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Energy Healing 101

For most people the body is a solid tangible entity and the core reality of their existence. They forget that everything in this universe and beyond is energy and besides what is visible to the naked eye is a whole other subtle world that influences our reality. Without this energy or life force (chi or prana in eastern traditions) the body would simply be a corpse.

Our thoughts, emotions, and feelings emit a frequency, an energy if you will, that is palpable if you are discerning. Everyone is aware of this at some deep level but often dismisses it for things perceived by the senses. Regular folk who walk on sites that used to be concentration camps or battlefields can sense the pain, fear, and despair because these places are drenched in those energies. On the flip side when people visit a monastery, meditation center or place of worship they can feel the peace and almost always come back feeling good.

Think about it. Some places or people always make you feel peaceful and calm while others trigger unpleasant emotions. So what is it you are picking up on? Surely not the external appearance of things! Someone could be smiling at you and quietly cursing you in their head and somehow you know. You are picking up on their energy.

Apart from the physical body we all have an energy body that is greatly influenced by the food we eat, our predominant emotions and thoughts, all of which are different forms of energy. This energy influences our physiology and as a result our body. This is probably old news. Doctors have been talking about the mind-body connection for several years now. But what is interesting is that more and more doctors and hospitals are offering alternative and energy healing therapies in addition to regular treatment options.

My introduction to energy medicine came at a young age. A Reiki Master came to my college and gave a talk on energy healing and I was instantly drawn to it. I did my Reiki Level 1 with my Reiki Master, Nirupama Prasad. After that I was doing hands-on healing for family and friends and also started meditating on a regular basis. I ended up doing Reiki Level 2 as well, which allowed me to do distant healing. I sent Reiki to my babies when I was pregnant and both my kids were born healthy and through normal delivery. I have this on again and off again relationship with Reiki for several years now. But a few years ago I noticed a great surge of energy every time I did Reiki. My daughter started believing in Reiki after I got Lucky, our cat, to sit on my lap while I did Reiki. She closed her eyes, became very still and seemed to enjoy it. As a matter of fact, animals and plants respond very well to Reiki.

So what is Reiki? It is cosmic or divine energy (prana or chi) that is all around us. Reiki healers can channel this energy through their body and out of their hands to the patient. They don’t draw their own energy. This is important to note because some people worry that the Reiki healer’s energy will get depleted because they are sharing it with others. Contrary to this notion, healers feel energized after a Reiki session. They allow the divine energy to flow through them and fill them up before channeling it to the patient.

Reiki treatments are very effective for aches and pains. After a couple of treatments, the pain subsides or completely disappears. The patient also feels relaxed, sleeps better, and is emotionally balanced after a session. There are stories out there about Reiki curing cancer, reversing hearing loss,  and healing bones. I did Reiki for A when she broke her elbow. She reminded me that the cast came off two weeks before it was supposed to. The orthopedic surgeon was surprised and asked us if she had eaten a lot of cheese!

Over the years I’ve been wary of openly proclaiming the miraculous powers of Reiki or energy healing. Many thought I was weird, out there, cray cray, cuckoo for talking about it. But these days Reiki has become more mainstream and less “out there” and “alternative”. There are doctors in Duke Hospital who are also Reiki healers. Duke even offers Reiki Level 1 and 2 as part of their integrative medicine initiative.

I was surprised the other day when “Saving Hope” a medical drama series that explores near death experiences introduced a Reiki healer talking about the heart chakra of a comatose patient. Usually the media stereotype for spiritual or new age folk is a blundering fool who talks funny and can’t fit in with regular folk who constantly poke fun at their weird rituals. So it was refreshing to see that the surgeon in this serial wanted to give Reiki a shot to save her patient.

Alternative medicine (acupressure, acupuncture, Reiki, naturopathy, homeopathy, etc.) is gaining more acceptance. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that there is more to life than just this body and material acceptance. Also they are tired of popping pills and dealing with side effects. While alternative medicine cannot completely replace Western medicine, it can surely hasten the healing and reduce side effects. And more and more doctors and patients are becoming aware of this.

My aunt can’t pop pills when she is in pain since she is allergic to several pain killers. So I find myself doing Reiki for her whenever she is dealing with pain. These days she refuses to go see a doctor and insists that Reiki will heal her.

After the accident, I plunged into Reiki and meditation with renewed vigor. A month ago I was a nervous wreck – weepy, emotional, withdrawn, and barely able to function. After a month of Reiki and meditation, I feel more balanced, positive, and in control. I drove again for the first time after the accident and wasn’t crippled by fear or anxiety. It’s a miracle! I never thought I’d get out of it. I thought my old fear of driving would possess me, now that it had some external validation.

I decided to offer Reiki to people outside of my immediate circle because I have witnessed its immense power and miraculous results. If you are still skeptical, give it a shot. You’ll be surprised at the results. I always am!

If you have any questions or need more information please share them in the comments section and I will be more than happy to go deeper into this subject.

A Month Together After Seven Years

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After my brother moved to Sweden to pursue his Masters in 2012, I haven’t met him. Our trips to India never coincided. Often we’d miss each other by just a couple of weeks. And for some reason we never got to visit each other either. That changed when DD came to  Las Vegas on a business trip. He figured he might as well apply for a tourist visa while getting his business visa. He decided to come visit me in July (the hottest month in the U.S.) so he could celebrate my birthday with me. My parents were also supposed to visit but their visa interview was scheduled to be on my birthday!

I took every Friday off from work so we could do weekend trips together. Our first trip was to Asheville in Western NC. I had never been there myself, so it was a welcome surprise. Nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and about 10 degrees cooler than Raleigh, this place is steeped in natural beauty and a very “hippie” vibe as DD put it. Yoga studios, crystal shops, vegan restaurants, and art galleries galore dotted the downtown scene.

We strolled around Grovewood Village which boasts of an art gallery, an antique car museum, and art garden with artsy windmills and bears, rabbits, and fish made from wood, metal, and ceramic. The textile history museum had rare artifacts from when the city was a booming hub for the textile industry. Hand-spun material that originated here ended up as dress suits won by some first ladies.

After lunch we headed to the arboretum to cool off. We walked one of its numerous interconnected trails and encountered others like us who were trying to escape the long weekend Fourth of July rush. Sitting on a bench, we soaked in the light filtering through the canopy while listening to a stream gurgle by. We skipped over some rocks to touch the cool water glistening and dancing in the sunlight. It was just what my soul was yearning for.

Later that evening we drove to Lake Junalusca to watch the fireworks. It was a rainy evening but by dusk the clouds cleared as we stood overlooking the serene lake with a lone boat drifting along its perimeter. As it got darker, a smaller firework show started right before our eyes. Fireflies! Dozens or more of them in the bushes surrounding the lake were putting on a show. The actual fireworks were on the other side of the lake and obscured by some trees. But it was too late to move so we just enjoyed them from afar.

Next morning we headed to the Folk Art Museum with its corn husk dolls, horse-hair pots, and other unique pieces of art that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. It helped that my brother also enjoyed art and wasn’t in a big rush to leave as I lingered over each piece. After a hearty lunch at Mela, we headed to the Thomas Wolfe Museum and did a tour of the author’s childhood home which interestingly enough was also a boarding house run by his mother. It was trip back in time to when boarding houses didn’t face much competition from hotels and doctors prescribed fresh mountain air to cure tuberculosis and other maladies.

The characters in his book, “Look Homeward Angel,” were all poorly-disguised real-life characters. Fearing confrontation with family and friends for baring their secrets and follies, Wolfe never visited Asheville for eight years after the book was published. But when he did return as a famous author he was well received. Ironically, he died at a young age from complications due to tuberculosis. Rumor has it that his mother did not turn away sick people from the boarding house. Our tour guide brought all these characters to life and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Before heading back home the next day, we stopped at the Swannanoa Valley Museum which was basically a firehouse converted into a museum. Beacon Blankets was the town’s bread and butter until it closed down in 2002. The museum followed the history of this company which was so closely tied to the history and economy of the town. On the 2nd floor were artifacts like the first automatic voting machine, segregated water fountains, and old switchboards for telephones, also stories from the Prohibition era about moonshiners, bootleggers, and their run in with the law.

It was with a heavy heart that I drove back to Raleigh, leaving behind the misty mountain tops and chilled-back vibe of Asheville. But I’m certain I’ll go back for more. I don’t know if the mountain air is a panacea for serious maladies but I’m pretty damn sure it can cure souls grown dreary with city life.

On Sunday we had lunch with our cousin and his wife, one of many reunions that would unfold during DDs month-long visit. On Tuesday we went to a music park to watch the Tedeschi Trucks, with Derek who was supposedly a wizard with a guitar. DD was explaining the whole slide guitar concept which was completely alien to me. I had never heard of this band or listened to their music before, but was happy to accompany DD as long as it wasn’t rap or heavy metal (DDs fave genres when he was a teen and used to blast his music till the whole apartment vibrated!)

I have to say that this Derek guy delivered on his promise. His guitar prowess was evident and his skill and technique were flawless. He even played some Hindustani tunes on his guitar and I was impressed. The opening acts were also fairly decent and I could finally check off rock concerts on my bucket list thanks to DD (the only concerts I had been to in the past were school concerts and Carnatic music concerts!)

The rest of the week rolled by and on Thursday we made our way to Washington DC. I had been there last summer so I knew the drill. We did all the memorials – Lincoln, Roosevelt, MLK, World War II, White House, and Capitol Hill in sweltering 90 degree weather. By the time we reached Capitol Hill we didn’t have an ounce of strength to walk up to the building and take pictures. We stood near and gate, captured a few shots and left!

The highlight of the trip was meeting our cousin and aunt after several decades. We laughed and talked and reminisced the old times over some good Chinese food. I also loved the Air bnb we stayed in, tucked away in a quiet street in Falls Church. The owner had a cat, that we both took turns feeding and letting in and out of the house. When she got wet in the rain, DD ran after her with a paper towel to dry her off, only to find out later that she was a Turkish Van and loved water!

The next day I headed back home alone while my brother stayed back to meet some friends from school before heading to NYC to meet old friends from AIESEC. While he was there he met a former client who had made a career out of dog walking. DD spent an afternoon dog walking with him. His pictures with the dogs are pure bliss. You can see the joy filling him and spilling over. I really wish he would get himself a dog!

From NYC he flew to Denver to meet some clients and then explored the city, which he described as his favorite city in the U.S. so far. He got back home just in time for the weekend and we explored the museums in downtown Raleigh and ate a ginormous breakfast at Big Ed’s that serves up Southern fare. DD discovered grits when he was in Asheville and loved it. He was little alarmed to find that all Southern dishes were fried but finally settled for Cajun fried chicken. On Saturday he headed off for a day in Charlotte to see some Arsenal fans/friends. He spotted the assistant coach walking past him and managed to get a selfie with him. He’s always lucky that way. Years ago, DD caught Buddy Guy’s guitar pick when he threw it at the crowd during a concert in Mumbai. And here I can’t even catch a foul ball at a local baseball game!

On my birthday we went to a Tibetan Buddhist center to participate in their morning meditation. After the meditation, they set out some strawberry cake, fruits, coffee, and herbal teas for everyone. We finished off with a South Indian lunch buffet at Tower and headed back home because it was too hot (this was the heat wave weekend across the U.S.) to do anything else but laze indoors.

It’s funny that the two of us are so different and yet so similar. We both love bisi bele bath, salt and vinegar chips, art, animals, and meditation. Of course his idea of meditation is 10-day intense retreats, while I prefer a regular practice in the comfort of my home.

Our last week together flew by and then it was time for him to leave. I made one last meal for him and we sat down to have lunch together. Just the previous night he had made his world famous Zafrani pulao. When we were growing up, I had never seen him cook anything but Maggie noodles. So I was in for a surprise. He took his time, was very particular about the ingredients, and didn’t allow me to rush the process. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t cook every day. But the pulao was perfect. It didn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (which is what happens when I cook rice on the stove top) and it tasted great!

A month flew by and we had so much fun. I just wish we meet more often and don’t have to wait another 7 years to do this again!

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Dancing in the Rain

If you live in North Carolina the only weather forecast you take seriously is a hurricane headed your way. So three days ago when they predicted thunderstorms I headed out for a walk with A and two umbrellas in tow and although the clouds looked menacing they only managed to squeeze out a few drops of rain. So the next day when there was a thunderstorm in the forecast I decided not to skip my walk. This time we only had one umbrella between the two of us (A had misplaced hers). It was already raining when we stepped out but within a few minutes it got really heavy and our sleeves were getting wet because the umbrella was not big enough for the two of us. By the time we reached the mail boxes with a little roof over it we were quite wet. That’s when A suddenly remembered that they interrupted regular programming to alert everyone about a thunderstorm with potentially 60 mph winds.

“Now you tell me,” I scolded her. She just shrugged her shoulders and proceeded to take videos of the rain coming down in buckets and causing little rivulets of water to swiftly make their way to the storm water gutters. My initial plan was to wait it out but I wasn’t sure when this storm would pass and we were losing daylight. So we decided to head back home. At this point the umbrella was useless and we were pretty much drenched by the time we got home.

Getting wet in the rain reminded me of simpler times in Madras, the rain-starved city and its people. Of course weather forecasts weren’t that accurate and schools didn’t send emails and text alerts to let you know they were closed. So, many of us would brave the rain and reach school only to find out that school was closed. That meant no classes but the gates would be open and our classrooms too. We’d take off our wet socks and shoes, and untie our braids. Uninhibited and unsupervised, we’d play games, sing, and make the black board our easel. It was more fun that sitting at home and watching TV.

I remember a time when we lived in a rented house and the land lady wouldn’t supply us with water in our pipes and we had to go fill water at a hand pump in her backyard. We had access to the terrace because we lived upstairs and one day when it rained, my mother ran up to the terrace and stood in the rain. Just taking in the abundance of water falling from the skies. When she emerged, rain-soaked and glorious, she was beaming. What the land lady withheld from us, the heavens gave freely and there was some deep relief in knowing that.

My friend G and I used to go for evening walks and window shopping in the galleries on KNK Road. But by far the most enjoyable walks we had were in the rain. The oppressive heat and the delayed monsoons always made everybody restless. Rain was sweet relief and release. The cool water on our skin was cleansing and healing. The dusty roads gleamed and the puddles reflected the stormy skies. It was pure joy walking in the rain with another soul who enjoyed it as much as I did, giggling and laughing all the way.

Later when life got busy and we went our separate ways, I still got excited when it rained in Madras. I remember running outside my grandma’s house and dancing in the rain, spinning around in circles till I was dizzy. The plants all around me seemed to be equally happy as they glistened in the rain.

I almost forgot how happy I was in the rain. When A got completely soaked and lost her slipper in a puddle she was giggling and so happy. I on the other hand was feeling like an irresponsible parent, dragging my child through potentially dangerous weather. That’s when I remembered, wait a minute, I used to enjoy this! By then we were home but I decided to go dancing in the rain again some time soon because I now know that the rain nourishes my soul.


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Before and After…Never the Same Again

Life plan before the accident

  • Wake up at 6:00 a.m. Pack lunches.
  • Work from 8 to 4, Monday to Friday
  • Chill from 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Cook dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Eat dinner and clean up from 8 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Watch mindless TV or a movie from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
  • Sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Life plan after the accident

  • Publish my book.
  • Do meaningful work (more than just getting a paycheck). Right now this is inviting a larger community to experience Reiki healing through me. But I feel like this is just a small part of what I can offer to others.
  • Spend time with people that make me feel alive and joyful.

So on the 25th of July my brother and I were driving to a seminar and were in an accident that was pretty bad. I don’t want to go into the gruesome details but the car got totaled and we escaped with minor cuts caused by glass shards from the shattered windshield. That we are both alive and I’m actually typing this, is a miracle. When my car spun 180 degrees after the impact, I thought I was a goner. Even after it stopped spinning I wasn’t sure if I was alive or dead till someone opened the door and asked me if I was OK. That’s all it takes. We are just one breath away from kissing death. From losing our mortal frames that we so take for granted. If I had died that day, I would have died with a lot of regrets. For not putting my happiness first. For not doing things that were really important to me.

We all have all the time in the world before something like this shocks us out of our complacency. And then it hits us that our time is limited, borrowed, and we pay a heavy interest for not investing in our dreams. Even if you never had a close brush with death, every time someone you loves crosses over you are plagued with guilt and regret. You think of all the calls or visits you could have made, all the words you should have spoken and all the things you should have done to let that person know they were loved. The list goes on.

You don’t remember them for all the wealth they accumulated or all the places they traveled to. But you always remember how they made you feel and their small acts of kindness that made the world a better place. Did they spread joy, laughter, and abundance? Were they there for you when you needed them?

I want to be that person who was not too busy to call and check on you. That person who has not lost herself to the mindless busyness that so many live and die for. I want be around people I love and cherish and who love and cherish me just the way I am and not expecting me to play small for their sake. After the accident I chose life, love, joy, abundance, and most of all meaningful connections with people.

As if the accident was not enough to wake me up from my slumber, another incident jolted me out of my comatose state. A friend from college passed away. A kind and loving soul with infinite potential who was a visionary and touching so many lives through her work and her mere presence. I may not be able to do what she did in her short life but I at least want to try to be the best person I know I can be and use my God-given skills to make this world a better place. I cannot ignore this anymore and keep on focusing on meaningless things.

If you are in a place where life is throwing challenges at you, know this. You are not alone. We were never meant to go at it alone. It’s the constructs of the world and technology that isolates us. Reach out and know that someone out there is also going through the same thing and is also wanting to reach out to you. Here’s to finding more meaning in your life and relationships.

 


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The Hollow Truth

After years of trying to put myself together and reach the ideal I set for myself, it finally feels like I have succeeded. I have a home, a job, a family, vacations when I want and even where I want. And yet I feel like I have paid a steep price. When all the hollow material things came together, the things that really mattered started falling apart, pillar after sturdy pillar crumbling to dust before my eyes as I hankered after shallow stuff in an effort to fill the void and the numbness where love once dwelt. Maybe it’s not my destiny to have it all? Or is there even such a thing – not the destiny bit but the have it all bit.

We often get beguiled by the smiling pictures on social media. But maybe just maybe there is a lurking sadness behind those eyes. Some deep dark mystery that keeps those photo-shopped faces awake at night. Then again I look inside and feel like my crumbling pillars were built on foundations of soft sand. Sand that was wont to shift and shake those pillars for good measure. I feel all alone in the world with my checklist of accomplishments which only feel important till you actually check them off. After that they are just items on an impossible list that keep growing. Maybe it stems from my relentless need to prove myself. I’m not sure who I’m trying to prove myself to or what I’m trying to prove anymore. But it looks like I spent the greater part of the last decade doing that. But I’m not puffed up with pride. I just feel hollow, empty, and quite ordinary.

Maybe hollow is a good place to start. Maybe I can fill it with things that bring me joy and love. But first I need to dust off the debris and discard it. I can’t fill my hollow with the rubble I intend to leave behind. I cannot build over the crumbled remains or anywhere near it. I’m going to have to find some sturdy ground to plant my feet and start building anew. I don’t know the where or the how but I do know that I can’t put all the pieces back and keep trying to build stuff after it breaks down time after time. I’m just tired of reinventing myself and trying to make things work when I clearly know they won’t. Trying to hold onto crumbling pillars when I know I could get buried under them. And I did get buried in the past and had to crawl out of it all by myself. One must learn from the past or be prepared to keep repeating it.

It is time. Time to build something worthy of me.


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The Story of the Temple

Here’s the story of the famous temple in South India where people celebrate their 60th, 70th, 75th, and 80th birthdays, and where we celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday. There once lived a sage who was a great devotee of Shiva. Every day he would joyfully offer his prayers to Shiva. One day however the sage was a little downcast when doing his daily poojas. Shiva appeared before him and asked him why he was not his usual happy self. The sage told Shiva that he had no children and that was the cause of his misery. Shiva smiled and blessed him with a baby boy. But he warned the sage that the boy would only live till the age of sixteen. The sage was ecstatic and he named the boy Markandeya. When the boy turned five, his father taught him how to do Shiva pooja. The boy prayed to Lord Shiva every day without fail. When he was going to turn sixteen, his distraught parents told him that his end was near.

On his 16th birthday, Markandeya was praying to Shiva when Yama, the god of death came for him. Yama told Markandeya that his time was up and that he had to go with him. Markandeya ignored him and continued with his pooja. Yama repeatedly called the boy but he refused to go with him. Yama, livid with rage, took his noose and threw it around the boy. Unfortunately, Yama’s noose fell over Shiva’s idol. Shiva flew into a rage and annihilated Yama.

Shiva granted Markandeya the boon of immortality, so he would stay 16 forever. Markandeya was so grateful to Shiva that he travelled from one Shiva temple to another singing 16 verses in praise of Shiva. The last temple which also happened to be the 108th temple he visited was Thirukadaiyur. “Kadaisi” means last in Tamil. The deity in this temple is Shiva accompanied by Markandeya and a vanquished Yama underfoot. Abirami, Shiva’s consort is flanked by Saraswati, the goddess of learning, and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Right across from the deity is a shrine for Yama.

The story goes that after Yama was vanquished, there were no deaths on earth, but the births continued unabated. Mother Earth went running to Lord Shiva lamenting that the burden was too much for her to bear. She begged Shiva to do something. Shiva in his infinite mercy released Yama and gave him back his powers. With Yama back in his post, births and deaths were balanced out and Mother Earth heaved a sigh of relief.

The number 16 shows up in the temple quite often. They performed 16 homams for my Dad’s 70th birthday. Sixteen kalashams or pots of water were poured on my parents. The priests recited the 16 verses composed by Markandeya and we had to do 16 namaskarams or prostrations. The belief is that people who visit this temple will also be granted a long, happy, and prosperous life. And I do wish that for my parents and for my aunts and uncle who accompanied us.


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An Unforgettable Trip

My father just celebrated a milestone birthday. On March 1st he turned 70. Ten years ago I had flown down from Boston with hopes of celebrating my grandma’s 80th birthday and my Dad’s 60th birthday back to back. But that was not to be, my grandma passed away a day shy of her 80th birthday and her cake didn’t get any candles and was never cut. We couldn’t celebrate my Dad’s birthday in a big way. It was just a quiet lunch with immediate family and one close friend from his Monfort school days.

I had  planned to go home for Papa’s 70th birthday. I hadn’t been home since we moved back from India after living there for a year. Two and a half years. I was so ready to go home to my parents. I ended up going alone because the kids had school and couldn’t take off for two weeks.

I took a day off from work to go shopping for gifts. After several hours spent wandering around the mall and its menagerie of shops, I still couldn’t find one gift befitting the occasion. So I settled for several smaller gifts. Books, a t-shirt that said “Papa” and a stash of letters addressed to “My Incredible Dad.” You see he is always asking me to write letters and I can never find time to sit down and write to him except when I’m waiting at airports to board a flight.

When I landed in Chennai, the city gave me its usual stinky welcome and I was on sensory overload for the next two weeks. The food had an exotic taste to it (although I pretty much cooked the same thing back in the U.S.). The vivid colors, the crowds, the noise engulfed me and so did the love of my parents. With the kids and my brother absent, I was the sole object of their affection! And how I basked in it.

I gave my Dad one gift every day up until his birthday. I baked a chocolate cake for him, that didn’t turn out as well as I wanted it to. (Note to self: Bring high quality cocoa powder from the U.S. next time.) But it was consumed in two days and I’m guessing my parents loved it.

My dear friend N came down from Pondicherry a day before my Dad’s birthday. Since her birthday had just passed we decided to celebrate with a black forest cake. The girl loves Italian, so we walked down to “Little Italy’s” and stuffed ourselves with garlic bread, lasagna, and gnocchi. My Dad treated us to ice cream at Amadova. We ended up eating “Bournvita” flavored ice cream to counter our over indulgence but ended up too stuffed for our own good. Suffice to say the walk back home was surprisingly long and hard.

On March 1st I gave my Dad the stash of letters, an Origami card from his granddaughter, and a card and some NC chocolates from my friend at work. My Dad’s friend from his school days (the same one who came down to celebrate his 60th birthday) showed up with a humungous chocolate cake and other gifts. My mom and I made puris and potatoes (my Dad’s favorite), curd rice, grated carrots, paneer curry, fried mushrooms, and fried rice for lunch. N left for Pondicherry after lunch.

In the evening, we put two candles (7 and 0) on the cake and had my Dad cut it. We all took turns feeding him cake. His friend, ever playful, tried to put cake all over Papa’s face but only succeeded in smearing some on his cheek. His nephew came over to pick him up later that evening. I have to say that some friends are one in a million and once you find a friend like that you hold onto them for rest of your life. And Uncle V is definitely such a friend. Even my friend N, who reads people like she’s a psychic, could tell he is special.

Next day, it was my turn to be graced by a visit from my friend from school. J and I ended up giggling like school girls and then she took me out to have some Indo-Chinese fare with her lovely daughters. I stuffed myself with chop suey, gobi Manchurian, chilli mushroom and fried rice. The girls insisted on ordering fried ice cream – a desert I had heard of but had never sampled. The verdict? I loved it and would definitely order it again.

After a couple of days my aunt flew down from Mumbai. Papa and I rode the metro rail to receive her at the airport. I have to say the station and the trains were cleaner than the New York metro. It was not crowded and shined like new. The white straps hanging from the top of the train to my great surprise weren’t grimy or grey.

The next morning my aunt and uncle came down from Kerala. My parents had bought sarees for all of us and we went shopping for matching blouses that evening. Again you can spend hours in saree shops looking at all the lovely weaves, hues, and designs. But we had rush back home and pack for our big trip the next day.

After packing way too much food (which we didn’t end up eating) we left early next morning for Thirukadaiyur, a temple town famous for celebrating 60th, 70th, 75th, and 80th birthdays. Six hours and many kilometers later we reached there safely, thanks to a driver who didn’t feel the need to race against time. After resting for a bit, we proceeded to the temple for the 1st set of poojas. (Look out for my next blog post on the story behind the temple.)

My dad and mom exchanged garlands while the nadaswaram and drums played and escorted them to the place where the priests were waiting for us. Sixteen homams had to be done and some of them were done that evening. The next day we were back at the temple at 8.00 a.m. where my parents garlanded each other again to the accompaniment of the drums and nadaswaram as is the custom at Hindu weddings. After a few more poojas and homams we proceeded to pour 16 pots of water on them. My mom shivered as the cold water hit her. After they changed into dry clothes, they garlanded each other again and we all sought their blessings. The very same day we returned back to Chennai and the next day I had to return back to the U.S. My whirlwind trip had come to an end.

Now that I’m back, the whole trip is like a blur. But I remember my mom’s soft idlis and sambar, my dad rubbing tiger balm on my swollen feet, my aunt letting me sleep on her lap when we were driving back to Chennai, my other aunt stitching a blouse for my daughter, and my uncle packing idols of Ganesha for me and staying up with me when I couldn’t sleep due to jet lag. I remember the unconditional love that only parents can give you and the sweet embrace of my friends. I will cherish this trip for years to come and I hope and pray that I get to spend many such precious moments with my parents and my extended family and friends.