Thursday, June 29, 2023

Age is just a number - what is it for you?

Years ago, when I joined the 100SareePact, I had no idea what was in store. I met incredible people I would have never met otherwise. Over the years, some lost touch, while others claimed their place in my heart and life. Viji Venkatesh is one of them. 

She came to my home in 2015 for a few days. We hosted a Chai for Cancer adda, and I also visited her in Mumbai. We try to meet whenever we can. She is someone I aspire to be like in the future—happy, enthusiastic, full of life, passionate, driven, and unafraid to dream and try new things. Always ready to embrace new experiences, she redefines age and takes it to another level. At 71, she even acted in a Malayalam movie as Ummachi in movie - “Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum”

Mr. Husband and I sat through the whole movie (a long one) after a long time. Watching Viji on our TV screen was an unforgettable experience. As the Max Foundation Asian Regional Head, she changes the lives of cancer patients and their families. She is my rock star friend, and I am incredibly proud of her. Keep rocking and inspiring us!

A leheriya from Jaipur for a musical meet. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

A New Beginning and a Legacy to Carry Forward - Merger - HMEA and Advocates

 I joined the board for HMEA in June 2021 during the Covid era and have witnessed the changes in the special needs world. The workforce crisis is real, as is the need for support staff and assistance.

In June 2021, the organizations announced their merger with another organization that serves the same community, a process expected to take three years. In July 2023, the two boards became one. The final meeting of the HMEA board focused on acknowledging how far we have come and looking forward to a brighter future with a stronger and improved workforce.

As I reflect on my own journey with HMEA, I joined as soon as the merger was announced. It was all about finding the best solutions for employees and the community both organizations work with. Every step taken to move forward was carefully planned, giving top priority to communication with employees and families. A change is not easily embraced, especially by special needs families, unless every possible scenario is thoroughly considered.

The last HMEA board meeting was a special one, marking a significant transition as two major organizations entered the final phase. It was officially announced that there is no longer just the "HMEA board"; it is now a combined board with Advocates. I have decided to remain on the joint board for this year. I am confident that the learning process will continue, and I hope to contribute in a meaningful way.

A blue Banarasi for the final board meeting

Monday, June 19, 2023

What is one thing you are proud of?

 This Friday was all about hanging out in Cambridge with my firstborn, Ajey. He had attended an open mic program last month and insisted that I should come next time. When someone sang a ghazal there, it reminded my kid of his mom, and that was enough for me.

He had a work BBQ, and the plan was for me to pick him up from there and go to Cambridge. My story would have been about the open mic evening. When I arrived, he asked me to come and meet the host. Totally unprepared, I walked in and met the host and many of his colleagues. They were so generous with their compliments, not only about my saree but also about Ajey. People of all ages, from seniors to the young, talked about how wonderful he is as a human being. They described him as hardworking, curious, polite, and someone who gets things done. But the prevailing theme was how uplifting his spirit is.

I was told that we have raised a wonderful son, and that was the highlight of my evening. I will come back to admit and write about how awful I felt last weekend as a mom with Anand when I am ready. So, this experience was really refreshing.

We both went to Cambridge, and once again, I realized how lucky I was. Among the younger crowd, we were a mom and son duo, enjoying what we love the most: art, culture, and music together on a summer evening.

I did recite a poetry by Faiz and Ibn-e-Insha . Spoke little bit about Desi Moms Network and a dad came forward to tell me about his son. He said he came for the first time and was grateful that I was there, Desi Moms Network grew by one more family. Somethings just become the cause for a bigger effect. 

Is there a time line for your grief?

 I spend my Father’s day morning celebrating a life, a friend’s father who moved on to a different joinery couple of months back. I had the privilege knowing him for a short time and was very fortunate to have some wonderful memories.

As I listened to my friend reminisce about her father, it made me ponder how one copes with such a loss. Is there a way to alleviate the pain? After all, her father was not just a parent to her but also her guide, mentor, friend, and someone she relied on every day.

We all have our own way of appreciating  our father figure but may be we take them for granted? We assume they are there for us always and fail to express what they really mean to us?

I have been through my share of scare recently and I know how dark it can be. Few years ago my father went through a surgery and the thought didn’t even occur to me that he may not come back. However, during his recent hospitalization, I realized just how fragile life can be.

I have seen some of my friends regretting not rushing to India on time, not being there by their parents side and honestly their grief has made me a better person.

What is your story? How did you celebrate your father’s day? Did you call to tell him you love him? I am not a day to celebrate kind of person and call my parents often, love them, argue with them, joke with them and some time be mean to them too but don’t miss a chance to tell how much I love them.

A simple mangalgiri to the remembrance meet

The first born was home - my happy photographer caught me in moment
 I let the boys enjoy the morning while I was gone. My boys are very lucky to have a wonderful dad - to celebrate what he is and I am not  I took the man out for a dinner :)
and here is one with my Hero- from one of our many small walks 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The shift in Special Needs families - Opening up and seeking help

 In the last few years, my world has evolved in many ways. I was once a worried mom (I still am to some extent) with no hope and no resources. I remained in dark places for a few years and then decided to seek help. People came into my life because I made space for them. I learned some, shared some, and then built Desi Mom's Network. The concept was born out of a desperate need to find people who are living my life, who share my fear and frustration.

Creating that village brought changes to my life. When I am lost, don't know what to do, and when family, children, and household push me to my limit, I do have people who hold my hand, share resources, problem-solve, and support me in getting back to normalcy.

I am very fortunate, but there are also days when I question why I need any of these in my life. Today, while talking to a mom who is really going through a dark time, I assured her that she is not alone and that these tough days will pass, but she needs to work on it. Seeking help is the most important skill she needs to have.

Are you good at asking for help? Do you have what it takes to open your heart and soul to someone? Are you afraid to show your vulnerability? 

During my last visit to Bangalore, I had the pleasure of meeting a friend who shares my love for sarees. Until then, she had only known me through the stories I shared. She gave me a gift- this saree—a beautiful reminder of the power of stories and words.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Celebration - Its own kind - what do you celebrate?

 Mr. Husband is a very content man, as are his boys. Celebration is a very personal matter for them. I am different; I just need a reason to have fun. Ajey, my firstborn, is somewhere between his mom and dad, while Anand is like his dad. Ajey wanted something different and fun but without much fuss.

Ajey's birthday was one of those occasions when the four of us went out. Anand loves going to the city for walks and didn't question the place or food, agreeing to go with us. That was a big deal in itself. Ajey chose an upscale place in South Boston, and Anand did listen and dressed up appropriately.

Once we reached there, he found a small store and went to get his fast food. I was worried that it might create some issues, but our server didn't care. The restaurant was totally empty, which was helpful too. We were there by 5 PM on a Sunday.

Anand had his usual soft drink, tried tacos and kebabs, and decided this was not his kind of food. He made himself comfortable on another couch and enjoyed his phone while the three of us could focus on food, drinks, and conversation without worrying about Anand.

Every family outing is such an unpredictable outcome. If it doesn't work out, I question it, but when it does, it surely encourages me to do it one more time.

What is your take on it? Would you keep trying, or would you avoid taking risks?

A Bhagalpur Silk for a saree meet 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Bangalore runs on the apps - an observation

This trip to India I had more leisure time in hand, stayed longer than usual and took things easy so got to see my sister’s lives more closely. One thing I noticed how life is depended on technology specially in Bangalore. The smart phone is key to everyday life. Every aspect of life is managed by some app. It reminded me of so much of San Francisco.

Specially the service apps are amazing, with cheaper labor, short distances and motor bikes availability they work wonderfully.

I live in a suburb and didn’t use much of door dash or Grubhub, don’t enjoy take out in general so this was a pleasant surprise.

There were few things I noticed - 

Loved the option of getting things delivered or picked up through Dunzo. 

Google Pay and Paytm and Phone Pay if you have these apps you dont need cash or credit card.

For grocery,  fruits and vegetables delivery app. Few are 24 hrs open, few deliver in 15 minutes, few run on subscription like milk and curd, few deliver in 6 to 18 hrs, Other than these apps many options on whatsapp to order fruits,  batter (idli, dosa, adai, vada, ground spices, fresh oil etc), next day deliver.

My sister’s apartment building has a gate app - No Brokerhood.

No one can come to her house without their approval. It also allows them to give 6 months pass to the frequent visitors, like my other sister has it.

There are other apps for the same purpose named as Adda and myGate, similar features.Selected the parcel options to see what was delivered.

They pay for society or maintenance charges through these apps and get immediate receipts.  It saves transactions history from forever.

NoBrokerHood app allows her to speak to anyone in the building and don't required intercom anymore. Without sharing phone numbers one can speak to other residents.

These are some of my observations. I would like to hear from the Bangalore folks and other cities too. What makes your life easy?

A saree gift from a saree sakhi