Love in the time of ADD

When I was in 1st/ 2nd year of college, I remember one of my uncles telling me not to fall in love with north Indian boys in college.   I did have a crush on one north Indian boy at that point in life, but it wasn’t serious, so I wasn’t too concerned by the uncle’s warning. But over time, I have realised that most well meaning parents are very concerned about their precious South Indian child being abducted by this ever elusive north indian character who looks good and knows how to charm innocent good looking kids from respectable families (girls and boys included).

So I know about one such girl, who did seek such forbidden love in a north indian boy. Believe it or not, a lot of south Indian men don’t really men don’t really dig the typical fair good looking chick, unlike the parents of these men (for obvious gene propagation reasons you see). These men like unconventional beauties, who are beautiful because they are confident. The women who are not so confident about themselves, despite having a pretty face, possibly because they are too short or too fat etc. end up falling in love with this north Indian character, much to the disappointment of their parents.

This girl fought hard to make her parents like this boy, almost to the point where they were about to be married. A week before the wedding, the couple decided to call off the wedding because the boy confessed of being on medication for a mental illness. As you can imagine, this is enough reason for the parents to have won the case back but from the girl’s perspective, it was one hard decision to make, especially because this time she wasn’t fighting her parents, she was fighting herself. Mental illnesses come with a lot of shame, ignorance and stigma that we haven’t developed mechanisms to cope with. It’s the new age drinking problem – uncle aunty think it can be fixed if you have kids.

When I got married, I knew nothing about the husband’s mental condition, I doubt he knew about it himself. Even if he did, he didn’t say. When we found out a year later, I felt a bit cheated and sometimes, even a bit trapped. Having to deal with his emotions, and along with my own, was overwhelming. Everyday I thought I wouldn’t wake up to the next day – that’s how little courage I had. But today, we are in a much better place, I could have never imagined being here while looking forward 6 years ago.

Strangely, we always overestimate the impact of challenges on our lives and grossly underestimate our abilities to cope with them. It’s only in retrospect that I can confidently say that had I known of the husband’s mental condition, I would still marry no one else but him. But, I’m afraid most of us are not brave enough to even imagine how much we can endure, hence, we give up even before we can try.

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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.

 

 

 

The great indian laadi

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Before leggings became a thing in mid-2000s, we were all pretty much dependent on the behaviour of the great Indian laadi. For the uninitiated, “laadi” is the colloquial term for a piece of thread that loops through the seam of one’s trousers (salwar) around the waist to hold them up.  This is how it works – The two ends of the thread come through the seam on either sides and by tying them into a bunny rabbit ear knot (one full knot+one half knot), you can secure your pants around your waist and hope that the knot doesn’t come off and let your pants fall.

Now, I don’t know who designed this or when it was designed but the adoption across different pieces of clothing in India has been staggered. Till date, we champion the laadi in grandpa chaddis, saree petticoat and patiala/ salwar bottoms as if it were the greatest invention of mankind (ok, I am sure it was at one point, but we have better mechanisms now). It’s not like the laadi has not seen any design innovation.

Given that it is fairly easy for either ends of the laadi to retreat inside the seam, and the process to bring it out is quite tedious (more about that later), there have been interesting workarounds such as tying up the two ends of the laadi at the tip of the two ends such that they are never loose to go back inside. While it served the purpose, I must confess that I personally never found it comfortable to tie a knot with a pre-knotted laadi. I preferred to keep the two ends together with a safety pin, while not using the trousers and when I wanted to wear them, just leave it pinned to one end of the laadi.

If you have ever had either ends of your laadi go missing, you know it is a supremely painful process to find it. You have to pull out the entire laadi from the seam, pin one end of the laadi with a safety pin and then using this hard pin, you guide the laadi inside the seam from one end to the other. While this is fairly straightforward, it is time-consuming, especially when you are about to head out in a hurry and then, all of a suddenly (haha) you find your laadi missing. You’d first need to find a safety pin and then do this navigation with the pin, so I’d rather just secure the loose ends od my laadi with a pin to hedge against risks.

What amazes me is despite being such a primitive mechanism to hold pants/ petticoats up, it has survived so long and shows no signs of disappearing even the face of several new technologies (elastic bands, buttons, zips, etc.). I suppose the flexibility the laadi offers is incomparable to any other – it caters to several different sizes at once, if you loose one laadi, you can easily replace it with another on your own and it’s inexpensive. Personally, I could live in a world without the pyjama laadi, but can you?

 

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!)

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.

Letters to my Berry#11

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Happy 11th month birthday, my love! You are growing up so fast, I wish I could just hold onto you tight and the world around us could continue spinning while you and I could escape into a warp zone where time would just stand still. While I miss the littler you, I am so excited to see what’s in store for you next and more than everything else, I love the present you and I always will. I remember showing off to ajji about how I wouldn’t get attached to you as much as she got attached to me, but I might be miserably failing at that because you are that adorable and I am just mostly too scared to admit it.

Ok enough with the mush now, let’s get down to business. I just realised today that you are a master pattern recogniser. You have learnt so well and also conditioned me to provide you with anything you want just by crying. You know I have hardly any time with you outside of my work and I optimise my life to get you to bed at the earliest, and so you will not let anyone else put you to sleep except me. But guess what, I have learnt too. I love spending “quality” time with you to make sure you go to bed as early as possible because (1) that gives me time to finish off all my office work and house work and (2) you wake up less frequently through the night when you sleep early leaving me less tired in the mornings.

The one very interesting thing that happened this month is how you were so conscious of ajji thatha heading back to Bangalore that you were upset the entire day, not making much conversation (babbles of course) with them. It was so evident that you were aware of them leaving. It is strange though. It makes me wonder if you figure out based on the vibe or if you actually understand what we say. If you don’t believe me, look at that face in the picture.

Even today, you have been upset all day and I wonder if you know somehow that I will be going away to Poland for a work trip tomorrow. Seeing this really breaks my heart because I have purposely not been thinking about how you or appa will manage without me and seeing you upset makes me imagine everything that could go wrong. I have never left you overnight and I don’t know what’s going to happen especially because you are still breastfed (it’s mostly just comforted and that’s the worst part)! I tried getting you a babysitter, a Spanish one that too, but you cried your lungs out all evening till the babysitter left. Anna felt so bad for not being able to help but I can promise you she really tried but you were being damn picky. Well, if you don’t want a babysitter, so be it. We’ll just have to find a better way to make your dinner, give you a bath and play with you all at the same time. phew!

You can also stand for quite some time on your own now. You can sit chakkambatla. You can climb up and down, all over the world now. You can even comfortably climb stairs now all on your own. The one thing you still need support with is walking, which you can do just by holding one hand. We have been very conscious of not buying you a walker since I want you to pick it up naturally at your own pace. Similarly with talking, we’re letting you find your own pace. You can now say “atta” for appa and “anda” for amma and thatha for thatha, which is a great start. At least we know you can parrot speech, even if it’s in your own way.

This is not new information, but we have collected more evidence to believe that you love to sing and dance, and so, if at some point we push you to pursue any of this seriously, don’t blame us. You automatically start shaking your bum to any tune that you enjoy. I wonder if ajji thatha taught you this, since you seem to have a ritual with them even over FaceTime now. I continue to use carnatic music to distract you or quieten you down on the tube whenever you decide to make my train ride more enjoyable by screaming all the way.

You have 4 teeth now, one crooked that too. Maybe it’s like Barbie and thatha, who knows. You bite pretty hard, especially when I make you lick coffee every morning. Did I tell you already that you love coffee? Well, you do. Every time you have a little bit of it, you click your tongue in approval. In fact, one day you picked up a tumbler with 2-3 drops of coffee and downed it all by yourself. Apparently you even eat by yourself at the nursery, so you are fairly independent.

While you aren’t too much of a fussy eater, you hadn’t been putting on much weight until ajji thatha took over feeding you. Well, atleast that’s what the people at the nursery deduced. I try my best ok, but sometimes there are days like today, when I have a ton of office work to complete, make dinner for appa and me, make dinner for you, prep for the next day’s breakfast and dinner (while carrying you), give you a bath, feed you, take care of a sick husband, clean up the kitchen after and pack for the Poland trip, that I don’t go overboard trying to force feed you. I let you play with water in the kitchen sink while I fed you but you seemed to not want to eat today (usually this trick works) and then I just gave up, breast fed you and put you to bed. Now does this make me a horrible mum? Maybe. But I think making time to write this for you on time more than makes up for it, doesn’t it? 🙂

Well, I’ll let you be the judge. For now, just enjoy being 11 months old and still having your way around everything at home. Muahh!

 

 

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.