Monday, 27 June 2011

In which we reaffirm our belief...

that we hate traffic. and though we miss our friends and other things of mumbai immensely still, we (i) realize that another day of having to sit in airport traffic at 11 pm after a horrid journey from anywhere, would have driven us up the wall.

no, i was not in mumbai. i was in its country cousin, bangalore. i was ecstatic when they told me that i dont have to enter bangalore-bangalore, really. i mean, i love the seriouslounger's kids who are awesome, and their balcony-sit-out with the swing is superb, but one drive through K.R.Market (or similar) is enough to make my hair stand on end. in my mind, its not a 'fresh' experience, you see. trips to bandra/colaba/nariman point/andheri, heck even kanjur marg, vikhroli, sion, these trips stand on the heads of those awful rides through interminable traffic and chaos, and bad roads. the consolation of mumbai was always that the fraction of drivers who are dolts is about half that in our southern states (in that small matter of idiotic driving, i admit, my current home of chennai emerges a winner).

i flitted from kanakpura road to jayanagar and back, and back again. my mind was already in a bit of a confused turmoil. my little cousin getting engaged to be married. wow. i still remember the day she was born. i was playing basketball. my dad was headed over to see her, on his green scooter. he stopped on the road and i was prodded and nudged by my friends. 'yes, daddy?' i said through the intervening net-mesh-fence. 'girl' he said, and zoomed off - as well as you can zoom at 20 kmph, which was his max. speed on the bajaj. the huh in my head crystallised slowly as realisation dawned and a broad smile made me receive a well-timed ball rather absurdly, on my chest.

my sis and i undertook the adventure of visiting this tiny rat of a child in the hospital, going alone, by bus, for the first time in our young lives, as the adults were too busy with various. our excitement knew no bounds! and for years afterward, she was our personal little doll to play with. i considered it an ultimate honour when i could fetch her back from her dance class. when she spend that year in the US, and i was visiting, this little child, now all grown up, emerging from Penn Station made me promptly tear up. and now, she is going to be happily married, moving to mumbai, and oh, the boy is so sweet and cute, and its all a bit too much for me to think about.

so anyway, the traffic as nasty as ever. otherwise i had a wonderful, if short and quite emotionally confusing, trip. the monster was off my hands, following her elder cousins whom she hero worships. my niece, that sweet thing that used to lisp so cutely and who trustingly gave me her hand when i took her to a library reading of A Very Hungry Caterpillar in new jersey last decade, well, she is almost-a-teenager, with attitude to boot, and feet that are bigger than mine. thankfully she still indulges her slightly snotty little seven-year-old sister. it helps that they can read the same books, i guess.

i have a massive cold now and am breathing dragon-like through my mouth. i am convinced its bangalore that did this to me. of course thats a bit absurd of me. the place has wonderful weather and there is rangashankara and bus-loads of my family lives there, and i am just a cranky old lady who is finding it hard to let go...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Nightly Nonsense

Its a rare time of day (night) for me to be posting. Yes, its true. I am capable of sleeping at 9:15 pm. I usually tuck in by 10 pm though, spending the hour between 9 and 10 in arguing with child, and reading. So what earth shattering news do I have to share with you now? Thats making me pry my eyelids open via matchstick to enable typing?



At all. The child is asleep. Since she wakes up super early of late (I wake up earlier than her by about half an hour, so ha, take that, monster child), she knocks off fairly early. And with the school in session, and our resolve to be sort of on top of things this year, the day can be pretty darn busy for her. The homework has to be done at warp speed, among other things. Just went ahead and did the Indian Mommy and fed her her dinner myself (at least I did not let her read, while I diligently shoved spoons into her mouth from the side. Some consolation!).

My days feel a bit rough too. The heat is just insane. I am still trying to survive without air-conditioning in my office. I believe that I yet don't have funds (in the appropriate account) for it. Bleah. I might just succumb and buy it personally (if they will allow it). After all, I bought my computer like that and no one seems to care. I am trying to be disciplined anyhow, in terms of following through on the thousand things on my to-do list, for before the classes start (a long way off for me, thankfully). Many colleagues seem to be travelling, which is good, means less committee meetings to deal with. Today I did the unimaginable and walked to the lab in mechanical engineering to get some papers. At 4 pm. Blazing sun. He couldn't trace the papers and I have to go back again tomorrow. Ouch.

I am still staying away from the pool, meanwhile, while we figure out which one to plonk family membership for. Tomorrow, I have decided to institute a bit more of a serious inquiry at this place. The slightly greasy security guard who has so far been my fount of wisdom, might not exactly be the most authentic source. Tomorrow, early am, I determine this. While I resist the temptation to just jump in (in my obnoxiously stinky running clothes, no less). Of course it will be after some form of running workout (as yet undecided). Its sort of time for a Yasso. But I might put that off by a day and try something else meanwhile. Lets see.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Monday Monster

The week begins. Thanks to a wonderfully spent Sunday, there is a freshness in the mind and body today. I bid goodbye to the little monster at the school gates, and as usual waited for a few minutes, to see if she will turn around and look for me. In earlier days, she would. Now, well integrated into it all, she usually doesn't. She walks in purposefully, her mind scheming about something or the other. Little monster, did I say? Generally, not so little. This morning when I woke her up, I marveled at how far down the length of the bed her feet reached. But amidst the bigger kids (who were hanging around today at the school, perhaps we were a bit early or something), she looks tiny.

My heart felt a pang as I saw her walk in today, her left hand clutching the lunch bag, the giant school bag (not that heavy!) on her shoulders, her hair sticking out a bit in the back of her head. I was yelling at her in the car for contemplating single digit addition - a matter I feel she must have incorporated into her very being. Perhaps I forget that she is a 4 ft tall, 7 year old child. Or perhaps she is just yanking my chain. Or perhaps it all doesn't matter much. I recommended that she close her eyes and see the pattern there. She smiled knowingly - I know that she thinks that many of my statements of that sort are funny, that I am funny, and my geekiness knows no bounds. She has a bit of my geekiness, I suppose, but also a bit of her father's bluster. Anyway, we did some multiplication, rather successfully, in the car. It was during that exercise that I found it necessary to comment on the slowness in adding 7 & 4 (rather coincidentally her current age and height in appropriate units).

Is Math the most important thing in life? Sadly perhaps, I feel so. I still feel giant pangs of regret that I did not take to the theoretical aspects of the subject as well as I could have. I am occasionally ashamed of myself for using that beautiful thing as a work-horse to solve my problems. I hear my father's slightly disapproving voice when I contemplate performing computer simulations, instead of understanding something through pure thought. I longingly read about olden day scientists who could solve things based on pure thought. Even as I note in my calendar for the summer months (yes, its still summer here), '2 hours or reading', everyday. Reading others solutions to and definitions of problems, for inspiration for my own research. Even as I comment to my husband and colleagues and students, that reading has really taken a back seat in today's computer age, when it could be the opposite, considering how accessible books and journal articles are, and the g0d-send that acrobat reader (free) is.

And in the middle of it all, is the unbidden thought that my little monster, my smart-alecky, slow-eating, dream-world denizen of a child, is of un-quantifiable importance to me. There is an emotional quality that is quite unexpected at times, that hits me between the eyes (like a wet fish). Yes, its a lot of work, this whole parenting gig. But thats nothing compared to the cornucopia of feelings that flood through as one sees a child learn - that light in the eyes that goes off when she 'gets' something...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The grass on the other side...

The monster just started on a new swimming gig. The pool at my campus is closed for renovation, for god knows how long. So, I shopped around, and found this place. Its okay. I mean, the bathrooms are wet, and a bit icky. There are dragonflies. But there are coaches and such. With whistles. And three separate sections (shallow, deep, deeper). Lane markers. I cannot wait to get in there and work on my skill. But meanwhile, the homies are in, taking lessons. Monster doesn't need a beginner lesson, but I couldn't find an intermediate one so we figured she can use this opportunity to work on her technique.

For the past three days therefore, I wake up at 5 am, and do the things I do in the kitchen. We all get ready and head out. And while they jump into the pool and hope that the coach shows them some attention, I step out, switch on my ipod and run. Just.. get out of the pool complex and run on the road, thats what I do. I wind up my run in time to pick up the monster and get her showered and changed, while her father does likewise in the men's section. We all return back and start rushing around getting ready for school and office and so forth.

This is a nice situation. Meaning, when I am running, I don't have to worry about the monster suddenly waking up and finding herself alone in bed, as used to happen when the husb. was travelling. I usually am a few minutes late in getting ready and have to cut my run short to ensure that I am back in time to wake up monster and get her ready for school, left to my own devices. Now, since I am forced to be ready by 5:30 am for the sake of their class, I have an extra 10 mins of running time, at least. The road outside is not bad at all. Slightly busy, but not bad. I just run into the good ol' campus at some point, hang a bit there, and hook a U back. Footpaths are wide for the most part, though a bit uneven in places. When I return to the pool place, I can do steps, going up and down in the place assigned for audience (during meets). The steps are a bit steep on one side but not bad on the other, as I discovered yesterday. Plenty of space for stretching and push-ups and so forth, if interested.

But everyday, I feel a twinge of regret. I want to get in the water and swim. I have considerable amount of work to do on my technique in swimming. I love running most of all, but on a hot Chennai day, the pool looks really inviting. On the other hand, when I was taking swimming lessons last summer, and had to drag myself every single day to the pool for a couple of weeks, I would look longingly at people who were running. And wonder about my mileage for the week, and how I could fit in a long run.

It is greener, isn't it? The grass?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Round Three

So the school year starts again. We are veterans by now, of course. This is the fifth year of school for the monster, not counting those years and months spent in the semi-nursery. She remembers some parts of that nursery, like the time her 'best friend' bit her on the thigh (she bit back, on the neck, a few days later, and we mommies had a good time with that one). I remember many more parts, like how she would lisp 'Maala Aunty' - insisting on hanging out with one particular lady and refusing to go to anyone else. And how she used to terrorise me every evening, insisting she did not want to return home...Those things are from a long ago time.

III Std. - thats what my girl is in these days! How quickly the sands of time flow, I can feel it all slipping through my fingers. I want to hold on, I want to let go. This dilemma always for me. I love the conversations we have these days, and I can imagine that it will get better as she becomes older. But I miss those earlier times too, the sitting down and learning the letters of the alphabet, the jigsaw puzzles we used to do together...

Whats new with this year? Well, we have a few resolutions I hope we keep.

1. Handwriting - I have theories on why her handwriting leaves much to be desired. In Mumbai, she printed. Here in Chennai, she was immediately asked to go cursive - something her classmates in I Std. had already been doing for a while. Because everything was brand new, I let this go without aggressively making her practice. As in, she (& I) figured out what 'cursive' implied and she wrote confidently, but never neatly. In II Std., the teacher and I discussed it and for about half a year, we said let her be, it will pick up. Then towards the end, we thought some practice wouldn't hurt. But then we all got caught up in various activities, and that really didn't happen. She started disliking writing altogether, at which point I let it be. But now The Time Has Come. It doesn't hurt that the husb. is also finally decided to Take Charge. So, we have the idea that this is an area for improvement. At least, the rest of the adults feel that. Me? As always I insist that she LIKE this part - writing, writing neatly, accepting that her handwriting requires work - but I don't see us getting to that one anytime soon.

2. Reading - Well, its time to scale back. Seriously. I love reading and gorging on books as much as she does. But really, its time for her scale back the reading. Not because I fear I will run out of books, but because of her eyes. And the potential social stunting. Again, I let go of this a bit when we first moved to Chennai - the upheaval, I argued. Missing all her friends, I justified. Its in her blood, look at my own granny, I rationalised. But all that notwithstanding, there is a need to scale back. Not because I feel she must work on 'school stuff' - nope - that stuff is fairly easy, except possibly for Tamil. But because she overdoes this, and her eyes.

3. Activities - Right now the time might be right to carve out a few serious activities. I absolutely deny the lack of energy - school winds up by 3 pm. She NEVER naps. She might be tired a few days here and there - maybe because of a cold or whatever - but she has plenty of mental and physical energy after school. Chennai is a wonderful place especially for cultural stuff, we have to figure things out. Parenting-wise, a bit of a conundrum is 'How much to push?' - my tendency is definitely to be a bit laid back (and, as I call it in my head, soft). On the other hand, I feel a twinge of regret occasionally that my parents did not push me sufficiently. Not that I would trade my current life for anything, but I have gone all over the map with sports and singing and so on without coherence. And occasionally I feel like maybe a bit of parental push would have been good. But then we don't want to be the William's father. Since we are both a bit impatient (very) and passionate and aggressive, I worry about that. At 37, still not sure of the ability to keep sight of the long term, at all times.

4. Eating - School mornings are chaos. The monster and her father are not morning people. It does not help much that I am the opposite. Sure, it is practical. I wake up and get all sorted out with things that need to be done (and, of course, I run, or bike). But they struggle to wake up and get ready. I hate it, I don't understand it. I just don't get how anyone can lie down when someone else is running in and out of the room. When my eyes open in bed, I put my feet down. Sure, I snooze a bit, occasionally, with the alarm and so on, but awake is awake for me, especially when its light out. Anyhow despite this, we hope to do better, not get at each others throats so much, and eat something of a healthy breakfast including desi things, and cereal, and fruit, and what not. And yes, the lunch dabba, and night dinner, are usually heavy on veggies, and curd, so sort of okay on that. Its such a shame - I see kids around me that are allergic to nuts. And I have one in my house that just dislikes nuts. Its just such a shame, as the easiest option for snacks are ruled out entirely. But I hope she will work with me on this. Her indulgences are kurkure, aloo bhujiya, chocolate - hoping to keep them as indulgences, still!

Well, its all something to look forward to. If there is one thing I like about the thirties, its that I have accepted that its possible to work on things, bad habits, and good ones, and to change, and get better, and feel calmer and happier and satisfied - er with life. So let me hit publish, on this note!