Tag Archives: #mom

Travel with Kids: Mom on Leash

I have always aspired to write a travel blog post with superb tips on how to travel well with a toddler but it wasn’t meant to be! I think now, after so many holidays, BabyA is better prepared to compose a baby blog on how to keep your parents on a tight leash through a holiday, since she is the one with the reigns in her hands, while we stumble through foreign landscapes with her. If only her friends could read, what a hit she’d be!

Traveling with kids is a completely different ball game from what it was when you didn’t have any. From the first flight that I took with her since she was four months old, I could sense the looks that I got as I walked in, being treated like a leper- each passenger looking at me with unmasked fear flickering in his eyes, praying under his breath that I wouldn’t sit next to him. You’d think I was holding an AK 47 in my hands rather than a little cherubic infant.

I can’t say BabyA is a bad traveler. No one can accuse her of being the cranky child on the flight whose shrieks paralyze fellow passengers into an auditory coma, where they can no longer sleep, eat or hear themselves think. She’s a happy traveler- also better know as “Happy Singh” by her cousins who have gotten used to traveling with her overly joyful personality. But is she easy on the parents? No way! She’s in fact too happy on a flight, and thus, her hyper nature is manifested in her incessantly jabbing the traveler in front of her with her kicks (paralyzingly him into a real coma), and jumping from seat to seat, shrieking in laughter. It’s like trying to control an over-excited pup on drugs! She’s all over the place!

I remember how courageous (and mostly naïve) I was on that November day when I bravely decided to travel with her, sans husband, to Pattaya and Bangkok when she was merely a year and a half old. It was my Mama’s* 70th birthday and in all honesty, I was going to have half the Punjabi Bania population of Mumbai (all being my family: parents, siblings, first cousins, nieces and nephews) on the flight with me so what could really go wrong? 50 family members could surely compensate for 1 missing husband and 1 missing maid. But I was wrong!

My “toofanmail”** woke up at 5 am to head to the airport, fairly easily and excitedly, but from that moment to the time we reached Pattaya, 15 hours later, she didn’t sleep more than a half hour. Even after making her chug sleep-including anti-histamines, all she did was run from one end of the airport to the other. I imagined she would be fenced in during the flight and that would force her to sleep, but in the air, for 4 hours, she stood on my thighs and jumped up and down continuously, peeking at the sleeping body behind, tugging at a cousin’s remaining strands of hair in front.

She also made up an innovative “Maathi-lah” game to entertain herself. Aranya had picked up (in advance) the Southeast Asian habit of adding “lah”as a suffix after words/sentences and had started calling her Masi “Maathi-lah”! At first very endearing, my sister didn’t know that this name would be her undoing. The game was that whenever she suspected her tired Masi, on the other side of the aisle, had finally caught some shut-eye, she would go and shake her up screaming “Maathila!” till she was shocked out of slumber, only to give her a sweet, million dollar smile, and run back to me. Once she was sure that my sister had managed to lull herself back to sleep, she would do it over and over, for the next hour.

The bus ride to Pattaya was similar- more jumping on my thighs till I had to explain to her that when I said, “Be friendly and play with the Thais”, I hadn’t meant MY thighs! Then she started running up and down the aisle of the bus (while all other children slept peacefully), giving mini heart attacks to my big, fat Punju family, because at every brake, she threatened to fall down the bus-stairs.

It got so frustrating and tiring that at one point, I was ready to smack her, and finally started sobbing out of exhaustion and anger. It was the perfect place to have a mental and physical breakdown, as my mom, masis, mamis and cousins surrounded me, commiserating: first trying to restrain this mental toddler (who seemed to have gotten her hands on illegal stimulants before we reached the shady parts of Pattaya) but later reassuring me that the first day would be the hardest but it would get easier. And it did.

As my niece pointed out, with BabyA’s chubby cheeks, chinky eyes and poker straight hair, she had anyway emulated the adorable Asian baby look, making us look like child traffickers trying to smuggle a Thai baby out of their country, as the Immigration officer assaulted me with suspicious looks when we were leaving. This helped her blend in and the cuteness factor helped me buy some bubble tea and rest my bubble butt for a moment while some or the other local engaged in pulling her cheeks and cooing melodious, foreign words to her!

I had decided that since she was over a year, I wasn’t going to indulge her by being a “khichdi mom”***, armed with my pressure cooker, rice-dal and killer cooking attitude. I was going to be the lazy mom that I am who wants her daughter to adapt to her surroundings, even if it meant making her eat egg fried rice mixed with strawberry yoghurt on some occasions. And BabyA went along, dahi (yoghurt) in her Pad Thai, et al. She was as easy as her BabyA-ness allowed her to be! Everything in life is relative, and after the flight from hell on that first day I ever traveled abroad with her, all other travel days have seemed easier.

In retrospect, since I can’t blame BabyA of being a bad traveler, let’s just say that Nandy and I, over many holidays, came to realise that after every trip with her, we need a holiday to rest from the stress of the earlier one. We understood that we aren’t ideal “parent-travelers” and are better off just taking off on our own, at least once a year. So I have to say I love planning baby getaways (getting away from the baby) to exotic locales and sipping on a Mai Tai, while BabyA bonds with Dadi, Nani and SakuBai. It’s fun being me for ten days in a year, and leaving Mom-Bai back in Mumbai- where she belongs!

From Mom-on-leash to Mommy Unleashed!



*Mama- maternal uncle

**Toofanmail- hurricane

***Khichdi- a dish made of lentils and rice, easy on digestion that usually serves as comfort food for babies.


Over-ripe ovaries & Pappu ka Andaa: My Infertility Saga

I was brought up to believe that I came from a lineage of extremely fertile women. Somewhere I thought that my only problem in life would be to make sure I didn’t pop out more munchkins than I could juggle at once.

5 years into my marriage, I started planning. I announced it to the world, suffering from a disease called being “overly honest”, whenever anyone would inquire (and in India, everyone inquires!) Obviously, the time bomb started ticking, more loudly in my head than in anyone else’s.

After two years of no luck, my gynaec gave up and asked me to get our tests done. Both our tests came out fine. I felt so depressed as I spoke to friends, hearing one line repeatedly: “We conceived on our first try! We were so surprised!” I wanted to stuff a sock in some of their mouths because I clearly remember their baby planning time frame being much longer. Maybe every woman needs to view herself as a Fertility Goddess due to some innate psychological need to feel good.

Then started the long ordeal of scientific intervention. I went through a total of 9 IUIs (non-assisted and assisted) but to no avail. Every time I saw women with babies, I felt like a failure. Despite all the fancy degrees I had accumulated, I could not even do the most natural thing any illiterate woman could do! I flinched during poojas, when people sang “Jai Ganesh” when the part “Baanjan ko putra deth”* would come. It didn’t disgust me for the same reasons as before (being a feminist, I can’t stand this Indian obsession with sons) but also because I felt like everyone singing was talking about me- pitying me! Let’s just say this was my melodramatic, Bollywood avatar!

I remember when a very close pregnant friend, who knew about my struggle, proceeded to take me for all of her baby shopping. It’s amazing how intimidating little baby clothes with furry bears smiling up at you can seem when you’re in that situation. I remember running into the changing room, on some ridiculous pretext, and crying.

Finally, I gave up on the less invasive IUIs and went in for an IVF procedure. The days at the infertility clinic were interesting, to say the least, sitting in the waiting room with so many aspiring girls. As the days in each fertility cycle would progress, we would compare notes. We would discuss how many eggs we had produced this month, and how good the quality was, according to the doctor. Over many such conversations, I started realizing that I was the “Pappu” of the class- always last! You remember Dairy Milk’s ad where Amitabh Bachchan is elated when a balding Pappu finally passes his 12th standard exams, and BigB sings in shock, “Pappu pass ho gaya”? I was that Pappu- the big fat andaa** who couldn’t produce good andaas! I had the least eggs, and even if I managed a satisfactory basket, the quality was not up to the mark. My eggs were stamped as factory rejects, and the doc labelled my ovaries “that of a 40 year old!” (when I was 30).

My in-laws and husband had always convinced me to stop all treatments, explaining to me, that we were fine as we were. My parents never pressurized me but felt like I should at least give science a chance.

After 2 unsuccessful IVFs, I was ready to give up! I had had enough. The injections were probably the worst part of the treatment because when you have to take one every day, even the doctor administering it no longer sympathizes with you. You feel like a cow on a dairy factory line up, being inhumanely poked with hormonal injections and then they’re onto the next cow waiting in line. I even started resembling a cow! The mood fluctuations were bugging! I was DONE: I had accepted that Pappu hadn’t passed but perhaps he had come to realize that he wasn’t academic after all. Maybe he could be a professional mechanic instead, or something like that?

I spent 6 months feeling depressed and wondering how Nandy and I could ever be complete without a child. Then I had my first little miracle. My sister told me that she had discussed it with my brother-in-law and they were willing to have a child (theirs) and give it to me. I didn’t even know what to say. I knew I didn’t want her to do that, but the fact that she was willing to, was the biggest gift that anyone could give me. That was a game changer.

After this incident, I started to feel some peace because I finally understood that I had been holding onto one thing for so long that I had neglected appreciating all the blessings God had showered upon me. I didn’t want to have a “sour grapes” mentality but I definitely needed to appreciate the positive in my life: that I could travel as often as I wished, that I didn’t have to share my husband with anyone (Nandy-obsessed me!), that there was less noise in my life, and that no one was wiping their snotty nose on my “dry clean only” dress every time I got ready. Let’s just say- I pulled myself out of the “have-nots” and started focussing on what I had: I started loving the silence… and my space!

There was also a spiritual realization that occurred. I had studied at a Convent school, and we often sang the hymn “I surrender all”. My father-in-law explained to me that when Vaishnavs say “Shri Krishna sharnam mamah”, it means the same thing: “Krishna, I take shelter within you. Do with me as you think best.” I surrendered all to God: trusting that he had better plans for me, I was stress-free!

6 months later, as I packed for my room-mate’s wedding in Santorini, I sensed I might be pregnant. I told my husband that maybe we should cancel the trip but he dismissed it, saying that was impossible because if all the treatment hadn’t worked, how could we suddenly be pregnant naturally? I got on the flight, and spent my entire trip in a daze of severe nausea and exhaustion! To the extent, that till now, just mentioning Greece or waving a gyro in my face, is the best way to see me double over in nausea. 5 days into the holiday, when I peed on the stick, I wasn’t surprised that it came up positive. It had finally happened and I was happy but I can’t say I was ecstatic. I had truly surrendered everything to God and whatever (S)He had chosen for me, I was up for the ride!

Although, I must admit, my spiritual serenity left me the moment I came back and rushed to get a sonography. As I saw that little kidney bean on the screen, and heard her heartbeat, my heart soared. I could no longer think “higher” thoughts. My mind was fluff and the only jingle that kept going through my mind was Amitabh’s voice singing to me, “Pappu pass ho gaya!”***

* Bless all infertile women with sons.
** Andaa literally means egg but is also used colloquially to mean zero.
***Pappu Pass Ho Gaya (Pappu has passed his exam!) ad link http://youtu.be/HIpnpO00Ohs

Chai and other lies: The Life of a Mumbai Mum

BabyA comes, handing me the jet spray, and says, “Mamma, why don’t you wash yourself?” Silly me! I really believed that I can steal a minute of peace to sit and answer the call that nature hollers out to me every morning. I wasn’t asking for newspaper time, or even a peek into Facebook to catch up on the important events featuring on my Newsfeed. I just asked for a minute so that I could feel like a human being with some amount of personal and private space so I could empty my bowels without emptying my self-respect. No such luck!

The other day, my nutritionist tells me, “You’re constantly skipping your afternoon green tea!” She doesn’t have kids, so she doesn’t understand that I don’t have the luxury of mulling over life’s ironies as I sip on chai. Does anyone realise what a long and self-reflective process drinking tea is? I never fully understood this till I had a kid (because earlier, time was commonplace- always there): You brew the tea, and then wait for it to cool down, burn your tongue a few times while waiting, and finally slowly sip through it (lavishly slurping if no one’s around) when it reaches the perfect temperature. This takes time, and feels like ‘living on the edge’ when you have a toddler who loves to jump all the time on anything she can find- be it a pillow or more excitingly, your head lying on that pillow.

Some time ago, there was a tea ad campaign that proclaimed “Chai Time is My Time”. Now that I have a toddler, I fully appreciate what that means. It means that drinking (and really enjoying) tea takes time. It is a meditative experience. Moms don’t meditate because moms have no time! “My time”- what’s that? Occasionally, I do encounter this phenomenon but it happens so rarely that it warrants great excitement, wherein I put updates about the hours I slept or movies I watched or I share Instagram images of my “Daffodils” inspired tea cup alongside my fancy Rose Pouchong tea leaves. After all, afternoon tea for a mum is an event and it must be treated as such.

I read blogs, once in a while, wherein people on the outside, wonder what moms in Mumbai (especially SoBo) do. They imagine us to be much like “moms of the Upper East Side” (did you read that article?) who just sit around spending hours on narcissistic activities like getting manicures, exercising and having shopping-mommy-lunches all day, while our kids are brought up by our nannies. I guess some moms live their lives like that (and that’s entirely their choice), but most of the moms I know, don’t. I would love to live that life, but I don’t.

I do take the time out to exercise and take care of my health, especially now that my child is getting older and goes to school, but I don’t understand why do moms have to apologize for prioritizing themselves, or for having a support system? And just because we have a support system, why do some people assume that we are less involved mothers? I have a full time maid for BabyA, and I live in a joint family with a helpful mother in law, and an eager mom who lives 20 minutes away so the world tells me that I must be having lots of “my time” and yet, here I am, trying to schedule a cup of green tea at any point in the day.

It’s not that I don’t have time because I don’t trust anyone with my kid. When I go out, I never call to ask the 3 Ms: my mother in law, mother or maid the quintessential mommy concern, “Baby ne khaana khaaya, kya?” (Has Baby eaten her food?) In fact, I never call home because I’m too busy taking selfies of myself having a good time- because it is an event in my life!

So even though I have so much support, and I do manage to sneak in a mommy lunch every now and then, in reality, I spend most of my day with BabyA. I pick her up from school, and after her lunch, we play board games. We have “chutney time” where we make “chutney” out of each other, hugging tight and squashing tighter till we’re both paté. We go for coffee dates often to the local bookstore, where after our reading session, I drink cappuccinos while she sips on babycinos (milk) at their cafe (she’ll let me drink a hot beverage in peace as long as “coffee time is our time”). I do realize that this is a luxury in itself, because I don’t have to do housework or work outside to supplement the house income, so I can truly spend quality and quantity time with my child. I thank God every day for blessing me with this luxury, but I resent when people make a caricature of my type, and write that we don’t have time for our kids because we have so many people to help out!

I grew up with a mom who was always home when we got home, and to me, that was the biggest joy, whether I expressed it to her or not. I don’t mean to pass judgement on someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to do that, but I do mean to share what was important to me while growing up, and I want to be the kind of mom I have had. That’s why, when people think I have a decadent life where I wonder what to do with the oodles of time I have to myself, I want to believe in that fantasy too. I shut my eyes, and imagine myself all alone on some beach, holding a tall glass of chilled Sangria and a copy of “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri (of which I have read the first chapter four times, as I have never had the free time to escalate to the second), the cool sea breeze mixed with the hot sun lulling me to sleep… and just then, a squirt of tepid water hits my face. I open my eyes to see her standing there, looking impatient, with the jet spray pointed towards me like a gun:

“Mamma, why are you sleeping on the potty? Come on quick! Wash yourself!”

And I’m back to reality.

It’s in the genes: my little Marwari Sethani!

As a psychology student in college, we went deep into the “nature v/s nurture” (genes v/s socialization) debate and never came out with any conclusive winner. Now, as I have created my own little specimen who I can evaluate through my psychological microscope, I have to say that nature accounts for a lot.

I call BabyA (my 3 year old) my “little Marwari Sethani” because that’s exactly what she is! She seems to have taken her looks from my side but her nature wholly resembles my husband’s side. She can out-eat any spicy-blooded Bikaneri in a Bhujiya or Papad eating competition, and every time she comes out of Music Class, she can never leave without ordering a paan from the paanwala who sits outside, as I crumble in shame in front of the other mommies who are probably judging me: how crass is a pawn-chewing toddler? What can I say? She’s got Maru genes! I can just see her, a year or two later, standing on Marine Drive and telling the paanwala, “Ek Chotti Baby ka paan banana” (Make my usual).

We haven’t made her eat bhujiya, papad or paan but she has naturally gravitated to these things, even though we avoid having them lying at home due to health reasons. And her innate Maruness never ceases to surprise me. Even the way she needs things to be organized, or else you will find her bordering on a nervous breakdown, is completely reflective of my husband’s family. My mom is Punjabi and her house is very clean on the outside but her cupboards and drawers are a mess- as are mine! I grew up seeing my dadi (who’s mostly Marwari- we’re a majorly hybrid family) spending an hour every morning, cleaning her 6 cupboards! I always pondered over the futility of this chore because how dirty could the cupboards have gotten in a day? And then I got married into a house where distant relatives would come home and ask me, “Tumhara cupboard dekhao- tum kaise rakhti ho?”(Show me your cupboard. I want to see how neatly do you maintain it?) I would open my cupboards, and as my clothes and bags would shower down upon us (the shower of shame, as I call it), I knew that I had failed the “Marwari Sethani Acid Test” (Marwari daughter-in-law Acid Test).

Aranya has gone on her Dadi and Grand-Dadi (and most of the 9 other family members that l live with): She needs order outside for her to feel comfortable on the inside. The frames in her room must be positioned at right angles on the wall, her crayons must be kept top to bottom in a very long vertical line when she colours and her twin- elephant cushions must stand on her bed, trunks entwined, facing each other. When I enter the house, if I stand around a minute too long in my shoes, in MY room, she asks me repeatedly to remove my shoes and put them in the drawer, and finally pushes me out of them and puts them in herself! And at the age of 2, she has thrown her beloved dadi out of her room for having the gall to step inside with her home slippers!

I know she may see people being fastidious at home, but I am her primary care-giver as no one spends as much time as I do with her. I know she looks up to me, but I’m not Bikaneri by blood or heart. I love Lijjat’s Garlic papad, Haldiram aloo Bhujiya (which the Bikaneris do not even acknowledge as Bhujiya and disregard by categorizing as a measly food accessory: “sev”), commercially available “Mother’s” pickle and I don’t have a neat bone in my body: all the things that would make any Bikaneri flinch. Yet, she is nothing like me in her habits (besides her love for books and overactive imagination)! Just the way sticking out her tongue when she’s concentrating on something, like her dad, is genetically programmed into her, God seems to have set this maniacal neatness and discerning, fiery taste-buds into her DNA, to make my in laws and hubby happy, and to completely mess with my cluttered, (mostly) Punjabi brain!

Mummy ke haath ka Khaana & a Dabba full of Memories

Food is something that consumes every mommy’s mind. From the moment you give birth to that little cherub, you want to make sure that everything consumed by her is nutritious, unadulterated and wholesome, helping this child grow stronger. That’s why, world over, nothing tastes as great as “Maa ke Haath ka Khaana”, whether the Ma is Italian, Hindustani or Sonia Gandhi (the perfect mix!)

In SoBo, the two most prominent mums are the Gujarati mum and the Marwari mum (due to the infestation of these communities in the area). One of the most beautiful things about our country is how people still reflect their ancestral culture, despite living in cosmopolitan cities.

Being Maru, I see that these two kind of moms are very opposite in their approach about food (and I’m stereotyping here, so if you are an exception, don’t write to me): Gujarati households tend to be more self sufficient and no matter how wealthy people are, usually the women are actively involved in the kitchen and/or cooking. Marwaris tend to feel a bit at sea if they don’t have an army of servants lobbying around them at any moment. The ratio must be 1:1 (minimum) for any self respecting Marwari to feel secure at home (and the minimum ratio is only existent in Holi Season when all the servants decide to go to their village together, also known as Black Holi-day in most Marwari Houses).

I have found that Gujju moms tend to be involved in coming up with elaborate menus that they bring to life often with their very own hands because they wouldn’t entrust the hygiene and nutrition of their infants’ food onto anyone else. Us, Maru moms, have great trust on our Maharajis (home chefs) and are superb at writing down our needs and delegating to them. After all, MJ knows best!

I see with the Gujju moms, that from the first bite that goes into their children’s mouths, they want it to be exotic, packed with nutrition and delicious- all at once, and so they painstakingly make really fancy dishes for their undiscerning infants to eat. Their objective is to foster a versatile and evolved palate from an early age. I had one Gujju mommy friend who told me her week’s menu for her 1 year old and it went something like this

Day 1- Broccoli and Cheese Paratha
Day 2- Pumpkin and Bell Pepper Soup with Foccacia
Day 3- Minty Paneer Lifafa
Day 4- Alphabet Pasta in Alfredo Sauce
Day 5- Stuffed Chilla made from Oats
Day 6- Cheddar & Swiss Cheese Sandwich
Day 7- Nachni Dosa with Tomato Chutney

My only thought with my Maru brain was, “Why would you waste that on a one year old who thinks biting on your elbow is way more tasty than into a Swiss cheese sandwich. Save that food for me instead!” Also, I compared (silently, of course) my weekly menu for BabyA which was

Day 1- Roti, Dal, Chawal (Rice), Sabzi (Veggies).
Day 2- Roti, Dal, Chawal, Sabzi.
Day 3- Roti, Dal, Chawal, Sabzi

You get the drift! RDBS as the Gujjus call it (Rotli, Dal, Bhaat, Shaak), almost like its a bad word (MC,BC) or some really dangerous substance that one must stay away from (RDX). But whatever the Gujju moms may think of me, that’s what my kid ate (and eats).

From very early on, she had to eat whatever was made for everyone else. It wasn’t even spiced down for her (although, our food isn’t too spicy to begin with). After all, I don’t want her growing up to be a Princess because Princesses have a hard time adjusting to different situations (did you hear about the crazy one who could feel a pea through 20 mattresses?) My husband was brought up the same way, and I’m definitely happy to be married to someone whose only demand is that he be provided simple, home-cooked food at home (no delivery/ take away business)- whatever it may be. And he doesn’t complain, even after eating aloo ki sabzi (potatoes) 5 days in a row. I know because I subjected him to that when we were living in Pittsburgh and Maharaji couldn’t get a passport.

But I do admire these Gujju moms a lot. A very good friend of mine (pure Gujju-blood and bred) has been whipping up all kinds of delicacies for her kids since they were born. We would salivate as she would tell us what cuisines she was preparing for their school tiffins. I could only imagine how much they must have been bullied; tiffins being wiped out before they reached back to class after morning assembly, but when we asked her about how lucky her kids must feel, she said, “They complain all the time. They hate their tiffin. They say, ‘Why can’t you be more like so-and-so’s mom? She gives him such yummy bhindi-aloo while I stare at my mushroom and bean burritos”

This reminds me of my school experience. My mom was the quintessential Maharaji-dependent kind, and our Maharaji’s repertoire extended as far as besan toast (a.k.a bread pakoda) in snacks and pav bhaji in food. He didn’t cook anything with cheese as he considered it Mansahari (non-vegetarian-wherever did he get that notion from?), so I had the most boring dabba in the world. Every day, I saw my Sindhi friend open her dabba, filled with Rainbow Sandwiches and Aspic Salad, while my Punju friend got yummy Noodles from Paradise Restaurant or Vegetable Patties from Radio Club. And my Ismaili friend often got canteen money (She was the luckiest! None of our moms would have ever trusted us with the huge sum of 10 rupees every day) and bought us all fried rolls and channa-bread.

But now, when we sit around and chat about school days, everyone remembers how much they loved my tiffin, especially the chutney sandwiches I used to get. My chutney sandwiches? I remember the chutney as being too strong and the bread as being too hard, but that’s not the way they remember it!

So I guess all in all, no matter which mom we are, we must all relegate ourselves to the ultimate truths of motherhood:
1) Our kids will complain, no matter how much we do,
2) They will always take us for granted, and
3) They will usually view the grass to be greener on the other side.

But the saving grace is, that when they sit around at reunions, and reminisce about their childhood, they will be reminded of how hard their mothers tried and how much they have been loved!

Happy Mother’s Day!

No Fight: Confessions of a Tired Mommy

I scream, “No..don’t drink that” as my only born slurps the water from her bathtub. “BabyA, that water is not for drinking. Yuck! Look at that! There’s a dead spider in it.”

She is unphased by my drama. She takes a bored look at the mangled spider floating, and bends down to start slurping the soapy water making its way down the drain; licking it like the kitty cats she so admires. She doesn’t even hear me shouting any more.

As an expectant mom, you assume that the time when you start losing control will be around the teenage years, or maybe the Tweens for this generation, but somewhere you believe that you will have a say till then. The truth is that every day I feel powerless in front of my tiny toddler.

Now don’t go mommy-judging me: of course she gets time out when she tries hitting me or does something completely unacceptable, but for all the things that hang in between the segregated realms of wrong and right; for the behavioral patterns that lurk in limbo land, I find myself not-in-control in front of my three year old.

I have never been overly fond of children, except the home-grown variety, and that’s why I had a thousand and one opinions on other people’s upbringing and their progeny. That was until I had BabyA, and since then, God has made me eat my words over and over again.

I used to find some kids extremely rude, like the kind who didn’t greet uncles and aunties “hello” and “ta-ta” or the variety who had nervous breakdowns if someone so much as smiled (at their cuteness), crying, “Why is she laughing at me?” I was sure my kid was going to be nothing like that! I would set her straight if she even tried!

But my kid is exactly like that. She never greets anyone that she doesn’t meet more than once-a-week and when she was younger, would flip out when people smiled in her presence as she would suspiciously shriek, “Why are you/they laughing?”

These are extremely uncomfortable situations for me as I was brought up by a dad who wasn’t fascist about anything but the “5 golden words” of politeness (and doing “chap chap” while eating but that’s a whole other story). So I grew up to be an extremely polite person. I thought that I could discipline my child into being polite, or doing things that I viewed as important (albeit not integral) to one’s character. Short answer: not possible! It’s a classic case of no longer being able to control the (little) monster you created.

And as a parent, you start realizing that you don’t have the fight in you to battle everything. Most of the time, you’re just too damn tired to disagree:
“Mamma, can I jump hard on your tummy and booboos alternatively and pretend you’re a horsie?”
“Mamma, can I blow germ-infested spit bubbles into your milkshake?”
“Go ahead”
“Mamma, can I walk all over you wearing Mami’s 9 inch heels?”
“Be my guest!”

I’m going down! After all, I got no fight!

Potty Training for Mummies & Dummies

When A was just a tiny babe, the two moms in my life (my mother by biology and my mother by marriage), broached the subject of toilet training. My mom in law extolled the benefits of classical conditioning her right away- making “shushing” sounds which would eventually be associated, in the infant’s mind, with urinating so that every time it was made, it would excite the bladder muscles, and relax them– much like chanting “Om” does to the senses. Being a Psych Major, the idea of using my child to replace the famous Pavlovian dogs in this psychological experiment appealed greatly!

My mom had an equal but opposite opinion. Having participated in the bringing up of my sister’s two kids, in the recent past, my mom believed in New Age theories that starting toilet training too early would cause psychological problems like insecurity within the child. She had heard this from my sister, who is just short of being a certified child psychologist since she runs several play schools.

Both arguments were strong, and I started having nightmares about Potty Training; getting dreams of a grown up BabyA running from chemist to chemist, trying to find an XXXXXXXL size to fit her 34 year old big butt, because she just wouldn’t sit on a potty!

My mom held her ground, while my mom in law pointed out the frivolousness of the idea that a child would become insecure based on something so insignificant, and unconnected! Was the human mind really so fragile?

I just buried myself a little further into the blanket every time this topic came up, and when I came out of my blanket, BabyA was two years old. I had been an ostrich for so long, that by the time I emerged, both moms were on the same page, and glaring at me. The words were on the wall: “Potty Train her Now!”

This time also coincided with A’s school holidays and so my pockets were emptied of their excuses. I googled and read, and YouTubed and watched, and got a whole lot more confused. There was the “Train Your Kid in 3 days Flat” lady who guaranteed a potty trained baby if you were willing to give up your life (also sanity, and possibly your marriage) for 3 days. You had to tent out in one plastic-wrapped area of the house with a diaper-less child for 3 days, and feed, play, sleep and defecate there. On the 3rd day, the child would magically become potty trained (or you’d commit suicide due to complete mental disorientation). This was never going to work for me: BabyA couldn’t sit still and there was no way I could bound her by any Laxman Rekha. My irreverent Sita would have crossed before Rama was out of earshot.

Then I read the “What To Expect”article* which listed the tell tale signs that your child is ready for potty training. BabyA wasn’t showing any signs but I disregarded the article and went back to mommies’ orders. I took BabyA off her diaper, bought the most endearing Teddy potty in town that had an inbuilt cheering squad for every time the baby filled its base with urinary or fecal goodness! I got star and smiley stickers, multicolored lollipops along with a reward chart where BabyA got to colour in a star every time she did things right. I did it all but she just wouldn’t potty train. She would cry because she hated the damn potty!

I gave up after 20 days, but kept an eye out for the signs, and they came. About 3 months later, BabyA started showing interest in being toilet trained, by no prodding from me. That’s when I took her off the diaper (except at school) and it was magic! She potty trained herself. No stress from me, no pushing, no taking her to the bathroom every 15 minutes or 2 hours even. I’d only take her when she expressed a desire to go, and we barely had any accidents even. In a month, she was almost completely trained! Just like the Mommy Bible had foretold.

And now when I look back, I wonder what I was panicking about. In the world, there are hyper mums and lazy mums, cool mums and crazy mums- but no matter what mum a child has been plagued with, they all get potty trained. I don’t know any 34 year old still running around in diapers (except in my dreams)!

So I relax. I close my eyes and just listen to my surroundings: the mellifluous tinkle of my child’s pee-pee filling my ears. I stop to take a deep breathe and my senses are invaded by the strong scent of a pooping baby who ate some of her favourite Rajma-Chawal last night. And I break in to applause. Who needs automated cheerleaders when God created mothers?


*For all those interested in the article I was referring to, click on http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler/potty-training/signs-of-readiness.aspx


My iPhone playlist displays “Reason by Hoobastank”. “Hoobastank? Who’s that?” I think although the song name sounds familiar. I play it and it’s my all time favourite song, and I can’t help but wonder how this information has been erased from my memory.

It’s called being mommy-brained. Just the way you have hare-brained and twit-brained; in the same family of semantics is the condition of Mommy Brain-ness (I don’t call it Brainy-ness, which may sound more grammatically correct, because it would wrongly connote that this was some kind of an admirable condition).

It’s like, after a child comes into your life, she assaults all your senses and then occupies them, ALL THE TIME, for life. I know I make it sound horrible but it’s wonderful and then a bit miserable, but never horrible. Nothing is yours any more. You no longer focus on yourself and so, soon enough, you no longer know yourself without her.

You only watch what she likes, and if at some point, she senses that you may have gotten away (sitting in your room having a jolly good time watching “Modern Family” reruns without her), she runs to your room, to make you switch to “The Adam’s Family” cartoon series which you must watch hand-in-hand with her!

You are constantly sensitive to the aromas of the world, trying to focus on what might bother her: protecting her before yourself; from pollen-infested flower sniffs, smoky mosquito repelling fumigations and stinky bodily emissions that you are more allergic to than her.

The only music you listen to any longer is the Preeti Sagar Nursery Rhymes’ CD she wants to hear, on a loop. And you flinch with every bursting ‘phataka’ (firework) as if you’re the one whose frightened of pyrotechnics. Ganpati Visarjans are even more torturous, and more than once, you have mentally enacted the scene from Kill Bill where Uma Thurman slices her enemies, with the Pandal DJ playing your villain.  “After all, no one messes with my baby!”

Your taste buds are no longer able to enjoy the explosion that you enjoyed in your mouth while slurping some spicy rasam and your only thought when the waiter brings out that pink sauce pasta is that dimwits without kids don’t understand how crucial simplicity is. You can’t fancy it up by putting in some colour or exotic veggies: Mac n Cheese is on all kiddy menus for a reason!

Food for you is now something that lets you live. You shovel down the truffle gnocchi without appreciating the subtleties of its preparation, and you eat copious amounts of chips, cheese toast and even tasteless apple purée just so starving kids in Africa don’t find out that your child wasted some food.

In fact, feel is the only sense that becomes more enhanced after you have a baby, and that’s what makes the miserable part so damn wonderful. Till now you haven’t truly understood how your heart can soar when you’re sleeping and someone wakes you up to butterfly kisses all over your face. You haven’t known how your heart skips a beat as that little baby, who can only be an innocent angel of God (it seems, at that point), suckles to your breast and is comforted from any feeling of fear, discomfort and insecurity… all because you’re there!

I may no longer know what kind of music, TV shows or food I like. I may have lost all control over my senses (and bladder, post delivery) but the way my heart leaps when I see that little soul clinging to me, like I’m no less than God herself, in her eyes; that’s the part that makes motherhood so damn worth it!

The Mental Hospital of Mommies

I get a call mid-morning from my sister-in-law, new mom of a 3 month- old, sounding terribly frightened: “I was out doing some errands when  someone called to inform me that I should rush because Fancy-Shmancy Playschool is giving out admission forms”.

Till now, she had lived oblivious to the Mad Mad World of Mommyhood but standing at the epicenter of all maternal earthquakes (the premises of a highly desirable school during admission time), there was no way she was able to stay grounded.

My only answer to her was “Welcome to the Madness!” And the mommy world is definitely a mad one. But it never used to be this crazy. When we were little, I remember my mom complaining about the occasional wonky mom whose daughter scored 99% every time, but the mom would spend hours with the teacher, at Reports Day, analysing and reanalysing how Swati* lost out by one mark (despite barely sleeping during the exams, having water-soaked badaams & Chyawanprash every morning and wearing religious lockets of 3 faiths around her neck).

And then there’d be all the other moms, like mine (moms of the mediocre 60-70 percenters) who wouldn’t spend more than a minute with the teacher:
Mom: “She’s a good girl?”
Teacher: “Yes. She’s a good girl in class”.
Mom smiles uncomfortably, picks up report and darts.

That was Mommy World when I was growing up. When I came home, I changed out of my uniform and went downstairs to the garden or watched my brothers wrestle like Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, doing pile drivers and leg drops on each other. I didn’t have Singing class on Mondays, Ballet class on Tuesdays, Swimming Class on Wednesdays, Zumba for Kids on Thursdays, Yoga Class on Fridays (where you are taught how to rest: ‘shav-aasana’) and Nani House Day on Saturday. My social calendar was pretty free.

Forget how scandalized I felt when someone showed me snippets of “Girls Gone Wild” in college, I’m definitely more shocked watching “Moms Gone Wild” unfold in front of me. I remember when BabyA was 6 months, I told a mom (with an infant of the same age) that I had started BollyAerobics and she thought that I had started BabyA on BollyAerobics. She went ballistic trying to find out the number of A’s instructor: God forbid, her kid may lose out! And I still wonder how she expected her son to dance when he was 6 months away from walking then. But then Mommyhood has no connection to logic any more.

From hearing moms bitch out their kids’ schools for giving them chocolate ice-cream (I have been witness to a half an hour conversation about how evil the school is because they decided to treat the students to chocolate ice cream during the Diwali Party: “Don’t they know that my child can develop a cough?”) to moms who would probably sanitize the toilet paper that they use on their babies’ asses if they could: I feel like I have seen it all! Whatever happened to moms like our moms, who were happy when we got chocolate ice cream at school because they were happy that we were happy!

I think a big chunk of the problem stems from the fact that school admissions are so stressful these days, so moms feel sucked into the frenzied, over-competitive mommy world as soon as their kid is born. Right from choosing the right Pre-Natal Class (to provide your unborn child with the most enriching environment in the womb) to selecting a Mother Toddler Programme (so that infants can learn sociability), the stress only goes on intensifying.

Also the break-up of joint families has resulted in less interaction with extended family and thus, a loss of in-house entertainment. In the age of outsourcing, we must also outsource people to entertain our kids: through organized play dates and various classes.

Another factor is that many people are deciding to have one child, and more than two are almost unheard of (and given the “couldn’t keep your pants on, huh?” looks, if they exist). Thus, parents’ entire focus is on trying to create that one prodigy because that’s the only shot they got!

So I can’t say I’m not a Mad Mommy: BabyA’s social calendar is more packed than a Mumbai local at peak hours, I feel shattered if her nap has gone off-schedule and I have to admit that I squirm every time my Old Neighbourhood Uncle offers her cashewnuts from his pocket (no box, just floating around in his pocket- how gross!), whenever he bumps into her. I guess, I have to learn to let go- and let BabyA just live… and be! I have to learn to take the bad with the good; or in this case, to take the wooly pocket lint with the equally grubby cashewnuts- all with a smile. I must do so just so I can truly earn the right to be an outsider, who looks in, to point and laugh, at all the unrecovered patients of The Mental Hospital of Mommies.

*Fictitious names used.

Wake Up Sid: Daddy’s stealing all the limelight

I’m going through BabyA’s baby pics on my phone and it’s filled with shots of Nandy and her.
Photo 1: Nandy looking disoriented as he walks with her, head resting on his shoulder, in the middle of the night.
Photo 2: Nandy grimacing as he peeks into her diaper to find the explosion that almost rocked the house.
Photo 3: Nandy fast asleep as Aranya manages to rest her feet over his face.
Photo 4: Nandy, tired after getting back from a long trip, sleeping with Aranya snoozing on his tummy.
I suddenly realize that I’m Anupam Kher from Wake Up Sid! My daughter is going to look at all the pictures from her childhood and never see me. She will think that it was her father who woke up every time she cried in the middle of the night, to feed her and then walk her (she in his arms) for hours till she fell asleep. She will believe that it was he who always changed her dirty diapers, wiping the rainbow coloured potties she was capable of exhibiting in her tiniest years. She will think that he was the one who would silently put up with her constant unintentional violence (kicking, slapping, etc.) as she slept and only wanted to cuddle with him at night. Ok- so the last one’s true but not the rest! The rest were ME – ALL ME!
Eventually her memories will morph into a false photoshopped MMS where her father will be the one who would spend an hour (sometimes two, no jokes!) singing “What a Wonderful World” and “Yeh Honsla” (from Dor) in alternation, to her while unsuccessfully rocking her to sleep. But no! That was ME too! Sang till my voice was hoarse.
My husband wasn’t a baby person and that’s why when I saw how he warmed up to his own child, I wanted to capture every sensitive moment on camera. So each little moment of father-daughter bonding was caught and archived for her to view as a grown up.
Of course, since I am the mother, and supposed to be responsible for everything to do with this baby, nobody was there to click me when I had my finger up her nose trying to take out a booger that wouldn’t let her breathe. Moms do that! Who cares?
And that leaves me feeling like Anupam Kher in Wake Up Sid: my daughter will grow up seeing these pictures and thinking that it was her father who was always there: for the first word, to nurse all her boo-boos, for the first heartbreak. But she won’t ever think about who was behind the camera, taking all these pictures?
The only thing I find solace in is the hope that perhaps at the end, when she’s peaking at her mommy-hatred (because that’s naturally bound to happen at puberty with any daughter), he will tell her… Just like Supriya Pathak told Ranbir Kapoor: “Who do you think was holding the camera all this time? Who do you think wanted to take pictures of you all the time? Who do you think loves you so much?” (Or something like that).
And then I will be redeemed in front of my tattoo- toting Goth daughter (because that’s my image of what teenhood looks like). A slow, K-Jo approved, heart-wrenching tune will start in the background and she will run to hug me, hair flying. From therein, she will give up her rebellious ways (and gear), only to wear lemon yellow chiffon salwars, worship me and marry the boy of my choice!