Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy 63!

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday. Had she lived, she would have turned 63.

We were trying in vain to pay the older son's admission fees to his new school yesterday. First the bank website did not work, then the school's payment portal did not and it continued into this morning. Finally I went and paid by check. Subhash and I were thinking in the morning how we were destined maybe to do it on her birthday, so we remember it in the years to come.

I saw a beru vendor on the way to the school. I thought, I HAVE to buy those today. Even if it means I have to go back and buy and then go to work. At the school I got delayed while waiting to pay the fees. When I got out, I was in a hurry to get back to work, and the berus just completely skipped out of my mind. That is until I saw that vendor right in front of the gate across the street from where I parked. I happily bought some and went to the car, fetched the wallet and paid him! I always loved those little red fruits. So much, that my mother in law used to make papads out of them for me and ship to the US, since we did not get it there. Even when we moved back, she always made some every season. Somewhere some voice said, because you like them, you should eat some today.

In the morning, we told the older one that it was baamma's birthday today. He reflected for a couple of seconds and said, then where is the cake. I told him Dad would buy it in the evening, and his Dad said I would buy it, and we left it undecided. I wanted to get something, then left the thought at that. There was a birthday celebration event at work (it is a monthly affair, all birthdays falling in that month are celebrated by the whole org), I knew about it for about a week. I went there and there was a lot of cake left over, so like I usually do, without any extraneous thoughts whatsoever, I packed some to bring back for the folks at home. Only when I got it back to my office, almost as if someone told me, I remembered that I had intended to take back home some cake for my mother-in-law's birthday!

Coincidence? I think not. I think my mother-in-law spoke to me at least thrice today. In her own way! Couldn't have been happier :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cheeni Kum!

There is a cute store that has opened next to Anand Sweets on Old Airport Road, called Cheeni Kum. It is part of the Anand Sweets family and sells snacks and other Indian delicacies. If you are anywhere in the vicinity and claim to be anything of a foodie, this store is a no-no to miss. They have a delectable range of Indian snacks (read chips, etc), savouries, khakras, spices, pickles, desserts (chocolate chip cookies etc), and an amazing range of Mukhwas (after meal Indian variety of mints).

We bought the sandwich bhakarwadi (I have been trying any bhakarwadi I can lay my hands on - Haldiram's, Maiya's etc in the quest for that ohh-so-perfect taste, but alas!), and palak chakli, along with a Kalkati Pan Churi packet (mukhwas, one kind of dry pan masala this one).

Ohh, god, they have been just amazing. The Bhakarwadi defeats anything else I have had (I dare say even the originals from Pune). And so does the Palak Chakli - it is just so light and crispy, ohh, please do have one, I can't describe it!

Surprisingly, no online presence (Subhash and I were thinking that some VC has recently invested in Anand stores, even their stores sport a very cute and bright and colourful look these days, and this must be the outcome of that), so I leave you with a picture!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Of daughters and sons and in-laws

The other day I read on a blog, the typical story of neglect from two sons toward a widowed mother. Both sons not willing to bring the mother to live with them from the old-age home, bowing to wives' pressure, finally daughter coming to the rescue and how it is always daughters who are better than sons. Standard narrative, we have all heard, seen, experienced these situations. But how about a twist on them?

This particular daughter who came to the rescue of the poor mom - would she do the same for a mother-in-law? In this case, has anyone even thought of thanking the accommodating son-in-law? He is a son to someone too, and assuming he is OK to let his mother in law stay with him, I am sure, he'd do the same for his parents?

What about the daughters-in-law? Would they treat their own moms the way they shunned their mother-in-law out of the house? Or would they also be daughters-to-the-rescue for their own parents? In which case isn't it really two-faced? Should we really be praising all daughters?

What about the mother-in-law? Why are we assuming that because she is helpless and old, she is the epitome of goodness? Maybe she was nasty to her daughters in law in her day and age, and so maybe they want nothing to do with her anymore?

I am only attempting to question the natural stereotyping that comes out of these stories against the son and daughter-in-law and in favour of the daughter. I have heard far too often these days about how it is better to have daughters since they are more caring towards their parents. Agreed. I come from a two-daughters-no-sons home too! But have we taught our daughters to treat their in-laws with the same care they show towards us? Sadly, no. We have re-inforced the all-mothers-in-law-are-evil-and-need-to-be-dealt-with-harshly stereotype (actually make that all in-laws, not just mother or father in law) so much, either out of our own fear of "losing" the daughters' affection to her in-laws (like a battle for who will keep her affection to themselves) or genuine concern out of our own bad experiences. I have seen this in real life with so many people in so many facets of life in such close quarters so often that contradicting me on this one is pointless.

End of the day it comes down to the people involved. Daughters can be as bad as sons in shunning parents or sons can be as warm as daughters in caring for them.

But I agree, having two sons of my own, I am actually very apprehensive about the future and how often I can see them once they are married. Gone are the good old days where having sons guaranteed you a life together with kids for eternity since they marry and continue to live with you. These days whether it is daughters or sons, all birds fly the nest typically by 22 in most urban households. Never to return. It becomes worse for parents of sons since girls are more prone to hating than guys in general. (think girl roomies vs guy roomies, I definitely find guys more accommodating since they don't care so much about trifles very often) So you can be assured to some extent that your son-in-law wont hate you in your face but you cant really be so sure with daughters-in-law.

My mom was a very accommodating daughter-in-law. She met with resentment at every step of the way (think love marriage between different language speaking families in the 1970s!) but she always endeavoured to the best of her ability to treat all her in laws (mother, sister, brothers in law) the same way that she would treat her own kin. Of course, her in laws turned around in due time and actually came to appreciate and value her, and I have to thank her for her perseverance in maintaining those relationships. If she had decided that enough was enough and cut us off from that part of the family, we wouldn't have been lucky enough to know so many cousins on my dad's end and share such lovely relationships outside of just us siblings.

Luckily for me and my sister, we did not have resenting in-laws which made the whole relationship change in dimension like not many people are lucky enough to experience.

My own mother-in-law will always be my role model for how I should treat my daughters-in-law, to keep it simple, like my own daughters. She always lives with me in my memories, just the other day, my iron-creased wedding saree, back fresh from dry cleaning, reminded me of her so many times. How she did all the wedding preparations herself right from buying the saree to stitching the fall, to buying knick-knacks to jewelery purchase and what not. To the extent of even suffering our shortcomings silently, she always dealt with it sportingly. She adjusted as much as possible to our generation's needs and demands and lifestyles and even when she had to differ, she broke it to us in a very gentle manner. There are so many small things that constantly remind me of her - not in a poignant or intense or sad way, but just remind me of her. Like she was still around somewhere in some other town. In another five days, it would already be two years since she passed away. I still cannot believe it, it seems so unreal sometimes.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Of driving..

Just the other day on the way to work I was thinking about driving. And for how long I've been driving now - nearly 17 years maybe..first the 2-wheeler, then the car, then unlearn and re-learn everything in the US, then again unlearn and re-learn Indian driving. At one time, driving was a passion, then it became a routine thing to take me around, when we moved back to India, it was a pain which I did not wish to inflict on myself. But thanks to the older son having to be dropped off at the day care and not wanting to sacrifice on the flexibility your own car offers vs company transport, I took to driving, yet again. I actually enjoy it now - thanks to the automatic I got. I would not go back to a manual shift if I had the choice. Not in the maddening traffic.

Two-wheeler driving is an experience in itself and any day beats a four-wheeler hands down. I havent had any of it in the past 12 years since I moved westward. But now that my Dad is here and his Scooty has come with him - I got to drive a two-wheeler after many many years. I was feeling a little out of touch but I still had it in me. In the older times, there were days when I used to drive from Kukatpally to Dilsukhnagar effortlessly on the two-wheeler with mom in tow too! All that experience is bound to be locked in the brain somewhere ;)

But you know you've driven a car too long when you turn the key in the two wheeler and keep trying to turn it further and wonder why it doesn't start : ))) I did that yesterday when I went shopping with the older one - only to remember later, that I either need to kick start it or use the button start. I was appalled at how rusted I really did turn out with the two-wheeler ;)