Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


The End of an Era

The bunk bed went yesterday. In the living room the 40-inch TV lies on the floor, devoid of its stand. The coffee tables and end tables gone – even their impressions on the carpet – gone. Very soon this house will be empty. Emptied of occupants and emptied of possessions. It will no long smell of curry, sandalwood incense or fried salmon. There won’t be small faces peering through the glass doors, seeking friends to play with. No more tea parties, potlucks or impromptu play dates when it rains. I am reminded of the song – I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Every place I’ll go I’ll think of you…

I remember coming to America as a young bride, all my worldly possessions in one suitcase. I was lost, lonely and totally naïve. All I wanted to do was go back to India. To everything I had left behind – my family, my friends, my career. But that was not to be. I grew out of my homesickness, made friends, had kids, and even started working on my career goals. Thirteen years later my wish to go back to India has been granted and I’m not really jumping around in joy.

The thought of meeting family and staying close to them excites me. I get to celebrate birthdays, Diwali and every festival possible with my family and extended family. We get to go to weddings and family get-togethers. All the food I crave when I am in the U.S. will be right in my backyard (literally!) We could go to music concerts, plays, art workshops. My kids will get pampered by their grandparents. All the experiences that I had as a kid and cherished, they could now have, not just during a vacation but for extended periods of time.

And yet a huge part of me would miss America. The only place we knew as a married couple. The place where we raised our kids. Where our belongings grew from one suitcase full of clothes to over 40 boxes of stuff. What happens to a person when we strip away all the stuff they have accumulated? Nothing life-threatening I assure you but the whole process is very unnerving. A sense of displacement, of hovering between two worlds like a ghost. Like a ghost without a house to haunt. We have moved several times within the U.S. and it is quite an emotional affair. The kids have a hard time parting with their toys and my husband has a hard time parting with his electronics. For me it is always the little scraps of paper with writing on it – cards made by my kids when they were in preschool, crafts made at school. Bits and pieces of my life and theirs captured with crayon and paper.

As I look outside at the burst of color that marks the beginning of spring, I know I will miss the seasons as I missed them in Florida. The blanket of yellow leaves on my porch in autumn and the shower of pink flowers on my driveway in spring. Winter I shall not miss, though my kids will. Summer will be the predominant season all year long in Chennai. So no winter blues for me and I would not have to wait for summer to go to the zoo and the beach.

I may never drive again given how chaotic it is in my city. Maybe sheer desperation and the habit of being independent may push me into it. My career, if I can call it that, is something I will have to work on again. Given that I don’t have any contacts in Chennai and have no clue about the present work culture, I feel despondent.

But maybe the myriad seemingly meaningless moves I made really taught me something. It never really is as bad as we imagine it to be. We do make friends, we do find meaningful work. We do figure out our way around (this applies specifically to me as I can get lost even with a GPS!)

So although I feel sad, there is an underlying wave of excitement and possibility. Like a child with a new toy or a box of chocolates waiting to be opened, I can’t wait to see what wondrous things await me. What will I make of it? Where will I go? Who will I meet? I don’t know, but surprisingly I am ok with that. It does not terrify me that I don’t have a fancy job waiting for me. Or that I won’t have my own place to stay. I remember things were exactly the same 13 years ago. So my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…and…

With a heart full of gratitude I bid adieu to my adopted country, America. Her snowcapped mountains, winding rivers and trails. Miles of beaches, tall redwood forests, bison, deer and cardinals. Her four seasons, oaks, maples and pines. Apple pie, pancakes and maple syrup. Pizza, cookies and French fries. Public libraries overflowing with books. Trader Joe’s and blueberry farms. Long road trips and scenic highways. Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. People who smile and open the door for you. I bid adieu to the many friends and neighbors who made my stay here memorable and pleasant. This is not goodbye. So long until we meet again…God bless you all!


Signs I Can’t Ignore Anymore…

As my long-term subbing assignment was nearing its end, I was plagued with questions about what I would do with my time. My future lay ahead of me, glimmering with innumerable possibilities, enough to confuse and confound me.

One day I walked into the classroom and was told that it was author day at the school. A famous children’s author was going to give a talk for most of the morning. I did not think much of it. Even thought that I should have simply taken the day off, for there wasn’t much work to do, except sit in the old gym and listen to a man talk about his books. Anyway, I was already there, so I simply followed the class to the gym and settled down to listen to whatever he had to say.

The author, Paul Owen Lewis lives in Washington and is a very gifted orator. A few minutes into his talk, he had all of us spellbound and hanging on to every word he uttered. He didn’t always know he wanted to be a writer. He practically stumbled upon a writing career when he was a substitute teacher in a local school. They had an author day at that school – you can imagine what was going through my head – this is no coincidence! He thought it was pretty cool to write books. Paul loved to draw and was pretty darned good at it. The author spoke about different ways to write stories. All stories did not have to start with words he said and this struck a chord with Paul. He loved telling stories through his illustrations. The rest is history. He now stood before us as a famous published author of children’s picture books.

He also compared the process of writing to putting the pieces of a puzzle together. You may only have a few pieces to start with but you can always find connections and link the pieces together. The idea appealed to me. Thinking that I needed a logical story line that flowed from one scene to another from beginning to end kept me going around in circles. In the planning stages nobody has the complete story or knows how to put it together. I only had a bunch of disorganized ideas. I had to put them down on paper and try and connect the pieces and add details to my story.

The morning session ended and I saw some teachers and students go up to the author, talk to him and pepper him with questions. Something within me was urging me to go talk to him but I quietly followed the kids back to class. A few minutes later I was back in the teachers lounge taking my lunch break. I was almost done when the author walked in. He smiled and asked if he could sit at my table. I nodded. I told him how much I enjoyed his talk and also added that the kids loved it. I blurted out everything about my dream to be a published author. He listened quietly and good-naturedly answered my questions while trying to chew his meal.

I knew wannabe authors like myself probably run up to him all the time asking for favors, tips and publishers’ contact details. Maybe that was the reason I did not approach him in the old gym. But when he sat by me at the table, I could not hold myself back anymore.

I knew this was a colossal nudge from the Universe. The term ‘in your face’ comes to my mind. I have seen signs before, subtle, faint, quiet whispers or visions that were sometimes hard to decode. But this time around the Universe gave me direct and perfectly clear orders. It didn’t get more direct than this. Or so I thought until later in the week another sign showed up. I was talking to a new friend I had made, who had just started reading my blog. She really liked the way I wrote and just like that out-of-the-blue suggested that I should write a book. She even mentioned an Indian author who grew famous through her blog and then ended up writing so many best-selling novels. I had heard of this author and even read her blog. I had even harbored this silly idea that if she could do it so could I.

Anyways, that’s what it always remains – a silly idea. I might get all fired up to write a scene here or a scene there or research a few publishers. Or follow an author’s blog as he tracks his word count and daily writing process. But soon enough the fire dies out and my enthusiasm flags. I just felt like I did not have the juice to see this thing to the finish.

The very next day, the Universe deciding that it was not done with me, but definitely done with my excuses, set-up this chat session with my cousin S. She is an aspiring writer between jobs, mulling about her future. Coincidence you say? I think not!

She said to me – I spoke to my cousin yesterday and he told me to write a book. I gasped at the impossibility of what I was reading. Those of you who were with me from the beginning know that I wrote my first ever blog entry after talking to my cousin. He asked me to write and some force outside of me took possession of me and before I knew it I had written and published a note on Facebook. In two months I had my own blog and three years later I still have so much to say – something I had never imagined possible!

Three years later the Universe wanted to remind me of that leap of faith, to get out of my own way and just do it. Just write and see where it takes you. Don’t worry about selling the book even before you type it up.

Paul Owen Lewis said to me – if you are looking to make money or become famous, don’t do it! For me it is more than that. It is about reaching out and touching someone else. It is about sharing life’s ups and downs and knowing you are not alone. So I’m going to do it and I know I am not alone because my cousin and every one of you reading this will be cheering me on much like you did ever since I started my blog. And for you – yes you! I am very grateful.