Sunday 27 February 2011

NGMA, Anish Kapoor and a new experience for Ads

We spent a few hours at the National Gallery of Modern Art yesterday. I've heard good things about it and been wanting to go for a few weeks, and then we realized that the Anish Kapoor exhibition was about to end this weekend. We couldn't miss an exhibition of an artist of his stature, so off we went - the four of us and Sanjay's cousin who was spending the day with us. I want to expose Ads to a lot of art and make him understand a few things. One, there is no "one" or "right" kind of art. Any expression of an individuals' thoughts or emotions is a legitimate work of artistry. Two, the exercise of just soaking in the beautiful expression of someone's creativity and making our own interpretation of it's meaning is pleasurable in itself. Three, we need to be alive to the beauty that is all around us, be it in the stunning flowers at the Mughal Gardens (where we went last weekend) or in the asymmetrical shapes and disorienting forms of modern sculpture.
I'm beginning to be cognizant of the fact that a major part of a parent's nurturing role is to nourish the mind and spirit just as much as to nourish the body. Maybe even more. Exposing a child to new experiences and perspectives that broaden and challenge his thinking - isn't that a critical part of what we should be doing? Ads was gratifyingly compliant with our attempts to make sense of Anish Kapoor. He would go up to each model or sculpture and ask me "What do you think this is, amma?". I would flip the question back at him and he would say something - very prosaic but that's not the point. The point is that I think he dimly understood that space and form had been manipulated to create new definitions of space and form, and he may or may not like it but its there and it's intriguing, ambiguous and somewhat surreal.
After this introduction to modern art, we slipped over to the cafeteria for a quick pick-me-up (juice) for the kids and then proceeded to the main wing of the NGMA. Which was HUGE. S and I really need to go back again to do justice to the lovely works they had up on the wall. Ads liked Jamini Roy, mostly because he had a few Krishna paintings up there :) There was a stunning one of Arjuna and Krishna by Nandalal Bose. The main wing was 4 levels and a lot of walking and we got the executive summary only! Y was walking around like an art pro, holding (and occasionally reading), the NGMA brochure which she was holding in her hand :)
It was a lovely afternoon. I'm enjoying more than anything else, this attempt to open up Ads' mind to new fresh things. It may or may not have any impact; he's too young and there are going to be other major influences in his life. But I'm doing my job and this is one aspect of parenting I'm really enjoying.
Next stop - an intro to all the major religions. That's going to be a big project!

Monday 21 February 2011

Cowboy Joe

So - sports day at Ads' school. Or as they called it - Gusto - Field Day. Back when I was a small kid, which really, was not all that long ago (!), sports days were simple affairs. You had to take part in some races (egg-and-spoon, sack, plain and simple running, one-legged). You sometimes had to wear the white PT uniform complete with while canvas shoes and take part in a drill and marchpast. 1-2-3-4! The only "costume" you needed was maybe a few ribbons or a sash denoting the colour of the house you belonged to. You stood or ran in the sun for hours, drank some water, ate the packed tiffin from home, and tumbled into the bus for the ride back home. 
Now, they are elaborate orchestrated affairs, complete with specific themes, detailed costumes (for which I coughed up a few hundreds), umpteen rehearsals, and one helluva effort put in by the teachers. I doff my hat to them for all the initiative and creativity on display (and the fact that they didn't ask me to roam all over town to scout for costumes but instead made a bulk purchase!). Ads has been talking about sports day for the last month. He was selected to take part in a cowboy dance. Cotton eye Joe by Rednex - anybody remember that super-catchy song? He came home bearing his costume - battledress pants, cream full-sleeved shirt with a brown fringe waistcoat, a red satin cravat and a cowboy hat!
Saturday came around - a lovely, sunny day - and Y, S and I trooped to the school. Ads had left home an hour earlier. We sat on the front row and watched the marchpast, the musical drills and races, marvelling at the cute kids and their colourful costumes, entertained all the while by the running commentary by 2 teachers. They actually had 10 girls who were cheerleaders!!! After every routine, they would jump and dance on the field with their pom-poms. They did a wonderful job, but I have a major mental block when it comes to cheerleading, even when it is just a bunch of cute 5-year olds. The references (by the teacher-emcees) to the IPL cheerleaders seemed to me to be in poor taste. I'm sure I will have very mixed feelings if Y ever told me she wanted to cheerlead!
Ads cowboy dance was almost the last routine, and it was very very good. The steps and the synchronization were amazing. The funny thing was that just before the dance, S and I were trying to locate Ads. It was extraordinarily difficult to pick him out from a gaggle of some 60-odd boys, all dressed identically!! We finally found him and waved frantically until he responded and waved back, with equal gusto. 5 minutes later, he moved closer to us...whoa....he was some other kid!!! The joke was that S had actually zoomed in through the camera and confidently confirmed to me that it was indeed Ads :) So much for identifying our own child!
So what happened was that the dance had started as we tried to find out where Ads was, and we didn't manage to locate him until  the very end. By the time I ran towards him with the camera, the boys had done a smart about-turn and started marching away. Later, at home, I found that I had inadvertently clicked a snap of his without knowing that he was in the frame ;-)
It seems like he had fun, which is the important thing. Today I met his class teacher and she told me how, of all the kids in her class, she and the choreographer had to work the hardest on Ads because the dance and the steps did not come naturally to him. Apparently he danced well.......what do you know........we never saw it :(

Friday 18 February 2011

The parent's revenge

I was watching them, secretly (as always); and Ads shouted at Y in sheer frustration: "Will you please stop talking for ONE SECOND?!!!"
I almost fell off the sofa, I was laughing so hard and Ads was so mad at me. It wasn't the first time this had happened, and every time it does, I react in the same way. With delight. That Ads is being paid back in spades for all the incessant talking that he plagued us with for four years.
In fact, he's now a lot quieter than Y who talks non-stop. To me, S, Ads, the maids, and to the walls and imaginary conversations on the phone when no one is listening (which is most of the time!). But most of the time, she talks to her brother, and expects a response and that drives him nuts especially when he is concentrating on his drawing. I know how it feels when someone talks so much that you can't hear yourself think. Ads is going through that now.
I'd spare some sympathy for him, if I wasn't so busy gloating.....
Sweet revenge. It feels good.

Friday 11 February 2011


Unveiling Y's new look......
I quite like it. It's kinda retro-hip. Sort of like Preity Zinta's look in Kal Ho Na Ho, also Rani's in NOKJ? She's been good (so far, though it's early days yet) about wearing the glasses.
The verdict is a power of +4. The doc was very optimistic about the prospects for both squint and number correction. We go back in 6 weeks for a re-evaluation to check how well the glasses have been working and also whether one eye squints more than the other (in which case the stronger eye will need to be patched up under the glasses). We will also get a better handle on the time-frame for squint correction. As far as the power goes, the doc said it should come down to zero between the ages of 5 and 10, and this happens in a vast majority of cases involving kids. It appears that the situation could have been a lot less rosy if the number had been negative.
So that's the update on those beautiful eyes. Some interesting reactions/comments have already been coming my way regarding her glass-wearing - will save them up to share in a separate blog post! :)

Monday 7 February 2011


Finally, finally - Y has started sleeping through the night. I hardly realized it until a couple of days ago, when I recalled that I had been sleeping uninterrupted for a few days. No night-time wakings, bawlings, diaper-changings, water-fetchings....Unlike other, wiser and smarter mothers, I never sleep-trained my kids, and the result has been a massive sleep deficit for me. I complied some stats in my head. Since August 2005, I have spent:
6 months dealing with colic;
45 months (~4 years) being sleep-deprived and getting less than 8 hours of beauty sleep (witness the dark shadows and circles under the eyes);
39 months (~3.3 years) breastfeeding;
36 months (1.5 years) being a working mom;
46 months (~4 years) on the other side of the fence, as a SAHM;
24 months (2 years) studying, trying to study, panicking because I haven't studied, frustrated because they didn't allow me to study - in general trying becoming a nervous wreck.
If someone had shown me these numbers 6 years ago, who knows what might have happened, but I sure as hell wouldn't be writing this blog because there would be no kids to write about!
Let me end with the standard enconium of kids being the delight of my heart, joy of my life and all that :)

Saturday 5 February 2011

Two headaches less

Two major to-dos have been ticked off the relocation list. First, the apartment - check. A nice complex, a stone's throw from a metro station, and just off the main 'mall' road of Gurgaon. I haven't counted, but I think there are atleast 10 malls, all jostling for space next to each other, down that road. Definitely a mall-rat's Mecca, but for a mall-o-phobic like me, a plain disgusting sight. Oh well, atleast Haldiram's is a stone's throw away and visitors to our place can always go shopping if they're too bored. The complex has a tennis court, swimming pool, a (really nice) children's play area, a (tiny) gym, and is on a quiet residential street.
Second, the school - check. We interviewed at only one school, which is a new (international) school, only about 5-6 years old. People who have their kids there are happy and the online reviews that I read were also largely very positive. We took a school tour and it seemed very similar to the one Ads goes to currently, so we were hoping we would get in. And we did. We also toured another international school, which is an IGCSE school based on the Montessori method. While I really liked it, S had his own reservations regarding whether Montessori kids can cope with the mainstream system later in life. I couldn't convince him. Truth be told, I didn't try too hard since it was quite a bit more expensive than the first school, and we weren't willing to pay that much.
So. Coming back to the first school. Ads starts in the 1st week of April, in Grade I. The whole admission process was interesting. After the school tour, we met the 'Public Relations Officer' who gave us some gyan on the school. She asked both of us, individually, to fill out a long questionnaire, in order to understand our 'value systems' and 'parenting philosophy'. I don't remember all of the questions, but they ran something along these lines.
What is your life's motto?
What is your vision for yourself, and for your child?
What do you look for in a school for your child?
How do you enforce discipline in your home?
What are the 2 most important values you want to instill in your child?
How can schools and parents work together to create the best environment and opportunities for the child?
How do you define 'quality'? How do you create 'quality' in your child?
There was a father's questionnaire, and a mother's questionnaire. S and I kept comparing notes to see that we weren't writing in complete opposition to each other! I also told S that I was memorizing my answers so that I would remember what rubbish I wrote, in case the Principal asked me :)
A week later, we had an 'interaction' with the Principal. It was just a nice informal chat. She asked us some questions on our background and tried to see what kind of expectations we have from this school and the education system in general. I also think she was gauging whether we are the kind of parents she wants to have in her school, though she wouldn't admit it if we dragged her over hot coals. I'm pretty certain a lot of these new schools cater to, and actively solicit, a certain kind of student profile. In short, they want parents like us. Well-educated, articulate, in good jobs in the corporate sector. It may be unfair but it's true. It's also true that this is why parents like us prefer going to such schools, because we know we have a very good shot at getting in, unlike the better-known ones like DPS, Amity and Shriram, which have more applicants than they know what to do with. Every day, I see an article in the newspapers about parent's woes in getting admission for their kids in Delhi. Fortunately, Noida and Gurgaon have more supply than demand and the situation here isn't as crazy as in the city. 
I liked the low-pressure admission process in this school, and in other similar schools. At no point did we feel like supplicants begging for a seat. I know that as these schools become better-known, they also become more snooty in their attitude. A few years down the line, it might not be as easy getting a seat in this school. But for now, that's one headache off my list. Cheers.

Ad-lib #5

Some of the recent questions/comments courtesy Ads.
Amma, what is a soul? I actually thought he meant 'sole'! Yeah. I'm that mundane.
Hanuman is everywhere, even if you don't believe in him. He's standing right there next to you, Amma. Yikes. Spooky!
There are 2 Indias. One is rich and the other is poor. Atta-boy for getting this miserable fact into your psyche this early in life.
Why is our driver poor? Why does he have to drive other people's cars? Why doesn't he have a car of his own? Is he richer than Shanti (our maid) or poorer?
In case anybody is wondering how I answered the first question, well....... I didn't! He asked me as we were waiting for the school bus to arrive and I neatly side-stepped the question by spotting the school bus just in time. Whew :) I also referred him to the in-house spiritual consultant - my dad!

Thursday 3 February 2011

She's only 2! and an eye problem

Sometime in December, we noticed that Y had a mild squint. Her eyes have always been perfectly focussed, so it was a surprise. Ads had an apparent squint when he was a baby, a condition caused by his eye being too tiny for his eyeballs (he could easily pass as a Thai or Singaporean baby!), which gave the impression that he was squinting when in fact he was not. We thought (and hoped) that Y might have the same condition, and the opthamologist that we took her to in Chennai agreed that it might be the case. She said the bridge of Y's nose was unusually broad, and if we took the trouble to press it gently several times a day, we might see an improvement (and I always thought this treatment was just something the paatis made up!)
There hasn't been any improvement since we got back to Noida, and in fact it's more noticeable now, so I fixed an appointment with a pediatric opthamologist and off Y and I went for the consultation. She dismissed the apparent squint theory. Y has a squint, period. The doc suspects her eyes may be weak as well. I'm to go back in a few days after commencing a 3-day course of ointments to dilate her eyes. Her number will be checked, and then we'll discuss options.
S was travelling when all this happened and when I updated him, he was very upset. A far cry from my reaction which was anxious but definitely not upset/worried. I tend to look at the bright side. Yes, obviously it would have been better if, (as the doc predicts may be the case) she didn't have weak eyes and didn't have to wear glasses etc. However, I am relieved we detected this issue at an early stage and let's go ahead and correct it. We are lucky to live in an age where almost anything can be treated. We are even luckier to have the resources to get the necessary treatment done. I was remarking to S about one of the didis at Y's school, who has a very pronounced squint and extremely weak eyes. The poor lady does not have the money to get her eyes fixed. So, really, what have we to complain about?
S retorted "But she's only 2!!" That brought me up short. Yes, indeed she's a shade over 2. ONLY. It's always a little astonishing when I face this fact. The thing with Y is, we've always treated her as though she's a couple of years older than her actual age. At 3 months, she was lying on my lap as I sat on a sidewalk in freezing SFO, watching the Chinese New Year parade. At 5 months, she was on a road trip along California's Big Sur, the first of many road trips in 2010. She crawled at 6 months, walked at 9 months, dropped her Anna off to school everyday, went grocery shopping, play-dating, and was present at most of Anna's swimming and gym lessons. Somewhere down the line, I started thinking she was just a year or so younger than Ads :)
So we wait with fingers crossed for Tuesday, and we'll see what the doc has to say. Hope it's nothing serious!!