Archive for October, 2013

The Day I Donned The Hard Hat & Orange Vest

God and I have a pact: he gives me as much varied experiences as possible before he gives me what I really want. That being said, when I got out of college I had a lot of jobs: a lot to the point that even after 5 years at one company, my future employers are still concerned about my “commitment”. Commitment was something I was afraid of-true but not in my career. I was ready to buckle up and spend 5 years in a company easily. But the first 2 years after graduation, the longest I was at a job was 8 months and shortest well, a few months. I still did not have a one day job like some of the celebrity marriages.

As an engineer out of college, the one job I least expected to take was a construction gig. Being a female, 5’5, I knew early on I was not made for construction. Well God had different plans for me.  How could I define my construction gig in few alphabets? FEAR FACTOR!! After a technical interview, I received my offer letter the very same day….no waiting anxiety, yay!! I was stoked.  A day before I was officially going to start, I got this call from my boss and he asked me to pick up my hard hat and orange vest the day I start. Did it ring any alarms in my engineer brain? Heck no! So here I was on a Monday morning picking up my busted company car, an orange vest and a hard hat. I was ready to be chauffeured to the site which was 2 hours away and we had to get there at 7.  I still remember the moment the big gates opened, and I saw big burly men and few very well built women walk through the gates. I got stares, a lot of them- to the men here I was a normal sized woman and Indian at that. A lot of them did not know what Indian looked like. Here I was an exotic bird in the construction zone.

My first day at the job I got to jump down a 7 foot sump or commonly known as a hole. I am 5’5 in case I did not specify it. I now know I am claustrophobic (thanks to the wonderful MRI machine that ate me for few minutes few years after my sump travel), but back then I was young and stupid. I had my inhibitions, but when a 6-foot guy refused to jump in if I did not do it, I just had to do it for womanpower. I did with no escape route planned. After 1 hour of stretching my legs like I never have, I made it alive outside the sump. The 6 footer did not make the cut and was laid off, but I got to do more cool stuff. I laid pipes, used all sorts of grease and in the 2 months I was there I never got to do any engineering.

I was the Angelina Jolie of the construction zone. No, I don’t look like her from even outer space. I was small in comparison to the construction women and that they did not know where I was from helped.  Let’s call him R just in case my construction boyfriend read this blog:

R: Hey, where you from? You Latina or some

Me: No I am Indian

R: Where that be? Like Native American. You don’t look it.

Me: No from India, India.

R: A’right!! So you make curry? When you going make curry for me? (this question was asked everyday we met)

Me: Ummm…never!

R: what you do here?

Me: Engineer

R: did you go to a 4 year college and s**t?

Me: Ummm…yeah

R: you are what I was looking for. I dropped out of 4th grade. I always wanted to be with a girl who went to college and s**t.  You have the book smart, I got the street smarts…you know what I am sayin?

Me: Yeah (in my head: not really)

R: If you feel me like I am feelin you, then we can have somin special

Me: I have a boyfriend in San Jose

R: What that mean? You could have a boyfriend in San Jose and I could be your boyfriend in Sacramento. That’s how we do it here.

Me: Laughing.

The construction industry is different and hard work. They wake up early to get to the site by 7. We had to do daily stretches to ensure no one was injured during the day’s work.  R would stretch sexily in front of me so I could see what I was missing. He would turn, look at me and stretch. I got free food from the road coach (food truck). All of R’s construction friends were jealous he was talking to me.

My two weeks in the construction zone was beyond funny.  I got hit on by every possible man: tall, fat, short and thin. In case I did not mention R was 5…so yeah! Construction work is hard work! Each day I would get home by 5pm and I would crash on the couch by 7pm. My construction gig is one of my proudest achievements ever. How many women can claim to work in a construction zone? Every time I go for interviews and they ask me “define a moment when you were a hard-ass?” I spring my construction days on them, and they are stumped. I also happen to meet the most genuine people who were hardworking beyond anything I have ever known.

It’s been over 5 years since I left my construction gig, but to this day I do a double take when I see someone in an orange vest and hardhat. It was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I may not have eaten cockroaches or jumped off the building like the fear factor show, but every day at the construction site taught me how strong I was as a person, mentally and physically. They certified that “fear was not a factor for me” unless it included an MRI machine.

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One step closer: A million miles away!

2008_1114_shutterstock_holding_hands_childROUND 2: I end my work day on Tuesday with an email from the adoption agency. I feel nervous, jittery, and I open the email with my heart pounding into my ear. It was simple: the documents were received and it all looked good. However we need to get ourselves fingerprinted and then we start HOMESTUDY. Homestudy, a word that has pages and pages of stories online (I read through a lot of horror stories even before I could fill out my application).  I like to be prepared for the worst, and trust me when I say life always makes sure I get a taste of the worst before I get the best. That’s how God and I roll!

I hate interviews and I have met very few people who like interviewing. Actually up until a few months back I had met none. And then I happen to meet a creature I call my friend who loves interviewing. I have been to a lot of them, some I really enjoyed and some crashed my self-esteem to the floor. I am an engineer and part of the engineering drill is to put you on a grill and see how you feel. Literally that’s what technical interviews feel like. I cannot pretend to be happy when I feel like a piece of burned chicken on a grill, and yet professional etiquette calls for a smile in time of crisis. They ask you questions you have never heard of, and yet they want to know how you will solve it. Logical questions: oh I love them. How many golf balls can you fit into a car? Yes, because I have so much time on my hands that I can actually try this out. Yet you ask some calculation to it, and bam they are happy. Might not make sense but sure it makes them happy if you can make up stuff. Engineers need story making skills too in the real world. My all-time favorite how long would it take you to walk from California to Idaho? They give us three weeks and expect us to know how long it would take us to walk to Idaho. Duh!! With the vacation policy here, I barely have walked around my street, let alone Idaho.

Homestudy is interview in the adoption world. We will have a social worker assigned to us, who will assess us as a family, and a couple.  So here, the evil side of my brain is wondering if we should delay the fingerprinting by a week or two before we turn in those documents. That way I can clean, fix my home to make it social worker ready. The angelic side of me (which is 1% of me) wants me to do it right away so we can proceed.  I tried to present both to my husband and of course my husband would not buy into the delaying part. There goes that! Between fingerprinting, and really working towards not reading anything online, I have to get my house social worker ready.

I am from India- the land of arranged marriages. I should be able to handle this blind date or arranged marriage between the social worker and us, and yet I am super nervous. I have never been on a blind date or had an arranged marriage. I don’t think I could handle it either ways. I am a control freak by nature.  I am paranoid about having someone come to my space and interview me. I don’t know what she/he looks like (like it even matters), and how they are as a person. All I can do right now is thank God for getting us one step closer to our baby, and pray that our social worker is an awesome person.  I think about my little girl somewhere in the world and I know the stress, the jitters would all be worth it someday from now.

The world called him master blaster- we call him little master

master-blaster-sachin-tendulkar-12779419-1024-768A billion dreams rested on his shoulders for 24 years. October 10, 2013 felt like every other morning, until I happened to read the lines, ‘Master Blaster to retire after West Indies series’. That shook the core of my existence.  In America, he means nothing but to the cricket loving millions he is a legend. A freak of nature when he stroked his bat, and yet when you see him you cannot help but see the 16 year old who first walked into the fields with a bat in his hand 24 years ago.

I am addicted to sports. I love my basketball, but my love affair with sports began with cricket. I have never been able to connect with NFL and NBA, although I love NBA. I grew up on International sports, and the patriotism you feel when you watch international sports is different.  As a seven year old, very few things can hold your fascination for more than a few minutes. On one such fleeting moment, I glanced at our TV to see a young boy hit fours and sixes. If you don’t know cricket, sixes are equivalent to a homerun in baseball or a touchdown in football.  I was hooked.  He made cricket exciting to a seven year old, and I was never the same. I hear people exclaim, “Oh cricket is boring, and long”. Not when Sachin played. He made it fun, exciting and entertaining.

Sachin was more than cricket. With his thick curly hair and short stature, he was the boy next door. He could be the kid on the streets in India playing cricket, and yet he made magic with a bat. I became his biggest fan ever. I know there are a million girls who would say the same. I was different: I wanted to be a cricketer like him. Teenage girls in India had his poster in their rooms; I hid his picture in my book.  He was the first man to have made it to my room. When I was growing up in India, there was no women’s cricket team. My dream to be a cricket player stays a dream, but I dared to dream because of him. If a short man could play international cricket, so could I. I was born with a height ego, and my world revolved around height. At 5’5 I have the ego of a seven-footer.

Until 2001, my schedule was based on when Sachin and India played cricket. In 2001 I came to the US. I read my Sachin news but could not watch the games. In 2011, I watched the Indian world cup on TV. I watched my guys play their hearts out. I sacrificed my Saturday night sleep as I watched cricket games on TV, and for the duration of the world cup, I was the seven year old in India again. It was exciting, entertaining and a bonus offer for all my sleepless nights- my team won the world cup.sachin_tendulkar_in_style_11230

I am a huge Michael Jordan fan, which is surprising to people because here I am an Indian girl who was raised in India, and I love Michael Jordan. I watched his plays and honed my basketball skills as a teenager. My coach made us watch his games to see how to play basketball. When he retired, I was in India crying my heart out because he was leaving me. I feel those emotions again, just a lot more intense.

Sachin and I go back 24 years. I have never watched cricket without him, and as I try to ponder I cannot imagine cricket without him. He was cricket to me, and every time I watch him to this day I become the little seven year sitting on the floor staring at the screen. I remember screaming at the TV when he got out, I remember running to watch the pepsi commercial that featured him each time it was on TV, and  the many school nights I stayed up to watch his play. It’s the end of an era and for people like me who only remember cricket through him- it is never going to be the same.

There might be another player who might break his records, but there will only be one Sachin Tendulkar. A billion dreams rested on his shoulder, and he made those dreams a reality every single day for 24 years.  Sachin, thank you for daring me to dream the impossible, for making the kid next door the coolest thing to be and for inspiring a generation! You will forever be missed in the blue uniform.  You will forever be our little master.

She is today but a dream- soon to be reality!

Today is a new day, a new story, a new beginning. My husband and I are starting a new journey into the unknown. As we fill out the last few sections of our adoption papers, I am nervous, excited, scared and yet very happy.  A dream I had for years is finally taking shape, and now it is our dream after months of discussions and talks. Phew!  As I fill the remaining sections, I wonder if she is even born and yet here I am anxious to hold her in my arms. My maternal instincts have been on an overdrive since I first went to an orphanage as a fourteen year old. I met this little guy with cleft palette who clung on to me.  The emotions I felt that moment were so surreal. I wanted to take him home with me, but I was smart to know I was miles away from being a mother.

IMG_4290My first stint with motherhood began four years back. On a sunny December morning in Chennai, India, I was embarking on my first blind date of my life. I was nervous, excited, jittery- all of the above as I packed all my gifts for my date. My blind date was special- she was a little three year old I had seen pictures of since she was a few months old. I had seen her grow in those bi-annual updates I received of this child I was sponsoring from an orphanage in Chennai. Her name was Methilda, and I feel like I have grown with her. I was a new college grad, in my first job when I decided I wanted to sponsor a child.

Little MethildaSo here I was going to meet my little girl whose picture I have flaunted as my own for years. I took my husband with me so he could meet my daughter. That’s right- she was mine before I married him, ain’t no sharing in this aspect! We got to the orphanage, and were taken to a room where Methilda was with a bunch of other little kids. I was overwhelmed beyond I had ever experienced. Now, I am far from the emotional crying kind. I make people cry! I really have to be upset to cry and I have never experienced crying with joy in my lifetime. For the very first time, I was fighting back tears as I held her in my arms. I bought her a Minnie mouse from the US, and a bunch of chocolates anticipating competition. I distributed the chocolates to the children in her class, while she walked around with me. We spent a lot of time with those children, taking pictures, talking to them and just enjoying the innocence in the air.

As we walked back, I saw a little girl hold my African American husband’s hand and walk.  They had no language in common and yet this little girl was talking to him and he was listening. She insisted she walk with him. I translated some of it but the rest they were having a conversation.  That day when I got to hold Methilda will always be special. Her smile lit up my world for those two hours, and nothing mattered but her.

As my husband and I start this journey into the unknown, we know it is not going to be easy. There will be trials, heartbreak and tears- I was warned of all that by the agency. I am prepared for the battle ahead of me. Here we are round 1 of many more to come, but we will survive. I know it will be worth it when I hold her in my arms. Until then, she is a dream waiting to become our reality!