Where art thou, good day?

They say for every bad day, you have a good one. Well I’m still waiting! Today’s formula for a bad day: health frustrations + a hungry belly + homesickness = disaster waiting to happen.

I wondered when the tears would stop. If crying is (usually) seen as a sign of weakness (‘suck it up.’ ‘big girls don’t cry’ ‘crybaby’), then why didn’t God phase out crying after early child development? I wish my tear ducts would shut down. Hoping to see that good day soon…

Burn Bollywood Burn

It never ceases to amaze me how one can start the day with a full schedule ahead and nothing goes as planned. Today was one of those days.

In preparation for the SGI (Soka Gakkai International) Buddhism meeting this morning, I prepared a small speech as per my cousin Karishma’s request, got up bright and early ready to head to Karishma’s place in Santacruz. I went downstairs expecting the driver. No-show. After a solid ten minutes I called him (‘I’ve been waiting here, where are you??”). He told me his child was sick, he had relayed the message to Balu (the main driver) but not to me. Balu had been unavailable for the past few days due to temple/family/other stuff duties. Santacruz plans was scrapped. M and I decided to head to 3F’s ‘free facial’ party, which turned out to be nothing more than a Mary Kay setup. M, always curious, tried the products on her face. The skin care representative swore these items were in the ‘same league as Shiseido, Lancome, the likes.’ It was tough for me to take the rep seriously because her delivery was so poor. The rep kept endorsing the products as chemical free and all natural. One client complained the products burned her skin and questioned the ingredients. The rep, who made is seem as though asking her what the products contained was an ABSURD and out of place question, had no idea. I grabbed the bottle and read it aloud. Definitely not chemical free…M called her out on her unpreparedness and lack of knowledge, which happened more than once. Feeling as though we wasted a good hour, we headed back upstairs. Later in the day M’s face completely broke out.

We went to Le Café (the only place in Chembur with good non-indian cuisine). The food was delightful especially with a side of free wifi. With a satisfied belly, I heading down from the café to meet M when she called my cell. She sounded nonplussed.

“The store burnt down.”

“WHAT? What do you mean?”

—a little background here—I was getting Indian outfits stitched at a store in Chembur called Ambika. 3.5 weeks ago I picked out the fabrics, gave them two of my most treasured churidar outfits to model off of, and happily went on my way. We’ve been calling/stalking the store for the past three days but no answer. Today M went stalking again only to discover trucks outside Ambika collecting ash and piles of burnt clothes from inside. Somewhere in there were my outfits!

Needless to say I was distraught; it’s not that I blame them but there was a certain level of trust given to the retail store when I handed them my (expensive) outfits, maybe next time I won’t be so confident. The store owner was confused by my anger; ‘it’s all over, nothing can be done, take the positive from it.’ Really? The man that just lost his store (albeit, he has about 10 others on the same street. Not to mention the situation seemed fishy), is consoling me over my lost outfits? I felt ashamed for losing my temper with him and apologized, but explained, “Look, I’m really upset right now. It’s not your fault but I’m just upset.” I do feel sorry for the store owner, all of his stock has crumbled to ash. I was livid but 6 hours later and a good nap, I’m semi-over it. Hopefully the poor guy can recover from the loss. My red and blue outfits (R.I.P.) had a good run,  but I guess that means it’s time for some fresh items! RETAIL therapy ensues tomorrow after PHYSICAL therapy at Nanavati Hospital. Mind, body, and soul–holistic living to the max.

Fingers crossed. X

Sangeet in Mumbai with Kad...Red One
Sangeet in Mumbai with Kad…Red One
D's Sangeet
D’s Sangeet–Blue/Gold number

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Today was the follow up for the Art of Living Course I completed two weeks ago. It was a 6 day 3 hour intensive course, involving everything from yoga, Ayurveda, pranayama techniques, meditation and basic discourse. It was so interesting and really fun to do something like this in India. The Kriya (breathing technique) takes about 25 minutes and leaves you feeling super energized. We did the follow  up at a small schoolhouse down the road from my building in Chembur. It was so nice doing kriya again,  I wish I was regular about.  I get caught up in the rules and regulations, giving myself as many excuses as possible not to do it. But I totally get the pranayama thing, MAJOR oxygenation of the muscles. Wahoo!

To top off my super invigorating-exercise-health-filled day, I went swimming at the Golf Club. I didn’t plan on going since the weather cooled down after 6PM but I just couldn’t resist that pool. I haven’t swam much since I got to India so the water felt great. We ate dinner at the GC and (barely) tolerated the slow service. It’s sad how slow that restaurant is! I also think it has something to do with M and I being two females and zero male. The service, attitude, EVERYTHING changes when there is a male presence around and it sets me off. I hate raising my voice at people but here in India its the only way to get things done efficiently and to be taken seriously. I hate the double standard and I wish it would just disappear like Sapna (our hilarious housekeeper) does when there is a lot of work to do around the apartment. Often times I see her sneak away and recite to myself, ‘And away…she…goes!’

I wrote my speech for the SGI meeting tomorrow morning and now it is time to sleep!

A Woman’s Worth

I went to visit my newish friend on the 3rd floor this afternoon. I made an appointment for an Indian oil body massage (abhyangam) which was bomb and per typical Indian tradition, M and I stayed back to chat over homemade chai and snacks. Although I never asked her, I knew 3rd floor (3F) was no longer married/separated/man-less; there was never any sign of him around and her two kids seemed quite content that way. I figured it was none of my business and when she felt like sharing, she would. And today she did. She started off telling me about how at age 16 she used to suffer from extreme arthritis. Eventually the story developed into how at 17, she was forced into marrying ‘that man’. She explained:

“I was wrapped up in a nice white sari and asked my parents why this was happening. They told me it was because that man was coming to see me. ‘See me for what?’, I innocently asked. ‘Marriage.'”

She continued to recant the painful 12 years she spent in a remote village outside of Bangalore in what sounded like utter slavery. My chest grew heavy as she told us how her in-laws treated her as a prisoner by locking her up in her room, starving her during 5 months of her pregnancy. Her Punjabi neighbor secretly fed her when the in-laws weren’t around. 3F’s eyes grew weary when she spoke of the housework she did from morning till eve, leaving little time for anything else. She and her ex (who she mentioned was also violent) went through a nasty dowry-case battle for 4 years and are recently divorced.

The whole concept of a dowry blows my mind, its absurd and disgusting.The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a dowry as  property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. Apparently the groom’s side of the family can demand anything from the brides side: foreign cars, land, and stacks of gold are common requests. Women are treated as a form of trade merchandise whose value is to be determined by everyone except her. M reminded me how many people in India believe in and still practice the dowry system today. I’m grateful for my forward-thinking reformist maternal grandparents who were Arya Samaj members. My grandfather (Nana-ji) and his brothers fought to bring an end to the dowry system.  Nana-ji and Nani-ji never implemented the dowry theory in their household despite having 5 daughters.

It’s hard to imagine 3F experienced such hardships because when you meet her, she immediately glows. It’s the tough times that made her as strong as she is today, that’s for sure. Her kids are too cute and her family is a small, happy one. She swears that after her kids are married she will retire to her ashram in Bangalore forever in the presence of her Guruji. Her older kid’s response: ‘But MOM, who will look after MY kids and help me cook??!’, to which 3F cleverly replies, ‘we’ll find you a nice good Indian house-husband.’

Gotta love that attitude.

Noise pollution and a challenge.

AND I’M BACK. After nearly a year long hiatus, I’ve re-entered the blogging world!

I’m back in Bombay; same treatment, different year. This time M and I are staying in a 2 bedroom apartment nearby the hospital so thankfully we’ve unpacked our suitcases and settled in. I’ve been going to the same clinic, despite the crowd and other concerns. I went there this morning at 9, per usual. TM and VM left for the airport around that time. It was nice to have visitors in Bombay; I do miss the company of my friends and young folk, but I can’t complain too much because the old-people-posse I hang with is pretty hilarious.

I’ve decided I will spend as little time as possible at the clinic. I only have 2.5 weeks left in Bombay and I hate it there. In a sense I force myself to go there out of inspiration-motivation for my writing (strange, huh) and because it is where I got all my treatment done so far, but it doesn’t make the experience any better. It’s still crowded and unhygienic. The equipment is still poor and the environment depressing. M made a good point by saying, ‘The staff doesn’t force to come there. You are not tied down.’ This is so true and the reason why I decided to make my PT appointments for next week at Nanavati. I spoke with Jolly-ji’s PT lady tonight and will likely check out one more rehab center before I leave.

Outside down below on Sion-Trombay road, I hear a wedding. At least I think it’s wedding. Nowadays I assume anything loud with a dhol beat to back it up is a sign of wedding. The assumed *wedding* noise started at 4PM. It’s currently 11:02PM and only now have I experienced silence. M and I thought we’d ‘time-pass’ by watching the always enjoyable SRK in Main Hoon Na for a good 3 hours, hoping the obnoxious clamor would stop. No. Wrong. Absolutely not the case. No matter where I went this racket followed. It seemed to pour into every inch of our apartment– I went to the bathroom in hopes a few minutes of a quiet nothingness to no avail. It was even louder! Gangam Style was on repeat for the last hour until this noise-fest decided to call it quits.

I cannot express how wonderful it is to actually be able to hear the sounds of traffic that I so regularly hate! Its amazing what you can hear from 12 floors up; there is an obvious pothole somewhere outside on the road and when a truck plows over this at 2AM…let’s just say it makes for a very shaken and PO’d Sonali.

It’s been nearly 2 months ( I arrived on Dec 19th), and I’m ready to go home. As of late it’s mainly the pollution and standard Indian bathroom situation that is bringing me down. Bombay has a way of making you fall in love with it; the colors,  peoples’ warmth, the buzz of the city, the helping hands of a million strangers, and many other things. Overtime the charm fades and you’re left feeling what I am feeling now; annoyed and anger. I know this isn’t at all an accurate assessment of India and I know I love this city so much more than how I am expressing right now.
Somehow, I keep finding my way back to this mad place called India.

I RELISHED having a car for the past week while TM and VM visited–this way I don’t have to take my morning rikshaw to the clinic. It’s too dirty. Not to mention every time I enter an autorickshaw I usually face one near death experience. Today a big red bus came out of nowhere and grazed the side of  my leg.

‘Okay, THIS IS IT. This is how I’m going to die. I should just accept it. No struggles with the ‘Main Man Above’. I will leave behind all my personal possessions to older sister D…she always loved that purple dress of mine…’

So I didn’t die but I was surprised I survived. Again, love(d) those rikshaws but I’m starting to lose it. The dirt is everywhere and you can’t escape it…even if you try hiding in the bathroom…

CHALLENGE TO MYSELF: I will post everyday for the next 2.5 weeks until I leave Bombay. If achieved, (insert grand reward here)—I’m open to possible reward suggestions!

I leave you with the only reason I enjoy the occasional rikshaw ride.

WARNING: extreme cuteness below.

adorable school-kid rikshaw neighbors.

Holi Crashers

After the Lakme Fashion Show last night, a scenic drive over the Worli-Bandra Sealink, and spicy veg quesadillas, I awake excited for the day and my morning exercise routine. The clinic was crowded, but it was nothing compared to yesterday’s crowd. Each time I enter the rehab room, I can’t help but feel extreme gratitude; the room is packed with sick individuals and their family members, desperately in search of good health and yet they sustain a tremendous amount of faith. I can understand the nature of the patient’s movements; from the outside looking in, it may appear like a circus freak show, but it’s where I feel most at ease with my disease.

As I continued my exercises with the therapist, an old lady came over and pat my leg. She wore a generous smile and spilled out a few words in Tamil. The PT translated for me: “God will bless you, my child. You will not be overlooked.” It was a brief but touching encounter. ‘You will not be overlooked.’ How powerful is that?!

The traffic in Mumbai is killer. 20 minutes of shopping in Santa Cruz = 3 hours of your life. In a car. With barely any shock absorption.

I stretched my legs in the courtyard of the Golf Club (my temp residence during my stay in Mumbai) and I engaged in small talk with an Uncle. This led to an invitation for M and I to attend the Mittal Estates annual Holi Party tomorrow afternoon. He raved about the Punjabi Mutton, the 4 DJ line-up  and his newly married 25 year old daughter. I agreed that it all sounded fabulous and I’d certainly be in attendance.

4 DJ line-up and 5 acre property aside, I’m looking forward to some home cooked food. Pictures to come!

Musical Chairs

The beginnings of a blog! Quite proud of myself, I must say. Although it took 3 dangerously strong mojitos from the Taj Lands End lounge and free wi-fi, I finally made it.

The intial stages of my Stem Cell treatment involved several prep tests, standard procedure for the folks at NG. I arrived early Saturday morning, slept for 4 hours, and awoke at 8 AM to begin what would be a long day of test runs. I was nervous to enter a medical facility in India. Yes, even after spending the better part of 3 years here, this place can still feel very foreign to me, especially in a clinical setting.

My first instinct upon entering the hospital was to shield my mouth with my shawl for fear of catching airborne germs from nearby patients with ‘who-the-hell-knows-what’ sort of diseases. To my surprise, I looked down and could see my reflection in the shiny white marble floors. There was no noticeable odor present, no pushing or shoving… is this real??? The front desk staff was extremely helpful, responsive, even efficient… (Again, I couldn’t help but ask myself if this ‘India’ only existed in this particular hospital in Mumbai).  The receptionist led me to a chair in the waiting area and I pulled out my Kindle, hoping the hilarity of Tina Fey’s Bossypants would soothe any leftover anxiety I had built up for my EMG (electromyogram). I was called in and immediately asked a host of questions. The technicians sensed my nervousness. I propped myself up on the table, ready and willing for whatever came my way… or so I thought. Technician #1 was gentle and prompted me before inserting shock waves of electricity into my muscles. ‘How kind‘, I sneered. I looked over at my Dad and shouted,

“I should have brought those damn headphones”.

Technician # 2 said, “You want music? I have music.”


“Only Hindi tunes though….what do you like?”

“Lady, if only you had the time and I had the patience…Hindi music will do. Anything will at this point, please.”

The technicians continued to shock, poke, inject and test my muscles or (lack thereof), which all in all was not as bad as I had anticipated. It was painful, but the music helped. T2 and I started chatting about Bollywood actors and actresses

“Amir Khan, haaan, very intelligent man”

I told her I preferred him to SRK, who’s just silly (my words) . My father and I left, I thanked them for the music and was on to the next appointment. Testing continued like this till late afternoon, but it wherever I was greeted there was always some form of a musical distraction. Whether it was the high & lows of the MRI machine or the cheesy Vodafone ringtones, having a beat to follow helped make the game of medical testing less painful.