Monday, December 01, 2014

Nine Months

I had a rotten pregnancy with Rahul, so I was determined to enjoy myself the second time round. I had my highs and lows and I had a lot of sleep but here are some of things I also did:

Month 1
I wrote thank yous, trying to find my old optimistic spirit.
I attended Dana's 30th birthday party dressed as Mr Cellophane.

Month 2
I stayed home with Ma and Rahul while Vicky went to Shillong for a week on work. It shouldn't have been difficult but it was.
Rahul and I went to my little nephew's rice ceremony at Calcutta Rowing Club. Driving wasn't easy with the sleepiness but I did it.
As a blogger I attended and blogged a CSR initiative by ITC.

Month 3
I was a panelist at the Apeejay Kolkata Litfest. I spoke about Youth and Change. How ageist.
I attended a wedding in tshirts and sarees because my blouses had stopped fitting me.
We went to the circus. It was quite the day because I stayed awake all day, which was a major event by then.
I did an Arena Stage workshop culminating in a show -- my last theatre for some time to come.

Month 4
I panicked about gestational diabetes but it turned to have been too much rich food from all the weddings.
I edited a book.

Month 5
I taught my last class at Kolkata Sanved. It was an enriching experience and now I think perhaps I can teach after all.
We went to Ibiza and I spent a couple of days in the swimming pool: such bliss.
I crocheted a blanket for the baby. It was my first big project.

Month 6
Despite my misgivings I stayed a part of the CSAAM team once more. It was more upsetting than usual, what with me being so emotional so easily, but I did it and am glad I did.

Month 8
I travelled to Vizag for a surprise visit.

Month 9
I was ambushed by a fabulous surprise baby shower. I still haven't written about it and I fully intend to. It was epic.
I took part in a gift swap at my FB group.

Month 10
I stayed up nights watching the World Cup.
I also had a baby. That was epic too, but that's another story for another time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Fathers and Others


I just posted this picture on my Facebook because it makes me happy. It's one of my father and uncles-in-law keeping vigil outside my father-in-law's nursing home room as he recuperated from yet another surgery during his final illness. Of course, when I say they were keeping vigil I mean they were drinking tea and discussing the world and Calcutta as She Used to Be. Because they're Bengali like that.


At a time when every day was a struggle and we only survived because things moved too fast for us to brood, when we never knew from hour to hour what the next hour would bring, I took this photograph to remind myself of my father-in-law smiling because he could hear them outside his window. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Junk

Rahul, in his eternal worldliness, called something junk at the dining table.

I raised my eyebrows and asked him if he knew what the word meant.

He airily told me that he did: it meant rubbish, something unwanted... then, with a saucy look at my mother, he added, rubbish, like he was to his Diddi.

The mother, needless to say, found this adorable.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Of Tantrums and Parties

We went to Triple S's fifteenth birthday party last night. The boy has three perfectly nice names (one of which is my father's, since he was named after my father) but as a family we tend to call him Triple S. Why? Because we can.

Rahul had a nice day yesterday, on the face of it. He watched TV and I think also managed some iPad time in between. He played with his toys. But he fought with my father over lunch and decided his day was ruined. In his sadness he rolled under the sofa and stayed there too. Things looked up briefly when he thought we were going to the beach to the Park Hotel Durga Puja but then we found out that they had mixed up the timings so that they had finished the pujo hours before the time they had given us. So we didn't go to the beach. He was about to return to his under-the-sofa mood but in the nick of time Vicky suggested a trip to Rahul's beloved aquarium. V, Dada and I had hot chocolate watching the crowds while Rahul and Baba went to the aquarium.

Side note: I am sick of that ruddy aquarium.

Afterwards we all wandered down to the beach. Baba dropped us off and headed back home. They live so close to the beach, repeat trips are no bother. Rahul threw tantrum after tantrum because we refused to down to the sand and allow him to get wet and sandy just before the party. It all ended in raised voices and a tremendous scolding from me.

Eventually we made it to the party. Rahul went around looking like a whipped puppy for the first half hour. Then he made friends with another little hellion his age and decided to become the life and soul of the party instead. He took it to the point where Vicky came quietly to my mother and me, carrying Puchke, and asked if we'd met his ONLY son. We may have also turned our backs to Rahul so as to not see what he was up to.

What did he do? Well, among other things he

1. together with the other hellion took the balloons off the walls and then proceeded to lose or burst them all over the place.

2. joined in the family photo -- he never joins in photos without begging and threats -- and wriggled his way right to the front, standing next to one grandfather. When the old gentleman tried to put an affectionate arm around him for the photo, my horrible child stared at him coldly and said, "I don't know you."

3. lustily sang "Happy Birthday to Triple S Dada" while the rest of our family scrambled around trying to remember his formal names.

4. insisted on introducing the hellion friend to his little brother. The conversation went something like this:
Rahul: This is my little baby brother. You can call him Puchke or Aditya or Adityo*. I have given him those names. You can call him what you choose. What do you want to call him?
Hellion: I don't want to call him.
Rahul: (persevering) You can also give him a name by yourself. What do you want to call him?
Hellion: For what I will call him?
Rahul: (stumped)

5. threw crumpled water bottles, picked a phuchka shell off the roof and tried to eat it, grew red in the face when fed some chowmein (it was rather spicy I admit) and in all sorts of ways made quite a clown of himself.


Puchke on the other hand, worked the crowd like a boss. First he slept in the sling on Vicky, looking rather angelic. Then he woke up and was taken around the roof to see the sights. He met lots of grandparents and then one chubby grandmother in a bright pink saree asked to hold him. He was entranced by her gold and black beaded necklace. From her lap he blinked at all the assembled ladies and proceeded to charm them by being totally unafraid or whining for familiar faces. He cooed to some and gave his darling smiles to whoever chatted with him. Then, and only then, did he mildly indicate that he would like to be fed.

Once we returned upstairs he went back to overseeing the party from either his father, mother, mama  (my brother) or grandmother's shoulder. He seemed satisfied with all he saw.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Anatomy of A Marriage, Eight Years On

Many years ago, upset with V, I wrote about what marriage means to me. When I read those posts I marvel at them, not because of the honesty (I am still as honest as ever in my blogging) but because of how much of myself I was willing to post on a public forum. I suppose that is the difference between being in my twenties and being in my thirties. I used to be painfully anxious that people understood me; now I no longer care whether they do or not. There was a line between wanting to not care and actually not caring. I approached the line, hovered over it for ages, and finally crossed it. Once breached, you can't go back to being that anxious, thank heavens.

That said, it's reassuring that the idea of marriage has not changed as far as I'm concerned. There have been many ups and downs in the seven years since. There have been lies and losses; births and weddings. Through it all I maintain:

1. Marriage is about equality and equivalency. At least for me it is. What I do is not as important as knowing that my husband is putting in as much work into our partnership as I am. Having been the person who worked harder for many years, sometimes, especially now, I feel that he is putting in more than he gets. Which is fine with me. In the long run the gifts are evening themselves out. But I have to feel prized. Not everybody feels the same way I know, but this is how I feel.

2. Absolute fidelity. Last year I kissed somebody else and it wasn't a kiss the way you're thinking but even that I realised was unacceptable to me. It's not so much what I want to do as what I'm willing to accept from V. Do unto others. I still don't flirt around much.

3. My privacy has become precious to me. Now I share myself only as far as I choose. Earlier I thought I had to give everything of myself but I don't think that any more.

4. Cuddles are important. We are a family where both parents work mostly from home. We are together all the ruddy time. It's very easy for us to start snarling at each and keep snarling all day if only because we don't know how to stop. It's easy to forget to hold hands or hug or pat heads if you see somebody all day everyday.

5. Money decisions need not be taken together, as long as they are not disputed. Ideally both of us work in tandem but in real life this does not happen. As a consequence we also need to budget for expenses that the other person has made. This is not as chaotic as it sounds. It can be something as frivolous as a meal out or as bread-and-butter as school uniform purchases -- occasionally something extra is spent, usually by one person without consulting the other, and our budget has learnt to leave wiggle room for this.

6. I knew we would be expected to grow old together but I never really considered that we would also be growing up together. We hide from the kids together and hide things from our parents together. Though that doesn't sound particularly grown up to me!

7. Consequences must be mutual too. Over the years I have tried and tried to show Vicky how we all pay for each person's mistakes. Obviously I did this because he kept making mistakes and I kept paying for them. Now though, he has paid for a few I have made, has helped right those wrongs and seen the damage. There is nothing like facing consequences together to remind you not to repeat a mistake.

8. Mutual respect and liking, words that trip so readily off our tongues, are the mainstay of any relationship I'm in. I have to like V. There have been so many phases, and such long ones too, when I couldn't bear the sight of him, that I'm thankful for the ones where I do like him. I have also noticed that in the middle of one of the phases where I find him unbearable, he will suddenly say something or do something utterly unremarkable that will nevertheless remind me of the young man he used to be -- and that young man I liked. He remains unbearable but this flash reminds me that this is a phase and will pass, which is soothing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eight Years Old


Rahul is eight today. I haven't had the time to get all sentimental and angry with him for growing up, partly of course because his little brother keeps me too busy but mostly because I am finally accepting his growing.


He is no longer a very little boy and he's hardly even a little boy. He drives me crazy and I think this is because his temperament is much like mine, just amped up. He is quick to anger, all about the drama and very soft-hearted. He is impatient and bossy and demanding. Yesterday he drove me to tears. And this morning he reminded me of all that is best in him, gentle manners, little kindnesses. Shortly we will go collect his report card which will no doubt be another exercise in biting our lips and trying not to get depressed, so I'm reminding myself that he is more than his report card. After all, I was too.

He is thrilled at being a big brother. Not a day has gone by when he hasn't told us what a good thing it was we have Puchke now. Because earlier, our lives were very boring, he says.

Eight. I accept it but it takes all my willpower to do so.



Friday, September 05, 2014

In Your Thirties

- You watch your children grow up. Where did your baby go?

- You watch your parents grow old. How do you make your peace with that?

- The man you married is greying, slowing down, less likely to take risks.

- Your bones hurt more often. Such an old people thing.

- Your friends are no longer young people fresh from university.

- The environment matters more than ever, but now it's self-need driving you rather than ideals.

- Politics matters. Not enough to lose friends over it, but still.

- Your car is more likely to have baby bottles than booze in the backseat.

- Your music is starting to get dated. You hear the radio play Savage Garden during 'Classics' hour.

- Your mental confidence is less matched by your physical condition.

All of this is flummoxing because you feel so young.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Product Review: Yowzza Baby Rompers

Lynn of Yowzza sent me a couple of their baby rompers last week, to try out for feedback. The package reached me over the weekend and contained two rompers of the 3-6 month size and the signature Yowzza puppet bag.



Let me say right now I love the puppet bag. Not least because it's the perfect size for an eight year-old Dada to use to tell stories to his new baby brother. It's funny, cute and the paper is sturdy enough to last a while. Click over to their site to see how it works.

The rompers are cute too. The one-liners may not be everybody's cup of tea, but they should be a welcome change for people who seek something different from the cutesy stuff more commonly available everywhere. Speaking for myself, since I find P rather edible, the "Bite Me" romper makes me grin. The fabric used is a rich, thick cotton, from organic sources according to Lynn, which explains the high pricing. The white presents no headaches but I'm waiting to see if the red will bleed or run even beyond the scope of my Colour Catchers. UPDATE: I washed the red and not only did it not bleed, the fabric washed and ironed beautifully.



Size-wise the rompers appear wide enough to clothe chubby babies comfortably but I find them a little short for the 3-6 month mark, considering they need to fit around a diaper as well as the baby. They'll fit P perfectly in another month or so (he's 7 weeks old now) but unless they stretch quite a bit, I don't think they'll last him till he's 6 months old -- and he's not an especially large baby. They do have a measuring guide on their website which should help parents work out the size(s) to opt for.

That said, the only real problem I have with their range is with the labels at the neck and sides. I would prefer softer labels if labels there must be but ideally I prefer brand information printed directly on baby clothes rather than on labels; similarly, washing information is so much better on a label inside the hip area where it is unlikely to irritate delicate skin. And I dislike external labels (so unnecessary) so I wish they'd reconsider those. I like that Yowzza's attention to detail goes beyond organic cotton: the printing on the rompers is done using non-PVC and lead-free ink.



All things considered, I find these rompers cute, comfortable and conversation starters. Together with the puppet bag they'd make excellent gifts for kids you know. And while Yowzza currently only offers short-sleeved rompers, long-sleeved ones will be in their online store soon for the winter, along with more design options. Also on the agenda are t-shirts for older kids -- I suggest Big Brother and Big Sister tees. For me as an online shopper, the icing on the cake are their free shipping in India and cash on delivery options.

You can check out Yowzza's current collections here and keep an eye on their new offerings via Facebook.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Big Brother Is Watching

Rahul has taken on the mantle of Dada very comfortably. He has very little idea what to do with or around a very little baby but he's learning on the job, which is rather sweet.

Less sweet is his 'gentle' instruction to me on how to parent his little brother. I cannot lose my temper without being 'gently' rebuked later on. I have it explained to me that I cannot scold such a little boy (I didn't!), have I apologised (of course I did!) and that I must try to keep my temper (I try!).

He watches out for Puchke's welfare in other ways as well, earmarking toys and treats ostensibly for the little brother to enjoy "one day"; for the present, of course, Rahul will keep them in 'working condition'.
He and his schoolfriends also appear to discuss the phenomenon of younger siblings, which is a vast improvement over my own Dada who was unwilling to acknowledge my existence in public through most of our school years. Rahul's friends have in fact taken a great interest in the proper upbringing of Master Puchke, according to Rahul, who may well be passing off his own 'suggestions' as theirs. They have even gone so far as to decide that the boy should be named "Varabh". Because he is, you know, the brother of Sharabh. They concede that it has no meaning as a name, but seems apt nevertheless.

And that is when I put my foot down.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mother of All Cliches

I have a demand-fed, breastfed little baby who wears cloth diapers (and pre-folds and lengtis), is swaddled in ancient muslin squares, wrapped in kanthas, fed using glass baby bottles and sleeps with us in our bed.

And I've been using cloth pads, worn maternity jeans and shopped ahead for the baby.

I tick all the right internet boxes, which is a really funny thought.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Presenting Puchke

Born 11 July 2014, one wee baby to a very happy family. I'm told I muttered, "But I wanted a girl..." to our paediatrician but I think we can overlook things said under the influence of anaesthesia. I may have wanted a daughter, but I have to say I can't imagine a life without this second son of mine (and he's not even a fortnight old).

We have a nice name for him but Rahul has requested he be given Puchke ("Tiny") for a daak naam (pet name) and that's what he will be on this blog. Say hello to your little friend.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Things Heard around Our House Today

After a night and most of a day tending to an unusually fussy baby.

Person: I'm starting to understand why your mother feels sons are dispensable.

................................


Trying to mop up leaking breasts yet once more.

Person: Damn, I'm bathed in my own milk. Oh well, at least I'm one up on Cleopatra.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Village Diary of a Heretic Banker by Moin Qazi


Village Diary of a Heretic Banker is a book I worked on earlier this year. The author, Dr Moin Qazi, is a gentleman who spent well over two decades working on rural microfinancing in the villages of India, as an official of State Bank of India. I found his insights, described through his personal experiences, to be extremely interesting. Among other things he sets out and explains the advantages of the Indian microfinancing model over the one imported from Bangladesh, how women's Self Help Groups flourish and falter based on the ground realities of individual circumstances and many other such intricacies of rural banking. His accounts, thankfully, do not require special knowledge of banking or finance (I have neither).

Obviously, my perspective is biased, but I can tell you that I found Dr Qazi's writing at once humorous and honest, and I enjoyed editing this book much more than I had hoped for. The book is available at retailers on and offline (see poster). I hope you will take a look and consider buying it. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Showers of Blessings -- I

This little baby inside me is 35 weeks old now. At this stage, Rahul was delivered by C-sec. This one though, will stay as long as it wants because both my doctor and I prefer it that way. While it's hopefully getting bigger and fatter and smarter and whatnoter, let me tell you about all my many, many baby showers.

The first one was the traditional shaadh Ma planned for me early this year. She settled on May 2, a most auspicious date I'm told, and in my seventh month, and at first we considered a big family shindig. A couple of incidents brought us back to earth very rapidly, reminding us that we exist in very political families and also that we're heartily sick of the politics. Then my friends went missing for various reasons and what with the auspicious hour ending firmly at 8.30 in the am, the shaadh happened with only my mother, me and Vicky.


I wore the beautiful Byloom saree Ma-Baba gifted me for the occasion and a new gold Krishna pendant my grandmother sent me from Pune. That's me looking freshly bathed and trying not to yawn, by the way, while eating payesh.


Apparently you also have to eat mishti doi with a fried fish tail. They may as well have asked me to eat the fish raw. This of a pregnant woman who can barely stand being in the kitchen surrounded by raw food, mind you. But let us look at more pleasant things. Below you have my mother and me looking all emo for a change.


Rahul had to go to school, this being a Friday morning, but he photobombed us anyway, via his dinosaur book on the chair behind me. I believe the book was propped up by Vicky, who took all these pictures, but Rahul was quite satisfied with his representative. He had not been happy at having to miss the fun.

And lastly, here's a close-up of some of the food. Since this was a breakfast shaadh the normal set menu was thrown to the winds. On my grandmother's advice Ma got a lot of savouries and fried goodies, which Vicky rounded off with pastries from Flurys. There were also mini pea parathas and prawn cutlets, apart from the mishti doi, payesh and fish. Of the stuff that you can see, there are two kinds of nimki (masala and plain), almonds and cashews, bhujiya and murukku, raw mango chutney, chocolate and lemon tarts, chocolate boat and pista square. And I was supposed to eat it all, though thankfully not necessarily all at once.


The cake plate, by the way, was a recent gift from Vicky. I've been wanting one for ages and then I saw Medha of Piece o' Cake makes the most beautiful hand-painted ones, so that's what he got me.

Later in the day Baba arrived in town, with strings and strings of pearls. I had suggested that my huge pearls were a little short and a daughter needed something down to her navel, especially a daughter who kept the grandchildren coming, and he fell for it.

Apart from all this, I was gifted a saree by Chhotopishithamma, money by Pishithamma and a set of Estee Lauder perfumes by Mejopishi & Anindyakaku. Basically, showered with gifts and love. I write all this down because I didn't have a shaadh when I was pregnant with Rahul and the lack of interest from my in-laws this time too hurt more than I care to admit. On the other hand, I did have all this.

Actually, I went on to get much more, but that's a story for another post.

Monday, June 16, 2014

300

A couple of days ago Rahul counted the money in his piggy bank and found he had Rs 290. This thrilled him so much that he danced around the room, kicking his heels up in joy on the bed and exclaiming how wonderful it was that he had "nearly Rs 300".

I made helpful suggestions about what he could do with the money (I have a birthday coming up) and he assured me that all birthday gifts would be taken care of, but that he mainly wanted to save this for his own birthday. He figured by September he would have the "whole Rs 300" and could buy something for himself, his highest ambition just now.

When I was eight I asked for and received a weekly allowance. I remember perfectly well what a thrill that was and how I used to throw money in my jar and not look until it was full and then count whatever had collected and promptly spend the lot. I still enjoy saving money and spending every last paisa (though now as a householder I try to put something in my long-term savings before commencing the big spending spree). What I didn't understand was his fascination with the figure 300. Why not aim for 400? Why was 200 too little, given this son of ours is still very naive about numbers and figures?

This morning, he finally made up his Rs 300 and promptly started dancing around the house once more. Again I asked him what he wanted to do with it and once again he reminded me that he wanted to spend it on himself for his birthday. Then I asked him why he liked the number 300 so much. He looked at me in perfect seriousness and said, "Don't you think a seven year old boy having Rs 300 is great?"

Well, yes, I do, and so I told my little Croesus.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Prodigal Son

Rahul left Calcutta early in May with my mother. He was to spend the rest of the month with my parents and brother in Vizag, the idea being that I would get a break from household work in the May heat and he would get some respite from my temper. (It was my idea, too.)

When he was younger he used to go off on visits without us all the time and though it was never easy we learnt to get used to living without him. He'd visit my parents for weeks at a stretch as a very little boy, and frequently spend long weekends with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Then, with school, and life, intervening, we spent I think the better part of two years without such independent socialising. We got used to going out in threesomes or not at all.

Near the end of 2013 and in early 2014 he spent some weekends with my uncle and aunt when they visited Calcutta and those weren't easy on any of us. He would come home unsettled and the house always seemed eerily empty without him. Vicky and I tended to go out to movies or meals to keep ourselves occupied. Especially in these months that I've been pregnant I have found it very difficult to let him (or Vicky) go off anywhere. It's the last few months we've had as a family of three and I've been clinging to it as I suppose only I can. Though it's a good thing they had those weekend visits because soon after, with very little warning, my uncle took up a job across the world and they have now moved.

May 2014 was hard on me. Once my mother and Rahul left, I missed them both desperately and spent a couple of days crying. I know it's partly the emotional upheaval caused by the pregnancy hormones but I really missed that boy of mine more than I had expected to. In forty-eight hours I was morose enough for Vicky to book us both for a surprise trip home. So, after another fortnight, we flew off to Vizag to surprise my parents -- and Rahul. To my delight, my high school friend Shanu got married the day we reached Vizag. I couldn't attend his wedding or the reception the next day because the hour-long drive out of town was actually beyond me, but I did finally get to meet his long-time girlfriend, now his wife, who is every bit as perfect for him as I'd always imagined her to be.

The week in Vizag was spent without doing anything much or meeting anybody else, and that was fine by me. The climate was kinder to me than Calcutta's had been but now that I'm in my eighth month, I find I can only do so much even on the best of days. We drove down to the beaches on a few evenings and walking on the sand helped me loosen muscles stiffened by months of overwhelming lethargy. There were a few wonderful storms that reminded me all over again of how much I love Vizag in the rains. During one of those we had gone to run errands, Vicky, Baba, Rahul and I. When the rain started we picked Ma up and went for a drive in the hills. Vicky, my father and I went out one morning and V bought me a beautiful gold chain. We had lunch at Food Ex. Munching on the chicken puff, listening to Michael Jackson, I closed my eyes and went back sixteen years effortlessly. We finished with really good ice creams next door.

Rahul has developed a Godzilla fascination this summer. He hasn't seen the new movie yet but he's seen plenty of the old ones and also an animated series that is even sillier than the movies. I sighed and tried to convince Niyogy Number 2 (in utero) that my interests are more, well, interesting.

Coming back to Calcutta last Friday wasn't easy. The weekend turned out to be rainy and miserable (strange how exhilarating the same rain was in Vizag!) and this morning I woke up angry and depressed. I got some chores done, choked down some breakfast and took a long nap so as to keep my mood to myself. And then, finally, at lunchtime, Rahul and Ma arrived. After lunch and a game of Coco Crazy Ma and he napped. And it was then, finally, as he slept, with his arm and leg around me, that I finally felt happy once more.

No doubt tomorrow I'll yell at him and get annoyed at the things he does, but for now, I'm happier than I can describe to have that boy of mine back home.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Growing Pains

These days I feel very annoyed that Vicky has, yet again, suckered me into carrying his babies. It leads to conversations like this one earlier today.


Me: Next time, grow your own baby.

V: Oh, but I am.

Me: [incredulous look]

V: I'm growing it in you, aren't I?


I would have punched him if I had the energy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Just a Little Crush?

UPDATE:
Sri wins this giveaway. Thanks for the laughs, Sri. Kiran and I both loved your entry!

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

Remember when I sighed for a McDreamy? I don't know if my prayers were heard, but 2013 was enlivened by two very cute crushes. They were hardly alike but what they had in common was a certain level of the smarts. Also the cuteness. Smart and cute is what works for me, clearly.

More recently, I returned to a very old crush. KBPM, who is a keen runner, was running with him and in the course of a frivolous conversation, The Man promised me a hug when next we met. Now, I don't know about you, but a hug from Milind Soman is worth any number of embarrassing Facebook conversations. Actually, just thinking about it makes me feel like a teenager all over again... So I did what any self-respecting teenaged Sue would do: I promptly wrote a status update about it and proceeded to get teased by all who saw it. I don't care, it was well worth it.


And before you laugh at me, when was the last time you did something silly for a crush, huh? Not that long ago, I'll bet. Tell me about it and I'll put you in the running (ooh, running... where was I? oh yes!) for an autographed copy of Kiran Manral's latest novel, Once upon a Crush


I finished reading my own copy late last week and am still chuckling over bits of it. Like everything else Kiran writes, there is always something that speaks to you, reminds you of the funnier parts of your life. The book itself is a light version of a coming of age novel, sparked up by our heroine's mad crush on the office hottie.

All kinds of people have threatened me so I will not give away any spoilers but suffice to say things end happily for most people concerned. Since Kiran has never been the saccharine type, universal happiness is not guaranteed for all characters, but that is exactly what I like about her writing, so it pleases me.


To set the ball rolling, Kiran tells you about something silly she did once for a crush --
Back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was an adolescent with a crushing crush on the resident hunk of the neighbourhood, I remember waiting endlessly at the bus stop at the time he normally took the same BEST bus to the railway station in the vain hope that we would share the same bus, and in my starry eyed innocence, the same seat. But alas, back then I was a pimply faced, bordering on the obese, spectacled little kid with two plaits and a school uniform and god help me, I missed enough buses to be infernally late for school and had to stand out of class more times than I could remember. Sadly, he broke my heart by making sheep's eyes at the resident hottie of the complex and I went back to mooning over George Michael who then broke my heart few years later when he came out.
Inspired? Write your story in the comments and Kiran will choose her favourite. Please note, her decision is final and binding and she requests you to send her an Indian address for the book, should you win.

Don't forget to leave your email address with your entry. May the funniest story win!

P. S. In case you want a copy already, here's the cheapest price I found online.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rahulisms

Rahul came home from school half an hour ago.

He told us about the spellings he got right in class today -- 18 out of 20, he says, which must be a record of sorts for a child who refuses to display his learning (possibly on principle, more likely out of a general wish to break my heart). When I quizzed him on the ones he hadn't got right, he reminded me, "I got 18 out of 20 right. Aren't you impressed?"

...

He came out his bath and I whined until he came over to me lying on the bed. I squished his wet head against my heated cheek, luxuriating in the dual comfort of the boy and his relative coolness. He laughed and said, "I knew you wanted to cuddle."

I said, "No, I wanted your coolness. You're my ice cube."

He immediately drew away. "You're stealing my cold!"

...

It's hard to hide a smile sometimes. I know this is just the kind of fawning mum post I normally try to avoid, but indulge me this once.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Settling into this Pregnancy

This pregnancy started out in a cloud of disbelief and happiness. After all these years of asking Vicky to agree to have another child, here we were, number 2 finally on its way, and Rahul thrilled at the thought. I saw the world in a soft, hazy glow, though that may have been from all the sleep I got in my first four-five months.

Now I'm in month six, more used to this baby, more accustomed to the happiness. Starting to take it the littlest bit for granted. The hormonal mood swings are intense. Rahul has begun to not only go around telling people that I have a baby in my tummy but also that this is the reason I am so angry and so sad so easily. When he was a baby I fretted a little because he took his time talking but at times like these I really wish he never did start to talk.

I'm also finally relaxed enough to completely loathe Vicky for doing this to me. He knew I would never be able to say no to a baby. Why not allow me to get all this over and done with in my twenties? What kind of a husband makes his wife go through all this in her old age? I'll be thirty-two when this child is born, the age when I had planned to retire from motherhood and get back to the swinging single life. Instead, there go my thirties too. Also, really, the next time he wants a child, let him carry it himself or adopt. As always, everything is his fault.

What has completely thrown me though is his response to my attitude. When I was expecting Rahul and easily upset by small things, he was very unfeeling and often rather cruel. This time around he has his off days but mostly he's running around getting me snacks, rubbing my back on request, patting me soothingly when I burst into tears yet again because of something utterly nonsensical... and so it goes. He is never this nice to me. It's making me rather suspicious.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

[CSAAM April 2014] Letting Go to Keep Him Safe





For the fourth time now, we're hosting Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month all through April. As we geared up for the emotional investment and learnt slowly to detach from the horrors we dealt with each year, as our children grew and our fears for them changed and also grew, each year taught us something new.

I start April 2014 with the resolve to not let fears of CSA make me a paranoid parent. Rahul is seven and a half, and there will soon be another child to watch over and fear for, and I cannot afford to let fear rule my life now or ever. From the very start I was very aware of how his gender would not protect my son and in fact, in certain ways, it could possibly make him even more vulnerable to abuse than a daughter. I talked openly about my personal experiences with CSA in the family, and one of my best friends wrote about her own abuse and suggested ways to help keep our children safe. Rahul grew older and I adapted my ideas of safety. CSAAM even made me re-think some of my favourite books in light of the questionable age gap in certain relationships. My last CSAAM post was a subject very important to us all: how to keep our children safe online.

I'm still adapting my notions of safety, as I mentioned before. Now more than ever I'm trying to learn to let go. In recent times, here are ways in which I've tried not to fetter my child:

1. I've let him walk off with strangers (with waiters, for example, into restaurant kitchens), into public bathrooms without any supervision.

2. He occasionally answers the front door -- though only after we give him the go-ahead from upstairs, and only if it's for a person he recognises, such as the maid.

3. He's gone to parties without us, to homes we don't know, filled with other children and adults who are strangers to us.

4. I encourage him to make requests in public places by himself, such as when requesting a cashier for service. Sometimes this means he is out of sight for short whiles.

5. I no longer panic if I can't see him every time I look up when we're outside.

6. He went swimming and played for hours in the lawn while we napped in our cottage, while on holiday last weekend.

In other words, I'm learning to trust his instincts. He is not a child normally given to walking off with strangers without at least coming to let us know where he is going and who with, so this makes our job that little bit easier. If there is one thing that CSAAM has taught me so far, it's that the best way I can protect my child is to let him develop his own judgment of who to trust and how far. As a parent I'm aware that these are but baby steps by me so far, but hey, it's progress!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Little Jem

As an impressionable teenager I read about Anne Shirley/Blythe's oldest son, Jem, bringing her the first mayflowers of each year. It was a little ritual private to them both, and when he was away at the Great War, her second son Walter (just thinking about whom makes me want to bawl) brought her the flowers instead. I sighed over the pages and dreamt of a son of my own day.

I knew I would have a daughter, of course, in my own image, and also infinitely better, but I also wanted a son. I dreamt of a quiet young boy, biddable, obedient, intelligent and very sensitive to his world. I don't know about quiet or biddable, but Rahul is immeasurably intelligent and alarmingly sensitive. He is also satisfyingly grubby, annoyingly whiny and rather more charming than I like to acknowledge.

He also gets me flowers. From when he was a tiny tot visiting my parents at Moore Avenue and he'd pick up the closed kolke flowers on his way home each evening for me, to the flowers he picked from the bushes lining his way home from the school bus-stops in Lake Gardens and Kalikapur. He grows older but the flowers keep coming, always for me, and then occasionally for somebody else as well. On my request he no longer plucks them (or so I hope!) but he gets the ones that have fallen from wherever he finds them, and remembers to bring them, wilted and faded, to me whenever he sees me next. A few minutes ago he promised me that he would always get me flowers.

Dreams come true, you know. Just rather grubbier than you'd expect, but still very satisfying.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rahul Niyogy goes hoppity hoppity hoppity etc.

Things Rahul said to me this evening:

"It's easy to be happy."

"Hopping makes me happy."

"I'm a tigger. I'm Rahul the tigger."

So he hopped and bounced around the Dakshinapan terrace, bless him.

Where Our Women Go

Last December or so Rahul asked me if the baby would be a boy or a girl, could we find out and could we please let him know? (He doesn't have a settled preference but is naturally quite curious.)

I sat him down and told him sex determination is against the law in our country. Then I told him about female foeticide. My mother said I should not have. I said, this is his reality, and it's never too early to tell him how his country treats half its citizens and citizens-to-be.

Reports like this piece on bride trafficking make me weary. They also strengthen my belief that we need to talk to our children about these realities. How did my generation buy into such mindless killing so easily? Why have we allowed it?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Little Ham

I fell asleep mid-morning and woke up calling for V. He came, but was elbowed out from beside me by Rahul who decided to get in the middle and give me a big hug. V made it a group hug. A squashed voice emerged from between us, announcing triumphantly, "Ami ekta ham sandwich hoye gelam!" ("I've become a ham sandwich!")

Monday, March 17, 2014

Motivation and the Classroom

Mejopishi and I often discuss Rahul's schooling. She's one of the best junior school teachers I've ever known and I've found her teaching methods suitable for teaching adults as well as children. Rahul is not the easiest of scholars. While easily being one of the smartest kids in class he is usually the one handing in half-empty worksheets and illegible classwork. It can take a great deal of patience and ingenuity to teach him, as Vicky and I know to our cost. In fact, if he had been unlucky enough to have studied with me in some of my schools, this really intelligent young boy would have failed. He would have been caned, punished on a daily basis, and would have learned to fear his teachers. Instead, he is lucky to have me to go speak to his teachers and teachers who have the training and sensitivity to see beyond the wall of obduracy his shyness and lamentable self-confidence makes him put up.

And yet my aunt recently told me about an episode he had once confided in her when he asked about some aspect of the school Christmas celebrations and a teacher had mocked him and walked off without even giving him the information he clearly lacked. M'pishi was furious that anybody would dare call herself a teacher, with that attitude, in this day and age; I was resigned, being more used to being mocked for questions than having questions answered with dignity and respect in my own school years.

Around the same time we met Li'lpet and her mother P after ages. P is a qualified teacher herself, working on higher qualifications, and Li'lpet, like Rahul, is a child of no mean intellectual ability. Yet she has been used to hearing, since her earliest schooldays, that her handwriting/spelling/recitation/whathaveyou is not good enough, that her parents need to work her harder and so on. Recently it accidentally slipped out that in fact her school does not actually feel this way; this is how they push her. I say they are lucky that P is not easily cowed by schools and teachers and fought back to keep her daughter's self-esteem intact because some kids can take this nasty kind of pressure but most can't. Indeed, why should they have to?

Rahul learns from everyday things, when things are explained logically to him. He likes to think on these explanations and work out further theories. It doesn't make him Einstein but it does make him a very difficult person to explain arbitrary mathematical rules to. Why is it so? Because it is so. But why? (How the hell does his mother know!) And if the whys don't make sense he lets that line of thought lapse, which can complicate life when you want to build on that groundwork.

Over the last half a dozen years Vicky and I have had to dig into whatever little remains in us of our own education to explain natural phenomena, linguistic complications, mathematical contortions, even psychology. I'm aware this is only parenting and every parent does it, but it does remind me forcibly of all those ads advocating for educating the mothers of tomorrow for smarter future generations. At this point I have a child who will use 'obviously' in the most appropriate and annoying contexts but absent-mindedly write 'goned' for 'went' in his classwork. Obviously he needs a teacher who understands his capabilities and works to find ways to motivate him rather than pull him down for not knowing the past tense of 'to go' at age seven. So far he has had such teachers, but not all students do, as I know all too well.

Through my high school and middle school years I dealt with the confusion of occasionally knowing more than my teachers -- and them despising me for it. I learnt to hide my knowledge and despise them for it. I cannot think this was a healthy attitude for schooling. Things improved a little in high school and of course in university I had wonderful teachers, but those early scars remain... naturally, this piece on humiliation in the classroom struck a chord with me.

As a teacher and a parent I try to remind myself from time to time there are no poor students, only teachers who haven't yet found a way to motivate them to learn. Motivation comes in different ways and parents teach differently from schoolteachers. Yet we all need to remember that the common goal is to bring up a child who is healthy, confident and interested in the world. Every child wants to learn. It is up to us to work out ways that make it comfortable for them.

Lastly, here are a few tips on teaching that I have personally found helpful:

1. Prompt if required. Rahul is learning the multiplication tables and we found it much easier once I allowed myself to prompt him where he forgets. I don't give him the answer but I remind him how to work it out. The idea is to imprint the number on his brain through constant repetition, not let him focus on how difficult so much memorising is.

2. Make connections. When I teach a language I try to work in rhymes, opposites, synonyms and other related words, going back and forth so that no concept is ever taught in isolation. I realise I also do this with science and maths, and it works wonderfully if you can relate things to your students' daily lives or other learnings. Recently a demand for iced water ended in a flustered call to my father to find out why the fan makes ice cubes melt faster. The explanation was duly conveyed to the child in turn.

3. Do a little everyday. A few minutes on each subject, even a few lines of reading if your child doesn't read by him/herself. A quick oral give and take on weekend mornings. Repetition really is key.

4. Be realistic about attention spans. Not even an adult can give a class undivided attention for a full hour, so why expect the impossible for a child? See how long your child can maintain focus and organise the study accordingly. In theory I prefer to give R work that can be completed in 10-15 min max, allowing him a few minutes break while it is reviewed. Some of his classmates can go on for longer, but he can't and it's frustrating for us both if I force him to.

5. Be honest about feedback. Calling R an idiot when I'm in a temper has not helped his learning or my temper. Telling him to give me five minutes to myself so I don't give in to my temptation to strangle him was far more productive. When he fails at something I remind him that his problem is his lack of focus, never a lack of ability. I tell him this because it's important that he knows what his problem really his.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Holi 2014

I've always liked Holi. My parents didn't enjoy the madness and mostly, neither did my brother, but I used to be the one member of our family out there getting back home dripping and multicoloured. I have fun memories of Holi up and down our lanes in Golf Green, a huge apartment complex celebration in Hyderabad and of course, the epic celebration that was my last Holi in Vizag. My schoolmates and I went around picking up friends and eventually we found ourselves noisy, egg-covered and discoloured on the beach. The episode ended with us showering off in Esha's front garden, to the detriment of her mother's fancy new Pears soap not to mention her towels. She was a good sport about it though.

Vicky and I have played Holi. It's not Rahul's favourite festival but we've had fun with colours and water and bhang, the works. Left to themselves, I have accepted that the Niyogys wouldn't play. Vicky will light up the house from top to bottom for Diwali, like he did last year (and left the mad cleaning up to me, of course) and buy crackers after we decide not to waste our money, but increasingly he wants to head out of town for Durga Puja and stay home during Holi.

This year I'm sitting out Holi too. I offered to make safe colours for Rahul to play with at home, but neither of them seemed particularly interested, and I'm far too sleepy all the time. Next year, we'll have the baby celebrating with us.

A happy Holi to you and yours. May you be blessed.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

The little woman in the niche

I live in a city of refugees. It is one of Calcutta's deepest truths, possibly its biggest challenge. People both born poor and impoverished by their circumstances find their way to this city and try to live out what lives they can. Some find work, some others pull themselves out of poverty by their bootstraps. An overwhelming number end up begging on the streets. As a student I never had spare change, so I promised myself that when I earned my own living I would show more charity. However I soon learnt not to give the children and the able-bodied money, mostly because they rarely get the money they earn through begging.

On the way to our Metro station, I noticed a little old woman who sat in the half shelter of the closed doorway of an old building on Russa Road. She wore a widow's saree, that is a saree that is all white with a narrow border without the colours red, yellow, orange etc and never seemed to make much money. When I eventually mentioned her to Vicky I discovered that he too had been in the habit of giving her a coin or two every day. She sat in her niche, staring into space with empty eyes that must once have been pretty. She looked like a tiny little grandmother who should have by rights been living with a family that cherished her. Instead, she sat out on the footpath in rain and shine, regardless of all the people rushing past her. She didn't even bother to beg; she merely sat in her place with one palm open in her lap, lost in her private world.

There is a row of old-fashioned shops off that footpath, selling things like paint and packaged snacks and hardware. I once asked a few shopkeepers about her, on a particularly nasty day I think, and they shrugged and said she never spoke but that she was always there. I noticed though that in their own ways they kept an eye on her. They would never let any of the street louts rough her up, for example. Once when her outstretched hand tripped a passer by and he started shouting, they calmed him down, sent him on his way and then checked on her.

The only time I saw her respond to her surroundings was when we once walked past with Rahul, then three or four, and instead of handing her the money ourselves, gave it to him. He looked curiously at her and, in that compassionate way very young children have, put the money carefully into her palm, touching it as he did so. She turned her gaze towards him, looking at him and then, with her shaking hands, blessed him, touching him on his head. It was a gentle moment in the madness of the commuter rush. Back then I used to be a mother who rushed to keep him clean when unclean hands touched him but I could no more dust away any possible dirt from her palms than I could tell Rahul that she was a dirty old woman and he mustn't touch her.

Time passed. We continued to give her money, occasionally through Rahul if he happened to be with us, and she always acknowledged him. We stopped our daily commutes as first Vicky and then I returned to our home offices. We didn't pass that way very often. A few years ago I realised that I never saw her any more. I asked a shopkeeper and he said she'd stopped coming. Then I saw her again, back at her spot, looking shabbier and even more lost than before, if such a thing were possible. And then she disappeared for good. I wondered what had happened to her and hoped she had died.

I remember her because I used to wonder how I would have appeared in her circumstances. When Vicky told me he gave her money too, everyday, it reminded me of the man I'd fallen in love with who seemed to disappear in the daily stresses of our domestic life. Rahul's little interactions with her were one more chapter in the big book of little ways in which strangers responded to him. He has always been a little boy who exasperates his friends and well-wishers, but something about him draws out the best of unknown people. They give him seats, offer him sweets, smile at his conversation, bless him when he isn't looking. He has always been rather shy and wary of strangers, so these little episodes are never quite expected but they keep occurring and always have. He reminds me of my brother, blessed beyond others in the ways that matter.

Unlike that little old woman.

This was in response to The Old Gent and His Violin by Evie. You should read that too.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unlimited Love

Rahul, as I have mentioned often, is thrilled about the baby. However he does have his occasional moments of doubt. Mostly he is bolstered by the thought that this poor kid will need some looking after since I already seem to have washed my hands off it but there are times, like this afternoon when he was sniffly and tiring, when his excitement wavered slightly.

So today I addressed something I've been wanting to ever since the baby became a topic of conversation between us... rivalry. I'm well aware that any conversations now are purely abstract theory but thoughtlessly cruel remarks served to drive a wedge between my brother and me before I even outgrew my infancy, so sibling rivalry is something I take very seriously. Part of the reason I've been demanding isolation and privacy this time is because I wanted to have my child(ren) to myself, to be able to talk to Rahul freely about the changes ahead and prepare him as only I can.

We sat down on the mezzanine steps, he and I, and I told him, there are some silly people out there. They think love can be measured and added and subtracted. Whereas all sensible people know that each baby brings forth so much love when it arrives, these silly people think one needs to 'take' love away from earlier children to 'give' to the new child. It's an impossibly silly thought because love once given cannot be taken away, and in any case, each person has to be loved in their special way. So, the more the merrier, the more love there is to go around.

He started out listening very seriously to me and ended up rolling around in laughter at the thought of such silliness. Take love away indeed!

I don't plan to bring it up too often, but I worry about sending him away for the summer. My parents are sensitive to the damage such loose remarks cause, so hopefully it will be all right, but these are the times when I genuinely wish I could protect him from all the fools out there.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Magic

Not a day goes by without its moments when I marvel at what's happening. I know I will marvel even more when the baby's here -- though when Rahul arrived I spent most of my time wondering wtf but that's another story and that was him... for today, for now, I look at my body and contemplate the single, impossible thought that I'm growing a baby inside me as only I can.

I'm not an advocate for motherhood for all but I do believe that unless you've known this feeling you don't know the first thing about it. Yes, it's something akin to the creation of a piece of art, but not quite. It's a little bit like nurturing your business and watching it grow, but it's not exactly the same. It's a lot like caring for your nieces and nephews and loving them so much that your heart breaks as they grow up and grow away -- but that's more like the love of a parent. This feeling, this daily, hourly sense of wonder, of feeling all-powerful and unbelievably powerless all at once, this is something only a woman who has carried a child will know. The sense of being able to move mountains (hey, you're creating a human being, what's a mere mountain?) is constantly balanced by the knowledge that you have to eat right, act right, because the baby will take what it needs and when it's out, your body will be left depleted if you're not taking care of yourself. It's the sense of being the cocoon as well as feeling caged from within.

The baby has been kicking for some weeks now, light, fluttering movements. It kicked just now as I typed that sentence out. It stays quiet a lot though, and I'm not always aware of the little flutters. The other night, as Rahul lay down and started to lose himself to sleep, he reached out one little hand and gently patted my tummy. At his touch there was a little kick right where he patted, an immediate contact that was actually too fragile for him to feel. The baby kicked inside me all the way home last Tuesday, as I drove back from the class I teach. It was the strangest feeling, trying to stay aware of the traffic outside even as the wee one inside kept kicking for my attention. And yesterday, when I had a huge row with its father, it stayed quiet for hours altogether as I lay in bed and sniffled and its Dada, its big brother, came and consoled me.

This time around, pregnancy has induced in me an immense sense of well-being. I'm well aware I could be eating better, exercising more, keeping a better eye on my sugar levels, but nothing seems to matter very strongly. The world has reduced (mostly) to this charmed space where it's just the baby and me, delighting in the wonder of it all, delighting in each other. It looks like we're expecting a second-born who will be loved quite as much as the first -- and I didn't even know that was possible!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Allowances

Some time ago I talked on FB about allowing my seven year-old child to earn money by performing certain household chores (apart from the ones I expect him to do as a matter of course). The debate was divided with people unsure of whether giving money to such a young child was in itself correct, whether this was teaching him to not do chores without expecting payment, whether this was the wisest thing I've ever taught him and so on.

He saves some of what he earns. Mostly he forgets to collects his dues and we forget to pay him, these days. (SO MUCH like his freelancing parents.) I think the most positive outcome of this experiment has been his reluctant acceptance of the crazy prices of the toys that he likes. It has drastically cut down on his gimmes.

I just read this blog post on allowances and am passing it on for all you parents who may be wondering about allowing your children their own funds and if so, when and how.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

All Apologies

This afternoon Rahul and I had one of our rare games of chess. In the first half I was reckless and sacrificing and lost most of my pieces before we were ten minutes in. I spent a lot of my time scowling. My mood was not made better by his forgetting to call out little things like "Check".

While he was busily knocking down my queen and checking my king I snarled a reminder yet again, "And what are you supposed to say!"

Startled, not only did he forget all about check, he made big eyes at me and mumbled, "Uh, sorry?"

Talk about rubbing salt in my wounds.



Monday, January 27, 2014

Socialising

Last week was a wedding (a nephew by marriage got married and I became an aunt-in-law, which amused me no end) with attendant feasts and claws and dressing up. Dressing up requires more thought than usual because last week I suddenly ballooned and pants that fit me seven days earlier refused to be pulled on. I wore a pink printed silk with an ancient pink tshirt for the boubhaat (and tried not to think about the tshirt) and my beautiful mauve jamdani with a white midriff sweater I unearthed from somewhere for the reception. Thanks to the neither here-nor there bump, my heavy saree kept slipping at which point I just sighed and carried on with life. I had bigger problems!

Wednesday morning was Rahul's first ever Sports Day. He wore a green pre-stitched dhoti with mustard yellow trim, a mustard yellow photua and a red gamchha tied around his head and performed a "grill" with "dumbles". He was of course the puny-looking kid with the gamchha falling over his eyes but to my utterly biased eyes his "grill" was wonderfully executed. My father was in town so he was the one to drop Rahul off at the stadium early in the morning and stayed sitting in the sun all through the exercises. It was fun but exhausting. I felt sorry for my father, because having done it all for my brother and me, he shouldn't have had to do it for a grandson all over again, but he perked up when Rahul came on centre-field.

Saturday night we went to meet Mesho and stayed an hour or so, chatting over pizza. Sunday afternoon was at M4's. I wore a loose white ruffled Anne Taylor blouse over shiny black and silver striped pants. My maroon asymmetrical cardigan kept me warm. Her husband had organised a big party for her birthday and when these two throw a party they really make it go. I had a wonderful time, sitting between Shuki and Nibudi and occasionally chatting with others who came along, like the wonderfully talented Dithi, among others. I had a small glass of white wine and literally enough food for two. I was surprised at myself because though I'm hungry enough, I usually am content with small portions so far. Anyway, it was a great party.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Now that a sibling really is on the way...

Here is what I posted seven years ago, about how Rahul would probably treat a sibling.

There are days when he appears to be overflowing with love and affection for the kid and other, more scary days, when the "What duct tape" scenario seems entirely probable.

I think it says everything you need to know about me

... that I worked out that if this baby turns out to be a son, I shall be most sorrowful not because it isn't a daughter but because over the years I've given all of Rahul's awesome baby clothes away. He was the best dressed little boy I've ever met and with good reason: I collected beautiful, comfortable and interesting clothes for him from everywhere, sending people specific shopping lists and whatehaveyous. It seems to me that if I had to have another son I may as well have had him when I still had all those lovely things.

Also, my Mesho has warned Vicky that second ones are expensive. He himself has calculated that he cannot retire before he's 105, and as a fellow Bihari, he kindly warned Vicky of what lies ahead. (If this child is a girl damn right she'll be expensive. Nobody will stop me from my spending spree and I should like to see them try. If it's a boy I'm buying from Bansdroni. There, gender discrimination, pure and simple.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Still Going On About Names

While I'm not Mrs. Sunayana Niyogy

you are perfectly welcome to address me as
Mrs Soubhik Niyogy or
Ms Sunayana Roy

I realise this is still a minefield every newly married woman has to consider and no matter whether she changes her name or not, somebody always disapproves of her choice. Which is stupid. Her name, her decision. I kept my Roy because I like the identity. Over the years I've learnt to become a Niyogy daughter-in-law through acceptances and rejection and now that too is part of my identity. As I explained to my father, calling myself Roy doesn't make me any less of a Niyogy daughter-in-law, especially not to me. And keeping the Roy has meant much less paperwork, more variety in my insults, and a strong anchor when the Niyogy rejections kept rolling in no matter what I did (or did not do). I am, in the end, me. I answer to Niyogy as well as Roy -- and have no problems with that and never did -- but nobody decides what I call myself except me.

There was a comment at a Jezebel post on name changes that I found very poignant:

I made the decision to change my last name to his 18+ years ago for all sorts of reasons. He's military, which tethers me to a social system where (for years) my identity was entwined with his. Moving frequently, needing to establish new social connections everywhere we go, raising kids, difficult in-laws... Everything was just easier if we all had the same last name. Problem is that, after 18 years of using it, it still doesn't feel like my last name.
When I opened a Facebook profile a few years ago, I put my maiden name back in that three name string that so many married women use. I think of myself as hyphenated now and have caught myself signing checks with my maiden name first. My brain inserts my identity before his last name on a pretty regular basis now. 18+ years after taking his name, I'm talking about taking my own back. My own father doesn't understand why I would do it. It will no doubt "rock the boat" and create all sorts of in-law type drama and mounds of legal paperwork, so I'm dragging my feet. But eventually, I'll get the courage to make it official.
My own teenage daughter announced last month that she would never change her last name and continued to announce that nothing about her would be defined by any man. At least I know that I did that part right.
This reminds me of women like my mother who made the choices they were expected to make but brought up their daughters to be more aware of the many more choices that are now available.

I often reflect on my parents' parenting because as a child I thought they did a pretty shabby job. But I look around me and realise that my strengths come from two very honest, strong-minded, very independent thinkers who taught me to be responsible for myself. Now that I'm a parent of a child who's growing rather fast and thinking some very profound thoughts, I realise the full weight of this responsibility. It scares me. I have to treat him with dignity and respect (even though he's a hilarious little fellow) because I want him to learn that he deserves both. I know I didn't feel this way back then but really, things were easier when he was a baby!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Eighth Anniversary

We've been married eight years today. We didn't celebrate last year because we both thought our marriage was ending. We didn't celebrate this year because we didn't need to. It's very precious, the understanding that is slowly making its way back to us.

I don't have a new post for you but you can read this funny old tag.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Panelist at AKLitFest

On Sunday evening I was a panelist at the final discussion on a day of many conversations at the Apeejay Kolkata LitFest. Ifte, Indroneel Mukherjee, Sarnath Banerjee and I debated among ourselves whether the youth could rejuvenate Kolkata culture. I was billed as a blogger, which was both newish and rather cool. I am more commonly known as a writer person, a theatre person, a Blank Noise person or even just your average opinionated person.

We appointed Sarnath moderator, which he rather sportingly took on. He introduced us to the audience and set the ball rolling with the first few questions. We talked about the ways in which we made changes in our lives (me), found inspiration in our city (Ifte) and found our passions (Indroneel). We wondered about who exactly the 'youth' were, and whether it was really incumbent upon them to rejuvenate anything. Wasn't it their time to absorb, learn and experiment? We ended up concluding that we, in our 30s, considered ourselves bridges of a kind, able to understand the point our parents were trying to make but yet with considerable sympathy for the idealism of our younger selves. As such, it was certainly pertinent that we 'creative types' understand the effect our work would have on younger audiences. Do we inspire them? Hopefully we do. Is that the primary focus of our creativity? Not by a long chalk (Sarnath). Poorna was in the audience and spoke about finding direction. A teacher in the audience asked what advice we would offer for seventeen year-olds who had not yet found their passion and did not know what to work towards. I advised them to take up the courses that kept their options open. Ifte disagreed -- but that's where we wound up because our time was up. It had been fun, more fun than I'd hoped for. Here we are with our gift bags at the end of the discussion.



Shuktara had come and it was very nice to have her sitting up front, laughing at the occasional funny bit, keenly listening to all that was said. In fact, I have to say we got lucky with our audience because the numbers had thinned but the ones who remained gave us their full attention.

Afterwards, Shuki and I spent a couple of hours chatting over hot chocolate, coffee and sandwiches at The Cha Bar before finally heading home exhausted but content. Guddi had dropped in for lunch so I'd had a full day, but it was a very satisfying one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ThankYou #18: Beq's Mum/Kakima for the Ada Cha

Ada cha is what we Bengalis call ginger tea. If you have never made it before, it's a simple process:

Set some water to boiling in a covered saucepan. The cover hastens heating. Quickly peel a lump of ginger, say 1" long (bigger if you're using more water or like more ginger, less if it's the other way around) and drop it into the water. Add a splash of milk for one cup of tea, more for more cups. When the milk-water combo boils, turn the heat off. Add some tea leaves -- about 1/2 to 1 tsp per cup, cover and leave to steep for a minute or two. Strain into a cup, add sugar to taste. Ta-da!

All of these proportions are matters of highly individual taste so feel free to experiment until you work out how much ginger, milk, sugar and tea you like in your ada cha.

Vicky just made me some to cheer me up and it did the job quite nicely. The reason I thanked Kakima though is because she was the first person to make me ada cha one winter morning many years ago. I fell in love with the mild bite and recently taught Vicky how to make it too. Every time I have some I think of her and smile. She's given me a lot of love and support over the years, and the comforting ada cha is a perfect metaphor for how she makes me feel.

Panic

This pregnancy has gone easy on me, mostly. The occasional mild bout of nausea, the odd spot of heartburn, regular breathlessness. Now into the second trimester I can feel the fatigue lifting a little. But even at its worst, the fatigue was annoying, not scary. What has been scary are the scary dreams that plagued me all December. Dreams of loss, death, despair. I'd wake up scared and panicking.

This morning I woke up from a nice dream I don't remember (very rarely do I remember my dreams) and that's how it's been this month. Nice thoughts, little joys, much cuddling.

There are bad days though, and today is one. Nothing has actually gone wrong but the news has got to me, and sad posts on my timelines are inducing irrational thoughts of panic. Rahul was a blessed child in that he never really gave us scary times over illnesses or allergies or things like that. What if this child is not as lucky? What if something goes wrong? What if, what if, what if... I don't even want to think of all the things that could go wrong and probably won't anyway.

Nothing will go wrong.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Spanish Empire Circus

We went to the circus. The last time I'd been to a circus was probably when I was Rahul's age and Rahul had never been before, so all three of us were quite excited about it. We went to see the Spanish Imperial Circus at Baishnabghata -- the joys of living in the 'burbs include getting to know when the circus comes to town next door (or nearly).

We had a nice lunch at Azad Hind, Naktala, and made our impatient way down south only to find long queues already formed. Vicky hopped off and got the more expensive tickets (Rs 170! for a circus!) but by then that line was long was well. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared though. We stood in line, we went in, we got decent seats. The show featured an European group of four who were quite funny if not exactly world class and we expect that's where the 'Spanish' comes from.

In retrospect I suppose the acts were more adequate than excellent but we were so excited, we couldn't have cared less. It was the elephants and the dogs and the birds that put me off. Somewhere over the years I've stopped wanting to have animals perform for me. The circuses say the banning of animal acts have brought their business down. I for one would prefer my circuses without any animals at all.

The jokers were funny and both midgets doubled up elsewhere. The hoop girl also took part in the shooting games, though the really spectacular shot was this nicely chubby girl who appeared to really enjoy herself. There was a troupe of Manipuri acrobats who were great fun and another chap billed as a German gymnast who was probably from small town UP and was also pretty good on the trampoline. The trapeze was a real disappointment.

Afterwards we met Misha and Bantu at CCD, Vivekananda Park. It was a much nicer day than I'd woken up expecting -- and remember I'd woken up knowing we were off to the circus. For me though a personal highlight was being out of the house for a straight eight hours. It's been months since I could do that without falling asleep with my face in my coffee.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Like Mother, Like Son

At lunch at Rana's this afternoon Rahul noticed the "TM" next to the ice cream brand he was eyeing and wanted to know what it was. Vicky and I explained copyrights and trademarks to him briefly. He thought the thing over a bit while munching his cheese dosa. Then he said with a very determined note in his voice, "I'm going to write TM after my name Sharabh. Also after Rahul." He was quick to add that he probably couldn't trademark "Rahul" because it was already in a lot of places, but Sharabh was going to be his trademark.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of organising copyrights and trademarks, I was very proud of him. I occasionally have severe doubts over how somebody like me could possibly have given birth to a weirdo like him (they must have switched babies, is my theory) but this was one of those moments where I leaned over and gave him a quick hug.

You see, when I was seventeen, I decided to copyright all my school projects. My English teacher was amused, but then, most of the things I did amused her. She was very understanding. My science teachers were not. One of them very unkindly told me that unless I spent more time on the project and less time dreaming up nonsense like copyright, my projects would remain safe from copying and probably marking as well. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Second Child

We're expecting our second child, due this summer.

I just finished my first trimester. My mother nagged me not to talk about it in public just yet so I blogged privately for a few days until the three-month deadline was done.

Now you know.

To answer your immediate queries --

1. Yes, we are all very happy.

2. Rahul loves the idea. He will be eight years older and though I always knew in an abstract sort of way that he would be a great Dada, it's his excitement and enthusiasm that keep me going when my minor bouts of nausea or major bouts of fatigue dim the edge of my own joy. So far he's planned out the sibling's schooling, career, clothes and toys and ticked me off in advance for any scolding I might dish out to the younger one. Apparently I scold 'babies' too much and while he knows this and knows me, the new one won't, so I better not. Point taken. Will anybody ever know me like this son of mine?

3. Yes, I'm showing. Have been showing from the start, I feel! I have to be a little careful not to put on too much weight because I was slightly overweight to start with, but so far so good.

4. Yes, my parents came down. Now they are taking it in turns to keep an eye on me.

5. I haven't gone in for much maternity wear yet but since I've mostly outgrown my wardrobe already, I need to do something about this soon. Thank god for winter jackets and shawls.

6. No, I'm not running around taking ridiculous risks. In fact, unlike the last time when I had lots of energy and hated the bedrest, this time all I want to do is curl up and sleep. Maybe it's the season. Maybe it's the baby.




A very happy new year to you all from me. This pic's from Dana's thirtieth birthday party, with Vicky dressed as Groucho Marx, Rahul as The Shy Jedi and I as Mr Cellophane. This is the kind of family the new one will be joining!