A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for January, 2017

Of friends who’ve been family

Posted by Pepper on January 24, 2017

We landed in San Francisco on a cold, cold morning. We were going to be staying with a friend until we found an apartment of our own. As our shuttle drove us from the airport to the said friend’s house, I tried taking in the familiar sights. This was going to be home for some time now. How long, I wasn’t sure. I might as well warm up to this place as soon as I can, I told myself. But that freezing morning made it exceptionally hard to ‘warm up’ to it.

Let me tell you how apprehensive I had been by the idea of staying with a friend. She is a close friend of Mint and had generously offered to host us till we found a home. But my mind panicked by the thought. Would it be too intrusive? Would we be invading their space too much with all our luggage? Would they feel obliged to cook for us? I certainly didn’t want to eat all our meals at their place. I kept telling Mint we would insist on eating out.

The stay at the friend’s house turned to be delightful and I can’t be more grateful to them for opening up their home to us. Of course, I still didn’t want to overstay our welcome, so I would keep insisting to Mint to pick an apartment soon. But if you know him, you will know how difficult a task it is to make him choose.

We needed the apartment to be close to a BART station, since Mint works in the city. I wanted to make sure the apartment had a washer and dryer, plenty of natural light and central heating. And of course, we had a budget to adhere to. Given all our requirements and conditions, finding the right apartment wasn’t an easy task. Every evening we would spend hours visiting different apartment complexes and leasing offices.

Before I talk about our home, let me talk about our other friend who helped us by lending us her car. She was vacationing in India for a month and without a second thought, told us we could use her car in her absence. We knew it would take us a while to buy our own car, so having one handy as soon as we landed was nothing short of a blessing. Had she not lent us a car, we would have gone ahead and rented one on weekends and our search for an apartment would have been that much slower. Did I already mention I feel grateful for having such friends?

After almost 2 weeks of searching (both extensively and intensively), we finally zeroed in on an apartment. Now we had to go through the pains of finding appropriate furniture to buy. Most apartments in the US do not even come with light fixtures, so we needed to buy a ton of things before we could move in.

On hearing that we had found an apartment, another friend of Mint told us we could have ALL his furniture. He was moving to the city, to an apartment that was much smaller than his current 3 bedroom home. He didn’t know what to do with all the furniture he had. He didn’t care enough to sell it, even though that would have gotten him a good chunk of money.

We offered several times to pay for it, but he was adamant and said he only wanted to give it to us, not sell it to us. And just like that, we were all set to move in. He gave us his couch (all seats are recliners, we love how comfortable they are), the center table, a futon, a king sized bed, a side table for the bed and a 4 seater dining table.

We only had to pay the movers and managed to bring in all furniture in under $500 (And that too only because the pick up place was an hour away from us and because all the furniture had to be hauled up to our 3rd floor apartment). Once we had the furniture in place, we went on to personalize the house by adding bits and pieces to it. Here is a sneak peak. This is one side of our living room.

living room 1.jpg

Mint usually doesn’t like the idea of a table runner on the center table, but there were a few faint stains on it that we wanted to camouflage, so the runner was put. We’re still in the process of doing up our house, making changes and adding some personality to it. Once I think it is close to complete, I can probably put up some more pics.

The point of this post was to remark on our wonderful friendships. Right from offering us a home for our initial stay, to lending us a car, to generously gifting us with furniture, they’ve done it all. We can’t be more thankful.

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Posted in Friends | 20 Comments »

Packing up our life in Mumbai – Part 2

Posted by Pepper on January 19, 2017

After we cleared out our apartment and handed over the keys to our tenant, everything moved at a crazy speed. We had around 6 more days left before we were set out to fly. And in those 6 days, we were hoping to pack in a zillion things.

Because we like to add drama to our lives, Mint had a terrible fall around then and was declared unfit to move. There was no way I could cope with our million commitments all by myself, so he was forced to limp his way to glory.

We had a long list of pending tasks that we had to cater to. The priority was selling our car. Between Mint and I, we had two cars. We decided to leave behind one car with my parents and sell the other one. We realised at the very end moment that my parents would not be able to sell the car on our behalf in our absence, because the sale would need our signatures.

We had quite an awful experience when one prospective buyer seemed to love the car and promised to complete the transaction the next day. Mint and I considered taking some advance amount from him, but he seemed so sincere in his desire to purchase the car that we let go without insisting for an advance amount. After which, we stupidly declined offers from other buyers. Sadly, at the very last moment, the buyer who had committed to us backed out of the deal. We wanted to kick ourselves for trusting him so much and letting go of other offers too.

We decided to leave it to fate. We would sign the required form for sale and leave it with my parents. If the sale worked with those pre signed forms, great. Else we would figure out the next steps later. Because our car was in such great condition, we didn’t want to turn this into a distress sale. And then during Mint’s farewell party with his MBA batch mates, his friend found out that we were looking to sell our car. And just like that, he said he would buy it. He transferred the money to us the very next day, without even seeing the car once. I suppose Mint’s reputation of obsessively taking care of his possessions worked in our favour.

We had so much of documentation work to go over in the last minute. We had decided to give my parents the power of attorney for our apartment so that they would be in a position to rent it out for us, extend the lease or even sell it without us having to come down. Creating these documents took up some time. A limping Mint, a frenzied me and my overworked parents were looking for a notary who would complete the job for us. I wish getting these documents together was easier.

We also needed make a separate power of attorney for our home loan so that we had the option of prepaying a part of our loan if and when we wanted to. I still find it ridiculous that HDFC does not allow you to make online payments towards your loans. If we want to make a prepayment or even sign up for a rate change, we need to personally go to the office and hand over the cheque. I have no idea why HDFC still hasn’t awakened to technology. Anyway, so we made a separate power of attorney for my dad to enable him to make prepayments and loan changes on our behalf.

Because of all the uncertainty this move involved, we had kept it secret from most people. So when we finally announced to our friends that we were moving out of the country, most of them were taken aback. Of course, we had to set aside time for farewells, but our schedules were nothing short of crazy. When people asked us when we were leaving, our response would stump them even more. We were leaving in 3 days. Despite that, we spent all out last 3 days meeting people.

I kept bugging Mint and reminding him that we had to start packing. We only had 3 days left and we were moving out of the country, remember? He kept shutting me up saying we had all of the last night that we would dedicate to packing. I mean, seriously? *Rolls eyes*

In between trying to complete all our pending tasks, I decided to get on with my own packing. Mint be damned. I would be utterly exhausted on the last night and would rather catch some sleep. So I skipped the last few farewells so I could pack and Mint went ahead with them without me.

When it came to packing, I was blanking out completely. What do I carry with me other than the obvious clothes and essentials? What would we be needing to set up our life there? Due to my past experience of living in the US, I knew for a fact that we would we able to buy everything we need, including all Indian supplies. So I decided to carry nothing other than my personal items. I carefully packed some household accessories that I had collected over the years, and that was it. Everything else we would buy there. It was going to be a saga of building life afresh, from scratch.

Time was passing at jet speed and everything was such a blur, I don’t have much memory of how we got to the day we were supposed to leave. We had given strict instructions to my family to not come to the airport to drop us off. I wanted this departure to be as casual as possible. I was worried it would hit me like a ton of bricks and weaken my insides. Thankfully, I felt stoic and surprisingly indifferent.

As our cab sped towards the airport, I still couldn’t believe we were moving out of the place we loved so much. It felt like how it usually feels before we embark on a vacation or travel for a short duration. I could not connect with the idea of this being an indefinite exit. Had the feeling sunk in, I would have viewed the city, the roads, the dusty flyovers and even the traffic with a little more nostalgia.

I glanced down at my beloved city one final time as our flight took off. I felt oddly at peace knowing that my connection with this place will live forever, no matter where I am.

Posted in Slices of life, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Packing up our life in Mumbai

Posted by Pepper on January 15, 2017

Since our decision to move back to the US was burdening us with so much of doubt and fear, we decided to consider this move to be not more than an experiment. We told ourselves we would move back to India at any point if we believed we would be happier there. Even if it meant staying without a job for a while.

The problem with trying to keep one foot in India and one foot in the US was that it was hugely impacting our decision making process and making everything far too complex. We had our entire life set up in Mumbai and carrying all our belongings with us to California did not make sense. The shipping costs far exceeded the worth of the items. Neither did we want to dispose our stuff, because what if we decide to move back to India soon?

We knew we needed to rent out our apartment, so leaving our stuff in there was not an option. We had not started preparing for our move until the very last second, hoping that through some miracle we would be able to avoid the move. Our idea of miracles included Mint getting an awesome job in Mumbai at the very last moment, or our US visa getting rejected through some unlikely stroke of luck. Because then his company would not be able to force us to move. Hah, seriously, we seemed to be the only two people at the embassy who appeared disappointed when the visas were approved.

Once our visas were approved, we decided to look out for a tenant and told ourselves we will begin packing after we find one. To our luck, we found a tenant almost immediately. He wanted the house in a week. And so began the mammoth task of emptying out the apartment.

The plan was to discard some stuff, set aside some stuff that we wanted to carry with us and pack the rest in boxes that we would keep in my parents house until we figured what to do with them. We knew my parents were being very generous by allowing us to clutter their house with our stuff and turn it into a warehouse. So we thought we would *try* to minimise the stuff we had to store.I know, sometimes my ambitions are amusing.

Before I knew it, I was getting traumatised by our worldly possessions. How much stuff did we own! And why? I started with the clothes and gave away bag fulls. That was not too hard. But then came the books and the DVDs that we had painstakingly collected over the years. We had over 8 shelves of those. No, I didn’t want to just give them away. Neither could we carry them. And what about our electronics? Home theater system, Play Station, X-box kinect? Since we couldn’t come up with a plan for all those items, they went in boxes whose fate is still unknown.

Then came the miscellaneous items! We already had boxes that had been lying unopened from the time we had moved from the US. God, I feel embarrassed even saying that. But really, we chose to not unpack those old boxes because our Mumbai apartment was too small to accommodate those things. I had so many candles and candle stands, accessories for the house, digital photo frames, unused dinner sets, colourful scarves, vases, etc. It really was an endless list of things we didn’t know what to do with. Ultimately, my mom helped us put them in boxes and cartons that have been dumped in her home.

Mint and I were getting exhausted with all the sorting, packing and taping. My dad completely took over the task of clearing out the kitchen. He separated the steel, the nonstick, the glassware and labeled each box accordingly. I realised at that point how much more organised than us he was. My parents have been our saviours. Running errands for us, taking over certain jobs, helping us pack, keeping meals ready for us, what would we have done without their help and support?

One evening as the sister and I were bubble wrapping all our magnets, I paused for a moment to take it all in. Was this really happening? Were we packing up our wonderful life here and moving to the other end of the world. Apparently, we were. But it certainly hadn’t sunk in for any of us.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

A recap

Posted by Pepper on January 12, 2017

I remember entering 2016 with a high. I was full of hopes and dreams. There was so much to look forward to. My work life would no longer require me to gallop at a frenzied pace. I finally had the reigns in my hands and I believed I could trotter at an even and enjoyable pace. We were hoping to adopt a child. And most importantly, we had gained clarity and taken a stand when it came to this hugely complicated decision.

Should we move back to the US or not? The question had been presented to us in October 2015 and by January 2016 we had made our choice. We wanted to stay put in India. Choosing wasn’t an easy process and we were so glad to have that dilemma out of the way. If only I knew what was in store..

Early in 2016, shortly after we had made our choice to not move to the US, Mint’s company announced to us that they were dissolving his team in Mumbai. He had no choice but to move to the US, unless he was willing to give up this job. This announcement completely jolted us.

Mint tried hard to find another job that would let us stay in India. Sadly, there was nothing that met our requirements. I waded through all of 2016 not knowing where we were headed. It was quite a hellish experience for a person who hates loss of control. The year was full of perennial anxiety and the mere thought of it exhausts me.

I was always accompanied by bad health. It seemed to follow me. First it was the diagnosis of tachycardia. Just when I thought I could live with the high heart rate, I was attacked by other vicious ailments. Something that seemed as innocuous as an eye infection turned out to be a nasty disease. For the first time in my life, I was terrified of my failing health and the potential toxic treatments.

I was hospitalised not once but twice. Since I grew distant from the blog, I didn’t really talk about it here. But if you happened to message me on WhatsApp around that time, I’m sure I shared images of me lying in a hospital bed with numerous tubes running through me.

You see, these things were new to me. At one time, I couldn’t image being knocked out by general anesthesia. The idea used to make me extremely nervous. Again, it probably comes with the fear of being out of control. Heck, let’s forget GA, I couldn’t even imagine a simple IV line being inserted in my hand. It all sounded so painful.

And then I went through all of it, the anesthesia, losing consciousness, the IV line, oxygen tube being shoved down my throat, the tubes that reached my nose. Okay, I know I make it sound like I was dying but they were all part of very simple procedures and all that I described above are standard precautionary measures they adhere to when they put you out.

But who was to snatch away this attention seeking opportunity from me? I loved reactions like, ‘Oh My God! What happened? That looks bad’. So I not only made Mint take pictures of me in that condition, I even shared them with a handful of people. And then I was honest enough to tell them that it all appeared far worse than what it was. Of course, seeking attention for such things seems so immature and silly in hindsight, but when did I deny being all of that?

Simple procedures or not, the point is I had to go throw that crap. Twice. Did I already mention 2016 was not a favourable year? It was also the year in which I struggled to accept that I was no longer thin. Being thin has almost been a part of my identity since the time I can remember. People have often referred to me as the ‘thin girl’. And then came the steroids and the medication.

In a span of a few months, I had gained more weight than I imagined I ever would. I’m still getting used to my new body and I try to not react when people comment on the change.Since I was very thin to begin with, the sudden weight gain still hasn’t made me fat. I’m not sure how much more weight gain is in store for me. As long as I am healthy, I won’t complain.

After torturing ourselves with our indecisiveness all year, we finally chose to take up the offer to move to the US. Since Mint had not found a comparable job, we realised it would be too risky to stay without his income when we had such a big mortgage. Like I have mentioned before, my income doesn’t come close to his and would in no way be enough to tide us through. We started preparing for our move just 3 weeks before we were set out to fly. We finally moved in December 2016.

The eyes got better. I have been weaning off the steroids and have still remained flare free for the past 3 months. Touch wood. Those of you who have been checking on me, thank you so much.

That was 2016 in a nutshell. There were happy moments too. Plenty of them in fact. But the lingering sounds of chaos continued to echo in the background. What do I expect from 2017? I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily believe it will be a fabulous year that will bowl us over. It may be a very happy year, or it may be a year full of challenges. I am walking in to 2017 with no expectations. A blank slate it is. Let’s see what lies in store!

 

Posted in Slices of life, Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

 
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