Je m’appelle…

Hello world! Or hello 825 followers if I’m being more precise! First post in over a month but who’s counting? Are you counting? I hope so.

A lot has happened since we chatted last. Some work. Some home. Mostly TV. More to come on that later.

Today’s post is about my name. Yep. Mi nombre. A few weeks ago my daughter’s boyfriend (adorable guy), asked if he could interview me about my first generation childhood. He said it’d take an hour and he’d ask me questions about my childhood, adolescence, etc. My answer was yes, of course. An hour to talk about myself as if I was on Oprah (not the new Super Sunday version…the old 4pm talk show version)? Who would say no to this? Not me. Not the gal who literally started a blog thinking people were dying to know crap I did and do and think about. Anyway it was so much fun. He promised to share the final version of it with me and if it’s flattering and makes me out of be some national Indian treasure, I’ll share it with you.

I’m telling you about the interview for two reasons. 1) to show off, obviously 2) because it got me thinking about my childhood. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time talking about how I grew up since…well since I started dating my husband and he grilled me like the FBI. But lately, something has been coming up. For some reason, in the past year, maybe 2 years – I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my name. Specifically…how my name is pronounced. Even more specifically – how I’m letting people mispronounce my name.

My name is Neha.

It’s an old-school Indian name derived from the Sanskrit version (Sneha). It means love and tenderness – which will come as a big surprise to those who usually use other words to describe me. You know who you are. In the proper Indian dialect (choose your favorite), it’s pronounced Neigh-Ha. Neigh…like what horses say, and a very soft ha. Not like a karate chop HA! That’s how my very young, wonderful parents imagined my name being said all over India.

Except my young, wonderful parents didn’t stay in India. They hauled ass to the USA. Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact – in 1979ish. To get the exact date I’d have to call my mother and disclose why I need this info, to which she’d say I’m giving super personal info to strangers on the internet who want to kill me. True story. My mother thinks the internet is out to get me. She’s right of course.

Let me set the stage. Jackson Heights today is not what Jackson Heights of the late 70s/early 80s was. Today, there’s so many Indian immigrants that have settled there, they call parts of it Little India. Back then it was still mostly immigrants, but there was a broader mix – Chinese, African, Puerto Rican, and some Italian and Irish to balance it out. In today’s Jackson Heights – my young self would have had other Nehas to mix and mingle with. My young self would have gone to a school full of other people that looked, talked, lived like me. But that’s not how it was.

My dad was a pharmacist – the reason we came to the US was for his job. My mom was a teacher in India but her certifications weren’t accepted here, so she got some random part-time work. My parents did one thing. They worked. They didn’t socialize. They didn’t have hobbies. They worked. I had a job too. One job. School. That’s all I had to do. My entire focus was school (and TV. Indians love TV. It’s a stereotype I know, but it’s also true). As was the case for most of my elementary and middle school life, I was the only Indian in my classes – and sometimes in the school.

I don’t remember the first time I said my name to someone outside my family. I wish I did. I wish I could remember how and why my name began being pronounced like Leah…as if it was spelled Neah…Knee-ya. It all makes sense. I’m sure I wanted to fit in. I’m sure I wanted to not be different, but I don’t remember making a calculated effort to change how people pronounce my name. But maybe I did. I definitely wanted to assimilate. I wanted to dress like everyone else, eat like everyone else (lost cause), date like everyone else. My idea of a perfect boy was a blonde, blue-eyed dude with a one syllable name. Speaking of names, I would have given up a limb to be called Kelly, Jane or some other really white name, so maybe this was the closest fix. I just wish I could remember that happening. I probably need some deep therapy to remember, but the irony is that I remember other things really well from that time. The Saturday night line-up…. Dance Fever followed by Love Boat and ending with Fantasy Island. I remember the slice of pizza my mom got me every Friday after school – this was early 80s NYC pizza. Big. Flat. Foldable. I remember getting a Rubix’s Cube. It was my parent’s favorite kind of toy. Quiet, cheap, and portable. I remember all kinds of useless info. The moment that changed the way people said my name? Not so much.

I’m going to interrupt this line of thought for a quick moment. One of the things I get asked often when i’m trying to explain why my name is pronounced the way it is, is this question,” well how does your family say your name? Do they use the wrong version too?” No. No they don’t use the “wrong” version. They don’t use any version. My family almost never, and I mean literally almost never, calls me by my given name. For the majority of my childhood I was known by a pet name – a loving moniker – Bittu. And it’s pronounced how it looks. Bit-To. It means “little one” or “little thing” or something like that. That’s what my parents, aunts and uncles called me. Once I had cousins old enough to talk, they called me Didi. Which means “big sister”. I know what you’re thinking…I’m a cousin, so why call me a sister? It gets even better. Now every member of the family calls me Didi, including my parents. Confusing, right? Listen – I can’t explain why all Indians are confusing – I can only explain the ways I’m confusing. Are you still with me? Are you over it? Bored? How many times have you checked your insta? Tell the truth. I just needed you to have some background since I assume you’re making a case in your head about why I’m a psycho.

So after Jackson Heights my parents moved us to the hub of diversity and inclusiveness known as Albany, NY. No offense if it’s gone through some major change and my sarcasm no longer applies. Remember when I said I was the only Indian in the school growing up? Well in Albany I was the only person of color in the entire school! And it was middle school to boot. Good times. Actually they were good times. I have been incredibly lucky in my life and have always met friends who helped me through. In 7th grade something amazing happened. Two Pakistani girls moved to town. Twins. Huma and Asma. We immediately became friends. They were my first ethnic friends! I mean I tried being friends with a girl named Chang back in Queens but she was allowed to hang out less than I was so it didn’t work. I enjoyed my white friends whose parents let them come to my house for hours with no issue. Anyway – back to my first brown friends. They had just moved here from London. Dad was a doctor and divorced (scandal!). They came to the US to be closer to his sister. They all had these amazing accents which somehow cancelled out their “otherness” and made them hugely popular. It didn’t hurt that they were loaded and had a house with a pool (a rare jewel in Albany). Their dad worked crazy hours and the girls were mostly home alone – another bonus. I loved their house. It was the opposite of my house. No one cooked. My house smelled of ginger and garlic all day. Their house smelled of…nothing. Heaven. The twins’ dad was the first person to tell me that I was mispronouncing my name. Lucky for me his daughters were mortified and told him to never to talk to me again and I moved on.

Actually my family moved on. We moved from Albany to Harrisburg, PA. Again, Harrisburg today has a full, lively Indian culture. Back then? Nada.

My dad believed any religion was good religion – so I went to a Catholic High School. It was diverse”ish”….but guess which population there was only one of? That’s right people. Still me representing all Indians. Dot. Not feather.

It wasn’t until I went to college in NYC, where I minored in religion (by mistake) and had to join a club as part of my Religions of the World class, that I met a whole bunch of Indians. I joined The South Asian Club for two long months. They were a nice bunch – most of them had grown-up in Queens, in the exact neighborhood that I’d started out in. Turns out Queens went full-on Indian soon after we moved out. On another side note – by this time I was dating a half Irish/half Ukrainian New Yorker. That’s right people, he’s blonde, blue-eyed and most of the time has a one syllable name. All my dreams really did come true. Anyway this new bunch of friends all tried to educate me on the correct way to say my name. I left soon after. Not just because I didn’t want to be lectured to, in all honesty, I left because they met on Friday mornings at 8am – which didn’t work with my Thursday night at Terminal Bar schedule.

I’ll speed up. The 90s were vapid. No one really cared what the origins of my name were or how to say it correctly. Easy peasy. Even the early 2,000s were a non-issue. It wasn’t really until the last few years when people started getting “woke” that it came up again.

The 20 year old intern who asked me gently if I knew how to correctly pronounce my name. Yes, thank you. Next. The well meaning friends who have other friends who pronounce the same name differently. Yes, I know. I get it. You feel like you’ve been doing me wrong. But you haven’t! I swear. It’s not you. It’s me. Well, technically it’s not me, it’s my name.

You know I even went through a real immersion-into-my-culture phase in high school. We would go to India every year at that time to visit relatives (relatives who also never ever called me by my formal name). I was way into the culture, the movies, the food, the language – all of it. I was a Junior in high school and all I wanted to do was be different. I was thrilled to show-off my funky jewelry and henna’d hand. But even during that time – I never thought about changing the way people say my name. What does that mean? What does that say about me? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a million ways to dissect it. To “help me”. I’ll have to find a therapist and have them give me an answer. Or maybe I’ll Google it.

My point is this…aren’t you glad you made it to the point! Mazel. You’re almost done. My point is that however it started, and whatever reason I did it or maybe someone just started calling me that and I went with it – whatever – it’s how I’d like you to pronounce my name. Yes, the wrong way.

Trust me – it’s a daily struggle. People say my name in all different ways. Correct, incorrect, messed up, etc. I don’t mind any of it. I met a wonderful friend last year through work who is French. We had a long discussion about this. She told me that in French – the direct translation of Je m’appelle isn’t “what is your name?”. The meaning is “what do you want to be called?”. I love that. Je m’appelle Neha (knee-ya).

In conclusion, I’m moving to France. Au revoir.

Things that are currently driving me crazy…

1) How much I talk about weather.

2) Someone (my husband) threw the stick part of my wet Swiffer out and even though it took me months to realize it, I wanted to use it today and now I can’t.

3) Jussie Smollet. Why?? You won the lottery. You are an actor with a full-time job. A steady paycheck. Probably enough money to change the way you were living. Why. WHY throw it all away with a career-ending stunt?? In the words of Cardi B,” you ruined Black History Month bro”.

4) Jordyn Woods. Why?? You won the lottery. Your best friend is a billionaire. She’s letting you live her life with her. Not enough? WHY?? Krazy with a Kardashian K.

5) Can someone invent a pantry door that shuts itself? It may save the lives of the people who live at my house.

6) Abducted in Plain Sight omg. OMG. Two hours of shouting at the TV.

Thank you for listening. Happy Weekend everyone!

Blanket love

This is not an ad. This is my favorite napping blanket. This is the company we found a few years ago in Woodstock, Vermont. Maybe it was more than a few years ago. We loved it so much we bought many other people this blanket. If you didn’t get one and want one, and are related to me or plan to buy me something nice – tell me and I’ll get you one too.

It’s attractive enough. But that’s not the reason you love it. The reason you love it is that it’s heavy. I know weighted blankets are all the rage now, but this is naturally heavy. You sink deeper into the coach or chair when it’s on you. This is not the blanket you want if you’re binge watching a show, or curling up with a good book. You’ll be snoring 5 minutes in. Not that that’s a bad thing.

It’s like anesthesia.

And if you’re like me, you enjoy anything that makes you numb, sleepy and out of it.

Or maybe you’re not like me and you like to live life, do things and feel all emotions. To each his own.

I literally just yawned writing this.

Happy weekend.

And when they met….it was Murdah….

Only kids who grew up in the 80s with no outside hobbies will know that reference. It’s the opening line from Hart to Hart, said by the butler with a very strong New York City accent. Here’s the IMDB blurb:

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Self-made millionaire Jonathan and freelance writer Jennifer are the Harts – a globetrotting married couple with a talent for finding mysteries wherever they go. And even when they’re uncovering thefts, espionage and assorted skullduggery, they still find time for romance.

I mean what’s there not to like? Thefts, espionage, skullduggery (really?), and romance!  Welcome to the 80s. Pretend you’re a young Indian gal in Harrisburg, PA with a really bad haircut watching upstairs in her parent’s bedroom. Or pretend you’re a not-so-young Indian gal in Yardley, PA watching reruns on the Hallmark Network on her phone so no one sees – either way – set the scene.

Side note – I was also completely unaware of the whole Robert Wagner/Natalie Wood thing. Which takes the whole murder thing in another direction.

Anyway I have always enjoyed a murder mystery. In all honesty there doesn’t even need to be a mystery. I’ve just always enjoyed….murder. Let that sink in. I did start out lightheartedly. Hart to Hart. Remington Steele. Murder, she Wrote. But it went downhill fast. I blame Law and Order. I just love a gruesome tale.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Michelle McNamara was obsessed with The Golden State Killer case for years. The notorious unsolved crime of someone who had committed upward of 50 sexual assaults and at least 10 murders in California in the 1970s and 1980s, was left untouched until her book (published posthumously), I’ll be Gone in the Dark, came out.

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The book and her research fueled blogs, podcasts, etc. and relaunched the search. The killer was captured within a year using a DNA website. I read the book. Listened to the podcasts. Read all the blogs. I couldn’t get enough. And neither could a million other people. Just sayin’, I’m not the only weirdo.

Now here’s where my interest takes a turn…so maybe I am a weirdo.

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this with you before. If I’ve already talked about my massive crush on Frances Glessner Lee, I’m sorry to repeat myself. But she is so freaking cool. Or was so freaking cool. She grew up in the 30’s and 40’s in a wealthy family. Her passion was police work from an early age, a profession that was considered both beneath her class and out of her league as a woman. She tried to join the police force, but her family objected. Instead she started spending time volunteering in police stations. She noticed that during murder investigations, there was no way to re-create the crime scene. Because most of her leisure time was spent on sewing, painting, etc., she started recreating crime scenes using dollhouse miniatures. Genius. And weird. And useful. All things I love in a person.

Long morbid story short, she became the “mother of forensic science”, eventually joining the police force and also becoming the first female police captain in the country. The techniques she developed helped revolutionize the way police reports were created. She was bad-ass.

You’re probably wondering how I found out about her? You’re not? I’ll tell you anyway. I decided last year that in the near future, say 10 or 15 years from now, I’m going to start working on a dollhouse. Obviously I plan to get creepier with age. As I was researching dollhouses and the weirdos who work on them, I found a podcast called,”Murder is Her Hobby”. It had me at hello. It might as well have been called,”Listen to this Neha, you’ll love it”.

I think you’ll love it too. What’s not to love about a crocheted crime scene?

Another podcast that speaks my name is, My Favorite Murder. 

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Until some years ago I had no people named April in my life. Now I have two. The first one is like family and lives a few houses down. She introduced me to the second one during a girl’s weekend. The second one introduced me to this podcast – and that’s when I knew I’d found a friend for life. That and her love for tequila.

Tonight, both my Aprils and I are heading into Philadelphia (which is sometimes called Killadelphia by smart alecks but really fits with everything we’re talking about here, don’t you think?).

We are going to see that podcast, My Favorite Murder, live! In person. Geeky and edgy all at the same time.

A night of murdah…what could be better? Don’t answer that.

Monday confessional

Ok let’s just say today wasn’t the winningest day I’ve ever had. The theme for my day would be, “two steps forward, three steps back”. Or is it,”three steps forward, two back”? You know what I mean.

Things that were done got undone. Technology was not my friend today. I went to go pick-up dry cleaning that I never dropped off. True story.

Anyway – not my day.

It was time for chocolate cake and tv.

But because this is opposite of good day – I didn’t even get this right.

The cake looks good in that pic, because I FaceTuned it. What is that you ask? New favorite app. Spend the $3.99. Treat yo self. As I was saying, the cake looks good but it was just ok. Not that I expected anything else from it. It’s a boxed, aisle cake. I wish it no ill will. It was a sad attempt at saving my day.

And the tv… I know I know. I should have known better. Even with my low-brow tv habits I haven’t succumbed to The Bachelor (ok I watched season 1-3 but those weren’t bad). But there’s been so much chatter about it that I gave in. It was a weak night.

Oh god was it bad. Like so bad I am shook people aren’t talking about how bad it is.

The premise is interesting. He’s a virgin. There’s a house full of vipers after him. It could be so bad it’s good, but it’s so bad that it’s sad. Weird and uncomfortable. Perfect for my day.

I’m just going to bed. We can try this all again tomorrow.

Bird Box, The Favourite, Vice, and more…

You know how sometimes you hit the Netflix jackpot? Or when there are a ton of good movies to see? This is not that time for me. I’ve been striking out. Bigly. (Please note this is just my opinion, if you liked any of these – bless your heart).

Bird Box – I like Sandra Bullock. I’m a fan. I watch The Lakehouse whenever I randomly find it. I even liked that movie she did with Ryan Reynolds, or was it Ryan Gosling? I don’t even mind that she’s had massive amounts of plastic surgery. I plan to follow suit at some point. But this movie… come on. Have you seen it? John Malcovich is in it for god’s sake. Sarah Paulson too! I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but there aren’t really any spoilers for the movie. You’ve already seen it right? If you have and you like it… why?? Tell me please! I’m just going to say a couple of things… 1) there weren’t enough birds in a box for me. I mean it’s not meant to be some under the radar title. It literally tells you how these people will survive. The birds in the box will help them. But when? Where? It happened once. Once. Come on. I need more. 2) You cannot row a boat for 3 days with a f’ing eye mask on! With two kids. You can’t. I can suspend a lot of disbelief. Like a lot. I like Hallmark Christmas movies. But this was crazy. And not the kind of crazy I can get behind, like the Bent Neck Lady crazy. Omg, did you watch Haunting of Hill House? If no, do it now!

The Favourite – yes I’m spelling it right. I had high hopes. I love everyone in it and it was about 68% good. It wasn’t awful. But it’s not my favorite. 🙂

Vice – after you get over the usual Christian Bale weight gain, which is no-doubt impressive, it’s an ok telling of the Dick Cheney story. The fact that it took 2 plus hours to tell an ok story was also a negative. Go for a nice walk instead. You’ll be happier.

Homecoming- I had high hopes. Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, what could go wrong? Hmmm, how about everything. The butter in my fridge is more interesting.

This is why I’ll be watching reality tv, Food Network, and make-up tutorials on YouTube. They never let me down. Everything else is for the birds.

GoT Speak

Sorry about the acronym. Do you watch Game of Thrones (GoT)? You don’t? Why? Are you reading or parenting or something? You need to watch.

For those of you who do watch, maybe you’ll agree with me here. Not since Breaking Bad has a show had this much impact on my daily language (Yo Mista White…). I basically have either emojis or GoT dialogue in my head all day.

My gut reaction when new people introduce themselves to me is to say ,” a girl has no name.” Or how about when I sneak an extra cookie from the cookie jar and say to myself,” shame…shame…shame…” as I walk back to the couch.  Or when I say, “You know nothing Jon Snow” in my head every time I’m mad at my husband. Seriously. That’s not normal.

Last night my son, who is almost finished with 6th grade, showed me what he got from school that day. He’d won an award for physical fitness. In our house, we show-off all good grades, artwork, etc. on our bulletin board in the kitchen. We’ve done it with both kids since they were little. Usually they both mildly object but deep down I know they love it.

That said, I knew this award meant more to him then a good grade. He prides himself on keeping active and fit and I knew he was so thrilled to get this in front of his friends.

But then I noticed something…

 
A tear. A little corner was ripped off and then taped back.

“What happened to it?” I asked.

“This kid grabbed it from me and tore it.” he said matter-of-factly.

“What? Why? When? Where was the teacher? Who was it? What’s his name?” I could not contain my anger.

In that moment I completely channeled my inner Cersei from GoT. Even though she’s mostly evil and unequivocally messed up – I wished in that moment that I had the The Mountain next to me and I could have said,” I choose violence.”

Because I did. I do.

For those who don’t watch the show – this week, in a pivotal scene, after those lines are uttered – a man’s head is basically popped off like a bottle cap.

Terrible. Awful. Why would that be what pops in my head?

This world is violent enough and it’s the last thing that I should be thinking about, but oh would I love to have a moment with that little twerp. His parents are probably wolves.

This is when my husband would turn to me and say his favorite one liner (his own),” When did you get so angry?”

To which I always say,” You alright! I learned it by watching you!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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