Zo-oming in

Zo is turning 6 this week and I have started feeling like the typical mum of a 6 year old does – amazed at how the little one is not so little, and bawling at the fact that she’s growing up so fast. It is not cool, the way I feel, and I do not like it one bit.

This is actually the only reason I am on the blog right now, furiously typing away before I decide that what I am writing is all gibberish and then close this – sometimes (thankfully) saving the draft, and at other times, losing out completely on the memory that could have been. The problem is, I also feel that I am forgetting how it used to be – especially with Zo. The other day, I read this one post when she was 2, and it felt like I had made it all up because it sounded so cute – only I did not. I never do. I don’t even post an opinion till I feel absolutely strongly about it, because if it is a fleeting thought, it will pass, but it will stay recorded here for eternity (or till the internet exists), and years later when I will be old and grey (oh who am I kidding, that day is today), I will be like ‘who is this person writing all this’? And I don’t want that. Agreed, we all change over time, but I have started believing that we don’t really change, we just modify, adjust, compromise, but the core ‘us’ remains the same.

Well, I can say one thing for sure, it’s clear that my ability to go off-track while posting hasn’t changed at all. So back to Zo. Zo turns 6 this week and she is such a little person now (I am pretty sure I must said this before when she asked for apple or something when she was one but now I know that back then I had no clue what I was talking about), that I have full-fledged conversations with her about life and stuff. Not deep stuff, but like, when my boss sets up a late evening meeting knowing well that I would need to leave at that time, I tell her, and she understands, sympathizes even. It is an awesome thing really.

Another thing that’s happened is that she reads now. Reads, reads – not reads alphabets, or tries to form words using phonetics – reads. She started reading small books towards the end of last year itself (earning her the ‘passionate reader’ title in her graduation announcement, I think I mentioned it. If not – she was called that, and fashionista. Yes, mommy was very proud), but now, she reads Enid Blyton. I think this is it, I think if this continues, and I pray to God it does, I will feel extremely accomplished. Anyhow, the by-product of this that we have what we call ‘reading sessions’ (very cutely pronounced as ‘sections’ till a few months ago. Oh God my baby is all grown up), where we both snuggle and read our respective books, silently. Bliss, by the way, is this.

She is crazy sensitive too – in a funny way. Like if she accidentally bumps her head against yours, whether you react or not, she will cry, not for herself, but for you. It is adorable, almost heartbreaking till it gets annoying because she usually doesn’t stop crying if she starts. Which in mommy concepts means has a potential to turn into a coughing fit or a cold, both of which are terrible things.

She is an out and out fashion-fiend who will explain the difference between off-shoulder and cold shoulder (she did, to The Dude, it was fun), knows about ‘occasion-appropriate’ dressing and helps me pick my own outfits (I mean real advise here). Admitted that all her fashion sense is pretty much an offshoot of what I think, but then she also bluntly states that she’s a mini-me. Yes, I am basking in all this happiness till it lasts.

There is a lot more that’s there, and I wish I could store it all. I was wondering yesterday how good it would be if the Black mirror episode where you could revisit thoughts from the past (much like the penseive in Harry Potter) was true. I would just need to replay a record from the past and I would never lose sight of all that was. We wouldn’t constantly worry about losing out on precious memories – something that I do a lot these days. But then I think, maybe, it is this inaccessibility that makes the times gone by all the more amazing.

Because all that stays are these little bits, through photographs, and these intermittent blog posts, a few chats and mails, that remind you only of the parts that you actually want to remember.

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J is for Just like that

Last night, just when I finally kept my book down and decided to sleep – a tad earlier than usual because I’d had an annoying day and just wanted it to end – there was a power cut. Now power cuts are normal, we all know that. If it’s India, and it’s summer, and it’s night time where all you can do or should do is sleep because there is work the next day, of course power cuts are the norm.

I am no alien to power cuts. Having lived in UP my entire childhood, ‘load shedding’ is a natural phenomenon in summer, much like mangoes, only this is a stupid comparison because the commonality ends there. At the time, I would not understand the concept of 4-5 hour long power cuts in the middle of the night when everyone was fast asleep in the comforting din of the Air cooler, which had been painstakingly filled with water in the evening. Somehow, the power cuts in the day, when the sun is at it’s awesomest didn’t hurt as much because when did the heat matter when you were busy playing? Anyhow, I am used to power cuts, long power cuts, where the only option was to slather on Odomos and take your bedding to the terrace, and lie sand tare at the starry night, listen to owls on the Old Peepal tree hoot away, and finally fall asleep. It was regular.

Then came the Inverter era. This was close to magic. Having enough back up power to run atleast that one fan that whirred away, albeit way slower, was better than the hand fans which were the only resort before. So what if we all had to huddle into one room to save the stored power, atleast you could read better than we did in the light of the Petromax (and we did, a lot, especially before exams), which was like a mini sun on its own. And also, the fan kept the mosquitoes away.

But the last 4 years have spoilt us. In fact, when we bought this apartment and it said “Full power back-up (including ACs), I was almost shocked. I mean, I had seen people with generators in their houses in the past, and I used to think that was only for the super rich – being able to watch TV when there was a power cut. And here they were talking of ACs. So it was like a dream come true. In the last few years, while there have been power cuts, they have been momentary before the back up turned on in a jiffy, and we were back to doing whatever we were doing before (after complaining that we had to turn the AVR of the sound system again, damnit), and stupidly paying double the per unit cost, but then who cared?

Until last night, when the power went, and did not return. I mean it did, a couple of times, for like 5 minutes, before going again for gaps as long as 45 minutes. It was blasphemous, unheard of, shocking, and also very very hot. All the electronic gadgets were switched off, and I lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling, willing the back up to start working for good. It didn’t. Until 2 o clock, there was just no power. And to make us feel better, we were informed that this was a problem only in our Block in our Complex in our area. So special it made us feel.

What was funny, was just 2 days before, while I was putting Zo to sleep (more like trying. You can only try with Zo. Zo cannot be made to sleep. She is no robot. She is a person. She will sleep when sleep arrives and till then she will stare in the dark and sing and mumble and pull my ears. Let’s be clear about that.), and there was 2 minute power cut, I was telling Zo about the power cuts of yore, when we had to resort to newspapers and fans to keep us from sweating. And she was mesmerized by the thought of no AC while sleeping. And I smirked to myself about the children of today would never know the lives we had.

And then last night, while I walked around, trying to find a spot that did not feel claustrophobic, Zo didn’t even stir. She slept on, calmly, on the same bed, with the blanket around her legs. My baby Zo, who I thought was used to luxuries, did not even change her breathing pace through the night, and slept just as calmly, just as well, as she does in the ‘perfect room temperature’ I thought was a necessity for her.

I on the other hand, gave up at 2, and moved to the Balcony to a mat on the ground. The balcony was breezy, the ground was hard, it was bright and noisy from all the traffic and construction work around (because this is a city and a city never takes breaks and being on the 19th floor doesn’t matter) but I was too exhausted to have any more conditions. So I slept, and with a few breaks, finally woke up at 6:30 AM, when the sun was up – slightly sore, and with an ant bite on my lower lip.

I went back to bed, and The Dude groggily informed me that the power had been back for about an hour, but he didn’t want to wake me up. Zo was still asleep and in the same position as I had left her at 2. I fit myself in whatever space I could find, so that I could utilize the half hour I was getting under the fan, before we all woke up at 7 AM to start the rest of today.

J

Then there’s this life

I sort of understand now why people start their day with coffee. For most folks, caffeine helps them wake up, concentrate. My day starts with tea, but my work day, which starts almost 4 hours later, starts with strong, black coffee. And this is not to wake me up or to make me focus. It is just to ensure that I don’t hate world and destroy it.

I have again been extremely erratic at the blog, and the reason is for once, quite clear in my head. I am undergoing serious existential crisis these days, and this has sort of taken over everything my conversations with everyone, especially with my own self. And since what I write here is pretty much a script of what I am thinking, I was worried I would end up posting everything philosophical and zen and why life and is this life and really why this life. And the easiest way to do that was to stop posting altogether. Yes, convenient.

I have also piled up my life with way too many things these days – basically striking the proverbial kulhadi on my foot, and continuing to do so every freaking day. My schedule is so packed, so full, that I am left with practically no breathing space. Just to give you some idea, my day goes wake up > send Zo to school > go for my workout (Class. Workout class. Paid workout class. Which makes bunking infinitely more guilt-inducing) > have breakfast > get ready > go to work (and die, literally die) > return and have dinner > read/play with Zo > Make Zo sleep > Talk to the Dude/ watch 30 an episode of Baby Daddy > ‘try’ reading/studying and fail miserably > go to bed feeling quite pathetic.

So with 5 days of my week resembling a Bombay Local at 6 PM at Dadar, I am very tired and exhausted all the time. My theory that if you are doing things you love, you don’t feel the pain – it sounds like some cheesy life hack in a self-help book, or worse still, one that’s being circulated on Facebook, which will never ever work and will annoy the one reading it. What is even more annoying is my constant state of discontent seems to be my own doing and there seems to be absolutely no way to get out of it. This pretty much explains what I said right in the beginning – my existential crisis.

Amidst all the chaos, we managed to take 4 days off for a road trip after a fairly long time. If you think we were crazy to do this when the sun was scorching and baking the earth at 42 degrees Celsius, you are absolutely right. Plus this was to a place just as hot, a tad rockier and with quite a bit of walking around to do. But it was great fun, and we limited the outings to the mornings and the evenings and reserved the rest of the time for a lot of eating and drinking in our little air conditioned world. Zo ODed a bit more on TV than I would have liked. But I was thrilled that when she was presented with an alternative mode of entertainment – watching a family of monkeys perched on the AC compressor outside our huge glass windows – she gladly picked the latter and sat mesmerized without a sound for a good two hours. She even assigned monkeys to each family member, and it helped that the corresponding ‘Zo’ monkey was as enthusiastic about watching the family on the other side. In fact, the bonding of the two little monkeys was quite an awesome watch. It was almost impossible to make her close the curtains but she finally did when the monkey family fell asleep.

Now that we are back to the routine, we are fervently planning the big vacation in May –itineraries, hotels, flights, trains – it’s a lot of work but atleast its fun. Plus one of the most fun parts of vacations is always the planning bit. It’s a totally different point that I lie around and read crime fiction while the dude frets over the modes of travel and trip advisor reviews. Zo has finished lower kindergarten and has some time off which she is spending with the parents, giving me a little more time to sleep this week.

So that’s that and that’s quite a bit. I have told myself that I will manage it till it is manageable and give up the moment it’s too much to handle. Only that’s always easier said than done. Especially since I have this serious problem of wanting to do everything all the time. Which will explain why I have signed up for the A to Z blogging challenge in April, which will again need to me write every day, for the month barring sundays.

Because quite frankly – that whole leg, kulhadi thing – I seem to have developed an affinity to the combination.

Some like it in the pot nine days old

I had promised myself that I would not let go of the blog once the blogathon got over. But there is just something so enticing about doing nothing at all, that it is 9 days since I last posted and I can’t seem to feel one iota of regret for having giving in to it; and actually spending every night, watching excerpts of something as lame as Pretty Little liars season 5, which by the way I did religiously watch until season 2 and now I have practically no idea about. I mean there are folks whose death was the very crux of the show, that are now in jail, under the murder charges of the person who I think was the original murder suspect of this person who apparently was not murdered at all.

Which by the way, also means that all those promises of getting back to reading, now that the blogathon was done, those are down the drain as well. I repeat what I said 9 days ago – at this rate, 2016 will be my year of no reading at all. Which brings me to the highlight of today –I finally collected the study material for my course starting this month, and the geek in me cannot wait at all. And I sincerely hope that at least course books keep me off watching shit I don’t understand on the idiot box.

Not so much is happening in life otherwise, and that sucks, especially since work takes up all of my time. I haven’t travelled or gone on a road trip in forever (where forever = 2 months in this case) and while I seem to be able to live with it, The Dude is forever wandering around with a long face like the world has come to an end. But amends are being made and hopefully this situation will be handled soon. But before that, I have a work trip coming up in a week’s time, and I don’t think anyone knows how much I despise those more than the folks who have read me for a while. But it is to a new (albeit not so exciting place) so I am telling myself that I will live through the 4 days I am there.

Zo had Open day at school this weekend, which is where she had to talk about that model of the seasons that we had made back in January – I surely wrote of it in the blogathon!). She did a decent job, though she seemed to have already lost interest by the time we arrived and had to be coaxed to say beyond a line or two about each of the seasons. I can sort of understand her situation because imagine doing a pitch at age 4,  when there are things like Styrofoam balls on the ground and others’ projects and snacks around, basically stuff that is infinitely more exciting. But I have to give it to some of the kids who were natural speakers, and it also helped that their moms stood around making them revise their lines when there was no one to listen. The whole experience also made me a wee but guilty about not being a supermom and then I quickly pushed the thought away telling myself that even if I had the time, there was no guarantee I would use it to teach Zo instead of lying on the bed, loudly singing ‘Mary had some chewing gum’ (a very innovative modification of Mary had a little lamb that has been taught to her at school), before bed time.

And that would be that. In terms of all the life altering things that have happened between the last day I wrote and today, unfortunately there is nothing much I can talk about. But as always, that hasn’t deterred me from talking anyway, irrelevant as it might have been to you. Also, what is life if not our way of making some sense out of all the disjointed irrelevance it is full of?

On that failed attempt at making some sense of this post, I will take leave, and hope you don’t.

Day 30 – Tu dhoop hai, chham se bikhar

Today’s been very interesting. Zo had a birthday party to attend at a farm. Now this farm is this special set up, mostly used for school trips, and also let out for birthdays on weekends. The concept was extremely nice. As the name suggests, it’s an open farm, and has a farming area and an animal area. The kids had numerous things to do – like pottery, wading in muddy waters to plant rice, adding manure to plants, watering them with cans, and actually sitting through a mini farming session including, ploughing, sowing etc. They then got to feed all the animals – goats, buffalos, sheep, cows and play with rabbits, guinea pigs and one very friendly beagle named Hyper, who I fell in love with.

Needless to say, she loved it. Zo has still not completely recovered, but when it came to this, she refused to stay put and participated with an amazing enthusiasm, though the sun was being extra generous at the time.  It made me think about (again) how much we exaggerate this whole ‘today’s kids don’t get to enjoy real childhood cliche’. Because, children, quite frankly aren’t choosy at all. They throw tantrums, yes, but left to themselves, they enjoy anything and everything they are provided with. So if your kid is addicted to television and loves that more than anything else, it’s because he has been given the opportunity to get addicted to television. If your kid wants a tab all the time, it’s because when you had to keep him/her busy because you had something else to do, you have been handing over the tab to them by default.

Back when we were kids, yes, we used to play outside more than anything else we did. But that was because that was pretty much the only entertainment we had. TV was limited, and even when we did watch, we ended up watching a lot of grown up stuff like Buniyaad, or Hum log, in my case. And quite honestly, if I found it boring, I would walk away to do my own thing. Now, there is a lot of choice. Zo hasn’t watched anything except for Disney Junior, Nick Junior and Baby TV till date. There are specific movies I have shown her and she has loved them, but she can’t even get herself to watch anything that is not animated. I am not strict, but I do restrict TV time to an hour, which might seem long to some, and nothing at all to others. But I am ok with an hour of TV – her unbelievable command over spoken english is a direct result of these channels. I also, out of personal choice, keep her away from Doraemon and Chota Bheem because I don’t think they are great.

She is also allowed the iPad once in a while, and she usually plays games on it. Zo is a completely girly girl and she chooses princess games and doll dress up games and while I don’t want her tastes to be so one-sided, I do let her make her choice. But in both cases, TV and iPad, she get’s bored as soon as she would with say painting. An hour, and she needs something else to move on to. So this kills the possibility of an addiction. Perhaps the only thing I make a point of trying to get her interested in, is reading. I have always been a reader, and I can’t wait for her to enter the enchanting world of Enid Blyton’s and Russian tales that ruled my childhood.

Eventually, I think when as a parent there is a mix of things we ensure the child is involved in, getting fixated on one is a distant possibility. If in the middle of Max and Ruby, I ask Zo if she wants to go down to the slides, it is always a yes. If in the middle of an iPad game, I ask her if she wants me to read a story (or 4!) to her, she never says no. And neither does she say no when I need a break after an hour of Junior monopoly and ask her she can watch Frozen for a while.

So it all comes down to no, children today are not losing out on the amazing childhood that we got to have. Some children, maybe, but it’s because their parents haven’t had the time to keep them away from the TV. In the past, these kids were the ones creating a ruckus on the roads, because neglect will show, in one way or another. Today’s children in fact, just have a lot more options, and they are making use of it. Add to it the additional effort we as parents put to ensure that they do everything, and they actually end up doing everything. And till they grow up enough to have their own choices, they are good with trying everything out.

I mean, if you think about it, how many of us have had the chance to mix fodder and feed it to the buffalo out of our hands, like Zo did today?

Day 12 – You, doing that thing you do

Today is cheat post day because I truly have no ideas about what I could write about. Ok, it isn’t a post where I will write about how I have nothing to write about either. Instead, I am resorting to the topic that 1) Is easy to write about 2) Always has sufficient material to write about and 3) Is generally a hit amongst the readers. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking of – Zo!

For the uninitiated, Zo is now 4 years and 3 months old, which means she is a big girl (as per her own self). I would agree on some counts, like now she is big enough to decide that she will wear the blue hairband with the red dress because she is is a big girl and she gets to decide. She also calls herself a ‘fashionista’ who complains that I pack her only pants to the daycare and that I really need to get her more dresses. I did, by the way, on this sale.

Zo also knows a lot. Like she knows her alphabets, can write them all, knows 3 letter words, knows her numbers until infinity. If you had any doubts, they go 100, 1000, 1,00,000, infinity. She knows that pluto isn’t a planet and an ostrich is so heavy, it cannot fly. And that salt is soluble, but sand is not. She also knows that the story of sleeping beauty we usually tell is not right, at that the bad fairy was actually not bad, but just angry that the king took her wings away (courtesy: Maleficent). She knows about true love and true love’s kiss, and how it doesn’t have to be a prince who has to save the princess every time (Thank you Disney, thank you!).

She also believes, very strongly, and quite early on in life, that the whole concept of a 2 day weekend against 5 days of school is just not right. To which her mom and dad nod along meekly, because that is enlightenment at a very young age, and cannot be questioned. Zo is adorable, and full of energy, and even more full of questions. I always believed that the oft quoted ability of kids to ask ‘Why?’ for everything was hyped, but frankly, it isn’t, not a bit. But neither is the tough time the parents face while trying to answer those whys.

Zo has full day school now, and homework, and even projects. Ok, it was a ‘project’ and it was something the parents were expected to do and send so she could speak about it on ‘Open day’. She also had a sports day and a Masquerade party, and numerous other celebrations in school, apart from field trips every month. She actually has favorite things to eat – which by the way are still cucumbers and tomatoes and yes she prefers them over chocolate, and no I haven’t gotten a DNA test yet.

The cool part is, that she is growing up into a pretty well mannered kid, and an understanding one. She has her tantrums, but she gets it when she is told a no. She asks for what she wants but doesn’t cry for it or keep asking for it. She shares of her own accord and asks me to pack extra snacks for the bus so she can share with her friends. She is competitive, but has lately grown to understand that others can win too. She isn’t afraid of saying hello first, or even sorry. In fact she strongly believes that everyone who makes a mistake needs to apologise.

And yes, she is so full of love. She is always ready to ‘snuggle’ with mumma at night, or to sit ‘cosily’ and read, to give ‘infinity’ kissies and to tell mumma that she loves her till ‘jupiter’ (because that is the biggest planet, and has a lot of moons!). And ofcourse, to greet mumma with that gigantic, squishy hug and toothy smile every evening, the one that makes mumma realize why she decided to get into this motherhood thing at all.

Day 8 – Sweet child o’ mine

If it wasn’t for my lyrics for title oath, I would call this post ‘Having a baby – what they don’t tell you’. Because, now that it is 4 years since I had mine, I think I can share some of the not-so-cute and not-so-joyful aspects of motherhood.

It begins as soon as the test shows positive, and quite often because of your mental state. Oh My God did I eat anything harmful or drink in the last month? Should I walk or bend or go bowling with team at all? Then come the regular tests. God forbid you are identified with any of the pregnancy related issues (I had my TSH levels off the charts, which meant an underactive thyroid gland), begins the quest for reading and researching to answer one question – have I already harmed my baby?

Then ofcourse there are the well-wishers who are hell bent upon ensuring that you ‘eat for 2’ literally. And as is fate, in case you are blessed with morning sickness – the sight of food is sometimes enough to trigger puking. I spent a good two months carrying around disposable bags so I was always prepared. The only good thing was (the ‘good’ part can be contended by my own self 6 months after Zo was born) once I recovered one fine morning, I got back at all the food I loved with a vengeance.

Flash-forward to when you are all set to get the little kicky, squealing thing out for good, because the birth part, you get to read. Yes, so once the baby is out, you have finally entered the parenting zone. Your heart is full of the anticipation of joy that you should feel when you first see your baby. My first reaction when they brought Zo to me, wrapped in the green hospital blanket was one of awe, elevated by the dazzling lights in the OT, and all I could manage was to lift one finger and touch her cheek – before, and I am not kidding, feeling a bout of nausea prompted by the exhaustion, and throwing up in a bin they thankfully got to me on time. You think, ‘finally!’ when the truth is, it is just the beginning.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing prepares for what comes next. Part of it is physical, part hormonal, and none of it is pretty. You are in pain, you’re dead tired, and the nurse gets you the baby to feed, and you have no darn clue in the world how that works. Because, you assumed these things just happen. You assumed there would be milk enough to provide for your baby’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. You assumed that babies only want breakfast, lunch and dinner. And you assumed that while you rocked the baby, feeding her, she would fall into a deep sleep and then you would too, looking like the glowing new mother they show in Johnson and Johnson ads.

Bullshit. Turns out, this feeding business is a bitch, and if you had decided, like me, that you would not allow top feed until the baby was 3 months old, expect hell. Babies are apparently not born with the automatic ability to latch and have milk. Babies apparently think screaming can fix everything. Babies will choose to fall asleep while feeding and then be so hungry that they wake up every 15 minutes. Babies will lose weight dramatically and put you in guilt so deep, it does nothing to help. And you will end up feeling as helpless as the baby in your arms.

The environment sucks too, and frankly, people who think it is ok to make comments like ‘Ofcourse the baby will cry; there’s no milk in you!’ deserve a slap on the face. In my case, it was a nurse, and The Dude got wild at her. Everyone’s favorite sentence is – ‘Oh she’s crying, she must hungry’, irrespective of when she was fed last. Milk production and the ways of improving it, are the most important things for every woman around you, including your mother, your mother-in-law, the kaam waali bai, the neighbor aunty, the neighbor aunty’s mother-in-law, and everyone. So you are fed ghee, and Dinka laddoos and jeera water along with the lactation enhancer the doctor prescribed.

I am not sure if all that worked, but you do end up at a weight pretty much in line with what you were when the baby was inside of you at 40 weeks. You smell of milk and pee and poop and vomit and you look like hell and the pain’s still not gone and your feet like loafs of bread and the baby’s is still not the ideal weight and she’s not sleeping and you are so full of guilt for everything; especially for the fact that you have thought, not once, not twice but several times, if you were cut out for this at all. Because isn’t motherhood all about cooing babies smelling of baby powder, and happy moms gushing over them? No, it isn’t.

But it also is, sort of.  I guess as time passes and you get a hang of what is probably going to be the biggest responsibility you have ever taken up for the rest of your lives, things get better. The hormones settle down, the post partum depression subsides (yes, it is a real thing), and you feel better. You sort of succeed in feeding her too. You form a routine, understand the baby’s, plan the nights and the night feeds, time your rest, and it doesn’t seem as haphazard anymore.

And ofcourse, you bond. The baby gurgles, she holds your finger, and looks for you in the crowd. She plays with everyone, but needs you after a while. She wants you to make her sleep. She has a smile reserved for you. She calms down the minute you pick her up. She strokes your cheek, tries to touch your ear. She loves you, as you love her.

And that magically makes all of the pains totally worth it.