Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Woman of the year- an evening to remember.

It’s been two weeks and I am still trying to find the right words for the feelings. I don’t really have words to express what happened.
From a phone call that I have been nominated and was one of the 20 outstanding Women of 2019 to the formal announcement. I remember one Friday evening leaving my phone upstairs and watching “Delhi Crime” with Ashish in the basement. After a couple of hours of watching the show,
with a heavy heart when I came upstairs my phone was flooded with notifications, text messages and some missed calls.
It was Friday evening and people had received the email announcing the nominations. The sadness from that TV serial vanished with the overwhelming feeling of being loved.

It took some time to sink in. The very next day I was at a friend’s 50th birthday party and realized how lucky I was. People made sure to congratulate me and talked about Moms Network.
And yes, couple of them asked what saree I will wear. Looks like my saree stories are still alive. Thanks to the #100SareePact!

Finally, the day arrived and I had a very clear choice of my saree. The saree which started Autism Awareness on 100 Saree Pact. That was the reason I was being celebrated. Some of my old friends and some of the moms from Moms Network were going with me. More than anything I was happy to have my very diverse village with me to celebrate that very reason, building a village for special moms. The Woman of the Year night is a night to dazzle, celebrate and just have fun. You witness the class and glamour, fun and charm. With almost 500 people in the room one can spend hours just looking at everyone. I walked in with two friends and husband next to me. Ashish and Ajey going to a gala with me was an award in itself. Many met them for the first time and Ashish did get to put some faces to the names he has been hearing about. For me the meet and greet is the best part of the event, meeting old friends, making some new ones, sharing stories and rejuvenating friendships. I was a very happy and proud woman but missed not having Anand with me. He was playing video games at home, not caring for what was going on in his mom’s world.

 I met most of the nominated women for the first time. While talking to them I felt we all belonged to a mutual admiration society. Reading about people is different from meeting them in person. We congratulated each other, admired the individual contribution to the community and were just happy to be there. Soon the door opened and the show began. After that it was a very well-orchestrated evening, with two entertainment programs defining women, a speech from the chief guest, the segment to introduce the 20 nominees began. That was one very powerful segment of the evening. Hearing more about each and every one I felt honored to be in the list. Every one of us was asked a question related to our life. I was asked if I have one piece of advice to the moms – I said “ it takes a village to raise a child, don’t do it alone. Build your village, build a diverse one and pay it forward”. That was the reason I was there in the first place, trying to help building a village for all the special moms.
After all the introductions the judges announced the “Woman of the Year. ” Each one of us was a winner but the work Revathy is doing with Vision Aid deserved the title for sure. She co-founded Vision Aid with her husband and has been working tirelessly to improve the lives of so many in India. We are all so proud of her work. Her speech was another example of the person she is. So humble and crediting the team for the work.
The evening ended with the DJ and dancing. I decided to leave with Ashish for a quiet ride home. On the drive back I was just thinking about my journey, how thankful I was to have people around me, appreciated the love I was showered with, missing those who couldn’t be there with me that night and had a feeling of calm overall knowing I did make a difference in some lives. But at the same time felt the responsibility of doing more.

Walking into a meeting totally unprepared.. and you come out .. just happy beyond words.

It was one of those rare incidents when I didn’t know what to prepare for this meeting. I have never found myself so clueless, didn’t have any plans as to what to ask and specifics to talk about. All I walked in with was one wish, a little information session for moms about DDS.(Department of Developmental Services )
A drive from Quincy to the DDS office in South Boston, the drive so awaited and beautiful. I had thought I would stop and sit on a bench overlooking the lake for 15 minutes before I drove in, have been meaning to do that every time I cross Rt 3 Malibu beach area in Dorchester, but rain made me change my plan. A rainy afternoon and a weird mood swing, I just drove not knowing what to expect. While parking I noticed the very French restaurant I so wanted to visit  in South Boston and made a mental note of stopping there after my meeting.
The garage guy told me it would cost me $7 for two hours and I thought even though I am early I would still have at least 30-40 minute at the restaurant. A glass of wine would be nice before the long ride home.
I walked in and was pleasantly surprised with the office atmosphere. The decor was very pleasing and calming. Somehow it just made me feel welcomed. Soon I was asked to come into the meeting room. I was to meet DDS commissioner Jane Ryder. I had met her last year in a federation conference. Not sure if it was my work or my saree but she could recognize me when we met this year again on April 2nd at the Massachusetts State House. . Again the blue saree started the conversation.

Today I was to meet her and her team to get some help for my Moms Network. I assumed that I would be there for 30 minutes but once we started talking there was no stopping. I forgot that I was in the room with 3 top DDS people, all I noticed were people who wanted to help, were eager to know more about us and ready to find the best way to find the best solutions and provide the help DDS offered. After so many stories and conversations she actually gave me way more than I had expected. I was expecting one speaker for one of the dinners I organize for the Moms for an hour or so, but she offered beyond that. They all were so empathetic and willing to help us and make our life easier. I shared pictures of my boys, shared stories from Moms network, gave them a glimpse of our culture and upbringing and our own struggle to get over the disappointments we all have in our life.

Jane has a brother with needs, actually that’s what I remembered from her speech in that conference.  For me the sister in her will always be more powerful and appealing than the commissioner in her. Her Deputy- Elizabeth and Director of Family Support - Margaret were so supportive and full of ideas. With the 3 of them around,I felt so heard and appreciated. They were very kind not only to provide the education and support but space as well to host the information session. 
I so wanted to be mindful of their time but they were very patient, welcoming and attentive listeners . I wrapped up way later than my allotted time, thanked them and took a picture with Jane and Elizabeth. Walking out of that building I could feel nothing but gratitude and just pure happiness. I was so excited and happy that just wanted to drive back home. Gaslight dinner and wine could wait for another trip. On my way home I couldn't wait to share all the details with Ashish. When I walked in after a very long and rainy drive I was glad I skipped the french dinner as I come back to a home made Indian dinner with white wine waiting for me. Sometimes it is wonderful to be treated as a queen when you live with 3 men.

Today its all about #lifeisgood #gratitude #thankfulness

 Standing next to Jane I so missed my village, Please know each one of you were in my mind.

Elizabeth Morse - Deputy Commissioner DDS she is working on making it easier for families to access services. Missed having Margret in our picture. Elizabeth and M both took notes while listening to our stories.I didn't care how I looked after a long day but the happiness is my make up for this picture.

The first meet in Federation conference March 2018

  And then we met again in April 2019 at state house. Thank you for your time Ms Ryder. 

Gaslight, I will be back soon, last night it was worth coming back home too. flowers and food from a friend and wine from the man. I couldn't have asked for anything better  even after long drive back home which I enjoyed, the phone calls to some moms and friends helped me ignore the crazy traffic.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lessons Learned from a Parent's Journey

Pouring rain, accidents and evening traffic and a totally new road.. Nothing mattered that evening. It took me two hours to reach J’s home in Methuen and I was more than grateful to finally get there. A dear friend,  who moved miles away from Franklin recently. Hot food, nice tea and a friendly hug welcomed me and all that agony of driving vanished just like that.  Now all I remember is the comfort I felt.  Nice south Indian food and I was ready to be “Anand’s mom”. Changed really quickly in a saree and I was ready for the evening.
As I drove to North Andover library,  all of  a sudden my mind was clogged with what ifs. There were parents coming to hear me, what if I wasn’t what they expected. It was not a great evening to be out and about. And on top of that it was Monday, a gloomy, dark and rainy Monday. I called Ashish as I usually do when I am all over the place. I didn’t say anything about my mental state, just talked about kids and dinner but that was just enough for me. Drive safe he said and I was so ready. I knew I was late, I was planning to be there earlier than 7 PM but I just couldn’t, by the time I parked and went in it was 7.05. The Indian lady was arriving at Indian standard time as we say in India. I was feeling bad for the host already. She had to hold the fort for me.
Once I walked in I knew why I was there, every worry took a back seat and I was there to share my knowledge,  my mistakes and provide any suggestions I could. We introduced ourselves and the conversation started and soon I forgot I was worried about what to say. I could feel that the audience was engaged and connected. I got to know a lot more about parenting from them than I was able to share my knowledge. Parents, no matter where they live or what they do for a living, inside they are all the same and have just one wish – do the best for their kids. After 90 minutes of deep conversations, questions and answers and brain storming we all said our good byes. But we knew we could have continued that conversation for another couple of hours if the library wasn’t closing. I met some incredible parents and I was happy to assure them they were doing whatever they could, they are certainly not alone and yes there is light at the end of the tunnel. On my way back home I called my mom. The easy conversation with her relaxed my edgy mind and I was ready for another wonderful sunrise the next morning.

And I was in my element. R, the host reached out to me few weeks ago, She was amazing in designing the poster. She worked hard and came up with this interview style format. Thank you Radhika, It was an amzing experience.

The poster..

J’s beautiful kitchen and array of dishes. She and her Mother in law cooked. Sometimes love looks like this

All ready to get the show on the road 

And my lesson learned- You don’t know what is inside a person.. Anand’s pic from 2015, his shirt says – “You don’t know me” How appropriate.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Gala - to support who support our loved once.- Triangle Inc.

After a very long day I was just not sure if it was the right thing to do. When I was packing last night for today’s event, I was certain about a blue saree but packed a dress too just in case. I leave home very early when I go to work and after an hour and half of commute and a full day at work , when I got out at 4, I wasn’t sure about my choice of attire for the evening. A dear friend graciously offered her place to change and a nice cup of tea. I think it was that tea which helped me bounce back to my usual self and I was ready to rock in that beautiful blue saree.
It was Triangle Inc.’s 48th annual award ceremony and fundraiser. John F Kennedy museum and library was a beautiful venue on a perfect day for a wonderful cause.

Triangle’s moto is “Employment. Empowerment. Independence. Our services help individuals with disabilities to find careers, become self-advocates, and live independently”. I didn’t know much about them until last week. State Street supports many organizations and had a table at the event. I decided to join the team and I am so glad I did. I knew that it would be a very long day but it was well worth every minute I spent there.
The venue, food, people, cause and wine – a perfect mix for a great evening. The Mayor of Malden was honored as a Disability Advocate of the year and the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Robert DeLeo was honored as the Public Official of the year. Listening to what they did and do was a moving thing for a mother. I was very impressed with everyone honored at the event. Knowing what Triangle does was another highlight of the night. I cannot wait to explore the same and share with the Moms Network. I spent my time talking about Anand, Indian families, being a mother and Moms Network. Connected with so many people who promised to help us in a variety of ways.
 My saree was a show stopper for sure. Only Indian woman in the room and on top of that in a saree. I couldn’t have picked a more dramatic attire for the event. I was complimented over and over again and I sure did enjoy that. Many pictures, questions and compliments later I got a chance to take a picture with Speaker Robert DeLeo.

I am still a worried mom but happy to know that there are many out there working tirelessly to make life better for my son and many more.
Please visit them and donate..

The generous and fabulous crowd

Robert DeLeo, The Speaker of the house of representative of Mass. Such an honor to be in the picture with a true friend of our community.

Lot of pictures I am sure it wasn’t me it was the saree

Fantastic group for state street folks.

Some of the Triangle Staff, so curious about saree, Moms Network, India and all about our culture and disability, cannot wait to have some meaningful interactions with them

 The beautiful backdrop of JFK library and museum. I wish I had come out to take the picture before the sunset. 

I glittery saree, a gift from a friend and last night It was such a perfect choice for a  beautiful night.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

a new journey a new experience .

While driving Anand to his class I was taken back to my own memories of college. I went to school in a very small town in MP and couldn’t go away for higher education so from elementary school to college,  my life was shaped in such a “Balaghati” way.
Then 2 decades later I went to college here in Franklin , again a small college in a close-knit town. I took evening classes while working full time so it was not a perfect college education but for me it was an experience in itself. “Continuing Education” was the name of department that conducted the evening classes. It was a better way of saying adult education.
College was always in our mind for Anand, how and when and where came later. But we wanted him to have that experience regardless.
Finally we could put that plan in action this spring semester with Mass Bay community college. Apprehensions and anxiety were part of the game. The session started and Anand seemed to like it. I, as usual don’t get much information and decided to let him handle his schedule and details. A protective mom had to take a step back so he could learn.
It’s been hard not being part of this experience and I feel so helpless knowing very well I have to do this for him. A thought came to my mind to log in and check the status of his homework and what are they teaching in the class. But in the end I couldn’t do it as I am the one who wants an independent son : ) and failing is part of being independent and growing up. He is taking one class this semester, attends class twice a week and seems excited about it. He does his homework and keeps his dad posted.
His first day Dad took him to class but it was Anand who asked and figured out his class and room, went in and talk to his professor. I on the other hand was so restless because neither of them would give me the minute by minute details . The details I so wanted. Soon we got used to his routine.  For the last 3 months, he  has been going early to Mass Bay, waits for an hour for his class and then goes back to Accept (his program),twice a week. I was a worried mom for a couple of week. During the school vacation week I had to take him to his class. I was instructed where to park and shown the way to a waiting area, where I worked for the hour he was in class. I so wanted to talk to his teacher and see the classroom and meet his classmates but as a good mom I respected his wish and kept my nose out of his business, atleast this once.
I ask once in a while about his course and get some responses depending on his mood. One day he told me they would start Excel once they finish Microsoft Word. I quietly mentioned that that’s what I do at work, use excel all the time. The look on his face and shine in his eyes were the best sight of the day, soon they disappeared when I said I could help him with homework. “I will be fine” was the response to that.
This week, he is working on his final project, next week final exam and we are done with his first college class. It has been an amazing journey so far. But at this point I am so ready to move past that and look forward to something exciting.

The morning ritual.. get ready and enjoy the iPad while  waiting for the transport 


      The first day picture.. not a chance .. Mom is happy with backpack picture.

Busy with one of the assignment

 The waiting area..