Saturday, December 05, 2009

No shit

“Can I ask you a personal question?” he asked.
“Shoot”, I said.
“No, let it be”, he said, trying to retract.
“Oh, come on. If I don’t want to answer it, I won’t”, I offered.
“How does it feel like to breastfeed?” he dared.
“Oh…boring and unglamorous”, I said, deadpan.


Jishnu is definitely not going to appreciate this blog post if he ever lays his eyes on this when he grows up. After all, constipation is not something you document; even if it’s your baby’s first.

It has been some days since our collective anxieties have passed along with baby’s motions (November 22, 2009, to be precise). Like all things first, his first two potty-less days had me worried. Although every article that Google spat out assured me that it was perfectly normal for babies to go without making poo-poo for 3-4 days, I worried. The internet offered solutions like prune juice and apple juice and I even called the doctor. He said the same things as that God named Google did, but I still worried. Then I waited. Next morning he graced us all with some substantial quantities of stinky poo. Yay!

Since then I’ve been planning this post. Actually, what stuck in my head was the title of the post and I was mighty pleased with the pun. So here it is.


Baby is 10 weeks old now and the worst of the vaccine episode is behind us. The last two days were quite the nightmare I expected them to be with fever, pain, sleep, burping and feeding issues. Baby cried and cried and then some. I cried too. Bringing up a baby, one day at a time, is no mean task. All those who tell couple to have babies must be lined up in front of a firing squad and bang! Another villain of that triple vaccine to go next month and we’re good for the next three months.


Breastfeeding is no fun. No statue of Angelina Jolie feeding both her twins simultaneously, Hollywood stars bragging about their ‘boobworthy’ stints and hundreds of internet forums proclaiming that ‘breast is the best of your baby’ is going to convince me of its merits. No sir. The truth is that it makes you feel like a cow, makes your boobs sag and doesn’t allow you to leave the house for more than 3 hours at a time. It also leads you to believe that whoever thought of the brand name Mother Dairy was a breastfeeding woman. And let us not even discuss leaking and peeking when it needs to be done in public. Ugh.
(I say a little prayer here… “Baby, take to the bottle soon”.)


And just when I thought my life going to get back in track, a few bombs fell out of the sky. Viren announced that he has been asked to move base to Mumbai. That essentially meant we shift, I quit, we live with my in-laws, I look for new work and travel in buses and local trains for an eternity to get to a job that I hope to find there. Meanwhile, feeling obliged to my in-laws for taking care of the baby becomes an essential part of the package.

No shit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Serving the infantry…

Week 7

When I was pregnant, experienced mothers told me that a baby is better in than out. I rubbished them. But I take my disbelief back. I’m a seven-week-old mother now and I’m not ashamed of officially admitting that babies are better in than out!

Yes, not being pregnant has its merits. I’m most certainly celebrating my little successes like getting back into a pair of jeans, not feeling like a freak show and being able to sit with my legs together among others. But, there’s a whole new list of things to whine about. Motherhood is a tough game, and as they say, a 24X7 job.

The first couple of weeks seem like a blur now. Recuperating from the cesarean section, most of my focus seemed to be on trying to bathe with a plastic sheet wrapped around my stitches, my obscenely huge tummy and that cruelly tight abdominal belt. Jishnu slept most of the time as most newborns do and was a welcome break between feeds. Feeding him has been one of the most time-consuming tasks. This child of mine has displayed an exceptional talent in dodging ‘the burp’ since birth, which ensures that I or someone else has to hold him up for long stretches of time. In the meantime, I’m making most of that breast pump to relive engorged and painfully full and leaking boobs. It’s week seven now and the burp continues to evade us.

Another thing that has been evading me is sleep. But that’s true of every new parent and caregiver, I guess. My mom-in-law refused to believe that I was once capable of sleeping through a marriage party passing our home. During our 3-week stay in Mumbai, every whimper by the baby would wake me up. It’s so bad now that I’m beginning to hallucinate in the bath. Even with the baby sleeping peacefully outside, I seem to be hearing sounds of him crying. Sheesh!

Hallucinations are still ‘dealable’, but there have been days that were so bad, I’ve almost felt suicidal. At the risk of being labeled a bad parent, I’ve even voiced my wish that I never had him. Some of the greater stressors were our trip to Mumbai by car when the baby was just twelve days old, the thought of having to feed in public during our flight to Nagpur when he was just over a month. The most painful day yet was when we took him for his first vaccine schedule. The injection was supposed to cause pain and fever for the next 2 days. But nothing could have prepared me for the rough, sleepless and helpless night of incessant crying. Not even the doctor, who had wished me luck for the next 48 hours as we left the clinic. I was heartbroken.
But there have been moments of reward too. Seeing a ‘first’ everyday can be a lot of fun. His first response to sound, his first moving of the head, his first cry that sounded like ‘maa’, his first smile and in a funny sort of way, even his first pee and poop on me are memorable. There was a lot of pride in seeing him gain weight, gain cheek and girth. I was brimming with joy when his first tiny shirt felt a little too tight for him. There is a huge sense of satisfaction in knowing that my baby is growing up fine. I can’t help but feel smug when people tell me that he is a good baby who really gives no trouble. And oh, I check my Facebook account ten times in a day to see what people have had to say when I post pictures of him!

As he grows each day, so does the mom in me. I understand more the essence of parenting, which incidentally comprises of the smell of milk, pee, poop, wet nappies, fresh diapers and a hell lot of Johnson’s baby powder.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Meeting Jishnu

Being a mommy – day 3

Sept 24, 2009

Painkillers and nature have given me enough respite by today to be able to sit up and type away at my laptop.
Our son (what an unbelievable expression!) Jishnu, was born two days ago on the 22nd of September, 2009 via a caesarean section. Before my days and nights are consumed by this adorable little creature sleeping on the cot right now, I want to capture what are perhaps the most poignant memories of my life, in words.

The day before (Sept 21, 2009)
Mum and Babu had reached earlier that morning loaded with boxes full of yummy fish. Despite all my fears of a major surgery the next day, I ate a hearty lunch after my check-up at Gupte Hospital. Apart from the greed of it, a morbid fear of that being my last good meal egged me on. I laughed, joked, talked through the day and generally managed to hide my fears. Each time my baby kicked or moved, I touched my tummy trying to file away the memory of that sensation knowing that it was one of my last ones. Each time I felt afraid of what was in store for the next day, I took comfort in the thought that it would be the beginning of the return to my ‘earlier self’. As much as I wanted time to stop and save me from having to face my biggest fears, waiting to go to the hospital seemed like forever.
Finally, the time arrived and we headed to the hospital to get me admitted. Loaded with the ‘hospital bag’ that had been packed and kept ready for weeks, we proceeded. My Radha-Krishna picture also, obviously, went with us.
Chaos greeted us at the hospital. After asking a million questions to the dumbest admin woman in the world at the reception desk, we gathered that there were no rooms at the hospital! That day, there had apparently been an unprecedented number of emergency cases and therefore all rooms had been occupied. After they conducted the NST (Non-Stress Test – an ECG of sorts for the baby), we were offered two choices. I could either go home and come back at 6 the following morning, or put up in one of the rooms at their old hospital which was a few blocks away. Viren and I didn’t want so many weeks’ worth of mental preparation to go waste and decided to put up at the old hospital. Sleep came easy to our weary minds, breathless with the anticipation of a brand new life at the other side of the night.

D-day (Sept 22, 2009)
‘Mavshi’ (one of the ayahs at the hospital) had told me she’d come to get me ready at 5 in the morning and there she was precisely by the clock armed with razors and an enema kit. ‘Great!’ I thought, ‘here begins that infamous string of humiliations’. Gritting my teeth, trying to be as objective as I could be, I let Mavshi take over as she went over the rituals with the most convincing poker face I’d ever seen. Feeling like the lamb being readied for the sacrifice, I sat there ready for the call from the hospital. They summoned me at around 7.30 am. I called my parents, who were at home, and went into the pre-op room. After I got into the hospital gown, I sat on the examination table clutching a small bronze Krishna statue in one hand, and Viren’s hand in another. It was only a matter of some minutes now. Soon, Vir was sent out and I was taken into the operation theatre. Lying there on that cold steel table, looking up at the arc lights, I awaited my turn for what seemed like forever even as docs and nurses flitted across the room to the two other OTs on either side of my OT.
At about 8.20 am, the nurses started cleaning me up with their lotions and potions and seemed to sweep me clean of whatever little modesty I was left with. I lay there, mostly bare, trying to smile back at docs offering polite introductions from behind masks. How I wished the masks would cover their eyes too. Months of going specifically to a female gynecologist seemed like a joke, when the roomed was swarmed by an all-male bastion of specialists for my surgery. The anaesthesiologist, the surgeon, the paediatrician, all of them – men!
I was given the spinal anaesthesia at about 8.30 am and within minutes the lower half of my body was as good as gone. The docs put a sheet to block my view of their ‘work area’ and after about 10-15 minutes of what seemed like gentle poking and prodding, they pulled out my baby and announced that it was a boy. It was 8.46 am on a Tuesday, the 22nd of September, 2009, when I became a mom.

Out and about
I was stitched up and wheeled out after being left alone in the OT for a long time. The availability of rooms at the hospital was still a problem. So, I waited there on the table thanking god that everything had gone well, pining for Viren, trying to move my toes and being pleased about my ‘empty’ tummy.
Once out of the OT, I was greeted by relieved smiles from my husband, my parents and my parents-in-law. Baby had been shown around and the healthy, 3-kg baby boy seemed to generally have met everyone’s expectations. We all proceeded to room no 207, a super deluxe type.
The last set of ‘humiliations’ came to pass through the rest of the day in the guise of bedpans, gigantic sanitary pads, adult diapers, nipple pinches, tummy presses and inspections down under. But I braved it all (not that I had a choice) and having some visitors after a spate of SMSes did help my cause. After eight bottles of IV, that memorable day drew to an end. Exhausted, Viren and I retired to our first night of sleep or sleeplessness, as parents.

Day 2
Though sleep was punctuated by a couple of night-time feeds and clean ups, I woke up rejoicing in the fact that IT was all over - I was pregnant no more, the operation was successfully over, the baby was fine and I was on my way back to being ‘normal’ again. I took my first painful steps to the loo, but it was definitely better than having that disgusting pan to pee in. I was then sponged by one of the mavshis (sigh, modesty is kind of tough to maintain in a hospital), but I sought happiness in getting out of the ‘bare-in-the-back’ hospital gown.
Parents, doctors, nurses, visitors did their rounds through the day, while baby had his first bath and his first injection. Among his other firsts was me trying to feed him. I also happened to cry quite an eyeful when faced with the apparently common problem of a slightly delayed lactation. I was tired of not being ‘perfect’ for the last nine months. Some more imperfection was definitely not appetising.
Day 3
I took a short walk in the hospital corridor today with my son in my arms and felt rather proud of it! Tired and kicked at the same time with my feat, I sat down to document these days - days that will probably become a blur by the time we celebrate Jishnu’s first birthday. Tomorrow I’ll be discharged from the hospital and we’ll take our son home to begin a brand new episode of our lives.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The last mile

This is probably the last time I'm setting pen on paper as a non-mom. In just a couple of days from now, I'll have a whole new world of responsibility and hence perspective.

The last nine months have been one of the most 'interesting' months of my life yet. There...I'm already shying from using the word 'difficult', afraid I may be branded a 'bad' mother.

It has been a constant game of open secrets. A constant tug-of-war between what was and what ought to have been. Nature vs. nurture. Each time I found a new thing to complain about my pregnancy, I was countered by this holier-than-thou image of a mother who is supposed to take everything in her stride smilingly. From wanting to curse my unborn for causing me all the pain and discomfort to going right into the self-flagellation mode, my emotions have been continually see-sawing.

There were days when I wanted to start an anti-pregnancy online forum where I could pour out my wrath that comes from being so 'helpless' and 'bound'. I wanted to tell all the women of the world that unless they're desperate for children, like REALLY desperate, they shouldn't get pregnant. I wanted to tell all how miserable it can make you and it probably isn't worth the abuse ones body has to go through. I felt like throttling every damn voice that spoke about the glories of motherhood, and by implication, pregnancy. I wanted to tell them that the idea of a glowing pregnancy was a horrible lie and that pregnancy was nothing but getting fat, swollen feet, pigmentation marks, a repugnant self image and probably, a zero sex life. And I wanted to offer my very contemptuous respects to those women who have achieved the stupendous feat of bearing more than one child and want to breed some more.

Then again there were days (admittedly, very few in comparison) when I would be overawed by the sheer miracle of the fact that there was this brand new human being inside of me. I'd wonder at the strength of the kicks and nudges of the little bugger, fondly wondering whether it's a boy or a girl, how it would look like, what talents it will have inherited and so on. I would lie awake some nights looking at Viren sleeping soundly and it would suddenly strike me how amazing it is that this little person in me is partly this man I love so much and partly me. Like any other parent in the world, I'd imagine our baby getting the best of what we both have a becoming a beautiful, intelligent, kind, strong, healthy, "normal" and a talented child.

Yet another inescapable part of this pregnancy package are the worries. When, on days, I could feel little or no movements of the baby, I would drive me crazy with anxiety. From drinking cold juice to eating pungent foods to trying to twist my body into rather uncomfortable positions, I would do everything to get the baby moving again. The amount of responsibility I had without really being able to do anything about it would drive me to tears. Just as I thought I'd better go to the doctor, the baby would start pounding away merrily again on the walls of my tummy distorting it into all kinds of funny shapes. The jabs felt more than welcome.

I would flit from logic to faith to fear and back in admitting my deepest feelings even to myself. Stuff I've read about the power of thoughts and how it affects your life would warn me against thinking nasty things. One has to be careful of what one wishes for, they say. But, having dabbled in psychology, I found solace in the knowledge that it was only hormones acting up and thus perfectly 'normal' to feel what I felt. The next instant, if any fear of disabilities crept into my mind, I'd immediately exorcise them with prayers. I tried to seek comfort in my belief in God and his benevolence.

Today, when I'm days away from delivering my baby, I new set of thoughts has found its way into my head and is bothering me. The foremost of them don't be born today. Why? Because it's a Saturday today and that's supposed to mean a very hard life, according to my mom. I've instructed my body to not do anything today, but suppose biology gets stronger than beliefs, and baby decides to come today, I have my defenses ready. Well, it is a Saturday, but it is the 19th -- numerologically, number 1 and it's Mahalaya it can't be that bad, eh?

Through the last few weeks of visiting the doc and squatting away to high glory (that is supposed to help lazy babies like mine descend), I've come to be almost certain that a natural birth is not meant for me. So we picked a date for a c-section. Tuesday, the 22nd of September 2009 is what I'd like. 22 is the day of my birth and that'll also make the baby a Virgo-Libra cusp. Cusps are interesting. But, mom's not too happy with the 22nd being a Tuesday (Mangal is not supposed to be a very nice chap), but well, you can't have everything.

There are also fears about the surgery, about rejection, about capabilities among the many hundred things that are doing the rounds at the moment. But all the thoughts, all the words and all the advice in the world cannot prepare you enough for this life-changing experience...and I am no exception.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lull in a bumpy ride

August 16, 2009

Week 34 – day 1

It’s not yet ‘any day now’, but boredom and certain new perspectives have pushed me to this diary entry of sorts – my fourth in the nine months of pregnancy -- a time for assessment when my life seems to have come to a lull.

August 13 and 14 came and went; and so did Janmashtami celebrations for this year. Also has gone is my half-wish that the baby would be born on either of the days. Yes, that would have been asking for a rather fragile preemie, but for anyone who knows me even by half a measure, would understand my wish. And now that it has gone, I’m perhaps half-glad it didn’t happen. I was reading the papers on the morning of the 15th and came across an article about how the demand for elective births had risen by almost 50 per cent the two previous days. It made me feel rather silly knowing that I too was one of the thousands of wannabe Hindu ‘god-parents’– in the way of wanting my child to be born on the same day as the dark lord and imagining there was something divinely special about the kid. In any case, the number of gods and goddesses and their respective festivals is hardly a problem in this country, especially this time of the year, and I still have Ganeshotsav and Dussehra to look forward to in terms of divine birthing times. And the good thing about these two festivals is that their goodness lasts 10 whole days each. Baby, you got 20 ‘shubh’ days to choose from!

Now, it’s just countdown time with some other minor hopes and yet some more half wishes. I emphasise on the minor and the half here, because the fact that there’s little one can do to alter destiny, has been rubbed into my face very recently.

Swine flu – the fanciest new pandemic to hit the world – came to Pune sometime early last month and decided to make my beloved city its beloved city. As the number of H1N1 cases detected rose, so did the paranoia. But all hell broke loose with the first swine flu death. It began with calls from my parents – the carefully-concealed-concern-in-their-voices calls. In a week’s time, it began to sound like distress calls. ‘Have you bought a mask?’, ‘Are you wearing the mask?’, ‘Is Viren wearing a mask?’, ‘Dad’s really worried’, etc. By the time the news of the tenth swine flu death went around, my parents had hit the panic button. I was ordered to leave Pune at once; my unborn’s safety being the reason of course. So here I am, at my in-laws’ in Mumbai (where the threat is apparently lesser), in a virtual house arrest for the last 10 days, ‘quarantined’ with a lot of love. All my carefully laid-out plans to go on a maternity leave in the middle of September have gone out of the window. And from the looks of it, I’ll be forced to live here another week. Sigh.

Meanwhile, my pot (as Viren likes to call it) has been growing larger, the movements within squirmier, and my clumsiness greater. As the time for delivery comes closer, bouts of anxiety, abandon, impatience, wonder, fear and many such emotions become more frequent. There are good days and bad ones. The good ones are the one of acceptance and the bad ones of denial. Days when I can accept that my body cannot be altered before a certain time, that the pain of childbirth is something millions of women experience and survive, that Mumbai will be hot and sweaty no matter how much I wish otherwise, that it’s ok in my ‘condition’ to not be able to help my folks-in-law as much as I should be, I’m good. Days when I’m unable to accept the fatness of my face, the unfortunate reality of swine flu, the vulnerability of being a pregnant woman, the necessity of having to stay in a place that’s not home and the heat rash and swelling in my feet are bad.

Often, I try to repeat to myself mothers’ advice. ‘Enjoy your free time now, when you can. Once the baby comes, you won’t know night from day.’ So, I’ve been reading, sketching, chatting, watching TV, strolling, eating and sleeping. Basically, trying to make the most of this forced vacation. I spend a lot of time wondering also. Wondering how I’ll cope with this enormous responsibility of a new life being thrust upon me in a few weeks from now. Yes, I chose to be parent, but that choice means nothing now. Nothing, I imagine, can prepare one for assuming the mantle of parenthood. I also wonder about childbirth -- the big daddy of all pains. It’s no big deal, I say. If A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H can do it, I can do it too. I’ll be calm. I’ll not let humiliation take over all the other feelings that will be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. This is just my body. I can be objective about it. My brain is under my control. What starts, comes to an end too. And from there stems a beginning -- a brand new chapter, with a brand new person that will be our child. I wonder what destiny has planned for me. God, zara dekh lena.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

You say, therefore I am

Another day, another validation, another satisfaction. Zutshi uncle finally showed up at my place today. After months of requests from him and excuses from me, that dear old man, shaking hands and all, came to meet me. Yes, I feel guilty for having postponed my promised visit for months now; but the happiness I feel is greater than anything else. There is a tremendous feeling of smug-joy in the fact that someone cares enough to have made that effort for me. I am important. I am a somebody.

So, I’m addicted to validations. Putting this bit of self-realisation into words isn’t exactly empowering. And not half as cool as saying you’re addicted to say, caffeine or nicotine.

I need people to tell me I’m good to believe I’m good. And admitting this, sucks. It probably makes me a loser of the highest order in a world of the self-confident, self assured (if there really are any). The past few days have been just about that -- validations. Jeer as I may at the thought, I know that what others think of me is what I am.

Saturday, the 1st of August, 2009, had this realisation all lined-up.

I’d like to blame it on the hormones, but I know it had to do with my check-up that day. Of all emotional travails of my pregnancy through the last eight months, I probably had the worst one that morning. All through the weeks before, I kept thinking about how the doctor had said my weight had increased too much and how I needed to exercise. I was afraid the same would be said again and so I didn’t want to go. Even with all the online forums assuring me that weight gain is the highest in the last few weeks, the doctor’s verdict had hurt. I tell myself enough times in day that I’m ‘gross’ and needed no reiteration. I didn’t need to hear it again that morning.

Through a stream of seemingly unstoppable tears, I said that I didn’t want to be a fat monster anymore. Wailing, I said I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore, and that I was tired of being so ugly. Viren did what any helpless husband would do. He began with cooing, and when that didn’t work, he turned to cawing. I settled down after a bit and then we went to the doc’s. Mercifully enough, she said that my weight and baby’s was fine, and spared me from some more self-flagellation. Ah, validation! If the doc says I’m OK, it must mean I’m OK.

Next stop was the jeweller, where Viren was to buy me my birthday gift, like that long-promised toy. He dare not have refused after my breakdown. We picked two rings – goodies to make me look and hence feel good. Petty, but pretty. Material validation @ Rs. 9000…approximately. We added Rs. 465 to that for lunch at a nice place and some peace was finally bought as he dropped me to work.

Cut to 10.30 pm that night. After work, a friend gave me this adorable little baby basket he’d used for his child -- my first real baby possession. I and Viren thanked him before he took me home. My eyes nearly popped out when I stepped into the house to find that some friends were waiting there for me with a “Surprise” party for me! It was a moment of real honour and gratitude. I was more than overwhelmed at the sight of these friends who, in conspiracy with Viren, had arranged for this lovely occasion – a baby shower, complete with streamers, and pink and blue balloons. Wow! Nobody had ever done this for me and the surprise was even sweeter because I really and honestly hadn’t expected it. Food, drinks, chatter and loads of grinning on my part made for the rest of the evening. Thanks, guys. Thank you for making me feel that I am important. That I am a somebody.

Later that night I lay in bed, still smiling, thinking just how powerful validation is. I daresay we all need it. By the time my baby is old enough to understand what this story is all about, these friends may have gone far away on different life paths, but it will always be one of the ‘it’ moments of my life. Is the fact that someone else had the power to decide one of the best days of my life, bad? I think not.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


God’s ways are strange. So much so that they can even be accused on being cruel. But the poor dear isn’t left with many choices after the way he fashioned human beings -- us, ungrateful creatures, who take for granted everything that is given to us. If having begged and pleaded for long, something comes our way, we kiss His hand once, and then go on living like we deserved it anyway. And, if something happens to come by free, then all that our smug little faces have is mighty arrogance. In short, gratitude just isn’t our thing and therefore, He has to sometimes use cruel ways to nail us into the ground.
For every curse I mumble under my breath, for the discomfort I'm in, God makes me read a story of loss. Rather insensitive, I daresay. But if I didn’t keep stumbling upon these tales, would I remember to thank God that the story is not mine? Would I remember that in each waking moment, death is but a hair’s breadth away? Would I be saying “Kick, my little love, kick, that I may know you’re well”? And would I be grateful to God for another day, another life?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Of big bodies, short tempers and a lot in between

I’m finally putting pen to paper about my pregnancy -- before the first trimester becomes too distant and the third becomes too overwhelming.
I’ve always disliked numbers, but couldn’t have imagined counting could get so cumbersome -- 2 weeks, 15 weeks, 24 weeks (that’s now)...going right up to 40 (hopefully). I’m bored already, and the larger third is still to go. Sighing audibly, complaining loudly and cursing softly pretty much sums up what I’ve been doing in the last six months. First, it was about how sick I felt all the time, followed by how tired and hungry I perpetually was and now it is how fat, ugly, hideous, gross and clumsy I’ve become. This last bit, I reckon, is unlikely to change for a long time to come.
I’ve said this to everybody who’ll care to listen, but I’ll say this again for the record. Coming to terms with my changing (read, fattening) body has been, by far, the hardest part of my pregnancy. For someone who’s had weight issues all her life, sitting back and watching to pounds pile is just short of torturous. Everyday, I stand in front of the open almirah and groan and groan about how nothing fits me anymore, how I’ve nothing to wear and how I look so disgustingly fat. And to add insult to injury, Viren’s suddenly back to his diet and gymming regime, so I feel like I’m looking like his aunt with each passing day. My g-talk status messages bear enough testimony to my agonised body image every day. Some of them in the last few months have been:
· Ask and you shall receive
· Hog-wards Express
· Shifting centre of gravity
· In the thick of the kick
· Is seeing kickboxing in a new light
· Too posh to push?
· The belle and the belly
There have been many more like this, which my gtalk friends might remember. These messages have made for some interesting conversations with some of my long-lost friends. Most of them went on congratulatory trips which ended with them asking me to send some preggo snaps and me vehemently refusing to do so. I ask them what kind of morbid pleasure will they get by looking at me when I’m at my ugliest.
Through these conversations, I’ve realised how men and women are fundamentally different in their perception of pregnancy. My non-mom friends insisted for a while on the pictures, then laughed at my vehemence and then retracted with some secret ‘tsk-tsking’ about my fatness. The mommy friends went right into the advise mode, enlightened me with some dos and donts, shared some of their experiences making each one of mine seem oh-so-matter-of-factly, and finally signed off with saying I’d treasure the pictures two years hence. Yeah, right!
Men, on the other hand, both -- daddies and non-daddies -- switched to a completely unknown side: the kind and romantic one. Considering that most of my male friends have entered my life on a warpath, in a battle of wits, kind words were rare in our interactions. But once they found out that I was preggers, they seemed to pull out their kid gloves (yes, pun intended) and started pussyfooting around me, as if harsh words would harm the baby. In a way, it was nice to be treated courteously, protectively even, but it got boring after a while. Political correctness does that to conversations and relationships -- it cools them off. And what one is left with is two no-imagination lines as excuses for a conversation : “Hey! How u doin?” and “Ok, take care!”
Pregnancy also is, perhaps, the biggest stamp of ownership on a woman by her man and therefore acts as an excellent repellent. All my ‘flirt-friends’ seem to have disappeared off the face of this planet. Speaking of which, I’m brought back to the man of my life. Viren has changed and remained unchanged in a radical number of ways since January. from the ‘selfish’ man I married has emerged a very caring husband, who’d get up early for me each morning in the first part of my pregnancy to get me that prescribed glass of milk and biscuits so that I wouldn’t throw up. But when the milk and biscuits jumped out of my queasy stomach and I came staggering out of the loo, he’d stand there lovingly with a glass a cold water in his hands. He scolded me for my wrong posture when I complained about my backache even as he massaged it and bought me a pipe to facilitate bum-washing in the Indian loo that’s becoming increasingly difficult to use. Yes, that was the first ever gift he’s bought me after we got married! LOL!
But just as I began to lap up the attention and probably ‘take it for granted’ (a very frequent accusation I am faced with), he stiffens up and reminds me that I should be grateful. It hurts me, but also makes me realise that I should indeed be thankful for the things he does for me, even as I hear stories of unfeeling husbands.
I enjoy the love Vir lavishes on me, but it scares me to see that all he does is strictly for me, and not for our baby. His involvement with the baby goes only as far as the sonography clinic where he sees the little one wiggling around and feeling the baby kick in my tummy once in a while.
Here is perhaps another basic difference between a man and a woman. my ‘small’ boss aptly puts it -- a woman becomes a mother from the time she conceives, whereas fatherhood comes to a man only after the baby is born and spent time with. I just hope the feeling of fatherhood comes upon Viren sooner than later.
For me, of course, motherhood makes its presence felt all the time. Whether it is in sitting awkwardly with my legs apart, or in finding a comfortable position to sleep , or in seeming my tummy vibrate, motherhood is now a 24X7 thingy. parenthood, they say, tries the patience of even the most patient. So it’s hardly a surprise that I’m caught in these desperate mood swings every other day. One day I’m happy and full of gratitude to God that everything has been going good so far. The next day, I’m this grouchy creature who half wished the baby didn’t exist, cursing it for all the misery it’s causing my self-esteem. God, though, keeps up his vigilance. Just as I am getting too vocal with my viciousness, He reminds me of the great gift of health I’ve being given. I end up reading about or hearing stories of the hundreds of women who are either unable to conceive or carry the baby to term or worse things. It takes me back to the time I thought I could not conceive and I remember how terrible that feeling was in comparison to these little tests of pregnancy.
Two people who are super excited about these goings on are Chinu and Sheetal -- the two friends of mine who really love and care for me. Their happiness are for real. It feels good to share my little expectations and frustrations with them. It is fun to speculate around them about the big question -- will it be a boy or a girl. my folks are pretty much convinced it’ll be a boy --- thanks to the bucktoothed family friend cum astrologer’s prediction on my wedding day. Other experienced eyes have also been murmuring something about it being a boy because my tummy is ‘high’ and I’m ‘dark(er)’. Somewhere in the past few months, I’ve also managed to convince myself that it’ll be a boy so that I’m not disappointed if it really is one. But I cling on to the hope for that little daughter I’ve always wanted. In the same breath, I tell myself that whatever it is, I’m never going to do this again. I’m no mother material (at least not yet) and a once-in-a-lifetime experience is good enough for me and bad enough for my vanity. When, oh, when, will I get to go back to the gym? But while I can’t, I’ll religiously pop my pills, grumble about the size and whisper quiet apologies to my baby for being mean once in a while.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Krishna Charitra by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Chowringhee by Sankar: Impressions

Pregnancy does strange things to you. And the bloating body is the least in consideration in this context. With such a huge responsibility lying within you, the need for protection, for safety becomes prime. Me turning to 'religious' and 'regional' books is one example. Now, whether I sought them out because I'm pregnant, or they just happened to be in that place in that time...we'll never know. But, why let go the opportunity of hiding behind this once-in-a-lifetime experience to explain everything unusual? So, call it pregnancy we will, and perform a critical (C) - section on the last two last books I've read.
1) Krishna Charitra - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya - translated by Alo Shome
The first of the two Bengali translated into English books that I've recently read. My need to buy this book was prompted by it being a book about my favourite Lord and it being a book by a famous Bengali author. As the day of my baby's birth and its impending baptism come close, I frantically cling to the strings of my ethnicity for fear of being a 'minority' in my own home.
So, I started with the book, and disappointment greeted me right in the first pages, where the translator, in her footnote, mentions leaving out biggish bits of academic arguments made by the original writer. Hah! Some cheek to assume that a reader of translation wouldn't be interested in those. Anyway, since the stories being told were about my Lord, I flipped through. The one interpretation of common lore that will stay with me forever is that of the Putana demoness sent by Kamsa to kill baby Krishna. Since the author tries to analyse everything in the context of plausability, his explanation for this incident is that, at the time when krishna was a baby, an epidemic of sorts had struck Vrindavan. The disease rendered babies so weak, they would be unable to suckle and eventually die of malnutrition. Krishna, being a fairly superior human baby was strong and could manage to suckle hard and therefore stay alive. The explanation is perfect. Putana was a metaphor for a disease -- as it would be for any unexplained phenomena in the olden days -- and was conquered by Krishna. Alas, all other babies born around the same time fell prey to 'Kamsa's wrath'.
From one lore to another, the author takes one on a demystifying journey, but fails to impress, since the interpretations become very subjective: exactly what the author accuses the various writers of Mahabharata of being. Discussing the similarities and discrepancies is the actions of Krishna-the man, what the reader is left with is some very dry commentary. Whether the dryness is the author's fault or the translator's, I shall never know. But, comparing all of the author's said glory in bengali literature to what my experience was, I will always blame my inability to read the original text and the translator for perhaps not doing justice to me.

2) Chowringhee - Sankar - translated by Arunava Sinha
In continuing the same set of motivations, another Bengali classic translation was called to the altar of my criticism for an unworthy sacrifice. Growing up, I'd heard the praise the original deserves from my mother - an avid reader of Bengali literature. And whenever I chance upon classics such as this, translated in English in one bookshop or another, I buy it without a second thought. It feels like a chance to reclaim part of my mother tongue heritage. And after one disappointing translation, I think, I'd pinned too many hopes on this one to salvage my opinion of translations.
Sadly though, Arunava Sinha didn't show any more promise than Alo Shome. Not in a first few pages, the next few and neither the few after that. There were glimpses of 'root recognition' once in a while, when the author speaks about familiar landmarks in the place of my birth, but the narrative is as slow as the period in which the novel is set. Dragging my feet through its pages, I come by the many 'characters' across the reception desk through the writer-protagonist. Most of the situations that these people are described in, are too far-fetched to be true, or so it seems in comparison to the real writing of the modern authors I'm used to. I didn't find anything about the book agreeable - neither the style, the language, the plot, the characters...nothing at all. At least not till the last three pages. Unlike the pace of the whole novel, the plot's crescendo is suddenly peaked, and before you know what's happening, it's over. All the major characters just suddenly decide to leave or die or get kicked out from the glittering existence of the Shahajahan hotel and you're left wondering again, how much of the book was lost in translation.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Not so long ago, there was a petite, little girl, who lived in a tower of doubt. And how did she land there? Well, she happened to lock herself in. Though there were no monsters, no witches to watch the door, there was no getting away. The door to the world of possibilities was locked and the key, lost. But was she meant to be held captive forever, then?
Not really, for the little girl was an expert key maker. Only she didn't know it yet. All she had to do was bring out her tools of courage, of faith and of determination to craft the key of confidence. With this key, she would be able to step out to the world of infinite choices. All she had to do is really want the wings to fly and she'd see she needed no knight in shining armour to rescue her. Life was out there; calling.

We all know whose story this is, my dear K. Though unsolicited advice is always unwelcome, I have nothing else to offer except my deepest love and my 'bestest' wishes. I wish I could, like your fairy Godmother, help you with a swipe of my magic wand. I wish I could help bloom that beautiful, fragrant flower, the petals of which you keep so tightly shut. But, remember, only you have the tools. Love and blessings,


(picture credit: Muirgheilt@deviantart)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Out of the woods

Out of the woods -- I particularly liked this expression used by a woman voicing her feelings on one of the many pregnancy sites on the net that I keep browsing. I liked it, because it is especially reflective of my feelings at the moment. Today, I’m a relieved 12-weeks pregnant woman. The don’t-tell-anyone phase is over. The time when one’s foetus could decide to shake itself free from the sack is kinda over. So, I’m out of the woods and free to post a shout out.
Actually I don’t want to. And I’ve been feeling a tad guilty about not jumping for joy. Somehow my ‘maternal pores’ are still clogged. But I did feel all mummy and mushy for a bit today when I saw my little baby sqiggle all over the place in the sonograph and when the doctor put the doppler stetho on speaker for me hear the baby’s rather quick heartbeats. Viren is already more father than I am a mom. Nice. Indicates a lot of nappy responsibility thrust on him in the near future.
Even as I fight the images of my rapidly changing (read fattening) body, rushes of mummadom sneak in sometimes. The cynic in me jumps at every opportunity of crying when I happen to stumble upon some sad story about mothers losing their babies. Can’t bear the thought of losing something that precious. I have made myself too much of a martyr already. Oh, the nausea, dizziness, fatigue was all for real. Three months of pure discomfort.
Meanwhile, Vir has been an ideal husband. And God has been really kind.

More updates, in months to come...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: Impressions

An Equal Music. A Suitable Boy. Both books by Vikram Seth. Both took my breath away. An Equal Music did so for its sheer brilliance, A Suitable Boy for its bulk and boredom. What happened Mr Seth?
It was nothing short of laborious to drag myself through its 1300 plus odd pages to get to a climax that wasn’t worth it. So, in the course of the next few paragraphs, if I happen to use the adjective boring more than once, uh, please bear with me.
The populace of the novel are nice enough to be gotten used to and even missed after you’ve finished reading the novel, but I’m sure I’ll not remember a single name off the pages, given its yawn potential. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll remember them precisely because they were oh-so-boring. For a good few months, the novel served as a sleeping pill (or pillow should I say, considering the thickness of that book).
Although Seth has neatly weaved in a huge variety of landscapes and caricatures (very few, if any, characters were for real) into this epic and even captured the colourful images of the great Indian arranged marriage, I consistently felt that it was being marketed for Western readers.
Seth’s research is commendable and he pulls in many a minute behavioural nuances of different people from different regions, but he fails to establish a heart connect
Perhaps I could not identify with the cultural aspects of Northern India, but even when Seth deals with the Chatterjis from Kolkata, it does very little for me by way of recognition. Their eccentricities are laughable, even lovable, but not memorable. Amit, Dipankar, Tapan, Meenakshi, Kakoli -- nobody strikes a chord.
Even the Mehra family is a forgettable lot. Most disappointingly so Lata, the protagonist. She is so painfully ordinary that at the end of the book, one cannot but feel that their time has been wasted in trying to look for a prospect for Lata along with the Mehras . Her siblings Savita, Varun and Arun come in and out of the wings throughout the novel as does her best friend Malati. Malati, in my opinion, has more body than all the Mehras put together. But I’m probably partial because she’s something of a firebrand, a trait I identify with. Mrs Rupa Mehra, the Mehra matriarch, is the most annoying character I’ve ever come across in my real and literary experiences. Share she might her first name with my mother, but I had not an iota of identification with that odious woman.
Another character that might just stay with me for a while is Maan Kapoor of the Kapoor clan. This no-good, maverick son of the revenue minister goes through the novel flitting in and out of a whorehouse, his friends’ house (Firoz and Imtiyaz, sons of the Nawab of Baitar), and his father’s house deferring endlessly his Benaras visit, his supposed fiancée and some godforsaken cloth business. His siblings Pran and Veena are as uninteresting as anyone else. But for Pran, I positively feel contemptuous for his weaknesses .
I did learn a few things from the book though. About the city called Brahmpur in the state for Purva Pradesh -- both of which I’d never heard of before. This was probably the first reason for my disconnect. The place in which the novel is set is as unreal to me as, say, Malgudi. There were more lessons shoved down my throat -- life in a village, rural and urban politics, minority issues, the trappings of a local government, the strife of prices and zamindars post independence, so on and so forth. Each more unpalatable than the other.
Not even the suitors were made to look yummy.
Kabir Durrani -- Muslim, unfocussed, and seemingly loves cricket more than he loves the lady.
Amit Chatterji -- Bengali, poet, and uh...a romantic intellectual !?
Haresh Khanna -- Cobbler (a shoe professional, really), chews paan and writes the most silly sounding letters ever.
Seth must really believe that letters are a window to ones soul, or something like that, for he bombards his readers with letters from one character to another at every given opportunity. So much so that the phrase ‘a man of letters’ has taken an entirely new (and deprecatory) meaning in my head.
The book is over. Thank God. I shall never read it again and advice others to not waste their time.
Need I really say that reams and reams of words do not make for a good novel?
Stick to the crisp, dear Mr Seth. Rambling isn’t really you.