Saturday, June 29, 2019

Another milestone - a Joy Ride .. not only for Ajey but for all of us.

As a toddler, Ajey was so fascinated by cars, real cars. His love for toy cars started when he was a baby. Our home was a museum of hot wheels cars. He would know those cars by touch even when he was asleep. When we moved to an apartment in Windsor Gardens, Norwood in 1999, our bedroom window had a view of the parking lot. Ajey would sit there and watch the cars, his favorite activity. We owned a Toyota Camry ( couldn’t get any more desi, isn’t it?) and that was his favorite thing on earth, he never troubled us for carseats or setbelts.
He learnt his alphabets with car brand names , Acura, BMW, Chevy, Dodge and so forth. He used to recognize and address my friends by their cars. Soon he started reading about cars more than storybooks and soon enough Anand developed his interest in cars too. Both brothers loved the parking lot more than any playground. They watched car shows more than Disney movies. While on the road recognizing cars became their favorites at to pass the time. 
 Ajey started reading more and more about cars. I remember him asking for Motor Trend magazine for his 11th Birthday and it continued for a few years. During this time, his dad discovered how thrilling driving is and he started changing cars every 3 years. Between the two of them cars were always a fun topic. 
Before I knew it he became the car advisor for his dad. Ashish would get a new car and after a year and a half they would start talking about the next car. 
Soon Ajey developed his interest in power engineering, clean energy, environment sustainability and new technology. His passion was a big influence in Ashish getting a Tesla last year. Though he has not been successful in changing his mom’s mind about not driving a SUV yet. The last few years I have witnessed tremendous growth in his thought process and UMass has played an important role in making my kid a social activist.
He graduated this summer and every plan was based on his future job. Finally, the time came and he started looking for his “joy ride.”
I cannot believe I am saying this but I did behave like a typical Desi mom and suggested he should just get a Toyota or Honda and get it over with. His argument for not having a gas car did make sense to me, but we both knew two electric cars would not make sense for our house hold either. I just wanted him to have a nice new car, but my son was very adamant about getting his OWN ride. He wanted a fun ride, a Hybrid and with his OWN money. Two days we spent going back and forth about this and  finally I realized his pride is more important than my wish to give him everything. I was so proud to see my child doing the research, reaching out to dealerships and mechanics. One preowned Honda CRZ matched his desires and needs. We all went to see the car and I couldn’t be any prouder. The way he talked to the car salesman , then the mechanic and at the Honda dealership I knew how smart he was being about this purchase. Last two days I witnessed my son talking, asking questions, bargaining, researching and finally paying for his car, going to RMV and then picking up his car today. I couldn’t believe that car crazy baby is a grownup man today, a good one. Ashish and I couldn’t be any prouder. We thank our village, everyone around us who cheered for him, helped him grow, and encouraged him to be the best version of himself.

Ajey showing off his hard-earned asset. I am glad I let go of “let me pay for it”. seeing him so happy and proud was the biggest joy yesterday. Even if he gambled with the money.

When we got back home Dad was up for a ride. As a passenger 

 Then he wanted to try himself. Do I see Ajey giving instructions to dad?

Getting out of the parking lot at the dealership. Mom got the first ride.

Anand went out with his brother but again he didn’t want to be part of any picture. But mom just had to do it. 

And then Pandeys partied. 4 of us had our outdoor celebration. Someone is this household still young enough to drink coke J

Salmom with Jaya’s signature green chutney. I love my farmshare.. the fresh coriander, I can still smell it.  

Monday, June 24, 2019

Families who "picnic" together stay together..

Sunday June 23rd 2019

When I organized the first moms dinner I had a pretty solid RSVP list but I was still worried. A friend made me feel better saying if no one shows up she and I will have dinner and drinks and enjoy. It turned out to be a very well attended dinner and everyone was happy.
The same thing happened today when I reached Nara Park in Acton. It was the first ever family picnic for our group. We have been talking about it for quite some time . I think I wasn’t ready to plan a family get together. It’s always tricky to manage things when husbands and kids come in the picture.
We had been discussing it for a while and with the beautiful weather it felt like the right thing to do. So decided to take the plunge.
Today was such a prefect day. I knew it would be great the moment Anand agreed to go with us. We left home not knowing how the day would unfold. Anand remained quiet so I didn’t know what was going on in his head. I really wanted to be prepared but had no idea what he was feeling so didn’t push him much to talk in the car. Ajey and I talked about his work and we were there at the park a little before 3 pm. 

We parked and waited for other families to arrive. I met one of the Non Indian moms from a facebook  group. She read my post and decided to come and see us for a short time. Anand loved meeting their dog. Another mom came by and I could say hi. Before we could continue our conversation my phone started buzzing. Many wanted to know the location and parking and some were trying to figure out who Jaya was. Soon we all gathered in the kids play ground. It was heartwarming to see so many dads walking in.
Before I realized everyone was just introducing each other on their own, kids were walking , running, dads chatting and moms getting to know each other. So many new faces and new stories. I just felt such an energy rush knowing my vision was taking shape. I could hear dads talking about Autism, ABA, resources. For a change, Indian men were not talking about politics, work or stock market or cricket match for that matter. 
A mom got tea and snacks for everyone. Some brought home made snacks, fruits and cookies and everything looked so tempting but more than that it was the warmth I could feel. They were strangers a few minutes ago and before we realized we were in each other’s lives like we have been there forever.
Soon we started the formal introduction session and there came so many heartwarming stories. The need for this kind of group, meet ups and support for one another is immense and unquantifiable . The idea of a family picnic was very well received and we all agreed to do it more often this summer. The introduction brought so many stories.I need to write another post about it. Anand didn’t participate but stayed around. The snack stand was tempting enough for him to stay there, he walked around and came to me from time to time for money, he did want to go back home but didn’t push too much. We could stay in the park without a meltdown. That itself was a victory for me. 
3 hours later, in the car I was thinking how to explain the importance of the picnic to all of us. It started as an idea but the outcome was very encouraging. Seeing those pictures is making my heart swell with pride. 

Please find a park near you with a fenced play area, picnic table and enough parking. You all are my resource and I depend on you to continue..

My boys walking to the snack stand. It was so wonderful to have them around. So many could meet the man who inspires me to do it better every day.

This picture remains my fav of the day. This kid’s mom felt so alone and all of sudden she has 100+ friends. They drove from Quincy.. She is ready to do it again..

First water then sand.. How happy he was. 

Nara Park. Beach area.. We were surprised  how beautiful the day turned out to be .

Two dads chatting .. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Interview in India New England. - 20 Outstanding woman of 2019

Thank you India New England for nominating me for Outstanding 20 women in New England.
Original article here.

Jaya Pandey
BURLINGTON, MA—Jaya Pandey grew up in central India, with 3 sisters, her parents and grandparents. She earned a Masters in Chemistry and taught in high school for few years before marrying her best friend.
“We moved to Singapore, and had my first born. We then moved to Boston in 1999. Anand, our next son was born in 2000. I decided to stay home to raise the boys,” says Ms. Pandey. “We hit a difficult time when we realized Anand had some issues in the form of speech and language delay when he was 4. It took the name Autism when he was 8, and I had just started working full time.”
In 2015, Ms. Pandey joined the 100 Saree-Pact, wore 100 sarees and wrote stories about her life, people, and relationship.
“That changed many things in my life. The Saree Pact gave me a platform to talk about special needs and the necessity of awareness and acceptance,” says Ms. Pandey. “Anand and I were featured in a Ted Talk, some articles and a radio talk show. My husband Ashish and I have been blessed to have each other, Ajey and Anand (our sons), amazing friends and wonderful family.”
Here is a Q/A with Ms. Pandey.
INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Jaya Pandey: I work as a Business Analyst for State Street. I enjoy being part of a team, working together, finding a solution, and meeting some brilliant and out of the box thinkers. Also, I enjoy being part of an organization which supports community and values diversity.
My passion is my Network – I bring people together, I connect them to resources and encourage them to be a part of community, meeting them in person, telling them about resources, sharing my and some others’ stories, and sharing information I know. If I don’t know then I guide them in towards more information. Sometimes, I just listen. I am known to cook and serve some drinks occasionally too. And I enjoy every moment of it. The best part of it comes in the form of tears, hugs, notes and emails. Feeling that what I am doing is changing their life, empowering them and inspiring them to be better is the best part.
Jaya Pandey
INE: To what charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?
JP: Autism Resource Center (Advisory Board)
Children’s Hospital Autism Center (Parents advisory board)
Federation of children with special needs
AANE (Asperger Autism Network)
Mass Family Organizing For Change (MFOFC)
Various labs exploring Autism
Autism Speaks
Hindi Manch: part of team for long time and was in steering Committee in doing first “Sahitya        Sammelan”. This wonderful organization is doing some amazing work.
Actively involved in Franklin – library, town and school system.
Various employee resource groups at work.
Musical groups and help many friends organizing their musical show.
These days most of time goes to support various organization working for special needs and special education. These organizations are impacting so many lives. I write for various organization about their work and impact.
INE: What are your hobbies and interests?
JP: Cooking, Music (especially ghazals), Travelling, studying people and culture, sarees, reading, poetry, writing.
INE: In what way do you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community or your company/organization and professional field?
JP: At my job, I work with very diverse population, helping people understand different cultures. I have been part of a steering committee of various employee resources groups, been involved with different initiatives and events, and I’ve helped plan many volunteer activities.
Outside of work I believe in serving the community I am from as well where I live now. I have been part of Franklin (the town I live in) volunteer groups, and actively involved in town and school activities. I strongly believe in giving back to community we live in. I can take credit for introducing “Indian culture” to my town in various ways. I have introduced “shop and eat the Indian way” to a largely white town. I started a desi women’s group years ago to connect Indian women, and helped them settle and make new friends in their new town.
I became part of 100 Saree Pact in 2015 and wrote saree stories. Autism Awareness came out of those stories. And then it became more than just our story. It went on to tell the stories of many more families all over the world, who have special need children. I wore 100 sarees and wrote stories about people, cause, relationships and more.
I am very fortunate that so many moms allowed me to be part of their journey, shared their stories, and trusted me enough to come with me toward building a community of their own. They opened their heart to some other moms. They believed in my vision.
I think these moms enriched my life. I just gave them a place to come and be the real person, share their ideas, talk about their difficulties and in the process, make some new friends.  I organize the lunch and dinner, some play dates for kids, some social groups. We share each other’s knowledge and help others in need.
I go to different colleges and universities to speak with future educators, talk at various community events and seminars, workshops about autism awareness, community building and empowering moms. I write for several organizations, newspapers, pod casts and, blogs about this.
I wear a blue saree to all special need related events that make people stop and ask question. I
go to political events and state house lobbying for the welfare of the special need community. I meet with policy makers and politician to tell our stories and talk about changes in system.
I am trying to build a bridge between the Autism community and Indian community. Many times, I am the only Indian mom at a conference, seminar or workshop. I am encouraging Indian moms to come out of their shells and be part of a bigger group.
I have donated my “Indian meal for a family” and Indian cooking lessons for raffles for various organizations (Autism Housing Pathways, Franklin SEPAC, Sens-Ability Gym and many more)
I write about our life, struggle, victories, difficulties and various events and issues @  My blog has given voices to many moms and helped them overcome their shell and be supportive of their children.
INE: What is the most pressing issue that you believe women are facing today?
JP: Balancing home, career and desires. In the process to have it all we are forgetting to take care of ourselves. Women want to hold on to the values we are raised with and want to reach out to the sky. Our wishes and dreams often conflict with reality and women usually let go of our own needs to fulfill the needs of family and society. If we go for those we do it with guilt.
INE: What is your rare talent that people don’t know about?
JP: I cook with instinct and don’t need recipes usually. I can visualize the final product.  I follow my instinct and have an ability to connect with people. I am a life-long learner and a story teller.
I am an organizer and planner. And I am excited to meet and learn about people, and listen to them.
INE: What are your favorite books?
JP: I grew up reading literature – a lot of it. My parents are avid readers… From Premchand, Nirala, Pant, Bachchan,Amrita Preetam, Manto, Dinkar, Mahadevi, Tagore , Jaishankar Prasad, Chaturvedi and many more.  Soon Faiz, Ghalib, firaq, Meer, Iqbal, Gulzar, Kaifi Azmi, Josh, Faraz, Parveen shakir and some more took over my world in my twenties. I loved reading historical fiction and non ficton.
I enjoy reading nonfiction and historical books. And favorites keep changing. Shivani was my to go author during my teen years. Right now, “Spark joy” is talking to me. “Lean in” is another one in the list I enjoyed. “Namesake” explains my life in a way nothing could, that is one book I always suggest all my non-Indian friends to read when they ask questions about life in India.
Now my reading shifted to lot of Autism related stuff, research papers, article about various topics.
INE: What are your favorite quotes that motivate you or make you smile?
JP: My inspiration comes from poetry more than quotes
  • “Gam na kar Gam na kar Dard tham jaye ga,Yaar laut aayen ge, Zakham bhar jaye ga,
Dinn nikal aye ga, Abar khul jaye ga, Raat ddhhal jaye gi,
Ruut badal jaye gi, Gham na kar,Gham na ka–Faiz
  • You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us . And the world will be as one. –John Lennon
  • Mere seene mein nahin, to tere seene mein sahi
    ho kahin bhi aag, lekin aag jalni chahiye.–Dushyant Kumar
  • People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. —Maya Angelou
  • “The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.–Morrie Schwartz
  • “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”–Rumi
INE: Who inspires you the most?
JP: My Mom and Dad, my sisters, my sons and husband. These are the people who make me think beyond the limit. My husband, Ashish is my strength. My grandmother was a woman who could not “Not” do nothing. She was artsy, a fighter, amazing cook and go-getter. She didn’t have a degree but was one of the smartest women I have come across. I get inspired by people walking in and out of my life. I learn from everyone. I’ve met some amazing parents in this journey and they are my biggest inspiration. Ajey, My older son has taught me so much about life and Anand has taught me resilience and perseverance.
INE: Who is the one person you would like to meet and why?
JP: Difficult to pick one between Jagjit Singh and My uncle.
Jagjit Singh. I have been in love with him since I was 13. His ghazals defined every emotion in my life. I don’t think anyone could move me the way he did and still does. I can spend days just listening to him. His voice has ability to take me to a different world. I lost my uncle when I was 15. He was in his thirties and was way beyond his time and has influenced me in many ways. He is the one who introduced me to Ghazals. I so miss him and would love to see what our world would have been if he was around.
INE: What are your core values that you try to live by?
JP: Empathy, Passion, kindness, Gratitude and above all “pay it forward.”

Monday, June 17, 2019

Build your village.

It’s been a month and this post is overdue. I should have written this long back but the writer’s block stayed longer than I like. Today finally I decided I won’t wait for the perfect words and just let my thoughts flow.
I wrote about what led to Woman of the Year event and a general overview of that night in my previous post. This post is about me as an observer that night.
Ashish agreed to go with me, that itself was heartening. Anand decided to stay home when he heard that it was a 4-hour event, not including the drive. Ajey was the most excited person in the Pandey household and graciously agreed to be my plus one in case dad joins last and leaves first. When I walked in I was greeted heartily by many but it was a dear friend who is my inspiration in many ways, who hugged me with a huge bouquet. The roses were vocal enough to show her love for me. I would like to have her demeanor when I am of her age. I aspire to be that calm and beyond judgement friend. Many others wished, chatted about the nomination, my work and asked how they could help. This was huge, better than I have experienced before. People were asking questions. But of most of all, a nominee whom I had never met before, never talked to, mentioned that her sister has a child on spectrum and if I could speak to her sometime. The event began and it was my turn to come on stage, get recognized and then answer that one question we were all asked. Mine was advice for moms and I talked about building a village. While walking down the stage it struck me how lucky I was at that moment. My village was right there in its full glory. Ofcourse I don’t do anything in small measures so I have a huge village but the representation was pretty awesome. Few friends who have seen me grow over two decades were there, someone who held my hand when we lost a pregnancy 21 yrs. ago, someone who roamed around Singapore with baby Ajey in tow, someone who hosted my surprise baby shower when I was pregnant with Anand, someone who opened her heart when I was very new to the town, someone who always there to help me navigate through the different culture,
someone who held my hand when I was new to the special needs world and yes she is the one who taught me that it’s OK to complain, swear, argue and feel down but then you let go of that moment with a Long Island Iced Tea for that night. BUT you bounce back again and next morning stand tall next to your kid and fight for his every right and the dignity he deserves. Some of them have walked into my life very recently but have become a very integral part of it.

In that room I had a village that helped me get back to my world beyond motherhood. The group of people who brought music and literature back to my life. Hindi Manch has been a part of my wellbeing for such a long time. I have known many of them for quite long now. They all have been part of my journey but I wasn’t sure if they knew what they are to me. The interesting thing is that I didn’t know I was part of their village either until I got to know that some of them started the nomination chain for me. I am eternally grateful for that village that is ready to give me their support and unconditional love. Two of us from Hindi Manch were being celebrated. The team took time to find a picture of two of us and got a cake with that picture on. The flowers, the card and the cake showed how wonderful that village is. There were many people with whom I share my love of music, poetry, food and art. They build a different village for me where I can get away from being a mom and enjoy being me.
I was being celebrated for helping moms with special needs kids. The village as I called it, started a couple of years ago. There were a few moms from that village with blue sarees on, cheering for me and our cause. How wonderful is it when people believe in your mission and share their journey with you. They have enriched my life in ways I cannot even begin to verbalize.
Today I am not even talking about people who are my pillars of strength but couldn’t be there in person. They need another post.

The concept of having a village has always been so important to me. I have always had a very diverse set of friends. But that night I could show that I wasn’t just preaching but do practice what I preach. Please promise me you all will build your village, a diverse one and pay it forward.

 and that is one of my village.. who was in my mind the whole time.. They were not there physically but have each others back.