Thursday, November 21, 2013

Child's Play? Not so easy......

“Child’s play” – the  dictionary says that the idiom means ‘a task which is easily accomplished’. Really? Well, let’s take a look at a child’s life shall we?
'You thought it's easy?'

  • 6.00 am (or earlier, if it is close to exam time!!):  Wake-up call by a hassled mom or a screeching alarm clock (sometimes both)  
  • 6.15 am (while snoozing with the toothbrush / in the toilet / with the milk glass) Get screamed at by Mom / Dad / Grandparents / every other member of the house - for being late
  • 7.00 am: Pick up a 10 kg bag, and sprint into the school bus, jostle with other kids and find a seat. Then travel through a pollution laden city to reach school 
  • 8.00 am to 2.00 pm: Cram the little head with logarithms, chemical formulae and history dates. If really lucky, add a dash of peer pressure and sibling rivalry. Then back home through maddening city traffic and obnoxious levels of carbon monoxide in the air. 
  • 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm: Continue with the cramming, but with the tuition teacher, the dance teacher and the Kung-Fu instructor. (Oh! I forgot – if the parents are ambitious, add a few more classes like horse-riding, ballet, advanced trigonometry and not to forget the most important – entrance coaching!!) 
  • 6.00 pm:  Math homework, Science projects, and English assignments. Not to mention the discussion with Mom and Dad why Rahul scored more than Divya, or why Sakshi could get that sum right and David couldn’t. 
  • 10.00 pm:  Dinner, and set the 10 kg backpack for tomorrow’s battle.  (Sometimes, crash out on the couch before dinner out of sheer exhaustion.)

Sigh!!!! Now exactly which part of this punishing ritual seems easy

Needless to say, once a human being becomes a parent, their entire world starts to revolve around the little divine beings called children. Rightly so too, because children are, after all, the future of the world.As parents, things that did not seem to matter a few years ago suddenly seem to be the most important things : whether almonds help in memory, or whether the cartoon show has too much violence in it when the cat gets hit by the mouse, or the most common – whether the child is healthy.

Health of their children is on every parent’s worry list, and so it is in mine. From the moment I knew there was a little heart beating inside of my body, I had started worrying about my baby.  And once she was born, every little yawn, every little sneeze and every tearful cry brought out the worst thoughts in my head.

Gradually, I learnt, along with the equally astonished father, that immunity was the key to ensuring the little one lived a normal, healthy life. The first lesson we learnt was that health was NOT equal to just proportional height and weight.

Surprised? Well, yes, growth of the body was a definite indication, but that was not all. What also contributed, was the healthy growth of the body and mind.

The second lesson was that you can’t control everything in the life of the little one – such as allergies, or little bumps on the head from the trying-to-crawl days. So yes, there were external factors and internal factors that affected the immunity of my precious one. I could, for example, ensure that my little one wore her snug winter clothes, but she would still sneeze when we stepped out into the cold. The only solution to combat the external factors was to ensure that her little body was strong and her little mind was agile – by working on her integral immunity by ensuring a few basics

  1. Natural Nutrition : This is first in my list, because it is something that is strongly influenced by the parents. Conscientious parents work towards a balanced diet, ensuring all the necessary minerals and vitamins are available to the growing body. Natural foods, with minimal processing, is the best source. This, along with any supplements (such as this) for rare vitamins and minerals forms the best shield against ailments. We Indians, have a rich heritage of Ayurveda to aid in this front. 
  2. Activity : Play in an open green area is not only a healthy choice for exercising the muscles. It also helps increase metabolism, oxygen intake, and a holistic development of a child – the laughter that fills your life with joy is bonus. We had ensured that the children had access to gardens, swings and trees – TV, computer games and I pads were only when it was raining outside. And guess what – they never complained!
    The best form of Vitamin D - and laughter!!
3. Education : Let me reiterate – not literacy, but education. This meant we had to educate them of each and every practice that made them a better human being, and created a happier environment around them. Ofcourse, this was easier said than done. We had to change so many of our own habits to ensure that the children had the right example.

4.      4. Conviction and hope : This is perhaps, the toughest ingredient. In a time when the whole world is trying to outdo each other, staying true to oneself is something that determines one’s mental health. Similarly, optimism and hope adds to their well-being. 

The underlying prerequisite is that growing children need to be immune to the stress, the various illnesses and the exhaustion that they are constantly handling. Only once this is ensured, can proper development of their mental and their social skills occur. This in turn, ensures a stronger, healthier nation.

This post is an entry for the "Immune India" contest by Indiblogger and Dabur India.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

When a Parent is Born.......

When a baby is born, the parents are also born with her. Not only the mother, but also the father evolves infinitely more as a human being (even though most depictions of parenting would have us believe that only the mother is overwhelmed by the baby, I can vouch for all the men I know personally, that they cried a wee bit too). 

The first time we set eyes on little G's face, her eyes screwed shut, we knew we were captured – lock stock and barrel. Little G now held firmly in her little fists, both our hearts tightly clasped – for life. It is natural then, that we would do everything in our capacity to ensure that she was growing well. 

This entailed various forms of research – reading all the books on parenting we could lay our hands on, talking to all the ‘been there done that’ parents (including our own) while risking the smirk on their faces when they narrated what was in store; going berserk with Google searches  - Everything!

The first few days, we were even scared of burping baby G, for fear of hurting her while doing so. But gradually, we learnt how much little G loved to be touched - she slept contentedly in our arms, wailing as soon as she was laid down in her crib. 

I finally overcame the paranoia of inadvertently hurting her, and started giving her massages. (A little prelude here: I come from the land of massages – Kerala, where we use massages to solve everything from aching muscles to treating depressions. Hence, while I was briefly influenced by advocates of ‘no-massage-for-babies’, my entire family of extended relatives would have disowned me if I followed that route. Their argument? Well, they say there are years of scientific Ayurvedic research - such as this research - in support of the practice.)

During earlier days, the mothers and the grandmothers concocted massage oils with the purest of ingredients; but today that option seems to be drying out with nuclear families. Fortunately, there are companies that spend years researching and developing the same today, making things slightly easier for us city dwellers.

This was when I discovered the joy of touch. Science has proven that the loving touch of the caregiver is one of the most important contributors, next only to breast milk, perhaps, for the natural growth of a baby in the first few months. As a first-hand recipient of the rewards, I have now become a strong advocate of baby massages – when done correctly.

What were the rewards, you ask? Well, let me begin with the glowing skin of little G. When babies are born, they have skin that is so tender; it is scary to even touch them. Gradually the skin toughens up, but gets drier and needs moisturizing. Options range from various kinds of oils, to lotions and creams that are formulated specially for baby skin. 

But the best option is a pre bath massage - it has much more than healthy skin to contribute. A few months later, the massage had helped increase little G’s appetite. She seemed to be calmer after her afternoon massages and slept well. The massage was also our precious time with each other – a time when I would sing to her, and she would gaze into my eyes while making baby sounds. When she learnt how to smile, she would give me dazzling smiles every time I would talk to her during the massages. 

The style and frequency of little G’s massage changed a little when she started trying to crawl. My mother would now use slightly more pressure with a slight twisting motion, on her pudgy little legs and arms, since her muscles needed more nourishment now that she was ready to crawl. And sure enough, she was crawling almost as fast as I could run!The crawling soon progressed to running without any brakes, which was another reward of her massages (while her proud grandmother gave me a proud "I-told-you-so" look).

Along with these massages, another lesson I learnt in parenting is that natural foods are a far better option than any of the packaged ‘convenience’ foods that is aplenty in the market today. My little one was served pureed bananas, pureed apples and mashed potatoes as her first experience of food. She relished them, and much to my relief, her tiny stomach could easily digest the natural fibers in the foods. I thus learnt that while packaged baby foods are sometimes unavoidable (such as when traveling), clean, natural foods are the best.

Our ancestors knew the bounty of nature, and lived in harmony with it. Science and technology, while making life easier for all of us, have in some way, taken us away from all that was life-giving. Remember all the home remedies that our grannies subjected us to? Many of them were deeply studied and hence, scientific in nature (this, ofcourse is not true of blind superstitions – hence Authenticity must be the key here).

While my children were growing up, I had the good fortune of having my elder relatives a phone call away. Thus, much of their knowledge got transferred into my life as a new, nervous mother. Some things I had scoffed at earlier showed me instant results, forcing me to look at traditional knowledge with renewed respect. Some of them, I list here -

  • My mother would insist that a simple cough could be treated with of juice of fresh ginger and tulsi leaf, mixed with honey – safe and effective. No side effects, no worry of any chemical. This, according to me is what Ayurveda was all about - natural, no side effects, and effective. 
  •  There were some simple kitchen herbs that were an absolute essential in foods for little G – ajwain (carom seeds) in her paranthas and heeng (asafetida) in her dal – these helped in digestion 
  • As little G grew into a naughty preschooler, her mother (yup... that's me !) was subjected to long lectures (this time, by the doting grandfather) on the importance of traditionally used natural foods for mental and physical growth. Thus, little G snacked on almonds and raisins instead of chips and biscuits. No doubt, this food group contributed greatly to her ability to discover innovative ways of getting in and out of mischief :-)

Today, with our second baby, we are more confident as parents; but my husband and I are still learning, wide-eyed, the wonders that nature and traditional wisdom has in store for us. Our experience has taught us that used regularly, and with the right kind of researched natural ayurvedic products, nature has every solution to the nutrition and growth for her children. 

This is a post written for the "Traditional Knowledge, Natural Growth" contest by Dabur and Indiblogger

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pure...Rare...Eternal - Is it Love?

This post is an entry to the Platinum Day of Love competition on Indiblogger...... 

True love …… Precious……. Eternal…… Rare, isn’t it?

But is it even possible to pinpoint a specific moment, or  a day when I first felt that unmistakable tug in my heart? One can only attempt to try and put together the pieces of an exquisite puzzle called Love.... so here goes.

Perhaps the first seeds were sown when I made a dramatic entry into your office? (A little preamble here: I had just stepped into your room full of executives, and had landed flat on my face, my folder and spectacles making a beeline for the presentation table – without me ofcourse.) 

You had walked right up to me, ignoring the smirks on the cold, professional faces, and had offered a hand to help while saying, "I hope you liked the flooring. Now do check out the conference table too." I took your firm, warm hand, and I knew you were one of those rare men who stepped up to help.

As rare perhaps, as the occurrence of platinum – the rarest metal on earth.


It was not love at first sight, was it? You and I, we were competitors pitted against each other at work, and even more so when it came to matters of the heart. Our paths crossed, sometimes accompanied by an explosion of emotions – not always in the good sense of the word.  Then when was it that I discovered you were precious?


As precious perhaps, as the exclusive and much coveted platinum.


 Maybe it was the time you helped restore my self-esteem? Let me remind you. We were on a ‘working’ lunch at a pricey restaurant. I had fought tooth and nail to pay for ‘my share’ of the food. You finally mumbled something about “Frustrating women” and relented. 

I fished around for my wallet in my purse, burgeoning with odd items, while you waited patiently. I am sure you saw the horrific expression on my face when I couldn’t find it. I assumed I had left it in the car, so I excused myself and ran to the car to hunt out that elusive wallet.

Nope! Lady Luck had decided to play traitor – the wallet was not in the car. Oh! The very thought of sheepishly asking you to pay, after having nearly clawed your eyes out to do otherwise! I came back into the restaurant and slipped into my seat, thinking of  a plan B. 

That’s when I saw my purse was still open, but with a small modification – there were a couple of crisp currency notes in it! And there you were, completely unassuming, engrossed in the newspaper. Our eyes met for only a fleeting moment – a precious moment when I almost lost myself to you.

We became friends; but more importantly, we became each others' strengths in dealing with everything – from mundane work, to exceptionally challenging personal problems. You were even part of my adventures with the ‘arranged’ marriage route that my family was trying to close around me!

But do you know when I felt the pure love that I bask in, even today? You loved me enough to let me go – only pure love can do that!


Nearly as pure, perhaps, as Platinum jewelry. (for you see, Platinum is the only precious metal that can be used at 95% purity in jewelry – even gold at 91.6% and silver at 92.5% purity need more alloys to create strength to make jewelry)

We had never spoken of matters of the heart; we were happy to be the most important people in each others' lives, but we were not in love – yet. Till that day I discovered that a fluttering heart and a stuttering tongue could mean so much…….

I had just been transferred - a career option that would let me grow; the only flip side to it being that it would take me to a different city – away from you. I came to your place to tell you the mixed news, not knowing what to expect from you. You listened with a smile, only your eyes giving away the disappointment of our imminent separation.

Finally with a hug smelling of aftershave and freshly washed linen, you said, “Congrats M! You’ll be great …. You will absolutely love Bangalore!” 

We quickly moved into the excitement of my relocation, the packing and the ticking off from the lists (you were always a ‘list’ man, remember? You had a list for everything!). And ever so quickly, it was time to board that difficult train journey; the journey that would take me closer to my dreams, and yet, further away from the man of my dreams. 

As you held my hands in the same firm, warm grip that was so dear to me, you told me that you would always be there for me. Eternal – that’s what our friendship was, you said. 


Much like platinum is, with its durability and resistance, making exquisite jewelry last a lifetime of wear, holding precious stones securely, reliably.

And when the train pulled out reluctantly out of the platform, my heart willed for one more precious moment with you, one more hug maybe. But Alas! The Railways had decided to outdo itself this one time - it was on time! 

The train gathered speed, as did the tears from my eyes. For I had realized much too late, that I was in love. And that I had just lost the chance to ask you if the feeling was mutual. My face to the window, but my eyes shut, I tried to freeze your smile, your touch and your scent in my memory – that, after all, was what eternal meant, right? 

After what seemed like a lifetime of keeping my senses closed to the world, I finally opened my eyes.

Yup! I was officially going insane, I had decided; for I could see you, sitting right there, in front of me, trying to keep an impassive face. You smiled again, and this time you had tears too.

“What are you doing?” I had almost screamed. “The train is going to Bangalore! You don’t have a ticket. The TT’s going to be here……..” And that’s when we kissed.

You didn’t have a ticket. But you did have a plastic wire (from the seal of a mineral water bottle cap) twisted into a ring. “I know you can be stubborn, immature and frustrating. But my heart seems to have trouble focusing on those things. I seem to remember only the elation, that wonderful feeling when you are around” you had said. 

“I have to get off at the next station. But we will make this work, M. This is just to let you know what you mean to me.” You said, slipping the bright blue plastic ring onto my finger. “Next time, it will not be plastic. I promise.”

Eternal……. It hardly seems fifteen years have already passed from that day. Geographical distances, mundane practical logic, and our stubbornness have all tried to create thunderstorms in our life.

But then, Husband, we are in love, aren’t we?  Rare….. Precious…… and yes, Eternal.  

Oh! And happy thirteenth wedding anniversary, G. This time lets move away from the plastic, shall we? Platinum, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Well folks....It's official now. I have diagnosed myself with a serious case of Writers' block (yes, I insist that I be called a writer.... so what if only two measly stories are out in print?).

Also add a dash of pessimism and ladles full of self-pity. Serve same garnished with generous helping of sarcasm, and voila!!! You have a blogger with no blog posts for months!!

And then that got me thinking.... wasn't blogging the very fruit of these symptoms? I mean, I started blogging because I had so much going on in my head that I possibly couldn't share it with any other sane person without running the risk of a cardiac arrest (mine, or theirs). And thus, my blog was created for me, by me and from me (wokay.... that last bit kinda sounds creepy to me too, but what the hell!)

Then somewhere down the line, I began getting recognition, a few of the crazy stuff I wrote actually got noticed and some stuff even found their way into the epitome of writing success - the PRINT *revered silence here*

I began writing, not what I wanted to write, but what I thought people wanted to read. That left me with the same problem I have with the non-blogging world - expectations! And me and Mr. Expectations go back a loooooong way.... we absolutely hate each other.

So for all my friends out there (the blogger world is very unique. I have indeed, friends, who I have not met, but I can relate to completely) ............. I am back! And this time, I'm here to stay. (this, as I try damn hard to keep my toothbrush stationary in my mouth and try to wish the "Working Mom" syndrome away! Sigh!!)

Goooooood Morning all!! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wise Enough to be Foolish - a Review

A little over 200 pages, this book from Jaico Publications came my way on a rainy day, wrapped in promises of a good read. And it suffices to say that this book by Gauri Jayaram  did not disappoint. It deals with topics that most women have lived through - some more than others. It deals with topics that one is not comfortable discussing, even with one's own conscience.

A special thanks to Marina from Jaico, who is instrumental in me reading this book.

A little more detail in the review:

The first impression : The cover shows a girl with a packed bag (or 'baggage' maybe), not letting too much out in one go. Travel does play an important part of the protagonist's life, but that is not all there is. There is quite a lot of 'baggage' that the protagonist carries, which may have been symbolized here, but then, that's not all there is, either. Interesting cover.

Plot : Much of the plot is autobiographical (in the author's own words); the narrative beginning with the protagonist waiting for her husband to get back home. It then traces her growing up years in a Fauji family, where subtle biases to the male child brings in rebellion in her. The book then covers her travails at attempting to make peace with her parents, while also finding love herself. Through mentors in her life, she discovers two passions - travel and sports. The book would certainly strike a chord with most women, having faced atleast a few of the situations faced by the rebellious Gauri. But the risk here is that most readers may end up reading through the pages thinking, "Been there, done that, what next?"

Writing style : Jayaram is honest; sometimes wanting to make you flinch. Whether it s virginity she is discussing, or the unfairness of being a girl child in India, or live in relationships, or even child abuse, Jayaram manages a fine job of being sincere, yet not get defensive - a difficult task when you are talking about intimate relations such as parents, siblings and lovers. It is like being able to read a good friends diary (without the guilt ofcourse!).

Jayaram also manages to weave in some magical lines that make you want to sigh out aloud, and then read the lines aloud again, savoring the way that sounds. Examples:
  • "When no one knows what to say, and there is a moment of silence, the angels are passing and everyone should stay quiet."
  • "Life is an individual event, and only you count….Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose."
  • "When you are gambling on the table of Vegas, the way you behave when you have little at stake is very different from how you behave when you have a lot at stake."
The narrative is filled with such gems, stemming from the introspective style that Gauri has used in the book.

Final Verdict : This is a book that makes you smile sometimes, shift uneasily in your seat sometimes, and gasp yet other times. An emotional roller coaster, but one that makes you feel warm inside at the end.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Hope Factory - a review

I have been reading a lot of Indian authors lately. Not entirely a conscious decision, but that's the way it's been. There have been good books, tolerable books and terribly disappointing ones as well. Let me be honest - I haven't put up reviews of the really disappointing ones - call it a 'struggling' writer's empathy at play here :-) ...

But of all the recent ones that I have read, The Hope Factory by author Lavanya Shankaran made me sit up and do some serious reading. For two reasons : The first was that I was approached by a very professional sounding mail from an equally impressive (and punctual) gentleman handling the marketing of this book. Of course, this appealed tremendously to my waning ego as a writer of any talent. But more importantly, when  I actually set eyes on the book, I was swept away. Let me attempt to explain why, in my review here.

The first impression : Simply put, the cover of the book raises expectations. There probably could not have been a picture more apt for the novel than the photo of a young boy, obviously thrilled by something as simple as the splash of water on his face. There is something in the picture that speaks of hope, of happiness - even in hard times. In fact, this is the first time that I've been compelled to take a photo of my reading corner, just to capture that delicious image.

The work of art with the early morning Cuppa!
A closer look:

Plot : A rich weave of emotions, mundane life and the distinct divide in social classes that is so prevalent in our lives. The characters all have their 'human' element - a quirk here, a secret there, a weakness here and a strength there. There are two protagonists here - the successful entrepreneur Anand, and the hardworking domestic help Kamala who is engaged in Anand's upper middle class household. All the characters who fill out the canvas, from Anand's socialite wife, to the Fabindia kurta- wearing friend who has mothered a child whose father no one knows about, the cook who loses her temper too much, but cooks like a dream - all of them are not mere words on a page to the reader. As a talented writer friend (who is an accomplished blogger herself) confided when discussing the author's works, the apt words to describe Shankaran would be "Astonishingly perceptive"

There are two parallel worlds in the story - the first, a factory owners' bid to stay successful and positive, while trying to remain honest and fair to his employees. At the other end of the spectrum, a woman who has fought all odds to keep herself and her son alive in a world filled with apathy. The determined fighter in both the characters are confronted by challenges and temptations alike. The story is all about the decisions that they make, and their outcomes. Though there are some who would argue that there is very little that 'happens' in the book, one cannot stop turning one page after the other, floating through the lives of these characters, who try to live out their life in dignity.

Writing style : Of the recent barrage of Indian writers' works that have come into the market, this one stands apart in style. There is none of the 'firang' influence - neither in the choice of words used, nor in content of the story. These are carefully chosen words; chosen to bring out the emotion in its strongest form. Some of the lines may need repeated reads - not because the words are difficult, but because the author has used very 'visual' words. Shankaran approaches the emotionally laden parts of her story in a matter-of-fact way, which somehow, manages to make the whole incident more 'real' to the reader.

Note : Look out for a few poignant pages written in that matter-of-fact way when a construction worker has to 'steal' a bath of clean water. (That's it - not letting more out for fear of spoiling it for you :-) )

Character development : Shankaran's perceptiveness oozes through each character, from the kohl lines they draw, to the flowers they wear, to a benevolent smile on a poster. While this may reduce the pace of the story for some readers, I felt that this only added to the joy of reading the book. The story however, ends at a place that allows the reader to imagine the story further - a sequel perhaps?

Words and print quality : Firstly, I just love hardbound books - they feel lovely in the hand. The print quality, the paper, the spacing - all perfect to make a 350 page book seem like a breeze to read. No printing errors (atleast none that I could spot) and meticulous editing in the book is such a welcome change.

Final Verdict : A book for keeps; am glad that this beautiful book came my way. But even more delightful is the fact that unlike a book borrowed from a friend, this one stays right here on my dresser, for me to pull out and read in my cozy corner .........

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tantra - A long due review

My blog is like a reliable soul-mate. There were days when I'd repeatedly delve into the ever patient pages of my blog and pour my heart out into its pages. Then there are times such as the one that passed, where I choose to ignore the very existence of my patient soul-mate. And yet, today when I come back to the non judgmental pages of my blog, she welcomes me with the love only true to her name. (of course my blog is a 'she'!). Of all the commitments I had overlooked, this one has been the worst.

Sorry blogadda, for the delay in this review. (Something tells me this is the last time they are going to send me a book for a review :-) )

So lets move into the review that should have been here a few weeks ago: Tantra by Adi.

The first look : One of the main reasons why the old saying "Never judge a book by its cover" stands true - the cover looks too much like a cartoon with the girl on the roof, and the man in the clouds. Could have been better.

Plot : Yes, it does look a little juvenile when one puts words like 'vampire slayer' and 'revenge' into the summary. But rest assured, the plot is fast paced, keeps one hooked on to know what happens next. There are moments of sheer genius, where the author carries of black humor with panache. (That's what happens when a man writes for a woman protagonist - sarcasm flows easily :-)). Then again, there are times when the author walks off in a direction which perhaps, not all may follow - the tantric references and the Vampire stories coming in together is such an example.

In short, the story takes some time getting used to. There are some predictable cliches - yes, the vampire slayer is sexy, yes, there is a sidekick. Yes, she manages to fall in love - again. But so what? The sheer pace of the book makes up for the cliches. Also, the story ends quite abruptly, leaving me wondering if there is a part two waiting to come out, maybe?

Writing style : Something that I've seen a lot these days - a fast paced piece of writing that doesn't pause to take a second look at the choice of words used to carry that pace. Let me explain : in many places, I winced a bit at the choice of very predictable words, and maybe even 'Indian' English. Also some words such as 'shifting' made no sense to me till about a quarter of the novel was read through. (I blame myself for this though - I have successfully escaped Vampire stuff till now). Made me wonder if the author took it for granted that we were acquainted with Vampires.

Character Development: That the author has immense talent, shows in the way the characters have been defined. A face to every character, a character to every name, and they all come in nicely together. Though there were a few times when I had to go back a few pages to register "Now who was that...." about some vampire, or tantrik, or sidekick.

Final Verdict :
A book that taught me a thing or two about the rage that is vampires, and a book that challenged some of the thoughts about Tantrik practices in India. A debate about good and bad leaves one thinking; though this very debate could have been much more powerfully handled by usage of better words. You may like vampire stories or detest them - this book may be just what the doctor ordered for those who just can't figure what the big deal is about Vampires :-)..... A good, late evening read when you really don't want to mull over heavy reading.  

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Rituals of Life

Life takes a full circle, and comes back with a lesson or two…

This profound truth found its way into my conscience when I started insisting on certain rituals during the course of the day with my children. When I was growing up, my relationship with these seemingly silly rituals enforced by my mother, ranged from gleeful giggles when very young, to rebellious questions when older.

The rituals my mother enforced on us, and the ones I speak of here, are not rituals that are written down in religious scriptures. They are simple, day-to-day activities made closer to the heart, so that we carry comforting memories of it through the trying times in our lives.

For example, we have a “Greeting rule” at home – both when we wake up and when we go to bed. No matter what – whether you are tired, or angry, or have had a fight with one another, the rule stays. Sometimes, it is this simple “Good Morning” or “Good Night” that chips away the differences, and brings the siblings closer to each other.

Another rule enforced rather strictly at home, is the “Hug before you leave” rule. As the name implies, we have hurried hugs, even if the school bus is honking angrily at the gate. Needless to say, the kids run smiling into the bus, even though the early morning routine may not have been entirely to their liking.

Choosing their bed-covers every time it’s time to change them, is another ritual we love to do together. Ofcourse, choosing it extends into helping me with tucking in the washed, crisp sheets and putting in the pillow covers to match. Thus, an activity which would have been considered a chore, now becomes family bonding time, leaving pleasant imprints in their minds.

Laying the table for the family dinner (the only meal we eat at the dining table as a family), picking out the crockery when we have guests over, deciding the menu for parties, or the venue for a celebratory dinner, are all “rituals”. And the rules remain the same: Everyone participates. (Even if you are sulking!!)

We have our ugly days too. A ten year old who thinks her mother is just not ‘cool’ enough to hand over an expensive piece of gadget to her, or a five year old who has just been reprimanded for pouring water all over the living room rug. Mom and Dad have just had an argument about the broken tap. Just like any family, we have our shares of sulks and fights.

But over the years, we have, as a family, evolved into a collective habit. We set aside the sulks and the fights to accommodate these seemingly silly rituals.

This, perhaps, will train them for the future; a future where they will have emotionally, physically and mentally trying times. But also a future where they realise that the tiring times can be set aside to give time to more important things – like a hug, a greeting, for a loved one; or a bed time story for a little one.

This post was originally published at 'Parentous'

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Have a Dream...... But so do you!!

I love music. To the extent that it can completely change my frame of mind, my attitude to life and maybe even the decisions that I make. That said, one of the biggest regrets in my life is that I never quite learnt music in any of its varied forms. So I have spent half my life envying, and in due course, being infatuated with anyone who sings well or is particularly dexterous with a musical instrument.

Needless to say, my kids are aware of the immense effect music has on me – for quite often they can assess my mood by the musical notes sung in the shower :-) ...

In almost all my conversations with other parents, I was aware of how kids were living dreams of their parents. Somehow, the knowledge that I did not force my dreams down my children’s throats, had made me feel rather superior to the other members of my species.

My ten-year old daughter is a trained Kathak dancer. She has been training under a highly knowledgeable guru for the last five years. Today, she is appreciated for her grace, her poise and her ability to emote on stage. The story however, was not so rosy a few years back.

A few years ago, I would listen to classical music with a six-year-old, while explaining to her all the little things that my sensitised-to-classical-music ear could hear. Initially, she would get bored. Later, she showed a distinct love for the changing beats and the crescendos that accompany the Carnatic or Hindustani styles of music.

I was overjoyed! I asked my daughter a closed question that went something like this : “You are just like me!! I loved music when I was growing up, and I always wanted to learn…… I think you have a beautiful voice. Do you want to join music classes?”

She looked at my twinkling eyes and my quivering hands and nodded with a smile. I enrolled my daughter (who was already learning Kathak for a year by then) into music classes. While the Kathak classes had started entirely due to her enthusiasm, music classes were my dreams surfacing through. But I went through the whole process with the visuals of my daughter enjoying music with me – assuming she wanted to learn it – just like I did.

A few weeks of classes later, my daughter started showing signs of exhaustion, and began to avoid talking about either the dance or the music classes. She also asked me once if she could quit both. I would ask her why, and she would say, “Just joking Mom!!”

One day, G (the other half of me) walked up to me and said, “Listen, I think you should take up music. You sing real well in the shower.”

I looked at him as though I had been hit by a passing meteor. G, incidentally, is trained in Hindustani music, and has a discerning ear. Which means he has never, ever, in so many years together, told me I sing well (hint: because I DON’T)…… I knew he was lying.

I asked him why, in ten years, he didn’t tell me I sang well, and now he wanted me to take classes! He said, “Because that’s your dream…. you want to sing. And you just may be able to sing well if you take classes……” And then he stopped talking.

I prodded him on. “And……?” I asked him.

He was fidgety and uncomfortable, but he said what he had to. “Well, it’s your dream Meena. Not little G’s. She loves to dance; every inch of her mind and body loves dance. This is why she has never complained of aching feet or tired arms – even when she has to sacrifice her weekends. It’s not the same with music. She’s doing it for you!”

I was aghast. My mind screamed that it was not true.

“What absolute rubbish!” I nearly threw the hair brush at him. “You should see her tapping her feet at the beats and the way she closes her eyes when she hears a nice piece! I never forced her to join classes…. She told me she wants to learn music!” But I knew G was right. My conscience was shaking her head sadly while I said this.

Because you wanted her to say it. And she didn’t want to disappoint you.” G was in mortal fear of being hit by a flying hair-brush (but he is a courageous man :-) )

Everything fit into place now. Little G’s exhaustion, her ‘joking’ questions on wanting to quit both dance and music, because she couldn’t tell me she chose her dream over mine. I was no less criminal than all the parents who force kids to become doctors or engineers to live their dream!

Little G and I had a talk in the evening over an ice-cream (as I’ve mentioned in other posts, little G’s innermost thoughts are most accessible with vanilla ice cream) and I told her that I had many dreams in my life and almost all of them got fulfilled. I also told her that music was only a little thing that really did not matter anymore to me. And that she was a wonderful dancer, and that she could quit music if she wanted.

Of course, she was only too happy to quit music classes, once she was sure she wouldn’t ‘hurt’ me by doing so. Finally, I made her promise me that she will never do things ‘for’ me. She would live her dreams not mine – and I assured her, that would make me the happiest Mom, ever.

She and I, we had reached a new level of love and respect for each other after that little ice-cream talk.

Yup!! She's the one stuck in the middle :-)

Published originally at Parentous - a parenting site.

Friday, March 8, 2013

When I write....

* Rant alert!!!
** Writer's block
*** Bad combination! What you still doing here?

I found a treasure recently - an old dairy, with yellowing pages and folded edges.

Yes. Yours truly was the kind who poured her sappy heart out into fresh, crisp sheets with narrow lines, of a dairy..... Lines that barely contained the tails of the 'g's and the heads of the 'T's.... just as it could barely contain the emotions that poured forth from the much chewed reynolds pen.

I read them again and again, with flashes of visuals coming in spurts and bits. I laughed at some of the pages, amazed at how much joy the little things in life gave. The flutter of a heartbeat when a glance lingered on a little more than it should. The sense of pride in hearing one's name being mentioned alongside obvious 'excellent' students in class. The hurt in finding that not everyone saw things in the same light as I did. Uninhibited emotions that could only be shared with the best of friends..... sometimes only a dairy could take on that role.

Remember the simple joy of writing? Not punching impersonal, cloned alphabets into the keyboard of a swanky laptop; but the sheer genius of creating words, sentences and stories through a pen. The joy of seeing one's personality flow out of the pen into beautiful, pristine sheets of paper.

When was the last time I had to change the refill of a pen? I don't remember - pens no longer ran out of ink before we lost them!

Remember how our growing up years were, to a great extent, focussed on perfecting this very art of transferring thoughts to paper. We put in years of practice - of holding the pen at that perfect angle, of keeping the thumb positioned at the best position to leverage the speed of the mischevious nib, the tilt of the index finger and the agility of the wrist. Years of parents of toddlers tightly holding their little fingers wrapped around pencils, coaxing, threatening, bribing those little minds to replicate letters, words and numbers.

Remember how we could determine who the owner of an essay was, by just looking at the writing? Or the hours spent thinking who the 'secret admirer' was - and then comparing all the handwritings in class to try and arrive at a blissful conclusion? Remember how parents proudly held aloft notebook covered in brown paper to show off the handiwork that lie within? 

Years of aching wrists and fingers, not to mention the agony of lost or stolen pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners; years of ink-smeared fingers, ink smudged shirt pockets, ink cartridges and refills - today, are all just a page in the story of  each of us.

pic courtersy google images

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

No More Kanya ‘Daan’

I was in a wedding, the kiddos in tow. My kids love the extravagant Delhi weddings. Of course, the fact that they get to guzzle all the soft drinks they want, and binge on the array of desserts does have something to do with it, but I suspect it has to do with the music and the dancing too.

Weddings are also a place where relatives by the dozen, meet, exclaim on how much the kids have grown, and give them a tight hug, or a pull of the baby cheeks. This is also a time when my ‘ideal bahu’ (daughter-in-law) avatar makes a guest appearance, as I touch their feet in respect.

As the kids grew up, they picked up the habit from us, the parents. It began with the grandparents, and then to all and sundry who seemed to be people we did the exercise (pun intended!) with. While the grandparents are a very enlightened lot, there are relatives who are yet to accept concepts like gender equality.

Thus, in this particular wedding, I greeted an elderly aunt with much respect. My son, being the energetic five-year old that he is, immediately took on the game of ‘feet-touching’ too. Needless to say, the elderly aunt was ecstatic to receive this token of respect from him. Not to be left behind, my daughter, all of nine, decided to garner some brownie points too.

But the moment she bent down to touch her feet, the aunt gasped and said, “Oh, but girls in our family don’t touch feet.” A perplexed nine-year old was not able to understand why she was not given the same blessings.

A little later, a conversation between the still-confused none year old and the relative in question (yes, I have a persistent daughter :) ):

Little G : Badi Dadi (Elder Grandmother) why didn’t you let me touch your feet?

Elderly Aunt : Because I love you very very much.

Little G : But you let my brother do it....dosn’t you love my brother ?

EA : Oh, but in our homes, daughters are like Devi (Goddesses)…. So you are like a ‘Devi’ for me.

Little G (still thinking hard): So that means no girls should touch feet right? What about Mamma? She is also a girl. Why can she touch your feet?

EA : Well, you will not touch our feet – not your parents or us. Your brother can, but you can't. You see beta, you will touch the feet of elders in your home. (Noticing the perplexed expression on her face, Dadi clarifies)…. When you get married.

This is where I had to interfere and take her aside to prevent any further conversation on the same topic. But some damage had already been done – I discovered that Little G was not very happy with the way things were. She looked at me through spoonfuls of the ice cream, and said, “But this is my home!”

I assured her this most certainly was her home, and she could do all the stuff her brother would – including touching feet if she so felt like it! She hugged me and rushed off to play, the worry out of her mind, the ambiguity no longer visible to her.

While I discussed this with my Mother in Law, she was sympathetic with my concerns, but she said that ‘this is how the world is’. When I question further, on why the world is such, she patiently explained to me that every societal norm that was ever made, revolved around the fact that girls would be married off one day, and would cease to be part of their birth family.

Hmmmmm………. So, they were pampered to bits in their families, only to be treated like second grade citizens in their ‘married to’ family! Wow – that certainly made sense!

But this set me thinking – why do we have rules that create differences in two children?

- Dowry for one, property for the other

- Family name for one, soft corner for another

- Education for one, ‘Training’ for another

- “Budhape ka sahara” for one, “Paraya Dhan” for another

So, are we saying that we have differential rules to facilitate the roles of our sons and our future daughters in law - so that they are 'conditioned' to be care-takers as son and daughter-in-law?

Who gave us the right to decide our childrens' role in our lives? We stay with our sons and pine for our daughters, while cursing our daughters in law. We stay with our in-laws, while wishing for the company of our parents and envying our brothers.

At the end of this angry rant, an ancillary to all these ‘rules’ – do we have kids so that our ‘Budhapa’ is taken care of? Well, I know that for many of us, it’s a vehement ‘NO’. So then, why can’t we do away with differentiating ‘rules’ for the little ones?

I leave you with a beautiful piece from the Lebanese poet Gibran

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”

Thoughts Please .......

This was originally posted in "Parentous"

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Movie review - Anybody can Dance

The kiddos and I went for a movie recently. Titled "Anybody Can Dance", this was the very essence of our approach to dance too. First, the review

The movie is made by Remo D'Souza, whose first movie F.A.L.T.U. was a pretty insightful look into youngsters lives today. So ofcourse, there were expectations - especially since this dealt with his core competence - Dance.

I went into the movie hall with mixed feelings - the reviews ranged from excited whoops to "bleh"s.... so I was prepared for a boring 2 and a half hours. The saving grace being, there was some dancing we could look forward to.

The plot, as almost everyone pointed out, was cliched. But then, so is life.

At the risk of sounding less than intelligent, I must say this was an enjoyable movie. Yes, there are cheesy dialogues, cliched twists, juvenile emoting skills by the actors (well, in their defence, they are dancers, not actors) and a less than surprising finale to the whole thing.

So, do I hear you ask what works for the movie, then?

1. Honesty : Sheer honesty in Prabhudeva's dance steps, his earnestness in trying to get the team together, his frustrations in failing a couple of times. The honesty in the efforts of the dancers (almost all of them made famous by reality dance shows), from a drug addict depicted by Puneet, to the kohl-lined Dharmesh.

2. KayKay Menon's Acting : This guy wins you over. From the manipulations, to the media seduction to some moments of never-before seen emotions in the finale which I cannot even begin to describe in words, this guy is like an elixir who makes up for the lack of emotions on the other actors faces.

3. Dance moves : There are moments in the beginning of the movie, where you see an insipid group dance performance (which completely explains the storyline), and you wonder whether you are going to last throughout the movie. Oh but wait! This seems to be Remo D'Souza's trick (in FALTU too, he begins in a lukewarm style, taking it to a superb finale), because, the next thing you see is a chase scene which introduces all the lead characters. And this, my friend is a seeti-blowing moment! This chadse scene without fancy cars and special effects, can take on Don, Tiger and Vinod, hands down! And then there's the finale - it takes the whole experience of ABCD into a crescendo, and leaves one with a strange kind of emotion - faith, maybe.

4. Message : Yes, I am a sucker for movies with social messages - especially where the message is delivered without too much preaching. Here, it is the age old message - no shortcuts!

5 The After Effects : Allow me to explain this through a highly motivated 5 year old, who was in this mood from the moment we walked out of the theatre, all through the car ride home, and through the weekend!

The Verdict : A must watch for anyone who likes shaking a leg :-)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Privacy and all that Jazz ....


The almost ten-year old screamed as she darted across the living room, while trying to throw random things at a fleeing five-year old brat of a boy. Nothing exceptional in this scene, except that the daughter was still in the damp towel after her shower, and the son was brandishing her pajamas like a victory shield, dragging it through the floor while gleefully running around the house.

Daughter had started showering on her own a couple of years ago, and even managed the shampooing ritual on her own. All she needed was a little supervision from Mom on the rinsing of the conditioner. She'd also started to develop her sense of privacy, the attached bathroom to her bedroom provided the requisite privacy even without locking the bathroom door (the kids are still not allowed to lock bathroom doors).

Sigh!! But the five-year-old has all the social etiquette of the emperor of ‘The Emperor’s Clothes’ fame. That is, he needs elaborate convincing to keep his clothes on.

As is the case with all parents with different sex kids, there are lessons to be taught on personal space, and with the whole screaming happening in the towel, I realized it was time to start making some rules. (Parents with a son and a daughter would already have developed the skill of answering embarrassing questions about the new baby’s anatomy from inquisitive toddlers. :) )

So, we (yes G is a partner in crime in all our ‘interventions’) sat the kiddos down, and explained some ground rules:

  1. While we believe completely in the ‘sharing is caring’ bit, towels are not meant to be shared. (With a special understanding glance, we look pointedly at the little one, as one of his favorite pastimes is using anyone but his own towel to clean various surfaces)
  2. No one opens a closed-door without knocking (the morning chaos is a time when many embarrassing moments have taught the kids why we were having this conversation in the first place :) )
  3. We are in the process of identifying the kids beds…. Their inputs on what they want will be taken into consideration. (As of now, they sleep wherever they feel like – on their own large bed, or sometimes even with us. We’re hoping the new beds will help them sleep separately).
  4. While elder kiddo will change only in the privacy of her bedroom, for the little kiddo the world is his changing room. We emphasized the importance of changing only inside their room.
  5. While looking pointedly at the elder kiddo, we reminded the kids that sniffing at toothbrushes, towels, pillows and blankets to check if someone else has been using them is weird behavior.
  6. Ofcourse, each kid’s school bag, books and the likes are off-limits unless they ask for permission. (The elder one was visibly happy with this rule).
We are yet to see the impact of this talk, but I imagine we we’ve given them enough food for thought!!

Can anyone think of any more such rules?

This post was originally published at Parentous.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oh for the Love of Love!!

You can hate it, you can love it, you can scoff about it, or you can be wistful about it. But there's no way you can ignore this mush-in-your-face-festivities called Valentine's day!!

Who cares that it actually is in memory of a martyr? Just like Mother's Day (another festival where the person who championed the cause , actually spent her entire fortune fighting the commercialized version of her dream), Valentine's Day owes its popular existence entirely to the geniuses in the marketing department of card companies.

However, like I said, one really cannot ignore V-day, can we? Whether its the lovestruck couples around you, or the trying-to-get-lucky-in-love variety, or the I-hate-this-day-coz-I'm-so-lonely people you encounter, each one only reminds you that today my dear, is Valentine's Day.

My love-hate relationship with V day began the year I started college. (Yes, yes, laugh all you want. When we were school going kids in a little town tucked away in the hills of Kerala, we had no clue 14th Feb was any different from other days!) 

The shock came by way of being suddenly confronted with different kinds of hopefuls - some were shy and endearing, some haughty and confident, some funny and clueless. (The funny and clueless variety were my favorite!). But as freshers in college, V day was far from pleasant - you had no idea who would spring forth from the corner of the cafeteria to thrust a rose and a chocolate bar at you!

However, at the height of pheromone-driven love, V day syndrome reached a different level - this day was yet another excuse to suffocate the person you love with an overdose of gifts and romantic words stuffed into a card. (Honestly, does anyone remember the Hallmark cards with pages and pages of poetry written on them?). But truth be said, one did not, even for a moment, allow common sense to over rule the heart. Thus, all the ridiculously priced roses, all the unbelievably juvenile gifts did seem to make complete sense to the hormone crazed hearts, didn't they?

The first few years of commitment in love, or what they call 'marriage' brought about a certain saneness in the way we celebrated V-day. I mean you see the guy every day! So of course you are not gushing your heart out in a clandestine meeting over ridiculous candlelight and a teddy bear that cheekily says 'I love you.' But a peer-pressure induced romantic evening was certainly a welcome change from the daily monotony of work-home balance.

As the years go by, and the relationship has moved on from 'I-wonder-if-he-still-loves-me-as-much' phase, love, and everything that symbolizes it, takes on a new meaning. Let me try to decipher what 'love' means to me on this V-day
  • When he starts a conversation with, 'I don't know if you will like this........' I know I am going to love the new book, or the new scarf he has picked up for me. (No, there has never been uber-expensive surprises. We prefer long discussions and opinions and choices when we want to spend like there's no tomorrow!)
  • When he walks out of the room to have a long conversations on the phone, I don't have the urge to overhear his conversation
  • When I cook something special, he urges the kids to yell "Very yummy Mom!" - which the kids comply willingly
  • When I have a ridiculous incident (read that as falling flat on my face while walking on perfectly aligned plane surfaces) he tries very hard to hide his laugh.
  • When I have a flat tire, even though I know there's no way he's going to be able to help, I still call him. And he, after appropriate sympathetic tut-tuts, tells me the obvious - to call the helpline.
  • When I have to take an early morning flight, and I tiptoe around the house getting ready, he will wake up, switch on the living room lights, plop himself on the sofa, and sleep with his eyes open till I leave.
  • When we fight over who switches off the light at night, he teams up with both the kids to blackmail me - "Mommmmmeeeeee ....... please switch of the light. We loooooooove you!"
  • I reach out and hold his hand in the movie theatre. Sometimes the kids are in between, but we negotiate with them to change seats ;-)
  • I like Chinese and Continental food, and he considers only Indian cuisine to be 'food'. So we usually go to multi-cuisine restaurants.
  • He smiles indulgently at the daughter when she explains how the silly guy in school does not know chlorophyll helps in photosynthesis. And then he points at me and says 'Did you know Mum was Head Girl in school?'
  • His chest visibly swells in pride when kiddo 1 tells kiddo 2 that "Papa's biryani is better than even Mom's!". Truth be told - he does make a mean biryani (an Indian Rice dish)
Maybe this is what its all about -  all the evenings we've crashed out on the couch with the TV blaring well into the night, all the days we have stood in the balcony watching the rain, all the silly games we've played with the kids on the living room carpet, the companionship in this weird unprepared journey called life that we've ventured into.

Maybe there is a method to the madness called love.

Apt quote huh? Credit Birthdayquotes
Happy Valentines Day y'all!! :-)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

'B' Goddess for Dummies - A review

Oh ok!! I still can't make myself say the B***** word!

Not that I am a prude or anything - far from that. Believe me if you heard me while I manoeuvre the Delhi roads, you'd send me for the audition of the 'Roadies'.

Blame this (new found) squeamishness on the 'Mommy syndrome'. I cannot, try as I might, write or say words that I cannot use in front of the kiddos. Hey, but that doesn't mean that I have a problem with this particular word - I have successfully, in the past, used them to good effect - especially at workplace :-).

It was a pleasant surprise when Maya Sharma Sriram wrote in to ask if I'd like to review her book. Ofcourse I was ecstatic - in no small measure, because this also stoked my waning ego as a blogger. So here is the review, a la Nirvana

The first look : Its a Rupa publication book, with an interesting cartoon for the cover, which gives you the hint of the sense of humour you'd find in the book.

Plot : While the world may want to mock chick lit novels, the truth is that they are a force to contend with; and for good reason - most of them are pages out of real life, and most of the readers (especially women readers) would have that moment of deja vu in these novels. This novel is no different in that aspect - there are pages in there which look like scenes straight out of my office or my home.

The story revolves around a young woman with career aspirations and the competence to see the aspirations through, but with an element of 'goodness' in her which seems to hamper her perceived growth  - both in personal and professional life. So she decides to take charge, and change all that. Whether she succeeds or not, and whether it is indeed the new avatar that works for her is what the story is all about.

Set in two cities - Singapore and Chennai, it explores the feelings of a vulnerable woman who wants to take charge of her life. Nothing exceptional in that situation - except that the whole approach to the novel is with a pinch of salt, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and even a shot of vodka (what the heck!) which makes the book a completely refreshing read.

Writing style : Sometimes when you read the book, you forget you are reading, and are probably watching a movie - a bollywood movie at that! What I mean is that the book is easy to comprehend, with no heavy duty words acting as speed breakers in the reading speed. Which means this is something to read when you want to just laze out in the winter sun, with a hot cup of coffee, on a chaise lounge - with occasional giggling bouts.

The South Indian influence is evident in the book - and brings back memories of filter coffees, hot pakoras and absurd phone conversations with my mother. Again - something that every woman fondly remembers.

The author brings in an element of modern romance, but somewhere, there is a certain awkwardness in depicting love scenes - which is not uncommon in Indian writers. Maybe she could have avoided them, or only have notional depiction if required. There were a few jarring pararagraphs which seemed forced.

Another aspect which somehow, seems a tad too convenient - was that the love story seemed like a match made in heaven from the first meeting - from the religion to the industry...... Or maybe I am just jealous that the protagonist had it too easy :-)

Character Development : The author gets brownie points on this aspect. From clothing styles to hairstyles and quirks, you get a definite visual of the characters (remember I said it was like watching a movie?).

Also the transformation of the protagonist - the physical one, is very vivid. A certain amount of stereotyping does happen (the office b**** wears revealing but stunning outfits etc etc) but what the heck! Most of us have seen people like that haven't we?

Final Verdict : An easy on the mind, but entertaining read for a lazy afternoon. You will want to read the book cover to cover, but it is not a book that will demand your grey cells to work overtime. I read it intermittently, during a holiday, and it was easy to pick up from where I had left it (this is a boon for mothers, who get constant SOS calls from the kids). Oh! And do prepare for a few giggles that will escape your lips while reading. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The First Born

My elder one, soon to be a highly inquisitive ten-year-old girl, threw a half-hearted tantrum the other day. G and I were quite perplexed with the whole thing, as she has not, in all her growing up years, thrown anything remotely similar to a tantrum (which probably explains why even this one did not quite look convincing enough).

All through her baby years, toddler years and school years, she has put to good use, her convincing skills, her baby charm and her intellect to get what she wants (mostly); and also has given in gracefully when she had realized things aren’t going to work her way.

This sulky avatar was new to us, and we set about analyzing why this little anecdote happened.

This led me to compare the age-wise behaviors of both the kiddos – the elder nine-year old and the younger five-year old. In almost all the tasks that required independence, we discovered that the elder one was far ahead. Let me elaborate…..

She stopped wearing diapers much, much earlier. Infact, there were times when it was a common sight to see a very exasperated mother running behind a very determined two-year old, trying to get her into diapers for the night.

She started eating on her own much earlier. She refused to let anyone come between her and her cereal bowl, once the meal began.

She picked out her clothes quite early, plainly refusing to wear what she thought was not ‘nice’. (the younger one still cares two hoots what I make him wear). She would run around with little feet, fetching the knick knacks that I needed during the course of the day to take care of another brand new baby.

Then it hit me – the new baby had changed my first one!

The Big 'little' Sister

On hindsight, I do feel that 5-year-old first-born was like a helping hand, while 5-year-old second one is more like a few confused rabbits set loose. With the elder one, when she was five, she knew she had to keep the volume down during nap times, or the baby would wake. The current 5-year-old knows no such rules.

When she was five, she would come back from school, gather her clothes, neatly put her bag in a corner and tip toe in to give me hug. I am also aware that she would do it willingly, just so that life was a little easier for me.

The second one still needs to be threatened, coaxed, warned, bribed and finally screamed at, to do his bit. And when I try emotional blackmail on him, (“Mamma is tired, and will have to do all the work if you don’t help out…”) he looks at me with all the understanding of a cocker spaniel, and continues to create a mess.

Suddenly, it seemed as though being the first-born, daughter dearest grew up much faster. I was suddenly gripped with a strange guilt, wondering if she would have been a different person if she was the second one.

G was quick to the rescue with his arguments – as the first-born, she was the special one – and will always be so. And she did get exclusive time with parents and grandparents for about 5 years.
So I leave you with this question … Is there a flip side to being the first-born?

Read this article that was first published at Parentous, a platform for parents.