Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mama Gets Crafty (Or So She Thinks)

As a kid, I was never into craft. I never did papier mache. Or origami. There are no paintings or drawings of mine up on my mom’s walls – not for lack of sentimentality on her part (she does have some my brother made) – I just never made any. There was a time when I had to take an SUPW (remember Socially Useful Productive Work ;-)) class and I picked Stitching and Embroidery (because all my friends were doing it). In the first year, I decided to make my mom a set of cross-stitch tablemats. All she has to show for it is a single mat. The next year, I decided to try my hand at knitting and pegged my ambitions low – a plain black muffler for my dad. It never achieved much more than handkerchief-sized proportions. And I think that was about it...

But now, my lack of investment craft activity has come back to haunt me. In the form of stuff that needs to be done for Ayaan’s school. Stuff that cannot always be bought off the shelf...

The weekend before last, Ayaan was a goat in his class performance. So a couple of weeks before that, the parents (read mothers because I have yet to see a single father show his face at one of these things) were summoned to a costume meeting. We were told that our kids had chosen the animal they wanted to be and that we had to get their costumes together accordingly. The good thing about Ayaan’s school is that they strive for simplicity in everything they do so the costumes were to be put together out of existing or reusable stuff. No fancy stuff from costume shops. Ayaan’s costume was to be:

  • Black T-shirt
  • Black Track Pants
  • Black Socks
  • Goat Face Mask to be pinned on T-shirts (as face masks on the actual faces tend to make young kids very irritable)
  • A head band with ears and horns
  • A tail

Now the clothes themselves were a breeze. But the mask was another matter altogether. Because my son, as always, had decided that nothing can be so easy for his mother. Trips to no less than four stationery shops unearthed masks of every other animal under the sun, including camels and sheep, but the common goat was nowhere to be found.

So I did what any sensible mother with internet access would do next. I googled. And googled. And googled some more but there was no readily available and printable goat mask to be found. What I found instead was this:

Now the grey goat was a complete picture but Ayaan has never seen a grey goat (neither have I, for that matter) and I wanted it to be a goat that he could recognise. So I took bits and parts of the brown goats and stitched them together in Microsoft Power Point. And then grouped all the bits and saved them as a picture. But the goat was still missing one crucial bit – its right ear, since none of the brown goats had a visible right ear. So then I learnt a new trick, with a little help from a slightly more technologically advanced friend. It appears you can flip objects to their mirror image in Microsoft Paint – so I copied the left ear, flipped it and voila! I had a full goat head, albeit one that looked like it had had multiple botched up plastic surgeries…

I printed it onto card paper, cut it out and used a black marker to draw eyeballs, so that the goat did not look like a creature arisen from the land of the undead and the maid’s vastly superior stitching skills were called into service to stitch the mask on to the T-shirt. By this time, my creative energies had all but died so I sought help from some friendly fellow mommybloggers on the tail and it was suggested that I used a sock. So I went and bought a brown newborn sock and that was sewn onto the back of the T-shirt. I also printed a larger version of the mask and cut out the ears and horns and stapled them onto a black headband of mine. And that was that.

All that remains is for me to unveil the young actor in his costume (front and back)… and also my first stumbling (and complete) effort at craft.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of Feathers and Festerings

Ayaan's latest fun thing to do in the park is to collect all the flowers that have fallen on the ground. Sometimes he also includes the odd feather or nut that comes his way.

As his lordship's slave, I am usually allotted the task of carefully holding them while he continues his treasure hunt. Carefully being the operative word because a crushed petal can lead to a major meltdown. Sometimes, he will command me to put a flower behind each ear, survey the effect critically and then announce 'Pretty hain' This one will grow up to be a ladykiller, I tell you.

And when the mood strikes him, he spends ages arranging his loot till he feels he has achieved the aesthetic effect he is striving for. This is his work of art from a lazy Saturday morning at the park:


While on the park and flowers subject, I got into a bit of a scrap with the park guard a couple of weeks ago. He objected to Ayaan picking up the flowers that had fallen on the ground and playing with them. When asked why, he said it was against the rules. I marched him over to the big board with the long list of rules and pointed out that the rules only prohibited plucking of flowers - there was nothing in there about picking up flowers that fallen off on their own. He then came up with some random theory about how other kids would see Ayaan picking flowers off the ground and then go about plucking flowers. At which point, I told him that Ayaan knew better than to pluck flowers and I didn't really see how what others kids did was any of my beeswax. He glowered at me for a bit and then shrugged and walked off. So we continue our flower collection drive whenever we are there much to his obvious irritation.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. He is pretty much the self-appointed dictator of the park. He has got himself a really shrill whistle that he blasts every time he witnesses any so-called transgression. And there is an endless set of rules, both official and unofficial, that he takes upon himself to enforce. Like the pissing off (though unfortunately official) rule about not stepping on the grass - WTF - it's not some goddamn botanical garden! But also silly ones about not a single grain of sand from the sandpit being allowed onto the nearby path - that's certain to get the whistle blowing! In addition to the whistle, he can also be pretty rude and abrasive about enforcing these rules. Overall, one gets the sense that he is enjoying making life difficult for people who have it better in life than he does...

I guess it might be simpler to find another park but Ayaan loves it there. And a couple of his friends from his class at school come there too. It's also hidden away off the main roads and as a result it's not over-crowded like bigger parks like Jogger's Park where there are long, snaking lines just to get on to the slides and swings.


The guard's behaviour is not a one-off either. Like Sue says, there is a smouldering resentment amongst those less fortunate amongst us. I see it all the time. The building watchman at a friend's place who watched me spent 5 minutes reversing the car into an empty space and getting Ayaan out of his car seat before telling me that it was reserved and that I couldn't park there. The guy selling tissue boxes at the traffic signal who walked off after aiming a hard kick on my bumper when I refused to buy his wares. The auto rickshaw driver who heaped the choicest abuses on me because I was rich enough to have taken a flight but refused to pay triple the regular fare to get home from the airport. The rude salesperson at a department store who just shrugged unhelpfully when I asked him where to find something. Parul's recent experience with the painters at her house...

On one hand, this barely concealed animosity is frightening. It almost feels like there is rage there that is just waiting to find an outlet. And I don’t really want to think about what the manifestations of that could be. I have seen it happen in small ways – like the tissue box guy I mentioned earlier or the young teenage boys who walk around dragging sharp objects across car doors, leaving unsightly scratches… passive aggressive ways to release their frustrations. But what if they became less passive and more aggressive...

On the other hand, it makes me feel guilty about the privileged life I lead. And also resentful about being made to feel defensive about my status as a confirmed member of the upper middle class. Sure, I was born with a silver spoon, comparatively speaking and have had advantages and opportunities that most Indians would not even dream about. But converting those opportunities into success is not something to be taken for granted and is a result of effort and investment, both mine and my family's. And my lifestyle is supported by hard-earned money. So I don't see why I should be expected to slink around and hide my privilege. If I can afford branded clothes and the latest gadgets, why should I be judged or hated for buying them. Sure, some of them cost enough to a feed a family of four for a month. But there is money that I give to various charities that will do just that. But I don't want to give away all my money. I'd like to enjoy the rest of the fruits of my labour rather than live a life of austerity. It will never be entirely guilt-free because I know the value of that money to someone less fortunate than me. But I'd rather not be made to feel that I am a bad person for doing so…

This post started somewhere and has meandered to some place altogether different. And I think I have started rambling. Time to call it quits, I think.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Grass on the Other Side

The old 'The grass is greener on the other side of the fence' proverb might just have been thought up by a mother. It happens to me all the time with Ayaan - I crib about something or the other and wish things would change but when they do, I am left yearning for the earlier scheme of things. A recent example...

After 8 months of daily stress and struggle without any full time help, I finally found and employed a new maid, who joined us last week. When she came to meet me, I took an instant liking to her. As did Ayaan, who invited her to come to his room to play with him. Needless to say, that was the moment of truth and the rest of the 'interview' was a mere formality. Now here's the thing. Ever since she came, Ayaan has been quite happy to let me do my own thing while he plays with her. And after 8 months of not having an Ayaan-free moment outside of work and his sleeping hours, I have found myself with time on my hands. And instead of the huge sigh of relief that's been a long time coming, I am left feeling strangely bereft...

And it's happened so many times, I've lost count. But here are some instances I remember:

  • I waited for him to talk. And now there are times when he talks my ears off and I wish he would just keep quiet for just five minutes and let me nurse the headache I have got from his constant banter and from coming up with answers to his endless questions.
  • I watched with bated breath as he took his first steps. And was soon longing for the days when he couldn't reach and destroy my posessions or worrying that he would hurt himself.
  • I look forward to the occassional long distance trip to get a much-needed break but I am usually yearning to get back before the first day is over.
  • I keep wanting him to learn to self-feed. But when he does attempt it, he makes such an unholy mess, I am tempted to hop right in and feed him myself.

And so life goes on. You can never accuse me of being easily satisfied.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Kiran, Ceekay and Hillgrandmom have given me this award. Yay! Not one, not two, but three lovely ladies think my blog is brilliant. How brilliant is that!

My first instinct is to be all self-deprecating and list the number of reasons why I don't deserve this award (blogging frequency, for one). But some friends of mine have been telling me that I am very bad at accepting compliments. So in this case, I shall simply say that I am truly honoured and graciously accept this award. Thank you Kiran, Ceekay and Hillgrandmom. And thanks to those who drop by to read and comment, many of whom have become so much more than just co-bloggers and commenters. And of course a big thank you to the raison d'etre for this blog - my little sweetheart, Ayaan who inspires me to write (and also keeps me from it by occupying every available waking moment and piece of mindspace).

How this works -

Brilliant Weblog is a prize given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogsphere.

First, here are the rules:

  1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back
  2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
  3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’
  4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).
  5. And then we pass it on!

I am passing on this award to the following blogs, in no particular order:

  1. Winter's Day In - Mommyblogger with her fingers in so many pies that she makes my head spin - bringing up three (!) young boys, home schooling, scrapbooking, running an eBay business, research into alternate health, cooking healthy and organic food for her family and all this while planning to move the family across countries!!!
  2. Expatriate Games - Melissa's fascinating account of her life as a Canadian in Korea and her cute little Fusion Baby
  3. Days in a Wannabe Punk's Life - Love her fortright and well-researched posts. She has not been posting of late but I hope she comes back soon!
  4. The Smug Bug - Another one who really ought to blog more often. Especially love her childhood posts which always take me back on the memory train.
  5. Winkie's Way - Beautiful, beautiful writing. I always come away from her blog with a sense of calm
  6. 30 in 2005 - She self-deprecatingly says she writes blah, mundane stuff. Couldn't be further from the truth. Love seeing London and a host of the cities through her eyes. And her writing on life is the 30s really hits home.
  7. Aqua's Dreamscapes - She has the most gorgeous templates. And has recently done a really insightful series of posts on Tibet and the China Olympics.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pokey Pokey

Nikhil recounts Suhana's first vaccination visit, in a rather inapproriately titled post ;-)

What is common between the following gentlemen? (Ok, some of them don’t quite qualify as gentlemen, but ignore that)

  • Mike Tyson
  • Salman Khan
  • Carl Lewis
  • Will Smith

They have gone on record to say that they are petrified of injections! These are full grown macho men, who have been involved in a fist fight or two. If they are scared of injections, can you imagine what a little infant goes through?

One can argue that the real cause of fear of injections is not the actual prick, but the build up to it. You know exactly what’s going to happen, but there is nothing you can do in self defense. And so one would assume that for infants, who don’t know what’s in store, it should be less of an ordeal. But I don’t agree with that at all. Here she is, nicely swaddled in clothes and a warm blanket, in her parent’s arms, being cradled around. And suddenly someone, whom she has never seen before, jerks off the blanket and clothes, places her on a cold mat and begins to jab her with a long, pointed needle. Imagine how that must feel.

Suhana’s first round of injections was scheduled for Monday, 30th June. It was an event, which everyone was nervous about, but was afraid to say so!

Pallavi was nervous for one really big reason. This was the first time that the pediatrician was going to see Suhana, since we left the hospital and besides the injection, he would do a full scale physical examination. For all new moms, in their mind, this is an examination of their capabilities as a Mother. As part of this exam, the pediatrician will measure the baby’s weight, height, skin and general development. If things are going well, then the baby should have put on weight (they lose some of their birth weight initially and then start gaining it back), grown taller and healthier. If this happens, then the Doctor smilingly looks at the mother and says “She looks nice and healthy”. The mother hears it as “Well done! You have passed this exam”. If things are not fine, then he will solemnly look at the mother and say “She needs to improve her pace of growing”. The mother hears this as “You have turned in very poor performance. FAIL”. So, if you find that the wife is particularly nervous and unusually aggressive a few days before this event, now you know why!

The only saving grace is that, in this whole episode, no one even looks at the Father. The only time the Doctor speaks to him during this time is to ask him “Have you paid my consultation fees at the reception?

Talking about the father, this injection time is quite a weird event. It is probably the only time in life, when he will let another grown man poke and hurt his daughter and quietly watch everything. Hell, he even has to thank this other man for a job nicely done! How ironic.

The father’s role becomes important while entering the clinic or hospital just before the injection. The Doctors have warned the parents in advance, that the child is vulnerable to infections till the vaccinations are complete. That every other man, woman and child is a walking talking disease bag, from whom, the child must be protected.

So I entered the hospital like a commando on an overnight search-n-kill operation. Suhana was bundled in layers of clothing, submersed in my arms. My eye’s were watchful, eyeing every person in the hospital with extreme suspicion:

“That filthy guy with a stubble…don’t let him come close. Don’t know how many germs are hiding in his facial fuzz”

“That fat aunty with the sweaty neck. I can just see those germs swimming on her back in puddles of sweat”

“That pesky little kid with a cold. Why doesn’t his mom give him a hanky”!!

As I moved in short, covert bursts from one pillar to the other, my wife gave me cover by walking a few meters ahead, clearing the crowd and shouting in a raspy, aggressive tone that she had not used even in our worst fights!

Finally we reached the Doctor’s cubicle and I heaved a sigh of relief – I had finished my task without any problems. Pallavi, on the other hand, was a sight to behold. Hands trembling, hair frizzed out and eyes nervously shifting gaze.

The Doctor finally began the examination. As he went about checking Suhana, we were expecting him to make a grand announcement after each measurement, declaring a successful performance. But he just kept mumbling to himself, recording each measurement diligently on a paper which he kept close to him. This just added to the tension in the atmosphere. Finally, when my wife could not take it anymore, he announced “She has not only regained her birth weight, but has actually added a bit more. Things are running better than expected”. My wife of course, heard this as “You have broken the 50 year old National Record for baby- weight- gain- in- first- 10- days. You have passed with top honors!!” I literally had to hold her back from jumping onto the Doctor and plastering him with a wet kiss!

Next, it was time for the dreaded injection.

Doctor - “Ok Suhana. Don’t worry, this wont hurt

Me – Thinking. “Yeah, right! That injection relative to her size, is the same as poking you with a full scale baseball bat Doc!!

Doctor – With maniacal eyes. “Here goes…just a little pokey pokey.....hahahahahaha

Suhana – Instantly. “Waaaaaaaaaaaah. This guy is poking me and you guys are just standing and watching? Save me! Waaaaaaaah!

I must admit that it is quite a heart wrenching moment to see a small infant cry like that in pain. You feel very helpless and have to just grin and bear it.

But then something strange happened. The Doctor suddenly lifted her in his arms, with one finger pressed on her wound and began cradling her in a particular position. Almost instantly, Suhana stopped crying. For the next 5 minutes, the Doctor cradled her, talked to her and told us how infants have a much stronger sense of touch, taste and hearing than adults. He told us that only their vision was inferior to ours, but otherwise, pound for pound, they are physically superior! By the end of it, Suhana was completely at peace and was actually enjoying the whole thing.

My wife by now, had fallen for the Doctor. With stars in her eyes, I could gauge exactly what she was thinking -“What a wonderful man. How nicely he put my daughter at ease. What a caring, sensitive soul. Should get to know him better

All I could think was “Fine Mr. Pokey Pokey! With one smooth move, you won over both my girls. But she will still grow up to find me the most perfect man on earth. Beat that!” :-)

More from Nikhil: 1, 2, 3 and 4