Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My house

As little girls we are obsessed with playing "house". There is a father, a mother and children. So the pretend play starts with the family waking up, mother making breakfast, sending off the kids to school and father to office. There is a makeshift house made with bedsheets or mom's sarees. There are toy utensils in the kitchen, made of plastic or steel or clay. The children come back from school and go to play. The father is back tired. The mother serves her family dinner in tiny plates, everyone pretends to eat and they all go to sleep.
I am sure there is hardly anyone who has not been part of the "house" drama that we have scripted as children.
I guess the seed of owning your house is sown at this stage. Or the encouragement from parents to own your dwelling. Whatever the root cause, I have carried this dream all my life. And today my dream came true, reinforcing my belief in dreams.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


"Do you know how it feels like to keep quiet for like a day? It's not that you don't have anything to say. It's that there is nobody to listen?" said Veena.
Tripti and Neena listened quietly.  Obviously they didn't know. Their lives were filled with families who loved them. Friends, colleagues, parents, in-laws.
"I wake up, make breakfast, sit on my laptop, make lunch, again work, take the kids to classes, make dinner, sleep. During the seventeen hours that I am awake, I am mostly quiet. It is very rare that I express what I feel. That's why I write." continued Veena.
"But that's so unbelievable Veena.. quiet and you? It's hard to believe. You are the one who talks the most amongst us,  right Tripti?"
"Hmm.. she lives in a world that is unknown to us. Yes Neena, she has transformed into somebody else. But I am glad that she is the same old Veena when we are together", said Tripti.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Vaygeettu entha parupaadi / What plans for the evening ?

Come Friday evening and a John calls a Varghese or a Rajesh and asks this question -
A John - Vaygeettu entha parupaadi? [What plans for the evening]
A Varghese - Prathyekichu onnum illa.. [Nothing special]
A John - Enna koodiyaalo [Shall we meet up]
A Varghese - Aa pinnentha [Sure why not]
A John - Ingottu varunno atho njangal angottu varaano? [You guys coming over or should we come over]
A Varghese to his wife Daisy - Daisy, ivide vallathum undo di.. [Daisy, is there anything here]
Daisy - Meen curry undu, kappa undakaam.. [There is fish curry, I can make some tapioca]
A Varghese to A John - Enna ningal ingu pore [Then you guys come over]

If the phones of Indians in the US are tapped over a Friday or Saturday evening, then majority of the conversations would go this way. It could be different languages, but this is the essence of most conversations in 'family sets' that we Indians form in the US.

So what's a 'family set'.. Its a group of similar frequency or like-minded Indians living in a city in the US. Religion is not a restriction. It never is. There could be a Christian, a Hindu or a Muslim. There could be state-wise demarcations. Kannadigas, Malayalis, Tamilians, Andhraites, Bengalis, North Indians (typically anything other than these states are all collectively called 'North Indians', by South Indians like me :); just like anything below Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are South Indians for our fellow countrymen in the North!). So where was I? Oh yes, family sets. A typical, individual family set consists of three or four families. Then there are groups of family sets that meet at birthday celebrations, or festivals of India. The size of this family set is kept this way in case this group decides to travel, then the 15 seater van would suffice. 

How are these family sets formed? Since we come from a flourishing social background in India, our hormones are actively trying to find and fit into a family set the moment we step into the United States. There are some hits and misses, but eventually you will find your family set. When you move from one place to another, you hang on to your previous family set but again start looking out for your new one. The forming usually starts with one family inviting you to their house for dinner. This is a major custom here in the US, calling someone home for dinner. You show off your house, keep it impeccably clean, cook the best dishes you know and the spread is enormous. The first few dinners are all polished. If you find your home family set, then you slowly start to unwind. Once gelled into the set, the initial polish wears away. The house is a mess, kids are screaming, you will even do with leftovers.

Do everyone have family sets? No. There are families who live on their own, the only answer to that is, probably they didn't have social circles in India or they have not found their family set yet.

So a typical Friday evening. John comes over to Varghese's house and they call Rajesh as well. Daisy is cooking tapioca and heating up the fish curry. Varghese is washing the glasses and ensuring he has ice stocked up. The cars are lines up in the driveway. John comes, his wife walks beside him, their kids are running into Varghese's house. By the time Rajesh walks in John and Varghese have their glasses filled with Jack Daniels and Club soda. A glass with Jack Daniels on the rocks is waiting for Rajesh. The men sit in the backyard and make merry. Jack Daniels emptying out in no time.
The wives are huddled around the dining table, gossiping about a Leela or a Neha, her clothes, her make up, the latest movies, Mohanlal (a Malayali family set) and what not. Some family sets indulge in a game of cards. In between the kids fight, somebody goes to resolve that, to SShhhhhh! the kids, John plays a movie. The kids eat and by the time the husbands' and wives hoolahoo is over, its 1am and the kids are asleep. They carry the kids out to the cars and since the husbands are sloshed, wives take the driving seat.

Same episode, next week. Add John's or Varghese's parents to the mix and you have some good food, better than what Daisy would cook. Maybe there is not so much drinking in the other states family sets and hits the roof in Malayali family sets, because drinking is his birthright! Oh and I missed to mention, if the women folk drink, then the menfolk churn out some margaritas and mojitos. Some evenings are BBQ evenings, with chicken, shrimp, fish, steak, corn and veggies.

At the end of the day its all about unwinding from a long week with some good food, friends and laughter. Good times the Indian way, on the other side of the globe!

So.. vaygeettu entha parupadi?