HBD, Sinha

My most favorite birthday wish was from Sinha. “You grow and look younger every year.” He knows how to make a woman smile. He has known that for the two decades that I’ve known him. We have competed in several debate championships and yet, despite our competitive personalities, we developed a very beautifully friendship over the years πŸ™‚

Today is his birthday. Happy birthday, Sinha. I miss those days when I’d enter the auditorium, eyes scanning the room. Hoping that you’d not come for this one, so I can have a simpler rebuttal round. And then secretly hoping that you are there since the two of us always made a humorous pair and added so much fun to any event. You always played to win, no matter what. And I always played to win against you πŸ˜‰

I recall laughing at your girl friends in college. Always surrounded by a group of them. Yet looking out for the next catch. And I also remember consoling you when one of them broke up with you. I never understood why your taste in women was so poor.

I still recall the picture postcard you sent me from Poland. I recognized the handwriting from the one time you dropped by the hostel and left a note and some chocolates. Now that was quite a rumor mill you started. I still have girls from my hostel wonder if Agam’s last name was Sinha πŸ˜‰

Well you are older now. It’s obvious and showing. So while I am looking younger by the year, you are definitely giving in to the age phenomenon πŸ˜‰

Our conversations have thinned down. But we still remember each other’s birthdays. You still say the sweetest things to make me feel good. And I still cannot resist being as evil as I can be in my response to you. Since everyone loves flattering you all the time. I have to play the balancing act and keep you grounded. You owe me one, you know that.

Happy Nasty Birthday! 50th is it? πŸ˜‰

Dal Chawal

So glad we were able to watch the Women’s Soccer World Cup Final this morning. We almost missed our flight, but the rush was totally worth it. I am fan of Megan Rapinoe after watching her lead on the field during the match against England and today against Netherlands. Very few people exude leadership in their stance, Rapinoe is one of them. Her graceful poses after every milestone goal, and after today’s victory are reflective of her passion for the game. She is aware of what a dent she is making to the history of the game. She is living it every single moment. And she deserves every lumen of spotlight she is getting from the media. Go Rapinoe! After Martina Novartilova, I have finally found another female sports icon who I really admire. Of course, the fact that she is born a day after me calls for some kinship πŸ˜‰ [I can almost hear Agam saying in the background, “even a dog born in July shares the same horoscope as you.” And my response – “So what?”]

We had a super packed day. We came back home late afternoon and then Tara had to rush to her close friend’s birthday party. She could not have missed it. So we quickly made up a card and wrote some mushy stuff and off she went for a fun afternoon with friends, while I got the house in order.

In the evening we were all craving some simple Indian food. Dal-Chawal came to rescue, and in the end we licked our fingers away. There is something so comforting in a simple meal of dal and chawal. Dal Chawal to me is like that favorite blanket that you know will make you cozy, no matter how cold it is. It is like that conversation with a friend that leaves you wanting more, but so nourished. It’s a hug form Mom. It’s like Dad’s arms around your shoulder. I am getting carried away. But this is how I feel when I eat dal chawal after a long time. πŸ˜€

Today’s dal was a simple toor dal with a tempering of onions, tomatoes, curry leaves, mustard seeds, green chilies, cumin and coriander powder, a little bit of tamarind and a tinge of jaggery. I loved coming back to my kitchen after a short break. Breaks are good. They are a good opportunity to miss what you love, and realize just how much you love it. I love my kitchen and I am excited about putting my freshly minted Sur La Table gift card to use. πŸ˜€

Dana Point

Came down for a quick walk at the Dana Point Harbor in search of better coffee than the hotel. So glad I stepped out. Fresh and salty does magic to my nerves. People need lavender. I need the ocean.

It is so beautiful and serene by the water. The mornings are not rushed. There is no breakfast to prepare, no work mails to check and no IMs to respond to. Just me, my feet, a cup of coffee and this water.

We got lucky with a back to back cleanse this summer. Maui and now Dana Point. And we will wrap up the summer with another cleanse.

It’s been a good trip. Fireworks, Dolphins, great food, live and vibrant piers, gluten free cup cakes, live music and family πŸ™‚

A year older, not wiser

Things I learnt last year

– I am not one of those whose shoulders you can cry on. But while you cry, and take your time, I will make sure you are taken care of. I am able to diagnose where you need help. And keep your world moving while you take the time to get back on your feet. But I won’t be able to cry with you.

– I am capable of asking for help. It makes me feel very vulnerable.

– I don’t respect boundaries. And this has become a double edged sword for me. I must respect the boundaries and determine how much I can stretch them based on the context and people involved. My intentions can be misunderstood and I won’t always have an opportunity to explain.

– I have a lot of blind spots that I can work on. Some I care about, and some I don’t. I don’t think I have a very well defined rubric that determines which I want to work on and which I won’t. Work in progress.

– I create joyful environments. I’d like to create inspiring environments.

– I have a very core need of spending time with myself, in absence of any distraction or another human around me. I am not able to find those pockets of time as much as I’d like. Walks are my only source. There must be more.

– I suffer from impostor syndrome. In my own eyes, I am not good enough for almost everything I do.

– I am not balanced in a lot of spheres of my life. I swing to extremes. My swings are directly related to my comfort with the domain. Once I am comfortable, I can find my neutral. But until that happens, I swing. It’s exhausting.

– I am way more resilient than I was last year. My mind is very strong. My heart is not. I lead with my mind when it comes to situations where I need to be resilient. It drains and exhausts my heart and so it lags behind. I drag it forward. I have begun to experience physical strain when I do that.

– I don’t seek power. I seek influence. I knew that last year too. But what I did not know is that my actions don’t reflect that. It’s one of my blind spots and a massive one. Since it questions my authenticity. Authenticity is one of my most cherished values.

– I spend a lot of my free time working, because I actually enjoy my work. But this is an example of imbalance. This also applies to home – I create work at home, even when the chores of the week have been taken care of.

Next step – a few resolves and a few goals πŸ™‚ but we have a few days to get there.

Tonight I saw fireworks by the waves with a crescent moon shining in the sky, with Agam and Tara by my side. I could not have asked for a better evening.

5star kind of day

When I was in Nagpur, Papa had a quick happinesses trick for me – 5star chocolate. Bad exam, home sick, lost a debate, whatever the situation, a 5stars switches moods like nothing else does. Tara has obviously taken its place now. But when I came back today to an empty home, I wanted a 5star. It was that kind of a day.

Today I felt like I was finishing an exam that I thought I had passed nine years ago. But as it appears, I had left some questions unanswered and the professor really wanted to make sure I understand the concepts behind those questions. So He/She presented the question paper back to me and asked me to re-take the test and answer all questions. Did I pass? I don’t know.

I will be forever grateful to my friend and her Mom for what they let me experience today. Through them I experienced the pain of sending your loved one away. To see them go, in front of your eyes. To see finality. To accept our fragility and our end. To witness the going, and experience the closure. Tears there were, but none to be ashamed of. Suffering has meaning. And as Viktor Frankl says, courage to suffer, is the greatest courage. In bidding farewell to Santosh Aunty I also bid farewell to Papa, one more time. This time with a lot more acceptance, and closure.

I was barefoot when we took a short walk from the chapel to the crematory. The sun was scorching hot. And the ground was burning. I squirmed in pain, and then wondered how intense is the pain that my friend is feeling right now. As I thought more about it I could not feel my pain any longer, and we walked back to the chapel. Over the last 24 hours I have felt more human than I ever have in the last few months, may be years. When you have a why, almost any how becomes bearable

After the cremation I decided to immerse myself back into the world I belong to and powered through the rest of the day. I even found my giggles right around the corner. I was tired. But I had made a choice and I was going to live it. So I did. In Frankl’s words, “Decisions, not conditions, determine what a man is.”

I decided to live with suffering. This suffering has some meaning. I will find it some day.

Stardust

Six hours ago, I knew nothing about how to cremate a loved one in the US. Now, I can write a how-to manual on how to find a funeral home, their add-on services, witness viewing, Hindu priest fees and international transit permit for the ashes of the departed. I know the price of the caskets and the urns in which you receive the ashes. I also know that the State of California can take up to a few days to process the cremation permit. And you have no choice but to wait until the permit is processed.

My friend’s mother passed away today afternoon. My prayers for my friend’s physical and emotional sanity and her Mom’s peaceful departure, were answered. Rather too quickly.

I did not get a chance to visit her Mom before she passed away. I was too scared. But I could not keep myself from staying away when my friend needed help. So I embraced my fears and went to the hospital as she and her family were processing the exit paper work. It was better to be with them, than to be anxious about them. I looked at their faces and wondered how mentally and physically exhausted they were. And yet, how cheerfully they handled the entire process.

Together we found a few funeral homes, picked one, picked a casket, an urn, a saree for Aunty, and a date for the cremation. She will look beautiful in the mustard and red saree tomorrow. Might as well. It is how we will all remember her.

When I came home tonight I told Agam about the ironic situation I am in. I did not partake in my father’s funeral. Everything was done by the time I landed. I went to collect the ashes the morning I arrived in Delhi. I don’t even know what he was wearing when he was cremated. I also don’t know if the priest gave a choice of wood for his pyre. And here I am lost in the details of a friend’s Mom’s funeral.

A lot happened in the last few hours. A lot to process. But here’s the summary –

When you die, you are put inside a box – cardboard or wood, depends on how much your kin loves you. It is almost like being in a shoe box. And this box is put inside an incinerator. Your kin presses some buttons to start the cremation. They don’t see the fire. What comes out after a few hours of burning is ashes that are given to your kin in an urn.

What’s in that urn? The dust, the stardust that makes us. It makes this universe. I am stardust.

My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions, my ego, my truth, my belief, my principles and values, my dreams, my aspirations, my goals, my desires, my opinions, my views, my needs and my relationships are all burnt to dust.

‘I’ am erased. “My” ceases to exist.

And yet when I am alive, ‘I’ define ‘my’ life’s purpose with these things that combust to dust in no time.

Notes from this morning

‘Twas a good morning jog and stroll. Finally got out after a month long break. At first it was fear of running into another freak accident and then vacation and then the sweltering heat. For one reason or another I was missing on my morning hour dedicated to “self”. I found it today. It was right there in front of me, but the piles and layers of “stuff ” was hiding it.

It was a refreshing jog. The crisp air. Clean vibes. And an empty mind. I love morning walks for the opportunity they present to create, envision and converse. A silent conversation with myself πŸ™‚

Let’s keep the habit. Summer will be gone in no time and then the DST will kick in making it hard to get up in the dark. So might as well enjoy the next four months.

It’s a short week at work. And then we fly to Orange County for the long weekend.