Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

I turned 33 yesterday. And since the husband had to travel, it was left to the other little man in my life to make the day special for me. And I have to say, he did a pretty good job of it.

The day started with a card he had made for me the previous day. He was supervised by his grandmother but apparently the creative decisions were all his own. First the outside:

The front cover had his name written on it, with a square that just seems to be there to fill up the extra space, since he couldn't (wouldn't) offer any other explanation for its presence. The back cover completed the family tree with Mama and Dada featuring on it.

The inside of the card was even cuter. Now only an adoring mother can actually figure out what all these seemingly random squiggles are, so let me describe them one at a time.

The left page has a refrigerator and a slide, two of his favourite objects to draw these days. He claims that the squiggle next to the fridge is a tree though less charitable souls have suggested that it might be the artist's rendition of his mean, stingy mother standing guard over all the yummy chocolates stored inside.

On the right page, the thing under 'Mama' is supposedly a banner with 'Happy Birthday' written on it. Now, here's the thing - Ayaan can't spell anything but his name, Mama and Dada. But that does not stop him from pretending that he can. So he will spell any word in a series of Ns and Os and present it with utmost confidence. So if you look carefully, the banner has an O, followed by an inverted N, a regular N and then another O (and I think the squiggle just outside the banner is yet another N). And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we spell 'Happy Birthday' in these parts. And underneath the banner is my birthday cake.

The card was not all. At some point in the day, I was told to wait while he went off to his room to get me my birthday present. He recruited the maid to help and after about half an hour returned with something neatly wrapped in a newspaper and told me it was my present. I opened it to discover that he had packed his giraffe hand puppet and a squeaky noisemaker from our Taboo board game which he had decided to appropriate a few months ago.

Of course, there were some ripples amongst all these idyllic mother-son birthday moments. Like when he got angry with me (because I asked him not to bury my camera in the potted plant in the balcony) and told me that he was taking the birthday present back and stomped off with it to his room. But then he woke up after his afternoon nap and decided that I had been punished enough and magnanimously announced that he wasn't angry with me anymore and that I could have the present back...

The day ended with a lovely dinner that the in-laws treated me to at China Garden, where Ayaan thankfully behaved MUCH better than when Parul, Kiran and I met Sue.

Thanks for the lovely birthday, sweetheart :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's in a Name?

So, the other day, I went to see this new doctor. And the receptionist proceeded to take down all my particulars, starting with my name. The conversation went something like this...

Her: Mrs. or Miss?
Can I go with Ms. please?
Her: No, you have to choose between Mrs. or Miss.
Me: Well, ok then. Mrs.
Her: What’s your first name?
Me: Rohini

The name entry reads: Rohini

Her: Your husband’s name?
Me: But I don’t use his name.
Her: I need it for the records.
Me: Jai His surname

The name entry now reads: Rohini Jai His Surname

Me: But that is not my name. My name is Rohini My Surname
Her: But we have to write the records like this only.
Me: But if you make my bills in this name, my company will not reimburse me because that is not my name as per official records
Her: (gives me a most exasperated look) Ok, I’ll write it like this then (in a tone brooking no further argument)

The name entry now reads: Rohini Jai His Surname (My surname)

My surname is relegated to brackets! I notice the mulish expression on her face and decide to lay down arms. But before leaving, I ensure that my prescription and bill is in the right name. My name!

As you might have established from this fascinating (not!) anecdote, I have not taken on my husband’s name after marriage. And it’s not an error of omission – because of sheer laziness or the administrative hassle. It was by choice. Actually, it was not even a choice since I never really considered the alternative.

When I was born, I was given a certain name. That’s who I had been for 25 years before I got married. That’s who I am today. And that’s who I am always going to be. Rohini Jai’s Surname is some third person who I don’t know and have no wish to create out of thin air.

That being said, I don’t have anything against women who do change their names when they get married. Maybe they don’t think it’s such a big deal. Maybe they don’t want the lifelong administrative hassle that comes with keeping your maiden name (having to provide proof of your marriage for every passport, visa, property registration and school application for a start). Maybe they don’t have their identities tied down to ephemeral concepts like names. Maybe their in-laws feel strongly about it and they don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

Whatever the reasons, to each their own. I respect their choice and I wish they would respect mine. I really would rather not have to get into an elaborate argument to get my name correctly reflected at a doctor’s office. Or live with a bank account statement where they must put either my father’s name or my husband’s name as my middle name. Or be judged as the woman who did not love her husband enough to take on his name.

Surprisingly enough, this possessiveness for my name does not extend to the name that my son carries. I don't want to complicate his life by saddling him with multiple last names. I am quite happy to let him carry just Jai's surname. I know he is mine - I carried him inside me for nine months after all - and I don't need to affix my name to his to reassure myself of that.

Again, it's fine that there are people for whom it is important to have the child's name reflect the heritage of both parents. My only doubt here is what would happen if a lot of people started doing this. Wouldn't it complicate things? For e.g. if Meena Khan Gupta were to marry Amit Kumar Fernandes - would their offsping then possibly be called Shalini Khan Gupta Kumar Fernandes? And what of the next generation and the generation after that? Just a thought...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Judging and comparing...

...are two things that my ideal self would never do, especially when it comes to parenting. But then my actual self is far from my ideal one. And I also happen to be an avid people-watcher and love to occupy myself by creating personalities and stories around the people I see around me.

So, the other day I was at my fitness class and there was this young mother who brought her little toddler along with her. And I was torn between admiring her (and her well-behaved daughter) and judging her for various reasons. My thought process went something like this…

Whoa! Does that woman have a kid with her?

She's probably just here to find out about the various fitness programmes on offer...

Oh! She’s going into the fitness studio. Maybe she’s just going to check it out?

Oops! The music’s starting and the instructor’s starting to count. Better get into place.

She's still here. And she's sat the kid down in the corner. She's here to exercise! With the kid in attendance! Wow!

I wonder how long the girl will stay put where she's sitting!

Awesome! The kid is just sitting there. She’s not even trying to play with the free weights or exercise balls well within her reach. I can imagine the chaos that Ayaan would have caused in the ten minutes that have passed. And this angelic little girl is just quietly sitting there and watching her mom (and the rest of us) exercise

But man is this music loud and throbbing! I wonder if it is a good idea for a little kid to be exposed to these decibel levels??!

It’s twenty minutes into the class now and the little girl is still peacefully sitting there! Without even a bundle of toys or a bunch snacks (which I would have carried if I ever considered attempting this) to distract her.

Her mom’s going over to her. Maybe twenty five minutes are the limit of the kid’s patience? That’s not bad! In fact, it’s about twenty four minutes more than Ayaan would have allowed me to exercise.

Oh! She’s not leaving! She’s laid one of the exercise mats on ground and her daughter is lying down on it and looking positively sleepy!

But ewww!!! Those exercise mats are the same ones that the rest of us sweat all over when we do out abdominal crunches… Ewwww!

This child is nothing short of amazing! She is fast asleep! In the midst of the pounding music! And here I have kittens if the pressure cooker whistle goes off when Ayaan is napping!

And now the class is over and she is still fast asleep. I wonder how she’ll react to her nap being cut short abruptly. What?! No crying, not even a whine? Just a sweet, sleepy smile for her mom? Life can be so unfair!

I wonder why she brought the kid with her. She’s probably a stay-at-home mom, given that this is an afternoon class on a weekday. I wonder if she is one of those paranoid 24-7 mothers who cannot conceive of leaving their kids with anyone else for even an hour…

Or maybe this is a one-time things and she just didn’t have anyone to leave the baby with… the fact that she brought her along shows an impressive commitment to fitness.

But on the other hand, is a high-intensity fitness class (lots of sweat and germs, terribly loud music, weights littered around the place, people prancing around) really an appropriate place for such a young kid?

I came away from the class, laughing at myself. Look at how many things I thought about this woman that I never spoke a word too! Making snap judgements can be such fun - especially if the people in question have no idea that you are doing it!