...and then

Sunday, 30 November 2008

I shop for teethers and other stories

It's not pregnancy, it's not a gurgling/screeching/pooping baby, it's not breastfeeding that drives home the fact that you have become a parent.

It's when you go to a book sale and spend all your uncomfortable-in-my-shoes time on going through an 'Olly the Otter' boardbook. That's still not a slap-in-the-face realisation; not until you walk up to the other parent in the new-parents equation and catch him ogling a coffee-table book on aircraft and lovingly caressing a complete set of Bond movie DVDs do you realise you are now officially mommy.

And, if you are like me, you are going to be mildly uncomfortable with the realisation. Result? Telling off the parent in question for not looking for something to turn your offspring into a book lover.

But you really, really know you're mommy when you go to one of those mega bookstores and get wildly excited at teethers that play music and rattles that have intelligent patterns that babies like (polka dots). All this while scores of gorgeous shiny stationery is staring you in the face begging to be picked up -- border scissors, pack of pencils, crisp sharpeners, erasers, coloring pencils, pouches. Slurrrrp. Yes, I am a stationery slut.


No one can tell you enough for you to believe how a baby changes your life. If you are having a baby and people have been telling you your life is going to change, believe it a thousand times more than you would normally believe someone.

I, for one, miss being able to leave home with money scrunched up in my hip pocket and my phone in my hand. These days leaving home even for Madagascar fine chocolate gelato is a ritual that includes at least 27 trips between kitchen and bedroom.

I miss having leisurely loud sex and sleeping in in the mornings.

I miss having my hands free. (Although I totally love the way my golu molu fills my arms when they go around her.)

I miss my ears. For they don't belong to me any more. In the kitchen, while bathing, when I'm dozing, in the garden, when I write, my ear is constantly hovering in the bedroom where baby sleeps. A spoon tinkling on a plate, a puppy barking, even a squeaky door hinge makes me spring to my toes to go see if she's managed to bury herself in the covers and is crying for help.

I miss wearing clothes that don't need to buttoning up in the front. Full time breast feeding is a six-month long process. Thanks to loving family who believe the baby will vaporise if they don't constantly look at it every waking second, about 12 and a half people know the exact placement of moles on my breasts and how many bras I have in lace, cotton, satin and others. Oh and the colors too.

I miss being able to get up and go. Just like that.


I have begun writing letters to Shyama. Really. I considered giving her MS Word documents in her legacy first but then I decided to do it the old fashioned way. If only to torture her with my handwriting. People who make handmade paper books are about to make a killing because as a besotted teenager, when I used to write to my then boyfriend, my letters would be nothing less than 16 to 20 pages long.

My parents suffered considerably less. About 8 to 10 pages. The last page had smileys and things. My father cribbed about wastage of paper and the amount of revenue I was giving the postal department posting seriously heavy letters internationally.

If anyone gave me those letters now I'd fade away in embarrassment.


This is my sixth month of unemployment and I am seriously worried about going back to work. Half the world tells me don't stay out of the market, the rest tells me give your baby as much as you can before you head back to work. Crossroads. What do I do?


Speaking of old boyfriends, spoke to the ex-husband a while back. It was nice to feel the old sense of cameraderie that brought us together in the first place. Oh wait, that was not cameraderie. More like pheromones and steamy car interiors by the sea. The cameraderie came later.

So anyway, he's doing well, married a lovely girl and lives abroad. At some point, he told me I would have liked living where he lived now and that I probably am missing out. Maybe I am. Oh well. All the best, R, may life continue being kind to you.


It's serious baby time. If people haven't already had them the past year, they are about to have them or actively trying to have them. And if it's none of the above, people are going around wishing and taking gifts to people who have had babies.

In my life-calendar, there's been a baby every month this past year. Except for September. Which is good -- Virgos are not my favorite people. And for those who are still waiting for theirs -- I have just one word of advice: Always have blue shoes. Sorry, those are four words.


Where heartbreak means silence

There are no words to express the way these three days of Mumbai's seige has made me feel.
I just wanted to say I am well and truly heartbroken.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Finding Mommy

I got a mommy forward recently. It started in its usual style with a rant about dirty nappies and sleepless nights and went on to say seriously heart-twisting things about the way babies make you feel.

I, for once, could identify with each thing written there. Almost five months into motherhood, I still don't feel like a mommy. Although I am not quite sure what that is supposed to feel like.

For example, I am just glad Shyama is ridiculously cute. I am thankful, grateful and deeply overwhelmed that she's a happy child and smiles all the time. I am disgustingly happy that she has no teeth and even while I know I shouldn't even dream of wanting it, I like her best without the teeth and wish she remains this way.

But most of all I am just glad that I was blessed with this experience. For, I am the kind of person who mourns the lack of experience. Life has always been one large blue inviting infinity pool for me. And every new thing I get to know about I have this deep temptation to experience. As juvenile as it sounds, cocaine and crushing accidents included. Just to know what it feels like. And having been blessed with sunshine for a daughter has made this experience completely worth the thirsting for it.

While I love her immeasurably -- I loved her before she was even thought of I think -- I don't feel the kind of pride a lot of women I know feel. This whole 'my flesh and blood' situation doesn't seem to be there within me at all. For about a week after she was born I kept referring to myself as her sister when I baby talked to her. "My daughter" -- that still hasn't happened for me. She's just a ridiculously good thing that has happened in my charmed life.

I wonder how that's going to affect her.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Goodbye Nagu

When I first began this blog I wrote about the one woman who had become the centre of my slightly shaky life at that point – Nagu, my domestic help.

A year and three months later, Nagu is dead.

It must be said that I have been very lucky with domestic help. With one exception, all those who have come to me have been nothing short of a blessing. Be it Darshana Didi who used to bring me Bombay duck curry if she made it at home and lay it out with rice, spoon, and papad by the time I got back from work. Or my Saraswati who would not ask me one rupee in a salary advance even if it was three days short of pay day; even if it meant she had to get the urgently-needed money from a money lender at exorbitant rates.

But no one won my heart more than taut, sprightly little Nagu did. She’d work with a fervor that I have never known when I work. She’d take care of every detail in my house – whether it was cleaning the window grills or the twisty-twirly wrought iron thingies on the banisters; whether it was cooking a nutritious meal for me when I was pregnant so I’d have enough milk when the baby came or climbing all kinds of odd corners to find things I had stored and long forgotten.

I remember her when she first came to me. Her hindi was comical at best. She actually told me at one point early on. “Akka, aapka aadmi mar gaya.” Needless to say I was torn between laughter and shock because I knew Mathew was hale and hearty in Bombay. It struck me later on that she confused ‘apna’ and aapka’. What she, then, meant to say was her husband had died. My heart went out to her. Sincere to the last finger nail and a widow at 32 with a 9 year old girl who was already way ahead on the road to precocity. When she told me her husband was a Nepali – it was he who taught her to make fantastic atta for phulkas – I made sure to ask if she had seen his body and if she had done his last rites and everything. Because there are so many Nepali men who desert their women as soon as they’re done with them. She assured me all was in order. It turned out that her husband wasn’t dead and that he had run away when their daughter was 9 months. But she prefers to call him dead because to her she is, her mother told us after Nagu was gone.

Three months before Shyama, my daughter, was born, Nagu came to me with a bad throat and a fever that would last one day and appear three days later. I thought she was just getting lazy when she started taking too many days off for fevers. I don’t know too many kinds of fever that disappear in a day. But I didn’t pay too much attention because there wasn’t too much to do around the house then.

In two months when her chest and throat were still aching we sent her in for a thorough check up. She was diagnosed with throat cancer. The saddest part was when the doctor told us it was caused due to malnutrition.

A lot happened for the next two months with her family saying radiation wasn’t a good idea and us insisting she should go for it. Well, suffice to say two months of utter confusion followed and one fine day, Nagu lost her voice. It broke my heart to hear her hoarse whisper on the phone telling me she was laid up. The next thing I knew was she was taken to the hospital and her sister called to say if we want to see her we should go now because the doctors had given her a couple of hours to live.

She lasted a week and the last thing she said to me was to take the baby away from her house because there were too many people there and she might get ill. After we left her house, she is said to have told her mother that she wanted to get well quickly and return to work for us. At that I remember her telling me six months into her employment with me, “Akka, even if you move away I will come there and work. Akka, I will work with you till I die.” Those words were strangely self-fulfilling.

Be happy, Nagu. I for one miss you something terrible.