18

The month that was

Hola! I am back to the big, bad USA and I am still incredibly jetlagged. My trip was not that short, but it feels like it was. My H1B got stamped till 2017, so yay for that. I went to Vadodara for a work visit and I took my mom along leaving dad and Moony at home. It was a huge break for her and she thoroughly enjoyed her stay in the 5-star hotel. She has been telling all and sundry about the awesome Taj hotel. Plus I took her out for a dinner date to Mainland China and she was sooooo happy! Dad is feeling better and needs only one cane to walk now. He drove for the first time while I was there. It was a huge improvement. During my first week in India, we went to Mumbai for my visa interview and he got to leave home for the first time since his surgery in August, barring the hospital visits. He was very drained but he felt so good! Moony is happy, but age has definitely caught up with him. We have to give him a quarter NSAID every day. The doctor said that giving him a painkiller daily will make his remaining time comfortable atleast. It is very very sad to see him shiver with his arthritic pain. But he is a happy bunny otherwise.

Last few days, my mom kept wondering aloud about how short the trip seemed. I am not going to post a giant travelogue but I want to list a few highlights from the trip.

The Good :

· Mommy, Daddy, Moony! New home! It is lovely! It is small, cozy, all white with nice balconies. Most importantly, it is ours!

· I ate tons of food! I had a lot of chaat, and visited new and old restaurants. My mom made everything I loved. I made a few things for lunches that I had learned.

· My Vadodara visit was very fruitful work-wise. My mom was insanely happy and thoroughly enjoyed her stay and the flight and the train trip. I loved the train ride back. I usually get the most amazing sleep on a train berth wrapped up in their blankets and sheets.

· We spent half a day in Ahmedabad and we shopped a bit at Law Garden. It brought back so many childhood memories. I was in luck and since it was Uttarayan season, our Gujarati Thali had Undhiyo and Jalebi. Gosh I miss that stuff! Highly recommend Toran for a good thali.

· We went to Siddhivinayak in Mumbai. I make sure to go there every time I am in Mumbai. We took a little leverage thanks to Dad’s walker and managed to get VIP darshan. Bwahahaha!

· Mumbai has the best cops and the best taxi and rickshaw drivers. The best. And Pune? The worst!

· I was very happy that my friends made some time to do a day trip to Adlabs Imagica. It has a lot of rides that are similar to Disneyland and Universal Studio rides. But the way it is built and run, is very impressive. It is following International standards easily. Some of the rides were truly thrilling and only Saipan was brave enough to do it with me. And Moo walked into a pole there and was retired hurt. I was worried about what if she starts saying “Main kaun hoon? Main kahan hoon?”

· Hazra and my breakfast at Wadeshwar on FC road after our Dagdusheth Ganpati early morning darshan. Plus I saw Ganpati fresh-fresh after his bath without his usual silk drapes and ornaments. He looked so adorable.

· I have recently re-connected with a school mate with who I used to do elocution and recital competitions. He picked me up from home and we went to have dinner on new year’s eve to Vaishali. He figured that was the classic-est place to take me and I approve. Vaishali’s Indian food is extremely famous and so good. It was a regular b’fast spot for me when I was in Junior College.

· I managed to not contact the xBF. Except a ‘happy new year’. To which he replied ‘happy new year’. How interesting.

· I met an ex bf and finally accepted his fb request and managed to keep it all clean. (We were famous for our on and off relationship thanks to our chemistry. Ahem.) I got told off by Ani and Shib for meeting him.

· I took Mausi-Mausaji and cousins to BBQ Nation as my treat. What Paneer man! Yum!

· Moo and Ani came home! Moo and I got thrown out of a children’s park. We were escorted out by 4-5 men making sure we don’t go back in. I went to Moo’s place and had the yummiest Nagercoil style egg curry ever.

· My best friends Hazra, Shibin and Saipan have once again re-iterated the fact that they are family and will always be there for my parents and I can stay in peace here. I love them to no end.

· My new year resolution is to make constant efforts to stay in touch with the besties. Hazra, Saipan, Shib, Ani and Moo. But it needs to be a two-way effort. But I will try my best.

· I went to India and came back unmarried. Booyah! 😀

The Bad :

· The saddest thing to happen was the loss of a parent by my best friend. I cannot fathom how deep his sorrow must be. Shibin lost his father to a heart attack. It happened in a few minutes but it changed lives. I was glad I could be with my friend at a time like that. He called me later to thank him. But there were no thanks needed. He is family. I gave my parents a big hug after I went home.

· Seeing Moony age, and new lines on my parents’ faces.

· That nagging feeling of leaving home and going so far away that all expats face. All the time.

· My parents questioning about why I am not yet ready to start looking for boys. They asked if I was still hopeful about Scube and if they want me to contact him. I lied through my teeth that it’s all over, and I have no hope.

· The xBF made no contact with me. Inspite of me checking in on FB and making it very obvious that I was in Mumbai, Pune and Lonavala.

· I fell horribly sick for a week with a terrible cold and sore throat.

· I was unable to meet so many people thanks to the above mentioned illness and the trips to Mumbai and Vadodara. So sorry Bhakti. Other than that, I got contacted by so many people to meet and it was quite impossible. Random people from BE who I have never spoken to wanted to meet me. So weird. Except this girl Esha with who I got along fine in college. A year and half back also she wanted to meet and this time also she commented on my Instagram to meet her. I feel weirdly sorry that I could not meet her.

The Ugly :

· I have gotten off a very high horse regarding friendship. I feel humiliated by the total lack of concern shown by a couple of friends over even texting or acknowledging that I was in India. I do not expect a call from them because even I am on a texting term with them in the group. But the complete lack of response to anything I say or to my being in India made me feel very insulted. I had taken some gifts for them to give when I met them. One was supposed to come to Imagica with the group. But she cancelled at the very last moment and for something she knew about long back. Why even make a plan then? Or have the guts to say it in the group and not call a friend and tell him in private. I am so done with that group. It makes me very glad that I did not go for their weddings. (On a more evil note, I regret even getting them wedding gifts. Hmmpphh). It’s like, kehne ke liye friends. Baaki they don’t give a hoot about me. What is the point of such friends when you don’t feel the warmth. Esha seems to be more concerned about me than these so-called friends. Maybe that’s why I feel that guilt over not meeting people who actually wanted to meet me.

Anyways, now I am back to office and oscillating between pure dread about the work that lies ahead and sheer laziness. I miss home. I want to be back with my parents. But there is no point saying that. But I am also glad to be back. Friends at work rushed in to my space to tell how they missed me. It was nice to hug my car. She definitely missed me and I missed her. Also, I am glad to back on the blog. I have read most of the posts when I was home, but could not comment. I wish I could do the 30 day challenge! But next time.

So, bye for now. See you guys later!

19

The city of many memories

I had a really fun weekend. Some bar hopping on Friday in Santa Ana, some super awkward dinner incidents with people who I don’t like and who don’t like me on Saturday in San Diego, giggling away with a girl friend and a new gal till 3 am and a fun Mexican lunch with half a glass of weirdly spicy margherita, turned out to be just what Dr. Life ordered.

I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I am in love with the city of San Diego. I just love that place. Although it makes me tear up inside every time I am there and engulfs me in nostalgia, but I simply love San Diego. It is like that torrid love affair that harms you from the inside, but is too passionate to break off. *I think I am watching a li’l too much of ‘Scandal’.* 😉 The city is splendid. I spent my Master’s years there and my last two years were some of my best times ever. The xBF and Abhi totally made my time worth all the ache that has been left later. I would not trade any of it away for anything.

I want to list down some of my absolute favorite places in the city that have given me amazing memories. If you ever visit San Diego, you should go to some of these places. Some of them can be rather touristy or just a taste of culture or could be just a balm of peacefulness. I am not even going to mention the legit beaches here, because, well, they all are ah-mazing!

  1. Seaport Village : My absolute favorite, hands down. I just love this quaint little part of San Diego harbor. It is right on the harbor line and boasts of tiny shops that sell anything from hot sauces to handmade soaps, beads and jewelry to magnets, mugs and tea cups to exotic hats and fascinators. There is this small shop that sells swings and hammocks. They don’t mind people sitting in the swings or lying down on their hammocks. The sales assistants are very friendly and usually are ready for conversations. This place has some very nice eateries as well. Nothing beats sitting at Asaggio’s with a pitcher of beer and their delicious hot cheese garlic bread. It was my date spot. Just perfect when there is a nip in the air.Image
  2. Sunset cliffs : I can sit here forever on the rocky cliffs and get drenched! It feels like someone is throwing buckets of salty water at you. The force of the water has knocked me back several times and I never come back from this place without some cuts and bruises. 😀 There are adorable little pools of water that form on the rocks and you can see an entire little sea world in those. I have a paranoia though and I am insanely afraid that a crab will come and attack me and I will die. The insanity notwithstanding, this place can be amazing if you want to sit on the cliffs and catch the sunset, or if you want to be a total nut and jump off the cliff into the Pacific. I was not allowed to even toe the waters from the edge of the rock at sea level, courtesy the paranoid xBF. “Bahu jokham che!”(Very risky, in english) Haha!Image
  3. La Jolla shores and coves : If you are into snorkeling or scuba diving, this IS the place. I have gone snorkeling here for a Tiger Shark tour, and it blew my mind! We saw sting rays, tiger sharks, so many colorful fishes that I know I will never remember the names of. It was a lot of work though because we turned up in our glasses(the snorkel gear isn’t meant for glasses), and we had to reschedule it. Thankfully I found a set of my unexpired extra contacts and the xBF had a pair too. We used those and threw them after we were done. The guide was sweet enough to hold my hand throughout because I was having real trouble breathing through my mouth. Dude, seriously! Once your face is under water, you totally forget that you have a tube in the air! It just becomes too scary and you end up gasping frantically for air! It takes some time to get used to the nausea and saltiness. But I powered through and enjoyed it immensely. The La Jolla coves is an adorable rocky and cliffy area where you can see seals lazing around shamelessly. It stinks of fish, but the sight of seals flopping around, basking in the sun or plopping down on top of each other makes up for everything. This place is a little annoying when it is cold, but is just perfect when it gets warm. There are little caves you can go to at water level. You just have to climb down the cliff for that. This also is a great spot if you like kayaking. There are many tours here.Image
  1. Point Loma : The panoramic view of the sea is spectacular here! You are surrounded by a vast expense of azure blue Pacific with teeny tiny yachts and ferries dotting the sea. I have actually been here only once when five of us had some time to return a rented car and we just wanted to skip classes that day. We did some crazy picture session in the light drizzle. There is an old lighthouse and museum here. The lighthouse was the perfect studio for even more mad pictures.Image
  2. Coronado beach and island : There is a wonderful bridge that takes you to the Coronado beach and islands. There is a rumor that the bridge was curved and not made straight, in order to get it to a particular length to qualify for federal funding! Sneaky, sneaky. Not sure how true it is though. But what is true is that it has the third highest suicide rate in USA. Anyhoo, the Coronado beach has ‘Coronado’ spelt out in plants that you can see from an airplane! The Hotel Del Coronado boasts of lodging some famous Presidents and movie stars and is known to be pretty haunted. The Coronado island has some lah-di-dah restaurants that boast of a killer view of the water and San Diego skyline.
  3. Mt. Soledad : I have been dragged here at 5.45 am in PJs, boots, a sweater and a hoodie by my sunrise/sunset crazy xBF. This is a beautiful, extremely peaceful place though. One side covers the city scape and the other has a view of the sea. Some sunrises have been pretty awesome here. Especially when it is just a little misty. This is the spot that has inspired many a bromances between the boys. *Rolling my eyes*Image
  4. Old Town : If you want to experience some delicious Mexican food and culture, that is your spot right there! Fun food, fun music and dancing and cute little shops to collect knick-knacks, make this place up.
  5. Gaslamp, Hillcrest : For the best downtown experience, Gaslamp is the place. Period. Amazing clubs, food, my favorite dessert place, Extraordinary Dessert. Hillcrest is a foodie’s and a brewery enthusiast’s delight! I think it has an extensive LGBT settlement and that gives this place a very free, happening vibe for some reason. Some of the best breweries and restaurants are located here. And, of course, San Diego is known for its amazing micro-breweries!
  6. San Diego State : My awesome campus! 😀
  7. Fashion Valley : Countless of indecisive shopping hours have been spent here. Enough said. 🙂

P.S. I have not been paid by anyone to say nice things about San Diego. If someone wants to, they are very welcome!

P.P.S. All the pictures are mine/the xBF’s. Taken by our phones or camera.

4

Burnt dinner = Homesickness

Last evening, I sat down trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Usually, I wash my hair on Thursdays. So after gym and the hair wash, I don’t have much time and I usually end up cooking something light like eggs or bread or anything ready.. So I stepped into the kitchen to just heat up my ready to eat rotis and I planned on having it with yogurt. But I also had to make salad for lunch. When I took out my basket of veggies, I realized my mushrooms were starting to go brown. I decided that I will sauté them quickly with some schezwan sauce and be done with it. One thing led to another, and I started chopping chilli, tomatoes and onions to make some curry instead.

After I finished frying the curry and putting the mushrooms, I put some water in it to stew a bit and I went to call my parents. I have to call before 7.30 pm to catch my dad before he leaves for work. I made the call and sorted out my gym bag for the next day in like 2 minutes. I was still talking to my mom and went into the kitchen to see my curry, and there, I smelt it burning.

Oh god! I ran to it and my curry had disappeared into a black coal layer on my kadhai and my poor mushroom looked shriveled up. My voice just dropped really low as I told my mom what happened. I just got so upset that my dinner was ruined. She told me to take non burnt stuff and to have it if it wasn’t smelling. I did that because I couldnt just throw my dinner away. Plus, throwing food makes me really upset. So I gave a deep sigh and told my mom that I will call her later after sorting this mess out. I was already done talking to dad.

I took out the mushrooms, and they were alright. They were edible enough. I put the kadhai in sink with water to loosen the black stuff inside and proceeded to finish off my dinner. I felt so so sad while having it and I started missing home a lot. L

I called my mom again after the dinner and she said my dad had already finished a long lecture delivery on how one should stand by the stove while cooking and how my mom should also do that to avoid burning milk and everything. Just to clarify, my dad wasn’t being mean to her, but he was upset because I lost my dinner and that was his venting out. Yes, he vents out by giving weird lectures. I laughed it off and told them I was finished eating and lied that it was alright.

After the whole talk, I was feeling very homesick. I was missing home cooked food, and all the love and the pampering. There are times my mom also ends up burning the food, but it doesn’t matter when you all are together. You just make do with it. When staying alone, getting up in the morning, going to work, working out, making dinner and sleeping is such a regular schedule that you get used to it, and you think you are doing good. But when things like some ache, some burnt food, some cold and cough show up, they disrupt your schedule. That disruption makes you realize how important your people are for you. How they being there, makes everything, even these troubles seem so much easier to deal with. They are the reason why you don’t just live, but you thrive. Sometimes being alone is way too lonely. Siggghhh. The only thing I can do is speak as often to my parents as I can. If not in reality, they are a part of my life here, virtually. And they do make things so much easier even while being thousands of miles apart.

I decided to change my mood and started to talk to mom about random stuff like Corelle dinnerware and anarkalis and what not. It made me feel better, so much better. After our talk, I got my laptop out to start watching my shows, and for once, I was glad that the Big Bang Theory had a really fun episode yesterday.

11

Being a Cosmozen

I have three email ids that I use apart from my office email id. A yahoomail, which was my first and now used for facebook and offers and such spammy stuff, my gmail, which is for all contact purposes and another gmail, for my blog. My id on yahoo has the word ‘cosmozen’ in it. I had read the late Kalpana Chawla, a great astronaut that I respect and admire, use this word to describe herself and for being ‘a citizen of the universe’. I found it very apt to use it for myself, because I believed I did not really belong to any particular place in India. I have always had trouble answering when people asked me where I was from. I moved to Pune in 9th grade, so now I can comfortable say that I am from Pune(and I love the sound of it!).

A lot of people ask me about my family’s origin. My family has been pretty nomadic since the beginning. All of my family members are far flung across half of India. I would like to document what I know so that someday I can show this to my next generation when they get confused where they are from originally, just like me!

Beginning from my mother’s side, which is a little more complex than my father’s, she has lived most of her life as a single woman, with her 3 sisters in Ajmer, Rajasthan, where I was born too. My mom’s great grandfather belonged to Ajgaon(Ratnagiri district in Konkans), Maharashtra. He moved out of it in search for jobs. My Ajoba(grandfather) was born in Mahitpur, Madhya Pradesh, and grew up in Indore(Madhya Pradesh). Then, he got a job in the Indian Railways and moved to Fasilka, then Punjab, now Haryana. My Aaji(grandmother, was born and brought up in Akola(Jalgaon district), Maharashtra. After their marriage, he moved to Rajasthan. My aunts (and the other babies who did not make it), were born and brought up initially in several Rajasthani villages/towns like Surajgarh Shekhawati, Naraina, Sanganer, Sikar, with mom being born in Akola, and finally settled in Ajmer where my Ajoba built a wonderful house where I spent my happy first 6 months and then several summer vacations. Two of my aunts are based in Jaipur and one in Ratlam(Madhya Pradesh).

My father’s family hails from a village called Raver(Jalgaon district), Maharashtra. A century ago, my great grandfather moved to Indore for his job in the collectorate office. My Appa(grandfather) was born and brought up in Indore, while my Aaji was born and brought up in Akola, just like my other Aaji. My grandfather worked and retired as a principal and English Master of the biggest Marathi high school in Indore. Indore has a very prominent Mahrashtrian population, with their own Marathi Samaj and their events. There are Samajs(if that is a word) in Jaipur, Delhi, Ahmedabad also. My father and his three siblings were born and brought up in Indore itself and went to the said school. My dad says it was very embarrassing to be in the same school where my grandfather worked. All his mischiefs were reported straight to his father! Haha!

My cousins are widely spread in Jodhpur, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, and in Southern California.

My parents had an arranged marriage in Indore. I started living in Indore in my 8th month. We moved to New Delhi(1st to 2nd grade), Ahmedabad(3rd to 5th grade), back to Indore(6th to 8th grade), and finally in Pune(9th grade to BE). Now I live in California, but I can confidently say that I am from Pune. In my 11th and 12th, my dad lived in Mumbai alone for a job he had there. For the record, my father and his extended family are the only people with the surname in the world. It could have been Raverkar, but instead is a really weird name, that sounds like a food item. My dog was born in Indore and brought up in Pune. Well, he is a part of the fam, so needs to be documented too.

With my family living in so many different places, there have been various advantages and disadvantages. I am not going to count the disadvantages now, because I have already posted about it earlier, and I am trying to move away from them and see only the positive picture now. We have experienced so many parts of India. My mom cooks wonderful food incorporating Mahrashtrian, Rajasthani and north Indian flavors in her recipes. Only my dad’s Marathi is perfect, like all his other language skills, including Gujarati. My mom’s Marathi and mine, well, is like a newbie talking. Our hindi is perfect and is the primary language we converse in at home. My dad speaks to me often in Marathi. But when my mom does, it sounds very unnatural, and I feel like she is going to scold me for something. Living in so many different places, we have experienced amazing cultures like, Dilli ka soft and succulent Paneer and chaat, A’bad ka kite flying, fafda-jalebi and the wonderful dandiya, Indore’s unmatched street food and sweets, and my most favorite school, and finally Pune’s lively Mahrashtrian cultural mix and the youthful energy. I feel lucky that I have experienced so many flavors in my lifetime and hopefully will continue experiencing the same. It makes a great conversation starter and has made me a bundle of anecdotes and stories. Maybe that is the reason I love travelling so much and being all touristy or nomadic. We made it a point to see everything we could around the parts of India we lived in.

So, when I read Kalpana Chawla using the term ‘Cosmozen’, I felt very drawn to it. It makes me feel belonged and grounded, but not tied to down to a spot. It makes me feel like I am flying, yet my feet are rooted to a place I call home. I may be a jetsetter in the future, and I feel ready to face it with happiness and a thirst to experience it all.

I shall welcome any travel with open arms!

Writing this post left me with such a warm and fuzzy feeling for some reason. Whenever I feel lost and uprooted, I am going to come back and read this post, to remind myself of why ‘Cosmozen’ is such a cool term.

8

Of sun, snow and crazy floods

It is a pleasant 14-15 deg C outside. Rest of the USA is freezing under the insanely cold Arctic winds. It is pretty much a 100 deg difference between Chicago and Southern California. Gotta love SoCal! I stepped outside last Saturday in my gym shorts to do my groceries. It felt amazing in the lovely cool weather to have the sun rays splashing on my skin. It just makes me so happy to get warmed up by sun.

But I am also jealous of the mid-west to the east coast! So many people are contacting me if I am okay, or warm enough and to take care. It is almost an anti-climax when I tell them I am sitting in my room with my small fan on. Gee, by the sound of their voices, it definitely feels like I let them down or something. Hey! I don’t control the temperatures!

My friend Mo left USA for India 2 days back and yesterday her city Atlanta experienced 3 in of snow, which is rare for Georgia. Apparently, all hell broke loose! There were choked up traffic jams, people had to sleep in offices, kids in malls and stores. School buses, ambulances, cars were struck. People from her office left after a day and had to sleep there itself. She just escaped the whole tamasha. I almost feel she should have experienced that, just because it will be a great story to tell! Mo, please don’t kill me for this! 😉

Well, I always feel whenever something happens, people only say ‘we just missed it by a week, a day, an hour.’ I am glad it is like that, but I would like to hear something from the horse’e mouth someday. If everyone just missed it, who the hell experienced it??

Well, jokes apart, just the fact that Atlanta went through this mess has made national headlines here. Similar snow fall had happened in 2011 and the city was simply paralysed. They had just 4 equipment to deal with it and the situation was simple way worse that time. I read it is better this time(relatively) because they are well equipped with snow removal equipment now, both in quantity and quality. When I compare this to Mumbai getting stunned by rainfall year after year, I pretty much want to jail the government incharges for life. I can still remember seeing the ambulance stuck in traffic and the driver stepping out to see if there was a way in the rain. It was not even heavy rains. Those were some of my last visuals of Mumbai while going to the airport in June’13. I could only pray for the person inside. Even in Pune, when it is known that every year, there is a period of heavy rain, and normal rain otherwise, why does it wreak havoc on the city? My ground floor house was flooded 5-6 years ago and destroyed a lot of our stuff. Obviously we don’t even expect any compensation. Due to the drain blockage, the rain water was collecting in the building parking lot. We were anxiously watching the water reach the 1st to 3 rd step on the door. And then, I saw disgusting water starting to come out of the Indian toilet and bathrooms. Ugggghhhh! And in minutes, the whole apartment had 4 inches of water. Thankfully, foreseeing the rapidly rising water, my mom and I had started to pile up stuff on the dining table and on top of the bed and other higher levels and let her tuition kids go home. But the clothes, beddings, stuff kept in the bed storage, was pretty ruined. I tripped and fell in that gross water while picking up my confused dog to take him upstairs to my neighbors. The water receded after a couple of hours and my dad, after coming home from work, promptly got into cleaning with my mom and neighbor aunties. He is one crazy fellow. He went to show people the hole in the backyard wall he had made to let the water flow away, and every time ended with his chappal flowing away and he splashing around to retrieve it. Crazy!

My mom and I slept at the neighbors’ place for the night, while my dad slept at my place in the living room. We had to keep the windows open to let the stink go away and poor dad had to volunteer for security. Haha! Now my parents, empty out the bottom drawers of the cupboards every year before monsoon. We are really looking forward to moving to our 4th floor new apartment soon and avoiding this whole drama.

Needless to say, that day, I was very busy taking care of my dog’s tummy rubs, so I pretty much did nothing to help.

4

Happy Birthday Moony!

It was my sweetie pie’s b’day  on 19th July 2012. He is a big old guy now.

My dad celebrated in style and got him a bouquet! Haha… He sniffed at it, and just as dad was taking a solo pic of him on the sofa with the flowers, he dropped it on the floor…. Such a sweet nut he is! Mom made a basic cake for him, which unfortunately did not rise… Mum still has not gotten a feel of the temperature settings of our new microwave…. But Moony and we love her food nevertheless… 🙂

I remember his b’day in 2009, just a couple of weeks before I left for USA…. We had put streamers and stuff for him…. 🙂 Oh, how I miss him…. My <3…..

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Flowers and cake for the b’day boy!