Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Boss From Hell

That evil smile, that sadistic smirk

He’s out to torment you while you work

Every move of yours he’ll spy on and check

You can bet he’s always breathing down your neck

Get used to feeling trapped, like a fish in a bowl

He’s going to suck the joy right out of your soul

He’ll grudge you that long lunch, that coffee break you crave

You better know he thinks you’re his personal slave

Very soon you’ll want to tear your hair out and yell

Coz honey, you’ve got the BOSS FROM HELL.

Vile Varun. Boss from hell. In ‘No Deadline For Love’…. Coming soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Deadline For Love: More Updates!

Another long overdue post. But I have been busy you know. There's the school drop off every morning, and since school is only for one hour for now, I spend the time hanging around outside, plotting ways by which I can be one up on Nikki's teacher....erm, I mean contemplating the various intricacies of the Indian education system. Then there are play dates on weekday evenings, birthday parties on weekends for which I am the officially designated chaperone, trips to the zoo and the park and the library....well you get the picture. Clearly I need to get a life. Of my own.

Okay, so before I go even further away from the original point of this post (you've forgotten haven't you? See title!)and start ranting about the house help (there is always something there), let me get back to the post at hand. Right. So, the book! It is finally going to see the light of day, or rather the light of bookstores. The good people at Penguin have informed me that it is only a matter of days now before the book is in stores, and they're also sending me a few advance copies so I can finally, finally see what it looks like instead of wistfully sighing over my much thumbed manuscript.

Here's a preview of the cover spread:

Right, so much for that. Since you can't read a word of what that says in spite of all the trouble I went to (darn you, Blogger!), here's what it says on the back:

All her life Megha has diligently done what was expected of her: the graduation in economics, the MBA in marketing and now the straitlaced job in a high-profile FMCG company. But lately, she’s been wondering if this unending routine of juggling late hours and unreasonable deadlines is really her life’s calling. Her mother’s desperate attempts to put her on the ‘marriage market’ are not making life any easier. And to top it all, Megha’s latest project has been bogged down by a complete dearth of creative ideas, giving her nasty boss the perfect excuse to disregard the blood, sweat and tears she’s poured into her job so far. The last thing she needs is having her suggestions trampled upon by the team’s new creative consultant, Yudi—gorgeous, sardonic and only too eager to disagree with Megha. And so the stage is set for a quirky battle of wits and some unexpected romance.

For all of you out there who think this is the kind of book you'd like to read, do read it and let me know what you think. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it on this blog before, but I started writing my book before I started blogging and I had no plans to ever start my own blog till I discovered the wonderful world of mommy bloggers, and then I desperately wanted to be a part of it too. I mean I could always write about Nikki's first steps in my personal diary or rant about the mealtime tantrums, but where else would I get a friendly virtual hug or a 'don't worry, you'll get through this' in return? I was convinced no one would ever read my blog though, and the husband was routinely subjected to the middle of the night crises of confidence and waves of self doubt about whether starting the blog was a good idea. That is of course when he wasn't being subjected to the routine crises of confidence and waves of self doubt about whether writing a book was a good idea too.

Anyway I started the blog, unsure and tremulous, and was convinced it would just sputter out eventually and no one would notice. But someone did, and that someone was kind enough to leave a comment! And then there were more comments, and people told me that they liked the way I wrote! And it was the most amazing feeling ever. I still remember reading that first comment just before leaving for an evening stroll with Nikki and chugging along delightedly in the park with a goofy grin on my face, attracting strange glances from passers by and even a few from Nikki herself. But the point is, it really means a lot to me that some of you out there read what I write, and like it and your comments help me cope with those routine crises of confidence and waves of self doubt that I still suffer from quite regularly. So thank you. If you do read No Deadline For Love, tell me what you think, won't you?

We have a Facebook page up and running now too, you can join it here. I did try and get a plugin on the blog to make it easier to join this, but its sort if gone and died on me and there's only so much a technologically challenged person like me can deal with. (Darn you, Blogger! Yeah I know I said it once, but darn you!)Oh, and its available on Flipkart and Amazon and a couple of others places too, links to which I will try to upload in the sidebar shortly, provided the Cyber Gods are kind to me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Playschool Ahoy!

The first day of school. I'd been dreading it all summer. For weeks before school re-opened I'd been feeling like I used to before a major exam for which I was ill prepared and when the first day of school finally dawned I woke up with clammy hands and a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Naturally I couldn't let Nikki cotton on to how anxious I really was, so I valiantly kept up my dual faced act of quivering with dread at the thought of school in private and acting all jolly and gung-ho about it when Nikki was around. I was really beginning to feel quite schizophrenic about the whole concept of playschool at the end of it. It didn't help that the week before school opened I went shopping for school supplies with a bunch of Equally Paranoid and Hyper Over Protective Moms who spent the entire time discussing all the horrible things that could happen to a hapless two year old, left alone to fend for herself in the big bad world of playschool. Or the Assorted Pesky People I met at the park who'd earlier ask 'What?! She's not at school yet?' and who had now coolly switched to 'What?! You're sending her to school so early?!'.

The whole thing was really beginning to get to me and I couldn't help feeling a pang when the day finally dawned when Nikki would have to go to school all by herself for the first time ever. As we arrived at school, I couldn't help feeling wistful and a little envious of all the mothers with younger kids who were happily trotting off to the Mother & Toddler class together. This was the same school where I'd first come with Nikki when she was just a fifteen month old baby, just about beginning to take her first wobbly steps. This was where we'd spent a whole year together attending the Mother Toddler program ourselves. And now I was expected to just leave her there by herself!

Nikki herself was seemingly unaffected by this momentous occasion and even seemed happy to be back at her beloved school. That was till the teacher showed up and tried taking her from my arms, when she promptly let out a belligerent howl and demanded that I go in with her. The teacher whisked her off nonetheless, after repeatedly reassuring me that Nikki would be absolutely fine once I was out of sight and left me at the gate feeling bereft. I took myself off to a nearby bench and sat counting the minutes feeling more and more like Cruella de Ville with every passing second. What kind of a mother was I, to have just left my baby in the wilderness like that? I mean it wasn't the wilderness strictly speaking and we had been coming there for a year, so Nikki was familiar with the place, but still! She was not even two and a half yet! My baby! I was just about to call P to tell him we were making a horrible mistake with this whole playschool thing when I saw the teacher re-emerge with a familiar looking little figure in her arms. Nikki! She was back! Was it just my imagination or did she look a little pink about the eyes? She'd probably been crying her eyes out inside, poor little angel! I rushed towards the gate as a high pitched Bollywood-esque 'haai mera bachha!' rang out in my mind and reached for Nikki.
"She was absolutely fine!" the teacher informed me with a beam.
"Oh no! Haai....Eh? What? She was fine?" I gaped back at her.
"Oh yes, she had a great time. See you both tomorrow!" the teacher gave me another bright smile before turning to another anxious mother.
Nikki had been fine by herself! She'd managed perfectly well even though I hadn't been around! Right. So that was all fine then. Except that I wasn't feeling bereft anymore. I was feeling dispensable.

I brought up the matter gently with P that evening.
"Nikki doesn't need me anymore!" I screeched "Two years of spending every waking moment with me and now she trots off with that beastly teacher without so much as a second glance, the little ingrate! She had a good time at school today! What am I going to do?"
"Er, I'm sure you'll get used to it eventually honey" P smiled weakly before suddenly remembering an important official dinner for which he needed to leave that very instant, leaving me alone in my misery.
Get used to it indeed! Bah! I was not going to just let that teacher steal Nikki from me while I stood by the sidelines cooling my heels. No sir, I was going to fight right back and show that teacher how indispensable I really was! Hadn't I been voted the most enthu mommy dancer back at the mother toddler class? Hadn't my moves for 'Dorothy The Dinsosaur' been emulated by all the others? Get used to it! Pshaw!

So I was ready for the teacher when she showed up at the gate to take Nikki from me the next morning.
"Maybe I should accompany you till the classroom?" I suggested in a gentle but firm voice "Being her Primary Care Giver, it may help alleviate her separation anxiety."
"Oh that's not required" the teacher replied equally firmly, "It might upset the other children. Besides Nikki has settled in pretty well, she's fine without you inside."
"But she'll have so much more fun if I come too!" I was desperate now "It says on the activity sheet that you have the Wiggly Woo dance activity planned for today and I'm an ace at Wiggly Woo! Why back in the mother toddler class I...."
"Er right, I'm sure you were wonderful!" the teacher interrupted nervously "But we really must go now and Nikki will be fine! Don't worry!" she shot off like a rocket with another nervous glance at me as if I was going to start doing the Wiggly Woo right there! As if! That little twitch I'd given when I was talking to her was just a muscular spasm. Or something.

I spent the rest of the time kicking up a dust storm and pretty much achieving my targeted calorie burning for the quarter as I anxiously paced up and down outside the school building, till a worried looking teacher came out to offer me a cup of coffee and a magazine and told me to 'please just relax'. Nikki came out soon enough with the teacher, beaming and looking as happy as could be. And then, instead of jumping into my arms, she turned around and gave the teacher a high five and a flying kiss! I must have turned a visible shade of green because the teacher took me aside and patted me kindly on the arm "I understand that this is a worrying phase for you but don't worry! This is a settling in phase for the parent as much as the child. And Nikki is doing well, she's with us for just half an hour now but she's settling in so well that we can increase it to an hour next week onwards!"
Yeah right! First an hour and then two whole hours! And before I know it she'll be leaving for college and telling me she needs her space! But I'm damned if I'm giving up without a fight! For starters I showed Nikki who was the real ace at Wiggly Woo with my live stand-up act at dinner last evening. And there was really no reason for P to get all upset. Okay so maybe I did go a little overboard when I asked Nikki if the teacher could do the Wiggly Woo as well as me (huh? huh?)but I mean, she was the one who started it with the high five-ing and the flying kisses all over the place! Still, P insists I need to learn how to let go and stop behaving like a sap and I should be happy that Nikki is bonding with her teacher at school. Hmph. What does he know? He has no idea about the kind of pressure teachers put on the kids nowadays- I heard some horror stories from the Equally Paranoid and Hyper Over Protective Moms just the other day. In fact some of them are even considering homeschooling for their kids so that they don't have to....Hey! Waitaminit. Homeschooling! No more sending your child away for two whole hours. No more high-five-ing and flying-kisses and 'Oh I love my teacher' more having to work my butt off (quite literally) to perfect my moves at Dorothy The Dinosaur. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Coming Soon!

Coming real soon, to bookstores near you! You remember I'd told you about it, here? Well the endless wait (for me!) is finally over, and it is going to be out in bookstores by early next month. Will post more updates once it is finally out there!

And now, I'm going to go back to curl up under my duvet to snivel and chew away at my finger nails and continue being a hopelessly nervous wreck.

On an unrelated note, did you notice that I've put up TWO posts in the same day? Prolific, eh? On a blogging spree, what? Yeah, I thought not. Its probably the first and last time this is ever going to happen.

Now back to sniveling.

Lessons from mommyhood

Okay, so I am bursting at the seams (metaphor, metaphor!)with all the stuff that's been going on and that I want to tell you, but first I have to do the 'lessons from mommyhood' tag that the delightful Noor had tagged me with a while ago. Strangely enough before this tag started doing the rounds I'd been thinking of doing a post along similar lines, a post about all the stuff that I've learned since I became a mom. Being my usual efficient, brisk, get-down-to-the-job self, the post in my mind grew and brewed and would have probably got pickled, if it hadn't been for this tag which has served like a timely kick in the posterior. So here goes; here's some of the stuff I've learned since I became Nikki's mommy:

1.I've learned that it pays to start the day sunny side up. That bit about getting off on the right side of the bed? It works! Before I had Nikki I don't really remember waking up in the morning all raring to smell the roses and soak in the sunshine. Maybe the fact that all I could really look forward to smelling was my evil co-workers' coffee breath while soaking in the artificial glare from my laptop had something to do with it, but the point is I was invariably grouchy first thing in the morning on most days. Except Mondays, when I was positively depressed. Then Nikki came along and every morning I'd be greeted by a little bundle of cooing and squealing delight. Nikki wakes up every morning super thrilled to just be awake, raring to take on a new day, chattering non stop about all the million things she simply has to do right away and her cheerful enthusiasm is infectious! My blue funk vanishes and I grin right back at her and it makes all the difference to the rest of my day as well. The bai who fails to turn up doesn't throw me into a tizzy, the gloomy weather outside doesn't make me want to curl up under my duvet and die and the million little daily irritants that earlier made me want to howl like a banshee just make me want to say tut-tut. Sounds simple really, but it took Nikki to make me realize how important it is to start the day with a smile and what a difference it can make.

2.I've learned to stop, slow down, relax. When you have a child who takes approximately one hour and thirty seven minutes to eat one aloo paratha, you can use the time to figure out what WH Davies really meant when he wrote all that stuff about leisure.You also learn that it can actually be fun to just slow down while you make funny shapes with that aloo paratha and observe the swirls it makes when you trail it in a bowl of yoghurt. And that there's nothing more relaxing than a summer afternoon spent in the park with a two year old, watching the clotted cream clouds drift past above, or make up stories about apples that dance and grasshoppers that sing.

3.Motherhood has made me an infinitely patient person. Patience was not something I listed among my virtues earlier but now I can deal with the worst of the temper tantrums and the nuclear meltdowns and the mealtime battles and then some with an abundance of calm. I just hope it lasts.

4.I've learned that I can be Superwoman when I have to. Ten years ago, if someone had told me that I would survive one long road trip with an infant, during the course of which keeping said infant well fed, clean, safe and in good humour would be my sole responsibility no matter how many times the infant pooped (and boy, did she poop!)and that I would come back home at the end of it, bone tired, to cook up a batch of khichdi and sterilize a few bottles, I would have laughed hysterically. Then I would have keeled over and died. But I did do all of these things. And then I woke up three times at one, three and five am to rock and sing the same infant to sleep. And I did not howl like a banshee. At least not out loud.

5. Most importantly, I think becoming a mother has helped me learn a whole lot of things about myself. About what makes me happy, about the things that really matter to me and the things that don't. And, cliched as it sounds, it has helped me become a better person, because the thought of that little person whose life I am responsible for shaping, at least in some ways, makes me want to be someone she can always look up to.

The whole world and its sister has probably done this tag by the time I've got down to it, but I'm going to go ahead and tag some mommies I'd like to hear from anyway. Go for it Priyanka, Divs, Sonia, MRC (hope this gets you to blog again!) and Beks! You're IT!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The thing about beauty...

I always thought I had a pretty standard perception of beauty. Smooth skin, pretty eyes, shiny hair, a pleasing face. Being nicely put together and well groomed just added to the overall picture. Then I got to thinking of all the times I’d felt beautiful myself. Really beautiful. It wasn’t the day I got my first terribly expensive haircut in preparation for an important job interview. It wasn’t the day I got dressed to the nines for my wedding. On both of these occasions I’d made sure that I had ticked all of the right boxes. My face was perfectly made up, my hair was straight and silky, and you couldn’t have found a fault with my attire and make up. But I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt cosmetically correct. Actually, to be honest, on the day of my wedding I felt like a cross between a chandelier and a Christmas tree in my heavy lehenga, overtly made up face and chemically straightened hair. But my eyes were shining. And it wasn’t because of the mascara and the three inch thick eyeliner, it was because of the overflowing happiness that I felt inside. And this got me to thinking of all the times in my life that I had felt really beautiful. The day the boy I loved held my hands and told me that he loved me too. It was a windswept, rainy afternoon and we were on a trek with a bunch of friends. We’d been caught in two showers already and a third loomed menacingly, imminent in the brooding, dark clouds hovering above us. I was drenched through, my hair looked ratty and fell in limp strands across my face and in my heavy and wet trekking gear I was probably as close to looking and feeling like a (wet) sack of potatoes as I ever would be. And yet, when I received that declaration of love I felt beautiful. I felt like the most beautiful girl in the world.

I can remember too, in vivid detail, the moment when I saw my daughter for the first time. For nine months before that moment I had dreamed of seeing my baby for the first time ever. For many months before that moment I had thought about and imagined this baby, falling in love with my own creation of her in my mind. Always, I imagined a chubby cheeked, cute little cherub with bright sparkling, mischievous eyes and a pert, impertinent smile. The baby that the doctor brought to me was nothing like that. Eyes tightly shut, fists clenched, a facial expression of immense displeasure at being hustled out into the world like that, taken away from the welcoming cocoon of the womb that she was hitherto accustomed to, my daughter was as far from the mental impression I had had of her as a real, newborn baby is from a touched up, photo shopped Anne Geddes model baby. And yet, at that moment, there was nothing more beautiful to me than the sight of my newborn baby girl and all I wanted to do was revel in her innocent beauty.

When I urge my mind into the past I remember some of the images of everlasting beauty that have stayed with me. My grandmother, with her silver hair and her warm, grey-blue eyes will always be one of the most beautiful women to me. I remember one of my friends in school being slightly disappointed when she first met my grandma. Having heard countless tales of her ‘beauty’ from me in the past she had probably expected to see someone along the lines of Maharani Gayatri Devi when she first came over to meet her and I think she was a little let down with the frail, slightly stooping old lady she met instead. But if she had seen my grandma through my eyes she would have understood what real beauty means to me. To me that very same frail old lady was beauty personified. I saw beauty in those loving grey-blue eyes that had waited eagerly for me to come back home from school every day since the very first day I started going to school, in the smile that lit up her face as I’d turn the corner on the last stretch of the path that led up to our doorway, in the wrinkled hands with which she would insist on feeding me herself, in that tinkling laughter and soft voice that never failed to enquire after my day, even many years later when I’d started working and she probably couldn’t understand exactly what it was that I did, and in that silver hair that I had loved playing with as a child and that had born testimony to years of loving and nurturing her children and then their children after them.

There are other little vignettes that flash through my mind when I think of what beauty really means to me. A face in the crowd that captures my eye and, oftentimes my imagination, that is beautiful in that moment, because of those shining eyes or that serene smile, reflecting an inner spirit and contentment that no cosmetic makeover could ever hope to achieve. Sometimes it is a beauty that reflects character and resolve, sometimes a quiet contentment, sometimes it is just a moment of pure joy. Real beauty then, is something very personal, unique to each of us and our perceptions of it, slightly elusive and a little indefinable, and all the more beautiful because it is so!

Quite honestly I don’t understand the whole brouhaha over looking good, to feel good, especially when that looking good entails confirming to certain norms and predefined standards. And that’s probably why I’ll never colour my hair or get it artificially straightened, because I’d never feel beautiful if I do. But I do know that I will find beauty in the silver of my hair, a beautiful, visual reflection of a life that’s been hopefully well lived. I find it a little hard sometimes to express or even fully understand the reasons behind those occasions when I feel beautiful. It could be after a great workout, or after a great head massage, when I feel beautiful even though my hair is dripping with oil! Maybe it’s the feeling of well being that comes from within, the feeling of caring for myself that makes me feel beautiful at these times.

Someday I want to sit my daughter down and try and tell her, as best as I can, what real beauty should mean. It shouldn’t be about fitting in or standing out. It shouldn’t be about short skirts or long legs or poker straight hair. And it shouldn’t matter what everyone else thinks it is. But it should be something that has meaning to you and resonates with you. It should feel right. And it should come from within. And as long as it does, it will be real.

This is my entry for the 'What does real beauty mean to you?' contest on IndiBlogger. Read more about real beauty at Aaaaand vote for me, do, here.

Dove Real Beauty on Yahoo! India

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Book Predators

We've all met them. The Book Predators who borrow your books and never return them. I was introduced to them fairly early in life, probably because the collective love for books that ran in my family had ensured that I had a massive collection of wonderful books from a very young age. At first I had no problem lending my books to people I knew. I'd derived several hours of pure joy thanks to a particularly wonderful book that I had chanced upon at a friend or relative's house and that they had been kind enough to lend me, and I knew only too well the thrill one gets when one feels that instant connect with a book, the blissful feeling of losing oneself between its covers, savoring the moment when one can get back to it after a break and basking in that warm feeling after a delightful read, reliving the high points and knowing that you could reach out to savour them all over again.

'Anne of Green Gables' was one such find, I'd come across it at a family friend's house where we'd been invited for dinner and had spent the evening devouring it, much to the chagrin of the other kids who were one player short for a detective game they wanted to play. 'What Katy Did Next' was another. 'A Suitable Boy' was read over the course of a weekend at my aunt's, hidden under the duvet by my cousin's bed so the adults couldn't find me and send me packing to the club for swimming lessons with my cousins.

And so I lent my books as well, to friends who asked, hoping that this would be the start of a wonderful relationship between them and my beloved book. And that's when I encountered the Book Predators. Those heartless souls who steal your books without a second thought, with no intention of ever returning them. I had no idea how to deal with them then and the years haven't made me any wiser. If at all, it was easier when I was a child, I could just impose the 'House Rules' on them, namely, direct them to my parents for permission before borrowing a book or simply state that I was not allowed to lend books. This backfired quite often, especially if the parent in question was my mother who tended to have a rather liberal, 'ah, these things happen' outlook when a book went missing, and who in general felt that I read way too much anyway and would be better off being out of doors instead. Still, there were times when I was able to save my books thanks to the 'House Rules'. However the problem with house rules is that they tend to become redundant after a point. That point is typically reached when you find you now have a house of your own, and worse still you are now the parent and the figure of authority, so you can't exactly tell that beady eyed female spectre eyeing your beloved Wodehouse that you have to check with Daddy first.

I have no problem lending my books to someone who I know shares my love and respect for books and who I know will return a borrowed book in good condition eventually. But what does one do with a predator? The new acquaintance who borrows a book and promptly forgets all about it. The relative who forgets that it was your book they'd borrowed and lends it to someone else and then loses track of it. The sister in law's friend who moves to a new country taking three of your precious books along and proceeds to completely lose touch with both you and the sister in law.

What does one do? Taking a cue from a friend, who's lost several books of her own, I began to write 'STOLEN FROM MANASI' in large, bold letters on the front page of all my books in an attempt to dissuade potential book predators. It didn't work. A friend's wife borrowed one such book three years ago and it vanished into near oblivion. This was one of my favourite books and it had been gifted by a dear friend, so it had that much more sentimental value attached to it. I tried asking for it politely after a longish time period had passed, definitely enough for the friend's wife to have read it three times over.
"I haven't even read it yet!" she laughed breezily.
"In that case, why the hell did you borrow it in the first place?" I asked. In my head of course, as I smiled politely and told her to take her time.
I asked again after some more time had elapsed. And again, the reminders getting less polite each time. I never got the book back. They moved to another city some time later and we lost touch. A few days ago I happened to be in the same city they were in and my friend invited us over for dinner. And there was my beloved book, bang in the center of the arty looking bookshelf, ensconced between a film magazine and a trade journal, gazing at me beseechingly. What happened next was bizarre. I politely asked the friend's wife if it was the same book she'd borrowed from me. She flatly denied it and said it was her own. What's more she had no recollection of ever having borrowed such a book from me. I asked if I could look at the book and opened it to the first page where my own handwriting and the words 'STOLEN FROM MANASI' awaited me. The friend's wife found this hilarious. She'd forgotten that she'd ever borrowed this book, forgotten that she'd ever had it all these years. The worst part? She hadn't even read it.

P doesn't get my frustration with the Book Predators. His attitude is, you can't really refuse point blank if someone asks to borrow a book. So you lend it and hope for the best. If you don't get it back, you can always buy it again. I disagree. It's not just about buying the book again. It's all the memories and the special moments associated with that one particular book. The book that accompanied you on your first train journey alone. The book that you bought to celebrate getting into b-school and that spent that first year with you in your hostel room. The book that you discovered, and later fell in love with, on a crowded, dusty shelf in the airport bookstore of a seaside town as you waited for a long delayed flight, while the rain Gods unleashed their torrential fury outside. A newly purchased book clinically bought as a replacement can never bring those memories back.

Its not like I don't fight for my books. There are some people to whom you can lend your books without a second thought. Then there are the others, who fall into the grey category; some of these people could be predators. I've been rude and refused to lend my books point blank. I've laid down conditions and told them the reason why. I've had to follow up and remind people to return my books. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't. But it's always painful. People get offended and relationships get strained. And books still go missing. And until I find that elusive perfect solution I guess I must suffer. What about you? How do you guard your books against the Book Predators?