A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

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This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 6

Posted by Pepper on August 12, 2017

I’m sorry for being MIA after the last post. We’re moving to another apartment and it’s been C-R-A-Z-Y.  Anyway, witthout further ado, here is the one line response to the last post. We’re having a boy and a girl. We think. The information we have is based on ultrasounds only so they can only tell us with a 90% certainty. They’re almost always right but we’re still open to the possibility of ending up with two boys or two girls. Let’s see?

Also, since the timeline of my posts, in particular the ‘This is YUGE’ series seems to have confused a lot of you, here is where we are at present. I have entered the 8th month of pregnancy. Average gestation for twins isn’t 40 weeks like it is a for a single baby. At best, we have another 7 weeks to go before we meet the babies! More likely they will be here sooner than that. So scary and exciting.

I’m sorry for the confusion. I didn’t start documenting my pregnancy from the time I found out. Mostly because I was so overwhelmed and sick in the first few months. And then once I did start writing, I wanted to capture everything that happened from the beginning.

I’ll get back to writing more in detail, soon. Hopefully. Right now, I have been so preoccupied with the move. I look like a pregnant whale and moving around is so painful and uncomfortable. Coping with a move is absolutely insane. Argh. I want to be done with this. Somebody wave a wand and magically set up our new home, please!

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This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 5

Posted by Pepper on August 6, 2017

One of the things I was most excited about was finding out the genders of the twins. Well, excited is probably the wrong word. It was more like an unbearable need to know. That’s just the kind of person I am. When I have the option of knowing, I can’t imagine choosing to not know. It would kill me to wait.

This was also the reason I was most excited to be back in California. They never disclose the gender in India. I was glad I was in a place where I could find out. Soon we would know, I kept telling myself. Mint didn’t necessarily think the same way. Why not wait till they are born and experience the surprise that comes with it, he asked. Are you kidding me? I would go bat shit crazy by then. I *need* to know. Honestly, the waiting would be torturous for me rather than exciting.

I told him if he wanted it to be a surprise, I would find out and keep it to myself. I promised I wouldn’t blurt it out to him. He laughed at that and told me I was talking about things that were not possible. He was sure I wouldn’t be able to stomach the news and would blurt it out or slip up at some point.

I refused to wait though. He thought about it for a while and then agreed to find out the genders because he realised not finding out would mean more work. Since we were having twins, we would have to come up with 4 names to consider all possibilities instead of coming up with just 2 if we did find out. Yay for his laziness!

We asked my doctor at the next appointment when she could tell us the genders and she said as per their policy they only reveal the genders during the 20 week anatomy ultrasound. That seemed like a lifetime away! I had not even touched 13 weeks at that point.

I spent a while Googling and discovered a lot of places where they do private ultrasounds and confirm the genders by week 14. But it was a lot of money. I knew spending the $$$ was crazy just because I couldn’t bear to wait for 7 more weeks. But of course, I couldn’t. So once again, I started bugging Mint to agree to the idea of a private ultrasound.

We continued arguing until he caved in. I think he was really fed up of me. I scheduled my ultrasound for a week later when I was going to be 14 weeks 1 day. And then I started bugging Mint to tell me his gender preferences.  I know, I am a serial bugger. Each time he would say he didn’t have a preference and each time I would continue harassing him with, ‘No, but you have to tell me’. We would go around in circles.

Me? I was secretly dreaming of two girls. I have grown up with a sister and two girls is familiar territory for me. I adored the idea of having two little girls. I was also alright with a boy and a girl. Raising a boy would be a new experience. But to be very honest, I wasn’t sure I loved the idea of having two boys. It all felt too unknown to me. I wanted to have one girl at least.

Mint seemed rather disgusted with me each time I expressed myself. He wanted to know why I had any preference at all. I’ve never known anybody more gender neutral than him. He would keep telling me if I really believed in gender equality, then irrespective of genders, we would raise our girls or boys in the exact same way. Then why should it matter to me?

I realised there was a lot of truth in what he said. I just wanted healthy kids, gender not withstanding. Subconsciously, I started picturing two cute boys. Was it defense mechanism on my part? I’m not sure. I convinced myself that two little boys would be just as adorable as two little girls. I went over the idea in my head over and over again. I told myself I was ready for two boys.

I dragged through the week, waiting for each day to take me forward to the day we would find out. The night before we were scheduled for our ultrasound, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even believe we would finally know the next day.

To be continued..

PS – Sorry for being down right mean and ending the post here. It’s true that I get some joy in torturing people like that, but it’s also true that that wasn’t my intent this time. I genuinely got to go. Hopefully the next part will be up soon. Meanwhile, if anybody has any guesses on the genders, I’d love to hear them!

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This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 4

Posted by Pepper on August 4, 2017

The few weeks I had in Mumbai were divine. My parents were spoiling me rotten. I’d get every meal in hand. I still remember looking forward to waking up to a hearty breakfast. Parathas bursting with cheese and paprika,  garlic bread stuffed with grated paneer and spices, idlis with diverse chutneys.

Through out the day, I’d be handed refreshing cups of buttermilk and coconut water that I drank straight out of the shells. I’d get a fresh salad with every meal. My evening snack would be a delicious medley of chopped apples, oranges, walnuts and raisins. I’d also get free shoulder, back and foot massages through out the day. Sigh. Living with my parents was just so easy.

And then it was time for me to return to California. My parents were full of apprehensions, so much so that they wanted to accompany me. I brushed aside all their concerns and assured them I’d be just fine. With some amount of trepidation, I flew back to the Bay Area when I was around 12 weeks.

Pregnancies are hard and I am inclined to believe that twin pregnancies are doubly hard. I joined several online groups of expectant twin moms and was horrified to note how dire the complications were for some of them. I must acknowledge here that I have been very fortunate so far and not experienced any of the scary complications that I read about with twins.

Having said that, let me say this pregnancy has been very hard on my already unfit body. Here is a summary of what I have been going through.

Nausea: I don’t know what hit me as soon as I landed in the Bay Area, but the throwing up was beyond terrible. I was surprised because nausea is supposed to abate once you cross 12-14 weeks and that is right when it picked up for me. It was incredibly intense. I would throw up around 6 to 8 times a day.

Each puke session would have me chug out litres of fluid, leaving me utterly drained out. This would happen every 1 to 2 hours. I waited and waited for it subside but it looked like it would NEVER go. I was so miserable.

To make matters worse, we live in an apartment on the 3rd floor with no elevator. I guess the movement from climbing the stairs would trigger more nausea and despite all my attempts to hold it in till I reached home, I would throw up the moment I started to climb the 3rd and last flight of stairs. This happened every.single.time.

Plastic bags became my new best friends. I couldn’t imagine leaving the house without carrying atleast 10 of them in my handbag. I can’t put in words the amount of insecurity I’d feel if I noticed my stash of bags depleting. It’s like my life depended on those god damn plastic bags. Even going for a small walk in the evening would have me stuff atleast 5 plastic bags in my pocket.

Obviously, we had to find innovative ways to ensure our supply was able to cope with the demands. We couldn’t figure out where to source the plastic bags from. Eventually we started relying on grocery stores. Mint would go and grab the bags used to weigh the veggies and fruits. We were so desperate, it was ridiculous.

The doctors were concerned I was getting too dehydrated. I was also losing weight. We had to consider going to the hospital twice every week to get some fluids through IV. My blood work showed I had low levels of chloride. They said I could possibly be suffering from Hyperemisis Gravidarum. Even writing about all of that gives me the jitters. Weeks turned into months and my days didn’t improve. I was really beginning to think my life was over. I’d never again know what it was like to not throw up.

Complete loss of energy: They say the 2nd trimester is the golden period in a pregnancy. For me, it was probably the worst. It could have been all the puking I did but my energy levels were abysmal. I would be home alone all day and would just lie limp in a corner, forcing myself to make the trip to the loo every time I had to throw up. I’d pant and gasp every time I had to walk 5 steps to get myself a glass of water. Things are still the same on this front. I do move around now but it takes a toll on me. I cannot wait for my body to be infused with normal levels of energy and stamina.

Heart burn: Yet another very common pregnancy symptom, but probably more intense for me. I’d feel a fire burning inside my chest and it was really painful, but I was able to take this pain. What I couldn’t handle was the puking combined with the acidity. I’d actually feel pools of lava sliding up and down my lungs and being hurled out with all the puke. The burning bile would hurt my lungs, my throat and even my nasal passage.

Depression: I had been really unprepared for a lot of things. Just a few months ago I was delighted on finally receiving my work permit. I was looking forward to coming back to the Bay Area and start working. Life obviously had other plans. Instead I found myself hormonal, home alone and pregnant.

The lack of energy made it really hard for me to do a thing. Mint has a long commute and he was already trying his best to manage the house. I’d still drag myself to do simple things like load the dishwasher and then collapse in exhaustion. Many times I would find myself cleaning the bathroom floors cos I hadn’t been able to contain the puke. I remember crying often as I knelt on the floors, wondering where my life was headed? Why was I alone? Why was my family so far away? Why did I have no energy to do simple every day tasks? Will this puking ever stop?

Living on the 3rd floor also meant living under house arrest because with such frightfully low reserves of energy, I couldn’t imagine going up and down the stairs. Being stuck at home made me feel more depressed.

The aches and pains: It started with severe rib pain on the right side. We later found out that Baby B was having a merry time kicking my ribs and being jammed in there. I don’t blame the poor babies, they have such little room. My body isn’t exactly spacious enough for two, though I have widened a lot. The rib pain wouldn’t even let me lean forward for a few seconds to fetch something that was right in front of me.

The back. I have had varying pain, right from lower back to mid back to upper back. I don’t know which part is going to hurt the next moment. Like you can guess, it is intense on most days. But if I had to pick the worst of the lot, I’d pick my knees. I think my knees have just given up. I’m not sure why, because unlike the rest, this doesn’t seem like a common pregnancy symptom. Getting myself up from the couch, climbing up stairs all seem like insurmountable tasks. Please God, let this knee pain be pregnancy related and not a sign of arthritis!

Feet swelling: Yet another common pregnancy symptom, but this one typically occurs in the last few weeks. One of the joys of being pregnant with twins was that I was experiencing everything a lot sooner. My feet constantly resemble, umm, elephant feet. I have a very hard time stuffing them into shoes. Being on my feet for more than 5 minutes hurts like a b*tch. If I have the courage to display my fat, ugly feet, I will put up a picture some day.

Thankfully, the nausea disappeared after months of torture. My faith was reinstated. It was possible to go an entire day without throwing up. I am still living with achy back and knees and swollen feet and intense heart burn. But when I think of how ‘easy’ my pregnancy has been compared to some other twin moms, I can’t help but feel thankful.

Posted in This is YUGE | 32 Comments »

This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 3

Posted by Pepper on August 1, 2017

Like you can guess, ‘This is YUGE’ is going to be a series in which I document my pregnancy and all the excitement that came with it. The shocks ended with the last post. If you are looking for more explosive news, then you can skip the following parts. We’ve had enough of that!

This post is about sharing the news with family and the BFF. I think sharing the news with the family was very anti climatic. The internet is flooded with such innovative ideas to break the news, but all I wanted was to tell my parents and sis immediately and hopefully seek some comfort. I knew they were going to be very reassuring. So over dinner one day, I blurted it out in the most matter of fact way. “It’s twins. I’m pregnant with twins’.

There was no build up to it. No starting with ‘I have some news’, or ‘there is something I want to share with you’. More like, ‘Can you pass me some of that pickle?’ and then saying, by the way, it’s twins. I’m pregnant with twins. They stared at me for a while, letting it sink in before the burst of excitement spilled out.

What they couldn’t comprehend was the look of worry and fear on my face. Like I suspected, they were mad at me. This has always been categorized as ‘good news’. In my case, it was a case of good news times two. How could I possibly look so stressed out. We spoke it over after that and at some point they began to acknowledge my fears. The worry about our capacity to cope, the worry about our finances, all of it. Like I expected, they were very reassuring and I felt a lot calmer after talking to them. The sister was over the moon. She loves babies to bits and now she would have two to hold and play with. This only made me feel more sad as I realised we’d be far away in California, how would our babies get all this love?

Anyway, just a week before I found out I was pregnant, the BFF who lives in LA had called me and blurted out, ‘Listeennnnnn, I’m pregnant!’, making me go, oh my God, what?? I was elated! Obviously my wicked mind paused to track her conception date, because like I mentioned, she was staying with Mint and I in the Bay Area till I flew back to India. She left for LA on the same day as I left for India.

I didn’t spare the opportunity to rub it in. So you went back to LA and got to the act immediately, haan? I continued laughing and telling her her pregnancy news came so quickly because she and R couldn’t handle the little period of separation and had to compensate for it.

Little did I know that all my teasing would come and bite me back. A few days later I had just discovered I was pregnant. With twins. We were still grappling with it when she called me next and like any ‘good’ friend, she started bugging me to think of having a baby soon. That’s when I said it, ‘I’m pregnant too’. It was her turn to scream ‘whaaaat?!’

You see, here is the thing. The BFF had been staying in our house in the Bay Area right until I left for India. So much so that she had been staying with us in our bedroom. Yes, these are the joys of living in a one bedroom apartment. Anyway, she had been staying with Mint and me in our bedroom all along and knew there had obviously been no action that took place in her presence. And then she had decided to visit her sister-in-law for that one weekend before I left for India.

She knew exactly which weekend and on which dates the twins were made. I kept staring at the earth, begging it to swallow me. She would not let go of her opportunity to rub it in of course. “I leave you alone for a single weekend and this is the news I get? You guys were just so desperate for me to get out of your house, huh? You will always have to tell your kids that I have a hand in their creation too. It all happened only because I left that weekend..”

I told her several times that that was the weekend Mint and I prayed to the Gods the hardest. That was all we did. Pray. I refused to talk about it after she commented and said something unmentionable about our hard and powerful prayers.  Oh well. I believe the two of us giggled for around an hour, until it hit us that we’re both pregnant, and due at the same time!

She is the closest friend I’ve had till date. The two of us would sit together on the last bench of our classroom in school and dream about life as adults. Yes, the prospects seemed lucrative back then. We’d talk about how we would get married at the same time, move to the US because you know, we’re meant to live there. We’re too cool for India *Rolls eyes at self*.  We’d live close to each other, choose to have babies at the same time and then take turns to raise our kids collectively. We had some strange ideas, I know.

The fact that we were both actually pregnant and due to have our babies at the same time was amusing. Neither of us had planned it that way and yet here we were..

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This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 2

Posted by Pepper on July 25, 2017

The positive home pregnancy test had left me feeling quite stunned for some reason. I had a million thoughts running through my mind. The very first one being that I had been on a high dosage of oral steroids to treat my eye problem. The steroids by the way, have completely ruined my face by now. My face is swollen, bloated and puffed up. Pregnancy is probably adding to it now. It looks like I have aged a decade in a mere 10 months.

All of that apart, I was really worried about how the consumption of steroids may have affected my pregnancy. I decided to try and wean off the steroids the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Unfortunately, the withdrawal made my eyes flare up almost instantly, but we were able to tackle that one episode. I have a lot to say about my Uveitis and the potential struggles I have been warned about, but I am choosing to not panic right now. We’ll deal with it if it happens.

My other big concern was my high heart rate. I remember some doctor expressing concern about how a pregnancy would affect my already elevated heart rate. And then there were the usual concerns. Will this pregnancy result in a healthy baby? Honestly, all these are concerns I still deal with.

I got myself to a doctor as soon as I could. Mind you, I was all alone. I had not told a word about the positive pregnancy test to my family. I knew they would be so excited, they’d be bouncing off the walls. And I wanted to confirm the news before I shared it with anybody. So other than Mint, nobody knew and unfortunately he was in the other end of the world.

So there I was at the doctor’s office, all alone. I shared all my concerns with her and she was able to alleviate some of my fears. She scheduled me for an ultrasound right away. We were hoping it wasn’t too soon to see a heartbeat. I would find out soon.

I remember lying on that bed and observing the doctor frown in concentration in the first few minutes of my ultrasound. What is it?! I wanted to yell. Tell me already before I explode. And then she let out a big smile and asked me if I saw what she saw? I glanced at the screen and honestly could not tell much. Also, I couldn’t believe I had allowed somebody to shove a wand inside my vagina. I wanted to hear that all was well and be done with this as soon as possible.

She went on to explain when all she got from me was a blank and confused look. “It’s too soon for you to be able to see clearly. But this part here is where the head will be”. And then she moved the probe and continued. “And this here, this is the second head”. I was terrified in that one instant. Two heads? Am I having a baby that has two heads, I asked her. She seemed equally confused by my reaction at first.

And then she said it. “I see two babies with two healthy heartbeats here. You are having twins! Congratulations”. I don’t exaggerate when I say my jaw dropped to the floor in that one instant. Twins? How’s that possible. These things can’t happen to me. They only happen to others. Is this real?

I’ve seen so many videos now of people finding out they are having twins, and jumping and squealing in excitement is the most common reaction. Me? I think my first few feelings were that of bewilderment, shock, panic and alarm.

Two babies at one time? How on earth would irresponsible people like Mint and me be able to shoulder a responsibility of that magnitude. I knew I always said I wanted two kids instead of one, but did I even know what I was saying? Would we be able to afford it? Would we be able to cope with the endless demands of parenting two kids of the same age?

I was told twin pregnancies came with a host of complications. I already had several health issues to deal with, and now I had to worry about not just one but two babies other than my own body?

I felt so overwhelmed that I burst into tears. And I am not referring to tears of joy here. The doctor on seeing my reaction asked me to not panic. “We always have the option of doing a selective reduction at around 12 weeks. Then you can go on to carry a single fetus”.  Great. Now we should consider killing one of the two babies at 12 weeks? I couldn’t believe the things I was hearing that day. The entire visit to the doc was a big shock to my system and I was dealing with it all alone.

I spoke to Mint on phone as soon as I possibly could. When I told him the news of the twins, that idiot boy continued to think I was joking. Duh. I finally sent him the report of the ultrasound. For a change, my ever calm, non-reactive husband seemed equally perplexed by the news. “I don’t know how we can possibly handle twins” is what he finally said and that made me let out another sob. It’s not what I wanted to hear.

I do understand the dilemmas he was going through. I had had to convince him to have one child and here we were having to deal with the prospects of two at once. Both of us felt completely unprepared and terrified. Our move back to the US seemed far more daunting now. How will we get by without support? I have had many episodes of sobbing and wondering how we will do this, many moments of self doubt, many fears and a ton of worry.

It has been a journey. From worrying and fretting to actually rejoicing and celebrating. It took us a while to get here, but we’re finally in a place where we see and acknowledge the advantage of having two babies at once. We’re in love with these two precious babies that are yet to make an entrance in this world. I now worry about their health and safety and pray that our cute hearts are well. Say a prayer for these two, will you?

Yes, we’re still dealing with the anxiety of how we will manage two kids, but we’re also celebrating what we have been blessed with.

To be continued..

Posted in This is YUGE | 89 Comments »

This is YUGE! It changes everything – Part 1

Posted by Pepper on July 21, 2017

Anybody who has been reading this blog for a while will know how keen Mint and I were to adopt a baby. We had registered ourselves as prospective parents, completed all the formalities and were just waiting for a baby to be shown to us.

And then life decided to intervene. We were compelled to move back to the US and abandon all our dreams of adopting a child. Immigration issues made adoption impossible. Let me not get into how hard this was for me. It was such a blow. And in order to recover from the blow, I wanted a plan of action. I wanted to move on. I started bugging Mint for a biological baby.

As expected, he wasn’t over excited by the idea. Adoption seemed to appeal to him a lot, but the moment we spoke about having a biological child, he’d keep throwing questions at me and asking me if I am sure. I’d keep hating how unsure he sounded, but thankfully at some point I noticed he was more in line with my thoughts.

We were busy trying to settle down after moving to the US. I knew that in about a month or so, I would have to fly to India for a while to wrap up all the work I had abruptly left behind. We made the most of the holiday season here. We even drove to LA to visit the BFF and brought her back with us to the Bay Area to help us set up our new home. She stayed with us for the entire time until I had to leave for my India trip. Well, except for the last weekend, when she decided we should have some privacy before I flew out and went to visit her sis-in-law in the Bay Area.

Now let’s fast forward a little. It had been a few weeks since I had landed in India and I was late. Having had PCOS all my life, I dismissed it as yet another wacky cycle without much thought. But then as days passed by, I started having these quiet conversations with myself – should I or should I not take a pregnancy test? Mint was in California and I was staying with my parents. I didn’t really want to discuss this with anybody at that point, because in all likelihood I knew it would be nothing. I decided to get done with it and bought myself a home pregnancy test.

You know where this is going, don’t you? It was 4 am and I was wide eyed in my bathroom, staring at the two pink lines on the test. I will never forget the sound of my pounding heart as I gaped at the stick. It took me a few minutes to collect myself and walk out.

Obviously, I called Mint right away. He didn’t answer his phone. It was late afternoon in California and I knew he’d be in the midst of some meeting. I could have waited for him to call back, but since I couldn’t contain myself, I sent him a message on WhatsApp that said ‘I think I’m pregnant’.

After around 5 minutes, I noticed that the message had been seen by him. But there was no response. Wow, really? Okay fine then! I decided to go back to bed and put aside my phone. It’s quite funny when I think of it in hindsight. Like I suspected, he was in an important meeting when he saw my message. The poor guy must have been jolted and yet forced to sit through his meeting before he could respond or connect with me.

Yes, we did manage to speak thereafter. I barely slept that night. It all seemed too overwhelming. But of course, since we’re talking about my life here, there were many more unexpected twists and turns and even shocks lined up for us. To be continued..

PS – So, yes. I am pregnant. If any of you remember this post I had written way back in 2011, let me tell you my thought process has not changed much. I still giggle when I see other pregnant women because I think of them ‘doing it’ and I still can’t bear to let anybody else think of me doing it. So to anybody reading this, I will say that I didn’t have sex. Instead I joined my hands and prayed to the Lord, and that is what resulted in this pregnancy. Okay? Okay.

Posted in This is YUGE | 91 Comments »

Year 7 – Happy Anniversary, Mint

Posted by Pepper on July 15, 2017

Dear Mint,

Let me start by acknowledging the fact that this letter is late by several months. Our anniversary was in the end of March and I am writing this to you in the middle of July. I wonder what the delay implies. Have I stopped attaching significance to the ‘little things’ like the letters I have been writing to you? I hope not. I will attribute the delay to the changes and events that took us by complete surprise, made us sit up and scream ‘Oh My Goddd, is this really happening?’. I know you understand what I am talking about, so you will pardon and overlook the delay.

7 years of this crazy ride. How did we fare in the past year? I’m not quite sure. To start with, the first half of the year was so full of stress, so full of unanswered questions and well, drama. Should we move back to the US? Maybe not. Let’s try finding you another job that lets us stay in India. What? You aren’t able to find a single job that is comparable to your current one? Time is running out. What do we do? Give up on the US job offer too and stay without any job?

Maybe that is stupid. With no other job in hand, maybe we don’t have a choice but to move back to the US. But I don’t want to move. Should we give up on our dream of adopting a baby in order to make the move work? Is it worth it? Where is life headed?  Argghh. I remember being full of tantrums almost all year round, blaming you for our inability to ‘decide’, hating the uncertainty we were going through and feeling totally out of control. I think a lot of our potential moments were lost due to me either sulking or being hysterical.

To add to the issues we faced, I noticed how much you grew this year. And how much I didn’t. Of course, I am not talking about the wretched growing up that we adults have to do. I talk about the growth in your interests, passions and desires. What were just hobbies at one time turned into full blown passions. Your heightened interests in the world of board games and frisbee as a sport left me feeling disconnected.

You joined clubs, became a part of several groups, devoted exclusive time to understanding the subjects of your interest, took these ‘hobbies’ very seriously and reached a whole new level of involvement. Sadly, I didn’t discover any new passions of my own. The very geeky board games that we play will always remain a hobby for me, I doubt they will ever turn into a passion. I blamed you for allowing these activities to eat into our time together. You blamed me for being dispassionate about them.

I suppose these unmatched interests is something we just have to live with and work around. We’ve reached a point where you forgo a lot of your interests in order to spend time with me. But I keep wondering if you are masking the resentment that probably lies beneath? On most days, you seem very spontaneous about what you give up. So I do try to be equally spontaneous about letting you go and pursue your interests when I sense you really want to. Trying to maintain this equilibrium is hard work though, and I keep wishing our preferences were more aligned with each other’s.

And then there was the move. If I thought the act of moving was stressful and tiring, coping with the move has been far worse. Time and again I have compared my present life to the life I had back in Mumbai and each time I end up feeling like I’m getting a raw deal now. I know most others feel differently so let’s not debate that. But the massive changes and the associated discomforts made sure I wasn’t at my best behaviour. And you smilingly put up with it all.

I have to say, I have only been able to tide through the madness because of your reassuring presence. I love the way you hold me. It calms me down magically. The coming year is going to be very intense for us, probably the most intense and overwhelming one we’ve experienced so far. If we continue to hold on to each other and take one step at a time, I think we’ll be okay.

Here’s a picture one of our friends took of us when we were cuddling up. I love candid pictures. No pretense. No posing. No being self conscious. Pretty much like our relationship.

b12

Thank you for being there. Always.

All my love,

— Pepper

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 10 Comments »

The sister visits..

Posted by Pepper on June 23, 2017

I hardly write here but this is something that I have to put down on the blog. The sister is visiting and I really can’t be more excited.

You see, we’ve been planning this trip forever. In fact, we really wanted her to visit even when we were living in the Bay Area several years ago. But back then, she always had some reason not to. She even cancelled her trip because of a silly college assignment at one time. Talk about being nerdy!

This time she seemed very enthusiastic about visiting us. She had almost two months off from school. The summer break is one of the few perks of working as a teacher, I suppose. So plans were made and tickets were booked. I had a mental countdown going on.

Of course, I always have to find some reason to worry. This time, I was worried about her traveling alone, since it is something she has never done before. I sent her detailed instructions about the process she had to follow to get through all the formalities at the various airports she would pass through. A part of me knew she would be fine, yet I was anxiously pacing around at the airport waiting for her to step out. I breathed such a sigh of relief when I saw her finally emerge.

She spent the first few days combating a bad jet lag. We started venturing out only after her sleep cycle was regularised to a small extent. What do I say about her experiences so far? Let me just say that as of now, the sister hasn’t been that enamoured by the US.

We usually spend weekdays at home, watching some show or the other. I still don’t drive (despite having driven in this country for years, and despite having a valid California license. Sigh.. somebody shoot me!), so we are usually dependent on Mint to take us around. We go for long walks by the lake in the evenings. The lake side is something she really appreciates. It’s so beautiful. Who wouldn’t?

Weekends are a burst of activity. We’re usually out all day and you’d be a little horrified if I showed you my tan. But who cares? So far, we’ve done the typical touristy stuff. We took her to the Golden Gate bridge, and despite the heat, she felt too ‘cold’ because of the constantly lashing wind. Honestly, I don’t blame her.

We also did the customary Pier 39, Lombard Street and other touristy spots and while she seemed to be having fun, there was nothing in particular that she was really wowed by. We’re definitely taking her to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite but other than all of that, do any of you Bay Area folks have any recommendations for us? Any favourite hang out spots, food joints, up coming events that you can point us to? Any information will be much appreciated.

Other than all of this, visiting this country has given her a reality check of sorts. The sister has been so utterly spoilt, always having lived under the care of my parents. She is disgusted by how quickly the dishes pile up in the sink and that they don’t actually self clean, that you got to work to put every single meal in front of you and that food doesn’t self cook, that vacuuming and laundry can really tire you out.

She is still getting used to the fact that you got to step out to buy something as basic as milk or carry the trash out yourself. There is no ‘milkman’ delivering a bag at your door step or somebody knocking on your door to collect the trash. She now agrees that just fending for yourself is a full time job. I’m glad this visit is proving to be such an eye opening experience for her.

Posted in Meet the family, Uncategorized | 33 Comments »

Name game

Posted by Pepper on April 28, 2017

There are several things that annoy me about Mint. The one thing that tops the list is how he has saved my name on his phone. Assuming Pepper is my first name and Mill is my last name, my name in his contacts reads ‘Pepper Mill’.

Like I said, this annoys me. It makes our relationship sound so official. I am all about adding a personal touch. Fine! You don’t want to use the so called cute names, but why can’t you use my first name and leave it at that? Maybe he could call me just Pepper?Why add the surname? It’s not like he knows a million Peppers anyway. And even if he did, I’d expect him to suffix their names with whatever he wants. Not mine. I am supposed to be the primary Pepper in his life. Okay, that does sound a bit hysterical, but you get the point.

In his defense, that’s how he saves all names in his phone. All his contacts have the same format, first name followed by last name. The same holds true even for his parents. There is no mom and dad. Just official first and last name. I wish he’d make an exception for me though. He has his contacts synced to his Gmail and he doesn’t want to mess with that. *Rolls eye*

Me? I have all sorts of names for people. Mint’s name was once saved as Makkhan Singh on my phone. We’re done though. I get irked every time I see my name on his screen. When I was saving Mint’s US number after we moved here, I decided he deserved to be only called by his official name too. So first and last name it was. Hmph..

 

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 29 Comments »

Settling down

Posted by Pepper on April 26, 2017

I spent a large part of Feb and March in India. We moved to the Bay Area in such a rush, I knew I would have to make a trip back home to close some open tasks, sign off and wrap some things at work. But other than work, what did I really do in India? Get spoilt. That is all.

Life in India is so, I’m not sure what word to use, convenient? I have been used to getting things in hand. Let’s not get into how good or bad that pampering is for an adult. Suffice to say I was used to it.

Coming back to Bay Area has been hard. When we moved here at the end of last year, we were still settling in. It seemed like the onset of a new holiday. We visited friends in LA. My friend came back to spend a few weeks with me. We were in the process of setting up our home. There was Christmas and New Year and so much excitement. And before I knew it, I was off to India. Returning to regular life here has already made me feel utterly drained out.

On another note, I *finally* got my EAD. For those who don’t know, EAD stands for Employment Authorization Document, more popularly known as a ‘work permit’. I can finally work in this country without being trapped by a million visa restrictions. How liberating that mere thought is! Anyway, due to some personal reasons, both Mint and I have decided that it is best that I do not look out for jobs right away and instead stay back home and give myself a little break.

Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure of what I want to do with my life. I’m not used to staying home all day. The idea of being by myself and being caught in a whirlwind of cooking and cleaning continues to be depressing. This issue stands tall whether or not I choose to work. Living in this country ensures you learn to survive by yourself. And I’m not very good at that.

I keep telling myself I don’t *have* to take a decade to cook a simple meal. I will get efficient and faster with time. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case so far. So the simplest meal will take a few years to whip up. I stand in the kitchen at times, staring at the onion in my hand and wondering how it can possibly take me a lifetime to dice this innocent looking thing? How can I be so slow? How did I unlearn so much in our few years in India?

If it isn’t cooking, it is the washing that takes up all my time. And let me tell you, this is despite all the help I get from Mint. On some days, I feel totally demotivated to cook or fix myself something because the thought of washing up puts me off. Just yesterday, I thought I should make myself some hot chocolate, and later decided against it cos I had just finished the dishes and who wanted to face the prospects of washing a mug once again?

For those of you who swear by your dishwashers, can you tell me how you do it? I usually rinse the dishes so thoroughly before I toss them in the dishwasher that I believe the purpose of the dishwasher is lost. I have already scrubbed the dishes clean before putting them in. Maybe putting the dishes in with some grime is okay? Am I missing something here?

I will find my rhythm some time. I’m known to pick things up at my own pace. Until then I will trudge along. One day at a time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

Hello

Posted by Pepper on April 25, 2017

Some days ago, I got a notification from WordPress that told me my blog stats were booming. This left me confused, because I haven’t posted anything new in ages. What could have led to the surge? I logged on to my account and took a look at the stats to find out what was going on. Now, I have no idea after how long I was glancing at my stats. When you post this infrequently, the last thing you are interested in is tracking the number of hits you get.

So it looked like my stats were booming because of one single visitor. He/she spent a significant time in my world and seemed to be diving in to old posts. Along with him/her, I began to read all my old posts too. It is something I haven’t done in a long time, and I can’t really put in words the kind of nostalgia I was hit by.

Hello there, visitor! Whoever you are, thank you for pushing me to tour my past. It was a refreshing experience, to say the least. I also got wishful thinking of how often I used to update my life here. I’m not sure I will ever go back to posting that regularly, so there is no point writing another ‘I’m back’ post. I end up feeling stupid after each of those. But I will drop by every now and then to at least write an update post and share a part of my life here.

Posted in The black hole | 16 Comments »

Love, cheese and corn

Posted by Pepper on February 3, 2017

I’m taking a little break from chronicling the move. To talk about, you guessed it. Good ol’ love. One evening, the BFF and I were walking around downtown San Francisco. We had no agenda. We were just strolling along the streets, because the city has such a happy vibe. It was lovely, except that it was a typical December evening. Chilly. Very chilly.

And as we passed by Union Square, we noticed an ice skating rink and decided to watch from the sidelines for a bit. And that’s where I saw them. A young couple. And as I focussed on them, I noticed they were dancing. Ball dancing on the rink. Their strides were effortless and they seeemed to share a remarkable rhythm. They were gliding on ice, holding on to each other, swirling and twirling in each other’s arms. It was simply perfect. That’s a picture for you.

icerink

They weren’t the least bit conscious of the world around them. All they did was smile at each other and dance. I couldn’t stop grinning. What a charming display of love. I noticed the BFF also staring at the same couple. Sure, they seemed to be garnering a lot of attention.

And then I thought to myself. People love watching such exhibits. It is a common trate in most humans. Of course, there are a lot of people out there who would think of such acts as nothing more than cheesy or corny. They probably are, to an extent. But my theory still holds. I think majority of us enjoy our share of cheese and corn, atleast when we get to watch it for free.

Talking about love, cheese and corn, I must also mention the most popular post on my blog. And it falls in line with my theory of people enjoying cheese. I wrote this post during the blogathon last January and the stats almost made me dizzy that day. It received thousands of hits.

The post has a picture of me leaping into Mint’s arm as he enters home. To date, that particular post is what gets me the maximum number of hits. It looks like people keep going back there to read it. Or maybe new people find a way to it. I’m not sure, but that post has given my stats a high.

So does the idea of love make you happy?

 

Posted in Small joys | 4 Comments »

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.

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 »

 
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