*Poguma, pogadha.. (Part 3)


… in Urban dictionary, translates to – “Will it go?”. And thus we had an eventful beginning to our trip.

Part 1- Don’t underestimate the power of Schengen Visa Officers.
Part 2- To go or not to go? That is the question.

Before I get into the particulars, like my friend, Raji, has mentioned on her blog, we all have our immediate families, extended families,  and friends to thank for, without whose support this trip would have been difficult. And also a special note on our little ones that were left behind on this trip. They were amazing and were very cooperative. They dutifully made appearances on video calls everyday that we were away and showed a lot of understanding!

That aside, almost all of us got asked if the children didn’t miss us, and how we managed to convince them. The question is moot. Of course we’d miss. I had taken the older one, Vyas, on this trip and told the little one the real reasons for not taking him. That it would be a very tiresome journey, and that it involved a lot of walking and travel, and the weather might not agree with him. And that traveling as a family would be different where we can take each day slow and easy, especially if anyone falls sick, and how the same thing will be difficult when traveling as a group where we’d end up slowing down everyone else. He understood and has since not thrown a fit. Nor the children of my other friends who left their little ones behind!  So, the point in case- our children are nice like us and so are the other members in our families 😉

Coming to our eventful beginning, on the day of travel, all the eleven in the pack assembled at the airport 2 hours 45 minutes before the flight. We spent under one minute to bid adieu to the nice folks from our families that had come to drop and see us off at the airport. We had an hour and a half to kill before boarding the flight. Recording our memories of the trip began right there. Never would you have seen the interiors of Chennai airport captured so beautifully and artistically.  What we were not able to truly capture is the inherent smell of phenoil (disinfectant) that is so Chennai-airport.

Our boarding was announced and we hopped into the flight, and settled in nicely. There were a few first-timers. And we all breathed a sigh of relief as the trip was now REALLY on! The pilot steered the flight on to the runway even as the usual safety instructions were being relayed. The flight picked up speed on the runway and just when we thought it was going to go more faster and take off, it slowed down. It was followed by a slight commotion in the flight a few rows ahead of us. Which was followed by an announcement from the pilot that a passenger was very sick and needed medical help. There was a bustle of activities with a few people crowding around the sick passenger. It seemed like this person, an aged man, had a stroke. His daughter was on board the flight too. But we were not sure about the nature of sickness. Paramedics arrived in 10 minutes and more flurry of activities. The pilot steered the flight back to the departure gate as the passenger had to be de-boarded! It was now 30 minutes past the departure time. Our connecting flight from Dubai to Paris was in 90 minutes from the time of the actual arrival time in Dubai. More staff and more medical support arrived including an   IV, a stretcher, oxygen, wheelchair et al. The old man apparently was rendered immobile and the staff had a tough time bodily moving him on to a stretcher. He did not get any better with all the medical help. It was a good one hour by the time he de-boarded and his checked-in baggages were removed from the flight.

When we later recounted this incident or even as I record it here, it kind of felt/feels selfish to have worried about our connecting flight. I guess we were all given to some amount of cynicism ever since  a few visas got rejected. A terror attack in Paris exactly 6 days before our journey added to our concerns. We were sure that someone was out there, trying to jinx this trip. Seems very silly now. The things rejections/failures can do to you! We sincerely hope the old passenger got timely medical help and has fully recovered. It is tough to imagine how it would have been handled if he’d fallen ill 20-30 minutes into the take off. Hats off to all those who handled it smoothly!

The pilot made good time and we had about 50 minutes for the next flight. The airlines folks were thorough and whisked us to the departure gates without further ado. So we got off one, did a run-walk-run through a security check, and boarded into another without even a loo-break 😉 And finally we landed in Paris! We had evaluated quite a few options on the best way to get to our hotel much ahead of the trip and found Uber to be the best, most affordable option. And so, we Uber-ed.

We checked-in at ibis budget hotel in Montmarte. True to its name, everything about this hotel had ‘budget’ written on it with a capital B. To give you an idea, the bath towels were ‘budget’ towels. Which means the length would be half the actual size of bath towels. The bathroom and toilets are separate. But your movements inside both are ‘budget’. Very restricted. A person of average height cannot swing a full arm without banging the elbow or at least the wrist on the wall or the door. But who needs to swing a full arm inside the bathroom or toilet, right?! And yes, there is no lock on the door-like fixtures on the bathroom and toilet. But what is there to complain when you can afford to post a guard outside while you are at it? So it worked. The beds were comfortable, the wifi was great, the location was great and safe, hassle-free check-in/check-out, the paid unlimited breakfast (6 EUR/person) was awesome with a great choice of beverages that included piping hot coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  Paris welcomed us with an evening temperature of 4 and 5 degrees against our expectation (based on web information) of 15 or 16 degrees!

And right away, we learnt our first lesson on France. The spellings and their pronunciations have no bearing on each other.  They are like synonyms – two different words, but the same meaning 😉 You can never get around to a place by pronouncing the name of a place going by the spelling. A tip- prepare a cheat sheet of names, phrases, and directions! Or, learn French!

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“The end justifies the means”, they say. The day that began with some apprehensions, ended with a memorable evening and a lovely, cool, night on the Eiffel Tower. We had arrived!

Read more on the places we visited in Paris, here!

To go or not to go? That is the question. Visa officers answered!


Part 1- Don’t underestimate the power of Schengen Visa Officers.

This trip was in the talks for almost 3-4 years. It was meant to happen this year. And how!!

We came up with a mini agenda for the trip that went thus:

  • finalize countries
  • budget the trip
  • decide the possible dates
  • book the tickets
  • book the stay
  • get the visas
  • finalize the itinerary
  • fly

We arrived at the dates that would more or less work for everyone without conflicting with work priorities and on the home front. After analyzing the pricing across different airlines and routes, we picked Emirates, and booked our tickets. Confirmed tickets and stay bookings are a part of the mandatory travel proofs for tourist visa processing. Most sites we researched suggested that we even book the internal travel. We had 2-3 itineraries and didn’t want to risk booking internal tickets and incur cancellation losses. We decided to do it after procuring the visa.

After buying the tickets, we booked our stays in all the intended cities through Booking.com and picked the cheapest ones lest they charge payment to the credit card. Yes, they collect the card information at the time of booking including the cvv number. While airbnb had awesome options for a smaller group, booking.com showed more options for a larger group. All our stays allowed free cancellation until the intended day of check-in barring one where free cancellation was allowed until 4 days before the check-in date. Items 1 to 5 on the agenda- a big tick!

With the air tickets and stay bookings out of the way, we started processing our visas. We assumed this to be just another formality and that it would be a cake walk. A few of us who have traveled abroad on work had until now not encountered any hassles with visa approvals. We however were aware of instances where the visas were delayed and when they finally arrived, it would be too late and the people abandoned the travel plan. We were advised to apply in Italy as France had supposedly upped their scrutiny ever since the terror attacks. Quite understandable. But we didn’t want to apply in Italy because a few colleagues who’d earlier applied there, were summoned to the Mumbai center for a personal interview. Dragging a 11-member battalion to Mumbai would be a trip in itself and the prospect didn’t seem appealing. We decided to apply in Switzerland instead. And we did. And waited. And were quite composed. As we waited, a few of us regrouped every 2 or 3 days or discussed over lunch and finalized the detailed itinerary. And then they came. The visas. In instalments. Over 4 torturous weeks :/ With the first rejection that came within a week of applying, our plans came crashing down and things were in a limbo. Nothing progressed the next 3 weeks and wtih more rejections coming, we abandoned the plan. We were holding back on cancelling the air tickets or stay bookings as the cancellation charges were the same till the last day before the travel date. Hope is a good thing, after all!

Img credit: Google

At this point, our dejection turned into angst directed at the visa process and the officers. The nature of rejections were absolutely random. All had sufficient and more bank balance to show. All had consistent salaries and payslips and ITR returns to prove. We had the necessary leave sanction from the work place and NOCs obtained from the schools for the 3 teenaged children. We had confirmed air tickets and confirmed stay bookings. The reasons of course were either lack of means of subsistence or lack of proof of return! I mean, really?!! All our covering letters had all our names and passport details listed as co-travellers and we explicitly stated that it was a group travel. So instead of giving up without a fight, we thought we should still try and NOT go even if the visas are through the next time 🙂 Watching too many cinemas or soaps can do this to you. You lose the faculty to rationalize that the loss will still be yours if you don’t go. Monetarily, mentally, philosophically 🙂

A lot of discussions on Quora and Tripadvisor weren’t giving any favorable leanings towards re-applying. A few Schengen visa myths we busted:
1. Some suggested we apply in the same country.
2. Yet others suggested applying in a different Schengen state.
3. A few dissuaded from re-applying.
4. A few agents we casually spoke to said that usually rejected visas will be rejected again.
5. A few said that the visas will be granted if we apply after a gap of 6 months.
6. Many suggested doing it ONLY through agents.

None of the above suggestions hold water. It is random free advice.

And then, there were a very few threads that said we can reapply anytime, but with more documentation that supports the reasons cited in the first rejection. This was random good advice. What do they say about you wanting to hear/listen/infer/discern ONLY what you want from what is said or read? Yes, so we scooped out only those countable number of conversations that sounded encouraging. Even otherwise, how will we know if we don’t try, right? Yes, we are unrelenting like that. So after many days of going back and forth and ditching the sour-tour, we gave the process a phoenix-like quality, and decidedly stayed positive. All extra documentations were pooled together and once again appointments were fixed, submitted, and then the next round of waiting began.

In less than 5 days, 5 of the 6 visas came through and again one was rejected on grounds of lack of proof of return. With about two weeks time, we had to give it one more go. We didn’t know what possible risks a third application entailed. We didn’t have it in us to leave one person and go, especially because she was the one instrumental in getting the others to re-apply. She however kept insisting that we should all go ahead without her. Yes, we will, but not without giving it another try and we still had a little over 2 weeks. This time, we gave a covering letter, a collective representation from all the rest of us with visas. And also an additional proof of her return- the marathon registration which I’d mentioned in my previous post. And what do you know! She got it on the 9th day as there were 4 holidays in between! We had exactly 7 days for our flight.

A couple of us did a night-out that Friday. Booked all the internal travels, passes, discount cards. Re-booked some of the stays in an attempt to bring down the stay costs, with better proximity, and with better safety. We ‘travefy-ied our day–by-day itinerary and also Google-trip-ed, offline-ed some maps, and also some tours. Items 6 and 7 on the agenda- another big tick! Our trip was ON!!!!

We have large hearts. We decided to forgive the Schengen Visa officers. We decided to forgive the processes. We forgave the eye-rolling, smirking reactions of the VFS folks. We decided to make a stately visit to the Schengen states. We are not only relentless, but also magnanimous like that!

Next post- Poguma, pogadha? – An eventful start to our journey!

Bereavement


Witnessing death is a strange feeling. There is something surreal about the pain, the shock, the inability of being able to avert what is going to come, and the very act of seeing someone go. Sriram, my first cousin, my brother, had a painful end last Tuesday, September 10th. He was just 42 and just in the middle of an important innings, nowhere close to the slog overs. Blessed with a wonderful wife, two adorable daughters, and an aging father, he had a life to look forward to. An infected liver because of jaundice, and his resorting to alcohol, did him in. Just the previous week, he was showing all signs of recovery. He succumbed to sudden multiple internal hemorrhages and was on life support the last four days of life before giving up. Will dearly miss my brother, though it is nothing compared to the loss my perippa, my SIL and my nieces are left to deal with. My younger niece, aged 9, is gazing at the azure every night because that is where I told her dad will be. One among the stars. Looking down at her and her akka aged 13. Smiling and appreciating every little and big thing they both do. Blessing them from there while mommy stands by them as a huge pillar of strength, educating and empowering them, helping them learn what is right and wrong, to help discern good from the bad. With the rest of us aunts, uncles, and grandpa to back her up and be there for them. Always. Rest in peace ra Srirama!

In another unexpected turn of events, Kolla, Vasu’s dear grandma, bid adieu last Friday, September 13th. I had blogged about Kolla here and here. She was a wonderful old woman with a lot of zest for life. She believed in living life to the fullest. Diet control to her was blasphemy. She used to have the spiciest, sourest, sweetest, saltiest, and bitterest of foods. A small bowl of ‘gotsu’ she made as accompaniment for her small bowl of Ven-Pongal, consisted of a minimum of 15 green chillies, tamarind the size of a huge lemon, an equal measure of jaggery, salt, and twice that amount of oil. She’d wipe her plate clean of pickles before I headed home from work. She used to hate me for my constant ‘No’ to her freaky diet, but loved me for everything else. She loved all her grand-children, though the grand-daughters were her favorite! She woke up to the Tamizh daily- Dina Malar. Her favorite news item was the going rate of gold and silver. She used to read the entire paper in installments, till 3.00 PM. The Tamizh soaps kept her occupied till 10.00 PM. She had read the paper and watched all the soaps the previous day. Kolla (or Kollas), as she was fondly called by her 8 great-grand-kids instead of kollu-patti, hit a sugar-level of close to 500 (and ironically, it was the week where she seemed to have resorted to some diet control) and was hospitalized early in the morning. She had a massive, silent attack in the late after-noon and had a quiet, calm death. Kolla style. Rest in peace Kolla patti.

No place for a woman!


Here is a brilliant post by my friend and colleague, Hannah, on our company’s intranet blog.

Ok, another gang rape, should we say, a reported one? If I remember right, per a survey that outlook published sometime ago, for every 1 rape reported in a big city, almost 64 rapes go unreported in any of the smaller cities. In any case, I don’t want to dwell on rape, for there’s enough and much more to spare written on rape. After all, who doesn’t want to look the defender of a woman’s modesty (sic!)?

Some of the words that people use to describe the act of rape are painful, horrendous, injustice, heinous, outrageous, irreversibly damaged, etc. Simply put, all these descriptors are laughable or even expressions of our misplaced angst, because all of our responses are colored, or rather dictated by our feudal mindsets that want our women to be untouched sexually, except by the man who is socially sanctioned to touch her on the day (err…night) of their wedding! And, that’s not all. The marital bed might even be examined for traces of virginal blood the following morning by the mother-in-law, who is again a victim and a stooge of patriarchy. And, hence, virginity/chastity is something that the woman guards with her life, heart, soul, mind, body, etc. A woman’s mind is dwarfed or rather mangled (like perhaps a bonsai with constant pruning, trimming, and wiring) to think that she’s around just to row up into a beautiful young woman, who will be married off in her prime (read biologically just right to get pregnant) to a man her parents shall find, and she shall cook and clean for him and his family (and, of course, have a career if the man deems it fit or something to simply kill time or contribute to the family economy, if need be), beget him children, and raise them as chivalrous gentlemen or ladies like herself to continue this brilliant saga! Isn’t this outrageously horrendous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

A woman’s attitude towards anything and everything, be it her choice in clothes, career, stance, food, color, marriage, friends, etc., is influenced primarily by the societal expectations from her due to her biology. For example, even as a girl child is born, people start talking about putting money away for her dowry, make jewels for her, buy pink frocks, high heels, etc. Where is all this coming from? It comes from the basic idea that the woman is a womb, and hence everything about the girl child is only beauty (she will have to beautiful for her man), fair skin, dolls (because she will be a mother someday, so start planning even as she is in the cradle!), kitchen sets (she’ll have to cook and clean for the household!), and anything and everything that would firmly peg her to the house, kitchen, and pregnancy! Now, I ask, aren’t all these heinous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

I am not sure if there’s data to support how girl babies and boy babies DIFFER in their gyration towards violence or motherhood, irrespectively! Maybe they do too, but why should we as adults stand back and watch or rather applaud when your boy starts using expletives and thrash when the girl does the same thing? Why are girl children taught to cook while boy children are not? Is cooking done through ovaries, which is why men don’t cook? Why should girl children be taught to clean? Why should boys/men be handed out coffees by women every day? Do men suddenly become lame or crippled the moment they enter their homes? Or, is it the upbringing that makes Indian men take any woman to be a custom-made domestic worker, mother, and even a careerist (outside the home of course!). It just can’t get any better for Indian men, or can it? I ask, isn’t this a travesty of justice or a caricature of a just world? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

As a teenager growing in a metropolis like Chennai, I could never venture to the beach all by myself or even partake in the all-night parties that used to happen on the mount road on new year’s eve, because I, or any girl/woman, ran the risk of being gang raped! Even if the all-night party animals on that road came from ‘good’ families or on better days would be chivalrous too, wouldn’t think twice before actually getting down and having one helluva fuck, because such wayward women could, rather should be raped! Not only that, as a young girl traveling by public transport to school/college/work, I have been exposed to stares of all kinds (the approving, the disapproving, the disrobing, so much fucking more!!) and even harassment of all hues. And, believe me, the men guilty were anything like these ‘animals’(rapists) that all ‘good’ men of today seem to distance themselves from! These were boys/men who went to colleges like the ones I went to or even came from families who were our neighbors! Even today, as a grown adult, I can assure you that I don’t feel any less vulnerable while taking the public transport or am the only woman in a lift filled with men! All this and much more completely strangulate a woman’s very identity and crush/stonewall her into the bloody roles that patriarchy so confidently defines for her! Now, isn’t that horrifying? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

The outrage in my view is in itself outrageous or even hypocritical, especially because of the sheer number of men who seem have unleashed their unbridled sense of shame at this! I ask, where are these men and women, defenders of a woman’s modesty or proponents of women liberation, when the women’s reservation bill gets shot down or women bodies are objectified in mindless fashion shows or movies or when virginity tests are conducted on women? And, how many of these men haven’t whistled at a girl, brushed against a woman’s body when the opportunity presented itself, or didn’t enjoy a rape scene? And, will this outrage be of this
scale if some men had gang raped a sex worker?

Where were all these people when the armed forces brutally raped and killed Thangjam Manorama? Where was the outrage when an entire village watched and cheered as the men of the village gang raped even the dead bodies of two women? I am sure it would be so much easier to distance ourselves from such things as ‘aberrations’ that happen in the hinterland! And, who’s going to utter or let out even a whimper when men rape men/young boys?

Our outrage therefore is very selective: our very core is shaken and we are spurred into action (as in people who don’t give two hoots about protests/demonstrations or who even denigrate such protestors as some misguided, lazy nincompoops) ONLY when the chastity of a ‘good’ woman is outraged. It’s of course a different matter altogether if she’s murdered for dowry, honored killed for marrying outside caste, is killed because of invasive fertilization techniques, is killed because of unsafe termination of pregnancy (for carrying a female child), is killed because she defended her home and land, is killed because she refused to do menial labor and wanted to study, or becomes a mental wreck being nothing more than a glorified domestic help at her own home all her life, and the like!

A day, a blog post, or even a bill may not be enough to change this situation, and any list of dos/ don’ts may not even make the cut! What perhaps is needed is for us to internalize the fact that all of us born are equal, and because of the psychotic mistakes of our ancestors (hope you all burn in hell, if there’s one!) we live in a world that’s defined by various levels and each level is equipped with its own brand of weapons to keep the rest down under. Perhaps, we need to educate ourselves about the working of our society and the brutality it hides under the grab of morality, virtue, chivalry, and the like. Maybe then, we would organize and interrogate ourselves about why we need to be outraged and what we need to be outraged about. I know, not many people will have the time for all this, because it means taking collective responsibility of violence, especially the systemic kind, and working towards a solution. And, that would mean giving up of the many, many privileges that the powerful in the society (the men) have enjoyed for several centuries now. However, it’s time for the women and oppressed men, the victims of the systemic violence, to organize and agitate along side in the long term. And, we can rest assured that our battle has just begun, and we have miles and miles to march before we can see a semblance of victory. Perhaps, our great, great grand daughters and sons might thank us for embarking on this journey.

On a side note, for all the privileged men, more than responding to something that’s so far removed from your immediate reality or doling out some pearls of wisdom on how women should conduct and protect themselves, please introspect! Walk that extra mile, be a human, be defined not by your biology, but by your humanity! Don’t define a woman or her role or her identity or her ability by her biology, but by her right to exist on this planet as freely and happily just as you do. Maybe then, all of us can be united against the enemy; patriarchy!

This, that & Chikmagalur


Have spent a lot of time wondering if I’d really hit a writer’s block. Or if I was running out of stories to tell, or tidbits to share. Or if life had become less eventful, or if I have been really that busy. Well, turns out that I have been a bit blog-lazy.

Well, trying to break out of the slumber with a few updates:

My boys turned 11 and 4 this summer. Vyas had his Upanayanam last month. Thoroughly enjoyed all the festivities surrounding this event, with most of the near and dear ones attending. Vyas had agreed to get it done and seemed to enjoy the attention.Looked like a painting of Vamana avatar:) He was a little irritable at the way his dhoti was tightly wound, making it difficult for him to sit, and the garland had some tiny twigs that kept pricking him. During the entire event, I caught sight of Varun twice. Several people, and several things kept him busy. Good for me.

Varun transitioned to L.K.G and is convinced that he really is a big boy, what with uniform and all that. Was more than excited the first two days and woke up before the rest of the household did. On day three, he woke up and wondered if kids really went to school every day, and why he had no holidays, followed by a major show-down. So much for being a beeeeg boy. We counseled him for like 38 hours about how he had attended just two days, and there was another 200 days to go! Phew! So, every work-day evening, I’ve set up a reminder on my mobile to remind the fellow that the next day is a working day too and how he has to wake up with a happy face and go to school still sporting a happy face. Our Mondays now begin with a count-down for the weekend to follow!

Vyas seems to have grown a bit wider and so has his mouth, though a few assure me that he has also grown an inch taller. Well, haven’t bothered to measure. He is thoroughly enjoying dragging his dad into doing Sandhyavandhanam every day. The sonny and I do a secret high-five before and after the task. Evil we ARE.

A trip to Chikmagalur with my friends was another awesome thing to happen this summer. If you are planning a trip, you must give Eagle Eye Holidays resort a try. It is 50kms off Chikmagalur town with very little human presence other than the resort folks and those visiting. A welcome thing. The food served there was nothing great, but just good enough. It was great hiking up the Mullayanagiri peak, and trekking our way down and up through a winding path to Jerry Falls, another trek to a view point from the resort- the other side of Bhadra reserve, and a plantation walk.. The campfire with barbeque and mindless dancing on all the 3 nights we stayed there was enjoyable..

The best experience however was that of taking an open jeep ride to the Bhadra reserve for a safari. Just as we hit the forest entrance, the skies opened up and it poured like there was no tomorrow! We were a group of 11 women and 9 kids. We took shelter in the verandah of what looked like a guest-house. The rains showed no signs of relenting even after an hour of waiting it out. It was already 5 in the evening and a forest guide dissuaded us from proceeding because the animals would have receded and also because it was an open jeep and as it continued to pour heavily, there was no way we could take the kids inside. We decided to head back to the resort and so tied a tarpaulin over the open side in the jeep. We managed to pack 4 small kids on to an adult’s lap in the front which had cover. Despite the tarpaulin cover, the water was seeping in and it was chill. Two from the gang were thoroughly drenched. I’d give anything to experience the jeep ride again!

While I go back and retrieve more stories, here are some pics from the trip. Also, let me know what you all have been up to. I don’t know what you did last summer 😉

Freedom and Women


Sadly, as a society, we live by denial. A romantic lot that loves its women on a pedestal- A Goddess. Or in Ads where it is the primary concern of ONLY women to ensure clean toilets at home, sparkling vessels, stiff-clean uniforms for the kids, low-cholesterol oil to cook a tasty meal for the entire family and serve standing at the dining table, envy the sparkling white clothes drying on the neighbor’s clothes line, worry-sick over husband’s life insurance, feel disappointed that the evening date has gone for a toss because the hubby returns home tired simply because she did not nurture him enough with a cuppa Horlicks (ok, some drink or sun flower oil!) and such matters of earth-shattering importance. It is assumed that these are the most pressing matters on a woman’s mind. If by any chance she creates a ruckus over something trivial (and if you didn’t know, most of the issues she raises are trivial!), it is because she is PMS-ing. In fact this knowledge too is limited among us. After all, why should PMS-ing interfere with behavior? We surely have seen people (both, men and women) deny seeing such symptoms in their moms, aunts, sisters, grandmas..

We can hope for a tiny bit of change if we first start acknowledging there is a problem. The problem being that the definition of freedom is different for women from that of men. What would you define as freedom for a woman today?

To me, true freedom is

– not in being able to stay single because you want to. It is when you don’t have to put up a fight to stay by your decision and are not judged based on your status – single, married, divorced, live-in, anything!

– not in a woman being able to go out and work at odd hours or even reach home safely. It is, when the parents, parents-in-law, or the spouse don’t welcome her with hostility and guilt-trip her.

– not in a husband sharing the household chores, but only when it is not done as a ‘favor’.

– not in just being able to report an abuse or rape, but only when the guilty are punished instead of guilt-tripping the woman.

– not in just being able to study in a co-education institute or work in a male-dominated environment, but only when you don’t have a moral police telling you when to leave, how to dress, whom you can work with, when to call, when to receive one and from whom.

– not in being able to drive your car or ride on your bike, but when a collective society does not make a loose, irresponsible comment of how women can NEVER get this one thing right.

– not in a man ‘agreeing’ to stay nuclear post marriage, but only when the woman is not expected to fall at his feet and worship for bestowing such a huge favour on her!

– not in women and men co-existing in an environment, shouldering similar responsibilities, but only when the cliched, sexist jokes, supposedly funny, ceases. Not because I think it lacks in humor (it does anyway!). Its just the extent of irony in those and the sheer mockery. Yes, we still find it funny that a man cooks a meal in some homes. A tiny cut/bruise/late attendance at work by the man, is attributed to a good thrashing from the wife. The only good sense that prevails here is that the one relaying the joke is aware that it can only be a joke.

And am not even talking about the serious physical abuses and offenses here! Some of us just get lucky.

NurtureShock by Bronson & Merryman


A friend recently recommended that I read the book ‘NurtureShock’. I have, as far as possible, avoided books that try to ‘teach’ parenting, relationship building, et al. Not because I don’t subscribe to the ideas and theories these books have to offer. Just that I’ll be rid with guilt by the end of the day for having violated every rule in the book, a total failure!!

No two people are the same, adults or kids. What works for my first child, doesn’t work for the 2nd (yes, already!). Aren’t most of our actions, proactive or reactive, instinctive? Correct me if am wrong. For instance, consider a modern parenting rule that says ‘be firm when saying NO’ or another tough one that says, ‘don’t use ‘don’t” or the famous ‘spare the rod’! . My auto-reflex allows me to just say, ‘don’t run, you’ll hurt yourself’ when I see my little fellow dash to the gate and escape a sharp turn by a degree! However much I rehearse to say, ‘Kanna, walk slowly as there is a bend ahead’, I can never say it at the right moment, and I doubt if it’d ever work with my kids! I patiently remind Vyas thrice if he has some schoolwork to catch up with. I’m gritting my teeth the 4th time and that is all the patience I’m capable of. Another minute of delay is asking for a tight pinch on his thighs. Trust me, it works!

That said, I don’t question the intent of such useful positive parenting tips.. It’s perhaps for calmer folks:) NurtureShock was a different ride though! The book works on the basic premise that most modern parenting methods are flawed!

NurtureShock
Img Courtesy: Amazon.com

Authors Bronson and Merryman explore different stages of child development and talk about the reasons for obesity, aggressiveness, lying, sibling rivalry, and impact of  the relationship between the parents on the children. Few things that stumped me were this:

1. Kids watching too many violent shows do not necessarily turn violent, and those watching good, funny, passive ones certainly do not turn out as saints!!

2. Children of permissive parents lie more often than those with ‘strict’ parents! Such children lie to simply keep the parents happy and carry on with their plans.

3. Children who are ‘only praised’ never learn to acknowledge or handle failure. How doing –Very good, you are doing a great job– all the time even for the smallest of tasks a child accomplishes is detrimental to the child’s growth.

4. Parents, if having an argument in front of the kids, must also take the conflict to a resolution. Moving an argument to another room is a bad idea and never having conflicts is equally bad! I liked this one 😉

5. Single child mostly ends up being a snob and those with siblings are wonder kids who know how to share, is but a myth. Hint gals and guys. If you are under great pressure from your folks who are generously sharing gyan on the importance of having a second child, you can consider gifting them this book. Or at least ftp that one chapter directly into their brains!! All is well if you want to have more than one of course 🙂

6. Peer pressure and fear of rejection are the chief reasons for aggression and starts in early tweens!

7. Drugs, alcohol, and sex among the teens, is a chapter I read forcing myself to believe that all these things happen only in the ‘West’ and I know it’s far from the truth!

8. One grouse I have with the book is its claim that the traditional dads make better dads than the progressive dads! By progressive dads, the authors refer to the ‘nicest’ men of this century who share every work a wife/mom/sister does!

I would have loved some casestudies based in India and a tad disappointed at its absence:( According to the book, the Chinese parents do a great job pointing at a failure and enforce the need for hard work to turn things around. Why their ‘good parenting’ isn’t helping improve the teen pregnancies and abortion rate in the country is a connection I fail to understand. The Filipinos are parents who set the rules. Their children fight the rules their parents make, but do not fight the authority of the parent to set the rules. Wow! Both these sounded quite desi.

Conclusion: Worth a read. Makes you feel you are a normal parent:)

Just as I heaved a sigh of relief on finishing the book, the same friend suggested yet another. This time, its The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. I wished I’d learnt to apparate!! With the ‘ding’ sound with which characters disappear in Crazy Mohan’s dramas!!

Is it the mind or the heart?!!


Mothers are a weird lot I guess… How else will you explain a mom feeling rueful just because her 1.5yr old baby happily plants 3 kisses, two on the cheeks and one on the nose, and happily bids good bye when the mom leaves to work? It used to make the mommy sad when the little baby held on to her, cried profusely, and refused to let go. But this ‘quiet understanding’ parting, albeit for 10 hours, makes her sadder. Is it because the little pair of eyes that see her leave, have a different story to share?

The mother quotient


It need not have been like this.   Saying that it hurts badly now more than ever is an understatement.  This day marks over 2 decades of your leaving us, and we’ve stopped counting the years. It hurts ma. More than it did when we were still children.And of all the times, you had to visit your younger child in her dream just 2 days before your anniversary and smother her in kisses and hugs and just show a sample of what we have missed!

My stepping into the teens and the little sister into her tweens meant some milestones. But we were not prepared for the huge milestone you had set for us! Do you know how many friends it took us to tide the initial years and make those attainable ma? Takku, Geet, Sri, Vidya, Chitra, Janani, Gowri, Uma, Shoba, Aparna, and everyone in their family! If any amount of sanity prevails in our lives today, it is because of these gems. Thanking them is doing a great disservice. A note to you all dearest friends: you have grown too deep into us and we can never see you apart.

And to you ma, just want to say that I miss all of these and more and i can never find words to say it all:

  • The luxury of complaining and just letting go
  • Taking you for granted and expecting you to be always available
  • Looking up to you for a compliment when am clad in a saree and always getting more
  • Packing up bags a week ahead of the school vacations to visit you with my children, sister and her little ones
  • Just sitting back and waiting for that vadaam koozhu or getting you make that yummy Mysore Pak
  • Having you around to pack my maternity bags and rush me to the hospital to welcome the 1st grandchild
  • Taking sides with all the four grandchildren and making your daughters the villains
  • Pampering them with a secret lollipop and indulging them as your fancy leads.
  • Just to be able to leave the children with you and go shopping with sis.
  • Get admonished for not eating well or for poor hair care.
  • Being fussed over the smallest suggestion of a pain
  • And let your daughters fuss over you and take you to a doc and phone-up everyday to see if you’ve popped-in that pill!
  • Planning a nice vacation for you and generally taking you places
  • And in general, you would be the only person to unconditionally believe that your daughter is always right no matter how wrong she is.

As a mother of two now, I realize there are so many situations and people  that I could have handled differently.  We managed to come out unscathed, a little head-strong, a little too strong-willed, but are proud of how we have turned out to be..  Your not being around has imparted one strong lesson of not ‘knowing’ fear. But only till my own children and that of my sis came into this world. Now, there is just this one thing I fear and wish for. To live a long healthy life and be available when my children and grand children need me.  I will. Love you Ma, for all the sweet memories you have left behind. Your grandchildren love you too and they know every loving word you uttered back then.