Oh so bloody random

I’m sorry I haven’t answered your questions. I don’t feel ready for them yet – some of us just don’t deal well with our cheese being moved, eh? :D

I thought I’d shut down this blog that I’ve neglected so long, but I just couldn’t. A moment’s hesitation, a little procrastination and it’s still here. I have nothing earth shaking to say other than that I am back in India for the kids’ summer break. I’ve been working from home but barring that I’ve had a lot of spare time to think. I shall share my earthshaking thoughts with you and you shall be deeply enriched by my wisdom.

1. Wear your own oxygen mask before you help others put theirs on.

I feel like a fool because I come back to this one time and time again. I put others first, I choose others’ enrichment over my own. And then there comes a day when I wonder what I’ve done for me. Very little indeed. So wear your own gas mask incase you haven’t done so yet.

2. The most interesting people have mediocre professional success.

Of course we can get into deep discussions about the definition of success etc, but I think we all know what I mean. The most interesting people I know, seem not to be at the top of the game. I don’t mean nice people, happy people, intelligent people or any of those. I only mean people who interest me. They might not interest you. But the reason, I notice, that they’re unsuccessful, is that they don’t have the single minded focus success calls for. They’re too engaged with too many things. Too many pies. Too many projects. Too many people. An ailing mother in law, a little nephew whose love won’t allow them to move beyond a 40 km radius, the dhobi’s daughter who was raped and left for dead and had no voice to fight for her. And so on. I sit here waiting for them to write books, set up big businesses and so on and I realise they can’t. They’re deeply engaged with a lot of things. And that is what draws me to them. Their ability to juggle two jobs, family, friends, community and so on. That’s what makes them real, interesting, observant, aware and multifaceted, and as a result, attractive to me. This also leads back to point 1. They’ve not worn their own oxygen mask to get to the top of the career ladder – the air up there is rarefied.

3. Be the missing piece.

Explain yourself. As often as you can. This goes against all conventional wisdom. There’s a famous saying that you should never have to explain yourself, because those who love you don’t need an explanation. And those who don’t, won’t care for your explanation. But this is not about what makes you comfortable. This is again one of those larger good arguments. If you’ve had a misunderstanding with someone, explain yourself, even if it is 10 years later. Our lives are not just our lives. I like to think of them as heaps of mixed up jigsaw puzzles. My pile might have a piece that belongs to you. A memory that you need to make sense of your life. To explain why he thought you were not good enough for him. Why she thought she’d been betrayed. All of us have a little something that fits into another’s life and helps them make sense of it. A missing piece. Your reason might be someone’s missing piece. Please help them find it. Even if it hurts for you to do so.

Exposed. Now what?

I’m here to rant. To rant about everyone, who when they heard we were moving out of the country, came up with the cliche – ‘It’s so much better for the kids – they’ll get such exposure.’ [May I toss in a wee rant about that word exposure? It’s an over-exposed word. Used for cameras, starlets and kids being displaced.] There’s always been that little bit of attitude when desis and their kids come back on vacation. A little arrogance that they’re somehow better for having moved away from home. (The biggest challenge is to ensure that they don’t go home too big for their boots, picking fault with everything, praising clean roads but unable to appreciate the glorious, chaotic, warm mess that their home country is.) They’ve been exposed. So? We’re exposed to malaria and measles back home. There’s something to be said for that too, you know!

I didn’t understand what this concept of exposure meant when I was back home and now, six months down, it still seems like a lot of gibberish. One of those incomprehensible lines that you pull out of storage and offer to anyone who is leaving home, wrenched from the bosom of all that is comfortable and familiar. Torn from the arms of motherland and thrown into unfamiliar food and driving on the wrong side of the road. Yes, of course I like drama. Why do you ask?

Don’t get me wrong – it’s always great to shake things up a little. Keeps one from getting too complacent. But to imagine that getting ‘exposed’ is a better way of life than being, well, ‘unexposed’, is to my mind, a little bit of bullshit. And also, extremely patronising. Eventually it boils down to how open-minded you are. If you plan to carry your pressure cooker, your thepla or your dosa rice everywhere. If you seek out the local desi sanghs and committees. If you insist on speaking your own language at home instead of practicing the new ones around you. Then you’re really just struggling to keep your own culture alive. A few meals, a few concerts, a visit to the local library and three playdates do not give you more insight into a culture than regular travel would.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s your choice if you choose to close ranks against outside influence, and I don’t judge you for it. But eventually the amount of exposure you get is really limited. Limited to a wee bit more than the average tourist gets while sightseeing. Whether you are open minded or not depends on you. Not on whether you’ve moved six countries in the course of your career or died in the house you were born.

Hell, you want me to concede and say you’re getting huuuuge exposure to another culture, I’ll grant you that because I’m in a generous mood and don’t feel like quibbling. You might have learnt a language or an art – and that is great. But I draw the line at the implication that it is somehow preferable, or superior to the alternative (PS: many languages and arts to be learnt within India too!). It is, if anything, a different way of life. Like choosing not to have kids. Or to stay single. Do you know what it’s like to be a married woman and a mother of two at 27? Nope? Well, neither do I know what it’s like to be a single woman at 40. We’re even.

A few years ago, some friends moved back from South East Asia complaining that it was uncomfortable for them because they didn’t find enough Indian food, that there were too many strange animals being cooked, that it was too immoral a society, that it wasn’t as religious as India. They pointed out that the OA and I were good candidates for a move because we’ll try anything once, eat every type of food and not have to worry about kosher, don’t follow any religion and usually eschew religious gatherings, avoid get togethers that are based on community or caste, avoid speaking an Indian language if even one person around us doesn’t understand it, and so on. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by the picture they painted of us! But they were right of course. We’re fairly ideal candidates to be comfortable out of the country.

Except that unlike many, I really like being in my country – and if I get to choose, then I prefer Delhi over other Indian cities. It bothers me that a person who has lived in four countries is somehow considered to be ‘more’ than a farmer in Vidarbha or a middle class housewife in Calcutta. Richer, maybe. Better traveled, maybe. But better life experiences? I think not.That a little old lady who has seen hunger, or famine, or buried three children, or suffered through riots is somehow seen to have experienced less than our privileged kids in their fancy SUVs, shopping at the closest Indian store. It’s rather patronising to believe that one experience is somehow better.

A few stamps on a passport, learning a new language, trying a new food, seeing a different fort, are all great experiences, no doubt. But so is growing up in a certain locality, building lifelong relationships, seeing a sapling grow into a tree and shade you and so on. There is much to be said for stability, familiarity, and being one of those pillars of society that people can depend on.

Having lived away for a while now I can claim to speak with a little experience. And eventually it all boils down to the same damn daily lives. How we manage our relationships, what the kids are taking to school for tiffin, the bills to be paid, discord in the family, that nagging pain in my knee that casts a shadow on all that I do through the day and so on. The pain of death, the pang of death and loss, the joy of holding your child in your arm – these are things we all experience regardless of geography and they shape our lives far more than anything else.

Here we have cleaner streets, shinier buildings and better traffic. The kids have settled in as best as they can. The OA is busy with work. Fortunately my job moved with me and I am busy during the day. But at night, when the lights go down and we shut the outside world out and gather around the dining table, nothing much has changed. There are still worries at work, still bullies in school. Still bills to be paid. Still new places to visit. The more things seem to change. The less they really do.

PS: Since I can’t answer all the mails I got in response to this post, I’m editing it to add my responses here – Yes, we’re more or less settled and as the Bean would say if you asked her – it’s comme ci comme ca.

There are some positives to being here, infrastructure and order wise, and availability of a variety of things as well as the opportunity to travel to neighbouring countries. And there are the negatives such as homesickness and lack of a social support system. Most of all though, we’re unhappy about the kids having to attend a mainstream international school. They’ve just had their first report card and while the Bean is doing fairly well – the Brat is soaring high. We’ve never known how well they’re doing in India since their school didn’t do comparative marking. So we know that their education was good in India and that their fundamentals are strong. But most of all, the system was good and we’re not very happy with the competitive attitude being instilled in them in a mainstream school. And no, before you ask, we already did a thorough check – there are no alternative schools here.

Been a long time since we rocked and rolled

….

I was listening to Jackson Browne the other night and like most people growing old faster than they appreciate, it took me back to my first year of work. For those who don’t know, it’s the song playing as the credits roll in the first episode of FRIENDS. I love the lyrics and it’s one of those songs I go back to every five years or so.

A friend did a Facebook poll asking which show we still missed. Some said Frasier, some HIMYM and others, Seinfeld. I never did enjoy Seinfeld’s sense of humour, and Frasier was always ‘older people’ with older people issues.

FRIENDS on the other hand, came just when we were at the very same stage, starting out, building careers, seeking soulmates… and it followed us. Marriages, divorces, problems with conceiving and so on.

At some point I’d merrily assumed they’d hand hold us through life. And we’d grow old together. But that didn’t happen. As yet another couple I love, splits up amicably, I am both sad for them as they lose what they had. And happy for them as they find a solution in a civil way. Okay, sorry, rambling.

Enjoy.

Jackson Browne’s Sky Blue and Black

Lyrics, for your reading pleasure.

In the calling out to one another
Of the lovers up and down the strand
In the sound of the waves and the cries
Of the seagulls circling the sand
In the fragments of the songs
Carried down the wind from some radio
In the murmuring of the city in the distance
Ominous and low

I hear the sound of the world where we played
And the far too simple beauty
Of the promises we made

If you ever need holding
Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back, I’ll see you through
Sky blue and black

Where the touch of the lover ends
And the soul of the friend begins
There’s a need to be separate and a need to be one
And a struggle neither wins
Where you gave me the world I was in
And a place I could make a stand
I could never see how you doubted me
When I’d let go of your hand

Yeah, and I was much younger then
And I must have thought that I would know
If things were going to end

And the heavens were rolling
Like a wheel on a track
And our sky was unfolding
And it’ll never fold back
Sky blue and black

And I’d have fought the world for you
If I thought that you wanted me to
Or put aside what was true or untrue
If I’d known that’s what you needed
What you needed me to do

But the moment has passed by me now
To have put away my pride
And just come through for you somehow

If you ever need holding
Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back, I’ll see you through

You’re the color of the sky
Reflected in each store-front window pane
You’re the whispering and the sighing
Of my tires in the rain
You’re the hidden cost and the thing that’s lost
In everything I do
Yeah and I’ll never stop looking for you
In the sunlight and the shadows
And the faces on the avenue
That’s the way love is
That’s the way love is
That’s the way love is
Sky blue and black

Some news

So I’ve been lying low for a while because we moved out of the country. Yes, years of fighting it, fighting to move back to Delhi, letting Delhi seep into my pores and run in my blood stream and all of a sudden.. nothing. I’ve left home. And I’m adrift and lost.

Lest you think I’m too busy to post – that isn’t the case. I could sit up after a surgery and type with one hand if I wanted to, while a drip rattled against the keyboard and half my body groaned in pain and …. I think you get the picture.

But it’s not that  – I’m busy, but not just busy. Apart from setting up home, getting paperwork in order, sending kids to new school and hating it, doing my own bloody housework (gah!) and holding on to my fucking day job, I am also busy wallowing in self pity and self-inflicted misery and I am not ready to share anymore right now. I might be back tomorrow. I might not be back for six months. Until I have processed this change and dealt with it, I am not comfortable sharing it.

I know you will understand. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier considering it’s been going on for a while. But this – this is something I’m just.not.dealing.well.with.

Stay well, stay cool.

#ChhodAayeHumWohGaliyan

Goodbye, Carmen

CarmenCarmen left our home today (January 14th). It’s rather aptly a cold, grey, rainy morning as she leaves our home, taking all light and color with her. Why is she called Carmen? Not because she’s a gypsy at heart. That would be too obvious. She was christened Carmen because she’s a car, men! Simple.

She joined the family a few days after the Bean joined the family. The OA had booked her and sold our other car and we’d been waiting for more than a month. I went in to hospital cursing him for the bad timing. He wanted a red Verna ‘because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford a red Ferrari’. Hyundai didn’t have enough orders for a red Verna to paint up a batch so we kept waiting.

The day the doc declared me fit to leave hospital, we took a cab home and I insisted on going straight to the dealership. I did a dharna there with a 3-day old Bean in my arms (explains so much about her!) and refused to leave until they gave us our car. When I opened my shirt to nurse her, junta cleared the showroom double quick and begged the OA, ‘Please take ma’am home, we’ll get you a red Verna asap.’

Carmen arrived a few days later. She was worth the wait.

From some of the highest motorable paths to forced off-roading, her gypsy soul took her places few sedans go. Cousin K and I learnt to drive on her and she showed us how a fantastic turning radius can change your driving experience and save others’ lives! And once in a while I’d take her out of the Gurgaon traffic and on to the Faridabad highway and let her stretch her long legs, the wind in my hair, just two slightly reckless girls having fun.

As she left this morning I ran out to see her come out of the garage and turn the corner to the exit gate. Low slung, shiny, soundless, she glides like a model on a ramp. I grinned through my tears – in her head, she thinks she’s a red Ferrari.

Have a good life, Carmen.

Happy 2015

Happy New Year blog readers! If any of you are still reading, that is!

Where have I been? I’ve been watching my old man grow experiment with facial hair. From a very controversial moustache, to a rather academic grey beard, this year has seen it all. And I’ve been making playdough figures with the Bean. We also did some awesome jewellery since I’m allergic to most metal. The Brat has been cycling like its going out of fashion. Come dusk, I head out to hunt him down and drag him home kicking and screaming (not) that he wants ‘just fifteen minutes more’. I love how kids can imbue that fifteen minutes with everything. If you don’t give it to them, their life is over.

This morning I was dragged out to watch his latest stunt and I realised standing out there in the warm winter sunshine, that my son is already doing things I have never done and probably never will. Take that, you overbearing parent!

There’s a lot happening in my life right now and I’ll update you once it all falls into place. Suffice to say I had an awesome X’mas with the mad sibling aka Tambi and his two little baby boys. Scratch that. I barely spoke to the sibling – I was only interested in his babies. I relived my days as mother of a toddler and took his babies for walks down the small town roads, showed them crows, pigs, dogs, squirrels. Sat out for an hour at a time just watching them, not talking. Played little baby stacking games, told them fairy tales… sigh. Yes. It was lovely.

This year I’ve made no resolutions. Mainly because I seem to have done fairly well last year. I’ve lost 3.5 kgs with some sensible eating. I had promised myself that I’d start some formal exercise but I haven’t managed to do that. I do end up walking an hour or so and I like what I see in the mirror. I’d be happy if I were thinner (who wouldn’t be?!) but I’m pretty comfortable at this weight too.

I also accidentally lost some drama from my life too. Was removed from the lives of some people who I was having some trouble getting a long with. I don’t know where we went wrong but I realised that things just weren’t working out and we were more adversarial than friendly. As I sat there wondering how to solve the issue, it solved itself. I find myself much calmer and relaxed. I also revived two old friendships and am so happy to fall into their warmth and comfort.

Yes, 2014 was a crap year for most of us, self included. But at the beginning of 2015 I feel a lot calmer than I’ve ever felt before.

I wish you a great year, good health, love, the comfort of good friends and contentment. May you always have enough.

No longer sorry

amy

I saw this on Pinterest today and it spoke to me.

A few days ago the Brat walked in with a recipe book he’d borrowed from a friend’s mother. The OA and I took one look at him carrying a book bigger than his body and fell over laughing. But here’s the truth – he loves food and he wants to learn to cook.

This brings us to an uncomfortable situation. I am home more often than the OA and most often it is I, tossing up a salad or a sandwich for a quick meal. And so naturally the kids are drawn to watch me cooking. If it’s on a slow day, I’m tolerant of their presence in the kitchen. If not, I tell them to get the hell out of my way if they want anything to eat, because I have to get back to work.

The OA on the other hand, enjoys cooking and encourages them to join him in the kitchen. Having the disadvantage of only recently taking up cooking as an interest, he watches and records hours of food programming and even after all these years, doesn’t know as much about food as I do, theoretically. How did this come about?

I grew up with a feminist grandmother who didn’t believe every woman needed to know how to cook. What every woman should know, she’d often say, is how to earn. And once you’re capable of supporting yourself, you can decide if you want to cook or hire a cook. And so she, my mother (who is a superb cook) and I, hired cooks and went out to work.

But no matter what your family environment, there is no denying social pressure on a woman to cook. My in laws were horrified that their son had not married a Havell’s appliance (please see the series of advertisements here if you haven’t already – they’re fantastic). And I cannot begin to count the number of women in my own generation who felt there was something wrong with a woman who didn’t enjoy cooking, didn’t feel her heart burst with joy at the thought of homecooked meals for her children and didn’t rush to pour out hot dosas every time a belly somewhere growled.

I was young and gave in to pressure easily so I bought recipe books, and cooked when I got a chance (less than most others because wild horses were usually required to drag me to the kitchen) and even joined cooking e-groups etc for the tips. I am now a competent cook, guests expect a fairly good table at my place and I know a good deal about cooking – but I still hate the drudgery of it. Still get tired thinking of even brewing a cup of tea, still hate joining conversations on methods of layering a biryani.

At some point I realised that the OA too, was fighting his own demons. He had a love for food and cooking that had never been discovered or encouraged. He’d walk into the kitchen while I was cooking and try to be helpful, end up bossing me around (because of course I *was* doing something wrong) and be sent off with a sting in the ear for his pains. And so I established a tradition – he began to cook our Diwali family dinner. It started out pure vegetarian, the entire family revolted and the next year it was beer batter fish. Over the last year as the kids have grown and he has more time on hand, he’s been cooking more and more and I’ve eased out of the kitchen almost entirely. The kids make their own sandwiches, the cook does the daily fare and if the OA wants something fancy, he makes it.

It took me years to get to this point where I could back out of what is a traditional female role and encourage the OA to step up to the plate and do what he enjoys doing. The patriarchy screwed us both over and yet we took so long to make this handover. It wasn’t easy watching the cook begin to take orders from him, guests turning to him to ask what was on the menu, and the kids coming to him with their requests. Particularly because working or SAHM, mums run the kitchen in most homes – I felt like a bit of a failure even though I hated the chore to begin with. I continue to handle the day to day running of our home since I work from home, stepping in when the cook is absent. But on the whole, if someone comes in bursting with the excitement over something they want to eat, they know who to take that excitement to, and its certainly not me.

And so it was that the Brat staggered in with his massive recipe book and a demand that we cook something out of it. I looked at him with deep love and much affection and said – You have to be joking if you think Mama is getting up to cook complicated stuff.

And sure enough, he and the Bean nodded and turned to their father, taking it in their stride. ‘Oh yes, Mama dislikes cooking and finds it boring. Dada, you enjoy it, so lets plan a meal. Anyway, you’re the cooker in this house. Mama is the doctor.’

And the three of them bent their heads and began to pore over the book. I turned back to work and heaved a sigh of relief. It is done. I am no longer the default cook in this home. And the next generation has already come to accept home cooked food as Papa ke haanth ka khaana and not Ma ke haanth ka khaana.

I feel a twinge of something and suppress it. I think it is social conditioning calling and I’m not home to receive it. It really was this easy and if only I’d stopped fighting my limits some years ago, I’d have not wasted time making elaborate meals and trying to ‘fit in.’

I’m off to sign off the cooking groups and sign up for a few more on my interests. When I get home, there’ll be a hot meal cooked by husband and kids awaiting me. Life is good.