Archive for March, 2014

This morning, I got up to a new world.

When I opened the blinds, everything was white. Glossy, clear white. Everything was coated with a thick layer of snow. We had around 5 inches of snow the previous night! The trees, cars, buildings, electric poles, church-tops…..everything was white.

I’m sure that snow gave man the idea of the colour white. Surely, nothing could be more cleaner or purer than fresh snow??

The early morning view

The early morning view

Since the last couple of days had been more than pleasant, this snowfall came as a rude call! I mean, its officially spring time, I had even discarded the bulky winter coats for spring jackets. But winter doesn’t want to let go yet 🙂 . So I had to pull out the heavy jackets, gloves, scarves and boots once again. For and Lui and Shobby (Its takes a whole 15 minutes just to get the kids ready to step out. And by ready, I mean just putting on their winter-wear 😐 )

As I  walked the kids to the school, I realized that today’s snowfall was different. It was thicker, fluffier (if you know what I mean), more like puffs of clouds sitting everywhere. Even though there was no sun, the snow was pretty blinding in its white intensity. By the way, this is the twin’s school…..the building is kind of heritage you can say, dating back to 1895.

The School

The School

The school is named after Ruben Salazar, a pioneer for encouraging the use of Spanish language in America. So yes, the kids are learning Spanish at school (I knew my ‘gracias’ and ‘amigos’ and ‘senors’ and ‘nachos’ would come in use some day 😀 ).

As I walked around the block (along the sharp 90 degree turn), I saw the path ahead .

The side-walk

The side-walk

Alas, my camera phone does not do justice to the picture.

The air was crip with a chilly draft, but everything around looked so beautiful that I couldn’t resist taking a walk (I shouldn’t have, as I realized later!). So I walked on and on and on and saw these beauties on the way.


A tree beautifully loaded with white


Quaint houses with snow clogged stairs 🙂


People gave up on their cars

I was a bit hesitant while clicking the snap of that white tree. There were passers by giving me the look and it made me feel a little uncomfortable. And then I saw a Japanese fellow taking a pic of the same tree from further ahead! He seemed totally unconcerned about the looks and from him, I learned my lesson for the day. After that I clicked away happily and unselfconciously 🙂

After walking about a kilometer from my house, I came across The Lake. It is lake Michigan, one of the largest lakes in the world. In fact, so large is it appears like a sea. Here’s a picture taken from a friend’s residence (I envy their location 😐 ) when I had newly come to Chicago.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Beautiful , isn’t it?? And I had no idea that the lakes’ shores were so close to my place (that would explain the killer winds!). In fact, I really couldn’t see the water because much of the shoreline was frozen over. This is what it looked like .


The lake…..errr…or what you can see of it.

The picture isn’t very clear, but if you zoom it a bit, you can see the frozen lake bed beyond the cars. Its all white now….the blue waters are much further ahead. If I were taller, I guess you could see the blue. Alas, I drew the short stick.

Also, this is the lake shore drive road (Something like that Queen’s necklace road in Mumbai), so you have some uppity complexes here. I’m sure the rents here are as high as those skyscrapers.

The lake shore skyline

The lake shore skyline

I turned back from here. The primary reason being that the winds blowing from the lake were definitely far under zero and even though I had my thermal, jeans, jacket and boots, the persuasive winds were successful in sneaking in ! *Shudder*

I walked back as fast as I could . If I were to lose my toes to frostbite, I’d rather be at home when it happened. It took hardly 10-15mins to get back home. I’m sure once summer is here, I’m going to visit the lake every single day 🙂 .

Oh, by the way, I practically lost sensations in both feet after reaching home. Had to soak them in the tub for a good half hour before I could walk again 😀

To end this post, here’s a little thing that happened this morning.

See the top pic?? It is the parking lot for our apartment. While I was sipping tea this morning (around 6:45 ), I saw a young man with a large shovel clearing the snow around one of the cars. Then he cleared away the snow from all over the car. As I watched him, I pitied people who had to go through that routine each morning. He must be going out far to get up so early!

Once I was done packing the twin’s lunchboxes, I went to the bedroom to wake them up. As I stood there, I noticed that the cleaned up car was still there in the parking lot. The guy was nowhere in sight. But, he had left a message behind. On the snow in front of the car, he had traced, ” H ❤ C ” in large captions. It brought a smile to my face. A simple gesture that spoke volumes….doing something for a loved one! There’s only one word for it.

Cute 🙂

Read Full Post »


My worst fear has taken form. And so early in my trip too 😦

The one thing I didn’t want the kids to end up with here was the American accent. Till they were home with me, all was fine. But then they started school.  Initially, they had some trouble getting the hang of what the teachers taught. Instructions weren’t clear as the two just couldn’t get the accent. Obviously, making friends was turning out to be equally difficult 😐

Its been three weeks now since they started school. Things got a little better . They could follow their teachers and even strike up a conversation with their classmates. All good, we felt. The kids seemed to be on the right track. We patted ourselves on the back, almost disbelieving our good luck!

That is because we didn’t see it coming.

One fine day, I shouted out  homework instructions from the kitchen to Lui when she replied back,” I khaint unnerstaynd chu”.

Hain“?? I shouted back.

“I said, I khaint unnerstayndchuuuu”.


Here, the BF intervened and explained that Lui, God bless her, has just crossed over to the “amreekan bhasha“.


I looked at him, he looked back but he didn’t look as stricken as I did! Men never seem to mind the fact that changing accents leads to conversation breakdowns , specially when a mother cannot understand her own kids 😐

“Uff! Lui, can you please talk properly. It is me who can’t understand you”.

Here, with a classic roll of the eyes that made my heart fall right at my feet, she says, ” Hmphh! You nevva unnerstaynd! I’m not gonna chalk chu yu”.

(At least, this is what I gathered from what she said)

I looked up at the roof. No help came from above. Albeit, support came from a little boy standing at my side.

“Mumma, yeh Lui bahut funny baat karti hai. Mujhe pasand nahin hai“.

I grabbed my son for a tight hug. Thank God at least one kid is still desi at heart 😀 😛


Chicago is a fiercely planned city. When I say fierce, I mean it. Its almost as if the city leaders took a ruler and a protractor to make sure every turn was at a sharp 90 degree angle. All the roads are ruler straight and every crossing is marked with the N/E/W/S directions. I doubt you will have difficulty finding any address here. Everything is either a left, right or straight. No diagonals, God forbid 😐

The sections between the crossings are divided into blocks. The blocks can consist of residential apartments or office space. Doesn’t matter. They all look the same! You see a huge building with glass walls and wonder if it is an office. Naah, says the BF, thats a posh residence complex.  Or you see a drab building with people taking out pets from a side door and then find out that the building is in fact, an office complex and the dog that came out was freshly groomed in one of the salons in the building!

Now all this is pretty peachy. Problem arises when you are new and unused to checking for directions based on…well…. locations!! You have just spent a lifetime hunting for places based on landmarks and all this “take a turn at Maple/Clark West” or a “Go North till you hit Wells and go East two blocks” is enough to drive you crazy!

What about the landmarks, you scream inside. Where are the landmarks?

Well, there are none. Thats because all the damn blocks look exactly the same!

So I look very very closely at all the buildings I pass by, noting down even the tiniest difference between them. “Oh look”, I say to myself, “That apartment block has a large pot of pine-cones at its entrance” or say,” Ohh! That building has a stone owl on its roof. What exactly is the owl doing up there?” But these observations are helpful. They are my landmarks. They drive the BF batty though. A year of living here has made a Chicagoan out of him, so when I say I went for a walk by that building that has green door or that I  found a new shop near the block where there are always dogs peeing, he goes blank or rather, his facial features take the North-South route!

Ah well!!


Did I say this place was expensive?? Hah! I was kidding! This place isn’t ‘expensive’! It just has a  ‘drop-dead-you-cheap-middle-class-Indian’ vibe. Which usually means that if you are an Indian,  you do drop dead when you see the price tags. The locals though are pretty comfy. You see them pull out a wallet stuffed with cards and swipe away their worries.

You just cant show the same chutzpah when handling your spouse’s card though. I tried. And failed miserably! The first time I used his card, I drew a bill of 100+ dollars, just on the twin’s school uniform! It was much later that a kind neighbor, also Indian, introduced me to the concept of deals. Which essentially means that I have to scavenge the aisles of the department stores, noting the rates of stuff that I need. At home, I have to keep track via newspapers and pamphlets about the current offers available. Then I surf for online rates of the same things. Then I compare the rates with the other two stores in the vicinity. After a cost-analysis, I decide which store to visit. At the store, I need to check if there are any additional discounts on the stuff that I needed.

(And then everyone envies me because apparently, I have a lot of FREE time on hands !)

What happens mostly is that my things are never on discount. But at least now I will never run out of kitchen towels, toilet paper and liquid detergent 🙂


But. There are some things that come dirt cheap too. Like Coke, which is under a dollar for a 1.2ltr bottle or some “Made in China” toys that come for 24cents (around Rs15). Even back home, the same toys are nothing less than Rs25 ! I bought a handful of those toys for the twins and they LOVE me more than ever 😀

I’m still not ready to pay $1 for ONE, lonely green cucumber. Yet!


It was raining here today….the kind of rain that I thought happened only in Pune, the light , shimmery drizzle that went on throughout the day and then night and then continued for the rest of the week till you eventually screamed with frustration!

Right now, its snowing. We are expecting 5-6 inches of snow! Which is crazy, mostly because the last two days were so wonderfully pleasant! I walked and walked and walked!


Looks like I’ll be locked in again for the next few days.

But I must confess…there’s something mesmerizing about the snowfall. You can stare at it for ages and still not get bored. It has woven its magic even on the twins. My usually restless kids can sit glued to the window, watching the snow fall for hours on end. They discuss it with each other, build up stories around it and even demarcate which snowbank belongs to whom 🙄 .


How have you all been?? Hope your days are better and nights brighter 🙂


Read Full Post »

Feeling Blue

The BF left for Pune yesterday. I accompanied him to the airport, something that made him happy because no one in the US had ever come to drop him off at the airport before  🙂 (the little things that make one happy 😀 ) . It was a long train ride to the airport but the best part is that the train stopped right in the belly of the airport. A couple of escalators and a transit train ride later, he could check-in for his flight. The airport was so well laid out and organized that I quite forgot what I had come there for.

Once the BF went in for security check, I said a small prayer for him and made my way back. It was another long journey back home. This time, I felt worse than what I had ever felt before. When we were in Pune and the BF left for Chicago, I would miss him terribly. But the security of family and daily chores/office was enough to keep the mind busy and occupied. When I got back home here , it stuck me that I was in a new place, all alone with two little kids. I knew enough about the city to get along fine. I know I will not have any trouble, specially now that I have made friends with a Indian lady two floors below and also with the wives of a couple of the BF’s colleagues. All of them were sweet to call me after the BF left, offering support and help in case I needed it. It was the only warm feeling in the otherwise cold emptiness of my heart. I worried for the kids, who were rather upset that they would not get to see their father for the next ten days. But like the burst of sunshine that only children can provide, they cheered me up today, excitedly counting down the days, telling me not to worry because they will behave and not trouble me 🙂 (Alhamdulillah).

It is nearly 2am local time and I cannot sleep. I’ve been listening to some dopey songs, wallowing in misery because I miss him terribly and for once, I think I know what he must have gone through for the last one year. Every time he called up to say he dreaded the weekends, I would chide him and tell him to get a life and go out and find things to do. In his absence, I can’t think of a single thing that I want to do, even though I need to think up something quick or the kids will cry out of sheer boredom (we disconnected the cable here…..the rates were exorbitant for the one hour of cartoons that the kids watch. We show it to them on the laptop now. Netflix can wait). I thought of taking them out for a walk in the evening, but it got cold and windy so I dropped the plan.

The kids are deep asleep and I’m left blogging and humming the sad songs. Frankly, there is no rhyme or reason to this post. I’m sorry you read till here and got – nothing! In my apology, please accept this lovely song from “Pyaar ke side effects”. Feeling blue…yup! That sums up what I’m feeling right now!


Good Night 🙂



Read Full Post »

I’ve made it a point that we all have dinner together at the table after the BF gets back from work. We have an early dinner, around 7:30 PM, so that we can start packing the kids off for sleep time around 9pm. Given the cold days and even colder nights, the twins are reluctant to come out of their comforters in the morning. Unless of course if they have slept well. Then they get up bright and early.

So dinner time is when we all get together and break bread. I mean that literally! The BF had bought two loaves of bread one day (on my insistence that two was better than one). The loaves were huge and had a zillion slices each. So we gave up on rice and rotis to finish the damn slices before they got stale 😦 . Anyhow, the kids love talking about the day at school, the teachers, classmates (no friends yet !), their Pune friends and mostly lots of idle talk . Lately though, we’ve been having some rather interesting things to talk about. Hear this :-

1) We were talking about why the twins need to eat the vegetables when suddenly, Shobby had a brainwave.

Shobby : Abbu, mai bhi apne bete ko vegetables khane bolunga.

BF : Huh?! What?

Shobby : (gives a loud sigh and explains as if to child) Jab mujhe bhi baby hoga, tab mai bhi unko vegetables khane bolunga.

BF : Ohh! Okay, good.

Lui : Shobby, aapko kitne babies chahiye.

Shobby : (promptly) TWO!!

Lui : Boys or girls??

Shobby : Boys!

Lui : Abbu, mujhe two girls chahiye.

BF : (looking totally baffled by now) Huh?!

Lui : Shobby, aapko girl chahiye?

Shobby : (After a thought) Yes. Two girls.

Lui : Ok. So you have 2 boys and two girls. That is four. I will have 3 boys and 3 girls (counting on fingers) Six children.

Both the kids look pleased as punch and beam at us.

Sitting across the table, the BF and me just shake our heads in wonder. Or was it sorrow?!!

2) Another day, another time. We are all having dinner. The BF was to leave us for a short trip to India (He’s left already even as I type this) and he was preparing the kids for his departure.

BF : Lui, I will go only for a few days. Be good and don’t trouble your mother.

Lui : (with all solemnity) yes Abbu. I will be good. But I will miss you so much.

(Here she makes her puppy dog face and the BF and barely control the pricking of tears in his eyes )

Lui : But I promise I will NEVER leave you and go.Ever, ever, EVER!

BF : What about when you get married?

Lui : Koi problem nahin? Mere husband ko bhi hamare saath rakhenge.

Here, both the BF and I almost choke on our food.

Me : What??

Lui : (looking very decisive) Dekho mummy, shaadi toh mai karungi hi, lekin, mere husband ko hamare ghar lekar aaoongi rehne ke liye.

The feminist in me did a fist-pump and cheered for her. The BF knit his brows…probably, the future worries him 😛

3) The BF isn’t here. While we were having dinner, the twins got talking about the Pune home.  I realize that they miss the space to run around, not only in our house but also our neighbours. They even miss the trips to the grocery store on the ground floor of the building to buy a packet of Maggi or Chocos (Oh the luxury of it all 😐 ). But I didnt realize that what they missed the most were the bathrooms and wash-basins 😐 . The twins started talking at length about how each of them could brush at a different sink without needing to share or how they could both attend nature’s call at the same time ( 🙄 ) . For the record, we have only one washroom in the apartment here which has a large sink, commode and a tub . As I mulled over the things the kids were talking about, Shobby turns to me and says,

Shobby : Mummy, dekho. If I am taking bath, aur aapko bahut zor se toilet jaana hai, toh aap andar aa jana. Waise bhi curtain hai, aap mujhe nahin dekh sakte.

Lui : Haan mummy. Hum aapke liye adjust karne ke liye tayyar hai.

Me : Ya Allah!! The sacrifices these kids make for me 😐 😐

😀 😀 😀

Here are pics of the two struggling with chop-sticks. For the record, they did manage to finish their dinner with it 🙂


“MUST get this damn noodle into my mouth!”


“Its going to be a long night, I see!”

Read Full Post »

We’ve been here three weeks already.

Sometimes, it feels like time flies. At others, it seems as though we are floating through time with each day taking ages to pass by. I had a fabulous time with the kids….we were together night and day, doing everything together . It was so much fun :). Eventually, we realized that it was time to put them in school . Luckily, we found one close to our apartment and the kids were duly enrolled (that deserves a post in itself). The kids started school last week. I feel each day dragging by once the twins leave 😦 . The hours which earlier flew by when we were all at home, seem to drag on endlessly when the kids are away.  I have a crick in my neck from turning to look at the wall-clock every few minutes 😦 (wonder how BF managed it for a year all alone)

On the plus side, this break from the kids has given me  a chance to observe this city and environment more closely. The more I see, the more I’m surprised. I confess I had my own preconceived notions about America (and Americans) and I’m glad that much of it is misplaced. For once, I’m happy that am being proved wrong 🙂 .  So here are a few things that have me nodding my head in wonder :-

1) I wouldn’t have used the word “Conservative” to describe the people here but surprisingly that is exactly what they are. Much to my surprise, regular people are still conservative in their appearance and thoughts. Family values still hold strong and places like the twin’s school can compete with the public schools in India regarding school uniforms (no short skirts 😐 . In fact, they said that it would be preferable if we sent our daughter in pants 😐 ). Even our apartment administration has a dress code. No loitering in the lobby in shorts OR bikini tops!

2) Even though I stopped doing the mental currency conversion, it stands true that downtown Chicago rates are much steeper than the outskirts/suburbs. Onions are more expensive than cheese and parking lots cost more than cars. This place is really expensive *Sigh*. Also, there are no prices tags on the products. The store decides the rate. A packet of chips in one store could come for $2 and the very same pack could be available in another for $5. There is no concept of MRP like we have back home. The good part is that you can get everything here. And I mean, everything! Even Parle-G. I kid you not!!

3) People here are very cordial with their P’s and Q’s in place. They will talk about the weather and chat about their work, but no one talks much about themselves or their families. Asking about their wives/husbands/kids is seen as intrusion on their privacy 😐 . I realized this when once too often, my questions were met with silence or change of topic! I mean c’mon! How long can one talk about the weather which has been the same for the last 4 months??

4) I used to curse Indian television which inserted a zillion advertisements when a movie was playing. But that is nothing compared to what happens on some channels here. The last 5 minutes of a movie were dragged for 20 minutes, with advertisements inserted after every minute of the movie !! I was so stunned I sat through the entire thing wondering what lengths they could take their advertising to 😀

5) Traffic in downtown Chicago is much like it is back in Pune. Bumper-to-bumper vehicles during peak hours and mostly empty roads thereafter. So I was walking along one day when I saw a traffic jam. Vehicles at a crossing were stuck at the centre because of a signal further ahead on that road. Though it was a green signal for the other side, the cars couldn’t move because of the other vehicles stuck in the centre. As I stood there watching, I felt something missing. Something that I thought should be a part of that scene but wasn’t! And then it hit me. There was not a single car horn to be heard! Yup, no honking! It was absolute silence as every single driver waited for the traffic jam to clear. And no, there was no traffic policeman around. Everybody patiently sat in their cars and waited for their turn. It was shocking and amazing! I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the same scene took place in Pune!  Also, though they have signals for pedestrian crossings, there are times when people cut across the road. Even then, the cars slow down and wait for you to cross. No cussing or yelling out by the drivers 🙂 . It is so wonderful to see such discipline 🙂 .

6) People here love their pets. Many locals don’t have kids. They prefer keeping dogs or cats. Each to his own, I say. But the best part is that they treat the pets exactly like they would a child. The stores have the most amazing variety of dog/cat food, treats, toys and even clothes 😐 . So deep is the love for pets that the half-kilometer radius near my apartment has more than 6-7 pet grooming saloons and hospitals. The best part? There are no clinics/hospitals for people 😐 !

7) I was at the Social Security office the other day. There was a line for the security check. I had dumped my purse and jacket on the conveyor belt for scanning and was waiting for my turn. When it came, the tall, burly security guy (definitely white American) looked at me and said,” Toh, kahan jaana hai aapko?”  To say that I did a double take would be putting it mildly. He, of course, looked amused 🙂 . Obviously, he was waiting for me to reply. “I wasn’t expecting that”, I mumbled feebly,”Social Security office jaana hai”. “Koi baat nahin”, he says, “Aap second floor par jao. Khushi hui aapse milkar”.  Whoa!! What was that?! When I asked the BF later, he said that the security guy had a roommate who was Pakistani. So thats why the chaste Urdu . I think it was very nice 🙂 .

There’s so much more to put down here….maybe I should just start a category on Chicago Tales and dump my posts under that header 🙂 . For now, I have a pending task of doing the dishes before I go and pick the kids from school.

Till then,

Have fun 🙂

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: