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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India, here we come!

3 weeks, 4 years of life and a home painstakingly put together over that period of time to be wrapped up, stuff to be sold, friends to be met, goodbyes to be said, photos to be taken, my mind is constantly buzzing with these and many more details!

More later, once I get to Mumbai and bask in Aai’s pampering once again!

Obama and the N word

“Congratulations! Your President’s a N…!”

A seemingly drunk man threw this cheery greeting our way as he stumbled past us late on Saturday night. We were about to enter a restaurant and I almost ran to the door in my hurry to get away from him. The husband, walking a few steps behind me, did not catch the words right the first time.

He later told me he heard something like ‘Your President’s a nagger’ and remembered thinking it didn’t make much sense. He could very well imagine the First Lady complaining about it, but how does this guy on the road know so much about Presidential squabbles, he wondered.

So my dear husband proceeded to ask our friend to repeat his words while I almost died of fright and shock! The cheerful proclamation having been repeated in an even louder voice, the husband seemed to finally get it and followed me into the restaurant pronto!

Was our friend on the road bitter about Obama’s ‘historic election’, as the television networks have been reminding us every two minutes for the past six months? Was this his affectionate way of celebrating ‘the first African-American President of the United States’? Or was he just plain drunk?

Whatever the reasons, his words helped put this election into perspective for us. A lot of it may be media sensationalism, but if a random person on the street still addresses his President-elect this way, in jest or otherwise, Obama surely has climbed a very big mountain to get where he is today!

Finally…

an example of responsible and constructive journalism? I am no great expert on journalism but I certainly felt so. And more importantly, although it is guilty of promoting stereotypes in a sense, I found this piece of news extremely heartening.

For it brought on my old familiar pride in being Indian again. The kind of pride I used to feel acting in sappy national integration plays in school and watching ‘unity in diversity’ songs on Doordarshan. Yes, I felt some of that old pride returning after a long long time today, along with the familiar accompanying tingle in my spine.

And I felt a glimmer of hope. As long as common folk like you and me are able to look beyond their differences and feel each other’s pain, there is hope for all of us, don’t you think?

Amidst the usual spate of gloomy stories about hate, mistrust and growing chasms in Indian society, this one is a welcome ray of sunshine indeed!

Delhi Blasts – A Reaction

Naadaan Hain Hum To Maalik, Kyoon Di Hamein Yeh Saza
Yahan Hai Sabhi Ke Dil Mein Nafrat Ka Zaher Bhara
Inhe Phir Se Yaad Dila De Sabak Wahi Pyaar Ka
Ban Jaaye Gulshan Phir Se Kaanton Bhari Duniya

(Excerpted from the song ‘Ek Tu Hi Bharosa‘ from the movie Pukar)

What is happening to our beautiful country? Who are these bloodthirsty countrymen we never knew about? Why didn’t we see them before? And what makes them thirst for innocent blood? Did we do something to make them think this way?

Historians and more learned folks might claim otherwise (and they may well be right) but for me December ’92 was when the desecration of my beautiful homeland began. When a little known (to me) political party capitalized on a little known (again, to me) religious feud to spur its rise in national politics.

Yes, that’s where it all began, to my mind. When my beloved hometown, a cosmopolitan city where Hindus thronged Muslim markets to shop for Diwali and where Manmohan Desai made a sappy national integration movie like Amar Akbar Anthony, Mumbai, a safe city that stayed relatively calm through the horrors of partition, was rocked by gruesome religious riots. And the terrifying bomb blasts that followed a few months later.

I have no love for the terrorists (who would!) but I am ashamed of what you did too. Our two communities may not have been the best of friends, but we never had it so bad before, did we? So much mistrust, hate fueling hate, revenge begetting another bloody round of revenge… Where does this all end?

Religion is a very personal matter, it belongs in our minds and in our families and homes, at most. How can we fight and kill each other over something so personal and subjective? Would you kill me if I said my husband was the best husband in the world? Would you mistrust me only because I did not marry yours? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I am sorry, but I find the other argument just as ridiculous too.

I am Hindu and I’d like to tell the so-called saviors of my Hindu pride, I don’t really care about rebuilding a temple that may or may not have been destroyed so many years ago if it is to happen at the cost of communal peace. And I have no interest in reclaiming the so-called lost honor of my religion. I never thought it was lost in the first place. I am very proud of my religion and would have been prouder still if you had never entered the picture.

Having said that, I am also least interested in establishing the supremacy of my religion over others. I am quite okay if you consider your religion superior to mine. Maybe it really is, who knows! I respect all religions equally, I truly do. I find as much peace of mind in a church as in a temple. I bow my head in reverence each time I pass a mosque. And I have Muslim friends who I am sure would like to say something similar to the terrorists supposedly waging war on their behalf.

So let me ask you both, fanatic Hindus and Muslims, do you care about the thousands of innocent lives being lost in this farce, lives of the very people whom you claim to protect and later avenge? Did they volunteer to be sacrificed in your war? Men, women and children, the bombs did not distinguish between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians – simple folks like yours and mine out for some Saturday evening fun with the family. Did any of them personally murder someone in Gujarat?

WHAT CRIME DID THEY COMMIT? None? So they were simply a statistic then? A statistic in the grand war you are fighting on behalf of us all? Ah, that explains it all.

Note: This was my emotional and personal reaction to the Delhi blasts. I may have got some facts wrong or you may disagree with my interpretation of events – I’ll be glad if you would politely correct me and explain your viewpoint in that case. Thank you.

Edited to add: Roop and Phoenix Ritu have something similar to say too. I wish we could implement some of Roop’s suggestions. I have a feeling they would work but vested interests would never let us try.

Bored of books? Borrow a Person!

Came across this absolutely weird but definitely very cool piece of news while browsing through Shyam’s blog today. Here’s an excerpt from the article to give you some idea of what I’m talking about.

‘The (‘Borrow a Person’) idea, which comes from Scandinavia, is simple: instead of books, readers can come to the library and borrow a person for a 30-minute chat. The human “books” on offer vary from event to event but always include a healthy cross-section of stereotypes. Last weekend, the small but richly diverse list included Police Officer, Vegan, Male Nanny and Lifelong Activist as well as Person with Mental Health Difficulties and Young Person Excluded from School.’

Sounds strange, isn’t it? One of the commentators on the news article’s web page had this to say – ‘Has society really come to this? It wasn’t that long ago that talking to a stranger on the street was commonplace.’ Now that’s a valid point, I’ll concede. It reminds me of my maternal grandmother in fact, who had a habit of befriending most, if not all, of the occupants of any train compartment she happened to be traveling in.

The conversation would usually start with an innocuous ‘So where are you going today?’ that lulled the opposite person into a false sense of security. Before long, however, the entire life history of not just the occupant, but most of his immediate family including second cousins and neighbours was an object of a free-for-all discussion in the train! To be fair to my grandma, she was equally unstinting in her own revelations too. Is it any surprise then, that most of us in the family would quake at the prospect of accompanying grandma on one of her train journeys?

Yes, grandma would probably have a similar comment on this news article – ‘What has the world come to that two strangers cannot swap their innermost secrets without resorting to a fad like this strange ‘Borrow a Person’ library?’, she would mutter. Oh well, my apologies for getting sidetracked by grandma and her quirks! This is a huge topic, believe me, meriting a special post entitled ‘Grandma and the Gift of the Gab’. Remind me to get down to it someday!

On a more serious note, my take on this is simple. Yes, it would be nice if people were able to talk to each other in everyday social situations instead. But given the kind of world we live in right now, where less and less of our social interactions come from informal moms-chatting-in-the-park-like settings, the opportunity to interact with interesting people from diverse backgrounds is fascinating, methinks.

The article I’ve linked to mentioned that ‘everyone carried stories inside them but had little chance to tell them’. How true! But the problem with sharing these stories is that most people place a huge premium on private space these days. So even if I am your good friend and I know you’ve gone through a good/bad experience which I’m eager to know about because I’m experiencing something similar or I’ve always been fascinated by it, I will hesitate to broach the topic because that might be construed as ‘invading your private space’.

Sounds familiar? Take my own example. We have a Jewish-American friend in office who happened to mention during lunch break one day that his parents had been in Nazi Germany during the war. Now I’ve read innumerable books on the holocaust and would have been very interested to hear more but didn’t dare prod him further. What if he found the topic too personal to talk about? A person who agrees to be a ‘book’ in this project is negating his right to privacy in that sense. Which is fine really, since the the decision is his/her own and purely voluntary of course.

Could discussing your life story with a complete stranger be something akin to free therapy? I sure think so! Will it lead to a fruitful exchange of ideas, a broader view of the world and our fellow-men and women in general? Might we become more tolerant as a result? Does this idea have the potential to destroy the politics of hate and intolerance being preached everywhere? Yes on all counts, I say!

And think of the opportunity to solve pressing global issues from simple person-to-person contact! Imagine an American chatting with an Iraqi, an Israeli with a Palestinian, a would-be terrorist with his potential victims, a policeman with a goon, a bureaucrat with a man on the street, a self-appointed member of the moral brigade with a bar dancer… The possibilities are endless!

(And lets face it, even grandma would be hard pressed to chat up with a goon or a bar dancer for example. Where would she find the opportunity to meet such folks for starters? In a train compartment, you say? Perhaps you are right. Lets exclude grandma from the list, shall we? The ‘Borrow a Person’ idea is obviously meant for lesser mortals like us!)

Edited to add: I later realized that our blogs are somewhat similar to this project in the sense that we do share our personal thoughts and experiences with complete strangers here. But the barrier of privacy is in place in the blogosphere too. Unless I am a very close friend, I would hesitate to question you more on a topic on which you choose to reveal only so much. Do you guys agree?