Posts Tagged ‘family


the legend of diwali, festival of light.

Once upon a time, King Dasaratha ruled the prosperous kingdom of Ayodhya.  The King was blessed with four sons from his three wives: Rama, son of Kaushalya, was the eldest boy and heir to the throne of Ayodhya.  Bharat (son of second wife Kaikeyi), Lakshman and Shatrugan (twin sons of Sumitra) enjoyed the strong bonds of brotherhood.  Together the four boys mastered the mental and physical challenges presented by their teachers.

Eventually the King became too old and weak to rule the kingdom, so he named Rama as his successor.  All the citizens of Ayodhya were elated as they prepared for the coronation ceremony.  Second Queen Kaikeyi, however, was jealous that Rama would receive all the glory while her own son Bharat would have nothing.  Kaikeyi began scheming and plotting a way to have her own son crowned king. 

On the eve of Rama’s coronation Kaikeyi called King Dasaratha into her chambers.  She reminded him that he had vowed to grant her two wishes after she had saved his life many years ago.  The king remembered his vow, of course, and pledged once again to grant her wishes.  Kaikeyi then calmly told the King she wanted him to banish Rama for fourteen years and name her son Bharat as ruler of Ayodhya.  King Dasaratha was filled with sadness.  Although he did not want to rob Rama of his birthright, he was compelled to fulfill his promise to Kaikeyi.

Upon hearing his father’s decision Rama calmly accepted his fate and promised to fulfill his dharma (duty) by living out the term of his banishment.  Rama’s wife Sita and his brother Lakshman insisted on following Rama into exile, so the three began their journey south into the wild forest where they would live for fourteen years.

During their long exile Rama, Sita, and Lakshman fought many battles and performed countless heroic deeds.  They cemented alliances with the tribes and animals living in the forest.  Their reputation spread until nearly everyone had heard of their courage and fairness.

Fourteen years passed and finally the time arrived for the threesome to begin their journey back to Ayodhya.  But on the eve of their departure a great tragedy occurred.  Sita was captured by Ravana, the evil Lord of Lanka, and was taken to his lair in his kingdom south of India. 

When Rama and Lakshman discovered that Sita had been kidnapped, they appealed to their friends in the forest for help.  Legions of humans and animals came to their aid, building a great bridge across the sea to the land of Lanka.  In a bloody and violent battle that lasted more than ten days Rama and his army defeated Ravana, Lord of Lanka.

Finally Rama was reunited with his wife Sita.  Together with Lakshman they began their journey north to claim Rama’s rightful place as the King of Ayodhya.  Word of their glorious victory had spread and they were greeted by celebrations in every village and city they entered. 

 The kingdom of Ayodhya had planned an elaborate festival for the return of the King, his wife, and his brother.  The entire kingdom was ablaze with light as every building and home was decorated with lamps and candles.  There was a great feast that included dancing and fireworks.

During the festival of Diwali we remember Rama’s triumphant return to his kingdom.  We celebrate his faithfulness and courage.  As we light candles and hang lamps in our windows, we welcome the light of knowledge and virtue into our homes and hearts.


killer instincts.

(Warning: this post is a little graphic).

My heart actually stopped beating when I saw the fluffy grey tail dangling from my cat’s mouth.  Just a second ago, I heard the squeaking of a squirrel that sounded a little too close to home.  I ran to investigate and saw Ladybug with the squirrel clenched firmly in her teeth.  Sam and I tried to corner her and coerce her to drop the poor thing but she was too deep into her animal nature to be persuaded.  She finally dashed into the bathroom and I slammed the door behind her.  (I thought it might be easier to clean than the living room rug.)  My pulse was racing as Sam and I quickly debated what to do.  I followed Ladybug, armed with a plastic bag and a bucket to collect the body of the tiny little squirrel.  I must have startled Ladybug because she dropped the squirrel who (still alive) managed to hobble to safety.  I picked up Ladybug and handed her over to Sam so I could scoop up the squirrel and release it outside.  The little guy was shaking and I could see his heart beating through his chest when I returned him to the balcony floor.  It took him a few hours to recover from the shock but he finally got the strength to find another home.


mani’s hands.

Learning how to prepare cuisine from different regions is one of the pleasures of living in India.  Although my attempts do not taste very authentic I still enjoy experimenting and Sam enjoys eating.  I arrive early for family meals, hoping to improve my cooking skills through observation.

Last night we had dinner with Sam’s grandmother, Dadi, who was eager to teach me how to prepare a few items.  One of the staples of the Indian diet is rotis, or round flat breads, which are made from wheat flour.  Sam’s family often makes rotlas from rice or millet flour for me because I don’t eat wheat.  Dadi asked her cook, Mani, to prepare the rotlas in my presence last night.

Conceptually, rotlas are not difficult to make.  By slowly adding water to the millet flour you knead the mixture until the dough is soft and pliable.  Then you take a small handful of dough and shape it into a ball, again kneading it a little.  Finally, with your hands you flatten the ball into a pancake shape and cook it on a very hot pan.  When the bread is mostly cooked, remove it from the pan with tongs and hold it over the stovetop flame until it puffs.  Done.

In theory this is easy enough, but I just can’t manage to get it right.  I watch Mani with complete admiration as she expertly mixes and kneads the flour in the bowl.  Her hands move with the assurance only an experienced cook possesses.  Her body is relaxed, face smiling as she explains what she’s doing.  This is a sharp contrast to my own experience: temperature rising, mind filled with self-doubt, hands frantically trying to correct the proportion of water to flour.

Mani’s hands are strong and sure, and she commands the dough with authority.  Pushing down with her palm and bending it back with her fingers, the dough obeys her every command.  She shapes a ball and begins to flatten it on a round marble slab dusted with flour.  Tap, tap, tap, turn.  Tap, tap, tap, turn.  The rotla takes shape; it’s a perfect circle with even thickness and nice plump edges that stay firm.  (Mine often crumble).  

Mani’s hands craft one rotla after another, in an inviting rhythm that hints at years of shaping raw ingredients into simple feasts.  She wipes her hands on a cloth after placing the last rotla on a plate.  Then Mani picks up a knife and a cutting board.  She smiles and asks if I’m ready to make the vegetables.


pisces fish.

For the last few days I’ve been totally stuck on what to write about in this space.  About a dozen times a day I sit down with my laptop and write a few lines that I save as a draft until I delete them an hour later.   (or, in the case of this post, a minute later).  My sun sign is Pisces, which is commonly depicted as two fish swimming in opposite directions.  Two fish struggling to get away from the center but stuck together, unable to move.  That’s me, right now.  

It probably isn’t a coincidence that I also feel physically stuck right now.  There are a list of reasons why I feel physically dependent or confined.  None of them is really a sufficient reason for not getting out (except the heat, which is ungodly in the afternoon).  Every day I think of places to go, but then I usually end up choosing to stay in and read.

Living as part of an Indian family has made me much more aware of my American ways.  And living with a family I didn’t grow up with leaves me feeling out of sync most of the time.  I find it challenging to just relax and simply “be”.  I feel like everyone around me understands something that I just don’t get.

In so many ways I feel I’m neither here nor there.  Sam and I have been traveling between Bombay and Ahmedabad since his mom was diagnosed with cancer six weeks ago.  Our travel plans and career plans are on hold until we learn more about her prognosis.  Life is planned in pencil.

As I write this post, I imagine some of my friends telling me to breathe and be in the “stuckness”.  But I don’t like it here.  I feel lonely and confused and really really awkward.  I’m sure there’s some sort of lesson here that I don’t understand yet.  Maybe it’s because my two pisces fish are looking in different directions.  But at this moment that’s all I can see.


another new language.

As if I didn’t have my hands full trying to communicate in Hindi, I realized the other day that I’ve also been learning another new language: Husband.  The realization followed my using one of Sam’s phrases on him.  “OK, we’ll talk about it.”  Sam’s face dropped as he replied, “Uh oh.”  

Whenever Sam tells me we’ll talk about something, it usually means he’s already made his decision but he’s willing to let me present my argument before disagreeing.  “We’ll talk about it” is better than “OK, let’s think about that”, which translates to “No WAY am I thinking about THAT.”  Those are Sam’s basic veto phrases.

On the active side, when Sam wants to do something he’ll preface it by saying, “Here’s a thought.”  He will then proceed to list all the reasons why I should consider his idea that he really, really, really wants to do.  It’s usually something I have zero interest in.  Then there’s the phrase I dread the most.  “Here’s a wild idea.  Now, it’s just a thought.”  That means that he’s already thought about it, planned it, and possibly even done it or bought it without telling me.  This situation is hopeless.  There is absolutely nothing I can say or do to counteract this “thought”.  I almost always drag my feet and kick and scream against doing it.  But more often than not, they end up being the times I enjoy the most.

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August 2020

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