Live in the moment

I grew up listening to songs, from a time, from before I was born. When I was seven or eight, I borrowed from appa’s collection, a painstakingly recorded cassette of songs of the black and white era; recorded when it played on the radio. I still remember “yeh raat bheegi bheegi” starts of in crinkles of a broken radio transmission before it reemerges. Over time i discovered ARR, but these songs of Illayaraja, Yesudas, Mukesh and KishoreKumar, from an era I only understood through the sacred recordings of my father, always held a special charm.

They were like a comforting cup of chai after a long day. They were sung and sung again during antakshari sessions with cousins during summer vacation power cuts. They didn’t complicate with slang and slurs and remixes; making it easy to memorize lyrics and mimic tunes after a few listens. That was and is their simplicity and beauty!

Amidst these wonderful songs, there is one genre which was appa’s favorite. May be because it coincided with his bachelor and newly married days in Pune, he never missed amol palekar’s movies and he would never stop to mention how wonderful the music in those movies were. Probably every malayali’s soft corner also emerges from the fact that the lovely renditions Yesudas has given to Hindi film music of that time, 70% of them were for amol paleker’s movies.

Today, as I enjoyed and rejuvenated in my yoga class, when the teacher decided to twist it a little by playing 80s Enligsh music for a few min to pep us up, I was wildly amused. The energy that sprung from listening to yesteryear songs in the patrons was amazing. Someday when I establish my dreams of a yoga studio back home, I will play the songs, my father had unbeknownst passed on to me – I made a mental note.

In the final moments of shavasana, the teacher mentioned a few words of “living in the moment”. I let it through like a passing thought. Back in my car, I tried playing the “top 15” songs from current movies, only to not stick to any. I quickly changed to ‘Gulzar’s hits’ on a whim. Like a train of thought, to remind me again, from a movie of Amol-Palekar, Kishore Kumar crooned “aane waala pal”. The singer in gulzar’s writing, beautifully tells us –

The moment that is here, is here to pass

If you can, live a lifetime in that moment

For the moment will soon pass.

It was probably the best solo driving moment, I had in years. Clasping to the wheel, driving past a setting sun and humming to a tune that was telling me, the moment I was in was the real thing, not my other dozen thoughts. I set the thoughts aside. I breathed. I lived. I hugged the moment….. And then I let it go!

A wedding, A toddler and A vacation (well! almost)

It was with much enthusiasm that I had packed and planned and preplanned the 5 day trip we took nearly 10 days ago. We were taking a long journey to be at my cousin sister’s wedding and for first time in 15 years, I was going to meet everyone in my extended family at the same time! We were following the 2 day wedding events with a tightly scheduled Yellowstone national park visit and stay. Of course, we weren’t foolish to believe that we’d be on a honeymoon travelling with the overly active and transforming toddler, but I am sure every parent will agree, that even though most of your time still encompasses feeding, napping and diaper changes, a change of setting is always welcome for these activities 🙂 ( silver lining, folks! Look for silver linings… )

Now that I have made it sound immensely worse that it really was, here are the things that hit us like a boomerang giving us travel lessons with our little one –

  • Even a short 2 hour timezone change was like a sea of difference for the toddler. He’d wake up at 5:30 am, famished, it being his breakfast time in EST and nap at 10 am, since it was his naptime in EST. You get the pattern and it’d transcend thru the day.
  • Change of setting, driving lots and letting him finish his naps in the car or stroller, instead of giving him the luxury of a bed, we were pushing him to his limits as well. So, yes, can’t blame him for throwing a fuss as the day closed on us.
  • I packed a lot of home cooked meals and lugged a cooler or a mini fridge I’d say. Of course! You guessed it; we ended up eating most of that food, while the toddler was perfectly happy with chicken tenders, yellow carrots and fruits the place had to offer. By day 3, I gave up thinking about his next meal and took it as it came.
  • He was a sport, now that I look back! He managed to stay alert through most of the trails and treks, sometimes walking alongside us, sometimes on our hips and other times, rebelling to stand in the stroller rather than sit. He never complained enough that we had to turn back ever and we shoved him around day after day!

The trip was indeed an experience in all aspects, and here are all the “GOOD” parts –

  • The Bozeman wedding, in the wilderness, overlooking a gorgeous green hill was one of its kinds. The Indian attires glistening and ravishing in the lush green setting was indeed a treat! What were most amazing were two families from completely different cultures and countries bonding and celebrating the union of the beloved couple. For those interested, here are some gorgeous clicks – Photographs. My sisters, full of life and talents up their sleeves, only made the events more colorful than they already were. They spiritedly painted many-many hands in a single evening with henna (maridani/mehandi) and pulled off amazing maa-kolams at the wedding venue with allpurpose flour! Listening to them give the wedding speech filled with yesteryear songs was a treat in itself! Of whatever I caught of the wedding ceremony, my favorite part was J singing “Maalai maatrinaal” during the garland exchange.. She coupled it with English translations without missing a beat “She wore the garlands… She Exchanged the garlands” for the benefit of the groom’s party. It was lovely hearing it against nature’s settings! I relived my childhood summers, being around my family, only this time it was through the eyes of our children. We had come a long way, it was unbelievable!
  • And I must mention that the only grizzly bear we ever spotted during our stay was while driving to the wedding venue in Bozeman. He was cute, relatively small, probably a baby, quick and crossed our car. We were in disbelief before it hit us what we saw!
  • Old faithful and surrounding geysers were our first stop in Yellowstone. The unstable landscape itself was fascinating and annoying at same time. Annoying because of the rancid sulphide that fills the lungs as we walk the long trails, but fascinating that, you are experiencing something that may not survive this century and you are witnessing history. I loved the old country charm of the inn itself, reminding me of Hogwarts somehow (undeterred harry potter fan) with its winding staircases everywhere! Our room was tad small than we would have liked, but it was cozy. We also caught a geyser bubbling up, which isn’t as predictable as old faithful and much higher and powerful than the popular one, by chance, while enjoying the views from the inn’s terrace. That was the highlight of our stay there!
  • Upper and lower falls, was our next and most favorite portion of the park. We spent the day in various parts of the falls, braving the almost treacherous red rock trail that winded, steeped and rolled to the tip of the upper falls 600 feet in 0.6 miles. It was probably the most challenging and adventurous we got during this trip with the little one lugged on our hips. While we got pelted with hail near the mud volcano and some heavy rains near sulphur caldron, we were too excited to let weather dumb us down. Equipped with umbrellas and ponchos we had an eventful day spotting wildlife (Bisons aplenty, and some elks) in hayden valley and mesmerized by the falls, the gorgeous grand canyon of Yellowstone.
  • Mammoth springs was our exit spot of the park. On our way from Canyon village, we meandered through snow covered peaks, mount washburn dumped in snow, tower falls ( not as compelling as canyon falls ) and a long drive through lamar valley. Mammoth springs was a calcite based volcanic activity zone and thankfully it didn’t stink like the sulphur areas! The day was turning hot and probably more so around the steaming hot springs. We managed to complete all the trails in this area, with the toddler running alongside us.
  • I can’t exactly portion my emotions as we drove out of Yellowstone. Part disbelief, part exhaustion, part contentment.  It was a once in a lifetime experience. I felt for a large part immense happiness and peace too, because the toddler slept right at the start of the drive and woke up only 2.5 hours after when we reached Bozeman! 🙂 woohoo!

So, that was as good as it got and here is the BAD –

  • We caught glimpses of the wedding and even missed some parts of the ceremony. We also had to gush out of the wedding home before the late night dance party, lest our asleep toddler woke to the music! So yes! we missed the best part of the evening. Only few weeks back someone mentioned about a wedding invite which said “no kids”. And it had infuriated me. I probably understand the reason now; it is not to discriminate against kids, but to ensure the adults have a good time! With a child who is always exploring, and always on the run and in between ages of 0-5, try reasoning why his mother should enjoy the minty-elaichi-flavored-Gin cocktail instead of babysitting him and you will know what I mean!
  • My idea to stick with vegan/vegetarian/fresh food was met with ‘bite-in-the-a**’ reaction, when a fresh veggie sandwich on Sunday morning, before starting our drive towards YellowStone, ended up being painfully disastrous; making me spend most of the day throwing up and missing the geysers along the way to old faithful! I let father and son do the rounds that day. After that important lesson, it was black bean burger, on my staple diet all the way through!
  • Our otherwise sleeping manageable long stretches child, decided that now is the time to not sleep. We were spending nights catching sporadic sleep and waking up to a hungry angry jet lagged baby! It got better each day, and finally on Tuesday night, my son was in CST time zone. Oh you cruel irony! Our flight back to EST zone was on Wednesday 🙂
  • We slept in a different room, a different location each night from Saturday night to Wednesday night. It is bad and good, from where you look at it, but it also meant our backs were being subjected to every kind of bed, rocking a toddler and lots of driving, which did eventually give my husband a backache, at the end of the trip.

It gets better (NOT)… and here is the UGLY –

For the uninitiated, this is what Murphy was talking about.. We lived “it” in last 36 hours of our journey —

  • 11:30 AM flight out from Bozeman, delayed to 2:30 pm.
  • At 2:40 pm, sleeping toddler on the stroller, still waiting in Bozeman, click pictures of the picturesque views from airport for added boredom.
  • 3:00 pm, flight is canceled. Scramble stroller, bags and whatnots, arrive to be the last in the long line.
  • 4:00 pm, awake toddler confused why we are still at the airport. Finally, our turn arrives. We are on 6:30pm flight to Chicago. Provided stay in Chicago and next day 11 am flight to Boston. Woo hoo (not yet)
  • 6:40 pm, boarded the flight, waiting. We are asked to get off the flight; due to weather conditions in Chicago, no flights are getting permission to land or take off.
  • 8:30 pm, Sleeping toddler(phew!) we finally board and take off to Chicago. Some spectacular thunderstorm and lightning along the way, it almost felt they may turn the flight around. ThankGod! They didn’t.
  • 1 am, Chicago time, lost all sense of time zones by now. Finally checked into hotel, rested!
  • Thursday 11 am, flight to Boston delayed to 12:30 pm. No biggie. We have seen enough. Bite it out.
  • 12:30 pm, sleeping toddler (woo hoo), aboard the flight, driving along the runway…
  • Dang! A passenger has a seizure. Panic and the paramedics arrive in less than 10 minutes. He is well out of danger (thank god) and on his way out in 30 minutes.
  • 1:30 pm, toddler awake with commotion, wont sleep back, won’t eat, won’t listen, Wont anything!! Excellent.
  • 2:30 pm. Still sitting in stupid aircraft that is still parked in the runway! Because they still haven’t found oxygen mask and medical kit to replace the ones used couple of hours ago.
  • 3:30, wits ends, toddler cranky as hell from sitting on his parents’ laps for 3 hours, sleep deprived. Crying. I want to wake up from this nightmare.
  • 3:40 pm, finally the flight is on its way out.
  • 4:40, toddler still not sleeping, he is now biting an apple and spitting it into a cup. I let him. Now isn’t the time to discipline. Anything that keeps him occupied for the remainder of this journey. He finally goes to sleep tired from this focused job of biting small equal size pieces! Phew..
  • We finally made it into Boston. Our bags arrived. And we were home by 8 pm, nearly 24 hours later than we originally should have.

So if you are with me so far, you know why I term the trip an experience :-). Although there were moments I hated it, there were other equally awesome moments too. There were many silver linings and I am glad, we now know a little more about traveling with a child. Until another journey beckons us. Oh wait! You thought this would break us and we wouldn’t take any more trips? Unlikely! Like they say  – “ Traveling with a child, maketh a parent a stronger parent ”.. (shhh! I just made that up) So bring it on! 😀