The “goods”.


“Mom, are you seriously going to let Sahana take an Uber from the airport?” Ryan asked me last night, aghast at my non motherly gesture.

“Yes!! She is coming in at night. I will be in my pajamas with a book at that time. She is a big girl.” I replied nonchalantly.

It was obvious this response bothered 17 year old, new driver Ryan.

“I will pick her up. I will write to her.” He shook his head.

I could not stay home as Ryan drove to the airport. It was his first time and I wanted to be his co-pilot negotiating with Sahana where she was waiting to be picked up. As he drove and I chatted, I told him this was very nice of him. He said, “Well, she picked me up after my prom at 1 am. This is the least I can do.”

Sahana, understandably, was very pleased with her little brother for helping her save Uber money. She thanked him profusely. And as I listened to them chatter, I thought I have been building cathedrals all these years and now that I am getting close to seeing the whole structure, I like what Sean and I built.

I have given up writing about the ‘goods’ in my life due to laziness but I wanted this sweet act of paying kindness forward to live on my blogsite. These little moments, gestures create joys in life.

“Girlie things”


Sahana never really played with dolls when she was little. I don’t recall us buying her dolls. Her Grammy gave her a plush puppy on her 3rd birthday, and that was the only toy that she slept with all throughout. When we moved to US from India, we donated all her toys except Puppy. That toy traveled with her in her bag pack to a new country and brought her 5 year old self a sense of grounding when her whole world went through an enormous change.

Sahana and I never did things that are stereotyped as “girlie”. Neither of us enjoy shopping so we did not find joy in that, I do not know how to put on makeup effectively so there were no makeup tutorials, we never did our nails together, growing up she never wanted me to touch her hair so did not do that either. When she needed clothes before school started, we would go to Target, pick up whatever she needed without a lot of deliberatation and ran to the book store nearby to detox from the shopping experience. Neither of us had any trouble spending time there. When I look back at Sahana’s childhood, I think so fondly of our time together reading books. Our biggest excitement was going to our local library where I would sit in the children’s area with a book and she would lose herself in the world of a thick tome that she picked up from the stacks. Even today when I see a child tucked up in a corner completely engrossed in the pages of a book I think of little Sahana.

Well, little girls grow up. And mine did too. This Saturday she gave me an early birthday present- a gift of getting manicure and pedicure together. As we got our nails cleaned and polished, I looked at this kid in wonder. Like every mother on the planet, I wondered how did we get here? When did she grow up so? Did I blink? Anyway, we got all fancied up and both realized that this is truly the first time in all of Sahana’s 22 years that we have done our nails together. We laughed about our lack of girlie activities that mother daughters do. Our activities involved going to book stores and libraries. And then we laughed out loud. Why? Because while we got our nails done and legs massaged, guess what we primarily talked about? Libraries!

Conversations with little Ryan.


Sixth grade conversation about sex.

Ryan: Those who don’t have sex become mountain climbers, right?

Sahana and I stare blankly at him for a few seconds before we ask, “Why do you say that?”

His logic: Well, you know they have regrets and they want to spend time in the mountains, climbing rocks. They could also be divorced. Then the men grow a beard. Uncle ______ climbed rocks till he got married and had a baby!

This was hilarious. Sahana and I could not stop laughing much to Ryan’s chagrin.

Since he could talk, Ryan has had insightful observations on life. They were cute but also poignant. In most parents teacher conferences we were told he brings in an aspect into conversation that is out of the box. And that makes the conversation very interesting. The boy is seventeen now. Constant chatter has given way to grunts and monosyllabic responses to my queries. But I have found if I simply be in his presence without asking questions about school and academics he opens up. I see a glimmer of the little boy who, at the age of 4, sided with an errant pigeon (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Wilhelm) who was making all sorts of mistakes while driving and should not have been behind the wheels. 4 year old Ryan went against the general consensus of other 4 year olds in a book reading session at the library. The pigeon should be allowed to drive because everyone deserves a second chance.

Yes, that is my mom.


“That is your mom!! What? How?” – this question has been posed to my white passing biracial son since he was in preschool. I sometimes wonder how it made him feel. By kindergarten, he was so used to this question that as soon as I showed up to volunteer at kindergarten luncheon, he would preempt the question from his peers by announcing “That is my mom. Yes, she is brown. She is from India.”

Once I was waiting in the hallway of a high school to pick up Ryan after a middle school concert. He came out with a few other kids. One girl, upon seeing Ryan greet me and come towards me, exclaimed, “Ryan, IS THAT YOUR MOM?????” And then, with the insensitivity of a 13 year old, she followed up that exclamation with, “No way! But you are white!”

Ryan and I will continue to baffle this easily confused world but I hope one day, the world will integrate colors enough to exclaim less when it sees us together.

Last night, as Sahana, Sean and I tackled the New York Times spelling bee, we got talking about how perception of parents follow us in our lives. Sahana said, “Tell me about it. My friends have told me all my life your mom is so pretty. OMG! Who wants to hear that all the time? Leave my mom alone!” She laughed. I have heard her say that before and we have laughed together about it.

Here is the thing that amuses me – different standards of beauty in the two countries that I belong to. In India nobody would give me a second look. I am old now but even when I was young nobody looked twice. My experience was very different in USA, at least in the part where I live.

I read a few books about biracial individuals who try to find where they belong. Good Talk by Mira Jacobs is a great book to read on this issue.

Take it over, kid.


Once upon a time I was a super human. I kept all important dates of school, practice schedules, concert schedules, swim meet schedules in my head – for both kids. Before Google calendar, I wrote all the dates down on our wall calendar in our kitchen for easy access for all. However, easy access for my family meant asking mom/wife.

“When is Ryan’s baseball practice and Sahana’s softball game?” Sean would ask. And crazily enough, I would know the dates.

My kids never went to the same school. When Ryan entered kindergarten, Sahana started middle school. So I got bombarded with emails from 2 schools. And I read each one of them meticulously. I knew the dates of PTA meetings and string concerts, and first grade author’s tea. While I did not attend PTA meetings, I did my share of classroom volunteering when needed. Anyway, bottom line is that once upon a time I was my family’s walking Google calendar. I knew it all in my head.

As Sahana got older, she started taking more responsibilities for her own schedule. Gradually, all her schedule information started sliding off from my brain as she started keeping track. She arranged for her own rides to school concerts, and when she started driving, drove herself to places where she needed to be. My brain then focused on Ryan’s schedule and I did him a disservice by constantly supplying him with dates of his events. Even when he went to high school he depended on me to know the important school dates and swim meet dates. And the control freak that I am, I continued to keep all those in my head. Till I realized I don’t need to anymore. I can clear that space in my memory by giving him the reins of his own activities. So when he asked about dates of his meets, I calmly told him to look it up by logging on to the website.

“Just tell me, it is easier!”

“I have to look it up too. So you do it since it is your meet.” That was a white lie, but it worked. Ryan started looking up on his own. Slowly and I mean, very slowly, he started getting responsible for his own activities.

The husband, on the other hand, was more difficult to train.

“When is…?”

“I am not sure, I forwarded you the email. Look it up” – became my standard response.

I still get the emails from Ryan’s school, which I still read but I do not keep the dates in my head for the most part. I jot down important parent’s meetings in our Google calendar but the rest I simply forward to Ryan. Recently, I saw a text exchange between father and son, which happened while I was still sleeping.

Ryan: “When is my SAT prep class?”

Sean: “I am not sure. I don’t remember getting that email. Mom will know. Let her wake up.”

Me, after waking up: “I forwarded both of you that email. Check your mail.”

They did. The information was there. It was so fun to simply write “check your email”. It is such a relief to not be as responsible anymore. From a super human, I have become just a human with memory space cleared for what I want to store in it.

I love being a parent. And I love seeing the slow transformation of my children taking over the control of their lives. There is a slight pang in my heart, I will not deny, at the fact that they are grown up. However, the dominant feeling is satisfaction and yes, relief.

Sibling relationship and food


Since Sahana started working, she buys some of the groceries. And not often, but sometimes those groceries include salt and barbeque chips or takis or hot flaming cheetos. She is a generous kid, who buys enough for herself and her brother. She keeps her brother’s packet of junk food out and promptly hides her own packet. The brother storms in from his boarding school over the weekend, opens the refrigerator door, devours whatever he finds to his taste and then complains, “There is nothing in this house to eat.” He finishes his packet of junk food and hunts in the hidden corners of the house for more. He has often gotten into trouble for eating his sister’s portion and once or twice there have been aggressive exchange of words. Expletives have been used and their mother has shouted at both of them.

Last night, Ryan came home mid week for a doctor’s appointment. Sahana and I had purchased our choice of chips – one packet each, to enjoy while the eating fiend was away at dorms. Ryan located our packets right away and helped himself to a generous portion from mine. He tried one or two from his sister’s too but he (fortunately) did not enjoy the flavor. He then hid both the packets of chips in a cabinet and asked me to tell Sahana that he came and took the packets with him to dorm. I was also asked to report to him her reactions. He was laughing his head off imagining how angry she would be when she came back from work to discover her packet of chips had disappeared. He cautioned me though, “Mom, if you see her balling her fists in rage, tell her I hid the chips. I don’t want her hurting my mother. Hee hee hee.”

Sahana came home from work and after she settled, I told her nonchalantly, “Oh, by the way, Ryan came home and took our packets of chips with him to the dorm. That boy is trouble.” As expected, Sahana got angry. “He has a eating problem. Do you realize that he has a problem?” She said a few more sentences about it, none of them complimentary to her brother. I could not keep the laughter bottled in anymore so I told her he hid her chips to get a reaction out of her. She laughed, “He is an idiot.”

I have not written about the kids for a while. This blog started as a record of my parenting journey. The journey continues and will continue as long as I live. There are exasperations, laughter, sullenness, successes, failures as we live our lives together. However, I have stopped writing about them now that they have grown up. I simply had to write down this anecdote to read later and remember this moment of laughter. Moments like these make life precious.

Messy bed


A quick post before I start work. I am not a neat freak although I like a clean house. My only pet peeve is a messy bed. I can not stand it. I always make my bed. Since my kids were little, I made them make their beds. They cheated, of course. Often, they just pulled the top cover on their unmade bed to give an illusion to mom that they had made their beds. And when I found out, I yelled at them. I also took 2 dollars from them (or was it 5?) as payment for me to make their beds if they had not done it.

Fast forward Sahana’s college years. Her bed, in her dorm room, was mostly neatly made. Even now when she is home she makes her bed. Mr. Ryan is a different story. His bed is NEVER made. I grit my teeth as I go by his room. Clothes everywhere, unmade bed, teenage boy funk.

Everyday I resolve to scold him and I never do. His morning, thrice a week, starts at 4:15 am with swim practice, then he goes to school, after school he directly goes to water polo practice and finally comes home to finish homework and study for tests. I just want to mention here that this rigorous schedule is self inflicted. His parents have implored to cut down on activities. The little time he has, he watches mindless tiktok videos. He does not read other than required reading for school. 😭

Now that you have reference to the context, what do you think I should do? Keep urging him to make his bed so it is ingrained in him for future? Close his door if it bothers me?

Struggle


Do you remember your struggle at 21? Did you struggle to figure out where you are going and where will you end up? Or did you have a clear path ahead of you? I had no clear path. I took up jobs while finishing my education and flitted from one job to another for better pay because my family desperately needed money. None of those jobs required my education but in retrospect, all of those jobs prepared me for the job I do now. All of them honed my customer service skills and today I can say with certain amount of pride that my customer service skills are sharp. I got my Customer Service Specialist job at our public library due to those skills which I developed in the jobs that I took at random in my youth – desperate, directionless. Working at customer service at the library was my foothold, and once I was in, I interviewed for an Instructor and Research position which I was lucky enough to get. Now I use my skills and knowledge in what I do. I also use love. I have said before and I say it again, I love working at a library. My path, in terms of career, became clear later in life, after marriage, after motherhood. That is the story of my life thus far.

I now can look at the young adult in my house, somewhat in a similar position as I was at 21. She landed in this position because of the pandemic that disrupted the plans she had for herself. Being a planner, she had created charts and spreadsheets for the route her life was going to take, the classes she was going to take, her junior year abroad, senior year at campus, perhaps a job in the area or at the university as she looked for grad school. And then pandemic hit which cut short her year in Spain, brought her back home, her senior year was spent taking virtual classes in her tiny room, working a few hours virtually for her campus job. And just like that the path ahead of her became murky. What job was there for her after her degree? What is the path ahead? Where will life take her? Insecurities, uncertainties, ‘am I good enough’ – questions, concerns bog her down.

I look on helplessly at her despair yet I know in my heart and from the place I am in life, her path will clear. This internal struggle and feeling of helplessness will be a distant memory. The uncertainties and her ability to cope with them will infuse her with strength and when she looks back she will see these were essential to her personal growth. Life is hard as a young adult, the lost year of pandemic has thrown extra obstacles in their path with hiring freezes, job cuts. Graduates of 2020 and 2021 have been harshly tested and most of them will come out stronger.

Right now, I stay beside her as she flails and try to project my conviction that this struggle is necessary and temporary. Her path will emerge. She will chart her own course in life because she has what it takes to move forward. Conviction, strength, intellect. She is a mighty girl.

I failed as an Indian parent.


I knew right away that I failed as an Indian parent when my 16 year old son sent us a video of Greatest Recorded Speeches in American History. Along with the link was a short message “cool stuff”. Instead of math and science, both my kids ended up loving liberal arts. My oldest is a Shakespeare nerd, a poet and writer. She is one semester away from graduating with double major in English and Anthropology. My son loves history and is thinking of pursuing political science. While he is good with numbers and can solve scarily long algebra equations with relative ease he does not spend all his time solving word problems and doing science experiments. He listens to discussions and likes to discuss the pros and cons of issues. He despises the divide in political beliefs that polarizes this country and wants to find a common ground. As I looked at his message of the recorded speeches, there went my hopes of either of my kids getting a 40 dollar an hour internship in a tech company while finishing college and a fat salaried job right out of college. As an Indian parent, I am a total failure. I did not steer my children to exclusively math and science like a parent from my part of the world who told me she wished her child could drop world history so he could take another science course.

The title of this blog is written in jest of course and I am doing a gross generalization of all Indian parents when I say they push their children towards science. However, till date many parents from where I come from, believe their child should study science to get ahead in life, including my father. It was clear from early on that I was a lover of literature. Yet, when I passed my 10th, my dad insisted I take up science in my 11th grade. I believe he still dreamed that I will excel in math, physics, chemistry and biology, sit for Joint Entrance Exam and finally get into med school. In reality, although I enjoyed biology, I struggled in all 3 other science subjects. My grades, as expected, at my school leaving exam were dismal and more importantly, I was very unhappy. My self esteem plummeted and self confidence took a nose dive. At that point, I took a stand and declared I wanted to study English. A degree in English literature was not very promising those days but my parents let me pursue my choice, for which, I am immensely grateful. I was lucky enough to attend a university that was not simply an educational institution, it somehow molded my outlook and view points and helped me become the person that I am today. And while I am never going to be rich, I have a job as a public library worker, where I can use my education and be happy with what I do.

The truth is, when I see Ryan enjoying the greatest speeches of famous men and women, when I see Sahana quoting Shakespeare verbatim, when Ryan discusses difficult issues of life with reason and logic, when Sahana writes beautiful poetry my heart rejoices. They are the progeny of two parents who pursued liberal arts. Instead of building robots in their childhood or conducting fun science experiments or doing mental math, we read to them, talked about Sean’s work about helping vulnerable communities become self reliant through out the world. We did not give them a boost towards science in their early childhood. In retrospect, science may have even taken a back seat because their primary care giver, me, did not enjoy science. That is on us. We should have made more of an effort to encourage them to explore science.

However, as a lover of liberal arts, I am thrilled at their curiosity to learn more about literature, philosophy, history, political science. I may be biased but I firmly believe we need a section of lovers of liberal arts to hold up half of the sky so our compatriots, the science lovers can hold up theirs. And by complementing each other we strive towards completion. It’s just that the other half will do the balancing act with much more bank balance than we will but hey, money can’t buy happiness, right?😜

Lower the bar


The trick is to keep expectations at a minimum from your husband and children. And maintain the bar low. I was smart, I did just that. I had the kids make their own lunches for school as soon as they started third grade. I kept a loose eye on what they packed. Since I bought the groceries for our house I knew the extent of junk food that was available to them. They got money once a week to buy food from cafeteria but Sahana disliked the cafeteria food so she ended up packing her own lunch all 5 days. The deal was, I would pack their lunches on the last day of school each year. That one day, when mom packed their lunch was a day of jubilation. They were excited, happy and most importantly, grateful.

Similarly, both of them started doing their own laundry since they were 11 years old. Once in a while, when they were very busy I did their laundry for them, for which, I got many words of gratitude.

I like to cook so I primarily cooked for the family yet I made sure my husband simply did not expect me to cook ALL THE TIME. Till date, he remembers to thank me for the meals I cook. During pandemic, I became more of a purist – using natural oil for moisturizer and hair care, squeezing oranges for fresh orange juice, making rotis and recently making homemade paneer from scratch. Sean was extremely grateful and told his family in video calls that his wife was making homemade paneer, his favorite. I got kudos from my in-laws for taking such good care of their son/brother.

I was feeling pretty special about my domesticity till last night when I met 2 other friends who happened to be Bengali. As many of you may be aware, when Bengalis meet two topics take precedence over others – food and politics. We were discussing food. I told them I have recently started making paneer at home and I use lemon to curdle the milk. Both of them nonchalantly mentioned they have always made paneer at home and they never buy it. Store bought paneer is never good and did I try vinegar to curdle milk instead of lemon juice? I was slightly crushed.

The question here is, did I mention to my family that homemade paneer is the norm and not the exception in Indian homes out there? Nope, nope, nope. Why would I? I want to see the glimmer of gratitude in Sean’s eyes at the cooking prowess of his queen wife who makes things from scratch just for him for the love that she carries in her heart for her husband.