Tag Archives: #momblog

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.

Self(ie)-Obsessed: The Narcissistic Generation

Hiding behind a mop of hair is a twenty year old at the gym who looks like he aspires to be an actor. As he runs, I see his hair swinging from side to side in front of his eyes, pendulum-esque in the way it’s hypnotizing me!

I’m assuming it’s possible to run on a treadmill without having complete periphery vision but when he starts picking up weights, I’m cringing! I resist the urge to take off my tic tac pins and pin his hair back, much like I do when BabyA roams around in her possessed Tantric avatar. He manages to carry the weights bar, do his set and place it back! The only satisfactory explanation would be that he has developed a sixth sense, much like the blind, where he no longer relies on vision to guide him through life.

They call it the “Narcissism  Epidemic” (phrase coined by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell)  in the US, and it’s a generation of kids that are so obsessed with themselves that they are unable to see anything beyond. Calling them horses with blinkers would be a wrong analogy because that would mean that there is some one-dimensional exterior focus, but in this case, there is none. The mop of hair is fashionable, and also metaphorical for the way they lead their lives: unconcerned with a view of the outside because they are focused on their own thoughts, feelings and wants!

This narcissistic generation has been given whatever they want, and haven’t learned how to hear a no. And I feel like our kids are going to be the narcissistic generation of India because we tremble when they crumble. We are so afraid of their tantrums, especially publicly, that we just don’t want to dismay them. It’s a role- reversal from our grandparents’ time where our parents peed in their pants with a raised eyebrow of their mother/father. And now one quivering lip and we are ready to bend over and do somersaults for our tots.

Today’s psychological trend is to over-sensitize us to our kids’ feelings. There was an era (of famines, plagues, World Wars and sickness) when they felt like kids needed to be made aware of the severity of life, thus, they composed nursery rhymes that revealed the harsh realities of the world like Rock a Bye Baby or Ring a Ring o’ Roses. Now we feel like we need to protect our children from these stories and songs, which teach them about death and wars. We believe that they aren’t prepared to deal with these subjects at such a young age.

We are told to be gentle with our children, never speak to them harshly and explain things to them rather than exercise any absolute authority. This comes from a world where psychologically all our scars are blamed onto our childhood and parents. There is very little accountability for our own thoughts and reactions, and much more blame pushing: as if our entire life depends solely on what mistakes our parents made with us.

This puts a lot of stress on today’s parents. We don’t want to be blamed for making our children dysfunctional adults. I appreciate that childhood is very important in the way our minds/ lives are shaped but I wonder if children are really that fragile. I was born a middle child who spent her entire childhood being called “Kalaini” (crank-pot/ pain-in-the-ass) and believing that no one loved me. I had the most contentious relationship with my mother and I got a slap daily (well deserved). Then I turned 19 and left for the U.S. to study and that’s when I realized how much my mother (and everyone else) loved me.

Today, I am a secure adult who feels loved, and confident in my skin. My mom scolding/ slapping me when I deserved it hasn’t debilitated me beyond repair. In fact, I’m someone who has value for things, knows how to adjust into the Big Fat Marwari Joint Family and has compassion for people around me, always ready to help. I don’t, at all, advocate  hitting kids or being a dictator parent but I just want to point out that possibly kids’ minds aren’t as delicate as we think they are.

I make sure not to be overprotective about my child. I chose not to send BabyA to a play school where everything was sanitized a hundred times because I didn’t want her to grow up with an unexposed and fragile immunity. I choose everyday to let her fall so that she learns to dust herself off and get up again. I tell her that I can’t afford to buy her a kinder joy chocolate (costing RS. 40) except on special occasions, but she can splurge Rs. 10 on any sweet that she wants, once a week.

The narcissism epidemic seems to have come about because parents are afraid to teach their kids the most important fundamental rule of life: Newton’s 3rd law- for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Kids don’t seem to face consequences for their actions at home. And with the break up of extended families and people deciding to have only one child, these kids are ruling the roost.

It is a child’s natural urge to want. It is the parent’s responsibility to teach them that you have to earn things in life. It is our duty to make them ready for the life they shall face when they leave the nest. Buying them every lollipop they want because they lie down, dandvath style, and scream outside the store, is giving them the message that the world must stop when they feel upset. Letting them win every game of Hungry Hippos, while they cheat, guiding several balls into their hippo’s mouth, is sending them the message that their momentary happiness is more important than fairness. Every time we go and complain to their teacher that someone hit them (once!) in class, or told them she didn’t want to be their friend, we steal them of the tools that we should be equipping them with in life: disappointment and the knowledge that everything doesn’t go the way we want. Sometimes people don’t like us and that’s ok! Every time we pull them out of a class because the teacher was stricter than they were used to at their free-play, colour-outside-the-lines, be-you-because-you-are-unique play school, we send them the message that your feelings come first and adaptability is not a crucial life skill.

When we signed up for parenthood, whispering in their ears that we would always protect them, is this what we meant? Is reality something we should be protecting our kids from, or have we become afraid of our children: afraid to disappoint them?

Failure is such an essential teacher. It brings out character in children and yet, we deny them of this life tool when they live under our wings. We think of emotional negligence as something that inattentive parents are guilty of but overattentive parents are being accused of the same.  Parents who repeatedly protect their kids from failure, disappointment (by always saying yes to them) and uncomfortable change are neglecting their children emotionally by not equipping them with the skills to go out and handle the “big, bad world”.

These kids are growing up in a cocoon where they are the only life form that matters, and when they are forced to leave home for college or work, they are not soaring like butterflies but crumbling (suffering from loneliness, depression, etc.) because they can’t believe that they aren’t the center of the world (“What do you mean the world is round and doesn’t have a center?!”)

In a world where kids are spending more time perfecting their duckfaced pouts for selfies than paving a career path, social media has become their primary life space where they weave illusions about themselves. People are becoming mini (and major) celebrities based on how they market themselves rather than based on what they have achieved. Kids are fooled into believing that this momentary fame built on fluff about their uniqueness (equated to coolness) is something that will help them sail through life. What they don’t realize is that their peers (with their ADHDs and multiple shallow psychological diagnoses, adding to their uniqueness) have short attention spans that last as long as this new age, social butterfly’s lifetime: a fraction of a moment. After all Mylie Cyrus’ antics can only interest people as long as Paris Hilton’s friendship with Nicole Ritchie did. At the end, Malala Yousafzai’s courage, character and charity must serve as better cushioning (than Kim Kardashian’s behind) to the hardships of life.

Mommy Friendships: My Support Network

Having a child makes you feel like you’re in college all over again. You go to mother toddler classes or take them to school, and moms everywhere are out to make friends- in inverse proportion to the amount their children want to befriend each other. As we mommies plan play dates so “the kids can get to know each other”, the kids exchange wary looks while the mommies connect over bottle-weaning and baby woes.

Some people dismiss these interactions as “socializing” or trying to expand your mommy network but I see this as a very crucial part of a mom’s life. Women, innately, feel the need to talk and share. Mommyhood is a huge change in any woman’s life, and it’s a very confusing time as you grapple with a newborn who is suddenly
completely dependent on you, a husband who now has to deal with being second best, and your own roller coaster of emotions wherein it feels like your identity has been robbed by this seemingly innocent angel of God. It is a time when you need advice (are those explosive, trucker farts that this little human is capable of emanating, normal?), camaraderie (do you also pee a little, nowadays, when you laugh too hard or wait too long?) and a shoulder to cry on (does it mean I’m a bad mom if I lock myself in the bathroom and read Vogue, while my baby cries outside for the umpteenth time?). We need someone to talk to- someone who truly understands.

That’s why mommy friendships are important, and shouldn’t be disregarded as frivolous. They are what keep you sane at times when you’re sure you should be checked in at The Mental Hospital of Mommies. Through mommy socializing, I have made a group of friends who are my lifelines. I share my deepest, murkiest secrets with this group of people I recently got to know, and they empathize because they are going through the same.

My best friend and I got pregnant at the same time, and I find that our friendship has reached a new level of closeness because of our two little monsters: BabaV and BabyA. From laughing about our protruding bellied-summer ready bodies to crying about our inability to control our hyperactive toddlers (who do WWE moves on us all day), we share everything. Our bodies were so delicate before we had them and now, an otherwise killing karate chop to the vagus nerve behind the ear, doesn’t even result in a raised eye brow. We are fearless as we feel that we have lived through all the unintentional physical abuse our body is capable of taking. It’s only the teenage years that can frighten us now!

Our husbands don’t understand mommyhood, just the way we probably don’t get daddyhood. For the Stay-at-Home-Mums, we are constantly encountered with a look of disgust, and questioned every evening about what it is that we do the whole day. Our men think we sit around sipping on cocktails while our kids diligently play on their own, pick up after themselves and feed themselves. The truth would be closer to the fact that I wish I had a bottle of Sauza stashed in my cupboard so I could take shots while I lived the enslaved life of a mum.  The hubbies themselves feel exhausted at having spent ten minutes with these imps on a Sunday. Nandy needs two hours of sleep after every half an hour spent with BabyA. Men seem to understand their own need to socially network for business but dismiss our mommy networks as unnecessary.

It’s so hard to know if you’re doing the right thing: after all, no one offers Mommyhood 101 classes, otherwise I’d have been the first one to enroll. It’s my friends that teach me, soothe me and heal me. When I landed up smacking my daughter because I was sick and she was being very demanding, it was my mommy friends who told me it was ok… to be human. They also gave me alternatives to how I could have handled it better, but only after I had stopped crying. It’s refreshing to have them when all my hubby maybe doing is telling me how out-of-control I am.

It’s important to have friends who know, love and don’t judge– but serve as your confidantes, counsellors and anchors. After all, we all need an anchor since we feel completely at sea (drowning, most of the time!) while bringing up these multi-limbed, freakishly lovable creatures.

Post Baby Status: Mein Mother India

After I got married, I found a distinct difference in the way guys started looking at me. People who had been my buddies for eons suddenly started treating me as “bhabhiji”* as soon as I tied the knot. And the weirdest part is that my hubby had been friends with them as long as I had. We were a group and all of them knew Nandy to be lacking a jealous bone in his body, yet I become “Jagat Bhabhi”*- devoid of any attractiveness or sex appeal. I felt like friends who used to hug me and punch my arm suddenly wanted to fold their hands and greet me with a serious “Pranaam Bhabhiji” when they saw me. It made me feel like an androgynous molecular animal.

After I had the baby and packed on the pounds, I felt like my husband also started leaning towards this attitude. A respectful namaste was a more appropriate hello than a cheery kiss (I’d have settled for the cheek, forget the lips). Luckily I never caught him calling me Bhabhi (only BabyA called me that all through her twos, parroting her maid), but he often let a “Mamma, can you read a book to A?” slip out. Granted it was always in the presence of BabyA, but the idea of my hubby calling me Mamma sent me into a tizzy! Isn’t that what couples did, long after the fire went out of their marriages, referring to each other as Mamma and Papa. Even if it was perfectly normal, it gave me the creeps!

I guess you couldn’t blame him because most nights, after BabyA entered our lives, went something like this: I would be trying to make BabyA sleep, doing my best Louis Armstrong bass voice, deep into the chorus of “What a Wonderful World” and I would hear snoring. Relieved, I would open my eyes imagining that the little devil had finally succumbed to sleep, but in the dark, I would see her doing leg lifts, back flips and other gymnastic feats, while the hubby had floated off to “la la land”- a land where Mammas sang loris* to him and kissed him goodnight. So how could you find fault with him for letting “Mamma” slip out a few times?

“Your relationship becomes completely platonic at the end of your life”, my Dadi* would philosophize often (Yes- those were her exact words! I have one cool Dadi). Well, if this was my state of affairs then she wasn’t so wrong after all, because I was ready to end my life very soon! Except that I had two kids to raise: one 3 and one 36.

It’s not like I wanted people to be hitting on me, but I would have greatly appreciated normality, where my friends still felt comfortable being the same way around me as they used to be: mischievous, funny, goofy, confiding and sometimes confrontational. I had become so devoid of femininity that I was now being regarded in everyone’s eyes as Mother India- like it was almost unholy to treat me in any way but with sisterly/ motherly respect- even by the husband.

Nargis’s character as Radha: The quintessential Mother India (in the movie by the same name)  was a beautifully chalked out one for those times but it’s highly unrelatable in today’s age. This goddess-like, moral, sacrificial epitome of maternal-ness is something that moms of today may find too idealistic. We wear such one-dimensional labels (of Maata transforming into Jagat Maata/everyone’s mother) with a pained expression very similar to Radha’s while carrying the weight of the world and the “hal” on her shoulders in the iconic Mother India movie poster.

Speaking of Radha being a Maa, the Radhe Maa controversy is at its peak. Irrespective of whether it’s true or not, I have to say I can relate to what she must be feeling. Maybe the lady was fed up of being everyone’s mother and just wanted to discard her holiness, to remind people that she was still a woman- red mini skirt, matching knee high suede boots and all. Maybe Radhe Maa, during her pravachans (sermons), just wanted to grab the microphone with pizzazz and let people know that “Radha’s on the dance floor, Radha likes to party, Radha likes to move that sexy Radha body” but no one would listen.

And after this phase of bhabhiji/mummyji, I was accosted with some friends who wanted me to become “Behenji”. When Nandy and I were in the U.S. for his MBA, one of our very close Indian friends told me, “Rakhi’s coming! Why don’t you become my sister?” Mooh-boli* behen is a much loved concept in India. I have never understood why Indian men feel the need to instantly classify a friendship with a girl as being their “love-interest” or as their “behen”. Everything doesn’t have to be black or white. Why can’t we be comfy somewhere in between: as real friends!

I have enough of brothers. I told this friend of mine that I was completely ok being friends with a guy. I didn’t have to become his sister to be able to digest our relationship. Nor did my husband.

Bollywood movies also feed us with enough crap like “Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin hote”. Why? Are our minds so screwed up that Indian men can only be comfortable around a woman as long as she falls into the categories of Behenji, Bhabhiji, Mummyji or Meri Oh-jee*! And even Monish Bahl expressed these regressive thoughts to Salman and Bhagyashri in the late 80’s in MPK. Surely we’ve come a long way since then.

“Or have we?”, I wonder as my maid tells BabyA to call her (4 month older) friend “Shaurya Bhaiya”. His mom and I both recoil, telling her that he’s just Shaurya to her. Their generation will hopefully be able to experience true friendship without the trappings of gender rules and expectations.

So as my daughter comes home and proudly tells me that BabaV* is her best friend forever (despite his affinity for balls and hers for dolls), BabaV’s mum (MY best friend forever) FaceTimes with us from Gurgaon because Baba would like to talk to Baby. And they talk in their stream of consciousness, nonsensical, toddler ways: having parallel conversations where no one is listening, and I hope that they can always maintain this pure friendship- where Baba and Baby never turn into Bhaiya and Behenji!



* Bhabhi- sister-in-law, Behen- sister, Maa- mother, Ji- respectful suffix, Jagat- of the world, Pranam- Respectful hello asking for blessings, Loris- lullabies, Dadi- paternal grandmother, GuruMaa- Teacher-mother, Mooh-boli behen- A girl who has become a sister because she tied ‘Rakhi’ (an Indian sibling custom) to a guy, Meri Oh-Jee- Wife, Baba- Indians call small boys Baba; different from little girls who are addressed as Baby.

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.


Friend-Zoning the Husband!

My hubby and I have been friends for as long as I can remember: 2 years of being best buds, 5 years of seeing each other and 13 years of marriage. When you’ve been friends before being romantically involved, there isn’t much that you shy away from saying to each other. Everything that comes to the mind, just slips off the tongue in your spouse’s presence: the good, the bad and the ugly.

I see couple friends of mine who are so sweet to each other. They always address each other as “aap” (the respectful second person pronoun) when speaking in Hindi, the wives don’t cut their hair short because their husbands won’t like it, listen to their hubby’s opinions when shopping for dresses, assemble tacos for them when at a DIY food counter at a party (many times out of choice of wanting to pamper their hubbies rather than out of some patriarchal expectation on the husband’s part). It’s all very adorable, and yet, so alien to me!

My hubby has often picked up my phone call, absorbed in his work, affectionately addressing me as “Ch*tiya!” before launching into a conversation and breaking off half- way, realizing that I’m not one of the boys! I’m his girl! And we have laughed, while he muttered an apology in between! That’s our relationship! We’ve been friends so long that curse words are more appropriate, loving nicknames than addressing each other as “aap”. Between us, there’s no semi-respectful “tum” either- just a no-nonsense “tu” like “Eh-tu!” (the most casual second person pronoun).

As friends, you ask people for their opinions but eventually do what you think best. I think I still have a hard time understanding how my hair or my dressing affects his life in any way, so I have cut my hair short a million times knowing that he loves my hair long (like every other Indian man’s obsession with “lambe, ghané baal”*) and I wear what I like. And he’s the same. How many ever times I tell him that I wish he dressed more soberly: nice, classic cuts and good fabrics; he still dresses in his Nandy-style, wearing bright colours and funky pants with such aplomb that he could give any Bollywood hero a run for his money. Maybe he needs to live out the opposite of his daily life on a holiday, giving up the serious corporate look for a fultoo filmy ishtyle!

That’s what happens when someone has been your friend first: you listen but you don’t have to follow. You can take Nandy and me out of the ‘friend zone’ but you can never take the friendship out of us!

I see one of my closest friend cutely making paani puri for her husband. She jabs the puri, filling it and placing it in his mouth. They’re like a couple out of a fairy tale! She doesn’t do it with any preconceived notions of her duty as a wife. She does it because she loves babying him and he babies her too. He’s chivalrous with her: picking up her bags without a groan when they travel, always walking behind her into elevators and crowded nightclubs.

And then there’s me: friend-zoned for life (voluntarily so). I’d much rather smash a pani puri onto Nandy’s face and start a food fight than put it in his mouth. And he’s the same. He never treats me like a lady: always walks into the elevator before me, and never looks to see if I’m ok walking in a short dress and heels through the dodgy lanes of Colaba at 1 am while he scoots in front of me, heading to where our car is parked. Why didn’t he get the car and pick me up at the door of the nightclub? Laughter can be my only response to that question because friends don’t do that.

When we travel, we’re very clear: his bag is his problem and my bag is my burden. He still tries to complain about the twelve pairs of shoes I’m carrying and the many outfits but eventually he knows- it’s mine to lug around! He isn’t going to be throwing his jacket on any puddles to prevent me from getting my feet (or in this case, hands) dirty.

So I sit here, wondering how is it possible that there are still a few things that we are unable to share? Despite the unabashed honesty that we have, there are some words, even in a friendship, that are forbidden.

For us, it’s the obvious! We can make jokes about everything as long as we don’t touch the other’s Achilles’ heel (or scalp, in Nandy’s case). Like for months, his hair-stylist has been suggesting a hair transplant but he doesn’t want to do it. Every time he discuses it, I want to scream and say, “Do it! Do it!” He says, “I should learn to age gracefully and not resort to these shenanigans”, but all I want to do is shake him up and say, “Why age gracefully when science allows you an attempt at reversing it?”, but I can’t say that. I have to show solidarity towards his vanishing hairline, which hurts him as much as me. I nod in agreement and say, “Yes. Must. Age. Gracefully.”

And he doesn’t say what he has been dying to, since the day BabyA was born. I lost all the weight (and more) simply from breastfeeding, and then ballooned into an even bigger blimp because of my sheer love of food. As he saw my transformation, he probably wanted to scream, “Fatty- stop eating that damn brownie, while telling me you don’t have the time to work out because life is so hard after a baby!” but he didn’t. He probably bit his tongue and kept mum. Just like most dads should around heavy, new mums.

Now you’re left wondering that how have I uttered the forbidden words on such a public forum, when I wasn’t supposed to let him have a whiff of what I was really feeling? In reality, my public blog tends to be the most private space to pen down anti-husband venting, since my husband never reads my blog! Maybe if he played the role of the supportive spouse, he would follow every post, but he doesn’t! He’s my friend first, and after all, “har ek friend kameena hota hai!”**

* long, thick, black hair
** Every friend is a rogue! (A popular song from a Bollywood movie called Chashme Baddoor)

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

School is Out: Save our Mommy Souls!

The holidays: it’s the dreaded time when moms start shivering just thinking about how they are going to occupy their short-attention spanned kids for one and a half to two months. It’s a time as awful as when the baby’s Bai goes for her annual holiday, and if, by any chance, both these events happen to fall simultaneously, then that spells the end of any mommy fun that was planned for the next month (or a few)!

During vacation time, moms spend fleeting free moments by reading blog posts that entice them with words like “10 activities to keep the kids busy during holidays”, or hurriedly signing up at summer camps, wishing that they were prolonged camp-outs, rather than 2 hour classes. You find women furiously typing on their mommy-support what’s app groups, trying to figure out if any other fellow mommy has some magical activity box which would keep them busy for hours (and keep them away from her make-up box, the idiot box (TV) or worse yet, some Pandora’s box that they manage to get their hands on). And this is when the “I-don’t-waste-my-time-in-idle-mommy-chitter-chatter” anti-social mommies are cursing themselves for not building a larger network so as to be able to parcel their kids off to another mom’s house every evening of the week in return for babysitting their monsters for one evening.

Most mothers are only happy about the holidays because it means that they can sleep in, a tad bit (especially if you have a toddler like mine who obediently steps out in the morning to do ‘seva’ of Bhagwanji with dadi or to watch her dad read the paper and slurp tea, while I snooze). Moms also see it as an opportunity to push their lazy husbands to spend some cheese and take the family on a holiday. Although, before and after the holiday (and possibly sometimes during), all they do is pray to the Rain Gods & School Gods, hoping that the former comes soon as it would signal the start of the latter. When I was growing up, 6th June was the date circled in all mommy calendars as the day we expected monsoons in Mumbai and the day when schools would usually reopen.

Now of course, I pity myself, and the other IB* moms the most: For the longest time, I couldn’t fathom why kids (in ICSE and SSC boards) had holidays in the summer but went to school through the monsoons. Why would the Government want the kids to trudge to school at such a mucky time, when traffic ran amok and kids woke up several mornings, got completely dressed, wondering whether they should wade through floods and get to school, only to find out that it was shut or stay at home, and brave getting a demerit for playing truant when “all the other kids made it”.

Now, I understand that we underestimate our Indian Government by disregarding all their decisions as illogical but in reality, they have been very kind to us poor moms! They probably decided upon summer holidays so that kids, during vacation time, could at least be left to their own devices; to run about in building (or area) gardens while their moms put their feet up.

Now with this IB system, the holidays start just as the rains do, which means you’re stuck at home all day with your little terrorist, and there’s no relief as the weather doesn’t allow them to step outside. This is the worst kind of torture that anyone can inflict on moms (worse than “are-we-there-yet” questions on a long road trip). Perhaps this is a conspiracy by the U.S. Government and a way of eventually using American torture techniques to break an entire breed of affluent Indian moms. All I can say is that we fell for it!

I often wondered why my mom would recite her Hanuman Chalisa so animatedly, diving in obeisance over and over again, like she was evoking mercy from someone, nearing the end of our summer holidays. Now I know that she was invoking the Rain Gods so that it would mean that my two siblings and I would soon be off her hands, and her mind, from 8 am to 3:30 pm.

As I venture into the first week of BabyA’s IB school-timed vacations, I find myself doing a Lagaan-style dance, but this time not pleading “kaale megha, kaale megha, paani toh barsao!” (Dark clouds, bring down the rain showers!) It’s my version of a summer dance, my very own Surya Malhar, which begs the Sun God to ascend upon us soon, and clear away the clouds over Bombay city, and over my personal life! I pray, every day, “May the Sun again reinstate my child into school so I may never have to hear ‘Mom, I’m so booooooored’ ever again” (or at least for a year).

Could that be a ray of sunlight that I see at the end of this slushy, mushy rainbow? Oh no! Can’t be! After all, the independence of this country and us, IB mums, is still a month and a half away:

Around the 15th of August, at the stroke of the 8th morning hour, when the world sleeps, IB moms will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes which comes but rarely in history… when the soul of a mother, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to entertaining our kids, just until August, when we shall finally send  them off to school, and attain our freedom!

Nehru couldn’t have said it better!


*IB- International Baccalaureate

“Mamma chahiye!”: Who cut my damn umbilical cord?

“Mamma chahiye!” (I want my mamma!) she cries, repeatedly. My hubby says, “Go in and comfort her”. My mom in law rushes in since I won’t. She still screams, “Mamma chahiye!” pushing her aside. When I’m saturated with the over-dependency and separation anxiety; when I need a moment to just be on my own and breathe, I land up getting so impatient because of her stickiness, I feel the monster in me rising. What I really want to do is whack her, but I scream so loud, it scares me too.

My sister tells me, “If you get that tired and fed up, just leave her in the room with the maid, and let her keep crying. If you can’t bear to hear her cry, and land up going in but then getting more angry at her, just go for a walk. Let her cry it out but don’t raise your hand at her. It never makes things better. Only worse!”

Even when she’s at school, it’s like a jaap which now just plays continuously in my head, “Mamma chahiye! Mamma chahiye” with lots of sobs! The lady at the gym (an older mom) tells me, “My son was like that. I used to lock the door and pretend I was bathing so I could just sit on my own, but they grow up so fast. He used to kiss my fingertips, every morning as he awoke, and now he won’t even come within a 5 feet radius of me! Enjoy it while it lasts.”

It’s hard to enjoy it most of the time, especially since she wants me to be with her 24×7, holding her hand as she eats, wanting me to play every game, drop and pick her up from school, bathe her, make her sleep.. and the list goes on.

But then my cousin reminds me: “I also get frustrated with my two girls, who want me around for everything but then I think, that’s how we were, so how can we blame them? We were always mamma’s girls and still are”, she laughs. And I have to say: I can’t argue!

Even now, when my mom travels, I miss her miserably. I want her to be constantly accessible to me, irrespective of whether I decide to meet her or stay busy in my own life. Just being in the presence of my mom makes my happiness quotient soar, and if society still allowed me, I would have her hold my hand through every activity too, but patriarchy doesn’t allow me any such blessings.

It’s just that when you grow up, you can’t express your feelings in the same manner. You must behave ‘mature’. When my mom’s about to leave for a trip, I can’t stand at the lift, snotty-nosed, tear-stained cheeks, screaming “Mamma chahiye!” as someone physically restrains me from jumping into the elevator, but that’s what I am really feeling inside. Instead, I put on a happy face and wave good-bye, “Enjoy yourself! Don’t get anything back for us!”

Very often, I hear my hubby telling BabyA, in jest (and a twinge of jealousy), “Why don’t you just go back into your mamma’s tummy?” And I can’t say I’m any different, even at 36! I’d gladly crawl back into my mamma’s womb if science could find a way for a 60 kg human being to carry a 65 kg fetus!

Un’mummi’fied: The Struggle to Look Good

Before I had BabyA, I lived life in my own school/college-friend-surrounded bubble where I hung out with people I had known all my life, who were like-minded. When I started mother toddler classes, I was introduced to a whole new, shocking world of mommies that I had not expected to stumble on.

I had always imagined that “mommy jeans” were named so because mommies had no time to be fashionable or fit. That’s why they wore high-waisted, ugly jeans that were comfortable and pushed their tummies in as much as something could.

The first day, I went into Music Together class, I walked in looking like the new mommy I was: stringy, sweaty hair, wearing tent-like clothes stained with food and fragranced with vomit (in my defense, both had happened on the way to class) and a 10 month old tucked under my flabby right arm.

What I saw as I walked into class was very different from what I had expected. The SoBo (South Bombay) mommies were nothing like I had imagined. There was a sea (ok- more like a stream) of moms sitting with their 3-4 year olds, looking fit and fabulous, dressed to the tees, gel nails and not a hair out of place. Who were these people? And soon enough, after striking a conversation with some, I found out that not only were they moms but a lot of them were attending class with their younger child. Weren’t moms of 2 supposed to look like something the dog dragged out on a rainy day? The only one who looked bedraggled was me!

I grew up in a house where my parents were very appreciative of the good things we did, and so we grew up being very secure children; perhaps over secure. Thus, I have spent my entire post-married life feeling very confident in my slightly overweight body, as long as I worked out every day (even if I never lost a pound). When I got pregnant, I felt like I had been handed a permit to eat-as-much-as-I-wish and I did, but luckily, I didn’t put on more than 13 kgs and after the baby, breastfeeding felt like BabyA was sucking all the fat out of me, because it left me 5 kgs thinner than my pre-pregnant weight. But then the feeding stopped and the “I-can-outeat-any-man” claims didn’t! My treadmill had turned into a baby clothes’ drying rack and I put on 5 kgs and then another 5! So when I walked into that class, I definitely had problems with my body image.

For the first time in my life, I was an alien in my own body. And seeing all these maternal freaks of nature around me, jiggling their size 4 butts to “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” didn’t help my confidence. But, more importantly, what it taught me was that moms don’t have to be unfit or self-negligent. I learnt that it was ok to prioritize myself sometimes, so that I felt good about myself. At that time, BabyA was still just that: a babe, so I couldn’t muster up too much free time but I went shopping and bought new clothes, because although I didn’t have the time to workout every day, I could at least not regress to my grungy-cool teenager look from college days at Xavier’s (the only SoBo college where the ‘bed-head, crumpled cargos’ look was cool). I invested in a straightener, for which I could spare the two minutes it took to transform me from Maa Kali to Durga Maa. And these little changes transformed my personality also such: into a less volatile and a happier mother.

Now that BabyA is 3 years old, she goes to school and so I get the time to workout and am trying to get back in shape- perhaps not to a size 4, because that was never me, but a shape that I feel happy being (as my husband teases that round is also a shape!)

Now, as I walk in to Music Together, I feel happy in my own skin: hair looks good, clothes smell nice (although they have been subjected to some mommy-dependency pulling by BabyA), a shoulder tote hanging from my better-toned arms (also since A now walks and doesn’t need to be carried around, there’s some space for a handbag), all brought together with a rediscovered air of confidence. I have transformed from an Egyptian mummy (trying to hide behind the bandages that covered up my unkempt appearance due to an unhealthy and unquestioned lifestyle) to a self-assured Mummy.

All I can say is that I have this new generation of moms to thank, for teaching me that it’s ok to slowly start taking out the time to unmummify myself. I know Maa Kali and Durga Maa are both goddesses but I assume, BabyA is a lot less fearful being around the calmer, softer avatar that I look like, and am, now.