Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 Round Up

2014 has breezed past with stunning rapidity. It seems only yesterday that we were recovering from our Bali holiday of December 2013, but so much that is personally significant has happened since then. What an action-packed year it has been!
I have completed a year of working in my current organization. It has been an exhilarating ride with a lot of learning and great interactions and I have received a lot of appreciation for my work. Sometimes I feel this is my sweet spot but ever so occasionally the exhaustion and unending responsibility of managing 2 jobs feels impossibly hard. Normally this coincides with Y's emotional blackmail - "Amma, quit your job! Work from home! Pick me up from school!" and I have to run to S to shove me back on the right track again :)
My parents are well-settled in Bangalore now and enjoy the community we live in. In the beginning, there were reservations on how they would cope and whether uprooting them from all that was familiar was a sensible idea. Fortunately, our anxiety was misplaced even though they had a very rough time in the second half coping with the illnesses and demise of both my grandmas. Their passing has left a vaccum in all of us but especially so for my parents for whom their care and comfort had been the top priority for the last decade. The silver lining is that we hope they will be able to finally enjoy life like most of their empty-nester peers have been doing for years. Simple things like going away for a short trip, stepping out for an impromptu movie or meal, which had been so hard to schedule in the past, are now possible. 
My fil had a pneumonia scare earlier in the year and S rushed to Chennai to help. Our parents' mortality, and our own, is increasingly looming large in the horizon and not a distant concept any more. One of the productive and long-pending things we did this year is to get all of us insured, including parents and kids- health, accident, death, disability, the whole works. It is a whopping sum to be set aside every year but it has bought us some peace of mind for the future.
The kids have done well. Ads cricket mania continues to amuse and enthrall us. He recently finished reading Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography and spent as much time poring over career stats as he did on the book itself :) He goes for chess and tennis lessons and has been pestering us to let him sign up for cricket coaching, which we will probably do in the summer break. Y has made huge strides in her reading, writing, and social skills. She was recently diagnosed with a lazy eye and has been patching her eye for a few hours every day. She has been a tremendous sport over it, like she always is even though it has interfered in her classes and play-time, and we hope we don't have to do it for much longer.
S has been insanely busy at work, and largely satisfied though there were some tense months in between and a lot of travel too. He got involved in a lot of other stuff too, like being on the advisory board of a b-school and helping set up a non-profit, apart from his ongoing involvement with IIMB. 
The year ended on a high note with 3 weeks of entertaining family and friends. My brother visited briefly. His wife and daughter followed and we had the pleasure of cuddling and spoiling a very cute 2-year old :) S's brother and family visited for a few days, followed by friends on both sides of our IIMB reunion on campus. It was extremely hectic and we all ate far too much and slept too little, but it was the best sort of fun, the kind only close friends and family can provide :) Our year-end holiday was a short vacation in Masinagudi, which was very very beautiful and serene. Hopefully I will post on that soon.
We are ringing in the New Year quietly at home, though I might pop in to our community NY bash for some time.
Here's wishing you all a truly wonderful and healthy 2015. Happy blogging and reading in the new year!!

Monday 13 October 2014

Temples, elephants and waterfalls

Come end of Navaratri, we were off to Guruvayur for a long-postponed rendezvous with the dark-skinned God. 
Off we went to Wadakanchery (I love the names of Kerala towns!). Y and I even composed a sing-song rhyme of sorts of all the names of the towns we were passing......Wadakanchery Chalakudy Cheruthuruthy Athirapilly Vazhachal........The place we were staying in, an erstwhile "palace", was nice but a little run-down. We spent the morning lazing around- after having alighted from our train at an unearthly hour, we were all somewhat tired. All of us jumped into the pool to cool off and later the boys had the mandatory game of cricket. We had been advised to reach the temple only post lunch as it was bound to very crowded in the morning on Ekadasi day.  Before we reached the temple, we made a quick stop at the Elephant sanctuary in Guruvayur. Elephants are nothing new to any of us, yet being able to see so many of them in the same place - bathing, eating, trumpeting - was very nice. The highlight of course was watching many of them have a "shower" - the kids were most amused and how we wished we could do the same on that hot and humid day!

Our wait at the temple was relatively short- only an hour which compares very favourably with the likes of Tirupati. Listening to the Panchvadyam and watching richly caparisoned elephants inside the temple kept the children interested and occupied until we finished the Darshan. We still had the Tulabharam to wait for and complete, and by the time we were done, all of us were sweaty and exhausted. A quick snack of dosas and coffee later, we were all to be found snoozing in the car on the way back to our hotel!
Day 2 dawned a little cloudy. After breakfast, we set off to see the famous Athirapilly Falls. They were lovely indeed. S and the kids waded into the water like all the other tourists while I kept watch over our things on the rocky bank. Ten minutes later, I had a headache; even though it was a cloudy day, it was extremely hot. We retreated to a shady spot and only then realized that many people were hiking downhill for a view of the bottom of the falls. I had my reservations; the path looked very rocky, steep and slippery and I wasn't sure whether Y could make it down, much less back uphill. But we obviously had to see the falls from the bottom so we started walking. Atleast it was a little cooler under the shade of all the trees.
The hard work paid off - and how!! We were rewarded with a fantastic and majestic view of sheets of water thundering downwards into a large rocky pool. Even better, there was a fine spray of water over all of us, cooling us off wonderfully. Just what we needed. Ever so often, the wind would make a large gust of water head our way, and the kids would shriek with delight! Within seconds, all of us were soaked to the skin. It was very reminiscent of our boat ride on the Maid of the Mist in Niagara, except that ride was unpleasantly cold and all I can remember is my teeth rattling :)

All that cool water and pretty view kept me going as I huffed and puffed up the track again. We decided to skip the Vazhachal falls 5 km down the road and a couple of other spots on the way back to our hotel, much to the disappointment of our driver/guide. But we thought the kids had had enough. That's the thing about very short trips- you can't pack too much into them...otherwise you run the risk of ending up with cranky kids. As it was, we had enough time for some relaxation back in our room before taking our train back home. Short break over, and once more, lots of sweet memories.

Monday 29 September 2014

A saree and Golu Edition 2014

Some days ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of draping a Kanjeevaram which I was told, is as old as I am. Cobalt blue with a shocking pink border, simplicity and sophistication itself. No unnecessary bootis, heavy zari or embellishments. Certainly not the ghastly kundan and brocade work that appear on so many Kanjeevarams today. Call me a purist, but I haven't found anything to like in the fusion. Leave some things well alone, I say. 
The saree was light as air and exquisitely easy to drape. The fact that it belonged to my grandmother made me value it so much more. I told my mom I was taking it for my own. But even as I was wearing it, it ripped in a couple of places. So now it is in safe storage until we can darn and make it stronger :)
So what was the occasion? Navarathri, of course! Once again this year, the Golu was a joint effort between my mom, me and Y. I didn't manage to graduate to 5 steps this year (next year for sure!) but we had a lot of fun setting up the stand, unwrapping the dolls and discussing their placement, and having Ads lay out his cricket set just so, while giving us a running commentary (no one was listening!) of each fielder's position.
The whole process made me nostalgic for Golus in the years gone by, though of course we have become more professional now :) The last week was hectic with lots of people coming in batches for vetthala -paaku/haldi kumkum. Between work, Golu visits and hosting people at home, I went a tad crazy. If it hadn't been such a busy time at work, taking a few days off would have been the sensible thing to do.
We head off to Guruvayoor and Athirapally for a couple of days later this week - looking forward to the mini-break!

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Shifting expectations

A couple of years ago, I would have given anything for Ads to run out of the house every evening to play with his friends. Instead he would sit quietly at home, drawing endlessly or reading for hours. Now, I get annoyed with him for playing cricket (and talking about it endlessly) and wish he would start drawing again and reading.
Isn't it so unfair that every time he gets closer to the finish line, I promptly draw another one a little further away! Oh the unfairness of it all! I am ashamed of myself.
I told myself this when he came back from school the second day in a row with his snack untouched. His favourite whole-wheat chocolate cupcakes had been nibbled around the edges, fit only to be thrown into the bin. Amma they aren't nice any more, he claimed. I got my just desserts (pun intended).
When we came to India, I wished more than anything else for him to be sociable, sporty and brave. He has become all of these...and yet...I complain ever so often :(
The burden of expectations- I didn't think I was that kind of mom. Yet we all seem to do it. Or worse, sink under someone else's expectations.
Turning over a new leaf from today :)

Monday 15 September 2014

A birthday surprise

I was inspired by Uma's post here to finish something that had been lying in Drafts for a couple of weeks. The background is this. Neither the husband nor I ever felt the need to make a big deal of our birthdays, wedding anniversary etc. A more accurate way to describe the situation would be to say that whatever few desires I may have had on the "right" way to celebrate birthdays and such had died a silent death over the years thanks to S's studied lack of enthusiasm. Our arguments had become so stale. S would say - So you want me to make a big deal for one day and ignore you the rest of the year or what, and I would say - That's so silly. Obviously you don't have to do one at the expense of the other! Truth be told, I didn't care all that much, but sometimes I would feel that when I make so much of an effort with the kids birthdays and S's birthday, why can he not reciprocate? Lately, it had become a battle too hard to fight and I have just started making merry with his credit card - having completely given up on any other overt demonstration on my birthday!
Having said that, I must also describe a very heartwarming incident that happened several months ago. S and I were both travelling to the US on work. Since our flights were just a couple of hours apart, it made sense for us to share a cab to the airport. Checking in formalities over, I had to wait for the security check while S, whose flight was departing earlier, said goodbye and disappeared. An hour later, I finished clearing security and was heading towards my gate when S called. Í'm going to board in just a few moments, he said. Where are you? I replied that I was walking towards my gate. Ok, he said. Walk faster. I'll meet you midway. 
I was most puzzled. Why was he coming to see me when his flight had been called? A few minutes later, I see him jogging towards me. He is holding a couple of sandwiches in his hand. He thrust them at me. You'll be hungry soon and they won't give you anything on the flight for a few hours. Make sure you gobble this before you board. Ok, bye. Abruptly, he turned around, and ran back to his gate.
I was most touched. That he had thought of me, of how hungry I would become, and taken the trouble to get sandwiches, and come running to find me. Later, when I told him how sweet the gesture was, he shrugged it off. In characteristic S fashion, he said - I was only worried about all those hapless co-passengers - you might have slapped someone in your hunger!
Possibly for the first time in 14 years, I fully appreciated the small humble gestures he makes every day to show his affection. My guilt at constantly nagging him to celebrate my birthday only lasted so long, however :) Come August, I was once again threatening him with dire consequences if he did not atleast "get a cake" for me. Really...subtlety flew out of the window long long ago!!!
So, a day before my birthday, I was at my mom's place and S called to say he was home early because he was tired. I asked him to drop over at mom's for some tea. He landed up, and once the kids and my parents were all assembled, out came a chocolate cake from nowhere! I was most pleasantly surprised and for the first time in many years, got to cut a cake with everyone singing Happy Birthday to me. I rolled my eyes at S and said - see this is a such a simple thing I've been asking for. Why couldn't you have done it all these years?
S claims that it was my continual death threats that made him fear for his life- so well, looks like the extreme measures, yelling etc worked - though it took 14 years to bear fruit!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

North Kerala trippin'

In our quest to travel far and wide in our beautiful country, we (read I) hit upon a tiny village called Neeleshwar in North Kerala. It was exciting to plan a trip to the Malabar coast, having never visited that part of Kerala before. We were supposed to travel here in January, then again in April, but both time I had to cancel our train tickets because of work-related emergencies. Finally we were able to make it last weekend, by train to Kanhangad (near Kasaragod) and then a 20-minute drive by car to our resort.
Swaying palm trees, cool rain, and lush foliage awaited us as we emerged. I couldn't wait to explore the cottage and it's surroundings, and the view of the Arabian sea was simply superb. The pics say it all!

The agenda was to relax and do nothing. The rain helped; without it I might have been tempted to revert to my usual traveller mode of rushing here and there to see the sights. One Day 2, we visited Bekal Fort, a beautifully-maintained fort a few kms from where we were staying. Although it was gorgeous and green (the kind of vivid green I would associate with, say, Ireland) on a wind-swept, rainy day, I was disappointed to see no signage or information about the Fort itself, and came away no wiser than before (Wiki came to the rescue). The kids were thrilled to see large waves dashing themselves against the rocks.

We also spent an evening cruising along the Valiyaparamba backwaters in a houseboat, not a novel experience but oh-so-relaxing.
Great Malabar food, serene environs, the constant sound of the sea against the beach, raindrops rattling on the roof, masala chai and the company of loved ones - what more could one have asked for? As I completed yet another circle around the sun, I felt truly blessed.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

What a month!

It has been a sad, happy, busy, messy, disturbing and distressing kind of month. So much has happened in such a short time that even now, it seems surreal. My paternal grandmother, who has lived with my parents for as long as I can remember, also passed away within a  month and a half of my maternal grandma passing on. A hardy 93 year old who had the stamina, enthusiasm and mojo of a 70-year old, she always used to claim that she would cross a century, a claim we had no trouble believing! She used to gently scoff at her many granddaughters who each had "only" 2 kids apiece, and was forever encouraging me to try for a third :)
My parents were under enormous stress; just as my mother was slowly coming to terms with her mother's illness and death, she had to play ministering angel to her mother-in-law and start the whole round of ICU/hospital visits along with my father. Fortunately, help arrived after a few tense days in the form of my uncle and aunt from abroad, who were able to provide the much-needed moral and physical support.
In the interim, my mom turned a year older, Advaith turned 9 (that was the happy part of the month!) and my father-in-law came down with pneumonia! S came back from the trip to the US and rushed the same day to Chennai to do his bit for his parents. We cancelled Ads' party for a more favourable date, probably sometime in the next week or 10 days.
Today, for the first time, there is some semblance of normalcy. The relatives have departed for their distant homes, f-i-l is recovering and school and work routines are back to normal. The four of us made use of the long weekend to take a long-awaited and much-postponed break in Kasaragod in Kerala (about which, travelogue coming up in a couple of days).
What a month it's been! I'm glad its over. Still can't believe the paatis are gone. It is going to take some time to properly sink in.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Teeth and jaws

So we recently got to know of something called a Palatal Expander. It's a steel appliance that fits into the jaw, slowly expanding it over a period of months, and giving more space for the teeth to grow. We have known for a year or so that Ads might need such an appliance to correct his short upper jaw. Nevertheless I had put off doing any research on it until we saw an orthodontist that we liked and who could explain the whole thing to us in layman terms. When he did, it sounded so horrifying (a big ugly steel thing! in my baby's mouth! for a year!). Won't it hurt terribly? How will he eat and swallow? The questions were too many so I took a second opinion, with an equally nice orthodontist who advised exactly the same thing.
So with a sigh, I went back to our first dental clinic and agreed to get the expander inserted in Ads' mouth. Not that we had much of a choice - using an expander at this early stage, and adding braces in a couple of years, could well avoid years of expensive dental treatment in the future. 
I cringed when they fitted the thing in his jaw, even while the doc assured me that initial side-effects were minor- maybe headaches for the first couple of days, excessive saliva production, some slurring of speech. The last one continues even now though his tongue is adjusting to the appliance and his speech is definitely not as slurred as it was for the first week. Every morning and night, I have to fiddle around inside his jaw with a sharp pin to "activate" the appliance, which always makes me very nervous (I'm not great with things that require fine motor skills), and there's a lot of "Can't you open your mouth wide, you silly boy?" and "Ouch amma, you just poked me!".
Ads also can't eat anything sticky or hard until the expander sits inside the jaw - that means no pizza, nuts, apples etc. The pizza is a hard blow but we learnt our lesson well one evening when Ads forgot the rules and wolfed down 2 slices at a birthday party. S had to spend 45 minutes with a toothpick to painstakingly remove every errant bit of cheese from the expander. Never again! :(

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Oddreeve and chess

Ads' latest obsession - yes it's cricket - but what do you do when you can't play cricket? For example when you are in a car, or the school bus, or when you are plain lazy? :)
Then you just play "Odd or Eve" (pronounced as Oddreeve). Aka Hand cricket!
It's a complicated game which I don't quite understand the rules of. Any request for clarifications is met by some eye-rolling and an exasperated "Amma, you anyway don't know anything about cricket!"
The good thing is Oddreeve involves some very rapid mental counting so Ads math skills have improved by leaps and bounds. I wonder why schools don't gamify math and science a lot more.
On another note, Ads recently took part in the chess tournament held as part of the Sports Fest in our community. I wanted to sign him up for tennis matches as well but he flatly refused. He played 3 chess games and came in second, losing gracefully to his best friend. No biases here, but I contend he was the better player of the two and just got distracted at the wrong moment. Lesson learnt? One hopes so!
Getting his trophy and certificate

Thursday 24 July 2014

My love affair with sarees

The first time I wore a saree was in the 10th Std. It was our farewell party and all of us 10th graders were supposed to be in fancy dress. Having put off thinking of any creative costumes until the last minute, I found I was too late to do anything much and my mom suggested I go as an air-hostess. Off I went, clutching Amma's vanity case and carefully wrapped in a beautiful blue silk saree. I skipped the paavadai-davani/half-saree stage completely since at the time, I used to find that particular outfit very unappealing. Looking back now, I wonder why - so many girls who wear it today look so graceful and lovely. Perhaps there are trendier and more eye-catching designs available now which was not the case 2 decades ago.
The rest of my school and college years, sarees were meant for tripping in delicately, at weddings, parties and other social dos. Chennai and Mumbai (where I worked for a year) were too hot and humid for a saree to feel like anything less than a sticky cumbersome burden. My role model was (and still is) a senior VP at the investment bank where I worked in Mumbai. A 40-something lady, she was always to be found in stunning Kanjeevarams. What was more astonishing was that she carried them with such careless grace and elan that she took the focus away from the elaborate fabric and borders, onto her vibrant personality. Truly a natural style icon!
Role model or not, things stayed much the same on the sartorial front for me and the beautiful Kanjeevarams that I collected during my wedding stayed inside the saree bags until 2003, when I started working in Bangalore, in an IT and BPO company.
Suddenly, I was enamored with sarees. Working in a new-age tech company where the average age was 22, and jeans de rigueur , I often felt curious eyes upon me as I stuck to my resolution of wearing a saree atleast once or twice a week to the office. With every day that I draped myself in it, my confidence in spending the whole day in it grew - I was walking around visiting slums and schools, and jumping in and out of autos and other vehicles. All was well until Ads came into my life; the thought of spit-ups and food stains was too much to bear and as he grew older, I was guaranteed to look crushed and messy anytime I went anywhere with him! 
Cut to 2011 when I started working with craftsmen in Delhi and beyond. I was mesmerised by our hoary traditions of weaves, textures and embroidery and my lust for heritage creations only grew. The fact that I was working in an all-women office also helped, as did the fact that one was able to buy sarees directly from weavers at a discount :) In the process, I also became something of a handloom Nazi, and today I refuse to buy power loom stuff even though handloom is so much more expensive. 
Today, my wardrobe is filled with Chanderis, Banaras, Kanjeevaram, Pochampalli, Paithani, Uppada, Kantha, Phulia and Tussar. I'm eyeing my next buys - Ilkal and Gujarati Patola. Aren't these names so evocative? My love affair with sarees is intrinsically linked with my love for Indian heritage crafts.
I have been wearing a saree atleast once a week to the office. Yes it's not easy. Making the saree a regular part of the work-wear or daily-wear takes time, effort and patience. From making those trips to the tailor and getting that blouse stitched just so, having the right petticoats and if you are like me, not bearing to fling it off at the end of the day but air it before folding, to giving yourself time to drape it is so much handier to pick out a smart ready-made kurta and leggings and get going on a rushed morning.
But I've found it worthwhile to consciously slow down and factoring that extra 10 minutes to change isn't that hard. It has been more than amusing to see the change in people's behaviour when I land up in a saree as opposed to a salwar kameez or a top and trousers. Folks are more respectful. I seem to exude new authority and maturity. Men whom one least expects to be chivalrous, leap up to open doors for me. Security guards who stop me from parking in a particular place, respectfully and smilingly explain why, instead of dismissing me outright.
Plus, most important, I get tons of compliments!
Oh and did I mention it beautifully camouflages all the extra weight that comes from too much eating and not enough exercise!!!

Saturday 5 July 2014

The proverbial chalk n cheese

Every night, Ads walks around each and every bathroom in the house. I can hear five toilet seats being pulled down and five bathroom doors being firmly shut. He also arranges the bathmat so that it’s perfectly straight, and shuts each bedroom door. I am meanwhile waiting for him to get to bed and silently gnashing my teeth. I asked him why he does this every single day. Give this bathroom inspection routine a miss one day, I suggested. He looked at me in horror. "I can’t do that! I won’t be able to sleep the whole night!"
My children are like chalk and cheese. How much of that is a function of birth order, I don’t know. Ads, like many first-borns, is high maintenance. When he wakes up in the morning, we never know what his mood will be like. Most likely, cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms – always keep an umbrella handy! Y, on the other hand, is little Ms Sunshine through the day and always manages to perk all of us up.
Ads is a typical Virgo – he likes clear boundaries, unambiguity, cleanliness and exhibits distinct OCD-like tendencies. He is also super-bright though he claims he is not (another Virgo trait – extremely self-critical). Y is carefree, deals with chaos and disorder effortlessly, and nothing describes her more aptly than that fantastic word - bindaas. She does tend to pick up some of Ads mannerisms and behaviours every now and then which I try to discourage. Why change something that’s already perfect? :)
Several months ago, we were all learning how to play the card game Uno. So this game has a lot of different cards and rules which are a little hard to make sense of, at the beginning. So Y and I played one game by ear, learning the rules as we went along. We made a lot of mistakes but by the end of 2 games, we‘d figured it out. When we invited Ads to join us, he insisted on a training session where I was supposed to explain the rules to him slowly. I said to him - "Just play Ads, you’ll figure it out as you play and we’ll help you."
"No no no...I can’t play like that...I need to know the rules first!"
That’s my boy, my Rules Ramanujam as my m-i-l has affectionately nicknamed him. A stickler for rules, structure, order! He drives me up the wall every single day and the only thing that keeps me sane is the realization that I used to be so much like him when I was little (yes I’m a typical Virgo too). I wouldn’t change anything about myself so why do I try and change him, except that I don’t want him to get so boxed into his own neat little world that he never understands the joys of frivolousness, spontaneity and messiness.
It’s going to be a long hard journey - I know because I have made it before – and look what a long way I’ve come!
One of the most interesting parts of my journey as a mother has been discovering the very unique personalities of both my children and celebrating the special quirks and eccentricities that make them the delightful people they are!

Thursday 3 July 2014

Lessons worth learning

My grandma passed away in the wee hours of the morning, this week. She was only 78, too young to die by today's standards of life expectancy. She was almost the same age as I am now, when she became a grandmother for the first time. A sub-40 grandmother! How strange that must have felt! Or maybe not.
It feels like the end of an era, even  though she had been in poor health for so many years. Because I was the first grandchild, I remember her in all the good times - when my grandfather was alive, when she was healthy and pretty and active. My other cousins probably only remember her as being sick and old and having to be cared for. I remember her prodigious cooking skills (which sadly I did not inherit!), her fetish for cleanliness, her affectionate and demonstrative nature. She was the only one who managed to teach me long division in my early years of being numerically-inept! In later years, after her major bypass surgery and her husband's untimely death, she would become embittered, plagued by poor health and increasingly difficult to live with. Most often it would fall to her devoted daughter, my mother, to placate, cajole and spoil her, a lot like what my grandpa used to do! Soothe diplomatic tensions, mediate squabbles and smooth the path of daily life. 
19 years ago, her life took a new turn. In a few short weeks, she had a heart-attack, underwent major heart surgery, and lost her husband. In those 19 years, I have been inspired by nothing as much as my mother's absolute devotion to making her mother's life as comfortable and happy as possible. In the last 10 days when paati was first in the Intensive Care Unit, and later in a hospital room, my mom was constantly at her side, praying for her recovery, shedding tears at every painful poke jab and procedure, and later, when we were told there was no hope, fervently praying for a pain-free release.
In all these years, there have been so many times when my mom has felt incredibly frustrated and helpless. But she has been invariably patient even when the situation was intolerable, calm when there was a crisis and stoic when everything seemed to be falling apart - a role model for everything I should aspire to be, but am not! It is and always will be a huge inspiration to me.
As always.... there are regrets. One assumes that one has the luxury has time. For all her poor health, paati was a fighter and I never believed she would not live for many more years. Less than a month ago, on our wedding anniversary, she played catch with Y, and we were all joking that we never knew that paati is a spinner! I wish I had been less absorbed in my kids, my husband, my home, my work- and that I had made more time. If only wishes were horses!
I have been thinking about the legacy we leave behind. Who will miss us and grieve over our loss? Who will be at our bedside in the last moments, keeping vigil as life ebbs away? As I bid a tearful goodbye to my granny the last time I visited her in the hospital, I grieved for all the opportunities for love and togetherness that were frittered away, by her and everyone else.
It has been a huge life-lesson to me, to make the best of everything life throws at you, good or bad. To live in the moment, rejoice in the company of loved ones, make the time to build relationships. This isn't a new awakening by any measure, and I'd like to think I do live my life by this mantra. But like every lesson worth learning, it's never a bad idea to get a refresher course every now and then.
Life is too short to bear grudges and live in discontent. Today, it feels almost like we should make it our duty to make it as beautiful as we can.

Tuesday 24 June 2014


Another deep dive into yet another topic. This time it's Cricket, the mother of all Indian obsessions. It's a little surprising the interest has surfaced so late- after all, he has been surrounded by cricket and cricket aficionados for years now. But of course, other interests have taken up precious time and mind-share!
In typical Ads style, he has been soaking up information like a sieve. One of our friends said "What I have learnt in 40 years, Ads has picked up 80% of it in 2 months!"
Which is an exaggeration but only a little bit, because his learning curve is astonishingly steep. Which is why it makes me mad when he wails and whines to learn 4 lines of a Hindi poem because "There's no space in my brain!!!"
Ads has also been playing cricket every day with his friends, and on weekends with his dad, with Y as able fielder. This is the kid who told me 2 months ago "I hate cricket!" I won't be surprised if the same line is repeated 2 months hence :)

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Pondicherry and friendships

We were in Pondicherry last weekend, just for a day and a half. S has this group of friends from undergrad, a close-knit bunch of guys, half living in the US and the other half in Chennai/Bangalore. I have been consistently amazed and gratified at how these men have stayed in active touch for so many years. I have attended many of their weddings myself. We have seen their kids as infants and watched them grow and thrive. When we have travelled, we have always tried to stay over or visit. They have reciprocated. Over the years, the bonds have only grown stronger. Facebook groups and whatsapp obviously helped them share real time updates and views on politics, cricket, football, family, work and life! 
Since last year, the India folks have been meeting every few months, in a different place every time. Tranquebar was the first venue, followed by Kodaikanal and Pondicherry. We missed Kodai but Tranquebar had been so much fun we knew we had to make the longish trip to Pondy for sure! So 5 couples, 7 kids in tow landed up at the Pondy resort on Saturday morning. It was horribly hot and humid. All one wanted to do was stay inside AC comfort. But enough number of warm bodies generate enthusiasm, and soon the boys were playing cricket. Then it was time to jump into the pool. I wandered around clicking pictures, every now and then darting into my room or the restaurant for some cooling drinks and air!
Long leisurely meals were the order of the day. Smaller groups formed and dispersed. In the evening, panting for the elusive sea breeze, we all walked down to the beach. Plans to walk around Pondicherry city were made and discarded. It was nicer to stay in the room and chat :) The kids played with each other as much as they bonded with the adults.
It was hectic for us given the time taken to reach Pondy from Bangalore. We got stuck in bad roads on the way back and reached Bangalore after a gruelling 8-9 hour road journey. But it was worth every moment. It takes a lot of time and effort to sustain and grow a friendship, especially when you include spouses and children. There are too many different variables and personalities, needing reconciliation and compromise. But it hasn't been an effort. Hats off to each and every one of these guys for taking the time and effort to nurture their friendships, both one-on-one and as a group. I must confess to a brief twinge of envy. I do have many close friends but not a large group of friends who are all close to each other!
Raising a toast to many more years of such camaraderie, and in gratefulness to the new friendships I have made as a consequence!

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde -Reloaded

Have you read this poem? By a chap called Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (American poet)
There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

She stood on her head, on her little trundle bed,
With nobody by for to hinder;
She screamed and she squalled, she yelled and she bawled, 
And drummed her little heels against the winder.

Her mother heard the noise, and thought it was the boys
Playing in the empty attic,
She rushed upstairs, and caught her unawares,
And spanked her, most emphatic.

For the past several months, Ads has reminded me of this poem :) It has often seemed that we have regressed to the terrible twos and threes, which is the last time Ads was so challenging. Tantrums, bawling, tears at the drop of a hat, heightened sensitivity and prickliness, you name it, we have experienced it! The silver lining is that in public, he continues to be the well-mannered, quiet and cooperative boy he's always been. A pleasure to meet and talk to, affable and pleasant but never loud or aggressive. 
At home, Mr. Hyde surfaces. What has bothered me the most is him turning into the least attractive kind of elder brother - bossy, annoying and irritated by everything his sister says or does. Obviously we have tried to figure out when this behaviour started. It has intensified around the time I went back to work (there you go!) but the early signs have been there for much longer. 
Is it a "phase", like so many others? Who knows? The last week has been quiet; maybe we are turning a corner!

Monday 2 June 2014

A special birthday in a special place

It all started with wanting to do something special for S's 40th birthday. Well, in our family "special" is quite simple; Special = Travel! :) What made the decision a no-brainer was the hard fact that S hates any noise or drama around his birthday. He confesses that when he was growing up he was most happy that his birthday used to come around during the summer holidays :) I did ask him a couple of times what it would be like if I threw a big surprise party for his 40th. He answered with his usual dry wit "Yes, by all means; the 'surprise' will be that I won't be there!"
Therefore, a trip. Ok that was settled. I also decided to invite his parents to join us, seeing that it was their baby's 40th and all. The question was where, since we just had a small window of 2 days with no flexibility since the kids' school reopened on the Monday post S's birthday (which fell on a Saturday). After much research, I settled on Sakleshpur which seemed to fulfil all of our criteria - a comfortable driving distance from Bangalore, rolling hills, tea estates, cool weather and finally, this.
Friday arrived and we loaded ourselves into an Innova. Our enormously efficient driver got us to Kadamane estates in exactly 5 hours, just in time for lunch. The drive was uneventful and not particularly scenic until we reached Sakleshpur and began climbing to the estate, at which point the scenery changed dramatically eliciting some oohs and aahs from all of us. After a quick lunch, everyone dozed while I quickly laid hands on my camera to capture some of the beauty around me.

That evening, we decided to go to a place called 5 Acres, which was supposed to offer great views of the surrounding hills. We argued whether S and I would trek the distance while the others would follow in the jeep (I was all for taking Ads with us on foot but was shot down). In any case, S backed off too leaving me in a brief sulk as I really wanted to trek the distance. However we made peace and were treated to a jolting jeep ride for 20 minutes, to finally reach this place. Gorgeous, isn't it?

The next day, we chilled, hung out with the kids, playing frisbee, cricket, catch, cards, ludo and what not. With chores and meal-prep out of the way, we finally had the luxury of time and we made the most of it. The children had gifts for their dad which they had ordered earlier on in Bangalore - custom coffee mugs from each with a nice photo and a message. Of course, birthday cards had been created in total secrecy the previous week itself. I had also ordered a tea cake at the resort which was an apology of a cake, really and not at all my idea of what a birthday cake should be like. But well, it's the thought that counted and we did have the satisfaction of getting S to cut his cake and eat it too!
It was a brief but fantastic break and I would highly recommend the destination/property to family and friends alike. Most important, S had a wonderful 40th with all the most important people in his world :) Now- ahem - the pressure is on him to give ME an equally fantastic 40th birthday party (=trip)!

Thursday 22 May 2014

Y's summer of 2014

Where has the summer gone? Not that I'm complaining, mind! I have not been able to enjoy any part of the kids being home and it will be almost a relief to have them at school (take a lot of the guilt off me!). There have only been moments snatched here and there to play, read and talk with the kids and it has left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Sadly, we were not able to take any family time off this summer which just means I have to get my act together next year. 
And what have the kids been upto? Nothing much (which is as it should be). Y has had a free rein as both her dance and music teachers took a break for the summer. So other than talking nonstop (!) she has just been having a lot of fun with the unstructured days. Summer accomplishments have been a) Learning to skip. She worked really hard on it especially after she was gifted a bright purple skipping rope by me :) b) Learning to bike - super-fast and very confidently without training wheels. It had taken Ads just a half-hour to master this skill and Y was just the same. We did have our share of falls and tumbles including a couple of nasty scrapes but now she is a pro and I enjoy my occasional evening rides with her. c) Learning a ton of arithmetic skills. I am such a fan of the apps I can download on the ipad and credit them 100% in developing Y's reading and math skills. So interactive and so much fun! I've consciously scaled down on the reading now as I can see that she is going to be horribly bored in UKG this year. d) Learning to play quite a few card and board games including Connect4/Plot 4, Animal Rummy, Old Maid, Go Fish and UNO. So, all told, quite a fun summer for her, I think. I really really wish we could have spent much more time together!
Ads is an entirely different story and needs a dedicated post. No good stuff there, only lots and lots of challenges which I don't feel equipped to deal with :( 
Actually, I take back what I said about no good stuff - am sure I am being tested and this is a big character-building exercise for me :)

Saturday 3 May 2014

Spring in Chicago

It wasn't until I was in the plane bound for Phoenix that I realized that this was my very first trip abroad on work. This must surely be an oddity for a blue-chip b-school grad. Obviously my moving into the development sector had a lot to do with it, because normally I just get to go to places with no running water, patchy electricity (if any) and if, I am lucky, a serviceable toilet :)
The trip to Phoenix was to attend our organization's annual spring gathering. So mother-in-law was implored to come and lend some help. My parents have their hands full with 2 grannies and I didn't think it was fair to dump them with 2 kids who would be around 24/7 during the summer hols. Nervousness reigned since both S and I would be in the US at the same time. Y and Ads did their bit to tug at the heartstrings by repeatedly asking me not to travel. They did a terrific job of making me feeling totally wretched and it was a depressing few days prior to my departure.
I've never been on a long-haul flight minus kids for 8 years now, so it was quite boring! I didn't have anything to do except watch movies and sleep and eat, which, honestly, is fun for the first couple of hours but quickly gets monotonous. I didn't actually get desperate enough to shoot wistful looks at the harried first-time mom travelling with her cute baby, but I came close :) Tchah - we moms can never be happy!
The flight to the US, which seems barely longer than the Delhi-Chennai commute when A&Y are around, stretched on interminably and it was quite a relief to stagger out and head to my hotel in Scottsdale. The next 3 days were packed with conference activities, meetings, and long lunches and dinners. A bunch of us went out the last night and had a truly fantastic meal accompanied by scintillating conversation- what a pleasure it is to be in the company of smart, articulate, well-read and well-travelled people!
And isn't this a pretty sight - the outdoor restaurant where we dined.

Many folks were staying back in balmy Arizona over the weekend to do some sightseeing but I flew to Chicago early on a Saturday to join S who had been parked there for the past week. It was a lovely opportunity for us to get a small vacation in the midst of all the busy-ness and we made the most of it. S has been to Chicago several times so I had my personal tour guide and I can tell you it was pretty nice for a change to be the guided rather than the guide! We started with an architectural cruise on the Michigan river to see the famous Chicago skyline and have some of the landmark buildings pointed out to us.
Stunning, isn't it?

It was a beautiful day, sure, but deceptively sunny-looking and with oodles of nip in the air. 20 minutes into the cruise, the skin at the end of my nose had started peeling and I was miserably cold, even bundled as I was in my warmest clothes (clearly in adequate for Chicago spring!) I'm told the cruise is cold and windy even in summer so there you are. We were happy to disembark and practically run indoors into Navy Pier (the city's #1 tourist attraction) for a long hot lunch brimming with cheese and carbs!
We were staying on the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, touted as one of the top retail/shopping districts in the world, so it was a pretty handy place to explore the bustling downtown area. We met my cousin in the afternoon and wandered around downtown, soaking in the skyscrapers and the vibrancy, occasionally defeated by the Windy City's chilling gusts of wind and forced indoors into Old Navy, H&M, Nordstorm and the like....well, atleast we got some essential shopping done!
Here's Mr. Bean at the Millenium Park. I love Anish Kapoor's work and this one was pretty impressive.

Day 2 was packed with social visits, at the homes of 2 friends who live in the suburbs and it's always so nice to catch up in a leisurely fashion with friends whom you haven't seen in years. I'm so glad we were able to do it.
One of the interesting things I was able to do in Chicago was to visit the American Girl Store. S had highly recommended a short visit- he said it was a fascinating place! I could see why. It's a store designed to appeal to every little girl's wildest fantasies. Cute dolls in every shade of the human skin vie for attention along with catchy outfits, snazzy accessories, a doll hair salon, doll hospital and doll ear-piercing station. All in shades of pink and purple of course! This brand can single-handedly demolish every gain feminism has won for women in the last 50 years!!! To be perfectly truthful, I didn't mind all the pink and the dressing-up so much - why deny girls something that is so pleasurable and satisfying? But the many books on Manners, How to be nice and Ms Popular (that's not what they were called exactly, but you get my drift) and How to take care of your body (with it's advice on how to groom yourself, smell and look good) were what got my goat. Basically being a girl is all about having solid values like being nice and kind, being courteous and of course looking pretty! It was all a little disturbing, and sometimes I wonder whether I'm over-thinking it but then one day I find Y in front of the mirror wondering aloud whether she is beautiful, and I think - Heck, no. She's only 5. How can she even ask herself that question?
Back in Bangalore after a wonderful 6 days and deep into the routine. I'm not complaining about the Bangalore heat any more, that's for sure! :)

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Getaway to BR Hills

The last couple of weeks have been very tiring for both S and me, primarily due to work pressures. We just wanted to get away from it all; so the long Ugadi weekend and our plan to drive to BR Hills could not have come at a more opportune time. I was so tired that I actually snapped at S when he asked me to pull out the car-seats from the loft...that’s when I knew I definitely needed a vacation pronto!!
BR Hills is just the right distance from Bangalore. Long enough to know you are far enough from the city and short enough that it doesn’t seem like a chore to drive there and back. There aren’t too many stay options there and we picked a property that’s run by an NGO that is very active in the area. Check them out here. We loved the property, our cottage, the guided forest walk early in the morning, the visit to the NGO (they run a residential school, health center and vocational skills training centers), and the drive deep into the forest for some wildlife-spotting. 
We didn’t see many animals but the forest was pretty in the evening sunshine, the play of light and shade was enticing and when I put my head out of the window to let the soft breeze play on my face and hair, Ads instantly pointed out “Of course Amma does not like to follow any rules. You should keep your face and hands inside the car. I think a monkey is going to jump on your face!”
All very valid points, I agree....but what a mood-killer the boy is!  
Some pics...

Driving to BR Hills

Dry deciduous

Our cottage

Into the forest for our morning nature trek

Driving into the forest - hoping to spot some animals

Before sunset

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Only about Y#1

The school bus driver has been complaining about Y. Apparently she does not sit quietly in her seat when the bus is in motion, especially on the way back from school,  but keeps running up and down for some reason or the other. Whenever the bus stops to drop off a child at his/her stop, Y gets up and "escorts" the kid upto the bus door. I've heard this from the driver multiple times, multiple versions. When we task Y, she gets all teary and claims she has been getting up for a legitimate purpose - I wanted water. My friend asked me to get the toffee from my bag. I needed some hand sanitizer, and so on. When my disbelief is apparent, her parting shot is always - Amma, you always say bad things about me! Which, by the way, is completely untrue because I am her biggest fan :) Anyway she is quite the chhupa-rustam so I tend to believe the bus driver and not her!
She has been learning Bharatanatyam for the last few weeks (a little young, I am told) but the teacher's really nice and Y seemed to enjoy the first few trial classes so we went ahead. Never having learnt the dance form myself, I was quite taken aback to see how hard it was and how much of a strain it puts on the knees and back. Well, my knees and back for sure when I tried some of the steps...I assume kids are more flexible!

(Can you tell this is an easy week at work? I got my blogging mojo back :) Better I think to do short quick posts whenever I have a free minute than aim for longer well-thought out and well-written posts....not that my long ones were particularly scintillating to read...just saying :))

Summer is here

Posted this on fb today :)
You know the holidays are round the corner when crafty items begin appearing at home, when your mom calls with an urgent request for empty cereal boxes, tins and bottles, and when various Gods begin sportiing beady accoutrements.

Monday 24 March 2014

Kiddisms #2

It's been a while since I blogged, and I don't know quite where to begin. It's fair to say we have all been so busy with our routines and with living life, so to speak, that writing about it and recording memories have had to fall by the wayside. Being up at 5 am to get ready for a hectic day and falling into bed exhausted at 10 pm does not an active blogger make!
But it's all good -- we are fast approaching the end of yet another school year. How times flies! Ads will go to 4th grade this year and will turn 9 in just a few months. Y will still be in kindergarten :) But she is going to have an extended day come June, so changes in store for her. My parents have settled in well and we have established a daily routine that pivots around the children's needs. I am loving my job and while the commute is still killing, I have been working a couple of days a week from home which makes it easier.
But enough of that. The kids have been cracking me up with their usual antics. Jotting down a few here lest I forget!
Advaith has now taken to wearing shirts instead of t-shirts, all buttoned up till the neck (a la Dev Anand). When we step out, he likes to wear jeans/trousers (no shorts), belt, socks and shoes (floaters? what are those?). I am his biggest irritant because I'm constantly trying to make him dress down. The other day, I pleaded with him to unbutton the collar button. His response? A roll of the eyes and "Amma, I am NOT a Hindi film hero!" He dislikes seeing people with their shirts unbuttoned all the way down displaying their macho chests :)
His major mania is "neating". Apparently our apartment looks like a pigsty. I am so offended especially as I've spent most of my life being accused of being too neat and tidy. He spends every spare minute obsessively tidying up the flat, plumping cushions and keeping slippers lined up in ramrod-straight lines :) The Virgo streak is more than apparent, along with the OCD-like behaviour that marks many of us. One of my friends told me the other day that Virgo women are quite nice but Virgo men can be insufferable and I am beginning to appreciate those wise words :(
He still hates the camera and is a little relieved that "Amma does not click many photos nowadays." Glad somebody noticed! I asked him "Am I the best mom?". Ok I know, kinda silly question but I had just come away from an awwww moment of Y telling me "Amma you are not a good are the BEST mom!"
Ads sighed. "Amma, if I was Yashas, then Chitra aunty (Yashas' mom) would be the best mom. And if I  was X then X's mom would be the best mom."
I persisted. So what are you saying, do you think I'm the best mom or not?
Silence and a LOOK which seemed to say - Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies!
That's my boy - my harshest critic and the Raja Harishchandra of this family - he gives it like it is! Between him and S, I can rest assured I will never suffer from an inflated ego!
Y on the other hand, is the one that signs off each night with a solicitous - "Amma, are you going to do some work? Don't strain yourself, ok? Go to bed soon!"

Thursday 20 February 2014


Have I said it before? The 5 yo is the most mature person in our household. Trust Y to always put things in the right perspective. The other day, I had lost one ATM card but inadvertently managed to call the bank and block not the one which I had lost, but the one which was still lying in my wallet. Having discovered my error, I was fuming at my stupidity. As steam issued merrily from my ears, Y piped up - Amma, why are you so upset? Is our life in danger?!!!
Ads on the other hand, is well-known for taking things much too seriously. The other day I got back from work and went to pick up the kids from my parent's place. Ads was excited - Amma look I've cleaned up naani's house so well! Naani and thatha were grimly holding onto their seats. I wondered why they weren't moving. Then I saw the lil fella in tears. While sitting down, I had spoilt the alignment of the sofa cushion which was no longer a perfect 90 degrees. All his "neating" was in vain!
No longer can advertisements be taken at face value. S says Ads should be part of the Advertising Standards Bureau. Every TVC, hoarding, print ad is dissected. How can they say this is the best? The most comfortable? The greatest? The best value? How do they know what I like and what I think is the best? Aren't they lying? Welcome to the big bad world of advertising, my little cynic! 
And then this, in Bali. Why are we born if we all have to die one day? 
Okay (deep breath), atleast he's asking all the right questions.

Thursday 6 February 2014

The cycling bug

I didn't know how often I would bike/cycle, but I am happy to report that the bug has bitten me well and truly! The contraption is being duly zipped around the community every second morning, and it is sooooo much fun! Plus, at this stage when I am so time-strapped, efficiency gets top marks from me and I am all for finishing my day's workout in 20 minutes instead of 50. Screaming-in-protest-thighs also get top marks! Biking with S would be even better but currently looks like a distant dream. For now, I will settle for the cool breeze blowing through my hair, great music coursing through the eardrums, and occasional showing-off (Look ma, no hands!) in front of my son who thought Amma didn't know cycling :)

Food and the third kid

S and I have a standing joke, that the amount of food wasted on a daily basis by Ads and Y would comfortably feed our hypothetical third child.
Last week, after the kids had finished with dinner, S looked at the soiled dishes stacked near the sink and said: Our third child is getting pretty fat.
Sigh. While our first two children only grow lengthwise! :)

Tuesday 21 January 2014

On buying a bicycle

We spent a significant part of a precious Saturday away from the children, testing and buying a unisex bicycle at Decathlon. What should have been a quick decision based on one visit to the store and some back-end research, managed to spin itself into many evenings and weekends until I am sure the folks in the bike section were heartily sick and tired of S trying out every bike on display and meandering slowly through all the aisles until he knew whether he liked it or not. That I was a disinterested observer pretending to be enthusiastic must have been evident to all :) My interest levels which had been high to begin with dwindled with every dinner-table discussion, argument and store visit until I said, let's just get this over and done with. 
As it happened, we had almost decided on what to buy when I spotted another make which, at Rs 2000 extra, offered more benefits - cushioned seat, thicker tyres, better looks (though S disagreed) and was far more comfortable for me to ride. So finally I ended up deciding what we would get. We picked up the accessories, paid over the hefty sum charged, got the bike tuned and then huffed and puffed for 20 minutes to push it into the car! We drove back with me grasping the front tires of the bike so that it wouldn't interfere with the gear operation.
Got back home and had just settled down with some chai when S informed me that the gears aren't working! Of course, this was arbitrarily blamed on me - apparently I had been too impatient to leave and he had not tested the gears properly in the store! It's pretty amazing how the blame for random things gets pinned onto me!
Dropped the kids off at mom's again, struggled for another 15 minutes squeezing the bike into the car and drove to the store with handlebars digging into my thigh - thankfully I had enough and more cushioning :) Once the gears were fixed, I drove the car back while S opted to ride back. I left him behind with some trepidation. Will he be able to manage himself on a bicycle after so many years, on potholed roads shared with with crazy drivers and stray dogs? I heaved a big sigh of relief when he got home. Worrying over kids is par for the course but having to worry about the husband is just plain annoying!
This is not the way I like to spend the treasured weekend. But the evident pleasure of the husband as he rode the bike next morning, not to mention the benefits to his knee, made up for it. Apparently father and kids are going to bike together every weekend from now on :) 

Monday 13 January 2014

Singapore, Ads and me

Ads has heard a lot about Singapore from his friends and relatives. So he was excited to holiday there. He claims our recent holiday was the best one he’s ever had...ask him which place he liked more, Bali or Singapore, and there is no doubt in his mind. Singapore wins hands down. He said Bali is a place he’d like to visit but Singapore is where he would like to live! There goes my city kid :( 
His standard answer when people ask him what he did in Bali – temple temple beach restaurant, temple temple beach restaurant. Put that way, it doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? :))
Now, as for me...I admire Singapore. I don’t really like it. Don’t ask me why! But I will attempt a garbled answer. Reason #1 is probably that I can be a contrarian at times...if enough people tell me something is fabulous, you can be sure I will hate it! And enough and more people have told me that Singapore is fabulous over the last 15 years for me to be highly sceptical. Is that a good enough reason? :)
Seriously though, I accept that it’s a pretty good place – its clean, safe, disciplined etc etc. The humid weather freaks me out but I really do understand why people would like it. But as S aptly put it, it’s a place that is frustratingly predictable! And I think what that means is that we like a little (or a lot!) of chaos and randomness in our lives which is something that’s missing in Singapore. And that’s why I find it boring, and that’s my reason #2.
Am I coming off as someone difficult to please? Or one of those people who go to Agra and deliberately do not visit the Taj Mahal, because hey, that’s what all the tourists do? :)
The one reason I’d live in Singapore? It’s a truly fantastic base for exploring Southeast and East Asia. Give us 3 years and I promise there won’t be a country we don’t visit :)