A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Blah

Posted by Pepper on June 18, 2019

Just when I was getting the hang of writing regularly, my laptop died on me. I’m extremely uncomfortable typing lengthy paragraphs on my phone. So I did what I could in the moment. I let go of my blog.

I still don’t have my laptop, but I hope to get back to blogging. I’m not sure how. I should probably buy myself a new laptop. But then I need a new phone before that. And I’m not sure I can afford to buy myself a laptop and a phone in close quarters.

I have so many errands to run. I wish for the nth time that groceries would magically appear in my pantry. Or that laundry would self fold. I’m going to leave all of those chores for another day. As usual.

I’m craving a coffee from Philz. Like the description in their menu says, their Rose iced coffee is sweet, floral and creamy, with the right notes of caffeine. I will probably get to it tomorrow.

And hopefully, my Tuesday will be less blah than my Monday.

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

M for Mess

Posted by Pepper on May 9, 2019

That is the one word that describes my Gmail inbox. It is such a dreadful mess that I find myself clueless – how am I supposed to clean this up, ever?

I got my Gmail ID when Google had just launched their email service. Back then, not everybody was privy to it. The Blogspot users got 3 invites and I bagged an invite from Mint because at that time in 2004, I used to blog on this platform called ‘blogdrive’. Mint was a Blogspot user and I insisted he save a Gmail invite for me. I was ecstatic and I can safely say I was one of the very early users of Gmail. This email Id has stayed with me for the longest time.

I’m not sure what went wrong and at what point, but slowly, I started noticing a ton of spam. Over time, my email has turned into a junk factory. The sheer volume of unsolicited, undesirable and sometimes illegal emails I get is unmanageable. Clicking on ‘unsubscribe’ doesn’t help. Blocking those email IDs also doesn’t help. And I am not going to even get into how I never subscribed to that crap in the first place. Okay fine, I know this happens to most of us.

But here is what doesn’t happen to most, but seems to be happening with me. My email ID has a dot in it. Now I know there is another ID, which is essentially the same ID that doesn’t have the dot. I am actually confused about how this can even happen, because by Google’s own admission, dots don’t matter in Gmail addresses. BUT there are 2 IDs owned by 2 different people, only differentiating factor is the dot. How?

Let’s call this other person Pepper2. I have no clue who she is. But I know Pepper2 has one son, 8 years old. She lives in Delhi. Her son has been getting a mix of A and B grades, but mostly As. She recently took a vacation to Greece. I’m fully aware of her itinerary and flight ticket costs. She is moving to Bangalore and trying to sell most of her furniture in Delhi. I know all this because all of her email comes to me. And all the emails show my email address, without the dot.

This makes me hugely concerned. Is someone else also having access to all of my email? My inbox is a junkyard, but it is also a treasure trove. It contains mails and chat histories that are very dear to me. And it is linked to my bank accounts and a lot of other services I have signed up for.

Sometimes, I entertain the thought of starting over with a new email ID. Just to kind of purge my past and start clean. But the thought is kicked out almost instantly.  I am not the kind to break ties with my past that easily. After all, like I said, the inbox contains some gold. So I go back to where I began. What do I do?

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

I for Idolize

Posted by Pepper on April 12, 2019

Kids are known to idolize their parents. At least that is the general perception. You, as a parent are a role model for your children. They learn what they observe around them. Your behaviour, your habits set precedents. It is this, this very reality that I hate.

I am a flawed individual. This worked out okay before we had kids, but now that we do, Mint and I are always fretting about the kind of examples we set. What behaviour of ours could be internalized by our children? Oh God, the pressure. I tell you, it sucks

For example, I really want Cotton and Candy to be morning people. I have seen first hand the kind of advantage individuals who start their day early have. Other than being able to fit in a lot more things, I find these people generally more organized and structured. So of course, if I want CottonCandy to learn to wake up early, straighten their beds and start their day with some structure, I have to imbibe the same routine. But I can’t. Mint and I love sleeping in.

Cotton seems to be a morning person so far and wakes up by 7.30 am even on weekends, but I wonder how long that will continue? What they see around them is two adults sleeping in, being lazy and living a lethargic life. I wish they saw energetic parents who woke up and had a routine that included some good exercise.

Or what we eat for example. We have so far been quite particular about what Cotton and Candy eat and in general give them only healthy food. But now every time I dig into my bowl of Kraft Mac n Cheese, I see Cotton tugging at me and pleading for his share of ‘Paatta’, which by the way, I find adorable. Who has the heart to refuse a baby asking for PASTA in such a cute way?

The only way to not feed him that crap is to not eat it myself. What an unfair expectation. Just because I am full of follies, doesn’t mean I want my children to turn out like that. How I wish I could tell him ‘Look, this is unhealthy crap that I am eating. I am allowed to eat it. But you aren’t’.

Or let’s talk about good habits. We want our kids to brush their teeth twice a day. But Mint and I are those gross people who don’t do it ourselves. Yet, we do make the kids brush before bed. And often, I brush alongside them because I know they learn all that they see and all that jazz.

Or the language we use. Both Mint and I use the F word generously in our conversations. No, we don’t use it an as expletive. Well, that too. But it’s more about it being a casual part of our language. Now let’s not get into right and wrong here, but you see, the amount of pressure we have to put on ourselves to NOT use that word in front of Cotton and Candy?

We have slipped a few times and instantly been paranoid about what they could possibly pick up. In fact, the first time I heard Cotton excitedly say ‘Kuck’, I was pretty sure we are doomed and the damage had already been done. Until I saw him pointing at the picture of a duck. Phew.

Parenting is tough business.

 

 

 

 

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

E for Elevate

Posted by Pepper on April 5, 2019

My parents have lived in the same apartment in Mumbai for the last 15 years or more. Safe to say that my family is reasonably close to all our immediate neighbours. However, our last trip to India made us experience a different level of warmth and bonding with the folks next door. The presence of Cotton and Candy made all the difference.

Right from the day we landed, neighbours started pouring in to meet the little ones. The love and warmth they extended to them took me by surprise. Over time, CottonCandy became extremely fond of them too and would insist on spending time in their homes.

We became particularly close to our immediate neighbours. Their daughter, R didi would come to our house every.single.day at around 7.30 pm and spend about an hour playing with Cotton and Candy. Often, her parents would join in after work and we would have a merry time in the evenings, chatting up about our day and playing with the kids. What is it about kids that makes adults bond? We had never experienced this camaraderie with our neighbours until Cotton and Candy came along.

The said neighbours invited us for lunch in the week we were to leave. We gladly accepted. Now what do I say about the food they served? The adais were exceptional. The avial was finger licking. The other accompaniments were delicious. We ate. We were unstoppable.

It was here that I tasted it for the first time. It so happened that I was pouring a spoonful of ghee on my plate of steaming dal and rice. That’s when P aunty told me to try some of her freshly prepared lemon pickle. Saying that, she placed the jar and a clean spoon in front of me. Never the one to decline home made pickles, I added some to my plate and tasted it. Oh my God. I will never forget that first taste. That pickle was a bomb. Never had I tried a pickle so full of flavour. I felt like my entire life had been wasted. Where had this pickle been all along?

I couldn’t stop raving about it to her. I couldn’t stop eating it. Oh God, I want this. I want this so bad, I kept thinking. She seemed happy to note my very genuine appreciation. In my head, I was hatching plans of making her offer me a tiny jar so I could carry it back. Would it be possible that I actually get to carry some of this magic back with me?

Of course, I couldn’t get myself to tell her I want to take some of it and pack it in my bag. So I continued praising it, hoping that was enough. Instead, she offered me the recipe. Oh damn, while I was happy to have the recipe and try it on my own, I was pretty damn sure I would never be able to replicate the flavour. I thanked her for the recipe anyway.

And just when I had given up, the offer came. ‘I have two jars. Why don’t you take one with you? I keep making it anyway’. ‘Oh, no aunty, that is so sweet of you, but don’t bother’ I said. Jeez, why did those words escape my mouth? I said it before I could stop myself. Now what if she took them seriously and recalled her offer? Really, I wanted it so bad, so why did I have to pretend that I didn’t? Perhaps because it would have been rude to jump to it and tell her ‘Oh thank you, I have been waiting for you to utter these words!’ Adults play such annoying mind games.

She insisted we take some. Thank God. In the end, the pickle was given to us in a glass jar of Ching’s schezwan sauce. We taped the lid and packed it in our bags after thanking P aunty a million times. Now what do I say about this pickle, really? Believe me, it elevates the taste of everything it comes in contact with. It takes it to the highest level. We eat it with parathas, curd rice, upma, varan bhaat, and everything else possible. It is pretty damn spicy and we love the zing it adds.

Mint and I have had several arguments when we think our speed of consumption has gone off limits. Both of us accuse the other of going at it too fast. We eye each other’s plate and take note of the quantity each of us has and sometimes get mad because the other seems to have a speck more. After all, we have only one jar and have to use it sparingly.

As I mixed the pickle into my bowl of palak dal and rice and thought of how the taste was elevated, I thought I had to write about this for my post today.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

B for big

Posted by Pepper on April 2, 2019

One of the things I am extremely thankful for right now is the space we have in this house. I’ve grown up in Mumbai, and you need to have lived there to know what that entails. Apartments, popularly called ‘flats’ there are tiny. We are used to fitting our lives into minuscule spaces.

Even in all the years we have spent in the US, I have always lived in an apartment. Living in a big independent house was never considered an option because A) Those are hard to afford (also because we refuse to sell our Mumbai apartment and pay a ridiculous mortgage and effectively pay for keeping 2 homes) and B) I have no idea how long I want to live in this country. I always live with one foot in and one foot out, so an apartment seemed easier to vacate and run out of. A house would make me feel more rooted, which isn’t what I was looking for. However, a strange turn of events led us to where we are today.

A friend (who I met through this blog!) told us they are moving to another place. Would we be interested in renting their current home? Now we had visited this friend’s home several times and always admired the space they had. It was an independent 4 bedroom house with a living room, separate family room, dining area, backyard, the works. Now that we had kids, our ideas began to change and the prospect of living in such a big house was appealing. We had lived in an apartment with 2 energetic kids and seen first hand how hard it was to keep them contained.

Real estate in Bay Area is kind of bonkers, so we were unsure if this house was within our means. Call it destiny and a stroke of luck, things fell in place and we eventually moved in to this big, spacious house.

It’s been 3 months of living here and there are many things I love about it. The backyard for one. We have oranges and lemons and roses and jasmine and many other flowers and trees that I don’t recognise. On good days when the weather permits, we have our meals outside. I love our relaxed brunches in the backyard on the weekends we choose to stay home. The kids love running and playing on the grass.

They also love running inside the house. The large space gives them enough opportunity to expend their energy and that is a win win for all of us. We have been able to give them a separate play room and they enjoy spending hours there. Because we have space available, we are able to maintain a few child free zones. We use gates to bar access to those areas and don’t have to spend all our energy asking them to not touch this and don’t climb on there and no don’t throw the remote and hey no picking up that glass frame, you get it.

However, if you were to ask me what my favourite part of living in such a big house is, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to respond. What I love the most is the amount of storage space big houses offer. Our numerous boxes are lying in the garage without us having to worry about them.

With so many bedrooms and such large closets, we are able to put things away without always having to constantly fold and think of ways of fitting in stuff. Our kitchen cabinets keep all our pantry essentials and paraphernalia contained and give us unrestricted counter space! Our laundry room has a separate cabinet just for fresh, folded towels, waiting to be used. We have separate closets for our cleaning supplies, Costco bulk buys, etc.

This big house and all the storage space I am describing is probably the norm in the US, but remember, I said I come from Mumbai and have grown up learning how to squeeze all my belongings into a few small shelves? And then feeling frustrated with my failed attempts?

Now because of all the available space, our house doesn’t look like a junkyard. I can go a step further to say parts of our house are actually immaculate and the other parts are fairly straightened out. All this, despite minimal effort from us. It is so easy to maintain a tidy and seemingly clutter free home when you have space. I really respect people who are able to maintain order and tidiness in a small house. If you have a lot of space, a tidy home doesn’t tell me much about your skills.

Anyway, I have no idea how long we will have this space to our disposal. I don’t know how long we will live in this house, or what our next house will be like. But for now, we are loving it.

Posted in A-Z Writing Challenge, Uncategorized | 24 Comments »

What happened?

Posted by Pepper on March 28, 2019

Blogging seems to be a dying medium. It’s like all the active players have left the field. I refresh my WordPress reader often and rarely ever see a new post from the people I would like to see a post from. If you compare this to the buzzing world that blogging once was, the difference is glaring.

What changed? Did people get bored? Did I get bored? What made me stop writing, or come down to one post a year? I certainly don’t think our lives got busier. I mean, they sure did, but I don’t know if being busy is the sole deterrent to writing?

Did people move on to other mediums? Is it the age of Instagram now? Has your IG account become your new blog? I was surprised to see some Instagram folks calling themselves bloggers. For a moment, I actually looked around to see if I could find their blog URL And then I realised, they were referring to their Instagram account as their blog, and they called themselves bloggers. When did this shift happen?

I’m really not sure why I quit writing here. All I know is that I miss it like crazy and I feel lame repeating the same thing over and over again and yet remaining absent. I have no reasons to give. I don’t know what holds me back. I have unlearnt how to write.

And so I am throwing myself in the deep end with the hope that I learn to swim again. I am taking up the April A-Z challenge, where I hope to write every day from Monday to Saturday in the month of April. I have taken up this challenge in the past and failed miserably, so I have no clue how it will go this time. But try I will.

If you join me, I will be delighted. Even if you don’t want to deal with the stress of a ‘challenge’, just resolve to post as often as you can in the month of April maybe? I am longing not just to write, but also have some meaty blogposts to read.

And if you don’t want to deal with any of that, please do stop by at some point, reconnect in the comment space and tell me how your life has been? I am also going to try and crawl around the blog world and check in on you, if I can. So either way, hope to connect with you soon.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments »

It’s my life!

Posted by Pepper on January 31, 2018

I am exhausted. Too exhausted to even explain how exhausted I am. I miss this space terribly, but every time I think of stopping by, that one feeling takes precedence – exhaustion. I’ve spent the past few months pleading and negotiating with God for one night of good sleep. That is yet to happen.

I don’t even attempt to shower everyday. The act calls for more energy than I possess. I don’t think I qualify as a palatable specie of the human race.  And I am beyond caring.

We still try and do small things to keep ourselves sane. Head out for lunch sometimes. Or even run to the grocery store to break out of the feed, burp, diaper cycle. But each trip is all about juggling between Cotton and Candy and we end up even more exhausted. Those little trips are important though. We pick exhaustion over insanity.

‘We have no life’, I cried to Mint on a cold Saturday afternoon. He insisted that we should step out and take a walk. As usual, I was ready with my standard response. I feel too exhausted to stir. He reminded me that exhaustion was going to be our default state for a long time but we simply have to get our act together and move on.

So after a little bit of coaxing from him, we strapped Cotton and Candy into their carriers and head out of the door. We do go for walks every now and then but just like everything else, it requires a fair bit of convincing from Mint. I need to be assured that I can do it. I will survive the exhaustion and it will be worth it.

Cotton and Candy love watching the big buses that roll by every now and then. We get a change of scene and some fresh air. So I tell myself it is worth it. We’ll remember the walk we had on this chilly afternoon.

We picked up some hot chocolate as we passed by a tiny store and that swirling cup of chocolate warming my hands made me feel a new kind of delight. We continued chatting as we stopped by a crossing. We spoke about how different our life is now and how we have learnt to find joy in small things. And as we waited to cross the road, I happened to spot this. It was scrawled on a post.

nolife.jpeg

I burst out laughing thinking of how appropriate this seemed to be. Dear stranger, thank you for leading me to the truth. I appreciate you taking the time out to make sure I am aware of my lack of life. Because of course, if I am not speeding by, if I am not rushed enough, if I actually have the time to stand and stare, I have no life.

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 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 »

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 | 22 Comments »

Packing up our life in Mumbai – Part 2

Posted by Pepper on January 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Slices of life, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Packing up our life in Mumbai

Posted by Pepper on January 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

A recap

Posted by Pepper on January 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Slices of life, Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

When shit happens..

Posted by Pepper on October 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 90 Comments »

K for Kindness

Posted by Pepper on May 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

J for Jumble

Posted by Pepper on May 21, 2016

That is what my life seems like right now. Dictionary defines ‘jumble’ as “A confused multitude of things”. While my head is almost always jumbled at any given time, I am trying hard to straighten my surrounding. So how do I cut out the junk and jumble from my life?

There are a lot of things I can do, but I think I want to start with a few basics.

For one, I need to attack my closets with a vengeance. In Mumbai, homes are small and storage is always short. I don’t blame myself for having to stuff a million things into a tiny space. Organizing is particularly hard when you don’t have enough room. Things just find a way to a place in which they don’t belong. Before I know it, everything seems out of place. Sigh.

Anyway, so my first step is to sort through my wardrobe and simply reduce the number of clothes I own. No, they aren’t worn out. Yes, I still use them. No, I am not bored. I am simply tired of having to manage with such little space. The wardrobes are always in a state of disarray and I feel helpless. So one of my tasks this weekend is to pull out tees and other outfits that I think I should say bye to.

Here is my problem. And I think I may have mentioned this before? I don’t really know who to pass on my clothes to. I’ve always donated clothes to our domestic help and their kids. You don’t have to look too far most times. I will have a separate bag of clothes for them. Clothes that I know they will use and appreciate.

But a lot of the clothes I want to give away now are not ones that maids and their daughters would wear. A lot of them are tank tops, halters and other clothes considered ‘immodest’ by some parts of our society. Also, many of these are expensive labels and brands and I don’t feel like passing them on to people who will not value or even recognize them. I wish I had a cousin or a friend I could hand clothes down to, but I have nobody who is my size. So I have a bag full of some neat stuff that I am forced to give away only because I have no space to keep it, but I don’t think an NGO or a domestic helper would really appreciate them. Oh I wish India had a Goodwill. Let me think of what I can do..

Next on my list is sorting out the kitchen. Because of Mint’s crazy obsession with boxes, we have an entire carton of boxes that came as packaging for various kitchen items. He hates throwing any kind of packaging material and it gets on my nerves. Why add to the clutter? He thinks it helps us organize better when we are ready to move next. That logic sounds ridiculous to me. I wouldn’t want to keep a box that came with a set of mugs for 2 years just so we can use the same box to repack if and when we move. I feel stupid for having listened to him for so long. I think it is time to throw out (or put away to recycle rather) a ton of cardboard from our kitchen and free up some space.

And while we are fixing the house, I might as well get the water heater in one of our bathrooms fixed. We’ve not bothered to do that for the longest time. Since the in-laws along with Oregano will be visiting us soon, we will need both our bathrooms to be functional. More on the in-laws upcoming visit later!

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: