Tag Archives: #mommyblog

Clubnapped Mommy: Too Tired to Party!

A friend asked my childhood besties on my 37th birthday, “What’s the wildest thing she has ever done?”, and I saw them stumble for an answer. They didn’t have one! I’ve always been above average when it comes to my “fun-to-be-around” score but I have never done anything that would qualify as wild in my life.

There was that one time in undergrad in Appleton, Wisconsin when I had my first drink, and we laughed all night- but I also refused to leave my friend, Michelle’s room, as she sensibly coached me through my first night ever of drinking (at 19!!! Eek!) So my actions were as wild as the sound of the town where I was doing them- sensible and civilized.

The other time was when I went back to visit friends in the same college, and drank so much I fell off the bar stool, but then we stepped out of the bar and the brutal winter air in one of the coolest places in the world smacked me back into my senses, and I was sober as gobar!*

The only time that things may have gotten a bit out of hand for me is when I forced my friends to have ‘bhaang’ with me at a Holi party, and the panwala gave us some nasty shit so I was left knocked out, throwing up, hallucinating, believing I had died, and my soul was moving through a tunnel of white noise for hours. It also left me partially delusional till 6 months after, questioning whether our dreaming state was really our true state of being rather than our waking selves.

Okay- so the bhaang incident was pretty wild but not voluntarily so because I had signed up for a ‘cute’ experience of hours of unstoppable laughter, and that’s it! The madness ensued due to a dishonest panwalla.

Which brings me back to the question that in a world of FOMO* and YOLO*, I feel like a sore thumb, especially after having had a child. My limit pre and post baby has been two glasses of wine, but one day, after drinking just that much, I almost fell off the bed with my infant in my arms. It’s a different thing that the intoxication had nothing to do with it (even I can’t get drunk on two glasses) but exhaustion was to blame: a baby who woke up every hour to feed! But after that day, I swore off alcohol. And that’s when I got MORE boring!

So 4 years into being a teetotaler, I find myself at my sociable best in the day, when I’m hanging out with other mommies as we giggle about the crazy milk mustaches our kids made at breakfast but as soon as I’m out in the drinking world with the night crawlers (taken kicking and screaming every Saturday night by the husband), I feel like a wallflower straight out of one of Jane Austen’s novels.

I realize how I’m unable to carry on an interesting conversation with these fascinating creatures as they get increasingly wilder as P.M. turns into A.M., while I mentally calculate how many hours I have left before the baby wakes up. As the clock gets closer to 1, I get more restless, unable to laugh at the deteriorating humor and when my husband starts suggesting that we go to a second location, I’m ready to scream like a kidnapped victim. After all Oprah always says, “Never let the kidnapper take you to the second location because if you do, there’s very little chance of ever getting back alive”. The same applies to me when club-hopping- I refuse to be clubnapped.

I feel awkward and boring (and oh-so-bored) in this heart of darkness but with a party-animal for a husband, I must venture into these spaces with wild beasts. My only hope is that every once in a while, I find a little sanctuary here, where mistakenly we land up at a place filled with retro music, peach schnapps shots doing the rounds (instead of flaming Jaegerbombs or whatever these young people drink now), enough of seats for everyone (without having to pay a lac for a table), music at comfortable decibels and 40 plusses like me, tapping their walkers as they groove to Vanilla Ice.

Nice, nice, baby!

*Gobar- Cow Dung
*FOMO- Fear of Missing Out
*YOLO- You Only Live Once

SakuBai, FaceTime se Phone Karna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Live and Let Live

Dinner Table Dynamics: Dining with Specimen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sibling Revelry: Celebrating my Sister’s 40th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.


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

My Daughter: My Unlikely Fairy Godmother

“Mamma, have you taken your money?”, this 3 year old asks me, making me wonder whether I’m the mother or she is. One thing I have come to understand is that she’s definitely my fairy godmother!

I’ve always been scatterbrained and when I was growing up, I often walked into the lift without wearing any shoes, or as a 20 year old, drove myself all the way to the club to play squash without carrying my racket. This is classic me! And whenever I made panic calls to my mom to tell her I had forgotten my racket, she would instantly go into a tizzy to figure out how it could be delivered to me as quickly as possible. I remember how my parents would laugh as I took the lift back upstairs and walked into the house looking for shoes. They found it so endearing! That’s how parents are… or at least mine are. They loved this eccentricity of mine because, to them, it was adorable!

I got married to a very responsible human being. Nandy grew up with a mom who is very organized and everything in her house is neatly compartmentalized and stored away- to be retrieved instantly, when needed. Her mind is also similar, where there is complete structure to her thoughts, and so nothing gets lost in limbo. She never forgets where she keeps things, she always does things in an orderly fashion and has probably never lost a safety pin in her life. My husband is just like her.

And then there’s me, whose room, cupboards and mind resemble Ground Zero after a nuclear explosion, filled with unnecessary rubble disappearing into abysmal depths. My mind is like a black hole (this problem having been exacerbated after being afflicted with the condition of Mommybrainness), where memories of missed phone calls on my cell and last location of my house keys just vanish into emptiness.

People who are extremely organized don’t think forgetfulness is quirky. They think of it as gross irresponsibility. This is the first lesson I learnt after marriage. I learnt that no one in my new home thought it was cute when I would call for a key-search squad (mostly made up of my kind home staff) to help me every couple of hours, or when I would go out often without carrying any money, and make desperate calls home. I remember being empty tanked, stranded at a petrol pump with no money, when I called my husband, and he only yelled at me, telling me to push the car if I had to: There was no way he was going to send me money. I don’t blame him since he had bailed me out in the past, and felt like there was no learning happening on my part.

Thus, the time when I went all the way to Bandra to cut my hair, only to realise that I was penny-less, I dialed M-O-M-M-Y! And it felt so good to have her pacify me that everything would be ok as she was organizing the money to reach me right away. My father was put on conference, a peon was dispatched in seconds; all the way through, my parents reassuring me that I shouldn’t worry my head about these things. I’m sure in the evening, they shared the anecdote with my grandmom and affectionately chuckled about how I would never change!

I missed that! I missed people forgiving me for my spacey-ness. My husband despised this characteristic of mine! He was right, because pampering had probably encouraged this behavior but taunting wasn’t improving it either. Either way, I missed someone who could sympathize with me and aid me in my key searches. Even the servants now helped only if they could slap me with some insults about my recurring amnesia.

That’s when God gave me BabyA. I may not have gone and hit my head repeatedly, till it bled, against the feet of the local mandir deity like Nirupa Roy, but yet “Bhagwan ne meri sun lee” (God answered my prayers).

BabyA brought about the right balance that I needed in my life. She took the best of both the families: from my husband’s side, she inherited a sense of responsibility and an organized way of working, whereas from mine, she learned softness. That’s why I call her my fairy godmother! From the time that she was little, and could barely talk, she would hand me my keys whenever she saw them lying around, knowing that I was due to lose them soon. After one incident, where I couldn’t buy her a lollipop because I didn’t have cash, she often reminds me before we go out, “Mamma, have you kept your money in the bag?”

She is so responsible that no matter how engrossed she maybe at a restaurant, watching Peppa Pig on her iPad, she will rattle off a checklist of things that we need to gather before we leave, never forgetting even the tiniest of hair clips, and collecting my belongings too, knowing fully well that she can’t trust her nutty mamma with these things. But the best part is that there is no judgement, and never any taunts. She’ll just sit me down, look me in the eye and chuckle fondly, saying, “You’re being a Silly Billy again, Mamma!” And then I get a kiss, smack dab in the middle of my forehead, and I feel like a child. But not an unmindful child… just a loved child: after all, mamma’s need pampering too sometimes!

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.

Passionate Souls to Paneer Rolls: Post Baby Romance

My husband asks me, “Should I remove the foil before eating the paneer tikka roll or eat it as it is?” I can’t believe what he’s asking me and I make him repeat himself several times. And then it hits me- it’s the most romantic thing he has said to me in years! After being married for over a decade, I find that romance is hidden in these silly statements.

The flowers have gone. The gifts are rare to come by. The last time my husband visited an Archie’s to purchase a card had to have been when I was his girlfriend. Now he doesn’t even sign his name on the pre-bought cards that are yellowing in our drawer, which I discreetly leave by his bedside on the eve of an occasion. All the romance that I had been taught of, by movies and Sweet Dream novels in my teenhood, has ceased to exist.

After the arrival of a naughty little girl into our lives, cuddle time has turned into muddle time as we try to awkwardly hug each other around her sleeping body, lying between us. And the last time I heard him whisper sweet nothings to anyone, it was to Baby A, after she had indulged in her daily paternal-buttering-up, telling him that she loved him to the sun and back and then some more, while plastering his face with butterfly kisses.

Nandy (my hubby) has never been an overly expressive individual and he’s someone who strongly believes that actions speak louder than words. I, being a writer at heart and a literature student by degrees, have had a hard time understanding actions as a form of romance. What about love letters quoting Keats’ poetry or songs dedicated to me on Facebook?

And time has only made us increasingly complacent in our marriage. We have become an old married couple that even forgets to hold hands sometimes at the theatre, but we just cannot function without each other. We have become extensions of each other, fiery in our separate opinions (which results in frequent arguments) but merged in our need to have the other’s approval in what we do. How else can you explain a 37 year old man, with a great amount of familiarity with rolls and food packaging in general, asking his wife whether he needs to take the foil off before eating? When, in my defence, I haven’t ever been the mothering wife who likes to feed her husband or make each golgappa with her own hands before placing it into his mouth (for fear that he might injure his delicate finger as he jabs into the crunchy puri, or gets too much channa in but not enough aloo, throwing him off- balance).

Every weekend, Nandy asks me what to wear and he earnestly inquires as to whether his Sunday ensemble (a white shirt with purple pants and black chappals) looks good, even though it looked the same every Sunday before that one. He asks me to proofread and approve of every SMS that he composes casually for a friend, or any Facebook post that he wishes to put up. Nandy asks me if he should visit the loo when he leaves the restaurant or when he gets home!

Now I know that the common consensus among everyone reading this would be that I’m a crazy, controlling wife who mustn’t be letting him breathe without my permission, but I’m really not. I have never told him what he must wear, how he must eat, how he must write or anything else! It’s just that we have been together forever (from high school sweethearts to post-baby grouches) and so he feels more comfortable after taking a second opinion from me- for the most inane things. He usually does what he likes anyway, but this need to know what I think is what becomes the romance in our relationship.

Romance evolves, just like our marriages evolve, and I can’t help but feel a warmth in my heart (very similar to the one I felt when he wrote me silly, rhyming poems that told me why he loved me- mostly making fun of me- in college) when he sits confused now, curling his hair, and then turns to ask me, “Should I have a cold coffee or lassi?” I smile, knowing how much he loves me, and reply “Lassi” knowing fully well what he will say next. And I’m right.

“Ramu, ek cold coffee banana!” (Ramu, make me a cold coffee!), he shouts, as I cuddle up to him, knowing everything in the world is right where it should be.