Tuesday, December 18, 2007

‘Tis the Season

I have been meaning to write a post on my views on religion for a while but have been putting it off because posts such these require thought and effort much beyond the random typing of a few words into Blogger and time has been something of a scarce commodity in these parts… It took The Mad Momma's gentle reminder that this would be a good time of the year write about this, DesiGirl's post on identity crisis and some free time in transit to and from Chennai that finally prodded me out of my inertia. So here goes…

Being of mixed parentage (Rajasthani dad, Tamilian mom with some Bengali roots thrown in for good measure) has never particularly bothered me and was in fact something that I felt quite proud of and felt it was part of my identity rather than a source for an identity crisis. But I wonder if Ayaan will feel the same way since I have gone and confused the whole thing even further by marrying a Goan Catholic. So he is going to have to attune himself to not just regional diversity but mixed messages from two very different religions as well. And if that were not enough, there is the further issue of both me and Jai not being very sure about the existence and extent of our belief in god and religion. So overall, it makes for a great hotpotch of a legacy.

If you know me in real life or have been reading this blog for a while, it would be pretty clear to you that I have a fairly rational bent of mind. And rationality does not mix well with unquestioning belief in anything and the same applies to my approach to religion. As a child and a teenager, I never really thought too much about it and just did as I was asked – mostly limited to stuff like participating in the annual Diwali pooja, folding my hands in prayer before an exam and abstaining from non-vegetarian food on certain days. I did this in the same unquestioning way that one responds to one’s parents' requests as a child – it wasn’t very different from gulping down two glasses of milk every day or doing my homework. It also involved no real thought or effort on my part.

Things changed when I moved away from home. When I set up my first home, my mom came and set up a little pooja shelf in the kitchen. And for the first Diwali after marriage, I attempted to recreate the Diwali ritual accompanied by detailed written instructions from my mom. But having to actually do everything on my own made me seriously question why I was doing it at all and pushed me to clarify my ambivalent attitude towards my faith or lack of it.

It’s a journey that I have yet to complete but one thing I do know for sure. I do not believe in god and prayer as they have been traditionally defined. I don’t believe that he (or she) has a face and a name or has ever actually lived a human life as an incarnation – therefore, a disbelief in idol worship. I know it makes our parents happy so we go to my mother’s place for Diwali every year and enthusiastically participate in the pooja as do we land up at the in-laws’ place for Christmas and attend midnight mass. But in my own home, I want to live my life as per what I believe in because it is too exhausting to do it any other way. So the aforementioned pooja shelf has been packed away (much to my mother’s consternation) because it felt hypocritical to have it up, dusty and neglected.

That being said, I am not a disbeliever of all things spiritual. This world we live in is far too miraculous and spectacular a place for it all to have been a simple coincidence. So while I don’t quite believe in god as a person, I do believe in the concept of a powerful force that exists both within us and in the world around us. I don’t yet have the clarity to understand and define what that force is – hopefully one day I will.

The other thing I still don’t have an answer to is whether prayer has any role in my life and if so, in what form. Traditional prayer largely revolves around praying to a well-defined entity and since I cannot define what the thing is, how can I pray to it. Secondly, prayer is about having a conversation with said entity and usually revolves around a request or a wish (from material stuff like more money to stuff like good heath and safety of the family) and my rational mind cannot accept that there is something out there that receives and considers every prayer that is sent out by all of humanity.

So anyway the bottom line to all this pointless meandering is that I am confused. And Jai is atleast one step behind where I am because he only knows that he doesn’t believe but hasn’t yet started thinking about what that really means. Now, if there was just the two of us to worry about, we would have merrily stumbled along without a care in the world. But like everything else, this too gets complicated when there is a child involved. And I worry about the mixed messages that Ayaan will get as he grows up.

When I was pregnant, my mom got the valaikaapu ceremony done; at the same time my mother-in-law gave me a statue of Mother Mary to keep nearby till my delivery. Ayaan has been baptised; he has also had a proper mundan ceremony. Every year, he will see Diwali being celebrated at my mom’s place and along with the fun side of getting new clothes and setting off firecrackers, he will sit down at a pooja and pray to gods like Ram and Lakshmi. Similarly at Christmas, there will be Santa Claus, Christmas trees and gifts but there will also be midnight mass where he will get to hear a sermon about Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. Plus, my mother-in-law is a staunch believer in Vipasana and is sure to talk to him about it as he gets older. And at the end of it all, he will come back to a home where none of this is practised.

I am struggling with how we can help him deal with this as he grows up. There are things that I am sure of:

  • I don’t want to pay lip service to organised religion just to make life simpler to Ayaan. Because I don’t want my conversations on something as big as this to be based on a lie. I also don’t want to spend the next 20 years till he grows up living a lie by pretending to believe in something that I don’t.
  • I don’t want to shut religion completely out of his life. Mostly because it would be impossible to do that – even if I could make the grandparents stop, he will soon grow up and be exposed to stuff at school, from his peers and from the media.
  • Festivals are an important part of growing up in India (or anywhere, I guess). And so I don’t want to cut them out of Ayaan’s life. While they do have their roots in religion, they are also about fun, festivity, tradition and family in a way that not many other things are and I do think they are an essential childhood experience, not to mention a rich source of happy childhood memories.
  • I don’t want him to be labelled as a Hindu or a Christian. He has a mixed parentage and that is something that I want him to aware and proud of as early as possible.
  • I don’t want to push my beliefs (if they can be called that at this nascent stage) down his throat. Because that would be the most counter-productive way of dealing with the issue and would probably only serve to push him away from whatever I was trying to indoctrinate into him.

And then there are things that I am not so sure of:

  • How important is religion in teaching children right from wrong? Stories and fables from the Bhagvad Gita and the Bible have been used over time to teach children lessons about the right ways to live and the consequences of not doing so. Also, the fear of god is used as a deterrent to bad behaviour and immorality. If you inherently believe that there is someone up there who maintains a system of checks and balances, would you not be less likely to be dishonest, corrupt or evil?
  • What will I tell him when he asks me who or what god is?
  • How will I celebrate the festivals I mentioned above on the occasions when it isn’t possible for us to visit the grandparents, or after they have passed on?
  • How will I explain the inherent contradictions between all the belief systems that he will be exposed to in a manner that will appeal to him intellectually and emotionally?
  • How will I inculcate in him the tolerance for other beliefs that are not his own?
  • Most importantly, how will I help Ayaan stitch together these diverse jigsaw pieces of his parents’ histories and beliefs to evolve his own system of faith?

In the end, there are lots of questions and not many answers. And I am not sure that I ever will have all the answers. Needless to say, this sometimes keeps me awake at night.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

The important-sounding Mumbai Mommy Bloggers Meet finally happened. Kiran and Surabhi have all the dope – hop across and check it out here, here and here. Jai was instructed to take pictures to document the momentous event but the ones he took with our camera were rather useless so here’s one he managed to get right with Yashodhara’s camera…

From left to right in mommyblogger-offspring pairs, that’s Kiran-Krish, me-Ayaan and Surabhi-Sanah in the front row and Yashodhara-Peanut and Parul-Adi in the back row.

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On the health front, the adenoids continue to be the bane of our lives. Ayaan got better for a bit but the cough and cold came back with a vengeance. It seems to be in retreat now – we are not sure which but one of the following seems to be working:

  • The meds: no antibiotics since I haven’t been to the doctor but a combination of a bronchio-dilator and an anti-allergen
  • No pre-bedtime bath
  • Sleeping with a pillow
  • Steam before bedtime
  • Putting him directly under the fan for the first hour at night (he was sweating a lot earlier and that was interrupting his sleep)

The doctor search has proved largely fruitless as all roads seem to lead back to the doctor we were going to anyway. The latest plan is to go back to him with my concerns and see if he is willing to take a less radical line of treatment – he did that with one of the moms I asked. Meanwhile, Kiran passed on the contact of her homeopath and we plan to pay him a visit next week after filling up his mile-long form.

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Ayaan’s school had Sports Day last week. It was a pretty fancy affair with Ajay Jadeja as chief guest. But what was appalling was the behaviour of many of the parents who were constantly disrupting the function by literally running on to the tracks to take pictures of their kids. The school has 'Etiquette Day' later this week, I think the parents might need it more than the kids...

Anyway, Ayaan managed to get himself a silver medal by coming second in his little race. It was quite a comedy of errors though since he started running before he was supposed to and had to be restrained by his teacher. And when it was time to run, he was busy surveying his surroundings and had to be prodded into action. He finally did get around to running and then overtook all but one of his competitiors. He got a silver medal for his efforts but lost interest after asking me if it was a chocolate and being told that it was not…

Here's the best shot I could get of him at the starting point without joining the hordes - Ayaan's third from left (next to the blonde kid):

And here's him asking me if the medal was a chocolate:

And the victorious boy.... actually, he was more like 'Get that off me, Mama' but it ended up looking kind of victorious, so I am using it... anyone have a problem with that??!

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Budding independence is the order of the day in this part of the world and the house resounds with squeals of “Ayaan Karega” (Ayaan will do it). The problem is that his desire to be independent and the actual ability to perform the tasks all by himself are still at odds with each other and the result is often one of mess, destruction or delay. Given that patience has never been my strong suit, it is really taking all that I can muster to let him blunder his way through this phase… and sometimes even that is not enough - resulting in a earful or a smack for Ayaan in return for his valiant attempt to become his own person. Sometimes, I really have to wonder why I continue to his most favourite person in the world… :(

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Surprise!

Hey Tharini. Hope you had a great birthday. This one’s for you…

Darn! I so thought you would get it since you tagged me to do a Mumbai sunrise photograph. But considering that my mornings start with a little brat who barely gives me time to brush my teeth, I never did get around catching to the sun, especially since my house faces westwards and the building rooftop is locked up at night. So I cheated just a tad and drew you a very, VERY rough version of what a sunrise looks like in my part of the world. I tried a version with an auto rickshaw on the road to give you a further clue about the location of the sunrise but my drawing skills failed me at that point and the attempt ended up in the bin - hence the 'creatively challenged' bit...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

About a Sick Little Boy

It’s been a tough three weeks health-wise over here in Chez Ayaan. There’ve been two distinct health issues, one chronic and one acute.

It all started just before we left for Delhi. Actually it started sometime in August, with a cough and a cold that refused to completely go away, especially acting up during the night. Sure, there were times when they subsided somewhat but I cannot remember a cough-free day since August. We tried all of the following:

  • One bout of antibiotics when the cough got really bad. The cough got better but never went away entirely
  • Three rounds of a cough syrup when the cough got bad enough to take him to the doctor
  • Daily doses of a home remedy recommended by the paediatrician in Jaipur – three parts honey and one part ginger juice sprinkled with powdered clove. While this didn’t banish the damned thing either, it was great at soothing the cough and generally helping the little fellow to feel better.
  • Vicks Vaporub on the chest and back before sleeping

Actually, it was not as much a consolidated attack on the infection as this probably sounds. I have to admit that I realised that this had become a chronic issue only just before I took him to the doctor – time just seemed to pass by and there were periods of minimal coughing in between so it really seemed more like 5-6 bouts of cough/ cold that had to be treated in one of the ways mentioned above. But then before we left for Delhi, the cough got bad again and since Ayaan was going to be away for over two weeks, I thought to consult our regular doctor before leaving and that’s when the tubelight in my brain lit up to the fact that this had been going on for an inordinately long time.

When I told the doctor the whole deal, he immediately suggested that I get him x-rayed for adenoids and sure enough the report came back positive for enlarged adenoids. The doctor told me that this was nothing to worry about and that we should follow the following sequence of events:

  • A 4-week course of antibiotics to treat the infection that was causing the adenoids to swell up
  • This was to be followed by a 6-week course of medicated nasal drops
  • If at the end of the ten weeks, the adenoids were still enlarged, he said that we would have to surgically remove them. I almost fell off my chair at this drastic recommendation but he assured me that it was a simple surgery and was only needed in 20% of the cases as the rest of the kids responded well to the earlier two steps of the program.

Now, I did balk at the 4-week course of antibiotics but decided to trust the doctor (who has never shown any previous tendency to over-medicate Ayaan) and in any case, I felt the pressure to DO SOMETHING since we were travelling the next day.

Two weeks later found us in Jaipur for Diwali. The cough had improved but still showed no signs of going away. We would probably have kept going had the acute (unrelated) problem I mentioned earlier not reared its ugly head, forcing us to pay a visit to the Jaipur paediatrician (of the home remedy fame). Obviously, we had to first tell him about the ongoing treatment and he was really surprised at what had been prescribed. His view was:

  • Enlarged adenoids are very common in young children and tend to shrink on their own as they approach 5-6 years of age. And one should wait and watch before going for something as drastic as surgery, especially since adenoids also act as a defense against infections.
  • When kids have enlarged adenoids, this prevents the nasal secretions from draining out and hence causing the perennially stuffy nose. This was compounded by the fact that he had an allergic cough – an explanation for the persistent cough inspite of clear lungs. And the reason why the cough sounded chesty was because of the post-nasal drip thanks to the adenoids.
  • The extended course of antibiotics was not only unnecessary but most likely useless since two weeks of the treatment had still not vanquished the cough. And sincce there was no lung or ear infection present, he recommended we stop the antibiotics right away since they would not in themselves shrink the adenoids. The acute problem (will explain in a bit) made it necessary to stop anyway and so we did
  • He also said the nasal drops were bad idea as well as they were likely to disturb the nose lining and cause it to get inflamed, which along with the adenoids would only compound the problem.

He has suggested we do the following:

  1. Give him an anti-allergic syrup, along with a another one to dilate his airways for a few days every time the cough and cold get bad
  2. Steam inhalation every night before bed (managed this suprisingly successfully today with some much-needed help from the TV fairy)
  3. Allergic precautions (though I’m damned if I know how one is supposed to avoid smoke and dust in this crazy city)
  4. Immediate response to a fever or an ear ache, implying an ear infection, which could be potentially dangerous.

The research on the net kind of supports what he said too. Surgery is recommended only in cases where some of the following symptoms exist:

  • Excessive snoring, which might indicate a blocked airway
  • Trouble breathing through the nose/ noisy breathing
  • Episodes of not breathing during sleep (sleep apnea)
  • Chronic ear infections that persist despite antibiotics

Ayaan is clear of all these symptoms, though he does have a tendency to breathe through the mouth, especially when he has a cold (who can blame him?).

So we are sticking to the Jaipur doctor’s plan for the time being. But this also raises another problem – I need to change my doctor in Mumbai. Other than the fact that I am unhappy with his prescription, I would also find it tough to go back to him having disregarded his advice. And I don’t know where to find another paediatrician who I cam trust. Most of the parents I know in my part of town either go to the current doctor or to another high profile doctor whose appointment book is super-blocked and usually you get to meet one of his junior assistants. I am paralysed into inaction because I don’t know where to start and it’s stressing me out because I don’t want to wait till he gets sick again to begin a desperate doctor hunt.

Now, moving on to the oft-mentioned acute problem. Ayaan got a bad case of food poisoning when we were in Jaipur. Obviously I can’t say for certain what caused it but I’m willing to bet it was the bite of Diwali sweet he had just hours before he started throwing up. It was pretty bad – he threw up almost everything we fed him for two and a half days, got diarrhoea and notched up a fever of 102oF. We finally had to give him an antibiotic and he slowly got better. But even after he got okay, he rejected food for another couple days, even throwing up on purpose when we pushed him too hard. I got worried that he had become a fussy eater and, in my less rational moments, wondered whether it was the JMonster getting me for writing this post.

But thankfully, his good eating habits are back. In fact, he’s eating more than before. I think it helped that I got him back to his schedule and eating habits as soon as he showed signs of returning to normalcy. Even the dreaded TV was used only twice as I realised it only distracted him and made him eat stuff that his body wasn’t ready to take in, and which he threw up anyway.

So all’s well that ends well except Mama’s poor heart that breaks afresh every time she looks at the skinny little bag of bones her son has become and how his clothes fit looser than before. He was never what you would have called plump but over the last few months, I had stopped getting the ‘He’s so skinny’ comments but I guess they will be back to haunt me as soon as I run into a supposedly well-meaning relative or an ill-mannered aunty.

Belated Diwali wishes to you all - hope it was happy. Ours was somewhat less happy – as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Taste of the Life That Was

Last weekend, we went to Delhi for a family wedding and came back sans Ayaan. Since I was going to be heading to Jaipur for the Diwali week in just five days, it didn’t seem to make sense to lug him all the way back to Mumbai. Plus my mother always craves for some alone time with him without my interfering presence… so he went off to Jaipur with my mom while we headed back to Mumbai. Overall, we were quite excited about having some time to ourselves for the first time in two and a half years.

I am writing from a plane, headed towards a reunion with my son after a five day separation and I have to say it’s been an interesting and revealing five days. The most surprising thing has been how much I have missed him in these days gone by. I have been away from him longer on my travels but this time, I felt the separation much more intensely than I ever have. Because this was the first time since he was born that I have been home when he wasn’t. It just didn’t feel right – it was like there was an Ayaan-shaped hole in my house and in my life.

On all the five days, I actually stayed in office longer than I needed to. Since Jai was working late or travelling, it was positively depressing to come home to a dark, empty house. Especially since I have got used to being greeted by my little eager beaver who responds to the very sound of my key turning in the lock and comes running to greet me with his toothsome grin and a ‘bick (big) huggy’. I always knew that my homecoming was one of the high points in Ayaan’s day – now I realise that it is the high point of mine too.

It was not all bad, though – there were some upsides to this mini-break from being parents. I managed to go to my fitness class every day for some heavy-duty guilt-free exercise.

And on Tuesday, Jai and I finally went on our first dinner date in two and a half years. Since the nanny leaves when I get home, we have never been able to do this and most night outings have been limited to one of us going out with our respective friends. Our ‘dates’ have usually been lunches and movies grabbed on Saturday afternoons, so this made for a refreshing change…

Somehow when we go out for lunch, I don’t feel a need to dress up and tend to just hop along in whatever outfit I’ve chosen to wear for the day. But dinner is different – so I came home from work, bathed, put on some fancy clothes, slapped on some lipstick and sprayed myself with my best perfume. It just made it a lot more special than a Saturday lunch can ever be.

Also, our Saturday outings are pretty slotted in terms of time. I like to give Ayaan his lunch before we leave and be back before it’s time to take him to the park. On Tuesday however, we got dressed in a leisurely fashion, had a relaxed drink at the hotel bar before moving on to dinner and didn’t even look at the clock once during all this time. We had a nice, aimless conversation throughout, largely sticking to our ‘no talking about Ayaan ban’.

This brief time-out also got me thinking about how we tend to mourn over our carefree, baby-free days in a manner that is almost half-serious. But I have realised that in many ways our quality of life has actually improved after becoming parents.

  • We eat a lot healthier. I already wrote in my last post about how we eat a much greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables than before. We also order in and eat out much less often. This week, I completely reverted to my old habits - on Monday, I ate a bowl of instant noodles; on Tuesday, we went out for Chinese; on Wednesday, we ordered pizza and yesterday, I ate at a friend’s place and we ordered Indian food, in all its greasy, calorie-rich glory. I think I need to detox!
  • We actually spend more time together now than we did before. Before Ayaan, both of us were certified workaholics (Jai still is) and used to drag our weary souls into the house just in time to eat dinner, watch some TV and collapse into bed. Now, we both make an effort to be home at a more acceptable hour and though a lot of our time together also involves Ayaan, it’s no less fun and intimate thanks to the shared moments of amusement, pride and frustration that abound when we are together as a family. Actually, that’s the difference – earlier, we were a couple and now we are a family – cheesy and clich├ęd as it may be - and I like this better.
  • We watch much less TV because there is a blanket TV ban during Ayaan’s waking hours as opposed to switching it on the minute we get home. I used to be quite a couch potato in times gone by and in the last week, I slipped back into the habit with complete ease, randomly surfing channels even though I knew there was nothing worth watching.

Overall, I am happy to be heading back to meet my darling son. Armed with the absolute clarity that I did the right thing when I decided to have a baby. I knew then that I’d never regret it and I know now that I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Update: I couldn't post this yesterday due to connectivity issues. Ayaan came with my mom to pick me up at the airport and he was satifyingly thrilled to see me - he shrieked at the top of his voice, ran into my arms and gave me the tightest hug ever, followed by some seriously sloppy kisses. The welcome almost made the separation worth it - almost but not quite :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Food for Thought

If there was any doubt in my mind that parents’ eating habits have a direct impact on those of their kids, Ayaan removed it this week. Here’s what happened:

As a part of my new diet, I am supposed to have a bowl of salad as soon as I get home from work. So the other day, I was having a bowl full of radish and beetroot, drenched with lime juice – overall, hardly the most appetising of thing to eat and I was bravely plodding my way through it. Ayaan, on the other hand, was significantly more excited by this ‘yummy’ stuff that Mama was eating so he went and got a bowl of his own and demanded that I waste no time in putting some ‘sallet’ into it…

I was pretty sure that this was just a case of ‘I want to have what you are having’ and that the sour and pungent salad would be unceremoniously ejected from his mouth once it made contact with his tongue. But that’s not what happened – he made a bit of a face but he chewed, swallowed and asked for more and ended up having almost a fourth of my serving. So now I am going to make sure that I eat the salad before his dinner everyday and let him pick from my plate… another incentive to stick to my diet change.

That being said, I have to say that I have no complaints about Ayaan’s eating habits. I am knocking on wood while writing this but he isn’t too fussy about his food, eats almost everything that we do and eats without too much resistance (most of the time). Now I know some of you would think that I should just thank my stars for the sheer dumb luck of it all but while I am willing to give him credit for being a good eater, I also believe that I had something to do with it. Because there are some thing that I hold sacrosanct in the process of raising a healthy eater and I do think these things has atleast something to do with the way things turned out. Here’s some of the stuff that I did that I think contributed:

  • In his two-and-a-half year old life, Ayaan has eaten not more than five meals in front of the television. Two of these occasions happened when he was really sick and this was the only way I could get some sustenance into his little body. And the other two happened when I had to feed him at someone’s else’s house and the TV was the only way of getting him to stay in one place for long enough to eat a reasonable amount of food. I believe this is important – not because research shows that TV dinners cause obesity but because I think no age is too young to learn how to eat food for the sake of it and recognise and accept (and hopefully savour) every morsel that goes into your mouth rather than open your mouth and swallow like a zombie, rapt in the moving images on the idiot box.
  • The same thought also applies to the concept of entertaining him while he eats. Because to my mind, this is again akin to fooling a child into eating. And here I don’t mean talking, singing or otherwise interacting with a child to make mealtimes fun but things one does to distract him while another bit of food is quietly shoved into his mouth with tactics such as ‘Look there, birdie!’ I have even seen moms carry stuff like cut fruits to the park which they keep periodically popping into the kid’s mouth while they play.
  • When he is at home, the only place Ayaan eats in (since six months of age) is his high chair. To start with, I think chasing a child around the room while feeding him is way too exhausting a concept. Also, I am not the most patient of mothers and the few times that I have had to attempt such a feeding style have not been very pleasant – both for me and Ayaan. Moreover, when you chase a kid for his food, you are subliminally sending him a message that eating is something that he does because you want him to do it rather than because he wants to do it.
  • I can set my watch (or more likely my mobile phone, since who really wears watches anymore?) by Ayaan’s mealtimes. I have to admit that part of this arises out of that fact that Ayaan has a control freak for a mother and my car pool members, amongst others, will vouch for my obsession with punctuality. But also because I believe that this helps his hunger patterns to settle down into a rhythm that we are aware of and can therefore cater to. Irregular meal times are more likely to confuse kids in terms of when to expect and therefore readily accept food.
  • I have never really allowed junk food to be an option, even when we went through a couple of low-eating phases. Because like TV, I think junk food is the easy way out to nourishing your child and I’d rather suffer through the worry of these temporary phases of nourishment rather than encourage a lifelong addiction to junk food. Also, I know there will soon come a time when he will develop a desire for stuff like chips and chocolate thanks to his school friends but I see no reason why I should seed the process and further enable it by stocking the stuff in my own home.
  • I have tried not to let my own tastes and biases get in the way of what I feed him. In fact, we have started eating some veggies that we earlier turned our noses up at – beetroot and eggplant being prime examples – because I decided to introduce them to Ayaan’s diet. As a result, he eats stuff like palak paneer (spinach with cottage cheese) with great relish.
  • And lastly, I’m just plain stubborn. I struggled through 11 months of breastfeeding with Ayaan resisting me all the way and these struggles continued into the cow milk era as well. There were months on an end when all I could get him to drink were couple of ounces at best but I just kept at it and gave him milk everyday, twice a day and gradually (over one and a half years) that quantity started to inch up and now finally he has a full glass of milk twice a day.... even deigning to drink half of it by himself.

So anyway, that’s my two cents worth on the subject. To those who think this is all a load of crap, just remember that most of the above are MY views based on MY experiences. They are not based on any research and are therefore not facts. So please just read this as my opinion on how raise a healthy eater (that seems to be working for ME) and feel free to disregard or disagree (politely please).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fit for a Mom

I wrote about my struggle with my post-pregnancy weight ages ago. What sparked that post off was a comment from an aunt who saw my monthly photos of Ayaan and asked if I was expecting again. Well, the same aunt visited us this week and her much more palatable and immensely quotable quote from this encounter was:

“Ayaan, your mom is looking like a sex bomb”

Quite obviously, a lot has changed since that last post – and it’s not my aunt’s levels of diplomacy since she did comment on the fact that my walls were looking grubby, that Ayaan was so thin and that my wardrobe for the upcoming wedding was too simple…

Overall, I have to say that I am blessed with pretty good genes in the weight area. Other than the pregnancy and breastfeeding era, I have always fallen within the recommended weight range for a person of my height. And it’s never been hard – I’ve always had a healthy appetite and outside of compulsory school sports, haven’t been anywhere near what you would term as a fitness freak.

But pregnancy changed all that, albeit temporarily. I put on a whopping 15 kilos (against a recommended 12) when I was pregnant and was still holding on to 10 of those a year into motherhood. And while I pretended that I was okay with the excess weight, I now realise that it did affect my life in somewhat insidious ways.

None of my old clothes fit me any more and I didn’t replenish my wardrobe beyond what was absolutely necessary. Buying clothes in a larger size was too depressing and somewhere lurked a foolish hope that that weight would magically disappear one morning. And from there, it was just one short, easy step to being downright frumpy – I would tie my hair back rather than bother with styling it, didn’t wear earring till my ear holes almost closed up and manicures and pedicures were things of the past. It was like I had just given up and sacrificed my femininity at the altar of motherhood (a tad overdramatic I agree but I like the sound of it, don’t you?)

Well, most of the weight did finally go and most of the pre-maternity clothes do fit (with the exception of the skinny jeans and such like). But in the end, it was none of the ambitious things I planned in that old post that contributed to the weight loss – the walk in the park never saw the light of day, the GM diet had zero impact and the gym membership lapsed without me so much as even thinking of going there.

In nutshell, I made no focussed effort to lose the weight but it went anyway. What helped I think was:

  • My hectic life as a working mom – for some sense of it, read this post from last year. Life is a bit more relaxed now since Ayaan gets up later, we don’t do the morning walk thing and I don’t have to carry him around as much – but otherwise, it’s still much the same. But overall, I think the level of activity on an average day in my life did a lot to help me shed some of that excess baggage.
  • The weight loss actually started just after I stopped breastfeeding. I know the dominant logic is that breastfeeding makes you lose weight but in my case it worked the other way. My appetite went from healthy to voracious in those days and the fact that I was at home all day with easy access to a fridge didn’t help either. Even when I went back to work, the scales didn’t budge till Ayaan was weaned. But in less than a year after that, I was fitting into my old clothes again.
  • I didn’t diet but I made one tiny change to my eating habits. I cut down the size of my dinner. I read somewhere that dinner should be the lightest meal of the day and I thought that that was the least I could do.

Having got back a semblance of my old shape, I have to admit that I got a bit complacent and kept postponing the moment when I would get off my behind and start actively doing something to get back to previous levels of fitness. Finally, it was a really interesting fitness class and the persistence of a friend who wanted me to join up that finally pushed into taking action. A couple of weeks ago, we joined up at a class where we do a high intensity workout involving weights, squats, crunches and kickboxing thrice a week.

It's early days yet but I’ve been quite regular and I have a good feeling about lasting this time round. The big difference between this and the gym is that the class is like a group exercise and therefore a lot more fun than the monotonous gym workout. And more importantly, I am doing it with a friend and we push each other to wake up and make it for class in the mornings.

Another investment I have made in my health is taking on the nutritional consultation that they offer at the same place for a period of three months. It’s been quite an eye-opener. While I am only 2 kilos over the ideal weight for my height, my body fat percentage is not so well under control. Really fit and athletic women have about 18% body fat but anything under 25% is considered healthy. Mine is 32.2%!!! To get this under control, just exercise is not going to be enough – I need to alter my eating habits in a manner that can be sustainable. Here are some of the things I have been told I need to do:

  • Avoid long gaps between meals. This means that I have to eat something every 2-3 hours.
  • Increase the amount of raw food in my diet. This means starting the day with three servings of fruits and having a bowl of salad a couple of hours before dinner.
  • Avoid processed food (and that includes bread and branded breakfast cereals)
  • Avoid fried food, sweets, aerated drinks and fruit juices
  • Cut down oil to a maximum of 2 tsps per day.
  • Eat non-vegetarian food only three times a week and even then, no red meat
  • No eggs or milk for breakfast

While I am quite confident about sticking to the exercise class, I am less confident about the making these dietary changes in the long term. The big challenges are going to be keeping shorter gaps between meals/ snacks on weekdays, sticking to some semblance of this eating plan while I am travelling and getting my oil-happy maid to cook within the oil limit. The rest of the diet restrictions are quite doable (minus the odd binges) except the bread one – I love bread!

Anyway, wish me luck! Here’s hoping this is more successful than my previous attempt. I just re-read that last post and realised how confident and enthusiastic I sounded about my plans and look how that turned out... :-(

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tags Galore

I have never wished for anonymity as much as I do right now. Something, or rather someone, has left me feeling all wounded and angry and nothing would make me feel better than a chance to vent. But it’s not to be… So, what better way to lift my spirits than to take on two cheery tags that have come my way in the last week…

Y, a rocking girl blogger in her own right – especially for the frequency and laugh-a-minute quality of her posts, given that she happens to be a first-time new mom – has passed this supercool award my way:

The awesome thing about this award is that it classifies me as rocking and more importantly, as a girl… and the fact that I get to pass it on to some of my favourite bloggers - so I hereby knight the following bloggers as fellow Rockin' Girl Bloggers:

  • Megha – Of all the bloggers I read, I like her writing the best – the razor sharp wit, the clarity of thought and mostly the fearlessness with which she writes, no mean task given some of the trolls that regularly pop by at her blog to insult and intimidate. Rock on, Megha!
  • Ceekay – I admire her for having the guts and the hope to see her dream through and now she has a little bundle of joy as her reward. And for being such a sorted working mom of two – it gives me something to aspire to… both the ‘sorted’ part and the 'two' part… :-)
  • Talena – Anyone who thinks SAHMs have it easier than working moms needs to hop on over to her blog. A never-say-die mother of three young boys (!) who still manages to find the time and energy to cook super-healthy meals, make awesome scrapbook layouts, blog, remodel her house, give piano lessons, baby-sit…. and I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg…

The second tag from The Mad Momma is about that special ‘our song’ that most couples share but here’s the thing, we don’t have one. Jai and I don’t even remotely share each other’s tastes in music so any song that we both can stand to listen to while driving together classifies as our song, and believe me they are rare…

Given that I have already declined one of MM’s tags and that I need her on my side what with the recent troll appearances, I dare not tempt fate by doing so again so I am doing it with a twist – I am going to put down the song that I share with the other man in my life (Ayaan, in case you are doubting my fidelity…)

The song is question is a lullaby that I have sung to him almost every single night for the last two years. I have only ever heard it on a lullaby CD someone gave me when he was a baby and I can’t find it on the net, so I leave you with the words…

Rest your head upon my shoulder, baby, oh baby
Sleepyhead, your day is over, baby, my baby
So close your eyes
While I sing a lullaby
Oh baby of mine

Let me rock you in my arms, baby, oh baby
I will keep you safe and warm, baby, my baby
Have the sweetest dreams
You mean everything to me
Oh baby of mine

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Trolls and trouble

One fine day, I woke up and decided that I would open my blog to a wider commenting population. Thus far, the privilege to comment was limited to those with Blogger log-ins. I just liked it that way because the incompleteness of a comment without a name attached to it bothered me.

But then, I thought it would be interesting to get more diverse points of view. Also, the voices of real life friends and family who do happen to read my blog, regularly and irregularly, never get heard because most of them are either too lazy to get themselves a Blogger login or incapable of keeping it going.

I have been blogging for over a year and a half now and I have never got a single comment that was less than polite and supportive, even when the commenter was disagreeing with what I had written. I knew there were trolls out there, unleashing their random bitterness on some of the bloggers I read but given my experience, I misguidedly thought that I would be spared from that. I even thought the post that I was opening up to these comments was a fairly innocuous one, unlikely to get passions high and nasty – how can a post about my maids do that, I naively thought. Hah! Could I have been more mistaken? In a nutshell, I have been accused of being an employer of child labour, user of archaic, demeaning words like ‘maid’, author of a bourgeois account of my servant management skills and overall a shameless inhuman. I kid you not, read the comments if you don’t believe me.

My first reaction was to laugh at them – these silly, rude people, who knew nothing about my life and circumstances coming by only to hurl ridiculous accusations at me – but then as I lived with these comments in my head for the last one week, something about them bothered me. I felt that these people were coming in from some completely different universe and trying to judge me, my choices and my words based on benchmarks that are completely irrelevant in my world. So, this doesn’t come from a need to defend myself (for what?) but an attempt to provide a context to my choices, with respect to my maids.

Here are some of the broad themes that people expressed their disagreements on and my take on each of them:

Cultural differences

I think a couple of people politely put it down to cultural differences. I agree there are differences, not all of them cultural and here’s why I think having domestic help is a much more common phenomenon here in India:

  • I think the biggest reason is that in India, maids are available and affordable. Maybe the idea seems so alien to Westerners because it is not even a possibility in their world.
  • Most of us have grown up either in joint families or with live-in help and are much less protective of our personal space and privacy.
  • Keeping a house in running order is much tougher here. India is a pretty dusty country and we don’t have sealed houses with central cooling/ heating and a thorough daily cleaning is required to keep the house liveable and hygienic rather than the fortnightly cleaning that is adequate in the West.
  • Working life can be harder in India, especially for working mothers. Our concept of work-life balance is still not very evolved and working hours can often be undisciplined. With this as a background, it becomes that much tougher to run a house single-handedly, while holding down a full-time job.
  • Indian men are not as helpful around the house as their Western counterparts and most of the responsibility falls on the already over-loaded shoulders of the wife and mother. Combine this with the previous point about working hours and it’s a nearly impossible task to manage without maids.
  • I have not come across too many good day care options. Also, I personally prefer that my son is cared for in a loving, consistent way by familiar people in the comfort of my own home rather than some institutionalised setting of a day care, especially since I can afford it. And I think most Indian mothers feel that way.

Edit: Dotmom disagrees and makes some excellent points on how it is just as hard in the U.S. I agree with most of what she says - life as a working mom is not easy anywhere, esecially without help.

Accusations on using child labour

Some of the anonymous commenters accuse me of using child labour. Here are some things these people should know before they throw around such accusations:

  • The law in India puts the age for child labour to be under fourteen. I live in India and Jamuna is way above 14 years of age so I am not breaking any laws.
  • You may wonder why I am being so vague about revealing Jamuna’s actual age. Here’s the thing, I don’t know. She is definitely looks over 16, might even be 18 but nobody knows – neither she nor her family know her date of birth or even remember the year she was born, which might give you some insight into what kind of life she has had back in her village.
  • It’s all very well to climb onto a high horse and say that a person below 18 years should not be employed as a maid. But let me paint you a picture of what her life in the village would be – she would have to wake up at the crack of dawn and her days would be full of backbreaking, hard work including tending to the cattle, helping her mother in the kitchen and fetching water from the village well. As a girl child, her nutrition is not a priority and seeing her as a burden, her parents would seek the first opportunity to marry her off. Now compare that to her life in my home: her workload consists of playing with Ayaan, keeping the house clean and washing the few clothes that don’t get dumped in the washing machine; she gets to sleep for nine hours in the night and also gets the chance to grab an afternoon nap on most days; she gets wholesome, nutritious food; she is getting a little slice of her childhood back when she plays with Ayaan – she enjoys his toys and games as much as he does….and most importantly, since we take care of all her needs and pay her a salary, her parents are in no tearing hurry to marry her off. Will someone please tell me what is so inhuman about this situation?
  • Someone mentioned that I should be taking care of her education. That was what I had in mind initially but it didn’t work out. To start with, she has not attended a single day of school in her entire life and has not even been taught simple things like how to tell the time. Secondly, I have been unable to find any institution that offers adult education in my area – if someone has any information on this, please let me know. Thirdly, she is likely to be with me for just a couple of years before her parents marry her off – in that short a time-frame, there is not much that she can learn but Shashikala has been teaching her the Hindi alphabet and she atleast knows how to write her name.

Political incorrectness

It seemed to bother quite a few people that I use, according to them, archaic and derogatory terms like ‘maid’ and ‘nanny’. In my humble opinion, political correctness for the sake of it is just silly and a waste of everyone’s time and breath. I know of a company where the receptionist has a visiting card that says ‘First Impressions Manager’ – not only is it ridiculous and changes nothing of the nature of her job, the person at the receiving end of the title found it pretty embarrassing too!

Would it make any difference to anyone except these self-appointed governors of political correctness if I called them ‘child care service providers’ or ‘personnel in-charge of underage homo-sapiens’ (thanks for those witty options, Anita)? The only thing that should matter is whether the person herself/ himself is offended and I can assure you that my maids have absolutely no problem or negative associations with the abovementioned words. There are words like ‘bai’ and naukrani’ from Hindi that some of them do find a little demeaning, but I don’t use words like that… what is rude, offensive or archaic is somewhat culture specific, isn’t it?

Not trusting other working moms

It was pointed out that I was being a bit of a fraud by not considering women with small children for the job, given that I am working mom with a young child myself, expecting to be treated as equally as my male or child-free colleagues. I completely agree with this logical and polite commenter that I am being unfair but whether we like it or not, life is still not very fair for working mothers, no matter what their socio-economic circumstances.

Even in the most professional and evolved of organisations, you do lose some of your value and employability once you have a kid. Ability and commitment being equal, most bosses would still prefer a man or a woman without kids – and at some level, I accept that. Ever since Ayaan was born, he always comes first for me and that puts me at a disadvantage with people who are willing to put work above all else.

The same thing applies when I am looking for someone who will care for my kid – I want someone for whom this will be priority. Like any other parent, I want what’s best for Ayaan. And I am not going to sacrifice the quality and consistency of his care to prove a point about what a just and fair person I am… I’d rather suffer the tag of ‘hypocrite’ than worry constantly about whether the maid will make it to work and stay all day while I am work.

Edit: Kodi's Mom added: 'It is the nature of the maid/ nanny's job to be physically present at a cerain location from hour x to hour x. It is not a job that can be accomplished over the phone and internet. Hence, it does make sense that you ensure her punctuality & attendance.' I feel silly for not thinking of that. :-)

The Content of my Post

There were some complaints about the fact that this was from my perspective and the aim of the post was to prove what a brilliant manager of domestic help I am. It seems I would have done better to write a post that was a thank you note to them or talked about the kind of lives they live. I think people who leave comments like that don’t really understand what writing a blog all is about. Here are some tips:

  • This is my blog, so obviously I write about what I feel like writing about and more importantly from my perspective. While I do write for an audience (otherwise I’d just keep an offline journal), I don’t believe in writing stuff just to satisfy someone else’s idea of what I should be writing. So Yes, I could have done a tribute to my maidst, but it’s not what I felt like writing the other day. And it’s definitely not because I don’t appreciate them, but because I can think of thousands of better ways to show my appreciation than write a post in English (which they can’t read) on the internet (where they’ll never see it).
  • When I write about something, I am not aiming to cover all possible aspects of the issue at hand. So don’t make assumptions based on stuff I haven’t written - for e.g. that my maids are underpaid or that I treat them with anything less than respect and dignity, because nothing in my post should lead you to jump to those unfair conclusions.
  • This is an unabashedly all-out mommy blog, where I write about my life as a mother and about my son. So that is the perspective you will see here. If you want a sociological perspective on the lives of the less privileged, you’ve come to the wrong place.

So that’s all I have to say on the subject for now. If there was a silver lining to this whole thing, it’s the support from the blogger friends who rushed to my defence even before I had a chance to read the brickbats. Hugs and a big thank you to Sue, Artnavy, Just Like That, Ceekay and Megha. I am touched beyond words. Maybe I'll do a thank you post for you guys ;-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maid in Mumbai

I just realised that I have been blogging for over one and a half years about my life as a working mom and I have never done a detailed post on the support system that allows me to even consider such a life without having a nervous breakdown – I am talking about my maids.

Given my penchant for order, what better place to start than the very beginning – which is actually a lot before Ayaan was even a possibility – it was the time we decided to get a dog. And like with a baby, this decision too came with its accompanying lifestyle changes – the biggest one being breaching our precious privacy and letting a full time maid into our home. My mom managed to get hold of an elderly widow called Hitkari from Bihar, who given her quiet and undemanding nature, fitted into our home and our lives seamlessly.

When I got pregnant couple of years down the line, I felt pretty smug about the fact that I had atleast one maid figured out. But you know what they say about counting your chickens before they hatch. What happened in my seventh month of pregnancy has pretty much become the urban legend of maid stories amongst my friends. One day, completely out of the blue, I came home to find my supposedly mild-mannered and respectable maid sprawled out on my bean bag, drunk out of her mind! She apologised to me the next day but it was pretty half-hearted as apologies go and it was diluted even further when same behaviour was repeated the following evening! The lady in question was sent home with a one-way ticket – forget about the baby, there was no way I was okay with leaving my dogs in the care of this woman, who suddenly seemed to have suddenly discovered a partiality for alcohol with a vengeance.

So the nanny hunt began with a vengeance. I began with offering the job to Surekha, the lady who had been cooking for us for the last four years – we liked her and trusted her but she has young kids of her own to cook and clean for, so she regretfully declined our offer of increased salary and increased hours. She continues to be our morning maid though. In retrospect, it was a good thing because she is quite unreliable with respect to time, something I never noticed before but in the current situation would seriously hamper my peace of mind.

Then I tried the agency route. A mix of characters came my way – some good, some not so much. But most of them failed to match up on one or more of my endless list of requirements:

  • She had to be a woman. To start with, the thought of having a strange man hanging around the house was beyond weird. Secondly, I don’t think that men have the necessary sensibilities to be care-givers, especially to children who are not their own. And lastly and most importantly, most of the stories I have heard about kids being abused involve men.
  • She had to be middle-aged, ideally should have had kids of her own or should have worked as a nanny for atleast 3-4 years. I see a lot of very young maids, barely out of their teens, with their young charges in the park. Now, I have one such girl who lives with me and she is great playmate for Ayaan, but it stops at that. I can never imagine leaving Ayaan in the sole care of someone who has no experience with caring for children and is barely done with being one herself…
  • Moreover, her work experience should have included a stint with a working mom because helping out a SAHM and handling a child solo while the mother is away are two very different things.
  • She should not have had any addictive habits. Many a prospective nanny was ruled out simply because she had orange/ stained teeth – a sure sign of a tobacco chewing habit.
  • She could not have be too fat. Somehow, I just felt that a seriously overweight woman would not be able to keep up with a hyperactive toddler. On the flipside, she should not have been too thin/ weak-looking either.
  • She had to be willing to either stay with me or work the number of hours that covered my office timings and be willing to stay late or spend the night in case of emergencies.
  • If a day maid, then I didn’t want one who lived very far away because that makes for a lot of no-shows, especially during the monsoons.
  • I wanted to avoid taking on someone with very young kids as they tend to take a lot of sick days and school days off, which while understandable can be highly disruptive to the life of a working mom.
  • Above all else, I had to like her. This one is just about that indefinable something that the person either had or didn’t have – something that just clicked within moments of meeting them. It’s kind of like falling in love ;-)

But even the seemingly good ones who made it through all these criteria didn’t work because the one thing that I was absolutely insistent on was that they furnish me with references and none of them were willing/ able to do so – either the previous employers had allegedly moved abroad or they had not parted on good terms. The idea of leaving my son with a person whose background I knew nothing of just didn’t appeal to me. So I kept looking but since I was unwilling to relax any of the abovementioned criteria, I soon found myself four months into my six-month maternity leave with no nanny in sight.

And then suddenly, lady luck seemed to favour me. First, I managed to trace a lady called Mary who had worked for a distant relative who had moved cities. I met her and really liked her. We agreed that she would start a week later but on the D-day, she didn’t show and when I called, her son picked up and said that she had been hospitalised – they never said for what – and would call back when she was better. She never did.

Just days after the Mary option fell through, I got another lead. A friend of a friend was moving to Singapore and despite her best efforts, she had not been able to arrange a visa for her nanny and was leaving without her. So I asked them to send her over for an interview. Shashikala walked into my house and I took an instant dislike to her – she came across as a demanding, know-it-all person with an enormous chip on her shoulder. But the friend she had worked for (also a full time working mom) had praised her highly and said that she was excellent with her baby girl. Having run out of time and options, I decided to try Shashikala out for a couple of weeks before taking a final decision.

In the end, I am glad that I listened to reason rather than go by my instantaneous dislike for something as silly as her attitude in her dealings with me. Because she has turned out to be an excellent nanny to Ayaan – he adores her to bits, she manages his feeding and napping brilliantly (sometimes better than me), and above all, she is a responsible, mature woman who cares for Ayaan with the right mix of affection and discipline. We have had our ups and downs and she is still not my favourite person, but I have come to realise that that is the least important thing.

In addition to Shashikala the Nanny cum Cook, I have two other maids. Surekha is my old cook and I didn’t want to fire her so she fills in the three-hour gap in the morning before Shashikala arrives at ten. Shashikala leaves as early or late as I get home from work and is not averse to spending the occasional night. I also have a girl called Jamuna, who lives with me and is responsible for keeping things clean and being Ayaan’s playmate. It’s quite an ideal mix because Jamuna has the energy and enthusiasm to play with Ayaan endlessly, while the others are good at feeding and comforting him.

While the set-up is pretty comfortable right now and I hope it stays that way (fingers crossed, knock on wood), I am too much of a control freak to let go completely so I leave no doubt in their minds on how I like things done. The rules are simple:

  • Ayaan eats only in his high chair and sleeps only in his cot and unless there is a very good reason, all this happens as per his regular schedule.
  • One of the maids has to be in viewing distance of him at all times.
  • Absolutely no TV is to be watched by anyone while he is awake.
  • I make a weekly meal plan that spells out what he is to eat for every meal. Moreover, there is to be no junk food and no eating between meals. The meal plan is a recent thing because I found that if I left it entirely up to them, Ayaan’s menu had become pretty boring and repetitive.
  • If I am not back by six and it is not raining, Ayaan should be taken to the park for atleast an hour in the evening.
  • He is never to be left in the unsupervised care of Jamuna.
  • Under no circumstances shall anyone raise a hand on him.

The usual question that people ask me when I tell them all this is how do I know that they are following my rules. I have my ways:

  • Even though we don’t need to, Jai and I always carry our house keys and enter without ringing the bell so that they don’t have any advance notice of our arrival and we can know exactly what they were up to at that particular moment.
  • We try and come back at unexpected times. Jai is able to do this more often than I am since his office is just 10 minutes away. So he randomly drops in for lunch or just to say hi when he is passing by. This keeps them on their toes.
  • I make sure that they stick to even the smallest and least important of my diktats. I don’t believe, as far as they are concerned, in picking my battles because it’s important to drive home the point that I am the last word on everything, no matter how insignificant, to do with Ayaan.
  • And finally, I know that most of my rules are being followed because Ayaan is not particularly interested in watching TV and creates no fuss whatsoever for eating in his high chair and sleeping in his cot. As for the junk food, we’ve pretty much stopped stocking that at home.

So that, in a very large nutshell, is the backbone of my life as a working mom. My maids are all important pillars but the one who is truly indispensable is Shashikala. If she leaves, for whatever reason, I will either have to quit my job or beg the grandmothers to step in while I begin the long, painful search all over again…

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Week’s Worth of Reasons to Stay at Home

It’s been one of those weeks! If you are a SAHM thinking about going back to work, you might want to read this before you take any drastic decisions…

Monday

Why is it that no matter how well you pace yourself before an impending trip, the last day always ends up being crazy? And this time was no different. Time flew by in its usual fashion and before I knew it, it was 5 o’clock in the evening and I still hadn’t set up my out-of-office auto-reply or booked a car for the airport drop the next day, amongst other pending to-dos. Knowing that it would be my only opportunity to hang out at the park with Ayaan this week, I just dropped everything anyway and rushed home to do just that.

Now, if that was all there was to Monday, it would be a pretty relaxed day in my world. But it also happened to be the eve of Rakhi and after what seems like years, three of my cousins were in town at the same time, so I invited them over for dinner. It was good fun and thankfully the maid did all the cooking but by the time we wrapped up, it was well past midnight.

Tuesday

After just 6 hours of sleep, I kick-started the day with the realisation that I had less than four hours to pack, get dressed, send a couple of mails and set that damned auto-reply, all while nursing a hangover and entertaining a toddler whose idea of fun for the day was to fling things out of Mama’s suitcase. I finally managed to stagger into the airport with just over an hour to spare, dragged my exhausted bones into the plane and collapsed into a slumber that lasted halfway into the flight to London. The rest of the flight was spent watching the end of Guru and reading Prisoner of Azkaban (yes, I am re-reading Harry Potter).

The flight to Frankfurt was delayed by almost an hour and instead of catching some R&R at the airport lounge, I invested the time in curing the remnants of my hangover with a spot of duty-free retail therapy (a pair of shoes from Clarks, stocking up from Boots and lots of pleasurable window shopping). Finally got into Frankfurt by midnight and it was well past one by the time I hit the sack.

Interesting side story – the taxi driver who drove me to the hotel was a Pakistani and he was hugely excited that he had a real life Indian passenger. He kept up a steady banter all the way, and since he was speeding along at a robust 180 kmph, this made me understandably nervous. He wanted to know all about where I lived, what I was doing in Frankfurt, what languages I spoke… but the icing on the cake was his parting request of ‘India ko Mera Salaam Dena’… So dear Indian readers of this blog, since you happen to be the only Indian audience that I have any access to, consider yourself salaamed!

Wednesday

Thanks to the completely screwed up body clock, I was up bright and early at 6. I killed time by starting off with Goblet of Fire (finished Prisoner of Azkaban on the Frankfurt flight). Then there was a long, endless meeting by the end of which I was positively droopy. There was a dinner outing planned after an hour’s break but do you think I had the sense to use that to get some much needed shuteye – well, if you did think that, you obviously haven't been paying attention so far, have you?

Anyway, I joined a couple of other women in the group to walk around the shopping area. This is the first time that I went shopping with women who weren’t my friends and I have to say it was really odd and deeply unsatisfying – I felt like I was imposing on them if I suggested a shop to go into and spent too much time there, because I wasn’t sure whether they were interested in the same stuff... So finally, I ended up buying nothing and before we knew it, it was time to join the others for dinner. We ate at a German steakhouse, where I got my first taste of wiener schnitzel, which I have to say was pretty disappointing and bland. Actually, that’s pretty much what I thought about Frankfurt as well…

Thursday

Darned body clock refused to settle down and woke me up at 6 again, like clockwork. Somehow got through another long day and dinner before finally getting a chance to get to bed relatively early (eleven) – managed to finally get the recommended dose of eight hours of sleep for the first time in days.

Friday

That’s the worst thing about the body clock on these short trips. Just when it accustoms itself to the new time zone, it’s time to head back and unsettle the damn thing again. After a half-day meeting, I found myself with an hour to kill before heading for the airport. So I headed back to the shopping area to buy some stuff, mostly to dispel the nagging feeling of discontent that the shopping trip on Wednesday had left me with. Most of the stuff was pretty boring – lots and lots of formal shirts, woollen pants and sensible shoes but managed to pick up a top each from Zero and Mexx.

This time around, I was driven to the airport by a Turkish taxi driver who spent the drive reminiscing about his life in Turkey and regretting his decision to make his home in Germany, a place that he can't call home after 15 years of living there because he still feels like an outsider. He seemed deeply unhappy and my heart went out to him...

Saturday

The flight was over an hour late getting into Mumbai so I barely got time to catch my breath before Ayaan made it clear that no one but me was to be allowed to feed him or put him down for a nap. I used the small window of me-time I got while he was napping to unpack, visit the salon for some much overdue waxing and have a quick bath. When he got up, we headed out to stock up on the groceries, which were running at dangerously low levels. Back home, it was dinner and bath time for Ayaan after which I finally got some time to vegetate in front of the TV for a while before calling it a day.

Sunday

I really do know how to make life difficult for myself because not only did I have friends coming over for lunch, a news channel came over to interview me for some show they are doing on parenting and pets. For those of you wondering why, it was because of this.

Also, on Sundays the nanny leaves after lunch so that was one less helping hand…so I was pretty pooped by the end of the day. But jet lag, funnily enough, caught up with me a day later and though I was all bleary-eyed and achy, I couldn’t convince my body to actually follow through and fall asleep. I finally passed out around two - I guess that would have been a reasonable enough bed time in Germany where it was still 10.30 p.m., but not so much in India.

Monday

I had to leave early for a meeting at the other end of town and my morning maid decided to land up half an hour late. I wasted precious time and breath screaming at her in my most shrewish manner. She gave me some cock-and-bull story (or so I thought at the time, since I get one of these every time she’s late – about once a week) about the neighbour’s son having gone missing. Well, as it turns out the story was true and she was even pictured in the corner of one of the pics of the grieving family… I feel bad about not believing her, but you know what they say about crying wolf…

It was a long day and I got home just in time to give Ayaan his dinner. He was a little grumpy and had the beginnings of a cough. I felt bad about getting home late, especially after having been away the previous week. And since he had the next day off from playschool, I decided that it was the perfect day to put into action my plan for working from home one day a week.

Tuesday

Well, my plan for a fun and relaxing day with Ayaan was shot to hell right from the start – he woke up with a hacking cough and a temperature of 100.7oF. He was coughing so badly that he even threw up a couple of times. So the whole day went into trying to make the poor baby feel better. And as it always is when he is feeling less than peachy, he wanted noone but Mama. I was not even allowed to go the loo without braving a complete meltdown. He wouldn’t even sleep unless it was in my bed, with me next to him… so I finally had a bath at 6 in the evening when I thought the maids had managed to distract him but halfway through, he noticed that I was gone so I had to finish my bath to the accompaniment of some pretty violent crying.

We took him to the doctor in the evening, who prescribed a cough syrup to ease his discomfort. He thankfully kept his dinner down and slept at his usual bedtime and in his own room, so I got some time to catch up on work and e-mails. And now instead of sleeping, I am here writing on the blog… somebody stop me, seriously!

What a week (or nine days for the nitpickers amongst us who counted)! Anyway, I am staying home tomorrow as well – because Ayaan is unlikely to be well tomorrow since I have not pulled out the big guns (the antibiotics) yet. And plus I think I need a break - though if tomorrow is anything like today, going into office might actually be a more relaxing option…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mystery of the Missing Mommyblogger

Why haven’t I posted for over two weeks? Let me count the reasons…

To start with, we went home to my mom’s place for the five days. I thought I would get a chance to catch on the blogging while there, but like with all such trips with Ayaan, I came back feeling more exhausted than when I left. To give everyone their due, I had a lot of help from Jai, my mom and my brother but he still needed me around most of the time, thereby ensuring that I didn’t get the break that I had hoped for. I also realised that I have become completely unused to having him sleep in the same room as us – every noise that he made woke me up and any noise from outside had me fretting that it would make him up – so the plan of catching up on my sleep didn’t go as well either. Finally, he got a terrible cough on the last couple of days so you can imagine that I was pretty worn out by the end of my ‘break’.

Moreover, work has been pretty crazy. It usually goes through cycles and right now, it’s peaking. I was in office till eleven one day – the latest I have worked since I went back to work after my maternity break. Even on other days, I have been working late, carrying stuff home to finish once Ayaan’s off to bed and generally feeling stretched and stressed out (not to mention rather guilt-ridden about spending less time than usual with Ayaan)… That being said, it’s also been a satisfying couple of weeks, work-wise – so even with the periodic guilt attacks, I am quite at more at peace with life as a working mom that I have vere been.

With work and Ayaan taking up most of the time, the house has fallen into disorder – or so I think – Jai thinks I am making a mountain out of a molehill. Actually, it’s nobody’s fault but my own because there are things that the control freak in me will not submit to delegating to my over-paid, underemployed army of three maids. The laundry absolutely must be sorted by me (no one else can be trusted with the highly strategic job of putting the right colours together into a load) and ironed clothes just have to be put away by me. As a result, we currently have an overflowing laundry basket and a pile of clean laundry waiting to be put away, which looks like this:

To add to that, some of our furniture is breeding wood-worms and a couple of windows have been letting the monsoon into our flat. It’s all driving me batty! So blogging has kind of taken a back seat.

And if that were not all, I have been possessed by a seemingly innocent-looking book (no, it's not Harry Potter, though I have started re-reading the series) called the parents’ workbook. It’s a book that the teachers at Ayaan’s playschool send home every weekend with exercises that parents (read mothers) have to do with the kids to reinforce stuff that they were exposed to at school. Now firstly, they told us it wasn’t compulsory for us to fill in the books but I just can’t bring myself to send it back empty. In my mind’s eye, I almost see the teacher nodding her head disapprovingly and thinking to herself, ‘Tut! Tut! Another working mom’s kid.’ And worse that that, Ayaan feeling less that proud of his book. So I have been driving myself crazy trying to do the best job I can with each exercise, severely handicapped by my lack of even a smidgeon of artistic talent. I present to you some of my masterpieces:

This one was an exercise on finding shapes in the everyday objects that the kid already knows and relates to. This one cost me about three hours on Google and another hour cutting the objects out of the printout. (But the 5 stars we got on the page felt more substantial that my best performance review :)…)

This one on modes of transport was worth another couple of hours on Google and an almost equal amount of scissor time (the train took almost half an hour to cut out!). Plus I always do these exercises with Ayaan because even in my insanity, I know the main reason for doing this is to build on his learning. Given that he has a typical two-year old’s attention span, it takes a while to finish this part of the exercise as well – sometimes as many as 4-5 sitting of a few minutes each.

The number exercise turned out to be pretty expensive. I spent twenty minutes at the stationary shop picking out these stickers with my phone lying on the counter next to me. When I finished, I looked around to find the phone gone! And when I tried calling it, it gave an unavailable message so someone had obviously stolen it when my attention was diverted. Add another bunch of hours for rebuilding my address book...

And this was our exercise for this week – we had to illustrate a cow, along with what it eats (grass), where it lives (shed), what it gives us (milk), what it says (moo), what it’s baby is called (calf) and what it swishes away with its tail (flies). Simple task, you say? Well, not if you decide to get obsessive about the type of cow you want (Indian-looking, with tail up in the air to swish away flies, a matching calf...). Another couple of hours on Google - somebody stop me!

Anyway, in the end I felt quite validated in all my efforts when I stuck the grass onto the cow’s mouth and asked Ayaan ‘What does the cow eat?’ and he promptly replied with ‘Gaass’ (he can’t say his R’s yet so they are either skipped altogether or replaced with L’s), a word he has never said in front of me before!

So as you can imagine, a lot of free time has been going into getting this stuff together (not to mention my recently acquired Facebook addiction…)

And that if anyone was interested was my litany of excuses for not posting sooner. Thanks for the prod, Megha - your little nudge pushed me out my exhaustion-induced inertia…

Friday, August 03, 2007

Marriage Anyone?

Megha has a thought-provoking post over here on the institution of marriage. And despite the fact that I am a happily married mother-of-one-hopefully-someday-two, I found myself vigorously nodding while I read through most of what she had written, so I decided to write my version of it, written from the trenches of marriage and motherhood, so to speak.

There is no denying the fact that marriage is hardly a very equal institution and that the burden of the responsibilities arising from it lie squarely in the woman’s side of the court.

Digression begins. It really makes me wonder why men make such a big deal about commitment and refer to it as being ‘tied down’. Other than the fact that they can no longer avail of all the free sex (the assumption being that women are beating their door down, unable to resist the glory that is their single manhood), or atleast not with a clear conscience, it seems like a complete win-win situation. It is, in fact, the woman who is tied down and has to change lots about her life, including but not limited to the very name she was born with. Men, on the other hand, have to change little, if at all and get a free housekeeper in the bargain. End of digression.

Now, I am by no means a brow-beaten doormat when it comes to my particular marital situation and I would not be exaggerating if I said that we have an equal opportunity marriage. The fact that I am equally qualified and earn almost as much probably has a lot to do with it (though I know enough examples of where this does not count for as much as it should). My career has always been as important. In fact, when we got married, we were working in different cities and since I was the one with the more stable and better-paying job, Jai was the one to shift cities and jobs. And it was never seen, by either of us, as a big sacrifice made by him at the time – it was just the most obvious and sensible choice…

But even in this marriage of supposed equals, our daily life is full of inequities. And this is where the fun part (for me) of the post begins and I get to vent and rant...

After years of attempted indoctrination on the absolute horror of wet towels on the bed, piles of visiting cards on my dressing table and used tissues left in trouser pockets, I have to admit that my progress report card looks less than spectacular.

Whenever I nag at him about the messes he creates, I am classified as a shrew, with OCD-like tendencies no less. The expectation is that I should learn to live with the mess or that if I care so much about it, I should clean it up myself. And I do but it really bugs me. Why do I have to be the one who cares about living in a place that classifies as a home rather than a hovel? Left to his own devices, Jai wouldn’t notice if the house turned into an actual pigsty, as long as said pigsty was equipped with a TV (with a remote-control), a comfortable (though not necessarily clean) bed and a functional (though not necessarily hygienic) kitchen. But it’s his house too and he should care.

To some extent, I could accept that were I a housewife, because then I wouldn’t have as many other demands on my time. But I am a working woman and I spend almost as much time away from home as he does. And when I am at home, I don’t want to spend precious time, that I could spend playing with my son, cleaning up other people’s messes.

Also, I love my house and I am proud of it. But if I were to take the ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ kind of approach to mess-making, the blame for that would be laid completely at my door. I would be judged for the squalor, even if most of it wasn’t of my making because as the ‘woman of the house’, it is my responsibility to ensure that our house looks good. Why must people, including my mother, judge me (and only me) when my house looks less than perfect? And if it is important to me, why can’t my husband invest atleast a fraction of the effort that I do to keep it looking the way it does?

And keeping the house clean is just one part of running and maintaining a household. And while I am not suggesting that Jai is an unhelpful MCP (he really isn’t), he just doesn’t see domestic issues as his responsibility and will help only when asked or hinted at in an obvious manner. In fact, my biggest grouse is that all the to-do lists with their do-by dates are on my already overloaded plate and in addition everything else, it appears I must also play the role of a reminder service…

What will it take for a sensible, fully grown man to notice that the light bulb is fused or that the tap is leaking and for him to fix it without him being asked… multiple times? And why am I always left with a sneaking suspicion that he thinks he’s doing it all as a big favour for me?

And then the scales tipped even further away from being in my favour when we had a baby. Somehow carrying the baby inside me for nine months conveniently made me the expert on raising a child, magically imbued with the necessary skills and temperament. And while Jai helped (and he did help), that’s what it was at the end of the day – help.

Have you noticed how the men in our generation feel all virtuous (‘I’m way cooler than my dad’) about this help that they give their wives. But what’s there to feel all goody-goody about when in fact the help you are doling out is only a fraction of the approximately 50% of the responsibilities that you should be taking on, especially if your wife works. I really think that the current lot of men have it easy – their wives ease the financial burden on them by going out to work but they don’t have to reciprocate in equal measure. They just ‘help’ out depending on time and energy levels and everybody goes ‘Awww…. Isn’t he quite the modern dad’…

And how come men don’t feel guilt about leaving their kids home and going to work? Why is their sense of self-worth still driven by how much money they bring in, rather than the amount of quality time they spend with their kids? Why is it okay for a woman to let her career take a backseat after kids but when a man does that, he is seen as a loser or worse, a wimp? Why is a woman automatically branded as a ‘bad mother’ if she tries to do both?

In fact, this is one area where feminism has made our lives tougher rather than easier. So we are now supposed to go out into the world and be independent women who exist as more than just mothers and wives. And yet we are still supposed to be great mothers and wives as well. All we really end up being is an exhausted bunch of wannabe Supermoms chasing an ideal balance that’s impossible to achieve with just twenty-four hours in the day…

I guess that brings me to the end of my rant. I could go on with more examples and illustrations but I think I’ve said what needed to be said on what’s not so great about marriage. But overall, knowing what I know today, I would still do exactly as I did. Because to not do so, would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Because:

  • Unless you plan to live out the rest of your life without a partner, marriage is not all that different from living with someone you are romantically involved with. Most of the pluses and minuses would still apply if you decided to co-habit with said someone.
  • Once you’ve met someone you are fairly sure you want to spend the rest of your life with, what’s the big deal abut marrying them? For me the decision not to would have come with making my mother extremely unhappy about her daughter ‘living in sin’ (yes, she has used those very words) and I don’t think that would have been worth it.
  • The bonds of marriage may chafe at times but they also keep you from walking out at the first whiff of trouble. No relationship is without its ups and down and when you are married to somebody, it just makes the commitment that much more formal and substantive. You atleast wait around to see if the bad times are going to last before running for the door.
  • I, for one, quite like the idea of growing old with someone. The idea of being unattached seems really attractive in the midst of one’s youth, but as you get older, it’s kind of nice to have someone to come home to every night, someone to share your deepest, darkest fears and thoughts with, someone who doesn’t judge you for the way you think and act or stop loving you when you get old and saggy – your husband.
  • Legally speaking, marriage is pretty awesome. You get to pool your money together to build assets that you might not have been able to do on your own. And yet your joint assets are protected in the eventual worse case scenario of a divorce.
  • And finally a marriage is just like any other commitment or contract you might make in your life. Why is signing an employment agreement with a faceless, corporate entity okay but not a contractual promise to marry someone you love. Just like other pacts, this one is not a one-way road (atleast not any more) but gives your life some sort of structure and stability. What’s so wrong with that?

So, in the final analysis, marriage has been worth it, atleast for me and I would highly recommend it to those who have met someone they can conceivably see themselves hanging around with for a handful of decades.

Thanks for making me think (and subsequently post) though, Megha.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dr. Rohini and Ms. Snide (or some equally bad crack at a title)

No matter what I do, I can’t seem to escape this tagging business. Not that I am complaining – after all, it does give one the easy way out on coming up with new content ideas for the blog – but sometimes they do pile up. Like right now, I am behind by about two tags. The grand plan was to tackle them last weekend but that was before the darling husband gave me the new Harry Potter (loved it!) hot off the shelves on Saturday morning…

Anyway, to get back to tag-less status, I am going to do two tags in this post – also because they are kind of like two sides of the same coin…

The first tag is from The Mad Momma and she’s invited me to reveal my judgemental side. Now, I don’t normally come off as a judgemental person but it’s just that I am not very vocal about but I, like most other people, make snap decisions about people based on small things. Here are some of those dredged up from the deep, dark recesses of my secret, judgemental world.

  • I judge women who let themselves go after marriage (sometimes even before a baby is born). It’s as if the only motivation for them to look good was to catch the guy. I have seen people starve themselves and exercise to exhaustion so that they look good on their wedding day and after that, they couldn’t care less.
  • I judge people who read only business and self-help books of the ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ variety. I think they are completely uni-dimensional.
  • I judge workaholics. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and driven but all work and no play does make Jack a very dull boy.
  • On a related note, I judge people who camp out at work and give excuses like ‘The spouse is travelling’ or ‘But I am still unmarried’. But what about books, friends, exercise…seriously, get a life!
  • I judge SAHMs who when I ask what they do (before I know that they are SAHMs and after they know that I am a working mom) say something like ‘I have the most important job of all – I take care of my kids’. Puh-lease. I get it. You have made a choice that works for you and I respect it but must you get all defensive about it? And can you please be a little more tactful, given that you are talking to a mom who has chosen differently?
  • I judge superstitious people. Belief in God is one thing but when you tell me that I can’t say your baby is cute because it will attract the evil eye, it is a bit too much.
  • I judge women who put their careers ahead of their family’s needs. This, of course, doesn’t mean that I judge working mothers (because among other things, that would be self-destructive), but just those of them that are okay with leaving their sick child with the maid while they attend that all-important meeting or can’t find the time to attend the PTA meeting or Sports Day.
  • I judge people who are not house-proud. I don’t expect that every thing should be perfect but you know when care and love has gone into creating and maintaining a home. At the very least, keep a clean house. There’s nothing I hate more than having to use the toilet at someone’s house to find an icky wet floor, no clean towel to wipe one's hands with or no toilet paper. And nothing can kill my appetite faster than a dirty kitchen…
  • I judge cheap people. I don’t mean people who need to live on a budget but affluent people who live like paupers just because they are miserly. These are the kind of people who refuse to contribute 100 bucks a month to the building kitty so that a sweeper-woman can be hired to clean the common areas…
  • I judge men who pee/ spit on public roads. I have seen a man get out of a swanky Toyota and relieve himself on a wall on a busy, public road. Geez, find a room, and preferably one with a toilet!
  • I judge people who don’t put thought into gifts. I really hate it when people give me gifts that are obviously recycled or bought without any thought to what I might like. I’d rather you didn’t give me anything at all. And here, monetary value is of least importance. Some of the best gifts I’ve received have not cost all that much… when it comes to gifting, it really is the thought that counts.
  • I judge SAHMs who see their role only in the physical job of bringing up their kids. Come on, the maid will do almost as good a job of cooking a nutritious, tasty meal for them but a cuddle, a book-reading session or just simple playtime is something the maid can do only half as well as you, if at all. (I am, of course, referring to those of us who live in countries and have income levels that allow us to have hired help)
  • On the other hand, I also judge moms who find it a boring chore to feed and bathe their kids and delegate the tasks entirely to the maid, even when they are at home.
  • I judge NRIs who crib about smelly, corrupted India. Especially the ones who grew up here and took advantage of all the subsidised education that got them where they are. If you really do feel this way, stop coming back and if you must, please have the grace to keep your opinions to yourself, especially in front of those who have chosen to stay in this, according to us, wonderful country of ours.
  • I judge bigots, especially educated bigots. I never failed to be shocked when those I consider ‘people like me’ make hateful statements based on ingrained stereotypes that they have about communities, nationalities or genders.
  • I judge people whose civic sense ends outside their own doorstep. It’s admirable that you want to keep your house garbage-free but please find other ways of disposing of your waste than throwing it off your balcony or dumping it on the road. Contrary to what you might think, your right to create a mess does not begin where your personal living space ends, it actually ends there.
  • I judge women who stay in bad marriages. I know it can’t be easy to leave but do you really want to pay the price of the rest of your life for one bad decision that you made, or that was made for you, by living it out with a person who abuses you, mentally and/or physically and destroys your sense of self-worth. I know some women truly have no choice because they have no means to support their kids/ themselves but when qualified, educated women choose to stay, it really makes me want to shake them up.
  • I judge parents who bring their brats to public spaces (malls, restaurants, movie halls) and make no effort to prevent them from making utter nuisances of themselves. I do not appreciate my quiet, romantic dinner with my husband being destroyed by someone’s ill-behaved child running around the restaurant and screeching.
  • I judge moms who come to the park dressed as if they just walked off the ramp. The only reason you should be there is to hang out and play with your kids and not to preen and say things like "Darling, we can’t go into the sandpit – Mama’s shoes will get dirty”… need I say more?
  • This is a silly one but I judge people who say ‘My hairs are so long’. People! The hair on your head is (not are) one, singular entity.

Ok, I could go on but I think I should stop before I alienate everyone who likes/ loves me. But seriously though, as Mad Momma also said, a lot of the people in my life are chockfull of these traits but it doesn’t matter because I am past judging them. These are just judgements I make about people I just met or barely know and sometimes use to decide whether I want to get to know them better…

The reverse tag was from Ceekay, who very admirably tries to find something to admire in everyone. I can’t claim to be as charitable as her but here are some of the things that I do admire:

  • I admire people who have the insight into themselves to figure out what they’d like to be doing and then have the guts to drastically switch career paths or strike out on the own. I have neither.
  • I admire people who know how to use make-up and accessories well to look perfectly turned out. The only thing I can use is lipstick and that too is all gone within a couple of hours of putting it on.
  • I admire people who can give and take compliments with grace.
  • I admire people who go for long and faraway vacations with young kids. I have one kid and the very thought of driving/ flying for more than two hours with Ayaan scares the hell out of me. And the longest holiday that we have taken to a place that was not the home of either of our parents has been 3 days, and after that, I felt like I needed a holiday to recover from it. Talena - a seven-hour drive with three young kids – you are awe-inspiring…
  • I admire men who see themselves as having an equal stake in running the house and bringing up the children. Many men do help out but they see themselves doing it as a favour for their wives to ‘help them out’.
  • I admire people with patience. I am terribly short-tempered, especially with the people I love and whose love I am assured of. Ayaan gets to see a lot of my bad temper (sometimes deservedly so) and I regret it constantly.
  • I admire people who can make the SAHM-working mother choice easily and live with their decisions without regret. I struggle with working mom guilt for every second that I am away from home, and especially when I travel for work.
  • I admire people who can make the transition from being their children’s parents to being their friends. I hope to be able to do that some day.
  • I admire people who can cook, cook well and enjoy cooking. I hate it and have been known to screw up the cooking of instant noodles and boiled eggs. And don't even get get me started on the meltdown I have when confronted with recipe instructions like 'add salt to taste'
  • I admire people who adopt children. To make place in your home and heart for a child that is not yours is truly admirable. I have even greater respect for those who adopt after having kids their own. I hope to do this some day.
  • I admire couples who manage to keep some us-time even after they venture into parenthood.
  • I admire fit people who can run a mile without feeling like they are about to have a cardiac seizure.
  • I admire people who can keep a calm head in a crisis.
  • I admire people who are good at bargaining. I get conned all the time because I am too embarassed to question the seller's price.
  • I admire people whose Admiring list is longer than their Judging list… :)

That’s all from me for the moment. Oh, wait! I have to pass the tag on. Zen, Aqua, Grafx, 30in2005, Something to Say…you’re it. Do one, do both – take your pick.