Monday, March 28, 2011

Child Sexual Abuse [CSA] Awareness Month

All through April some blogger friends and I are hosting the CSA Awareness Month:


If you would like to add to the discussion or know somebody else who would, please note that we welcome entries

a. mailed to csa.awareness.april@gmail.com OR
b. posted as FB notes and linked to the FB page OR
c. posted on your own blog with the badge and "CSAAM April 2011" in the heading and linked to the main blog OR
d. linked or posted on Twitter tagged twitter.com/CSAAwareness OR
e. sent via some/all of the above methods

Some topics are suggested here. Anonymous contributions are accepted and requests for anonymity will of course be honoured. I will probably be hosting at least one guest post and encourage you to do the same for non-blogger friends.

You can also show your support by displaying our logo on your website. Here is the code:



Please remember to send in a mail with all necessary links (or just your input) to csa.awareness.april@gmail.com so that we can track your contribution and make sure that it is not inadvertently lost or something.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Darjeeling, March 2011

In March 2010 I packed the boys bag and mine and went to Assam. In March 2011 a phone call from Smitadi saw me shrug my shoulders (I was pissed off at Vicky) and agree to go to Darjeeling in three days' time. Rahul and I went, almost secretly, because I didn't want the families starting on me, telling me how dangerous it would be etc etc.

It was a fabulous trip, actually. Let me tell you what we did, Smitadi and Rahul and me, with occasional visits by Indranidi.

We ate like pigs. We even ate pigs. We walked through clouds and rode the Toy Train right through them.


We walked up and down hills through public lavatories and bazaars, past municipal buildings and colonial clubs, and walked up and down the mall hazaar times. We bought chocolate like addicts. Seriously.


I bought a kilo of liquor chocolates for Vicky, marzipan and brown and white chocolate creams and marzipan centred chocolates and a chocolate egg and a chocolate rabbit and marzipan and cheese pie and cheese and chicken pie and thick woollen stockings so that I can wear my short skirts next winter. We attended part of a Lent service at St Andrews and viewed Kanchenjunga by the morning light.

The Toy Train day was the most magical, I think, for Rahul.


Me, I kept bumping into ghosts. Me dancing around the railway station platform. Me walking sadly down Chowrasta. Me stepping through the drizzle to Kev's for a bite.


Rahul chased pigeons and I agonised over a pair of carved turquoise rosettes set into silver earrings at Habib Mullick's. (I didn't buy them then but Smitadi picked them up on my behaf later, yay.) He spent a whole morning mesmerised by a ladybird that he watched some older boys put into a fountain. He set a new style standard by pleading to wear mismatched shoes and crawled out of the blankets every blessed night, to be found huddling in a cold little ball every morning somewhere between Smitadi's head and mine.

Smitadi and I talked late into the night -- past 11, horrors! -- and Rahul slept around nine every night. The WBTDC Tourist Lodge turned out fabulous pork chops and Smitadi's friend Indrani turned out to be the wife of an ex colleague and the mother of two kids I've done theatre with. In fact, Indranidi made us awesome Indonesian beef one day and it was she who introduced me to the delights of Raju Bakery.

Rahul and I bought postcards and toilet cases and hair ornaments and discovered new roads. He was, after the first two days, a fabulous travelling companion. I still cannot get over how much fun he and I had, just us two, walking up and down Darjeeling, riding in the train, hopping into shared taxis, sipping hot chocolate in Kev's.


I took some gorgeous photographs of him this time.


Now I wonder what March 2012 will bring for the pair of us. Perhaps we will finally be able to take Vicky out somewhere.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hot Spot #1

You might remember, I signed up for Project: Simplify. I did the Hot Spot #1 although I missed the deadline for posting about it because I can't transfer photos from my phone to the laptop. I missed Hotspot #2 because I went off to Darjeeling on a sudden whim but I doubt I could have pulled it off, in all honesty. I try to tackle the paperwork in these parts so often and get absolutely nowhere.

Anyway, so here are my cupboards before and after.

Daily wear cupboard before:


and the same place after some forced evictions, rearrangement and sorting out:


Wow, I got a whole shelf free.

Now here is my saree cupboard before:


and after I was done with it:


Not much change here because mostly it's tidy enough and I chickened out of the real work viz trying out the blouses. I know many of them need mending and altering and my 'workbasket' is full already and who wants to try out some 60 odd blouses in this heat? I did get some space cleared in the lower section though.

As a bonus I cleared out the area in our headboard where I keep toiletries and stuff, Rahul's on one side and mine on the other. I even cleared out the dressing table and clotheshorse, but I don't have before and after pics of all that, only a couple of the headboard space:

Somebody Up There Is Rolling in the Aisles

While looking for some info, I came across my little announcement post, where I finally blurted out that I was pregnant.

And while I was reading it, I couldn't help but chuckle over such gems as:

Kids will have their own wishes. I only get to rule their lives so long.

Hah! I will rule his life for ever and ever. Just how my parents continue to boss me around.

Do not let my friends anywhere near the child (from child's age 3 to 35). Ditto certain big-mouthed cousins. V and I will have images to keep up!

Aargh! Too late for that one.

Not to let the sun go down on my anger. Very old lesson, well learnt once, thoroughly forgotten of late.

Hm. Easier to practice when a little brat hugs me tight and wishes me "Goo'nigh'-swee'dreams-s'eeptight" as he has a habit of doing every night. I'll miss it when he stops.

Not worry about kid's education. (Can't see myself doing this anyway. V neither.

Er. Duly noted. Not to worry. Doesn't look like he'll get into a school anyway, so nothing to worry over, really. *sigh*

The other post that caught my eye was the Savage Garden one. Since I wrote that there have been nights when I have been that lonely and lost and scared. But yes, on the whole my life is not like that. I'm not bruised and on the run. God willing I never will be.

Because this post is not random enough already, I end with an image for you:
Rahul Niyogy, squatting on our landing, wearing a smaller red croc on one foot and a larger green one on the other (we are treated to style statements these days, oh how the mighty Sues have fallen) and guess what my son is looking intently at? A discarded lizard's tail. And he chatters all the way to the car about how and why that tail might have been discarded and did we know, some people fry and eat lizard tails and some fry and eat lizards too and -- excuse me while I go throw up. Some days I cannot believe I gave birth to a child so revolting. To think he used to be such a cute baby, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not that long ago?

Thanks to my new French and Italian evening classes, I am to be found at JU four evenings a week. It's OK, it gets me out of the house and I certainly enjoy my classes but hanging around all these kids is kinda weird.

For one thing, I am frequently taken to be one of them. That sounds cooler than it actually is. The people on campus call me tumi and while this is fine from people who watched me grow up, it feels weird from those who are new to me. After all, elsewhere in my life I have graduated to "Boudi, apni".

Also, once the kids find out that I am actually older and wow, finished my Masters six years ago, they all look at me goggle-eyed and retreat to a safe distance to discuss the strangeness of this. Marriage and a kid are somehow easier to accept than that I am nearly a decade older than most of them. I can't wait for this phase of theirs to end! (This doesn't happen in Italian because my classmates are mostly my age or older.)

The other evening I got groped on my way out of JU by a senior citizen who no doubt thought he was manhandling a helpless college kid. I was helpless yes, but with laughter, not indignation. He had to reach so far to get his elbows to brush my breast, he nearly fell over.

These two young girls remind me of a younger me. Not because I was like them (I wasn't) but they remind me of how much fun angst was back then. (Spin, you may not feel murderous towards your gurujon. It's simply not respectful enough.)

But anyway, life goes in cycles or so I'm told, and therefore I am off on another trip to Darje tonight. The last time I was there was with the boyfriend in secret. This time I shall be with the son and maybe visiting in-laws. Keventer's, here I come.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quick Notes

So that was Thursday. Most of the week went by with Rahul's severe cold and my own, but things looked up on Friday.

The boy was finally showing some progress on the health front and I managed to force myself out of bed and into respectable clothes in time for French. Turned out class was cancelled because it was Founder's Day at JU and there I was, in my little tee and acres of skirt and no cockroaches in it either, finally wide awake and with an evening suddenly free. Oh, and there was the most delicious pre-kalboishakhi breeze blowing me all over the place.

So I dropped in on Beq's mum and chatted over tea and cake and I don't know why I don't visit her more often but I had a grand time. So grand that when Shuki called to ask if I meant to make it to rehearsals that evening I was gobsmacked at the hour. I swished off to Lake Gardens on a rickshaw, partly running the last bit, and met M4 and AmbiPur for a great hour's reading. I love this play. Afterwards Shuki and I walked down to Choco Express for a hot chocolate apiece and some conversation. We got caught in the rain and she walked me home.

Saturday lunch (biriyani and chicken curry) was at Guddi's. I really like their neighbourhood. Surprisingly quiet, with a nice park right next door and conveniently located. I wish south Cal offered such options that we could actually afford.

On our way back home we dropped in at South City and bought ourselves a TV on a whim. To think we have no cable but a fancy little TV adorns our sideboard. We celebrated the purchase by watching Cars and Rang De Basanti. To help me get over the RDB hangover, Vicky played Karz and we went to bed laughing. Even better, the man made dinner (sandwiches -- chocolate for the boy and chicken for his parents).

Sunday we all slept in. I cannot remember the last time I have been able to say this. I know I woke up (sort of) to deal with the car washing chap but I actually managed to go back to sleep and stayed that way till almost noon! While this is child's play for Vicky, it is a mostly impossible dream for me.

We had lunch at Choco Express (they have only one lunch option on the menu! Ok, two if you care to eat whatever the other thing is, which we never do and I can't even remember what it is) and then dropped the boy off at Moore Avenue. We came back home, Vicky worked and I sat down to finish my work on Hot Spot #1. What with having a sick child around in my bedroom all week, I obviously only really got stuff done on Sunday evening... It was great though because not only did I get some stuff sorted out and some other stuff discarded, I also ended up clearing up my dressing space and the bed headboard cabinet in which I keep Rahul's toiletries etc. I'll put up photos when I can have them transferred.

Dinner was with Ennadidi at an uncle and aunt-in-law's. We had a lovely time just sitting around chatting and Rahul wasn't too bad given that he had pretty much nothing to do and nobody to do it with. He only spilt Bombay Sapphire, white wine and then water on my saree which I suppose is getting off easy.

And now it's Monday and I am overwhelmed with work. *sigh*

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hardware Store

My throat's covered with sandpaper and my nose is blocked with MSeal.

*sigh*

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Women's Day 2011

It's Women's Day today and for reasons I cannot quite explain, I spent the day fascinated with Sreemoti's post. It is not that I quite identify with her although obviously I do in some aspects, but I do not think she even understands the concept of feminism. If she does not know where her strength lies how will she figure out how much compromise she can accept and how much she can't?

It made me think of what feminism is, as I understand it. It made me think of Aunty D who has been on my mind a bit these days. Technically, she is my dad's schoolfriend's wife but she and my mother have always got on very well so I usually introduce her to people as my mother's friend.

I have written about her before. But I admire her not only for the way she has brought up her sons. Both of them, as I mentioned before, have stuggled with learning issues in their school years but both of them are well educated, confident young men today. If you have ever seen a child being repeatedly mocked for being different, if you have ever seen a bunch of teens poke fun at another kid for living in his own world, you will have some idea of how merely instilling a sense of self worth and self belief in such a child is a labour of Sisyphus in itself. And then there is the actual task of tackling the learning issues and overcoming them. For the part she has played in her sons' lives, she has been a source of inspiration and strength to many parents.

She has also played a fairly important role in shaping me, I believe. As a young teenager I was encouraged to sit in on discussions between her and my mother as they strove to make sense of the family politics and other issues that formed such a major part of their lives. As Aunty D went from strength to strength in her job my mother asked her to speak to me about how important it was that I aim for financial independence in adulthood. She did speak to me, outlining my choices, and she supported me when I chose to marry early. She helped me sort my head out when my in-law problems were at their worst -- she knows more about this sort of nastiness than any of us should ever need to. And yes, there came a day when she let me down completely.

But through it all, she has been one of the strongest women I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She is no saint. Part of my admiration for her stems from her having the courage to admit her mistakes and their consequences, to pick herself up and carry on afterwards. She has helped so many women, including my mother and me, realise our own strengths, inspiring us to push ourselves a little harder. She had no daughters of her own but rather than whine about it like I do, she adopted many daughters, I one of them.

Ro, she is defiantly gray and her full head of hair looks lovely with it. K, she has gone through your heartaches twice over, with little support, and lived to tell the triumphant tale. Itchy, when I make fun of Bihari chicks, it is her I have in mind, returning the favour with guts and wits. Starry, she is the one who gifted me Janani for my last birthday, making me think harder than ever about the life I lead and my attitude to it.

She is, in some ways, larger than life. She loves beautiful things and is talented with her hands. She has filled her home with beautifully embroidered clothes and wall hangings and panels and covers. Glass paintings alter the light in their flat while their large terrace balcony is always a welcoming rush of greenery. She is an excellent cook and remembers the special favourites of her guests. She, like Mejopishi (my aunt), reminds me that being a career woman never means that you cannot be a gracious and thoughtful hostess too, that if your hobbies matter enough you will find the time to indulge yourself in them. Yet nobody can deny her total involvement and dedication to her job, her vocation.

In recent years she has cared for her old father, giving up vacation plans and many evenings out so that he is not left to fend for himself in an empty flat. She has a full life but would not dream of shutting her infirm father out of it.

So when I think of what a feminist should be, she is the person I think of: fiesty, full of strength and courage, accepting her weaknesses but willing to walk on nevertheless. It is not so much that she does not compromise as that she picks her battles with care. Like any real feminist she believes in the inner strength of every woman, a strength many of us leave untapped but which we all possess.

This is my post for the FemInspiration initiative by Women's Web.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Know what I'm singing this Sunday afternoon?

My anthem. Bah.

I'm off to bake myself some lemon tarts. And then I shall have every last one of them myself. Or something.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Giga is in town

(that's M'pishi to some of you) and a little boy is hiding extreme relief and happiness under a mask of nonchalance. None of us are fooled, though.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Reusable Paper Towels

A couple of years ago, when Cee and I were getting to know each other, we were on a Google group and emailed daily. In one such conversation she mentioned that she cleaned her fans with reusable paper towels and I got all righteously shocked because why did she not just reuse newspaper for that? Why waste clean paper? She defended herself as best she could and since I obviously wasn't getting it, we let the matter drop.

A year or so later reusable paper towels finally entered my life and I finally got it. It's not the same as wiping your fans clean with rolls of tissue paper. In fact, it is probably more environment-friendly than using great big wads of newsprint too. It sounds rather silly when I write it down, but I wrote to Cee then, laughing and apologising for my earlier righteousness and she laughed it off herself.

It's been a while since all that and I think one thing that has happened since then is that we have both mellowed. I don't think either of us were precisely intolerant before but I know I am more willing to concede that there may be more to an issue than meets the eye -- my eye -- that people may really have reasons for their inexplicable behaviour, reasons that I would understand and accept if I knew them. Sometimes though I still catch myself being intolerant. Then I think of Cee and her reusable paper towels and pull myself up.

Going off on a green tangent, Ujaan has provoked an open house discussion on the pros and cons of holding such a large festival out on the very fringes of the Sundarbans. If you are planning to attend the festival or are interested in the issue, please do drop by. Details available at the FB page.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Disllusionment

When Cousin J was a small bit of nothing much, she firmly believed that her Phulididi (yours truly) knew everything. She tried to gloss over my distressing passion for all things Barbie but you can imagine the shock to her tomboyish soul when she discovered one day that I didn't know what a stepney was.

Rahul just had a moment like that. My father, back from three weeks with his youngest nephew in Canada (all of three years old), lovingly brought a rubber frog for his grandson. Rahul was delighted with it and is completely amazed that I not only dislike it now (at the top of my voice if he brings it near me) but am not prepared to like it any time ever either. He tried telling me that babus like frogs too and when I firmly repudiated any such statement he brought me his little plastic froggie soapdish. I compromised and agreed that babus could perhaps like little plastic froggie soapdishes.

Of course, not half a minute later he figured that if babus don't like rubber frogs from Canada then it would probably be great fun throwing those rubber frogs from Canada at babus.

I am currently teaching him to throw it at his other grandmother (my mother-in-law; my mother has already warned the boy against bringing it anywhere near her. The MIL, having brought up Vicky and his brother, ought to be made of sterner stuff.)


Note: This post was written yesterday but had to wait because I cannot transfer photos to my ancient laptop. This photo was taken in a afternoon-dark kitchen, mind you. The N8 rocks. Ooh and I'm on Ovi after all now.

P.S. My FB status yesterday: Somebody stop that son of a Niyogy from throwing his rubber frog at me!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

*gulp*

I've signed up. (It's all MayG's fault)



What about you?

Eight Years Old

Last night I was reading out a part in which I was 9 years old. This morning I read this article about being the person your 8 year-old self wanted you to be.

When I was 8 I used to spend a couple of hours every evening out in the park. We played cricket with Binju's bat, wrestled each other to the ground like we saw on the new cable TV at Debika's upstairs and ran like the wind. I walked really fast trying to match my father's stride, anxious to keep up with my brother. I used to sew most afternoons, creating clothes and accessories and furniture and bags out of scraps of lace, fabric and ribbon. I had my own sewing and craft kits. I used to watch in awe as my brother played games on the computer in 1990. I traumatised myself by babysitting a demanding Chhotima and had great fun playing with Jimm. Didi was my closest confidant in the family while Tua was a bit of an unknown we all took advantage of. Going to buy milk was a huge treat, being allowed to drop the token into the Mother Dairy booth slot.

What did I want to be, back then? I wanted to be a wife and a mother, bossing her little family around. I certainly planned to show my mother how things were meant to be done (feeding my family dinners of just chips.) I wanted to travel the world and I was sure that all my life I would be just as skinny, just as wiry, just as flexible as I was back then. I was dumbfounded that my parents, who claimed to have read lots of Enid Blytons in their time, couldn't remember the minute details of all the plots, and I swore to myself that I would remember each and everything I read. I wanted long hair down to my waist flying in the wind and I wanted shelves full of Barbie things.

I am:
  • Not fat. Not thin, but not fat yet. Certainly bossy but also softer than I expected to be.
  • A wife and a mother, apologising to my mum daily for being such an annoying brat and begging her to lift the curse. Oh I feed my family 'healthy' meals (I eat chocolate for breakfast when the boys are away though).
  • Not really well-travelled. I have been around India a bit. Been to Nepal and Singapore. I suppose it's not my karma to travel like I want to though.
  • Forgetful of the chapter I read this morning. Enid Blytons seem like a very old dream although I still love them.
  • Short-haired but I did have hair down to my waist.
  • Very possessive about my Barbie things, now carefully packed away.
It strikes me that I was probably never a very ambitious person. I always planned to marry a very rich man who would spoil me silly but it's probably too late for that now.