Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good with the bad, c'est la vie

Haan ji, so where were we? As I write this, the Dubai trip stands jeopardized. Let's not get into details. Perhaps Dubai and me, we just don't gel that well. In 2008, I had planned a trip to Dubai to attend an Iron Maiden concert and ended up buying and then wasting two tickets. Heartbreaking. Of course, I later saw Iron Maiden at Bangalore. *Cheers up*. Ageing rockers for ageing rock fans, that sort of thing.

Work on the next work of fiction is progressing at a really slow pace. I waste too much time on the internet, don't you know?

However, you can read a story by me over the next three issues of Femina. Let me know what you think of it. Am I wasting my time in short stories? Next Somerset Maugham? Clearly somewhere in between is not an acceptable answer.

I think sometime back, a commenter (hiya, just another mom) had asked if we were in the Kindle circuit yet, as in 'are your books available in a Kindle edition?' Not entirely surprisingly, the answer was in the negative. Well, as happens with these things, I got a mail today from the chief editor of Westland....and tadah....By The Water Cooler is now available on Kindle and The Nook. I was my usual nonchalant, woman-of-the-world self which is to say that I jumped off to check the same on my own Kindle (battery empty...shit...where is the damn charger...ah, right then...ooh, yes, it's there, see? Even a free sample. Naaaice!) and might have done a few pelvic thrusts and air punches in a graceful display of sheer delight. So yes, buy it on Kindle, kind Kindle-bearing folk.

In other news, we met Chandni of Bohemian Rhapsody fame recently.

Adi sauntered in from school and spotted a never-before-seen girl perched on the sofa in our living room. I offered to introduce them.

Me: Chandni, this is Adi and Adi, this is....
Chandni: Chandu.
Me: Uh, yes, Chandu.

There is some furious calculation on the part of the boy. Hmmm, anyone who is called Chandu cannot be this boring old fogie's friend. That means, yes, this person has come to meet me!

From that point onwards, Chandu was pulled to the playroom and spent all her time chasing after the boy, feeding him lunch (which is a life-skill, you know, if you can feed a child, you are a rather special person. End of Mata Parul Devi's updesh) and generally having a good time chatting him up. Adi took to her to the point that he did not want to take a nap in case she went away while he slept (which she did) and asked for her the first thing after he woke up.

Chandni does not put her pictures on her blog but I do have some photographic evidence if ever it is needed that she is damn good with kids. 

Ragini of course wailed and bawled being in the absolute throes of a delightful (not) stranger anxiety phase these days. But I remember Adi doing that to Sue and Kiran when they first met him so it's alright. She will grow out of it at some point too. I refuse to stress about it. 

Several deep, meditative breaths.

Since this blog also serves as the dossier for the reams and reams worth of newsprint that the Indian media devotes to us everyday (a tad bitter after being ignored for the Jaipur Lit Fest again, eh?), here is a list of my top five books that appeared in HT Cafe a while back.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why, hello there, Dubai

Some of us just never learn. One would think that I would put The Knowledge That I Gained In Thailand to good use and put myself and my children under house arrest and throw our passports into the dirty river Mithi (bet the paani is anything but meetha therein) never to be retrieved but that is not to be. At the end of this month, the good man and I are off to Dubai, our offspring in tow. Some people are bound to wrinkle their noses at the mention of a Dubai Shopping Festival holiday. Fools. Fools are also the folks who look for deep meaning and self-enlightenment in holidays such as these, meant clearly to swipe the credit card over and over again, n'est ce pas? It's like going to Italy and avoiding carbs. It can be done but you would have missed the point.

The thing is I am not scared of travelling with my kids anymore. I have attained paras-dom after Bangkok, if you know what I mean. They can shriek down the spotless, shiny aisles of malls, they can pick up the cutlery in restaurants and threaten passersby with the same, they can behave in lifts as if they have never seen one before in their life, they can refuse to sleep through nights, they can make meals out of potato chips. I. Don't. Care. Some nitpickers may point out that Ragini is only a wee baby but personally I feel that eight months is a very good age to take one for the sibling and kids the world over.

Perhaps I sound a tad bitter. Well, nothing like some nice Bateel dates to sweeten me up, I say. Also, shiny gold biscuits and Turkish rugs and attar while I am at it.

My only fear is that Thailand may have sent a report to UAE and they may be prepared for us. In which case I plan to enter immigration with a white flag in each hand (Mahesh would too, except that he may be holding the aforementioned brats). Also, I have my apologies ready. These days, I am always apologizing for the havoc we wreak. In Bkk, I made a record of sorts by apologizing to a British lady, some Japanese tourists, a few fellow Indians, a young American and countless Thais, all in the course of two days. Yes, I have had practice. Perhaps I should just send apology letters in advance to the G7, NATO and SAARC. Make sure that we have covered all bases and so on. 

Yes, so Dubai, eh? I am going purely to have a good time and to look for bargains and a change of scenery but I am always game for discovering something fresh and unique if you have been scowling at this shameless display of debauchery and have something more spiritual in mind. Bangkok was bursting at the seams with outstanding shopping but I held myself back, being the absolute goddess of thrift. Now is the time to burn all that pent up retail energy.

Anybody reading me in Dubai at all? Out with you with the must-do's and the must-see's! Not just you, Mona and MayG....the others, the others!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On sorting papers

Home organization is my pet monster. I am very, very absent-minded and I forget things all the time. It's a creative thing, I often console myself. Unless things are where I think they should be and have always been, I have no hope in hell of finding them. Add to the equation the kids and their ever-growing possessions and I need to be filing and sorting stuff fairly regularly. This last weekend, M and I decided to tackle our papers. New things have been added to the household this last year - appliances, gadgets, furniture and children. Yes, alright, one child. But do you know how many papers she has already? Just getting basic things like passports and birth certificates means that reams and reams of paper makes its way into the house and never leaves.

And so, Sunday morning found us surrounded by mounds and piles of warranties and instruction manuals (none for the kids, sorry to say), invoices and contracts, bills and credit card statements. Bank account statements and income tax statements. PF receipts and LIC receipts. If I were the sort of person who flowers up this kind of thing, I would poetically proclaim that it was our life lying there. The things we have bought and sold, the money we have earned and invested, the mistakes we have made in judging people and their promises (Kent RO, yes, I am talking about you.)

As always, M and I talked at length how it is such a shame that we have not moved a finger about getting our PF out of our ex-employers. It just speaks of my absolute loathing for paper-work that it's been years since I last worked in a company and I am yet to do anything about collecting my PF. Every now and then I half-heartedly start the process, quickly lose interest as soon as the detestable words Form so-and-so is mentioned and go right back to sticking my head under sand, hoping that the money will magically transfer itself to my account. Well, I have never claimed to be a whiz with finances and such-like but what about Mahesh, huh? What is his excuse?

As we digged deeper and deeper into the papers, we found half-forgotten things. A stray greeting card wishing well for board exams. Identity cards for clubs. Stray boarding passes from trips that have mysteriously made their way into these files. Degrees and diplomas. Certificates won. Hazy memories of victories and losses come back. How important it seemed back then, to win those silly little competitions. If I had known then what I know now, I would ask myself to take it easy and not be such a bloody maggu. But people don't change, I saw that when I took Spanish classes a couple of years ago. Miss, miss, I know, ask me!

Old salary slips tumble out and I see M staring at them for a long time, probably remembering what it felt like to get those amounts at the beginning of his career. It's been ten years! Ten years since we started working. I of course only get royalty cheques in the name of money earned these days and unless you are Dan Brown, those really don't count for much, at least not in the financial sense. But I guess for him, the curve is an important one. I know I looked at my own office-related papers with a mix of wistfulness and gratitude. What once was will never be again (not if I can help it!)

Medical records come out, ours, the kids', parents'. We remember the scares we have had and how much we need to be thankful for. The worry, the anxiety with each of the kids' sicknesses that caused our hair to grey and our faces to crease.

It's all filed away now till the next overhaul now and I am thinking, paper work is not too much of a drag after all. If nothing, it is a free trip down memory lane. Now about that pending PF.....just go away, I beg.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

As if I didn't love flipkart enough already

You can read my interview on the flipkart blog here. Enjoy! 

P.S.The picture was taken was M a few months back and is one of my favourites.

Letters to a little girl - eight

Dearest Raagu,

I am late for your letter again. You will understand why if you ever have more than one child. It's endless running on an invisible parenting treadmill. The work just never ends but then this is rapidly going into the self-pity spiral so quickly then, let's focus on the happy stuff.

Travel. You, child have been abroad twice in the first eight months of your life and I am thoroughly encouraged. I think one of the best gifts your father and I will give you when you turn eighteen and move out will be your much-thumbed passport. Please know that it's a matter of privilege to be able to travel and we hope that you will do us proud of our decision to take you places by being open-hearted and open-minded about the differences in the way people live and the way they are. Yes, yes, we are not about burdening you with expectations at all.

As happens with all second kids, you are going forth and conquering milestones before we have had a chance to catch our breath. The solids, the crawling all over, the hauling up of self, the Mumm-uhh (yes, not Upp-uh this time, yes, yes, YES! Edited to update: Just before I posted this, you said Papa. And I responded with Waah. Then to run salt into the wounded mother's pride, you gave your first kiss away to him. What is it with you children and your father? Well, I am not done trying yet.), they are all happening and we hardly get a chance to register them before you move on to something else.

Although I quite dislike the whole ghastly All Pink Movement that has taken over the little girls' clothing market, I do love dressing you up in cute little dresses and probably spend much more than I should on your clothes because hey, you are my only and much-wanted daughter and I better do all that my heart desires before you grow up and start making fun of my style, much like your brother does now (his sartorial sense merits another post on its own). But I have to admit, I am secretly proud of the fact that you are already showing signs of becoming a little duplicate of Adi. The toy cars and trucks and the aeroplanes and the gadgets and the remotes - it's all good. Overly feminine is not my thing. Like I said, not about imposing my expectations at all. Feel free to do your thing. Just. Not. Yet.

Right then, time for this and that and everything in between. A lot of it focuses on just what it takes to be happy in life because the lord knows that we want that for you.
  • If you are not the kind of person who is easily happy, marry someone who is and you would have scored big. I am not just saying it. Scientists say so.
  • The only way to make a marriage last is by staying in it.
  • You may abhor Economics or Science or Math as subjects in school but know that they explain a lot of this world. What remains thereafter can be attributed to God. God in a lot of ways is like parents. Part of His job description is to take the blame for anything and everything.
  • One way to be a genius is by practicing really, really hard. Like Malcolm Gladwell says, a cumulative 10,000 hours spent at anything gives you a fighting chance to be outstanding in your chosen field. And the musician Pablo de Sarasate probably agreed with him ("For thirty-seven years I've practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!")
  • Understand the system even if you don't plan to game it. It comes in handy.
  • My own experience in life is that people don't change. Ever. They modify a bit perhaps and that too only sometimes but by and large, the core remains the same. Seeing the light and turning over a new leaf happens not a lot in real life. Sad, but true.
  • People will always judge you by the drink you order. 
  • A great way to shame people who litter is by picking up after them while they are watching. Try it, it works.
  • It's not how you look or what you have but how you feel that will determine your confidence and ultimately happiness. 
Happiness. If only I could bottle it and give it to you. I'd be happy then.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's been happening with BTWC?

The Statesman. I love the name.
People Magazine. The book is bigger than the author.
Femina. Oho, we are keeping good company. Ageing rockstars are also people, ok?
New Woman. All good.
MidDay. A review uses words like witty, hilarious, funny and I am home dry.

And here's a link to IBN Live. Basically, I think we can safely say that folks have not hated the book.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Link of the month - January

This month we are pimping this website. If you like to dress well and motherhood has increased difficulty levels in the same, delve in here and you might find some interesting solutions. At one point after Ragini was born, I was thinking of moving to the salwar-kameez way of life. Now I am thinking perhaps another shot is in order.

Do you have post-pregnancy style secrets of your own? Be generous and leave them in comments, sister. Many thanks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Calling all new mums and mums-to-be

Mums Network

Invites you to dinner and networking


To be part of an engaging discussion on

"The Tried and Tested Guide to Motherhood"



TIME: 7 pm to 10 pm








Listen to Mums with experience recount their journey. Nothing prepares you for motherhood, except experience and nothing helps more than a support group of likeminded mums.

About Mum's NetWork:

The Mum's NetWork is a pan Indian support and networking group for working mothers, mothers-to-be and young parents. We meet online and offline at key cities across the country. 


The network was set up in September 2010, with the support of Philips Avent, to provide a forum for working mothers to meet, share experiences, network and get together to put things right! 


Membership to the Mum's NetWork is free and members get access to expert advice, an opportunity to meet other mothers/parent at organized events and share experiences, learning's and for mutual support.  So far, we have held two events – in Gurgaon and Mumbai – and plan many more.  Our networking events are arranged at mother-friendly times and at venues that are easy to get to with childcare facilities and we bring in experts on a range of topics from breastfeeding to nutrition to post partum health and wellness.


The Mum's NetWork isn't just for women – men are also welcome and we hope that the meetings and forums will help prepare them for the adventure of being a parent  or handle the early years of being dads better.



To confirm your participation and additional details call:

Sibil Jhaveri - Mobile:  91-9004018771; Email: sibil.jhaveri@fleishman.com



The Bangkok Diaries

The end of the year signalled a complete communication breakdown for me. My iPhone has not really recovered from the trauma of taking a dive into the commode and the Macbook has decided to stay true to the code of Apple brotherhood, claiming tum nahin toh hum nahin and is pretty much on its last legs now. So yes, 2011 will be the year of new devices for me.

Bangkok, you ask, how was it? Ah, well, let's start at the beginning, shall we? The upgrade to business class did not come through and we travelled economy with a Gujarati gentleman who spoke not a word of Hindi or English for company. Once Adi realized that he had a screen to himself, he was a tireless TV-watching happy camper and Ragini napped quite a bit. I congratulated myself as I ate some horrid airline food and saw myself jetsetting across the globe a la Angelina Jolie in the future.

Once we landed, I was being very supermom-ish, opening the stroller with one hand, shouting at the boy over my shoulder at the same time and generally being very competent. That was before I saw the immigration counters that were swarming with hundreds and hundreds of people. I looked all over for a special counter for strange, masochistic women who insist on travelling with kids but not finding it anywhere, resigned myself to a long wait. At this point, Adi insisted that I put him in the stroller because he was really tired. I could have said 'I told you so' but to what end, ho? And so there I was, calling Aneela on my phone with one hand, holding Ragini in another and pushing the stroller with Adi ensconsed in it with my belly. Ha, I knew that mummy tummy would serve a purpose one day.

But wait, where was Aneela at this time? Aneela, ladies and gentlemen at this point was having a nervous breakdown and generally driving GMan bananas. They were stuck in a jam and Aneela was living a nightmare that she would not get to the airport before I cleared immigration. Gman tried telling her that her friend was not exactly coming from a gaon and could manage for a while longer but gave up when she burst into copious tears. Anyway, so an hour later we finally got past immigration (the lady ahead of us who Adi had been kicking with great zeal was probably more grateful than we were) and a tearful reunion took place outside the Boots outlet. Adi immediately started Arhaan on a bad habit of Lay's chips and we started on our adventure in right earnest.

The apartment that we stayed at belongs to a bachelor but it is easily the most baby-friendly house that I have seen in my life. There were no sharp corners anywhere in the house. Yes, you heard that right, not a single sharp corner. Wooden floors all over. Ragini immediately commenced crawling practice at top speed and it was such a relief to be able to put her just anywhere that I am seriously contemplating trading the builder-gifted Italian marble in our own apartment for wooden floors.

I was travelling really light and lived up to my threat on imposing on Aneela for a lot of our needs. But I really realized that all the accouterments of baby-rearing are actually unnecessary. I mean, it is possible to live without the special blankets and teethers and the favourite toys and the special food and the sterlizers and super soft detergents and cleaning gels and all the other nonsense and the kids were just fine with it. We were buying whatever we could find in the malls and washing it and feeding it to the kids and they did not complain.

Lest you think that the kids were complete angels, let me tell you they were not. There was much existential angst and tantrums and bad behaviour and I must shamefacedly admit that most of it was my kids' doing but it was alright, really. For one thing, Gman is The Baby Whisperer. The kids loved him and while Aneela Aunty was alright to have around, G Uncle was the true star of the show with all the kids vying for his attention all the time. He fed them and entertained them and kept them out of harm's way.Incredible man. Aneela has married well, yo.

I got a haircut! Amazing, yes? I agree. With Ragini on my lap (she refuses to go to anyone and starts bawling if anyone as much as smiles at her), I got my hair washed and then I fed her and she napped while the stylist let herself loose at my mop. I look alright I guess but by jove, nobody can beat me when it comes to the sense of achievement. I mean, a haircut with a baby? I don't do cool things like that. I am the scaredy cat that sits at home waiting for her kids to grow up.

And that was not it. Aneela and I, our three kids in tow, even got foot massages! They woke up of course and were quite psyched to find themselves in a strange massage place but can you imagine just how incredible we must have felt? Very, very. Actually part of all this was also due to the Thai people's affection for the kids. Everywhere we went, people had a smile or a word for the children and that was really bolstering.

We went to a lot of malls but I assure you I was a very wise shopper and although mannequins were all calling out to me like in the Shopaholic movie, I stayed far, far away from temptations, buying only a few select items. Of course I am getting nightmares these days thinking of all the lovely bargains I have missed out on but hey, I can always make another trip, eh?

Adi developed his dreadful allergic cough yet again and G and I found myself looking for honey at the nearby 7-11. He had a pretty bad couple of nights but is better now, thank God. Also, thanks to his unwell appearance, the crew on our flight back felt really bad for him and took him to see the cockpit! I think he is thinking 'fair trade' to himself.

Although it was supposed to be a holiday that Aneela and I were taking together, ultimately it was she taking care of me, my incredibly badly-behaved kids, food, groceries, sight-seeing and pretty much everything else. I am so glad I went and I am so glad I went to see her. In fact, I cannot wait to see her again in Dhaka soon if she will have us after she has seen the true picture. We may have talked nonstop for four days but we are nowhere near done, I suspect.

Also, I think it was a huge confidence building measure. It's given me a huge ego-boost and I puff up in pride everytime someone tells me that it was quite brave (stupid) of me to do this on my own. I came back home to find that the maid hasn't returned in time and the cook has taken the day off but the sense of well-being and happiness that I was carrying after the holiday was enough to keep me going as I cooked khichdi and fed the kids and put them to bed. Then I collapsed into bed, exhausted but glad of heart.