Monday, 30 June 2008

Weekend Victory!

The summer is really and truly ending today for me since the monster's school finally reopens tomorrow (well, it has opened, a nice rainy day typical of Mumbai in July). I called the school and asked them for detailed feedback on what to pack in her bag. They very nearly laughed at me and mutterred something like, Its your child, you decide. So, I have mentally allotted biscuits and water (did a banana, some orange cream biscuits, and water). The bag is powerpuffgirls courtesy grandparents (Managed to change back to old bag thanks to rain). Stingy me had decided to just wash last year's ladybug bag but they did not like the idea. Clothes, aah, thats the big challenge since our school does not do uniform (the standard issue pink skirt and blouse were picked finally, I did not resist).

Anyway all of last week I had a nagging nasty cold to contend with. The newspapers had ominously remarked "Don't ignore any fever" in the wake of Dengue and Malaria and what not around the city. Did not have a fever thankfully! I used the excuse to pop sundry crocin vicksaction500 and, for the single reason that they were there in the box, multivitamin tablets. I was sleeping in a blissful vapour cloud consisting of vicks (for the cold), bengay (for the blasted neck ache), vaseline (for extra moisturising), and general mumbai monsoon mugginess. I was really worried about the cold since I did not want to miss the opportunity of carrying the newest little baby of the family over the weekend in Bengaluru.

In the past year, when I have fallen prey to these seasonal ailments, and god knows I have fallen prey enough number of times, I have wallowed in the mire of self-pity. Of course for the most part I have not managed to rest my colds and chills and what not at all, with office and monster-related stuff and vegetables carrying on full steam (or at least three-quarters steam). The only thing I have done is avoided my early morning exercise sessions, which only serves to make me more miserable if anything. Self-pity is such a bloody dangerous thing that I am convinced that my recovery was really rendered impossible thanks to my mental state.

This time around, I willed myself to get better. I did gargle, and I did take some vicks type things (nothing sustained, just popped tablets when the mood struck). But I did not get into the whole 'Oh look at me so sick and filling so many hankies with snot and still having to do all this hard work (meaning boiling milk)' Instead I convinced myself it was just a routine cold and there was not even any fever to speak of, and since I had a fairly busy sched at work, I think I actually managed to psyche myself into getting better. And yes, carried the baby to my heart's content, she actually slept in my lap for about half an hour. It was real nice, such a cute cuddly baby with big eyes and tons of hair.

Next thing to do is to get rid of this neck ache thing by fighting it with the mind. I have a cousin who insists on curing his fevers using just rasam and the power of the mind (and water, he drinks gallons of water). Usually, I laugh at the idea, but now I am coming around to his point of view. And meanwhile, the heavens have opened up, you can hardly see beyond the sheet of rain, the sides of the roads have started flowing, and, although the cook could not make it home this morning, we have all gotten ready in time, the lunch boxes are packed, breakfast made & eaten, child dropped off in her new class (but same old room, same young teacher), I have switched on the tube lights in my office for the first time in many months (its too dark today obviously)...

Friday, 27 June 2008


Usually, the best time is those fractions of seconds early in the morning. Your eyes pop open. In that small sliver of time, you actually delude yourself that yesterday (or last week) did not happen in reality. That it was all a dream. That you can walk out of your room and you will find him, sitting in his dhoti and reading the paper, or, her, hair tied up in a pink towel, mixing up coffee, or the other him, slowly advancing towards the bathroom, or, that young one there, eating biscuits as usual although it is so bad for his health.

Of course as the day advances and you slide your feet down to the ground and brush your teeth, realization dawns. It was no dream. They are no more. Gone. For good. Not coming back. Never coming back. If you believe, you think they are with god. In a happy place, with no pollution and rough edges and traffic and bitching relatives. If you don't believe, you try to justify. Life was hard for him. Mentally and physically. The inability to read must have been incredibly painful to deal with. The bodily pains immeasureable. The thought that he was dependent on others too unacceptable. The idea that her husband went before her must have felt like an ultimate blow. The daily round of doctors and surgeons and the inability to enjoy a simple thing as going to school a month at a stretch must be so hard for a boy, almost a child. Yes, you can rationalise it away and say it is better this way, better they are gone since the being here was so filled with pain and suffering for themselves.

Which just leaves you, and the rest. The ones that got left behind. How to deal with this immense sorrow? How to acknowledge to yourself that every day you are going to wake up to a world where your father is no more? Where your dear cousin whom you hardly got to know will not grow up with you? Or your grandfather who filled so many places in your heart, or aunt, who loved you so unconditionally and to whom you never showed your affection, or, even all those young people? Sometimes you wonder if it is even possible to go on, day after day, carrying this, almost physical being on your shoulders. Your shoulders stoop. Life, your life, stretches long hard and lonely. Lonely, despite the rest of the family and friends and the thousands of people you meet.

Time the great healer, does dull the edges. You think of them often, sometimes with happiness for the times you had, sometimes with sadness for the times together you could have. But it is not so sharp any more. Not having that capacity to produce instant tears. You can talk about it, how they died, how bad the doctors were, who reacted with dignity and who displayed their true colours, how you felt at that time, or, at least, how you should have felt at that time, had you not been completely numb from it all. Who is spared? We are all mortal here. Here today, gone tomorrow.

But, this being here today and waking up to this, so difficult, so irreversible, and yet, at the same time, so very real. When they are young, you just cannot find it in your heart to accept it, to move on, to lead your somewhat meaningless life, one foot in front of the other, anymore.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


A long time ago, she used to visit a cloth store near her home. The store itself was nothing spectacular. It was named Mini Bazaar for unspecified reasons. Her family was on friendly terms with the shop owner, which again was nothing strange as her parents, her mother in particular, had the knack of being on chatty terms with pretty much every person they came in contact with. From the ironing guy to the milk delivery man’s wife to this, the owner of Mini Bazaar.

During her early teenage years when everything seemed hateful, she hated with a passion the pink saris he displayed outside. She felt real let down if her mother suggested that they visit Mini Bazaar to purchase cloth to make into a frock for her birthday. The charm of a ready-made frock with frills and laces bought from that store you had to get to by taking an auto was significant. This one was just round the corner from home. You could even go there and come back home before the rains during the monsoons.

One day when they were passing the store, and breathing a sigh of relief that they were not obliged to buy the atrocious yellow sari that hung there, they spied a bunch of children, and a lady in full black burkha inside. The mother went in to chat of course, and it was discovered that the lady was the wife of the owner. Everyone was feeling very happy. The store was doing well. The film star looks of the shop-owner, combined with the relative lack of competition meant that his store saw many ‘footfalls’, especially during Deepavali and New Year and so on.

When the curfew was imposed on her home town, she did not really believe in it. She was away in Chennai, at the insulated campus there, and while the country was in turmoil, they really hardly felt or saw anything inside. Her parents tried to dissuade her from traveling but they were not convincing. At any rate the trouble was not significant at the time she left. By the time her train reached Bangalore, however, bad had become worse and curfew had been called on.

Her cousin who was sent to meet her at the Bangalore station was just as removed from reality as herself. They both ignored the warnings and climbed onto the waiting train, which was strangely, almost completely, empty. They did get home safe and sound, but that was not the story of Mini Bazaar. It was completely gutted, to the ground, including the store house in the back that held many more reams of cloth.

Being a college girl meant some privileges. The era of loose, haphazardly stitched tailor-made frocks and salwar kameezes was somewhat behind her now. Therefore the need to visit Mini Bazaar did not really arise. And, considering her hatred for his displayed saris, a social visit was definitely not on the cards. Then how to explain away the fact that her feet led her there, to the blackly smoldering store? How to explain her words of commiseration? Once in a while people who live in their own heads need to see and touch, say and feel, reality. Yes, that must be it. To get a touch of reality.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

What is your mother tongue?

Was at a sixtieth birthday party recently. It was all very sweet since the kids organised it for their mum (who is my friend) and she was really surprised with the whole thing. Found myself at a table with people with strong opinions about religious harmony (do people still say that?) and so on. But our discussion was mainly focussed on mother tongues.

I was as usual lamenting my inability to read and write in any language other than English. These people were really shocked to hear me say that. What about Tamizh they said. Well, I can barely read it said I. What about Kannada then? I can read Kannada real well, but my vocabulary sucks, and I have tried reading novels several times and given up in ten pages. Last time this happened, I analysed it away saying that my speed of reading in English is too much higher than in Kannada so the pleasure is missing when I read so slowly. Plus there is the thing with vocabulary. Subsequently read a bunch of the more famous ones in translation, which felt very sad but at least I could do that.

Then this lady (who is a writer) reiterated that translations are not really all that. Even when she translates her own work, she strongly feels that she loses some of the original punch. I have no way of verifying this of course but tons of folks say this, maybe its true!

The worst part is, with the next generation it is probably going to be much worse. At least I would speak extensively in Kannada to my school friends. And I still speak in (our version of) Tamizh with my mum & sis (used to speak in English to dad unfortunately, hey! maybe I should blame the old man for all this stuff! Ha!). When I went to graduate school, I caught hold of a bunch of hapless guys and practised and practised what I claim as my Chennai Tamizh now. The version I speak to everyone else. I do sort of okay with Hindi. But these little ones? Start off by speaking in English it seems, with the proud parents watching from the sidelines and applauding.

You should make sure you pass on our culture to your child, the lady said. That sent me into a spiral regarding festivals and traditions and Diwali with its insane crackers and the general focus on food and excluding widows from the celebrations and a hundred other beefs I have. Oh no. I am talking about literary culture, she said. Oh yeah. That stuff I can handle. I actually like that. At least what I know about it. And am willing to learn too, as long as it involves reading. And nothing to do with food. Or crackers. Or kumkum. We should make a book club and read stuff out loud. Though I have visions of myself going

Ke Ghar
Ke Aaangan Mein...
Naariyal Ka Ped

which is from my school text book several hundred years ago.

The thing that absolutely sucks (or rocks, depending on how you look at it) is that my mum and my grandmum, both these high-energy women, can read real fluently in two languages (mum in English & Kannada, Paati in Tamizh & Kannada), and mum has translated texts from E to K. And my other grandfather has written his History books in Kannada and translated them himself to English. What have I to say for myself?

"Hi I am Kenny. I can read English and Indian English. I have read Helen Fielding and Chetan Bhagat, among other contemporary authors. I am fully ashamed of myself. But I am here today because I want to change...."

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Motherhood and apple-pie, of course

The writing of the monster's birth story made me think a wee bit about ideal, perfect, beautiful, serene mommies, and myself. Who is nothing of those things. Usually the first reaction of people when I tell them I have a four year old daughter is disbelief. Part of that might be because they are being polite, I do it too, you know. I always tell women that it is very hard to believe that they have such grown up children, and sometimes, I am being only partly truthful and partly saying it because I like the smile they give me when I say that. But I have to admit that part of that disbelief might have something to do with what I project myself as. And what a 34-year old, much married, mother of a child is 'supposed' to look and behave like.

I was supposed to climb into the back of a Sumo yesterday. There was slush all around so one had to step from the pavement to the little foot-place on the Sumo directly. The girl who was ahead me hmmed and hawed and finally heaved herself in. When she saw I was behind her she offerred me her hand, you know, to pull me in. I should have felt insulted. Heck! my daughter could have climbed in yaar, and you are giving me a hand? Poor thing looked quite shocked when I just un-lady-like-ly hitched up my salwar and literally bounded in. My neck hurts some in recent times. My abdominal muscles have sort of given up the fight, I do moan and groan about how old I feel. Sometimes. Most times I run around like a headless chicken (I have absolutely NO economy of movement. Its sad. With age one is suppose to acquire that poise and that stately regal bearing. I am on my toes so much, literally).

So that stuff is all when the monster is not around. When she is around with me, we pretty much always hold hands. Most times if she jumps across something, so do I. People laugh at me, I suppose, but I don't care. I talk to her using giant big words, virtually no coo-chie-coo things. I have conversed with her since she was even more little. She has always nodded wisely, repeated the strange sounding words out loud, and used them in the most inappropriate of places leading to a combination of embarassment and pride (for us, as parents, who let their child say things like 'I am sufferring here' at the age of four). I avoid some of my vocabulary in her presence, but few, countable words - idiot, stupid and fuck mainly. I say shit a lot, sometimes soften it as shoot, though not always, but nowadays she scolds me saying that is not nice to say. Pretty much no other barriers here.

Sometimes we drink at home, without making a big deal about it. Many of our friends, and some of our relatives drink too. Some smoke, though they walk out onto the landing when they light up. It is not a big deal. No one really hides their drink. We don't call it 'juice for adults.' We tell her its beer or whiskey (or coffee or tea), and thats the end of it. She is hardly interested beyond that. There was one time my husband and she were in the store and he suddenly discovered that our friendly neighbourhood supermarket had started carrying alcohol. He went 'Slurp, maybe I should pick up some B E E R for myself' (spelling the word out, that is). She promptly went at the top of her lungs 'Appa you want to buy beer?' much to the chagrin of local aunties out shopping. In a way I was glad I wasn't there since surely they would have all looked disapprovingly at me, this bad mother. I would have been obliged to smile at them at that. They would have further thought me mad. Well, maybe it would have been interesting. Anyway the husband burst out laughing.

So here is the madmomma, from her recent post -

"And yet, the moment you become a parent, you are supposed to stop being the person you were and just fit this stereotype. No more bad language, no more TV, no more listening to the heavy metal (only Mozart) and no smoker friends hanging around. And then some. Suddenly you’re a homogeneous bunch of women who are supposed to lose all other interests the moment you begin to lactate."

Her plaint really made me consider the truth - that while I love my child immensely and feel real lucky to be her mother, it has never crossed my mind that I have to change myself, now that I am a (drumrolls) MOTHER. There has been no pressure, virtually. I continued to hang out with the men at work, who, fathers or not, did not seem to particularly alter tendencies of drinking chai endlessly or complaining about the accounts department, or whatever. Our friends (few and far between as they are) were the same ones we had before parenthood took us by storm (or whatever). True, I had to lie low for a bit, catch up on much needed sleep, avoid alcohol when I was pregnant/feeding, and such other things, but I do think that nothing has changed at the core. Or, for that matter, on the outside of me. The clothes I feel comfortable in, the shoes I normally wear, not liking to get wet in the rain, these things are the same.

It is, of course, true what they say. Having a child changes your life entirely. Of course. Starting a new job changes things dramatically too. Having a parent come and live with you changes things. A new city makes your life feel very different from that other one, for one, the traffic is much more crazy, and the streets are really not clean at all, and the weather is just nuts. And we all grow up, from not liking aviyal at all, turning your nose up at it when mum made it at home, to making it yourself with full enthu, and sitting down and eating a second round of it. But this stuff about re-inventing yourself (into mommy-mould), shunning old friends (maybe because they drink or smoke), changing your religious beliefs (so you can give your child something of that), and whatever else because you are now a mother, sorry, I just could not do that. I suppose I considered it for a bit, but four years out, I think the discovery is really that it is impossible for me. I am just the same old Kenny, only older, and cooler, because I now have this monstrous side-kick of mine, this mini-Kenny to inflict on people, in addition to myself.

Which is all fine and dandy, but sometimes, I would give a body part away for the pleasure of an evening out at Totos, without a care about the time or place.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Precious Ramotswe

To cut the blues, we all do different things. We
* watch MTV and admire John Abraham's butt
* paint our nails
* play a video game
* phone-a-friend
* talk to mum
* drink a coffee and flirt with the red-hatted waiter at Cafe Coffee Day
* go to the gym
* run
* read blogs
* read
read read read thats my number one thing to do. Of course, when my responsibilities were fewer and the weather conducive, I would run. But now that has to be scheduled. Typically in the morning. I hate TV. Also John Abraham's smirk gives me the creeps. And there is no promise of continuous amounts of Joey Chandler Cyrus Broacha, which is a problem with TV. Blogs that I read are occasionally funny but many a time a slice of reality things that can make me plunge deeper.

But one has to choose with care and caution the book to read. I have very nearly reached the end of my tether with South Asian Semi-Desi Diaspora Angst authors. Despite Amitav Ghosh, who is consistently good to me. And I do like Rushdie. Initially I was encouraged by the upstarts of recent times. Their names, their backgrounds, their settings, similar to mine. So, hey, what do you know, that thing in the back of my mind about a making a book, might happen some day, I used to think. But now, engrossed in work (so that making a book means one with equations, at best, not an exploration of Indian something or the other), and so on, I have pushed that one further for internal reasons. And external reasons such as published books saying 'Quite' when they mean Quiet and, invariably Loose when they mean Lose. Heck! this is not a blog people, find a good editor, I want to tell them. But then, whats the point, since the story sucks at any rate. They will just think I am covering my own back and finding excuses to be sloppy in my blog-writing. I, who once said soar when I meant sore. And god knows what else.

In any case, the one that always works for me is Wodehouse. I have a decent collection. I have mentioned before that my local library does a decent complementary collection to mine. So, generally, I am in good shape. Except that in the past one year, despite purchasing that entire new boxed set from Crossword and covering all the books from the library in sequence, I sort of know by heart the story, the phrases I like, and sometimes even the page number where the most funny things are said.

So last night, after this thing set in in my mind around 9 pm, this, what I call the blues, for lack of a better term, and the two books I was trying to read (desi authors, won't take names) sucked royally, I was at a loose end (ha ha). I stared at the book shelf. Ruskin Bond. There is a degree of sameness in all the ten books. Mark Tully is nice but I was not in the mood. Mrs. Dalloway, right. The Hours by Michael Cunningham and that one, I had read some three times front to back to back to front to middle to everywhere, so, while it is all very clever and really nice and all, the time was not right.

Finally, overlooking all the umpteen desi & related authors, skipping over all the clever Americans with their theory on the modern world and coffee, the eye fell upon McCall Smith. He is probably not winning a Nobel Prize in a hurry (too prolific?). My frame of reference for his Africa is really, non-existent, though I marginally do better with his Edinburgh, having spent a most enjoyable few days there at a conference. But what the heck! I picked it up. The first one in the series. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. I own, and have read, all of the books in the series, a few years back. Have some fond memories of it. But I cannot quote page numbers, so it seemed a decent choice.

I read the first few pages, and tears welled up. Yeah, I am silly like that. Precious Ramotswe is so damn cute, I could not help it. And the book speaks of such a nice time/place. Everything so simple. Even if Mma (Okay I admit I am unclear on how you pronounce this abbrev.) is fat, and there are snide references to it occasionally (which highlights the fact that a MAN is writing this after all), and she does hit a tree with her little white van once (again, MAN. Let me not get started on men and women drivers today). So, thats it folks. Since I did not get more than twenty pages read last night, today I have something to look forward to after work, or perhaps during my drive to that mucky place I need to go to today. And here is crossing my fingers and hoping that it will simplify my life too, you know, since most of the convolutions are in my mind.

I get by with a little connection to a large lady detective. The pain in my neck (the literal one, the figurative ones are still asleep) seems bearable now.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Samosa Chaat & Power Yoga

I read somewhere recently that a good cause of obesity in women over 35 could be career-obsessed husbands who stop paying attention to their wives. Which in turn allows the women to lose interest in maintaining themselves in slim-svelte-type conditions and results in over eating and indulgence and lack of motivation for exercise and yada-yada two years later whale alert in the home.

It reminded me, rather perversely, about a certain something a friend of mine yelled at me several several years ago. The year was 1998. To be precise, it was April 1998. Now don't ask me for the date. I would make it up of course. You would have no way of checking up on it. Anyhow, it was April, and spring had sprung on us with a vengeance. Amherst, Massachusetts, in the spring, is lovely. Flowers and trees and the right amount of warmth and all the undergrads in colourful skirts and tees and strappy sandals and shorts. I was basking in the sudden sun and on a whim decided to go for a run. I anyway wanted to check out what happened beyond that traffic light at the corner where we always turned left. So off I went, jog-jog-jogging along. A little short of breath thanks to the winter blubber and the fact that the air was still a trifle cold for my tropical lungs. I was returning home, having checked out luscious trees and a real quaint old bridge and nice American homes which were not overflowing with desi graduate students cooking chole and rajma on alternate nights.

I had just almost reached our smelly complex with its beer-stained carpeting and creaky staircases when this dear friend of mine saw me. He was heading off to the lab, for another crack at that experiment that failed in the morning or some such. KENNY he yelled. YEAH I yelled back from across the street. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? he says. UHH RUNNING. WHY? I retort, a bit upset now since I had to stop and had a good rhythm going, but in some ways relieved to have an excuse to catch my breath. BUT WHY? YOU ARE MARRIED!! he screams at me. Over the years I have never let him forget this remark that spontaneously slipped out of his mouth that day back in 1998 in a sun-filled yet cool Massachusetts college town.

I did not stop to explain that day, I just yelled SO? back at him and continued on. But over the years I have told him soberly and drunkenly about what I think is the meaning of being married. I wonder if he ever got it though. You know, the stuff about not losing your individuality and identity just because you happened to change that thing in your Facebook profile from Single to Married. I like running. I generally like to be fit, but more importantly I like to exercise and feel one with nature (or even the treadmill, if required) even if I don't lose much weight. My husband likes it too (I mean he likes exercising), but his interest is more in muscle and iron and protein supplementation. Which has nothing to do with me or what I think or what I like his body to be like.

Even though I am very nearly 35 now. And we have been married for some 11 years now. And the husband is increasingly and frustratingly busy with his career compulsions and associated travel and commuting. In fact when I mentioned it to him last night when he called me all frazzledly from Delhi, he was sure that it made a lot of sense. As in, women want to look good for their husbands, and if he is not paying particular attention, they lose interest in it and so on.

Oh! but I personally SO disagree! I hope I don't live to bite these words back. Rap me on the knuckle if I do. If I became obscenely fat, not in a healthy plump way because that is what my body is like but in a unhealthy way that smacks of too much indulgence and too little exercise, it would be pretty much nothing to do with any man, frankly. It would be something I would blame on myself, my stress levels, my loss of interest in life. But that is just me. Just like I don't use nail-polish and lip-stick or straighten my hair although my husband may like stuff like that, simply because I find it all a major pain in the neck and am not even really sure I know how to carry things like that off.

But still, I do make (and have even begun to like) the foods that he likes. Pongal and Aviyal to mention a couple of things I hated as a child and now will happily pour my heart into to make, just to watch him eat with relish. And heck! I like them too now. Anyway in general I respect him in a lot of ways and vice versa too but when it comes to how much we eat or exercise (or read! how can I forget that!) and our ideal about our bodies, well, we are really on our own there! But thats us. I cannot speak for the others, though I would think that getting your exercise and not over-doing the chips and coke is something you do for yourself. That is clear to me though I have other lessons to learn, even after these 11 years, like lowering expectations and not nagging and not micromanaging, and especially, not getting stressed out about inane things.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Back to 2004..

The story of why suddenly after seven years of marriage we decided to take the plunge, so to speak, is a longish one. Fraught with emotion and all that. Many of you who know me personally have heard the genesis of the child's name and so on. We will not go into that. This is a birth story, purely.

I was HUGE. I mean, humongous is the only word to describe it. For someone who started off at 5ft 1in and 48 kgs, I had come a LONG way in the eight-odd months. When my thirtieth birthday rolled around in early april, I was huge and quite uncomfortable. But the baby was doing well and had a tendency to stick its tongue out in ultrasounds. Its nose seemed to be big, in keeping with family tradition. The due date was in early May though I was sure (as was everyone around me) that I would not last that long, considering my size. I was quite healthy (not even a single touch of cold or other things!) and actually quite active, going on walks with mum and working the whole entire time. I also managed to retain my tendency to stress about everything under the sun from the beginning, and had several trips, including one to Germany for work, in my second trimester.

I was going for these exercise classes too, once (or was it twice) a week. We would drive all the way to Bandra, with a little bag containing some biscuits and juice and what not. I was in this room full of pregnant girls, each one looking more beautiful than the other. I stuck out like a sore thumb with my neck having turned all black and brown, and my disproportionately large belly (even for a third trimester). But I LOVED the exercises. It was some yoga like thing. Whatever. Since I could not do anything besides walking and this, I really spent the whole week looking forward to the class, the teacher being a floozy notwithstanding.

She advised a regimen consisting of duck walks and squats and so on and so forth. I did them all diligently. I was up to some fifty squats and many duck walk sessions by mid-april. This stuff is supposed to help with normal deliveries. The ob-gyn had not said anything to indicate it would be otherwise. My mum had her doubts, you know, because even for a family of small people, I am small. But she kept them to herself until after, because I was so gung-ho about a normal delivery. My logic of course being that I am athletic so I should be able to do this, easily. (I am dorky sometimes!). On hind-sight, whenever I brought up the topic of pain-killers during delivery the doc would quickly move on to the next thing on my list.

The last week or so before I went in was real painful. I had itchy spots all over. My blood pressure showed up high one time. I was a bit stressed about some responsibility at work (which I managed to fulfill two days before the hospital). The head had fixed and it was exerting immense pressure. I was in pain and that itchy stuff. We tried barley water and neem and all external things but finally the doctor prescribed some anti-histamine (which I did not want to take, I think I just took one dose of it finally).

At the hospital, we were whooshed through the check in. Clearly my labour was not progressing fast or anything. They prepped me anyway and left me to languish till the doc came. I did duck walks and squats and read all the baby mags again and asked mum a billion questions and made the husband again promise that he would not gallivant away anywhere. Finally the doc showed up (on hind sight I love her, though at that point I was a bit uhhhh). She took one look and declared, we need a C-section tomorrow afternoon.

I was shocked to say the least. I pushed her saying I am strong, I can do this, I want a normal delivery. Honey, she said, the baby's head is bigger than the space you have in your pelvis whichever way you look at it. I was like, but doc, you never told me this last week. She was all calm and composed and said, fine, if you don't believe me do this Xray test that will tell you in numbers. You engineers will only believe numbers right, she joked at the husband and me and left.

I was quite a bit disappointed. I am not scared of surgery. I am scared of very few things that I need to do. But I was so all ready for the pushing and scratching my husband's hand and also, at that age I was very proud of how strong I am, despite my small size. The husband never has opinions on these things, just mirrors what he sees in my face, so he was also a bit disappointed. Anyway as I was being wheeled to the Xray thing (they refused to let me walk, although I assured them I was quite capable of it!), we both simultaneously reached the conclusion that we did not need the Xray. If surgery was what it was meant to be, so be it. We had thus far trusted the doc and I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy, even if I was so big. We did not want to expose our little baby to the Xray, even the ultrasounds we had managed to do the minimum number. So...

The hospital staff was quite irritated but they brought me back. Mum started laughing at us. We called the doc and told her our decision. She said good. Don't eat now till morning. Uck. I was hungry. And a bit worried. Constantly checking on that monitor thing that the baby was fine and so on. So big I could not sleep. But at least the itchiness had subsided somewhat.

In the OT they made a fuss about my husband being there. He stood up to his full height, used his charm on the doc, and with extreme excitement donned his scrub and hat and showed up. I was excited. I could feel them cut me open, it was pain of a sort, but I could bare it (maybe the anesthesia helped :-)). And I was super confident that with my husband there and the doc there things would be just fine. When they started exerting the pressure on my chest it hurt like hell, and I was constantly feeling like throwing up and asking the nurse who just smiled at me.

It was all over in what felt like minutes. The husband was beside himself with joy. Jumping in his green scrubs. The baby was a pink-faced, curly-haired skinny but tall girl. The feeling at the sight of her and at the sight of the grin on her father's face is undescribable of course. But I was tired and still feeling pukey. They sewed me up, the doc all the time exclaiming at how good a cut it was and how nice the baby was. That feels good huh, when the doc and others tell you your baby is 'beautiful' (even if it does look like a little red monkey).

The first few days after the surgery were painful. I was super worried about feeding. I mean, I extremely strongly felt like the baby should be completely breast-fed and did not want my surgery, anesthesia or anything to interfere with that. She kept sleeping though, much to my worry. In five days I was home (I stayed an extra day simply cause I was quite sleep deprived already and looked tired) and we started getting into a schedule and what not.

The surgery itself was fine, no complaints. Over the years I have come to agree with the doc that the incision she made is 'beautiful'. The baby's head was nice and round, which is a good advantage over the normal delivery. :-) My incision healed super well and super fast, it has never prevented me from doing anything. Eight or nine months after that I ran the Mumbai 7k race (and trained for it with 3k runs for about a month or so). Feeding was no issue, my worries were unnecessary. She took to it real well, of course I do hope that it helped that I was completely over the top quantitatively organised about it. I did some sort of a diet, a combination of things the hospital said and things that mum knew.

And today, four years down the line, I feel comfortable and happy with the whole thing. Yes, I wanted to experience the normal delivery thing, but that might not have been great for either of us. I more importantly wanted to ensure that my baby was fully breast-fed for six months, and I managed to do that despite everything (like going back to work, stress levels, whatever). My incision has healed so well that I can hardly find it sometimes, though when I twist in weird shapes sometimes there is a pull. If I managed to retain so much of my preggie tummy post-surgery, well, it has been a good challenge to go from there to here (though I still have a bit of it still!). I had no back pains to speak of. I have done crazy things - we travelled five times in her first year, I corrected exam papers the first week back from the hospital, I let anyone who wanted to carry her carry her, I massaged her myself, and I bathed her myself with help from husband initially and then mum, I could sit-stand or whatever was required, and I have run races every year and have been kick-boxing starting with 2005. Yes, to some extent I got myself stressed and got headaches from the combination of stress and lack of sleep. But really, overall, the birth experience was a very positive one. Its all in the mind of course, its how you choose to look at it, and I look at it as a fun day out and feel blessed and lucky about it.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Good Housekeeping

Have I mentioned that I absolutely suck at setting up a home? One major reason for this is my innate taste runs toward a minimalism that bothers other permanent and temporary residents. I like the walls bare. I like to sit on the floor, so I think couches are unnecessary. I hate the television so would rather not own one, if that were a possibility. If Kenny were not a social ant, who has a family, and guests (all of whom she loves) her house would have the following:

1. Mattress for sleeping
2. Refrigerator
3. Washing machine
4. Bookshelves
5. Boxes of books
6. Ten-piece stainless steel cookware set
7. Computer + Table + Chair
8. Spoons
9. Cupboard with clothes

Thats it probably. I LOVED this flat when we first got here. Bare white walls. Nice flooring. All thoroughly empty. Slowly, over the years, we have acquired couches, entertainment center, TV, several bookshelves, two beds, two cupboards, kitchen cabinets, another cabinet, end tables, dining table (huge ass one) with six chairs, center table, shoe rack, a DVD player (which works once in a while), and a gazillion toys. The niece and the monster daughter have contributed tons of art to the walls. Numerous photos and so on have been stuck here and there as decoration, including a particularly red pillayar thing that I got for being a judge once. The husband's constant whine requesting a huge Geetopadesha for the living room wall has so far been stalled, but I know its only a matter of time (I particularly dislike things in the house that are fat, big, or red, oh yeah, and I hate artificial flowers).

One day I declared to the husband, look, I am going to become a domestic goddess soon. He burst out in laughter. I bought a magazine (got a Mills & Book free with it, and read it quickly). It was unhelpful. I got more magazines. I took out a note-pad to jot down my thoughts. I got the Argos Hypercity catalogue as the nearest thing to IKEA for IDEAS. They all went nowhere. Meanwhile the husband has challenged me. He says its not in my DNA. Despite the fact that there is my mother's house (which is quite spectacularly organised, and clean beyond compare). I hate to turn down a challenge. So, I have, technically, at least in my mind, taken it up.

Currently though I am struggling with-
1. Lack of system for folding clothes and putting them away promptly
2. The losing battle against fine dust
3. Unidentified boxes of stuff (I suspect they are class notes of husband - I never took any notes, thankfully, err I make up for it now but thats all in my office)
4. Monster-related Lego, Toys, Jigsaws, Books
5. Wires - this stuff is horrid. Chargers. Connectors for: Phone to PC + Camera to PC + Videocam to PC + DVD player to TV + lots of other strange looking things I don't dare throw
6. Laminated photos (we have nearly fifty on the wall - don't ask - and probably fifty elsewhere)
7. Useless light fixtures and parts that have broken off them over the years
8. Tooth brushes belonging to the monster, who has a tooth brush fetish (in addition to a pink fetish)

I am going to devise a strategy, find my gloves and apron, enlist the monster, and go at it. Watch this space.

Booked for life

Ludwig is pressurising me about this one. So here goes..

Procedure:The following is apparently a list of books, "most of them sitting unread in people's bookshelves to make them look smarter". The rules are: bold the ones that you have read, underline the ones you have read in school, italicize the ones you have started but didn't finish.
One doubt. School = high school and earlier, or in the American sense, college? We will assume former. (Says Ludwig, and so do I)

I have very very few books on my shelf that I have not read, so there! HMPH. Regarding many of the classics, I have read most of them, but it has been EONS ago, so I cannot remember whether it was a real good version that I read or a vaguely Disney-fied version. And, of course, there are this toddler versions of stuff that I have read now to the monster - all in all very confused in old age about these things. I don’t know whether to leave it, italicize it, or bold it, so, in line with my general philosophy of life, I just leave it. Unless I am sure… I also have trouble remembering the titles of the Marquez books that I have read and the ones I have been hopelessly looking for at Crossword for the past three years. So don’t hold me to that!

1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
2. Anna Karenina
3. Crime and Punishment
4. Catch-22
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude (I think!)
6. Wuthering Heights
7. The Silmarillion
8. Life of Pi: a novel
9. The Name of the Rose
10. Don Quixote
11. Moby Dick
12. Ulysses
13. Madame Bovary
14. The Odyssey
15. Pride and Prejudice
16. Jane Eyre
17. The Tale of Two Cities
18. The Brothers Karamazov
19. Guns, Germs and Steel
20. War and Peace
21. Vanity Fair
22. The Time Traveler's Wife
23. The Iliad
24. Emma
25. The Blind Assasin
26. The Kite Runner
27. Mrs. Dalloway
28. Great Expectations
29. American Gods
30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
31. Atlas Shrugged
32. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
33. Memoirs of a Geisha
34. Middlesex
35. Quicksilver
36. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
37. The Canterbury Tales
38. The Historian: A Novel
39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
40. Love in the Time of Cholera
41. Brave New World
42. The Fountainhead
43. Foucault's Pendulum
44. Middlemarch
45. Frankenstein
46. The Count of Monte Cristo
47. Dracula
48. A Clockwork Orange
49. Anansi Boys
50. The Once and Future King
51. The Grapes of Wrath
52. The Poisonwood Bible
53. 1984
54. Angels and Demons
55. Inferno
56. The Satanic Verses
57. Sense and Sensibility
58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
59. Mansfield Park
60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
61. To the Lighthouse
62. Tess of the D'Urbervilles
63. Oliver Twist
64. Gulliver's Travels
65. Les Miserables
66. The Correction
67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
69. Dune
70. The Prince
71. The Sound and the Fury
72. Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
73. The God of Small Things
74. A People's History of the United States: 1492-present
75. Cryptonomicon
76. Neverwhere
77. A Confederacy of Dunces
78. A Short History of Nearly Everything
79. Dubliners
80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
81. Beloved
82. Slaughter House- five
83. The Scarlett Letter
84. Eats, Shoots and Leaves
85. The Mists of Avalon
86. Oryx and Crake8
7. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
88. Cloud Atlas
89. The Confusion
90. Lolita
91. Persuasion
92. Northanger Abbey
93. The Catcher in the Rye
94. On the Road
95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
96. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Enquiry into Values
98. The Aeneid
99. Watership Down
100. Gravity's Rainbow
101. The Hobbit
102. In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences
103. White Teeth
104. Treasure Island
105. David Copperfield
106. The Three Musketeers

So, to the best of my memory, this is it. My list. Aspirationally, I am going to buy up classics & read them. I did used to enjoy them a lot, whatever versions I could lay my hands on in my youth... As regards showing off to the world how well read I am, well, surely I would fare much worse if the books were engineering ones, so that is what is strange about my list!

And here goes the next tag.


1. Pick up nearest book

2. Turn to page 123

3. Find the fifth sentence

4. Post next three sentences

5. Acknowledge who tagged you, and pass the tag along

The book is 'Self' by Yann Martel (the Life of Pi fellow). The book is sli-sha weird but I got a real funky message out of it. The message is for later. Pages 123 aaraam-se it has. Five sentences on page 123 are more tough. OOh but the next lines are totally apt:

This preluded by PMS so bad they circled at least one day a month when they would "disconnect from reality". This is an arduous feminine normality. It would push anyone to worship the goddess Anaprox.

After hoping that Mr.Martel does not sue me or something, I will say that this is relevant because of the recent debate on periods and practices related to it that the blogosphere has seen. As punishment for not expressing my strong views on that matter then, I have stumbled upon these lines in this book! There is plenty about periods and bleeding and so on in the book so I suppose it was reasonably likely. But the real reason I picked this book is that it was lying on the CPU just now (which is my 'safe' place for the library books I mean to return shortly; at least for now).

Okay folks. Please consider yourself tagged if you have the tools to copy paste. :-)