Do me a favor!

My husband usually doesn’t appreciate certain topics that I touch upon in my posts. He says ‘people might think you are weak’ or ‘they might think you are complaining about them’. But there are some things that I would like to share and talk about and no, it’s not a complaint. Actually, THIS is a humble request to the society at large.

By now, we all know (whether or not we are parents) that becoming a mother is probably easier than BEING a mother. A lot of effort goes into raising a child; maybe not so much in creating one inside. That’s just me!

This time last year, I was at a surprisingly high social presence rate. People (I am not exaggerating) used to gape as to how I managed to move my 8 month pregnant belly and 22 month old toddler from corner to corner of the city, being a social butterfly (social enthu-cutlet, more so). I was actually out and celebrating Diwali 10 days before my delivery. Yes, my folks were shocked and no, I had no issues whatsoever. Once my baby girl came into the world, things changed upside down. If you know me (from my posts and rants), you will know that it’s a nuclear set up in our home and I manage just about everything except sweeping, mopping and washing utensils. So, for me another baby in the mix was a lot of work. When it came to being my social self, that part of life took a back seat. I would say I sent it to the boot.

Nod your head if you agree that dating, marriage and children have changed the width and type of your social circle greatly. I have THREE friends who have put up with my nonsense and loved me through my pregnancy and both kids. They didn’t have babies at that time, but they never said no to me. Post children, I forged different kinds of friendships – virtual ones. Maybe it is the fact that, like me hundreds of mothers find ‘ME’ time in between feeds and at weird hours of the night that brought us together. Props to Facebook, importantly. So, there I was happily forming a safety net online while in real life, I REALLY didn’t have the stamina to get ready and step out.

Seriously, dragging two kids and myself out of the house (looking presentable and not pooped) was an exhausting deal. I decided that I preferred the company of my TV, couch and crochet to that of the outside world, because I just couldn’t head out without wanting to throw myself in front of that Ola cab. It was too much of a task. But I did try! Why I gave up was because it didn’t seem worth it to have two fussy kids in each arm and a puffing-panting me at the end of it all.

You see, the biggest issue that haunts mothers (new and old) is anxiety and depression. Even without being a parent, if you feel neglected for some reason, you tend to put yourself into a lot of stress by over thinking. Especially with new mothers, it takes a LOT of push to keep them positive and going. Believe me, looking at spit-up stained t-shirts and bird’s nest hair every day in the mirror can seriously affect your head.  What kept me floating through my anxiety attacks and phases of depression is what I call the ‘sisterhood of motherhood’. Nope, it’s not a cult or something but these are the few people who were and are available for me to fall back on. These are the people who have always pinged, called, dropped even and even called my husband to check on my wellbeing. So what if I wore the same pants three days in a row? So what if the house looked like a mini hurricane had just worked its way through? So what if the children were BAWLING all day? They didn’t leave me alone. They pulled me through most of the difficult times in the past year and they are the reason I am writing this.

Kindly do me a favor and read through below.

If you know a woman who has birthed a child, for the first time or the millionth (not possible, unless she is Kunti), please do this:

  1. Check on her. Even if you are sitting in a cinema, just ping her and say ‘hey! I am at this movie that’s totally crappy. I wish you had been here, we would have laughed our derrieres through this!’. She can’t make it for the movie, but she just wants to know that she isn’t forgotten.
  2. Offer to help. Even if she’s as ridiculous as me to be sinking up till the neck but still refuse help. Offer nevertheless.
  3. Visit her once a while. Yeah, most times will be nap times or boob-times, but you will know that she feels great after a visit. Perked up, actually.
  4. Involve her. Even if she isn’t coming tequila downing on Saturday night with you, she’d like to know. Hey, everyone likes to feel a bit important.
  5. Be grateful for the times she’s helped you and been by your side. Don’t let her down when she needs you. Friends happen once and remain through ebbs & flows of time. They aren’t momentary. If they are, then they are just acquaintances.

Really, this is more than just about me. This is about not letting a mom who is already exhausted, feel further like crap. She would be better off without wondering why there were plans being made without her or why none of the friends from before (not you, my 4th standard ‘bench buddy’. I still hate you :P) have checked on her. Every woman deserves better and the least you can do, is send in some good vibes, right?

Of course, the good vibes do mean that she will be super teary-eyed when you give her a hug and might bake breads and cakes at midnight just to show you how much it means to her. But if you don’t do it now, you will never be able to do it again. Not to her, at least.

Do it for your sisterhood of motherhood. Stick around, don’t let go.

~ The Lazy Parent

Sitaraman’s Briefcase

‘Enna Sitaraman, inniku potti kondu varaliya?’ (What Sitaraman? You haven’t bought your briefcase today?) joked Lalitha Madam when she saw her colleague take his designated seat next to hers at office that day. For 18 years they had been neighbors, sharing food, stories and a lot more. Sitaraman Padmanaban was a junior manager at one of the most prestigious bike showrooms in the city and Lalitha Madam was his senior. One thing about old school managements was that they never fired anyone. Maybe out of pity or maybe because they were all like one big family. The showroom did immensely well, but the change in roles never happened and by the looks of it, no one was complaining.

 

Sitaraman hadn’t replied to his senior’s joke. He was sweating, looking as though he had seen a ghost. Lalitha Madam went back to signing some forms and it was about ten minutes before she looked up to see what had kept the usually jovial and pretty loud Sitaraman silent. Sita, as he was called lovingly by the showroom family, was a very loud, humble and happy man. Having married at an early age of 18, he had been one of those men who didn’t think much about ‘manhood’ and ‘a man’s place in the society’. He used to cook and pack lunch dabbas for him and his wife. Hers had a karandi more rice than his, every day. His cooking was famous in their showroom and his puliyogarai was a repeat request!

 

If one could vaguely recall, Sitaraman had gotten married 2 days before joining duty at the showroom. They said his wife had brought him all the luck. 18 years, a steady job, three lovely children and one small briefcase defined this man. His wife, Uma had gifted him that briefcase on their wedding day. It was a part of his engagement thattu (plate). Inside it was one silk shirt, one silk dhoti, a Timex watch and a photograph of his favorite God. This was what Uma’s family had to offer to their son-in-law and he had cherished each item to date, in mint condition. Over the years, he had laminated the photograph and preserved the clothes wrapped in a mul cloth. The watch however, was another story.

 

The briefcase had become his identity wherever he went. Kids at the bus-stop used to call him the ‘kutty potti mama’. He would sit at the bus-stop, waiting for the last bus home. While he waited, he used to flex his once mridangam tuned fingers on the briefcase. On popular demand from the kids at the stop, he moved from classical music to Ilayaraja numbers, retaining integrity by never singing the borderline vulgar lyrics, but humming all along while his fingers drummed magic. What was inside that briefcase? An ink pen filled with royal blue ink, a single line ruled note pad, a book of some chants someone had once gifted him, his bus pass, a small oval stainless steel lunch box, a spoon and a white handkerchief. Apart from this occasional work files found their way into the briefcase every now and then. It was as though these paltry items held utmost value that he safeguarded his briefcase with all his life. He even had a plastic cover, with a cut just for the handle to peep out, so he could safeguard it from the rain. ‘Briefcase indri Sita illai’ was the longstanding joke at work.

 

What’s all the fuss about the briefcase, you ask? Nothing at all! It was just another piece of his office attire! Just like that shimmery Timex watch. What no one knew was that the watch hadn’t seen the light of the day. Every day after his morning prayers, he would take out the watch, dust it gently and wear it with pride. Every single day for 18 years. The briefcase was a protection for the watch. Once he stepped out of his house, he would walk around the corner, reach the bus stop, take the watch from his hand and neatly wrap it in the white handkerchief. Then, he would place it in a hidden sleeve of the briefcase and head to work. As the day was over, he would reach home, take the watch out and place it back in the drawer.

 

Uma had even forgotten that she had gifted him this watch and never bothered to ask about it. The watch was probably Sitaraman’s only ancestry that he would pass on to one of his three children. Which one though? He would keep a test one day, he thought.

 

A few weeks back on a fine Sunday morning, sipping his filter coffee (Ah! How perfect it tasted without sugar) he called his three children Babu, Sumitra and Kittu. The children were born 1.5 years apart, Sumitra and Kittu being twins. Just into his teenage, Babu was sporting the first signs of a moustache and Sumitra was growing into a fine young lady. Kittu, was the smallest at home, he was born 5 minutes after Sumitra. He was the most playful of the three. ‘Pasangala’ said Sitaraman. I have a small part of my life that I want to pass on to you. I will give you a small test and the one who passes it will receive a treasure of sorts. The children were intrigued, but not thrilled. Their heads were filled with Kamal Haasan steps, Rajini punch dialogues and Ilayaraja tunes. Nevertheless, they nodded in unison. They waited for their father to finish his coffee and tell them what it was all about.

 

Sitaraman began by telling them how he had been sent to a paathshala by his father at a tender age of 8. Every day he swept, cleaned, washed and did all the chores while learning life lessons from his Gurus. ‘Times have changed. You won’t even lift a coffee tumbler. But I want you to remember discipline is everything. I will watch you three carefully for 2 weeks and at the end of it, I will ask you all one question. It will be a subjective question, but your answer should come from within’, Sitaraman said, placing his hand on his heart. That was a tough one!

 

For two weeks, the children went about doing what they usually did. Uma had brought them up well. So well that the 2 weeks was just like any other for them. They all woke up before sun rise, said their prayers and performed their duties like clockwork. However, the final step of the puzzle was what kept their heads occupied. What would Appa ask us that we would have to answer with such sincerity? They thought.

 

Two Sundays after their session with their father, the children gathered again, by their father’s side. They waited to find out what the treasure was, when Sitaraman said that he was very pleased with them and that tomorrow after coming back from work, he would ask them the final question and then hand over the treasure to one of them, the most deserving one of them. The three children hardly discussed their father, but that night, after dinner they couldn’t contain the excitement. ‘What if it was money?’ asked Babu. ‘What if Appa gifts us a bike from his showroom? After all, he worships that place!’ quipped Kittu. ‘What if it is Amma’s thaamarai thodu?’ dreamily asked Sumitra. Their father had never even surprised them on a birthday so far, so this was becoming quite suspense. ‘Whatever it is, it is inside that briefcase for sure’ said Kittu with a hint of mischief in his eyes, as his siblings chucked empty peanut shells at him jokingly.

 

The next day morning, Sitaraman got ready for work as usual. He made puliyogarai and even some payasam. His wife double checked the calendar. It wasn’t even a special day. Happily, he walked out of the gate of his home, heading to work. Today, he had the watch on his wrist a bit longer, as though he was transferring his thoughts, ideals and principles into the watch. Like some data transfer. He sat at the bus-stop, waited for his bus. Once the familiar shrill whistle pierced his ears, he stopped absent mindedly drumming his briefcase and got on to the bus. Taking the regular seat by the conductor, he opened the briefcase, took out his watch, wrapped it and set it inside safely. Snapping the lock shut, he caressed the case as though it contained precious gems. Gazing outside the window, Sitaraman closed his eyes, taking in the fresh air on his face, recollecting the day that watch was gifted to him.

 

His father in law had said, ‘Maaplai (son-in-law), this isn’t a regular watch. I have set one diamond, the only one I could afford, on the face of the watch. It isn’t big, but when time comes it will help for sure.’ Even Uma hadn’t known this truth, for she was against ‘dowry’ and material gifts exchange. Her father had retrieved all his bank savings to buy that tiny speck of a stone. For 18 years, this well guarded secret had been kept safe. Today, it would be passed on to the next generation. He could hear the naadhaswaram in the background, just like it played on his engagement day.

Aiyo saar pidinga pidinga’ (Somebody catch him, catch him!) shouted someone jerking Sitaraman out of his little dream. He looked around in shock as a woman shouted signaling the bus’s rear exit. Sitaraman looked around and felt something missing. His briefcase! It was gone! He looked under the seat in a rush of panic. The conductor had by then directed the bus to the nearest police station. He came over to Sitaraman, who still was in shock, and asked him to go file an FIR.

The policer officer, a pot-bellied fellow, lazily asked Sitaraman ‘What was inside? Only office briefcase and lunch no? Leave it sir. Why waste our time and yours for a potti (box)?’ but Sitaraman couldn’t bring himself to tell the officer about that one missing item which would surely cost a fortune. He was sweating and mouthing something noiselessly, he shook his head, did a namaskaram (Salutation) to the officer and walked out.

He reached office, because he had never missed a day of work. After all, he was wired that way. Sitting next to his senior, Lalitha Madam, all Sitaraman could hear was a buzzing. He was sweating and looked out of focus. He couldn’t hear what she was saying, but suddenly collapsed in his seat.

That evening, his children asked one question for which there would be no answer ‘Appa Enga Ma?’ (Ma, where is our father?)

~ The Writer in me

Are you happy?

My husband gently asks me ‘are you happy?’ when we are at my in-laws’. I know that it is his most subtle way of checking if there is a bomb waiting to explode a.k.a. wife ready to turn Chandramukhi. It is such a strange question, this ‘are you happy?’

 

Happiness to my husband would be bagging that deal with the super fussy client; to my mother, it would be slightly better vision and money for her medication; to my son it would be limitless supply to biscuits without Amma staring at him; to Isha, it must be unending access to the boob. But to me, the real definition of happiness right now, as  of the 7th of September 2017, would be sitting in a plush soft white bed of a hotel, with food on one side (brownies would be good), Grey’s Anatomy marathon on the TV, chilled beer on the other side and a spa appointment shortly. ALL of this without children, husband, suitcase, diaper bags or laptops. Happiness is a very subjective term and trying to be ‘completely happy’ will only result in prolonged search for it and thereby, frustration.

 

For years now, I have had an ideal image of happiness in my head. This this and this would make me happy, I would think to myself, sipping filter coffee. But now, even an hour without interruption, pooping without someone (3 feet tall) banging on the door or sleeping without having to look like a tossed noodle is good by me.

 

So, am I saying it is impossible to be happy to the greatest extent? No. I am saying amp the happiness quotient slowly. If I looked back at myself in 2007 and compared that version of me to the one currently, I definitely am in a much happier place. Note: happier, not happiest. I think the –est version would not be possible as a one stop destination. It’s not like saying I will run a 5km marathon and be done. Then, your head (the in house devil’s advocate) will ask ‘5 done, why not the 10?’ and so you will keep going from point to point, trying to finally finish the ‘connect the dots to attain happiness’ game. Thing is, the dots don’t end and neither do they lead to a complete picture. Happiness is a journey and you better be prepared. How?

 

  1. Set expectations for yourself only. No point expecting your MIL to send you a friendship day card or your dog to toilet train overnight.
  2. Weigh your situation. You want to lose weight by walking, but who will take care of the kids while you go cross country walking? Plan for the doable instead. Wake up an hour or so earlier and do suryanamaskars in your living room. Same effort, different method.
  3. Treat yourself occasionally. Buy yourself a bag, a new shade of lipstick, go out for a massage or just load an extra scoop of ice cream in your bowl as you binge watch some series. (yes, a lot of my life revolves around food :P)
  4. Keep a backup plan. If something does not make you happy, but has to be done nevertheless what can you do to minimize the teeth grinding frustration? I negotiate something out of such situations. I do A if you can let me do B or if XYZ isn’t asked of me.
  5. Remember that happiness is relative. Unlike when you were a chain-smoking rebellious teenager who didn’t have to care about the next person reacting to your showdown, the married version of you is invisibly attached to other human beings, no matter how annoying they are. So, if throwing a tantrum makes you feel better, it might make your husband feel uncomfortable and thereby give you a prolonged evening with a sullen faced man-baby. Not worth it.
  6. Remind people of what makes you unhappy. If possible, avoid such situations totally. I have mastered the art of widening my eyes so much, that suddenly they look like dartboards. I don’t like, I don’t do. Simple.
  7. Konmari the shit out of unhappy stuff in your life. Spark fire if you have to, but get out of that Facebook group, WhatsApp club and email subscription if it as much as makes you twitch with uneasiness. Not needed. EVER!
  8. Keep sugary treats accessible. I become a monster if there isn’t something sweet to pop into my mouth accessible. Which is probably why I am grumpy at my in-laws’ (lolz) but these sugary pieces of guilt calm you down instantly and then you can just think better.
  9. Find a hobby that does not need 100% attention. Find something that doesn’t need 100% attention but works well to cheer up your spirit. Cooking and books do that to me. Crochet comes after.
  10. Taking lines from the Def Leppard number – walk away if you want to. Its okay if you need to. Happiness lies in not exposing yourself to something you think causes unhappy feelings. I don’t read the news these days. Reading news makes me unhappy. Likewise, I don’t talk to some people these days. You get the gist! 😉

 

Happiness is very subjective and each one of us finds happiness in small things. I am not going Zen on you saying ‘look at the butterfly and its wings. Ah! Happiness’ I am saying set realistic expectations and also please don’t expect others to make you happy. Unless you are paying them 😉

 

So, how do you keep your momtastic life happy? I would really like to know!

~ The Lazy Parent

How was he born?

“And Pammi qualifies for the semifinals of The makki Ki roti Championship…” laughed her sister-in-law in an announcer like voice from outside the kitchen, as Pammi sat there throwing roti after roti is into the Chula. Would she have thought that this one time state champion would be sitting making rotis for the entire family by the hearth of the fire and not having a future in what she did best? Pammi ignored the comments and went back to making rotis and her thoughts went back to that night when all things silly happened. If it had not been for the rain that evening she wouldn’t be here, but would be somewhere else training harder to ace the nationals.

Pammi a k a Paramjit Kaur was a splendid track athlete. She was well built, but ran like a gazelle on the tracks. There was no one to match her records in the past few years and it was just a matter of time before she would be selected to the nationals. Her father was extremely proud of her and her achievements. Little did he know that a strike of Cupid’s arrow would change the course of their futures upside down.

It was raining that night when Pammi stepped out of Diljit Singh’s academy for sports training. She was standing by the bus stop waiting for her father to come pick her up, as he always did at 8 o’clock every night. It was raining very hard and she couldn’t see even a few meters away. She stood there waiting, peering hard and trying to catch the familiar thud thud thud of his Enfield. But what came was a shrill tring tring of a cycle, approaching her. It wasn’t her dad, it was Kissy. Kissy a.k.a. Kishanjit Singh was a shot put thrower training in the same academy as hers. She found the sport funny and never really liked him much. He had very offset features and his lopsided mouth seemed like he was always mid conversation, forgetting what to say next. But when it is raining hard enough to send chill down your bones, you wouldn’t mind anything to get you home soon. Kissy stopped a few inches away from her and offered to drop her. They lived two blocks away and it only made sense to go with him then stand there in the rain waiting for her father to come, which she realized wasn’t happening. So, she hopped onto the back of his cycle, sitting on the tiny metal seat which hardly fit her rear.  They went slowly cycling in the rain, with no conversation but just the pitter patter of rain to fill the silence. Being dropped by a random boy, drenched in rain at an almost unearthly hour would have ideally had her mother beating her chest and lamenting, but Pammi was surprised when she thanked her Guru for having sent a savior to protect her daughter in times of such misery. What misery, Pammi could never gather.  The damage was done!

Pammi went to sleep that night, gazing at the inky black night from her tiny, creaky window. Inside her head, it was still raining, with the faint tring tring of a cycle constantly ringing in the background. Faint, but strong enough to keep her awake all night. Four months and several cycle ‘doubles’ later, Pammi and Kissy were getting married. Her father thought it was a match made in heaven. Kissy’s mother however, had finally found someone to take her place in the dingy little kitchen.

A year later, Pammi was sitting making makki ki rotis and all the promises of her continuing her training and participating in the national trials had burnt in the Chula, thick and black as the wood in it. Staying away from the track was not what hurt Pammi, the taunts of her not being able to birth a child was what got to her more. Tears stung her eyes, threatening to jump down and add some seasoning to the rotis, but she held them back with a quick breath. Pammi had sat there in that kitchen, while her mother-in-law sat outside on their charpaai, loudly complaining how it must have been all the running that ‘damaged’ her uterus. Clutching her stomach unknowingly, Pammi waited for Kishanjit to return that night. He had immersed himself in the training for the National trials and she hardly got a minute with him in private. The fire in the Chula laughed, jumped and clapped to every taunt, like an audience watching a debate with prime seats.

“Why do I have to go through this when it is not even my fault?” she asked him that night. Kishanjit replied as though nothing had happened. He coolly said “leave it at the minute. When I qualify for the nationals all of this will be forgotten and they will not think of a child for another year or so and I will also mention your name in the paper saying it was my wife’s consistent hard work that made me come to this level. Then they will leave you in peace for sure.” Saying this, he changed, rolled over and fell asleep almost instantly. Pammi knew well that that it was another false promise just like them letting her pursue her training after marriage.

Kissy didn’t qualify for the finals. The whole house had come to a standstill and the silence felt heavy on Pammi. The newspaper had mentioned something about his ‘leg work being too feeble for the throw’. Whatever the reason be, Pammi had lost the last thread of hope. She shivered in anger, because now everything, including his failure at the trials would be tossed on her shoulders.

As she sat there making the dough for dinner, she thought about her husband. His nickname ‘Kissy’ had come from his expertise with women in the neighborhood. But sadly he hadn’t done anything but kissing in their bed. “How long now, Paramjit?” she asked herself aloud, absentmindedly.

Kishanjit had not come home after the poor show at the trials. He had gone knocking door to door, city to city, trying some tactics other than the athletic one, to get a place in the nationals. Or at least a chance to give trials again, he said to his uncle who carted him around town, wordlessly.

After 6 months, he returned home. Nothing had worked. It had been his mother’s idea that he stay away until the buzz dies down and then makes a silent return. He returned home after sunset that day. He didn’t seem upset to Pammi. On the contrary, he had got chicken tikka for everyone. “No need to make dinner tonight” he proclaimed, as though he had returned victorious after a wild boar hunt.

Squatting outside their tiny home, the adults ate in silence. Pammi couldn’t even bring herself to touch the food, because it all felt like a joke that was waiting to unfold any minute. It was too much to take. She was so lost in her thoughts, that she hadn’t heard her mother in law call out to her to bring some cut onions from inside. “You wretched woman, First you deny me the right of a grandchild, then you make my son fail his trials and now you ignore me! Haai haai! What fate has befallen our house” she shouted, mincing a piece of chicken in her hands. Pammi jolted back to reality and scurried inside to chop some onions for her mother in law. As tears streamed down her cheek with all the onion chopping, she told herself that she had had enough! Tonight she would confront Kishanjit!

She was sitting in the corner of their bed, when Kishanjit walked into their bedroom. He had anticipated a showdown, a tiny drama of tears, hitting and shouting. But none of it happened. It was Pammi and not his mother, he realized. She was the sensible type and that was what drew him to her back in the day. He sat beside her and touched her shoulder gently, yet cautiously. “If you can’t give me a baby, I will make one”, she said. He looked at her as though she had sprouted two extra heads. While he wanted to ask her how that would be possible, he knew that it would ascertain the fact that he had been incapable of the act.  Understanding his discomfort, she whispered a plan in his ears. Kissy’s eyes grew wider and wider until it almost popped out. Gulping air, he nodded mutely before rolling over and falling asleep immediately.

Pammi had to execute her plan carefully. Her mother in law and her mother in law’s mother in law were old, but had the eyes of a hawk and the nose of a sniffer dog. She started out by slowing down on work. Where she could make 30 rotis in half an hour, she made only 10 misshapen ones. Then, she started complaining of nausea at the smell of mustard oil. That got the antennas up. Everyone in her part of the world grew up being friends with mustard oil, even before they knew their mothers scent. How could she not like it? Then, the last straw – one evening, while Pammi was sitting by the Chula, she let a roti burn to black on purpose. When she heard the ladies of the house run in shock, she lay down comfortably, acting as though she had passed out, waiting for them to revive her with sprinkles of water and rushed fanning.

As the worried members of the house surrounded her, Kissy’s grandmother took Pammi’s hands in hers. Gently, placing her fingers on Pammi’s pulse, she waited silently. It was like everyone had forgotten to breathe in that minute. Then she turned to Kissy’s mother and shot a toothless grin. “Arrey! Beta hoga, Beta!” she shrieked, kissing Pammi for the first time ever. Pammi had passed the acid test. Now, she had to plan the rest carefully as well. While everyone was jubilant, a visibly shocked Kissy sat near Pammi, as though waiting for her to spill the beans. All she did was wink at him and close her eyes, as though taking the much needed rest.

Pammi’s parents were called and they promptly landed at Kishanjit’s doorstep within five days of the phone call that brought the good news. They bought ladoo and kheer for everyone. After about 10 minutes of repeated hugging and wiping tears at the edge of dupattas, it was decided that Pammi would go to her grandmother’s place, as is the custom, to deliver the child. She would return when the child was three months old. Kishanjit would accompany them and ensure his wife was comfortable, before he returned home.

The four reached Pammi’s maternal grandmother’s house, 80kms away from Kissy’s house. It was as small but comfortable house, but more importantly it was what she needed to set her plan in motion.

Pammi had reached her mother’s place just after Holi and by the coming New Year their house was filled newborn paraphernalia. When Kissy got the news from the local grocer’s phone, that his wife had delivered their first child at 11pm last night and that they both were safe, he didn’t know what to say. Clearly, it didn’t feel like his child, nor did he have a sense of elation.

Pammi had named her son Sher. Maybe she wanted him to be braver than his father, one would never know. She arrived at Kishanjit’s place the following April and as though, she had already sniffed mischief, Kissy’s grandmother sat on the charpaai outside the house, waiting for the newborn party to arrive. When they did, she slowly unfurled a small piece of paper that was crumpled in her fist. She summoned Pammi to bring the child closer. When the baby was not more than 5 inches away from her face, she placed the piece of paper near his face and examined both. It was a moment of shock for Pammi. She was almost sweating profusely, when daadiji showed one more of her wrinkly toothless smiles. They had passed yet another acid test! The baby was a carbon copy of his father. It was remarkable. Jubilation and celebration followed for an entire week. Everyone was taking turns to adore the baby boy and his father took every spare moment he found to analyze Sher up close. Every feature was like a mini-Kishanjit. He wondered how that crooked nose, slender fingers and even the slightly lopsided mouth was just like him. It must be a dream, he told himself.

Months whizzed past and Sher was soon the heartthrob of his neighborhood. He was a darling and was an instant hit with every elder who came home to visit him. This obviously changed Pammi’s fate. She was no longer sent into the kitchen. Her mother in law glowered at Pammi’s sister in law, who pulled up her dupatta over her head, as though she had been shamed, and walked into the dungeon like kitchen. Her, six year old daughter Dimpy, tugging on to the corner of her mother’s kameez, following suit silently. A twinge of pain shot across Pammi, but she knew it was inevitable in a household where a boy child had finally made an entry. She would pacify and sort things with her sister in law in just a bit, Pammi told herself.

Sher was 1 and there was a feast that began at lunch and went almost all evening long. Kishanjit had forgotten the strange mystery behind his son and was dancing, with his turban almost coming off loose. Pammi stood, watching all this, as her mother came and gave her a gentle squeeze on the shoulder. She smiled at her daughter, thanking the Guru for having shown her daughter a way out of what would have been her life long sentence.

Pammi realized it was finally time to tell Kishanjit the truth. That night, while a half conscious Kissy came to their room, she sat by the corner of the bed, just as she had last year. It immediately made him sober and he wondered what she was going to do this time. He sat next to her, peering over his shoulder just a little to see his son sleeping peacefully. The steady rise and fall of the little boy’s chest, assuring him that there was no shock awaiting him. He looked at Pammi, as though she was the Sphinx holding back the final part of the puzzle for him to solve.

Pammi revealed the simple but astonishing truth that let Kishanjit proud and ashamed at the same time. Smiling softly at her husband, she tucked the blanket over Sher’s tiny frame and rolled over, falling asleep within minutes. The first time she had truly slept in ages.

 

~ The writer in me

PLB Kids – August Kids Book Box review

Lishaan hasn’t been the bookworm kinds. So far, he has been interested in active play and books have been gathering dust, much to my dismay. At one point, I stopped buying books (no matter how interesting they were) because he just wouldn’t sit to read. Of course, with Isha coming in, I hardly even found time to read to him. What changed the scene? A post on Instagram by a friend, about a subscription box with a BOOK in it! But what caught my attention was the adorable peacock activity.

Lishaan and peacocks have a history. Where we stay in Coimbatore, we have a lot of peacocks in our backyard. EVERY morning, we could hear them scream (yes, that’s what it’s called) merrily. Not one, not two, but dozens of them. At first sight, they frightened Lishaan. Something about them made him not toe the line. That changed when we started to SHOW him what peacocks actually were and what beautiful creatures they are. Their blue-green feathers, the display of this beauty and them hopping roofs in our neighbourhood  got Lishaan to like them eventually.

Back to topic 😀 Priya Prithviraj’s PLB Kids box got me intrigued with just a peacock on it. I spoke to her and we got some additions happening to the box (Thank you so much for that, Priya). When we received the package, I must admit, I was more thrilled than him. It took my some serious effort to keep the worksheets and cut outs away from Lishaan’s eyes. He yelled ‘Amma Peacock vandhurku’ (Amma peacock has come home) but I had to divert his attention away because I knew it needed some ‘sit down and do’ kind of time.

Activity: The August subscription box comes with three activities – A peacock cut out activity, a couple of coloring sheets and a weather tracking sheet.

A week or so after receiving the PLB box, we found time to do some craftsy work with the cut out sheets and voila! Beautiful scenery of rains, clouds and peacocks in full swing went up on our bedroom wall! The toddler was sure thrilled. Even better, he gave them names – Appa peacock, Amma peacock, Lishaan peacock and Anna baby (Isha) peacock. I loved the fact that he could immediately relate his life to the peacocks and even give them identities.

Along with the cutout activities were two sheets for him to color happily (and all of his favourite things in it too – frogs, mushrooms, clouds, the Sun etc). For once he knew which colors went where and even instructed me to fill in the parts he hadn’t colored well 😉

We still haven’t used the days of the week / weather tracker chart, but I have tucked it away safely to revisit soon!

The Book: The Red Raincoat by Kiran Kasturia (published by Pratham books) was a fantastic read. Every time the book is chosen for our tea-time reading, I have both the kids hovering around intently. What I loved most about the book was the simple introduction of concepts like days, weather and ‘where, what, when, who and why’. English isn’t Lishaan’s primary language, but I am glad this book happened to us because I can see him pick up sentences and expressions better with each attempt.

Overall, PLB Kids is doing a fantastic job putting together these ‘experiences’ for eager children! Priya is sweet enough to customize a bit as well! That’s what I love about PLB kids. The fact that your needs are attended to, personally and that they easy on mom and kid.

Find out more about PLB kids here Priya’s Lit Blog

and don’t forget to get their September box which is another of my toddler’s favourites!

~ The Lazy Parent

Fact of the Matter: Comparisons

Post # 2 in my Fact of the Matter series. (You will find the link to the first post in this series in this post itself) 😉

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I am particularly not fond of road travels by car. It gets painful and annoying very quickly for me. But what makes it bearable is the series of conversations that the husband and I share with two sleeping children to add tune to the talk. While hopping from one topic to another, it suddenly hit us that our baby girl turns a year old in just 3 months. Time has flown by really fast. Frankly, I remember tiny details of Isha’s birth and her first year more clearly than I do of her brother’s. Strange huh?

 

People have this whole thing around their first baby and its first tooth, first step etc. Well, Lishaan was born with teeth, so that simplifies one ‘first’ for me 😉 But coming to think of it, most of his milestones seem like a distant memory, considering he is only 3 years old come December.  Maybe Google photos can help me trace back and recollect some of them, but I had no answer when my husband said ‘What was Lishaan’s first word?’ I thought hard, really hard, but couldn’t for the life of me remember his first word. Somewhere I remember him saying ‘nanni’ for thanni (water in Tamil) but the rest seems to be a big guess-work. With Isha though, we remember a lot more details. Surprisingly, we seem to have paid more attention to smaller details about her growth. Also, there are a whole lot more photographs than we had with Lishaan. Ouch!

So, why am I telling you about my child’s first word? Because, even with the same mother, no two babies are alike. Each child is different in its own abilities and developments. One shouldn’t place two children to measure up against each other EVEN if they were born on the same day. It doesn’t work that way.

Most of the stories that I hear about parents with more than one child are about how the kids are chalk and cheese. Even in things like food habits, they are very different from each other. Like I had mentioned in my Baby food post, my children started off and reacted very differently to food. I am learning to unlearn this about them. They won’t do things the same way, though they might surprise me once in a while.

I think, as parents we should stop doing ‘mera beta this and meri beti that’. Going back to when I was 9 or 10, I remember how children were constantly asked to perform. Sing, dance, recite a poem, show them your drawings etc. and this became a huge tournament of sorts. But what has amplified this whole ‘is your son smarter than your Mr.Kumar’s son’ is Social Media. Nowadays, EVERYTHING gets onto the internet. My son’s first ‘drawing’ – IG It! My daughter’s first somersault – Facebook it! My child’s first ‘unassisted’ cooking experience – YOUTUBE IT DAMMIT!

That’s the problem. We have stopped to see that each child, each pregnancy, each delivery and each parenting style is unique in its own way. We may draw points of similarity, but they can’t be the same. When we understand this, we will stop over expecting from our children. We will stop comparing milestone charts (I am saying this because mentally, I keep doing ‘Lishaan rolled over when he was 5 months old. Isha did much better. Ha!’), 1-100 recitals, world map identifications and the works. Let children grow without invisible checklists and charts hanging above their teeny tiny heads!

PLUS, it eases the whole parenting routine for us too, right? 😉
~ The Lazy Parent

 

Who is Anna Baby?

As is the case with most 2nd babies I know, Isha ‘happened’. We didn’t plan for her. We weren’t sure either of us was ready 😀 But, life isn’t about going by plan A all the time,is it?

The first thing that came to the table after our 2nd pregnancy was confirmed was ‘How will Lishaan deal with it?’. He was about 14 months old when we conceived Isha and they would be exactly 2 years apart by the time she was born. Terrible twos, sibling jealousy, missing his mother, nursing, baby bump and so on. The list of things that could go wrong kept getting bigger and bigger.

I was sure about one thing though. The two being so close in terms of age, it would be fine in the long run. I could wear the little one and we could still achieve lots, peacefully. That was my plan. But the first part of it was to make Lishaan understand that there will be someone new in the house soon. Someone who will demand more attention than him and someone who was way smaller than him. How do we go about explaining this to a toddler? (this is a question I keep getting asked ever so often by friends who are pregnant again and who have the idea to make another baby with a toddler at home already). Here’s how:

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  1. I waited for visual cues – when my bump started to show, I started talking about my tummy growing bigger and that he’d have to be careful around it.
  2. I relied on live examples – Thanks to the various babywearing consult sessions at home, we got to meet a lot of tiny squishes. Lishaan would hang around during each session and he got to see these little beings. So, he got familiar with the idea of a baby.
  3. Talk to moms who have done this before – you get ideas 🙂 A well wisher friend of mine suggested books that explain to the toddler about the new one’s arrival in a light and simple way. We didn’t resort to books, because Lishaan doesn’t sit down to read always. But we took the hint and used little cues and hints (scan sessions) to tell him what was happening.
  4. Make the toddler responsible – From when we could, we started talking to him about taking care of the baby when it comes. About giving it his toys, whether he would be okay to share his Simba (his go to cuddle toy since he was 3 months old) and stuff like that. This ingrains a feeling of responsibility and ownership in the toddler’s mind. Helps a LOT to also make them aware that the little one will take stuff from him and to check if the toddler is okay with the idea or not.
  5. Give the baby an identity – I couldn’t always be saying the baby in Amma’s tummy, so we gave it a name – Anna Baby! 😀 yes, that’s how the name came into being. He was the Anna (older brother) and the baby was his. Bang on! ha ha!
  6. Relate to baby stuff when possible – I spent a lot of time showing him little babies on TV (in ads) or discussing how little babies will cry when hungry (and not ask like he used to verbally). We even discussed who gets to keep the baby. It was decided that Appa, paati, aachi and all were Lishaan’s and I get to keep the baby. Good thinking 😉
  7. Give him someone to fall back on – My mom was the biggest saviour when it came to this. We had her around a month or so before my delivery. He follows her all around the house as it is and the baby’s arrival didn’t affect him much because if Amma wasn’t available, Paati was. She kept him occupied and attended to. This is important so the child doesn’t feel neglected.
    -Note: They might not COMPLETELY understand everything to tell them, but if they feel involved and a bit informed, they tend to deal with it better.

I think these were the key things we did during the course of our pregnancy to make Lishaan comfortable about the baby’s arrival. So much so that my darling of a gynaec would ask Lishaan ‘will you take care of her/him well?’ and he would say a big yes! That involvement translated into a very beautiful bond between the two from the minute they met.

I was still in the recovery room when they took Isha to our room upstairs in the hospital. I remember Dhana (my husband) telling me that Lishaan was pretty composed when he saw her first. He even said ‘Appa! Anna baby has fallen out of amma’s tummy’ lol! Smart chap! He even got around to cuddling her, giving us some hope of calmer times ahead.

Of course, we went through a HUGE patch of resistance and fussiness from his side, but that was expected. It has taken us about 5 months to get adjusted to each other’s presence and space completely, but it has been worth it. So, if you have qualms about how your older child will adjust to a new baby in the house, worry not. They are so much better at adapting than we are (I was crying on the way to the hospital, not in labour pain but because my heart was breaking into pieces over the thought that he wouldn’t be the centre of my universe once the little one came. How wrong I was!).

Fact of the matter: Baby Food

I plan to write systematically, or at least add a structure to my posts. The other series about parenting wellness, you can read here.

This series called ‘Fact of the Matter’ is going to be about demystifying or breaking some myths about babies as I have experienced it. Read on!

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There isn’t ‘one way’ to parent. Parenting is all about being extempore, whether you like it or not. As much as I appreciate and love the support that the various support groups provide, I worry for parents who don’t find their footing thanks to all the ‘inspiration’ they see online.

I see a lot of discussion on how one should feed their child. There are two methods: the traditional method and the baby led method. I don’t want to call it weaning, because my older child refused to ‘wean’ off milk until he was 1.5 (only thanks to me being pregnant). These two methods are age old in nature, but then again one needs confidence to pursue either. Neither of these methods are easy to follow. With TW (traditional weaning) there is the need to puree your baby’s food, start with porridges, feed the baby and so on. Most of the work is on you, to ‘ready’ baby meals. In BLW (baby led weaning) you let your baby call the shots. You only feed family food (sans salt and spice) and you encourage self feeding from day one. There is a lot of mess involved in the self feeding method and one HAS to be patient to overcome that stage.

With my toddler, we went BLW all the way (read about it here). He never took to porridges (he still has a dislike for soups) and chomped on watermelons & mangoes with gusto. We never have made an effort to make a separate meal for him and the result of it a very confident child who knows what he wants to eat, how he wants to eat and when he wants to eat. It is but natural that I get my 2nd child to follow this route as well. Not yet! 😉

Going by the books, one starts introducing solids (phew, such a lovely way of putting it) at completion of 6 months. But it is not a mandatory. We were traveling around the time my girl turned 6 months old and for the need of ‘home comfort’ I waited until we got back to base, to start solids for her. This time though, I took the porridge way. Why? Let’s say I can afford to experiment 😛 I call Isha the ‘Experiment group’, the group where you add all your variables and see what the result is. The experiment was on the food intake pattern.

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Her first bowl of porridge, in a silver bowl (as per tradition)

For 3 weeks now, she’s been on porridges made from roasted powdered grains (Kanji in Tamil). While I worried about her rejecting it, she took me by surprise. She loves her porridge and looks forward to every spoonful. Of course, we still follow some basics from BLW :

  1. Sit unsupported in a specific place intended for food (her booster chair)
  2. No distractions of any sort (no toys, no spoon-plane-flying tricks)
  3. Stop when she says stop (Yes, she knows how to show me that she’s done)

 

So far, it has been good. Time to take things to the next level! Self feeding! We started with bananas (200% baby approved food world over). She liked the feel, the control and to some extent, the taste. But as expected, she gagged a bit, spat it all out and went back to play-eat! That’s a win in my book. From here, we will wean out porridges and amp up soft finger foods.

My biggest advantage is my toddler. She sees her Anna (elder brother) eat and loves to mimic him. We have tried minuscule quantities of dosas and mangoes already and they are Isha-approved 😛

Fact of the matter is: You don’t need to do just one thing. How your family and your baby functions is in your hands. Decide what works best for you. Do not go by inspirations online. I mean, take inspiration, but don’t go verbatim. No two babies are the same! 😉

I will come back with more tales and recipes that are toddler baby and parent approved! Stick around <3

Count 1-2-3 : How to be there for your child

In my Instagram post on the little one turning 6 months old, I had said:

If I do make it past another 6 months in ONE piece, I will write a book about this. I will reach out and help more mothers battle their inner conflicts. I will make a difference!

This post is the first in that series! Read on.

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It has been 7 months of parenting two kids and we have been on quite a roller coaster. The hardest is behind me, I would say. When the little one arrived, nothing much had changed. I could still spend a LOT of undivided time with the toddler and keep him calm. But the days that came after were an unexpected blow of sorts. I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t expecting it. My little one needed more of me and so did the toddler. Between them, I lost myself. It was a mess.

I recall a particular trip that broke it and made it for me. I had over expected stuff from my toddler (who was all of 2 that time). I had expected him to understand, to behave. I had expected him to adult up all of a sudden.

When someone remarked that I should be less aggressive with my child, based on seeing us for about 24 hours or lesser, I shattered. I am usually the kinds who moves away from the scene without as much dropping a reply, because I can’t word things easily. No one intentionally gets upset with their children. No one intentionally regrets parenting. It’s a push; a shove. A dire measure that makes us feel ugly from within.

I could go on explaining about the whole situation that caused the avalanche effect in my life, but I knew then that: Speak up

  1. I should care a flying rat’s ass about people who have no idea of my life as a parent
  2. I should approach my son differently
  3. I am doing what best I can and I would do better if situation permitted it.

What did I do? I decided to go tigress mode. I snarled at anyone who said anything about my children and I got protective. The change happens like so:

  1. When you are super upset with your child, walk away. Bite your teeth, clench your fists and walk away.
  2. Count to three. Slowly, count and close your eyes. Listen to the voice of your child. Eyes closed, you will feel the innocence of that being. A being who knows not about stress and things alike. I have found this to immediately calm me down in many occasions.
  3. Hug your child even before you begin asking why. My toddler used to have supreme meltdowns and instead of being the team against him, I became his team. I hugged him tight and rocked him for a few minutes. Invariably, the meltdown ebbed away and then came the reason. Whatever it was that was upsetting him. Hug your baby. Yes, baby! They will always be babies

Forget what anyone says. People complaining about your child or telling you how you should raise them must fit the bar. Have they raised children of their own in the past 5 years? Have they dealt with at least 60% of your situation? Do you care about them? 😛 The last criteria makes it so much easier to block out unnecessary folks.

Once you do weed out these people, you weed out doubts about your parenting. You make space for your child, yourself and lot more love. So, hug your baby and move on!

Oh, my golden rule : If someone advices you on parenting (without fulfilling the above said criteria) hand your kids over to them for a few hours and just leave the room. They will be much of empathetic of your situation after that! 😉

Words maketh the man

When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to spend a considerable amount of time with me emphasizing on good English. We used to go through the ‘Radiant Reader’ and ‘The Hindu’, with me reading out paragraphs aloud. That, for good grammatical sense. Even otherwise, people in my household never spoke a harsh word. I hardly ever heard a swear word from any of the elders. I remember once at home I said ‘Ma, give me 10 bucks!’. I didn’t say anything else, but was given a good hearing on how I should be using the right words and so on. Yep, it was rupees and not bucks! I don’t think I have gone back to that word ever since that incident!

Fast forward to a decade later, I learnt the words ‘suck it’ and ‘fuck it’. I can’t tell you the thrills it gave us (at school) to use these words against friends or teachers (under our breath). They seemed like the biggest weapons we had. How silly!

WordsWhy am I telling all these anecdotes from my past? Because I feel that the language train is going down the drain. I must tell you, that I used to spew foul language for a few years! I have been no saint. I have had co-workers look at me with the ‘how can she say those words without flinching one bit.’ NOTE: This is not a girl thing! It’s a thing of social decency. I didn’t care about it back then! But now I do. Maybe because I have realized that while a certain kind of language may sound cool, you come across looking crass. Yes! I am saying that!

I realize this even more now that I am parent. In my other post , I had written about Lishaan saying ‘Fuck’ with glee! It was then I realized that it’s not just curse words, but any odd word that you use. My son has amazingly picked up words I would NEVER dream of him repeating, but that’s happening and I am cringing under my skin! Lesson learnt.

I have begun reading my posts/comments twice before I share them , thanks to the international groups that I am a part of.  There are words that are sensitive, for which admins gently nudge you, encouraging to correct your usage. For example: Retard. I haven’t said that word in years. Why? Because I understand its impact and I know that it isn’t the same as calling someone a monkey. No! It hits hard.

The other day, one on of the many chatter groups that I am a part of, someone casually used ‘colloquial’ language. I almost shook my head in disbelief, because the group had about 30 odd people that that person wouldn’t know on first name basis and even worse, it was a support group. But it just happened and I wondered why would someone do that. It is easy to say ‘ass’, but on a social forum/platform it weighs down quite a bit. (no pun intended :P)

All of us have diluted the language (not just English, but any language) to our convenience. Tanglish kills the beauty of the Dravidian language. Hindi is a pot pourri of the Delh, Mumbaiyya, Bihari, Punjabi and ‘imported’ slangs. But, some languages maintain their essence. Recently, I heard my Bengali & Kannadiga friends talk amongst family. I didn’t hear a word of English. I am sure there are other such folk too and I know I am moving from ‘Language’ to language itself. But, it’s up to us to ensure we stick to format. It applies to language, to culture and a few more things. Just a handful, but important things. Manners being one of them.

That’s the bottom line of my post. I saw a trailer last night. A web series about falling/staying/falling out of love. One of the female protagonists in it casually tells her partner that she would squeeze his balls. *no comments*

Maybe we have forgotten what CAN be said in public and what CANNOT be. For those who are raising their ‘But I am a woman’ finger at me, this isn’t about women. This is about men and women. This is about knowing when to speak and what to say!

Nuff said!