Plank in my eye

That morning - I had mixed feelings. I was going to meet Leo for the first time and was excited about it...but was also scared that, in person, I might not like him or worse yet, he might not like me. Our's was a typical 21st century NRI self arranged marriage. In any case, what I want to write about now has little to do with our first meeting [ I will ellaborate on that in another post :-) ]. So without deviating too much, let me get to it. That day one of the things we were talking about, to make ourselves feel less awkward, was recently watched movies. Karthik ( who was kind enough to accompany his friend) did a great job of making us both feel comfortable. And I remember he was the one who brought up the movie "Crash". For those who have not seen this movie, bluntly put, its about racial discrimination and how everyone of us (regardless of our race) are prejudiced and have pre concieved notions of people just based on the color of their skin. Leo and Karthik raved about this movie and I went and watched it the very next day. Needless to say, I loved it. However, it did not touch me or hit a spot in that special way that some movies do. I realized at the time that it was because, although I could understand the interplay of the emotions of the characters in that movie, I could identify with none of them.

A week or so back, there were notices posted on the doors of all the apartments in our complex. It was about a couple of "incidents" in a near by apartment complex - two African American males had stolen some stuff at gun point. Their descriptions were given...and the usual warnings were issued. I really did not think much of it...Untill last night that is. It was about 8.30 PM. Leo and I were in the living room watching "According to Jim" and having our dinner (Tomato biryani), when we heard a loud rap on the door. No one, I repeat, no one has ever knocked on our door at this hour before...well except when we order Pizza of course. I went to wash my hands and looked through the peep hole. The person had already knocked twice by then. I saw a very tall well built African American male - he knocked again and I could sense that he was getting a little impatient by now. Well the next part is what prompted me to write. I did not open the door. I just stood there not able to decide what to do...My brain had not formed a coherent train of thought - it was as if it was an inverse involuntary just would not give my hands the command to open the door. At this point - Leo got up and washed his hands and went in to put on a shirt. The gentleman had knocked almost 5 times now. I literally went and hid inside the bedroom. [Jeez was I overreacting!]Leo finally opened the door and did not hide his annoyance at being interrupted during dinner. I could hear them talking and then heard Leo shut the door. I came out and asked him what all of that was about...what did he want... Leo showed me his keys with a queer expression on his face. Then explained to me that the gentleman was a neighbour and had wanted to let us know that we had left the keys on the door. He was being kind. That was it. You can imagine our embarassment...

I couldn't forget it the whole night. I felt so terrible at having passively insulted the kind neighbour. And now I could feel the powerful message that the movie "Crash" had conveyed. I kept thinking, "well, I have not been a victim of discrimination so far, so I can't really identify myself with the movie".It was like a slap on my face when I realized that I was actually on the other side of the fence last night. This verse is for me: Matthew 7:5 "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye"

Hundred Rupees

Once in a while homesickness hits me and it brings a bout of nostalgia with it. And when it does I find myself yearning for those sultry summers, crowded bus rides, long waits in endless queues at the bank, post office etc., - the same things that I used to detest about India a few years back.

Being the first born and having a tom boy streak in me, I often took the role of the son my parents never had. I would replace burnt fuse coils, climb up the attic to fetch rarely used vessels for my mom (she saved them for special occasions ..or when we had company), run errands like going grocery shopping at the Teppakulam market (I was an expert bargainer), going to the bank to withdraw money - going to the postoffice to send a registered mail with acknowledgement form. And mind you this was when I was about 8 or 9 years old - not even a highschooler yet. I would usually wait for an adult to cross the road and I would stay close to them while they crossed it.

I would like to narrate an incident that happenned on one such occasion. I was asked to run an errand to buy something. I am unable to recall what it was now. But I do remember that I did not even have to cross the road and that the place/store where I had to go was only a few minutes walk away from my home. I was holding a small basket (the kind that is woven with plastic wires) and a hundred rupee note in my hand(That was a one time thing - my mom did not have change - I was usually given a maximum of Rs20.00.) After this incident I remember constantly chiding myself for not having held these two items one in each hand. I had both of them in my right hand and half way through my walk I realized that something was wrong...I checked my hand - and you guessed right. The hundred rupee note was gone! I felt a cold hand squeeze my heart...I hastily checked inside the basket, hoping that it would be there....It was not heart was sinking to the depths by the second...and already, tears were welling up my eyes. I backtracked and searched for the hundred rupee note all the way back home, all the time furiously wiping the tears off my eyes...I didn't want to attract the attention of the passers by...still somehow a couple of them stopped and enquired if I was alright "enna paapa aachu?" I thanked them and said I was fine and kept searching. I looked for it thrice (walked back and forth that stretch of sidewalk or platform as we used to call it) and finally had to accept that I had lost it.

I came home crying and my parents were so alarmed.(My dad had just come home for lunch). I explained what had happened and I could see the relief on their eyes. They were terrified that something worse had happened. They consoled me that it was OK...that I didn't do anything wrong....The worst part was that- their understanding didn't make me feel better at all...I blamed myself and could not forgive myself for losing Hundred Rupees of my father's hard earned money. I was only about 8 or 9 but I knew the value of money. I knew that, that was reason for the tense atmosphere in our house during the last week of every month.

Something happened yesterday at home that triggered this post. Something that struck a cord with this incident. We had been on a moving spree these past few months[For those who know me : From Ypsi, MI to Lafayette, IN to Dyersburg, TN to Farmington, MI]. We had dumped our stuff in our cars and had not unloaded everything until yesterday. We hooked up our cable and internet services yesterday and I wanted to hook up the modem with the free wireless router that I had gotten while I bought my Dell laptop. I had been saving it all this while, because I knew that eventually when we moved into our own apartment, we would need it. And yes, you guessed right again - it was gone. Searched the car thrice, searched the entire house numerous times to no avail. And I started crying. Leo could not understand it period. He chided me for getting worked up over something as trivial as a $50.00 Router which I had anyways gotten for free. And I don't blame him. He was right.

Just makes me realize how somethings can get so ingrained in you. It was not the $50 that I was lamenting for - it was the fact that I had disappointed myself yet again. I had lost another Hundred Rupee note.

Vanilla Sky

We watched Vanilla sky tonight. I liked it, although I won't say that it is one of the best ones in the science fiction aisle. What makes me write this post though, is one of the central ideas in the movie: the never ending quest of man to "live" beyond death. What is death after all - isn't it the end of consciousness as we know it? For all those beholding the dead - it looks like the dead person no longer has conscious thought and his physical life system has ceased to function. But what about the dead person him/herself? Is consciousness a separate entity that can exist in an external dimension? What if the dead were not really dead after all? What if they or their consciousness or soul, as we colloquially call it, had somehow transcended into another dimension which is not conceivable or even comprehensible by us.

My deliberations do not serve to shed any light whatsoever at this never ending mystery. Rather it re emphasizes the desire and hope of 90% of humans - that death is not the end, that this life here on earth is not all there is to it, that all our pleasures, pains, sacrifices, prayers, beliefs, temptations, passions, guilts, resentments, rages, smiles, tears and dreams are not all for nothing. We simply do not want to think that it all really does come to an end and there truly is nothing beyond it. However if we somehow accept that this life on earth is all that we have, then I wonder what kind of people we would become. What will happen to righteousness. If we are leading a righteous life now, isn't it partially because we believe in some way or the other, that we will reap the benefits of all our goodness sometime in the future...after our dealth " when it really matters"? What happens then if we convince ourselves that there is no judgment day, there is no accumulation of karma to be carried over to the next janma or no moksha or naraga- no heaven nor hell. Perhaps it is for the best that we believe that death is not the end....

Snow fall and Michigan

We moved to Farmington Hills, Michigan on Monday. Familiar surroundings, lots of Indian faces, 73 degrees F outside and finally Leo and I in our own sweet apartment. Overall we were feeling great. I was able to temporarily forget my abhorrence for the Michigan weather. That is until Wednesday when I had to drop off Leo at the airport for his interview at Merck, NJ. MI weather chose the precise moment I started the car, to rear its ugly head. It started pouring and I was drenched by the time I filled the tank at the gas station. I cursed myself for not having filled it before. Then on the drive, the rain drove me nuts, literally covering the windshield and all windows with a thick sheet of thundering water. There were moments when visibility was nil and I could not decide if I should pull over and risk driving off the edge of the road or keep driving and risk hitting someone in front or slow down and get hit by someone from the rear. Trust me, 275 South is not the freeway where you want to be in this situation. Finally we both made it on time and Leo rushed into the airport after a perfunctory peck on my cheek and a hasty "luv ya". Not surprisingly there was no rain on my drive back and parts of the road were even dry.... it was as if nothing had happened ... Sun was shining.... sky was blue...and there was no sign that the clouds had exploded on us just a few minutes was as if the road and all of the outdoors were mocking my fury and frustration... this was Michigan after all - what was I expecting?

After spending an evening of solitude and saying the family prayers over the speaker phone [leo joined me from the hotel room in NJ] I decided to call my mom. Spent a good two hours on the phone with her - she said she had watched "The lake House" and liked it. Me was happy 'cause I was the only soul in my circle who seemed to be awfully fond of the movie. She is a great fan of Tom Hanks and I was surprized that she hadn't seen Forrest Gump. Recommended that she watch it but ended up narrating the entire story to her. Anyways I said good day to her and good night to myself and finally gave in to slumber.

This morning I was sitting in our living room which was completely bare of anything except for my university days' desk top computer, set on the floor. I was browsing for about 3 hours all the time surreptitiously watching the outside through our two large windows for signs of rain. I've got to go pick Leo up and I want to be prepared this time. Atleast mentally - there's nothing much you can do about it physically right? Anyways I was watching and saw that it was starting to snow!!! It would stop for five minutes and then start again with a gust of wind. At first they were just tiny flurries which would melt even before hitting the ground....I was slowly drawn to the window for a closer look and I stood there watching the first snow of the year for about 15 minutes. Slowly the flakes became larger - like the big fat ones - the kind that stay on the window sill for a few seconds before melting into nothingness...and incredibly I caught myself wishing that it would snow heavier so that the green of our golf course view would turn a pristine white. And then as a slow smile pulled at my cheeks, the realization hit me: MI winter is not so detestable after all :-)

Padmasani ma'am

Last night I started reading the blog of Padmasani Ma'am. Anyone who has a remote interest/knowledge in Indian classical music forms will testify to, what a genius she is after reading her posts. More than anything else, her compassion for humanity and true desire to spread and pass on the wealth of musical knowledge that she has is clear in every posting. Her observations and explanations are invaluable and I for one am glad that I got the opportunity to read her blog. It was by fortunate accident that I bumped into her site. This is the link to her posts:

Jillinnu Oru Kaathal

Thank God Gautham's day out with Aishu was Kundhavi's nightmare...I was getting angrier by the minute as I watched Gautham slowly swaying towards Aishu....I know the guy was crazy about her and they both get ripped apart and all...but after 6 years of a blissful life with the innocent Kundhavi if he had let his emotions run wild at the first sight of Aishu, I would not have forgiven him. Understood him yes - but not forgiven him. For then he would have been just another guy - not a hero - not someone whose life and love is worthy of a movie.