A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for February, 2021

In the times of covid..

Posted by Pepper on February 25, 2021

Two weeks ago, my mom went to the salon to get her hair colored. I think I need to backtrack a little here. To start with, my parents have been highly covid conscious. I mean, not like they had a choice. With my mom’s history of cancer and my dad’s kidney ailment, they were both high risk. They followed the recommended protocol, stopped stepping out of the house, dealt with the hardships that came with the loss of their house help. They weren’t fit enough to take on the daily task of sweeping and mopping among the million things that they were having to do. My sister who lives with them had an excruciatingly busy schedule and was struggling in her own ways between managing her work and my parents needs of wanting to do things at a certain time. In short, they really struggled, but they did what they should have done to avoid all exposure and got through that period.

And after months when things seemed to be relatively stable in Mumbai, they brought back their house help. It was a well calculated move and we all agreed they needed the support and were falling sick without it. But how was I supposed to manage my anxiety? I would look up the number of cases in Mumbai every other day. If I was on a video call with my parents and saw the helper in the same room as them, I would yell at the top of my voice and ask them to go and get their masks. For the most part, everybody kept their masks on, but the occasional slip would stress me out.

I was living on the edge. And then one day my mom told me she was sick of seeing herself in the mirror and hated her hair. She wanted to go to the salon to get it cut and colored. I lost my head and yelled at her, asked her if she was nuts. Reminded her that she was high risk and had to be thankful that she was in fact leading a normal, medically uncomplicated life. Why on earth would she think of taking the risk?

She seemed to accept my opinion for a while. But time and again she would bring it up, only to hear me explode. I kept telling her being alive was more important than worrying about a grey head. She would tell me how important it was to feel good and some such crap. I told her to let my sister cut and color her hair. Weren’t we all donning the role of a hair stylist anyway? Unfortunately, she wouldn’t trust the sister to do the job as per her liking. *Eye roll*

Months passed, we kept going back and forth. This subject would come up every few weeks and would result in a heated argument with me yelling at her. In the midst, I would also have to deal with other stress of my dad going to the bank because “it was very important”. Why can’t you just do things online now, I would ask? And he would say he doesn’t know how to do it online. Each time, I would start the mental countdown of 2 weeks and pray nobody has any symptoms. But since the work was supposedly important and unavoidable, I was more understanding of the situation.

But hair salon? Really? How can you think of such frivolous activities when you are high risk? My mom brought it up again one fine day and I got mad and asked her to do what she wants. She said she would use her discretion and make the call. And she did. One morning when there was nobody else in the salon, she went and got her hair cut and colored.

And while we aren’t on the same page on this and while I still deem these activities as unnecessary and unworthy of the risk they pose, I can see how much better it makes my mom feel to not have her hair so out of place. Of course, I love annoying her by telling her how shallow she is. As usual, I waited for 2 weeks to pass before I could breathe a sigh of relief. Like every child, my parents are most precious to me and I wish I could keep them in a safe bubble. They are my lifelines and I worry so much. I hope the world heals soon and we don’t have to stress so much about simple everyday living.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 25 Comments »

Driving little friendships

Posted by Pepper on February 19, 2021

Cotton and Candy have always been in awe of garbage trucks, more appropriately called waste collection vehicles. They watch in admiration as the trucks come, stick out their robotic arms, lift up our bins, tip them in and place them back on the curb. On the days of our weekly pick up, watching this process is probably the most exciting part of their day.

They are regulars who run out to the curb the moment they hear the whirring of the truck. Cotton and Candy then wave excitedly and say hi to the driver, all along jumping in the air and waving their arms wildly. By now, we recognize the driver and he recognizes them. He gives them a big grin and waves back. I can’t put in words how happy this makes them and they go about telling everybody that they are friends with the garbage truck driver. Really, a warm smile and a wave is all it takes for the driver to be marked as a friend in their little heads.

Yesterday, I saw Candy drawing something on paper. She said it was a flower pot. Err, that drawing looked nothing like a pot, but okay. She then told me she was drawing it fast so that she could show it to the driver and wanted to finish it before he arrived. That warmed my heart. She truly considers that driver to be her friend and it was her way of letting him know.

As usual, I couldn’t capture the moments on camera clearly, but this time I did manage to take some rickety pictures. The first one is Candy running to show her drawing to the driver. The second one is Cotton and Candy watching the truck as it rolls by. They wait until every bin on our street has been emptied.

I can’t help but ponder over how easy it is for kids to label somebody as their ‘friend’. I don’t know at what stage we unlearn this. For now, I am glad I get to witness this friendship between my kids and a kind driver who waves at them as he goes about his job of emptying our bins of trash.

Posted in Small joys | 20 Comments »

Inhale. Exhale.

Posted by Pepper on February 17, 2021

I have been dealing with massive anxiety. So I’ve been a little quiet around here. I expect this gigantic wave of stress to pass in the next few days. Oh God, I really hope it does, I can’t function like this. This blog used to be a good place for a mental dump at one time. I really wanted to write more about my feelings and the causes. But over the years, I have come to the realization that the best of the best people get sick of hearing you, patting your back and telling you it will be okay.

So for the sake of not annoying the random (and mostly silent) people who seemingly read my blog, I will not unload here this time. I will probably write a password protected post IF I continue feeling the way I am. The content isn’t too private, I just don’t want to forcefully dump on people who haven’t signed up for it. For now, I will pray that things turn around and I am able to move past this.

Until then, I am going to try to focus on some breathing exercises. Inhale. Exhale.

Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments »

If we were having coffee

Posted by Pepper on February 11, 2021

  • I would first discuss with you what kind of coffee we should order. And then tell you about how my stash of filter coffee powder that I get from Chennai is almost over. Sobs. I’ve tried so many different brands available here but nothing comes close to the powder we get from Chennai. So every India trip, we stuff an entire suitcase with the most heavenly smelling, freshly ground coffee beans and carry it here. The filter coffee in our house is pretty famous among friends and everybody demands a cup when they come. I am trying to imagine my life with inferior coffee now and it’s making me sad.
  • I would also tell you that I have been stressing about this stupid phenomenon called Valentines’ Day. Every year, the kids’ school requests, no demands, that we send cards for all the kids in class along with some gift, namely, pencils, play dough, erasers or other dollar store junk. Planning the whole damn thing, making or buying cards,deciding what gift to buy, packing the said items and cards in heart shaped paper bags makes me lose my head. We aren’t artsy, crafty parents and events like these turn into an ordeal for us.
  • I would tell you that we mopped our house this weekend. This is a very big deal for us. We vacuum often but we rarely wet mop. The job had been outsourced to our cleaner, but ever since we discontinued those services, we have rarely mopped. So much so that my parents keep nagging us on phone and ask us to mop the house. When I told my dad during our video call that we actually mopped, he tried to suppress his eye roll. And then said he expects us to mop only during Diwali after this. Thanks for the vote of confidence, dad.
  • I would tell you that February is the month in which my mom has her follow up medical tests. And I am waiting for her to get done with them.
  • It’s 3.23 pm as I am typing this and it’s the beginning of the danger hours. 3.30 to 6 pm are dangerous hours in our house. It’s that time where I have the tendency to binge eat all kinds of chips or any fried snack that is available. I have tried my best to exhibit some self control but so far all my strategies have failed. Not getting or buying the said items isn’t an option since Mint and I are not able to reach on agreement there.
  • I would tell you how fed up I am of being perpetually burdened with all the personal work we have. We never seem to get on top of it. Even now, we have to renew Mint’s passport and consolidate all the hundred documents they need, we are in the process of refinancing our home, we have to clean out our garage, complete the process of installing cameras in the kids bedroom and so on. I don’t want to enlist all our tasks here but I am so done with this state of being neck deep in work. I know I have said this too many times, but I have to say it again, adulting sucks.

This was a good mini catch up session. I used to write these ‘If we were having coffee’ posts many years ago. And I have recently come across bloggers doing the same posts, except the chosen beverage is chai. Whatever rocks your boat. I am glad I thought of redoing this.

Posted in Slices of life | 20 Comments »

Of being disproportionately mixed

Posted by Pepper on February 9, 2021

I am pretty sure I have mentioned this on the blog, Mint’s native language, what we call ‘mother tongue’ in India, is Telugu. However, his family has been in Tamil Nadu for literally hundreds of years and the kind of Telugu they speak is almost unrecognizable when compared to the authentic Telugu. Also, for whatever reason, he identifies more with the Tamil language and speaks it far more fluently than Telugu.

Most of his friends have no clue about his native language and he prefers telling people he is a Tam guy. This greatly irks his parents who feel he needs to take more pride in his roots. Mint on the other hand, says they are hypocritical in their thought process, because they themselves only converse in Tamil. Not Telugu.

We have always dealt with a Tamil – Telugu war. When I got married, his parents wanted me to learn Telugu. He said that if I have to learn a language, he insisted it had to be Tamil. Now the fact that I learnt neither of them is a different story. Because really, that guy has had little interest in teaching me. He was perfectly comfortable talking to me in Hindi and English. All the Tamil I know and have learnt has been thanks to the effort I have put in on my own. And while I can understand a significant amount, I am still sad I can’t hold conversations on my own. But unfortunately I don’t have the bandwidth to self learn or go for classes and if Mint took more effort in teaching me, it would have helped.

I think my in laws gave up on me learning the language. And then Cotton and Candy were born and the language monster raised its head again. After another debate on what language the kids should learn and going back and forth between Tamil and Telugu, my in laws agreed to let them learn Tamil. They stayed with us for a whole 6 months and would talk to the kids in Tamil. Cotton and Candy were picking up the words. And then they left.

I expected Mint to continue talking to them in Tamil. He never took the effort with me. But he had a golden opportunity to do it with the kids. I definitely wanted to pass on the gift of language to them. From my end, I spoke to the kids in Hindi. Again, I have never exposed the kids to my mother tongue, which is a mix of Punjabi, Sindhi and Multani. I thought they would benefit more from knowing Hindi and that’s one language I have a strong connect with anyway, because, Bollywood.

So I took the effort to speak to the kids in Hindi. And surprisingly, it took more effort than I anticipated. English has been my comfort language and the language I think in. Hindi is very close to my hear but really, intuitively I am inclined to speak in English. Anyway, the efforts were paying off and Cotton and Candy were beginning to grasp the langauge well. Also, we spent several months in Mumbai and having a full time helper there who only spoke to the kids in Hindi helped immensely.

But what I began noticing over time is that when I spoke to the kids in Hindi, Mint would continue the conversation with them in Hindi. Every time I pointed it out to him and asked him to revert to Tamil, he would say that it seems unnatural to talk to the kids in one language and me in another. Eventually, he had fully switched to talking to the kids in Hindi. I was not too pleased, but he seemed to be supremely lazy in putting n the effort.

My in-laws were aghast. Cotton and Candy were not learning any language from their end and were developing a proficiency in Hindi. In my head, I could hear them screaming, ‘This is why we were so against the marriage, we knew it would result in us not being able to pass on our culture and heritage’. I have told them several times, this is Mint’s fault. Please blame your son. I would love our kids to know all the possible languages they can, I don’t know why he is such a lazy bugger. And I know a part of them believes me. They know their son. But the other part of me keeps thinking, what if they think this is their evil daughter in law’s fault? One who controls everything and calls all the shots.

Let me talk about the current happenings in our life now. Every time we are talking to my in-laws on a video call, Cotton and Candy keep switching to Hindi. Not only do my in-laws not know Hindi, this is a classic way of rubbing salt into their wounds. My in-laws ask them a question in English, they reply in Hindi. Jeez. Ayyo. Jale pe namak chidakna. I cringe every single time. This, despite me warning the kids before we start the call. Every time, I remind them. “Please talk to Thatha and Nanamma only in Engligh, okay?”. They say yes to me. But somewhere in the middle of the conversation, I see them slipping into Hindi.

And while I stress and feel guilty and apologetic, I see my idiot husband grinning at my panicked state. I genuinely feel sorry for my in-laws. This is not how I expected my mixed kids to turn out. I mean, I would have liked an equal contribution and our cultural mix to reflect more evenly. Unfortunately, the contribution of the other half is not in my hands.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 19 Comments »

Absolutely not.

Posted by Pepper on February 5, 2021

During Prime day last year, I bought a pack of scented candles. I have been wanting to light them for a long time and every time I feel the need for a pick up, I sniff the pack. And then I tell myself I will light them soon. I do have a bunch of other candles that I light every evening, but the scent in these new ones seems a lot more lavish. Mentally, I had decided I will light them after we clean up our bedroom.

I wanted to tidy up the room, have sparkling floors, clean sheets, a relaxed state of mind, free time at hand and a general sense of order before I treated myself to some fragrant candle light.. I kept waiting for a day when all my boxes were checked. Because scented candles represent serenity. And serenity and chaos cannot coexist.

I had a particularly tiring day yesterday and then I decided to screw my own ideas. I was going to relax and unwind in my bedroom and I was going to light my candles. Never mind that the bed wasn’t made and my clothes were spread out on random surfaces. Everything was a mess, but I told myself it was okay.

And then as I lit my candles in my messy room, I thought about how wrong I was. Serenity and chaos can coexist. It is okay to feel fractions of different contrasting emotions at the same time. They are different grades on the scale. On many days, I am partly happy and party sad. And that is okay. I can’t always be a 100 percent happy and neither am I always a 100 percent sad. On other days, I am partly excited and partly indifferent. Party crazy and partly sane. Life isn’t about absolutes. We just lie somewhere on the spectrum.

Posted in Lessons I learn | 13 Comments »

Weekend highlights

Posted by Pepper on February 2, 2021

On Friday, Mint and I drove to Santa Cruz. We did this in the first half of the day while the kids were in school. It turned out to be so refreshing. Time and again, I pause to admire the beauty of the place I live in. Bay Area is so gorgeous. We drove through the rolling mist amid the mountains and let our eyes take in all that beauty. Mint and I have our best conversations while driving so it was a great opportunity to revitalize together.

We also spent a large part of the weekend putting this 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle together. Okay fine, it was Mint who did the puzzle. I think it took about 8 to 10 hours cumulatively. But what delighted us more than completing the jigsaw was the new milestone we have reached in our parenting journey. We were able to leave the 1000 pieces lying around and the incomplete puzzle fully accessible to the brats. We were confident that they would not pull it apart or mess around with it. They are now mature enough to understand and respect the process of putting it together. It is such a far cry from our early days of parenting where we couldn’t play a simple board game without them knocking down or grabbing pieces.

We took Cotton and Candy on a hike and that too is a new high for us. So far, we have only been courageous enough to take them on small hikes or ones that don’t have a steep incline. But this time, we decided to test their limits and were surprised to see that their little legs did a remarkable job with all the climbing and walking.

It’s only Monday today and I am so not ready to face the week.

Posted in Slices of life | 23 Comments »

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