Monday, December 07, 2009

ANger that heals

An uncontrolled angry outburst
Can sometimes lend voice to the unsaid
When the deepest darkest truth
Swept under the rug of assumed tolerance
And deliberate mature understanding
Is liberated out of the crater
Stunning, heart breaking, destroying
And yet mercifully and delightfully honest
A break from the revolting hypocrisy
Perhaps burning all that is old and dry
And yet cleaning the slate
For something new and fresh to take life
To start anew
Without past pretenses

Sunday, November 29, 2009

For someone who is afraid of close relationships lest my space is violated... networking is godsend
No I am not one of those lonely souls who is living in a shell. I like my small group of close friends whom I meet and talk to when I can. But I am crowd shy.
I like the space that networking sites offer me. Where I meet known and unknown friends across the virtual sea. It isn't unlike any other form of relationship. Except you can choose to get in touch with them personally or just air your thoughts while your contacts are free to water them or ignore. It’s like going to a work place where you meet familiar friends every day ... but never physically. You only share good moments. You can sign out any time you like. You can ignore. You can look into the window that they open for you and not beyond to see what goes in their lives. You do the same. There are no unwanted visitors that you have to attend to. You can shut out when you are in a mood to hibernate. You can revel when the spirits are high. Knock on doors... leave a message. See their kids grow up... or where they have traveled.
It’s strangely public and yet private.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Permanent in past

Future uncertain like writings on sand
Short lived, changing…
With every wave of whims and dreams
Wishes run amok like wild horses
Painting the blank canvas
With splendid colors
Wants displacing needs…
Sweet desires building castles of glass
Fragile, precariously hanging on the precipice
Shimmering in rainbow colors
Like a floating naked bubble
Destined to perish to nothingness
Future like a slow conveyer belt
Looming ahead, approaching…
Excitable fearsome hopeful

Time passes through the doorway
Of the present moment

And then

Engraved on marble now
Joyful or sorrow but
Relegated to the archives of history
Stored in perfume bottles of nostalgia
Recorded as mere statistics
Etched in distant memory

Hopes die
Battles are lost
Dreams are shattered
Hearts sink
Tears inundate

You cannot do a thing
And all that you try to do
Changes nothing
You can hit
Prick. Kill.
But time marches on
Dangling the carrot of future
Seemingly malleable
Destiny follows like the faithful shadow
Ticking the correctness of events
As was intended always
As was written
As it slowly sets
Into the unalterable past

Monday, October 12, 2009

Small talk

Let’s talk
Even if there is nothing to
Let’s ask how the weather is
What did you dine on today?
Or just simply ‘how was your day’
Small talk to keep the conversation going
To fill the awkward first meetings
Small talk to hang on to breaking strands of relationships
So family dinners are not shattered in silence

Small talk it is if nothing else
Pardon my persistence
For I ask the obvious.
I repeat the questions time and again
For its not your answer I seek
But the voice you speak with
Because when words dry up doors are shut

I patronize I control
Don’t fret too much about it
Anger is not a pleasant bedmate
So talk and let go

I sleep today with a blank mind
No regrets or nagging thoughts
Tomorrow is a brand new day.
For another cycle of
Small talk

My 16th month old baby taught me a very important lesson. This is how events unfolded.

I normally give her a bottle of milk at bed time before she is lulled to sleep. Its part of the elaborate sleep routine I have devised for her. That day inadvertently I placed her bottle on the side table where she was able to reach it. And now that she knows how to open a bottle lid by twisting it, within seconds she had opened the lid and the milk spilled 3 quarters before I noticed to my shock and disappointment. Normally it wouldn’t matter but on that day there was no more milk to give her and that was the last of it. I got upset. I looked at her with an unhappy face trying to drive the point home. She looked at me with a touch of regret and then, the talented actor that she is, put on the clown act trying to divert my attention pointing at something with a big smile. I didn’t relent. She moved away with her gait spelling "Okki dokki... mommy means business". I got angrier because she seemed to have no qualms about what she did!! Remember, anger clouds your brain? So I forgot for a moment that she was only 16 months old. I had managed to salvage a quarter of the bottle and had no choice but to make do with that. Plus I was still breast feeding. The best thing, I figured, was to move on (and not cry over split milk). I gave her, her quick bath followed by drying and applying lotion. But I wasn’t smiling. I persisted with a long face so she picked up that she did something wrong. What was I expecting? A confession from a toddler who cannot talk??? Am I the adult here?... 'Oh why did she have to take the bottle in the first place?” grrrr... Next up on the routine was getting her dressed so I took the diaper out and the night dress to change into for the night. But the little elf grabbed them and ran further from me. I got more peeved. “Oh c'mon now. Don't make me run after you, girl!”
It suddenly dawned on me that she was playing a game, inviting me to join. A game of catch - me - if - you - can. Mercifully, at that enlightening moment, better sense prevailed and I decided to join her. My demeanor changed. I smiled and ran after her to catch her. End result - she in my arms laughing and happy. My anger had melted away. Yes she taught me a lesson. When the other person is angry use humor. Now we all know that you can’t fight fire with fire. Right? But we forget. So I now know how to handle a bad situation or how to resolve a heated argument with my spouse!!! And that's not all. I proceeded to give my now dressed baby few board books that she likes to browse through before sleep time. But for a change, she indicated she wanted the bottle to feed. And she gulped down the entire contents. That’s when I realized it. She went for the bottle because she was hungry and wanted to drink the milk. Poor little angel! She wasn’t being defiant or naughty. When the veil of anger had lifted, I saw clearly that it wasn't her fault at all. I saw light only after I came out of the shadow of anger. And that’s lesson number two.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ayudh puja in changing times

Ayudh puja. A day I looked forward to as a school going kid for once my mother had put my books (usually the dreaded mathematics textbook) for puja we didn't have to touch books for a day and a half. What bliss! For a change nobody told you to go and study. Of course that didn't stop us from sneaking and reading our favorite storybooks! No work... all play... all day long! The blessed days when there was no television or computers so we kids in the neighbourhood would climb trees, pluck fruits, eat figs and never feel hungry enough to go home but tanned playing in the autumn sun. What do kids do these days for a day and half? Watch TV I suppose. Or sit on the computer and game.There are no playgrounds, no parks to go to.
So thats what I did. I watched elephants and meer cats on Animal Planet with my 14 month old daughter. She loves them particularly the elephant calves. So much that she doesnt understand why we periodically change the channel and interrupt her( read commercial breaks). But I also make it a point to take her out in the yard to run around either in barefeet or with these squeaky shoes of hers. I only wish she had play mates her age in the vicinity but alas there are none. So we play with her toys instead. There is Noddy who is always goign to sleep and the Teddy who made an appearance on her favorite channel the other day. Except he was called koala bear! And of course there is her Doggie that sings different tunes.
Ayudh puja. The day cars and bikes get washed and dabbed with the traditional haldi and kumkum. And all machines implements and tools. As a new student of painting I felt the urge to place my paints and brushes for prayers. I do hope the divine blessings help me scale the magnificient and alluring mountain of painting. I think of spending some time on the computer and wonder. Are not computers our modern day tools? Shouldn't they be sacntified as well? Placed along with our books with a dab of haldi and kumkum! Oh I think I will just take my notebook and place it for Puja. Notebook here by the way is my laptop. :)
Changing times.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The frustration of revision

When do you stop a composition? The moment when you cannot add or delete any element. When it is complete. when the 'whole' composed of different parts put together in harmony, contrast or other design props is visually balanced to the discerning eye. A good painting is like that. Every stroke has a purpose. Every shade of color adds to the overall effect however subtly it might be. There are no accidents or mistakes. Have you ever written poetry and there came a moment when the lines feel complete. Sometimes you manage to convey everything in four lines. At times even hundreds don’t suffice.
I wrote the following lines intending to complete them later. These words just “tumbled out” as I like to say.

Let the follies be mine
Let the glory be yours
How can I claim all is You
For there are so many imperfections.

But I am not able to add anything. The lines say all that I want to say.

Often in my line of work as a designer we sit racking our brain to arrive at a solution which we feel is fairly well composed. We have balanced function with aesthetics, we have finalized the materials and specifications according to our design sensibility and the budget. We sit back on the chair happy at the outcome. It feels complete. We can't wait to show it to the client/superior for approval. But more often than not, the client asks for changes. Not the whole concept but only small things here and there....which very completely messes up the whole composition. These small things change the whole dynamism of the design. It is no longer complete. Remember what I said? You cannot add or delete. Any change leaves the design in disarray. So begins the process of re-balancing. Sometimes you succeed. Most times you have to let go of the most beautiful part of the erstwhile composition in order to accommodate a tiny insignificant alteration which is frustrating.
I once did a residential landscape for a client whose brief was a design within a small budget. So in lieu of that I chose brick as the dominant element and designed the paving lines according to the basic unit of a brick. At a later stage after the bricks had been laid in place, the client changed his mind and asked for granite cladding of the same. No harm done, but the original design using the brick module was made redundant. If I had had the freedom of using granite in the beginning the design would have been different in the first place. It would have evolved keeping in mind granite as a paving material.
What we seek in design is honesty of expression. Honesty of material. Let the basic material shine through and hold the weight of the design on its shoulders. But in the example cited, with that change the essence of the whole design collapsed not unlike a house of cards.
Changing a material is not as simple as that. Every material has an inherent property that affects the design. In the same project, at another location I had proposed granite cobbles and slab in an interesting composition for the entrance area. The client asked for a cheaper option and we explored different materials. Every time we changed the material or the brand, the dimension of the basic unit changed, and the design changed consequently. When the client sees the final drawing it might appear as mere lines. But only a designer and a sincere one at that can understand the labor that goes behind the simplest of design. After umpteen changes, with the client vacillating about the choice of material, haggling for reduced rates from dealers, we finally chose a cheap paving option. The resulting design was a poor shadow of what we had started with. I only hope that it lasts its guarantee period. If it doesn’t. Who is to be blamed? The design it seems is not the architect's creation but that of the patron's tastes.
In another example, when I was working in an architectural firm, my colleague was working on a multi storeyed apartment building and the plan and elevation was simply beautiful. It was the kind of design where the proportions fall in its rightful place and it deserved to come up in the skyline. But that wasn't to be. After the plan and elevation was approved, the client realized that a hotel would be more profitable and asked for the plan to be revised accordingly. That screwed up the entire design starting from the plan to the elevation. I don't know what happened to that project as I left the firm shortly after but something potentially beautiful was destroyed that day by the relentless dagger of commercial interests.
It’s deeply mournful to say the least.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tough times are like bad medicine

It’s a huge struggle to give my little girl her medicine. She has come down with a bad cold that has become congestion and her doctor prescribed antibiotics. The sweetening technique by the pharmaceutical company did not work. My baby still cannot stand it. She breaks into uncontrollable cries and loud protests leaving me with no option but to force it down her throat. And that causes her to hate it more. While a little spills out, I hope at least something gets down her throat. I have come to hate it as much as she. I wish I didn’t have to give it to her but I know I have to, so she gets better. She doesn’t understand it of course and cannot understand why her mother is putting her through so much anguish. But within seconds after the unpleasantness during which she shrieks and cries at the top of her voice and is soaked in sweat, she is her normal self, smiling. I wonder, if only she struggled less, the medicine would be easily dispensed with reducing our misery. The more she struggles the more she prolongs the anguish.
But who am I to give advice. Am I any better? That got me thinking…All the bad times that we go through is like bad medicine that the Maker is giving us so we get better. So we overcome our vices which if left untreated would cause further agony and no spiritual development. And so no matter how much we struggle or protest or cry, we still have to drink the potion. The more we struggle the worse the situation gets. The maker like a mother is in pain too to see His children suffer but continues to deliver the tough times because they are for our good.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Be like a child

She stood on the bed leaning
At the head board, pleading
To be lifted And I, busy,
Near by, just out of reach
"One day she will fall"...
I tell her,"I'll be there soon, love,
In a minute." She excited,
Playing, jumping, pleading,
Tipping precariously ...
In a second landed with a thump on the floor;
I shout "NOOOO..." As if
The sound would some how
Cushion her fall
I watch helpless and horrified
I wonder later if I could have
Caught her. Did I have the time?
Had I, stunned into inaction,
Given up and let her to her fate?

Head down. on all fours...
A moment of silence
As long as eternity
And then the loud wail.
More in shock than in pain
I grabbed my little one.
Shaken up, I embrace her close to my heart
Soothing myself as much as her.
Hugging her warm little body.
I have nothing to say except
"I am sorry baby"
Over and over again.
I rub her nasty bruise gently
As it turned blue black.
I stroke her back slowly
As her whimpers died
The tears stopped running
Leaving a streak behind
She calms down and is quiet
Her head resting on my shoulders

I take her on my lap still shaking.
My heart pounding
I am close to tears
As I offer her my breast
She gratefully accepts and suckles.
The bruise is now a goose egg..
She hurt her head
Is she fine? I worry
I gently rub her belly
And with the nipple still in her mouth
She smiles and then laughs!
The fall now forgotton, I sigh.
Everything is fine.

Only I wish I forgot my pain
As quickly as my little girl

Monday, August 17, 2009

T r a n s i t i o n

Transition hurts...
When we are moving from one state to the other or one level to the other, we are letting go of the familiar and facing the unknown. Every level has two sides... good and evil. That’s a universal fact. So while we are frustrated with our present existence, when the point of transition arrives, we see all the negative things looming ahead, suddenly recollecting all the good things we must lose now! And that fills us with fear, fear of the unknown. Now suddenly we no longer recollect the miseries of our current situation, instead dread the change that is to come which glittered from a distance but is not so attractive up close!.
Death is a transition between two planes of existence.
It’s the passage that we walk knowing not what lies ahead. Its painful ‘cause we are letting go of all the things we have known and loved. And not knowing what we must face next. A little like, ‘a known enemy is better than an unknown friend’.
We are constantly seeking new pastures in life and where we stand is like a hot tin roof. Restless we wander in search of happiness… discontent, despite the fact that where we are is what we wanted except not the whole of it. But every moon has a dark side. And we cannot have one without the other.
Come to think of it, even during child birth it is the transition or the process of delivery that is the most painful! Its when the loved one is departing that we are heart broken. That’s why daughters (and their parents) weep when they get married.
Sometimes we imagine a bleak future and get anxious. But once there the picture might be completely different from what we imagined. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. The problem with dreaming or imagining things is that we extrapolate the present and so our state of mind in the present is projected into a complementary event in the future. But what we forget is that innumerable parameters are lurking in the shadow which can influence the future drastically.
I think we feel in control when we imagine our future as we want it to be. But the fact is we are not in control. Its living in a fool’s paradise. We can only control our present. This moment. Now. We can choose whether we want to be happy or sad or angry. Whether we want to waste this moment in lamentation or idle around or whether we want to “ fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run” (- Rudyard Kipling in IF). Whether we want to tread the transition like a river of embers or look at it like a gift wrapping paper to behold the future that is unraveled in time. “No anticipation. No hesitation.” (- Sri Sri Ravi Shanker)

Summon the razor edge of transition
And we shall look at it in the eye
We shall not stumble but walk
The tight rope with our head high

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I love my country. I say that from the bottom of my heart. If I were to be given a chance to choose the country I wish to be born in, I would choose India. Everytime. I love this place. The diversity, the tradition and culture.. every square inch is teeming in the most amazing colors .. there is a new culture, cuisine, climate, language, geography with every mile that you traverse.. Where else can you get so much variety. There is so much to India that I don’t think any one person can see it all or even know it all in his entire lifetime. We can but taste a small piece of it. And savour it for all its worth.
SO many people intelligent, sensitive, caring, helpful, talented, creative…. I salute them.
Imagine what we can do if we all move in the positive direction as a collective whole, rooted in our tradition looking on and embracing modernity. We can change the world. We have. One man born in India has left a bit of humanity in every beating heart. The man of the millennium, our own Mahatma. And so many more.
If you look for dirt you will find it. The question is, are you missing the flowers in the garden, stuck on the weeds? Moaning and complaining instead of going on your knees to pluck them off? You can make a difference. Have you done all that you can?
On this Independence Day, let us be independent from our prejudices and doubts. Let us open our hearts and minds. Let us work hard and sleep well. Let each one of us fulfill our potential. Let us find humanity in every face we see.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Art v/s computer

The other day, there was a demonstration at the art school that I frequent. A renowned painter spoke on his life and works as did the faculty of the school. One of the key issues that came up was the relevance and scope of painting today. And that started me thinking… is painting a dying art, much like many other art forms where technology and the computer have taken over creativity?
Today at music studios there is no 40 piece orchestra or live recording. All you need is a computer and the necessary program to create any sound from any instrument. Luckily the singer is still human! Until now! As the exponents of our great tradition of classical music are aging and passing away, there are few takers from the new generation who have the desire to pass the baton forward. Imagine a world with no live performances by maestros with music only surviving in compact discs listened to in private. When I was a student of architecture, we toiled late hours completing our submissions on drawing boards bending and breaking our backs. Literally. Towards the end of my course we were introduced to CAD… computer aided drafting. Every successive architectural office I applied for and joined progressively replaced the drawing board with computers until the time when a drawing board and tee scale became obsolete in an architectural studio. I don’t know if students today can draft manually. I don’t know if I can! It’s been ages! I only remember that it was something I enjoyed a great deal using drafting pens on ivory sheets where imagination came alive on paper. Did you hear about this person who was playing solitaire on the table with cards? His friend popped in and asked, “Oh! I didn’t know you could play it without the computer!” Letter writing has long been buried, murdered by Internet! Even emailing is a thing of the past, making way for networking. The wireless world is bludgeoning in. Art is slowly perishing incognito.
Painting on computer is not new. In fact it is a recognized form of art. You don’t need colors or brushes or medium or paper. You can get any hue or shade of color without having to mix the colors. You can erase any blunder and rework. Is that the future of painting? Will our kids know and come to enjoy the joy of painting? Holding the brush instead of the mouse mixing the paints on the palette that emanates the faint odor of chemicals, the joy of mixing many colors to get that elusive brown or green and then applying it on hand woven paper where the texture adds to the character of the painting? Making mistakes and learning from them until you have perfected the lines and the tones…
Will manual painting end up as relics in a museum? It’s a scary thought….

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The mysterious purpose behind mundane events.

Charles Dickens is one of my favorite writers. I love the language he commands in his books. His descriptions is like a warm azure sky after a rain shower… the cool air blowing on your cheeks and the rain washed roads glistening in the sun reflecting the milieu while the soft warm smell of musty earth gently rises to fill your senses. Simply beautiful. What is most interesting about his narration is that the seemingly umpteen scattered untied strings all come together neatly at the end of the story. He does a great job imitating life.
What ever happens in life has a purpose. A beautiful reason lurks behind every insignificant event that is unraveled in time. Very, very Dickensian!
My daughter is 14 months old. Sometime in my fourth month of pregnancy, my husband surprised me gifting a beautiful locket with a delicate chain. I loved it and would wear it at most occasions. Once at my parents place, I was trying to clasp it when the chain broke at its end. I was very disappointed. My dad offered to get it repaired.
I sometimes can get unlucky with gold.
I once bought a golden locket of Ganesha. Its now almost 5 years since. It was plain and simple and I liked it at first sight. The purpose of our visit to the gold shop was something else. I was with my husband, then fiance, and his father to select my thaali for our wedding. Thaali is the traditional chain that a groom ties around his bride’s neck and in the Nair wedding is the most important symbol of matrimony. I ended up possessing this locket as well. At that moment I didn’t have a chain to go with it. Few months later my husband got me a beautiful amethyst locket. And eventually we bought a chain. While it was perfect for the amethyst locket, much to my disappointment the wider end piece which connects the chain to the clasp would not pass through the small loop of the Ganesha locket. So I now had to buy a connecting link. For various reasons I never got around to do it until recently. When I showed the shop attendant my locket he said I will need two links. You see, the loop on the Ganesha was perpendicular and another link would become parallel to the chain so I would need two and that would look bad. The only other choice was to break the chain end, put it through the loop of the locket and seal it back. Too much of a hassle. So I went back home resigning to the fact that I will never be able to wear that locket.
A few days later I was at my parents place. My dad had still not got around getting my other chain repaired. Tired of waiting I decided to get it repaired myself. I took the broken chain in my hands and was hit by a bolt of lightening. Oh not to worry… I meant figuratively! What was I thinking… Thank God he did not repair it. This chain with the broken end would go through the ‘lonely’ Ganesha loop and it could be welded back meanwhile my other chain was free for my other lockets!!!
You had already figured it out? Oh! Anyways I got it done today and I am wearing the locket for the first time in 5 years since I bought it. And I intend to wear it for some days!
There is a time for everything and a reason. If one my chains had not broken I probably would have never worn the locket. Another loose end ... tied up!!!
Cheers to providence!

Monday, August 03, 2009

My daughter is now officially a toddler. Though she still crawls once in a while, she has learnt to walk erect which is considered a miracle in the scientific world. Not too many objects with two supports are stable. And it is one of the defining qualities of Homo sapiens in the evolution history. She can understand quite a few things. She knows many objects around the house by its name and understands few verbs as well. Pointing to a combination of things she can define a long action. For example, pointing at her squeaky shoes, our slippers and the door suggests she wants to be taken out to the garden!. She happily complies if you ask for a kiss or a hug and at times when in a benevolent mood, without asking as well! She is still a reluctant talker though. Her vocabulary still primitive phonetics at best.
At each passing day of motherhood, I marvel at creation. The slow unfolding of the journey of a human being from a single cell to an independent being equipped with speech, capable pf expressing himself in so many ways, capable of climbing the highest mountain, creating breathtaking art and the new age marvels... A person who suffers from chronic depression should only see the marvel that is the human body and mind and his self worth will improve several notches. Like somebody said, human life is worth a non stop celebration. Just being born is a blessing.
Meanwhile let me just enjoy my daughter’s baby syllables and shaky steps to independence savoring the last few days of her endearing crawl.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

When you go visiting a new born

That a baby is a fragile vulnerable thing, will be agreed by one and all. And yet we seldom show the respect a baby needs. We often take the little one, whether ours or others, for granted. But because a baby is so sensitive utmost care must be taken to make them comfortable in this world. Remember they have just arrived in this cold outside world from the warm coziness of the womb. They are experiencing cold and hunger, harsh lights and frightening noises for the first time!
Baby etiquettes is what I term them i.e how to behave near a baby. This is a forgotten lesson else we just don’t care.
1) Don’t rush to go see a new born baby in the hospital. The mother or relations, least of all the baby, will not get offended if you don’t go visiting the very day the baby is born. Usually, the process of delivering is a very exhausting process for the mother whether natural or caesarian. The baby keeps her awake in the nights and so a new mother seldom gets any sleep. It gets worse when she is kept awake in the day by visitors. Follow the visiting hours even if the hospital doesn’t enforce it strictly.
2) When you do visit the baby and you wish to hold her or him in your arms, wash your hand. A baby is sensitive and you might be carrying germs from the outside world that the baby is yet to build immunity to. This is a healthy practice mandatory in the west and completely absent in India. Set a good example for other visitors. Insist on washing your hands in front of them.
3) Another very important thing. When you go visiting a new born baby, remember to speak in hushed tones, esp. if the baby is sleeping. I have seen many people come and lecture me on top of their voices insensitive to the sleeping or nursing baby. Many babies react violently showing their displeasure at the high decibel intrusion by bawling aloud. Don’t wait for the baby to do that before hushing up. Some babies are more sensitive to noise than others.
4) Have you ever attended the milk giving ceremony that usually takes place when the baby turns a month old? The baby is initiated to outside food. In the olden days, newborns where given diluted outside milk very early to supplement breast milk. Today’s research shows exclusive breast milk till six months is best for the baby’s (and the mother’s) health. Every ceremony that I was invited to featured throngs of people arriving and insisting to feed the baby with milk unmindful of the discomfort it causes the baby. The ceremonial Indian wick lamp is usually lit and the fan switched off. Added to that is the body heat of the visitors. The place becomes stuffy and uncomfortable for adults. Imagine what a baby must feel like. For our baby we insisted only one of the grandparents give the milk. My baby didn’t cry. Also, the outside milk is not digested by the baby and most babies fall sick after the ceremony. Tradition is good but if it’s not in the best of interests it can be diluted or given away. If your are at one of these ceremonies, resist the urge to feed the baby. The baby and the mother will be grateful.
5) If the baby or the mother is sleeping or feeding, withdraw and defer your visit for another day. It’s not your prerogative to see the baby. My baby was very hard to put to sleep and what was worse, would wake up at the slightest stimulation. Once a couple came to see her when she was not yet four months old and I had just put her to sleep with difficulty. Normally, the practice was to take the baby out. I refused to and insisted they come and see the baby in the crib with the lights remaining off.
6) This is something most people forget. If there’s an elder sibling under the age of four, make sure you get a gift for her or him as well in case you buy something for the baby. The baby won’t mind if you don’t get anything for him but her elder sibling is old enough to feel left out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rain . Painting . Art

It’s such a pleasure to travel in Kerala in the monsoons. It’s cool and green as far as your eyes run amok. The paddy fields glistening in all the hues of green that can be imagined... palm fronds dancing in delight as the rain embraces them…the rivers, swollen with water, a little muddy... always reminds me of a maiden in the prime of her youth, Seductive.
But all this when you are in the comfort of a car or a bus. Walking in Kerala in the rains can be a night mare if you like to keep yourself dry. If there are no puddles to greet you then the entire road is probably under water! Lift your dress as high as modesty would allow and walk in rain friendly shoes.
Off late, I have joined painting classes with the intention to brush up my painting technique. Water colors is my favorite medium. I get overwhelmed when I look at a master’s work in that medium. The vibrancy of a water color can not be achieved in any other medium. As I get deeper into the ocean of painting. I realize the style that most suits my personality is impressionism in water colors. Few strong strokes conveying the dynamism of life. Oil Painting with the exception of those in impressionist style is static.
Even in the heaviest downpour wading through water logged roads, I trudge on most mornings to my class for the sheer joy of painting for couple of hours. As part of the curriculum I have painted many still lifes', a live model, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘The First Anniversary of the Death of Beatrice’ And lately, one of George Stubb's Horse threatened by a lion theme. When the instructor fetched these books for me to reproduce, my first reaction was a sinking feeling … a profound doubt whether I will be close to even getting the basics right. But the trick as I have learnt from life is to take it bit by bit.
Any new unfinished task appears daunting at first sight. Many thoughts crowd your head, from a fear of failure to a nagging doubt if you will ever complete the task. Even thoughts to abandon the task altogether stream in as the going gets tough. Maximum force is required to move an object from rest to motion. So, you just do it. Begin. Bite small pieces and before you know it, you are swimming confidently in the middle of the English Channel with the end in sight. And one fine day with the joy akin to seeing the sun stream through rain bearing clouds, the task will be complete. Lo, You have learnt to drive. There! You just finished the Sistine Chapel. And you will wonder, “Did I just do this? That wasn’t so difficult!”
That’s what art is all about. It mesmerizes you. Its those moments when you are connected to your soul. When the world with its harsh realities are a distant thunder. It’s the same feeling of ecstasy when you are listening to music, or painting or writing poetry. Its just you and the words… you and the colors on the paint brush kissing and caressing the paper moulding the image you see in your eyes or mind. Its exhilarating. I guess it all boils down to passion.
Passion is what turns work into art.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What do you do when you are feeling low and depressed?
Try cleaning the bathroom.
How does it work?
The main reason for depression if you evaluate it is self pity. A feeling of frustration at your state wishing things were different. Keep yourself busy and help others and depression will melt away.
When you clean the bathroom, you get to spend some time with yourself, you get to finish a job that you have been puting off since ages and as the floor starts to shine again it lifts your spirits.
You can also try ironing clothes or arranging the wardrobe. Works the same way. The shift from a state of disorder to order instills the same state on your mind.
It was a dark moment in our lives when we were DUPED into taking up a resort club membership. Some brilliant marketing by the executive and we bought ourselves a white elephant. We were offered what looked like an opportunity of the life time, not to be missed. And we who hardly vacation bought a resort club membership. After paying a down payment of over 2la we also pay an annual fee of about 2000 Rs. And all this so we can stay at select resorts for free. The food isn't free nor the other value added services. In case a guest is using the membership they have to pay 1000 odd Rs as guest fees. And you can't book for a day. You have to book for at least 2 days. To make it worthwhile you better stay as long as you can. You are allowed 7 holidays a year. Ah, but you can't accumulate them beyond 21 days. And of course while you are there, you pay for your five star food! Ingenious isn't it? Did I mention the traveling expenses you will bear from your house to the resort and back???
The Marketing manager who thought of this concept must have become a millionaire many times over by now with money from gullible fools like us. No. That’s not enough... he must be given a noble prize in economics!
Every time I recollect our membership I could kill somebody out of frustration. So not to feel like total idiots, we are forced to vacation whether we want it or not at resorts they specify. And you better book 9 months in advance else the rooms might not be available. Cheers.
Kudos to Club Mahindra. May you prosper on other peoples graves.
And if any of the readers have money to burn, please buy a membership. Or better still buy it from me so you will get it cheaper than today's rates and I might sleep in peace!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My husband is a sailor. He sails for 4 months and is on shore for about three. Since he was here last my daughter grew very attached to her dad. Recently he left to join ship.
I had read that its best to say a proper good bye to babies while leaving rather than sneaking away lest they become anxious. I didn't worry too much about it since Istill haven't started working and intend to be full time with my daughter for atleast another year. When we went to drop her father at the airport, it worried us should she cry seeing him leave. Not only would it be emotionally very difficult but its very difficult to soothe her when she cries and she has one of those high pitched ones! So we were glad in a way that she slept through most of the car ride and didn't wake up until after we got home leaving her father at the airport.
For two days she seemed to look for him and then would get distracted with me or my in laws. I assumed she was alright otherwise. Then I noticed she was increasingly unruly two days after he left. She was taking shorter naps and consequently didn't get enough sleep making her tired and cranky and generally unruly. Initially, I suspected teething or some other illness. Also, when she woke up from her nap or sleep she would cry very loudly and in desperation. Otherwise she used to cry only loud enough to attract someones attention. She preferred everyone in the house near her. If one person was missing she would go in search of that person. That's when it struck me.
She was revisted by her separation anxiety!
Separation anxiety affects most babies at some time or the other particularly in the latter half of the first year. I thought my baby was through it.
Once i had diagnosed what the problem was i could deal with it. I gave her extra cuddles and spent lot of time with her particularly when ever she seemed to want me. I tried to stay within her eyesight as much as possible and also ensured others in the house were nearby. For two days I didn't indulge in any sleep training and just let her be. I breastfed her a lot especially in the night whenever she woke up. I generally kept her close to me. She was fine and back to normal in a day.
If your child is waking up often or is sleeping poorly, it may be due to separation anxiety.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Roger Federer...The greatest?

When I used to refer to Federer as the greatest tennis player ever, they didn’t agree. After all, he had never won at Roland Garros. The fact that he made it to the finals three years in a row in the past wasn't good enough. AND YET LAST EVENING THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HE DID. He won his first French open and the relief and happiness on doing it was evident. His emotional side coming to fore proving his human status when there was a time people speculated if he wasn’t an android programmed to win!
Of course the Federer of today is no match for the Federer two years back when he played flawless tennis with his shots teasingly on the line time and again. He knew no weaknesses. And the more he won the more confident he became. He is not modest and yet when he said “I played incredibly”, it never sounded arrogant or like boasting. It was just plain truth that he backed with his performance again and again. Now he has equaled Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles. But that achievement took a back seat in lieu of his winning the much desired French Crown. And he is 27years old. Surely there will be few more titles on the way before he lays his tennis shoes to rest.
Federer's best is probably over. All good things must come to an end. But, to me he is the greatest with or without the Prized Clay title.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Recipes for babies
If your baby is not taking veggies, here is a recipe that you can try at home
Chop carrots potatoes or beans fine or you can grate these (its faster!). Fry them in a little butter (or olive oil). Add a little milk and cook it till soft. Cool it and serve. You can add it to rice if your baby prefers that. Alternatively you can also add some cheese and cook it.Its easy and fast. And your cheese eating baby will also down some veggies. And its tasty enough to be eaten by adults in case of left overs!

Let me know if you liked it.
My daughter is one year old.
How soon has this year passed? And how much has she changed. She can stand up and is on the verge of walking. Very soon she will be all but independent. With "parents" looking to hinder all the "fun activities". Making them go to school. Not letting them play in the rain etc etc... The hardest thing is her not wanting me all the time. And worse, she prefers to go to others over me and needs me only when she is hungry or sleepy. That’s hard when there was a time not too long ago when I was the centre and entire universe and she needed me completely and at all times. I think a part of me will die when I stop breast feeding. I hold on to that now for a little cherished one - to - one time with my baby. This is foolish sentiment knowing it’s for good. It makes her a stronger personality exposed to different people and experiences and it gives me more time to catch up on all things I had put on the back burner since her birth. But a part of me cries for the times already receding into the archives of the past. I guess its time to rediscover my life now. I must learn to let go of her tiny hand slowly. The same hand that I first saw move in a hazy black and white image during the fifth month ultrasound scan. Sigh!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Don’t let them influence you to let your baby cry out

I wrote an article previously about not letting people influence you against breastfeeding. Another out dated and worthless piece of advice is to let your baby cry out.
Being a new mother you may have heard these at some time or the other...“When your baby is waking up in the middle of the night interrupting your sleep and if you have reasons to believe she isn’t hungry, just let her cry out to sleep. (A two month old baby is smart enough to manipulate you?!) or "Don’t carry her around too much or she will get used to it. Put her down and if she protests just ignore her. She will figure out soon enough that no one is picking her up and will shut up.”
And listening to these words, many mothers bite their tongue and in tears ignore their helpless baby’s whimpers. And unfortunately when you have decided to do it there can be only two outcomes. The baby cries louder, gets angrier and grows up into a difficult child and a difficult adult. Else the baby sleeps alright and grows thinking the world is an indifferent place that will not listen to her or him. She doesn’t understand you are letting her learn to sleep on her own. She feels abandonment. He becomes apathetic and withdrawn. I don’t think any mother if she wasn’t misguided would have the heart to let her child cry out. Its just too heart breaking to see your little helpless and vulnerable bundle cry pitifully either in hunger or just to feel the warmth of her mother's touch. The cruelest thing you can do to your baby is to let him cry out. And if you do get inured to let your baby cry, you become insensitive to her needs. Thrust out into this world completely helpless she is entirely dependent on others to keep her well fed, warm and safe. Imagine sleeping under a warm blanket and suddenly pulled out of it and thrust naked in the cold, receive no comfort and be ignored. Is there anything crueler? Whenever you feel that your baby is manipulating you, think about it from her point of view. She needs something. She is hungry or in discomfort or just craves for your warmth and touch. Researchers have been advising the importance of attachment parenting not only to ensure a happy baby but also a happy child and a confident adult.
Attachment parenting in simple words means, breast feeding your baby, carrying your baby around if she wants it and never let him cry out.
Indulge your baby for a year and then slowly start disciplining with gentle ways of correction. Focus on good behaviour rather than the undesirable. Research shows that a baby brought up with attachment parenting out grows the dependence on her mother much faster than a baby that isn’t and what is more, these babies are easier to discipline as well.
I can vouch for that thru’ my personal experiences. My baby is a classic "high need" baby. She cried a lot as an infant and wanted to feed continuously and preferred sleeping in your arms and would cry and wake up when put down. She wouldn’t go to anyone else. Listening to popular advice I did everything to ensure she slept on her own but luckily I never listened to the advice to let her cry out. I attended to her and indulged her needs. I couldn’t bring myself to let her cry out. Today she still sleeps poorly but getting her to sleep is an easier affair. And what is more, she is no longer overly attached to me and is happy to spend time with her father and grand parents. So much that she needs me only when she is hungry or sleepy. And yes when she hasn’t seen me in a while, she comes running or should I say “crawling”to me with such a happy face that it makes my days worthwhile. I only wish I had carried her more as an infant. Perhaps today her sleeping would have been better too. With all the facilities today like baby carriers you can have the baby close to you and still be free to perform your chores.
One of the trickiest things to teach your child is to sleep on her own. Many adults find it difficult. And its called insomnia! While some baby do master the skill early on and are generally good sleepers through out, other babies are wired differently and find sleeping a terrifying thing. These babies have to be parented to sleep. But no matter how long it takes, eventually every baby learns to sleep on her own.
. And if your baby is a difficult sleeper and you are on the verge of letting your baby cry out, then buy "The no cry sleeping solution" by Elizabeth Pantley. I found it extremely useful and things have been indeed better since I started referring the book. Dr. William Sears has written a series of books on attachment parenting and against the crying out method. Prominently, The Baby Book and The Discipline Book. It will be highly beneficial to refer to them as well.
Letting your baby cry out is cruel and inhuman. What ever you do, don’t indulge in it. Follow your heart.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My team is the Deccan Chargers. Why? B'cos with the kind of batting line up they had in the previous season, it looked promising to walk away with all the glory. 'Cept it wasn’t to be. In fact it finished last with the batting never really clicking and the limitations in the bowling department stood exposed far too clearly.
I am a fan of VVS and regard him one of the most stylish batsman to ever have graced the game. But as a captain he failed to gel his team into a cohesive unit. After the poor first season it made good sense to switch my allegiance to Chennai or some other team. Belonging to Kerala, I don't have a natural and obvious preferred team. I dream of a team in the future from Kochi called Island Warriors or something but it’s highly unlikely unless the game is football. Cricket comes a distant second after soccer when it comes to popularity, also helped by the fact that there haven’t been too many players from the state who have done consistently well playing for India. Much is expected of Sreeshanth and let us hope he comes thru’ good. And so I had a ‘Down South’ choice of Bangalore Chennai and Hyderabad to be bestowed the status of "my team". No one will disagree that it’s more fun when you have a team that you support. There is a sense of competition that makes viewing more pleasurable. For instance, ManU in EPL or Brazil in the Football world cup soccer or even Federer in Men's tennis. Season one of IPL was disappointing on a personal note albeit I enjoyed all the matches. And while other teams made merry and the Royals from Rajasthan, incidentally, the team least expected to win, walked away with the cup, I sulked in an embarrassing silence. Come season two and the temptation to switch sides was real and growing. We all like to support winners deriving vicarious pleasure in their success to vitiate the banality of our life. But I didn’t. I decided to stick with my choice thru’ thick and thin. And so "Till Death do us part", even if it meant another disappointing season or seasons, as the case might be. I had made my choice for life.
The South African pitches are said to suit the bowlers. So may be the Chargers might just do well. The pitch will help their bowling which isn’t the greatest and they have wonderful batsman to chase down a challenging total. Prospects look good. And to help things along, they convincingly won their first match against Kolkota Knight Riders... RP seems to have come to his own after a not too convincing performance that saw him left out of the Indian squad. The fielding was refreshing. Every one seemed perked up and purposeful under Gilly's command. There was seasoned camaraderie and positive vibes resonating through the team, crossing the barriers of nationality and language. The momentum will be with them as they seek their next opponents. Winning is a habit they say. The new jersey looks cooler then the last season and in all everything seems to be falling in its place. And it all spells good news for the proprietors! Here’s wishing them the very best for the tournament.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

An active 7 month old baby can be quite a handful as I discover first hand. My girl rolls and tumbles reaching for all interesting things within her horizon and she is not even crawling. I will need to be on skates when she does, and hope I can keep pace with her!!! I now sense her slowly evolving into a child from an infant. She can show what she feels with a growing armory of expressions. A disarming smile that can light up the sky, bubbling, with arms that fling towards you demanding to be held, kicks when she doesn’t like the fact that you have sat down after walking her up and down the world... chuckles when she is really happy about something, usually when she is lifted high in the air or when you lay your head on her tummy, a scared expression runs through her face at every unfamiliar sound seeking reassurance from you. A smile from you means all is well. I now understand the movie "Life is beautiful" where Roberto Benini never loses his sense of humor even in the milieu of the concentration camp refusing to let it get to his son, Smiling in adversity, reassuring... things aren't that bad! I am looking forward to the days when she is more mobile... more expressive and says "amma"!!!
It’s hard to imagine what she was like... a tiny helpless bundle snuggling in your arms. And now it’s like watching a tiny bud open slowly to soak in the sunshine. When I look at her fresh supple skin I become aware of my own drying skin. There are more grey strands visible and unfortunately these are the strongest of strands! While she represents the fresh and the youth I realize life is running out fast. For her the sun rises and I am closer to the sunset. The circle of life charges on. The old and withering leaves must fall and give way to spring and soft fresh green delicate new leaves.