Saturday, December 22, 2012

Too tired to blog tonight

(it's been a manic month so far although I'm not complaining)

BUT

I thought I would just like to note that there is nothing quite like walking down the road with a son who has been sulking at you for a while but suddenly lays his head on your hand (while walking!) because, dammit, you've been AWOL all month and he's only six and you're all the mother he has.

He's all the son I have too, all my winter sunshine and summer cheer. I hope he always knows it, even when we fight and he denies it. I hope when we're not talking he remembers how I never turned away a caress or a hug or a kiss. Or denied him one. And if he doesn't remember it, I will, because he is the only person in my life who has ever put me first. That has to count for something.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sending up thanks

... for Dipali. Not because she took on an errand I could have squeezed into my schedule tomorrow but because having somebody randomly do something just because they could is something I treasure.

My friends bestest. All of them.

Now to figure out a place to store 25 litre cartons of carrot juice.

(Also sending up thanks for boundless optimism, Georgette Heyers and not having to cook, clean or keep house any longer.)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Murphy came knocking today

And upset everything that he possibly could.

Who went and told him I started the day well, now? Come on, 'fess up. He's asking who he should visit next.

#snarl

More Than Me

I received this letter in my email:

More Than Me, an education and girls' empowerment non-profit is gaining notoriety through its guerrilla-style marketing, inspiring hundreds of people to write "I am Abigail" on their foreheads and post their photos on Facebook.

This really begs the question, "Who the heck is Abigail?"

Abigail was an orphan in West Point, Liberia. You may have read her in a previous article here on the Huffington Post. At six, she was left with prostitutes. She learned to work the streets in order to get access to drinking water and food. Education was not an option.

Then Abigail met Katie Meyler, the founder of More Than Me, an organization dedicated to getting girls off the streets and into schools. Katie and Abigail became fast friends, and More Than Me has raised the money to put Abigail through school. She is learning to bake, and aspires to one day be a Senator, so she can, in turn, help other girls like her. 

So, why are all these people also "Abigail"?

Abigail could be you. Abigail could be your sister, your niece, your student, or your neighbor. Remember, we live in a global community; there is no "me" without "we", Abigail is because you are, and you are because Abigail is.

Join the community. When you've done that, help the community grow by spreading our story. And most of all, get inspired.

Take 15 seconds (yes, just 15 seconds) to make the lives of these girls a bit better by doing two very simple and extremely meaningful things: VOTE NOW through 4th December for Abigail and girls like her at voteabigail.org and... then share it with others. (Maybe even make your OWN “I am Abigail” picture!)

Thank you, 
Mini Verma
MoreThanMe.org

If you would like to help them win the funding you know what to do. (Go vote.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The last two days

I've been feeling very brittle. Like I dare not stand too close to other people.

I have been extraordinarily productive though.

An unexpected conversation set the seal, sort of, on this brittleness. I thought it was a happy partnership, but it wasn't. They aren't even together any more.

...

A bad habit I have got into this year is that of comparing my marriage to others I see. Even when I do know better. Well, I have decided to do so no longer, no least because what's left to compare? Maybe others just put up a better show or have learnt to negotiate better or do whatever it is that works for them.

However, I am not any of these women and I have certainly not married anybody like their husbands. So no more comparisons. My story is mine alone and since I'm not comparing, I am free to script it my way.

...

A few times these last two days I wondered if I dared hope of anything beyond a lifetime of loneliness ahead of me. Today I find my boundless optimism reasserting itself in a most alarming sort of way.

[For the future me who will read this and wonder what it was all about and wish I had been a lot less cryptic -- It is December 2012 and I'm smack bang in the middle of Ciudades Paralelas.]

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Rights of The Reader


You can click on the imag to see a larger version, I think.

If you are having problems reading, here are The 10 Rights of The Reader:

1. The right not to read.
2. The right to skip.
3. The right not to finish a book.
4. The right to read it again.
5. The right to read anything.
6. The right to mistake a book for real life.
7. The right to read anywhere.
8. The right to dip in.
9. The right to read out loud.
10. The right to be quiet.

10 rights -- 1 warning: Don't make fun of people who don't read -- or they never will.

[I am posting this because of late some blogger friends and I have been discussing the reading habits of our children.]

Friday, November 30, 2012

Why do you write such mournful posts?

Because I am at my wits' end.

Because I have no solutions.

Because when I ask myself, what would Sue do, the answer, the only answer that ever comes up is that Sue would get into bed and stay in bed until her world improved vastly.

Because staying in bed means disturbing your child and setting him worrying.

Because he keeps coming to you to kiss away that sad face you're wearing.

Because, dammit, I want to be able to say I'm bloody sad. Occasionally angry but mostly so sad that I don't even want to eat or bathe or dress or work.

I have a room of my own now and I'm scared I will never want to share a room again.

I am scared a lot because change scares me.

I'm functioning because I must but if I had a choice I would be throwing a temper tantrum. I would get into bed and lock my door and stay there until my world improved vastly.

And if I were to be honest, I'm not really functioning either. I don't cook, clean or keep house or look after my child. So maybe I am throwing a temper tantrum after all. Good thing I discovered it in time to enjoy it, huh?

...
If you're a Glee fan maybe you'll like the Tumblr I just discovered.

Monday, November 26, 2012

On Dressing

The wonderful Rashmi Sachan of Fliplog posted a link this morning that I found truly hair-raising: children critising their teachers' attire.

My main problem with the article is the emphasis that the kids pay to things like perfect nail polish and repeating dresses.

I know, all too well, what it is to be judgmental over other people's clothes. My mother and I share a keen interest in clothes and although neither of us would ever make it to a fashion listing, we do notice what the people around us wear. When I notice pantylines and slipped bra straps and uneven tucks, it is part of the training my mother gave me. She is the one who told me to either wear makeup like a professional or not bother with it at all. (She doesn't bother with it at all.)

There are a couple of posts lying my drafts folder describing a personal project I started some time last year. I decided to stop judging people for what they wore. I come from a family where people dress more for comfort than for style so I decided to start at home but I found I worked the hardest when I was outside.

What I did was I constantly and ruthlessly questioned my judgments. If somebody's kurta slits were too high yes, it was an eyesore but how did it say anything about her aesthetic or moral nature? She could well be somebody wearing a gift that she hadn't liked to pass on. Or she could have fallen in love with the bright colours and didn't know how to fix the bared midriff. Or maybe she had more important things on her mind than occasional glimpses of bared skin. She could also think it was attractive, the way I sometimes wear a low neck or a high hem. Just because her style and mine were different, how was I to judge that hers was bad and mine was not? (My mother critisises my clothes quite a lot.)

When I was pressed to explain exactly why I raised eyebrows at people's appearances, most often I found myself lamely explaining that "it just looked bad". Which is no reason at all.

After some months of moral policing my inner fashion police I found that I just judged people less. I might dress a dear friend down for messily wearing her saree but I don't judge her for it. I might wish the man on the bus took the trouble to condition his long hair but it's his hair and I don't have a problem with his refusal to take what I think is proper care of it. It has worked very well, my little project. The bonus is that it has considerably broadened my horizons. A year or two ago I might have been intrigued by clothes like these but concluded that I would never dream of wearing a gamchha. Today I can see the inherent beauty of the fabric and appreciate the designer's vision.

The best part, to my way of thinking, is that I feel less bitchy. When I look at somebody, since I have been trying to teach myself to understand why they are wearing what they are wearing, I often notice little joys I might have overlooked otherwise -- a minute but delightful piece of accessorising, quirky colour blends, interesting hair or fabric or makeup details. Since I look at clothes because I like clothes and styling, it feels great to be less judgmental and more open to individuality. If I get over my mother's throw-on style of saree draping, I can admire the saree itself more easily (and my mother has a beautiful collection of sarees.) I have been trying to give Rahul somewhat greater choice in his daily wear and I can see the delight he takes in throwing together the most ridiculous colours -- and also how his clothes don't bother him at all, which I find truly delightful.

Being as I am on the other end of my little project, I find the comments by the schoolchildren saddening on a lot of levels. I know kids judge, I did too, but to say that somebody looks like an ayah puts the child, her teacher and the ayah down. Will the school explain that to the kid or will it direct all its focus on helping the teacher to not look like the ayah? (In Rahul's playschool his ayahs were always neat and often looked very pretty, with flowers in their hair and big, welcoming smiles on their faces.) Nail polish chips. That is what nail polish does, especially on the nails of an adult woman who works around the house and has a lot to do with her hands all day. Very few of us have the time or patience needed to maintain perfectly manicured nails all the time, so why judge somebody for chipped nail polish? It's not pretty but it's reality. (That particular comment mentioned in the article could have been made by a certain Miss Sunayana Roy about 15 years ago. I don't make any bones about that.)

Now, with all the fervour of the newly-converted I think people should stop thinking so much about what other people are wearing. Or at least, stop judging them for it and enjoy it a bit more. I promise you when you really look there is nearly always something to enjoy.

And lastly, while it is never a bad idea to help somebody dress 'better', I hope this school and all others where similar thoughts are discussed, keep a sense of proportion. These are children after all, here to be taught. A love of neat, attractive dressing and tolerance for eccentricity or unknown circumstances can go hand in hand and should do so.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Winter is coming.

Soon the men of Kolkata will go to work wearing their v-neck sleeveless sweaters knitted in elaborate cable stitches and whathaveyous by their womenfolk (the unlucky ones will wear ugly store-bought versions of the garment) and the women will go to work covered in their pretty wool shawls carefully chosen each morning to match or coordinate with their outfit for the day.

Vicky will catch one of his awful colds.

Rahul will wear socks at home.

I will also wear socks at home.

I am glad we are no longer in Kalikapur now that it's getting colder. Last winter there was one of the most miserable winters of my life. I spent a good month with the heater on (and paid the price for it, literally, when the bill came home to roost). I remember spending the day huddled up in bed trying to get a little warmer.

Moore Avenue can also be very cold. However, I shall be better prepared and I have my socks!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Telling Tales

This post is for harried parents everywhere. The children want stories and you have a sinkful of dirty dishes to return to, a TV show to watch and a deadline calling your name. You haven't the energy to read a kiddy book but nor can your tired mind concoct a new story off the cuff. That's when you remember what you [are about to] read in this post. And yes, as always, you are welcome.

How To Make Up Stories for Children -- Guidelines for Parents


1. Use the events of your child's day. If he went for a birthday party, the child in your story also went for a party. Not the same party exactly, but similar enough to have your kid excitedly furnish half the details for you. We saw a family of seven monkeys in front of our house today so Rahul's story today had a monkey who visited the house of our young girl protagonist.

2. Use repetitive dialogues. Children love the rhythm such exchanges bring to a story and they makes it easier for the kids to chime in. It is a great idea to tell stories that repeat an event with varying characters or places. For example, when I told Rahul about the little boy who turned himself into a T Rex and went around eating up his family, the boy had a little give-and-take that was pretty formulaic with each family member before he gobbled them up. It's fun and it's easy for when your mind is not working.

3. Cannibalise from stories you've read or heard before. I don't do this much but my father does. Feel free to work in storylines, characters or events from stories all over the place. It's all good and your kid will enjoy the feeling of recognition when she encounters the originals one day.

4. Keep the stories positive. My T Rex got scolded by his grandmother and threw up his grandfather, father and then mother with great drama. The moral was ostensibly not to eat up one's family but it was actually a desperate effort to save a storyline that had become far more morbid than I'd thought when I first unthinkingly said, "So the boy ate up his mother." (It worked, by the way. That story's a hoot.) You can discuss death, destruction, procreation, religion, anything at all, but make it end happily. My son tends to nightmares so I do this but who doesn't like a happy ending?

5. Reach into your own childhood. The house the monkey came to visit was an actual house I lived in as a 5 year old in Selimpur, Kolkata. Since I knew what I was talking about, it was easier to make the action come alive in my post-lunch stupor. Use people and places you know and you'll find the story tells itself.

6. Dramatise. If you don't know this already you should: children love hearing stories with different voices and sound effects and facial contortions. Ask them questions they are prepared to answer. ("The caterpillar was still hungry. So, the next day -- can you tell me what day comes after Monday? Yes, so on Tuesday etc.") There is nothing so entertaining as a dramatised, interactive story. Ask any child. You don't need to jump up and down at bedtime, a few voice modulations will do.

I have been telling some fantastic stories this week. I know they are good because I enjoyed hearing them myself. Sometimes my stories are blah, but now that I've stumbled onto tip #1, there is always a story at the tip of my tongue.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Quick Notes

1. We have moved to Moore Avenue. The upkeep of two households was becoming too much for my parents so early this year Vicky offered to shift here, keeping the place running and so on. I'm excited to be living here after twenty-two years, but it's not all joy. However, I don't mean to complain.

2. We are surviving on extremely erratic internet. Which is to say, Vicky has the 'net and I come online for a quickie browse in the wee hours. Which sounds delightfully scandalous but is actually very tiring especially when you consider I am also browsing for work in that time!

3. Rahul's school commute is a good 20 minutes longer each way now. This gives us more time to ourselves in the mornings but also tires him out a bit more. The good news is, there is another child at the bus stop and they seem to like one another.

4. I have been making major changes in my thinking and household. Things are in flux -- the changes are still very new -- but so far, so good. I will blog about this another time, when I am not yawning so widely.

5. Which is worse: giving greater focus to the spouse or to the young child? Assuming it's impossible to stay evenly balanced all the time and both are demanding in their own ways?

6. Rahul is a very funny kid. I would imagine all kids are funny but I know I wasn't. I was earnest, sober and rather pi. Rahul on the other hand is a barrel of laughs. His beam is infectious and he knows it. It is a pity that he doesn't believe me when I tell him not to trust his Baba or Diddi (my mum). Both of them laugh at him all the time. I only laugh at him most of the time and it is me he doesn't trust. I tell him, I have known them both longer and better and if there is one thing I have learnt it is that they are both Bad People Who Laugh At One. He doesn't believe me though.

7. I hope you have ordered your copy of Y's Just Married Please Excuse. If you haven't, you really should. I finally bought and read my copy this weekend and it is a truly delightful read. The editor in me winced at a couple of sentences but the reader in me laughed out loud frequently and finished the book with a sigh of regret. It is not just for jollies either. I do not care to speculate which parts of the book are fiction and which pure fact, but the truth is that the narrator comes across as engagingly self-aware and, well, honest. If you read me you know I value that.

8. Elephants have giant, S-shaped penises. I have had to read that at least 5 times in recent weeks. Consider yourself lucky I'm inflicting it on you only the one time. And I'm not going into the details of their sex lives either.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notice: Contest Winners Announced

Winners of The Four Fountains Spa gift voucher contest have been announced. Please check the post for names.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Should Have

1. Had Rahul later.

2. NEVER allowed Vicky to convince me to move in with his parents.

3. Trusted my own judgment a great deal more.

4. Learnt to cook when I was younger.

5. Stayed in the workforce whether I liked it or not.

6. Gone for my singing classes.


I am glad though that I

1. Do have Rahul.

2. Don't have to deal directly with my mother-in-law or brother-in-law any more.

3. Am trusting my judgment now.

4. Am learning to cook and bake.

5. Worked in some way every single month, whether paid or volunteered.

6. Still have a voice I'm not ashamed to raise in public.


In future I plan to trust my judgment even more. If I think somebody is lying, odds are I'm right. If I think somebody needs me, I should go to them no matter what they indicate. If I think something or somebody is a lost cause, I will give them up like I want to. If I think I'm jobless I will find myself work or know the reason why.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pujo 2012

Pujo was something of a damp squib last year. I don't have a single nice photograph from then and offhand I cannot remember too many happy memories either. I had promised myself to do it better this year. Rahul stayed with us for a change and we move house after Pujo this year, not just before.

It started off quietly. A Panchami lunch at the newly opened Wasabi on the Prince Anwar Shah Connector (the food was decent, service more enthusiastic than efficient), another on Shashti at the Jimmy's Kitchen at Landmark. On Shashti evening Vicky and Rahul walked down to the Kalitala Sporting Club pujo behind our home to see the lights. I had sewed my mekhla-sador from our Assam trip all afternoon, so I put it on and went to meet them there. Seeing the crowds and hearing the bheNpoos finally made me feel more the thing. Rahul and I returned home so he could eat his dinner (homemade pasta in cheese sauce) and then we took an auto to Selimpur where we had ice cream, soft drinks and ghugni and chatted with Kaka and Tinku.

On Saptami evening the three of us drove down to Triangular Park. I wore a pista green saree with a matching cotton halterneck blouse from an earlier Pujo. We parked Ally right in front of the mela entrance and Rahul and Vicky had a ride on the 'dragon boat'. We walked down to Panditiya where we saw a couple of pandels including the Tibetan show on Manohar Pukur Road. Thanks to my Gourangamama we had VIP passes to this one and Deshapriya Park. Rahul got his introduction to ice gola at Deshapriya Park. He loves ice lollies and now loves these too. We ate Sweetmoon Bakeshop apple cake and chilli chocolate mousse at Ta'aam before heading back to the Traingular Park mela so that Rahul could ride on the car rides. We were home before 10 pm and in fact, the Pujo traffic was kind to us.

Early on Ashtami morning Rahul and I drove down to Kumartuli to see pandels there with Dana, Katy and Sumit. We had a fun morning wandering up and down Kumartuli and Sobhabazar. We got home around half past eight and after breakfast (dosa-podi for me, cheese dosa for him) and some R&R we went to Lake Gardens around 11 am for the anjali. He participated in his first anjali too, and not surprisingly, spent most of the prayer time keeping an eye out for his friend Zubin and another one on a cat in the vicinity. Oh and he also tried to filch some of the flowers to take home. I wore my Kerala set saree to the anjali, with my gold chandelier earrings from, where else, Kerala Jewellers.

We picked up chilli chicken and fried rice from Annapurna (oh how I miss the takeout of Lake Gardens). We both napped that afternoon because the evening promised to go on till late too. We were invited to dinner at DrD's. Rahul and I drove down earlier, before 8. Vicky had work and would join us later. Manashi and I walked down to the Golf Green Phase II pandel (fascinating work and atmosphere). We returned with popcorn and candyfloss for the four kids back home -- Rahul, Ratul, Chinky and Amrita, daughter of friends of theirs. It was well past midnight and after an evening of starters, biriyani, beer and wine, I finally drove us home. It was a nicer evening than I'd hoped for and for once I spent more time with the adults than the kids.

Nabami was quieter, as we recovered from all the partying. Rahul and I took a bus down to Selimpur and Jodhpur Park in the evening. We saw the lights and he had a mango ice lolly as well as an orange gola while I picked up momos and chowmein for dinner. The crowds were scary so we soon headed back home. In the wee hours though, Shuki (back from her holiday) and Dana and I met up to go pandel-hopping. We drove through Bhowanipore, chatted over tea at the new coffeeshop in front of the Mudiali pandel and stopped at the beautiful Kerala temple at Bangur Park before going home as the sky lightened. I stayed up to bake brownies for Vicky -- it's his birthday today on Dashami -- and let the maid in.

Dashami has been quiet. I didn't go for sindoor-khela this year either. I no longer feel like I belong there. I made spaghetti with meat sauce for lunch and threw together things from the freezer for dinner. My tiredness caught up with me so I spent the day napping intermittently and alternately teasing and cuddling Rahul.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cheap Thrills

Here on the Bypass the nights have turned chilly.

As Rahul snuggled into bed I suggested that tonight we could do something fun -- instead of me reading him his bedtime story, how about we call his Dadu (my father) and have him do the honours?

He turned the offer down without hesitation, even though Dadu is known to tell quite satisfactory stories, filled with dragons and dinosaurs and all kinds of monsters and vehicles and other such things calculated to give a little boy exciting dreams.

As he put it, "Dadu's stories are not as good as yours. Your stories are fantastic."

I know it's a cheap thrill but I'll take what I can get. As it is I barely restrained the urge to call my father and gloat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wallowing in Luxury -- Maybe You Can Too

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the names of contest winners.

Last Tuesday afternoon I had an invitation to treat myself to a therapy at The Four Fountains Spa on Theatre Road (Shakespeare Sarani) courtesy their publicity department. I was ambivalent about taking up the offer because I do not usually write such reviews, and when I asked around I found Kiran had also received a similar invitation in the past which never actually materialised. However, curiosity got the better of the Sue and last Tuesday saw me walking into their little office.

I was made welcome by the charming Sylvia who had also called ahead to confirm my appointment and give me directions. She explained my options, had somebody bring me a welcoming glass of water and then introduced me to my therapist, Shanti, who looked as calm and soothing as her name. The people at Four Fountains apear to take their aim of de-stressing and relaxation very seriously because the staff makes it a point to appear soothing and the ambience, with the smell of lemongrass in the air, makes you feel calmer as you step in.

I asked for the Bastar Mitti Body Wrap. I was taken up to a little air-conditioned room called Peace (I think) prettily done up in brown and gold and beige. I wish I had a photo of it to show you guys but you’ll get an idea from their website.

Shanti offered me a set of disposable underwear and left me to change. She came back with a bowl of heavy jasmine oil and a lot of sea salt. She then proceeded to use a combination of the two to literally polish my entire body, front and back. Polish me like I was a beloved piece of antique furniture.

You learn something new every day. That day I learnt having my tummy and soles polished makes me squirm with laughter – it tickles!

After a good half hour of being ruthlessly rubbed I was sent for a shower and a change of clothes in the tiny attached bathroom while Shanti quickly prepared the room for the next part of the therapy. I showered off all that salt and oil with plentiful hot water and bath gel.

I returned to the bed, now covered by a large sheet of plastic, and had a cold mud pack slathered all over me. Shanti then tucked me up in that sheet of plastic, much as I once swaddled a baby Bhablet, covered me with a large bathing towel for extra warmth and marginal respectability I imagine, placed cotton pads soaked in rosewater or some such thing over my eyes, and left me to stew for the next 20 minutes. This part was less enjoyable because the plastic was itchy and I soon got annoyed with the pads over my eyes and had to blink them away. I sent a mental apology to my son for doing similar things to him when he was a baby.

When I was about ready to get off the bed, plastic and all, Shanti returned and liberated me. Another shower, a return to my own clothes, liberal moisturisation and I felt like a newly minted me. No exaggeration.

When I went downstairs once more Sylvia at the reception offered me a cup of green tea while she took me through a questionnaire designed to work out my stress levels. She also gave me some discount coupons for nearby coffeeshops as I left.

What I really liked:
1. The courtesy of the staff. They appeared to treat all visitors with equal warmth and attention. Shanti and Sylvia in particular were both very comfortable to deal with. At no point was I hurried or nudged into something I did not want.

2. The ambience. From the colour scheme to the well-appointed rooms to the plentiful toiletries and thick towel, everything spelled comfort.

What I did not enjoy:
1. My bathroom was a tiny space, set up so that I had to bathe standing against the frosted glass door with the light on me. Since Shanti cleared the room as I showered, this made me rather uncomfortable. A partially opaque door would solve the problem, or a realignment of the shower space.

2. That plastic wrap. It was stiff and itchy.



Now that you’ve read my story, here’s a chance to win a free therapy of your own at a Four Fountains spa near you. To enter the competition
a. Leave a comment to this post with a response to the thought “Does looking good make you feel good or does feeling good make you look good?
b. ‘Like’ them on Facebook.

This contest is open till  midnight Monday, 29 October 2012.

3 winners will be announced on the following Tuesday so don’t forget to check if your name is among them. If you win I will need some contact information!

(Please note that the choice of winners will be entirely at the discretion of The Four Fountains Spa personnel and cannot be contested once announced.)


UPDATE:

Thank you for all your entries, humorous and serious, to The Four Fountains Spa giveaway. As you know, there were 3 free spa therapy vouchers for prizes. The winners are

S Rai, Bangalore

Dana

Galadriel

Congratulations you three! Please email me your postal addresses at sunayanaroy@gmail.com so that you can receive your free gift vouchers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tumi baaje

Tumi kaalke amar schooler bondhu ke lathi diya merechhile.

(You're bad. Yesterday you hit my schoolfriend with a stick.)

Favoured visitors and startled grandparents are regularly informed that I'm a bad mother and beat him up. The ways in which I do this are highly inventive. Apparently I slap him awake every morning and sometimes I just come out of the blue and smack him silly and yet other times I scare him so much he doesn't ever want to live with me.

You would have to be looking into his face to see the unrepentent twinkle in his eyes and only then might you realise that he is lying his little ass off. Sometimes, even then you have your doubts. Why, after all, would a child say such things about his mother of all people?

Because, and I cannot stress this too highly, not everybody is Rahul Niyogy. He doesn't do the things you might expect him to do (or not do).


Speaking for myself, I am highly relieved we do not live in countries where children are apparently taken away from their parents on suspicion of beatings.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Women Who Laugh

I know, all women laugh (it's the best medicine and don't we know it) but here are two women who laugh at themselves and the people they love best, and in doing so, they remind you to do the same.

As I said, the best medicine.

Oormila

Lavanya

Friday, October 19, 2012

Express Yourself

Kamini of the wonderful Holmemade Cakes shared a link this morning to a video of Karen Walrond's 1,000 Faces Project.

It's a nice video, with 10 points on how to show your true beauty. Point #7 says

Express yourself. Often, kindly and without apology.

This roughly describes my own thinking these last few months. I could work on the 'kindliness' of my 'expressions', I'm sure, but I am pleased with my lack of apology.

Some time, when I'm in the right mood, I shall blog about this at greater length.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Power Play with Arena Stage {Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012}


Thursday, 11 October 2012 was the first ever International Day of the Girl Child. While it will always annoy me that we are such a threatened species that we need a day to focus attention on ourselves, I would like to tell you about what we were doing last Thursday here in Calcutta.

A four-member team from Arena Stage, Washington DC, is travelling around India right now, hosted by the US Department of State, workshopping with young people and helping them put up plays based on their own autobiographical experiences -- as a part of the Arena Stage Voices of Now ensemble productions. These four, Anita Maynard-Losh, Ashley Forman, Raymond Caldwell and Mitch Mattson, are superb at what they do, sympathetic and open to stories, talented at extracting the dramatic potential in these stories and eventually crafting a thought-provoking performance out of them. (They deserve every superlative adjective they get, they really are that good.)

A motley bunch of nearly 40 odd artistes came together from schools and colleges and repertories around Calcutta and outside. We workshopped with the Arena Stage team for about two and a half days to work out the issues that resonated within us. Surprisingly, given the relative youth of nearly half the group, we found we were constantly referring to gender powerplays, talking about what it felt like to be a woman in this city and how the men have it here. We could have talked about the poverty and pollution or history and tradition that hits you when you reach Kolkata but we talked about gender.

We talked about power and powerlessness: the helplessness of the women who sit at home wondering about the safety of their families in these times of political change, the people who have power or are perceived as powerful (male, Brahmin, rich, or born into the 'right' minority but invariably male -- in a region headed by a female chief minister and where the mother goddess is worshipped in various avatars.)

We talked about how our society perceives a "good" woman: who studies to be a better mother and covers herself up and is a trained dancer who performs only for family and who knows better than to "understand" politics, economics or international affairs. A woman who "does not use her body to express herself in plays" -- a thought that my otherwise cosmopolitan father has been trying to get me to accept for over a decade now.

We depicted through tableaux and words how it is to be a single woman living by herself. Not only are you at the mercy of your neighbours and general junta who have no compunction in tearing your all-important reputation into shreds unless you confine yourself to their extremely narrow definitions of respectability, but you always live with the threat of "burning torches, people out to exorcise the prostitute who'd out-stepped the bounds of her morality." Funnily enough, you can continue to work or party as you wish so long as you have a husband at home. Then the neighbourhood no longer feels responsible for you or your morals. It startled me to realise how many of us felt that in this day and age, that in a city like Kolkata where I have always felt women have more freedom of expression and choice than the other places I have lived in, women continue to be taught that all their talents and learning should only ever lead on to marriage. Because that promises safety and societal acceptance.

Interestingly, we also worked on the restrictions placed on men, how they have no choice but to be the strong one, the breadwinner, and also how to them power comes and goes with career earnings. Who places this burden on them? Is it their women?

We ended with a story from Burdwan, where a theatreperson learnt that she too can bring about change if only by showing the next generation the possibilities of change. It helped remind me that women in Bengal, despite the limitations placed upon them, nevertheless do have certain powers -- the freedom to move, if not freely then still move from place to place, to have careers, to have a say in the upbringing of their children. These are powers that much of India still cannot take for granted.

It was a performance that posed questions. Solutions were suggested but not dictated. I for one had no idea that so many of my concerns were shared by so many of my fellow artistes, but knowing now that they do share them makes me feel, shall I say, a little more powerful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Loss

I was walking home yesterday in the rain after the Arena Stage performance at ICCR and it was the end to a long, exhilarating day. I was exhausted and close to the point of finally letting the balls drop.

But then, I remembered, there's always something more to lose.

I try, I really try, to only lose that which I gain nothing by keeping, or that which wants to be lost. For the rest, I am grateful for my blessings. Especially the one that stands 4' high and makes homecoming a little easier.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Looking for McDreamy

It seems like a really long time since I had a crush on anybody, male or female. It's easy to see why, of course. I have not gone out or met too many people this year. Most of the people I meet aren't my kind, not to crush on, anyway.

But it would be good to fall in love a little, I think. Just have that little spurt of excitement in my day. I am so tired right now of the unavailability of the men in my life. One is married and therefore unavailable and the other, well, he is married and unavailable. No, I will not tell you who is which. It is enough to say they both make my head and my heart hurt. Just for now I dream of somebody really cute who does not need to know I'm alive but who will make my days and my fantasies a little brighter. Really, is that too much to ask for? A cute guy?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Sometimes when I miss you

I put on the necklace. Never the ring. But the necklace is comforting. Soothing, almost.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why Our Parents Worry {Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012}





It was Shuki's birthday this Tuesday and she was to be pretty busy all day. Dana and I thought of visiting her at midnight the night before but plans fell through because Dana's mum asked us not to drive around at night.


Shuki, Dana and I meet at night. It's what we do. We also meet during the daytime but given that each of us has commitments that necessarily keep us in different parts of town and that keep up occupied most of the day, after-dinner coffee became our time to catch up and unwind. Mostly we just sit and chat. We used to go for drives until the price of petrol made that uncomfortable. Sometimes we would go for a coffee at one of the all-night cafes. There aren't too many affordable all-night cafes within safe driving zones in Calcutta anyway and the ones there are don't always welcome three women who just want to sit and chat over coffee. We don't sleep over because at least two of us have school things the next morning and we don't even do this very often. But we like our nightly chats because they are usually so peaceful, undisturbed by the demands of our daytime lives.

For the last six months our night-time meetings -- and essentially, our meetings -- have grown fewer. After the Park Street rape case, the media has made it a point to report all the news of assault on women (and police callousness) that it can find in Bengal. The stories are alarming but what is alarming still is that the three of us who have earlier dealt quite calmly with stalkers and police patrols on our night-time drives no longer feel comfortable driving about at night.

It would be easy to say this intangible sense of fear is caused by the media frenzy but there have been such media outbursts before, most notably as an aftermath of the Bapi Sen incident. It seems to me as though what is happening in Calcutta right now is a part of a larger movement, a movement sweeping across the country, most notably in Guwahati, Mangalore, Mumbai... I could keep adding to the list of cities but you, too, read the papers.

This violence against women out in public, in daylight, in front of crowds, this resentment against women for wearing clothes or going places or performing activities that do not meet with certain individual codes of behaviour -- our acceptance of this violence, our lack of sustained action against people who shrug and say, "Oh, what can you expect in a place like that?" or "We all know what to think of women who dress like that!" or "Why wasn't she home at that hour?" -- all of this makes me reiterate why we members of Team VAWM crowd our already busy festival month with this draining awareness programme. We do it because if we don't stand up for ourselves, nobody else will.

Whether you support our efforts or not, please support any women who find themselves under attack in front of you. A catcall is an attack, as is a failure to support a women who is trying to fend off attackers.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Violence Against Women Awareness Month: October 2012

It's October and once again, we're talking about Violence Against Women. This year has been especially unnerving, especially for women like me in Calcutta, but also for women all over India as rapes, battering and other violent attacks seem to be a daily feature of our morning headlines. Even Aamir Khan talked about it.

If you, like us, take these incidents seriously, please join our Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012. You can

'Like', share and join our discussions on Facebook
Tweet, retweet and share our conversations on Twitter
Join the blogathon and follow all VAWM news on our blog

As always, you are welcome to share your stories, insights or any other information by emailing us at vawawareness@gmail.com -- requests for confidentiality or anonymity will be respected.



If you have problems with the badge code from the blog, you can do what I do i.e. download and then post the badge image and link it to the blog. It takes a minute more but it's just as effective.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turning 6

Rahul hasn't taken too many calls willingly today, but every call that he has consented to take was answered with a, "Hello, happy birthday, yes, I am 6 now."

Sometimes, I just know he is my son.

This growing up business is a tricky proposition for a Babu like Sue.

I look at him shooting onwards and upwards, learning to use bows and arrows, rifles and dinner knives, cook and bake, play with Lego and Meccano and I am content that he is on the right track.

And then I see him fast sleep, relaxed at last, my beautiful little boy who hungers for more pets and more plants and more family and more friends (and indeed, more TV and more chocolate) and I resent how fast the years are taking my baby away from me into this ever-widening world.

And then there are those countless times when I see him dwa-a-a-adling over his food and letting his shyness make him rude to strangers, clinging to me when I need to be elsewhere and whining at me when I want to work or nap and I just wish he would hurry up and grow older faster!

Happy birthday, baby. And yes, I'll be calling you that when you are a grandfather and quite tired of telling me not to do so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

FDI in retail

I'm not very good at understanding economic theory outside my household budget (although I'm pretty good at balancing that when I want to).

Reading about our state government's hard stand on FDI reminded me of something that truly bemuses Vicky and me: we are members of the nearby Metro Cash and Carry and usually do a staples run there every 5-6 weeks. When this wholesale department store came up it was touted as the cheapest source of export quality goods. The truth is, we find a lot more variety in New Market and everything I have compared so far has turned out cheaper at Chandni, Poddar Court or New Market. Sometimes by quite a hefty bit. In fact, sometimes the usual price of an item in these places beats the 'special' discounts at Spencer's. Plastic cupboards that had a couple of thousands knocked off their marked price in Spencers turned up cheaper by another couple of thousands in Poddar Court. Tubelight holders with 'free' tubelights turned out to cost exactly the same when our electrician brought them from his shop as when I had priced them on 'discount' at Metro. And do not get me started on the cooking chocolate at Johnson's, New Market vs Metro.

So I wonder, as the average householder who truly does not understand national economics but needs to keep a household going, how are these big retail chains improving things for me? The only reason we do go to Metro is that it is a 3-4 minute away. Otherwise the savings seem to be on par with the discounts I get from the neighbourhood grocers. If anything, I tend to save money at the neighbourhood grocers because I can buy as little as I need, as often as I like. Is it possible for the big chains to provide that kind of convenience?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Raising Rahul

The other day Kiran posted a link to Susan Sontag's guide to raising children. It's Rahul's birthday this month, and like I tend to get this time of the year, I find myself very contemplative, looking at him and evaluating ourselves as parents. The 10 guidelines are very matter-of-fact:
Be consistent.
We try to be. I think mostly we are. Vicky and I are not very disciplined people so this is not easy for us and sometimes the strain of sticking to a schedule gets to us.
Don’t speak about him to others (e.g., tell funny things) in his presence. (Don’t make him self-conscious.)
I hated my mother and Mejopishi discussing me when I was younger. I always felt that I never had any privacy when those two got chatting. I learnt to live with it as I grew older but I notice it doesn't take much to make Rahul self-conscious. And when he is self-conscious he starts clowning around, usually taking it to extremes. It's just easier discussing him when he is not around!

Don’t praise him for something I wouldn’t always accept as good.
YES. If I don't think I'll like it at 15 I don't praise it at 5 either.

Don’t reprimand him harshly for something he’s been allowed to do.
Both Vicky and I could do much better in this department.

Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
We don't have a social life because a certain Person in this household goes to bed at 8 and is usually ready for bed even earlier. 'Nuff said?

Don’t allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
I try, boy do I try. Somebody please take this child aside and explain to him how rude his interruptions are! He just stands there and repeats himself until I am forced to throw him some kind of a response if only to get him to stop. Shades of William Brown.

Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
*cough* No comments.

Do not discourage childish fantasies.
We don't. :) I love how he makes things up now. His drawings tell stories, and he builds the most fantastically absurd things with Lego. The wealth of detail in his creations, the painstaking labour he puts into it all, puts goofy grins on our faces. He knows we find something funny but he also knows we aren't laughing at him.

Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that’s none of his business.
This is tricky because he has very little or no buffer from this grown-up world. No other children (mostly) and we tend to take him wherever we go because it's not like we have places to leave him. But we do explain and regularly reinforce that he is not expected to join in grown-up conversations or take sides in adult confrontations.

Don’t assume that what I don’t like to do (bath, hairwash) he won’t like either.
It's weird having a child who likes to stay fully covered -- at his age minimal clothing was my state of choice (and according to some relatives, it still is) but there you have it. Mister T Rex is his own person and if he likes to go through life in pajamas with tails tucked in behind, who are we to find that strange?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Onychophagia

Rahul has taken to biting his nails. It's one of the beastly little things he is learning in school. If I don't remember to trim them as soon as ever they grow, I find his fingernails bitten down. It bothers me because my brother and I used to bite our nails. I stopped when I was thirteen and decided I wanted nice nails when I grew up but by then a couple of fingernails were permanently damaged.

Repeated reminders, warnings and explanations have not worked with Rahul. He looks guilty and denies biting them at all but the evidence is on his fingertips.

Last night I carried out my threat and painted two of his fingernails. I applied a coat of clear varnish and told him, next time, I will paint them bright red so that everybody can see. I just hope the bitter taste of the polish will remind him not to bite the nails.

He was tired and took it very badly. He first begged and then howled his little head off. It felt a bit like thrashing a little puppy.

I wonder if punishing me also hurt my parents. I always believed that they quite enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kabuliwala

Early every morning, and then later on in the morning, and often several times in the evening as well, harsh-looking men come by our building. They walk up and down the road in front of our balconies and call out in rough voices. They rarely get an answer and even more rarely do they have the door open to them. Sometimes they get angry and call out abuses. A couple of times they defaced the doors of the flat downstairs.

They come looking for a woman who lives below us. She apparently borrowed money from them and doesn't make her return payments in time, frequently arguing over the amounts demanded. 

When we first moved in, they used to come upstairs. They would come to my door, these large, scary-looking men, and ask me if I knew where the people downstairs had gone, did I know when they would be back or how they could be reached. When I woke up early in the morning to let the maid in or water the plants, I would see them prowling downstairs, unnerving in their regularity.

My father says I should not mind them because they are trying to retrieve money that belongs to them. I find them not only noisy and unnerving but also annoying because our neighbours downstairs keep locking the building gates at unexpected hours to keep them out.

We are looking to move again. This will be one of the things I shall be glad to leave behind me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Indian Mommy Bloggers and Blogging for Social Change

Hindustan Times printed an article today on some mommy bloggers you know: Kiran, Itchy, Lalita ... and me. I feel a bit of a fraud because I never have considered myself a mommy blogger. A blogging mother, yes; mommy blogger, no. Nevertheless, I have been reading mommy blogs longer than most people even knew they existed, so perhaps I am allowed to have a say.

I am glad this article was written. For all that, though, I think it missed out on a few important milestones in the (online but very real) community that is the Indian mommy blogging scene. I have frequently mentioned, as have a lot of others, how much we depend on other blogging parents for support and advice on this parenting thing. About 5-6 years ago, this dependence led to off-blog friendships that have mostly survived and flourished. Fun like the 2008 online baby shower led to support groups that survive today. These relationships and others nourished by Twitter and Facebook have helped create movements like the annual Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month and Violence Against Women Awareness Month. For mommy bloggers like Parul their writing led to book deals.

Am I saying mommy blogging has changed India? Who knows, it's much too early to tell. But for a generation of Indian women like me, it has changed our perception of parenting, family and friendship, to some extent, and it laid the foundation for other movements that have helped me give sense to the life I lead. And yes, perhaps I am the elite but I do know that Boo and Kiran (to mention but two) have both spoken of strangers who recognised them from their blogs and came up to thank them for the inspirational writing.

I myself continue to get heartfelt mail from people I do not know for blogposts that spoke to them. When something crops up that affects us all, we know we have a network to tap into, thanks to our blogging. Somewhere, clearly, a difference has been made and is still being made. Whether this difference compares to what is happening elsewhere is difficult to say because my medium of choice and therefore my reach is still restricted in this country, but I think we have all come a very long way from the relative isolation that was the internet a decade ago.

By and large I am glad Manjula wrote this piece. It has made me think a bit about what this space is all about -- I tend to lose focus from time to time on that.

On that note, please keep in mind that October is Violence Against Women Awareness Month. If you would like to chip in with a blogpost, information or just help spread the awareness please feel free to contact us at vawawareness@gmail.com or @VAWawareness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A food blogger with a difference

It's The Baking Robot.

If you haven't read it before, you should. Quite apart from some great looking food, it features writing that is quite funny.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Parent much? Then you want to check these two out.

The Parent Rap

Chronos and Kairos

The article actually seems a little mistitled. It describes how I spend my days (I imagine more of us have these days than the breathless 'live every moment' kind) but I would say I carpe my diem. I seize my day, you see, not the moment.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yummy Mummy

Durga Das is in town. Maya and Cassia were also here earlier, but unfortunately the two visits did not overlap by a great deal. It was a bit of a pity because these kids are my youngest cousins and the two younger ones I met for the first time ever -- they are both younger than their nephew, my son!

Rahul took a shine to Cassia at the one party where they met, running up and down the party hall and stairs with her. Durga Das and he also get along like a house on fire and every day he talks about his 'little mama' (size indicated by gesture) and wants to meet him. And really, what's not to love about these kids. I may be biased (such very baby cousins of mine they are) but what with Maya's sense of humour and Cassia's quiet mischief and Durga Das' effortless domination of wherever he is, being around them is great fun.

I held a little party for them last Monday morning (it was Eid). As it happened, the gathering seemed to consist of Roy girls and their offspring: the three in our generation, two from the one above us and our kids; Cousin J was the offspring in our generation!

Cassia missed the party because she wasn't quite well but Maya was there, as Durga Das' "talking seatbelt", and the moppet himself kept things lively. Neither boy ate much but they liked the four-layer cake and the ice lollies/popsicles I fortunately had in the freezer. In fact, they liked the latter so much they started bouncing up and down in their stools chanting, "Yummy, Mummy!" Crazy kids.

I have looked forward to this month for a very long time, purely for the pleasure of meeting these cousins. I was greatly disappointed that Cousin J was around for less time than I'd hoped, but I'm still glad so many of us made it. I'm really bummed I don't have a camera this month, although I must say Didi is doing a good job of recording as much as she can.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Little girl

I'm much too old to go to my parents when I'm in trouble.

Sometimes though I wish I could.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A stitch in time [would have saved me an hour]

Yesterday evening I sat and caught up on some of my sewing. I haven't touched it in months and still have lots left to tackle.

I had no choice. Vicky spent the better part of a holiday in a shirt safety-pinned down the front. When I went to fix that I realised the shirt actually doesn't have more than half its buttons and has an open hem all along the back. (And in this list I havn't mentioned the trousers with torn hems and missing buttons, nor Rahul's mending nor the cushion that lost its ties ages ago.)

I wonder what they do with their clothes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No one cares about a farmer in Midnapore.

I do not understand our Chief Minister.

Portrait of a Writer Who Bounces

Kiran has been hounding me for a while now. Aneela too. Parul mentioned it in her gentle(r) way years before either of them.

I always meant to write but I have not written much since college. My own writing didn't interest me as much as I wanted it to. Last year, for a lark, I started the Lake Gardens Tales. They floundered, mostly because I moved away from Lake Gardens and the atmosphere that those stories needed. That writing was uneven, occasionally rambling, more often too abrupt, but a couple of the episodes delighted me. I still read them and laugh, so they can't be that bad.

Last week Vicky, Rahul and I went to Darjeeling with Smitadi, Ashokda, Mama and Tuni. I turned on Vicky's Macbook one quiet evening and started to thrash out a story I had long had in my head. It was based on actual events, so it didn't need as much prep as it might have otherwise. It's not complete but it's mostly done and it's somewhat funny so perhaps my, um, mojo is returning. (I've never precisely been sure that I actually have a mojo but let us assume I do.)

We returned to Cal and since then I've been brimming over with ideas. Every time I try to get one down on screen though, I find it's my story. Fictionalised, slightly altered or even when changed unrecognisably, it's still always something that happened to me. And because these stories are all mine, I bounce from one to another with no boundaries, no limiting closures. None of them ever get finished although I sketch out some very interesting characters as I go. It would be difficult for me not to, because I do meet very interesting people. I used to think I fell in love with men who introduced me to interesting people but the truth is that I do it myself. Almost every month, I meet somebody somewhere who adds something to my thinking and enlarges my view of the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm crammed full of other peoples and that I'm letting their stories slip out of my fingers. Irrepressible people who live lives that fascinate me.

When I try to write these stories down, I end up writing about the effect they have on me. All these stories become about me or people who are something like the different shades in me and this narcissism is intensely exasperating.

I bounce from story to story, unable to choose which to finish, which to elaborate. I bounce from character to idea, remembering other events, unable to cut an episode off at an appropriate ending, remembering how many, many things each event influenced down the years. I used to think I was a kickass editor, so what happened to that?

I suppose I should just be glad I'm writing, at least. Maybe with time even the poetry with return.

Friday, August 03, 2012

I was all out of words

Life hit me too hard, too often, a fortnight ago. Rahul's school called us requesting that we give his studies a little more attention and yet again, my mother-in-law was up to her drama. The school was entirely justified, the mother-in-law was not.

You'd think that given I haven't talked to the woman since April 2011 and prefer not to discuss her she would have the decency to stop talking about me? You would have thought wrong. This time my brother-in-law and his wife decided to jump in as well. I understand this is not a particularly intelligent group of people but even so... one does not like knowing that one's son has in him genes quite so stupidly vicious.

Then there was the work or lack of it. I have been cutting my freelancing down to almost nothing. Now, I'm no good unless I'm working but when I'm in this frame of mind I stop working, so it becomes a bit of a spiral.

There was also quite a lot of drama from my own side of the family about how I don't show enough respect, affection, welcome or thought. I think it's time people stopped expecting things of me and started looking at the person I actually am. I see them as they are and don't keep telling them what a massive disappointment they are to me.

I'm no longer angry or upset but I've been re-drawing a lot of boundaries. I'm too old now to put up with this nonsense.

On the other hand, while I was out of words and offline, there were some things I would like to remember:
1. The second show of Monologues.
2. We went out several times, Vicky, Rahul and I. We went to the sales, we went for dinner, we met Nilu and Shoma (with Shuki) for dinner at Mocha to celebrate their anniversary, we are meeting Smitadi and Ashokda for dinner tonight.
3. I set aside my lack of words and met Dana and Shuki after dinner one night and Shuki and Nibudi for coffee another evening and Dipali yesterday afternoon.
4. Tarana sent Rahul a rakhi and he made a card thanking her for it in his best handwriting. His first ever card. I received a rakhi call from my brother. It doesn't change anything but he did call.
5. I read through the five books of the Song of Fire and Ice set.
6. I've been making friends with the Android tablet Vicky bought me for my birthday. It's more than a lavish birthday gift, it's actually a very thoughtful present from the man who seems to have known after all just how much I missed my smartphone. (My N8 crashed yet again in June and this time I'm not getting it fixed until I stop missing it.) It's not an iPad, but it's fun and it lets me read ebooks and watch Big Bang Theory in bed.
7. I've been working with The Littlest Niyogy on his numbers and his letters and his reading and his spelling and his recitation and also his swimming. All of them could do with some improvement but hey, that's what parents are for. He is swimming. He doesn't think he is, but he swims 8-10 metres easy and could do longer laps if he remembered to use his arms! He reads out books to me and draws dinosaurs at the drop of a hat (Tarana's card has three, one multicoloured -- his new word).
8. Vicky's contemplating moving me -- us -- out of Calcutta and into a place that isn't even featured on the internet. I'm sure it won't come to anything and the place has a certain appeal but even so... On the bright side, if the universe -- and Vicky -- actually pull this through then I suppose I could put the place on the internet. I think I will go sew myself a nice little superhero cloak and leotard. Maybe I could also learn to use a lariat while I'm at it.

Lastly, Jamie Oliver on Masterchef Australia last night. Seriously, how cute is that man! I looked at all those women hugging him at the drop of a hat and turned a deep, deep green. I've had the hots for J Oliver since I was in high school!

Clearly, my words have returned.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Birthday Card

We had a birthday party for me on Saturday night. I got a lot of really thoughtful gifts but the one that I keep returning to is a card that Chinky spent an entire afternoon creating for me. She drew it and cut it out and wrote in it in her best cursive.

Like I told her, I have made lots of cards but the last time somebody made me a card was when I was in school, which was half a lifetime ago.

She ran around the house playing with Rahul and Ratul-who-is-no-longer-quite-a-baby and she got up to mischief and teased the boys. She also ran to get napkins to wipe up spills and cut the rest of the cake   without being asked and offered to help me organise the dinner. 

I remember when Vicky and I went to the hospital because they'd had a baby. A little bundle with wee, scrunched up eyes. A little girl in soft pink who came to greet me as a new bride at my reception and who promptly stole my husband's attention from me. A two year-old who twirled her fork into her noodles like a pro. A three-year old who recited "Johnny Johnny" with the most adorable straight face. When she was six I once spent an evening playing guessing games with her. Earlier this year I gave her my precious Barbie Fan Club magazines and memorabilia. If anybody could cherish them the way I have for the last two decades, she does.

Seeing her makes me unutterably sad. And then she looks up and I'm just glad I have her in my life, at least. I like to think if I'd had my daughter she would have been a little like her Chinky-didi.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

30

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Blessings in Miniature

Last year, Vicky came home from a holiday with gifts for me. He always buys me stuff but this time the gifts included a little porcelain tea-set. I haven't put it on display and I certainly will not allow Rahul to play with it any time soon, but shall I tell you a little secret? The set is housed, with care and in layers of newspaper, alongside the rest of my chineware in storage. To me it is every bit as much 'my' household china as any other bowl or plate or cup I own and use.

When I was Rahul's age my father bought me a similar set that I used for years. It still survives, with a couple of cracks, carefully stored among my toys somewhere. I used to have dolls tea parties with sugar and water and biscuits. When Vicky bought me the second tea-set I felt that old excitement and found myself planning miniature cakes and sandwiches and tea. I may never hold another dolls tea party but I regularly plan some in my head.

Sometimes I feel so adrift from Vicky, so disconnected, so lost that I wonder why I live with him. And then I remember this is the man who packs my teddy bear in my luggage when I leave home for a month. Who buys me a dolls tea-set with as much understanding as he buys the matching graduated flan cases.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Games

Games we have in this house:
Ludo/Snakes and Ladders
Battleship
Chinese Checkers
Chess/Draughts
Scrabble
Dominoes
Solitaire

Games we play in this house:
Angry Birds
Cut The Rope

Friday, June 29, 2012

I just found an old address book

Back in school and for a couple of years in Uni I used to note down addresses and phone numbers in little address books.

Under 'V' I found an old, familiar phone listed as belonging to "Darling Vicky". Clearly I had it bad.

Monday, June 25, 2012

'Homes' for Pyrta

I wrote this piece for the Winter 2010 issue of Pyrta, run by the admirable Janice Pariat. Cross-posting at last!

Homes

The other day the husband and I had (mild) words over the person he had married. He thought he was marrying a Bengali girl from Calcutta; I thought he knew he was marrying into the Coromandel Coast. I have lived for more than two-thirds of my life in Calcutta, all in all, but what with having a home in Vizag and another home in Madras, not to mention many friends and a cousin in Bangalore, I feel a pull to the south that that you would have be Southie to understand. It's not at all the same as the liking and interest I have for Bombay or Delhi. Those to me are places I would not mind living in -- those are places that I love to visit -- but Hyderabad, Vizag, Madras and to a lesser extent Bangalore are all homes already to me.

This fractured concept of a home is something that requires coming to terms with. After all, if a place is home you tend to adopt its prejudices however subconsciously. This can lead to several problems. Let me outline two from my own experience of growing up in Vizag when it was still a sleepy small town:

1. You are never very sure where you really belong. Do you belong to the Bengalis and their cuisine (which you love) and their language (which you speak hesitantly) and their cultural mores (which only occasionally make sense to you)? Or do you belong to these Telugus and their cuisine (which you love) and their language (which you speak hesitantly) and their cultural mores (which only occasionally make sense to you)? Life is further complicated by the regional parochialism which dictates that the Telugus poke fun at the Bengalis and the Bengalis lump them all as "Madraji" and refuse to take the barbarians seriously. Think about it. When the jokes are flying around, who do you laugh with? And more importantly, who do you poke fun at?

2. As I said, you tend to pick up the prejudices of the people you have adopted, which can cause major internal complications when your father shifts jobs and suddenly your base shifts to Madras. After all, as every self-respecting Telugu girl knows, these Tamilians are good for nothing apart from a wholly misplaced sense of pride. To further confuse the issue, I fell in love with Madras at first sight. The beautiful little Victoria Hall next to the pretty Central Station, the wide beachfront, the old-world courtesy, the delicious cuisines, what was not to love?

For fifteen odd years I had to shift homes over and over. I hated Secunderabad when we moved there when I was ten and I hated Vizag when we moved there two years later. By the time we moved to Madras though I had learnt that each move brought along new peoples and places I was certain to enjoy and that each new home would shape me irrevocably. So even though I didn't rate Calcutta too highly when I moved back here, I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. And sure enough, the easy public transport, the food (oh my goodness, the food!), the people and University life stamped their imprint on to me. So much so that now when I try to understand who I am and where I am from, the answers are never easy.

Do I belong to Bengal because my husband and son are Calcutta born and Calcutta bred? Do I belong to Vizag because I find myself slipping into Telugu when I get off the train at Waltair Station? Do I belong to Madras because I miss it so heartbrokenly now that my parents no longer live there? Or do I belong to Secunderabad because two of the happiest years of my life were spent there? My family members don't make the job easier because my mother grew up in Pune and my father considers himself a Bihari at heart. My brother probably watches movies in Telugu more than in any other language. It is this merry medley that I try to explain to the husband, that I tell him that he married. This happy jumble of people and places that I try to keep alive even as I sink deeper and deeper into the Calcutta life... this tolerance for strange speeches and foreign foods that I want to share with our son. The husband, though, maintains that I am Bengali by birth. He rubs insult into my Ghoti injury by pointing out that I'm Bangal by marriage. Arguments like these made me serve him pongal with sambar last night. That will teach him.

Sunayana Roy lives in Calcutta with her husband and son. She has been a columnist at The Statesman (Voices), a professional actress (over Skype), a freelance writer, an SEO optimiser (for 3 months only) and an advertising professional. She fights an addiction to parentheses while she contemplates the next step.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Miscellaneous

I think you should all bow down to me for spelling that title right the first time. I'm not the world's best speller and it's a difficult one anyway. But back to our miscellany:

1. Go wish our favourite blogger-activist-novelist -- it's Kiran's birthday today.

2. Take a moment to savour the monsoons. May has passed, thank heavens, and though it is still occasionally quite hot, at least now I can sleep at night.

3. Rahul spent two weeks in Delhi and one more week with Giga (my Mejopishi) in Cal and now he no longer wants to live with us. Now why does this feel like karma coming back to bite me in the bum?

4. School has begun and I'm working again. Life is almost back into its old routine, but not quite. Somehow, I can't fit into that rut just yet. Maybe a little later.

5. I've been re-reading my Maugham short stories. I was never a particular fan of the 20th century short story form but I think I have reached a stage in my life where the dispassionate lack of closure also makes a lot of sense to me. Where the stating of facts, the shrugged acceptance of circumstances no longer bothers my tidy little mind.

6. I've learnt to make chocolate mousse and lemon cheesecake: the latter with my homemade cheese (which sounds more exciting than it was, perhaps).

7. Blank Noise Kolkata is up and about again. I'm evaluating my degree of participation. Having a schoolgoing child who goes to bed by 8 pm makes a lot of activities more complex than I'd expected.

8. My weight has finally become something I simply can no longer afford to ignore... and I'm not even 30. I was prepared to balloon in my 30s but not just yet.

9. Much chaos in the extended family what with a great-aunt's illness, her daughter's surgery, extreme stress, loose talk and estrangement. For not the first time, I wish I lived elsewhere. I love this city but I've been ready to leave it since 1 April 2005.

10. I've been putting together wooden furniture for my dollshouse. I think it's time the house was populated once more. Shejomama brought me an entire set I hunted down online and now I'm painstakingly working on the pieces.

11. I cut my Chhotomama's hair in April. Met Shejomama in May. Will be hopefully partying my youngest cousins (two younger than Rahul) in August. Rahul met the cousin closets to his age, Nirjhar, at a movie last week. His Ennapishi sent him his older cousin's books, cars and dinosaurs. This is a summer of family happenings.

12. An article I read this morning: Why Women Still Can't Have It All

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The answer is blowing in the wind

This post comes from a lot of sources. Music I have been listening to, books that I have been reading, thoughts I have been thinking.

My question is, as a spouse or a committed partner, when do you realise that your significant other (to use a term I don't particularly like) is unhappy? When do you look for the umpteenth time into his face and realise he is this close to shutting himself into the bedroom and not emerging any time soon? When do you see that your wife's hands are shaking and her eyes are blinking back tears faster than they can fall?

Women, I see, live on the edge a lot. They are frustrated because there are not enough hours in the day, not enough patience in the world, not enough money to go around, not enough sex at nights, too many commitments, too many demands, too much pain. Do their husbands notice? Would it all be easier if their men occasionally acknowledged the stress of their days?

So, really, when you look at your partner, do you know if he or she is happy today? If you don't, why don't you?

Friday, June 15, 2012

I don't want to go to school

Says the boy, "I do not like staying away from you and Baba."

That would have touched our hearts if it were not for the fortnight he recently spent away from us in Delhi or that he is spending his evenings, nights and mornings with Giga in Moore Avenue this week.

As it was we burst out laughing in his face. And he joined us.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Other Side

Three months ago I blogged this.

The external circumstances remain much the same but oh, the change in me... it's as if I'm suddenly the person I really, really wanted to be at this age, at this stage.

Rahul has been in Delhi ever since I left him at Mejopishi's, eleven days ago. He returns home tomorrow. These last two-three days he has finally begun to miss us a little. Calls his father and me, has a hundred things we need to listen to right away.

This short time home alone with Vicky has been rather wonderful. He does his thing, I do mine. We've watched a lot of TV together, several movies (Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, A Slight Case of Murder, among others), listened to music and hung out with friends. Mostly we've just relaxed. Like I said, nothing has changed and yet something has switched tracks so that life is more bearable.

I feel relieved. Whoever was in charge of me, whoever took charge, has helped me out of that grief.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

The cup and the lip

Yesterday a woman called me from Johnson & Johnson, asking if I would be comfortable answering a few questions on sanitary napkins.

I told her I don't use them.

For the second time, I heard a telemarketer laugh.

She probably thinks I'm past my menopause or something.

Actually, I use a menstrual cup. E got it for me over a year and a half ago and through trial and error (and a painful bout of infection) I have now reached the stage where I can go through an entire period using only the cup -- provided of course that I have easy access to clean bathrooms.

I was delighted to read this post on the Diva cup at IHM's last year. Not just because I was glad to see women discussing the alternative to sanitary napkins which I personally find quite uncomfortable but also because I hadn't known there was an affordable Indian version.

If you have any questions on The Keeper I'll be happy to answer them as best I can. If you haven't considered a menstrual cup I ask you to do so. They are easier to use than you think and I backed mine up with sanitary napkins until I was comfortable with the concept and usage of cups. A lot less trouble and mess than napkins, I can assure you.

(So, I know the title is rather juvenile. Indulge me.)

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Update: Here is another user account.
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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

It's June

Was it only six months ago that I congratulated myself on how far Vicky and I had come? We had -- have -- because we do deal better today than ever before. I have begun to accept certain things about him even as I continue to protest them:

1. His lack of any tangible support towards any lasting career of mine. I have his permission to work but not much backup.

2. His utter self-centredness when it comes to household matters. Learning to accept this home truth has made every chore and errand that he runs without prompting, a huge bonus.

3. His lack of interest in what I do or who I do it with. It gets lonely in this marriage but yes, it beats having to answer to him for everything I do.

There are other aspects but these will do for now. I list them out because I've really worked on this stuff all this year.

It's been such an uphill climb. Not accepting this stuff about him although that was not easy either, but trying to reach beyond the resentment and, well, some degree of pure hatred, that recent decisions of his incited in me.

Mostly I try to focus on the good things about him. The other day, after I don't know, some years perhaps, I chose to focus on the circumstances under which he and I got together. I suppose I should be grateful to him because if he had not been there I would have been so utterly lost that, well, if you've ever gone through my archives or knew me in those days, you would know that the woman I was to become was almost drowned in the pain of that girl. But he was there. He was my island of calm and strength.

I'll be thirty in a month. One of the things that I think I have explored fairly deeply and need to now discard is neediness. The less I need him the more he appreciates me. The better I hide it the stronger I appear. With me, to do is to eventually be so hopefully my 30s will be enjoyed by a more independent me. I cannot change the circumstances of my life but I have decided that I can choose to be the person I want to be.

Do you know who I want to be? I'm not precisely sure but I'm fairly I will no longer cry and I will no longer beg. If I do, I will remind myself that I owe my future better than that.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about turning 30. This is one of those posts.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Fear of Falling

This year Rahul and I signed up at a nearby swimming pool. It's a bit weird swimming in a place where everybody's swimsuit has skirts and the men and women swim in segregated sections (the women get the raw deal because they only get a third of the pool) but I thought it would be lovely to be swimming again.

It is, but it's also alarming to note the fear of injury. I have been trying running dives since yesterday, just a few, and while mostly they have been successful, every dive has been accompanied by a fear of slipping on the edge of the pool.

As it is I swim like an ungainly aunty in a swimsuit from 15 years and 15 kilos ago. I wheeze my way through 50m lengths and haven't yet done two without stopping. Now I'm too scared to launch into a dive. Where did this fearful body come from and what am I supposed to do with it?

I can pinpoint exactly when the fear entered me. When I was pregnant with Rahul and worried about placenta praevia I started moving slowly and deliberately. Now I worry that Vicky drives too fast (he drove much faster when we were two heedless kids with no thoughts of children of our own) and I worry about slipping down stairs. And I cannot arc my body into the perfect dive.

I used to live for diving. The joy and the ecstasy of cutting a splashless one into still water. Growing unfit sucks.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sometimes it lasts in love

but sometimes it hurts instead.


For someone like you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reassurance

One morning some time ago I awoke from a frighteningly real nightmare. I woke up crying, unable to let go of the horror and pain. I cried and cried, louder and louder, unable to stop. Rahul came to see what was up and then ran off to get his father. Vicky held me while I cried, unable to tell him why. Rahul left the room.

Later I wondered how he could have left me crying like that. It was so unlike the protective little boy he is.

Repeatedly since then he tells me when we wish each other good night, to not have any bad dreams. And if I do, I must go to him and lie quietly holding him and the bad dreams will go away. Last night he was a tired little boy but before he fell asleep he told me yet again that I must go to him if I have nightmares.

I am starting to see why women lean on their sons. Sometimes, nobody can get you quite like a son.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Should I?

Should I wear false eyelashes?

Should I wear bright red lipstick more often?

Should I live up to my turquoise shoes?

Should I learn to braid my hair into intricate french braids?

Should I stop dressing only for comfort?

Should I... sing?

Would you recognise me if I did?