Do you live in Delhi?

Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace-A two day event(12 & 13 October) started at 9.30 am this morning at India International Centre. Women survivors from Manipur, noted scholars,leaders from all conflict zones of Tripura, Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal have arrived for the occasion. The journey for peace and getting our voice heard to get our justice has started.We need each of our individual support to make collective action happen.If you cannot go, share about this meeting with others and if you can, do join in. Nearest metro station : Jorbagh and from there IIC is just a 5 minutes walk through Lodhi Gardens or you take an auto for Rs 20.

How to keep your kids out of malls this year

.. or…. why malls are not our scene. Or.. .why I think malls are terrible for (my) kids.

The April 3rd issue of Brunch carried a cover story called Mall Gudi Days. Going on to say -

What are the chances that you’ll be spending today at a mall? Pretty high we think.  Because malls have become our hangout places of choice.

Speak for yourself, dude, I thought to myself. There’s no denying that most of us end up in malls for some reason or the other. Particularly if you live in a place like Gurgaon that began to develop around the same time as malls happened to India. It didn’t really get a chance to let its indigenous markets grow the way they have around the rest of India. I even saw a cobbler in a mall in Gurgaon!

But the first time I visited Select Citywalk after it opened, was at Christmas and it reminded me of being abroad. The carols, the Xmas tree, the tableau, the decorations. I felt a momentary twinge, soaked up the atmosphere and went back to shopping. But the one thing I stubbornly did, was try not to take the kids there. No, there are no serial killers hiding in the wings ready to bludgeon kids to death, but there were a number of reasons I felt it was not for us.

Don’t get me wrong, its not like I or my kids have never set foot in one. But we only go there when we have an urgent need. As far as possible we shop at local markets and since in India most of us either live with family or have childcare, we leave the kids home and make it snappy. If we are forced to take the kids along because of lack of options, then we do. But what we never do, is treat a trip to a mall as an outing. We might shop and grab a bite, but we don’t plan it as… Let’s go to XYZ mall to play today. Here are my reasons why. (PS: this reminds me of a hilarious incident I had written about on the old blog. We were in Calcutta and were being shown around the city. And then someone suggested the mall. I didn’t put up a fight because we were mere visitors and it would be rude to object. As we drove up, the hardcore Dilliwala Brat looked at the building and said – oh baba re, yeh kiska itna bada ghar hai? People laughed at my villager son and refused to believe that a Delhi kid had never seen a mall before :))

- Too much temptation. As an adult I find it hard to resist shopping, so how much harder is it for a child who knows nothing of the value of money, to understand why he or she can’t have that super expensive toy. Why not everything can or should be solved with a bit of retail therapy.

- Too much, too easy. Personally, I think it is easy to just dump kids in the play area and move on. But these few outings that kids get with us are also learning experiences. How to cross a road, how to choose veggies, watch the butcher chop meat, watch the tailor mark and cut…its all about the interaction which is rare when both parents are working and time with them is limited.

- Boring. After a point it’s all about consuming. And then we complain that kids are getting too consumeristic. Whose fault is it if we teach them that the only way to have fun is by walking into a store and spending money? That they can buy one toy every mall visit?

- Learning nothing, getting no exercise. The malls just spoonfeed them and then we complain about our kids older than 4-5 being overweight. They just sit and stare unblinkingly  at video games and I worry about them. What are they learning, other than how to move their fingers faster?

- I feel tired. Give us a day at a friend’s home or trekking in a hill station and we come home with our reserves of energy still high. But somehow I begin to get tired with the mall walking, my back aches, I get cranky (that might be a default setting) and I come home drained and sleepy. Somehow the OA feels the same way. Is it the lighting, the air conditioning, the what? I don’t know. Also I hate that our kids can no longer stand heat or dust and have to shop or play in air conditioned environs.

- I hate being manipulated. What started as simple shopping evolved into an entertainment zone. Put a playzone into any crappy mall and parents will go there to shop because its easier. Shop. Shop. Shop. Do I want to walk into a honeyed web laid to ensnare parents who take their kids for a game and end up buying half a dozen things they don’t need?

Now I don’t believe that as adults our lives should only revolve around our kids, but I’ve also realised that the walk down memory lane is more fun than we realise. If you let yourself enjoy a park or some ducks, you’ll suddenly realise that this is not just about them. Its fun for you too. It de-stresses you, it helps you get some fresh air and exercise and it builds memories that are so much stronger than an nth visit to the same mall (where they will see and want yet another damn beyblade!).

It is no great struggle and all it takes is a little thought to ensure that given our hectic lifestyle the kids are kept entertained without it falling into mall territory. I cannot speak for other cities but I think ArtNavy is the most BRILLIANT example of educating her kids in fun ways without falling prey to mall culture. Surabhi doesn’t even go out of her way to entertain Sanah and yet she is giving her the kind of exposure and upbringing most of us can only aspire to. BEV and A at Rainbow Days take their kids to art shows and museums and interesting dinners and their kids are probably some of the best mannered and most interesting I’ve come across. All this just to say that there are some of us out there who do manage to stay out of malls every single weekend even if some weekends we’re shoved in there because the husband is wearing frayed collars to work and disgracing the family.

So anyway, I have also had a lot of parents asking me what the OA and I do to keep the kids entertained. Well for one, when we’re with the kids, we’re with the kids. Feeding, bathing, the works. A lot of that is just interaction and rarely do we get guilted into doing anything because we anyway spend a lot of time with them. It means less coffee breaks, less wasting time (I’m guilty of spending time on the blog but its also why I only write at night unless its a short picture post – plus full days of school and long summer hours of daylight keep them out of the house almost all day) and more efficiency and less sleep but we do manage to have a full life. And when we make plans, we try and find a way to fit them in. If I go to meet friends for coffee, I take the Bean or Brat along if they want to come and carry a book or a set of colour pencils. Buy them a milkshake and we’re good to go. If we go shopping we let them walk around and check out stuff and they thankfully don’t pull down the store so we’re not really forced to leave them locked into a playarea like little delinquents! I have to make a disclaimer here – they’re not natural angels. We’ve had the odd occasion when a heavy hand lands on their butts and they’ve learnt that going out with us is not something they are entitled to, but a privilege and if they abuse it, they will stay home with one parent while the other runs errands. Period.

So anyway, here is a list of things to do in Delhi that we do with our kids. I’m going to ask parents from other cities to suggest a list of non-mall activities so that we have a sort of database. For now, it’s just me. Other Delhi parents, feel free to add to this list.

  1. The easy one – take them for a metro ride to old Delhi. Most kids have never seen this part of the city and be it parathas, chaat or rabri… the best place for any of these is Chandni Chowk. Go early in the morning and make a good heavy breakfast of it. The Bean went here first at a few months of age I think. Bunged into a baby sling and fed as the need arose while we ate deep fried karela parathas. Yummy.
  2. Take a walk through Deer Park. It’s cool, shaded, the peacocks call all evening and the kids will love feeding the deer. Take some bread along.  Don’t forget to check out the ruins at Deer Park and the corner with swings. It is a massive place so you only see the swings if you go from the Africa Avenue side. If you go by 5 or so, you can walk around for a while and round it off with a good South Indian dinner at Gunpowder in Hauz Khas Village. Just remember its four flights up! (This one’s  not for kids but a dinner at TLR – The Living Room is good for adults. Live music  -sometimes its pretty bad- food a little overpriced, but an ambience that is unmatched. One night we sat there, the OA and I, and planned our escape from corporatehood. Ahem, all that disappeared by the time we got home.) The Delhi Drum Circle plays there every second Sunday or so, check them out on Facebook. They are very cool and encourage kids to drum with them. So take little Pappu along with a bongo and you’re all set.
  3. Eat chocolate pancakes at a bakery in Paharganj and take a long walk through it. They have some reasonable rooftop restaurants and the Brat has often sat there and counted stars while the OA and I got through a lazy dinner. Don’t miss the Israeli and Nepali joints. It’s a chance to introduce kids to something other than Asian and Italian food and pretty authentic.
  4. Go to Lodhi gardens for an early morning walk on Sunday and round it off with brunch at the All American Diner. Carry some bread for the ducks, something light for the kids to eat while you’re there and then go the whole hog (excuse the pun) at AAD – waffles, pancakes, eggs… juice. If you go in the evening you will end up walking with Jairam Ramesh and a number of other VIPs. There’s also a section earmarked by the NDMC for butterflies! Yes… kids will love it.
  5. Try a magic show at the Kingdom of Dreams. Or a musical. Culture Gully is full of a variety of food options. If you’re coming from Delhi, take the metro to IFFCO chowk and it’s walking distance from there.
  6. Join a library or a book club. I read to the kids everyday so its not something new but we’ve taken them for a couple and they enjoy the change. Reading Caterpillar in Nizamuddin is awesome. I love Rabani’s energy and the ideas she keeps coming up with.
  7. Buy second hand books at Nai Sarak and browse the morning away. Sometimes you get some rare first editions of your favourite books. You can also do this in South Ex and CP. Lots of old book stores and no hole in the pocket.
  8. Stay overnight at the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary and wake up to catch the early birds. While winters are the best time to spot migratory birds, it is a pleasure to go during or immediately after the monsoons just for a beautiful walk.
  9. Eat piping hot momos while you watch a traditional performance at Dilli Haat. Try the malabar parathas at the Kerala stall, steaming hot Radha Ballabi’s at the WB stall on a foggy night. At Dilli Haat its easy for kids to fall in love with traditional wooden and cloth toys, to want to pick up a nice kurta or lehenga that they might otherwise cringe at wearing and to watch in awe as the old man plays the ektara.
  10. Try your hand at go-karting. Google it and you’ll get atleast 5-6 options around the city.
  11. Fly a kite on Independence Day. When is the last time you flew one?
  12. Go hot air ballooning at Damdama Lake. The lake by itself is nothing much but its a brilliant experience. You can also stay overnight at a number of places if you’re looking for a weekend getaway. It might not be a great place but kids love the idea of staying in a strange place and a new bed.
  13. Visit the annual Surajkund Mela. It gets very crowded so try and get there the moment it opens at 10 am or pick a weekday to skip the madness.
  14. Try bungee jumping at the Aero Club of India, also hang gliding, sky diving and paragliding.
  15. Go to Neemrana Fort and try the ziplining experience. Even if kids are too young, its nice to go on a pleasant day and let them run around the lawns. Inside – not so much!
  16. Have a butter chicken dinner at Pandara Road. It’s a very Dilli thing to do. Plus that part of Delhi is.. just so nice to drive around.
  17. Chug along on the Delhi Parikrama Rail Sewa on the two hour ride around Delhi’s tourist spots
  18. Visit the Mughal Gardens when they open up to the public for a month each year. You might think its no biggie for kids, but hey, imagine growing up and moving out and saying you never ever saw them!
  19. Eat a midnight biryani the night before Eid, at Jama Masjid. My kids aren’t so big on the biryani but simply love the kebabs. I do it on a night before a weekend and make sure they sleep well in the afternoon. The different sights, sounds and the fact that they are out at night is damn exciting to them.
  20. Join a riding club and learn to canter. I’ve done it a couple of times and the kids simply love it. Am yet to make it a permanent feature because the Bean isn’t old enough for classes and  I hate sending the Brat off and leaving her at home.
  21. Take a walk through the Jahapanah Forest, the Roshanara Gardens, Japanese Garden, Nehru Park or Rose Garden. Sit down and have a snack when you tire. Bas, ho gaya picnic.
  22. Spend a summer rappelling, river crossing, and tying knots at the Dhauj Rock climbing camp. You can also do this at Lado Sarai near the Qutub Golf Course.
  23. Go parasailing at Sohna and check out the hot water springs. This is a winter trip. There is a little Tourism Dept style restaurant and lake there. Nothing great for us adults who have seen better, but I’ve realised that as long as we don’t crib  “What shit is this…” the kids will enjoy the drive, the camel ride, the once-in-a-while Coke and chips and come back feeling quite thrilled. It is our high standards that tend to rub off on them and then we wonder when they became such hard to please snobs.
  24. Go to Asola Bhatti Sanctuary or if you have the enthusiasm, drive all the way to Sariska National Park and spot neelgai, peacocks, sambar, wild boar and much more.
  25. Go boating at the Old Fort. It’s just a paddle boat ride but if you live in Delhi and don’t take your kids around all the old ruins and forts, it is a waste of the city. Few metros give you a ruin in your backyard.
  26. It’s not a big deal but make a point of picnicking or at least walking to the ruins in your area. If you live in Panchsheel, Hauz Khas, Safdarjung Enclave – I could go on – there will always be a ruin to take your evening walk through. The OA and I had three favourites near our old home and we even took Orange Jammies  for a walk when she visited with us.
  27. Take one of the many  Delhi Heritage Walks and discover the city close up. Try Red Earth for the Genda Phool walks. Himanshu is brilliant and comes up with a variety of walks and ways to save the Genda Phool, the city’s flower markets, pay tributes to Khwajaji and a lot more.
  28. Watch a play at Kamani Auditorium. Sometimes they have plays suitable for young adults.
  29. Spend a day at the zoo and take the buggy ride around it. You can share the buggy with another family if you aren’t too large a group. Remember, you cant take food in and there’s only that much of a meal you can make of chips. So time it well.
  30. Join any one of the cycling groups and take a ride around the city.
  31. Watch a puppet show at Dilli Haat or check out for Katkatha. The Kathputli Colony is another brilliant idea.
  32. The Nehru Planetarium has recently been renovated  – its a must go to for every child old enough to enjoy it.
  33. Jeevashram is a great place to take the kids to visit sick animals. You can even adopt a pet from there without spending a fortune.
  34. The Garden of Five senses  (thanks Diya!) is a huge favourite and I must have done at least 4 picture posts about it in the last couple of years. A huge maze, windchimes, camel rides, fountains, dhaba food, the flower show – whats not to like?
  35. The Rail Museum. Chug around on a toy train, check out the oldest engines possible and have a picnic before you head back home.
  36. Shankar’s Doll museum is old and dusty but its a change from Barbie and Ken. The Sulabh Museum of Toilets is a funny place and kids find anything to do with pooping and farting very funny. Strange creatures.

Parents in other cities, would you like to join in and tell us what fun things your kids do while staying far away from malls? And oh, if you do a post on this – please drop the link by here so that I can compile it. Join the movement – keep our kids out of malls ! :p

Only a procedure

Okay so the damn website has crashed again. I give up. *bangs head on keyboard* Anyone able to recommend a good host that doesn’t cost the earth? And can handle the traffic?

And while you’re racking your brain I’m going to post about something that has been in the news for some days and no, it’s not the tsunami. It is about Jeev Milkha Singh’s coach, Amritinder Singh being asked to remove his turban at the airport for security checks.

I understand there has been a lot of outrage and living in India where Sikhs and turbans are common, I see their point. I could never imagine asking a Sikh to remove his turban. College years in Delhi were spent in a locality full of Skihs though and on Sunday afternoons it was a common sight to see bearded men sitting outside their homes on khatiyas drying their freshly washed hair. It would almost always end in a cricket match down the lanes and for the first few weeks after I moved there I was very confused to see tall, hefty bearded figures rush up and down the lane with beautiful, thick, shiny long hair flowing down to the waist, good-naturedly squabbling over whether it was a four or a six. Come Monday morning the hair would be bundled neatly into turbans and they’d be serious faced businessmen at the local shopping centre.

But, turbans and burkhas, while religious symbols, must all give way to law. There is no right or wrong – this is an area of legal and illegal. It is legal and well within the airport authorities rights to make us take off shoes, gloves, hats, caps, anything they want really. If I give them enough reason to, they might stick a finger up where the sun don’t shine and sadly, there is nothing I can do about it. It’s not polite, it’s not nice, and I may not be an internationally renowned sports person. But I have my dignity that is no less than yours or Shahrukh Khan’s and it bothers me if something beeps and they start checking if it is my belt or bra hook. And yet, I endure it, because we all need to bow before the law of the land, regardless of our personal religious beliefs. And this is a matter of security – is it right to allow our personal beliefs to jeopardise other peoples’ lives? I can’t think of a single country that hasn’t faced security issues and terror threats. Everyone has a right to do what it takes to ensure their personal and national safety just as everyone has a right to their religious symbols and personal dignity.

Why not make it easy for everyone concerned by just cooperating? Instead you object. They are simply security personnel doing their job so they  get mad. You get madder. The queue behind you is growing and fidgeting. It blows into an international incident. And before you know it, they are demanding that that PM of the country speak on behalf of all turban wearers. And I’ll admit that I don’t know the PM personally, but he seems to be the kind of person who would have complied in a quiet and dignified manner without it turning into a diplomatic situation, pulling rank or playing the I-am-so-famous card. I guess that is where real dignity enters the picture. No one can take away your dignity and self respect unless you allow them to. I have taken a very very long time to learn this lesson. And oh – what if it had not been a sportsperson and just some regular Sikh businessman on his way to Canada? Would we have entertained the protests? All this is just diverting attention from true racism, hate crimes and harassment.

Some time back there was a huge controversy about burkha photo IDs and only female staff being allowed to check the faces of women in burkhas. I think that is fair enough because many women are uncomfortable being stared in the face by a strange man. It is a small matter to take someone aside and give them some privacy. Perhaps a similar courtesy could have been extended to Mr Singh. If he felt taking his turban off in public was an insult, they might have taken him aside. Not because he is a famous person, but because this is a religious sentiment and one needs to tread cautiously. But if he felt that as a renowned personality he had a right to be exempted, I’m afraid I disagree. I mean even the far more well known Shahrukh Khan (with all due respect to Mr Singh) was detained and questioned for two hours. All because his Muslim name kept popping up on an alert list.  And he endured it because it was a law of the land and the authorities were simply following procedures. I can’t imagine us doing that to Brad Pitt or Will Smith.

Part of the problem in our country is that we don’t follow the procedures even though there are more than enough of them laid in place. All you have to do is claim that someone is insulting your religious symbol/pride and you’re let off. Or else of  course say that your father is a big shot (Jaante ho main kiska beta hoon?) and you’re through. There are sops and loopholes and allowances for everything. Sikhs don’t wear helmets and women in burkhas vote without once lifting their burkha for their identity to be checked. And then we expect that the rest of the world will go as easy on our feelings as India does. Not happening.

What do you guys think?

This and that

A couple of links is all I am sharing today. I think we’ve all had an overdose of the Mad House.

Here’s the first  – Stay safe online – http://safely.yahoo.com/

Here’s the second for dilliwalas ex as well as present. Delhi completed a 100 years this year. Love it or hate it, it is the capital of our country. It is beautiful, it is green, it is ever welcoming and you don’t need to speak a particular language to avoid being beaten up! I know there are rapes and murders but I am yet to come across a safe capital anywhere in the world. I don’t mean to dismiss them. But as Jammie said sometime ago – the fact that we survive this and still create in the midst of the struggle for survival, is commendable. Be it Diwali, Onam, Durga Puja, Christmas or Eid, there are public celebrations, there is joy and there is fanfare. I love this city and it is my home and I can’t be happier as it celebrates its centenary year. A lot of magazines are covering it. If you lived here, you’d want to know. If you have never visited and want to know more, this is your chance. Read on – http://www.hindustantimes.com/special-news-report/NewDelhi100years/Spl2-lid.aspx

And a tribute to my city again.

And finally, a piece by Sagarika Ghose that I quite enjoyed. Shall copy paste for your reading pleasure.

Old at heart

Rightwing conservative youth on a collision course with liberal democracy.


Is it fun to be young? Not really. The Hindustan Times CNN-IBN Youth poll surveying urban 18-25 year olds shows that for 50 per cent, the source of their happiness is parents, more want to join government service more than any other profession, 60 per cent have never had a girlfriend or boyfriend and romance is very far down their list of priorities. For most a good salary rather than new challenges are most important when choosing a career.
‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven,” wrote William Wordsworth about the heady times of the French revolution. But the 18-25 generation in 21st century India, don’t want revolutions. Far from it. In fact they are highly risk averse, more politically rightwing than before, extremely socially conservative and disinclined to opt for rebellion. With such a shockingly conventional generation, where one might ask are the free thinkers, the adventurers, the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Bill Gates going to come from?
The young’s relationship with their parents is very conventional. Priyanka Todi and Nirupama Pathak may have chosen life partners in defiance of parents, Manoj and Babli may have defied the Kaithal khap panchayat, but the overwhelming majority of young want to marry and live according to their parents wishes. While this may be good news for those worried about the breakdown of the Indian family, in some ways it also shows that inspite of films like `Udaan’ or `Three Idiots’ which interrogate parental diktat on children destinies, questioning or challenging parents is simply not part of the mentality of today’s young. This is borne out in the unquestioning way that sons and daughters today meekly follow in the footsteps of their actor or politician parents or even in the fact that young men are prepared to murder their sisters if they step out of the family line. In return for this devotion, parents provide absolute protection. Even educated mothers dote on their children to such an extent that a la Manu Sharma, they will even bend the law to protect offspring who have committed murder.
How healthy is this fierce attachment of parent child, of total protection in return for total devotion? Rich parents in metros are rearing a generation of cossetted spoilt brats. Spoilt brats who will touch the feet of their parents in ostentatious mock respect but recklessly flout the law on the street in bout of drunk driving, confident that Dad and Mom will get them off any trouble with the law. The Indian family, India’s most prized institution, was once a classroom of good behaviour both inside and outside the home. Today the great Indian family can sometimes become a cynical trap of wealth and power where children and parents are united by a common rather feudal pursuit of status and family success, unmindful of social responsibility, public good or a consciousness of being part of a wider social world. Obedience and respect towards parents is wonderful. Yet it is individuals who tackle the world independently and on their own terms, who intelligently question their parents choices, who choose to venture into the world in a spirit of discovery, who are likely to become leaders, risk takers and original thinkers. Being cocooned in the family womb and making nightly forays only in Dad’s Mercedes may keep mother happy, but will not create an individual likely to enrich society.
The young are not only incredibly family- minded, they are also extremely socially conservative. Over 70 per cent disapprove of homosexuality and over 60 per cent want marriage partners to be virgins. As for politics, four times more young people prefer Right wing politics to Left wing politics. If two decades ago the political centre of gravity of the young was with the Left, in 21st century India, the urban youth are firmly with the political Right. This is not surprising. Facebook and Twitter may have created the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt, but in India Facebook and Twitter are dominated by young people openly pouring scorn on `pseudo-secular liberals’, minorities and so called ‘anti-nationals”. Young Indians proudly call themselves `nationalist’ without quite spelling out what their ‘nationalism’ means. While economic reforms have created an optimistic belief in private enterprise, yet at the same time hardline attitudes to minorities and preference for a hard state spell doom for liberal democracy.
So why are India’s urban youth conservative and politically rightwing? The perceived loss of culture due to globalization could be a reason why Indian “culture” is aggressively asserted even as `global’ lifestyles sweep through the metros. Pop traditionalism, albeit in a modern garb, has returned with a bang. Trendy clothes, skinny figures and the latest gadgets coexist with a passionate attachment to religious rituals. If rituals and religious rites were once the activities of grandmothers, now they are being adopted by the youth as aggressive demonstrations of identity. No wonder that marriage remains central to the youth’s dreams and giving birth to sons is the preferred option even in upmarket social strata.
There’s a great deal to be proud of in the youth survey too. Inspite of their own attachment to family, India’s youth have chosen the self made Sachin Tendulkar and APJ Abdul Kalam over scions born into privileged ‘royal’ families. But the survey contains portents of the future. India in the next two generations will be powered by a majority of success-oriented deeply conservative citizens whose ambitions are narrowly focused on money and status. Poets, bohemians, rebels, intellectuals, dissenters, freethinkers, adventurers, or even risk taking entrepreneurs may become a vanishing breed.

Merry Christmas – 25.12.2006

I had planned to go chronologically with the posts from Ye Olde Bloge but it seemed like a good time to pull out this old post – actually I was over enthu and had three posts up on X’mas in 2006. We were in Allahabad and this was Pre-Bean. Do you remember a time before the Bean? I don’t. It seems like I’ve just always been her mother. I present the X’mas season posts that week. Have a great X’mas and a Happy New Year you all. If you don’t hear from me in the next week – it’s because I’m busy travelling. Catch you on the other side.

But where is the X’mas tree?



This year since I am going to my parents’ home I decided not to put up an X’mas tree… it would gather dust while I was away and my son would pull it to pieces when I got back… So I just put up a twig with red and gold baubles and filled the vase that holds it with red and gold star and heart shaped baubles… It’s nice… but oh to have put up my very own tree!
Maybe next year when the Brat is older…. oh damn.. that is when the next one will be swinging on the branches….I think my tree is going to stay wrapped up in bubble wrap and tucked away for a few years yet…

Rocking around the X’mas tree


For those who are wondering why I haven’t blogged in a while… this is the reason why… I am at my parents’ home for X’mas and have just been too lazy to get on to the www…. I have been lying on a rug in front of the fire place, watching the flames for hours on end, sipping hot cups of tea and listening to music while my son sits on his haunches and methodically takes decorations off the X’mas tree and rearranges them… Sorry if I gave you guys a scare…

Last night I was dancing with him in my lap and in the mirror I saw another mother and child…. with almost identical features dancing to the very same X’mas carols, cheek to cheek, around the grand piano almost 25 years ago…Thanks for some beautiful memories, ma…

is what the OA and I have been most of this vacation on a rug in front of the fireplace…

For those who knew we were going away to a wildlife reserve for a few days, well that got cancelled. All that eating rich food and partying late finally got to me and I am laid up with some amoebic infection and surviving on toast and tea… Bah. Merry X’mas indeed!

.

Compliments of the season from the little drummer boy

…who only opened his gifts on X’mas morning..

began opening gifts at 2 am, when we returned from church after the midnight service…. shall soon show pictures of all my loot!

Father and son

…..have spent plenty of time bonding this vacation and I don’t know how my son will deal with the lack of space and lack of company once we get back to Delhi…playschool, here we come.

Sugar and spice and everything nice…

If you glow it’s a boy they say, some turn the theory around and say you glow if you are carrying a girl. If you carry to the front it’s a boy, but if you gain weight all around, it’s a girl. We even tried my wedding band on a chain and then on a strand of my hair to see what I am carrying. Old wives tales abound and women have for centuries tried every trick in the book to find out whether they are carrying a girl or boy. Friends and older family members want to know why I am so keen to know the gender of the baby.

Well, right from reasons like asking my brother to buy me cute baby stuff from abroad to picking the colour of the bassinet, there are a dozen reasons…. but the biggest reason? Well I don’t know about others, but I am eager to know just like so many women over the last few centuries… There is a life growing inside of me and I am not willing to be just a blank vessel!! I am eating healthy and taking every precaution to make sure that little life is nurtured and cared for. And I would like to know as much about it as possible. I am signed up for four different baby mails a week and I can tell you which body part is developing this week and how big baby is… and after all this surely it comes as no surprise that I am eager to know the gender.

My brother did buy stuff from abroad for baby bean…Baby bean’s first X’mas gifts..even before she has arrived…..Merry X’mas my little angel… Only God and my blogging friends know how badly I want a daughter!!!

My parents who have a vague grasp of blogging were very aprehensive about me posting this entry. What if it turns out to be a boy after all, they ask. Well, I will be disappointed for a while, but I will grow to love the little fellow anyway. And he will have to wear pink for the first few months because that is all the poor Mad Sibling could get, no gender neutral colours available. And as for those who read my blog…. I think they will understand my disapointment more than anyone else and be my greatest strength. For now, thank you all those who prayed for a little girl…Now all we need is a healthy pregnancy or what remains of it… and a healthy baby.

On why I’m still not really settled

So we’re at a party and we meet this man who has lived in Gurgaon for some years. “How do you like living here?” he asks. The OA makes non-committal sounds and I shrug. We could politely lie or we could shut up. We shut up. He digs. “Isn’t it great?” And then goes on to wax eloquent on the gated communities, the air conditioning and the malls.

When he finds out we moved from Delhi barely a few months ago, he wants to know what I miss. I smile and reminisce – Shopping at Sarojini, Dilli Haat, the deer park, fresh vegetables and fruit…  He pronounces “Oh! you’re a South Delhi snob. Then goes on to say  – I could never shop in a Lajpat Nagar or Malviya Nagar. So dusty and dirty. (oh! And I’m a snob?!)

I think that is when I contemplated flinging my drink in his face, I try to stammer something about how I’m not a South Delhi snob, but a small town girl (yeah, who is counting the references?). But I was a guest too and so I held my peace. And from there on the conversation just headed downhill. He wanted to know where I was from. And then went on to say that even Lucknow had no culture, while Calcutta, had a great culture. I didn’t know whether to educate him or laugh in his face at his ignorance. So I politely said – Well there is Lakhnavi culture and Bengal has its own culture, can’t really deny either.

I don’t know why I bothered because then he went on to say – And what does Allahabad have to show? To which I grinned and said – Amitabh Bachchan? Three or four prime ministers?

And he starts to criticise Amitabh Bachchan. At this point I must make a disclaimer. I am no Big B fan, but I can tell you he’s not someone to just dismiss. I also realise that this rude SOB is just going out of his way to be rude to me and this is not the gentle ribbing of a friend. It’s deliberate nastiness. I slide off the arm of the chair, smile coldly and say – “You like the cold artificiality of Gurgaon and you can only crib about Amitabh and are unaware of Lakhnavi culture inspite of having lived there.  Clearly there is no accounting for taste, is there?”

The OA looked horrified, but I was just so done with the man. After I left he said to the OA – Is she in media? The OA nodded. And then the idiot went on to say that he loved to provoke people and see them get annoyed. I know that most people would say “Don’t give others the pleasure of provoking you.. ” But my theory is, why let some idiot sit there imagining that you’re nothing more than a pretty face (right now, with my pimples, I don’t even fit that description!) without an opinion or a thought? And for those of you who know me, how long do you imagine I’d sit there just listening to him being nasty? Once the OA (who always gives people the benefit of doubt) realised that the idiot was deliberately provoking me, he figured it was fair enough that I let him have the rough edge of my tongue.

Anyhow, this sort of yuppie is the worst exemplification of the Gurgaon I’ve come to know in the last few months. On the plus side, it’s good to have your vegetables home delivered and some buildings like ours have 100% power backup. On the minus, we have manicured lawns, that lead out to roads riddled with potholes. We live in air conditioned buildings while the drivers are not allowed to sit out even in the lawns or have a provision for drinking water. The house help is erratic and pricey even though they aren’t half as good at their work or well trained as the help in Delhi. They’re just village women who can’t cook properly, don’t know how to dust or sweep – but are well aware of the dire need for help. The irony is not lost on me. We’re living this almost Western suburban life without half the amenities or facilities. We do the same 2 hour commute, but our roads are shit. We’re expected to pay insane rates for the house help, but all we’re getting is unhygienic labour straight off the fields with an inflated sense of entitlement and no sense of responsibility. They get up and walk out without a word of warning if someone has a baby in the village. I don’t mean to sound like the poor little rich girl, but I honestly don’t know what the solution to this is. The driver smashed the door while roughly pulling the Bean’s car seat out. He has a driving licence and that is all he seems to think is required. He refuses to acknowledge that putting in or taking out a car seat carefully is part of the job or that he has made a mistake by smashing a door because of his carelessness. The lady who cleans yanked a glass door of the medicine cabinet in the toilet and smashed it across the loo – don’t ask me what the hell she was up to. All I know is that my landlord is going to have my guts for garters.

We’ve been advertising for a better driver, but nothing better comes up. The same few guys hang around and keep quitting to move from one tower to the next. You wake up to find your driver driving your neighbour around because he is paying him Rs 200 extra. I understand that Rs 200 is a lot, but the problem is quality. For all that is available in Gurgaon, I can’t say anything of any quality is available. The houses have seepage, the walls shake if you hammer anything in, the parking in most buildings has flooded, the doors warp in the monsoons, the so called wooden flooring is like a rollercoaster during the rains…

The OA and I needed to buy the kids winter woollies and so we took them to a mall for the first time in 5 months. Yes! Five months and they hadn’t seen a mall. We walked in and I was reminded in graphic detail, of why I hate them with a vengeance. It’s a suburb whose time really hasn’t arrived yet. On the one hand are old ladies in 9 yards limping painfully along and holding up the escalator because they are too scared to get on. On the other is a girl in a tube top and skinny jeans, shivering in the early autumn, and proclaiming in a thick Haryanvi accent that her mother will kill her if she gets home late. What is this? Where are we? Whats going on?

On the other hand, the children’s book festival will soon be here, as will the winter, when I will head back to Delhi and the warmth of Lodhi gardens. Where I’ll lay my eyes on buildings that are older than me and far more gracious… and greenery meets the eye everywhere you look.

Kalmadi be damned, my city sure cleans up well. The roads are wider. There are cycling paths everywhere. Hastily planted shrubs wilt but will hopefully live to see the next year. I miss the bustle. I miss the warmth. I miss the markets of fresh green vegetables. I miss driving down roads and drinking up the sights of beautiful homes, each one unique. I miss the music and the film and theatre. I know it’s all available in spots in Gurgaon and I shouldn’t be ungrateful. But hey, that was my home for years. Loving or even liking Gurgaon, will have to wait a while.

Edited to add: The maid was just diagnosed with TB and has left. The OA and I are cooking, cleaning, working, child raising and seriously contemplating moving to the West where life is geared for such stuff.

Dilli Haat

* Dear Bijoli Grill

Would you mind opening up a branch in Gurgaon. There is a little girl here who hungers for mishti doi and going all the way to Dilli Haat for it isn’t always easy.

Thanking you,

MM

* Huddling under an inadequate garden umbrella while the unusually harsh Delhi monsoons rage around you, eating steaming hot chicken momos at Dilli Haat, is the cosiest thing ever.  Ever.

* Two kids with straws and mugs of fruit beer can cause more destruction than nuclear war. Don’t believe me? You ain’t seen mine in action. Brandishing them like swords, spraying water and juice all over the place and poking their parents in the eye, shoving them into their noses and ears.

*Heard – Brat saying – Why are you saying, don’t touch the dogs, don’t touch the dogs? Doggies only bite if you hurt them. If you pet them they will love you back.”

*Seen – Brat helping the waiters lock up the stall, hand out menus, and struggle to lift chairs and pile them up. He finally promised to come back when he was older so that he could help the waiters.

*Heard – Bean saying, “I’m not a waiter. I am an eater.”