The Kale (pronounced as kel by Americans) Family Kale-van

My favourite part about having good friends is getting pampered!

My friends have spoilt me terribly not just in India but also on all my visits to them outside India.
Our long awaited family trip, which was postponed several times because of Covid, finally came through
and we reached Saratoga, California. We received a warm welcome by Jeevan and Revathi into their
fabulous home. It was a fun filled weekend with the two of them and Pranav and Lakshmi, who we got to
spend time with and got to know better. Their Goldendoodle, Sid, was the cherry on top, but made us
miss Pluto even more!


It was Tanvi and Ramaa’s first visit to the west coast of the US and Revathi, the avid planner, had a variety of things planned to maximise their experience and a different cuisine for every meal to tease our
palates. A walk through the Japanese Garden to ease us into our vacation, a visit to Stanford to give
Ramaa a peek into what college campuses looked like and intriguing conversations so that we didn’t fall
prey to jet lag! Jeevan, her partner in crime, had booked us on a wine and beer walk through the beautiful
town of Los Gatos, hesitating for just a moment when he believed that Ramaa would be underage (years
between the time when he and I played badminton on the street, and now having flown by!). It was a
quaint experience walking through the different clothing and home decoration stores, art galleries,
sampling wine and browsing through the merchandise. They had tagged us with little green bands and given us glass goblets when we registered. Imagine what a waste it would have been with disposable
cups at every store! And that goblet made a nice souvenir for the girls! The energy of all participating in
the walk was contagious and the sunny yet cool weather made it pleasant to walk around the town,
following the balloons indicating the stores that were participating in the event.


The most wonderful surprise came on our visit to San Francisco. Revathi had told us she had organised a
picnic, which we were looking forward to, considering the beautiful weather. But we hadn’t expected
what awaited us. There in Chrissy Fields, an area with the most perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge,
was an enchanting picnic layout. There was a little chalk board saying “Welcome Kale Family”. A low
table covered with a white table cloth, set with pretty plates and cutlery, glasses, serviettes, candles, and
flower vases were arranged on a white blanket with cushions and small cane seats around it. A couple of
dainty white umbrellas, a small white sheer teepee and a couple of cane chairs completed the ensemble. It was a sight to behold! We settled down after the first wave of photographic enthusiasm to capture this
perfect setting for immortality subsided. The weather could not have been better even if we could have
ordered it. It was clear and sunny and just cool enough..a miracle for San Francisco, I am told! The
laughter and joviality began to attract attention as we indulged in the picnic food that Revathi had
thoughtfully put together and took out of her basket like a magician doing a neat trick! As we told the
youngsters stories of our own childhood and youth, incessantly pulled each other’s legs and heard the children discuss how they see their future, the time passed most magically.


Memories are made of moments like these. And it was a perfect addition to the happy and carefree
memories I was greedily trying to hoard on this family trip before Tanvi got married…the memories of an
unplanned perfect Kale-van!

Paithani Bandits

When we hear the word adventure, it usually brings to our mind images of treking, sky diving, white water rafting and such. Rarely do we realize that we can get an adrenaline rush without risking our lives or putting ourselves through any great physical challenges! Recently I experienced just this and the thrill was just as much as when I felt the cold water drench me in the raft speeding down the rapids or the breathtaking view after climbing upto Pulpit Rock in Norway!

I am always willing to try something new and jumped at the opportunity when a friend asked if I wanted to join her on the Paithani Trail. Besides, who could deny an opportunity shop!! The Paithani Bandits, a group of eleven women of different ages, various backgrounds, and definitely with different senses of purpose, boarded our little tempo traveller in the early hours of Saturday and departed for Aurangabad. At the helm was our (Paithani) Bandit Queen, Radhika, a passionate researcher of traditional Indian arts and crafts and an even more fervent promoter of artisans from all corners of our country. She runs Treasured Holidays and leads enthusiasts to different parts India to learn about and appreciate their local arts and crafts, trying very hard to promote the revival of some dying crafts in the process. One such was the Bidri work, one of the last artisans of this craft that we visited in Aurangabad.

The agenda of the Splendid Paithani Trail was to visit Paithani Weavers who still use traditional hand looms. We met two weavers; one in Aurangabad and the other in Yevle. Both were descendants from a long line of weavers and their patrons were the royalty of the yesteryears. In fact, the first weavers of this genre were brought to Aurangabad from Paithan by Tughlaq when he moved his headquarters to Daulatabad to ensure an uninterrupted supply of his royal garments! The weavers in Yevle, then adapted this art form and gave it their own identity.

What took my breath away was watching the fabric being woven on the handloom, diligently weaving the silk threads of various colours by passing the shuttle through the stretched out threads to form the perfect design. I was left mesmerised as I watched the talented hands move swiftly and most nonchalantly as the most intricate design began to form before my eyes….it was like watching an animation in real time! The variety of sarees we saw left me reeling, as if my lungs were running out of oxygen. We saw, what I termed as ” the amazon forest“, resplendent with the most exotic, colourful birds and an assortment of foliage on the most beautiful pallu I have laid my eyes on! Hearing the price took away the rest of the oxygen, but there was no doubt left that it could not cost anything less after the kind of work that went into almost a year of weaving!

The colours, their multitude of combinations, borders, the traditional and contemporary designs made all of us like children in a candy store, wanting everything! Added to the Paithanis were the Himroo weaves, which are again in a class of their own. From the softest of shawls to the saree that passes through a finger ring, to the most elegant designs in a mix of pure silks and cottons. The Cotton Paithanis set their own bar. Rich, elegant, yet not pretentious! And perfect for our weather!

The most prized possession that I took away from this, was a black and gold cotton dupatta…it was on the loom and we witnessed it being woven by a young budding weaver who fell in love with this art and insisted on learning from a tender age of 14 ( because allowing him the use the loom before that would have got the weaver in trouble). His love for this art form was evident in the tender yet strong movements of his fingers as he wove the gold thread through the black stretched out ones!

The young man who spun my heart into his weave

All the ladies bought something or the other, all coming away with incredible treasures for their personal use or for the patrons of their boutiques. Each piece destined to become an heirloom! I came home with a full heart, with a pride in our tradition and tremendous respect for the weavers, the pal bearers of this tradition, despite innumerable obstacles, virtually no financial aid from the government and a passion to give this gift to the generations to come.

The Paithani Bandits

Today, as I pull out the wedding Paithani, my mother bought for me almost 30 years ago, my hand moves gently over the finely woven peacocks, the jari border and the daintily woven butti. My heart expands as I cherish the memories of our interactions with the weavers, their stories they shared with us, the love and hospitality they graciously offered. I sit back, content that my life has been truly enriched by this exhilarating adventure!

My heirloom

* Photo credits to all the Paithani Bandits

One Life

Whenever we discuss conflicts, disputes, misunderstandings, estrangement, a dear friend shakes his head and says ” One Life…that’s all we have”

These two words have kind of stuck with me and I’ve fallen in love with them…they are becoming my mantra. Whenever I feel strong unpleasant emotions rising in me, these words slide off my tongue and gently land in the pit of my stomach like a feather on a light breeze. What do I want?

Do I want to connect with this person or disconnect? Do I want to rave and rant and prove that I am right and the other is wrong? Do I want to turn away and hold the grudge? Do I want to listen? Do I want to be heard?

The answer is different every time. Sometimes I am so angry, I don’t want to listen, I just want to shout. But that doesn’t guarantee that I will be heard. Sometimes I’m so frustrated that I just nod to everything that falls on my ears, shrug and reluctantly accept that “it is what it is”. That does not guarantee that I’ve listened. Sometimes I’m so caught up in what I believe and think is right, I don’t want the see the other side. That definitely does not lead me to connection. So why?

One Life…that’s all I have. And I’m not willing to spend it in conflict, either with myself or others. Not willing to hold ill feelings about something someone has done that caused me pain. Not willing to let the opportunity of spending time with people I love and care about pass me by because sometimes we argue, sometimes we disagree and sometimes it’s just not engaging enough. Not willing to live or die with the regret that I didn’t reach out to an estranged friend because it was “her fault we drifted apart”. Not willing to give up on people who don’t say things I long to hear.

I want to hear things that I may not believe in or agree with, without reacting, but choosing to respond. I want to be there for a friend who does nothing but complain, without giving her advice to make her life better, because I care. I want to engage with the person who repeats stories and show the same interest, because I love them. I want to enjoy the gossip without being judgemental! I want to express with care. I want to be present for and with those who matter in my life.

I am not naive enough to believe all is going to be well in my world. I just want to give myself the chance to make it right, as far as I can…because its One Life!

The Waltz

As I sit here, staring at my coffee mug, half full of rapidly cooling coffee, my heart is brimming with emotions that I’m yet to master the vocabulary to name (Where’s a feelings inventory when you need one!) Today we are wrapping up our stay at the beautiful location where I spent the most amazing, inspiring, insightful 5 days. And I hate that it’s ending.

Every time I visited my friend Sonali at Anandwan, where her parents have stayed for the past several years, one longing always came up for both of us. To do a Non Violent Communication (NVC) workshop in this beautiful setting. Fortunately, this desire was soon translated into action when Sudha, a CNVC certified trainer (and the saviour of us all, who hung on to her weekly online NVC practice sessions through the pandemic) and Deepankar, an Organization Development Consultant and a candidate for CNVC certification, responded enthusiastically to the idea of an in person workshop.

We thought we’d set the tone for the year ahead by planning this on the 7th, 8th, 9th January 2022 weekend. Beautiful flyers  designed by Shekhar were sent out and our spirits rose as our first participant registered within the half an hour.

There were endless phone conversations with confirmations, clarification of doubts, introduction of NVC to people who we thought would be interested. Finally we were in our final stages of preparations when the Omicron cloud of doubt began to descend…

Cancellations began creeping in, and with it, despair… And one sentence from Deepankar set our minds to rest. ” If you are breaking even, we are coming… Even if it is just 5 participants” and we forged forward.

And boy, are we glad we did! We ended up with only 10 participants which turned out to be a boon. I have never seen a bunch of people from such a diverse backgrounds, personalities, language skills, bond so well in such a short time.

The three days were a kaleidoscope of deep contemplation, the whirlwind of doubts, the “interplay” of confusion and self exploration and the sunshine of clarity. There were torrents of laughter and humorous digs at people who had been complete strangers on the first day. There was concern and care. Sudha and Deepankar led us through the dance of Empathy and Connection. And I truly believe that the connections that were made within the group couldn’t have happened anywhere else, and definitely not in a larger group.

We shared stories. And explored the stories behind the stories. We shared our tears and our laughter. We shared the silences and the chaos. A breath. A pause. We held the space with care.

As everyone left, I could see a slight spring in the step, an opening of the shoulders, a lift of of the chin. A hope…of better connections.

And I will leave today, with the immense satisfaction of having helped to bring all of them together in this wonderful Waltz of awareness. An amazing bond with two incredible people. A hope that I will share the dance floor with all of them again someday and explore the the next few steps of this harmonious Waltz of connection and care.

Nine gems

गेले दोन दिवस मी आणि माझी आई तिच्या मैत्रिणींना घेऊन पाचगणीला गेलो होतो. या सत्तरी पार केलेल्या आणि काही ऐंशीला गवसणी घालणाऱ्या young बायकांना मी लहानपणापासून ओळखते. पण तास दोन तास घरी भिशी किंवा जेवण या करता भेटायच्या तेव्हा औपचारिक hi-hello करून मी धूम ठोकायचे. गेल्या दोन दिवसात त्यांचा सहवास घडला… आणि त्यांच्याशी परत ओळख झाली.

माझे केस किती छान होते, वेण्या किती जाड यायच्या पासून मी कशी शाळेत जायला रडायचे आणि पोटात दुखते आहे अश्या सबबी द्यायचे… या सगळ्या आठवणीना उजाळा मिळाल्यावर हे लक्षात आले की त्यांच्याकरताहि सोनल अजून तिथेच होती. विरळ झालेल्या केसांच्या आणि स्वतःच्या मुलींना शिस्त लावणार्‍या सोनल ची नव्याने ओळख होणार होती.

आईचा हा ग्रुप जवळ जवळ 40 वर्षे एकत्र आहे. त्यातील काहींची आणि आईची मैत्री तर माझ्या जन्माच्या आधीची…म्हणजे त्याहूनहि जुनी. काही जणी आमच्याच गल्लीत राहणार्‍या. एखादी शाळेच्या बस करता थांबलेले असताना झालेली ओळख. एक मुंबईहून पुण्याला आलेली असल्यामुळे तिला नवीन मैत्रिणींशी ओळख व्हावी म्हणुन ग्रुप मध्ये सामील केलेले. शेजारी झालेल्या नवीन बिल्डिंग मध्ये राहायला आलेली एक. अकाली नवरा गेल्यावर तिने बाहेर पडावे, इतर लोकांच्यात मिसळावे म्हणुन ग्रुप मध्ये आग्रहाने बोलवलेली. अश्या विविध कारणांनी एकत्र आलेल्या, भिन्न परिस्थितीतून आलेल्या, वेगवेगळी सामाजिक, आर्थिक, शैक्षणिक पार्श्वभूमी असलेल्या या मैत्रिणी. मैत्री जडली आणि स्नेहबंध घट्ट झाले.

1970-80 या दशकात, जेव्हा बायकांना एकटे बाजारात जाऊन खरेदीहि करण्यासाठी काही घरांमध्ये परवानगी नव्हती, तेव्हा या “भटक भवान्या” भारताची सैर करायला निघाल्या होत्या! शाळेत सहलीला पालकांची परवानगी काढायला जाशी मुले एकत्र जातात, तश्या या ही नवर्‍यांशी बोलायला गेल्या! घर, मुले, सासूसासरे, नोकर्‍या सांभाळून या नाऊ जणी पुढची दोन दशके खूप भटकल्या. फक्त भारत भ्रमण नाही तर सिंगापूर ला ही जाऊन आल्या. मुलांना उन्हाळ्याची सुट्टी लागली की एक 8-10 दिवसाचा मोठा प्रवास, पावसाळ्यात एका मैत्रिणीच्या वडलांच्या खंडाळ्याच्या घरी आणि डिसेंबर मध्ये माझ्या आजी आजोबांच्या घरी पाचगणीला 2-3 दिवस अश्या 3 वार्षिक सहली ठरलेल्या होत्या. बाकी वर्षभरात भिशी, काही वर्षांनी पत्ते अशा निमित्ताने सातत्याने भेटायच्या.

1990 नंतर मुलांची लगने, नातवंडे, सासू सासर्‍यांच्या तब्येती अशा विविध कारणाने या सहली कमी होऊ लागल्या. पण भिशी आणि पत्ते चालू राहिले. जमेल तसे खंडाळा, पाचगणी चालू राहिले.

आता वाढत्या  वयाबरोबर बाहेर जाणे कमीच झाले आहे. एकीचे फार्महाऊस पुण्याच्या जवळच आहे. तिथे आता एक दिवस जातात. सगळ्या जबाबदार्‍या, तक्रारी मागे सोडून परत लहान होतात. एकमेकींच्या खोड्या काढतात. रुसवे फुगवे, चेष्टा मस्करी चालू असते. त्या बरोबरच मागे पडलेले दिवस, आठवणी यांची उजळणी होते. मन सुखावते. नवरे, मुले, सुना, जावई, नातवंडे यांच्या बद्दलची नाराजगी असेल तर ती बोलून दाखवून मन मोकळे करतात. यात कोणी सहानुभूती दाखवावी, प्रतिक्रिया द्यावी किंवा सल्ला द्यावा अशी अपेक्षा नसते. भांडणे होतात. रागावणे, रुसणे होते. पण कुठलीच गोष्ट एवढी ताणत नाहीत, की मैत्रीला तडा जाईल. कुणा दोघी मध्ये गैरसमज, वादावादी झाली तर आपापसात सोडवतात. त्याचे पडसाद ग्रुप मध्ये उमटत नाहीत. ग्रुप मध्ये कोणीही “मी” नसतो. फक्त “आम्ही”.

वार्षिक पाचगणी ची सहल केव्हाच बंद झाली. सगळ्या मदत करत असल्या तरी, आई ला एकटीला एवढ्या लोकांची व्यवस्था करणे अवघड जाते. त्यामुळे तिनी “या सर्वांना एकदा तरी घेऊन जायचे आहे” अशी ईच्छा व्यक्त केल्यावर आम्ही लवकरात लवकर ती पूर्ण करायची योजना आखली.

दोन दिवस या आठ जणींनी खूप मजा केली. डोळ्यात पाणी येई पर्यंत हसल्या. एकमेकींच्या मनसोक्त खोड्या काढल्या, चिडवले. त्यांच्यातल्या या लोभस नात्याचा मला कुठेतरी हेवा वाटला. अश्या मैत्रिणी मिळणे आणि टिकून राहणे किती चांगले नशीब आहे! त्यांनी मी मदत केली म्हणुन माझे खूप कौतुक केले. पण खरे तर त्यांच्या सहवासात घालवलेले हे दोन दिवस माझ्या करता खूप मौलाचे होते. आईने तिच्या प्रेमळ, मनमिळावू स्वभावाने जिंकलेला हा खजिना मला “first hand” अनुभवायला मिळाला.

या नाऊ रत्नांपैकी एक रत्न दोन वर्षांपूर्वी कालावश झाले. पण तिची आठवण ठायी ठायी त्यांच्या ओठांवर होती. त्यांच्या whatsapp ग्रुप चे नाव ही Nine Gems आहे. आणि त्या कायम नाऊच राहणार आहेत. ही त्यांची मैत्री चिरंतन राहो हीच ईच्छा.

The age of innocence

Gene Deitch, the creator of Tom and Jerry, passed away yesterday. Though he lived to a ripe age of 93, this news evoked a feeling of sadness in the hearts of many like me who associated the cat and mouse with a carefree and innocent phase of our lives.

Gene had taken the clichéd cat and mouse enmity and turned it into a wonderful relationship, I believe most siblings could relate to!! Though Tom used guns, cannons, huge hammers not to mention mouse traps and potions to get Jerry, there was  humor not violence in the way it was portrayed. The cunning way in which Jerry outwitted Tom, made us believe that brains could really beat the brawn. Their chases were epic and could take you all over the countryside and town within seconds. Spike was always a welcome addition when things got too hot for Jerry to handle. He was the voice of justice!

Jerry was by no means the innocent, naive victim all the time. He was a naughty mouse, stealing food, making life hell for Tom. But the character was built in a way that made him absolutely endearing. Hats off to Gene for making a rodent into a hero, that too an adorable one! At the same time Tom was not wicked. He conspired, hatched plans to end the mouse menace, used every weapons in his arsenal (and believe me, it had everything one could imagine and more!), but he was not vile or evil. As much as one hated Tom for having it in for Jerry and rejoiced when he was the one who ended up, blown up, quartered or thumped by the owner lady with a broomstick, Gene managed to create a soft corner in our heart’s even for the conniving cat!

The figures were simple and the linework brilliant, the setting was not elaborate but adequate. It was easy to become a part of their world and get lost in it.

Just as they were a part of my childhood, I was happy that they were an inseparable part of my daughters’ and nephews’ early years! Many a long, hot afternoons or dreary monsoon days have been spent happily enjoying the adrenaline filled, laughter generating chases of the iconic duo. And that was not true only for the kids but for me too!

With grown up, young daughters I have no clue what the children are watching now a days (I think I lost track after doremon!) but I do hope their lives are enriched by the pure and innocent pleasure of the wonderful yet ironic relationship of a simple mouse and cat, like generations before them!

नकळत सारे शिकले…

आज स्वतःहून “पाय चेपून दे” म्हणणार्‍या बाबाच्या चेहर्‍यावरचे भाव बघितले आणि आठवणींची चढाओढ सुरू झाली.

अगदी अलिकडची आठवण. तन्वी – रमा तायक्वांडो खेळून आल्यावर त्यांची पाठ, खांदा, पाय चेपून देताना आवाजात आश्चर्य झळकत एकच प्रश्ण यायचा… “तुला कसं कळतं कशाने बरे वाटेल ते? कुठे दुखते ते?” याचे उत्तर सोपे होते. बाबा.

रोज झोपताना बाबा ‘गुड नाईट’ करायला यायचा. तेव्हा बोलताना पायावरून हात फिरवायचा. Sports day, picnic हे तर खास दिवस. घरी आलो की आंघोळ झाल्यावर आई गरम पाण्यात मीठ टाकून पाय शेकायला द्यायची. आणि बाबा झोपायच्या आधी हात, पाय, पाठ सर्व चेपून द्यायचा.

आजारी पडलो की गॅरेज वरून आला की हात- पाय धुवून आधी आमच्या उशाशी असायचा. डोकं दाबून द्यायचा. सर्दी झाली असेल तर डोळ्याच्या आजुबाजूला आणि भुवईच्या खाली हलकेच दाबायचा. तळपाय आणि टाच चेपल्यावर किती बरे वाटते ते तेव्हाच कळायचे. तो पर्यंत ते अवयव शीणू शकतात हीच कल्पना नव्हती!

लग्न झाल्यावरही कधी दगदगीच्या दिवसानंतर घरी गेले तर, बसल्या ठिकाणी बाबाचा हात पाठीवरून फिरायचा. नुसता डोक्यावर ठेवलेल्या हाताने अलगद दोन्ही बाजूला दाब पडायचा. Migraine ग्रस्त मी याने सुखावून जायचे.

आता मुली मोठ्या झाल्या आहेत आणि माझ्या विविध शारीरिक तक्रारी डोकं वर काढू लागल्या आहेत. पाठ, खांदा, गुढगा आलटून पालटून त्यांच्या अस्तित्वाची आणि अनेक वर्ष त्यांच्या कडे दुर्लक्ष केलेल्याची जाणीव करून देतात. मुली आणि परेश मला वेदना मुक्त करायच्या प्रयत्नांत मसाज करुन देतात, चेपून देतात.

या सगळ्यामुळे कितीही बरे वाटले, तरी त्याला बाबाच्या हाताची सर येत नाही…

Seeking Redemption!

Twenty eight years is a long time to know someone…and then its a whole different ball game if that someone is one of your closest friends who has seen you at your worst and your best…and still likes you!! She has rolled her eyes at your quirks and craziness and still hung around through the (embarassing) moments till you regained your sanity. She’s the one who has shaken you, physically and virtually out of your panic stricken hysterical bouts, who has been the calm sounding board through your angry ranting. She’s the rock that supports your faltering, unsure steps and the one who pulls you by the ear when you hesitate. She is the one who is not scared of telling you to your face that you are wrong. She is the one you turn to when you are at your at your lowest…the one, who you know understands the silence at the other end of the line and will not hang up. She is the one who will yell her lungs out asking you to slow down when you are going too fast, and prod you when you dawdle…in life. She is the one who has stuck around through the lapses in time, when either of you was preoccupied with work or family only to remind you to make some time for yourself. She is the one who will pick the bright nailpaints, scrunchies, coffee-mugs…anything, just to add that little bit of colour to your life!

And that is why SHE is the one who will calmly pick up the phone and remind you that you forgot…because unlike the past twenty seven years, you did not pick up the phone first thing in the morning to wish her a Happy Birthday!

So here’s to you, Padner! An attempt to redeem my guilt ridden soul, that I’m sure, you have already got back at, when I squirmed and grovelled on the phone 🙂

माहेरपण

माझा हा ब्लॉग मराठीत बघून खूप जणांना आश्चर्य वाटेल, पण काही भावना मातृभाषेतच उत्तम व्यक्त करता येतात. त्यातील ही एक…

१९८६ मध्ये आब्बा गेले आणि आमच्या पांचगणीच्या वाऱ्या कमी होऊ लागल्या. आम्हा मुलांची शाळा-कॉलेज, मोठ्यांची कामे, या सर्वांमधून जसा ज्याला वेळ मिळेल तसा तो तो थोडे दिवस सुट्टी करता तेथे जायचा. उल्हासकाका, बाबाचा थोरला भाऊ, जेव्हा काम कमी करून रिटायर होण्याचा विचार करू लागला तेव्हा तो आणि काकू जास्त वेळ तेथे जाऊन राहू लागले. बहुदा आजी-आब्बा जसे निवृत्तीनंतर तेथे राहू लागले तसे आपल्याला ही जमेल का असे बघत असावेत! पण दुर्दैवाने काकूची तब्येत Parkinsons मुळे खालावू लागली आणि त्यांचेही पांचगणीला जाणे हळू हळू बंद झाले.

मी व माझे भाऊ आपापल्या कामात व संसारात गुंतत जात होतो. पण त्या घराची ओढ कधी कमी झाली नाही.  नेहेमी तेथे कोणाचे वास्तव्य नसल्यामुळे घराकडे थोडे दुर्लक्ष होत होते. शेवटी आईने पुढाकार घेऊन २००३ मध्ये घराची डागडुजी करून घेतली. त्यानंतर आई , मी , माझ्या मुली आणि माझे दोघे भाच्चे अशी आमची gang वर्षातून दोनदा तरी सुट्टीला जाऊ लागलो. आता धाकटे काका व काकू ही निवृत्तीनंतर वरचेवर जाऊ लागले होते. माझे भाऊ ही अधून मधून जात. त्यामुळे घराची काळजी घेतली जात होती. आम्हा सर्वांचे त्या घराशी असलेले नाते अतूट आहे. आज ते घर बांधून ४० हून जास्त वर्षे होऊन गेली. आजी-आबांना जाऊन तीन दशके उलटून गेली…पण आजही कितीही दिवस राहिलो तरी पाय निघत नाही .

माझा सर्वात मोठा चुलत भाऊ, अमर cerebral palsy मुळे विकलांग आहे. त्याची नुकतीच साठी झाली.  काकुच्या आजारपणानंतर उल्हासकाकाच त्याची काळजी घेतो. तो ही आता ८०च्या घरात आहे. त्यामुळे अनेक वर्षात दोघांचे ही पांचगणीला जाणे झाले नव्हते. म्हणून आईने आणि मी त्यांना घेऊन जायचा बेत आखला. आईचे प्लानींग म्हणजे एकदम परफेक्ट असते. तिने माझा भाऊ मिहीर, अमरचा धाकटा भाऊ केदार आणि प्रसेनजीत (दादू) यांच्या वेळेची सांगड घालून दिवस ठरवले. इतर वेळेला प्रवासाची फारशी आवड नसलेल्या बाबाला ही भरीस पडले. आणि आम्ही सर्व भावंड, आई-बाबा आणि उल्हासकाका २ दिवस पांचगणीला गेलो.

आईने सर्वांच्या आवडी-निवडी लक्षात घेऊन नाष्ट्या पासून रात्रीच्या जेवणापर्यंतच नाही, तर थंडीच्या दिवसांमध्ये नंतर प्यावेसे वाटणाऱ्या hot chocolate ची ही तयारी नेली होती. अमर ला आवडते म्हणून माझ्या वहिनी, नीतूने धानसाक ही करून पाठवले होते. सगळ्यांचे वास्तव्य  आरामदायक व्हावे आणि अमरला हालचालीला सोपे पडावे या सर्वाची आईने  बारकायीने काळजी घेतली होती.  संध्याकाळी शेकोटी करून बसलो ते फक्त जेवायला उठलो. जेवण झाल्यानंतर परत hot chocolate घेऊन शेकोटीत लाकडे सारत गप्पा चालूच राहिल्या. आम्ही भावंडेही असे एकत्र बहुदा आजी-अब्बा गेल्यानंतर पहिल्यांदाच एकत्र आलो होतो. सगळे एकदम २५-३० वर्षे मागे गेले होते. हक्काने आईकडून लाड करून घेत होते…अगदी लहानपणी करायचे तसे. उल्हास काका आणि बाबा ही चेष्टा मस्करी आणि आठवणींना उजाळा देण्यात रमले होते. उल्हास्काकाने घराच्या कानाकोपऱ्यात फिरून एक-एका आठवणीची उजळणी केली. मुले त्याला घेऊन गावातून, बाजारातून फिरून आली. “रहात नाही ,संध्याकाळी जातो ” म्हणणारा दादू ही सगळ्यांबरोबरच निघाला! दोन दिवस कसे गेले, कोणालाच कळले नाही.

सगळ्यांच्या रोजच्या धावपळीच्या, ताण-तणावांच्या आयुष्यातून दोन दिवस चोरून आईने बालपणीचे, एकत्र रहाण्याचे, खोड्या काढण्याचे,  लाड करून घ्यायचे, अनमोल आनंदाचे क्षण सर्वांच्या आयुष्याच्या झोळीत टाकले होते…माहेरपण म्हणजे अजून काय असते? या दोन दिवसात माझ्या काकानी, भावांनी खऱ्या अर्थाने माहेरपणाचा आनंद लुटला !


बाबा आणि उल्हासकाका
चार भाई
आम्ही (almost) सगळे  गोगटे!

The musical melting pot…

The lights dimmed and my heart began to pound. My breath caught in my throat as I saw his silhouette appear. And just as I began to feel the total lack of oxygen, I felt a reassuring hand on my nervously twitching knee….and then all hell broke loose!

The voice that had haunted me for more than a decade reverberated through the arena… Live! In flesh! I was actually hearing the words that had been a soothing lullaby on stormy days, the tunes that we had sung along with on crazy, fun filled girl trips and feeling the energy and the vibes that I had only heard of and imagined a million times in my head when my crazier-than-me-grobanite-best-buddy had described in every after-show frenzy! It had taken us ten years to get here. Planning through years of mismatched vacations, when I had just missed a concert tour or had come too late!

Let me take you back in time a little. More than a decade ago, Monika, one of my closest friends since we were 16, fell in love with and introduced me to afresh-faced young singer with an absolute heavenly voice that glided through multiple octaves with the ease and grace of an accomplished ballet dancer. JOSH GROBAN.

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It wasn’t long before I was as hooked on as she was and couldn’t wait patiently enough for her packages with the new cd albums and mixtapes of singles to arrive, in the pre-legal-download period. Her vivid and empassioned descriptions of her experiences at his concerts over the years often left me feeling frustrated and a little envious of her.

So this year when I texted her to ask her what her plans were for November, and that we may be planning a trip, I received a concert ticket in reply and a one liner… “Now you HAVE to come!!”

I was finally going to make it! The excitement was palpable and time didn’t move fast enough. Like teenage groupies, we couldn’t plan enough for the day. Another close friend caught on to this exuberance and designed special tee shirts for us.

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The concert was within a couple of days of my arrival in the USA and I was battling with jet lag and exhaustion from the near-hysteria excitement! We reached Madison Square Garden way too early in our anxiety not to be late. It was lit in the colours of Josh Groban’s latest album “Bridges” after which this tour was named. His music was playing in the lobby and I was almost ready to throw a tantrum on the steps outside, looking at the people walking in for the “meet n greet” for which we hadn’t been able to get tickets!!

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I reprimanded myself that I should be ecstatic I was finally there…a couple of hours away from the voice I had waited to hear in person…see the face I had seen (and drooled over) only in pictures and YouTube videos….and I was; but I hadn’t bargained for what I actually experienced.

The feeling of awe and the fluttering in my stomach like being in love for the first time,

… the overwhelming feeling that washes over when you hold your newborn for the first time, that leaves you speechless and emotional,

… the sadness that you feel when you turn the last page of a book, which you know you can read anytime again, but also know that it’s not going to be the same,

… the uncontrollable desire to scream your guts out coz you are ecstatic and melancholy at the same time

And all this happening at the same time!

The ride back home was a difficult and sobering experience, with neither of us able to put into words how we were feeling…one of his favourites AWAKE playing in the background, taking us over the last decade and more of our love affair with him…

…strengthening the promise to ourselves not to wait another ten years for our next tryst with him together!

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