Monday, September 11, 2006
9/11 and five more since
My husband and I fought that morning (I do not remember why)and really it is not an important deatail, except that we went to work separately. It was a beautiful day and when I got off the train I saw the ocean water glistened more than ever and I finally felt everything would be okay between us. In my office the person who I was supposed to meet was instead fixated on his radio. I had no idea at all, I thought they were talking about a student pilot who got mixed up. Next, I remember frantic calls to my husband, finding each other on a street corner where we agreed to meet and walking home because the trains and buses were all stopped. And we did not even live in NYC. We spent the rest of the day glued to our television as CNN repeated itself in the insipid way it does when covering any developing event and calling friends and family.
. . .
In the days at home afterwards we planned to go to NYC to help with the rescue efforts. We were told to stay at home; there were too many volunteers. I felthelpless. I wanted to do something, I mourned for my country, and then slowly in teh weeks that followed I felt alienated by my country.
. . .
A week later we went hiking. I think it was Mt. Monadnock, I am not sure. On the way down a couple of guys in earth colored camouflage passed us saying "fucking terrorists, let's take 'em at the bottom." I pretended not to hear because I did not want to scare my husband. After about twenty minutes we saw a couple ahead of us who insisted on walking down the rest of the trail with us. She was Persian, he was white. She said they saw two guys walk by talking about us and they were scared for us because they were ex Desert Storm Marines. She knew fear. Her uncle, an engineer had been arrested while taking pictures of a bridge he had designed. In California. It took us another 45 minutes to get off the mountain. The whole drive home I looked in the rear mirror to make sure we were not followed. I always feel a bit queasy with military types, I remember seeing them in East Africa, busing local women en route to Somalia. That vision has really clouded my opinion, but now not only do they seem unscrupulous, but as though they are targeted against ME.
. . .
It was the opening game of the season for the Red Sox. Loads of people tumbled into the Fenway Park neighborhood. Some people were handing out American Flags. I felt one thrust into my hand and I felt watched, as though people were looking for my reaction. I hurried home. I was scared to be brown in the middle of a crowd of people waving flags and watching me. Maybe it was paranoia, maybe not. We did not discuss it; the tension was already high between us. I did not want to leave my home and admitting how unwelcome I felt there would have tilted us clearly into a decision I did not want to make. I felt my country, my hometown, they were all positioned to alienate me.
. . .
I went to my parents' house for dinner. I took them flags to put in their window. I was scared for them and did not know how I could control a situation that turned against us.
. . .
I am in a new city and a new state. In many ways we have a new life. I have grown up, I am a parent. When my son was born our neighbors brought us food. People we hardly new sent us gifts. We saw a hurricane rip a community to shreds and then we saw a city welcome them. I feel like I have seen humanity. I feel like I am part of this community. Our schools are terrible and crime is getting out of control, but in some ways I feel safer.
Happy Birthday Beta!
This week you turn two years old and your father and I are amazed! You are more wonderful each day - and hardly as terrible as they warned! Which is not to say that you do not display the very traits that we fear because we see them in ourselves and can only wonder how we got this far with them. You are part of us, and yet, you are already very much your own person. And that thing that I call hard-headedness in your Dad and fierce independence in me is simply splendid in you. Recently, your father read you a book about a bird and you calmly and promptly corrected him and told him it was an "Eagle". The week before you led me through the aisles of the grocery store loading our cart with all your essentials: bananas, apple sauce, wheaties (a word you made up to mean all bread products) and cheese. This past weekend you contributed to the family agenda stating simply: "I want zoo. Hathi." Well, of course then we had to go and see those elephants!
You have given up bottles and binky-b and have become friends with your ballu and elmo. You love sitting on the potty and reading about puppies. Yesterday you told someone you are two! All this despite (or perhaps because) the fact that your past two years have involved less than five hours of TV, most of which has been Sesame Street. This past week, your Dad prepared for your birthday by blowing up dozens of helium balloons right before your nap time. When you went up for your nap I heard from the hallway as you told elmo all about "daddy, hawa ballooon..."
In the mornings you wake up between 6 and 7 A.M., as if a switch has been turned on, and you exclaim "Mama! Dada!!" repeatedly and remind us it is time to bring you into our bed for snuggles and a warm sippy cup of dhu-dhu. You hug us, then you slap us and smile disarmingly and all is forgiven and time-outs are avoided.
In the evenings our little rituals are the highlight of my day. I long to take you on quiet walks with our very big, puppy. The one that your father now takes out jogging, for the health of the canine, of course. And of course, there is dinner time. I struggle as we dream up ever-new distraction so that we may sneak morsels of food in your mouth. You have eluded us on this front for two years, but you are healthy and full of energy so sometimes I even forget why it causes us so much angst when all you want for dinner is a popsicle (which, by the way, we would never give you because Dad is still plying you with the tastiest organically grown vegetables prepared in a desi style). Just before bed, we curl up together on the sofa for dhu-dhu book, our special time togther and no one else (read: Dad) is allowed. This is okay because Mom is not allowed to actually put you to bed. Not with any great success any way, because you direct me through a long series of activities involving numerous hugs and kisses, and then, when you are finally ready to lie down, you point to your back and direct me to "scratch" - whatever else is Mom for? And so, I willingly comply and pat your back until your eyes are closed, your breath becomes slow and even and all your fingers curl so I know my baby is fast asleep.
My darling, you have charmed us all. You have even reduced all four of your grandparents to tears when it is time for them to leave. And me too. This morning you told me you really wanted to go to school and I said, "what about my kiss?" as you ran out the door with Dad. You turned right back around, jumped up high so I would catch you in an embrace, flung arms and legs around me so I was encircled with your softness and you gave me two huge wet open-mouthed kisses on either cheek as you held on tight. My heart is a jumble of jello, my love, and I cried all the way to work after I waved good bye to you. Happy Birthday to my darling boy.
Friday, December 02, 2005
55 Words for Friday Fiction
She forgot the bitter taste of his lips after a fortnight apart.
Also forgotten: the exhilaration when experiencing morning queasiness after years of yearning.
All that remains is her silent despair as he weakens, lying emaciated before her.
Silence as the neighbors cross the street.
She prays for silence for the child in her womb.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
My cousin is in town this week and it reminded me of something. Maybe I was sort of sheltered, but it really did take a long time for me to figure out that my parents are not perfect - no one is. I need to make sure that my baby knows this as soon as possible!
When I was twelve years old I spent the summer with cousins in Canada. We went from place to place with my aunt and uncle in their enormous caravan. I'm a city girl for the most part so this was a totally different experience. One day we went to climb a hill . Not a very steep ascent, but if you are like me, coming down would make you giddy. You really need to do it on all fours backwards.
When we got to the top my Dad said that he did not think he could come down. I started laughing because I thought he was joking. Cousin M. started to help him down by suggesting he follow her course: hand here, foot here then foot here etc. Almost one third of the way down I realized that he really might not be kidding. Even after getting to the bottom, and for years afterwards I still was not convinced that my Dad needed help that day. Not sure why the empathic failure that day. Hope it never happens again.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I reconnected with a friend from college recently. He has written a book that is receiving great reviews and I cannot help but to wonder why I am so terrible to not have contacted the fellow over the past ten years as he waited tables at night and tried to write a novel. Living halfway across the country doesn't help, but I am ashamed to say that I emailed him when I came across his book. I immediately bought it and devoured it - glowing the entire time with pride because he did so well. I have to let you take a peek. And maybe one more. Still glowing and I read the book a month ago!
Friday, November 04, 2005
Cramped house. Gray days unrelenting. Screaming baby. Haggard face.
Evening writing class lights shine bright. She writes poetry. His hungry eyes. Her sultry stare. Visits to bookstores followed by coffee then more. Exhilaration. Rapture and fear upon flight.
Nights again grow long. He reads poetry alone. Remembers mislaid past lives. Forgets why he left.
Mukhtar Mai wins
An award from Glamour magazine and was proclaimed one of Asia's heroes by Time magazine.
This shy, quiet, uneducated woman from a small village in Pakistan has made international headlines since she began aggressively pursuing charges against her rapists in 2002. After the highest courts found her attacker guilty, and she was denied travel privileges, she is now in the international eye.
And I am ecstatic to see a Desi woman honored, but it shames us all that these circumstances which propelled her into international fame are repeated probably daily all over South Asia and the world without a nod of acknowledgment from anyone.
And don't think that blaming the victim only happens "over there." I know of someone (who of course would never be named) who as a foreign exchange student was attacked (not raped) but beaten by a bunch of inebriated men who forced their way into her taxi. The injuries were unsettling but not permanent and she recovered. This bright young woman came home two days later with bruises and swelling on her face. I remember going to see her. I was looking for a gift that might cheer her up and I was bluntly scolded by her family and told that I should not celebrate what had happened but rather we should all admonish her.
Wow. This was so weird. Everyone involved was educated (doctors, engineers etc), well to do and living in the US. Not the sort of crowd you would expect to generate such a crude and uncaring response. The unstated fear that was never articulated clearly remained that her virginity may have been compromised and that there may have been an undisclosed sex crime.
I yelled at the people who said those things to me that day because I could not believe they would blame her and that they would be so concerned about their own "honor" that they should subjugate this talented person. How obscene. Their immoral acts against this women shock me as much as the crime committed by the men in the taxi.
So, although Mukhtar Mai has won, it appears that the rest of us are distanced from her win. How could we possible relate to her background? We do not live like that? And in our own homes and amongst our own society we continue to act like criminals.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Thoughts on Gyan Puja and my "job"
Yesterday was the Bohra Eid, but I didn't find out until last night so we didn't do anything. Hubby owes me some good kebabs.
Today is the second day after Diwali which means it is Bhai Duj. I sent a tikka via ecard to my bro who is really far away. I cannot believe we are only four years apart because sometimes I feel really old when I am around him. We are in such different life places right now because he is still in school and not in a serious relationship etc. I also text messaged the boy to wish him. He is the only person I ever text message.
Today my family does a gyan puja thing where they basically take some time in the day to pray for wisdom ("gyan") and bless their books etc. which supposedly provide the same. I looked around the house and my bookshelves are stuffed full with novels. Granted, they are good ones, I wonder if this is what I am meant to observe.
At work, I am slightly troubled. Why did I ever go to law school? I am unfortunately very far removed from any paid work in civil rights or international development (although I can dabble in it pro bono). I guess part of it is that I am not feeling very ambitious in my career, so I can take time to enjoy all the stuff I do outside of work. Also, I am really involved in raising my child, which my current job supports. The truth is that I never thought I would be in this place where my career would be subsumed by my parenting. Yet, this is exactly where I want to be. Although it would help if I could work part time...
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Diwali at the daycare
About three weeks ago, to that end, we sent a bunch of friends to see an IMAX film on India called Mystic India. The movie is really about the Swaminarayan/BAPS people (which we are not) but hey, it’s an IMAX about India - pretty cool! Yesterday, Hubby and I each took our annual ton of samosas for our coworkers (which were gobbled down in an instant!).
Then, we went to our son's daycare to talk about Diwali. We are planning to do this every year he is in school. Because our son is 13-months old, we could not really do an art or crafts project. So we read a book. I chose Lighting a Lamp : A Diwali Story by Jonny Zucker, Jan Barger Cohen (Illustrator). The sad thing is, I researched a whole bunch of books. Last month I literally borrowed every single childrens book on the subject of Diwali from the public library system (there were about ten). Then I went online and researched reviews on childrens Diwali books. I bought several, and finally settled on sharing this one because it was a) age appropriate 2) not overly religious and 3) beautiful with lots of illustrations. We played some music (Indian nursery rhymes available from Karadi Tales). And that was it for show and tell. Next year we'll probably do some rangoli painting or making diyas out of play-doh.
I am so curious - how do other parents handle Diwali with their kids as 2nd generationers?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Turns out, I really like the daycare our son is in now. I felt sort of guilty having gone on this illicit affair of an expedition after I remembered all the reasons I chose this place. Forget the proximity and the hours which make it really easy to pick him up and visit during the day, if we like. We took a HARD look at what is good for our son. First, we visited the largest Montessori program in the City, the Montessori School of Downtown. Then we went to one of the most (if not the most) expensive and nationally recognized daycares in the country, aptly named, Creme de la Creme.
The Montessori place had almost no toys in the 1-yr old room. Also, the table where the kids sit was the kind they get strapped into so they will not walk away. They did have a bunch of Desi teachers though. But parents cannot hear what is going on in the classroom. They are required to stand outside and observe but they cannot visit. And the menu is the same every week and it is all really bland and terrible food that I would never feed my child, because I want him to like Desi food too.
Creme was really weird. It IS like Disney World in there! The finish out is amazing. I cannot imagine how much it must have cost. However, we agreed it was form over substance. there were too many kids in the room and they were not being guided. And they had no developmental toys within arms reach (again they were on shelves where only the teachers could reach them). And they had to switch rooms to go to music class. And music class was basically singing songs and clapping your hands so switching rooms was only to make the adults feel important and waste some time. And the food was gross! And on styrofoam plates! Yikes!
We are happily back to: Packing Desi (and Italian and Japanese and Indonesian etc.) food if we want to feed that to our little one; visiting if I want to; watching my child play indoors and in an extensive outdoor environment; knowing that he has access to a ton of developmentally appropriate objects and that his teachers are loving towards him. Phew!
Please note that these are the personal opinions of the author. I would never tell you what to do and neither should you let me. These are just anecdotes from my own life.
Friday, October 28, 2005
55 Friday Nano Fiction
ANNA's challenge/theme for the day: Doing something illicit. Forbidden. Dangerous.
Afterwards she lies coiled. He slips away, voice fading. “You want a sandwich?”
“Sure” she whispers sliding into the chair opposite his laptop. Then, little louder than necessary, “I’ll check email.” A surreptitious click on History reveals visits to the chatroom. Her throat tightens. She recognizes the name. “Anita.”
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Ranting and raving about the parent-teacher meeting at the daycare
I did not scream. I said the teachers were lovely. My child is one year old. He does not tell me about his day when I ask him. I need to ask his teachers.
In my defense, I should explain that I call one time every day. I ask about my son's mood, his eating and his sleeping. Hubby and I are both lawyers. I disclose this fact because it may play a part in all the questions.
This got me thinking, is my parenting style different from the other parents at the school? I think it is. What is more, I think there is a desi style of parenting. I remember how involved my Mom was with my teachers at school. She even had them over for dinner, which would drive me nuts in high school. Am I a desi mom? You betcha! I think it is all a cultural misunderstanding.
I remember after Donald Trump fired Toral Mehta (the desi women who was a witch) from the Apprentice, a bunch of people began to discuss whether Toral exhibited a desi managerial style. Some (erroneously I believe) drew the conclusion that her ego was a product of the caste system. That is not what I am talking about when I say desi parenting style.
The desi parents I know in the U.S. are all highly motivated and largely successful. That in turn affects their attitudes and expectations for their children. Thus, they are also zealous in protecting the interests of and inquiring about their children. Is it a travesty if my child gets a bruise or a bump? No. But I sure do want to know about it. After all, we are paying the daycare to watch our children.
Friday, October 21, 2005
May people argue that karva chauth is not a feminist ideal, but according to this article, it may appeal to feminists after all. The holiday always resonated strongly with me. The six times I have fasted (fruits and nuts and milk) and attended the afternoon puja with other married women I have enjoyed the company and camraderie with women most of all. It is worth all the rush to leave work early, traispse all over town and get gussied up. I recently read this article and thought I could share it, beacuse like any successful relationship, I feel my marriage has received the blessings of so many people. I got it from, where else? www.Karvachauth.com. I like it because it appeals to my notion of a vibrant sisterhood.
"The fast of Karva Chauth is of particular importance to Hindu women as they believe it ensures the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands. The origin of this festival was based on a very sweet and noble idea. Though this idea has lost its true sense as today the whole outlook of this festival has changed.
Long time back, girls used to get married at a very early stage, and had to go and live with their in-laws in other villages. If she had any problems with her husband or in-laws, she would have no one to talk to or seek support from. Her own parents and relatives would be quite far and unreachable. There used to be no telephones, buses and trains long ago. Thus the custom started that, at the time of marriage, when bride would reach her in-laws, she would befriend another woman there who would be her friend or sister for life. It would be like god-friends or god-sisters. Their friendship would be sanctified through a small Hindu ceremony right during the marriage.
Once the bride and this woman had become god-friends or god-sisters, they would remain so all their lives and recognize the relation as such. They would also treat each other like real sisters. During any difficulty later in life, involving even the husband or in-laws, these women would be able to confidently talk or seek help from each other. Thus Karva Chauth started as a festival to celebrate this friendship (relationship) between the once-brides and their god-friends (god-sisters). Praying and fasting for the sake of husband came later and is secondary. It was probably added, along with other mythical tales, to enhance the festival. In any case, husband would always be associated with this festival, because the day of starting this holy friendship between two god-sisters was essentially the day of bride's marriage to him.
Thus praying and fasting for him by his wife during a celebration of her relationship with the god-friend would be quite logical.Thus, originally Karva Chauth is once a year festival to renew and celebrate the relationship between god-friends (god-sisters). It had a tremendous social and cultural significance once when world lacked the ways to communicate and move around easily. "
Sunday, August 14, 2005
The Cajun favorite.
Serve like a stew over rice.
This is so comforting, especially when you are a little under the weather. Hubby makes it with lots of veggies and a nice dark "rue." You can throw some shrimp in to make it really pop, unless of course you like the veggie version better.
5 table spoons olive or another vegetable oil
3 cups or more vegetable stock (make your own or use organic veggie stock or mushroom broth
10 tablespoons white flour (substitute with atta in a pinch, but whatever you do - do not use whole wheat flour)
A bunch of veggies:1 1/2 cup okra - get it fresh1 large potato with or without skin
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers of any color
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup of mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablepoons of chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco
2 cups rice (of course we use Basmati for everything - although it doesn't work very well for sushi...)
Heat oil over medium heat in a Le Creuset (this is really the best thing for it - remember to register for this if you are getting married!) or dutch oven until hot.
Sprinkle in the flour. Stir this slowly and steadily with undivided attention until the "rue" turns a caramel color and gives off a nice aroma (kind of like making halwa). Only then add the veggies: okra, bell peppers, potatoes, pepper, celery, onion and garlic. Stir until crisp tender.
Add parsley, oregano, pepper sauce and bay leaves. Cover the veggies with enough broth to submerge them. Bring to boil over high heat. Keep stirring periodically. The rue will thicken the soup base. If it doe not, you will need more rue that you will need to make separately and then add in. Cover and reduce heat to simmer.
Lastly, make some rice. And to serve - this looks cool - shape it into nice round bowls and invert on shallow plates for individual servings.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Known throughout most of Kenya this is a favorite snack, especially dunked in a hot and sugary milky chai. This is the staple bread of Swahili people, and some eat it every morning for breakfast. Try is with creme fraiche and fruit. I make the dough in my Breadman.
Use all ingredients at room temperature!
3 1/2 cups plain white flour
1/4 cup sugar, or a little more if you like them sweeter
2 teaspoons ghee (or butter - Hubby hates the smell of ghee. Punjabi boy - go figure)
1 teaspoon yeast diluted in a little warm water
1 1/4 cups coconut milk (from those cans you might use in Thai cooking)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds - use a mortar and pestle to mash down the seeds of 10 cardamom pods. oil for deep frying
Thoroughly knead flour, sugar, cardamom, ghee, milk and yeast solution to form a dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and blistered.
Let it rise once, for a couple of hours in a warm place.
Divide into 4 balls. Roll each ball into a 6" circle. Cut into quarters. Put well apart on a floured board or paper and keep in a warm room for about 2 hours or until the dough is risen and becomes light.
Deep fry (oil at 300 degrees F) both sides in oil till brown. They should be a light, golden brown, not too brown.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Breastfeeding and starting solids links
Kelly Mom - everything you ever wanted to know or need to know - you can search on it
Fun Anecdotal Site Booby Juice -blog of a another breastfeeding Mom
Breastfeeding World Domination - Huh? A bit militant really but worth a look.Info on
Feeding Guides/Growth Calculators/Calories:Feeding Guide for the First YearDevelopment
Chart Children's growth Chart Percentile Calculator when you are feeling nuts like I often am
CDC Growth chartsChildhood Calorie Requirements
Starting solidsStarting SolidsHome Made Baby Food
Friday, June 24, 2005
Recipe: Gado Gado
The Hubby and I enjoyed this dish in Bali. It is mostly veggie, except for the eggs and shrimp paste which are optional. It is a salad served with a sauce and if you can find them, little rice/shrimp toasts. It is so funny that all I can think about is food, but in reality we have no time to cook, so much so that we actually outsourced our cooking last month to a Desi lady.
1 cup cabbage shredded (any color)
2 cups green string beans cut into 1/2 inch lengths
4 medium-sized carrots peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup of Cauliflower florets
1/2 cup of Beansprouts washed
Some lettuce leaves and watercress for garnish
2 boiled eggs quartered
1 medium-size boiled potato with skin - any color
1 cucumber thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Peanut oil
1 cup raw peanuts (without skins)
5 cloves of garlic mashed in a garlic press
1/2 cup of onions finely diced
1 teaspoon of shrimp paste from the asian market (optional)
1/2 teaspoon or more of salt
1 teaspoon chilli powder 1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce - use the low salt version if you like
2 cups of water
About 1 teaspoon Tamarind water or fresh lemon juice in a pinch.
To make the sauce:
Roast the peanuts without oil on on low heat in a frying pan. Roast on low heat for about 10 minutes till the colour turns to a light brown. Stir (or toss) frequently to make sure they don't burn and turn black. Grind the cooled peanuts into a fine powder using a blender or coffee grinder. Blend the garlic, shallots and shrimp paste in a mortar or in a blender with a pinch or two of salt. Heat the 2 tbsp peanut oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan. Fry the blended paste in the oil for about 3 minutes on medium heat, reducing the heat if anything starts to burn. Add the chilli powder, sugar, soy sauce and water. Bring this to the boil, then add the ground peanuts. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick; this should take about 8-10 minutes. Add the tamarind water or lemon juice and more salt if needed.
For the veggies:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Then blanch each of the vegetables in it separately. Drain in a colander and set aside. Do not over cook! The vegetables must be crisp. Beans, carrots, and cauliflower will take a few 4 minutes. Cabbage is 30 seconds and the green beans are about ten seconds. Arrange the lettuce around the edge of a serving dish as a bed for your veggies. Then pile the vegetables that you just blanched and other remaining items on the platter. Pour the sauce over the vegetables.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Weekend Without the Hubby
I had a great time with Baby, but we were also planning a party at our house that weekend for which I needed to make arrangements - shopping, menu, cleaning etc. All I can say is thank goodness my hubby man is back.
Could I be a single Mom? Of course. I lived on my own for years before I got married. I know how to handle situations that can arise with a child. But I sure would not want to be a single Mom. At work I happened to mention the events of the weekend to my assistant. She suggested, rightly so, that I ought to mention it to my husband. So I did. He is much appreciated.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Baby won't eat dal!
Last week we pureed it and over cooked it until mushy and he screamed and screamed but would not eat it. In fact, he decided not to eat any solid food after that for four days.
Well, I decided to try again last night. This time, hubby ground uop the dal in the coffee bean grinder so that it became a fine powder. I did a light tarka (inusion of flavored oil used a lot in Indian cooking) of olive oil with jeera (cumin) and garlic. I figured, this is MY son, and he will eat it if we jazz it up.
First spoon: The baby screamed! Then, he pursed his lips tightly together and put his hands in front of his face and pushed the next spoonful away. I diluted it with organic baby oatmeal and breastmil. He ate 7 bites.
Isn't my beautiful baby a desi boy?
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
I was born in Africa. I still love to say that – in another distant life that I do not remember except when spurred by childhood photographs. These photographs, faded Kodak colors from the 1970s suggest a hot and sunny environment that is fading fast. My parents had expected a son. I am not sure why and nothing in their behavior ever led me to question the desire or to suspect I was unwelcome. The story begins before my birth.
My mother born into an educated hindu khatri family is the eldest of three children. Her mother had wanted a child for a very long time. My grandmother, Amaji tells me that she was married when she was 15 years old. She was an orphan living with her many siblings in a small town in the foothills of the Himalyas. She was married, by arrangement, to a man she had never met before – until the date of the wedding. Upon being married, she remained at her childhood home for several years before she assumed the role of wife.. This change from child to bride and then wife signaled the greatest disappointment and joys in her life. The disappointment articulated was that she could not pursue her education once married. Her passion for education was carried on by her children. The other disappointment, although never articulated, or even suggested, but I can only imagine, was her marriage to an authoritative man. Although I have no understanding of my grandfather that shows any real depth, I can only share my recollections of his personality from my childhood. I can remember the disapproving glances cast my way as a child. And I remember the voiceless commands instructing my grandmother to help him when he was in the ravages of prostate cancer at the age of 80. She never raised her quiet voice and she never resisted. Still, there was so much love too. I still have the jodhpur trousers that he wore while a forestry officer, before my birth and even the birth of my mother. I imagine Amaji, frail body on a small frame and strong mind tagging along as they explored the rugged slopes of the Himalayas. After she became pregnant, he went on his sojourns himself.
However, I know they were a strict duo and they battled to educate their children. The first child, my mother was born after many years and many pujas at many temples. This girl, always referred to as “beta” or male child was blessed and a blessing.
Although it has not been discussed in my family in any great detail, there was great turmoil at the time. I suppose, when one has a family the political events of the day mean little in comparison to raising healthy educated children. However, this much I do now from questions I have asked. My mother was born in 1942. In 1947 India was born as a democracy after splitting from Pakistan and removing the British rule. This year, 1947 represents the greatest voluntary human migration that ever occurred in such a short time period anywhere ever in the history of the planet. My mother was a young school child and her two brothers were babies requiring a great deal of attention. And although it is not discussed, when the Indian government nationalized lands my Mother’s family was heavily affected. The income of a civil servant, a forestry officer, was steady but paltry in comparison to the revenue generated from the lands his family owned and rented to tenant farmers. My mother recalls her early childhood how in the fall and the spring, the sweeping verandahs of the old house in Mandi town were filled with baskets filled with the harvests of the season. In effect, the house, owned by the family for generations and divided into four areas, each section owning one side of the courtyard “aangan” and the food, provided largely by tenants, were free. The salary of a forestry officer was just sufficient for educating the three children.
On trips to Mandi, my mother has pointed out to me vast sweeping vistas of valleys and hills. “These were our family lands. See – that is where the apples came from every fall.”