Drop the struggle and dance with life!

Jan 4, 2013

And the cop said “…you are a good mother”.

And the cop said “…you are a good mother”.

But he was comparing me to all the crappy examples of parenthood he sees on a daily basis in the course of his work, so not sure if it counts as a resounding endorsement. Then again, many tired, sleepless people go through life without hearing the words “You are a good parent”, so I will take my compliments as they come, even the back-handed ones.

Here is how it happened: I put my baby son & his carseat in the backseat and slammed the door shut.
I placed my handbag and the keys on the frontseat, and slammed the door shut. 
Walked around the car to open the boot and place the stroller in… and IT WOULD NOT OPEN.

Now, to those of you who don’t know me, I do not like shortened misspellings, ill-conceived sentences and all CAPS. I like to be polite, even on paper. So, you can imagine my frustration if I’m using all CAPS. Let me say it again- MY CAR DOORS WOULD NOT OPEN.

Did I mention my baby was inside?

After a moment of stunned disbelief, I checked everything again- yes, the keys were still inside. My baby son was still inside. I was not inside. I was definitely outside.

I always thought when something like this would happen, I would be perfectly calm, composed and poised. I would be a model of controlled adrenalin rush, an exemplary specimen (speci-woman?) of strong, sensible parent, getting things done.  But in reality, I was frozen. Whatever parts of me that were working, were not functioning properly -I was a mess of shivering hands, sniffing nose, teary eyes and babbling mouth, accompanied by burning chest and fire in the belly.

Oh, I did manage to call 911 within a minute of discovering the locked doors. There was simply no way around it. And then I spent what was most definitely the worst ten minutes of my life- making rounds of my car, checking the doors repeatedly: driver side door – locked, back doors – locked, boot – locked, driver side door- still locked. Going in circles, checking, double checking, as if a door would be magically open all by its sweet self.

I had my husband on the phone by this time. Poor guy, too far away to help me, goes “Is the baby O.K.?”
“Yes, he fell asleep!”, I assured him.
“Fell asleep or fainted due to cold?”

Took the wind out of my sails, it did.

The police came exactly ten minutes after my call. The cop was basically there for moral support. He called a working crew to open my car and we waited another 15 minutes for it to make an appearance.

Apparently, many people lock their keys in the car.

Apparently #2, some idiot sued the county police for damage to the car when they assisted someone in distress, so no more opening doors for civilians. Not even the prettily crying kind.

So I leaned in closer to the cop and said surreptitiously, “Do you know how to open this car?”
He replied, “Yes”
“Can you please open it?”
“Like I said, we are not allowed to”.
“I promise not to sue!”
And he rolled his eyes, “That’s what they always say!”

Exactly 40 minutes after I locked my son in the car, I had him in my arms. In a moment of self-deprecation, I told the cop that I have never done such a ninny thing before. He assured me that as long as locking him in the car was the worst thing I have ever done to my children, I was a pretty good mother.

Feb 21, 2012

Eating for two

Couple of weeks ago, rushing from one chore to another, I had this sudden urge to pull over the car and simply cry. So, there I was, in the middle of a cold afternoon, pulled-over, hazard-lights on, sobbing on the shoulder of Rt27. Very unsympathetic shoulder, I should add. Between the hiccups and the sniffles, it occurred to me that I was simply busy, like always. Why it did break me down this time around?


Realization bloomed. Like the Bharathiraja movies, everything stilled around me, the coconut trees, the crashing waves, the zooming cars (just stay with me here, ok? It’s my story and if I want to use messed up imagery, I will), and I came to the conclusion that I might just be pregnant.

And everything faded into insignificance, as this thought took a life of its own (no pun intended)! A quick round of doctors and a battery of tests confirmed it. We announced my first pregnancy at 5 weeks, giddy with excitement and pride. This time around, since we are grown up and all, we decided to test our capability to withhold information and divulge it at the right time.

Which is right about now.

YAY! We are extremely excited to announce that we are expecting a little one in September 2012!

My darling daughter can't keep a secret you see, so initially we decided to tell her a little late. But couple of weeks ago, I was tired, she was cranky, and we were fighting. At one point, I was terrified she was going to crash into me, and my instincts kicked in. My panicked “Stop!” terrified her, since I usually refrain from yelling (at her that is. I have no compunctions about yelling at Arun).

Then came the “Mommy has a baby in her tummy” talk, followed by “How did the baby get into your tummy?” and then, “How is the baby going to come out?” Whew!

She became so excited, she wanted to assemble the crib we have stored in the basement, she put away one of her blankies for the baby to use, and made space for the baby clothing in her closet.

So I explained to her that the “Baby is not coming tonight”.
She simply rolled her eyes, “But we need to get ready!”

Since she will be in Kindergarten coming Sept, she practices her name and ours, every day. She wrote that, and she goes “Amma, what’s the baby’s name?”
“The baby does not have a name yet”
“I don’t know...”
“You can name the baby if you want”
“ok… is it a boy baby or a girl?”
“I don’t know”
“How can you not know?! It’s inside your tummy!”

Which was my cue to laugh. I told her that I cannot “see” the baby, so I don’t know if it was a boy or a girl. But she can still name it. So she called it ‘Flower baby” and promised me that it will be a neutral color flower (not pink or purple), so that if it’s a boy baby, he will not be embarrassed.

Now that she knew, she told everyone in her school the very next morning. When I went to pick her up, all the teachers congratulated me. The next day, all the parents were wishing me well – turns out, the kids went home and told their parents that Shri’s mom is having a baby!

We were delaying having another child, citing lack of strength, time, energy, financial and emotional resources required, the fear of a second 20 year commitment, and a hundred other things. Now that the decision has been taken out of our hands, our reservations haven't diminished, nevertheless, acceptance has kicked in. Whatever will be, will be.

Besides, my dad assures me that having a child is not a commitment of 20 years, but that of a lifetime.

Sep 7, 2011

How I met my daughter

Not just me, but everyone I know, is so anxious to fill their day, plan every hour if possible. The day should be productive (let me state right here how much I hate that word). There has to be a long list of items to be rattled off to the question: “What did you do today?” If, by chance, one has a few minutes to spare, it should be spent on something worthwhile, or at the very least, self entertainment.
Lunch time at work is spent checking personal emails, daily commute would be the best time to make calls and keep in touch with friends, walking or jogging accompanied by music, the interval between hitting the bed and falling asleep with books, waiting in a line at the library or the grocery store can be made productive by checking FB or news or something.
Multi-tasking is the new norm. Don’t you believe me? It’s on every job requirement posted online.  To move from one chore to next, from one email to another, one appointment to subsequent one, makes a soul feel accomplished. Every weekday is routine, from work to chore to child to dinner to sleep. Every weekend is filled with activities, parties, family time and all the rest.  Freetime filled with books, music, movies or sports.
All this planning and productivity has taken away something so significant from us, and the worst part is that we have not even noticed it gone. That, my friends, is simply atrocious. This thought struck me on a recent weekend, when I experienced something so novel, I was flabbergasted and paralyzed.
A lunch plan fell through and guests did not show up. My laundry was done, kitchen and whole house clean (due to the aforementioned guests), plants watered, emails checked and calls returned. It was pouring cats and dogs, discouraging any outings. There was nothing, nothing on T.V. I browsed for a few hours, catching up on friends’ blogs and news. I played castle, kitchen and puzzles with my daughter. Colored some more. And then … And then I got…
I did not know what to do. I had nothing to do.
Boredom. Hmm... I said the word a couple of times as it felt unfamiliar. Then I thought of how many synonyms I can come up with- five: tedium, lassitude, ennui, doldrums, and languor
I thought some more about it, trying to decide whether I liked it or not.
And then I realized something else. Not only do adults fill their lives with ‘productive’ (did I mention I hate that word?) activities, they have done so with their children too. And I’m, too, guilty as charged. I plan my daughter’s day with meticulous care. From her playtime to naptime, her creative time to meal time, she goes from one thing to next.  Travel time is also ‘productive’ with word games and rhymes. As a last resort, she will also be given cartoon time and iPhone game time, to avoid boredom.
I recently had a very weird conversation with my husband where we discussed letting her stay with her grandparents for summer. I was worried that she will fall out of routine and will have trouble getting back to school. *Headdesk*
Did I really say that? Am I so old (*gulp*) that I don’t remember my summers, that were filled with nothing? NOTHING!
Summer camp! Bah! In summers, I was left to my own devices. I climbed trees, stole mangoes, collected peacock feathers, waded streams, caught bugs, made mud pots, found henna leaves, tasted local flora and fauna, and in my teens, moved on to exploring the storage rooms for antiques, sketching people, gossiping with girls, putting on plays, cooking abysmal food, experimenting with herbal concoctions.
All of that because I was bored and my parents did not tell me how to fill my time.
The burden on entertainment fell on me. And being an inexperienced kid/teen, the planning fell way short of keeping me busy. Thus, I came up with so many things to entertain myself.
As for travel, my childhood travel consisted of looking out the window, staring at the scenery and watching other travelers. I figured out most of the traffic rules by the time I was five, learnt about the position of the sun in relation to the direction we were traveling when I was six, I had an excellent sense of rough, unsafe roads versus well-lit safe ones by seven. And I did learn a lot about body language through all the people watching.
The above activities were results of sheer boredom. Not one productive thing was achieved though them. I feel like I’m depriving my daughter of something by not letting her to be bored. She has all her time and activities planned by me.
That is not good, not good at all. I felt a little irresponsible doing this, but I guiltily curbed the voice screaming “You will ruin her!” and left her to her own devices one evening. No instructions about what she should play or do or watch.
And the most amazing thing happened- I got to see what she is like. I got to see what she likes.
 I met my daughter.

Jul 29, 2011

Life without a cell phone

From a novelty to a necessity, the cell phone has now become an appendage, an extension of your arm. I'm not going to spend any time on how important it is- I'm sure you have figured that out all by ourselves.

My cell phones so far, have been hand me downs. My first was my dad's Nokia, which weighed a ton (well, it felt like a ton) and was bulky like a brick. My latest was a flip phone that had seen better days in my husband's hands.

I had the same phone for over four years, which is a feat by itself. And in my clumsy hands, it has suffered such grievous injuries, that if only it could file a complaint, I assure you I would be tried and convicted of manslaughter many times over.

It whined, it screeched, it cracked and it fell sick. I tried, you know, to get it some help. I got the best charges, the best batteries. But I think it had given up on making my life easier.Then, there were the temper tantrums which I couldn't alleviate. It wouldn't speak to me for days, after which, possibly overcome by a sudden fit of un-ignorable guilty conscience, it would let me know all the missed calls and messages at the same time. One fine day, about  6 weeks ago, it finally died. Now, my instinct was to rush and get another. After all, how would I go on without a phone?

Apparently, I can go on without a phone just fine. In fact, it was more than fine- it was fabulous. It enriched my life: Pressing send and dialing the number is the norm now. What happens when there is no send button? Have we not seen the FB messages from friends who have lost a phone and lost all the contact numbers too? I actually know my friends' phone numbers now.  The numbers are un-erasable, retrieved quickly upon need, locked away safely in my head.

I know the date and have acquired an uncanny knack for judging time. I can actually add two digits numbers without the aid of a calculator or a pen!

Being deprived of the benefits of making phone calls, I had to write down the directions meticulously, so as not to get lost. And of course, there was no question of making last minute changes to plans for someone else's conveniences. Since I had no phone, everyone had to stick to the original plans.

Things are sounding more appealing by minute, aren't they? The finest leverage here is that I do not have to answer impulsively or make impetuous decisions. People can't reach me- so they email me or leave a message at my home phone or call my husband. So, I get to hear the matter first, assimilate it, think it through before taking any steps.

See, here is the heart of the matter: have you ever thought about the long list of contacts at your fingertips, people whom you can reach without a moment's notice? Ah Ha! It's actually you who are at their finger tips- they can reach you whenever they want. Not me, can't reach me. I speak to people when I deem it fit.  

Now, don't get all uppity with me- you know I would always take your call! :D

But, I think my days of freedom are now numbered. I can see my new phone looming in the horizon, getting obtrusive by the minute!

Jul 21, 2011

Lacking hindsight, what say you?

I have heard the condescending arguments about how women can’t drive or park, mostly from men who cast aspersions on women. Not that I condone them (arguments or men), but I do have a confession to make.
In the six years that I have been driving in the US, I have never (ever) gotten a ticket. Never been pulled over for speeding, running red lights or any other offence. Now, why am I mentioning this? I do have a point. Make that two points, actually.
First, I do have violation tickets: from the esteemed and diligent security guards of my employers, who had thought (twice!) that I have parked crookedly. Thus, they left a ticket on my windshield stating “Incorrect-Parking Violation”. Now, that paper is not much- I don’t have any fines or fees. I simply read, huff and toss.

Apparently, I cannot park correctly.

I, who have never been reprimanded by the cops, got ticket from guards! (Now, there is slight thread of egoistical insanity in that sentence, along with some form of grammatical error. Both of which I’m going to assiduously ignore since I do not want to digress).

Which brings me to the second item. I have been in two accidents (why, thank you for asking! No, I was not hurt). I think I may be misleading you with the word ‘accident’, which indicates that at least two cars were involved. Both of mine occurred when there were no other cars in the vicinity. Yes, I did it all by myself, no outside assistance needed. They were accidents in the sense that I had no intention of damaging my car, but I did.

Both the times, curiously enough, I was driving barely 2-3 miles an hour. I was crawling in reverse gear, pulling out of the parking spot. The first time I misjudged the distance and bumped into a monster truck, wrenching the bender; second time I grazed against a pillar and broke the side mirror. Since all this was happening, as I said earlier, at 2-3 miles/hr, I could clearly hear every bump, grind, crunch and screech. Curiously still, it was my husband’s car that was victimized twice by my… err, driving expertise.

And apparently, I do not drive well in reverse gear, in spite of diligently checking my mirrors.

Lacking hindsight, what say you?

PS: My car did get towed, for no fault of mine, which is a separate issue altogether. Please read "A Full Circle, where cops become buddies" in Apr 2010. I have new version of blogger, and once I figureout how to insert hyperlinks, I will do so. Until then...

Jun 21, 2011

Olio! Reopened!

(Clearing throat, in a melodious hostess voice):

Greetings of the day! I welcome you to Olio. We are excited to announce that our dear Chef has returned after an unexpected hiatus. Also, I apologize for the wait- I know that four months is a long time, but rest assured that we will make this dining experience worthwhile for you.

We are so pleased that you have decided to dine with us! I’m your blogger for this evening; won’t you step this way and scroll down to read? How do you like this seating- I’m sorry that I cannot accommodate you anywhere else, as your seat right now is the only place where you can read this blog.

Tonight’s specials are self-indulgent craziness garnished with expected results, served with a side of ridiculous suggestions and morbid curiosity. The Chef recommends that you do not part-take of any wines or liquids with these specials, as we are not responsible for you choking to death with laughter.

Previous dinner menus are located to your right. If you have not dined here before, please do visit it for a flavor of Whooshing Ducks, Birthday Cakes, Splashing Water and other such delicious entrees.

::Bon laughter!::

I don’t want to go into the details of self-indulgent craziness with expected results. I think I have quite beaten that topic to death. My indulgence with talking is popular (err...notorious?). And the expected result is always, always my hero complaining about the amount of noise I make. Apparently, I talk in my sleep too! Come to think of it, I might just sympathize with him for being married to a chatterbox. (Mind, I said ‘might’!)

My decision to blog had multi-intents: typing my talking (to give his ears some rest), find other ‘listeners’ for all the nonsense I spout (and count on # of hits says I have a lot of listeners) and finally, trying my hand at humor.

Romance, tragedy, even describing battles and politics any writer can do, but making someone laugh through words is simply difficult. One does not have cues to see how someone reacting, which is very significant in deciding to continue, or alter, or altogether stop the joke. (Or something in that vein which actually makes sense!) So, you write what you think is funny and wait for the laughter- oh wait, written humor does not award this instant satisfaction, you can’t hear anyone laugh. Unless, it’s right behind your back for the idiocy written previously.

For some reason, my dear hero derisively seems to think that I can prattle on almost any topic (which I can, technically). But when he voices that opinion aloud (recap: that I can prattle on almost any topic), it does get my hackles up.

I should probably mention that he ‘voiced his opinion’ rather gingerly, awaiting my out-burst. Any mention of how much I talk indubitably leads to how much he does not talk, the argument which spirals into oblivion with no peaceful end in sight.

He suggested that I take up standup comedy.

Yes, that sentence deserves a paragraph by itself, with ample space, because for that’s how I long I was stunned into silence. (Silence! Me!) A few seconds later, my faculties caught up with my surprise and I was able to quickly determine some things:

1. I can talk. (Duh!)

2. I can talk standing up (wheeee! I can multi-task!)

3. I think I’m funny (whether others think the same, is a debatable point).

Ensconced in my family, in my community, I have been safe from failure. The polite society demands that one should smile or laugh along, to keep up appearances. To step out of this dream audience, and market my humor? His ridiculous suggestion has me morbidly contemplating… Should I? Dare I?

Mar 30, 2011

Oh! To be proud!

I have been putting this off for quite a while! Thanks to everyone of you who bugged me to write again. :)

This one is for you.

Kids are not much into subtleties or ambiguities. It makes their life simple, and choices straight forward. Wondering about reasons and discussing validity is pretty much reserved to the grownups. It’s the unhappy provenance of maturity to see the gray shades!

As a sign of such maturity (yes, I’m mature! Go figure!) I wondered about pride. I can understand why lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, wrath, and greed are on the deadly sins list. Why is pride on it? And not only is it on the list, it’s considered the worst of it!

To be red in wrath, and green in envy, to languish in sloth, and drown in gluttony, to want more materialistically or physically, can all lead to general problems and specific harms.

But pride? Does not the management announce how proud they are of various teams’ performance? Does not the principal declare that the football team ‘has done them proud’? And the newspaper reports how the local man made his hometown proud by doing something? Did not my mom say that she was proud of me for not eating all the chalk pieces in the home? (I know, I was a weird kid!). Doesn’t everyone go on & on about national pride, causes pride, civic pride, vegan pride? Is everyone collectively sinning then?

My younger self simply scoffed at such inconsistencies. It would be beyond the scope of a young kid to realize that there are such subtleties in life, let alone grasp the intricacies of understanding it. Nothing in life is straight forward- sounds can have different meanings based on the language, and so can pride differ based on the situation.

Pride can be about writing an article well, or whipping up a meal for 15 flawlessly or getting recognized for you performance at work. Pride can be the result of appreciation from others, and any degree of appreciation is encouragement for betterment. But when that achievement becomes a bench mark for everyone else, and when that same level of dedication or belief or performance is demanded of everyone, no matter their uniqueness, is when pride becomes Pride.

Pride can lead to holding grudges simply because there is no room for leniency. To think that you would not have behaved in the similar way and therefore they should not have either- it’s a flawed argument, as they did behave that way and offend your sense of self-worth. Thus pride should be tempered with mercy.

Pride can be about the inherent goodness of a group generating loyalty- such as belonging to the Nagarathar community or college fraternity or even the cricket team. But it can also blind us, thus over-riding any objections raised against the group, disregarding the view-points of others simply because you are too proud of the group to hear about it. Thus pride should be conscious of tolerance.

Instead of being a drive for achievement and betterment, it becomes a character stumbling block, a self-importance taken to the level where isolation is rampant. Setting up high standards for one self is not enough, as intentions need to be followed with actions. When we fail to achieve self-imposed standards, Pride should be woven with acceptance- of failure, of disappointment, of differences.