On (At Least) Giving Back What You Got

My mother-in-law (Girijia) had a rather quirky relationship with her mother-in-law. But, when it came to building a relationship with her own daughter-in-laws, she tried her best. She put the right foot forward and always tried to grow and nourish our relationship. She wanted to maintain a strong bond with her grandkids as well. This task, as we all know, was never easy. I applaud her for trying her best till the very end of her life.

She gave me what she never got – a loving, caring, nurturing relationship.

So, I just continued to enjoy all the things and moments my mother-in-law gave me for as long as I was blessed and privileged enough to receive them…the things and moments she herself had been deprived off during her lifetime.

Amma (Devi) lost her mother when she was still a toddler. Thatha (Grandpa TVS) didn’t re-marry. He raised Amma by himself. Thatha adored his daughter and did everything possible to give her a good life. But, he was also a very busy man. He was a Muncip (sort of a Mayor) for his village and also a full time farmer. In short, Amma didn’t get any of the things she gave me. The feeling of coming back home to one’s mom, mom’s comfort food, mom’s tireless effort to raise one’s child to a better future..she didn’t get any of those.

Every time I came back home after a long day and got fed hot sambar or potato fry (trust me, when you come back from a super-hot-day in my hometown, all you wanted to do was drink was something cold and relax under the fan), I didn’t ever complain. I took it from Amma’s hand and told her “Romma nalla irruku Amma.” (which meant, “Mom, is it very good!”) Once in awhile, I would casually, drop a hint saying, “Nallika vena coola thayir sadam pannriya?” (which meant, “Mom, can you make some cold yogurt rice tomorrow?”). She didn’t get the hint whatsoever. Serving hot fresh food to her daughters was her way of showing her love.

She gave me what she never got – a loving, caring, nurturing relationship.

So, I just continued to enjoy all the things and moments Amma gave me for as long as I was blessed and privileged enough to receive…the things and moments she herself had been deprived off.

Let me ask you a question.

What are all the things and moments you  have been blessed and privileged enough to receive?

I am not asking you or me to pay forward those things we haven’t received.

That is too much of a stretch and requires a very BIG heart….much like the one your mom has.

But, whatever we received….those things..those moments…those gifts…at least that, we need to give back and pay it forward, right?

Don’t you think so?

You don’t have to feel obligated and rushed to say “Yes Ambal!”.
Just think about it. That is all I am asking for.

What are all the things and moments you  have been blessed and privileged enough to receive? Are you giving it back and paying it forward?

On Karma Yoga

Never in my wildest childhood dreams I would have imagined that I would get up on a Sunday morning and make coffee and pancake; then, follow it up with archuvitta sambar, baby potato roast and beans poriyal.

Never in my wildest childhood dreams.

Life takes twists and turns.

And, I find myself in the kitchen.
Cleaning up.

I don’t want to romanticize this ACT by saying it is done out of love.
Because, nothing would be further away from the truth.

It is called freaking Karma Yoga (the Path of Selfless Service Karma Yoga is the path of ‘action’).

I also do it because boys seem to look forward to weekend lunch together. And, I would hate to disappoint them.

On Unrelated Relationships

I rode public transportation since I was 10 years old. The bus numbers were 52B, 18A, 18B and 18G. These buses took me from home to school and back.

India use to be a populated country even when I was 10 years old. In order to avoid more people getting on the over loaded bus the driver would stop a few hundred feet away from my bus stop. That is when I first learnt how to run with my backpack and lunch bag…. all the while yelling at my sister to follow me hastily. I would fall, get up and run again to catch the bus to get to school. I would hop on the foot board of the bus before the driver took off and turn around to ensure my sister had made it. Many times, despite my running, the driver would take off and leave me and my sister stranded at the bus stop.

Over time I learnt to become friends with the passengers, bus drivers and conductors.

In my hometown, you didn’t call the driver as Mr. Driver or the conductor as Mr. Conductor. You didn’t call them by their first name either.. You called them Annen (colloquial usage of word Anna which means Big Brother).

I would say to the conductor (who was typically in the back of the bus and could possibly see me running to catch the bus) – “Annen… please Annen. Don’t take off the bus without picking me up. If I go late to school, teachers are giving me a difficult time. Tell the Driver Annen to pause for just a tad bit more until my sister and I get on the bus. Please Annen.”

Guess what happens when you ask?
That is right.
When you ask, you are given.

For the next several years, the bus conductors and drives would pause the bus to pick up my sister and me. The passengers would give us a helping hand to get into the bus. Over the years, the regular passengers got to know me well. So, if they saw me running and the foot board of the bus was already crowded, they would make away for me. They would also yell to the people (who were not regular commuters) standing on the foot board – “Yenga area ponnu varuthu ya. Othu. Othu. Othu. Vazhi odu. Seekarma.” (Which meant: Yo. Our area girl is coming. Move. Move. Move. Make away. Fast.)

As I grew up, I realized that the person who sold flowers near the Temple was “Poovikara Akka” (the elder sister selling flowers).

The youngster in the grocery store was “Maligakadai Thambi” (the younger brother helper in the grocery store).

The priest in the temple was “Mama” (the Uncle in the temple).

The old man selling coconuts on the corner of the street was “Elani Thatha” (Grandpa who sells coconuts).

The old lady who sold milk was “Pallu Patti” (Grandma who sells milk).

All those people, in different socioeconomic backgrounds, and not related to me by blood.. were related to me in the giant maze of my hometown. If you treated them well, they appreciated it and reciprocated with niceness.

That is what I learnt in my hometown. To treat everybody fairly and nicely…as if they were related to me…as my very own family.

Well, that, and how to run fast, land my foot (without falling or faltering) on the foot board of a moving bus that paused for me to get on and get to my destination.

On a Rare Friday Evening

It is what some people will call a loner Friday evening.
Not to me.

To me, it is one of those rare Friday evenings.
After an unrelenting week with work and family, I have the house to myself.
The 3 boys are out.
The silence is almost deafening.
So, to break the unusual silence, I decide to play some old classics.
And, catchup on my unending todo list.

Y’all have a great Easter weekend.

On Failure

There is no failure when you are in the comfort zone.
In the safe zone….it is wonderful…. status quo…you are in cruise mode….it is calm and cool there.

But, that is not what excites you.
You want to break past that calm and cool….and you strive…oh, so hard. You rock heaven and earth.

Then, there is 2 possibilities.
Sometimes, you break through.
Sometimes, you stretch too far….you give it your best…yet, you fail.

You feel you are done because life is playing another one of those cruel jokes on you.
Your soul is completely crushed.
Your heart breaks.
You shed a few tears.

Then, you remember, you have done this many times over.
Getting up, no matter what has transpired, and walking forward has become part of your neuromuscular memory.

So, you get up to dust yourself.
Then you march forward….because that is what you have always done.
And, because, that it the only option that TRULY exists.