Monday, March 30, 2009

55 Word Fiction

"Laundry Wale Uncle"

The old man from the laundry.
Lives with his son.
Longs for his village, his friends ...his life.
Hope keeps him alive.
Everytime we meet, he tells me he is leaving in a month.
6 years since we first met.
He died today .
In a foreign land.
Of a broken heart.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Number Game

Fellow Blogger D tagged me and here I am playing this fun number game:

ONE God the creator of all is what I believe in.

TWO or Class 2 is what I skipped completely and instead did Class 3 twice because of cross continent travel.

THREE is the number of times (minimum) I need to call my husband's name out loud before he actually hears me.

FOUR is the number of people who seriously proposed marriage to me. I say people because one was a woman who said she would marry me, if she was a man or had a different sexual orientation ;).

FIVE minutes is the maximum I can leave my 2 children alone...after that there is bound to be yelling, screaming,attempts to kill each other, or sometimes silence akin to the lull before the storm... it always means they are upto something,no good.

SIX is the number of languages I understand.

SEVEN is the number of years I have been cooking,cleaning, washing dishes and doing laundry, without any doemstic help, if you don't count hubby darling that is. This is the American lifestyle. Reality check to all those America hungry people out there.

EIGHT is a time which still reminds me of 'Chitrahaar' on DD.

NINE is the number of times(minimum again) the thought occurs to me during the day, everyday "what was I thinking when I decided that domesticity was the way to go for me". Just kidding. Not really.

TEN is the number of pounds I would be happy to lose.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I am a mother. I conceived,carried and I delivered, twice. Before conception I worried because I wanted a child so bad. After conception I spent the first 3 months nauseated or at the commode throwing up. The next 3, happy and content eating whatever I wanted. The last 3 back at the commode but peeing mostly. I see no point talking about the intensity of the labor pains, I delivered normally both the times and I know there is no pain like that pain. The stitches I walked around with and which extended from my vagina to the rectal area were not pleasant too.The constipation that followed meant me being in the bathroom and crying for hours, scared that any pressure would open up my stitches.Breastfeeding,initially, was pretty painful, though I went onto breastfeed(exclusively) both my children till 18 months.Some things which stayed even when this period ended....stretch marks, back aches which come and go,urinary incontinence which thankfully has gone and a lifetime of worry.

Then comes the next stage. With the first born, I cried every time he did. I laughed every time he did. I developed these faint worry lines on my forehead and many a strand of gray hair. As a young parent, I still don't know what it means to sleep throughout the night. Most of the days I am tierd enough to cry. We, my husband and I have faint memories of what it feels like to be a couple.(Being in US though temporarily, means no support system , hence no breaks at all).
I won an All Round Excellence Award in the college, a college which has been coming in the top 3, in the country for arts and social sciences for the last 12+ years. I was touted as the most likely to become the Future President/District Commissioner in my hostel. Today I sit at home, a choice with which I struggled initially but now see it as one of the best decisions of my life so far.

I worry over everything which might cause my child worry. I want to shield my child from everything dark and unhappy, sickness and pain. I want them both to be happy and healthy and good people. I debate and discuss and deliberate on how to do things best for them. I am honest enough to admit that I have compromised and made many a sacrifice already, though I have no regrets whatsoever.

When either of my child is sick , my husband worries himself sick, about how he/she must be hurting. He sleeps next to my sick child, waking through the night to check on him/her. He who gets a headache if he is sleep deprived , goes without sleep for days caring for the child. He works hard to provide and ensure a safe and secure future for my children.
We complaint about the lack of couple time, lack of sleep, lack of privacy, lack of freedom, lack of a sense of abandonment, of thinking about just changes after a child is born...on many levels. We are at it 24/ give it all... the best way we know so.

We have been parents for the last 4.5 years. Its been a roller coaster ride.Now,we know exactly what our parents must have gone through and still feel. You do not retire from the job of a parent. You are one until you die.

What I have seen around me in this country is children not going to India to be with their sick and dying parents because their trip will somehow jeopardize their Green Card or citizenship.I have seen people actually debating how it is not practical to go again within a year to be with a father who is on the deathbed. The first trip was for the then dying and now dead mother. I have heard of only sons not going for cremation. These very mothers came to be with their daughters and daughter in laws during pregnancy and delivery. I have seen parents undergo major surgeries alone or have undergone the painful and slow recovery ...alone. The reasons are many, most famously being...bachhon ko school ki chhutti nahin hai,Green Card or Citizenship will be jeopardized, not practical have done our bit by sending money, my mother chose a bad time to fall sick... summer.. and my America born child does not do well in the Indian summer, I worked so hard for this I cannot let it go for a dying parent, I have a life to live.........the list is endless.

We cannot foresee or predict the future. We as parents give without expecting to receive. We also know, that no action of our children will ever make us stop loving them. But the mere thought of not being able to see and be with my children when I am at peace but lonely, sick though financially provided for, about to lose my spouse of 50 + years, dying but surrounded by people be it relatives or paid caretakers...causes me gut wrenching pain.
Will I then regret all that I did for my children, from the age of 27 to a lifetime...NEVER....but I will be in pain, I will certainly be in a lot of pain.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

When The Parent Needs the Child - Part II

I have begun reading 2 books simultaneously, these days. One could be any popular or not so popular, fiction/non- fiction and the other, which I only read in bed at night is something spiritual. So presently I am enthralled by and equally so with 'Dashavatar - The 10 Avatars of Vishnu' based on the lectures of Pandurang Shastri Athavale and 'Unaccustomed Earth' by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I want to give an excerpt of her book 'Unaccustomed Earth' because it resonates with and gives another perspective to the issues I mention in my earlier post. So read on:

"Now That he was on his own, acquaintences sometimes asked if he planned to move in with Ruma.Even Mrs. Bagchi mentioned the idea. But he pointed out that Ruma hadn't been raised with that sense of duty. She led her own life, had made her own decisions, married an American boy. He didn't expect her to take him in, and really, he couldn't blame her.For what had he done, when his father was dying, when his mother was left behind? By then Ruma and Romi were teenagers. There was no question of his moving the family back to India, and also no question of his eighty-year-old widowed mother moving to Pennsylavania. He had let his siblings look after her until she, too, eventually died."

Monday, March 9, 2009

When the Parent Needs the Child

In the past couple of months, some friends of mine have lost their parents. A couple of them have parents diagnosed with terminal illnesses. The difficult and painful conversations I had with them left me in a melancholy and a soul searching mood.

The stories I tell are a reflection of our times and also question how and who really benefits from the disintegration of joint/extended families. The oft used phrase thanks to opening economies and globalization " The world is a small place" seems to be true for us, the generation X, but for our parents it means a lonely old age, with visits to children and grandchildren, the frequency of which depends on distance, budgets, schedules and willingness mostly of the super busy children.

Since we are dashing off from one goal to the other and planning and micro planning for a future over which we do not have any control really, we hardly have any time to pause and think. The slightly numb, over achieving, more or less self absorbed generation that we are , we need something drastic to move us and get our attention. Though we are also a people with some or the other kind of attention disorder and whatever stops us and encourages self introspection and possibly regret followed by change, is also not gauranteed our fullest and sustained focus. We will surely flit to another more pressing concern and paint a coat of "justifications", "logicality", "practicality" over our selfish acts.

Anyways here are some of the events which gnaw at me........

'A' lives in UK, far away from her parents who reside in India. She suddenly gets a call informing her that her father has taken seriously ill. En route to India she finds out he has had a brain heomaarege and is in a coma. He it seems and so she believes, is hanging on to his life only to allow her to see him 'alive' once, before he departs this earthly abode. He passes away some hours after her arrival.I feel, even in his dying moments, he is the quintessential parent worried more about the child than himself.
She is tortured by the fact that she used to get to see her parents only after a year and a half. And every visit she felt that that they had aged years and looked different from the last visit. With dread I admit, I too, completely relate with this feeling.

'K' and his sister 'B' lived in the same country, India, as their parents, but in different cities. Both lead busy lives and regularly visit their parents. Yet they somehow were not present when their mother had a pacemaker installed. She is about to visit 'K' next month,who is expecting his second child. She has a massive heart attack and passes away on Friday night. 'K' and 'B' could reach only on saturday morning. Their father spends the night alone in the hospital with his spouse of over 40 years lying dead on a cold steel bed. 'B' cries and so do I along with her that her departed mother had requested that they keep their leaves intact because she really wanted her children to be with her when she got her pacemaker replaced in December. The mother confesses, hated being alone the first time around. 'B' sobs heartbreakingly and says "we are useless, we left her alone". And I cry with her knowing the same holds true for me.

'R' and 'M' are wracked with guilt because their mothers underwent chemotherapy and recovered after an accident respectively and did it alone. Both 'R' and 'M' have been blessed with great extended families who rallied around their mothers but the bottomline remains that the children were absent. 'R' and 'M' have trouble meeting the eyes of these dear family members who care for their mothers but who also are a constant reminder of who and what they substitute for.

In a world where parents are loudly and self righteously blamed for psychologically and emotionally, scarring children by a variety of methods...abuse and neglect being primary, why is there no fingerpointing and reprisal if it is the other way round.

I also know what I am guity of and how so. I have my own personal demons to slay and hopefully having done that, will have the courage and goodness, to do what is only right.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gain two... Lose Some

My friend Piper's post "Erma Bombeck - On Motherhood", inspired me to think of all that I have gained and lost post domesticity and motherhood especially. A mother of 2 delightful and lovely children I will not write about all that I have gained because I will not be able to do justice to it and most importantly I learn everyday, how valuable is the treasure bestowed upon me.

On a humorous but honest note I can enumerate the various things that I have given up and habits I have picked up in the process:

1. I do not remember the last time I DID not have an audience when I used the restroom. This audience of mine either gleefully monitors my every move or hurries me on by insisting that they need to use the facility too. And this happens with such regularity that the simple act of attending to natures call, demands prior strategy and a game plan of sorts.

2. Yes I hide my chocolates ...I hide it from my children because I crave for that Ferrero Rocher and I want to eat whole piece of chocolate ..without having to share it with anyone children bring out the mean child in me at times. Its been ages when I or someone bought chocolates for me.

3. I don't remember what it feels to be footloose and fancy free...nothing overly dramatic but just the feel of a great handbag in one's arm minus all the hoola hoo of an over sized cumbersome diaper bag. Or as of now a chic over sized handbag which contains things I need and not a slightly darkening and limp banana, a toy car, a fake plastic cell phone or an ear piercing whistle, a water gun which is most likely to be aimed at and squirted at my eye.

4. I do my own little angry dance every time I am asked to leave my plateful of surprisingly hot food to wash wipe or clean some one's behind. Potty time for the little people is always when its eating time for mommy.

5. Hubby darling and I have been frozen into inaction during our snatched moments of intimacy by a wailing baby or a sleep talking toddler. In retrospect it is very funny but sometimes when such moments are far and in laugh it off has been hard to do.

6. I don't know what it is to talk to an adult be it my husband or a visiting girlfriend without some sort of a background noise or a little person using devious methods to claim everyone's attention. One of the methods commonly used is attempts (failed one , thankfully) to jump out of the third floor window screaming "Mommy ! Look! I can fly !!!"

7. Eating out without worrying about what others think about your child rearing style is a state of mind, alien to me. Constant fear that your 'intent on running around in circles 'child might collide headfirst with a tray laden waiter can act as a very good appetite dampener.

8. I want to do what I love the a good book , something other than Dr. Suess and Bernstein Bears. My favorite fantasy these days revolves around a comfy chair,a good book and no one else around to disturb this equilibrium.

8. My days are generously sprinkled with embarrassing child ...decides to dig his nose and with a frenzy as soon as I turn around to introduce him to the elderly but prim librarian, starts eating an unwashed cucumber/tomato/okra which is kept in the shopping cart as if he/she is starved at home, wants to stay for extended periods of time and at times even live with people other than his/her parents, has at times pulled his/her pants down and run around in glee as if we, the parents encourage such behavior.

I can easily write a sequel or two or more to this piece. But my two have certainly taught me to put on a brave face, develop a thick skin and take everything with a pinch of salt and humor.

Monday, March 2, 2009

About bullies and more

If I have known something about myself and been sure about it is that I am sensitive to other people's feelings. I am a good judge of character.I am also quick to tune into nuances and careful not to hurt someone knowingly. I know I do not have a perfect score in this and the times that I have failed is because , a) I have been too tired to try, b) Lately I find myself zoning out more often than I want...maybe because of a lack of "me/alone time" c) I am hormonal and turn into a person I barely know. Very rarely though I am on purpose trying to be rude and insensitive.

I don't know why I am writing this because I wanted this piece to be a kind of study of people and 2 types in particular.

1. Social Embarrassments: in particular the ones who crack the feeblest of jokes, have a garish sense of style, and love to shake a leg when clearly they cannot.

2. Bullies : they come in all shapes and size but are universally disliked.

Type 1 that I mentioned, surprise me and cause me a lot of grief. Primarily because I am someone who always sheds tears for the underdog and also because I have seen how these kind of people tend to bring out the worst in the rest of us. I fear, I might have unknowingly, been a part of such heckling crowds though like a bad hangover or better still since I don't drink, like a bad dream, it comes to haunt me later. The trauma associated for me post such events has been the thought of having children who despite and in spite of all my efforts grow up to be people who make a fool of themselves in social gatherings. I have been extra kind and attentive to the SEs afterwards. I have noticed with some worry the glee with which many enjoy this person making a fool of herself/himself. I have also wondered with a pang of pain and remorse whether such people realize that it is at their cost the others laugh.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that sometimes they do and I salute them for their courage and bravado in pretending all is 'fine'.

Type 2 , I have little or no sympathy for. Bullies in all shapes and size and styles put me off. After any and every encounter with a Bully I hate myself for having lacked the timing , wit or courage, one or all of them, to have retorted to some smart!!! comment with style. I have berated myself time and again for this lack of reaction on my part. Although, with time, yet again I have realized the Bully could be subtle, loud, obnoxious, rude and pretending to be standing on some sort of a high ground but this behavior is nothing more than a facade to hide behind. They are shouting down everybody else because they have their own insecurities to hide. This knowledge makes me more tolerant of them.

This piece was not meant to judge ,condemn and label. It is merely an observation. To have a good night's sleep though I find it necessary to mention my own vices here , the 2 biggest being anger and as my husband reminds me often ,the fact that I take poorly to criticism.