Sunday, November 30, 2008

Barkha Dutt hosted a talk show last night in which the Mumbaikars got together for a debate on the aftermath of 26/11. There were those who survived the terror strikes. And those who lost somebody they knew. The mood was angry as it should be. People are just not willing to sweep this incident under the rug anymore. They have faced enough and are not willing to make anymore sacrifices. The politicians have been patronising the citizens of India for too long. They have manipulated the public to dance to their tunes. Taken them for granted. Fooled them with false promises and sugar coated tongues. Thrown morsels at them after promising them heaven. And we let them rape us. And kept quiet. We were too busy to stand up against them. The problem of the person next door was not our problem. Its time we united. The problem of every and any citizen of India is Our collective problem. Just by electing a government to power doesn't absolve us from our responsibility. We have the power to create them, and the power to make the machinery perform. We have the power to bring them down when they have failed us. We have the power to be the change that we seek.
To ensure that such an incident does not happen again in this country we have to address it from two sides. One, if there is a problem do everything in your power to limit the damage. Have better security, educate common people, make our cities more secure and safe.
The other thing and the most important is to PREVENT such an incident from taking place.
1) India needs to send a strong message to the world that we will not tolerate terrorism on our soil. Trying to establish ourselves as a peace loving non violent nation should not be to the extent of projecting ourselves as a soft nation. If war is not a solution, then who is preventing us from going after the terror networks and their established sites. When America went after the Al Quaida it became a US problem. WE preferred to not get our hands dirty. We preferred to sit on the diplomatic fence. WE didn't want to stir the hornets nest. But we still got stung. WE have been getting stung for too long. And other than shouting foul we did nothing and exposed our weakness and vulnerablilty to the terror mongers. Like the nerd that was too weak to fight back we cried when we got bullied. Lets stop playing the role of a friendly neighbourhood hero. No one is standing and applauding our stand. Play the game fair by all means but don't get beaten by twisted rules and foul play.
2) If democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people, then these very people have to be responsible with their votes. You decide the government that will come to power. And once voted, WE don't want to wait for four years to see the change. If any elected member of the assembly or house under performs we need the power to vote him out. A 'call back' system has to be put in place. but before voting the right candidate We need a forum where we can check out every candidate's profile and experience before casting our vote. An official website should be created where the candidate standing for election has to enter his past performance, qualification, and future manifesto with plans to make them work. Should he /she be found failing in his promises then he needs to stand trial in front of the people who voted him. And remember, lets not vote for people who will be "good for me". Lets get people in power who will be "good for us". DON'T LET THEM MAKE ISSUES. YOU TELL THEM THE ISSUES YOU WANT THEM TO TAKE UP.
3) If you think the government is not doing its job, then be a part of the government yourself. Be the change you want to see. I have lots of hope from the youth. Lets stop pointing fingers and take responsibility. Make the change. Its time for a revolution and change. Its the youth of its time that fought the British out of this country. It will be the youth of our times that takes our country out of this age of disillusionment and anguish.
To its basics, it means, one, get the policy right. Two, get the government right. Demand the government that you seek. And three, Be that government.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Its the 28 th of November, 2008. A quarter hour remains before the new day begins. I lie awake at night crying. Sleep eludes me. I remember the face of a crying child, just 2 years old, who has lost his parents to terrorism. Terrorists who stormed the Nariman House in Bombay killed a Rabbi and his wife who were held hostage. Their child "rescued' yesterday is now an orphan.
I imagine him weeping because he is away from his parents. He doesn't understand why they are not with him. He is comforted by strangers. He is looking over their shoulder to spot his parents who will now never come to hold him again. He must have cried himself to sleep and will wake up to an uncertain life without his parents. Who will take care of him? He will cry for days inconsolable until one day he learns that his parents have gone for ever. While he is at the whims of strangers. And even in the best of foster care, can they ever match the love and care that he would have received from his parents? What destiny lies ahead for this unfortunate child for whom the nightmare has just begun? His innocence died with the bullet that killed his parents. Forever.
I too am a mother. I underwent the pangs of labor and delivered my baby girl who is now six months old. I have held her whenever she cried and comforted her. There are times when she only wants me and is not comforted by anyone else. She will cry till she comes into my arms. She needs me to put her to sleep, to feed her, to make her feel okay when she is afraid. And to think that poor little kid will never have these moments again just breaks my heart. There is something only a mother can do for her child. You have to be a mother to understand the pain of separation. I now know. I understand what the hapless mother felt at the moment just before the bullet ripped through her body. She was dead even before the bullet could kill her. She died in that fraction when she realised her child would be an orphan. To lose a parent is bad enough. To lose both in a moment of madness at an age when you cannot comprehend the reason or understand why it happened, is crushing. Did the mother beg her killers to spare her for her child? Did she plead to them to kill her but at least let her husband go so her baby would not get orphaned? Can there be anything more hopeless than losing your parents?
So many children get abandoned for various reasons. How much more tragic is it to lose your parents to senseless violence. Nothing, nothing can justify this act. No matter how persecuted you are or how wronged, the sin of killing this child's parents is unpardonable.How many such babies have been orphaned all over the world in wars and because of terrorism? No matter which part of the world you live, which language you speak or which religion you follow (or were born into) the pains of labor that a mother undergoes is the same. The cries of a child pleading to be comforted by her mother is the same. The affection a father feels is the same. There cannot be a martyrdom after such a heinous crime. No God will forgive this. There will be no peace for the perpetrators in this world or the next. This hatred garbed in supposed vengeance will never be forgiven. The curse of every weeping mother and every crying child will forever be on them.
Death comes to all. But its what you did while you lived that counts. You can kill innocent people. And you can live on. But the blood is in your hands and you can never wash it off.I wish we could go back in time and prevent this crime. I wish the child did not have to cry. I wish no child had to cry. WE can take pride in being humans when there are no more tears in innocent eyes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

22 October 2008
Breastfeeding - Don't let them influence you against it

Being a new mother is a challenge in many ways. Not only must you learn to take care of yourself when you are pregnant and then learn to take care of your tiny bundle of immeasurable joy who nevertheless is extremely demanding, but you also need to put up with never ending advice from everyone around you about what to do and what not to do. Sometimes the advice come handy but most of the time, they are tossed at you from people who have never been in the position themselves like men for instance and others who have never been pregnant! Its a little like an old granny giving advice to Sachin Tendulkar on how he must handle Shane Warne. Well, as some one said, a pair of ear plugs must be made part of the maternity wardrobe and I couldnt agree more. I was subject to much advising and I hope to deal with these in subsequent articles. But I want to dedicate this one to breastfeeding.
To breast feed or not is not a question that causes confusion in India primarily because its unthinkable not to breast feed your baby unlike in the west where it is a fashionable thing to do like yoga! The benefits of breast feeding is slowly being made popular to would be mothers all over the world. But it is still acceptable as an option that the mother decided. Much like opting for an epidural or a Cesarean if you feel you can't bear the pains of labour. By the way, the use of the word labour is completely justified for those few hours of child birthing experience. But in India if a mother were to decide in favor of a less painful method of child birth she would be considered a renegade or insincere. An old uncle once told me that mothers are more attached to babies that are born naturally rather than a Cesarean. Like all outdated things of the past best laid buried, I bury that bit of preaching. The doctors recommend that the baby be breast fed exclusively for six months. But in India we have a tradition of starting on outside food much earlier. In a month most babies start on cow's milk. And then other feeds like wheat/barley porridge or mashed fruits and vegetables are begun in 4 months time. With the advent of formula milk and baby food, these have caught on, particulary favored because of the ease of preparing them.
I and my husband had decided on feeding our baby exclusively on breast milk. Our daughter was born three weeks early and was consequently small. She weighed 2.8 kilos and was thinner than other babies. But she was a very active child who came kicking and suckling her wrists voraciously. Breastfeeding her turned out to be a nightmarish task for me. Her hunger never seemed to satiate and I was literally feeding her round the clock. All that marathon feeding caused me to be in constant unbearbable pain for two months.She hardly slept in her first three months preferring to feed and when she did sleep, I lay down feeding and after a while we both would drift away tosleep. Once I had figured this out, I managed to get some sleep at night and my girl would sleep for 4-6 hours at night. But she was awake the whole day. And if I was lucky would take a small nap in the afternoon. Her doctor said that it was nothing to worry and that most of it was comfort sucking and quite normal. But around the time after her first month, I was put under pressure to start her on formula milk. I refused of course prefering to wait and watch. I saw no reasons to believe that the baby was under fed. I had to change nappies almost constantly and inspite of putting her on a diaper at night changed about 20 nappies a day. Her stools also seemed normal and healthy.
Telling a woman she had less milk for her baby was like telling a man he was impotent. With almost everyone who saw the baby saying she just didnt have the size of babies her age, I was worried and did a lot of reading on the net. Even my gynacologist during the first postpartum check up at 1-1/2 months made me believe that the baby was not getting enough milk and recommended milk boosting tonic. In her words, babies that were well fed would sleep a great deal and play when not feeding or sleeping. I adamanlty refused to believe it. Even after hours of breast feeding I could always express some milk. I stopped having the tonic after few days. More because I couldnt come to terms with the fact that it would work. I had suffered the pains of engorged breasts a few times and my theory was that if milk is produced in proportion to the demand, then what good will excess milk do if the baby is not able to drink it? I would only end up with more engorgemet. I read somewhere that the more the baby drinks the more mik is produced and so I didnt understand how outside milk would make things better. If anything it would further reduce breast milk production. I persisted with breast milk. Besides, though she still looked small, she was gaining weight slowly and steadily. At times my resolve would falter but my husband stood by me. We decided to wait until she was four months old. I was anxious lest my stubborness cause health concerns to my little one but deep in my heart I knew I was right. I did not even feed her water. She lived totally on breast milk.
Today my baby is four months old. And weighs a good six kilos. She looks chubby and healthy. A far cry from her skinny days! She has started to roll on her tummy and is fine in every other way. Touch wood.
So don't listen to others. There is no substitute for breast milk. Persevere now and your baby will carry the benefits for a long time. Breast milk is high on fat and fufills all the nutritional requirement of your baby. It is free from contamination. And most of all, it gives your child a means to bond physically and emotionally with you which will help him or her develop into a secure and confident child (see postscript). And here's a very good reason if these weren't enough. Its the best way to lose all those extra pounds you gained during pregnancy. You really lose weight!
You are getting enough milk if:
You need to change more than 6 nappies a day.
The baby poo is a mustard yellow with/without a curdled look. The baby may poop 3-4 times a day or may go without pooping for couple of days. That is quite normal.
The baby doesnt look listless. Crying is okay. Look out for any signs of sickness though. Check with your doc when in doubt.
The baby gains weight steadily. The actual weight gain will depend on the sex of the baby and his or her birth weight. A weight gain of 150 - 200 gms per week is the norm, although there can be variations. The doc will know best.
Happy breastfeeding!
PS: Latest research indicates that babies that are breast fed and spend their early months with their mothers breastfeeding, sleeping and being carried about more often are easier to discipline and grow up into confident caring and happy individuals. Taking off your baby from your breasts too early can give rise to insecurity in them. Ideally continue feeding till baby is two years old. And remember, never let a baby be left alone to cry. Pick her/him up as soon as you can.
15th October, 2008
How soon has the last four months passed? I have to looks at my baby's earlier pictures to realize that she has grown up and how soon! Feels like she just grew up in my arms And I didn't know. Motherhood has changed me in more ways than one. Since becoming a mother, I haven't slept for more than 4 hours at a stretch. In fact it is as less as 2 hours usually. And I was the sleeping queen! I havn't had a long relaxing bath, something I cherished previously. I take my food in as little time as possible. But these are not complaints. If some one had told me that I could do all these I wouldn't have believed them. And yet I seem to be getting by with very little sleep. I feel tired. and yet I seem to have endless energy to pacify my baby when she is crying or playing with her even though I would really like to just hit the bed and sleep for as long as I want to and more.
The other night there was a disruption in power supply and we did not have power the whole night. It was a warm night with mosquitoes buzzing around. I fanned the baby almost non stop perhaps nodding off for few moments in between. I finally slept for few hours in the early morning when it got a little cool. And yet I carried on with the day without a nap. I did try to catch few winks while my baby slept but just couldn't. Even at night I lay awake for a long time before finally succumbing to sleep. After that night I feel I can handle anything. Oh did I not mention all those early nights and days when my baby was feeding contiuously, and it hurt so bad I cried while feeding, And there was the pain of the stiches. I didn't get much sleep or rest. My inability to sleep is starting to look chronic. I cannot sleep when I am trying to and cannot wake up in the morning when I am trying to! May be its a sleeping disorder.
Its not easy and if I knew I would have to do all these things I might have chickened out of possible motherhood. But I did venture and am I glad. Every moment has been special. I just love having my baby. I can't imagine what my life was like before. Touch wood!
Becoming a parent makes you a better human being, It unleashes qualities you never knew you had. It makes you patient, contented and selfless. Perhaps for the first time in life. When I look back at my life that has passed I can't think of any major achievement that I am really proud of. Now that I have had my baby and if I can do my best and bring her up in the best possible manner I would die a satisfied person. Its satisfying to leave behind a legacy that lingers on long after you are gone. And nothing like a child brought up well who becomes a world citizen, Just, caring and responsible.
12 th September, 2008
One of the most incredible feelings you get as a new mother is when your baby after a sleep wakes up and cries, possibly feeling abandoned and you reach out and pick her up to comfort, telling her "its all right..Mama is here." My mother had said many a time when I teased her 'concerns' which the rebel in me often found interfering, irritating, nagging... "You will know when you become a mother." And now I know. I cannot say taking care of a baby is the most difficult of jobs on earth but without a doubt it is the most satisfying and amusing. Not too many jobs can stake claim on such fulfilling rewards. The toothless smiles, the innocent imploring eyes and above all the preference your baby gives you to all others. It is without a parallel. So what if you have to wake up groggy in the middle of the night to respond to her cry for comfort and hunger. When the pleading eyes beseech you to take care of her, your heart and innards melt in maternal love. My baby has started turning to her sides and is very garrulous despite not having a language to converse in. She even chuckles when you have held a funny face long enough.
The other night my baby was in no mood to sleep. She had slept well in the late evening and was bright and alert experimenting with all the noises she could possibly make with her mouth and the different decibels she could reach! She had already become proficient with swinging her hands at hanging toys that is whenever she wasn't trying to chew them off. I periodically counted them to ensure she hadn't gulped down a few! I had turned out the light as was the 'bed time' routine leaving only a night lamp on. This had been established to get the baby used to the idea that "it was night time now and a good idea to sleep." The night lamp helped me during middle of the night feeding. To be fair my little girl has always been sleeping more in the night and for longer durations. In the second month she started her norm of a 4 hour sleep before waking up for a feed. At times she slept for 5 and even 6 hours at a stretch. But in those days she hardly slept in the day time preferring to feed. But lately she had started sleeping more in the day and it takes longer for her to sleep in the night and when she does, she wakes up in 4 hours with the precision of a swiss watch. I never had to set an alarm to wake up and rouse her to feed.
Coming back to the other night, while feeding her I spotted this huge spider on the wall. It had thick octet legs and looked menacing. Normally we get to see thin legged spiders but for a change, this was big. The word tarantula kept flashing in my mind. The repository in the head sprung up the name from a dusty shelf along with the information that it was scary but entirely harmless. But some of the spiders were deadly causing fatal poisonous bites. And didn't one of them bite our friendly neighborhood hero changing his life for ever? But even a 'harmless' spider can cause a skin reaction or rashes. I continued feeding and the baby slowly drifted to sleep. I stirred to try and put her down gently without waking her up. Its usually not easy. And as I lifted her gently from my lap, I spotted a fleeting movement across the bed towards its edge. In the dim light I figured it was the spider. I could no longer see it on the wall. Shocked, I jumped off the bed with the baby. I now could make out the spider clearly. It seemed to be hovering on the hanging edge of the bed sheet. I was a little scared now especially because of the baby. I wasn't sure if I should put her down with the spider so close. But if I had to do something I needed my hands free. I gently put her on her little bed. I could still spot the spider which was motionless now perhaps sensing its exposure. I couldn't bring myself to let it go for I would never have been able to sleep in that condition. It isn't that I am afraid of spiders, but this one was pretty big and could cause trouble. Besides darkness of the night invariably exaggerates your emotions particularly fear. I realized that I had to squash it if I wanted to sleep but the idea was totally repulsive. I was gripped by a fear and disgust at the very thought but more for my baby's safety, I concluded I had to do it. So I grabbed a fat book and with a prayer of forgiveness slammed it on the spider still perched on the edge and the book fell down on to the floor. I was shaking. I saw another big book lying on the shelf and on an impulse placed it on the book already lying on the floor with the now dead spider. Although there was no way that a spider could wriggle out from under the first one. I imagined it all squashed up with its innards spewed out stuck on the book's glossy cover and it was a repulsive thought. I couldn't bring myself to lift the book and spy the evidence of my deed. As I was closely inspecting the area around ground zero, I was horrified to spot a dozen or two little baby spiders scampering about. Few along the wall and the floor skirting and many trying to climb the wall with tiny legs. The thought of all those baby spiders growing up into scary adults got me worried. So I grabbed a third book and ran it on the hapless babies. Most of them perished.. all those that I saw moving. Few must have got away.
"I killed the mother spider." I thought. I had seen a movie called Arachnophobia on television once, where this very dangerous spider with a fatal bite was killed just in time when they discover the secret hideout of its nest which if left undetected would have unleashed hundreds of the menacing spider into the neighborhood. Indian spiders are not known to be fatal. My baby meanwhile woke up in all the muffled commotion. I put her back to sleep and then snuggled in my bed covers with a creepy feeling of spiders running over me.
Sometime later in the night just as I was succumbing to a slippery sleep, a loud thud startled me out of my dreams. A quick glance at the clock told me it was just over an hour after the spider obliteration. I looked in the direction of the noise, towards the open loft. It was the mama cat that had given birth to a litter of kittens in our store room. It usually made its way in to the house through any one of the many ventilator openings and there was one near the loft. She had come to feed her kittens I presumed. I was too sleepy and refused to get up to open the bedroom door. But I felt remorse at the thought of the kittens waiting for their mama. I reluctantly got up and opened the door and after what seemed like ages the cat mustered some courage and jumped down from the loft and pattered out of the room. As I closed the door and made my way back to the bed, I heard distant peals of kitten 'meows' of joy followed by a long suckling silence. I drifted away to sleep once again. In the middle of the night I got up few times on the crying demands of my baby, fed her and slept. I was used to this routine. I had figured out that if you kept your eyes closed while you fed the baby in the night and remained in a self imposed state of subconsciousness, you had a better chance of going back to sleep than if you were wide eyed and alert. Two feeds later, the new day had dawned. but to catch up with my lost sleep I usually sleep late. Finally, late morning I removed myself from the comforts of the bed. The baby was sleeping with a look of satisfaction on her cherubic face. After washing up I proceeded to venture out for my first glass of milk in the morning. I could hear my mother singing in the kitchen while going about her chores. I saw the books lying on the floor and the adventures of the night resurfaced. The fear had passed away with the night and so had revulsion. Instead was remorse and pity for the now dead spider. I tentatively lifted the book half expecting the spider to spring out with a vengeance. There was no spider there. I had failed in my murderous attempt. The spider had escaped and now lay hidden somewhere in the room mourning her babies. Are spiders vengeful? Do they have a memory of elephants?
19th August , 2008
It would be nice to record all these emotions that inundate me. Those that I experience continuously as a new mom. But there is a dearth of free time. I get time to myself only when my girl is asleep or playing with somebody else. She likes to keep me in sight and gets bored if left alone to play. so I have to be an active partner in her games...entertaining and getting entertained. Spare moments are hard to come by, primarily because while she sleeps I usually have other chores to complete. Never ending cycle of chores that include washing her clothes, drying them, folding them... and trying to keep the room tidy. Then I need to eat and have a bath!...All achieved when she is in a good mood or better still, is sleeping. I sometimes find words springing up in my mind leaping to be written down. But they must be postponed to a moment in future. A moment such as now when I can finally give the words a place to rest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

18th July, 2008
The more I go through parenting the more I say I owe my mother an apology.” So said Ray Romano. And I realise the truth in that quote as I write this, a new mother of an almost 2 month old baby girl. All these emotions are what my parents must have felt when I was born. This little girl will one day grow up and have a mind of her own, challenging all that you tell her! Just like I did. I was not too close to my parents emotionally. In the sense that I wasn't the kind who would confide in them. I felt closer to my dad because we were more like friends. We would discuss sports and books. Tastes I didn't share with my mom. But my turmoils I kept to myself. But everything changed as I gave birth to my baby. I have never been this close to my mother. And I have found a new respect for her.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up to my baby's cries. She turns to her side, the side I am sleeping on, whimpering, pleading... to be held and fed, with poignant tears filled eyes. And I just melt. No matter how sleepy or tired I am.. I feel important like I have never felt before. Never felt this needed by anyone. There is this little angel that depends on me! And when I feed her I feel so special. There is something only I can do for my baby and no one else. When she cries in hunger in a relatives arms, I take her in mine and there is this recognition.. “This is my mom.. and she will feed me”! Last night I couldn't sleep for some time. I had fed my baby and put her to sleep. As I lay beside my baby looking at her I couldn't help but wish she woke up and that I could feed her! Its a great feeling.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Make believe. Pretentious.
Obscure. Corrupted
Words spew out from the mouth
A pale relative of the true emotions
Raging like a storm
Thoughts unbridled, spontaneous
Mushroom in the fertile soil.
Like wind blowing across frontiers,
Untamed, unfathomable,
Blessed with secretive sanctity
Brutally honest, fearless.
Coming to life when interpreted
And in misinterpretations
Naive words made a scapegoat.
Blamed for war and fire
When it was only a messenger.
Shot in place of hideous desires
Menacing and smirking inside.
Don’t trust the words for they are
Doomed to be untrue
A poor imitation to the unspoken feelings
Listen to the heart instead
Hear the words unspoken
Unearth the truth lurking between the lines
Feel the emotion that gently exudes
Unnoticed thru' the eyes
Before it gets garbed in words
glamourised or demonised.
Never has a word done justice
to the emotion, Of which
Its just an unillustrious offspring
Whether it was despair or anger
love or hate
Either falling short
or exaggerating the rage
Let the words pass like waves
Perishing in the moment and reborn in another
Open your inner eyes to the truth unclothed
Rising in the womb of eternity
As slimy uncorrupted thoughts
My little one,I wonder.
What are you dreaming of in the dark interior?
Its bright and sunny outside
Anticipating your coming home.
Are you like your father?
Or mother or a bit of both?
The world is waiting with bated breath
To see you wake up from your long sleep

What destiny are you carrying on those tiny shoulders
What aspirations run in that tender mind
And while you kick those tiny feet
And explore the womb and its mysteries
One day will you tread the world
And explore the universe and beyond
Challenges await you And temptations
Joy, pleasures and destinations
So rest all that you can my love
Your mother awaits your arrival

March, 2008
Days thick in anticipation
of a life altering moment
Time spent dreaming
about a strange addition
swinging between anxiety and anticipation
Impatience and dread following each other
Life in the womb kicking and nudging
to mark its cherished presence felt
Getting ready in the transition to take on the world
A self centred existance stands to be erased
A life of unconditional loving beckons ahead
As the weary past slowly sheds like old skin
ready to receive the fresh new life within
A transition from one body to another. A rebirth.
For the woman bearing life
For the life growing inside
I wait for the moment of reckoning
Lingering at the threshold of mother hood

Written on : April 23rd, 2008