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!


Mischief for Dummies (Newborn Edition)

Chapter 1 – Plan your entrance right

It’s all about timing! Due dates are complete nonsense – stick to them to your own peril. Arriving a couple of weeks late is acceptable, but the best way to make a dramatic entrance is to arrive early – the earlier the better of course.

Chapter 2 – Make dressing up time fun

Swaddle blankets are your sworn enemy – they need to be actively fought at all times.  Kicks and squirms come in handy in ensuring the blanket is tied as loosely as possible. And of course a loose blanket helps when you are ready to wriggle your way out of it completely a few minutes later. The same goes for booties and mittens. The trick is to avoid getting them on in the first place.  But sometimes the stupid things tend to stay on. In those cases, they need to returned to the poor moms/dads/grannies trying to dress you up as soon as possible. Expert mischief-makers are usually able to hand over the first mitten while the poor folks are struggling to get the second one on.

Chapter 3 – Breastfeeding time is playtime

Moms have all the time in the world – especially at night. Plus they love to hold a seven pound baby in their hands for hours on end – it helps to build their arm muscles you see. So try and stretch your half hour feeding session to as long as possible. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a break to look all around you every few minutes. After all, you need to keep an eye on everyone and everything. (It’s a wonder how these folks managed before you came along!) Making faces at mom is good too – the weirder the better. Going cockeyed from time to time has been found to work best at soothing exasperated moms in such situations.

To be continued…

The time and place for assertiveness

7:30 AM. I am about to finish my fourth and last loop around our apartment community. It’s a beautiful morning, with a lovely cool breeze and bright warm sunshine. Add to it our community’s green lawns, twittering birds and gorgeous terrace gardens in every other apartment and I’m in seventh heaven. I feel fresh and chirpy, ready to take on the world. Except the canine variety, as I am about to find out.

Despite my cheery state of mind, I’ve been walking for a half hour now, at a fairly brisk pace I must add, and am somewhat tired and distracted as a result. So I fail to spot the friendly neighborhood puppy, unleashed as usual, still at a safe distance from me. And I walk on, without a care in the world, entering the puppy’s ‘territory’ with my next few steps I suppose.

Said puppy bounds over playfully to greet me. She’s a friendly sort I’m sure, her little yelps and barks meaning ‘Good morning! What a pleasant day!’ in doggie-speak no doubt. Unfortunately for me, I don’t understand doggie-speak. So I stop dead in my tracks. And look around helplessly for the puppy’s owner. Said owner, flirting with the next-door neighbor, takes her own sweet time to amble over. Still, she’s nice enough to throw a lazy ‘She doesn’t bite!’ my way, halfway through her stroll.

Notice how every dog-owner earnestly believes this about their dog? ‘Maybe not, but I don’t want to be the first to find out you’re wrong!’, I want to yell back. A thousand different retorts rush through my mind. One of which goes – ‘Isn’t it a community rule to have your dog on leash at all times? I stay here too. Can’t I take my morning walk in peace?’ Now don’t get me wrong. I love doggies! I’ll even take your word for it if you insist they are adorable creatures. All I ask for is they stay outside a 10 foot radius around me. Is that too much to wish for, tell me?

But the best time to argue with a dog-owner is not when their dog is itching to throw herself on you and is being held back only by the owner’s smartly barked commands, I ruefully realize. And go home to lick my wounds. There are better ways to practice my assertiveness skills, I tell myself. I can always call up the community manager to make an anonymous complaint in the evening. From the safety of my home preferably.

Foot in the mouth disease…

…happens to all of us at times, but a cousin of mine, by an unfortunate coincidence both uncommonly innocent and fearless for her age, suffered especially from the dreadful malady. She’s been known to have asked the most insensitive of questions with the sweetest of smiles and the most angelic expression ever in the good old days of childhood. For her sake (and her husband’s sanity) I hope she’s recovered by now.

Her infamous exploits were many, but this one takes the cake. During a family function at a temple, we cousins spotted an elderly hunchbacked lady doing her ‘pradakshinas’. Now we had never seen a hunchbacked person before and naturally all of us were curious. The question in every mind was the same – how does ajji (grandma/old lady) manage to sleep on her back? Do her legs go up as soon as she lies down?

We were all curious of course, but young as we were, there was this vague suspicion that any questions in that direction might not be taken very kindly. So we kept mum. Except for this cousin, who was fearless, remember? Before anyone could stop her, she went right ahead and popped the question to the lady herself. You can imagine the talking-to we all received later that day!

In my cousin’s defence though, she was just six or seven at that time. I wonder what these folks’ excuse is?

My Cooking Dilemma

A health bug bites me every few weeks. A friend and I usually take a brisk walk during lunch hour, but I inisist on dragging the husband out for another evening walk while its effects persist. And our fridge gets stocked with fruits and broccoli and carrots and salads and the choles and parathas make way for fresh veggies, sprouts and whole-wheat rotis for a while.

I also try and cook healthy, with less oil, ghee and masala in this phase. The concoctions I thus come up with are – how do I put it nicely – hardly lip-smackingly delicious, shall we say? I can see it on the husband’s face with the first bite he takes!

He’ll take his time chewing on his food, avoid eye contact for as long as possible and hastily rearrange his features into a somewhat less unpleasant expression when he catches me looking. A few more pointed looks and he’ll be forced to throw a seemingly casual ‘The sabzi is good, slightly different, but still good’ my way!

But sometimes, when I get tired of the routine myself or when we are having guests over, I cheat. Which means I sort of dip the oil bottle in the direction of the cooking pan and close my eyes for a while. The results are totally predictable of course.

‘The food was delicious today! Did you try something different?’

Oh, it was a new recipe I read on a blog the other day’, I airily reply.

Now, this strategy has two benefits, you’ll find. I have safely avoided revealing the ugly truth for now AND earned some brownie points for my otherwise much-maligned blog-surfing in the process. I know, I am so clever!

But my original problem remains. Do I cook tasty food or do I go the healthy route? I know it’s possible to cook wholesome food that tastes delicious as well, but my culinary skills haven’t reached that level yet. What about you? Have you faced the health versus taste dilemma in your cooking too? How do you handle it? Any tips for me?

P.S. If Baba’s reading this, of course I am exaggerating!

P.P.S. If the husband’s reading this, OF COURSE this story is NOT about us!

Married Gyaan – 1

Three years into our marriage, the husband and I have found a certain rhythm in our life together. Call us dull, predictable, domesticated or neanderthal, but we no longer fight over who cooks dinner tonight or who vacuums the house tomorrow. And if you are going to force me to be honest at gunpoint, maybe I’ll admit we don’t fight as much over these things anymore!

So the ‘Why should I do this?’ and ‘I am always doing all the work around here’ arguments have been exhausted (we hope!) and the two of us have fallen into a comfortable and mutually acceptable routine in many ways.

But this post and especially the discussion in the comment space made me wonder – how did we come to be in our present assigned roles? Was there a conscious thought process or did we simply fall in with gender stereotypes while choosing our tasks? And is either one of us being shortchanged?

Now instead of getting into a long and confused argument with myself, let me explain the division of labor in the JnM household and invite your comments instead.

So what does he do?

(I am tempted to say nothing but you are holding me at gunpoint, remember?)

Ironing our clothes and vacuuming the carpeted areas of the house over the weekend, kneading atta every 2-3 days, paying the house rent and other household/credit card bills on time, maintaining both our cars, keeping track of the currency exchange rate and periodically sending money to India, taking responsibility for all our investments (after we have talked them through of course) – all this is exclusively the husband’s domain and something I rarely give a second thought to.

And then there are other things like doing the dishes, cleaning up in the kitchen after a meal and heating the chapatis while I roll them out that I may do if the husband’s busy, but usually fall under his purview too.

And what do we do?

Assembling a simple weekday breakfast (tea/coffee, cereals and milk or toast sandwich), serving meals at home, taking out the garbage, doing the laundry, sorting through our mail – Either one of us who’s free or feels the urge could take this up. (In case of the weekday breakfast though, we take turns and carefully keep track of and argue over each other’s turns!)

And now the grand finale – what do I do?

Planning our meals and cooking on a daily basis, making shopping lists, watering and caring for our plants, cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen on a weekly basis and keeping our home neat and tidy and picking up after the husband EVERYDAY – all this is exclusively my domain.

So that’s it! Tell me, what do you think? And if you don’t mind, how does it work in your marriage?

Note1: Not that I am troubled or anything – ours may not be the best arrangement but it certainly works for us and we both seem to be comfortable with it – but the argumentative Libran that I am, I love discussions conducted solely for the sake of discussion and hence this post. So please don’t hold back your arguments because our way work for us – never mind what works for us, I am trying to get an open discussion going here!

Note2: I know my list is the smallest, but try cooking everyday and then come back and we’ll talk about it, okay?

Note3: An interesting aside – a lot of my tasks I have taken upon myself only because I don’t trust I will get the high standards I expect if they were done by anyone other than myself. Which is exactly what was discussed in the comment space of the feminist post and what got me thinking about this in the first place.

It’s true, I never ask the husband to tidy up the house because I know I’ll have to run after him undoing everything he’s done before putting it right!

Just look at the way he tidies up the sofa for example…

… while I want the pillows to be arranged in perfectly planned disarray instead.

And don’t you dare say you prefer his way now, mine is the careless casual chic look, don’t you see? The husband never understands that! Or wait a minute, does he understand perfectly and pretend not to understand? He is not that smart, now, is he?

The Best Laid Plans…!

I was very excited about last weekend for some reason. Most weekends just come and go, it seems to me, but this one would be different, I decided. I wanted to Make The Most of our time this weekend and for that I needed A Plan, I realized!

So I took a few minutes off after lunch on Thursday afternoon for a Brainstorming Session with myself. This process calls for a free flow of thoughts, I had heard, so I proceeded to jot down whatever harebrained idea came into my mind. The next step was Evaluation And Analysis, where I had to basically sift through my ideas. Now this was easier said than done. I had no clue my mind was capable of such wild thoughts when given a free rein – we obviously could not go snow-mobiling on an August weekend, unless we made a weekend trip to Alaska of course.

Sadly, half my list was pared down at this stage. Never mind, that just made the next step, Setting My Priorities, so much easier, I consoled myself. So was vacuuming the house more important than finally catching the new movie the whole world and its granny had seen except for the husband and me? Surely not! (This decision was quite easy to make when I remembered the movie was three weeks old – the vacuuming had only been pending for two weeks now, you see.)

Finally, I had to plan for Stakeholder Involvement – it looked like it was time to involve the husband in my grand plan for our weekend. This was the most crucial part of my project, I knew, so some Risk Management was called for here. Perhaps I had been a tad hasty in my planning, ignoring the husband’s interests a bit too conspicuously? A short hike on Sunday evening should be a sufficiently attractive incentive to Engage My Stakeholder, I decided, and added the hike to my list.

So finally, the list I emailed to the husband looked something like this.

Chores List 😦

  • Friday evening – Drop the rent cheque
  • Friday evening – Groceries (Milk, cereal, potatoes blah blah blah)
  • Saturday afternoon – Return the library books
  • Saturday afternoon – Indian groceries (Idli/Dosa batter, mirchi blah blah blah)

Fun List 🙂

  • Friday evening – Romantic walk at a local Lake Park
  • Friday night – Watch Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na
  • Saturday evening – Swim
  • Sunday afternoon – Stuff oneself to the point of bursting at the buffet lunch in the local Indian restaurant
  • Sunday afternoon – Mountain hike to burn up all the calories accumulated during the buffet lunch and hopefully some more

Monday morning, I came into the office, wondering, as usual, Where Did The Weekend Go? Somehow, and please don’t ask me how, we’d ended up doing all our chores except one, and ignoring all items in the fun list except for the buffet lunch and the mountain hike and the latter was a risk management afterthought in the first place, remember?

Sure, we did do a lot of other fun things instead – I lazed around in bed on Saturday and discovered the televised adaptation of my favorite book series on youtube, then I tried my hand at gardening on Sunday, planting some new plants and pampering and admiring the old ones, and we saw my first Hollywood action movie on Saturday night. (Only one person enjoyed this last activity, I’m sure you can guess who!)

But that’s entirely besides the point. My Grand Plan for our weekend had proved completely useless! Next weekend, I plan to stick to my good old chores list. Some things in life just cannot be planned, I’ve realized!