India Trip – Part 2

Rest of the India trip was spent being at home with parents. Most of my extended family came home for a quick visit and Appa and I did local trips in his two wheeler. We also played chess and rummy almost every day. Amma as always spent most of her time in kitchen cooking all my favorite items. I missed my Alto car in this trip. Hope he/she is safe somewhere!

One evening, visited Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple and another day was spent visiting the girls hostel supported by my local volunteering organization. Made few trips to M’s parents home, arranged to clean weeds around the home and cleared out all my things from the home. Otherwise I was mostly home bound. Two weeks sped fast like minutes and before we could blink our eyes it was time for me to return. Omicron started few days before my travel and pre travel protocol was changed to test 24 hours before boarding. It was challenging as I also had a six hour road travel before boarding. Thankfully one of the local lab agreed to test late hours and give results by next day morning. So that was sorted out!

I don’t know if I will ever be able to do a similar trip in this lifetime but this was a dream come true trip for me that I will cherish for rest of my life!

Brihadeeswarar temple through my phone camera lens

These pictures summarize my trip. Ignore the first and last picture as they were taken at US.

Amma’s specials: (in picture order)
Mudakkathan dosa
Aapam/coconut milk with jaggery
Onion uthappam with eggplant gothsu
Adhirasam (I polished off the whole dabba in 2 weeks. One of my relative brought the dough and my chithi (amma’s sister prepared at home).
Vazhaipoo (banana flower) usili
Urundai kuzhambu
Country chicken gravy
Fish varieties
All sorts of greens
Mushroom gravy
Unlimited masala chais
Fresh filter kaapi and many more that I didn’t remember to click!

I returned home with all sorts of masala powders and grocery items!

Adi was roasting me as I told her that in this trip I am going to give rest to my mom and cook for her but as usual Amma served me all my favorites and I sheepishly enjoyed them all πŸ˜„

I don’t know if I will ever be able to do a similar trip in this lifetime but this was a dream come true trip that I will cherish for rest of my life!

Volunteering Journey

Last Sunday, my volunteering organization local chapter held annual award ceremony virtually for high school children who volunteered with us for last one year. I have been associated with this organization for past 4 years. Started off at my old neighborhood as a parent volunteer, one year later when we moved to current home we decided to start a center in this neighborhood. We started with 9 high school children in first year, expanded to 20 the following year and now we have 40 children volunteering with us.

There have been so many ups and downs, learnings and challenges in past 4 years but I must say its a soulful journey for me that transformed me to be a better person. This journey helped me realize my potential, passion, values and commitment to stand strong against all odds. It connects me with like minded people whom I enjoy working with. We all have our day job and family responsibilities but the energy we share when we connect in between all these demands to keep the ball rolling blows my mind. Come what may, this core group always makes time for volunteering service. An analogy is our childhood days when we study/listen to elders all day and eager to meet with friends in the evening to play mindlessly on the street. This is how I feel when I do volunteering work!

Though we had many rehearsals and I knew the agenda/content by heart for Sunday’s event, I became emotional when the actual event happened. An analogy I could think of is marriage. Though we prepare for months, it becomes emotional, the moment when knot is tied. Around 250 people joined the event and I was given the opportunity to present ground report about the girls hostel in India that our chapter supports. I was fortunate to visit and spend a day with them during recent India trip.

I was also given the task to setup Deep Prajwalan at home and light the lamp during beginning of the event. I took this opportunity to dress up in saree πŸ™‚ and have a photo session! LHB was my photographer. Adi is too tall and her angel never comes right, LHB’s height works perfect for me.

Volunteering is a humble soul satisfying journey that I wish to continue to be part of as long as I can! I am happy to have found and settled with my way of paying it forward!

Exhausted

Exhausted is the word of the day! Today is one such day, I had to push myself hard to get through the day. the day my ability has been tested, the day I have to look deep for gratitude, the day I walk around feeling helpless, in secure and weird, the day I have to constantly reinforce my mind about the path I have chosen to follow, the day I have to remind self about how much I have grown mentally during pandemic times. How do I measure my growth? You may ask!

On a similar day, few years back I would have either lost my cool, raised my voice to the family for no fault of theirs and expose my disturbed mind or cried buckets but today none of that happened. I know this is not an easy path but this is what I want to follow and I can’t give up just because it’s not easy. I have come too far to give up!

I have requested LHB to switch to my bed today and the little one graciously agreed after giving me a gyan for 10 minutes. “You know Amma, you have to let me sleep in my bed. I have to practice from now so I can sleep in my room when I turn 10. What is the point of having a room if I don’t sleep there? Only today okay?”

I am just going to hug him tight, get into my safe zone and close my eyes. Sleep will come when it can!

Tomorrow will be a better day!

Fundraiser

I come to this space end of the day, write about a topic and disappear. I am few days behind on reader! Hope to get to it soon. I wanted to write about a different topic today but something else happened in the evening that took precedence.

LHB received an invitation from school to take part in American Heart Association fundraiser. Fundraiser invitation from school is common in this country and we usually don’t pay much attention to it. This time, LHB was behind us for few days to take part. I finally sat down today evening to look at the details.

On a whim, we signed up, completed few activities and I decided to share it in my Facebook timeline that was long dead. Its been years I posted anything in FB as its now a mix of school friends, college friends, family, extended relatives, ex-colleague, current colleague, family friends, extended family friends, distant cousin’s distant cousin, her sister and everyone else. It’s hard for me to decide what to post and what not. So, I decided to be a spectator few years back, that too not a frequent visitor.

We set the goal as $100 and in just few minutes, LHB received his first donation. It was from my ex-boss and it was a huge amount. We were thrilled and LHB sent him a video thank you message. This incident triggered a chain of thoughts that left me overwhelmed. It reminded me of this video. We all just have to pay it forward and the chain continues. I hope LHB remembers this incident and chose to support good cause when its his turn to give back to the community.

I am at loss of words to express my gratitude and today has been a day filled with gratitude. I will save to write more about today’s other happenings in another post!

Summer job

Adi took her first job in Summer 2020. She worked at CVS store for 2 months. I was surprised by her dedication. She took shifts on some Friday’s from 8am-4pm and always 5 minutes early for her shift! Its a job where she can’t sit, have to be at the register or organize items in shelves. She gets a quick lunch break and that is it!

I have made few trips to the store during her shift just to bully her πŸ™‚ I tell her coworkers that I am her mom much to her annoyance and walk around the store with a proud look! She saves $2 coupons to buy candies for her and LHB! The little one used to promptly ask “What did you bring today Akka?” and they share a skittles pack or a hershey’s bar!

I was expecting her to buy something for me on the last day but she brushed it off by saying there is nothing in that store that will suit me! She said, maybe I can get you a gallon of milk. Do you want that??!!What can I say? I sigh-ed!!

Her earnings are intact in her savings account. If at all she spends from it then M reloads it for her. Its funny to see their conversation about this.
Adi: Appa, I spent $8.42 today!
M: Ok, give me a sec, let me credit $10 into your account!
Adi: danke

So, with this rounding off business, she actually has more than what she earned in her account right now😁

Digressing to my childhood memory

I used to do the same with my Appa. I will save up to Rs.80 and then exchange the coins and notes with Appa for a 100 rupee note. When it reaches 400 or 450, exchange it for 500 rupees note πŸ™‚ I earned by doing chores at home mostly quick trip in my bicycle to Annachi’s store or meat shop and that will get me 2 rupees. My paternal grandpa always used to give us money during every visit. He decides on the amount based on what we do. My brother always received more than me. I received Rs.10 until 10th grade and graduated up to Rs.500 when I joined work! He will take more than 10 minutes to get this money out of this purse aka layers of neatly folded newspaper, the money will be hidden between the layers and only he can find it. He will keep different denominations in different layers.. Happy memories ❀

That’s Adi in blue jeans waiting for store to open on her first day! It was a busy store and mostly elders visit this store. She used to share interesting customer stories on most days. How an old man lost his cool and started yelling at her for no fault of hers, how an old lady was looking for something, how another randomly accused all staff for unknown reasons, how she messed up payment for a customer etc…

What will I miss the most?

When Adi goes off to college later this year?

  • Her kitchen explorations and her serving style

Last week, she made assorted pancakes in Uthappam pan (Strawberry, M&M, Jalapeno flavors)

Yesterday, she assembled two paneer kaati rolls for me when I was on back to back calls

Its a common scene at home that every time she enters kitchen to grab some food, one of us will piggy back and ask her to fix a plate for us too! She will sulk most of times but always served us!

My Appa is a big fan of her egg sandwich!

Our day turns to be lucky if she is in the mood to bake!

She always serves my coffee with biscuits (well most of the times!)

Helps to make rotis when I use two pans to speed up the work

Unloads dishwasher and puts away washed dishes in their designated place

Her online school ends at 11:30am and she would run down to kitchen saying “romba pasikudhu, romba pasikudhu” (very hungry, very hungry), what’s for lunch?, open all vessels to smell the food and then sit down to eat!

ETA: Just after I published this post she walked into the home with a brown bag. She went to mall with her friends and came back with treats (cookies she chose based on our taste buds). I didn’t plan to write this topic today and cookie was a total surprise πŸ™‚

Appa – Chocolate sea salt caramel
Amma – Half sweet chocolate walnut
LHB – M&M
Adi – Milk chocolate chip

Roti maker

Have been working back to back since 6:30am today so I will retire after sharing my accomplishment of the day πŸ™‚ I think this deserves a post for the effort it took for me to reach this state!

Gone are the days of hard rotis, it took few months to figure out the right consistency of dough to make the roti puff like this πŸ˜‡

Hope you all enjoy the background score! Never give up is the takeaway! I am sooo proud of myself πŸ₯°

Remembering FIL-01.19.2022

Today is FIL’s 3rd year anniversary. I made Rava Kesari, Pesarattu and offered to him in the morning. I watered plants in his remembrance!

I have written many posts about him in this space. Today is dedicated to thoughts about him. I read all my posts about him and relived those moments.

I am thankful for this relationship who has made me a better person. He is my lifetime inspiration.

Excerpts from my old posts:

My Car and FIL – I have been actively using my car for the first two years after marriage in Chennai but then life happened and we moved to US. My FIL who doesn’t know how to drive until then, learned to drive just to keep the car under condition. He maintains it all through the year so I can use it during my India visit. He does full service to the car and keeps it ready right before I land at India.

He has a pillow on the driver seat and reminds me every time to use it as we both are short and according to him the pillow will help to have better clarity of the sides. He comes near the driver side when I start the car and gives me instructions every single time, reminds me of all the pits and holes in neighborhood, how to avoid it and how to stay focused while driving.

He would clean the exteriors and keep it ready if he knows I am going to take the car out. He has followed this routine every single day when I was taking the car to work for few months during the short stint at India in 2013. He would remind me duly about fuel refill. He will keep track of the kilometer details.

After they moved to our hometown, my parents started using the car for important occasions and yesterday Amma was saying how he always hand over the car with the fuel tank fully filled.

All this by a man, who has never used the car for his own needs, not even once. He is happy and content with his TVS XL Super for local needs and takes bus or train to travel out of town.

I don’t know much about him as a young father as M barely shares anything but he has been the best father in law that anyone could wish for. He used to give me Rs.100 and bless me on my birthday when I lived with them. He made calls from India to US to wish on my birthday which means a lot to me. A lot! A gentleman who treated me for what I am worth!

FIL

India trip – Part 1

I made solo trip to India in 2020. My dream came true. I was planning for this since beginning of 2020. My initial plan was to go in early Sep to be with parents for their milestone wedding anniversary and my birthday but as you all know M had to emergency travel to India during this time so I moved my plans to late November. Idea was to return before start of winter holidays so I will be home when kids are home!

As the travel date got closer, I booked our regular driver Anna to pick me up from Chennai airport. I told him strictly to not tell parents. As promised, he met me at the airport, my friend family came for a quick visit and then we set to drive to Thanjavur. It is 6 hours drive to home. I had plans to meet my friends for lunch en route but cancelled it as it was raining heavily that day. Driver Anna called Amma when we were few hours away and inquired if she is home as he is planning to visit her with a guest in the evening. She asked him to buy sweets and snacks while coming as she didn’t have anything at home to offer to guest πŸ™‚ She was curious but driver Anna managed to not reveal and kept the call short πŸ˜€

We arrived home, I was waiting inside car till Amma came closer to front door and she was leaning down to see who is inside the car, I got down, ducked for a second and then opened the gate. She started crying loud upon seeing me, called out for Appa. He came out quick assuming something bad has happened and both were shocked to see me standing there πŸ™‚ We had a group hug for few minutes until they settled (I tried to avoid hug due to long travel but couldn’t resist). Then, I went off to take shower while Amma went to make fresh gama gama filter kaapi for me πŸ₯° Neighbor came home hearing the sound and Amma clarified its all good news! It took both of them few days to come out of this shocking surprise πŸ™‚ Driver Anna captured the moment in video. Here is a snapshot of our group hug from video πŸ™‚

Click before landing in Singara Chennai, the feeling at this moment is priceless!!

To be contd..

Tired and the act of Sigh

Today was a productive day so I will just write about it with a little rant!

We ventured out as a family today. First stop was of course at Chipotle, ate lunch in the car and then drove to a furniture shop that was looong due! like 6 months due and finally ordered a couch for family room. Plan is to move current couch to basement so I also ordered a rug too for the basement.
Its called tiger rugπŸ˜€

Came back home, cleared up all Christmas decorations, packed, stored them neatly. Then, attacked the clothes mountain! It took around 4 hours just to tackle these two tasks but it was therapeutic and thankfully the clan jumped in to share the work so I was able to wrap it in 4 hours πŸ™„

Spent some time with LHB to catch up on his Math sheets as a test is coming up this week. He was whining all along and in recent times he started Sigh-ing very often. You know how we express our stress by a big sigh when something unacceptable happens? like when we are at loss of words, we just take a deep breath and sigh? LHB does this very often these days and I blame myself as this is my trademark act! I really hope he outgrows this soon and I have already started practice to stop myself so he follows suit!!

Work week starts tomorrow. I was hoping to get one day as rest day in this long weekend but I am ending it on a very tired note! Nevertheless, I am happy as all long pending work got done! I can have a peaceful work week ahead!