Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After...

"You cry and you scream and you stomp your feet and you shout. You say, 'You know what? I'm giving up, I don't care.' And then you go to bed and when you wake up the morning after bleary eyed and grumpy - you realize that things remain unchanged"

I sat glued to the idiot box, watching the seas of red and the small splotches of blue - Poof! the dreams of breaking the glass ceiling of politics in the USA and having our first female president - shatters. I gulp down a glass of wine in disbelief and yet another one ( I am a lightweight drinker and the two glasses are enough to give me a pounding headache which is now playing a symphony with my aching back (sprain)...). And I lay my head on my arm and I weep...I weep for myself and I weep for all those women who had dared to hope along with HER. 
Getting up in the morning, the headache is still there - I feel a small tug on my arm and K2 asks me - Ma, is Trump still the President? Will he throw us out of this country?  My heart breaks for my son....the only country he knows is this one...he was born 5 miles away from where we live. I had told him a lot of stories about the country that I had said Good Bye to twenty years back - the country which in my mind  still has ways to go when it comes to equality for women ... and THAT country had it's first woman prime minister in the 1960's --- more than 50 years back. 
I got an email from friends and family who asked me - so what are you telling K2 about the elections? I said - I have no words....all I feel now is intense grief, shock and disbelief in the way things played out. I have always stayed away from expressing my political opinions - my father was in the Civil Services and his career depended on the politics played by the different parties in Tamil Nadu and we had learnt to wear a veneer of detachment ( even though inside there was a seething cauldron!). But today I refuse to hide my dismay at the way things played out...
And here's what I told my 10 yr old son :
  1. We live in a democracy and the majority have spoken. Your Ma is upset because she expected a different result --  and no the new President can't kick you out of this country - there are checks and balances in the system (always!). 
  2. We don't always get the results we want - I gave him the example of his school elections - where he thought he really had the best plan for the school and he lost the elections - the important thing is trying and trying again ( and that's what she did - she believed in this country and she really pushed hard for what she believed was right)
  3. I told him- Let's please  try and make sure we are practicing love and compassion, even for people with different opinions ( the ones who think justice has been served) - so hard right now but we have to try accepting with grace. Doesn't mean we give up and not try to change things ( speaking of which have you SIGNED THIS)
But that is where I left it with my boy and he got it. Your conversation might be a bit different from mine but don't be afraid to show your children that you are not ok with the decision, but you are dealing with it from a place of love and grace and teach them about the meaning of democracy...we have a lot to say about this but let's say it in a way that makes it count.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Diwali or Halloween!

I took a day off today, hoping to make some Mithai for Diwali. Started the morning early with the usual school run routine in the AM ( it never gets old or less chaotic!) and after that went to the post office and posted my ballot (yes! I am with her) and then attended a Zumba class. Something happened in the gym, that had my brain cells work overtime. I go into the class and get to my designated spot in the front (I am very territorial, or I have learnt to be territorial with all the cats in our gym class - OMG they are ferocious about protecting their spots and I have learnt a thing or two from them!!!). I refrain from making eye contact, don't really want to get social here...I want to dance, sweat, get my steps and get out of Crunch....I hear a soft hello and when I turn I see an older woman - with the brightest blue eyes and golden hair smile at me...here's how the conversation went :

Her : I just love your country
Me (thinking in my head) : Huh!
Me (in reality) : That's wonderful
Her : Could you spend some time with me and tell me more about India. I love Tikka Masala and Bhangra
Me (thinking in my head) : Wow! That's stereotyping
Me ( in reality) : Sure! Happy to...

Thankfully the class started and I avoided progressing that conversation and I left before the cool-down song, so no awkward stilted conversations afterward.  I came home and was sipping my adrak wala chai and thinking about this weird exchange and  here is why it felt weird...I have lived equal number of years in India and the US...I gave up my Indian Citizenship over half a dozen years back and pledged allegiance to this country. I am proud of my heritage and yes! I am Indian first but in India I really didn't have roots...in the 21 years that I lived in India, my father got transferred 11 times and no this is not me complaining - I lived a wonderful life...met a lot of people, visited a lot of new places and learnt to adapt to change...but in the process didn't lay down roots. I think the longest I have lived in any place is the 15 years that I have been in the Bay Area...so when one asks about country...the reality is  US feels more like home than India. Every time I go back to India,  the only constant seems to be my parents ( with my dad gone, that familiarity is slowly disappearing). About a decade back the reality is that the phrase "Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghaat ka" applied very aptly to me...but in this past decade what I have realized is that "the home is where the heart is" and the heart is in US.

This year Diwali and Halloween happen side by side at our place  - we will have the floating ghost right above the Diyas and will make both Gajar Ka Halwa and some Ghoul jello for the young one...because I don't want to pick between Gajar Halwa and Jello and I don't want to label myself Indian or American. I also don't want questions like - so, when are you going back ( yes! had that happen to me 6 weeks back!). My worry is that with someone like Trump being the nominee of the GOP -  racism which was something that always remained in the background in the past is now  coming out with full vengeance front and center of most discussions.

Last question to you my friends - have you voted or planning to vote on Nov 8th? Your opinion matters and your vote can change the course of such discussions in this country.

Note to my friends N and B - Guys! I am making my political affiliations known. So there you have it :)


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tentative Parenting : The Grass is Greener on the Other Side...

"The grass isn't greener on the other side. It's greener where YOU water "
I am very impressed with K2 - I had blogged his first brush with failure in the 3rd grade in a blog post (Read Here) He had a similar event happen in 4th grade and then in 5th grade he wanted to stand for the Student's council activity director and I had tonnes of unexpressed misgivings - I helped him with his posters (he had most of the ideas) and his speech (mostly word corrections and a couple suggestions from me). He gave his speech on his birthday and was pretty sure he would win - he lost spectacularly !!! I gave him the right lip service - you gave it your best shot dude! You focus on the right actions, don't worry about the results  (courtesy : Bhagvad Gita) . What else can you do as a parent but  be supportive and not molly coddle. However, there was a part of me that was tired of watching him try so hard and lose.
The next day he comes up to me and says : Ma, I am standing for the class rep on Friday! I  made sure none of my dismay showed on my face and I was suitably encouraging ( I laid it out thick on the husband in the night...seriously he lost 3 times and he wants to try again !!!).  K2 worked on his poster and speech and guess what! he WON Class Rep. He taught me a lesson - this child of mine - never ever give up - tenacity, the right intent and right actions always pay off in the end.


Do you remember a blog that I had posted about 4 weeks back - albeit one where I was recovering from a pretty bad viral flu (so some of the things I said don't  make sense even to me ;-) ). But the grass now "grows" green in my beautiful front lawn. I taught my son something with that incident - he now believes that if you stand up strong for what you believe in is right - things will work out in your favor eventually.

I wanted to thank the folks who participated in the heartwalk on Oct 20th. Our team beat our target  for walkers by  8  and our fund-raising goals by $500 - all thanks to you !!!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Simple Living : The Big 5

"The US of A is probably the only country that has more food than it can possibly consume & possibly the only one with diet plans that keep us from eating that food."

I slink make my way into the extended day care after a long day at work - I see two dear friends (beautiful well put together working moms) discussing an evening bootcamp and a Ketosis diet. I look at my idiot device and pretend to be answering emails and walk away suitably intimidated. As I am picking K2 up, the extended care director is talking about the Paleo Diet with another parent...I roll my eyes up ( eating like the cave man...yeah! right!) - Isn't it interesting how we surround ourselves with these multitude diets whereas the only thing that we need to do is be mindful about what we eat - not just eat quinoa, chia seeds and kale because it's oh!so! cool and the flavor of the month but because it makes sense for our health. I eat full eggs, my milk is 2% not fat-free, I use ghee and coconut oil in my cooking, we eat healthy whole grains ( quinoa, amaranth, barley and sometimes brown rice), we add a lot of beans and lentils to our meals and our fruits and vegetables are seasonal. I am a no-nonsense, no-frills and one of those people who doesn't have the attitude or the aptitude to spend more than 30 minutes a day in the kitchen and to some one like me this book by Dr. Sanjiv Chopra : The Big 5 - Five Simple Things you can do to live a longer, healthier life appealed on so many levels.
It was simple and gave facts on the Why's for the suggestions and definitely gave me something new for my daily routine. Just an FYI, the author is a Harvard MD who also happens to be Deepak Chopra's brother. Read the book if you get a chance and if you don't  get a chance to read the book, then read the 5 tips in the book here, hopefully one or two might resonate with you too and might be things you add to your (or your child's routine).
  1. Coffee - A cup of health : this  to a tea drinker like me was an AHA! moment. Yes, there is some research on why coffee is good for you but I have stayed away from coffee till about 3 months back. Three months back a friend made me a cup of latte on her office floor and since then I have been hooked on it. His research shows that coffee drinkers have lower risks than tea drinkers for cirrhosis, alzheimers, dementia and type 2 diabetes (dang! I still want my cup of cardamom chai in the AM and green tea mid afternoon) BUT sign me up for at least one cup of coffee a day.
  2. The Mysterious Case of Vitamin D : Did you know when you are low on Vitamin D, your immunity is low, your bones can fracture easily, you can have dental issues and like in my case get inexplicably depressed (click here to read the post on that). Most Indians are deficient in Vitamin D - so make sure to get your levels checked regularly ( my doc checks my levels every 6 months) and supplement! supplement! supplement! I am out in the sun a lot but it doesn't seem to help me much and the fortified D I get from Cereal, Milk and yogurt just isn't enough.
  3. Go Nuts : Eat. Nuts. Every.Single.Day. I keep blanched almonds and walnuts that I put on the table in portions ( 5 almonds and 4 full walnuts)  for me, my husband and son). This is  the first thing I eat after my warm glass of water with ACV (apple cider vinegar). Nuts reduce LDL (the bad cholestrol) and protect against heart diseases. I didn't know this but Nuts also reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and pancreatic cancer.
  4. Meditate : Transcendental Meditation was something I learnt as a young child (it was a mandatory 1/2 hour that we spent at school every day meditating - it felt like evil torture !!!). However, at some point it clicked and anytime I felt anxious or overwhelmed I tried to use meditation and breathing as my "out" - I will be the first to admit that this is still not a strict part of my daily routine and this was one of the things I want to make a fixture in my life. Meditating changes your brain structurally and functionally ( he had some amazing research to support it)
  5. Run (or Walk) for your life : If you know me, you know one thing I swear by is exercising and moving. With our laptop lifestyles we are textbook candidates for hypertension, heart diseases and diabetes - however, if we mindfully try and make exercise a priority, we will be giving ourselves a tremendous gift. I had a working mom ask me in a panel - but don't you feel guilty about spending that time away from your child - I said yes, I do feel guilty every single day because I choose to exercise every single day...but I am ok with that guilt -with that guilt I also feel good that by keeping myself healthy and happy - I have a lot more energy and am  able to do a lot more for my child and am setting myself up as a good role model. 
 I am digressing I know but are you signed up for the American Heart Walk - it happens on Oct 20th, 2016 at Oracle HQ. Not signed up yet - join our team - Oracle HeartFit. Don't want to commit to the walk, no problem - donate for heart health, your heart will thank you and I will of course thank you !!!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Simple Living : Temperatures & Tempers Rising!

                          A fever is an expression of inner rage    
                                                                   ----Julia Roberts

DoormatSomebody who is always walked all over
Matadora bullfighter whose task is to kill the bull.

Last Sunday saw me in bed uncomfortable, there was a soreness in my chest and my head was throbbing, this slowly morphed into a full blown fever my morning ( 101 - yes I knew you would ask). I drag myself out of bed, pack K2's lunch box and drop him in school (just barely!) ...I virtuously go into work and stare at my computer for all of 20 minutes before I am forced to leave for the house...with a throbbing headache, spaghetti noodle legs and temperatures rising. The next 3 days are a virtual blur of rising temperatures, rising expectations ( Honey - what's for dinner? WTF, I am sick!; Ma- you made Dal again! Eat it or go to sleep hungry !!!) - more such inconsequential events adding to the rising rage, sense of helplessness ( I have never walked out of an exercise class feeling like my legs won't support me!) and isolation - the prescription cough syrup made me have these vivid technicolor dreams that had me waking up multiple times in the night...yet I played a doormat at times this week and a matador valiantly fighting the bull ( viral fever, lunch box routine,work deliverables, getting the car from the service center, other mundane routine stuff...)

In the midst of my tug of war with this viral fever - I also had an ensuing tug of war with our HOA Management Company. I have been very patiently trying to get them to fix our front lawn for two years...and they have been giving me the runaround or lipservice ( we took it to the committee for approval, we got a new HOA management company, we are currently getting a new landscaping company etc. etc. ) - so after two years of patiently exchanging emails, polite phone conversations - I*TOTALLY*LOST*IT. I waved a red flag at the HOA management company - now let's hope the red flag has positive consequences for this reluctant Matador.

My life feels like it is slowly coming back to normalcy, and the biggest learning for me has been the following :

I thought I was invincible, at least that's what I wanted you to think, and I wanted me to think it, too. Yet the past week has taught me that I will be down and out, and the opportunity to climb out of the hole and resume life is what makes me strong in life.

I went to a BollyX class today and am watching "Zootopia" with my son and am just taking it easy with a cup of hot chai (adrak maar ke aka with ginger). How has your weekend been playing out?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tentative Parenting : Steaming over STEM!


I  don't like this tug of war between what is more important the Sciences or Arts.  What is important is that every human being deserves to learn about the arts & humanities, just as each person should be cognizant of the sciences.


I am mother to a 9 year old boy and most of the conversations happening in the past year have been all around empowering girls (and boys) in the area of STEM - and the reality is I haven't been comfortable with this propaganda. I have been encouraging my mathematically inclined son to explore nature, arts & literature and drama.

I come from a culture where STEM was over-emphasized. In India, there were only two  education options available to kids from the  ambitious middle class families in the early 90's (there I have dated myself)  - Medicine or Engineering. Imagine my mother's horror, shock and disappointment when I went into a totally obscure  and unheard of humanities field. I remember the societal pressure to follow a certain course - I remember the sympathetic looks my mother's friends gave her and the pangs of inadequacy I felt when I caught those looks. I will never forget the statement my mother made on my first day of college - well B.A. in Arts means you are getting ready to get married, so you better learn to make Rotis (Indian Bread) True Fact - I haven't made a Roti till date but then we are digressing ;-)

My sincere hope is that we don't add in one alphabet to STEM and say let's focus on STEAM  and believe that it solves a multitude of issues...the reality is every child is born with a unique set of skills, aptitude and inclination - it is super important that we nurture and help them blossom into confident, socially adept human beings who are secure in their place in this society. What I see happening more and more is this focus on Brilliance, Killer Drive and Genius and the things that seem to be falling on the wayside are - social and life skills, generosity and kindness - the ability to get along, get things done together, solve problems together (vs. just being the sole heroes). 

Dr. Seuss was seriously onto something when he said  the quote below AND this is a quote that I keep repeating to my boy when he asks me - Ma what do you want me to become :)  - You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Pokemon Go - Cliff Notes from the Other Side


Pokemon Go has taken over  the mobile gaming world - 75 million downloads in  a little over 2 weeks is beyond amazing statistics. Let me also add that if you came to my article looking for hacks to dupe the system into believing you are walking, hatching eggs, location spoofing, teleporting to pokestops - you came to the wrong place - yes there is code for that somewhere on the internet - just not here. Every single XP point earned by me and my son tag-teaming has been without gaming the system - with good old walking, collecting at poke stops, fighting gyms and catching pokemon.
Pokemon Go was a game my 9 yr old introduced me to some 10 days back, and life hasn't really been the same since. At Level 20,  here is some advice I would offer you if you are just starting off  (something I wish someone had told me a week back) -
#1 Have Fun - this game is to let off some steam,bond with your kids and get some steps in  ( here's a tip - visit parks with multiple poke stops - chances are there will be lure models set there most of the time)
#2 Don't get impatient - don't randomly power up Pokemon, or evolve them just because you can. Wait till you get really high CP (Combat Power) Pokemon (that usually happens around Level 15)
#3 - Catch these 3 - Pidgey, Caterpie, Weedle every chance you get - see # 4 for why?
#4  Maximize your XP points - use a lure model (attracts pokemon to poke stops, works for everyone) incense (attracts pokemon to you) and lucky egg (double XP) together in a pokemon hotspot ( for eg. a popular park where people put multiple lure models). Use that 1/2 hr to evolve as many Pidgey, Caterpie and Weedle that you can and catch as many pokemon in the same 1/2 hour -- I jumped 2 levels each time with this strategy and know of people who jumped 3 levels with this strategy
#5 Battle Gyms - you can either train your Pokemon for XP by battling others or store them there for bonus Poke Coins and Stardust, which can be claimed once every 21 hours. However, when you encounter an opposing team's gym, you can only do battle with its Pokemon. If you defeat its entire roster, you'll take a large amount of Prestige Points away from that gym.
#6 Turn off AR for easier captures - I have found it useful to turn off augmented reality  to catch pokemon with greater accuracy (play around to see what actually works for you)
#7 Use Pokevision  -  which is a nifty tool to find where the Pokemon are (https://pokevision.com/)
At the end of the day - Pokemon Go has been an enabler for some good habits  in our family - we end up walking as a family at a park every single day, my step count has increased 5K per day in the past 10 days and last but not the least - my son and I have truely bonded over a mobile game.
Trainer Tip : Please Please don't play Pokemon while driving - I have seen two accidents in a 30 mph zone because folks were playing Pokemon while driving !

What's your Pokemon Go Story?