Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A milestone of sorts...

Six years...sixty one posts...not much you would say, specially if you are a regular blogger or journal writer! But being able to keep this blog alive for 6 years is a milestone for me, nevertheless....
a milestone for the sheer reason that "Slice of Life" has managed to capture moods and moments of my life, that perhaps would have been long forgotten.

I started the blog on a rather solemn note 6 years back...Since then "Slice of Life" and I have come a long way...Travel...music...movies...books...theatre...adventures...issues...nostalgia...memories...joys...sorrows...dilemmas...parenting...Raya...moods and moments...the maze of life. Since then, a lot of things in life have changed....a lot of things have also been constant...I am grateful for the changes as well as the constants...I would like to believe the changes have added zest to life and made me wiser while the constants have provided the much needed stability.

Inspiration to write does come in various forms(though unfortunately not too often). Triggers for the inspiration to write have  also evolved since I started writing this blog in 2008. Over the past three years, inspiration to write has primarily been baby and toddler shenanigans and woes! One track and boring you may say. But as I read through various blog posts last night and re-lived some of the moments, it filled me with an enormous sense of nostalgia and a sense of contentment. I realized I had unconsciously managed to capture some very cherished memories, with a hobby that's very cathartic and therapeutic!

I feel an enormous sense of appreciation towards all of you who drop by and read...some of you are regulars, who visit my blog frequently...some of you drop by once in a while...some of you think what I write is trash....others keep coming back for more...some of you take the time to share your thoughts and perspective with your comments, irrespective of whether you agree or disagree with me (thus adding value by keeping the interactive element of blogging alive)....some of you drop by to just  read, and are happy sharing an unspoken camaraderie as you realize that the basic issues of life are elements that all of  us struggle with, the basic joys of life are elements that all of us take delight in...I have made friends in blogosphere who I would have never connected with, otherwise...that's an enormous  blessing...so thank you all :)

Here's a toast to 6 years of "Slice of Life", a 'slow but steady' hobby(if may call it that:)), and hopes for many more such milestones.

Have a safe and beautiful holiday season folks !! :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Black...White...And Shades of Grey...

One of the components of Raya's bed time ritual is to say a prayer. I just say a few lines aloud for her, as a prayer, and generally, this is how it goes, "Dear God, Thank you for another beautiful day of my life. Thank you for taking care of me, my family and all my near and dear ones. Please be with us always and help us lead happy, contented lives".

So after saying the above prayer yesterday, this is how Raya and my bed time conversation went.

Raya:"Mama, where is God?"

Yours truly: Raya, God is everywhere. God is abstract.
(I had to restrain a chuckle at my use of the word "abstract". Was I expecting a three year old to understand what "abstract" meant!!Either way, I have been expecting this question for some time. But for some reason, I was still not prepared with an answer. So my answer was quite vague. Fortunately for me, Raya decided to move on to her next question)

Raya: "Everyyy where....Abbbstact...Hmmmmmm". "Mama, why are you praying?"
Yours truly: "So that God takes care of you"

Raya:"Why will God take care of me?"
Yours truly:"Because God loves you"

Raya:"Why does God love me?"
Yours truly:"Raya, can you tell me first why does mama love you?"

Raya:"Because I am a big girl. I am a good girl"
Yours truly:"So God also loves you because you are a good girl"

Raya:"Mama, is everyone good?"
Yours truly: (I was stumped)...I blabbered..."we are good if we listen to our Mama and Baba...we are good if we listen to our teachers ...we are good if we are kind to others..."...(I went on and on for sometime...Couldn't figure out what parts she was able to comprehend and what she wasn't because she just responded with, "hmmm...")

Fortunately, the conversation immediately digressed into some other zone. But as I called it a night, I couldn't help thinking what do you really answer to a child who asks you, "Is everyone good?" It's easy to give a vague answer to a three year old, but what about older children...'D' had the most diplomatic suggestion for me. He said, just say,"Everyone is good in his/her own way!"...Made sense...but made me laugh out loud as well. Jokes apart, all of a sudden, the responsibility of providing a good upbringing to a child seems many folds bigger and more mammoth...I don't want to bring up a child who lives an absolutely utopian dream of a perfect life, unable to fight his/her battles in a world that can be sometimes so cruel. At the same time, neither do I want to end up rearing a child, who ends up being all cynical about the world. I just hope we, as parents, will be able to figure out a way to strike the right balance, so that our child grows up to learn that while it's best not to always view the world through rose tinted glasses,but at the same time it's important to be optimistic, energetic, hopeful and to always live with  the belief that the glass is half full rather than half empty!

That's definitely one helluva parenting challenge!!Only time will tell how successful we are though. It's tough because 'good' and 'bad' are really not as clear to distinguish as 'white' and 'black'. 'Good' and 'bad', in life, are after all just shades of grey!! It does sadden me to think though of all the heartbreaks and lessons that these little innocent kiddos will have to navigate before they are able to figure out their way in the maze, of the 'shades of grey', that life is!

On a lighter note, Ms Amber, Raya's teacher, told me about this following conversation between Raya and her classmate,Nicholas, on the playground.

Nicholas: "Raya, come with me to my home!"
Raya:"I can't come to your home!"

Nicholas: "Why?"
Raya:"I have to go to my home with Mamma and Baba. If I come with you, my Baba will be sad! He will be sad and shout at you! Do you want my Baba to shout at you?" LOL

Nicholas:(Confused stare at Raya, 'the firebrand'!!)

Oh well...looks like not just Raya has her 'Baba' wrapped around her little finger, but her 'Baba' too seems to have quite a disciple in her. It will be interesting to see how such a conversation pans out when she is 13 or better still 16!:)

Happy Friday folks!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Health Scare, Instructions, Stickers...Life!

A major health scare...panic stricken visits to the doc...multiple Ultra Sounds...finally given a clean chit...a sigh of relief...home sweet home...the following father/daughter conversation that brightened up my day, reinforcing the blessings of life! Happy Diwali folks!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The magic of the 'dhak'...

It's 'Durga Ashtami' today...If you ask me what 'Ashtami' is, all that I will be able to tell you, without 'Google search' coming to my rescue, is that it's the second big day of Durga puja, a festival that's celebrated with a lot of fervor in the part of India I come from. I don't know how many of you have heard the Durga puja 'dhak'( I have attached a sound clip at the end of this post). It is a traditional form of playing a specific type of drum during the pujas, as 'aarti' of the deity is performed. It's the part of Durga puja I love the most and it still gives me goose bumps. The resounding beats of the 'dhak' bring back memories of family get togethers, happy faces, beautiful, carefree childhood days and fills me with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and optimism!

I spent the formative years of my life in one of the most beautiful, picturesque hill stations of India...Shillong. While I hear it's changed a lot and is not the same any more, nevertheless the memories of Shillong I have are indelible...the charm of living in the land of mountains and hills in the clouds...the serenity associated with the whistling sound of the wind blowing through the pine trees...the calm that is brought in by the tip tapping sound of rain on the rooftop...the most delicious Indo Chinese food...and a lot more :)

Associated with these memories of Shillong are memories of those annual trips that we made to our grandparents' home in Guwahati during Durga puja (around September/October) every year. There was always a lot of fervor associated with the celebration of this festival, primarily because it was an occasion when the entire family got together...dressing up in new clothes, hanging out with the cousins at home and in my grandmom's maternal home(where they had a family pandal and
puja by the mighty Brahmaputra), chit chatting, playing with toy water pistols, pandal hopping...this was a once a year tradition that was a much 'looked forward to' period for the entire family. The few questions we had about the purpose of the puja too were answered very non-specifically by the parents and grandparents, highlighting only the good associated with each aspect of Indian mythology! Of course, that was the era before  google, wikipedia and the broader internet. So we, the kiddos, were pretty happy with the answers we got, given that they were all 'feel good' explanations:)

I have grown up to be a  non-'traditionalist', though...I guess I would be better off qualifying that statement because a statement like this has the potential for generating a lot of arguments...I do have immense respect for cultural and religious traditions...I love the camaraderie that different forms of cultural and religious traditions evoke...let's just say I don't like following traditions for the sake of tradition. However I have to admit, I am often guilty of following or not following a tradition/ritual just to make someone near and dear to me happy or just to revel in the sense of camaraderie that following a  ritual evokes.

Having said that, I am not an athiest. Neither am I an agnostic. I have faith. I believe in God. I pray. Is that possible without being a traditionalist? I believe it is, because I am and I always have been!

With a three year old in tow now, and that too someone who has a phlethora of questions all the time...why's and how's about everything on earth... these days I often find myself 'googling' for answers specific to religious and cultural rituals and traditions, more so with the onset of the Indian holiday season.Given the enormous options children have these days of finding out information,
I really want to make sure I articulate concepts associated with traditions and rituals in a way that doesn't make my little one doubt me as she grows up:)

I have found though that more often than not it's tough providing a logical/rational explanation for a tradition or ritual! The fanfare and celebratory part of Indian traditions and rituals aside, the only problem I have is when I dive deeper into the origins of some of the  traditions and  rituals (across cultures). The origins don't always lend themselves well to either my mind or my heart, given that a lot of the time, they inherently endorse the sense of entitlement of one gender over the other or one section of the society over another, encourage superstitions, validate the possibility of wiping away
conscious wrong doings/sins with the performance of a ritual!

Having grown up in a family that's very diverse and widely cross pollinated (for lack of a better term) across cultures, religions and nations, and also having always had a very diverse set of friends, I have been exposed to the traditions of diverse cultures, religions and nations. I don't ever remember being explicitly or implicitly being coerced to follow any specific ritual, though. Neither do I have any intention to enforce anything on my children.

Having said that, I do wish that I could fill Raya's life with the kind of memories I have of these festivities, because the memories are what have real meaning for me than any deep rooted meaning associated with the origin of the festivities.

We visited a a couple of Durga Puja celebrations here in the Northern Virginia area last week. At the end of a session's puja, the aarti and the 'dhak' gave me goose bumps, like it always has and took me back to those days when we ran around pandals with cousins and basked in the feeling of being together. It had nothing to do with the tradition itself. But it had everything to do with the people and memories associated with the tradition.

Today all that I wish for is the wisdom to be able to help Raya learn to revel in the feeling of wellness, optimism, magic and hope that some of these traditions evoke , without feeling burdened by lack of logic associated with the origin of a lot of them!:)

Leaving you with a sound clip of the traditional "Durga puja" dhak!! On this day of MahaAshtami, may you feel uplifted and hopeful for the year that lies ahead as the resounding beats of the 'dhak' reach a crescendo!

Monday, September 8, 2014

"How much do you love me?" ratings on a toddler scale !

The newest game in the Das household is the "How much do you love me?" game.

Yours truly: "How much do you love me, Raya?"
Raya: '10' mamma...she stretches out her arms as wide as those teenie weenie arms would allow her to.
Yours truly: "How much do you love 'Baba'?"
Raya: Hmmm...'8'

Yours truly: OK. What about 'Koka'? (Raya calls her maternal grand dad Koka)
Raya: Hmmm...'7'

Yours truly: Hmmm...OK. How much do you love 'Ma'? (Raya calls her maternal grand mom, 'Ma')
Raya: Hmmm...'9'

Yours truly: Ok Raya. What about Ashish mamu? (Raya calls my brother, 'Ashish mamu')
Raya: Hmmm...'1'

Yours truly: (Laughing out loud)Oops...Raya, Ashish mamu will be really sad if you give him a '1'.

Now every year Raya's 'Ashish mamu' showers her with the most number of expensive gifts ever. Every time my parents visit, he sends an overload of gifts for his one and only niece! But of course, the busy body that he is(with an investment banking professional life and a just as hectic social one) , Raya doesn't get as much face time(in terms of Skype time  etc.) with him as she does with everyone else in the family.

So I took this opportunity to psyche up my little brother about the dismal rating he's  received on his niece's 'love' scale. That resulted in a very distraught "Ashish mamu"  setting up a long Skype call with his niece, listening to and applauding the recitation of 'n' number of nursery rhymes and being at the receiving end of what seemed to me like "endless chatter". Looks like Raya had a lot of things
to tell her Ashish mamu, after all!

Now at the end of that skype call, we repeated the "How much do you love me?" game with Raya. All of us were literally rolling on the floor with laughter at the revised ratings, primarily because while all the other scores remained the same('Mamma' still got a 10, 'Baba' got an 8, 'Ma' got a 9 and 'Koka' got a 7), Raya's Ashish mamu's rating got bumped up from a dismal '1' to a decent '6'. Ah...such is the power of Skype!!Ain't it! So now Raya's Ashish mamu  needs to make that long over due trip to visit her, if he has any intention of seeing his"How much do you love me?" score bumped up further on his niece's scale. :)

On another note, while I am really happy with my ten pointer, looks like Raya's 'Baba's' score is a bit misleading. Apparently, from what her teachers tell me, Raya is all about "Baba" in school. So looks like "Baba" is a ten pointer in school and "Mamma" is a ten pointer at home. So all well there for household and parental calm and sanity, I guess...LOL.

On another note, my parents leave next week and they are indeed leaving behind a really spoilt brat for us to deal with. Oh well...that's what grandparents are for, aren't they?!

Other than that, Raya turns 3 this week. Time does fly. All I can say is I am really grateful for all the happiness and incomprehensible blend of sanity and insanity that my little munchkin has brought into our lives! I can only hope 'D' and 'I' can do justice to this enormous blessing and responsibility called parenting and help Raya  grow into someone, who in her own small ways, will learn to make this world a better place!

Wish us luck folks !

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My teenie, weenie career counsellor...

My toddler seems pretty intent on helping me find an alternate profession...LOL

So the other day, out of the blue, Raya asked me, "Mamma, do you want to be a teacher?" I was in the middle of something and I absent mindedly muttered, "Maybe!".  Her questioning continued, "In Toucans?" (Toucans is the name of her classroom at day care). Just to see, where this conversation was headed, I said, "Yes, Raya!". This was, of course, enough encouragement for Raya to continue, "Mamma, you want to be a teacher, then you have to talk to Ms. Gina and Ms. Yesenia, okhay!". Btw, as a side note, "ok" is pronounced as "okhay" in the Das household these days! Now Ms.Gina and Ms Yesenia are Raya's class teachers at day care. So  what it seemed to me from her words and tone, my little toddler was essentially advising me to speak to her class teachers for  teacher training !!

Oh well!! While bringing on bursts of laughter, this also was enough to make sure my attention was completely focussed on her now. So I continued, "Raya, why don't you ask Ms. Gina and Ms Yesenia tomorrow if I can be a teacher at Toucans?".  She replied, with a flicker in her eyes,"Okhay, mamma!"

Next day when she was back from day care, I asked Raya, "So Raya, did you talk to Ms. Gina and Ms. Yesenia about mamma being a teacher at Toucans". After a slight, thoughtful pause, a resounding decision was delivered by my kiddo, "Mamma, you not going to be teacher at Toucans, okhay! You going to be teacher at home!"...Ha ha ha. So that's that.

On a more serious note, I just changed jobs. Started my new role a couple of weeks back and really excited about it! Fingers crossed that it all works out well :) So wish me luck!

Back to Raya. My parents are visiting for a couple of months and Raya is having an absolute blast with them, in addition to, of course, getting royally pampered. What worries me, though, is that somewhere in the back of her mind, she seems bothered by the fact that they will go back to India, sometime soon. Almost every morning, she wakes up, goes to their room and says, "Ma-Koka, you not going to India today, okhay!" Then the other day, she woke up in the middle of the night with whimpers of "I don't want Ma-Koka to go to India!"

You never really know what keeps going on in a toddler's mind, do you? Breaks my heart to think that these little ones, with their teenie weenie brains and hearts, have to deal with
all kind of adult anxieties! All I can say is this time around, saying goodbye to her grandparents is going to be even tougher than last time!

On that note, enjoy your little one's childhood while it lasts! For they seem to grow up real fast! :(

P.S. Raya calls her maternal grandmom , "Ma" and her maternal granddad,"Koka". Invariably, a lot of the time when they are in the same room, she addresses them "Ma-Koka" as if they were one human being..LOL.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"We are best friends, right?"...

The arrival of a child in a family gives birth to a whole set of new relationships. It is so rightly said that a child gives birth to a mother...not just that though, the arrival of a child gives birth to a father, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts and many more relationships that only a child can forge.

More on that later...So the process of putting Raya to sleep at night has  progressively been taking longer and longer. When she was a little baby, it was the 'going off to sleep' itself that took a long time. Over the period of time, we have had to add a rather extended bed time ritual to it, which includes...bath, feeding her milk, making sure she pees, reading and re-reading favorite books, saying a small prayer and then listening to endless chatter that's a combination of the real and her make believe world..tales that she conjures up! Oh and dare I forget turning on the music at bed time, for if I do, I will be promptly reminded, "Mamma I want something to make me feel better, I want music to make me sleepy!" ...Oh well!

In that context, here's what happened last night. The bed time ritual last night was getting prolonged to the point that my patience was running out. So much so that, at one point of time, I lost my temper,  raised my voice and told Raya, "Raya you have to go to sleep, right now!!". A raised voice these days, gives us a taste of our own medicine and gets us the standard reaction of, "That's not nice, mamma!" "Don't talk to me like that. Be nice to me!"...I explained to her that I was getting angry because she was not listening to me. Anyways, a second of whining and a few whimpers later, I noticed Raya closing her eyes tight and then she said, "Look it mamma...look it...I am closing my eyes...I am sleeping...I am listening to you'...quickly and unexpectedly followed by, "We are best friends, right mamma?!!"...I just laughed out loud and said ..."Yes, of course we are best friends, Raya"
...and on that note, my little toddler finally decided to wrap up her day, finally falling asleep and I ended the day on a high note, all my exhaustion having melted away with this new found relationship with my toddler...that of a best friend!! :)

Now this is what happened this morning :
I ask Raya :"We are best friends, right, Raya?"
Raya : "No, mamma"
I ask her: "Why? Who is your best friend?"
Raya : "Baba"
I ask Raya :"But you told me last night, I am your best friend"
Raya: "Ahaa...Baba is my best friend now. You are my best friend at night!!"

LOL...So on that note of  'toddler humor', from our new found best friend...happy parenting !

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Of egg hunts, emergency room visits, "Raya"ingo and a new year...

This past weekend ended up being quite eventful...it started with an easter egg hunt with Raya and her buds on a gorgeous afternoon, followed by the usual family dinner and soaking in the sun time, Bihu celebrations and a BBQ at home with some friends visiting from out of town. The weekend was almost perfect, yes I say almost perfect because there was an unforeseen trip to the emergency room on Sunday afternoon. So this is what happened. While cutting chicken in preparation for the BBQ we were hosting, I almost chopped off the tip of my ring finger , yes literally half the tip in the front and the back of the finger was hanging off.  As gross as it sounds, it was painful and a bloody sight ! A trip to the emergency room, a heavy dose of painkillers, antibiotics, wedding/engagement rings that had to be cut off and 4 stitches later, I was back home and was glad to be distracted by the great company of friends.

However life was hunky dory only till the effect of painkillers lasted !! The pain kicked back in soon enough Sunday late night and didn't go away whole of yesterday:(,so much so that I was beginning to get afraid that I will never be able to make full use of my ring finger. However this morning I woke up feeling much better!! So all's well, for now. The stitches come off in another 10 days and the optimist in me tells me, all will be well ! Let's hope so! Plus since Sunday, DD has been pampering me and has mentioned a couple of times how much he appreciated me being a good sport and for handling this without being a nag ! Let me tell you that doesn't happen often after  8 years of marriage and 16 years of knowing each other LOL!!

This was my first visit to any emergency room in the US, and I must say the folks at the Reston Hospital emergency center did their very best to make me comfortable. Everyone was warm and affectionate and kept me animated to distract me from wincing in pain.

So that's that! Fingers crossed for an uneventful recovery!

Other than that, Raya has been on a roll these past few weeks with her chatter. I was just going through some of my earlier "Raya" blogs and
was thrilled to realise that the blogs have succeeded in capturing some day to day moments that I am sure would have been long forgotten.

Sharing a few more moments, that I remember, from the past couple of weeks.

A week back, Raya insisted that she wanted to talk to her "Ash mamu" (my brother) at 9:00 in the evening EST, which meant I had to put in a call and wake up my dear sleepy head brother at 6:30 am IST on a Sunday morning, so that Raya could ask just one question, "What u doing, Ash mamu?"

She told her class teacher the other day, "I am going shopping to India!" When her teacher told her, "That's a long way to go for shopping". She apparently took her toy purse and walked towards the door,"No Ms Gina! but I go shopping only to India!"

Every time Raya sees an aeroplane, she thinks it is going to India. She insists she is going to take the next plane to India to meet her grandparents
and then just in time remembers to ask me, "You want to come with me to India, mamma?" Oh well, of course...next India trip we all know who will be guiding whom! LOL

Since Friday, every time you ask Raya, how many eggs she collected at the easter egg hunt, she will show you all 5 fingers on her right hand, while claiming in words that it amounts to 6 eggs.

Any question you ask Raya  now has an emphatic "because" in the response!

Yours truly: "Why do you want to go the playground, Raya?"
Raya: I want to go to the playground 'because' I want to, mamma!

Yours truly: "Why do you have to wear these shoes, Raya?"
Raya: I have to wear these shoes 'because' I have to, mamma!!

Everytime, I raise my voice at her for doing something inappropriate, Raya has a standard reponse, "It's not nice ,mamma. I not play with you anymore. I play only with Baba!". When DD reprimands her about something, "It's not nice, baba! I not play with you anymore. I play only with Mamma!".

Then of course, anything that we do in a way that she doesn't approve of results in a, "It's not a good habit, mamma!" or "It's not good manners, mamma!"

You get the gist! It's almost as if 'D' and I get a dose of our own medicine from Raya sometimes! Needless to say, it does fill our home and life with laughter and life seems so much more meaningful!!

On that note, Happy Bihu, Vishu, Nobo borsho and Baisakhi to one and all!!

May your year be filled with love, luck, happiness and contentment!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Swasth India...Health for all

This past weekend, we had one of 'D's childhood buddies, Sundeep Kapila, visiting us. 'D' and Sundeep go back a long way  and while I have heard a lot of tales about the wonderful childhood memories the boys share, I remember meeting him with 'D' just once when we were in our 9th/10th grade, in one of the school events called "Style 95". I am sure everyone from our batch has quite some memories from that event! You know the kind of memories, that 16 years later, you wish no one tells your spouse about, specially if he/she was not a part of the "Style 95 madness" LOL!!

Jokes apart, Sundeep went on to get the 4th rank in the IIT JEE entrance exam in our batch, joined the Computer Science department in IIT Mumbai, rose through the ranks of McKinsey consulting after he got out of college, and then with the entire world at his feet, he left everything to work for a cause he passionately believed in.

He started a social business/entrepreneurial venture called "Swasth India" with the mission of making primary healthcare accessible and affordable to the urban and rural Indian masses.

Ankur Pegu, another good friend of 'D' and I , from our Cotton College days, and Sundeep's IIT classmate, also left a plum corporate career and joined Sundeep in this noble venture.

In their own words:
"Swasth India is a social business working towards improving the health of low-income segments in urban and rural India and their mission is to
to ensure access to affordable and quality health services to 10 million low-income people by 2018”.

In summary, what Sundeep and Ankur,  identified as the health care problem, they were aiming to solve is this. Every year 32 million Indian people go from above to below poverty line due to a health shock aka getting into huge debts, selling assets, losing jobs caused by unforeseen and often preventable healthcare expenses. Even at times when India boasts of high GDPs and great prosperity, this shift from above to below poverty line doesn't change. The single most important cause for such inadvertent health shocks was identified as lack of accessible/affordable primary health care for the poor.

Their proposed solution:
Accessible/affordable primary health care for the poor in terms of small clinics that have a primary care physician, a dentist, a nurse, pharmacy , a receptionist, all basic test equipment for blood tests, ECGs etc in a small space optimized 250 sq ft facility, in an area densely populated with low income families. As of now, all their health care centres are in the slums of Mumbai.

To get a better idea of the operational model and the logistics involved, please visit their website: http://www.swasthindia.in/ and watch following video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM9u_A2_Pck and the ones in their YouTube channel mentioned at the end of this post.

People often do not understand the difference between an NGO and a social business. While an NGO is almost always externally funded and it's sustenance, more often than not perenially depends on the availability of external funds, the main purpose of a social entrepreneurial venture is to meet a social need, while working towards attaining self sustenance within a specified period of time. While a social entrepreneurial venture requires it's fair share of funding in the initial stages, it's business model facilitates sustainability within a specific period of time. This inherently  facilitates scalability and continuance of meeting the social need without being dependent on external funds, once a steady state is reached. Not only that, it has the ability to add jobs to the economy, train individuals to become skilled in specific areas of work(who otherwise would not have access to career promoting training), promote gender equality, women empowerment ...so on and so forth, all of which Swasth India is doing and will continue to do. Optimizing the operations ( IT infrastructure/social infrastructure/medical infrastructure) of such ventures to meet the social need efficiently and effectively , while reaching out to millions of people who need access to the service , is a challenge and makes such ventures really exciting along with being fulfilling for the people involved

Sundeep Kapila and Ankur Pegu are among the smartest of the smart and the brightest of the bright. But not  just that, they are also among the bravest of the brave and the humblest of the humble. And that's what makes all the difference.

More importantly, they are doing more than their fair share to make this world a better place.

I am sure you and I can start doing  a bit of our fair share, in small ways and big, by showing our support for this noble cause and by spreading the word.

Reach out to them, visit one of their centers in Mumbai when you are there next and extend your support in whatever ways you can!

On the web, you can visit Swasth India at:
Their You Tube channel is:
Their Facebook page is:

Keep up the good work guys!


Friday, April 4, 2014

"Handsfree pandonia"...

Being a very typical Libran, I tend to be quite laid back about life...good or bad, that aspect of my personality extends itself to my parenting style too, more often than not.

Last evening, an urge to check out if my parenting style lends itself to anything out there in the big internet universe, made me do a quick google search on "parenting types". The search came back with some pretty
fascinating results.

Exotic classification of parenting techniques, the most fascinating of which were:"tiger moms", "wolf dads", "panda moms/dads", "helicopter parent", "landmower parent", "free range parent", "attachment parent", "dragon mom", "handsfree parents" and believe it or not the "pinterest perfect parent". The last one literally made me ROFL.

Well where do 'D' and I fit in! Hard to say but let's look at the above 10 types and see if we fit in, if at all.

1. Tiger mom/parents:
This is what urban dictionary has to say about tiger moms, "A mother who is overly strict with her child in order to foster an academically competitive spirit. This form of upbringing is intended to direct a child towards financially successful careers at the potential risk of feeling emotionally unfulfilled and/or socially inept."

As much as we would like our child/children to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, I think "D" and "I" are probably on the same page on this...no "tiger" parenting please.

2. Wolf parenting:
Apparently this requires even more stringent disciplining than tiger parenting and not just that , disciplining extends to corporal punishment...really.!!!

So this goes off our list immediately.

3.Panda mom/dad/parent :
This sounds really cute. Who doesn't love pandas, after all . According to cafe mom's definition, this category of parents is "Happy to parent with cuddliness, but not afraid to show some claw" . Essentially parents who are fun and loving but no pushover.

'D' falls into this category for sure.

Good one to be in myself, but let me go through the entire list before trying to fit myself into any specific category.

4. Helicopter parents:
The type of parent that hovers around the child all the time, not allowing the child too much independence and space to do anything on their own!

5.Landmower parents:
This type of parent removes an obstacle from in front of the child, even before that obstacle gets time to settle in. Mom or dad has already mowed the obstacle down, before the child gets to know what it was. Again Cafe Mom says,"Think the dad who does his kid's homework for him or the mom who wouldn't dream of letting her little snowflake having to clean his own room. These parents insist on making everything easy peasy for their kids".

Having been taught to be adaptable and learning to find our way through life's obstacles pretty much independently, this doesn't sound like 'D' and my cup of tea!

6. Free range parent:
Now as much as this sounds like the organic buys at the neighborhood grocery store, in layman's terms, this is hands off parenting. Now what does "hands off" parenting exactly imply? There are varying degrees of this kind of parenting, but essentially this parenting style is the polar opposite of helicopter parenting...in the very extreme, it would mean letting an independent 7 year old take a subway by himself, taking your kids to the park and leaving them all alone there . If this sounds alright to you and you feel it shouldn't  require a call to the  state social services , well then you are a free range parent.

7. Attachment parent:
Parents who are obsessed about co sleeping, breast feeding, baby wearing so on and so forth. They feel that physical attachment is the only thing that has the ability to nurture long term child-parent attachment.

So let me tell you my story in this context. Before and after Raya was born, I time and again read about and was told about the benefits of breast milk.
The benefits of breast milk made complete sense to me , pre and post Raya's birth. Now after Raya was born, she had issues latching on for the purpose of nursing. She would cry and cry out of hunger and the lactation specialist, a firm proponent of attachment parenting, would insist that I should still keep trying to nurse her directly, instead of pumping out the little breast milk I was making. I kept asking the lactation specialist just one thing, "As long as Raya gets breast milk, what difference does it make whether she gets it through direct nusrsing or through pumped milk". She did not have any logical reasoning to provide me with other than giving me the kind of look that made be feel how horrible a mother I was even to be asking that question. But of course, I  being I, made the call, with the moral support of dear and dear ones . Instead of speding hours trying to help Raya latch on, I pumped breast milk 4-5 times a day, fed Raya the pumped milk and supplemented with infant formula when needed.

Result: I had a happy, well fed smiling baby to cuddle! And no lack of attachment, at least for the past 2.5 years! While huddling/cuddling my baby and physical closeness is what I really look forward, attachment parenting philosophies like forced breast feeding , when it's not yielding results is definitely not my cup of tea!

Who knows maybe my detachment from certain aspects of attachment parenting techniques will show not so good results in the future! Only time will tell though!

8.Dragon mom:
I love this one!!

It's about being fierce and loyal and loving as hell, as a parent. It's also about living in the moment with your kids and loving them for who they are right now, not for the Ivy league education you dream they'll get or the grandchildren they could one day give you.

Goes into the styles I want to nurture in myself along with 'Panda' parenting.

9. Handsfree parenting:
Letting go of internal and external distractions to concentrate on building a relationship with your child by talking to them/listening to them and channelizing your own and the child's energies to help build meaningful lives and to become socially conscious . As abstract as this sounds initially, I think I understand absolutely what this style entails. Distractions to be let go off include  stressful work, big "to do" lists, lofty ambitions requiring
time away from children, and other petty day to day matters. More about this in a blog I closely follow:http://www.handsfreemama.com/about-me/

10.Pinterest perfect parenting: This one's here for the big laughs :)

So well, what's my parenting style or rather what parenting style do I aspire to nurture!!

For lack of creativity, let's call it "Handsfree Pandonian"(Handsfree + Panda + Dragonian ) !! Or maybe you can help me put together a better term for this. It's however, not by chance, that the second word sounds like "pandemonium". A mixture of too many parenting  principles is bound to be a cause of some level of pandemonium.

But who knows, maybe I can actually make it work miracles! Only time will tell!

So  a "Handsfree Pandonian" parent with a my own personal twist, it is, I am aiming to be for now !!

Happy parenting!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Life and times...

While trying to keep life simple, every once in a while I like looking back and doing a check on how meaningful my life really is! Sometimes I like seeing what I see, sometimes I don't...but either way it gives me a chance to revisit my priorities and lead a more meaningful life!

Work...Family...Friends...Giving back to the society in care and kind, given what we are fortunate enough to have at different phases of life...I feel it's always worthwhile to  periodically go  back and do a check of what our life is all about!

Human nature fascinates me! Being a keen observer of human nature, while trying  not to be judgemental, I would like to believe , enables me to nurture human traits in myself that give me peace of mind and also helps me draw the line in relationships with others, so that life,in general, is easier.

I don't know about you, but time and again, I have come across people who can easily be put in one of the following , shall I call "buckets" of traits. Each bucket of traits comes with it's set of pros and cons. and needless to say, there may be overlap.But always easier to figure out where you are or where you want to be, if  it's 'bucketed' out , right?!

Sometimes these traits are inherent in people,(borne out of securities/insecurities, confidence/lack thereof, environment)
and sometimes it's acquired over a period of time. But they are what they are! Social relationships constitute a primary component of our lives. Given the dynamics of social relationships, we are constantly acquiring new habits and to a certain extent changing our ways. I find it really useful to look at these buckets of traits and figure out which bucket I fall into at a specific point of time, which bucket I want to be in and where I need to draw the line in relationships with people so that there is peace of mind !

As captivating as  Kevin Spacey and "House of cards" has been, you cannot deny it that it does leave you with a depressed feeling, at the thought of there being no redemption for goodness for I am sure most of us seek peace of mind more than any other form of success!!

Leaving loners aside, here are the buckets I find folks will generally fall into in social circles.

Bucket 1:
This bucket of traits is the toughest bucket to be in and the toughest to find .

Authenticity, genuineness, empathy, security, confidence,patience are the trademark traits of this bucket.

People with these traits do not need overwhelming validation from others to go about their life! While being amicable, cordial and good hearted, they are not the quintessential people pleasers nor are they attention seekers.They are not afraid to say it like it is, without feeling the need to suck up to anyone. They are capable of standing up for a cause and person. They are good hearted, but don't feel the need to shout out how good hearted they are from the rooftop .More often that not, such folks are content and happy with how they look and what they do and if they are not, they find ways to
do what they love and look how they want to look, without whining and depending on others. They always find time to spend with near and dear ones and for good causes. They know how to be cordial, yet keep a distance from folks when interests don't align. They love having conversations on different topics.They prefer to live and let live!

'Live and let live' is not the most appreciated quality in this world after all nor is the lack of the ability to suck up to others or inability to follow the herd!! So often times, people with this bucket of traits tend to be taken for granted and go unappreciated. Their confidence is misinterpreted for snobbery. And their 'live and let live' policy and no demand for
attention is considered detachment! Oh well! Such is life.

It may be tough to get to completely know such a person. But once you do,
you always know where you stand in such a person's life. There are no mixed signals and dilly dallying!

Bucket  2:
This bucket of traits is the most prevalent.
Social, harmless people pleasers, good hearted, empathetic, reasonably secure and intelligent.

Fun to be around. Seem to be always surrounded  friends. Reliable for the most part. Confident and secure while they have validation from a sub set of people. Not mean. Do not expect undivided attention from anyone. Can be good listeners. Love having conversations on different topics, even if not aligned to their likes and dislikes.

People pleasing is not an easy task. For the most part, unable to take a stand when it matters. Trying to please all people all the time can be tough and lead to unnecessarily complicated relations.

May be tough to figure out where you stand in such a person's life! As long as you know that, good to have them around.

Bucket 3:
Social, people pleasers, good hearted, seekers, insecure

Fun to be around. Seem to be always surrounded by friends, but unfortunately feel no number of friends is enough. Essentially good hearted but insecurities make a mean streak surface intermittently and the demand for attention can be draining. Can be good listeners and conversationalists, if the topic interests them.

Always seeking more in terms of quality of life and relationships. Lack confidence and require constant validation from people around.  Expect undivided attention from everyone they know, without being able to reciprocate. Can be intermittently insensitive when insecurities take hold. Unable to sustain attention in topics that do not interest them.
Impossible to figure out where you stand in such a person's life because of dilly dallying and flakiness!

Good to be around them as long as it's fun and the whining doesn't get annoying!

Bucket 4:
I prefer to call this "the all about me" bucket.

Such folks need a lot of attention and control. They do what works for them at a specific point of time, as long as they get the attention and control they seek. Sometimes reliable, sometimes not. Sometimes mean, sometimes not. Sometimes friendly , sometimes not. They do what it takes as long as it's about them getting the attention they need to survive!

Pros: Probably get transient kicks and highs when one gets the attention they seek.

Cons: Life in general can be tough with a lot of need for attention.

Keep them at a distance?

Bucket 5:
Then of course there are some overall mean spirited people! The only time they get a kick is when they get a good  laugh at someone else's expense or one upmanship on another person.

Pros: Can't see any

Cons: Spread of negativity

Better keep them at a super, super distance?

I think I know which bucket I want to/should aim to be in and which buckets of traits I want to be surrounded by!

Do you?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


11 days...a plane with 239 personnel on board, missing from the face of the earth...speculation...over speculation...analysis...over-analysis...the unrelenting pain faced by friends and family of the folks, on board that flight...the pain that comes with the knowledge of potentially never again seeing a near and dear one...the anguish of not being able to say good bye...the pain of potentially never finding closure...and add to that the pain of suspicion looming large over the heads of everyone on board!!

How unpredictable life can be! You or I could have been one of the passengers or their family member. Such incidents only reinforce and drive home the point of how important it is to live life in  the moment, to let go of often unnecessary worries and whinings...to enjoy and make the most of the little and often what seem to be trivial  moments of life, while they last...for one never knows what the next moment has in store. And as I write this, nothing rings in my ear louder than William H Davis' lines , 'A poor life this is if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.'

So the mantra of my life, for now, is "Live in the moment"!!

So that's that . I often make resolutions like the above, but before I know it , I am so boggled down by the weight of the 'cares' of the world, that my life's mantra gets pushed to the abyss of my brain!:(

Yesterday was one such day!

Yesterday just happened to be one of the days when Raya insisted I help her with all 'toddler tasks' aka getting her ready for day care, helping her brush her teeth, helping her with the potty, giving her a bath, putting her to sleep etc. etc. No amount of insistence from 'D' could convince her to allow 'D' to do one of  her tasks. No 'mamma' meant mega tantrum time. 'Baba' was only for play time!! Oh well!

At the end of the day, Raya gave 'D' a goodnight hug and kiss and was waiting for me to take her upstairs to put her to bed. A hectic past week at work combined with the exhaustion of bringing up a toddler was beginning to take it's toll. "Live in the moment" /"Enjoy your child's innocence and charm, while it lasts", was slowly being pushed to the abyss of my mind.

Exhausted and exasperated, I whined to 'D', "Sometimes Raya is so unreasonable! It's tough ! How can I possibly do everything?!"

Even before D could say anything, pat came Raya's spontaneous response, 'You sure can, mamma!'...'You sure can!'

That brought on a burst of laughter...with it, was washed away all the fatigue, and of course, it was  all that was needed to revive the significance of the "Live in the moment" mantra ! What  better way to end a day than with the knowledge, or shall I say 'illusion' , that there is a little toddler in this world who believes, I am a super woman, after all !!

With prayers and hope that friends and family of all aboard flight MH370 find closure.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shaking it like Shammi...

Parenting is exhausting for sure, but then let's just say it comes with its share of sometimes not so obvious 'perks'. More often than not, at the end of the day, once Raya is off to bed, and I finally have a chance to reflect on the day's happenings, there are way too many 'toddler' incidents and situations that bring smiles, to my face, than scowls!!

Of course, toddler tantrums abound. This blog post contains  some tid bits about the entertaining portions of my 'toddler parenting days'...incidents and situations that keep me grounded and happy, when toddler 'parenting' blues threaten to engulf me.

As of now (yes as of Feb, 2014), 'Mamma' is Raya's 'fav' parent. That translates to shouts for "I want only mamma. I want only mamma" and 'mamma' being essentially needed to do all the hard work (bathing her, dressing her up, potty time, teeth brushing, putting her to sleep, reading time ...you get the gist) while 'Baba' dear gets to do all the fun stuff...play time...puzzle time...lego time...choo choo train time...tv time...not too bad a deal for not being the 'fav' parent of the moment, I guess...but oh well, loyalties keep changing fast as far as a 2.5 year old is concerned :). Let me relate a recent incident to prove this point of ever shifting loyalties. It made 'D' and I literally ROFL.

The way our usual morning looks like is this:
Raya wobbles her way from her room to our bed at around 4:30-5:00 am with her entourage of 'ninny's' (aka blankies, an entourage of exactly 4 blankies, she cannot do without, at sleep time). She comes to my side of the bed, climbs over my body onto the bed, slumps and goes off to sleep for another couple of hours. Thereafter 'D' is officially the first one to wake up in the morning. He gets Raya's cup of milk to the bed. She drinks her milk and from then on, it's 'only mamma' time. Brushing teeth..'only mamma'...help with the potty...'only mamma'...dressing her up....'only mamma'...brushing her hair...'only mamma'....dropping off to Toucans(her classroom)...that's for baba, but only after I answer in the affirmative to her question, 'You pick me from Toucans, mamma?!!'. Oh well, I am 'loving' the love while it lasts!! :)

Coming back to the tale of shifting loyalties, so on one such morning, after the 'only mamma' sessions, 'D' (he had an overnight work trip planned for that day), was about to head out of the home with Raya and was saying to her,"Raya...I am going to Richmond today for work. I will not come back this evening. I will see you tomorrow. Don't trouble mama." A second later, pat comes Raya's reply, "No baba, don't go to 'Richmound'"..."I want only you"..."I want only you"..."I don't want mamma"...LOL...now you know what I mean about quick  shifts in loyalties among 2.5 year olds:) That evening, in D's absence, started with whimpers of 'Where is Baba?','Where is Baba'.'I want Baba'. But we managed. DD came back the next evening from his tour, and after the usual exchange of hugs, kisses, huddles and cuddles between father and daughter, while they were playing with lego blocks, 'D' started troubling Raya again. I don't remember what exactly the issue was , but I think he was hiding and not giving her the blocks she was asking for. First Raya started with, 'Give me red block, Baba'...'Give me red block, Baba'...When 'D' didn't pay heed, she started complaining to me..."Mamma, Baba not listen to me"..."Mamma, Baba not listen to me"...and that was followed by..."Go back to 'Richmound', Baba!"....ha ha ha ha...another one that brought on rolls of laughter.

So that's that. Other than that, the Das household these days is in constant chatter mode!

Here are some tidbits of conversations that have lingered on in my mind and will be best remembered if captured in writing.

Scene 1:

I fill my water bottle with a few ice cubes and water and am drinking from it. Raya notices it and of course, starts saying, "I want ice, mamma"...
"I want ice in my 'bouttle'" (Oh toddlers and their obsession with ice).  Of course, I refuse to give her any. She gets really annoyed and in a raised voice says, "Mammaaa...I want ice in my 'bouttle'". I refuse again. Now she is really annoyed, on the verge of crying, but still putting up the fight , and in a slightly more raised tone of voice , "Mammaaaaa...you have ten ice...give me one ice in my 'bouttle' please"!!! The 'please' kind of trumped me. Did I have a choice but to give in!

Scene 2:

We were having the usual conversation about whether Raya resembles 'D' or I with some friends. So I was saying, Raya has 'D's eyes. 'D' then said to Raya, "So Raya, do you have my eyes?". Pat comes her reply,"No baba, you have my eyes!" LOL.

Scene 3:

Over the weekend, we had a few friends visiting from out of town. They have a daughter,'A' (Aanya) . Raya and 'A' bonded well over the period of the first day, after some initial hiccups. In the evening, Raya had to go to another friend's birthday party and 'A' was at home. I, of course, had to run around Raya throughout the party(she being more than her usual bundle of energy) and by the end of it, I was exhausted. Post the party, as I slumped into the seat in the car after strapping Raya up in her car seat, I hear Raya taking out stuff from her goody bag and then she says, "Mama, where is 'Aanya's' goody bag. I want to take goody bag for 'Aanya'". For all the exhaustion that parenting brings on, all the the prep talk about 'sharing' and 'caring', and for all the times, when asking her to share with kids of the same age, proves a struggle, moments like these make it all worthwhile!

Leaving you with a video of Raya 'Shaking it like Shammi'. Happy parenting !

Friday, January 3, 2014

Another day...another year...

2013 has whizzed past...

As compared to the same time last year, some things have changed ...

- I am a few pounds lighter(it's a different thing that I still have 20 more pounds to shed to reach my target weight). Baby steps perhaps, but steps nevertheless :)

- 'D' is a few  pounds healthier and blames it all on all the delicious food I feed him (LOL...btw, complete pun intended here , for the benefit of all those who don't know me well enough!!)

- Our parents have found a few more reasons to worry about now, with a growing grand child in the fold...is Raya eating well...is Raya sleeping well...is Raya playing well...does Raya remember us...you get the gist!:) 

- My younger, commitment phobic, brother seems to be closer to leading a commitment phobia free life ! 

- I seem to be steps closer to reviving my reading habits. Managed to read 8 out of the 12 books, I had challenged myself to read at the beginning of the year! Have been able to pick writing back up as well. Personally for me,
that's an achievement with having to run around an active toddler in the household, taking priority over everything else.

- Our list of places to travel to/cuisines to try before we die is shorter by a few entries.

- I am a few steps closer to mastering the professional skills I had set out to build.

- We have made some progress in achieving our goal of giving back to the community in kind. In 2014, I will hopefully be able to spend more time and physical effort on such ventures, more specifically related to education of the girl child and poverty stricken/abused children.

- My little girl is growing up faster than we would like her to:(...And these days, much like Joey (from 'FRIENDS') , she asks,"Hey...What u doing , mamma?" .

Her favorite phrases these days are "Hey guys!"..."Know that?"..."What u doing?"

Her favorite books are "Brown bear" by Eric Carle and "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein

Her favorite TV shows are "Dora the Explorer" and "Minnie Mouse Bowtique".

Her favorite songs are,"I like to move it" and "Hokey Pokey".

Her favorite activities are making tea and coffee in her kitchen and serving everyone, building blocks with lego and letting her hair down and 'jump dancing' in the rain and snow :).

- On a more serious note, our families have had to learn to live without two important people of our lives, 'D's atama(maternal grandmom) and my jethpeha(my maternal uncle). The only consolation is that both of them led lives that were personally and professionally fulfilling. And they leave behind a legacy that would need a lot of hard work to sustain.

As compared to the same time last year, here are some things that haven't changed...

- My eternal optimism...

- Our marital status... (Jokes apart , this seems be something we need to keep track of now, given the rate at which relationships are failing and marriages crumbling, more so, to stop getting complacent and to keep the spark alive:))      

- My piano and guitar strumming skills... ( I think I'll just have to join Raya in her classes)

As for resolutions for the new year, like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, on the personal front, I never really make objective/measurable resolutions for myself...My resolutions are always hazy, more in the likes of read more, sleep less, write more, weigh less, dump the piano, pick up the guitar, work hard, party harder...You get the gist! None of my personal resolutions are such that I can look back at the year gone by and objectively declare their fruition/failure. It’s great that I, at least, have ‘SMART’ (in managerial lingo, 'Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timebound') professional objectives for 2014...that will keep my life balanced as far as resolutions are concerned, for sure. A complete dearth of objectives for a new year could potentially deem life directionless whereas too many ‘SMART’ personal and professional resolutions can make a year of life end up becoming one helluva marathon with no finish line in sight !

We ended 2013 with a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway of the United States, driving from Los Angeles to Santa Clara, with pit stops at the Terranea Resort , Palos Verdes...Santa Monica...Santa Barbara...Pismo Beach...San Louis Obispo...Morro Bay...Big Sur...Carmel...Monterey. Managed to squeeze in a side trip to the Napa valley as well.

The best part of the trip was, though, catching up and spending some quality time with 'D' and my college buddies. Having almost grown up together through the ups and downs of the four years of undergrad hostel life, it reinforced our belief that these are the only friendships that probably never go stale...over a period of time, most friends and acquaintances come and go...but with school/college buddies, you can always pick up from where you left off...relive memories, drink, eat, argue, debate about random/controversial topics, speak your heart out without being judged and still maintain the pristinity of the relationship, no matter what!

What better way to start a new year than with the reinforcement of this belief!

Happy New Year folks!