Monday, November 26, 2007

Medley of sorts

I am feeling particularly lazy and out of ideas. (Smirk: As if I am otherwise buzzing with ideas). So I will make this post a medley of updates from the last couple of weeks.

Afternoon showers
Sunday afternoon: Tyke has finished siesta and is in a very playful mood. I have just taken off her diaper, so I ask her “Tyke, shall we go and do su-su?” She resolutely says “Nooooo”. “Are you sure?”, I ask. She lets out a deep-throated wail, points out the window and says she wants to climb up there. Not wanting to start another battle of wills, I lift her and put her on the bedroom window-sill. She holds on tightly to the bars. I am not actually holding Tyke, since she is balanced nicely on the window sill, but I am standing right behind her, to catch her in case she loses balance. She is smiling to herself, and points out to the squirrel scampering on the neighboring terrace. A nice dreamy moment, and I feel content, happy to be a mother, happy to be with her.. and then, ssssssssssssssss…… the sound of water sprinkling on metal. I look down to see a fountain of pee falling directly on the metal box of the window A/C jutting outside the window. I could only hope there was no one standing right below that window at that point.

The Parrot phase
Tyke is now in “the parrot” phase in evolution. Which means that she repeats anything we say – well, attempts to repeat, at least. And most of what she talks in any given situation comprises of what DH or I would have said in that situation.

Like she goes and slips on my sandals, and then says “chappal thodaathe. Adi kittum” (Note the combination, first sentence in Tamil and next in Malayalam). Once she was calling out to me from another room, I called back and said “Amma itho irukken” (meaning “Amma is here”). So now, when she calls for me, and she finds out I am in another room, she comes running there saying “Amma itho irukken”.

Tenacious little Tyke
Each time Tyke cries/howls/throws a tantrum for something, she stops crying after the first few minutes. She then says in a singy-songy semi-crying tune, “Ethukku azhuthaai?” if I am around or “Enthinaa karayunnathu” if DH is around – both meaning “Why did you cry?” Now, we never make the mistake of asking her that question, because 99 times out of 100, we know why she is throwing the tantrum and don’t need to ask this question. So she asks this question and then she answers her own question by giving the reason - “TV off panna azhuthen” (I cried because the TV was switched off). And she does this E.V.E.R.Y time she cries – She must be thinking “Maybe these dumbos didn’t actually understand that I cried because they switched off the TV, so I might as well tell them that. Maybe then they will get it into their thick skulls and switch it on again”. These days, we start laughing out loud (yes, cruel parents!) when she starts off “Ethukku azhuthaai?” much to her irritation – that sends her back howling again. She must be thinking “How can they? – Here I am, going great lengths to explain to these duds what I want – and they have the sheer gumption to laugh at my attempts”.

Tantrum Spot
Of late, whenever Tyke’s (unreasonable) demands are not met and she is in a rage, she goes off running to our smallest bedroom, climbs on the bed and perches herself in a particular spot facing the mirror. She is of course howling loudly and has indignant tears streaming down her face. So she sits there rocking to and fro, and watching herself cry in the mirror, all the while waiting for someone to come and console her/give her the desired object/ give in to her demand! What a Drama Queen!
Now, I know Tyke loves routines and believes that every thing has a place– she doesn’t yet put her toys back in place, but expects to find them in the same place everyday (yeah, dad’s gene I guess). So now I think she has identified this room and spot as her “Anger Spot” – the place she runs to every time she is angry or upset.

And the many joys…
Tyke is such sheer delight to be with (when she is not at her difficult worst) and I just love being with her and watching her and interacting with her. Sometimes she spontaneously comes and hugs me.. and makes my day. She is always watching, trying to mimic and learn. And she is always following me around – it’s like having a shadow. It is trying at times, but nothing is so good to your self-esteem as having someone love you so much .
I have these moments when I feel that she is a grown-up – She knows when I am under the cloud and tries to kiss me and hug me to happiness. We even share jokes and have a laugh. I mean we actually share jokes - how cool is that! Here is one of the “jokes”:

Background: There was a time not long back when Tyke would pronounce “Baby Bop” as “Beee Baaap”. Nowadays she pronounces it right, but she also knows that she used to do it wrong J

I point to a picture of Baby Bop and say (semi-mockingly in a thrilled voice) “Tyke, here is Beee-Baaap”.

She grins in embarrassment (yes!) and says “Baby Bopppp.”, the last syllable resounding to show that she can pronounce it right. And she is proud of it.

So I say “Oh I see. So who says “Beeee Baaaap’?”

A twinkle in her eyes, Tyke promptly replies “Achaaa”. And we giggle away to glory.

It is of course very convenient that Acha (DH) is not around at the time of this conversation.

At the end of a long day, there is no better way to unwind than spending time with my precious little Tyke. Nothing I would be rather doing.. well… not yet, at least.

Realization and the result

When I started this blog, I had no clue what I would write about. I knew it was not a journal –because a journal gets updated regularly and I wasn’t sure I wanted to discuss all aspects of my life either. As opposed to a couple of other “mommy blogs”, I didn’t want mine to be a mommy blog –I reasoned that my life was full of my child and work, so I didn’t want this blog to talk about that too – I wanted to talk about something else, refreshingly different. I knew what I didn’t want it to be.. but was never sure what I wanted it to be. And that is why I chose the natural acronyms DD and DH as blog names for the 2 important people in my life.

Ironically, it turned out that most of my posts are about my daughter, or my experiences as a parent and such. I discovered that I enjoyed writing about her better than anything else, because I am passionate about this topic. So all the intentions of my blog being something ‘away from work and parenting’ flew out of the window. It took a blog, among other things, to teach me that being a mother is the most important part of being myself.. And there is no running away from it.

And then came the realization that I had been shortsighted in referring to my daughter as plain-vanilla “DD” in my blog. Nothing wrong with it, but the hitch is that when I write and refer to her as DD, I don’t really get the feeling that I am writing about her.

So better late than never, I have decided to give her a name for my blog – especially since I write so much about her. This name has to be “personal” for me so that I feel I am writing about her. And obviously I don’t want to use her real name. So, I have come up with this name that DH and I use to refer to her in some of our conversations – especially when we discuss with exasperation, her rambunctious behavior – “Tyke”. So there – after more than a year of blogging, I have woken up to the central character in my blogs, and christened her too!

DH will remain DH – I am rolling on the floor laughing thinking of all the nick-names I can use for him. Most, no, all of them will seriously dent his public persona - And if I do that, being the proud Leo that he is, he might just chop me into pieces and dump me into the Cooum :-). So he continues to be the impersonal and respectable DH.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Memories of festivals

After mid-August every year, it is the festival flurry in India. There is Onam for the Mallus, Avani Avittam for the Tamils, Raksha Bandhan for most of India, all around the same time. This is followed by Vinayaka Chathurthi and Krishnastami. Then of course there is the Navarathri/ Durga Puja/ Dassera, the celebration and worship of the feminine power, Shakti. Close on heels comes Deepavali, the festival of lights that signifies the victory of the good over evil. And then we had Karthigai Deepam.

When I was young, I remember eagerly waiting for the festive season to start, for the obvious reasons - I knew that each festival meant a lot of goodies and snacks ("palaharams"), not to mention new dresses. Onam meant "Ada prathaman" and some other payasam, Krishnashtami meant soft, fluffy, golden-brown appam (unniyappam) and crisp, round "cheedai". Navarathri was always great - one got to wear pattu pavadai and deck up in finery, eat "sundal" and also got "thamboolam" from different houses. The star attraction was, of course, the token amount of 1Re or 2 Rs coin that was given along with the thamboolam, which went straight into the piggy bank. One even got told not to touch books or study on the Mahanavami Day. That definitely was the cream. Deepavali meant new dresses, bursting crackers, having fun and eating loads of stuff - the most special ukkarai, mixture and a variety of sweets. Now you get the picture of the sort of person I used to be as a child.. well, I haven't changed much :-)

Somewhere along the late teens, I lost interest in most of the festivals. Probably it was part of the eternal "question and rebel" teenage-state. Perhaps, in that strange way that only a teenager can think of, I thought myself too grown-up to burst crackers or go around to all neighbours' houses for thamboolam. And I thought I had better things to do with my life and my time. It was a period when I questioned everything - the need to celebrate festivals was also one of them. And then I left home and started working. For the next 6 years, I hardly remember celebrating any festival in a proper way. Yes, I did visit temples on some of the festivals and I did end up making a sweet for Diwali once. But it never felt like celebration. I was too busy with work most of the time and more often than not, I remembered the festival only when my family called up to wish me. Life was a whirlwind, and career was the centre-piece. An average work day was 12 hour long, there was no time to pause,no time to even prepare healthy dinner or get laundry done and so celebrating festivals was the last on my list.

Actually speaking, marriage did not make a huge difference to this lifestyle - in fact, it worsened it I think, because DH and I made a completely career-oriented couple, he being a greater workaholic than me. And his family is not big on festivals. So for him, a festival day or even an anniversary day is not much special (yeah.. totally unromantic... tell me about it!). If I ever felt gulity about not doing anything special on a festival day, he would remind me of his "Every day is special" theory. Even on the year that Onam fell on a weekend, I remember that I was so wiped-out tired after a long week at work, and we had "Ona Sadya" at a nice restaurant in Chennai. So in essence, we were like a couple who largely stuck to a "bachelor lifestyle". The fridge would sometimes become empty mid-week, and since I worked late on week days, I would wait till weekend to stock it again. Till then, we would eat out or live on Maggi noodles and milk. So where was the time for festivals?

And then DD came along. That small yet powerful presence in our lives, helpless by itself but all-controlling. I made it a point to come home from work before she slept. And I also preferred to give her dinner myself. And that meant I got back at the latest by 7 PM daily. And that was just the beginning. My priorities did a U-turn, and I began spending more time at home, and consequentially, less time at work. I cannot say that life slowed down, because daily life is still a whirlwind of tasks to be completed and things to be done. But we now have a home and live like a family - I find time to shop mid-week for vegetables, fruits and essentials, because I cannot think of feeding DD junk food for a day, even if the weekend is temptingly only a day away. The laundry gets done, the sheets and curtains changed regularly and the rooms are dusted everyday because I, like any responsible mother, want to provide a clean and warm home to my child.

And as she started her second year, I caught myself planning to celebrate festivals!!. It was not something I had consciously decided to do, but it just started off so naturally, like it was an instinct. Like you come back to a place you knew long before, and you know your way around, without needing to ask for it. Of course I don't go all the way and make all the goodies for each festival, but I try to do something special for the ones I consider important. So this Onam, we had a proper "Sadya" (as proper as it can be, with my skills and knowledge). My cook being a Tamilian, was sure to mess up the Kerala dishes. So I made her do the groundwork of cutting and scraping coconut, and astonished myself by spending 3 hrs straight in the kitchen to dish out the sadya. Last Karthigai, I brought out lamps that had not seen the sunlight in the last decade or so, cleaned and polished them, and lit them at our doorstep. This Navarathri, I invited friends over for Thamboolam. And this Diwali, we had crackers (a brand that does not use child labour) and sweets and new dresses for everyone.

It is not that I have suddenly become a stickler for traditions. And I don't know if this is a one-year wonder where I managed to find time for all this. I really hope not, because I want DD to have special memories of festivals, and gro up to associate them with the warmth of love, the smell of comfort food and the happiness of celebrating as a family.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A change and a life lesson

DD completed one week of extended timing at daycare. Starting last Monday, we dropped her off at 8.45 AM and picked her up at 3.30 PM. I was not worried much about her sleep, coz I know she dozes off if she is really sleepy. But the thing that I D.R.E.A.D.E.D was that she would go on hunger strike, and as a result, throw tantrums.
On Day1, Monday, I tremulously picked up the phone and called the daycare at 12.30 PM to check if she had had lunch. And when they said that she had absolutely refused to have beyond 2 spoonfuls of lunch, it was like my worst nightmare come true. But when she came home that evening, her daily sheet from the daycare mentioned that she had filled herself up with healthy snacks at 3 PM. And from Day2, she started having reasonable amounts of lunch too. Day 2, when I was speaking with her teacher, I casually mentioned that DD is very averse to drinking milk from a cup, while awake - we normally give her a bottle of milk after she falls asleep for her nap (!!yes!!) and I could almost visualize the teacher sneering at me from the other end, while I just heard an "Oh...." over the phone. Day3 dawned. I was now fairly confident that DD would eat at least some amounts of lunch and snack. When I called the daycare, the teacher told me she had eaten quite well and then added: "But I thought you said she doesn't like milk. She drank a whole cup after lunch today." To say I was FLABBERGASTED would be an understatement. This was something I had tried about a zillion times with and without external aids like TV, books and what not. I managed to find my words after a minute, and asked "Are you sure?", to which the teacher replied that she was positive she saw DD downing the whole cup of milk. I know she must have thought I am one crazy nut, because I let out a long, semi-hysterical cackle and cut the call (I think I didnt say bye) to share this headline with DH.

I had never anticipated, even at my optimistic best, that DD would adapt so quickly, especially since this concerned the sore point in our lives - her food habits. And I am so very proud of my little tyke :-) Her ability to adapt to new situations has emerged clearly now- first, when I started her on daycare, and then now, she takes to this change in routine like fish to water. After the 2nd day, she has been ever-so-eager to go to school and gets ready so willingly. She has never cried or clung on to us. And now this.. Thank the Lord God and His small, ooppss... very big ... mercies.

Parents, and in particular, mothers, are always proud of their kids' ahcievements. I have seen parents comparing their child's milestones with other children - and feeling proud or alternately getting worried about them. I too have been guilty of this many times in the past. Until I realized the truth that thinking about these milestones is actually taking some joy out of me enjoying her childhood. Having said this, it is difficult not to wonder and I still keep fighting some of these demons in my mind. When I see a 20 month-old jumping gaily, I wonder why DD, who can walk, run, climb and manoeuvre herself well, does not jump? And then, in age-old wisdom, tell myself that each child has his/her pace. A week later, if I see another 2 year old happily doing a jigsaw puzzle, I wonder if DD would be able to do this. And probably this is true for most mothers and is never going to end.

But beyond all these physical and cognitive milestones, which I am fairly sure any normal child will achieve sooner or later, there are the life-skills. And the ability to handle change and adapt quickly, I know, is one of them. And that is precisely why this quality of DD means a lot to me. Not because it allows me peace and makes my life easier, but mainly because I believe this characteristic will make a lot of difference to DD's life, if she retains it into adulthood. And years later, if DD ever comes across this post, I want her to know that she has really really done me proud here.

DD also taught me a life lesson here - that the fear of something is always worse than the 'something' itself. It took me 3 months to mentally prepare myself for this change, and took her exactly 3 days to adapt to it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Miscellaneous updates

The intention of this post is to record certain interesting and entertaining quirks/incidents in the life of the great Drama Queen (that's what DD has morphed into these days) for posterity. She might hate me/kill me for this when she gets to read this. Or maybe I would end up using this post as a weapon to blackmail her a decade or so from now, when she insists on wearing clothes that I do not approve of. Hmm.. not a bad thought at all, considering the fact that she already doesn't quite approve of my choice of clothes for her.
1) While feeding, if even a small amount of food is smeared around her mouth, Her Highness senses it immediately. So what does she do? She wipes it off her face in a quick stroke using the back of her hand, and then regally stretches her hand out to me, the attendant, to wipe clean. And this act is done with such a natural flourish that she almost looks like a princess who is used to being waited upon, and I most definitely feel like her waiting hand maiden.
2) Around 6-7 months back, I once asked DD for a kiss and promptly got one, and being very pleased, I said "thaaank youuu" to her. Post this incident, whenever she kisses me on my cheek, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes on request, she starts saying "Thaaan chu-chu-chu-chu". Mind you, she can say "Thank You" very clearly and correctly. But whenever she kisses, she says "chu-chu-chu-chu-chu" deliberately. And this happens only when she kisses me, not for DH or others.
3) When we laugh out aloud at something, she doesn't like it!! She thinks we are laughing at her and shrieks out "Enna paathu chirikkaathee" (Don't laugh at me). I really don't think we have laughed out aloud at any of her doings/sayings in such a way as to psychologically mar her or anything. And we just don't remember when this started. But at least for the last couple of months, she thinks that all the world is laughing at her :)
4) There is this "song" that DH has been singing(gulp?!!!!?) for her since she was a month old. DH calls her Mimi (pronounced Me-Me) most of the one knows why. So this so-called song goes something like this... my very bad translation in English is enclosed in brackets
"Achante Mimi (Dad's Mimi)
Sunnnnndari Mimi (Beautiful Mimi)
Pakrunni Mimi (cannot be translated - Pakru means roly poly I think and Unni is a general term used for kids)
Vaaaavaaaachiiiiiii" (an endearment again)
Now, based on DH's mood and DD's doings for the day, the words of the songs vary a lot, especially the middle lines.. they can be "chakkara Mimi" or "Luttappi mimi" (a little Devil in a Malayalam cartoon called Mayavi) or "Poth-unni Mimi" ("Pothu" in buffalo in Malayalam and unni being a kid, it roughly means little buffalo).
Of late, when DH sings (he claims he is singing, but it is more like reciting) the first 3 lines, DD chips in and says "Vaaavaaachiiiiii", in chorus with her dad.
5) DD's greatest obsession at this point is Noddy. And her favorite characters apart from Noddy - Martha Monkey and the Goblins- Sly and Gobo. All the mischief and trouble makers of course... Since she is officially hero-worshipping them, I don't think her behavior is going to take a turn for the better anytime now.
Thomas and Friends have always been liked, but are not quite favorites. But of all the trains, she loves Toby the Tram Engine. She listens in rapt attention to the "Toby" song on the DVD and pronounces happily that Toby's coach is called "Enri-etta" (that's how she pronounces Henrietta).
6) DD thinks that my stomach is a bouncing pad for her. I don't blame her for thinking so:). Sometimes she makes me lie down on bed, sits on my tummy and bounces up and down with a vengeance, giggling and chuckling away to herself. Any protest from me or attempt to free myself is met with shrieks and tears.. so in the end, I have to somehow distract her into other games and get away.
There is much more i guess.. but I plan to keep some for my later posts.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Ten Commandments..

These are the ten commandments that form the basis of my life these days. The Ten Commandments of the great, all-encompassing force in my life.....namely DD :-)

  1. Thou Shalt have no other priorities before me. I don’t care if you are hungry or haven’t slept well in 4 days – I want my whims to be catered to and shall have no excuses whatsoever.
  2. Thou shalt not watch a movie or dine in peace. The moment you let down your guard and relax a wee tiny bit, I will call for attention - I will be hungry, thirsty, have a call of nature or at least want to be scratched in my toes for an imaginary mosquito bite.
  3. Thou shalt learn to respect Murphy and his laws. If you think I will sleep off early on a certain day (so you can make your wily plans), I will bound around with unending energy and make sure that you don’t have your way.
  4. Thou shalt learn that “Silence = Trouble”, the hard way. Sudden spells of calm and silence from me are always followed by broken glass/toys, toys thrown out of the balcony or other such damages.
  5. Thou shalt not have things easy, even with the use of brute force. You may be able to forcefully brush my teeth, but I will make sure that I scream my lungs out EVERY SINGLE morning and make all the neighbors cast dirty looks when you step out.
  6. Thou shalt not force me to eat or drink anything against my will. On a good day, I will respond by puking on your hair and dress and on other days, I will throw a tantrum – the blood-curdling kind that will make you want to jump off the balcony and end it all for some peace and quiet.
  7. Thou shalt not forbid me from doing anything. I will do it all the same, probably with more vigor, since the Forbidden Fruit is always more enticing.
  8. Thou shalt not make smug statements to thy friends/hosts - “She never eats//drinks/does …..” – I will set out immediately to prove you wrong and make you eat humble pie.
  9. Thou shalt not underestimate my powers of manipulation. I know exactly how to play on emotions and make you feel like the lowest form of life that ever crawled on this planet. I am also learning how to play you against dad and vice-versa.
  10. Thou shalt, at all times, remember who calls the final shots in this game. And that, if you have any doubt, is ME. Size does not matter.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Nanny vs. daycare

As a mother, this topic is something that has been occupying my thoughts for a long time now, and has contributed significantly to the greying of the few strands of hair left on my pate. So, after so much of my brain (and my so-called youth) has been eaten up in this worry, I still haven't really figured out the answer :-) but I think I am close.

When I started working, DD was only 5 months old. And I knew I had my MIL staying with me for a couple of months at least. So I decided to go with a nanny and registered with some agencies that are known to provide reliable nannies. The process of hunting for a nanny and the problems that I had with the succession of nannies that DD had (the current one is Nanny #3) are fodder for a separate post - or maybe even a series of posts. But things were chugging along and there was nothing major to complain of. So far, so good... till a few months ago, a time came when I had no family at home - no one from my side and no MIL. Since I knew this situation would arise, I had started DD on daycare for 3 hrs a day. And then, the nanny had to bring her home and take care of her till I came back from work.

The current nanny (I will call her N3) is quite good in terms of taking care of DD, cleanliness and all the basic criteria. And yet, I have nagging fears at the back of my mind. And so I opted for a few months of work-from-home and then some flexible timings, all because I couldn't convince myself to leave DD alone with N3 for long durations of time. Whenever I come home from work, I always find DD playing happily, well-fed and in clean clothes.. and I sometimes really think I am raving mad. N3 is good with DD, DD adores her, and things are fine.. and here I am, trying to obsess about problems that do not exist.

Apart from her official days off, N3 bunks at least a day or two each month. She has taken week-long sick leaves, calling in sick once with chikungunya, and another time with viral fever (Luckily both when MIL was around, so I didn't end up taking lots of leave myself). She has abysmal standards of punctuality. If I expected her to come in at 9.30 AM, she has always arrived 20 mts late , never on time. But I have always managed to get a hold on my temper and put up with her, for the single reason that she is good with my child, and that, to me, mattered the most.

2 weeks back, N3 called me one day and told me she was down with Malaria and would not be in for a couple of days. This time, I had to take leave from work to care for DD till she came back, which was 10 days later. And these 10 days gave me a lot of time to think. I tried to compare a reasonably good nanny (N3, in this context) to a good daycare system, seeing which provides better benefits to me and DD. And here is my comparison summary for anyone who cares to read thru:

1) Having a nanny is better in that the child gets personalized care, as against the "institution care" provided by a daycare center. I feel that the personalized care is probably quite important early in childhood (below age 1). The daycare is kind of "institutional-care" and obviously has the merits and demerits of that.

2) As the child grows, one has to be aware of the influences that the nanny has on the child, in terms of language, behavior and many other aspects. For eg, currently DD spends 3 hrs in daycare and 6 hrs in her nanny's care, so obviously she picks up more words/gestures from her nanny. And while it is possible to filter the market for reasonably well-groomed and well-mannered nannies, this can be no comparison to the quality of exposure at the daycare. Unless some of those Victorian governesses are still around :)

3) In my experience, nannies tend to get extremely complacent once they know that the child adores them
and their employer depends fully on them. Now this is a major problem since this upsets the equation, and often, leads to a situation where the employer is scared to rake up an issue with the nanny, lest she leaves. (yeah.. I sometimes maintain stoic silence if the issue is not directly related to DD). A well-run daycare centre normally incorporates valid feedback from parents, being a professionally-run institution.

4) Reliability - Unless one has a live-in nanny, there will ALWAYS be problems related to punctuality, not turning up when expected, undeclared days-off and all the rest of it. I don't know if this is true for countries outside India, or even cities like Mumbai, where domestic help is supposed to be more professional in their approach. But this is what I have seen in Chennai, and largely South India. The daycare obviously is more reliable. Having a live-in nanny would probably solve a lot of day-to-day issues, but if one lives in an apartment, this invariably means a compromise on your family's privacy.

5) How much routine? - Most daycare centres have a routine and the kids in daycare follow the routine, with some variations allowed. Most pareting material says that a child NEEDS a routine. I don't know if this is true for most kids, but it is certainly true for DD. She LOVES routines and seems to have an internal clock to go by schedule! To the extent that 95% of her days are routine-driven. The other 5%, she decides to vary her routine, for whatever reason. These 5% days will not be feasible if she is in a daycare full-time. And I found that when she was around a year old, the non-routine days were closer to 10-15%, but has come down now, due to a number of factors - one of which is that she has only one nap in a day. Which is why I feel that personalized care is needed at smaller ages.

6) Food- the daycare that I have chosen for DD, with all other criteria, insists that the kids should not bring food from home. While this is good from their perspective, since all kids get to eat the same food at the same time, this will probably force the kid to eat something that he/she does not like so much. Individual tastes are not catered to. While this may help the kids adapt better, one is always left with the question of whether they need to start adapting so young

7) Behavior and Discipline - The nanny is less likely to discipline a child, and the child gets the message that throwing a tantrum is the best way to get something he/she wants. In a day-care the child's energies are better spent and of course, better discipline is instilled. In addition, there is the definite advantage of having a peer-group around and learning from each other easily.

8) Health - It is true that if you have a clean and well-trained nanny, it is certainly better for your child's health than a daycare, where the child is exposed to viruses doing the rounds in peer-groups. So in the short run, this may present health problems, which also result in at least one of the parents taking leave from work to take care of the child frequently. But in the long run, this may be better because a child has to develop immunity and doctors opine that this is the only way their body learns.

9) Finally,the parent has to be comfortable with the arrangement. DD seems quite comfortable with being with N3 alone. But I am not, at least not fully. What works for one parent, doesn't for another.

So I am now closer to believing that DD is ready for longer durations at daycare - and so I am planning to extend her timings soon. For me, this reduces the dependence on N3 and also frees my mind from the nagging inhibitions that I have when DD is alone home with N3. But I know she is going to have eating and sleeping troubles initially, and probably going to fall sick more often(if that is possible!). I am promising that I will chant the mantra "Short term pains will lead to long term gains" and hang in there, and wait for her to settle down soon. Fingers Crossed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rant, rant, rant....

These days, if my life is normal and uneventful for 2 weeks in a row, then I thank the Almighty profusely for His kindness and mercy. Such is the state of affairs!
DD is onto her 3rd month in playschool cum daycare. She is there for only 3 hrs a day, but the impact has been far-reaching. The first month, she picked up a throat infection and cold that made her quite ill for a week. The second month, it was a ear infection. 1 week again. And both the times, it was close to the 20th of the month. So this time, I was keeping my fingers crossed .. and then she started sneezing yesterday, on the 20th!! - these bugs are frighteningly regular, I must say. The pediatrician of course tells me matter-of-factly that this is how children get used to the whole school thing. But I am still trying to swallow the fact that I actually pay (school fees) to get her to suffer a week each month. SIGH... the things that we do!! And what's worse, more often than not, DH and I invariably end up with a bad bout of cold from the bugs that DD lovingly passes around.
Do all children that start play school fall sick every month with such remarkable regularity? If anyone of you has had such experiences, please provide me valuable survival tips. How does one remain sane with the demands of work, home, with DH away on a work trip, an extremely errant nanny (when it comes to punctuality) and clingy-and-ill baby? AArgh.. is there a light at the end of this tunnel?

Monday, September 17, 2007

2 years of mommy-hood

Last month-end, DD turned two. I could hardly believe that it is two years since I brought the small Peanut-wrapped-in-a-pink-blanket home. These 2 years have had me swinging from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. There are times when I have been overjoyed at the sheer beauty and innocence of my child, I have felt my heart almost breaking with happiness and pride. I have also sunk to the depths of despair, felt overwhelmed by the very daunting job of motherhood. What a journey it has been... and I know this is only the beginning of the trip.
And so I thought of how motherhood had changed me and how I have evolved (am still evolving) as an individual and as a parent. And when I took stock of it, was I shocked!! I cannot recognize the person I have morphed into :-). So here are some details on what mommy-hood has done to me.

1)I remember not so long in the past, when I was out and out a career-driven person, looking down (ever-so-slightly, but yes, I did) on women who did not give their jobs their 120%. I always reasoned that if they did not have it in them, then they should choose not to work. Short-sighted that I was, little did I realize that when the small shrivelled being enters your world, the entire world goes topsy-turvy. And everything else, including husband, gets sidelined. Today I know what it is to be a mom who works outside, I know why such moms cannot give TOP priority to their work all the time, and I also understand that it is not very easy to give up a career that you have worked on for a long time. That's the choice that I have made - my career is important to me, but of course, my baby is more important. So if my baby is down ill and puking, no one can expect me to turn up at work. It is probably not the ideal choice, but it works and you can do without a break in your career. So I have done a volte-face on this one and am shamelessly going down the same path that I once scoffed at.

2) I have this unstoppable urge to finish quickly and completely the task-at-hand, and then move on to the next, and then the next. My favorite way of tackling things is to have a long list at hand and strike the points off, one by one. I haven't been able to let go of this OCD completely, but DD has taught me to pause, take a deep breath and savour the moment. The best time of my day now is the few minutes of quiet that I enjoy when DD and I have just woken up. She mostly wakes me up with a 'good morning' followed by a cuddle, and then off we go to the balcony where we sit and watch the birds for a good 10 mts. Not speaking much, just relishing the breeze and the birds and the silence of the morning. I know there is coffee to be made, the clothes to be put in the washing machine and the shopping list to be prepared - but they are brushed aside. This time together, feeling the warmth of her little body on my lap, her tiny hands in mine, is invaluable and it is relished without any worries of the daunting day that lies ahead. This and other acts of stop-and-relish, which she has taught me, are my baby steps towards being a more relaxed individual.

3) I believe in planning things down to the last detail and even making allowances for unplanned happenings. Sometimes I can be quite irritating (ask DH, because he is just the opposite) by the extent of planning that I do, even for weekends. And I used to take pride in my planning abilities, my skills in cramming more tasks onto my over-full weekend and become mad if things did not go as planned.
From the time she arrived, DD taught me over many sittings that plans are well and fine, but if things are not meant to happen, they will not. As I was left rescheduling my plans many a weekend, rules mostly by DD's hunger, sleep (or lack of it), and moods, I learnt the big truth that "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans". This hasn't stopped me from planning, but at least I don't raise hell if my plans go awry. I take it with a deep sigh and move on :-)

4) Patience, patience, patience. I cannot tell you how much of this I have learnt in the last 2 years. And this learning makes me realize HOW VERY deficient I was in this area. Having said this, I know I still have a long way to go. Patience is:
- What helps me count from 1 to 20 before speaking/acting, when DD, in spite of innumerable prior warnings, has taken a CD out of the CD-wallet and thrown it into the waste bin, in the split second when I was getting some water to drink
- What makes me bite my tongue in refrain, when the nanny walks in 20 mts late on a morning, when I have specifically requested her to come on time since I have a meeting. (of course, the strength of patience is supported by a quick Cost benefit analysis that tells me that the potential damage due to opening my mouth at this instant is more than that already caused by my being late to the meeting)
- What makes me hum a tune to myself in a dangerously quivering voice when I find that DH has disappeared into the bathroom just when I need him to take care of DD for a while

5) Any shooping trip or trip to the mall now involves more time spent in toy shops and toddler-wear shops than anything else. I seem to derive great pleasure in spending fortunes on the said shops, while my own shopping lies neglected (well, comparitively)

6) Once upon a time, I had valued the quality of conversations I had with my friends. Now, if I talk to a friend who happens to be a mommy herself (or daddy), the conversations revolve around tantrums, play-school, eating, TV habits and finally get down to the more gory details like potty.

7) Speaking of which, my tolearance towards messiness has increased manifold in the last 2 years. I, who used to resist touching anything gooey/messy, can now handle puke, poop, snot (Sorry, but really!) on my hair or dress or anything worse.

And there is more.. But I will stop before you resolve never again to visit my blog.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Of tantrums and coconuts

I am getting to know the meaning of the phrase "Terrible Twos". The past few weeks, DD's energies seem to be focussed on testing her limits and our patience, throwing tantrums at the drop of a hat, and then whining and protesting when she is chided or admonished for her doings. Into her second month in playschool, she has been picking up infections quite often these days. She has a runny nose most of the time and has had a severe throat infection and an ear infection over the past 2 months. Her pediatrician assures me that all kids go through this phase till their immunity kicks in. So initially, when she started throwing tantrums and was crying/scowling for small things, I thought it was because of her poor health. It took me a while to realize that this is the TT (Terrible Twos/ Terrible Tantrums) that has arrived with a bang. All the internet time spent on Dr.Spock and Babycenter did not prepare me enough for this.

The tantrums can erupt any time and come without warning. When I bring DD out of the bath, she is all smiling and giggly. She even kisses me lovingly on my cheek and I am thanking God for such a wonderful child. And then, when I try to put her dress on, she suddenly decides that she doesn't want to wear it. So off she goes, flitting around the entire place, running away from me with evil glee on her face. I let her do this for some time, but ultimately, I am an old-fashioned mom and I decide that she needs to wear something. So I catch hold of her and then... all hell breaks loose. She thrashes her arms and legs about and bawls her lungs out. That, with a look on her face that asks "How could you be so undemocratic and use brute-force on me?"
This is okay, but there are some times when DD demands something totally unacceptable. She has this habit of trying to use her kerchief (which we of course use to wipe her runny nose) to pretend-clean the furniture. Detour: I can hear some of you saying "Awwww.. do you need to actually give us the gory details?". All I can say is that you kind of become desensitized to such stuff when you have and raise kids. If your kids haven't done anything like this, sing Hallelujah and praise the lord, for it is indeed a miracle. End of detour.
Having read enough child-rearing stuff, I brightly pull out a different cloth and hand it to DD, saying "You can use this cloth to clean the furniture, please give the kerchief back to Amma". She takes the new one, and I beam with motherly pride at DH. And then as I try to take the kerchief from her hand, a pierce and deafening shrill emanates from her as she refuses to let go of it. The look on her face this time is "O so you were actually trying to cheat on me, how could you?". I feel rage simmering inside me and the only decision I need to make is whether to direct it to DD or to DH, who is rolling on the floor laughing.
The latest thing that DD enjoys is throwing stuff out of our balcony. There are small openings in the wall through which she can throw fairly large objects. These objects would, most of the times, be retrieved by her nanny from the garden below. I have explained to her about a 100 times so far that she shouldn't be doing this, without any effect whatsoever. So this Sunday, she threw a cup out of the balcony, I totally lost my cool. I told her that since she had been disobeying me, I would punish her. And I left her in a room and closed the door from outside. Now, before you shout at me, I was sure that she wouldn't get herself in danger and I was planning for this punishment to last only a minute or two, depending on her reaction. Predictably, DD howled and wailed and knocked at the door, trying to twist the knob open. I was standing just outside the door, holding the knob, and feeling most wretched. A minute (oh I really think it was only 40 seconds) later, I opened the door.
DD came to me, tears streaming down her face, and I told her again that what she did was not right. And I also asked her to say "Sorry". "Sorrreeee" she said, tears starting to flow again. And then says in a confused voice, "Ummachhikku thengaa pottu" (I was giving coconuts to the God). I couldn't move for a few seconds. We often take DD to the temple and a few weeks back, she had witnessed DH offering coconuts to Lord Ganesha, which is done by hurling the coconuts down on to a stone pit. And her little brain had picked it up, imagined a lot of objects to be coconuts, and they were hurled down from the balcony in offering to Ganesha. And I had punished her for that!!! I told her that coconuts are to be offered only in temples or something of that sort. I don't remember what I said, I only remember that I hugged her and was crying silently. What a roller coaster ride motherhood is.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gender Matters

I have wanted to post on this issue for a long time, but never got down to it. This is something many of you may not agree with. Feel free to make your comments, but I had to say what I felt.
Living in Chennai, where we are sweltering in heat for 9 out of 12 months, I ensure that DD wears only airy, cotton clothes. And I don't believe in the girls-wear-pink-frocks-with-satin-bows theory. So I go for all colors, and all sorts of clothes - by which I mean that she wears trousers, pyjamas, shorts, Capri's, frocks, skirts and whatever else there is. Whenever I take her to the park or for open door activity, I make sure she is wearing shorts or capri's, more for convenience. Because a frock or skirt is more restrictive of movements and I don't want her to be hindered by her dress. And DD also has this short summer crop, which, combined with her attire, makes her look like a little boy.
So most people whom we meet at the park or the roads say "Oh, look at that little boy.." to their kid(s). Initially I used to feel upset, but now I have gotten so used to it that I give them a hearty grin and point out that I have a girl. I even add cheekily "See, her ears are pierced". While some of them just carry on with the conversation, there are a few that trail off saying "Oh she was wearing shorts, so I thought...".
But nothing can beat the remarks made by this neighbor of mine. She seemed to be a friendly lady and we had always been nice to each other. One day, she asks me in a conspiratorial whisper "Do you dress your daughter in shorts, because you always wanted a son?" I was so angry I didn't trust myself to open my mouth. Thankfully DD was perched on my arms, or I might have slapped her.
Now, is this something to do with Chennai, with its so-called conservative outlook? I don't know. I see quite a few girls (school-going and college) wearing shorts. But when I go shopping for DD, I have to go to the "boys section" to pick up shorts ! In fact, I have seen very little gender-neutral clothes at this age, where actually there is plenty of scope for such. Does that mean it is okay to wear shorts only after you grow up, when people can figure out your gender?
Years ago, I went to a toy store and told the guy that I needed to buy a gift for a 2 year old. "Boy or Girl?" he asked. At that point, I didn't think much about it. But now I get irritated when I think of it. Oh yeah.. we need to get dressed-up Barbie dolls and kitchen-sets for girls, and nice shining cars for the boys. Why do we need to start the stereotyping so young? Let the kids wear what is comfortable, and play with toys that are sensible. DD continues to wear shorts and whatever toys DH & I have got her are all gender-neutral. She has a couple of dolls that were gifted by others, and at this age, she seems no more interested in her dolls than in any other toy. If, at a later age, due to peer-influence, she wants to wear frilly frocks and play with Barbies, I am fine with that. But I don't want to try and force her into the gender mould.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Many many languages

We have decided to bring up DD to be bilingual at home. So I speak to her in Tamil, and DH speaks to her in Malayalam, our respective mother tongues. Since I know Malayalam well, I also try to repeat whatever I tell her in Malayalam. As a result, she has picked up a bit of both, although she speaks mostly in Tamil, with snippets of Malayalam thrown in. I sometimes wonder if she will end up being confused about the 2 languages - but I know quite a few bilingually-raised children who speak both languages fluently by age 4. So I reasoned to myself that she will be fine. Now that DD has started day-care, she is being exposed to English. And is picking up quite a few words and phrases from there. Little did I know how muddled DD's mind was, till this happened:

Me : Enna cartoon pakkare? (Which cartoon are you watching)
DD : "Many many Noddies" (This being the title of the Noddy cartoon she was watching)

The next day, we were watching flowers in our small garden below. And in an attempt to boost DD's mathematical skills, I ask her "Chinnu, evvlavu poo irukku, count pannu" (Can you count the number of flowers? "Poo" meaning flower in Tamil & Mal). Pat came the reply: "Many many poo-s". I was dumbstruck and then almost broke my sides laughing.

Well, if more than one Noddy is termed "Noddies", DD had assumed logically that more than one "poo" is "poo-s". I comforted myself thinking that her languages may be a bit muddled, but her logic and reasoning were working quite fine.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wicked Maniac

Potter-mania has gripped me. Tomorrow is the D-Day. Yes, I have pre-ordered the book. Just dying to lay my hands on it. But my problem begins after that. How am I to find time to read it? DD normally clamors for every minute of attention whenever I am around, and it's going to be very difficult for me to sit and read peacefully for even 30 mts.

And that's what I have been wickedly plotting about. On how I will distract DD to other things and find time to read. Her nanny is off this Sunday and I am thinking of taking her to an enclosed childrens' play area for a few hours - all because I am salivating over that uninterrupted time to read the Deathly Hallows. Another wicked thought that flashed through my mind was to pretend illness on Sunday so that I can get DH to take over DD for the whole day! Of course, I know he is gonna see right thru it and so, this plan doesn't work at all. As a last ditch effort, I have even got DD a new book and a new Barney DVD, and kept them away for the weekend.
And if all these plans fail, I will have to stay up all night to read the book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


There are some signs that you choose to ignore, because you don't want to see them. This was one such. I knew I had them, I saw them every single day and yet chose to ignore them. Well, I couldn't wish them or worry them away, so I didn't bother.

Until the other day, when I walked into the beauty parlour to get my eyebrows done, and the young, enthusiastic girl who was doing it poses the question: "Ma'm, how about coloring your hair?". I might not have looked very receptive, so she adds "Not a lot, you know, we can just do streaks for you, enough to cover the strands of grey". I remember mumbling something inaudibly about trying it the next time around.

So it's official and people have started noticing it! Beyond age 30, most of the world, or at least most of the world on the other side of 30, looks at you as if you are a triceratops that somehow lived too long. Mad Momma had done a post on a list of things to do before 30. Great list, but aahhh,.. it was a brutal reminder of the 30-divide. And now, this incident to add insult to injury.

I only hope i don't grey so fast that when I drop DD at school, her friends ask "Why does your grandma drop you always - where's your mom?"

Friday, July 13, 2007

Working from home

The last couple of weeks, I have started working from home partly. On most days, I get back from office by 3 PM or so, and then continue working from home for the next 2-3 hours. I also try to work from home fully for 1 or 2 days a week. Until this, I never gave a thought to the complexities of working from home. Now as I have started doing it, I realize how tough it is. Some of the key pain-points I had:

- Settling down and Ergonomics: We have a PC and an office chair, but it is not a very comfortable to be in for long periods. The fact that I use my laptop at home (all data related to work being in it) is more of a discomfort, since I have to displace the desktop monitor, arrange my lappie and dock all the stuff in. I know this sounds like I am ultra-lazy, but I really don't fancy doing this everyday.

- Phone: I got into a teleconference with a huge team.. and didn't realize how much noise my fan was making, until someone in the call asked "What is that background noise? Is someone outside?". I sheepishly said it was my fan and switched it off. Even the A/C makes considerable noise, and sometimes the rain that patters down on the a/c unit on our window is such a nuisance. I realized that I certainly need a telephone instrument with a "mute" button. The background noise will still come thru when I have to talk, but at least I can mute it off otherwise.

- Answering the door-bell: People tend to assume that because you are home, and back from work, you are free. So initially I ended up answering the doorbell to this neighbour who came for a friendly chat, the apartment security who came to report on something and the ironing lady who came to collect clothes. DD's nanny would invariably be doing something with her and I found myself answering the door quite often. I have come to realize that this will not work at all. So I tell the nanny to assume that I am not around, lock myself in the room, and have curbed my tendency to poke my head out every time the door bell rings.

- DD's expectations: She is not used to me working from home. Previously, when I was working full day, whenever she saw me walking in from work, she knew it was "Amma time", in which she would monopolize me and shoo away (or scream/yell away) anyone who as much as tried to come near me. MIL bore the brunt of this most of the time - she would typically try to explain some of the day's happenings to me as soon as I came back. DD would scream and yell at her grandmother for stealing her air-time. I would politely pretend to listen to her, since my attention would also be fully on DD. Well, I am digressing - So, now when I come back home, DD still expects it to be "Amma time". And I just don't have the heart to disappoint her. So I give in for 30 mts, then divert her onto some activity, and slither away to work when she is busy. So far she has not protested and has been quite nice about it.

-Perceptions: Somehow, working from home gives people the impression that one doesn't have all that much to do. And I hate this perception. DH is in the same industry and knows very well that it is tough to work from home. Even so, one morning, he says " Hey I need this after-shave, missed buying it last weekend. Can you do me a favor - you get home early anyway, could you buy this for me?". I pounced on him and gave him a huge lecture on how people assume that "work from home" means "no work" - suffice to say that the poor man now thinks twice before he makes a statement about me being "at home".
It is totally a different matter that I found time to stop by Health&Glow on the way home and buy a shampoo for DD and some knick-knacks for myself the next day - hee hee - Point is that DD cannot make assumptions that I am jobless because I bought her a shampoo.

So if any one of you still thinks that work from home is easy, and fun, know that you are horribly wrong. It is definitely advantageous in a situation like mine, where you want to be physically present at home. But if you are a control-freak like me, it is so hard to be physically present in one place and not respond to the stimuli around you. And it takes some practice and patience to be able to function at the same productivity from home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A game of chess

DD engrossed in a game of chess :-) From our vacation in Munnar

Where has my little baby gone?

I have been going through a surge of emotions these last 2 weeks, often swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum to another, so much so that DH thinks that I am finally losing it. And I think I agree with him this time.

The whole turmoil started in early June, when I started sending DD to a play-school. I know that most people consider 1 year 10 months too early to start a kid even on playschool, but considering that my MIL was going back to Kerala, and the fact that I could not digest the idea of leaving DD alone with her nanny all day long, this was the best I could do. So, after agonizing for many days and nights and contemplating leaving my job (for the zillionth time since DD was born), I decided to (a) send her to play school for a few hours every morning and (b) move to a lighter role at work, something that would allow me to get back home by 3-4 PM and continue working from home. This way, I planned that DD would be alone with her nanny for a window of only 4 hrs, of which she would be napping for 2 hrs.

After filtering through half a dozen schools in our neighbourbood, I had narrowed down to 2 schools. One was a play school running out of a house, had a small play area with sand, slide, caged rabbits et al for the kids. But the insides of the school were a bit weary with age, not so bright. But I was okay with the teachers that I met. Now this school's philosophy was that any kid below age 2 should be accompanied by a parent or nanny during the session. Initially this did not sound like a big problem to me, since the nanny could anyway be with DD.
The second place was even closer home - actually on the same street as the first one, both being 5 mts walk from my home, one of my first criteria during the filtering. This one was a full time day-care that provided half-day options. The curriculum was U.S based and the entire place was done up very bright and in cheerful colors. It was centrally air-conditioned and very clean, provided CCTV and promised to make live feeds from school available on the web - a la US style. The only thing I felt it lacked was a bit of open space for the kids. The other thing I viewed with mild inhibition was the fact that this day-care insisted on providing its own snacks and food for the kids.

And so after long debates and discussion,most of which involved me talking animatedly on the pros and cons and DH nodding silently and thoughtfully with his cuppa chai (so much so that I felt the debate and discussion was actually with myself), we decided (he finally opened his mouth and gave his view) that the first school had an edge over the second because of the open play area and because they have been around for a longer time and have the experience. So what if the nanny had to accompany DD for 2 months?

And so we started. On the first day, I went with DD and sat with her through the session, which was short and sweet, conducted by the head of the school - a very seasoned, experienced lady who sang and danced with the kids. From Day 2, the other kids were on their own while DD continued to be accompanied by me or her nanny, since she was the only one below 2 years in the group. The days that I went in, I found, much to my disappointment, that the teachers that handled this group were not the ones I had originally met!! I was completely shocked - these teachers had a language/diction problem, could not handle the crying children well and totally lacked the ability to hold the kids' attention. To explain what I mean, whenever I sing a song to DD, I sing it in a loud voice, with a lot of expression and action - and she stares at me, trying to absorb it all. Children love exaggeration and need to see a lot of action/expression to hold their interest. The teachers in DD's class would start singing "Old Mc Donald" in a whisper, with an expression that one has at a funeral - and whatever little attempts they were making at singing, would promptly be drowned in some unsettled kid's tears. DD would sit glued to me or her nanny, and refuse to get off our lap.

At first I thought this would change with time, but as weeks rolled by, and DD started even resenting the word school, I realized that this will not get us anywhere. To add to the complications, MIL had already left. I had taken a month off from work, anticipating that DD would take that much time to settle in school.. and now was soon running out of that time.

3 weeks into the school, I decided one day that this was not working. I had to take a chance and try putting her in the second school cum day-care that I had considered. That was the only option I had, apart from giving up my job and staying home with her. Well, the nanny was great with her and she too loved her nanny, and many friends pointed out to me that I could leave her with the nanny, but to me, that was ruled out - for a few hours, yes, but not for the whole day when I was at work, close to 9 hrs. You could ask me what difference it makes - but I guess it is in the mind, and my mind concocted all kinds of stupid images. And so, the decision was made to shift her to the new school. At least I thought, it looked more bright and cheery inside.

We went on a week's vacation to Munnar in June end. I really needed a vacation, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but well, that is fodder for another post. To come back to this, DD started going to the new place after we came back. The first day, when I left her inside, she cried. And I had to come out, since this place insisted that kids will cry the first few days and that they will take manage the kids. They would call the parent only if the kid got into uncontrollable crying or wheezing. I felt a tear rolling down my cheek as I went out - it was so damn difficult to let go. I felt I was the most wicked parent in the whole world, leaving my baby to cry in a strange place, with strange people. I sat waiting for the clock to tick away and ran back to pick her up after 2 hrs. She came out smiling, but told me she had cried in school (yes, she definitely knows how to make me feel guilty). Day 2 was better than day 1 - I had expected her to protest loudly and cry on day2, since she knew from the Day1 experience that she was going to be left alone. But she only whimpered a bit as she was taken over by her teacher. DD continued to get better each day, and today, when DH dropped her at school, she actually turned back, gave him a sunny smile and walked away into the play-room. He came and reported this to me, and I felt a barrage of conflicting emotions - can you feel happy and sad at the same time? I felt just that.

Happy that she had settled down comfortably- something I had prayed so much for. Sad because in a way, she has grown up. She was not my clingy baby anymore.. I could suddenly visualize her growing up, passing many years and stages and leaving us with a smile, to build a life of her own. I remarked so to to DH, half-expecting him to say that I was mad, but he calmly said " Yes, she will. And why are you feeling sad for that?". It wasn't me wallowing in sadness, but some part of me missed the loss of innocence that came with her growing up. Some really selfish part of me that wanted to enjoy that innocence that is portrayed in her deeds like biting my nose (yes, she does.. and proudly says "amma mookku kadichu"). If growing up is about making her own decisions, then also I think she has taken the first big step - by going to the school of her choice, rather than ours!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I'm alive..

I haven't posted anything for more than 2 months now. There were so many changes going on in my life and I was trying my best to cope with all of them. It was not that I did not have time, but I just did not have the energy to write.

I am quite sure that the few people who used to visit my blog, would have stopped long before. I almost felt tempted to stop writing for good.. But then something inside me kept nudging me to write.

To list some of the changes in the past 2 months:

- I had a change in my workplace, moving out of one project to another
- My MIL, who has been helping me out with DD the past 9 months, went back to Kerala
- DD started play-school
- I started exploring part-time/flexi-working options to manage work & DD

If anyone happens to read this post, I hope they would understand how stressful the combination of the above changes would have been. In any case, I have managed to survive these changes.. and thrive. Will write more about the details in further posts.

To mention the happier moments, we went on a week's vacation to Munnar. It was the PERFECT getaway. It was also our first vacation as a family - DH, DD and myself. And I came back feeling fresher than I have in the past few months.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I was distraught and sensed myself to be in the verge of a nervous breakdown. I had no clue how to handle this situation. My heart was thumping loud, my palms sweaty, and my poor addled brain was sending distress signals in as many ways as it could. DD was screaming loudly and trying to kick herself free. Tears were streaming down her soft cheeks. My heart was almost breaking and I decided I couldn’t watch this anymore. I held DD close to myself, in an attempt to assure her that I am with her through this. That only made her more miserable – she looked at me with pleading eyes as if to ask me how I could be so unconcerned at her agony. Would she ever trust me again? A sudden thought came to my mind – I could pick her up and try to run away from this place now. It may not be easy, but I could try. And then I thought of the consequences – and I resigned myself to sitting here. Both DD and I had to live through this. There was no way out – no escape.

Ten minutes later, I got off the chair, holding my whimpering daughter close to my chest. My knees felt weak with relief. All this while, I was so angry with this man and now, when I looked at him, I felt sorry for him. The poor guy gave me a weak smile – he looked like he had been hit by a truck. For the amount of pressure that he had been subjected to, he had done an admirably good job. Small, soft, dark tresses lay scattered all around the chair and some of it was stuck on my clothes too. I felt too tired even to shake them off – I was so embarrassed now that I just wanted to get out. I quickly thanked the guy and walked off to the counter to pay the bill for my daughter’s first hair-cut.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Being "Secretary"

Almost 2 years back, DH and I moved in to our newly built apartment, still smelling fresh of cement, paint and varnish. We were kind of proud of our nest, for it had been a one-year project for us that dominated most of our discussions and almost all our weekends. I was into the third trimester of pregnancy when we finally moved into the place, in spite of neighbors and friends cautioning us not to move houses during pregnancy (based on local popular belief that it is not good for the mom and baby). We were very sure we wanted to move, because of many reasons including space and the difficulty in moving post-baby (eeksss.. can’t imagine it) but the most important reason was that we wanted our little one to come home to this place from hospital.

The week before we moved in, we attended the meeting to form our building’s residents association, convened by our builder. When we went, we didn’t expect it to be anything more than a get-together. We had seen and heard of many apartment associations with bitter in-fights and wrangling over operational issues and water shortage solutions. Some of these battle tales would be enough to put Indian tribes to shame. But our new building had only 7 apartments, and we thought things should be pretty smooth. And they were, I should say, a bit too smooth for good. When we went into the meeting, an animated debate was on and we could sense heat in the air.
The builder was trying to have a President, a Secretary and a treasurer elected for the building… and no one wanted to take any of these posts. Each owner was listing out the top 10 reasons why he or she could not take up the post.
4 of the owners said they were going to let out their apartments, and hence could not do much because of their physical absence. That seemed genuine, although that was also debated on. The other 2 also explained to all of us why they could not take anything up. DH quickly gave me an accusing glare – I had pulled him out of a Sunday afternoon nap into this! When it came to our turn, we explained our situation - A working couple, expecting a baby in 2 months. How could anyone dream of us taking up something?

But the Gods were not so merciful. All that the builder wanted to do was to form the association and wash his hands off. So the discussion went on and on.. until we (THEY) decided that the 3 families of owners who will continue to reside in the apartment, should take up the 3 posts. Apartment 7’s owner, being an elderly lady, jumped on to the President’s post, as that is the least demanding of the three. Apt 5 (working lady, with 2 kids and husband in the US) and Apt 6 (yours truly) looked at each other. She had despair in her eyes and said she was okay for either post, thereby giving me the choice (Ha ha!). We had lost a lot of peace and a neat amount of our own money when DH was the “Treasurer” of our previous building. Fresh from that memory, we decided we would take up the “Secretary” post. When we were asked whose name to put in, DH innocently volunteered my name since the President and Treasurer were ladies too. He's a Houdini when it comes to things like this.

And so I started my term as Secretary of the building. It was after we moved in that I realized the complexity of life as the Secretary. The Secretary was the jack-of-all-trades for the building, always expected to be on-call for crisis, complaints and general cribs. I, who have a tough time maintaining my personal documents, had to take charge of and maintain the building’s key documents including all those pertaining to the stand-by generator and intercom. My intercom would ring day in and day out – once it would be the security agency wanting to see me, another time it would be the corporation guy calling to collect tax. And then the apartment’s cleaning lady would show up at my door to complain that she was underpaid. I managed all this for a while since I was on maternity leave, waiting for my baby to be born.

And then, 5 days after due-date, after I had answered umpteen phone calls from friends and relatives calling to find out if I had gone to hospital, DD made her entry into this world. During the first few days of parenthood, I was struggling to get into some kind of routine and mainly, get some sleep in between her endless feed and nappy times. I would spend an hour crooning to DD, putting her to sleep, and heave a sigh of relief and lie down beside her. Exactly 5 mts later, when I would have just started sailing into dream world, the intercom would ring and the watchman would announce that there was no water in the sump and we would need to order water from outside. The ringing of the intercom would invariably wake DD up, leaving me fuming with anger and helplessness. To cut the long story short, I had some highly stressful moments that even made me rue the day we decided to move into our apartment.

Things have become better in the last 1.5 years. One of myTreasurer's employees (she runs her consulting firm) doubles up as the “Manager” for our building. I only need to provide the guidance. The initial teething problems of the building have also reduced.
I still have strange issues to deal with, like this one. (Detour warning)
The Treasurer lady’s son has this penchant for rare pets. One day he decided he wanted to have a hen for a pet. And he brought in this beautiful spotted hen and let it romp around in the landscaped lawn and garden in our apartment’s common area. You can imagine the amount of furore it caused. There were murmurs and complaints from all over the place and I dutifully passed them on to the Treasurer, looking as objective and impersonal as I could. She said she did not have the courage to break her son’s heart. So I let the matter rest for a while. A few days later, things reached melting point when the restless hen clawed away at another neighbour’s new Toyota Corolla, resulting in visible scratches. The owner of the car was screaming murder (understandably) – the Treasurer saw sense and decided to deport the offending fowl to Pondicherry, her native place. She also agreed to compensate the damage to the car. Peace prevailed.

Many a time, the pressure of being a working mom with a toddler, and the additional burden of secretary-ship of a building gets to me. But one thing I cannot dispute is that this role has provided me with a perspective that I don’t get as part of my normal work or life. Just like being a parent has taught me so many things, including patience and humility. Many experiences that I would not have had and people I would not have met came my way – the fuming tenant unhappy with the money paid on building maintenance, the slimy-looking corporation tax-inspector expecting bribe, the inebriated owner of a security agency promising excellent services, and most of the residents who do not even bother to enquire, as long as everything is fine. Stuck that I am with this, I am now consoling myself saying that this is a way to connect to the real world and learn a thing or two from there :-)

Monday, April 02, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things

Recently, I spent 10 days at my hometown, Trivandrum (Kerala), with my father who was recovering from a sudden illness. And then I realized that in the last decade or so, this was the first time I was there for 10 days at a strerch! The city had changed, but then the changes were not so drastic or jerky to make me feel out of place. The “spirit” of the place remains untouched, for better and for worse. Although Trivandrum is officially a “city”, when I compare it to Chennai, I still feel very much that it is a big town. The roads that used to appear normal-sized 10 years back, now appear to be small by-lanes to me.

My absence has also endeared me to certain aspects of the place, which I hold close to my heart and sorely miss in Chennai.

- I’ll begin with the obvious - the climate. The summer in Trivandrum lasts for 2-3 months. The remaining part of the year is real “cool” in all senses. And the air feels fresher and cleaner as you breathe it in.

-The water – absolutely wonderful, sweet-tasting water and an abundant supply of it (as of today, but soon this state of affairs might be obsolete). The greenery – soothing to the eye and the mind

- Playing “pallankuzhi” (I have no clue what this translates to in English – it is an ancient game, similar to a board game) and having nice little chats with my “thathi” (Paternal grandmother) where she would update me on all the “agraharam” gossip and more. Thathi is this virtual database, who knows all details and family history of most of the local population, including the date, month and star under which they were born. She never fails to amaze me with her memory. What is interesting is that whenever she narrates a recent event in any family, she also provides a historical perspective and analysis – she is almost like NDTV 24 X 7 that way:-)

- The small establishments inside Trivandrum’s Fort area, which sell yummy home-made delicacies at a very affordable rate. If I could, I would bring that entire stretch of "Puthen Street" and other “mamis” to Chennai. Chennai does have its share of these, but nothing will compare to the “sevai and puliseri”, "veppila-katti" and other such typical Palakkad/Kerala stuff these mamis dish out

- The lovely mix of Malayalam and Tamil that is spoken in and around my place. Actually it is neither pure Tamil (what on earth is that?), nor Malayalam, but that hybrid is my mother tongue – the language I think in. It is so musical (ok..ok… I am biased and unashamedly so) and I can smell traces of it even in parts per million ratio. For example, I was once looking for a place to rent in Chennai and a broker took me to this elderly gentleman who had an apartment to rent. The moment that person started speaking (in English, mind you), I knew that he was a one of my kind – a Tamil Brahmin who had some Kerala connection. At the end of the visit, I asked him about this and he said that although he had not been there for the last 30 years, his mother’s roots were in Kerala. I am kind of proud of this ability of mine to sniff it out :-)

-The ubiquitous “bakeries” that sell hot puffs, cutlets, fresh baked bread and what not. I remember visiting my mother’s office in Statue Junction during vacations and going out with her to Santha Bakery for evening snacks. I can still feel the freshness of the butter buns and coconut pastry she used to get me. Chennai doesn’t have so much of bakeries and the quality is also sadly missing

- When I was a teenager, a shopping expedition meant a trip to the local “fancy store”. Some of these fancy stores would stock up all the accessories and trinkets a girl could ever dream of – matching clips, lip color, eye liners and what not. We girls used to enter these stores as a bevy and give the poor sales guy a tough time – and in the end, buy one teeny-weeny hairclip, and then haggle for it!. When I first landed in Chennai, I was actually searching for “Fancy stores” for the first few months. Yes, Chennai has high-end cosmetic chains like “Health and Glow” but I can’t tell you how I miss the fancy stores. It’s the difference between the mom-and-pop grocery stores and Walmart :-)

-The sheer aesthetics and craftsmanship of the buildings (houses) and the woodwork – even if you look at apartment complexes, the kind of finish that I see back home is totally missing in Chennai. As for the carpentry work, nothing I have seen in Chennai, branded or otherwise, can come close to some of the regular and not-so-expensive stuff done by the local carpenters in Kerala. It puzzles me, actually!

- Temples in Kerala, the cleanliness and the piety in the atmosphere. Most of these temples have their strict routines in terms of pujas and abhishekams, the rigour of which added to the aura of the temple. I feel that the discipline in these temples emphasises the godliness and enhances the experience of the devotee who goes to the temple. I don't know of temples in Kerala that have separate queues based on how much money one can pay to see the God - And having been brought up there, I still cannot accept this practice.

Having said all this, there are also a few peeves and pet-hates that I have about Trivandrum. But I think that should go into a separate post some other day since I don’t want to spoil the sweetness of this one.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A day to remember

Last Thursday was Womens' day. When I was growing up, I had never heard of Womens' day, probably because it was never in the news then. But I do hope that "Womens' day" turns out to be more than just a day to arrange events and have song and dance programmes. Beyond these celebrations, what is the state and significance of a woman in today's world?
The feminine is often associated with gentleness, peace, kindness and everything that is calm and comforting. How many times do we associate women with strength and perseverance, strong will and courage? Historically, from the right to education to voting rights,the right to choose their partner to the right to inherit property, everything has come to women at the end of a struggle. Including a wife's right to live after her husband's death, and her right to remarry, it has all been a fight to come out of the shackles of "society", whose rules are largely laid down by men. True - there have been a few regions/matriarchal societies where there was more focus and respect on women, but for the larger part, the world was and still is "a man's world". And women have waged many battles and continue to do so in this world.

In many parts of the world, having a male child, who supposedly carries the lineage forward, still matters a lot. India and many Asian countries still prevent prospective parents from knowing the baby's gender as a measure to prevent female foeticide. Female infanticide is prevalent in many nations across the world. Crimes against women are on the rise, so much so that one almost shudders to look at the news. Even babies and girls are not spared. Man is supposedly differentiated from animals because of his "free will" and "ability to think - these men are no different from animals, probably worse off. This is womens' most basic battle - for SURVIVAL and SECURITY.

There are so many poor women who work hard for their living - they support their drunkard husbands and their children with their income. And still continue to remain married, either because they have been taught to live with problems or because they feel their marital status protects them from abuse from other men. In the latter scenario, they choose the lesser evil - abuse by the drunken husband. Most of them put on a brave face and never look like they have problems - some of them have their own support systems and networks in the form of other women who go through similar issues. This is the battle for SELF-RESPECT and DIGNITY.

One would imagine that all these are problems of the poor and the uneducated. But the roots of the gender bias run quite deep. It is sometimes covered by education and "culture" and notions of gender-equality.Based on the economic stature and the level of development, there is only a difference in manner in which the bias manifests itself. But it does rear its ugly face everywhere. A number of middle-class working women have no control over their income. Working women are faced with the enormous pressure of managing their careers and their families - most of them get little or no help from their spouses. To give up their career would mean giving up all that they have worked for. So these women bear the cross and do all it takes to keep home and work going. Hold on - you might say, the situation is largely better in developed countries in the West. But then, some of the most developed cultures, I feel, have the most medieval ways of looking at a woman. Hilary Clinton's recent statement that one of the downsides of being a woman is that her hairstyle could get discussed more prominently than her policies, is the most powerful example of this "subtle" degradation in Western cultures. Here, women are waging the battle for EQUALITY in a true sense.

Womens' day is probably the day to look at all of this and much more that women grapple with in their everyday battles at all these levels. It is a time for the women to look at themselves, and pause awhile to bask in the glory of what they have achieved in the face of adversity. It is also the time for men to look at the women in their life, and thank them for all their contributions to enriching their lives.