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All in the Family

Cast
Cousin USA- Green-card bhaiya
His kid- baby Hurricane
Cousin India- Ration-card bhaiya
His kid- baby Toofan

Two years ago,
GC bhaiya was in Chicago with family, mainly to visit his wife’s brother’s family. We met them at a mall and exchanged courtesies. Tried to befriend Hurricane (my niece), all of 3 years who was acting like a lady already. She looked like a sweetheart and just tugged at my heart while she showed me her little new dress. There were two kids in all including GC’s wife’s brother’s little boy around the same age as Hurricane. He was a darling too, the way he imitated everything she did, coz she was such a bully. I had to buy the kids something. I had come empty handed like a sorry ass.

I held their hands and ran with them to the Disney Store leaving the parents behind. “Yes Kiddos! This is your kingdom and I am your slave. Go pick whatever you want and Alpha bua (aunt) will pay for it. Go on, don’t be shy.”

Shy? That word probably wasn’t instilled in their vocabulary or actions. They went crazy and ransacked the store. In no time they came back dragging the biggest automated Mickey Mouse twins in the whole freaking planet. Slowly reaching out for Mickey’s shoulders, I pulled out the tag and gingerly looked at the bill while humming a tune. Tune faded and was replaced with look of horror. Aiyya! Yikes! This could have made Walt Disney himself bankrupt! The brats sure had been instilled with an eye for opulence.

Looked around to see if their parents were sneaking up on me. ‘err Darlings, Sweety pies, this Mickey is yucky, bad Mickey! Come here… come this way; see all this good stuff lying in this huge basket that says SALE? Wow! Miniature Mickey! See you can actually put it in your pocket and walk around while chewing on it…how cute is that? How about a Goofy key chain?

“Auntieee! We want this one! Wheeee!” they pulled out two hideous looking one-eyed green monster that screamed 50 dollars each.

“Oh My God, kids, your parents will never let that thing into their respective homes. One monster is enough.”

I tried every marketing gimmick and also tried playing with their psyches. After much negotiation, she settled for a slightly affordable Dumbo the Flying Elephant. He wanted the same darn thing, nothing cheaper (of course). Anyway phew! *wipes sweat from brows*

Happily, they skipped out of the store, each holding an elephant replica. How cute! Their smiles were worth every penny I didn’t spend.

Suddenly Hurricane started wailing and yelping, falling on the floor and creating enough commotion and concern to have Bush divert his troops from Iraq. I was flabbergasted. Maybe she is going to complain to her parents about the cheap tricks I resorted to, tricking poor innocent children. Holi will be played with my true colors in every family get together. GC will think I don’t earn enough and might even offer cash for subsistence. Why didn’t I get them the grossly humungous Mickey and sold my car instead? My ghastly thoughts were interrupted…

“I want THAT Dumbo!” she screamed throwing her own, kicking it to the side and grabbing his elephant.

--------------------------------------------------------

Recently when I was in India, I spent time in my other cousin’s (GC’s brother RC) house. Lying down on his daughter’s bed and regaling her with some kiddy tales, I saw a very familiar elephant staring at me from the top of her toy shelf. Wondering why that elephant stood out among the rest of the soft-toy population out there, I asked Toofan, ‘Baby doll, where did that come from?’

‘Oh bua, GC chachu (uncle) bought it for me from America!’

O Sister, Why Art Thou?

Having a smart older sister who outshines you in school is not a very favorable situation to land into. Ok, before my brother slaps his lawyers on me, let me rephrase that sentence quickly. Having an older sister in school is not a very favorable situation to land into. Period.

When I walked pass the school staff-room, Asha miss called me in a stressed-out, worried voice. Thinking that the worst had happened (like me falling short of the highest grade by half a percentage), I scurried in looking vaguely embarrassed as other teachery eyes fell on me and took mental note. ‘Yes, miss?’ I ask patronizingly.

“I’m checking your brother’s Biology record book. How difficult is it to draw a plant? Does this look remotely like a plant?”

“hmm…not exactly. If I were to use words to describe that, I would say it looks like frog’s mucous that developed tentacles.” I breathed a sigh of relief knowing this was not about me. hehe.. This is so cool. My brother is in trouble.. tralala.

“Yes! This boy needs serious improvement. Look at his handwriting. Why does it look like a cockroach walked on an ink pad and later decided to run amok on his note books?”

Composing my exhilarated self and putting mature thoughts in my head, I said, ‘Ermm…He is not as artistic as me. I’ll draw his records from next time and spare you the torture, miss.’ I got a what-a-saint-she-is look from Asha miss. And I also got a slave for a few months if I kept this from parents.

------------------
Some months later,
I had to pass my bro’s classroom to get some water, when I spotted him…not in his class, but outside it…jeering at his classmates and making faces at the teacher.

Jeez! That kid is ruining our family name!!

Again I was summoned by the teacher in charge. “Your brother has been punished again for disrupting class peace. Very naughty fellow. He’s making innocent plump Vivek also like him.”

‘Yes miss, I will tell my parents about this and save little plump Vivek’s future.’

----------------------
Some years later,
his fate landed him in the same Engineering College as mine, a college known for merciless ragging/hazing. That year, anti-ragging committes were formed and things were slightly under control; but some elements got their way.

Information had leaked to me that a bunch of guys (3rd years) had decided to rag my brother and his friends outside the campus in a seedy restaurant. Sisterly instincts kicked in. More than that, it was the fury of freakin juniors trying to rag my brother! How dare they?! Puny 3rd years!

Being in final year gave me some weird guts to face this situation with my roomie and few other homies. Made back up arrangements if we ever died in the war-scene. We drove to the restaurant in question flaring, kicked a few chairs and created some unwanted ruckus before settling down or getting kicked out. After some serious waiting time (need to kill the informant for sending us early), the 3rd years walked in with the freshies. Thinking they'd pee in their pants on seeing us, they simply took their seats without even noticing us.

I stormed up to them, rolled my sleeves and demanded explanation, much to my brother’s mortification and shock. Threw in the Dean’s name, my grandpa’s name and associated myself with a few super goondas of the college.

‘Didi, we know your brother from high-school. We were trying to catch up. Since ragging is on high alert in the campus, we had to sneak in here lest they mistake us for *shudder* ragging them.’

‘Good try, kiddo! Stop didi-ing me. I know these tricks… been there, done that- you know! Scoot now and leave my baby brother alone!’

My brother, positively sick and about to throw up, took me aside and helplessly wailed, ’Stop creating a scene. These are my friends! …at least they ‘were’ my friends.’

-------------------
Same college, a few months later,
‘I met your classmate Arjun in the hallway.’ my brother quipped as I saw him somewhere in campus.

‘Oh cool.’

Next day, I met the same Arjun. ‘Guess where I saw your kid brother?! At Bacchus Inn, in that movie theatre behind..you know where.. umm.. they show..’

‘Ok, Whatever! I got it!’

Hmpf! Hallway, eh?

When I left college, my brother’s was the happiest face in campus. … till he came to do masters in the same darned University I decided to go to.

He had become smarter over time; this time he joined after I graduated. To be safe, he even had a 2 year cushion period. But then, I had left a few spies (frustrated folks who were still doing Phd and would gladly undertake any kind of spying activitiy).

Now with me in Chicago and him in Seattle, I’m sure he still wonders what more damage I can do. But I have to admit, in spite of this, he turned out all right… way better than me! *pats my back*

Earth Day facts

I don’t know what connection I have to Earth Day and what made me volunteer for the Green Team at work. I have the worst track record for these kinds of things, though I have to admit I try. If I remember to switch off the lights, I’ve done a good deed for the day. Ever since I came to the United States, the waste I generate per day must have killed schools of fishes on the way to their school. This has nothing to do with the times when I starved some fishes in my home aquarium (I forgot they need food apart from the water). Ever since, the aquarium houses my winter gloves and scarves (easier to maintain).

Coming back to Earth Day, I sent an email to office folks to come and join the Green Team for a get-together during lunchtime and learn a few fun facts on saving the earth. (The facts aren’t at all fun…like- an average American household uses 600 gallons of water for toilet needs!!!). For the event, I promised to bring green treats (the only way to entice people to come) and have a quiz and give out plants as gifts. I also sent them a link to the Ecological Footprint Quiz so they realize where they stand and what they are up against.

On Thursday evening, while I was busy getting some drawings to our esteemed clients, I got a reminder popping ominously on the screen:
1. Get your ass off the desk 2. Bake something tonight. 3. Buy Plants 4. Prepare quiz 5. Find something green to wear...like a gecko garland (?) 6. Take train to work tomorrow or car pool with Natalie.

WHAT? It’s 22nd already? EGAD! Why did I have to be a smart ass? What about the rest of people? Why can’t they do this volunteering shit? I am a goner.

I took the footprint quiz just in case people questioned my integrity to the cause. The results were disturbing indeed. The quiz brutally told me that I am capable of annihilating 3.2 planets by living the way I do. Shucks! All this, in spite of owning a solar calculator! bah! Surely can’t post these results in the notice board. Must make Ramu kaka in India to take this quiz and use him as prototype.

Bake? Forget it! No time. I rushed to Jewel-Osco (grocery store with funny name) with a cloth bag so that I could refuse plastic and paper (least I could do in this failing endeavor). I picked up cookies and brownies in disposable containers. Couldn’t find anything green... what the heck is green treat anyway? While checking them out, I was so caught up in trying to use coupons, preferred card, not paying for next customer that I completely forgot about the cloth bag. Processed food in plastic boxes in plastic bag! Great going! So here I was conducting Earth day, proving to be an example by promising to plug the landfills and choke sea turtles, not to mention the dangers of getting cursed by my grandchildren’s grandchildren some million years hence.

Ran to work (not really, I drove alone *guilty gulp*), emptied cookies in Tupperware containers, threw disposable evidence. Oh no! Pulled out the same disposable containers from the dustbin and threw them in recycling bins. Phew! I’m a world savior!

Prepared the quiz in 4 minutes. Didn’t have time for multiple choices which led people to scream, ‘This is so tough! How are we supposed to know who founded Earth Day?’

Maybe the choices should have been-
a) Jim Carrey
b) Gaylord Nelson
c) George Bush
d) Tipu Sultan

Dumb asses! I guess I was born on this earth for a reason. Gave plants as gifts to people who got at least one answer right- Earth Day is important. True or False?

One thing is for sure, if not for this volunteering, I would have never known Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day.

Treading on the fine thread of love

Teenage trauma includes peer pressure. Peer pressure includes being teased with random guys you don't really want to be associated with, even in a marooned island with snakes…especially in a marooned island with snakes. ‘Being teased’ leads to thoughts of spending entire life with random guy in question and god forbid- sharing happiness. Spending life with said guy means ultimate self destruction!

Unless….

… you stop this fundamental cycle of catastrophic events and commit the heinous action that will absolve you from future ridicule, embarrassment and misery. So you think… till it haunts you in the future, 10 years later, and prompts you to write a confession post.

Of all the skeletons in my closet, somewhere in the top three shelves will be a few missing rakhis. Imagine telling your western counterpart who just confessed that she lost her virginity due to peer pressure, 'Oh, I tied a rakhi for the same reasons.'

I was supposed to be making arrangements to be engaged to this tall guy in my class for the sole reason of my height, which would obviously lead to subsequent compatibility. My friends (did I just call them that?) had weird logic. Relentless pairing, knowing nods, corny smiles, catcalls when the both of us crossed each other's path at arms distance apart. Wrought with despair, I started crossing out dates in my calendar leading to the D-day when this will all be over. On Rakhsha Bandhan, with no sisterly effusiveness, I accost this guy whom I have never spoken to in my entire life. Embarrassed and indignant, I show him the homemade rakhi and ask him to extend the hand of brotherliness.

If he is interested in spending future in marooned island with you or he is disinterested in palming off some obligatory cash after this deal, he will refuse. Sure sign of extra danger prompting me to cajole and plead. 'I want you as my brother! Please don't do this to me. My dad will kill me; my mom will abandon me if you don't take this. My brother, oh well, my brother will get a brother he has always been dreaming of.'

He will try to escape from this situation if he has no intentions of saving you from evil forces, a duty that comes with being a brother bonded by a single thread. If you are a real brother by birth, this trivial responsibility is not mandatory. Ask my blood brother.

In extreme cases he would need to be drugged in order for you to carry out execution of this activity. He'd wake up distraught to find he has become the brother of a girl he had once intended to marry. The fact that this has not deterred many couples is another issue altogether and I am not covering that subject on moral grounds. I’d like to maintain a pristine blog.

Oh these days, it's even easier for the harried girls. Just inundate the poor unsuspecting guy's inbox with an e-rakhi. Lo and behold! A brother is made out of a villian. He can print it out and strap it around his wrists.

The undying message of love that was brought out on Raksha Bandhan in my school in South India - ‘O Brother, thou shall steer clear of me.’


Disclaimer: I am a firm believer of the pure brother-sister bond Rakhsha Bandhan brings forth/used to bring forth (in old Bollywood movies at least). It’s such a beautiful festival and should remain eternal as long as intentions are clear. The term ‘Rakhi brother’ has always triggered snide remarks and the fault clearly lies with us. Hoping this would change and emotions are not trampled with. In spite of what I had to say in my post, I have diligently followed this tradition with the select few who actually bring out the sisterly qualities in me. I’m in it for the cash, of course.

Double Take


Parthenon in Nashville, TN



Leaning Tower of Pisa in Chicago, IL



A pyramid in Vegas, NV



My hubby in the gym

Things to do # 1- Achieve sobriety quick!

Brand new garb, same old crap

Check out the designer label at the bottom. Luckily I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for this template as Chugs is like Spiderman- helps the poor and hapless by spinning his web. Being a professional web-designer, I think he couldn’t deal with the eyesore and hence the gracious offer, which he came to later regret. He doesn’t like to be heaped with praises (found out the hard way), so I’ll spare him (and myself). But I was immensely surprised at his generosity as I had no clue of his existence. Need to hang out with more celebrities in future.

Now I see Chugs designs everywhere. It’s like when you get your new pair of Nikes, you start noticing other people with Nikes and think- hmm, his Nikes are better than mine! But when you get it for free, you wonder how much that sucker paid!

Chugs, you totally rock buddy! Thanks for putting up with me and my browser and blogdrive. I love this look, but I still see weird things like potbellied, bald guys on the header. The calendar keeps blinking with an eerie message saying- Your expiry date is fast approaching. People, if you see question marks randomly, please substitute with inverted commas, brackets, exclamation marks- whatever suits you...or contact Simon Singh. Next thing I know, Lynne Truss is going to call me and offer free classes (surprisingly it hasn't happened yet).

Ok Chugs, I’ll trust you when you say you can’t see the same problems and that I am going mental (meaning I lack aqueous humor)

Hey, if there are any magnanimous doctors, masseurs, eyebrow-threaders, drycleaners, cops, shrinks etc out there reading my blog, please drop in a note. I am open to charity.

Life is good.

Never

'A blue saucer! Ok, a blue edible saucer! Why blue, why saucer?'

'Ok ma, stop making fun of my cake. I agree it's a little too thin and hard and saucer-like. All I did was use the freaking recipe you gave me! The blue color was my improvisation. Maybe I can use it to play Frisbee with my friends'; I concluded gauging the fact that my hard work may not be devoured with glee in my household.

'I guess no harm in tasting it', said my encouraging mom as she dug her teeth forcibly into the lumpy bar that was called cake. 'Eeauu *cough* Was the salt an improvisation too?'

Little research led to the fact that I had indeed used salt instead of baking soda. More research failed to reveal why I had committed such an act.

'Why do you make me cook in that case? You do it yourself from next time!!!' I stormed out of the room.

'But, when will you learn?' she looked distraught.

Fast-forward all the boring scenes including song sequences and we arrive at the present.

Yesterday, I came back panting and puffing from grocery shopping, with bag handles ripping through my skin. Before I could even slump the bags on the kitchen floor, Pi goes, 'Did you use the coupon for groceries?'

'What coupon?' I asked irately knowing where this conversation was going and trying to feign ignorance regarding aggravating coupons that had caused volcanic eruptions last week for self having ignored their existence.

'The coupons that I painstakingly sort out and keep aside. You could have saved 5 bucks today.' He showed me the location of those culprit coupons.

Defense mechanism at its best, I cut in, 'Whatever!'

A speech was in order about virtues of saving money and on how absentminded and careless and negligent and *few more bad qualities* I am. I'm quite immune to these allegations (rightfully false) as I have heard them all ever since my brain knew how to process external noises.

He looks at the bill. 'Why didn't you use your preferred card that was hanging in your key-chain? You could have saved another 3 dollars.'

I think Mr.Prim & Propah derives immense pleasure in this activity of busting me and desperately trying to make me feel miserable.

'How the hell did you know that? That store fellow never asked me to show it to him! So I forgot like the fifty other times.' I offhandedly remark not bothered one bit.

After a few more minutes, peace doesn't prevail. I get interrupted again. 'Where is the baby food and diapers that you bought?'
Eh?

Investigation proves that I indeed paid for blasphemous items mentioned above. The only recent recollection of similar items happened to be in the cart of the next customer I had encountered in the store. Profound conclusion on my part revealed that I paid for the nice lady whose baby must be wearing my diapers and eating my baby food!

Ominous look from Pi gets me even more infuriated at his thoroughness and obsessive behavior. Maybe it's that involuntary training of being around me. But seriously, who the hell proofreads a bill? What about the time of transaction, is that printed all right?

'Next time you go shopping! I'm not going to bother.' I say trying to sound hurt, salvaging my pride.

'But, when will you learn?' he looks distraught.

It won't be very long when I'll hear the same thing from my kids. Sometimes, life feels like a still picture and not a movie.

Frame those eyes

'I have no absolutely no patience when it comes to grooming. I cannot wake up an hour early to do my hair and makeup. Heck, I refuse to even get up a minute early. But sometimes, when things become aesthetically offensive, I will endure a parlor so that people don't think I'm a Neanderthal woman or an out-of-control dumpster. '

'There is one thing I can't afford to neglect even if I decided to stay in the forest with blind bats. My eyebrows. I am extremely conscious and will go to lengths to get them trimmed/threaded/waxed whatever the country is willing to offer by the time the stubble can even say'Boo'. '

'There was a time when this guy kept looking at my eyes. Flustered, I was bracing myself to refuse any requests for a date.'What's that poky poky thing near your eyebrows?' he asked after much deliberation and to my mortification. '

'I inherited my thick brows from my dad (thanks, pa). Looks rugged and great on him but looks like I sprouted caterpillars and painted them black, not to mention the caterpillars that meet at the bridge of my nose. So you can see my predicament and necessity to have them look like eyebrows periodically when they start to go out of control. With the thick nature of my eyebrows, you could shape them as anything, even George W if you so wished. My brows grow at an alarming rate of ½ a nanometer per day without fertilizers and need to be fixed every 2 weeks.'

'It's a five minute ordeal, even that, as you guys (especially guys) know. So I hate having to travel far and wide (to better places) to attend to this minor detail. The Vietnamese place I go to (on the way from work) is exceedingly rude, barring the fact that she insists on talking only in Vietnamese to me, animatedly.

'I feel this is a nice method for venting about bad eyebrows.

'Suddenly she switches to English and sometimes I do recognize the fact, "Vely thick haaail!"'

'"So Thiiiick, yowl iblouse!" she drones again.'

"Yes, I agree." I agreeably agree.

"Too much Haiiil. Tsk tsk!" She persistently whines.

"‘Why do you think I freaking come here?' '

'Yes, why do I go there?! Before I could envision a place where eyebrow artists know how to treat their guinea pigs, I was smacked on my head for stirring! Owwwch! Need to find a civil and cheap place.'

'Voila, I found one near my house. I walked in skeptically to see Vietnamese people (methinks this is an ancient mandatory art in Vietnam) and drew conclusions about treatment meted to costumers. After all, I am a stereotypical human-being. With not much of a choice, I was willing to give it a try. "Blouse?" I asked pointing to my eyebrows.'

"Five dollas", she said politely.

I did a little caterpillar dance as the previous place used to charge a staggering six dollars (with abuse).

She ushered me into a separate'eyebrow' room. Made me lie down on what could be construed as a bed. A bed for an eyebrow trim? Very suspicious indeed. I had no way to communicate my suspicions as her English vocabulary ended with'five dollars'. She turned on some bright bed-lights on my face and started performing the'eyebrow' trimming act, which turned out to be more elaborate than an open-heart surgery. Very patiently she laid the tiny wax strips on my face and worked on it for almost an hour by which time my patience had decided that I wasn't going to come here ever again even if my brows looked like the St.Loius arch.'

'Eerie silence was too much to bear. Why couldn't she talk to me in Vietnamese at least?! Or berate me for having thick unruly eyebrows? How about smacking my face, you antisocial being?'

'I could have tolerated a flight to India, but this was one of a kind torture that I will never want to suffer again. It was like being held hostage by a very boring villain. By the end of it, she showed me the mirror proudly. Holiest crap! Every stray hair was intact, jeering at me. What the heck was she doing for such a long time? Stunned, I looked carefully hoping she had reconstructed my nose or something. No such luck.'

"‘Ok?" she asked beaming.'

"‘Yeah. Thanks." I pulled out six dollars, handed it over and ran for my freedom, almost tripping over the doormat. '

Go green!

'I volunteered for some greening initiatives in my office. Please go easy on the praises this time, while my halo goes for servicing. So while we were in the conference room, throwing in some dull ideas on how to celebrate Earth Day, I spotted it. There was a money-plant (people here call it ivy) sitting high on one of the closets totally neglected. In other words, it was dying a painful and lonely death. Completely withered, but showing some vital green signs of life. What a fighter, I thought. Must have been un-watered for months, from the time we had our office reconfiguration. While the meeting was still in progress, I animatedly staged the whole affair and ran off with the plant to the kitchen to revive it. The only thing missing from this scene was a stretcher and mourning plant-relatives. I hope I sufficiently managed to make my green-team greener with envy and guilt by proving to be the one who can stand up for the cause. Well, I did hear a slamming of the conference door. Uh! Such dramatic people!

'In the kitchen, I laid the plant near the kitchen sink, removed all the dried up leaves and twigs, cleaned up the pot and watered it. The soil was still hard, so I got a plastic fork from the cabinet and started jabbing through the dirt to loosen it a bit. If that plant could talk, it would have heaved a sigh of relief and said- Alpha, you have a big nose!

'A colleague walks in. Seeing me poised with a fork and potted plant on top of the kitchen counter, he goes, 'Even for a vegetarian, I think THAT is extreme lunch!'

What was that again?

New Indian guy to join my office.

Boss comes up to me and asks, 'How do you pronounce his name correctly? I want to make sure we useless Americans get it right.'

'Why should it bother you Jack? You have been mispronouncing my name for four years.'

The poor guy was so rattled that I felt bad and quickly tried to calm him down, 'Not that I really care. As long as it doesn't get distorted to Bitch.'

'So it is not Sumaaaan?'

'No, it is Summmun. Mun as in 'fun'.

'Oh ok. Simple enough. I will remember that.'

'Seeuuuummmun, he hollered the next day when I walked into his office.

'No no', I said shaking my head with dismay and regretting the freakier version that was emerging. 'Su…as in Subbramanikanteshwar. Forget it, it's fine actually.'

'Suman, did you manage to get that transmittal out? he asked when I was busy at the copying center.

Not recognizing my own name when it was pronounced right, I didn't even bother to look up this time.


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