Scheduled breakdown

Every year I have one meltdown. The timing is uncertain, but it is mandatory. I go into depression and sob and listen to awfully cheesy music and blame the OA for my life going to the dogs. This generally coincides with the kids going to visit their grandparents and I am sure there is a strong link. It also always happens that a maid quits around the same time. One would imagine they’d be happy to have less work to do but apparently not.

And so I sobbed into my bowl of dal, wiped my runny nose on the neatly ironed table napkins, gulped down glass after glass of water and babbled for a long time. This time there was an additional woe. Living in Gurgaon. I’ve tried and tried and I still hate it. Shall write another post on that (clearly there is a lot of angst that needs to be dealt with).

The OA suggested stepping down his work and being with the kids. No, that won’t work because he is the primary earner and I (minimum wage earning journalist) won’t be able to suddenly be able to earn what an investment banker does, considering I have anyway been on a 6-year-go-slow. I’d need to work myself back into the work force, rise slowly and only then can the OA ease out if we’re to fulfill our financial commitments.
The OA suggested that I go back to fulltime work and send the kids to daycare if I feel trapped and professionally unfulfilled. No question of it- yet.
The OA suggested we pay the kind of sums we hear floating around of Rs 20k for a nanny for the kids. Nope. Not happening. Charging a lot of money doesn’t make anyone automatically trustworthy.
And so on.. you get the picture. OA proposed, I disposed.

And then I hiccuped myself to sleep and accepted that what I want will never happen. I know I often vote on forums for better childcare, better support yaada yaada. I know I am itching to get back to cameras and studio lights and late night edits and layouts intead of the piecemeal way I am currently working. I know I want it all. And I know I can’t have it.

I will not let anyone else bring up my kids no matter how good they are at their job. Because for them it is just their job. For me it’s a burning desire. I wonder what it would be like to have been reared by someone who did it as their job instead of my loving family and I refuse to test it out on the kids. No daycare or nanny is good enough for me and I know it’s not because I am a stickler. Heck, on the best days I am careless and easy going. It is only because I don’t want to miss a thing. Because they’re mine, mine, mine and I am like a greedy five year old hoarding her sweeties.

As I’ve said before, I know I can do MORE with my life. So much more professionally. But I also know that I give my kids MORE than what a daycare can. No, not so many friends maybe, but more than the maids who wash their hands and feet and feed them lunch. I can tell them that the carrots are good for their eyes, when I send them out to play I tell them it’s for the Vitamin D. When we talk about their one bit of junk for the day we ‘negotiate’ and the Bean responds, ‘Okay, let’s make a deal… “. A few days ago the Bean told her grandparents that she can’t have an afternoon nap because “the blood and the bones in my body go crazy and then I have to jump around with them.” We laughed till we cried and I realised no daycare would relate each incident to me. I’d never have heard these lines if they were said to someone else.

Yes, in the attempt to give them the best childhood I might be losing the best career and yet I don’t know what the option is. In some ways I already know, there is no option. Once a year the restlessness breaks through and I re-think what is most important to me.

I know I cannot be happy with only freelancing and dipping my toe into the work world when I am dying to go skinny dipping. I’m an all or nothing girl and this flexitime isn’t working out very well for me either.

I should never have had the kids because having had them I am unable to tear myself away from them and let someone else have even a hand in raising them. I should never have tried hotel management, modelling, airhostessing (no, it’s not a word, I made it up), emceeing, event management and rediscovered each time that I love the print media. Because now my two loves jostle for time and I cannot give up either of them. There is no reconciling them either. This is probably one of those few adult choices I am called upon to make and it’s the hardest bloody choice I’ve ever made in my life. It would be simpler to ask me to give a kidney off to someone and a lung to another. I wish I had the absolute calm of those who make a choice. But I don’t. I continue to straddle two worlds, working late nights, getting up early to pack tiffins, rushing for a shoot and getting back in time for lunch. It’s probably why I have the annual breakdown. Eleven years of writing and nothing to show for it.

At times I remember the Biblical parable of the talents. Of God giving you something and telling you to use it or lose it. But I also realise that He gave me these two happy, healthy good children and the right way to thank Him for my blessings is to give back to them what they give me. Joy, time, love, energy, patience and compassion. It’s a tough call and on days I border on agnostic and wonder where I’m going with this.

Even as I write this post I know I’ve cried about this before. And I know what answers you will give me. I may as well shut the comments. But I can’t. I am lucky to have this space (can you imagine how stark raving mad I’d have gone ten years ago without a blog?) where I vent. This is where I talk to you on a daily basis and this is why I must tell you that I have had my annual meltdown. I have now wiped my tears, quietened the hiccups and accepted the fact that my godawful, monstrous brats are the centre of my life and I will have to wait until they let me go since the other way around is not happening.

And then, maybe then, I’ll throw myself back into work and shine like a brilliant star. Or not. Until next year’s scheduled meltdown then. Save your comments. You can copy and paste them there.

And yes, the kids will be back in a couple of days, I’ll bury my nose in the Brat’s neck, squeeze the Bean in an attempt to fit her back into my belly and everything will feel better as it always does. Here’s the post I wrote the last time they were away.

And oh I’m currently playing this song on repeat so that I can sing them to sleep with a new lullabye. Isn’t that voice just dreamy? I hope to be all prepared by the time they come back from G’pa-Nana’s house.

 

The night in the emergency ward

Sitting in the emergency room at 2 am is every parent’s nightmare and we spent one night last week doing just that. The OA and I were out for dinner and got back to see the Bean wide awake and refusing to settle in to bed. The maid had tried everything in her power and was at her wit’s end.

We took over and the OA took her back to bed. He came back looking rather pleased with himself but that smirk got wiped off his face the moment the door creaked open and a little head peeped in. I groaned, got out of bed and walked her back to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And with each trip she got progressively worked up and soon was in tears. Eventually we got to the heart of the matter – The aliens were coming to get her. Telling ourselves that we wouldn’t be reading anymore bedtime stories about aliens and monsters we tucked her in between us and gave up the quarter-hourly trot to the nursery.

But it didn’t end and she kept tossing, turning, fidgeting.  We began to panic and she finally said she had a throat ache. Sips of saline water, honey and what not later, we were back to square one. Tossing, turning, fidgeting.

Finally she admitted to an ear ache. The OA and I frantically ran around medicating and ear-dropping. No joy there either. By this time she was in fine fettle, throwing herself from one side of the bed to the other, climbing on one prone parent and then the other. I rocked her in the rocking chair, walked her around the room and loudly begged the Good Lord to have mercy on her and as a result, us.

Finally it seemed like the medication wasn’t taking effect and we bundled her into the car and headed to the hospital. It was a stormy night and the roads were deserted. We reached the hospital and were surprised to find no staff at the door to guide patients, a lazy security guy who vaguely pointed the direction we should be heading in and empty corridors with none of the bustle you see in other hospitals at all hours. We were also rather unimpressed with the reaction time in the emergency ward. Yes, a child’s ear ache is small change compared to those dying of a heart attack and brought in off an accident scene, but they had none of those that night. Nurses stood around chatting in Malayalam while the OA and I desperately asked someone to give us a hearing. A doctor who seemed in charge smiled apologetically and said – I’m a cardiologist, I can’t help you.

Yes, well then who can?

The OA was drooping with sleep, the Bean was wriggling around mercilessly and I was close to sticking a scalpel into a nurse just to get some attention. Watching your child suffer is not easy. Watching your child suffer while others chit chat about the weather is simply frustrating.

Finally I pushed the OA awake and sent him to get someone. No joy there. Then I played the exhausted mother card and walked out of the Emergency Unit, found another doctor and got someone to page the ENT Specialist on call. She came after 45 minutes by which time the medication we gave the Bean had naturally taken effect and she was fast asleep. We were even considering going home with her when we decided that it would be better to wait and get it examined in case she woke up screaming again. Of course the doctor examining her woke her up again but she was now out of pain and manageable. The doctor was rather sweet and kind and nothing like our last experience here with the Brat.

We’d brought the Brat in on an emergency  too – his throat began to swell to alarming proportions one winter morning and suddenly he could neither swallow nor talk. Again, we had taken him to the emergency where after a long wait we got an appointment with the Head of one of the Pediatric departments.  Dressed in a short tight skirt and jacket the lady looked really out of place in a hospital and more off the off the sets of Santa Barbara. Fifty plus, heavily made up face and stiffly blow dried hair, long painted talons and massive diamonds twinkling on all her fingers. The wall behind her was decorated with testimonies of how great she was – awards, certificates, photographs with dignitaries.  She was talking to a number of people while looking questioningly at us. A certain impatience making us wonder if we as patients, were intruders in the doctor’s chambers.  Slightly mindful of manners and loathe to interrupt the OA and I finally explained what was wrong with the Brat.

Perhaps we should have walked out the moment she looked blankly at the Brat and said ‘What swelling?’ The huge lump under his chin wouldn’t be missed by a blind man and here the expert needed us to guide her. We kept pointing, she kept asking, and digging her talons into the child and dragging him closer while he baulked at this treatment and pulled away. Finally she told the OA to hold him and when the OA failed to do it to her satisfaction she yelled at him and made him make bands of his arms and literally strap the Brat down. It was unnecessary when all it would have taken is some warmth – he’s not unnecessarily intractable. I wondered how she fared in the pediatric department with no bedside manner, no way with children.

Finally one of the acolytes pointed out where the Brat’s neck was swollen. The fine lady just nodded and said okay, but I don’t know what it is. Could be tuberculosis. The acolyte politely mentioned that this infection of the gland was doing the rounds in schools. I deliberately pulled the Brat away from the high priestess and focussed on the acolyte. No mother wants her children being manhandled by someone who doesn’t know their job.

This hospital is one founded by a famous cardiologist and the entire point, I was told, was to get good affordable healthcare to the general public. But two emergency situations with poor turnaround times and terrible service and I’m not convinced that his vision is working out the way he planned.

And so that night too, we left with the Bean, feeling rather dispirited. At one level glad that we’d had the knowledge to deal with her pain and given her something that worked even before the doctor got to her. At another, feeling disappointed that as parents we couldn’t provide her with better medical care. The skies were pouring forth by now and as we got into the car, tired, sleepy, exhausted, pissed off and grumpy, the wide awake by now Bean pointed up to the sky – Look ma, lightning scribbles.

It reminded me of this book that is doing the rounds – Go the Fuck to Sleep.  You can read about it here and here and here. I have the pdf copy so mail me at themadmomma@gmail.com if you’d like to read it too.

One, two, three, four, five…

How do you define the perfect family? One mommy, one daddy, a boy and a girl? One mommy and a son? Two daddies and two daughters? A man and a woman with no babies? It’s good to see that definition is increasingly fluid. There may not be a definition at all – after all, ties are not always of blood. At least not for some of us. For the rest, there is always a nosy parker commenting on your life.

Surabhi wrote this post on the kind of statements she is subjected to, Sanah being an only child. As many pointed out in the comments, the world will always have something to say to your situation. In our case, the OA and I and the kids are a traditional, picture perfect family. Banker father, work from home mother (look, she works but she is also home with the kids, how perfect!), a boy and a girl bunched into two years. But dig deeper and we face other questions – How can a Hindu and a Christian get married? What are your kids going to be brought up as? How do you worship? I realise that these are all huge issues that keep many people up nights even even though it is not their business. But bug our bedroom and you will discover that the biggest fight is what temperature the AC needs to be kept on ( if you want the answer  – we settle at 22 degrees) and who gets to sleep on the cooler side of the bed (I, in case you care).

Hum do, hamare do is what the government suggested and we don’t take them any less than seriously. Two it has to be. Why exactly is two considered the perfect number? Cousin J who is studying psychology mentions that the ideal family is meant to have three children. The OA almost threw her off the balcony that evening when he saw the glint in my eye. But I speak for myself. I wanted two because my childhood without Tambi would have been incomplete. We had a joint family and people of every age lived in it, each one with more than a few minutes to spare for a child. A huge rambling old house with a pond and mango, jackfruit,  lychee, guava and orange trees to climb, pick fruit, read under and hang hammocks and tyres from. My grandmother was the principal of two schools and the best person to rear children as educators usually are. It could have been the perfect existence for a single child and I’d never have needed a companion. And yet, YET, the best part of my growing years, was my brother – everything just shone that much brighter because of him.

The perfect playmate – I didn’t have to wait for play dates to be organised. No one needed to come down to a child’s level literally or otherwise. We hung sheets and made castles, we floated boats in the monsoons and ran around the wide verandahs that encircled the house, following their route. We set up a bird watching club, built a treehouse and and climbed up there at the crack of dawn with binoculars. I sat atop the dhobi’s cart with cousin K and J on a cushion while Tambi pushed us around the house on our “boat”  – until the day we dropped the 4 month old Cousin J off the cart. *shudder*. We went for early morning walks and flattened coins on the railway tracks. We escaped from our hotel room one night in Lucknow and found a phone booth and called up friends at midnight. We had the same friends and held big dance parties where both sexes could meet – a big deal in a small town. We went cycling around the house and then his bike arrived and we were free as birds, shooting off for ice cream when the need arose.

As we grew older and more secretive about our lives, my parents took comfort in the fact that we’d never get too deep into shit because the other one always knew. So when I lay whispering on the phone all night and couldn’t wake up for school in the morning, my mother would panic that I was sick, but Tambi would roll his eyes and say, she’s fine. When he crashed up his bike, we painted the scratch on the bike with my nail polish and I ensured that he went to a doc and got the wound dressed. When I dated someone he quietly checked him out and kept an eye from a distance. When he dated anyone, I promptly said I hated her and thought she was unsuitable, hence confirming his suspicion that she was perfect for him. And most of all, for children like me and my brother and now my children, we don’t come from typical traditional families with communities and languages and histories of our own. In our own muddled up way, we have only our own little traditions and community. And years from now when my oldies are no more (I don’t want to think about it) I will be happy to have someone to say, “Tambi, remember the time we … “

But what if the siblings hate each other? asks a friend. I shrug. No relationship comes with guarantees. What if you hate the man you marry? What if you and your best friend fall out? What if you and your only child don’t see eye to eye? I was always sure I wanted two kids. And no, not because I feel the second one is a requirement for the first one to be entertained by the second. Nor because I wanted an heir and a spare. But because I love kids. I want my house to always be full of the sound of childish voices and clutter and noise and laughter. I don’t think I’d have stopped at two if I could afford it, if the country could afford the population explosion and if my battered body could take it. For me, three, four, five, would be the perfect number.

But yes, now that I have two, I can’t imagine having it any other way. When I see parents with one child I sometimes wistfully think they have it better. They ended their diaper routine with one child, they only had to potty train one, they spend less on fees and clothes and birthday parties, they have to put away one less college fund and the big one – ONE CHILD CAN’T GANG UP ON THEM!! My two on the other hand learnt early to gang up and the house resounds with war whoops at all times. I scream at one who is launching himself off the back of the sofa only to realise that the other one just came sliding down the stairs on a cushion. They feed off each other’s exuberance and they inspire each other to great heights of mischief. I scold one, the other takes up for her. I give one a time out, the other sits down next to him so that he isn’t bored. And even as I feel like taking their heads and banging them together, there is a part of me that smiles at the fun they’re having. Glad that they are what kids should be – imaginative, spirited, happy, compassionate.

But for every calm, well settled only child that I see, I see one who isn’t. The key I think, lies in being content with your choice. Some people I feel, just aren’t content with their decision. I know of at least eight couples who have stopped at one child, not because they wanted only one, but because they have some hereditary illness which surfaced with the first and they don’t want to risk a second one. Or because they are unable to finance the second child. Or because they have no childcare options and cannot afford for the mother to stay home. Sometimes they are undecided and just end up waiting too long after the first and then feel too exhausted to get into the diaper routine again and worry about too huge an age gap. Sometimes they make their peace with this choice enforced on them, sometimes they pass that discomfort on to the child as well as to others, in things they say and do.

I have come across many siblings who fuss and can’t sleep if the other has a reading light on, who throw tantrums for special time with the parents and so on. I am often told that my two children don’t get enough adult time because they are so close in age and also because they are two instead of one. I can think of at least 5 single kids who are quite neglected by their parents and raised entirely through daycares/nannies.  So that argument similarly falls flat because how much time a child gets depends on the amount of time you are willing to give them. I’ve also had people tell me that the Brat needed more time before I had the Bean (she was born when he was 22 months). Which tempted me to ask them to check with the Brat – he loves his sister who is his best friend and he’d have had a different life if he’d not had her – if anything, she’s responsible for him coming out of his shell and being more of an extrovert. As for attention –  I was home full time, I was their primary caregiver and we all had a blast. And I am glad I picked what I thought was the right time for them, because they are such great company for each other and I don’t have to juggle two entirely different sets of needs. They fill my home, my heart, my life and each other’s lives too. And the last one is a bonus because I didn’t really produce them as two parts of a whole. It was merely that what I wanted out of my life and God was good enough to give me what I desired.

But the last two holidays gave me lots to think (and blog!) about. When the OA and I were exhausted and wanted to catch forty winks, we’d lock our hotel door and sleep, leaving the kids playing around us (the only rule being that they don’t push pencils up our nostrils) knowing very well that each one was the other’s safety valve. But there were days when another harried mother would beg us to leave the kids playing in her room because her child was bored and driving her nuts. The mother of a 13 year old watches him head to the TV room to watch a cricket match and tells me that for the first time in so many years she’s had a peaceful holiday because she has to be her son’s constant companion since he has no siblings, playing cricket, watching TV with him, everything. Another watches her screaming kid grab the Brat’s toys and then refuse to share his own, telling me (as though that is a good reason) that he has no one to share with and so doesn’t know how to. A terribly violent young boy we’re acquainted with begs his parents for a sibling everyday. His parents are really old (I accidentally called his mother ‘aunty’ the first time I met her in a store) and I watch them limp slowly as older people do, walking behind as he zips across the lawns. “We adopted him so late, how do we explain to him that we’re too old to raise any more children?” the mother asks helplessly. Another child cries every time we leave her  home after a playdate and begs her mother for a sibling who will stay and not go away like other children. I don’t know about the parents and why they have made the choices that they have, but I do see that the children aren’t completely comfortable. They aren’t the kind of self sufficient children that Sanah or the Brat are. Who would be happy as one or one of two or three. I also think they need to be taught the skills to deal with their lot in life, just like siblings are taught to share and adjust regardless of their temperament and nature.

I don’t buy any of the arguments that single children are by definition selfish, unable to share, unable to adjust, or any of those silly statement. I think that is all the result of a personality type as well as their nurture. I see plenty of siblings who can’t share with each other – what is their excuse? Neither do I believe that children who have siblings aren’t self sufficient. The summer holidays have begun and while the Bean naps during the hot North Indian afternoons, the Brat crawls around the floor with a plastic pencil box, talking to himself and organising a grand prix. He is perfectly content and very calm. And that again, is an individual characteristic, nothing to do with being one or one of two.

And that is where I’d wind this up. How many kids you have depends on what you want, not what society dictates. Reminds me of a friend who recently said to me (after much societal pressure to have a second) – When I look at my daughter I feel like I need nothing more.

And that is all there is to it. In fact if you look at your husband and believe that there is no more you need in your life, then that is also a perfectly perfect place to draw the line.

Mail bag!

Dear Trolls,

I’m sick of repeating myself but  you seem to have low comprehension and thick skulls. But I love you so this one’s for you  – an entire post, only for your reading pleasure, answering all those deep, existential questions that keep you awake at night. You ask why I delete your insightful questions? Do you not have a right to ask? Do you not bleed when they cut you? Of course you do . I just delete them because they seem to have nothing to do with the matter on hand and we don’t want the issue derailed, now do we? Also, I must tell you that your language stinks. Clean up and we’ll publish you once in a while. Do you feel loved and special yet?

1. Your posts so holier than thou.

Because I am deeply insecure about my parenting skills and often need the internetz to validate what I am doing. Please, please say I have your stamp of approval before I break my heart.  I am not half as confident about my parenting as you all must be. No doubt that is why you find my posts difficult to appreciate.

OR

I am holy – please kneel down and take my blessings. More holey than righteous in fact. Look, there’s a  big hole in the knee of my pajamas.

2. Mommy bloggers are back scratchers.

Mommy bloggers have their hands full – kids, husband, jobs, homes, social lives, charity/causes, blogs  (do you want me to go on?)  At times like this it is helpful to have a friend scratch that awkward spot we can’t reach.

OR

I am guessing you’re too thick to understand the real reason which is that mostly like minded people read a particular blog which is why we get a lot of agreement on our issues. Why do you read us, again? No life of your own? Even a busy mother’s hectic life is entertaining? Too much time on your hands and an unwillingness to scratch a friend’s back and help out, huh?

3. Mommy bloggers are cliquish.

It’s called being friends. All you need to do is stick out a hand and say Hello, how do you do? Go on, you can do it. Even my four year old can. On the other hand, if you have attention problems like a spoilt three year old and imagine that kicking, biting, screaming, frothing at the mouth and cussing will get you in, you’re wrong. Ask nicely.

OR

Most of us started blogging at the same time and have a lot in common. More than kids that is, be it food, fashion, politics, films.. so much. Why not aim that accusation at film bloggers, tech bloggers or anyone else? Is it hard to imagine finding common ground with others, camaraderie? I’d suggest you look around. I am sure you will find a group for abusive, nasty little misfits and warty toads – they will welcome you with open arms.

4. You’re a hypocrite. 

And you know that how? By the spy camera you fitted in my bed room? Or because you know someone who knows someone who is married to someone who went to school with someone who lives next door to my third cousin’s wife’s step brother and they said so? Right. Of course. That makes sense.

OR

Because I agree with something that you believe I shouldn’t because of something I said somewhere else? Well, tell you what, I’ll burn up that certificate that says I am a Saint and that should do. At times I agree, at times I don’t. Yes, I am full of contradictions. What I will find acceptable in A, I will find unacceptable in B. I’m not a machine where you will get the same output each time you click on a button. I change my mind and I often write posts to admit that I have changed the way I feel. It’s called being human. Again, not something I’d imagine you understanding. The swamp under the bridge probably functions differently.

5. Your family/brother/husband/kids suck. You should all die. 

We all will. Eventually. You might go faster with all that anger you’re bottling up and taking out on the unsuspecting www.

OR

You should get counselling for allowing a glimpse into someone’s family life get you worked up to the extent where you get so nasty. Fie!

6. You never allow disagreement.

Yeah. So? My blog, my rules. What sense of entitlement makes you think you have a RIGHT to voice an opinion here? The only right you have is to read. The rest is my call. I do plan to start reservation for rude morons and then you will have your very own quota to apply under. Until then…

OR

I do. Keep it clean, don’t cuss (wash your mouth with Dettol before you address something directly to me), be less venomous and we’ll get along fine. The oldest commenters like M, n!, (damn, I need an O, P and Q!) Choxbox, Poppy, Rohini – all disagreed with me vehemently and continue to do so. They just do it in a way that shows they were brought up well, not dragged up from a well. Some are here to win popularity contests, I am not. If I don’t like the way you address me, I’ll slam the door in your face so mind your toes.

7. You spend a lot of time on the blog for someone who has kids and a job.

And this is affecting your life in what way? Did I not deliver your pizza on time? Did my kids complain about my absence? Has my boss sent you a letter complaining about my performance? Has my husband complained about my err.. performance? So then how, how, how is this either relevant or your business? Is it deep concern and love for me? In which case I can send you my bank account number – send me some money and I’ll get myself something pretty as a token of your love.

OR

Clearly efficiency and time management are not your forte. Else you’d not find mine so shocking. Would you like me to take classes in management of time? Start with skipping the blogs that obviously tick you off and leave you frothing like the coffee you’re drinking when you should be getting work done.

8. I hate you and I hate your writing. 

I’m deeply concerned. I could suggest a counsellor who will help you deal with these conflicting emotions. You hate me, but you read me… the fascination of the abomination, huh?! I understand. Even I am drawn to watching blood and gore on Dexter. On the other hand I do rein my emotions in well enough to not cuss out the person who entertains me so.

OR

Your comments are in poor taste. Refer to point # 6. Do try not to behave as though you were born in a barn and are interacting with another human for the first time in your life. If you don’t like something or someone, don’t interact with them. Didn’t momma teach you that? Also, didn’t she tell you, IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. Send me your address and I’ll send you the Barney CD that says so.

9.  Your posts are always about how great a parent you are, how fantastic your kids are and how good looking your husband is, how happy your life is. 

Eh? Did you miss the part about the husband being grey, pockmarked and decorated with ugly toes and fingers? Clearly. Or the bit about the Brat being stubborn beyond measure? The Bean being a very plain looking child? Clearly you don’t pay attention in class. As to how great a person I am, that of course is indisputable. *takes a bow*

OR

Where in the memo does it say I must write about every part of my life, good, bad, ugly for you? Who died and made you moderator of my posts? Is it hard to imagine a person loving their life and their family? How sad are you?!

Also, perhaps you’ve missed the point of blogging. We mediocre writers whom no one will otherwise publish choose this platform to showcase how awe-effing-some we are. The blog could be about anything but the point is the same. That we’re simply terrific and no one recognises our formidable talent – Laud my photoblog and admire my great camera technique, appreciate my astute political opinion, what do you think of my hilarious Bollywood posts? Applaud my arts/craft/recipes. Critique my absolutely brilliant poetry. Marvel at my rather witty, random thoughts. Adore  my fantastic babies (that would be us “mommy bloggers”) and of course the anti-mommy bloggers who consider it infra dig to actually admit that their kids matter and say – I’m not a mommy blogger, I’m just a blogger who writes about her kids among other earth shaking matters. Whatever. We’re all navel gazers. Read, don’t read, yawn, move on. Click on the X. Get out of our faces. Get your own blog if you want to rant. Get out of our spaces. (wow! poetry, did you see that?!)

10. You say you’re tired of responding, but that is because everyone is disagreeing with you. 

Absolutely. I’m so effing brilliant that I don’t see how anyone on earth could disagree with me. I should be making government policies.

OR

I think it’s rather dense of them. They come up with the exact same thing someone 4 comments above has said and still think it’s the tactical response of the century. You might not agree, but unless you say something new, I am fast losing interest in the issue AND I also have a life that I must get back to living so that I have something to blog about tomorrow! What can I say, I have a low threshold for idiots who cannot just read the argument in the comments above them. Yawn.

Next round coming up in another post. Until the next time you get your knickers in a twist, fare thee well.

Bye bye Bata

The other day I went to Bata shoes to pick up summer sandals for the Bean. You know, good old Bata. We all grew up wearing their Bubblegummers and blue and white rubber chappals. All I got was a bunch of pink (why? why? why?) sandals that were delicate and girly with crocheted strawberries hanging off them. Very nice for a girly tea party but they did nothing for my little hurricane of a daughter who romps around in the dust with the best of them.

And oh that isn’t the end, the other lot of available sandals had heels. This is no biggie. I’ve seen sandals for 3-4 year olds with heels before. But not in Bata. I was horrified. Where is the average parent supposed to go for affordable open sandals in summer? Are we stuck with crocs for life? Smelly, plastic crocs that need to be washed every second day? Gah.

Thankfully I am not alone in this thinking. Here’s another piece by this gentleman on the CNN site. I’m so done with only finding trashy wear for little girls. Why exactly are we tarting them up in high heels and sparkly outfits?

My solution is to dress the Bean in tee shirts and shorts. And the poor girl does often want to wear dresses but I rarely find anything that I find suitable for her. And no, don’t direct me to Mothercare. It’s not economical and I don’t want my daughter dressed in shades of pink, looking just like the girl next door who also shops there. So we’re down to getting little smocked summer dresses and rummaging around Sarojini Nagar for the nicer clothes.

Why I didn’t watch the World Cup Final

Edited to add: Link added at the bottom of the post.

Well, the simple answer to this one is that I was simply not interested. This one is for Kiran and Jammie and Monika and Abha and all the rest who think I’m a spoilsport. Actually, I’m just not into sports!

I played  on the school basketball team and also did some sprinting, long and high jump. I enjoy the outdoors, walks, treks, holidays. So you’ll never catch me in front of a TV for 8 hours straight. Unless I’m watching Dexter of course in which case I’ll peel my eyelids back and hold them up with clothes pins.

When I started dating the OA, one of the things I subtly ascertained was that he wasn’t a cricket fan. Sporty, fit, active, he is more the football, squash and basketball enthusiast. And I’m good with that. The games last a couple of hours and I am more than capable of keeping myself entertained for that amount of time, or even, *shudder* following him to the game and cheering.

But it’s hard to sit by and watch other games get sidelined. As a journalist I’ve interviewed so many sportspersons who have no sponsorship. Who are put up at filthy hostels with rats and dirty loos everytime they go to play a game. It’s really hard to feel much enthusiasm for a bunch of pampered men who are raking it in. Those other Indians represent the country too. For far less money and fame. They get no endorsements, no free houses and bloody hell, most of the time, no proper training either.

This is nothing new. I’m not coming up with something the media hasn’t discussed before. But the very same media also tells you that Dhoni’s wife is fasting for him. Excuse me? Who gives a flying… er.. rat’s arse about her fasting? Not I for sure. And this is exactly how media frenzy builds up. Constantly talking about cricket, shoving it down our throats, on the TV, in the papers, everywhere. Some of us  might not be interested.

How about the female boxer who comes from a far flung part of the country and leaves her family and friends and faces discrimination while no one bothers to watch her compete. During the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the stadia were empty during most of the events. No one, but no one, bothered to go watch the other events. Why? Where are all these sporty people who bring the city to a standstill during a cricket match. Did they bother with the golds we won in wrestling? Or in shooting? or hockey? How many of you can tell me who Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed are without googling it? All I heard right through was bitching about how India was letting us down with the poor preparations and no one thought about how we were letting ourselves down by not bothering to show up at the stadia for events. The tickets were easily available (except for the opening and closing ceremonies) YET there was no junta. How about the fact that THIS was history in the making too?

As for the kind of money people spent on buying tickets in black? Here I’ll add that its your money to earn and spend as you please, so I’m not about to get preachy on how much charity you could do with it. But when I hear of the endorsements and the money the cricketers are raking in for games on which they only put in as much effort as the other sportspeople, I can’t help but wish Pepsi and Reebok and Boost and all the rest would put some more into their CSR and less on making TV commercials that convince my kids that if Dhoni drinks Pepsi it can’t be an awful waste of time on empty calories. It just makes me mad. For every win they bring India, it makes me sad that the role models our kids have keep convincing them to buy and consume such shit. So personally, I am no fan of these sports people.

Speaking of money and how they have become heroes, how about the real heroes of this country? The jawans, the police, the teeth-chattering at Kargil. Why not give them some of the crores that are flying around so freely. Rumour has it Dhoni has endoresements worth Rs 200 crores coming his way. I don’t care if Pepsi wants to print that on jackets, but please, send it to those who are really working on the Indo-Pak border. And what, what, what is with the SMS doing the rounds about  Lanka Dahan and Ram smiting Rahim? Are they funny? Who makes them up? Who passes them around? Do these people have dayjobs? I also feel terrible about the way we treat Indo-Pak matches. I mean seriously, get over it. Anyone who imagines this is a way to build bonds is kidding. Who are we kidding. We’d have been devastated if we lost to Pakistan. Never mind how we fared against other countries. So really… what is this? An extension of the whole Indo-Pak issue? Then come out and say it. But don’t turn the game into a pseudo-war. It loses its dignity.

Finally, I hate the way we allow it to bring life to a standstill. I see people wearing the tees, putting up the flag, painting their faces and I’m wondering what the deal is. No offence intended to anyone who does it, so don’t go all troll-ish on me. I love a good competition myself, but it just seems like such a terrible waste of time which is why I am not part of it. We’ve won a world cup before. We’ve been playing sports for years.  But I find that in every matter we are getting OTT. All our  celebrations that are getting bigger and louder and crazier. Be it festivals, weddings or birthdays, our celebrations seem to be getting more wasteful and more annoying. More in your face. Drunk driving, wasteful expenditure, women being molested, bombs going off through the night disturbing the very young and very old (all of whom have an equal right to their lives and sleep). And that, dear friends is only when we win. If we lose, we’re unable to take that in our stride with a modicum of grace either. Accusations of match fixing, burning of effigies, destroying property, it is endless. Must we be so rabid either way?

We often talk about simplifying our lives, teaching our kids to be fair, just, balanced, sensible. I feel that in one fell sweep we wipe all that out with our cricket excesses. Pubs cash in on this madness with big screens and beer deals. Everywhere there are parties being held to watch the game together. Every festival, particularly in complexes such as mine ends up being a cash cow. Stalls are put up. Everyone comes down to shop, spend money, dress up, waste time, miss the point of the entire initiative/festival. Such completely vulgar displays of wealth that make the stomach turn.

Which is what makes me seem like a spoilsport. Go scream, shout, dress up in cricket gear, whatever, but if you call me for a party to watch the match, I’d much rather stay home and finish my murder mystery. I realise the OA would like company so on the day of the Indo-Pak match I made mutton biryani, called over some company and took myself off to finish up an urgent story I had to submit. And up to there, I am fine with it. But to expect me to waste a good Saturday evening glued to the screen, is maddening.

My FB status after the win said – “Everyone happy? Okay, great. Let’s get back to regular programming.”  Because I was bored stiff with the minute by minute replays happening on every status update. It’s a social network. They put up what they want. I write what I want. Within minutes I got loads of boooo. And how unindian. And don’t be a spoilsport.

I agree to the spoilsport. But unIndian? Why? I’m happy that India won, in a rather detached way. Because it makes no major difference to my life. The road outside my house is still dug up. Gurgaon still gets barely  12 hours of electricity a day. Binayak Sen is still in jail. I could go on. But I won’t. I don’t mean to be a killjoy. The thing is, it’s hardly a sign of being very Indian or very British or very Pakistani to watch a match and celebrate a win. I want to see the people who think they are being very Indian, actually get up and do something more for India. You know, like pay their taxes honestly, pick up a gun to guard a border if required, do something about that 40% who live below the borderline, plant a tree or two. So what is this whole thing with putting up Indian flags, waving them as you race down the roads and what not. How many of these people went to help the rest of the country when the Tsunami hit?

Someone says cricket unites the country. Yes, it does. For about ten minutes of screaming hysteria and bhaichara. Give it 24 hours and let them lose that high and we’re back to hating the other community, demanding reservation for ‘our people’ and refusing entry into various institutions on the basis of caste and creed. We’re back to refusing to consider that boy/girl our child wants to marry, we’re back to raping and murdering to enforce positions of power and what not. So really, that sort of temporary, farcical unity makes me laugh.

The thing is, its not hard to get swept into a whirlwind. For the little while that I sat with the OA to watch the match, I was also on the edge of my seat. But then I took a step back and asked myself if I was on the edge of the seat because I actually gave a damn or because of the knife-cuttable(sorry!)-tension in the room. You know those parties you don’t want to go to but go along anyway and eventually end up enjoying yourself even if its not something you would have personally chosen to do. It was something of that sort. And I asked myself – Is this something I want? Believe in? Endorse? The level of hysteria, wasteful expenditure while around us the country goes to dogs? It’s all very well to say, look at football madness in XYZ country. That country in the West isn’t as poverty stricken is. The contrast not half as vulgar. Every time someone pays 1.5 lakhs to buy a match ticket in black, I cringe.

I can see exactly what a damp squib I sound like. But I hope you will all do me the courtesy of seeing it from my perspective just as I do from yours for one quick moment.

Tomorrow my kid might take up skating. Spend as many hours practicing as Sachin or Dhoni. I feel sad that he will never get the chance they are. I feel bad that his success will be lost in some random test match. I feel terrible that my kids are going to grow up to join in these excesses and think that a match is an excuse for people to get drunk and go screaming down the road bursting crackers.

To sum it up (because apparently I haven’t said enough on the matter) – I am happy for the cricketers, happy for their fasting devoted wives, happy for their sponsors, happy for the viewers, happy for the country. I just don’t want to be dragged into the whole forced mania and neither do I like it disrupting my life. All I want is some space for the disinterested. Amen.

Edited to add: Here’s a post someone led me to. Read it for another point of view.

It has been disappointing

A few days ago the Brat and Bean missed a birthday party – the child lives in our complex. So I called up the mother and asked if we could drop by and we took over a gift. As we set off, the Brat waved to a little boy across the park and called out, “Hi xyz!” The little boy came running over to us and before I had time to react, he put his palms on the Brat’s chest and shoved him hard. I had the big gift carefully balanced and just about stuck a knee out to stop the Brat from falling backwards. “Go away, Brat,” he said – “I don’t like you and I don’t want to play with you.”

The Brat’s face fell, “I was only saying hello to you.”

Rude twit of a kid – Yes, but I don’t want to play with you and I don’t like you.

And then he turned to the other kids and said – Okay, everyone? No one will play with the Brat.

And then he began to push the Brat off the lawn.

I had been silent till then, balancing the gift and swinging between the violent urge to slap the little runt right off the field and letting the Brat fight his own battles. Then it struck me that while it might be okay for the Brat to get pushed around when I am not around, I am setting a rather bad example by standing there and letting him be bullied by an older kid. If I am teaching him to eat with a fork and now his fingers, tie his shoelaces and form his alphabets neatly, aren’t I also responsible for teaching him to stand up for himself?

And so it was that I dumped the gift on the Bean who staggered under the weight of it and caught the child’s hands and took them off the Brat’s chest. “If you don’t want to play with him, don’t. You don’t have to come running across the lawn to tell him that. And even if you want to tell him that, use your words – NOT your hands. Are we clear?”

The child wasn’t exactly a meek little thing and he glared back at me. “I don’t like him.”

Fair enough, I said. You don’t have to. I don’t really like your behaviour either, but I am not pushing you and you will not push him. Is that understood? Brat? If he doesn’t want to play with you, don’t play with him, but don’t you allow him to touch you roughly.

By now the maids of the children who had been standing around watching their ill-mannered, rough, rude, snotty little rich wards appeared near me. A couple had been chatting on their mobile phones instead of keeping an eye on the kids. They considered saying something to me, took one look at my thunder cloud face, and realised that their wards who were in the wrong, needed that talking to. Which brings me back to my old grouse. Another issue with our fast ‘progressing’ country is that the childcare situation is so dicey. You either stay home and bring up your child or leave them to the care of uneducated maids who would let their own children hit and fight in the dust hence see no harm in letting your kids do the same. Who won’t say please or thank you and naturally can’t teach your child any better. Who find it easier to just sweep up all the toys after playtime and will never teach the child to clear up after play. It’s rare to find a maid who can teach your kids the manners you expect or even be bothered with reinforcing what you teach.

Grabbing my two kids by the hand (and collecting the broken pieces of my heart) I swept away. Once there the children played quite happily with the usual cries of “Mama he’s not sharing..” or “Mama, I want that” all of which I and the other mother ignored, letting them sort their issues out peacefully.

This family too has moved back from the US six months ago and into our apartment complex. In conversation I mentioned the incident on the way to her home and she said something that I thought I’d run past you all. She said this wasn’t the way we grew up. And I agree. Growing up in my small town we were a huge group of kids running wild playing hide and seek from home to home, empty plots, haunted houses and so on. The ages ranged from about 3 years older than me to about 8 years younger, boys and girls of every religion. I can’t remember ever telling a child to go away. Yes, as kids we were rude about some kid’s weight and another kid’s nose (that would be mine!) but it was good natured teasing. Not this shoving off a playground.

Having moved back after 10 years with a very rosy picture of people dropping in at odd times and kids playing together happily, she said she didn’t regret it, but was disappointed by what she’d brought her children home to. Grandparents were the only deal sweetener in this whole picture. Other than that, the fact that 33% of our tax was going down the drain while we drove out of our gates and went straight into a pot hole, was just frustrating. I listened to her, nodding and agreeing with so much of what she said. She said she would give it a couple of years more and then maybe ask the husband to move back to the States. “Where is the Indian culture we moved back for?” she asked. “I didn’t come back for puja-paath. There are temples there too. I came back for a certain warmth and hospitality and I see people literally stepping on each other to get ahead. There’s a new self centredness that wasn’t there in those days. People don’t have time to contribute to the community – and these very same Indians help at soup kitchens abroad. Double income couples earn so much that they have housekeepers who walk their dogs – but no one checks the dogs pooping all over the playground our kids have to play in. We’re paying through our noses for these facilities and at night you see some parents walking around in their nightclothes while their kids pee against trees. Everyone is aspirational and grasping. There’s no sense of community anymore.”

And it’s true. I’ve seen the aunties in their nighties walking around the complex at night, their children peeing against the wall. What exactly are we building high walls up and insulating ourselves against? And what is it that we’ve locked ourselves in with?

The truth is that you see none of this when you come to India for a visit. Uncles and aunties fete you and throw dinner parties to welcome you home. You go shopping to a select few places and eat chaat. And then you head back. How many of you moved back to India and found yourself disappointed? Go on. Be honest. I can take it.