A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

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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.

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Posted in Meet the family, Uncategorized | 33 Comments »

Settling down

Posted by Pepper on April 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

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: , | 89 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!

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Because some things shouldn’t be left incomplete..

Posted by Pepper on May 19, 2016

I started the A – Z writing challenge in November last year. To my dismay, it stands incomplete even at the end of 6 months.. I know, I should have at least tried completing it in April, when the entire world was on board. But I didn’t. I wasn’t busy. I wasn’t pressed for time. I was simply lazy. But things that are left incomplete continue to haunt me. And so I will attempt to finish this one more time. I will continue from where I stopped, of course.

The last time, I stopped at ‘I’. Hopefully, May will see me reach Z. Here are all the previous posts in one place.

A for All

B for Blessed

C for Cockroach

D for Dream

E for Exercise

F for Flight

G for Goals

H for Hope

I for Integrate

See you tomorrow, I hope!

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Adoption journey – Part 1

Posted by Pepper on April 7, 2016

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that we are seriously considering adopting a baby. I received a few requests by people asking me to document the process for their benefit. I figured this was a good idea. People don’t know enough about adoption in India. Writing about my experiences would not only help me record my own journey, but would also be a source of information for others who may be interested in going down this path.

So here we go. To start with, adoption is defined as “a legal process that allows someone to become the parent of a child, even though the parent and child are not related by blood. But in every other way, adoptive parents are the child’s parents”. Adoption can be done in two different ways, open and closed. It is important to note that India does not do open adoptions. By this, I mean the adoptive parents are never given access or information about the child’s birth mother / parents. Neither do the birth parents have access to the adoptive parents.

One of the reasons I felt convinced to adopt was because I was sure I would not have to share my future child with her birth family. I know my attitude reeks of insecurity. But I want my child to be only mine, at least during all the formative years. Once the child reaches 18 years of age, he/she has the right to go seek the birth family and the Indian court is legally bound to oblige and divulge all information about the child’s birth parents. Now this, I am totally comfortable with. I feel confident that both me and the child will be secure enough in 18 years. I know I can handle it then, even if it means including the birth parents as a permanent part of my child’s life. But at 3 or 5? I am really not so sure I can deal with it. I know most adoptions in the US are open adoptions and the adoptive parents are happy to involve the birth families in their child’s life. It all seems to fit in seamlessly. I hold such parents in high regard.

Since all legal adoptions in India are closed, agencies play a large role in the whole process. Or at least they did. A lot of the adoption guidelines changed in August 2015. Today, adoption in India is a completely centralized process. It is handled by Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India. After the process became centralized, the agencies role was made smaller.

To kick start the adoption process, we had to first go and register ourselves as ‘parents’ on the CARA website, http://www.cara.nic.in. We had to upload several documents. This was time consuming. Anyway, once we had put together all required documents, we decided to complete our registration on the same day. We filled in all details, selected the gender of the child we wanted to adopt, (girl! of course!) and were under the impression that our task would be completed on the same day. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be so easy.

For one, we were asked to choose ‘3 states for adoption’. That means, in order of preference, we had to note down 3 states our adopted child could come from. This confused us. Why was this a requirement? On what grounds were we to choose? How did the State matter? We weren’t baby shopping! Anyway, after some careful consideration, we realised that this may have been a requirement for a lot of Indians, which is why they had it there.

Since we really weren’t taking this part seriously, we began to fool around. Goa! Said Mint. We love Goa so much. Let’s get our baby from Goa. Karnataka, I said. I think girls from the interiors of Karnataka have gorgeous skin. It went on. Until we realised we were simply wasting time. We had to fill in those fields on a serious note. After some careful consideration, Goa was scraped out. Since Goa is a small state, we thought the babies available for adoption will be fewer in number, making our wait that much longer. We finally selected Maharashtra and two other states. No I will not tell you which ones.

The next thing we had to choose was an agency. The role of the agency in essence is to do your Home Study Report, which is the next step in the process after registering online. By a Home Study Report, I mean an evaluation of you that is done in your own home. Other than the Home Study Report, the agency will also do follow up visits to check on the child after you have legally adopted him/her. There was a long list of registered agencies we had to choose from. Again, on what grounds were we to choose?

It made complete sense to choose the agency closest to your home. Each registered agency showed a wait list number for the home study report. We were shocked to find out the wait list number for home study in some agencies close to our home was 400! That meant they had to study 400 other homes before they even got to you. The HSR is a crucial step in the adoption process, without which things will not move. We really didn’t want to be waiting that long to begin our process.

Mint and I started calling up individual agencies around our home to find out if the wait list was indeed as high as the number reflected. May be they had just not updated their websites? With that hope, we made a few calls, only to end up with more disappointment. The first agency I called was the one that showed the shortest wait list. I was spoken to very rudely and asked to not call again. They said they no longer did any adoption related work. Huh? Then why was their name still there as a registered agency?

Next, we called the CARA helpline to find out if there were any other agencies that were not functional. Why can’t they just update their website instead of making people waste time like that? It took a long time for the CARA representative to even understand our question. She kept sounding impatient and telling us to choose from a registered agency online. She insisted we would be able to view the list. Finally at the 10th attempt she understood what we were saying. That though an agency showed it was ‘registered’ online, they were no longer entertaining calls. After rechecking, she confirmed that the agency was no longer functional. Are there any other agencies like that, we asked. Again, she kept asking us to refer to the so called list to see which ones were registered. I gave up after a while.

We decided to make a few more calls to agencies. After all, we had to make a smart choice here. We would be partnering with these people for the next few months. We called agency A, B, C and D. And none of them was able to put us through the right representative. They kept telling us they don’t know the actual wait list and the concerned person wasn’t available now. We called over 5 times and yet, nobody would give us clear answers. This was highly frustrating.

One of the agencies told us that the actual wait list for home study report was even longer than what it showed online. I asked a few basic questions. How fast does the list typically move? She said something like, “Sister visits one home in a day. There are over 400 cases pending as of now”. What? The concerned ‘Sister’ visited only one home a day? Are there are any other people working on it? Why allot it to a single person when there is such a back log?  She said they had only one person assigned for this role. So even if we didn’t account for holidays, sick days and other delays, we had to wait over a year for the home study before our wait for the child even started? That didn’t make sense at all, and was not in line with what the website said.

After a lot more calls, we finally found an agency we liked. The representatives were good to talk to on phone and they assured us that the home study report would be completed in a month after we registered. The only problem? This agency was situated at the other end of the city. I wasn’t sure we were eligible candidates. Another call to CARA confirmed that we were free to pick any agency as long a it was in Mumbai. Finally, we were making progress. Without further delay, we selected the agency as the one we we wanted to work with and completed our registration online. The process had turned out far more cumbersome than what we’d expected.

To be continued…

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Happy Friday

Posted by Pepper on January 29, 2016

How much would it suck if you last the blogathon for 28 days and then give up on the 29th day? Lots, I thought.

And so here I am, pushing myself so damn hard to type this post as I sit and dine at a restobar. It’s 11.20 pm and we will head back home shortly, but I’m pretty damn sure I will not make it back by 12.

I had a happy Friday of sorts. I worked from home and ended up not really working. Instead, I took a long hair bath, enjoyed a relaxed lunch with mom and napped for a bit. Through out the day, I told myself to complete writing my blog post for today. I even started working on a draft in the evening. But as luck would have it, sudden plans for dinner were made and I had to leave in a rush. I was confident we’d be back home by 11, but looks like I was wrong. If only I had completed my post earlier. I know, I really need to stop procrastinating. Or I l keep finding myself in situations like these.

Okey, we’re driving back now. It’s 11.41 already. I’m wondering why i wasn’t able to have more than a slice of pizza for dinner today. I’m also telling Mint to go slow because we’re crossing a rather bumpy stretch and it isn’t letting me type.

Looks like his going slow isn’t helping either. Or maybe I’m just not used to typing on the phone. So I will stop here. Have a happy weekend!

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Time to head back!

Posted by Pepper on January 26, 2016

I was worried about how I would keep up with the Blogathon in Chennai. Typically, our schedules here are erratic. We end up packing a lot into a single day. Free time is unpredictable and very sporadic. To add to it, I need to find a private corner to jot down a post. My MIL often appears out of nowhere and ends up glancing at my screen. Considering the constraints, I knew everyday writing would be a challenge.

I am glad I sailed through. I stuck to shorter posts. It is something I should do more often. Most of my posts are way too lengthy. What can I do? Once I start to blabber, I find it very hard to stop. But over time I have come to realise, the very idea of writing a post (one that is long by default) is what keeps me from blogging. On the other hand, the idea of writing a short post seems far less taxing. So let me see if I can stick to writing short, frequent posts. I must add though, a part of my is laughing even as I type that. I know short posts and me don’t really go together.

Anyway, I haven’t written much about this trip. Much fun was had, but of course, it can’t be completely free of drama. And then there were multiple cardiologist visits that happened. Those were quite unexpected. I will do separate posts on all of those once I get back. For now, I need to run. I have to figure out how to fit the assorted podis, chips and bottles of pickle into my bag. We also did some random shopping. I bought myself a pair of shoes because I had the time to shop here. And got my mom an idli cooker. I’m not sure why she was so insistent on getting one from Rathna stores. Oh well.. Now, I need to figure out how to fit it all into my tiny suitcase.

We have an early morning flight tomorrow. The vacation is officially over. Back to regular programming from tomorrow!

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What comfort means

Posted by Pepper on January 25, 2016

Sometimes, all my senses collectively want is some soothing. You know, like a reassuring caress. Not because I am angry or unhappy or tired. But just because I feel too caught up in a million things and I want to pause and rub my overworked nerves. And for that kind of soulful comfort, I invariably turn to food. Today, I had one of the best cups of filter coffee I have had in a long, long time. I sipped it silently, savoring every gulp, taking deep breaths and feeling a sense of ease wash over me. That divine coffee quite literally massaged my senses and left me feeling rejuvenated.

The coffee was followed by this plateful of heaven. And my day feels just perfect.

vadai

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On some days

Posted by Pepper on January 24, 2016

On some days, you decide to do a cheat post. Because you’ve had a very busy day. You’ve just completed your annual health check up and the needles have left you with a bright purple clot on your arm. You’ve met a cardiologist because your ECG isn’t great. The cardiologist hasn’t given you great news either. You are part annoyed and part concerned.

You’ve rushed through the remaining day because you had to get to the airport in time to bid your brother in law good bye. You’ve proceeded for dinner and in your dreamy state of mind, had copious amounts of chicken soup thinking it was a veggie one. You’ve gone on to feel very annoyed because you know you end up doing this very often. You’ve then struggled to find a cab that will take you back to your in-laws home and have spent almost 30 minutes waiting.

And now, you are heading back in a cab, tired, sleepy and very acutely aware of the fact that you have just 11 minutes left before the clock strikes 12. You decide to do a cheat post, because on some days, you don’t have a choice.

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I’m the undiscovered land..

Posted by Pepper on January 16, 2016

We were out for dinner tonight. It was an open setting with starry lights. The weather was just a wee bit chilly and it made it all quite glorious. But towards the end, I kept eyeing the time. I told Mint I wanted to be back home soon. Yes, you guessed it. For this damn post. Blogathons are difficult. No, really. Writing a post every single day for 31 days straight is no joke. Like I realised today, it is just day 16. And we have a long time before we reach day 31.

I did complete the blogathon successfully in January 2014, but hell, it wasn’t easy even back then. I think my problem is lack of time, rather than lack of content. Like publishing a post before the clock strikes 12 stresses me out. I wouldn’t mind even staying up late to write a post if I had to, but not having that as a choice makes things difficult.

I participated in the blogathon in January 2015 too, but I gave up mid way. And I don’t feel much guilt or regret. There is no way I could have continued writing every day with all that happened. So I was quite hopeful from the start to complete the blogathon this January. And since I knew it would be difficult, I had told myself I would not feel guilty after publishing senseless posts, picture posts, one line posts, bullet posts, song posts or anything else.

So here I am. Not feeling very guilty despite the fact that this post contains practically nothing. I could continue writing some more and actually make it a little more substantial, but no, I will choose to stop. Because I still have some bit of Saturday night left to soak in. And Mint is waiting for me.

But before I leave, I’ll share the song I am listening to as I type this post. I hang on to every word in this song. I know each line by heart. It is almost an anthem for me.

I’m the darkness in the light
I’m the leftness in the right
I’m the rightness in the wrong
I’m the shortness in the long

I’m the goodness in the bad
I’m the saneness in the mad
I’m the sadness in the joy
I’m the gin in the gin soaked boy

I’m the ghost in the machine
I’m the genius in the gene
I’m the beauty in the beast
I’m the sunset in the east

I’m the ruby in the dust
I’m the trust in the mistrust
I’m the Trojan horse in troy
I’m the gin in the gin soaked boy

I’m the tiger’s empty cage
I’m the mystery’s final page
I’m the stranger’s lonely glance
I’m the hero’s only chance

I’m the undiscovered land
I’m the single grain of sand

I’m the Christmas morning toy
I’m the gin in the gin soaked boy

I’m the world you’ll never see
I’m the slave you’ll never free
I’m the truth you’ll never know
I’m the place you’ll never go

I’m the sound you’ll never hear
I’m the course you’ll never steer
I’m the will you’ll not destroy
I’m the gin in the gin soaked boy

I’m the half-truth in the lie
I’m the why not in the why
I’m the last roll of the die
I’m the old school in the tie

I’m the spirit in the sky
I’m the catcher in the rye
I’m the twinkle in her eye
I’m the Jeff Goldblum in the fly

Who am I?

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