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Love is in the Air!

By Jasjit Khan

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Valentine’s Day offers us the perfect opportunity to express our feelings towards our loved ones. It is a day that reminds us to do the thoughtful, caring and loving things we should do everyday. It’s not just what we say, but it is what we do in the name of love that really defines its meaning. It is a day to spread, share, feel and live love.

As one year goes and another one sets in, laying the foundation of all the good things in our lives, so does Valentines Day. For those who truly want to nurture their relationships, the day begins to build layer after layer every year to make the foundation of love stronger with each passing year. It is a day of giving and letting your loved ones know how much you love them and how much they have meant to you.

It is true that just one day is not enough to express the depth of our feelings. Many people ask why should there be just one particular day when you show your appreciation of love instead of every day. Well, how many of us in their busy routine take time off for quality time together.

May be that is why there are days like these to remind us that we need to stop and cherish the special people in our lives.

Valentine’s day sets the mood for many couples to re- live their first date or time spent together, to maybe go back to the same restaurant or place where they met and reminisce about that lovely night. Many couples also choose to just stay at home, help each other cook a delicious meal, light up their room with candles, have a soft candle lit dinner, play that special ‘song’ that they both used to dance to, watch some romantic movies, or just go through old albums and the wedding video.

Some couples may just talk about those courtship days, focusing on how it made them feel. Some of you could be a bit rusty, but try to pen down a few words of appreciation, expressing what you have always loved about your loved one and what they have meant to you. It will surely kindle the same romantic fire into both of your hearts.

Here are special thoughts from those who believe in love and share some romantic and funny moments in their lives!

Hitesh and Anoli Bhindi
Married for not even a year to Hitesh Bhindi, of the famous Bhindi jewelers family, in Atlanta, Anoli is a doting wife. She says, “So many people believe that love is life and love is death. I completely agree that love is the sole reason to live and die. It indeed runs as a sweet feeling in the heart beats of every one and is the necessity of every breath of life. But I feel that love is above life and death, much beyond our physical entity. It is eternal, omnipotent, infinite and omnipresent, like the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the moon, the beauty of mother nature, the serenity of sunrise & sunset, the joy of gushing water, the sensation of soft breeze,

the benevolence of trees, the bounty of rain, the compassion of flowers, the generosity of fruits, the spreading out of stems, the growth of roots, the vastness of sky, the depth of sea, the togetherness of heart & mind, the purity of a soul, and the divine existence of the Supreme Almighty.

Words are too less to express it, a painting canvas is too narrow to capture it, dance is just one way to depict it, music another way of feeling it and life is too short to live it, death is too small to destroy it. This is the perception and meaning of love to me.

Above all I’m deeply, purely and passionately in love with my God, whose divine light and power keeps my soul, and my spirit always alive. He is my creator, helper, guide and mentor.

I am deeply in love with Mother Nature whom the Great Almighty created for us. She is always so generously and selflessly gives us her love and benefits in manifold ways.”

Anoli went on to add, “Love is very important for me and my beloved, and I will always cherish our time spent together. My most romantic date was in Hawaii, where we had gone for our honeymoon. It wasn’t a specific day but indeed the whole trip was so very romantic, relaxing, spending qualitative and wholesome time with each other, exploring each other, sharing thoughts and views. Just being together and enjoying the beach together, amidst the magnificent natural beauty and surroundings; for me, was an experience of a lifetime.”

Saima and Suhail Ali
When asked about her views on love and her most romantic date, Saima Ali who is married to Suhail and lives in Atlanta, says, “To me love is what you make of it. It can mean spending time together, enjoying the same things, caring for each other, and have that heated attraction towards each other when you get close. Every day when you come home you get that hug and a kiss, and every touch just makes you want that person even more; it means appreciating the little things that your significant other does for you. To me that is the meaning of love.”

For Saima the most memorable moment occurred while she was engaged to her husband Suhail. “Suhail and I went for dinner to Cheese Cake factory, which was a very unusual moment as I did not know how to act towards him and was thinking-that is the person, with whom I will have to be, for the rest of my life. It was not a bad thing, but being young and getting married at the age of 22 everything seems like a fairy tale. But we had a wonderful evening that night; we talked about things ranging from family, vacations, and each other. I can still remember how he was staring at me that night and I was thinking to myself why is this guy looking at me like that. That was just his way of expressing himself that this is the girl I will be marrying. Though we are very different from each other, the thing that I liked about Suhail was that he was financially a very stable person, very smart, and always has an answer for everything. Even though we have a huge age gap, but I have learned a lot from him and have become more aware of things. In all aspects of life.

The happiest moments were when our oldest daughter Niyah and then Zaynah were born. It was like the biggest blessing and the greatest gift that god had given to us. Every thing in our life has been wonderful, from our children to the love that our family had for us.”

Aamir and Sharleen Rehman Kazi
Aamir and Sharleen Rehman Kazi are a newly married couple, and are very much in love. One can see it on their radiant faces, and through their zest for life. He is a lawyer by profession and she is working at Macy’s corporate office while being a caring housewife. When asked about their views on love and what they remember about their most memorable time spent together, Sharleen spoke for both. “When you love someone, you trust them with your whole life, both present and future. You learn to respect one another and understand that loving someone means loving them for their talents and also for their faults. I’m lucky to have Aamir because he fills my life with happiness by loving me for who I am and also by supporting me in any decisions I choose to make.”

Their most romantic and memorable day they was when they went to Dave and Busters one evening with his co-workers. “We had a fun time playing different games and just hanging out. We came across the Hoops game where you try to score as many baskets as you can within a certain time frame. Playing hoops on the weekends with his guy friends, Aamir thought that he would easily beat me; to his utmost surprise, however that was not the case. We ended up playing half a dozen times, against each other and the co-workers, yet with my skills (and some luck) I came out as the winner every time. I just loved the look on Aamir’s and his co-workers’ faces. I loved being with him that day and will cherish those memories in my heart with love.”

Ranjan and Sheetal Singh
He is 27 years old, tall, dark and handsome-a police officer/Army officer (Reserves), and she is a 28 year old, petite, beautiful literacy coach and a beaming housewife. Ranjan and Sheetal singh have been married for just 5 months and live in San Jose, California. One can see the love they have for each other on their faces. They started dating in August of 2005, got engaged in August 2007, and got married in August 2008- what a coincidence!

Sharing special memories, Ranjan says, “I think our most romantic date was the night that I proposed. I took Sheetal, my then girlfriend to Seascape Beach Resort, a restaurant overlooking the beach. I knew that my girlfriend had never been to the beach at night, and that was where I wanted to propose. I was nervous because I wanted everything to be perfect. There was a nice lit up walkway with dim lights from the top of the restaurant to the beach below. I checked the weather and knew it would be a full moon. After dinner, I walked Sheetal down a private walkway to the beach and by moonlight proposed to her on one knee by the ocean. She obviously said "yes". I forgot that I had left the matching wedding band in the box, and when I pulled out the ring to place it on her finger, the band dropped in the sand! After a minute of digging in the sand by moonlight, we found it! That was a night I will never forget!”

Sheetal concurs. “I knew something was different that weekend since he seemed so preoccupied. His brother was getting married in a few weeks, so I just assumed he was busy with his "best man" duties. Since our 2nd anniversary fell just a few days before his brother’s wedding (which was held in England), he told me that he wanted to take me out to an early anniversary dinner that night. Ranjan took me out to Seascape Resort in Monterey, CA. It was a perfect setting, moonlight, ocean waves, and a crystal clear night. After dinner, he walked me down to the beach and told me how much he loved me and he wanted to know if I would be his wife. I was shocked and of course said "yes"! He then pulled out a beautiful ring and put it on my finger. It was a perfect night and a perfect proposal!”

When asked how they felt about love and what it signified to them, Ranjan says, “Many people do not know what real love is. They are caught up in their infatuations and a desire to be needed. And for some, true love can be found, where couples can live independently of each other, both strong individuals, and yet still can’t live without each other. I feel like that is the kind of love that we have.” Sheetal adds, “To me, love is something that is effortless. It should be with someone with whom you can be yourself and share your life with. I feel that all too often, people look for someone to complete them, to fill the missing void. I think the reason that we are so strong as a couple is that we both spend our time sharing our lives together rather than trying to complete it. With Ranjan being a police officer and in the Army, every moment is precious. With his dangerous line of work, every day is like Valentine’s Day. We never leave each other without a kiss and saying "I love you". Everyday is a reminder to me how thankful I am, for having found him to share my life with.”

Karam Mashood
Ilahi Khan
Karam Mashood Ilahi Khan is a computer analyst and has been married for nearly eight years to Rabia. The couple has two beautiful boys. Of his most romantic date, he says, “That’s a tough one to answer. Actually, I don’t really think any of my dates were "romantic", although some may have come close. You see my definition of romance and love has evolved over the years. While most people think of a romantic date as a night out dancing, with a candlelit dinner, a walk among the stars, and whatever else happens afterwards, my thoughts on that are quite different. There has to be a significant history of the two before this romantic rendezvous! Where’s the back-story? Were the events that brought the couple together tragic? When I was a teenager, my vision of a romantic date (or love in general) was sculpted by what I saw in the best love stories, or what I idealized in my own dreams. They were always hyper-realized; relationships sprouting between two people going through times of turmoil and confusion. Even bonds growing out of a long lasting friendship of two people going through important events in their lives.

You could say my perception of romance has been spoiled because of that. Look at the greatest love stories of modern time; Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone with the Wind, etc. Mostly tales of people living in the most testing of times or going through tragic or life threatening events out of which is molded their love for one another. Why is “Romeo and Juliet” considered one of the best written love stories of all time? It is because of their emergence of love for one another out of an environment of complete adversity and misery around them (Personally, I consider the love between John Crichton and Officer Aeryn Sun from the series Far Escape to be the greatest example of a love story in the history of film or television).

Therefore, any of the above scenarios never really applied to me, so I never really considered any date to really be "romantic" by my definition of the word because my expectations were too high. I wanted the romance to be created from the triumph of love over turmoil and uncertainty, for the people involved to have gone through life-changing events and come out of it finding the bond between them to be stronger. Only then, would there be any romance in their lives, much less, for one date.

Yeah, a candlelit dinner under the stars wouldn’t quite do it for me. Unless we were sitting under a night sky filled with tracer fire lines and flak cannon reports, and fearing for our lives. Now THAT’S a romantic date!”

Umair and Laika Kayani
Umair Kayani is an Engineer and his wife Laika is a consultant. They live in Portland Oregon, just got married in November of 2008, and are very much in love. For Laika her most romantic date was after Umair and she got engaged. “The date was a complete surprise. I was under the impression that Umair and I were going out to dinner with my parents, but it turned out that my parents were also involved in the surprise. They pretended that we were all going together, but it was just Umair and I. We went to our favorite restaurant in Atlanta called Bacchanalia. When I walked in, the maitre’d knew that we were celebrating our engagement and congratulated us immediately and called us by our proper names. Everything from appetizers to dessert was perfect. Umair went as far as to plan where we were going to sit in the restaurant and how all the events of the night will go. Just the fact that everything was so organized, thought out, and extremely precise was very romantic. For Laika love what people feel for each other in different intensities, levels, and based on their relationship with each other. “When you feel like you love someone, it’s easy to show it through emotions, gift, time, presence, calls, etc. I think love in a husband and wife relationship comes after years of knowing someone and learning their flaws, insecurities, bad and good habits and loving them any way, and from being each other’s best friends. Love can increase and decrease for someone but it takes time to make love last.”

When it comes to Valentines Day, Laika thinks this occasion is a Hallmark Holiday like other days (Mother’s Day, Father’s Days, etc) and created by corporations to make money, but one that it works! “People decide that they will choose one day to show their love for someone, whether it’s husband and wife, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and children. It’s a cute day if you don’t feel like you show enough affection to your loved ones, but not showing love for 364 days out of 365 is unacceptable. I think people need to break out of bad habits and tell the people that they love and they are close to how much they love them and mean to them. I personally don’t like celebrating it because I feel like I do so much for my parents, sisters, and my husband to show them I love them that I don’t need one specific day to buy chocolates and flowers to tell them. I know it means a lot to some people, so sometimes you just have to go against your opinion to make them happy by celebrating Valentine’s Day for them”.

Puneet and Perneet Dhillon
Puneet and Perneet Dhillon, live in California and compliment each other in every step of the way: she with her vivacious vitality and he with his humor and thoughtfulness. They are happily married with two kids, Marcus and Riya. Her thoughts on love resonate with both of them. For Perneet, “Love is a feeling, a sensation, and a thought! Love is thinking about the one you love before thinking about yourself. Love is unconditional, love is a feeling of happiness, love is tenderness, love is caring, passion, desire; love is free and love is true!

When asked about her most romantic date Perneet said ,”I have beautiful memories of a very romantic date with my husband, Puneet. We were on vacation in Paris, France with family. Unknown to me, Puneet planned an evening out for us. The evening started early with a walk down Champs Elysees. I remember very vividly what a pleasant evening it was. The air was filled with soft music. Incidentally, it was a full moonlit night. Everyone and everything around looked very glamorous and sparkling. We laughed, we talked, and we kissed! It was beautiful!

We walked by the spectacular lights at the Arc de Triumph and came to a small elegant bistro. Puneet ordered a bottle of wine for us. We must have sat there for more than an hour, just enjoying the ambiance and loving being together. Time seemed to have stopped. We had a lovely candlelight meal on the outside patio. I remember the delicious chocolate soufflé for dessert. Everything felt just right! The evening was not over yet. We drove over to the Eiffel Tower. It was a most breathtaking sight and what made it perfect was that I was with the person I love!”

Khalid and Anne Bajwa
Shuttling between Denmark and Pakistan, where their business takes them most of the time, Anne and Khalid Bajwa are a very caring couple who are never seen without a smile and have three grown-up and lovely children. He is an independent maverick in his thoughts and actions. She supports him all the way, while keeping him grounded. Khalid recalls that his first romantic date with Anne was on Valentines Day in 1975, when he met his wife. “I invited her for dinner at my place in Denmark together with a few other friends. What attracted me to her was that we could talk and communicate rather well. I felt I had a soul mate who could understand when I meant what. And that’s how I felt on the very first meeting from the word ‘go’. A week before, my land lady –who went to nursing school- had persuaded me to accompany her there for a dinner and I found Anne there. I took an immediate fancy to her and invited her, along with her friends for my birthday. The fact of the matter is that it wasn’t my birthday but it wouldn’t hurt Anne to find out later that it wasn’t so. It was Valentine’s Day and it sounded good to have one’s birthday fall on that particular day…so very romantic. I knew right away that the girl I had so impulsively invited over, was going to be my wife. Apparently she thought that way too so here we are. That day there were twelve or thirteen people around us but it really didn’t matter. She was the one who would stay back for life and whom I wanted to stay back.

“The funniest day that we shared was our wedding day. First of all it was Friday the thirteenth. I was driving out to pick up Anne so we could go to the city hall…in fact the Deputy Mayor’s office…to register our marriage and my car broke down. It was a Volkswagen ‘Beetle’ and I had to fix it myself at the roadside -I was running late- and so arrived at the Mayor’s office with Anne running by my side with soiled hands. The place was near empty. No other couples were there on account of it being a Friday the thirteenth. The Court Official kept asking if we really wanted to go ahead and I kept saying, “It doesn’t matter. We aren’t superstitious.” He kept shaking his head in wonder. Finally when we really got down to business, there weren’t any people around to stand in as witnesses and so the Piano player –whose job it was to keep the back ground music going while the ceremony went on- had to be pressed into service. All in all, both Anne and I thought it was a funny but a happy day and we are still together after 33 years.”

Naeem and Sonja Bajwa
Naeem Bajwa is a geologist by profession and a professor turned entrepreneur, and Sonja an artist who paints and makes beautiful furniture. They a Roth iron business, and an Art gallery displaying some beautiful artwork from Pakistan. She’s the creative artist and he helps her to produce her art .Both bring out the best in each other and have three beautiful grown up children.

With the softness and love in her eyes, Sonja recalls two special moments in her life.

“A couple of summers back due to load shedding there were power breakdowns. It was very hot. It so happened that we found ourselves to be totally alone at home. Somehow –and I swear there was no planning involved in that- the servants and the kids were all out somewhere visiting or running chores. The heat was driving us nuts and we were at a loss to know what to do. The saving grace was that it was a full moon night and so we lit a lot of candles around our swimming pool and swam together. What made it so wonderful was that it was a spontaneous kind of a thing and the fact that we weren’t distracted by anyone or anything made it so much more pleasurable. The full moon and the candles…everything kicked in to make it a most memorable time that I spend with my husband!

Our funniest anecdote concerns Saadia.-our daughter who was six months old then- and Naeem. I sent them together to do some grocery shopping. It was in the neighborhood market and so he went along pushing her happily in the stroller. At the store he parked her in her stroller in a corner outside the store and got busy with collecting the items he needed according to the list. He then walked back to the house with both his arms full of the shopping bags. Only upon reaching home and looking at my face as I opened the door for him did he realize that he had left our daughter at the store. We both ran to the market only to see our daughter sitting in her stroller…perfectly happy…watching the world go by. Nobody had bothered her. Nobody had indeed even realized that her Dad had left her there, completely forgotten. Naeem is the brainy sort…lost in his ideas…more like an absent minded professor and I love him the way he is.”

Syed Wajahat Ali
A Casanova in the true sense, a romantic through and through, and perhaps mothers in Pakistan place their daughters in hiding, once they know Waji (as he is know to every one,) is in the neighborhood. The owner of Pepperdine schools in Pakistan, young at heart, and full of life, Syed Wajahat Ali is one person who lives life to the fullest. Married many times, young at heart at 60, Waji is a father of a beautiful 1 year old boy.

When asked about his most romantic interlude he did not mince his words. “My most romantic memory is of…let me give her an imaginary name…Firdaus. She was my childhood sweetheart. We had gone to the Cathedral school at the Mall in Lahore. It was more like puppy love…nothing serious. As we grew up, we moved away. I got married and so did she. Long years passed and life dealt me rather a severe blow. My wife decided she had had enough of marriage and one day quietly moved out of our house with all we had built together…kids, furniture, even the wall hangings, pots and pans. I was a broken man. For months I begged her to come back. In return she involved me in drummed up cases. The year was 75’ and Pakistan was being run by the iron fist of Gen. Ziaulhuq. The military court handed me a sentence –later revoked- and that did it for me and I finally signed the divorce papers.

Firdaus, who was also married and had kids, heard of my predicament and came to see me. She tried to comfort me and in my misery, I got carried away. I asked her to marry me. I asked a married woman to marry me. It sounds ridiculous now and somewhat wrong but at that time, it all seemed so right. I had been shattered and desperately reached for the first life line that was thrown to me. To my utter amazement, she agreed. She went through her divorce and left behind a completely baffled man –her husband- who didn’t know what hit him. We went through a simple marriage ceremony and soon after, I undertook an expedition to America. My long effort to bring back my ex-wife, and the Military persecution, had completely destroyed my banking career and I wanted to try my luck in the new World. After being in the U.S. for a few months I realized that rebuilding my life will be a long haul. I was without a visa and trying to get a resident’s status was not going to be easy. That also entailed a travel ban so I couldn’t travel back to see my wife who had left everything in her life to come enter my life. The cold reality forced itself and, this time for her, I asked her to file for another divorce. I didn’t want to be selfish and have her wait for me indefinitely. It took some effort to convince her but in the end she agreed. The story has a happy ending; her ex-husband agreed to take her back and she was reunited with her children.

When I was down and out…life as I had known was finished for me. Everything was taken away from me. I was totally broken. That woman lent me her shoulder. Helped me get up…dust myself and move on. In order to do that, she gave up everything that she had. Her kindness knew no bounds. I cannot forget that and shall always bask in the warmth of her affection. What she did may or may not sit well with the society around us but she did that for me and I feel blessed to be the beneficiary and the recipient of such gracious love.

“My funniest situation was really funny. When I got married the first time around, I was about twenty years old and had no idea how to make love. As the marriage date approached, I panicked. I confided in a cousin, well versed in ways of the world, who suggested that I should discreetly visit the red light area to be properly instructed about the matter. I did and was asked to get into a room which looked seedy and reeked of unknown smells. I waited for a good five minutes…extremely nervous…and then my nerve broke. I ran from the place, never to look back. In the end it took us three months to consummate our marriage but we did it successfully and ended up producing two beautiful children”

Here is wishing not just these lovely couples continued special moments in their lives but to everyone who believes in love-until next year, because the best is yet to be.

Jasjit Khan connects two cultures and religions being an Indian Sikh married to a Pakistani Muslim. A former model, interior designer, interpreter, an international buyer and businesswoman, she is widely traveled and brings both brains and beauty to her writing.

 

 


The Valentine’s Day collection

ONE YEAR BONUS

The call left me stunned. My father had been diagnosed with cancer and his end was very very near. After a rush of the journey, I finally found myself in front of him.

A piercing pain rent my soul as I saw him- a shadow of his former self, and a very pale one at that. A person full of enthusiasm for living, talking and advising, now lay spent and fatigued and totally helpless.

What affected me most was the realization that the disease had affected his mind and will to live more than his body. What he wanted was a purpose to live so that his latent will power would overcome the depression of the disease.

From that very moment I started spending time with him and then the next day I just told him “Papa, I plan to write a book based on the past. I have asked all your contemporaries but no one could provide me with good material. I know you are the only one with your observing powers and insights who can help me. Could you please try and remember and tell me happenings of the time when you were young?”

The ploy seemed to fail as that day he didn’t react but on the next day he started talking. By the third day the pallor had subsided and he seemed more normal. Even the doctor was amazed at the transformation. Suddenly it seemed that my father had a mission. He wanted me to write something for the welfare of the present and future, based on the experiences and lessons of the past and he wanted to be sure that he didn’t forget to tell me anything of import about the past.

I had given him something to live for.

His mind had woken up his will power and he lived.

He would also call me if I left him for a few hours whenever he remembered something, afraid that he might forget that particular interesting slice of memory.

We flipped through stories narrated by him of nawabs, zamindars, independence struggle and customs of the past with his analytical inputs about their reasons. He had always had a keen insight and he really showed me a mirror to those times which really proved helpful in writing the book later. He continued to inform me as and when he remembered a gem of a memory even after I returned because that is what happened.

I could return after a fortnight when I was sure of the sparkle in his eyes and zest for life in his heart. It sustained his active and now energetic mind for a full year of life for him till the treacherous disease overtook his physically depleted body strength and he succumbed, finally resting in peace - Rungeen Singh

The two people I looked up to...

My mother was home schooled from grade 1-4. She graduated school at 15 and went to college after that.

Dad was four years older. He did first 2 years in science college and realized that he did not like it so switched to Arts college. So, even though they were four years apart in age, they ended up in the same class.

Mother was a singer and my father played Sitar. He could also play violin, harmonica and tabla.

Dad was 5' 11', played cricket and was known for his fast bowling. He also played tennis and could swim and dive gracefully. He was a good marksman and later was an officer in Indian Police service. Mom ran track. Her complexion was light, long dark hair. Needless to say, they fell in love after the first "on stage" program in college.

Mom became a Principal of a girls' High school after finishing college and waited for my father to finish his Police academy training. They were 23 and 27 when they got married. Later, mom was a vocalist who sang for Gujarati movies, live shows and sang on AIR and recorded for HMV.

I had always seen my dad treat my mom with a lot of care and love. Mom on the other hand was the happiest being in his shadow...loved to cook for him and take care of his house. - Parasmani Acharya

A Short Poem

On this Valentine, I searched for my love all around,
I waited for him, I pined for him, But he was nowhere to be found.
In desperation, I shed tears of sorrow,
And lo behold! In the deep recess of my heart, my love was found. - Sudhirdas Kapahi

A Sisters' Love

As a young woman I had to accept a harsh reality. I would never become a mother. I didn't realize at the time that nothing could be further from the truth. I have two beautiful, loving sisters who through the years shared their children with me. A mothers' greatest love, they also made my love. I delivered one of the children, named one, and gave one away in marriage. I have never been forgotten on Mothers' Day . There were cards, visits, flowers, phone calls and special gifts. The most special gift was the love shown to me by each of them. I actually have five children. My sister Sharon went to be with our Lord on February 17, 2005. I have been the one to be there for the birth of her grandchildren. My sister Tammy went to be with our Lord January 31, 2009. Tomorrow is the funeral for my beloved sister Tammy. I will be the one to see her children grow up and also to be there for the birth of her grandchildren. As I look at my sisters' children, I not only see them through my eyes, but through the eyes of their mothers'. Yes, I have five beautiful children. A sisters' love, gave me a mothers' love. The greatest gift on earth. - Patti Fields

When my South Indian mother-in-law sat down to talk to me, an American from South Alabama, about my upcoming marriage, she was very honest. She said that she was not happy when she learned her son had chosen an American bride, but she knew she only had two choices. She could either disown him or accept me completely; she could not take a middle road and resent his decision. She promised that she would treat me as her own daughter.

For this Valentine's Day request for memorable acts of kindness, I could list literally hundreds of thoughtful things Amma has done to fulfill this promise, but two stand out clearly in my mind. The first was offering me a sweet, warm cup of kheer just after I gave birth to my daughter on Valentine's Day 2005. The second was bringing a cool lassi with keri leaves to me at the hospital on the day my mother was passing away last summer. I was not able to eat, and it sustained me for the very long night to come. Anyone who knows my mother-in-law would say she does these kinds of things for everyone, and it's true. But this doesn't lessen their touching importanceto me - Roxanne Russell

I came to America in 2005 as an international student at the University of West Georgia. Three years is a long while to go without seeing one's family and last semester I could not resist. Homesickness had begun to sink in, and before long, I was diagnosed with depression. It was not easy dealing with so much in addition to increased financial burdens, a relationship gone bad and balancing 21 hours of course load with the numerous extra-curricular activities. I had to; as a result, take incompletes in several of my courses. However, my friend Doneen and her husband understood my unspoken words, they knew what I needed most, but that for which I could not provide. In what I call the kindest of all gestures, they used their frequent flyer miles to put me on a flight back home. My family and I cannot thank them enough for their thoughtfulness and this Valentine's Day and always I want to tell them how much I appreciate what they have done to change my life. This trip felt like a journey of self exploration as I traveled to the North East of India in search of myself and my purpose in life. I love you Doneen, Stuart, Shelby, Chelsea, Jordan and Corey - Mariam Abuhaideri

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers/interviewees and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.



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