Friday, December 11, 2009

Insightful conversations

With my delightful first born. Conversations which amaze me, make me laugh, make me think and errr...make me want to bang my head against a brick wall sometimes.

Conversation 1
Kuttan and I have stopped at a traffic light. Kuttan is chattering a mile a minute. A beggar woman comes to my side of the window, her palm containing a few coins, stretched beseechingly. I shake my head saying 'no'. Kuttan watches wide-eyed as she waits and walks away.

Kuttan: Amma, amma, why did'nt you take the money she was giving you??
Me: ????????

How many of us have ever thought of something like that? Out of the box, isnt it? ;)

Conversation 2

I am deep asleep on a cold saturday morning with kuttan next to me.

Kuttan: Amma, amma (pokes me awake)
Me(sleepily): Hmmmm?
Kuttan: (pointing to his book lying on the edge of the bed) Will that book make a noise if I push it off the bed?
Me: Yes
Kuttan: Will the princess wake up because of the noise?
Me: Yes
Kuttan: Will you be angry with me if she wakes up because of the noise?
Me: Yes

A pause while I drift to a dreamless sleep.

Kuttan: Amma, can I push it off anyways??
Me: (Gritting my teeth and calling myself ten kinds of a fool for ever having had a kid and then compounding it by having another one) NO
Kuttan: (in a small voice) Why?
Me: #@$#$%#$%$%$^@@@!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Out with the old...

..In with the new seems to be the order of the day, does’nt it? For everyone except me that is. Me, I cling to the old- tried, tested and comfortable-even after it ceases to be comfortable. And weep tears of sorrow when it is taken away from me.

Circa 2003. One year after our marriage and 6 months into my first job, I got very, very tired of going around Bangalore without a vehicle. Since amma and appa flatly refused to let me ride my two-wheeler in ‘crazy Bangalore traffic’, there really was only one option. ‘Let’s buy a car baby’, I told the husband. ‘We have no money’, the man said succinctly. ‘No problem, let’s not buy anything fancy…something really basic would do’. And it was as basic as it got.

Our first car was a second hand 3 year old Maruti 800. Appa came from Coimbatore to work out a loan for us (yes, yes, that’s how much broke we were. We had to take a loan to buy a second-hand M800 which we repaid over the next 3 years!!). But we had our own, our very own car! No more filching daddy’s car. We could do what we pleased with it.

I did not even have a driver’s license when I started driving her. She was small, easy to manage and I had no fears or qualms about driving her anywhere. There is’nt a single road, lane or by-lane to which I have not taken my beloved car. She would dutifully oblige, turning and twisting and maneuvering herself into narrow parking lots and wait patiently under sun and shine, hail and storm as I went around.

When we first bought our car, we lived in a house which did not even have a parking lot. Three houses, each consecutively bigger, and 5 years later, we still drove the same car. This was the car kuttan came home in. This was the car which had sticky candy, gift wrapper and water bottles strewn all over the back seat. Where the seats contained scruff marks of tiny booted feet. And none of it bothered us too much because it was old and comfortable and we did not fuss too much about keeping it in tip-top shape.

Our friends had moved on to snazzier, bigger cars and we were the object of much leg-pulling and laughter on account of the car we drove. We took it all in our stride but I stood firm. ‘No new car. This is doing just fine.’ When the husband would talk about some new car taking the market by the storm, I would hear him vaguely, my mind elsewhere, not really believing I would ever drive anything else.

Then, after 9 years of existence, 6 with us, the old girl started giving trouble. She would stop bang in the middle of the road. She would not start. The repair costs were mounting. And so, after a lot of thought, we gave away our first car and brought home a new car last month. I bade farewell sadly as they drove my beloved little car out the garage, knowing she gave me the kind of freedom and mobility that I would never experience again.

Boys will be boys. And men will be boys too. The man and the boy in my life are totally taken with the sexy, bold woman in their lives. ‘Look at the alloy wheels. Look at the engine power and the pickup’, the man gushes. ‘Look at the windows rolling down on their own. Look at the beautiful seats, amma’, the boy squawks, clapping his hands with glee. I nod my head and smile sadly, all the while missing the comfort of my torn seats and the slow, steady sound she would make as she sleepily started.

I refused to drive the new car for a month. Because I still missed my old car and because this one was too big, too new for my comfort. Finally, for practical reasons and urged and tormented endlessly by the husband, I drove her last week. Driving my old car felt like talking to my spinster aunt. She was slow, comforting, easily controlled. I could count on her never to want to run away from me. This new one was like a headstrong, sexy young girl. Sure of her powers and attraction and her place in my man’s heart. Taunting me, challenging me, chafing against the tight leash I put on her, wanting to release all the barely controlled energy and fly.

I may become friends with my new car. She may gentle against my control with time and learn to take my instructions more obligingly. Maybe it’s just a matter of time…but till then, I don’t like her. I don’t like her at all.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Unrequited Love

All of 4 years old, kuttan fell in love over the summer. 'She is so pretty amma', he said. 'I like her a LOOOT', he said, his eyes widening. He hid under my dupatta and blushed painfully when she smiled at him. 'Why don't you cut your hair like her amma?', he asked, looking down his nose at the few wisps of hair that still cling to my scalp after all the hair pulling. 'Why don't you wear sarees like her amma?'

'She' is his class teacher. The love affair happened over the summer as he joined LKG and went to class, all apprehensive and nervous. June was a busy month for the Bangalore household with Kuttan's new school and little princess's arrival. I was worried about how kuttan would adjust to so many changes at once. As it turned out, I need'nt have. Ms.B smiled at him gently as I led him to class on the first day and kuttan took one look at her and I knew things would be ok, in school at least.

He would come from school and sing Ms.B's praises. If I said anything contrary to her words, I would be summarily shot down. 'You dont know anything amma'. And when we went for the PTA I could see the feelings were entirely reciprocated. Kuttan seems to have shared all his feelings, his joy and sadness and fears with Ms.B. A cheerful, warm young woman who was sensitive to my baby boy's needs and knew just how to deal with all his childish fears and anxieties.

Last week, kuttan came back from school and said 'Amma, I have 2 madams in class now.' The husband and I exchanged glances, fearing the worst. 'Maybe Ms.B is going to leave kanna', I suggested gently. 'No', came the explosive shout. I wisely kept quiet.

Tonight the husband had a call from Ms.B who said she was leaving. She called because kuttan was so attached to her and she was worried about him, about how he would adapt. Could you please explain to him, she asked. What do I say, I thought to myself all the while thinking how graceful it was of her to call in the first place.

Husband and I called kuttan and told him Ms.B was going away. When is she coming back, he asked innocently. She isnt baby, I told him. And watched realization slowly dawn. And tears fill those big, soft eyes of his. Call her amma, I will tell her not to leave, he begged. A long talk followed. About how people sometimes have to go away and new people come and we learn to love them as much. About the need to adjust to changes even though it may be difficult at times. At the end of it we ask, 'So are we ok honey? What are you going to tell Ms.B tomorrow?'

Pat comes the reply, 'I am going to say I love you and don't cry too much when you leave me and go, ok?' Someday, my darling, you are going to find someone who cant resist that charm of yours and who will decide to stay back with you. Forever. Till that day, well, you have your mom and dad.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Three months with the princess

Dear princess,

It has been 3 months since you arrived. I cannot help thinking about how different your arrival and impact has been on us compared to your brother's.

Kuttan walked into our hearts right royally the minute we came to know I was expecting. As the first baby in the family after a long time, his place as the unchallenged darling of the household was virtually guaranteed. We were young first-time parents rushing to the paed if he so much as sneezed.

You, on the other hand came at a time when we are still coping with a major loss. But for all that,you have made a place for yourself in our home and our hearts. This is the way you have affected each one of our lives:

The husband: I have to admit, this came as a surprise. First, this was a man who swore he would never have a second baby. A man's man. A guy who gets a LOT of pleasure kicking a ball around with his son. When we found out we were expecting, and I was going ballistic wanting a girl,I know he secretly hoped for a boy. Just so that I am hopelessly outnumbered at home. And so that they can all shake their head sadly when they think I am being crazy.

And then you arrived. And your father turned into mush. And you wound him around your little finger, just like that! While kuttan was clearly a papa's boy from day one, you seem to show some allegiance to me, which I must admit, is gratifying. I see this man turn green with jealousy when you bestow one of your gummy smiles on me and do his damnedest to lure a smile out of you. I see the tenderness in his eyes when he rocks you to sleep and I thank God for giving me the wisdom to marry the man.

Kuttan: This is a slightly more complicated relationship, for obvious reasons. He desperately wanted you out of my tummy when you were in it, and now that you are out, he wants you to go back inside! But for all that, he has been an amazing bg brother and you, young lady, are very lucky to have him.

He is the one who comes tearing across the house when you cry. He is the one who commands, 'Check her nappy' or 'Feed her, she's hungry' if you cry for more than a few minutes. He endlessly sngs to you and you are a rapt audience which does wonders for his ego. He is also the one who pulls your feet a little too hard or kisses you on the mouth till you are choking but you seem to take it all in your stride and reserve all your best smiles for him.

Me: For me this is my chance to right all the mistakes I made with kuttan, to relax a little bit, to just let you be while I watch you grow. Except for the first hellish month when you just WOULD'NT sleep through the night when I thought you would drive me out of my mind and I even suggested hiding you under the stairs at night so that I could get some sleep, you have been a remarkably unobtrusive baby and I thank you for that. I don't think we could have handled a new school, a new house, a new project and an overly demanding MBA otherwise. As I watch you budding into a little person with your own personality, I am looking forward to all the many milestones that are going to come.

Have a wonderful first year princess. I am looking forward to the months ahead.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home is where the heart is..

Back after a long hiatus. There is always something very special about one's hometown is'nt it? A place which holds very special memories for you, a place where you leave behind some very special people. A place where more the things change, the more they remain the same.

My earliest memories are of standing on the foot board of my father's trusted green Chetak scooter and driving along D.B.Road to go to my grandmother's house. A rambling old compound which had two big houses, a well an unused shed which held many 'treasures' for us and lots of space all around. Hall was referred to as 'koodam' and the dining place was referred to as 'chinna koodam'.

The house itself was filled with people. People from all generations and from all different branches of the family. People with many different quirks and foibles with my grandmother indulging them all and holding the fort. A house which was home to any distant relative who happened to be passing through. A house that saw a lot of marriages, births and deaths. A house that held us all together even though we lived separately.

Later, as I grew older and appa got transferred all over the country, Coimbatore was still home. The epicenter. The place we rushed back to during every vacation. A town which grew into a big city but retained all its familiarity for my father. And the old house was still overflowing with people. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grand aunts and grand uncles, random relatives.

Appa was passionately in love with Cbe and remained that way right till the end. When appa took the first opportunity to come back to Cbe, both parents were relieved and happy. I was a pre-teen and started building my own bonds with the city. My parents settled and put down roots. Built a house. Made friends within the community. And by this time, the family exodus had begun and people had started moving out one by one till, at last, appa remained the last link to Cbe for the entire family.

I went back to Coimbatore after a long time this week. I expected to feel pain and a sense of emptiness. A feeling of not belonging anymore. A feeling of having moved on. I did feel pain. From the moment I stepped off the train, there were overwhelmingly painful memories of appa all around. But there was also the feeling of warmth. Of having stepped into a comfortable, cozy spot after a long, tiring journey. Of finally having come home.

Coimbatore, I guess, will always be home. A place where people refer to my 2 month old infant daughter respectfully as 'vaanga' because it is the norm of the land. A place where the water is so sweet, people fill bottles of it to take home when they leave. A place where my son gets to carry and play with goats and puppies on the road. Where if I just come out in the morning, people will make it a point to stop by and say a kind word or two. A place filled with memories. My old school. My old college. The place where I met my husband. A beautiful place still left with good, innocent folk.

The heart yearns to leave behind this big city madness and go back into the warm, familiar lap of my city. My city. But will I ever dare to make the decision to opt out of the rat race? Even if I dont, and I grow old in this place, in my heart, I guess Coimbatore will always remain home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's a Girl!!!!!

Little Princess arrived on the 11th of June

Mom and baby are doing fine.

Kuttan is thrilled


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mastering the Alphabet

It has now been almost a year since kuttan started attempting to master the alphabet. The capitals and the small letters and the cursive. I have not been taking it too seriously and have generally gone with the flow, just letting him learn as much as he does from school while occasionally asking him to read out from newspapers and billboards trying to understand how much he knew. Well the other day, as I went to pick him up from school, he bounded alongside me and burst out with great enthusiasm, 'Amma, E(who is his most bosom pal on earth) and I went to do susu together and were standing in the opposite ends and you know what?? We made an 'X' with our susu'!!!! Ewwww!!! The husband is still grinning looking mightily amused by this shockingly male bathroom behavior. I, on the other hand am going around still ewwwing about it. The fact that he CAN recognise 'X' in any form is scant comfort right now....God have mercy and give me a delicate daughter the next time around! On an aside, I have always wondered how men get to pee standing right next to each other without a trace of shame.....I mean, imagine casually talking shop with your boss over a urinal!! Ewwwwwwww!!!!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The grass on the other side

So I have been temporarily out of work for the last 6 months. A state of affairs which is likely to continue for another 6 months at the very least. Strangely, with each passing day, as this pregnancy stretches on interminably, tempers get shorter and the mercury inches upward and I find myself missing aspects about my working life more and more. Stuff which I miss the most:

1. I miss getting up each day with a sense of purpose and urgency- of things that need to be planned, stuff that needs to be finished.
2. I miss the delicious 5 minutes of sleep I used to get after hitting the snooze button on my alarm one more time. Now, with no office to get ready to go, and amma to fill in for me to do the cooking, there is simply no motivation to get up in the morning...and hence no value for those last delicious 5 minutes of snuggling.
3. I miss this the most....getting dolled up to go to work. I never took my work for granted. Ever. Every single day that I could go to work was a blessing. And I made the most of it. I took my time out deciding which dress I would wear. Neatly ironed cotton salwar one day, trousers the next, crisp cotton sarees on thursdays, jeans on fridays and so on. I would have a competition with myself to see how long I can go without repeating the same outfit.
4. I miss listening to FM as I drove to work. Those few minutes of solitude where I felt comfortably alone, and yet a significant part of the rest of the world of people who were going somewhere and had important things to do.
5. I miss being the first one in my team to go to work and that tense anticipation as I checked my email, waiting for some bugs, some new issue to work, some weird problem that has cropped up overnight.
6. I miss the sigh of relief that came with knowing that everything is right in the world of code that I had written and the leisurely morning cuppa that came after an initial round of mail checking.
7. I miss being a part of the adult world and adult talk shop. The stale jokes, the office politics.
8. I miss feeling hungry by 12.30 and eagerly anticipating my dabba lunch.
9. I miss the rush of adrenaline as I rush to kuttan's daycare early in the evening and the look on his face as I pick him up and we snuggle.
10. I miss being able to talk shop with the husband. Nowadays, it sometimes feels like we are part of two different worlds, with nothing in common.
11. I miss the feeling of power and joy I used to get as I received that sms at the end of every month stating my salary has been credited into my account. There, briefly, it all seemed worth the trouble.

I think the heat and the pregnancy and the lack of purpose are making me a very crabby person. Does anyone know how to beat the summer blues?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I am back!!

Not to sound like Shwarzenegger in Terminator but - I am back!! I could say I have been terribly busy with career and home,have been travelling around the world, have been sweating it out besides the husband in his quest for knowledge a.k.a his ill-timed MBA but none of it would be true.

The truth was I was
a. too much of a lazy ass to actually sit down and type.
b. I was licking my wounds in private and was too chicken to reach out to anyone.
c. I can't be too sure but I think it also has a little to do with the condition I am in.

Life is funny. Yes, yes I know you have all heard it from me before but I cannot say it enough. A year back my biggest dilemma and bone of contention was whether or not to have another baby and the fact that we couldn't watch Friday night movies anymore because of the husband's MBA. Then 6 months back my world came crashing around my ears quite literally as appa passed away. When they took him away, I sat down and begged him for a sign, any sign, that things are going to be ok. My mind refused to comprehend that the man who had just a few hours ago been gently teasing me and laughing with me was gone forever. That I would have to do without him for all eternity. That he could slip away in front of my eyes and I could do nothing. I begged appa to show me a sign that he is still around somewhere, watching over us. That there is hope that there will be a hint of normalcy in my life again.

Everyday I would get up and look around the house, go through his stuff looking for anything that could be construed as a sign that he was trying to tell me something. None were forthcoming. We moved back to Bangalore with amma and things went from bad to worse as she fell into great depths of depression and had to be hospitalised, not once but twice. I was in serious danger of losing both my parents. I was at the edge of the abyss and knew it will only be a matter of time before I went over.

And then our miracle happened and I found out I was pregnant again. And just like that, I got the sign I was looking for. The baby is due in June and I am thrilled. I cannot help comparing the two pregnancies. When I found out I was pregnant with kuttan, I was probably the most fussed over mom in this side of the continent. Amma and appa immediately travelled to Bangalore loaded with goodies. I went off to Cbe during the 7th month of my pregnancy and spent the rest of the time goofing around. Things are quieter this time. More subdued and sober. I am busier and have more responsibilities weighing on my mind.

But, for all that, this baby is no less a miracle than the last one. While kuttan's pregnancy was all saccharine sweet, this has a bittersweet feel to it. This baby has come to tell us that life goes on and as old members leave, new members join the fold. A vaccum is created but a new space in your heart is lit up with love...and hope. My father's sisters were sure it was my father coming back. 'I told you', said my aunt. 'He can't go anywhere that fast...he couldn't leave us like that'. It gives them great comfort to believe that and I get some happiness from that. But for myself, I see appa sitting somewhere up there, looking down at us, and pulling all the strings, just to give me a sign that things are going to be ok.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rest in peace, Daddy

Dear daddy

I have been trying to come up with a clever, light and witty post to kick start the new year. Something that will bring a smile on one's face for a few minutes. But everytime I sat down to write it, I had a vague feeling of being dishonest with myself. All I really want to do is talk about you, appa. I am finally ready to do it. And I will not be able to do anything else till I get it off my chest. All of my memories - the good, bad and ugly ones. The good ones that I try to cling to, in fear that I may forget, which would mean I have nothing left of you. The bad and terrible ones which continue to haunt my dreams in the night, making me wake up in tears even now - 4 months after you are gone.

If I had to find one word to describe you, it probably would be - optimism. Boundless, endless optimism which helped you claw your way back out of so many tough situations. Foolish optimism which made you believe you were invincible despite all those deadly cigarettes you smoked. I dont know what you were thinking, poppech.

My earliest memories are of sleepy mornings when I would wake up from bed and find you sitting on the kitchen floor reading your Hindu and drinking that all important brew- coffee. How many cups of coffee did you drink in a day, poppech? 10? 12? All the fights between you and amma when she would get all dolled up to go somewhere and you would say, .'oru vaai kaapi thayen'. And she would need to go to the kitchen again and she hated it.

I remember how much your amazing sense of humour and your utter irreverence against everyone and everything. About how everyone from the postman to rangi to the poor, hapless vadhyar had to succumb to your razor sharp wit. About how your sisters and mother pretended to hate the way you teased people but always ended up bursting out laughing. The utterly tasteless bathroom jokes you shared with your nephew which used to make the rest of us want to puke, but used to give the two of you such great mirth.

I remember how big your dreams for me were. And yet, how gracefully you let me be the person I wanted to be. I wonder at your big-heartedness which allowed you to never, ever superimpose your expectations over me.

You were, and still are, the best husband I have ever seen. Unfailingly devoted. Extremely supportive. Sensitive to amma's smallest needs. Proud of her tiniest accomplishment. Indulgent. Generous to her family. A great giver. When we first found out amma was diabetic, you were so devastated. And when amma lost her mother, you thought she would never, ever get over the grief and worried endlessly over her. And, how disturbed you were about her health in the last few years and, now that I come to think of it, it used to be our sole topic of conversation the last few years.

You shared a great rapport with the husband, daddy. It was a bond that went beyond the usual FIL and Son-in-law bond and something that I was so proud of. You welcomed him with grace and generosity into our tight-knit family which made the transition seem so effortless. You treated him like a long lost son sometimes and a buddy some other times. You loved it that you had one more male who can rib the ladies of the house with you and treated him to all insider information of our famous shopping gaffes and family jokes and soon it felt like he had grown up right alongside me. Now when I talk about athai patti or Achuppa who passed away many, many years before he even entered the picture, he still gets it. And that's because of you. You used to give him endless advice on the stock market. You were, in many ways, our financial mentor and I used to be so proud that the husband used to consult you before making any major decisions - not as a father-in-law but as a man whose financial judgement he respected. You took us by our fingers and taught us to walk the path, gently and one step at a time. You used to pack our stuff for us, filling countless jars with pickles and sweets and murukku and chips everytime we came to Cbe as though we were two underfed children incapable of feeding ourselves. And you used to fill covers with amma's various podis and label them carefully as 'Rasa podi' and 'Sambhar podi' because you knew I did not know the difference between the two.

You were the most indulgent grandfather a child could ever have known or hoped for. Indulgent to a fault. You spoilt kuttan till it drove me nuts. You used to make your most important clients listen to his endless gibberish on the phone without a trace of embarrassment. 'If they don't like it, I dont do business with them', you told me when I tried to take him away. You allowed him to write with his crayons on freshly painted walls and even amma, who is no less an indulgent grandparent than you, was forced to put her foot down. I remember your excitement at the idea of picking us up from the station everytime we would make the trip from Bangalore to Cbe. Of how you used to wait at the station from 6 am for a train that did not come before 7. Of how you used to fight with mummy to be the first one to lift kuttan out of my arms. Of how you used to drive home all the while glancing at kuttan, till the husband would laughingly tell you to pull over and offer to drive himself.

I never, ever imagined what a life without you will be like. It all happened so suddenly and took us all by storm that I barely had time to breathe. People tell me you had the best possible death. That you were hospitalised for those 2 weeks only so that we could spend time with you and then you came home and were able to die peacefully with your family around you. Maybe its true. But all I can think of is those last few minutes and the look in your eyes as they quietly closed. One minute you were lying there, laughing, joking, still weak from the hospital but incredibly strong willed, and the next minute you were gone. Just like that. And I dont think it is a coinidence that your last words to me were, 'I'm very comfortable'.

The memories continue to haunt me. And I am left with the need to be strong, both for kuttan and amma's sake. Life continues relentlessly, stopping for no one. I, in the meantime, am reduced to tears at the merest hint of a memory. Life has become an endless conversation of, 'appa would have said this' or 'appa would have done that'.

My biggest challenge would be to keep your memories alive for my son. To make him know that he was the recipient of a love greater than anything else, from a man who was willing to give him the world on a platter. I have big shoes to fill. But the responsibility of being your daughter is one that I do not take lightly.

Rest in peace, daddy. You were the greatest husband, father and the most magnificient grandfather I have seen. And you did a fine job of living and loving. I am honoured to be your daughter. Love you.

Yours forever,
Your daughter

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My first award....

comes at a time when my blogging frequency has been at an all-time low. Thanks Noonie for this award. Good to know that something I started on a lark has reached out and brought me a bunch of friends from around the globe.

These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to more bloggers who must choose more and include this text into the body of their award.

There are so many people in the blogosphere whom I want to pass on this award to. But here are some of my favorites.

Abha and her amazing CubbyR

Just a few names that came to my head first. There are loads and loads of bloggers I love to read and get that warm, fuzzy feeling like we have been friends forever whenever I read them.