My evolution as an aspiring reader

I’ve never been much of a reader. Books were a luxury when we were kids. We were a middle-class family with 6 people in the house on two incomes. We were sent to one of the best schools in the city although my parents could barely afford it. We always got what we asked for. We celebrated all the south indian hindu festivals at home with the entire family on my dad’s side since we lived with our paternal grandparents. My grandmother was a great cook and she loved making tasty snacks and condiments for her family, which meant that besides our tuition, all of the household income went into funding high household expenses.

So naturally, my parents couldn’t afford to buy us as many books. They only ever invested in “reference books” with a high ROI. You know, like a dictionary, Wren & Martin, etc. Most of the “story books” we had were hand me downs from cousins. I remember I used to love reading Tinkle as a kid, but it was 8 bucks(!!!) for an edition and my dad wouldn’t buy it for me because it was a terrible waste of money for something that would get over in 15mins. Instead, my parents got me a library membership where I could borrow a Tinkle for 50p a day. Given that I didn’t read a lot of books, I was a slow reader. So I was afraid to borrow books that would take me a long time to read because then I’d have to spend more money on them.

So, I only ever read Enid Blyton when I could borrow the book from our school library. We used to have one library period a week when you could read books but I think by 6th standard that became the time when “hardworking kids” started finishing off their homework so they’d get more time to study at home. Obviously this was a great strategy worth copying, so goodbye reading. Hello, brownie points from parents.

Summer holidays could’ve been a great time to read, but you see, my mum had spent all her holidays “preparing for the next academic year” as a kid. But I had friends to play with, so I didn’t need to occupy myself with anything else. Although my parents would’ve loved for us to be readers, I didn’t spend a lot of my time reading. On the contrary, I ended up running a library when I was 9 years old and made over a 100 bucks one summer. So you see, I was always meant to run a business. 😀

So you see, it was only when I didn’t have friends in life that I actually started reading. In 2007, I had drifted away from most friendships since I was deeply involved in a relationship. When this relationship ended, I was friendless. I tried to re-build some friendships, but it was really hard. So, I found my escape in books. I read the Harry Potter series from start to finish that summer (all borrowed, of course!) I couldn’t believe I’d read so much at a stretch. I absolutely loved it. These books helped me get through one of the worst times of my life. I knew that I could always escape into another world through books.

Then there was a massive period of lull for about 10 years. I was too pre-occupied with all the new relationships I was building in mu life. When we moved to London in 2017, I saw a lot of people on the tube reading all the time. That’s when I started reading again. May be it was peer pressure again, but beneficial to reading this time. It definitely made my commute a lot more interesting.

Given that I’d never discovered the joy of reading as a kid, I wanted Berry to experience it. You know, being a typical parent and all. I always bought her books that she asked for. They cost nothing in comparison to my income. Its an expense that’s never been a burden, unlike to my parents’, so why not. In fact, I buy books for Berry very regularly whether she asks for it or not because I want her to have a chance to experience the joy of reading. Now, if she doesn’t become a reader, it’s fine. It’s her loss really, but at least, I’ll know I tried.

Once I started buying books for Berry, I started becoming less afraid to buy books for myself. My husband has been great that way in showering me with books all the time whether I read them or not. Whenever I want to read something, he’ll be the first to buy it. In fact, he bought me a stack of books last week from Blossoms and I am binge reading them now.

Thanks to COVID, and all the isolation, I am reading again after a brief period of quiet since we moved back from London last year. Once again, I cannot believe I am on my 7th book of the month, but I am loving it so very much and making up for all the lost time in my life. To keep things interesting, I am trying to read books from different countries now. Having a friend or two from a lot of these countries helps in not building stereotypes in my head about these countries based on just one voice.

I might write a post about some of the books I’ve read recently at some point, but for now, I’ll be spending most of my time reading 😀

Post pandemic gastronomy

If there’s one good thing that came off the pandemic, it is that most people can now cook their own meals. In fact, we can’t just cook, but we’re pretty good at it. Even if we aren’t good at it, we are at least very proud of it. Look at Instagram for instance, it can be renamed “Foodgram” already!

Personally, I’ve also been cooking a lot over the last 3 months, and I’m loving it. I still hate cooking everyday, but once in a while, I enjoy it now. Ever since I moved back home last year, finding good diverse cuisine has been an issue. Being able to cook up that diversity in my own kitchen has been exhilarating.

In India, we’ve almost always had a cook and hence, never bothered experimenting at home. All the experimenting had to be at restaurants. But given that we’ve been experimenting with food so much at home over the last 3 months, my kitchen standards have gone up and I can’t help myself from nitpicking in the kitchen.

When I was younger, it was easy to appreciate restaurant food a lot more because we never ate such food at home. Restaurant food and home food were quite distinct and so they were seldom compared. Now, things are different with everyone cooking up international cuisines at home. The lines are starting to blur.

This means restaurants necessarily have to up their game in the post pandemic era. They cannot possibly serve rave idli in the name of ravioli. The taste and quality of food will have to meet a certain standard of taste and authenticity. Ambience and experience can make a difference, but they’ll almost never be able to compensate for the lack of taste. I hope the age old trick of dropping prices won’t do the trick because honestly, it doesn’t do anyone any good – not us nor the restaurants.

I feel bad for the restaurant industry. Besides take away, they’ve all been shut for dining in for the last 2-3 months, and I don’t see the situation drastically improving at least for the next 3 months. It’s not just safety that people are worried about, there’s simply little need to go out and eat. When gastronomy lives in your own bed, why roll out of it?

Personally, I live in an area full of the city’s best south Indian restaurants. We usually go out only for breakfast because we don’t make breakfast at home and the decision to go eat at VB, MLTR or BC is a no brainer. During the lockdown, we once ordered dose from Vidyarthi Bhavan and I can’t tell you how utterly atrocious it was – it was palya wrapped in a razzai that was pretending to be a dose.

Just like in a break-up, I first thought it was my fault for having dose-delivered home instead of eating out while it was hot and crispy. But somewhere deep in my stomach, I knew it wasn’t just me. The dose was undercooked, the balance of flavours in the palya were off and the chutney was just unnecessarily spicy. Something had changed forever – my standards had gone up and restaurants had to do better than this to get my business.

Pre-pandemic, despite having a cook, we ate out or got food delivered home fairly often – atleast 3-4 times a week. So, that is reasonable business you see. Post-pandemic, I don’t imagine I’ll be able to get myself to eat out nearly as often. Life will go back at least 20 years when going out to a restaurant will require an occasion like a birthday or an anniversary.

Post pandemic, when gastronomy is so accessible, nothing will ever be the same for the restaurant industry. If you are a restauranteur, and haven’t taken the cue yet, you are in trouble, my friend. You better use this quiet to re-think your game before people start getting bored of their cooking and stepping out to take a chance. If you lose them once, you’ll lose them over and over again – at least 3/4 times a week.

CX in the time of corona

UrbanClap is now Urban Company - The Urban Guide

After months of hibernation like a bear, quite literally that too, I decided it was time for a wax. As some of you may already know, I stopped going to salons sometime last year after I moved back, thanks to Urban Company or UC (formerly Urbanclap). They provide a salon-at-home service that is pretty good and I’d written about it here.

I don’t know if I follow one of their co-founders or something, but UC keeps appearing on my Twitter timeline almost all the time. In the last week or so, I’d been seeing raving reviews about how spectacular their service is especially in the times of a pandemic and what with all the safety measures their service personnel use, etc.

With some apprehension, I decided it was finally time to let a complete stranger into my home and even worse, touch my face. So, I went on UC to book a waxing and threading service. I was fairly certain they would’ve increased prices given the increase in demand and subsequent drop in supply, but no. Funded start-ups don’t have that luxury. Personally, I would’ve been okay paying a premium, but I suppose I am not their median user.

Just before check out, I noticed an additional fee as show below…

and I was relieved. I was glad that they were taking precautions to ensure the service is carried out hygienically. Although Rs. 39 seemed like a fair estimate of disposable PPE mentioned above, I would’ve been fine to pay a higher fee to ensure they used to the best quality gear.

I let them assign a professional as I thought that would mean the least amount of churn given the situation. Then usual protocol followed. Professional called and confirmed that I am indeed interested in receiving the “full service” and then promptly arrived at my door step on time. Unlike quality of delivered food (which needs a full blogpost in itself), I am glad I didn’t have to worry about a drop in quality due to the pandemic.

Being quite apprehensive about letting a stranger in, I was wearing a mask myself when I opened the door. First thing I saw was that the service professional was wearing a mask too. A disposable one. But definitely not a fresh one. I am pretty sure this had been worn all week. It made me slightly uncomfortable.

When I asked her if she’d like to wash her hands with soap, she insisted that she’d used a sanitiser, and would wear gloves and so washing her hands won’t be necessary. Alright. She wanted to start with threading, and very reluctantly I took off my mask, I closed my eyes and I started praying. You see, I have a 3.5 year old at home, and I was quite concerned about risking any infection because of my indulgence in our society’s crazy obsession with hairlessness.

An hour into the service, my professional’s left glove tore. She was midway through my pedicure and so she didn’t bother to stop and change her gloves. Then her right glove tore. I was torn between burdening this woman and worrying about my own hygiene. Nevertheless, I casually mentioned that UC could’ve provided better quality PPE for the money they charged.

That’s when the service professional told me that she’d paid Rs. 3000 for a PPE kit from UC that included 50 masks, 50 pairs of gloves, a bottle of sanitiser and goggles. She also mentioned that the masks provided by UC were of poor quality and hence, she had to buy her own mask. In any case, she reluctantly wore a new glove on her left and after some more prodding wore a new one of the right too, that too very close to the end of the service. I thought to myself that it must hurt really bad to be “wasting” money like this.

Through the rest of my pedicure, I kept thinking.

Simple math – Rs. 3000 from the service professional and Rs. 1950 (39*50) from 50 customers effectively means an additional revenue of Rs. 100 per customer to UC, thanks to COVID. Through some basic research on Amazon, I figured that UC may not be spending more than 30-35 bucks per customer on PPE. I couldn’t understand why being cheap trumps being “cheap”. Why would any company want to lose face by making money off PPE?! Or am I completely missing something here?!!

Once the service was complete, I saw the professional post pictures of both hands with gloves, a pic of the bottle of sanitiser, etc. onto the UC app. Ah, so that’s why the professional replaced her gloves when the first pair tore! Anyway, I was impressed with UC having built a mechanism to ensure their guidelines are being followed. This was definitely some level of sophistication in ensuring service quality and also having the nimbleness to adapt so quickly.

Then I saw the professional dab some sanitiser onto her hands and cleaning out her gloves and putting it back for re-use in her next service. That’s when I remembered that she’d dabbed some sanitiser onto her gloves even before she started my service. I was scared to even think about what those gloves had seen before my face. Sigh.

Job was complete, and it was time to rate my service. I was impressed that they’d even adapted their service rating to post pandemic conditions with separate ratings for service quality and ratings for hygiene. I rated the service well, and hygiene not so well. So, naturally, I will definitely go back to UC (rather have them come back to me), but surely not until things are normal again.

If UC ever decides to introduce a high quality PPE kit that is freshly opened, used and disposed off in front of the customer, I’ll definitely change my mind. In fact, they could make this optional, so people willing to pay the premium can get the service they pay for.

People might be losing jobs, people might be uncertain about their futures, but when you aren’t selling grains or groceries, you need to know that people aren’t going to be price sensitive, definitely not at the cost of their own health and safety. But you cannot be taking advantage of that, instead your focus should be on preserving CX and business.

P.S. Hey Urban Company, I did say I’d be nitpicking on you as I become a power-user, didn’t I?

Adult friendships

When I was a little girl, I always wondered why my parents didn’t have as many friends as I did. Most of my parents’ friends were either their colleagues or childhood friends that they would meet once in a couple of years or something. I thought they weren’t good at making friends or had completely lost touch with people who they once hung out with everyday. Either way, I could never imagine how that was ever possible.

I am 32 now, and my 3yo daughter thinks I have one friend. If I prod her a little bit, she can try and remember a couple more that she met a few months ago. But the reality is, these are people who I meet once a year or once in two years anyway. So, I won’t blame her for thinking the way I did about my parents.

So, how did I go from never being able to imagine a life like my parents’ to having one exactly like theirs? For starters, I have far more responsibilities now than I did as a kid. What does this mean? It means I have more work to do in the same amount of time. This in turn means I need to prioritise what I spend my time on.

Child rearing > Working > Cooking > Cleaning > Sleeping > Talking to family > Reading > Picking up the phone and calling a friend.

Oops, I forgot to include “making my marriage work”. Meh, it’ll survive. The husband’s battling the same issues too, so who knows, may be he won’t notice either.

But is it just the lack of time? There’s definitely far fewer opportunities to build a physical relationship with someone like you could as a kid either in school or playing on the street. Apart from colleagues or neighbours, assuming you know who they are, there’s little opportunity to make new friends.

You could meet people online. But there is far lesser pressure to be constantly interesting when you meet someone in person rather than meeting them online. There’s little else to jump to or be distracted by when you are physically with someone, and you are more likely to build a deeper connection with someone. I can text 10 friends all at the same time and not feel close to either one of them. I don’t think efficiency makes up for emotions.

People are too busy living in their heads. We are worried about how the world perceives us more than we ever did. We are afraid to fall. We are afraid no one will catch us. Hence, we don’t even try. In the occasional moments of strength, I end up “reacting” to someone’s story on Instagram or commenting on a post in the hope that it’ll at least lead to an exchange of long lost words. Sadly, strength isn’t contagious. When you find your strength, your friends may not and vice-versa. If we stopped living in our heads, may be we would.

Sometimes, when I feel braver, I try and rekindle conversations with old friends by reaching out to them. You run out of things to talk about pretty quickly. There’s only so long you can indulge in nostalgia. People want to be able to discuss things that matter to them at that very moment. But the effort of having to bring an old friend up to speed about their lives is so daunting. You hover around nostalgia and small talk before being hit by an awkward pause when the conversation dies and nobody cares enough to even bury it.

I have trouble making friends. I always did. I was 5. I remember going to a painting contest with my then best friend. I remember finishing everything I needed to draw – the sun behind some hills with a river flowing down from it, a house at the foothills and a cycle because my granddad had made me practice drawing one for the contest. Once I was done, my friend and I had lots of fun chatting and she didn’t end up completing her painting. So, naturally, my friend, who was a prolific painter, didn’t win the contest.

Next day in school, she came and told me that her parents have asked her not to talk to me anymore. Now, I can’t remember if it was this or something else, we stopped being friends. Not just that, all the other girls in my class stopped talking to me. For 6 whole years after that. I spent most of primary school being on my own.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it. My teachers did. My parents did. You see, I used to suck my thumb to bed till I was 9 or something, so my parents were concerned about me being on my own. I don’t blame them. I had friends near home, they more than made up for my lost childhood in school. They called me names, they fought with me, they made up with me. We may not be in touch today, but they still live very strong in my memories.

If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, I would’ve said – “It’s okay. Not everyone makes friends as easily.”

I have a couple of friends now who I speak with very very regularly over text. These are people that I’ll possibly never live close to ever in my life yet I feel close to them. However, I know this is short-lived. These friends are single, and it’s only a matter of time before our relationships change. I’ve seen this before. Several times. Friendships that were once inseparable (at least over text) died a sudden death, thanks to people getting married or having kids. But you see, I understand.

Somedays, I just wish I could go for a walk in my neighbourhood, and be able to wave at and chat up at least 4-5 people like I used to be able to as a 10 year old. But I tell myself, “It’s okay. Not everyone makes friends as easily.”

Discovering myself through travel.

For the first 23 years of my life, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be anywhere except Bangalore (my home-town). I don’t know if it was ignorance, fear of the unknown or sheer lack of curiosity that made me feel like this.

Anyway, after I got married, I went to Sri Lanka on my honeymoon. It was hardly an hour away from Bangalore by flight and looked so much like India, so it was a good place to start exploring the world. The following year, we travelled to Italy, Greece and Turkey. I gave up on my 3rd in Italy I think? The blandness of the food was intolerable and familiarity failed to grow on me soon enough. I felt a bit frustrated to not be able to enjoy the local food or culture. I was afraid that I might not be as open minded as I would’ve liked.

The year after, I was on a work trip in Bangkok, and decided to explore the city on my own on my day off. I set out with a physical map (pre-smart phone/ google maps era) and some cash, explored the city all by myself getting royally conned into multiple scams. But I had the greatest realisation of my life – I had never been on my own in a new city not being able to speak the local language. But having gotten through the day, seeing tonnes of touristy things, eating local food and finding my way back to the hotel made me feel like I’d found a new part of me in Bangkok that never existed back home in Bangalore.

But it’s not always easy to wing it in a new city, and I learnt this on my trip to Aichi in Japan. To fully enjoy the beauty of a new place, it’s essential to really immerse yourself and try to blend in. So by my second trip to Japan, I’d learnt some basic Japanese and I found another part of me there, that never existed in Bangalore.

May be all this gave me the confidence to move to Barcelona, the following year. For the first time in my life, at 27, I was living on my own, making all the little decisions on my own – what groceries to buy, what food to cook, when to eat, when to study, when to sleep, how to spend my money and all the things you think one should ideally be doing at least a decade earlier. Yet again, I found a part of me in Barcelona that I never knew existed in Bangalore.

At the end of my first year in Barcelona, I moved yet again. I took my life to Jakarta. I travelled around south east Asia the rest of that summer, seeing so much diversity in such little time. Although I now knew how to survive in a new country with its own language and culture, for the first time, I felt more lonely than ever. I missed having friends or family around. I started to feel like I wanted to be back home.

I thought I couldn’t travel anymore, but I’d already applied for a semester abroad in America and so reluctantly, I moved to Ann Arbor. I had zero expectations to feel at home in America. I didn’t even want to try, to the extent where I didn’t even buy a floor lamp for my room. Thanks to the friends I made, I felt at home like I hadn’t in a long long time. Of all the unexpected places in the world, I found a new part of me that I never knew existed back in Bangalore.

When I came back home that Christmas, I knew I had no home. I didn’t feel at home in Bangalore. I didn’t feel at home anywhere. Rather, I could feel at home anywhere, it didn’t matter. I went back to Barcelona for my last semester and by the end of it, I had a job in London. Till date, living in London has to be my most memorable experience. I found me – the me from Bangalore, except the part I thought I detested and never fit in while in Bangalore.

For the first time in my life, it felt fabulous to be shy, awkward, not talk when I didn’t want to and watch the whole world mostly mind their own fucking business. Routine and repetition soaked my life in London and it was so comforting while having to juggle so many things at once. Besides learning to work in a different culture, being a mum and juggling an intense job, I learnt to love myself just the way I am. I found a big bloody chunk of me that had never found a home back in Bangalore.

Yet, I moved back. Because you see, it’s never good to be too comfortable anywhere. I was getting too comfortable with all the excuses for not pursuing my passion. I was getting too comfortable with discomfort. I was tiring from constantly discovering things about myself. It can be overwhelming sometimes. Especially when you’ve gone almost 20-25 years of yourself learning very little about yourself let alone accepting what you’ve learnt.

So, after having explored almost 30 countries, I am home now. But am I really?

Thanks to my daughter, I’ve learnt that there are 195 countries in the world and I know the names of about 80% of them. Makes me wonder if there are more parts of me waiting to be discovered in all of these places. But, I’ll have to make do with virtual travel. I’ve started reading books by authors from around the world in the hope that I’ll find a part of me somewhere, while sitting right here. If I don’t, I might just pick up my bags and move yet again, when I’m done here because you see, they say familiarity breeds contempt. So, you never know.

Letters to my Berry#30

B5EFEE2E-E928-4E61-A1BC-2E596A33CA54

Bear bear! Earlier this week, you turned three-and-a-half, and I am quite proud that we managed to bake a chocolate cake together to celebrate you turning 3.5. It is quite apt that I mention this as you’ve learnt to appreciate recipes as you’ve seen that I look up recipes and then try to cook that at home. When I cook, I make you sit on the kitchen counter, and explain what I’m doing mostly so I keep you entertained. However, in the process, you’ve learnt the names of a few ingredients. Who knows if you can actually cook some of the dishes that you’ve seen me cook, on your own. Even if you could, unlikely you will, because you are a very lazy person. Am I proud of that? No. Am I worried about that? May be. But I also believe laziness is a virtue that makes you smarter, so let’s hope there’s an upside to this.

Fundamentally, you prefer not to work hard if you have an option. For instance, you once told me that you want to be a “homer” or someone who stays at home. I reminded you that you wanted to be a doctor, and you promptly told me that you’d changed plans because Barbie told you that you need to work hard in order to become a doctor and that you only wanted to work a little, hence, you weren’t going to become a doctor. In fact, you also told me that I should find you a husband who will do a lot of work, and give you money so you can “repair” it 10 times and give it back to him and he will “repair” it 100 times and so on till you have enough to buy everything. You are clear that the husband will be “used” for getting money and you won’t bother working. I guess I shouldn’t tell you too much about my work, because clearly, you seem to have taken an active interest in it as you came and asked me the other day if I’d found a husband for this particular client. Sigh.

While you’re not being too lazy, you want to become a musician as you love playing your keyboard. We also took you to Indian Music Experience, a music museum in JP Nagar, which you thoroughly enjoyed.  My friend Mads took music lessons for you for about a month since you seemed to enjoy singing your own songs. Mads noticed that you prefer playing the keyboard to vocal, and so, we started piano lessons in Feb’20. So far, you can play a couple of little songs that you’ve been taught, and sing along but that’s only in class. The moment you are out of the class, you will only sing and play your own compositions which by the way, aren’t too terrible. Well, as long as you are having fun, who cares right?

We have a vague clue of what you do in school, but when we try to probe, you simply tell us that you don’t want to talk about it, and hence, over time, we’ve given up. Some day, randomly you started reading letters or sounds off boards on the road, that too in Kannada. That’s when I realised that you are learning to read. Can you blame me given that you’ve only ever told me that you do “cutting paper work” or “wiping work” at school? Everything is work. For instance, sometimes, you come and ask me if you can do “TV work”. Imagine how hard work life balance must be for you!

I also didn’t know that you can write until I saw you write English alphabets in Gramma’s house. It’s damn cute how you write some of the alphabets, it’s like Trump trying to say words in Hindi. I figured you might have learnt to write as you learnt to read, so I tried to get you to write in Kannada, and guess what? You can. You can read and write simple words without too much “vottakshara”, which is strangely awesome on an absolute level especially because you can’t speak much Kannada. While you can mostly comprehend, you hesitate to speak because you don’t get a lot of practice except with our cleaning lady, Lakshmi, who was fired from the job last week for stealing your “B” pendant.

The highlight of this quarter included your introduction to Santa. Well, you knew about Christmas and Santa from London, but this was the first time you woke up to presents from Santa. It’s a family tradition that I was keen to pass on, but then you didn’t seem to understand much. So facepalm.

You had a week off from school when we did a road trip. This was your first road trip, and we’d installed a car seat for you. I can’t tell you how amazing you were in the car staring outside the window, dazed, in your own zone. You got to see a waterfall (Jog), a river (Bhadra) and a forest (Bhadra Tiger reserve), all of which you thoroughly enjoyed. You even became friends with four 70-year old gentlemen during our time in the forest. You enjoyed living in all your “hotel houses” and swimming in the river. The river was atleast 20-feet deep where you got in with just a life vest and swam so care-freely. In fact, appa was scared getting into the water at first, but you, true to your name, fearless.

When you went back to school, you told everyone that you’d gone to “Wild Karnataka”, which is a documentary film you saw in a theatre. This was your first movie in a theatre ever, you watched intently for 30min and then spent all your time focusing on the popcorn. Seeing you enjoy swimming, we tried swimming lessons for you the following week, but the class was too basic for you and very quickly, both you and I got bored. We’ll go back once you’re 4 so we can go to a proper big girl swimming class, ok? You also enjoy dancing, but I have a feeling you’ve two left feet like Appa, but then it might be too early to say.

You are physically quite active. A highlight of this quarter has to be your first trek at Kavaledurga. You climbed a hill all by yourself, without being carrier one bit. The trek one way was atleast 45min-1 hr, Appa and I were damn impressed. You’ve also significantly improved skill-wise at gymnastics, thanks to little gym. You can nearly do headstands, cartwheels, roll over forward as well as backward, etc. You whiz around the house in your cycle or your scooter all the time, parking them randomly wherever you want making us trip over them all the time. However, we decided to take a break from the gym after 20+ classes because we didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed with all the classes. Tuesdays are little gym, Wednesdays and Fridays are music class and there after you go to your Gramma’s house almost every other Friday.

Emotionally, you’ve evolved quite a bit, you make up lots and lots of stories, and words. You make up random names for your toys. For instance, your “baby” is called Avyath, and your monkey is called Madrath. You also randomly decided to change Madrath’s name to “Sanantha Prakesh” while we were on the road trip and you wanted to be called “Manantha Lucy”. Your creativity isn’t limited to names, you’re pretty skilled at pretending to help and then avoiding work, so one can’t exactly be mad at you either. You also sometimes come in and say things like “I realize” while rolling your eyes and pointing your hands at us, it’s too cute.

Another big milestone this quarter is sleeping on your own bed, and being able to go to the bathroom and wee on your own, flush, wash and come back. You’ve no idea how big a deal this is because now we don’t have to drop everything we’re doing everytime you scream “wee-wee”. I’ve never mentioned this before but you like visiting the bathroom every new place we go to – restaurants, people’s houses, etc. Talking about restaurants, you love “Pump house” which is a microbrewery with a high chair. You love going there because of the high chair, and hence, every time we go anywhere else, you make it a point to mention your preference in front of the waiters.

There’s yet another thing you do, that I’ve sort of mentioned about before – You are obsessed with skin colour. For instance, near Gramma’s house, you have two friends with the same name – so one of them is “brown Teju” and the other “white”. You think people who are brown need to use soap. You think bad boys are “brown”. All of this is pattern recognition based on small samples. This is something you’d never done in London, I don’t know if it was because you were too small or because colour isn’t discussed. In fact, I don’t even know who is discussing colour with you, but I must confess that I’m not overly comfortable with this and I’ve tried a lot in helping you see beyond colour, but in vain. Sigh.

You’ve always been obsessed about make-up, dressing up and so. Now, you’re onto selfies – always clicking pictures of yourself. Our phones are filled with awkward close ups of your face. In fact, you’ve got your own “phone”, rather our old iPod that you use to call Gramma and Barbie. I’m sure i’ll have to buy you a real phone soon enough. As usual, I wish you didn’t grow up so fast, but I also find it fascinating to watch you grow. I try my best in capturing stories from your life, just as I do everyday with “Princess Berry” stories during bedtime when we recap everything you’ve done during the day. But it’s never enough. Between the videos on all our phones, these stories and hearsay, you’ll always know how your life was, growing up.

Happy 3.5 Birthday, bubba!

 

 

WFH Family.

WFH

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a lot of changes in the way people live. Children are off from schools, people are working from home, they’re eating out lesser and there aren’t too many places you can take the kids out to as parks, theatres, malls, etc. are off bounds too. Some people are coping with these changes more effectively than the others. In general, I am not good with changes, but surprisingly, this one has been somewhat milder than one would’ve expected and here’s how we’re dealing with each one of the changes:

School holidays

Except the two years in London when our daughter went to a full-day nursery, the husband and I have always taken care of our daughter on our own. We don’t have a nanny, although we tried having one for a week but didn’t really work for us. Now, childcare isn’t inherently easy, but we’ve got a broad framework in place to save us having to be creative every day. The daughter is on a schedule – 12 hours of sleep (7pm-7am), and 12 hours of waking (7am-7pm) which means we’ve ample waking hours (3+) without childcare responsibilities. This seems a bit stifling from the outside but the routine is unbelievably comforting.

Given that there’s no school, she spends double her waking hours with us compared to earlier. We’ve got a broad framework in place to tackle this too – We take turns to supervise her, and in this way both of us get to spend time with her and as well as get work done. So, you see, the school holidays have only marginally disrupted our lives which means it’s been easier on us than most parents who’ve don’t take care of their children on their own.

Working from home

The husband is a freelance management consultant and I am in the process of setting up a flourishing business. For the last 8 months, we’ve both been working from our combined home office. Just as with childcare, we have broad guidelines in place for how we share the space together, and who gets what hours of work when the daughter is around. Sharing office space is hard on productivity but we’ve both got decent ear phones, and desks placed apart to get our own space. We also have a shared calendar to “book the office” for work calls.

Now with schools being off, we have a harder time getting the same number of quieter work hours as earlier. We compensate by having alternate 90-min intense work sessions where one person locks themselves up in the home office, and the other hangs out with the daughter. That way, each of us gets more time that is quieter than earlier, despite the overall shorter work hours in the day. Generally speaking, it works alright, but we do have occasional grouses when we aren’t feeling particularly cheerful ourselves. Sometimes, the other accommodates, and sometimes, we engage in futile arguments that lead nowhere, but all in good spirit.

Eating out

We’ve a cook at home, who makes lunch and dinner. We usually skip breakfast or nibble on something basic since we can’t be bothered thinking so hard early in the morning. Having a meal plan feels too regimented, so we gave up on breakfast very early on in our life. The daughter is fairly comfortable eating cereal, eggs, bread, etc. for breakfast which is not hard to whip up, so we eat out less often than most people unless we’re really bored of eating what our cook makes. For the last one month, our cook’s been away, because of which we’ve had to cook our own meals. This way, we’d gotten used to making our own meals and boredom from monotonous meals could be dealt with more agility than when our cook was around. We ate out less often anyway because we make far tastier and interesting food than is easily available around home. But now, our cook is back, and we are ever so grateful and so you see, eating out being out of bounds is hardly an issue for us.

Parks, malls, etc. closed

We’ve never been the type of people who enjoy hanging out at a mall. I live in Jayanagar, I don’t need malls. I feel claustrophobic in malls, and if I had a choice, I’d avoid them altogether, albeit all the convenience it offers.

Parks on the other hand are useful, especially for kids to jump and play around. Do we terribly miss the parks? Not so much here in Bangalore, since we don’t take the daughter to parks very often except on the way back from gym, post which she is thoroughly scrubbed in bath. Now that our gym’s closed too, there’s no going to the park.

However, we do manage to get a lot of physical activity as a family, thanks to firing our cleaning lady who decided to steal jewellery from our house. We’ve agreed to split the work as a family to do the dishes, sweep and mop the house, dust the furniture, put away toys and other things in their place, water the plants, wash and fold clothes and throw the trash, although I must confess that I am the only one getting most of the work-out. But you see, I don’t mind because the physical fitness helps with my mental fitness. I try and make the family do a bit of work as well, but it’s easier with my 3 year old than my 37 year old.

Going out lesser

We step out each day for a drive to entertain ourselves and try and see if we can get the toddler to fall asleep while at it, but mostly in vain. This way, we don’t have to worry too much about touching anything or contracting infection, but we get to break free from excessive confinement.

Also, earlier in the year, we decided that we should spend an hour reading before going to bed, so you see we’ve already got a head start on how we spend an hour each evening. Going out lesser bothers us lesser because we prefer to read. We got domesticated way before anyone else on the planet so this excessive domestication bothers us way lesser than others. We’re so homely, I worry if we’ll start getting too many marriage proposals now.

So, you see, we’ve fundamentally been a WFH family, and this recent need for everyone to WFH bothers us way lesser than most people. Hopefully, those of you who are struggling, can figure out ways to “sanitise” your lives with similar ideas of your own because god knows how long we’ve to keep up this act.

Better to act now, than be sorry.