Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Navarathri Diary 2018

We are halfway through yet another vibrant Navarathri season in our town. Armed with spreadsheets that catalogue our golu invites, which is further cross-referenced by whatsapp and text reminders, we Desi women have been marching out early each day this past week with a single-minded determination to conquer the invitation list at least this year.  Everyone knows that it is a losing game because 18 golu visits a day is just outside of insane city, but we do have fun trying. 

Amidst the many joys of the season, one ailment continues to plague the golu-hoppers of our town this year too – severe gas trouble. Obviously, our intestines are not meant to process peanut, garbanzo, vatana, moong and green pea lentils, all in the same evening but when offered with so much love at each golu, what can one do except eat and burp?  Sometimes you just have to take one for a friend.

It is not a big problem for me though. Just to avoid this kind of rude shock to my system, I try to stay bloated through the entire year but for the general population who are on a strict ‘air and water only’ diet, suddenly turning into a birthday balloon must be very scary.  Well, here is how I handled it recently. After the 4th plate of sundal one evening early this week, I found myself at a risk of exploding.  Hyperventilation induced by the stress of an impending wardrobe malfunction actually saved the day.  Who knew that taking shallow breaths would help to keep your blouse from popping its buttons!  
Thanks to my recent India trip, I am going around town this Navarathri season in bright-colored sarees and completely mismatched blouses. Apparently, contrast is all the rage these days. This new fashion is a god-send because none of the matching blouses fit me anymore.

Trying to go with the latest fashion hurt me in the accessories department though.  Heeding to the advice of many well-meaning friends, I took a beautiful, embroidered bag with me on the golu rounds 2 days ago instead of my regular plain black handbag. It looked great. Everyone said so but big mistake! That miniscule, cute bag could fit only 3 almonds, half of a phone and 1 clementine. Where am I supposed to keep my key bunch, sunglasses, wallet, tissues, emergency biscuit packet, trail mix snack packet, water bottle and travel size advil?  My black handbag might not be great to look at, I admit, but it can house the entire universe, if necessary.  Fashion, my foot!

I saw planning at its best when I saw a friend bringing 2 big sack-like cloth bags with her to cart back all the tambulam bags of the evening. Wow! If she ever wanted to rob the US Treasury of all its gold, these 2 bags should do the trick. Very smart indeed. Inspired by her, I put a couple of cardboard boxes in my van to hoard my collections. A bit unsophisticated yes but it served its purpose.

One thing that was new this season was that golu hostesses decided to liven up their golus  by offering interesting quizzes to the visitors.What is the new doll in our golu this year?Can you tell what this sweet is made of?As someone with a very diminished sense of smell and a non-existent memory, I am set up for failure in these kinds of exams.Only a few threatened to hold back their sundal for not giving correct answers.Most of the hostesses were kind enough to give me my consolation goody bag just for participation.

This Navarathri season has seen some of the most imaginative carpool arrangements ever arranged by anyone. 2 days ago, I overheard a conversation while waiting for my cup of payasam at a golu.Anu and Geetha were planning to pick up Latha, hit Kamala’s golu, then go pick up Sudha.Then all were to go hit 5 houses together after which Geetha had plans to swap to another van to continue her round of golus with another set of friends and then wanted Anu to pick her up at Bhavani’s house to go to the next 7 houses on their common list.NASA should take pointers from this group for the next space mission. Brilliant minds such as these are being overlooked everyday.

How is your Navarathri going so far? 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mystery of the misplaced calcium!

‘Meena, don’t do anything rash today. I hope you remember that it is January now.’ That was my husband on his way out to work a couple of weeks ago.  He might have looked down his nose sternly at me delivering that warning, but I don’t doubt for a minute that he meant well.  The same message was subsequently repeated to me by my children at regular intervals.

Their warning is not without merit, I must admit.  January has proved to be a colorful month for me in recent years.  It is when I usually trip over non-existent hurdles, slip on perfectly dry land and walk into very wide, visible walls.  I may have become used to the January routine by now, but it seems like my family has not  I don’t mind the resulting broken bones or torn ligaments as much as I mind the disbelief and skepticism that I invariably face while trying to explain my incidents to others.

I still remember the conversation I had with the front desk person last January at an after-hours medical facility.

Lady at desk – For insurance purposes, could you tell me about how you injured your left leg today?

Self – Oh sure.  You see, my dogs were in the backyard fighting over a toy this evening.  Do you have children or dogs? Then, I bet you know how hard it is to get them to share anything. Short of reading them moral stories from the Indian folklore, I have tried my best to imbibe the virtue of sharing in my dogs but, as you can obviously see here, I have totally failed. 

Lady at desk – No, I don’t see at all.  What happened to your leg?

Self – Wait, I am getting there.  As I was watching through the window, the friendly banter suddenly picked up heat and guess what?  I had never seen such sharp teeth before.  That’s when I decided to step in and play the referee before things got out of hand. That was good timing even if I say so myself.

Lady at desk – Mrs. S, I feel like I should say ‘congratulations’ but WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR LEG?

Self – Well, I ran down the backyard deck stairs to pull my dogs apart. That’s what happened.

Lady at desk – Huh??  Did you hit your leg against something? Did you fall twisting your heel?

Self – Don’t be silly, of course not.  Do I look clumsy?  I just ran 10 steps.

I still remember her dazed look when I was taken in to see the doctor who later pronounced my ligament torn. 

While the MRI showed the soggy state of my ligament, the x-rays spoke of a whole new  story.  Apparently, instead of boosting the strength of my poor bones, all the calcium that I intake end up rushing to my heel forming little bone-like spikes there causing pain while I walk.  So that’s what has been happening to my calcium!

Many days, I had wondered about this so it was a relief to know the truth finally. I like a good puzzle as well as the next person but where is the satisfaction in an unsolved mystery?  I was, therefore, glad to put the mystery of the misplaced calcium to rest.  At least, I know now why my bones threaten to break on me at a moment’s notice.  

The year before last, it was my arm’s turn.  I had shoveled a small, 5 x 5 area of snow off my driveway only to find that I had torn the ligament along the elbow.  Those days, I was still a bit afraid of being stuck in an MRI machine.  I distinctly remember that room being eerie white, the inside of the machine being too small, and me being disproportionately big.  Not an ideal situation really but thanks to the January phenomenon, I have practiced enough to outgrow my distaste and fear of the machine now. 

This year, after catching my family watching my movements worriedly ever since New Year, I decided to be smart and take precautions.  After all, I don’t enjoy the inside of the MRI that much.  When Mr. Jenks called announcing school snow closings, I was already ready.  I had made extensive plans for hibernation based on the weather forecast and had injury-proofed myself.  I had stocked the fridge and the pantry enough to survive a five-year famine and had ensured that I wouldn’t have to step outside once snow started.  When at last, the pitiful 2 inches of snow hit Richmond, I stood by the window watching the world swirl pretty in white.  Every time I opened the fridge and was met with a parade of milk cartons, I patted my own back.  Bring it on, fate! Let’s see how you get me to slip this year. Hah! 

2 inches of snow and our county, naturally, closed schools for 5 days.  I never could get that math to add up but then I have never been much in mathematics.  While the snow turned to ice and the ice refused to melt on the surfaces outside, I sat inside warm and safe in my private haven congratulating myself on at last foiling fate.  

After 6 days of staying indoors, I was starting to turn moldy. I threw open the doors and stepped outside on the 7th day. There was no snow, ice or dampness anywhere in sight.  It was as good a day as any.  Enjoying the warm sun on my face, I walked towards the car with a long list of errands to run.  Next thing I knew, my ankle had twisted from under me and voila, there was that familiar feeling of pain and the even more familiar sight of swelling. 

Was it ego or simple pigheadedness that let me drag my feet for 10 days without seeing a doctor?  I am not sure but I did will it to be a mild sprain.  Yes, there was swelling but I could walk on it so why would I concede victory to fate yet?  When you have plump feet like mine, it is very hard to distinguish general plumpness from injury swelling but at last, even I could clearly see that the swelling was not going down.  With a huge sigh, I finally called my wonderful doctor who promptly ordered x-rays and sent me on my way to the Orthopedic office.  

When I walked in to the room, the doctor said, ‘You look familiar’ and that prompted me to remind him that he had treated me last January too.  He even asked about my dogs.  That was sweet of him, I thought.  He took one look at the fractured bone in the x-rays and said ‘Okay Meena, time to get you in a boot. Let me get someone to bring you a boot.  You must wear it at all times except while going to bed.’  I hesitantly told him that I had the boot from last January but asked him if one could use the left boot for the right foot too.  I was so amazed when he said the boot was universal.  Go figure!  Who would have guessed they made universal boots like universal remotes!

When he next made an attempt to get me a pair of crutches, I shook  my head smiling and said, ‘I have them too doc.’  He was pleased, I could tell.  How many patients come in to see an Orthopedic doctor already owning a universal boot and a pair of crutches?  January is not completely without blessings, I thought as I came home to my wonderful, universal boot.   

Friday, October 6, 2017

An avalanche of apples!

Tut tut, click click, tut tut tut, click, click, click...

That was me typing furiously all this week looking up recipes involving apples.  After making a few pitchers of fresh apple juice, a pot of apple rasam and a bottle of spicy apple pickle, I ran out of ideas but sadly, not apples.  

Around this time every year, most Indian homes experience an avalanche of fruits.  It’s Navarathri season which roughly translates to fun, comradery and an unholy amount of fruits for most people. It is the season when Indian women systematically empty the local stores of all produce and buy fruits by the truckloads.  Interestingly, they will not eat a single fruit from that purchase. Say, a woman buys 100 apples.  She will distribute all of it to her friends who visit her golu giving the illusion of an empty fruit basket. 

Forgive me for this quick detour.  I have only recently started to appreciate how math is interwoven in our everyday lives so here is a brain-teaser for you. If I bought 100 fruits and distributed 2 fruits per person, how many friends visited my golu?  It is such a rush of power to know I can make my own word problems. 😊

Getting back to the fruit distribution conundrum, now that the woman had given away all her fruits, where do you think she was headed next?  To her friends’ homes, naturally.  It was her turn to receive fruits now so she would patiently haul her collection bag, visit every golu house in town and get her share.  Odd? Yes, but also totally fair.  

This is my story every Navarathri season too.  At the end of Saraswathi pooja last week, I was back to being in possession of over 100 fruits.  If you think, this is the sum of all my problems (oh wow Meena) you have never been a performing arts teacher on Vijayadasami day.  

I love Vijayadasami.  It is the one day when my students lose the strained, constipated smiles and seem genuinely happy to see me.  I get warm smiles and cozy hugs generously that day.  To me, it is the best gift ever but the parents of my students are not so easily impressed.  They are convinced that nothing short of multiple bags of apples, oranges, bananas, pears and clementine will convey their love effectively to me.  While I truly appreciate the sentiment, I do wish they will take pity on me and throttle back their love just a bit. 

When my doctor advised me to include fiber in my diet last year, I don’t think she meant this much. Any more fiber and I will have the shiniest colon this side of the States.  

Last night, I dreamed that I was being held hostage by a giant red apple who was holding a banana to my head. An orange was shoving a clementine down my throat.  I was so glad to wake up from the nightmare right at that moment.  It was scary stuff.  

After consuming apples in all possible forms for a few days, I did what any teacher worth her salt would do.  I threatened my students with extra homework unless they each took a bag of fruits home.  A little harsh may be but hey, it worked.  The mountain has now shriveled down to a manageable mound.  Hallelujah!