Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z: Zero

Zero is the number of posts I have left for this challenge. Zero is also the enthusiasm and energy that I have left! While I am happy that it is over, a part of me is also sad. But yeah, I'll stick to mostly happy.

This A-Z challenge has been relatively easier when compared to the last year. While I was a lot less panicky this time around, I know I didn't do justice to a lot of posts too. I would blame the 27767367864 things happening in my life right now and an equal number of things that I've had to deal with, at the same time. So, yeah, I have no regrets. I'm glad I made it to the finish. At one point, I was considering abandoning the challenge but no, I don't think I could have lived with that. So, I went ahead and continued anyway.

The trip to India was a good one. I went with zero expectations, knowing fully well that I couldn't do everything I wanted to with Pickles and I just wanted him to have a good time and get to know all those people who really matter to me. And since I went with no expectations, it was great how everything just fell into place. Although I couldn't really meet all the people I wanted to, I managed to at least have some one-on-one time (however little that was) with most of the people. I do feel sad that I couldn't meet some of them but hey, we're coming back soon. Although a few unpleasant events happened towards the end of the trip, I'm glad we made it back and maybe I will write about it. Maybe when I'm more ready for it though. Another thing I realised this time also was that it's great to have family around. Things seem so much more bearable when they are around!

At the end of this challenge, I made a promise to myself that I will definitely try and blog a little more than I have in the past. All those unwritten posts will make it to this space, and hopefully soon. I will try and not let life get in the way. I think it is a great way of chronicling everything that's happening and I know I will enjoy reading it myself someday and so will Pickles. So, for his sake and mine, I will make that happen. So for now, the plan is to blog once a week at least. And those of you who are reading this(I'm talking to the four of you, yes!), you can find me and kick my ass if I don't. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y: Yes Boss

No, I agree. That was a lousy movie. But this song on the other hand is a very nice one.
I love how he wants so many things but then says "Bas itna sa khwab hai!" Greedy much?!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X:.xls files

When I was young(er!) and computers were the new in-thing, MS-Office was one of the things that was assumed to be important. At that time, Word and Powerpoint took precedence over Excel. MS Excel was then thought to be important for people who worked with numbers a.k.a finance consultants and bankers. I never paid much importance to Excel and it was always something that I used only when I was using numbers.

Enter the new me. Today I think MS Excel is one of the most used programs on my computer. From home budgets to grocery lists, to do lists to chores, resolutions to plans, everything is on excel sheets.
Even at work, Excel sheets are one of my most used. I work for a place which generates tons and tons of data and I cant even imagine a world without Excel. If it wasn't for Excel, I think people like me, who are not exactly bioinformaticians would have to take exclusive courses to learn to analyse the data, which we can now do only if we can get a .xls or .csv file out of it.

As you probably already know, I love making lists. I just did a quick survey of the .xls files on my computer and I'll tell you what I use them for and I'm not even talking about any work related stuff at all. At the risk of showing you my OCDness, here I present a snapshot of the .xls files on my computer.

1) Grocery shopping lists/Meal plans

2)  Expense sheets/budget plans

3) Baby shower/ Birthday guest lists and plans

4) Various checklists

5) Various wish lists (places to visit, books to read, movies to watch, you name it)\

6) Inventories

7) House-hunting details

8) Travel itineraries

So there, I've said it. I don't think I can live without .xls files any more!

W: Women/World/Women in the World/ of the World/ for the World

Let me catch you before you think that I forgot I'd already posted W yesterday. No, I haven't. This post is a surprise entry, well, it was a surprise for me too. I'd asked Vee to do a guest post on my blog, when I was at P. But Vee, being Vee finally decided to do W instead and a day later, of course! Vee needs no introduction here and  although her post is quite long (TLDR?), I promise you it will be one of the most fun posts you've read here. Here you go.

W – Women/World/Women in the World/ of the World/ for the World

Now that I've thrown a bunch of Ws at you .. let me begin with a quick and painfree intro – I am Maya’s Bestie .. or Bestest-ie .. I am 36 years old, trying to find my 'calling' or whatever that means. I live in Bangalore and in crippling self doubt. That should explain the anonymity. I love men and women in all their glory and their birthday suits. The Human Spirit, BIG fan! HUGE! Not in denial that we've fucked around with Nature ... an eternal, sometimes apologetic, optimist who wants to believe that Utopia is not fictional.

I am here, albeit a little late -- that's my character sketch .. I promise you, I have very little to do with it. I wanted to get my W in before the X prantz in with its perfect pink punctual pajamas (was supposed to do P) -- to guest-blog, make a proposition of sorts and maybe tug at your imaginations a little bit .. blindfold you, gently turn you around and let you go... Sounds like fun? Lets go... 

A thought germinated, a few years ago, when I came across this speech by Sojourner Truth she delivered in 1851 and continues to be relevant. Sojourner is one KICKASS woman.. Learn more about her on


Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio 

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say. 


My favourite part, “If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?” 

I digress .. this particular thought germinated here .. “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again!” 

Do you see where I'm going with this? Let me drop the D bomb first and then explain. World Domination! 

Yep. You heard me right. Overthrowing systems .. all the systems, if required. Going back to the drawing board. Re-building, re-creating, from scratch. No more patchwork. A Whole new World, only this time around let the Women handle it. Men, sit back and enjoy the ride... At this juncture I suggest, in fact, I insist, that you listen to this … one of my all time faves!!

And ladies .. This is not about a Matriarchal Society. Na-ha. Its re-doing the damn world, all of it. Imagine running the world like you do your homes- Simple, efficient, safe, nurturing and food always in the fridge. 

Here are the six big questions I thought I could use to help me articulate this...

What? – The World belly up. A deep critical look at everything we've got going today... From Music and Lyrics to Cultures that they promise works only because they have been around for the longest time. 

The idea is to keep what works and throw the others out. Re-invent the wheel.

Why? - Oho!! So many many reasons. Because, lets face it, things are going south and fast, there is going to be a dire need for a new way of life and we will be ready on the day of reckoning. Because we want to save it. Because maybe we should try to make the world the better place and this could be the way to do it.
Why Women? Well, I'm not really going to answer that .. But let you think hard and answer that question on your own. If we still have questions, of course, Lets answer them together

And Also Why not? Its always good to try new things, right? How much worse can things get? Plus, Testosterone seems to need a break.

When? – Yesterday. 

Which? – eh?

Who? – Women .. Men .. People ... who are willing to see the long-term, sustainable benefit in this for all of us as a species.

How? - Hmmm... Good Question. Of course I don't know the answer to that question. But allow me to put out there what I know …. Its a long long list so forgive me if I miss out a lot. Also, here's another profound thought I had a few years ago .. so what do I know.

Let's begin with the Economics of things -- Only because I share this unique abusive personal relationship with the subject  (I don't value money and it doesn't value me. But we have to find a way to co-exist. Its hard, but we're trying to work it out)

Blind are those who don't see the wealth disparity everywhere. 

From where I sit this is how it looks; A few have so much to throw away that a hungry nation can be fed, yet .. somehow all of it not only gets wasted, but also causes irreparable damage to everyone and everything around on its way out and continues to eat into the system from within even after its been thrown-away. Cos you know? Nothing can be destroyed.

There's something grotesque in this picture, no? 

Anyway, we need to change this... How? I don't know yet, But lets all think?

The Law and Justice system. I live in Modi Chacha's India where Development is the D bomb. Chachaji in his empathetic-bartender-chai-wala-mann-ki-baat way has transformed the middle class into greedy technology whoring muppets who throw around rape jokes in impeccable English to look cool and carry around a smart phone with an entitled noodle eating camera that clicks pictures of your cleavage .. cos, you know .. it was there. So, chill.

Read the news in your country and you'll know what I'm saying …

The way I see it … Law and Order is the most corrupt way of keeping a certain class of people out of the way so that the Economy of things can go on UN-hindered. 

Overflowing Prisons and increasing number of Laws. We're creating more criminals by creating more crimes. From the helmet rule to the No-hijab rule, why are we telling people how to live their lives? 

There is a need for a simpler Good and Bad / Right and Wrong look at things. Reform as opposed to Punish perspective. Taking responsibility for harsher realities as a people, and not as Victims and Perps. 

Religion – Ugh!

Education – What are we teaching our children in the name of Education? A long hard look at what we let pass as Learning. A few of you may say, “my child's school is different.” or “I am home-schooling” … I am talking about children who are learning myopic views like Geographical boundaries are reasons to wage war, that religion is the most important thing in the world and is worth killing for. Your International Standard school educated children will grow up in same world.

If you ask me schools should be a way to tell and hear stories. To do things that are fun. To create, To laugh and find a way to make a sustainable living doing all of that. Education should allow children to grow without moulds and very little structure. 

Education not just for children for everyone who wants to continue to learn should be accessible, practical and as vast and open and safe as it can be.

The list goes on and on .. I am trying to put these thoughts on paper .. but.. I haven't begun procrastinating yet. 

In the meantime will leave you with this foetus … more like an un-fertilised egg of a thought. Before survival of the fittest turns into Survival of the stupidest … we need to steer things to the direction of love, sharing, empathy and peace. 

It maybe time for some kinda Action. Lets sit down over Wine, Vodka, Weed, Skype. Lets get on the driving seat. Lets re-define. Lets save the World's Ass!! 

and have fun doing it :)

Lets talk? I'm thinking secret handshakes and parallel economies ... you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W: Wonderful Women!

I was only recently thinking about this and I realised that I am surrounded by amazing women. Not that the men in my life aren't great, some of them are but I can't really say that of many.

The most amazing woman I know has to be my mom. I've posted about her so many times and yet I can't put into words all the levels at which she amazes me on a daily basis. My adulation for her only increased when I saw her recently. So tired, yet she continues to work and inspire me to be better, every single passing day. A close second comes my aunt, mave who is my mum's sister. I've posted about her many a times too. How these two sisters brought up so many kids without much/no support from their husbands never fails to bring a sigh of admiration from me. Apart from doing what they needed for their families, they always did good by whoever they knew.

The second bunch of wonderful women I know are the sisters I grew up with, all six of them. Each one an inspiration in her own right. From managing difficult mothers-in-law to being patient daughters, from single handedly managing teenaged sons to making time for their little ones, from being great cooks to learning cooking from scratch when needed, from being the perfect working mothers to giving up great careers to bring up kids and yet going back to the workforce after 10 years, I've seen them all fight battles and win them.

Of course, I've been very lucky to have an amazing set of girlfriends. A wonderful bestie, trying to hold her own against this patriarchal society, learning the ropes and trying to fight for what she thinks is right with all she's got and yet at the same time creating some magnificent art. Another great set of friends I ran away from home with, all doing their thing in this world and making me proud. Another friend who is such a great mum, it brings tears to my eyes! I'm lucky to have friends who push me to be better, inspire me to run more, share great recipes, who're there when I need a pep talk, advice me about how to manage my time, and to bring up my kid.

And those are people women who I'm actually related to. And the women I see everyday, who work with me, my awesome ex-boss, managing work and home with such so much ease and such a great attitude. The cleaning aunty, who looks after her entire family with her meagre earnings and yet has a brilliant smile for everyone.

I think women are creatures of great strength and rise to any occasion as needed. Don't even get me started on the power of mothers. I have seen such strength in those beings that I now believe there is a reason why nature made it that way. Everywhere I look, I see a wonderful woman and even though it sounds pompous, I think men are really lucky to have us around!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V: Variety

While I honestly do believe that variety is good for most things, when it comes to food I'm not so sure. Don't get me wrong, I love trying all kinds of food. Just not in the same meal. Although I like to cook (a lot) and I tend to cook up a storm when I do, I believe that I can relish only one dish or maybe two dishes at once. That way, one can enjoy all the flavours and do justice to the ingredients and effort that go into making the dish. If you have too many dishes in a meal, one or two of them will definitely overpower the rest, although you may have totally enjoyed the other dishes if they were served by themselves at another point in time, when in the company of other winners, they simply lose out. That belief and of course the time at hand generally allows me to cook only a one-pot dish or if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, two dishes for dinner everyday.

R, on the other hand enjoys variety. While I prefer one dish on my plate, he likes to have a ton of stuff on it. While I prefer to order a la carte, he prefers to order a set meal or thali to make sure he can sample lots of dishes in one go. Also, for him the Friday dinner is probably what he enjoys most. You see, that is when we have a lot of leftovers in the fridge and since they are too little for one meal, they just get left behind. On Fridays, R empties out the fridge and has the variety that he craves for in one single meal. And hence, both of us are happy. I, because the refrigerator gets emptied and he, for his variety meal. And yet, that doesn't stop him from looking for pickle, paapad and chips to add to his already full plate!

Monday, April 25, 2016

U: Up, up and away


Now that I'm back, I can say that I made it through two flights with Pickles, albeit short ones. But hey, they still count!

So, when we were travelling this time, they wouldn't let Pickles sit on my lap with a baby belt because apparently he's too big (Sigh! I never realised) and both times, the air staff insisted on him sitting on his own seat. I had to figure out a way to make him sit tight and stay put during take off and landing. The good thing is that Pickles loves to listen to stories, especially his own and about people he knows or admires. As long as it has characters that he knows,  he will sit through anything. He has the cutest way of asking me for a story, he goes "One day.." and he leaves it for me to finish (You see one of his cousins started his stories like that) and then no matter what I say, he'll say "then.." and I go on and on. 

So this was our story for the day...

Pickles: One day...

Me: One day, Pickles was flying on an airplane.

Pickles: then...

Me: Then the airplane uncle said Pickles could not sit on amma's lap. He was a big boy and he has to sit on his own.

Pickles: big boy...then...

Me: But Pickles said he wanted to sit on amma's lap.

Pickles: then...

Me: But uncle said no.

Pickles: then...

Me: But Pickles cried and he said he wanted to sit on amma's lap.

Pickles: then...

Me: But uncle said he would give him a surprise if he would sit on his own.

Pickles: then...

This went on and on until the plane had taken off. And then I heaved a sigh of relief and said..

Then, Pickles sat on his own seat like a big boy! Pickles is a brave boy. Yay!

Until, he realised that the story was over and demanded,

Uncle, Surprise?! (Uncle, where is my surprise?)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T: Too late

This is too late to post but I'm too OC to leave out a letter, so here's just an excuse of a post. I happen to be in between Singapore and India with a toddler in tow and that's my excuse. But I promise, the next letter will  be better and I will do justice to U!

Friday, April 22, 2016

S: Sisters

One of the biggest assets I have are my sisters, all six of them. Yes,you heard that right, six!
And I'm pretty sure I've mentioned on this blog, time and again about how great they are and how lucky I am to have family like them. Actually, sisters like them. I'm sure that brothers are great but they'll never come close to what sisters are. They're just awesome!

Thank you girls, for being in my life and for being all that you are. I love you all!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R: Reassurance

Sometimes, when you're complaining about a mundane life and about every little thing that has gone wrong, all you need is an incident. One that will shut you up and make you long for the mundaneness. One that will make you thankful for all the unusualness. One that will reassure you that this is good. Life could get so much worse!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q: Quitters

When I first heard about it, I shook my head and thought to myself that such things happen because they are not educated and because they don't know any better. All my life I've seen it happen to women around me. I saw it happen to my mother's domestic helper. She came to work with a bruise or a black eye and always blamed it on a fall. Ma knew better than to ask too many questions but always quietly helped her in whatever way she could.

Then I saw it happen to a cousin. And no, she isn't uneducated. In fact she was a star student. Her parents love her and brought her up like a princess but what she saw after marriage was a whole new story. She is abused regularly, a beating here, a "punishment" there and yet, she continues to stay married to that man and lives with that family. And the parents know about this! And yet, she continues to live with that, hoping it will change.

More recently, I heard from a very close friend. Both she and the husband are high flyers in their respective careers. They loved each other dearly. Until they didn't anymore. Her husband beat her and she always makes excuses for him and says it was a one time thing. Except, it wasn't!

I get it! She loves him. But shouldn't she love herself more? She doesn't want to give up on her relationship. I wonder why she gives up on herself. She's scared to step out, but aren't there enough people to cheer her on for doing what she ought to, instead of advising her to stay in an abusive relationship. She did it for the children, and she taught them one of two lessons, it's ok to abuse your wife or it's normal to be abused by your husband. What the hell kind of conditioning is this? To not want out, to not fight for a better life, to not walk out when you can. If this is happening so close to home and to people like you and me, is there any hope for the rest?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P: Pintsized wit 2

I met this amazing kid A, who is my cousin's son. He's got an amazing sense of humour and an answer to pretty much anything under the sun. And he is all of five years old!

Sample this conversation I had with him recently.

Me: So, A, what is your favourite subject in school?

A: Maths

Me:What do you like in Maths?

A: Addition, subtraction and everything

Me: Can I ask you a question on it?

A: Of course. I know everything.

Me: Oh wow. Do you know multiplication and tables?

A (hesitating a little): yes

Me: So, do you know 7 tables?

A: yes

Me: So tell me, what is 7 times one?

A: I need a paper and a pen to tell you.

Me: Ummm I think lets do it without paper and pen.

A: Hmmmm ok

Me: So tell me, what is 7 times one?

A (with a defiant look!): 8!

I was too amused to answer for a second.

And A continued: Do you want to know the rest?

Me: Sure

A: 18, 28, 38, 48....

Confidence, thy name is A! God save your teachers!

Monday, April 18, 2016

O: Opera House

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Opera House:

Spicy Veg balls in hot garlic sauce, Chicken Schezuan noodles, hot and sour soup and other lip smacking delicacies.

If you were surprised that I wasn't talking about any theatre or play, I'll tell you why. This little restaurant with the same name was set up when the actual "Opera house" closed down. Tucked in at the far end of Brigade road, just before Shoolay circle, they served Indo-Chinese fare. I read this article in the newspaper recently that were all set to revive the Opera house (not the restaurant)and it brought back a flood of memories.

During the days when I had just found my independence (read college) and of course with that came pocket money, this place was one of our frequent hangouts. I think this was pretty much my introduction to Indo-Chinese food, which is still my favourite food till date. Come to think of it, if you asked me today, I would rate their food as just average. But the biggest reasons for us to hangout at this place was
1) The cost: We could have a decent meal for two in anywhere between 50-100 rupees (No kidding!)
2) The location: It was located at Brigade road and it was outdoors. Honestly, I cant think of why we loved to hang out here but maybe it was because it meant easy access to shopping outlets and movie theatres (no malls back then!)
3) The staff: They would let us hang out there for as long as we wanted without bothering us as long as we had ordered some stuff.

My friends and I must have been one of their favourite customers (not really!) as we frequented this place too often for our own wallets. There have been times when we have just managed to collect 50 bucks between us and then go out for a meal here. I think I've even been on a few dates here. Cheap food, decent fare and some place to sit and talk, what's not to love!

Of course as we grew slightly older and found jobs, we started to frequent other more expensive Indo-Chinese places but we still would visit until they eventually moved to Fifth avenue. From there, things went downhill for them and they shut down eventually. We were never able to find an other place similar to this one. I have very warm memories of this place and of events we've celebrated here. I think all my friends have been here with me, one time or another! Most of all, I think it was Vee and me who hung out here. And Vee, if you're reading this, maybe it's time to get together and have some Chinese fare, whatsay?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N: Numbers

So, we have been teaching Pickles to count. To make it fun, we count whatever we possibly can. For instance, we count the number of steps as we're climbing a flight of stairs. We count the number of buses and cars on the street and so on. Pickles loves doing it and keeps counting whenever he has a chance.

Recently, I heard him on the balcony of my in-law's place screaming "one hyena, two hyena.." and so on. Surprised, I went out to find him looking at a herd of goats in a small compound downstairs. You see, he's only seen both goats and hyenas in books. And recently he's been reading a book with a hyena character.

"Sweetheart, those are not hyenas. They are goats", I told him gently.

"No, no, hyena, hyena", he countered.

"Baby, but you know hyenas live in forests. These are goats living in the city", I tried to reason.

And then, he just pointed to a nearby cluster of trees and said, "Forest, hyena home!"

Friday, April 15, 2016

M: Mobile phones

If you asked 10 people what 5 things are their 'must-haves' or 'things you cant leave home without' would be, most of them would definitely have mobile phones as one of the top things on their lists. That is probably true for me as well.  I'm slightly paranoid about not being available or out of reach either to Pickles' nanny or to my parents when they really need me. Other than that, I'm quite relaxed. I don't really need to look at my whatsapp messages or fb feed for a day or more and I'm still ok. I'll agree that there are days when you'll find me looking at my phone a little more than necessary but you tell me and I'll put it away. I'm reasonable like that.

So, for Pickles we have a no screen policy. That means he doesn't watch TV, no iPads and absolutely no phones. We have made the phone uninteresting for him so far( we don't show him pictures on it either) and hence he can just pass a phone and not react. As far as he is concerned, a phone is just that: a phone. And now at home if I'm talking on the phone a little too much around him, he'll just say "No more phone!" and then I put it down. It's another matter that if I'm texting or just looking into it, he may just take it and fling it away to get my attention. I try now to give him that attention and that hasn't happened very often.

In Singapore, most of my friends who we hang out with either are on the same page as us or they respect us enough to turn off the TV and keep their phones away around Pickles. But during this trip to India and the previous one, I've constantly had to tell people to not lure Pickles with the phone and more so, not to show him the screens of the phone or iPad. Most people are surprised, shocked and some plainly roll their eyes. I've heard the weirdest questions and I've tried to be as patient as I can to answer them but some people just don't get it. And I don't care that they don't, as long as they don't wave their smartphones in Pickles' face. Some of the things I've been asked:

Don't you think he'll miss out on all the fun stuff?
What fun stuff?, I say. I mean isn't there so much around us for him to absorb and enjoy now when his senses are just maturing. Is it necessary for him to watch a documentary on something 10 years down the line, about something he can observe right now in his environment? And he has tons of years to catch up with the 'fun-stuff'. I'm sure there will come a day when he will enjoy watching his cartoons, just not this early.

Don't you think he'll not know how to use a phone and his peers will?
This one really gets me annoyed. I mean, we weren't born with phones. And I think I learned how to use a phone when I was 22 or something. And I turned out alright! I'm sure it wont take him more than 10 minutes to figure out how to use one.

What about the characters that he'll have no clue about?
 I think Pickles gets plenty of exposure from the books he enjoys. And he knows about a few characters and I'm pretty ok with him not knowing about everything. He ought to have newer things that can catch his interest in the days to come.

So, yes! I'm still putting my foot(and phone) down! We'll try and keep the screens away for a couple of more years and I'm damn sure he'll enjoy it just as much later on but he'll have had exposure to many more things and he might just choose to leave his phone behind.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L: Living life on your own terms

R's grandma passed away yesterday. She was 83 years old and all this while she was living in the village, by herself, tending to her cows, cooking her own food and some villagers had her back. All this time, she refused to come and live with her children or with her brothers and sisters. She was labelled 'stubborn' and after repeated attempts of coaxing her to stay with someone, she still constantly refused. Today, they said she might have lived a longer life and could have 'lived like a queen', had she agreed to live with her children. Does it really matter? Isn't it true that she did whatever she wanted, however she chose and for as long as she lived, she lived life on her own terms? I agree that she lived rather precariously, walking bare foot and doing chores her age wouldn't agree with. But who gets to decide what is wise and what is foolish? I mean, isn't your life your own to make your choices? I guess not! Why should you get labelled a 'rebel', when you just make a different choice? I mean, isn't that what individuality is all about? About making your choices and each person is different because of them.

That got me thinking. At what point do we start doing things just because they are expected of us? And at what point do those things actually become the things we do? I'm not really sure that line even exists. When does this social conditioning begin? For me, I don't know when this started and I can't even put a finger on what I do because I like to and what I've just grown up to like, because I don't know any better. It's a very scary thought for me that I could have been a whole different person doing something else if I had made my choices without being 'required' to do something. And I'm not even talking about big life choices, (of course I have been lucky enough to study what I want, marry who I want and live where I choose to). I'm talking about small things like choosing your clothes, friends, loving who you want and respecting people because you want to and not because you ought to, among so many other things. And don't even get me started on the social conditioning of the male in India and maybe other places!

All these things are suddenly important to me because I want to make sure I give Pickles what I didn't have: the option to make those choices. Although I know I will probably make some choices for him when he's young, I at least hope he is an active participant in most choices and that we can talk about them. I'll let you know in a few years about how that is turning out. But for now, I don't want to be forced into making certain parenting choices just because 'everybody else does so'! Issue in question (at this point): his tonsure. I know I need to pick my battles and at this point, I'm not even sure if this is worth it. But at what point does one draw the line? At what point do you actively start questioning why you ought to do what everybody does? But again, I'm not judging people who do certain things. I'm just saying that I would do what works for me.

I really hope the world is different in a few years from now and the children of the future have lesser rules to adhere to and more active choices. And I'm quite positive it will happen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K: KonMari

Although I've never been obsessive about it, I like order. I like to have all my things organised and in an ideal world keep my home (and life) clutter-free. Whenever I get a chance to observe and adapt someone else's ideas, I'm more than willing to give it a try. So, when Shub told me about KonMari, I read up online about her ideas and it all seemed very interesting. I also went so far as to get one of her books and read it. I found Marie Kondo's ideas quite fascinating and although I found myself nodding vigorously at some points, I wasn't totally convinced by some. Some of her ideas that really caught my attention were

1) Before actually organising stuff, she talks about first discarding the stuff that we don't really need and then organising the stuff thats left thereafter.

2) She suggests handling things by item instead of by room, as in she says if you're organising your wardrobe, you should deal with all your clothes instead of just the ones you have in one room or closet. She also mentions a particular order in which things should be dealt with, while cleaning up your home.

3)One of the most important things she mentions is about keeping only things that spark joy and discard things which don't. I'm not entirely sure I'd agree with this but it works.

I'd read the book and I had decided that I'd declutter before we move to our new home and then set up the new place with only the things I need. But R's trip just days short of our moving date, the added stress and a little laziness on my part made sure that didn't happen. And although I tried to de-clutter as much of my stuff as I could, R (the hoarder)'s stuff is quite a lot and we ended up moving with all of it.

Along with Marie Kondo's book, I was also in parallel reading about the minimal wardrobe. This talks about having a few classic pieces in your wardrobe and avoiding the cliched situation of having tons of stuff and still nothing to wear! So, armed with the knowledge of both these articles/books, I set myself a goal: to make a functional wardrobe for myself with fewer pieces (I'm pretty sure I cannot manage the 10-piece or even 20-piece wardrobe for that matter) but each one really loved. I've decluttered my closet a fair bit and I'm now working on equipping it with only things I really love. I'm quite strict when I shop these days and I buy stuff only if I reeeeaally love it and only after I've tried it on and still love it and if it fits in well with the pieces I already have. And I've decided that for any new item that comes in, one or two old pieces go out. This seems to working wonders for me so far. My wardrobe is still a work in progress and so is my home. But hopefully I'll be proud enough  to post pictures here. Some day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J: Just awe-inspiring

I met a good old friend today. We were together in school and through the years, although we haven't managed to keep in touch all that much, I didn't feel the distance when we spoke today. In fact, we picked up right where we had left off. So, I've always admired this friend for various reasons. She was always a leader, and also the irritating class monitor who wrote your name on the board for talking in class. I've known her to always follow the rules, meet the expectations of everyone and yet stand up for what she believes in.

Today, she is a mother of two children, one of who is ill. I found out about this a few years ago and I haven't spoken to her since. I know it is cowardly of me but I didn't know what to say to her. I'm glad we went to see her today. The way in which she has handled the whole situation and turned it around is amazing! I know it helps that her 10 year old is a rockstar but I wouldn't expect anything less from him as her son. And when I told her that she is amazing, she said, "I did go through a phase of 'why me?' and what had I done to deserve this? But then eventually you accept it and find it in you to do whatever it takes to make the best of the circumstances." While I agree with what she said, I still think it takes a special kind of mother to handle a sick kid, with the kind of attitude she has and the gusto with which she is approaching treatment options. And all the while, she was counting her blessings saying, "I at least had great family support. I saw single mothers handling the same situation and I considered myself so lucky!"

It takes a very special kind of person to rise up to the occasion, especially where kids are concerned. And if all the kids going through a rough patch had a mum like her, the world would be so much happier.

Monday, April 11, 2016

I: India

This one had to be a no-brainer considering Pickles and I are making this trip here at this time. And yet, it took me a while to actually come up with it!

So, Pickles and I are here in India, making our almost-annual trip and both of us are having a good time, not to mention the happiness of the people around. I'm making a note of the most important facets of this trip so far.

1) The most important is the amount of Love that Pickles and I have been at the receiving end of. I can see why it is so easy to get spoiled on this. From parents, sisters, cousins, friends and all, its something that keeps pulling me this way every single time.

2) The number of people Pickles has been meeting is probably more than he would meet in Singapore in a year. No, I'm not kidding! And yet, he remembers the names of every single person he's met so far. I'm hoping I can keep that memory instilled.

3)The food! I really dont know where to start on that one. On one end, I'm stuffing my face with all that mom's cooking just for me and on the other, the numerous restaurants that I want to relive and newer ones to try.

4) The weather, this time is a bitch. It is the same as in Singapore, hot! But at least its not humid, so I'm happy to deal with that.

5) The traffic, can it get any worse? Apparently, it can!

6) It feels like a vacation and yet it has been pretty tiring considering my day revolves around Pickles' routine. It is hard to fly solo!

I'm not looking forward to the end of this vacation and I guess no matter how many days I spend here, it will still never be enough!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

H: Hoarders

I visit my parent's place once in every one and half years or so. And every time I visit, the one thing that stands out to me is how little things have changed. Although people seemed to have changed, the home I grew up in seems eerily much the same, just as I had left it some 10 years ago. The old sofa with a 'new look', the furniture, the same books and many other same possessions. Not that the house hasn't acquired new stuff, it has. So much so that there is hardly any place to move anything around. But the older stuff like our books,  an old sewing machine which has seen better days, cassette tapes, an old computer and so many things that are hardly even touched any more are sitting firmly in their positions, knowing fully well that this family loves to hoard. And then I've noticed the same phenomenon repeat in my in-laws place as well. So, obviously it's not a trait exclusive to my family.

In the recent past, I have started to de-clutter my life and mainly my possessions. I was reading up on the KonMari method of de-cluttering and some things in the book suddenly made a lot of sense to me.  I guess the take-home message in that book is that every single thing in our life has a purpose, and once that purpose is served, we must learn to let it go. So, I am trying to practise that in earnest, letting go of things that I don't need/use or in Marie Kondo's terminology, 'doesn't spark joy'. More details on that process in another post but for now, I generally look at things and then in my head, decide whether things should stay or go.

I think we have some sort of inbuilt mechanism that tells us to hang on to something for as long as we can. I think we are wired like that since we are babies. I look at Pickles hanging on to little parts of his broken toys, a once-upon-a-time-loved train carriage, a lion with a severed leg, a three-wheeled car. I tell him lets throw this and he wont have any of it. I tried to put it away and thought he wouldn't notice if it is gone, but notice he did and kicked up such a fuss that I eventually caved. Since even babies are such hoarders, what hope do we adults have. R is such a hoarder and refuses to get rid of anything. I finally put my foot down and started to de-clutter my home anyway. I was proud of what I had accomplished but imagine my surprise when I saw the nanny G holding on to some of the stuff in her already small room. Turns out she's an even bigger hoarder. I only figured this out when we were moving to the new place and suddenly so many things that I'd thought I'd actually gotten rid of started showing up. More so when G told me that she didn't have enough boxes to put all her stuff in, although she had came to live with us with one small suitcase a couple of years ago. And since then, I've had to give her explicit instructions to get rid of stuff.

I read somewhere that the average person owns about 10,000 things in his lifetime. And I thought, wow, that's a lot! But looking around, I guess it's really not that hard to believe. The article also said the lesser possessions you have, the happier you are. I don't know how true that is but if we all stop hoarding, maybe there will be more stuff to go around for all the people who really have nothing.And maybe that will mean more happier people.

Friday, April 8, 2016

G: Grandparents

"If I'd known grandchildren were so much fun, I'd have had them first."-Anon.

I read this somewhere recently and I thought to myself, no wonder grand parenting is so much fun. It is just the fun part of parenting without the need to do all the hard stuff. Also, you can dish out advice at your kids and argue about the same stuff that they thought was wrong when you were a kid and now suddenly it doesn't apply to their grandchild anymore!

But even so, there is something to be said about the new avatar that the grandparent dons in the presence of the grandchild. I agree I'm a relatively new mother but in these couple of years, I've seen both my parents and my in-laws turn into mush in the presence of Pickles. I've seen my strict disciplinarian dad (whose mere raised voice would make us burst into tears) make weird funny sounds for his giggling grandson. I stood there with my mouth open for a full five minutes when I heard him sing to Pickles. My mom on the other hand is changing her ways in the kitchen and learning new recipes just to watch her grandson relish the dishes she's cooked and be thanked by a 'thakku mamama' (thank you, grandma). Ma's learnt how to use whatsapp just to see pictures of Pickles and she insists I must send her one picture every day! I've watched my calm and serious Father-in-law do a little dance to put his grandson to bed. I've heard him roar in laughter over Pickles' silly antics. I find my mother-in-law doing research on the internet to help solve a problem that he might be having.

I guess it must be true. There is a proverb in hindi 'Asal se sooth jyada pyara hota hai', which literally translates to 'the interest is far dearer than the principal amount'. What it really means is that people love their grandchildren way more than they love their children themselves. I for one, am beginning to see the truth in that.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

F: Festivities and following traditions

My parents was neither very religious nor did we strictly follow traditions around festivals. But they made sure we knew why each festival was celebrated and we had some small things that we'd do after a small pooja at home. As kids, we'd look forward to Diwali, Ganesh Chathurthi, Sankranthi and some other hindu festivals, for different reasons. It was the lights and fire crackers and oil-baths at Diwali, new clothes at some of the festivals, the 'yellu-bella' at Sankranthi and so on. And of course, the food associated with each one of them. Although mom never had the time or inclination to cook all the 'necessary' goodies, she either bought them or we'd eat them at a relative's place. Each festival brings back some very fond memories. 

When I moved to Singapore, although I missed being part of the celebrations at home, I never really missed any of the practices. And hence, I never made an effort to either follow them or to do anything remotely festive. Most of the times, I wouldn't even know when a festival came by unless ma explicitly mentioned it to me. After R came into the picture, he shared a similar attitude and things continued in pretty much the same way. Although we would attend Diwali parties and have fun, we never really did anything special for any of the festivals.

A few years later, Pickles came into the picture and suddenly things changed. Suddenly, I was my mom! I wanted to do things just so he would know what these little festivities mean. I wanted him to have fond memories just like I do, of every single festival. Whether he chooses to follow those little traditions or not, is a choice I would leave to him. But I want to make sure he has that choice. 

Why I mention this today is because tomorrow is Ugadi and I am here, looking forward to celebrating it with family. And I hope Pickles has fun too!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E: Escapades of the Jackdaws

I was toying with the idea of using E to write an excuse of a post. It has been a long and tiring day and the motivation to go on is low. And then I figured it is a good time to get started again on the runaway series.

Over the next few days, the girls got back most of their freedom. Maybe it was the inclusion of Andy into the picture, but Aunty V seemed to be more forgiving and friendly even. She let them have some fun on their own, continuing to happily cook their meals for them. The girls spent the next few days just whiling away their time in Aunty V's house. Vee and Mee were allowed to go out and meet some of their old friends. All the time, they were wondering what would happen of them in  the next few days to come. But that did not stop them from having the time of their lives. Eventually they ran out of almost all their money and were wondering what to do next. After much deliberation, it was decided that Soo and Shee had to go back home now. But they didn't have money to buy their fare and they didn't think asking Aunty V or the winker was an option. Their parents would be worried silly if they did not go home in time and add more complications to the already complex situation.

Shee had an uncle and aunt who lived in Bangalore. Lets call them Kaka and Kaki. They had two children who lived with them. Shee made a call to her dad telling him that she was in need of some money and her dad immediately asked her to go and see Kaka. And so the girls decided to go pay them a visit.

Now Kaka was this huge man who always thought for a while before he said anything and probably thought a lot more before he did anything and especially when that something was for someone else. Kaki was way shrewder and wasn't too fond of Shee. Kaka and Kaki however, doted on Mee. In their eyes, Mee was a star pupil who would rub off her habits and maybe her distinction on their children. The girls met Kaka at his office and he drove them to his home to a hot meal cooked by Kaki. After lunch, came the uncomfortable questions about what they were all doing in Bangalore and the like. The girls thought it was best to fib their way out of this one and they did just that. At the end of the day, they walked out of there with slightly heavier pockets that would take Shee and Soo back home.
The girls stayed up all night making promises to stay in touch and help each other in whatever way they could.

The following night, with heavy hearts Shee and Soo took the train back home. Vee and Mee went to see them off at the railway station. After saying tearful goodbyes, Vee and Mee walked back to the auto stand wondering what they ought to do next. The relatives would be here soon and they had a lot of explaining to do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D: Dumptrucks and diggers

It all began with a bunch of flashcards. We had bought them with the intention to teach a fourteen month old Pickles more words. In one of the sets was a section on transport and vehicles. Pickles immediately took a liking to this set and in particular to one of a train and another of a motorcycle. I think they have been his most favourite possessions for a long time. I doubt any such cards have been so widely used and loved. But I digress. This post is not about those cards. It's about another one in the same set.

I came home from work one day to an exasperated looking G, who said Pickles was looking for something called a bugga-bugga and she couldn't for the life of her, figure out what it was. When I asked Pickles about it, he used his limited vocabulary to tell me the same thing,

"Bugga-bugga, amma?"

And he was looking everywhere for it. And help him, I did. I started asking him if it was this or that and he still kept looking. Finally, we all gave up and tried to get him distracted with other things and that was that. Later that night when we went to bed, he saw this flash card of a dump truck on the side of our bed and his face lit up. Immediately, he picked it up and said "bugga-bugga". And then it flashed! I had been telling him about animal sounds and continued with vehicle sounds and I may have said something that sounded like that.  And there began our tryst with 'bugga-bugga', which soon became "dumper tuck"(much to my dismay!). And of course along with it was "gggggrrrrrr", which eventually was "digger".

There came many many books from the library with the truck and digger labels. I was actually very surprised to find so many and it was oddly comforting to know that this is fascinating for many kids. We probably have read all of the books on diggers and dump trucks. We have spent many a mealtime and bus journeys with several of them. Pickles knows the names of most of the existing trucks (tipper truck, backhoe loader, articulated lorry, forklift and whatnot!). It is another matter that I know all about them now too, attributed to many many readings over and over again. Of course, along with it came the toys, some that R bought for his truck-crazed son and some of course which were gifts from friends. And now Pickles has a collection of trucks and diggers that'll put a builder to shame.

And now, ever since we've been in India, Pickles has been teaching his mamama (grandma) and everyone around, all about them and I wont be surprised if they'll have caught the bug before he's done.

Monday, April 4, 2016


If I had to use one word to describe the last couple of days with a toddler in a sea of relatives and of course well-meaning strangers(!), it would be this!

Picture this. I have only just landed at the airport and am queueing for immigration with a very unsettled toddler, who just happened to tear my filled-up immigration form into two. And there is not one but three strangers who are so nice to about my toddler's eye (Pickles has a stye) and giving me random tips and suggestions about how to deal with it but not nice enough to offer me their place in the queue and yet they still expect me to graciously accept their not-so-valuable advice with a smile. I thought they ought to be thanking me for not breaking their noses in the state that I was in.

Also, I don't know what I was thinking, taking a toddler to a family function filled with relatives who have never seen him before. Here is a sample of our experience.

Pickles and I walk into the crowded function room, complete with loud music and a healthy dose of staring strangers. As I walk in, I start to recognise a few familiar faces. I nod at a few, smile at some and completely avoid some others.

Aunty 1: Oh Maya! When did you come?
Me: Yesterday!
Aunty 1: What happened to his eyes? (No preamble whatsoever)
Me: Oh, that's just a stye.
Aunty 1: You should just put some saliva on it!
Me: Huh! sure, thanks. I'll see you in a while.

Moving on..

Aunty 2(while pinching Pickles' cheeks): Hello Maya, he's so cute!
Me: Thanks!
Aunty 2: Just put his own spit on it in the morning and it (the stye) will be gone before you know it.
Me:  Oh, I took him to the doctor. He's on antibiotics.
Aunty 2: You don't really need all that, you know! Just try the spit.
Me: Uh Huh!

Uncle 1(while hugging Pickles): Hello hello!
Me (happy to be rescued from the previous aunt): Hello Uncle, how are you?
Uncle 1(shaking my hand): Oh good good! You know we are planning a trip to Singapore!
Me: Oh great! You should come stay with us.
Uncle 1(still shaking my hand): We'll let you know.
Me: errrr, yeah!
By now, Pickles is wailing away! He wants out. He keeps saying "out" and "bugga bugga" which is Pickles-speak for 'lets go out and watch some trucks'.

Although I did meet(or see, rather) some of the people I really went there for, I didn't really accomplish much other than the fact that I had ticked some boxes in family politics for being there. Don't get me wrong, I have a great family! But my extended family really has some interesting characters to say the least. But this one definitely takes the cake.

This aunt who comes up to me and offers absolutely no preamble and no niceties. Considering she is part of the far far extension of the family, I don't know her much. She offers no acknowledgement of Pickles (thankfully) and pays no heed to the fact that he's pulling my hair out and wailing away.

Weird aunty: You live in Singapore, no?
Me: Uh, yes.
Weird aunty: If I gave you this guy's name in Singapore, would you be able to check out that guy?
Me: Huh! what?
Weird aunty: No, this guy we're interested in for my daughter, could you find out his details if I gave you his name and telephone number?
Me (thinking it's not like I'm the CIA or something!): Errr..I'm not so sure.
Weird aunty: Ok,  I'll send you his number.
Me(with half my hair in Pickles hands): ok

And then she's gone. While I'm happy I got rid of her, I'm not sure what I got myself into.

Note to self: NEVER again!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


I grew up in a close-knit family of 4 sisters and 3 other girls cousins and needless to say, we had a ball growing up together. So, I’d always dreamt of having a daughter and when I was pregnant, I was pretty sure it was a little girl in the bump. So, during the 5th month scan, when the technician asked me if I wanted to know the sex of the baby, I nodded vigorously. And when she told me it was a boy, I remember vaguely asking if she was sure. She gave me a weird look and pointed to something on the screen and said yes, she was absolutely sure. I walked out of there half in disbelief and half in shock. You see, in my head, I was pretty sure I was going to have a girl.

I came back home and told mom in tears. And she said something very wise. She said, it’s very easy to bring up a girl (she’d brought up 4!) but we need tough mothers to raise sons who’ll grow up to be good men and that there is a dire need for good men in this world. And then I told mom and myself that I’d do my best to be that mother. Since then, my journey hasn’t been easy.

I’ve always wanted my son to be a good and kind-hearted person more than anything else. I want him to respect the other person irrespective of the person’s sex. As of now it doesn’t really matter as in his books, everyone is categorized into gooboy(good boy) or nauttyboy (naughty boy). I’ve tried to buy gender-neutral toys for him and told him it’s ok to play with dolls as much as with planes. But I’ve begun to believe the hard wiring is something I can’t change, no matter what I do. Pickles has taken a love to trucks and anything construction related and right now, my life is full of backhoe loaders and tipper trucks. He has been giving anyone and everyone who’ll listen, a lesson on the different kinds of trucks and excavators. And when he uses all those words to hilarious effects, its amazingly fun.

I can’t believe I was so silly to think that sons and daughters would be different.  At this point, I can tell you that although they are different, they are the same in the things that matter. And yet, I wont deny that when I get dressed up and little Pickles squeals “pitty pitty amma” (Pretty pretty mom),it makes my heart do somersaults in a way like nothing else could. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

A: And here we go again!

Yesss, it is that time of the year again when some of us go clapping our hands in glee over taking up yet another blogging challenge. Foolish  because of all the constraints and yet, I have begun to enjoy these blogathons. I’ve mentioned it time and again about why like doing them. When I looked at my blog, I realised the last post was in November when I did the NoBloPoMo. And I thought it's another reason why I should continue to do these (to keep my blog from dying of neglect).

A lot has happened since I last posted. Some major events included Pickles turning two, new responsibilities at work and our big move to a new home, not really in that order. Also, Pickles and I are all set to go to India. In fact, we will be spending most of this April in India. So, you might see me posting a lot of our travel stories. It will be a good way to chronicle Pickles’ trip to India. It’s not his first but I think this will be the one when he is more aware of what is happening around him and will be able to enjoy things more than he did on his first trip when he was 10 months old

So, I have been telling Pickles all about our trip, about what we’ll do and who we’ll see. He’s been very excited to go to ‘Inya’ to mamama’s (grandma’s) house where he will only ‘pay-pay’ (play) and won’t go to ‘kool’ (school ) and amma (mom) wont go to ‘oppich’ (office) either. He’s excited about seeing all his cousins and pachies (aunts) and of course his grandparents. It’s our first trip out by ourselves and hopefully the beginning of many more travel dventures for us. I don’t know what to expect and I’m very excited and slightly nervous too but I’m pretty sure we’ll be alright.

This morning, I woke Pickles up at 4am to catch the flight at 7. I wanted him to experience the journey instead of passively being carried asleep. He woke up all excited and chattered away on the taxi ride to the airport. We had a tiny breakfast of one idli and we were ready to board. He was happy to be on the flight too and exploring all the seats and the reading material. He had a few biscuits and some water during take-off and then promptly fell asleep. My cabin bag is full of stuff to keep him busy on the flight (books, toys, crayons, stickers, snacks and everything else you can possibly think of). Now that he is asleep, I realsied I didn’t bother getting any reading material for myself at all! I wasn’t hoping to get any time for myself! But I did and it was great, doing nothing by myself for a while. So, it has been a great start to our vacation and hopefully, the rest of the trip is just as good!

P.S.: As I was tying this out on the flight, Pickles woke up but we had a fun time still and was a good reunion with family!