Friday, August 18, 2006

"Holiday"

There should be a word to describe the whole experience of going for a trip with a baby. Because ‘holiday’, ‘vacation’ and ‘break’ are grossly inaccurate ways of describing it.

To start with, you travel with enough stuff to feed and clothe an army. The tough part here is not that you have to carry it because other than loading it on and off the trolley at the airport, that part is largely taken care of for you. But the packing and unpacking can sure be a downer. There are so many fragile items that you have to pack with care and then you worry about them till you can open your suitcase again and reassure yourself. Try packing the video camera, the digital camera, the baby monitor and multiple jars of baby food in a suitcase whilst ensuring that each is safely cushioned amongst soft items like clothes, don’t touch each other and are far enough from the load-bearing areas and you will know just what I mean. And with the crazy levels of airport security, we had to open up everything at the baggage check because they wanted to see what the suspicious liquid (baby food) was and also made us separate the batteries from all the electronic equipment. Phew! I was exhausted before we even started…

The plane journey to Goa was reasonably uneventful since the flight was not full and we were able to able to put Ayaan in a seat of his own. For once, he was not the noisiest baby on the flight (he more than made up for this good behaviour on the flight back but I’ll get to that a little later). By the time, we got the hotel, it was already evening so Ayaan played around in the rooms for a bit and then we took him down for dinner. We took along a folding booster seat so he was able to sit at the table with us. This was good for us but I am sure the hotel staff would disagree since the area where we sat looked like a war zone since Ayaan decided to test his throwing arm on whatever food and cutlery he could get his hands on! After that, we made sure to sit outside to reduce our nuisance value to the hotel and its other guests!

Sunday was fun since we introduced Ayaan to the pool for the first time. He was a little apprehensive so we started really slow. I sat at the edge of the kiddies pool with him in my lap and let him dangle his toes in the water for a while. Then he stood knee-deep on the first step and then waist-deep on the second step, before I carried him into the pool with me. After some initial wariness, he really enjoyed himself and even played with another boy.

In the evening, we took him to the beach. He enjoyed playing in the sand but the sea completely freaked him out. Basically, the shifting sands under the water bothered him. So we spread out his toys on the beach and he happily played with his toys for quite a while.

Monday was not so great since Ayaan got a fever and was cranky and clingy through the day. I don’t know if it was the time in the pool or the air-conditioned environs of the hotel that did it but that pretty much sent the 'holiday' for a toss. On Tuesday, we left in the afternoon. Ayaan refused to nap in the morning, cried throughout the flight and threw up all over me when we landed.

Phew! It will be a while before I try that again…

As for the pictures, the humidity completely screwed up the cameras and they refused to work. The digital camera worked for some of the time so here are some of the pictures, we did manage to click…

Mama's little helper (or atleast that's what he thinks since he was under the mistaken impression that I was packing when actually I was unpacking and he kept putting his books and toys back into the suitcase)


Ayaan makes a splash...


Ayaan makes a friend in the pool. This kid played with him really sweetly - running around in the pool while Ayaan chased him around, propelled by me. He laughed and laughed...



Ayaan tries to climb over the barrier into the big people's pool. Check out his cute swim diapers - they have Nemo the fish on them.


Ayaan at lunch just outside the main dining room...


Friday, August 11, 2006

How?

Today, the strangest thing happened. And I just can’t figure it out. I am going to try and describe it and if anyone can figure it out, please let me know.

When I got to office, there was an envelope lying on my desk. This is the description of the envelope and its contents:

  • It was one of those airmail envelopes with the postage stamp pre-printed on it (as opposed to being glued on).
  • The postage stamp is from the United Arab Emirates. I don’t know anyone who lives there.
  • The postmark on the stamp is Kottayam, a town in Kerala. I don’t know anyone who lives there either. There is no Mumbai stamp anywhere.
  • There is a printed sticker on the envelope with my office address on it. What’s unusual about it is that unlike the other mail I receive at work, it has neither my designation nor my department mentioned on it.
  • The flap has been closed with some Scotch tape.
  • Inside the envelope is a single sheet of thick, cream coloured letter paper.
  • On the letter-paper, there is a letter that says the following:



Abu Dhabi
12.06.2006

Dear Papa, Mom and Namita,

Trust all of you are fine. Sanjay, Divya and me are all very eager to see you. Divya’s school vacations start by the end week of June. She has already got me to book the flight tickets for June 30.

My colleague and close friend Ravi is getting married on July 18. I’m planning to gift him a mixer-grinder. And for you Mom, how about a fully automatic washing machine? We’ll go shopping in Kochi or Thrissur I’m glad I don’t have to pay excess baggage this time, since we can get all the stuff from Kerala itself. Is the plastering of the new house over? Papa, please keep the flooring and painting on hold till I come.

When is Namita’s exams getting over? Mom I feel it’s time we bought some jewellery and started planning for her marriage. I’ll call up later to confirm our travel plans. In the meantime, Mom, you can get the mango pickles ready. And yes, coconut barfis for Divya. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Yours,
Anita



  • I don’t know anyone by the name of Namita or Divya and the Anita I know lives in London.
  • How and why has this letter, which has nothing to do with anyone I know, arrived in an envelope addressed to me?

Anyone like to venture a guess? Because I can’t for the life of me figure this one out.

In other news, we are heading off to Goa for a long weekend. I just made the list of things to be packed – as you would remember from the last post, packing for non-business travel clearly lies on the right side of the table, which is my domain. A couple of funny things about the list:

  • There are 41 items listed under Ayaan’s name, 25 under mine and just 13 under Jai’s.
  • The toy list for Ayaan includes – beach toys, water toys and other toys.

Which brings me to the other thing I can’t figure out – is it possible to travel light with a baby. And if yes, how?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Division of Labour

Today I came across an old notebook in which we had clearly outlined roles and responsibilities for each other. This is what it looks like:

Jai's ResponsibilitiesRohini's Responsibilities
  • Bill payments

  • Car maintenance

  • Managing finances (including insurance)

  • Emergency groceries

  • Travel (tickets, passorts, etc)

  • Putting suitcases back after travel

  • Repairs around the house

  • Getting rid of things we no longer need

  • Entertainment (movie tickets, lunch reservations)

  • Counting and giving clothes to the dhobi*

  • Administrative work for the new house

  • Paying the servants' salaries
  • Laundry

  • Buying groceries

  • Managing Ayaan - feeding, clothing, bedtime, doctor's visits, etc.

  • Supervision of daily cleaning and cooking

  • Weekly spring cleaning

  • Instructions to and training of servants

  • Packing (except for business travel)

  • All design aspects of the new house


* dhobi - person who irons our clothes

Some points to note:

  • Jai likes to boast about the fact that his list is longer - the implication being that he does more work in the house. But a closer look at the list reveals that the comparative lengths of the lists are not representative of the division of responsibility.
  • To start with, the magnitude of the tasks on both the lists is quite different. One task on my list (that of managing Ayaan) is bigger than all the tasks on Jai’s lists put together.
  • Most of the tasks on my list are urgent, immediate and essential while most of Jai’s tasks can be postponed or done at one’s convenience. Ayaan has to be fed, clothed and put to sleep today, tomorrow and everyday but car maintenance or house repairs can be done at one’s convenience.
  • Most of the tasks on Jai’s list are jobs that need to be done once a week (movie tickets, emergency groceries and bill payment) or less (car maintenance, getting rid of things). The only exception to this is the dhobi responsibility that is part of Jai’s list of to-do things – and this is his responsibility only because the dhobi usually times his daily visits at the same time that I am busy putting Ayaan to bed. On the other hand, most of the tasks on my list are of a daily nature – with the exception of groceries and packing.
  • While many things show on Jai’s lists of responsibilities, they still have to remain on my mental to-do list to ensure that I keep following up and reminding Jai to get these done. Did I hear someone say ‘control freak’? Just to silence that dissident voice, here is a glimpse into what happens if I don’t:
    • Our telephone line gets disconnected atleast 3-4 times a year because ‘someone’ forgot to pay the bill.
    • I have been driving around without a side view mirror (it got stolen) for close to three months.
    • When we come back from a trip, it takes atleast a week of nagging and tripping over empty suitcases before they are put back on top of the cupboard.
  • Delegation of tasks is a one-way street – coming towards me. It is usually not a good idea for me to delegate my tasks to Jai. Often this is because I have to nag him so much to do it that it is less effort to just do it myself. Even when he does actually do the work, I wish I hadn’t asked him to, like in these examples:
    • The other day, Jai decided to help me out by putting the laundry in the machine. Not only did he mix whites and coloured clothes, he also threw my sequined ‘dry-clean only’ top in for the ride as well.
    • When I had gone to Jaipur, I had asked him to wash, dry and put up the curtains in our bedroom. When I came back, it was all done and I was most impressed at such levels of efficiency and compliance. However, the hooks were fixed to the curtain so badly that they proceeded to disengage one by one till yesterday they were barely hanging there. So I had to take them down last evening, take all the hooks off and put them back and then hang up the curtain again.


    In the same notebook, I also came across this note I wrote to Jai. This was back in the days when Ayaan would only sleep on me. So I needed to tell Jai to get his meal ready without talking and waking Ayaan. To any other person, I would have simply written “Can you please heat Ayaan’s dinner”. Given that it was Jai, here is what I wrote:

    “Boil some water. Then put it into a big dish and stand his dinner (in the plastic box lying on top of the dining table – show me if you are not sure) in it. The water level should not be high enough to leak into the food but should be high enough to heat properly."

    :)

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Sugar and spice and everything nice? Not so much...

    I have been looking at the fairy tales and nursery rhymes that we grew up with and some of them have pretty Grim(m) themes running through them that vary from the weird to the downright morbid. Here are some that I can remember (with some able help from Google)-

    Poverty and starvation
    In Hansel and Gretel, the father is so poor and unable to provide for even the most basic of his children’s needs that he agrees to go along with his second wife’s scheme to abandon them in the forest. In Jack and the Beanstalk, the poor widow and her son Jack live a life of extreme poverty, depending only on the milk that their cow gives and one day, that too stops. And finally there was Old Mother Hubbard whose cupboard was bare and whose poor hungry dog has to go without a bone.

    Child Neglect
    In Hush-a-Bye-Baby (my least favourite lullaby ever), the baby is left hanging in his/ her cradle on the treetopand is told that his cradle is likely to come tumbling down if the wind blows - not a very sleep-inducing thought! In Hansel and Gretel, the parents abandon their children to almost certain starvation and death in the forest.

    Animal Cruelty
    The award for depiction of animal cruelty clearly goes to Mother Goose with her nursery rhymes like Ding Dong Bell (where the poor pussycat is drowned by Little Tommy Thin), Three Blind Mice (where the farmer’s wife cuts of the tails of three visually handicapped mice) and Sing a Song of Sixpence (where 24 blackbirds were baked into a pie when they were still alive).

    Attempted Murder
    The evil queen from Snow White would put any modern-day over-competitive beauty contest participant to shame. She would stop at nothing to ensure that that she was the ‘fairest of them all’ and tried to murder Snow White three times to achieve this end.

    Cannibalism
    As a kid, the witch in Hansel and Gretel always scared me silly. She kept Hansel locked up in a cage and fattened him up so that she could eat him. And who can forget the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk and his chilling chant of “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll have his bones to grind my bread”.

    Death
    In ‘Ladybug, Ladybug’, it’s not very clear what is meant when she says, “your house is on fire, your children are gone” – have they fled or are they dead? There is no doubt though in the case of poor little Humpty Dumpty who couldn’t be put back together again - a rather early introduction of death to the little tots.



    Unrequited Love

    The Little Mermaid leaves behind all she knows and loves (including her tail and her voice) to get a pair of legs and go up into the world. This is all done so that she can make the man of her dreams fall in love with her. In the end, he doesn’t and she comes to an untimely end by becoming one with the foam in the sea. Read a review of the same by Aqua, who couldn’t bear to expose her little daughter to such sadness and actually changed the ending while reading it to her…

    So I wonder. If these tales and rhymes were written today or made in films or TV shows, would they get away with a ‘U’ rating or would they merit atleast a ‘PG’...

    While googling around for this post, I also found another old favourite – which, as it turns out, I was singing wrong all these years:

    The English Version:
    Ring a-round the roses,
    A pocket full of posies,
    A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
    We all fall down.

    The American Version:
    Ring a-round the roses,
    A pocket full of posies,
    Ashes! Ashes!
    We all fall down.

    What I used to sing:
    Ring-a-ring-a-roses
    A pocket full of posies
    Husha busha
    We all fall down.

    Was I the only one or is this the Indian version? :)

    Updates:

    Some of the comments alerted me to stuff that I had missed out:

    1. Ranjit informs me that Ring-a-round is really about the bubonic plague that swept Europe in the fourteeth century, claiming the lives of over 30% of the population. Now, that is really morbid...

    2. M points out Cinderella as an example of child labour.

    3. Talena adds that most so-called "fairy-tales" were originally told around fires and in ale-houses as adult entertainment, which is why they are so gory, violent, and filled with terrible themes.

    4. The Visitor points to the fact that Agatha Christie used nursery rhymes as the titles and themes of many of murder mysteries. Here are some that I could find:

    - And Then There Were None

    - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

    - Five Little Pigs

    - A Pocket Full of Rye

    - Hickory Dickory Dock

    - Three Blind Mice

    5. Lady M suggests that Hush-a-Bye-Baby might have been a parable about an English king, possible Charles II, whose reign was threatened. I wonder how and when it made a transition from that into being a lullaby.

    6. And now for the most bizarre one. According to Frida, the nursery rhyme The Muffin Man is really about Jack the Ripper!

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Of noses and belly buttons

    I have been trying to teach Ayaan his body parts for a really long time now. About a month ago, he got what and where a nose was and would point to his nose every time you said the word. This was really exciting but he got kind of stuck on this and no matter what body part I mentioned or pointed to, he would point only to his nose.

    And finally a breakthrough. He has been very interested in my tummy of late – lots of flab, an abundance of stretch marks and the presence of a belly button all add up to irresistible in his little world. So whenever I am flat on my back, he comes and lifts up my T-shirt and starts poking around. So I would point to my belly button and say “Belly button” and then point to his and repeat. Today in the morning, I asked him –“Ayaan, where’s your belly button?” fully expecting him to point to his nose. And he actually lifted his T-shirt up and pointed right at it. Pride and joy!

    The first word has happened too. He has been saying Mama for over a month now though we go back and forth about whether that’s just a new sound or whether he is actually referring to me. Currently, he seems to have got bored with plain vanilla ‘Mama’ and is experimenting with various ways of saying it…

    “Mmmmmmmmmama”
    “Mammmmmmmmma”
    “Mamawee”
    “Mummm”
    “Amumm”
    “Mamamamama”


    and so on and so forth...These are also said with varying degrees of emphasis, intonations and at various volumes. I think he trying to find the best rendition that he is going to be comfortable with using for the next 50 years.

    Among other non-words that he is constantly blabbering, there is something called ‘Dan-yaa’ that comes up pretty often. The jury is still out on whether those are his first attempts to say ‘Daddy’...