Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

Our last Christmas as a threesome.

Christmas Eve was relatively low-key. Ma left for Vizag in the evening, dropped off at Shalimar by Vicky and Rahul. I had class which ended with two kinds of cake. We all met at home in the evening. I tidied a couple of rooms, sorted out the living room. Watched A Christmas Story over fried rice and chilli chicken and then packed the boy off to bed. Wrapped his gifts while watching Castle. Vicky and I watch it every night these days though I didn't when he was away at Shillong.

Rahul woke up while I was baking mocha cupcakes and then we woke Vicky up so that the gifts could be unwrapped. Vicky and I didn't remember to get one another anything, not that it mattered. Rahul got two paper model-making kits from us, pencils in a case and Tom & Jerry erasers and a boat+car set from his Dadu-Diddi; a train set from his Jethu-Jethi and a much-awaited Hot Wheels dinosaur track from Anindadu, Giga and Jimmashi. It was not easy convincing him to come away to eat his bacon and eggs or even a cupcake.

Cousin J came over for lunch. I made mushrooms in white sauce with pasta, which upset Vicky because it was vegetarian. He wolfed down some leftover Cafe roast chicken and seemed somewhat consoled. J and Rahul spent the afternoon making the fire engine from one of the kits while I took a long nap. Woke up to find Vicky getting Rahul ready for a Christmas party J was supposed to attend... the boy cadged an invitation to one of the nicest Christmas parties in town.

So, Christmas ended with Rahul escorting a young lady to a party while Vicky and I sat in front of the TV with Maggi and hot chocolate. A taste of things to come?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Celebrating Children

We have all grown up celebrating Children’s Day on 14 November in India. What I didn’t know though was 20 November is also celebrated worldwide, as Universal Children’s Day, declared by the UN. You’ll notice this gives us a clear week to celebrate children. (Unless of course your kids are driving you crazy and you feel more homicidal than celebratory. This has been known to happen.)

I don’t usually pay attention to these days but this year ITC Sonar decided to celebrate the occasion in a somewhat unusual way and Arundhati Ghosh from their PR department asked if I wanted to contribute on Facebook and/or Twitter. For a week they collected little notes of love, hope and inspiration for children from underprivileged backgrounds. As a finale they took over these messages, some gift parcels and a feast to the girls of Hope Foundation, Panditiya, on 30 November 2013. They were joined by me and a few others who had tweeted, written the notes and been otherwise involved in the programme.

The event was a little late in starting, so I spent a few minutes chatting with the girls. I had never known before that just a few doors away from my mamarbari there was such a large shelter housing so many young girls. The only children associated with Hope that I’d met before this were the young kids at my storytelling sessions but these girls were in their early to mid-teens, with a clearer vision of what they hoped to make of their lives, and talking to them was actually rather inspirational for me.

Shweta Pillai, Learning Services Manager, ITC Sonar, started the group off with a few games. The girls fell over laughing when they discovered they had to run a race as a ‘balloon train’, connected by balloons they had to balance between them.



This was followed by a game of passing the ring. One of the girls had a hoop placed on her and all the girls formed a large circle. They had to pass the hoop from person to person without holding it or breaking the circle. The girls confidently predicted that such gymnastics would take them at least twenty minutes but in fact they managed a complete pass in less than one minute!



Dipendu Kumar Ghosal from Sonar’s Engineering department had brought along his magician’s bag of tricks. The girls had great fun trying to guess his sleights of hand; even more sportingly, he actually showed them how he did it all, stressing all the while that magic was based on science, not superstition.


There were little speeches by Maureen Forrest, Founder Director, and Geeta Venkadakrishnan, Director, Hope Foundation, that explained the work the Foundation does through its various shelters, sponsorships, training institutes and outreach programmes like Nabadisha. My visits to Hamari Muskan had given me an idea of the backgrounds these children come from but it was still unnerving to be told how many of these bright young girls had been rescued from trafficking or picked up during the night rescue drives.

Bringing the mood back to gaiety and celebration, the girls put on some music and there was dancing. They started out dancing for us but soon they were calling us in and the ITC team gamely tucked in their sarees and joined them. Then we handed out the little gifts brought by ITC.



After all that excitement there was the feast. We all sat around in a circle and tucked into rolls, sandwiches, puffs and cakes while servers plied us with soft drinks and water.


Over the years I’ve learned to be wary of CSR exercises, but this one by ITC Sonar, Kolkata, was a welcome reminder of how much joy a social responsibility programme can bring when planned and executed with belief and enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thoughts while Driving

Don't be that driver.

The one who honks at every traffic signal as if that will magically move away all the other cars in front of you or turn the light green.

The one who has to straddle three lanes even that means making your vehicle perform impossible swaying acrobatics for no discernible reason.

The one who blocks up the free left turn (and then refuses to move as the cars line up behind with increasing annoyance).

The one who drives drunkenly down busy pedestrian-filled lanes, unable to drive straight because one hand has to hold on to the baby or toddler on your lap.

The one who talks into the cellphone you are holding up to your ear, especially at turnings, crossings and other such crucial junctions.

The one who pulls up in the left lane when you actually want to go right -- and insist on making your cross-lane turn in front of all the cars who are in the correct, legal lane.

The one who needs to avenge a bruised ego every time a driver of the other sex overtakes you or otherwise out-drives you.

The one who creepily pulls up alongside cars driven by women and continues alongside on an otherwise empty road, taking peeks into the woman's car.

...

If you think about it, driving would be easier for you if you would simply stick to following the rules of the road and concentrating on your destination. All these cute little mannerisms merely show up the asshole in you and that's no way to impress a woman. Especially one who can out-drive you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pressure?

We were talking of a friend yesterday, Vicky and I, who we both happen to like; he is however an irresponsible husband. This reflects in the behaviour of his wife who is neither particularly independent nor very street-smart. My own belief is that her husband's lack of attention and interest in her makes her even more clingy and difficult than she would have been otherwise. He is not an unkind husband, but he is negligent. She is not the easiest of people to get along with but it seems to me that she would be more relaxed and confident were she surer of her husband's complete attention.

Vicky mentioned that it wasn't exactly the man's fault: he had been dragged unwillingly into the marriage, emotionally blackmailed into it by his family who felt it was time he 'settled down'. My question is, how is that an excuse? Once you've committed to a course of action, especially when it involves somebody else's life, how can you not commit fully to it? Likewise, if you were that averse, why couldn't you stiffen your damn backbone and refuse?

I realise I sound harsh, but the reality is harsh... on the woman who thought she was being fully accepted and would be loved and cherished. I know the man isn't living the life of his dreams either, but he knew what he was getting into. She didn't.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ThankYou #17: Facebook

Facebook is more commonly dissed than praised but it's a site I am fond of. Over time I have learnt to treat it like I treat this blog, and only write as much as I am happy to discuss with strangers. I don't post very many photographs on it but nor do I really bother with very many privacy levels.

It's fun, often informative and usually helpful. For that I am thankful.

Secrets

"Insidiously, the new information disrupts their sense of their own past, undermining the veracity of their personal history."

I find a lot of helpful things on Facebook. Tonight I found this.

I don't know if it's a subject that has any personal meaning for you, but it does for me. It's been so many months now and I still don't know what to trust, what to lean on, where to lay my worried head in peace. Yes, things are better and things are sweeter and things are altogether more positive, but I still wake up feeling unsettled. My dreams are strange, meaningless and worrying. My thoughts are pointless, no longer anchored by any fixed belief in anybody beyond Rahul, and I should be his strength, not the other way around.

Yesterday evening I was tired and thin-skinned and took hurt at something that wasn't meant to hurt. Even as I tried not to give in to the sadness and self-doubt, I realised I am still not as strong as I need to be. I feel like a convalescent these days. On my way to recovery but not out of the woods. And yet, how often have I said just that about myself these last few years only to sink back into that old trap of lies and omissions?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ThankYou #15: Whoever Invented Fabric Glue

Fabric glue was one of those handicraft supplies, like iron on fabric or double-sided tape, that I read about in my foreign books and sighed over. It seemed like a miracle thing, keeping delicate fabrics from unravelling, fixing on sequins and suchlike decorations. Of course, it wasn't available anywhere close to me.

When we did Ionesco's Rhinoceros in 2005 (or was it 2004?) I found fabric glue in the market and it changed my life. Dana and I made rhino costumes for for I forget how many actors sewing just the basic seams and finishing off everything else with fabric glue. And that was just the glorious start of my love affair with this wonderful, wonderful product. Thank you, whoever created it!

Monday, October 14, 2013

ThankYou #14: Long John Silver

Earlier this year I was invited to a bloggers lunch at the US Consulate. It was a pleasant afternoon with some delicious food but what stands out in my memory is the Cat we met. He was beautiful, a large, black tom with white socks and an aristocratic expression. His name was Silver and he spend the better part of a half hour's discussion explaining to me where he wanted to be scratched and how rude it was of me to stop merely because I was getting caught up in the conversation.

I like cats and I love kittens but these godforsaken days all I meet are kittens trying to kill themselves under my car and cats with evil intentions. Sometimes it's nice to meet one that knows what's what and keeps things that way.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

ThankYou #13: Baba

I have several reasons to be grateful to my father-in-law, but most often I think of two compliments he paid me many years ago. When Rahul was a baby I was severely criticised by almost everybody in my immediate surroundings for not being a 'good' mother. My father-in-law noticed the things I did do and one day, when I was being criticised as usual, he remarked that he thought I was in fact a very good mother and taught my child valuable skills. Even now when people criticise me (much less frequently, thankfully) I comfort myself with his words and immediately feel better.

He also knew me when I was learning to cook and I celebrated every edible dish that came out of my kitchen. Once at a dinner cooked by Vicky's mother, who is an extremely talented cook, I contributed a light kofta curry. My father-in-law was kind enough to tell me that he liked it the most and that he liked mild dishes and even asked for the leftovers. It was the sort of sweet gesture my own father occasionally makes and it warms my heart even today.

Thank you, wherever you are. We miss you still.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ThankYou #12: Srinivas Teddy

I've written about him before and my thankyous wouldn't be complete without him. It's been a while since I cuddled him to sleep but that's not to say I don't often want to. He's as huggable as ever and I love how he makes a place home simply by being around. If I ever disappear, look for him. If he's around you know I'll be back.

Friday, October 11, 2013

ThankYou #11: Venkatesh

We first met Venkatesh as a very young man determined to do well. My father had his eye on him as a likely lad and over the years Venkatesh has done all his well-wishers proud. He is now a busy corporate executive who manages a crazy schedule of domestic duties and work schedules, but I remember him from more laidback times when I would, in the arrogance of the boss' daughter, demand that he fix my computer for the umpteenth time or do other such unreasonable things, secure in the assurance that he was much too nice to ever refuse, even when my father ordered him to. He was a mainstay at my wedding (my mother insisted that she'd never have managed half of it without him around) and as recently as two days ago, when my father's travel plans to our family get-together in Pune fell through because of AP agitations and electricity strikes, Venkatesh saved the day by organising affordable air tickets and taking them over to my father who, having no electricity or internet, could not have them mailed to him.

He has repaid many times over whatever he owed to my father and as a family we are all glad life is giving him all the good things he so richly deserves.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

ThankYou #10: Lenders

This is a thankyou to all the people who lent me their books. People who assured my parents that I could indeed borrow their family books, that I could return the books at my leisure and that they were happy to see me enjoy them. Since there was a time that I couldn't enter a home without leaving with a book from it, this thankyou is for a lot of family and family friends.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

ThankYou #9: P Obul Reddy Public School

From 1992 to 1994 I studied at this school. Those two years changed how I saw myself: suddenly I discovered that far from being a mediocre student I was in fact fairly bright. In this time I was also introduced to several things that have since come to define my life, theatre being the most important. This school was the impressive institution it was because of our headmistress, Mrs Anitha Gnanabharanam, who taught me certain values I cherish even today. Thanks to her teachings I did not swear until I was nearly 20 and I still don't litter. And thanks to her wisdom, I don't lie or cheat even when it's the easier option and nobody would probably know. I may not be a saint, but I'm grateful for all that she and her school taught my brother and me.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

ThankYou #8: Handkerchief Carriers

As a child I knew I always had my father's handkerchief to wipe my sticky, wet or grubby little hands on. There was always a large, freshly laundered square of white fabric which he was willing to hand over for my use (or my mother's or brother's). As I grew older I learnt to iron using those squares and there was a time when I scolded him for not knowing better than to wipe grease and engine oil using cloth that we had to wash.

One of the nicest discoveries I made about Vicky when I started dating him was that he too carried a handkerchief in his pocket at all times. Over the years I have used his handkerchiefs to wrap jewellery, insulate fresh ruti, wipe a grubby little boy and, of course, dry my hands. I am so used to this that I rarely remember to carry a handkerchief of my own and in fact, when I do, it's usually more for show because my own hankies are far too pretty and lacy to be used to wipe or mop up things!

(See what I just found!)

Monday, October 07, 2013

ThankYou #7: My Carnatic Teacher

I was one of your more annoying students, I know, and I never did practise, but all the hours of hard work you showered on us did bear fruit -- I still remember much of what I learnt, seventeen years on, and I have a lasting love of the form. I only wish I knew how to reach you, Aunty, so I could thank you in person, and perhaps pester you for more classes now that I finally know the value of your teachings.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

ThankYou #6: Chowdhuri Jethima

She had no daughters and her two sons were much older than my brother and me. She always made a big fuss over me when we visited her in the next block. She even sewed me dresses. Now that I'm older and will never have a daughter either, I realise where her love came from and I'm glad I was the recipient.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

ThankYou #5: Alponadi and Mejopishi

Cousin J's ayah Alponadi taught me to sew when I was six or seven. We tore up an old blue saree of my mother's and made handkerchieves and dolls' dresses from the scraps one afternoon. It was the start of a life-long interest in sewing and dressmaking.

Mejopishi gifted me a little gold chocolate box filled with cross stitch supplies, from a little pattern book to pretty silks, needles, scissors and fabric, for my eighth birthday I think. From there my collection of fabrics and threads has grown to fill an entire cupboard today and while I am not especially proficient at any particular skill, I can sew and embroider, knit a little and crochet some.

Friday, October 04, 2013

ThankYou #4: Kalpana Ma'am

My high school English teacher was one of the best teachers I've ever had. She was smart enough to give me double the work just to give me something to do in class (CBSE English isn't exactly challenging) and then gave me permission to read whatever I wanted since I had already finished the classwork as well as the homework. If it weren't for her classes I would have had a fairly unhappy XI and XII as far as academics went.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

ThankYou #3: Aarong Cashier

A big thankyou to the girl at the checkout at Aarong in November 2011 who told me I was beautiful, like all "Indian girls". It's a compliment that has stayed with me.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

ThankYou #2: Shuki Lal

I love this friend of mine not just because she is so talented and so inspiringly dedicated to the work she does -- I love her more because she sets the bar of friendship high. It's her birthday today.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

ThankYou #1: Kittu

This month I want to post some thankyous.

I'll start by thanking Kittu. There was this night in Vizag when we were out drinking and dancing and I kept getting lost but every time he turned out to be right behind me, reassuring and rock steady. It can't have been fun for him looking after a ditsy Sue all night but he did and I appreciate it.

September 2013

Yesterday was the last day of a month that flew past on wings. I spent the afternoon at the American Center, listening to a little talk by Sabrina Issa on how to structure digital media to fit one's purposes. The talk gave me no particularly new insights but I did enjoy meeting other bloggers and social media activists. And meeting Sabrina was fun too because I got the impression that if she had been better informed about who and what we were, what we do, if she had been less tired, we might have had a more productive afternoon.

The weekend before that was a blur of activity. Rahul's birthday was on Sunday, attended by Hritam, Totini, Monal, Taishan, Agneesh, Aineesh and of course, Ratul. I spent Saturday baking and cooking; Vicky took Rahul off to keep him out of my hair and get some shopping done. Dana dropped in and made a fantastic Darth Porker pinata in between making sandwiches and dip, and tossing pasta.

My parents were in town for a fortnight before that, which was another blur of clearing out this house, water problems, screaming fights (there was only one, but it was quite enough because I don't usually yell at my father like that), squabbling over Ma's iPad, Star Trek Angry Birds and oh, a week went in designing and making costumes -- a mermaid and a witch -- for an inter-school competition.

Before that I was deeply unhappy because Dipali and Vinod are unexpectedly moving to Delhi. I should no doubt have taken it better, but in fact I didn't. It's a loss and I'm losing too much these days. And all through August, September, and now October, it has rained heavily. The days are overcast, the evenings clammy and the dawns stormy.

I have been so busy being busy, all I want to do is spend some days sleeping. I also want to spend some days outside just having fun, enjoying the Pujo breeze, talking nonsense to people who don't want to be serious either. I need a break from my immersion in family life. I want to spend some days doing my crochet without fretting about bank work and paperwork and all the other things I should be doing instead.

In my fantasies, I walk out and leave it all behind me, my security nets and despair. In the real world, I don't even know how to put the first foot before the other. Instead I fool around with Rahul, have silly conversations with him and refuse to take anything seriously. It's as legitimate a way to cope with my confusion as any other, I suppose.

And now it's October. Pujo. Pune. More family time. On the other hand, Dexter season 8 has begun. I try not to get addicted to TV once more but I have to say watching Dexter is curiously soothing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Senti blogposts (and I hope he never read them)

Rahul has me wrapped around his finger. There, I've gone on record admitting as much. It's taken me nearly seven years to admit it even to myself. I refused to be one of those doting mums. Especially when I discovered that I had given birth to a boy I promptly made myself promise that I would never be that Bengali mother. You know the one I mean. Who sits outside her son's class and copies notes for him. Who carries his bag for him and feeds him the tiffin. Who spends her life worrying about his needs and is convinced that he is above reproach.

I blame the fatal Libran charm. I've never been able to resist it. A few months ago he was up to no good and I was about to scold him when he put his skinny arms around me and hugged me tight. I weakly ticked him off anyway but not even I felt that my words had quite the effect they were meant to. Across the room my mother sniggered unkindly.

All it takes is for a sleepy little boy to tell me that I'm his special, special, special, special, special Babu and I lose track of what I was planning to say or do. It's not fair, because I've never had that effect on anybody, not even my father. Well, maybe him, but it didn't last long enough!

It's not even as though he has the decency to share my interests or speak my language or like my baking or anything. Consider that having dreamt of the day when I would read bedtime stories from Enid Blyton to my child, I endure nightly readings from books about ghastly underwater sea creatures (tonight's featured cookie cutter sharks and went into great detail about exactly how they earned their name). Consider that this revolting child has the cheek to turn his nose up at home-made cake merely because the glace cherries got a bit old and manky. He gets his clothes all dirty, wants to wear the same ugly t-shirts each day ignoring the adorable printed cotton shirts I sourced from all over (I even changed the buttons on one shirt after hunting down the most adorable patterned wooden ones). He fights with me all day and tells me with great relish that I don't really know everything (oh yeah?) and that I'm not really a genius (ses who?) and thinks he has the right to play hard to get when I want a hug. Because that is what I endured it all for, right?

And then, not having messed with my head enough, he messes it some more by turning over in his sleep looking for me. That's when I write senti blogposts and hope he never reads them.


Friday, August 23, 2013

For No One

When I was a teenager I firmly believed there was a Cliff Richard song for every situation. Then I went to college and discovered that there was a Beatles song for every occasion.

Last night, this played over and over in my head for quite a while before I realised what I was listening to.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Joker

Rahul has been learning to play games of association in school. Sometimes, just to mess with him, I come up with wild associations from him to something perfectly ridiculous.

The other day during lunch I made a chain from him to a monkey I think, going via a joker and a circus. He objected to it saying jokers aren't very nice things. I was a bit surprised because you'd think being a kid he'd like the idea of jokers, right?

He doesn't, because to him a joker is not about the big top (he's never seen an old-fashioned circus in his life) -- it's about the Joker.

We're bad parents.

(And no, an appropriate comment to this post is not "Why so serious?" -- pre-empted you there, hah!)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Relative Superiority

We just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Pune with some of my mother's family. It was a wonderful time.

That and some FB posts from last week have made me think about my extended family. Among my grandparents' descendants, I count PhDs, doctors, engineers (including one who helped craft CGS Barracuda), research students, professors, teachers whose students remember them fondly decades down the line, lawyers, notable homemakers (including my grandmother who died thirty years ago but whose food is mentioned with reverence even today by random people)... Of course, we have our share of 'failures' and less notable people like my brother and me.

My little cousin E who is growing into a young lady faster than I can type that out is on the brink of choosing what she wants to do with the rest of her life, as is her older brother B. I wonder what they will do with their lives.

Some days I am simply proud of all these people, even the ones I don't particularly like. As a family we believe in using what we have. I think my grandparents did a good job with the children they had. And somehow, I am convinced that Rahul is going to blaze a trail every bit as bright as any of them. I have no idea why I know this in my bones but I just do. I shall have to be very careful to understand his needs so that I don't douse the spark in him.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Catching Up with the Classics

I haven't watched that many movies or listened to that much music, really. I've read a lot of books but a good part of the time I've chosen quantity over quality, because I frequently read to ignore the world and that's easiest done with trash.

In the last one week I watched two movies I wish I'd seen before. What I found most remarkable in Sleepless in Seattle was the easy, normal relationship that the father had with his son. Not once did I see him tell the kid the words everybody seems to say so easily these days, "It'll be OK, I promise." (On what basis does anybody ever make that promise? How is it comforting?) He scolded the kid, looked after him, tried to figure out his needs and wants and clearly his son meant the world to him, but the kid never ruled his life. It just felt more like a parent-child relationship as I understand it than anything else I watch on TV these days.

This evening I finally saw Jerry Maguire. And yeah, I finally got the hype. It's not Tom Cruise that spoke to me, but some very well-written dialogue.

-------------------------------------

Why is it so hard for some people to just count their blessings and be grateful? Why must they actually want more? Why must I actually want more? How dared I ask for more?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Size Matters

Rahul hasn't yet figured out the difference between size, height and age, because it's all mixed up with "growing bigger" for him. So when he tells me how big he's getting, he usually bends down and 'measures' himself from his toes, straightening up as he reaches his head, and tells me that's "a six years old".

Some day he's going to look back and think of what a silly kid he was. When he does, I want him to read this and know that I thought he was quite perfect. Daft, but perfect.

Talking about growing bigger, he is often told to do something or behave in a certain way because he is now a big boy. Protesting this unfairness he has taken to reminding me that he isn't entirely 'big' yet, that actually he is just a little boy really. The other day he brought this worksheet home.



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Funk

Usually keeping busy keeps me from slipping into one of my states. This week I have been very busy, and I know the week ahead promises as much work if not more.

It's not stopping me from slipping though.

Thank god for friends even if they say things one has no wish to hear. It's one way to keep from drowning in self-pity.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fathers

I just saw this text exchange here.


That is so my father except he doesn't even send the message himself. He is more likely to badger my mother into calling to check on me to demonstrate to the world how little he worries.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Brishti

It has been raining ever since I returned from Vizag last Thursday. I don't like being out in the mud but otherwise the rain is stormy and gentle by turns, usually soothing.



Posting this video brought back a memory of Philip and me earlier this year, walking down Gariahat after an intense storm. We passed broken trees, smashed walls and a crushed car. The feeling in the air though was of exhilaration.

Ekla Chola

I cannot sleep and Youtube threw this my way. I really enjoyed Kahaani, so seeing the video brought back all the emotions of watching it unfold on the big screen.

I remember watching Vidya Bagchi drinking bottles of water as she walked her heavily pregnant self up and down the roads of my city; as she drank I wondered what bathrooms she used. In my third trimester I found outings a little scary because I needed to use the bathroom all the time and you rarely have clean, safe ones here. I won't tell you how she managed. If you see or have seen the movie you will know for yourself.

Watching the video now made me reflect on what a solitary journey pregnancy is for us all. Women only really talk about it to another preggie or a mother. No two pregnancies are quite alike. Watching a dear one go through pregnancy can be almost as emotionally charged as one's own pregnancy.

In the end though, no matter how cocooned you may be by love and care, how hard you work or how full you keep your life through those nine months, your pregnancy is about you. It is about your child, who is not yet a person in his own right, it is about your changing body, your mental preparation for what lies ahead, your willing or unwiling acceptance of the future, of ageing, of change.

It is an intensely physical journey and yet, for nine whole months all you can contemplate is yourself and your life. Your reactions to your world change. Your senses grow sharper, keener, your sense of danger is constantly on alert. You find yourself being unexpectedly sentimental, unexpectedly romantic and unexpectedly uncompromising.

It is no surprise that men shroud pregnancy and pregnant women with such an aura of the Unknown. There are few creatures as unpredictable as a pregnant female. There is no saying how she will react to what she perceives as danger or provocation. This is how she must be because the work she is doing is the most important thing she will ever do. For now her life is dedicated to the safe growth and delivery of another human being. Once the child is born the rest of the world can do all the things she can do but for now she is the only refuge, the carrier, the protector that this child has. The food she eats, the very air she breathes, goes to nourish the child she carries.

It is a journey that we all make alone, a path created for us to walk alone.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Flowers in Your Window

I've been downloading The Invisible Band and here's a song for you. The link leads to both the mp3 download and the lyrics.

Flowers in Your Window
I'm having a hard time of it today. Nothing has gone wrong, but nothing feels the slightest bit right either. Excuse me while I go throw a tantrum somewhere and get it out of my system.

It's all WRONG.

I don't care about fairness just now, it's all WRONG.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Menstruation

A very useful video from Mythri. I saw it on The Alternative.

Blogger refuses to embed the Youtube link, but you can watch it on the link above or click here.

If you have questions or are thinking of talking to somebody about menstruation, this video is very helpful. Its approach, attitude, language, even the tone of voice used, have much to teach us.

Giveaway Winners

Winners have been announced for Gift #3 and Gift #4.

Folks, I apologise for the delay. I could have used the random number generator once more but I really wanted Rahul to do a lucky draw for these two. He just came home from school and chose both winners -- and I have to tell you, never ask a Libran to choose a chit. He must have changed his mind half a dozen times for the first one, and at least thrice for the second!

Monday, July 08, 2013

31

Rahul just came home from school. He pushed through the doorway with a packet in his hand calling out, "Happy birthday, Babu." He saw me look at the packet and hurriedly told me, "These are for me, not you." (The packet contained Cheetos or something.)

Even while I was smiling at myself for thinking he might have got me something, he dashed into my room not even having stopped to take his shoes off, and presented me with a red rose.

After I'd finished hugging him silly, he got me a cup and water to put it in. As an afterthought, he handed me the plastic packet in which he'd brought the rose home and said I may as well have that too.


Sons are the cutest critters.

P. S.
I have not forgotten the giveaways. Will post results tonight!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Losing a Family

Reading through the comments on this post by Dooce is a very sad experience.

In the last one year I lost my in-laws. Not the immediate in-laws because them I suppose I never had. However, Vicky comes from a large and varied joint family and in these seven years I have spent a certain amount of time with them, learning things about them, sharing things with them. Cousins and aunts and uncles and kids, all related by marriage, all very welcoming and mostly a great deal of fun. As the situation between Vicky and his mother deteriorated these relationships, well, they frayed at the edges. Smiles became a little strained, welcomes were a little less enthusiastic, phone calls stopped being returned. I am still in touch with a couple of relatives, but most of the family have, not surprisingly, requested that we sort out our mess. If, in a gathering, the invitation must be sent either to us or to Vicky's mother, we are, quite naturally, left out. And so it goes.

It broke my heart last year, especially when one aunt-in-law requested that we not visit for fear of the negativity it would generate and later another one, who had once been a source of immense support to me, explained that she would rather stay out of it all. These are all old people and I have never wanted them to take sides, so I've never pressed the matter. But the situation hurt me very badly.

My friends, with the best intentions in the world, counsel me to accept that this never was my family. And I do understand (and indeed prefer) that my in-laws take Vicky's mother's side, if take a side they must. It has been borne in on them that they must take a side. Yet I cannot explain this deep sense of loss. I liked being a daughter-in-law, one of many. I liked the various heirarchies and complicated stories of this big family. I liked seeing my son among his cousins. I liked seeing Vicky with his cousins. When the family gets together, there is always laughter and this deep sense of a bond. I liked all of that. It's what I understand of marriage, this merging of families.

Vicky and I haven't got a divorce yet, but I lost a family anyway.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Wednesday

First there was work. Then there was a movie at London Paris. With Shuktara.

Then there were birthday gifts and cocktails.

Then there was some sleeping off.

And now we're back to work. And some conversation. Some TV. But work all along.

Life's OK. I'm OK.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Contemplating Death (and a Poem)

[Note: This post may be upsetting for some of you. I don't mean it to be. I am perfectly fine, and do not plan to do away with myself today or ever. These are some very personal thoughts I wanted to write down and did. Since I don't want to discuss them, I am switching comments off.]


Since I am, to myself, too old to stormily contemplate suicide (when the rainbow is enuf) -- well, actually, I am old and experienced enough to be unable to dismiss the effect this would have on the people I affect, I sometimes wish it were simpler. That I could just lie down and die, swiftly, painlessly, by choice. I fear I shall live till I'm in my eighties (and hopefully no longer) but even then, I would ask for a peaceful end in my own bed, alone. I have thought this, and wished it, even knowing that my family and personal medical history make this a most unlikely possibility.

For all the rage and grief I have felt at the deaths of those who mattered to me, I have always thought I would welcome my own death, whenever it came. Perhaps, in my eighties, I shall long have begged to have been released from my pain. I cannot imagine dying by violence; nor have I ever wished for my family around my deathbed. Death seems so intensely personal, somehow. My faith, such as it is, gives me no answers as to what to expect after I'm gone, and perhaps there is indeed nothing to expect. But if it really will all be the same in a hundred years, as I often tell myself it will, then I wish I could retire from this stage. Maybe not today, I have a child to bring up, but I do not wish to live on and grow old. Were it not for Rahul, I would be selfish enough to wish I could retire today.

The other day, I was taking a short break from my work and came across this piece with its translation of Rabindranath Tagore's Maran-milan. I don't read a great deal of poetry these days but I read this one through because I found it both beautiful and very sad.

Maran-milan (‘Death-wedding’, 1902)
 
Why do you speak so softly, Death, Death,
Creep upon me, watch me so stealthily?
This is not how a lover should behave.
When evening flowers droop upon their tired
Stems, when cattle are brought in from the fields
After a whole day’s grazing, you, Death,
Death, approach me with such gentle steps,
Settle yourself immovably by my side.
I cannot understand the things you say
Alas, will this be how you will take me, Death,
Death? Like a thief, laying heavy sleep
On my eyes as you descend to my heart?
Will you thus let your tread be a slow beat
In my sleep-numbed blood, your jingling ankle-bells
A drowsy rumble in my ear? Will you, Death,
Death, wrap me, finally, in your cold
Arms and carry me away while I dream?
I do not know why you thus come and go.
Tell me, is this the way you wed, Death,
Death? Unceremonially, with no
Weight of sacrament or blessing or prayer?
Will you come with your massy tawny hair
Unkempt, unbound into a bright coil-crown?
Will no one bear your victory-flag before
Or after, will no torches glow like red
Eyes along the river, Death, Death?
Will earth not quake in terror at your step?
When fierce-eyed Siva came to take his bride,
Remember all the pomp and trappings, Death,
Death: the flapping tiger-skins he wore;
His roaring bull; the serpents hissing round
His hair; the bom-bom sound as he slapped his cheeks;
The necklace of skulls swinging round his neck;
The sudden raucous music as he blew
His horn to announce his coming - was this not
A better way of wedding, Death, Death?
And as that deathly wedding-party’s din
Grew nearer, Death, Death, tears of joy
Filled Gauri’s eyes and the garments at her breast
Quivered; her left eye fluttered and her heart
Pounded; her body quailed with thrilled delight
And her mind ran away with itself, Death, Death;
Her mother wailed and smote her head at the thought
Of receiving so wild a groom; and in his mind
Her father agreed calamity had struck.
Why must you always come like a thief, Death,
Death, always silently, at night’s end,
Leaving only tears? Come to me festively,
Make the whole night ring with your triumph, blow
Your victory-conch, dress me in blood-red robes,
Grasp me by the hand and sweep me away!
Pay no heed to what others may think, Death,
Death, for I shall of my own free will
Resort to you if you but take me gloriously.
If I am immersed in work in my room
When you arrive, Death, Death, then break
My work, thrust my unreadiness aside.
If I am sleeping, sinking all desires
In the dreamy pleasure of my bed, or I lie
With apathy gripping my heart and my eyes
Flickering between sleep and waking, fill
Your conch with your destructive breath and blow,
Death, Death, and I shall run to you.
I shall go to where your boat is moored,
Death, Death, to the sea where the wind rolls
Darkness towards me from infinity.
I may see black clouds massing in the far
North-east corner of the sky; fiery snakes
Of lightning may rear up with their hoods raised,
But I shall not flinch in unfounded fear -
I shall pass silently, unswervingly
Across that red storm-sea, Death, Death.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Gift #4

Since I missed a week in June, I shall have my last giveaway in this, the first week of July.


So far I created giveaways based on writing, handicraft and food -- three very important parts of my life. This last one is about Calcutta. I love this city, as well you know. It is the city of my birth and it is the city that gave me, an uncertain 18 year-old, wings. Clipped ones perhaps, but wings nevertheless. It is a city that fills me with indescribable hope in my worst moments.

This week's giveaway is a set of sketches by Samir Biswas. Usually his work is sold in sets according to subject, but I put together a collection of sketches of subjects which mean a great deal to me personally, and that's what I'm offering you this week.

To win, you will please tell me in the comments why you love where you live. It's easy and there are no wrong answers and you can send in as many entries as you like.

Contest open till midnight IST, Friday, 5 July 2013. Winner will be chosen by lucky draw, as always. Please don't forget to leave your email id or some other contact information so that I can reach you if you win.

I shall miss these giveaways. Get writing, folks.

UPDATE
Mahithi wins the sketches. Mahithi, I hope you enjoy them. I'll be in touch with you about contact information.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Diva

Some days I wake up on top of the world. There's a laugh in my eyes and I turn heads as I walk by. I can feel the magnetism.

Other days you wouldn't remember what I looked like or what I wore.

Other women struggle with the madonna-whore dichotomy; I gaze bemused at my diva-bore life.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Mealtimes

I come from a family where all four of us were almost always at war, but mealtimes were sacred. We all ate together and it was not unusual to find us sitting and chatting at the table long after the meal was over. We talked about a lot of things, not necessarily private, and the conversations were always interesting.

Vicky comes from a family where they all ate when it suited them and often people picked up their plates and walked off into their rooms to eat. It was more about convenience than conversation.

In our household after many fraught mealtimes we have reached an understanding of sorts. We have lunch together, mostly, but we don't talk. Sometimes Rahul and I talk, but mostly we all finish our food and leave.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Foo Li (Shh)

There's no fool like an old fool, I'm told, and though I'm too young to call myself old, I do feel fairly foolish.

The title is an uncle's old pun on one of my pet names. It's been one of those days.

Thankfully, New Market Tales went off fine.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"it fascinates me"

Stephen Fry explains why he talks publicly about his depression. Some lines struck a chord --

I don’t write this for sympathy. I don’t write it as part as my on going and undying commitment to the cause of mental health charities like Mind. I don’t quite know why I write it. I think I write it because it fascinates me.
I often write posts that either make sense only to me or are woefully unexciting. I often write about being low. I don't always welcome comments on these posts, because I don't always know how to respond to the sympathy and kindness they tend to generate. So I've often wondered why I write them. Like Stephen said, it's fascinating. I find the workings of my own mind fascinating. Some times I am a hypocrite and I can see my own double standards but I still carry on with whatever I'm doing. It's almost like watching myself from the outside, with an insider's perspective. So one knows what is really going on but one is unable to change events.

Like I said, it's fascinating.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gift #3


This week's giveaway is for those of you who like to have your cake and eat it too. I'm giving away a box of cake made by me.

I'm afraid I can only send this to Indian addresses but you can send it to a friend if you win and you live outside the country.

Depending on your tastes, I will bake you either my chocolate cake with whiskey OR rum and raisins; OR brownies (or blondies). These are the cakes I bake best and I know they travel well.

The rules are, as always, simple:
1. Leave, in the comments box, a funny story about cooking or baking
    OR
2. Leave me a recipe or a link to one for food that you like to make yourself.

Contest open till midnight IST, Friday, 28 June 2013. Winner will be chosen by lucky draw, as always. Please don't forget to leave your email id or some other contact information so that I can reach you if you win.

The winner of Gift #2 has been announced.

UPDATE:
R's Mom wins the cake. To think I sent her a couple of my favourite recipes just a few days ago! I'll be in touch about what cake you would like me to bake, OK?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Feel Good Factor

I found this page shared on my Facebook tonight. I think this is something you should read if you're into women, or are one, and if you're sexually active, or looking to be. Just go read.

(It's a list of different types of orgasms a woman can have and how to reach them.)

Pricey Acting

I'm handling costumes for a play right now and some of the performers are starting to seriously annoy me. They cannot be bothered to take a call and after seeing two or three missed calls, I still cannot expect them to call me up to find out why I was calling so urgently. They may or may not respond to my texts. They don't want to bring their costume options for checks -- because it's so much to carry around -- and they don't want to ask around for costumes that they can possibly borrow. All this when they know full well that none of us, including me, get paid for the time and effort (and sometimes even the expense) we put in.

It's as though they somehow feel that it's my job to work around their schedules and inclinations. That I am there to be of service, a person of somehow lesser account. They are all very nice to me, but some of them are quite disrespectful of my schedules and requirements.

As a theatreperson I am continually surprised by this attitude. I get it the strongest from people who only act. They know nothing of the extraneous work that makes their performance possible and they don't want to know it, because it's not that important, right? It's the performers who are carrying the show, right?

Wrong. I could send you on stage in costume with period detailing all gone haywire (and you're not smart enough or invested enough to know the difference) and people would spend more time smirking at your wrongness than admiring your performance. I could send you on stage in clothes that look better than they feel and you would spend your time in things that itch or poke or otherwise distract you. You don't know enough about your own damn costume needs to know what would help and what would not. There are dozens of ways in which I could let your lack of interest decide the tone I want to take about your costumes and believe me, you'd pay. I'd be sitting off-stage giggling my sneaky head off.

It's never a good idea to annoy your wardrobe mistress, especially when she does it for love and not money. If you make her fall out of love with your costume, you pay -- not her. Especially when this is not her livelihood.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Does a Child Need to Know About Homosexuals?

Why indeed.

Shrabonti posted a link to a very useful German cartoon that explains homosexual unions to a child. A friend of hers asked, "Why DO you need to explain homosexuality to a child?"

This is a good question. Let me answer that. We need to explain homosexuality to our children, to my son and your daughter, because

1. Homosexuality is not by choice. One is born a homosexual, like I was born an Indian, a female, to Mr and Mrs Roy. 

2. I have friends who are homosexuals, and I have been mistaken for a lesbian myself, and our friends and our experiences are a part of our children's world.

3. I hope to see in my lifetime vastly changed social, financial and political attitudes towards those who prefer partners of their own gender.

4. Our children will grow up and live in a world with more single parents, more same sex couples, more diversity. I need to prepare my child for this world, not the narrow boundaries of my own youth. I am a part of the change precisely because I never agreed with those narrow boundaries and this is the change I want.

5. We all need to understand that homosexuality is more than just what happens in the bedroom. As the cartoon shows all too well, it's also about love and nurture, which are universal values and have no gender.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Lovers' Hands

In my second year of college we performed Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Committed Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. It is a difficult play to understand not least because it deals with the complexities of violence against women. Our professor organised several workshops for us, of which a few were with Sohini. She conducted wonderful workshops, making us raw young women consider and re-evaluate the violence we saw all around us and also helping us bond as a group. Twelve years on, something of that feeling of being in something important, together, lingers in us all.

One of the exercises she conducted was to make the performers stand in a row with their eyes closed. Different people came and put their hands on our hands or even our faces, and we had to identify who touched us. When my turn came, the hands on me were almost as familiar to me by their texture, touch and smell as my own two palms. According to the rest of the cast I dismissively called out, "Beq", practically calling out, "Next please!" after that. It gave us all a good laugh and didn't surprise Beq -- or me.

Hands have always been so important to me. As a young teen I learnt to read palms a little and sometimes I catch myself associating certain nail shapes or palm lines with oddments of that knowledge but much before that, so long ago that I'm not even sure how old I was, hands were important to me. As a thirteen year-old I dreamt of being held much more than I wanted to be kissed. I actually dreamed of it. Ever since, I've looked for hands that make me feel that way.

When I think of my first love, I can no longer remember a lot of things about us but I do remember the feel of his sturdy, capable hands. That was love and lust, longing and reassurance, fear and doubts but most of all, it was confidence. We were young and we would make it.

Beq's touch was different, but it was as dear. He has beautiful, long, thin fingers and I probably fell in love with his hands before I noticed any of the rest of him. When we broke up, much after I had fallen out of love with him, it was his hands I missed. They expressed all the things he never could bring himself to speak of, his insecurity, his ambitions, his gentleness.

My husband's hands are not beautiful but like many silent men, his hands do his apologising for him, show his caring and his tenderness. They pat babies to sleep and feed hungry little boys. They draft delicate calligraphy and drive the car deftly through city traffic. They bandage sores on the feet of rickshaw-walas, hold ill fathers and comfort despairing mothers.

When I think of any man I've been with, funnily enough, it's his hands I remember. Whether things ended well (or not), whether we were good in bed (or not), whether they knew what they meant to me (or not), our hands did a lot of the talking for us. It doesn't take a psychiatrist to work out that as a child my father's hands were a place of comfort and safety for me. Funnily enough, these days my little son's hands, skinny little things with stubbly nails that always look like they need trimming, palms no bigger than damnit, these hands make me believe in a better future. I have no idea why or how, but I look at his hands and I see hope that one day he will know how to love and succour the women in his life, and perhaps all the love his mother once received from her lovers' hands will flow from his, too.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gift #2


I missed a whole week because my blessed keyboard went on the blink. Not to worry, I planned four giveaways and four is what I'll give. It's a nice number, 4.

Talking of what else is nice, guess what I've been learning to do? Crochet. I often write about the things I knit, or sew, or embroider. What I'm giving away this week is a pretty crochet and ribbon necklace and bracelet set. I'm afraid I can't show you a photograph just yet because I'm still working on the pieces but I promise you it's cute. It would make a nice gift if you don't wear it yourself, too.


This week, to win this set of crochet necklace and bracelet, you can leave a comment here giving me either
1. a story about handicrafts (could even be a photo or a personal anecdote -- anything really)
2. a link to a great site for knitting, embroidery, lace-making etc
3. both of the above!

That's easy, right? Contest open till midnight IST, Friday, 21 June 2013. Winner will be chosen by lucky draw, as always. Please don't forget to leave your email id or some other contact information so that I can reach you if you win.

Also, the winner of #Gift 1 has been announced.

UPDATE
I will be very happy to post any photographs you care to share with me, on this page. You can email me the images and I'll just add them here. I realise you can't add them in the comments section but I do love photographs of things made by people I know or people they love.

Update 2
Sur wins the crochet set! Sur, clearly the thing powering www.random.org heard from your many supporters. I must say I am impressed. :)

Fear in Calcutta

On Saturday morning I was telling my father about women I know being arrested on the streets for protesting against violence. He said that the times are unsafe and I should stay indoors, follow the rules. I told him, sadly, that staying safe hasn't made anything better. Things are actually worse. I wrote about this growing feeling of fear for the Violence Against Women Awareness Month last October.

I also wrote about broken windows and I stand by what I wrote. It's just that I often feel that I am taking my life in my hands just by being outside. I continue to feel this way even when we are travelling as a family, so what does that tell you?

This morning I read this and saw this. It reminded me of Kolkata Police's refusal to allow a massive Take Back the Night for Women's Day as a part of Kolkata's One Billion Rising this year. They simply refused to allow so many women on the streets even though all that was planned was singing and dancing, maybe games.

There's a protest planned tomorrow. Do you want to be there?


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day 2013

S Niyogy Jr just came to my table to sign a card we'd bought a couple of weeks ago for his father.

He asked what he was to write. I said, "Dear Baba". He looked dubious so I said he could also write just "Baba". Then I asked him if he knew how to spell that, and was almost about to prompt him with "B-a" when he told me the Bengali spelling.

So the card was addressed to বাবা from আমি which is very cute.

(My ancient Mac doesn't display the Bengali font so I typed those words blind. If you can read them and they have been typed wrong, kinly scuse.)

...

In Bangla. I'm still rather impressed.

...

This is also in a large part due to my own father who has been in town for some time now. On his last visit he bought Rahul a white board (Vicky added some colourful markers) and on this visit he and Rahul write interesting things in Bangla like "dinosaurer dadur barir bhoot" or "dinosaurer bhooter barir dadu" or "dadur barir bhooter rail"... you get the idea.

The fathers in my life are all nuts but they take their fathering seriously. So here's to them.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Gift #1


Rahul has a low opinion of birthday celebrations that don't give gifts to attendees, so I'm hosting a giveaway every week this month to celebrate Sunny Days turning ten. Every week Monday I'll announce what I'm giving away and you have till Friday to leave me an entry in the comments section. All prizes will be chosen through lucky draw by Rahul (if you've already won something I'm not going to enter your name for subsequent draws, sorry).

I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to give away. It had to be something I made myself, something featured here or otherwise related to the things I write about. Since I write about a lot of things, this gives me a lot of scope.
 
This week's giveaway is my writing itself. Whoever wins this one will get a short story crafted to their specifications, written by me, especially for them. I've only ever written stories for myself, Vicky and Rahul, so I'm quite excited about this one.

To win, please leave a comment with the link to a Sunny Days post that means something to you and please tell me why you chose that piece. It could be something you liked, objected to, remember for its associations -- any reason at all.

This particular giveaway is open till next midnight IST, Tuesday, 11 June 2013. I look forward to your comments!

------------------------------

Update:

Poppy wins the story. Popsicle, I'll be in touch with you. We have a story to plan!

Also, Gift #2 has been announced. Give it a shot.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

10 Years of Sunny Days (and Starry Nights)

Yesterday was a very special birthday, one that I'd looked forward to for many months. When the day dawned I was surprisingly relaxed about it, though. I gave myself a day out of time, followed no schedules or pre-arranged plans, and spent a lot of one-on-one time with first my son and then my husband. Rahul and I did some fun maths and chatted while I crocheted (my new hobby) and he played with his Hot Wheels. Vicky and I spent several hours watching episodes of Lone Wolf & Cub. As a celebration it was perfect -- relaxed and peaceful.

Ten years and a day ago I wrote this post, my first ever. I was 20 and had just applied to TISS (I did get through despite my misgivings) and was spending a few days with my father's friends at IIT Powai. I had appropriated my hosts' son's room and computer and read my first ever Don Camillo. I did go shopping that day and my wardrobe still houses a thin belt of brown and white leather flowers I bought then. Just thinking about that time makes me smile. It was a good time.

I returned to JU for my Masters instead of taking up that place at TISS and it's at this crucial point in my life that I began writing this blog. All that I have in my life today -- my family relationships, my marriage, my friends, my child -- would have necessarily been entirely different if I had chosen Bombay instead of Calcutta.

Perhaps, in some alternate universe, some other me is writing another version of Sunny Days describing her life from Bombay onwards. In this life though, you and I have been connected through my writing for a long time now and it's a great time to stop and say hello. Tell me who you are, what you like to do.

And wish my grown up blog a very happy birthday.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Birthday week plus first workshops

Two special birthdays this week (happy birthday to them both -- I didn't forget and I never do).

Rahul has been going for his first ever workshops. Yesterday IQ stimulation thingie seemed a bit juvenile and he was a little bored when I walked in, in the second hour. Today's cookery workshop was a completely different story although I wish he would stop telling complete strangers what to do and then end it with "my mother says".

I know, you're thinking his mother does say and she's always telling complete strangers what to do too.

These are busy days. More later.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Raconteur

For some months now I have been making a weekly trip to a non-conventional school in Tollygunge for Seagull Peaceworks as a volunteer of their 'Share Stories, Open Minds' programme. I usually spend my one hour with between 10 and 20 kids of ages ranging from 2 to 13 telling them stories. Sometimes we talk about what we heard; they sing and dance and they love to draw, so I often ask them to draw scenes from the stories they hear. Once, after an earlier discussion on Pinocchio, I made little paper and stick puppets with the children (something like these). Yesterday was the last session before the summer holidays and I threw the floor open to the children to make up stories of their own using three given elements (a snake -- we had just been discussing sea snakes; a ghost -- an all-time favourite; a mango -- it's the season!)

What was special about yesterday's session was that Rahul was there. He has been wanting to go with me to this school where all the 'Dada-Didi's (big brothers and sisters) hear stories. The children, on their part, have been curious about him ever since they found out I have a son. Rahul woke up late, while I was getting ready to leave, but when he remembered that I was going to the school he begged to accompany me and Vicky got him ready at super speed, so off we went, the two of us in a CTC bus.

He settled down comfortably enough once we reached, standing with the kids for prayers and only occasionally peering around looking for me. When we sat down in our circle I changed my plans; instead of starting the first of the two stories I had been planning to tell I told the kids about a recent family outing to the beach and Rahul jumped right in with detailed descriptions of his seaside adventures, including those sea snakes.

Then, when I threw the floor open to stories from them, Rahul was the first off the mark, ready with his story even before I stopped talking. He cleverly incorporated all three elements -- snake, ghost and mango -- into his little story and contrived to keep the big kids listening all through. It's no mean achievement for a six year old. He threw himself into his narration heart and soul and looked extremely contented when they clapped loudly for him. I was proud of all the kids then, the schoolchildren for making him one of their own so easily and him for completely forgetting to be shy or scared. Later on he followed it up with a couple of spirited renditions of "bang bhoot" stories (nonsensical tales of frog ghosts as dreamed up by my father for him last month).

It has long been one of my little disappointments that he has shown no interest in performance. Apart from occasionally wanting to watch shows he has been very clear he does not want to actually be the one on display. Yesterday morning, watching him enjoy the thrill of being the narrator, I thought to myself, yes, it's there somewhere, his mother in him.

Mostly I take pride in the little things in him -- his little kindnesses, his occasional tenderness and vulnerability, his lack of worldliness, his quaint manners, his consideration for the feelings of those he loves. Yesterday though I was simply that mother beaming with pride because her son showed his potential in front of the world.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Big Boy Toy Fund

When Rahul was about two or so a friend of ours gifted him a ceramic piggy bank with a cute cork topper that said "Big Boy Toy Fund". It was too nice to be played with so Vicky and I used it until recently to build up reserves of loose change.

Last week Rahul finally got it back and here is why:

We were at Hindustan Market one evening and he was tired and hungry. He was cranky and I was refusing to buy him anything. He saw a set of plastic scissors with changeable blades and I was about to refuse him those as well when I had a sudden thought and changed tracks. I told him he could have the scissors if he bought them himself. He doesn't get a regular allowance but I told him I'd pay him to fill the drinking water.

His one daily chore is to fill the water bottles at home. Usually if there are very many of them I tend to fill some up so as to make his job easier. I told him that I'd pay him Re 1 per bottle for every bottle beyond the daily quote of two that he has to fill anyway, and he could save that money for the scissors.

He managed to get the Rs 75 he needed in much less than a fortnight since his Dadu had given him a couple of shiny 'gold' Rs 5 coins and it turned out that the piggy bank had some loose change in it already. Yesterday we went to Hindustan Market despite the rain and despite being late for Dr D's birthday party so that those scissors could be bought. We didn't stop and take photographs but I'll always remember his happy urchin face and how urgently he held up his little purse asking the shopkeeper to help himself to however much he needed.

What I didn't know was that Vicky has kept on making those payments for water so Rahul has money accumulating in his bank once more. I personally think 6 is a little young for pocket money but given my little hedonist's tendency to consistently demand the best things in life, it may do him no harm to work for them. Also, it will hurt me a lot less when he breaks things he bought with his own money!

I don't like the thought of paying for chores either but since he is in general good about doing whatever he is asked to do, I'm considering paying him Rs 10 to dust the flat. Or at least as much of it as he can reach. Let's see how this experiment goes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Because You Loved Me

I was watching some Celine Dion videos. Rahul had been banished from my room a couple of hours ago because he wouldn't let me work.

He saw the door open because I was on my coffee break and crept in. Under the pretext of allowing him to listen to the music with me I pulled him onto my lap and sneaked in a cuddle. He cuddled back and asked to hold my hand.

I'm trying to convince myself he didn't want to grab my hand just to keep me from switching tabs.

However, as things stand, I can say we held hands and watched a lovely song together.

Having a child get almost too old to cuddle is the kind of thing that calls for a sad smiley.

:(

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

It's been a while since my first Mother's Day card.

Rahul is six and a half. He doesn't know what Mother's Day is but this morning I got cuddled and kissed and then some more. Just like that. It makes my day.

I also got breakfast in bed (yesterday's sausage pasta bake) and we're going out now.

None of this is unusual and I'm not sure Vicky knows it's Mother's Day either.

That is probably the best part about all of this.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Working from Home

My work is a matter of perspective. To me, it's all work, whether I write, edit, produce or perform; whether I cook, clean, launder or mend.

According to my parents, I pick unsuitable projects that have me work unreasonable hours and neglect my family.

According to Vicky I don't have to 'work' (and that is all that I should need from him).

According to Rahul, I should "stay with him always" which pretty much means being available on tap for when he wants me. Too bad I don't do the on demand bit.

Freelancing is a mug's game. It sounds positively perfect when you're sitting bored in office, but at least life is more clear-cut in a cubicle.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Self-Esteem

There was a young woman in a mall today who was turning heads wherever she went. Whether it was the clickety-clack of her shoes or her pretty blue saree or her bright red nails pulled into focus by the big flecks of red in her cocktail ring (which she made great play with, to be sure) -- wherever she went, people looked up, turned around and stared. Me, I heard her being told she really should lose some weight.

Yes, maybe she has weight to lose. But she will never be this pretty, this young, this attractive, this age, ever again. Maybe he should learn to appreciate what he's got instead of constantly thinking of what she isn't. When she was thinner, she was lean because she was under-fed, she was wiry because she was over-worked.

...

Do you know what she really thinks? She thinks it would be wiser of him to remember that he's not the only person with ideals.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Things I Do

1. I meet people. These days, I don't meet a lot of my people, but I try not to drop off the map entirely. I keep meeting my father who keeps coming to Calcutta for a couple of very good reasons.

2. I learn to answer questions that my six year-old son dreams up. I'm not very good at this because I don't know much about reptiles or ghosts or cars but I try to keep up.

3. I tell stories. To Rahul mostly, and these days, once a week on Friday mornings, I tell stories to some kids at a slum school. Both kinds are very rewarding: Rahul thinks my stories are fantastic (even when they aren't, really); and the schoolkids are sweethearts who greet me with cheers and hug me goodbye.

4. I sew. Of late I've embroidered little dresses and right now I'm trying to learn to crochet. Nobody ever warned me you need extra fingers, maybe a whole extra hand, for the latter.

5. I iron my own clothes and these days I iron little uniforms. It's funny how I never really liked my son's school uniform (too blah) until he started wearing it last month. When he wears it, somehow it looks adorable.

6. I teach my son to spell. And count, and read. I encourage him to draw and think for himself and take responsibility and play fair. I listen to his stories which are remarkable for their clarity of thought and logic and narrative flow.

7. I try to forgive. I try to learn from my own mistakes and remember that I can throw no stones. I try to forget but I'm having no luck with that. Maybe it's too soon.

8. I give thanks every single day of my life for the happiness and health of those who matter to me. I do this because I live in a land where I am one of the truly rich and it's in my face all the time.

9. I keep trying to save us money. I spend time being such a scrooge, I need help learning to enjoy the money we do have, which is a pity, because it's not as if I'm saving us a fortune anyway.

10. I read horoscopes. I forget them even as I read, so I probably shouldn't even bother, but I read them anyway.

11. I make lists. And tick them off. I do this every time we have a party, and when we're expecting guests. I make shopping lists and lists of errands and lists of things to pack and lists of people to call and sometimes I lose those lists and my life goes haywire. I should learn to depend more on my memory and less on the written word!

12. I am currently traumatised by all the lingerie ads popping up at me online. They give me panic attacks and I shut my computer down.