Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

What do I remember of my Mother??

When I try to remember my Mother, memories which are a mixture of fragrances, the feel of her sarees, the enormous quantities and variety of delicious food she prepared and force fed, and her constant state of unhappiness comes flooding back. She separated from her husband a few months into their marriage and moved in with her widow mother; she was pregnant with me then. This was in traditional Pune in the seventies. My grandmother was a pillar of strength. I think when one strong woman takes another under her wing, does it make the weaker one more disabled? Over the years my mother remarried to a brilliant engineer against the wishes of his family who wanted their oldest foreign educated academically brilliant son to marry an undivorcee (is there such a word?) from their own community. All through my childhood I remember being told over and over about how the world is a cruel place, how you cannot really trust anyone in this big bad world, how every one is out to take advantage of you, how there are really no true friends in this world, how I had no one in the world but for God, my grandmother and her. Every evening after returning from work, would be a post mortem of the day with Aaji (my mother’s mother) where it seemed like my mother worked with the vilest of people and it was everyone’s goal in life to make her miserable.

All through my childhood my fate was intertwined with hers; reminders of how she has bad luck and me too were abundant. Finally one day I woke up and our relationship transformed from a protective mother-daughter one to a “My daughter doesn’t care for me"one. Every time I tried to negate and separate my life from hers would result in misunderstandings and accusations of “You don’t understand what its like”. Every attempt at trusting people, making friends, keeping an optimistic spirit and believing in myself would be controversial. I fought to break out of this suffocating smothering relationship while at the same time trying not to hurt my mother. She does love me, her love is just binding and tries to limit me. Love should free you, not cage you.

Is my nature at fault too that I remember all the unpleasant things and have conveniently forgotten the happy moments of my childhood? My mother’s saree chest was like a treasure chest to me. She would unfold her carefully wrapped silk sarees, her kanjeevarams, her paithanis, the smell of moth balls and her perfume would waft up through the beautiful sarees. I still remember and miss that – the touch and smell of her and her sarees. I remember her pure happiness when I would visit during school vacations and her struggle to cook different special items of food for me while she tried to run two households (hers and my grandmothers) and make it to work on time. I remember her delight in my new clothes and milestones. What I miss is her open appreciation and moral support for every achievement and every obstacle that I face in life. If she would have had her way, I would be a stay at home commerce graduate married right after graduation to a guy staying in a bungalow in Pune with his parents kinda girl; maybe I might have been happy then too. But I wanted to finish my higher education, stand on my own feet and be in a position where if ever the need arises for me to support myself, I could do it.

Now I have a daughter and I know what not to do. Hopefully I will not repeat the same mistakes that my mother has done, even though I do not blame her for anything. All’s well that ends well!

This Mothers day I would like to urge all of you Moms out there:
1) Be a mother do not smother your child.
2) Sometimes situations arise when you can’t really do anything to solve the problem, then, just be there. Your child will remember that silent support.
3) If your child is falling down and trying to stand up again, do not encourage him/her to give up, extend your hand and help them stand up again even though you might believe that he/she will just fall down right away.
4) Believe in your child
5) Your child’s destiny is his/hers alone; your destiny has nothing to do with it

Things have changed for my mother now; she is in a much happier place. She has a renewed relationship with her husband, she has his support, he dotes on her, their daughter is grown up and married to a great guy, my grandma has passed away, my mother has a group of good friends she plans frequent sightseeing trips with, she is close to retirement, I am married to a good guy, have a daughter and seemingly all is well with my mother’s world. So is a much awaited change in her attitude though I know her old self is lurking somewhere below and will resurface and will arise at the first hint of disruption in her perfect world. She thinks I am a perfect human being, thinks everything I do is right, everything I touch turns to gold, has extreme praise and appreciation for every mundane task I complete, has put me on a pedestal of Ms. Perfection. Too much, too late, Mother but I still do love you anyways. I hope there is never a ripple in your perfectly calm happy life now and the coming years bring more happiness and peace and you can finally put down that huge load of baggage you have been carrying around all these years, all the hurt and the pain that you had to face will be replaced by happy peaceful memories in your golden years. Happy Mothers Day!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trial and Error parenting

R started going to daycare when she was 7 months old. The first time I visited her daycare was when I was 4 months pregnant, I nearly passed out, I think I had an anxiety attack when all the babies looked up at me. I had gone with 2 of my preggy colleagues and while they gushed and cooed over the babies, I had to run out of the building for a breath of fresh air (not just once but a couple of times) :( It literally felt like I was drowning and had to resurface for air :)

Well, fast forward almost a year later, and it was time to drop my precious bundle of joy there. It was an established professional acclaimed daycare, very convenient, sat right on my company campus and promised to be a right fit for my baby. The next two months were painful to both of us. The teachers were two young college going girls who didn’t have the patience nor the maternal warmth of handling babies (and I don’t believe that you need to be older or physically give birth to inculcate the maternal warmth, you either have it or you don’t). R cried her little eyes out everyday I dropped her off, both the heroines wouldn’t attempt to say Good Morning or pick her up and hold her and comfort her while I left. I would have to remind them to do their job. Most of the babies in Stephanie’s (her teacher) care would sit around and cry, runny noses which would never be wiped away and generally miserable. One day I left work early and went to pick her up, R (at seven months old) was strapped in to a small chair and was sitting at a small table, by herself, staring at her hands and cookie pieces which lay scattered around. When I walked up, she looked so tired and refused to look at me as if to convey her frustration and anger. She wouldn’t look in my eyes, she looked away every time I tried to talk to her. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments ever for me! A mere baby shouldn’t be put in such a situation :(

Anyways I held strong to this daycare telling myself that I am too weak, or paranoid or this is what everyone goes through….2 months and many many sick days later came Halloween. R was dressed up a bumble bee and when I went to drop her off, I expected some response from the teachers and there was none. I stood there and literally cried. Some other white kid had just walked in wearing a fire fighter’s costume and Stephanie was busy gushing over him. I think I had done all the right things – tried to forge a bond with the caregivers, tried to sit with R to get her adjusted, tried to adjust my schedule so she could be home for 2 days, told myself that all kids get sick repeatedly and will develop their immunity but this was like the last straw; I stood there with my baby and everything moved in slow motion. It was so clear to me – nobody cares about R here. No wonder its been 2 months and she cries everyday. I should have just listened to my instincts and pulled her out of this place at the first chance.

In 2 days she was out of there, I called a dozen friends, found a highly recommended home daycare for her. She must have cried for 2 minutes on the first day and since has gotten tremendously attached to her teacher there. Somedays I think she almost must love her as much as she loves me. But I am fine with it, no insecurities there. I am just glad R spends her days with people who adore her and it shows. So lesson #1 – pay attention to your kid, no matter what age he/she is, they will tell you if they are happy or not.

That brings to my current dilemma. Due to change of management at the home daycare and her favorite nanny leaving etc, we had to switch her to a commercial daycare. I really like the teachers here a lot, but the kid to teacher ratio being 1:8 means that they don’t really have the time to devote individual attention all the time. They still do a pretty good job of it though. They have many activities and teach kids through structured play. They have a nice playground and as the weather improves, it will be nice for R to run around with kids her age. So it seems like a good place to me. But Ms R cries and cries, she really gets visibly upset at the thought of going to daycare and now that she can talk up a storm – its even more emotionally blackmailing things said to me on the way like “R cries all day, I meech (miss) you Mommy, I no like daycare, Please I be good girl, I no want to go” :( I have again adjusted my work schedule so I can leave at three to pick her up earlier. But I am so tired of this….I don’t know what to do anymore. Is it just a 2 year old whining and complaining and wants to be the center of attraction all the time and is slowly getting to used to a different environment and schedule or is she genuinely unhappy and needs a quieter setting and more one on one attention. Sigh….should I give up and get an in house nanny or suck it up and put on a strong front and keep sending her to the daycare till she adjusts. What is the right thing to do?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Training for the half marathon

So I am going on my first weekend training session, I have signed up to run a half marathon (2 at that)....I have never run in my life apart from the one time stray dogs chased me and my sister down the streets in Mumbai.....I missed our first training session so I am already the weakest link trying to catch up....and our trainer says we will do around 3 miles this weekend. 3 Miles!!!!! Thats like halfway around the world to me :( But I am determined to be fit and to keep up with the rigor of the training and the diet and be all fit and slim and sexy right in time for summer...Yaay....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Inappropriate things to say during meetings

So I was in this looong long boring meeting with a bunch of our external auditors and my colleagues….this large woman sat next to me blocking my view of the lady who did most of the talking during this meeting. Plus she was busy scratching her hair extensions, poking with a pencil, scratching, scratching…..ewww it distracted me, then grossed me out then led me to observing her as a respite from the necessary boredom of the debate going on. That’s when I noticed, she was wearing a silk white blouse (not transparent) but which clung to her body; she had humongous boobs and still there was no hint of a bra strap. This was far more intriguing and interesting than the discussion going on and at the end when the auditors opened it up to us and asked if we had any further questions; the only burning question in my mind was “Are you wearing a bra? What bra size do you wear? What is this miraculous underwear which seems to hold everything in place and is unseen?” I almost imagined myself saying it out loud. Sigh…One day when I am old and senile, I will definitely be saying things aloud as I think them…But maybe I wont even care by then…Ahh the pleasures of growing old…

Monday, April 6, 2009

Down memory lane....

You know you are old when your mind is left clutching on to memories of things which do not exist anymore and the world has moved on and this generation – i.e. my baby’s cannot even fathom a life with those things.

Remember the song “Mere saamney waali khidki mein”… beautiful building is now going to be torn down to be rebuilt into a towering skyscraper. My parents will move from the 4th floor to the 14th floor – elevators, parking spaces, intercom systems between apartments; everything has been thought of and planned….my parents will move from the brand new one bedroom kitchen living room flat that they moved into, newly married (almost), 33 years ago, to a brand new three bedroom three bathroom kitchen living room apartment in their golden age. We were a family of six – us three siblings, Aai Baba and Aaji sharing about 900 sq feet of area. Now it’s just 2 and more space than they know what to do of it.

I will sorely sorely miss standing in my gallery or my bedroom and chatting nonstop with my friends; friends whose houses/galleries/bedrooms overlooked ours. Everything from going to the movies, going out to dinner, morning jogging plans to evening walks/games would be discussed/debated/planned through those windows. I miss my friends calling me from downstairs – all my neighbors could identify which friend was yelling my name, so familiar were their shouts. I miss staying up late at night and studying for a final and seeing my friends sit at their desks in their respective homes too. We used to make a pact to stretch and say Hi (through signs and signals of course so as not to disturb the sleeping residents) every hour so we could keep focused. It was a team effort – studying for exams.

I miss sitting on the compound wall overlooking our local post office and hassling the post officers to give us our report cards over the wall instead of delivering it to our mailboxes. I miss hanging out with my friends and loitering through our building campus, lush with green trees and flowering shrubs, fruit bearing trees; climbing trees, picking fruit, picking those cherished ananta flowers (without waking up the irate owner of the tree who zealously guarded her flowers), miss making zhopdis out of the coconut tree branches which fell down without any warning, miss making tea over an open fire, miss hassling the building residents; our neighbors to contribute a different ingredient for the tea, miss the outdoors, miss the soil and the grass and the flowers. Today’s generation has many wonderful opportunities and a different lifestyle than we had when we were growing up; all of this is vintage now, they get a glimpse of it in carefully planned vacations to native villages and beach side towns, I wonder if there is anyplace in India where the kids still gather in the evenings and play chhor police or host cricket matches late into the night or gather together to tell ghost stories in a power outage. I miss my past.