Monday, 31 March 2008

Taming The Tempest

I have a mutiny on my hands! The little monster has acquired a new skill. A set of spectacular tantrums have been witnessed around the home in the past week or two. I was expecting it at the magic age of two, thought that I had seen them actually, and that in the two years since then, I was confident that the foundation of good responsible behaviour had been laid. I did not exactly sit back and stretch my arms out on couch backrests (I love to do that, I feel like I AM THE KING!! when I do that), but, yes, I did feel moments of some comfort that despite being such a crazy person myself my child seemed to behave itself in most situations.

But now its MELTDOWN time. I am getting to a point where I am reluctant to step out in public with this mutinous monster. I kid a little of course, but it has acquired this temper for sure. Brows knit, little hands on its hips, it stomps around the house going NO I WON'T DO THAT. I DON'T LIKE THAT. Although I do feel like having a good chortle at it, after the third of fourth time of telling her to do something and her giving me lip, I lose it and give a nice yell. That results in a nice session of loud plaster-shattering cries that Bianca Castafiore would have been proud of. Volumes of tears flow down. If I ignore it, the cries crescendo out and stop after a while. If I react they subside immediately but no amount of reasoning will completely put a stop to them. The chances of relapse are fairly high. Of course, the option of just giving in does not particularly arise except in rare situations when I go with the 'don't sweat the small stuff' philosophy.

I am tolerating some of it, ignoring parts of it, having long chats sometimes if she is in a pliant mood later, losing my own cool and throwing my very own special tantrum (when I think I can get away with it, or when I am really really tired), but the best bet is actually humour! I laugh at myself, how worked up a four year old can make me. How I am having this conversation with her that is going nowhere.

"So this red dress looks nice right?"


"But this is your favourite thing. Perfect for school"


"Hey thats quite enough now. Stop it right now. Here wear this"


So by this time it is quite clear to me that I have two choices (a) Give In and Let Her Wear What She Wants or (b) Give a Tight Slap and Beat Her Into Submission. Not much to do with these choices cause I never hit her so it would be quite useless to do so especially when she is feeling so rebellious. And she does not particularly know what it is she wants to wear, just that it cannot be what Amma has picked out. Which, come to think of it, is quite funny (and possibly quite smart of her considering my non-existent fashion skills). Much to my own mum's discomfiture, I have thrown open her cup-board, she is welcome to rifle through it and pick up things she would like to wear. But she is just such a chick, I swear, she can never decide what it is she wants!

It is the same with going anywhere, doing, eating anything as well. I say one thing and she completely goes ballistic. I dread teenage all over again. The only good thing out of all of this is that I get to periodically throw tantrums, mutter to myself fuck this shit I swear I am going to slap this child, and generally yell and scream. Its good tension release, its been a while now, have been sitting with this stick up my mommy ass...

Thursday, 27 March 2008

We Indians...

The last time I did anything resembling a medical exam was maybe seven years ago. I had insurance. My boss made me go. It was in Massachusetts. Being in my twenties and sort of cocking a snook (hope I have not mixed up that expression) at all the oldies sitting there with worried looks, I sort of breezed through it. Yes, between then and now I had a baby sometime, was in the hospital, went a billion times to the Gynaec with that protruding belly, but clearly, that was all for the monster I begat and not for myself.

Anyway, coming back to today, I went and got a medical exam done. I disciplinedly ate my dinner early, avoided eating anything after that (not a big deal, I don't go in for midnight snacks.. :-)), avoided alcohol for 24 hours (it is a weekday, see how clever I am!), and went in with much enthusiasm to this place, of course, also some apprehension. I might just be anemic, or there might be more things messed up, there was that high cholesterol reading I had had eight years ago in Mysore, I have not been feeling myself of late. So, some apprehension, also it was a new place, its part of my insurance again.

Now, in the US, they are nice, pleasant to you in hospitals, tend to wear baby blue or pink and are smiling at lot, right, so it was a peaceful experience. In brief brushes with our local desi hospitals & clinics, I had noticed a distinct absence of this attitude, I mean even in situations where they wore those pink scrubs. Tangentially, I sometimes wear this pair of grey scrubs as a night suit at home and was shocked last week when the monster kept asking me, why are you wearing this, this is the dress of nurse aunties. Did not think she had noticed. I had not particularly noticed the scrubs when I took her in for the chest xray last month...

This place I went to, boss, this was like Taj hospitality. Seriously. Five star. The ladies smiled, led you by hand from room to room for the various tests. They fed you food. Coffee. Extra tea or whatever you wanted. Gave you choices. Were not brusque. There was a usher-type lady leading the proceedings, who was super efficient and on top of all twenty of us who were in for various types of tests today. There was the xray guy who was so pleasant too. They all referred to you by your name (not as patient no. 345). The whole place was all dark polished wood and nice antique-ish furniture. They gave me brand new chappals of straw in addition to the gown and a robe. My own locker. I think we Indians really like to be pampered. Which is why I choose to be a guest on Mallya Uncle's airline whenever possible...

Friday, 21 March 2008

A beginning

It has been a lazy couple of days. I have abandoned all attempts of working through this long weekend. I am just about managing to keep the mood somewhat above neutral, and surely am not going to be able to weigh things like my feelings on Monday when the harsh reality of four days wasted will hit me, and such like. Thankfully mum being around means I cannot get much into random contemplative moods by my own lone self. We tried to go shopping on thursday. It was a production. We called the driver. We convinced the child to sleep early. We got ready. Drank our coffee. Made our list. But we tucked our tails in and scurried back home in under an hour. We are not equal to this task any more. So what if the non-stick pan has black stuff coming out from its center? So be it. We did some cleaning. That felt good. Our bedroom is of passable hygiene standards now. I changed curtains.

Okay. So all through my twenties I was looking forward to things. My degrees, which I am awfully fond of. They were there, ahead of me. I had to work towards them, I enjoyed that stuff broadly. The exams, the research work, attending conferences, writing papers, drinking beer, travelling around in a backpack. My husband. Our marriage. No, not the ceremony, that stuff means very little to me. I do dislike rituals and even traditions a fair bit. But, you know, that life of togetherness and stuff. That stuff felt good in my twenties. My job. I used to dream about it. It has not been the way I dreamt about it in some ways, but in some ways it has been even better. Anyway my twenties brought me that too, making it overall real nice.

Right now though, on the cusp of another dreaded birthday, the words that flit around in my mind are - it is the beginning of the end now. If the past decade was all about beginnings, real ones, this one feels quite like the start of ends. I can see and feel the signs. There is my hair for one. I have never been a person who hung anything by appearances, but one thing that stuck to me always was that through all his health problems my dad had this shock of hair on his head. Really tough hair. Having inherited that from him, I guess I was quite blase about it. I remember thinking, along with my 'best' friend in school, that I had too much hair. It has always been quite unmanageable, and she would say, if we had about half of this amount, we could manage it better. And last week, the doctor took a look, scrabbed around the top of my head, and declared, 'It is visibly thinning.'

Which is fine, I still don't look bald, and there is always the inspiration of a Persis Khambatta, wigs, Britney Spears. And, really, I don't work with radioactive things knowingly, nor am I undergoing chemotherapy, so, perhaps its a reversible change. Though, the bones tell the same story! (that of aging in a polluted world? perhaps..) My muscles go to mush if I skip exercising for even a week. The abs have long given up the fight of course. And lately, in the past month, people are commenting variously as 'Have you been sick?' 'Have you been exercising a lot?' to the point of scaring me. Well, not scared actually. I usually take these things as compliments. At least that is what I tell them. You think I have lost weight? That's good. You think I look 'healthy' (meaning fat). That's good. I take it as a compliment.

Death is welcome. I have met it. I have hated it as well, though. It took my dad, my two grandfathers, aunts, uncles, a cousin, a friend. It did matter a LOT in 2000 when it was my father. But as pertained to myself, it is welcome. I don't anticipate it will come soon. But of course, it will come some day. When I walk in to a room and people look up with a smile and say 'You will live to be a hundred, we were just talking about you' I usually cringe (even though I don't believe that superstition, or any other, for that matter). I don't particularly want to live to be a hundred years old. I mean, no slur on people who are a century old, but I am just tired even thinking about the next 66 years of existence that that will demand. Too many decades. So death, she is welcome to come to me, I am not afraid of her, at least not as much troubled at her imminence as at the thought of living to be a hundred.

Its a leap. If optimism were plotted on a graph against age, I hit the peak several years ago. That is what it is. The light is visible. I used to say that often several years ago when I was seeing my thesis shape up. But no, I did not say that during my fat nine month pregnancy. There was fear at the end of that time period. Thank god most of those fears were just random ones and I have a beautiful (yet monstrous) child for the efforts. In general a lot more satisfying than three hundred pages on acid-free paper. I want to see her grow up (and I will, I needn't add). Be there hiding tears when she dons her first uniform. Fondle the pilot's wings or the newspaper with her article in it or, if life were to come a full circle, watch her walk the walk to receive her degree, or if the circle were to invert, watch her first stage show playing the drums (whatever it is her heart desires to do, in other words). It could be fun. She is fun, despite the fact that I have to rear her.

But oh! The keeping oneself healthy, robust, to meet challenges head on, to walk into a shop and emerge with things one needs, to meet people and get things done that one needs, papers, certificates, plumbing, onions, I feel unequal to these things half the time. Which tells me, if I were to contract some debilitating illness (no, not the thinning hair thing, something real and notably worry-worthy; and yes, I use the word contract loosely), will I
(a) Recognise that time is short and try to make the most of it? Go on a cruise (I would like to, you know, except that there might be too much food which is sort of a sickening thought). Climb a mountain (not the Everest, something smaller). Call people and tell them I love them (thats a lot of calls, I love a lot of people, really).
(b) Crawl into a cocoon and eat chocolates.

If someone told me to get a hold on myself, if I received a wake-up call of sorts (no, not the thinning hair, or perhaps that too), would I
(a) Throw out the mini-booze bottles in the bottom drawer and effectively clean up my act
(b) Drink up the mini-booze bottles and effectively push things over the edge.

It is not clear. I would like to believe I am (a) I am strong. I like exercise. I love vegetables. I love people. I love my job, and cooking. My family is supportive, loves me, and kind of rocks. I have an armload of things and people that should push me towards being a person you can be proud of. A person you will point to and say 'look at her, strong. even in adversity.' But sometimes, I don't want to be like that. I want to loosen up. Perhaps, thats what I need, loosen up.

Plastic bags, viruses, mosquitoes, my carbon footprint, the nano car, pesticides, water shortage, curfews, accounts to settle, crowds, these things might not go away. I am unlikely to be the president of the world so there is a point beyond which there is no use in my worrying about them. I am mortal (thank someone). These things will last only so long. In a way, that's good. The end has begun and its only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on with a reasonable sense of gratitude for what there is and a normal sense of loss for what used to be. There, I feel better now. I will let that reflect in the title as well. Thank you, words.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Exam Pressures

I am reacting more or less entirely to this (and this) article, which of course, is front page TOI. Suicides. Exam pressures. Failing in English. Suicide notes threatening that they will come back as ghosts to harass their teachers.

So, with abandon the article lays blame at the feet of examinations in India. Be it X, XII, SSC, BSc, BCom, or the dreaded entrance exams. Fine, we have a completely fucked up educational system. Our schools suck. Our teachers are idiots. The powers-that-be have constructed competitive exams with the one aim of felling youngsters in their prime. Fine. But if I was a seventeen year old today taking my XII and preparing (perhaps not too well) for an entrance exam, what would really prompt me to attempt to take my life? Lets see. Parents are pressurising me so much that if I don't do well, something is going to give at home. They think I am going to be a 90+ percenter. I hated the stream I was in, but its not in our culture to talk about such things. I barely studied all year, because I hated it so thoroughly. Now the situation has become desperate, looks like I am going to fail ...

I am not arguing that I know what goes on in a person's mind when they decide to take that ultimate step. I have very little idea about it, in real fact. I am not arguing that teachers are blameless. I am not saying our educational system is perfect. I am just saying that parents, as a breed, are becoming increasingly blind about their children's capabilities, desires, and needs, and therefore some responsibility for these extreme steps lies with them as well. And, for us, younger parents, I do think its a wake-up call. Its going to be tough to change the educational system in the next decade or so (which is not to say we should not try to fix things). I do think we have to work the other way instead. Life is extremely stressful. We are fighting pollution, crowds, the nano car, politics, paan-spitting, increasing carbon footprints, bad teachers. Our children are fighting these with us. They are looking up to us to help them through this. They are looking to us to give them the strength to fight these when they are older. The last thing they need from us is an absolute insistence that they get a 'centum in math' or else...

An Unlikely Thing

A most unlikely thing for this place here in the sun that I have with my name on it is, yes, you guessed it right, a movie review. Of sorts. Laments about my life you have heard ad-nauseam. Lists of things and revelations you have seen countless times. But except for brief exceptions made for Chak De & Sivaji, movie stuff is unlikely here. You will rightly guess that I am not a big fat huge movie buff despite the fact that I moved all the way from Massachusetts to Mumbai hoping that living in Mumbai would enable me to meet and hang out with Salman Khan (of all the Khans!).

Bombay to Bangkok, I subsequently realised, is a Nagesh Kukunoor effort. I was on a flight to Delhi. A nice two hour stretch. The Air Premiere was announced in splashy ads everywhere. The Zee channels were south of the AP channel. My last exposure to a movie was also on a long flight, and that being Bhool Bhulaiya, you would think I would have been scarred for life. But somehow I plugged in (can never seem to work the head phones properly, my ears are way too small) and, seeing Shreyas Talpade running around, decided to give it a shot.

I returned the same day, and since the flight is just a tad shorter than the movie itself, again missed the very last five minutes. Yes, I watched it AGAIN on my way back. Seriously, I liked it.

Story-shory we will not worry about. Its obvious in the title. Bombay are there. Bangkok are there. People go from here to there. Some romance occurs. Some intrigue. One song-dance thing. The gangster dude is just immensely cute & hilarious, I mean, chest hair notwithstanding. His rap segments are quite interesting. The whole falling-in-love business of his is totally endearing. Shreyas Talpade (a cook-cum-hero-cum-pretend-doc) is not playing cricket or wearing loud-collared coats in this one, but he is still a spontaneous actor, too bad he has a dark Rajnikanth-ish look about him (I am assuming that that look will not work for anyone else). His self-deprecatory mental asides worked well, and I was especially impressed with his ability to say Bhatwadekar unfailingly funnily. That he should fall in love with a porcelain-skinned Thai prostitute girl was something I did not expect, having been brought up with mainstream cinema, I kept waiting for the desi heroine to appear sometime. Hero-heroine ride a scooter, and there is a trasition somewhere that I recognise. She drives the scooter. Good. He sits straight in the back initially. Their adventures take them through a day and a night. The next day, when, clearly, they are in love or something close to that, he is not sitting so straight anymore. Leaning in, the heads almost aligned. Yes, I recognise that transition. It happens. The sardarji is also quite cute, despite being enormously fat.

The movie is nice, simple, and cute. Everyone in the movie is extremely like-able, no one grates on the nerves particularly. Now that is saying a lot in this time and age, especially when one has tolerated Manini De in Krish...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

March is upon us!

Goodness, how time flies. Here I am, still unable to deal with the fact that it is 2008 now. And I suddenly see that its March. How is a person supposed to cope? Let me make a list in any case.

  • Parents, all of you out there, please listen to me. Just ease up okay? I am downright furious at all of you who are pressuring young folk. Instead of emotionally blackmailing them, making them live your dreams for you, and so on, spend time in helping them figure out their life. There are a billion options out there today, many of them pay well, several of them will give them a happy life, help them find which one works best for them. For heaven's sake, stop pushing them into engineering or some such. Don't make me come over there with a can of whup-ass.
  • I am going to become a germophobe. It sounds cool I think. JLo has apparently become one after she had her kids (twins I think). Some dude on American TV will not even shake hands with anyone cause he is a germophobe. Sounds totally awesome. I initiated my foray into this by mopping the one inch of grime from my desk first thing this morning.
  • My wardrobe change has gone down the drain. I am back in my old clothes. The man-kurtas I bought are untouched. Today I am wearing a bindi though. With my green salwar kameez and the decent chappals that I wear for shaadis, not the Nike Hawai. Its something I suppose. Must ask my mum (who, by the way, appearances notwithstanding, never ever pushed me into anything) to help me help myself.
  • The monster-child is better now. Germs, please don't come back. She still looks like two eyes with four sticks (two arms, two legs) under them, but is on the mend. Still feeling shit scared to send her to creche, thankfully school is on leave for a few more days. But they have exams in April, oh sorry, evaluations is what the teacher calls them. And no, we are not stressed about it, we are looking forward to it with excitement. At least I am, she has declared that she is too small to write exams and that I should write them for her. I would love to but am a few inches too tall (thats a first..)
  • In an attempt to use the word flocks (or was it folks?), she said, Oh those fucks. I cracked up big time. I guess as a responsible parent I should be shocked, chagrined, and going around chastising myself for swearing so much. But hey!
  • Spent the weekend in Chennai. Was nice. I think I like Chennai weather now. I don't even break a sweat. My only problem with Chennai is Sun TV. I visited the flower market. Nice, though the guys were rude and asked for huge amounts of money. I do love the smell of jasmine flowers (fresh ones). I shopped for glass bangles. It was quite difficult to find them. There is every conceivable type of bangle but glass available. Pathetic situation. I bought some paavadais for a friend's kid. She liked them! Thank god for NRIs! So much culture-embracing they are.
  • Went to a thread ceremony. Kid was real enthu and wanted to fall at my feet - he is supposed to do that to all the adults, after they give him this rice. I refused to let him and hugged him instead (why not? I felt emotional, seemed like a big step for such a small boy). Aunties behind diamond nose studs glared at me. HMPH. I was wearing a Mysore Silk with a black blouse encrusted with beads. Chennai does not like such things, but hey!
  • I think I know why I like boys. They are simpler than us. While my monster was busy negotiating various things and calculating causes and effects in her head, my nephew went around having boats of fun. We had to chase him around to ensure (a) he did not break much (b) did not *OH GOSH* go into the balcony and (c) gave me maximum kisses and hugs posssible. And he fell asleep in a flash after all the activity. Though he did seem to have turned on some tap and flooded the floor. Meanwhile my daughter wanted to take off her shoes. Because he was asleep. So when it was time to go, we would be forced to carry him. And since she was not asleep (and not likely to be), she would have to walk. But if her shoes were off I would not make her walk barefoot so we would have to carry her as well. And it would be all even. My brain nearly had a short-circuit. I like boys. The agenda is clear with them. No machinations.
  • Parents, I am watching. Back off. I don't care a rat's ass about your missed vocation, your sunk opportunity, and all that you gave up because (a) you had your child young (b) your parents just could not afford it or (c) whatever. Go figure out ways to make your life meaningful without going ballistic on your teenager, she has enough on her mind already.
Oh well, I grant you, 2008 is well and truly here to stay. At least its a leap year. I like that. Sort of.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


That gnawing in your tummy, that feeling of loss, well its over now ladies and gentlemen. Kenny is back, she is in the house, shouting from the rooftops and such like. Been up to a lot, and at the same time, not much, if you know what I mean.
The past week I was in, gasp, hold your breaths, the sunny shores on the west-end of that godly country, USA. Yup, was in California. It was fucking freezing. Seriously. I wore my thick fat Boston winter coat (did not line it with a fleece like I would in Boston, but still..). I mean I guess my adipose is still not adequate compensation for the six years of Mumbai's sweltering heat. The body just cannot handle sub-20 (Celcius!) temperatures! But weather apart, it was a ton of fun. I mean, whats not to like? Geeks pouring out of the woodwork, a smooth room at the Hyatt, re-runs of Seinfeld, Foster's beer (I was aiming for a Guiness of course but lacked the company somewhat), and my brand new wardrobe of clothes.
For the first time in a million years, I just let myself go. I was all over the sessions, collaring gents in between sessions to blather about my work, and using my hands to full advantage to drive home a tricky point about how on earth the process works at the core, you know, on a molecular level. I made the ultimate joke to start off my presentation, the one about the tall order for a short person (which was perfectly right for my geek audience), and generally felt on top of the world despite wearing flats. Nice flats, mind you, not the dorky Nike Hawai Chappals that I normally sport.
Oh yeah, I met two dear friends at the end of the meeting and we abused each other hugely. Surely thats what good friends are for. We went to Venice Beach and I saw a segway. Also a whole bunch of Chihuahuas. Pardon me though cause I wanted to step on them. The dogs, not the vehicles. Nothing personal against the dogs, but really, they were kept warm and secure inside pink downy blankets, and, well, thats just not happening with me.
Motherhood-wise, I did great, up to a point. I did not pine away for the child or have unreasonable bouts of panic. I did not sit in a corner glancing at pictures of her on my mobile. Only had a small crying thing in the plane back when I realised that she had gotten herself sick again. She did real well the first few days, even winning her first medal in her creche, and chatting with me quite cutely on the phone, and generally spending quality time with her father and grandmom. But then she picked up an infection and then it was not so much fun for anyone. But I did not do anything crazy. Practised some more to let go. You know, what you cannot control, no point sweating over it. I was in a plane miles away. She was in good hands. Great hands. They both love her to pieces. In a way they probably looked after her better than I would have, you know, cause I tend to get impatient when she does not eat, and also scare her with my knitted brows when she throws up.
At the end of it, I am back, she is doing better now, I conquered jet lag (I think) thanks to setting a world sleeping record.. If I am doing the math right, I fell asleep in the airport in LA and, apart from a couple of hours in Frankfurt when I worked on slides for today, and the occasional aircraft meal, I slept for almost thirty hours. Did you say shopping? Ha ha. I bought knee braces for my husband and a couple of books for the kid. See, I have grown a lot now, none of that running off to discount stores or anything. The airline guys were zapped at how little luggage I had! As was the customs dude here in Mumbai. No regrets of course. Good to be back. Regular programming will now resume on this page....