Relationships, spinach and their expiry dates

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If you’ve gone grocery shopping to a super market, you’ll know that the fresher stock (with later expiry dates) is always stocked up behind the older stuff because supermarkets like to follow FIFO (first in first out). However, what they probably don’t realise is that there are people like me who know this and they will end up with LIFO (last in first out) instead. Someone like my husband would think why bother making the effort of sorting through the stock as long as they are all within the expiry date – what’s the big difference anyway? It makes a huge difference – If I know the spinach is going to expire in 7 days instead of 3, I could happily dump the spinach in the fridge for a few extra days not worrying about making the decision of salvaging it. It’s not always because I want to cook with fresher spinach, sometimes, it’s about having the option to not cook with it immediately despite buying it. Strange you think?

Think about this – When you are fresh in a relationship, you could have a fight or two in a day and still be snuggling up in bed later that night, but if you’ve been together for a long time, a fight is always ugly – you always have to deal with it immediately, it can take a few days for you to “resolve” it before you can snuggle up in bed. The fresher a relationship, the longer you can keep stuff in the fridge and not bother about it (until the expiry date), whereas older relationships can’t be taken for granted for too long because relationships have expiry dates, egos that grow with time and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the more likely you are closer to its expiry date.

With age, relationships mature, like old wine or single malts – so in a way, they don’t really ever expire. But some people enjoy the taste of it, some don’t. For those that don’t, that relationship has an expiry date. We all want fresher spinach because some of us want our relationship to retain its novelty, some of us want to take it for granted for longer, but we all want it to be fresher for longer. So when you’ve picked up spinach that is going to expire in 4 days and you see someone next to you who has picked up a packet that’s due to expire in 5 days, you want their packet so bad because apparently even one extra day can make all the difference.

We always want to go back in our relationships, even if it’s one step, because we are a day farther away from it’s expiry, its fresher by one day or we have a day longer to take it for granted. Familiarity increases with time, quirks become exposed, our reactions to the other person’s quirks mellow down over time (because you can’t possible break up with someone because they leave the toilet seat up all the time, come on!! that’s what men do right?), we start to become comfortable with things that were unthinkable at one point. Then, someday, something hits you hard, an expiry date or existential crisis for instance, and you start thinking and overthinking all the changes in your life and suddenly, you want your neighbour’s packet of spinach, you want to go back in time, just so you can shove your problems in the fridge for longer and not have to make the decision of whether you need to salvage it now or not.

God, this is such a morbid view of relationships. Sometimes, I can be very cynical. Most of us are, and it’s okay. As Yuval Noah Harari says, it’s also just our imagined order.

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Does your memory embarrass you?

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Ishita, my friend from Ross asked me if I knew this guy, Rohit Nair, who is her teammate at work. Yes, I know the guy. I mean, I don’t “know” know him, but I know of him. He is the same batch as me, and went to a different branch of the school I went to. He went to the same NTSE summer coaching class as me, back in 2002. Now, did we know each other then? No. We had this tradition in class, where the teacher would call out the names of kids with the top scores every week and his name was probably called out once or twice.

Now, if that wasn’t enough to get registered in my memory, I met this chap again in 2003 at an inter-school fest called Vivum at The International School, Bangalore. He somehow knew one of my classmates and by the virtue of having a common friend, we hung out for about 30min, not talking to each other really, but talking to the common friend. And now, 14 years later, I still remember the guy. If he ever read this, he would think I am creepy. But you see, it’s not me, it’s just my embarrassingly good memory.

At the very same fest, there was another girl who was a co-finalist in the personality contest – Akshaya Megharikh. She’d danced for this very popular number from this movie, Dil Too Pagal Hai, twisted her ankle mid way through her performance and yet won the contest. She was trained at the Shamak Dawar Institute. She beat Divya Suresh (who sang a song from Evanascence) and me (who sang Tere bina zindagi se koi). Now why do I remember all this?

Following on my classmate, Nikhila’s advice, we must remember the times we’re beaten because that’s what makes us stronger, I guess I just remember her because I was beaten? In any case, I had the great fortune of working with her on the same team 11 years later and creeping her out with my memory, although she confessed to having similar traits because she remembered one of my close friends, Rahul’s birthday, who used to be her neighbour 2 decades ago.

A lot of us remember such random details about other people that it’s almost embarrassing to say, because may be the other person won’t remember and they’ll probably think you are making stuff up or think of you as a creepy stalker. It takes a lot of courage to confess and that’s why, I love people who are brave enough to walk up to you and tell you that they recognise you from somewhere (even if they have just stalked you on Facebook!).

There are, of course, other reasons apart from being plain embarrassed or being too snooty to walk upto someone and tell them you recognise them – sometimes you wait to long before you make up your mind about coming forward and then the moment has passed and it’s too awkward. Once my husband met a friend and his wife, and the first thing he realised about the wife is that she used to be another friend’s crush and he knew the songs that his friend used to listen to when he was trying to get over this girl. Now, this is the kind of stuff you can’t say out loud, or you shouldn’t!!

People don’t mind remembering other people, they are more finicky about remembering events. Sometimes, people actively shut out memories of events they are not very proud of. So, it’s a good idea to not remind them if you happen to recollect it, even if you think it’s normal to recollect. For instance, my sister hates being reminded of her past, while I don’t mind. I had a good friend remind me of something she said when we were 16 about how a crush is like a sneeze and the harder you try to hold it back, the more painful it gets – it made me smile. It brought back good memories and I was glad to be reminded.

I think what is harmless to remind people about is if you happen to recognise them and they are able to recollect meeting you, with your help. Most of the time, I am pretty good at remembering people, if not events or numbers or anything else. If you ever find me not acknowledging you when you think I should know you, just come grab me, I am probably just too shy/ embarrassed by my own memory to come say I know you/ know of you.

 

 

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!!!

My bayesian learnings about parenthood

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Recently, I took the Myer’s Briggs test and learnt that I am an INTJ, and I must confess that I wasn’t really surprised, especially because I’d taken a similar test over 10 years ago and I had the exact same results. I suppose you could look at this two ways – I don’t learn or my core personality is rock solid and nothing can ever change that. The permanence of personality is interestingly reassuring – I’ve had so many new life experiences in the last decade, learnt and internalised so many new things, yet at the very core, I am still the same person.

It was interesting to validate that I am an introvert – often when I tell people I am one, people don’t believe me. Being an introvert does not mean I lack social skills, it just means I prefer being alone to being in a group. I get my energy from being with myself than with a group of friends/ family. I prefer intense/deep meaningful discussions with smaller groups of people, I don’t enjoy small talk about the weather or weekend plans.  Every monday morning, when people at work ask me about how my weekend was, I feel exhausted to engage in that conversation and so, I try to distract by asking people how their weekend was even before they ask me about mine.

Anyway, this post is not about introversion. It is about J for judgement. The way I learn is Bayesian, through priors. I judge as soon as I hear something or see something, and then, over time, I learn as I assimilate new information. This is quite contrary to the most common advice people give you about being open as you embrace new experiences or meet new people, because not all of us react to new environments much the same way. I don’t view judging as a problem, and this could be fundamentally different to a P (for perceiver) and so, if you don’t relate to what I am saying, it’s okay.

For the last several months, ever since I started a full-time job at a big corporation, I have been struggling to strike a balance between me as an employee, a mother, a wife and Berry’s personal CCTV (for family back home) because I am one of those bad women who likes to have it all. It’s mostly because I just didn’t have enough time for each role as the number of roles I managed increased over time. Imagine this to be on a team with missing people, and you having to manage multiple roles. Trying to keep up with the different roles, I felt like I had lost all sense of what my original role was.

As I said earlier, I like to have it all and so, my quest to find my original self began with me wanting to make more time for myself, so I could think and remember. The only way I could make time for myself was to stop playing a few roles on somedays or even for a few hours. On weekends, I don’t play employee/ mum/ wife/ Berry’s CCTV for a couple of hours in the mornings and I spend this time writing, because I think better when I write. Keeping up this routine is an important part of bringing back my original self.

A few months ago, I had written this post about mothers on Instagram where I said

You can’t possibly have full-time jobs AND be running a well orchestrated lobby on Instagram!

This was me judging at the first glance. However, over time now, I have learnt that there is much more to this lobbying. I started to stalk and rummage through the virtual lives of these women and learnt that a lot of these women have given up their full-time careers to support their spouse/ raise children in meaningful environments and doing this is not easy. Most of us adults define ourselves (I am a doctor, I am an architect, I work with Amazon, and so on) based on our full-time jobs and when that doesn’t exist anymore, it becomes hard to identify ourselves.

In the internet generation, our society gives very little credit to roles such as full-time mums or full-time wives and so, the most challenging bit about giving up a full-time job is losing a sense of our core self. Being active on social media is an attempt to reclaim ourselves. Staying active on the Gram imposes a routine and helps us define ourselves through our virtual identities. This may have led to the advent of a lot of mom-run internet businesses.

It is no mean feat to keep up a daily Instagram feed or a weekly vlog. Being an aspiring writer struggling to write more regularly, I can vouch for the amount of dedication it takes to run a regular column. So, having learnt more about these social media mums has broadened my perspective on parenthood, even though I may not be fully aligned on the content of these posts. All our journeys as parents are so similar, yet so unique and so even though every story you read, might seem like glorifying the obvious, we are contributing to the richness of our history.

 

Letters to my Berry#12

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Berry boo! Happy Birthday, big girl! At first, I thought this would be a 12 part series to capture the 1st one year of your life and then it would be an annual feature, except I recently learnt that babies have several milestones over the first 2 years of their lives which means I have now decided to extend it to a 24 part series. Now, does that mean I am going to be telling people your age in months despite you being over a year? No, I find that weird, although I get why people do that. So I will round down your age to the previous quarter and I hope that’s okay with you.

This has been a month of several milestones, yet again. You started walking beginning of September, all of a sudden. Appa and I were watching TV and you were standing right next to us and then suddenly you took two steps forward. I didn’t even realise but Appa was quick to notice and we were so excited for you. For a long time, people had been asking us to buy you a walker to help you start walking but we wanted you to be able to do it on your own at your own pace and so, we never bought you one (although you eventually ended up getting a walker as a birthday present from Rehaan). Your carers at the nursery also played a big role in encouraging you to continue walking every time you fell, so you wouldn’t resort to crawling as that’s obviously easier for you. Now, you love to walk and as you come closer to something you can hold on to, you try to run. It’s damn cute to watch you try to finish.

Talking about finishing, may be you are not a big fan of finishing. While feeding you dinner, you always find a way to not eat the last spoon and we want to do all sorts of drama to get you to finish. Maybe we are not instinctively designed to be finishers and probably it only comes out of practice, but this is a hard decision as a parent – should we make you a finisher or not, because being able to finish is a painfully acquired skill. While you may value this trait in the future, there is no way to know this for sure looking forward.

Personally for me, the biggest milestone of this month has to be the fact that you are able to sleep on your own. In the first half of August, you were going through a growth spurt and in the process, had ended up becoming damn clingy, would wake up several times through the night and feed constantly. I’d given into your needs 100% despite being told by a health inspector just a month before that it’s not a good idea to be feeding you through the night since your digestive system needs a break. Of course, I had my selfish reasons to do this since giving into your needs meant that you would cry less and I could lay in bed with my eyes closed through the night while you sucked endlessly.

I happened to read an article last week about how it is important for kids between 12-18 months to learn how to soothe themselves through the night and sleep well, failing which you might end up not learning this till quite late. So, last weekend, I decided to put you in your crib after dinner and let you sleep on your own. I dimmed the lights, tucked you into your blanket, left your favourite monkey with you and closed the door and left. You screamed and howled for about 5 minutes and soon after, you’d managed to fall asleep probably because you were tired and had figured you had no choice.

I felt bad as I heard you cry but I knew it was a small price I had to pay to make you learn to sleep on your own. I did this the next day as well and by the day after, you had learnt. When we put you in the crib now, you just wail a bit but hold on to your monkey and just fall asleep. Even through the night, you don’t wake up more than once or twice, but even when you do, you soothe yourself on your own and sleep back. Most of the time, we don’t try to pick you up except if you are trying to jump out of the crib and are really really upset. This has also meant that I have finally been able to rest better through the night after almost a year and a half now.

You still don’t talk much, apart from saying “amma”, “appa” or “mum-mum” but that’s not really in relation to anything specific. But you have now learnt to associate words/ sounds with their actual meaning. When I say mum-mum or ji-ji, you know I am about to feed you or give you water. When I say haala, you instinctively pull my shirt up or down (which has been a bit embarrassing on the train sometimes). You also say tuh-tuh and give a flying kiss when either you are leaving or someone else is, and you learnt this from Barbie chikki. You also know how to pick up the phone on talk on it, and apparently you learnt how to do this at the nursery, which is damn cute. While it’s interesting to see you are learning so quickly, sometimes its scary to know that we don’t have full control  of what you learn. I sound like a typical parent now, don’t it?

Anyway, you are a big girl now and I have to start embracing that you will learn lots and from everyone and everything you see around you and that’s okay. On the occasion of you turning one, we bought you a lot of presents (a house, a gaadi, a globe and some books) and a cup cake. We kept it all in the living room and so when you came from the room in the morning, you were damn excited to see all this. You slammed the cake and ate all the icing and opened all the presents. We took you to the London zoo (one of the oldest in the world) where you thoroughly enjoyed watching all the animals, especially the Indonesian monkeys and camels. Funnily enough, you got scared by goats, when we tried to make you pet them (haha!). We have recorded all this so we can show you when you grow up and laugh with you.

Talking about showing you videos, you are now able to comprehend videos and you find it so fascinating and exciting to see yourself in a video. We’ve shot videos of you watching a video, and a video of that and a video of that and so on. Yeah, we are a little bit strange like that, but guess what you just have to learn to live with that, like everything else.

Cheers to many more years of learning and discovering yourself. Remember that there are going to be several years in your life where it feels like you might be on a learning plateau but that’s only because you are not acknowledging everything you learn, and not because you aren’t learning.

Too deep for a one year old? Maybe. Haha, okay I’ll stop.

P.S – Here’s a list of presents you got for your birthday – A greeting card from your godparents, A tea party set and intelligence blocks from Avani and Advay, a walker from Rehaan, a house, a lady bug scooter, an inflatable globe and books from appa amma and lots and lots of wishes/ blessings from everyone else.

 

 

 

Get off your phone and quit preaching!

This Friday, I had an away day at work which means slight disruption to my routine – I had to drop Berry to the nursery in the morning and then catch a bus to this offsite place.  Being an obsessive optimiser off late, I kept thinking about my trip to the offsite while I was getting ready at home and guess what, I forgot to carry my phone. It was the first time in about 14 years that I was away from home without a phone. I didn’t miss it for most of the day, except when I was lost looking for this offsite place. I went several minutes late for the offsite since I hadn’t planned for the trip without a phone.

It was pleasantly refreshing to look around during my bus ride. I was seeing London for the first time since I moved here 6 months ago. This made me realize that smart phones have been nurturing the introvert in us. There’s been a lot of debate about how we are all forced to become extroverts growing up and that introverts must be allowed to celebrate their personalities. While I am all for this (given that I am an introvert myself), I don’t think we need to silently mobilise everyone to be introverts.

You can’t be at a dinner table without some people drifting off into their phones at some point. We’d rather speak to a friend thousands of miles away than people sitting right next to us. We’d rather check-in to the restaurant on four square or post pictures of our food on the gram than check-in physically or enjoy the food on our plate eating it. We’d rather share a joke on a WhatsApp group than the bunch we’re sitting with. We’d rather find an excuse to get away from our physical worlds than make an attempt to blend in it. We live in such strange times.

About a year ago, I made some huge first world life changes – I unfollowed everyone on my Facebook friend-list, which means there was no way for me to know what was happening with their lives unless I actively went looking for them. It freed up so much of my mind space. I have far fewer friends today, but atleast every time I speak to them, I learn something new and not just have something I saw validated. Strangely enough, a lot of people tell me more recently that they aren’t very active on Facebook anymore (except aunties of course, because they still thrive on arbit forwards and recipes). I am not surprised, that place was too toxic anyway.

People say Instagram is a much nicer place, but I beg to differ. If it were just pictures, it’s okay but there is so much preaching. People take the I am okay, but you are not okay approach to everything. I let my pet dog drool on my 4 month old and I request you all to do the same sort of stuff. If we are all so tempted to share every gruelling detail of our lives and document it for posterity, why not curate your history with pictures, videos and written accounts of your lives and quit preaching? (Oops, I guess you cannot urge people to stop preaching without committing the crime yourself!)

Where the mind is without fear

One of the reasons I started writing a lot in 2015 is because there were too many thoughts in my head and most of them too negative to be in there. I found writing to be a very powerful weapon to drive those thoughts out of my head and make space for productive thoughts. Several days later, I remember complaining to Conor Neil that I find my blog too cynical and that I’d like to write positively as he does but he told me it was important to have a balance of positivity with cynicism and that I mustn’t beat myself about this. So, putting out my negative thoughts here fulfills that exact purpose of filling the void in my head with some much needed positivity.

For the last several years, I have been suffering from some mild form of passive depression – I say mild because I have been living in denial and pretending like it doesn’t exist. It’s come on more strongly ever since Berry was born. Yet again, I brushed it off as being normal to suffer from post natal depression. This is mainly because I once did try seeing a therapist and it made me feel incredibly stupid for allowing myself to be bogged down by negativity enough to believe I needed help.

Even now, I continue to fight the little voice that wants me to seek help because some part of me strongly believes I know how to fix this problem myself. When you have a series of not so positive feedback loops, you start to wonder if you are making any progress in life and self doubt becomes a constant companion. So, when someone calls you out for not being good enough anywhere, you naturally become defensive. When you are defensive, you can’t offer logical arguments and you end up on an emotional tangent making your case much worse.

When you have gone so far off track, you really need help coming back – be it a therapist, a loving friend or a mentor. However, the important thing here is to make sure you still want to come back on track because if you don’t, I’d say that’s pretty serious and you need to just stop and scream for help immediately. Just any form of help, really. If you don’t, you’ll end up going in so deep that there’s no coming back.

The way I like to deal with my negative thoughts is by driving it out onto this blog and let go off it forever. The only reason I have refrained from doing that more recently is because I have bills to pay. But, I realise that this is just feeding a vicious cycle further and I’d rather dwell in a world where the mind is without fear, because fear makes you shrivel into something smaller than you really are.

So, I am back, back with my cynicism, negativity and everything chaotic that lies inside me dying to get out, so it can be replaced with some much needed positivity and joy.