Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Seven Ways I Know I'm Not a Real Housewife


I go to the vegetable market to buy vegetables, and get really excited about ALL THE VEGETABLES! I also take a photo of them when I get home. And post it on Facebook.


I spend all evening cooking ONE meal.


And am super-excited and self-congratulatory about it.


I am even more proud of the fact that I am making MULTIPLE dishes which involve multiple steps (not just dal or beans that consists of my meal for the next three days).


As I cook, I wish I had a food photographer chronicling every stage of the cooking experience. Or at least a phone camera that works. Still, I take grainy photos of the food I cook with my itouch. AND post them on my blog, unapologetic of their terrible quality.

 Cauliflower dum masala- cauliflower in a fried onion and tomato paste, with coriander and lime

Plum jam

Thecha/ Kharda: Fried and ground green chillies, garlic, salt and coriander. (OH.MY.GOSH. SO YUMMY!)

Chapatis and parathas (flatbread made from whole wheat flour, normal part of every meal an Indian eats)


I await the shock and amazement and delight that my room mate is sure to express when she find there is REAL FOOD IN THE HOUSE.


The first thing I do after cooking and eating my meal is write an entire blog post about it.

Can you even imagine a REAL housewife doing this every time she cooked a meal?

P.S. Anxious Sue would never have been able to spend a relaxing evening cooking without freaking out about all the many things she could have/should have been doing instead.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

My Experiences with Anxiety and Peace

A couple of days ago, I had a vivid dream. In it, I was hurtling forward in a plane that was trying to land, but couldn't find a place to stop, towards... wait for it... the end of the world.

Yes. Subtle, my dreams are not.

Over the past two years I've struggled with anxiety. Not just feeling worried, neither an anxiety that needs to be medicated, somewhere in the middle. An anxiety that affected my breathing, made my mind and my heart race, tightened my stomach into knots, given me indigestion, and made me lose my appetite and a lot of weight. Although it started off in my mind, my thoughts would start affecting my body. I introspected and read up a bit, and realized that it was related to avoidance, and fear. My mind would be in constant 'fight or flight' mode, and adrenaline would be coursing through my body (not in a good way) because everything looked like a potential disaster. Everything felt like an emergency. That I couldn't handle.

If I had to pick words to describe how I felt a lot of the time it would be:

Impending Disaster.

(Kind of how you feel when you watch Lost. Or 24.)

The thing was there wasn't really any big thing to be worried about. Maybe I had more responsibilities than I had had in the past, but nothing crazy unmanageable. But I spent a lot of my time feeling overwhelmed. Especially on Tuesday mornings when my work week began (my day off is on Monday).

When I took a break from all my commitments and slowed down, the anxiety stopped. But when I returned, as I had to, so would the anxiety.

I tried different things to deal with it. One of my team members taught me breathing exercises to slow down my heart rate. That helped a little. They prayed for me. I tried to delegate more, and accept that I couldn't do it all. I tried to face my fears, and think "What exactly am I afraid of? What is the worst that could happen?" That helped too.

As I recognized what I was going through, I was able to talk about it, and I found that many people I knew had gone through or were going through the same thing. I was able to be a lot more sympathetic than I used to be (thinking uncharitable thoughts like 'Just get over it') now that I knew what it felt like.

Some practical advice people gave me helped- don't eat spicy or oily food, get enough sleep and make sure I eat (without food and sleep it was a downward spiral of panicky overwhelmedness), make to do lists every day, and set small achievable goals. They also told me to exercise because exercise releases endorphins, the magic happy hormones that make everything better, but.. well... I didn't.

You know what helped the most? (I've actually mentioned this several times.) The book 'Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart'.

Now I realize no magic book can cure anyone's problems by itself. The reason this book is so powerful is because when I read it, I hear very clearly the calm, reassuring voice of God. Fr. Jacques Philippe is in touch with the same God I believe in. And he logically, beautifully, simply captures the essence of the peace God wants to give us.

It is logical, but beautifully logical. For me, posters of nature saying 'Just trust God' don't help. I need more. And the book gave me more.

'Who can guarantee himself the assured possession of any kind of good? It is not by making certain calculations and preoccupations that one is going to find a solution... To preserve peace in the midst of the hazards of human existence, we have only one solution:

We must rely on GOD ALONE, with total TRUST in Him, as your Heavenly Father knows what you need.

Jesus wants to deliver us from the worry that gnaws away at us and causes us to lose our peace. What useless suffering and torment they would save themselves, if only they would take seriously these words which are God's, and words of LOVE, of CONSOLATION, and of an extraordinary tenderness. 

Our great drama is this: Man does not have confidence in God. He looks in every possible place to extricate himself by his own resources and renders himself terribly unhappy in the process rather than abandon himself into the tender and saving hands of his Father in heaven...

All of our spiritual life consists precisely in a long process of re-education, with a view to regaining that LOST CONFIDENCE, by the grace of the Holy Spirit who makes us say anew to God: 'Abba, Father.'

How does one grow in this total confidence in God? ...Not only by intellectual speculation and theological considerations.. but by a CONTEMPLATIVE GAZE ON JESUS.

Would not the supreme love of Jesus on the cross- untiringly contemplated and captured in a gaze of love and faith, fortify our hearts little by little, in an unshakable confidence?

How can one abandon oneself to God and have confidence in God if one only knows Him from a distance, by hearsay? The heart does not awaken to confidence until it awakens to love; we need to feel the GENTLENESS and TENDERNESS of the Heart of Jesus. This cannot be obtained except by the habit of meditative prayer, by the tender repose in God which is contemplative.

Let us therefore learn to abandon ourselves, to have total confidence in God in the big things as in the small, with the simplicity of little children.'

Although my struggle with anxiety is not totally over (witness above-mentioned dream), I believe that my spiritual re-education has begun. I am learning to abandon myself in the big things and in the little, to let go of the control I clung to so tightly, and to taste the sweetness and intimacy of a Father who invites me to trust Him.

I'm jumping.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

7QT: Pet Peeves

Alternate Post Title: Things That Make Me Roll My Eyes and Say 'Oh My Good Grief' Multiple Times

#1 Overly Dramatic Fear-Mongering End Times or Just Plain Ridiculous Text/Whatsapp Forwards

I just. don't. understand. why people can't take a second to google whether or not Obama is really implanting computer chips in people's brains or whether Whatsapp is really going to start charging you if you don't forward this message. I assume that to most people, ridiculous claims SEEM ridiculous. But if you're not quite sure, check! DO NOT forward to everyone on every group you belong to.

I always wonder who starts off these things. I guess I could see my evil Alter-Ego giggling maniacally to myself, "I wonder how many poor suckers will believe this one: 'Attention all Christians! Whatsapp has been infiltrated by the Satanists and the only way to combat them is to forward this prayer to every contact on your list. <Insert prayer> PLEASE DO NOT DELETE. PLEASE SHARE WITH EVERYONE. Everyone forwards a funny message, but how many will have the courage to forwards this message? AMEN.'"

If someone is trying to pressure you to forward a message, that is a great reason to doubt it's veracity.

# 2 Lame We-are-the-Church-Social-Justice Hymns at Mass

Hey, I'm all about social justice, serving the poor, the Hole in the Gospel, Mother Teresa and all that jazz. But why must we SING about it? Sacred music is supposed to lift us to God in some way, put us in touch with the Divine, not be an anthem for some kind of social justice rally or a self-back-patting of what a loving warm accepting community we are. 'We are happy Christians all united in the Lord, we belong to one family.' 'As We Gather' starts out okay, but the the third verse goes 'We are folk who show concern for one another/Yes we know that God has given gifts to share/Whether rich or whether poor, down and out or blessed with more/ We are gathered here to tell you how much we care.' OH MY GOOD GRIEF!!!

Or 'Here we are, altogether as we sing our song joyfully/Here we are, altogether as we pray we always be/ Join we now as friends, and celebrate the/Brotherhood we share, all as one/ Keep the fire burning, kindle it with care, And we'll all join in and sing.'

I mean, seriously, COME ON!

#3 Marriage Jokes

Oh wait I already wrote about that. But really, please, married couples, tell us the GOOD things about your spouse.

#4 Little Kids Who are Applauded for Acting/Looking/Dancing Sexy

I hate this! What happened to innocence? Innocence is a GOOD thing, and we need to work to protect it. But kids will do whatever gets them their parents' attention. Not to mention, it's usually the parents dressing them up sexily, calling them sexy, and encouraging them to do some seductive Bollywood dance moves. I once attended a church event where a bunch of kids were dancing to a Bollywood 'item number'. I had to avert my eyes because it was just WRONG to see those sweet innocent souls moving in a way that was provocative and inviting. What was more upsetting was that NOBODY else seemed to think it was a problem in any way.

I also hate the seductive poses they're encouraged to strike for photos. Uggh.

#5 Lame Excuses/Assumptions/Prejudices about the Underprivileged

Like they're ALL trying to cheat you. Or are dishonest in some way. Or that we should NEVER help a beggar, no matter what. Or that pretty much anyone who asks for help should be treated with suspicion. Or that one bad experience excuses you from ever helping anyone ever again.

#6 Indians who assume all Indians should leave for the 'greener' pastures of the West

I get that in many ways life is easier, more efficient, less polluted in developed countries. You trust the police and the legal system, and the streets being clean and without potholes is not a luxury, but an expected part of normal life. You get jobs that pay far more, and your kids are likely to get a better education and even better paying jobs. Still. Why should we all just leave India without a backward glance, trying to make a better life for ourselves and forgetting about all that we could do for the millions who don't have the option of leaving? And don't forget that it's not all greener- you're leaving behind your family support system, your roots, sometimes a clearer moral compass for your children, sometimes a simpler (and cheaper) way of life.

#7 Speeches and Formalities at Functions

We must do these things because these things are done. There MUST be thank you speeches which always include the words 'All good things must come to an end' and 'Last, but not least'. We must waste everyone's time saying all the things that everyone says every time. We must also give the chief guest flowers and multiple shawls. What do they do with all those shawls? How do they keep those fixed smiles on their faces? The few times I have been in a position of being applauded and honoured made me want to sink into comfortable anonymity not because I'm shy or humble (quite the contrary), but because the FORMALITY made me want to scream!

Okay, I'm done. What are your pet peeves?

More quick takes at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Nature, Interrupted

I sat in the beauty of our large verandah in the (semi) early morning, sipping my coffee, and ready to begin my personal prayer time. In the crowded, polluted city that I live, having this space, surrounded by green is pure gift. The last apartment I lived in didn't let any sunlight into the house, and didn't have even the tiniest semblance of a balcony.

So I reveled in this clean, green moment. "Thank you Lord, for this beautiful place and time. I feel Your presence...."

The (semi) silence of the morning was broken by a sudden outbreak of crows cawing violently in the tree overshadowing the verandah.

"What's going on? Are they warning me about an earthquake?"(Worst Case Scenario are my three middle names.)

And then like a conquering hero, the Cat sprung onto the wall dividing our verandah from the building terrace.

With a dead bird in its mouth.

My quiet peaceful morning slunk away.


The Cat stared at me coldly for a moment, and then sprung down to our verandah, stalked away gracefully, and deposited the dead bird behind a plant.

"I may allow you to co-exist in my verandah for a while," the Cat seemed to say. "But don't push it."

(My room mate R was less intimidated, and tried to spray water at it to chase it away. And then it accidentally fell off the terrace wall, five floors down. But then again, maybe it didn't because it re-appeared alive and well shortly after.)


A year ago I was at a beautiful town up in the hills for a retreat my organization was running. One morning we got everyone to wake up early to climb up to a volcanic plateau area. A perfect spot for a gorgeous time of prayer with the Creator, we thought.

We even took a flask of ginger chai, and biscuits. I mean, seriously, could life get any better?

I was perched on the edge of the cliff with my bible, prayer journal, and cup of chai, overlooking the hill town, and the valley in the distance, feeling the cool morning air.

I began to write:

And then I heard something... or someone behind me.

A dog, I thought, only as I turned, it wasn't a dog but a monkey. Just a monkey, right? I used to want a pet monkey when I was 12.

I shooed it away. But instead of showing any sign of backing off, it took a few steps closer.

This is when I jumped up, nervously. Please don't forget the fact that I was on the edge of a cliff. The monkey grabbed my empty chai cup, and almost got my bag before I snatched it up and tried to make my escape. There may have been some freaking out too. Thankfully there was no tragic falling off a cliff.

The monkey attempted to continue terrorizing retreatants until it was scared off  by a friend who... wait for it..... raised his arms and roared at the monkey.

Yes, indeed.

Communing with nature. So peaceful.