Letters to my Berry#14

IMG_9037You turned 14 months 3 days ago, but given that things have been mental at work this month and will continue to be until the end of this year, I am only getting around to writing to you now. But hey, you are 1.16 now. Woohoo. As you can see from the picture above, you are scaling new heights, quite literally – you managed to climb onto the chair and stand up on it all by yourself. You also wake up, get off the bed quietly and come to the living room like a big girl. I can see that you are discovering a lot of things for yourself and prefer to do everything independently – you prefer to not be carried, because you want to run and explore the world all by yourself. You like to touch and eat everything, that too, all by yourself.

For the last two weeks, you had been making it very difficult for us to feed you dinner and so, one day, I finally plonked you onto your high chair, put your food onto your plate and left. Guess what? You happily started to eat by yourself. Excited by this, I came back to feed you and you got so upset, so I let you finish your dinner on your own. This meant that you threw food all around you and I spent a few minutes cleaning up after you were done, but it was all worth it. Now, you eat your meals all by yourself, thanks to your nursery.

Since last week, you have been going to a new nursery just on Fridays, since it’s impossible for me to work from home with you around. I never felt guilty when I first left you at Smithfield back in March as I was excited to start a new adventure (at work!). But now, whenever I drop you off at your Friday nursery, I feel so guilty for leaving you there since you cry so much, and you don’t even look at me when you do and I think that makes it worse since it feels like you are clearly upset with me for leaving you. If I had to choose between you and work right now, I would choose you any day hands down but I don’t have that choice, atleast not right now.

But as always, you are making peace with how we have been treating you. Thank you. Sometimes I wish we did better as parents, because I have seen mine do better, but it’s okay. For instance, you probably had some viral infection over the last 2-3 weeks and I don’t think we even realised you were unwell because we kept thinking you were hurting from your molars beginning to pop out. I guess we are raising you the British way given that by the time you can get an appointment with the NHS, you would have kissed your sickness goodbye. In a way I don’t mind since it helps build your immunity.

There are a few other British things you seem to have picked up on your own – drinking imaginary tea from your tea cup all the time, and saying  things like “hiya”, “yeah”, etc. with an accent. You love playing with kitchen play things – I don’t blame you given that you see either appa or me in the kitchen most of your waking hours (mornings before work and evenings after work). The one cool thing that has come out of playing with kitchen things is that you have learnt to count from 1 to 10, I mean count, that too from a musical tea pot that Smitha gave you for your birthday. At first, I thought you can only say these numbers, but it’s only when I started saying ABCD and whenever I got to I, you would say 10, that I realised you have actually learnt to keep count. So, you aren’t so bad at Math, huh? Although you only like to say 2,3,5,7,8,9 and 10.

You aren’t that quiet kid who will just sit with her toys and books, you keep coming into the kitchen to pull out all the vessels and cutlery from the shelves, and you like to run away with the empty milk cans screaming “haala (milk)” repeatedly. You also love riding the buggy on wheels which we got you for your birthday and the musical walker that Sam got you for your birthday. You might be learning a few things from the walker also, who knows?! You know how to ask for milk, food and water, which is quite useful since we can use that as a cue to feed you, and be assured that you will finish what is given.

You have started to communicate just a little bit. You keep saying “yeah” at all opportune moments. You can understand what we say to you in both Kannada and English fairly well. You follow instructions like a bot – you bring things we ask you to bring, sit when told, etc. It’s quite cute. Oh, you also have the cutest sad face when we scold you for doing something naughty such as pull my hair, etc. You are appa’s pet, who brings his socks, his shoes and also yours every morning as we get ready to go to work. You also bring your jacket from the room because you love going out and you know the drill. You also wait like the dog at Shibuya station for appa coming back home and as soon as you hear the door downstairs you run to the gate at the head of the stairs to see him. You babble some gibberish as soon as you see him and it’s the cutest sight ever.

It’s not funny how quickly you are growing up – Appa and I were just watching photos and videos from the day you were born and you were sooooo tiny and quiet and now you are one big dada who demands maggi and soft drinks as if it’s your birth right. I can’t wait to take you home next month to see how you’ll react to everyone back home. You are a people lover and love socialising, so I am sure you’ll love it because everyone is waiting to see you.

More exciting stories for next month. Toodles.

 

 

 

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Letters to my Berry#13

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I am a week too late, but I am glad I waited to write this. I was PMSing (something you will experience when you grow up) and so I wasn’t completely in control of my emotions to provide with you a fair report of the last one month. For starters, I yelled at you towards the end of month 13, I gave you “hatta” on your back since you wouldn’t let me work on Fridays and spent the rest of the day crying about being so mean to you. I also realised what it must have felt like for ajji when she once hit me a 7 year old for doing something stupid. Neither of us are right in what we did, but I feel a bit more empathetic towards her than I ever did. That’s the great thing about being a mum – to see what I was like as a child right in front of my eyes, and to feel what ajji felt as my mum first handed.

I saw fear in you this month, for the first time. There are these moments when I watch you and wonder if I have damaged you for good, and the next minute you just start laughing and come give me a hug and rubbish my doubts. You got three vaccines on one day, you didn’t react for the 1st one, you winced and held your pain back for the second and you only cried for 30 seconds for the last one. As I watched you, I wondered if we learn resilience that early in life because you are surely fearless, as your name suggests, my little Abheri.

You show resilience as you learn to run. A few weeks back, we were out near King’s cross in a square with little fountains and as soon as we put you down, you started walking and then running, away from us. You loved being chased by us around the square and went absolutely mental when we tried to pick you back up. You are a runner, you absolutely enjoy running in parks – we took you to Walpole park last sunday and you just kept running and falling, picking yourself up and running again. You even enjoyed playing on the swing, slide, see-saw and the little merry go round type thingie. You refused to leave the park, which means we have to live in an Ealing like neighbourhood even next year when we move. I wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to run around so freely if we went back to Bangalore?

Among the other big milestones this month, you are showing more signs of fulling understanding what we say. You do peekaboo when we ask you to, you sit when we ask you to, dance, sing, kick the ball, throw it and even say 1, 2, 3 when we ask you to, and when you are in the mood. Talking about 1,2,3 – the funniest thing about this month has to be the 5 page report we got from your daycare about your progress, which said you aren’t very strong in math and your carers plan to help you get better. Hahahaha.

You are one!!!!! I don’t care if you aren’t good at math, as long as you are eating and alive. But hey, I may not say this when you are 10, so enjoy this as long as it lasts. 5 pages, I still can’t believe they had so much to say about my little person – this is the nice thing about living in London where you have daycares that are run professionally, albeit being expensive. It makes my job of entertaining you that much harder, but I don’t mind being challenged to do better as a parent.

The one thing I still struggle to keep up with is your obsession with books. You wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is go find appa, since he is busy working away in the kitchen in the mornings, have a babbalogue with him and then come back to me to drink milk and once that’s out of the way, you hit the books. You flip pages, make strange sounds, want us to read out stuff from the same books, over and over again and you keep giggling at the animals sounds we make, over and over again. You never get bored of the repetition, it amazes me and we play along. I will get old someday and might enjoy repetition just like you do right now, but will you have the patience to indulge me?

You love the computer, kindle and phone, just like any other kid your age, thanks to us for overexposing you to gadgets. Although you surprised us by picking up the phone one day and holding it to your ear and pretended to talk to someone, because you’ve only seen us video call people and so, we didn’t know where you had learnt to make voice calls. You’d apparently picked this up at your nursery, I learnt later. It was a revelation to learn that we don’t entirely control what you learn even as a one year old, and that there are so many influences outside of home and outside of our control. It was both re-assuring and unsettling at the same time, because what if people could make you do what ever they wanted and it wasn’t necessarily in your best interest?

You are not a big fan of toys really, you prefer books, and music making toys, the piano and your tea cup, from which you keep pretending to drink out of. You even pretend to take food from our hands and pretend it. You even pick your chest and pretend to be feeding yourself milk (Lulz!), but I guess you being able to pretend and imagine things is a sign of you becoming more and more human everyday. Of course, your ability to socialise (thanks to your great grandmum’s genes) always made you more human, from a very young age and I really do hope you will use your ability to make everyone around you smile for years to come.

Ok, happy 13th month for now (you came and disturbed my flow of thoughts, so this is what you get – an abrupt ending!). Can’t wait to experience many more revelations with you. Hugs.

 

Can we just be humane sometimes?

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I frantically finished work early to go pick up my daughter from her nursery, so I could reach home before a call with my mentor at 6:30pm. I arrived at the nursery door only to realise I didn’t have the access key with me, which is normally in the same bunch as my house keys. Thankfully, there was another parent walking ahead of me, who had opened the door and I ran in behind him. My mind was now racing as it was busy calculating the time it would take to go from Farringdon to Victoria (where my husband’s office was) and then to Ealing (where I live) all before my call at 6:30. I had about an hour and a half, so it was almost impossible to make it back home in time, and so I decided to ring my husband up while I walked behind the other parent as I hoped to be let in through the door behind him.

The man in front of me just stopped, and stepped aside. As I stayed on the phone hearing my husband’s number ring without being answered, I asked the man if he could let me in as I didn’t have my access key with me. The man looked me straight in the eye and said, “I am sorry, I don’t know who you are and I can’t just let anybody into the nursery like this.” At first, my mind was too pre-occupied to even comprehend what he was saying because I wasn’t expecting him to say anything but “of course”. Now, if this man had never seen me before, I would still be okay with him saying that but we had seen each other almost every day when we both went to pick up our respective children from the nursery.

When I finally understood what he was saying after a few seconds, I wanted to scream at him asking if he is completely out of his mind to say what he just said given that he has seen me picking up my daughter several times before, but I was too shellshocked that anyone could be so rude to say anything at all. Thankfully, before anything else could happen, someone from the nursery came in from behind the door and let me in. But I couldn’t stop thinking about why that man said what he said. Was it just a lack of decency? or was it racism?

I don’t know, but sometimes I wonder what stops people from just being humane? There’s way too much hatred in the world already, thanks to the comment section of any piece of writing on the internet. Why can’t we just be nice to people we can physically see in front of us? It’s not like I was asking this guy for his kidney, all I was asking was for him to let me pass through the door behind him.

There are so many parents I see everyday when I go to the nursery, and we all acknowledge each other in some form or the other – hello, smile, half-smile, nod, etc. You wouldn’t do that if you saw the same people on the tube or even in your own office every day, but you would somehow do this with other young parents – almost in a “I get your pain” sort of way. It’s nice, even if this is short lived. It’s nice to know that there will be intermittent phases in the life of a human being where we can all relate to each other irrespective of class, colour, creed or religion, just like we did as little babies. It gives me hope.

We need real’er cartoons!

Until I had Berry, I’d always tell myself that I would not resort to letting the kid watch cartoons/ videos to make him/ her eat, but then, when you actually have a kid, your priorities change. I have mostly been optimising for my time and also getting everything done, which means I have resorted to cartoons just because it means I can prepare Berry’s dinner without her being stuck to my leg like a leech. But I have been quite picky on the cartoons I let her watch since I have to like watching them too.

By that metric, Peppa Pig had been a clear winner for us. I am personally more addicted to it than Berry, who honestly couldn’t care less about it. What I love about it is how relatable it is from a kid’s perspective. Compare it to a cartoon like Popeye from my times. It was about two men being in love with one woman, and one of them popping a can of spinach to beat up the other guy to win over the woman. I mean, why would you even care about this as a 4-5 year old?! Or take Perils of Penelope Pitstop – about this dainty little car racing chick who is always putting on make-up while this shady guy (with a cute dog, Mutley) is always trying to de-rail her path while he ends up sabotaging his own life – this doesn’t even make any sense.

On the other hand, Peppa pig is all about everyday stuff. Peppa Pig has several other animal friends who are all a different shape and colour, which accurately represents life in London which is such an amalgamation of diversity. I think it’s important to see and acknowledge the difference early on, else we have difficulty appreciating diversity of thought as adults. Apart from such big learnings, there is also little stuff like understanding what parents do at work in this episode where Peppa and George go to their Daddy’s office – There’s a cat that prints shapes (read makes presentations), there’s another person that looks at “very important” number (read the finance guy) and there’s daddy pig who does some analytics. So all everyday regular stuff that makes it easier for kids to understand the present life around them.

So you can imagine why I love Peppa pig as a practical guide to growing up. But it all changed last evening when I watched the episode “Sun Sea and Snow” in which Peppa’s family is supposed to go the beach the following day. It snows all night and the whole city including their house is kind of buried in snow by the next morning, so Peppa and George go jump on Mummy and Daddy pig while they are still in bed, asking them to wake up to come see the snow. And the next scene is all 4 of them going down the stairs fully dressed.

I mean, how could they all be ready that quickly? This can’t be real life. Getting ready and stepping out of the house with little kids is like a military expedition. You can’t skip the getting ready to go out bit, just like that. I was completely thrown off by how easy they made stepping out seem.

Who was going to pack George’s diaper bag (he’s 2!!), snacks and drinks for both Peppa and George, change of clothes just in case one of them gets messy, raincoats for everyone (because it’s Britain and the weather is so erratic), sanitisers, tissues and what not. How are kids ever going to understand what it really takes to step out, so they be more helpful in getting ready? I can’t wait till Berry becomes a parent to realise this. We need some real’er cartoons!!!

Adulthood, ants and social cohesion

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Ever since I moved to London, I have been spoilt with the generosity of random Londoners who smile at me as they watch me lug a little monkey on my chest. Watching babies makes people smile, and so when I catch people smiling at us, I smile back. Yesterday, while I was walking back home with Berry from Sam’s house, two women walked past me and I was all ready to smile back but they never smiled at me. It was the first time someone had not smiled at me in London, while I was carrying Berry. Then I started to wonder why this would have not been strange at all if Berry hadn’t been with me. And that, I thought was even stranger.

Why aren’t we more like ants, who greet everyone they bump into? We look at animals with love and curiosity that we don’t reserve for fellow humans. Why? Why did humans evolve in a way as to not acknowledge another person from the same species? On the one hand, people in India examine everyone that passes by from top to bottom and that’s rude. Whereas, somewhere else, people don’t even acknowledge your existence because they respect your privacy.

As a society, respecting each others’ privacy is a sign of evolution. That’s why you wouldn’t go to someone’s house unannounced in the west, whereas someone randomly turning up at your doorstep is perfectly normal in India. When you look at kids who haven’t evolved culturally/ socially, you can see that they are a lot more uninhibited and are very cognisant of others of their own species (aka other babies). It’s funny how evolution for a society means abandoning spontaneity and embracing being unnatural.

This probably also explains why some of us have difficulty making friends as adults. As adults, we are far more cautious, inhibited and judgemental, preventing us from opening ourselves to meaningful friendships. If you are able to get beyond this, it’s still not enough because the other person must be in the same place as you in order to forge a friendship. Well, this can be artificially curated by using social lubricants such as alcohol but it’s not sustainable. So how do we make way for strong meaningful friendships that last longer?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer but i have my own personal experience to share, which might give you some insight into what type of friendships live and which ones die. I have seen 2 types of friendships (oversimplifying of course) through my adultlife – one where I like to feel needed and another where someone else does.
Personally, relationships where someone else likes to feel needed works better for me – this means I can keep ranting about my life and the other person will revel in my emotional dependence on them. But too much of anything is bad and so after a while, people who like to feel needed might stop seeking validation leaving me hanging and hence, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable choice. On the other hand, if I am constantly trying to be there for someone, there’s a good chance people will bulldoze you with their needs and sooner or later, I’ll snap and stop being there for them.
Now, this is very different from how friendships are growing up where you equally share roles of being the needy and the needed. Strangely, we start becoming quite obsessed with our individual agendas as we become adults that hinder making collective progress. Suddenly becoming conscious and receptive to another person’s agenda doesn’t result in stronger friendships – unfortunately it only helps you make the transition from being needy to being needed.
I know so few people who have forged thick friendships as adults (say 30+) and that’s why I’d love to hear from someone who can critique my cynicism with real life experiences.

Daughters of Destiny

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I am one major sob queen and I am not ashamed to admit it. Any piece of media I consume makes me super emotional and cry like someone just died. As expected, the new documentary on Netflix, “Daughters of Destiny” made me weep like a baby all afternoon yesterday. This documentary is about children from socially and economically backward families being provided with an equal opportunity to education and basic quality of life, all thanks to the vision of one man, Abraham George, and the contribution of several generous donors. It is an attempt to break poverty at the most grassroots level, one child at a time.

The one thing that stood out to me from that documentary, which has been shot over 7 years, was how fluently these children spoke in English. It doesn’t feel like India. It feels like the West, where everyone including a homeless person speaks English with the same accent and it’s hard for you to know what their social or economic background is. This is so powerful, especially given that these children would have otherwise been social outcastes given the castes they come from and the stigma attached to it, till date.

To put things into context, one of the kids, was born to a woman who works in quarry and lives in a tiny thatched hut roof by the same quarry. She lived there until the age of 4 before she received admission into “Shanti Bhavan”, a residential school for the underprivileged in South India (near Hosur). She is now a corporate lawyer in Delhi, after having graduated from NUJS in Kolkata. Her two worlds are strikingly different as her family continues to live by the quarry in the same old tiny hut. I cannot even begin to imagine the level of maturity this girl has to be able to cope with the differences.

I have a lot of admiration for people who give their precious time for the betterment of others, especially at the grassroots level. We are all so caught up in our own lives that we don’t have a minute to pause and reflect on how lucky we all are to be born to our parents who could afford to provide us with opportunities to dream, and then go chase those dreams, let alone help others have those opportunities. We think it’s not our problem that these kids are born into poor homes and to each their own fate because there are people who are much richer than us and they don’t make our lives any better.

Helping someone who could use our help enriches our lives as much as it enriches theirs.   It’s impossible to know who has how much potential without being given the opportunity to explore it. All we can do as having had the privilege to explore our own potential is to be able to help one other person explore theirs, because who knows, one day, this person might become the president of our country and you’ll play a huge part in it. Just saying, in case you are curious about what’s in it for you.

I myself had the privilege of enriching the lives of close to 200 such kids that came from various parts of rural Karnataka while I ran civic education program for them over 4 years at Toyota in Bangalore. I benefiting from the experience as much as any of these kids since I learnt a great deal about life in different parts of rural Karnataka I’d have otherwise never known first hand and this made me grateful for the life I had, growing up in a city. That’s when I realised that opening yourself up to give, allows you to receive as well.