Chocolate and Gold Coins

Monday, September 19, 2005

Things We Rarely Do

There are some things that my wife will not be interested in doing at all for months and months, and then one day she will want to do it for hours and hours. For example, we hadn’t been to the temple in so long that I cannot remember, and then Saturday we got an overdose of it.

My wife and I woke up early and I fixed my son one of his favorites: cinnamon rolls. Then my wife announced: we’re going to the temple. It was 8:00. If we left by 9:00, we could have done all of our pooja by noon and then eaten lunch. It never works that way.

I got ready but my wife decided to plan our trip to India. She web surfed for an hour while I tried to get my son ready. Of course he wouldn’t get ready as long as his mother was web surfing. So we didn’t leave home until 10:00.

My wife’s favorite temple is about 30 miles from our house. We live near Tyson’s and the temple is in Greenbelt. Even when we lived within walking distance of a temple in Springfield, she always wanted to go to the one in Greenbelt. It’s some North Indian-South Indian thing. Oh well, I wouldn’t mind too much but we hit traffic. It doesn’t matter what day of the week or what time of the day, there is always traffic on the Beltway.

We got to the temple at about 11:00. We went first to the Ganesha shrine. We made our way to one shrine after another until we got to the main Sri Balaji shrine (Lord Venkateshwara, not the bowler). There were several priests chanting and a large crowd of devotees. My wife got a chant book and started chanting. I sat down and slowly came to realize that this was going to take hours.

After one-half an hour, my son became antsy. I suggested to my wife that I would take him to the other shrines and come back. He had fun putting coins into hundis. He loves spending money - that is for sure. He also likes ringing bells. I wasn’t really sure if he was allowed to ring the bells so I stood aside, let him ring one bell, and then immediately said, “That’s enough of that,” while pretending that I just caught him in some mischief.

Then we went into the main hall and sat on the carpet and played “animal game (20 questions)”. I always choose banana slug so he gets it very quickly. He chooses some dinosaur I never heard of.

Then we went back to the Sri Balaji Shrine. There was standing room only by this time. We were standing there when my son pointed to the chubby lady in the grey salwar kameez, “There she goes again.” “What?” I asked. “She keeps coming by here.” Sure enough, the chubby lady in the grey salwar kameez was circling the room, pushing through the crowd. For some reason, she was trying to combine devotion and exercise, while irritating hundreds. I cannot say for sure, but I have the strongest feeling God, (should one exist), would want people to do their exercising outdoors. Anyway, she was providing a little entertainment to my very bored son.

The reason why the chanting was so mind-numbingly boring is that neither my son nor I had a clue what they were saying. My wife might have had at least a clue. But it is odd that the chanting is done in a language that no one uses. Well, it not odd, it kind of like the way Catholicism was until maybe 50 years ago. Its kind of the way Islam is outside the Middle East. For some reason, religions think religious words are too holy to translate into languages that the locals understand.

My son got hungry, so I took him downstairs to get some food. They have a little concession stand downstairs. I got him idli-sambhar. Unfortunately, the idlis were contaminated by sambhar. My son was very upset. He won’t eat idlis contaminated with sambhar. I had to carefully wipe off the sambhar. Luckily, he was hungry and he ignored that sambhar juices that had seeped into the idlis.

Finally, the Sri Balaji pooja was over, but my wife wanted to do a special Durga pooja. This was the typical two-banana pooja. The priest asks a series of questions having to do with my wife’s ancestors and the priest chants some things we don’t really understand. Then we get some holy water, we touch the flame, and we get two bananas.

Later, my wife explained that this was special pooja for her sister on her birthday. My wife didn’t call her sister on her birthday. She didn’t send flowers (like I suggested) or a card or a present or anything. She hasn’t talked to her for months. She’s still upset. But she loves her sister and she did special pooja. And somehow that is supposed to help her sister. I would think a simple apology would be better, but my wife has never apologized.

I have learned that the only way to keep my wife happy is to always apologize even when my wife is at fault. Sometimes I don’t know what it is that I’m apologizing for. My wife will quiz me, “You’re sorry for what?” “I’m sorry for whatever.” “Humpf!” Well, it generally works for me. My wife and her sister are two of a kind. They are playing the defect-defect strategy forever.

My wife had one more task to perform. She asked, “How much money do we have in our checking account.” That’s never a good question. She wanted to write a check for $1001 to the temple. I remembered when she wrote a check for one-month’s salary to thank God for her job and she lost that job within two weeks. I bit my tongue.

After nearly three hours of pooja, I was hungry. So was my wife and my son was still hungry. But we left too late to make it to Gaithersburg to our favorite South Indian restaurant. So we went to another one in Tacoma Park that is nothing special. They had a buffet. It had some good items, some bad items, and some awful items.

After we left the restaurant, we went back to the Beltway and it was a parking lot. Then I made a stupid decision. I decided to exit the Beltway and cut through D.C. The reason why the Beltway is always congested is because the roads through D.C. are hopeless. The city was designed by some mad Frenchman who had a premonition that Americans would one day hold his homeland in contempt so he planned his preemptive revenge. He put road in all kinds of bizarre angle, and he created these traffic circles to maximize confusion. It’s such a mess that I would say that one day we just bite the bullet and bulldoze the city and start over again. It’s the only way.

Finally, after much yelling and screaming between the occupants of our car, we made it to familiar roads. We just got on to the freeway (I-66) and passed the Balston exit when my son said that he needed to go potty. And we hit traffic. And there was nowhere we could exit until West Falls Church some four miles ahead. My son began screaming in pain. I was under extreme pressure, but there was nothing I could do. Finally, we exited at West Falls Church and went straight to a McDonald’s. I just left the car in the middle of the parking lot and rushed him to the bathroom. His bladder must have been near the bursting point, but we made it.

When we were home, my wife asked me if I remembered what happened the last time that she had donated such a large sum of money. “You lost your job.” She shot me a look that could kill. “No, I got steady raises every year until after four years, I made more money than you.” Since it was our money, I failed to recognized the cause and effect. I had thought that her steady raises were due to her hard work and dedication, working evenings and weekends, while I wasted time writing a stupid blog.

That evening, my wife rented a simply awful British movie (I know, the “awful” is redundant). I don’t know why she rents these things. I would have like even a silly Hindi movie more – at least I could laugh at the silly song and dance. Sure, I don’t understand Hindi, but I can barely understand Scottish English.

After that, my wife said that we needed to go to the temple more often. She said that we needed to make it a priority. I agreed. If we went more often, maybe it would be more pleasant. And maybe my wife would be happier and more content and that can only be good. I just wish the temple weren’t so far.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 PM  

  • Yes I do have a nice blog, thank you very much. And I keep it that way by killing off spam.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:47 PM  

  • "He chooses some dinosaur I never heard of"--Does he read Calvin &

    Btw, I hope your wife does not read your blog often, else you'll be prepared for some more killing looks:-)

    Nice post though:-)

    By Blogger Minal, at 5:23 AM  

  • Michael
    Excellent post. Though a bit long-winded, I feel off the chair laughing, while reading about the lady excersing and her antics.
    This is the precise reason I have declared myself atheist, just from getting out of my Sunday visits to the temple. Most of my friends and their families go, I suspect, just to get out of cooking that Sunday meal, since the temple provides a free lunch on Sundays.
    So now, though I may eat just a grilled cheese sandwich on a Sunday afternoon, I am free to watch football, take my son swimming, read, blog or just choose to watch my toenails grow.
    All of us are much happier and content, in that process.
    But seriously, I have some questions on faith and why do people beieve, without questioning? Even educated people such as scientists, doctors as well as Ph.D's. Michaels isnt the faith based industry, an excellent business propositin, no tangible products produced or delivered, but charge for presumption of goods and services rendered. Thats a good model. Must find ways to plagarise this model, to make some of those billions made by churches, mosques and temples!

    By Blogger chappan, at 6:34 AM  

  • Hi Minal and Sourin
    Minal: No he reads lots of dinosaur books. He really smart and remembers everything. And yes, this post could be dangerous.

    Sourin: I think it is important for my son to be connected to that aspect of his ancestors' culture. He should know more about this I think.

    But the issue of faith as a business is interesting. It does seem possible that it could be just snake oil. But the priests do work hard doing the pooja and all so I believe they are sincere. But it might be a waste of money, I don't really know.

    But as long as it makes my wife happy, I cannot complain.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 6:51 AM  

  • 1001 to a temple? Jesus Christ. My wife made me drive her to the temple here the day she got a job. However, luckily, she didnt make me donate money. Me, I havent entered a single temple for the last 15 years of my life on principle.

    By Blogger gawker, at 10:03 AM  

  • Hi Gawker
    It was a large sum. But my wife earns a lot so I cannot complain. And even if she didn't, it wouldn't be fair for me to object to everything that she wants to spend on and I don't. And, of course, if there is something I really would want for $1000, it would be hard for her to say no.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:40 AM  

  • But it is odd that the chanting is done in a language that no one uses.

    So I presume the chanting was in sanskrit rather than tamizh? I think most Indians who know their mother tongue decently enough can understand a lot of sanskrit chants ( much easier than German is for a speaker of English ). And quite a few religious people do learn sanskrit, and many learn sanskrit in their school. Moreover ayyangArs do have many chants in tamizh too. And of course, people would respect what they believe to be divinely revealed more than a translation/rephrasing of the same - may be out of fear that certain finer shades of meaning may be lost.

    I appreciate your reply to Sourin.

    By Blogger froginthewell, at 3:18 PM  

  • The two-banana pooja! LOL! I'm beginning to see how it must look to someone who didn't grow up with this!

    That Greenbelt temple is really really far, but yes, we prefer that to the one in Springfield as well. We've resorted to taking 295 from the beltway a few times just so we can get on the nice BW parkway, but the stretch before the parkway is horrendous.:(

    By Blogger Sujatha, at 3:27 PM  

  • lovely post, Michael. I found what you say about wanting your son to be in touch with his ancestor's culture very interesting... have found that the more people move away from their "culture" physically, the more need they feel to be in touch (am not saying this specifically about you - not personal - this is just an observation from what I see in my own family - cousins) - my cousins' kids in the US go to classes to learn bhajans and slokas (chants in unknown languages:)) and every time I hear that, I go uh? why, most kids in India don't do that!

    and about your son loving to spend money, just wait till it is his own money he needs to spend :))

    By Anonymous Charu, at 11:41 PM  

  • Hi Froginthewell, Sujatha, and Charu

    Froginthewell: Yes, it was Sanskrit. My wife knows Hindi so she might pick up a little here and there.

    Sujatha: I have thought about a route through to 295, but I am not so familiar with the East portion of D.C.

    Charu: Getting my son interested in India and Indian culture has been a challenge. He is 100% American. We bought some Amar Chitra Kutha comics but he has not shown much interest in them yet. Maybe our trip to India will help (or maybe not we will see).

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 6:59 AM  

  • Michael - That was hillarious ... Now go clear your cache,,,delete temp internet files (offline content) ... clear history... or even gooogle history .... lock your laptop and pray that your wife does not read this :-)

    By Blogger @mit, at 1:03 PM  

  • Hi @mit
    Thanks for your advice.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 5:35 AM  

  • Hey! I liked Little Voice! It's a nice movie, and Jane Horrocks is really cool (she sang all the songs herself). Even my friends, who are usually the first to crap on romantic movies, liked this. It's not the best thing since sliced garlic bread, but it's nice.

    By Blogger Aditya Bidikar, at 2:05 PM  

  • Hi Aditya
    Well, maybe I wasn't in the mood to watch such a movie. Yes, the lead actress does have an uncanny ability to imitate old 50's singers like Gudy Garland. But it was otherwise thoroughly depressing. I was hoping for something funny. And I could not understand the mother character at all - I mean I literally could not understand her accent.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 2:24 PM  

  • Hi Michael,
    I remember reading that your wife reads your posts. I wonder what her reaction to this post would have been....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 PM  

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