Monday 27 February 2012

Updates - Feb

There's been a lot going on here at Casa Mommyland. Work has picked up a good amount of steam and I have two new blogging assignments (both are paid - yay! And one is work-related). S and I have been trying to sort through a lot of admin and personal stuff. After the kids are asleep, we sit down on the dining table and  get going. That's how romantic we have become :)
The kids break for their first summer break in March (mid-march in Ads' case and end of March for Y) and they have 10-15 days off at that time. An SOS call has been sent out to Chennai for grandparental assistance. Initially, I just wanted someone to come over to watch the kids during their break, when I was at work. But soon, I had another, more pressing reason for help - we are moving again!!!
Yes, yes....we are being turned out of our lovely apartment. We have some time - a couple of months if we need it - but we have moved house 5 times in the last 5 years and this time, I just want to get it over with. We have started hunting for a place in the same complex, and hopefully something will come our way in the next few weeks. There aren't too many units like the one we live in, so fingers crossed!
Moves or no, the summer is here (well- almost) and I am in full vacation-planning mode. (Psssttt....not that I take account of the seasons while planning holidays...:)) Our vacation theme for this year is Exploring India through short and sasta holidays :). There are 2 long weekends coming up - Holi in March and Good Friday in April. We are going to Alwar (Rajasthan) in March, before the summer heat descends and in April, I was looking to go to the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. I did all the research only to realize that neither train tickets nor hotel nights were available. Fully booked! Clearly there are many more freaky travel planners like me out there. We might still have managed to find the odd hotel or homestay someplace but the train waitlist was a real constraint since S does not want to drive there. Our Mussoorie (it took us 12 hours to navigate the 6-hour journey) and Jaipur road trips (7 and 4 hours respectively) last year have put us off long drives, completely.
So now, there is much discussion and argument in the household about where to go.
Not to forget that with all this happening, both the kids have been down and out with a nasty infection of the tonsils. If they absolutely had to fall ill, I would have preferred them to do it together instead of one by one, thereby making me take off more days than I can afford to. But who listens to me in this family???? No one! :(

Saturday 25 February 2012

I'm going to miss this

Spring is here. And a very short spring it will be, too. I'm going to miss the luxury of my daily afternoon walks. The beautiful flowers everywhere, and not just inside our apartment complex. The warm sun. The circle of drivers who bask in the afternoon sunshine everyday after lunch, sitting on the ground near their cars and playing cards. The huge bunch of aunties and uncles who seem to be a permanent fixture in the outdoor areas everyday. The kids cycling, playing tennis and running around the playground, even at 2 in the afternoon.
Sigh. If only the weather were like this all the time. Oh wait......then Delhi would be called Bangalore :)
That's a random snap, clicked as I walked :)

Flowers, flowers everywhere.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

And it's (of course) all my fault

I don't get it. Why on earth is it my responsibility if my husband is as slender as a weed? If I was as thin as a stick, would anyone blame my husband for my lack of "health"? I don't think so. Come on, the man is closer to 40 than 30, can we give him some credit for being an intelligent and responsible adult who knows how important it is to take care of his health? Can we trust that his food choices are balanced and healthy? Can we, in fact, actually compliment him (or me, I have no problem with that!) for being as fit as he was 12 years ago when he first got married, when today most of his contemporaries sport huge paunches and sky-rocketing levels of cholesterol?
Every time we visit family down south, I get this. S says I am highly insecure because no one is actually accusing me of anything. But -- here's the thing -- my silent enemy is the thrusting of extra food down the throat, the "paavom, evalavu olli-ya irukkaan" (Poor thing, see how thin he is), the solicitous enquiries about what are the contents of his daily lunch dabba, these implicit  never said-aloud judgements of my (in)ability to ensure my husband's good health (read 'health' as per the Indian lexicon, people!!!). The fact is that S eats out a lot as part of his job (he does a lot of entertaining of teams that come down from the US/Europe) so he should actually be putting on weight. Isn't restaurant food on a regular basis supposed to make you fatter? He is also extremely conscious of what goes into his body, so he eats no junk/caffeine/sugar. And all this is my fault, how exactly? I'm actually very proud of his enormous self-control not to mention that he weighs a shade less than me :(
Don't even get me started on my kids. I can shout myself hoarse that both of them are currently at the ideal weight for their ages, and it would be as though I didn't say a word. "But you MUST do something about their diet".
Sigh. Time to give up. I'm going to go around making uncharitable comments on people's weight from now on. No, seriously, I'm gonna do it :)
Just for the record, I love the family, such as they are. Even when I am mentally bashing them up :)


Ads: Amma I want to stay young. I mean I want to stay 6 years old.
Me: You mean like forever?
Ads: Yeah.
Me: Yaaay! I don't want you to grow up too (My internal voice: Though sometimes I can't wait for it! :)) And these are the best years of your life, what do you think?
Ads: Yeah. But the best years are when you are a baby, no? Or maybe like Y.
Me: Babies have the best time. But I don't think you had a great time when you were 3, baby. I think you are happier now :)
Ads: If everyone stayed at the same age, then no one will die. I can always play with thatha and naani. 
Me: But change is what makes life interesting. Wouldn't it be boring if everything stayed exactly the same?
Ads: Ok maybe if we all have to die, then maybe we can all be together in heaven. Can we? How many people are in heaven amma?
Me: Errrrr.......
Quantum leaps in thought always leave me floundering.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Lessons from tennis #1

Ads had his first tennis tournament last week. It was held in our apartment complex and among the 25 odd boys and girls between ages 4 and 8 who attend the tennis coaching. A couple of the older kids have just won a tournament in Delhi and covered themselves in glory so there's a lot of interest among the other kids to do as well as the local heroes :) All except Ads, that is, who is as non-competitive as his father and couldn't care less about winning or losing any matches. 
Now, I've said this before -- there's a reason we put him in tennis lessons, which is to improve his motor skills, which trust me still need drastic improvement. So it was actually a surprise to me when he won one match out of the three that he played. Ads' issue is a) he doesn't care b) he is endlessly distracted during class and I know for a fact he's thinking of Superman or Hanu-man when he should be focusing on the coach and his shots. 
He came back smiling from the tournament. I'd watched the first two matches (which he lost) but had to go back home with Y before the third match. We talked about his performance during his evening bath and even as I was giving my spiel about learning from our failures and trying to do better next time blah blah, he interrupted me with "Amma, you told me winning or losing doesn't matter, but I should enjoy what I am doing. I enjoyed the match. So that's enough." 
Enough said :) I shut up!

Saturday 18 February 2012

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - review

I've been wanting to lay hands on Amy Chua's book for the last several months. My library never had it and finally I got so impatient that I ordered a copy through Flipkart. I won't quote too many things out of the book or give you a synopsis because everyone knows what the books is supposedly all about. It is a memoir of Chua's journey as a parent, her insistence on Chinese parenting (rooted in her belief of Western parenting being permissive and negligent) and her ultimate humbling by her 13-year old daughter. 
First off, I found the book very engaging. Chua writes well, clearly and humorously. The book is funny and ironical in parts (which I think American reviewers completely did not get. Chua herself mentions that the irony was much better appreciated in the UK). I myself managed to finish the book in 2 straight sittings and in just about 2 hours.
Second, the book is not a how-to manual on parenting, but a parenting memoir. Chua constantly compares the Western and Chinese styles of parenting (and by Chinese, she means a school of parenting that is highly visible in many other ethnic groups such as Koreans and Indians). While you may or may not agree with her parenting style, many of us from India would readily identify with her constant expectation of excellence from her daughters, her inability to accept anything less than superlative performance, and her being a parent and not a friend to them. Haven't we all come from such families or at the very least known of friends who had such parents?
Third, the most intriguing question raised by the book is "How do you live life to the fullest?" Amy Chua believes the only way to do so is to explore your potential to it's absolute max. She believes that if you give a 5-year old a "choice" then he will just spend all his time playing video games, spending hours on Facebook and eating disgusting junk food. In that, she is absolutely correct. Children do need to be pushed to do better and best. Chua mentions as her mantra, several times, the Chinese "virtuous cycle" where hard work begets achievement begets praise begets hard work begets more achievement. At the same time, she leaves no room for the child's unique temperament and interests and like any other zealot, she took things too far in her quest for excellence.
I'm aware that at some point in time, I may perhaps have to bear down heavily on my children in order to make them overcome any self-imposed limitations. At the same time, making that one's mission in life to the exclusion of everything else, is simply crazy. There were many passages in the book where I was thinking "Dear God, I hope she's kidding. She's MAD!!" Strong opinions, anyone??? For example, this oft-repeated passage from the first few pages of the book.
Here are some things my daughters were never allowed to do:
  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extra-curricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the #1 student in any subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin
I liked the book for it's honesty (though sometimes I had my doubts whether the author was being deliberately provocative!). Chua comes across as bigoted in many many instances, but then all of us have seen mothers/people like that, who have strong vocal opinions on many issues and don't hesitate to put down others. I don't agree with her paranoid, alpha-aggressive treatment of her daughters ("for their own good"), some of which seemed downright cruel and insensitive. My main takeaway from the book has been a heightened awareness of how important it is to know where to draw the line - between fun and hard work, creating good childhood memories and building a solid learning foundation. The book says "Just because you love something doesn't mean you'll be good at it. Not unless you work really hard at it. And once you become really good, you'll love it even more."

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Alternate professions

I was having a light-hearted conversation with a friend the other day, about what profession we would have chosen, if we weren't doing what we're doing now. It started with her telling me she admires how organized and well-planned I am and then of course I had to return the compliment by praising some aspect of her personality :) Anyway, in this you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours convo, we started to list down apt alternate professions for each other and even after we'd parted, I was still thinking about it. It was fun to make that list and I thought I'd share it here :)

Careers at which I would have rocked - in no particular order.
1. I would have made a kick-ass secretary or office assistant. You know the type where your boss will definitely die if you leave the job ;) His professional life would have been so organized he would pay me the earth and of course I'd make sure that he is incredibly dependent on me and helpless without me :) These kind of assistants are generally loathed by the rest of the office!
2. Doctor - the family doc type and the specialist, not the surgeon (I'd be all thumbs!). I would have just the right bedside manner (or clinic manner, since no docs come home nowadays). I'd be empathetic, sympathetic and never over-medicate. It would also satisfy my deep inner need to be of some good to society so I think I'd take the job very seriously.
3. The military life, with its organization and regimentation is also something that might appeal to the Virgo in me. Physical courage is not really my forte, but I may have done well in functions like engineering or ordnance.
4. I'd have liked to be an editor. I like working to deadlines and although writing creatively and well is not always possible for me, one can always come up with tons of ideas and generally boss the lowly writers around :) Maybe I could have worked my way up from being a features writer to editing. 
5. A travel consultant. My dream job!!!!! Having all the inside dope on exotic destinations, planning people's itineraries and organizing their trip - well, maybe I can still do this some day!
6. Life coach. Just a gut feel.

Careers at which I would have sucked - big-time.
1. Anything requiring oodles of creativity. Advertising (the creative function), writing (again, creative writing), music, painting.....there's no question of learning to do any of this stuff because the talent simply isn't there. I admit it. (No hard feelings, mom and dad! :)) Hard work can only take you so far in these professions!
2. Anything requiring dealing with creative people, like celebrity and event management. Don't think I can take the pressure. 
3. Number-crunching jobs - investment banking, treasury, even accounting. Can't do it.
4. Teaching - hmmmm...this is a little tricky because I enjoy some kinds of teaching. I've done interview-cracking workshops, group discussion workshops, I've even taught Math and basic accounting to college students. I can't teach young kids anything. How sad is that statement from a mother of 2 young kids? :(( I would have definitely been a disaster as a preschool teacher. 

Then there are those professions where you know you are competent but which you don't like. For example, I've been in the sales function for several years. I know I can do the job well but I hate it. Similarly, jewellery design and jewellery-crafting. I think I'd be good at it (I mean, all of us are creative to some extent!) and enjoy it but have no way of knowing for sure until I have time on my hands and can take a class and take the interest further.

I'd love to know what your alternate professions would be. Post a comment or write a post about it and let me know :)

Missy who needs body warmth

I tucked them both into bed at 8.30 pm, as usual. I kissed them good night, cuddled both, and placed them on opposite ends of our bed with a strict admonition to both to face away from each other. No talking, no giggling, and no eyes open! Ever so often, I have left the room only to be pulled back by Ads' anguished cry " Amma, she is disturbing me! Amma, tell her not to cuddle me! Amma, she is too close. I don't have any space!"
I pecked away at my laptop for a good 45 minutes. There was complete silence from the bedroom. I went in to check on them (silence is always suspicious and sometimes unnerving!) and this is what I found.
As always, Y managed to have her way :)

Sunday 12 February 2012

Work, being houseproud, and in awe of those who do it all

I am seeing a distinct difference in my housekeeping behaviour ever since I started working (paid work, that is!). Where once I had the time to compulsively puff up cushions, tidy up toys, keep the kitchen gleaming, and dust behind the fridge; now the cushions lie sadly un-puffed, the toys are all over the place until the kids clean them up, the kitchen stays as only as gleaming as my maid wants, and the dust behind the fridge lies peaceful and undisturbed.
Good housekeeping is now, in the words of that magazine, only Good Enough Housekeeping.
Fortunately, the domestic help has (more or less) not been slacking off. I keep my expectations fairly low in this respect to keep down the stress levels! Y has settled down well in her daycare. As far as Ads is concerned, there is zilch difference in his routine. And work has been interesting and not a little challenging. 
So far, so good. The only change has been how little time I have now to attend to my personal stuff. I'm in absolute awe of all those women who head out to the office every single day after finishing up a day's worth of cooking and caretaking. On the days when I have my meetings and have to head to Delhi, it's absolute chaos at home especially since S's schedule is super inflexible and I can't expect him to cover for me, most of the time.
So that's the update from here. Leaving you with a pic of the little lady, playing her favourite game. Which is, packing up and going off on a trip. She has her "suitcase" hanging from the handlebar (an old battered shoe box), her helmet and her backpack. All ready to set off and see the world. Looks like she inherited the right genes, what? :))

Wednesday 8 February 2012

A puppet show and some food for thought

The Ishara International Puppet Festival has been coming to Delhi for a few years now. I wanted to take the kids last year but what with all the shows being in Delhi and starting at 7.30 pm in the evening, the logistics of getting everyone to the city from Noida, and back, seemed overwhelming. Add to that S's I-will-get-back-home-only-by-midnight-everyday work schedule, and it was truly a lost cause. I was so happy when they decided to perform in Gurgaon this year. Epicenter is a really nice cultural and convention center in the city. They have lots of live music (jazz, blues, rock), plays, concerts and other cultural programmes happening all the time, and their Sunday breakfast brunch rocks.
In any case, the puppet festival is here this month. Tickets were excitedly booked for 2 shows. The first one we went to, last Friday, was a production from Taiwan. The 'puppets' were just clothes - shirts, women's tops, dresses, trousers. They danced and they jumped, twirled and swayed to music, expertly handled not by the usual rods and strings, but by near-invisible puppeteers, clad in black and blending into the black background of the stage. 
I really liked the show. Given that Ads hasn't seen that many puppet shows and this one was new and innovative, I fully expected him to enjoy it too. But are kids today jaded or what? He was bored almost from the first few minutes. The thrill and pleasure that I was getting from the show, none of it was visible on his face. I was disappointed, not least because Ads has raised the bar so high for me. He obligingly accompanies me to art shows and galleries and places of historical interest, throws a thousand questions at me and comes up with his own interpretations. I tried hard to see what it was that he didn't like about the show, and came up with nothing. I asked him and he said "It's boring". That was it. 
What I thought would be a simple pleasure for us to take in on a cool winter's evening, an art form that's been around for centuries, something from another land and culture, left him cold. Thinking over it later, I felt I was being unfair to him. I was trying to experience childhood pleasures through him and was upset because his reaction did not match what I thought it should be. A typical case of unjust and unrealistic expectations!
My research sample was not representative enough however. A sample size of just one? No way. Unfortunately, I could not validate any assumptions I had made because the second puppet show we were to go to, never happened. I was a little unwell the day we were supposed to go, and I didn't think I could handle the kids by myself, so I chickened out. The expression on Ads' face when I told him we were not going, I am sorry to say, was one of pure relief!