A festival to remember and reflect.

19th of September,  on the morning of Ganesh Chaturthi, we celebrated the birth of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. I woke up early to make sweets called Karigadubu to offer in gratitude to him. My mom gave me the instructions on how to prepare them.

Recipe for Karigadubu:

I made a tough dough by kneading a cup of maida with a quarter cup of sooji and a pinch of salt. This I prepared the night before as they had to be ready for puja at 7 the next morning.

For the filling, I mixed half a cup of coconut with half a cup of jaggery ,a quarter cup of ground dalia and a teaspoon of cardamom powder.

I pinched out a tiny ball of dough and thinly rolled it. I spooned some filling in the center of the circle of dough; Then I folded the dough over the filling forming a semi-circle; After pressing the edges so as to hold the filling within, I twisted them like the pleats of a Saree. Then I deep-fried the beauties in oil and fished them out after they turned a golden brown in hue.

The simple activity of preparing the sweet, one at a time, folding its edge and dropping it into the pan of oil brought back memories of the times spent at my aunt’s place. The night  before Ganesh Chaturthi, almost everyone in the family gathered in a hall turning out hundreds of these karigadubus,chatting and singing hymns, while at it.

I also kept thanking Ganesh for all his blessings; especially the blessing of an ordinary life. I appreciated his placing me in this bountiful country instead of tossing me into a war-ridden Afghanistan or a famished Sierra Leone. I thanked both for the family I was born into and the one I’m blessed with as a result of my marriage. Yes. I drowned in a sea of gratitude that holy morning.

The atmosphere was festive; There was devotional music playing in the background while Prasad performed the ritual of praying and offering the sweets to the Lord with our daughter excitedly helping him out.

Festivals are hard work even though the end result can be bliss and blessings. But we want to do this for Medha; We want her to know and appreciate the beauty of our traditions and the richness of the heritage that she inherits.

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Door of Opportunity.

“I do not have a background in Business; Will I have anything worth telling these kids about managing finance or gaining entrepreneurship skills?”, I asked Paloma, the volunteer co-ordinator at the Junior Achievement Program. We were at a Starbucks for my Volunteer training with another trainee who is an entrepreneur herself. “I am just an Engineer”, I added, meekly.

“Just an ‘Engineer’? You know how hard it is to become one? Kids will be impressed to learn about college and your experience as a student. At their age they wouldn’t have had much exposure beyond their homes and school. Remember, you will be teaching at a diverse school where the students come from all walks of life and different economic backgrounds. And being an Engineer you must surely be good at math.”

“Well, that was a long time back. Now the most Math I do is count the number of sheep with my daughter from her numbers book.”

Kind and confident that she is, Paloma brushed aside any other doubts in my head about my ability to teach first graders. After an hour’s training  about how to conduct a class, now I’m officially a Junior Achievement Volunteer Teacher. Soon, I’ll be teaching a 5hr course in Financial Literacy spread over 2 months to a bunch of 6 to 7 year olds for which I’ll be provided with teaching material. I’m giddy with excitement about the new door that has opened for me. For this ‘ll always be grateful to my friend Vandana, who told me about this opportunity.

I do not worry about teaching Kids the importance of Budgeting and weighing their options before spending money. Those are some of the things I believe I’m really good at. I just fret about having to speak in front of a crowd even though that crowd will mostly be made up of 6 year olds. But I know something about the above-mentioned “Door of Opportunity”. You don’t come across one easily. With a relentless determination you have to set out looking for one. I’ve waited a long time for something this meaningful and true to my nature to open up. All I know is I’ll be giving it my best shot and trying to enjoy the process because preparing for the class won’t be easy. And speaking in front of one? I won’t even think about it!

 

Hanging in there!

I took a break from regular posting and I am still not totally back yet. I am writing to let you know that I haven’t given up on blogging. Nothing worth mentioning is happening at the home-front. One is continuing to go to pre-school and the other is, as always, busy at work. Ah, I chauffeur these two around.

Important things have cropped up that need my attention: A better volunteering opportunity is just round the corner and a Kannada Association event needs to be organised. I’m not good at juggling a hundred different things simultaneously like some moms I know. So when there’s a time-crunch I drop the less-important tasks from my to-do list. One of those tasks is posting on my blog, an activity that gives me the most satisfaction. Yes, in my marathon towards an unknown goal I forgo the one thing that makes me happy.

Some days, with my voice louder, I have to ask myself, for god’s sake please pause to look around now and then: to really gaze into my little girl’s big, brown eyes as she falls asleep in my arms; to smell the unexpected rain in the midst of a prickly summer and to listen to my favorite Saxophone music without trying to finish a few chores in parallel.

When I was rummaging through my hard disc looking for my daughter’s pictures to make a new album I was stunned to realize that she had grown from a tiny, babbling baby to a little person with thoughts, emotions and intelligence in a short span of few months! How did that happen? WHEN did that happen? When I was busy cleaning my house? I hope not!  I want to make these days special for her, for us. “The Happiness Project” author Gretchen Ruben’s words “The days are long, but the years are short.” comes to mind. I will make an effort not to take these days, long and tiring even though they seem, for granted as the years will slip by soon.

What a mess!

I walk around the house carefully so my feet doesn’t land on a toy or a ball that’ll take me sliding across the living room. Toys, they are everywhere – upon the table, on the bed where every night we make a thorough search for pans and spoons before daring to sleep, almost every shelf around the house and even the pedestal where our Gods once rested peacefully.

It’s not just my daughter’s toys that are wreaking havoc at home, books are culprits too. And they are not just Medha’s picture or Reader books, mine as well. My journals, note-books, latest and old “Vegetarian Times” magazines, latest and old “Writer” magazines, a National Geographic, novels, reference material and whatnot! Even though they make a pretty sight for a book-lover like me I know it doesn’t to others. I always hustle to stuff them in  the nearest drawer before a guest arrives.

If the toys and books keep me busy cleaning or worrying about cleaning all mornings the state of my kitchen gives me nightmares. We have a big kitchen that’s as big as our living room but every inch of its space is crammed with utensils, snacks, cooked food, uncooked food and food that has lived past its edibility. When I pull a bag of pasta out, I jump aside so that the packets of maggi and Ban Pho noodles don’t fall all over me.

Moments after I clean up, a new layer of mess accumulates, dashing my hopes of a tidy home. Instead of  working towards the title of Mrs. Clean, spit-shining during my every waking moment, I’ve decided to tackle this project, one shelf or closet at a time. Each day I set aside a few minutes to clean one small part of the house and let the rest of it remain messy. That way I have the satisfaction that comes with ticking off one thing in my to-do list and house-keeping doesn’t seem as monstrous a task as it used to.

A Weekend in San Diego.

Everybody needs what I call a “happy place”, a special place that when remembered injects one with a shot of happiness and energy. To me that place is San Diego, a city in California that’s along its coast. It has pristine beaches, a world-famous zoo, to-die-for breakfast diners ( and lunch-  and dinner-serving restaurants as well. But their breakfast diners, according to me, steal the show. The crumbly Cinnamon Coffee Cake drizzled with creamy milk I ate and almost fainted in pleasure is making me want to go back once again.), beautiful and care-free crowd and so much more. I feel there’s something for everyone there.

It was pleasantly sunny when we drove up last weekend, the heat having none of the prick that Tucson offers in abundance. But what made the trip extra special was spending time with my brother and sister-in-law. They flew in from St-Louis to meet friends and family and to sight-see which I sadly inform they could hardly accomplish in the midst of all the meeting with friends and family. Still, everyone had a good time.

We explored the zoo until the sun made us too sleepy to explore anymore.

Encounter with a Cheetah.
Petting a Goat.
Who is cuter? Me or You?

We splashed about in blue seas that glittered with sunlight and bathed ourselves in the fine sands of Del Coronado and La Jolla beaches. I still have sand stuck all over my shoes!

What is this mama?
What is that mama?
Ok..Now papa’s turn, “What is that, papa?”.

We ate chewy pizzas at Pizza Port; almost every item on the menu in Surti Pharsan, a Gujarathi eatery; omelets and a crumbly coffee cake, that has already made its appearance, at the famous Beach Break Cafe.

And when we felt the need to exercise we climbed slippery mountains.

I dont need no help!!!

And sometimes even trees.

With my talented aunt!

And of course did push-ups wherever and whenever we could.

My secret for a slim figure.

In the end we watched the Sun set behind the seas of Del Mar beach , melting beautifully in the sky and becoming one with it. 

Prasad and I have visited this magical place umpteen number of times. And every time we have bidden farewell to the place thinking it might be the last time that we walk its sandy shores. But its pull is so strong, we have gone back again and again. Goodbye was hard this time too. It wasn’t just departing from the place but watching the only family we have in the US walk away that made me sad. But soon I was comforted. Not only will I be meeting them in Orlando but we will be back in San Diego this November; With my family. This one will be flying in from Dubai to boot!