Saturday, April 13, 2019

I will let someone else talk

And that someone else is little Chiyaa. Who is technically not so little any more.
So we went on a holiday and once we were back, she wrote post cards for her class teacher ( I know postcards don't work like that, but I did not want to correct her yet. I was  keen to see what she was upto. Yes I felt a bit like Kristoff who does not tell Olaf what summer could do to him in the movie Frozen.)

She writes ' On Wednesday I went to Portugal. First, when we left the airport, we got a taxi. Me and my family went to 'Pizzi Hut' for dinner. I still had ear ache from the landing of the plane. Next, we went to our room where we were staying. After that my sister and I started playing with our toys. My dad did things on his phone and my mum started doing chores. The next day we went to a majestic tower that has lost its importance. It was called Belem Tower. We went to the prison. One night later, we went on a 'tram. It was bumpy and I was tired from the walking. Yesterday we went to Sintra to see the amazing palace and Castle. There were bee s but they didn't sting me.'

She wrote about her next two days as follows: ' On Saturday  we went to Rue de Augusta Arch. One of the people on arch was Vasco da Gama. On top of the arch I could see the core. There was also a gigantic castle. It was the highest thing I could see. Underneath there was a lady pretending to be a statue wearing a wedding dress. There were also two people doing the same thing. '

She also wrote up the words she had learnt.

I was very impressed with the way she had absorbed various facts. We had a very enjoyable time. It was our first vacation outside UK as a full family ( except our trips to India) The kids enjoyed every bit to the hilt. They used to walk close to 3 hours every day. They never moaned about the type of food. Rather they throve in the difference. We try to live like locals when we go on trips , shop like locals in supermarkets and use public transport as far as possible. We live far from the touristy places to just see normal life from close quarters. Part of the reason is that the non- touristy places are a bit less expensive. Also there are less chances to getting conned. Over zealous tour operators and tour agents are also conspicuous by their absence. Everyday after breakfast at the hotel, we used to take the local train to city centre from where we used to venture for the day. After the tour of the day we would make a trip to the nearby supermarket to get milk and some snacks for the kids. The kids thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. 

Back in the UK Chiyaa and I were reminiscing about the wonderful holiday, talking about the wide roads, the food, the majestic castle, the beautiful beach and everything in general. I cannot wait for another trip with the kids who are fast developing a personality of their own to appreciate and admire cities and cultures. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The other two

“Thank you for telling us about Button Bear, we will replace it here so please do not worry about it.
would you like to take Button Bear again?

I hope you have a lovely Evening”

My first reaction was “pagal hai kya fir se lungi wo bhalu?” (Am I crazy to take that bear again?)
But I professionally responded
“That is just so kind of you! We really appreciate it!
I think Shambhavi had her share of fun with Button Bear when he was with us. It would be fair to let the other children have a turn. :) 
Again we are very touched by your gesture. “

Phew! That was on bullet dodged.
Also now you see why I blog? If I kept saying what was on my mind, I would make the world an unhappier place ;)

No I have not forgotten about things 2 and 3. Lets get on with them. Monday morning Chiyaa woke up with a smile. Chiyaa can wake up in multifarious ways
  1. Howling Mummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyy
  2. Groggy
  3. Reluctant – Can I have a few more minutes of sleep
  4. Worried – Is it going to rain today? Is it PE (Physical Education) today?  Have you signed my book log? And so on..
  5. Hyper
  6. Mature – just gets on with what shes meant to do without any of us even telling.
  7. Happy
But last Monday was yet another way – with a smile. As I went to wake her up, she opened her eyes before I said anything and smiled. Then I asked her to come and brush her teeth. She said she wanted to come down first. I comb her hair downstairs.  I reached downstairs but she was nowhere to be seen. It is a small house, but then I went looking for her (On hindsight I shouldn’t have bothered. Not that she ran away to the streets). I felt she was in the bathroom and I opened the door. She was trying to brush her teeth. Her intention had been to surprise me. But when I opened the door, I ruined her surprise and (hehe she got a nasty surprise) . She was majorly upset and started crying. I am generally bit hurried in the morning. I started shouting back that she was being ridiculous. K came running and shouting at me. All the shouting woke Pumpki up.

Pumpki has 2 ways of getting up
  1. Happy – wassup guys types
  2. Grumpy – Go away I want to sleep.
Thank God she chose option 1 that day. All the shoutings later, we had a big group hug, lots of kisses and sorries and then I dashed out.

I felt bad about losing my cool so easily. It was all sorted eventually, but I ruined the smile Chiyaa had the first thing she woke up. Anyways that was one bad thing for the day.

I got my bus and was 2 stops away from my destination when K called. This did not augur well. I picked the phone and he asked in a very calm expectant way “Hey Mu, have you seen my car keys?” (He drops the kids and I pick them up and we need the car for that )
I was filled with a gazillion OMG, Oh no, and other unparliamentary words.
I knew the answer. Cos the answer came to me Bang! Like a thunderbolt. And I replied
“Its with me”. (Well before the said outing where we lost Button Bear, K had moved out with my car keys to open the car. Since Chiyaa was hovering around doing something which she felt was ultra important to do before stepping out (I don’t know what) I came with her a few minutes later. I picked up K’s keys to lock and put it in my pocket. I stayed there warm and cosy the entire weekend. Monday morn, when I saw my keys hanging on the key holder, I picked it without thinking much)
“What both the keys are with you? Yours and mine?”
“How, What, £$*”£$*  OK BYE”

I was shoot shoot shoot, too bad. It was 0818 and the Chiyaa needed to be in school at 0855. Taxis are highly unreliable in the mornings thanks to school and office runs. I was worried. I wanted to go back just for moral support. I called again. K picked “WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME ??? I CANT TALK TO YOU RIGHT NOW”.
I reached my bus stop and called him again
“ Did you get cab” I asked before he could say anything.
“I have booked Uber, but please don’t call. I cant talk to you”.
“Shall I come back?”
“Why? It will be of zero use”
I messaged him to send me a message once the drops were over.
0853 I got the message “Dropped in school, going to daycare now”

Phewwwwww!!! Chiyaa wasn’t late. The school is quite stern about being on time. Its not that an off incident is not pardoned. But if shes delayed Chiyaa gets very nervous. I have been with her once and she was literally having a panic attack when she thought she might be late. Anyways that was another horrible thing within a span of 1.5 hours!

I crossed my fingers through the rest of the day which was rather uneventful (Touchwood!) So that’s my happening weekend + 1 folks!

Monday, March 25, 2019

3 bad things

I am generally a very positive person. Touchwood. My manager does a spot quiz where she makes us tell 3 good things that happened over the last 24 hours. Like she literally jumps that question on you. So you need to be thinking all the time. It is not so hard for me, cos I can come up with 9 good things that happened over the last 24 hours.

But this time, the bad is a bit easier to say. Technically its not over the last 24 hours, more like its over the weekend covering Monday morning too. But some real bad, horrible things have happened.

Friday, Pumpki got Button Bear. Now for the back story. Her day care is called Little Buttons (Aww cute! I know :D ) They have a teddy bear called Button Bear, who is given home over a weekend and the child can take Button Bear for adventures (aka everywhere the child goes, the bear goes and this is the big adventure the bear has! ) I know I sound so cynical don't I. The child just chugs along, while the parent notes (or fabricates) experiences of the child and the bear. There is the option of supporting the adventure with pictures too. Very drawn out assignment. But I have no comments. Its how this country works! Chiyaa had some Twinkle Teddy I think! *rolls eyes* When K sees any of these creatures coming home, his language becomes very colourful. Anyways, so for Pumpki's "good behaviour" on Friday, she got the bear. She did not care so much, while we nudged her to play with it, and slowly she got the drift that she has to play with her. We took some customary pics too.

Saturday we went for lunch. Pupmki was happy posing with the bear for lunch. Then we made a trip to a supermarket. (By this time you might be aware of where this story is going ) The kids were going berserk. But then they were being kids. So we did some shopping. Chiyaa managed to break an entire pack of eggs! Boom! 12 eggs gone! Not one egg tried to put a brave shell and not shatter. Huh. The shop assistant came and calmly said "It's fine it was just an accident." And promptly asked for someone to clean it. Since no one saw, everyone assumed Pumpki was to be blamed for it "Was it you little one? Did you want to bake a cake you cheeky". We did not bother to correct. :| For shes still at an age "where she does not understand" many things. But Pumpki if you are 18 and want to sue us, here is some written proof.

Ok, so we went to the billing counter. Billed. Kids had some cookies to make them feel better, because they were a bit ill at ease after the egg-breaking episode. I asked, "Where is Button Bear". Chiyaa - the ever clever, observant one said "Oh we left it in the car". For a change K was correct when he said " No you girls were going crazy running around chasing each other. The bear was with Pumpki then". That's when the penny dropped.We searched. We spoke to customer services. No result. The store asked us to call in 3-4 hours in case it got handed over by some one. ( But we knew, we had lost it for good) Pumpki was crying her lungs out by this time. And got a good shouting (which ironically made her stop crying, so maybe it was a good thing)

Back home Chiyaa was the most impacted by the incident. She went on telling alternatives. She said one time, she thought she had lost something, but when she came back, it was back in her room. (Not the case this time) Then she said, what if someone from Little Buttons saw it and kept and returned it to the nursery on Monday. (Very optimistic, kudos to that, but again, a far stretch) Another alternative - what if we buy a new bear and give it back (I had already worked to that end and emailed the daycare. I even tried searching for an identical bear, but nothing matched the definition. I hope its not some custom made fancy bear which will take half of my March salary). We were happy that Pumpki was ok, since the teddy was meant for her. It was only next morning, when she woke up that she said, "Where is Button Bear", that we felt that she was not that unscathed either.

In one of the episodes of South Park called Follow That Egg, the kids in the class are paired and given an egg to take care of as if they were parents. I felt like we had broken our egg. I felt very incompetent that we had managed to lose something which maybe held sentimental value to many kids! K commented " Big adventure huh! There you just got lost!" Well, maybe I was jittery about being judged too. All the nursery staff know we are the parents who lost the bear!! 

Well, the only way to cope is to think that it was not a matter of life and death. 

That has been a long summation of bad thing number 1 ( I am not counting egg-breaking because technically I did not do it. Well I am responsible for actions of a minor child, but then, lets leave it at that). 2 and 3 in the next post maybe. :(

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Updates time

The last post was very solemn. The fallout from there on was grim as well. Every time I came upon my space to post something, I would see the last post and retreat.

I was hugely impacted by the state of events in India in February. I have always felt very strongly about defence and defence personnel. In fact I was very keen to join the army short service commission back in the day. But I spoke to a very distant relative of ours who was in the armed forces. He gave me a good reality check. He did not dissuade me, but gave an overview from an employment and employability perspective. I had my well meaning parents who also gently nudged me towards a more traditional career. But the dogfight in February made me think about it and I decided to start a signature campaign to get justice for a martyred soldier. I was skeptical about signature campaigns, and I read up a lot online. The verdict was still out there. I thought it was better to take steps and know rather than not know. I went ahead and raised a campaign. I got a slow trickle of signatures. The initial aim was to reach 100. As soon as there were 20 signatures, I received an email to make a contribution of £20 to get the campaign publicized. It would get more views and its chances of going through would be more. Now this seemed like a proper scam to me. I was not averse to paying the £20, but the whole raison d'ĂȘtre of such campaigns was being violated by asking for money. Wasn’t the whole purpose of such campaigns was to bring in such issues to the forefront about which people had a certain opinion about. Linking money to it, made it seem very trivial. There was also the very real threat of accounts being hacked. I would be putting my payment details into yet another site! And with the current spew of hacks, I was not so comfortable doing that. So in case you have thought of online signature campaigns, you know a bit more now.

While I was trying to make this impact (and failed), I was also motivated to make another change. Again historically I have been quite an environmentally aware person. I used to carry plastic bags with me as a teenager in India. I tried to continue as far as possible. In the western world it is quite easy to be flippant about nature since for the sake of convenience a lot of things are  disposable. I feel in that respect a lot of Indian values are far better. The way many street side foods are served in plates made of leaves, snacks are served in paper and in fact my sis and I were reminiscing that in Indian railways, the eggs used to be cut with thread and given. The Indian lifestyle is far more harmonious with the environment. Our wedding decorations are reused, we use so much bamboo and environment friendly artifacts. Any bad habits that are creeping in are more due to the mindless emulation of economically developed countries.  In the west, there is a manic obsession for plastic packaging. I was reading an article which questioned the rationale behind packaging something as transient as fruits in something as undegradable as plastic. The fruit rots away in days while the plastic remains for centuries. It is hard to eliminate plastic – they are all pervasive. As I was setting up our house last year, I tried to get stuff made of natural products like rubber, fiber or recycled plastic. I have also opted for cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda which can be bought in huge bulk and thus abstain from using a lot of bottles. I read up on making natural body scrubs and for the past 3 months have stuck to using a sugar scrub (sugar + olive oil /any oil of preference + few drops of essential oil for fragrance), thus avoiding the shower gels. It also helps me avoid the body lotions and the bottles there of. There are few other changes too, such as doing away with disposable wipes for cleaning surfaces. Last month after toddling with the idea for a long time, I went full throttle. I started using menstrual cups. I was completely cynical of them at one time, but then without dilly dallying I went full on in one month. And I would recommend to anyone who has been thinking about them. With my environment friendly ways, I feel better. I don’t feel like a hippie, but I can imagine how they might be feeling being so one with nature. It’s a good way to live though in all honesty it is time consuming. Everything natural takes time. Again in all this I think how much has the west got to learn from India. I remember how my mom used to apply turmeric and yogurt on our face, wash our hair with egg and yoghurt, the mandatory oil massage, the natural way of living. I just hope and wish we keep going back to them, because for the sake of convenience of a few minutes, we do end up doing a lot of damage to ourselves and to the world around us.

Speaking of the world around us, to anyone and everyone who likes to pick a book – I am recommending The Spellman Files!! It is an amaaaaaaaazing book! Please read it. It’s a book about a family of PIs (Personal Investigators). They are a quirky family and the way the book has been written is quite quirky as well. There are so many instances in the book that just make me chuckle aloud in the bus. It is a fantastic book. I see a few regular people who take the bus from my neighbourhood. And the book makes me want to find out more ;) (Recreational Investigation as book calls it! ) Don’t worry I am not going to go around following others, nor am I going to keep looking over my shoulder. But well, it’s a very interesting book and well worth a read. This is one book I will ensure my daughters read when they are ready. This along with Summertime by J M Coetzee. Thankfully both my girls like reading. I hope this is one habit they retain as they grow up. Because this is the only habit I have managed to retain. I think I am old enough to find TV boring!!

Well my old fingers have run out of strength to type any more. So till next time, be well :) 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

In the hope of peace

I had a lot of thoughts in my head. Lot of things to write about. But the news of the attacks on 14th February kept hovering. The attack made me feel sad, as if something heinous had happened in my backyard. What haunted me most are the images of the families. I couldn’t  help thinking of the lives lost. The men hailing from villages in India, mostly join the forces as a source of employment. They are posted in the most remote and inaccessible places by government order – waiting for the tiny thread of making it back to family. 44 of them will never make it back. Sitting in the convoy one minute and disintegrated the next. The families will never see their sons again. Any death leaves one with a sense of loss. There is a void which is hard to fill. My heart goes out to families of the martyed security personnel. 

I came to know of the attack via social media. Quite a lot is being expressed through these channels. I have been devouring a lot of articles, reports and analysis on the topic. One facet I have noticed via social media is that, the country seems to be riding on the backs of the recent movies Manikarnika and Uri. Both held Indian pride and Indian-ness at the forefront. I have not seen either of the movies, but I feel movies are as far from ground realities as possible. Something shot in a climate controlled studio in Mumbai is a far cry from the sub zero temperatures on a glacier. Referring to dialogues in movies as the solution, or a representation of what the armed forces think is a far cry from truth. There are videos of news being interlaced with dialogues by actor K K Menon who essays the role of an army officer are outright a ridiculous representation of the problem. The anger is understandable. But referring to something on screen as the right way is not something rational people should do.

Speaking of rationality there was a fair bit of misinformation as well. Strategically placed captions doing the rounds such as “the soldiers were going for holiday”, pictures of dogs wearing flags of Pakistan, that “terrorism has a religion” and a cry to abolish article 370 which seems to be the elusive solution. There is a video doing the rounds on social media where a Sardarji explains in great detail about the demerits of Article 370 and 35A. I am part of a whatsapp group by people from my college. When it was shared in the group, a local from Kashmir in the group said, “yes that would solve the problem to some extent, but there are deeper issues. It will not only take the abolition of an article in constituion to be resolved”. I then started seeing a lot of neutral reports. I do not think there is anything neutral in the world of media. But then, we have to go by the ones trying not to lean towards either side. I saw reports that confirmed there was a very strong anti India sentiment. India never did the referendum that was agreed in 1948. But if we go a step back, the then Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh did acede to India too in return of seeking India’s help in combating militants from Pakistan. The problem was left lingering in the British’s hurry to get out of the country.  The 1948 war did not resolve it and nor have the subsequent wars. It was never tackled properly by reign after reign of governments. The insurgency started with fuel in the form of men and material from Pakistan.  It has escalated over the decades and taken a different shape now where the youth from Kashmir are being radicalised. I pray it does not go to a time where both men and material are ingrown.

There have been all sorts of responses in the real world too. There was a protest organised in front of Pakistan High Commission by Indians in London.  I later saw a footage where a journalist (I think) was interviewing the protestors. He asked “ How do you justify army presence in Kashmir?” . To that my straight answer would have been “to protect the sovereignity of the country”. A nation cannot let militant outfits roam around without taking a combat position themselves. They are now walking on the streets of Kashmir, what is stopping them from moving on to Punjab or further south? He claimed he was from “India occupied Kashmir” and remarked “I do not see a single Kashmiri here, there are just Indians”. That made me wonder  do Kasmiris consider the part of Kashmir “with” India as “India Occupied Kashmir”? I read articles that stated that Kasmiris felt more affiliated to Pakistan or towards an independent nationlity. Leeds has a lot of Pakistani population. And many of the shops run by them have the name “Kashmir”. So does the average Kasmiri think he is not Indian? Then is it time that we heard that voice, and gave them what they are seeking? But this time with no strings attached. Not like the last instance when India went on to support the Maharaja in the hopes that he would acede to India. This time full independence with no strings attached, no help, no association. It seems like a simple solution. But it is tough to implement given the geo-dynamics. Pakistan does not have much to lose for it controls the sparsely populated, highly inaccessible one-third of the region. Though India might not be gaining a lot economically, the foundation of India holding on is that they would not want to set a precedent. Today it is Kashmir, tomorrow it could be any border state. It is natural for any nation or tribe to think like this. That is what is happening in the Brexit negotiations too. No one would be better off or worse off if its just Britain who leaves the European Union. But the EU does not want to set a precedent. Tomorrow it could be any nation asking to move out thus defeating the purpose of the organisation. The EU in all reality is a trivial issue – it’s a voluntary organisation. India’s problem is way more deep seated. As said by Sadhguru in a telecast, “it started very simply. It was a border dispute. And a nation is bound by borders. We have let a it linger for too long with a Line of Control.”
Coming back to the questions being raised by the person with the microphone in front of Pakistan High Commission, London, emotions were running high in the crowd and no one answered properly or rather the answers were just a lot of voices over each other. There were slogans of “Kashmir is a part of India”, “One nation” and so on, but no concrete response. It was truly representative of situation in India all the time. There are just so many voices over each other. We are never united. It is so easy to splinter us.

Now it is more necessary than ever to consolidate our thoughts and our actions.  We should have a plan – from the head. Not based on emotions, not based on vote banks, not based on petty politics. We owe it to all the lives lost in this long drawn battle over the decades. We owe it to the families who send their sons from other parts of India to fight for no-man’s land.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Moving on

I noticed how we have matured as a family. My earlier posts when a mom went back to India used to be the weSurvive series. We were barely making it through, even though we had only Chiyaa to take care of. Lately we all joined in together. And now its going to be 2 weeks and though of course I feel the absence of mummy, we are not barely surviving.
The days are very hectic. The run from morning to evening is relentless. I finish the meal prep for kids, dress Chiyaa and am out of the door by 0725. K takes care of waking Pumpki and getting her ready and packing them off to daycare and school. I finish at 1600 after which it’s the crazy home rush and pick ups. I manage to have a cup of coffee in between feeding them their evening snacks, playing and hosting a video call with family. I try to make something for the adults if the children allow me. I generally have some curry cooked from the weekends for the first couple of days of the week. One day its generally a chaat which is an amalgamation of chole with all sorts of things, another its generally a sandwich be it sweetcorn or potato tikki or raw vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce etc. K is happy to have things like fruit custard and scrambled eggs and toast which makes matters cool. Fridays we can stretch the bedtime because Saturday can be a late start. So we mostly have the luxury of having a ‘Friday special’. That is the general trend, but again with kids, nothing is a static.

To be honest this is the first time I am working full time with 2 kids. I have always worked from home or had the option to do so. But now I do not have that. Come Mondays and the week stretches in front of me. As I pick the kids and listen to the radio jockey saying things like “its nearly hometime” or “its Wednesday already, the week is halfway through” – it makes perfect sense to me. I feel the pain of waking up and getting to work and the joy of finishing up. WFH made me a “pseudo” worker. Yes, I worked. I had deadlines and pressure. But somehow getting to work everyday is a different game altogether. But another fact is I am definitely a better worker being at my desk. I am not multi tasking or trying to multi task. Home is 45 minutes away and I can do nothing about it. Once I am done work, I am really done. I step out of my work place, and I can do nothing more about whats at my workdesk. Its all gone till the next day. This makes me a better worker and home maker which is good I would say.

In the midst of all this, a sudden unanticipated break really helps. Like last Friday. Idealy Chiyaa should have scooted for Karate after school and once I picked her up, K should have gone for his Karate class. But instead of that, Chiyaa asked if she could rest because she did not feel like going. I allowed, for it was Friday. K had suddenly come down with a bad cold and he chose to dump his session too. The kids begged for TV which was allowed cos it was that beautiful day of the week. K had some frozen pizza and then we were all sorted by 2000. It was so odd to just plop on the sofa and rest. On any other day we would be madly scurrying around, trying to feed the kids, putting the dish washer, brushing teeth, doing the daily reading and a zillion plus one things. The next day was swimming day, but since the ‘cold’ situation of the family wasn’t great, we decided to bunk swimming lessons. We had decided to go for lunch at a pub. It was decided keeping in tune with the fact that it would ease by burden on a Saturday morning. In the absence of swimming my burden wasn’t much. But since we had decided something,we went with it anyways. It was calm and relaxing to just not do much. We shopped some clothes for the kids and came home in the evening to book reading and puzzle building.

It was very nice not to try and do a lot of stuff. It was brilliant to relax without a care. The last time we were without a parent around, the days were sunny and it was much easier to handle the kids. The days are cold and short, but it is still lovely to have the kids just by us. As I said, we have matured as a family. I never rue the fact that my kids are growing up and growing up fast! I rather look forward to the time when they will be independent and can take active breaks which involves bike riding, swimming and the likes! The only way is forward and forward is good!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Could should would

He could have waited to finish the last bits of work.
He should have left an hour earlier.
He would have to leave now.

He could have called a taxi.
He should have driven to work.
He would have to walk the stretch to the station.

He could have taken the main road.
He should have avoided the tunnel.
He would not have missed the call.

He could have checked his phone.
He should have turned the silent mode off.
He would have woken up when they rang again.

He could have so easily missed the blinking phone as he stepped out of the shower.
He should have hurried for the meeting.
He would have missed checking the phone till he got to work.

He did not clearly see who was calling. He did not clearly hear the initial reprimands for not answering the calls. 
All he did was feel grateful for having heard the words “you became a dad yesterday”

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda