Monday, May 25, 2009

The 100th post

My son and I had our first heart-to-heart talk today: we talked about life, its tough parts, the goal at the end of the road. I, the mother, the more knowledgeable adult, talked about the journey being important, the silver lining, the possible outcomes. I was not speaking from experience: don’t I ask myself these same doubts each day? I was speaking from the collective wisdom of those before me, around me and inside me. It is what I feed myself too, this pep talk that I gave him. He, the younger one, the innocent one with a trembling lip, reiterated what I said and went to sleep - the carefree sleep of the trusting. And I, the one who had shown the path, will experience a doubt-riddled and guilt-heavy slumber. He rests, knowing his pain is right, because I say so. And I wonder if I am.
My son is 23 months old and he hates going to playschool alone.
- Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A page from my diary. It lies unused now, having been morphed into this, electronic avataar. Nearly a year in the making, resting on the remains of two hastily-abandoned blogging attempts, with the fledgling confidence of a someone who's finally found her playmates, happy 100th to me. And thank you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kite runner

Round and round
The threads spin
A hundred piled on.
For a hundred more
Dizzy in anticipation.

Old memories
Away from sight
Frayed, yellow
And still potent.
I stumbled on one today:
Me and you
Years ago
And all that stood with us.
Like a stranger
Sneaking up
On a couple in love -
It wasn't that far back in time:
And yet all that stood with us
Now stands between.
You’re still the face I love:
And yet -
So many new expressions
Like a new language
Learnt on the sly
While I sulked.
Who sleeps beside me tonight?
Friend, spouse, father:
Or stranger?
A conversation of breaths -
All ragged peaks and unending abyss.
We talked of conquering mountains
And swimming the seas -
How did the plains wear us out?
Time refuses to turn back:
Like proverbs and my mother’s sayings.
And if time won’t stop to heal,
Will you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Signs

My motherhood milestones - feeding, solid foods, diaper weaning, first bloody cut, first dislocation, first serious illness, first serious injury - have all had one big thing in common: Nino's guiding spirit.

Most of my stumblings through these three years have been made simpler, because when it was time, I listened to my son, his silences first, then his cries and now his words.

That was how it was when he first broke his hand. He cried himself to sleep. Nino never cries more than five minutes, perhaps the ingrained dna of having to show he's tough because he's a boy, perhaps because he wants to go back to what he was playing. That night, with a swollen arm, I rushed him to a doctor who x-rayed him and convinced me I was an over reacting mother. All night Nino slept in a peculiar position, only saying, ever so gently, mama, don't cover me, my hand hurts. The next morning, the swelling was there, and I was muttering about what to do as he sat cradling his hand, watching me trying to pour Ibugesic, and he said, can we go to the doctor again, my hand really hurts. It was a dislocated elbow with a muscle injury, we found out later that day. A pop, a cry, and a lollipop later, my son was back to his trucks.

That is how it was again, this evening. I reached home earlier than usual and was pacing the terrace hoping to catch him as he came back from play. I shouted and he looked up, one tiny figure from ten storeys down and he ran towards the lift. When he came up, he looked crestfallen, and I thought maybe the maid had a go at him because he'd been naughty. My eye hurts, he said, dust went into it. I kissed and hugged and said all my silly names to him, but he wouldn't smile back. So I splashed some water in his eye, dabbed the lid with soft cloth, splashed some more water. But this tiny speck of white over his iris just wouldn't go away. As I put in him my lap, swinging, singing, thinking the tearducts will clean the speck away, he said, ever so quietly, maybe we should go to a doctor. I'd told him not to itch, and he was holding back, but there was something in that tone that shook my gut.

Finding an ophthalmologist at 8:30 in the evening in notoriously laid-back Ahmedabad is difficult. Nino's doc finally gave us a reference, a sweet doctor who first dissuaded me saying it was way past his closing time, and then, perhaps hearing my panic, said yes. All through the rickshaw ride to the hospital, Nino kept his eyes closed, the wind hurts he said. The white particle was a speck of plaster, the kind they put on buildings, in his eye. If it had stayed overnight, it could have damaged his eye permanently. Through the anaesthesia drops and the short sharp-scalpel and some forceful holding procedure - he was obedient, quiet, co-operative. Not the son, who I've lately claimed, never listens to me. The doctor said Nino was very brave - words I've come to associate with doctors in reference to my son.

You're lucky, the doc said, you came at the right time. And I wondered about how I'd almost thought the spec would go away, that it was just, you know, dust. We've five days of drops and pain killers to get through, and one very red, but totally mischievous eye.

Right now, he plays near my feet, lining his trucks for a race, happy, singing his favourite song in a totally off-key but saccharine-sweet voice. Listening to our kids is something we all promise ourselves we'll do, putting that milestone at school, teenage and youth. I'm grateful Nino's teaching me this lesson early.

> or <

What is it about love that is so vulnerable to change? Expression, yes. When you've been together for so long, the frenzied clutching of hands gives way to the glances and then to the quiet comfort of presence that does not necessarily register itself.

But when its very premise changes, do you take heart in the notion that it could be worse?

Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat
- Faiz Ahmed Faiz

mujh se pehli si mohabbat meray mehbub na maang
Don't ask me for the love I once gave you, my love

mein ne samjha tha kay tu hai to darakhshaan hai hayaat
I had thought if I had you, life would shine eternally on me
tera gham hai to gham-e-dahar ka jhagdra kya hai
If I had your sorrows, those of the universe would mean nothing
teri surat se hai aalam mein bahaaron ko sabaat
Your face would bring permanence to every spring
teri aankhon ke sivaa duniya mein rakkha kya hai
What is there but your eyes to see in the world anyway

tu jo mil jaaye to taqdir niguun ho jaaye
If I found you, my fate would bow down to me
yun na tha mein ne faqat chahaa tha yun ho jaaye
This was not how it was, it was merely how I wished it to be

aur bhii dukh hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke sivaa
There are other heartaches in the world than those of love
raahaten aur bhi vasl ki raahat ke sivaa
There is happiness other than the joy of union

anaginat sadiyon ki taarik bahimanaa talism
The dreadful magic of uncountable dark years
resham-o-atalas-o-kamkhvaab mein bunavaaye huye
Woven in silk, satin and brocade
jaa-ba-jaa bikate huye kuuchaa-o-baazaar mein jism
In every corner are bodies sold in the market
khaak mein lithade huye khuun mein nahalaaye huye
Covered in dust, bathed in blood

laut jaati hai udhar ko bhi nazar kyaa kije
Still returns my gaze in that direction, what can be done
ab bhi dilkash hai tera husn magar kya kije
Even now your beauty is tantalizing, but what can be done

aur bhii dukh hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke sivaa
There are other heartaches in the world than those of love
raahaten aur bhi vasl ki raahat ke sivaa
There is happiness other than the joy of union

mujh se pehli si mohabbat meray mehbub na maang
Don't ask me for the love I once gave you, my love

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How spring cleaning brought out the south Indian in me

Okay, so you can say I've been inspired by these two lovely ladies: OJ on the Boy who brings out the American in her, and the tempesty BrownGirls on he who brings out the UPwali in her.

First up, it's very difficult to put in me in any demographic. Apart from brown and female. And mommy. And foodie. Wait. I just rubbished my premise, din't I?

What I mean is, no one really knows that I'm half Gujju and half south Indian. I know, I know, south Indian is five states, but what do you call a lineage that is Mysore Ayyangar, claims to be both Kannadiga and Tam Brahm, and speaks a dialect that no one in the two states understands completely?

What people do know is that I'm neither Gujju nor south Indian. I stand up to bullies for either, for neither and for nor. I can rave endlessly on varied regional cuisines and cultures, diss anything remotely generalised (Sardars have a great appetite for sex, you say, ha! ask me, and the like) You don't say, they tell me, when I let them in on the secret. They don't call me Mother India behind my back for nothing. It's not always a good thing: that I don't really fit in with sets of cousins on either side is a post for another day.

For now, let me tell you, that I'm slightly blue (yes, yes, post-menstrual cravings for progesterone and all that), plus I miss my in-laws (yes, yes, they're away, it's been almost two months, I have no one to talk to at home, I miss my mum-in-law and I almost sob when I see their empty room, so go on, shoot me) and I seem to have sauntered into a spring-cleaning epidemic on the web. Every site I turn to, has spring cleaning advice: for home, for relationships, even for your ovaries.

And while it may not always seem so, I am quite sane. I do know what I can't possibly spring clean without a miracle: my home, my relationships and my ovaries. So I picked the one thing that is totally and completely in my control: the obese 'Favourites' section in my browser.

'Favourites' is my prescription for reality: all that I am, all that I want to be, all that I want to be seen wearing, all that I'd rather not be seen wearing publicly, the books that should have been written by me, the jokes that save the day, the stuff I want to do with Nino, the stuff I want to do when I'm rich and don't have to work for a living - part escapism, part existential, part inspiring, part worrying, part fun, part day dreaming.

On day two of the mammoth task, I've been told that my lilt has turned surprisingly Mami, even as my ay-chch has turned into hech-ch, (perhaps why I misheard the H Stern link and keyed in Heads Turn), why I'm looking into tayir sadam recipes instead of the mutton roganjosh that I usually turn to on Thursdays in prep for the weekends. Or why Chox is the only gujju on my blog roll, as compared to Suj, T, Nithya, MinM, Broom, GonTB, SGM, Ra...

My dad's DNA is going to be seriously upset.


Trust the son to turn the cart upside down. Staunchly Gujju, he insists on saying eh-pple, jay-c-b, and his latest favourite: jokering. Hho-nest. He even likes jaggery in his dal. *shudders*

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage

For Manju.

I don't want to call this a book review: I'm not reviewing Manjushree's book A Grasshopper Pilgrimage, as much as I'm writing about how the book has affected me. I am also heavily biased: I love this woman, and like with all love, my vision is fixed on the things that uplift my soul, that reach into a part of me that life otherwise will just pass by. Is that why love is such a necessity? It brings those parts of your soul alive that otherwise lie uncharted, unmapped, undiscovered, it makes you notice things about yourself, and in a very Jerry McGuire way, it completes you.

A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage is a love-story: the love between a woman and a mountain. There is so much in the book that is metaphorical, so much that is symbolic, that at the end it is no longer the woman and the mountain, it is you and me, it is that boy and that girl, it is her and he.

There have been several books that have become transcribed in my subconscious, Midnight's Children being one of them. This book also did the same, maybe because it came at a time when I was tiring of my direction-less search for emotional identity, for the meaning of spirituality as it applied to me, for my connect with the purpose of my existence.

Gopika, the novel's lead character, is both relate-able and a revelation. First on, the author deserves a kudos for writing a genre that has been classified as 'fiction-spiritual', a first of sorts. The search for the physical and tangible itself is so confusing, that the thought of a woman who wants that thing that sets her soul afire, is both brave and foolhardy.

There are several instances when Gopika speaks out to the reader, when she spoke out to me, the medium of typed words on paper dissolving with the frankness of her thoughts, with the weight of her questions. We're all screws in the big machine of life, she says. Just screws. Turning clock-wise and anti clock-wise, part in destiny, part in our own efforts.

Her parents, her sister, Sujatha her friend in Bombay, her grandmother and her lover - these have all been beautifully detailed, fleshed out so that you almost feel them breathing down your neck, you can hear their opinions as you prepare yourself to make the decisions that Gopika made. They even word the same doubts, the same questions that arise in your head as you read Gopika's seemingly unshakable faith in her search for something she doesn't know, but can only feel.

And yet, these characters remain inspiring, because the reader wants to read about people he/she has not experienced. Gopika's parents are communists who don't believe in religion: a perfect backdrop explanation for a young woman who is so easily able to separate religion and spirituality. Her grandparents are adorable and taxing at the same go: but her grandmum is a jewel, one who eventually returns to tell Gopika her path is not all that different from others. That she dishes out advice on how to best achieve an orgasm, and makes food that is a balm for a wanderer's soul, is among the facets of this myriad and wonderful character. Fareed is adorable - a man who loves Gopika with his soul, who holds on and keeps his distance, not out of habit or circumstance, but out of understanding, out of respect. There is none of the teenage-ish trappings of a relationship, there is none of the struggles that make the early ground of an affair. There is the mating of two evolved beings, you're allowed a sneak into a love where two souls come prepared, come aware, come confident.

Gopika's life is not elitist - she struggles with love and money and despair and direction - including all of us in her challenges - it is different because she's trying to put a finger on what drives her, who drives her. Gopika is astoundingly trusting of others ofcourse: and you wonder if she has no fear to begin with, or if that is a requisite for this indescribable fountain of knowledge and love that she is looking for. A couple of places in the book, my mum popped up in my head, muttering about how late it was in the night, about the generalisations of the hippies and the god-men that most of us have been fed upon.

Her love-making is both erotic and poignant, her conversations like the millions you have everyday, or eavesdrop upon. Her infatuations are spiritual, her disillusions are real. There is a beautiful sense of the place when she talks about her beloved mountain, it is almost as if you can feel the sand grains and tar below your feet too. It is also guarded against pop-spirituality: against fasting and penance and the trappings of religion. She is a bohemian spirit - and there are no drugs or smoking or medication that she uses to get here. Her inhibitions have not been shed under duress or a wannabe state of mind, there simply don't exist for the same reasons as they do for us.

There is much dry wit and humour through the book, delightful sketches of holy men on the roadside, of the rigours of an American visa, of frequent load shedding, both electricity induced and emotional. This sort of forms a backbone of Gopika's life: her sarcasm for herself and others, a gentle ribbing that lightens a sombre mission.

There is no grandiose word-work here: no intellectual word play, no perception-altering philosophy. There is plenty of food for thought and plenty of questions that come in once the book is over. Isn't that half the work done? That once you put the book down, it leaves you with questions that are beyond the marketing yardsticks of 'shelf-life'?

What struck me the most was how simple life can be when you know what you want - no, not simple in the sense that everything falls in its place, that it definitely doesn't, not even with Gopika - but maybe it's like this: you've got blinkered vision set on your goal. And one of Gopika's greatest teachings is this: this goal is achievable, you've neared the destination by the very virtue of realising you're headed that way.

They say the artist bleeds his soul into every creation, they say the first book is always autobiographical. Manju has been brave enough to say her book is almost completely autobiographical (70 per cent, if you must have exacts). It makes you wonder at the courage this woman has to strip her soul and her search, leave it hands of unknown readers who can construe whatever they will, who might just look at her wanderings as trampling. And then you realise, she is Gopika, and the inhibitions that hold you back, have already been faced, labelled and set aside for another day's lessons, by her.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Around the world in 80 clicks

First, apologies. I haven't been away, just in a place within myself where I'm observing my own life as a spectator, part amazed, part amused, partly soaked in hindsight wisdom.

It started last month, when I turned 28. I've never been a happy b'day person, and I generally use the days and the lead up days to the d-day to maul over my spiritual and emotional achievements (lack of them, mostly) in the year. It irritates the husband to no end, and I must admit it can be quite masochistic. This year, something changed. Maybe the butterfly finally bloomed free of the tightly wrapped cocoon. This year, I was at peace. With myself. With the fact that it was a Monday, that meant I spent the evening alone with Nino, Nino's Dad busy at work. I won't say I'm content with who I am, but I will say, I've realised I'm walking down the right path, and someday, I will get to that answer. I don't know what sparked this new me, but I do know all of you had a role to play. Really. And I knew you'd be here when I get back. Hugs girls.

Now, for the tag.

This is a tag from VJ, Chox, Tharini and Momstir. It originated at HBM's who is hoping to connect blogging Mothers all over the world in 80 clicks.

Here are the rules: Just write a post of your own (5 things that you love about being a mom) and find someone to link to and tag - someone from your own country, if you like, but definitely someone from another country - and link back here and leave a comment.

5 Things I love about being Nino's Mum:

1) I get to play creator here, for real.
I've never experienced such an utter and unquestioning power to actually 'make' a person as I seem fit. True, there is nature to contend with, but there's so much shaping left to me, with all my limitations, that even as I add and chip away, marvel at my child's growing body and soul, it's a heady feeling, one that is inspiring, humbling and absolutely irreplaceable. Before you think I'm a power-hungry freak, I've a few good reasons coming up! This absolute power had made me a better human being, one who admits her own limitations, one who thinks twice about passing on a conditioning, a blinkered view.

2) A fresh set of senses.
Know that phrase, seeing through a new set of eyes? For me, being a mum has been exactly like that. I look/feel/hear/touch/experience everything anew, seeing it through mine, my past's and Nino's eyes, all in one go.

3) A heightened quest for spirituality.
No, not god-fearing. (Although you guys would crack up silly if you saw me driving, because I chant every know hymn, sloka, mantra from every religion I know. And I chant it loudly. Somedays Nino can be heard chanting it too, as he aligns his train tracks for a 'really big accident, mumma!') Let's just say my quest for spirituality, that has so far been more Signs and Contact kind, is as much looking inwards these days. It's something I read at Tharini's a few week's back: about being blessed with the kind of child you were intended to raise. Someone who'd push you, make you discover new areas of yourself, stock up on those nice virtues you'd previously given a miss (aka patience). Something like that.

4) I'm the cool one.
I'm looked up to, I make the best dough ornaments, I make good orca drawings that make up for my 'rubbish' robots, I may sing off-key, but I'm still better than Uncle Raffi. I cook well sometimes too :) Plus, ever since Nino discovered that Superman moonlighted as a journalist, I couldn't get any cooler.

5) I've re-learnt how to make friends.
I wouldn't be here if I hadn't happened to become Nino's mum, right?!


Most of you have already been tagged with this, so I'm going to look around for five mommy bloggers to tag. In the mean, I tag

Jo in Japan
Laura in the US