A dream coming true!

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My son loves books. He loves his books and he loves mine too. Yes, even the boring ones with no pictures – he just likes to riffle through the pages, turn it this side and that side and I even caught him smelling the pages once. If you know me, you’ll know that that moment was probably one of the most happiest moments of my life. See, I could never be sure he’ll take to books. Half of his genes vehemently detest books of any kind and there’s nothing I can do about it. But looks like the better half of his genes (yes, mine!) prevailed.

I’ve been asked how he does this. How is he so interested in books, at 2.5 years of age. Simple – he’s always been surrounded by books, right from the time he could crawl. Not before, though. I was not one of those women who read or sang to their unborn child. I wanted to, but I couldn’t afford to become attached to the baby before he/she was born and have my heart broken yet again. And I also had a distinct indifference to books when I was pregnant and during the first few months of motherhood – I’m going to blame the hormones and move on. So yeah, if you didn’t read to your pregnant belly, it’s ok dude – they can still like books, don’t worry! ;-)

Right. So, when he was around a year old, he got his first picture books. Ironically, we didn’t buy it for him – it was a gift from my friend when we dropped by to visit her! It was a board book with no sharp edges (very important, when giving books to little children) and a touch and feel theme – the images were laid out in patterned paper/cloth/fur so the child can touch and learn. I lose count of the number of meals I have gotten him to eat with the help of these board books. Oh, that’s a great time to get them to see books, btw – when they are tied and bibbed up in their high chair, with a table in front of them.

The next few months he was getting more and more picture books (alphabets, numbers, animals, birds, vegetables, fruits, vehicles, etc.) thanks to his super-enthu Dad who couldn’t stop buying them for some reason. At some point, I might have actually asked him to stop buying so many books. So even though there was no active reading per se, books became as familiar to him as toys, if not more. He could sit by himself and run through all the books, sounding out the words he knew.

Then came nursery rhymes. First the audio and then the books. Nursery rhymes are a fun way to get a child to learn a language and introduce new words and actions into their vocabulary. Only thing is we need to try not to complicate things by looking at the inner meaning of some of these rhymes because, dude, they are downright mean! :-D Just sing the damn rhyme and get it over with – don’t go around explaining the meaning to the child please! They have some time before reality hits them on their butt, before swinging a punch on their face.

We then gradually moved to stories – simple ones, with every day terms and themes. It need not be the actual classics, but a heavily watered down version is good. He has a version of Alice in Wonderland that’s about 8 pages, with 2 or 3 lines per page – THAT simple. The language lacks nuance and quality, of course, but I make it up when reading it to him (I correct the grammar before I read it aloud! Heh heh, old habits die hard mate!). In hindsight, check the language before buying the book – some of them are very badly written and it’s a pain (literally!) to read them.

When he was almost 1.5, I got him his first Dr.Seuss book – A wocket in my pocket. It is gold, trust me. The Blue Back series is for toddlers, so I just blindly bought a couple of them – result, he was already finished with the slightly complex ones before seeing the simpler ones! :-D Example, The Foot Book is probably a good one to start with, instead of ABC or One Fish Two Fish. No harm done, just that they enjoy the simpler book a tad less than the others.

The latest additions in his library (yep, he has an ever-growing one!) are The Lion King, The Jungle Book and T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s book of practical cats. The last one was a gamble, but hey, he did like the poems and has some favorites too! These books are for me to read to him – they have comparatively less illustrations than his earlier story books and I was wondering if he would like them or not, but he did. It all comes down to how we read, btw – a monotonous reading will not help in getting the child interested, trust me. They need to feel the drama and the excitement! So I had to brush up on MY reading skills before picking up the books. And the other thing I do (rather, ended up doing without realizing) is to read each story the same way every time – the same cadence, pausing/stressing at the same place, etc. so now he’s able to complete the sentences in the book after reading it 3 or 4 times. This, I find, is a good way to improve their speech and vocabulary. I’ve heard him repeat those phrases to himself when he’s pretend-playing with his toys!

So, there. Even though I’m running out of space in the cupboard for all his books and even though there are times when I don’t really feel like reading but I HAVE to because he’s being all whiny and cranky, I’m completely thrilled that my boy loves books almost as much as me! I’ll never have to worry about him being bored or lonely as long as he has books around him. I can’t wait for him to grow up and discover the infinite pleasure that is reading, all those wondrous journeys to far away magical places, to let his imagination run riot at the mere sight of words.

His first Eric Carle is in the mail. And I’m buying him his first Enid Blyton shortly. That’s a milestone. The next would be when I thrust a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone into his hands and see him vanish into his room for a day and a half. All the Ruskin Bond. Calvin and Hobbes. I can’t wait to roll my eyes at him when he invariably tries out some of the Young-Adult junk and hates it just like I do. I can’t wait to see him inhale his food down so he can go back to the Jonathan Stroud or Neil Gaiman book, unmindful of my exasperation at yet another uneaten meal. And before you know it, he’ll be old enough to read Ayn Rand. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Murakami, David Mitchell and all my other favorite authors. And all the contemporary fiction of his time, 20 years from now.

I can’t wait for him to recommend a book to me, maybe even buy me one with the first bit of money he earns. And then we will have come full circle.

I can’t wait for him to read, even without food or water or sleep, as if his life depended on it.

To have or not to have

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Motherhood evaded me thrice. The fourth time I prevailed. By then, it had come down to pure probability – the more times I lost, the better my chances of a win. But it’s so tiring. Physically and emotionally. Once that need comes in, that need to create life and nurture it, little else can compensate for the absence.

Sometimes I feel it’s a very selfish thing, wanting to have children. I mean, the child didn’t exactly ask to be born, right? I wanted a child. Me. I wanted to be a mother. Ironically, once you do become a mother, somehow, you enter this whole phase of selflessness where anything and everything you do is for that little person who you brought into the world. Good one, God – we humans must be such a source of entertainment for you! ;-)

Where am I going with all this? As usual, nowhere. I have a small presence on Instagram and my next photo there will be my 1000th. Since I’m such a sucker for mostly meaningless milestones (I originally wrote just ‘meaningless milestones’ but who can pass up a chance for a pathetic alliteration, eh? I can’t!), I will make a little disturbance in the otherwise calm surface that is my blog and watch how far the wave travels before returning to steady state. Given how cliched the world is, my 1000th photo will obviously be one of my son’s. I still haven’t decided which one. If you’re wondering why I spend precious time contemplating a photo on Instagram, well, don’t. It’s bad enough I’M wasting time, no reason why you should do it too.

Anyway..long tangent short, I was thinking about the kid and how much the husband and I have struggled to be where we are now. Being childless is like living with a constant pain that just won’t go away no matter what you do to distract yourself or change your surroundings or any of those things you’re told to do by people around you. Oh, as opposed to being childfree, which is a choice and one that I totally respect. And sometimes feel jealous of – you know, during those days when the son is driving me up the wall and it’s all I can do to not lose my cool with him and make things worse (what? I’m human. And I’m just being honest. I dare you to show me a mother who’s all chirpy and happy 24×7, 365.25 days a year. I dare you.).

So yes, getting back, I’ve been on the all sides of the motherhood scene – initially childless, then temporarily childfree and then a mother. Neither of those is an easy place to be in, trust me. If you’re childless, there’s this baby-shaped hole in your life that you can’t fill up. If you’re childfree, there’s all those uncomfortable questions and judgmental glares to navigate through at least till every aunty in a 500km radius and all your Facebook/Whatsapp contacts are sufficiently satisfied that what you do with your life is your business, not theirs. And if you’re a mother, well, it has its own set of challenges, the most difficult of which to deal with is resentment – that others get to do such and such thing while you’re stuck doing the same thing day in and day out (here we are both equal – the SAHM and the working mom) – and it’s never ending. For all of us.

Children. Why are they such a big deal?

Oh wait. The human race. That’s why.

But is that all? Instead of my neighbor and I having one child each, if my neighbor had 2 and I had none – the human race is going to do just fine, no? So it can’t be that.

Then what is it about having children that makes it so complicated irrespective of whether we have one or not?

Is it so we can see little photocopies of ourselves, ours to bring up in our own messed up way? But that doesn’t explain adoption or donor pregnancies. The lengths we go to or are willing to go to, no matter how painful, to attain parenthood.

And why do people look at it as such a bad thing if you decide not to have children?

I don’t know. Tell me, if you do.

Or let’s just wait for an epiphany.

Book Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a good ol’ murder mystery at heart. But while the narrative gets there, we also get a quick primer on domestic violence, on bullying in schools and, here’s the part that freaks out the mother in me, kindergarten politics! :-D

See, I have a son who’ll be starting nursery school in a few months. Every time I think of it, my heart skips a beat, there’s a lurch in my stomach and I need to sit down and take deep breaths. Yep, almost a panic attack. I’m pretty sure I’ll be the bundle of nerves on the first day of school, not the child.

And here comes Liane Moriarty with a book that deals with exactly that – how a bunch of parents navigate this minefield that is kindergarten, with their own personal struggles and having to stay strong for the children while still managing to remain sane. And oh, someone is murdered amidst all this. Oh, calamity! ;-)

I liked the book. There are parallel threads going on, sort of a countdown to the D-day (or should I say M-day?) and even though it was a bit off in the beginning, I could get into that after a while. But throughout the read, all I kept thinking was dammit, this can happen to me! I mean, what’s worse – being the mother of the bully or being the mother of the bullied? I don’t know! I’d have a heart attack with either, thank you very much.

I don’t mean to take away the spotlight from the murder, but that’s how the book progressed and maybe that’s what made it a page-turner for me. I doubt if (at the risk of sounding severely cliched or stereotypical or just plain condescending) a non-mother would feel about this book the way I do. There, I said it. Troll me, pretty please. It’s every mother’s worst fear – having the school call you and say your child is hurt or your child has hurt someone else. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Bullying is every mother’s worst nightmare. So yeah, the book freaked me out a little bit and made me that much more nervous about the day my son goes to school.

The domestic violence part – yes, I’ve read it in some other book (I forget which, maybe a Mary Higgins Clark book) and it’s a typical silent killer of most marriages. It’s also one of those things where it’s very easy for a third person to say get out! get out! but in reality isn’t as simple as that. Or maybe it is and that’s why it’s so hard. I’m rambling.

Ok, so read this book if you want an every day family-drama based murder mystery. Say a Desperate Housewives type book. I finished it in less than a day, so it’s not going to hog up your time. A light read, maybe you can fit it in between a Murakami and a Saramago book? [No matter what you read, do not touch Jose Saramago’s Blindness if you want to be a happy person without any suicidal tendencies and/or depression. Just saying.]

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Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Locke Lamora! I like you. I more than like you. I don’t LOVE you yet, but maybe by the second book I might. There’s a bit of a resemblance to the Scarlet Pimpernel and/or Robin Hood, but I’m willing to overlook that if the adventures are brand new!

First off, it doesn’t feel like the author’s debut novel. Good narrative, strong characters and a reasonably good plot (although I personally would have preferred more shocking revelations with regard to the bad guys!) make this book, and I hope the series, a good read. The book falls in the same genre as Game of Thrones (or ASOIAF), The Kingkiller Chronicles, etc. and well, it may not be in the same league as the uber-elaborate ASOIAF, but it does have a promising start. I have the second book in the series and I’m going to start reading it once I read a couple of different genres in between, so it doesn’t feel monotonous! (Yes, I do things like that. Crazy? Maybe. Who cares!)

But hey, biggest grouse – no major female characters, dude. Like, none. Just a reference to a long lost ex-girlfriend, but nothing beyond that. I hope that’s taken care of in the next book, because we need more ladies please! Don’t ask me why. We don’t need any sentimental stuff, but a Xena Warrior Princess or Lara Croft type person won’t hurt. ;-)

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Just another day at the office! #not

I’m going to rant now because it’s been an awful while since I did. And because I can.

So I get a call from some guy claiming to be from the insurance company I took a policy from and saying it was about my policy. He starts speaking in this really heavily accented Hindi and at a speed that would put a bullet train to shame. Before he could get to any specifics I told him, “sorry, can you please speak in English? I’m not comfortable with Hindi.”. The guy then says, “And I yam not comfoRtaybel in English” and hangs up. And I’m left holding the phone, wondering what the heck just happened.

Seriously, what does it take to have an English-speaking person to man the f***ing customer service lines? Or at least ASK me what language I’d prefer? Just because your service rep is sitting in some hole in Gurgaon or Noida (or Bangalore? Chennai? I don’t know! I don’t care!) doesn’t mean the rest of the country should suddenly be well-versed in spoken Hindi, that too with a heavy accent. You can’t call up a customer, say it’s about something they’ve bought from you and then hang up on said customer because he/she couldn’t understand what you were saying.

I know there are folks who will now pull the “Hindi is our national language, how come you don’t know it, blah blah blah” card. Wait, ok? Firstly, this whole national language thing is highly debatable. Let’s leave it there. Secondly, I know Hindi. I’ve taken all those Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha exams, all the way from Madhyama to Praveen and it actually qualifies me to teach Hindi in some places. It’s not a question of not knowing the language. My problem is I’m not comfortable discussing important things (like my life insurance policy!) in a language that I don’t really converse in on a daily basis. The most Hindi I speak is to my temporary house-help and the most technical words in that conversation are jhadoo, pocha and bartan.

See what my problem is? And you know what’s worse? I get this exact same type of call every bloody week. It’s the same thing all over again – I tell them I need an English speaking person and there’s this long pause while the person takes offence and then hangs up. Dude, what the eff?

I still don’t know what it is about my policy that they want to discuss so badly. Maybe I should call THEM up and ask in Telugu. Every damn week.

But it’s my insurance policy. Dammit.

A post without a photo is a bit sad, so here’s a pic of something I would love love love right about now – mocha coffee!
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Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The Book of Lost Things” is a new-age fairy tale of fairy tales. You know, the ones we enjoyed as children – Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel – and others have all had a little makeover and make an appearance in this book, in sinister forms, with villains becoming heroes and vice versa. There’s adventure, monsters being killed, people being saved – the works! And I found this a good change, between all the reality-based fiction I’ve been reading of late.

It could very well be a children’s book, actually. But something adults can enjoy if one loved fairy tales, what they symbolized and especially if you didn’t quite believe in the happily-ever-after once you grew up and life had thrown enough lemons to fill the Pacific with lemonade.

Oh, at the risk of being a spoiler, THIS fairy tale’s happily-ever-after is pretty much that – happily.ever.after. Small mercies, eh? I personally don’t like my book ending in a tragedy – what with all those hours we invest in reading the darn thing!

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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fairy tale. That’s probably an apt genre for this book. It leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, a little sadness and ache but with a feeling of hope and of beautiful friendships. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters and experience their emotions as you read on.

It’s a beautifully written book! It’s at once happy and sad – if that’s even possible! Like a friend said, it will take a while for this one’s hangover to end.

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