Saturday, December 26, 2020

Talk about friendship, motherhood, Anand and Sarees - Such a fulfilling day.

Written on 12/26/2020 

I am a story teller and always love being in one. If I don’t have mine I will borrow some from your life and make it mine. So beware my friends :)

Today was one of those days - a day with so many stories. A day with multiple folds. 

So a beautiful Saturday was much better because Anand and I are learning to “tolerate” each other, being kind to each other and listening to each other after very difficult two weeks. I can see Ashish saying with a smirk - let’s see how long it lasts. Well that’s the package deal if you are a bad cop/ disciplinarian parent in your household.  Yesterday we had a beautiful Christmas day (Story here). This morning I had a queen’s breakfast and this afternoon my first born made poori’s. Anand did his chores and gave me a nice hug and said he loved me. Well, today I am happy and hopeful and enjoying my happy dance.

After an amazing lunch I got dressed. A beautiful saree from a friend’s closet, found just the perfect match in my blouse treasure ( if you are an Indian woman you know how important and difficult it is to find a perfect fit and matching blouse with all those COVID pounds.) I loved wearing that saree and to be honest loved it on me. It didn’t make any fuss and just accepted me the way I was and I tell you my son’s camera skill sure made me look pretty, at least I felt so.

Last year I was the MC for a ghazal program and I felt so alive on stage. For those few hours I lived and breathed ghazals and poetry. I was in trans. A dear friend’s parents were there in the audience and our mutual love for poetry brought us together. I met them again when l was in India. They accepted me as their another daughter.  I am very sure the one program brought us closer more than anything. 

When I met her a few months ago ( yes, during COVID - we started a new trend - Backyard- socially distant, masked meets) she handed me a saree saying I should wear it. Her dad gifted her this saree when she started her first job. I so loved the whole idea of a father’s love and  pride for his daughter. It’s amazing how people come into your life to shape in various way. 

Today, When I was getting ready to be part of a podcast talking about my life, motherhood, womanhood, sarees, music, poetry, Jagjit Singh and special needs I couldn’t think of anything else. This saree was a perfect choice. Just like them and their talented and amazing daughter, this saree made me feel loved and appreciated.

Thank you for inviting me to your podcast Aditi and Natasha, Loved our conversation. My friends and families would love to hear other amazing stories on your podcast.
Sunayana, Thank you for your friendship and love. From Jagjit Singh, Ghazals, poetry and now Saree.. I am so glad you walked in my life to add some more colors. 

Did anyone ever felt enough of pic of a beautiful saree?

Merry Christmas - Holiday cheers - what does it mean for families like us?

*Written on Christmas Night*

Many a times the holidays and celebrations doesn’t mean happiness for us. Depending on what side of the bed we woke up on, things can do downhill in matter of minutes. This morning I woke up and wondered what this day brings to our household.

Pandey men are not very enthusiastic folks anyways. Since Anand got to know the real Santa, Christmas just turned into another day off. When kids were young I did all the tree stuff and gifts. For quite a few years now the Black Friday is the Christmas. All these years we did some lunches and went for dinner who ever invited. But somehow as a household we are becoming very boring family, It feels too much work.

This year, its different for everyone, we all have so much family time we all are craving for some human interaction other than family. Also the day falls on Friday so long weekend brings more time in hand. It also was one of the warmest day for winter. Unfortunately torrential rain cancelled the scheduled outdoor Saree meet, and a scheduled zoom call got postponed too. 

Morning began with Ajey’s cooking lesson and somehow Anand brought the holiday cheers. He was happy, cooperative and excited. we all had lunch together. The day was really fun. Then everyone needed their TV/Phone/Ipad time to regroup. Anand wanted to go see the Christmas light and I would do anything for a drive. it was rainy evening but somehow there was a happy star and men agreed for a family picture. That was a holiday miracle for me. His excitement sure forced dad to drive 30 mins all the way to Attleboro to see the lights. I am so glad we did. It was lot of fun. No rain, warm enough evening and hot apple cider that was our Chritsmas. As I call it a day I am grateful for this holiday cheer for us. I wish you all the better week ahead and hope everyone in your home gets up the ride side of the bed. 

The family pic - Highlight of the month may be - Anand smiled and that was a big deal. all of us happy and smiling. So rare for pandeys, who cares if one of them wasn't looking at the camera. Thank goodness for self timer.

He loves to pose for his insta, NOT for mom's

Somehow the men agreed to be in pic. I couldnt make them change or wear something Christmassy.But it was okay as is- I am learning to accept that. 

          Another family pic - well what can I say, I cannot get enough of them
My boy came to hug me good night. The perfect end of the day ,

 well my day began like this - Saboodana Khichadi by Ajey and carrot Halwa by Ashish. 
A beautiful saree gift from a friends - someone who helped us get through very difficult time, loss of a very dear friend. he was right there when Ashish and I were grieving. We lost him when Ajey was 4 days old. I came to Singapore with 2 months old Ajey and met a new friend who shared the name and the care and love for us like his namesake . His presence was very timely. We are very fortunate that his wife made place for us in her heart too. Every time he travelled to Boston her love and appreciation came in form of bhakharwadi, chitale sweets, Puran poli and saree. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Special needs awareness and Saree Day

5 yrs ago on Dec 21st,  I was in Bangalore India, celebrating saree in a way no one could have imagined. For a whole year women all over the world wore sarees ( nothing new) and wrote stories about them ( that was something new) and then connected over those saree stories. That was just amazing and beyond awesome. The Saree Pact brought many aspects of my life together. My life as a woman, stories about life, sarees and also as a parent of a special needs child. Somehow through the pact the saree stories made much more sense to so many more people all over the world.

The Saree pact gave me a reason to keep writing, to connect with people . And as they say - rest is history. Later I wore Sarees to draw attention to the cause close to my heart- The Moms of kids with special needs. Over the years I could bring over 200 Moms together.

One of the mothers joined the network and soon enough she became a dear friend. She is a fighter in her own way but credits me for giving her a village, adores me for brining people together and more than anything calls me charismatic to boost my ego. But she herself does so many things for the civil rights of normal citizens among the many hats she wears. Her mother is another amazing story, I adore her and love listening to her stories. She moved to USA 50+ yrs ago from Calcutta. She gave me this beautiful Gray-Blue pochampalli from her treasure. This saree is a reminder of the strength of womanhood, grace, friendship, appreciation, hope and much more. A perfect celebration of Saree on Saree day.

4 of us sister walked into the room, dressed exactly alike in blue. A day to remember for all of us and everyone else present.

2015 you were a year in my life like none before.

#Sareecelebration #sareeDay #pactandbeyond #100sareepact. 

Read the Hindu's article about 100Sareepact

                                      Thank you Mona for your love and friendship 

Imagine the scene - 4 sisters walking with same saree, jewelry, shoes and all smiles. Celebrating the sisterhood with sisters and saree sisters.

Memories from WorldSareeDay 2015 With my rocking sisters
With Another Champion Viji Venkatesh, Read about Chai for Cancer. 

and finally with Anju - Co-founder of 100Sareepact
Thank you for last 3 pictures.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Thankful for - you, me and us. Love, live and laugh.

Our family couldn’t make any traditions for this one holiday. It has always been the kind of day where whoever invites us we go there. I never made turkey or other TG dishes. Even if I ever hosted I stuck with the Indian food menu. No one enjoys turkey in the Pandey household so there was never a motivation for us to prepare turkey and a full thanksgiving meal either.

This year it was a totally different TG for us as it was for everyone else. We decided to do a quiet Thanksgiving.  Anand started counting days to his favorite pie from Sunday itself. I asked him what should be the menu. I knew the TG meal is not going to work for anyone so we agreed on having Egg curry with Roti. Ajey is always happy with Paneer so Ashish could pick the rice  ; ). The family decided to eat when it was a little dark. So I had plenty of time to cook. We went all out with the table setting and candles and what not.

We all got the drink we wanted. Boys helped me set the table and have a nice meal together. Anand even let me take a family picture. He was funny and happy and we all had a fantastic time. After the dinner he even loaded the dishwasher before settling in his room. Ashish and Ajey watched their favorite TV show Mandalorian . Once a week dad and first born forget the whole world for that hour, such an unusual sight in my household as Ajey is not much of a TV guy.

I on the other hand decided to enjoy the evening on my own. The decorative light in the dining area was just reflecting my inner happiness.  After a long time we had a festive meal together with laughter, smiles, jokes and fun. My heart is full of gratitude. There are so many families whose kids couldn’t come home this year, families are far away and some cannot bring their children home.  We have plenty to be grateful for.

 If you have been reading my blog then you know how rare it is to have a family pic. This one pic sets the tone for the evening. A thankful mom. 

Anand must be thinking - enough of pic, lets get the dinner going.BUT he didnt say anything.

Something for everyone

Saree of the day

I just didnt have energy to iron the saree I took out so this simple saree saved the day. I didn't even care that the light behind me will make me look dark, I just dint want to delay the dinner. 

ill-Stitched blouse, bad lighting and reluctant photographer. but at least got a pic - Another reason to be grateful for

Monday, November 9, 2020

Time to build - relationship, connection, a better world and whole new us

As an immigrant woman of Indian origin, a mother of a social activist and a special needs child and a woman with a progressive outlook the last few years very really hard, especially the last few months. The divide was very troubling but seeing people supporting it was really heart breaking. I grew up detesting the “caste system” in India but realized that even the first world has these issues. I am a centrist but was very sad to see how the “left” or the “right” philosophy has taken over the human core.

These 4 years were very disappointing in a way that political views had taken over the human connection, friendships, relationships and the overall goodness of people. 

We need to heal and today, right now is the time to start the process. Let’s make a new connection, a new world, with better philosophy, a society where men and women can dream equally, when we don’t have to keep talking about shattering the glass ceiling because there shouldn’t be any. Let’s hope for that.

I am hopeful that time will heal and we all will understand how important being together in these difficult times is, more than the politics.

Today I am just happy, a bright sunny Monday- I am so looking forward to a better week.

Our family having dinner on Election night - a random joke -no matter whoever is the president - we will have to do our pots and pans and laundry and cooking so these men matter most to me than anyone else.    

and this pic makes my heart smile. my son cooking.

Town truck cleaning the road on a sunny day. Thats what we need now - cleaning of our toxic emotions.

A beautiful saree from my sister in law's closet an outdoor lunch with friends. They mattered more than anything at that time. friendship and connection.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Silver lining - they may not seem one at that time

4 yrs ago on a fall Wednesday I was let go as a part of Strategic Refocusing of Workforce right before Diwali that week. I was training the team in India for couple fo weeks so I knew it was coming but again it was a shock that day. I was very well taken care off and I could afford taking some break. I decided to take some and enjoy my time. I thought I will just NOT do anything and rest. But that is the hardest thing for me 
I wasn’t looking for a job but I did what I wanted to do for a long time. Meeting other moms of children with needs and connecting them and building Mom's Network. for months I was talking, driving, meeting, chatting and organizing the meet ups. If I wasn’t let go I wouldn’t have done to this extent. I didn’t let the job define my life. I am so certain that I was let go because I had better things to do at that time. Soon I realized I couldn’t do it full time so I went back to being an analyst but by then I have built the village which needed everyone’s contribution not just me.
That break opened the door to a new idea, a concept and created a community for so many moms.That was 4 yrs ago. Over 200 Moms are part of that village today.
Met some moms from the Mom’s Network for an evening Tea. These Moms never knew each other couple of years ago but now they are each other's support system. This purple silk saree is a reminder of silver lining in our life.
Please read my blog, spread the word and help me connect the moms with children with special needs. 
The meetup on the deck, the 7 of us had multiples of chai and snacks and stayed 6 ft apart and talked about everything under the sun. 

Ajey's facebook post 4 yrs ago exactly this week was a reminder of how it all began. 

This pic is for my heart and soul - a reminder how far we have come. Anand is cooking chicken keema for his fajita.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

What are we now? parents, couples, companion, partners or caretaker?

The special need family photoshoot started with the idea of family pictures . I thought that was much needed. With smart phones we technically don’t need a camera or photographers and selfies and selfie sticks have made it every easy to take our own pictures too. So I started with the idea of capturing emotions not the staged or perfect photographs. 

I have been very happy with the pictures and the sessions so far. Meeting them one on one helps us connect too. I get to know the families and their life up close. The pictures portray so many things. 

Lately I am noticing  something else too. It is the couples pictures which are conveying a lot more. I have learnt it’s all in the conversations and soon everyone is easy and relaxed. 

After initial family portraits I move on to the couples pictures and ask them not to pose and just look at each other (not the camera) or just have a simple conversation about themselves and not the kids. I often hear they don’t know what to talk about anymore. A mom said we talk more about the need for landscapers for grass cutting, or plumber or shopping for wipes and sanitizers than about what we feel for each other. The other one said she doesn’t even remember being asked to look at each other in such a long time. A husband noticed his wife’s necklace and she was so surprised. He explained that he doesn’t remember her putting on makeup or jewelry in a long time either. 

It’s been few months since I started this project and I am remembering so many incidents. Some kids need constant attention and one parent has to be on the go all the time.  I guess they forget to stop and hold each other’s hand or just whisper something nice. Medicines , therapies, IEPs, driving, doctors appointments, emails take over the simple pleasures without any warning. We stop being us and become just caretakers. 

I spent one of my those evening watching sunset with some of those parents. Life is about simple pleasure and sometime we tend to ignore just them. 

A dear friend's gift - were going for a simple no fuss potluck at a dear friends house and I took time to get dressed, made me feel like a woman not just a mom.
It wasn't just 6 yards of material, It was happiness, friendship and care. during the dinner I was teased about my love for sunset, sunrise, poetry, saree and what not. 
And my very reluctant husband who doesnt like to be either side of the camera. I being me, did catch him smiling.
 A relaxing dinner with a group of friends, who help us being more than just parents in many ways. They feed my body and soul and remind me that life is beautiful. If you have those in your life who call you crazy but at the same time appreciate and support your craziness, hold them tight.They all agreed to go with me to see the Sunset on a weeknight yesterday. #Gratitude #Lovemyvillage #grateful

and this was yesterday, after two photoshoots I needed to calm my mind

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Then and Now - A circle of care and share - build your village

Year 2003, we were first time home owners and had no idea about house care and repairs. Something happened and I called the first electrician from the yellow book.  No Facebook help , no DIY youtube video of how to, not much information was available online at the time. The electrician came to have a look and gave me a $70 bill just to come. Imagine my shock, $70 just to park the truck and come in.

We were a rarity in a very white town, didn’t know anyone and were on our own for sometime. I could convince some of our friends to  buy a home in Franklin and life was much better. I took upon myself to show every one around town. Grocery stores, Yelp and google were not what they are today and there was no google map. We relied on paper maps from AAA. I made sure new comers didn’t have to go through what I had. 

That’s where the idea of a “desi ladies group” was born. To support each other with household stuff- finding plumbers, electricians ,handymen, landscapers and snow cleaning services. I started calling everyone I knew and pitched the idea. At the first meeting in my home I didn’t know who would show up but many did and that’s how my first group was born. A Yahoo Desi Ladies in Franklin group. It was our place to share resources as most of the Indian household ladies were responsible for finding the help.

Over the years we upgraded to a WhatsApp group. We still share the resources but it’s a little more than that now.  The group is more about social connections than just sharing resources. 

We meet often for movies and evening tea. This simple georgette saree for a socially distant evening tea with the gang. 

The socially distant meet was one of my initial idea to cope with social isolation. I very well knew how much I need people around also at the same time I was very apprehensive and careful, Understood the severity of situation. I know finding an out of the box solution and thinking through beyond just tomorrow, long term is my strength. I so wish all my ideas could work for my sons too. Well, I should be happy what I get.

 A lawn is ready for one of the meet. Do you not feel like joining? ;)

Sunday, September 6, 2020

In one day there is so much to think of

The day started with a conversation with a friend, her father in law just got sick (non Covid). They cannot just hop on the plane and go. So many things to consider with the restrictions  and with covid the travel is nerve wracking in itself. I felt so helpless listening her going through this. Grieving for FIL, worrying about MIL and supporting her husband and feeling for her children and knowing very well that she cannot do anything. I learnt how fear and worry can cripple your logic. I witnessed a woman, who would analyze things for me so easily, falling prey to anxiety, knowing very well it would not do her any good. 

Another friend lost her FIL to COVID, he was in the hospital getting his Chemo, wanted to fight cancer but lost to this disease, again the same story.They are stuck here and feeling so helpless. Sadness and frustration not only about the loss but how they couldn’t eve say their goodbyes. More and more it’s apparent how important closure is.

Such was my day but I always look for a silver lining. A dear friend invited us for dinner. 8 of us sat out in her backyard, fighting mosquitos and enjoying the good weather, company and friendship. I have grown old with them and this evening was sure to make me feel supported and loved. They made me forget the sadness and difficulties and reminded me of what’s good is in this world. 

This story is about something else too. I noticed an Indian couple walking on the road near my house. It wasn’t her long hair, it was the flowers in her hair that caught my attention .  I had to stop and check where she got them from. I had never seen them here in the USA. She was very kind to me and generously invited me to her home to get these flowers. My Friday evening was so exciting because I had those “aboli” flowers (Crossandra or firecracker flowers ). I couldn’t wait for Saturday to get dressed.

I took the flowers with me and those darling friends made the string for me to put in my hair. Their friendship brings joy to me in a way no one can imagine.

If you have such friends in your life, hold on to them. Cherish the friendship, keep them close to your heart and never forget to remind them how important they are to you. Sometimes we take people for granted. Today take a minute to call/text one friend to let them know they matter.

Hope your week was kind to you. 

Kovai Kora cotton from Coimbatore a git from a saree pact-er friend. 

Anand decided to stay home but the friend was very kind to send plenty to feed him. 

my foodie son wouldn't have missed a chance :)

the Aboli flower. These will remind me how wonderful the world is. Now go back and see my second pic. How beautiful they are on my hair or no hair :)