UMM O+N is now at

Umm has moved to Wordpress.
And those of you kind enough to list me on your blog, please update the link:
Let's go...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

our past defines us

but should it dominate your future?
we all have a bit of baggage from our past that we carry forward. experiences that define our choices and our actions.
but of late i've been meeting people who have so much excess baggage from their past, they do not give an opportunity for present experiences to influence them.
they are so badly hung up about what had been, that their view is so coloured.
it's scary. how bad could their childhood or adolescence been. or is it just fashionable to have a therapy-worthy past?

Monday, September 29, 2008

i thought about it &

the answer is still the same.
My friend, who refuses to comment on the blog, but calls in from Dubai with her wisdom, disapproved of this post of mine. She feels I am picking an issue where none exists.
If servant maid (not comfortable with that either) is fine, houseboy is too... and if I can use the term cleaner, people can use the term houseboy.
I've thought about it.
Names is the way to go. Their christened names. But as a generic usage houseboy just doesn't cut it.
So RJ I really thought hard about what you said. And I disagree. I am not being over-the-top and selectively politically correct.
And save your money and comment, girl!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What do they do?

those who don't read at all. or don't read anything other than the newspaper?

what do they do those last minutes before they nod off?
what do they do on long bus or train journeys?
what do they do while waiting at the airport lounge or on the flight?
what do they do to unwind, imagine, lose themselves in a different world, or forget all their worries?
what do they do on those difficult mornings on the pot?
what do they do while at the doctor's waiting room?

seriously, what do people who do not read, do?

almost everyone in my family -- parents, siblings, in-laws, husband, daughter, and most of my friends read. all the time.

but i do have a niece and a couple of friends who don't. and i've noticed that all of them use the word 'bored' more often than the rest.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Random Whys...

The tech-support guy, on my ISP trouble shooting helpline, flirts with me... And I flirt back, giggling! Mentioning a husband (had to, the service is in his name), but keeping mum about the 7-year-old and the little peach in my womb. WHY?

I feel uncontrollably thirsty, the minute I step out of home, when I know I can't have anything to drink or eat outside, during Ramadan. WHY?

When things are going smooth, and there is little to irritate or annoy me, I think long and hard for things to quarrel about with R. WHY?

Unintentionally and embarrassingly, I tend to imitate accents of those I am speaking to. Especially true when I am speaking to Tamils, Malayalees and Arabs. Fortunately, not tempted to do so with the Punjus. WHY and WHY?

Pick-up and truck drivers bring out the offensive driver in me. WHY?

I judge people by the footwear they wear. It tells you everything you need to know about the person. WHY?

I hate that R works out and is so health conscious. WHY?

I find it difficult to trust Indian men who have light eyes. WHY?

I can't trust men who are overly chivalrous. WHY?

There are people I know who can hardly manage a good word about anyone. WHY?

There are folks I know who would put the bathroom mat to shame. They take so much nonsense. WHY?

Some think tears work well as a negotiation tool at work. WHY?

But I feel it's fine to use tears to get your way at a personal level. WHY?

All Managers seem to thrive on double talk and scheming. WHY?

I am still jealous when my mum spends more time with one of my sisters than with me. WHY?

I am inexplicably jealous of famous writers, who don't know me from the wino on their street. WHY?

I hate the way I am when I haven't had a wash, and love the clean, nice feeling. Still, I find it difficult to get my fat a** off the bed/chair to do the needful. WHY?

I love to see plants in the house. I love the gardens my mum/sis/MIL have. Still, I managed to kill the cactus and money plant at home. WHY?

I LOVE food. HATE to cook. WHY?

I have immense patience and tact at work (though colleagues may disagree). But am totally lacking in these aspects, at home, with family. WHY?

I feel quite great about myself and the way I look while in Doha or Bangalore. Most of the time. But the minute I step into Chennai, I feel sloppy and unattractive. WHY?

The only time I think I am overweight is when I go shopping at designer stores. Even the scales don't bother me. WHY?

I think it's better to be fat than to be totally skinny. And I don't think it's a matter of sour grapes. WHY?

It takes me longer to warm up to a thin person, than to a not-so-thin person. WHY?

Despite the last few WHYs, I am not obsessed with weight. Not a why, but REALLY.

... maybe continued.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

what mould do you fit?

it starts at school... this urge to fit everyone into moulds. not just physiological -- tall, short, beautiful, cute, could-do-with-nose-job!

and it's not just about trying to fit a personality mould either -- cranky, cheerful, angry, selfish, selfless, friendly (we are all one or the other at some point in the day).

then it's the environmental classifications, as well.

O comes back from school telling me how her teacher couldn't understand why i did not share the surname she and her father did.
apparently, she asked her more than once if she was sure my surname was not C.
O handled it well, as we have had this conversation before. because i have explained to her that i prefer keeping my name alone, and when she is old enough, she can call herself as she pleases.

i don't carry any surname at all. My given names are a mouthful by itself, so i dropped my dad's initial/name. in the south, surnames are not really common. you just take your father's first name. or the initial. so i was C. V S for a long time. and when i had to give a name for my bylines when i joined Indian Express, i decided V S would do just great. and marriage to a C-surnamed person, didn't change the resolve.

so already the teacher (whom i totally adore otherwise) is trying to fit my whole family into a mould -- the Cs.

i hate being introduced as Mrs R C -- especially by people who know my name. one of my sisters, who hasn't taken her husband's surname, sent out a communication to all, that her name will not change post-marriage. and when some very stubborn people still send letters or cards to her, addressed Mrs and Mr D or Mrs D, she returns it with a polite note that no Mrs D resides there, but a certain Ms M C does!

you may consider it extreme -- but what do you do when people try to force you into a mould, even when you expressly convey your dislike or disregard for it?

now, i log in to the school website to check O's profile, I see 'Christian' marked against religion. this when we didn't just leave the column blank in the school form, we actually ran a line through it. even the birth certificate we submitted doesn't contain details of religion. but apparently some know-it-all decided that with a surname like C, it has to be a certain religion.

i know i have a huge scene in the making at school -- and R would probably disuade me from doing so, as i have earned quite a reputation there already! -- but i don't want O trying /struggling to fit into all the categorisations thrust upon her. Malayalee/Tamil? Christian/Hindu? Daughter of Journalists=journalist-in-the-making? (oh, goodness forbid, hope not)

there are some things she can't escape, for now.
daughter of V&R, an indian; legacy of uneven teeth and quick temper from mum...
i don't want her burdened with more.

PS: I sent R out on this job, and he explained to the school official that we were a multi-religious family, and did not want any one to be highlighted. the detail was deleted without a protest. -- Sept 21

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the best love of all

is the love of self.
And that comes only with self respect.

On Monday I started my pre-natal yoga classes. during my first pregnancy, I started pre-nat yoga only in my 6th month.

There were 3 other preg women in the class. One in her 7th month, another at the end of the 4th (like me) and the teacher, who is in her 37th week, ready to pop it any minute.
They all looked perfect -- perfect figure, perfect rounded belly, and perfect postures.
They were in and out of aasanas with such ease.
In my more uncharitable moods i would probably call them self-obsessed, for preening over their perfect bods.
I realise now that it's self respect. Respecting their body, and their personality. and that's a wonderful thing to do for yourself.

There was also a non-preg teacher-in-waiting (Monica) , to step in for Emma when she delivers.

I was, unsurprisingly, the least fit in the class.
But only in comparison.

I surprised myself by how flexible I can be, despite my fast growing tummy. the problem is with maintaining the distance between my shoulder and my ear -- as Monica pointed out, I’ve been trying to compensate my big bust by rounding my shoulder.
Obviously this not only creates bad posture, but makes you look like you have a combination of big busts and bad bras. Which is not true. I take more effort and spend more money on my bras than on any other piece of clothing.
So i am now consciously trying to maintain the distance between my ear and shoulder, and to look less like Gladstone Small.

The last two days I've been looking around and checking out people's postures. It has nothing to do with their body shape, weight or height. It's something more; sometimes you can't quite pinpoint.

Like how short someone is till you stand next to them or measure them, because they carry themselves tall. similarly, the big women who walk light. And then there are the tall ones who stoop and the skinny ones who bend themselves in the middle...

I guess Yoga is the best way to set that posture right.
This is where I go...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

If he is a HOUSE BOY...

... who are you? Mistress of Anal Snobbery?
I hate this term -- house boy.
House boy = Grown men, who, due to a sad twist of fate, end up in poorly paid jobs in the Gulf and try earning some extra bucks in their free time by cleaning homes and doing random chores, for measly amounts.

Can't we at least afford them some dignity and call them Cleaners or Helpers? But, House boys? Who the hell do we think we are? Isn't colonialism a thing of the past?

I know people living in palatial houses, with an income of over $10k a month, who grudge the $100 they pay these guys for cleaning their homes.
If only I had a riyal for every "Just because we live in a big house he is asking for a hike!"
Hike of what? $20?

Before I digress, this is not a rant about people's generosity or the lack of it.
It's about their insensitivity. Let's assume that they don't know the history of the term (see PS below). Let's assume their ignorance. Still. Doesn't it irk them even a teeny-weeny bit when they refer to their 40+ cleaner, from the sub-continent, as a houseboy?

The ones who throw the term around with so much pride are usually women -- yes, it's us who can display this degree of insensitivity, when it comes to 'lesser' beings. the men are far more equable in these matters. they usually refer to most people by name -- not the driver, the servant, the houseboy... but as babu, rangan or joe.

I've heard women talk about their houseboys, exchanging juicy snippets on their greed for more money, while sipping coffee from their Villeroy & Boch cups; and the men in discussion would be on the other side of the wall, well within hearing distance.
Not that it's forgivable to refer to them this way when they are not around! It's just the degrees of insensitivity.

To be fair, it's not only those living in fancy villas and high-rises who use this term with great abandon. It's everybody. From dingy shared rooms to your regular-joe apartment blocks, the echoes of 'house boy' vibrate...

I guess, the term somehow allows people to place themselves on a different and higher level. "I am the Mistress of my Abode (humble or otherwise) and I have a houseboy!"
Probably not intentional -- just something in our subconscious...

When I reply to people's queries of 'houseboy' with 'my cleaner' or 'the person who comes to help me'... most don't even register the point.

Have I ever openly told friends (at least) not to use the term? I plead guilty. I have never. Most of my friends treat their cleaners with respect, despite calling them houseboys, and I am terribly scared of offending some close friends, so I keep my mouth shut.

But no more. I am sending this post to them...

PS: House boy

I recommend Mister Pip

I resisted picking up this book at the library (more on this later) for weeks. Would it be a blasphemous interpretation or take on my all time favourite Great Expectations? Would it be someone's desperate attempt at writing fame through the brilliance of Dickens' characters?

But I couldn't resist a book that had Pip in its title. I succumbed. I surrender.

This book by Lloyd Jones is fantastic. I always give award winning books a try (in the sad hope that some day, some one would pick up mine)... but not many of these manage to bowl me over.

Lloyd Jones did. I could easily have been Mathilda, and at times the slower Daniel. I could have even been Mr Watts, making Great Expectations his very own story.

I remember getting lost in Havisham's gardens, imagining myself as Estella and Pip in turns... and in fact when I re-read the book in my late-teens, sans boyfriend or even a hope of one, I even thought of myself as Mrs Havisham.

Mathilda's anger at Pip for spurning Joe, could well have been mine. But which one of us is not guilty of being mean to the people who care about us?

Having finished Mr Pip, I think it's time to revisit my old love... I don't know why I haven't touched GE in the last 10 years... I re-read David Copperfield at least twice in this period, and I love the former more.

But before you go away thinking Mister Pip is about Great Expectations alone, let me set the record straight. It's about the great expectations and hopes of its character... some realised, some brutally terminated.
Thanks Mr Jones.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rest in Peace

I loved this guy. My whole family did.

His is one of the few live performances we watched regularly -- because you did not have to be a classical music aficionado to sit through his recitals (that a friend who organised his programmes could get us free tickets was only an added advantage).

He was so unbelievable with his violin, you could almost hear the lyrics.

And his facial expressions were treat too.

Rest in Peace Mr Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An armload of worries

My O always goes to sleep on the crook of my arm. My right arm. When she was just a baby, it was my left arm, so that she could hear my heart beat (i remembered a colleague, years ago, telling me that he always put his baby to sleep by laying her across the left side of his chest, as it soothed the lil one). Of late it's the right arm, because I am attached to the left side of the bed. Once she is asleep, I transfer her to her cot, or R does when he comes home and stakes claim to his part of the bed.
The crook of my arm has been hers from the day she was born. Even on days I've had bad neck or back pain, I would cradle her for a short while.

My mother has been advising me to stop this habit for a while... but I haven't been able to. Now I know it's time to wean her off my arm. But how, because I know when Plus makes an appearance s/he will be cradled too... it's the easiest way to put the baby to sleep. By cradling it in your arm, and just letting your body warmth soothe it to sleep. Better than rocking and marching up and down the room.

This is not my only worry -- O is an independent little girl. When she was just 15 months old, R and I took off for a couple of days, leaving her with my mum. And she was fine. She travelled alone to India when she was just 5+ years.
She is reasonable about my work hours, about my schedule, that I am not the cooking-fresh-meals kind of mum (though she wants me to be)... but of late she has been a bit more clingy. She is not very happy about me leaving her at home with the baby sitter late in the evenings. She refuses to listen to reason.

That's when I realise that she is not yet a girl, she is still my little baby, who eagerly awaits another, but yet has her fears. Which she doesn't voice -- probably scared that I will change my mind. After all she has been at us for 2 years now, demanding a bro or sis.
She has made expansive promises on how she will help take care of the baby. I only hope she doesn't dip it in her bath water, holding it by the hair, the way she does her dolls.

I talk to her and try to tell her gently that things will change in a few months, and that she has a role to play too.
A friend suggested that I tell her that she would always be the most special as she came first. But I can't ever do that, given that I'm the youngest of 4, and am never allowed to forget (by my siblings) that I probably was an after thought!

It would be easiest to tell her that everything will be hunky-dory and her Amma will still have all the time in the world for her, even later. Easy, but untrue... I am hoping reasoning and understanding will hold me in good stead.

When I tell her, that it's the turn of Plus to lie in the crook of my arm, I hope she smiles and says go ahead.

But knowing how insecure I can get, I am sure I would take that as a personal rejection as well.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I'm honoured and...

... speechless. an award. i don't usually get these.
But SHE was kind enough to give me one. Not only am I kicked about getting this, am also kicked it came from someone whose work I have immense respect for. So really kind words there Shyam.

The Purpose of the Award
This award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative.The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.
I am supposed to nominate 6-7 other blogs for this award.
I don't think I can give it back to the person who gave it to me in the first place. Otherwise, she would have definitely got it... not in 'you scratch my back, i scratch yours' kind of way, but genuinely.
The others I like (and none except 1 is well known to me) are:
Ammani : Amazing story teller. Mistress of Quick Tales.
Mumbaigirl : She picks on some seriously interesting subjects. Enjoy the way she presents it. And through her blog stumbled upon the next...
Broom : Read it and you'll be hooked. Start from the beginning.
Blogeswari : Not only because she is a friend, but also because it's a real different blog. She is so passionate about ads and movies, her blogs are great fun to read. Only problem is: She updates once in a very blue moon!
I am going to end my list here... there are a few more I really like. But they have to update more often, and there are some I need more time to read and decide. So maybe, I will continue this later...

umm o and ?

so i am bored witless... and i sit fooling around with templates, and realise that this Umm O business may cause trouble sometime in the future.
In a few months, I would be Umm O plus another (inshallah!)... And then I will have to work on being fair and politically correct and change my Umm suffixes... am sure the Plus in question would not be bothered for some years at least, but why keep that avenue for misunderstanding open... there are issues enough parents and children deal with, without adding a blogging nomenclature to it.

what kind of a joke is this?

it's not my country... still.
what kind of a bloody joke is this?
even pakistan doesn't deserve this. are there no morals or judgement left in this world?