Matrimony

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I am always ready and willing to help who ever asks me for help within my limited capacity.
Sometimes even before they ask for help, I volunteer to help… That’s my nature. Then I usually end up in trouble.
So when one of my cousins told me how lonely he felt after the death of his beloved wife of more than 30 years, I suggested to him to find a partner as soon as possible to spend the rest of the life. It was more than five years, since he was living this lonely life. I told him that I will look for somebody too.
My best friend was still in India and I was sure that she will find somebody suitable for him among her friends. Somewhere there will be some widow who would be desperately lonely and wishing for a friend/partner to spend the rest of her life with.
I made a phone call to my friend, Leela. Told her the situation…

How pathetic it is for a man to end up living in a house all alone without a wife and the children grown up… all living far away from home.

She agreed to all my points and promised to keep an eye for a lonely widow who needs company and as of now, there is nobody she knows desperate like that.
I waited for more than two weeks before I called Leela again.
After the usual pleasantries, I asked her about her research.
She told me:
“You wouldn’t believe me!
World has changed!
The outlook of the women in our country has changed.
There was one lady suitable for your cousin.
Her children are all grown up, well educated, married…
They are living in places convenient for their jobs, far away from home. She is all alone at home.
But when I proposed, she told me.
“Leela, you know, Thomachen was kind of bedridden for sometime before he took off finally. I was the one taking care of him 24/7 for the last three months. I am happy & content that I got a chance to take care of him all by myself. But you see, I am not young any more! I was two years younger than Thomachen.
He left me two years ago.
Yes, I am lonely… I am alone. But I am not bored!
World has changed a lot!
There is TV, there is Facebook, there is Skype, there is Whatsapp…
For sure, who wants me as a partner will be older than me, right?
That means he needs a helper, not a partner!
Leela, I need a break!
I am not young any more! I need somebody to take care of me too…”

So what do you think ?”

It took sometime for me to understand what Leela was trying to convey me.

It hit me!
I didn’t know what to say!
I tried to be in that widow’s position.
It makes sense!
I am very compassionate…
I am very romantic…
I am very honest… But who doesn’t need a break at that age?
I have never seen that point of view!!! I was living in the past.
Think about it…

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Usha’s shawl

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Usha and Varkey are our best friends.

Actually they are my husband’s classmates & best friends. Husband’s friends do not mean that their Chemistry should click with mine. But this couple became my close friends too.

A Karnataka girl so fluent in Malayalam, you will never see in your life that is Usha! Both Usha & I are not fair, may be that’s why our frequencies synchronized. We understood each other very well. We didn’t have to explain too much about anything. We understood!

Even if it is only for few days, when we visited India, we tried to see each other. Last year, when we were just passing by, we stopped for half an hour at Varkey’s.

They were just finishing the evening clinic, when we walked in. I was in typical Kerala style, Saree, matching Blouse, Hair put up and so on…

The Temperature was in 90’s. I started to sweat once I was out of the Air-conditioned Car. There was a surprised look on Usha’s face, when she saw my attire. Our relationship is so straight forward, we didn’t need any formalities to start our conversation. Usha was very casual  in pants & top.

Usha asked me.

“Why are you wearing this heavy Saree in a hot day like this? Why don’t you wear pants or salvar?”

I know… I am trying to be modest. I am suffering. I couldn’t stand the heat & humidity.

“Oh, I can’t help it. Once I land in Kerala, I go back to my old self. Also my elder brother once told me that here in Kerala after certain age women from good families don’t wear Salvar! So here I am, sweating in this attire!”, I was very honest.

“Come on! You just came from US and I know that it is very cold there in US at this time of the year and this hot & humid weather will be too hot for you. I don’t know how you can stand this humidity!”, Usha was concerned!

I didn’t have any thing else to say. I go back to my old self when I come back to my native place. I can’t help it.

Usha was wearing a simple top with a Pant.

“Do you know something? Something really funny happened to me.” Usha started.

“I went to buy some Kurta from the Mall . I saw few which I like. I was looking for some shawls to match with the two Kurtas I liked most. But I couldn’t find any. One young sales person was with me trying to help me to find the shawls. He may be in his early twenties. He was some what handsome too. He tried his best to find what I am looking for. But all in vein! So I decided not to buy any, since there was no matching shawl to go with the Kurtas.”

“I was almost going to walk out of the shop. The Sales boy looked at my face. He wanted to say something before I left. So I stopped.”

He said,

“Madam, how old are you? I know it is rude to ask a lady the age, still… ”, he stopped in the middle.

I am not that sensitive about it, so I told him. “I am in my sixties”

“See, Madam, just looking at your face people know which age group you are, then why should they bother to look at you further down…?”

“You don’t need a shawl Madam. Those Kurtas fit quite well.” He added.

“I walked back to the store and bought both Kurtas. This is one of them”, Usha showed what she was wearing…

VANITIES! VANITIES!

That was a good story. It made me understand my vanities. I stopped looking for shawls! Who cares what I wear? I am in my sixties! LOL. That salesperson’s words were kind of rude to swallow, but too sweet to spit out!

It reminded me of something which happened in my life.

I was in my early thirties. That day I didn’t have to wake up early as I usually do to go to work, since it was a public holiday. But my husband had work. So he got up early.

He didn’t bother to wake me up for coffee, since the automatic Coffee Machine I set up yesterday night was punctual in brewing the coffee. He took shower and got dressed. I was half asleep, when he gave the usual peck on my cheek. (That was an unwritten agreement between us, who ever leaves first, should give a kiss to the other before leaving.)

I told my husband from my sleep,

“Don’t forget to lock the front door and back door when you leave. Don’t forget, when you leave in a hurry.”

“I am alone and sleeping… If somebody comes in, I will not know. Yesterday, I heard over the radio that somebody was raped in a nearby town, when the woman was alone in the house.”

He gave me a peck again and said,

“Don’t worry too much. Who will come to rape you, other than me?”

I threw my pillow at him. He took his car keys and ran out laughing…

Oh my God! It is something I can’t prove and I don’t want it to be proved either.

I laughed a lot. Whenever I think about this episode, it brings a smile to my face.

Too sweet to spit out, too sour to swallow! But I liked it.

I have told this joke to my very close friends at different times. Only once, after hearing the joke, one young girl asked me…

“How can you let him put you down like that?”

I was speechless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daivasneham (Infinite love of God)…….

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This is the last night I have with Maya & Nora my grand-daughters on our short visit with them. Tomorrow they have School. So they have to go to sleep early. It is already past 9:15 pm.
Nobody will be here, in this house, to say “goodbye” to us when we leave tomorrow around 11:00 am. My kids would have gone to work as early as 7:00 am. Both Maya & Nora would have gone to School by 8:30 am.
Maya had promised me when she visited us for summer vacation that she would be ready with a Malayalam Song, I already gave her to record for me to upload to the YouTube. But it didn’t happen… Last three days I was with her, but we were too busy doing other stuff. Now it is too late to practice or to record… I know that she didn’t practice it well enough to record.
She called me to her room, asked me to sit down in front of the iPad to play the music and an iPhone to record it. As soon as she started, in the first take itself, I knew that she has not practiced it enough to record. So I said,
“May be you can practice it some more, record it later & then send to me”
Her face became gloomy.
“No, Pancho, No! I will practice one more time and then we will record it.”
She insisted. But I didn’t want to rush her.
“No hurry. Take it easy. We can do it later”
She still insisted. Her eyes are pleading…
So we started to record it.
Nora was there to prompt the starting …
“One, two, three”, Nora said and started the iPad.
I started the iPhone. Maya started her song. Then Nora got up and walked around in the room.
Everything went well till the 6th line. Then there was a mix up.
Maya stopped.
Maya shouted at Nora,
“It is your entire fault. You broke my concentration. When you are going through my stuff, how can I concentrate?”
“I didn’t touch any of your stuff.” Nora screamed back.
“It is all right. We will do it again.”
One more and one more…
More mix ups. That was the end.
Tears started rolling down on Maya’s cheeks.
She blew her nose.
She tried hard not to show her emotions.
She sobbed quietly.
“It is all right Maya. You can do it some other time. I understand. I am not upset. It is already late. Don’t you have to get up early tomorrow morning to go to school? You may go to sleep now.” I tried hard to calm her down.
Nora was standing still not knowing what to say.
Between the sobs, Maya was repeating…
“No Pancho, I want to do it now. Otherwise I will not forgive myself. I know how much you love to hear it. If I don’t do it now, I will never be able to do it.”
I didn’t know what to do. She went on and on.
Then I said,
“Ok. Then read the lyrics one more time to make sure no more mix up of lines. Don’t sing, just read.”
I am not a music director. I have never done this before. I have learned some songs when I was young. I had learned classical music for few years, when I was a Teenager, just to please my mother. I was not a talented musician. As I told Nora, when she was shying away from singing, saying she was not talented.
“Not everybody is born talented. Very few are… Others study & train a lot to reach that talented state. I myself was not at all talented in music. I took lessons and became a good singer and competed in School competitions and won first and second prizes many times. So Nora, with proper training you can also become a good singer.”
Nora listened to me. It made sense to her. She learned two songs with Maya and I recorded them.
Maya wiped her face. She read the lyrics.
“Are you ready, Maya?” I asked.
“Now you wait for 5 minutes. My face is all puffed up… I will look pathetic in the video.”
She ran to the bathroom. Washed her face, wiped with a towel and came back.
Her face was all puffed up. She still had teary eyes.
“Maya, Are you not in bed, yet?”
I could hear Priya, their mother, yelling from downstairs.
“Tomorrow you have school. It is almost 10:00 pm. Go to bed.”
We were silent for a minute.
“Ok, Maya, we will do it now. It will not take more than 5 minutes to record it.”
“Ok, Nora, you prompt…”
“Ready, one, two, three…” Nora prompted, then started the iPad.
I started the recording.
This time, Maya did it right. No mix up… no mistake.
It may not be that great to hear. But she did it for me. That made the difference.
I don’t know what I did to deserve this great love.
Here is Maya’s song on YouTube: DAIVASNEHAM

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A mother’s heart…

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“My Heart is aching. I don’t know how to explain to you my situation.”
It was the beginning of a long distance phone call between Soumya & I.
She is my College-mate. Soumya is a bubbly character. Her face all lighted up with a big smile, is what comes to my mind when I think about her. She doesn’t need much to start the laughter. She is very humble and kind. I enjoyed her company a lot. When she walks into a gloomy room, she can light up the whole room with her simple laughter. Her happiness is contagious. Without any persuasion from her side, all around her will start feeling the same state of happiness.
So when Soumya started talking about her heart-ache, I was concerned.
“So tell me, I am all ears.” I said.
“My son wrote me an email saying that his parents may be the worst parents in the whole world. I can’t believe, my son wrote to me like that. You know that financially we are self-sufficient. I don’t need any money from my kids. I don’t need anything from them, other than few words of love, a phone call once in a while…an occasional visit.”
I was searching my brain for proper words to console her. Something related to that situation. If she were near me, I would have given her a Bear-hug.

Then I remembered something. I was only four years old. My mother might be in her late 30’s. My mother and I were travelling alone in a Boat.
Now I know that I was travelling through the Pamba River. Other than that I don’t remember the reason or anything else about that travel. There were other passengers in the Boat. It was almost full with passengers. I sat on my mother’s lap for sometime. Then she asked me to lay down on a Towel, she made for me on the floor.
One old woman was sitting near my mother. They were getting to know each other and a very interesting conversation was taking place. She had three children, boys, all grown up, married and had children of their own.
She was wearing a white “Rouka” (Blouse) which was tied at the bottom. A simple white “Mundu” for the waist and a small white shawl around her neck were the rest of her clothes. I could see the skinny folded stomach of her between her Rouka & Mundu. How many kids she would have carried in that folded stomach? She looked very graceful with her white hair tied up at the top of her head in a Bun. She was very thin & tall. She looked very classy to me. But her face was very sad and depressed. I was not paying much attention to their conversation. All of a sudden that Grandma started crying. Then I started listening to their conversation.
Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was trying her best to hide her sorrow from other passengers.
My mother prodded her to talk about herself.

“My kid! You can’t imagine how cruel your kids can become when you become very old like me, when you can’t fend for yourself and when you need their help for everything.”
She wiped her eyes with the end of the shawl. Her eyes welled up with tears.
“Do you know something? Our enemies in our previous life are our children in this life. They make us learn to forgive and forget like Mother Earth. They will teach us to share. They will teach us how to love unconditionally.” She stopped to wipe her tears.

“Do you know what my son told me? He told me to get out of his house and he never wants to see me again.”
I was shocked to hear this.
My mother asked her, “What about your daughter-in-law? What did she say, when she heard this?”
“She joined with him. She threw my Box & clothing to the yard”, she sobbed.
“Thus she made it easier for me to pack my stuff.”

My eldest brother at that time was about twenty years old. He is still in College. I imagined him few years ahead after he becomes older & got married, then I tried to put him in that grandmother’s son’s position. It didn’t fit. I don’t think my eldest brother will ever throw my mother out like that son. I can’t imagine my brother in that position at all.
But I saw the pain of a mother for the first time. Still she didn’t curse her son even once. She cursed her fate for the heart-breaking things happening in her life.
How many times she would have given him bath, cleaned his bottom, wiped his face off his vomit, and fed him? What else she wouldn’t have done for her kid when he was growing up?
Later, (at that age of four) I asked my Mother, “Will it happen to you? Will my eldest brother throw you out one day like that old woman’s son did?”
“Oh, no! He wouldn’t do that to me.” My mother said.
She was immersed in her thoughts for some time. Then she added,
“People can change, I will never know!”

This incident I have never forgotten. Now I could see that Boat crowded with passengers, Towel on the floor, and that Grandma…
So I told Soumya:
“Soumya, I am also wondering why a son should write like that to his Mom? Even if the parents were bad, nobody says so directly.”
“Have you heard a saying in Kerala? Your children in this life are the reincarnation of your enemies in your last life. That makes sense. They teach us patience. They test our patience. We forgive them as if we have never forgiven anybody else. We do all kinds of sacrifices for them. We loose our sleep for them. We spend our time coaching them or helping them with their home work, even if we have other 101 things to do. We waste our time, transporting them from home to School, school to different playgrounds or places. We know that our kids are never going to become another Michael Jordan or K.J.Yesudas or Miley Cyrus, but still we take them to participate in all kinds of sports, send them to music and dance classes. We buy the best clothes & shoes we can afford to give our kids. We spend our hard earned money for the College fees… What else we don’t do for our kids? Even if our kids are the worst in the neighborhood and we know this truth, still we wouldn’t exchange them for the best”
“I know, I know… Let me ask you one question. Do you think we are the worst parents as he wrote? I loved & cared my kids more than my husband. Now I feel guilty about that. My husband is the one who gave me those wonderful kids. I tried to straighten out my kids when they failed. I tried to help them & direct them as I know, through the right path when they strayed. There is not any book to follow or to know the method of bringing up children correctly. I tried everything from my wisdom to educate them. I didn’t beat them up. But I had caned my kids to discipline them. Haven’t you?”
I couldn’t see Soumya’s face, but I know she was crying.
“Yes, I did too.” I admitted.
“You are not worst parents.” I didn’t know what else to say to console her.
I told her that I will pray.
Here is my prayer for all the mothers who are going through this kind of a situation:
Just praying to God to open the inner eyes of our kids to see the mother’s unconditional love for them… God, you can see our mind, our thoughts and everything. Please, God, don’t punish them for their behavior because if you punish them, it will hurt their mother’s Heart.

This is written by one Mother.

From the moment you were born my heart was yours
I looked in your eyes and saw all my hopes come alive in you.
I LOVE you more than you ever know,
For now for always .”
Almost all mothers think this way.

To all Kids,

Love your mother & father without any selfishness.
Tell them “I love you” any time you get a chance because you never know when they say the final Good Bye. Other wise you are the loser and when you regret later in your life for not expressing your love to them, then they will not be there to hug you and say “It is all right. I understand. Everything will be all right. You are mine, so how can I keep a grudge against you?”

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Culture

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The way of life a group of people follows.

What exactly is it?

It is not something you can describe in few words. It is the way people are or the customs followed by people from generation to generation. You can not teach Culture as we teach Mathematics or Science.

You have to grow up in a culture to know what actually it is and still you will not know the whole lot of that culture, if you move away from that place. Culture changes from place to place … like village to village, Town to Town, City to City or Country to Country… Even this is a Ball Park assessment. There are always exceptions

Now I am not sure whether I know the Kerala Culture that well in which I grew up, since I left Kerala at the age of 25.

I was born and brought up in an Orthodox family. So the customs I followed were the one in an Orthodox family. I came to know a little bit of Muslim and Hindu Cultures from our neighbors & friends with whom I studied.

Respect for the religions other than their own is an inborn thing among common people in Kerala. Religious Fanatics are exceptions, just like Terrorists or Traitors in any country.

In an Orthodox Christian family the Man is the Head (forget about the exceptions here…LOL) and the position of the wife is that of a Chief Minister, supporting the decisions of the Head.

Till I met Parvathi Kavu, I saw any woman in any household as a second class citizen. Later, I met some Nair girls and it changed my outlook. But I couldn’t make any changes accordingly with respect to my life…

I lived with a Muslim friend who conducted the 5 times’ prayer everyday and my other Muslim friend was a firm believer, but didn’t do the 5 times’ everyday prayer. They both were nice and I didn’t see them differently.

There are many wonderful and interesting customs in some cultures we come across, but some of the customs may be difficult for us to digest. Then we ignore it saying, “Oh that’s their culture, why should we bother!”

I had heard about Old people’s homes (Manors and assisted living homes) in the US even before I came to the US.

Labor is expensive in the US. Baby sitting costs… There is a price-tag for any service.

To maintain a some what good standard of life, here both husband & wife need to work.

Living all their life as a single/nuclear family and being leading an independent life, it is difficult for these old generation to move to their children’s home to have a different life pace with the new generation, so mostly they try to live alone in their old cocoon as much as they can. When they become less healthy and need assistance for everyday routines, they move to Retirement Homes or Manors (Skilled Nursing Homes) or assisted-living homes. There, they wait for their final destination of Heaven or Hell. There are cheap subsidized Manors as well as private ones. There are also expensive private Retirement Homes/ Skilled Nursing Homes. There are good as well as bad Old people’s Homes. You will never know which one is better unless you live there few days.

This is something we can’t digest. Why can’t children take care of their parents in their old age?

Then as I said before:

We should ignore it saying, “Oh that’s their culture, why should we bother!”

As parents, they don’t want their children to be bothered with their aches and pains.

 

So I was under the impression, in US, when people get old, they move to some kind of old people’s Home. But in this fast paced culture in the US, I found an exception.

Her name is Pat. She is my grandkids’ Piano Teacher. She is in her 40’s. Pat came to my house once a week.

Pat is a quiet lady; her smile is kind of apologetic as if announcing ‘I do not like disturbing anybody even with this smile ’

Her mother Pauline was always with her. Pauline sat on a chair near the Piano patiently, waiting for her daughter to finish the lessons.

Pauline’s age I am not sure, may be in late 60’s. Pauline & I went to the same Church. So I have known her even before she started to come with Pat.

Pauline always has a pleasant smile and a big hug to share with anybody she comes across.

One day when they came, Pauline was in a very pretty blouse. I did compliment her and she said:

“Now-a-days it is Pat who selects my clothes”.

I asked Pat,

“So do you live with your Mom?”

Usually grown up kids do not come back to live with their parents here in the US, unless they are broke or recuperating from some other kind of falls in their life.

Pauline said,

“She left her family & came to live with me once my husband passed away last year.”

Pat added,

“She refused to come to my house and I felt she needed company, so I resigned my job and came to live with her.”

I was kind of shocked to hear these facts.

“What about your husband and the kids? How do they manage without you at home?”

“My husband comes home during the weekend.”

“I felt Mom is very lonely, but she is too stubborn to leave her house, so I thought if so I would move with her. My husband will retire soon, and then he is sure to join us.”

 

I thought I am hearing a fairy tale. I am the one who proudly say that I belong to a Culture where old generation is well taken care of fully in the old age as an extended family. This is new to me. Here is somebody who resigned her job and came from a far away place just to keep company for her own mother. Pat takes her Mom where ever she goes.

Her Mom is her best friend.

Not a dull moment among them…

I can’t believe it. I thought, I loved my Mom so much. But would I ever think of something like this to do for my Mom. I felt like a Mustard seed. I am nothing… just a zero comparing to these great guys I meet in my life once in a while.

Then I saw this passage in face book:

 

I was shocked, confused, bewildered

As I entered Heaven’s door,

Not by the beauty of it all,

 Nor the lights or its decor.

 

But it was the folks in Heaven

Who made me sputter and gasp–

The thieves, the liars, the sinners,

The alcoholics and the trash.

 

There stood the kid from seventh grade

Who swiped my lunch money twice.

Next to him was my old neighbor

 Who never said anything nice.

 

Bob, who I always thought

Was rotting away in hell,

Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,

Looking incredibly well.

 

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?

I would love to hear Your take.

How’d all these sinners get up here?

God must’ve made a mistake.

 

 ‘And why is everyone so quiet,

So somber – give me a clue.

’ ‘Hush, child,’ He said,

 ‘they’re all in shock.

No one thought they’d be seeing you.’

 

 

 JUDGE NOT!! Remember…Just going to church doesn’t make you a

Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.

Every saint has a PAST…

Every sinner has a FUTURE!

 

 

Think about it… Are we better than our enemies or anybody else we know?

 

http://jesus-loves-you.org/judge-not/?utm_source=FACE&utm_medium=JLY&utm_campaign=STORY

 

 

 

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How my iPhone proved this: “Do not assume”….

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I started using the wireless Phone probably in 1995, when I had to travel about sixty five miles to reach the work place. It was bulky and it was placed in a big handbag of its own. The other details of it, like its make, range etc. I don’t remember. But it was a necessity at that time, since I left home early in the morning around 5:45 am and during the winter time that was the only way to let my husband know that I reached safely at my office. Years passed by and the shape, size and style of the wireless Phone changed so fast. I still like the simplest form of Cell Phone. When Cell Phone started to provide camera with it, I was very surprised. Where I worked, Cameras were prohibited. So I didn’t buy the one with Camera.

My kids are crazy about the latest models of Cell Phones and they always competed to buy the latest makes in the market. Later I owned a somewhat modern Cell Phone which had the camera, but most of the other options provided in it, I seldom used. Then the iPhone came in the market. Kids bought them almost immediately. Then after about one year since the iPhone appeared in the market, one day my husband bought iPhones for both of us.

The first day, I took my iPhone to my office, I hid it from others. My intention of hiding it from others was only because I didn’t want the other two girls in the Office to feel bad, since they couldn’t afford to buy one yet. But after two days, one of them happened to see my new iPhone and picked it up and asked me when I bought it.

“Only two days ago.” I said.

She took my Phone to the other girl to show her.

I felt embarrassed feeling guiltier for owning something they couldn’t afford.

Then something happened. Both of them took out their own Phones and compared with mine. Their iPhones had beautiful case while mine was kind of naked, without a case…

That’s when I knew that these two girls had iPhones for the last one year or so…

What do I know about people? Nothing…

As my eldest son advises,

“Do not assume.”

 

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Why does color matter?

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I can write hundreds of Blogs about this subject. The main reason is that I am dark in complexion. I am the darkest in my family. I was not that conscious about it until I heard from my mother. She was worried about my color and was thinking way ahead about my future. I have heard her thinking out loud about my color. She got hold of anything which could make her dark-skinned girl more beautiful. She bought different necklaces of stones, gold and pearls, beautiful ribbons for my hair and Bangles of all colors available in the market at that time she could afford. There were no ready-made dresses at that time. So she designed and stitched elegant clothes for me to wear from her imagination… all to make me even more beautiful. She made sure I was presentable at any time of the day to anybody.

She taught me the importance of wearing beautiful clothes. She said,

“When you wear something  it should add beauty to you and it should not diminish it. Same with your ornaments, they should increase your beauty…”

She never bought me black or very dark clothes. In her opinion those colors diminished my beauty.

I had very long straight hair. I was short and my hair was up to my knees. Mother took time to comb my hair off the knots every day and braided it before I went to School. My Mother had curly hair. I liked her curly hair more than my straight hair.

One kid in my school always dressed as Krishna on the stage for her “Radha and Krishna” dance. She had long curly hair and she left it loose for that occasion. It looked very pretty to me. When my mother knew that I was very fond of curly hair like my classmate’s she did something very special for me. One evening, she washed my hair with native shampoo “Chemparathi Thali” to remove all the oil. Then she dried it and braided it to about thirty braids. The next morning, she opened all the braids and lightly combed my hair. Oh my God, my hair looked curly and more beautiful. I went to school with my long curly hair left loose. All my classmates came to see it and they complimented me. Even children from the other Divisions came to see my hair…

I was the Star of the School for the day. Even the Teachers noticed the style and complimented me.  I felt as if I was at the top of the world. But towards the evening, all of the curls disappeared. It was just like a dog’s tail trying to be straightened…

Even though she came up with all kinds of ideas to make me more beautiful, my mother was still worried about my future. She would have imagined how many rejections I would have to face in the market, when it was time to find a suitable boy for me.

Mother dreamed,

“May be by the time she is old enough to get married somebody would have found something to make dark skin to white, since modern medicine is developing so fast”.

But no miracle or medicine happened to change my color, by the time I reached the age to get married. But I was not allowed to fall in love with anybody, even though I came across few desirable characters in my life, before my marriage.

When I was in fourth grade, I had a friend, Vijayalakshmi. She lived very near to the School and was from a well-known family. She was very fair, beautiful and soft-spoken. Her eyes reminded me of Lotus’ petal. In the class, when the Malayalam teacher described the beauty of the Heroine in any lesson, I always looked back to make sure that it should be exactly like Vijayalakshmi’s eyes.

One day, Vijayalakshmi saw me walking on my way back home. She was in their private Boat with her parents on their way to her father’s home or “Tharavadu” in “Kavalam”. She waved to me from the Boat. Her parents also acknowledged me and waved to me. The very next day when I saw Vijayalakshmi, she told me,

“Amma was surprised yesterday to see you still walking to your house… such a long way to walk? Also my Amma said that you are so cute and beautiful”

Oh my God, Vijayalaksmi’s Mom giving me a compliment like that! I felt like I was at the top of the world, for getting a compliment from the mother of the most beautiful girl in my class. That’s the first compliment I got about my dark-beauty from somebody I thought very highly about. After all these years, my memories are still vivid.

After forty seven years, I tried to find out where Vijayalakshmi is, and at last found where she was settled. One day I went to her house. Her children had all grown up and moved to different places. She lived in a beautiful Mansion with her husband and her Mother. Her father had passed away a few years back. Her mother recognized me. I was happier to see her mother than her.

I described to her mother about the incident above and how much her compliment made a little dark-girl so happy and gave her the confidence about her own beauty, otherwise how low she would have thought about herself.

I will write more about this in my future blogs..

 

 

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Stranger in my prayers

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Every day I do the usual prayers of Orthodox Christians….Our father… Holy Mary….

I knew them by-heart and learned them in my childhood. When I was trying to learn them by-heart, I was refused lunch at times when I couldn’t do it by-heart within the time limit given to study. Who in their right mind, on a summer vacation, at the age of ten would like to sit down and recite prayers hundred times to remember them by-heart? Instead I played in the yard in the hot sun, climbed the Guava and Mango Trees, played on the swings made of Coir yarn, tried to catch fish with home-made fishing rods. I didn’t have money to buy hooks or the lines for fishing. My fishing rods were of any thin long sticks from any tree I could get hold of. I made hooks from paper clips, I stole from my father’s office room. My floats were small twigs. Lures were worms and they were plenty and easily available too. If I was caught fishing in the canal in front of our house, I got a lot of scolding from everybody in the house. It was a taboo for a girl from a good home to fish even if she did it in front of the house. I did it anyway. I was caught most of the time.

Even now I postpone the daily prayer to the very last chore of the day before I go to sleep. I try to blame this postponement as an act of all the Devils dwelling in me trying to make me a good follower of them. When I pray, most of the time, my mouth will be repeating what I learned and my thoughts will be wandering all over the world. When I become conscious about this wandering of the mind, I scold myself & try to concentrate in the prayer. At the end of these by-heart prayers, there is a small prayer which comes from the bottom of my Heart, I confide to God. I try to remember almost all the people somehow connected to me, including my family, siblings, close relatives, friends, cousins, in-laws, all the people who are good. Actually all the good people in this world do not need my recommendation, I know. Then comes the silhouette of a young white guy.. I don’t remember his face. I don’t remember his clothes, hair style or its color. But I remember him in my prayers and God will know whom I am thinking about. I pray to God to look after him give him everything good, not to give him any sorrow and only good things should happen in his life….

I will not be able to identify him, unless he comes & tells me, that he is the one I am talking about.

That day I was late to work. I didn’t have cash with me for the Lunch. I used to take lunch from home. Then I stopped it. It was my decision. I used to take left over of dinner for my next day’s Lunch. I hated to eat cold food. It reminds me of my school lunches. How much I yearned for warm food for my lunch when I was in School. My house was far away and sending a person from home just for bringing warm lunch for me was a waste of time & effort of a person. Once the Microwave was introduced to this world, I knew it is specially sent for me by God. At the office, we had a Microwave in a small side room on the side of the main Hall where everybody had their cubicles. When food is warmed in the microwave, the smell of the spices in the food with the steam filled the small room and it spread to the Hall too. Not all the American food has strong spices like Indian dishes. So I was kind of embarrassed when the smell of ‘Biriyani’ or fried fish or ‘Sambar’ lingered into the Hall when I warmed my lunch. Nobody complained, but I thought for somebody who was not used to these smells, these different smells would be a punishment. So I stopped taking Lunch to my Office. So I needed lunch money to buy lunch today.

This particular day was very cloudy. It looked like as if it is going to rain. The weather was cold. I need some cash. I have to buy lunch. If I go through the Bank’s drive-through, I could save some time. So I went to the Bank’s drive through. There were two drive ways at the back of the Bank for drive-through, one very near to the Bank building with a cashier at the window, the other in front of two ATM machines on an Island of Concrete.

It started to drizzle. There were one car in front of the Cashier, and another in front of the ATM and one small Truck in front of me, not sure of whether to go to the Cashier or to the ATM.

I waited for the two Cars to move and the Truck to make up its mind where to go. Two cars in the front left and Truck didn’t move for half a minute or so, so I assumed that, it might be going to the ATM. Till today I have no idea why I assumed so! I moved my Car through the left of the Truck & tried to go to the Cashier. Because of the drizzle & the wiper moving slowly I couldn’t see well. But as soon as I moved to the front of the Truck, I understood that I did cut the line.

I could see the face of the Truck Driver. He was very upset. I stepped on the Break. Car stopped. All my calculations & assumptions were wrong. I could see through the right side mirror of my car that the corner of the Island of the ATMs had gone under my Car between the front & back tires. I could see the eyes of the Cashier bulging..

I didn’t know whether to cry or scream….

No way would I be able to drive my car out of this mess myself.

I didn’t have a choice, other than going to the Truck Driver asking for his help.

I was embarrassed, but I was very humbled, I knew that I was wrong, but I didn’t know I was cutting the line when I drove in front of that Truck.

I walked slowly to the Truck Driver.

He was fuming. He was shouting at the top of his voice blaming me for the mess I was in. I listened and then I wanted to say, “I am sorry, I didn’t know that I was cutting you. I thought..”

But, he didn’t give me a chance to talk. He didn’t want to listen to what I had to say.

I was going to ask him to help me to get my Car out of that Island.

He continued his shouting…

In this commotion, I could see a man hunching on my side…

He asked me, “Mam, Shall I help you to drive your Car?”

I couldn’t hear him well because of the shouting of the Truck Driver.

He held his hand to me and said, “Give me the key, Mam”

I gave him the key. He didn’t say another word.

He went to my Car and brought it out, gave back my key, thanked me as if I did him a favor & walked to his car in the line at the far end.

True, he was sent by God to help me from my embarrassment. I didn’t see his face clearly and so I can’t remember his face.

I don’t know his name. But he has a special place in my daily prayers and in my Heart till I live. I pray to God “bless that stranger”.

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Buy one get one free…

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‘From Address’ for that envelope was local Cemetery.

It was addressed to me. So I opened it thinking some local Tax or a donation request.

But the letter inside started as

“We are pleased to offer you a free lot in our Cemetery. It is an offer of buy one, get one free. Pay only $500.00 for one lot.”

I didn’t read the rest of it.

It was a shock to me.

‘Have I reached that age?’

‘Sixty four’, is it that old to get ready for the last trip?

When my eyes skim through the Obituary page of the Daily News Paper, I usually check the places to see is there anybody I know?  If I am bored and I have nothing else to do & some time to kill, then I check just the ages of all those people gone, just to do a comparison, are they very old, or just few years older than me or just my age or younger than  me? That is just a game for me. Nothing serious….

But this mail gave me a shock of reality.

Come to think of age…

The 60th Birthday, “Shashtiabdapoorthi” of my father, we celebrated.

I thought at the age of 60 he was too old. I never knew at that time that the soul would not age with the body. Now at this age, I know that fact. History repeats…the younger generation still doesn’t know this fact.

I remember my mother used to say that my father’s Sandals never broke, but always Sandals’ soles became worn out because he walked in them every day more than five to ten miles. I was happy to present him something he would use every day. So I bought a pair of Sandals as a present for his “Shashtiabdapoorthi”. Rest of the siblings bought Shirt, ‘Mundu’, Shawl, Umbrella etc. He worn all the presents he got for the special occasion and went to church on Sunday. All of us accompanied him to the church. After the Service when father came out from the church, he noticed that he lost his new Sandals & Umbrella to somebody who needed them more than him.

I tried not to think about age or death, but those thoughts linger in my mind all the time.

I was no more interested in material things. When I went for shopping, jewelry or clothes or kitchen stuff did not interest me any more. I saw them as a waste. There is no point in accumulating any of that stuff if I can’t guarantee that I will be alive to use them. I looked at the stuff in my showcases. What is the purpose of holding on to them, if I am not around to enjoy them? I used to change my chain or Bracelet or ear drops once in a while. Now I was no more interested in any of those rituals. My nail polish is all chipped, but it didn’t bother me anymore. Who cares?

I talked to my husband about the mail next day.

He told me, “I was thinking that we should buy some lots”

“Do you like it in public Cemetery or the one belonging to our church?” he added.

It was just a matter of fact conversation.

He didn’t ask me about burying in my Native land. He knew that I don’t like the dead bodies to be carried around for the funeral to far away places. I have told that it is always better to do the funeral where ever the person dies, instead of carrying it to far away places. Close relatives will be already sad because of the demise and prolonging the funeral by carrying dead body around will only make them more miserable.

When my Mother visited me once she asked me.

“Do you want to see me dead before the funeral, if you were not near me, when I die?”

Nobody likes to talk about death. Before I could answer that she said,

“Isn’t it better to remember my face as live, than dead? I don’t want to be placed in a mortuary. Promise me that you will not request to keep my body in a mortuary, when I die.”

I thought about it for a minute, before I answered “Yes”. So I promised her that I will not request to keep her in the mortuary.

One early morning when I got the news of her death, I said to my eldest brother over the phone,

“You don’t have to keep her in the mortuary for me to see her before the funeral”

Then he said, “Any way she is kept in the mortuary, you may come if you wish”

So I went home to witness her funeral. I understood the fact that a dead person has no choice.

Then one day my husband told me,

“This is not where we grew up, so there will not be relatives or elders to take care of when we die, so we should buy the lots. Our children are not living nearby, so they should not be bothered with all these, when it happens.”

So next time when I went to the church, I talked to Zid, the person in charge of the church lots. He gave me the plan of the church Cemetery.

There were names written for certain lots and some names were put in brackets.

Zid told me the names in brackets are booked ones. They are not dead, yet.

I started reading the names. The names in brackets or not I don’t know any of these guys. I don’t want to be buried near a stranger.

I started reading the names one by one slowly. At last I found a name I know well, Keegans. Oh my God. That lovely couple was my neighbors. They lived just in front of our house, in the same lot. They were Irish. They were always together. Even for doing the yard work outside, they were together. It was a pleasure to see them together like that even though they looked aged & tired.

We had gone to see Keegan one or two weeks after his wife Alice died.

He told us ‘how difficult it was to cope all alone especially since he was not any good in cooking’.

He died within one year. Somebody else bought that house and moved in soon.

Staying near somebody I know even if I will be in a coffin made my mind at ease.

Next week, when I met Zid, I told him that I found a spot near Keegans. He knew Keegans.

“Where exactly is your lot?” I asked Zid.

He told me that his was not very far away from Keegans.

“Anyway, don’t forget to invite us for the parties” I joked to him.

“Sure, I will not forget”, Zid said.

Last week, my husband got a mail from the same Public Cemetery.

“We are pleased to offer you a free lot in our Cemetery. It is an offer: Buy one, get one free. Pay only $634.00 for one lot.”

We had a good laugh…

“So, church lot is still cheaper…” Real Estate is still a good business.

 

 

 

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Exceptional Jeff

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Jeff, is a typical American. But he is not a Native American. I am not that good to guess the ancestry of people, especially white Americans. Black Americans will have root somewhere in Africa; Brown Americans will be from anywhere in Asia. But white, if they are not Native, they may be from anywhere in the world.

I don’t remember exactly when I met Jeff for the first time.

He is very thin, about 5’ 5” tall and probably weighed 150 lbs. He may be in his late fifties.

He always wore a battered hat. His hair is mostly grey. His eyes are the most prominent feature. They were sky blue.
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He came to our house once to deliver some firewood for the winter, but eventually ended up helping me in anything and everything I needed help for. He has a full time job in a shop from 8 am to 2 pm, and when he is free, he did odd jobs for anybody who needed a helping hand. He is a jack of all Trades.

One afternoon he came to my house to fix some leaking pipe. I was busy in the kitchen frying some fish. He liked the smell of the fried fish with its masala of red pepper, black pepper, garlic and Vinegar. So he asked me what I am cooking.

I am always enthusiastic to share my Indian Culture with anybody. So I asked him, “Do you want some to taste?”

He was not that keen, but when I compelled, he agreed to taste. I gave him one piece of fried King fish. It was boneless. He broke a piece and put in his mouth…the rest of his actions were very fast. I could see his pathetic look, he didn’t know whether to swallow or spit it out. For him the masala was too much, especially the pepper taste. He swallowed what he put in his mouth & then in a hurry took few swings of Coco Cola on the table in a gulp. His face changed color. All red! It was red like a Tomato. I felt very bad. I didn’t mean to put him in a difficult situation like this.

“Sorry,  Jeff! I didn’t know that it would end up like this.”

“Hey, it’s not your fault. I am not used to spices at all. That’s the problem.”

After that episode I made sure to give him only sweet stuff to taste.

Jeff doesn’t ask for his money after each project. When it adds up to 100s he will bring his Bill.

One day he brought his dog with him. It was a big one and very friendly. It was actually too big I was scared and closed my eyes tightly when it came near me to smell me out. I wondered how Jeff feeds this big Dog.

Some days in the middle of the work, Jeff will go to get nails or something like that he needed for the repair from a shop in the town. Then sometimes, he will not be back that day.

I was upset one day when Jeff disappeared in the middle of the work. Next day when he came, I confronted him about his vanishing act. Later I found out the secret of this. There is a bar near the shop where Jeff went to buy stuff and bar was Jeff’s weakness. Once inside the bar, he forgets everything else and goes home happily after his drinks.

So I told him, “Jeff, there is Beer in my fridge, anytime you need, please help yourself. You don’t have to ask me.”

It reduced his vanishing acts, but did not stop it fully.

Bar is a Bar! I knew.

At times, Jeff helped me to move furniture and plants from the house to the Patio or bring them from outside to inside the house when weather changed to spring or fall. When Jeff carries them all by himself, I often wondered how a thin person like him can carry that much heavy load. When he carries the big plants outside, it reminded me of a small Ant carrying a load ten times heavier than its own weight. If I try to help him, he wouldn’t let me, saying that women are weaklings. He had carried more weight than this. This is nothing comparing to that.

Half of the stuff he tells me, I don’t understand because of his accent. He couldn’t understand most of the things I told him because of my accent. But we never had a communication problem, somehow we understood each other. He had a limp, when he walked. One day he told me it was the aftermath of a cow charging at him, when he was in his twenties.

In that accident, he broke his back bone and had to spend few months in the hospital. Even now, he can’t sleep on a flat bed. So he sleeps in a “Recliner”.

“Anyway I can’t sleep with my wife. She will spring out of the bed if a Telephone rings at night. So we keep our phone off its cradle at night. With my snoring she will not be able to sleep at all, if I sleep in the same bed with her.”

He made me laugh!

Once or twice in a year Jeff goes for two weeks’ vacations. His father-in-law has a Cabin near a lake.

When he goes there for vacation, if he is not fishing, he may be fixing that cabin. Sometimes he goes to another big Lake near Canada. One day when he came back after a fishing trip, I asked him.

“How many fish did you catch?”

“May be 10 or 12 between my grandchildren & I.”

“So what did you do with the fish? Did you fry them?”

“No, I let go off them.”

“Then why do you catch them, if you don’t like to eat them?”

“For the fun of it…”

I couldn’t understand the fun in catching the fish & letting it go… But most Americans do that.

“Do, you like fresh fish?” He asked.

“Yes, I do. I grew up near the Sea, so fresh fish are readily available and they are cheaper than meat. So we used to eat fish on a daily basis.”

“Ok, then I will bring some for you, next time when I come back after fishing.” He promised.

After that, any time, when Jeff went for fishing he made sure to bring me few fish. Also I made sure, to send “fish Molly” which is the mildest fish curry to him, prepared with his fish.

Our “Unniyappam” (banana fritters), “Ethakkaappam” (plantain fritters), “Bread Caramel pudding”, “Aviyal” (Vegetable Mix) etc. are few of the stuff he liked. I was happy to pack them for him to give his wife too.

Once there was big thunderstorm and power was out. Gas was also off. Electric Company informed that power will be re-stored only after 4 or 5 days.

‘The food in the Refrigerator or the Freezer is not going to survive.’ I thought.

We called almost all the big stores nearby to enquire about the availability of a Generator big enough to run the Refrigerator and the Freezer at least. But all of them had run out of Generators small or big suitable for a home.

Roads were littered by fallen trees & other debris of thunderstorm and not yet in good condition to travel.

‘What am I going to do with the food? Two days they will survive, but after 4 or 5 days, for sure, all those foods should be good only to throw away. what a waste!’ I thought.

I thought about the poor people in this world. Somehow, I have to save the food. But I didn’t know how to.

There were not any cars or other vehicles in the road which was near to our house. Because of the bad conditions of the road, people may be staying home.

Why take risk? Then I heard the sound of a truck coming to my driveway. Who would take a risk and travel in this condition? I was surprised.

I saw Jeff with his small Truck in my driveway. There was a small Generator at the back of his Truck.

He just walked in and announced.

“You guys will need a Generator with your Refrigerator & Freezer. So I borrowed one from my friend and brought for you.”

He was an angel sent by God at my difficult time.

My eyes welled up. I just touched his hands and said nothing. He understood what I meant. There was no need of saying anything.

But other than all these things happening in our friendship, something he told me later changed all my opinions about him. One day casually he told me that even though his children are all grown up and left home, one friend lives with him.

“How long he has been living with you?”

“Actually, he is not a friend of mine. He was a homeless person and he wanted a place to stay. He is living with us for more than 10 years.”

“After few months, I added a room to my house. He lives in that room. He goes to work and makes a living for himself.”

That conversation turned everything upside down for me. I thought of myself. I live in a big house with 5 bedrooms.  Since my kids are all grown up and moved away to faraway places finding jobs they liked, not all the rooms in my house are occupied now. But will I ever have the humbleness or broad mindedness to share my house with one or two homeless people, anytime in my lifetime? I am a Christian. A Christian is one who follows Christ teachings. I felt ashamed of myself. My respect & love for Jeff grew up to the sky. Jeff may be a Christian by birth. May be he had attended the services in a church with his parents when he was a kid. But I don’t think he attends any church now-a-days. What difference does it make by going to church? I don’t know any more…

For all my gratitude to Jeff, I started remembering Jeff & his family in my daily prayers. Then I thought, Jeff doesn’t need anybody’s prayers, not mine for sure, his name is already written in St. Peter’s Good Book in Heaven in golden letters and also his home in Heaven will not be a small one, but it will be a Mansion.

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