“Still Alice”: A Review from an Alzheimer’s Care Partner


Let me begin by saying I feel people cannot be objective about this movie. I understand that. It’s the first mainstream Hollywood movie about something so un-glamorous, Alzheimer’s! I may come across as harsh, but I think I have the right to be. I tried googling for more unbiased and educated views about the film, but sadly found none. So here’s my two-penny bit.

I cried when I watched “Still Alice,” the fictional story of Alice Howland who develops Early Onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50. But then, Alzheimer’s is a trigger for me. You see, my mother had Early Onset Alzheimer’s in her 40s and died the year she would have turned 50.

The book has a beautiful perspective of the person with dementia, Alice. The movie is unable to translate those moments. For e.g. In the book, the scene where the family is talking about Alice, who is in the room, like she is not there, there is a beautiful description of Alice registering what they’re saying, but being unable to respond. In the movie, the moment is lost. If the viewer has not read the book or experienced Alzheimer’s as a caregiver or a person who has it, they would not understand how demeaning it is for a PWD (Person/People with Dementia) to be talked about as if they were invisible. 

The movie simply touches upon (more like glosses over) the hardships of PWD, especially in the case of Early Onset Dementia. The loss of their jobs, their ability to drive, to make simple choices, the loss of bodily functions that lead to incontinence, the ability to find their way to places they have been to a million times, the night-time wakefulness, and the list goes on. In real life, these are epic struggles for PWD and also their families. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard a PWD say they feel invisible and powerless, or a caregiver lament over how they are going to have to take away the driving privileges of a loved one!

As time progresses, a PWD has to rely on others for care. This is often a very humiliating experience for them. There is literally just one scene in the film where you see Alice getting upset that she has an in-home care aide to help her. And she is only upset; there’s no screaming murder or threatening eternal condemnation! In reality families may not be able to afford in-home care or if they can, many times, the PWD will not be comfortable with anyone and they will be mean! I don’t blame them; I wouldn’t want a stranger touching me either!

The scene where Alice pees her pants may have been very hard-hitting for some. However, that’s the only time they allude to incontinence. In reality, the first time a PWD experiences incontinence may not be in the privacy of their homes with no audience. It can be a really demoralizing experience for them. And don’t even get me started on the discussions about wearing disposable underwear, which the world calls, “adult diapers”. No sir, it’s not a one off thing…but something that gets progressively worse. I advise caregivers to simply call them “underwear”. Remember, diapers are what children wear. PWD are NOT children. Treating them as children would only hurt them. Imagine someone taking away everything you have and deciding everything for you – from what you wear, to what you eat, to what time you will sleep and wake up!

Alice is one of the lucky ones. I am not callous, hear me out! She didn’t experience any major changes in her personality. She didn’t have hallucinations or delusions. Nor did any of her relationships get progressively worse. In fact, she comes to a beautiful understanding with her daughter with whom she had differences of opinion in the past. In reality, PWDs may experience debilitating changes in personality that make them have rage issues. They may get livid with those closest to them, making it harder for people to support them. Sometimes PWD have hallucinations and delusions which make them extremely acerbic with those around them. When I support caregivers, I constantly tell them… “That’s not your mom/dad/sibling/partner talking.” Often a relationship between a PWD and a family member that was tumultuous prior to the dementia gets progressively worse. I have heard children call their parent names and break down and cry from the guilt!

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great scenes in the movie. For e.g. the one where she finds the video that instructs her to kill herself by opening the drawer below the lamp in her bedroom and eating all the pills in the bottle. She has to go up and down numerous times before she realizes that she can take the computer to her room. She didn’t manage to kill herself because she couldn’t follow even simple instructions anymore. I loved the scene where Alice and her husband go to have frozen yogurt. She just copies his order, because that’s what PWD do. They may improvise to manage their lives or simply not want to be embarrassed about simple things. Her husband reminds her of what she usually has. The conversation about whether she still wants to be “here” in Boston was definitely poignant. She couldn’t do simple tasks herself, but she insists that she does not want to leave her home. A change of place may be absolutely normal for you and me; for a PWD, it may take them weeks or even months to get used to a new place.

The movie doesn’t show the family accessing any supports. Yes, she does go to an Alzheimer’s Association event, but I wish they had shown her accessing an Early Stage Support Group or her daughter going to a caregiver support group. They were right in showing that the caregiving responsibility falls on one of the daughters. Women usually bear the brunt of caregiving. In this case, they were lucky that Kristen Stewart was not in a conventional job and could make the move to be with her mother. In reality, it disrupts lives. Dementia has a great financial impact on the family, which luckily Alice did not seem to struggle with.

My final verdict would be…it’s a great movie. It’s not reality. Not every person with Alzheimer’s would be like this…some may be a lot worse…especially in the case of Early Onset Dementia. Alice’s family has more money than the average person. Everything you saw in this movie, multiply it by 10,000 times and then you may be somewhere close to what it is like for a person with Early Onset Dementia or their care partners. They have portrayed several small aspects of a PWD’s life. However, unless you’re familiar with the disease, these could be lost on you!

I envy the people who can go to the theatre, watch this movie like any other, cry a little, come out and forget about it. Unfortunately, some of us don’t have that liberty. Yes, I am happy that a movie about Alzheimer’s got made…that it received a lot of attention. I still feel it protects people from truly knowing how demoralizing this disease is for a PWD and their family. 

I think the movie needs a disclaimer in bold letters in red to let viewers know that this is NOT a documentary and will not give them a crash course in understanding the struggles of a PWD or their caregivers.

Acting: 8.5/10

Direction: 6.5/10

Story: 8.5/10 (Mostly Lisa Genova)

Screenplay: 6.5/10

Ability to educate people about dementia: 5/10

Ability to educate people about the perspective of a PWD (person with dementia): 5/10

 

Lessons from (Alcohol) Abstinence


My name is Henri and I am not an alcoholic. Let’s face it. Food and drinks are an integral part of our social lives. On weekends, an overwhelmingly large majority of us go over to our friends’ houses or head to crowded pubs and clubs or yell at tv screens as our favorite teams battle it out – one hand over our pal’s shoulders and the other holding a drink. Alcohol is somehow an integral part of our successes and disappointments as well – the celebratory popping of champagne or the melodramatic “hit me” mouthed hoarsely to bored bartenders.

This year, I have challenged myself to give up alcohol for a whole year. It’s been 32 days and I haven’t had a drink. I have been out a couple of times with friends and had people over too. I have felt like just having a glass of wine and I didn’t. I am used to this feeling because last year I gave up non-vegetarian food and that includes fish as well! I remember that first week. I wondered how I would survive! It was surprising to me as I grew up vegetarian. I wouldn’t call myself a meat-addict just the way I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic. I gave up both because consuming meat is terrible for the environment and so is alcohol for the body.

Here’s what I have learned in the last 32 days:

  1. Yes, I am!

    Yes, I am!

    I am still as fun(ny) when I am sober.

  2. My friends are not as fun(ny) when I am sober.
  3. I am able to stick to my healthy choices of food no matter where I go.
  4. I am spending a lot less when we go out.
  5. I love Sid as much as I did when I used to drink (Thank heavens!).
  6. I can eat a bit of dessert because I am consuming less sugar from alcohol.
  7. There are no hangovers anymore.
  8. I have had to look for creative avenues of entertainment since I don’t find the same things interesting any longer.
  9. I realize that I am missing it less and less as time passes. I guess I don’t love it as much as I think I do.
  10. I have to constantly say, “I’m not drinking but I’m not pregnant or trying to get pregnant.”

 And just to leave you with this extremely apt song for this post:

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My First Journal Entry in Seven Years


When I first touched the nib of my gel pen to the crisp new page, my heart skipped a beat. It was like being on a first date. It had been seven years since that had happened! I was nervous. I wondered, “Will this work? It used to be so easy.” I used to spend hours in quaint coffee shops across India, just me and my diary…writing. Now, it felt weird writing down my thoughts. Thoughts that no one else would read, leave alone get likes or accolades for. Wow.

Once upon a time, there was a 12-year old girl who wrote diligently in her diary every night before she went to bed. In that little book were documented all her daily highs and lows. Her first and unrequited love. Her mother’s bizarre behavior that she could not understand or explain to her own family members. Stuck to certain entries were little memories like the wrapper of a chocolate – she no longer remembers the special person or occasion that befitted such an honor!

I can still see myself sitting on a single bed in my grandparents’ room and writing away. In 2007, when I cleaned my closet in my dad’s house, I found seven or eight journals that documented my life from the ages of 12-24. There was so much pain in them from the years that my mother was sick, that I got rid of them all. I deeply regret this decision. I now understand the value of those painful memories. Yet at many levels I feel free.

Last Sunday, as I wrote my first journal entry in almost seven years, I wondered why I stopped writing. Writing my diary is what kept me afloat through those difficult years. Writing my diary was what spiked my imagination, gave wings to my words and out came little rhyming poems about love. At 18, these rhymes metamorphosed into blank verse that made me feel very intellectual. The themes were usually the same – soul searching and heartache.

My diminished diary writing coincides with me getting my first laptop in 2004 and then the birth of my blog in 2005. I began living this online life. I believed stupidly that I could write as honestly on my blog or even that I could write about anything! And for a while it worked. It was nice to explain myself to the world. Many people who had completely misunderstood me during my teens and early 20s reconnected with me because of my blog. I had finally created a persona of myself that I was happy with. Now what?

My first journal in seven years.

My first journal in seven years.

For the last few weeks, my soul was as if calling out to me and asking me to go buy myself a journal. My inner person wanted me to write down my thoughts, wanted me to befriend myself all over again. Something deep inside wanted me to write down my ruminations.

I bought myself a little blue-green book with trees and hearts and kissing birds. That first post began mainly with me feeling nostalgic about my writing and wistful about whether I would be able to write effortlessly as before. It was difficult initially. It felt strange to write as thoughts came to me. But then my pen, as if connected to a nerve in my hand that went straight to my soul and out came the words. I wrote about 5 pages that day.

All week I didn’t write. But I thought about writing every day. The ruled pages called out to me. If this isn’t like being in love all over again, then what is? Will I find the balance between my journal and my blog? Will both sides of me thrive? I hope so.

Saying NO to NEW Year


I feel a great affinity with the month of December. It’s almost as if the month doesn’t even get the chance to truly exist. I feel the same way about my life. The moment I begin to relax a bit, I am hit by a wave of change and then begins again the herculean effort to make peace with the newness. I am sure December feels the same way. The moment December comes, people are thinking of the year-end and new beginnings. It makes me want to scream. “Relax people! Give December a chance to live itself out, will you?” Like December, I want to hold on to 2014 just a little longer.

I looked upon the advent of 2015 with great dread. As the messages of Happy New Year began to flood my mailbox, Facebook and email, I began to shudder. Do I really want to change? You see, I had a phenomenal 2014. On January 1st last year, I had made a conscious decision of controlling my tongue and temper. And somehow it worked. All through 2014, I rarely had any serious fights with Sid, only a few semi-major fights over stupid things. I had ZERO fights with my dad too! And I actually was in India for three weeks. These are big achievements for me.

The way I did this was very simple. I chose to use my words and I also chose to walk away from fights and come back to the situation to explain using words. At no point did I feel out of control really. I had never felt so much in control of my responses and reactions in my 33 years of existence!

So naturally when December came, I began dreading the New Year. Would I be able to continue on this path? This was a big challenge; how can I further challenge myself? What if all the niggling, irritating habits of others come back with a vengeance to attack me? What if I had only repressed my explosiveness? What if my subconscious mind had only leased this temporary relief for a year? The what ifs were making me paranoid!

I'm staying in 2014, yes, I am!

I’m staying in 2014, yes, I am!

And then I decided. It wouldn’t be a NEW year. It would simply be a calendar change. I would not attach any importance to the NEW bit. If people feel like they need a calendar to make changes to their lives, they can do it. I would stay the same. I don’t want to get better. I don’t want newer challenges. I want to, just for a year, feel the magic of consistency. Something that stays.

So, here’s to a lasting 2014! I am keeping the December 2014 calendar on my wall as a symbol of my determination.

The Best Religion in the World


Most people know the best religion in the world: THEIR’S! To me, most religions seem like competitors in a high-stakes championship. I am going to try and summarize all the issues I have with religion in as little space as I can, considering each of these would be (and are) epic-sized theses on their own. Not all of these will apply to each religion. But there are definitely mutation-combinations that will be relevant to each of them.

1. Treatment of women: I don’t understand why there are no women-centric religions (that are mainstream). I also don’t understand why religions go to great lengths in terms of differentiating between the roles of men and women. Actually, I do understand. It is called control of women’s freedoms. Of course, there are individual religious units where you will find some movements in terms of the status of women, but one won’t automatically think of religion as being liberating for women. Even Buddhism, the religion I draw most from has some strange beliefs of women not being able to attain ultimate liberation!

2. Rejection of certain groups of people: This one baffles me the most – the rejection of LGBTQ people. First of all, I hate the fact that there is a label like that existing to identify people. Imagine saying, “You know John, that heterosexual guy who was with me last time!” When religions are supposed to be propagating love, why would they reject anyone? Let’s not forget that not so long ago, there were segregated spaces based on colour around the world, and even in the 1990s in South Africa. In India, widows had to live in isolation. In Hinduism, female sex workers are not allowed to participate in rites and rituals. However, there’s no urgency in hunting down their client lists so that we can hurriedly excommunicate those men for their impurity! I think rape, murder and cheating people of their hard-earned money are some of the grounds for excommunication, but being gay? No way! No holy book, wise person or even a visiting well-meaning angel will convince me that rejecting people because they’re gay or engaged in the sex trade is okay!

3. Exclusivity: Most religions ask you to be part of their exclusive gang. It is a gang! You’re supposed to adhere to spoken (written) and unspoken norms, else risk being excommunicated. I identify as a Buddhist-Christian. But there is no such thing. I can’t proudly stand in church and say I love Buddhism. Or let’s say Islamic Hindu/Christian. There’s no such thing! To me, that’s absurd. In Hinduism, there are a million gods and goddesses, but you cannot worship Jesus along with those gods and goddesses. In fact, Christianity had to create an entire denomination called non-denominational just to reject internal exclusivity. If you’re Catholic and want to marry someone in the Orthodox church, either of you will have to convert to the other sect. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard!

4. Evangelism: I go to church with Sid. Every church I have been to (except one) prays for more and more people to come home to Jesus. In fact, recently I have been to a few churches that focus especially on Muslims, and want them to become Christians. I don’t get that. Why can’t we say, “Let me be an embodiment of god’s love and grace. Let me learn from other religions so that I can peacefully co-exist.” Instead, we’re praying for Muslims to become Christians and vice-versa.

5. Places of worship: This one gets my goat the most. Every temple or church or synagogue or gurudwara is taking up precious resources to build these structures where there could have been schools, parks, hospitals, community centres, etc. Instead, we have these humongous structures that can be used for specific purposes by specific groups of people. They always begin small and then fund-raise to create these useless, albeit gorgeous structures!

For me, the best religion would be one where the congregating would take place in a park, under a tree or in a community center or in a school. It would welcome everyone from every religion. There would be no teacher or priest or “wise person”. We would all learn from each other. Each week, someone would volunteer to teach the rest of the people something new. The only tenets would be to learn, love and accept others. There would be meditation. There would be gospel music. There would be qawwali. There would definitely be nature worship as in paganism. There would be poetry. There would be bhajans. There would be no discrimination. There would be no association/organization/roster of members. There would be no charitable trust. There would be fundraising events for education, health, poverty alleviation and peace and social justice promotion. People would give not because they would get a tax break, but because giving makes you a better person. May be the money would go to a specific organization so that there is accountability and transparency. These organizations can be secular or religious, the only requirement being transparency in accounting. There will be no plaques made to commemorate anyone’s ridiculous memory, no matter who they are. Each person can choose rites and rituals from their existing religion or create new traditions. There would be no guilt-tripping, no evangelizing. You could keep your religious identity and still be part of this religion. There would be efforts made to protect the environment. For instance, there will be no printed weekly programs or handouts. There will be tap water, boiled and purified at home. There will be no religious texts or doctrines in this religion. The only basis would be to encourage a direct connection between oneself and the universe, a higher power, god, or whoever/whatever one believes in.

There would be non-religious teachings as well around gender, sexuality and body image, patriarchy, politics, economics, media, blogging, writing and anything else that gets thrown out in the meetings as a topic of interest.

Sounds like democracy? Sounds like utopia? Sounds like secularism? Sounds like humanism? I don’t know. But this is what my soul craves for. A place where I can learn about the world and its people. A space where I can proudly be who I am…a life-long learner and a skeptic. This would be my best religion. Does anyone want to come to the first meeting?

Compliments I’d Give Myself


Today I felt a little jealous of someone who comes to my dance class, simply because she dances well. She is very nice to me and it makes me not like her even more. As a person, I am trying to compete less with others, and encourage myself to do better at the things I am involved in. I am also trying to keep things in perspective and appreciate myself for my good qualities/habits/traits. Often I find, I am quite self-aware and great at critiquing myself to the right level, but I am not always good at recognizing how much of myself I take for granted. Tonight before I go to bed, I just wanted to acknowledge all that I do for myself. So much of my self worth comes from being a social worker or a self-proclaimed crusader for social justice. But I need to acknowledge all the things about me FOR ME.

1. I work hard to constantly better myself. (In 2014, I have managed to walk away from almost every fight and come back with a more toned down and suitable response. It has enhanced my communication skills and improved my marriage tremendously.)

2. I have realistic expectations of myself. (For example, I allow myself to NOT like people.)

3. I am a good dancer. Not the best, but I am pretty good. (I always wanted to learn Kathak. At the age of 28, I enrolled myself in a class. I had to start from scratch in Toronto, but I have been doing it, and slowly rebuilding my skills.)

4. I have a great sense of humour and I am F.U.N! (Needs no explanation! Come hang out with me!)

5. I am a good cook even though I hate cooking. (You gotta have my dal! Yummm.)

6. I write well. (I like my blog. I feel it has something for everyone. My USP or Unique Selling Point is that I write posts which make people think.)

7. I like and respect myself. (I have learnt that when you like yourself, you teach others to respect you.)

8. I can accept the fact that some people hate me. (I can live with it without giving it a second thought. There were people in my school in Toronto who hated my guts and used my name as an insult! HA HA.)

9. I have gotten good at dealing with family. (I communicate what I need clearly. When I get upset and hang up on my dad, I call back and apologize. I have realistic expectations of them.)

10. I always rise when I fall. I never give up on myself. (I have had to re-evaluate my entire value system and parameters for success in the last few years. I have been down and out, but never off.)

I am going to bed extremely tired, but happy. I am glad I did this. When I began writing, I found it hard to even think of a few. Now, there’s a lot more I want to put on there. What are the top 10 things you love about yourself, and when was the last time you acknowledged yourself for it?

 

No WiFi!


A few days ago, I got a friendly warning from our internet service provider letting me know that we had used up 75% of our monthly data allowance. Yes, in Canada, we still have limited internet usage allowance. Unlimited data is pretty rare because it’s expensive. This limited usage is not very convenient for my marathon show-watching. Anyway, going back to this scary day. I was so very annoyed, surprised and worried. What if we go over the usage? To change the current package and upgrade to a higher allowance seemed silly since we were just a week away from the month being completed. Who uses 120GB of data in a month! The closest I had come to using in a month was 93GB. It wasn’t even about how much the over usage costs…it’s a mere 2$ per GB. However, to me it was like having to admit to myself that I am addicted to the internet! (I already know I am. I am pretty self-aware because, you see, I took a quiz on the internet!)

I steeled myself. We would have to data ration for a week. It still didn’t work. I used a minimum of 2GB a day and soon we got the notice that we had 0.33GB remaining till the cycle would end. A whole 24-hours later! I sent Sid a message letting him know that he wouldn’t be able to or rather shouldn’t use the wifi to stream videos of babies and dogs! At first he was like, “What’s the big deal, at most it will be a few bucks more!” But when he saw how distraught I was at the thought of having to pay more than plan pricing, he knew better than attempt to reason with me.

Now, I didn’t have much trouble keeping myself busy during the day as I had several appointments. However, as the sun set and the last appointment of the day was coming a close, I felt my stomach getting knotty. What were Sid and I gonna do at home without the internet? We usually eat in front of the TV or watch shows together before he goes to bed and I turn to “Words With Friends”. Were we really going to talk to have to talk to each other? For realz? Netflix makes marriage seem easy. You put on something on the idiot box. Sit on the couch and cuddle under the blanket. Easy-peasy!

When I got home, Sid had already eaten and heated dinner for me. I was about to start ranting about what we were gonna do when he suggested we play actual Scrabble. Like sit across from each other and play REAL Scrabble. With a real board and letters we could touch! Not on the phone like we usually did. What a brilliant idea!! He poured us a good whisky and eventually took the ass-whopping of a lifetime, again!

As I put the Scrabble away, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I can actually live without the internet. May be I am not addicted. Now if only I could tweet this!”

On Charity, Boy Scouts, Homosexuality and Goodness


Recently, Sid and I were walking through our neighborhood mall on a Thursday evening, holding hands and navigating the world on the pretext of running errands. We were just about to enter the supermarket when we were approached by a cute little boy, no more than six years of age. I could see an adult man, possibly his father, standing a little distance away, watching closely but not about to interfere. The little boy was trying to sell us something. I saw the box in his hand and it proudly proclaimed “Boy Scouts of Somewhere”. I sweetly touched his head and said, “Sorry honey, I don’t have any change.” I smiled at his father and went into the supermarket.

I was already at the produce section “discussing” with Sid the list of things we needed to buy. When I got no response, I turned around and didn’t see him. I knew where he was! He walked towards me and I said, “Do you know the Boy Scouts don’t allow gay boys to become members? They’re super homophobic.” Sid said, “I know, but I didn’t do it for the Boy Scouts, I did it for THIS boy.”

I could understand his action. That boy was really cute. And that made me angrier. The Boy Scouts openly say on their website that they do not allow “avowed” homosexuals to become members. Their entire vision and mission is based on teaching children to become “moral” human beings. How can you create moral human beings when you cannot accept that not everyone is the same? How can you create moral and God-serving human beings when you are assuming that what you know is correct? I had so many questions for Sid, but resisted. Would you still give that boy money, if our kids were gay? (Knowing him, he probably would! It infuriates me…the whole kill them with love thing!) Do you realize how many boys are probably feeling trapped in the traditional engendering of what boys must be like?

In Sid’s mind, he was rewarding the hard work of the little boy (who may or may not turn out to be a homophobic twit!) and I resisted the little boy’s charm and pool-like eyes to not further the agenda of a cause that I feel leads to the creation of a segregated and intolerant society.

Who among us is right? Is either of us right? What is goodness?

No Do Overs


Henri:

I am starting a new series of weekly reblogs on Mondays. This week, I am posting Sammy’s blog. Sammy lost his son to suicide in 2008. This post is about the last conversation he had with his son. Great life advice. I am currently obsessed with this blog. His simplicity and insight speak to me and teach me so much about the nuances of loss and grief. Thank you for reading.

Originally posted on Surviving My Son's Suicide:

For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.

The last time I saw Aaron we had a disagreement. It wasn’t an argument, no one getting angry just a normal garden variety unresolved difference of opinion that sent each of us on our separate ways feeling uneasy. I watched Aaron walk away and I couldn’t help but feel he left somewhat discouraged. I know I was.

I never spoke to him again and one week later he took his life.

I don’t believe for one moment that this little misunderstanding between us had anything to do with him committing suicide. I have no doubts about that.

I tried my hardest to recreate that day over and over again trying to convince myself that the conversation we had ended differently. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

In the days, weeks and months that followed that last memory and conversation with Aaron has haunted me. I just…

View original 533 more words

7 Positive Things About Winter


I have not left my apartment in a few days. Why? It’s the first week when the temperatures have stayed below 3 degrees C consistently and we had a couple of snow days with a decent dusting on trees and cars. And just like that, winter is here. I suspect that I have mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder that leads to depressive symptoms upon the onset of particular season and subsides as the season recedes. As a mental health professional (albeit on hiatus), I would not be using this term lightly. I am indeed blessed to be unemployed at such time since I do not have to force myself out of bed or rush to the washroom for a mid-day cry. However, it can also be a curse as well, since there’s no reason to get myself into a routine and go about, you know,  living!

This year, I am determined to be positive. I have been forcing myself to exercise (We’ll see; it’s been two days). I even put on joyful music while driving through the first snow yesterday. And then it occurred to me. There have to be some good things about winter that I don’t pay attention to. So here’s my list. You can send me more tips and suggestions, and I will add them with your name to this post.

1. You can go grocery shopping, buy frozen foods, leave them in your car while you go the movies.

I hate going grocery shopping in the summer. (A) There’s so many other things I could instead of going grocery shopping, and (B) It has to be a special trip because dairy and produce will get spoiled if left out of the fridge too long. In winter, once the temperature is steady at zero degrees C and below, you could be out the whole day after and it wouldn’t matter.

2. You don’t need to shave your legs and armpits.

Now, now, I know I don’t need to shave my legs during any season. But let’s face it. I was engendered to be a leg-shaving, skirt-wearing gal. So I need to shave my legs. In winter, it’s too cold to not wear tights with my skirts and cardigans with my sleeveless tops. There’s never a fashion emergency in winter (for me). Tights and sweaters save the day. Always.

Brown Boots | Picture from: outfits.blogspot.com

Brown Boots | Picture from: outfits.blogspot.com

Black boots with styling | Picture from: 50-off.digimkts.com

Black boots with styling | Picture from: 50-off.digimkts.com

3. You just need two pairs of footwear, strictly speaking.

In the summer, I go crazy trying to find sandals that go with my dresses. I hate girly footwear. I just wear my Birkenstocks with everything. However, if you’re going to a party or to a fancy restaurant, your Birkies may feel out of place there. I am not gonna lie; I have done it, but it’s rather tiring to have people pretending to sip their drink to steal a look at your footwear and snicker silently. In winter, you need one pair of black boots and another pair of brown boots and you can pretty much wear them anywhere with any outfit. They can be dirty when you go to the supermarket and cleaned up for an evening out. And the tables turn when women were their sky-high stilettos in the middle of winter. You can sip on your drink, sneak a peek at their footwear and silently will them to fall. (Yes, I am shallow. Don’t judge me.)

Lights on Magnificent Mile in Chicago

Lights on Magnificent Mile in Chicago

Lights on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago

Lights on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago

4. The lights

From Thanksgiving through January, the cities are decked up in beautiful lights. This is what heaven may be like, I imagine, minus the cold, of course. I remember taking a horse-carriage ride around downtown Chicago to see the lights a few years ago. It was mesmerizing. I mostly find the holidays irritating. Stores are crowded. Sales remind me of how shallow we human beings are. But them lights, dyam! It’s hard to be sad around them.

The 8-inch snow storm on Dec 13th 2013 (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

The 8-inch snow storm on Dec 13th 2013 (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

5. SNOW DAYS

The 2013-2014 winter was exceptionally bad. But we got so many days off work. I love sleeping in, watching the snow come down and getting deeper into my fluffy blanket. And it’s even more enjoyable to have hot ginger chai (what Oprah stupidly calls Chai Tea) in bed with sugary biscuits! Did I not mention cuddling yet? Yes, cuddling, very important to do on a snow day, whether it’s with a pillow or pet or person, do it! Ah, snow days get here already.

6. Soups

It’s the perfect weather to overindulge in experimenting with different soups. Last year’s soup winners from my kitchen were Spinach-Leek-Potato and Miso-Soba Noodle. I wonder what people did before the advent of Google and Pinterest! This year, I want to master the Coconut-bok choy recipe I pinned a few months ago. And who knows what else!

Miso Soba Noodle Soup | Picture from: www.honeyedhome.com

Miso Soba Noodle Soup | Picture from: http://www.honeyedhome.com

7. Christmas cake

I am not sure if plum cake with rum/brandy and raisins is typically a Christmas cake across the world, but in India, that’s what Christmas cake is. And it’s better than awesome. It’s sublime; each piece is like a mouthful of bliss. We get our stock from visiting family members and eat it from December through January. I may not like the holidays, but I like the cake.

I began this post wanting to write ten positive things about winter. I am just glad I made it to seven! To be fair, it wasn’t hard getting to seven. What are the silver linings to the winter cloud over your head?

 

 

 

 

Our Dry-Cleaning Lady


When you move to a new place, and some of the service providers start recognizing you, you begin to feel more at home. This epiphany came to me when I went to drop off our dry-cleaning a few weeks after we moved to Toronto. The owner of this store is a pleasant South-East Asian* woman, always smiling, never complaining. What does a dry-cleaner complain about? Well, our dragon dry-cleaner lady in Chicago, also South-East Asian, used to yell at me because Sid wouldn’t undo the buttons on his shirt. It used to really piss me off. When you’re paying $2.50 per shirt, you’d think they’d welcome you with open arms! Not her, the dry-cleaner lady on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago! But this dry-cleaner lady in Toronto, she won’t complain. When she didn’t complain the first time she saw Sid’s not undone buttons, she had already won my heart!

It was a fine fall morning last year, we’d been in Toronto just over two months, when I plonked a whole lotta men’s clothing in front of our dry-cleaner lady. She took out her notepad and to my pleasant surprise wrote “Sid” without me telling her. “How did you know,” I exclaimed! She said, “I know you. You ‘Shit’s’ wife.” I was laughing so hard that no sound was coming out of me. Unfortunately, she didn’t continue to say “Shit” for long. She has now progressed to “Shid”.

She was the first person outside the people we know to “know” us. This made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, the familiarity did. Whenever I go to pick up or drop off the dry-cleaning, she always inquires about “Shid” or tells me, “Your haasband, Shid, is a very nice man”. This has happened at least three to four times. When I tell Sid what she said each time, he good-naturedly says, “Rascal she is!” Why? A few months ago, Sid went to drop off the clothes and she said, “You, very nice man. All Indians usually ask for discount.” Sid was prompt to respond, “No, no, I want discount!” She just laughed, took the clothes and sent him packing.

Today, when Sid went to pick up the clothes, she said to him, “Your wife is bright and beautiful!” Sid came out and told me, “That rascal!” Our dry-cleaning lady must be over sixty, but her marketing skills are exemplary. It is her small talk and great service that make us keep going back though she is almost 7 kms from our house. That, and the fact that she was one the first reasons I began to feel at home in Toronto.

P.S. Sid thinks I am writing this post only because she called me ‘bright and beautiful’. You be the judge.

For our dry-cleaning lady, you shatter the stereotypes about the entire community. You are awesome and I love you.

*South-East Asian: I used this term as I am not sure if she is Korean, Chinese or Japanese. I think she is Chinese, but don’t want to assume. And I also want to admit openly that I cannot differentiate between people of these nationalities, just as I can’t differentiate between Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans. And of course, to educate the West, that the term “Asian” includes people from Russia to Israel! 

 

Top 10 Things That Make My Marriage Work


I began dating Sid almost eight years ago and we’ve been married for almost four. In today’s world, this makes me a marriage expert. Why? Because we’re still alive, we don’t hate each other; we’re still married, like being married and probably will stay married for a bit hopefully. This is not meant to be an advice post. But it might be. If it’s not, you have bigger problems in your marriage. And yes, this post may not be relevant to some sections of society as most of my learning has to do with access to money.

1. Living in a home that has more than one bathroom: My husband uses our bathroom as his office. When he needs to concentrate, even if he doesn’t need the bathroom, he’ll go sit there! His morning ablutions can take him anywhere between 20 to 120 minutes. Of course you’ve already read about my battles with the toilet seat! When we lived in Chicago, our battles over the lone bathroom nearly caused us to divorce. In Toronto, we have two bathrooms. We can now fight in peace about things that actually matter, like whose turn it is to go fill fuel in the car.

2. Doing nice things for each other as often as possible: Sid was taking a nap today. As he waking up from his sleep, I presented him with a glass of coconut water with a dash of lime in it. Why? Just like that. He really enjoyed it. He makes me ginger tea every now and then. He also buys my presents often, which of course I return because our tastes do not match. No seriously, they absolutely do not match. So why does he still buy me stuff? Because he knows I LOVE that he makes the effort.

3. Appreciating an art form together: In our case, it’s music. Our favorite type of music differs greatly. He is weirdly into country music. This is so absurd that a woman from Nashville thought I was married to a “white guy” when I told her that my husband loves country music! And that too old country of the Merle Haggard and George Jones variety. I am into rock, but I love sufi, ghazals, folk music from Rajasthan and some other forms of Indian music. However, Sid and I both like English music of all genres from the 70s to the 90s. We have playlists in our car and enjoy singing our favorite tunes together. It brings us closer as we sing our favorite songs together…there’s something inside us that clicks into place like puzzles as we harmonize. Try it!

4. Engaging in some form of spiritual practice: Coming from completely different backgrounds, it has taken Sid and me seven years to find our balance. This means I go to church on Sundays and he comes to my Twin Heart Meditation groups on Mondays. We love singing gospel music together. We love praying together. It helps us get out of fights more easily. Imagine saying, “Dear god, I don’t care whose fault this is. I am fed up of fighting. Help me give up this bitterness and reach out to my baby.” Oh, this is especially useful when IT IS your fault! What better way to get out of a situation than to act like you’re the bigger person! And slowly you won’t have to act no more.

5. Sharing household chores: I don’t work full-time. Not because I don’t want to, but because of immigration issues. When I have to do all the household chores, it makes my self-esteem touch the floor. I don’t enjoy housework, never have. I am not saying housework is not valuable work. But it is unpaid and under-appreciated. When you offer to share that burden, it comes across as caring. I am not saying it has to be 50-50 if your spouse does not work…but in my house, the dishwasher and laundry are both my husband’s responsibility. In the three years that we have been married, I have done laundry thrice. When he does the laundry, he’ll ask me if I am looking for something specific…all these gestures make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, just like the clothes that come out of the dryer. I also find joint grocery shopping very intimate…the two of you navigating the universe (or the supermarket, whatever) to meet your needs…so romantic! Yes, I’m pretty low maintenance.

6. Respecting each other’s families: Our families are completely different. Our families’ interactions are as different as chalk and cheese. It took us a while to get used to the differences (read fought like crazy). Today, we’ve come to a comfortable place where we have laid out our expectations and come to a consensus as to how much we need to do for each other’s family.

7. Being transparent with finances. We both know how much money they have, the current debt level, the investments, the future planning, etc. In our house, we both have total control over the spending. If we are making a purchase that costs more than say $200, we always have to run it by the other person. Below that, we use our own discretion based on our knowledge of our finances. It would of course be different if one of us had some sort of spending addiction. In our case, we are both cheapskates; we can’t part with our money easily.

8. Treating each other with respect. This may be very subjective. In my case, respect means joint decisions on all matters, apologizing when you hurt the other person, seeking their advice on your problems, treating them as equals, paying attention to their needs, cheering them up when they’re down, anticipating their needs and addressing them, providing them with intimacy and cuddles, doing things they like every once in a way, respecting their boundaries, accepting their limitations, being honest even if it hurts. Of course, there are people who tell us that we fight a lot or who make judgments about our marriage. I, for one, don’t care about these people. Sid is learning to get there. We’re both strong personalities and bring a lot to the table. I guess over time, we’ve learned how to fight rather than how not to fight, because in my opinion, the latter means one of us is constantly giving in.

9. Spending time away from each other. Sid and I spend a lot of time apart since he’s a consultant and travels constantly. This means that we never have enough of each other. Some people ask me how I do it. The answer is simple. I have my own interests and circle of friends. Yes, sometimes it is boring…but I know a lot of people who are bored even with their partner. When I am bored, I walk around and take pictures or watch TV. People who say they don’t need alone time, all I can say to you is, try it first, see how it impacts your relationship and then decide. For us, it keeps us going.

10. Travelling together. I dedicated an entire post to my travels with Sid. In 3 years, we’ve done a few nice holidays. Travelling breaks the monotony of everyday life and creates new experiences and memories for us to revisit. Travelling together can be stressful; we ensure that we divide the responsibilities based on our respective comfort levels. Sid and I alternate the researching and booking responsibilities. We also talk about how much we want to spend on accommodation and food each day and book accordingly. Once on holiday, we’re both off duty. The planning is so meticulous that we don’t need to over think anything. And yes, he always drives.

 

Some things that other couples do that we have tried or would like to try:

Watch shows as a couple: Our tastes are very different and our free time doesn’t overlap too much, so doing this is hard. However, what we do do well is abandon shows after starting to watch them based on popularity. We’ve jointly abandoned “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards”.

- Play/learn a sport as a couple: This summer we were supposed to learn golf or sailing. We didn’t. End of story.

- Learn a form of dance: An acquaintance of mine and her husband used to learn salsa together. Sid has told me many times that he would like to learn the salsa, but we never get around to doing it. Why? Who knows!

 

 

Diwali Redefined (For me)


Festivals and me don’t go together. I hate all festivals and in that I do not discriminate. Be it a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, alien festival…I will hate it as much as all the others. My main reasons include seasonal nicety on people’s part, excessive commercialization of holidays, social pressures about personal grooming and visiting others! My hatred for festivals clashes with my Indian-ness. We have a festival for every imaginable season, reason, deity and region.

I was very relieved when I moved to the West in 2011. I could escape all the aforementioned frivolities without being guilt-tripped into doing something. And then came this year. I don’t know if I paid more attention to pictures on social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram this year, or there was an overwhelming increase in  the number of posts on people celebrating Navratri and Diwali. Since September, pictures of Goddesses, little ghee lamps, friends and family dressed in all their finery were being paraded in front of me. I wistfully enjoyed photos and videos of loved ones and not-so-loved-ones singing and dancing. I told myself, I was just missing dancing. I loved going for garba with my friends. I had nine different dresses for nine different days and I went to different venues. There was a time I won prizes for garba. Such a long time ago. I have probably been to garba once in the last fifteen years.

Then in October came Diwali. The first day I saw a friend’s Instagram post with a ghee lamp marking the onset of the Diwali fortnight, I felt a pang in my heart. That was new for me. Diwali has been my favorite festival to hate for a long time. I even christened myself “Diwali Scrooge” in 2007 and it seemed to fit! But this year, for some reason, I thought of lighting a few lamps myself. But I stopped myself. Why? Who knows!

During the Diwali fortnight, I joined a volunteer training program to become a supportive counsellor for survivors/family and friends of people who have died by suicide or homicide. One of the modules was on supporting survivors through the holidays. Our trainer posed a question to us, “What is the importance of the holidays?” Holidays in the West mostly refer to the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. People said great many things – a time for togetherness, celebrations, family, love, sharing, putting differences aside, etc. As each one of my peers shared their thoughts on what the holidays/festivals meant, I felt like I was being slapped.

It was then that it dawned on me. I stopped celebrating festivals may be 15 to 17 years ago, coinciding with mom falling sick. Somewhere in my mind, heart and soul my family was altered forever. When she died, somewhere deep inside I promised myself I would grieve forever. When someone is grieving, they don’t celebrate festivals. They stay away from all things festive – food, rituals, shopping, clothing, etc. And that is what I have been doing for over 15 years!

With this realization came no relief. If I was grieving for all these years, did this mean I was done grieving her? That felt like a betrayal to me. I couldn’t believe that I was done. And then I felt a warm glow come over me; I felt my mom speak to me. She said, “You’re not done grieving. But you are ready to redefine what family means.” She meant, I was ready to include Sid in my definition of family.

I guess I am happy enough to light a lamp this Diwali after all.

My Mother’s Barber: Alzheimer’s Diary


They say it takes a village to raise a child. As caregivers, we realize that it takes an entire community to deal with Alzheimer’s. Extended family members, friends, neighbors, healthcare professionals, coworkers, employers, employees, service providers like household help, etc.; a personalized universe of all these groups and more is essential to help a family cope with Alzheimer’s.

When a person with dementia enters the middle to late stages, they may experience difficulties with personal care. They may need partial or full assistance in bathing, going to the bathroom, changing their clothes, combing their hair, washing their hands after meals, etc. This loss of independence may come with feelings of shame and embarrassment and are often expressed through crying, agitation, aggression and shouting. It is important to remember that they may not be able to understand everything, but they can pick up on how we are making them feel. A lot of caregivers struggle with this, and so did my family. As family members, we may experience stress, irritation, anger, burnout and frustration during this stage.

Before mom fell sick, she had a very glam haircut. It was short and what we in India used to call a “boy cut” in those days. My fondest memories of childhood, before mom fell sick, involve her getting my dad to comb her hair with his round finger brush because she liked how he did it. As in most Indian families, there wasn’t much opportunity to witness other types of intimacy between my parents. But this to me is extremely sweet and intimate. As mom fell sick, getting her to go to a hair dresser was next to impossible. She hated looking at herself in the mirror. It would agitate her. She would also get very confused in unfamiliar surroundings. She wasn’t comfortable with anyone, even us, as we were strangers to her. I went to her regular hair dresser and asked her if she would come home to cut mom’s hair. The lady bluntly refused. I felt really hurt at that point; mom and I were her first customers, and had used her services for years.

It was then that my dad asked his hairdresser, Mahesh Bhai of Ashok Hair Art in the Naranpura neighborhood of Ahmedabad, if he would come home and cut mom’s hair as she wasn’t well. We didn’t have to ask again. We didn’t have to look further. Mahesh Bhai must have been in his late 20s when used to come to our house. He had a quiet and gentle manner about him. Mom would be sitting in her easy chair. He would quietly put a towel around her and go about his business. She would bob her head in different directions, and he would patiently reposition it. It would take him a while, but he never got mad or impatient. And in the end, she would look so classy in her crew cut hair.

It seems like a small thing. But as a teenager, whose family faced rejection from their own inner circle, this small thing meant a great deal. He never charged us an exorbitant sum or make us feel like he was doing us a favour. I guess he was one of the angels god sent us to take care of one of her children.

My dad still goes to Ashok Hair Art and gets his hair cut only by Mahesh Bhai. I told dad to thank him for taking care of my mom and making her look good in her final stage. This thank you was a long time coming.

 

For Mahesh Bhai, thank you for making my mom look uber cool in her final years. 

Letter to a 15-year old forced hijaabi (wearing a veil)


Context: Last year, I wrote a post, “On the Hijaab (Veil), Topless Jihad, etc.” The basic premise of this post was to assert that forcing someone to take off their veil is as bad as telling someone to wear their veil. I was merely trying to provoke a thought process by which we examine what we, as a society, believe is modern or empowered. Just because someone wears a veil does not mean they’re not empowered. Just because they wear a veil does not mean they were forced. Just because they wear a veil does not mean they cannot be feminists who believe in equality! And then a few days ago, I got a comment on this same post by a 15-year old girl who said that she was being forced to wear a veil since she was 11.

I am going to tell you outright, that I do not claim to be a social expert or a feminist icon or a spiritual leader. I have very limited knowledge of any religion. If you don’t like the post below, please feel free to tell me so respectfully. If you have any suggestions that could make this post better, I welcome you to add them in the comments section; I will edit the post and give you credit for it.

My Dear M,

Thank you for taking the time out to read my post and leaving a comment. I must say that your comment rattled me. It is not that I am unaware that girls in many parts of the world are conditioned and even forced to veil themselves. But till I got your comment, these were things that happened to nameless people. It was not personal. In the two short and simple sentences you wrote on my post, you managed to make me think for two whole days. I want to thank you for that.

I am not sure if my response to you is required or even relevant. But I feel compelled to write it anyway. I have (a few) friends who wear different versions of the veil. They wear them for various reasons and began wearing them at different ages. Some chose to wear it and others wore it because it was a social expectation and a hint of force, I suspect. Then again, I may be wary of labelling it as “force,” as I could be projecting my prejudices since none of them have ever told me that they did not want to be veiled or were being forced to be veiled.

In my personal opinion, I do think that forcing someone to do something they don’t want is wrong. However, as a 15-year old, I felt like I was being forced to dress according to my father’s rules, which meant not wearing tank tops or bottom-baring shorts in public. I wanted to be fashionable and popular. I wanted people to think of me as attractive; I still want those things; I think most people would like that. I am not saying you should respect your family’s wishes and wear the hijaab, but I am asking you to carefully examine WHY you’re feeling the discomfort with your hijaab.

I feel that all of us are over-exposed to media. It has formed our notions of not just beauty, but of intelligence, success, power, popularity and may be even about what or who is right. I recently worked with a black teen who told me that he hates being black because he faces discrimination on a daily basis. He said that aggression and crime are expected of him simply because he is black. I don’t blame him for feeling that way, because these are common black stereotypes. Being black gets him unnecessary negative attention and sometimes prevents him from being a respected member of society.

The reason I am stating this example is simple…I want you to know that society makes us want to change ourselves to fit into a narrow definition of beauty and coolness. We’re supposed to have the perfect body, the right type of skin and eye colour, the right kind of hair texture, the right type of dressing style…and by right I mean, anything other than what we possess naturally. In your case, at some point, you may have the option of removing your veil. But how can a person change the color of their skin? Is it right that society is making this young person feel like he doesn’t count  without even giving him a chance to establish an identity that is different from the existing stereotypes?

Having said that, I can understand your frustration with your hijaab. It denies you the recognition you deserve because you’re as good as any of your peers. It denies you access; people make judgements about who you may be as a person. I see these judgements out there every day on the internet. There are people yelling at Muslims for something or the other. Wearing the hijaab does not give you the privacy of your cultural identity. This may be heightened in your own family if your brothers/cousins are not required to wear traditional clothing to school. I can also understand that you simply don’t want to wear the hijaab. It determines what others think you ought to veil or bare. You don’t want to fight. You don’t want to argue. You just want to own your body!

Women today, whether veiled or not, are undergoing a lot of sanction across the world. We have people telling us what to wear, where to go, when to go, how to behave, what to read, whom to marry, whom to love, how to love, when to have children, etc.  Our freedom is curtailed because of the so-called increasing threat of rape. Stay at home, else you will be raped. If you drink alcohol, you deserve to be raped. If you talk to boys, you ought to be raped. If you flirt with someone, they can get their friends to gang rape you. And it is all your fault, and therefore, you need to cover up and stay home. Your hijaab is just a very visible form of this type of control. My hope is that each one of us women will join hands, stand by each other, and help each other emerge from this situation.

No one can control or tame your mind. Read as much as possible. Read various differing opinions on the same issue. Write a blog, anonymously, if you have to. And build yourself into a resilient person. You may fall and get tired and feel hopeless, but you you will get up. If you have a few people who are close to you who understand, develop those relationships. If you have access to education, my advice would be to go as far as possible. Education opens the doors of the mind and access to jobs. Once you’re financially independent, you may have more control over your own choices.

Remember, wearing or not wearing a hijaab does not define you, WHY you wear it or don’t wear it does. If you remove it simply because you want to fit in better, society will find some other way of making you feel like a misfit. I  hope that one day you have full control over your destiny and choices. You are in my prayers. I wrote this letter just to let you know that you matter. You raised a voice, and I hear you.

Love and hugs,

The stranger who can’t stop thinking about you

Why My Resume Says “Full-time Alzheimer’s Caregiver”


Recently, I had to edit my resume because I am looking for jobs. As you may all know, it’s the most boring and mind-numbing task of all. One has to glorify one’s mediocre self. Let’s face it, most of us are not as great as we think we are, or in some cases, as others think we are. Yet, our resume becomes our marketing tool. In two pages, we have to encompass everything we’ve done and subsequently how we’ve evolved over the years. It’s hard.

I had the privilege of having my resume looked at critically by a very kind and experienced gentleman from the corporate sector. He teaches business and heads a very successful division of a multinational company. His biggest advice to me was to list my accomplishments and explain briefly about the universities I attended and the companies I worked for. That’s when I came to my undergraduate degree section on my resume.

There, under “1998-2001    B.A. Psychology, St. Xavier’s College, Gujarat University” stood alone. There were no accomplishments. In fact, I barely graduated with 53%. When you look at that, it doesn’t look impressive at all. In fact, one might let their imagination wander and judge what this teenager might have been up to in college!

So here’s the truth. From 1998-2001, from the ages of 17 to 20, I was the primary caregiver to my mother who had Early Onset Alzehimer’s. This means, I would wake up in the morning, with the help of our nurse, change mom’s diaper while praying that I wouldn’t be late for college. But most mornings I was. I had to miss the first lecture that started at 8AM. When I got home, I would watch mom sitting idly, tied loosely to her chair to prevent her from falling over. If she was having a bad day, she’d be screaming at the top of her lungs or crying uncontrollably and inexplicably. These were the last three years of her life. These years, while I was trying to complete my undergraduate degree. She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t eat or swallow. She could only cry, shout, smile randomly or stare blankly.

But these were the “good years”. You know why? Because she was in the end stages of the disease. When my sister was in college four years before, mom was in the middle stages of the disease. She would wander off, leave the stove or electronics on, soil herself without warning and of course, be barking mad at all of us. No nurses wanted to stay. No household help wanted to work at our house. People whispered about “madness” behind our backs. My sister took the hit. She dropped out of college to care for my mom full-time. I was too young to comprehend the damage it was doing to her psyche, her aspirations and dreams and of course, to her career.

And my sister is not alone. I am not alone. This is the story of all those people who do not receive credit for taking care of their loved ones to the best of their capacity. Billions of unpaid caregiver hours across the globe. Sacrifices made. Jobs lost. Relationships soured. Finances depleted. Experiencing loss every day, E.V.E.R.Y S.I.N.G.L.E D.A.Y. To honour each and everyone of these caregivers, my resume is now edited to read:
Resume Alz Caregiver

As I typed this out on my resume, I felt good. I felt strong. I felt validated. I felt like I was doing the right thing. I felt like I was recognizing myself, acknowledging my hard work and heartache. And yes, I would do it all over again. That’s Alzheimer’s for you. You continue to love long after the person you knew is gone! My experiences and struggles as a caregiver inspired me to go on and a get a Master’s in Social Work and have made it my life’s mission to contribute to the lives of those affected by dementia, and editing my resume to thus is a homage to caregivers everywhere.

Dedicated to my sister, Shraddha, for making the sacrifices with love, for taking care of my mother to the best of her capabilities. For always channeling mom in her advice to me now and in loving her own daughter. You are worthy of all the love in this world, but most importantly, RESPECT. 

And to my brother-in-law, Nimai, for standing by us through our most difficult times.

And to my dad, Vivek, for teaching my sister and me about love.

For caregivers everywhere…for every untold story…for every cried and uncried tear.