Let’s Catch Up

It has been a while since I wrote. Been a while since I even thought of writing, to be honest. In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” and it it holds true even now, decades after he said it.

I turned a year older recently. Had my peeps around for a bite of birthday cake while TO manned or should I say preteened a live sundae counter. Kids were happy, dentists will be made happier still somewhere down the line.

The year started off well enough but came with a few hard knocks rather soon into the first week of January with us losing a loved family member and in March me losing someone very dear to me. My process of grieving is usually to write about my feelings or the person who has gone and pay them a tribute in some way but this time around it’s been rather hard and the words don’t want to come forth.

Apart from giving it time, I suppose there’s not much one can do but not everyone’s life is one we can celebrate in toto once they pass. Some lives you look back at and hope for all the turmoil they were in or caused, they gained a modicum of peace somewhere and didn’t feel agony or fear in their last moments. I find it a crushing thought to even imagine anyone I’ve cared about experiencing pain in their final moments. But one must try to accept what life throws their way, however jarring to the senses and move forward. I read an article sometime back about moving on vs moving forward; found it made sense. Posting it here for those who don’t mind a bit of gyaan but not an avalanche of it.

This morning when I started off with my morning routine of Wordle and a quick crossword, I realized how much TO’s influenced my life. The child isn’t a Ross Geller in the making from what I have understood. He can love dinosaurs and other buried prehistoric creatures without wanting to devote time in academia to truly enjoy it. The reptiles he loves have become integrated into our lives and our minds. One of the clues this morning in the New York Times Quick Crossword was Spitting _________ (a five lettter word) and I automatically filled in cobra. Once the crossword was filled, I found it was a different word entirely. Once upon a time I’d have been able to lead with the other word more easily but now life has a place which is dedicated to animal quizzes on road trips and amorphous plans around the world to see dangerous creatures or the slithering ones.

With summer break on the horizon along with exams, our days are busy and minds busier still. Hopefully the writing bug bites me again and I reenter the blogosphere properly and soon!

Ciao.

Reflections At The Gym

If you thought that was a pun, guess what? You’re bang on! The gym I occasionally frequent (inching towards an oxymoron here folks) has mirrors all along one side of a wall and that really helps while you’re checking out your form or lack thereof. It frequently helps me bemoan the state my body’s in although am far from the age where any kind of remedial action is off the table.

The gym also has a couple of tvs on another wall, conveniently lined up with the treadmills and people prefer to watch Bollywood videos while they work out. I usually don’t; audios are fine but videos often throw me off my stride. Either it’s too inane or it just assaults your senses and sensibilities at 6 am. I prefer my sensibilities to be assaulted after breakfast thank you very much, not before.

Even the biopics or more realistic movie plots show relationships in a more theatrical way- the college days, the bike rides (usually an uber expensive muscle bike no matter how un-wealthy the family) and the ability to cross the time barrier multiple times in the course of one three-minute song while hop, skipping and jumping across continents. They may be cinematically aesthetic and appealing but darn it if it doesn’t make you think, “That’s not how it happens at all!!

Take for example two kids from “good” middle class Indian families who would like to spend some time on their own. Managing the logistics is hard enough without some hawk-eyed auntie staring at you while you make your way out of the house so imagine a scenario where you get me-time with your crush let alone have him hoist you up in the air and spin you around in glee. That my friend, is a challenge and a half! And one that remains a daydream for most young adults.

Take it from someone who has had one or two of those magical theatrical moments; it’s all too fleeting and it takes so much doing that at the end of the day you’d rather have the opportunity to hold hands under the table or walk along side by side with an occasional touching of the hands. Way more romantic and definitely more feasible especially when you run into someone you know out of the blue. And you *always* run into someone out of the blue when you’re dating and haven’t yet disclosed it to anyone.

Dating in India is a different kettle of fish or used to be when I had first ventured into it. We were awkward to the hilt and anything that was remotely romantic was blown up to assume epic proportions in one’s mind. Imagine a rainy street, two 20 somethings cuddled up on a bike and cruising along when the bike stops and the guy gets off, kisses the girl and they ride off again- why did he stop? Because he’d read it in a book (Chicken Soup For the Couples’ Soul) and thought it would be a memory worth creating. No matter how jaded you are, you can’t help but smile a tiny bit at the whole thing. It’s sweet. Very sweet. And for those you are saying, “CORNY!” Well…you had to be there.

Dating in any small town or a place with a small town mindset also means those extremely “well-meaning” aunties who watch out for you out of the goodness of their heart and an overwhelming desire to provide the latest dirt during their veggie buying outings.

With their heads on swivel for every boy and girl who walk by, they would put the intelligence agencies to shame with their ability to predict who is going to come to a sticky end, be up to no good or what’s happening behind closed doors in which home. Sadly this level of clairvoyance doesn’t hold good for their own homes. They have the other neighbourhood ladies picking up the slack for them there though so it’s all good.

When I think of the few dates I’d been on in my younger days, it was more of the thrill of doing something, going somewhere or the anticipation of something coming together that makes me smile with nostalgia. Whether it was sitting in a hole-in-the-wall eatery while the date spoke about how he used to have his morning breakfast there before heading to college or trudging through heavy rains while on a scooter and struggling to hold onto camera bags and keep the glasses from fogging over.

It was never about being hoisted into air during a song to feel special. And while that did happen, the guy had to take the day off from work the next day because hoisting buxom Indian girls wasn’t as easy as the movies made it look. Not by half!

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TO turned 12 recently and barring the beginnings of a slight sprinkling of hair on his upper lip, am seeing very few signs of him growing up per se. There are plusses and minuses to this as can be expected. Let’s tackle the minuses first so I can get them out of my system; for now.

  1. He’s SUCH a kid even now! I can’t fathom one conversation that happens without him “but-but-but-ing” all through and interrupting us in his hurry to speak up.
  2. He’s still quite self-indulgent. ‘I’ features predominantly in his speech.
  3. He’s still quite naive about life overall and is fanciful (not entirely a minus in my book).
  4. He’s deeply embraced the tween life and is giving us a look into what teenage angst is- for the parents.

Now the plusses-

  1. He’s become quite independent wrt his needs- has turned on the stove by himself to make a snack; all without burning the house down.
  2. Is gradually learning to make tough choices from time to time- when to choose the high road and when to get down&dirty and spew *#@&E$&^#$ during the bust-ups. In case it wasn’t clear- the former is the plus here and not the latter but if I had to look for a silver lining it would be that his vocabulary’s grown!
  3. Is more understanding of our shortcomings as parents and people overall.
  4. Is a kind person and quick to forgive.

Note: I still had to tell him a little while ago that if it doesn’t look like food, don’t put it in your mouth.

S-I-G-H….

Chronicles Of A Mom In A Car#1

Mothers spend a lot of time waiting for their children. Starting with the actual birth itself, then the latching on, followed by the weaning off, the all-important toilet training, eating solids, walking, talking, running and then the slow and inevitable process of growing up. And lest I forget…the UBER-important…the falling asleep.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for TO to wind up with classes/sessions of something or the other and then we head home. I don’t always have the comfort or inclination of a nice waiting area each time around so my default waiting room becomes the car. And for a short round woman, a car can be a very comfortable place to be in.

Incline the chair a bit, take a sip of your carry-along espresso, smoothie, soft drink (cough cough- we’re supposed to be eating healthy) and you have your own little queendom where blissful silence reigns and so does the ability to do whatever you feel like- for those 45 minutes to an hour.

I’ve read books in utter silence, I’ve headbanged to songs, I’ve had marathon calls with friends and family, caught up with old friends, churned out blog posts, binged-watched my favourite serials and most importantly- had time to think.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think a lot. A LOT. But at home when there are things happening around you all the time, the thinking becomes very guided. Transactional even. In the cocoon of your car, the thinking just brims over and flows rampant and a lot of decisions get taken then- right from the dinner menu to taking a stance about issues in life. And those are some solid decisions that get taken.

Yesterday while I was waiting for the fresh and blood to decompress from his day-long online classes and wield his cricket bat like the stylish cricketer he thinks he is; I was on a trip down Retro Lane. Retro Lane is chockfull of Retro Music- rock, R&B, ballads, pop and what have you. And this song came up-

A lot of time has been spent sighing, pining, staring into space and smiling over this song…it’s been an anthem of sorts from the college days when crushes had more of a scope to flourish and when “heartbreak” was equally rampant amongst the newly minted young adults. It’s too bad Cutting Crew never got around to anything else that became as lasting as this song but it’ll do for me and my ilk. We have memories galore associated with it and that’s a good thing to look back at sitting in my 40s…

So crank up the volume and explore your own Retro Lane! Who knows what forgotten treasures will come up!

Always Choose An Experience…

For everything else there *is* Mastercard. Or Visa as the case may be.

Let’s start with a bit of a context for this statement to make sense to those it hasn’t. My father’s a career banker. He has hopped all over the country before retirement and taken us with him. And while many don’t like the gypsy life, if you’re born into it; you don’t know any different.

In every place we lived in, local sightseeing spots, some out of the way spots- nothing was left to be explored. And during holidays, we explored places which were doable (7-8 hours in usually a white Ambassador without AC) and that was not only an eminently acceptable way of spending time as a family- it was the norm. No place was left out- religious ones, historical ones, architecturally renowned ones…nothing. As a result, traveling was understood as what “one did” because something was out there and it was meant to be seen.

Haldighaati

After the initial bouts of motion sickness passed, we would sleep turn by turn. My mother would always be very strict about nodding off while sitting next to a driver, those being the days before airbags and seatbelt’s in India, and anyhow who needed to snooze would need to head to the backseat and another person would replace them up front.

If the terrain was unendingly dull and unchanging, I would be asked to play word games or just conk off till we reached the next rest stop. Stocking up on a list of junk food curated by the child was an unheard concept till our generation became parents and the kids became the ones who dictated how the holidays would be spent.

And while having money was an enabler then, is one now and will always continue to be one, the focus wasn’t ever on going to “good places”, staying in a posh hotel or having a pool to jump into at the end of the journey. It was all about the parents opening the eyes of their child to everything they could about the country they lived in because the knowledge could help them in a future geography test. Kidding…

Chhota Imambara, Lucknow

I remember very little about Lucknow- I think I saw it as a toddler. I have vague recollections of seeing goldfish somewhere and my mother said it was in the Chhota Imambara.

When we moved to Delhi, Appu Ghar was a favourite that I got to indulge in infrequently. But we went to Surajkund quite a few times and it was fun for a preschooler!

Surajkund, Faridabad

I remember skipping and jumping on the steps and being told to be careful and not fall into the dirty, stagnant water-yes..that was my mother’s worry. I don’t think she’d have minded a dunking in free-flowing water much.

Trek to the now-visible Shiva temple in Koliyak Beach, Bhavnagar

I have lovely memories of Koliyak in Bhavnagar as an 8 year old and even better ones as a 20 year old on a return trip to the place.

The Queens Botanical Gardens, the Orchid shows, the trips to The World Trade Center, Bronx Aquarium and of course Coney Island were par for course since those are outright sight seeing spots but those have been the kind we visited the least.

We would still hop in the car and take off for whichever river, dam, temple, palace was worth seeing-never mind how far. The further it was just meant the earlier you got out of bed to start off. And over the years indelible memories have been formed at Menal during the monsoons and at Bundi which we just swung by since it was “close by”.

Of course the memories of eating pipping hot mirchi bhajjiyas in the pouring rain, on the side of the road also stands out vividly. Our driver, Chhattarsingh ji used to drive a tank in the army before he retired and joined the bank and the car used to be a toy in his hands. He loved to take us around the different tourists spots and would never say no to a hot cuppa!

Palitana Temple

We’ve done pav-bhaaji picnics sitting near the Mahi River, eaten deliciously unique cold curd set in stone plates after climbing up 7000 steps to the Palitana temple. I’ve travelled through pouring rains on a Kinetic that clearly was more than up to the task to see the Champaner fort and then semi-trekked up to the extremely crowded Pavagadh hills. And it’s all been terribly interesting to say the least!

The ruins of the Narasimha Swamy temple, Hampi

The ruins of Dholavira, the terracotta temples in Bishnupur, the Gol Gumbaz up close, wandering around lazily in Bidar fort, crossing over on the ferry in Hampi and coming face to face with him- cannot be replaced!

Gol Gumbaz, Karnataka

In this year and in the months to come, any sort of travel may seem like an indulgence because of the risks associated with it and yet people will and are stepping out.

They are opting for road trips, choosing their next travel experience with more diligence and curiosity than ever before because traveling was never something that anyone was told they couldn’t do. Staying at home under duress was never a condition we had to wrap our heads around.

So when given the option to indulge- materialistically, gastronomically or whichever -ally it may be…try and choose an experience related to travel. It’ll stay with you always and you’ll be replaying bits and pieces of it in your head over the years to come.

Cannot put a price on that!

11

When two people set off a chain reaction that still has them smiling, facepalming and being gobsmacked with unfailing regularity…

Turbulent Tweens

The word ‘turbulent’ here refers to the frame of mind of the parents of tweens and not the tweens themselves. Honestly, I can even begin to take a gander at what these self-involved little hoomans are thinking, with half their brains trying to not give into the sociopathy that kids seem to have a blueprint for vs the sulky, snarky era that apparently spans the way ahead during their teenage.

While I have often wished and wished hard, that I could be one of those parents who fawn over their kids most of the times; I am unable to suppress my gag reflexes at the thought of constantly thinking of TO as my “little prince”.

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‘My-little-pain-in-the-ass’ seems closer to the mark and I’ll tell you why. My usual interactions with him seem to go in these directions- A) I’m a slave driver and he’s a slave especially when it comes to getting him up in the mornings B) I’m not justified in asking him to bath properly rather than just looking at the soap and imagining himself as properly lathered, C) Expresing disappointment at the state of the loo post his using it (Ok now that’s the problem with most men but I’m trying to get him to be a bit more aligned to women in this regard), D) Me not behaving like we offer room service when the water bottle, glass etc is just two steps away. See? It’s not him, it’s CLEARLY ME!

This is the starting of the age when anything that comes out of my mouth is met with a “no”. And it’s not like when he was chubby, drooly and cute and saying no because it was a new word he’d just learnt and wanted to use it to death. Now the ‘no’ comes because he clearly has a setting activated in his brain that says keeping pushing that short, round woman in front of you till her head explodes. It’s not a fun time for me. And am told it gets way more interesting from here on. See how I effectively demonstrated the use of an euphemism? My English teachers are doing this somewhere-

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But getting back to my causes of being in a snit- the kid’s growing up. Acting dumber at times sure, but growing up. He doesn’t fit into my lap, he’s not soft and squishy anymore and it takes more and more work to not flick his ear in irritation every damn day.

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So pretty much on most weekdays and definitely on all weekends there’s a scene playing out which looks like this. For those of you who aren’t parents, that’s TO’s confused “What did I do look” followed by my “Eye of Shame/ I’m a part-time Medusa” look followed by TO’s nyah nyah attitude which in turn in followed by my “Now I’m seriously displeased look” and that’s all topped off with Red’s “Oh man! I have to run before they ask me to take sides” look.

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P.C: Paolo Nicolello@Unsplash

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P.C: Ruth Caron@Unsplash

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P.C: Drew Beamer@ Unsplash

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P.C: Dmitry Ulitin

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P.C: Bruno Figueredo@ Unsplash

S-I-G-H.

August Recap

The month of August is usually quite festive in this household. Both Red and TO have birthdays. Incidentally both had milestone birthdays this year- their 40th and 10th. Needless to say, the 10th birthday brouhaha was everything that it should be. Between 2 cakes spanning the loves of his life aka cricket and reptilian monsters which Hollywood makes tons of money out of; this child was left delirious with joy.

We also thought we should start a phase where the gifts would come in only from family and To start associating birthdays more with the fun factor, memories to be made rather than gifts to be counted. Check back with me next year to see how far we’ve come  down this road.

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The munchkins who keep the good times rolling!

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The usual suspects Part-1

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Trio from the usual suspects

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Birthday cake #1

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Birthday cake#2 that paid homage to Godzilla: King of Monsters

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The bouncy birthday boy in the background.

By contrast the 40-year old baby’s day was fairly low-key because Red had already done a stag trip to Oz at the start of the year and wasn’t in the mood to enter his naughty 40s with a bang (‘cuse the pun) in the presence of his in-laws and his father all at once! Hopefully this weekend we’ll be able to engage in some amount of indulgence for the grey and dignified Java God.

We’ve also come a bit of a distance as a family as well. Getting TO settled into another academic year comes with its own set of ups and downs and some amount of anxiety on our parts…chiefly mine. Apparenty when your kid becomes a fifth grader, everyone’s focus gets onto punting the child up to the next grade in middle school and the whole year ends up being a prep for the latter. Phew!

However, striking a balance is what we manage to hack for the most part so not too worried on that front. Being an Indian parent, it goes against the grain to *not* worry about your child’s academics or their potential areas of excellence. After all, what would we put up on our social networks if it weren’t for updates of the child taking newer and greater strides in some or the other field. Of course there are the endless selfies with the puckered up face that most of us instinctively seem to excel at.

Speaking of which, I have rediscovered Snapchat with a vengeance! The initial disdain at the airbrushed faces and the boughs of flowers over the head-filters has melted away and I quite enjoy looking at a smooooooth, blemish-free face and have realized that I wish my eyes were a nice irridescent color and not the browns that I’m destined to sport life long.snapchat-12868228883841078127944242142.jpg

TO on the other hand has gone so deep down the rabbit hole of cricket that I’m afraid he’s lost to the non-cricket loving junta. Luckily for him, he has a father with exceptional hand-eye co-ordination and inclination to listen to his soliloquies on the subject instead of the mother who looks for a pile of cushions to dive under to stop the flow of words from battering her already battered mind.

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Before the all important toss!

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The rare photo where the V sign didn’t make an appearance.

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And the fake smile’s back!

Red as always is the buffer between the two excitable entities that live in this house. He stays calm and collected and only loses his shit during tennis and cricket matches.

So as we gear up for a season of festivities over the next two months, am just happy that all the important stuff is getting ticked off properly and we’re back to the mundane bit where I just have to drag a kid out of bed and boot his behind out of the house on a regular basis and phone the husband with the usual, “when are you going to be home?” spiel. Bliss.

Have a good weekend…Salut!

The Road Not Taken

Note: This is hardly an original title but extremely apt nonetheless, especially for this particular post. Somehow this post was particularly difficult to write. The words didn’t flow the way they usually do and I’ve made more revisions than I’ve ever done before, left it cooling on the rack as it were till I decided to just get it done once and for all. Read on…

I’ve often touched upon the nomadic life I’d led as a child. It was never dull whatever else it may have been. It was hectic at times and sometimes trying but never dull. And in the process the one thing I always wondered about was whether putting down roots somewhere was really everything it was cracked up to be and if it was something I’d be able to aspire to one day. Because after 9 schools and 11 cities you really wonder at times where it’s all going.

There was a point of time when I thought I’d got it figured out. I was much younger but without the rose-tinted glasses. Work was shaping up, other aspects of life were also pretty much where they needed to be. And then they changed. Not entirely drastically but they changed and the path that was taken has led up to today. And it’s been a good one for the most part. But a part of me wondered about the shape of things had the divergence not occurred. The all too elusive what-ifs occasionally rear their head and you can’t help but extrapolate things and wonder if you’d have been able to follow the blueprint through and where that might have got you.

Now nostalgia is just fine on it’s own, indulged from a few hundred kilometers away but when you get down to brass tacks and walk in the same paths the younger you did, sometimes it’s just not the same at all. Imagine a place, a cafe if you will, was something you zoomed into regularly like it was home base. The food tasted great, the drinks even better and the time spent there was memorable. And then one day, you walk in there after a few years and it’s not really special anymore. It’s run-of-the-mill. The place isn’t run down or shady…it’s just not what you want anymore. The younger you sure, the older you…not so much. And that can be a slightly bittersweet realization for those of us who sometimes want to desperately hang onto the vision of something the way we remember it.

I remember visiting my college with my best friend a long while after we finished our graduation.While the original structure was still standing, the new extensions to the building made it look more like a transport hub than the college where I spent 3 very significant years of my life. And while I’m not opposed to change, there’s change and there’s CHANGE. And as we grow up and older, some changes are inevitable and often seem irrevocable.

Nostalgia works well for some time but the deeper you go into it at times you realize that you aren’t acknowledging the most often critical part of whole situation- that you’re the  one that’s changed the most. Older, maybe wiser, definitely healthier (we’re a body positive blog folks) and once you get to that point; at best nostalgia can be a joyful interlude but one best kept brief. Because there’s so much happening now! The future maybe unknown but the past is something we’ve already gone through. Reliving it or attempting to kind of seems like walking backwards to me. Best to grab onto whatever’s happening now and hang on for the ride.

Here endeth the lesson.