Flash Fiction 19


They said she wasn’t pretty, they demanded dowry and mostly they had a problem with her chosen profession – she was a boxer.

 

SHE won an Olympic medal.

 

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Flash Fiction 18


He was a candidate that polarized the nation. In the primaries the voter’s base had loved him. He said all the right things, most thought he was the second coming of the GOP. Once he’d won the Republican nomination, though, his gaffes became legendary.

 

He handed the election to her when the nation went to vote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That had always been the plan. He had to ensure that he was such a buffoon that no one would want to vote for him. How else was this nation going to get past its reservations on electing a woman president unless the alternative was him?

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The changing face of romance


Long, long ago when I was a young person, if you’d asked me what my idea of a romantic date was, I’d have told you that it was one of the following

A moonlit walk on the beach
A candlelight dinner
A trip to Paris

At least those were my ideas of an uber romantic date. Needless to say, they were inspired by the movies and Mills & Boons that I sneaked home and read without my parents’ knowledge (In a household where my dad read Ponniyin Selvan and other assorted works by Kalki, reading Mills & Boon was considered blasphemy)

Well, I grew up and fortunately for me, I’ve had the opportunity to try out every one of the above things.

The DH has taken me out walking on the beach under the moon and the stars. It was great, I have to admit, pretty much everything I was expecting. Only, I didn’t foresee all the sand that would get on our footwear and our clothes and would require a whole lot of cleaning on getting back to the hotel room. Oh and I definitely did not expect the crabs. The little critters came out of the sand and went crawling over my feet giving me the fright of my life.

The candlelight dinner has been a favorite go to date idea for a long time. It’s an idea I love. The whole anticipation of an evening in a sophisticated setting, the getting dressed up part and the ability to spend some quality time with the DH have been my favorite things. This is something we have stopped doing, though, since the DD was a toddler because a squalling, wailing baby and an upscale restaurant don’t mix. Also, there cannot be much conversation when you are busy cutting up food on a little one’s plate or ensuring that they are not going to upend their glass of water on their own head or someone else’s. Now that the DD’s grown up, we did give this a try with a small change. The DD went with us. We thought she was old enough to experience “fine dining” plus she loves getting dolled up and was keen not to pass up on this opportunity. However the experience was a little less than satisfactory because this time around we realized that candle light does not provide quite enough light to read the menu. We had to use the flashlight app on the phone to do this and every time the DH and I would say something sweet to each other the DD would roll her eyes and one time she even asked “Are you guys drunk?” So the candlelight dinner is definitely an idea to be shelved until the DD can be left alone at home.:(

The Paris trip was truly phenomenal, except if you really want to see Paris you’re going to have to hoof it. We walked miles and miles in Paris and loved every minute of it. We even felt more in love in the “city of lights” but were too tired from all the walking to do anything about it.

Yesterday the DD was at some event in the downtown area and once the DH and I had dropped her off, we had a few hours to kill. Right next to the event venue there was a Farmer’s market and we thought we’d check it out. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we walked slowly through the various vendors’ stalls. If you know anything about the Pacific Northwest you’d know that we take our food very seriously. We are very conscious about where the food is coming from and how it’s been processed, we are leaders of the locally grown, locally sourced organic food movement and we are snobs about it, too. So this farmers market was crowded with people doing their weekly food shopping. There were people carrying baskets and cloth bags and they were piling in the veggies, the eggs, the meats. It was a vibrant scene and our first time seeing it all because although we have lived in the region for a decade and a half, I’m not an early riser and in order to shop at farmer’s markets you have to be out and about early in the morning. By noon, all the good produce is gone and by 2:00 PM the market closes down.

The DH and I walked through the shaded area where the market was set up. We tried samples of cheeses, of freshly made salsa, tried healthy juices and as we walked we earmarked the things we wanted to buy later. We got a Cafe Au Lait at a coffee stall that was doing brisk business. Once our first round was done we got some breakfast at a joint serving freshly made Mexican food. After a sumptuous breakfast we started walking through the stalls again. I got some broccoli, baby radishes, colorful potatoes (there was a stall dedicated to potatoes alone), we bought bagels, chips and a habanero hot sauce. We picked some really great pears and last but not least the DH bought me a bunch of deep red peonies. This was the first time the DH has held my hand for so long after our initial years of marriage with no kids. We found time to talk about a bunch of things we don’t normally discuss while oohing and aahing over a fresh discovery like truffles. It was a beautiful day to be outside and it occurred to me that for the first time in my life I was having a great time in the vegetable market (a farmer’s market IS a glorified “subzi mandi“). As far as dates go, this impromptu “date” for that’s what it was, was one of the most romantic ones ever, and no we weren’t feeling ebullient because we’d imbibed alcoholic spirits just in case you were wondering like the DD.

It got me thinking that as you grow older maybe the moods and shades of romance change too. Maybe it is only couples like us who have been married for what feels like an eternity who can see the beauty in something as mundane as buying vegetables with the loved one. Or maybe, I’m just getting old and prefer doing things in broad daylight that do not require me to pull out my glasses or the flashlight app🙂 One way or another, I’m glad to have discovered romance again on an ordinary Saturday morning at the local bhaji wala’s.*

*see subzi mandi

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In defense of self defense


I wrote this article last month to submit to Parentous.com but my submission was beyond the scheduled date. So sharing it here.

Have you ever been in a position when you have felt helpless, as though you did not possess the tools needed to get the job done?

In India in the 90’s when I was a teen, it was a fairly common thing for us to walk everywhere. Cars were not as ubiquitous as they are today. Walking, or public transportation were our choices. We walked or took the bus to school, we walked to classes, to the market. Heck, if we met friends in the evening, we walked around the market in the evenings because there was no park nearby and as teen girls we were too cool to play games like tag or hide and seek

I was molested the first time I was 12 years old. I was on the bus, on my way back from school and the guy behind me put his hand up my skirt. In the less than one minute that he had his hand in there, I died a thousand deaths. There was confusion – did his hand accidentally land there, did I send out some sort of signal, how could this be happening in broad daylight? There was shame and embarrassment. Most of all, there was crippling helplessness. I had no way of knowing what to do.

In the years that followed this happened over and over again. It happened so many times that I began to come to expect it. If I was feeling particularly pretty, there’d be catcalls, if my dupatta slipped in the bus, the guy next to me would try to feel me up. If a guy was standing behind me in a line, he’d press up against me. I learnt defense mechanisms – pin your dupatta to the kurta. In the bus, if there is an empty seat next to a guy, do not sit there. Carry your school bag in front of you so men can’t paw your breasts. Make yourself small, hunch your shoulders, and make no eye contact. If you pretend to be invisible, maybe they won’t see you.

While I was doing all this, there was a growing rage inside of me. I was and am a very confident person. My parents had raised me to be strong, bold and with a healthy sense of self-esteem. To crouch into nothingness was not in my DNA. Every time something like this happened, I wanted to hit, punch, claw and kick. Unfortunately, in 90’s India, in a middle class neighborhood, the kind we lived in, self-defense classes weren’t available nor were they affordable. So I learnt to cope with others’ bad behavior. I learnt to modify mine to attract as little attention as possible.

I married and moved abroad. Our life here required a car so now I was driving everywhere. Back home too, my parents and in-laws’ affluence meant that we were no longer required to walk or take public transportation. I had moved on in life and I naively believed that the world had moved forward too. I would read every so often about cases of sexual assault but it was a world removed from mine. After all in this day and age when there are so many ways to get your updates on the world you can pick and choose what you’d like to read in an online newspaper or on social media.

This method worked beautifully for me until I became a mom. One of the blessings of becoming a parent is that for the first 5 years or so, you have no time to breathe. One little being in your life occupies so much of your heart and head that you have no capability to focus on anything but them. The first 5 years of the daughter’s life were somewhat like that. My child and my parenting problems were all I had room for.

If one of the blessings of parenthood is to focus on your child to the exclusion of everything else then one of the banes of parenthood is we take everything personally. Parents are unusually adept at putting themselves in others’ shoes and nowhere is this truer than when something terrible happens. When I started to truly pay attention to the world again (this was once the daughter started school) the world came back into focus with quite a bang. I realized that I may have moved on but the world remained where it was. If anything, it had regressed a little more. The world had not stopped treating women as objects at best and a commodity at worst. They had learned to leverage technology to do this so now sexual assaults were being recorded and disseminated to absolute strangers.

As a parent, I was back to feeling helpless again. While in everyday life my child leads a fairly sheltered existence – we drop her off to school and pick her up, we accompany her everywhere, how long was I going to be able to keep this up? The daughter would grow up, she’d learn how to drive and eventually I was going to have to prepare to let her go into the big bad world out there.

Way before I became a parent I had some ideas about the kind of parent I’d be. I had always wanted a daughter and had decided that if I had one, I would never, ever teach her to make herself invisible. She’d learn to fight, kick, scream, punch – all of the things I did not know how to do.

We did have a daughter and she was completely unlike me. I’d always been a tomboy running sweaty and disheveled through most of my childhood. The daughter was a dainty, pretty little thing. She minded her manners, loved playing dress up and was docile and shy and quiet. I started to fear for her even more. Finally last year, I told her that she was going to be enrolled in martial arts. She said she’d try it out but wouldn’t pursue it if she didn’t like it. For the first time as a parent, I said I wasn’t giving her a choice. This was something she wasn’t getting out of.

We enrolled her in classes last January. She’s been learning for just over a year and I’m going to recommend that all parents of daughters find self-defense classes for your child right away. The daughter has grown stronger. She’s gone from having stick like legs to having strong gams. Now when a boy at school teases her or looms over her, she has found the courage to ask him to back off or she’s likely to roundhouse kick him. The classes have done wonders for her self-esteem. The child who used to get her feelings hurt constantly has learned to stand up for herself.

I’m not naïve enough anymore to believe that self-defense classes will protect her from every bad thing that comes her way. God forbid she ever find herself having to take on more than one assailant or someone with a weapon. In those situations, unless she’s a Bruce Lee or a Jackie Chan the outcome will not be great.

What I want is for people who pick on her to know she’s not going to cave out of fear. More importantly what I want is for her to know her own strength. To recognize that she does have some tools in her arsenal that she can use. In this day and age while we work on raising our next generation of empathetic, sensitive and feminist men, we also have to work on raising strong women. This is my attempt to do so.

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Year in review 2015


It’s that time of year again. Another year is coming to an end. This year has been a good one, a fun one and hey, what do you know I even kept some of the resolutions I made in this post.

So here’s a quick review of what went down this year

  1. I quit Candy Crush – cold turkey. Sure, it took me the first 4 months of the year to do this but I’m over it. No more sneaking a game in, in the middle of the night, in my bed. It was hard work but it’s been a good thing. I have had more time to do things such as read and write.
  2. I did make a few friends, not as many as I’d hoped – the important thing is, they’re real life friends, people I meet for a cup of coffee or a drink. Some of these friendships do not involve the families. I’m friends with these women because we want to be friends with each other. Also, I made it a point to look up old friends on my trip to India, met a couple of them after close to a couple of decades. I even took a trip to Texas to meet one I hadn’t seen on 15 years. Friends wise this was a phenomenal year
  3. At the beginning of the year one of my resolutions was to volunteer more. I managed to volunteer a couple of times at the local Food Bank.
  4. Last, but not least, I have very recently started writing for an online Indian Parenting magazine. I’m a newbie, have just turned in my second article to Parentous.com. See if you can find me there.

Sure, some things were left undone. I did not learn a new language and I still use a lot of “I” in my posts. I’m working on cutting this down by writing more Flash Fiction so hopefully in the coming year, this resolution will come true.

The other thing I wanted to highlight by way of this post is the fantastic year DD’s had.

She got a distinction in her Hindustani vocal exams. She earned second place in the Classical Music Piano Festival organized by the State Music Teachers’ Association. She cleared her level III Piano exams. She made it to a Math and Science Magnet middle school. This means she’ll be in an accelerated math and science program starting next year. She started martial arts at the beginning of the year and now has a green belt and a mean roundhouse kick🙂

However, her most important accomplishments this year haven’t been academic. This is what I am most proud of when it comes to DD. She volunteered at the local Food Bank twice with me. She led a sock drive for the local homeless shelter with her 5th grade classmates and collected over 300 pairs of socks to donate to the children in the center. Last but not least, DD’s class won a contest and earned $375 in gift cards to a local clothing store. The class decided, as a whole, to donate the whole amount to the aforementioned homeless shelter. Yours truly spent one Saturday morning shopping for clothes for the kids at the center. We donated them later that weekend. Thanks to DD and class, around 10 kids in the center will have brand new clothes for Christmas, some for the very first time.

Thanks to DD’s efforts and a little bit of my own we did have a very giving, kind year, the kind that has made me genuinely happy and content.

Other highlights during this year included a work trip to California that I thoroughly enjoyed, a trip with my entire family (mom, dad, brother, SIL and DD) to Delhi and Agra. I got a chance to introduce DD to people who have known my parents since they first married and have known me and my brother since birth. It felt great to have all uncles and aunties share with DD stories of our childhood. Seeing the Taj with my baby was something special. I also hauled back some old pictures from our house and it was the most valuable thing I carried back from my trip along with the memories.

I’m looking forward to wrapping this year up with one last vacation. We are going to be travelling to Puerto Rico with my cousin and family later this week. I’m excited to see my nieces and spending some quality time with my SIL.

This is one of those years where I’d like to continue all we did during this year into next year. I hope the next year is as full of laughter, kindness and love as this year has been.

I hope your year has been more good than bad and that the coming year bestows health, wealth, peace and joy on all of you

I will see you all next year. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all!!

HNY 2016 images

 

 

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