Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Snippets

Internet access on this trip has been scanty at best. Which hopefully is a good enough explanation/excuse for my appalling lack of blog updates over the last little bit. The only times I can get online to check mail or check FB or dash off a quick post is when I can erm, "borrow" a signal from some hapless neighbour who has forgotten to secure his wireless connection. Like now!

Post surgery, we ALL felt better, not just Papa. There is the little issue of the biopsy results, but for now, we are making like ostriches and have our collective heads firmly buried in the sand and are only focusing on the here and now and the present. The rest, we will deal with as it comes.

Keeping that in mind, I have been doing my very best to catch up on meetings with friends over the past week or so which would explain my being out every single night ever since the 24th. Days are for family, nights are for friends!

One of the highlights of these nights out was the St. Anne's Choir reunion that my friend Maestro organised. Background: A bunch of us used to sing for the 6pm Sunday evening mass at our parish church. We'd been doing this for around 6 years when I left, and they continued to sing as a group for another 3 years after that until Maestro left to do an MBA in the US of A. 8.5 years later, we were back for a One Night Only "performance". We were older, fatter, taller, wiser(?) and in many cases with little versions running around; but our voices still blended just as well as before and we totally rocked the house church! Said my little cousin as we made our way to church that evening: You haven't MET each other in 8 years, let alone SANG together and the mass is at 7pm and its already 6:27 right now which gives you less than half an hour to practice!!! Can you pull this off??? The same cousin to her mum later that night; They hadn't even MET in 8 years and they didn't even have half an hour of practice and they were AWESOME!

And so have passed these last few days, with celebratory pre dinner drinks and dinners and post dinner coffees and the likes. Took a quick jaunt downtown with Maestro and another visiting friend (M&M) from "the abroad" who is also an ex Xaverite, like myself. Which was good enough reason to pay a visit to our Alma Mater. We even made a quick stop at the Psychology classrooms and labs high up in the rafters of the college where both M&M and I worked and slaved during our final years. OK, so perhaps M&M did just a *leetle* more slaving than I did, but hey, that's besides the point. We did meet a bunch of wannabe psych grads who were in the current process of slavery over journals - pointless copying of notes, observations and inferences into big fat log books that no one really bothered to read - and de-lighted their bogged down little minds with narrations of our past exploits in the very same classrooms eons before. I do believe that they were considerably bolstered by actual evidence that other persons had gone through the same boring mind numbing experience and somehow lived to tell the tale!

Which brings us to today. The last day of 2009. A chance to say goodbye to the year that has been and greet with open arms the year that is to come.

But first, I must go to the airport to pick up Jo who arrived in from Goa today to spend New Year's eve and the next few days with me before heading back home to Japan. Need to greet her before the new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sigh of Relief

The ordeal over Papa's surgery began about the time when my grandmother passed away. The visiting family (including my mum and dad) began to notice that Papa was having trouble swallowing during meals. He was already on a mashed diet, so the docs were called in. A growth was detected in his esophagus and windpipe. The docs advised us to wait it out. He might just be able to keep going in spite of it, they said. The weeks passed, and it got worse. His breathing was laboured and every meal started to become torturous for both him, and those around him. By the time I arrived into Bombay, we knew that there was no alternative other than surgery to ease his pain. Although it would be a simple enough operation, the risks were much higher given his advanced age. Still, it was either that or literally watch him choke to death.

And so, surgery was scheduled for the 26th. It was the first time the poor man was leaving the house in almost 8 years. That in itself was a trauma for all concerned as we had to call in a cardiac ambulance and he had be to carried out on a stretcher. He looked so pale and so worried that we all wondered if that was the right choice. Would we see him again?

My aunt, two uncles and a cousin and the day nurse went off to the hospital. The rest of us stayed home and fidgeted and jumped like cats on hot bricks each time the phone rang. Seeing as it was just the day after Christmas, it rang a lot!

The surgery was postponed twice; first the doctor was delayed, then an emergency took precedence. Finally, we got a call that he was out and in the post opp. It had been a tough operation, the docs said. Touch and go at one point. They were only able to remove about 70% of the mass. Still, he rallied through and they were confident he'd be fine. But they kept him in the ICCU for that night, just to be safe.

We took turns to troop to the hospital the next day. And how we all marvelled! The wheezing had disappeared, his voice was stronger and more confident, his cheeks had a bit of colour (after ages) and his meals were going down a treat! And impatient. He didn't like being cooped up in a hospital room. He wanted to get down and move around. The docs looked impressed when they came around. Get him home, they said. We don't want him catching anything here. Filthy places, hospitals! And besides, he's giving the 70 year olds a complex!

When they were bringing him home, the cardiac specialist who assisted with the surgery swung by to say goodbye. Papa, take care of yourself, he said shaking hands with his oldest patient. Oh, and don't forget to have your glass of "Holy Water" tonight! Splendid stuff! Keeps everything in good working order!

And so, he's home now. Safe and sound and back to drinking whisky! Let's hope that he stays that way for a long long while!

Friday, December 25, 2009

O Holy Night

Today, I celebrated Christmas with my family. It wasn't anything fancy, but yet it was a grand celebration. There was a lot of noise as everyone talked all at once not bothering to consider if anyone was actually listening. Family trait. The food that graced the table was wholesome and plentiful, old family favourites made by loving hands.

The wee Christmas tree had been dragged out from storage, dusted down and installed a few days ago amidst a controversy of whether or not it was "proper" to put it up this year given my grandmother's recent passing. Common sense prevailed and we all thought about her as we decorated it with love. On Christmas day, it turned out to be a very handy place holder for the numerous money envelops from those of us who had been too ill prepared (read: lazy) to actually go out and buy prezzies! Whoever said money doesn't grow on trees?
Post lunch, the cousins all changed into their "costumes" for the home-made production of the Nativity play. Yes, this would have been humiliating under normal circumstances, but since it was for the benefit of my 95 year old grandpa, we all swallowed our pride and put on a good show.

Of course, there was the usual back stage shenanigans; Mary was sent off to change as her original costume was too flashy, the angel was behaving anything BUT and had to be given a stern talking to, two of the three kings were in a squabble over which one had the bigger crown, Joseph insisted that his teddy bear be given a role and so we had the shepherd carry him in as a sheep and to crown it all, the baby doll that was to play the Christ child went missing and was found mere minutes before the show. As show producer (and official photo take-outer) I handeled it all with my usual grace and composure.

When all the food had been eaten, the presents unwrapped, the costumes put away and the general hustle and bustle of the day had died down, the youngins took a walk down to the promenade by the sea and brought a most wonderful Christmas day to close gazing out into the sparking light of the moon over the sea.

Tomorrow, Papa will be going in for surgery to remove the growth that was obstructing his windpipe and oesophagus. We did not want to think about what the morrow may bring. For now, this was our Silent Night. All was still calm, still bright.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Shortest Holiday Ever Taken

I took the 5:45am train from Bombay to Goa on the 19th and arrived into Mapusa at around 2:15 that afternoon. The next day, I left Goa at 2:20pm making it a grand total of 25 hours "on vacation".

In between, there was a large amount of running around and general chaos thanks to my little cousin having fallen ill with the stomach flu. Add in the complications of a door that would not lock thus forcing us to find alternate accommodation, a very anxious and easily alarmed pair of rellies and a cousin who persisted in treating me like a child causing me to have a meltdown of my own ... well, let's just say that those 25 hours were highly stress inducing.

Not the kind of vacation I would recommend!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The journey from the UK wasn't as long I'd expected. A very comfortable seat on a very comfortable airline helped with the jet lag - almost none this time.

Familiar faces met me at the airport, took my bags, gave me hugs, filled me in on all the local khabbar* on the ride home.

Its been 3 years. Outwardly, the city has expanded. Buildings are taller and leaner and now full of shiny reflective surfaces that shine and shimmer in the noon day sun. There are more billboards and everyone seems to be sporting a cell phone; vegetable vendors and building watchmen included. The Bandra-Worli link is (finally) complete and rises majestically out of the Arabian sea - if you can even spot it through the city's thick smog that is!

Underneath though, much has remained the same.

The traffic is still crazy and chaotic, with everyone following their own version of road (non)sense.
The shops are still multiplying, and the people are still shopping with a vengeance. (what recession?)
The dogs still roam the streets, barking madly at anything and anyone that dares intrude into their territory.
The noise of the cawing crows still wakes you up at unearthly morning hours.
The clack-clack of the milkman's pails still makes a nice tune as his cycles down the street on his rounds. Now, not as many since most prefer the packaged product.
Hill Road in Bandra is still more of a Hell Road even though this is the first time it hasn't been dug up in almost 3 years!

And yet, after the hellos and the hugs and the kisses and the all important hug(s) to Papa; after the thrill of being back had died down, after I sat down in the living room and look across to where Nana would have usually sat, I knew that no matter how joyous my homecoming, it was not complete without her smile and laugh and her hand on my head.

*Hindi word for news

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Night of Stars and Dreams and Celebrations!

Last night, I went along to the annual Christmas party hosted by Cancer Support Scotland. Staff, executive committee members, staff, volunteers and patrons all gathered to look back on the year that was and celebrate a number of amazing successes.

I knew there was going to be an award ceremony; the program had mentioned an award for Volunteer of the Year and Fundraiser of the Year. What I did NOT expect was to be the recipient of a special award myself! I was sitting at my table, clapping away with the rest when Bill, the Chief Exec started to talk about the next award recipient. And before I knew it, it was MY name being called and everyone turning around to take a look. Too bad I was in the middle of sipping from my wine glass and had to swallow in a hurry and gingerly put down the glass!

The past 2 months had been crazy busy as I was putting in umpteen hours working on the event and trying to juggle filling out all sorts of job apps. But every single minute of it was totally worth the effort when we found out that we'd totally blown past last year's fundraising target. The sense of accomplishment on that alone had been enough to make me feel spectacularly great about my participation.

Being presented with this award was totally unexpected and quite over-whelming really. I'll have to admit that I do like the look of the framed certificate now proudly displayed on my living room shelf.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I'll be Home for Christmas, if Only in my Dreams

Every year around the first week of December, my mum goes in to Christmas overdrive. Boxes of decorations are pulled out from the cupboard-under-the-stairs; each one of them carefully labelled so that we know exactly what ornaments are inside. (I get my love of lists from her). The holly wreaths are draped around the banisters and along the front porch. Nativity scenes are set up. Yes, that was in the plural. We literally have one for every room in the house. The larger rooms sometimes have two or three. Only the washrooms are safe; but only until someone has the bright idea to manufacture Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus mini soaps.

And then of course, we have the centre piece of all Christmas activity: THE TREE.

When we lived in Bombay, VBF would come over and help me and my mom decorate the tree. As long as we were in Bombay for Christmas, this was our ritual for about 15 years. When we were packing for our move to Canada, we had to trim back on what we were taking with us. That included the decorations and tree ornaments. It was gut wrenching deciding which ones would go and which would get left behind. Our first Christmas in Canada, we didn't have a tree. We'd only just moved into our own apartment at the beginning of December and there were a lot of expenses. A tree was too much of a luxury that year. My mum and I were in total agreement about that. We decorated the rest of the apartment and settled down to a tree-less Christmas.

Only, we just couldn't do it! A few days before Christmas saw me and my mum dragging the dead branch off the sidewalk all the way back to the apartment and decorating it with all the tinsel and candy canes and ornaments we could find.

And we've never had to compromise on a tree ever again.

This year, my apartment is as un-Christmassy as it gets. Not a bauble or holly leaf or tinsel string in sight; I truly cannot afford to spend on anything that isn't directly related to food or shelter. But, since I'll be in Bombay in just a few days, I don't mind as much as I know that there will be all the Christmas I want waiting for me.

Back at the ranch, my mum began with the decorating last weekend. The little cousins were over to help her out. Together, they put up the tree and then sent along this picture so that I could give it my seal of approval. I think the kids did well, don't you?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

Thanks to the amazing post-shower bouncy hair (all natural, no products) coupled with snazzy and carefully selected knock-em-dead party outfit and topped with great ass-in-jeans syndrome I am happy to report that on Saturday night, I was the very picture of calm and cool at Beans' party.

Of course, this was AFTER I hyperventilated the entire way over to his place and then had to ride the elevator 3 times before I had the nerve to get off on his floor and knock on the door! But hey, no one saw that. Unless the building security folk happen to review the security tapes that is.

Thanks to my master plan of arriving fashionably late, the party was in full swing by the time I got there and I was able to slip in unnoticed. Beans however seemed to think that this was the perfect opportunity to drag me around the room and introduce me to everyone, so unfortunately the second part of my master plan that involved sitting curled up in the corner of the sofa was foiled. Still, I found it in me to make polite conversation and exchange witty banter with the other guests and even be extra charming when introduced to La Mama and Le Petit Frere (first meeting) and Le Grand Frere (second meeting).

For the rest of the evening, I made sure to have at least, but no more than 3 separate conversations with family units - any more and I'd seem needy for approval, any less I might be perceived as stand-offish. There was light chit chat with the pals from work who, thankfully all avoided asking me how things were going and stuck firmly to neutral subjects like the weather. Yes, there was a LOT of discussion about the Glaswegian weather that night.

All except for one girlie who seemed to have missed the memo. I tried to side step her questions about why I moved here and why I picked Glasgow (of all places in the UK) but she wasn't having any of my non committal answers. Finally, as she asked me if I had enjoyed my time here so far, I snapped and answered that other than the fact that I was unemployed in a city where I knew less than 10 people and had a failed relationship to add to that, life was fine. Then, I offered to refill her glass and gracefully exited scene left.

But that was the exception, and largely it was an enjoyable evening. OK, so the large quantities of red wine that Gingersnap kept supplying me with helped a lot! But who amongst us hasn't turned to a glass (or bottle) of liquid courage every now and then? Bottom line, I would like to proclaim Saturday, December 5th as Day of Kick-Ass henceforth to be commemorated with wine and songs.

Can I get an Amen from the congregation?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How to Put on a Brave Face amidst Inner Turmoil

Readers, I am a royal mess right now. Beans' 30th birthday party celebrations are tonight, and I'm all in a dither. To go or not to go; the very worrisome question.

Not going just doesn't seem like an option even. It would be too much like admitting a level of defeat. But if I DO go, then I simply HAVE to shine tonight. Anything less, and it would be another kind of defeat.

To that effect, every single item of clothing I own is strewn around my bedroom in my attempt to put together an outfit for tonight that I'm hoping with be-dazzle the guests and keep them from seeing just how frightening and anxious and nervous I actually am!

The plan is to make a fashionable late entrance, 9:30 -10ish, do the rounds, make polite conversation with all of his friends and co workers (all of whom know EXACTLY who I am), have at least one conversation with his mother and brothers and then make a graceful exit around 1am.

Must run dahlings! A long bubble bath awaits to calm my frazzled nerves.

Finally have an outfit packed out. Hair under control and looking FAB-u-lous. Ass-in-jeans also fab. (but, of course!)

Grabbing a bite to eat before I head out and flip on the TV. Buffy's on. And its the episode where Anya first makes an appearance. Coincidence? I think NOT!

I am so going to ROCK this party tonight!!!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Competition

Dropped in to the career centre yesterday to make some copies of my CV and send off some faxes to prospective employers. The fax machine was playing up and so as I stood around waiting for it to come back online, I shamelessly indulged in my favourite public pass time - eavesdropping!

Over at the one table, an employment counsellor was talking to a young man about his options during these trying economic times. They went over all sorts of ideas from gardening to wood-crafting and I believe I even heard jam making being briefly discussed. The gentleman (and I'm using the term VERY loosely) didn't seem interested in anything that she had to offer. Finally, he got up to leave and asked the counsellor if he could come back after the recession is over!Another stellar example of the Glaswegian youth decided to join me at the line up for the fax machine and soon struck up a conversation. He was most interested in my accent and even after I told him (twice) that I am Canadian, NOT American, he persisted in telling me in great detail everything he just luuuuuurves about America. I quickly tuned out, but snapped back to the present as he explained just why he was so obsessed with that race. I figured I should know everything about America since I'm going to marry an American someday. Well, its good to plan ahead isn't it?

The fax machine was finally back online and I sent off my applications. As I turned to leave, I caught a scrap of conversation between a 30-something woman and another counsellor. And why do you want to become a relationship counsellor?, he was asking her. Well, lots of reasons, but mostly so that I can warn other women about the louse I was dating for the past 5 years. I see it as my DUTY and more of a calling than a job really.I left the career centre a little bemused. If THAT was an example of my competition, how is it that I'm not employed???

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Twelve Days to Holiday Bliss

Do you hear what I hear? The sound of a fast approaching vacation! In just 12 days, I will be landing on the shores of my original hometown. I haven't lived there for ages, but every time I go back I seem to be able to slip right into the rhythm of things. And every time I have gone back, the city - and its people - have welcomed me back with open arms.

So much to see. People to visit. Old stomping gounds to discover all over again. In 12 days, my true love city I will see. And in that city, there will be:

Twelve bottles of home-made rice wine a-drinking

Eleven different kinds of Christmas sweeties
Ten ex-pat friends a-visiting

Nine ladies dancing (and some gentlemen too)
Eight (Christmas) choirs singing
Seven friend's babies a-wailing
Six pints at Toto's (gonna need that after those tots)

Five days laying on a beach! (in Goa)
Four calling birds
Three precious words
Two celebrations of love
And a Grandpa who I just can't wait to see!

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