Yes, you. Do you realize how incredibly funny it is for me, seeing your IP address pop up every week in my visitors list? Just saying!
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?
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!
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?
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!
“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!
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.