American Filter Coffee- #Short Story

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Image Source: Women’s Web
Originally published on Women’s Web as a winning entry for January 2017 Muse of the Month

Ladies and gentlemen, we request your full attention as the flight attendants demonstrate the safety features of this aircraft”, announced a member of the flight crew. Though Mrs. Kumar couldn’t stop staring at the attendant giving the safety demonstration, her mind was elsewhere. She felt void, helpless and lonely. After all, it had hardly been four months since Mr. Kumar passed away in an accident. The sudden demise of her beloved husband had come as a disastrous shock. The thought of living without him for the rest of her life never ceased to tear up her eyes. The compulsion of her son made her board the plane to Chicago, a city and a country she had never been to. Her life revolved around the school she worked at and her husband who loved her like no other. But the sudden turn of events had left her shattered. Due to the trauma she was going through following her husband’s death, her son felt she shouldn’t be living alone anymore.

She spent the next 17 hours of the flight recalling the memories her husband had left behind. After enduring her first international travel filled with heartache, she reached the destination, which she never wished to visit alone. Mrs. Kumar’s son was elated to have her in his land of dreams, which he now called home.

How was the flight, Ma?” asked Niroop curiously, while driving home from the airport. “It was okay”, she replied.

The kids are eagerly waiting to meet their Ajji”, uttered Niroop, sounding excited. “I’m sure, you’ll have a good time here, unlike feeling lonely back home”, he reiterated. Mrs. Kumar sighed and looked outside the window, but little did she bother to admire the architecture and the skyscrapers adorned with white glowing snow. Nothing really caught her attention, despite the wonders a new place and a foreign land can do.

She smiled after months when her grandkids pounced upon her, but the smile faded away slowly.

Days passed by, and then months. The spindly branches of winter started regaining their glory, hinting the signs of spring. The family was unsuccessful in making Mrs. Kumar step out of the house, despite their best efforts.

Maa, it’s been close to three months since you moved here! It’s high time you go out and take a stroll. You’ll have your mind off all this for a while and may feel good. Please trust me!” pleaded Niroop.

A silence followed as usual. “I know what you are going through. It’s hard on us too, but is this the way you’re going to live for the rest of your life? Let’s just go for a cup of coffee, please Ma!” he requested.

She noticed the pain in his voice and the twinkle in his eyes, which reminded her of his need for his mother. After all, parents survive for their children, if not for themselves! She agreed to accompany him for a cup of coffee.

The moment she stepped out, she felt the chilly breeze sweeping through her hair. Mrs. Kumar started gazing around while peeping out of the car window. She noticed sheets of muddy snow scattered that no longer looked beautiful. She took a look at the tall buildings and the sculptures.

As they entered the coffee house, Mrs. Kumar seemed uncomfortable in her own self, walking around in a Saree amidst foreigners. “I better stay indoors”, she thought. “Hello, Nirup! How are you doing today?” greeted a lady in an apron, standing at the counter. Niroop being a regular customer, was a known face at the coffee house. “I’m doing good Dona! How’s it going?” he said. “Not too bad! Looks like we have a guest here”, she asked with a warm smile while taking the order. While Niroop was busy introducing Dona to his mother, Mrs. Kumar couldn’t help but notice the spark in the lady’s eyes and her genuine smile.

Here, try this White Mocha. I figured you like your coffee to be sweeter, so you might enjoy this one”, Niroop said, while placing a 12oz. coffee cup on the table. As Mrs. Kumar sipped in the coffee, “Is it any good or close to your filter kaapii?” he joked.

It’s different”, she said.

So, how’re you liking Chicago Ma’am?” Interrupted Dona, yet again with her warm smile.

Are you done with your shift?” asked Niroop. “Yup! Mrs. Kumar, I loved your attire! Indian women look beautiful in a Saree!” she exclaimed.

Mrs. Kumar was surprised on what she just heard. “Thank you!” she smiled. “Please feel free to visit any time, I’ll be there, if not your son! You guys have a good night”, Dona said with a hearty laugh. They walked out of the coffee house, but this time Mrs. Kumar could no longer sense her discomfort. She may not have felt very good, but she definitely did feel different. She realized her inhibitions of living in a new country. She slowly started pondering about her present, rather than her past and the future.

Within a few weeks, Mrs. Kumar was no longer a guest at the coffee house. She has kept accompanying Niroop every now and then and developed a good rapport with Dona. They greeted each other with a smile and indulged in light talks. There was something unique about Dona’s demeanor that did not make Mrs. Kumar feel lost and lonely- a feeling that had been haunting her for months now. She was amazed on how someone in an alien land could give her this feeling of comfort. Not only did she enjoy sipping in American mochas, but she also enjoyed her enlightening conversations with Dona, that diverted her mind from the agony she was going through.  Soon, she got acquainted enough to visit the coffee house all alone, not just to savor chocolaty coffee, but also to cherish her growing friendship with Dona.

Mrs. Kumar! Just getting off my shift, will be with you shortly!” Dona said, while taking off her apron. “Take your time”, Mrs. Kumar smiled, while making herself comfortable in a cozy corner table.

Thank you for taking time to see me. Glad you are here!” Dona sounded excited. “Oh, please don’t be, the feeling is mutual”, Mrs. Kumar smirked. “I wanted to invite you over to my place, for a cup of Indian coffee”, she added. Dona was so pleased with the invitation that she couldn’t refuse. “I’d love to! Never been to an Indian place, nor had their coffee!” she claimed. They left the coffee house and drove to Niroop’s house.

As Dona made herself comfortable and admired the Indian ambience, Mrs. Kumar headed to the kitchen to make coffee. She then offered her special filter coffee to Dona in a cup and saucer. “Oh, is this the Indian way? Smells amazing!” Dona expressed. While relishing their South Indian filter coffee, they indulged in an aromatic coffee conversation filled with comparisons of coffees from their respective lands. “I’m so glad you invited me over. It is a pleasure knowing you and your culture”, Dona proclaimed. “Thank you! To be honest, I enjoy spending time with you”, Mrs. Kumar smiled.

I know! The very first time I saw you, there was this strange connection that I sensed, and wondered, Wow! She is so beautiful!” professed Dona. “I was nervous, wasn’t comfortable walking around in a Saree”, Mrs. Kumar confessed. “Also, I came out of the house only after three months”, she added.

Hmm, I understand. It’s hard. Looks like he loved you very much, the way you miss him”, Dona sighed.

He did. I was married when I was 18. All I knew was I wanted to study, but I was forced into wedlock. My husband was a very caring and an understanding man. As years passed, I felt blessed to be his partner. He made me complete my degree and eventually helped me become a teacher. I loved my job and my family. But now…the accident has left me nowhere. I miss him so much, I quit my job. I did not want to live anymore”, cried Mrs. Kumar, unable to stop her tears.

Oh dear, please don’t cry! You have a great family that your husband left behind. You have a wonderful son and adorable grandkids”, Dona said, while trying to pacify Mrs. Kumar. “Do you even know how fortunate you are?” she asked. 

I lost my only love in an accident all of a sudden. The blow is horrifying, something that doesn’t make me wake up every morning. How am I fortunate?” Mrs. Kumar cried out loud.

Honey! Life moves on! If not now, this may have happened at some point. Life is not about being prepared. Of course, you are fortunate compared to many in this world. Well, look at me! I had an early pregnancy and my son was born out of wedlock. His father left us when he was 8 months old and never returned. I was young and broke, with a son. I never went to school, but wanted my son to get his education. So, I worked hard to save, but all in vain. He dropped out, surrounded himself with bad influences and ended up in prison. I don’t even get to meet him very often”, Dona said in a sobbing tone.

I’m so sorry Dona! Never realized you had so much pain behind that smiling face”, Mrs. Kumar felt bad.

Now, I’m in my 50s, with no family, living all by myself, working in a coffee shop to pay my bills. I have to do it, to support myself. I’ve struggled all my life, with no better hope for the future. The coffee house and my work keeps me going”, Dona continued.

You are very brave Dona! I’m really proud and honored to have known you”, Mrs. Kumar said with pride.

You’ve had a great life with a loving husband and family. Your son is doing well here and cares for his mother. You have wonderful memories and a promising hope. Memories of your loving husband will motivate you to get going with your life. Acknowledge your gifts in disguise, before you emphasize your loss. Don’t overlook your blessings, you will only make things worse!“, Dona explained.

Mrs. Kumar was feeling a sense of enlightenment and could not thank Dona enough for her offering. She realized how fortunate she was and that she couldn’t make it worse by reminding herself about the tragedy.

After the enriching conversation with Dona and many days of failed attempts to make up her mind, she finally decided on what would make her live in peace.

One fine day, when Niroop was home from work, Mrs. Kumar said, “I’m planning to go back next month.” An astounded Niroop, wasn’t sure if his mother was unhappy to live with them or if she had been having trouble adjusting in the new country. “But why Maa? You’re not happy here?” he asked. 

I want to reapply for my job back home. That job was a result of your father’s motivation. I can’t disrespect him by quitting!” she replied. 

Niroop was glad to know his mother was getting back on the right path. “As you wish Maa”, he smiled.

Mrs. Kumar met Dona at the coffee house and thanked her again for making her feel lighter ever since they had their uplifting conversation. “I’m happy you took the right decision. But I’ll miss you!” said Dona. “You’ve no idea how much your words meant to me! I’ll cherish your friendship forever!” stated Mrs. Kumar. “There is no dearth of staying connected these days. Are you on Facebook?” inquired Dona. “I heard about it a couple of times from my students but never really used it. I’ll create an account, for you”, Mrs. Kumar declared.

Awesome! But hey! I don’t know your name yet”, Dona giggled.

It’s Meena”, Mrs. Kumar smiled.

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Opposites DON’T Attract

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We grow up hearing so many conventions, sayings and cliches, that they end up secured in our sub conscious memory. Result- every choice, decision and judgement revolves around these adages unknowingly. One such cliched statement that disguises to hold true in relationships is – Opposites Attract!

This was, or may be still is not only a popular interpretation of relationships, but also one of the most conveniently used pick up lines, ever! When we are young with not much conscience about ourselves or the awareness for the need of knowing ourselves, we end up making choices that may not necessarily do any good. One such instance is ending up in relationships due to an immaturity to realize what we actually want or mere lack of judgement.

A shy boy meets this outgoing girl and he is instantly mesmerized by her charming personality. He falls for her ability to express herself and her gregarious nature. Well, just like any romantic novel or a movie, they are attracted to each other, end up in a relationship and enjoy a sunset together, relying on the masked fact of- Opposites attract!! They enjoy each others company and keep spending more time together. It’s all wonderful and beautiful during their initial lovey-dovey stages of love life. But the real problem sprouts in the long run, when they reveal much more about each other, only to realize how different they are! Well ya! That’s how they got together in the first place, duh!

They no longer find their partners attractive. The extroverted quality that he admired, seems to slowly turn noisy and annoying. The shy guy that she loved and respected, turned out to be a hindrance to her outgoing personality. The attraction fades away as they realize their differences. This is a mere example of one of the scenarios. Well, the differences might be extensive. It could be due to opposite personality traits, career choices, goals, ambitions or values.

Opposites attract- and then can’t stand each other

Kenneth Kaye

As the phrase suggests in itself, it is merely an attraction. An attraction that has no promise to last forever. But there are cases where this phrase actually worked, when partners are poles apart, but lived happily ever after. It could be an outcome of complementing each other consistently or a constant struggle to make their relationship work, rather than mere attraction. The bottom line is- relationships will or will not work due to various reasons, but there is no truth in “Opposites always attracting!”  Well yes, may be in science, for magnetic poles, but not in relationships!

The choice of your partner depends on your perception of yourself.

Yes. It’s all you again and your mind! We always want to end up with the right ones, don’t we? But why do we screw up? What makes things go wrong? It’s because we never knew what we are! Nor did we know what we want. Self analysis helps us prevent mistakes we regret. It’s all in the perception of ourselves!

People who love themselves at a greater level, often end up falling for people similar to them. Why? – Because they are sure of what gives them comfort and what repels them. A reserved person, who loves himself/ herself for being reserved, may actually only enjoy the company of a person with similar personality and interests. Because in the long run, that’s how they will be!

An introverted person who is not really comfortable in his/ her own self, looks for or gets attracted to an extroverted personality. But it’s important to be sure if that will last forever. It will, if they really are unhappy about their introverted nature, wanting to get out of their shell and crave for someone to complement them.

It is essential to recognize the principles that matter the most to us. Choosing a partner with similar or opposite values, depends entirely on our perception of what is important to us.

Recent studies have shown that opposite similar values and views are needed for a healthy and lasting relationship. Many people with similar backgrounds/ professions actually end up longer together. This works, if you believe different career choices might actually cause disturbances.

No two people are alike. No matter how hard we strive to find someone like us, there will be things that are opposing and different.  It is necessary to not only enjoy the similarities, but also to appreciate the differences, thus complementing each other. Knowing what similarities or differences to admire, is up to us and our belief of ourselves. This paves way to make the right decision, rather than any pre- existing notions or adages. In the end, any relationship needs effort and commitment to keep it going.

So, understand yourself before you get ‘attracted’ to someone, because circumspection is always better than repentance.

 

Weekly Discover ChallengeConventional Wisdom

Graceful Beauty

Custer State Park, South Dakota

I couldn’t think of a better epitome for graceful! Found this graceful horse in one of the ranches at Custer State Park in South Dakota. I was lucky to have this beauty pose for me with grace on a cloudy afternoon. This palomino colored horse is in sync with the backdrop and the dark mane only adds to its elegance!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge-  Graceful

Glossy Ambience

Las Vegas is famous not only for its casinos, entertainment and vibrant nightlife, but also for its distinct, sophisticated, European inspired architectures.

These photographs are an outcome of my recent visit to this most happening city during the holiday season. The glossy ambience of every place was unique and enthralling. No matter how cold or how low you feel, these ambiences are sure to lift up your spirits and make you feel alive!

Fremont Street Experience happens to be one of the famous attractions in Las Vegas with sparkling and stimulating light shows!

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Fremont Street, Las Vegas

The architecture and ambience at St. Marks’s Square, The Venetian makes every effort to make you feel like you are in Venice!

St.Marks Square- The Venetian, Las Vegas

Fiori Di Como are the floral glass sculptures in the lobby of Bellagio. These beautifully hand crafted carvings are sure to win your attention and admiration!

Fiori Di Como-  Bellagio, Las Vegas

For every MGM Studios movie/ cartoon fan, this gleaming lion at MGM Grand is sure to bring back a lot of memories!

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MGM Grand- Las Vegas

 

Weekly Photo ChallengeAmbience

Aiming for the Atypical

It doesn’t happen very often that a movie inspires or motivates me on various levels. But when it does, it will get to my blog. One such motion picture that stimulated me to write was Dangal (meaning ‘wrestling competition’ in Hindi).

I was a bit late to witness this influencing sports drama, which happens to be one of the most successful films in Bollywood. A biopic based on the true story of a wrestler who fulfills his desire of winning gold for the nation through his daughters, is indeed inspiring on so many levels. The movie depicts the passion and hard work of a wrestler who tries relentlessly to achieve his long lost dream. While the movie did turn out amazing with an inspiring theme, along with an addendum of the effortless portrayal by the lead cast, I was awestruck thinking about the real man who actually inspired the filmmakers to make a movie out his life!

Being a wrestler in India is not easy. With not much popularity to the sport and limited resources to actually support it, there aren’t many success stories. Coming from a rural background, Mahavir Singh Phogat had to bid goodbye to wrestling at early stages due to circumstances. But his desire to win gold for the country only kept intensifying with time. This passion led him to train his daughters and eventually fulfill his ambition. Though the movie was dramatized compared to real life situations for entertainment purposes, the zest and hard work that went in appeared real. While I did enjoy watching his life story captured in a limited time frame of 160 minutes, I couldn’t stop pondering about the struggle and trauma, he and his family went through to achieve this limelight.

Mr. Phogat, based out of a small rural town in Haryana India, wished to train his future sons to make it big in wrestling when his wife gets pregnant. But destiny had other plans and all he could end up with was not one, not two, but four daughters, after years of prayers and implementation of so-called successful conceiving methods to have sons! Okay, so now he has all daughters in a world where they are only fit for either household chores,  or for bearing children upon marriage, but definitely not for wrestling! When Phogat realizes the miracles of genetics by watching his girls wrestle, his subsided desire gains momentum. Thus training them to win gold for the nation begins and the girls working hard and making it big in the field of wrestling is all together another awesome story.

In this process of enabling his daughters make it big in an unknown arena for women, the girls and the family must have faced a lot of humiliation and  discouragement. Though the movie doesn’t prolong much on this aspect, I could not stop admiring the levels of determination this man had, irrespective of the constraints and pessimism surrounding him and his family. Years of training girls in wrestling, right from their childhood in a world full of mockery and contempt, must have put them through a state of agony and hopelessness. But having a hell lot of determination that continued for years and much firmer belief in himself and his daughters, made them achieve the impossible!

In our lives, we may face many similar situations, where the world around us is against our ideas/ decisions/ goals/ aspirations. It is during these times that requires us to be as adamant as a rock to achieve the atypical. The world is filled with an infinite number of preexisting notions about what, when, where, who and how things need to be done. The reactions from people surrounding us can affect our decisions and beliefs in a very horrendous way, thus making us give up on dreaming or aiming for anything that isn’t ‘typical’ or ‘common’. This kills our ability to think out of the box and work for the extraordinary. The ridicule, mockery, disdain are all part of this journey in trying to make it big in a world full of normality and standardness.

The stress and pain involved in the process are only the outcomes of our own mind, but not the word of mouth around us. The world is a Judgemental Jungle, where no matter how right and perfect we are in this imperfect reality, we are and will be judged! The ability to stick to our dreams of working towards the uncommon or aiming for the atypical is purely dependent on us and our minds. The stronger our belief is, the more resistant we stand and no words of discouragement and hopelessness can ever pull us away from our way to success.

Aiming for the atypical in a typical world can never be easy, but working towards it with an unwavering belief, determination and perseverance will eventually lead to extraordinary results!

To enjoy the fruits of extraordinary success by aiming for anything beyond the ordinary, it needs undeterred determination, which is indeed much more beyond the ordinary levels of will power. Hence, the commotion and failures that try in every way to make us give up this expedition to our off beaten accomplishment- should be either ignored or be treated as learning lessons. Turning a deaf ear to people’s scorns needs to become habitual to make sure our belief isn’t impacted. Hard work and belief go hand in hand. Working without belief or having immense belief without actually working for it, will lead us nowhere. When the passion is real and the desire is burning, we actually end up working towards it without feeling it to be an uphill battle.

So, never stop thinking beyond the typical- because aiming for the atypical does not mean aiming for the impossible!

 

Inspired from the movie- Dangal

New Year? Resolutions Time?- No, Not This Time!


Ah! It’s that time of the year yet again! When you feel afresh, basking in the glory of dewiness, leaving behind all the mess you’ve endured last year. The feeling of newness, with an assurance of the ‘new you’ via New Year Resolutions!

 A moment of silence to your screwed up life, as the new year brings in a ray of hope for a better and stronger you. You start making amendments well in advance for the new year regarding your transformation as a better, brighter and stronger human. Because it’s that time of the year, when all your survival rituals appear to look like bad habits/ addictions, divine cravings remind you of being unhealthy and your income makes you feel unwealthy. You feel the urge to change your below average life that you’ve been content with until very recently, with the help of New Year Resolutions. You start jotting down a list of nearly impossible lifestyle changes that are currently disguised as ‘new’ and life changing beginnings.

Finally your life changing day arrives- January 1st. You’ve partied so hard the previous night, that you broke your first resolution for the new year- Rise Early. Never mind! There’s a valid reason for the miss. Now you get careful on strictly following/ sticking to your remaining resolutions for the day. You succeed in keeping up with almost all of them on day 1. You seem to sense a feeling of regeneration in this process of developing a ‘new you’. This continues for days to follow but with degrading number of hits in your resolutions list. The pressure to keep up with your idea of an ideal self amidst heated circumstances and unfavorable conditions, makes you let go your newly cultivated habits. You loosen for a temporary sense of comfort, eventually breaking the promises you made to yourself at the beginning of the year. You develop a state of failure, thus giving up and end up waiting eagerly for the next calendar year- so that you can start afresh.

Majority of us fail to stick to our new year resolutions for the entire year. It takes immense dedication irrespective of how life throws you a curveball, to accomplish this journey of self-improvement for at least a generous period of 6 months.

For all of us who are yet to reach the pinnacles of dedication, new year resolution is not the ultimate solution. A resolution without its association to a new year is the panacea! Why do you have to wait for a new year to start something new? How does the end of a year enlighten you all of a sudden with all the good things you need in life? The subconscious mind is dangerous. It had a list of “not so good for you” things all this while irrespective of the date on the calendar. But it takes a back seat until the hoopla of new year begins. Do not fall for this! While new years help us retrospect our lives and motivate us towards betterment, the compulsion that joins with this motive to keep going with the resolutions can become stressful. 

To eradicate the sense of failure when missing a new year check list and the wait for another  year- Let’s tweak the notion of New Year Resolutions to plain resolutions, irrespective of the year. It makes you feel lighter, devoid the stress that comes with the New Year Resolutions package. Because every year  day is an opportunity to start something new. Every morning is a ray of hope you waited for, a motivation to keep striving for improvement. The D-day might be during the middle of a week or towards the end of Spring or even the beginning of December. This gives us the convenience of slowly changing one habit/routine at a time, as too many lifestyle changes at once can be overwhelming. 

Different studies portray different figures on the number of days that take to transform a new behavior into a habit. While the pre-existing notion is 21 days, few studies contradict this number. The development of habits depend on various factors influencing the individual such as way of life, cultures and customs. So, you can cultivate your habit at your own pace. Handling one resolution at a time can work wonders, making it easier to keep your list of habitual accomplishments ascending in this resolution journey of yours. Thus the strike of midnight on December 31st will no longer mark the birth of your new self, instead every morning you wake up marks the possibility for a better you.

 You do not have to wait for new years to improve yourself and it’s never too late to start again, because-  Every dawn begins with you!

 

Daily Prompt- Year

New Year, New Beginning- Blog Update

Happy New Year 2017!

I know I have been away from my blog and writing for a while now. Though I cannot state any justifiable excuses for my nearly half- yearly absence, I wish to sound reasonable by blaming various life circumstances. While I was lost learning life lessons the hard way, I missed waking up to the encouraging and kind comments from this generous community that usually make my day. So, I am back with a budding hope to continue writing and blogging a little longer this time. 

2016 has been an enlightening year on various fronts with mixed experiences, fair amountof traveling and self realization. It was rewarding  with respect to writing, as I dared to make an attempt to blog on a serious note. In spite of my irregular posts and updates, I gained reasonable number of followers that I never believed I could. The encouragement and learning experience from fellow bloggers is beyond satisfying! With this new year, I wish to share new thoughts, new stories and also gave a new look to the blog in the process!   

It’s never too late to start afresh!

I hope this year is better and brighter for everyone!😊