Almost 3!

Baby M is not a baby anymore! I really should start using his real name now, given that our identity is not such a big secret (with the link to my other blog). So well, Mihir turns three next Tuesday and I simply cannot get over the fact that my baby’s a big boy already! Imagine, he’ll be starting big school this June! I was going through my blog this past hour and it feels so wonderful to read the little I’ve written about him, that I’m feeling very guilty to have missed recording all the little joys from his entire third year here. So, much that I hate writing bullet point posts, here’s a quick recap of the year gone by.

  • This year, like the two that came before, has been all about Mihir! Funny that I wished for a little girl all my life, but this little boy I wouldn’t exchange for a thousand little girls! Talking nineteen to the dozen, making up his own outrageous stories, asking me to read the same book every single day, singing nursery rhymes or reciting alphabets and numbers all day long, running all the way to the neighbourhood park in the evening, insisting on kissing my nose and giving me a hug each time I make a sad face, he’s the joy and pride of my life as I’m sure he’ll always be!
  • Mihir has enjoyed every bit of his nursery school this year. Barring the first week when he cried a little, he’s gone happy, smiling and literally running and jumping to school every single day. It helps that the school is less than a minute’s walk from our place. And it’s just so wonderful to see his happy face when he comes out with his friends everyday, proudly showing off the ‘two-two stars’ on his hands, a pat on the back from his teachers for something nice he did that day!
  • And then there’s the wonderful friends he and I have made at his school – our mom’s group is the closest I’ve come to making real friends and enjoying girly stuff after college. We stay back to chat after we drop the kids at school every single day, exchanging notes on everything under the sun and ribbing each other like anything, meet up regularly for extended gab-and-hog sessions, take the kids to the park or go shopping or walking together, even babysit each other’s kids at times. Such fun! Most importantly, everyone in the group is chilled out, not quick to take offence unlike others I’ve been unfortunate enough to encounter in the past.
  • The domestic help situation at home has finally settled down, touchwood. Talk to any Mumbai mom, and she’ll tell you what a blessing that is. My new help is mature, sincere, polite and reliable. She cooks reasonably well and has struck up a good relationship with Mihir. And wonder of wonders, she never ever takes an unscheduled holiday. What can I say, simply, touchwood again!
  • It’s such a blessing to have your parents live in the same city as you. The husband and I have our weekly off on Saturday nights when we drop off Mihir at his fan club a.k.a. grandparents’ place and go watch a movie or meet friends for dinner. Sunday morning, we have a leisurely breakfast and then go and pick him up by which time I am feeling totally refreshed and ready to cope with Mihir’s boundless energy all over again!
  • We have stayed true to our resolution of exploring India with little Mihir – lots of fun trips this year – Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa and weekend getaways to Alibag and Harihareshwar. Coming up next is a short trip to Matheran with my parents and a longer one in the summer, probably somewhere in the North.
  • Last but not the least, Little Readers’ Nook! We have over 35 members now with some exciting corporate tie-ups in the offing. Of course, I have made hardly anything in terms of money and very likely never will, but in terms of an experience, it’s been the richest ever. The sense of accomplishment that comes from setting up your own venture from scratch, doing every little thing yourself is amazing – traveling all over Mumbai on the hunt for good books, putting the themes together, coming up with interesting activities to go with the themes, trying out everything with Mihir first, watching him blossom into the best Little Reader ever, explaining your concept to strangers, meeting some wonderful like-minded parents – it’s just like watching your baby grow up, only more fun, and dare I say, more hard work!

So that was the year gone by for me. There have been some small low points of course, but when I look back, I can remember only the good things, so that’s good, right?

P.S. Coming up soon – Mihir’s 3rd birthday party on 5th March. We’ve booked an open air bus from Mumbai’s famous double decker fleet and will be taking his friends on a joyride along Mumbai’s coastline. Return gifts will be Tulika books. And the neighbourhood balloonwala will decorate the open deck with bunches of gas balloons. My secret dream has always been to set free a huge bunch of those balloons à la Rajesh Khanna in Anand – let’s hope the kids will leave a bunch for me to set free!

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Tan Ta Dan!

Friends, it gives me immense pleasure to introduce my second baby to the world!!!

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Soliciting your help – Brief survey on Children’s Library in Mumbai

Dear Friend,

Are you, or someone you know, parent to a young child living in Mumbai? If yes, I need your help!

I am evaluating the idea of starting an online book library for children in Mumbai and have created a brief market research survey for this purpose. Would you please answer it for me? It should not take too long.

To fill it out, visit this link.

It would be great if you would also share this with your friends/family/colleagues in Mumbai having young children and encourage them to participate in this survey.

You could email them or simply share the link on your Facebook, twitter or blog page. Let’s spread the word folks!

Once again, thank you! I really appreciate it! 🙂

Thanks,

Me!

Baby M at almost two!

Hi, Aai’s friends! I hope you still remember me. My Aai, having hopped off the blogging bandwagon, was determined to keep me away too. ‘Why not let me write if you are too lazy Aai?’, I kept asking her. She of course had no reply to that. But when I decide to do something, you can be sure I’ll do it. If not immediately, then as soon as your attention wavers for a second. And so, here I am!

Important things first. I am a big boy now, and I mean really really big – just imagine, I will be two years old come March! I am almost half as tall as Aai already. I expect to overtake her soon. Next stop, Baba! Aai realized how tall I was when I was able to dislodge the animal stickers on my new room’s wall, placed well out of my reach or so she thought. All it took was a couple of pillows strategically placed and stretching myself a bit and wham – mission accomplished! Aai is now complaining about some tiny marks on the wall where the stickers peeled off a little paint, as if anyone is going to notice that! I overheard Aaji scolding Aai about the stickers yesterday, it was quite funny really – why did you buy those cute animal stickers – for Baby M to enjoy them or as wall decor? Good question Aaji! Now why didn’t I think of it myself?

Both my Aaji-Ajobas and Baba are on my side always. Aai is not allowed to scold me in their presence. They keep telling her I am too small to be scolded. I don’t really agree with the small part, but why argue when they are taking my side? Of course, when Aai and I are alone at home, there is no stopping her. M, don’t do this and M, don’t do that! She can be a real good sport at times, and a total wet blanket at others. She’s very unpredictable that way, my Aai. V mavshi (my best friend who plays with me and takes care of  me when Aai goes out) takes my side but that rarely helps. Usually I am able to get Aai to smile and forget her anger with a few giggles or funny faces. If nothing works, a loud high-pitched ‘Aaiieeee’, cried as though I am in great pain is the last resort but even this doesn’t work sometimes. Then I simply stop crying and turn my attention to the next interesting object at hand with a I-couldn’t-care-less expression and watch the amazed look on her face. Such fun, I tell you! And of course, as soon as Aai is sufficiently distracted, I am back to my earlier mischief in the blink of an eye.

Morning and evening, I gesture towards the front door and demand to be taken out. I am able to open all doors inside the house now, but the main door with its funny lock still baffles me. No matter, I am working on it and should get there soon. On the road and the playground, I like to run free. Holding hands is for babies you see. Besides, only when both your hands are free, everything can be properly explored. You can stop and stare at the cat sleeping under the car, hop, skip and jump when the whim strikes you, climb steps of random shops on the way, run your hand across each gate you come across (Someone has to clean them, right?), pat the doggies till they wag their tails and look for interesting stones and pebbles for your home collection.

Many of my friends are in playschool already, but Aai and Baba are determined to hang on to me for a few months more. They say they want me to talk first. I can hardly understand these grown-ups! What else do I do all day if not talk? I call out to my Baba, Aai, Aaji, Ajoba, Kaka, Kaku, Dada, Tai, Mama and Mavshi. I mimic almost every word they speak. I ask for Aai to sing each of my favorite songs, demand water and food, ask for my ball, bat, crayons, cycle, books, point to and call out all the animals in the books and their sounds. Is that not speaking, you tell me?

Hmm. Enough of me now. Why don’t you all tell me something interesting in return too? It’s not fair that only I speak! Say, how about you tell me your favorite activities? Mine are looking at books and asking Aai to tell me the stories in them, listening to songs and rhymes, playing with my ball, helping out around the house when asked to (and even better when not asked to!) – fetching stuff, watering plants, shelling peas, putting things in their proper place – but most of all, running about exploring things.

Okay then, bye. Do remember to write in and tell me what you enjoy doing. Bye for now!

Mumbaikar again!

How does one begin? Apologies for the long unannounced absence? But after a point, repeated apologies seem meaningless, don’t they? So let me begin as if it’s business as usual instead.

A lot has happened since I last blogged. The trip to Mahabaleshwar was fun. The husband went back to business school after the break. A short trip to Indore happened in the interim. And then the grand news – the husband finished his MBA and decided to take up an offer in Mumbai of all places! Now he already had a prior offer in Chennai, so I had been preparing myself to set up home there. One would think we would be overjoyed to go back to the city where both our families live – the husband and I are both born and brought up in Mumbai – but I was very apprehensive initially.

Ever since we graduated and got married, we have never lived in the city of our birth. Yes, I used to be a Mumbaikar and even traveled by the infamous local trains for four years of engineering college. But after six peaceful years in Pune and rural New York, Mumbai with its frantic pace, pollution, frequent terror attacks and horrifying commute stories never appealed to me as a place to set up roots and bring up our child. Add to all that, the husband’s workplace was to be at the tip of South Mumbai where real estate is unbelievably expensive.

Our families, however, were unanimously happy. And not to get in to too many details, but thanks to their blessings and efforts, we were fortunate enough to set up home in one of the nicest areas of Mumbai, even if I say so myself. Nicest, not the most posh or most expensive, which is so much more important, don’t you think? Picture this – peaceful tree-lined streets, a huge playground, children’s park and sea promenade a stone’s throw away, bustling markets with awesome street-side shopping and eateries in the vicinity and no sign of Mumbai’s ubiquitous slums – what more could one ask for!

The suburb we live in is reputed to be the center of local politics and culture; something or the other is happening always. Mostly good – dramas, concerts, exhibitions and sporting events, sometimes not so good – mostly political demonstrations, but it does keep the atmosphere lively. Festivals are still celebrated in the traditional way. There’s just the right blend of the old and the new, history and progress, wealth and middle class values. The library I recently joined is over a hundred years old, has the most amazing collection of books and charges the princely sum of forty five rupees a month! The biggest flower market in the city, the oldest flyover, the biggest open ground, the most famous temple – you name it and it’s right here. The only thing missing is a huge mall, but the husband and I are hardly great fans of mall culture and we are eager to keep Baby M from it as long as we can, so that’s not a major dampener for us at all.

The biggest reason we chose to live here was the central location of course – the husband travels by bus and reaches office in anything from half an hour to an hour depending on traffic conditions, a blessing by Mumbai standards, believe me.  Weekends are spent exploring South Mumbai – sev puri and pani puri at Chowpatty, long walks and bike rides at Worli seaface, sunsets at Marine Drive, buggy rides at Nariman Point for Baby M, endless window shopping at Colaba causeway for his Aai. All this was a luxury the husband and I hardly knew growing up in the suburbs from where a trip to town involved tedious bus and train travel – all enthusiasm and energy getting exhausted by the time one stepped out of the train at VT station.

We have also been blessed with good neighbors here. An elderly couple next door who dote on Baby M, a sweet little girl his age in the adjoining building to play with, a dada upstairs to teach him football and cricket. The little girl’s mom and I are jogging partners already while the dads are still making plans for a game of tennis – perhaps 2012 will be the lucky year to be graced with this much awaited game!

The proximity to both sets of grandparents and other assorted aunts and uncles and cousins is simply the icing on the cake. It’s such a joy to watch your child being pampered and loved by family! Not to mention the guilty pleasures of matinees watched and candlelight dinners enjoyed while the grandparents babysit!

Living in Mumbai may not be so bad after all, I am now inclined to think. Especially now that I am home with Baby M, sheltered from the grimier aspects of our city. Let’s hope I feel this way always!

P.S. Coming up next – a house tour as soon as I manage to get some good shots. The house isn’t grand by any means, but I am proud of what I’ve managed to do in our cozy little space.

P.P.S. It would be nice if all of you would take the time to say hi just this once, so I know who is still around, reading.

Normal programming…

… recommences! Regular readers, please do excuse the last post. Let’s just say, after weeks of self-control, I found it impossible to resist this opportunity to be naughty staring me right in the face. And now, let’s leave it at that, shall we?

Excitement is in the air at the JnM household. The husband returns from a two month exchange program in the US next week, goodies in tow. Toys and dozens of books for his darling Baby M. A digital SLR and iPhone for himself. And one teeny weeny gift for me. Sigh! How the mighty have fallen!

Okay, I am exaggerating. My gift is a surprise, so I have no idea how tiny (or huge) it is. And guess whose pictures the SLR will end up capturing? And finally, the stuff for Baby M was painstakingly researched and selected and ordered online by none other than yours truly. The poor husband ended up merely playing messenger boy in this instance. So I thought, why not be generous and give him his iPhone in return for the courier service? Yes, I am pretty generous that way.

Baby M will be taking off for Mahabaleshwar as soon as his daddy makes an appearance on Indian shores. This will be his fifth trip in less than a year, after Lonavala, Delhi-Agra, Indore and Alibag. Quite the seasoned traveler already, is our Baby M. He’s been so kind as to allow his poor parents to accompany him this time as well. But don’t expect such largess every time, we’ve been warned. Okay dear, we’ll take what we get.

The no-fuss baby that he is, Baby M has been very little trouble the last four times, gleefully taking in all the different sights with large curious eyes when awake, falling asleep in our arms when tired, and lapping up the sterile but yucky-tasting packaged baby foods as well as the delicious but hardly very hygienic dhaba food with equal ease. The husband and I have our fingers crossed this time will be no different.

The only part that worries me is the long drive. Active toddlers can be hard to manage in a confined space, and Baby M is as active as they get. I am trying to get him hooked on to looking out of the window – nothing like observing the world outside to kill boredom and enrich your mind I believe – but the idea is yet to catch on. In the meantime, mommy’s singing (talk of captive audiences!) and his favorite books seem to do the trick.

Strawberry-picking (and eating!), boating, horse-riding, hiking, swimming and lots of parent-child and husband-wife bonding is on the cards. Wish us happy travels, please!

On blogging and commenting…

It’s a funny business – this blogging. Especially our kind of blogging, where we write about general everyday stuff that’s not of earth-shattering importance to anyone.

When I was an active blogger, I used to average a couple of posts a week. That meant spending at least an equal number of hours writing, and many more reading different blogs.  The two usually go hand-in-hand, at least for me. Naturally, many posts I read struck a chord somewhere, or were just so funny or well-written that I had to stop and comment. Commenting on other blogs is the best form of publicity for your own blog I have found. Some call it networking, while a lucky few form genuine friendships on the net. Again, of those who network, some do it intentionally, some inadvertently, and for many it’s a mix of all these (I think), as is the case with yours truly.

Whatever be the reason, when I was an active blogger (and commentator), I had dozens of comments on every post. And now that I rarely find the time to write on my own space, leave alone on others’, I feel happy to get even a couple of comments here. Not that I am blaming anyone. But it’s a vicious cycle, this. The lesser number of comments I get, the worse I feel about my blog and the tougher it gets to feel enthused to work on my writing.

I think it’s time to break the cycle. For that, it’s important I realize exactly why I am doing this.

I blog because I like to write. I am not very good at networking or forming friendships online. Very rarely, I blog to vent out my frustrations or fears here. But mostly I just enjoy playing with words, trying to create something meaningful out of them. And I am particular about my spellings and punctuation and grammar. I re-read my posts multiple times to check these things. Have I repeated a phrase too many times?  This sentence just does not sound right! Is that paragraph too long? I can spend hours polishing a post till it sounds just right.

Does she think she writes all that well, I hear some of you say! Perhaps not, but I do enjoy the process thoroughly. And it’s time I appreciated the simple pleasure I get from creating an honest and well-written post from the jumble of thoughts in my head.

After that, if a kind soul takes the time to comment, well, that’s just the cherry on the cake, isn’t it?

Updates from Baby M!

I am a big boy now – all of thirteen months! We celebrated my first birthday in great style last month. Except that the grown-ups seemed to have all the fun playing games, dancing and eating yummy food, while I was made to parade around in a sherwani and random people came and pinched my cheeks! Hmmph! Next year, I will plan my birthday party myself – everyone will be made to dress down, not up, I’ll run around all the time so nobody will be able catch me and no one above the age of five will be allowed to play any of the games!

In other news, I decided to put an end to Aai’s endless worrying and sprouted four teeth just after my first birthday, seemingly overnight! I thought that would make her happy but now she’s started worrying about the teeny weeny gap between my two front teeth. As if that matters! I am just happy I can bite anyone who does not give me what I want now. In addition to screaming at the top of my voice, shedding false tears and (literally) throwing my weight around of course!

Speaking of what I want, kites fascinate me these days. Have you noticed how many of them are still caught up in the trees around you? No? Then you must be one of those grown-ups. They hardly notice interesting things, I have noticed. Most of them look down or straight ahead while walking. When the really interesting stuff can be found up in the sky – planes! birds! clouds! moon! – or on treetops  – kites of course! When will these grown-ups ever learn?

So I always look up these days. And keep my finger ready for pointing all the time. For my poor Aai has great trouble remembering stuff you know. She needs me around to remind her of everything. She keeps asking me, where’s the doggie? And I point him out to her. A few seconds later, where’s the clock? Sometimes, she even forgets who she’s talking to, imagine! Where’s Baby M, she wants to know! Isn’t that the height of forgetfulness?

Grown-ups also have these weird ideas about keeping homes tidy, I have realized.They seem to think stacking stuff in cupboards and on tables while keeping the floor clean is tidy. Me, I prefer keeping the cupboards and table surfaces clean and empty, while stuff on the floor doesn’t really bother me. Aaji is yet to agree with my concept of cleanliness though!

When I am not helping Aai keep track of things or educating Aaji on tidying up the home, I help out the mavshis in the kitchen. I help them shell peas and use the big wooden stick to bring down the dry clothes. And sometimes, there’s not enough work for Aaji and the mavshis and I notice everyone getting bored, so I scatter all the vessels on the floor to keep them amused and occupied.

Aaji keeps saying, what will we all do when you go to your own house in July Baby M? Don’t you worry Aaji – I’ll visit you often and make sure I create enough work during my visits to keep you all occupied the rest of the time.

Speaking of worrying, Aai also wants me to walk soon. But she doesn’t understand. So what if I am not walking yet, I am putting my energies to much better use! I climb chairs, tables, beds, even the funny elliptical machine Aai uses to keep her weight off. (I use it more often than Aai, or so Aaji says!) Climbing is so much more fun than walking you know. I climb whatever and wherever I can. But sometimes I can’t figure out how to get down, so I let out a loud cry and someone is always around to help me out. Easy pheasy!

I have saved the best news for the last. Aai stopped working last month and is pretty much free to play with me all the time now. Yippee! We sing nursery rhymes together (Aai sings and I act out the songs), look at pictures in my books (teddy bear! clock! doggie! giraffe!) and tell each other stories (I contribute with my hmmphs!). And in the evening, we go to the park to play with my gang of friends. Aai plays with us too – she’s a good sport that way.

But Aaji often catches Aai reading or on the internet when she’s supposed to be playing with me! I don’t  mind that though – I like it when she’s engrossed in her books so I am free to pursue my mischievous ideas – my favorite is to throw all my toys and books at the back of the bed when no one’s watching!

That reminds me – Aai’s busy typing away at her laptop right now. I am off to hide a new batch of toys under the bed. Ta!

What would you do?

A simple soul from a village in interior Maharashtra. Migrated to Mumbai after marriage. A housewife, literate but not highly educated. The early years of marriage were probably a struggle – to bring up the kids on her husband’s modest income, manage with the mother-in-law who lived with them, as well as play host to sundry other relatives who came to the city for education or work and stayed with the family for extended periods of time. And all this in a small one bedroom flat typical of Mumbai.

The woman is now sixty plus. Life is anything but a struggle now. The flat is larger and far more comfortable, a swanky car and driver await her instructions downstairs.  But the woman’s life seems strangely empty. The husband has done very well in his career and still keeps himself busy with work – his energy and interest is admirable for his age. The children are all married with kids, busy careers and homes of their own. Ditto the relatives who lived with them from time to time. The mother-in-law is no more. What should the woman do all day?

The children and their families visit as often as they can, and are genuinely loving and interested in her happiness. But they have their own interests and commitments now. What more can they do? Ditto the husband. Of course he would like to see her happier, but is it fair to expect him to be home all day when he still has the drive to carry on with his work?

Who has gone wrong and where? Here’s what I think. The woman has lived for her family all her life. For lack of time, or more likely inclination, she was never able to cultivate a hobby, an interest or a social circle of her own. Perhaps that was par for the course in her times, but society has changed a lot since then. Joint families have made way for nuclear ones. And the woman, like many of her generation, has been caught in the midst of this social change.

The past cannot be changed, nor can the external circumstances. But I don’t see why should it be too late to start building a small life of her own? The time and the resources are in place. She could start small. Explore different activities to see what suits her the best. Join a yoga class. Befriend someone. Volunteer time, keeping in mind health constraints of course. Join a library. Learn to sing or paint or even cook a different cuisine. Or simply make it a point to plan a visit somewhere once a week – a movie, a drama, a shopping mall, a relative’s house. The possibilities are immense. But the drive has to come from within.

I see the woman struggle with loneliness and wish she would try making these small changes.  Others can help only up to a point. I know it’s far easier to write about change than implement it, but in the past few years as I’ve struggled to overcome some of my shortcomings, I’ve realized this one truth above all. Most goals can be achieved, difficulties can be overcome and habits can be changed – if you make the effort. No one can help you if you don’t help yourself.

That’s how I see the situation friends. What do you think? Put yourself in the woman’s shoes and tell me – what would you do?

Mothers need mothering too!

Baby has a cold. So when after weeks of sleeping through the night, he wakes up at a godforsaken hour, just as you are slipping away into the most satisfying sort of deep sleep, you aren’t really surprised.

‘Poor baby, he must be so uncomfortable!’, you think.

So you try and blow his nose, apply a soothing aromatic oil to his chest to ease the congestion, adjust the pillow to make him more comfortable and gently nurse him back to sleep.

Only to hear a loud bawl ten minutes later, just as you are drifting off to dreamland again.

So you try and blow his nose, adjust the pillow to make him more comfortable and nurse him back to sleep. Again. Only this time, you have to remind yourself to be gentle.

Only to hear the loud bawl in what seems like just two minutes later. And so on and on, till the wee hours of the morning.

‘Poor me, will I get some sleep tonight?’, you can’t help but wonder by now.

When soft loving voices magically appear by the bedside, warm loving hands pick up the baby and the most reassuring voice in the world asks you to go back to sleep, we’ll take care of baby, don’t you worry.

Mothers need mothering (and as in this case, fathering) sometimes too!

P.S. All you folks envying me for having parents around when baby is sick, say aye!

The joys of Indian life – for babies!

“Rolly polly, up, up up!”, a chubby three year old sings, while her  cousin,  a cute little two year old, chortles with glee and a ten-month old Baby M watches them intently, fascinated. He kicks his legs wildly in protest at being held. So what if he can’t walk yet? His friends are running around playing and of course he must join them!

The girls are our neighbors at my parents’ home in Mumbai. Everyday, morning, afternoon and evening, the three get together in the building compound to ‘play’.  Whoever gets down first calls out to the rest until the entire building knows the gang is getting together again! Sometimes a little boy from across the street joins in as well. The older ones sing songs or tell stories (picked up at playschool), while Baby M is usually content to simply watch them, that’s when he’s not looking at the crows and butterflies, trying to grab at flowers and leaves and staring at the neighborhood cat! Sometimes he’ll laugh out aloud or try to imitate the funny sounds his friends make, more often he simply kicks his legs in delight at their antics.

In the morning, when Aaji sets out on her daily rounds of the market and sundry other chores, Baby M sees her pick up her purse and gets all excited. It’s time to go out! Aaji tries in vain to slip out unnoticed, but the ever-alert Baby M lets out a loud wail until she picks him up and takes him out. Perched on Aaji’s shoulder, Baby M roams the lanes of our sleepy suburb, visiting the bank, the fruit seller, the local library, even the school for physically challenged children where Aaji volunteers her time every week.

Every evening, when Aai shuts down her laptop for the day,  she gets herself and Baby M ready and mom and son head out, to the park, to the local bookstore to browse books for Aai, to pick up Aaji from her yoga class or to the market to hunt for some elusive ingredient for Aai’s recipe-of-the-day.

And at night, when Ajoba comes home, Baby M leaps into his arms before he enters the house and demands to be taken out for a walk or a ride in the car. Weekends, he travels to South Bombay to visit his cousin, just a year older to him, or north to the suburb where his paternal grandparents, uncle, cousin and many more of our relatives live.

Grandparents, uncles and aunts to pamper him, cousins and neighbors his own age to play with,  older cousins to teach him new tricks, the household help, the driver and  the watchman to entertain him when everyone else is busy, traveling by bus, train and rickshaws, a fruit seller gifting him an orange just because he seemed so fascinated with the color, random girls on the road pinching his cheeks and going ‘so cute!’ at him, the lights of Diwali, band-baaja of Ganpati and kites of Sankrant – could a baby’s life get any richer?

When Baby M first arrived in India, he’d look at a gathering of  two or more people and burst into tears. Guests at home, burst into tears. Enter a strange home, more tears. A stranger picking him up, loud wails and shrieks! Today, he throws himself at anyone who’s standing at the door. An unfamiliar uncle picks him up and all he notices is the pen sticking out of the uncle’s shirt pocket. He’s traveled to Khandala, Pune, Delhi, Agra and Indore over the past couple of months without showing a hint of stranger anxiety.

“Rolly polly, down, down, down!”, Baby M’s friend ends her song and I watch him laugh aloud, my heart bursting with happiness. The decision to move back home never seemed wiser!

A difficult choice – 2

Yeah, sounded too good to be true, didn’t it? Okay, now hear the other side of the story.

I try not to indulge in mommy guilt, but the nagging feeling that I am missing out on a beautiful part of Baby M’s childhood is always there. I hate it when he discovers the fun of splashing around in the bath tub for the first time and it’s my mom who sees it and calls out to me to come watch. Sure, it is a privilege to be able to rush in and watch, but I’d like to be the one to see that first look of delight on his face. Watching him enjoy the bath tub so much, I realize it’s time to take him swimming, but the pool is crowded on weekends and I have no time on weekdays. Little things like that. I took him to the beach (which is a 10 minute drive from our place) for the first time in six months last Monday (when I had a New Year’s day holiday) and he loved it! If I wasn’t working, we could do these fun things every other day, not just on weekends.

Then there’s so much stuff I’d like to do for myself.  My mom’s learning Madhubani painting this month, I’d love to join her. I want to take up gardening seriously. I’d like to learn the basics of home interiors, so I can do up our home myself next year. A neighborhood aunty’s teaching Bollywood dance – it’s no secret that I have two left legs, but I love to dance and I’d like to learn a couple of dance moves at least, so I can stop making a fool of myself dancing in public. And so on and on.

So what? Many women manage home, work, kids and still find time for themselves, I hear you say. But the point is, I don’t want to be one of them. I hate to rush through life. More importantly, I think we are in a good enough place money-wise that I can afford to take it easy for a while. Also, working from home offers me flexibility, but I miss the interaction one enjoys at the workplace.

And to be honest, I was never cut out to be an engineer or a career person. I never was geeky, nor am I terribly ambitious about my career. I just happen to have reasonably good brains and once I take up something, I take pride in doing it well. So I am a software analyst by default you could say. Sure, I mostly enjoy what I do, but my work has never defined me – it’s just something interesting that keeps me busy and stimulated, and the fact that I earn good money for it is like icing on the cake. In contrast, the husband is pretty ambitious and serious about his career. So call it a gender stereotype or whatever, but those are the kind of people we are.

Having said all that, giving up work is still a difficult decision to make. What if the husband takes time to find something good post-MBA? What if staying at home bores me out of my wits? And the biggest of all – what if no one offers me a job ever again?

Tell me, what do you think?

P.S. These thoughts have been churning around at the back of my mind for a while now, but the trigger for this post was my boss offering to try and renegotiate my benefits so I can continue to work from India. The Indian benefits are unlikely to be as good as the US ones, hence this need to re-evaluate my priorities.

A difficult choice – 1

When we were planning a baby, I was a 100% sure I wanted to stay at home with our bundle of joy.  In fact, I was all set to stop working mid-way during my pregnancy. But a combination of a low-stress job, an understanding boss,  an easy pregnancy and most importantly, a supportive husband ensured I worked right till the day before Baby M was born.

Then during my 4-month long maternity leave, each day I’d look upon my return-to-work date with apprehension. ‘Should I call up my boss and tell him I won’t be returning?’, I’d ask myself everyday. ‘Why not give work a try and see how it goes?’, my sensible half always suggested. Then the husband got his cherished B-school admit in India and I thought the decision was out of my hands.

When out of the blue, the boss made me an offer I found hard to refuse. Would I like to continue working from home in India? Would I? We had already decided Baby M and I would be living with my parents in Mumbai while the husband slogged it out in b-school. My mom was eager to help with Baby M. My boss was offering me the chance to work from home and choose my hours. What more could I ask for?

So for the past six months, I have been enjoying the best of both worlds – having my cake and eating it too, you could say. I start my day snuggling up to Baby M and putting him back to sleep early in the morning, run out for my morning walk, return home, shower and leisurely read the morning papers. My commute is the few steps I walk to my desk. I start work in pajamas, a mug of coffee in hand. I can take a break whenever Baby M needs me or whenever I feel like cuddling him or just because. I can take an impromptu nap in the afternoon and cover up by working till late in the evening.

Most importantly, I never have to stay back at my desk and pretend I am working. Plus the work is interesting enough (for the most part) and is a good way to structure my day. And finally, the money comes in handy as well, especially now that the husband is on a year-long break.

So what exactly is my problem?

….. TO BE CONTINUED