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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Madras Musings I

Been back in Madras for a little over a week now and there are so many random thoughts going through my mind.

Recession seems to have hit a precious few. People are still spending, and the flash of plastic can be seen everywhere – from the grocers’ to the computer store.


Everyone. And I mean EVERYONE has a mobile phone. 3-member households have 4 phone connections including the landline…


The civic sense of the Madrasis has only deteriorated… If there is something lower than rock bottom that is. If you are at a traffic signal, chances are that at least 3 people are spitting in your direction. Wherever you maybe.
And the ‘have penis-will pee everywhere’ mentality continues. The Madras-man is so unashamed of unzipping his pants (or hitching his lungi) to pee, even if it’s on the crowded Nungambakkam High Road or Mount Road.


The Woodlands Drive-in is no more. I never liked the food there, and was always amazed at how unabashedly, unhygienic the joint was, and how it managed to attract such a massive clientele. Yet, the place was an ideal meeting place for many. A place where lovers met. A place where the weary traveller stopped. Where marital alliances were often fixed. Where journalists met their sources. Where politicians convened. Now it’s nothing.
I live around the corner from where it once used to be. I still can’t get used to the empty sprawling piece of horticultural society land. The shut gates, and the muddy area around it, provides a good open air toilet.


There seems to be fewer walls than political parties. Every public wall is filled with combinations of red and black. One corrupt politician vying with the next, to get the attention of a weary population.


Anyone over the age of 12 in M Karunanidhi’s family seems to be assured a cabinet post. Is there no end to a man’s greed? No end to nepotism?

The music scene is on full swing. And no amount of ‘Yaaru Ootla Party’ kind of songs and its popularity, erases the enthusiasm for Margazhi festival.


Chennai is cool and pleasant for most part of the day. Yes, it’s true. I am not kidding.


The autorickshaw drivers’ greed seems to have plateaued. No great hike in their fares since last year.


And every other teenage girl has rebonded hair. I really miss seeing the frizzy Madrasi hair that I seem to have held on to, despite being away from the city.


So Madras has 2 more newspapers than it’s been used to for so many decades. Unfortunately, neither are real value adds.

… random thoughts will continue

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I hate admitting this…

…But I do think I am a workaholic. Though I was eager to take the break, days before I left Doha I had my apprehensions. And now I am SO BORED!!!!! I miss my routine. Of work, of running my home… I even miss O’s school and her homework. All this defined my day and life, and now I feel restless.
I am sure it will pass, and I will become the lazy cow I love being.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Today, I went to the recently opened Museum of Islamic Art in Doha – a fantastic collection of art from Europe, Africa and Asia. A collection that would be only half of what it boasts now if we in India had learnt to take care of our treasures.

Though we love to talk about our rich culture and heritage, all that we are capable of now is splitting hairs over religion. We have scant regard for the richness we have inherited. Just look at how we treat our archaeological sites.

Let me stop the general rant and talk about what really bothers me.

It’s the Maqbool Fida Husain Collection. That’s what upset me.

I can come to terms with the wonderful collection of centuries-old jewellery and daggers and pottery that we have lost to people who better appreciate it.

I think it’s quite wonderful that M F Husain – an Indian – is the only living artist commissioned to do a collection for the Museum, which will include artistic representation of the 99 names of Allah.

The above is his representation of the Last Supper.

But I can’t accept or digest the fact that we’ve lost him due to our intolerance to a country that doesn’t even pretend to be secular or tolerant.

How can we force an old man out of his own home and country? Our temple sculptures and art are far more provocative than what he attempted. We are so intolerant because he happens to be a Husain? Not a Srinivasan or Arjun or whatever…

Please don’t start with ‘would he do this to Fatima or Khadija or …’; that is nonsense and shirking our responsibility as reasonable folks; Till we decided to make an issue of it, Husain was only known as an Indian painter, a great one at that, with a quirky passion for Bollywood actresses.

We, because of our intolerance made him a Muslim painter.

He was so obviously crazy about all things his country boasted of – from Bollywood to whatever else. Yet at 90 he has to live in a foreign nation?

Reading the legends in the Gallery made me want to scream out loud…

Under the title (not of the painting) Controversy and Comprehension hangs the painting below:

And next to that is this legend:

Read it carefully…

In the 1990’s some of M.F.Husain’s works provoked controversy due to the representation of naked Hindu goddesses. However, the admiration he earned from the International community provided protection that afforded him a barrier from the controversy.
The State of Qatar, in its wisdom and tolerance, offered M.F.Husain a residence in Doha. Here, the painter has initiated an important…

…in its wisdom and tolerance?

Let’s forget how ironical that sounds. Let’s just focus on how it reflects on us.

India, the melting pot of cultures and civilizations, couldn’t provide protection to its artist, its citizen, its national treasure.

And worse still, we lose him to a country that doesn’t allow the residents to display (non-Islamic) religious icons in their cars, and only recently deported dozens of families who had dared to congregate and pray in their homes – Indian Hindus and Christians all.

Isn’t it sad that we Indians for all that we like to boast of are not really any better than them?

It makes me angry that we allow ourselves to be held to ransom by a small group of deranged folks… repeatedly. If it’s not the 10 terrorists in Mumbai, then it’s the MNS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, the Jehadis… we allow people with vested interests to dictate the terms. We don’t protest, we even justify it.

Meanwhile, we continue losing our treasures…

Yipee… my baby bump was spotted. At last!

The first time, and now again… my baby bump is not an obvious one.

Apart from those who know I am pregnant, no one can make out that I am some 30 weeks far into it. With the help of some maternity clothes and a dramatic tilted walk, only a few can now guess that I am not just a big woman, but one with a bun in the oven.

So imagine my joy today when in my regular clothes, someone managed to guess that I was pregnant.

It took all my self control to not jump on the rather cute security guard and hug him.

I was at the Museum of Islamic Art entrance, when one of the security guards pointed out my bump to his colleague and asked him to let me skip the metal detector routine. And I wasn’t even doing one of my exaggerated pregnancy walks.

Just hope the guys at the airport check-in next week let me skip the economy class and bump me up to business.

Monday, December 15, 2008

how heavy is your life?

what's the deal with people who have so many dislikes, so many hang ups, so many biases... how do they unwind or just get on with life.

these are well educated people i am talking about -- who can't seem to tolerate people or opinions that are not a mirror image of self.

In short, for these people: if you are not of the same caste or religion, don't speak the same language, have the same quirks, enjoy the same movies or move in a certain circle, then you don't deserve a chance to be respected or tolerated.

If you are so wound up and lost in your prejudices, how do you get a good night's sleep?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

just a job? no! a career, if you don't mind...

if i had a 100 riyal for every time i've been advised this, i would be retiring and going back home for good!
if i actually heeded the advice, i would have far more money than i can care for.

why don't you apply for a job* in Q-Comp-1/2/3...**

*=secretary/pr executive/teaching assistant/school ayah/accounts assistant
(all respectable jobs, if that is what you are qualified to do or want to do)

**=the top Qatari employers that pay obscene amounts as salaries, and compensate by assuring little or no job satisfaction.

there are some who give me this advice out of nothing but goodwill.
i can forgive them.

but there are some over the last 9 years who are pig headed in believing that what i do (after nearly 15 years in this line) is just a job, not a career. most of these are women. housewives who take up temp jobs or women who have no concept of 'careers'.

i asked one of them if she would ask her husband to give up his job as a professional accountant, and take up a job as a sales executive because it pays better. she was offended, yet could not understand why i was uppity about her suggestion to take up a 36-hour a week, teaching assistant job.

why is my claim to a career not taken seriously? i know it's not merely a case of gender bias. a female physician wouldn't be asked to take up a job as a school nurse would she? (or would she?)

it is also the mentality we grow up with -- the only careers worth pursuing are that of a doctor, engineer or chartered accountant.

so if you are a journalist or a teacher or a social worker etc, then you can't really be serious about a career!!!!!!!

and out here, if you have no qualifications to speak of, and no focus in life, then teach. take up the immense responsibility of moulding the young and educating them, because you don't stand a chance in the job market. how pathetic, sad and scary!

i used to get ballistic when people suggested this to me in the past. now i try and explain to them rather patiently why it wouldn't work for me to give up my 'career'. and when i realise that i am talking to someone who is not interested in what i have to say, deafened and blinded by their own reasoning, i just ignore them.

but i seethe inside. just as i'm seething now.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

They didn't punch me in my stomach. Thanks for the advice!

Last evening I took O and three of her friends out for a movie (Madagascar 2) and dinner.

R advising O before we left: "Don't trouble Amma. Listen to her. Don't fight with each other (friends not me). And don't let anyone punch her in the stomach because she is pregnant."

Now, was he giving O and her friends an idea or what?! Because it is not like people routinely punch me in my stomach, pregnant or otherwise!

For what it was worth, they didn't punch me on my stomach.

PS: The movie sucked. No story to speak of, and really boring lines. Nothing catchy. Stupid. And why should a Giraffe fall in love with a Hippo. Isn't it unethical for 2 different breeds to hook up? It didn't help that I am not a fan of animation films.

Friday, December 05, 2008

"Save me from the Autograph hunters. They are terrorising me!"

When Rome was burning...

Or something on those lines.

MS Dhoni (whom I LOVE as a captain/cricketer) is not happy with the 2 dozen cops giving him cover.

So in these tense times, the cops are going to up HIS security.

This is what our country needs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He has definitely come down a rung or two in my eyes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why Khan is a Bollywood title, not a surname

CAST: M=O’s best pal (6 ½ years old); Umm M=Mother of M; O=my first born

M: I want to be an Astronaut

Umm M: Oh, that’s good

M: O wants to be an Astronaut too

Umm M: Really? But her mother told me O wants to be an actor

M: What? Then she will have to be O Khan is it?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It’s still a wonderful world to bring a child in to. I think or I hope or I wish or Am I just plain wrong?

Or rather I think, I think. I have to be right on this one. I am bringing a second one out here, in a few months.

I have a couple of friends who have chosen not to have children. Ever. They are both borderline cynical, but one actually loves kids. They managed to convince their respective partners to not procreate, because they think the world can do without another innocent soul being corrupted.

I am not really Ms Sunshine, but I am an optimist; I have a lot to be grateful for. And I still see the world as a wonderful place. Not a perfect one (but then if it is, how will people sell their religion as the path to heaven?), but a beautiful one.

But somewhere deep inside, my Jiminy Cricket asks me if I am sure. Absolutely sure? And I am not.

I think by hugging my child(ren) everyday, dozens of times a day; by listening to them; by teaching them right from wrong; by loving them unconditionally; by educating them; by giving them a good social environment, I am ensuring that they will grow up as good human beings. Who may sometimes falter, who may have flaws, but who will always try to be better.

I feel by doing all this, I justify bringing a child into this world. I am assuming every parent wants to do this too…

So, did the parents of 21-year-old Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Ameer Kasam really mess up?

Or are hugs and love and education not good enough? Where is his mother? Or for that matter, the families of the other nine youngsters who we know as ‘terrorists’.

What will happen to 2-year-old Moshe? He will never be allowed to forget how his father and ‘heve’ (6 months pregnant at that) died. Eighteen years from now how will he be moulded? How different will he be from the pitiful child crying out for his mother at the funeral service.

Everyday, every moment, there are human achievements and nature's miracles that makes me grateful for being here.
It may be a spider weaving its web, the process of birth, the process of making the baby, a kiss, a lioness chiding its cub with a heavy paw on the head because it’s going astray, pollination, a baby’s laugh, breast feeding, a Bollywood entertainer, a fantastic cricket match, the Mars rover, Chandrayaan, Usain Bolt’s victory dance... and so I think it’s a world worth bringing another child into.

Sadly, everyday there is death and terror.
But like all of us I want to believe it won’t happen to me and mine.
For how long can I continue to believe this?
When will my beliefs be dismantled brutally?
When I board the flight to India?
When I next switch on the TV to watch FRIENDS and stumbled upon a news channel showing a blast somewhere?
When I go shopping for a new bag or underwear?
When I decide to go for an anniversary dinner?
When I am attending a friend’s wedding?
I dread the rude awakening. I hope it never happens.

I want my life to be boring and uneventful.

I want my hugs and kisses to be protection enough for O, Plus and R.

I want to believe that Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Ameer Kasam has never been soothed by his mother, and didn’t have a normal childhood.

I want Moshe to have someone step in and be his mother and hug him, without crippling him with sympathy and hate.

I want to believe that’s all that the world needs. More hugs.

ETA: A colleague pointed out this video on reading the post. Free hugs. What a wonderful idea indeed.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Maximum City

Maximum deaths were at CST. Maximum coverage was not on it though. Maximum blame will probably be on the cops in the station, because CCTV caught their inaction.
Maximum bias, maximum insecurity, maximum snobbery, maximum city.

Added: Gnani has said it much better and much more forcefully here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I am sick and tired...

I am sick and tired
Not just of the bastards who did that to my country – and I don’t mean the politicians alone…

I am sick and tired of those who take on a holier-than-thou attitude

Of those who see demons in everything and everyone

Of those who blame without basis

And of those who dub any opposing view as a ‘generalisation’

Of those who talk about being open to discussion… but only if all that is discussed is in agreement with what they feel or say

I am sick and tired of those who want to act as if sectarianism doesn’t exist in India, or if it does, talking about it makes you a culprit too

I am sick and tired of how bloody indifferent people can be

When I commented here that “I am totally dumb struck by the non-Mumbai folks out here who seem to be rather unmoved by the incident” it was taken as an accusation of me generalising, and making it a Mumbai-nonMumbai thing. When in fact I was making it exactly the opposite!!!!!!!

I don’t care to be rude to people who have an opinion on what I say or write, as some people are wont to do. Because I know when you are rude, your meaning is never heard, only your rudeness causes hurt.

Why did I say that in that comment? There are dozens of reasons why…

I am stating a few here…

1. A friend of mine (born-bred Mumbai, origin somewhere further south) was actually asked with a smirk by at least 3 ‘non-Mumbai Indians’ – What is happening to your Mumbai now? Her Danish and British colleagues showed a lot more sense and sensitivity. They enquired about her family, and then her country!

2. There are quite a few Indians in my workplace. Only some of us were frantic with worry. The others barely showed a passing interest. They didn’t have family there, they don’t know what or where Colaba and CST are. So the attack didn’t deserve more than a ‘ha, yes…” On the very day we were out on work, and at that meeting so many of the foreigners came up to me and asked me about the situation. They saw me as an Indian, and asked me about India.

3. Sun TV carried wide coverage of the cyclone (which all the ‘national’ channels totally ignored. Close to 100 dead and thousands displaced!). Sun TV’s coverage of the Mumbai attack was at best indifferent. While it showed a 15 minute footage of that nepotistic MK distributing bread to the cyclone affected, it dismissed off the ongoing Mumbai crisis in a couple of minutes.

4. When a fellow South Asian told me (in reference to the young terrorist) “When you see bad things, you do bad things”, the other Indians who were with me just nodded. They couldn’t even be bothered to take offence at what that guy was saying. The people who were so brutally murdered, deserved it?

5. Someone who obviously was not following the news told me, ‘I am sure they let go of all the Muslim hostages! And no Muslim died’

6. And more than a dozen people told me, “oh Muslims, no wonder!” I almost prayed then (and I never do) that not one of those terrorists turns out to be an Indian. Because we know what would follow.

7. Then 2 people on Thursday told me that this is in response to what ‘the minorities endured’.

8. I stopped counting at 10, when people either invited me or spoke about catching the latest releases that night.

9. And when I spoke about the indifference of some here, I was asked by a friend, “What if it had happened elsewhere. Not in Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore… Would you still be so upset?” Would I? I seriously hope so. I would probably be far more devastated if it happened in Chennai, because it is my city, and the victims could well be my near and dear ones. But I would be scared and angry wherever this took place… I would feel threatened for my country.

10. One person told me (must be a cousin of R R Patil) that the whole thing seems so much bigger, because of the live coverage.

11. And then so many didn’t even mention the attack.

12. And well, every single person who had these weird comments/ideas was a non-Mumbaikar, they couldn't identify with what was happening.

Does that mean I found no ‘Indian’ patriot here? It doesn’t. Fortunately, R & I are picky about our friends, and they (and their friends) were all angered/saddened/upset/concerned by what was happening.

Unfortunately, during the course of my work day, I interact with people who are not all to my taste or liking, many of whom are Indians. And quite a few of them figure in the list above.

I speak of my experiences, not my personal opinions, so how the hell can someone question that? Don’t we all make up minds based on our experiences?

I am not going to bury my head in the sand and claim every single Indian was affected by this. Because every single Indian obviously was not. And they anger me almost as much as those who did that to India.

We are so divided as a country. So bloody divided. North, South, West and we don’t even give enough thought to the East!

I am also sick and tired of people talking about my right to comment on India because I don’t live there… I have whole different take on that, but will save it for another post.

And one more thing, I here voices out there saying we can’t brand all Pakistanis as our enemies. Yes, let’s not. But Pakistan is, whether we like it or not. At the height of the Kargil crisis when R & I refused to buy Pakistani produce here (we work with Pakistanis and are cordial enough with them), people mocked us, saying we were new to the Gulf, and will soon forget all this. We haven’t. We still don’t.

I agree we cannot blame X who lives in Islamabad or Y in Lahore for this. But as a country, they can’t shrug off their responsibility in escalating terrorism.

I am not done with this rant, so will continue soon. And unlike some, I don’t mind being disagreed with, as long as it’s done civilly.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bewildered birds

The pigeons kept flying back to around the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Pigeons that are as much a part of that landscape as the sea and the Gateway...
Even as they would fly away with every blast or shot, they would congregate again in no time.
They must have been bewildered… as the rest of the country. Bewildered that their neighbourhood is under attack!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Special Question to Raj Bhai

Dear Raj Bhai
How could you allow north Indian commandos and NSGs to enter your beloved city and interfere? What audacity that they could come and rescue Mumbai.
With no regards or love

Someone should tell this asshole now that is what a Nation is about. People not only go where opportunities lie (like to Mumbai), but when in need, it doesn't matter where the eff or who the eff needs it, you pitch in as Indians.

I have some questions? Do you have some

  • Cops, Home Ministry related...
  • What is the budget allocated to our police forces?
  • What part of the budget goes into infrastructure and equipment?
  • Is that really a bullet-proof vest that the cops were wearing?
  • Or was it just some foam look-alike?
  • What kind of training do our cops have in combat situations?
  • What is the use of having a stupid old man as a Home Minister?
  • Are only idiots appointed to the position. Since Advani was one, and he was stupid enough to go to an active area and create distraction.
  • What will happen to the families of all the cops who died?
  • How come the terrorists had easy access to the Taj floor plan, but our NSG didn't have it?

    Emergency services...
  • Why is it that we don't have one? (Qatar a tiny country has a huge fleet of EMS, including air ambulances. The response time of road ambulance is between 7-10 mts max)
  • Why is that we have world-class tertiary care (private) but the more important universal primary health care and emergency services (responsibility of government) is so pathetic?
  • What went through the mind of the health minister when he saw the injured being dragged by their feet and hands as part of rescue?
  • Aren't we worried that the Maruthi Omni we use for ambulances is a very unstable vehicle?
  • What exactly is done with the taxes?

    Not because I am a print media journo, but because it is just so stark -- why are broadcast journalists so bloody unprofessional? (Any upstart who can hold a mic becomes a star journalist)
  • Objectivity doesn't equal insensitivity. Do these people realise that?
  • Is Barkha Dutt a conflict mongering, shallow, sadistic pig?
  • I have worked with some fantastic print journalists, seen them in action -- where ground work and deep though guided their words. So how come these so called journalists on TV are getting away with such nonsense?
  • Don't you have a better question to ask a survivor than: How are you feeling now?
  • Why were there no side stories, that required more than standing in the site of action?
    The print and online media gave the truth about Nariman House much before the TV channels did. What was the support team covering the combat doing?
  • Is it spirit of Mumbai that they carry on with life, or just weariness that the effing politicians will do nothing in any case?

    There are so many more questions on my mind, very few answers… do you have any answers or questions? Will continue...

If you can read Tamil

Please read this spot-on piece by Blogeswari.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fucking Ineffective Governments

Raped over and over again.
If it isn't the bloody religious terrorists then it is assholes like Thakeray.
Bastards all...
When you know the city is under threat, what the fuck was the police/army/ats doing?
After 9/11 didn't US make sure no attack happened again in its land.
Why the hell are we so bloody ineffective.

What colour success?

ETA Post Script

This really weird and depressing news item appeared in Outlook last month. Where will we Indians, draw the line? Why are we so obsessed with being fair -- meaning complexion, not just. Firang sperm? Give me a break!!!!!!!!!
If we obsess about the colour of our skin, there are other equally discriminatory, ego-mocking rituals elsewhere in the world.

Here in the Middle East 16 and 17-year-olds undergo invasive procedures to get that almost unnoticeable tilt to their nose, plump up their lips, curve their cheek bones… Who told them that they are not good enough without thicker lips and higher cheek bones?

I am surrounded by looks-obsessed folks out here. I know people who would skip a doc appointment in favour of a beauty parlour session.

How bad can our self esteem get?

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are bombarded with messages that tell us we are not good enough, as we are.

Have you seen the Garnier wrinkle ad -- where are the wrinkles on the model’s face? Why the hell do we have to worry about something that would be visible only under the most advanced microscope.

Yes, Dove runs real beauty campaign. But it is just a bloody ad gimmick, as the same company produces the mother of all self-esteem crushers Fair & Lovely.

Our hair, our face, our skin, our laugh lines... why is ageing or looking like normal human being seen as such a blight?
I have cousins, otherwise smart and reasonable, who are so hung up about marrying fair women. Why is fair equated with beautiful or even presentable? It's common knowledge that fairer the skin, earlier the ageing!

Now the obsession with skinniness. Different races have different body shapes – a shape determined by nature after zillions of years of research on what would best suit the climate, environment and other conditions of the native region. Why mess with that?
I am not talking about slim vs obese. I am talking about anorexic-thin vs normal bmi.
Yet, even Indian stores stock sizes that would only fit a much smaller build like those from the Far East. Indian women have hips and boobs, and bit more in the middle. That’s why they look drop dead gorgeous in sarees.

If it is not how we look, then it is about what we will become. So bloody well give your child Horlicks, or woe behold he/she may be disinterested in maths and take up arts! What the eff?

What's wrong with dark skin?

What's wrong with child bearing hips?

What's wrong with a little flesh on the booty?

Is it the end of the world if your eyebrows are not quite aligned?

And what the heck is the problem with a bit of fizzy hair now and then?

I am all for grooming oneself well, being presentable and doing what it takes to feel good about self.
But the sad thing is, the more obsessed we get with the way we appear, the more we invest in products and treatment, less happy with ourselves.

When O was born, the first (and last) thing everyone seemed to notice was the colour of her skin. I was ready to throw up my post-natal health food on them… why couldn’t they notice how cheerful she was with visitors? Why couldn’t they notice how amazing genetics is, and she has a mole in the exact same spot on the ear as her dad? Why couldn’t they comment about how healthy she was?

Nopes. Those were not as important as the light skin.

Because R & I are BROWN, and O is a deep beige, people openly wonder how I managed that? What did I eat when I was pregnant? Bleach and Fair & Lovely, pals.

I didn’t realise that this was having an effect on her till a couple of years ago. We were planning on adoption then, and were slowly introducing the subject to her… and O told me she didn’t want a brown baby. That’s when R & I consciously started talking to her about how flippant and unimportant these things were. How could I blame the 5-year-old? She was constantly hearing folks talk about fair equals cute/beautiful. That’s all that she saw on TV, except for the annoying Raven. Fair skin, light hair, make-up. Kids’ channels reinforce these stereotypes too.

I have always been partial towards dark skin. Give me a well-dressed guy with dark skin, a day-old stubble and a smile, I will swoon! I feel light skin only augments all your facial flaws.

Just look at the folks below… can you imagine anyone of them fairer and better looking?

PS: A friend called to ask if I have a problem with 'light skinned' folks. No, I don't. My mum and 2 sisters are 'fair' and gorgeous despite not because of that. I just feel that a majority of us in India are not light skinned, and we shouldn't feel like it is a disadvantage! Does it really matter? And as MG said how boring if we all looked the same. Fair skinned, silky hair, 'perfect' nose or whatever...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Umm finally sees the cons of flexi hours.

I am an ardent advocate of flexi hours. I have seen that both personally and with others, when given an option of flexibility, the will to go the extra length is stronger and productivity is really high.

Of course, there will always be someone who is trying to skive off work or exploit the trust. But by and large, it works well. In fact, the only places where fixed hours -- replete with a time office counting the minutes/seconds -- are still prevalent are government or other inefficient/unproductive organizations.

I’ve been in employment for nearly 13 years, and barring a horrendous 3 months, have only worked in places that offer flexi hours.

Probably because I totally love my line of work, I don’t even realise that flexi hours often ends up as really long hours. Since I am not willing to account for the hours of the day, I go overboard accounting for quality of my work and the load I’m willing to pull.
Often this means working weekends, late nights, without a break…

In every place I’ve worked in I’ve come across pedantic folks who talk about face time, and clocking hours. Folks who would spend hours away from the desk smoking/drinking coffee/praying/chatting. Folks who would leave at the dot of 5 or 6 or whatever the exit time is. Folks who would whine about putting in a few extra hours now and then…
Those folks, I am glad to say, have little or no influence over how I or the people I work with, function.

But after all these years, I am feeling the strain of flexi hours.
I’ve also come to realize that flexi hours can be quite exploitative.

Though during my first pregnancy I experienced no dip in energy levels, this time around I am quite easily sapped. I am now in my third trimester, and find it rather impossible to work without breaks in between. Must be age as well… just a few months short of 35!

And now I wish I worked fixed hours – which here would mean 5 hours in the morning, 2 hour break and 3 hours in the evening. Then when I go home, I go home! I am not working… While at office, I would be taking the dozen 10 minute breaks a lot of people tend to take.

I would have then been in a position to turn down any work that requires me to work more than these hours…

But no, not only did I practice flexi hours, I preached it with passion.

Now it’s too late to retract. So like the fabled dumb mule, I allow myself to be overloaded with work.

I sit glued to my work station for hours without moving or little movement – something that the doc has advised against; I nurse terrible back and pelvic pain/discomfort; I try and manage the ever-growing team with patience that is wearing thin – for no fault of theirs really; I am trying to finish all the work within the sanest possible hours. I come back home to an annoyed daughter (the drama queen feels neglected), try and do the best by her and get down to work again as soon as she is asleep.

The worst part of it all? I have no one to blame, but myself! In fact, I have some splendid colleagues who have chipped in so much to not make me feel or sound like a whiner.

I have only recently learnt to say ‘no’… it used to be a torturous exercise earlier to turn down requests. I just need to practice saying it more often and more forcefully.

So maybe there is something to be said in favour of fixed hours… not that I could ever embrace that system, but I do see the (few) pros of it.

PS: I know that there are people out there who are nodding sagaciously to themselves, and concretising their opinions on why equal opportunity doesn’t work. Just want to tell those pompous asses: try carrying a pebble in your tummy for a day, while carrying on your regular work… then come back and argue equal opportunities with us.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Badly behaved: The child or the parents?

Warning: Really LONG rant ahead.

The first time I woke up to what it really meant to be an (in)effective parent was when O was barely a few days old. A family friend visited with her 5-year-old, who went totally berserk at the sight of a doll-sized human being. Obviously her first encounter with a baby, and totally unprepared for it.
My mother and I had a tough time protecting O from the little girl’s eager hands. She not only jumped around the bed, but tried to lift O up by her wrist. The mother only kept repeating her daughter’s name, increasing her decibel level with every call, till she finally screamed at the girl and roughly dragged her out.
As much as I felt sad for the wailing child, I was relieved that O was safe.
Later I was wondering what I would have done in that situation, as a mother. I would have first prepared O for the visit. Explained that we were going to see a really tiny little person, who is delicate and can’t be touched, but only admired from afar. And if she still ‘misbehaved’, I would try to beat a hasty retreat without creating a scene, without exposing my child to judgement by all and sundry. I would lecture her, on reaching home.

In the last 7 years, R & I have messed up often enough. But by and large, we have handled O well, we think. We have always been able to take her to the restaurant or cinema or mall. We can fly, and even manage long transits with ease. Even if only one of us is travelling with her. Even when she was a baby. Of course parks and beaches are NEVER a problem with a child.
I explain everything to O. I’ve done it long before she learnt to communicate verbally, herself. She knows the ground rules while visiting people, she knows that she will be punished if she goes back on her commitment to behave... And there are times when she has expressed her reluctance or unhappiness to go someplace and we have still dragged her out -- to the supermarket for instance. Sometimes, you have nothing at home to eat, and you have no choice but to take the child with you to shop. You just have to be a bit more tolerant and innovative on those days.
A bribe works great!
We have had the advantage of bringing her up largely by ourselves (making up for all the other disadvantages of the situation)... so for most part of the year we are spared the excessive pampering of grandparents and aunts.
I am not making O out to be a model child (kakkaiku thann kunju pon kunju*). The truth is far from it. But what I have ensured (or am trying to) is that no one calls her ‘badly behaved’ – in my dictionary that directly translates to ‘bad parenting’.

I have met all kinds of parents (the children are all more or less similar!).

There are parents who seem so in tune with their child’s needs, watching them together is like watching a pro synchronised swimming. It’s perfect. It’s beautiful.

Then there is the majority of us – struggling to do our best and not mess up.

And then there is the class of parents – people I can’t even begin to understand. They take pride in the ‘misbehaviour’ of their child.

I had O’s birthday party recently. A party only for kids.

There were a couple of my friends helping me out with the 16 kids. The kids were AWESOME! Some immediately got into party mood. Some took their time. Some preferred sitting by themselves. One was not comfortable being separated from her mum, but she didn’t throw a tantrum. They were all wonderful. They had fun, they painted and played and ate...
The thing is, I’ve seen some of the kids in a different environment, with their parents, and they were out of control.

Case in point (a composite of various cases really):
Immediately after R & I asked O & her friends not to run around outside the party area, disturbing the others in the cafe, a parent pipes up.

Parent: children should be allowed to run around.
R: Yes, in a park, at the beach, in your home. Not in a public place.
Parent: That’s nonsense. I want my child to be naughty and bratty.
Me (to myself): In your time, in your home. Not if it puts others at an inconvenience.
To prove his point, Parent calls child, and asks him to swim on the floor!
And child does, after nearly toppling a shelf of fragile dinner sets.

This child, till the arrival of the parent, was having fun. Was just like all the other kids. Wanted a bit more popcorn, little less salad; wanted face painting and danced rather cutely for the bunny song; listened to the party organiser when she requested all the kids to remain seated and not run out of the party area. Just a child.

What I realised after many exchanges between the parent and child is this.
The child did not feel he/she had a licence to misbehave because the parent was indulgent.
He/she felt he HAD to misbehave, as the parent expected it, found it cute even! Then there are parents who don’t expect their child to ‘misbehave’, but they do seem to think that’s what children do, so there is no need for disciplining.

Children cry when they are hungry/uncomfortable/sleepy.
Children throw tantrums when they are unwell/ignored/in a strange environment.

All situations that parents should attempt to handle, even if they don’t succeed.

But what if a child is throwing food at people or punches at his/her friends? If the child is destructive? If the child is abusive? Then that calls for serious intervention. Not just for the child, but for the parents too. How do you allow that to happen?

I am not judging the child here. But I AM judging the parents.

There are parents who take such pains, to ensure that their child is not a bother to others; Who take every effort imaginable to make sure that the child is on his/her best behaviour in company. I don't follow too many mommy blogs. In fact, it's only MM's blog that I follow, and in this post she talks about tolerance towards kids, and how she avoids or works around situations that may not be child-friendly.

Yes, as parents, we need to be aware that the apple of our eye could well be a sore point for others.

Here I begin my rant on those who are intolerant of children.
What the heck! Even if you don’t have a child, you were one to begin with. So get over it, and stop glaring at the wailing child and embarrassed mum at the supermarket. Stop sighing loudly at the duo on the plane... Just get over yourself, and give the situation a thought.

I can’t understand people who are intolerant of a wailing child. It’s definitely not music to the ears. But maybe the child is genuinely distressed, and the last thing the parent needs is a dozen pair of disapproving eyes on her while she is trying to console the child. There are places that you should not take your child (8mths-8years) to. And there are places that you should expect children, and expect some adjustment.

The Cinema: If it’s a film for kids, expect kids at the theatre. If you are child-phobic, rent a DVD and watch at home. And if it’s not children’s movie, and your child is not comfortable in a cinema and is bound to create a racket, then YOU rent a DVD and watch it at home.

The Restaurant: If the restaurant doesn’t provide high chairs and kids’ menu, chances are it’s not meant for children. So try and avoid. Even if it’s a child-friendly eatery, it doesn’t mean your child can run around, upset food trays or throw samosas at fellow diners. No-no! A friend of mine carries a little activity bag, and some snacks too. So her child is engaged, while we have a good peaceful meal!

A Party: If the invite doesn’t say X & family, then don’t take your child. I have seen people bring their entire brood to official ceremonies. What the hell! If you are taking your child to someone’s house, make sure children are really welcome out there, and that the hosts are not being merely polite.
Now if it’s a party where kids are present, as adults we have a responsibility too. Don’t get drunk and throw up; don’t smoke around the kids; don’t swear and abuse. Don’t be a pain in the ass.

Trains/Planes/Public Transport: If you don’t want pesky kids around, use your private transport. Don’t use public/mass transport and expect the luxury of child-free environment. So often, on a flight, those that are tolerant of drunken idiots or loud snorers, get all irritable with a crying child. If you don’t want a child travelling with you, fly first or business, or better still charter a jet.
And for the parent, during landing or take off, give the child a toffee to suck on. The air pressure blocks their ears and makes them uncomfortable. Carry their toys and snacks and some books. And stop watching the damn movie on the in flight entertainment and pay attention to your child.

Supermarkets: Best case scenario – no child. Yet, you can’t avoid it sometimes. So it’s ok to bribe. Tell your child that if he/she is on her his/her best behaviour, there is a candy bar or toy waiting at check out. Under no circumstance is pulling down produce from shelves and playing building blocks with it, permissible.

Parks/Beaches: If your child has a lot of pent-up energy, parks and beaches are great. Let them get dirty and grubby and play their energy off. And if there is an adult trying to get some peace and quiet out there, tell them they are in the wrong place.

Malls: Most malls have play areas. Again, bribe them. If you have to shop, then bribe your child with an hour on the rides for good behaviour!

School: If you are teaching young children, you need to be patient. Otherwise get a job as a data processor. A few friends of mine (parents of 4 and 5-year-olds) are so stressed out because their child doesn’t sit still and remain quiet for the 5-6hours at school. Or rather they are stressed out because the teacher complains all the time. Reality check please… How is that even possible? For a child to sit still.
Whenever R & I complained that O was being a bit too ‘active’, my wise mum would ask if we preferred ‘manangati’**

Home: Best place to be in, if you haven’t got the hang of being an effective parent. Stay put at home.

Talk to your child.
They are never too young to understand. You treat them like a responsible little person (not a child) and they behave like a responsible ‘person’.
A friend decided to go for Dostana, leaving behind her 2-year-old with the dad. She didn’t sneak out of home or lie. She explained to her daughter that mommy was going out for a while with her friend. And the little girl waved her good bye!
It may not always be that simple. But what is?

For me explaining and answering questions have always worked. I ALWAYS answer O’s queries (R says I am being politically correct by doing so). Even when I am at the end of my tether and annoyed, I will answer her question. Of course, smart ass has learnt a few tricks based on this, but that’s different post.

Another lesson I’ve learnt & am learning is that nothing triggers a tantrum or misbehaviour like when one is being ignored.
There is no point showering the child with attention when he/she is in the midst of a tantrum – the child is in no mood to reason at that point. But just before, when the child is seeking your attention and you are too busy chatting with your friends or browsing the net or watching a soap/cricket match on telly… you are asking for trouble, pal!

* Roughly, crudely translated: A crow chick is made of gold for its mother.
** Lump of clay.

PS: I started this rant 3 weeks ago, but as usual I had way too much to say, and needed the time to trim and edit my thoughts. So it may read a bit jerky...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

150 things to do before 30

This tag is from MG. I will be 35 in a few months, but most of what I've marked I did before I turned 30!
You’re supposed to make “bold” the things you have done.
01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive (but will do it soon!)
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (A cricket game and tennis)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower (unforgettable. also the night i tore my ankle ligament)
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight (too many, too often)

28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster (a tiny one)
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (all the time)

39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends (still do)

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Taken a midnight walk on the beach (R's wooing style)
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day (too often)
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain

65. Gone to a drive-in theatre
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken

69. Toured ancient sites (in Greece, Lebanon and India)
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days (you are joking?!)
77. Made cookies from scratch

78. Won first prize in a costume contest

79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on a television news program as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage (at college, it counts right?)
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music (For my own ears only)
87. Eaten shark (before i turned veg. soraputu, for those who are curious)
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge (only a part of it... but I was over 30 by then!)
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking with the windows open
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication (bread and butter for me)
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback

108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a TV game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse (in Kodaikanal. those silly touristy things)
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. States
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi (veg sushi)
128. Had your picture in the newspaper

129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach

133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream (sometimes a dream, sometimes a nightmare)
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair (i'm greying)
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life (kind of... an accident victim on chennai streets who was just lying there. took him to the hospital. the doctor saved his life)

The tag applies to anyone reading this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Have you seen this?

Today, at lunch, I sobbed and snorted and almost choked on my food. I was surfing channels during the ad break of the 2nd ODI telecast and stumbled upon something called Colors TV channel. What caught my attention was the Hum Paanch tomboy character in traditional garb. So I decided to watch it. Turned out to be a serial called Balika Vadhu, about a child bride. The scene that I chanced upon was where the child bride is being sent away to her marital home. The exchange between the mother who understands everything and the child who doesn’t was so overwhelming.
Now, I am not the weepy kind. I don’t cry watching movies or reading a book. I would wet my lashes a wee bit now and then, but nothing more.
Maybe my hormones, or just maybe the serial. That scene got me going, and then when the child realises that she was going away, and it was no more just fun and games, I let loose. Fortunately, I was alone at home, and could snort and sob to my heart’s content.
And as all net-addicts do, I googled the serial, and voila! Old news. The serial has been a hit for a long time now. And I know about it only now. I usually skip Hindi serials. But this was so well shot, and the acting was fantastic. I could recognise ‘Kajal bhai’ and Surekha Sikri. The little girl was awesome too…
Next step is to hit YouTube for more episodes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

maybe you have nothing to say, but i am still asking. why?

i have this counter going on the blog. sometime earlier this year i got rid of it. because it started controlling my moods. on a good count day i was all confident and high; on a bad count day i was full of self doubt.
then the blog and i came to an understanding. we are there for each other, first and foremost. rest is only coincidental. so i started a new counter. and then i also added the mapping widget. through this little window i know the location of the numbers. people who stumble into or seek out my blog.
on an average there are about 100-120 hits a week, of late.
some i know are repeat visitors.
i have a lot to say on my blog. and i have a lot to say on other people's blogs, as well. and i am wondering why these folks have nothing to say on mine? why are they not de-lurking?
and i've tried to reason out why so few (or hardly any) of those who drop by actually comment.
here are my Top 10 reasons why most passers-by don't comment:
1. they are so overwhelmed by my wit and skill, they are speechless.
2. they are secret admirers and have a fan club going behind my blog-back.
3. they don't understand what i write.
4. they mock me in silence, as they are too polite to voice what they really think.
5. i am plain boring.
6. they landed here by mistake. they were looking for quiet qatar not quite qatar.
7. the widget folks, in a bid to popularise their products, are doctoring the counter and mapping.
8. a glitch in technology doesn't deliver the comments to my box.
9. they are scared that by commenting, they'd encourage me to ramble on further.
10. it's all maya!

Ka-Ching. A peek in to the World without Money. But, no, thank you, I want to have plenty!

On Friday, I took O to the library. Her first visit to a library (barring a car hop in Chennai years ago), and she was quite excited.
Since it was a weekend, the Education City campus where Georgetown University is, was rather quiet. There were a few students lazing around in the library.
She knew she couldn't talk loudly, run around or get chatty with the folks there. She carried her own book to read, since there are no children's books available there.
The problem with O is that her whispers are quite loud. And so I told her unless it’s an emergency she can’t talk at all.
She sat with her Black Beauty till I browsed two rows. By the time I got to the third she was by my side, begging to be allowed to walk around with me. She was touching the books and soaking it all in, and I was feeling rather kicked that she was as enamoured by the rows of books at a university library, as she was by the Barbie nonsense in Toys ‘r’ Us.
I could see that obsession in her eyes that only a fellow book lover can empathise with.
She even managed to identify books she has seen me read. And then she decided to browse the magazines, happy to identify Obama and McCain on covers of magazines, and then totally tickled to find my magazines there too… pointing it out and patting me on the rump.
I was swelling up and was ready to burst – “not bad Umm, you haven’t done so badly as a mother”, I told myself; but (un)fortunately she managed to totally deflate me in the next 15 minutes.
Oh, it’s a long road ahead before I can even begin to congratulate myself.
When I sat down to read the magazine, wondering which other world leaders she would identify, she flipped through people magazine, quickly identifying every second or third picture of a celebrity. There is Miley, here is Grey (Ellen Pompei), here is Sex & the City lady (Sarah Jessica Parker, and oh please let this end), oh and Rachel (of Friends)… I quickly shut the magazine and shushed her… This is way too much Hollywood for a 7-year-old.
I diverted her attention and got her interested in the students on campus, and the opportunities a good education provides. For about 5 minutes.
Finally, I went up to the librarian to check out my books and O couldn’t digest that I was not really paying for the books –
“Even if you are just borrowing, you should pay them money, amma”
Yes, but they don’t take money.
“Oh, then they will really be poor.”
No. They have the money. This is a service that they provide. Something nice they do for the people.
“Even if you don’t give them money?”

That’s when it really sunk in that she hasn’t see anything non-monetary yet. There is always a purchase, talk of money, about affording or not affording. She couldn’t believe that you can get something or do something that isn’t based on monetary gratifications.
The only life she is used to is of absolute materialism. As are most of us.
Then so many past conversations came back to haunt me on the drive back home.

Often, when I tell her something is expensive and wasteful, so I will not buy it, she would ask if we were poor! She has asked me so often if we get ‘richer’ will we have a convertible or 4X4? If we were richer, would we live in a big bungalow with a garden?

And here I was thinking that we were quite comfortably off. That our fair sized apartment had everything we needed, we had enough wheels to meet all our requirements… and yet in her mind, this was not ‘rich’.
We have spoken to her about it at length. That some people do have more than others. But what we have is far more than most. That we never want for anything. Obviously the message hasn’t really sunk in.

Only a day before the trip to the library she asked me what was more important, family or money. I have no idea where the question popped up from. “Family,” I said.
“For everyone?”
No for me. Each person has to decide on what is important to them.
“So I can say what I want”
Yes (and with butterflies in my stomach await her answer)
“I think it’s Money and Family for me.” (And she was watching my face for the slightest expression of disapproval and waiting for my response.)
That’s fine if that’s what you think.
“Because we won’t have anything without money.”
Yes. But if you don’t have people around you?
“Yes, that’s why both are important.”

I did not want to continue this thread of conversation, because I knew I was on the verge of delivering a long right-wrong lecture. But I think she knew already that I didn’t quite agree with her.

It’s scary. What you are, what you are not; what you say, what you don’t say; what she sees, what she never gets to witness; what you protect her from, what she is exposed to… everything has an impact on her. What influence do parents really have at the end of the day?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Unquirky me

I tagged myself to this -- to reveal 5 quirky aspects of my personality. From wordjunkie & nithya -- two blogs I stumbled upon recently.

Now I thought this would be fun and easy. However, I realise that I can't think of anything quirky or unconventional about me. I am so BORING, and that depresses me.

When I really think about it, whatever I like to term as quirks are merely very annoying (to others) habits.

The one thing that comes close to quirky -- I like to wake up groggy 'overslept'. If I am able to wake up without a problem, or have a nap that is shorter than an hour, I feel very cheated.

Apart from that, zilch cute and nice and unconventional things I can honestly attribute to myself. I adjust to most situations, don't have a favourite blanket or teddy or whatever, and think through most issues with my head (even if the initial reaction had been emotional).

But I am going to take the liberty of listing other people's quirks that I find endearing, without mentioning names:

1. A friend not only goes around her car checking all the doors, but insists that whoever is with her double checks the locks too. She does the same with taps!
2. Another friend goes to sleep at 9 sharp. Come what may... even if she is in the midst of a boisterous group of people, she will just nod off.
3. Someone I know can't resist freebie offers. His wife tells me they have enough free mugs and spoons to set up a store.
4. O loves saying the word 'Pregnant' and uses it at least a dozen times a day. Either reminding me I am pregnant, or announcing to everyone she meets -- from the laundry man to the bored neighbour -- that her mother is pregnant. That's quirky quickly going sour...
5. A cousin of mine touches every idol or image of an idol at the home he is exiting (even if it's one he was only visiting, or one he was exiting for the 5th time that day). Can be quite tricky when you want to make a quick exit!

Now, in turn the tag automatically applies to anyone who reads this post.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Book Tag from Shyam

How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
At school I guess… can’t remember the age exactly. But hooked to books ever since I can remember.

Did you own any books as a child? If so, what's the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?I remember buying Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth. Because we had to and my dad gave me the money for that.

What's the first book that you bought with your own money?Oh, can’t remember. But it was after my first part time job when I was 16.

Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?Yes. The Chalet School and Malory Towers series. Even now I am a re-reader. That’s why I buy books that I like, instead of borrowing them.

What's the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
Jane Eyre & Great Expectations. I read the abridged versions when I was about 10, and then later the originals. I love GE especially.

Are there children's books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
Amar Chitra Kathas. I now read it with my daughter, though didn’t read comics as a child myself, as my dad thought it was detrimental to my other interests!

I am tagging EVERYONE who is reading this and hasn't done it yet.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Despite our zillion other similarities (visible only to my schiz mind), Oprah and I don't always agree on her book selection. Still I picked up The Road because it had an interesting plot. The journey of a father and son in a post apocalyptic world; fighting and dodging cannibals... and their continuous banter that displays the fears and hopes of each.
As a book and plot it is an interesting read. But I found the style tiresome. Monosyllabic dialogue exchange, often repetitive, can be tough on the mind and eyes.
And worse still is the arbitrary approach to punctuation. There seems to be a general aversion to commas, making many sentences difficult to comprehend on first read.
Also the use of apostrophes. While he uses he'd (he had) it's (it is), it's just havent, dont, aint, wont (won't it be confused with wont?)... I am not sure if this is contemporary style and is acceptable. But it gnawed at me.
Maybe someone more well-versed and effortlessly fluent in editing and grammar (Shyam?) can explain this.

Friday, November 07, 2008

O Plus Tales II

O & I are discussing how Plus should address her. I am adamant that she be called O-akka or O-chechi. But O wants to know why she can't just be O to her little sibling.
She addresses all her older cousins by name, because they insisted she does, even though I was not too thrilled about it.

I have three older sisters, and I address the oldest (nearly 13 years my senior) as I-ka. The other 2 are just C & M (9 & 6 years older), as they thought it was not too hip to be addressed as akka. Well, these two wannabe hipsters are also responsible for the long, unusual combination of a name that I have.

I address all my older cousins as akka or anna. I love the way it sounds. Unfortunately, I am amongst the youngest of all the cousins, so don't have anyone calling me akka.

I am trying to explain all this to O -- that sometimes these titles do help in the bonding. That my bond with her I-periamma is that much more special because I address her as akka... and I know because of that she is far more forgiving and tolerant of my quirks than the others.

When I have these conversations with O, R gives me that knowing look which reads: Stop brainwashing her.

The last time he did that I snapped. Many of his younger cousins call him R-achayan, and he seems to enjoy that, and his sister is always addressed as A-chechi, so why give me these looks? I am after all allowing her to choose between chechi and akka.

I've got a clear 3 months to continue with my persuasion. And then another 9-10 months before Plus actually learns to say the word.

Good luck to me.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Ungreen Thumb

I have the opposite of a green thumb, and though I have gotten over the initial desperation, something still pricks (and it ain't a thorn in my rose bush!).
I have even managed to kill a potted cactus (and I live in a desert!).
My mum, mil, sister are all fantastic gardners, and can grow just about anything. But me? A green tragedy.
And I get terribly jealous when I see other bloggers like Shyam and MG boast about their gardens, i want to do a 'me too' post.

A few months ago I bought a 'money plant' for O's school project. Supposed to be the easiest plant to grow.
I wish I could say it now looks like this:

Despite me staying away from it and R & O tending to it, it now looks like this:

O refuses to get rid of it, and waters it, in the hope that it will come back to life!

To make up for my 'brown' thumb & deadly vibes, I make do with these (sigh!)...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Love Being Amma, BECAUSE

Because for the first time in my life, someone was dependent on me.
I am the youngest of 4 kids, so was always babied, and hardly ever depended upon! I ended up marrying someone who is fiercely self-sufficient and independent. And I have no particular wifely skills that made him dependent on me. But as Amma I am needed and loved in the most unbelievably gratifying manner.

Because of her I respect my body and myself more.
I am no longer ashamed of or embarrassed by my body. This body protected her. The breasts, that have always been a matter of discomfort for me, nurtured her. And when I pant or feel unfit, I worry that I may not be the healthy mother she deserves, so I try and set things right. I try and work out, add more greens into my food, cut down the junk. I haven’t fully succeeded in this, but at least she got me trying.

Because for the first time in my life, I am not totally selfish or self-obsessed.
Yes, there are times when for the sake of a nap I would allow the telly to baby sit O. And I often take the easy way out and give her maggi or happy meal for dinner. But by and large, I put her interests above mine, and feel good about it.

Because my work seems less exciting/important than her activities/social life.
In a heartbeat I would turn down an interesting travel assignment or meeting, if it’s her annual day/birthday/sports day/PTA meeting.

Because she has made me aware of the need for financial security.
Till she arrived in our lives, I would fight R’s every effort to save and invest. I want the ‘here and now’ thrill of money. I didn’t want to save for the ‘future’ at the cost of the present. But after O’s arrival, one of the first things I did after I got back to work was start a long-term investment plan.

Because she has made me so much more tolerant and understanding of people.
She is a social animal. She loves to surround herself with people. Friends, neighbours, family… she pines for their company when alone. She makes friends everywhere she goes, and she maintains the relationship so well. Calls, play dates (that she arranges herself), an attempt to include her friends and their mothers in my life. For her sake, I bite down my judgemental, opinionated reactions, and open my mind to better experiences.

Because of her I take more effort to dress well.
Jeans and loose shirts were all that I wore. And then I realised that she liked seeing me dressed up – by dressed up I mean, not look totally like a wash out. She loves the way my sisters and friends match accessories, and take time over their dressing. So now, I do it. Though R is always vocal when he fancies something I wear or a look I sport, it still takes O’s little dance and gushing, for me to get into groove. I spend a few minutes extra over my dressing when I take her out or have to drop her in school. I don’t want her to be embarrassed by how I turn out.

Because of her I am careful about my prejudices and biases.
Even if I can’t get over it totally, I don’t make my hang-ups public. I also try and find a middle ground. I don’t want her to grow up imbibing all my quirks.
Because she forgives me so often and so willingly.
I have a temper. A quick nasty one. And I know it’s not easy to forgive. But she does every time. I feel terrible that she does. Terrible AND nice that she does. Because of which I am constantly working on it, and trying to keep it under control.

Because she reaffirmed the power of the hug.
Hugs any time of the day, for any occasion, or for no reason at all. Fantastic, amazing, incomparable power of the hug.

Because she is a tireless negotiator, who is always teaching me new tactics.
Like she still hasn’t given up convincing me that Barbies are not all bad. Little does she know that I had a set myself till I was 16 or 17! Trying to get me to buy her one, she wanted to know if I would be happy if she selected a dark-skinned, Indian Barbie… and that’s when I realised that she knew my prejudices too well. That I had a problem with the blonde-blue eyed ones she had. She is yet to realise I have a problem with their figure too… But she is a right little diplomat, who explains things to me without losing heart or temper. I am learning, still.

Because she makes me fall in love again and again.

Because you can never be sure of yourself.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

**may contain spoilers**

It was quite by chance that I picked up this book by Ishiguro. I had heard of him, but have never read any of his books.
But something about the cover appealed to me, so I checked it out of the library.
It's not a new book. It's about 3 years old.
And I am sure reading it now is a scarier experience than when it was first published.
The book jacket gave away nothing of the plot, so every page threw up a clue, a surprise.
Though the main plot is revealed well before the half-way point, it continues as a gripping read.
The book raises so many issues on ethics, science, research... but does it without melodrama.
Jodi Picoult raises quite a few questions in her My Sister’s Keeper. But that book, though a great read, was all drama.
This on the other hand is so composed and understated that it's like being hit with a wet towel. It doesn't hurt, it stings.

In case, you are still wondering about reading this book or not, may be this will push you to decide. The story revolves around students of a school for clones, bred for organ donation. But it is not science fiction (not like Asimov or Banks at least) -- it's a love story, it's a story about friends, a story about hope, a tragedy, a warning that we just may be messing way too much with nature.

I can't wait to pick up his other works.

yipppppppppppeeeeeeeeeeee it's Obama

He is not even my president, but why am I so excited?
Cos he's HOT!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Listless without a list

If anything must be done, it HAS to be listed!
I can’t quite figure out when this became a habit, a compulsion, a dependency.
I can put a dozen reminders on my mobile; Red flag every mail on outlook; Have all my colleagues remind me of a task; Place post-its on my desk… still the work is likely to remain pending.
But the minute I list them in my little book (a blue one at present), under the date it needs to be accomplished on, the work is done.

No bullets or stars here, it has to be numbered. It gives me a sense of purpose.
So I know that, say today, I have 8 things to finish. And I will go through them one after the other, scoring out with great relish the tasks that are complete.
Once I list tasks in my book, they take priority over every other distraction. I won’t even login to the blog or facebook (my other obsessions) till I am done with the list.

Since I can’t freely pass my blue book around, I have excel sheets for every eventuality and task at work, for the team.
Magazine schedules, weekly schedules, daily schedules… my excel buddy helps me out.
At home I have a little brown book in which I list my personal tasks. Shopping lists, wish lists, to call lists.

I am obsessed with my lists.

Humour me (I’m pregnant!)… how do you get your tasks done? You just remember them (yeah, very smart of you), put reminders on your mobile, post-its, or you have a secretary who does your work for you?

Maternity Break. Loving maternity, dreading break!

For nearly two years now, I’ve been worrying and fussing about what is now of immediate concern to me.
My maternity break.
I knew that I would be having a second one, either biologically or otherwise; I absolutely wanted to. Yet a gnawing fear on how we would manage.

When I was pregnant with O over 7 years ago, I quit my job in the third trimester and stayed at home till she was about 20 months old. She had to go to a baby sitter next door only for a couple of hours a day, 3-4 days a week. Since R works evenings, our situation was/is better than many other families in a similar fix. (He took care of O during the day and will do the same for Plus too.)
However, this time around, quitting my job is not an option. For one, we CAN’T AFFORD it, financially. For the other, I am finally realising the benefits of what I’ve worked hard for the last five years in my job. I am unwilling to give all that up right now.

Call me selfish… but the profession I am in is not something I stumbled upon or wandered into unplanned. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 14 or 15. It’s something I started working towards while still in college. In many ways, for someone who plans so little, this choice alone was well thought out. A choice I made over other far more lucrative opportunities that came my way.
I want very little in life, but the little I want, I want it all… not sure if it makes sense. I WANTED/WANT my child to be born in India. That means a longer maternity break. I WANTED/WANT my children to be exclusively breast-fed, and that means a longer period of flexi-hours. I WANT Plus to have the dedicated attention O received. I DON’T WANT to terminate a career that has taken off rather well in recent years. I WANT the financial comfort we enjoy now, to continue. I am SCARED that all my WANTS are in conflict with each other.
This is my personal angst.

I agree that losing a trained employee for 4-5-6 months may cause some inconvenience for the company. But that’s where planning comes in, isn’t it?
We (the world) can’t afford to keep women out of the workforce. We need them… to meet the numbers, and also because of the expertise a large number of them provide.
What has happened now is that women are being ‘accommodated’ in structures/operations that are outdated.
Efforts to integrate women into the workplace have been add-ons of sorts. ‘Add-ons’ that need to fit in with an existing structure. The reason newer industries attract more women to its muster is because they have been established from scratch, keeping in mind a mixed work atmosphere. For instance, IT, PR, new media…

MadMomma in her recent post talks about this, and there is a great debate going on in the comments section.
This is a universal problem: conflict of the role of women in workplaces, equal opportunities (as against equality), and the personal torment of balancing work and home is universal.

A survey published by the European Equal Opportunities Commission in February 2005 highlights the extent to which pregnant women and new mothers experience discrimination in the workplace.
• 7% of working women were either dismissed, made redundant or left their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination;
• 45% of women who had worked while pregnant said they experienced 'tangible discrimination' such as denial of training opportunities and changes in job description;
• 21% had faced discrimination that may have led directly to financial loss;
• 5% were put under pressure to hand in their notice after announcing their pregnancy; and
• only half the women had a health and safety risk assessment carried out.

In this context, it’s fantastic that the Indian Government has done this. Six months maternity break and two years of paid leave that can be availed anytime before the child turns 18!

In Qatar, women are eligible to 50 days of paid leave from the date of delivery, as maternity leave. And following that, for a year, they can deduct 1 hour per working day, to be taken at their convenience, to support breast feeding.
Not enough, but something to begin with.

We cannot ignore or neglect our primary role. A majority of working women are homemakers too, and that role cannot be compromised. It’s like a house of cards, this card at the very bottom of the pyramid, holding the rest up. Pull that vital card out or displace it, and the rest will come tumbling down.
If a woman chooses to pursue a career in addition to running a home and family, it is in EVERYONE’s larger interest to make it possible: Not easy, just possible. And that would probably mean flexi-hours, tele-commute, and newer ideas that I can’t quite figure out right now.
We need to think more about this. And by ‘we’ I don’t mean women alone.

When I visited the CISCO campus in San Jose a couple of years ago, I almost regretted all the well-paid IT jobs I turned down at the NIIT placement, because I wanted to go for the unpaid internship at Indian Express. Who knows, I would have ended up in San Jose, with my brood of 6 children, instead of the O + Plus I am currently content with.
Every work floor at CISCO’s sprawling campus has a nursing room, complete with facilities to express and store breast milk. And within the campus is a superbly outfitted crèche.
Just perfect, guilt-free working. You take your child to work, and every time you sense a guilt pang, just walk up to the crèche for some cuddling/feeding/kissing/hugging. Mother happy. Child happy. Employer happy, because they don’t have train someone new every time an employee decides to procreate. Win-Win situation.

Back to the present and the future that’s looming large. I have a great relationship with my company, and so far both the management and colleagues have been supportive of the occassional lethargic mornings, forgetfulness and general feeling of distraction. But so far, work hasn’t been affected, as I pull myself out of momentary lapses rather quickly.
I would be fooling myself if I said this pregnancy hasn’t affected me professionally, at all.
I worry and worry some more. Four months out of circulation? And then many more months of restricted circulation… what value would my currency hold?

PS: A tiny part of this is taken from an editorial I wrote for one of my magazines.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Too many thoughts whirling through my mind...

...and not all of them very clear or cohesive. So I am just going to post something that is really worth a read.

MadMomma wrote this.

Meanwhile, Ammani had commented on a previous post that "we would all be better off if we had fewer religions and frankly, a little less of God." Yes, I agree.

And she also said: "They are not discussions but people merely putting forth ideas that they are already convinced of. I do not for a minute believe that anyone concerned would've changed their views one bit. It is merely an exercise in vain."

This I can't agree with. These ARE discussions. And if it has a positive impact on at least one person, it is not an exercise in vain. We are not born with our prejudices and opinions; that comes only with experience and discussion...

As I said, I am muddling through a zillion thoughts, a lot of which makes me terribly queasy and uncomfortable... I am also 'overthinking' this. In bed, while driving, at work, sometimes even when I am reading a book... I am worried about a lot that is happening around me and within me.

So when I can think of this soberly and with a little less emotion, I will put down my thoughts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Finally, they say it!

PS: Unfortunately, there is no weblink. Click on the image to enlarge. If this is not readable -- and believe me, you HAVE to read the entire thing -- then tell me and I will upload a larger image.

Priceless Gavaskar

And I don't mean it a nice way.

Just when the Blue Caps were moving away from being a team of record-setters to a record-setting team, here is what Mr Sunny Gavaskar comes up with, during the 2nd day of the 3rd Test between Aus & India.

Soon after VVS Lakshman scores a century and Gautham Gambhir is a dozen short of his double, Sunny Bhai says:

"Just as Gambhir helped Lakshman reach his 100, not playing foolish shots, now it's Lakshman's turn to help Gambhir reach his 200."

Excuse me, how about some winning advice instead? That they set a big enough score by end of day for the Aussies. After all we have enough wickets in hand.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

O Plus Tales I

Yesterday we went for a 2nd tri scan.

This was the first time O was seeing Plus, and she has been waiting for this for a while. Though she couldn't quite grasp what or how she would see inside my stomach, and was a little worried that the doctor would split me open for her benefit, so she could catch a glimpse of Plus.

At the first scan of Plus, R & I were excited. R is the kind who expresses his excitement with a big grin, and responds to mine with big 'yeahs'.

I talk. Really talk. And O is the Umm's bint in this... she gets all giggly and high-strung and chatty.

So it was an awesome experience to see Plus with her by my side. And probably sensing the presence of chechi/akka (more of that later)... it moved and waved its hands and legs and put up quite a show for her.

And she spoke about the scan non-stop the whole day. She told everyone she met that she saw "'our baby' in my mother's stomach". She wanted to know how the gel and the scan strobe transmitted the image of the baby on to the screen, what the doctor was doing on the computer, how the baby got in, when it will get out...

She woke me up to the whole miracle of nature and technology. Just when I was getting impatient with the long wait ahead, and tiring a bit... she injected energy into this pregnancy.

It's so wonderful to see things from a child's point of view -- because they take so little for granted, they don't shy away from expressing their amazement, and are not embarrassed to show their excitement.