Friday, August 31, 2007

Why I am a SAHM…

I have been doing quite a lot of juggling over the past few days, and yes, knowing butter fingered me, many balls have fallen hopelessly to the ground and crashed. Trying to get some articles researched, written, edited and sent in to meet deadlines, trying to keep a house running, dropping the brat to school, picking him up, taking him to therapy, taking him to the park, ensuring that the hubby doesn’t pout too much at being last on my list (though secretly, I think he’s quite relieved that I’m not obsessing about him anymore, I’m that kind of a person, I obsess about the primary focus of my life to the point of nauseation, and right now, the brat is the ingrate recipient of this obsession). Not much work gets done at home because a) I love my sleep, and cannot unlike other steely willed SAHM mommas who also work from home, stay awake through the wee hours and get their deadlines met and b) the brat. Whenever I sit at the computer, he happily throws away whatever permanent damage he happens to be inflicting on toy in hand and gravitates towards wrecking my keyboard or taking a mini pickaxe to my monitor. I would like to think these displays are a form of sibling rivalry with the computer as close to a sibling this poor child might ever get, but I know that these attention seeking displays only happen because he, thanks to me being his devoted hand and foot maiden for almost all his life, seems to think that he and only he should be the complete focus of my attention. Which also explains the sudden inexplicably loud and irrelevant butting into conversations between the hubby and yours truly by brat when one is discussing migraine inducing topics like current earnings versus outgoings, to the comic relief of a tale about a fellow classmate doing orange potty on the chair and “It was smelling soooooo badly,” with appropriate pinching of the nostrils and expressions of complete animated disgust.
But I, like always, digress. I am the queen of digressions. The only area where I don’t digress in when in pursuit of food. That’s another post.
To return to the point of this post. The juggling of the many balls. I have a dear friend who leaves her son with her mother in law and goes to work in a very demanding profession where she is more often than not working late nights and going on work related trips. Her son is a brilliant child, showing all the evidence of his brainy genes, and her mother in law does the best she can to keep him intellectually stimulated. But she is still unsure whether she could have done better if she were a SAHM. Maybe not she says. She would have been content to let him be, rather, she feels, she is setting an example for him by being a high performer at work. More power to her. It may be my imagination but I see a serious child who doesn’t ever laugh but just rushes from class to class to fill up the void till his mother returns home. I see a little boy so frightened that he cant live upto the exacting standards set by his mother that he would rather spend his weekends at his friends’ houses than be at home. I may be mistaken. Yet another friend has her mother live in with her while she pursues a hot shot career in the financial world. By the time she reaches home everyday her daughter is asleep. When she leaves in the mornings her child is getting ready for school. The maid wakes her, bathes her, feeds her. She sees her on weekends. When her child is ill, she clings to her grandmother. It hurts, she says, but it is a choice she has made. And she is living by it. Would this have satisfied me?
As for me, I didn’t have too much of a career left anyways, to pretend that going back to work would deprive the world of a brilliant mind. Which reminds me, ahem ahem, brag time coming up, that one had an IQ touching 140 when one first took the damn tests during career counseling days in standard ten, a score that dropped to near retardation levels of 80 when one took it again recently. There is truth in the research that you lose half your mind when you have a kid. I am living proof. I am living on half a mind. No one would want to hire half a mind. Therefore no guilt there. Yes, one definitely wants to be earning one’s own lipstick money. Lipstick money, as in money to fritter away on needless indulgences which one doesn’t need to feel guilty about when frittered away. And as anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I need a hell of a lot of lipsticks. And shoes. And bags. And clothes. And what have you. I am high maintenance, and no apologies about it. More grey hair to dear hubby. But is that reason enough to inflict the brat on the mother and the mother in law. For one, I am too very paranoid a mother. For another, god save their arthritic knees. Running around after the brat for an entire day is not a task for the weak hearted. And I donot trust maids. No matter how efficient. I have heard enough and more horror stories not to want to hear more. And there is the fact that I waited for this child for eight long years. Eight long years when I went to umpteen infertility specialists, and prayed to every god, and kept all the possible fasts and did all the possible pujas I was advised, because I hoped and I was gullible and I wanted my little miracle. And when he did come along, did I want to deprive myself of him? No way. I was greedy to spend every waking minute with him. I wanted him in front of my eyes 24 x 7. Sending him to school was a gut wrencher. Two hours without him. Would he be able to manage, would they understand his babble speak, would he be standing in a corner bawling his guts out, ignored, unwanted, wanting his mamma? Turns out I neednt have bothered. He didn’t want to come home. I also am a traditionalist. I believe a mother is the most important influence on the child during his formative years. At least till he is five my son needs me. I can go half way to hell later, and completely go off the planet when he turns 18 and only needs my car keys. Or, if as the trend seems to be these days, he already has his own set of wheels then, and only needs me to ensure he has clean underwear and socks in his cupboard.
It is not that I donot want my mother or my mother in law to keep the brat while I go off to work, but its just that I don’t think its fair on them. My mother in law was married when she was 16 and started her production line a year on. My father in law was 20 years older than her. When I think of it, I could take a whip to her parents. By the time she was 23 she was a mother of five. She had no youth. This is a time when she should be free of all responsibilities, and live for herself. Go for her pilgrimages, visit her daughters, go for her kitty parties. Enjoy herself as she never could. She’s done her bringing up children. Five of them. I cant even handle a single one on my own. I shudder in horror should I be left with brat in an empty house. My head spins with the thought that I will the sole object of his attentions.
My mother has had a tough life. A really tough life. A life that, should I stop being halfway lazy, I should write a book on. Her’s is the sort of life that really makes you wonder how life keeps testing some people again and again and again. She is finally now, at the age of 68, content and peaceful and rested. How dare I inflict her with responsibility again? Even though she delights in being with the brat, its only because it is occasional and for a short duration. Brat inflicted on anyone for an extended period would mean me taking an overdraft on good will credit.
He is tough to manage. And that is an understatement. He is a perpetual whirlpool. Never still, except when he is asleep. Never silent. Never peaceful. But he is my baby. My responsibility. I owe it to him to ensure I take as good care of him as I can. Maybe things would be different had I been compelled to get back to work for financial requirements. I often wonder what I would do should the hubby and I call it quits (yes, I adore him, but I have seen the best of men stray and the best of marriages break up and I have no blinkers on my eyes about myself. I am no Helen of Troy. And I have the seduction skills of an elephant drunk on toddy. Will not be able to find another sugga daddy.) Would I be able to survive in this expensive world? Would I even be able to afford a roof over my head? Would I be able to get a job? Who would give a 36 year old out of circulation writer a job when nubile nymphets with get up and go are shag pile deep in front of them? My get up and go has got up and gone. And I make no apologies about it. My priorities are now different. My focus now is on ensuring that the brat becomes as close to other children as is possible. That no one picks on him for being different and a bit weird. That he will be able to survive on his own even if mamma and pappa are long gone. That’s my responsibility. I gave him birth. I can’t foist him off. That’s my take. What about you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tagged...

...by the Mad Momma on mummies, and the birds and the bees. And when the Mad Momma commands, you'd better comply. So with much blushing and embarassment, here is my take on the issue.

At age two and a half, the brat mauled a doll called Candy in a public situation, complete with sound effects. This incriminating piece of evidence has been videotaped by cruel sis in laws who now use it to pull our legs. Suffice to say, we now check every five seconds for snores from him and take our business to other parts of the room. Camouflaged and quiet. Passion lives on.

I rest my case.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The brat and yet another birthday party...

Its been such a long weekend that was snoring in the car all the way into office today. Friday evening, brat went to the park with friends and refused to leave even though mosquitoes the size of helicopters were hovering all around (Note to self, make brat wear long sleeves and full length trousers and spray him all over with Deet before I let him near a park again). The next morning was the parent teacher meet for the first term, so braced my nerve, and had I been able to down a couple of shots for courage before heading for the meet would have, but compensated by wearing very chic outfit, and smashing new Charles and Keith stilletoes to give aura of unassailable composure and confidence. Confidence and composure that I knew would crumple to tears the moment any kind soul would tell me the brat was hell on wheels, or any such kind words. I am the kind who needs to be impeccably dressed to feel confident. Should even the shoes be uncoordinated, get all shaky and nervous. Shallow gal? Thats me.
The good news is, as I have been informed by the special education cell, that they have conducted all the tests they wanted to on the brat and his IQ levels are just fine. In fact they are much better than what they expected. Above normal. But they dont have a number they can give me. Why, you might ask? Because the brat refused to sit through the entire test and they are still going through bits and pieces of it, the majority of it being conducted in instalments. Took them weeks to get him in the mood, and then bribes like smiley faces and shining stars on all limbs were employed to get him to deign to sit in one place. The issue now is the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder which just doesnt let him sit still to take in anything being taught. Therefore he is being given major responsibility in class in the hope that he will calm down. He is blackboard monitor at times. Snacks monitor at others (I only hope he doesnt gobble down stuff from everyone's bowl should it be something he likes on the menu du jour). Books monitor. He puffs his chest up like a rooster to show me where the monitor badge is pinned.
The class teacher was actually quite delighted with him, and he is no longer swatting the other children like irritant flies, she tells me. He actually is very lovable, she said, with almost a surprised smile on her face. I could have cried with joy. I always knew that, even if it is my own child. I have seen every child in his class seek him out after school ends and wants to keep playing with him. And it isnt just a couple of kids, its all the 25. He knows each and every one of them by name and speaks about them at home, they sing songs with him as they wait in their bus lines, and he plays court jester. He goes randomly to children sitting quietly and tells them to "Thodasa to smile karo na," so endearingly that no one can resist him. Needless to say, I was walking on stilts by the time I left the school premises and had swollen up so huge with joy I couldnt fit myself back into the small car I had taken along.
The battle now is for me to resist getting him on medication for ADHD. For one he is not even four. For another, I donot believe in drugging my son to keep him calm and manageable. Till I can manage him I will, and I trust and hope he is manageable enough for the teachers to handle him at school. He is not destructive in his hyperactivity, just insanely curious about everything, and so restless, he even eats in instalments.
We were in Pune for the weekend, Saturday being the niece's happy birthday. There was no grand party since the girl had her midterms on. The big bash is planned for the next weekend when the exams get over, and she will be able to invite all her friends. Trust the brat to veto that immediately. With all the buildup on the way about him going for his didi's birthday party (and my son, of course, insisted on changing when we reached into birthday party clothes in keeping with his sartorial reputation), he barged in and demanded a birthday party. "Where'd cake?" "Where'd balloonz" "Where'd gifts?" "Where'd magic show?" Stray kids from the building compound had to be rustled up to create a small quorum, a small cake and wafers and Pepsi ordered and a mini birthday party conducted to satiate his greed for a birthday party. On the way back, he fell asleep halfway and then awoke to realise he was being shunted out of birthday party zone. A right tantrum was thrown in the speeding car demanding an immediate turnaround and return to the birthday party venue. Happily, a McDonalds on the route proved a right distraction and we were able to return to non birthday party home without further incident.
I have already been informed that he wants a biiiiiiiiiig Spiderman cake with both arms thrown as wide as they can stretch for his birthday, and he wants his entire class to come, and all his friends from therapy. And some more odd friends from the building and the park. And he wants a magic show. And....
Goodbye. Am morphing into birthdaypartymomzilla.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How do we keep our children safe?

The recent kidnapping and killing of 16 year old Adnan Patrawala has my guts in such a twist that I sometimes feel I cant breathe. Am I over reacting? As the mother of an almost four year old who is sociable and loving and keen to introduce himself to complete strangers everywhere he goes, I panic. It is not a nice world out there. I read cases in the newspapers everyday about disgruntled ex employees kidnapping and killing their ex employers children. I read about how friends have kidnapped a rich kid from their group and then hacked him to pieces and disbursed the body in different places so as not to be traced. I read about how family members hire goons to kidnap children of their immediate relatives to demand ransom. I thank the lord I dont live in Bihar. I would have gone berserk with the stress. Not that we are rich, far from it. We are comfortably off. We have worked our butts off to reach the comfort level we have today. And we are still living precariously poised between debt and liquidity thanks to having invested our souls in a new house. Ever try buying a house in Mumbai with hard earned money? The property prices are insane.
Anyway, why has kidnapping become the get rich quick solution every wannabe attempts? Is it the fact that it gets pride of storyline in every Bollywood movie? The films make it look so easy, the child is the jugular of every family, get access to the child and you can make the family dance to your tune. We are vulnerable because of our children. We will do anything for them, including sell our souls. I am sure every parent, every mother reading this would agree with me on this.
I already am the paranoid mother who insists on dropping and picking up brat from school herself, never mind the crazy schedule I have. No kidnapping is not my fear, come on, sensible kidnappers would not waste their efforts on this poor couple hocked deep in debt, but rather my fear is the possibility that brat might fall and not be attended to, given his penchant to come down stairs two at a time with balancing skills that of a joker in a circus, that he might run off to investigate some obscure corner of the school with fascinating things like earthworms and snails and miss his bus, or worse still, run out of the school gates right into the oncoming traffic snarls, you get my paranoia. I have seen a nursery child wander off into the traffic area and stand there unaccompanied for a good ten minutes before everyone realised he was unaccompanied. That cemented my fear, so I now do pick up and drop duty. Myself. I dont trust anyone. And this from a woman who crossed railway tracks half her life, without thinking anything of it, despite the mother giving one a earful everytime she was given a report of someone having spotted me sashaying down the fast local track during peak hours. Brats absolute disregard of traffic and pedestrian side of the road is in karmic retribution for my acceleration of my mother's greying head.
I dont know how on God's good earth am I supposed to protect brat from his friends when he grows up. Am I supposed to do a background check on the families his friends come from and have photo id cards made for all. Adnan's friends were all educated and came from decent families, strongly middle class. A class I come from, and a class that fights hard to inch up their lifestyle through hard work and determination. Do I ensure he stays at home constantly under my gaze till he is an adult? That rules out hostels and boarding schools. Do I set a deadline and curfew for him to be back by? Is that any sort of deterrent for trouble makers, and how does one keep a child away from the most natural thing a growing child would want--friends. Whom does one trust, whom can one leave a child with? I am in pain for Adnan's parents who have lost their beautiful son for no reason at all, except misplaced greed and a get rich quick plan that went awfully wrong. What I really want to know is that why has life become so cheap for the next generation, that even murder doesnt seem like a crime. Does anyone have any answers?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To the park, to the park...

This is the face of a born actor. Pretending he has found "lotsofmoney".And yes, he will not hand over his find to his mother for safekeeping. Says a lot about his trust level. He's going to buy two two toys with his money today.

The brat and I went to the park yesterday. Now this park is part of reclaimed land from mangroves right behind Inorbit mall. A beautiful park, one that nature lovers and those who love plants and gardening will just drool over. Well planned, well manicured, exotic plants, a botanical delight with rare plants and excellent layouting.To add to the brat's joy and delight is the fact that this park is right next to mangrove area with the bonus of millions of centipedes wriggling their way around the tiled area as well as the grass. No, I am not one of them icky mothers who squeals when she sees one, and the brat was happily squishing any unlucky wriggler who happen to come underfoot. The park is right behind where we will be moving to in a month's time (yes, we have finally bought our new house, yippee!!!), so I thought it would be a good idea to take brat on a reconnaissance mission of surrounding parks to make some new friends. Since many kids from his school live in the vicinity of the park, mamma dearest invited a whole slew for a group park fest. Unfortunately, only a couple turned up, but one was sweet and gentle and peaceful boy, his classmate last year, who was the complete antithesis of the brat and spent all his time chortling at the brat who was spinning himself so hard, onlookers were seeing stars, and mamma was hyperventilating. Yes, I am the helicopter mom of Metrodad's post, always hovering around, convinced that I must keep one hand on bum, to ensure brat gets up the slide and then run manically to position myself at the bottom of the slide to ensure brat doesnt have a bumpy landing. Have only just managed to convince self to stay at an uninterfering distance, and let brat navigate playground equipment on his ownsome.

Brat played with his friend, and they happily held hands and skipped and jumped their way through the park, poking out centipedes and stomping on them with the kind of relish that only little boys can bring to the act of irrational murder. This is a child who will pull wings off butterflies in the future and grow up to be a cold blooded criminal. Yes, I also have a very fertile imagination.

They ran across the pathways, with us running behind them, they conspired, they played games, and a good time was had by all. No trip to the mall could even hope to compare with the joy on his face as we stumbled out of the park, sated in the way that tired revellers are.
And yes, we threw up in the car. All that spinning churned up our evening cup of milk to curd in the stomach.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Guardian angel

The husband and I had a row last night. The kind of row that has him flinging things around and me thinking up reasons why I want to stay on in this marriage. In his fit of rage he picked up my mobile which was innocently lying in the place he wanted to keep his glass of water and flung it on the floor. Naturally, it was shattered to pieces. We normally never have these rows in front of the brat, but yesterday he went ballistic over something that I wasn't even responsible for. And was just not open to reason or listening to why things had not been done his way. I picked up the pieces of my mobile and tried to piece them together. Not because I was greedy for the mobile, but because this was the same mobile he had given me a couple of years ago for Valentines Day. After the brat had dunked my old Samsung into a cup of hot tea. And though he could ill afford it then, he had spent a pretty packet on it. And I loved him for it, not the extravagance but the love behind the gesture.
He screamed and shouted some more and went off to sleep. Me, the bleeding heart, kept sobbing, and brat got down from the bed and came to sleep beside me. "Mamma, Pappa shouted at you?" "Yes, son." "Dont cry. I shout at him.Come on, wipe eyes. We go Nana House tomorrow." Ah my guardian angel. Why do I fear the world with such a protector by my side. I hugged my son and went to sleep.

PS: My husband doesnt read my blogs. But he really is the best husband in the world. Except when he gets into a temper.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Perfect pose







Edited: While I am totally blase about myself, am bit of a chicken when it comes to the brat, so the bathing pics are off. Thanks Poppins. I dont think of these things when I post pics.
Instead here are some other pics. Clothed. The effort to get the perfect passport size pic clicked.

The scars of battle

This is inspired by Mad Momma's recent post on the scars of motherhood. Thin silver lines. All across her stomach. "What are these marks?" I asked my mother. "These are the marks from the time you bit me," she replied. "When did I bite you?" I asked back. I was all of five, I think. "When you were in my stomach," she replied, blithely.
Am still living with the guilt of being such a bad baby.
Mothers can sometimes be so mean.

Fastforward 30 odd years: Brat seeing mamma changing. "Mamma, what is this? Lagi?" Mamma replies blithely, "Yes, lagi. You bit me when you were in my stomach." This, of course, is the current generation. Unfazed by anything. "No, I didnt bite you. Dont tell lies."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jana Gana Mana...

The television was on. NDTV 24x7, if you must know. Suddenly the brat drags me violently off the bed from the lolling position I was in. "Mamma, stand straight. Mamma dont move."
On the screen was one of the gems of India's classical vocalists, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, rendering the national anthem. And with him, adding his little pip squeak to the deep trained to perfection tones, was the brat...getting all the words wrong, but singing nonetheless. Right till the 'Jayahe, jayahe, jayahe."
I stood straight. And I had tears running down my face.
It took the brat to remind me I have to stand at attention whenever the national anthem is played. Even if it is on television. Shame on me.

PS: Half the day yesterday was spent standing. We watch NDTV 24x7 a lot.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The 200th post...

A milestone, to one who doesnt really keep a track of any milestones. This, today, is my 200th post. And perhaps the biggest measure of how I really enjoy blogging, because this is a woman who bores easily. Inconsistent is the consistent word used to describe me. So if I have stuck on for this long, its no small measure to the small group of friends who read me, and take time out to comment and encourage me to bore them some more. Thank you all for brightening my blog.
Tomorrow being 15th August and Independence day and such like, the school had asked us parents to send in the pre-primary kids in the colours of the national flag. Brat has been bouncing on the bed in anticipation of wearing his white kurta pyjama with an orange kathiawadi cap. Until this morning when the very practical problem of what he would do should he get the urge to pee in a hurry. You see, the pyjama had a complicated 'nada' system that only mamma is allowed to undo for him. He can manage pants and shorts by just pulling them down (another measure of how thin he is that there is nothing that cannot be pulled down, even if it has been secured by a button), but a nada is a different matter altogether. Lazy mamma was supposed to put in an elastic and sew it a few days ago but a) completely forgot and b) has the sewing skills of a roadside cobbler and therefore will never voluntarily get a needle threaded. The situation was salvaged by mamma's rationalising that the Ashoka Chakra is blue, therefore brat was packed off with white kurta, blue jeans and orange cap with lovely mirror work, which he preened around in front of the mirror at home, but promptly removed and stuffed into his school bag when we entered the school gates. Also, his kolhapuri sandals were rejected in favour of new blue shuz. "Chappal is not matching."
He strutted into the school premises like a rooster on full display, chasing the little girls in his class to show off his kurta. "See I wear new kurtaaaa!!!" "See I wearing neew jeeeaanns" Of course, no one ooohed and aahed like we had at home, and with much disappointment at the lack of interest in his sartorial adventure, he trudged up the stairs. As a grand finale gesture, he flung the kathiawadi cap back at me from the stairs. "Dont want. This is for girlies." Alas and alack. All my efforts at making the brat a true blue dehati reduced to him being just another urban kurta and jeans with sneakers clad guy.
The best laid plans of mice and mammas....do your kids wear what you want them to wear? Especially when it is dress up time? Do hand me some tips. I am quite fed up of having to lay out three to four ensembles for his royal highness to choose from everytime we need to get dressed to go out. And more often than not, he now drags the high stool and gets into his cupboard to pull out his Spiderman Tshirt and Power ranger pantz. A thorough mish mash of looks and characters, not to mention the mish mash in the cupboard....
Did I mention that half my life is spent settling his clothes cupboard?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

For my Uncle...

My maternal uncle was operated yesterday. For those who came in late, my uncle was two when his mother, my grandmother died, and my mom was four. The childhood was the stuff fairy tales are made of, with the wicked stepmom making both their lives miserable. Then his father, my maternal grandfather, died when he was 19. My mother was 22. They supported the wicked stepmom's brood of nine, kept them fed and educated. My mother married when she was 30. My uncle got a job in the Gulf and slogged day and night. He married late, when he was 39. When all the rest of the clan were either educated or married off, and he had discharged the responsibility his father had given him on his death bed. He was the mother hen for his brothers and sisters--sending someone money, taking another abroad for a job, financing someone's home.
His annual visit to Mumbai would be like Santa Claus coming down for me, he would get me whatever I asked for, tons of chocolates and little novelties like those wonderful 3D rulers which were so in vogue at one point, school bags, clothes, and for a child whose mother was scraping to make ends meet, it meant the world to me. He would pay for me to be able to go for school excursions, just so that I would not feel left out. He is like my surrogate father in every sense. I adore him.
He has three sons. Today, all three are in various parts of the world, studying. And he is still sending them money for their education, everything he had earned and saved over the past so many years has been decimated in educating them. He has retired. He's been working till a couple of months ago. 66 is no age to be working full time. He came back to India last month and they discovered he had Renal Cell Carcinoma, and his right kidney needed to be removed. So he was in hospital, getting his kidney removed. While coming out of anaesthesia, he was murmuring about whether his middle son had received the money he sent across some days ago. And then he was conscious and asked his wife whether any of the three called. She was very quiet, and then she said, the youngest had sent an SMS. My heart broke to see his face fall. He was very quiet after that. If this is how unconcerned children grow up to be, I dont want brat to ever grow up.

Brat on the ramp 'age'

Thanks to a sudden dry spell we have no rain and three brat umbrellas and raincoats (let me explain, paranoid me, insists on having one umbrella and raincoat in every car, lest I get stuck with brat in sudden shower situation). Which have now all been brought up home by the driver since two cars are going into servicing this weekend.

Therefore as I write this, we are currently being subjected to pint sized brat doing a ramp walk with raincoats through the house, and pirouetting with umbrellas to match. The father is staring quizzically at him. I pretend not to notice.

"Where on God's good earth did he learn to walk like that?" asks the father, visibly disturbed at the morphing of his Rocky Balboa fruit of his loins into mincing walking pirouetting geisha with an umbrella.

I kept my silence. Mamma's obsessive watching of fashion channels on the sly might finally come out into the open.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Make me a happy girl...

...vote for me. Am being utterly, totally and completely shameless and brazen about this. Yes, smirk away, all you like, but a current check on my votes for the Best Parenting Blog and Hottest Mommy Blogger has me absolutely appalled. Sinking in the morass of also ran blogs is so completely not me, so before I sink into deep, dark dank depression, I will humbly request my dear blog pals to take the time out to cast a vote for me.
But that's only if you feel I deserve it, of course...

Monday, August 06, 2007

How to raise a fun and funny child...

I have always been of the firm belief that if you are sad, have a good cry and let it out of your system within the confines of your bathroom. And then, paste a big happy smile on your face and get on with life. Not because I want to paste on a big mask and present it to the world. Not because I want to be a fakester, and as anyone who knows me would validate, the only things fake about me are my bags. The rest is all too glaringly real. But because I believe that if I am a happy mother, my son will see me as a fun mother to be with and be a happy and fun child in turn. This story in Parentcenter just validated my belief. Which is why the brat is awoken to tickles every morning. Doesnt matter if he sometimes kicks me one in the noggin when he wants to sleep in some more. Which is why every darn thing including the breaking of a glass gets converted into a huge big joke in the house. Which is why our standard wind down routine is shakey shakey shakey which has parts of me shaking in isolation to the rest of me, and which has brat begging for more while the husband averts his eyes in repulsion. Which is why I try my utmost to bite my tongue and hold my temper when he dwaddles infernally when we have 0.2 seconds to reach school in time, and try and make it into a 'Who can run faster?" race to get any place. Which is also, sadly, why the brat never takes my anger seriously.

When there is already so much anger, hatred and negativity in the world out there, just waiting to gobble him up the moment he is out of my sight, why should I let him even go near them while I have the power over his environment right now? Some might argue that it is necessary for a child to learn to deal with the negative as well as the positive happy things, and realise that life is not all fun. But I feel there is plenty of time for that later on. If he has a happy childhood, he is confident and secure enough to deal with anything that life may throw at him. He will hopefully have enough self esteem and confidence to push himself through. I lacked all that. I wanted to hide behind doors and could never bring myself to stand up and answer a question in class, even though I knew it all.

I love it when he stands up in a public place and declares "Aww chee, maine paad kiya," even though I might be dying with embarassment at the announcement of bodily functions. But it shows to me, that he is confident enough of being sure to elicit a laugh from me no matter where we are and who is around. And he is at that age when the funniest thing on the planet are belches and toots and farts and such other unmentionables. Should I go all prissy on him and ask him to hush and stifle his laughter? I love it when he insists he gets dressed "Apne aap" and wears his tshirt inside out, and the pants the wrong way round and then looks at himself in the mirror and laughs. "Main joker lag raha hoon." He can laugh at himself. "Mamma, dekho. Main joker ban gaya."

The husband is on the flip side. He believes the brat has to learn that nothing is a free ride, and not everything is a joke. I leave him to be the stern disciplinarian. But he also horses around mindlessly and plays giggly games with the brat. The sweetest sound to my ears is the brat chortling with laughter at some unmentionable sound effects.

I guess my armour of being the funny one helps. If you're not the pretty girl in the group, you become the fat, funny one. The pretty girls dont find you threatening, and the ugly ones dont bitch about you. And that helps you survive. Marry a handsome man, and you need to keep your sense of humour about you when women keep checking him out whenever you go out together in public. Keeps you sane. Fat and funny but sane. Come on, the funny guys get the prettiest women. So why shouldnt it work in reverse? Coming back to my funny child. He can pull and distort his face into expressions that would give Jim Carrey a run for his money. Ace Ventura, who's that?

I may not be able to give him a huge trust fund or an inheritance he can live off for the rest of his life, but I can definitely give him a happy childhood. That much I owe him. If I can make a joke of everything, so can he. And if I can take a joke on me, so can he. The class clown? I think so. Judging from the way the rest of his class perceives him, I know he's not the alpha male in the pack but the jester. And that's fine by me. He will survive, my precious son. Everyone wants a laugh. But I want them to laugh with him. Not at him.

The brat is picking up fast. "Mamma, what is that?" he asks, pointing randomly in a waving motion towards the window. Mamma looks out and wonders whether the vague finger point is meant to denote the a)tree b)sky or 3)the building in front of ours which looks into our bedroom window. "Errmmm, errrmmm, that is the sky." "NOOOO...." he squeals with the joy of a true born con artist, "That is my finger." Hmmm....And then he doubles over with laughter. He loves an audience this child. In a public situation, he would turn cartwheels and stand on his head if people would look at him. The other day in a store he happily grooved to the open atrium and looked around. I waited to see what he would do now. He held onto his ears and did sit ups, of course people flocked to him, clucking in sympathy. "Kya kar rahe ho, bache?" asked an uncle. "Main punishment kar raha hoon." "Kyun, beta." "Agar maine yahaan kuch tod diya to? Pehle hi punishment kar deta hoon. Practise kar raha hoon." How long before he gets started on the knock knock jokes I wonder?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Are we responsible for the news we get

This is something that has been bothering me for a while, although one has been out and away from active journalism for a while now. The fact remains that the quality of journalism in the country is on a steady downhill track. Newbies with absolutely no interest in subject research are conducting interviews with business heads, more concerned about presenting the wrong angle to the camera by mistake, patting their make up on, and schmoozing with those they interview. There is no quality control on the writing which can be seen in print all the time, there are non stories being broken as stories, there is obvious sucking up in celebrity journalism and what have you. Having been on the side of the one being interviewed in recent times on various topics, have actually had to help the ones interviewing me with questions they might want to ask, or information they might require to complete the story. I dont have any pretences about being a hard hitting journalist, I was always into soft features, except for a short span at the start of my career when I was in business journalism. Even then the bottom line was learn. Study. Research. Do your field work. When I started out 17 years ago there was no internet. No google. No cut paste. And frankly, computers that had a black screen and green alphabets. (Okay, have now publicly admitted one is a dinosaur). One sat in the press clippings library in Colaba and did one's research. One asked people. One wasnt ashamed of saying one didnt know. Please explain. One didnt hesitate to ask people to spell names out that one was unfamiliar with. Yes, one made mistakes. Plenty of them. But then there were people above one who were ruthless and unforgiving and maintained stringent quality checks. The reporting today is absolutely appalling. The plethora of news channels and newspapers means few good people to go around. As for the rest.... Why is the media dumbing themselves down? Where are the quality journalists? And most importantly, what are we as readers doing about it? Why arent we demanding more quality and research from our journalism and our reading matter, or we content with this watered down reporting and this skew towards who wore what, and who is living in with whom? Frankly, the TV channels sicken me with their endless looping of non stories and creating media hype over non issues. Prince for one. All sympathies to the family, but countless other children have fallen into uncovered holes and died since and no camera teams have maintained any round the clock vigil and no national circus has been made of a public rescue mission. Stories about ghosts and haunted places and tantriks and miracle cures being shown as gospel truth on news channels? Is this news? Debates being reduced to shouting and mudslinging matches on live television? News reporters thrusting mikes into the faces of people just bereaved and harassing them for reactions. It makes me sick. Reporters have become not to be trusted by the average reader. Dont believe everything you read in the newspapers, says my maid, Usko paise khilake chapwaya hoga," when I tell her about an article on how a celebrity is doing social work for slum dwellers in her area. So deep is the distrust against journalists. Please do read what the very esteemed Sevanti Ninan has to say about this. And let me know what you think.

MEDIA MATTERS (The Hindu Sunday Magazine)

Changing work ethics

BY SEVANTI NINAN

The tragedy in my old fashioned view is that someone who climbs too fast misses out on learning, travelling, getting to know beats, a process which also helped you discover what really interested you.

On the one hand journalists today command prices they never did before, at ages unheard of before. On the other hand journalistic ignorance and incompetence has touched wondrous heights. The imagination boggles at what the two together mean for the p rofession. High flyers who, like the house hunter in the TV ad who does it all on the computer, never learnt to gather information from anywhere other than the Web? Reporters who cannot structure anything more complex than a 600-word story? Are we headed for a blossoming of media without enough of an underlay of able journalism?

In the print circuit they will tell you that it is TV that is the culprit on the first count. The blossoming of channels has meant that even a complete novice can job hop with alacrity, upping her salary with each move. If you are bright (read from a college or school that makes it into a magazine rating), confident, can write rather than report, and can push rather than connect (remember the questions a TV reporter recently asked a child who had seen her mother being murdered) you are made, baby. You will have a market for some time to come.
Different values

And who knows, maybe TV is guilty on the second count too. Shortly after this column began some 16 years ago, I remember writing about a fellow journalist who would breeze through complex subjects with great panache on television, that she was able to successfully substitute self confidence for extensive research. Today there is a virtual epidemic of that malaise. TV reporters sashay forth, gesturing expansively as they dish out quickie analyses. Good looks and self confidence are at a premium. Knowledge of subject? Who needs it when all you have to do is stick a mike in somebody's face and toss off an opinionated sentence to round off a piece to camera? And when some one from the backend of the studio is feeding into your earpiece what questions to ask?

The tragedy in my old fashioned view is that someone who climbs too fast misses out on learning, travelling, getting to know beats, a process which also helped you discover what really interested you. Not only do reporters not know where to place commas in their copy, many will rise two or three levels without having travelled through, rather than parachuted into, district India. But thanks to television which brings access, they will be on first name terms with the politicians and businessmen they are expected to cover. It has become a cliché in journalism education circles that every bright-eyed aspirant wants to be a Barkha Dutt. If there are any role models at all from print they are likely to be those editors who have a parallel track on TV.
Rampant plagiarism

With more media training establishments in existence than ever before, more allegedly trained people enter the profession today than they did in my time. Are they taught how to read government or parliamentary reports or budget papers for stories? Or about the difference between fact gathering, opinion, and analysis? And what does the growing epidemic of plagiarism say about whether they are taught anything at all about how to handle attribution? plagiarism in the mainstream press. Nor is borrowing confined to our part of the subcontinent. I emailed a Pakistani journalist to say that it looked like he had lifted the introduction to an interview from an Indian website. He responded with alacrity to say that of course he had. He did not know much about the interviewee, so he searched the Web.

Quotation marks? Whats that?

It only takes a couple of first-hand encounters with today's newsgathering tribe to confirm that something has changed. When I wrote a media book 12 years ago, the Internet had just come to India that year and was nowhere near the kind of crutch it has become. The only people who wrote about my book were those who read it. Today things are rather different. The publisher's marketing arm sends out a publicity mailer over the Internet and it is picked up wholesale and slapped onto a newspaper or TV website. I marvel at the creativity that goes into weaving parts of the mailer and the back page blurb, along with a para here and there from what someone else has written, to produce what looks like a three column review, no kidding. Do we need to bludgeon personal computer manufacturers to remove the cut and paste function from their machines to save the profession?

Budday pahties and such like

The brat had two two budday pahties back to back over the weekend and I attended in attendance. The outfit for the evening was a Ruff Kids racing leatherite jacket and pant, and a matching cap, yes, you guessed it, Himeshbhai is back in favour. Mamma of course, hung around on the fringes and watched the brat insist on being the star of the show. No black cat black tshirt and black mirror finish glasses though. Getting thoroughly bored of the magicians act and insisting on walking behind his carefully arranged table to ferret out the birds kept within in a small cage and then ask me, over the din, whether he could take the birdies home? As a return gift? Please, please, please? He was sushed into silence by the rapt with ennui kids, who have seen these same magic shows one zillion times at every birthday party they attend, but yet find a strange compulsive hope that this magician will have something new and improved to show them. Or is it just my cynical adult eye which feels so?
Anyway, we left this party even before the cake was cut thanks to the fact that we had another one to attend three suburbs away. And also the added fact that the handkerchief sized party hall had one gadzillion people, many shrieking kids and a totally deaf DJ playing continuous music at ear splitting and migraine inducing levels made feel escape to the relative silence of Mumbai peak hour traffic was a better option. The next birthday party was fun for brat because he had his best and bestest friends there. Such surplus of best friends that he actually didn’t know whom he should fight with first. The games were conducted by a person who did not say, “Make a funny faces,” which had me cringing throughout party number one. (I am that sort of person. I cringe at 'hairs' too!!!) And the party games were fun and easy and kids aged four could easily participate in them without being compelled to run helter skelter and beg for items of clothing off every available adult in the vicinity.
Mummy No 1 said to me before the party started that she had taken a chance and hired a new kiddy party organizer this time round. Don’t think she will repeat them in a hurry. The second party had a DJ too, spinning popular Hindi film music, and that thud on the floor was me keeling over witnessing the brat dancing WITH PROPER DANCE STEPS. Hand movements and feet movements. All the jhatkas and matkas. As in the steps performed by the actors in the song. Govinda move over. I have a dancing king right in my own home. When sufficient water was thrown on me, and I came back to consciousness, immediate new old year resolution is to tune down his music channel watching. He will watch only Discovery and National Geographic, henceforth. And he can dance like the peacocks. He probably still doesn’t know what a peacock is, but will point out in a flash all the Khans in filmdom. Slow learner? I don’t think so. Selective learner, would perhaps be more appropriate.
The brat had to be dragged out of Party No 2, in the manner of drunken reveler being thrown out of inn. Driver summoned up from his perma snooze to carry violently protesting brat, who was drumming up a right storm on the dance floor with his buddies. Dance classes, I think, would be appropriate. The talent seems to be in place. Just see how he manages to make me dance to his tune too. That requires genius. This is a body that doesn’t move for love or money. Ummm. Maybe shopping and food.
Anyway, coming back to birthday parties, suddenly realized the brat’s birthday is barely three months away and I will be back to birthdaymomzilla, ferreting out the perfect khoyi bag, theme based giveaways and decorations, ensuring that every minor detail is coordinated. What immense pressure! And this from a woman who had her mother shop for her trousseau and ended up with totally uncoordinated jewellery on her wedding day, and couldn’t care less. (Obviously I’ve come a long way, baby).
While I quite perversely enjoy the planning and execution of the big shindig, I feel for the kids who might not be able to have a big birthday party and invite all their friends to celebrate. I had a huge birthday party every year till my dad was around with huge crowds running into hundreds, almost like a wedding feast happening. The year he died no one even came across to wish me. No gifts. No bother. I couldn’t understand why everyone had stopped loving me all of a sudden. The fall from grace thanks to our descent into poverty didn’t quite register. I was nine. I didn’t know the mechanics of popular thinking. I kept thinking I was not lovable anymore, and no one liked me anymore. I cannot even begin to tell you what that did to my self esteem through my adolescence. I can only hope and pray that should I, god forbid, not be in a position to hold these huge dos for my son anymore, that some of my good friends will remember and come across to wish the brat. Because they like me and I am lovable. And so is he.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Of stupid b#@$%^ds and such like

The husband and I were called into school yesterday. To discuss the brat. The husband is the kind of old school father who pays the fees on time, and never steps into brat’s school or comes with me for his therapy. He snarled a bit, obviously miffed at having to reschedule his workday to come to school for his kid. But being the wondrous man he is, he came along and was his usual charming knock their socks off self. Much needed accompaniment to moi, with my penchant to dissolve into tears at the drop of a hat, or a stern word. And anything said about the brat has the waterworks flowing like a geyser.
Suffice to say, I went in shaking like a leaf, sufficiently camouflaged I hope by mean-don’t-mess-with-me expression.
Much sweetness and light happened. We were told the brat is oh-so-adorable (Told you, he’s adorable, until he begins on his Rocky Balboa imitation), that its difficult to get mad with him, even when he is being naughty. We were asked to desist watching violent movies in his presence or use bad language in front of him. WTF. I have a mouth that has been rinsed clean with toilet cleaner by my mother if I ever let a ‘bad word’ slip out. The father, to give credit where credit is due, only uses them words when he is chatting with his buddies, or when he is driving. “Well,” said the lady, with a deep and loaded sigh, “he’s been calling the other kids ‘Stupid B*&%@#d.” I fell off my chair. My son? The apple of my eye. The fruit of my womb. Using such profanities. I was also instructed to send in a pillow or huge soft toy that they could use to redirect his punches when he decided to throw some around at the other kids. And yes, the tests are being conducted tomorrow—EQ, IQ, the works. Plus we have to hire a special educator to sit in with him through the three hours of class. That was not what was bothering me.
When I went to collect him, I knelt down at his eye level and said “Stupid….” Leaving the phrase incomplete. “Bhaskar,” he piped up immediately. Alas, this is what comes of taking the brat to watch Partner.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mumbai Mommy Bloggers Meet...Part II

Since Surabhi has raised this long pending topic again, and always-game-to-meet- up-me are involved, here is an open invitation to all Mumbai based Blogging Moms, to send in their expressions of interest, and convenient meeting location options in the comments section.

We are looking tentatively at meeting up between August 15 and September 1st (after which it will be chaotic for me to coordinate, so will be happy to rest up my feet and just show up for the meet, and leave the organising to someone else, as will be swamped with house shifting and Ganapati, and houseguests).

Date, time and location suggestions welcomed. Children obviously welcome.

Till we rustle up a good quorum....

Surabhi, Rohini, I am counting on you if no one else....

Guest post from Dipali: Her list of favourite Indian writings

Am deeply honoured to have the pleasure of putting up a guest post from our dear Dipali, this is the Indian writing tag which we all dispensed off with a while ago, but she has spent much time mulling over her favourites, so here goes:

Starting with some Delhi-centric works- more or less( As a born Dilli-wali, always have a soft corner for books set in my city).

Krishna Sobti- The Heart has its Reasons ( translated from Dil-o-Danish by Reema Anand & Meenakshi Swami).
Set in the Delhi of the 1920's, it is the story of a prosperous lawyer and his two families- one with his wife, the other with his mistress. The nuances, the heartache, the politics of the joint family, and of course the setting in the Chandni Chowk area make this unforgettable. There are really no heroes or villains in this, though the mistress's children command both one's sympathy and admiration.
(Sobti's 'Listen Girl', translated by Shivnath from 'Ai Ladki' is another must-read- a heartbreakingly honest look at the relationship between a woman and her aging, dying mother).

Khushwant Singh has edited ' Delhi- City Improbable'. This is a wonderful anthology of essays and stories based in Delhi, by authors ranging from Amir Khusrau and Mirza Ghalib to Mrinal Pande and Manjula Padmanabhan. A must-read for any one who has either loved or loathed Delhi, or both!

Manju Kapur- Home. An evocative story of life in a Karol Bagh business family. Starting off with childlessness and subsequent childbirth, the book traverses several decades. Owing to a tragedy and the subsequent duties required of the extended family, the daughter of the house is sexually abused as a young child. An affair of the heart while at college in Delhi University, the inevitable break-up due to social status disparities, her subsequent health issues, all continue within the framework of the growing family. A wonderfully non-judgemental narration that can be identified with in many ways. An excellent book which demands re-reading!

Shama Futehally- Frontiers (collected stories). Frontiers is an unfinished novella dealing with the Uphaar cinema tragedy, and could not be completed owing to Futehally's untimely death in 2004. She skilfully focuses both upon the victims as the impending tragedy draws nearer and nearer, and the hapless perpetrators who seem to feel that their minor lapses could never have led to such horror. The other stories in the collection ( edited by Githa Hariharan) retain the author's delicate, sensitive touch and subtle nuances which have been used with such skill in her earlier works, Reaching Bombay Central and Tara Lane. She has translated Meerabai's poems into English ( In the Dark of the Heart), a book which I have not been able to lay my hands on, sadly.
Her book of essays, The Right Words, is of great interest to anyone with an interest in poetry, literature and translation.

Shamila Kantha- Just the Facts, Madamji. A murder mystery set in South Delhi with a wannabe detective Tamilian bank clerk as the protagonist of this gripping whodunnit. Kantha does deal in stereotypes, and succeeds in giving them a great deal of authenticity. She brings her characters to vivid life, and her portrayal of the life of Delhi's middle class 'babudom' rings true. There is also an authentic psychopath.......... rich fodder indeed!

Sheila Dhar- Here's Someone I'd like You to Meet. Sheila Dhar grew up in a large joint family in Delhi, and describes family life with its humour, pathos, politics, and some amazing characters. She is also excruciatingly honest about her parents' rather painful marriage- yet retains her sympathy for both. Her father was a Hindustani classical music aficianado, so Sheila had a rich exposure to eminent musicians like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan ( who refused to eat the vegetarian food his hosts in Delhi served him, the concert had to wait until he had prepared and eaten a chicken curry to his satisfaction), Siddheswari Devi, Begum Akhtar, Kesarbai Kerkar and others. She had, at one time, learned music from Pandit Pran Nath, and describes his eccectricities with humour and affection. Her search for the right guru finally brings her to the brothers Ustads Faiyaz and Niyaz Ahmed Khan, with the good offices of Begum Akhtar as catalyst. Ms.Dhar worked in the Publications Division of the government of India, so bureaucracy is not spared either! This book is an all time family favourite. Her last book, published posthumously, called The Cooking of Music, is also wonderful.Though much of it is about Hindustani music there is still lots of humour and some of the chapters have you laughing out loud. Ms.Dhar captured regional accents and intonations with great warmth and humour. She's really a person I would have loved to meet.

Madhur Jaffrey -Climbing the Mango trees. Madhur was Sheila Dhar's first cousin- although Madhur also spent some of her early childhood in Kanpur, much of her youth was spent in the same Civil Lines bungalow built by their grandfather. Very informative and evocative, but as Madhur has spent so much of her life abroad, one feels that some of it is perhaps directed towards a western audience. Her descriptions of food and feasts, the changes in Delhi's life and cuisine after Partition, and the attached recipes are all. It is interesting to get another point of view about characters as complicated as Sheila's father. Madhur is nowhere as funny as her cousin, but she is as observant and perceptive. She paints exquisite, loving portraits of her parents and sisters, and one feels a tremendous empathy for them all. Her transition from a girl who probably failed her school cooking exam (she did really well in the maths paper so they must have made allowances for her!) to a world-renowned cookbook author is great to read.