Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The lure of the road...

We just got back last Friday evening from a week long road trip...this time we started from home in Northern Virginia and the destination was Canada, more specifically the cities of Montreal and Quebec in the Quebec province of Canada. The trip started with the re-discovery of a 'much lost' music CD that 'magically' that 'D' and I had literally listened to in repeat mode on our first road trip together 12 years back (a trip that had taken us from the glam and glitter of New York City to the calm and placidity of the Florida keys)...The trip ended with this gorgeous view of the sun setting over the horizon as the road met the sky in the last leg of our week long road trip...what better way to end a road trip and to ensure the 'lure of the road' continues to persist!
On our way to Montreal, the pit stops in the first leg of our journey were Hershey's chocolate world in Pennsylvania, Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada and Cobourg, Canada. For someone who was introduced to American chocolates with the Hershey's miniatures and almond kisses, the chocolate world was quite a treat. We went on a tour of the chocolate factory and got a sense of the chocolate making process, something that Raya seemed to keenly enjoy as well. As far as Niagara Falls is concerned, we had already seen the falls from the US side. This was our first time, viewing it from the Canadian side. While the beauty of the falls itself is unparalleled and the 'Maid of the mist'/'Hornblower' cruises give you an amazing feel of the aura and majesty associated with the falls, I am not a big fan of all the 'touristyness' and commercialization in the town of Niagara on both the US and the Canadian sides. Raya, however, had an absolute blast at the 'Maid of the mist'/'Hornblower' cruise that took us to the base of the falls and  she definitely didn't want to come back. Coubourg is a small,quaint, cute little Canadian town we stopped at for lunch...quaint, road side tea rooms and mom and pop cafes abound here, lining the narrow streets...a very strong British influence is apparent in the ways of the people there, like much of the province of Ontario.

'Jazzy' Montreal, on the other hand, is steeped in French culture. The official language of the city is French...all road signs are in French...Creperies abound...meals are relaxed and unhurried...the city is steeped in a culture of music and art...most other things are just like the French like to do it......the old town, with cobbled walkways, boutique shops and some really great restaurants, is beautiful and again oozes that quaint European feel. We stayed in a row home  in the Plateau neighborhood of Montreal...cobbled streets, beautiful row homes with multi colored facades, each with a 'Juliet' balcony, lined with maple trees on either side of the road...interspersed with small tea rooms, quaint bars and cozy restaurants...charming, cozy and romantic...Absolutely loved the city and we were lucky to be blessed with great weather for the 3 days we spent there.
We spent a day in Quebec City. This is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. Located on the bank of the St. Lawrence river, this city was one of the oldest European settlements in North America. It has the feel of the quintessential small French town...hilly terrain, on the bank of the river, cobbled streets, boutique shops, creperies, folks sitting around and chatting unhurriedly, under the shade of the abundance of maple trees that line the's one of those places that fills you with that absolute sense of calm and serenity.

Needless to say, while in Quebec, we hogged on 'Poutine' :). Poutine  is a Canadian dish, originating in the province of Quebec, made with french fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce.

On our way back from Canada, we made a pit stop at Princeton. We caught up with some of 'D''s relatives and spent a few hours, strolling around the Princeton University campus. We went on a walking tour of the campus and our student guide, Jake (an undergrad at the Univ), gave us a great feel of the history of the college and the approach to academics that the university pursues. I have to admit, I am one of those people who dread the thought of ever getting back to academics, as much as I used to love it at one point of time and had almost made it a career. But I won't hesitate to say that the charm and aura associated with the students
and campus of Princeton University, made me, if only for a wee bit, fall back in love with the thought of getting back to academics...
Oh well...I am afraid it's too late for that now :)

So that's that...we got back home to Northern Virginia just in time to celebrate munchkin turning 4...time flies and it brings a lump to my throat, each time I think of how quickly time is whizzing past...but yes, it has been 4 years already indeed :(

On a slightly different has been 4 years...4 continents ...4 road trips for little Raya:) . In the process of all this travelling around, either 'D' and I have succeeded in sowing the seed of the love for travel in her, or for all you know, all the traveling  may have had a completely contradictory effect on her psyche LOL...what the effect has been on Raya of all the travel these last four years, only time will tell...but as the lure of the road persists for us, we nurture dreams and hopes of many, many more road trips and travel, in general, with our teenie, weenie
companion...who will hopefully grow up to nurture this 'love' for travel and the desire to explore new places, cuisines and cultures, as much as 'D' and I do.

Leaving you with a few pictures of snippets of memories from this road trip...


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Musical bliss, kiddo transitions and more...

I am currently hooked to the music of Passenger, the stage name for Michael Rosenberg, who is an English folk rock singer  and songwriter. My brother,Ash,introduced me to his music a couple of weeks back and since then I have been hooked to his music, specifically the numbers "Let her go", " Wrong direction" and "Holes". It's a soulful blend of melody, words and meaning, that's quite unsurpassable. So that's that! On another note, musical bliss has been further enhanced by the realization that my little munchkin's taste in music has begun to match mine...Yes, finally!!:)

Till about a couple of weeks back, the song requests that came in from Raya were primarily for Nursery rhymes, cheesy Bollywood item numbers :), Katy Perry's Roar and Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk. I was getting quite tired of the monotonous musical routine. As much as I love Bollywood and peppy Katy Perry and Taylor Swift songs, the music routine at home and in the car was becoming a drag. So now it's a welcome reprieve, when added to that mix, I hear Raya say, "Mamma, put your favorite songs, 'Running in the wrong direction' and 'Hole in the pocket'". When I asked her, "Have these songs become your favorite too?" She replied with quite an emphatic "Yes". "'See you again' is my favorite too", she further chimed in. Not bad, I thought to myself. Wiz Khalifa's tribute to
Paul Walker being in my current list of fav 5s:) So that's that....quite a change from the last time we spoke of the state of music in our home(

On another note, the onset of the month of September comes with it's own share of excitement for the family...primarily being driven by Raya's excitement . So yesterday, as soon as I picked her up from day care, munchkin was all agog with excitement, "Mamma, tomorrow is September. My birthday is coming up. I will be a big girl". Oh well, it's been a while since I was so excited about
becoming a "bigger girl" LOL...but either way kiddo excitement can be quite infectious. So that's that.

Yes, munchkin turns 4 in a couple of's always a bitter, sweet feeling...the thrill of seeing your kiddo grow up and dealing with the pang of sorrow associated with your kiddo growing up way too fast. She starts pre-Kindergarten in a couple of weeks. Raya has been going to day care/play school since she was 8 months old. Of course it's a very young age to send a child to day care/play school. While it was the toughest decision I have had to make, I realized early enough I would be doing  her more harm than good, by quitting work and staying at home. I have never quite had the 'stay at home mom' kind of personality. Need my daily dose of adult interaction. And not just that, there's an inherent need in me to keep myself  abreast with what's happening in my line of work, which is close to impossible in the technology arena without actually having hands on experience. It was the toughest decision I have ever had to make. It was made tougher by the fact that more people had negative and horror stories to narrate about children going to day care/play school before the age of  1.5-2.0 years than happy stories. While my family was pretty supportive, there were quite a few people raising eyebrows at the decision...all I could do was pray that it was the right decision.

These past three and half years, we have been blessed to have Raya under the care of some really good teachers and caretakers. And our decision to send Raya to day care that early on, while I went back to work, wouldn't have been validated and deemed correct, without all the love
and affection that they have showered on her these last three years. She is attached to her teachers as well as friends and extended family, beyond DD and I, and I believe her emotional development has , if anything at all, been enhanced by her past three years of pre-school experience. Sometimes I wonder, if we will continue to be as lucky with teachers and schooling in the years to come...that would require some really good fortune...but there's no harm hoping for the best, I guess!

So a few weeks back, we had a parent teacher's meeting with Raya's preschool teacher. It went well. I was quite amazed by some of the things that these kids are exposed to and learn in school at such a young age. Towards the end of the meeting, I asked Raya's teacher, "So is there anything you think we should be specifically doing and teaching at home, to help her growth and development". The answer was simple, but even in it's simplicity, made my eyes water and I had to really put in an effort not to break down. Now I come from a family with very active tear glands over a period of time, I have had to make conscious efforts to maintain stoicity in the most adverse situations in public. Fortunately, I have, more or less, mastered that art over a period of time. Emotional outbursts and tears these days are confined to the walls of the home, more often than not, and to movie theatres,  LOL. In response to my question, what Raya's teacher said was as simple as," Oh just continue doing whatever  you are doing at home. You  guys are definitely doing a lot of things right for her to have grown up to be the girl she is !" A bit embarrased for letting my emotions out with  my watery eyes,on my way back  from the meeting, I wondered what the reason was for getting suddenly emotional. As I thought about it more, I realized it all boiled down to that  decision we made more than three years back  to send  an 8 month old little Raya to play school 5 days a week, away from the 'security' and 'warmth', more often than not, only associated with  home. I realized the  statement made by Raya's teacher was a positive validation of that decision made more than 3 years back to which without my realizing it, a  phlethora of pent up emotions  had been associated.

Either way, I plan to keep this on the record:) As small as it was, I am under no illusion that such validations will be frequent or lasting. As the years go by, I am sure there will be more and more situations when Raya and others will question our parenting decisions...God forbid, even despise us for some...That's when I want to pull this record out to make ourselves feel better with this small validation that not all our parenting decisions early on in Raya's life were bad!:)

On a side note, 'D' says my blog has become a 'mommy' blog and I should start writing about other stuff...Oh well, the role of Mommyhood prevails at this point of time...but I promise to come back with something else sometime soon!

Happy Tuesday folks! Leaving you with a picture of some kiddo artwork...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The laughter, joy, frustration ,exhaustion...and everything in between...

I started writing this as a comment to a related post by Indian American Mom, a fellow mommy blogger, but then realized maybe it deserved a post of it's own, after all...a post that I could come back to when I am dealing with teenage tantrums, or when I feel that what I wrote here doesn't hold true anymore, or perhaps even later in life, when I am old and wobbly(if I end up living that long enough:)) and have nothing much to keep me company other than these printed words on this web journal, to help re live life's little moments!

So in her post, what Indian American Mom, essentially says is that the phase in which her two kids currently are(ages 7 and 9 respectively), seem to be the best phase of parenting, with reference to her experiences and life. That got me thinking. While I don't have as much parenting experience as her to correlate and compare with, nevertheless how do I feel really about the different phases of parenting
our little munchkin, who is turning 4 in a couple of months and who is the cause of all the chaos as well as laughter in the household. Well let' see...

When Raya was a baby, her baby rolls, chubbiness and cuddliness made me feel 'that' was the best phase of parenting, despite all the frustration that zillions of dirty diapers and lack of sleep, would often bring on. Oh tell me about baby tummy rolls, thigh rolls and chubby cheeks. All those little babies of  family and friends have been at the receiving end of cheeks being pulled, many a time by yours truly, of course...Needless to say, much to the consternation of the little ones and parents alike, now, I always have to be know what I mean avoid those rolling eyes:)...But, of course, there was no one to roll their eyes at me as far as my own little baby was I pulled her cheeks, huddled and cuddled my little one to absolutely my hearts content! Other than the travails of pumping breast milk in lieu of nursing, 'this'(1-6 month) phase was great, given that we could still do a lot of the things that we did as family...dine out, a bit of travel etc. etc....all that we needed was a handy 'pacifier' to continue doing all the things we, now...don't roll your eyes again...yes, I am indeed a 'pacifier giving' kind of mom...only by a miracle of God,  did we manage to wean Raya off the pacifier at age 1. So all is well :)

The phase between 6 months and 2 years, when the smiles came on galore and the interaction increased significantly, I felt 'that' was the best phase of parenting, despite all the fatigue and exhaustion that her increased level of crawling/walking and other activities entailed.

The phase between 2  to 3 years was a mixed bag indeed...the intermittent tantrums...potty training exercises...and so much more...but nevertheless, the increased level of interaction/chattiness/toddler insights and just the excitement of seeing little munchkin grow, made everything worthwhile.

Now that she is a chatty 'almost' 4 year old, I feel ' this' is the best phase of parenting...there is entertainment galore at home with non-stop's a different thing that 'D' and I often feel the need to put on ear plugs/turn a deaf ear to all the 'why/where/ how?' questions. Also while she is semi-independent in keeping herself entertained, we more often than not have to be a part of her games and, of course, read the same book for the zillionth time. But that's that. There has been many a time, when stress at home has been dissipated by roars of laughter brought on by Raya 'lingo'. Among others, here are some recent tid bits:

Raya: (While playing a board game) "Mamma, baba doesn't follow the rules of the game. Can you ask him to read the construction on the box?" LOL...'construction', of course, is meant to translate to 'instruction':)

Raya:(Looking at the pictures of a mythological tale) "Baba, what is Krishna's dad wearing?"
Raya's Baba: "It's called a 'dhoti', Raya, in Hindi"
Raya: "Oh alright, he is wearing a 'dhotty'"

Yours truly:"Raya, what are you and Baba making for breakfast today?"
Raya:"We are making egg 'rotty', mamma" ...egg 'rotty' is of course supposed to mean egg roti...the Indian equivalent of a French toast.

Raya: (Wrapping up a pretend conversation on the phone)..."Ok ok...that's fine...teek hai...teek hai...bye!"...('Teek hai' is meant to mean 'Theek hain' in Hindi and translates to 'OK' in English. And for all those, who are aware of my skill with the Hindi lingo also  know how many times in a conversation I use 'theek hain') now, we know where she gets that from LOL.

So essentially entertainment galore and  she is fortunately still at the stage when she still cares to listen to what we have to say, despite having extremely strong 'toddler' opinions about everything on the planet, that she has happened to hear about!

I guess it is really wishful thinking that I will feel the same during her teenage years(as in teenage years being the 'best' phase of parenting...never heard any parent say that, have you?)... can only hope, pray and just wait for time to tell...But at the very least, every phase of parenting is indeed that complex, overwhelming and exhilarating combination of joy, love, frustration, exhaustion and everything in between, that I think probably very few things in the world can match, if there is anything at all out there that can come close to matching it!:)

Happy Thursday folks. The weekend is almost here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Board games and toddler lessons...

I have never been a big fan of any specific board game other than scrabble and chess...the love for scrabble and chess being primarily due to  nostalgia associated with the times spent with grandparents and extended family, playing these on many a Sunday afternoon. The dislike for the broader genre of board games has been primarily due to the fact that as an adult, in a social environment, I have often observed that the competition and aggressiveness associated with the desire to win a game, specifically the so called 'strategy' games often takes the charm away from a perfectly enjoyable social evening. I have also often noticed that  the lure of these games, socially, results in folks being more interested in knowing about  the strategies a specific person used in a game in the past few  meetings, rather than  the more important and real things going on in their lives, at a personal level. That's a big turn off for me sometimes . I would much rather spend an evening chatting with a friend about the going ons in life and learn a few life lessons from shared and individual experiences rather than sitting at a table, playing a  strategy board game, manipulating or getting manipulated by another player :). Sometimes the line between strategy and manipulation in these 'big kid/adult' board games seems too thin for my liking. But that's just me being me:).To each his own, of course! Either way, I will have  to caveat this with the fact that I do acknowledge that, when played in the right spirit, there are a lot of skills that we can consciously and subconsciously imbibe from playing board games...diplomacy, goal setting, creative problem solving, the habit of abiding by rules, judicious risk management and just the simple fact of life that you win some and you lose name just a few!

I have also realized that the benefits of board games and the skills that one can imbibe from playing board games are particularly magnified in the context of what some of the games meant for kids, can potentially teach them...number and shape recognition, grouping, counting, letter recognition and reading, visual perception and color recognition, eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity, verbal communication, sharing, patience, taking turns, and just enjoying interaction with others. Board games for kids can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen a child's attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game. Even simple board games like 'Chutes and Ladders' offer meta-messages and life skills aka the simple message : your luck can change in an instant...for the better or for the worse. So never give up. Just when you feel despondent, you might hit the jackpot and ascend up high, if you stay in the game for just a few more moves. Small lessons, big lessons, life lessons.

So essentially what I am trying to get at is the fact that the notion of parenting and just the presence of my little munchkin in our lives, has made me look at board games from a completely different perspective, like so many other things in life :)

In this context, here's a specific bitter-sweet incident that happened at home. So last time my parents were here, they got Raya a board game involving alphabets and numbers. The rules of the game are pretty simple. 52 cards with a little or big alphabet written on it with a picture of an associated object that starts with the alphabet. A board with 52 blocks/squares again with alternate little and big alphabets. A spinner that that would make the needle land in any number from 1 to 4 to determine the number of moves a player needs to make towards the final goal. Each time a player lands on a block/square, the player gets the corresponding alphabet card, unless another player already has the card in his/her possession by virtue of having landed on the block earlier. As soon as one player crosses the finish line, the player with the maximum number of cards is declared the winner.

'D' and Raya first started playing this game. Initially, playfully, whenever 'D' would land on a block/square , the card for which already belonged to Raya, 'D' would get a bit melodramatic in front of Raya, pretending to be  sad and tearful and little munchkin would immediately feel sorry for him and hand over her card to him with, "Ok, Baba...I am sharing my card with you". This went on for a while, and at the end of the game, when it was time to count the cards, 'D' did not volunteer to give the cards he had gotten from Raya, back. He just waited to see if she would just forget about those, which would be sad since it would mean she was accepting defeat after being playfully 'cheated'. The 'hooray' moment was when she began counting her own cards and soon enough told 'D', 'Baba, I gave you 3 cards. Give them back to me!' :)

So that's that. On the flip side, Raya thought the way 'D' was playing the game was a rule in the game. So when she started playing the board game with me, she would do the same. She would give me her cards, when I landed on a block/square, the alphabet card for which, she already possessed. She would voluntarily give the cards to me, because that's how she played with her 'Baba' and expect me to do the same. When I resisted taking her cards, saying that that was not the rule , she just said, 'But mama, you will give me back the cards at the end.I am sharing with you'. Involuntarily, my immediate response to that was, 'Raya, I will give your cards back to you. Not everyone will'. As soon as I uttered the sentence, I literally bit my tongue. I can only hope that she didn't get a vibe of that inherent adult cynicism in that statement...that inherent lack of trust, which I rarely exhibit, being the optimist that I am .I was quite upset at having uttered that cynical statement to my innocent, completely moldable pre-schooler. But that's that. There was nothing that I could do to take it back. So I just let the statement brush over, gave her the cards that belonged to her and moved on. There was nothing more to do. On another note, the concept of 'You win some, you lose some', of course, is  still quite alien to my little  toddler LOL. As of now, she always wants to win board games and get a surprise at the end of the game from 'Mamma' or 'Baba'. There is invariably a fit thrown when that doesn't happen. Oh well, we are working towards getting over that small step at a time...sometime soon, sometime soon... the magic will manifest itself!:)

Happy Tuesday folks! Enjoy the rest of the week.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The paradox of Indian mythology and the times when your munchkin makes you feel dumb...

Raya is obsessed with some specific Indian mythological characters ever since we got her a book comprising a compilation of stories of 'Lord' Krishna. While there are quite a few life lessons to be learnt from Indian mythological stories, accompanying some of these life lessons are also some regressive concepts . These can be quite confusing for little ones .

In subtle ways, some stories in the book demonstrate concepts I really wouldn't want my little daughter to get exposed to at this age. For example, some of the stories very casually glorify concepts like polygamy by mentioning Krishna and his multiple wives. 'D' and I were quite at a loss when at a point in one of the stories, when Krishna accepts the hand of an 'indebted' King's daughter for marriage, Raya posed the very valid question, 'Why is Krishna marrying again? He already has a wife .Rukmini is his wife.' Then there is an instance where a King and his wife offer prayers / sacrifices and go through a whole lot of painful rituals to have a boy borne to them after a series of daughters. These are only just a couple of the concepts that I find pretty regressive in mythological stories. We literally have to make conscious efforts to tone down stories wherever possible to bring out meaningful social messages and moral lessons, that would prove useful in Raya's development . It's tough though and it can be quite overwhelming trying to answer questions to a 3.5 year old as truthfully as possible, and in ways that would add value to her life!

That's for the darker side . On the brighter side, there are quite a few other important life lessons to be imbibed by little ones from these stories . Most of us are aware of the significance of those .  I have also  learnt quite a 
few names of Indian mythological characters, myself, from my little munchkin. Characters I was not quite aware of or remember. My little one loses no chance to remind me that Krishna's bird is called Garuda Garuda helps Krishna save many a kingdom Mura and Narakasura, the bad boys are punished by Krishna etc. etc.

In fact, it was quite comical when once, in a confused state, Raya made a statement, 'Mama, maybe Krishna is a bad boy because he hits people with his discus' . Oh well, now what could I say about that,coming from a land that worships Krishna, the polygamist, and all his incarnations :)

Now that's that. Obsessed that Raya is with this book of Krishna stories, yesterday while browsing through the book, she came across a picture where Krishna's body appeared purple rather than the conventional blue that generally everyone associates personifications of Krishna with. Raya asked,  'Who made Krishna purple, mama?' I was in the middle of something and tried my best to provide an answer that would make sense to her, 'Raya, the people who wrote the book' . Pop came a completely unexpected statement from Raya, 'Mama, you mean the author and the illustrator?'. I was too dumbfounded to react ! Felt really dumb and just about manageed to say, 'Yes', in response to her query. Once I had recovered enough, I asked Raya, 'Raya, how do you know about the author and the illustrator ?' . Munchkin replied, 'Ms. Amber told us that author writes books and illustrator draws pictures'

Ms. Amber is Raya's class teacher at  pre-school. This is one of the instances that I have  not blushed, but instead have actually felt good and laughed out loud at being made to feel dumber. So thank you Ms.Amber for all that you do for my little munchkin. Here's hoping that there will be many more such 'feeling dumber' moments for me!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The pros and cons of 'being different'...

So yesterday, a very close friend of mine, 'M', called me from India and she started with "Chints, I need to vent". She is one of the few friends I have a "no holds barred" relationship with. Over the years, I have learnt to brace myself into the therapist, philosopher, guide mode as soon as I hear the words, 'I need to vent'.  Jokes aside, she was in the middle of some nasty office politics along with some social life drama, that had made her really jittery and upset. I of course, used my usual way of rationalizing 'people' behavior, trying to make her understand that it's ok to give people the benefit of the doubt once in a while, while preparing oneself to  keep a safe distance from them as soon as streaks of meanness and interference grow to more than a semblance.  I believe that's the best way to protect oneself from getting hurt, while still maintaining a reasonably amicable relationship with the person/people concerned. Of course, it's tougher in the office/work scenario, given that you cannot afford to become invisible by mentally pushing yourself/others to the periphery, in an effort to maintain an amicable  relationship. I do believe, however, it's much easier in the  social scenario, specially when it involves people one has known only for a few years. They shouldn't be given more attention than they deserve. Childhood friends and family are the only ones worth putting in a fight for.

After an hour long conversation, she seemed to have calmed down enough and the conversation moved on to other topics. At the end of the conversation, 'M' just said,'Thank God for you in my life!You always calm me down.You know na you are different'. I could visualize her smile at her end and it made me smile too. I knew what she meant. Haven't I heard that often enough..."You are different"...different because apparently I demonstrate incredible amount of (some of my friends often say, 'undeserved') patience and tolerance in dealing with people and their mean streaks that surface in different ways...folks would really have to pin me to the wall and have me pinned there for sometime, before seeing me lash out in any form, if at all...different because apparently I am not a people pleaser...different because apparently I never feel the need to suck up to anyone or put on  pretenses...different because apparently I come across as very confident and secure in my relationships...different because apparently I have the capability to let go of relationships that are not  working without much ado about them...different because I have this uncanny ability to either mentally pull myself out into the periphery or push relationships/people to the periphery, without feeling the need to be in the centre of it all, while still having amicable relationships.Of course, the downside of 'being different' in these contexts is that often times, it gets construed as aloofness, snobbery by folks who don't know you well also more often than not results in being taken for sometimes folks keeping you pinned to the wall for longer that you can tolerate:(. Oh well, that comes with the territory.

But what folks often miss is that, 'being different' in these contexts is more often than not a conscious choice. The core of emotions that all people go through in being treated 'un fairly/badly' is always the same. It's the same for me's the same for you. But over a period of time, partly due to my inherent personality, partly due to my upbringing, partly due to my early exposure to different kinds of people and flavors of personalities as part of my college/hostel life, I have realized that 'being different' in all the above mentioned ways is not all that bad. It just means you would end up with a few very close
relationships in life that would be 'keepers' for life...all other relationships would be peripheral, but it would be your choice to give them just enough importance or not enough importance so that they bring joy to your life, rather than stress and disappointment:)

On a lighter note, madam Raya asked me this morning if my office was a 'play office' like her 'play school'...oh well I definitely wish it was. It was 'Share and Show' day in school for her today, and she was insisting that I get a toy from home to share in my 'play office' with my friends. Oh well. With all the thunderstorms hitting the Washinghton DC area, these hot summer evenings, madam Raya is also fascinated by clouds. Leaving you with a clip of what she has to say about clouds.

Monday, May 11, 2015

"We are on the same page, right?"

As parents of a very active 3.5 year old, who very definitely has a mind of her own, a phrase that's very commonly used in conversations by both 'D' and 'I' is 'be on the same page'. More often than not, one of us tends to soften up when trying to teach/discipline Raya, and we constantly have to remind each other how important it is for us to be on the same page, to prevent our 3.5 year old from playing one of us against the other. In fact, the phrase is so prevalent in the Das household that Raya seems to have taken quite a fancy to it.

In this context, the other day, while 'D' was on his way to drop off Raya at day care, Raya made a statement('D' wasn't paying much attention to the usual toddler chatterand doesn't remember the details of the statement') and as a mode of getting confirmation from 'D' shouted out," We are on the same page, right, Baba?" from the back seat with the roll of her eyes that invariably accompanies all her statements when she is trying to make sure we are getting her message. The use of the phrase "on the same page" obviously caught 'D's attention and he grinned from ear to ear, while answering in the affirmative, just for the heck of it. That evening, at the dinner table, 'D' and I were trying to coax Raya to wrap up dinner and were eventually  forced to take a stern stand. 'D', who is the default disciplinarian, in the family, asked Raya in a very stern voice to wrap up dinner or be ready for a time out. The smallest of stern words from  her Baba/Mamma are enough to make Raya burst into bucket loads of tears  and it was no different this time around. As tears rolled down her cheeks, Raya inconsolably burst out, "But baba , way long back you said we are on the same page. We have to be on the same page!" Now, if that's not enough to make any form of disciplining measures fade
into oblivion and make Raya's Mama/Baba get engulfed in fits of laughter, I wonder what will be!

On another note, I have this habit of using the word 'Nautanki' (Hindi word that translates to "drama", in English) in certain contexts. You know, I'll probably say something like, "Tired of the 'Nautanki'" or just exclaim "All the 'Nautanki'!" when transiently annoyed with hoopla/pettiness about stuff in life that doesn't deserve too much attention. Anyways, madam Raya found her own way of using this term :) So the other day, 'D' picked Raya up from day care and asked her to rush inside as soon as they reached home, because she had to change and we had to head out to someone's home. 'D' stayed outside to water the plants. Raya was upset because she wanted to help 'D' water the plants and he forced her to go into the home instead. Of course, I was inside the house  and Madam Raya came whining to me, with small streaks of tears rolling down her cheeks, "Mama, Mama...I am disappointed with Baba!" I asked her, "Why, Raya?" She replied,"Because...because he won't let me water the plants!" and within a fraction of second, most unexpectedly followed in up with, "All the 'Nautanki'!"....LOL...I was so shocked and amused, I literally rolled on the couch with laughter,
while she continued whining about why she was disappointed with her Baba.

So that's that...all the fatigue and exhaustion of bringing up a toddler gets wiped off by the day to day proliferation of such toddler entertainment! Happy parenting folks!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The 'technology' dilemma...

As I was browsing through some of my blog posts last evening, I came across this from six years ago, In the past six years, since I wrote this piece some things have changed further, while some things have stayed the same. I am glad for the things that have changed as well as for those that haven't. In the context of this post, I have realized the changes, more often than not, push us more towards a technology indulgent world. While the constants stop us from getting carried away in the waves of technology and keep us grounded by keeping the social/interactive element of being a human, alive! But both are equally important-the changes and the constants. Striking the right balance perhaps is what's the toughest part.

In this context, let me narrate an incident that happened a couple of weeks back. Raya was busy with some coloring activity at home, when suddenly she jumped up and said, "Mama, mama...I am done...look it (pulling up the  sheet of paper, she had just splashed colors on) this pretty?" I said, "Yes Raya good job...give me a high five". She happily jumped up and gave me a high five and then said, "I want to show this to Ma, Koka and Ata". I replied, "Ok you can show it to them when you Skype with them tomorrow". What Raya told me next, came as a real surprise. She said, "Mama, it "! I was completely taken aback. 'D' and 'I' probably use the word email often with our parents. She has heard us telling our parents that we'll email the pictures to them and  I am assuming Raya probably picked the word,'email'  up from our conversations and used the word, the first time she got a chance, being completely oblivious to the fact that she was actually using the word in the right context. I then told her there are multiple ways she can send her painting to her grandparents. "You can show your drawing to them on skype, you can email it to them or you can write a note on it ...maybe draw a heart, write your name and post it, so that the postman delivers the actual piece of paper to them...They will love it". I really don't know how much of it made sense to her. I did feel rather silly, asking her to 'snail mail' it, given that she wanted to show the painting to her grandparents immediately...not practical...but it just stemmed from my need to help her understand the emotion associated with receiving a hand written note from someone far away...this incident and a set of similar others made me realize that a great responsibility lies on our shoulders, as a very important realization dawned on me...

...the realization that our generation ,is perhaps the last generation of people to have had a complete taste of the world and it's workings before the prevalence of the world wide web and after. We are probably the last generation of  people who, as adolescents and teenagers, have known the joy of rummaging through encyclopaedias and "Tell me Why's" to get the answers to the 'why, what, when, how' of our questions, in an era when thick encyclopaedias and word of mouth were the
most conclusive ways of satiating our curiosity, and then, as adults, have gotten  used to getting some of those same answers through the search of a few words on wikipedia or a search engine on the world wide web via a phone or laptop. We are probably the last generation of people, who, as teenagers, were used to print on paper being the only mode of reading content and then, as
adults, progressed to the convenient use of audio books, kindles and other electronic devices to read content in conjunction with print on paper. We may, for all you know, be the last generation of people, who will ever completely understand the lure of reading a printed book on paper, with a cup of coffee in hand, with rain pit patting on the roof vs reading the same content on an electronic device. We are probably the last generation of people who will understand both the charm of handwritten journals and the convenience and lure of blogging. We are probably the last generation of people, who cherish the handwritten note, thought about and posted weeks in advance to reach you on your special day, while also being uplifted by social media messages, triggered by automated notifications. To say the least, we are a rather unique generation to have had the opportunity to have seen and been a part of this big transition.
Having gotten this unique opportunity comes with it's fair share of responsibility. It's on our shoulders to try and demonstrate the benefits and pitfalls of all the options that children have, in every sphere of life, with or without technology. The choice has to be finally made by them, though. I am inclined to believe that being on either extreme of the parenting spectrum as far as technology
is concerned, isn't going to help our children. In a world where technology proliferates, not providing kids with sufficient guided exposure to technological capabilities and gadgets, may end up being a big disservice to them, in the long run. And of course, we all know the effects of too much exposure.

As I see it now, my little 3.5 year old daughter wouldn't have been able to establish and maintain the kind of connection she has with her grandparents and extended family, who live thousands and thousands of miles away, without all the technology that is available to us. She does learn a lot of good things from educational apps as well as tv programs. As long as this level of exposure
does not impede her ability to interact and gain knowledge through direct social interactions as well, I think it's a win-win situation! However like a lot of other things related to bringing up kids, being able to keep this a win- win situation is a responsibility that we parents bear. It doesn't take long for a win win situation to take a down hill plunge.

'D' and 'I' are taking small steps to keep up the 'technology' balance at home. We love technology and the benefits it offers. We also love living and experiencing life through people to people, people to nature interactions. I, for one, am starting with a very, very small step. A month or so back, I realized, when I was not at work, sometimes there was an impulsive need to just pick up the phone if it was in front of me and spend a few minutes browsing through messages, news articles, blogs, social media. Absolutely not needed during family time or when you are around people, but an impulse. This meant sometimes it, unwittingly infringed upon family time and potentially sent the wrong signals to my little daughter about social interactions. So for now, my very small step at contributing to the 'technology' balance at home  is to resist such impluses  specially when around family/friends and involved in browsing, texting, social media access are limited to twice a day...once in the AM...once in the PM...if someone needs to get in touch with me urgently, they will call me anyways! It may sound a silly thing to do to many of you but I am working hard at this for the past's working and believe me, it can be really uplifting, as weird as it may sound!:)

So here's to many more months and years of discipline in maintaining the "technology" balance at home and ensuring that the use of technology is always a win-win situation for us and our little ones!

Life's little moments...toddler hair dressing tips...

(Via Facebook Timeline on April 16,2015)

In the middle of the weekday morning madness that's typical in the Das household, while I am busy trying to do Raya's hair and 'perfect' those teeny weeny pig tails, madam Raya decides to dole out her own hair dressing fundas.

Raya: Mama, if you don't put the bands on my pig tails and roll my hair like this ( accompanies it with some hilarious hair 'rolling' or rather 'folding' gestures), I will not be Raya anymore.

Yours truly: If you won't be Raya, who will you become?

Raya: Hmmm...( Ponders for a couple of seconds ) and then asks in a thoughtful mood, "What is the name of the girl who sings the 'Roar' song ?"

Yours truly: Ahhh...Katy Perry?

Raya: Yes, Katy Perry. If you roll my hair like this( again follows it up   with the same funny hair 'rolling'/'folding' gestures), I will not be Raya. I will be Katy Perry!

Oh well , of course LOL. Katy Perry or not , this was enough to make the home reverberate with 'roars' of laughter on a chaotic Thursday morning!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Being comfortable in one's own skin...

I believe , the most important lesson that a parent can possibly try to imbibe in a child is to be comfortable in his/her own skin. It's a really tough lesson to impart, but if, as parents, we succeed in achieving that, I believe it's the first and most important lesson in enabling a child to lead a life unfettered by complexes and is the one and only ingredient that will enable our little ones to truly bask in the joy of living.

To keep it very simple, from what it appears to me, the very basic trait of a person who is comfortable in his/her own skin is the ability to have a hearty laugh at himself/herself! It may sound odd that I say it, but without this very basic sense of humor, it is really not possible to be comfortable in one's own skin. In addition to this quality, such a person generally:
- Has the ability to embrace his/her uniqueness and associated quirks
- Doesn't nurture stereotypical  notions of body image...You know the drill, "Thin is good...fat is bad.".   That of course doesn't imply that the person is not aware of the benefits of generally being healthy.  What it does mean is that being a size '0' and having a thin waist or a good physique is not the primary driver in his/her life. A few pounds here and there need not result in bouts of anorexia.
- Doesn't nurture stereotypical notions of culture or indulge in prejudices...You know the drill..."Asians do this, so that... African Americans do this, so that...White Americans do this, so that" etc. etc. This doesn't mean the person  does not attempt to understand differences in culture, what it does mean is that the person accepts the 'good'  and 'bad' of different cultures and basks in the glory of diversity rather than spending time slotting people, being prejudiced and giving preferential treatment.
- Doesn't nurture stereotypical notions of social, economic and intellectual disparities. Such a person is very comfortable   interacting with people belonging to different sections of society without  being arrogant/insecure about one's own pre-conceived notion of 'superiority'/'inferiority'. Such people are able to absorb life lessons like a sponge through interactions with people across diverse sections of the society.
- Has the confidence to stand up for himself/herself and others when the need arises, if that seems to be the right thing to do, without unduly weighing gains and losses to oneself. Can fight 'his/her' own battles and  make 'his/her' point without using anyone else as a shield.

Essentially a person comfortable in his/her own skin is secure, content, is able to bask in the glory of life experiences and is confident of making the most of what life has to give him/her....which in turn, I am assuming translates to happiness?! Such a person is tolerant and easy-going and doesn't feel the need to indulge in pettiness to fit into stereotypical moulds or to please people.

What about the traits of people who don't seem comfortable in their own skin:
-Inability to laugh at oneself.  Not to say there is a complete lack of a sense of humour. It's just that often times the inability to laugh at oneself is accompanied by a sense of humour that is furtive and know the kinds who get  huge kicks out of  laughing behind people's backs, without having the guts to laugh on anyone's face!
-Driven by stereotypical notions of body image
-Driven by stereotypical notions of culture and hence often indulge in prejudices.
-Driven by stereotypical notions of social, economic and intellectual disparities. And hence find it very difficult to adapt to sections of society where 'he/she' doesn't think 'he/she' belongs. More often than not 'arrogant/insecure' in interactions. More often than not, very judgemental.
-Often fiercely competitive about every aspect of life. Not to say, these folks are not good at what they do, but are extremely  competitive nevertheless and have an inherent urge to be one up on others, all the time. Some may say, that's needed to survive in today's world. Killer instinct, it is called. Oh well!
-People pleasers. They often do anything that's needed to please the people/section of the society they think they will benefit from or they want to fit into. Change colors as often as needed
-Never content with what they have. Always in search of something more. A 'better' house...a 'better' car...a 'better' dress ...a 'better' friend...maybe even a 'better' husband/wife:). Some may say, it's motivation to 'do'/'achieve' something 'better'.Oh well!! :)
-Never able to stand up for oneself or for others, without having something "major" to gain from it. Oh well, isn't that the way the world rolls!!Perhaps!

Either way, for a person not comfortable in his/her own skin , it is a life-long search for the next 'better' thing to fit into a 'stereotype' and life often ends up being full of complexes and insecurities.

Being comfortable in one's own skin isn't easy, but if you are , you are one of the really fortunate ones! It is also something that cannot be consciously taught to a child, without living and breathing it in your own day to day life. So here's to bringing up children who are comfortable in their own skin and enabling them to bask in the glory of all that life has to offer!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Work day 'mornings', 'ninny love', 'addvanture' and more...

Work day mornings are chaotic in the 'Das' household...

After failed attempts at being woken up by the alarm and then 'D', the morning starts with Raya and her "sleep loving" mama,  both curling up  to get as many extra minutes of  'sleep in' time as one can possibly squeeze into a 'work and school' day morning schedule... Once everyone's finally managed to get out of bed, then there's the process of "yours truly" running around her little toddler to get her to brush her teeth...the important thing here is that the "morning teeth brushing" routine doesn't just entail motivating and making  Raya brush her own teeth, it also entails watching Raya meticulously brush "ninny's" 'teeth', which could take anywhere from a couple of seconds to 5 mins based on my toddler's frame of mind, if you know what I mean! Now for all those who are not yet acquainted with "ninny", let me do the honors of the introduction. "Ninny" is Raya's security blankie/comfort toy and gets all the privileges any other member of the family does. She has traveled the world with us...a trip to Mexico, two trips to India, trips to the West Coast, Texas, Mid-West, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Australia and NZ...all in the past three if that doesn't make little "ninny",  an official globe trotter, I wonder what will...LOL :) Anyways, getting back to the point, once both Raya and "ninny" are done brushing their teeth, it's of course Raya's mama's turn to get some unsolicited help from her toddler and her toddler's partner in crime, "ninny", in brushing her "adult" teeth...oh well!! Talk about chaotic 'work day' mornings.

Then of course, there is the process of running around to get the little toddler dressed, while of course she dresses up "ninny", finds 10 different activities to distract herself with, and chatters away with 'n' old and new tales involving actual and imaginary friends.

This morning, frustrated and completely on the edge, in the middle of our chaotic Monday morning, I told Raya quite sternly, 'Raya I am going to ask you to put on your shoes exactly three times. If you don't listen to me and put on your shoes,  I am gonna be really mad at you!' The threat worked and within seconds the toddler had accomplished the last of her tasks and was ready for school.  In the meanwhile, I decided it was time for some cuddles and kisses before we head out for the day. As I 'devoured' Raya with kisses, my little toddler threatened , "Mama I am going to ask you not to kiss me exactly three times.If you don't listen to me and stop kissing, I will be really mad at you!' Oh well, didn't see that coming for sure...quite a steep price to pay, I have to say, for expecting
my little toddler to tow the line...Oh well, well...LOL!

On another note, over the weekend, at the end of a play date with two of her girl friends at home, we saw the three toddlers, walk down the stair case from Raya's room with loaded 'knapsacks' on their back! When we asked Raya where all of them were headed...the reply was, 'We are going for an "addvanture" '. When asked  what they were taking on their "addvanture", pop came the reply..."Shoes and credit card, Mama"...After I had convinced Raya that lugging around such a huge bag was a bad idea, she agreed to open the bag and unload some of the stuff. Sure enough, the bag was loaded with all the shoes in her closet and one credit card! Oh of course, what else would these little 'girlie' girls need to survive an "addvanture" other than shoes and credit card!! LOL

Other than that, my little toddler had her first 'pee pee' accident in almost a year, and her first one ever outside home,  this weekend!!:( She was quite upset about that for a major part of the weekend. But seems to have finally gotten over it now! Thank God for that!

Happy Monday folks. Hope you have a great week ahead and hope your 'work and school' day mornings are not as chaotic as ours!:)

Leaving you with a picture of Raya with her beloved ninny in some corner of the Southern Hemisphere!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Womanhood and Home...

International Women's day came and went by.

As we celebrate women and all that women do and are capable of  achieving, I wanted to pay tribute to two amazing women, who are no longer with me, but in big ways and small, have had a tremendous influence on my life.

I was born in the north-eastern part of India, in a family that comprised and still comprises a diverse set of women.

My mom is the youngest of 4 girls born to my maternal grandparents. My maternal grand mom, "Aita ma", despite being married off at  the age of 10 and bearing children at the age of 15,despite the lack of academic degrees attached to her name, was one of the most broad-minded women I have come across. She exuded a combination of empathetic intelligence, warmth and affection that I believe she succeeded in passing on, in some form, to all her daughters and grandchildren. I believe it is primarily because of the aura of love and affection that my dear "Aita ma" exuded and spread that our huge extended family, which now comprises  people from all parts of the world,  belonging to different cultures and religions, is still as close knit as  one can imagine. "Aita ma" was aptly supported by my jovial grand dad, on whom she was able to lean on and who leaned in to provide her support whenever she needed it. "Aita ma" believed in a utopian world, that was eons away from life's realities....she saw and believed in the good side of the world and human beings,  and that probably was what ensured the unfading, serene smile on her face. The three winter months, I spent in her beautiful little cottage in Jorhat, every year, were always laid back, upbeat and overflowing with warmth, smiles and heart warming people.

On my paternal side, my grand mom, "Aita", was a highly educated, independent, talented, strong woman, who was an established writer and singer. Now when I look back and ponder, "Aita" was a woman who was aware of and was blessed with the wisdom that life is not a utopian dream. Born to a privileged family, married to a person she had chosen, she was someone who was exposed to and
adapted to the practicalities of life at a very early age. Ahead of her times in more ways than one, she believed in and contributed to women's and children's education, in big ways and small, very aptly supported by my paternal grand dad, who himself, was an academician and on whom she was able to lean on and  who leaned in to provide her with all the support she needed in her endeavours. My love for books, writing, music, story telling, debate were nurtured in the times spent in "Aita"'s  beautiful hill top home, in an environment that encouraged and nurtured intellectual and creative development.

Different as these two beautiful women were, there was never a dearth of love and affection  in the two extended families that these two amazing women nurtured ...there was never a notion that the "boys/men" in the family deserved anything different from the "girls/women"...there was never a notion that the "men" in the family are the providers while the "women" are home makers...there was never a notion of the "women" being dependent on the "men", intellectually, physically or financially...all of us, the grand children, were encouraged to speak up about issues that bothered us...all of us were encouraged not to be or feel subservient to anyone who seemingly wields more power, money or status...all of us were encouraged to make our choices in life, based on our life observations and experiences...all of us  were encouraged to be independent thinkers...all of us were encouraged to be grateful for all that we had...all of us were encouraged to learn to give back to the society, in big ways and small...all of us were taught how important it is to be and raise strong, independent, warm, affectionate women...women who are capable of fighting their own battles...women who are capable of helping the less fortunate fight their battles...women who do not feel restricted by stereotypes...women who grow up to be good daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, friends while working towards nurturing their intellectual and creative needs to find their own, unique place on the world stage.

My two beautiful grand moms...different from each other in a lot of aspects...but unified in their love for the girl child...unified in their appreciation and acknowledgement of what a woman is capable of achieving...unified in their understanding that a woman can be an epitome of love,warmth, affection and be a good daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend while carving out an independent niche and identity for herself in the world.

Thank God for these two gorgeous women, smiling down and guiding me, from wherever they now reside,  as 'D' and I put in  our best effort to bring up and raise our own "little woman"...for after all, the notion of "womanhood", just like the notions of  "compassion" and "charity" is conceived and begins at home!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The lessons children teach us...

As parents, I am sure each of us strives to provide the best we can for our children...we want to take care of all their needs(emotional,physical,material) to the 'best' of our ability...that's  what drives most of our lives once a child is born...we want to feed them the 'healthiest' food  out there...dress them up in the 'trendiest' clothes out there...provide them with the 'best' of education ...provide them with the 'best' development them the world...expose them to the diversity and uniqueness of cultures, cuisines, people,life! We strive to do the 'best'  we can for our children, based on our life situation.

Of course, the definition of "best" and what we strive to provide our kids with, evolves and changes as we progress through life, as the economics associated with various life phases change and as our knowledge of the "best of the best" and it's relevance to our lives evolves. Having said that, I am sure each one of us also strives to make sure that our children have balanced lives...We want them to value what they have...emotional and material ...We want them to realize that they can't always get what they want...We want them to value the people in their lives...We want them to value and treasure all the good things that they are fortunate enough to be born with...without taking any of it for granted.

That's always a big parenting challenge...striving to provide the 'best' for your children, while teaching them to value what they have and teaching them to learn to live without a lot of the material objects of affection, if the need arises...material needs and objects, which are always good to have but not necessarily essential to live a happy life...and most importantly to consciously get them into the habit of giving back to causes and people in the world, in need.

Now coming back to the point of this post. Since Raya's birth, in an effort to provide what we feel is "healthy food" for our child, at home, we try to make sure that fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products we get for her are "organic". "Organic food" is of course the buzz word doing the rounds of health and fitness fanatics. In fact some non-believers of the health benefits of organic food products, consider it just a fad. Certified organic products are relatively more expensive than non organic produce. For now, we want to and can afford organic produce , so we buy it. Tomorrow if we get to a situation where we can no longer afford to buy organic produce or choose not to, we will not buy it. Essentially for 'D' and 'I', buying "organic" food is not and  will never be a necessity . However what fascinated and scared me  was the fact that our little toddler has recently taken a fancy to the word "organic".

Yesterday when 'D' took her grocery shopping...she literally guided 'D' to the aisle where "organic" strawberries were available...that was obviously a source of amusement and laughter for folks shopping in the vicinity.. Then when I asked her yesterday, what fruit she wanted to have, Ms. Raya asked me, "Mama, do you have "organic" grapes?"...OMG!

Needless to say, I was taken aback...

I was amused and laughed out loud, while involuntarily cringing and wanting to cry...Is that possible at all? I guess it is because that's literally how I felt.

What amused me was her fascination with the word "organic" and the tone in which she used can be pretty amusing hearing "organic grapes" from a toddler's mouth...what scared me was the fact that 'D' and I may have inadvertently and unconsciously made her feel that only "organic" food is what is good for her and what she should be having...that was absolutely not our intention...while we want to make sure she has "healthy" food, as we know it, and whenever possible...while we want her to be aware of what "organic" food may be...we definitely don't want to make that an absolute necessity in her life ...and we definitely don't want her to grow up into one of those kids/teenagers shouting out, "I eat only organic!"..."I don't eat anything 'non-organic'" ....Oh gosh, how I have laughed and rolled my eyes  at those "snooty" teenagers and adults alike...serves me right,  I guess, you would say!

My little toddler, with her fascination for the word "organic", in the strangest of ways, has reiterated an important parenting lesson..and that is, not to forget how important  it is to bring up a well balanced strive to provide the best for your child, while making them realize that  nothing  is absolutely essential and necessary other than love, life and health!

Oh well...the lessons children teach us...for now, while I amuse myself with various 'toddler uses' of  the word "organic", work has already begun to rectify the associated parenting flaw and minimize long term impacts of this specific word wish me luck!:)

Sunday morning toddler tech gyan...

(Facebook timeline post. January 25th, 2015)

I was trying to set up Skype for the usual Sunday morning session with Raya's grandparents. We seemed to be having some technical issues. I told Raya( who was sitting next to me, in front of the laptop, with the skype app open): "Raya, we seem to be having some issues, we may not be able to Skype with Ma/Koka today."

Raya looked at the laptop screen for a moment and then, in a tone that signified eons of tech wisdom :) , declared : "Mama , see ...the green light ...the green circle is not next to Ma's picture. She is not "at" online. Ask her to come "at" online.The dot com is not connected. The dot com is not connected. Connect the dot com!"

LOL...oh well, what 'dot com is not connected' was meant to mean is left to imagination, but it definitely helped to start Sunday morning with splits of laughter with this teeny weenie bit of refreshing toddler tech 'gyan'!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The old...the new...and what is yet to be...

We just got back from a short, but rejuvenating vacation to India...two and a half, friends, food, fun...3 cities(Bangalore, Guwahati, Kolkata) and my most favorite place in the world, the small picturesque town of Shillong, in Meghalaya,...all of them together providing a glimpse into the essence of India...the old...the new...the dream and vision of what is yet to be!

It was Raya's 2nd trip to India. As I sit here penning this down and look back at the last two and a half weeks, I am quite amazed at how easily she adapted to the change of scene. Other than loving the fact that she could take in the sights and scenes of the places, we were visiting, without being strapped and confined to a car seat, I think she was too  excited and immersed in basking in the love and affection showered by family and friends, to even realize the existence of the few things (the mosquitoes hovering around ready to pinch with stinging bites, the dusty roads, the bumper to bumper traffic etc) that would have irritated and agitated her to no end, had she been anywhere else in the world, where she was not surrounded by folks she loved.

We flew into Bangalore to visit my brother, 'Ash'. I absolutely love the vibes of that city, brimming with a relatively young, diverse, professional crowd where conversation flows, music heals and you generally feel alive. I don't know whether it was the effect of the intermittent skype sessions or just
the result of  a connection she immediately felt, but fortunately it didn't take Raya too long to bond with my brother, cousin and niece. So that felt good, given that we had just two days to spend in Bangalore with Ash. We also spent some time at this awesome venture and venue spun off by Ash and a couple of his friends, called 'The Warehouse'...a one stop entertainment venue for live music lovers, pub goers and dance fanatics, replete with live bands, a dance floor and a lovely lounge/bar. Brilliant vibes and atmosphere there. So definitely worth a visit when you are in Bangalore next. And of course, fingers crossed for my little brother! We also got a chance to spend some time with some of our dear friends from school and college. With them, we always have been able to start off exactly from where we left, and it always leaves me wondering how in the world does it always, always feel that we had never left!!  So that was awesome!

Guwahati was basically 'family and friends' time. Raya got to spend some quality time with her grandparents and the rest of the loving, extended family. Needless to say, she comes back royally pampered and spoilt! Oh well, that's quite alright I suppose, specially when I realize, we literally spent every day of our childhood, being pampered and spoilt by our grandparents in big ways and small. In addition to spending time with family, 'D' and I spent some wonderful time with a couple of our school friends. I always cherish these get togethers with old friends, with whom you can literally start off from where you had left good times...reminiscing and laughing at the 'quirks' each one of us had and continue to have or have developed, over the years...or just getting immersed in nostalgia ...all this, without ever having to feel conscious, apologetic or arrogant about the 'good' and 'not so good' changes that life has brought on over the years! Good times and beautiful memories, for sure. Other than that, we hogged on delicious home cooked food, hung out at what remains of our favorite eat-outs, since school and college days...checked out some of the new 'hot and happening' entertainment/restaurant and retail/shopping venues in the city...just sat for hours in the terrace garden at my parents' home, re-living childhood memories...enjoying the beautiful view of the sun setting over the sprawling city, that was once my only 'home' times revelling, and at other times mourning the changes that Guwahati has seen in the name of development...

And then Shillong, the picturesque little hill station in the State of Meghalaya, the 'land of clouds'. In the past three and a half decades I have lived in different places/locations in the world at different points of time...11 years in Shillong, 7 years in Guwahati, 4 years in Trichy, 2 years in Bangalore, 1 year in Bruge and Eindhoven, 10 years and counting in the Washington, DC area. However whenever
someone asks me, where I have felt and feel most 'alive'...among all these places, if I were to pick just one and call it 'home', which one would it be?...invariably the answer is always Shillong. I can't pin-point what it is about this small town that makes me call it 'mine' and gives me this inherent sense of belonging, despite not being able to visit it as often as I would like to. But that's the way it just is!
Despite all the changes that concrete buildings and 'development', so to say, has brought to this small town, metaphorically called 'the Scotland of the east', Shillong is where I have always felt and feel the most alive! It was unfortunately a very short trip to Shillong, nevertheless I did manage to show Raya all the places that I tell her bed-time stories about...the home on the hill side, we lived in when I was her age, where I have some lovely memories of family gatherings replete with our albino alsatian, Raja...the schools I went to when I was her age and a bit older...the beautiful lake Umiam in Barapaani...feeding the fish at the Ward's lake...the undulating terrain...indo-Chinese food...and a lot, lot more, that only being in Shillong can make you see, believe and feel!

We just got to spend a day in Kolkata and the short stay was mostly about revelling in the blend of the old and new in the legendary Park Street...yellow ambassador cabs driving alongside the Audis and the Bimmers...the cigarette smoking Bong 'bhadralok' ...the most delicious road-side 'poochcas'(paani pooris)...dinner at Peter Cat and Trinca's, with live and dessert in Flury's...mannequins adorned with  beautiful 'taat' lighting that gives you that 'only in Kolkata' feel...road side book stalls, that bait you with bootlegged copies of all the books you want to read and own...catching up with D's family...

While Raya did not shed tears at the airport in India and  bid good bye to her grandparents with  "See you soon" and "See you Saturday", when we entered home in Virginia yesterday evening, my little one literally cried herself to sleep. It was not one of her usual tantrums that stems from her agitation when we don't give her something 'material' she wants. It was a pleading wail to take her back to her grandparents and extended family! She cried herself to sleep with repeated wails of "Let's go back to India, mama"..."I want to go to Ma and Koka"..."I want Ata"..."I want to go to Ma, Koka and Ash mamu"..."I want Ma/Koka to come here"..."I want Ata  to come here"...I really was at a loss and didn't know how to console her! Needless to say, I was relieved when she finally dozed off. I was however apprehensive about what the morning would bring. Raya woke up this morning, seemingly reconciled to the fact that we are back to the grind and to where we currently belong. It was almost as if, she was making an attempt to get back to her "Virginia" routine...she asked for her "usual" Nutella sandwich...wanted to brush her teeth a specific way...wanted "baba" and "mama" to do their usual morning chores in the specific order she was used was almost as if she was trying to find sanity in the made me feel relieved and sad, at the same time:(

So yes, that was what constituted the last 2.5 weeks of December, 2014 for us, in India...bonding with family and friends...3 cities and 1 town...the old... the new...and dreams of what is yet to be and seen  by Raya's generation of kiddos!

Happy New Year folks!!Wishing everyone love, laughter, health and happiness this coming year!

Leaving you with these gorgeous pics of the sun setting over the sprawling city of Guwahati!