Monday, December 14, 2015


Being in my forties is humbling.

I like it for this. I really do. You see because I was such a star kid. By thirty, I thought I'd have written couple books or started a successful company or produced a film or two and traveled a ton, done a lot of good for the community of humanity.

Yes, a tall order and some have done all of this. Just not me.

I have produced one rather bad film (if produced means listening to and obeying more or less blindly, the director's and investor's demands throughout the film), written one novel (ho-hum commercial success wise, lets not kid ourselves), traveled to the usual places, done a bit of good.

I'm like the person who imitates the art work or cooking or what have you on Pintrest with less than perfect results. A lot less. The souffle that didn't quite rise or did but then collapsed and stands lopsided.

But I have decided that it is ok.

Because I am a kind person. Dr. Suess said, "If you're kind, that's it."

Anything more than that I am going to take as a bonus.

We are all a little of this, a little of that. More of this, less of that. Sometimes I wish we would reveal our failures on Facebook, our fears our dilemmas. Leave the triumphs and cute, overachieving kids private. Wear our hearts on our sleeves. Tell it like it really is.

FB post for Monday December 14th:
You know what "Friends", today I feel bloated and look about 7 months pregnant and no amount of Gas-X is helping. I didn't almost nothing over the weekend except laundry and cooking. But on the bright side, I have come up with a few good ideas for my new novel.

Ok, so I will probably never do anything too earth shattering. I might write another book, start a company making some doodad or another, help more people. But I'm never going to live up to those star student expectations I gave myself in my tween and teen years, even up to my late twenties.

And I am going to start accepting that it is ok.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


It's easy to start this with I hate laundry but I won't because I don't. I mean not all the time.

I do detest how it multiples like so many rabbits.

I detest how it's never really done. It's frightening how after doing a few loads I put it all away and look inside the closet to put back the baskets only to find a pile ready there, waiting, looming in the darkness like a beast that must be tamed or else....

It is omnipresent, omnipotent, omni$%@.  Now, I mustn't lose my temper, for what's the use. Laundry is like the sun, more reliable than the sun. It will be there for me. Every single day.

I admit, I do like the meditative quality it offers. Folding for example is a simple brainless task accompanied with nice smells and a feeling of homeliness. Relaxing.

But it is thankless. It is perhaps the most thankless of thankless tasks. Close competition perhaps for dusting.

No one has thanked me for their undies or hankies or shirts. It's quite the reverse. 'Have you not done the laundry?  Really need those jeans.' Never, 'Thanks so much for this! It smells divine. I've been wanting to wear these jeans for days!'

And so I do find myself wishing it would end, go away, disappear, even though I know it won't.

Not until I'm dead.

Laundry is like the cockroach. When the world ends, it'll live on like the cockroach. And thrive. Not get done of course since no one will be left to do it.

But it'll be there, waiting for the next boatload of people to restart its relentless machinery.

Bracing myself now, for after I post this, I must go put away three baskets worth. Only this time I am prepared for I know there lies lurking in the dark recesses of the closet, two sets of sheets at least, along with who knows how much more....

Friday, December 4, 2015

Raising good little husbands and fathers

I have sons. I've always wanted daughters. I ached for one when my first son was born and so had a second, also a boy.

Now, I wouldn't exchange that for anything in the world. My boys are just super.

However, I felt pangs of sadness when I knew we were not going to have more kids.

There would be no daughters.

Sad, yes, because I would miss all the fun of having a little baby girl but mostly sad because my husband and I, with our values and outlook would've made such good parents to a girl. Girls need parents who empower them. Even today. Despite all the progress, women still have it tough and need to be told how strong and capable they are. Amidst all the pink and frills and make up and fluff, girls need to perceive just how much they can and should do. We would've done that for a daughter.

As my parents did for me. In my home, I was always the older one, my brother, the younger one. It empowered me. Completely. I tell my father, he is the one who gave me the courage to stand out, to never toe the line, to never compromise, to be myself, to go forth and conquer.

I also think this way because my husband is the way he is. The most kind, liberated man I know in every sense of the word. He's the kind of dad a girl would have loved to have.

Then I think, we need more men like that.

Men who truly don't think women should or shouldn't do something other than out of choice. Men who respect the person they work with, man or woman. Men who can be surrounded by powerful, attractive women and not feel threatened or compelled to show off their male-ness in any way. Men whom women trust as colleagues and friends, without fear of strings attached.

So that is what I must do for my sons. Raise them to be men like that. Modern in every sense of the word. Equal partners to the persons they decide to link their lot with. Supportive, encouraging, understanding, helpful.

When I tell my ten year old to put the toilet seat down, to learn to cook meals, to help around the house not for pocket money but because he is a part of the household, it is to start learning to be a good person, a supportive partner in the future. To a man or woman, I suppose. For in any marriage/partnership, someone ends up doing more of one thing than the other. The balance may tilt and as long as the one is willing to bear the burden with the other being understanding about it, the partnership works. Right now, I am the primary care giver for our family, my husband the winner of bread. But he has told me time and time again that he will willingly give it all up. If I want to take his place, he will happily take over my role.

I hope I can teach my sons to develop a willingness to change or alter roles as the need requires and to not feel threatened if their wives are in more powerful or bigger money making situations than they. To know that such a case is not cause for insecurity as much as it is cause to celebrate and be proud. Then I'll have raised good husbands and future good fathers.

My boys have never been told not to cry like a girl, throw like a girl or anything that makes them slot men and women into places that are unfair at best, cruel at worst. They wear as much pink and purple as they'll (in spite of biological and social wiring) allow me to put on them.

They will and must learn to appreciate that a woman staying home to take care of her children is doing so by making certain sacrifices. It's not just mums who do this. It's the person in the marriage who has chosen to do it. It's not just a mum's job to do this and a dad's to do that. Even though that is what they mostly see around them.

I found myself stumped when my friend with two daughters (she has a PhD and has chosen to stay home for the time being) said that she wonders sometimes how to encourage her kids to do all they can, to work hard and get an education, a career path, if at the end they must put it aside to care for their children. It is indeed a difficult question. A question of priorities. And there's no easy answer.

But here is where the man in the picture can make such a difference. Sons. Future husbands and fathers.

Yes, my sons see the stereotype. It is hard to tell them that it's more complex than what they see. They see me cooking the meals, cleaning up, doing the laundry. Right now this is how the balance tilts in our household. But they also see that I have published a book, that I am looking to get back into the business world. They see how my husband treats me. Like his best friend, his equal partner in every sense.

It is important to me for my sons to see me do more than be their mother. I believe it is important for a child to see their mother in a role beyond mothering. No matter how small, in a different role. It gives them the idea that their mother is more than mother and wife. She has different aspects to her personality and life. It gives them pride in her for a different aspect of her life than being mother. This I have seen happen.

Not that it is the answer but it goes a long way, besides always maintaining gender equality in speech, behavior and action in our boys' presence.

My mother says if a child is a good child, it means their grandparents were/are good.

She is so right. For this is a cycle, isn't it?

Good, considerate liberated fathers will probably beget sons who will then be good, considerate, liberated husbands and fathers.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Race representative

I am sick of it. Tired of being a representative for India. I am tired of answering questions about my country of origin, about the traditional clothes I wear, about Hinduism, our food habits, history etc etc.

I am still never able to kick off the feeling that I always need to be on my best behavior. I represent India, and I am answerable for all its issues from the possible realities of Slumdog Millionaire to food and everything in between.

I am tired of being around people who assume just because we speak a different language, it must be Spanish.

All this from people who are the nicest as can be but so not exposed to anything other than the four walls of the Midwest. I am not saying buy an airline ticket to Seoul or Tokyo. But it's time to pick up some books and find out what a sari looks like or a Kimono or a Cossack.

The world has shrunk, we practically live on top of each other and yet so many people I know are completely ignorant. Never mind that it is such an irrtant that even after two wars and all the exposure from novels and news, people pronounce Iraq as Eye-rak or Afghanistan as Aafganistaan. Seriously? Time to hit the books, friends. Time to twist that tongue already.

The days of living in your own little world blissfully ignorant are long past. Might do you some good to learn Mandarin and pick up some tips about not cutting a sorry figure in a meeting in Mumbai.

Now let's flip the coin to the other side.

My own stereotypical thinking and imagery.

American women are super confident. Having observed women from all over the world, American women walk different, talk different--just with a slight chip, it would seem, to the lay observer. They appear so tough and seldom let chinks in their armor show. And so I make certain unfair assumptions based on that--presume lack of sensitivity or understanding and such. I admire them for their sheer show of strength, be it real or not. But for someone who walks around with her heart on her sleeve and being from a culture where such strength isn't necessarily needed to be shown only to be seen in action, its hard for me to see beyond the mask. Even friends, the game face is seldom off so its hard to break down that barrier, that facade of what might well be bravado. It's unfair of me I know and yet...

And with minor stereotypes, if I speak to someone with a European accent, I realized that even the most innocuous statement has me romanticizing them somehow. Someone I know from Europe mentioned to me in passing how he take coffee with his wife every morning at 6:30. Instantly, in my mind flashes this image of him and his wife sitting on a balcony facing a cobbled street and age old buildings. The man lives in suburban Illinois and I know this yet my mind went to what my association with his accent and manner were.

Perhaps people think I sit around the house wearing tons of jewelry and cooking tandoori chicken, listeaning to sitar music. And I suppose I mustn't blame them, I guess.

What's commonplace to one is exotic to another.

I cannot see an Asian woman without wondering what she might be cooking for dinner since Japanese and Chinese foods I absolutley love. When I see them at grocery stores buying this and that I have to contain myself from stopping them and asking for recipes for whatever goodies they have planned. Does it occur to me that they're just like the rest of us trying to get a meal on the table, not a gourmet spread? Yes and no.

And yet despite understanding this, I am starting, perhaps in my old age, to feel the need to be around people who just get it. To whom I don't need to explain what a bindi means or who Ganesh is.

Or that we don't speak Spanish at home.

Truth is I am a foreigner in America. In some senses. In many I am as American as they come having absorbed core values that I believe makes my adopted country so great. And yet I need to feel like I belong in a place where there are other transplants like me. Others who would like to be wished Happy Chinese New year at the appropriate time or Happy Diwali. And in the middle of it all, Merry Christmas too...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What is wrong with us?

I just saw the movie 'The Imitation Game' and was deeply affected by it as I usually am when a genius dies unnecessarily at a young age due to the utter foolishness of man.

Alan Turing died at 41. Committed suicide. Because he had to take these idiotic drugs to "cure" his homosexuality. My stomach turns.

41. I am 42. And I haven't even gotten started on my road yet.

This man who would have turned computing on its head, this man whose ideas are still revered today died at 41 because we are stupid and frightened of what we don't understand.

Even today I have friends ask me if I would be upset if my son/s were gay. Really? is it worth answering that question? It boggles the mind to think how far behind we still remain in the quest to being evolved individuals.

Color, race sexuality, religion still separates us because of suspicion and fear. Shooting people out of fear, war because of hatred and suspicion, persecution because some religious book or other said it was okay to do so.

The religion bit amuses me no end. It's man made, people! Religion wasn't made by God. God didn't write any of that stuff. We invented it. Whatever served the powers that be at that time designed it the way they saw fit. And if we take what they deigned to tell us is the way to live, then God help us all...

Anyway, I digress. The death of a great mind at a young age is what we are talking about. The Alan Turing thing reminded me of one of my favorite writers--Oscar Wilde--also persecuted in his case, imprisoned for indecency (read homosexual behavior). He died in prison. Tragic.

Oh and Alan Turing was posthumously pardoned...wait for 2013. How grand. Kinda close to the whole church accepting Copernicus' theory hundreds of years after it was proposed. Idiocy, all of it.

The world has changed some since those dark days (anyone who laments for the good old days is gaga in my book)

It has changed some, but not a whole lot.

I hope a day comes when people simply have to shake their heads and laugh in disbelief at the ways we have treated one another over the centuries and shudder gladly that such times are long past and will never come again.

I truly hope. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Piano high

I read somewhere that one must do one thing a day that scares you.

I'm afraid I took this advice to heart a couple years ago.

It had been a lifelong dream to learn the piano and so I started lessons with my at the time 7 year old son. Piano is perhaps one of the most difficult things I have ever taken on. And that's an understatement.

And my over forty year old hands are not thanking me for doing so. If I don't practice everyday, I lose skills like water draining from a pot with a hole. Granted the Suzuki method has some finger twisters but my performance (especially compared to my more nimble fingered son) isn't much to write home about.

But I long for the day I can jam effortlessly playing the odd jazz piece or just play my own thing. It's been two years and that goal seems as far away as another habitable planet in the universe. My hands move along the keyboard scrawny and splayed like vulture talons. And the sound I end up making isn't awful but a gifted student, I am not.

Between trying to remember (Suzuki relies on memorization) notes for the left hand and the ones for the right hand and  correct fingering, I usually forget the finer points such as dynamics (softening a place, making a note or chord sound louder), Then there are greater goals I am being encouraged to achieve--soften the left hand compared to the right hand (keep dreaming) or in a chord, emphasize the top note (my fingers laugh when my teacher says this to me).

And so I stumble along lesson after lesson. But I persist. Why?

Piano high. Like runner's high, after most lessons (unless I have done super badly in one), I leave full of sauce to practice and perfect something that week. The sauce runs out of steam by the end of the week and filled with anxiety I attend class. Seriously, I get nervous before every single lesson. Which is why I asked my teacher not to make me play in performances.

I mean, imagine the embarrassment. When I ascend the stage following some gifted five or nine year old, the audience will see me and expect some major movement or adagio. Instead I shall give them chopstick fingers. How appalling. And between feeling nervous and facing an unknown piano (this one really does it for me. I can somehow manage on our house piano but this is one instrument you cannot shlep along with you so heaven knows what you will have to play on. Which keys might be gummy, which loud, which soft. The tension would literally fry my brain.)

And so I stay away from that side of things.

It's not encouraging being the only oldie amongst a group of ranging from 4-17 year old students. Most of them Chinese and for some, the piano being a second instrument. Let's not even go there. I mean where is the time for these kids to practice, let alone get as good as they are?

Anyway, thanks to piano high I shall persist and who knows by the time my teacher is 102 and I am in my sixties, I shall have my debut piano concert! Don't laugh. I've heard of many a piano teacher live that long.

As for me, what can I say? I'm a late bloomer.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Taking stock

These days I spend time trying frantically to market my book.

I know I am trying to prove something. That I am capable of this, showing that my drop of a book can glisten and rise to the top just as well as another in this vast ocean of media bombardment of all sorts? Or that I am smart? That I can make it a best seller by using sheer elbow grease? I have no name, no marketing millions to back me up. Just my street smarts (such as they are).

Seems like a futile exercise.

Makes me wonder. Does it matter if 500 more people read my book? Ten more libraries buy a copy?

I don't need the money. I am not in this for any sort of renown.

What then? I question why I even bothered writing it?

But then when I see my son insist on giving a copy to his teacher I feel a glimmer of understanding as to why it might all be worth it. This pride he feels will stay inside him in some shape or form, be formative, perhaps. A nice memory of his mother. Something he will pass on to his daughters and sons.  That feeling has meaning.

I read a very nice thought on a library website (as I was trying to contact them to pitch my book). Can't find it anymore but it said something like 'artists want their work to live on forever....and yet we always stop and admire butterflies.' I've done an awful job paraphrasing but the idea is, I suppose, that the simplest things are what remain most meaningful.

It is amazing how ambition can be blinding.

At first I was thrilled when a few libraries (major ones) agreed to buy my book.

Then my local library bought a copy. It was all I had ever wanted. To know that a copy of a book I wrote would be in my local library.

That was it. Should be enough.

And yet that slime of wanting more creeps in as more comes in. Lots of parables to cite on this one.

And the result is more anxiety, more stress. I took pleasure in that achievement for exactly five minutes. It was something I have wanted for years. How pathetic.

I don't know that I have the sauce in me to write another book and go through the wringer again. I am not that good a writer.

I have to believe what I say to people. That publishing a book and getting it in my local library was a bucket list item that I have finally checked off. A decade later than I had planned. But it has happened.

Then I think, should I now go on to another item on the bucket list? Is it even worth having such a list? Unless it is not one of ambition but of more accessible goals.

Perhaps I ought to learn from this, one of my favorite cartoons.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes

Monday, January 26, 2015

Kirkus Review for The Colossus


In Iyer’s debut thriller, a young Chicago caterer finds herself in a race to unlock a mysterious code that will reveal the secrets of her deceased father’s life’s work.
This complicated adventure tale begins in 1935 at an archaeological dig in India’s Indus Valley, and it moves through modern-day England, Pakistan, and Germany as its characters go on a madcap search for clues. At the Indus dig, Maxine Rosen’s grandfather, Samuel, discovered an ancient stash of small disks made of some sort of nutritional supplement. Local legend said that they could bestow either long life or unsavory death, depending upon who swallowed them. To study them further, Samuel brought the disks back with him to German, where he was head chemist at Berliner Pharmaceuticals. Years later, his research was taken up by his son, Hiram, in Chicago; he died in 1995, an apparent suicide. Now, in 2000, there are powerful people who want the disks and findings destroyed, and they’re targeting the few remaining people who know about the Rosens’ work. When Lars Lindstrom, Samuel’s old lab assistant, shows up at Maxine’s door and asks for her help in deciphering Hiram’s code, she feels compelled to complete what her father and grandfather began. Iyer maintains the narrative tension throughout; each discovery leads to another riddle and adds to a growing cast of threatening bad guys, including former Nazis. She’s rather good at subtly dropping clues that many readers will likely overlook—just as the inexperienced heroine does. The author provides romantic relief in the form of Dr. Julian McIntosh, an archaeology professor at the University of Chicago who agrees to help Maxine in her quest, but unfortunately, he’s thinly drawn. In fact, except for Maxine, the novel pays scant attention to character development, concentrating instead on the main storyline. Interestingly, Iyer is at her best in lengthy passages that detail the disks’ components: complex, ancient spores comprised of retroviruses that somehow lower one’s metabolism. This intriguing biochemical aside offers implications that ultimately validate this thriller.
An often imaginative novel with a well-concealed surprise ending.