Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turning 6

Rahul hasn't taken too many calls willingly today, but every call that he has consented to take was answered with a, "Hello, happy birthday, yes, I am 6 now."

Sometimes, I just know he is my son.

This growing up business is a tricky proposition for a Babu like Sue.

I look at him shooting onwards and upwards, learning to use bows and arrows, rifles and dinner knives, cook and bake, play with Lego and Meccano and I am content that he is on the right track.

And then I see him fast sleep, relaxed at last, my beautiful little boy who hungers for more pets and more plants and more family and more friends (and indeed, more TV and more chocolate) and I resent how fast the years are taking my baby away from me into this ever-widening world.

And then there are those countless times when I see him dwa-a-a-adling over his food and letting his shyness make him rude to strangers, clinging to me when I need to be elsewhere and whining at me when I want to work or nap and I just wish he would hurry up and grow older faster!

Happy birthday, baby. And yes, I'll be calling you that when you are a grandfather and quite tired of telling me not to do so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

FDI in retail

I'm not very good at understanding economic theory outside my household budget (although I'm pretty good at balancing that when I want to).

Reading about our state government's hard stand on FDI reminded me of something that truly bemuses Vicky and me: we are members of the nearby Metro Cash and Carry and usually do a staples run there every 5-6 weeks. When this wholesale department store came up it was touted as the cheapest source of export quality goods. The truth is, we find a lot more variety in New Market and everything I have compared so far has turned out cheaper at Chandni, Poddar Court or New Market. Sometimes by quite a hefty bit. In fact, sometimes the usual price of an item in these places beats the 'special' discounts at Spencer's. Plastic cupboards that had a couple of thousands knocked off their marked price in Spencers turned up cheaper by another couple of thousands in Poddar Court. Tubelight holders with 'free' tubelights turned out to cost exactly the same when our electrician brought them from his shop as when I had priced them on 'discount' at Metro. And do not get me started on the cooking chocolate at Johnson's, New Market vs Metro.

So I wonder, as the average householder who truly does not understand national economics but needs to keep a household going, how are these big retail chains improving things for me? The only reason we do go to Metro is that it is a 3-4 minute away. Otherwise the savings seem to be on par with the discounts I get from the neighbourhood grocers. If anything, I tend to save money at the neighbourhood grocers because I can buy as little as I need, as often as I like. Is it possible for the big chains to provide that kind of convenience?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Raising Rahul

The other day Kiran posted a link to Susan Sontag's guide to raising children. It's Rahul's birthday this month, and like I tend to get this time of the year, I find myself very contemplative, looking at him and evaluating ourselves as parents. The 10 guidelines are very matter-of-fact:
Be consistent.
We try to be. I think mostly we are. Vicky and I are not very disciplined people so this is not easy for us and sometimes the strain of sticking to a schedule gets to us.
Don’t speak about him to others (e.g., tell funny things) in his presence. (Don’t make him self-conscious.)
I hated my mother and Mejopishi discussing me when I was younger. I always felt that I never had any privacy when those two got chatting. I learnt to live with it as I grew older but I notice it doesn't take much to make Rahul self-conscious. And when he is self-conscious he starts clowning around, usually taking it to extremes. It's just easier discussing him when he is not around!

Don’t praise him for something I wouldn’t always accept as good.
YES. If I don't think I'll like it at 15 I don't praise it at 5 either.

Don’t reprimand him harshly for something he’s been allowed to do.
Both Vicky and I could do much better in this department.

Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
We don't have a social life because a certain Person in this household goes to bed at 8 and is usually ready for bed even earlier. 'Nuff said?

Don’t allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
I try, boy do I try. Somebody please take this child aside and explain to him how rude his interruptions are! He just stands there and repeats himself until I am forced to throw him some kind of a response if only to get him to stop. Shades of William Brown.

Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
*cough* No comments.

Do not discourage childish fantasies.
We don't. :) I love how he makes things up now. His drawings tell stories, and he builds the most fantastically absurd things with Lego. The wealth of detail in his creations, the painstaking labour he puts into it all, puts goofy grins on our faces. He knows we find something funny but he also knows we aren't laughing at him.

Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that’s none of his business.
This is tricky because he has very little or no buffer from this grown-up world. No other children (mostly) and we tend to take him wherever we go because it's not like we have places to leave him. But we do explain and regularly reinforce that he is not expected to join in grown-up conversations or take sides in adult confrontations.

Don’t assume that what I don’t like to do (bath, hairwash) he won’t like either.
It's weird having a child who likes to stay fully covered -- at his age minimal clothing was my state of choice (and according to some relatives, it still is) but there you have it. Mister T Rex is his own person and if he likes to go through life in pajamas with tails tucked in behind, who are we to find that strange?

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Rahul has taken to biting his nails. It's one of the beastly little things he is learning in school. If I don't remember to trim them as soon as ever they grow, I find his fingernails bitten down. It bothers me because my brother and I used to bite our nails. I stopped when I was thirteen and decided I wanted nice nails when I grew up but by then a couple of fingernails were permanently damaged.

Repeated reminders, warnings and explanations have not worked with Rahul. He looks guilty and denies biting them at all but the evidence is on his fingertips.

Last night I carried out my threat and painted two of his fingernails. I applied a coat of clear varnish and told him, next time, I will paint them bright red so that everybody can see. I just hope the bitter taste of the polish will remind him not to bite the nails.

He was tired and took it very badly. He first begged and then howled his little head off. It felt a bit like thrashing a little puppy.

I wonder if punishing me also hurt my parents. I always believed that they quite enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Early every morning, and then later on in the morning, and often several times in the evening as well, harsh-looking men come by our building. They walk up and down the road in front of our balconies and call out in rough voices. They rarely get an answer and even more rarely do they have the door open to them. Sometimes they get angry and call out abuses. A couple of times they defaced the doors of the flat downstairs.

They come looking for a woman who lives below us. She apparently borrowed money from them and doesn't make her return payments in time, frequently arguing over the amounts demanded. 

When we first moved in, they used to come upstairs. They would come to my door, these large, scary-looking men, and ask me if I knew where the people downstairs had gone, did I know when they would be back or how they could be reached. When I woke up early in the morning to let the maid in or water the plants, I would see them prowling downstairs, unnerving in their regularity.

My father says I should not mind them because they are trying to retrieve money that belongs to them. I find them not only noisy and unnerving but also annoying because our neighbours downstairs keep locking the building gates at unexpected hours to keep them out.

We are looking to move again. This will be one of the things I shall be glad to leave behind me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Indian Mommy Bloggers and Blogging for Social Change

Hindustan Times printed an article today on some mommy bloggers you know: Kiran, Itchy, Lalita ... and me. I feel a bit of a fraud because I never have considered myself a mommy blogger. A blogging mother, yes; mommy blogger, no. Nevertheless, I have been reading mommy blogs longer than most people even knew they existed, so perhaps I am allowed to have a say.

I am glad this article was written. For all that, though, I think it missed out on a few important milestones in the (online but very real) community that is the Indian mommy blogging scene. I have frequently mentioned, as have a lot of others, how much we depend on other blogging parents for support and advice on this parenting thing. About 5-6 years ago, this dependence led to off-blog friendships that have mostly survived and flourished. Fun like the 2008 online baby shower led to support groups that survive today. These relationships and others nourished by Twitter and Facebook have helped create movements like the annual Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month and Violence Against Women Awareness Month. For mommy bloggers like Parul their writing led to book deals.

Am I saying mommy blogging has changed India? Who knows, it's much too early to tell. But for a generation of Indian women like me, it has changed our perception of parenting, family and friendship, to some extent, and it laid the foundation for other movements that have helped me give sense to the life I lead. And yes, perhaps I am the elite but I do know that Boo and Kiran (to mention but two) have both spoken of strangers who recognised them from their blogs and came up to thank them for the inspirational writing.

I myself continue to get heartfelt mail from people I do not know for blogposts that spoke to them. When something crops up that affects us all, we know we have a network to tap into, thanks to our blogging. Somewhere, clearly, a difference has been made and is still being made. Whether this difference compares to what is happening elsewhere is difficult to say because my medium of choice and therefore my reach is still restricted in this country, but I think we have all come a very long way from the relative isolation that was the internet a decade ago.

By and large I am glad Manjula wrote this piece. It has made me think a bit about what this space is all about -- I tend to lose focus from time to time on that.

On that note, please keep in mind that October is Violence Against Women Awareness Month. If you would like to chip in with a blogpost, information or just help spread the awareness please feel free to contact us at vawawareness@gmail.com or @VAWawareness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A food blogger with a difference

It's The Baking Robot.

If you haven't read it before, you should. Quite apart from some great looking food, it features writing that is quite funny.