The second snip

My son started nursery school 2 weeks ago. The first week was orientation and I was present with him throughout. He was fine. The second week he had to sit through 3 hours of school without me. He bawled his eyes out for the first 30 min every day. But he was ok. This week – yesterday was the same clinging-to-Amma’s-legs-and-crying routine. Today? Today he walked in like he owned the place, kept his bag in its place, looked at me and said, “Will you come back later, Ma?”. And when I said, “Yes, baby! I’ll come pick you up at 12!”, he turned and walked away to his friends and toys. Not another glance. His class teacher and I were gaping at each other wondering what the heck just happened.

And on the drive back home, I realized what just happened – the second snip on the umbilical cord. He’s spending a part of his time on his own, without me. Without his parents or his home. His first few tentative steps towards being himself.

Even though technically the cord is cut at birth, the way I see it, the first real snip was when I stopped nursing him. When my body no longer nourished his. When he had to eat and drink on his own, to nourish himself. His body and mine were no longer connected in any way. If I ate, that does not mean he got the nutrition anymore. The first few days I was actually apprehensive – is he getting enough food? Is that formula any good? What if he loses weight? You get the drift. But then I adapted (yes, me and not him). And before I knew it, there were a whole new bunch of challenges to face and milestones to celebrate. Like weaning him off the bottle. Like the first time he recited the entire Gruffalo book to an awestruck mother and father. And then came school.

After breaking our heads on a million different parameters and planning which banks to rob, we decided on a school and got the admission done. I was more nervous than him, trust me. Nervous mostly on how he would adjust without me. And then I looked at my husband and realized the poor man was even more terrified. The 5 minutes when a teacher took him to participate in an activity (while we listened to the Orientation demo), his attention was entirely on the son and I’m sure he would’ve sprained his neck trying to see where he was and what he was doing. It’s another story that the little guy came back in 5 min saying he wanted us. Yeah, well.

So now looks like he’s all set in school. Yes, there will be days when he still might cry and refuse to go. But I think he knows by now that school is going to be a big part of his life hereafter. Once he makes friends and finds activities he loves doing, he might actually love school.

Well, I hope he adjusts well and adjusts soon. I’m already all adjusted with the 4 hours of ‘freedom’ I’m getting, 5 days a week. I’m planning to catch up with all my friends over breakfast and if that’s not enough, I’m going to make new friends and catch up with THEM over breakfast. Yeah, baby. Because I can. Because I don’t have a toddler hanging off my legs anymore. Well, he does get home by 12, so I have a curfew after that, but still. 4 hours, yo. So many bookstores and supermarkets to get familiar with. So much ‘adult’ time. Please stop me before I sound too desperate and lame over 4 measly hours. What? Too late? Ok.

It’s 5 PM now. And he’s here, eating my brains with his ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘where’. Another couple of years and there will be a change in the communication. I’ll probably be running to Google every hour to answer him then, but hey, it’s good progress! As before, there will be new challenges, new beginnings and a lot of more memories. I guess the next milestone I’m looking forward to is to have a diaper-less handbag for myself (yes, my bag will always always have a diaper – I might forget keys or even my phone, but good God, I won’t forget the damn diaper).

There will be many more after that, the little steps from being a baby to a little boy to a teenager to a grown man. Some good ones, some that will make you realize how fast time flies, some that might even break your heart a little bit. For now, I can probably take heart with the fact that there is still a long time for the third and final snip – when he flies the nest, armed with whatever we have taught him, chasing his dreams and all I am is a contact on his phone that says ‘Amma’.
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Idli for President!

The first 20 years of my life, I hated idli. Oh, for my international readers, this is idli. Idli is to a south Indian what toast is to most Caucasians. Anyway, I hated it. What’s there to like – it’s bland, it’s a boring white, it’s not crispy, there’s no oil involved! Boh-ring!

And then I got a job and moved cities. From home, I went straight to this city called Hyderabad where the nearest idli was at least 20 km from where I lived. When you’re a single girl, on your own in a big city for the first time, dependent on public transport, it might as well have been 2000 km. For almost a year, I didn’t eat good idli. The ones I did eat were not even in the same food group as idli. I missed the buggers!

Then wedding happened. And hey, my mother bought me this wet grinder to make my very own batter and all my idli fantasies took flight again. Heaven.

Without further ado, here’s my idli journal. These were made in the course of the last month or so. See. And enjoy.

Idli, with Sambar and chutney. The Holy Grail of South Indian breakfast.

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Idli, with Chicken curry. Typical breakfast fare in a Telugu household when the son-in-law is visiting.

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Idli, with Peanut chutney. This is my childhood, at my maternal grandmother’s house, on a plate.

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Idli, with Pappulusu. Rayalseema fare. Comfort food when you miss Mommy.

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Idli, with Kurma. This is my humble idli making the most of a parotta-chapati invasion from the North.

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Idli, with Kumbakonam kadapa. Native of Tamilnadu but very joyously adopted into a Telugu household!

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Idli, made with oats, with Tomato pachadi. This is my idli adapting to the health conscious 21st century.

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These are just the ones I made and had the patience to take a photo of before stuffing my face. There are countless other accompaniments and variations of the idli, it’s actually ridiculous.

So, let’s raise a mug of sambar and a spoon of chutney to this most humble, unassuming of breakfasts – to the humble idli, which let’s the accompaniment take all the credit, while silently being the rock (not literally, mind you) on which they all flow.

Idli for President!

Brothers-in-arms

(Wrote this a while ago and I thought I published it here…apparently not! )

A rainy day. Two little kids, forced to stay indoors. Not a good thing. So we struck a deal – sit on the doorstep, watch the downpour but not a step out, even for a little bit.

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So that’s what they did, the cousins. The 3 year old explaining the garden, the rain and the birds to the 2 year old. And the latter diligently repeating the main words, to summarise. Just then there was a loud burst of crackers and the younger one’s body gave a little frightened jerk. And his cousin quietly put his hand on the other’s shoulder, patted him and said it’s ok, nothing to be scared of..just some ‘pattaas’.

I have 13 first cousins. My son and my nephew just have each other.

I hope they grow up to be best friends. With each other, through thick and thin. Not just mere cousins. Be brothers. And more.

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.

Then and Now

A month back when I was in London, I yearned for a snowfall – well, mostly ‘coz I’ve never seen one (sad, I know – but I’m a South Indian, the only ice I see is in the freezer of my refrigerator). But no, the weather gods were not so merciful and gave me nice & sunny days (much to the joy of the locals who’ll do anything for a sunny day). So it used to be like this –

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And you know what’s happening now? No? Well, the worst snow storm in 18 years, that’s what! So this is what it looks like now and I’m here in Hyderabad thinking why the heck I’m not there in London. Or why the heck doesn’t it snow like this in Hyderabad. Give me one good reason why and I don’t want the Equator and closer to the Sun crap, I need a better reason. Give.

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WTH!