Sunday, June 26, 2016

Inherited passion

Yesterday, Pickles and I went into a bookstore. I love spending time at bookstores. I could spend hours browsing and picking (and spending a fortune) and just being around books. It is however a pastime of the past now with Pickles and a full-time job. But yesterday, I had to pick up a couple of gifts for some upcoming birthday parties. And I generally like to buy books for kids rather than toys and I had to do it rather urgently. When Pickles and I set out from home, I'd thought it would be a quick entry and exit from the store.

So, Pickles is fond of books. We've been doing a lot of reading for him ever since he was born. He really shares my enthusiasm for them, of course he can't read just yet. And the library is one of his happy places. It's very hard to curb his enthusiasm on our weekly visits to the library. It's one of those things that he really looks forward to. I must mention at this point that I think the National Library is one of the best things about Singapore. And it is great that Pickles started out on his "reading" ventures here. He loves to run around and browse and pick books to read. Although most library staff are amused to see this little excited toddler happily browsing, some of them ask us to keep it down.  And although I didn't have to worry about keeping the silence, I still was nervous about the visit. And so, I set my very jittery feet into the bookstore with an excited toddler by my side. As we went in, I explained to him that this was a bookstore and not a library and he could not just pick up books to take home. I also told him that we were there to buy a present for his friend and he nodded like he understood and in a very adult tone said "OK".

And when we walked out, I was wondering why I worried at all. We stayed in the store for a good one and a half hour! And he was just as adult-like as I was. We walked into the different sections together and as I would look, he would browse too and would suggest "this one". I would then tell him why that particular book was not ok, and we would move on. He kept chattering on all the while about the different things in the books that he found interesting. And I managed to even browse for something for myself after I had picked up what I needed. The whole experience was such a joyful one, I almost had happy tears when I saw him sitting happily on the floor of the store, browsing for a while and putting the books back in place. I could see that he was as happy as I, when we were there. I had always hoped that he would enjoy books as much as I do but I hadn't expected that it would be this early.

I for one am very happy that he shares my love of books. I can't wait for the day when we can read our favourite books together and talk about them. Going by how fast things are moving, that day doesn't seem far at all.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Relationships are complicated. The ones with family, with friends, with the spouse and everyone else. I've always thought of myself as a perceptive and sensitive person. I've never hurt anybody's feelings intentionally. And if something could be resolved without a fight, I would take that way. Which is why I've always hated confrontations. I've always made it my business to make sure nobody got hurt, even if I've suffered in the process.

But now, I think I'm changing. I find myself being less tolerant to things and people that give me stress. Maybe it is because I'm growing older or maybe because I have enough baggage of my own without adding extra from other people. So, I try and avoid people who are cryptic and can't be straight about how they feel. If you want to continually keep me guessing about what went wrong, I will definitely try but after some effort, I just might give up. I neither have the time nor the inclination to keep prodding at something that is not giving me anything but grief. It's probably best for me to let go.

I think it's about time I'm kinder to myself. I have come to realize that I ought to think about myself first. No one else will.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Letting go

Milestones. They are those weird events that you wait for and yet when they actually happen, leave you with an ache in your heart. They sneak up on you when you least expect them to and before you know it, you are wishing to go back to old times. It is probably the fact that so many events seem to be happening so quickly in succession, but it suddenly seems so drastic to me.

It all started with the weaning. It was a huge milestone for me that passed with not as much difficulty as I had expected, considering that Pickles could be reasoned with, at most times.

And then recently, we converted his crib into a toddler bed, so he could slip in and out with ease without us having to worry that he will jump out of it. Pickles was of course very excited with this development and loved his new bed. It is indeed another matter that he hasn't really slept in it for longer than a couple of hours each night.

And the biggest change is his haircut! We shaved his head as per the traditional ceremony (more on that in another post) and his really cute curls are gone. And suddenly my little baby has turned into this cute little boy with big earnest eyes. I can hardly recognise him until he shyly gives me his special dimpled smile and hugs me with his eyes closed.

And I silently mourn this rite of passage that Pickles has made, from a cute baby to a naughty toddler. Just only until he puts his arms around my neck and says "I douve you, amma." Maybe toddlerhood isn't that bad after all.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


There are people and then there are some other people.

The kind who can turn a really bad situation around with just a few words.

The kind who’ll always tell you to look at the bright side no matter what. And who practice what they preach. You’ll never catch them in a bad mood and if you ever do, something’s gone terribly wrong!

The kind who you look forward to speaking to, and use any excuse to do it.

The kind who’ll make you feel good about yourself, every single time.

The kind who make you believe that the world is indeed a beautiful place, albeit because of them.

And I’m so glad to have a few such people in my life!

Sunday, May 29, 2016


I'm not a people person. I am generally friendly and at most times, there is a higher chance that you would find me with a group of people than by myself. But I like being around people that I know and I''m uncomfortable and almost awkward around strangers. And hence every time I get invited to events and parties where I don't really know a lot of people, I turn it down. Even when the person inviting me is a good friend. I don't like to be lost in a sea of people, starting from scratch and trying to make new friends. That seems like a lot of effort to me and not always worth it. There have been times when I soon figure out that I might actually enjoy it but it's probably too late to get out of the excuse that I just made to avoid going.

Recently, R and I have made this arrangement where we each take an evening of "me-time', during the week. So, every Wednesday evening, I focus on doing things that I enjoy; a drink with friends, shopping, watching a movie or whatever catches my fancy for the day. But after a few weeks, I was at a loss of things to do during 'me-time'. I had run out of most things and I went back home a couple of weeks too (!) And soon, it looked like I would soon lose my 'Me-Wednesday' evenings if I didn't push to make it last. And luckily, I got invited to have a drink with some friends after work and I happily agreed to go. Until, someone mentioned that there will be others (people I didn't know) going too. Suddenly, I was uncomfortable with the idea and started looking for excuses. But since it was too late to do anything, I just bit the bullet and went ahead anyway.

And I had fun. There was some interesting conversations with some good people. I won't say I made new friends but I might smile or nod at them if I see them again. But, it turned out that they were a bunch of foodies who loved Indian food. What came out of that conversation were plans for some experiments with Fusion-food for the following weekend. Although, it has been done before, my friends who were there that night and I decided to try to make some 'Naan-Pizza'. From scratch, no less!

Butter chicken- naan pizza.

Palak paneer-naan pizza
Pardon the bad pictures but this was the best I could do before they disappeared. They were   really great.

The whole experience was a riot, though. I had so much fun, making and of course eating the stuff later that I decided I must do newer things more often. We will definitely try more fusion food in the weeks to come and now bouncing ideas for the next one is a regular thing during our lunch sessions. Although, that Wednesday was just a starter for the whole thing, it was still fun! And I for one, will think twice before turning down invitations again.

Monday, May 23, 2016

And now we're done!

Or Chronicles of our breastfeeding journey!

So, it was the morning after Pickles was born. The nurse woke me up at 6 am and mumbled something about pumping. First I thought she was nuts. I had just gone to sleep at about half past 4am, after a particularly tough ordeal the previous night. I had given birth to my little baby at 33 weeks (he was born premature) And for a first time mother who had put aside a lot of reading about breastfeeding for the last trimester,  I had no clue what she was talking about. I barely even remembered I had given birth as I rubbed my eyes. And then it hit me, my baby would ask for food sometime soon from the little enclosure that he was put in the night before. I sat up worried and the nurse came back again, this time to help me express what was supposed to be colostrum. She said she wasn't sure there would be any as it may be too soon but to both of our surprise, my body had decided it was indeed ready to make food for the little baby. And there began my journey.

After that I started to pump regularly, every 3 hours on the clock. And the output got better and better. But Pickles could only get it through tubes and eventually through bottles, as they had to limit his intake. And the space in my freezer was filling up. I was determined to give him the best food I could, like I felt I had to compensate because my body couldn't hold him in for longer.  Like every mother, I wanted only the best for my child and I was as disciplined as they come. I don't remember any other thing that I've been so fiercely devoted to. And one particular day, the doctor said Pickles was ready to latch and we should try. And the nurse put him to my breast. I had no clue how this would work but the little guy seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He leapt at me, nursed like he hadn't eaten for days and then fell asleep contentedly in my arms. I can't even begin to describe how it felt but it will suffice to say that it was a very emotional moment for me. In that moment, it felt right. All the hard work, pumping every 3hours, everything seemed worth it.

And then we brought him home one fine morning. It was a new beginning for both of us and I'm glad we both came out of it pretty strong. I've heard a lot of mothers complain about the difficulties of breastfeeding and I'm not saying it was not hard. It was super tiring in the initial few months, to say the least. But I loved the bonding time we had, Pickles and I, especially in the middle of the nights. Call me crazy but I actually enjoyed the time when the world was asleep and we would wake up t nurse. It was as if we had stolen a pocket of time and kept it for ourselves to savour. Just the memory of it makes me ache to go back. But that is not to say that I don't remember feeling tired and angry at times when he wouldn't stop or wouldn't fall back asleep. Or the tired mornings when I had to go back to work. Or being so angry at R for snoring away when I was trying hard to put Pickles back to sleep and I couldn't.

When Pickles was about 3 months old, he started to get really bad diarrhoea and an even bad diaper rash. We saw many doctors but the problem persisted. One doctor asked me to stop breastfeeding, saying it could be the cause but after intense research of my own,  I refused to believe her. Some doctors said it had something to do with my diet and I changed my diet considerably, avoiding things like dairy that could trigger such a reaction. But it still didn't work and the diarrhoea persisted. Finally, we saw a GI specialist who seemed to think that Pickles was lactose intolerant. He asked me to stop breastfeeding and start feeding Pickles soy milk formula instead. I decided to give it a shot for a couple of days. This incidentally happened to be around my first "Mother's day". I remember spending it so depressed. A lot of people told me I was lucky I could stop now and that I would now get my body back, but I didn't want it back. I just wanted to nurse my child again. After that it still didn't help and I had had enough of this nonsense. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went back to breastfeeding Pickles and treating the diaper rash very aggressively. It worked! I was happy again but another problem them emerged out of this. Pickles was now refusing the breast. He had nipple confusion. Just as I was beginning to feel I had won over one battle, a totally big war was now upon me. Fighting nipple confusion took more out of me than anything I've known. I was torn between trying to nurse and stopping completely.  If you think I'm joking, try to feed a baby who is really hungry but refuses to eat. But I fought on, trying all sorts of tricks to get Pickles to latch again. And then one fine day, all was well with the world again! He latched on and I had won this round!

Around this time, I had to go back to work full time. Although I was happy to be up and about, I remember hating having to leave Pickles with a complete stranger. But soon G was not a stranger any more. She supported my decision to breastfeed Pickles for as long as I did. She would feed him whatever I had expressed, even at times when he was not receptive. She was such a great nanny that I started to worry that he would love her more than he would love me. But I needn't have worried. Pickles was always happy to see me after I came home and would then just want to be with me. Our bond was strong. I may be wrong but I believe it was breastfeeding that made the bond tighter. And contrary to all that I had heard, Pickles never had any confusion about who his mother was.

Going back to work was something I always worried about. I wasn't sure how I would pump when I was at work. We didn't have a mother's room (pumping room) but when you really want something badly enough, you somehow make it happen. In my case, my colleagues and friends did. At work, my desk was in a room with a bunch of other grad students like me, who would leave the room whenever I needed to pump. After a while, I didn't even need to ask, they would just walk out when it was time. I remember someone even put up a poster on the door when I was pumping, that said something like "Don't knock. Baby-food cooking inside" or something like that! And thanks to this kind of support, I continued to pump at work until Pickles was 18 months old. And then I stopped pumping. I started to nurse on demand whenever I was around and at night.

And so we continued. I've seen little Pickles transform from a little animal who would pounce on the breast when he was hungry to a little gentleman who would wait for me and then put his little arm around my waist while nursing and then again to this circus clown who would want to nurse standing up or doing all kinds of acrobatics. If nursing a baby is pure joy, nursing a toddler is total entertainment. Pickles would suddenly want to talk while nursing or wait until he finished and then suddenly say something very funny. We had our own code word, 'Nunnu'.  It was one of the first few words that he used. And then when he was about two, I started telling him he could only nurse at night. And so it became 'Nunnu-taachi' (meaning nurse and sleep). So whenever he was sleepy, 'nunnu-taachi', he would beckon. And he would run to our bedroom and sit at my pillow, waiting for me to come and nurse him.

At some point, I started to worry that I would never be able to go out late again. And I couldn't even go to a conference if I wanted to. And I was already dodging all the travel plans at work. I considered weaning Pickles but three things held me back. One, that I had always thought I would nurse him until he self-weaned (if such a thing was possible). Two, I was too scared to even try, knowing the amount of tears (for Pickles) and sleepless nights that would come with it. Three, I wasn't sure I was ready to let go just yet. Foolishly, I thought my baby would still remain a baby as long as I kept nursing him. And so, I put off weaning almost infinitely. On nights when Pickles would keep latching or latch and come back over and over, I would swear to wean him soon. I kept chatting with a friend and every time she would bring it up, it would remind me that maybe I ought to try. And then I would procrastinate yet again.

Until the dentist pulled the plug. Although people warned me about the ill-effects of nursing at night on babies' teeth, I had found equal amount of research that suggested otherwise which I was happy to believe. At his first dentist's appointment, we found out that Pickles had a developmental defect called Enamel Hypoplasia, which meant that his enamel was not developed properly. Although he had no cavities yet (!), the dentist said that Pickles teeth were at a higher risk for decay. And he gently suggested weaning as he didn't want to put him at any more risk that his teeth were under.
After much consideration, I decided to finally bite the bullet and do it. Weaning (and some sleepless nights) were scheduled on the calendar for the following weekend. I started preparing Pickles early in the week that his 'nunnu' would be finished soon and he behaved like he understood. On the first night, he cried himself hoarse when I said nunnu was finished but fell asleep eventually. I considered giving up so many times, but I just held on. He woke up many times and every single time, R and I gently coaxed him back to sleep with a sip of water. On the second night, he asked for nunnu and then told himself that it was over and fell asleep listening to a story. I wondered if it was so easy and when he woke up a zillion times that night, I decided it wasn't. On the third night, it was slightly easier. I felt depressed that maybe it is really over now. And tonight is the fourth. And he fell asleep easily enough.

And just like that it is over. I hadn't expected it to be like this but I think he will be over it soon. But will I ever be, of that I'm not sure!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Occupational (aka parenting) hazards

 R and I try to speak to Pickles in a couple of languages, mainly English and Konkani. But along the way we also use other languages like Kannada and Tamil (we are a multilingual family) in which Pickles picks up words every now and then. That being the case, we have trouble talking about things that we don't want Pickles to hear about or understand just as yet. So, like most parents we have resolved to spelling things that we can't say out loud.

For eg. R will ask me, can Pickles have some J-U-I-C-E before dinner? and then we come to a consensus before we announce it for Pickles, after which the little one will insist to have it immediately. The same is true for things like S-A-N-D-P-I-T today? or P-A-R-K now? We have to decide first before we even let him know. Otherwise, Pickles gets all excited and will insist on going there right the moment he hears the word.

So, imagine my complete surprise, when R spells something out for me in front of X (and Pickles is not even around!) and assumes he's speaking 'code' to me! Of course it was something trivial. I gasped and stared at him in horror and then burst out laughing. And I think X just thought R was being funny and let it slide. Only after X left did R realise what he had just done.

"What did you expect?, X can't spell?"

And of course R, being R refuses to acknowledge this and just says,

"Oh Come on, I think X didn't even hear me and even if she did, I'm sure she didn't realize that I actually spelled something out."