Mommed Out

My last meeting of the day wrapped up at 4:35 pm. I leisurely walked back to my desk and looked at my phone. As if I was waiting for a phone call from someone. I kept the phone back on the table, and started looking through my inbox for unread mails that needed attention. The list was long, and my stamina was running low. I really wanted to go to Tara’s day care and play with her for ten minutes, before taking her home, and making idlis for dinner.

Tara’s day care friends are like my extended family. I have seen these kids grow up together. They were less than six months old when I first met them. From the shine in their eyes, I can tell that they love me. I love them too. Especially Tara’s sisters, as she likes to call them – A&A. I toyed with the idea of dropping everything and just leave. I’d skip the traffic, and I’d get to be with Tara and her sisters for some time.

A ping on Hangouts led me down a different set of activities for the next ten minutes, and at 4:50 I got a call from the day care. Tara had hurt herself, spinning on the spinner. She was spinning too fast, and she toppled and hurt her nose and lips. I could not understand anything that the teacher was saying in that moment. I recollected my thoughts and asked her, “Is she really ok? Is there blood? Is she crying?”. She responded, “Yes, she is ok. She is sitting with an ice pack. There was no blood, and she did not cry.”

All the worst possibilities started fogging my mind. But I was somehow able to push through the negative thoughts, and I told the teacher, “I am on my way. Ask her to count till ten and Mum will be there.”

It was 4:55pm when I unlocked the car and started driving. The drive is a haze except for that brief moment that I felt extremely vulnerable. In that moment two thoughts flashed my mind –

  • Did I know Tara was going to be hurt? And that’s why I wanted to be at the day care?
  • What is this bond that I share with this little human? It is unlike something I have ever experienced. I am as strong as a rock, and as brittle as glass, all at the same time.

I don’t know how long it took me to get there and if she counted till ten. But when I checked the time it was 5:13 pm, and I had already been playing with Tara and her sisters for some time. She was fine. A bit shocked, but fine. Her sisters helped her spring back in action. And we talked about spinners and the concept of momentum, on our drive back home.

Tara and I share a cord that is invisible, and yet invincible. She tugs at my heart, in every giggle, and in every tumble.

Sigh! I was totally mommed out today!

Resilience

Three weeks ago, on this day, our worst nightmare came true. Agam met with an accident while playing bubble soccer at Garfield Park, at his team offsite. His teammates called my cell phone and I did not pick up since I was not at my desk at the time. I will never forget the leisurely walk to my desk, and the act of picking up my phone and reading the words, “Hi Emergency. I had a leg injury.” In my mind I told myself, “Oh poor guy, let me take him home and he will be fine.” Little did I know that I will be actually taking him to the ER, and that he will not come home for the next three nights.
I read the message and then listened to the voicemails. I had still not panicked. I called back at the number that had left the voicemail and I was asked to rush to the site of the accident. Bless the day I decided to go work for Google for I was at the field in six minutes, looking at Agam, who was in tremendous pain, yet smiling, and even sharing a faint giggle with the Paramedics. One of his teammates was holding his left leg. His shoe and jeans had been slit open, to access the wound. He was sweating profusely, and he was quivering in speech.
I am not a very helpful person when it comes to dealing with such a situation. Simply because I have never dealt with it before. My parents were overly cautious and except for one injury where my thumb went purple, I have never experienced an injury of this nature. I have been on the receiving end of another such phone call when Agam had injured himself in Goa. And another one when he drank diesel thinking it was Fanta, when he was in IIT. In both those situations, Agam was with his friends, and I was the FYI. In this case, I was the primary contact and not an FYI. I was being trusted with taking action.
The paramedics told me that they are taking him to the ER. They will not turn the siren on, and that I will reach before them and hence I should not rush, and hence I should drive carefully. I walked with the guys lifting the gurney and assembled my thoughts. I needed some answers. I just did not know what were the right questions to ask. I broke my silence when the paramedics were closing the door. I asked, “It is broken. Right?” The paramedic said, “Yes. He will need surgery.”
I did not listen to their instructions and rushed to El Camino Hospital ER. On the way, I called Nitin. And asked him to see me at the ER directly. I was still not in panic. I reached the ER and waited for the van to arrive. It took them a long time. Nitin came before the van did and I broke down. I don’t have a brother, so I don’t know how it feels to hug a brother when you need him. I know now. Because I hugged a brother that day, who helped me keep myself sane for the next many days.
The van arrived, and we were let into the ER. Then the wait started. Agam’s team arrived, and we all shared light jokes while I watched the clock tick. It was soon going to be time to pick up Tara. I had not picked up Tara since last three weeks. Work had been very busy for me in Q3 and Agam was doing the pick ups every day. Tara was not expecting Mommy. I also did not have the car seat. We somehow managed to get that from Agam’s car that was parked at his office.
It was 5:30 by now, and although we knew something was broken, we did not know how many were broken. We did not know if the surgery was needed ASAP or in a few days. If you know me, I need my questions answered then and there. It was not going to be the case today. I had to let go. I had to let go of my persistence. It was time to switch modes and become the strong Mommy who was to pick up her toddler and tell her a convincing story about Daddy not coming home tonight. I knew he was not coming home for a few nights.
I left Agam in Nitin’s hands. Knowing that Tara needed me more than Agam did. I don’t know where I got that wisdom from. This is Agam we are talking about. He was in pain, and I left him at the hospital to go get my baby home. And so I did. I let the teachers know what had happened, and I picked up my lil Tara and drove her home. We got out of the car and rushed to the park outside. There was nothing waiting for us at home. While we were at the swings I let Agam’s brother know what had happened. Tara and I walked back home, and I told her that Daddy was at work and was going to be late. She bought it. We had dinner alone, for the very first time. We then got her ready for bed, and followed all the rituals just as Daddy did. By 8:00pm she was asleep.
In the meanwhile Nitin and Agam spent the time chatting away, while Agam was put on IV pain meds. It was by 10:00pm that the doctors decided to do the surgery the next day. I wanted to rush to the hospital. But I could not. I had a little baby sleeping at home. And once again, I put her first, and told Agam to be strong. I told Nitin to go home, and asked Agam to sleep. There was nothing to be done that night. It was the right thing to do. But it was not what my heart was feeling. I let my mind win. I have let it win before. It helps in such situations. I also asked my brother-in-law to come down for the weekend from San Diego. I was still shy of asking people for help. It does not come easily to most of us. But I did. I did it because I knew that Tara needed me more, and somebody had to be by Agam’s side, with the weekend approaching.
None of us slept that night. The next morning Tara and I got ready and I packed her lunch maintaining the business as usual routine, dropped her at the daycare and rushed to the hospital. Aseem and Sukanya arrived and we all wished Agam good luck and sent him off to the OT for surgery. It was reassuring to meet the surgeon before the surgery. I needed to see who was going to fix my Agam. When the doctor came out after three hours he summarized his experience in a few words. “We did a lot of surgery today. But it’s looking good now.” I needed him to say those last three words. They were enough for me to leave Agam in Aseem’s safe and caring hands, and rush to the daycare to pick up Tara. I told her Daddy was not coming home tonight either, and she did well. We finished dinner and our rituals and she was off to bed by 8:00pm.
I rushed back to the hospital to see my injured soldier and took some Ras Malai for him. As I saw him eat it, I knew he was going to be fine. And I also knew there was a long journey ahead for the two of us.
The next few days are a haze. By Sunday Agam was discharged. We brought him home, and Aseem-Sukanya left for San Diego that afternoon. It was Tara, Agam and I for a few days, and then Papa arrived.
In the haze of that weekend, I was crushed to see my lil Tara get worried every time she saw me pacing up and down, back and forth from the hospital. I knew what could fix that. It was Dadu. And Dadu left everything behind, and rushed to be with us. By now, I had become better at asking for help.
In the next few days we figured out the office leave situation for Agam and me. Thanks to PFL, I could take this time off and work towards Agam’s recovery. We are fortunate to work for an employer that understands the plight of nuclear families.
The worst is hopefully behind us.
We have experienced so much love and affection in the last three weeks that I am overwhelmed. From Tara’s teachers offering to babysit her, to our friends bringing groceries and food over, to special bone soup deliveries by the Jindal family, and setting up a bed and attending environment for Agam downstairs, to celebrating choti diwali with Musa and Masi with mithai and sparkles, and several messages, emails, phone calls and offers to help with cooking, errands and Tara and the beautiful flowers from my team and a thoughtful Munchery group gift. I just don’t know where to begin thanking our friends, family and teams. So much love lives in the hearts of the people who surround us. I am thankful to all of you. For your wishes, prayers, and help. I don’t know how to make up to you for all that you have given us in the last few weeks. But please know that we will be there for you when you need us. In whatever way we can.
When my cleaning lady found out about Agam’s injury, and that I had to use some other help during this time since she has been busy with prior commitments, she broke down. I received several encouraging messages from her, reminding me that women are very powerful. That a woman can do a thousand tasks, and that too with a smile. And soon she called me to say that she wants to come back and work for us, since she wants to help our family through this time. I was left speechless. I am not sure what we have done to deserve so much love and loyalty from her.
I know we are all shaken by the recent election mandate. And that’s why I wanted to share this with you today. To remind you that human beings are very resilient. We can overcome any hurdle. And we do it by sticking together. With love and persistence we can fight all odds.
Agam is doing better now. Tara is enjoying all the attention from her Dadu. And I am happy to see my lil familia happy. Soon life will go back to normal. But in our hearts, we will always cherish the love showered upon us by all of you.
Thank You and a Happy Thanksgiving

Chasing Stars…

I stand next to a book shelf. Eyes glancing up and down, right to left. Looking for a companion for the night. A short, light read, that transcends me from where I am to where I could be. Limitless possibilities. I can always pick something I have read before. Or may be get a little bold and pick up Allan Bloom’s Love and Friendship. Just then, from the corner of my eye, I spot The Hindus by Wendy Doniger. I still have No Full Stops in India to finish. But there’s no rush. Such books are for the days when you cannot find anything else to read. And I can also write tonight. And may be I will…

Such is the feeling tonight. No rush. No goals. No preferences. And no agendas. All I am looking for, is a connector that will take me from where I am now to a peaceful sleep. God Bless such days.

With the 2nd behind us, I am now looking forward to the rest of October. With Ashtami on Saturday (and yes I have two kanjaks lined up for chole poori halwa), followed by Durga Puja, Dussehra and then Karva Chauth on the 18th, and then Diwali on the 30th, we have our hands full. The festival season brings out my most feminine side. It’s a season for purification and reflection, and of course Fall cleaning and Goodwill trips.

Switching topic – It is so unfortunate but we realize the value of people in our lives, only after they leave. When a close friend shared that she is leaving for Seattle, I was extremely happy for her. She is choosing a better life than the rat race of Silicon Valley. But on a personal level I was extremely sad. She was a wonderful thought partner. Someone I could easily share my world view with. And sadly there aren’t so many of such people around me. I often wonder if I am too selective, or too formidable. Regardless, I will miss my good friend and her free spirit which will continue to be inspiring, along with her intellect and charm. May she have a good life! I am just glad I could make her a biryani meal before she left. I only know of one way to show that I care. By cooking.

Switching topics again – Last Monday I woke up with a paralyzed right hand. With the pain intensity of 8/10, I rushed to the doctor to get myself some relief. And there I see my OBGYN. She remembered me and we hugged and I showed her pics of Tara. It was such a lovely encounter. For those few minutes I felt numb in my right hand. As if the pain gave way to cheer. If I have not shared before, I absolutely love my OBGYN. She is the smartest and most tactful woman I know. I seriously just want to ask her out for a Girl Coffee date some day. And I probably will.

Back to my right hand. Basically my bad posture since last 10+years of work life finally paid out. I have had more Ibuprofen in last one week than in my entire life. And I am wearing a hand split for good 12-16 hours a day, along with applying oddly smelling Arthritis creams, and ice packs when I can. Things were so bad last week that I had to rush home early from work twice, since I needed ice to ease the pain. But the good thing that came out of it was that I am learning to be ambidextrous. I can text with left hand and do a lot of kitchen and daily chores with little help from my broken right hand.

Last Friday I was also very thankful for the company that I shared a happy hour with. I finally have some real fun girl friends around me.  I guess this is one reason I will never be able to leave Google very easily. I love the people I work with. I learn so much from them.

Lastly, we accepted an offer on Granada. I am pretty detached. I expected emotion but there is none. And I feel good about the fact that I did not tie my emotion to a non living object. Perhaps I am finally becoming wise. Granada gave us a lot of memories, happiness, support and most importantly enabled us to buy The Nook. It will forever stay etched in our memories and will always be Tara’s first home. I hope the new owners will enjoy it as much as we did, and may the house bring them all the luck that it showered on us.

And that bring us to The Nook. Our final abode. It is complete, with a nook for our books, a lovely kitchen and our lil green backyard with its limes and roses. We look forward to a long innings at The Nook. May it be a launchpad for all things fun, creative, and satisfying.

 

Did it rain last night?

I was running to my father asking him to help her. He stood there. Cold and lifeless. He watched me with empathy in his eyes. His hands tied, and his lips sealed. Only his eyes could tell me what he was really feeling. He was telling me to let go. He had come there to make sure I was fine. I remember running to him again and again, and each time I went to him, I’d ask him to look at her. She was still with us. I was asking him if there was something I could do to keep her longer. To save her.
Her mouth was twisted and her eyes were full of tears. She too looked at me with empathy. But of a different kind. Her eyes told me they had some hope. Her glance was not cold. It was warm. I could feel the warmth in her body. She was asking me to stay with her. But I kept running to him. Asking him for help he could not give. I knew he was long gone. Why then was I hoping that he would act? I was in despair. One that I have experienced before. It was a very familiar feeling. Just twice as strong.
I sent her a message first thing this morning. Asking her if it had rained there. No rain, she confirmed. But the rain was just an excuse. I just wanted to hear from her. To know that she is still with me. To confirm that it was just a nightmare. It must have been a nightmare. In dream his hands are not tied. His lips are not sealed. In dreams he is his vibrant self.
But even if it was indeed a nightmare, and the worst of its kind, I found a dream within it. It is the only time, after all these years, that I was accompanied by both my parents. We shared some moments together. Even if it was just in my subconscious mind. Those memories are mine to keep.
I came to work this morning and checked to see if it had rained in some part of Delhi. May be the moisture was just in my eyes. Delhi is yet to get its rainfall.

Tara’s friends

I have the pleasure of spending any free time that I have with a bunch of beautiful souls. These souls are so pure that at times when I hold them I wonder if I will taint them with my sins. Being in close proximity to so much innocence is almost inebriating. Those eyes that seek nothing, but love. Those hands that are so soft, lacking any sort of roughness that develops with time. It is just too beautiful to be real.

I am in love with the kids at Tara’s day care. A form of love that I cannot put in words. Time just flies when I am with them. I make them take walks together, holding each other’s hands forming a human chain. I observe how some are willing to hold anyone’s hands, and some are picky. How some like to drive the human chain in the direction they want to go, and some just follow the leader. Some observe along the way, and some sing, and some even dance.

If I pick up one of them, the others want the same treatment. They all raise their hands up towards me and say, “Up..up”. Since they are growing up together, they learn the same words at the same time. And so when I am with them, we all speak their language. Tara cooperates a lot. She is not possessive. She shares mommy with others. But sometimes, she gets mad and drives the others away. I can make all of them smile with my silly tricks. They all respond to my love.

They are so malleable at this age. Like wax. The more love your pour into them, the better. You cannot inundate them with too much love. Such is the world of these beautiful souls. Endless and Pure.

I am so fortunate to be able to give Tara this experience. I will encourage her to keep in touch with this circle of friends for life. These are her first set of friends. And our first set of friends are always so special.

Faith & Kids

Last night I was reading an article about raising kids in a multi-faith environment. Agam and I are not practicing Hindus. Our most favorite place of worship in the US is a Gurudwara when neither of us is a Sikh. Given our confusing religious foundation, I often wonder what Tara will think about religion and its implications as she grows up. One of the points the author emphasizes in the article is that one should give the kids enough options to explore. By having access to scriptures from all types of religions, a child can perhaps dabble and explore and find a path forward for them. I went to bed with these thoughts in my mind.

I believe that religion should not be an anchor in your life. If you need an anchor to seek strength from, there is a lot else to lean on – like the trust that exists in a society, the sheer nature of humans to help and of course other social anchors like friends and companions. And that is why I don’t want Tara to see religion as a thing she has to choose and live with. It should be exploratory – now and always.

This morning when Agam went running and Tara and I were pacing up and down getting ready for our girls morning out, Tara uttered some words as I was passing by the little temple we have in our house. It is a multi-faith temple – pretty much every type of God can be found there, in some shape or form. She said, “Ding a Dell”. First, I didn’t bother,  but when she said it for the second time and pointed to the temple, I picked her up and asked her what she was pointing at. She repeated her words and I knew what she was saying. She was pointing to the bell and was asking if she could ring the bell. I gave her the bell and she started playing with it.

She was obviously curious since the temple has a lot of colorful things. Next, she picked up a string of rosary beads. Funny anecdote – these beads were bought in a small town of Wardha, outside a Sai Temple. I have kept it with me since those days since it reminds me of that phase of my life where I needed something to keep me going. Those beads did come in handy a couple of times when self-doubt refused to let go of me.

Next, Tara picked up a small plastic image of Guru Nanak Dev. She didn’t seem much interested in it and kept it back. And finally, she picked up the incense sticks. They smelled wonderful. She smelled them and played with them for some time. When we came down, I lit those incense sticks and Tara and I enjoyed the fragrance.

With deep intent, she observed the fumes from the incense sticks leave the kitchen window, and then at some point, she said, “gone”, and went back to her blocks.

With those fumes, I also let go of my thoughts from the night before. My child will pick the best path forward for herself. She is curious and she will explore. Even if she considers lighting incense sticks as her religion,  I will have lived my purpose.

 

My guiding ‘Tara’

I know you are growing big and tall these days. You can reach the counter top in the kitchen on your toes. And can even turn the gas knobs off and on. You can also pick up my scarf from the top of the bookshelf. But here’s what you still cannot do; wriggle out of Mommy’s arms when she holds you tight and demands a big and long hug. I know soon you will get there too. But I won’t stop asking for my big and long hugs up until I die. So you better get used to them.
Last Tuesday, as my plane took off from Irvine, I looked at the ocean below me and got scared. My first flight was only little over ten years ago, but ever since then I have traveled enough. I have never felt the fear that struck me unexpected on Tuesday afternoon. What if this plane does not reach San Jose? What if Mommy doesn’t come back? What will Tara feel? How will she sleep that night? Will she miss me? Such grey thoughts clouded my mind. I dealt with those thoughts by watching your videos and photos on my phone for the rest of the flight. But I realized how my life is worth more than the credit I usually give it. And the reason for that is you.
You are the youngest, yet the most naughty kid in your classroom. You run with the two-year-olds as if you are as big and strong as them. You love french toast, dosa, pancakes, dal and rice, soups, hummus and muffins. You also love smoothies. You climb anything and everything. You even climb me. You are strong. You are fierce. You are loud and you talk a lot. It doesn’t make sense yet. But soon it will. You like recognizing things. You picked a bird, mouse, giraffe and minion from a pile of toys. You also love to pick a book (call it boo) and come sit in our lap and ask us to read to you.
You love my water bottle. I got you one for yourself. You still love mine. We both drink a lot of water together. It’s our thing. Sometimes Daddy joins us too. 
You love my hair. You want to play with them when you are drinking milk, when we are eating, reading, and even when we are going to sleep. You put yourself to sleep holding my hair and then I take your hand and put it in your hair. 
You love it when I act as if I am eating your fingers. Your giggle is the best I have heard and your smile is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Your eyes express, they ask me questions, they tell me when you are manipulating me and when you need me. 
You run, not walk. You play with dogs and sometimes get scared of them. You enjoy Krishna Auntie’s home made cookies on weekend mornings. You even sit on your chair and table to munch on them (coz Mama made a rule – no cookie if no sitting). 
You sleep through most long drives. You are mostly good when it comes to eating outside. You love people watching and attracting them to you. You initiate games with older kids. 
You are loved by your teachers. You are moody, like me. You are sensitive to other’s feelings and their moods. 
You love to climb on the daybed and watch outside your room’s window. The sycamore does not have any leaves yet. But we check it out every day and share notes. You spot airplanes from the window and yell (aipane). You also spot crows and point at them and say (co). You laugh easily. You fake cry and then check if we are watching. 
You can name all your classmates and the official turtle – Bubbles. You can climb the stool to wash your hands and throw trash in the bin when asked to. You love playing with the colanders in the kitchen and exploring the pantry. You love it outside in our patio. You also give cute owie reports to the official Owlie in the patio. Owlie protects us all from evil, is my storyline.
I cannot stop talking about you to whoever I meet. My colleagues think I am obsessed with you. I laugh a lot ever since you have arrived in my life. And I feel you are filling an abyss that had developed a few years ago. 
When I was walking from my parking spot to my desk, a beautiful breeze swept by me. I had experienced that breeze before. Long ago in another life. And for some reason, the breeze filled me with a lot of hope and happiness. I stopped and experienced the breeze for some more time. At that moment, I felt wonderful about where I am in my life. The last time I felt like that was when I walking to my office in Denver, the first day of my first job.
Tara, you are the breeze.
You are my guiding star. And I cannot thank you enough for showing me the way.
love, Mum