Monday, December 2, 2013

The 'why' of a goodbye...

Yesterday, my parents left for home, in India, after a two and a half month stay with us.

We've been trying to mentally prepare Raya for this for the past couple of days, telling her that her "Ma and Koka need to go back to their own home in India"...That " Mamma, Baba and Raya will visit them soon next year" etc. etc. Her initial, vehement , "Ma, Koka ...No go to India ! Ma, Koka...No go to India!" changed to "I want to go to India too!" yesterday morning, followed by a major meltdown ( uncontrollatable shrieks for 'Koka' and 'Ma' ) at the airport, seeing them leave, as they made their way down to the terminal on the escalator.

Goodbyes are tough for the kiddos, for us, and I think more so for the grandparents, whose lives generally tend to revolve around their grand children as age catches on!

I am so glad Raya was able to spend some quality time with D's mom as well as my parents this year! The 'toddler turning into a spoilt brat' factor aside , I think time spent with grandparents enriches the lives of little ones like nothing else can and there is absolutely no substitute for grand parental affection!

We managed to calm Raya down yesterday, after a big struggle, telling her about how she could still talk to 'Ma'/'Koka' on the phone and skype  with them like she does with her Ata. We gave her a ride on what she calls the
"excalator" (escalator) and tried our best to distract her with other stuff.

Today morning she  woke up with the question,
"Mamma ...Ma, Koka gone to India in excalator?...Why mamma?"

While I managed to put together an answer to her "Why mamma?" , the look on her face, as she asked me the question, broke my heart!

Goodbyes are tough indeed! Tougher, when you have to explain the "why of a goodbye" to a little toddler!

Raya calls her maternal grandmom, 'Ma'...her maternal granddad, 'Koka'...her paternal grandmom, Ata and her paternal granddad, Dadu.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Of rights, voices and our children...

Yesterday I was just watching a rerun of the episode of the Daily Show where Jon Stewart is in conversation with the 16 year old Malala Yousafsai, the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize ever , someone who was deemed the most favored to win the prize this year before the actual announcement came in. More important than that though, at this point of time she is the face and voice of millions of girls worldwide, clamoring for the basic right to education for girls in civil war ravaged countries and others.

Peace has been anything but ubiquitous in the world this past year. But it's reassuring to see that the voice of one child, speaking and acting for millions of others, has the ability to make the world stop and relook at some of the most basic human rights violations in different parts of the world.

 One of first things Malala mentioned to Jon in her conversation with him was how it feels when something you value (for her,it was education) is snatched away from you. How that pushed her to be an outspoken activist(with support from her father), clamoring for the basic right to education for girls in her native Swat valley in Pakistan. We ofcourse all know what her journey has been like since that first word of rebellion was raised. So kudos indeed to this little girl!

That aside, being the parent of a girl child, her statement got me really thinking . 

As parents, we always wish and strive towards providing the best of everything for our children. We hope that they will grow up
to become well rounded human beings. We intend to add to the world a compassionate, kind, intelligent, empathetic, courageous, independent and socially aware human being! Intentions and hopes, as parents, of course, are clear!

How do we really, ensure, though that our children don't suffer in silence when a fundamental right is violated ( theirs or someone else's)?!

How do we really ensure that,in dire circumstances, they will know how to differentiate between the 'basic' / 'fundamental' and the 'superfluous' and make the correct choices?!

How do we ensure that we are not bringing up a child who is oblivious to the needs of the people in their vicinity and the rest of the world?!

We ourselves take most of the basic rights, that a lot of people around the world have to fight for - food,lodging,education and even speech and mobility very much for granted,

The kind and type of food we eat is  based on choices we make given a proliferation of options.

The kind and type of place and home we live in is a choice we make given a proliferation of options.

The kind and type of education we seek is a choice we make given a proliferation of options.

So on and so forth...

As parents, D and I are learning ways to inculcate patience in our little girl. Through words, action and example, we try our best to nurture her inherent compassion that we believe every child is born with. As time goes by, we will work hard to figure out ways to teach her the value of money, the pitfalls of instant gratification, the importance of on and so forth.

However we, as parents, will always struggle in figuring out how one teaches a child, in today's developed world, the difference
between 'the basic' and 'the superfluous', as the boundaries between these two abstract concepts keep shifting with time and space.

As I attempt to provide my little girl with life's very best, I often wonder if I am really doing the best I can to enable her to let go of the superfluous when the need arises...I often wonder if I am really doing the best I can to help her have a voice of her own. Am I doing the best I can to sow the seeds of confidence in her so that whenever she faces a situation where she has the choice of speaking up vs suffering in silence, she has the courage to stand up and clamor for her own rights and for the rights of others, in big ways and that she grows up with the belief that her voice will be heard and has value, when she speaks from her heart!

Yes, I wonder...and wait for time to tell!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"My's" is the new buzzword... the Das household. In case you are wondering what "My's" is, let me explain. It sounds like "Mize", means "Mine" and it's "the word"  Raya has begun to use these last few days to assert that something belongs to her.

It's amazing to observe how a child's cognitive, verbal communication skills evolve and the challenges that we, as parents, have to face to make sure that we are able to nurture the inherent goodness,resilience and curiosity that each kid is born with.

So a couple of months back, Raya started becoming aware of the fact that she was a separate 'entity' (I am not particularly fond of using this word in the human context, but oh well no other synonymous word immediately comes to mind) from her 'Mamma', 'Baba' and the rest of the world.

She began saying stuff like, "Raya cup" or just pointing to an object that she believed belonged  to her and saying "Raya's". Similarly she would point to my purse or something that she believed belonged to me and go "Mamma bag" or just say "Mamma's"...point to 'D's car and say "Baba caw" or "Baba's"...point to her grandmom's sandals and say, "Ata's"...point to a pen being used by her teachers (she absolutely adores them) at day care and say "Holly's /Ms Holly's" or "Kiki's/Ms Kiki's"...essentially she had begun associating material objects with people and talking in the third person.

These last few days though, instead of using "Raya's" to assert that something belongs to her and thus implicitly indicating that everyone else should keep their hands off it, she has started saying "My's" and "You's" , the "My's" being more proliferant than the "You's" ,of course...LOL. Funny as it sounds , it is probably her first attempt to comprehend and speak in the first person. That aside, the proliferant use of "My's" has meant repeated urges and prep talks by 'D' and me, to make her understand the importance of sharing. Needless to say , it's a challenge to make a toddler understand that everything in the world doesn't belong to her or work like she wants it to. Inculcating the notion of sharing and patience in a toddler is a challenge, but I personally feel, it's one of the most important aspects of parenting...more so because these notions sow the seeds of feeling empathy and compassion for others, as the child grows into an adult. Of course nature and a child's inherent personality is one of the things that determines what a child grows up to be. But the least we can do, as parents, is to try and  nurture their inherent goodness to the best of our ability.

So yesterday so we had a couple of friends visiting us with their kiddos. Before they came in, I sat Raya down and gave her a prep talk,"Raya...we all know that these are your toys. But you have friends visiting , so you will have  to share all your toys with them ok". I repeated the sentence one more time to make sure I had all her attention. She first said,'Yeah, mamma'...and then followed it with,'Yeah, mamma...share'...the first part of my day's mission of teaching Raya to share having been accomplished, I waited to see how the evening would unfold. I should say she did reasonably well. I have observed a prep talk more often than not does it's magic. There are some days more difficlut than others though when tantrums seem to rule the day. Yesterday evening, the number of "My's" reaching my ears were
minimal and the other kids were playing with her toys without much intervention while she played along with them or by their side. But of course, that was yesterday. Today is a different day and with a toddler in the home, every day comes with it's own set of challenges.

On a slightly different note, here are some snippets of recent conversations in Raya'ingo' in our houshold that I wanted to pen down before
they get pushed to the  abyss of my mind to become distant memories:

Scene 1:
I ask Raya : "What is your name?"

Raya replies : Raya ("Yaya" has finally become "Raya" now)

I ask her again : "What is your full name?"

Raya replies (after considerable thought) : Raya Das

I ask Raya : "What is mamma's name?"

Raya replies : Mamma Das (This came spontaneously and brought  oodles of laughter from me before I could  proceed with any further questions)

I ask Raya : "What is baba's name?"

Raya replies : Baba Das...

I ask Raya : "What is Aata's name?" (She calls her paternal grandmom Aata)

Raya replies : Aata Das...

I ask Raya : "What is koka's name?" (She calls her maternal granddad koka)

Raya replies : Papa (I guess that comes from the fact that I call him papa:))

I ask Raya : "What is ma's name?" (She calls her maternal grandmom ma)

Raya: No response

I prompt her : Dehu

Raya echoes : Diu

Scene 2:

After the above conversation, 'D' took it on himself to teach Raya what our actual names are and he did a reasonably good job of it I should say.
So now, conversations like the above progress as follows:

I ask Raya : "What is mamma's name?"

Raya replies : Panka

I ask Raya : "What is baba's name?"

Raya replies : DD

I ask Raya : "What is baba's full name?"

Raya replies : D'paanan Das (This answer comes back only if she's in the
right mood:) )

I ask Raya : "What is Ata's name?"
Raya replies  : KD (That's what she has been taught, her grandmom's name being "Kalyani Das' :) )

I ask Raya : "What is koka's name?"

Raya replies : Papa

I ask Raya : "What is ma's name?"

Raya replies : Diu

Scene 3:

'D' and I are having an animated conversation and we are laughing at something silly I did. 'D' playfully slaps my back. Raya absolutely doesn't like it and pop comes her angry reaction aimed at 'D' and she says, "Baba...Baba...Mamma,Boo Boo...Huggie...Kiss", pointing at me...when DD gave me a peck on the cheek in response to her urge, it brought the biggest grin to her face...LOL

Scene 4:

Our landline rings, she points to the phone and says, "Phone...Ma...Koka". She calls her maternal grandparents "ma" and "koka" respectively and believes that they have proprietary rights to call on the landline. If anyone else does, she is not a happy baby :)

Scene 5:

Right or wrong, I have my own bag full of tricks to get hudddles, cuddles, hugs and kisses from my munchkin. So last Saturday, I was skyping with my parents. I was sitting cross legged on the floor and Raya was holding on to my shoulders and trying to stand on my legs. I was like, "Raya...mamma is getting hurt"...When saying that a couple of times didn't help, I pretented to cry and said, " boo"..." boo"... I immediately got a big bear hug from my munchkin accompanied with , "Mamma...huggie...mamma huggie"..." cry"..." cry"....It's a different thing that I could cry all day to get that hug and hear that version of " cry"...LOL...

Her current favorite Bollywood numbers are Mika Singh's , "Mere Agal Bagal"... "Kashmir se Kanyakumari" and D's all time favorite "Om Shanti Om" from Karz...She even attempts to sing along with these too...and her current favorite nursery rhymes are what she calls, "Eee..Wee...Spyder" (Incy Wincy Spider) and "Ol..Ga...gaas" (Old Mac Donald). Other than that, in Raya'ingo', 'butterfly' is 'bug fly'...'remote' is 'motot'...'medicine' is 'mecidine'...'swimming pool' is 'swinging pool' on and so forth :)

So that's that. Raya will turn two in a couple of weeks. It's an exciting and challenging phase of parenting. It's also a very important phase of Raya's as well as our lives,as parents, as she begins to learn the ways of the world and take baby steps towards becoming more and more independent. is, this feeling of your baby growing up.

But for now, "My's" is the buzzword in our home and "Sharing" is the mantra ruling our lives.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Big 'boo boo'...our little Raya...

This has been a really stressful week :(

So last Sunday, just as we were about to head out of home for brunch, our little munchkin tripped and fell on her right hand...There was of course the usual level of fussiness that generally follows a fall or 'boo boo', but we had no reason to suspect anything out of the ordinary...No big howls or cries that would make us suspect that something was terribly wrong...With an active toddler in the house, falls and bumps are of course not alien, generally all that is needed is a bit of additional TLC to distract little Raya...and everything about the 'boo boo' is generally forgotten soon enough...So this time around too, we just responded to her "Mamma ...hand boo"..." boo" ...the way we handle other 'boo boos'...with TLC...

She took a good afternoon the evening,she was fussier though...we were hanging out with some of our friends when we observed that she was very reluctant to use her right hand...though she was intermittently playing around , she definitely was not her usual bubbly self...

Next day...a trip to the pediatrician...and an xray later...our little Raya was diagnosed with a right wrist fracture :(

She now has a full arm splint...which she needs to keep on for a couple of more weeks...the orthopedist said that a cast would be too heavy and uncomfortable and scary for her(specially the removal process)...the pain seems to have gone away though, for now...touch wood...she is playing around and going about her daily activities as usual...gets annoyed once in a while when she wants to use her right hand to do something, but she is unable to due to the little baby is figuring it out to live with a splint...:(

She is so's so upsetting and stressful to see her weighed down by that huge splint on her right arm :(..even though she herself seems to be taking it in her stride for now and doesn't seem too bothered...

So yesterday, on our way to the orthopedist, I repeatedly kept telling Raya..."Raya the doctor will check your hand and fix please don't cry ok!!"

When DD came back from work in the evening, she ran to him, pointed to her splint and said," boo...hand"..." boo..hand" .(In non baby talk, that would read..." boo...hand!")...I, for one, felt choked in tears... little another two weeks...hopefully everything's gonna be fine...fingers's gonna to be the longest ever two week period though!!


Monday, July 8, 2013


Scene 1:

'D' is sitting on the couch watching the Andy Murray-Djokovic Wimbledon final on TV...Raya comes up and tries to squeeze herself between 'D' and the edge of the couch...
When she is unable to make space for herself she first points to 'D' and then to the couch and says,"Baba push...baba push" (read Baba "move")...LOL

Scene 2:

I am driving Raya back from day care and just out of the blue,I ask her..."What is your name"...She immediately says "Yaya"(She still can't pronounce her R's)...I tell her "Raya Das"...
I come back home, ask her again "What is your name?"...Pop comes the answer, "Yaya Das"...You know how excited mothers tend to get at such "achievements" I try a third time...
"What is your name?"...She stares back at me, with an annoyed look that says, "Didn't I just tell you that? Stop asking me the same question"...Lesson repetitive questioning...the only way to make her learn and remember is to keep it spontaneous...the same question asked every once in a while still evokes the right answer as long as the question is not repeated again and again within a short period of time...otherwise you will get a puzzled, annoyed glare instead of a response...LOL

Scene 3:

Raya is sitting on her high chair...watching her favorite Mickey Mouse and Goofy on the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show. Something in the show makes her burst out giggling...She can't stop giggling...and after a few seconds of unstoppable giggles, she says "Mamma...Mamma..Yaya fuunny...Yaya funnny.." ...and continues laughing...

Scene 4:

I am busy reading a  book...'D' is busy on his laptop....Raya plays around with her crayons and paper for like 15 mins on her own...then out of the blue, we hear her say, "Mamma...Yaya boo boo"...Of course, not having noticed anything that may have caused a "boo boo", I ask her..."Raya where did you get a boo boo?". She looks at me for a second, puzzled...turns and looks at 'D' for another moment...pauses for a moment and then raises her fingers and says, " boo fingaars"..." boo fingaars"...'D' and I just burst out laughing...Pop comes another Raya giggle...and with that, "Mamma...Yaya funny"..."Mamma...Yaya fuuunny"......Btw..."" is the new attention seeking tactic...and the "boo boo" is always on her "fingaars" :)

Scene 5:

I smell poop and take Raya up to her room, lay her down on her changing mat and while she plays around with her blankie, I deal with the big mess in the diaper...madam Raya , in the meanwhile is
oblivious to how hard mommy has to work and continues with her constant chatter, "Mamma...eewww..eewwww...diauper dorty...diauper dorty" ...oh well of course...diaper is dirty :)!!!

Scene 6:

Raya and I are sitting in front of the laptop...skyping with my parents, Raya's "Koka" and "Ma"... Raya is sitting on my lap and sipping water...she drops water on her shirt and drenches it..
then says,"Kaapur Titi...Kaapur Titi"..."Kaapur" in Assamese(my mother tongue) means clothes and "Titise" means wet...for obvious reasons, the grandparents couldn't help grinning from ear to ear...:)

Scene 7:

So Raya's loyalties keep shifting between 'D' and 'I'...on some days and weeks, she is an absolute Daddy's girl...on other days and weeks , she is an absolute Mamma's girl!!

A couple of months back, she was a complete Daddy's girl. However since DD went on his one and half week long India trip without us, Raya has been and continues to be a "Mamma's girl". Sometimes that works in my favor, specially when it comes to getting cuddles, hugs and kisses...At other times it doesn't, specially when she wants only me to do all her chores, feeding her, changing her clothes, diapers, putting her to sleep..etc.etc...Oh well...So the other day, we came back from a family dinner...'D' was getting ready to put Raya to sleep...Raya began throwing a tantrum...and came running to me..."Mamma...Mamma..Mamma ...Yaya...chinge...Yaya...sleep"...essentially she wanted me to change her into her night dress and put her to sleep...I tried my hand at playing the little one's trick on her...I told her,"Raya...mamma is tired. Mamma got a boo boo"....She immediately stopped crying, stared at me for a second and without a further tear dropped, she let 'D' put her to sleep...'D' says she asked for me once thereafter,...but he told her again, "Mamma got a boo boo"...and that was more trouble...Raya's baba did not have to deal with any more tantrums.While I had said, "Mamma got a boo boo" in  jest, this incident kind of gave me goose bumps...Jokes apart, does this mean that Raya is beginning to feel "empathy"? It may have been a freak incident...or it may have been an actual sensing of "empathy" incident for little Raya...Either way, we have a tough job in hand, as parents...and it scares do we inculcate or nurture feelings of empathy, notions of good and bad, right and wrong in a child? It's tough, scary and another challenging aspect of parenting...for if we mess it up now...all these abstract/fuzzy notions may be messed up forever in her mind:(...So wish us luck please :)

Then of course, she has her own names for songs she loves....

- Shakira's Waka Waka in Raya'ingo' is "Waka moo"
- Remember the Ketchup Song of the late 90's...that in Raya'ingo' is " Eeeh...Aah..Eeeh..Aah"...
- Gangnam Style in Raya'ingo' is "Taaah",,,and she says that with a stomp of her feet...
- Badtameez Dil from Yeh Jawaani Hain Deewani in Raya'ingo' is ""
- Sun Rahan Hain na tu from Aashiqui2 in Raya'ingo' is "new song"
- Jeevan ke din chhote sahin from Bade Dilwale in Raya'ingo' is " lla lla lla..."

She does crack me up with her chosen lingo for identifying favorite songs :)

Other than that...Raya turns two in September...but she is already beginning to get into the defiant/tantrum throwing mode (the terrible twos mode, probably?!)...whenever the cause of a tantrum is completely illogical or incomprehnsible, 'D' and I have realized, the best thing to do is ignore....she generally cries it out for 5 minutes and then comes on her own to us with , "Baba...uggie...Mamma...uggie",  urging us to give her hugs:)

Let's see how long this "ignoring the tantrum" method works. Otherwise though, in general, she pays more heed to what 'D' says than to what I do...if 'D' asks her not to do something vs I telling
her the same...she listens to 'D', she does tend to shove my "Don't do that"'s aside with a smirk...

Oh well...we are learning...we are learning...and Raya is teaching us more than a lesson or two!!! :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I never really got to say good bye to any of my know what I mean, was never by their bed side when they passed away or when they were not keeping well, was not even there for their final rites...all four of them passed away peacefully, and from what appears, without too much pain...the 'without much pain bit' was a consolation...all of them had led long, fulfilling lives...seen their sons, daughters, grandsons and grandaughters grow up into  people in their own right, being an integral part of their struggles, joys and sorrows as they made it through turbulent and good times...

I have very fond memories of their smiling faces, of the unconditional affection and warmth they showered on us, their a weird kind of way, among all the memories etched in my mind about times spent with my grand parents, a very specific memory always comes to my mind when I think of each of them:

Koka(my paternal granddad): Giving me a hug and saying,"I am proud of you" the last time  I saw him, a few months before he passed away.

Aita ma(my maternal grandmom): Her infectious smile and how I would my put my head on her chest and love sleeping with her whenever I visited my maternal home...something  that would have the miraculous effect of washing away all my troubles.

Aita (my paternal grandmon): Spending hours in the kitchen to cook some of my favorite dishes and then read out "xadhu kotha"(bed time stories) just before we went to bed during vacations.

Pipi (my maternal granddad): Jumping up in joy in the verandah of my maternal home in Jorhat as he listened to the live commentary of a match winning innings by the Indian cricket team on a  dilapidated radio receiver...

They all had a profoundly positive impact on how my personality developed, as I grew up...whether I
have and will be able to live upto their expectations and become the kind of human being they wanted me to grow up to be, is a question that only time will tell and they would be able to answer...
however my memories of them are of happier times, when they themselves were happy, glowing and full of life !!

When each of them suddenly passed away, I was thousands of miles away...I wept and cried family said there was nothing I could do that would change the fact that they were no more...that I should take consolation in the fact that they had led happy, fulfilling lives...that it would be easier on me to remember the happier times and their smiling faces since I had not seen them when they were down and low...So I made a choice to cherish fond memories of growing up  in their arms, saying thank you from thousands of miles away, without saying a final good bye in person, out of fear of having memories of those glowing, smiling faces erased from my mind forever...I have taken consolation in that fact all these years, and have been content, cherishing the fond memories
that I have of my grandparents...not for once regretting that I was not by their bed side when they passed away because I wanted to remember only their happy, glowing faces...not once regretting that I wasn't a part of their last rites and final journey...not once regretting, until today...

DD's 'Ata ma', 89 year old maternal grandmom, has been in and out of coma these past couple of weeks...the doctors are gradually beginning  to take her off ventilation and life supports systems...the  profoundest impact on DD's life apparently has been his maternal grandmom...I have noticed a restlessness of an altogether different magnitude in him these last couple of days...I can feel this inconsolable need in him to hold her hand and say a final good bye...I try using the same consoling words that my parents and family had used on me when they conveyed the news of each one of my grandparents passing away...What I say makes sense to him, but there is no end to the restlessness...So we've made a decision that he is going to travel to India tomorrow to see his grandmon, who has been in the ICU for the past one month...As I visualize him sitting by her bedside, holding her hand...I weep...I weep for him...and in a very selfish kind of way, I weep for myself...for the first time in my life, I regret not being a part of my grandparents' final journey ...I regret not being able to say a final good bye...of not being by their bed side when they were down and out...all of a sudden,I feel there is no better way to say thank you for being there whenever we've needed them...or maybe, there is...but that, only they I regret and weep nevertheless...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


12 days...three countries...bustling European cities...quaint Bavarian towns...beautiful alpine villages...fairytale castles...historic fort towns...mesmerising landscapes...the mecca of driving...the land of the "Sound of Music"...the golden city of spires...barrels of brewing monasteries...white struddel...schneeballens...mozart balls...salzburg knockerels...quaint,local bed and breakfasts...luxurious castle hotels...a man's dream...a woman's passion...a baby's patience...the ultimate driving machine...a journey to cherish...the joy of living...

So Raya, 'D' and I just got back from a 12 day road trip through the Bavarian region of Germany, the alpine region of Austria and the bohemian city of Prague, a city where, someone so rightly said,
"the unconventional is conventional"...

D is the ultimate car and driving enthusiast and had always nurtured the dream of revving it up on the autobahn and exploring Europe in his very own car(preferably his very own version of the ultimate driving machine)...He is also a travel enthusiast and foodie...Personally, I am not much of a car person :)...I am happy with any car that takes me safely from point A to B...I am, however, an equally, if not more, avid and passionate travel enthusiast and foodie...the opportunity to visit new places, mingle among locals, explore different cultures, food, drinks, return home with a feeling that there's so much more out there to discover, and then dream of the next stop...this just has a way of adding zest to my life like nothing else does...Given this, and the fact that D's "dhanno"(current car) has almost run past her prime, the fact that by
God's grace we were in a position to dream of buying a new car of choice( who knows when that may change given life 's vissiccitudes) and of course, the fact that our last couple of vacations, since Raya's birth,  had been beach vacations and one back home to India, we realized the time was right to put on our travelling pants and get set to fulfill D's long time dream of revving it up on the autobahn in his very own ultimate driving experience the charm of driving through the "alpine strass" of Germany and Austria,and feel the pulse of the "silnice" of the Czech republic.

Of course, this time we could not afford to be carefree travellers,like we were in the past...there was an apprehension about whether we would actually be able to sail through such an ambitious  2 week roadtrip with our 20 month old Raya...The challenges of travelling with a 20 month old baby are numerous...Preceding the trip, one day I woke up with a nightmare of losing Raya in a crowd of tourists...that triggerred a prompt purchase of a child locator device from Amazon, something we didn't end up using much , but will probably still prove useful when travelling in the future...I compiled lists of hospitals, pediatricians,emergency care centres at each destination...this time I did not have the luxury of stuffing our luggage with multiple pairs of beloved shoes or bags:( ...the aim was to minimize 'D' and my stuff in the luggage while, of course, priority was given to little Raya's clothes, diapers, comfort food, books and toys...we also planned to restrict travel/drive time to 2~3 hours at a stretch...the longest drive was from Konigsee, in Germany to Prague (a five hour trip with a short break for lunch ), which Raya handled surprisingly well...there were 'n' number of other baby related stuff that needed to be taken care of, half of which I don't even remember now :)...Little Raya ,of course, had her moments of anxiety, irritability, mood swings and bouts of "meaty" food phobia during the trip...fortunately those were things we were prepared for, expecting and able to handle :)... Also it did take us a couple of days to get her into the groove of being on the road, strapped to her car seat or stroller for really long periods of time...On our third day of the trip, when 'D' was getting ready to put her in the car seat, Raya, on her own, climbed on to the car seat, saying "Baba Caw...baba caw"(as funny as it sounds, that's meant to mean baba's car:))...she then made an unsuccessful attempt to strap herself into the car seat with a smile on her face...that was, I think, the first clear indication that our little baby was all set for the following 10 days of our bohemian life on the road :)

The drive through Germany's Bavaria and the Austrian Alps was mesmerizing...this area of Europe is as pretty as the Swiss alpine countryside I would claim, if not's just not as commercial, touristy, well conected by public transport or efficient as things in Switzerland....the autobahn, of course, provided the big adrenaline 'D' was pushing the pedal to drive at over 130 miles an hour on the autobahn between Germany and Prague, there was an Audi sedan that whizzed past and overtook us from the left...just as we were speculating what speed the Audi must have been driving at to be able to do that, we saw the same car flash blue lights in front of us, indicating  we had been asked to pull over by the unmarked cop car...of course, we thought we had been pulled over for speeding and were extremley nervous...the cops let out a laugh of jest and ridicule when we asked them what speed the radar had caught us at..."Oh no no, there are no speeding meters or tickets here on this stretch of the autobahn", they said. " We just wanted to look at the tourist registration papers for the car since you are just 20 miles away from Czech border"....really...130 miles/hr or 210 kms/hr and no speeding ticket...that was enough to bring a big grin to D's face and make him push the pedal to the metal :)

As far as the places we visited go...Munich was like any big European city...the old town is nice and quaint and the English garden was charming...the BMW Welt is worth the hype for all car lovers, of course...The atmosphere at the biergartens(beer gardens) with the "oompah bands" (band of 4 musicians playing Bavarian music) is not to be missed ...The visit to Dachau, the oldest concentration camp in Germany,located right outside Munich, sent chills down our spine and was a very humbling experience indeed...Konigsee am Schonau and Bershtechgaden were beautiful,
laid back Bavarian villages, perfect for a few days of rejuvenating fresh air among the Alps and lake Konigsee...the village of Hallstatt in Austria seemed straight out of a fairy tale, tucked away between the Austrian Alps and lake Hallstatt...the market town of Reutte,Austria provided sweeping views of a blend of white, snow covered mountains and green, meadowed valleys....Salzburg brought back such vivid, fond memories of "Sound of Music" and the Von Trapp family that I was in total awe...As for the golden city of spires and red roofs, Prague or Praha(as they like to call it in Europe), Franz Kafka has very rightly said, "Prague never let's you go…this dear little mother has sharp claws.”'s really difficult to resist getting engulfed in the allure, charm, aura, beauty and spirit of what is for good reason called one of the most romantic cities in the world. The residential fort towns of Rothenburg ob tauber and Dinkelsbuhl and the drive through the romantic Bavraian strass connecting them exuded a unique blend of history, romance,fairy tale homes,boutique shops and beautiful views of green valleys interspersed with long stretches of canola fields, dotted with yellow flowers . And then finally the towns of HohenSchwangau and Fussen...typical pretty , quaint alpine towns around the extravagant King Ludwig's castles of Neuschwanstein ( which inspired Disney's princess castle ) and HohenSchwangau...we got an absolutely gorgeous view of Neuschwanstein castle from the rickety Queen Mary's bridge built over a dangerous, deep gorge...the view, though, was completely
worth the risk of walking on those shaky, dilapidated, bridge planks which almost seemed to be set to give was ironical though that Raya's mommy seemed more thrilled by the sight of the princess castle than little Raya herself :)

As for food, I personally loved Czech food ( goulash, bramboračka, gulasovka )...highly recommend this local pub and restaurant called Kolkovna in Prague for a typical Czech meal...German cuisine however failed to win my heart...way too much meat for my liking...I tried the Weiswurst ( Bavarian white sausage ), Fleischkäse ( Bavarian meat loaf ), Leberknödelsuppe ( Bavarian liver dumpling soup ) and Snitzel, but ended up stuffing myself with the Bavarian potato/leek soup, for the major part of the trip...loved the apple struddel though...Madam Raya feasted on "pasta", "pizza", "bread","fried rice" and "risotto" for the major part of the trip :)...Service at restaurants was slow and laid back, as is typical almost throughout Europe...they seem to want you to have laid back meals spanning hours, all with good intention but a concept that's not very kid anyone travelling with a kid, should be prepared to keep the little one entertained for long periods of time when dining at restaurants...And do not expect any water to be served at the table, unless specifically requested...weird, but true...:)

Communicating in English was a problem in the samller Bavarian towns of Germany and also parts of alpine Austria...not so much in Prague, though...however there was nothing lacking as far as hospitality and friendliness of the people was concerned...Believe it or not, travelling with a child has the capability of earning unpleasant stares as well as warm smiles and helping hands...for the major part, the latter...that worked to our advantage:). We did not encounter too many Indian tourists, other than in  Salzburg and for the major part, we were exotic, brown Asians in the Alps and Bohemia :)

We ended the trip with a visit to and feasting on beer brewed at the Andechs beer brewing monastery in Germany...the beer was delicious, and had a non beer drinker like me gotten a chance to dabble with it's flavor for a little longer, we would have had a guaranteed beer drinking convert in me...good for my belly though that didn't happen:). More importantly though ,for some reason, I was under the illusion that alcohol and religion did not go the idea of monks brewing beers was quite a revelation for me....'D' explained that Belgium, Germany and some other parts of Europe have had monks brew beer for the longest time,as to why monks brew beer...history says, in olden days there was no good mode of refrigeration and often safe food and beverages were difficult to find for everyone. As a result illness and malnutrition were rampant. Because of the brewing process and the alcohol content, the brewed beer was safer to drink than water and contained high carbohydrates and nutrients. It was nicknamed "liquid bread" by the monks. Monks also brew for barter and cash. The revenue funds the day to day expenses of running the monastery and also perhaps the local church and charities as well. Oh well, either way this was a revelation ,indeed ,for me to end the road trip with :)!!

I happened to come across this quote by Mark Twain a couple of days back and thought it would be apt to end this travelogue with a transcript of the quote:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

So as 'D', Raya and I get back to the grind and dream of our next stop and destination, we wish you luck and joy as you explore, dream and discover the world that lies beyond each one of your comfort zones...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Vintage" Parents?!:)

So madam Raya is picking up words really fast these days...

She can't pronounce her L's and R's yet...

So "tree" becomes "tee"..."please" becomes "peez"...and "milk(y)" beacomes "meeky"..."marker" is "maaker"..."peekaboo" is "peeboo"..."miss you" is "mizz you"..."c you later" is "c you yaya" ...
so one and so forth...oh's such a fun and interesting age...

Anyways, that's that ...coming to something one of the tasks I have been assigned by Raya's grandparents is to make sure that she learns to pray (or at least appreciates the importance of prayer), after bath and before bedtime...

Yours truly, being an ardent Shridi Sai devotee, every day after Raya's bath time, one of the rituals is to make her sit on my lap in front of my teenie weenie "puja"(prayer) place, ask her to fold her hands in a namaskar (she understands that when I say, "do namoh namoh") , while I say a few be more specific, the gayatri mantra and a chant that goes by, "Om Shri Sai Nath Namah"...

So after a couple of these prayer sessions on consecutive days, I began to notice that every day, after splishing splashing in her bath tub and getting dressed, Raya would on her own go to our small "puja ghar" and open the door of the miniature "mandir", fold her hands in a namaskar and then say, 'O Shee, O Shee, O Shee'...Of course, I lost no time in concluding that this was her version
of,  "Om Shri Sai Nath Namah"...I very proudly called up my parents and told them that "teaching Raya to pray mission" was accomplished in record time :)...

But wait,as is often the case with me, I sseemed to have spoken a bit too soon...A couple of days later, Raya sprints around the home, falls down on her knees and out out comes 'O Shee' from her mouth...a day later she drops food on her dress and out comes another 'O Shee' from her mouth...the occurrences of  'O Shee' was becoming a bit too frequent and it was no longer confined to when she is in front of the "puja ghar" or sees a picture of a God /Goddess, it began to pop out of her mouth in situations when she was that is scary for any parent wanting to be a "good parent", if you know what I mean:)...I was definitely not a very happy momma anymore,for while I hoped that 'O Shee' stood for the mantra 'Om Shri Sai Nath ai namah', whether I liked it or not and paradoxical as it may sound, the contexts she was using the phrase in were more those where one was more likely to say "Oh Sh**"...I obviously went into a panic mode...where was she learning this, if it was what we thought it D and I swear that often?! Was it day care?! etc.etc...Thank God it was nothing worse than that etc.etc....the Das household was in a state of comeplete panic...use of all forms of "swear" words were banned with immediate effect...a protocol was set to spell out any "swear" word
whenever there was an urge to use it...and that protocol has been followed to date...believe it or not,that protocol has so far worked two is of course, we are limiting Raya's exposure to these words to the best of our ability...the second is a rather unexpected and equally beneficial the time we reach the last alpahabet while spelling out a "swear" word, our anger/annoyance, which is obviously the trigger for the urge to swear, more often than not wanes off aint't that a perfect example of  killing two birds with one shot !!:)...

So that's that...moving on to something else...Raya seems to have some surreal connection to her Ash mamu (my brother)...despite limited Skype/Phone time with my busy little brother, who lives in Bangalore, he was one of the first ones she recognized in photographs..."Mamu, Mamu"...she would go as soon as she saw his photograph...Soon, of course, to the grandparents relief, she began recognizing them as well, on Skype as well as in photographs...So that made "Koka" (maternal granddad), "Maaa"(maternal granmom"), "Ata"(paternal grandmom) and "Baitu (Bai Jethu)"(paternal uncle) really, really happy...

Paradoxically enough, Raya did not have a name associated with 'D' and I for the longest time ever...The fortune of being addressed by a "deterministic coloquial name" by our little miss
sunshine has finally befallen us...Raya calls/identifies yours tryly as "Mamma" and 'D' as "Baba"...Her latest antic(coming out of her tremendous love for the Baa baa black sheep(she calls it "baa baa shee") nursery rhyme, is to call me "Mamma Shee" and 'D', "Baba Shee"...and believe it or not when it comes out of my teenie weenie baby's mouth, it sounds so much like "Mamma Shri" and "Baba Shri" that it makes D and I feel quite antiquated( In India , when anyone is addressed with a "Shri" prefixed or suffixed to his/her name, it's a sign of great "voluntary/forced " respect)...

So in the age of "momsy", "popsy", "paa", "daa" and all kinds of modern lingo associated with names for one's parents, being called "Mamma Shri" and "Baba Shri" or what sounds like that, makes us
"vintage" parents for now, I guess :)

On that note, happy parenting folks!:)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Musical progression?!! :)

When we were expecting Raya, all friends and acquaintances with kids invariably had one thing to say..."Life will never be the same again !!!:)"...Then there was the advice to "Take the time to splurge and pamper yourself"..."Spend time doing what you love doing most for you'll never have the time for yourself again"...etc. get the gist...

So keeping all those forewarnings of a 'kidful' life in mind, a couple of things I did to my hearts content, other than hogging on all kinds of food, was to to pick back up my erstwhile obsession with music and books and watch reruns of all my favorite TV shows and movies...

As far as music is concerned, I spent hours lounging and listening to all kinds of it...From R.D Burman to Jagjit Singh,from Indian classical to Western classical,from the Fateh Ali Khans to Atif Aslam, from Lata Mangeshkar to Sunidhi Chauhan,from the Beatles to Billy Joel, from Carpenters and ABBA to MLTR, from Eric Clapton and Tracy Chapman to the Eagles, from Guns and Roses to the Rolling Stones to Pearl Jam to Queen to ReadioHead to Coldplay, from James Taylor to Harry Chapin to Ashish Rajkhowa(lol...,that's my brother who chimed in every once in while , strumming my favorite numbers on his guitar)...the pregnancy was a true splurge and indulgence in music...

Then baby Raya was born and I went literally by what the baby books had to say :)...We filled her room with the magic of Mozart and my personal favorite...Mozart's symphony seemed to do it's magic...At two month's, baby Raya was babbling along and humming to one of her mommy's personal Bollywood favorites,"Jeevan ke din chhote sahin" composed by RD Burman and apparently "adapted" and based on Mozart's symphony 40....

Raya's next favorite...another Bollywood song..."Senorita..." from ZNMD... next favorite...Shakira's "Waka Waka...."....and not only did these ones bring bright smiles to her face...they also made her shake her leg and twist and turn in an attempt to bring on the moves...

Oh well I was one happy Mommy...if not anything else, kiddo was catching on to Mommy's taste in music...not only did she love the melodies and rhythm, but unlike her flat footed Mommy, she seemed all set to set the dance floor on fire with her moves...:)

Then Daddy D introduced baby Raya to what else but of course PSY's "Gangnam Style" and Chulbul Pandey's moves in "Pandey Jee"...and baby Raya seemed to catch on to those just as easily and happily....the head banging increased and so did the edge in her moves...the smiles became brighter....

Now I was not as happy a mommy anymore see, baby Raya and mommy's tastes in music were diverging....the funny part is it did not take too long for me to get happy again for soon enough the "Gangnam Style"s and "Pandey jee seeti "s  of the music world  grew on me and found a place in my heart so much so that  before I realized it, I was tapping my feet to their  music and rhythm  along with my little baby and was ready to break into an awkward  jig myself :)...Looks like mommy and Raya were back on the same page as far as tastes in music were concerned....oh well, well...

Now whether this is musical "progression" or "regression"... the answer would depend on who you ask and when...but I guess, it's music nevertheles!!! :)

In all of this, however what remains constant and what  still brings on the brightest smile from Raya is her mommy's all time favorite bollywood number,"Jeevan ke din chhote sahin"....may be this will go on to become the"bichde huye family members ko milwane wala" song for the Das clan :) (all erstwhile/ current Bollywood fans would know what I mean) that would be something, wouldn't it !!!:)

On that musical note," Happy Friday" folks...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

'Superbowl Sunday'...'Tuuummmy'...'Shooooees'...and more...

It's's Superbowl Sunday this weekend...a much awaited day of the year in our household...

The palpable excitement exuded by 'D' and me are more or less for the same reasons...aka marks the end of the football's just that 'D' is excited about the "Ravens Vs 49ers" final game itself ,while I am, about the fact that I no longer need to feel obliged to sit through another one of those "testosterone" filled matches...You see, we are in that phase of married life with baby in tow,where our lives are so busy and where each of us gives so much space to the other ,to do our own stuff, that we have to consciously find time and activities to do together...and that translates to me sitting through and pretending to watch a football game with 'D' for each Bollywood romantic flick that he sits down to watch with me...oh well, such is life!!! :)

As for Raya, she is innocuously oblivious to the excitement of the impending weekend ,specifically Sunday!!In a few years time, she will probably pick sides and have her own reasons for being excited...either way she'll have an ally at home:)

On a completely different note, these days my little munchkin gets off the crib in the morning and sprints around our bed, squealing out "Tuuuummmy"..."Tuuuummmmy"...oh...oh...not to worry...those are anything but squeals of pain caused by tummy aches...The subject of her excited squeals and attention is "Mr. Talking Tom Cat"...or "Tommy" like we like to address him around the home...her mama and papa dear need to bring "Mr. Tom Cat" out of his slumber and out of the bed side table drawer so that Ms. Raya can have her morning  "tete e tete" and giggling session with him...while her mama and papa catch up on 15 more mins of sleep...thank God for Steve Jobs and phone apps...what would we do without them!!!

Then of course, her most favorite word in the world now is..."shooooooes"....she is obsessed with them...needs to put them on as soon as she gets off the bed...she has to make sure they are safe in their allocated place by the stair case, when she takes them off...when they are clean and spunky, they are "nuuu shoooes"...oh well..."shoe mania" is in her that's to be expected, I guess...but I must say they do start early these days, don't they!!! :)...

This is such a fun age...Can't wait to share "Raya" isms once she starts putting words together...I can already envision how entertaining that will be...

Enjoy your weekend folks...and enjoy Superbowl Sunday for whatever reason that may be!:)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Home"...Raya's first India trip...

Three India trips since 'D' and I set up home together, as a couple, here in Northern Virginia, and it's funny how I have gone through the same set of emotions before and after every one of those trips...

We've been relatively fortunate to have our parents/family visit us reasonably often in the last half a decade...So while every time we bid good bye to our parents , the heart strings wreak havoc , the tear glands show no mercy, the knees feel retrospect, it's comforting to realize that we have been able to spend some quality time with our folks despite setting up "home" so far away from "home"...

Having said that though, every 1.5 to 2 years, there is this sense of urgency to visit India...Assam... "Anandam"...home, as I knew it a decade and a half back...there is this almost irrepressible urge to revisit childhood be around the folks I grew up with(despite being well aware that most of them are not around anymore:( ) be engulfed in the aroma of favorite childhood dishes being cooked up in Mom's just sit out in the terrace garden and look out at the horizon of the ever expanding skyline and "land line"( if I may call it that) of my home town of Guwahati...just sit absolutely nothing other than gaze out at the horizon...looking back at what a journey it has been...the distance traveled...where we were...where we are...and looking ahead at what potentially lies ahead in this unpredictable,exciting journey of life...

This India trip was even more special because we went with little Raya in was her first trip to India ....and boy did she have fun...getting royally pampered by both sets of grandparents, uncles , aunts and bonding ,playing or more appropriately “ bullying” :) her little cousin(D’s niece)!! Other than a few moments in the incredibly long flight journey from Washington to Guwahati, Raya seemed to absolutely love India ... all the attention... the huddles and cuddles from everyone she met...the sounds and views of the people, vehicles and animals on the streets...being able to gaze out of the window of the car and soak in the views without being restrained by the “leashes” of a car seat...the morning and evening strolls with the grandparents...just the general feel of the place and people... let’s just say this...she seemed  absolutely “at home” in India right from the beginning, putting all my apprehensions at bay ...She seemed to soak in, delight in and be fascinated by the transition from the quietness of life in US suburbia to the hustle- bustle of life in Bangalore(where my brother, Ash lives) and Guwahati...from an environment, where folks would be super sweet to her on the streets, but would definitely think twice before touching her, to one, where every second person on the street was pinching her cheeks, without us or them feeling the need to be alarmed....from being strapped up on a high chair in a restaurant here in the US, with coloring paraphernelia/phone/ ipad to keep her engaged so that we , the parents, could have a peaceful , quick dinner before her patience waned out, to being entertained by the servers /waiters in Indian restaurants while we gleefully sipped away at our cocktails and leisurely nibbled away at the food on our plates...I think our little girl did really well :)

Anyone living outside India would agree that a trip to India is always preceded by weeks and months of excited anticipation...In India, of course, we bask in the glory of undivided attention from family and friends, incredible pampering, delicious food, shopping sprees, ”addas”...all along ,engulfed in that sweet and heady feeling of nostalgia...we marvel at how the country has progressed the skylines and “land line” of the towns and cities are ever expanding...the streets getting broader...crib about the general mindset getting narrower, as the newspaper headlines scream about politicians trying to dictate what “women should wear, how they should talk and walk” about the "reverse brain drain"... gape open mouthed, as we are dealt with punch after punch of “sticker shock”...essentially bask in the glory of a life with no work, but all play, thoughts and talk ...No wonder in those 3-4 weeks , life seems perfect ,  just as it did two decades back....when, as teenagers, all that we had to think about and take care of ,was ourselves ,while everything peripheral  aka managing the household help, cooking ,cleaning, driving, paying the bills ,all household chores was taken care of by someone else...albeit that someone else was “Mama and Papa dear” and their entourage of contacts and helpers....One could get used to living like that, so much so that like I mentioned in my post three years back, before you realize it, you could get spoilt beyond redemption in India , and forced to unequivocably judge where life is better… It is very easy indeed to get carried away by the rosiness of the vacation and “holiday spirit”, where friends and family make all the time for you and for three short weeks set aside the worries that bog them down in their day to day lives...

There were countless instances when I was rhetorically asked that bringing up a child in the US must be tough, without the family/household/societal support system:), especially since I was a working mom!! This question about whether it is more difficult bringing up a child here in the US (as a working mom) vs in India was thought provoking, indeed. I agree that the love, affection, warmth, moral and physical support provided by grandparents and extended family is irreplaceable . I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the first and most important year of Raya’s life without the physical and moral support of my dear parents, and Raya probably wouldn’t have had even half as much fun in the first year of her life or developed like she has, without her grandparents being around for extended periods. But that aside, I have realized that bringing up a child, managing a home, a family, a job , life in general is just as difficult or as easy as you want to make it, no matter where you live…Not that it would have been any easier bringing up Raya if D and I had set up home some place else in India, other than Guwahati …no one would agree with me more on this than my dear friend, Rush, who has set up home in Gurgaon while her parents live down in South India….Given today’s nuclear family set ups, no matter where  home is, at every point, you are faced with a set of challenges…at every point of time, you have a set of choices…you make the choices you make and move on…letting time decide the effect they have on the course of your life…

I enjoy getting royally spoilt ,like I do, every time we are in India...At the end of the three to four weeks of what I like to call “unadulterated all play and no work time”, I am always engulfed with sadness and choke in tears at the thought of yet again leaving behind loved ones and my childhood home in Assam…Paradoxically and funnily enough, however, I am also subconsciously( and I know I have mentioned this before) ready to get back to the office work, cooking, cleaning, driving, doing the grocery, fighting with D about household chores, paying the mortgage, facing the challenges of bringing up Raya and generally getting back to “real” life...that’s “real”…that’s “life” as I know and love…as long as those  weeks of “unadulterated all play and no work time” keep getting squeezed into our busy lives, ever so often , we should be good, I guess:)…

Having said that though, hopefully we will be able to make more frequent trips back home to Assam with Raya, and also our parents /families will continue to be able to visit us often enough, so that she can grow up with the warmth and affection that only grandparents and family can provide…Fingers crossed…How that pans out, only time will tell….It's definitely tough for us, staying away from our parents and siblings...we miss them so much...but it's even tougher for our parents now, for grandparenthood has given birth to an absolutely different set of emotions that has made their grandchild the absolute centre of their lives ....

For now though, it’s been a good start to the new year for all three of us with the fabulous, refreshing trip from “home” to “home” back “home”, if that makes any sense at all :)

Wish all of you a very happy 2013…may the new year bring in health, love and happiness into all your lives…