A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Making it count

Posted by Pepper on October 26, 2016

After all the gloom and doom of my last few posts, I must write about all that has been making me happy. And truth be told, there is so much of joy around me, it’s hard to not let it soak and consume you.

I feel it every night as Mint and I walk back after dinner from my parents building to our own.  The air is infused with the sweetest scent of Raat Rani, also known as blooming jasmine, night blooming cestrum, lady of the night and so on. I take deep breaths, so I can take some more of that sweet, woody scent with me as I pass by. I feel so grateful our apartment complex has such beautiful and heady blooms.

I can smell Diwali in the air. The weather is cool and pleasant, making my spirits soar. Taking a walk in the evening is such a pleasure. The cool breeze is like a soft balm. People have begun to drape strings of lights around their windows. The atmosphere is festive. I’m so excited. Every year we have a huge family get together during Diwali. It has been a tradition that none of my family members miss. This year, I actually hand picked the fabric I wanted to get stitched. I now have a pretty pink and gold  salwar kameez that I am waiting to wear. I’m looking forward to the sweets, the ranglolis and the clay lamps.

In the past few weeks, Mint and I often head out to an early morning breakfast at different cafes before we start our day. It helps immensely that we’re both in a position to work from home often. The week day breakfasts are awesome. For starters, we have fabulous food and I love tucking in. The avocado and feta stuffed crepes, the dark chocolate and banana smoothies, the chia seed puddings, the egg coquettes and benedicts, the warm rye breads, the croissants, waffles, granola parfaits, muffins,  dips and cheeses, aah. I love breakfast dates. So far, Le Pain Quotiden, Indigo and Suzette are our top favourite breakfast destinations. I feel so blessed when Mint and I start the day with laid back conversation and terrific food. Here are some pics of our recent breakfast plates ..

breakfast1

breakfast2

I know I lead a spoilt life. I have so many people to pamper me. As long as I am living right next door to my mama and papa, I know I will not truly grow up. Which of course, suits me fine. They indulge me beyond words. And if that wasn’t enough, I have Mint to contribute. I had just walked out of a head bath the other day and as he was drying my hair for me, I thought of how much a of lazy bum I was. Surely, I could dry my hair on my own. But the fact that I have him and that he willing does these things for me is so awesome. I took this very quick blurry pick as he was drying my hair so that I would remember and feel thankful for these moments of my every day life.

dryer

My eyes. They’ve behaved so far even as I tapered my drops to 3 times a day. So much to be grateful! From this Friday, I lower the dosage to 2 times a day. We’ll see how it goes, but irrespective of the outcome, I know good things happen to me.

Posted in Small joys | 23 Comments »

Walking with the Lord..

Posted by Pepper on October 18, 2016

I stayed away from the blog, my piling emails and other media platforms for a few days, but today, I had to come back here to say a big Thank you! I have gotten so much of love and support, I am overwhelmed. I will reply to every comment and mail I’ve received in a few days time. For now, I just wanted to let you know how much it means to me.

Since I didn’t want to talk about my problem and then leave behind a suspenseful silence, here is a short update. When I last posted, I was using steroid eye drops around 6 times a day. This past week, we moved it to 4 times a day and my eyes haven’t flared. For this, I am extremely grateful, but I have to keep in mind that while the doctors tapered my eye drops, they added an oral steroid to my treatment plan. I have to take this 3 times a day. Prednisone, in case you care to know. The taste of these tablets is extremely bitter and makes me go bleigh every time I force them down. I am currently tripping on Prednisone but that is keeping my eyes quiet.

The plan is to taper my eye drops to 3 times a day in the next few days and let it stay that way for another week. We basically taper every week until I finally stop the drops. The oral steroids will however continue for a another month and a half atleast. Constant use of this awful steroid makes you gain weight and gives you what is popularly called a ‘moon face’. But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t mind being fat and droopy faced as long as I am healthy otherwise. And hopefully, I won’t get fat or droopy faced either.

What does the future hold? I still don’t know. I’ve spent a lot of time reading up about this disease and with the progress we’ve made in the field of medicine, thankfully very few people lose their sight because of this. What it takes in order to preserve your sight is however, another story. There are several people who are able to stay flare free ONLY as long as they are on the steroids. The moment they stop the steroids, they flare. Like we all know, living on steroids is not sustainable. So they put you on other heavy medication that suppresses your immune system for a few years.

In India, if you are unable to wean off the steroids and stay flare free, they put you on Methotrexate directly. If you don’t know this, Methotrexate is the most common drug used in Chemotherapy and comes with many side effects. It is also the drug they use to induce abortions. I think I started feeling depressed when my doctors told me what was in store for me if the steroids didn’t work. They said I’d have to be on the Methotrexate for years on end. A cold fear gripped my heart and I was unable to feel any kind of joy. My thoughts followed the same trail on a loop. How could I be affected by an illness as horrible as this? I mean, people fall sick. They catch a cold and develop a fever. Some have it worse and go on to get diseases like Jaundice and Typhoid and Malaria. They’re sick for a few weeks but they come out of it. Nobody I know was facing the probability of being on a chemo drug for years. Not at my age.

And then finally I felt the fog lift one day. I felt totally ashamed for thinking the way I did. MANY people have it worse. How could I be so blind? Heck, I have Oregano in my own family to learn from. He’s suffered such a great setback and has yet managed to turn around his life.Even after his transplant he lives on a cocktail of deadly meds, and he is still happy and well. Why was my situation so terrible? I figured my biggest fear was the mere idea of being put on Methotrexate. So I decided to educate myself further about its usage in treating Uveitis. From what I read, they put you on a very low dose of the drug. Nothing like the dose they use to treat cancer. So the side effects are far fewer. Moreover, you take a small dose every week and most people are able to live a very normal life.

How bad does that sound? Not very, right? I mean, that is the worst case scenario and if that is the chosen plan for me, I will bow down to it with dignity. For now, I still have reason to hope that I will NEVER need it. I just have to wait for the moment of truth though. If I am able to stop the steroids and stay flare free for 3 months, then they will consider me to be in ‘remission’. I have no way of knowing until I crawl to the end. Here is to quiet eyes for me.

PS – The title is a famous song we used to sing in our school assembly. I find myself humming it in my head a lot these days. Lift up your hearts, for you are walking with God..

Posted in Lessons I learn | 15 Comments »

When shit happens..

Posted by Pepper on October 7, 2016

I’m not sure from where to begin. I might not make sense, but I know I need to write. The past few weeks have been such a roller coaster.  I had mentioned an eye infection in my previous post. Sadly, what we thought was an infection is actually a disease called Uveitis. I ended up having recurrent inflammation in my eyes just as I tried reducing my dosage of the steroid drops. The moment I try to taper my dosage, my problem is back!  I’ve seen several ophthalmologists in this time, and while my diagnosis has been confirmed, the approach to treatment seems to differ slightly. I’m still trying to grapple with what has happened to me and cope with my fears. Before I talk about other things, let me present some fun facts about this disease.

  • Uveitis is an auto-immune disease. I think I know enough about ‘auto immune’ problems thanks to Oregano’s kidney failure, which like you can guess was also caused by an auto immune problem. Auto immune disorders occur when your own immune system begins to attack and destroy healthy cells and tissues by MISTAKE because it stupidly believes the tissue is foreign or infected. If I could, I’d scream at my very idiotic immune system and ask it to behave itself. Like seriously dude, can’t you learn to distinguish between good and bad cells? Please stop attacking my eyes for no reason. Leave them alone.
  • I have bilateral Uveitis. Which means, it has struck both my eyes. This is bad news.
  • I have Anterior Uveitis. Which means, it affects only the front of my eyes. Yet. This is good news. Posterior Uveitis comes with many more complications.
  • In about half of the cases, Uveitis is not an isolated disease. It is commonly associated with the presence of a gene called HLA B 27. Diseases that are associated with Uveitis include ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Behcet’s disease, sarcoidosis, amongst others. Which means, I have to accept I am vulnerable to a host of nasty illnesses and be very vigilant. Fun, right? As of now I am praying to the Gods that my Uveitis is idiopathic.
  • Even the treatment for Uveitis comes with it’s own complications. The first step in treatment is the use of steroid drops that go into the eye. However, constant usage of steroid drops is not a sustainable long term solution. Persistent usage of steroids in the eyes leads to glaucoma and cataracts. As of now, my eyes are heavily dependent on the steroids and I am using them 6 times a day! Have been doing so for the past several weeks. When I tried reducing my dosage earlier, my attack was back with a vengeance and I went back to using the steroids 6 times a day. I am going to start tapering it *very slowly* from next week again and I pray that I don’t get hit by the problem again.
  • In some cases, the steroids are unable to control the problem. You then move on to immunosuppressive drugs that have to be taken life long or for years on end before you go into remission. And in some stubborn cases of Uveitis, even these drugs don’t work, in which case you welcome the beautiful methotrexate. Methotrexate is a common drug used in chemotherapy to treat cancers. We all know the side effects chemo drugs come with. I know I am talking about the worst case scenarios, but since I have not been able to break out of the steroid cycle so far, who is to stop my mind from running away to these lousy possibilities.
  • Even if you manage to treat one episode of Uveitis., odds of it reoccurring are very high. In most cases, it does reoccur. Sometimes after 2 months. Sometimes after 2 years.
  • And finally, the stats that give me sleepless nights. “It has been estimated that uveitis accounts for about 10% of the visual handicaps in the western world and up to 15% of all cases of total blindness in the United States. Legal blindness develops in at least 1 eye in 22% of all uveitis patients and in about 23% of all who require intraocular surgery. Visual acuity (VA) loss to worse than 6/18 in at least 1 eye occurs in 35% of patients with uveitis”

Okay, so now do you hear me say WHAT THE HELL? A QUARTER of the people go blind?? ONE THIRD go partially blind?! Dear Lord, please help me. I know I have been acting like a complete idiot. I’ve been paranoid to the extent of being insane. I always considered myself to be a laid back person when it came to dealing with illnesses that struck me. But I guess it all changes when you consider the possibility of sight loss. I’ve been waking Mint up in the middle of the night and telling him I don’t want to go blind.

My zen and calm statistician husband tells me he doesn’t agree with those stats. He says there are too many variables they may not have accounted for. What was the purpose of the research? What was the sample size? At what stage of the disease did those people get treatment. Etc. Etc. In short, he thinks stats can be twisted to suit your agenda. He thinks I am being silly by worrying about sight loss at this stage. For all we know, I might even be able to wean off the steroids this time (3rd time’s the charm?) and never have to face this nasty problem again.

On the other hand. I may not recover and may be stuck with this dreadful thing for a long time. I mean, I don’t really trust my luck to be honest. This is a rare disease and affects only about 0.38% people in the world. That means the odds of it happening to people are less than 1%. And of course, I had to fall in that 1%. I told Mint I want to scream and say ‘Why me?’. He asked me who the question was directed at. Um. Good question. The truth of the matter is that there is no explanation for such things. The universe is governed by randomness.

Like I have mentioned, this isn’t fun to live with. When my eye is ‘Active’, I hide from all possible sources of light. I feel rather silly to be wearing my sunglasses at home and other closed spaces. I go about telling people I have an eye problem even when they don’t ask. Just because I feel stupid wearing sun glasses in an already dark room and feel like I owe the world an explanation. Using the drops every 2 hours is a pain. There are days when I pray for nightfall because the sunlight during the day is too unbearable. Yes, a lot of vampire jokes have been made by Mint and Oregano.

What lies ahead? Well, I have blood tests lined up for tomorrow. I will have the reports by Monday. I will also step down from using the steroid drops 6 times a day to 4 or 5 times a day from the next week. I hope to be able to taper the steroids every week. If I am unable to wean off without a flare this time, then my ophthalmologist is going to refer me to a rheumatologist and we will consider other oral immunomodulation therapy. I hope I don’t need something strong to shut my immune system up.

Meanwhile, until I know what’s going on on, I repeat to myself. I will be able to wean off the steroids this time.  I will be able to wean off the steroids this time. I will not have a recurrence. I will not have complications. Deep breathe. Repeat.

PS – If you would like to read another patient’s personal account of Uveitis, go here. I could relate to a lot of what has been said there. He/she has really voiced my fears and emotions well.

Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 89 Comments »

If We Were Having Coffee..

Posted by Pepper on September 26, 2016

–  I’d first tell you that I am stealing this idea from TGND, who seems to have picked it up from elsewhere.

–  I’d tell you that I’ve been suffering from a series of eye infections. The infection started with my left eye, got cured, only to attack my right eye. I breathed a sigh of relief when my right eye was cured. Unfortunately, the relief was short lived because the infection was back in my left eye in a few days. The infection causes me excruciating pain and any exposure to light makes me want to die. The pain is debilitating and it makes me shut myself in a dark room all day. Looking at any screen is akin to being shot in the eye.

I was terrified when I found myself facing round 3 of this infection. Would I keep passing it on from eye to eye? The pain is so unbearable and my inability to tolerate light brings my life to a standstill. I’ve seen two ophthalmologists and gotten two very different diagnoses. Both of them agreed that my infection recurs the moment I stop my eye drops. Doctor 1 thinks it is a severe viral attack. Doctor 2 thinks it is a more serious condition called Acute Anterior Uveitis caused by an auto immune disorder. We’ll have to investigate more and move on with some blood work if the infection reoccurs. But for now, I have been asked to stay on the eye drops for the next 1 month. My eyes are good as long as I use the drops, so as of now I am alright. Unfortunately, I know I can’t stay on the eye drops for the rest of my life, so I pray with all my might that I’m not hit by the infection after a month when I finally stop the drops. Pray for me, will you?

– I’d also tell you that my dad has been slightly unwell this week. He’s been having bouts of dizziness and his BP has been fluctuating. The doctor thinks it is most likely a case of vertigo, but has asked us to get a few tests done nevertheless. I know none of this is cause for concern, but I can’t put in words how much I hate it when my parents are sick.

– I’d tell you that I often feel inefficient when I see some people around me. This weekend, we went to a friend’s place for brunch. We were a total of 15 people and it was more like a last minute plan. In the short notice that she had, the host managed to whip up some terrific food. Home made humus (which she had previously made), pita bread, salsa, lavash sticks, cheese stuffed mushrooms, pizzas, tacos, couscous salad and cheese balls! How do some people do it? I feel awestruck and so inept. To make it worse, I know Mint wouldn’t even allow me to attempt such a feat. He’d say he doesn’t have the motivation to do so much and neither does he want me to kill myself in the kitchen. It is simpler to order in a large group. I often wonder if he understands the joy of doing things by your own hand from scratch. I know I love the idea but I am also aware of my tendency to get frazzled and overwhelmed when faced with such a task. I wish I could be one of those people who did it and topped it with a ‘Oh it’s no big deal, it wasn’t much work’

– I’d tell you that people in our apartment complex have formed a WhatsApp group to discuss admin and developmental issues. As usual, I am ever silent. Most people wouldn’t have even realised I am a part of the group. I rarely express an opinion. I’ve never done so on any forum, other than this blog. In fact, I see a steep decline in the opinion themed posts even on the blog. This is definitely not because I don’t have opinions any more. Oh they’re pouring out of my ears. I’ve just been feeling too jaded to structure, shape and put down my thoughts. I hope I am able to change that though. I want to continue sharing my opinions in this space. It’s the only social media platform that is dear to me.

– I’d tell you that we are leaving for Chennai the day after. We’ll be spending a week with the in laws. I must add here, that in the past few months, our relationship with them has been strained. A lot has happened and I totally understand why they call some relationships ‘rocky’. We’ve been literally rocking back and forth. I’ve been meaning to write a post on that for a long time. Maybe some day I will. If you are smart and have read this blog for a while, you should be able to figure out the cause. I’m not sure how this trip will turn out. Let’s see! I’m not looking forward to it if I am to be honest. The only thing that picks up my spirits is the thought of food and all the chettinad restaurants we’ll visit.

– I’d tell you that this virtual coffee session has been therapeutic for me. I have such disjointed thoughts these days, it is far easier to spill them in post like this. I have a lot more to share, but I am short of time now. So I’ll have to wrap this up here and thank you for listening to me. I’d also want you to know that I will be very happy to hear from you. How’s life been? You can either share bits of your life with me in the comment space or shoot me an email. I love listening!

Posted in Slices of life | 19 Comments »

Sundays

Posted by Pepper on September 18, 2016

Sundays are meant to be lazy. In fact, the very mention of Sunday conjures up images of me lounging around in bed, aimlessly flipping through channels on TV, going for a lazy dinner, you get it? It’s all justified in the name of ‘Sunday’! I am embarrassed to say, that’s how the past few weekdays have been for me. Lazy! I’ve had a lot of work, but for some reason, I decided to go on a strike. I refused to even look at work.

My office work has started to get to me. Maybe it is because we are on the verge of wrapping up and shutting down the company. Maybe because we are in the process of liquidating all our assets. (Sad, I know, but I am not going over the details right now) My nature of work has changed. From actively managing operations, I am now having to manage sales. And if you know me even a little, you’ll know just how dreadful I find that word. The very idea of sales makes me panic.

I think there are two kinds of people in this world. You are either a sales person or you are not. I am clearly not. And yet, I’ve had to feign a certain level of confidence and go out there and sell. I must say, I have been surprised by my abilities. I feel stumped by the positive responses. I feel amazed I did it. And yet, in my heart I know that it has taken a phenomenal amount of effort to get there. I’ve had to drag myself far, far out of my comfort zone and don a personality that is completely alien to me. I’ve had to overcome anxiety, palpitations and an unknown sense of alarm.

As a result, I think I became insincere to my work. It’s because it felt so unnatural. I found myself distracted every time I tried to work. So I let go and barely looked at work in the past few days. And though I was lazing around, there was a certain guilt that followed me. I felt like I was on an undeserved break. I hadn’t earned it.

Falling slack when you are in my position is scary. I’m aware I am shouldering a lot of responsibility. I can’t afford to screw up. So I pulled up my socks today and I have been working all day. I know it is ironical that I chose a Sunday to throw myself into work. You know that feeling? When you were in school and would open your textbook just a day prior to your exam and be totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information you had to absorb? Yeah. That feeling. I experienced something like that today when I went through my work.

I started bright and early and ploughed through the day. I took almost no breaks. I got a lot of work out of the way and I’m fairly pleased by the amount I managed to finish in just one day. I think my productivity levels peak at such times.  And now I think it is time to wrap up and put away my laptop. Thankfully, my evening off today won’t feel like an undeserved break. Happy Sunday to you!

Posted in Slices of life | 6 Comments »

One and done

Posted by Pepper on September 12, 2016

I’ve never been much of a drinker. I did however, drink in social settings. Quite safe to say that my alcohol consumption has never crossed the ‘occasional’ mark. A while ago, I decided to go on a self imposed ban and chose to completely restrict all alcohol intake. Well, not just alcohol. I also eliminated tea and coffee from my life. This was a huge step for me, given my addiction to coffee. I *tried* to cut out sugar too. Let’s just say that mission was an epic fail. Because, desserts. And chocolate.

This Saturday evening, Mint and I found ourselves home with no real plans. This is quite a rarity for us, so I was happy to spend the evening relaxing at home. The sister was meeting a friend of hers at a food court and we asked her to pack some food for us. I requested her to drop it off at our place on her way back. I’m not sure what got into me, but I told Mint we should get a few drinks. We found a big bottle of Black Label in our cabinet. I’m not a whisky person, but since I was drinking as a one off, I decided to go all out.

It started out rather innocently. And I don’t even know at what point I got that high. I don’t think I’ve been that buzzed in a long, long time. In fact, I don’t remember being that buzzed ever. It was funny because I have a clear memory of all that I was saying and doing, just that I was unable to stop myself from saying it. I punched Mint’s arm every 2.5 minutes and then dissolved into fits of laughter. I also spoke a truckload of rubbish. I know I was talking non stop and I couldn’t get myself to shut up. I even made some smart suggestions to Mint and told him we should sleep under the sofa that night. Yes, under. Not on.

All of a sudden, I could feel the effervescence welling up inside, threatening to spill out anytime. Clutching my head and babbling things like ‘ Chakkar is coming. Ulti is also coming. Spin ho raha hai’, I ran inside the bedroom. I also forced Mint to follow me. Once in the bedroom, I insisted I wanted the lights off immediately. I told him I hated the lights. They were evil.

I really have little memory of what happened after the lights were turned off. I don’t even know how much time passed. All I remember is racing to the washroom suddenly when I realised I had to throw up. Yuck! I then went on to clean up the mess in my drunken state. I crawled back to bed, thinking I’d feel better after the puke fest. But no sir! I wasn’t done. I went on to throw up 4 more times. I quit cleaning up after the first 2 times since I figured there would be more to come, and we might as well do it all at one go. After the 5th session, I was confident I had nothing left to spew out. I told Mint I was done and he could proceed to clean up now. I must say, the poor guy did a good job of cleaning up all my puke.

I slept finally, after being forced by Mint to drink a lot of water. He said it would help with my hang over in the morning. Thankfully, other than a mild headache, I didn’t suffer too much the next morning. In all of this, did I have fun? Hell yes. It was good to shed all my inhibitions. The puking was gross and a complete spoiler, of course. But all in all, I did have a lot of fun! Would I do it again? Nope! I think I’m done.

 

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 12 Comments »

It’s hard to escape the cheer

Posted by Pepper on September 9, 2016

when the atmosphere around you is so festive. When I look around, the pulsating vibes find a way to reach me and I succumb to the excitement. All day, I watch the passing crowds and hear cries of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’.

The scent of incense hangs heavily in the air. Our apartment complex is lit up. Every evening, I watch people assembling around the idol when it is time for the aarti. The sarees add a riot of colour. The kids have been rehearsing for days for the cultural programs that follows the evening aarti. As I take my walk, I am stopped by a visibly happy man. He offers me a piece of modak. There is excitement all around.

On the day of immersion, I watch the processions from my window. People dance to the beat of the drums. I can tell this is one moment they have looked forward to for a long time, and now that they are living the moment, they are relishing every bit of it.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to you! I know there is just so much wrong with the way we celebrate the festival. But today, I am only going to focus on what is right.

Posted in Celebrations | 6 Comments »

My mom’s birthday celebrations

Posted by Pepper on September 7, 2016

A few weeks ago, my mom celebrated her 60th birthday. We thought the milestone called for big celebrations. While I was still struggling to accept the fact that my mama would now be categorized as a ‘senior citizen’, my mom was very excited about her change of status. Well, let’s just say she was really excited about her upcoming birthday.  I haven’t seen such childlike excitement in many adults. Definitely not for a birthday. But then, my mom is more child like than most adults..

We decided to celebrate all year round. In the beginning of the year, I told her that her 60th birthday gift from me would be a year long shopping spree. Clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, books, just about any personal item she wanted. The only condition was that it should be for her personal use and not a general item for the house. Because I know my mom and how easily the idea of a gift is lost on her. She thinks of everybody’s collective benefit and chooses what is most required by all. This time, I wanted to ensure it was about her.

It turned out to be a great idea. I told her she had to shop worth at least x amount by the end of the year. If she hadn’t exhausted the limit, I would keep persuading her to buy more. It’s a very consumerist approach, but the only way to get my mom to indulge. Through out the year, we had multiple shopping sprees. We’ve bought her bags full of clothes and other interesting bits. Most times, the sister’s hatred for shopping made her skip the outing. The end result was just me and mom spending many evenings browsing through different stores. We would then take the opportunity to head out to a new place for dinner and coffee every time.

The chatting and giggling over coffee or dinner has been the best part. I can’t ask for a better friend than her. Our conversations range from deep, philosophical stuff about life to lame gossip about people we know to debates about controversial issues to silly banter. The two of us have had so much fun this year. I think the idea of a year long shopping spree was a great one. It was an experience that we both got to take in and savor bit by bit.

 

Here is a pic of my mom posing in some of her new clothes. I know I have blurred her face, but to me, my mom is gorgeous. I’d never guess she is 60 if I were to meet her somewhere. I keep hoping I have inherited her genes and that I can manage to look half as good as her by the time I turn 60. But the recent changes in me don’t make me hold on to much hope. Also, although I am such a fan of my mom and think she looks remarkable for her age, I know she isn’t exactly the healthiest. I always worry about her osteoporosis and her very brittle bones. All I can do it pray she never has a fall!

mama11

My gorgeous mama

Our original plan for her birthday was to do nothing more than a family dinner. But slowly, questions about how we were celebrating began trickling in. My mom has 5 sisters, 3 of who live in Mumbai. They’re all so close, we joke about Madhur Bhandarkar making a new movie based on their bond, titled something like ‘Behne’.

Anyway, I digress. So my mom’s family starting hinting at wanting a small party. My mom is the youngest sister and has always been babied by her elder sisters. My mom turning 60 was a milestone even for them. We decided the occasion did indeed call for a small party. We booked a place in our clubhouse. Soon though, the number of guests quadrupled. My mom’s sisters, their husbands, my cousins, their kids, my mom’s cousin. We decided to go all out and make it a big lunch party with cocktails and drinks thrown in.

My mom got a new dress made for the occasion. I could see the excitement building. Unfortunately, it so happened that none of us were available to go and book the cake on the day we had planned to. I was sick, Mint and my dad were traveling and the sister wouldn’t be back home till really late that day. We feared the cake wouldn’t be ready in time if we waited for the sister to order it after getting back. So what did we do? I told my mom to go and book her own birthday cake! She thought it was hilarious to be telling the guys there to write her own name on the cake. Anyway, she is such a sport, she laughed it off and went on to do it.

The party turned out to be a lot of fun. While we did have a lot of people, it was still intimate with only family. We also went out for a dinner later that day, just the parents, sister, Mint and I. It was a day well spent and I’m glad my mom had fun. Here’s hoping the coming year is as exciting for her.

Posted in Celebrations | 14 Comments »

The act of moving on

Posted by Pepper on September 6, 2016

When I was little, I mean two ponytails and teddy bears little, I was conditioned into believing my life would follow a typical progression and I would be the mother of two kids by the time I hit 30. I would have a high paying job I love and look forward to everyday. I would also have a dog. And a fun and happening life. I admit, my conjured image of an ideal life was more driven by social conditioning than my own desires. Plus, I was young and stupid.

Having said that, I still didn’t imagine myself not having a single child by the time I turned 30. I suppose I got older a lot sooner than I expected to. I mean, I always wanted to have kids from the time I can remember. I just didn’t know when. When I got married, Mint told me in no uncertain terms that he never wanted to have kids. The word was ‘never’. While such statements did worry me at times, I knew in my heart that he was merely freaked out by the idea of raising a child. He would overcome his fear when the time was right. Also, we did have a lot of time on our hands. We married young.

Time as we all know is a slippery factor. It passes before you know it. All of a sudden, I found myself anxious about my age. I decided it was time to push Mint to think. After a lot of debates and discussions, he ‘agreed’ to have a child. This would worry me at times. Because he only agreed. He still didn’t seem to want it enough himself. But he told me this was the best he could give me. He wasn’t sure he would ever want kids desperately. He would only agree and maybe feel happy about his decision at a later point. But right now, agreement and an assurance that he would give parenting his best shot was all I would get. After more debates and discussions, we decided the time was right. After some more thought, we decided our first choice was to adopt a baby girl. When we signed up for adoption at the beginning of the year, I was ecstatic to get the ball rolling.

Little did I know then that our ride was going to be tumultuous, to say the least. Things changed rapidly. Our personal situation became so precarious that we could no longer be sure about adoption. But until we are sure we can’t adopt, we don’t want to give it up. And unfortunately, it is taking us some time to be sure of that. Our circumstances are making us dangle on the edge. And I find myself wondering everyday. How long should we hold on to this dream? Is it meant to be? Should we start thinking about having a biological baby if adoption isn’t working out? In the end, we decide to wait a little bit longer for adoption to work out before we think of embarking on the journey to have a biological child. This waiting however is wearing me out.

Mint often asks me, why I am so sure I am ready to have a baby. I think my desire to have a child right now is still mild. It hasn’t peaked, but I sense it is there. I think I want a child because I am bored of the monotony. I want to experience something intensely challenging and there are few things as challenging as parenthood. I know having a child will be exceptionally demanding. It will shake us and make us refocus. I like the sound of that. Plus watching a child grow is fascinating. That, and the truth that I can’t deny. I want a child because most people around me have one. And the world has led me to believe that I should have a child by now.

Sadly, since our personal situation is so wobbly and we don’t yet know what path we will take to have a child (and that we shouldn’t even be thinking of having a child until things settle down for us), I know waiting is imminent. A baby will most likely not be on the cards for us for a long time. A year? Maybe. More than that? Perhaps. I have no answers. The thought of my passing age makes me panic but there is little I can do other than convincing myself that though I may be 30, I am not that old. A delay worth a year or two might hurt me a little but it will not kill me.

The social pressure is momentous. Either it has escalated all of sudden, or I am falling prey to it now more than ever. At first, people would ask me when we planned to have a baby. It would anger me and I would respond based on the circumstances and who the questioning authority was. I would either find a polite way of asking them to f*ck off or I would brush it off and laugh. Things seem to have worsened now. From asking me when we plan to have a baby, people have now graduated to asking me if I am pregnant. This has made me cry twice. I’ve thrown a fit, wondering if I look that fat or have such a protruding belly.

People are ruthless and insensitive. I was asking a friend to drop by since she hasn’t yet been to our home, and she kept saying she would come only when I gave her a reason to come. It took me a while to understand her implication. She then went on to say her son would want some company and there was no child in our home. I really couldn’t think of how to respond. It’s just that much harder when people your age do it to you. You can’t even blame it on the mindset of a past generation.

And then there was my yoga instructor. Or rather my ex yoga instructor. She lives in our apartment complex and has known my family for ages. She conducts classes in the community hall. While I was trying to get some inputs on some muscle strengthening exercises, she told me she would rather show me some exercises that will help me conceive. She went on to add that the said exercises have worked for many women and that I would surely benefit. Boundaries anyone? I guess that concept is unheard of in India. I’m sorry, but if I ever need your help in conceiving, I will let you know, thank you. To say that I was enraged would be an understatement. It explains why the said teacher turned into an ex teacher.

Wherever I go, I am hounded by the baby question. The badgering is incessant and merciless. Even if I respond politely, I am subjected to more intense grilling. The fact that we’ve been married for six years makes us undergo constant scrutiny and interrogation. It has reached a point where I have begun to avoid social interaction.

Every move of mine is examined, inspected and dissected. If I am at a party and I refuse alcohol, people ask me if I am pregnant. God forbid I have a stomach upset or some unexplained nausea. People will move on to congratulating me. I feel so suffocated, I am scared to even let out a sigh, least it is interpreted the wrong way. I feel vulnerable wherever I go. I guess I didn’t find the questioning and the investigation half as grueling earlier because at that point I genuinely didn’t want to have kids. Now I think I am ready to have kids and the same questions sting me a lot more.

It’s easy to ask people to ‘not care’ about what others say. I am guilty of telling my unmarried friends to not care about the so called well meaning relatives’ nudges and jabs, asking them to get married. At times it is easy to ignore, but other times it is not. And it is especially hard when you struggling to achieve the same thing you are expected to have.

As for me, I think a lot about time lines. How important are they? What do you do when the time you take to achieve some goals overshoots the time limit you set out for yourself. Sometimes I wonder if our society is devised in such a way that it requires your life path to be constantly aligned with your peers. We usually do find it easier to connect with folks who are in the same phase as us. Whether it is the phase of choosing a partner and getting married, or experiencing parenthood, or the same level of seniority in professions, etc. The moment your lives stop running in parallel, you are made to feel a sense of alienation. Is this why we are pressured into following what is a typical trajectory?

If you’ve chosen differently or life didn’t happen to you at the same time, you’re going to be made to feel like a misfit or a social outcast, depending on how different your choice is and where you are placed at that time. I know we’ve chosen differently. And since adoption is still our first choice for having a baby, I think I have to prepare myself for a lifetime of being under the glare. I know I have to stand up and face the invasive spotlight that will always follow me. Much as I’d like, our unconventional choice doesn’t let me scurry into the shadows and live in oblivion.

Whether it is getting married, or reaching a certain milestone in your career, or having a baby, or buying a house when the world thinks it is time you should own one, or having baby no. 2, the probing never ends. I am actively working on desensitizing myself. One day, I know I will reach that zen emotional state. Hopefully, my posts will map the path I took to get there. Until then, I will continue to silently cringe at the comments and push myself to move on..

Posted in A penny for my thoughts, Er-rant-ic behaviour | 52 Comments »

Lasting impressions

Posted by Pepper on August 20, 2016

Some people touch your life only for a brief period, but leave behind such a lasting impression that you end up remembering them forever. She was one of them. The first thing I did when I walked into college on the first day was to go through the list of professors who would be teaching us. And I saw her name there. Luku Sanya! She would be teaching us Effective Communication. Wow.

I was elated. When I told my mom this, she was as impressed. Ms. Luku Sanyal was one of the earliest faces of Doordarshan and one of the first English news readers of our country. Of course, she was a familiar name and my parents held her in high regard. She was the one who read the news to the whole country when Indira Gandhi was arrested. She gave news updates about the ‘Emergency’ in our nation.

I was terribly excited by the mere idea of being trained under her. Communication is my most favourite subject. And to have the fortune of learning from such a legend was too good to be true. I waited with baited breath for her to arrive in class on our first day. I distinctly remember the thump of my heart when she walked in. What an astounding personality.

I learnt from her later on that an “ordinary looking person can SCREAM personality”. Her words. She was the one who made me realise that it wasn’t about how good you looked or how pretty your physical features were. It was all about the way you carried yourself. And needless to say, she carried herself remarkably well.

Luku ma’am as she was fondly called, taught us Effective Communication for two semesters and Radio Studies for another. Since I have always been so much in love with the field of communication, I used to hang on to every word she said in class. I know I owe a lot to her. She greatly fixed my accent, diction, speech and language skills.

She taught me how to pronounce words like ‘jewelry’, ‘pronunciation’, ‘product’, ‘Wednesday’ and more the right way. Words that have a seemingly simple pronunciation but ones I realised I had been messing up all this while. Her constant reminders of “there is a difference between how you pronounce V and W” and that we should ‘Cut our lips when we talk’ to pronounce each syllable correctly will always stay with me.

I was intrigued by her life. She almost always had a cigarette in her hand, which she would duly finish in the department office before entering our classroom. For a woman in her late 60’s, I thought she was brave. She hardly discussed her personal life, but I knew she had been in a violent marriage.

A few weeks ago, I saw an FB post put up by one of our department heads that said that Luku ma’am was critically ill. A week later, we heard she passed away. Very soon, it was all over the news.

Times of India carried a piece.  “News reading legened Luku Sanyal is no more

DNA carried another piece. “Tributes pour in as legendary news reader, writer Luku Sanyal passes away

There were other articles floating around. I read all of them. I went back and read her earlier interviews too. For days, I couldn’t shake off that feeling of remorse. It still hasn’t left me completely. I think of her time and again. But now, that feeling of remorse is slowly being replaced by pride and gratitude. She was such an amazing person. She helped me build my skills. I take such pride in saying she was my teacher.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 2 Comments »

N for Nerve

Posted by Pepper on July 11, 2016

Mint is dark skinned. I guess it is quite evident from the pictures I put up. What I haven’t mentioned is that I am absolutely crazy about his skin colour. I think it is delicious. I call him by various names and his colour has been the inspiration for many. Other than the rich colour, his skin also has a smooth, buttery texture. I used to call him my ‘Dark chocolate’. Then I switched to ‘Butter’. Since I thought Butter sounded incomplete, I began to suffix it with ‘Singh’. I addressed him as ‘Butter Singh’ for a very long time. I also had his number saved under that name in my phone. Yes, he is probably the first Tamilian ‘Singh’.

After a point, I thought Butter Singh didn’t have a good ring to it. I changed it to ‘Makkhan Singh’. That name has stayed. I have to give him credit for responding to my calls of ‘Makkhan Singh’ without batting an eyelid. Sometimes I rub my hands on his bare skin and ask him, ‘Are you chocolate or are you butter?’, only to answer the question myself and call him ‘butter chocolate’, or ‘chocolate butter’, depending on what I fancy at that point. I often ask him what his name is, just to make sure he remembers his basics. He says something to the effect of ‘Chocolate Butter Makkhan Singh’. He knows he cannot ever utter his real name in response to my question, unless he wants to repeat the names I have given him a hundred times.

So, the point is I am in love with his skin colour. Of course, there are days when I actually poke fun too. I am not sure how, but he got a lot darker after we moved back from the US. I guess it has a lot to do with playing for hours on the beach, under the harsh Indian sun. He also refuses to use sun screen each time he goes to the beach, which is atleast 3 to 4 times a week, each visit lasting a minimum of 2 and a half hours. He is extremely tanned and I often pick at that. But, only I hold those rights. And our family.

I was in the kitchen with our cook the other day. She was telling me about a marriage proposal they had received for their daughter. In the midst of her story, she looked up at me asked me, ‘Aapne aapke husband se shaadi kaise ki? Aap gori hai aur woh saavle hai. Kya aapko zabardasti shaadi karni padi?’. It translates to, ‘How did you agree to marry your husband? You are fair and he is dark. Were you forced to marry him?’

I was totally unprepared for something like that. In that one moment, I felt enraged, offended and shocked by her audacity. What nerve did she have to say that? I didn’t even know how to respond to that. So I continued to be speechless. Was I forced to marry him? If only she knew how much we fought the world to be together. If only she knew how crazy I was about his skin colour. At that time, I chose to not reply, because I really couldn’t think of a fitting response.

I should have probably just laughed. I knew Mint would. But for that fleeting moment I had the desire to protect him from all scorn. Anyway, I did mention the incident to Mint later that night, and as I had predicted, he had a good laugh. Given our nation’s obsession with fair skin, I am sure a lot of people think he isn’t ‘good enough’ because he is dark, but this was the first time somebody said it aloud to me. I am glad it happened though. It taught me to not care. Next time I’ll just laugh.

Posted in Slices of life | 41 Comments »

Protected: Pause. Play. Pause.

Posted by Pepper on June 26, 2016

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M for Musings

Posted by Pepper on May 26, 2016

In the recent past, I’ve spent many hours contemplating about life. What is the right way of living it? Of course, I haven’t found an answer to that. But all my introspection has led to some clarity. I know in this life, we all strive to achieve one common goal. Happiness. But unfortunately, I think our idea of happiness is skewed.

When I ask myself what it is that makes me happy, I can rattle off a list. Wearing good clothes makes me happy. Eating out and exploring different kinds of food makes me happy. Reading good books makes me happy. Travel and holidays make me very happy. Every item on my list has one common requirement. Money. It almost made me believe that happiness has a cost price. Until I realised with a thwack one day, that it doesn’t. My happiness doesn’t need to be dependent on any external stimuli. In order to be happy, all I need to do is, well, be happy. It is simple and it is free.

The more I think of this life, the more worn out I feel by its complexities. All I really want is a simple life. I think I can find true happiness in simple every day living. I’ve reached a stage where I find myself unwilling to work under highly stressful conditions. Not even for good money. And I also seem to have developed a low threshold for stress. A work day that is longer than 8 hours, a bad commute, a mean boss, a very demanding work culture. For me, all of that equals stress. I see a lot of my friends voluntarily choosing this life. They get good money at the end of the day. The wake up at the crack of down, work hard in the morning to put together lunch boxes, leave their homes in a rush, go through a crazy commute, go through their work days, rush home, feel exhausted, put together dinner and then crash. That is their life on loop.

I’d rather earn less money and pick a peaceful job. These jobs would also pay me less. Simple living is based on the principle that by lowering our expenses, we can lower the time spent earning money. That free time can be used for a variety of purposes. I love the sound of wading through life at my pace, pursuing my interests and having time to volunteer.

I know it is unrealistic on my part to expect myself to embrace all ideas that Simple Living promotes. But I have started taking baby steps in that direction. I try to lower my consumption. I am going to try reduce my possessions. But I know there are some things I can’t give up. Eating out and exploring different food for one. But I am going to limit that activity to only a few times a month.

We also cannot eliminate debt from our lives. Not until we have cleared our home loan, which will take another decade. Until then, I can revisit my idea of happiness. I can try my best to simplify my life and cut down my wants. I know I am saying this now and I might completely change my tune when I am carried away by the glitz. But I am willing to consider this as an experiment and make a genuine attempt at embracing simplicity.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 19 Comments »

L for laughable

Posted by Pepper on May 24, 2016

bathroom

 

That is a picture of our shower area. I live with a ridiculous fear. I suspect somebody is hiding behind the curtain and waiting to pounce on me when I am in the midst of my business. I don’t know why, but I have always lived with this fear. Every morning when I enter the bathroom, I first peep and check to make sure there is nobody hiding behind the curtain. I do this every.single.day.

While I have always done a thorough scan of every new bathroom I enter (especially if it happens to be in a hotel!) before I even consider undressing, I find it absolutely ridiculous that I do it in my own home. It is laughable. It is embarrassing to admit. But I suppose all of us have some absurd fears that we simply cannot explain? Please tell me I am not the only one.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 14 Comments »

K for Kindness

Posted by Pepper on May 23, 2016

Mumbai is hot. That is an understatement. I see everybody around me perspiring and sweating it out all the time. While it is obviously very hot outside, it is also very hot inside the house. Unless you keep the AC on 24/7. And that is something I am not a fan of. There is something very unnatural and suffocating about keeping all the doors and windows shut all the time. So we try to cut back on our AC usage and only use it intermittently.

We try to get by by consuming a lot of liquids. Mint flavoured buttermilk and chilled lemon Tang. I have several cups of these a day. I’ve been meaning to cut back on the Tang, because oh the amount of sugar I consume everyday! But an iced glass of Tang is just what I need at times and giving it up has been tough. So the sugar overdose continues. I must at least try making up for it by going for extra long walks, but again, the heat is such a killer.

Anyway, this post isn’t about my coping mechanism for summer. It is about the birds and how the scorching heat and dry, acrid air makes them suffer. A while ago, we noticed a line up of pigeons fighting over a few drops of water in the balcony at my parents place. This water was toxic, dripping from our air conditioner. To watch the pigeons thirstily peck and gulp the few available droplets of carbonized water was heart breaking.

Ever since that day, my dad began to lay out a fresh bowl of water for the birds in the balcony. I was hoping to see more sparrows quench their thirst, but most days we just saw pigeons. I am a pigeon hater but the heat made me feel sorry for them. At the end of the day, my dad would take the almost dry bowl and replenish it with fresh water.

A few days ago, my dad had to leave the city for some work related travel. The sister was given instructions to water the plants in his absence. He told me to refill the water bowl for the birds. Unfortunately, I forgot to do it for the first two days. I would only remember at the end of the day, feel too lazy and decide to do it the next day. This happened twice.

The third day, I noticed the fully dry plastic bowl was lying upturned. The pigeons were back to gulping the drops of water that ran from the air conditioner. I kicked myself. The birdies must have surely been missing my papa. I set down the cold litchees I was about to peel and decided to first get the pigeons their bowl of water. This heat is particularly cruel to the birds. Us humans have destroyed their habitat anyway. The next time I indulge myself with some iced refreshments to beat the harsh summer, I’ll stop for a moment to think of the birds. And whether I have done my part for them ..

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

 
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