The not-so-vegetarian Brahmin

When I was younger, Brahmins were synonymous with vegetarian. Of course, there was your fully in land brahmins vs coastal brahmins divide as they differed in their consumption of fish, but that was mostly it. But today, Brahminism is a spectrum, just like sexuality, or gender. Why not, right?

In my observation, I have seen the following broad food preferences among Brahmins. May be this exists with Marwadis, Vyshyas, Lingayath and all other communities that follow vegetarianism for religious purposes, but I’ll talk about Brahmins. So, replace, as required.

1.The Vegan

They don’t exist. If they do, that’s lactose intolerance. Actually, lactose intolerance doesn’t exist too, not unless you haven’t done shani shanti homa to get rid of the illness.

2.The Jain (Not being racist and all ok, so don’t bug me)

This is someone who has a plant based diet that does not include onion or garlic or anything too squishy like mushrooms or paneer or tofu or anything that could be used to make mock meat. They are most often found in Madhwa/ Iyengar households, but they can be found elsewhere too.

3. The North Indian

This is someone who has grown up with a new Shanthi sagar around and hence, has embraced paneer like a good mother-in-law. This person will so much as be open to eating tofu as well, but mushroom is still a big no-no.

4. The mushroom eater

Eating mushrooms isn’t for the faint hearted. If you are a kannadiga, and know that mushroom is called “Naayikode” (literal translation – dog’s umbrella), it’s hard to get yourself to eat mushrooms. The name someone makes you feel like it’s not vegetarian. To make matters worse, it’s also got a squishy texture, which for some reason, people think is similar to meat, so, you see, mushroom eaters have transcended this barrier. If you’re here, then you are the lowest grade of vegetarian there is.

5. The eggitarian

There are two forms of this – 1. You consume egg in a form that doesn’t make the consumption apparent. For instance, egg in cakes, etc. where its easier to pretend like you didn’t know the cake had substances you weren’t supposed to consume. 2. You consume egg when you can see it. Now, somehow eating an unborn animal seems pardonable. You are still considered pretty Brahmin when you eat eggs. In fact, as a kid, I ate half a boiled egg once a week for nutritional purposes, and that was permissible at home under certain circumstances. We had a separate room with a separate stove and a separate vessel in which the egg was boiled. The water from after boiling was discarded far enough from the house so as to not pollute the other inhabitants of the house such as my grandparents.

6. The impure

Curiosity kills the cat, or the Brahmin in you. If you’ve ever tasted non-veg, you are impure. You no longer qualify to call yourself vegetarian. It’s like virginity boss, you can’t say I’ve had sex once but I’m still a virgin. But if you hide the truth about this tasting, you can call yourself vegetarian, which is most of us anyway.

7. The survivor

It’s fairly easy to find vegetarian food in India, which is why our culture has evolved around it. But this isn’t always the case abroad. Some countries can’t even spell vegetarian, so when you are travelling, it can be really challenging to find nutritious vegetarian food. So, if you are one of those people who eats meat when abroad, it’s okay to call yourself a survivor or flexitarian.

8. The occasional non-vegetarian

This is legit category, or atleast matrimonial websites in India have legitimised it. I think this is a euphemism for “you eat non-veg, but don’t cook it at home”. Bottom line is that you are not vegetarian. Cooking meat takes a level of comfort with meat that most Brahmins will fail to acquire even if they are heavy non-veg eaters. If you ate meat as a child, you might be able to tolerate cooking meat much more easily than someone who was vegetarian through childhood. These are people who will still not publicly go out and discuss their dietary preferences with relatives.

9. The unapologetic

This group has transcended Brahminism to the extent where they don’t need to justify their dietary preferences or have reason to hide it from their relatives. They’ll eat what they want, and when they want it. It’s very rare that you’ll find someone from this group who’ll say that they don’t eat a particular animal or on a particular day because religion clearly doesn’t dictate their diet.

Where are you on this spectrum? Actually, I think people slide along this spectrum over time and also depending on who they’re talking to, so you might find yourself at different points all at once.

Disclaimer: This post is based on my narrow world view, so beware.

 

 

 

The real user journey

Ideally,  you’d love to prance into a dim lit bar, connect with someone over a drink, make out wildly and wake up the next morning knowing that you’ve met the love of your life and have nothing to worry about, except you decided to go on a matrimonial site to recreate this serendipitous situation.

So you see, the user journey is a little bit different here.

Step 1: You get on an app, spend a few days figuring out who you want to be on this very public platform that will judge you over and over again in about 3 seconds each time.

Step 2: You scour through thousands of highly unsuitable people to find someone hot, and muster up the courage to send them a little love with a handcrafted expression of interest, leaving your number for them to reach out in case they’re interested.

Step 3: Within nano seconds, you receive some love back in the form of a default response “We like your profile too, why don’t we take the conversation forward?”.

Step 4: You want to say “Duh, that’s why I left my number in the previous message”, but you pretend like you sent a default message that you didn’t notice either, and then ask them for their number because clearly they don’t want to be the ones reaching out.

Step 5: They don’t respond, and now you don’t know if they’re uninterested or missed the notification. Either way, you are a sucker for efficiency, so you just go to their profile, unhide their phone number and exhaust your quota of contacts that you can view for your money’s worth.

Step 6: You add them as your contact and see the display picture on WhatsApp to realize it’s not the ward you’re talking to, but the parent. Of course, now the silent treatment makes sense you think.

Step 7: You drop them a message reminding them about connecting on some platform with your profile ID for reference because you see people throw out expressions of interests like seeds for pigeons to feed on.

Step 8: Again, they don’t respond. So now you are sure they weren’t interested in the first place.

Step 9: You are about to delete their message off your phone and you see that they’re now “typing…”

Step 10: They respond saying “Please send me your profile on WhatsApp”. Now, initially, you thought people were nuts to be sending out expressions of interest without seeing your profile and then asking you to re-share a “profile” on WhatsApp. But pretty quickly you realise the rationale behind this ask.

Step 11: You send them a one-page pdf with a picture and all basic life details.

Step 12: Again, they don’t respond. Now you’re wondering if they’re messing with you. Just to be sure, you follow up asking if they’d like to take the conversation forward.

Step 13: After about 3 hours, they respond saying they’ll check with their ward and let you know.

Step 14: You politely thank them, give up hope and move on with your life because of course, you don’t hear from them again.

Step 15: After 3 days of radio silence, you receive a message from them asking either your horoscope details, salary or complexion which didn’t have a mention in your profile.

Step 16: Now, you’re torn between responding to the message and blocking them. But since you still have some sanity left, you choose the latter.

Step 17: You delete the matrimonial apps on your phone. Download Tinder, again and swipe incessantly in the hope of finding meaningless sex.

Two hours go by, your finger is sore from the swiping, not one match. Let’s face it, if you had so much game, you’d be using your finger for something else. You put your phone away, use your finger anyway, and manage to put yourself to bed.

Lessons from a late bloomer

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It has taken me the longest time ever to start driving a car. I’ve had a license to drive a car since I was 18, but barring a few odd occasions of driving that required me to get a car from Point A to point B, I’ve generally been very nervous about driving a car until recently. To make matters worse, I once brushed past a scooterist when I’d taken my dad’s car out for a cruise and he forbid me from using it there after. So, yes, that was the end of my driving career in 2009 and ever since, I didn’t have the balls to really drive on my own accord. Recently, I started driving because I wanted to prove my daughter wrong – she thought only daddies could drive. I’ve had a few learnings from driving for a couple of months in peak Bangalore traffic that I’d like to share.

If you need to turn left, pretend like you are going straight. 

There’s this popular left on the way back home from my daughter’s school where the line to turning left can back up about 100 metres sometimes. Most people patiently wait their turn and turn left. But there are almost always some clever fellows who pretend like they are going straight and suddenly cut into the line, and haul up everyone else who has been waiting patiently like duds. So, why wait, when a simple trick can you to move ahead much faster.

Always overtake from the left.

People just do not get driving on the left in India. They drive on the right – trucks, BMTC busses, slow drivers et all. So, what choice do you have left except to throw your morals under that bus and overtake from the left. Believe me, it’s far easier because everyone who deserves to be overtaken drives on the right anyway.

The horn exists for a reason, so use it.

I would usually get annoyed with people honking excessively, but you know what, when you are that person who honks at every opportunity you have, you won’t be that person who gets bugged with the honking. Some people will walk in the middle of the road like they’re taking a stroll, few others go the wrong way like they don’t realize its the wrong way and all of them are screaming at you to be honked at, so just do it already.

Do not mess with BMTC busses.

BMTC busses can drive on the left, right or centre, and you have little choice but to follow them. You can’t honk them out, you can’t overtake them, you just have to follow quietly. If you try messing with them, they can run you over and you’ll be the one feeling sorry, if you are alive that is. The drivers are employed by the govt. They own the road, so if you can, don’t mess with them.

Follow the leader, avoid the loser.

Some people drive like a boss, and it’s always great to drive right behind them. They drive on the right but never let anyone overtake them. But there are some people you must avoid at all costs. I don’t want to just say avoid women or old people as it’s a bit unfair to say so. There are lots of old people and women who drive like bosses. But the key is to recognise what sort of a driver is ahead of you and do the right thing. Use the intersection navigation test for this – When at an intersection, see if the driver ahead of you is able to hold up orthogonal traffic and forge ahead independently without requiring either the whole world to make way for them or is looking for a cover to driver beside. This is the true mark of a leader, follow them.

Never leave enough space for a biker to squeeze through in front of you.

Bikers are an absolute menace if you are in a car. They will go wherever they’ve space to go. Rules mostly mean shit when you are on a bike, and I don’t mind it as long as I am on a bike too. Having cars that do not follow any lane discipline is a bit efficient if you are a biker and you are stuck miles behind waiting for a signal just because of a bad tetris arrangement. So, as most self respecting bikers do, you try to squeeze through the bigger vehicles to get ahead. The problem with this is sometimes there are shitty bikers with poor judgement and so they end up scratching your car, so always make sure you leave absolutely no space in front of you, at least not enough for even the most skilled biker to squeeze through.

If you want to park, use an indicator.

Agreed that we have the worst infrastructure, and with the dug up roads, street vendors, double parking and stalled vehicles, sometimes there’s barely enough space on the road for one line of traffic to go through smoothly. So, if you are trying to park in the midst of this madness, use an indicator well ahead of you try to move over to one side attempting to park because atleast then people behind you will make alternate arrangements including popping a BP pill in advance. Do not be that person who waits there like a doofus holding up a long line behind you because you think you are Vasudeva and the parking lot will magically clear up like the river Yamuna allowing you to cruise across.

Pop a pill, if you need to but keep your mouth shut.

I know it absolutely sucks to be driving on roads that were meant to hold 1/100th of the traffic and are coincidentally also dug up at the same time. Everyone on the road seems bloody selfish and unperturbed by the sorry state of infrastructure and the lack of need to follow rules on the road. All of this put together is surely a great recipe for hypertension on the road. But when you let this get the better off you and scream at someone on the road, it just makes everything so much worse. If someone was genuinely being utterly stupid, scream but don’t pick a fight on the road because you were bored. If you feel the need to yell at someone, scream in your head, don’t do it out loud. It’s not even entertaining, because everyone’s got phones today.

Oh yes, phones. Get a fucking hands free if you need to be on it.

What are we in 2000? Who sits and looks at their phone while driving, and that too right in the middle of the road? If you are poor, get off your scooter or car, wait at the signal for 30minutes, beg, make some money and buy yourself a hands free and get off the middle of the road.

If you hate someone on the road, just learn something from them.

When I see someone doing any of the above things I’ve described, I have moments when I wish I were them. Just for kicks. So, whenever I have a chance, I try and practice what I see and hate, just so I know what it feels like to bug someone. Surprisingly, sometimes, it’s not so bad. People don’t always hate you like the way you hate them.

 

 

 

 

LGBTQ and I know, now.

Anything unfamiliar takes a little getting used to. For the longest time, I was happily oblivious to the existence of homosexuality, trans-gender, etc. Over the last 10-15 years, more and more people have been coming out with their stories and so it’s been really useful in acknowledging it’s existence. But still, I couldn’t quite understand what someone meant when they said, “Although born a boy, I have always felt like a girl on the inside.” I thought it’s something that happened only on American reality TV. I mean, I didn’t know how that was even possible, simply because I don’t think I gave my own gender, or feelings much thought. It could be because people saw me for who I was and I never had reason to question it or feel confused.

A couple of years ago, when I heard the news of our wedding photographer (a man) having become a woman, I was shocked. Suddenly, it became all too real. I wanted to be able to understand, so I tried to read accounts of people who’d changed genders as adults. While most of the stories were quite detailed, and moving, I couldn’t empathise. Not until recently, at least.

Recently, I was assisting someone with managing their matrimonial profile. Our professional backgrounds are quite similar. Given that our CVs are our most rehearsed layer of our personalities, its easy to believe that its the only one and so we most easily identify ourselves based on that. So, I thought I was well equipped to represent her and her interests on a platform. I happened to see this Telugu Brahmin chap who seemed quite interesting based on his bio and hence, sent him an expression of interest. Given that he and I belonged to the same sub-caste, I couldn’t think of why he would not accept my interest on a community obsessed matrimonial platform. But guess what, he rejected me.

For a second there, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I deserve better, but a guy like this rejecting me? What the…?! For a bit, I’d failed to realize that he was not rejecting me. But he was rejecting my client, who I was representing. He rejected her profile, her picture and her expression of interest. He hadn’t seen me at all. He couldn’t possibly see beyond my client’s profile. He couldn’t possibly imagine that it was me behind my client’s profile. It sucked that he couldn’t see me. He’s probably react differently if he saw me, and then saw the person I was representing.

I started wondering if that’s how people trapped in the wrong bodies feel like. I wondered if this is how it feels when people only see you for who you are on the outside, and judge you based on that. When you see that someone looks like a boy, you don’t for a second wonder if he has a girl trapped inside of him. In fact, even if he told you that himself, it’s hard to imagine or empathise. But now, I was slowly starting to understand, only a little though. But what a great epiphany this was. If you are a transgender person, and don’t mind sharing your stories with me, I’d love to listen, and learn.

 

Being an auntiepreneur

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I found this picture on Twitter and I thought it does a pretty good job of illustrating my life – I am a proud Auntiepreneur. Also, I prefer auntie with “ie” rather than y.

It’s been 6 months since I chose my high life of passion over pay check, and it’s been great. Not great in the sense of “I’ve this billion dollar idea that I am working on that’s about to go live in 3 days and will be a unicorn in 3 months”. But great in many other ways.

I love that the sun rises every morning.

Apart from the fact that I now have a desk facing the sun rise, I love waking up to each day. I have never felt lousy about waking up, the way I would sometimes feel while I was employed. I don’t know what it is about being an entrepreneur, I am now like a sponge that absorbs every piece of feedback, comment or criticism like I never did before. I could almost never buy into the “I am advising you for your own good” bourgeois from any of my managers. May be I was a terrible employee, may be I had trust issues or may be I was never interested but I’d much rather hear it from a customer than someone who speaks for themselves in a business.

Mistakes aren’t exactly costly.

When I started four months ago, I picked up from where I’d left off back in 2016 when I ran M.B.A full-time for 6 months during my maternity leave. Over the last six months, I’ve let epiphanies from conversations with customers add new services. I don’t need documents or approvals to turn ideas into reality. I am all the stakeholders rolled up into one. I am the business person, I am the customer service, I am the ops person, I am the tech person and I am the janitor. If my ideas don’t work, I’ll clean up my mess and move on. With my current burn rate, mistakes aren’t costly. And I can’t tell you what a lovely feeling it is. Sure it might be a phase because its such early days but I want to cherish every bit of it.

I don’t have to pretend to care anymore.

I understand how large organisations work because I’ve almost always only worked in such places. You need to make sure your employees are accountable, and so you have control mechanisms in place to ensure you are getting your money’s worth. Nothing wrong with this, except to be a part of a system like that felt extremely claustrophobic. Nothing you ever do is enough. So, sometimes you find yourself pretending to care more than you actually do because you want people to know you’re doing enough. The system thrives on such feedback, and frankly, I needed a break from that. Being on my own means I am the only one judging me, and the best/ worst part is that I can’t even pretend. So, the nagging feeling of not being good enough just never goes away. But for once, it doesn’t bother me.

Money matters more.

With a pay check, you have your sense of self-worth about once a month when you get a message from your bank when your salary gets credited. Through the month, you take money for granted. Now, every buck matters. I am currently building a cashflow business, and so every buck I make adds to my self worth. I make far lesser than I did in my recent job, but the money I make now makes me feel so much better. There is a lot of randomness and uncertainty too, and sometimes effort isn’t rewarded, just as in a job, but when it is rewarded, it is that much sweeter. Ideally, I’d want to work less and make more, but I’ll get there, someday. 😉

Grass is greener on the other side.

When I was employed, I constantly didn’t want to be anymore. I wanted to break out of the system and be on my own. Now that I am, there are of course moments when I wonder if I should get back. Not as often of course, but I do have my moments. Sometimes, I wish I could just go on a 15 day vacation and still pretend like my professional life is in order. The daily existential crisis about what the heck I am doing with my life is sometimes a little bit tiring. I know it’s a phase, and it shall pass, but I’m just saying that while the freedom of being on my own is great, it comes with its own challenges too. Of course you know that, but I’m merely owning up to it.

This blogpost is an attempt to capture my thoughts 6 months into being on my own in case I become too famous one day and I am quizzed about the initial days. Or just to remind myself that I at least tried in case I abandon everything and go back to a job in a few months/ years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters to my Berry#29

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Until you were two, I wrote every month. Then for a year, I wrote every quarter. Now that you are 3, I don’t quite know how often I can write but I think I am going to try and do once a quarter again because I am afraid I’ll forget a lot of things if I do it any less often. So, here’s one for turning 3.25 on Sunday.

Where does shadow live, Amma?

We were walking back from the gym yesterday, and you were awfully quiet. You didn’t ask to go to the park on the way. We walked quietly hand in hand under the neon orange street lights. Just when we were walking into our gate, you asked “Where does shadow live, Amma?”

P: Umm..It lives with you, Berry.

B: Is it a girl, mamma?

P: Yes. Your shadow is a girl.

B: Does it live in London?

P: No, it lives here. With you.

This morning, on the drive to school, we chatted some more about shadows – what they are, where they come from and so on.


Ever since you turned 3, you’ve suddenly transitioned from asking what is that and what is this to “Why”. So, we call you the Why why girl, just like the one in your book. Asking why, being curious is great. I hope I’ll always be able to answer you or find you the resources to help find the answer yourself. You now have an ability to connect seemingly unconnected things to reason. This one time, you were looking for your “nightie” and then discovered that I’d left it in your gramma’s house. So you called gramma, and yelled at her for taking your nightie to her house. Next day, when you called gramma, she didn’t talk much with you. For no particular reason, really. You started wondering if she was still upset with you for shouting at her. At that moment, I knew we were onto something new.

While all is well with being able to connect seemingly unconnected things, I think your ability to see patterns has also been unhelpful. For instance, you’ve noticed that the girls in your class wear a lot of pink, orange, white and yellow, so you call them “girl colours” and the boys wear black, blue and brown and hence, they are “boy colours”. I’ve tried so hard to explain to you that colour has no gender, but in vain. Maybe this is similar to how I feel all cats are female. I know they are not, but that’s just the way I “feel”. I think feelings are usually irrational, it’s hard to really know why we feel the way we feel. So, I just hope you learn better, irrespective of how you feel. I don’t want to impose my views of gender on you, and I want to let you form your views on these things but I am trying (to some extent) to facilitate learning, mostly in vain.

Thanks to your pattern recognition and stereotyping, you believed that mummies can’t drive. Only daddies have to drive. I’ve known how to drive for the last 14 years, but I haven’t driven much, atleast not in the last 10 years. I felt like I’d almost never ever drive in my life and the more I thought about it, the less confident I felt about driving. I don’t know if I wanted to shake up your idea of who can drive and who can’t, or prove to myself, I started driving one day after Dasara. And guess what, I can drive now, all in a matter of a month. I drive you to school sometimes, take you to ajji mane, go out for dinners with you, and what not.

So, my little friend, anyone can do anything. You don’t need to be a mummy or a daddy to do anything in the world. Just remember that.

The upside of you wanting to be “girly” is that going to weddings or other family functions has been an absolute breeze. You get ready before anyone else does. You pick out all your clothes day, may be even months in advance. You even have your own name for Indian ethnic wear – “Punjami”, and I’ll tell you where this came from. We were supposed to go Appa’s friend Anuroop’s wedding in Punjab, and we’d been talking about it for months. So, you’d been excited to go to this “Punjami” wedding for the longest time, and hence, everything about weddings started becoming “Punjami” for you.

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The highlight of this quarter had to be “Nikhil’s mama wedding”. You were quite little when Shreya mama got married last year, and so Nikhil mama’s wedding was a big deal for you. You picked out all your outfits, and in fact, you even got one custom made according to your own design. Yes, you designed a “cold shoulder” dress for you.  You told the tailor that you want open here and closed there, and the tailor asked if you mean cold shoulder, and that was the beginning of your designing career. You also wanted “dappattas” for all your Punjami clothes.

You want to wear matching shoes, bangles, jewellery and bindi. You even put on your own make up. And do not even get me started on the number of times you change your clothes in a day. I pretty much spend all my afternoons folding your clothes. I’ve even tried to get you interested in folding, but you don’t see it as something that needs your attention. You’d much rather encourage me to do it. See, these are things I never understood, mostly because I’ve never cared about these things in my life, but I am appreciative of these being important to you. Hence, we’ve hung a mirror for you in the balcony garden, and are also getting you a new dressing table just so you can stand there and stare for hours, so we can get some time off in the afternoons. 🙂

You go to school full day (8:30-2). Obviously these are much shorter hours than your nursery back in London, but since you are expected to “work” in school, I am sure it’s far more tiring. You are learning to cut paper, stitch, polish wood, do the dishes, dust things, make snack, etc. to help develop strong motor skills. You are also learning to read, write and speak 3 languages – Kannada, Hindi and English, as a result of which you aren’t quite able to speak any language fully well. While your Kannada has improved quite a lot, your English has deteriorated quite a bit. Sigh. You feel quite shy to speak in Hindi outside of school, because you don’t have anyone to practice it with, but I am sure you’ll learn enough to save your life, and that’s alright with me.

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Earlier, you had atleast 30mins of playtime in school everyday, but now that’s reduced I think since you guys aren’t taken to the park. In general, you love running around and being physically active. You go to Little gym once a week, and have learnt many gymnastic tricks. You really enjoy those classes and hence, we are planning to keep at it till you get bored. You even come to our gym with us 3-4 times a week. You love all the coaches in our gym and get along with them so much that they wait for you to come by everyday. You are like baton exchange for appa and me as we do consecutive classes at the gym. You love doing dead hangs at our gym and also doing jumping jacks during the warm up. Arvind purposely makes everyone start with jumping jacks on the days you come. You also love riding your scooter at home. I can’t remember the number of times you’ve fallen off it but it never bothers you. You can even ride your cycle quite well, with trainer wheels on. I plan to take off one trainer wheel soon, so let’s see.

Apart from this, you’ve been asking for a baby car and a baby computer for the longest time. There’s a baby toy shop near your school and when we pass by the store every day, you are reminded of it. We told you that we don’t have money to buy you that since you don’t let us do our work at home. But the truth is, there isn’t much place for you to drive the car at home. We are also trying to teach you the concept of how you make money. You work, you earn. Sometimes you get money without working – on birthdays, as dakshine, etc. and so you think that’s how you can get money and you don’t have to bother working. When we once showed you a picture of Warren Buffet and told you that he is one of the richest people in the world, you weren’t a least bit amazed. You said he has money, you have money and everybody in the world has money except appa and me. Fair enough.

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We usually buy you almost anything and everything you ask for, and much more. You get a lot of presents from ajji and thatha as well. But sometimes it doesn’t make much sense to give you so many things because you hardly play with them after. It would be so nice to be a part of some circular economy where toys could be shared and you constantly played with new things and gave away things you no longer used to someone who could use it. The problem however is with the giving away bit – just when we want to give away something, you cry so much and make us guilty of taking away your things. The picture up there is definitely one of those rare moments when you were playing by yourself. This is one of your favourite games – doing a picnic and having tea with your friends.

Oh yes, that’s a new thing you’ve started since you turned 3 – Crying. Urrgh, it is so annoying because you are a child who communicates so well, and have little reason to cry. We have no idea where you picked up the need for this sort of a drama. I don’t know if you are going through some sort of a mental growth spurt that is leaving you feeling frustrated, but you cry. You cry for the silliest of things. We don’t quite know how to deal with it sometimes because you’ve almost never cried needlessly until you turned 3. You have helped maintain our tolerance levels so low that every time you throw a fit now, we end up losing our shit – appa more often than me. That’s when you get very upset with appa and keep telling him that he’s not very nice and you don’t like him very much. You raise your finger and shout at him when he gets impatient with you, and right now, it’s damn adorable.

You are a little bit bossy like that. Bossy might be the wrong word, but you usually know how to get your way around, and you do so like an adult with words. You have very strong managerial skills, mostly because you’re damn lazy and if you can find an easier way of doing things, you’ll do it. You know how to get everyone to do your work quite well as you appreciate people for their efforts and thank them making them forget that they’re doing your work. We sometimes worry you might be a bit too lazy, hence, we thought we should start putting you in some sort of classes so you learn to endure things for longer than your attention span can handle.

We started music lessons for you. Nothing too serious, but Mads, my friend, comes home to teach you music – singing and playing the keyboard. You really enjoy your time with her. You hang out with her for 45mins or so once in a while, and it’s amazing to see you being interested in something. You like playing the keyboard more than singing songs. You prefer making up songs. You love dancing too, you knew that. So I am planning to take you for some dancing lessons just to help explore your interest in it.

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No, I am not trying to be a tiger parent. I am just trying to offload some guilt of being so overly self-obsessed. As you know, I quit my full time job to work on my own business idea. This has meant that I am constantly thinking about how to build my business, much more than I ever did when I was working for someone else. So, I don’t think I am spending quality time with you, unlike before. I try to find ways to keep you engaged while I can’t do it myself. There are moments when I realize this, and I try to sit down and read with you. I’ve got so many books for you in the last couple of months because you enjoy the time we spend reading together, and it motivates me to sit with you and not think about anything else.

 

This break also allowed me to re-start celebrating Dasara. We arranged all the dolls together, I told you stories of all the dolls and we invited your friends to come see the dolls. You enjoyed having so many guests at home during the 10 days of Dasara. In general, you love socialising, and that means, we don’t need to take care of you at all when guests come over. You were such a doll yourself, taking such good care of the doll display and never ever disrupting the setup. The reason however was because they were all my dolls, and hence, you didn’t want to do anything with them. You made so many new friends during this time, and also got to meet some old friends. You continue to meet and play with some of them – Bhargav, for instance.

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Your ability to observe the most random things, and remember them so fondly is a gift. You remember Manti and the way she spoke to you, you remember so many things about London, you remember people you’ve only met once and remember everything they did/ said, it’s crazy. But it’s selective memory.  May be that’s why it’s been so hard for you to get over London. You keep wanting to go back ever so often. I think I’ve felt more guilty about relocating you in the last 3 months than I did in the beginning. You prefer that people speak less, they are gentle, etc. which was a big part of your surroundings in London, and it’s just the opposite here in India. I get that, but I think there are parts of India you love – all the people you get to meet and talk to, the festivals, the Punjami things, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t take you back, not right away at least. So, I’ll let you grow up and decide for yourself where you prefer to be, and I am okay with wherever you want to be.

I don’t know if its because you meet so many people, you’ve managed to learn the concept of names. This is something you hadn’t figured for the longest time. You didn’t think cats and dogs could have names although you have a bhatta and a ganapathi in your life. It’s only when you decided to name your baby doll “Avyath”, we realised you understand names. Avyath is your baby, and I am still not a 100% sure if Avyath is a boy or a girl, but Avyath comes with you for all weddings. There is also the mamma monkey “Madrath” and the horse, “baby betty” and a “brother monkey”. But then again, you think all cars are Ubers. I’ve tried explaining to you about platforms, but in vain. But hopefully we’ll get there soon.

You’ve also had the chance to go to a few birthday parties in school in the last quarter, and clearly you love them. You enjoy playing “mamma, papa, baby” with your friends Avya, Advika and Milan. You love some of the older kids in your class who baby you around. You are less generous with smaller babies, except Veda may be who is a year younger than you but you guys get along so great. You also have imaginary siblings – Billy and Molly who are in your belly. You always pick out things for them and want to keep aside some of your smaller clothes for them.

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You have started showing an inclination to understand concepts. We’ve successfully thought you addition using an abacus. Just one digit for now, but we find that you get quite interested and bored equally quickly, so we haven’t made too much progress. You can do jigsaw puzzles upto 20-30 pieces yourself. We haven’t tried bigger ones yet to figure out if you can do them or not. You really love building different shapes with blocks. We’ve been noticing this for quite sometime. You also love playing with your doctor set and keep wanting to become a doctor. This time when Barbie and Nakul visited, you had fun playing doctor with Barbie. Your favourite things to do as a doctor is to check temperature, knock people with the hammer, giving injection and putting a plaster. You are obsessed with plasters. You randomly keeping wanting to put a plaster always. And you love drinking disgusting tasting syrups.

I don’t know if it’s just playing with the doctor set, but I think you are generally very compassionate and kind. You sometimes appreciate it when I drive “faster like appa” by saying things like “Amma, I am so proud of you for driving faster”. You are very observant, and you appreciate anyone who dresses up well and looks nice. You are so kind to ajji, and give her suggestions on how to wear her bangles. Your friend Bhargav loves animals, and you’ve observed that. So you want to take presents for him that you think he might enjoy and that’s so thoughtful of you.

You generally give people a cuddle if you see that they’re upset. You tell them that everything’s going to be alright. In fact, if we ever shout at you, you immediately run up to us and ask us for a cuddle. Off late, I’ve been noticing that you are starting to develop these feelings of abandonment where you worry a lot that we’ll leave you and go somewhere. So you constantly need assurance from people that they will wait for you and not leave you. I am yet to get to the bottom of it, hopefully I’ll have more to say in the next letter to you. Now now, this one has already gotten way too long for anyone’s attention, let alone yours…so I better go.

Happy 3.25, love!

P.S – I forgot to mention one thing – You can make your own snacks and breakfast sometimes. Here’s a picture for a proof.

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“But it talks like a boy. But why does it talk like a boy”

Nava

I am going to watch a play later this evening. It’s called “Nava” and it stands for the 9 emotions experienced by humans. I like watching plays. Ever since I moved back to Bangalore, I have this ritual on the 1st of every month when I fill out my planner with events for the rest of the month. I open up the Rangashankara website, and look for plays that seem interesting and put it on my calendar. Usually it’s one or two plays at the most because I only like to go watch Kannada plays that have either a good story or is expected to have good production. I go alone and watch these plays. It initially happened out of necessity because Rangashankara doesn’t allow kids under 8 for most plays and looking for ad-hoc babysitting options isn’t straightforward for us. But now, I think I prefer to go alone. It feels like my thing.

The thing about “Nava” that caught my attention is that it is a play that is being produced by the Aravani Art Project. The actors are all transgender people who are using the stage to share their stories. I have never interacted with transgender people, but I’ve always been curious. I’ve usually felt scared to interact with them just like how I feel around birds. I feel overwhelmed when they flap their wings too hard and when I don’t know where they might fly to. The pace of it makes me feel disoriented. I feel the same way when I’ve been confronted by transgender people at traffic signals or at religious ceremonies. The uncertainty of what they might do scares me. I don’t look them in the eye in the hope that they might go away.

But I think what I really want gone is not them, but how I feel when I see them.


The other day, when we were huddled up in the car at a signal, with our windows rolled up, my 3 year old daughter pointed to the car in front and said “Look, there’s a hijra.” I was surprised to hear her say that because 1. I didn’t know she knew. 2. She obviously saw a pattern that helped her recognise. I didn’t say anything to her, but I felt uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was the word, or the fact that my daughter saw a pattern that I didn’t want her to see. Anyway, our car moved, and we forgot all about it.


Another day, we are at a traffic signal again. An old lady came and knocked on our window, and my daughter said “Look, there’s a hijra.” Strangely, I felt very relieved. Her idea of a hijra was different from the one I was afraid she thought. I said, “No, that’s not a hijra, it’s a beggar.” Being the Why why girl that my 3 yo is, she asked “What’s a beggar?” I said, “People who ask you for money”.


We were at a traffic signal yet again, and looking at a few transgender people, Berry said, “Look, there’s a beggar”. And then she asked, “Why do they ask for money?” “They don’t do work and get money?” I said, “Sometimes, some people don’t have money and so they ask other people for help”. I felt less scared. I also wished I could take Berry along with me to the play tonight because I want her to see that no matter how disadvantaged some people are, they try their very best to work and earn an honest living just like anybody else.


Yesterday, we were sitting and folding clothes. She said “When it’s a boy, we say he or him, and when it’s a girl, we say she or her”. She’s been practising this for a few days now because she always mix them up before that. I said, “That’s great, Berry. We should learn some more. When there’s more than one person, you say “they”. If it’s a table or a chair or a lamp, then you say “it”.” She didn’t repeat after me, so I assumed it was too complex for her to process, so I let it go.

An hour later, I was watching a video on Youtube about the Aravani Art Project in preparation for the play I am going to watch tonight. The video featured a few transgender people talk about their experience being a part of the art project. My first thought was that they seemed so “normal” unlike the ones I’d previously been scared of.    In London, transgender people were almost always “normal”, they lived like me, they took the train like me, no one seemed to notice them or stare at them as being abnormal except me maybe. I think we are so conditioned to feel like they are not “normal” or that they are different from the rest of us. I was still coming to grips with how I felt watching this video about transgender people doing “normal” things like us right here in Bangalore, when Berry started giggling:

She said “Look at that, it’s so funny. It’s talking like a boy.”

I said, “Who it?”

She said “That it”.

I said, “That’s not it. That’s a girl. Look at her long hair.”

She said, “But it talks like a boy. But why does it talk like a boy”.

I said, “Should you say “he” then?”

She wasn’t convinced. She wouldn’t let go of the it.

I said, “Sometimes, people can be a boy or a girl or anything they want to be.”

I wasn’t convinced. I didn’t know enough to say any better. I came to my desk and googled for books on gender diversity, events on gender diversity for children. I am still researching, I haven’t found anything compelling yet. But I do know one thing – I don’t want Berry to be scared. I don’t want her to build these walls around herself about gender, colour, or anything that we seem to have made a big deal of.

I am not entirely certain I fully comprehend gender fluidity myself, and so may be I am hoping I get to learn with her. Now, I don’t even know what my views on this topic are. My theory is that, we probably started not knowing the difference, and over time used patterns to concoct these classifications that may represent a general population but unfortunately misses out on a lot of detail. Given that we are a generation that is more interested in detail, thanks to the vastness of the internet, we are starting to uncover the details that make us. It is this detail that I am hoping to uncover and learn with Berry, so that she can see her own patterns instead of the ones that we can’t seem to break.

For starters, I read Berry this book.But I continue to research on ways to expose Berry to the details of gender, colour and everything else where we’ve only seen the dominant patterns of till date. I want to continue to engage her in conversation about things she finds “funny” because they don’t comply with ideas we already know. So, if you have recommendations on books to read or things to do on this front, I’d be glad to hear.


P.S. – Although I am looking forward to tonight’s play, I am scared that I am likely to feel like an outsider rather than see it as a story that could be mine too. Anyway, fingers crossed.