Sunday Bloody Sunday

Day 9, Sunday 27th September, 2009

Sundays are meant to be lazy. But today was going to be anything but lazy. We woke up and wished each other happy Dussra. “Arey yesterday papa said na, it was Navami? Today is Dussra. Let’s be veg!” Yes, my brilliant idea.
So no eggs, just some sev and a slice of bread. My mom and my uncle (mom’s brother) love this combo. And me and Nani, like we always do, have inherited a taste for it too. A soft slice of fresh bread with the crunchy sev can create magic. And suddenly we realised, yesterday, when Papa told us it was Navami, it was already tomorrow in India. Complex? Yeah that’s why we got confused. It was still Navami and we were just starting on it. No point celebrating Dussra a day in advance now, is there? I was mortified though. My family prides on telling the world what tithi falls when and I actually ended up celebrating Dussra a day in advance? Bad Shakti, very bad Shakti!

Anyway, too proud to go non-veg we stuck to our (vegetarian) guns. Veg biryani and dal fry. Fail again. I might be a good baker, but when it comes to Indian food, I pretty much suck. The dal was ‘fikki’ and the biryani was, well just about edible. “3 hours! We took 3 hours to make this!” Nani yelled at me. “Your gas stove took one hour to heat up, meri galti nai hai ok!”

Yeah, friction and all. Obviously, right after lunch, we thought was a good time to get some Starbucks into us. A delightful treat we allow ourselves everyday (yeah I’m obsessed!)
While walked on the beach, for the first time, truly carefree, Nani made a random comment. “You think I also look a little broader than usual?”
“No. Wait, what do u mean also?”
“You’re looking a little, umm, chubby. Maybe, it’s just water retention.” It was too late!
I was counting all the bagels, cream cheese and muffins and trying to figure out if they had indeed made themselves at home on my thighs or hips. This observation was done by careful inspecting my own reflection in every passing store window.
“No don’t worry, it’s all recent weight, it will come off quickly.”

I was full psyched out (Pannu, I saw you roll your eyes!) I made Nani walk an extra 20 minutes. In that extra walking we discovered a spot. A little rock thingy by the beach made for an ideal seat to rest our tired arses. Random conversation followed. This is what I love about my time with Nani, we never run out of things to talk about. Lifestyle, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Kotler, parents, music, Mumbai, Mulayam, we can go on forever.

While Nani jabbered with her classmate who called, I wondered, do we have so much to talk about because we spent these last 21 years together? Do we have these common grounds because we live in the same house, see (almost) the same films, television etc.

And then the super fertile mind went in the alert zone. If the above hypotheses were true, would that change now that she was living in the US? I know she loves the US, and I know that she might be away for two-three years easily. Will we drift apart? *Gulp*

Yes, true, I lived away from home for a year and a half and we sisters only grew closer, but this time it was different. She was a student back then. Both of us had enough time on our hands to chat, email and talk. When I go back, I’ll be back to working full on (I can’t help it, ok?) and she will be slogging her arse (I love the way the Brits say it :P) off to make a kickass portfolio during her time at the school. Will we find the time to keep the bond as strong?

When we walked back, I walked a little faster to kick some fat off (God bless Nani’s metabolism) and I got busy wondering. But every 3 minutes, I would stop and look behind, to check if Nani was there. I don’t know why, but I found some lame symbolism in this stopping and looking. I told myself rather, I promised myself that I would make the effort. I would make sure I made that extra effort to look behind every once in a while to make sure my kid sister was ok. And one day, I would find her back again in the same city if not the same house, sharing quality time yet again. Until then, I can always visit Miami, you don’t mind na, Nani?

I Dream Of New York

Day 8, Saturday September 26th, 2009

Wake up Shakti, it’s Saturday! Friday night grocery shopping meant that we had ingredients and we had a kitchen. Yaay! Cooking day! A week after we left home, we made ourselves a hot breakfast! Eggs, sunny side up with toast. Yum yum yum. Nani brewed her special Girnar Royal Cup chai with milk and all that. Wow. Nothing compares to freshly made breakfast.

Out came the chef’s hat, and I set off to teach Nani how to make a basic lunch. Now, the stove top, Nani’s roommate and warned us, was a little slow. But this slow, I didn’t expect it to be. It took forever for the oil to heat up and it took forever for me to stir-fry the veggies. The chicken, plain and simple garlic pepper grilled chicken, was done in matter of minutes. Once upon a time, Nani thought of me as a phenomenal cook. I think I made her hope for a nice home cooked meal crash badly and how! The lunch was just about okay but she pretended like she loved it. My sister is sweet, isn’t she?

Post lunch, me and Nani took off for Best Buy. We walked down about 14 blocks only to find out that cell-phones were going to cost a bundle. Nani decided to keep her sanity levels in check and check out better deals when we got home. By now, we both were feeling quite like zombies. What, I’d been waking up at 5 and 6 am. And at 4 pm the time in India was 2.30 am. We needed sleep. Somehow, we loved America, but our body was taking its own sweet time to adjust! A cup of coffee and a besan laddoo and we were on our way.

We reopened some bags readjusted and then… I opened the New York wala bag. I packed in my pretty dresses and then I stumbled upon that black clutch. I had begged for PiWi about a black clutch she’d made for her maasi. I really wanted one. And exactly a week ago as I almost zipped up my final bag, PiWi handed me an extra clutch. “For you. It’ll keep you company in New York,” she smiled. How I miss her smile. She has a smile that can light up the darkest room.

With that smile, I realised, I was about to go and see New York City but not quite the way I had dreamt of seeing the city.To me seeing New York with two people was crucial. One was PiWi, who just went there in March and risked homelessness if she suggested another trip with me and the other, Nani, who had school and she wouldn’t bunk school for anything in this world! These two were not going to be there in New York with me. But there was hope. There was hope to visit the city again, to live there and to have these two by my side when I do that. And you know what else I noticed? My bag for New York was full of girly dresses, a box of accessories, perfumes and dainty personalized clutches (courtesy: PiWi, I am the brand ambassador for her fab line and I consider it an honour. U want one, you call me, ok?)

Hell, I have never had such a girly bag on a holiday. I still have my shorts and stuff that make me the tomboy that I am, but yeah I am excited about being all lady like in New York. I have a reason to be. It’s Carrie Bradshaw town, its Jerry Seinfeld town, its Rachel Green town and it is NewYorker town… Two weeks to go. Until then, I’ll be Nani’s house sister. Muhahaha!

Friday, I’m in love!

Day 7, Friday 25th September, 2009
Location: Miami
A girl lying in a comfortable bed in a hotel room wakes up. She reaches for the mobile phone and gets sulky. Its 5 am and she doesn’t want to be up so early. She tries to sleep, but she is tempted to check her email. She reaches for the phone and opens gmail. Her inbox is full of social networking news. Facebook, twitter etc. and then her eyes stop at a name. She grits her teeth and opens the email. You can tell from her face that she’s expecting good news.
Subject: Book Proposal
The slow wifi loads the email and the smile disappears from her face. Shock. She magnifies the email, rubs her eyes and reads it again and drops the phone. *cut to the phone screen* “We’re sorry to inform you that though we enjoyed reading your book, it does not fit into our current plans,” and the cell-phone screen blacks out. She winces… She wants to cry but she holds her ground. She can’t call her best friend. She can’t talk to anyone, because her little sister is asleep in the bed next to her.
She tweets, to keep herself sane. But she can’t stop feeling terrible. She realises she can’t handle rejections. So she opens her suitcases and repacks everything. She showers elaborately, spending extra time cleaning between toes and fingers. She dresses herself. Shorts and a t-shirt, perfect attire to comfortably handle big suitcases that she has to move into her sister’s newly found apartment. She wakes her younger sister up and helps the sister pack.
“I don’t want to spoil your morning. But I need to tell you something,”
The sister looks up at her, taking her attention away from the suitcase she’s stuffing some clothes into.
“My book. The editors from the publishing house emailed. They rejected it.”
“Damn!”
And then the sister gives a calculated response. “Its ok, yaa, happens to everyone.”
The sister didn’t make a big deal about it and went back to packing, retelling random family anecdotes.
*cut to the breakfast table*
The two sisters are spreading cream cheese on their toasted bagels as they sip raspberry juice.  The phone rings. The girls answer. They talk to their family. She doesn’t tell them about the email, but almost chokes up when the grandfather says to her, ‘write something every day, without fail!’
“They have some instinct of identifying what’s going on and fixing it, don’t they?” the sister asks as she bites into her bagel. The older sister nods and let a tear slip out.
“I don’t know why you are so cranky about it. Feel bad about it and do something to fix it. Crying or being cranky won’t help, you know,”
She looks at her younger sister and wonders… When did she become so big, when did she become so matured? And the realisation strikes, she’s always been like this. Myabe she should have been the younger sister… Her younger sister was full on older sister material.

Yeah, these posts are supposed to be about Nani, but I couldn’t help but wallow in some self-pity. As usual, Nani gave me the much needed kick on the backside and got me up and about. We cheated a cabbie into believing we were going to the airport by loading our 6 suitcases and imagine his horror when we told him to drive us four blocks. His world crashed, but we got our job done.

Unpacking and stacking things in the bare room, Nani gave it her touch. By evening, the room looked spiffy, still strewn with suitcases but you know what I mean. We celebrated with a doner kebab sandwich and headed straight to the Apple Store.

Nani gets a MacBook Pro! Whoa! Of course, as usual, the big sister tried to take charge and talk to Amil, the specialist at the Apple store, but Nani got the hang of things, picked her MacBook Pro, picked the software she needed and viola, she owned her very first Lappy! Congrats, little sister. You’re never going back to a PC again.

So today could have been the day I got rejected by a publisher. But I decided to make it the day Nani got her own apartment and her very first MacBook Pro. Tomorrow? Tomorrow will be a brand new day! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Like A Rolling Stone

Day 6, Thursday, 24th September

Once you know you have a house, half your worries are sorted. We had to move in on Friday. So today was free to just chill. But Nani was bouncing off the walls.

“I’m going to see Katie and then I’m going to see a classmate!” See, if you know Nani, her excitement levels to social commitments aren’t usually this chirpy. So, I was thrilled that she was looking forward to seeing her school’s admissions administrator and to sort out some basic stuff.

Of course, my life revolves around Nanya here and though I can find a zillion things to do around, I hate the idea of doing things alone. I didn’t want her to take me along (hell, it’s sad for an older sister to follow the younger sister around on social commitments)

“You won’t come to see my school! Arre Katie will show us around, come na lazybum! And what you don’t want to come to see my classmate. He is totally cool, we’ll go to Starbucks, chal na!” Now she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so off we went.

Nani’s school = awesome!

It’s colourful, it’s funky and it’s inspiring. Red, pink, bright orange and yellow, fresh green govern the interiors. The floors are made of the aluminium boards, you know the kind you find on BEST buses ka floor, only way posher! Full on industrial design!

Katie, Nani’s point of contact at the school, is someone I had heard about night and day. So, I couldn’t wait to see her either. She was this pleasant lady who seemed thrilled to see Nani too. She told us what documents we needed, printed those out, gave us a few directions and then took us on a school tour.

On our way around we bumped into many people Nani would be interacting with. I took a mental picture of each one of them (not quite as cheesily as Phoebe’s Parker did ref: friends!) but hey, when she talks about them, I’d like to put a face to their names!

Everyone seemed so chirpy and happy. That’s one thing I have noticed, people in Miami are chirpy and fun. Reminds me of something the Pole once told me: ‘People’s attitudes often vary according to the weather they live in,” Of course, he said it to demonstrate why his people, the Polish, are grumpy and serious.

Anyhoo, back to Nani’s school! They have virtual classrooms, video editing rooms and a hang out zone and a café and two units of XBOX in the hangout area. It was like THE place for Nani. The course she’s doing is hatke, the school is hatke and Nani toh is full on hatke. Haah!

After the tour, we got ourselves back to the room, did some packing and headed out to get Nani’s bank account sorted. In the whole ghotala, we missed a call from the parents. I felt a pang. We hadn’t spoken to them for two days. The time difference was making it tough to find a good time and then we miss their call! Weird, isn’t it? You take your parents for granted, you tell them you can handle it, but something as little as a missed call from them can make you realise just how much you miss them.

Talking to them made me feel better. Assuring them that we weren’t being naughty, assuring them that we found a safe room for Nani and assuring them that we were okay was just a reassurance to myself. They give us girls a lot of freedom and independence. They trust us to make our decisions and for that I rarely thank my parents.

Thanks Mum and Dad, for putting your faith in us. Thanks for letting us walk without support but making sure that the fall wouldn’t hurt us. Thanks for making sure that there was support whenever we needed it and also thanks for telling us that just because there’s support, we don’t have to forget walking on our own…
It’s moving day tomorrow!

Ghar Mil Gaya!

Day 5
5 am! Again I’m up before the sun. And I woke with sore calf muscles. The walking! The walking was not going to happen today. No no no. The only thing worse than achy breaky legs, is a hungry hungry stomach.
But until Nani woke up, it was just me, alone in bed, my iphone and twitter keeping me company. It sucks to use the iphone like an ipod touch! But what to do. Roaming will take me to bankruptcy faster than ever.

‘Nanu, don’t make me walk today no please! My feet hurt!’
‘Chill we won’t, but let’s handle the bank please.’
Okay.

A lazy morning followed. Emails, photos, blogposts, phonecalls. Full on alshi (Marathi for lazy).
‘Call Juliana,’ ‘Did Juliana call?’ and a hajjar renditions of ‘julie julie’ happened. Nani wanted Juliana’s apartment, but knowing how awesome it was, I was damn scared someone else would lap it up.
A chittery chattery lunch and a bank appointment later, we settled back in the hotel. ‘We’ll celebrate the apartment with starbucks ka coffee, ok?’ nani is a good ‘badi behan’ material. Despite my ‘Yaay! Starbucks’ at every odd street-corner, we hadn’t found the time to get a cuppa yet. So Nani’s promise perked me up and how!

We got a few calls asking us how the beach was and we were to scared to admit that we had been uncool. We had been walking around to look for a home but we hadn’t seen the beach yet. Since we had zeroed down on the room, chalo beach bhi dekh le! Just at that point, Juliana called. The apartment was ours! Yaaaaay! Two Jumping Janes got out on the beach in utter delight of having completed the huge task on their list! We were not going to be homeless!
Add to that the delight of walking onto the ‘Shut up and Bounce’ beach! (If you don’t know already, i think John Abraham in this song is yummy…. See for yourself!) My eyes scouted the beach for a dash of yellow. Sigh. No yellow. But the blue green sea, total WIN. And that fab walk followed by a warm cup of Starbucks Signature Hot Chocolate with hazelnut and cream, it was a dream come true!

This is what good days are made of. And I can’t wait for Nani to move into her room and cook for her. Yeah yeah, I’m your typical elder sister. The kind, that totally fawns over the younger sister. Nani you better not complain!

Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai!

Day 4:

I like waking up when it’s bright and sunny, stretch a little and have a luxurious minute hugging myself and relishing my dreams before panic hits and I start rushing. One would be a fool to want to rush around on a holiday, even if the holiday was meant to be more of a sister comforter trip. But even so, lying wide awake in an alien hotel bed, listening to the silence on a well-lit street while making a sincere attempt to go back to sleep is NOT fun. My super-fertile brain works best in above mentioned circumstances. Panic over unanswered emails and feeling anxious about the future and over analysing situations come with the territory. Of course, tweeting is an option but the thoughts easily get louder than my tweets.

We had seen 3 apartments, 3 more remained to be seen. And we had only liked one of them. We had the hotel room until Friday and then… ‘I don’t know’. When I’m in charge, I hate hearing those three words come out of my mouth (or mind in this case). What if we didn’t like anything, what if what if what if! I shut the negativity out and tried sleeping. Nope, no sleep. Happy thoughts. New York, meeting Raj n Pratibha n Tara, seeing NewYorker, meeting Moodie! Shopping! Wheeee! Ok, too much happiness, can’t sleep. So I got out of bed, showered and woke nano up for breakfast.

‘This chick, Georgie, her apartment is good. It’s much cheaper, it’s 13th and Michigan ave and it totally might be it,’ Nano announced. Meanwhile, another friend called and announced that the swankiest high rise in the area, Flamingo, had a room available for $500. The elder sister in me did a jig. Flamingo was safe, neat and 4 blocks from Nani’s school. I’m telling u, I have never ever tried to apply the law of attraction the way I did that day. We hunted Georgie out. And when the door opened, a merry little man in his late 40s greeted us. I avoided looking at Nano, I knew I’d burst out laughing.

The room was nice, the neighbourhood awesome but hello, sharing the apartment with a man, no way! The sweet man did show us around and all, and with a heavy heart we turned it down. Sigh, I wanted Flamingo to work out. Hell yeah! Meanwhile, we decided to eat at McDonald’s. Junkfood was needed. Nothing pacifies my stressed mind like fried greasy food, carbs and meat. Post lunch, another apartment. This time the girl didn’t even show us the room. ‘If she called us to show the room, then she had better made sure the roommate was ok with showing the room!’ I fumed. My attitude and the weirdass stink in that apartment led Nanuli to put a cross against the name.

Flamingo Flamingo Flamingo (total sarkar style!). A pacifying conversation with the parents and a tete-a-tete with NewYorker later, I was ready. ‘If you like the apartment, don’t think too much. Take it!’ NewYorker’s words rang in my head. We entered the heavily guarded gates of Flamingo and stood by watching BMWs and Ferraris zip in and out. Hopes crash, and how. The building was too posh to be the cheapest we had yet seen. And the 40 yr old south American woman who was going to show us the house stared at us in bewilderment (we look like carbon copies apparently) before telling us her ‘kondeeshaans’. I heard her say the rent was $1200 a month and I was like, what! Nano merrily took the tour with her. We went to the pool, the jacuzzi and what not. This was like super luxury. When she took us to the apartment on the 15th floor, neatly done up in white and red, we couldn’t resist a gasp. The view was fantabulous. The bay, the skyline. Hmmm. Too posh too posh, get out now. The guided tour went on. The lady was chaloo. Even with all the luxury, $1200 seemed to be an unreal amount.

We got out and Nani chuckled, ‘Chal at least we saw how Flamingo is. Baap ke paise pe I won’t stay so posh. Khud kamaungi toh sochungi,’ she announced. I have never been so proud of my sister. It was easy to covet that luxurious apartment, it was easy to whine and say ‘I wish I could afford it’ but Nani has her head in the right place. She aspired for it but on her own merit. An elder sister can only stop a moment and give the younger sister a ‘mujhe tumpe naaz hai’ look and hope and pray that destiny gives her the opportunities to work hard and get exactly what she wants.

And she will. Tomorrow, she’ll have an apartment. We will find a home for her, in Miami. I go to bed with that promise to myself.

Walk On: we took Bono too seriously!

Day 3:
Mondays are blue, but a different kind of a blue when you wake up in a new country and a completely new city.
Agenda was set. We were seeing 3 apartments, then checking out nani’s school and figuring out the city. Big tension. I don’t know where what is!

Well, I’d forgotten how exciting it is to discover every little corner of the city… To unravel the folds of the character that makes up a city, to create memories at little places or monuments and to slowly fall in love with it’s charm.

In the scorching heat, we lost our way. And in losing ourselves we found little things about South beach, Miami quite amusing.

So anyway. My sense of apartment scouting had gathered rust too. Nanchan made all the calls and scheduled meetings. The first apartment was a little room available 10 blocks from nanis school. We rang the bell and a south American man dressed in a lungi answers the door. Pictures of Ganpati Bappa, Shiva and Buddha greet us along with a wafting scent of agarbatti. Hello, we walked just 10 blocks, how did we end up in India? Apparently, the house was a yoga center with meditation rooms and a huge Radha Krishna idol. ‘we serve vegetarian prasad’ the dude announced. Alright, I looked at nani and we walked out.
She didn’t travel halfway across the globe to live in a wannabe Indian surrounding. So that’s where we said om shanti and moved to the next house. The next one was pretty. It had a courtyard, a good neighbourhood and boy, what floored nanchan was the cute lil fat cat! Nani loved it. Hell, I loved it. Having a nice roommate makes a huge difference too. And that’s why I thought this was a good option.
It was almost 4 and we hadn’t managed to find the time to eat. Snacking kept us going. Thank u mommy 🙂
The third apartment was our last stop.
‘i promise u, after seeing that apartment, we will eat, ok?’ nanya assured me. What, after walking 30 odd blocks through the day my feet were blistered and the stomach was hungry.

So we dragged ourselves down another 8 blocks to see the next one. The neighbourhood was dodgy, one of the roommates I thought was a junkie. Dude! I was worried. Nah, my little sister cannot live here. But I didn’t want to influence her decisions but nani almost agreed. Thank god!
What followed was the most satisfying meal I have ever eaten.

After all the walking, my spicy Italian sub tasted like heaven! Yummm… We walked another 10 blocks and made it back into our hotel room. Funny how a hotel room starts feeling cosy after 3 2 days! Nani took back to craigslisting and I crashed.

Another day, another city. At least we knew our avenues and streets… Sigh, being the older one and pretending to know your stuff is a tough act to pull. Wish me luck?