Friday, August 31, 2007

The dream

When I was expecting the Little One, I had a dream.

I was playing with a baby. It was adorable, as babies generally are - and it was smiling, sweet-smelling, and very active. I tickled its belly, watched it gurgle. I touched it's soft head, put my finger into its tight little fist, and tickled its feet. I played with it for a very long time.

Gradually, the baby became restless, its smiles turned to whimpers, and soon it was crying. I had no idea what to do. Perhaps it is hungry, I thought. Or maybe it needs a nappy-change. Its mother will know what to do. I will take it to the mother.

I scooped the baby up in my arms, and ran into the next room. Nobody there. I ran back, and ran to all the rooms in the house. No one. The baby was bawling non-stop, and I grew panicky. I ran from room to room in search of the mother, but all the rooms were empty. There was no one in the house. I was alone. I ran back to the room I was in originally. As I stood helplessly with the baby in the middle of the room, the realization struck me like lightning.

I was the baby's mother.

At this point, I woke up sweating, my heart beating very fast.

This dream was a revelation.

When I had heard the heart beat of the baby for the first time, I found myself in tears with the enormity of the realization that there is actually another life inside me.

At the second ultrasound scan, I struck me that it was just not another life - it was a miniature human being in there. With tiny limbs and organs and a tiny head. A tiny person.

When I saw other babies around me, it hit me that the restless movements inside me are of another baby just like those - one with a will of its own - who kicks and punches, who is eating what I eat, who is growing inside me, waiting for the right time to come out and take its place in the world.

But this dream - this dream succeeded in doing what I had either ignored or not bothered enough about. It told me that in a very short time, I would no longer be a passive nurturer, but a full-time "care-taker". I would be responsible for the health, safety and well-being of another person. That I am going to be the one others will run to when a particular baby cries. That I am the one who will be expected to know what to do with the baby. And happily, I will be the one the baby is most likely to respond to.

It took three months but yes, it has happened. Now, I know my baby's signals (S: What does it mean when she has her right fist in her hair and the left in her mouth? I: She's sleepy), I am the one whom she responds to, and I am the one who can comfort her best (Ok, Ok, I lie about the last one. S can comfort her almost as well!)

And though it is a lot of work, it's a heady experience!

Here is a related post by my friend Madhu, who has started a blog recently. Back in college, we would sometimes look at each other and know exactly what the other was thinking. After all these years, I read this post by her and felt, whew, she still thinks like I do - It could have been me saying all that she has said here!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Imperfect

It had been going so smoothly. Madhavi had at last been impressed with the credentials of the guy that her parents had suggested to her, enough to agree to meet him. The guy's family seemed very practical and open-minded, and hadn't cringed when she had asked to go out with the guy a couple of times before she decided. The guy himself - Dinesh - was a perfect gentleman, and kept her amused and engaged on both the times they had gone out together, and didn't ask a single WTH question. She had surprised herself when she went home after the second date and told her parents that she was ready to marry this guy.

Her parents were thrilled, and immediately started preparations for the engagement. They watched with amazement at their daughter smiling and laughing on the phone with Dinesh, and looked on with joy when she actually started making an effort to look good while going out with him.

It therefore came as a shock when Madhavi returned early from a date and announced that the engagement was off. Frantic questioning brought no response. Madhavi had totally zipped up. She didn't seem upset, though, said her sister.

Madhavi wasn't upset, oh no, but terribly disappointed. But she knew she had made the right decision. She couldn't possibly tell anybody the reason, not even her sister. They wouldn't understand. Dinesh was a wonderful guy, there was hardly any doubt about that. But no way, no way on earth could she marry a person who could wear a magenta-coloured silk shirt. No way.

This is a sponsored post.

Ok, my little sis PeeVee has updated her blog, and has promised to update it regularly. So please go and read.

Ok, PeeVee, done, advertised.

These little brats, they take advantage of their big sisters! I started my blog with four readers - my husband, sister and parents. And this kid wants instant readership, so she wants me to advertise her blog on my blog. *Snigger*

Ok, I'll come clean. She has bribed me for this. She has promised to send me the autographed photograph. Ha. Let's wait and watch.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Help!

Hello, all you moms and dads and aunts and uncles and anybody who has had experience with babies, I need help!

When she is sleepy, the Little One cries - and cries a lot. (And no, she is not hungry, colicky, and I ensure she is as comfortable as possible.) She becomes restless and bawls non-stop. I need to try a variety of things - hold her, rock her, swing her, sway her, sing to her, walk her - each time, and a combination of all, until she finally falls asleep.

Some friends say that I am very lucky (touchwood) that she sleeps well at night. Yes, that she does, from about 10 to 7 (except to wake up 2-3 times for her feeds, after which she drifts off with no trouble).

Yes, yes, I am very lucky on that count, but what about the mornings, when I seem to be spending half the day only putting her to sleep?

So I have some questions, please do help.

1) Did your baby/babies cry when they were sleepy?

2) How do you make your baby/child go to sleep? Does it sleep on its own, or do you have to put it to bed?

3) I have read a lot of stuff about making babies sleep. Some ask you to just let the baby cry it out, and that it will teach the baby independence. Some say that you shouldn't ignore the babies cries, as it will lead to insecurity and loss of self-worth. Some say, just follow your instincts.

I am totally confused. I can't see her crying - my instinct is to pick her up. Nowadays, after a permanent stiff neck and aching shoulders and pain in my lower back, I try to lie down next to her, pat her and comfort her, and only when she doesn't stop crying at all, do I pick her up - even then I just try and rock her, if everything else fails, I walk her.

What worked for you?

4) Did you use anything to make your child sleep - as in a cradle, joLi (cloth swing), rocker, bouncer, etc? Did it work? Once the baby got used to it, was it difficult to break the habit?

5) People tell me that she will soon grow out of this crying-when-sleepy stage - as she is three months old now. Is that true? Are there more problems yet to come? :D

There, here I am, a mother asking for your advice! Have fun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Baby sleeping, do not disturb.

As a rule, I am polite to door-to-door salespeople. It definitely is not fun, walking from home to home repeating the same endless things to disinterested people, having doors closed on their faces - and I really wonder how much they manage to sell by the end of the day. If we don't want to buy anything or don't have time to listen to them, the least we can do is smile, and say no thanks. And that's what I do - or try to.

Just about half an hour ago, after a major struggle, the Little One fell asleep. Shoulders and arms aching, I started on the next step - putting her down on the bed with a bumpless transition. Just as I bent down, the gate opened noisily, and someone rang the bell with gusto. Nobody else was at home, I couldn't go and answer the door, nor could I call out from here to please wait, I will be right there. So I quietly continued to place the Little One on the bed. The doorbell rang again and again, with a "Madam, madam?" in accompaniment. Promptly the Little One woke up and started bawling again. To add to it, the doorbell rang again. I lost it. I stomped to the door, looked through the window, and a lady immediately started her sales pitch.

"You woke my baby! Stop disturbing me!" I shouted and stomped off inside again. Once again, shoulders aching, arms heavy, I swayed and sang to the Little One till she drifted off. But all the while I was feeling terrible for having shouted, but at the same, I know that I am no saint and don't have that much patience.

A similar thing had happened just before the Little One was born. I was upstairs and mom had gone for her bath - when the doorbell rang. I was tired and had been lying down. I got up from bed and called out from the balcony to ask who it was - no answer. I came down to the landing, called from there - no answer. Only the repeated ringing of the doorbell. I came all the way downstairs (which was hardly an easy task what with all my weight at that time) and peeped through the window, and a guy started his sales pitch. I was too tired for anything. "Just go away", I told him, and trudged up the stairs.

Really, what can one possibly do? Some people put up boards on their gates, "Salespeople not allowed" - I think that's terribly rude. Perhaps I should put up a sign that says "Baby sleeping, do not disturb"?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What do we have here?

A couple of days ago, I was slightly preoccupied while changing the Little One. She became restless, and to distract her, I opened my mouth, and out came the song, "Jhalak Dikhlaja"... yes the very same one by Himesh. I have no idea why I had to sing a song by Himesh, considering how much I like him - perhaps I had heard it somewhere and it was playing in my head - whatever the reason is, the fact remains that I did sing it.

And what did the Little One do? She became super-excited! And she laughed out loud and long. Oh yes. She has been doing the loud laugh for about a week now, but it had been something like "Aha ha". But this one was like "Aha Aha ha haaaaaaa Ahaaaa"!

I froze, nappy in mid-air. My parents who were in the next room, lost no time in running to this room.

Dad: Oho, look what we have here, a Himesh fan! And right after you wrote about her refined tastes!

Me: NOooo... Nooooo!

Mom: Did you hear that? She laughed out loud! LOUD! Shruthi, sing again, sing again!

Me: Nooooo wayyy!!!

Mom: So cute! Sing again, please, please!

Me: Nooooooo....

Mom: Please, come on! Just once!

Me: *reluctantly* Jhalak Dikhlaaajaaaaa..... Jhalak Dikhlaajaaaaa....

Little One: *beats limbs excitedly, eyes very very round and shiny, mouth wide open*

Me: Ek baar Aaja Aaja Aaja Aaja Aaaaaaaaaaja!

Little One: Aha ha ha ha ha Ahaaaaaaaaa haaa haaaa!!

Dad: Ha ha ha!

Mom: How cute! Did you hear that, she laughed out loud!

Me: *sniff* yeah....

Dad: She is a Himesh fan, you should tell your readers that. Maybe its time to try and obtain another autograph?

Me: Oh no, she is no Himesh fan, that was derisive laughter. Yes, that's what it was, derision! My baby still has refined tastes!

Or so I like to think. Himesh? Nooooooonnn! *Splutter.. splutter.. cough*

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Musical Baby

[This post has been written more as a personal record than anything else. Feel free to skip it!]

I believe that all babies are born with a fascination for music/tune/rhythm. Some react noticeably, or rather, are probably observed more closely. How the baby turns out as an adult depends on how musically s/he is brought up. Genes obviously play a part, but more important than that is the interest and exposure.

I have already spoken about the Little One's ear for music. Probably her exposure to music even before she was born adds to it, and the fact that we play quite a bit of music to her, and sing to her a lot.

It was such a thrill to see her actually "listening" to music for the first time. She even has a "listening face" - her eyes concentrate on a random spot, she stops moving, she pouts her lips, and she listens.

It is fascinating to observe her reaction to different kinds of music. The earliest observation we made was when mom, a Carnatic vocalist, sang compositons in Raaga Reetigoula, a very soothing raaga, to her as a lullaby. Only for this raaga did she fall asleep. She would immediately yawn, her eyes would close, and she would nod off. Now, she has grown and distractions are aplenty, so she doesn't fall asleep to it that easily. Yet, only when this raaga is sung, she yawns and settles down immediately. When mom sings this to her when she is awake and playful, she shoots mom a dazzling smile, as if to say, Hey, I know this!

When mom sings different Raagas to her when she is awake, we can make out distinct preferences - and that is so amazing. Anandabhairavi makes her turn her head away from mom disinterestedly, she smiles a lot for Abheri, Kalyani makes her eyebrows shoot up ... I can go on.

I sing to her everything from Hindustani music to Carnatic Music to Film songs to Naayi Mari to Old McDonald to Pink Floyd to just plain nonsense rap. She loves it all. She smiles her toothless smile and flails her limbs in response, and talks her nonsense baby-talk.

About a month ago, we noticed another exciting thing. When mom was singing to her, she started making noises, which could have been mistaken for a cry for attention, but, only, it wasn't. The noise goes "Ou-wa", "Ou" as in "Out" and "wa" as in "wag". The "Ou" is low-pitched, the "Wa" is a good number of notes higher, in a falsetto. And this noise she makes with her brows knitted in concentration, her little mouth all wide and crooked, and with tremendous force from her lungs. We wondered what it was, and left it at that - and noticed it again when mom sang to her the next time. Then she did the same thing when I sang to her. Was she under the impression she was singing too? [I have videos of this - if we know each other, I will show them to you when you come home]. We then saw that she did it when we played music to her too! She was actually distinguishing between speech and music, and participating in the music! This reaction is dedicated only to slow music. For fast music, she just smiles and gurgles and beats her arms and legs.

Yesterday, I had left her playing with her toys in her crib and was doing some chores around the room. I noticed that she was doing this Song Routine. Since no one was singing and there was no music playing, I concluded that it was just a cry for attention, and so I went to her and talked to her. She continued the Song Routine with that same concentrated expression. I talked and talked, but didn't get the usual responses. Then suddenly something struck me - I immediately sang something - and the response was her million - watt smile, followed by more excited Song-Routine noises. Was she.... was she... singing on her own? :D

If you have read this far, and are inclined to dismiss this entire post as the product of an indulgent mother's crazed imagination, I understand completely. Sometimes even I wonder if I am imagining it all. But all the conclusions (except the last incident, of course), have been reached not after 2-3 incidences, but at least a dozen of them, observed carefully under various conditions. [Reminds me of Chemistry lab. :O]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wah Ustad!

Ustad Zakir Hussain teaches Indian Music in Stanford. Last quarter, he had called for teaching assistants. My little sis PeeVee sent across her (music) resume. He liked it, called her for an interview, and selected her and two others as his teaching assistants.

And since we are a music-loving lot, the news of PeeVee being a TA to Zakir Hussain spread far and wide in family and friend circles, and she probably got more congratulatory calls for this than when she got an admission to Stanford!

So for three months, she interacted with the Ustad pretty closely. It is quite obvious to anybody who knows of his existence that his is a very charming personality, and according to P, he is a "genuinely nice person, very down to earth, light-hearted, friendly and affectionate. Goes out of his way to help everybody." Heart-warming!

Anyway, during this quarter, the Little One was born, and when she was about a week or two old, when we played music to her, she would go all silent and listen intently. When that part of the rendering began, in which the Tabla dominated, she used to go all round-eyed and would start beating her limbs non-stop. Well, it happened too many times to be a coincidence, and so we decided that she loved the Tabla. And since most of the music we played for her had Zakir Hussain's tabla, we jokingly concluded that she was a fan of Zakir Hussain's.

Well. On the last day of the music class at Stanford, Zakir Hussain, his wife and daughter took PeeVee and the other TAs out for dinner. PeeVee took a printout of one of the snaps of the Little One I had sent to her, took it to Zakir, and told him that this baby, her niece, was his youngest fan and could he please autograph it.

He was fascinated by the snap. (Says PeeVee). He took it in his hands, and said "Oh, what a beautiful baby... beautiful hands....look at her long fingers...touchwood.. touchwood...". Then he asked PeeVee for the Little One's name, and wrote out a little message on the snap, and autographed it.

PeeVee showed it to us through the webcam, and man, am I thrilled! :)

Why am I posting this almost two months later? Coz I have been waiting and waiting for PeeVee to take a snap of that autographed picture which is a printout of a snap that I sent to her and send it to me (confused you, didn't I?), so that I could put it up along with this post. But she is too lazy busy. So I am going ahead with it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A conversation

I: Hey, Little One!
She: Ah-goo! *with toothless smile, saliva dripping down chin*

I: Ah-good morning to you too, Little One, how are you today?
She: Ahn-dray..

I: Ah'm dray-ned too... you cried and fussed so much last night... I was exhausted....I must look terrible this morning, don't I?
She: Uh-glee. *with a gurgle*

I: Ugly?? Hmph. All your doing, Little One. But seriously, what was bothering you last night?
She: Ooooo. *eyebrows arched*

I: Me? Hmph again. What on earth do I do with you?
She: Gloooo....

I: Glue? Great idea. I will glue your little lips together and your little hands and little legs and tie you up so that you can't do anything at all! Anyway, tell me, what's the plan for today?
She: Huh-geeee.. *With a sideways glance and fluttering eyelashes*

I: Okay sweetheart, first a bigggg huggie. There. Now let's get down to business. what would you like to do now?
She: Unga....greee...

I: Hungry? Okay! Let's have breakfast, come on!
She: Khoo!

Who says two-month-olds can't converse?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Warmth

Two sets of grandparents, one set of great-grandparents, two great-grandmothers, a horde of great and grand aunts and uncles, and an army of aunts and uncles. This is what the Little One has, and many of them have already come to see her and doted on her.

But ironically, her only immediate aunt and only immediate uncle have been missing. My little sis PeeVee is far away studying in the US, and doesn't have the time nor the money to fly back right now. S' "little" bro N was in the UK all this while on an assignment. So both of them weren't around when their niece was born.

PeeVee watches the Little One on the webcam and wails, "I can't touch her, I can't hold her, she doesn't even know her aunt is watching her, why should I undergo this torture? Turn the damn webcam off!" But she derived some kind of perverse satisfaction in the knowledge that N hadn't seen her either.

Now, N is back (and brought two large packs of Scottish Shortbread fingers for me, bless him), and he saw his little niece and outlined to me all the plans he has for the future to ensure that she turns into a brat and makes life miserable for S and me. Anyway, I felt strangely comforted that the Little One at last met her Chikkappa(Father's younger brother).

I was wondering how best to break the news to PeeVee that even N has seen the Little One, and she will be one of the last to see her.. But good news. PeeVee is on a high now, just having booked tickets back home for December.

Really, how life changes. PeeVee and I shared everything as kids. From cutting into perfect halves a tiny toffee, right up to dark secrets, we shared everything for a very very long time. Until I moved out for higher studies, six years ago. After that I moved out for a job, and then I got married and moved out. Still, I was close enough to home to show up every now and then. But now, she has moved out and is very far away.

And now, when she is living a few of the most productive and best years of her life, and I am having one of the most fascinating years of my life, we are not together to share our experiences with each other. Phone calls and emails just cannot do justice.

But really, all that matters is that I know she is always there, and that when she flies down in four months (Yippee!), not much would have changed.

Too senti. PeeVee, don't choke. ;)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Passing thoughts...

* It is unbelievable how quickly the Little One falls asleep in the car. So, I want a Car-Simulator-Chair. I should just sit on it with her in my arms, and the chair should simulate the movement and the sound of a car (preferably on Indian roads, with the sway that comes with pot-holes). And I can just sit and watch as she falls asleep effortlessly.
That's a good business idea. Maybe I should try it myself.

* Why.... does she wake up the moment I start to eat? Be it any time of the day, the moment I sit down for a bite, she wakes up. With unerring precision. It should be researched into. Maybe there is some kind of internal correction, like Harry and Voldemort. Mom says that all kids do the same. Did you face it too?

The help who heard us discussing this said that they believe that it is God's way of testing the mother. What will she do? Will she attend to her own stomach, or to her child? Heh :D As if moms need to be tested! ;)

"Keep watching", says my mom, "Let her grow a little older, and each time you pick up a hot cup of tea, she will come to you just then and say that she is going to have a bowel movement... right there, right then".

Sigh.
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