Monday, 27 February 2017

35 Pieces of Pasta

It was one of those mornings today. 
My maid (cook) called in sick at 6:20am.
Good news - I was awake and reading an unputdownable book.
Bad news - it was "Bad Mothers United" by Kate Long.
I didn't even work out 'cause I was lazy. 
And she had early school today. 

I ploughed on, I am 43, I can deal with one measly lunch box.
'How many farfalle does she need?' I mused aloud.
'35' he answered promptly. God bless him.
Sometimes your questions need precise mathematical answers.
'How do you know how much sauce to add?'
'Well, I just do' 
Sometimes I surprise myself with how good I am at food.

I blundered on after, all a-tizzy, 'cause today was going to be a good day.
I was going to make up for last week's unproductivity at work. 
The sambar thingie splattered down as I picked it from the fridge.
There was sambar (small onion) pretty much everywhere.
Including the ceiling, oh heaven help me. 
I calmed down as I cleaned. 

I think I deserved it 'cause I was whining. 
About the fridge which is over-flowing with stuff. 
Shouting in my head at the maid (cook).
Anyhow the kitchen got a good wipe.
The cloths are all done for & I found sambar in the MnMs.
But order prevails, generally! 

As for the lunch box? 
It went with a long note from her father.
It was all ignored. 
She shared the sandwich with a small boy. 
She rolled the used fork in the cloth napkin.
She brought back 10 farfalle, if you must know. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017


How to get a selfie together? 
Some of our most memorable times have been when we are exercising together. Over the years, we have had basketball, running, volleyball, gym, long treks, p90x, and more recently, walking (!). All of these have been fun in their own way, and though we do a number of workouts separately  as well, I feel like these together workouts are an important component of our lives. True, we have never run a marathon together like some of the other couples that we know. We haven't even run a half marathon together, though, compared to the former, the latter is not too far-fetched as a possibility for the future. The photo is from a gym session yesterday.

We had a schema for our weekend treks during our Massachusetts days. I remember agonising for days over the what-to-wear what-to-pack questions, while he just threw some random things together in like 5 minutes. Sandwiches, water, trail mix, some chips in a backpack. An insanely long trek which I remember now with only pleasure. Reaching the summit. The exhilaration at seeing the vistas at the top. Me, always impatient to climb back down. Chinese take-out at night. Waking up with really sore limbs the next day. Such a long time ago it all seems!

Nowadays we have our very short morning walks together, that's it. So far it is something we manage to do after dropping the child off, a time to breathe a bit. The whole child-house-work-deadlines-morning meetings saga has put paid to anything more than that. And our running goals are not yet aligned well enough that we do that together. I do my strength training on the terrace for expediency. He prefers the gym. I am still an impatient sort who always winds up at least 10 mins before him and sort of breathes down his neck, at any rate.

So it was a pleasant thing overall that we found ourselves with a nice hour long window (not more not less 'cause the child had to picked up from her basketball session) on a Saturday morning. We went together to the gym, and though we exercised separately, he on the treadmill and me doing my workout in the "padded" section, it still was reminiscent of that past life. I suddenly felt very grown up. And not for a second did I ponder the 'What-To-Wear' question. In fact, I think I picked out my workout clothes (blue TWCM volunteer tshirt and a pair of Nike running tights), with my eyes closed.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Bloody Hell!

I had a blood test recently - a routine check up which revealed routine things about my body and so forth. Before you ask, yes, it involved a urine test as well, which - however many times I do it - is a major pain. Anyway that was all fine, I don't want to talk about peeing though I just did.

There is a snatch of a memory from my childhood, I was very small, at least in size if not in age. We used to go to our family doctor - named Subba Rao - a super old gentleman who gave us those red tonics and half a 'celin' [Vitamin C] each. It was generally assumed that I got half portions 'cause I was one, but I suspect that the guy was just cautious about loading up the body with chemicals - a thing I appreciate a lot now.

The memory, yes, was about a vaccine I had to get. Mom told me about it and we walked from our house to my grandmom's house first (the good doctor was en route). And I was so excited throughout the whole outing. I could hardly think straight. I dragged mom out of the grandmom's house quick quick double quick so we could get the injection.

"Maybe she will become a doctor" I think they said. "Maybe I will" I remember thinking to myself as I inhaled the deliciously decrepit odours of the doctor's clinic. I had no use for the prattle that they use to make a patient comfortable. I didn't mind one bit the injection - not even the initial pin prick.

During my teenage years, thanks to the braces I had on my teeth, it was all those injections in my gums. I did not mind them, though that slurpy feeling in the aftermath was not desirable. I got four teeth removed in one shot one time, and no worries. The dentist was a very nice (and handsome) man but that was not the point, really.

In recent times, I am a bit more wary. I looked carefully as he broke the seal on a brand new needle. I watched him dab the antiseptic. I decorously looked away as he poked the vein. I only peeked a glance when he was a little rough during the vial change. I still am unafraid of injections - though I did not "become a doctor" - at least not of the variety they were referring to. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Of Careers and Creches

Today I want to muse a little on parenting - as loyal readers know, it is one of my favourite topics. Mostly, it's a chance to say unkind things about The Child, who is, thankfully too preoccupied with a pile of books borrowed from the library last week, to get back at me.

I attended an interesting session at IIT today. I was the "Chief Guest" at the creche in the campus. I agreed to go simply because a friend of mine asked me and I found it hard to say no (she is most accommodating and I owed her one). I was a bit hesitant at first, 'cause I didn't have a ready made speech to give. I know, I know, that has never stopped me before, and it did not stop me today either.

I laid out a salwar kameez to wear then on the spur of the moment ditched that and wore a sari. It was a purple-ish one and I wore matching earrings and a bindi. My parenting moment involved the walk to school to drop the child off, during which she laughed loudly and informed me that all three were different shades of purple, and nothing matched. Oh well.

My parenting philosophy has mostly revolved around Role Modelling. I can't for sure say that it has worked out super well for us or anything. But it is something that makes sense to me, and it gels with my own personality. Some aspects of role modelling are such that it can backfire on you - for e.g. the fact that I wake up early and run regularly leads to a certain disdain for running, for sure! But so be it! I am hopeful that in the future she will be somehow inspired by it, and last week I distinctly heard her say "I need some exercise now, it has been a while since I had a proper workout."

Speaking of creches, I think an important thing to bear in mind is the fact that all the feminism and equal rights and lack of a glass ceiling and so on falter at the altar of early motherhood. I know that in the absence of a high quality day-care center, on campus, right close to my work place, with a reasonable philosophy of child rearing, I would not have managed to have a career.

I could have handled a job, yes, I would have worked for sure, maybe simply because I am not very good domestically, but having a full fledged career would have been well nigh impossible without a set-up such as the one I was at this morning [My own early motherhood was dedicated to a sister concern that is in IIT Bombay, where the child went from the time she was 16 months old].

For that reason among others, I am immensely grateful that such things exist today, unlike when I was a baby. While the grandparents are super awesome and are any day better at parenting than any creche (or myself), the guilt I felt for putting them through the whole feeding - diaper changing - nap-time - and other routines of babies, was strong. Plus I think for a single child, having a set-up outside the home and some friends and non-family adults to interact with, were valuable.

It was a great walk down memory lane for me today. It was nice to introspect a little and tell the eager young parents that were in the audience, that the "Food Battles" are really not worth it. It was so hilarious to think about how much I used to agonise over her food, considering that she is 3 inches taller than me now!! I tried to convince them that it has been one of my failures as a parent.

Most of all, it felt good to do this informal session and spend the rest of the day mulling over the various things said and heard this morning. As we move on to Phase two - 'Parenting a Teen' - due to happen soon, while all is said and done, it has been a really wonderful journey. Although it sounds geeky to say it, the apple of our eye has grown to be a good (if distinctly disobedient) friend, and perhaps when she reads this she will recall those early creche days with fondness...

A long-ago memory captured for posterity

Thursday, 9 February 2017


I was contemplating rejection, mainly in a work situation. We write all these manuscripts all the time - by and large we have been lucky, but a good number of them are returned back, rejected. My co-workers and I go through a period of dejection then - if the reject is with good, stated reasons, we can at least sit down and address them - but many a time no details are provided, and we don't even know why it was turned down! In any case, I convince everyone to think positively and move ahead. It's definitely one difficult aspect of my work, but we generally move on ...
(From New Yorker)

I read this nice article about the New Yorker cartoon rejects - check out this awesome blog:
"Rejection as Creative Catalyst: A Lesson in Entrepreneurship from New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff". It has nothing whatsoever to do with my work life, but it was still interesting to read! I stumbled upon it when I was searching for information about Gold Catalysts for my class, of all things! And it reminded me of a recent rejection I had suffered (not that I have found a way to make money off of that! Though the idea of a web portal of rejected manuscripts in Chemical Reaction Engineering would surely be cool! 😛)

As I was discussing something with the child, I remembered, due to the context, the  basketball games I have lost in over the years. It is quite a substantial number! But I had to dig deep in my memory for that - I was trying to convince her of the usual - that failure is sometimes a stepping stone to success - and no one wakes up and starts winning things, games in particular. The importance of effort, and dedication, and a good dose of luck cannot be under-emphasised, I was saying.

I guess I should have added that the memory of happy situations can be more prominent than that of unhappy ones, and while I know that pit of the stomach feeling of disappointment very well, I think I know the thrill, the exhilaration, the joy of a good job done to completion much better. And the happy moments can easily dislodge those unhappy ones in the long run! I don't think she believed me.

My student graduated and the committee was very respectful of him, unlike in previous encounters. We had a great lunch together where a visiting German professor gave the boy a hug. After the number of times we have had rocky meetings and the amount of heart ache I had suffered thinking about his thesis over the past five years, it was such a pleasant experience! I came out of it feeling super strong and ready to deal with stuff, after all, these young folks deal so well and come out happy, why shouldn't I! 

So here I end, on that pleasant note. If I had applied to be a Spice Girl and was rejected on the basis of my height (or unruly hair), I would be one of several, and all of us would go out into the sunset in companionable silence, heads held high and positive thoughts in our hearts! 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Short Shorts

At the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2016

Running shorts are my favourite thing in the world. Though I have never found a satisfactory pair of them in India. As in the past, in my recent trip to the US, I obsessed over it for days and finally ordered a bunch of them on amazon, to my hotel room. Only to discover a rather nice running store round the corner... 

It was heartening to read this article making a desperate plea for better shorts for women:

The options in India are generally pathetic as far as women's running shorts are concerned. I admit having to resort to men's shorts - they rarely fit well though they at least they are longer. I occasionally succumb and buy the latest model of Nike or adidas shorts since they loudly proclaim that they are for running, but they are all uniformly disappointing. 

I am seriously contemplating moving to those three-quarter tights that seem to popular among women runners in India (and beyond). I may even be okay with the weird patterns that these tights seem to possess. Maybe then my daughter will stop teasing me about my 'thunder thighs' - at least they will be decorously swathed in colourful polyester...