The Amazing Race

“You know X? His 1 year old son can eat almost 1.5 idlis, that too just dipped in water without any sambar or chutney!”

“You know what Y gave her barely year old daughter during that function? One big bowl of rasam rice and she ate it in no time.”

“Why is your son not eating well? He’s not putting on any weight.”

“You’re not giving him any fruits. Z’s son loves fruits, it seems. Can eat an entire apple in one go. When he came here last time, he ate an apple, some pieces of orange, 4 or 5 strawberries and even some papaya! Why doesn’t your son eat all that?”

Got tired just reading this? Imagine having to listen to this, not once, but every time you’re feeding the kid and he/she is already pissing you off by not eating properly. For every 15 fussy eaters out there, apparently there’s a superhero kid who will inhale his food, that too only the healthy type. Yeah, such children exist it seems. My mom never fails to tell me.

The proverbial rat race doesn’t begin at school (or pre-school), people. It begins when the child is conceived. “Does your baby kick a lot? Mine does somersaults already and it makes me so nauseous.” – what I heard when I was pregnant. If I were a naive recently-married girl who was pregnant, I would have freaked out and run to the Ob-gyn saying my baby is not kicking. But one is not. Thankfully. And then when the baby is born? Oh dear Lord. Color, hair, eyes open or not, smiling or not, drinking enough milk or not, sleeping well or not, colicky or not..the list is endless. The only comparison I haven’t heard yet is the APGAR score – probably because hospitals in India don’t make a big deal of this to the parents (even though its noted in the file), so the parents are probably not that aware of it.

If the baby is very quiet, the comparison is with another baby who’s like a 5 year old in Disneyland, on a sugar rush. If the baby IS like a 5 year old in Disneyland, on a sugar rush, then the comparison will be with one who’s Buddha’s long lost cousin, deep in meditation. I’m not kidding. Your baby can’t catch a break, is what it is. Of course, none of this is meant to be hurtful – everyone knows that all babies are not alike but that when did that mean there should be no comparisons, eh? :-\

Most of the time, I’m ok with the comments. The in-through-one-ear-out-through-the-other mechanism works beautifully in most cases. But there are days when I wish people would just let me and my son be. Yes, he’s not a great eater and no, he’s not putting on as much weight as I would have wanted him to. But you know what? He’s doing just fine. He’s active. He’s learning new things everyday. He’s social. He outgrows his pjs and shirts every 2 months. He’s not going to be 6’2″ when he grows up, but that’s not his fault – blame his genes. He’s learning to use his potty. He’s slightly obsessive-compulsive about things being clean and tidy, but hey, it’s cute and I’m not about to teach him to be ok with wallowing in filth.

So there. Let him be. Let ME be. We don’t want to be part of this amazing race. We’ll get there in our own sweet time. And you know what? It’s ok even if we don’t get there. We’re in this for the journey, not the destination. We’re doing just fine, him and me.

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Blasphemously yours

After living in Hyderabad for over 12 years, I finally had Haleem yesterday. Yep, it took me 12 years to eat one of the things that Hyderabad is #worldfamous for (I’ve done the pearls and Charminar bit, so it’s not ALL bad, ok?).

And my verdict? Please wait. I cannot tell you just like that, no? You have to suffer the long story first.

So we drove down all the way to Tolichowki, to the actual Pista House outlet because the husband didn’t trust the freshness of the haleem at the little Pista House pushcarts/stands that were closer to home. Here’s where I mention that driving to Tolichowki in your sedan on a rainy Sunday evening 2 days before Eid is downright stupid. We realized that about 10 seconds into the Tolichowki area but it was too late to turn around (also because the nearest U turn was..well..not very near). So we kept inching along in bumper to bumper traffic, husband muttering curses under his breath (kid in the car!) every time a two-wheeler came too close to the car, searching for the outlet and suddenly on the roadside there were about 15-20 men, clad in green t-shirts that read ‘Pista House Haleem’, with an ID card around their necks. Yes people – meet the new way of service/delivery – they take your order right there on the road, go to the shop and bring back the haleem for you. You don’t have to get out of your car or search around for a parking spot in front of the shop.

We got one regular haleem, ie the one made with the mutton and one vegetarian haleem (you know, just in case) so we could do a taste test. 10 mins into our ride back and the car was already smelling of ghee and roasted spices. Drool slurp.

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Back home, fed the kid, bathed the kid, filled up the umpteen buckets and vessels with water (oh I haven’t told you about that, have I? Severe water problem where I live. Only 3 hours of running water. Except the spoons and plates, everything is filled with water. I hate this place.) and then finally opened up the cartons. Aaaaaand…

Veg and regular Haleem

Veg and regular Haleem

…well, nothing. I opened the carton, took a spoonful and actually hesitated for a bit. Why? Because 1. It’s mutton and I don’t eat red meat and 2. The way it looked, all gooey and gluggy and I don’t know, very unappetizing! I was hoping it tasted better than it looks, so I shut my eyes and took a wee bit.

Haleem

Haleem

And I hated it.

I didn’t go for the next spoonful. I tasted the veg version, hoping that’s better but no. It was lumpy, glutinous and totally, completely bland. The kind of bland that’s associated with baby food. Actually, I think my son had spicier food than that when he was an infant.

So now I’m thinking, what is the big deal? Did I eat from the wrong place? I doubt that ‘coz Pista House Haleem is supposed to be #worldfamous and all jazz. I could have tried Shah Ghouse Haleem, but dude, do you know what that hotel looks like? I thought I’d rather sacrifice on taste than compromise on hygiene, so didn’t go there.

My husband was ok with it, though. Didn’t LOVE it, but didn’t become nauseous and green in the face like me.

Well, that’s that then. No more haleem for me, thank you. I’ll just go sit with my Paradise Biriyani and be content.

So that’s what happened. A total anti-climax to a big build-up (in my mind, at least). Yes, I realize it’s blasphemous to live in Hyderabad and say I don’t like haleem, but what can you do?! Sue me? Yeah right.

In Trishanku heaven

I’m between books.  Yes, that’s an actual state of being in my life. Between books. Finished one and still slightly hungover by it. Yet to start the next one, for there is always always always a next one. Sometimes that’s my sole reason to live. Well, these days it’s my son, but hey, you get the picture.

I hate being between books. I’m sad that the one I was reading got over, more so if I enjoyed the book. And selecting the next one seems like such a commitment. Is it just me? Probably, yes. Remind me to tell my shrink this. So anyway, I’m still searching around for a good book to pick up next and I’m having very little luck. My choices are limited since I’m now Kindle-less. Yeah, no, no overnight miracles to fix it and I didn’t hear any elves dropping by at night either. My Kindle is still broken and I got so depressed every time I saw it that I’ve banished it (it actually hurts to say this!) to the interiors of a cupboard that I hardly open. And Facebook is being extra insensitive by showing me Kindle-related ads every time I log in. Woe is me, yes.

Ok, since there’s no Kindle, I’m finally getting back to the paper-based books that I have. Some were bought many years back when I was reading a different genre than I do now and had more time on my hands. Like Nabokov, Kafka, Orhan Pamuk (‘Lolita’, ‘Night train to Lisbon’, ‘Amerika’, ‘Snow’, ‘The witch of Portobello’), etc to name a few. I’d like to think of them as serious reads – the ones you read for enjoying the prose more, than the plot as such. Such books need to be read at leisure, without interruptions, over many days, beside the window with a cup of coffee in your hand. This is a rare luxury for a mother of a toddler. So these days, I prefer light reads. Books that don’t tax the mind so much, like one of Superstar’s entertainer movies! You read 10 pages, get up to wash a wee little bum, sing some nursery rhymes, play with building blocks and then come back to the book, pick up where you left off effortlessly. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have a lot of that genre with me right now. They were mostly e-books and the ones I do have in paperback have been read and re-read a million times already.

In short (in some 400 odd words that is), I’m book-less today. I hate it. Feels like I’m in Trishanku heaven, neither up nor down, neither here nor there, desperately hoping to be tied down to the fluttering pages of a new book, with new things to be discovered and enjoyed.

Help me with a book, won’t you? Rescue me from this limbo.

I know now

When my 2 year old nephew broke my sister-in-law’s iPad, I was more surprised by her reaction than by the fact that the iPad was broken – she was entirely calm about it (at least when she told me, some days later). I was wondering how come she isn’t more sad, ‘coz that iPad was a very precious thing for her. I wondered why she isn’t more pissed off with my nephew. Did she even tell him what he did was wrong? Why wasn’t she more careful? Why was he even allowed to come near the iPad?

My son broke my Kindle yesterday.

Yep, my Kindle is no longer working. IMG_20140616_134213If you know me, or at least the pre-motherhood me, you should know that those two lines above are reason enough for a cardiac arrest. Or at least a coma. But here I am. Telling you about it.

I was sitting down with him, reading while he was playing and in a fit of excitement he hit the Kindle with his Chhota Bheem action figure. I immediately checked the screen (after one panicked scream, of course) and it looked ok. But 10 minutes later, the display is all messed up. The page won’t turn, other menu functions don’t work and shutdown doesn’t work either. Hoping against hope, I checked again this morning and nope, no change. Go on, laugh – if you had your favorite gadget ruined, you will also expect miracles to happen overnight.

But here’s the thing – it didn’t feel like the end of the world. Before my son was born, sure. I would have been moping around for a full week, telling anyone who even came within a 1km radius of me (real world and virtual!) that my Kindle was broken and drowning my sorrow in a glass of vodka. Ok, the last one I made up, but it’s close. But now? Nothing. My only thought was, do I now read on the laptop or slug it out on the phone? I also thought now was a good time to read all those paper books that I hadn’t read yet, because obviously, a pause in reading, no matter how short, was not acceptable. And no, I was not pissed off with my son. I was more pissed off with myself, of course, for being so careless.

So, to my sister-in-law: I know now.

When my husband got home, I told him what happened. He gave me this look that said: Why aren’t you more sad about it? Why do you allow him to come near the Kindle? Why weren’t you more careful?

Because I’m a mother now. And that’s what mothers do. We trust our infants and toddlers to play “carefully” with our gadgets much more than is reasonably allowed, just so the kid can have some fun and more importantly, let us have a few minutes of peace. All the things in our precious list move down one step because a new king has arrived to top the list and this will continue for all eternity.

It’s tough, but that’s how we live. Gadget in one hand and a gadget-destroyer in the other.

Creepy freaky scary rhymes

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Were nursery rhymes always this scary and/or depressing? Now that my son is of an age where he likes them, I find myself reading more rhymes and wondering when they got so creepy, weird and sad. And in some cases, even a bit cruel and rude!

Sample this -

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away!

I know it’s just a nursery rhyme and I shouldn’t read between the lines, etc. but I’m really confused on what I’m supposed to teach him through this rhyme. If this weren’t a nursery rhyme, it would probably be some girl’s painful account of being harassed! You might ask me why does it always have to be teaching him something; why can’t he just read it for fun and forget about it? Well, children these days are not like that. My son is noticing and learning things even when I’m not consciously teaching him. He correlates and comes up with his own interpretations far too often. So it becomes my duty to ensure he gets the right meaning before he figures it out on his own.

And what is with all the violence (minor, but still!) in rhymes?!

Check out this one -

It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning!

Or this -

Goosey goosey gander, where do you wander,
Upstairs and downstairs in my ladies chamber.
There I met an old man, who wouldn’t say his prayers
I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs!

What do we have against these poor old men that we get so much pleasure in seeing them hurt?! And did we ever wonder if Jack and Jill were in pain, when we happily sang about them falling down the hill?

And here’s one I read recently, which left me totally confused and lost -

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread
And she whipped them all soundly and put them to bed!

What the heck?!

I know that most nursery rhymes came out of a parody of historical or political events and were usually in jest of the people involved. But when it’s for children, I’d much rather read something fun and magical, like this one -

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

This one also is probably based on some event in the past, but hey, it’s a fun read, with cows jumping over moons and the cat playing the fiddle. My son loves the part about the spoon. He likes this one too:

The owl and the pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat.
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapper in a five pound note.

And thankfully, popular ones like Twinkle Twinkle and Baa Baa Black sheep, Mary had a little lamb, Little Bo Peep, etc. are still ok.

Given how hyper-aware and paranoid parents these days are, the day is not far when nursery rhymes will also have G, PG, R and A ratings!

So what’s the most freaky/scary/confusing rhyme you’ve ever read? And if you’re a parent, how do you deal with inappropriate content in the reading that’s still meant for children?

And then there were some…

Reading has been slow for obvious reasons. The marathon reading sessions I used to do (notable is HP 7, which I read almost non-stop, while traveling from Hyderabad to Trivandrum, from around 7 AM till 2:30 AM of the next day) is a distant memory – almost feels like it was in another life. But hey, it isn’t that bad either. I still read at least a couple of chapters each day and a good book gets done in about a week, which is not so bad.

So here’s what I read the last few weeks -

Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman

Loved this! A very good example of the phrase ‘spinning a tale’ and it’s just like the outlandish bedtime stories my Dad used to tell us when we were kids. I’m planning to buy a hardcover and keep it for my son, to read to him when he’s a bit older. His Dad, unlike mine, does not do fantasy stories. His will probably be cricket strategies and project management (on second thoughts, that maybe a good idea for bedtime, given how yawn-worthy it can all get! heh heh).

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This was also a good read. I particularly like books that are set in other countries, which take us through their culture and customs as part of the narrative. In those terms, this book was an eye-opener to what it means to be African – in Africa (Nigeria) and in America. Adiche’s prose is captivating and, if you have enough imagination, can make it seem like watching a movie instead of reading a book!

A tale for the time being, by Ruth Ozeki

This is my kind of book! Reminded me of Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the shore’, for some reason (maybe because it’s set in Japan? maybe because of all the improbable things that happen? I don’t know.). After a long time, I read a book that was on the unputdownable category, so I may or may not have skipped my son’s playtime a couple of times to get my reading done :-P

The Testament of Mary, by Colm Toibin

This book was on the Man Booker shortlist for 2013 and I’ve been reading those books now just for the heck of it. It’s a very short book and I liked it, I guess. It gives a different perspective on the whole Jesus being the son of God thing (I know ‘thing’ is not the word, but I don’t know what else to use there – theory? concept? belief?) and that too from Mary herself. I liked the prose and I especially liked how dark and depressing some scenes were – it’s a bit of a challenge to imagine a world that far long in history (er, 2014 years approx?) and I guess I liked that bit of brain exercise!

The Secret life of bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

This one started off great, but then plateaued out in the later half. Nevertheless, interesting enough to keep me reading till the end. I did learn a few things about bees, that’s for sure. It’s set during the MLK era of American history, with Blacks just getting the right to vote. Reasonable read, if you have nothing else better.

I’m currently reading Jim Crace’s Harvest (another from the Booker shortliest) and so far, it is moderately enjoyable. Again, because it’s set in old England and if you know me you know I’m a sucker for books/movies set in England!

So, what have you (yep, I have no problem posing questions to my imaginary readers) been reading? Anything I can pick up next? Tell me soon.

Note to self

It’s tough being a stay-at-home-mom of a toddler. When I say tough I mean a whole lot of other things which I cannot actually type out ‘coz then I’ll probably be judged the most terrible mother in the world. So I’ll just go with tough. Except the 2 hour nap that my son takes during the day, the rest of the time is spent with me actively engaged in conversations with him. He’s 1.5 years old. So obviously, we don’t talk about current affairs (I’m assuming discussing the ‘current affairs’ of how the house looks with his toys strewn all over the place doesn’t count) or the new Prime Minister/Chief Minister or the latest movies on the block or software development. We talk about books, yes, but it’s mostly me telling him not to tear up my treasured  Calvin and Hobbes that he’s somehow got his hands on or to pick up his alphabet book and show me L for Lion. There are good moments, definitely. But it’s also mostly child talk. There’s rarely any stimulus for MY brain.

 Ok, I’ll say it, it’s boring.

A lot of you have already judged me, this second. What?! She finds it boring to spend time with her one and only child? A little toddler who’s so full of new tricks and words and trying to discover the world around him? Hell, forget YOU judging me, I’ve already judged myself! But I can’t help it. I am bored. And I think it’s time I stopped beating myself up about it. It’s ok for a mother to be bored of spending ALL her  time with her child. Keyword being ALL.

Now, where am I going with this? I’m trying to change how I spend my time everyday. I’ve tried it a lot of times already, but it’s never worked as well as I would have wanted it to. Maybe if I put up my..well, resolutions, for want of a better word, up on the public domain, I’ll probably stick it to better than I have done previously. So, here’s what I’m going to do -

1. Blog. Yep, I know this space has been neglected for over a year now. It’s a good outlet for having normal adult conversations (even if it’s imaginary readers! Actually, I do it best with imaginary readers. They are such a hoot!) or at least write about things that do not involve are not always about my son or his routines or his antics or his food..well.. you get the picture.

2. Once in a while, pick my leisure over a chore. I’m bad at this. Right now, everything but my leisure gets the top priority. Laundry, tidying up, cooking, washing up – anything that doesn’t involve me putting my feet up. This is the one where I have failed over and over again. So yeah, HUGE note to self.

3. Pick up the Kindle instead of the smartphone. It’s like eating a healthy salad instead of that cholesterol-rich French fries that leaves you thirsty and also kills your appetite.

There are probably other things I should also be doing, but I’m going to take it slow. And if I don’t show any progress, smack me on my head the next time you see me. Or you can actually leave a smack in the comment space and I’ll ask my son to execute it on your behalf (please mention if it’s a hand-based smack or a plastic-cricket-bat based one. Son is well versed in the latter and finds it more fun, FYI.)

P.S: The last photo of my son on this blog was when he was a few weeks old. He’s 19 months old now. Here, see. And yes, this is the guy that I find boring to spend ALL my time with. Sue me.

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