illuminating the world one last time before the day is done.

Behave, Mama!

Parenthood is a great tool for self-help, I discovered. Do you believe our children make us behave better? I think they do. Gee, now that I think about it, time to clean out the pile high self-help books on my bed side table! Yes, I need a lot of help. Instead of those books, I simply use my children to get my act together. They seem to be a reflection of how we think, feel and act, in their formative years, so I watch my step. Like any of my fellow humans, I am full of follies, (really wish I could say otherwise)! I have made, and sometimes still do, terrible choices. Well, that’s exaggerating a bit, not terrible, terrible, but bad choices.  Spoke harsh words, been mean and selfish! But after the two little humans came in my life, I have felt the need to change, for the better.

I am pretty strict when it comes to academics, I want the children to get straight A’s, B’s are tolerated but not appreciated, C’s… now that’s trouble. I push my kids to try harder in whatever they do and I want them to grow up thinking “I gave it my best shot”! I have read Amy Chua’s ‘The Battle Hymn of the Tiger mother’, while I can’t be a parent like her, I understand where she comes from and agree with her to some extent about pushing children to reach their potential. But my primary goal, is to see them grow up as decent humans with compassion, love and respect for others. Fortunately my partner shares the same aspirations for them. Since two pairs of little eyes are constantly monitoring our every move and emulating our every action, we feel we need to clean up our act. So I eat my veggies, tell the truth, try hard not to be judgmental. Help myself while I help them, at the same time. A few years ago, it was scary to see Sahana parroting what I said, forming opinions on things based on mine. Another me? Uughhhhhh, I don’t think the world can handle that! But not to fear, she is developing a cool, unique identity of her own, slowly yet steadily. Ryan still walks in his father’s footsteps, daddy can do no wrong in his eyes. So I glare at poor Sean when he makes fun of broccoli at dinner table, “Oh, we are eating trees today!” or says ‘Dumb, dumb,dumb!’ while watching football. Hate that word. Oh, we don’t use the H word in our house, we say ‘strongly dislike’ instead. And when my kids say ‘Can we say the S word in this case (I think we were discussing the genocide in Rwanda, when Ryan asked this question)?’ They mean STUPID. On retrospect, I should have let them use a much harsher word in that particular case. They are not allowed to say “I am bored!” either. Don’t tolerate that. There are books, tons of them, in the house. Pick up one. There is a yard outside the house, bats and balls, bikes and scooters, go play outside, create your own fun, but don’t say you are bored! That is my stand. Do you feel stifled? I feel a wee bit that way just writing these things. Whatever happened to self-expression? Maybe I should ease up a bit! I sometimes worry that my kids will only eat Mcdonald’s  and drink teeth-decaying soda when they go to college. By the way, I am glad to report that when I read this particular bit to Ryan, he vehemently protested, “Never, I am not going to eat that stuff!” Yessss, with a fist pump in the air! They are soda and Mcdonald’s deprived. They will probably use obscenities a lot too, while talking to their friends (maybe they do now, I don’t know) just to get it out of their systems.

My mother swears I gave her enough grief to last for a lifetime when it came to eating.  Now, I eat everything on my plate and DO NOT balk at the idea of eating steamed brussel sprouts like I used to! My kids won’t go to that extent but they are easy when it comes to food. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when all I want to do is guzzle soda, eat ice cream for lunch and candy for dinner. But a tiny voice tells me “little people watching” (oh, dear!) and I reach for a granola bar for snack. But please don’t get the idea that we don’t eat ice cream and candy in our house, we do, only occasionally. I am not fond of exercising, give me a book and a couch any day. But I haul my unwilling self to the gym to get rid of those sneaky, extra calories, as well as frustration, crankiness, so I can be somewhat pleasant when I remind them for the eighteenth time that they need to get their swim bags and get in the car!!!! I want to be there for them, healthy and active, to see them grow up. So I do my part.

I try my best to be honest and truthful with them and give them straight answers so they will continue to confide in me and ask me questions instead of taking them to the playground. I bend the truth sometimes though, especially when my six-year-old sings “I am sexy and I know it” at the top of his lungs and asks “Mom, what does sexy mean?” in the same high pitch voice, in a crowded supermarket. I mumble something like “attractive” and hope the interrogation would stop there. I try hard not to be judgmental, which, unfortunately, is my nature, so my children would learn to give people a second chance before jumping to conclusions.  These two also taught me the important lessons of selflessness and unconditional love. I finally learnt to put others before me. Being an only child and a pampered spouse, I was selfish, before these two came along.

Yet, I don’t want to give them the impression that I am perfect. I am asked often, “Did you like doing homework?” The answer is no, not always. I had some favorite subjects, and some I didn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole. I want them to see me with my imperfections. When Sahana was younger, she asked me with awe “Mom, you are perfect. Do you ever make mistakes?” That worried me. That kind of perception of me is a burden for both of us. First, that is so far from the truth, and second, she will never relate to me if she saw me as perfect. I confessed my vices (ouch, that’s a strong word), I am inherently lazy, impatient, procrastinator. I should be cleaning the house right now, instead of writing a blog, just to give you an example. There is a lot of room for improvement. I told her I was still learning to be a good person and trying to overcome my weaknesses. Sometimes I can, and other times I fail but I promise to keep trying. She said she wanted to grow up just like me. The best compliment I ever got. I am pretty sure that has changed, she doesn’t view me in the same light at age twelve! Children often see their parents as infallible, yet when they get older and see their parents flawed like any other, there is a tremendous sense of let down. That is something I don’t want Sahana and Ryan to experience.

I do think parenting helps us improve. If we act the way we want our children to behave, we will end up being better people. The daunting responsibility of nurturing the body, mind and soul of young humans is enough to make us walk the line. When we falter, we feel the piercing gaze of those little eyes, we apologize and get back to trying. Hey, that’s another thing I learned to do post kids, say sorry when I make a mistake. I used to be obstinate and willful. I don’t know what my spouse will say about that, if you ask him, so please don’t ask! Just take my word for it.

First time…

What a simple thing, going up a ladder! Most of us won’t get excited about climbing up one, but not this young man. After waiting all his life, six long years, he was finally granted the permission to go up the ladder and hand his dad the christmas lights. The climb, an ordinary act for many, became so much more than that, for this child. The thrill of doing something for the first time, the sense of adventure, anicipation of what awaits at the top, the feeling of importance at being considered a big boy –  all  reflected on his face. It is a forward progression in his young life. For the first time, instead of the usual caution words, ‘be careful, don’t fall’, he was asked to do something dangerous and exciting . A little man, with responsibilities. It is a rite of passage for him. He knows it, his face shows it.

Who you calling ‘domesticated’?

I am not proud to admit that I didn’t know how to cook an egg, or anything for that matter, till I was in my late twenties. Since I believe in complete honesty, when Sean proposed to me, I came clean ‘just so you know, I can’t cook or clean’. In other words, don’t have any expectations of a clean hearth and home-cooked meals at the end of the day. Without missing a beat, he said, ‘That’s fine. I am not looking for a house keeper, I want a wife!’ Good answer!

I gave him four conditions before marriage. A prenup of sorts, if you will. He needed to buy me a pillow (the guy thinks pillows are evil incarnates for neck bones, he still doesn’t use one) an apartment with a balcony, salt and sugar in the pantry (he is one of those fanatics who tries to keep salt and sugar out of his diet, not normal, I say) and take me out to dinner at least four times a week. I was partly kidding, I would have married him anyway! But the good man took me seriously and tried to meet my requirements. He only failed to procure an apartment with balconies, our first apartment was on the fifteenth floor with big, wall to wall glass windows. I loved it.

True to his words, he came home from work and cooked dinner for both of
us while I stood beside him, enchanting him with my mesmerizing company! OK, I may have chopped a tomato or two… badly. Over the weekends he vacuumed, did the laundry. And on top of that, we went out to eat at least four times a week. Things were going great. There was one little problem, though. My husband is a delightful man, he is funny, loving, super smart but somewhat lacking in culinary repertoire. Our mornings started with oatmeal, he made tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and the same type of pasta every evening. Now that I think of it, it might have been a ploy to get me into the thick of things! Did I say he is super smart? After a few months of eating out, my palate craved for some comfort food, yet repelled at the thought of oatmeal, tuna fish and pasta……repeat. Tentatively, I went to an Indian grocery store and bought some dal (lentil) and basmati rice. Called home to acquire culinary knowledge, finally armed with wisdom from far away India, I put one cup of rice, two cups of water on the stove and watched with awe as the rice changed shape and size. That doesn’t quite portray me in a very good light, does it? But you’ve got to admire the honesty. I cooked the dal too, with simplest of ingredients. Then waited for my husband to come home. He went overboard with the praise. Another ploy, to push me in the direction of domesticity, methinks. But I will pretend his jubilation was genuine!

Things started to change from then on. Slowly but steadily, I learnt to cook. After a lot of trials and errors, I could produce a half decent meal, but nothing to write home about, which, by the way, I didn’t. As I said earlier, those were not my crowning glory days. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t learnt to do these domestic chores. I congratulated my mother-in-law on raising her son well, while I gnashed my teeth at my own parents for not making me cook and clean at home. Gotta blame someone!!! I also vouched my kids will be totally self-sufficient by age 5!

I grew up in a middle class home in India where I was expected to go to school, do my homework, practice my music and then study some more. Cooking, cleaning, laundry was done by domestic help. I grew up with the mantra that I had to finish my education, a master’s degree at the very least, get a job and then marry, in that order. That’s exactly what I did, the only difference being, I ended up marrying a non-Indian, and leaving the land of domestic help! That wasn’t in the plans, but hey, such is life….unpredictable. And people have done worse for love!

After 15 years and two kids, I am now a pro! You should me see whizzing around the kitchen, helping Sahana with a math problem, listening to Ryan read, and whipping up a meal, all at the same time. Talk about multi tasking. The cleaning….well, one can’t be good at everything! I am a complete suburban, swimming mom (not soccer mom anymore, kid gave up soccer). I cook casseroles, bake cookies from scratch, mow the lawn, dress in sweats, and drive a minivan! You can’t get more suburban than that! Yet, the other day, when a friend said ‘Gosh, you are so domesticated’ after hearing I baked a cookie cake for Ryan’s birthday, it stung! Growing up, my parents aspired me to be someone, do something worthwhile. I truly believe I am doing something worthwhile, being home for the children. Yet when some one puts a label on it, domesticated, I don’t quite love the sound of it. Before we had children, my husband and I decided one of us would stay home and be the primary care giver. He really wanted to be the one, but he was making so much more money than me. Poor guy had to keep his job, while I quit mine. Started a job that required commitment 24/7! After hearing my dilemma with the word
‘domesticated’ Sean said he would love to be called that, can he please stay home and be domesticated while I brought the bacon home? The idea of putting make-up on every morning and leaving my spouse with the kids and dirty dishes sounded pretty appealing for a while, then the memory of oatmeal, tuna fish, pasta pattern came back with a vengeance to haunt me! No way, Jose! See ya in the evening, honey! I would revel in my domesticity. Off to bake an apple pie – FROM SCRATCH!

And this is a proof of my culinary expertise. Baked French toast with pecans on top since I never took pictures of the apple pies that I baked. Just had to post it. Call it vanity!