BLOGGING SPREE – THE CONCLUSION

Wow! Never thought I would be able to sail through this, but here I am with a breezer in my hand to commemorate the completion of my challenge.

This past one week has been so stressful with my son falling sick and needing me for most of the day, leaving me little time to read and write. So I had to wait till he hit the hay, after which I pull out my laptop and try to come up with something to type as I wrestle hard with the sandman, to stay awake.

I love sleep. I can’t say more than books but probably in equal measure. Imagine what one-week of sleepless nights would do to me! I’m a zombie right now.

Okay, so this blogging spree has taught me something vital—that I am capable of writing under pressure. The reason I took a “baby break” was perhaps I just hadn’t tried enough. (Oh, who am I kidding, there’s absolutely no way I could have written a word with a squealing baby demanding to be attached to me throughout the day!)

Alright, so since we can’t turn back the hands of time, (and since probably nothing other than a newborn and my stay at the village could jeopardize my future blogging activity) I’m just gonna put my past non-performances behind me. I’m going to try to keep the streak in me alive. And hence, I can say with conviction that this is not going to be my last blogging spree. I eagerly look forward to doing another one.

I thank my readers for encouraging my posts. It means a lot. See you next week!

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THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE – 3

“You are the sun, Grandma, you are the sun in my life.” – Kitty Tsui

  1. Ammamma – Maternal grandmother

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Is there anything more soothing than the warmth of grandma’s touch?

Is there anything sweeter than the fresh, hot jalebis rustled up by granny’s quick, magical mitts?

Is there anything more comforting than nestling against grandma’s chest, breathing in her grassy fragrance as she relates several anecdotes from her younger days?

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is divine. The amount of happiness a person feels when holding their baby’s baby is truly insurmountable. (That explains all the mollycoddling my little one is being subjected to.)

My eyes water whenever I see my baby playing with his Ammamma. I become nostalgic and go back to the days when I used to tail my grandma like a loyal puppy, never leaving her side even for a minute.

Her unwavering love towards me compelled her to perform tasks that people her age won’t even consider doing.

She used to bathe my baby, which was quite a feat when done in a ritualistic way, as is the norm in India. With legs outstretched and baby placed on the shins, she had to be quite tensile to massage his limbs and then scrub his body with the bath powder. While women her age struggle to even walk properly, there she was all sprightly and enthusiastic to give her great-grandson a strong, traditional bath.

My mom later revealed to me that Grandma did workouts and stretches a few months prior to my delivery, in order to ready her limbs for the rigorous endeavor that lay ahead.

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She was in charge of my postpartum diet too—cooking and also making sure that I ate every morsel of it.

There are so many fond memories attached to my grandma that right now, as I think of her, I can feel her soft caress across my hair, which usually sends me tumbling into a powerful zizz. Now, I just lose my sleep over the longing.

Oh we have our share of disagreements too just in case you’re wondering. Not everything is hunky-dory. My grandmother and I had the biggest fights and fought the greatest battles over—wait for it—a game of ludo.

Firstly, kudos to her for taking ludo so seriously that she wouldn’t think twice before locking horns with us when she’s losing and even accuse us of cheating.

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I’m sure even an Olympic champ wouldn’t go through such anguish when he/she loses in a sport. But my grandma, oh man, she goes totally crackers and to avoid that incidence my mom would sometimes lose willingly. Given my obstinacy though, I feel more determined to defeat my grandma and watch her squirm rather than give her the satisfaction of winning. Throughout the game, I would keep goading her because it’s just fun to irritate a person who gets so touchy about a game of ludo.

Our arguments and quarrels were never serious and in the end, it would always be my grandma’s arms that I would reach out to.

When I was a child, my grandparents didn’t have a telephone yet. Whenever I had a complaint about my mom, I would write a long letter filled with cavils about her daughter and send it through my uncle who went there once a week. She never shrugged them off as childish acts and always gave an earful to my mom for the “harassment” she was subjecting me to.

Grandparents, I believe, are the only people in the world, who would regard our petty first world problems as something of dire importance.

Cherish them for no one can pamper us the way they do. Not even our parents.

THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE – 2

“In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips.”

—Anonymous 

  1. Chelli – Younger sister

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What can I say about this crazy, crazy girl? Except that she’s the craziest sister in the world.

Her boundless madness drove her to sacrifice what she loves the most—sleep.

She vehemently discarded my mom’s offers of taking over the night shift with the baby because apparently, only she has the primary right to sleep next to her nephew. Only she has the right to kiss and cuddle him. She wouldn’t even let me touch him except while nursing and even then, she would stare at him longingly, desperately waiting for the session to end so that she can snatch him away from me.

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That’s his mad aunt—my sister—my precious skin and blister.

Without her, my postpartum journey wouldn’t have been so smooth. Given that my little one was a slow eater, I used to feel quite fretful, sitting alone with the baby positioned on my lap, for several hours in a day. My smart little sister came to my rescue with a smartphone in her hands.

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I never felt as elated as I had, on that day, when I saw the phone in her hands. Well, you must be thinking that we passed the hours watching something useful—parenting tutorials, lactation cookie recipes, online baby shopping, ideas for baby photo-shoot . . . Nope. We opened YouTube and typed out “flop movies of 2018” and settled down to watch the first one on the list.

Yeah, we are capable of such absurdity and beyond.

Can you believe that we actually ended up watching every idiotic film on the list and went on to search for the ones from previous years? When we found any of the movies to be even remotely interesting or non-vacuous, we would move on to another one.

The takeaway though—a great deal of laughs as we pass comments on the comical performances of the amateur actors, and practically barf at the brain-dead plotlines of the movies. So there was this movie in which the hero fights about a hundred thugs with a banana and brings back the heroine from the dead just by caterwauling her name at the top of his lungs.

Please don’t judge us. We are not sick.

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Anyway, moving on, during the initial days, I refrained from using diapers for fear of the abominable rashes. We resorted to cloth nappies instead. Hence began the cycle of changing nappies at least six times in the middle of the night (and it was winter too. So more pee! Bonus!).

My sister took it upon herself and patiently woke up multiple times at night to change the baby’s napkins and rock him back to sleep.

As a result, the boy developed a habit of getting back to sleep only in my sister’s arms, an achievement she’s so proud of.

Despite the sleepless nights, she used to wake up early in the morning to oversee her nephew’s bath and later mollify him as he bawled after the ablution.

She used to burp him, get peed on, puked on . . . (thankfully not pooped on) yet nothing could keep her away from my baby.

Now, it’s been a year since she had seen him. Still, his eyes light up at the sight of his aunt over the video call. And her eyes mist over with a longing that probably only time can fill.

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We will see you soon, little sister. Like I promised, he would come running into your arms, shouting, “Pinniiiii (aunt)” the moment he sees you. That’s a mere bagatelle when compared to what you’ve done for us.

Thank you. And love you. More than anything, I miss you.

THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE – 1

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick

And there are three women in my life to whom I would like to express my gratitude through a series of blog posts because I believe nothing has got greater power than words.

  1. Amma – Mother

 

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So, when I held my baby for the first time in my arms, along with superlative love towards the tiny human nestled in the crook of my elbow like it’s the cushiest place on earth, I also felt overwhelming adulation towards my mother. The realization that she had to go through the same degree of pain, if not more (since epidurals were unheard of back then), to bring us into this world, moved me to tears.

In the whole wide world, she’s the only person who thinks I’m gorgeous even while wearing oil-stained pajamas, who says my hair looks amazing even if it’s a clumpy mess, who advises me to work out not because I look like a potato but because I need to build my immunity and resistance.

Post-baby, she toiled to juggle my sister’s wedding preparations with taking care of her feeble daughter and her newborn. But never did her smile wane from her face and never did she show the mounting pressure. She took my mean jibes (a result of extreme sleep deprivation and baby blues, I guess, because I’m not mean) in her stride; put all her work aside when it was mealtime and used to feed me with her hands as I fed my baby because I barely used to get time to eat.

Even as I’m writing this, she’s busy making a snack for us. She never utilizes the free time for herself and is constantly on the move.

How can I ever repay you, Amma?

She expects nothing in return but an acknowledgment of her hard work. Probably a word or two about how delicious the meal is, how neat the house is, what a great idea it was to line up the refrigerator shelves with unused dining mats instead of unnecessarily spending money on shelf liners.

Thank you so much for whatever you do, Amma. Now, it’s time to slow down and relax. You need to call it a day and receive services from us instead.

We love you more than anything in this universe. It’s time for us to demonstrate that.

 

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YARDSTICK OF SUCCESS

The other day, I was fantasizing about my son’s first day of school. How he would probably be the one to console me as I prepare myself to be detached from him for more than two hours. How my dad would leave him at the school gates, watching him walk in sheepishly. How he would win over his teachers with his charm and intellect.

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My mind rewound itself to twenty (plus) years ago and all my school struggles flashed in my mind like a feature film.

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Back then, in our school, we had five sections for each class—‘A’ being the billet for the exemplary while ‘E’ was the dwelling place for the substandard. As if we were consumer products being categorized based on our competence.

As if the stratification was not demoralizing enough, they made sure to make it evident during the morning assembly as well by making the topper of the class stand in front of the class line and lead it. What could be the rationale behind it? Was it to encourage the meritorious to keep up the good work or to belittle the average students by compelling them to follow the commands of a student whose success was being measured by a rank purely based on their performance in a class exam—I mean, who cares about leadership skills, communication and positivity? Ranks are all that matter. It could be possible that the twelfth ranker is a future frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize, but who cares?

Okay, it’s certainly not possible for the school authorities to comb for the next prospective world leader to choose as a class leader but they can surely use worthy factors when appointing a student to lead a class of sixty students. That would knock out the barriers between the students and motivate each of them to focus on the quality of their education rather than the mere arithmetic gauges of success.

I still remember how distraught I used to feel when I see the double-digit number on my report card despite scoring distinction (80% and above). It crushed my spirits when I was shifted to another section based on my class rank.

If caste bias is worse, then what do you call this?

Imagine being in the last section (E) and getting condescending looks from the prior sections as if they are Oxford University graduates?

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Thankfully, the school realized its mistake and abolished the “section system”. They merged the whole class and filled the sections with a mix of each—excellent, average and poor.

The excellent was forced to mingle with the “inferior” (as they perceive) ones. And the system was to blame more than the students for this display of arrogance.

They have polluted their minds by treating them like royalty and ingraining this vain attitude right from the beginning.

Let me relate an unforgettable incident.

When the sections were merged, the teacher of the class was systematically assigning seats to the students by placing at least one bright student in each bench so that he/she would help out the so-so ones.

One girl who ranked first in every test and exam was allocated a seat beside two poor students. At once, she cried out saying, ‘No way, ma’am! I’m not sitting between those two!’

‘Ma’am, she’s the class topper. How can you make her sit between them?’ another girl, probably her groupie, protested.

‘You guys need to help out each other. That’s the whole purpose of this seating arrangement,’ the teacher explained.

‘Please, ma’am, no,’ the girl looked close to tears. As though she was being coerced to sit in a mud pool with two pigs.

‘Not a word! Go, take your seat,’ the teacher ordered.

She stomped off with her backpack on tow and sat between the mortified girls, sulking.

Schools are supposed to imbibe moral values like humility, integrity, honesty, etc. in children. But what they in turn did was to shape the students, especially the bright ones, into snobs who view everyone else below their standards as trash.

At least now, the education system has been tweaked to do away with many forms of discrimination and focus on moulding the kids into virtuous citizens. I’m grateful to God that my son wouldn’t have to deal with the kind of pressure I used to be under when the ranking system was effective.

I’m going to close this with one of my favourite quotes.

Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way – Barbara Bush.

 

WHEN MY CHILD GOT SICK . . .

A few months ago, when my child got sick for the first time, I was so disappointed that I couldn’t help but blame myself for not looking after my baby well. Is it an instinctive thing?

I’m so pedantic when it comes to anything related to my little one, yet he manages to catch an ailment. Why?

Because it’s all part of growing up.

Certainly, I’m not beatific when I see my child sneeze at the rate of 5 achoos per minute but if it helps him in developing resistance against the wretched virus then I must take it in my stride, right? All I must do is to ensure that he would stay as active and as hygienic as possible both of which are crucial for the developing body.

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When we were kids, my dad used to literally shove us onto the walking track early in the morning. There wasn’t a single day we did it with consent. And there wasn’t a single day we did it without a protest. My sister and I would bleat on about my dad throughout the trail for unreasonably forcing us to exercise, and my mom for supporting whatever my dad does like a dutiful wife that she is. We found immense satisfaction in doing this. It used to calm us down during the helpless situation and made the ordeal bearable.

But now we realize the importance of what he had done. The impact it created—both physical and psychological—on our future selves. All that disciplining has made us so aware of the significance of an active lifestyle that today we anticipate it.

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Although I rarely get time to hit the gym these days, I try to squeeze in some form of exercise. It need not have to be pilates or yoga. It could be a game of hide and seek with my toddler wherein I tread the house on my knees or a trip to the grocery shop which is a fifteen-minute walk when taken the long route. Anything to keep my body moving. (But no vacuuming, please. I’m too lazy for that shit)

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Now, I’m going to pass the sacrosanct lifestyle my dad imparted on us to my child. I can put up with his momentary disappointment and anger if that means the wealth of rude health.

It’s truly heartbreaking to watch my baby struggle to eat and sleep while suffering from a bout of sickness. But it also strengthens my resolve to take all the steps needed to instill better habits and a healthy lifestyle for my son.

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What used to be a punishment during our childhood has become a necessity and a way of living for us now. Would it have been possible if my dad had taken pity and let us sleep for just one more hour?

Only when you become a parent, will you understand the motive behind every unfair act of your parents’.

“WILD”

I have recently finished reading this book called “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and it stirred up the adventurer in me, compelling me to ponder my chances of going on a long-distance hike (say 2000-something miles) in the near future.

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Well, there are none.

Because neither am I physically equipped to achieve a feat like that nor am I brave enough to face the challenges that are sure to be encountered on the way. Who knows? I might not even live to tell the tale (and consequently write my own memoir).

Whenever I came across an obstacle that the protagonist in the book was forced to face, I’d be so sure that this is the end. The creepy guy in the woods would torture her to death and this would turn out to be a thriller novel rather than a memoir. The fox that seemed to have spared her life momentarily only to come back later with its gang and have a feast with her flesh. The shoe bite that would eventually lead to sepsis.

Ugh, my mind is so good at making up horrid stuff.

Anyway, I needed to remind the fidgety me that nothing bad was going to happen given that the book was a memoir written by a woman who finished the trail.

So basically for someone who is as frantic and faint-hearted as me, hiking long distances is as impossible as my baby sleeping through the night. I mean I couldn’t even climb the steps to reach a water slide at a water park without panting like a dog.

As far as the book is concerned, it’s an inspirational read on how to not mess up your life. The heroine breaks her perfectly fine marriage, gets involved in drugs, practically shags the whole town and then finally takes up this hiking thing in order to be with herself following the untimely death of her mother, which tears her apart.

If musing is my goal then I would lock myself in the closet rather than buckle down to hike alone for more than three months with a mammoth backpack and ill-fitting shoes. I don’t even hang on to my handbag for more than a few minutes even while shopping.

I truly admire the writer for never giving up in spite of near-death experiences and hair-raising incidents during the hike.

Which is exactly what we all need to be doing in our lives. Carry on despite numerous hurdles, with nerves of steel because, hey, life is a treacherous hike too.

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BLOGGING SPREE – THE BEGINNING

I must be really gutsy to be trying this now, with a walking annihilator waiting for the perfect opportunity to toss my laptop out of the window. Or pound it with my new smartphone he can’t wait to get his hands on—two birds one stone.

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Looks can be deceiving (not as innocent as he seems to be). 

But, hey, here I am! The brave, lion-hearted adventurer who takes up such daredevil stunts in order to test her perseverance. And also daftness.

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Jokes apart, I’m just trying to make it up to all the lost time during my hibernation and get myself back in gear. I started reading again which I hadn’t gotten the time to do all these days.

It was an ordinary day like any other. I was going about my chores—doing dishes, cooking baby food, cooking parent food, doing baby laundry, doing parent laundry, diaper changes, vacuuming, mopping, etc. Then it struck me, precisely while I was scrubbing the hardened grub out of the milk pot, that I haven’t read a book in a while. Then it occurred to me that I haven’t written a word in a long long while, which is just tragic. All of a sudden, I started weeping.

What am I doing with my life? Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my existence? Is this what I have dreamed about ever since I knew I could dream? My kid is my priority but shouldn’t I be at least in the top ten of my priority list?

Everything I do is my choice. But now and then, I just need a reminder. A little notification that says, “Don’t lose yourself”.

And that’s one of the reasons why I have taken up this challenge. Starting from today, I’m going to write a new post every day for a week. So eight posts in total.  I’m going to conclude my blogging spree with the last post on next Thursday.

Umm, as much as it sounds like a movie title—Baahubali-the beginning—the follow-up might not be as grandiose. But I promise to keep it interesting.

Time for a major brainstorm session.

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POSTPARTUM JOURNEY

Let me just be honest and say that the road to my postpartum journey was paved with hunger. It was my constant companion while sleep became a distant dream (I’m still waiting for my uninterrupted eight hours).

In India, women are put on strict diet post-childbirth in order to promote healing and boost breastmilk production. They are supposed to eat highly nutritious (but utterly unpalatable food) so as to provide enough nourishment for their debilitated bodies.

Previously, I used to scoff at people who would compromise on the diet which lasts about a minimum of three months but can extend up to six months depending on the mother’s endurance.

When my time arrived though, I was repulsed at how weak my moxie was for I lost heart while I was barely two weeks into the diet.

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Let me set the scene. My mom and I were discussing the significance of the postpartum diet and the role it plays in fast recovery.

“I don’t know how people just come off diet before the stipulated time. I mean can’t they curb their cravings for three months for the sake of their own health and the baby’s? As for me, I’ll do it for six months because nothing is more important than health,” I took a vehement vow.

Four months later . . .

In the car, while returning from the hospital after a postnatal checkup . . .

“Nope. I can’t do this,” I said as I smacked my lips at the painful sight of my favourite biryani center. “I can’t live off turmeric, ginger, and ghee. Milk rice for god’s sake! I’m not a puppy!” I said, my eyes red and bleary with sleep deprivation and food hardships.

“What? Do you remember the pledge you took exactly four months ago? You’re just 15 days into the diet and you’re already sick of it? There are still five and a half months to go.”

“Do I look like a fool to you? Five and a half months?! I would barely last a week!” I remonstrated with her.

“Why are you getting aggressive with me? It’s for the sake of your . . .”

“Don’t play the baby card with me, Mom! Just don’t!” I barked at her.

I did manage to follow the freaking diet for freaking two months although in the third month I had a ball at my sister’s wedding.

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I have finally put an end to my food miseries.

And I just hope that one day, my sleep woes would eventually come to an end too. Perhaps when my little munchkin goes off to graduate school?

COMMA

Motherhood should be a comma rather than a full stop.

Seriously, guys, I really didn’t mean to run away. I remember all my promises of updating weekly, biweekly, etc., etc. but because of extenuating circumstances, I had to go into hibernation. Let me tell you what those circumstances are.

Only two things can propel me to break a virtual promise.

  1. Bad wi-fi connection
  2. Bad hangover

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Neither of which lasts for more than a week let alone more than a year.

So what did?

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Yes, this little troublemaker trotting like a supremo.

So, yes. Motherhood. That’s what stopped me from keeping my promises.

That’s what forced me to take a nearly two-year-long break from blogging.

When I held the tiny tot for the first time in my arms exactly fourteen months ago, I basically felt nothing. I simply wanted to devour the pancakes my grandma so lovingly made that morning before I went into labour, and go to sleep. (I hadn’t the slightest idea that both would become a distant dream for months to come.)

But later, when they brought him back to me after dressing him up and swathing him in a warm, plush blanket; as he lay in the cradle beside my bed, barely moving, eyes closed, cheeks bulged out and pink, legs curled up to his stomach—he became the world to me. At that moment, I became a tigress who safeguards her cubs against all external forces no matter what.

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Almost similar was my sister’s reaction, who camped up beside the cradle not removing her gaze from the baby even for a second. She refused to budge from the spot irrespective of the guests who vied to catch a glimpse of the baby.

My mother-in-law said that the little one looks just like me—mini-me.

My dad said that he got his stature (the doc was really surprised at how tall the baby turned out to be).

My mom said that he’s got my nose—perfectly pointed.

My husband envied that his son looks more like me than him.

My sister simply gawked at him with googly eyes. She forgot that I even existed.

What followed the birth was a series of events that tested my endurance mentally and physically. My devotion towards my baby vs. handling weddings (hello, wedding season! You chose just the right time to screw me up).

It was like a test for me. Would I emerge a winner or loser? 

I think I became a little of both. I won as a mother but lost so much in the journey – my patience, sanity, temper . . .

A new mother, especially a breastfeeding mother had to go through so many hormonal imbalances—I mean she just went through the toughest battle. She had to literally tear her body to bring another human into the world. Yes, every woman does it. But no, not every woman’s journey is the same. We are not robots. We are individuals and we have our own individual conflicts. We can’t compare ourselves with everyone else in the world.

Imagine you are suffering from fever and I say “It’s okay, honey, don’t worry. People out there are suffering from cancer.” Isn’t that cruel?

Whatever I did for my baby, I did it with full conviction. Sleepless nights, profound hunger pangs, feeding marathons, growth spurts, multiple infections, excruciating pain, bleeding episodes—but nothing deterred me from providing my child with the liquid gold.

I was bombarded with bad advice—just give him formula, you don’t have enough which is why he spends so much time latched on, we did it with our kids so you must do too, don’t behave like a know-it-all . . .

I have had people trying to convince me that I had to introduce formula or cow milk in order to get them “used” so that they won’t reject it when I run out of breastmilk eventually.

It’s laughable really. The sheer ludicrousness of the logic.

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Anyway, I’m so proud and happy that I didn’t let my guard down even for a second. I still fantasize about eight hours of sleep but nothing is worth more than my little bundle of joy.

He made me stronger and tougher, calmer and cooler . . . not to mention fatter and sloppier.

All the mums out there, you are doing an incredible job. Don’t let ANYONE make you think otherwise.

I would also like to say that you don’t have to sacrifice and dedicate your whole life to be a good parent. Find time for yourself. Do your thing. Pursue your hobbies, go hit the gym, take swimming classes, start sketching . . . start doing what you used to do once you get back to form. Don’t let motherhood pull you down. Don’t lose yourself in this journey.

Motherhood should be a comma rather than a full stop.

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Until next week!