Tag Archives: #funnymom #kids #funnyblog

Needy Babies to Needy Mommies: Growing Up or Growing Old.

I wake up to BabyA’s sobs and find that she’s having a nightmare. I imagine that she must be dreaming of me being brutally murdered, judging by the intensity of her cries, but she wakes up and tells me her bad dream is a secret. After some coaxing, she admits, “Mamma, I was dreaming that you left me and went for dinner. I couldn’t come because it was an adults’ dinner, and I missed youuuuu”, she says as she trails off into another sobbing bout.

Talk about really slapping on the guilt: her worst nightmare was me going out for dinner? This intense separation anxiety started around one, and peaked at about one and a half, staying at an Everest-high till a few months before her fourth birthday.

I love my daughter immensely but at the worst moments, I have wanted to palm her off to any class that would give me one hour of breathing time. I felt suffocated by her constant need for me: sitting on the potty with her on my lap was always the lowest low that I had experienced as a mom!

Sending her to Nani’s house so I could enjoy some hours just doing whatever I wanted (which was usually sleeping), or sneaking out of my house like a thief (moving slickly, sticking my body to the walls as I moved and not breathing so she wouldn’t spot any motion), I have done it all! No material gift could have replaced anyone willing to take her off my hands and give me some me-time!

Once she started ‘big school’, I started seeing a change in her. She started becoming independent (“Mamma, I can open this on my own”, toys all cleaned up after playing, clips never lost- no matter how bouncy the castles had been). Slowly, she started drawing on her own: “Mamma, can you help me?” Sometimes I would, and sometimes I would ignore her and phase out, lost in a world of Insta selfies and FB viral videos that had nothing to do with snotty-nosed, attention-needy children.

After a couple of months more, I could go for a lengthy shower and come back to see her still playing with her magnetic tiles: building castles and weaving fantastic stories around them. I felt happy that she was developing such focus and didn’t need me all the time.

Now it’s over a year of going to big school, and turning 4 has completely changed her. Gone are all the tantrums of toddlerhood because she’s happy to listen if you dole out logic (or even if you give her complete nonsense but package it into a fabulous story). Along with that, is a lot of stuff that isn’t as easy to digest- namely, her growing need to not need me!

One day, she came home, opened her doll house and started playing. As Nandy and I walked in, she said, “Please go! I’m playing in my room.” On seeing her father’s face drop like she had just tap danced all over his heart, she volunteered, “After my work, I will play with you, ok?” The husband and I looked at each other, and I told him that this is it. We had a little phase (which at that time seemed insurmountable) where she needed us, but now for the rest of her life, we will be the needy ones: “Darling, give Papa just one kissy?” “Chikri-poo, just spend five minutes telling me what you did in school”.

I have dreamt, prayed, cried for this solitude, and now I wake up in the mornings to see she’s been up for hours and hasn’t knocked on my door, needing me. I feel completely dispensable. She leaves for classes, waving goodbye happily, or sits around for for hours, colouring her life-size cardboard rocket, and I can see my dreams coming true.  My little girl’s growing up, and as I foresee her rocket, ready to be propelled far, far away, I’m left wondering, why did I long so much for this loneliness in the first place?

SakuBai, FaceTime se Phone Karna

I just turned down a friend request by my driver and then as I log on to Twitter, I find that it says, “Sheela Sharma is following you”! My maid refrained from sending me an FB friend request but is now part of my Twitterati.

I think it’s amazing how keyed in this new generation is to technology, and now with Jio offices having lines that serpentine all the way around the block, I envision Mukesh Ambani virtually patting my maid on her back, saying, “Jaa Sheela! Jee le apni Zindagii!” After all, everyone (regardless of socioeconomic background) has the right to Jio, and let Jio!*

In the afternoon, as I pass my house’s “hang-out” area for the domestic help, I see all of them lying down, cut off from their daily stresses of differentiating between julienning and dicing vegetables just the right way to keep the matriarch of the house smiling. Ear phones connected to their Androids, each one has a separate Bhojpuri flick streaming, but all with Ravi Kishan gyrating his birthing hips sexily on screen.

I wonder if I may have slipped up and given them the wi-fi password at some point (which is strictly forbidden after hearing horror stories of people’s staff watching unmentionable stuff while being logged onto their wi-fi). They couldn’t possibly be watching movies on a measly data pack (even in pre-Jio days).

I know how my hand quivers on holidays, as I hand BabyA YouTube (my invisible straight jacket for a very naughty baby), and she watches hours of Horrid Henry (her personal guru)! I shiver because I know my hubby is going to be annoyed with the constant updation of pricey booster packs for data extension. So how could these guys be nonchalantly streaming movies every day?

I often find them very distracted during work times also, armed with technology; constantly having to finish their candy crush games before attending to a “preschooler spilt milk” emergency, but I can’t say that any of us are any different, so it’s hard to blame them. When I’m such a phone/social media addict, how can I fault my staff for feeling the overwhelming urge to volunteer feedback to a friend’s new hairdo on WhatsApp rather than attending to my daughter’s call of hunger.

As this next gen of domestic help has the intelligence to keep up with modern gadgetry, they are able to make my life easier due to their savviness but technology plays the role of a double edged sword. From being able to rest my lazy, mommy bum for a moment longer on the couch because my driver can go and choose the seat covers for our new car (and WhatsApp me pictures as he picks) to my maid alleviating my separation anxiety by sending me videos of my little ninja at a birthday party, dancing to “Chittiyan Kalaiyan Ve”, while meaningfully mouthing “Mainu Shopping Kara De!” into the lens (preschooler wants don’t stop).

The marvels of this SmartGen are as many as the banes of their Smart Phones. From being able to read English, and subsequently, being able to find the one med I forgot to carry (kept amidst so many other tablets in my drawer) when I left home, to understanding every word of the family gossip my mom and I share as we sit together in the car. I celebrate every time I can just WhatsApp my maid the picture (screenshot of Uber details) of the driver, but flinch when I see her status as constantly ‘online’ on WhatsApp as she rides back home with my child in the Uber.

So now, as I browse through my FB newsfeed, it implores me to send a friend request to my 25 year old dhobi by constantly badgering me, “Do you know (him)?” But just the way a CEO doesn’t want his employees to see 3 am snapshots of him doing tequila shots off of a Russian waitress’ navel, I don’t want to include my employees in my circle of friends either. I’m happy they are connected to the larger world through social media and the World Wide Web, but I prefer to be a stingy spider, and keep my world web exclusive!

*Live and Let Live

Dadima ki Kahaaniyan: The Lost Art of Story-Telling

Gudiya, ek shloka to bol do!” says BabyA’s Dadu. Pat comes the reply, “My favourite shloka is Billiwali girlfriend choddh chaadh ke“. Sigh! She’s been going for Sanskaar class since a year, and this is the result! Bollywood creates stars in everyone’s eyes, and a child who is intentionally not exposed to its music, is still more attracted by the catchiness of its numbers rather than the shlokas she has learnt.

Yeah- they now have classes for things that your grandparents and parents taught you, like Sanskaar. With people choosing to increasingly live in nuclear families, there are no grandparents (or even parents sometimes) to teach mythology and “our culture” to the kids. In the age of outsourcing, everything must be outsourced and luckily there are structured classes for this sort of thing.

BabyA once saw a Sheshnag statue when we took her to our family mandir in my husband’s ancestral hometown, Bikaner. After that, for a month, she was keen on knowing what the Sheshnag story was, but no one knew it in entirety: from her father to his grandmother. Of course, we then turned to our faithful Ghar ke Bade– the village elder with all the stories, Googleji but there were so many variations of the same story (none matching the one my husband had been told) that he rejected all the versions and decided that till the right one was found, she had to live without knowing (and made no attempts to research further).

A lot of elders may think it’s atrocious that the kids aren’t learning anything about “our dharma” but it’s not only the parents’ fault. I live in a large joint family on both sides (natal and marital): the sad part is that the great grand parents who told us the stories, can no longer volunteer with their diminishing memories. The direct grandparents aren’t as well informed to begin with so sometimes they don’t have confidence in their half-baked versions. And then there’s us parents- who can’t find the time from scheduling their classes, doing their homework, etc. to educate ourselves on the topic.

So the only solution I could find was to enroll her in a class for this too, and buy loads of mythological books to read out to her. I guess there aren’t any dadima ki kahaaniyan left (along with no Dadima ke nuskhe/ Grandma’s home remedies) since all the dadis and nanis no longer look like grandmas at all.

Grandparents and parents have become so modern and disconnected from the stories and the mode of transmitting culture through the art of oral story telling, that either the stories will be lost, or (more likely) we will create our own new stories- wading through our swampy imaginations and finding a way to fly, on the famous magic carpet, which has always promised to make us travel everywhere while never having to leave home.

Boys’ Moms v/s Girls’ Moms: Vanity War!

I walk into the birthday party with my usual look: hair tousled (not one of those cool, blown away looks sported by celebrities on the red carpet, but more like a bum who doesn’t bathe), nails cut short, corned feet (“maid’s feet”, as my husband lovingly calls them), eyebrows that have turned into north-facing arrows, untrimmed, unthreaded, letting people know that the only way for me from now on is up (since I’ve hit the lowest low). 

Once BabyA gets settled in, I sit around to chat with the mums. As we complain about increasing school prices and compliment the kids’ camaraderie, I feel hypnotized by the mum seated closest to me. Her gel nails with glitter accumulating just at the ends, like little snow globes turned upside down, move around as she talks and I feel my mind melting into a haze. Her nails are just so gorgeous, transporting me to a land with unicorns, rainbows and foamy cocktails! 

Finally a loud voice gets me back to reality and as I turn around, I see a floppy, sloppy mom like me speaking in jarring tones as she gesticulates with her unmanicured hands and fingers her messy hair. I look around and soon notice that there are two types of moms: moms with daughters and moms with sons, and I come up with (what I think is) a brilliant observation! Most often in life (and there are, of course exceptions to this rule), I find that the moms of boys are a tad (or sometimes a whole wad) better-kept than us moms of girls. The ones in the group with their hair in immaculate condition, blown dry by Jenny at the local parlour, and with gorgeous cuticles are almost always moms of boys. They shine out a wee bit more!

That sets me thinking- why would that be? The legend goes that boys tend to be more energetic thus, harder to handle, so wouldn’t that make their moms more disheveled, especially if they are blessed with the types of boys who like to try out WWE moves on them? So why would they be well put-together?

Then it comes to me! Perhaps, with mums of girls, we are so spoilt for choices when shopping for our little ones (twirly-whirly tutu or comfy skort, glittery jumpsuit or fluffy, tulle dress, hairband or clips, peep-toes or Mary Janes, and the list goes on) that all our vanity is projected onto them from the day they are born. The time spent coordinating your outfit, straightening your hair or planning your nails is now expended on choosing her outfit, accessories, shoes and then YouTubing DIY hairstyles and trying them out. By the end, there’s just enough time to quickly iron something for yourself, put some eye-liner, smear some lipgloss and OUT!

As for the mums of boys: they have lived their lives shopping in the boys’ apparel department, just close enough to the girls’ department where they can spy the sparkly bow-hairbands and knee-high fuchsia boots, teasing them while they pick out four types of cargo- pants (all the same style) and 4 types of shorts (ditto) in varying shades of greys/blues. 

It’s also pretty easy (and quick) to get the boys ready for a party: wash face (10 seconds), spike hair (1-2 minutes), wear clothes and shoes (2 minutes). That leaves the mums with enough time to ponder over their look. Their vanity is conserved for themselves. They still make appointments to indulge in decadent facials, nail/hair spas and pedicures.

I have to get my nails painted in hiding because every time I do it in front of BabyA, I’m shoved aside as she starts picking out garish colours to apply on her nails. As I put make up, she closely watches and then steals my foundation sponges and applies the residue on her face. Since I won’t let her wear lipstick, I must allow her long smooches so that she gets some transferred colour onto her lips. It’s just easier not to do any of these things around her!

“She’s going through the horrible threes”; one mom’s voice brings me back to reality and as I mentally rejoin the birthday party, I realize that I was unaware of my unsightly appearance all this time because after having BabyA, she is my pride and joy. Feminist mums aren’t supposed to be vain, but there’s a little vanity in all of us, and now it’s completely centered around this adorable angel, running around in pig-tails and a derby-worthy dramatic feathered hairband! 

Of course, this is only till I can control her choices because once she’s a teen, she’ll shrug me off like an old, favourite cardigan (snuggled up to only at home when she needs to feel cosy), and then I’ll have to start focusing on me!


Creating Bad Boys and Good Girls!

I didn’t realise that I was doing something even remotely controversial when I got BabyA’s hair cut in the same style as mine: a Rihanna-esque fashionable bob. When she got the cut, I felt happy because I thought she looked neat, chic and it would be easy to manage at school.

You hear of all the horror stories about lice breakouts with girls in schools and so I thought a trendy, low maintenance haircut at 3 was a better choice than growing her hair long. Also I’ve never been a huge fan of the matching mommy-baby outfits so I figured this was another variant that suited me better: matching haircuts.

Some people have been very appreciative of her haircut, strangers even stopping me at play areas to ask where she got it. The part that infuriates me is what more commonly occurs: BabyA being repeatedly told she needs to grow her hair. From the maid to her friends’ mums to family, people keep telling her she’ll be “pretty” if she has long hair, so she mustn’t let her mother cut her hair short. Till they said it, she didn’t realize that her hair was such an integral part of who she was. Silly BabyA thought you just cut hair when it grows long, much like nails!

What really bothers me is the importance society puts on girls being pretty. At 3, she already knows that she wants to grow up to be a princess (pretty, taken care of by daddy, then by her prince). Hair is a very crucial part of this image. We try to make some funky hairstyles for her but she refuses; “I want a princess hairstyle Mamma”, and since I don’t want her to undo my 15 minutes of work, I desperately (feminist mums get desperate too) search for Disney princesses with short hair, and I can’t find anyone but Snow White (who doesn’t impress her much).

This idea of lambé, ghané baal isn’t only Western in nature, but deeply ingrained into our Indian psyche too, with all the Goddesses and Rajkumaris having long hair. Short hair makes you less attractive, butch and androgynous!

It really bothers me that she is told, explicitly as well as subtly, that she needs to adhere to a particular stereotype of femininity in order to be received positively in society. Thank God she (as yet) remains untouched from the fairness fervour, being a gorgeous Marwari girl with lovely tan skin. Don’t know how long that will last!

Why do we load our kids with so much gender-biased baggage? Boys are victims too. I have seen how much pressure is put on a little boy to prove his manliness! First is the “Boys don’t cry” nonsense that is filled into their innocent heads which eventually makes them bottled up grown men who find it hard to express, emote and love openly. We also tell them that they must continuously prove that their little boyish hearts only want to play sports; that dolls must strictly be used for inflicting violence (as sisters cry while brothers behead Barbies); that they MUST love guns as if boys are inherently violent and unkind, wanting to break things and hurt people.

“What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails…
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice”

The ‘Bad Boy’ Persona weighs as heavily on our sons as the ‘Good Girl’ syndrome inflicts our daughters. Why are bad boys so exciting to girls while good girls are what every boy should aspire to taking home to Mamma? Is anyone really able to fill these restrictive, one-dimensional roles to begin with? We aren’t TV serial goddesses like Parvati from Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki or Voluptous Vixen Komalika from Kasautii Zindagii Kay – aren’t we all just a little bit of everything?

What if our little boy loves painting, isn’t aggressive, doesn’t tear apart people’s houses when he visits, or likes to whip up all kinds of wonderful for his parents every Sunday morning? When he cries at the drop of a hat (much like all the kids his age), we tell him he can’t as that’s not manly. Why would these beautiful “feminine” traits like being able to emote easily, love openly and share (advice, their hearts?) generously be constantly devalued by society as nonsensical fluff? Why do we call people who don’t cry brave? Doesn’t it take a more secure human to be able to show emotion and be vulnerable?

Why must our girls be pretty rather than intelligent? How long does pretty last anyway? Why can’t we appreciate a little boy with the intelligence that comes from silent observation and from still-focus? Why do we plague them with words like ‘pansy’ and ‘faggot’?

What do we fear so much when we fear an intelligent girl or a creative boy? What’s the ‘worst case scenario’? That the child will grow up to be homosexual? Barring the fact that this notion makes no sense because we witness enough “manly” gay men and vain lesbians, pondering over this subject made me realize that even if my own daughter turned out to be gay, how would it matter? Would I love her less? No. I’d love her just the same, and accept her choices. It would be a paradigm shift in my mind, but there are many paradigm shifts that take place as you grow older, and that’s never a bad thing.

The worst case scenario would be that your child would live his life feeling suffocated; feeling that he can’t be his true self because society (and most importantly, you) think that he isn’t good enough. What good is a “manly” boy who is so bottled up that he manifests his emotions through other ways, perhaps even through verbal or physical violence?

On the other hand, why should intelligent girls feel like they have to hide behind the guise of bimbette-behaviour and survive on celery sticks to be liked by boys (and society)? Why can’t children just be themselves- long hair, short hair, creative, fat, sporty or naughty? Your child being honest and secure enough to live her life, making the choices that are true to her soul- how can that ever be the worst case scenario?

Senior Citizens: Good Etiquette, Bad Netiquette.

I check my Facebook newsfeed (that’s where I catch up on my current affairs since I don’t read the newspaper). As I scroll down, I can always spot the updates by my parent’s generation.

Whenever I see a photo that urges us to say “Amen” to a new born baby’s photoshopped picture where his intestines are falling out of his body, I know it has to be my sweet-natured, kind-hearted mommy who has agreed to saying “Amen” in the hope that her words will help relieve this child of his trauma. My mom is completely unaware of the evils of FB: the awful pranksters who make up bizarre pictures to gain likes/shares/amens so that their FB page gets promoted without them having to shell out any moolah to Zuckerberg.

Same thing with the “real pictures” of Sai Baba or the potato that looks just like Ganeshji which will instantly bless you, if you share it. A message to all our moms: these people are messing with your mind (and superstitions). Stop sharing!

Then there’s the selfie-wale uncleji (who literally sings “Chal Beta, selfie le le re” to his beta, not realising that that would be counter-intuitive). You wonder why he puts so many selfies especially since he’s not as vain as the average looking, narcissistic friends you have (who you envy for their confidence) who need to put up 11 pictures every day of their face (same exact location, clothes, smile, tilt of face) because they can’t get over how amazing they look! Selfie-Wale Uncleji is much simpler. He just figured out that his phone camera is a phenomenal object that has a two-way camera, and he’s started dabbling in photography.

Then there are the aunties who make huge faux-pas because they’re still figuring out Facebook, and post your name on their status update, instead of searching for it while trying to snoop around in your account- because their daughter told them you posted pictures of the plunging neckline you wore to a party recently. And now the whole world knows who the real Snoopy is, while aunty doesn’t know how to delete the update.

Although the Facebook stuff is entertaining, the bad netiquette that people are capable of is extremely bothersome. Like on WhatsApp, no matter what family group you get added to, you find that people of a certain age are still very propah’ about certain things: like saying Good Morning to everyone EVERY damn morning. They search out gorgeous pictures of tea cups that emit a melodious, “Good morning” rather than just plain old, tea-steam, or anthropomorphic cuckoos that sing, “Good morning”. Now although this makes for great etiquette (in 1965), it doesn’t make for very good netiquette. I know of Laptop and iPad classes held for senior citizens but what about WhatsApp manners’ classes for them?

I have huge families on all sides and a gazillion WhatsApp groups, so by the time the day is over, my phone is out of memory but I have so many “Good Morning” images saved that I could make a mammoth collage wallpaper for my room, which would greet me every morning, shocking me into having a good one!

Although, in the defense of our elders, I would say that our generation has lost its manners. When our parents greet us with a cheery Good Morning, all we do is grumpily mumble back (“What’s so great about mornings, after all?”)

If my amen-ing mom had to write about my generation (and me), she would mock our pseudo social-consciousness, wherein we don’t ever get up off of our high chairs (still babies when it comes to really bringing about any change) but FB share aplenty: “Sign Against-Rape Petitions on change.org” or Missing Person photos. We’re good about publicizing our social awareness but don’t really follow it up with any action.

Once, on a school WhatsApp group, there was a barrage of messages against a nun’s rape, and one of the girls spent hours coaxing people to turn up for the Peace March, but on the final day, she didn’t turn up and nor did most of the people who were passionately backing it.

I guess we are the ‘Pro-Cause, Against-Activity Generation’ that changes our profile photos’ colours for net-neutrality without knowing what it means: once we’ve shared the Candle Light Vigil event details for XYZ victim, we can rest in peace since that means our responsibility towards the universe is now complete!

No Sick Days Allowed on Mommy Duty!

“Aaaaaah!” I shriek as the Thunder Tower free falls. I feel like I’m falling into abysmal depths of excruciating pain. It feels like I’ve been suspended in air only by the support of my neck, while simultaneously being pulled down by my torso. The ride stops, starts inching upwards and then the horrible fall again, six times over. By the end, I have a sore neck, a concerned toddler peering over at me from the next seat, and a curious audience below that is wondering whether my shrieking was out of excitement from the ride (because it sounded too primal for that).

This took place at the children’s amusement rides’ section of Phoenix Mills, Parel, and since Thunder Tower looked a little daring for my 3.5 year old to go on (although the board said anyone over 3 feet to adult age was allowed), I went on with her. I’ve always been a thrill-seeker, having recently sat in many free-falling, heart-stopping rides in amusement/water parks abroad. I didn’t get physically sick from them. I now have a neck injury (according to my doctor) from this awful experience. Only in India can such rides be allowed, with no care given to minimize impact on little (and big) necks.

I moan and groan, as I get off, and my daughter is very sympathetic, at first. She gives me lots of hugs and kisses, telling me she loves me and that her kisses will make the pain go away. They don’t. Then, after letting me be the center of our universe for precisely 5 minutes, she shifts focus onto herself. She manifests sympathy pains wherein she complains, “Mamma, my tummy is hurting because the thunder ride pulled my tummy up and down!” I know for a fact she’s fine. She just can’t handle that for once, I’m the one who needs care.

I find that this is one of the consequences of being a mother: I come home and turn my head towards my maid, in an odd, robotic fashion. She asks what’s wrong, and when I tell her, she feigns concern. Within 5 minutes, she comes to tell me that she’s been shivering. I want to tell her that it’s pretty cold and that’s a normal physiological reaction, but I give her some sympathy and then walk off, grumbling to myself about how she’s ALWAYS sick.

As I lay down in bed, finally able to rest my aching neck, I tell the husband about my ordeal and I feel like he may have heard me because the side of his mouth makes an attentive twitching sound, although all facial clues tell me his consciousness is deeply implanted in Facebook updates and what the Twitterati has to say. Mera chance kahan? (Where do I stand a chance?) As he leaves his phone aside and curls up in bed, he tells me, “Can you press my head. I’m so tired!” When I’m quiet for a while, he says, “Why aren’t you pressing my head?” and I reply, “Because I’m using all my energy right now to keep my hands from pressing your throat!” He laughs and falls asleep. He’s like Alicia Silverstone- clueless!

It’s amazing how, as a mother, you come last in line. Everyone is allowed to be sick but you! You are the one who must attend to everyone’s needs (even the maids!) – never the other way round. As I try to leave for a birthday party in the afternoon, I have a checklist

BabyA’s afternoon snack – Check
Maid’s chai time-Check

By this time, there’s no time to think about nourishing myself and so I leave hungry and come home with a massive acidity headache from hunger or alternatively, stuffing myself with unhealthy kiddy party food, the digestion of which mimics the symptoms of a heart attack in a 37 year old woman.

I’m gassy, cranky and slightly nauseous. As I walk in to the house, looking odd, no one bats an eyelid. And as I lie down to shut my eyes, Baby A is on me, wailing, “Mamma, you have to sit and hold my hand while Didi feeds me!” and then the maid enters, “Bhabhi, mere ko chakkar aa rahe hain!” (Madam, I feel faint!). I yell, “Nandy, I’m really sick, can you help?”

Enters my hero, knight-in-shining-armour sporting a rolled thepla in his hand (no less assuring than a sword at this point). I’m relieved! Finally I can rest while the baby is fed. He wolfs down the thepla and then he says, “I can’t feed her. I’m so tired! So what’s your sickness of the day?” and then I remember why I hate fairy tales. It’s because they make every girl believe that she’s going to grow up to find a prince who will save her (at least when she’s sick and could do with some saving) but instead you get the evil step-mother in the avatar of your husband, who mocks you for being sick or tired. So I get up, pop in a Crocin and save myself… from the misery of not giving in, and from a subsequently worse headache!

The Business of Busyness: The Bombay Epidemic

The words I most commonly find myself saying is “I’m sorry I haven’t called you back/ met you. I’ve been so busy!” Busy, busy, BUSY: everyone in Bombay is inundated with so much stuff that we’re just too busy.

I don’t work and I have domestic help, as well as a joint family in place to be around my child and yet, I feel like I’ve made a business of my busyness. I haven’t read a book in the last 3.5 years (although I’m a student and lover of literature) and I barely watch any TV any longer (although I would be a student of TV studies if someone would start that course). My daughter goes to school for 4 hours 5 times a week and yet, I have no time!

My husband asks, “What are you so busy doing?” The question offends me (also because he thinks that he’s the only one who has the right to be tired or busy) but I can’t answer it. I have no idea what I do! I don’t really have very much home responsibility, but yes, I am around my child most of the time and we play a lot. She also likes me to be singularly focused on her when I’m with her, but I remember being just as busy when I didn’t have a child and wasn’t working!

I talk to other friends and find that I don’t need to be quarantined. It’s an epidemic because the business of busyness is infectious in Bombay. I know friends that moved from Kolkata or Delhi who complain that Bombay people are ‘cold’, ‘self-consumed’ and ‘unhelpful’. The Kolkatan said that it’s impossible to get people to meet you for coffee because they’re always busy. Another complain she had was that in Kolkata, everyone loves inviting friends home. In Bombay, no one does that. People are happier meeting you outside.

I try to defend my city people saying that that’s because we live pigeon-holed existences and so we don’t have the space to entertain. I also put forth the fact that we waste so much time in traveling to places that we become very selfish of what time is left, but I know that she is right. My reasons are correct as well, but the real reason I rarely invite people home is because I can’t control how long they will stay. If I meet them outside, I can scoot when I wish but at home, I can’t shove them out (or even politely nudge them out).

I’m the same way with the phone: when my phone starts ringing, my first reaction is complete panic. I want to fling it across the room and run out screaming, putting as much distance between it and me so I don’t have to take the call. Simultaneously, I will happily WhatsApp people for hours on end, having conversations that could have been completed, by the use of a phone call, in a minute. The reason is the same: in a phone call, I find it rude to hang up so I can’t control how long the conversation lasts but on WhatsApp, I can reply at my own convenience.

It’s simpler to pretend to be busy on message because there are no environmental clues like where you really are or what you’re doing: it’s easy to seem like I’m being mauled by my impatient cub to put the phone down when I’m actually at the gym (loud music blaring in the background), while having this conversation through texting. It’s more convincing to say, “Hey I better attend to this urgent toddler meltdown” rather than saying “Hey, I better attend to this urgent undoing of my shoe-lace while doing cardio (because I’m actually so over this conversation!)” WhatsApp is just a safer option in terms of cutting a conversation without hurting anyone’s feelings while returning to your busy life. My WhatsApp status is quite direct, “Hate phone calls, love texting! Don’t call me!”

When I visit my sister in Pune, my Jiyaji comes home early to be with me; he takes us out and shows us a great time. On the other hand, when my sister visits Bombay, my husband can barely find the time to meet her for dinner. We may just be sitting home on that night, but he’s resistant to step out on a weeknight. My bhabhi, who moved from Delhi, told me that she finds Bombay people very cold. I can understand her point completely but I wonder what makes us this way.

I think just the way Indians are viewed as ill-mannered and aggressive, because we constantly need to push to get ahead in line, something to do with the environ that we live in  makes Bombayites also insecure.

Indians have to compete in life with millions for a handful resources, right from the time we are in our mothers’ wombs; stressing about whether we will get a room in the best maternity hospital to getting an admission into school, college, (list goes on). Life is a race and this gets embedded into our psyche. In Bombay, this ‘Indian’ situation is magnified; with such a disciplined, competitive working culture, long working hours and very less space to live in, breathe in, travel in (whether you’re trying to find a seat on the local or trying to wiggle into the left lane to get one car ahead at the traffic jam), we find that we are fighting to gain some amount of control in our lives and personal space.

Our home becomes our sanctuary and we find that that is the only place where we exercise some control. This is why we are fiercely possessive of it,  not allowing anyone to enter for fear that their visit may reduce our sense of control here.

After all the time we spend commuting, working and fighting for space, we become selfish about what time we have left. We get into a mentality of constantly conserving: from space (I know of a top Bombay architect who was called to Delhi to design a country club and was sent back, as he couldn’t get out of his ‘saving space’ mentality while designing over sprawling acres) to time.

Even in our free time, we need to schedule everything. My husband’s sunday schedule goes something like this:

5:45 am Wake up and go for a long run (only possible on Sundays). 8:00 am Reach home, read the newspaper, chat with the family for a bit. 10:00 am Departure, with toddler and wife in tow, for a swim and breakfast at the club. 1:00 pm Eat lunch. 2:30 pm Take a nap. 5:00 pm Wake up and go out for a couple of hours (without toddler because father-baby time is over). 8:30 pm Dinner. 9:30 pm Off to bed

We (Bombayites) are constantly running: running to work, running to get home, running to take a nap and relax! The ironies don’t escape me when Nandy, despite this Sunday routine, doesn’t wear a watch on this one day because he says it’s too heavy on his hand. I suspect, time weighs too heavily on his mind rather than the certified lightweight watch I have bought him.

Time is the noose that hangs from every Bombayites neck; working, mothering or not! We try, every Sunday, to break loose but we can’t. Even when there’s no noose, we can’t help  but stumble around; still enslaved in our minds to our routine. We have truly made a business of our busyness. So when you call me and I don’t call back, remember the standard reply: “I’m sorry! I’ve just been so busy!”, and before you get annoyed, remember that I’m not lying. I suffer from the disease of busyness (a mental condition where you always feel extremely busy, irrespective of whether you are actually doing anything).

Dinner Table Dynamics: Dining with Specimen!

I’ve started to realize that you can tell a lot about a person from the way they dine out. What I mean by this is that an interesting aspect of one’s personality emerges as they sit around, being posh at restaurants.

While we dined with some friends at a fancy place, I sat back and noticed the dinner table dynamics. When you go out, there are some typical personality types that manifest. One of my favourites is the guy who claims to be a regular at the place: once, we went out with a guy who kept referring to the waiter by his first name (forget the fact that it was embroidered onto his shirt) with such a tone of familiarity; like he had developed a close bond with him over the times that he had served him Bourdeaux and Bouillabaisse. He kept telling him, “Make me my regular!” when asked about what beverage he would like. The poor waiter looked genuinely puzzled, really unsure of who the man was, and more so of what his regular would be!

Then there are the serial-shouters. These often occur in couples, and they find a constant reason to be annoyed with the waiter. They believe him to be their servant-of-the-moment and are enraged when he humanly errs by dropping a spoon onto the table, as if the clattering of the cutlery had shaken up their soul. I imagine they may be a little nicer to their servants at home, since they have to retain them, thus, they come to restaurants to unleash all their frustrations on this poor soul.

Then there’s the crass, nouveau-riche guy who thinks his obnoxiousness is humorous, who screams for the waiter standing across the restaurant, calling out, “Eh Laal Shirt, idhar aa!” (Hey Red Shirt, come here!) and then looks at his friends, expecting them to collapse into laughter. FYI, I have never hung out with this guy but have seen people like this on neighboring tables.

All these characters need their ego to be fed by the waiter much more than their tummies. They carry their egos as their plus ones (which occupy more than just one seat) and embarrass everyone else, who are secure enough to feel good about themselves without pulling someone else down.

Then come the money dynamics. These play out very interestingly on a table. There are the people who will order very generous individual portions for themselves, while insisting that the rest of the group has ordered too much and should reduce their order. Or the ones who will drink the best single malt (when they otherwise only have a taste for Teachers) just because the bill will be divided between everyone.

I shouldn’t forget to mention the people who will sulk about having to pay for your glass of wine after ordering a John Dory for themselves (a fish with such a fancy, formal name is destined to be pricey) which costs Rs. 3000 at that particular restaurant, while you chew on your steamed asparagus. And (credit to a friend who shared this story with me) the ones who will make their kids chug down glasses of chocolate milkshake (“Magar mujhe aur nahin peena hai, mummy! Ulti ho jayegi!”  “But I don’t want to have more, Mom. I will throw up!”) just because people are splitting the bill.

Talking about the bill: when it comes, that’s the time everyone starts squirming. Some people have an urgent call by nature to answer at the precise moment when the waiter heads towards their table with the leather folder in hand.

Then there’s the enthusiastic friend who takes out his credit card and gives it to the waiter first (and all the newbies’ heave sighs of relief thinking he’s sponsoring dinner) only to then calculate the bill and tell you an amount including a generous tip that you later find out he never paid to the waiter.

There are those friends who will split everything down to the last morsel, wanting to even calculate how many pieces of paneer you ate in the Paneer Makhani as opposed to them, but you have got to love the guys who don’t even want to carry their own weight in life (forget yours): those people who haven’t carried money, so they promise they will pay you later (and you could fill a bag with their IOU notes starting from 1992).

There’s a lot of fun to be had when you go out with friends for dinner, and there’s a lot of madness to be experienced as well. That’s why Nandy and I hang out with like-minded people where the dinner table dynamics don’t get so uncomfortable, and no one’s counting how many Pinot Noirs we have downed as opposed to their Kingfishers (or vice versa). But every once in a while, you have to meet some crazy bunch for dinner, and then the fun begins. And the best thing to do at that point, is to sit back and just watch the comedy unfold.

Sibling Revelry: Celebrating my Sister’s 40th

Sisters are wonderful. On my sister’s 40th birthday, I’m pushed to remember all our memories and how she has always been my pillar of strength, the person I call after my mom (and sometimes before) as I sob or bitch about whatever is going on in my life.

My siblings are the reason I have a lot of guilt over not producing a brother/ sister for my child, because (as cliché as this might sound) they are my (mental) insurance for the future; the ones that will always be there for me, no matter who else comes or goes.

Brothers are equally amazing but sometimes, patriarchy forces boys to be “men” which would mean to refrain from any overt expression of feelings, but I know my brother is always there for me.

Sisters are wonderful because patriarchy messes with our mind a lot too, but it doesn’t inhibit our ability to express. My sister doesn’t inundate me with unbridled PDA when she meets me, but we spend hours on end, just talking. She truly is my best friend, because no matter whether I’m fighting with a BFF or the ‘Pati’, she’s always there to sympathize or set me straight.

She’s the party starter of the family; the one who gets my mom and me (both of whose first reaction is to say “No, this is not possible to do”) to take holidays at the peak of life’s madness, and she’s usually right- most often, it’s a good idea.

She’s my shopping partner: I relate completely with the opening scene of the movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic” since we too grew up with a practical mom who always got us the sensible shoes that lasted forever rather than the pretty, furry ones that lasted as long as their trendiness: that’s the reason we turned into mad shopaholics.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t stand my sis. She was always a really nice elder sister, but I was a nasty little one (growing up with a massive “nobody-loves-me” middle child complex). I didn’t let her listen to my music casettes in the car, eat my pizza or use anything of mine. Thus, as a reaction, I wasn’t allowed to use her stuff either. The only unfair part about this fair deal was that God made her way smarter than me, so whenever I sneakily used her make-up remover after a night out, she would wake up in the morning and realize I had, based on the tiny drop of oil that hadn’t settled at the bottom and was still wandering on the watery top half (all the girls know what I’m talking about).

She knew when I had listened to her music in the car, even though I had rewound it to the song that it was on before I started listening because she knew which word she had left it at. Yes! For real! That’s why I detested her: she was our in-house CID. I didn’t cry a single tear when she got married in Pune because she knew everything about my life (none of it revealed by me) from my friends and boyfriends’ car numbers (and spotted us in a flash if we were within a 5 km radius of her at any point) to their phone numbers (unluckily, caller ID had just been introduced in landlines at that time) flashing on the phone at 12 am. Even today, I pity her children because they asked for a mom and they got Nancy Drew!

Luckily, I no longer have anything to hide from her. She knows everything and holds my hand through it all. When I was going through my fertility treatment, she would call me all the time to make sure I was doing ok. She even offered to have a child and give it to me! I don’t know if I could have offered her the same if the situations had been switched, but she did. In retrospect, I should have taken up the offer because my Jija and her gene pool seems to be a lot calmer than Nandy and mine. If I had had a calm first child, who wasn’t bouncing off of the walls all the time, I may have been more inclined to have a second.

She’s the one I turn to when I need to complain about my dad’s impulsiveness (she’s the same way though) or my mom’s over-practicality (I’m the same!) She’s the one who remembers our family’s special occasions and makes a big fuss over things! She’s the one who knows how to pamper me, leaving everything when I go to Pune and making me have a blast!

I know in some cases, siblings can become the necessary evil of your life: people you would never befriend ordinarily but you can’t unfriend because they’re your family. That’s not my story. I couldn’t imagine life without my siblings!

Despite all the sibling quibbling over the TV remote or (perceived) preferential treatment by our folks, or rajai-pulling yudhs as the three of us slept on a massive old style bed, my siblings are my past, my present … and most importantly, my future: my sureshot (can’t count on the kids these days) budhape ka sahara. So it’s reassuring to know that when I kick the bucket, there will definitely be two people by my side, tottering around, trying to hold that bucket from tipping over.


PDA- Public Display of Affection
Pati- husband
Jija- sister’s husband
Rajai- Jaipuri quilted blankets
Yudh- War
Budhape ka sahara- Crutch for one’s old age.