A South Indian Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving, our first in the US was a huge let down.  A friend of ours had invited us and a couple more friends to join her family at her parents’ house for the feast.  We were pretty excited at the prospect of experiencing one of the most hyped celebrations of the West. Our host and hostess were very kind and welcoming. The food was great and much to my delight there three vegetarian options – that’s two more than on the menu of the local restaurant! Oh, and there was also the quintessential Turkey – the bird, all the stuffing, some dressing and a whole lot of legging (women out numbered the men.) But somehow, it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving! And you’re wondering how I would know how Thanksgiving feels, if I claim this to be my first one? Good observation! 

The Thanksgiving I know, is from Hollywood movies and sit-coms. And in almost all those movies, there’s a lot of fuss over turkey, the hostess serves a lot of fattening food, relatives turn up with liquor or more food and inevitably there is some huge drama, a big fight, bones are picked – literally and figuratively and by the end of it all, people are on the couch, wearing stretch pants and watching the ‘big game’, if they haven’t already stomped and left the venue in a fit.

I chose the corner seats for our family – just in case there was a fight and we had to leave. But there was no fight, nothing broke, nobody needed digestive aids and nobody saw the ‘big game’. People were very polite and civil with each other, a lot of food was passed around the table and we finished off with dessert and coffee. That’s it! That was all there was!

It was a huge let-down because there was no drama. This just felt like a get-together of friends and family. Dinners like these happen all the time in India. Just add in some loud and raucous laughter and a handful of noisy kids that break stuff and you have a regular Indian fare.

Granted we have gazillion festivals and ample reasons to celebrate but we’re not necessarily known to wait for these special occasions for meeting with friends and family. Any life event is special and warrants a get-together. Pregnant? Let’s celebrate. Birth? Celebration time! The child’s christened? Yahoo! Tonsure? What’s on the menu? Solid food for the child? Time for a party! Admission in a good school? Bring out the bottles! Puberty? Job? Promotion? – All perfectly valid reasons to celebrate. And there’s always a lot of food.
So I didn’t quite ‘get’ Thanksgiving.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving, we’re just going to keep it low-key. My sister and brother-in-law and a few friends are coming over for the holidays. We’ll eat some idlis and dosas, dance to some Bollywood numbers, play charades, some board games, a few rounds of chess, and have a movie marathon through the night. We’ll try and keep it down. 

Inside Out

This Halloween was special. We could really convince DD to be Jhansi Lakshmi Bai for Halloween – the Indian warrior princess who fought against the British for our country’s freedom.  And she was excited about being the princess and shared the story with everyone. She was not just another Disney princess. And we were glad - even if she chose the light saber with her costume. She still knows that Lakshmi Bai fought the British even as she was nursing her infant child.

It’s not that we hate Disney’s portrayal of princesses – maybe at a subconscious level, we do. But, our concern is more with what our child takes away from it. The color coordinated attire, the perfect bun on the princess’s head, the shining tiara and the sparkling castle. She hasn’t yet realized who a ‘Prince in Shining Armor’ is – because she’s obsessing over the dresses the princesses wear. Maybe she’ll notice the guy in a few years. But now, she’s just about the glitter and the shiny things. It’d be a parental achievement if we could help her be self- sufficient, independent and courageous to take care of herself, and not wait for some ridiculous knight to save her.

So when Ady decided to have the talk with her, I agreed. There’s never a perfect time. We need to start it somewhere and sometime. And if she could understand that a princess, like Lakshmi Bai, who did not wear long flowing gowns, was respected for her courage and bravery, not just beauty, maybe she was ready for the discussion.
Parenting is all trial and error. So if this is too soon, we’ll know. And it’ll also help us in our strategy, in bringing up topics for her.

We shared stories about the Ugly Duckling, some Indian stories where a kind hearted king or a strong-willed queen made the biggest contributions to their kingdoms.

We shared stories of Gandhi and his rebellion against the clothes from the British.
Ady and I did a lot of research. We searched out movies and books that could help us. In all fairness, our intention was not to force her to stop talking about princesses and fairies and be thoroughly fascinated by them. Not at all; she’s a child, she deserves exposure to a fantasy land and it’s a part of her childhood here in the US. Our attempt was just to introduce her to real life heroes and help her look beyond the obvious.  And in the process, she was also learning about our culture and heritage.

She was fascinated by the stories of Gods and Goddesses, of Queens and Kings and normal denizens who did extraordinary things.
And then we thought it was time for the “What’s on the inside talk”.

I started, “You know honey, Rapunzel and Snow White look great on the outside. But do you know how they are on the inside?”
DD: “You mean, when they’re naked?”

Oh God!
Me: “No. In their heart. How kind they are, how friendly they are?”

DD: “ No”
DH: “Do you think everybody will love them if they’re rude and selfish?”

DD: “What is selfish?”
DH: “Selfish is when you think only about yourself and not of others”

DD: “You should care about others because that makes them happy that you love them and it makes you happy that your friends are happy”
Me: “Correct. And when you care about somebody, and when you are brave and friendly, you’re beautiful inside. Your clothes, your tiara don’t say that. A person needs to get to know you better, to know all that about you – that which is inside you in your heart.”

DD: “I think SnowWhite and Rapunzel are beautiful inside too”

Me: “I’m sure they are. But what we’re saying, is you should like a person more because of how they are on the inside”
DD: “Yes. They’re friendly and nice”
Me: “So that’s being beautiful on the inside”

DD: “Hey, wait a minute. I have something beautiful on the inside”
And she runs away to get something. DH and I exchange looks. What inside is outside?
She returns with her glittering pink shoes. “Look Mamma, Papa. Look inside”

And we follow her directions. “Look, there’s a picture of Snow White and Cinderella inside my sparkling shoes. I like these not just because they are beautiful outside, but because they’re beautiful inside too!”
Well, so much for that. At least she knows there is an ‘inside’ to beauty too.
And as she grows, so will our attempts.
Till then, stay wide-eyed and excited my darling. Stay innocent and happy.

4 and three quarters

When it comes to growing up, Driti and I are in split minds. She wants to grow fast because she wants to be able to eat ice cream which her doctor had prescribed she can eat only when she is 5, because she wants to wear beautiful big girl clothes and because she can get married and have her own baby.

She does not want to grow because I won't be able to carry her and she won't be so cute anymore. (All her, not me. She's seen a lot of adults are not fussed over I guess)

I want her to grow up because I want her to clean up after herself, I want her to have the attention span higher than a moth (this could be an unrealistic expectation, considering I... hey, look a purple car!).

I don't want her to grow up fast because, I want her to be my little cuddly bundle, I want to be able to hug and kiss her as much as I can before I become completely annoying to her and she is embarrassed of me. How dare she!

So anyway, she's keeping a track of how old she is to the closest count.  And right now, she is 4 and three quarters. She knew it when she was 4 and a half and for some strange reason, I assumed she knew what 4 and three quarters were.

And she's been telling that to everyone. When I am on the phone and somebody on the other line's asking me how old my daughter is, and if I've said 4 or 4 and a half, she'll jump up and down and scream till I correct myself and confirm on the phone that she is in fact 4 and three quarters.

So yesterday, while putting her to sleep, it occurred to Ady, that she may not even know what three quarters is. So he asked her to write her age on a piece of paper before he could explain it.

And what she wrote made us tumble down with laughter. I mean, really.  Take a look. (Ignore the scribbling on the left)

That's 4 and 3 coins signifying 3 25 cent coins. 4 and three quarters. But of course!
I rest in 'piece' while Ady's been 'cent' to explain the count!

Reasons My Daughter Won't Sleep

  1. It's boring.
  2. It's night time.
  3. Her ankle's aching just when I kiss her 'Goodnight'
  4. She needs to poop.
  5. She wants water.
  6. The story I just finished reading to her, is not the one she wanted me to read, even though she was the one who chose it in the first place.
  7. She wants to write her own story.
  8. Tomorrow takes a long time to come.
  9. The light goes off when she shuts her eyes.
  10. Her body wants her to jump on the bed.
  11. She's hungry. (This after my running behind her coaxing her to finish her food, which, when she was eating, she wasn't hungry.)
  12. If she slept because the Sun slept, she'd be copying the Sun. And she does not want to copy the Sun.
  13. She's cold but she's hot. Yeah. Go figure.
  14. There's a pea under her pillow that none of us can see. And because she's a princess, she can't sleep.
  15. She misses grandma and wants to Skype right now!
  16. She wants to see God when she's praying.
  17. If God doesn't show up, she wants to keep praying with Mamma in the room.
  18. She doesn't remember her dreams. So what's the point of going to bed to dream?
  19. Her body does not need rest.
  20. She's already growing because she eats fruits and vegetables and if sleeping also makes her grow,  she'll become a Giant.