Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Vote counts Mr Thackeray

Hubby and I have enrolled into the voter's list in Pune. The procedure was a lot easier than we'd anticipated.

Now there are two more votes that will count. 

Suresh Kalmadi: We've been in Pune for just about three years and noticed that the only time you actually made your presence in this city was during the CYG. Else it seems you care two hoots about the constituency that took you to the Lok Sabha. We've seen your pictures flashed in several Page 3 dos. But seldom seen a comment or remark about the poor state of this city. What have you done for the city in these five years? Now you come back begging for votes and claim you have an action plan for Pune called Vision 2020. Where was this foresight when you were elected the last time around? Would Pune have the worst traffic in the country? Would it bear the brunt of 'no planning' and an absolutely lackadaisical attitude of the powers that be on all fronts, including civic issues and the rapid urbanisation? Would Pune have gone from Pensioner's Paradise to Paradise Lost (I take the liberty of using John Milton's famous poem)? Think about it: Do you really deserve my vote?

MNS Candidate: I am a North Indian who is a voter in Maharashtra. Now! How the hell did that happen. Fortunately for the country, the CONSTITUTION still views us as 'Indians' first! Can you get past the anti-North Indian tirade and get my Vote? Didn't think you would be interested. But mark my words when I say, "My vote counts Mr Thackeray."

D S Kulkarni: Whaaaatttt? How come? Shocking! How can Mayawati override the VERY reason BSP gained popularity since the days of Kanshi Ram? Dalit politics, caste politics...forgotten to get votes? Whatever happened to "ideology"? Tut! Tut!

Choosing someone from a cesspool of 'politicians' is going to be tough call. But I am certain that my vote will the end of the day!

Friday, March 20, 2009

All the way

When somebody loves you 
It's no good unless he loves you - all the way 
Happy to be near you 
When you need someone to cheer you - all the way 

Taller than the tallest tree is 
That's how it's got to feel 
Deeper than the deep blue sea is 
That's how deep it goes - if its real 

When somebody needs you 
It's no good unless he needs you - all the way 
Through the good or lean years 
And for all the in-between years - come what may 

Who knows where the road will lead us 
Only a fool would say 
But if you'll let me love you 
It's for sure I'm gonna love you - all the way, all the way 

No. I didn't write it. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kids grow up real fast. There are a lot of things I missed chornicling when my daughter was growing up. No blogs you see. But with my son, I've done a fair bit of memorable writing; stories I hope will bring a smile to his face when he grows up as it does mine when I read them.

Was prompted to write this post because every time we (Oorja, Abhir and I) are travelling together (minus the dad), using the restroom becomes a big issue. A few years ago, Abhir didn't understand the difference. Now he does. He stops in his tracks, be it on an airport, or a restaurant, claiming "This is a girl's toilet." He refuses to come in and do his business.

The big problem with letting him go to a gents restroom is that the urinals are too high for him and sometimes, especially in cinemas Ive been told, they do not have a closed door toilet that this little fellow can use. And frankly speaking, I am uncomfortable having a stranger help him do the job! So I just insist that he accompanies me and his sister to the ladies room.

One of my friends once remarked "Tell him to enjoy using the ladies' room while he can!" Anyway, it is a tug of war and I usually win. I know before long he will be old enough to move to the opposite door and that will be yet another 'oh he's grown up!' moment.

I can also remember very clearly the time when as a two year old he had to be taught to pee standing up. I blogged about it then and can't resist posting it here. Have fun reading!

How do you teach a little boy to pee standing up….especially if the teacher (in this case, ME) has no personal experience in the field?

It is not as easy as I’d imagined and soon found out… 

Step one: Take off the shorts.

Step two: Pull in a stool and place it right in front of the WC.

Step three: Put the bachcha on the stool facing the WC with you standing close behind him. {He may look like he is about to fall head long into it coz he has never seen the WC from this angle, and is majorly curious. So, hold on to him REAL TIGHT!}

Step four: Coo sweet words of initiation….that may go something like this, “hi lil baby, wannna pee? See how nice this big potty is? Wow…lil baby’s gonna pee in here!” 
TIP: Make it sound like a nursery rhyme coz two year olds think any activity that can be undertaken with singing is FUN.

Step five: Hold his penis. Now this is the toughest part of all. His penis is so small, you have to hold it with two fingers and will still be scared of hurting him coz YOU don’t know how much pressure on the thing is painful and how much pressure, acceptable…..

Step six: With trepidation, hold it and aim….and wait. Coz the pressure has to build up from inside…especially with my son, who has never been able to pee with the shoo and shaa sounds….

Before we can proceed to step seven, in walks the five year old sister with the elder sis gait and command. My first thought, 
why didn’t I lock the door?

Sister - “What are YOU doing mama?”
Me - “Teaching Abhir to pee.” 
Sister - “Why?” 
Me - “So he can pee like papa.”
Sister - “Papa stands and pees?”

Me - “Yes. All boys stand and pee.” 
Sister - “Oh. Can I watch?” 
Me - “Ummmm…ok.”

She leans over your left shoulder, peering into the WC, asking” mama, can I touch it?” She actually means that she just wants to help you by holding his thing for him. However, the being with the delicate apparatus senses immediate danger and in his two year old prattle shouts, "No. No didi. Mama touch,” followed by “go didi. Go….” 

A fist fight seems almost inevitable at this point.

By this time, you are out of patience coz you have been doubled over, peering into the WC and let me assure you; it is not a convivial sight at all….while you’d rather be elsewhere, doing something less strenuous on your back muscles, eyes and nose. Moreover, by this time, the muscles in your fingers are aching from holding the apparatus as lightly as possible. 

Suddenly Step seven is activated: A stream…that the two year old is thrilled at viewing and wants to shove off your (now) expert fingers to take complete control. Thankfully, by the time the jostling is over, (with hollers of “stop it Abhir” by the sis in the background), the ordeal is done with.

Step eight: Pull up the shorts and get out of the loo. Had enough of examining it from such close quarters for a day.

Ofcourse, every experience teaches you something and it is this great insight that I intend sharing through this post.

So my number one tip for moms of lil boys who have to be taught how to pee standing up: LEAVE IT TO THE DADS. 

This is one father-son activity I assure you, you will be happy to be excluded from!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recession? Humbug!

"Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control. " - Tom Landry

There are inappropriate things people do at totally inappropriate times. Take the Holi bash of Vineet Jain, Managing Director of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), publishers of the Times of India for example. Touted to be the biggest and the best bash in Delhi circuits, the photographs of this party were splashed all over TOI, even in the Pune Times. 

I am shocked.

BCCL is one company that amongst the other affected industries such as IT, has been cutting jobs left, right and centre. At the TOI Pune edition, people are being given pink slips as the management cites 'revenue falls' as a major reason. I have seen several people being given a couple of days notice to leave, amongst them people I have closely worked with over the past 18 months or so. The fear of more job cuts weighs heavy on the minds of the other staff, as performance is no longer the criteria. 

My brother who was employed with Zoom TV (a BCCL product) was given the pink slip a few days ago. 'Cost cutting' reason was cited. He has also been given less than a month's notice to look for another job. 

My brother's girl friend who was employed with was caught in a similar predicament and was given just one week to pack up and leave! This, when she was one amongst the top performers in her region. She didn't share a good rapport with the immediate boss and when he was asked to cut his team down, he simply axed her. 

It is common knowledge that some of the BCCL ventures such as are also in the red as far as revenue figures go and it is only a matter of time before more jobs are cut.

Losing a job is not simply about losing your source of income. You lose your self esteem, your confidence and your optimism when you are asked to resign because the company claims it can no longer afford to keep you on it's payrolls. In these tough recessionary times, finding another suitable opportunity is an uphill task. Meanwhile, your sense of self worth takes a battering, affecting your mental and emotional being.

How then, can Vineet Jain justify throwing such a lavish party when all the companies under his wing are chopping people's jobs to 'cut costs'? Shouldn't he set an example by cutting costs himself? Or is this 'loss of revenue' or claims of the effects of recession etc a mere garb to cut down expenses and lay people off? Does this also uphold the startling reality that employees of such companies are just coming to terms with, that the recession has hit THEM and not the bosses and owners of companies, whose lifestyle and expenses remain as they are?

Even if for a moment we assume that the man has the right to have a party for such a 'special' occasion (and yes, I am being very sarcastic here), should he splash the pictures all over the media? Isn't it a blatant subversion of the basic principles of decency?

And quite frankly, aren't all of India's corporate bigwigs, who are laying employees off as a matter of right (samjha karo bhai, recession hai), subverting procedures and contractual obligations such as mandatory notice periods etc (just because the employee will not seek redress in a court of law - who has the time or the money?) in their madness to 'cut costs' just as guilty as Jain? Aren't they victimising the employees claiming its "RECESSION"? 

"Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel." - Sam Walton

Clearly the corporate biggies of our country are not one of them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Indian way of life

The toughest thing about living in a home thats 8-10 years old is maintenance. Having lived in 'sarkari quarters' for about 11 years of our life together, my hubby and I are used to living in a home that demands a lot of your time and attention. 

Taps leak, cupboards don't close, pests are the norm of the day and of course, walls chip. I remember my consternation one day when a chunk of our balcony ledge just broke off and flew down 8 stories! Luckily it was the middle of the afternoon and there was no one under the building. 

The saving grace to all this maintenance work was the fact that the people needed to carry them out (carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons etc) were all a complaint away. In any fauji locality the maintenance is handled by a core group and all an officer/resident has to do is walk down to the complaint cell and make a written complaint. Their response time wasn't great and often we'd rant about how poorly they'd be equipped (once the plumber didn't have a wrench!!), or how there would always be a 'shortage' of essential spares etc. 

Nevertheless, whether we fought our way through or used the 'request' tactic, work almost always got done.  

Remember, this is also the phase when you live under severe budget constraints. So when you move into an apartment after being posted to a new city, you will wait for the maintenance group to carry out works for you, however long it takes. You simply cannot afford to get it done through an outside agency!

Out of the fauj for two and a half years and we've realised, the tough way, that these 'perks' and 'benefits' are actually priceless and quite irreplaceable. 

Today, it is impossible to find an electrician who will come home to fix things. It is too 'small' a job for them. They don't want to waste precious man hours fixing a couple of 5amp connections when they can be employed by a construction company doing contract jobs that possibly pay better. Ditto for a carpenter and plumber. 

So we are usually left high and dry when it comes to taking care of an apartment that is, as I mentioned, already over 8 years old. There are serious plumbing issues getting aggravated day by day. And even if we manage to convince someone to come work, we have to ensure that there is a substantial amount of work to make it worth his while (even if it means living with a broken table leg for months together).

Flip side, when we hear how people in Sweden or Finland manage their own repairs, it seems like a lesson worth emulating. A bit of hard work never hurt anyone but heck, do we really have it in us to take on such responsibility? Apart from stocking the home with adequate tools, we'd also have to keep spares. Would we do that? And time. Do we have the time for it? Can we ever get that independant? Will we ever get out of the Indian way of life? 

The trigger for this post is the fact that a cupboard door in the kids' room just fell off today, hanging as it was on three hinges fastened with one screw each. Oorja pulled the door open and felt it coming off, moved sideways swiftly, averting a potential and serious accident (the door is goddamn heavy!) The door crashed to the ground, and she is thankfully safe. Now the golden quetion on our minds is, when will it be fixed? 

If we are to go by our 'so far' experiences in Pune, it should take a couple of months! We could do it ourselves next weekend, but question is, would we?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

All for a charitable cause

He was articulate. A lot better than all those fumbling youngsters who ring a door bell in the middle of the afternoon, claiming to be Management Trainees representing a charitable organisation; looking for a few minutes of our precious time to update us on their good work, seeking (quite obviously) our 'help'. 

Most times I hear these people patiently, offer them a glass of water and usually end up giving them a cheque. I mentioned in a TAG previously that I cannot say NO to a charity. Me thinks this news has spread across the neighbourhood and there has been a sudden deluge of 'volunteers' seeking such 'help'. 

A few weeks ago I was forced to turn down a well meaning woman simply because she wanted me to shell out more than the 'reasonable' amount I was offering. I didn't quite like her tactic and politely asked her to leave. When she didn't, I woke hubby who was napping on a sunday afternoon, and asked him to show the good lady out. 

Anyways, here I was getting prepared to leave home on an important errand in the sweltering heat of the afternoon, when the door bell rang and there stood this...this...Greek God.

Tall, as good looking as they come...what got me was the way he spoke. Literally took my breath away. Quite simply, he has now raised the bar for such volunteers. 

Anyway, he came in and sat down and took me through the motions. Claimed he is an Engineer and does this simply as a volunteer (a ploy I didn't quite buy). Anyway, as is the norm, he got me to sign a cheque for an 'unmentionable' amount. No pressure. (I really think the charity is doing a GOOD job ;-)). I volunteered.

I wonder what it was. My present state of mind, wherein this simple interaction made me forget my burdens for a while? I have something for PYTs...?...(its wrong to classify him so, but heck he was!!) Or was it the ease with which we formed an instant connection (he is the son of an Army officer and he loves Delhi too)? Or his simple and extremely friendly manner? Or his total and absolute charm?

Ah! Who cares. The cheque should be in the Bank for clearance soon and although hubby darling is having second thoughts about it (wonder why), I am feeling a lot better than I have in the last couple of days. It was totally worth it!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The darkness within

The cursor blinks
and blinks and blinks
refusing to budge, move forward
It is vegetating
just sitting there
doing little else 
like me

Fingers move but words...
they're lost
they're lost too
The wandering mind 
the weary soul
go back and forth
past and present
with periodic precision
like the cursor
that just blinks
and blinks and blinks

It can't think or dream
ponder or reminiscence
desire or deviate
it just waits...
patiently, silently
waits for words
that mean something
to somebody
words that express, that speak
that light a fire
that quell the darkness
that surrender like the waterfall
that can change the world....

The to-do list grows longer 
the will goes weaker 
the darkness within overpowers
the end is not near
coz somewhere in the throes of this despair
it still waits
and blinks
and blinks and blinks....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is 8th March a landmark day for you?

I open the bunch of newspapers in the morning and splashed all over are International Women's Day stories. Are women safe? Do women in India have it all or is all this talk of equality etc a mere illusion? Inspiring stories of women achievers adorn the pages. Working women, non-working women, women with opinions, women with dreams.... I pour over the papers, read what some interesting and articulate women have to say.... 

Then I get up and go to the kitchen to whip up breakfast for the family. Discuss lunch plans with the hubby. He wants to take me out for a Play in the evening...there are two good ones showing in the city. But we discuss the practical difficulties (the children can't come and the plays are not meant for them; we have no one to baby sit them.) We may go out for dinner (which I am not so keen about since I want to avoid liquor and outside food for health reasons). We may just end up spending the sunday, like any other sunday: tidying up a bit, cooking a lot, checking emails, and maybe lazing in the afternoon.

So much for an International Women's Day celebration...a day that is supposed to...I don't know...light up my life, make others around me appreciate me more, make me appreciate women around me more, allow me the liberty to take time off household chores, hang out with friends???? 

But what if I can do all this and more the other 364 days a year? How can one day signify or change what I am and what people should expect out of me? How much does this ONE day matter?

Is 8th March really such a landmark day for you?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The First Born tag

I was tagged by the Indian Home Maker. I so enjoyed re-living those days.... Thank you IHM!

1. Was your first pregnancy planned?
Kinda. We'd been married almost four years and as usual, people (read relatives including both sets of parents) were starting to wonder if we were having fertility issues!!! Anyway, one long vacation we were brainwashed by my gran'ma who told us why we should have a child. On really bad days (when the kids have been too demanding) I recall her words and feel like the most patriotic citizen of our land. 

2. Were you married at the time?
I didn't wanna have a child even after before marriage it was quite unthinkable!!!

3. What were your reactions?
I felt like I was the first woman EVER to have the nausea, the cravings and the bloating (water retention). Matter of fact, I drove the hubby crazy with midnight demands for vanilla icecream with honey or some such absurd thing. I was also paranoid about the stretch marks from day 1 and despite all my precautions, I still got 'em :-(

4. Was abortion an option for you?
No. It was a well thought out, planned decision.

5. How old were you?
:-) Old enough to make maa remark that by that age she'd had me and my brother! And yet, in my mind I wasn't THAT old coz a lot of my friends were only just getting married.

6. How did you find out you were pregnant?
The usual. Morning sickness, a missed period....

7. Who did you tell first?
Hubby picked the report so technically he knew it first. The person I first called was Mom. Coz she'd been dying to have a grandchild.

8. Due date?
Was supposed to be 23 September.

9. Did you have morning sickness?
I don't throw up easily. So I was mostly nauseous, had a lot of acidity and just felt terrible in the first trimester. I was doing my Masters then and couldn't get myself to go to college each morning. 

10. What did you crave?
Icecreams. Throughout my pregnancy it was bloody hot in Visakhapatnam where we were posted then. I would crave for cold things: juices, iced tea and loads of icecreams.

11. Who/what irritated you the most?
The fact that here I was just getting used to having my body look and feel like it belonged on someone else, I'd had to contend with doing the normal, everyday things too...such as go to college, do my assignments, study for my exams, submit my dissertation etc, cook (even though H was undemanding, I had to eat too!!!), entertain once in a way and keep a good home. The pressure of all this got to me most days.

12. What was your first child's sex?
She is my darling baby doll.

13. Did you wish you had the opposite sex of what you were getting?
Gosh, never!!! For some reason, we always knew it'd be a girl. We didn't think of any boy names at all.

14. How much weight did you gain throughout the pregnancy?
12 kgs.

15. Did you have a baby shower?

16. Was it a surprise or did you know?
No baby shower.

17. Did you have any complication during the pregnancy?
She turned breech in the 37th week and the doc simply asked us to get prepared for a c-section after 2-3 weeks. I had done yoga throughout my pregnancy and placed an urgent call to my teacher (a darling elderly woman) who asked me to do a particular asana (sarvangasana or shoulder stand) for two weeks. Two weeks later, my doc was shocked to see in the ultrasound that the baby had turned! She called it a miracle :-) I call it faith.

18. Where did you give birth?
Cochin, Kerala.

19. How many hours were you in labour?
Three-four hours.

20. Who drove you to the hospital?
Was at the hospital for a routine check (we still had two weeks to go) when the water bag burst. Was wheeled in, labour was induced and in six hours (from the moment I entered the hospital), we had our bundle of joy in our arms.

21. Who watched you give birth?
The doc, nurses and the hubby.

22. Was it natural or c-section?

23. Did you take medicine to ease the pain?
Yes. I recall the doc administering me something that also made me sleep in between contractions.

24. How much did your child weigh?
2.6 kgs.

25. When was your child actually born?
330 pm IST.  H noted the time.

26. What was your reaction when the doctor announced the sex of the baby?
It was H who whispered in my ear "Its Oorja" (the name we'd long before decided.) I just smiled I remember...and as he squeezed my hand, I also felt the tears finding their way out; tears of relief...

27. What was your first reaction on seeing the baby?
As the nurse placed the bundle in the crook of my arm, I was totally zapped...emotional...happy and overjoyed...felt a medley of emotions simultaneously... 

28. Did you cry?
Yes. When mom came into the delivery room, with tears streaming down her face, and yet with a beaming smile, I cried. According to my brothers who were waiting outside the room, she cried through the hours I was inside as she heard my intermittent screams. After the baby was taken outside, the first thing she told the doc is "I want to see my daughter." My mom! Love you.

29. What did you name him/her?

30. How old is your first born today?
Old enough to fight with me and lay claim on my silver jewellery, clothes (especially skirts) and even footwear! She is nine!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Can we turn back the hands of time?

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened

~T.S. Eliot