Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Breathing Space

Too many young couples I have interacted with lately have used the term “breathing space” likening it to THE elusive factor in their intimate relationships. They complain that their partners do not allow them liberties to do things as they please. They lament the idea that their partners do not understand their need for “space”. “She does not let me be....”

After we were married, I smothered my husband with myself. I looked forward to spending all my time with him. I would even insist that he accompany me on our bi-monthly veggie shopping sprees. I simply wanted to be with him, reading love poems to him while the rain poured outside, cooking his favourite pasta, spending lazy sundays playing Scrabble, going on long bike rides across the rolling hills, or grabbing a late night meal at a 24 hour Coffee Shop.

I felt over powered by my love for him and I know that he felt the same way too. We rarely spent any time with friends. All we wanted was to be together. Somehow. Anyhow. Anywhere.

While he allowed me to drag him to the Cinema to catch a boring flick like An Interview with a Vampire, I tried to digest the raunchy and colourful medley of Telugu cinema. Even though he does not care for relatives and the baggage they entail, he understands why I have to be part of every ceremony we are invite to. We compromised. We adjusted.

Ultimately, if you love someone, you would be willing to surrender yourself to them; without insecurities and inhibitions; without any qualms or ego.

The Oxford Dictionary describes breathing space as “time to rest between periods of effort.” Unfortunately, in intimate relationships, one can never rest, and the effort must never cease. It’s the only way to make a relationship work.

November 2006

Friday, December 24, 2010

Parents can never get it right!

The other day my 11 year old complained.

"When I order something different in a restaurant and it doesn't taste nice you scold me for trying something new."

"And when I order Butter Chicken and Naan at a restaurant you say I should try something new!"

Ah! Parents! Bundles of contradictions.

How am I to explain to her that ordering a burger at a Vegetarian Idli-Dosa kind of place is never going to taste like McDonald's, and experimenting with a Afghani chicken or kebabs at a typical North-Indian/Mughlai restaurant is often a good change from the butter chicken and dal makhani???

At her age, we are strange and I am sure I thought my parents were...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Mommy ramble

Saw a cartoon the other day - an overweight man talking to his slim female partner - "Don't talk to me about eating healthy! I had a carrot once and it didn't help"

That could well be my son when he is 40! (Although I am certain he won't ever be overweight)...

Two nights ago, hubby forced a slice of carrot from the salad plate into his mouth. The fellow sat there with the piece of carrot in his mouth, refusing to chew. He didn't want to even taste carrot!

In 10 minutes, hubby went from cajoles to threats - to no avail!

Finally, after a flood of tears and sniffles, he was asked to spit the carrot and resume his dinner.

When we struggle to get this lad to eat I wonder where we went wrong.

Our daughter was a fuss pot as a child. But after she turned four and tasted the wonders that exist in this world (chicken, fish, Italian etc) she switched. She is a foodie - she not only eats almost everything that is cooked at home (including the karela, lauki and baingan), she also enjoys experimenting with cuisines and new fare.

The boy on the other hand gives us nightmares at mealtimes, often choosing to go hungry rather than eat what is being served.

Alternately, he throws tantrums for chocolate sauce/jam with rotis, cheese pizza, kurkure or some such innocuous demand that is met with an instant and almost involuntary reaction - NO!

I often tell my friends (in response to their refrain before a meal at their home - "What do your kids eat?"), "Daughter eats everything, and son eats nothing - so no problem there!"

But it IS a problem.

He is 7 but just 17 kgs...and his list of preferred food gets shorter by the day. The lad has never tasted Mango, never eaten a whole fruit after he turned two and has not enjoyed three full meals in one day in the longest time ever. He survives on air and our faith in God!

I am concerned and at the same time, confused. We can't force him, we can't educate him and we're just not able to influence him in ANY way!

My parents suggest patience. I am running out of that as well, especially when I have to buy clothes for him. His wardrobe is a stark reminder of our predicament - some of the clothes he wears are over four years old!

Friends have suggested that I should alter his routine, camouflage veggies in soups etc etc etc. There isn't a trick in the book I haven't tried.

All that is left is perhaps surgical readjustment of the brain circuits that control hunger.... A last resort that may work!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Smart @ 7

Me: "It is cold. Go wear your slippers..."

Him: Exasperated... "Yeaaaa.... I will!"

Me: Threatening... "Go wear them now...or you wait and watch!"

Him: "Ok. I will wait and watch..."


Monday, December 20, 2010

Song of birds

These days, I wake up to the sweet song of a cuckoo bird.... Some days the notes of its song are sweet and melodious and some days, relentlessly sharp and strained. Yet, I enjoy it tremendously because the song of a bird is an alien auditory treat for me.

Even as a child, I don't ever remember paying attention to the song of birds. Perhaps because I grew up in a land that is famous for one type of bird alone...the crow.... Everywhere you go in Kerala, you will hear them "caw".

As a child, I distinctly remember a crow snatching a sandwich from my hands as I stood munching in the balcony. The feel of its claws on my fingers is a sensation I remember to this day. I guess thats where my fear for birds started. I also remember my mom lamenting the assaults wreaked by crows on her drying mango slices (for that mmmmm pickle).

I am reminded of an incident from school, when I was in class VIII or IX; an incident that makes me smile to this day!

One afternoon I returned from my lunch break to find my wallet missing from my desk. Yep, at that age, I was very careless with my belongings and often misplaced my things in school. (I hope my daughter who recently joined FB is NOT reading this!)

My wallet contained the pocket money for the week. I was panic stricken and upon my friends' suggestion, decided to seek permission from the English teacher due to take her class during that period, to launch a search for my missing wallet.

The English teacher, Ms Dolores was not the most popular in the school. She was infamous for her temper and tantrums and the inconsiderate manner in which she dealt with the students.

As soon as I began the story of my missing wallet, Ms Dolores gave me that omnipresent irritated look.

"What's happened?"
"Miss, I have lost my wallet. I want to look for it. Can you excuse me from the class please?"
"Wallet? Who took your wallet?"
"I don't know Miss."
"Why don't you know?" (I could almost hear the grrrrrrrrr in her mind!)

Addressing the class, she asked, "Does anyone here know who took her wallet?"

One hand went up. In all seriousness, Satya, who always strived to live up to her name 'truth', stood up and said,"I know Miss. I saw a crow taking her wallet."

"A crow?"
"Yes Miss. A crow."
"Which crow?"

At this point, the entire classroom broke into laughter. Next thing I remember hearing voices from here n' there shouting,
"A black crow Miss."
"A crow with feathers."
"Martin Crowe."

Needless to say, Ms Dolores quickly gave me permission to look for my wallet within the school premises. Not before she made the naughty girls stand outside the class for the rest of the period!!!!!

(June 2007)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

For the sake of arguement

Conversation I often have with my younger bro as we compete with each other to fit into the same size jeans:

Him: "Haha! I STILL fit into a 32!"

Me: "So do I."

Him: "No you don't. Admit it! You are fat!"

Me: "Yes. I am. I gave birth to two children. What's your excuse?"

Him: Quiet. Dumb struck.

Me: *halo* Angelic. Smiling devilishly inside.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sixty Seconds

It is a hot summer day. The sun is blazing in all its glory. Traffic on the roads is heavy. A lethal combination; sweat, heat and the traffic…. Situation fit for angry outbursts and decreased patience. In the midst of all this, a car breaks down. You are right behind it and curse under your breath, because you will miss the green light as you try to back off from the tail end of the broken down car.

While you battle it out with the steering wheel, the driver of the broken down vehicle alights. He is old. He looks almost one hundred years old. From the passenger side, his spouse gets off. She also looks atleast a hundred years old.

They are stuck in the middle of this extremely busy intersection with a huge car, (a MUV), perspiring, wondering what to do. Cars pass them by, some honking at the interruption, some oblivious to their plight, most knowing that they need help, yet, simply driving away.

As you sit in the air-conditioned comfort of your car wondering what could be done to help them, you see a young man on a scooter race towards the zebra crossing just as the light turns red. He parks his scooter, gets off and walks towards the couple. Conversation ensues and soon the old gentleman is behind the wheel, while this young man pushes the car, deftly maneuvering it to the side of the road.

The activity takes a little over a minute. As the couple thanks him, the young man runs to his scooter and waits for the traffic signal to turn green again.

One minute of a little sweat to help someone in need. That is all it takes. One minute. Sixty seconds.

How many of us would have risen to the occasion, like the young surd did, on that hot and humid August afternoon in the heart of the Capital?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Origin of Species - out!!!!

Unwittingly, my four year old son has been getting lessons about the ‘ORIGIN of Species’.

Conversation 1, verbatim, about 6 months ago:

Dad: “Oorja, do you remember when Abhir was born in the hospital? You were the first one to hold him.”

Oorja: “Yes. He was in Mama’s tummy, right?”

Abhir: (In wonder) “I was inside Mama’s tummy?”

Conversation 2, verbatim, about 3 months ago:

Oorja: “Abhir, you were not there for my 2nd Birthday party. You were in mama’s tummy.”

Abhir: (Shocked) “I WAS IN MAMA’S TUMMY?????”

Oorja: (Matter-of-fact)”Yes.”

Abhir: “How did I come out?”

Oorja: “Hmmm… I think the doctor cut open mama’s tummy. Hai na, maa?”

Abhir: (Surprised. STUNNED.)

Conversation 3, verbatim, a few weeks ago:

Abhir: “How did I come in to your tummy, Mama?”

Mama: “God put you there.”

Abhir: “Okay. Was I a big baby or was I a small baby inside your tummy?”

Mama: “You were a small baby and you grew.”

Abhir: “But, HOW did I come in to your tummy, Mama?”

Mama: “One day I thought I wanted to have a darling little baby boy named Abhir. So I prayed to God and asked him to put ABHIR inside my tummy.”

Abhir: (Eyes popping out of his sockets) “Really? You asked God to put Abhir inside your tummy?”

Mama: “Yes darling. I did.”

Abhir: “And God gave you?”

Mama: “Yes. He did.”

Abhir: “Was it Krishna?” (the God you prayed to…?)

Mama: (Immensely relieved that the topic was changing) “Yes.”

Our daughter went through the motions after we conceived him; watching my tummy grow in size, feeling his kicks, and finally seeing HIM on an ultrasound before he was born. Somehow, we did not have to EXPLAIN it.

Even though the birds and bees conversation is a few years away, explaining to my son how he came in to our lives was serious stuff.

I only hope that we handled it well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Girls go to college
To gain some knowledge

Boys go to Jupiter
To become more stupider"

Words of wisdom I heard my daughter repeat as she played the clapping hands game with her brother; while her brother, oblivious to the indirect reference being made to him and his kind, babbled along trying to parrot the words.

For my part, as a responsible mother I did what I should.......corrected the grammar!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Beauty or a "Beast"?

A few weeks ago, at the beauty parlour, a young girl walked in and had the following conversation with the attendant.

“I want to thread my eyebrows and upper lip. Will it hurt?”

“Is it the first time you are getting it done?”

“It will hurt a bit…”


“Don’t be scared. I will try to do it as gently as possible. Do you want to get your hands waxed too?” asked the attendant noticing that the girl had a lot of hair on her arms.

“No. My mom said only threading. I am in class VII… She said I should start waxing when I am in IXth.”

Class VII! Wow…I thought to myself. A beauty regimen at such a young age! The incident brought a flood of memories.

Following a regular beauty routine was never a very exciting prospect for me. As a teenager, I never felt compelled or pressured to resort to waxing my hands and legs, or undertake any of the beauty enhancing services available. The quarterly trips to the beauty parlour were strictly for haircuts.

I attribute the feeling of satisfaction and contentment with the way I looked to the fact that none of my girl friends were actually doing it. None of us felt that we looked inadequate with facial hair…or underarm hair. As a matter of fact, for many years I related the clean shaven underarms of my mom’s Kitty Party friends, visible through their sleeveless outfits, as something that you did after you became like them: married, with children and husbands!

How and why I succumbed to the regular beauty treatment trap is a tale in itself.

The first time I was given the feeling of inadequacy with my body hair, was when an aunt commented upon it. This aunt was a close relative and that year we had assembled for the marriage of her son, my first cousin. Along with dictating what each of us should wear at the wedding and the miscellaneous ceremonies, (so we wouldn’t end up embarrassing her in front of the “other party”), she remarked to my mom about the “hair” on my face and hands…. Sure I was taken aback! “Who the hell does she think she is”…was my first thought.

My mom, a woman who cannot be coerced into doing something she did not believe in, laughed the comment off. But the aunt pursued the matter saying that “girls in Bombay start all this really early…” (which meant that since we lived in a little town called Cochin, we were unaware of the ‘latest’ trends).

Then as it happens during all weddings…the ladies were going to the beauty parlour to fix their hair and get their faces professionally made up. I dragged along because I’d nothing better to do at home! At the parlour, my aunt remarked to the attendant about how I was 17 years old and was still not following a beauty regimen. I was embarrassed to say the least. Soon a discussion on the “small town mentality” began…and since my mom didn’t come along, I had no ally to turn to.

I don’t know why I turned to the attendant and told her that I wanted the works. Perhaps it was to spite my aunt. Perhaps it was to prove to her that ‘small town girls’ can be hep too. Perhaps the rebel within me had been shaken to attention.

Cut to this day. I am stuck with monthly trips to the parlour, whether it fits into my scheme of things or not. The sight of unkempt body hair ensures that I rush to the parlour whenever the need arises.

So when I encounter young girls willing to explore the secret of smooth hands and legs, or clean, shapely eyebrows, I am almost tempted to stop them. Because they have no idea what they are getting in to…for the rest of their lives!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), "The Devil's Disciple" (1901), act II

One evening while I sat enjoying a leisure cup of Mocha at a café, I spotted a young man, barely in his teens, selling cheap maps. He was dressed the way most young street vendors are; a bright pink shirt, old blue jeans two sizes too large, and blonde, streaked hair. He had been trying to catch the attention of customers at the café, through its glass panes.

He was thrilled at one enquiry made by a man in his early 40s, who, through the glass panes, inspected the map of Pune and asked him the price. He said Rs.40, which the man inside the café found too steep. He bargained and finally the deal was made at Rs 30/- a piece. The conversation took place on either side of the glass window through gestures. The man inside the café instructed the vendor to wait for five minutes while he had his coffee.

Soon this man was joined by another friend; and as it always does, a conversation over cups of coffee can just go on and on. However, this young man was waiting on the other side of the glass window, leaning against a lamppost when he could, refusing to let the man go out of his sight for fear of losing his customer. After 15 minutes of patient waiting, he tried to attract the attention of the man inside the café, to no avail. Obviously, the conversation was very captivating and the coffee, for 55 bucks a cup, truly enticing. In the meanwhile, the young man looked about him, and we made eye contact. I saw a strange sadness in his if, he was ashamed.

After 20 minutes, he was about to go, when I made eye contact with him and gestured him to come to the entrance of the café. I asked him the price of the maps, and bought four. He thanked me and added, “ghar mein bahut pareshaani hai.” Until then, I’d assumed this was going to be my good deed for the day.

But his statement left me ashamed. How can one human treat another this way? What irked me the most was that the seemingly educated and surely economically-sound man from the café made a deal and then ignored the young man as if he did not exist! Ignoring a beggar at a traffic intersection is different, but this young man was merely trying to earn a living. It just wasn’t fair!

It seems to me that the more educated we are, the more insensitive and uncaring we become. Are kindness and humanity virtues lost forever?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I started blogging soon after my son was born in 2003. I was introduced to it by a dear dear friend who watched me as I struggled with two little children; time-strapped, sleep deprived and low on morale. 

He started my first blog for me and I took it from there.

In 7 years there is a lot I have written that lies trapped in an interface I can't access anymore.

Thought I will publish some of my posts here. As I am off on a brief vacation, I thought this would also be a good way to keep my blog going. I wrote this on February 20, 2006:

Circle of Life

"Age: that period of life in which we compound for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we have no longer the enterprise to commit” – Ambrose Bierce

Past: “Why don’t you eat chicken? I don’t think you should make such a fuss about garlic in your food. Girls should eat everything that is cooked at home.”
Present: “I don’t know how you can consume the carcass of an animal. It is against our Hindu tradition and philosophy. And garlic? Whoa! I just can’t stand the stink.”

“Old men are children for a second time” - Aristophanes

Past: “Don’t be such a sissy. A car is a car. If you can drive a Maruti (800) then you can very well drive a Contessa.”
Present: “I just can’t drive a long car. I am unable to make the right judgment. I am so used to a Zen you know.”

“Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret” – Benjamin Disraeli

Past: “Why aren’t you first in class? Can’t you work harder? How come x has better marks than you? You are simply lazy.”
Present (to his grandchild): “Oh I was such a lazy fellow in school. I hated doing my home work. My dad used to tell me that you are no good. If only I had studied! You must study. Ok?”

“Years steal
Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And Life’s enchanted cup but sparkles from the brim” – George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron

Past: “Why the hell did you go to the Bank? To embarrass me? Don’t you know I hate it? If you want to get something done, just call the peon from the office. Don’t repeat it again.”
Present: “I need to withdraw some money. Can you go to the ATM and do it for me? Actually I get so confused by the instructions that people in the queue get impatient and I am embarrassed.”

I have witnessed the evolution of my father from a strict disciplinarian and task master to someone I can now relate to. However, I am also watching him grow old and lose his fortitude.

Even though I am aware that this is the circle of life, I hate to see my papa grow old.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Growing Old

The other day I went to a boutique. The owner was busy with another client and I hung around. The client was a rather well kept lady, perhaps my age or may be a tad older who was having her measurements taken for a blouse. Her teenage daughter hung around chatting on her phone. Once done she joined her mother.

The store owner, while measuring her, remarked that she seemed to have lost weight.

Immediately her daughter exclaimed, "Lost? She has put on SO much weight" a smile playing on her lips.

Oh for the arrogance of youth!

My first thought was "Been there, done that."

Second thought, "I am in the cycle of 'receiving' karmon ka phal." My own 11 year old is quick to pass such comments regardless of location or circumstance. At first I didn't know if I should curb her enthusiasm or ignore it as a phase. But instinctively I always do the latter.

Third thought, "She (the daughter) has a big butt too. Is she going to remain this thin forever???"

We have all been through it - the joy of being young that overshadows the reality of a seemingly distant future - we didn't think we'd grow old...or at least be confronted with our increasing age or girth by our own.

But as I sometimes squint to read the instructions on a strip of tablets in itsy-bitsy font, or experience a jabbing pain in my knee after I've overdone the running bit on the treadmill, the reality of it sinks in faster. 

I don't have a problem growing old at all. If any thing, I am quite happy to be progressing slowly to an age where perhaps I have a little more wisdom (gained out of making numerous mistakes) and a lot more patience with life, circumstances, people and myself.

But this incident also made me realise that I was becoming cynical and disparaging in my thought process (Thought three? That was just contemptuous!)

 Don't know if this is another sign of growing older, but I do know that this attitude needs to go. Now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monthly on? Go to the corner!

Its a Sunday and son's 7 year old friend E is home. We hear E inform our son: "My mother can't enter the kitchen. She's in the corner today."

Our son promptly comes running to hubby and asks him, "What does he mean, she is in a corner?"

Hubby gives him some explanation that to his 7 year old head seems reasonable. Chapter closes.

At first I am amused that women still follow this age-old and if I may add 'regressive' ritual....of staying away from chores like cooking and entering the puja room when they have their 'period,' also known as 'the monthly' by my fitness instructor, 'menstrual cycle' or simply 'menstruation' by others...

This lady is fairly young (mid to late 20s) and I do wonder why she follows this ritual. She is also an IT professional (I wonder why I thought all that education should have caused her to omit such oppressive acts from her life) who lives in a nuclear set-up without the hoopla the elderly in families usually enforce (just hubby and kid - a happy chotta parivar)... So I cannot fathom for the love of God WHY she has to follow this orthodox practice.

This practice of 'segregating' menstruating women is a centuries old practice that didn't always have a negative connotation. In Native American tradition a woman is supposed to be extremely 'powerful' during this phase. I also read an extract from an ancient Indian text that described the 'power' of women during menstruation.

The onset of this natural process became controversial enough to prohibit women from entering places of worship or the kitchen during the 7th century when the influence of Brahmins increased. The idea of impurity and pollution during menstruation was brought in by them.

Read here why this practice is discriminatory. (The page opens in IE, not Google Chrome).

Many households practised segregation. My grandmother did. My husband's grandmother did. My friend's grandmothers did too. I remember talking to friends about this (in school and other wise) and realised that most of our mothers didn't enforce it on us. They may have had to follow it but most of us were spared the ignominy.

But more than the fact that despite being a professional career oriented woman in this day and age she practices abstinence from cooking (frankly, I wish I could use that as an excuse from cooking as well) or performing puja during the phase, it was the reference of 'She is in the corner' that enraged me.

In the corner??? What the hell does that mean?

"You got your 'monthly' on - so go in the corner now..."

And why on Earth would someone want make this so obvious to a 7 year old???!!! I've been writing about how our kids are growing too fast.... This kind of 'knowledge' sharing amongst young boys just makes it tougher to draw the lines at home.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kids say the darnest things! 2

S chatting with our son A:

S: "My grandfather died."

A: "My father's father, thatha got heart attack and went to hospital but didn't die."

They continue playing....