Thursday, May 29, 2008

Twelve months update

Continuing with the one year series, I realize that I haven't really done a Puttachi update this month, so here goes.

The one year mark was in my head all the time, but it was brought home to me all of a sudden when I opened my mailbox and instead of the Baby center mail with the subject "Your baby this week". the subject was "Your Toddler this week". Sigh. I am the mother of a toddler now. How time flies!

The nice thing about this stage is that there is something new everyday. S~ gets back home and asks me, "What did she do today?" And invariably I have a couple of new things to tell him.

There isn't much to say in terms of her motor development. She already walked steadily last month, climbs most objects with ease, eats biscuits without spilling any crumbs, things like that. So most of the development this month has been in her understanding and vocabulary.

*****

She loves looking at pictures in books. Especially if they contain animals. She brings a book to me, makes me sit down, climbs on to my lap, and settles down, expecting me to open the pages and point out things to her. Sometimes, she points to each picture, and demands "Enu?" (What?) and I have to name each object for her. Sometimes, I point to pictures that I know she knows, and she identifies them, either with the name of the object (Kaa for Car, Teedee for TV), or the sound (Tick tock for Clock, kack kack for duck), or the way it moves(jumps up and down for Horse, moves her hand in air for Aeroplane). And sometimes, if the object in question is around her in the room, she identifies it in the book, then points to the corresponding object in the room.

This book development has happened all of a sudden in the last fifteen days, so you can imagine how overwhelmed and surprised I am at each incident of recognition.

*****

When she wants a book she cannot reach, she points and says "Ada!" (Adu is "That one" in Kannada), and if I point to one and say, "Ida?" (This one?), she shakes her head impatiently, points again and says, "Ada!" and repeats until she gets the book of her choice.


*****

For lunch, I dish up a concoction of Rice, dal and vegetables for her. Usually I leave chunks of cooked carrot in the food for her to chew. Once I was out of carrots, and there were chunks of other vegetables instead. Puttachi ate about two spoonsful, peered into the bowl, and then demanded, "Catat?" (For carrot). It left me shaking my head in disbelief. I had a tough time making her eat the rest of the food. I now ensure we always have carrots in stock.

*****

She enjoys putting "Taala" on her lap, something she picked up watching my mother teach music to her students. So I encourage it by singing "Saregama" to her, complete with taala, and nowadays I started singing "Lambodara" too. [Lambodara lakumikara is the first composition taught to students of Carnatic music]. So now, out of the blue, she stops doing whatever she is busy with, shakes her head from side to side, and sings, "Ta pa ta pa" (I guess it is Sa Pa Sa Pa), all the while beating out a vague rhythm with her tiny hands. Now she also sings "Ambaatuta" with it. [The second line of Lambodara lakumikara is Ambaasuta Amaravinuta"]. She likes Ambaatuta and sings it all the time. My guess is that she thinks it is a song about cows, because "Ambaa" is her word for cows.

******

I once caught her putting something into her mouth, and tried in vain to remove it. She had swallowed it, whatever it was. I made a serious face and told her not to do it again. She was disturbed, and she took my hand, shook it, and whimpered. I didn't allow my expression to change. She made a pretending to cry face, but it didn't work. Then she sat down cross-legged, made this sweetest face, and put Taala on her lap, and sang "Ta pa ta pa ambaatuta". Was she actually trying to make me smile, because she knows that this is something I find very cute and always burst out laughing at it? Who knows!

*******

The little devil also tests my reactions when she does anything forbidden, like putting something into her mouth. She takes it close to her mouth, keeps it there, and looks at me, and laughs with delight when I admonish her and repeats it again and again. How on earth do people discipline kids?

******

Her favourite word is Aaytha? (Done/Over/Finished?). Aaaytha? Is the question, and Aaythu is the answer (yes, it is done). But Puttachi doesn't know that, and Aaytha it is for everything.
- When she has had enough food or water, she announces, "Aaytha!" and proceeds to try to get down from the high chair.
- When I am trying to make her do something she doesn't like, like take her to the toilet when she is not ready, or am trying to scrub the sticky remnants of a meal from her face, she screams, "Aaytha! Aaytha!" and squirms and tries to get away.
- She greets everybody with an "Aaytha?" I don't know what she intends, but I guess it is because people usually ask her, "Oota (food) aaytha", "Taachi (sleep) aaytha" or "Tata (outing) aaytha?". So she probably thinks that you have to greet people with an Aaytha. It sounds doubly funny because a traditional greeting in these parts of Karnataka is to ask the person you meet whether s/he has finished his coffee/lunch, according to the time of the day (Oota aaytha? Coffee Aaytha? etc).


*****

Her latest passion is lolling around on the bed. Watching her play on the bed is exactly like watching a gymnast do the Floor Exercises. Back flips, Somersaults, cartwheels, you have everything. And she even ends with a flourish, and looks to see if you are watching and appreciating!

*****

We actually get her to do things now! S~ and I keep giving her objects and tell her to go and give it to the other person. She does it obediently, and it is quite delightful to see her accept the object, walk over to S~, hand it to him and clap her hands herself and say "googa" immediately when we say "Good girl!"

*****

Just today, I taught her to put rubbish into the dustbin. It worked half a dozen times, and then later, she tried to pick it back from the dustbin. And as I type this, I thought of something - what if she puts non-rubbish into the dustbin? Oh, what have I done?

****

When she wants help with climbing something, or she wants to be lifted, she says, "attha! attha!" Hatthu in kannada is climb, and Etthu is lift, so I have no idea what she is saying, but she gets her work done. And she climbs me like a coconut tree.

****

Somewhere along the way, she has understood the concept that little girls are Akkas and little boys are Annas and elderly men are Thathas (grandfather). So, a walk down a street is punctuated by her calling out to random people, Akka, Anna and Thatha. When we were going by Janatha Bazaar, she started screaming "Thatha thatha" excitedly. Wondering why she was looking upwards, I followed her line of sight, and burst out laughing when I saw - a picture of Gandhiji! :D

****

She has started communicating her wants too. She once pointed to the water container to tell me she was thirsty, she pointed to her hand where she had hurt herself and told me "Abbu" (hurt), and a couple of times, just a couple of times, she told me that she had some restroom business to do too!

*****

All these days, When asked, "Where is Puttachi?", she would point to the mirror, or any reflective surface. All of a sudden, she has understood what this is all about. Five days ago, when asked where Puttachi is, she pointed to her own stomach, and as if to reinforce the information, she gave her entire chest and tummy a good massage and a couple of pats, and even said her own version of her name! That was quite exciting :D

*****

This update is already too long... so I think I had better stop. But wait, did I tell you how she conducts an entire telephone conversation, complete with nonsense talking, and a fake laugh too?

Ok, I'll really stop, and if you have read so far, you must either be family, or else, you must really be interested in Puttachi, in which case, Thank you. :D

Monday, May 26, 2008

Some numbers.

[Thank you all for your comments, mails, phone calls and messages wishing Puttachi on her birthday. I am overwhelmed! Thanks to all you lurkers who took the time to delurk and wish her :) ]

No, I am not really that jobless, but I just got thinking about numbers, and... well... here are a few numbers to mull about.

In this year,

2500 is the number of times I have nursed Puttachi.
4000 is the number of nappy changes.
340 baths
250 oil massages
170 hair washes
1200 clothes changes
1500 powdering her body
2000 clean ups
80 nail cuts
5 hair cuts
1000 meals have I prepared and fed her
2000 times have I rocked/sung/patted her and put her to bed
1000 times have I sung to her
500 times I have read to her/shown her pictures in books
5000 times I have played with her..
300 washes in the washing machine and an equal number of hanging up clothes to dry.
A 1000 times have I brushed away her tears.

If I look at these numbers, it looks like all that we did this past one year was attend to her needs and do some kind of baby related work. But if I think back on this year, I remember only things like her yawning, her playing, her rolling over, her first smile - you know, things like that. Pleasant things. What about those nights I spent walking her when she was crying uncontrollably? What about cleaning up the mess after her a thousand times? What about those? Why don't I remember those?

I guess it is because.... well, look at these numbers --

A million times have I kissed her.
A gadzillion times have I hugged her.
A tringmingzimzamxillion times have I just looked at her and smiled and felt happy.

So, I guess when they are all added up, the happy moments simply outnumber the "work" and "difficult" moments, and so all we remember are the good times.

No wonder the population of the world is so high.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Puttachi!

My sweet Puttachi,

Happy Birthday to you!

I did not believe in miracles, Puttachi, but you made me realize that there are miracles occuring all around us all the time. The development of a child from a single cell, the birth of a baby, and the growth of the baby from a fragile infant into a mobile, communicating, cognitive individual is nothing short of a miracle. The whole process can be beautifully explained by science, I know. But the feel of the whole thing is that of a miracle. And only when you experience it first hand do you realize what it is like.

It seems like just last week that you made your appearance, a little baby with a red crunched up face, and a huge yawn. It seems like yesterday that I exulted at your rolling over, marvelled at how you crawled, and watched with bated breath as you took your first steps. This year has flown by, the fastest ever. And this has been one of the best years of my life. Easily.

I had been forewarned about how not to expect my baby to be born a perfect cherub, and that a new born baby is rather ugly. But I never felt that way. Your little red face, and tiny fingers and toes were beautiful to my eyes. I thought you were a total angel. Now, when I look back on the snaps of those first few days, I marvel at how much like an alien you were, but back then, I just thought you were beautiful. And I think you just grow more wonderful each day.

I watch you play, Puttachi, your hands busy, your eyes narrowed in concentration. And then your eyes light up suddenly and look at me with a smile to share your discovery. And then you spot something you know is forbidden, and give me that sideways glance, dimple flashing, teeth showing, and your eyes full of mischief, and I swoop down and take you away, flying you through the air, doing a "Supergirl".

I watch you walk, Puttachi, confidently stepping over obstacles and crossing thresholds, carrying heavy objects in your hand, striding from room to room as if you have very important business, climbing sofas, getting down stairs - you are already on your own now!

I watch you eat, Puttachi, increasingly independent. Each morsel in the mouth returns an expression of approval (shake of head from side to side, and wobble of the body to match the shake of the head), or disapproval (a disgusted face followed by spitting out of food). I watch you try and drink your glass of water yourself, shivering with surprise when the water unexpectedly trickles down your neck into your dress. I exult when the food disappears from the bowl and fret when you seem to want nothing at all.

I watch you sleep, Puttachi, your long eyelashes kissing your round cheeks. Your lips in a slight pout, your head falling to the side like a limp rag doll. Your slow breathing. The perfect innocence and peace on your face which belies the mischief and restlessness of your wakeful periods. I kiss your forehead, touch your soft cheeks, and sigh with relief, anticipating the peace I will have for a while.

I watch you with people, Puttachi, smiling at everybody, waving to them, wanting to be everybody's friend. Bawling when they try to touch you before you are ready. Extending a hand of friendship to them (literally) when they have been patient enough to wait for you to go to them on your own.

I watch you with the people you love, Puttachi, climbing onto them, hugging them, telling them something in your baby language, placing your head on their chest/shoulder, and looking up at them with trusting eyes, and smiling delightedly.

I watch you, Puttachi, a bundle of energy, and as we roll around the floor and play, I wonder at the fact that a year ago, you and I were nearly stangers, you just a bundle swathed in white, not knowing me, needing me only to satisfy your hunger. And a year and a day ago, I hadn't even seen you. It sounds too far-fetched to believe.

You have changed our lives in more ways than I thought possible. I have learnt that you will never really know what life will be like post-baby, unless you have a baby. And then, as I like to joke, it is too late to do anything about it.

Puttachi, I have loved you ever since I knew about your existence - ever since you were just a few cells in size. The love I feel for you has only increased with time. Every time I think that I will burst with all the love, my heart expands just that little more to accommodate still more love.

I am rambling on, Puttachi, but words seem so bland. It is nearly impossible to tell you how I feel about you. All that I'll say is, my baby, you are the sweetest.

May this be the first of many, many more beautiful birthdays.

Love you.
Amma.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A full night's sleep.

Just for the record, it has been exactly a year since I had a full night's uninterrupted sleep.

The night of May 20th of last year was the last time I slept without waking. On the night of May 21st, I had very disturbed sleep, complete with hallucinations. On the morning of May 22nd, I knew it was time to go to the hospital, and on the night of May 22nd, that is, in the wee hours of May 23rd, Puttachi was born. Since then, no sleep.

Ok, to be fair to the little one, after the first two or three weeks, her body adjusted to our sleep rhythms, and she slept at night except for when she woke up for her feeds. Even then, she just had her feed, and went back to sleep. No fuss, no fanfare.

But even now, after she has stopped taking night feeds, she wakes up once or twice each night, mostly going back to sleep on her own, or else with very slight intervention from me. But the fact is that she does wake up, and so I haven't had an uninterrupted 7-8 hours of sleep after she was born.

Actually, there was one day she slept through the night. On the night of May 8th, when we were in Mysore, she went to bed at around 10 pm, and I followed at about 12 30 am after watching a movie. I closed my eyes, and when I next opened them, the room was filled with daylight. My first feeling was that of panic. I sat up ramrod straight, and pounced on Puttachi to see if she was all right - she was sleeping peacefully. After that, I hopped out of bed and danced my way to the kitchen where my aunt was making tea. "She slept through the night!" I sang.

I have tried to replicate the conditions of that night, but she hasn't done that again, after that night.

Again, I warn you, all you poor souls who are getting inspired to have babies because of my posts about Puttachi, beware! :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Making friends

Today, I am more regularly in touch with friends I made through blogging, than with my "other" friends. Each time someone asks me how I know such and such a person, I say, "blog friend" and smile. Five years ago, I had college friends, school friends, colony friends, and now a new category has crept in - blog friends.

When and how do blog friends turn into real friends? It is not really after a face to face meeting. But somewhere down the line, a blogger stops being just someone and starts being a friend.

But meeting face to face does help immensely. And so here is an account of the people I have met through blogging.

The first group of blog friends I met in person are what we call the Mukta Balaga. I once stumbled upon a post speaking about the then running Kannada serial Mukta, and I made a comment on it. I came back to see further discussion, and joined, and before I knew it, I had got drawn into a major discussion on the blog. about what? Everything, but mostly something connected to Mukta. Scores of discussions and daily updates later, the conversation moved on to literature, music, spirituality, politics, and just life in general. Out of the discussions and numerous commenters and more than 5000 comments (yes!) emerged a handful of us likeminded people, and we formed a yahoo group and continued our conversations there. Next, obviously, we had to meet, and the first meet had a bonus attached to it - one of them brought along TN Seetaram himself, the very popular maker of the serial Mukta. A leisurely chat over coffee at Kamat Bugle Rock followed, with the tab being picked up by the generous man. We moved on. We meet regularly, in big groups or small groups or individually, on some pretext or no pretext at all. And when someone asks me how I know such and such a person, it takes me a minute to realize that it is only through blogs that I know them!

The next blogger friend I met was Chitra, who worked in the company next to mine. We met once during office hours, and started chatting on even personal matters as if we knew each other all along - and our friendship has only grown over the past couple of years.
In March, I met the ageless Usha, whose blog is one of my favourites. I already felt like I have known her for years, and meeting the wonderful lady was just like moving to the next level. I met her at a Film Festival which was organized by Abhipraya, another inspiring person, someone I knew only slightly. And though I know her real name very well, all I could do was say, "Hi Abhipraya, bye Abhipraya, I enjoyed myself Abhipraya." It was impossible for me to address her by her real name. So much for blog identities!

And now, over the weekend, I met Poppin's Mom and her adorable daughter, who else, Poppin. I had corresponded with Poppin's mom a bit, and meeting her in person was something I was looking forward to. She is very easy to talk to, and being with her was as comfortable as her blog makes one feel!

Like the icing on the cake, yesterday I met Anitha, whom I have greatly admired through the years. But somehow we have never been able to meet. I finally did meet her and her ebullient, affectionate little daughter, charm oozing out of every pore. Anitha is as sweet and mature a person as her mails made her out to be - and I am still on a high, having met her.

There are many more I would like to meet, and then there are a few bloggers I cannot believe I haven't met in person.

Oooh I love this way of making friends, especially at this age where I realize that making friends gets progressively more difficult due to lack of time, prejudices and plain non-effort.

Bring on the next round of bloggers! When shall we meet? :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Connecting people.

Some time ago, I had written a post about Tina, a volunteer at the Isha yoga center at coimbatore, and how impressed I was with her. Apparently, someone sent her the link to that post, and she left a comment on my blog -

Dear Shruthi,

and all her friends here. someone sent me the link to this page and it took me a while to realize you are talking about me! but thanks. i feel humbled.

im now travelling between singapore, malaysia, lebanon, and africa, and australia and europe sometimes, teaching Inner Engineering programs.

still a full time volunteer, and the joy u saw at that time has grown 100 fold. i can barely contain it!

im writing this so that u all know that this is so close and so possible for each one of you...just needs some attention....the one taught in the Inner Engineering program is different and shorter! you could try it...

with love,
tina

I am so pleased to hear from her - blogging is wonderful, isn't it? :)

My uncle had once written about his childhood hero, Olufemi Akande, in this fabulous writeup about Black being beautiful. Within days, he received a comment from Akande's daughter. My uncle was delighted, but unfortunately, the daughter didn't leave any contact details. [If you have come here looking for Olufemi Akande, and you know him, please leave his contact details here, or mail me at the id on the top right of this page, thank you. :)]

Then there is this amazing, almost unbelievable story of Usha's. She found a thank-you card inside a used book that she bought, and just like that, she tried to deduce things about the sender's life from the words on the note, and she posted it on her blog. Two years later, she heard from that very lady! Do read both the posts - it is strangely thrilling. To think you can reach out to a perfect stranger with just a few words... you feel so connected!

Blogging has many advantages - but this, I am sure is one of the most thrilling!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Mysore Zoo

We took Puttachi to the Mysore Zoo. My only intention was to show her the animals she loves, live. But what I had not bargained for was a barrage of memories bouncing out of the recesses of my mind, of my visits to the zoo as a child.

We would be terribly excited as we alighted from the auto in front of the gates, stone walls on either side. The tickets would be bought and checked by a very short man who was a fixture at the gates for as long as I remember. An old museum stood right at the gates. It contained stuffed animals, and relics of long dead zoo inhabitants. My mother never understood why I loved climbing up those creaking wooden stairs to stare at those stuffed animals when I could well be looking at live animals. But they had a kind of inexplicable charm. On the ground floor of this building were half a dozen mirrors that made you look fat, curved, tall, crooked, and turned you upside down. Preening oneself before these mirrors was a must-do too.

After this would begin the round of the zoo. Each animal would be observed and the board outside the enclosure, with information on the animals, and their names and scientific names would be read seriously.

The elephants and the big cats were the star attractions of course. Once a baby elephant was being taken around the zoo and we got to touch its prickly head and wet trunk and feed it bananas. The big cats had names - Rani, Prema, Vijay, and there were boards with their dates of birth written underneath their names. We would compare our ages with those of the lions and tigers and feel strangely connected to them. My grandparents would sometimes call us, when we were in Bangalore and tell us that Priya gave birth to twin cubs or Vikram died, and we would react as if they were family.

Each time a new animal came to the zoo, people would flock to see the new entrant. Thus we saw penguins, kangaroos (both of which are not there any longer), and zebras and giraffes. The last was the greatest attraction for me. I still remember the first time I saw the pair of giraffes. It was a heady feeling. But the giraffes haven't grown in number since that time. The female giraffe Honey has given birth to a dozen baby giraffes and refused to feed any of them - they have all died, as far as my knowledge goes.
Giraffe bending towards Puttachi, with Chamundi Betta in the background.

The other attractions of the zoo were a smelly, dingy aquarium, outside which you got a great view of Chamundi Betta. Then there was this humungous stone slide. It was quite some time before I summoned up the courage to slide down that slide, and when I did, I felt like the queen of the whole world. Near the slide was a maze made out of bushes which was really easy to navigate, but we felt incredibly proud nevertheless when we reached the centre. Near the slide were shops were we bought and slurped orange candy and continued on our way.

There was another attraction, years ago, in the form of Sally Walker, a zoologist and conservationist who started the Friends of Mysore Zoo. We saw her once, in a t-shirt, shorts, in the lions' cage. INSIDE the lion's cage. Peevee and I were hooked ever since. Sally Walker was our heroine. Other kids wanted to grow up and become teachers and train drivers, but I wanted to grow up and become Sally Walker. Sometimes she passed near our grandparents' home, and we used to stand outside in the evenings just waiting if we could spot her. I don't think we ever did, and I don't think I saw her again after that, but "Salivakar" (as I thought her name was spelt) remained a fascinating figure of our childhood.


Chimp up a tree

When we took Puttachi to the zoo, I looked out for the familiar sights and sounds of the zoo. We were short of time, wanting to show Puttachi everything before she fell asleep, so we made it quick. The short man was gone, but the museum building was there, though we didn't visit it. I couldn't spot the slide at all, nor the maze. Perhaps we didn't go that way at all. There were no directions for us previously, we just went where we pleased. Now, they have boards pointing to the animals, and arrows telling us which path to take so that we can see all the animals. There are also new animal enclosures, and they have a huge aviary with a high net - one we can pass through and see the big birds from up close. There was another major difference. The old Mysore zoo in my memory was dry and hot, and I remember my walks to be very sweaty and tiring. But the zoo of today is very, very green. There was shade almost throughout the way, and that place where you could get a view of the Chamundi Betta? No view anymore... too much foliage to even see the horizon.


The tiger.

But many things remain the same. The giraffe was still as tall as ever, and Puttachi fell over backwards in excitement. The tigers drove her crazy, and she roared and growled near the tiger's enclosure until the tigers went into hiding, terrified. Ok, I am exaggerating, but you get the picture. The lions and the leopards drove her nuts, and the monkeys drove her wild with glee. And what about her favourite elephants? She was sleepy by the time we reached it, and she just stared at them for five minutes, eyes blank. I was kind of disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing her reaction. But five minutes later, something clicked in her brain, her eyes lit up, and with a whoop and a squeal, she danced and waved her hands with abandon, pointed at the pachyderms and said "Aate! Aate!" (For Aane - Elephant). Yes. Mission accomplished. After that, she fell asleep in S~'s arms.

I can foresee many more visits to the zoo in the coming years. But no, I am not complaining!


The elephants

Monday, May 12, 2008

Election snippets

Incident 1 -

Aunt: Vimala, did you vote?
Maid: Ayyooo no Amma.
Aunt: Why?
Maid: Nobody gave us any money, nobody gave us sarees, why should I vote for anybody? I won't vote.

Incident 2 - (Occured about 15 years ago)
Mom: Lakshmamma, did you vote?
Maid: Amma, the "hand people" came and gave us fifty rupees, then the "lotus people" gave us fifty rupees......
Mom: Aha, so what did you do?
Maid: Niyattirbeku Amma (One should have integrity, Amma)..... So I voted for both of them.

[Both incidents true, names changed, and offered without comment.]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Old dolls

When my sister and I were kids, my father brought Ginny Dolls for us from the US. I took the one in Red and my sister Peevee, the one in blue. We named them Rita and Tina respectively. I don't remember why. We didn't play doll as such, rather set them around and admired them. Sometimes, I would comb out their hair with the tiny brush and comb that came with them. Once, my sis came to me with Tina and a pair of scissors in her hand, and asked me to cut Tina's hair. Very big-sister-like, I told her to think twice, warned her that Tina's hair wouldn't grow back, and what if I messed up. She was adamant, and I actually gave Tina a mini step cut. Sometimes I would remove Rita's red coat and feel that she looked prettier in the white frock inside. That was as far as we went playing with dolls.

A few years later, my father brought a bigger doll from Russia. I had outgrown dolls and Peevee was outgrowing them, so this doll was just another addition around the house, though we liked her very much. I have no idea if we named her. I have a feeling that if we did, it started with M. Most likely a very Russian name like Marsha. I will call her Marsha for the purpose of this post.
[Update: PeeVee has written in to say that Marsha was from Germany, not Russia.]

When we grew up, and we had a little girl cousin, we gave the dolls to her, and honestly, I had totally forgotten about them. Recently, my aunt called me to ask if I would like the dolls back for Puttachi to play with, or could she give them away? I said I would like to have them back. Firstly, for the sake of childhood memories, and secondly, because I suddenly realized that Puttachi didn't have a single doll.

I got the dolls back a couple of weeks ago, and my smile of pleasure at beholding them froze, as I took in their state. All three of them looked like they had blackened their faces. Their hair was a mass of tangles, and their clothes looked like they had been dragged through a coal mine. One of Rita's eyes was totally shut, and Tina had wax in her ears and snot in her nose. Marsha was better off, but her hair was terrible. I saw Puttachi's eyes light up and she reached out to touch the dolls as I was examining them. Horrified, I hid them away, and told her that I would clean them and give it to her to play.

The next couple of days saw me very busy. I first stripped all three dolls, and scrubbed their faces and limbs with an old toothbrush. I washed their hair and smoothed out the tangles. I brought them out of the bathroom, smelling of Lifebuoy Nature hand wash, and I set them out to dry. Then I soaked all their clothes together in soap water, and changed the water every hour. Each soaking produced dark brown water which grew progressively lighter with each soak.

I then washed the clothes with soap, and hung them out to dry. While they were drying, I brushed out their hair with my hairbrush. S~, if you find a light coloured hair in my brush, it is not a grey, it is a strand of Tina's blonde hair. While I set the poor dolls, devoid of clothes, aside, Puttachi found them and delightedly started gnawing at their limbs. I had to rescue them and put them away in a safe place.

Once the clothes were done, I called Puttachi and tried to explain that I was dressing the dolls up. See, socks, I said, see, frock. Puttachi wasn't interested in the dressing up process. She wanted to taste Rita's hair. Resignedly, I finished the dressing up process quickly, and surveyed my handiwork. Not bad, not bad at all. Poor Marsha's hair was beyond redemption, and so I tied it back with a band, and I was done.

I then hit upon a brainwave and scoured the worldwide web for snaps of what my Ginnys originally looked like, and what their names were. I found loads of Ginnys from all eras, but not mine. I have a hunch that my Ginnys belong to a themed set, perhaps Fairy Tale Theme or something like that, but I cannot be sure.

But I learnt loads of things. I had no idea that there are serious doll collectors out there. Some antique dolls are sold for thousands of dollars. Mine are not that old, nor are in mint condition, but perhaps I could get a tidy sum for them if they are rare, who knows! Not that I plan to sell them, no way!

In all these days of owning these dolls, I hadn't spent this much time and effort on them ever. I kept telling myself that I was just readying them for Puttachi, but frankly, I must say I enjoyed it.

But does Puttachi enjoy them? She breaks into a smile when she sees the dolls, and says, "Paapa" (Baby), but she has no idea what to do with them. Truth be told, as of now, she has no interest in them. :)

Here are the dolls, as they were brought to me, and after I finished with them. Looking at the snaps now, side by side, I realize that I took the Before set with the dolls lying on the table, and the After set with them standing up - it almost looks like I have brought them back from the dead :D





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Monday, May 05, 2008

A fuller life?

We are in Mysore.

Mysore always wraps me up in this delicious, pleasant, languorous feeling, and I can never have enough of the city. Memories of summer holidays from my childhood, without a care, without a thought, flit past my eyes. Basking in the affection of my grandparents and aunts, eating to my heart's content, sleeping, meeting with people, long walks to nowhere - Mysore for me encompasses this and much, much more.

On a drive yesterday through broad avenues lined with Gulmohar trees in full, flaming bloom, I looked around the city I love. The old, beautiful buildings - some derelict, some renovated - but all of them charming. Old market areas, the antiquity of which no number of modern signboards or posh new shops can hide. Chamundi Betta (Hill), which stands like a sentinel, ever present, like a comforting caretaker. Endless charm.

I have written about this before, but I can never get over how easy it is to get to places in Mysore. Everything is just a short distance away, and commuting is a cakewalk. I have been thinking - it is perhaps possible to live a fuller life in a small town than in a bigger town?

Let me try and analyze with the example of Bangalore and Mysore. In Bangalore, the distances are too great. The traffic makes it even more difficult to reach a destination. In Mysore, the city itself is smallish. The roads are unclogged (so far) and getting to a place doesn't take too much time. Doesn't that mean that in Bangalore, we tend to spend a longer time on the road than at the destination? At least if the commuting was pleasant, then it would have been okay. But it only results in headaches and high blood pressure.

After Puttachi was born, we have had to work everything around her schedules. As of now, she takes two naps in a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and the wakeful periods between the naps is about 2.5 hours. The only time she stays awake for a long period is in the evening - about 5.5 hours, before going to bed for the night. Thus, in Bangalore, we have to schedule all our outings and visits for the evening time. If we did schedule something in the morning, she will be sleepy and hungry by the time we reach the destination. But in Mysore, we can schedule outings in the mornings too without any problem.

On Friday, we took Puttachi to the zoo. Our agenda was clear. Show her the elephants, the big cats and the monkeys, and the giraffe, and get back before her nap time. The zoo would close at 5 30 pm, so it was best to go in the morning. Besides, morning is the time when the animals are active. So we waited for Puttachi to wake up in the morning, fed her something and whisked her away to the zoo. It took twenty minutes to get to the zoo, twenty minutes to get back, and we spent about an hour and a half at the zoo. It resulted in Puttachi's nap time being pushed a bit, but she saw everything that we wanted to show her and she enjoyed it thoroughly. Had it been in Bangalore, it would have been totally impossible to finish this whole programme in under three hours.

Then there are these times where you can take spot decisions and just leave. We had a dinner to attend on Thursday night at about eight. On Thursday evening, at 5 30, we thought, ok, we have a couple of hours ahead of us before the dinner, so what shall we do today? My cousin K2 said, why not go to Chamundi Betta? And voila! We were dressed and out of the house by 6, we were on top of Chamundi Betta by 6 30. Since it was May 1st, and a holiday, we saw the magnificent sight of the lighted Mysore palace from atop Chamundi Betta, and after enjoying the breeze for a while, we were back at home by 7 30, just in time to reach the friend's home for dinner.

Contrast this with what would have happened in Bangalore. We would have had to leave at 5 30 for the dinner at 7 30. As for an impromptu visit to the hills (if any), it would have been laughable to say the least.

You might argue that Bangalore, being a larger city, has more places to go to, more ways to spend your time, more activities, etc., and that is true. But what about the effort needed to get to these places in the first place? In Mysore, the time and effort spent in getting to a place could have been utilized in some other way.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ragi Mudde

On a discussion on a post on her blog, I saw that Shyam thought that Ragi mudde had to be swallowed. I don't blame her, I used to think so too.

Ok, wait, wait.... what is Ragi mudde? If you were around when our H.D.Deve Gowda was the PM, you wouldn't ask me this question. He is the one who made Ragi Mudde so famous.

(Joke doing the rounds at that time -
Q. Aaj Pradhan Mantri kis mudde par baat karenge?
A. Ragi mudde par. )

Anyway, let me tell you what Ragi Mudde (pronouced Moo-they) is. Ragi is Finger Millet , and Mudde means Lump in Kannada, so essentially, Ragi Mudde means Ragi Balls.

Traditionally, it has been the staple diet of the working class in Karnataka (at least). My mother tells me that when she was young, it was considered below your dignity if you admitted to making Ragi Mudde at home. Rice was the food of the upper class of society.

But now, with nutrition taking a front seat, Ragi has got its due. It is back in fashion. I think some of the thanks should go to Deve Gowda too.
I have seen more roadside restaurants serve Ragi mudde, than they did before.

Ragi Mudde is made by adding ragi flour to hot water, and stirring continuously such that no lumps are formed. The resulting thick matter is shaped into spheres, and served with a side dish.

Ragi also forms the first food of many babies in Karnataka. Ragi is sprouted, dried, ground, and then sieved with a very fine cloth. It is then made into a kind of porridge, adding the flour to boiling water or milk, and stirring continuously until cooked. Ragi malt is also made similarly. It makes a delicious drink when mixed with milk.

Another common Ragi food we ate as kids was Ragi Aralahittu/Hurihittu. Whole ragi is roasted on a hot surface, such that the grains pop, like popcorn, and these popped grains are ground and it is simply mixed with hot or cold milk and consumed. It was a typical evening snack for us, after we got back from school. I haven't had it in years and years, though.

Ragi Rotti is another tasty dish, a cousin of the more popular Akki Rotti(Made with rice flour). Ragi floor is mixed with water, and salt, spices and vegetables are added. The resulting batter is pressed into a roti, and roasted on a tava. Dosas also are made out of Ragi, with other ingredients. Ragi is also finding its way into fried snacks and bakery items, as in Ragi chakli, Ragi Biscuits, in the attempt to cash in on the health trend.

In fact, I myself add a handful of ragi flour to the wheat flour when making Chapatis. The chapatis turn out slightly crisper/harder, but the taste and health benefits make up for that.

Back to ragi mudde. When I was a child, my mom probably told me that ragi was the prefered food of the working class because it was nutritious, filling, blah, blah, and it could be consumed very quickly as it could be swallowed, and did not need chewing. Now I took this very seriously, and my flea-sized brain thought that ragi should NOT be chewed.

I would make each morsel as small as possible, put it far behind on my tongue like I was swallowing a pill, and then I would summon as much saliva as possible to lubricate the back of my throat, and swallow painfully, with some of the ragi sticking in my throat. I plain hated it, and declared war on it.

After many efforts to make me eat ragi, my mom decided to get to the bottom of the issue.

Mom: Why don't you like Ragi Mudde, Shruthi?
Me: I hate swallowing it!
Mom: Who asked you to swallow it?
Me: You did!
Mom: Shruthi, I said it COULD be swallowed, not SHOULD be swallowed!
Me: Then can I chew it?
Mom: Ayyo, please do!

Since then, I have been chewing ragi mudde and I really like it. Especially when eaten with Gojju (A vegetable dish made with tamarind and jaggery). Actually, it tastes pretty good with almost everything - huLi, saru, curds.

But there is a way to eat it.

Place the steaming Ragi mudde on your plate.
Make a hole on top, with your finger. Quickly, else your finger will burn!
Put a dollop of ghee into the hole.
Watch the ghee melt from the heat of the mudde.
Now, mix the ragi and ghee quickly.
Eat with side dish.
Enjoy.

And try not to think of Deve Gowda while you are at it.
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