Category Archives: Travel

Life as a new grandmother in USA in the times of Covid-19

Corona was an unknown name when my husband and I arrived in Rhode Island from Bangalore; our suitcases loaded with homemade laddoos, sweets and savories for the pregnant daughter. Basking in the déjà vu moment of me becoming a first- time mother, I now the proud grandmother held the bundle of joy in my arms with only fair idea of what the role would demand. While welcoming home the new mom and her baby, however, a bit of dread too clouded over, due partly to the often heard tug of war of ideas in baby care between the two generations, especially in a foreign land.

Considering the forthcoming sleepless nights that the new parents had to face and the possibility of me pitching in, the infant and her mom were stationed in the ground-floor family room till things settled down. The very next day my eighty-two-year old mother made a WhatsApp video call from Bangalore, “Did you give her milk with Haldi? Hope you are not missing giving her the Shunti you took from here. Give her soft cooked vegetables, start the meal with deep fried garlic, alternate it with methi powder. It is important for a new mother’s lactation.” I lowered my tone and said, “Amma, I know you were an excellent grandmother, did everything as per traditions but that was nineteen eighties, India. This is 2019 going on 2020, USA where both your granddaughter and her husband are doctors. Do you think they will listen to everything I say or want to do?”

Anyhow, somewhat peacefully food for the new mom could be executed as per plan but the question of feeding her baby, whether to depend on the breast milk which was not yet in adequate supply , or to give the formula milk still hovered around. A visiting lactation consultant gave rather a frightening picture after measuring the baby’s weight and brought tears in her mom’s eyes. I the mother and the grandmother could not stand it all and in a panicky state texted my neighbour in Bangalore, a young mom asking her expert comments on this after which Formula milk did not appear so bad. “No, I am part of a support group for doctors and they advocate only breast milk, mummy, please. No formula milk for my baby. It tastes bad too.” “But dear, that’s how I fed you when I went back to work at 12th week of your birth.” In your times you could not pump your milk and store it for later use. We have it now, why shouldn’t I do?” “Ok, you do what is best for your baby. I agree we couldn’t pump breast milk in our days.” I reconciled.

A couple of weeks hence, realizing the need to sing English lullabies to my tiny granddaughter, and watching a few on YouTube, I broke into a poem while changing the baby’s diaper to which my younger daughter from Singapore commented, “Mummy, that sounds a bit funny- like a rap.” “Yes, I never knew the joy of becoming a grandmother would awaken the poet in me.” I defended myself. However, soon I went back to singing the Hindi song that I knew and sang years ago to both my daughters as infants. As she hesitatingly took the baby in her arms, I conveyed with my glance, “see, now you understand how we have raised you and Akka (elder sister) from such tiny babies?” 

As the baby-care’s teething problems settled and I could revel in pride of having overcome it, around mid- Jan I went along with my daughter to her close friend Sairah’s baby shower. In a gathering of gorgeous women from Pakistani community, with blue lights signifying the unborn male child, I enjoyed the smorgasbord of cakes and mom-to-be related games, trying in earnest to make up for what I missed of my own daughter’s baby shower. The expectant mother’s mom from Texas and her sister and I sat next to each other and broke into a conversation in Hindi. Later while lining up for snacks when I told her I got mostly all correct in the game about mom to be’s likes and interests, she asked, “Apne cheating to nahi ki”.(Hope you didn’t do cheating)” Nahi to, aap to itni paas nahi baithi thi na.” (No, I could not since you were sitting not so close) I said amidst roars of laughter. Later when we sat with a special mango cake brought by her sister in New York, she was keen to know of my experiences as a grandmother. We were pleasantly surprised to know we both as young mothers used to sing the old  Hindi number, “Dhire Dhire nindiya aja re aja dhire dhire …” to put our daughters to sleep.I told her I was singing the same now to my granddaughter, and on my persistent request she sang it in her beautiful voice. We looked forward to meeting again in April when she would be here for her daughter’s delivery.

Fast forward to April, Corona virus had made its entry in almost every part of the world including the USA with highest number of cases. Lockdowns, social distancing and use of masks became the norms. Domestic and international flights were cancelled and borders between states were sealed and internal travels made impossible. The hospitals in New York city having overwhelming numbers of Covid-19 cases., with permission of state governments, young expectant mothers chose to drive down two hours and deliver in Rhode Island with relatively less Covid-19 cases.

Sairah delivered in strict isolation with none by her side except her husband Farhan. Her mom – my new friend apparently is doing e- baby care through video calls. My daughter and son-in law helped the couple in little ways such as grocery shopping. They left a card and home-baked oatmeal cookies with home cooked food at their door to welcome home the newborn.

Our flights for May 4th cancelled, our stay has got extended with hope of taking repatriation flight to travel back home. NDTV gives live updates on Covid happenings in India. By video calls everyday with parents we know about their welfare. Social media and WhatsApp groups buzz with Covid news of home and around the world. There are cancelled, postponed, or virtual weddings and virtual funerals due to travel restrictions or cancelled flights. Universities shut after lockdown and students who flew back to home countries are taking online classes with looming uncertainty about resuming normal classes. My younger daughter in Singapore, now facing lockdown, must defer by a year to enter her Master studies in the US.

The global pandemic continues to wreak havoc, causing a dread like never seen before. I for now feel happy that Corona is at least allowing me to take short walks in the neighbourhood and occasional short drives around the beautiful state of Rhode Island. Every moment feels worth cherishing as I continue to sing to my now 5- month old cutie pie. Every day as I hold her in my arms, I remind both her young parents to go whatever length they can to keep themselves safe in their respective hospitals.


Rock climbing in Bhongir fort


I came to know of the Society to Save Rocks in the Hyderabad literature festival held last month. Natural geological formations like rocks have always fascinated me and I immediately signed up for the society’s membership. My purpose in this respect was dual: grab the opportunity to get up and close with rocks and to know more about the society’s contribution in saving the deccan rocks and to explore how and in what ways I could pitch in for the noble cause.

Bhongir rock climbing came as the first opportunity in this regard when me and my husband joined the enthusiastic group of rock walkers to climb the Bhongir’s fort in the town of Bhuvangiri on 17th Feb 19 at about 50kms from Hyderabad city. It was not the first climb of its kind, having seen several forts but to be going as part of save rock society made all the difference. Undoubtedly, each fort or monument in India is unique with respect to its history and structure.

The Bhongir fort made on a huge egg-shaped monolithic rock makes it indeed a spectacular sight. As you climb up, you go on a climb of history, first the million years of history of rock formation and then the human history when the fort was built and later faced ravages of time. Inscriptions reveal that Bhongir fort was built by ruler of Chalukya dynasty in the 10th century AD, who were a few centuries later overpowered by Kakatiya dynasty. In the 15th century the fort came under the siege of Bahamani Sultans and Qutab shahi dynasty.

Today what remains of fort is the ruins and remnants of history, and a testimony of the display of human intelligence to use natural resource to its best in the times when none of the technologies of today was existent or known in the world. Probably earth or the creator of earth has been very kind in sprinkling across its surface such rocks, valleys and greens for humans to survive and sustain their race. The rulers used the high and mighty rock formations to build forts and protect their kingdoms from invaders.

Climbing the rock, we can witness history in all its glory. For us it helped that we had a photographer member Ashok kumar who has been photographing unique rock formations and displaying them in different galleries across India. One cannot help feeling awestruck by the lintels and arches among the fort’s ruins that run along the natural curvature of rock. Ashok pointed us to something that in normal circumstances we would ignore. One can spot trees dotted across the surface or crevices of rocks, and on top of a lintel. These trees too seem to have withstood the ravages of weather over years and decades, drawing water and nutrients sparingly from the rocks, in such heights and spaces, evident by their stunted growth. Their stems and branches have acquired a unique silver colour with almost no leaves, looking as beautiful and ornamental as Bonsai style crafted plants. Most of all they offer an important lesson of survival and adaptation for us humans to emulate.

At the midway of the climb, the rock gets flatter and the sudden appearance of flat stone walls and an ornate cubicle shelter gives a big relief for the chance to relax the tired muscles. Looking closer, the egg-shaped rock looks also like a long dolphin. We can see from further climb that these walls belong to an open storage brick box which I guess could have been used for storing military armaments. At a far distance on a jutting rock we can spot a lone canon resting along with scattered greenery.

Further climb takes us to the peak of the rock at more than a height of 500 ft. On the peak the ruins with a marvellous fortress architecture speaks volumes of the glory of the military capabilities of a bygone era. One gets mesmerised with the arches, the door traps, the basement of secret passages with continuous arches and the staircases to the top with crenulations on the walls. Another artillery canon sits very close on a separate rock space in front. Equally breath-taking from the top is the view of the Bhuvangiri town below.

All of us had emptied many water bottles by now and to dispose the plastic bottles someone had found a dustbin- what must have been an open carved bath tub of the royal people. I was intrigued how plastic now a bane to our environment and earth has found its way to the top layer of the history.  After many group photographs of the exhilarating moments, we went down the same route and all along I couldn’t take my eyes off the trail of plastics that the visitors to the imposing fort had left.

I only hope and pray that these plastics find a proper disposal place and removed from the precincts of the fort sooner than later so that they don’t become part of the history of erosion or chemical changes of the beautiful Bhongir rock and the little trees that are finding their life among the rocks don’t become extinct.

Srisailam: an ancient deity in the hills of Telangana


Some Hindus believe Siva as the creator of our universe and for some Siva is the creator and the destroyer and restorer, all encapsulated in one. The popular deity of Siva is the Linga , which denotes his formless nature. Among the Lingas, Jyotirlingas have gained special significance which are said be twelve in number located all over India, Srisailam being one of them. The beautiful temple of Srisailam is located on a hill about 120 kms from Hyderabad city. The journey takes you through the hills and their ancient rock formations along the bank of Krishna which lend to the beauty of the region. From atop Srisailam one can also enjoy the distant picturesque view of the hills and the river dam below.

In our last month’s visit to Srisailam , to my surprise I discovered that Srisailam also has a historical significance. Shivaji the great warrior had visited Srisailam to take blessings from the Lord Mallikarjuna (Siva)before going to the battleground. A big campus of Shivaji centre houses a museum where paintings depicting Shivaji’s life story are displayed . In the centre, a statue of Shivaji- the great is installed which is a major draw for the visitors. Next to this building is a meditation hall. A kitchen gives sumptuous day time meal for the lodgers. One can find a wide range of books on eminent figures in a book shop right at the entrance to the campus. Shivaji centre, being situated behind the temple premises, it is easy to reach the temple early in the morning for prayers.

Srisailam temple is an epitome of serenity the beauty and description of which cannot be made in a few pages. Apart from the Linga and the sprawling premises of the temple that has statues of various deities like in any ancient temple, and a multileveled greenery with flowing water carved in a garden around a Siva , what really touched my heart was the love with which cows in the goushala are being taken care. One can go near the cows, touch them and feed them the fodder. A ritual of going between the legs, forth and back, below the udders of a reverential cow for nirvana was again a new knowledge for me.

If one is looking for a place as a getaway for peace and serenity, and to unwind from the busy city life, the holy place of Srisailam is surely a place to consider.