I still miss…

It has almost been a year since we left the US, but I still miss…

  • Walking down aisles between book-shelves at our local library, picking a random book and leafing through its pages rich with illustrations, checking out piles of books (but never finishing most!) because it didn’t cost a thing to do so but gave me immense pleasure.
  • Driving through Dunkin’ Donuts and ordering a large coffee and a couple of doughnuts (mostly, toasted coconut and chocolate-glazed) for the whole family to share as we headed to the park in the evening.
  • Meeting the other moms at the library during story-time and sharing the woes and joy of raising kids.
  • Shopping at Safeway for dinner after Prasad’s return from work. I would sip away a tall mug of Starbucks coffee at the cafe in peace, while he pushed Medha around in her cart, picking supplies off my list. I would sneak in a bit of reading too!
  • Visiting National Parks on long weekends. I still remember our early morning walk into the Merced Grove in Yosemite National Park; It was quiet, there was no one except Prasad, Medha and I; We watched the early morning rays of sun filter through the canopy formed by the gargantuan Sequoia trees. I felt blessed that day. Also, I’m abounded with “What ifs” to this day when I think of the lonely hike we did in Yellowstone National Park: What if there had been a bear? What if we had lost our way? I can still feel the relief I felt seeing the lodge below from the top of the mountain we were on, which meant we were right on track. But what a wonderful experience it was! And so were our tour of the other National Parks.
Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
  •  The early morning drives out of town, with Medha fast asleep in her car seat, soft rock playing on the radio and Prasad listening to my jibber-jabber.
  • Our race to catch the sunset in Del mar beach and walking its streets later, especially during Christmas.
Sun-set in Del Mar beach
Sun-set in Del Mar beach
  • Walking anywhere in the US during Christmas. The whole country comes alive this time of the year. It is as if its people wait all year just to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. I felt warm whenever I peeked into the window of a home that displayed a Christmas tree within its softly-lit hall.
  • The tree-lighting ceremony at Oro Valley Marketplace every year.
  • Breakfast in San Diego. We used to eat at different places every time and I just loved       trying local Coffee and a slice of Coffee Cake with cream on top.
  • Friday evenings spent shopping at Trader Joe’s for novel snacks from different parts of the world.
  • Visiting the beautiful Krishna temple in Phoenix and gorging on Indian food afterwards
  • The occasional snowfall in Tucson. We walked around the neighborhood greeting people in joy, made snowmen and watched Medha eat flakes of snow in delight!
Snow in our neighborhood
Snow in our neighborhood
  • Drinking hot cocoa and gorging on hot and spicy Huevos Rancheros at the hotel we stayed at during Christmas in Arches National Park, Utah.
  • Weekends spent cooking, chatting and dancing with our friends, Vinay and Vandu.

 

Good times with great friends!
Good times with great friends!
  • Shopping at Target with Medha. We enjoyed sitting at the café inside with a tall cup of Sunkist Orange juice and a bag of Popcorn more than shopping at the dollar area (which was pretty awesome too!).
  • Sipping Masala Chai, munching deep-fried Indian snacks and chit-chatting with Vidya aunty. I miss her all the time. She always encouraged me to pursue my passion for writing and complimented me for the way I took care of my kids.
  • Dancing away to Spanish songs during Zumba.
  • Spending Sunday mornings walking through yard sales and buying second-hand, sometimes-useful, but mostly beautiful junk.
  • The hugs I received from kids after lessons when I volunteered as a teacher to the under-privileged for Junior Achievement.

Yup…. I still miss the US, but not as much as I used to in the beginning.

I’d love to re-visit the places we once loved and still cherish, drink gallons of Starbucks coffee and hike the length and breadth of every National Park there is. But until then, I want to create similar, beautiful memories for my family here,  in India.

A million miles in a thousand years

If I can write the story of my life, what kinda story will that be? What attributes will my character have? What will my mission/ goal/ dream be? What obstacles will I have to overcome to make it a reality? Which other characters will inhabit my story?

All the above questions flocked my mind as I read the book, “A million miles in a thousand years” by Donald Miller. I read this as part of my book club and enjoyed and mulled over it quite a bit. It is all about the parallelism between life and a story and how we can make our lives better by learning what makes a story compelling.

Donald Miller’s memoir, “Blue Like Jazz” is about to be made into a movie. On the journey of turning the book into a format fit for the big screen, the writer discovers what makes a story great.

Reading a book and watching a movie are 2 entirely different things. While sensory details need to be explained in a book, they can simply be shown in a movie. An audience that watches a movie needs action: It should be made known at the beginning who the central character is, what his motives are and what needs to be fought against, for him to be a victor. The audience must care enough about the central character to stay glued to the screen.

But the author is a writer, spending most of his time writing. He is a couch potato and he has trouble keeping relationships intact. (That makes me wonder why his life had to be made into a movie in the first place. Maybe it has something to do with the memoir. Never read it, so I’m not sure why.) His life, like most lives,  isn’t interesting enough as is. So the Director along with the writer rewrite his story to make it captivating to a movie audience. To his embarrassment, they set about creating a different version of him for screen, a version who is after something, a version that makes for a powerful story.

As he writes about this other version for the movie, he realizes he’s writing a story he himself wishes to live. So he sets about living the life he’s dreamt of but never had the courage or the motivation to begin. He gets off his couch and starts saying ‘yes’ to new experiences. He hikes the Inca trail to Machu Pichu. He wins over the girl he’s liked for a long time. He bikes across America. He finds his dad whom he hadn’t seen in years. He writes an epic for himself. He doesn’t wish to go back to the idle, dull, depressing life he left in pursuit of a better story.

I am not after creating an epic. I don’t want to be famous.I don’t wish to make big bucks. I want to live a simple story. Actually, I’m already almost living my simple story:  I read. I write. I learn. I watch my kids grow up. My husband and I travel. I record the memories we make. I talk/write  to people close to my heart. This is my story, and I don’t want to live any other way. I begin each morning with a question :  How can I make this blessed day even better?

But there’s one thing, a big thing, a thing even the writer, Donald Miller guarantees makes a story great, that’s missing from my story. I’m sure my story will be a worthy read once I find this thing. And that thing is a cause to believe in. Some call it ‘charity’, but I surely wont, because I’m sure when I find this ‘thing’ I’ll receive so much more in return than what I ‘give’; I’ll have a reason to wake up on those mornings when I see no point in living a good story. I know I HAVE to write a good story, not just for myself, but for my loved ones and for those who need love and care.

I leave you with a question to ponder and act upon…

“Why are you holding back? What is stopping you from living the life you’ve imagined for yourself? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you decided to wholeheartedly commit yourself to achieving your goals?” 

– Logan Marshall of “The Free Life Project”