Saturday, November 12, 2011

After a long time...

Have been missing for quite sometime now ! actually 3 odd months. What was I upto? Well , just plain lazy. There were lot of times when I wrote some posts in my mind but that never materialized. Anyways, some nudging from friends ( and thank god that there are some of you who end up reading) , here i am. This hopefully should be a fun post for that's what I have been having over last few months. The winter chill has quietly made its way in north India and the weather is at its best. October is a special month for us for couple of regular reasons and some specials as well. Regulars are the fact that almost every one important in my life have their birthdays - daughter, mom, sister , myself and this gets interspersed with multiple festivities we have here. The warmth and happiness is in the air, you can almost feel it. This year was special as kids and myself got over almost 3 weeks of viral sickness in the household and a some professional gains for myself. So now if I am not having fun amidst all this, then something will be seriously wrong with me !

This year was also different for couple of things. We did daughter's birthday party at a place called Energy Centre in Gurgaon located in the largest public park here. The idea was not to be different but for children to have fun. I and the daughter were so bored with the umpteen Pizza Hut parties she got invited for - Same food, same place and  sometimes even similar return gifts. The concept was novel and nice. Kids were invited at the centre where  they first had a movie screening on climate change, there was a solar car ride, the centre head showed them giant solar panels and how they help to generate power for the centre. Post which they all headed for Terracotta painting - we selected pots since the return gifts were lovely plant saplings which each child took home to grow. The area was open, green and so very pleasant in the evening. We have gone couple of times there as a family now . for those in gurgaon, you must visit Roots- the organic cafe of the centre. Don't expect a superlative service- food takes good 40 min to arrive and the menu is limited but the place is like any college cafe...sit in the sun, grab a book, let the kids climb trees or run around and what perfect winter afternoon you want. This Sunday it was a beautiful sight watching them dancing under the bougainvillea tree - the flowers falling down on a windy day over them.

October also had a festival a week. With the kids now of an age where they are participative, more aware, its all the more fun.  A lot has changed the way Diwali gets celebrated now. A few days before Diwali,  daughter found it amusing that we made a big deal about new clothes on Diwali. I found it a little offending given the sentiments  around the festival esp with grandparents around but then it struck me, in today's age  she is so used to getting a new dress every now and then that she would not find  a novelty in the same.  So this Diwali took extra care to ensure that she gets her favorite dress for Diwali, it comes gift wrapped and is a surprise for her. The whole song and drama around it surely made it a novelty, with her now waiting for Diwali next year. Things seem to be changing so fast - there are hardly any fresh sweets being bought- most people end up buying chocolates- even we ended up buying chocolates for the  kids friends. They found the sugar made " khilonas" traditionally used with " kheel" during Diwali very fascinating but backed out when offered to eat them. I wonder another five years and we might not see such things around. People have started going out for dinners on Diwali day - finish the puja, do away with the crackers and then off to a nice joint for family dinner. May be it suits them but I actually squirm at the possibility of my kids ever preferring that over home made poori, sabji, dahi vada and kheer. So till the time I have control, I am going to ensure that they have a very traditional Diwali . If I ask anyone of us, I don't think any of our Diwali memories is about the festival getting different and better every year like birthdays. Most Diwalis for all of us is same - Same puja, same sequence of events in every household, dads still asking moms  every year how to do the puja, same aarti and same food menu. Yet its one of the fondest memories we all carry with us. Given the distraction and fast changing world these children live in, the only hope this mother has is to make the routine so repetitive year on year that it gets programmed in their mind and hopefully in their hearts.

Last month was also special. Some professional gains followed by my birthday. Sometimes I do wonder, I could have been single still or may be married but no kids, could have been in a different profession but what I am and have today is great. I never thought what my life will be in the thirties but I have learnt the futility of planning your life and have started enjoying what comes by. There were times when a maid crisis gave me distress or a bad day at work meant a week of stress- Now I have learnt to take all of this in my stride. I now appreciate and acknowledge that each day of your life will be different. You will get stuck with people you don't like personally and professionally, you will struggle to become a better daughter, wife and mother, you will always be short on time for your children but then the small joys, successes and happiness also come along. All we need to do is appreciate the same.

Have also learnt overtime that there are 2 sets of people who really enjoy the person you are. Indulgences in life is a luxury and these are the people who indulge you completely- your parents and your kids. No one enjoys your success more than your parents. The joy they feel when you succeed is tremendous - more so when you are a woman. Your parents treated all their children equally and fairly. They invested in you as a daughter as much as in a son and when you succeed in life, its a pride that's their prized possession. It can be a small win for you or a matter of fact thing which you deserved but the tinkle in their voice when they hear this surpasses all of that. The second is your children who make you real and humble. They couldn't care less what you have done or not done. They are the only ones peeping out of the door , ready to hug you the moment you land. The eyes twinkle seeing you as if all their lives , they have just been waiting for their tired mom to come home. Couldn't care less what you have achieved outside, you fail if you cant fix their favorite breakfast or read them a book.Nothing can be more humbling and real than this. Not to take away the importance of your life partner ( less he gets offended )- that's more of a relationship of equals - you enjoy each others success, console on failures and move together. yet there are expectations from each other. With your parents and your children, its pure love - its just YOU who matter to them .

In other news, December is round the corner. Intend to soak the winter sun and relish some great afternoons. Hopefully will do some more writing as well. There are some serious topics that bother me at times and hope to let it find its way in this forum.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Here and there...and no where

Its really strange. Since the time I started writing, there are multiple topics that flash through my mind. I make a mental note that I shall post something on that . sometimes, there is a nudge from a friend as to why don't you write on this topic and I note that as well but most of the posts that you see are actually which  have been penned ( or rather typed)  in less than an hour , on an impulse, hurriedly spell checked ( as i noticed when i re read some old posts). The thoughts flow and i oblige myself by writing them down.

Never mind- the point is not related to what I am going to write. Again an impulsive thought I felt should find its place. ;). Last month has been , well, to be honest , just plain boring. I think July month does that to us. Vacations are over, mid year appraisals are done leaving a plain vanilla month ahead. So here's this post - more on This and that and here and there in July.

Monsoon  Memories:
So as you can see the blog look and feel has been changed in fond memories of the monsoon. Memories yes as a) we don't get them enough any which ways these days and b) the whole thought of traffic jams, clogged road and dirty laundry do not even let you enjoy the monsoon. Actually the amount of comments on facebook with few drizzles of rain in Delhi are the virtual enjoyment of monsoons we all indulge in.
I personally was never a monsoon 'fan'- my kind of enjoyment is to sit by a window and enjoy a book with a hot cup of hot chocolate. So when  few days back when rain came visiting our world, the kids insisted on going down in the rain. The sheer thought of them catching cold, managing office with a sick child quickly flashed through my mind. No way! you guys are not going downstairs in the rain- I managed a stern face as two pleading eyes looked at me. I tried to reason as well but they perched themselves on the edge of the window, looking down longingly and then came the last hit -" If you don't let us enjoy nature, how can we ever learn about it and take care of it " and then in a typical DDLJ moment ( Ja jee le apni zindagi type), I told them to run and rush. soon a couple of more kids joined...someone played music via their portable systems and it was plain sheer bliss. I was though back to how I enjoyed rain...a cup of hot chocolate , by the window, this time watching over 2 devils shaking hands with mother nature.

Grocery fix:
So the kids most of the times help me for any grocery shopping we need to do. I get to spend time with them and they learn ' on the job'. It starts with the elder one making a list as I look up the kitchen and then the three of us land up in supermarket. Its a funny sight...a head is deep inside the tomato basket picking up the ripe ones as told by mom or a little voice from behind with 2 hands full of the stuff they found at the counter. One of them will push the cart, the other will carefully place each item at the counter. We have healthy debates as to what's healthy to eat and hence purchase and its quite a democratic process- As I stop them to pick up chips and pies, a small hand hold me back from picking up a bottle of Diet coke. I see some people looking at me rather strangely- I bet they must be wondering how much I am making the poor kids run but then to all those ' chin up in the air moms'- You look more amusing walking in the aisle with a maid following you with a cart with your child perched inside it' . You either make them participative in the whole process or spare them the visit to the supermarket only to get one candy in the end.

Homework Woes:
For a change not for the kids but for me. I thought it was a smart thing to have them at 2.5 year gap but with the younger one in playschool, the workload on me on weekends is as great as the one on weekends. And then God save these fancy schools and  their Show and Tell concept and who insist on a 3 year old to come prepared with some topic every Monday. I thought play school was well about play but nonetheless, I think its a better way than the earlier pushy way. The challenge on hand is to get an extremely- full -of -energy boy to sit down and learn three lines on cleanliness whose clever enough to add a fourth one "We should keep our Mamma clean" given his obsession with me. The elder one moves to Grade 1 and it's a delight to work with her, refresh some fundamentals - if only the schools could spare the Art and Craft work. I don't have the skill set, motivation and creativity to think of ideas and it feels terrible to be written off in grade 1 for your drawing skills by your won child. So now I have a personal development plan and Google bhagwan to help me with ideas on how to go around the same.

So folks this his how July has gone. August has some long weekends and look forward to a relatively relaxing month.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Single mothers- Do we really respect their choices?

While there are enough marriages where both partners endure a nonexistent or worse a bad relationship for the sake of children, there are a lot of people nowadays who opt for being a single parent. The decision to become a single parent is a difficult one and it’s even more difficult when you are a woman. I don’t have statistics but there are more women who opt out of bad marriages with children and decide to raise the child herself- purely maternal instincts or may be because the child becomes the anchor of their life. The tragedy is that most people are curious to understand the reasons for the marriage or relationship to fail rather than see the courage the person has demonstrated to take a decision and live by it for the sake of her child or herself. And we thought that today the greatest things some of us have is a CHOICE – we can choose to work or stay at home, study or become a nomadic traveler and in the same breadth decide to live our life with someone or go separate ways.

It’s sad though that the social ecosystem hardly supports these decisions and worse most men walk away , remarry easily and live happily ever after but what about the woman- she often pays for the choice she made by living a more difficult life ? May be that’s the reason most women till today decide to be in the relationships, endure the pain and become more reconciled to their fate.

I think all of us would have met such people at the workplace or amongst friends and family . I happen to one as well. She was raised like all of us in small town, educated and made independent by her parents. However unlike few of us who came to big town for higher education, pursued professional courses and basically lived and learnt to be on our own, she continued to be in her home town and just so that you get the picture right, there’s only a handful of girls who today move to metro towns for further studies. So she completed her graduation, did a professional computer course and guess what parents found a good match at the right age ( or so they say) of 24-25 and she was married off. A year and a half  later of a bad marriage and impending pregnancy, she took the brave move of deciding to move out of the marriage with a 3 month old son and not for herself but for the sake of the child – to give the child a normal upbringing rather than a bitter childhood. Today it’s been 8 years and it’s a journey she would rather like to forget. She says she was blessed to have parents who were understanding enough to stand by her and help her raise her child for last so many years as she struggled, fell only to rise up again to be financially independent. But there were enough moments to make her feel the pain. She does not regret her decision but she does regret the long winding legal struggle for a separation and custody of the child, the innumerable glances people gave her of being a divorced women, the unsolicited advice on what to do with her life and worse the easy judgmental opinions about how she did not spend enough time invested in the relationship- In a nutshell, she could have continued her suffering in the hope that one day things will fall in place – her husband and in laws will start loving and accepting her.

Things have gone better as time flies but something’s will take aeon's to change. She does meet new people- Some she likes, some like her but the moment they know her status of being a single mother , things change. Some even suggested her to leave her child with her parents and start afresh – can you imagine? But that talks a lot about small town society today where even for a divorced/ widowed man with 2 kids, they can go ahead and get a girl half his age who would willingly marry and accept the 2 kids as her own but the other way round is just not happening.

Even in so called progressive society of metro town, you can find far and few empathy when a single mother comes late for work for she needed to nurse her sick child or the domestic help crisis has descended on her. The gossip mill run overtime  if she happens to hang around with male colleagues over drinks or decides to let her hair down in a party for once. There always seem to be more interest in her personal life than professional achievements. But few see the daily effort of raising a child all by herself. Most of us have our better halves and no matter how much we all complain, an evening chat, a pat on the back, a helping hand always makes it easier for us. As they say, sharing doubles the joy and halves the sorrow.

Few months ago, I did a post on letting go of relationships and saw a different perspective and basically this boils down to the choice an individual made suiting his or her situation in the circumstances she was in. However what troubles is that in the earlier case , the lady in question was able to endure the earlier pathos of the relationship to eventually find peace. In this case , the external factors, society at large and our systems made a person ,who was so called free from the shackles of a bad relationship, go through the pain post she moved on in the relationship as well and somewhere continues to fee so being under the scrutiny of public eye . And perhaps that’s what makes a life so ironical and difficult to comprehend.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Having a daughter...

is a dream come true for most of us. The angelic qualities of one notwithstanding, its a visual delight for mothers as it gives them opportunity to dress and doll up the little angels. Ours is a first born and its been a riot of colours in the wardrobe for her. From the traditional baby pinks to now electric greens, you name it and I would have bought for her. Daughters do give mothers a chance to relive what they grew up dressing up as but now cannot wear them for myriad of reasons  - from not suiting their personalities now to ummm... weighty issues. But the best part is the accessories- from tinkling of small payals, pink hairbands with a little bows , little thin gold chains across their necks. And of course, having those little studs in the ears when they get pierced the first time around. It takes me ages to shop for my daughter and I have to admit that it all costs a bomb at all. Our boy- well for him the shopping is in a jiffy and often just a pair of jeans and shirt. I would have never spent so many days ever thinking what I will wear as I have spent thinking before each of her birthdays and the endless choices does not help either- it only confuses me more.

So it really saddens this mother when you realize that your choices are no longer your daughter choices . At five, she has a mind of her own and she will make her own couture choices. So the days  you pick a frock from the wardrobe, it has to be floral skirts. The day you tell her to wear her jeans before she outgrows them, she looks for shorts in her cupboard.  Her father seems to love it - "my daughter has a mind and choice of her own. why do you need to bother so much? She will manage on her own." I repeated the same words a few days later when i saw him livid when an over excited neighbour met him in the elevator and mentioned that her son really likes his daughter and he came back furious.

But honestly right now is the phase to enjoy when you see her enjoying life - where all she bothers is about colours and fragrances. Sometimes seeing her grow up so fast makes you realize that as you trudge along Mondays and Tuesdays on one hand, time does fly in a jiffy on the other hand.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Now this is just not done...

Now I am no big fan of aishwarya rai and I care a damn whether Junior B is having a baby. But an article like this (aishwarya sacked for being preggers)surely did not go down well with me. I am no jingoist for feminism but if elite media ( read English dailies) are publishing reports about a career getting over is pitiful. Its sad that the first question which still gets asked when a working woman is pregnant is "would you continue to work" or " is her career over? Well this is a question most mothers- to-be dabble with especially when they are working but shouldn't it be left to them to decide?- whether they want to continue the way they are or opt for a flexi work option or even become stay at home ? I am assuming Mrs bachchan thought of all this before committing herself on the dotted line - the basic tenets of professionalism. The incidents of women getting shortchanged during pregnancy and maternity leave are dime a dozen. I have met friends in corporate world joining back work at a less meatier role or worse missing a promotion. Even in so called cocoons of government services, women have come back to far lesser important role only to begin all over again and its a big blow to the aspirations of most who were brought up by their parents to be on their own and have an ambition to carve a career for themselves. New moms are anyways struggling between the dichotomy of their mind guiding them to continue unabashed pursue of their career or to render love and care to their new born which is a task in itself and then you have people questioning your ability to manage both and work ethics. The infrastructure around is equally frustrating- dependence on maids  whose demand far exceeds the supply controlled by agents asking for 20K a year as commission last heard, no good daycare, nuclear families with grandparents not willing to relocate and to be fair  to them why should they? Their job is done now - its our journey and we need to tread it ourselves. For every working woman i have met who has had family support, I have also met an equally sulking woman at not having the liberty of being on their own- I mean you cant have everything right?You give some , you loose some. But whats equally frustrating is the attitude of the dominant gender in the workforce. As a husband , you might be empathising with your wife for all that she is doing but as a workforce participant there will be a general smirk for colleagues moving on maternity leave.

However its not a story where there are villains pulling the women folks down. The lady in question is equally responsible for her actions. first is a realization that being a mother definitely means some changes in the way you work. If you have a travelling job, you would need to either plan earlier to move onto a role more suited to you then or if you are involved in that, keep the stakeholders informed earlier- there is an equal thought floating that Aishwarya did not keep the producers in confidence on this impending development. I truly agree with thisTed Talk . Most women check out mentally much before they actually become mothers- No doubt its a big event but why is it an event for the woman- its a shared responsibility of both man of the house and lady of the house yet more women start to mentally be prepared that they will go on leave and when they will come back , their wont be much for them do. This is where we need to be strong- motherhood and your work should be taken in your stride- a responsibility bound to come and at that time if you intend to be serious about your career , then look for a solution. Show up after your maternity leave. Don't take the work lightly purely because you can blame it to the reason of motherhood. The two can co exists and not necessarily at the cost of each other. I distinctly remember coming back on the 91st day ( maternity leave being only 90 days in India) and having a very clear conversation with the new head of business whom I was meeting for the first time and he told me that he appreciated the fact that I am serious about my work and my career . all of us want the best of both worlds and that can be achieved  but only when you are dedicated towards both. If you continue to be perpetually on flexi hours even if the organization does not support it fully, procrastinate work and are there everyday in office only for attendance sake but mentally checked out, then sorry that does not work. You rather than take the courageous space some women take to give up the work life and truly dedicate themselves to their children. This middle way does not work.

But then all this is easier said than done. Each woman is unique and so is their approach to  motherhood. There are some who don't want to sit at home for they don't want to burden their children with the fact that they gave up a good degree and a great career for them - may be the kids will never understand it also, some actually manage both purely out of financial needs - My maid started work 2 months post her delivery and with no family member in foreign land, she actually pays a neighbourhood old woman to take care of her like many of her other mates who cannot afford taking it easy, there are actually some who come because they don't want to be at home with in laws being around - its too much of friction and then tthere are some who take it in their stride like men do. They like their work and barring a few bad days with no  support are able to manage both. Yet they have a hanging sword on their head -whether they are ensuring that by this their kids childhood is not messed up.

Our mothers never had the option. Most of them were homemakers and that's the way it was. We were raised as offshoot of their aspirations to be women who had the power of knowledge and the choice to work or not to depending on the circumstances. I sincerely hope and pray that by the time our daughters grow up the social ecosystem and infrastructure has evolved to an extent that her choice to work or not is dependent purely on  her individual interest and not on external  conditions and my son has the ability to appreciate, empathise and participate both as an individual in particular and society at large.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kids Gemology

Kids Gemology:
There has been a lot of cajoling and debating happening in our household to buy a new Barbie. Given the over 50+ collection that Nia has, its a strict no from my end at least to buy it considering they have been of no use so far lying in one shelf and to be dusted every fortnight. Here are some aggressive negotiation strategies being used.

Nia with a sullen look on her face walks up to me. "Mom - Sunaina, Nehal, Palak, Aashi are so lucky" ; I asked why ? " They don't have so many barbies so they don't have to plead ( yes that's the word used) with their mother to buy them one"

" Mamma most Barbies you bought for me when I was small. I did not buy them , you got them for me. So I should be allowed to choose my Barbie"


Television can have all kinds of impact on the kids. Despite restrictive TV watching, the influence of Hindi dubbed cartoons have taken its toll. Recent example showed me the picture
"Mamma- Aadi ne mere  upar ILZAAM lagaya he ki maine uska car break kiya. Kya appko meri BEGUNAHI par Shaque hai " . Well, it took mom quick a while to get over the shock to actually go and be the peacemaker

Sibling Rivalry at its peak  - Seeing the number of single kids around, my daughter comes back to me one day " " Mamma ,Aashi is so lucky. She does not have a brother. She can do whatever she wants and no one to trouble like aadi does". A worried me tried and explain how much fun is it to have a sibling and when everything failed, i blurted out that  when you grow up, you can go to Goa ( our recent vacation) with him alone in case mom and dad are both working and are not allowed holidays . She thought for a while and sulked " Now, I have to take him for holidays as well when I grow up, Aashi is really lucky" !

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Social Media Addiction - Trade Off or Pay Off ?

Is our fascination with YouTube, Twitter and Facebook turning us into a society of distracted, forgetful, shallow human beings? Are we only looking at the pay offs turning our eye on the trade offs of this new found obsession? Is the internet making us dumber?

These days a hot debate has broken out on this topic. Social media on one hand has given us more freedom to express and connect than ever or are we  sacrificing our ability to reflect and create and form meaningful relationships?

There are multiple examples in history which are replete with how some innovations changed the way we lived and worked. Some of which I have just read in few editorials where this debate is getting hotly pursued. For years, Oral recitation and memorizing was the way to pass on information unless the printing press came along, writing was what all of us grew up as and now all we do is type and may be next generation will spend more time in typing and tapping ( on touch screen devices) than we did on paper and pen. We don’t refer to encyclopedias – we google – be it all project works . We don’t even rely on memory for directions- there’s a e-map to show us the way. The beauty has been the way each civilization adapted to these changes and progressed all along. Some actually say that by freeing our brains from so much clutter, we have actually paved way for future innovations and you can say it with the pace with which fundamentals of living are changing today.

Social media is a different ball game all together. The ability to connect with so many people, make yourself heard , make your voice count has catapulted us into a different league. Recent example was Anna Hazare movement against corruption in India . Thousands joined the Facebook group, there were status update in support of the cause. It gave instant gratification to people like us who have a lot to say and we found a forum. However cynics say that’s where the shallowness lie wherein most people talked and talked about it but the same lot will not move their butt to go and join the crusade at Jantar mantar or will not stop from paying a bribe at next instance to get their things facilitated. But then there are some real benefits- people have been able to raise money and donations or even help find a kidnapped boy or even get most autocratic organizations, people, governments to succumb to the “ Virtual Pressure” . We recently had a colleague sudden demise and the facebook group helped couple of us pour out our heart and make peace with this sudden loss.

But then in the days of FB friendships or Twitter chatter  , are we being illusionary about connecting and forging relationships. Some even go onto say that we are eavesdropping at times on conversations 2 different individuals are having. May be yes, excess of everything is bad but social media has helped many of us stay connected with family and friends – meeting them may be only during celebrations or worse funerals. It has helped to share your views to a wider audience. I love reading sliced and diced news pieces rather than relying on my own 1 or 2 newspaper readings. I feel more informed at times as the info sharing by multiple people is well yes as multiple as they are and has helped broaden my knowledge beyond your immediate areas of interest. It surely is a pleasure to see the folks you shared a good part of your life and their family life. I can never imagine our parents generation remaining in touch with so many of their friends. I also feel that if I ever leave work and decide to be at home, I don’t think I can ever get bored or feel that I am wasting my life. There is so much to learn , pick up new skills – all at the click of a button. You can blog, tweet, message- all in one go

But yes , I do squirm at the fact that there are days when as a family , we are browsing on respective phones and the kids on their ipads – all sitting in one room silently. The smell of books with carefully placed bookmarks by the bedside  taken over by Kindle or the charm of having a great conversation over a cup of coffee. For that matter, some of the hobbies we pursued like art , music because we had time are no longer there. You forever fiddle with your phone whether on the move or on a vacation. There is a worry that our kids perhaps will take all this as the new normal . The fact that our attention spans have become much shorter. May be its impacting our relationships. There is one thing to be in touch with a large number of people you have come across in your life but there are some relationships that would have been nurtured and invested in which may be we take for granted- birthday calendars have taken over our memories, a note on the wall instead of a phone call. There is far more information than we can process .

Not clear answers to this debate. For sure for now, I am at least liking the fact of being connected and informed and being “ In the cloud” . Happy to hear your point of views. Will make for an exciting debate but I cannot end this without this quote I read in an article- “ We will be an generation that had information but no context, butter but no bread, craving but no longing- Meg Wolitzer’s”