Posts Tagged ‘ India ’

EIGHT DAY IN NATURE’S ISLE- IN DOMINICA WITH CUCHO!

The gurgling river water, the twittering birds, the rustling tree leaves and the sparkling fireflies, waking up in Dominica for eight nights felt like paradise. There is probably no word in a dictionary to do justice to the solemn beauty of Dominica, and Roots Jungle Retreat in the middle of a jungle took me back to my childhood in India. Each day at Roots Jungle Retreat took me back down childhood lane in India where mosquito nets were perfect playing accessories to play dark room at night, the open windows put modern air conditioners to shame, and novels transported us to places televisions never could.

We arrived in Dominica on a warm Friday afternoon and were welcomed by a dimpled Lorena, whose effervescence instantly made you feel at home. She drove us to Roots through windy Margot streets. Having battled motion sickness since forever, I tried real hard to enjoy the ride but the best of windy roads were yet to come. We turned to a street that had roots sign, and it was bumpy to say the very least. I tried to stay focused on not throwing up for the next 15 minutes, all the while contemplating if Dramamine time had arrived. We finally parked the car after a 15-minute roller coaster road trip, and were welcomed by a tall Olaf and an eight-month bundle of energy named Cucho. Cucho took to us instantly, and was welcoming us like family who had returned home. His lovey-dovey eyes made a place in my heart instantly, and I knew at that very instant, Dominica and Roots would be more than just a vacation.

We were showed to our cabin, and then we hung out with Lorena, Olaf and Cucho in their cabin/restaurant. Instantly, we started planning our agenda for the next eight days. After spending a few hours together, my husband and I decided it was time to relax and get acquainted to our cabin. We did also plan to take a small hike around our surrounding. Little did we know the rain God’s had other plans for us; plans that included staying in our cabin for the night. We went to the restaurant for dinner and met another couple that was from Germany, and for the next few days we spent charting our agenda’s, and sharing experiences.

The next morning my husband and I decided we were going to rent a car. We had couple of decisions which included automatic or manual considering we would have to drive through the “roller coaster” road to Roots twice a day, a 4 wheel drive and of course pep talking ourselves into driving on the left on the road. Dominica is an island less explored, so most streets have no signs. As a co-pilot to my driver, I am the worst at directions with a GPS in tow telling us turn left. I am so bad with directions that I need to think which hand I use to write to know which is right. So here I was guiding my poor husband through the streets of Dominica, but we survived and barring the first day we did not get lost- thanks to Olaf’s great direction skills and in some occasions personally autographed hand drawn maps.

The first day we toured Rosseau, the capitol of Dominica to Soufriere volcano (or so we thought). We drove to Scott’s head, and since neither of us were water friendly, we looked at the beautiful Scott’s head from a distance, snorkeling in our heads. We thought we were hiking through Soufriere to the volcano but we hiked through Waitukubuli National Trail into a valley I call “crab valley” because I don’t know the name. We walked the valley through crabs walking all around us. It was eerie for a not so much of a crab lover like me. We hiked through an easy trail and reached a point where the trail seemed marked on rocks. Were we supposed to walk the rocks? Not sure but we decided not to. First day in Dominica was not so adventurous? Not really because we still had to find our way back to Roots. I was guiding my driver through Rosseau hoping to see Canesfield airport to turn into the road that would take us back home, but instead I never saw Canesfield and we were headed to Portsmouth. We stopped to ask directions and somehow got to a round four-way point and dilemma struck us again. As Robert Frost said, “which road should I take?” We did what the locals would do, picked up a firefighting hitchhiker who showed us the way to Roots. Hitchhiking firefighter- they only make them in Dominica!

I called our trip to Dominica a hike fest. I knew we were going to be hiking a lot. We started off by doing what the tourist’s did -Traffalgar Falls. Two falls called the Mama and Papa falls, one being hot water and the other being cold water. Your guess is as good as mine as to which one is which, but being a woman I am going to say Mama is the hot one. A quick hike to the falls down stairs and few rocks and we were soaking our feet in warm water from the falls. I have never seen a hot water fall before, and my feet loved it. It felt therapeutic to say the very least. We climbed rocks hoping to see where the foothills of the falls were, but since we were the water resistant couple, we decided it was not worth it. Instead, we decided to hike to Middleham falls. The guidebooks call it an intermediate hike, 4 miles that should take 4 hours. The signs at the falls were more realistic- 45 minutes to the falls it said. We started by climbing endless slippery stairs, crossed a stream of slippery rocks, used tree roots as stairs and we had not even reached the middle. We continued our hiking by climbing more big slippery rocks, all the while fighting fatigue and painful legs. What started off as sprinting became a slow walk with many rests. Finally we were at the falls, and the view made the pain worthwhile. Now, no one told us we would have to trek back the same way. We fatigued our way back, and after a day of intense hiking we were ready for Lorena and Olaf’s food.

The next day we decided to take it easy and visit Portsmouth. Portsmouth hosts the most American section of Dominica. Home to Ross Medical University, an American medical college the vibe of the city is very American. Restaurants sell expensive $25 burgers, but if you want to try local food, you could get it for less than $10. Our bodies were tired from Middleham hike, so hiking to the old Fort Shirley felt like hiking Mt Everest. We walked around Fort Shirley enjoying the view and the fort. They had some small hikes to various ruined buildings. We hiked couple of them and decided it was time for lunch. Near Ross Medical College, we ate at a restaurant that sold Creole chicken and I was in love. It was by far the best chicken I had tasted. Callibashe is a beach town in Dominica. If you love beaches, then I don’t think it gets better than this. We drove about 45 minutes from Portsmouth through trees and windy roads to get to Batibou beach. We parked the car on the street, and walked down a short trail to the beach. Pristine blue water welcomed us. This was my first experience on a beach that felt like ours. We were alone, and I recapped movies like Castaway as I walked Batibou with my Wilson. It was beautiful, calm and serene, and if I ever have to find my happy place during turmoil, I will be at Batibou in spirit and mind. I fell in love with Batibou, and I am not a beach bum! We went back to Portsmouth for dinner, and had the best spicy curry chicken ever. I am spice junkie, and when my palette felt the first rush of spice in almost three days, it was soup to my soul. I went back three times more for the crack curry chicken!

The next day we went to Callibashe to stroll the other beaches. We saw Londonberry beach, a black sand beach in the Pirates of the Caribbean. We drove by that beach to Callibashe. We visited Number one Beach, the site of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. I was where Johnny Depp was- not that it really mattered. A hike down a small trail took us to Number one beach. It was beautiful, but Batibou had changed beaches for us forever. We went back to Portsmouth for the crack curry chicken, and hiked Syndicate trail. Syndicate trail promised parrots and a waterfall. There were no parrots, and the fall barely existed. We climbed some rocks and tried to make our own trail to find the waterfall. But after a while, we accepted our defeat and walked back.

We began the next day with a visit to the Kallinga Territory. The Kallinga’s were the original inhabitants of Dominica. Olaf’s made a handmade map got us through the scenic less traveled route to the Territory. I was stoked to try the Cassava coconut bread from Daniel’s bakery. When we got there, the bakery was packed so we decided to return back. We went to the model village where we took an hour tour of the place, where our awesome tour guide told us about how they lived. We visited two churches, one that had roots and trees growing through it and the other church, which was a new one. We made our way to the L’ Escalier Tete Chien. While Dominica has several beautiful views, L’Escalier Tete Chien is by the far the best one. A walk to the viewpoint and you see the natural staircase from the Atlantic Ocean. It was tranquility at it’s best. You just want to soak the peaceful ambience, refresh your soul and capture the moment in your heart for a lifetime. Our next stop was another beautiful beach called Castle Bruce and we were on our way to Roseau to buy Gatorade for our big day tomorrow.

We were finally going to hike Boiling Lake, an eight-hour hike to the second largest boiling lake in the world. This was our second to last day and we were ready to hike the indomitable Boiling Lake through the Valley of Desolation. We woke up early, ate breakfast and were on our way to Boiling Lake. As we got near Boiling Lake, it started pouring. We got to the parking lot sign and sat there in the car waiting for the rain to subside. It was 11’o’ clock, and knowing we did not have 8 hours to hike, and the rain continued to pour down, we made our way back to Roots. The rain continued through the next day until 11 am and we knew our boiling lake plans were washed away. Boiling Lake is still on my agenda, and I am going back for it yet again. We visited Emerald Pool, another waterfall and the Spanny waterfall in the rain. It was beautiful to say the very least, and a perfect end to a very beautiful Dominica trip.

Cucho

Cucho watching us leave:-(

Roots and Dominica will forever be special. Lorena and Olaf treated us like family, tending to our every need. We spent eight days with them, sharing stories, laughing and in each of those moments feeling like we were home with family. Dominica became more special because of Cucho and his lovey doveyness. As we drove away from Roots to the airport, I saw Cucho run behind our car. I wanted to pet, hold him close, but all I could do was promise to be back again to see him. I have left every place I have visited with a heavy heart, not wanting to go back to reality. But in Dominica, I left a part of my heart with Cucho and as we made our way to the airport, I felt a knot in my heart and tears in my eyes knowing I will miss Cucho and his unfiltered love. He made Dominica special, and for me it will forever be Cucho’s Dominica.

Spanny Falls DSC05630 DSC05601 DSC05587 Serenity Middleham Falls hike our cabin at roots

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MULTIRACIAL MASALA!

I had a prototype for a husband since the time I can remember. He was going to be tall, tan and handsome with the archetypical Indian hairstyle.  He was not going to be a lawyer, engineer or doctor for sure. So when I was at the US consulate to come to America, and the guy at the counter swore I was going to marry an American, I smirked. There was no way I was going to marry an American. I was going to come back to India and marry my prototype. Fast forward to 2008, and I was at the alter marrying a sort of tall, curly haired African American man who was an engineer. He was far from the Indian prototype.

I had known him for five years by then, and I knew what I was signing up for- or I believed I knew it. I met my mother-in-law when we were dating, and it went pretty good I thought. I was a nervous wreck and my boyfriend thought the perfect introduction would be when I was just done hiking the mountains with him. So here I was meeting my potential mother-in-law in shorts and t-shirt all sweaty. It went well I think, although I believe she expected an American girl and here I was a direct export from India. I never expected an American mother-in-law either in my defense. 

My first introduction to his extended family happened in July 4 2008, few months after our marriage. In India, this would have happened before our wedding. The aunts and uncles had to approve the girl before you married her.  Although I knew I did not need to impress them since I was already married and I was sort of sure he would not divorce me over their disapproval, the Indian girl in me really wanted to be approved. So I wore my best jeans and t-shirt and made my first American event- the BBQ. My husband is not the greatest introducer, in fact in more situations than not, he hardly introduces me. His aunt welcomed me home, who I did not know at that time was his aunty. She called me her niece so I assumed she must be some aunt. I sat in an available chair, and I was lost. In India, they would have been at my beck and call, catering to my need. Of course I was the daughter in law to the family. Here I was sitting with my husband and was expected to plate my own food. 

After being in the United States for over 7-8 years by then, you would assume I would have no culture shock-Wrong answer. I was shocked and baffled. I had never been to an American event before that and needless to say I was hoping they would feed me like we feed people back home. Plate your food and sit and watch you eat and feed you more as your plate emptied. So my husband plated food for us, and being shy I decided it was better to nibble his food. I also found out that peach cobbler was an acquired taste. I love sweets but peach cobbler is not my cup of tea.

I heard my husband tell his dad that his wife was Indian, and he had to specify it was India Indian and not Native American.  Meeting his dad was another adventure. We went to meet him and his family for his birthday. I remember the door opening and noise decibels increasing. I wanted to run for my life. I am Indian from India, and if noise level goes beyond a certain decibel you run for your life unless of course it includes music and dancing. There were at least ten women who were really excited to meet us and were talking at the same time. The smartest thing my husband did on that visit was to hold my hand the moment we got off the car. If not for his shackles on me, I would have run like a lunatic. They sure would have thought, she isn’t just India but she is a crazy Indian girl.

In India when the family gets together, you talk and you eat and you talk more. The men sit together and talk and the women do the same. Here in America, I have learned when you get together you either watch TV or you play games. For the last five years of being married to my husband, every time we went to his family events I saw them play Dominos and the noise increased with each game. They wonder why I don’t join them when I watch them so attentively each year. I don’t know how to tell them when the noise goes up, my brain shuts down along with the rest of my body. I am not about to be the Indian girl who lost in Dominos. I have to hold our flag up. 

Living in California I believed everyone who lived here has tried Indian food. After all, there is an Indian restaurant in every corner.  Having lived my entire life in India, I wasn’t going to not have Indian food at my wedding. I might wear a white dress, but three essential parts of my existence; Bollywood music, Indian food and Indian attire were part of my wedding in abundance. Boy was I surprised when they wondered what we ate, and how spicy it was. I could understand the older generation not knowing about my food, but when the younger lot asked me the same I was surprised.  I wonder why I was surprised, since my husband did not eat real Indian food until we started dating, and he had lived here his entire life.

It’s been five years since I have been married to my husband and it has been a fun ride. He introduces me to all things American and I train him on all things Indian. I say train because we have our quirks, and some of our doings make no sense unless you are of course Indian.  But we relish our differences and quirks, often teasing the other until the next quirk unfolds. It is a 24×7 sitcom in progress at our house. As for his family, they may not plate my food for me or feed me until I drop, but I know they love me just as much as my family does.

 

 

NOSTALGIC SATURDAY!

Next week is a biggie: we have our final homeImagestudy interview with Ms D. She gets to visit our home, and interview my husband and me for one hour each, individually. I feel like we need to sit together and get our facts right- but then again it is not about where did you meet each other sort of thing- it’s the past that is going to serve as a window to the future. 

As we were cleaning our house this Saturday, I found the cassette that had some personal recording from my childhood. Nostalgia engulfed my soul to say the very least. Recently I have been reading about terminally ill parents leaving letters, notes, and pictures for their children before they die so they can know him/her. Every time I read those stories it breaks my heart but at the same time I am glad they are doing something so special. I was that child who lost their parent at an early age. I know first hand how important those letters/notes are to the child. It means holding a piece of your parent forever. Some might argue that you are preventing that child from moving on, but when you loose a parent you never move on. It is an irreplaceable bond! 

Back to my cassette: My dad recorded my childish babbling singing nursery rhymes as a toddler. He knew there would be a time when I would be married and away from him. At that juncture of life he wanted to hear my voice every day since I wouldn’t be around. I refused to sing that specific day, and so my dad spoke in the recording guiding me through it. Fast forward to 1995, I had just lost my dad to death and before that day I never cared much about this cassette. One evening as I was coping with my broken heart, I stumbled upon this cassette and started listening to it. It never said it had our voice… as I listened I heard him call me by my nickname, and I melted. It was a surprise least expected and something that I needed to just survive each day. I did not cry- instead it felt soothing to my soul. When he died, I never imagined I would ever hear his voice again. To this day, when I am alone I think back to my dad, wondering what it felt like to sit near him, to see him smile. Those moments are long gone and with each passing day those feelings disappear little by little. It’s hard to recreate a hug without the other person being there. I am glad his voice is captured to remind me of the only man I have loved without any inhibition, and who never hurt me with even a sound. I have carried this cassette from India to America- through apartments and homes. It is by far the most precious thing in my house. 

Yesterday as I heard it again in a long time, I felt calm again. I was not in the sunniest of moods yesterday. His voice let me know that everything would be ok. I sat there fighting my tears, rewinding the cassette over and over to hear him call me by my nickname again- a name that only he called me by, a name that had years of memories wrapped in four alphabets.  When he was recording that cassette, little did he know that it would be his daughter and not him who would be listening to it years later- hoping to relive the warmth of his voice again. I am glad my dad recorded this cassette—very few children have this luxury that I do. To hear their deceased parent for life, especially when their heart just stops without a warning, with no time to prepare and say good-bye.

 

 

INDIAN CHRISTMAS!

Another year…another Christmas morning! As I sit here enjoying the serenity around me, I feel nostalgic. Christmas is one of those days I feel nostalgic about. It was one of my favorite days of the year as a child. Growing up in India, Christmas day meant a lot of things to me. I woke up in the morning to the warm hug and kiss from my dad, and in just a few hours I could wear that new attire that has been sitting in the shelf for the last month or so. As a child in India, we never exchanged gifts on Christmas. It never really mattered because I got chocolates and I got to shake hands with Mr. Claus

Santa Claus, I have had a secret crush on him for a long time now. As a child I wanted him to be my grandfather. Who wouldn’t? He would be awesome to hug and cuddle up with…he was my perfect grandfather. Thank goodness, bad Santa did not exist back then! He embodied the spirit of Christmas to me. Every Christmas we went to the busiest street in Bangalore where we got to meet Santa Claus. Stores were decorated, and Santa welcomed us. We did not go into the stores. Children went and shook hands with Santa, wished him Merry Christmas and we got our candy. It was no cheap candy…there were Cadbury bars, Nestle bars and other expensive candy. It was Halloween minus the costumes. This is why Santa and Christmas was awesome!

Every Christmas morning I wake up missing my dad and his childlike exuberance.  His dimpled smile that welcomed me for years is truly missed. Each Christmas morning I look at his picture and imagine his warm hug. As a child, Christmas was fun. But in those small moments, we were taught the essence of Christmas. It was about being thankful; thankful for the love we have around us, being thankful for the simple pleasures in life- like warm hugs and kisses, which mean more than any present.

Last year during May/June as we were driving down the street in America, I saw a guy dressed as Santa on a motorcycle. My brain did not wonder why Santa was seen in summer- did not matter to my heart. It swirled back to those days in India and I jumped up screaming “Santa!!”. My husband was in splits laughing. I guess I finally came out of the closet as a Santa lover! It did not matter how old I was…at that moment I was the child growing up in India.

I am sure things have changed in India.  Christmas might not be the same as it was 15-20 years back. Yet, if Santa asked me what I wanted this Christmas, I would want to go back home. I want to wake up in that familiar warmth again which we said was cold…Phewww!!!I want to feel the warm hug of my dad again. I want to walk down those familiar lanes and feel the spirit of Christmas again where simplicity was the essence of life.

Enjoy your day with you and yours! Merry Christmas!

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.

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.