Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Careful Can We BE?

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon when I pulled over at the local grocery store. We had guests coming over for dinner and I had this one ingredient missing for a dish. As I unbuckled my seat belt I instructed my older daughter who was in a car seat to start doing the same. Grocery stores were not her favorite thing and she always sulked whenever I had to take her along (she didn’t know that if I had a choice, I wouldn’t take anybody along when I went to any damn store!).

“Mom, me and my sister can wait for you in the car, why don’t you go inside and get what you want”, she offered a quick solution. Her sister, the baby was barely 18 months old and in no position to unlock herself from her car seat and wander off anywhere, so the quick fix suggested was very tempting.

The store we had parked in front of was not a departmental store, it was a small store, pretty much empty at this time of the day and going inside, grabbing what I needed, paying for it and coming out again would all in all probably take a total of 4 minutes, I calculated.  As opposed to taking them both out of their car seats, forcibly making one of them sit in the shopping cart, maneuvering the cart in that small store, buying what I needed and then pay, get the cart at the door and fasten them both again in their car seats (not without protest I assure you), a minimum of 15 minutes and that too for one single purchase.  Now, this here may have looked to you like an awful lot of thinking, but it is because I am writing it down, the actual thought process started and ended in 10 seconds.

“Ok, don’t fight with your sister” I mumbled, stepping out of the car and locking it, sounding affirmative but yet not sure of going ahead with it. Since my car was parked right outside the store, all I had to do was keep looking out of the glass doors while I finished the business in there, I said to myself. I can see the kids every second while I am in there, I reiterated in my mind, depositing the car keys in the right hand pocket of my white jacket. Inside the car, just an arm’s reach away, my older daughter seemed overjoyed at this newly entrusted responsibility and freedom. Enthusiastically she waved her hand at me; I waved back and started to walk, the very next second retracing my steps. I don’t know what hit me, maybe the unusualness of the whole scenario (I don’t remember going into any store at this time of the day by myself after the birth of my second child, it’s like I always either struggling to get the stroller inside the store or trying to balance a child on the hip and another by the hand) or the maternal instinct that kicked off at the right time.

Whatever it was, Baby no. 1 was definitely not pleased to see Mom returning even before she left. “Mom, I am a big girl now, I can take care of me and my sister” she argued as I ordered her to come out and stand by me while I took the baby out from her car seat. “Mom, why can’t I just sit and wait for you” an imploring tone and finally, “I hate the store, I don’t want to go with you” Anger and tears, a last effort.  “I promise to finish it in 5 minutes sweetie” I told her in my best possible calm voice (any experienced mother will tell you that it is when you are most frustrated that this voice descends on you like a gift from God, a saving grace in hard times).

And I did stick to my promise that day, for under standard conditions a nearly empty store was the perfect excuse to walk leisurely through every aisle, check out the new arrivals and ponder over a couple of products trying to choose between them, did not matter that none of them where ever in the original shopping list. Running a cooking blog clearly made this whole time consuming, extra money spending exercise not only justifiable but essential.

So out we were in a very short time and heading home with almost no fuss from the girls at being confined in their special seats again.

All this while, starting from the minute I retraced my steps back to take the kids with me inside the store, the enormity of what I had thought of doing, was creeping in slowly, a sickening feeling of how close I was to taking a risk that would have cost me more than life itself.

A part of me had its defenses ready. You are just one of those paranoid moms who trust nothing and no one. If anybody had tried to tamper with your locked car, the alarm would have blared off, attracting a lot of attention including yours. The car and the kids were within sight, you weren’t about to leave them unattended. There was no physical danger to their life, you were going to be away for just a couple of minutes, and you probably take a lot longer in the shower. And finally, will you stop thinking about what MIGHT have happened since actually speaking you didn’t end up leaving them alone in the car.

And this was even before we all read the news about the 7 year old Atlanta girl abducted, molested and killed. When I read that news which made headlines and had even strangers crying over it, I couldn’t sleep for days.  One wrong choice and a child is lost forever. And since a child cannot be expected to make wise choices, the adults/ parents/caretakers have to take care they don’t goof up. Terrible outcomes arise out of perfectly normal circumstances and scar you for life.

This makes me arrive finally at the inherent question of this post. How careful can we be? Sadly, in today’s world; not enough, never enough. Whenever this topic of child safety comes up for discussion amongst friends, parents, we always drift a step away in the past when we used to be kids. Someone points out how much we used to play outside, unsupervised play, on the streets play which kids now a days are not seen doing much of. Another parent says, we have turned our kids into sissies they can’t even walk to the school bus stop alone , do you remember your mom coming to pick you up at the bus stop when you were 8 years old?  No, yet another person in the group joins in and we used to roam around the whole neighborhood in summer on our bikes without a care in this world, didn’t have to worry about carrying cell phones for Mom to reach us every 20 minutes or even worse wait for Dad to come home from work and follow along. I dare not even go the trash can to dump garbage just a minute’s walk away from the apartment leaving a child at home, a mom chips in. Do whatever, take as many precautions, if something bad is going to happen, it will, a few just reconcile to fate, maybe because they were lucky enough not to have bad things happen to anybody they knew or held close. But, kids today have no idea what a carefree childhood is, everybody agrees.

The burning question is have we become paranoid or is this the need of the hour? Should we fear the personality damage that we inflict on our children by constant supervision or should we feel guilty about leaving them unattended even for a minute?  Should we risk bringing down the child’s survival instinct (a child of a reasonable age like 7 years or older) by not testing his or her reflexes and reactions to everyday small time dangers like hopping over to the neighbor’s place one lane away or playing unsupervised with a bunch of other kids in broad daylight OR should we rather not take any chances at all? Should we try and curb their independence outside for as long as we can (meaning till they are ready to drive) or give them a chance to spread out their wings, like we were given, teaching caution?

If I had been asked those questions a few days before, I would have probably said I will teach my kids to be alert, prompt and ready to scream for help and after a couple of years when they are older I shall let them enjoy the last bits of childhood armed with the above said attributes.

But today, I will say, times have changed now from when we were raised. People were less busy and the neighbors were friendlier. Communities were stronger and the families were closer. Awareness has increased but so has exposure. However smart children maybe in this day and age, whatever safety tips you may have taught them and whichever latest technology they may possess  in their pocket to reach out for help, he or she is still a child. Vulnerable and fragile; an easy target and certainly no match for an adult.  So be with them, guide them and protect them for as long as you can. Do not take chances, our children are precious. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Plans And Dreams

Where will I be and who will I be ten years from now? This isn’t a very unique question. Most of us wonder where life will lead us.

There are people you meet who strongly advocate living each day as it comes. What’s the point in planning for the future, who knows what’s in store, they argue. And there are the dreamers who never stop thinking beyond the present day.

Many times confused to mean the same, plans are different from dreams. At some point of time they intermingle but per se, they are different. If I go just by the sound of it, a plan sounds like something concrete, attainable and dependable.  And dreams speak of anticipation, indulgence and the impossible. Yes, the sound of a word has a feeling that reaches you much before its denotation. 

And as different as they are from each other, one may lead to the other, automatically or not.

I always dreamed of settling down in my own city, the place I was raised, close to my family, in vicinity of my friends. I also dreamed of books, great writers and the magical words they wrote.

Years passed and dreams faded. Life happened and ambitions changed; an alteration of perspective and the path.

Plans began to form. A degree considered commercially viable (though my heart was always in the stories and pieces I read), steps towards a corporate career and the first sacrifice was made. It still did not perturb the way I lived because the place was where I wanted to be. And the days rolled by, happy and some, the paradigm shift was yet to come.

Tears dropped silently as I boarded the train, hand in hand with the love of my life. A home together was much more important than a house away from each other. We were young and the distance from our hometown was not too much, going back and forth every month would be manageable, I consoled myself.

The new city promised a better future, but was it the one I had dreamed off? Perhaps not. One step farther away and the only sound I could hear now was the echo of what I used to want to be.

How incredibly cruel that time sits still for some, those who wait painfully for things to change and come their way and for some others; it runs faster than they can hope to catch it.

The transition from the new city to the new country happened almost effortlessly, adaption they say is a wonderful quality that brings peace of mind to the displaced. The zeal and the vigor to visit discover and stay amid a different culture, an unseen world played its part too. 

So how far exactly have I come, I often asked myself. Did not matter, an inner voice replied, one step away is far enough. I let my plans overshadow my dreams.

And that’s when the resemblance between the two surfaced. Plans can backfire and dreams can return to haunt you. Plans or dreams, whatever it was, it was nothing short of a wakeup call for me.

Five years back, I picked up a pen and a piece of paper, imagined I was in school and had been told to write an essay. The pen flowed, slowly at first and soon picking up momentum, just as it did then.

Fortunately that is all there is to how I started writing AGAIN. No drama, no suspense, no tragedy either! My article “A New Beginning” was published in SPARKS on 5th December, 2011, possibly the best thing to happen in the last month of the year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To do or not to do..

“No way, never again”…

This was my agonized reaction when friends and relatives came to see our newborn daughter and joked about having a brother for her next.

The sleepless nights, the overwhelming feeling of parenthood and the constant fatigue, it seemed like new babies came with a lot more than just the cute smiles and sleepy faces. They came with hungry tummies and poopy diapers. Also they took their own sweet time to decide which time zone they would rather follow than to fall in place with the rest of the world.

My husband was faring a little better than me since he wasn’t the one whose stomach was cut open to bring the baby out. Oh yes, I was so mad at him for being a man and getting it easy.

Me, I thought my life was over. With the deepest sense of love and protectiveness for the baby came a sense of despair for my own self. (I did come to know later that this was a very natural reaction to the process of having a baby and I was not as exceptional a woman, I thought I was). “How will I raise my little girl? Will I ever do anything in life now except worry about her?”I would mumble incoherent questions between sobs, most of which even didn’t make sense to me. I guess not, he would smile and say, not what I wanted to hear.

Whoever came to see the baby had the warmest expression on their faces. “She’s adorable, she looks like her dad, Oh, such a small baby and she will grow up so fast you won’t even know so hold on to her every minute she’s in your arms”. The last statement seemed a little farfetched to me at that time.  I even confided in my sister who wasn’t even married yet, that people who said all those lovely things had short lived memories and since their kids were all grown up they had forgotten the hellish first few months. My sister gave me a look like how can you say such mean things about this cute little baby, all she does is eat, sleep, make dirty diapers and cry and then eat again and sleep…? “hmmm, she does have that shrill irritating cry which goes on in the middle of the night, but she’s very cute”, quickly the aunt in her covered up on the factual but not so pleasant observation.

But time did fly and before we knew it was her 3rd Birthday (sob..sob..sob..very emotional while I write this). And once she started going to preschool every day she came back home and asked for a baby sister to play with. Seeing her friends with their siblings made her feel lonely and jealous. For us it was a huge dilemma. I had just earned a small portion of my freedom back and wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the whole grind again, forget so soon. My husband being an only child himself really didn’t see any disadvantage to that position. But in the end I thought of my younger sister, our relationship as children and how it evolved from siblings who couldn’t stand each other to sisters who watch out for each other.

We were as different as chalk and cheese, me and my sister and all we did was fight constantly. I have been told that I had requested my mom to send the baby back to the hospital where she came from, the day they brought her home (they might be just making this up to try and make me feel guilty after all these years). And yet today, we count on each other like never before. I guess the fights were all about growing up together and once we did grow up, the equation changed completely. We still have our differences but the care and concern comes out even in the disagreements.  

She will have lots of friends if not a sibling and they will stand by her, said hubby dear playing the devil’s advocate. True, I thought, but acquaintances, friends, neighbors are more transient than a brother or a sister. Even with the best of intentions, it is hard to go back to old friends as often as you would want to. You keep on making new friends in life, not necessarily forgetting the old ones, but with family there are only additions. I do not in any way undermine the importance of dependable friends; just that I believe they don’t substitute for a sibling and the other way round. Why not give her a chance to have both, I told him.

It has been nearly 2 years since that fateful conversation and subsequent decision. Things have changed at home, like our schedules, the monthly budget and my pitch of voice. There is more mess and more arguments too. What keeps the balance is more hugs and more fun. We are busier but happier.

Between the two of them, things are complicated. History they say repeats itself. They fight a lot and my day often goes by playing referee. But they CAN NOT do without each other. The younger one adores her big sister and the big sister takes her title pretty seriously.

The day I posted pictures of both my girls together for the first time on Facebook, my friend Urvashi commented; your girls are going to be best friends for life. I almost laugh it off when I see them grab each other’s hair for a favorite book but the very next moment they walk together hand in hand, adjusting their pace and direction to match each other and I believe it with all my heart.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rockstar - Movie Review

“Behind every successful man there is a woman” or her absence. This can very well be the tag line for Rockstar.

I am not at all surprised at the intense reactions Rockstar is gathering from all over the place. Some love it, some hate it and there is rarely an in between response. Why am I not surprised? Because it is a piece of art which was bound to stir up your senses, positive or negative.

I loved the movie; let me get it cleared at the start so those looking for an unbiased review can stop reading right away.

Rockstar, as the title goes is what the hero of the movie wants to be and I use the words “wants to be” and not “aims to be” because when he actually reaches THERE, he doesn’t want it anymore.

With Jim Morrison as his idol, Janardhan Jakhar or JJ wonders why he isn’t so successful even though he has it in him. Enlightenment comes in the form of a canteen owner (subsequently his manager) who points out that all famous artists have a real tragedy in life which makes them so.  Taking the advice to heart, off goes our hero after the most gorgeous girl “Heer” on the campus. They turn into friends and only when she gets married in some time and goes away to Prague does Jordan (as named by Heer) feel a sense of “missing” in life and music just flows out of him.

He grabs the chance to visit Prague and meets Heer again, miserable and unhappy in her marriage and in the foreign land. This time when they meet, both realize what they mean to each other, an affair is just the natural way of progression for them thereon.

They share a chemistry that is unstoppable. They love each other, yearn for each other and only when they are together does their world feel complete. And this love story tells you just that.

When Heer’s conscience turns up too much against her, Jordan’s heart is broken. The separation once again brings out the rebel and the artist in him like never before. But success, when it comes doesn’t taste as sweet to him because his love is not by his side.

Heer’s sister calls for him at one of his concerts and he meets his lady again, this time without the baggage of her marriage. All his dreams with her come true before the movie ends on the prophecy that comes true.

Rockstar is not a brilliant love story never written or seen before; it is a heartfelt depiction of what happens when soul mates come together and stay apart. The sad face of Heer, speaking volumes about her married life and the angered reaction of Jordan to the much longed for success tells us that nothing feels right when you are not with your loved one.

Rockstar takes you through the musical journey of a love so powerful, it makes you forget the rights and the wrongs, the flawed circumstances in which Jordan and Heer come together.  All you remember is the magic they create together.

The music of Rockstar is the soul of the movie, one cannot imagine the movie without its songs and they seamlessly fall into all the beautiful places the movie takes us.  

The last scene shows a million fans waving, cheering for our Rockstar as he sings his heart out. Pain and music so blended in the outcome, almost inseparable.  Janardhan becomes the rock sensation he always wanted to, having learnt two life altering lessons in one powerful stroke – love can heal and love can kill.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Running Away

Read a book titled “Escape” by Barbara Delinsky. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of these kind of books (the kind you can re-read after a year only vaguely remembering a few things as the book progresses) but off late I have formed a habit of reading something light after a couple of intense reads. Danielle Steel stories seem too predictable to me (no offense to the author as they obviously sell like hot bricks). So I settle for a Barbara Delinsky or a Nicholas Sparks or an Anita Shreve book. The last name on the list however has a thing for tragedies, not my cup of tea when in mood for light reading. Which makes me come back to the basic question, what do I consider as a “light” read?

It has to be fast paced, have a little bit of soul and be interesting enough.  It should of course refresh me to serve its basic purpose. It’s like you haven’t lost out on anything great if you didn’t read it but if you did; it wasn’t a waste of time.

Anyway, so I finished this book in more or less one day, skipping a few lines here and there and mostly enjoyed it. It tells the story of a woman who wants to escape her everyday life for the time being. Just when I finished reading the last page, it was time to go so I grabbed the car keys and headed out for my daughter’s swim lessons, the book still fresh in my mind.

And I thought to myself, where would I go if I felt like running away? I thought and I thought for a couple of minutes and yet no answers came. That kind of scared me. Not having anywhere to go other than where I was. I mean, shouldn’t I have a contingency plan in place if things didn’t work out?

Now I seriously started thinking, contemplating places or people I would go to if I ever needed to escape. The first word that came to my mind was Mommy. Well, don’t be shocked, most of the people call out to their moms in times of distress. But I know I wouldn’t go to Mom and dad, it would be too obvious and whatever I was trying to escape from could easily follow me there. Another thing is I would probably be in need of space and not advise if I had chosen to escape and moms really didn’t fare well in that department.

Next on the list would be a friend. But my best friend lives far away in another country; do I know anybody who lives closer and will let me in for an indefinite period of time without asking questions? Nope.

I could go to my sister, two flights and a couple of hours away. Yea, she would be happy to see me and glad to help but would I be able to ask for help?

And the last thought steered the entire deliberation in a different direction. Now the question was do I trust anybody enough to reveal my inner fears or doubts other than the person I married (my children are still too young to share worries)? And suddenly it felt like it wasn’t just my question but more of an entire generation. We, who no longer live close to our families, who make and break friendships on facebook and who dare not ring the bell at a neighbor’s house without reason.

It is my personal experience and observation and I could be wrong here that we are becoming less and less vulnerable. You can think of it as a good survival tool in this world of cut throat competition or as an obstacle which prevents you from getting close to people around you. Do we trust anybody anymore?  Why are we so guarded all the time? Think about this, thanks to the internet and the i-phones we have more and more contacts, but when the time comes how many of them would you actually contact?

As the pondering continues I laugh out loud. So much for a light read!  I had to admit a work of fiction got me thinking (I am sure that wasn’t the intention of the author!)

In the end I have to confess that although my thoughts to escape were all imaginary, the sentiments they evoked were not.

Friday, November 4, 2011


“Thousand miles apart
You in my heart
Me in your heart
Will never depart”

“So, will I never see her again”? Asks my daughter. And I really don’t know what to say. There are a number of answers that come to my mind. “Of course you will. We will all go and meet them next year” OR “Maybe after a couple of years she will come visit us” OR “you never know what future holds in store, who knows both of you, might go to the same college”! none of which will sound convincing to my 5 year old as at that age they really can’t see beyond weekends , play dates and B’days. Also theirs is a world of definitive occurrences, probability is not a concept they are very familiar with.

Our friends are moving to another State and their daughter happens to be best friends with my daughter. I knew about the move some time back and pondered over how to break the news to Saachi. I could either tell her a month before and prepare her so that she had time to let it sink in or tell her a day before to spare her from the that sink – “ing” feeling of saying good bye to a friend. I decided on the latter.

Because the sentiment of moving away is still raw and fresh in our minds. We haven’t  yet completed a year at this new place. Though we are pretty much settled here now for the time being, there isn’ t a day which goes by when we don’t mention or think about our old home in that small mountain town. Personally, I feel we moved for the better but that still doesn’t take away the pain of going away from a place you made your home for many years.

For people like us who move where employment takes us, it’s a sequence which repeats itself. Move to a new place, hate it at first, feel lonely, fall sick because of change in weather, slowly start getting to know people around, explore the new place, make new friends, decorate the apartment, kids are happy and settled at school, finally feels like home, time to move AGAIN.

And you leave the place you hated on arrival and now are scared to leave, land at this new city, new surrounding, not knowing what to expect and who to trust. It is under that scenario that you meet and make friends like these, who are now leaving. People you knew for a short while but got along well. Families, which opened their homes and hearts; accepted you and made you a part of their lives without hesitation.  Strangers , who in no time turned into friends.

Moving is a pain, I have heard many people complain and most of them mean it in the physical sense. How hard it is to pack and unpack and find a new home and re-arrange your whole life. I find it harder to move away from the relationships I built. It is always more about people and less about the place.

So, to my friends I left behind in Colorado – I miss you all and will always remember every one of you. To my friends who are leaving – Good luck and don’t forget us!

And to my daughter, all I said was this – we moved from Colorado to this place and yet very soon one of your old friends is going to come see you isn’t  that true, what does it mean? My question gave her the hope my answers couldn’t have.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Festive Fun

What is it about festivals that make you so emotional? They make you miss home even more and they remind you of your childhood days when life was as simple as a laugh or a tear.

As festivals come closer I try and muster as much enthusiasm as I can and jump into preparations/celebrations but still fall short as compared to my 5 year old.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love all festivals and the decorations, the food and everything that go with them but there is a fundamental difference, I am THE mom now!

It is so hard not to reminisce about those days when mom fussed about my new dress and dad took endless pictures of the smile that seemed to get brighter and brighter with each click. I still have memories of my childhood home which came alive with lights and colorful decorations and back then it felt like I had a lot to contribute to it but now I know the truth. All I did was choose the color and chatter nonstop about this and that while mom and dad did the real work. And the food, how can I ever forget the food, every dish cooked at home, hours and hours of preparations in the kitchen. So many things made especially because I liked to eat them. It was a time I was the most loved person in the house, till my sibling came along. Festivals then were fun and more fun.

The roles have reversed and how!

Now, festivals are fun and more work. With change comes appreciation. Appreciation for things and people you took for granted because they were always there. Did I even have the faintest idea how tiring festivals were for my parents? Not then, but now I do. Did I even vaguely comprehend how much effort went into creating a joyous environment in the house no matter what the circumstances, which made every festival so much more enjoyable? Probably not then, but now I do. Did I ever thank my parents for all the wonderful memories of each and every festival? Not then, but now I probably should!

As I watch my children grow I know now why festivals were more fun as kids. It was an enjoyment that went without any responsibility.  One of the many advantages of being a child.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Toy Story

Ok, this toy story calls for a disclaimer first. The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely mine and they do not in any way reflect my capabilities as a parent. My conclusions on child behavior and nurture are based on a very limited experience of 5 years plus 1.5 years and they should in no way be regarded as reflective of the children or parents of the whole universe.

The phone rings and before I can go pick say hello, tiny pair of hands make a grab for it “Hello Hello….who is it?? As if there was a knock on the door. I am watching the champions episode of “chopped” and just when the winner is about to be announced, the channel is switched, what happened? Even smaller pair of hands decided it was time to chop mommy’s TV time. And I haven’t even got to the details  of what happens when I decide to use my very own laptop, yes the one which has a couple of keys missing, more than a few visible scratches and has all the signs of being manhandled by a BABY!

Ever wondered why kids don’t play with toys these days? Because your cell phone, the TV remote and the laptop offer much more. And these are the same kids who want every possible toy in the store.

Go on, read the conversation that demonstrates my futile attempts towards trying to persuade my kindergartner to make use of her toys in her room.

Mom (which is me) : How about you play with your dolls in your room?

5 yr old: They are sleeping, it’s their nap time (playing with her toenails and not looking up while answering)

Mom : ok then, how about you play that princess game we got last week ?

5 yr old: nah, I have played with it enough, I am bored (eyeing the laptop I am working on)

Mom : Let’s see if you can cook something for me in your play kitchen, go fast !

5 yr old : Mooom (as if exhausted) I told you my dolls were sleeping, they will get disturbed if I make noise in the kitchen (the bed unfortunately is next to the kitchen in the princess’s room, not a practical arrangement, I realize )

Mom : why don’t YOU also go to your room and take a nap?

5 year old : Only if you come with me !

Reluctantly I bid goodbye to the laptop and go for a forced nap.

My dealings with the younger one are more straight forward. The tot in question being at an exceptionally dominating age of one and a half years and armed with the newly acquired skill of walking, we really don’t have much to argue about. Mommy’s watching TV, I don’t like it, step on the remote, change the channel. Mommy’s online chatting with her friend, how can she do that, I am not even sleeping, wham, slap whatever part of the  electronic device she can lay her tiny hands on, take out whatever keys she can at one go. Mind you, do not underestimate the power of tiny fingers and wobbly feet, they can give you a run for your laptop, oops, money, I mean same thing!

After many a disrupted chats, phone calls and TV shows, I have arrived at numerous conclusions (now comes the serious part). And by the way the previous line makes it sound like I am always either a) watching TV or b) talking on the phone or c) surfing the internet, I swear on whatever sanity left in me, that it is not so. The very instant I try and indulge on any of the above, fate intervenes in the form of family.

Kids do not play with their toys on their own. You have to play with their toys while they watch you or play with you depending on their mood.

Kids room is a place where toys are stalked and hoarded finally at the end of the day, till then they can be anywhere including in your shower, under the bed, in the kitchen drawers or in the dryer.

Be prepared for a sudden high pitch and a shrill “ now I know my ABCs..” coming out of a dumb looking elephant in the middle of the night, it has happened to me and it is only fair I warn others out there.

 Your electronic gadgets fascinate the kids more than their own toys not only because they  are interesting but also because they are yours.

Did I miss out on the serious part altogether?  Just a few random thoughts if you can make sense of the essence.

Technology can bridge distances and create some too. Television at mealtimes is for people who don’t have people in the house. Buying them the latest toy is no substitution for my time and the so called learning toys cannot teach anything better than me.

Sometimes I am pushing the stroller on the sidewalk with my baby in it and talking on the phone at the same time, not the safest thing to do. A  few other times I am checking emails on the phone with one hand and tucking her in for a nap with the other, not a good time to multi- task.

But that was then and this is now.
Now I know that if my baby throws my phone a part of it is thrill but a major part of it is jealousy, she vies for my attention every single minute. My princess doesn’t want to play by herself in her room; she wants to hang out with me. Now I know that I better make the most of it, soon I will have to knock on the door before she lets me in. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011


A lot happened in the last 2 months. And though all the words put together may not sufficiently describe what I want to say, I will make an honest attempt.

In the last 2 months I successfully completed a 30 hour journey to the other side of the world with my kids, one of whom qualifies to be an infant. “Successfully” is the key word here as I reached my destination sane and sound. Weeks of planning and packing did make the travel less difficult but I would still term the whole experience as best forgotten.

In the last 2 months I anticipated a few tears to flow but nothing prepared me for the overwhelming rush of emotions on seeing my loved ones at the airport. Over joyous on being with them again and sad to have missed their presence for such a long time, my heart swayed in either direction.

In the last 2 months I saw my children being spoilt silly by grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and for once I did not object.

In the last 2 months I slept in my room just as I used to 20 years back, next to Mom.

In the last 2 months I complained incessantly about the heat, traffic, rising prices, pollution and the roads. But when somebody asked me “would you move back if given a choice?” In a second, I replied.

In the last 2 months I met my school friends and met them again and those were the only friends I met.

In the last 2 months I visited the “Taj Mahal” and the “Akshardham” both of them unforgettable in their own way.

In the last 2 months I counted days everyday for my husband to join us, a reminder that eleven years of being together had not broken the magical connection.

Sadly, in the last 2 months I saw that my parents had grown older and weaker. Their understanding and acceptance of my life so far away did nothing to lessen my own guilt of not being there to take care of them.

In the last 2 months I went shopping every single day. For what?  Don’t ask. Women have their own way of figuring out what to buy once they head into a store.

In the last 2 months I indulged myself to restaurant and roadside food quite often but stuck to bottled water throughout, fully aware that I appeared to be a snob and in fact enjoying that status.

In the last 2 months I tried to squeeze in as much time as I could with my loved ones, scared to think about when next.

In the last 2 months I saw that my kids will never see India the way I do, it is after all my home, not theirs. 

Monday, June 13, 2011


A disturbed mind is an artist’s workshop. Explains why most of the creatively ingenious people led a disturbed life (most of them, anyways). In other words it is their sorrow that made them great. Pain led them to explore other avenues and subsequently what came out of them was applauded by the whole world.

And this makes me wonder why great things inside me don’t manifest themselves when I am disturbed. Does my disturbance lack enough depth or am I falling short in the creative department?

When I am upset, I slam doors, swear silently, yell at the kids and even lock myself up in a room. But never end up writing a masterpiece or cooking an exceptionally yummy mouth watering dish. So basically two things that I claim to be good at don’t stand by me in my hour of need.

And although this particular problem calls for a deep analysis, I am pretty much in consensus with the rest of the world about one aspect of the situation, I have what it takes!

This kind of confidence is good in a cut throat competitive scenario, but when there’s nobody to compete against, it is kind of a waste. So what happens when there is nothing to prove or nobody to challenge? The contrary creeps in. The apprehensive YOU eats away the self- assured YOU and from there on, it is downhill, all the way. You roll down faster than you climb up, states the law of physics.

Contentment is considered an ideal state of mind and like every other ideal thing on this earth, nearly impossible to achieve. Being content is like standing on a hoop, with proper training it is doable for a couple of minutes, but sooner or later, the balance is lost. And because you can fall either side, being content has two antonyms not one. Apathy and fidgety.

Being complacent for too long makes you vary of change. Wrapped in the cocoon of familiarity, you never realize when the confidence to step out of your comfort zone is lost. A day, not long ago, you believed you could conquer the world. Lethargy set in and now your world keeps getting smaller and smaller. Lethargy is a term related to the mind. The mind decides it cannot or does not want to do a certain thing, and the body obeys. This kind of indolence takes over the zeal for life and turns it into an inertness nobody wants to take notice of. As time passes you become oblivious; a non-entity; a person who has no personality left. If becoming this scares you, the alternative is even more frightening.

Ambition needs a harness. A thin invisible line separates ambition from greed and more often than not, it is crossed without a thought. Soon enough you are ruthless and restless, a victim of your own aspiration. If being lethargic made you imperceptible, being over ambitious will make you stand out, too much for your own good. In the quest to be noticeable, all you will take note of is yourself.

Since both of them are opposites of one particular word called “content”, a common thread runs through them, the consequence. You may have reached rock bottom or climbed the highest mountain. You will be alone and you will be lonely. In the first case, there isn’t much of you for people to see. Your loved ones will try and pull you out of the rubble, remind of you of the dynamite, which was once you, but you will be too lazy to take the effort. Life will go on for everybody else and for you too. Not even you will realize  that a part of you is dying. And in the other case if you choose to fly too high, not many will be able to keep pace with you. Your family, friends, people who matter, everybody will want to be a part of your journey, only as long as you let them be.

The disturbances in my day today force me to dwell on the issue of balance. Have I lost a part of me? Or have I become self indulgent? I ask myself these two questions almost simultaneously. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Special Mom

All children are special. Some, more than others.

When you become a mother and step out with your children, you start seeing things you wouldn’t have ordinarily noticed. You enter into a world shared by other moms; you travel into spaces where children are not one of but the only priority. 
You embark on a journey which has short term milestones like the 1st year, toddler, teenager, grown up, but no finish line. One stage of your child’s life gets over only to usher in troubles associated with the next one. It is true, once you are a mother, you can’t stop being one, ever.

Along the way you learn. You learn from your own mother, your friends, even your children and of course the internet (!!).

Also along the way come clashes.

I maybe the perfect mother but I am not a perfect individual and sometimes the person in me overshadows the mother in me. Since the arrival of baby no.2 I have been gloating around town thinking I have done it all. I mean I stay at home with 2 kids (which is no mean feat by the way), cook, clean, socialize, entertain and even find time to write occasionally, can anybody possibly do more? In this superior state of mind, I conveniently choose to ignore that my tone goes from pleasant to that of irritation in no time while dealing with baby no.1.  Also forgotten is the fact that I whine for rest of the day if baby no.2 doesn’t take her scheduled nap. And, like any perfect mother, I do not like to be reminded of my limitations.

Last week when I was sick with food poisoning, hubby had to take our 5 year old for her dance class. Both of them came back pretty excited and were talking about new moves she had learnt that day. Mom there’s a new boy in our class, she informed. And he seems rather playful, remarked Daddy, but that’s how boys are and should be, he added.

I didn’t think much of it then, until the next class. And it was actually true. The new entrant was a cute little boy about the same age as my daughter, who seemed to be having a lot of fun in the class. It looked like he was there more to have a good time than to follow instructions. My focus was at that time was to keep baby no. 2 as quiet as possible and in between check on baby no.1’s moves, still it was obvious, he had difficulty concentrating. Busy persuading baby no. 2 to take a short nap; I couldn’t help overhear a conversation being carried on two chairs away.

A senior instructor was talking to the boy’s mother and what I could gather from their talks was that he was a special child and the teacher was discussing the best possible course of action with the mother. It was a long chat and I attentively hung on to every word exchanged (I guess it cannot be called eavesdropping since the people concerned were not whispering). The purpose of the whole conversation was to find ways to make that special child more independent and confident. I was very touched when the mother said, I can do everything for him, it is easier for me to do things for him then to teach him to do them, but that would only help me, not him.

Involuntarily, my mind started to introspect. How many times did I zip up my toddler’s jacket or tie her shoe laces when she took more than a minute (that too with an impatient frown)? Then there were these occasions when I sat with her do a craft project and did major portions myself because it would have taken ages and a lot of explaining otherwise. It was so much easier to do it yourself than wait endlessly for a simple job to be done.

And more recently, my year old baby threw tantrums everyday to feed herself and I kept finding new songs to sing at mealtimes so that she let me feed her. All this trouble so that there was a lesser mess for me to clean up.

I would have dug deeper into myself if not for the kids who came running to their mommies as the class ended, including mine. By now I was observing this special mom with new insight. Her son was still looking for clothes and shoes while rest of the kids were already on their way out. She gave various clues about the number and the color of the cubby which contained his stuff but he was busy counting squares. She then played a game with him pointing towards his shoes asking him where did the finger go?  He kissed his mom’s finger and jumped in her arms giving her a big hug. Gently she pulled him aside and said lets crawl like bears and find your shoes. That seemed to do the trick and they landed near the right cubby.

Honestly, I struggled to hold back tears in public. They were not tears of sympathy for the special child or for his mother, they were tears of shame.

A mother is a child’s connection to the world right from inside the womb. She follows her mother, she learns from her mother and she tries to be like her mother. The child may be ordinary or he may be special, should it make any difference? A mother should do what she is supposed to do.

Bigger sacrifices always find their mention somewhere but what about the small things that a mother does every day?  To me, this mother is very special not because her child has special needs, but because she does the ordinary things with a special touch.

I do not know if I will be the perfect mom I claim to be. I do not know if my children will grow up admiring me or aspiring to be like me. Today, all I know is, from now on, if I can do the everyday ordinary things right, it will be a job well done.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I want my Mommy NOW

A few people exercise to lose weight and a few more go on a strict diet to shed those extra pounds. A Lazy few like me are fortunate enough to get diarrhea.  

It all started with Baby no. 1 demanding that I cook something sweet that day. Unfortunately I am not one of those moms who will embark on a cooking spree at 2 in the afternoon just to please their toddlers. There are other ways to please them, one of which being driving to the store and buying the desired dessert. Which is what I did. Because if you discount the trouble of coaxing kids into a car seat, driving is much better than cooking when you have just finished lunch and loaded the dishwasher to its maximum capacity.

The ulterior motive behind driving to the store was that sweet tooth runs in my family and by that I mean my Mom and Dad and Uncle and Aunt and cousins and the list goes on, basically, MY own family. Many find it strange that I still put my parents and the extended family on that side before anybody else when I talk about family. Tradition demands that once married, your husband’s family is your family and it should take precedence. I happen to have a different take on it. Well, I am not saying that I am not a part of my husband’s family, but do you honestly expect me to consider anybody at par with the mother who gave birth to me or the father who dots on me since the day I was born or my sibling who I grew up with? Folks, I am not going to mince words here, the in- laws are very special to me, the bond with them tremendously strong, but my parents’ place in my heart is irreplaceable. I would be doing a hell lot of injustice to them if I allowed that.

See this is the problem of amateur writers; they don’t know a thing about keeping a story on track.

So we were discussing a sweet tooth. We came back with a box full of goodies. Thank God that baby no. 1 fell asleep in the car and baby no. 2 was too small to have store bought desserts. Both these occurrences, on which I had no control, sealed my fate. There lay the box of sweets right in front of me with nowhere to go but the tummy. Fast forward 2 hours later, I am horribly sick with food poisoning and the house is in chaos as hubby can’t figure out who to attend to and how.

The downside of being an adult is when you are sick, you can’t wail at the top of your voice and you got to figure out how sick you are. Do you need a doctor or will waiting help? Should you take some medicine or give it some time? Decisions, decisions. Things were simpler when medicine was poured down your throat whether you wanted it or not.

I was miserable all day and had asked to be left alone in the room to get some rest. But as hours passed I wasn’t sure if I was feeling any better, in fact emotionally I was feeling sicker. I wanted a hand on my forehead gently trying to put me to sleep. I wanted the reassurance of being told that I was going to be all better soon. I longed to hear those stern words telling me to eat something even if I felt like throwing up.  

Since I was unavailable, the kids needed even more of their Dad. He tried his best to juggle duties with little success. I was sick, but I was not a child.

Children change life irrevocably. You can’t afford to be weak when you are parents. Your children look up to you and you can’t let them down. Knowing this didn’t stop me from being a little girl again.

Way past mid-night I sat in the rocking chair in the guest bedroom, unable to hold it any longer. Silent tears gave way to sobs and soon I was shivering and crying uncontrollably. A very light sleeper, hubby rushed into the room in panic assuming the worst. Since I wouldn't stop crying, he couldn’t figure out what I wanted and kept on asking what he could get for me. And between muffled sobs I said I want my Mommy, NOW.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Customer Service

Step into a store and browse for a while. In no time you will be pleasantly greeted by a customer service representative asking you if you needed any help. Most of us decline and make a positive note about the store and its personnel. Accept the offer of help and watch the smile decline.

11 a.m on a Tuesday is hardly a time one would expect a footwear store to be crowded and it wasn’t. I was the only customer who walked in and that should have given the person at the register something to cheer up about. But I suppose a baby in one of the arms, a diaper bag in another, a sling bag dangerously close to coming off the shoulder and car keys dangling out of the right pocket didn’t make me look like a real shopper. The lady at the desk mouthed her customary words “let me know if you need help finding something” in a well practiced tone meant to convey assistance. I mumbled ok and walked further inside the aisles for I was on a mission today. I needed a pair of black sandals that had heels but not too high, appeared glossy but didn’t shine too much, were simple to wear and yet stylish enough for any occasion. And yes, they would have to go with any damn thing I wore. According to me it wasn’t asking for too much.

Dear hubby had patiently accompanied me to a couple of stores over the weekend and even tried to convey as subtly as possible that what I was looking for was actually 3 different kinds of footwear. Do you even know what you are looking for, he asked, nearly on the verge of breaking down from the sheer exertion of watching so many sandals being tried on and tossed aside. Of course I do, that’s why we are still looking, I said. If not I would have simply picked up the first pair I liked. In the end we both knew if there ever was any hope of finding those perfect black sandals, it had to be done by me alone.

The only hitch to that being, technically speaking I am never alone. I sometimes have an infant stuck at the hip, other times I have a toddler pulling at my sleeve, most of the times, I have both. The exceptional occasions when I am kid-free, my mind is not.

If it has to be either of them, I try not to go shopping with the toddler because these days she has her own shopping list ready before mine. The baby saves me some money but makes it difficult to shop. Like today. Once again the familiar stage was set. I had a row of sandals lined up at my feet waiting to be tried on, a task not as easy as I had to balance myself while holding baby no.2 who decided to swing in action that very minute. She spotted the sales lady sorting some shoes a little distance away. “EEEEEE” baby no. 2 calls at her wildly waving hands as if thrilled to bump into an old friend. Having recently experienced the horrors of what happens next, I braced for the worst possible reaction.

Nothing so dramatic happened. The lady came a few inches closer and asked me a few customary questions like how old is she and isn’t cute? The sweet talk seemed to have healed baby no.2’s bruised ego and she happily looked away at the colorful footwear. I followed her eyes and there on the top rack I found my perfect sandals.

Now comes the customer service part. Struggling with my belongings and a happy baby, I asked for help. Of course, the lady said in a voice slightly higher than the welcome address and with a note of faint irritation. I was in no mood to forgive. I gave her a look which if translated into words would have meant this – listen up lady, I haven’t asked you to change a diaper or carry the baby to the car, I am just asking you to take those black sandals out of the top rack and bring them to the counter where I can pay for them. Incidentally, you asked me twice if I needed assistance and also since the store is empty but for me, you might as well make a customer happy!

For the second time in the day I was relieved to be out without hubby, he would have approved of neither the look nor the sandals. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Social Network - Part II

Coming to the next episode, baby no. 2 who has been extremely shy and unfriendly till date suddenly decided that her social skills needed improvement. When a 10 month old wants to broaden her horizons beyond mommy, there is bound to be trouble.

With baby no. 2 trying to reach out to anyone and everyone in sight, a few valuable lessons were learnt.  The world suddenly seemed divided into two kinds of people. One, who adore babies and do not try to hide it, the other kind, not so fond of babies but try not to show it.

Behavioral analysis has never been my subject of study or expertise but when presented with 50 minutes of idle time, an infant and those two kinds of people, all in the same room, scrutiny seemed inevitable.

Baby no. 1 started with a dance class. Not a serious kind of dance but the types where girls giggle and hop and jump and learn a few moves. I fail to understand the significance of classes these days where kids are so young, not only do they have to be dropped and picked up but also be accompanied by an adult during the duration of the class. More like a punishment for the adult. Sure, I love to watch my daughter do stuff, learn new things and dance with a couple of other kids but not every Wednesday and not for nearly an hour and definitely not with a restless baby in tow eager to try out a few moves herself.

So while the girls all take position with their teacher, the parents, mostly moms are provided with chairs to sit and watch from a little higher up. I take my place between two other moms, one of who warmed up to baby no.2 instantly. For her part, the baby needed no further encouragement.  She cooed and grinned and even offered the friendly lady her pacifier, now that was a huge step! Me, I was happier than the baby herself. Someone else entertaining the baby is always a huge relief, even if for a short while. After sometime, baby turned direction and set off to conquer the attention of another person sitting on the chair a little away. Using the same tactics, baby no.2 started cooing and calling out with a smile guaranteed to melt any heart (ok, that’s the mother in me speaking). Unfortunately the object of her affection had better things to do. She was intently watching the dance floor where her son or daughter must be participating and baby no. 2 was a distraction. She smiled back once and continued watching, a clear dismissal. Baby no.2 was in mood to accept rejection. She called out again, first in soft tones and then louder, demanding attention. My effort to calm the baby with a pacifier resulted in it flying, landing on an empty chair.

By now I was embarrassed and angry. Embarrassed to be the mother of this ill mannered child (wait, do infants know a thing about manners?) and angry at myself for not being able to keep her quiet (lack of control!). Another important lesson learnt. The concept of a controlling mom, simply a myth.

I had always thought it was impossible to ignore a baby in either case smiling or screaming. That sweet lady did prove me wrong. She just sat at her place ignoring all advances by baby no.2. To her credit, she didn’t appear to be irritated. Wisely, I stepped out of the class to amuse baby no. 2 with friendlier things in view like the green trees and a flying bird.

We drove back home humming songs on the radio, me and my princess while baby no.2 gazed away into nowhere out of her car seat. Was she sad at being ignored, I wondered. Nah, I said to myself, the remarkable thing about being a baby is all you need is your mommy. She is your world, everything else almost nonexistent. And someday when she is old enough I will tell her, the same goes for mommy too. (hope Dad isn’t reading this!).