Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Seven Year Itch!

Seven years is a long enough time for things to change. And changed they have. Seven years ago we were a young couple, free of most responsibilities, on the threshold of building a life together. We have known each other our entire adult lives, some how, seven years seems like a whole lot less than the time we have been committed to each other.
As I reflect upon the past seven years, we have been blessed in very many ways that we frequently take for granted. Steady is how I would call it - except for the occasional  hiccup that is required to keep things...interesting!

Hoping that the next seven are just as memorable and strengthen our bond as a family if there is any room for it.

And yes, he brought me flowers that have bloomed just in time :) If that's not a cure for the seven year itch, I don't know what is !!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Keeping your head down and other observations...

At some point not so long ago, I could be called a facebook addict. Constantly going through my friends pictures, stalking them almost and constantly looking for updates or for the number of likes that some sartorial comment I made got.
Slowly, fb fatigue set in. I started to have less and less to "share" and I made the eerie discovery that each time I posted one of Ahana's pictures and got a ton of comments, she would invariably get sick. So I reduced the frequency with which I made picture posts. And let's face it, in the last few years, my pictures have been become increasingly large and exponentially terrible. I saw one from a recent party, I thought I should go on some drastic diet to get rid of them not so much double but more like quadruple chins!
Anyway, I digress...what I was saying is, that I was at one point the girl with her head hung down, hunched over the phone ... constantly on fb or some other platform. Not so much anymore...
On weekends I seldom have my phone on me, more often than not it's lying somewhere near the bed or simply lacking charge. I have come to the realization that its really annoying to be with someone who is constantly looking down. This is something I have witnessed and several family members are equally guilty. You're invited to dinner some place, you choose to sit in one corner and hunch over your BB or "smart" phone of choice. What message does that give out to people you're with? You're too bored to be part of any conversation? You think your time is better spent poring over some random sports statistic? I don't know but I'd rather not be judged for keeping my head down. I'd rather dream or zone out than look down into something where I am clearly giving the signal, what's down here is more important than looking at you. I get it when you're alone and have nothing better to do, but when you have company, is it really that important?
Put the phone down!

Then there's the papparazzo. Constantly whipping the gizmo of choice out to take pictures. Cute moments should be captured yes, but when you have one every single day, how much time do you really take to revisit those? At some point they all end up in the huge recesses of a data dump, lost in some alternate universe, with no one to care for those cute moments of yore.
Speaking of pictures, I have recently discovered Instagram. I think it's rather cute but I was MOST offended to find that ALL the pictures that I processed, were out on the web for the world at large to see (Yes, I am that archaic when it comes to apps...so this was news to me). Now I will have to think twice about things I save to instagram...I wish they'd let me have a private gallery where I chose to make some pictures public or share them. Gotta figure that one out...
Oh well, the husband is equally guilty these days of poring over the phone while waiting for dinner. Sometimes I wait for him to look up, at which point if he does, he will raise an eyebrow and ask me to make some conversation! I get that sometimes we just don't have the time and we are always catching up. With news, with TV, with things outside of the daily routine of "required activities". But some times should be reserved for eye contact and for face to face conversation instead of having a relationship with a screen. Just sayin...

The Son of India - Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar declared his retirement from International Cricket yesterday. The internet was abuzz with tributes, tweets, posts on facebook and I am sure there is a fair amount in the various media about him.
I remember that ever since his arrival, cricket acquired a new meaning for my generation. We grew up watching cricket because of Sachin. We rejoiced every half and full century, we bemoaned when he was dismissed from the crease. He carried the weight of the country's expectations on his slender and young shoulders.
All the adulation, the scrutiny and never once has he come across as a 'super star' - humble as ever, his voice, like that of a shy young boy even today. I bet he never gets angry, he always seems so calm and composed.
Sachin Tendulkar was the one name that everyone knew. Even for me, someone who never got into the technicalities of the game, watching Sachin bat was enough. We pretty much walked away once he was dismissed.

As a friend put it on her facebook post - no player is greater than the sport, but there are a few special exceptions. Sachin is that exception. May be not because of all his achievements, but more his grace, personality and above all, humility over the span of his 24 year career. His speech made millions emotional, I cried as I merely read it. I may have bawled if I had watched it live. I don't know of another sportsperson alive or dead who might have elicit such a strong emotional response the world over.

I remember when we were very young, my maternal grand parents would ardently watch cricket matches. My grandma, used to proudly assert - "yeh mera doosra ladka hai" - this is my second son!
That was the kind of pride in this young boy, who showed such immense dignity and grace. I bet every mother across the nation felt the same way about Sachin.

There's no saying if there will be another living legend like him. But there is a lifetime of knowing that we were around to witness the magic of this man and hopefully live to tell the tale of exemplary sportsmanship, dedication and skill.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Of profound and unexplained losses

For a child, there is no greater betrayal from life, than losing a parent. To lose a guide, to lose an inspiration, to lose a part of your life. Someone who knows you, like no one else.
I know people who have lost a child will actually say the other way around because the laws of nature are such that the old will die sooner than the young, but that's a different tangent. But when someone goes before it's their time, how is that nature's law?

We are at the age now where we must come to face with the mortality of our parents. That they will not be around forever. My mother is 61, her mother is nearing 80 and still alive. Not in the best of health, but alive. Her father lived until 85. So when mom says things like "we need to write a will in case we pop off" - I am usually the one to remind her she has at least 20 more years of life ahead of her, that she's not going to die so soon.
Today I wonder if that will be true. A dear friend of mine lost her mother, unexpectedly, suddenly, tragically. Just a few weeks before, her father-in-law had passed away leaving her husband bereaved and having lost both his parents. Try as we may, it is impossible to wrap our heads around this tragedy.
She was fine, one minute and in an instant, like a light bulb is turned off, she was gone. How does one explain something so bizarre? I mean, people have survived bad health, cancers, heart problems, right? But how do you explain or understand when this happens to someone who had no issues.

I have not yet been able to talk to my friend. Only to her husband, who was just starting to put the pieces together after his father's passing. I knew she wouldn't want to talk to me -- we both might have lost our composure and not been able to say much at all. All I know is that there is heartbreak and there's little sign of closure. There are questions, lots of questions to understand what was missed? How could this have been prevented? All a little too late, but an answer somewhere, to justify what has happened.

I had spent time with my friends' mother. I practically saw her every weekend for a good part of this year. We have been on a mountain vacation with the family. She could be my mother and Ahana called her Aaji, Marathi for Grandmother.  How am I going to explain if she asks of her?

In the last year we have heard of more than 1 friend losing a parent out of the blue. For no good reason, in their so called Golden years. The only thing to glean from this is to know that life is short and unpredictable. You can't take life for granted, nor can you be sure death is reserved for the old and weak. Make the most of the time you have with your loved ones, you never know when it's time for the lights to be turned out on a life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MORA - finally mine!

I think I was first introduced to MORA by Ritika on facebook. Either it had been something someone had liked or I was browsing some friends and the pages they had liked and literally stumbled upon Mora by Ritika's page.
Immediately, I knew that I was looking at someone very creative with fabrics and colors. Some one who has an eye for detail, someone who can weave a dream and then translate it onto fabric.

I get my love for Indian textiles from my mother. She is the one in our family with an artistic streak, an eye for color and an eye for texture. While she adored and collected unusual prints/weaves/sarees from around the country, I soaked all of it in. I used to love saree shopping every monsoon with her when the sales would come around in time for the festive season. I learned about gurjari from her, I learned about block prints from her and I learned about kantha from her. While she collected cottons and handlooms, my grandmother frowned on "what's so special about this". Well, I am glad to have the mother I do and to have imbibed some of her love for our traditional Indian textiles.
So when I stumbled upon MORA I thought I had found a kindred spirit. Someone who shares this love but takes it to another level. Someone who is willing to risk life and limb to revive some of these lost traditions.
Last year, I had missed out on the buying process. But this year I had some strange resolve. While I may well have spent the money on a Sabyasachi or a Masaba creation, I felt this somehow was more justified. More unique, more beneficial to someone in a forgotten corner or our vast and beautiful nation.

I jumped on the MORA bandwagon on impulse. For a change, my mom discouraged my purchase "when will you wear this? I suggest you simply admire and stay amazed". It was too late of course, I had already paid. And then I wondered about buyers remorse. Did I spend too much? Is cotton really worth SO much money? Well, this is not just cotton, it's not just a saree, it's not just a weave...it is much more. And I can't put words around it. I guess you could think of it like buying art, I told myself. And to me, this is love. And I can't really put a price on love. I love these and so the price is secondary.
What's more the husband thought this could be my birthday gift. And so really, a birthday gift no matter how small or big is priceless.

And when you know that there is one of this kind. There are no replicas, there is no production line somewhere mass producing these weaves, you can assign whatever premium you want to it!

The wait was excruciating but so worth it! To those who might have been skeptical and critical about Mora's process, well let me tell you - it was madness, but I still managed to get exactly what I paid for. So somewhere, there is a method in their madness.
I got my package yesterday, carefully wrapped by someone who takes pride in what they do. And now it is up to me to preserve and protect. I hope to someday pass these heirlooms to my daughter, let's just hope she appreciates them as much as I do. And let's hope that MORA lives on, for the love of weaves and that these weaves live on and continue to tell tales of love!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Molly Coddle

The other day we were at a park unexpectedly (we had to drop something off for a friend and the friend happened to be at a park). Anyhow because a park was not part of the plan, A was wearing flip-flops. And when she said she wanted to play I said “wait wait, we should change your shoes. You might trip in your flip flops or hurt your feet”.
I know I am a protective mother but now I wonder if I am becoming a little too protective. The kid is 3 now, (going on 13 but that’s another post) and she can very well figure what is comfortable and what’s not. And this coming from a person who likely spent her entire childhood wearing flip-flops and doing all kinds of things.
Eventually, we did get her to wear sandals but 3 minutes later, she had taken the sandals off!
Lesson learned, next time, she could play barefoot for all I care. Yes she might get a splinter which would give me a lot of grief because she won’t let us take it out and cry a bunch but hey! She’s a child…I ought to let her be one and not try to keep her so safe that she fails to develop mechanisms to cope with simple scrapes and bumps when they do happen!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The truth about boys and girls

I am a parent to a girl and don’t claim to be an expert. But I do observe along the way and for what it’s worth I believe most children are similar, regardless of gender.
There’s the age old nature versus nurture thing at play, all over the world. Blue is for boys, pink is for girls. When I learned I was going to have a daughter, it was both a relief and a sense of sadness at the same time. Relief because I somehow knew what to expect. And sad, not because I am worse off from being the mother of a daughter, but sad because we live in a man’s world and I want to say, raising a girl child is a little bit scarier than raising a boy.

Anyway, I digress. I still believe that at least in the initial years, most children are alike. They need nourishment, intellectual stimulation, lots of playing and lots of love and attention (not in any particular order). People will often make broad statements like, girls are generally more mature, girls are whinier, girls are more this or more that…and always the people making those statements are parents of boys. Its one thing if you have a comparison. Say you are the parent of a boy and a girl and you notice differences. Better still, if you had a twin boy and girl. Then you could really compare milestones and behavior at various points in time. But even so, no two boys are alike and no two girls are alike, so differences are bound to surface. And I admit, men and women, boys and girls are made differently and we are different but you don’t have to make it a gender stereotype to describe those differences. Like “boys want to play more physically, versus girls are happier playing with dolls”
The worst thing I ever heard from a woman was “I’m afraid if my son hangs out with girls all the time he will become like them” Excuse me? What age do you live in??

I don’t hear women saying “my daughter is constantly with boys and I am afraid she will become like them”. The word tomboy exists and is used all the freaking time. But there’s no female equivalent for a boy. In fact, it’s looked down upon and may be the word pansy or sissy or some other homophobic term is used. Why?
And often, it’s the mothers making claims like this. Hello, your child spends an inordinate amount of time around women. At home, at school, women are primary caregivers unless you hire a male nanny or have a SAHD. Are you afraid he will become like them?? Then why make that claim for a girl child for Pete’s sake?

That brings me to gender stereotypes. I don’t remember growing up to be fond of dolls or fairies. Yes, I wanted a Barbie but more because all my friends had one and it was the in thing to have. Pink has never been my favorite color. It’s always been Red or Black, may be even Blue. I remember most of my childhood was spent playing games with boys and girls and often both boys and girls. Heck I climbed trees, rode a bike effortlessly and could give any boy a run for his money. And I distinctly remember, I caught “out” one of the better cricket players in the complex and was practically a hero for it. “Ladki ne catch pakda”
My wardrobe had an equal number of skirts, dresses and shorts. And I was likely the first girl in the apartment complex to wear jeans. No, not bragging rights but that tells you about my upbringing. I was raised like I suspect any boy was. Yes after a certain age my mom frowned that I was playing with boys but more because she feared the repercussions. Indian society is notorious for its gender discriminatory ways. And usually the middle class is where this will be most apparent. However, I didn’t consider myself different in terms of capability. Just different in terms of will. And I don’t know if any of the boys I grew up with saw themselves differently either. We were all friends. Sometimes we played the same games, sometimes we played other games.
I can easily claim, most of my better friendships have been with boys. Because the biggest thing that irritates me about women is that we are enemies of our own kind. It’s less hassle being a boy’s friend than a girls’ – I am ashamed to admit! Again, I am so full of angst that it makes me go on all sorts of tangents. But the point is, I have been around boys who played with girls, who built lasting relationships with them and who even respected them. And who didn’t become like them, but somewhere along the way they probably learnt the important lesson of treating girls like their equals.

The bigger challenge is when we try to segregate children based on gender. Enroll them in segregated activities because of their gender. That irks me.
At such a young age, we are indoctrinating them. You are different. You are a boy, you do “boy like” activities. Hanging out with girls is boring, they whine and cry and play with dolls and play dress up all day long. Well, I haven’t met a boy who didn’t want to dress up as spiderman or superman or even a fireman. I haven’t met a boy who didn’t tattle. I haven’t met a boy who didn’t use his imagination every now and then and I haven’t met a boy that didn’t cry. So really, are children that different? Other than weight scales, early childhood milestones are gender ignorant.
For example, by 18 months, most children should be walking. It does not say “your son should walk at 1 year, daughters can walk at 14” etc.
It is up to us, the mothers of boys to raise them well and to raise them with the bone of gender equality. It starts at the grassroots and God forbid you might be that woman who will later cry about gender inequality at work or at home and that’s just going to get me really pissed off! It’s because of the things that people do, really subtle things that have been done that way for centuries that it’s so unbelievably difficult to get it out of their brains.   
A just got her hair cut to a crop. And she did it happily. Because daddy was also getting a haircut!  Literally, they are now uniformly 1 inch long from her scalp. Had it not been for her pierced years (and her love of pink and purple and penchant for multiple shoes) she might be mistaken for a boy. In fact, even with her curls people constantly addressed her as “buddy”, “fella” or some other term for a little boy. To me, I know no other way. Tomboy or Tomgirl, this is how my daughter is. She has a little bit of her dad and a little bit of me in her. I want her to try everything fearlessly, without being discriminated against and then pick what she likes. So if she ultimately wants dolls, ok. But at least she got exposed to the cars and trucks and trains.
She often comes home and says, “Mommy, sometimes girls can wear blue”. Yes of course they can. Anyone can wear any color they like.

Children are trying to make sense of this complex world in their most formative and tender years. They are trying to understand differences but it is our job to guide them in an unbiased fashion, not to make the differences more pronounced. More importantly it is our responsibility to not cloud their thoughts with our misguided fears, if we truly ever expect for future generations to improve upon the shortcomings of prior generations.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fountain Pen memories

If you grew up in India in the 80s and the 90s and went to a fairly conservative school, chances are you grew up using pencils until 4th grade followed by fountain or ink pens between 5th and 10th grade.
Ball point pens were discouraged and often confiscated because they claimed that your handwriting would be ruined if you wrote with those. The only exception was in the 10th grade, when you took your board exams and you didn’t some absent minded examiner to spill tea over your answer sheet and smudge all your answers into oblivion!
It was a rite of passage and you somehow felt all grown up when using one of those.
Stained hands were no bar to filling your pens every other morning so you didn’t run out of ink in class. I still remember the smell of the ink. Camlin was the company that made ink in India, they probably still exist.
We have obviously used many a pen in our lifetimes, but the fountain pens definitely are worth writing about. Despite the pilot pens out there that were really popular, they couldn’t beat the old world charm and romance that a fountain pen elicits. I think my school might have been the only on enforcing this whole fountain pen theme. My friends from other schools were allowed to write with any pen of choice. Which made us jealous at the time, but I don’t see myself writing about a ball pen as I do writing about a fountain pen!!
I had two fountain pens or may be even three. The first one was a hand me down from my sister. Which I think got lost or the nib broke. One was a hand me down from my uncle (which I don’t think he wanted to pass on to me but my grand mom did) :-0
I remember taking very good care of them. Sometimes after a lot of writing they would get gunky. And so I would sit down with a mug full of water and try to clean them out. Polish them with a lint free cloth, shake all the water off and then refill with Camlin ink.
Both of those were Hero pens. We called them China Pens and I believe that might have well been the very first imports from China J
At some point I remember we had received Parker vector pens as gifts from USA. Well, the problem with those was that they came with a cartridge which had to be snapped into place. Which was just fine, but then what happens when the ink runs out and you don’t exactly have a way to find cartridges made in the US easily? You become inventive.
We used ink droppers, to fill ink into pens that had a vestibule and then you’d screw the nib assembly on top. So I thought, I can slide the cartridge out, refill it with the dropper, right? Wrong! The dropper was wider than the mouth of the cartridge and I couldn’t get the tip of the dropper to get in enough to avoid making a mess. So I decided to shave off a part of the dropper, to make it slimmer. Didn’t really work! Then I found a syringe, no needle, just an unused syringe. That did the trick. The Parker pen wrote great and every time I had to refill, I’d use my little syringe kept specifically for that purpose. I did have to tilt it ever so slightly to let the air out while filling the ink into the thin plastic cylinder!
My Hero pens however, had a little squeezable compartment. That sucked in ink from the pot like a dropper! So clever! But often I think we ended up using the wrong ink, and invariably a lot of pens used to leak (or from shaking in a pencil box). I also remember having a Camlin pen, which was much like a Hero pen but had some strange twist contraption to fill ink.
I loved how the older a china pen got, the smoother it wrote and I could write faster with a fountain pen with more ease and less stress to the hands than a ball point pen!Old China pens provided the comfort that one could liken with an old worn t shirt that is super soft or old sheets that make you lay down forever!
Needless to say, I have fond memories of my fountain pens and how obsessive I was about looking after them. It’s sad though, that I don’t know where they are. And I suddenly thought of them when I found a note book with some memoirs in them. I also had the strange habit of writing backwards. Right to left in a notebook as opposed to left to right. And just out of curiosity I figured I’d see if Amazon sold Hero pens and to my pleasant surprise, they do! I know, what does amazon NOT sell?!

I guess I always had a penchant for writing strange memoirs except now I do it digitally without having to collect notebooks and filling ‘China’ pens with ink!