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.