Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh! Calcutta

A little over four years ago, I wrote this post about our Matheran trip. As you can see, I was feeling mighty chuffed about the fact that we had taken our first trip with a 1.5 year old Ayaan without parental presence or assistance. Well last weekend, I decided to conquer a new bastion - travelling with BOTH kids and NO husband.

Some of my favourite bloggers were congregating in Calcutta so of course, I had to go. In an ideal world, I would have gone without the kids but as I have learnt the hard way, the world is seldom ideal. I am still breastfeeding Tarana so she goes where I go and it didn't seem right to take her and leave Ayaan behind so to cut a long story short, last Friday found us on a flight to Calcutta.

We were not completely on our own though. Kiran was one of the aforementioned favourite bloggers coming along and so was young Krish. The boys, as always, got along like a house on fire. Literally. They seemed to feed off each other's energy and proceeded to be boisterous, hyperactive and violent in turns - Ayaan more so than Krish. For a hilarious account of their antics, check out Kiran's post. This was the proverbial calm before the storm:

Dipali met us at Calcutta airport. After much hugging and greeting, she led us to her car and probably wondered what the hell she had got herself into as the bachcha party raised Cain through the long drive to her home. Her home was welcoming and cheerful and it felt good to finally get there. Assisted by the brats, we proceeded to take over her guest room and made short work of the well-ordered space.

Sue, Eve's Lungs and Rads (who doesn't blog anymore) arrived soon after we did and much merriment ensued. Given that I had Tarana on my hip, I was roundly ignored by certain people who went straight for their little doula baby without so much as a look-see at the prop holding her up! Ah well, such is life. And the certain people were Sue, in case, you were wondering.

We then proceeded to exchange gifts and it was as if Christmas had come early. The kids got a bunch of toys and I raked in a booty of stoles, purses, jewellery and a hand-embroidered handkerchief amongst other things. The kids had fun exploring their toys and some of them didn't even survive the evening - notably the play doh and the delicate wooden toys.

After that, we settled down to a lovely potluck dinner. All the girls had pitched in and the result was an awesome meal. Dipali had made a raw papaya salad, a pasta salad and a spinach, corn and cheese bake. Eve's Lungs has provided the mandatory non-vegetarian item - some yummy mutton curry. Sue, who complains about her poor cooking skills, had turned out a fantastic corn and mushroom quiche and a sinful chocolate tart.

After dinner, the kids were packed off to bed. The boys (including Sue's Bhablet) insisting on sleeping together so Sue was deputed to go and lie with them till they fell asleep. I wouldn't have offered myself up for the job for anything in the world but Sue claims she had fun! With the kids out of the way, we nattered away till it was 3 a.m and then took ourselves off to bed.

The next day dawned bright and early, for me that is. My kids refuse to sleep in no matter what time they have gone to bed so both were up and about by 7.30. The rest of the household stirred soon enough thanks to the racket they created. After a round of tea, milk and baths, we settled in to eat Dipali's trademark cheese paranthas, which were just yummy!

Mid-morning found us floating around New Market. I didn't buy much but enjoyed the hustle-bustle of the place. The boys, again commandeered by Sue, hung out at the Christmas market till they were shooed away by the shopkeepers for endangering their wares.

We then went to Good Companions, where they sell hand-embroidered kids' clothes and home linen. I had a few clothes from here when I was a kid (since my grandparents lived in Calcutta) and one of the jhablas had even survived and been worn by Ayaan and Tarana. So, of course, I had to go. I picked up some adorable frocks for Tarana from there. This is an old pic of Tarana in a classic Good Companions jhabla.

Lunch was an authentic Bengali meal at Kewpies, a quaint bungalow re-purposed as a restaurant. We were joined by Suki and Eve's Lungs lovely, young daughters. Ayaan had one of his redeeming moments during the meal when he sweetly fed the Bhablet from his own plate. As soon as lunch was over though, the boys were back to regular programming.

After a much-needed afternoon nap, we set off to dinner at Mamma mia! Me a mamma?, who from henceforth shall be referred to as M4 for the sake of brevity :)

I was worried about the brat's behaviour since there going to be TWO MORE BOYS at the dinner but M4's boys were friendly and gracious and kept all the kids busy with their Wii. After they went to bed, the rest of the kids zoned out in front of the television and largely kept out of harm's way.

M4's house was gorgeous and full of old-world charm, with some seriously lovely paintings on the walls. But all that was nothing compared to the spread she laid out for us, a big part of it cooked by herself. I didn't even look at the vegetarian stuff though I hear that was brilliant as well but the carnivores had a veritable feast comprised of tiger prawns, mutton curry and fish paturi. I was already considering opening the top button on my trousers when the dessert arrived. Oh my - it was the most unusual cheescake I have ever eaten: the base made out of boondi, follwed by a layer of mishti doi and then a layer of chocolate hazelnut mousse. And all this yumminess was garnished with some roasted cashews. Wow! If the Calcutta girls ever come to Mumbai, I am catering in the meal. There is no way I could ever live up to these standards!

Back at Dipali's house, the kids were put to bed so that we could continue our chatting marathon, which again went on till 3 a.m. Morning brought chaos as Kiran and I ran around bathing and feeding the kids in an attempt to get out of the house by 9, while Dipali fed us some more yummy paranthas (aloo this time). We made it to the airport just in time. (Kiran has a post up on our horrible experience at Calcutta airport). And then we were on our way home.

What a trip! Utterly exhausting but oodles of fun, gossip and affection. Next time though, no kids so that I can soak in the fun without feeling bone-tired :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

3 Updates, 2 Clarifications, 1 Milestone

There I go again with my fascination for numbers and order :)

Three Updates: just following through on stuff I wrote in earlier posts
  1. The December Resolutions: The blogging one is self-evident. I have written more in the last two weeks than I usually write in two months! The resolve to exercise is going pretty strong too. I have got some serious exercise EVERY SINGLE DAY for eleven consecutive days - four days at the swimming pool and seven days at the fitness class I signed up for. My body feels battered and achy but I am feeling super chuffed!
  2.  New tagline for the blog: The whole working mom, stay at home mom, figuring it out mom deal got way too confusing so I decided to ditch having labels in the tag line altogether. It's still work in progress but the tagline I have sort of settled on is: Not just motherhood statements. What do you guys think?
  3. Tarana's Physio: We continue to visit the physiotherapist for Tarana's w-sitting issue. Progress has been slow but steady. Her default sitting position continues to be the W, but she mixes it up by putting one or both of her legs in front for her occasionally. When in the mood, she responds to verbal commands or a tap on her legs and straightens them voluntarily. She still can't stand or walk without support but cruises efficiently and is able to toddle along if you hold one of her hands. The doctor said it would take 6-8 months of sustained physiotherapy for her posture to be completely normal and so far we have done about 3 months with some breaks in the middle. So still some way to go...
Two Clarifications: with respect to my previous post about working moms being judged
  1. A lot of you asked what brought on the post. Actually, though the post was pretty dramatic in nature, nothing substantial triggered it. Small incidents and comments that I have heard and overheard in the last few months. Moms at Ayaan's skating and swimming classes who feel sorry for the kids who have to come with the maids because their mothers don't have the time to bring them, other moms who effusively congratulate me on my decision to quit, and so on.
  2. The post came across as dramatic because I was exaggerating to make a point, the point being that a world where every woman felt pressured to ditch her career because of judgement and lack of support from her family and her peers is not necessarily an ideal one. The intention was definitely not to suggest that every woman who chooses to quit her job after kids is a traitor to the feminist movement. I think true feminism lies in letting every woman to choose what works for her and allowing her to be happy with her choice. And for the next generation to have successful role models on both sides of the fence so that they recognise that both choices (and everything in between) are acceptable, respectable and admirable.
One Milestone: 
  1. This is the 200th post on this blog! I know 200 posts in almost 5 years is probably nothing to write home about. Most other mommybloggers who started blogging at around the same time have written posts in multiples of that. But it is a big number for me and I have loved every post I wrote and enjoyed the interaction in the comments space. Here's to reaching 300 a lot faster!

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    Questions for the Judgemental

    I have a few questions I'd like to ask all the women out there who are stay-at-home moms, the ones who judge other moms who chose to work. Not only do they judge, but they criticize their choices, pity their children and cannot for the life of them understand how a mother can choose to go to work instead of staying home with her kids. They make extreme statements like "If she wanted to focus on her career, why did she have kids in the first place?" They walk around feeling all superior because they believe they had the sense and sensibility to make the right choice, the only reasonable choice in their books, to 'sacrifice' their careers for their children.

    So ladies, you know who you are, tell me this. What does your ideal world look like? Since you seem to believe that motherhood and careers don't mix, do you believe that all women should partially or totally drop their careers the minute they pop out their babies?

    Do you think we should step back about two centuries ago to a world where being a wife and a mother are supposed to be the extent of a woman's ambition? A world where men dominate and take centrestage, with all that that implies? Where women don't bring their experience, diversity and compassion to all spheres of life, inside and outside their homes?

    And if you do indeed feel that way, what about future generations? Do you want your daughter to grow up thinking that it isn't possible to have jobs and children and do well by both? Do you want your sons to grow up thinking that it is alright for them to expect their wives to be the ones to chuck or downsize their careers and assume primary responsibility for child care?

    Isn't it is bit hypocritical for you to denounce working women when you yourself push your daughter to excel in her studies? Surely that can't be just because you hope she will be a really intelligent mother?

    Or do you actually prefer status quo? Are you secretly glad that there are some women out there who continue to work, so that you can compare yourself to them and feel superior about your (good) choices versus their (bad) choices?

    Just wondering...