Ladiss log

A few days ago I spent a good part of the morning driving around my locality, looking for a tailor who would come home and do some alteration of furnishings. I found one by the roadside and helped him lift and put the sewing machine into the boot. Of course the machine was too big so I would have to drive with the boot open, the machine sticking out.
As I was about to drive off, two men walked by and one of them helpfully suggested that I  put a car mat under the machine where it hung over the bumper, to avoid scratches. I smiled and responded that I had; my car mats are transparent so he hadn’t noticed them.
He nodded and then well within earshot, turned and said to his companion – in Hindi, sometimes ladies use their brains – Kabhi kabhi ladiss log bhi samahjdari ka kaam karti hain.

You must commend the restraint I showed in not mowing him down.

Speaking for myself

A few days ago I was standing at the bus stop and waiting for the kids when one of the mothers showed up with her toddler in a stroller. All of us cooed and fussed over the baby (heck, this is the last year the Brat is in single digits!) and she rolled her eyes. ‘I haven’t slept in days..’ she sighed. And she had an older one in school, so she had early mornings whether she liked it or not.

The other mothers all had one child only.

They turned to me with the usual – how did you manage with two kids and such a small gap?

Honestly, if I had not blogged in those days, I’d have no memory of it. The days and nights are a blur. Off the top of my head I can’t recall when one walked, when the other potty trained. Who started solids happily and who hated them.

I was tired, at times I was frustrated, at times I was sleep deprived, at times I was uncertain. But those were few. Most of the time I was happy, I was content, I was absorbed, I was fascinated, I was proud, I was learning – and that holds true for every single day even now. Be it the Bean creating a beautiful piece of art or the Brat telling me that there are more than 20,000 people over the age of 100 in Japan, everyday they give me something to be thrilled about, something to marvel at.

I look back on how I managed them and I realise that I managed because its what I expected. We all know that babies will cry when hungry or sleepy or wet. We all know they will sleep for short periods of time and eat ever so often. We all know they are curious little mites who pull down low hanging table cloths and put their hand in the toilet bowl. We can laugh, we can cry, we can roll with the punches. But we can’t say it’s not what we expected. Not if we’ve seen even one child grow up among close friends and family. And not even if we haven’t.

On the other hand, there are those who constantly whine about how parenthood has sucked the joy out of their lives, the adventure, the ability to get up and go, the ambition. Who is to deny that adding something to your life will naturally reduce space for other things? And who is to decide which is more important? Only you.

I read this post in the Hindu today, about the lies regarding parenting and while five years ago I would have been enraged at being called a liar, I felt only sorrow for the writer. She’s stating the obvious when she talks of there being good and bad – but I think she is wrong in choosing to speak for all of us and calling it a lie. That parenthood is a joy, a pleasure, a privilege, is the truth for many of us. We also speak only for ourselves.

I understand that a lot of parents (here I speak of both fathers as well as mothers) made their choice under social as well as parental pressure. But of them, a lot of enjoyed the choice. On the other hand, there are so many of us for whom parenthood was a happy and natural choice. I don’t judge those who choose not to have kids, and hope they do us the same courtesy. Many of us have had not just one kid, but gone on to have another and some even a third or a fourth, because of the sheer joy it brings us.

So when I see something of this sort, a rant that many of us might have been guilty of at 1 am, I am a little saddened to see it make its way out of the annoyance of a sleep deprived night into the clear light of day and into print. If anything, these last few lines reeked of a sort of bitterness that made me feel very sad for her and for any kids of hers that might have read the piece.

“At the end of the day, parenting is merely foisting the responsibility of finding your life’s meaning on to someone else. It’s the reason why parents — especially mothers — have to continue with the narrative of “this is the best thing I’ve ever done.” Besides giving them an excuse to do nothing else with their lives, it also gives them a lofty platform from which to preach.”

Is parenthood a cakewalk? No. Is anything a cakewalk? No! Not planting a garden, not climbing a mountain, not building a business empire.

Jobs, relationships, friendships, they all take a lot of work. Somedays they are good, somedays they are bad. I’m in a happy marriage and that takes a lot of work too. But if you ask me what marriage is like, I’d say its the second best thing to have happened to me – the kids would be first!

None of this is a lie. It’s just that the good overwhelms the bad. And if anyone is foolish enough to believe that it’s entirely angels kissing spring and strawberries and summer wine, well then, they’re just fools.

If anything, the last bit seemed like a bit of a desperate attempt to justify one’s own negativity towards parenthood (although I don’t know if she’s a parent). In this day and age of live and let live, when you see such ire against people who are happy with their choices and make no bones about it, you can only wonder – why this kolaveri di?

By the by, we’re planning our annual vacation and my parents as well as inlaws suggested for a number of reasons, that we leave the kids behind with them as we did for our trip to the US in 2012. I was inclined to agree with them because we have a lot of work to do on the trip. But the OA, note, not me, the OA – refuses to go without them. After years of taking an annual two-three day trip without them, we’re down to the father cleaving unto his kids and refusing to let go. It’s quite funny, because its usually the mothers who feel that way. Of course once he put his foot down with a firm hand (I love this mixed metaphor!) I was sure I didn’t want to leave them behind at all. I love watching their eyes widen at the shiny newness and chrome of the airport (they’re poor Gurgaon kids who are never taken to the mall), the gasp of breath as the flight lifts off, the excitement of the new and the different.

I read this other article in the Guardian and it made me want to cry. I’ve been hugging the Brat, squishing the Bean… aware that my days as mother to carry-able babies are numbered.  So putting aside that woman’s silly rant that I couldn’t relate to at all, I turned to this one and felt it speak to me. I leave you with the first bit of the article. Do read.
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There is one song I simply cannot listen to because it upsets me too much – Turn Around by Nanci Griffiths. It is a song about the ephemerality of childhood – the velocity with which you will lose your children to time and growth. Recorded first by Harry Belafonte it begins with this stanza:

“Where are you goin’ my little one, little one? / Where are you goin’ my baby my own? / Turn around and you’re two / Turn around and you’re four / Turn around and you’re a young girl / Going out of the door.”

Even without the tune it brings a lump to my throat. I have watched two of my children “go out of the door” – one is 18 and one 20 – and although my pride in their independence and achievements is overwhelming, knowing that the children they were can never return is sometimes sharper than a serpent’s tooth.

 

PVR and Children’s Film Society tie up

Isn’t this good news? Would be a very good change for a kiddie birthday party or a class outing.

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The Children’s Film Society, India has tied up with PVR Cinemas to release three of its latest films, on book-a-show basis. These are Gattu (directed by Rajan Khosa), Gopi Gawaiya Baja Bajaiya (directed by Shilpa Ranade) and Kaphal-Wild Berries (directed by Batul Mukhtiar).

This facility is available to all schools, NGOs, corporate houses and individual groups. You can book-a-show at an average rate of Rs.100 a ticket, for a minimum of 100 people at a PVR cinema nearest to you, at a notice of 2-3 weeks.

For further details, please contact Ms. Amirbanu at chairperson@cfsindia.org. CC ceo@cfsindia.org and marketing@cfsindia.org

K.I.S.S.I.N.G

The Brat will be 9 this May. He doesn’t follow the usual curve of boyhood disdain for the female of the species or physical affection. I still hug him, cuddle him, tousle his curls… while his contemporaries pushed their fussy mothers away long ago. Besides many of them are already being paired up with classmates or friends on the bus, singing the age old song – X and Y, sitting on a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G.

Since I try really hard to be a mother who doesn’t push – I periodically check with him  - Can I still kiss you in public? To his credit, his answer was yes, long after I thought he’d say no.

A few months ago he shook his head distinctly – No.

Okay, I said. My heart broke just a little but I consoled myself with the thought that I had got away with it for longer than most. That I could still kiss him at home. His cheeks are still soft. He has some years to go before stubble makes them unkissable.

But then I wouldn’t be the person I am, if I weren’t so idiotic and forgetful. Because a few days ago I forgot all about it and yelled out to him as his friends and he hung around our dining table making some artwork. ‘Give me a kissie, baby.’

His friends sniggered. He glared at me and stomped up to me menacingly. I prepared myself for a set down.

As he came near, I bent down and whispered – I’m so sorry darling. I forgot your friends are here.

He turned his little chubby cheek up to me and said – It’s okay. I’ve come to get a kiss anyway, haven’t I?

I gave him a peck on the cheek and watched him walk back to the table, unconcerned about what the others thought. Interestingly the other kids had gone back to their work and forgotten about us too.

I guess we’re good for a couple of months more.

Here’s an old post about the Brat and his mother and PDAs. 

This Valentine’s Day

… let’s talk about love – everybody’s right to love. If there’s one thing I’ve heard over the years, it is – how do I explain homosexuality to my kids. I might have asked that question years ago on this blog too. I think I have some answers now. And for all the years that I asked that stupid question, I have a lifetime to make up for it.

Section-377-of-IPC

 

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My darling babies,

A while ago we were sitting on the carpet, sorting out laundry, pairing socks, folding t-shirts. The warm winter sun shone through the house, casting a golden glow on everything it touched. It is in mundane moments like these, that the big questions are asked by little voices.

And you, my little girl, asked, “Mama, why does your profile picture on Facebook have an image of 377 with a big red cross over it?”

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Read the rest of the post on yowoto. 

Library day

Sigh. Okay, so clearly I am no good at this title business. Moving on. PS: But I’m good at picking books. Would you rather it were the other way around?

The only bush I trust is my own – Periel Aschenbrand

She had me at the title. I giggled, sniggered and knew I had to buy it. I loved it of course. Periel Aschenbrand describes herself as half Israeli, half New York Jew – I’d like to add, and wholly irreverent. In this book Periel, a sometimes waitress, sometimes teacher, sometimes writer and designer, attacks every institution, from patriarchy, to religion, to sweatshop labour – and she does it with style.

If the title of the book wasn’t enough, sample this – ‘… the thing about giving a gift is, among other things, an act of aggression. And it’s an act of aggression because the nature of a gift is that you are forced to accept it and then you owe something.’

Or this one – If you even want to pretend to take yourself seriously as an intellectual, you can’t believe in nonsense like God and heaven.

Or – The Pope knows that God doesn’t exist. That’s the secret of his f**king power.

I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, it’s a book for anyone with half a brain, an unwillingness to just accept things because they were told so, and considers themselves a feminist. I’ve read it twice already and it must be age because I keep forgetting the funny lines.

I urge, beg, beseech you – buy this book.

The German Boy – Patricia Wastvedt

I can’t seem to get enough of the Holocaust stories. This one though, is a little after. Elisabeth and Karen are sisters. They are friends with Rachel and both are more than a little enamoured of her artist brother, Michael Ross. Michael however, has eyes only for Elisabeth. But that was in the past. It is now 1947 and Karen’s son is a half German orphan who fought for Hitler. He’s now just a homeless 16 year old who is left in the care of Elisabeth. He enters into their lives seamlessly and then suddenly… it all falls apart.

Karen marries a rich German and goes off to live a fancy life. Elisabeth marries a jowly old man who worships her. Rachel hungers for a child. It took me a while to pick up the threads of the lives of the various characters and figure out how they were connected. Wastvedt’s writing is sheer poetry in some places and for that I’ll forgive her the ease with which she let characters and lives drift apart. I know that is how real life works, that things don’t tie up in neat little bundles. But she left so many pockets of pain, so many conversations unfinished that I took it rather personally. 

I hope someday to grow up to be a writer like her. How does one write prose that sounds like poetry without sounding artificial? It’s magical.

Sorting out Sid – Yashodhara Lal

Disclaimer – Yash is a friend and I’m trying to be as objective as possible.

As I mentioned to Yashodhara, I’d never have picked up a book that seemed like it was about a man.. because well, it wouldn’t have been to my interest. But I did, and I’m so glad I did! Yashodhara’s first book crossed the gender barrier and this one does so with even more aplomb.

Sid is 36 and rather unsorted out. Like many of us. And at times he is absolutely infuriating – just like all of us, I guess. His marriage is an unhappy one even if the reader realises it before he does. His best friend is yet another strong woman and he seems to be propped up by strong women on every front. He is due for a promotion and the vixenish HR lady has her eye on him. He sells toilet cleaners, making for lots of susu -potty jokes.

Yashodhara’s writing is simple and unaffected. And what at first seems like a rather simple tale comes away in layers. His relationships with his wife, his best friends, his parents, his boss – are all in a mess. I started off with very little sympathy for him. But he won me over by the time the book came to an end.

She brings up a lot of very modern day issues through the book-  careers, Peter Pan men who don’t want to grow up, insist on bean bags being part of a more elegant home, don’t want to have kids, mostly cannot think beyond themselves. The love interest Neha is a divorced mother, and I smiled each time I watched those scenes play out.

The OA and I have a lot of friends who don’t have kids and balancing our social life is a nightmare. They love our kids but rarely ever realise how hard it is for us to use an entire weekend for ourselves. The kids have their own social lives and at this stage are dependent on us to ferry them about. And by the time we’re done with two birthday parties in a row and shoe shopping for school and weekend homework, we’re often in no state to party through the night. All we want is to change into our pajamas, get into bed with soup and stare mindlessly at the TV!

Anyhow, I digress (as usual) and getting back to the book, I love how Sid’s self centred nature asserts itself best in scenes where the baby makes her scene. Like a lot of Uncles and Aunts, he’s good for a fun time but no more.

A light read, it gives you something to think about without slapping you in the face with moral science lessons.

A Captain’s Duty – Stephen Talty

An account of the kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips by Somali pirates in 2009, from the MV Maersk Alabama. I have a lot of friends in the merchant navy and the thought of them being kidnapped does keep me up nights. There’s a part of my brain that can’t accept something as barbaric and primitive as piracy in this day and age. I know costs will go up, but why aren’t shipping companies investing in security on board these ships? Why isn’t the crew trained to use weapons etc? So many questions, and an overarching feeling of disbelief and outrage on behalf of those who risk their lives in this way.

Anyhow, the story told by Capt Phillips tracks his journey from the day he gets on board to the day he is released.

Obviously since its a memoir I don’t hold it to the standards that I hold other books to, but all he does through the entire book is extol his virtues. How great a captain he is, how great a husband, how great a son, it goes on. Seriously – did the editors sleep through this one? There are a few letters to and from his wife, and yet again 

I struggled through the book in spite of taking a dislike to him and not caring whether he gets out of it dead or alive and in spite of the stilted writing, because I wanted to know more about the experience. It was with a sense of relief that I shut the book.

Later on I read up on it and on talking to people I realised that it is common knowledge in shipping circles that he really is arrogant and presumptuous and was largely responsible for getting himself and his crew into a dangerous situation.

I know this isn’t really much of a recommendation for a book, but there you go.

A Long Walk Home – Judith Tebutt 

Yet another kidnapping by Somali pirates – and no, I had no intention of getting a PhD on the subject. Somehow I end up picking up/ receiving as gifts, books on a particular topic, all at the same time.

Judith and her husband David met in Africa many years ago and head off once again to the continent they love. After a week on safari in Masai Mara, their next destination is a picturesque beach resort, Kiwayu, that is only 40 kilometres from Somalia.

Call me chicken, but I wouldn’t plan a holiday anywhere within a 1000 kilometres of Somalia. There’s plenty else to see on this beautiful planet of ours. Reports say, however, that tourism is still flourishing there. Strange.

The alarm bells keep going off in Judith’s head, she says, but I’m not sure how much of that actually happened and how much she imagines/writes about in retrospect.

The island is beautiful but deserted and she expresses her discomfort to her husband, yet again. The cottages have roll up blinds at the doors and windows, nothing that can be locked for security. She wakes up to a shout that night, to see her husband locked in a struggle with a stranger. Two others drag her away at gun point to a boat waiting on the beach.

She ends up in the heart of Somalia, in a little shack. While we’ve all heard of Somali kidnappings (yes, I know how those two words just flow together) I doubt we’ve ever real stopped to imagine the condition of the hostages. The kidnappers are impoverished to begin with, which is why they resort to such lawlessness, so the conditions are far from comfortable.

Judith creates a schedule to maintain her sanity and health, walking up and down in her tiny little room, writing in a little smuggled notebook and trying to remember countries and capitals.  I was amazed by how a lady at Judith’s age kept her wits about her and kept the faith. I read this around the same time I read Captain Phillips’ account and couldn’t help but compare the two. She is so much more humble, real and easy to empathise with. You’re rooting for her right through.

I picked up the book because I was horrified and wanted to read a first hand account of a kidnapping by Somalian pirates. After all they’re constantly in the news for it. From pacing her room every hour, to learning to speak the language of her captors, to playing games on bits of card, Judith shows immense fortitude and presence of mind.

What didn’t work for me, was the style of writing.  Now Judith is not a writer, she is a mental health social worker, so clearly I was expecting too much, but a person can wish, can’t they? To be fair the writing is clean and she makes an effort. I just wish it had been edited to be tighter if not given to a ghost writer.

That said, the book could have been edited down to half its size. The language is simple and the tale is tediously drawn out at times, the degree of detail unnecessary other than to just underline how exhausting, traumatic and violating an experience it was.Again, I feel the editors should have exercised a little more discretion and ruthlessly chopped out chunks. Particularly since the writing is bland and uninspired – she isn’t a writer, after all; she’s a health worker.

The most interesting portions seem to have been left out for valid reasons – the negotiation between her son and the pirates. Did he pay to have her released? Did the government intervene? What happened? You’re left with a lot of questions and only one side of the story. Even so, something I’d recommend that everyone read, simply for the strength of her character through those 192 days of captivity.

Papertowns  - John Green

I don’t usually enjoy YA fiction but John Green has got under my skin. The first thing that hits you when you begin a John Green, is how damn intelligently he writes. And trust me, that is a rarity, these days. He philosophises, he talks to teens in a way they get and he holds my attention too. His books are thoughtful, insightful, witty, unputdownable perfection. And he keeps raising the bar. I forgot to review the last one I read, but I shall make up for that in my next post.

Quentin is a geeky teenager who lives next door to, and loves Margo. Has done so all his life. She’s the cool girl in school, everyone wants to hang out with her, and he’s more than a little surprised when she hops into his room that night asking him to go on a round of vengeance with her, no questions asked. The next day, she’s gone. Her parents have no clue where to begin looking for her and only then does he realise that she’s going to kill herself if no one is able to follow her clues, play her little game, and find her.

It’s a story as old as time. The geek boy loves the cool chick and has to earn that love. But  Green rewrites the hell out of it. For a 35 year old auntyji to stay up half the night reading it, reeled in by the sheer magic of his words.

Please buy and read. And gift to your nieces and nephews and neighbours kids. They won’t need to pick up the classics to see what good writing is.

Tampa – Alissa Nutting

Celeste Price is an schoolteacher who likes to sleep with 14 year old boys. Not 13, not 15. Just 14. There.  It’s best to get that out of the way.  Her profession gives her easy access to young boys and since its rare for women to suspected of child molestation, she gets away with murder, so to speak. She’s married, she’s gorgeous, she’s well loved by her students – she is so not the image of a child molester. A reminder to all of us parents that our sons are as unsafe as our daughters.

Celeste takes her time picking her victims, priming them, using them. The only problem this time, is that her victim’s father wants a piece of her too. I found her character thoroughly dislikable, very selfish and dishonest in every way.

I also realised how double our standards are in such matters. An older woman with a younger boy somehow seems less of a violation to many. But one just needs to read this book to see how easily they can be preyed upon. This book has a lot of sex and is not for the squeamish.

The Naughty Girls’ Book club – Sophie Hart

Estelle is a single mum trying to make a living out of a cafe that isn’t doing too well. She decides to drum up some business by starting a book club. A small group of women gets together and they decide on a theme for the next couple of books – naughty books from different periods. They also end up having one male on the book club who is distinctly uncomfortable with the way things are looking.

Now I’ve tried book clubs and realised they’re just not my thing. It’s usually less about the book and more general chatter. Which is what happens with them too. The basic theme is female bonding, sisterhood. Not really the most earth shaking book on the topic, it is a light read, touching upon each of their personal problems and how the friendship forged in the book club helps them overcome it.

The Black Country – Alex Grecian

And we’re back to my favourite kind of writing – period! It’s 1890 and three people are missing in a small coal mining village, Blackhampton. Two policemen are sent from London  to investigate the crime. The villagers though, close in and want to solve their own problems without outside interference. Very khap panchayat like.

A little girl who falls out of a tree and comes upon an eyeball. The houses that shudder and sink suddenly because of the coal mines running under them. The relentless snowfall. All makes for a rather grim state of affairs.

I’ve always admired Christie and Poirot and Holmes for solving their mysteries without the help of technology, but this one takes the cake. Stranded in the middle of a hostile village and hostile weather, with little to eat and no rest, the detectives persevere. The writing was good, the tension was palpable and the storyline taut. I enjoyed this one, thoroughly.

THE SORTING OUT SID: BEER AND BLOGGER CONTEST

So y’all know Y of yonearthnot, right? Of course you do-  I wrote about her last book contest here. And if you haven’t, you’ve been missing out on something. Never too late though. She’s just written her second book and here’s her offer, open to all NCR bloggers.

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The Sorting Out Sid: Beer and Blogger Contest

I’m really happy to announce the ”Beer & Blogger” contest around my new book ‘Sorting Out Sid” - where 10 Bloggers will get to hang out with me and Karthika VK(Chief Editor and Publisher, at HarperCollins and all around super-cool person) over a mug of beer at The Beer Cafe, New Delhi - on Saturday, 8th February 2014.
We did something similar about a year and a half ago for my first book, and it was fabulous meeting so many of you  over a riotous lunch – we can expect it to be even more riotous this time, given that this is beer-themed – a natural choice because Sid in the story is very fond of his beer! In fact, I think that’s his only steady relationship. Ha ha. (And no, he’s not an alcoholic)
So here are the very simple rules:
1. Write a post (in about 500 words) on your blog about why you would like to readSorting Out Sid. (You will of course get a copy of the book when we meet) (Click here for book trailer, description and excerpt)
ORWrite a post ( in about 500 words) on your blog about any Funny/Embarassing/Awkward/Memorable Incident involving beer!

Extra points for being saucy, witty, funny since that is what the book is like!

2. The Team at HarperCollins and I will shortlist 10 Delhi-NCR based bloggers to join us at the Beer and Blogger meet. You’ll all be treated to a fine afternoon hosted by the nice folks at The Beer Cafe.
Not Delhi-based? Fear not! As before, I have kept 10 copies of the book in reserve for Non-Delhi based bloggers. You can participate in the contest with the same rules above and if your story wins, you will receive in the mail an author-signed copy too. (Note: they will not be shipped abroad, but you can win them for family and friends here!)
Keep the following in mind, please: 
1. The Title of your blogpost must be ‘‘Sorting Out Sid – Beer and Blogger Contest”
2. You must include a link back to this post somewhere in your post for your entry to be valid. (Let your readers find their way here and check out the contest for themselves!)
3. Please ensure you leave a comment to this post with a link to your entry ( Otherwise, how the heck will we find it?)
4. It is optional to include the book cover, book trailer or book description in your blog post. (You’ll find them all right here.)
5. It is also optional to spread the word on social media about your entry to this contest, or to include the link to the book page on Flipkart
6. Both points 4 and 5 above will certainly win you my love and affection, if not necessarily the contest ;)
7. The contest is open until 31st January 2014 only. The decision of the judges will be final. No late entries will be entertained. In fact, if you get your post up before 15th Jan,you may be one of the Early Bird winners to be announced on Jan 20th. So don’t procrastinate – get going. Come on – there’s free beer at stake! Ha ha.
Look forward to getting your entries. All the very best! And remember, there will be 20 people who get free signed copies of the book (10 from Delhi and 10 from other locations!). So go on and let the beery ride begin!
Cheers! *Clinking together of beer mugs*.