September 30, 2011

Quiet Birthdays...

So my birthday just went by a few days ago. Unlike the other years, there were less phone calls this time around, less cakes to cut & no shopping at all ! (Not that I mean to splurge my or M's income on clothes I impulsively like but don't see myself wearing it 2 months down the line.)

Just made me reminisce older birthdays when wishes would start pouring in at the stroke of midnight. And surprising, you would not feel sleepy on such days while Mom Dad, as usual, preferred retiring early :-) As the minute hand slowly made it's way through every minute, the eyes would constantly look up to a timepiece to make sure the remaining time to the stroke. Calls would go in as long as 1 AM and then sweet sleep in eager anticipation of what the day ahead holds out to you.

The morning would then begin with Amma & Appa wishing you & singing "Happy Birthday" songs. Would right away set off a nice smile on the face. Everything would be special for the birthday girl that day. Right from the morning coffee to a delicious lunch & maybe an outside dinner at a good restaurant. Not to forget, the cash gifts by elders. 

Temple visits are a must & special puja is done every year wishing for God's blessings.

A close Dr. aunt (family friend & Mom's class mate) would specifically make it a point to call & wish me & also to remind me how she was present at the hospital during my birth & had taken me to emergency ward for some complications. She would go on to say how fast time flies &
 how the little girl is all grown up now.

Baby bro was never left behind too. He would definitely make it a point to call at 12 AM & would ask - "So akka, what's special today?" And again at the end of the day - "So how was your day? Did you enjoy it?" :-) Awww ... how sweet !

school days, though the tradition of 12 AM calls or wishes never existed, the excitement to get to school in a brand new dress with chocolates to share with everyone, was definitely the most mind-blowing thing in the world. Sure enough, because you don't want to miss the day when you get to wear something different & feel proud that the others take notice. Also the famous "Happy Birthday to G" sung by all the kids in new scales of music with varying symphony is the most awaited. It's a moment you wait for in the entire year. Bask in all the glory on that day. Aah, the childhood days !

During the evenings, either you have a cake cutting or a special dessert at home (the best kind made by Mommy dear), gifts from friends & birthday cards. 

During college days, this definitely is not the routine because no one sings for you & no one takes notice of you (Oh ya, everyone in normal, casual everyday clothes. How, in the world, does it matter if you wear a supposedly new dress to college?). But the 1 most important thing to never forget is treating your friends. They take you out to a decent looking restaurant or pizza place (leaving aside the usual chai tapris or sandwich corners) & eat like they have never eaten in years. And while they burp on the sumptuous feast that they just had, you can count the pocket money & see how much you fall short :-) It all compensates when they get a cute "Monginis" birthday cake for dessert. Yes, those are the good old days.

I have always made it a point to save the greeting cards I received for my birthdays. The number keeps growing every year & so do the memories. It feels good to have a look at the older cards & love the fact that people took the time to remember you on your special day. While we were growing up in Bahrain, Baby bro & I always received cards from grand-parents, uncles & aunts. And this is what I do too. Whether or not you get a gift, a greeting card always has to accompany the occasion. What say?

As you grow older, birthdays seem to get busier by the year. With never-ending work, pressure & deadlines to meet - it's not always possible to take an off from work to celebrate it. I really appreciate the fact that certain organizations provide a day-off when it is the employee's birthday. Special occasions don't happen every day especially - your birthday. Why miss taking some quality time off for yourself? 

hile all this still happens today irrespective of what age you are, birthdays can be a lot quieter when you are away from home in another country. But they don't turn out any less special.

When you are a kid, your parents plan the day for you, when you are in college, your friends plan the day for you & once you get married, your better half plans the day for you.

This year, as time approached, I found M constantly checking at the clock. Along side, we were also watching a Malayalam movie on the laptop & the movie had reached a critical twist. At the stroke of midnight, I glanced at the laptop time & smiled. M was deeply engrossed in the movie & didn't notice. At 12.04 AM, the movie showed a scene where in the grandfather clock strikes 5 AM. M realized the time & quickly started singing - "Happy Birthday to you". It was sweet & hilarious. Ha ha ! He admitted it later saying - "I kept close vigil till 11.58 PM but got distracted after that." :-p

I cut a small cheesecake slice for my birthday cake & received a birthday card. Yippee... ! Also a cute looking beaver which repeats everything you say. :-)

Immediately, we made calls to near & dear in India to receive their blessings. Close friends kept me awake till 2 AM whiling away time on Skype trying to understand what's going on new in life rather than wishing me :-) 

At 2.30 AM, my dear teacher & dance buddies called up to wish & sang a rapid - "Happy Birthday & we miss you" song. 

The day was pretty normal. I did some assignments for the creative writing class early in the morning & attended all other daily chores. M took charge of the kitchen for the day preparing special lunch & sweets. In the evening, he took me out for an Italian dinner which was very exquisite. 

There was a time when the phone didn't stop ringing on the birthdays & now-a-days the same never-ending wishes were flooded on my Facebook page. :-) 

I am not complaining. It's how birthdays look different every year....
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September 16, 2011

Going on a "Date" !

Don't get me wrong. :-) I am indeed going on a date but not with M.
A new concept I learnt in the "Creative Writing" class called an "Artist Date".

Julia Cameron, author of "The Right to Write" says - 

"As writers, we draw on an inner fund of images that I call 'the well'.
I think of this well like an inner pond, one that must be kept both stocked & freely flowing. 

Very often, creative work dries up precisely when it is going so well. 
That means we have simply over-fished our inner reservoir without having taken the time & care to consciously restock our storehouse of images.

The device I use to restock the pond is a very simple one, something which I call an 'Artist Date'."

So simply put, an Artist Date is a once-weekly solitary expedition to something festive that interests us. It can be a visit to a museum, an aquarium store, a trip to the fabric store... just about anything.

The point is to go somewhere & to go there alone. 

Why alone? We go alone because an Artist Date is half "artist" and half "date". You are romancing, wooing, courting your creative consciousness. This is something that requires you & your inner artist to spend time alone. Taking the time & care to restock our inner well makes writing a far easier proportion.

So off I go, to decide on a place for this week's Artist Date which is also my homework. 
Suggestions are most welcome. :)
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September 1, 2011

Seeking Divinity

The main thing I miss at abroad locations, is going to a temple. And US is no different.
I re-located to Cincinnati, Ohio close to 2 months ago, started visiting the client office, moved to a new apartment, set up the home, purchased a car & began work in full-swing.

But some where all this turned out very mechanical with the above things just been completed as tasks on a list. There is always something amiss when I am away from God. I did bring few pictures of Gods from India, a diya & my prayer books. And yet, the same feeling never sinks in like you are at India.

Ok, now that everything else was set at work & home, the search for a temple in the vicinity began. As expected, I could not locate one at walking distance from my home.

I am a staunch believer in God & like to visit his shrine every now & then. It need not be a temple too. It only has to be a place with His presence. It keeps me at peace. Even when we were growing up in the Middle East, my parents would always take my brother & me to the temple, irrespective of whether it was an occasion or not. Now, this doesn't mean that you are different if you don't visit a temple. There are individuals who prefer to pray at heart & believe in God in the same way as any one else. It's what you believe in & how you prefer to follow it.

The first thing I lost touch with, after moving here, was festivals. In the last minute arrangements before traveling, I conveniently forgot to pack a spiritual calendar. You do get all the information on the internet but somewhere a new lifestyle can initially put you off track till you take charge.

Few days back, it was during a chat session with my friend, HK, that I realized, the next day was Krishna Janmashtami or Gokulashtami (the day Lord Krishna was born). Now, usually I rely on my mom for such information. She knows how her daughter efficiently manages the household (pun intended :)) & thus mom never refrains from informing me the important dates & functions to watch out for. On this occasion, however, mom probably missed out on telling me the actual date. 

I immediately Googled & found a Hindu temple at a half hour's distance from home. The day was charted out with M, that we are visiting the temple for the puja. It was an amazing experience. The location of the temple was just beautiful. The festivals are not celebrated entirely the same way as we do back home but nevertheless, it feels great ! 

Lastly, posting a couple of pics of the prayer spot set up at home. 

This spot is still work in progress. :)

Speaking of which, Ganesh Chaturthi is one festival I always look forward to while at Mumbai & this year, it will be fondly remembered... Ganapati Bappa Morya....

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