A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for the ‘Meet the family’ Category


Posted by Pepper on March 5, 2021

Today is my dad’s birthday. His 70th birthday! What a big milestone in our lives. Most of my friends (who are my age) have fathers younger than mine. So there is a newness in that number. I feel very privileged to be able to celebrate this milestone, even if its from continents away.

Let me be honest, I did sulk a little today because I wanted to spend the day with my parents and have our family together. But I quickly got over it and decided to focus on the blessings. We are all healthy, alive and loved.

Cotton and Candy wanted to wish their naanu after they got back from school. I reminded them that it was the middle of the night in India, so they would have to wait for it to be morning there. Since they were that insistent on wishing him right away, I told them I would film them and we could record a video message for him. I took a video of two little bouncing bunnies, clapping their hands excitedly and singing the happy birthday song. That video become the highlight of my dad’s birthday and I am told he replayed it about 400 times.

My parents and sister in India celebrated the day with pani puris. No fancy outings, gifts, agendas. Just happy mouthfuls of food and contentment. We had our usual video call with them and there was such a happy vibe in the air.

So today, I choose to be happy, because it is my papa’s birthday. And in lieu of his celebrations, I am going to eat cake. And watch a happy movie. And send out happy vibes to the universe. I hope you feel them.

Posted in Meet the family | 6 Comments »

F for Favourite

Posted by Pepper on April 8, 2019

This is a picture of my most favourite women in the universe. My sister, my mother and my daughter, holding on to each other.


This picture is dear to me because it is such an honest depiction of our life. It was bed time. You can see my mom is in her night gown. She was still under treatment for her cancer at this point, which explains the scarf she is wearing. The lack of hair on her head would give her a sinus, so she event slept with the scarf. Candy is wearing a night suit in which her pajamas have clearly gotten too short for her. There are so many aspects here that would be considered imperfect. But to me, this is what perfect looks like.

Cotton would cling to his nani in all the months that we spent in India last year. I had no clue of how to put him to sleep. He slept with his nanu and nani in their room. If he got cranky, he wanted his nani. If he got sleepy, he searched for his nani. I had gotten used to handing him to my mom if I thought he was acting up in any way.

This one night when my mom came to my room to take Cotton with her, Candy jumped into her arms before Cotton could reach her. My sister who was standing near by, instinctively joined in for something like a group hug.

I was on the bed and fortunately I had my phone right there, so I grabbed it and turned on the camera, hoping I would be able to click before any of them pulled away. If I want to capture candid moments, I need to sharpen my reflexes. Anyway, I was able to take a picture before they noticed my phone. In this image, they aren’t even remotely conscious of the camera.

Of course, I went on to take a few more pictures after they realised it and they even reluctantly posed for me, but in this moment that I captured, they were truly intent on only holding each other, with no pretensions or agendas.

Only God knows how much I miss my beautiful family in India.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Meet the family | 10 Comments »


Posted by Pepper on November 28, 2017

is the day my mom leaves for India. After three and a half months with us, it is finally time for her to leave. I know most parents have an inbuilt nurturing instinct that compels them to care for their children, but I can’t even put in words the kind of care I have received beneath her wings. It’s been months since I cooked, did dishes, laundry or changed sheets. And as exhausting as it is given our circumstances, being forced to take on the mantle myself is not what will make me miss her the most.

What I will miss the most is the freedom she gave me to take liberties with her. I knew I could count on my mom to help out in times of need, but my mom stepped in even when needs didn’t exist. Did I need to take an hour long bath when even a 5 minute shower comes at a premium? No, but I would often tell her, ‘Mama, I am done with this. Deal with it alone while I park myself in the bath tub’, and she would actually encourage me to get away despite knowing how hard it is to juggle with two crying babies all alone.

Did I need to sleep in even after 10 am despite having had a relatively good night? No, but there would be times where I would say I don’t want to wake up, and she would pat me back to sleep at the cost of driving herself into a tizzy as she washed bottle parts, ran to tend to Cotton as he yelled, ran back to finish chopping her onion, rushed to feed Candy when she got cranky, ran back to get Cotton’s bottle out of the warmer before it got too hot and so and so forth. Yes, she would run her own private circus for the sake of my beauty sleep.

‘Mama, I’m hungry’, I’d say and she would make sure I eat first while she held the babies. ‘Mama, I’m sick of cleaning poop and don’t feel like it anymore’ and she would tell me to take a break while she would take care of the dirty bums for the day.  ‘Mama, I have a headache’ and she would apply balm on my forehead and give me a head massage. ‘Mama, the babies just refuse to sleep’, I would go to her room at 4 am and complain. And she would gladly wake up and take the baby I was handing over. ‘Mama, I feel like buying myself a new pair of jeans’, and she would assure me she could manage two babies while Mint and I went shopping.

My mom allowed Mint and me to be children. She literally took care of 4 kids. All of that will end tomorrow. My MIL arrives the next day. Can I really tell my MIL I don’t feel like cleaning poop without being subject to a few kilos of judgement? Can I tell her I want to sleep in even after 10 in the morning, or tell her I want do indulge in frivolous activities like shopping while she managed the kids? Most certainly not. After all, I am supposed to be a responsible and caring mother who is unfazed by baby poop or a lack of good jeans.

My MIL is going to stay with us for 6 months, and while I genuinely appreciate the help she is willing to offer, I am also worried as I enter this period of transition. Let me also say that our relationship with the in-laws hasn’t exactly been spectacular. We’ve been riding on rough waters ever since we expressed our desire to adopt a baby. You would think things would get better since we actually ended up having biological kids, but then we chose to give the kids my last name and things went south again.

We’re still in the thick of a storm as we convince the in-laws that no, Mint has not denounced his family (their words) or changed their family name altogether (!) by giving the kids my last name. Mint and I are trying to deep breathe and calmly point out to them how supremely sexist their thought process is. It has been very unpleasant. So I have no idea how the MIL’s trip will pan out. Please do wish us well.

Meanwhile, I will try to hold on to the good times we had with my mom around. There is absolutely nobody who can pamper you the way your own parents do. Here is a picture of all of us, my mama sitting in the midst of Mint and me, as we hold our babies. She has literally been the central pillar of our lives these past few months.


Posted in Meet the family | 20 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 | 34 Comments »

35 and counting..

Posted by Pepper on May 18, 2016

My parents completed 35 years of marriage a week ago. The sister and I call them our angels. We’ve had the fortunate of growing beneath their wings and we can’t feel more blessed. In my eyes, not only are they the most perfect parents, but they also are the most perfect couple. So much in love! They talk to each other at least twice a day on phone when my dad is at work. I hold them as a shining example every time I nag Mint. The guy is known to not answer his phone. Ever. Hmph..

Of course, we had to celebrate the parents anniversary. And after a lot of debating, we finally decided to go for a pool side buffet lunch. It was a relaxed Saturday and we had a great time. All through I kept thinking of what it is that makes the sister and I so crazy about our parents. After all, not all our friends worship their parents the way we do.

When I think of it, it isn’t like they made no parenting mistakes. In fact, I think they’ve even committed some blunders in the past. And no, I am not talking about dressing me up in a frock that had pineapples and the alphabet A all over it. (Seriously, why though?). I am talking about real parenting mistakes. For example, I distinctly remember being whacked by my mom on several occasions for getting a Math sum wrong. In my world, that is blasphemous! You cannot raise your hand on a child for a reason like that. My mum apologizes profusely now when I remind her. She believes she was stupid. The whacking could have deeply affected my psyche and made me fear Math for life. Or did it? I don’t know. But yeah, both mom and I agree that approach was terribly wrong.

My dad, he made mistakes of a different kind. He has always been over indulgent. He would drive the sister and I to school every morning just because the school bus came 15 minutes too early. We paid hefty bus fees and used the service only while returning home. So we wasted half of the fees for the sake of 15 minutes of extra sleep in the morning. I think I wouldn’t do that for my child. What about teaching them the value of money? If we are using our hard earned money to pay for a service, we should utilise it. And what about other life lessons we could have learned? Waking up in time and viewing that as a necessity. The sister and I could have grown up with a sense of entitlement because of dad’s over indulgence. Thankfully, we didn’t.

But, their mistakes apart, they did for too many things right. And most importantly, they acknowledge the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Growing up, my parents turned into our best friends. I’ve written several posts about how terrific they are. I don’t know how I would have turned out without them. In fact is it their awesomeness that makes me scared of being a parent myself. I feel unsure I can be such an amazing parent.

While the sister and I obviously consider our parents to be the best in the world (typical kids, aren’t we?), it is heartening to see Mint echo the same thoughts. He’s never really been very close to his parents, and it is only now that he realises how beautiful and strong a bond can be between parents and child. It has been wonderful to watch him develop a very intimate relationship with my parents. A relationship that is independent of me. He has his own personal relationship with them and I know he doesn’t care about them because they are my parents anymore. He cares about them because they are two people he respects and loves sans obligations. He does think they are the nicest parents ever, and that coming from him is wonderful.

So my dear Mama and Papa, your 3 kids are nuts about you. You’ve had a great run together. 35 years is big. Here’s to many more fun filled years..


Posted in Meet the family | 12 Comments »

My soap opera life

Posted by Pepper on May 27, 2015

I’ve been rather occupied the past few weeks. First, I was busy being stressed out about the in-laws upcoming visit. Yes, their visits usually induce in me a sense of alarm and panic. Because we have to wipe out all evidence of everything that they may deem inappropriate. What if we slip due to oversight? What if they find some objectionable pieces of our life that we have forgotten to camouflage?  The pressure to obscure our life is troublesome.

I’ve argued with Mint several times. Why don’t you tell your parents how we truly are? His response is always the same. He says they are closed minded and too self righteous. They will never understand. And he says he doesn’t care to battle everything out with them. It’s just easier to play pretend games when they visit. Sigh. I kept thinking of how strange their relationship is as I bent down to pick up the beer bottles lying on our kitchen floor.  Yes, we had a whole stash that had been collected over the past few months. We were too lazy to clear it out. Now we had no other choice but to dispose them. Mint’s parents won’t be able to digest the fact that we sometimes drink. After all, alcohol is sacrilege

We cleaned up the whole house. Changed the bed sheets. Bought fresh supplies and yet, I thought the house was far from ‘ready’. They were to arrive the next day and there was so much that I thought needed to be done before they came. When I went to the kitchen to fetch some water, I realises that we still had some unopened bottles of beer and wine. They had been left behind by friends and had been lying around forever. Where do we hide them now? I told my parents to keep the beer in their fridge. They agreed to store only a part of it. But they didn’t have enough space in their fridge to accommodate all of it. So Mint and I decided to drink it all up one night before they came. I remember cruising through the house with a glass of wine in my hand. I considered what to tidy up next. But efforts were cut short by the wine. I think I just crashed at some point and slept, with a list of undone tasks floating in my head.

I went to pick them up early the next morning. I was most excited about seeing Oregano. He’s my buddy. But other than the excitement, I also felt anxiety. After Oregano’s kidney transplant, my MIL takes special care of him. Well, let me just say she is obsessive. His water is boiled. Even the bottled mineral water that Mint and I call for has to be boiled (even though the doctor hasn’t given these guidelines). His meals have to be given dot on time. His utensils are sterilised. Every spoon or ladle that touches his food has to be sterelised first. He eats no store bought food. Everything he eats needs to be completely cooked. He can’t have even cereal for breakfast because cereal isn’t fully ‘cooked’. I was really worried about being able to cope with all of this.

Their trip started on a bad note for me when a wok of hot poha that my mom had made for their breakfast was declared unfit for consumption for Oregano because my mom had unknowingly transferred it to another container that wasn’t sterelised. My in-laws vehemently disagreed to let him touch that. We then had to rush and prepare something else for his breakfast. This made me feel acutely bitter and annoyed. So much so that I had to go to another room and take deep calming breaths by myself. Where was the logic in this? The doc had permitted him to eat chocolates and biscuits now and then. They didn’t come in sterelised wrappers. The doctor had permitted him to drink bottled water and I wanted to remind them that the bottles weren’t sterelised just before the water was consumed either. Why such rigidity for this? I understood if they wanted to continue sterelizing utensils as a general preventive measure, but not doing it one single time and eating that steaming hot poha wouldn’t kill him. I STILL feel bitter when I think of this.

I continued to feel annoyed as the day passed. My MIL was boiling our precious Bisleri water and using it to wash/sterelise Oregano’s utensils. She even chose to use mineral water to wash and rinse rice. Moreover, I was helping her in this stupidity. Each time I saw her pouring the mineral water along with our hard earned money in the drain, I felt extremely angry. Who uses mineral water to wash?! That too after boiling it. Mint got mad at her and after that she thankfully decided to stop washing utensils with mineral water. Sigh. To add to my anger, I watched my MIL as she forgot to sterlise a laddle. She forgave herself and just used it to stir the cooked food. Then why so much drama for the poha? All of this kept getting me mad.

And then I reminded myself of the objective of this trip, which was to spend time with Oregano. If I continued to be angry and annoyed, I knew I would not utilise this time well. He is all set to go to the US in the next few months, and then who knows when we’ll see him next? My change in attitude helped me a great deal. We had some fun with Oregano. We played board games till late in the night, we ensured he had a chance to feast on things he is completely deprived of;  pasta and pooris and potatoes. We went on drives, stopped by Marine Drive late at night. It would have been fun to be able to do things without following their rigid rules, but he didn’t seem to mind living like this and said he had a good time. That’s all that matters.

This trip, we also got grilled by the in-laws for not having kids yet. I conveniently put the blame on Mint. I told them that he wasn’t ready to have kids yet. I was. This isn’t entirely true, but it worked well and Mint had no problem shouldering all the blame. The in-laws could not see his point of view and continued to call him ‘selfish’. They sound disappointed every time they talk about him. It annoys me, but I’ve learnt to ignore it. Clearly, their son who is a star in my eyes is a big disappointment to them. Sad. *Shrugs*

It was an interesting trip. I observed little things that pointed out to me the difference between Mint and Oregano. My conclusion is that they have different personalities, contrary to what I believed earlier. It was good spending time with the in-laws too. I had some good conversations with the MIL. While the trip was good, I was still very glad to don my shorts and have my freedom and space back once they left. I’ve realised I am a far cry from the good daughter in-law, despite my in-laws being relatively good. I will never be able to live happily in a joint family and I am glad I don’t have to. These little breaks and short spurts of living together work well for me.

PS – A friend of mine who reads my blog once told me that my blog is his daily fix of soap operas. While I was semi offended at that time and told him I wanted to hit him, I realised this post with all the family drama in it is the perfect fit for the soap opera tag.

Posted in Meet the family | 27 Comments »

Where she came from

Posted by Pepper on January 6, 2015

We’ve been looking out for a good cook now that we have begun setting up the kitchen in our new house. Although I seem to enjoy cooking sometimes, neither I, nor Mint has the time or inclination to do it on a daily basis. We did it in the US when we *had* to, but now that we have the option of hiring somebody for the job, we would rather do that and use the time we free up to focus on other things. Infact, we’ve always had a cook since the time we started living on our own in India. The setup works quite well for us.

While talking to my mom in law on phone, I mentioned to her that we were looking for a cook. She let out a small laugh and asked me why we wanted a cook. Does Mint dislike the food I cook? I took a deep breath before responding to her. This one has always been a sore point. My MIL does not understand why I cannot take on the entire responsibility of cooking on a daily basis. The assumption that I am and should be the self appointed cook while my husband should do nothing other than judging my abilities and skills obviously pisses me off.

I told her calmly that I cannot be the one responsible for cooking because my office is quite far from where we live, and it is too late to start cooking after I get back home. I let out another laugh and told her, that if at all, she should be telling Mint to cook because his commute is less tiring and he gets home sooner than I do. We were both silent after that.

Here is the thing. I know my MIL secretly agrees with me. She understands logic and reason. But she has spent her entire life living by the norms set by the world. She always wants to ‘fit in’. Her family is full of unreasonable and rigid women who actually believe their daughters in law should be sweating it out in the kitchen, dishing out and serving hot dosas to the rest of the family, no matter what. That is the kind of stuff ‘good’ daughters in law are made of. But most of those women aren’t capable of logical reasoning. Their minds aren’t trained to think. They aren’t very educated.

My MIL is different. At times, I think she is caught in two very different worlds. I’ve tried to understand where she comes from, several times. She was born in Madurai. She was highly interested in education and was a class topper all her life. She completed her BSc in Nutrition. Since she wanted to do her Masters, she was granted permission by her father to do her MSc. After completing that, she set her sights on an MBA. Women completing their MBA in those days was very uncommon. Since she was of marriageable age by then, her father told her that she could start doing her MBA while they were looking out for suitable grooms. If they found any good match, it would be upto the guy to decide whether she could continue her MBA or not.

Her match was arranged. My FIL permitted her to complete her MBA after they got married. They lived away from each other for the first 9 months of their marriage because my MIL was still studying. After that, she moved in with my FIL and that is how they began their married life. Equipped with an MSc and an MBA degree, she considered working for sometime. But she had married into a highly conservative family in which women did not work. In my FIL’s family. almost everybody had chosen to marry within the family. Crazy, in my opinion. But apparently, marrying your cousins and your uncles wasn’t very uncommon in South India back then. My FIL was the only sensible one who put his foot down and insisted on marrying an ‘outsider’.

She began her married life as an ‘outsider’. She tried hard to not be seen as one by the rest of the family. But that tag never left her. Given the circumstances,  she did not want to do anything that set her apart from the rest. Obviously, going out to work wouldn’t get her any brownie points. So the idea was nipped in the bud. Soon, she was pregnant with Mint. And then, with Oregano. She devoted her entire life taking care of her husband and sons. She served them with utmost sincerity, their health and well being being her priority.

That is how she has lived her life. Pleasing and obeying the men and serving her family. Sometimes, I wonder how her life would have shaped had she gotten adequate opportunities. If you talk to her, you’ll know she is a very intelligent individual. She is very knowledgeable and has a strong sense of logic. She has a good command over the English language and is also very well read. So when I speak logic to her, when I talk about feminism and equality with her, I know she gets it, even though she doesn’t say it.

And yet, she will try and persuade me to cook without any help, to look after her son, to strive to be a better homemaker and do everything that we consider to be highly sexist. She is surrounded by conservative, close minded individuals and she has been made to idolise their way of life. She has been made to believe it is the only right way. But sometimes, I wonder if she acknowledges the recurrent clash between logic and belief.

Posted in Gender, Meet the family | 10 Comments »

Oops! I did it again..

Posted by Pepper on January 1, 2015

Yes. I am talking about the blogathon. 31 posts in 31 days. Last year was undoubtedly a lot of fun. But it was also quite crazy. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it again. But then, almost everybody who did it last year was doing it again. How could I be left out? Even the idea of missing it was hurting my pride. So here I am. You read it. For the next 31 days. This time however, I am going to bend the rules a little. I am not going to push myself to publish my post before midnight. It is extremely hard, especially on weekends. Anyway, let’s see how it goes.

The past year has been good. I was going to inaugurate the blogathon with a very different post, but then, something happened. My dad’s bro, who is my Daddy, *finally* agreed to get some blood tests done. Please read the post I have linked to to know how difficult he is. He has been quite unwell for a long time. The test reports are bad. We don’t know much, but the physician called us on his own and asked us to take him to a specialist right away. He wouldn’t give away too much, but he sounded grim. So this has upset us considerably. I am a little too distracted and weighed down to be able to write a meaningful post right now..

We have an appointment with another doctor tomorrow. My job is to convince him to come to the doctor. Only God knows how difficult that is. But hopefully, we’ll deal with it. And hopefully from tomorrow, I will have my heart in the blogathon. See you!

Posted in Meet the family | 11 Comments »

Revenge 101

Posted by Pepper on September 23, 2014

If you know me well, you will certainly know how much pleasure I take in annoying the sister. I slap her ass 9346782491 times a day. I squeeze her fingers until she screams. I think of innovative ways to harass her. Why you ask? There is only one answer to that question. Her reactions are very entertaining. I love to watch her expressions, hear her scream and see her level of irritation. Believe me when I say it is entertaining.

But sometimes she takes revenge.

There was this guy called Rishab in my college. Other than his name, I really didn’t know much about him. For one, he barely attended class. And we did not really interact during the few times he did. I just remember our eyes meeting every time we passed one another. We didn’t even care enough to say ‘Hi’ to each other. It was just a cursory glance and a watery smile.

Just like the rest of my classmates from college, Rishab is on my friend list on Facebook. One day, I happened to leave my account open. The sister was around. The alarm bells rang when I saw her typing something. I ran towards my comp, hoping to stop her in time. Yes, I was positive she was upto something. I recognise that look on her face. Unfortunately, it was too late,

On deciding to message any person who caught her fancy, she opened my chat window. For reasons not known even to her, she chose Rishab. No, she did not say anything scandalising to him. She said something worse. Only two words. But one of them made my cheeks burn. She said, “Hi Rishu”.

I almost died when I read it. RISHU? I had never spoken to this guy in my life, and she was addressing him like that? What exactly must he be thinking about me? How could I undo it? I paced around for a moment and then decided to log out instead of facing him. Really, Rishu? Watching me panic and go red made her roll on the floor, quite literally. I am still thinking of ways to get even. Be scared, child. Be very scared.

Posted in Meet the family | 32 Comments »


Posted by Pepper on September 22, 2014

No, I am not talking about my biological father. He is called papa. Daddy is my other father. Considering how prominent his role is in my life, I am surprised he doesn’t feature all that much on my blog.

I grew up in a joint family. We lived in a mid sized apartment (by Bombay standards) with my grandparents and my father’s elder brother. My dad’s brother does not have children of his own. I am told they were unable to conceive despite all the treatments that were available back then. I was the first grandchild in the family. When I was born, my grandparents suggested I refer to my dad’s brother and his wife as ‘daddy and S mummy’. My own parents would be referred to as mama and papa.

Irrespective of how hard I try, I know I will never be successful in describing the bond I have shared with daddy. I clung to him from the time I was born. Even as a baby, I only slept in the crook of his arm. If you flip through my childhood photographs, you will see the two of us together in almost every single picture. In most of my birthday pictures, you will see my wrapping myself around him as I cut the cake.

This is how you'd find us sleeping on most days

This is how you’d find us sleeping on most days


Cutting the cake on my birthday. You will see my parents only on the side. I always wanted to be held only by daddy.

I realise now that he spoiled me a lot more than he should have. If my parents refused to buy me something, I knew I just had to open my mouth in front of daddy and I would have it. He got me ridiculously expensive battery operated toys. He got me my first bicycle. He got me my first computer when I was a mere child. He got me my first cell phone. I just had to ask and it would be there. My parents knew I always had this weapon in my hand.

I was also the only one who had the authority to question him and at times even reprimand him. I remember throwing away or hiding his cigarette packets. Anybody else who dared to do it had to face his wrath. But he and I, we shared the most wonderful relationship ever. I don’t think he or S mummy missed having children of their own because the sister and I practically grew up with them.

They had to move out of the house we lived in when I was 14, because S mummy was no longer able to climb the 3 flights of stairs everyday. But their moving out did not change our relationship in anyway. We continued to share that beautiful bond. He continued to spoil me. He along with my dad sponsored a part of my education in the UK. He was the one who gave me a dream wedding party in a sea facing five star hotel. My dad contributed to the costs as much as he could but it was daddy who bore the majority of the expenses. Because the whole do was his idea. He saw me getting a little wishful when we happened to be checking out the very upscale sea facing venue. And he decided to gift it to me for my wedding.

That wedding party of ours led a lot of people to believe we were filthy rich. Who else can afford to treat such a large crowd to such finesse and luxury? Unfortunately, that was far from the truth. We didn’t have that kind of wealth to play around with. We just used a humongous part of our savings. And all it took for daddy to do that was a wishful smile from me. I know he is willing to do anything for me. Anything other than taking care of himself.

Sigh. He is the most difficult person on this planet. His obstinate and unreasonable nature has put us all through living hell. He does not believe in the field of medicine. He suffered from high BP for 20 years but he refused to take any medication for it. It resulted in kidney failure. That journey was excruciatingly painful and all of us suffered alongside.

One day his hemoglobin dropped to an alarming level. It was only 3! We got a call from the lab and they asked us to take daddy to the hospital immediately. He needed a blood transfusion, else it could result in a brain stroke or a paralytic attack. Time was precious. But daddy? He refused to come to the hospital. He said he felt fine. We begged and pleaded but to no avail. The amount of stress I underwent at that time is hard to put in words.

Thankfully, his condition stabilized after his kidney transplant. Instead of valuing his new life, he continued to not take care and abuse his health. Last year, we noticed a very scary looking abscess on his chest. The doctor said it may have been triggered because of some infection. It needed immediate attention because he had a pace maker around that area! But daddy? He refused to show it to a specialist. It has been a year and that abscess still exists. We see puss around it and he keeps bandaging it on his own instead of getting it treated the right way. This gives us sleepless nights. Such gross neglect can lead to life threatening consequences. Why does he not understand?

He has been unwell for several weeks now. He’s suffering from severe stomach issues and the doctors have asked us to get a sonography done immediately. Since I am the only person he is even willing to hear in this regard, I have been pleading with him to do it. He refuses out rightly. He is beyond reason.

It all takes such a toll on me. I want to scream at times. Are you stupid? Do you want to die? Do you care about S mummy at all? Are you so selfish? Do you realise what you do to others? Do you really want to die? Are you plain stupid? Ofcourse, I say nothing to him. If I do, I can forget about him cooperating. To deal with him, I have to gather all my tact and diplomacy. But these mind games are tiring.

I feel helpless. The sister too spends nights worrying about him. And S mummy lives on the edge all the time. She is a cancer survivor herself. She does not need more trauma in her life. What he does to us is quite horrible. I have decided to free myself of the stress and the guilt now. Since I am the only person he otherwise listens to, I add a lot of pressure on myself to convince him to do the right thing. I blame myself for not succeeding. I am forever caught in the cycle of anxiety, guilt and fear. I love him very much and he is immensely dear to me, but I have to stop holding myself responsible for his well being. If he is choosing to do this to himself, there is little I can do. If only it were easy to watch your loved one go on a path of self destruction…

Please God, grant him some good sense.

Posted in Meet the family | 22 Comments »

Misty affairs

Posted by Pepper on July 15, 2014

It was a rainy night. With no shelter in sight, the sister and I were getting drenched to the bone. No cab agreed to take us home. To add to our woes, every passing vehicle was splashing us with such ferocity, we were soaked until our waist. Finally, after much imploring and pleading, a cab driver agreed to take us. After shoving our wet and grumpy selves into the taxi, the sister and I slumped into our seats.

Neither of us were upto any conversation, so it was a silent ride. Since the rain was pelting down in full force, I rolled up the windows. The stormy rain coupled with foggy roads was making the windows mist. Watching a thick layer of mist settle on glass gives me great joy. Soon, I started drawing patterns on the mist.

And then my mind traveled back to that day. This is when my dad had heard of Mint’s name for the first time ever. My mom knew of his existence, since she knows names of most of my friends. Including the ones I am not really in touch with. I don’t usually tell my dad such obscure details of my life because he never remembers them. So Mint’s name had never been mentioned in his presence. And since Mint was ‘just another friend’ back then, there had been no occasion or opportunity for his name to be brought up in dad’s presence.

One day, I had stepped into the shower after having some random conversation online with Mint. The steam from my shower had made the bathroom mirror misty. I don’t really know what I was thinking. Or perhaps I wasn’t thinking at all. But I ended up scrawling Mint’s name in big bold letters all across the bathroom mirror. I suspect I thought of him at that time only because I had just chatted with him.

I stepped out of the bathroom and promptly forgot about my brilliance and what I had just done. My dad walked in to the bathroom for his shower after me, but he came out almost the next second. Here is how our conversation went.

Dad: What have you written on the bathroom mirror? Whose name is that?

Me: *Suddenly realising my blunder and going red* Oh. I was just doing timepass.

Dad: Timepass by writing somebody’s name? Whose name is that anyway?

Me: Just some random friend’s.

Dad: Why would you write some random friend’s name on the bathroom mirror?

Me: I don’t know. Just like that. I happened to be thinking of him at that time. Nothing else to it.

Dad: So you were thinking of this random guy friend of yours while taking a shower. Interesting.

Me: *Feeling my earlobes burn because of how suggestive that statement sounded and what it implied* Dad!! What do you mean by saying ‘thinking of him while taking a shower’? I wasn’t thinking of him like that!

Dad: Like what? I said nothing. I only repeated what you said.

Me: Never mind *scurrying away*

I remember how flushed I felt. Especially because, err, thinking on those lines was unthinkable. Mint really, truly was just a friend to me back then. This whole writing on the bathroom mirror was coincidental. I was very mad at dad for having such inappropriate ideas. He always loves embarrassing me by putting me in a spot. Hmph. Thankfully, he forgot all about it and Mint’s name was never teasingly brought up again, the way I feared it would.

Yesterday, as I watched the swirling rain and drew patterns on the misty window panes of the taxi, I thought of my dad. And the first time he heard of Mint’s name. It set off the laughter and my sister glanced at me curiously, wondering what had brought it on. I didn’t give her an explanation then. I only continued to laugh as our cab rode through the rain.

Posted in Meet the family, Splashes of Mint | 47 Comments »

The ongoing battle

Posted by Pepper on March 3, 2014

Some of you have been nice enough to send me emails asking about Oregano. I thought I owe you people this update about his health. I am not sure where I should begin though. The last time I wrote about him on this blog – I said he was diagnosed with a chronic kidney problem. We weren’t sure how fast his kidneys were deteriorating. But we knew the damage was irreversible and unstoppable. The doctors gave us a very rough window of between 1 to x years, before he needed a kidney transplant. The doctors said the approximate value of x was 5.

We were optimistic. We hoped we would be able to delay the inevitable by maintaining a very strict diet and a watchful lifestyle. It all seemed doable in the first three months, when his creatinine level (an indicator of kidney function) remained stable. Things however, started worsening soon after. His creatinine level started rising rapidly. His BP shot up. Also, his potassium level got alarmingly high at one point – putting him at risk for heart related problems. This was brought in control. Another time, he was dehydrated and had to be hospitalised and put on a saline drip. On most days, he feels exhausted and low on energy. The doctor decided to try steroids on him and it resulted in him having a constant headache throughout the day. The worst of all has been his creatinine – it seems to jump almost every time we check.

We hoped to have a few years in our hands before we were forced to think of a kidney transplant for him. However, in just about 8 months, his kidneys have undergone massive degeneration. Today, his creatinine level stands at 6.5! Some doctors recommend doing the transplant once the level touches 6. So as of now, we’re already in that position where we are seriously considering getting the transplant done.

My FIL and MIL are the top two choices for the donor. My FIL first, because he and Oregano have the same blood group. If for some reason his kidney is rejected by the doctors, then my MIL will be tested. The next few weeks will see my FIL getting a lot of tests done. I am worried.

I will talk about myself now, although I have refrained from doing that for a long time. Officially Oregano is simply my brother in law, but he is a piece of my heart. He is one of my best friends and somebody I care about deeply. To watch him go through so much makes me ache. Periodically, I find myself upset. I still haven’t gotten over the ‘why did this have to happen to him’ phase. Every time his condition worsens, my mood darkens and I begin to feel angry, distressed and scared. Plenty of times I have considered venting on my blog, but for certain reasons I have held myself back.

This realisation of him suffering from end stage renal failure tends to thwack me at the most inappropriate times. Whenever I am truly happy, having a good time in life, eating good food and being merry – I feel a jolt. I realise that Oregano can do none of this. And then my mental state begins to spiral downwards. My happiness begins to seem very hollow and fragile to me. One small thing going wrong in our body and it can snatch away all our joys. So what meaning do these joys have? They are too flimsy to be relied upon.

Mint, as always, has been my link to sanity. He pulls me out of my dark moods, assures me Oregano will be fine. He is not half as emotional as I am. He has a very practical outlook and that helps. Slowly, I have turned into a believer too. I truly believe Oregano will be fine. People often claim to be very ‘positive’, but only when they are truly tested do they understand the real magnitude of their claim. I can safely say I have fought my battles and though I falter at times, I have learnt to maintain a positive mindset. I firmly believe whatever is happening, is happening for the best.

My inlaws have been such bricks. And I can see how this trying period has made Oregano and them work as a team. I see my mom in law going out of her way to ensure Oregano has the right diet. She works very hard and leaves no stone unturned. My father in law too has put his life on hold to focus on his son’s problem. They are amazing people.

As for Oregano himself, he is such a warrior. Facing so many restrictions, being put on such heavy medication, having somebody to draw blood out of you every few days, dealing with the side effects of all those steroids, feeling uncertain about your future, seeing kidney failure statistic that force you to face thoughts of death can NEVER be easy. Yet, he smiles and moves on. He doesn’t mope or whine. He created a blog and has started documenting his battle against chronic kidney disease. His attitude towards it all is admirable, and I am so very proud of him.

Speaking of my pride for him, here is something else that makes me beam. Oregano is a brilliant artist. I decided to display some of his creations on my blog. Some of these were made when he was in school! Till date, his sketches make me gasp! Show him any image and he has the ability to create a replica of it on paper. Stunning work, isn’t it? I think his fingers have magic. When I think of it, almost everybody in my inlaws family is an artist. I ofcourse, bask in reflected glory.





Posted in Meet the family | 35 Comments »

Weekend joy

Posted by Pepper on February 23, 2014

So many people around me are doing the 100 Happy Days challenge. While I surely can’t be brave enough to sign up for something that makes me post for 100 days straight, I can definitely use this initiative as an inspiration to write happy posts every now and then. So here I am to note my source of joy for the day.

Today, I spent my afternoon with my bacchas. I have 6 of them in this city. This is exactly why I love living in Mumbai. Like I have repeated a million times already, not just my immediate family but even my extended family lives here. As a result, I have numerous cousins in this city. And I consider their darling kids to be my very own bacchas. The sister and I love them to bits. We spend hours playing with them.

Today morning, my mom’s sister called to let us know that they were dropping in for lunch. She said she would bring her grand kids (my cousin’s kids) along with her. We squealed in excitement. Such impromptu plans bring us much joy. We spent most of our time waiting for them to arrive.

Finally, my babies came. And a lot of fun was had. At 7 and 5, they are very interesting to talk to. I enjoy asking them about their school, who their friends are, what their favourite colour is, and more. Have I told you my cousins kids go to a terrific school? In the right weather, their classes are held outdoors. When all the children in the world are learning to write the alphabet at 3, this school ensures they don’t start learning until 6 and a half. Until then, they train the kids to use their brains and develop their skills in unique ways. They actually tell the parents to not teach the kids to read or write at home, until the school starts readying them. For the initial few years, the kids are far behind other competitive schools, but once the school develops their brains adequately and starts teaching them to read and write, they whiz past the rest at an incredible speed. From what I have seen, their methodology and unusual theory seems to be working beautifully.

What I also love is that they teach the kids some important skills, instead of only focusing on an academic curriculum. They have ‘gardening’ as a subject and spend a significant amount of time learning how to plant and grow vegetation, while being made to understand the need for a greener planet. They get a home cooked nutritious meal everyday and they are made to wash their own plate every single day, right from the age of 5. All the little boys and girls are made to pick up after their own selves and wash the dishes together. For the children, washing their plates has become a way of life. Something they have grown used to and something they don’t think much about at all. I love the silent message the school sends out to them and the non discriminatory environment they are exposing them to.

I keep telling Mint I would *love* our future kids to go to a school like that. But the school fees are enough to cause a dizzy spell. My cousins are doing very well and can afford to send their kids to such schools, but us? I am not sure we have the capacity to fork out that kind of money. It makes me a little sad. Good overall development and a sound education is only available to those who have money. Those who don’t have to settle for schools that are regressive in thought and that preach rote learning.

Anyway, after have gleeful and entertaining conversations with the kids, we decided to play with some clay. We spread out a newspaper and on the bed and got to it. Baby hands and clay are a delight to watch, aren’t they?

clay 1

And speaking of clay, here is something the sister and her friend created a while ago. We had bought a little bucket of clay dough to play with sometime ago and it has been a lot of fun. A very worthwhile buy, I think.


It was such a lovely afternoon. And it is lovely afternoons like these that make me feel so connected to this city. For others, Mumbai is just a city – space starved, crowded and unaffordable. But for me, this is well and truly home. It is where I grew up. It is a way of life. It is where my entire family lives. It is where I spend such afternoons and add to my priced collection of memories.

Posted in Meet the family, Uncategorized | 29 Comments »

Food heaven..

Posted by Pepper on January 29, 2014

My mom, she is a strange woman. She feels guilty eating any food that happens to be loved by her kids if they are not present to enjoy it with her. So if the sister and I are not around, she will avoid preparing any food that features in our list of favourites.  And if at all she does prepare it for some reason, she will serve it to everybody, but will not feel comfortable eating it herself.

Is it guilt? Is it the need to share? I don’t know, but I know I always scoffed at mum. Until I started experiencing the same thing myself. No, I never stop myself from eating the said food. Just that I experience pangs of guilt. It is rather strange, because Mint and I have had several fights over food. We’ve fought over the last piece of chocolate brownie, over the last slize of pizza and more. My mom finds these fights petty, but I can tell you it is not funny when you glance at a shared plate and find it empty all of sudden. I accuse him of eating too fast, and therefore eating my share too. He accuses me of eating too slowly, making it hard for him to keep track of our individual consumption.

Considering that we actually fight over food, it is strange that I find myself wincing when I have the opportunity to eat something interesting all by myself. I think of saving some for him. I picture him eating it. I imagine his reactions. Finishing it all up alone just doesn’t sound appealing. So I end up being more generous to him by saving him a good piece when he is not around. I suppose it is the same with him, which is why he brings me half eaten bite sized goodies from work.

Yesterday, my mum made pani puri at home. The sister was supposed to come and stay with us at our place. She was supposed to bring the pani puri ingredients along with her, so we could have them too. Pani puri is much loved around here. I was waiting for the sister to arrive, so I could get my first taste of the tangy pani. But what do you know? She forget to bring it along with her. Can you even imagine how disappointed I was? 

My mom felt worse. She said she would come over and drop the pani puri at that time. Since she had had a long day and it was almost dinner time, I asked her to stay back. So we made our plans for today. We went to my parents place after work (Nothing new, I know) And there, I had my beloved pani puris, to my heart’s content. Princessbutter, I had a gazillion puris, enough to satiate the two of us.


It was so easy to keep gorging on them, because my mom would actually do the needful in terms of readying the puris before handing them to me. So all I had to do was pop em in. I continued doing that till I was ready to burst. Only after I was through and had let out a contended sigh did I see mom sitting down to make some for herself. That is when I realised she had not had them until then. Sigh. Mothers!


Posted in Meet the family | 27 Comments »

Counting the difference

Posted by Pepper on January 20, 2014

It was one of those days. There was a heated argument and I raised my voice to say what I strongly felt. The parents disagreed. Edgy as I was, I snapped when my attempts to reason with them failed. Then the sister spoke. She echoed my thoughts and said the same thing, word to word. That was dismissed with a, “Oh, you always support your sister blindly! You just agree with whatever she says. You have no mind of your own”.

Since I periodically face similar allegations, this infuriated me beyond words. Yes, each time the sister and I support each other, the parents attribute that to an imaginary vow we made to each other in which we pledged blind support. That is untrue! There was no such vow. We have brains! If either of us disagree with the other, we say it. But can it be helped that we rarely disagree?

I’ve said this before, nobody in this world gets me the way my sister does. Sometimes, I find something disturbing. I fumble for an explanation, but it eludes me. My parents and Mint look at me quizzically, “How can you have a problem with that?”, they ask. I don’t know. I wish I could explain. And then I go on to find out that my sister has a problem with exactly the same thing too. When questioned by the rest, she fumbles for an explanation too. Our eyes meet, and we grin. We might not be able to explain it to the rest, but atleast we know that the two of us completely get each other. I suspect our brains are wired in exactly the same way.

The sister and I are inseparable. Most people around us know it. So it comes to me as a surprise, when some people wonder if siblings with a big age difference can be close. Hell, yes! They can be. But will they necessarily be? Now, there is no one answer to this question. My sister is a good 6 years younger to me. We are still exceptionally close. Yet, I know siblings who are far apart from each other, with a mere 2 year age difference separating them. Some others say it is a gender thing. You know, same sex siblings tend to be more close. Again, I disagree. I’ve seen all kinds of cases and I will say it really depends on other factors..

There are a million advantages of siblings being close in age. These advantages are well spoken about. But, you know, surprisingly, a bigger age difference has a lot of advantages too. My sister’s entire childhood is etched in my memory. I remember her first words, her first steps, her first day in school, all of it. It is all recorded in my memory. Had we been too close in age, this may not have been possible. My mom would nap in the afternoon, leaving her 1 year old daughter to the care of her 7 year old. I felt big, I felt responsible. I taught the sister her rhymes and her ABCs. I was always on the lookout for her when we played with other kids in our complex. And this feeling of looking after made me feel very important and well, joyous.

Ofcourse, there was this age in between. An age in which she would still come up to me with her toys and expect me to play with her. But I had gone past playing with dolls, and playing ‘ghar ghar‘ under the dining table and was more interested in listening to Vengaboys and ogling at Leonardo DiCaprio. So I would strike a balance. I would play with her out of a sense of duty at times, and other times, I would simply sit beside her and tell her about this guy I thought was cute, his name was Mihir, and that he played basketball. Other times, I forced her to sit next to me when I studied, and I read aloud to her from my Biology textbooks.

For me, she was still a baby, at 7 or 8. I would spill out my secrets, my bizarre ideas, my life to her, as though I was talking to myself. After all, I was talking to a young child who I thought understood and retained nothing. To my horror! The brat remembers all those things I said to her. She embarrasses me with a, “You know, Pepper had a crush on this lanky guy called Mihir when she was just 13 *Giggle*”. And I have to rewind my memory first, after which I go “Oh My God! You remember that! Did you have to say it now?”

I’ve had her doling out sane advice to me from the time she was 13 or 14. We’ve had a shared childhood, a shared bedroom, and our share of aimless conversations that happened after the lights were turned off. Today, we’ve reached a stage where age doesn’t matter at all. I do not think our age difference prevented us from being close to each other. In the end, I will say, whether you are close to your sibling or not depends on a host of factors. Age is just one of them.

I am reposting this picture of ours. Me on her. A perfect representation of the nutcases we are..


This post is dedicated to that special someone, who is considering not having a second child ONLY because she is worried her two kids will be too far apart in age, and therefore not close to each other. That is not true, babe. The age difference matters, but so does the environment you bring them up in. So put aside those fears and do what your heart says..

Posted in Meet the family | 27 Comments »

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