Monday, January 27, 2014


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.


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!

Thursday, January 02, 2014


I'm usually the kind of person who gets annoyed if people lean in too close in a queue or a bus, say. I like my space and guard a little zone around my body with determination.

Having a baby changed that eight years ago, I remember. Suddenly doctors were touching me everywhere, my father was barging in to gaze fondly at the baby who was, hello, on my breast at the time... I can't even blame other people really because there was a time I gave up trying to cover up or stay what my mother would like to consider decent. There simply wasn't that much energy.

Over the years I've regained that sense of privacy. Now though, being so obviously pregnant -- even I have trouble believing I'm not yet three months gone -- I get friends patting my tummy, a little boy blowing kisses into it towards an unborn sibling, Vicky absent-mindedly patting my tummy as I pass by... and it makes me smile. Rahul was everybody's baby and I hope this one will be too.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Second Time

People see I'm pregnant and ask me, is it my first? I say, no, it's my second. Then they ask me how old my older one is and I say, seven. They do a double take.

All around me I see young women getting married or having their first babies in their early thirties and I wonder, I really do, how I had the courage to just walk into marriage as I did at twenty-three.

It's strange to have women my age describe their early days of motherhood especially, because I'm expecting this new baby with a feeling of familiarity, a pleasant sense of anticipation of what is to come. I already know there will be immense compensation for the months of ungainliness, the lost figure, the sleeplessness, the breastfeeding troubles. These women talk of learning from their babies, of their tentative triumphs, their wonder at the marvel of it all. I do remember all that, from eight years ago. This time though, feels sweeter, less fear of the unknown. There is more welcome than almost any other feeling when I think of the baby. I know I don't want to play it music in my womb or teach it advanced calculus (assuming of course, that I could teach it any such thing!) before birth because an older sibling -- currently stalking the house as some species of dinosaur -- has shown me with great firmness that children learn when they learn; my wishes have nothing to do with it.

I'm not even slightly wistful I did it all so long ago, but I do know I cannot relate to all these women who are doing it for the first time now. Their joy and wonder gives me a lot of happiness, but I don't think I have ever walked or could walk in their shoes.