Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Fish

I was traveling for the last 3 days on account of work. Went to a small but fast-developing city that had beautiful lakes and soothing greenery but had nothing much in terms of shopping, especially for someone like me who came from an undisputed shopping paradise called Bangkok.

But still I had to buy something, something nice - for that was the only way to get rid of the guilt that had immediately crept in as soon as I left my 23 months old daughter behind in pursuit of my own needs. Or maybe, it was just the longing to see some excitement on her face – her lips widening into an ear to ear smile and her eyes twinkling with excitement as she fiddled with an unexpected interesting toy in her hands, bought after much deliberation and thoughtfulness on her Mummy’s part. I wasn’t really sure what the real reason was but the fact that I had to buy something was an absolute must.

I managed to grab a couple of hours on the very first day of the visit. Slipped into my T-shirt and Jeans (Couldn’t afford to venture out in one of the only two formal sets of clothing that I had) and turned right from the hotel entrance, in hope of locating a few baby shops that I had spotted the same morning on my way from the airport. It was scorching hot and a few gracious taxis did slowdown in anticipation of a positive nod but had to speed away disappointed, for walking seemed to be the best way to get to my destination. The shops lay somewhere in the vicinity of the hotel, and I was convinced that an over-enthusiastic taxi was bound to overshoot my target cutting into the only two hour break that I had managed for myself.

“City Babies” read the first shop. I got in excited having looked at the elaborate tri-cycles and baby cots that were visible form the glass window. There were loads and loads of Chinese toys inside – all carrying a sincere promise of immediate lead poisoning and extremely low quality of manufacturing. Moving away in disappointment, I headed towards the relatively smaller section of soft toys, and realized that some of them already formed part of Mira’s overwhelming toy collection while some of them just didn’t look right.

And then, my eyes fell on her - bright and charming, yellow in color, wide black stripes, think pink lips and big black eyes. I instantaneously liked her. The cash counter did dampen my spirits though – she was far cheaper than what I had imagined her to be and the loss of currency wasn’t weighty enough to justify my 3 days of absence from home. Visited the other two shops in desperation but to absolutely no avail.

Coming back home was an exciting experience. As I slammed shut the door behind me, I saw Mira standing next to the book shelf in the passage, making up her mind about which book to pick. Papa and Daadi came running out of their individual rooms, anxious to see the reactions of a long-separated child. I moved as fast as I could while loudly exclaiming “Hello Mira” all the way towards her. She didn’t react much – a tiny blank face probably struggling to figure out the quantum of time that had elapsed since I last met her – was it normal or not?; was it more than usual?; was she around mostly as she always used to be? A minute long pause and then, she held out one of her favorite books to me, and said – “Mummy Mira read book”. No complaints, no tantrums, no realizations – I’ve to confess to my gratitude for having things the way they were and to my confidence for enhanced work-related travel in the future.

And yes, the fish happened to be a much bigger hit than what I had expected it to be. It is either trailing behind her sweeping the floor, or supporting her head as a nice soft cushion, or just lies next to her as she puts together her puzzles or goes through her books.

Papa being the Indian parent he is, didn't let go of the chance to teach something educational even with the fish. In his usual instructive tone, he said – “See Mira, Fins and tail. Fish’s fins and tail.” Me being the wicked mom I am, asked her – “If this is fish’s tail, where is Mira’s tail?”. Mira’s hand immediately shot back and ran across her entire bum, while her eyes reassured me that I’m going to soon locate it, don’t you worry.

Papa and I burst out laughing. Wonder if life could be anymore fun, exciting and content than what it is now!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Conversation this morning

Scene - Building lift. Mummy is peering into the lift mirror, wondering when would her dark circles magically disappear. Mira is playing with her cat. Soft toy, that is.

Mira: Mummy…....see Cat mooch (pointing at the cat’s moustache).

Mummy: Yes baby, Cat mooch. Very good.

Mira: Cat mooch.....Mummy mooch!

Mummy (aghast): No baby, Mummy no mooch. Mummy NO MOOCH. Didi NO mooch. Mira NO mooch. Cat mooch…….and Papa mooch. Ok?

Mira: Cat mooch………..Papa mooch.

Mummy (relieved) : Very good, baby. Very good. Cat mooch. Papa mooch. (I know, we both love repeating things.)

Mira: Mummy.......Cat meow.

Mummy: Yes Mira. Cat meow.

Mira: Cat meow….........Papa meow?

Mummy (a few seconds later) - I wish beta, I wish but Papa no meow baby, Papa no meow.

The lift opens up and a wishful Mummy and a learned Mira step out.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My little shy girl

The maternal genes are coming into play and Mira seems to be turning into a shy person – just the way her mom was and continues to be.

In today’s fast-paced competitive world, I do realize that shyness is usually not considered as a very convenient trait to carry. Over many play-dates and general conversations with friends in Bangkok as well as in India, I’ve noticed that moms are more than happy to address their kids as mischievous, obstinate, demanding or even difficult, but shyness does make a deliberate escape from their lips. Being someone who has lived with this trait for the last 30 years of my life, I do feel that most of the fears are unreal and the concerns exaggerated.

Right through my childhood till date, I’ve been a dear daughter to my parents, who always regarded my shyness as just another personality trait, which sometimes evoked laughter, sometimes embarrassment but never really demanded any significant repairs. If you’ll talk to my mom, I’m sure she’ll have dozens of incidents to tell you where I just stood frozen gazing at our green Persian carpet, rather than breaking out into an enthusiastic “Twinkle Twinkle”, which was anxiously being awaited in the company of our distant Punjabi relatives. Or, she’ll tell you how even a friendly gaze from a stranger got me burying my head into her lap, wondering if there was a magic formula that could let me evaporate from the scene of discomfort.

In fact, there’s one incident that always gets talked about in our family forums, when childhood memories are being discussed and laughed upon. I think I was in class III or IV and I had just come back from school. The door bell rang and the keyhole revealed Mrs. Bhatia, Mummy’s reasonably good friend, known for her big appetite and equally strong inquisitiveness. Partly out of shyness, and partly out of complete conviction that both of us had absolutely nothing in common, I decided to take refuge under the bed. Covering my eager-to-giggle mouth with both the hands, I anxiously awaited mom’s creativity to explain my unusual absence from the house. Mom being mom, after an exchange of pleasantries, made up her mind to deceive me and gestured aunty right under the bed. My heart did skip a beat as a double layered arm appeared right next to my shelter, and single-mindedly dragged me out with one of my legs. Embarrassment, deceit and anger – all seemed such relevant emotions at that point in time.

The amusing bit is that even today when I bump into aunty every once in a while, this incident does get a mention in the first few lines of her conversation to me. It usually ends with her mischievously asking me if I’m still found under the bed, followed by a signature hearty Punjabi laugh. Well, the answer to that is no. No, not because it is difficult to hurl a 60 kg body under the bed but because over the years, one does learn all the necessary skills to deal with the uneasy bits of shyness. There is strategically placed wit, ice-breaking laughter, friendly shoulder pats and the very belief that some of the strangers can turn out to be the best of friends that let people like me take the initiative to meet and strike conversations with the strangest of strangers.

And believe me, it has all worked well till now! I remember a few years back when I was still doing my post-grad, I was not the most popular girl on the campus (yes, one charming extrovert girl was) but nonetheless, I was a reasonably liked and respected one. All shy people, for some reason share the same characteristics of grace, self-awareness and sincerity towards others. Ok now, not even for once am I suggesting that our extrovert counterparts lack these, but shy people somehow seem to exhibit them all the time. I don’t even remember how many OB classes did I rightfully miss in order to educate my close friends on their next moves in relationships, just because I was considered good in my understanding of human nature and behavior. A simple fallout of self-awareness, I think! On people sincerity, it would probably be just apt to share that my best friend dates back to my high school – her position remains unaltered irrespective of our frequency of meeting each other or of other interesting people having entered our lives.

The trait has had almost nil effect in my office life as well. I’ve worked with different-natured juniors, colleagues and bosses and there has never really been a problem. Sometimes the pretext of work helped me tackle inconvenient situations and sometimes, my skills acquired over the years made me glide over problems.

But, shyness has never really been a handicap to me – not in my personal life and not in my professional.

So, while at the age of 22 months, it's probably a bit early for me to categorize Mira under the attribute of shyness - she might turn out to be a page 3 celebrity for all I know, but if she ever shows the signs of being what I've become – I’m going to celebrate her shyness just the way my mom did mine.

Or, maybe even more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some updates, thoughts & beliefs

The charms of a mom are finally being overcome. Yes, Mira has started liking her school and goes without saying that both of us are extremely happy about it. Graduating from just having a mom and nanny for company, the school has suddenly exposed her to a whole new world of friends, teachers and toys.

Staring through the glass window at her, I am always overcome with a sense of pride. My little girl whose views about the world were just limited to what her mom told her about is now shaping into her own person each day – struggling to meet new challenges and learn new experiences unaware of her mom’s loving eyes watching over her.

Hearing about my exaggerated emotions, Papa always jokes around saying that if a playschool can manage a lump in my throat, wonder what the grad school will do. I completely agree with him – I have absolutely no clue.

The first couple of weeks when I was accompanying Mira to the playschool everyday, I’ve to admit to my falling for the profession of a kindergarten teacher. It is noble. It is fulfilling. It is fun. And I think it is highly suitable for someone like me who mostly believes that her arrival in this world was programmed to don several roles, with that of a mom being the most important one. While I was busy imagining myself having interesting conversations with an army of kids, the damn ego kicked in - reminded me that if I haven’t worked on communication that might completely elude consumers but does manage to win a couple of awards every once in a while, the ROI on my MBA hasn’t been availed of.

And so, here I am devising plans to crack strategies, write programs and bribe judges. But, probably some years down the line when the heart has completely overtaken the brain – it will be nice to head towards a noisy kindergarten, to pacify wailing toddlers as their poor moms embark on a guilt trip.

My home lately has become a laboratory for political experiments. Remember, there was a talk sometime back about how toddlers easily latch on to the word “Obama” and not “Clinton” for whatever reason – simplicity, appeal, magic etc. Papa being a huge Obama fan immediately put the theory into action. A few days’ instructions and the results were apparent. Whenever the man appeared on the screen, both Papa’s and Mira’s eyes lit up – former with appreciation and the latter with recognition. While Papa struggled with his new policy on change, Mira ran across the entire room shouting – “Obama bama bama”. And at times, it was preceded by the ubiquitous loving punju title– “Oye Obama, Oye Obama, bama, bama, bama”.

Animation movies seem to have a profound effect on me these days. Ratatouille was the first thing on the planet that made me believe that I had all the capabilities of being a great cook. I had just about managed to crack Moong daal and a couple of other tough recipes, when Kungfu Panda hit the theaters. According to Panda, everything in this world is possible provided you believe in it. I’ve lately started believing that I can have a rocking full-fledged career while also being able to attend to Mira, every-time she smiles or cries. I know it is a bit difficult given that humans still haven’t invented the technique of being present at two different places simultaneously, but what the heck, Panda says believe in yourself and I’m just going to do that!

Trailers show that Wall-e is the next upcoming one – any idea what that would be about?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The mole

A lazy Saturday morning. Papa, Mira & I, still in our night-suits, are stretched out on the bed. Papa is constantly pulling out tricks one after another to amuse Mira and is decently succeeding at it too. Suddenly, Mira notices something unexpected on Papa’s arm. She leaps forward and grabs hold of the arm, brings her finger close to the unexpected object, crinkles up her face and with the most disgusted expression, says “Chee Chee”. Not really sure if the audience got the message across, she completes it with a disdainful – “Dirty Dirty”.

Papa and I burst out laughing. It’s a big dark mole.

Papa decides to reverse the situation and begins to aim at me. He catches hold of my right arm – points out to a big birthmark close to the elbow and exclaims – “Chee Mama Dirty”. See Mira – “Mama dirty”.

Mira instantaneously turns back. Without even looking at the spot, she straight leaps on to me. Hugging me close, she shoots back at Papa accusingly – “Mama Dirty no Papa”, Mama Dirty no Papa”.

And finishes it with the most appropriate – “Dirty Papa”, “Dirty Papa”.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Playschool updates

Usually known for decisiveness and clear thinking, the playschool subject has clearly proven me otherwise. My emotions range from one end of the spectrum to the other from the time I drop Mira in the morning to the afternoon when I get her back.

Mornings are usually filled with confusion and sadness. The car ride from the house to the school, which earlier used to have Mira enthusiastically pointing out things to me has now-a-days left her concentrating on the road, wondering where our destination would be. As soon as we step into the school, she breaks into continuous crying, not loud enough to reach people standing nearby but strong enough to let me re-evaluate the decision to get her there. It is a hard moment to take her off my arms and hand her over to the teacher, as her crying reaches a higher volume and I continue walking towards the car.

Afternoons are a different affair altogether. I usually reach a bit early so that I can see Mira having lunch through the glass window – the last activity of the school before they call it a day. There’s a good amount of calmness on Mira’s face as she struggles to balance the spoon till her mouth. She confidently walks towards the nanny when she’s done – gets herself cleaned up and willingly changes into a clean dress, all ready to be carried back. It is at this time that I bang open the door and yell out a lively “Mira”, while all she gives me is a pleasant confident smile, not a sigh of relief, mind you and raises her arms to be picked up for the journey home.

So, while every morning I swear that this is going to be our last day in school, every afternoon cheers me up and lets me give the next day a shot.

The confusion finally got to me today and I decided to take a call. Realizing my inability to think objectively, I turned to Papa for the decision and promised to stand by it. We did a bit of research – the school teachers shared that Mira’s crying lasted just till the time she saw me around and that she changed into a reasonably happy child after that. It's nothing but separation anxiety from the mom, Papa gave his expert comment.

And so, while mornings might continue to remain tough, we’ve decided to go ahead with the school for a while.

A friend tells me that sooner or later all kids start liking the school. Her’s infact takes to the floor and refuses to go back– 5 different bribes and the promise to come back the next day just about manage to get her to the gate.

While I’m surely not looking forward to Mira doing the same, but a bit of excitement will certainly be great!

Mira’s Papa and I are very similar people. I mean, given a certain situation, I’m sure both of us will reach the same conclusions, for the same set of values and reasoning that we share. But, there’re other differences though – I tend to get a bit more emotional and subjective, just the way all women are while Papa has a more rational and “I can see through the fa├žade” kind of approach, which probably all men have, I guess.

These differences keep cropping up every now and then – take the last Friday’s incident for instance. Just like all other days, I had gone to pick up Mira from her school – Friday was the last day of the summer camp and the school was going in for a week long break before the next session resumed. As a token of remembrance of the camp, the teacher handed over the following to me:

Let me explain, this is a frame that’s got Mira’s picture on the right, as you can see and a small piece of clay with different colored beads stuck into it, on the left.

Clay with the beads is Mira’s creation – I mean, with the help of the teacher obviously, she rolled out the clay and then, put different beads onto it.

I was extremely excited to see it.

I immediately called up Papa to share the excitement, as soon as I got Mira seated into the car. After the usual long thinking pause, Papa muttered out – “Hmm….these school people come up with the best of gimmicks. See, now we parents are hooked on for long.”

Sorry…..what did I hear – GIMMICKS? And here I was, drooling over Mira’s first piece of work – her first ever creation. My mind by now had already raced through the future – visualizing different achievements of my little girl, all nicely occupying important positions in our drawing room.

Papa’s reaction was surely a bit of a damper. Did someone just say that we both think alike?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A new beginning

23rd June, 2008 marks a historic day in the annals of our Bhopali household.

Mira went to (play)school for the first time this day and boy, you should have seen the parents – pride levels were nothing short of a child being sent off to a path-breaking space mission or to guard the very borders of our dear country.

The only difference was that this mom tagged along and patrolled the areas for the first two weeks in our new undertaking.

It’s been all good so far – largely because Mira knew that mom was always around in case of any emergency situations. Situations that demanded her to talk to scary strangers called “teachers” or to remain restricted to one’s own plate during lunch sessions.

To be fair to Mira, she didn’t really seek my active participation during most of the days except for 2 key situations - one, when there was diaper changing time and Mira cried out for help on being physically encountered in the wrong places. I hope that she gets over this soon enough and that the teacher doesn’t have to look for help everytime the damn thing reaches its maximum absorption capacity.

The second thing in fact, made me feel good and I hope that the habit continues for long. Mira used to come running to me as soon as she discovered something interesting (a big dinosaur toy the first day) to play with. Having only heard “My TV”, “My remote” and “My blanket”, it was nice to know that at least someone in the house believed in sharing.

Mira has entered her third week of schooling now and the teachers have sworn to call up 100 if they ever see me around, except for the time the kid needs to be carried back. All the pride and excitement, as you’d expect has been suitably replaced with anxiety, worry, fear and guilt.

The deal is to see how Mira takes it for the first few days and then decide whether to continue her schooling or to postpone it by a few more months. While the signs on the first two days haven’t been too bad, a proper conclusion will be reached only by the end of this week.

Keeping my fingers crossed – let's hope our small space mission ends up successfully.