Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of saying goodbye and savoring life's special stuff

We've spent the last two days hanging out with my sister, Nikki's C Paachi, who flies out to the US today for higher studies. While I restricted my goodbyes to a semi hug and a rather eloquent grunt in my characteristic expressive style, I'm sure C knows that we're all going to miss her lots. What makes this whole going away business a little better is that she's going to be back in under six months to get married (hurray!), an event everyone in the family is quite looking forward to. Nikki had a fun two days spending time with C Paachi and her grandparents which got me around to thinking about how important it is for kids to spend time with family growing up, to know that there are other loving, dependable adults they can confide in and look up to, apart from their parents. I'm hoping Nikki gets to spend a lot of time with close family as she grows up and have been making an effort to get together with family I have in and around town whenever I get the chance. It is specially fun and also a little touching to see Nikki bond and thoroughly enjoy herself with my little nephew R, who's a couple of years older than her. I have a photograph of C Paachi with R and Nikki in which C is holding Nikki and R is standing next to her. The snap beautifully captures R grinning mischievously at Nikki while she grins right back with an equally saucy, exhilarated expression on her little face, a testimony to the fun times they've shared. We're lucky that P also has a large extended family, with lots of kids close to Nikki's age and even though she was too small to really interact with them the last few times we met, I'm sure she'll enjoy her time with them as she grows older.

I shared these thoughts with P last evening as we drove back home after saying goodbye to C and we got around to talking about what we'd like Nikki to grow up with, the important stuff, the stuff that really matters. We were both agreed on the importance of family and close friends; I hope Nikki has a wonderful, loving set of friends she knows she can rely on and turn to anytime as she grows older. Growing up, we were always moving cities and I would often be the new girl in town or in school or in the park, the girl who was left out of birthday parties and sleepovers and movie nights because nobody knew her well enough yet. Sure I would settle in eventually, get to know people and make friends but it was always difficult those first few days when everybody was comfortable in their own little groups and you were the only outsider who didn't fit in any where. In retrospect though, I feel this has always made me appreciate my friends more and I am truly thankful today for the wonderful group of friends I have.

A love for books and reading is another thing I hope to pass on to Nikki, followed closely by a love for music. There is no greater joy than losing yourself in the wonderful world of a beloved book, retracing the adventures in an old favorite, the thrill you feel when you connect instantly with a new book or the quiet anticipation of an evening tucked up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book left half way. Except perhaps, the joy of waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the strains of a ballad by Richard Clayderman on a Sunday morning. Or some smooth jazz or perky funk beats on a Friday evening as you wait for dinner guests to arrive. Or the instant mood lift as you listen to an old favorite on a rainy afternoon or on a long drive back home. So Nikki gets a generous dose of  Floyd and U2 along with Wiggles Dorothy the Dinosaur and she seems to enjoy both equally well! Of course The Papa Man ensures that there's a generous dollop of 'Tere Liye' and 'Singh is King' thrown is as well and both those numbers have little Miss Nikki doing a vigorous shake-that-booty each time!

I am hoping to celebrate all of the major festivals in a big way now that Nikki is here. Before we had Nikki, festivals were equated with days off, a chance to get away from the stress and pressure of daily life but now I look forward to spending these special days in a leisurely manner with Nikki. Enjoying the beauty of colors on Holi, basking in the warmth of family and togetherness on Diwali, always a gala family event, discovering the magic of Santa Claus at Christmas, making modaks together for Ganesh Chaturthi and beautiful jhankis for Janmashtami. Festivals, also mean holidays and holidays are another important part of growing up happy! Long and lazy summer holidays, short winter breaks, even weekend getaways, I want to ensure we take some time out every now and then to get away from our regular routines and travel the world and spend time together, sometimes to meet new people and do different things, sometimes to just enjoy a slice of solitude.

Which brings to me to the importance of enjoying  your own company and being comfortable with yourself. That wonderful place where you know you can step out and have a great time over coffee with friends knowing equally well that you can go right back and have just as wonderful a time all by yourself. I hope I can teach Nikki that. Along with the power of dreaming big, beautiful dreams, believing in them without being afraid of failure and taking risks. Living the most exhilarating life and being the best person she possibly can be. And always knowing that two people, mom and dad, will always be there for her no matter what.

This list could go on and on so I thought maybe I'd leave it at this. Or maybe I'll keep coming back and adding to this if I feel I've missed out on something that really should be here. What about you though? What are those special things you know you want your children to grow up with?

Friday, July 16, 2010

A smelly sort of irony

Your little girl shows no sign of blessing the diaper in spite of your best efforts to help Mother Nature along: well timed meals, plenty of water, careful positioning of the pink potty, gentle coaxing. The minute you're out the door and on the way to playschool, you hear a gentle rumbling, signaling that the diaper has now been freshly endowed and will require cleaning in the car or, even worse, the auotrickshaw.

Happens without fail, week after week. Sigh. This is my contribution to the tag started by Rohini. I have many more instances to narrate of course, in fact they'll fill up a book, but we'll leave that for another day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A tag by any other name...

Blogging has been a bit slow lately thanks to the internet connection (hello you!) which has been acting more mercurial that the Rain Gods themselves. It had reached a stage where I'd become quite superstitious about switching the blasted internet switch on without an elaborate 'switch it on' ritual, you never know when the Internet Gods decide they are displeased after all and go on the blink without so much as a by-your-leave. Matters have been resolved since thankfully, and I can finally get down to the tag on gender stereotypes that Piper and Momo's Ma had tagged me to do some time ago. I've had great fun doing this tag, though I'm not so sure if it conforms exactly to the popular notion of gender stereotypes. From what I can see around me, not conforming to a stereotype is fast becoming a stereotype in itself these days, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway so here goes:

1. I DETEST shopping, and am completely hopeless at buying stuff for myself. P on the other hand loves shopping and can spend HOURS even at the local mom and pop store, shopping for household groceries. Most of our joint shopping expeditions end with me having to drag him kicking and screaming back home, when I reach the end of my tether and am on the verge of collapsing into a shopping induced dead faint. P is an excellent shopper though (I think Becky Bloomwood could take tips from him) and can be counted on for finding excellent picks in all sorts of stores ranging from high fashion to hardware.

2. I'm a pretty good cook, even if I do say so myself, but my culinary skills  fall short when it comes to making rotis; for the life of me I just can't get it right.  The dough is either too lumpy or too gooey and on the rare occasion that I get that right the rotis themselves decide that they would much rather masquerade as maps of assorted continents. Only once in my life did I manage to make perfect looking, almost circular rotis and I stored them away carefully to show them to P. When I unveiled them proudly later that evening I found, much to my horror, that they had hardened into completely inedible, rock solid slabs that would require a hammer if one were to attempt breaking them into bite sized pieces. Its all rather sad, because I really do love cooking and roti making is an art I would love to master.

3. Like a lot of other bloggers I read who've done this tag, I'm not into make up at all. Way back when we were just friends and P didn't know me too well, he'd fondly bought me a (really nice, come to think of it) state of the art makeup kit as a birthday gift from one his trips abroad,  which had stuff I'd never even heard of before(eyelash tip darkener anyone?). Eight years later the make up kit occupies pride of place; in my special keepsakes basket where I've stored stuff from the past that has sentimental value. Needless to say and much to poor P's chagrin it is completely untouched. Not that I have anything against makeup, in fact I'm rather awed by its power, but most days I just can't get myself to do more than run a comb through my hair and put on some lip gloss. Also I guess the older you get the more difficult it is to break old, entrenched habits; the one time I was coerced by a well meaning friend into wearing some lipstick and kohl at an office party, I spent the evening feeling hideously pan-caked and couldn't wait to go home and wash my face squeaky clean. The friend hasn't given up since and I'm nothing if not open to change, so you never know, I may just metamorphose into the next fat mu pro yet.

4. I love traveling, and mostly alone. I find traveling alone the best way to recharge my batteries, get my thoughts sorted and connect with myself. I haven't traveled alone for leisure for a very long time now, but back when I was working I'd enjoy even the solitary work related trips. I'd like to do a back packing trip on my own some day, though with my newly developed tendencies to get panic attacks about what might happen to Nikki when I'm in a 1.5 minute shower I don't see that happening anytime soon.

5. I'm excellent at packing and unpacking stuff and am the designated packer (and un-packer) for vacations, short trips, weekend getaways and even moving home. In fact after our relocation from Bombay last year when Nikki was under three months old, with minimal help, I think I can single handedly manage any kind of move now.

6. I'm a whiz at ironing clothes and can easily put the local dhobi out of business if I try (not sure if this is a gender stereotype but have you noticed how the local dhobi is almost always a man?). I have a half a mind to do so too considering the local dhobi in question has been trying to fleece us out of home and hearth by his money laundering ways.

7. The other thing that I'm a whiz at is giving a good head massage *Brief pause here to make a quick plea to The Lord. Dear Lord, while I truly am grateful for my blessings, do you not think in the next round you could bless me with some more conventional and infinitely more useful skills? Like singing and maybe strumming the guitar for example?* So yeah, the local champi wala is the other guy I can easily put out of business.

8. I'm not a terribly maternal person, and for the longest time I wasn't sure if I would be a good mother. Having Nikki has changed all that, though I have to say P is a whole lot better than I am at most things when it comes to her as well. I hope he doesn't read this post.

9. I don't particularly enjoy and am terrible at multitasking. The image of the super mommy who brilliantly manages home, work, social life and a gazillion other things does inspire awe but also scares me a little bit. Give me one thing to focus on any day and I'll do a much better job than if I'm trying to manage fifty other things at the same time.

10. I rather like gymming, even if I'm not the most terribly regular person around, and have constant visions of myself in a size zero avatar, dressed in the latest Juicy couture gym attire as I effortless power my way through a grueling cardio and strength training routine like a sleek powerhouse of energy and grace. In the meantime, I'll settle for plodding along on the treadmill huffing and puffing away in my current size 86 real life version.

I think the whole world and its aunt has done this tag by the time I've finally gotten around to doing it so there really isn't anyone left to tag. Guess I'll settle for the blue pants, I prefer 'em to the blue skirt any day :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Activity Schmactivity

The monsoons are here and Nikki's daily trips to the park have become few and far between what with the weather playing truant on most days. In order to keep boredom at bay I decided to try some of the myriad 'fun activities to try with your toddler' I keep reading about on various websites and in the gazillion newsletters I  subscribe to. Besides Nikki seems to enjoy similar activities at the mother toddler group, and so last week, bursting with the naive enthusiasm of the  uninitiated, I decided to try some new stuff with her myself. First up was messy play, having gone through a detailed newsletter extolling the numerous benefits of the same. "We're going to make some play dough!" I announced cheerfully as I marched into the kitchen, startling S out of one of her daydreams. The newsletter had conveniently included some do-it-yourself playdough recipes and it sounded reasonably simple. All I needed was some flour and water and voila! Stir them well together and your very own simple playdough is ready. Easy peasy. I helped myself to some flour and water from the kitchen and trotted off to find Nikki, with a curious S in tow. "Let's make some playdough Nikki!" I screeched excitedly, catching sight of Nikki in the balcony and setting my supplies down. Nikki looked up briefly from her detailed perusal of the drain pipe and marched off in the opposite direction. "Look, WHITE, POWDERY flour!!" I persisted, not one to be discouraged easily. "See how nice it feels?" Nikki poked an uninterested finger in the proffered bowl, yawned and turned away to the unexplored delights to the drain pipe. "Okay, fine. Let's make the playdough, that should be fun!" I made a great show of pouring water slowly into the flour, while simultaneously stirring it into the flour. Nikki didn't budge from the drainpipe. No matter! She would probably perk up once she saw what fun it was to play with the playdough after it was ready. I stirred vigorously for a couple of minutes and poked an experimental finger into what should have been some super soft, pliable playdough. What I got instead was a stringy, gooey mess that clung to my fingers like there was no going back. "Kya didi!" smirked S, who had been lurking in the corner all this time "Aapko to atta goondna bhi nahi aata!" "The recipe must have been messed up" I informed S coldly. Just who did she think she was with her superior atta goond-oing skills? Bah! "I will make the rotis for today evening's dinner" I continued with the best cold hauteur I could muster. I would show her too! Just how difficult could it be?! Besides I had kneaded dough and made rotis in the past, even if my efforts hadn't exactly yielded rotis that you would put up on Kitchen Champions. Still they were edible and that's what mattered. I mean its not like rotis needed to pass any tests on aesthetic appeal. S just shrugged and went off to the kitchen and came back with some atta leftover from the morning. "Here Nikki play with this!" she said making a big show of handing the atta to Nikki. Hmph, the little show off! Much to my chagrin, Nikki displayed an interest in the atta too, took it from S's hands and began rolling it around and squishing it. Regaining my enthusiasm I quickly got out the little rolling board and pin my mom had got for Nikki some time back and gave it to her, but she kicked it away and then proceeded to plaster the atta all over the sofa at supersonic speed. By the time we were done scraping it all off, nobody had any energy left for any more activities so we decided to call it a day.

The next day I decided to try a different activity: painting. After carefully assembling Nikki's new, non toxic paints, some brushes and water for fun and large sheets of white paper, Her Highness was summoned to the venue and I eagerly tried to show her the many wonders of color. She seemed a bit bored with the whole thing at first, making me look like a bit of an ass as I finger painted circles and squiggly lines with loud and exaggerated enthusiasm while she looked on disdainfully from a corner. Oh and did I mention that this spectacle was taking part in our generously open-to-public view balcony (we have to do most messy play type activities here, since it is very convenient- great play area and easy to clean afterward) , with a bit of an audience in the other balconies? No, it was not one of my finer moments. Mercifully, after about ten minutes of "Oh look Nikki! A RED circle! Look! The blue line goes up and down, up and down, side to side, wheeeeee!", she did get a bit interested and came up and started dabbling in some painting herself. My happiness lasted for precisely three and a quarter minutes after which Nikki decided that all this smearing of color on paper was b.o.r.i.n.g and paint could be put to other uses as well. One paint smeared hand promptly went into her mouth followed just as swiftly by the other one. After my various and multiple attempts at dissuading her were met with a swift but firm rejection and after I managed to dislodge her brightly purple colored foot from her mouth, I finally gave up and the painting activity came to an end as well.

"Maybe you're pushing her to try things she's not ready for" advised The Papa Man later that day. "Why don't you try something simpler? Like crayons?"
Crayons! Now why hadn't I thought of that before?! Sure she was ready for crayons! In fact if her previous artistic escapades were anything to go by she was a regular Da Vinci in the making. The following day saw me in the balcony, yet again, with some more sheets of paper and crayons. In my new, non pushy avatar I made sure Nikki was around first before casually getting on my with my crayoning and pretending I was having great fun. Luckily for me Nikki took one look at the crayons and came scampering up right away. She let out a squeal of delight and heading straight for the crayons, picked them up and began examining them with a happy look on her face. I let out a sigh of relief and was just about to discreetly edge a sheet of paper her way when she swiftly went up to the balcony railing and speedily tossed out the crayons one by one like a stealth bomber on a final combat mission. The next several minutes consisted of one very angry security guard, several displeased passers by and a few tickled-to-death neighboring balcony viewers.

We have now unanimously decided that we will a) no longer conduct activities in the balcony and b) leave the more adventurous of the activity lot for the experienced beings at playschool. However in my indefatigable enthusiasm I will continue in my attempts at engaging Nikki in more such educational and fun activities. That is, as soon as I emerge from my self imposed hibernation after recovering from the twin attacks of the Crayon Missiles and the Angry Bystanders.

P.S. And for those of you observant readers who were wondering, yes I did make the rotis that day and two things happened. First, I discovered that a roti can actually be a very useful educational tool. Especially when it come to rotis. Map of Africa anyone? I can roll it out for you! Secondly, even though some rotis may not be edible, after allowing for a couple of hours of hardening they can be very useful Weapons Of Self Defense. I can put those Pepper Spray guys out of business, I tell you.