Monday, April 27, 2009

Whose Work Is It Anyway?

Recently, I was talking about some friends of ours, and how I was surprised that the men did not take up more responsibilities. Vicky smirked (yes he did) and said I should realise that not all men are like him. But I don’t think now – and I never have before either – that Vicky does anything that is so very remarkable.

I used to be hot-headed about this until a year or so ago, rushing in and ticking husbands off when I thought my friends (the wives) were getting a raw deal. I’d have done the same if it were the other way round, of course, but in most marriages I see around me, the women seem to do more housework and baby-rearing even if the imbalance is only in a 60:40 female:male ratio. I learnt to keep quiet when I finally figured out that I was interfering in their private arrangements which were, of course, not my business. But I still watch and I still wonder, how it is that these men think it’s a choice?

At some level it is a question of manners to me. When you’re too tired to do as you should, oughtn’t your upbringing make sure that you do it anyway? Dropping people home late at night, helping bring in the groceries when your very bones ache, getting out of bed to take out the garbage early in the morning. I can understand how these things may seem above and beyond the call of duty. But haven’t others gone the extra mile for you? I know lots of people have for me. How can I sit back and keep taking?

Surely we no longer live in a world where men can expect to work only during office hours and perhaps put in a few hours over the weekend on a few chores and consider that the full sum of all that is necessary? No doubt do-it-ourselvers like Vicky and I are extremes and it’s not in the slightest bit necessary to do every little thing oneself. But if you have a maid to help you with the child(ren) and maids to attend to the household, can you not help your wife out by waking up a little earlier in the morning and giving her a much-needed lift?

When both partners work, it’s impractical to expect the wife to get up early every morning and fix breakfast. I mean, if both of you work the same hours, surely it’s more sensible taking turns with fixing meals or whatever?

People get impressed sometimes when I sit back and Vicky serves guests. But you know, it’s Vicky’s home too and his guests. How about thinking of it a little differently – instead of thinking of it as ‘work’ that he’s doing or ‘help’ that he’s ‘giving’ me, how about thinking of it as Vicky assuming equal householder status in his own home? No, I’m not trying to find a fancy justification for making him do ‘my’ work. When I shared the parenting with him right down the middle without separating things into mother’s role and father’s role, I thought (and still think) that he was lucky to be getting a taste of something very beautiful that most Indian men never get to know. Not the poopy diapers but yes, getting the first word while bathing his son. Likewise, apart from the backbreaking exhaustion of it, there is also a certain beauty in helping to run your own household, in knowing where the best cutlery is, and how to put a well set table together. And when a man does it, he also gets a great deal of praise, so what stops them?

I can’t think of any male friend offhand who mocks a man who helps out in the house. More and more, I see men offering to help at get-togethers. Why don’t these men chip in in their own homes? Not ‘help out’ now and then, but actually assert their right to help create the life they live? It makes so much sense to me to expect Vicky to build his career, do chores, do the stuff expected by the extended family and bring up the Bhabbles in full-on parenting mode because I do my bit in all of these things too, and I like knowing he’s at my side through it all. That, to me, is a marriage. Maybe to you it isn’t. But I’m thinking, by the time our children grow up, the men will assert their right to ‘feminine’ work like the women have to ‘male’ work. I sincerely believe that we’ll benefit from this change in outlook.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Celebrating Earth Day?

If you live in Cal, you’ve been bearing the brunt of nasty power cuts for a while now. If you have any brains at all, you’ll be cutting down on your electricity consumption when you do have power. I’m so bloody tired of power cuts because two people in an office need five ACs running, because people leave home computers on all day, because they can’t be arsed to turn lights and appliances and chargers off when not in use and because they need their pansy ACs on the whole bloody day and night. Shape up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Am fiddling around with templates. As you can see, I've managed to turn the blog French. Not switching that off just yet because I really need to read some French. Then maybe we'll try Swahili?

All Thumbs and Not One Green!

Trishna asked after my plants and this is what I found myself replying:
I couldn't separate the siblings, I mean the seedlings and now they're threatening to kill each other in their tiny pot. I should have known better, really. Even my tomatoes are out to get me. Violet (the petunia) goes her own imperturbable way and Bootsie (the geranium) will, if she survives, grow taller than my son is right now, which means over three feet, which means I will need to rent another flat to accommodate her.

I'm not the world's luckiest gardener.
As you can see, I take even whining to new standards. Yay me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It’s WTF in the cutest way

... when your iPod unexpectedly plays you the lullaby you sing to A Certain Little Boy and you find yourself calming down with an entirely unconscious relaxing of muscles and thoughts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Around the World in 80 Clicks

So Boo tagged me and here are the rules I must follow:
just write a post of your own (5 things that you love about being a mom) and find someone to link to and tag - someone from your own country, if you like, but definitely someone from another country (Google is a good resource if you don't know any; google any country name and 'mom' in their blog search function) (be sure to let them know that you've tagged them!) - and link back here and HBM and leave a comment.

Now, I dunno about loving being a mum, but I do love Bhablets and it’s not all bad being a Babu. And I do love this city I’m bringing my very own Bhablet up in, so my tag will be – ta daaaah! – 5 Reasons Why I Enjoy Being a Mum in Calcutta.

  1. The people, the people. I love how everybody stops to chat with him as he walks past. They don’t have to and they don’t always, but they do, mostly. And it’s not because of his essential Bhabletness either. It’s something about Cal. The way a watchman waylays us as we walk by and then tells us proudly that his own granddaughter is a much better talker (trust me, you can’t take offence); the way rickshawwalas, taxi and auto drivers wish him good bye when he gets off; the way an entire Post Office full of people babysits him while I send a letter off by courier; how women of all ages stop and offer advice; how shopkeepers get involved in my choice of baby cereal. It doesn’t annoy me somehow.
  2. The food. Knowing I can get cheap, safe food almost anywhere for a Wee One is a real help for a mum like me who likes to be on the move. Also, given that we’re surrounded by relatives and friends, we keep having delicious stuff everywhere. Separate meals are cooked for him, lovely sinful stuff.
  3. The CAINS! Rahul is train-mad and when I say mad, I mean he’ll forget all his woes if only somebody will show him something “cain”-related. Given that we live within easy access to the local railway (the line goes just behind us), the Metro (a short drive away) and the tramline (again, short drives away), he couldn’t be a better place to indulge in his obsession.
  4. The history. Personal and impersonal. Cal has so much I want to share with my son one day. Not just the building where his father got stinking drunk and proposed to me but also the building where his Babu lived as a little girl, the schools and colleges his parents went to, the place where his Grandfather Niyogy built a company… where does one stop? It’s the city where Grandfather Roy directs people using eateries as road signs, where Jimmamaashi and Tuamaashi pick up random toys for him, where R was born and it has the first home he had. Add to all this the historical wealth Cal has that has nothing to do with Rahul's family...
  5. The language. This is the one place where a Ghoti can marry a Bangal and this equation still be in comfortable balance. Because you have equal numbers of people speaking both Bengalis! Also, if, as is likely, he grows up here, he will be in touch with Bengali literature as I never have been. And I’ve always wanted to be, because it seems so rich.
I tag MayG, Cee Kay, Sparx, Choxbox and M4.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You know it's time to worry

... when cartoon characters turn you on.

(But he does!)

Then again, Sven's not the first, bless his sexy grin.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I Stick My Neck Out

And ask, what business is it of Bal Thackeray’s whether Anjali Waghmare defends Kasab or not?

As a citizen of this country I privately think that the best way to deal with Kasab is to make him slave for a day in the place of each person who died, make him do the work they did for the nation with none of the benefits, and then shoot him. I’m vindictive that way.

But then, I’m not a leader telling people what to think and therefore I can afford to think short-term, vindictive thoughts.

Thinking as a person whose thoughts affect other people, I have to say that in this country at least, we have an operating legal system. It’s in place for a reason – to ensure that our behaviour is just, no matter how anybody else behaves anywhere else.

It might seem like a bit of a farce to try Kasab when his guilt cannot be any clearer, but it’s a process that needs to be followed through so that we can hold our heads high and consider our conscience clean.

For this process to be followed through, a lawyer must be appointed for him. I think it’s extremely unpatriotic not to mention unprofessional for a lawyer to refuse this office. When one does so for fear of political reprisal, more shame to the people who cannot see that patriotism comes in higher forms than attacking restaurants or tearing up cricket pitches.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

... is something I've always wondered.

This week, first Vicky, then Rahul and finally I were slain by a nasty bug. It started off with blocked noses, sneezing and discomfort and eventually escalated to a fever before going away.

With all three of us down one after the other, I was wondering if we need to re-organise our lives. We need a home-maker very badly. Vicky has his work and I'm away all day. We need somebody to look after us, and cosset us, and bring us medicine when we're too weak to get up from the bed in the middle of the night. We need, in short, a person to do what we've always taken for granted from our mothers.

Since the mother in this house is me, I've been wondering, maybe, for a tiny family like ours, two working parents is a bad idea. I like the job and it's finally got me hooked, but at what price?

I can't wait for my parents to move back to Cal.

Friday, April 03, 2009

You know it's time to put on weight

... when a little boy cannot rest his tired little head on your shoulder, so bony is it. When he needs to tuck a wee hand under his cheek and over your shoulder before closing his eyes with an exhausted little sigh.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Examining Disability


Before reading further, please note that the information presented here is based on my personal experiences. It is by no means conclusive and if you feel that your child exhibits one or more of these warning signs, it does not mean that he/she suffers from a learning disability! Thank you.

When Kiran mooted the idea of a month dedicated to learning difficulties in children, I was one of the earliest supporters of the idea. All my life I’ve seen my brother struggle with his studies and like my mother, I think some early sensitisation would have done our family a world of good.

Dada and I were born into a family of very high academic achievers. Given our lineage on both sides, there were high expectations, especially from him, the first grandchild on both sides. As a toddler he was attractive, confident, charming and intelligent. When he went to school the family fondly waited for the perfect results he would bring home.

As the school years went on, my parents saw a curious thing. My brother was really quick to learn and he showed an almost photographic memory, but he failed his tests, every one of them. His school books came home blank, his teachers kept complaining about his lack of interest.

My parents and the entire extended family couldn’t figure the problem out. He was not stupid by a long chalk but his teachers were talking of a child they couldn’t recognise.

He is nearing thirty now and the doctors are no closer to giving a name to his problems than they were when he was a young child in school. One thing we’ve all come to terms with however, is that what he had was a form of examination anxiety, where he couldn’t perform under pressure, and also did not understand/appreciate the compulsion of performing under such pressure.

What can you do with such a child?

You can try to work out his motivations, what will work as sufficient incentive for him.

You can reduce your expectations, so any achievement seems worthy of celebration. This is not easy when you know what your child is capable of, but it may be the kindest thing you’ll ever do for him, when you can wholeheartedly celebrate each achievement, recognizing not just the brainwork that went into it but also the effort of personality, of the hard work it took him to do something that made no real sense to him.

You can take him to a doctor you trust and then get his opinion ratified by a couple more and then sit down and try to figure out where these opinions clash or agree with what your own knowledge of your child tells you. You can work out, from all these opinions, a pathway of teaching, perhaps aided by medication, that may work for your child.

The biggest mistake schools/society makes is in labeling these children as intellectually backward. Many children with learning difficulties have far higher IQs (without being Einstein, mind you) than the average Sue. My brother, for instance, can do most things better than I can if he wants to – but I’m more consistent with what I do.

If you are dealing with a child to whom studies make no sense, then, given the current educational scenario, it is still up to the parents to bring the world of studies alive to their child. To work out parallel ways of teaching. Cee has some useful ideas. You can find more on the other posts which will featured in a roundup by Boo soon.

You will need to reinforce every lesson taught in school, to re-teach it until it’s ingrained in your child and even then you cannot depend on him to show that learning when he needs to. Hardest of all, you will need to constantly buttress your child’s self-confidence. His teachers will look down on him and his classmates will mock him and he will wonder what’s wrong with him.

It is important for both parents to understand what the problem is. To work on it together. Many fathers prefer to live on in denial. It is vital that all interested people – the people who make up such a child’s world – understand that this is a problem that can be worked around, that this is not an indication of some sub-human abnormality. That your child is still the wonderful person you think he is.

It is when you disown this unpalatable part of your child that you open the doorway to other developmental, psychological problems. Problems your child may not have had to start with.

I wanted to write a coherent, bulletin-style post, stuff that’s easy to remember and pin up if necessary. Instead, I found myself writing down this long and rambling memory. I won’t change it though. This is my post as a survivor, of what we did, of things we later learnt we should have done and things we continue to wish we had done. If your child has learning problems, mild or severe, your path ahead will be rocky. But you can be assured from me that it’s walkable and worth the walk.

Acronymically Yours

I was telling a friend the other day that I'd had it being married. I said, "I want, let me see now, I want VRS. I think we call that alimony in legal terms. ;)"

She thought about it a bit and explained to me what VRS actually meant:
:) Vicky (se) Retirement Services :)

Makes sense to me!