The sweater sleeves end at the wrists, leaving the palms yearning for warmth. They rub against each other, crawl into woolen pockets, and hide in the folds of an old white throw.
There they rest, until that familiar-but-maddeningly-persistent ringing of the phone. They wriggle out, they have to, and reluctantly inch closer to the icy metallic touch screen that glows ocean blue.
The cold wrinkles the skin, numbs the fingertips and curls them shut. But open they must, to pour some chilled wine and cut some cool cucumbers.
Sometimes, to hide the shivers, the fingers cup the mouth as if in shock; run through the hair as if in doubt. They seek the heat in the folds of the neck, in the slope of the back and in the pit of the arm.
All the while blaming the sleeves that end at the wrists, leaving the palms yearning for warmth.
We welcomed the new year with a slice of pizza, a large bite of home-made beetroot chocolate cake, and a game of What do you Meme?
When the laughs died, and the friends left, we sunk into our couch, and spent the weekend watching The professor and the Madman, The one I love and The Hobbit: the desolation of Smaug.
The slow weekend dribbled into a week filled with the pressure of keeping up with new ambitious resolutions. Bursts of good news came in: A friend was getting married, another was buying a house, yet another was expecting.
Excitement hovered in the air. It was often disturbed by the familiar knocks that signaled the arrival of Amazon and Wayfair packages: a teal loveseat, a gigantic picture frame, and Turkish cotton hand towels.
Cabinets were cleaned, bedrooms were reorganized, and future plans were neatly laid on the table. New blank journals were opened and in them were written thoughts about embracing the year… no matter how it played out.
Time sometimes severs some relationships so far apart that you have to unspool some old threads of memory to sew them up. Like when meeting a high school friend after long — every conversation inadvertently begins with “Remember when…”
2019 was life changing. My husband and I, we walked in the darkness of Mammoth cave in Kentucky, explored the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and strolled the busy lanes of Miami on a sultry summer evening. We moved houses, and slowly, carefully, turned it into a home. We laughed over Frasier on Netflix, hopped in and out of several art galleries in Texas, Maine and Tennessee, and tasted the best of Bourbon in Kentucky. We had Amish ice cream with his folks, and lazed around in Rehoboth beach with mine. Most evenings, we sat on the couch, enveloped in a white throw, watching a tearjerker like Marriage Story (my pick) or a mythical action flick like The Witcher (his pick). Sometimes, the nights were short, sometimes, they continued to the wee hours of night, with conversations and arguments over several glasses of wine.
Somewhere in between all this, we, he, and I turned a year older.
In 2019, I read 23 books, watched 94 movies and 25 odd series. Over the course of last two years, I covered 29 States in the United States. With each new book, movie, or place, I came to know a little more about myself. Insecurity, fear and doubt surfaced at several instances. But so did bouts of courage, strength and resilience. There were episodes of sadness, happiness, excitement and dismay. Like clouds in the sky, they appeared, and disappeared. This year, I started learning a new language; built a routine that included Yoga and meditation; and took up a new position as the editor of a newsletter in a local women’s club. All the while, writing content for a Pennsylvania-based non-profit (Friends Association for the Care and Protection of Children) that helped 354 men, women and children find a home. I also Marie-Kondo’d my closet, finished a sketch book, and turned to plants as the new home decor option.
It’s been a magnificent journey. And for that I am grateful.
“There is something strange about settling in to a new place, the laborious adaptation and familiarization…” wrote Mann in Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain). And as my husband and I journey through these times, I cannot help, but think about the home that we moved from.
We started our lives there as a newly married couple. Everything was new, right from the feel of the carpet to the workings of a relationship. But as we grew familiar with sharing a holder for our toothbrushes, a rack for our bath towels, and one closet for all our shoes and clothes, we also grew familiar with the grey doors, eggshell-painted walls, and the smooth wide kitchen counter top.
Together, we made the house our own; covering the floors with purple rugs, and walls with paintings — some done in the quiet of a weekday afternoon, some done on a cheerful evening after a glass or two of wine. Some mornings, as we sat soaking in the first rays of sunlight leaking in through the window, we sensed the sound that was unique to our home. It was a mix of the traffic noise on Philadelphia Pike, the melancholic call of mourning doves, and the muffled footsteps of our neighbors upstairs.
These days, on afternoons, as I sit sipping tea, I can’t help but think about the goings on in the world that we left behind. Around this time is when an elderly lady in her long skirt, and full-sleeved shirt came out with her Chihuahua that had a small limp; she would most often pass a group of kids walking back from the pool, still in their colorful neon swim clothes. Here, in the new place, afternoons are marked by the sight of a jet black cat lounging under a pine tree, grooming itself leisurely. There is indeed something strange about settling in to a new place. The laborious adaptation and familiarization…
My first potluck. Awake with the sun, I put curry leaves and mustard in hot oil, and let it sputter. My contribution to the potluck lunch: chili paneer.
Seated around the dining table in a mansion in Greenville, Delaware, some of us sipped white wine, and some others orange juice. There were eight of us. Five women and three children. All united by one thing common: Indian roots.
Some where born in India. Some were born elsewhere but had grandparents, great grandparents who were Indians. We discussed Bollywood movies, spices, history, politics and food. “It’s funny, a sprig of curry leaves here costs $1. Back in India, they would give a bunch of it free with vegetables.”
The smell of chili paneer, chicken curry, and dal puri, filled the room. We ate, even as questions dribbled on the table: “Where was your great grandfather from? What were your Ancestry results? Oh did they loose everything after the India Pakistan partition?”
The children, most born in the United States, munched in silence.
The rest of us talked about Indian weddings, child rearing, the feeling of being away from home… We understood each other, just like we understood the spicy food on the table.
Time to leave. We stepped out, and the hostess let us pinch small sprigs of curry leaves from her plant, to take home. We each held the delicate stems with care. The uprooted plants will soon have another home. Just like each one of us.
Six Flags (Great Adventure) was more than about rides. It was about this red bottle which never ran out of soda. It was about the overly juicy, pesto-dripping bread that we had for lunch. Of course it was about Nitro, Batman and Bizarro, but it was also about the really funny photo captured of us shouting our lungs out. It was about waiting in line for an hour for the first row in El Toro, and of cheering for the little kid who was too scared before the ride, but too happy after. It was about getting drenched to the bones in Log Flume, and shooting with an unforeseen rage at all the 4d creatures, in Justice League. But most importantly, it was about feeling like a superhuman for one day. Floating in the sky, riding along with the wind…and getting a little closer to the bright yellow Sun.
It’s a cloudy morning. A number of cars are parked in line outside; inside a table is spread with Japanese seaweed salad, Brazilian bread, Indian motichoor laddu, and Mexican leche frita. There is a coffee pot, a tea pot, and about 20 glasses filled with champagne, on the kitchen island. Conversations start with Guten Morgen, and Bonjour, and pick up pace in English. Broken and fluent. It’s International Women’s Club morning coffee meet-up, in Delaware.
I go around, gathering tiny tales from people to of different origins. All of them, though from different parts of the world, made America their home at some point. Each has been on a journey strewn with challenges and excitement; their stories ebb from what once was, to what is.
Some stories stay (scroll down to see them), and some fade away. But that’s alright. What matters are the moments of laughter, words of love, and sparks of friendship…They blur borders a little. Broaden your mind a little. And make you love life, a little more.
It’s a habit. Every morning, I walk out the bedroom with a book and pen in hand. Just as the steam rises from the hot mug of coffee in front of me, I open the book. Paragraphs and paragraphs written in the familiar cursive writing lie asleep between its pages. I open the cap of my Hero ink pen, and just like any other day, it throws a tantrum. So I flick it twice, and then poke the nib violently on the page, till, like a squid, it lets out thin black ink. With it, I write the Story of Yesterday. The movie I watched, the new fruit that I tasted, the conversations I had, and the love that I got. Each story, like each day, doesn’t take more than 24 lines. By the end of it, my face is a little moist from the coffee steam, and my heart, a little lighter. I close the book, take a long sip, and begin the day — which, the next morning, would be capsuled into a Story of Yesterday .
It’s Sunday night, there are many more hours between now and the rush of Monday morning. So we sit back, make some jokes, share some laughs. We let ourselves sink into the couch, and watch a heartwarming movie. And then we move slowly from the living room to the kitchen as if intoxicated by the joy of the weekend. We make some space on the table for a game of Tsuro – the game of the path. Tile by tile, we move our respective coins, surrendering to wherever the noodle like path takes us. But we must stop, for, the pizza guy is here. Board game aside, we pour ourselves a glass of coke each, and take a heavy cheese-dripping slice of pizza. Mouth-full, we chuckle to Frasier’s rib-tickling jokes. After all, it’s Sunday night, there are many hours between now and the rush of Monday morning.