Sunday, December 21, 2008


A Lady Who Thinks She Is Thirty
- Ogden Nash

Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror.

Miranda in Miranda's sight
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.

Shining like the morning star,
Like the twilight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda is a-pining.

Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.

Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?

Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then--
How old is Spring, Miranda?

Lovely poem, isn't it? No prizes for guessing why I put that up here, today.

My friend sent it to me around the time she turned thirty, and I saved it carefully, to help lift my spirits (or so I thought) when I turned thirty. But today, I find that I don't need it at all. My spirits are quite high. The Thirty number is actually exciting, not scary. Is wisdom finally making an appearance with age? Have I at last realized that age is just a number? :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A visit to the beauty parlour

Left to myself, I am not much of a beauty parlour person, going only for the necessary haircuts. I indulge in their other services only when:

1) There is a major event in the family, and going to the parlour before that is the done thing.
2) When I have too much time to spare - I don't remember the last time when this was the case.
3) When I have too much money to spare - This was just when I started earning.

A visit to a parlour is hardly something to look forward to. You need guts, nerves of steel, and you have to leave your sense of pain at home.

Facial: The best way that parlours get to fleece you. They offer you a range of facials with fancy names containing the keywords "Shehnaz, Herbal, Fruit, Pearl, Gold, Bridal" and so on - the more exotic the name, the more ludicrous the price.

S~ and I have various arguments on facials, and cosmetics in general. Sample this.
Me: I am going to get a facial done today along with my haircut.
S~: Hmph. Chemicals on your face. It will burn your skin. Sodium monoethyl Krypto laureate, ethanococcal stearate... (rattles off some more alarming-sounding names). Not good, avoid it.
Me: Easy for you to say... blessed with flawless skin...
S~: Eat healthy, drink lots of water, keep your face clean and exercise a bit each day, and then you will see who has the flawless skin.
Me: I hope Puttachi has inherited your skin.
S~: @#$%&

Never ending argument. Well, I get a facial done like, once a year, so my argument is that it will hardly affect me.

Anyway, this is what a facial entails:
1) A variety of sweet-smelling lotions are applied successively on your face, and expert hands massage and knead your face like dough. Sometimes the massage includes the neck and the back - and the whole thing is really soothing.
2) Your face is thrust into a steam-pot, where seemingly superheated steam burns your skin down - I think that what a facial does is just rips off your outer skin, so that the young inner layer shows through. Ouch.
3) Blackheads are removed by poking a needle into your skin repeatedly. This terrifies me. God knows whether they sterilize those needles. I always ask to skip this part.
4) A vibrating massager is run around your face which makes it seem like a roadroller is dancing the tango on your face.
5) A soothing, cool face pack is applied on to your face, your eyes covered with cotton, and you are left to lie down and dream, or think up this blog post. This is the part where you start shivering with cold, and you remember that your aunt visited a certain parlour just because teh beautician thought to cover you with a blanket when she left you lying with a face pack.
6) The pack is wiped off, and ice is rubbed over your face.
7) Some more stuff is applied on to your face, and you are released.

Waxing: The idea must have been picked up from a medieval torture technique. What else do you call pouring burning wax over your skin and ripping off the hair from the roots? The less said about it, the better.

Pedicure: My personal favourite. You get to soak your feet in hot water, and then the beautician cleans your feet, gives them a nice foot rub, and then you get to put your feet in a nice foot massage vibrating thingy, and at the end of it all, your feet actually come out looking soft and beautiful. After every pedicure, for a few days I behave like someone told me "Aapke pair bahut khubsurat hai, inhe zameen pe mat utaariyega." (Your feet are beautiful, don't place them on the ground - a classic dialogue from the movie Pakeezah)

There are other minor thingies like shaping your eyebrows, and other major things like bleaching and hair colouring and such areas where I have never ventured into.

Anyway, after a couple of hours at the parlour, and after coughing up an insane amount of money, I go home, hoping to elicit some compliments from S~. I ring the doorbell.

He opens the door, takes a look at me, and asks, "What happened? Was the parlour closed?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bannerghatta National Park

When I was in Mumbai, a colleague of mine once told me that she had lived her entire life in Mumbai, but hadn't been to Juhu beach. I fell off my rotating chair in shock. But that is how it is usually, isn't it? For example, I have been to Bannerghatta National Park on the outskirts of Bangalore only twice in my life, and I don't even remember the last time I have been there, whereas tourists and visitors make a beeline to the place.

Anyway, I amended that this weekend. S~'s cousin has adopted a Russel's viper and a Python at Bannerghatta, and so he has been given a pass. He asked us if we would like to join him, his wife, and his five-year-old son Ani on Sunday to go to Bannerghatta, and we jumped at the offer. Considering how much Puttachi likes animals, it is a shame that we haven't taken her to any animal place after her Mysore zoo visit. So this was an opportunity we couldn't miss.

We reached at about 9 am, and debated a bit about taking the safari ride, wondering if Puttachi would have the patience to sit in an enclosed place for more than an hour. But Ani was insistent, and so we went. The Safari turned out to be just wonderful. We saw Bison, Spotted Deer, Nilgai, Bears (Teddy! Teddy!), Elephants, Lions and Tigers. Yes you heard me right. And a couple of white tigers with an ordinary tiger were playing with each other and jumping about, actually enacting a Discovery Channel scene right outside the barred window of our bus. Magnificent sight, magnificent animals. Puttachi went crazy with excitement.

After the Safari, we went around the zoo. Puttachi saw birds, snakes, rabbits, deer, zebras, monkeys, Indian Giant Squirrels (never seen them before - they are huge!), elephants, turtles, crocodiles, alligators, and coriander-eating hippopotamuses. Oh and have you ever seen a baby hippo? Adorable!

It was lunch-time by the time we finished. The Park by itself doesn't have any eateries inside it, but people usually bring their own food and eat it inside the park. There are a few stalls outside the park which sell snacks, but I don't think you get a filling lunch there. So we ate at the restaurant at the Jungle Lodges and Resorts, attached to Bannerghatta. The food itself was not too good, but we were too hungry to care. The resort, though, is very good. Built at a slight elevation, it is spacious, bright and airy. Very refreshing. Staying there for a night would be an attractive option, I think.

After lunch, we went to the newly built Butterfly Park, the first in India, I hear. The Park enclosure itself is very green, well-maintained, with well-laid paths. The actual conservatory is a domed structure. Entering it is like entering one of these "paradise" scenes in movies. A lush tropical environment, with a stream and a waterfall, with the rich gurgling sound of falling water providing a perfect backdrop. Lots of flowers, and of course, scores of butterflies flitting about all around you. If you stand still, they actually come and alight on you. There are boards with butterfly information amidst the plants, and so you can actually see a butterfly and read about it at once. It is lovely. Puttachi had a fabulous time. Since we had been there in the comparatively hot afternoon, the butterflies were at their most active, I think. Exit the conservatory and you enter a museum of sorts, with loads of information about butterflies, and different kinds of butterflies on display. There is also a room with an audio-visual presentation of about 20 minutes. Quite informative, if you have the time and the inclination, and if you don't have a tiny human tugging at you constantly.

It was a day well-spent. The entire Bannerghatta Park is far more well-maintained than I had imagined. Oh, and I have to mention this. At the entrance of the Park, there is a lady sitting with a number of paper bags. She checks your bags, takes out all the plastic bags and puts the contents into paper bags and hands them back to you. And this includes Lays and Kurkure and Haldiram Packets and the like. She cuts them up with a pair of scissors, empties the chips into the paper bags and gives them to you. I liked that. Inside, we learned that a deer had died a while ago due to plastic consumption, and hence the extreme precautions.

So that was it. I would recommend a visit. But do go early to avoid the rush. Have fun!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The new park, Puttachi and me.

The apartment we have recently moved into is located just opposite a terrific park, a very old one, and a very large one at that. It is full of mighty old trees, broad walking paths, huge grounds, and old vintage buildings. [No, it is neither Lalbagh nor Cubbon Park]

They do have a kids' area, but the play instruments are old and not very well-maintained. They will do, though. I guess I am just comparing it to the play area in the previous park I used to take Puttachi, which was so good that people travelled 5-6 kilometers to bring their kids to that park.

But the charm of this park lies in its trees and its walkways, its people and its birds. In its "ancientness". In its magnificence.

Parktime with Puttachi previously consisted of just taking her to the park, letting her play on the rides, and coaxing a small walk out of her, and then bringing her back. But in this park, it is different. It is as much as a pleasure for me as it is for her.

The moment we get inside the park, she spots the swing and the slides and we do the mandatory exercise of her playing on it. But very soon, she gets waylaid by a stone, a dog, a bird, and she is off, running along the walkways. She finds something interesting at each corner, and there is so much to explore. I just let her be, and follow her around, making sure not to hover about her, but being close enough to ensure that she is safe. It is so lovely to watch her. She picks up stones, leaves, shows them to me with delight. She spots a dog and runs after it. She finds a particularly huge tree and looks up at it wonderingly. She talks to everybody who talks to her, and even calls out to people who walk by without talking to her.

5 30 pm seems like 7 00 pm because of the thick canopy of trees in the park, and it gets cold very soon because of the number of trees. Though it is warm when we set out, I make sure to have put Puttachi in warm clothes, or else I carry along something extra.

When dusk approaches, the chirping of the birds becomes deafening. Birds fly all over the place from one tree to another, and Puttachi looks up excitedly at the sky full of birds. She jumps about with pleasure, follows the flight of the birds across the sky until she almost loses balance.

For me, just taking a walk in this beautiful park gives me a feeling of joy, of peace, of tranquility. Watching Puttachi enjoy herself is a bonus. Running along the walkways like the wind, pointing out things to me, listening to my explanation of this and that, collecting pebbles and putting them into her pocket to go home and show her dad - every little thing that pleases her amplifies itself and pleases me that much more.

When S~ joins us, I let down my guard, depending on S~ to look after Puttachi. I walk about at my own pace, enjoying the park in my way. Anyway you see it, the park is a pleasure.

The best part is that by the time Puttachi gets back, she is hungry enough to wolf down her food, and tired enough to go to bed without a fuss. And as for me? I don't know if it is the oxygen, or it is the green of the trees, or it is just the park itself, but I am thoroughtly rejuvenated.

Before we moved in here, I used to pass by this park and look at these apartments and think how lovely it must be to stay so close to it. I cannot believe that I am actually living a dream.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Wedding Week

So my little sis Peevee got married last week. In the days preceding the wedding, I would look at her and get sepia-tinted flashbacks of this energetic, impatient, wide-eyed child, and then a diffident, self-conscious teenager, and then I would look at this smart, confident young woman and shake my head and think, "Is this the same person? And she's getting married!!"


I had heard a lot about Peevee's husband D from Peevee herself, from my parents who met him when they had been to the US for Peevee's graduation, and from S~ who had met D and Peevee when in the US last month on an official visit. I had interacted with D on mail and phone too. So it just didn't feel like I was meeting him for the first time a day before the wedding. We spent a fair amount of time together after the wedding too, and I got to know my new brother in law a bit. But they are here on a flying visit, and they have already left Bangalore for Mumbai, and so further acquaintance must wait.


My aunt Anu had gone back to the UK from India just this August, and so her coming down to India again for the wedding was a big question mark for a while. She thendecided that she wouldn't want to miss it, and made it after all. But her visit was kept a secret from Peevee. Only a very few of us knew about it and we went through great pains to ensure that it doesn't get to Peevee in any way. It was the most elaborate conspiracy ever carried out in the family. And all the tension and the efforts were rewarded. You should have seen the look on Peevee's face when she saw Anu!! We have it captured on camera, and so if you want to see it, just drop me a mail. :D


I had shown Puttachi Peevee's snaps much before Peevee landed, and so Puttachi had no problem recognizing her Pupushi (Peevee Mausi). She loved the stuffed giraffe that her Pupushi got for her too, and she was just warming up to Peevee, when Peevee went and got Mehndi done on her hands. After that, in spite of Peevee's desperate efforts, Puttachi refused to go to her. Poor Peevee. Next time, Peevee. I'll ensure that she follows you around like a shadow!


It was an Arya Samaj wedding. I had never witnessed one before. It was very interesting, with every mantra and every ritual being explained in detail. The general opinion in the married members of the gathering was that if they had known what those mantras and rituals meant when they were getting married, they wouldn't have got married at all!


Puttachi, who is in her element in large gatherings of people, specially if it is an admiring gathering, decided to go on strike on the day of the wedding. Though I intended to wake her up at the last possible moment that morning, she awoke at dawn, disturbed by the flurry of activity. She remained sleepy and cranky for the rest of the day, and spent half the morning sleeping in my mom-in-law's arms. The more the guests spoke to her, the louder she cried (which is unusual in her case), and she came back to her normal self after the majority of the guests had left!


That's that. Back to work!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Be back

Hi! I am still here. I had a post that I wanted to put up last week, but just then I heard about Mumbai, and I couldn't bear to talk about normal, everyday happenings, when such terrible things were going on there. But I couldn't even talk about Mumbai, as I couldn't find the right words. I still can't find them.

On the personal front, there is a whole lot of activity going on. My sis Peevee is getting married this week. So I will see you on the other side of this week. Until then, ta.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eighteen months.....

... And Puttachi technically leaves babyhood behind.

There is only one major update to give you all for this month. She is a chatterbox. She talks non-stop all the time - except when she is sleeping (Thank heavens for small mercies).

Put on a piece of music, and she has to dance compulsively, and she has to make everybody around dance too. Once she gets into the mood, she sits on the floor, puts taala and sings sa-ri-ga-ma (her version of it) and doesn't allow anybody else to sit in peace either. All of us have to beat the taala out (not on our laps, no, but on our other palm - just like she has seen my mom do to teach her students), and sing with her, as long as the mood grips her. If she finds something interesting in a book, she has to make sure that everybody has seen it at least fifty times.

She doesn't let S~ and I get a word across to each other. She has to be the one to talk, we are the listeners, and nothing more. We have often asked her to please keep quiet and sit in one place, reminding me of that definition of parents - "Parents are those people that teach their child to walk and to talk and then ask them to sit down and shut up." There isn't anything truer.

She speaks in complete sentences. Her first complete sentence was "Puttachi Dothe betha" (Puttachi wants dosa - of course, she said her version of her real name, not Puttachi). And after that, she has been speaking quite easily in full sentences.

She explains things when we don't understand what she is saying, by using actions and other related words. I can't stop saying this - everyday is a surprise.

A couple of days ago, S~ put three blocks in front of her and asked her, "Count them - how many blocks are there?" She pointed to each and said, "One-thoo-thee". Shocked, I took away one block, and asked her to count how many were there now. "One-thoo", she said, confidently. We are still regaining consciousness. And conducting more experiments to ascertain that it was not a fluke.

She loves the alphabets - whenever she finds big letters anywhere, she insists that I read them out to her. I have no idea what she understands, though. S~ got her a lovely singing and speaking alphabet-fridge magnet set, which she loves.

Each time I start a Puttachi update, it runs into pages, so I am really holding myself back now.

Oh and yes, one update of my own - we moved into a beautiful new place - a very good location too. Since I don't know the first thing abut managing an entire home all by myself (along with a hyperactive chatterbox), I am still running around in circles, and am not able to set aside a sizeable chunk of time for working/mailing/blogging. Yet. So if you are wondering why the silence on the blog/mail/phone, now you know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reading and books - A tag

How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
I have no idea. Perhaps about three years old, or maybe four. Strangely, I remember my first English lesson in UKG - "Here is Raja. Here is Rani. Raja has a ball. Rani has a cat." Either my parents or my teachers must have taught me how to read. But the habit of reading? That's entirely different and was inculcated in me by my parents.

Did you own any books as a child? If so, what's the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
I owned many books, so I cannot think back and pinpoint the first book I owned. Perhaps it was a cheery red big board book that had the Alphabets, Numbers and a few nursery rhymes. Or it could have been that picture book, with stories in pictures - how I loved it, and how many hours I have spent with my mom going through that book! It was one among the many Russian publication books that I had. There were many such Russian publication books back then - excellent quality at unbelievable prices.

What's the first book that you bought with your own money?
When you say "own" money, I guess it is the book I bought with a gift voucher that I received as a prize at school. It was a Gangaram's gift voucher, and we had been to their store on MG Road to pick up a book. I wanted to buy Famous Five, but those weren't books that my parents encouraged us to BUY. Borrow and read, sure, but they are not worth buying - they felt, and I always resented it. My mother had spotted the complete collection of Mark Twain, and was trying to persuade me to buy that, but I was least interested in it. Finally we reached an agreement - my parents would buy me the Famous Fives if I agreed to buy Mark Twain with the gift voucher. I didn't touch the Mark Twain for more than two years after that, after which my curiosity got the better of me, and I tried it out, and devoured everything at once. I love it. Even now, all these years later, I have no idea where those two Famous Fives have gone, but the Mark Twain is a treasured book! [Hmph! Parents are almost always right, aren't they?]

If I consider the first book I bought with my own salary, then it must be a book I bought at Mumbai, because that is where I started working. But I didn't need to buy books there because I was a member of a circulating library close to where I lived. So did I buy anything at all? I guess I did buy Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code - so that must be it.

Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I was a crazed re-reader. I would have entire books by heart. I don't remember any single book that I re-read most often - I re-read all the books I read. I don't re-read much now. I am painfully aware of the fact that there are too many books to read and too few years to do that in.. (and more books are always being written!) .. so I re-read very rarely. [Doesn't this paragraph read like a tongue-twister?]

What's the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
What is an adult book, really? I read loads of classics that definitely were not classified as "children's books". But I guess I know what you mean, so I think the first adult book that I read was, coincidentally, the same as Shyam, from whose blog I picked this tag. The Final Diagnosis by Arthur Hailey. I don't know, I must have been around 16 at that time. I was fascinated. It introduced to me an entirely different world. Once the bug of this genre bit me, I was totally taken. I have never stopped since!

Are there children's books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
I guess that should be To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kids' Food Recipes!

Here are a few recipes suitable for children - healthy and tasty, that work or have worked with Puttachi.

Oatmeal: Takes just two minutes to make - and you have a healthy, wholesome, tasty meal!
What you need:
A handful of Quaker oats

How I make it:
1) Put the oats into a microwaveable bowl
2) Pour enough milk on it to just cover the oats.
3) Microwave for 2 minutes.
4) Take out the bowl, add milk to dilute the oatmeal, which would have become very thick. Adding cold milk brings down the temperature, ensuring that you can feed it to your child immediately.
5) Add sugar or honey or jaggery to taste.

Puttachi loves oatmeal. It tastes far better when sweetened with jaggery.

Wheat Dosa:
A handful of whole wheat flour
Optional: A tablespoon of rice flour for crispness, chilli powder, jeera, onions, other finely chopped vegetables - whatever, depending on your child's age and taste.

1) Add the flour into a bowl.
2) Add milk and stir so that no lumps are formed. Add enough milk to bring it to a dosa batter consistency.
3) Add salt to taste, and other ingredients of your choice, and mix well.
4) Spread it out like a dosa on a tava. A suggestion - make many tiny 2 inch circumference diameter dosas instead of one big one. Somehow, it tastes better!
5) Use ghee instead of oil for the dosa. Great flavour!
6) Serve as it is, or with anything - sugar, shrikhand, honey, ketchup, chutney, etc.

Btw, this is a great instant snack for adults too. Very tasty.

A kind of Soup:
1 carrot
1 tomato
1 onion
A handful of peas
7-8 string beans
A piece of beetroot/chow chow/any other vegetable lying around in your refrigerator
1 clove of garlic
1 potato OR two slices of whole wheat bread
3-4 1 inch cubes of paneer
A piece of cheese or a dollop of cheese spread
Salt to taste.

1) Cook all the vegetables together with salt.
2) Blend it all in a mixer with the paneer, bread (if you are using potato, cook it along with the other veggies) and milk.
3)Add a dollop of cheese spread or a cube of cheese, mix well and serve hot.

Puttachi just gobbles this up - it is an entire meal of its own - easy to make, great taste, healthy and filling.

Khichdi 1:
1:1 rice and split greengram (hesaru bELe). The split greengram has to be dry roasted until light brown before use.
Jeerige (cumin seeds)
Vegetables - carrot, beans, peas, chow chow, etc., chopped
1 onion
Cloves of garlic - according to taste.

1) Heat ghee in a small cooker, and add the jeera to it.
2) Add chopped garlic and chopped onion, fry in ghee until fragrant.
3) Add all chopped vegetables, and the 1:1 rice-dal mixture, and cook it all together until done.

Khichdi 2 (Huggi).
1:1 rice - split greengram (roasted)
A few pepper corns (menasu)
A few cloves (lavanga)
A piece of cinnamon (dalchini)

1) Heat ghee, fry lightly pepper, cloves and cinnamon.
2) Add rice and dal and cook until done.
3) Be sure to remove the pepper, cloves and cinnamon before serving to the child.

Both the above khichdis, if cooked such that it is sticky, can be eaten by the child herself. If it is liquidy, she will need a spoon, or you might have to feed her.

Mini snacks:

Boiled potatoes mixed with cheese
Boiled peas on a plate
Pomegranate seeds

The peas and pomegranates are great for keeping the child occupied for a while :D

I will put up more kids' recipes as I discover them. I would also welcome such recipes from you! :)

All the best!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wisdom from a still-learning mom to new moms!

I haven't ever heard a mother say that her child eats her food well. Either it is because a mother is never really satisfied with how much her child eats, or it is because she is afraid to say aloud that her child eats well, for fear of a jinx.

I fretted a lot in the initial months, after Puttachi's solid feeds increased and milk feeds decreased. I always felt that she never ate enough, and I even had a post asking you all for help.

But with time came a certain amount of wisdom - that she probably just has had enough. I have never force fed her, but I used to persist. I would try to distract her, or make the food interesting by adding something she likes to it - I would try everything possible to get a couple of more spoons of food into her mouth. I now realize that it is a waste of time, energy and effort. Both Puttachi and I are happier if I just let go after a couple of tries when she has announced that she has had enough.

I also have seen that if she eats nothing at breakfast, she tends to eat a hearty lunch, or if she nibbles at her lunch, she has a huge dinner. Or if she starves today, she gorges tomorrow. So ultimately, she does make up for it. And with great difficulty, I have learnt not to worry and to trust her instincts.

There are some days of course, when she doesn't eat well for three days at a stretch, and just when I start worrying, I see a new tooth sprouting, and then realize why all the fuss - toothbirth pains!

Every child is different, and all we need to do is identify and recognize our child's special characteristics. Puttachi, for example, cannot eat too much at one go. I discovered this very early on with a hint from my doc. So I am forced to split her meals into two or three parts. For example, she eats her rice and dal and vegetables first, and then eats curds after an hour, and then a fruit half an hour after that.

How you feed the child and in what form - this also changes very frequently. I used to make a rice-dal-veg concoction for her initially, which she would eat without a fuss. Later, trying to bring her to mainstream family food, I started giving her a bit of our food, which was fine until it was new and interesting, after which she wouldn't have it any more. Then I discovered that she likes plain dal and plain vegetables and plain rice, but not all together. So I started giving her dal, with salt and ghee and some garnishing, which she would polish off. Immediately after that I put a pile of vegetables on her plate which she would eat all by herself, and I would follow it with little balls of rice, which she would eat with gusto. This worked for a long time - but seems to be undergoing some change now. Fine, I'll just watch her for a while and the think up something else. Psst... parenting fosters creativity, don't you think?

Another thing. There was a time when she would be more interesting in playing, than eating. Distracting her with stories and songs and books did not help. My aunt told me that she had no problem with her son, she would just keep a book open in front of him and he would gobble down the food. I wondered why Puttachi didn't do that. If I put a book in front of her, she would totally ditch the food and start reading the book.

But from the past ten days, this strategy is working. I put a book in her hands, and feed her - and she just eats up the whole thing. How long this will last, I don't know.

And some more tips. If the child asks to eat on her own, let her. Half of the food will fall on the floor, but if you don't mind cleaning up the mess, this is good for both you and her. Whatever you say, some food does go in. She is happy, you are happy. But of course there is a strategy there too. To ensure that some food does go into her, I tell Puttachi in the beginning that the food is veryyyy hot, and so I am huffing and puffing on it to cool it down and am feeding it to her, and that she can eat it herself when the food cools down. It works. She eats up half the food without any fuss, and just after her tummy is a little full, she wants to eat by herself. After that, I let her. She does tend to eat up the food herself. With a spoon, fingers, whatever.

Another strategy - starve them. Space out breakfast and lunch, such that your child has to come to you asking for food! She will eat better and faster too.

Puttachi hates milk. I don't understand that. [My sister and I were milk lovers - we drank milk at least four times a day - my sis, in fact, would ask my mom, "Amma, I am thirsty, give me milk." Our neighbours used to tease my mom, telling her that she needed to rear cows.] Anyway, so I try to make up by giving her other milk products, like curds, paneer and cheese, and put milk into any food that can possibly take milk!

Next post: Some recipes that have worked well for Puttachi.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Naane. I'll do it myself. This is the word that Puttachi uses most often nowadays, and this defines her at this age.

I have been trying to write updates for a long time now. The problem with that is that I write down a bit, and then come back to it two days later, and find that it holds good no longer! Everything in this stage passes so fast - what she does today, she doesn't do tomorrow!

There has been a sudden change in her. Her speech has become clearer, she tries to sing songs, her vocabulary is increasing in leaps and bounds - and she has now no longer just reacts. She acts too. She initiates conversations, expresses her opinions without being asked for them, she plays pretend-games, has become very assertive and demanding, and has started to show the beginnings of the Terrible Twos.

And she wants to do everything - Naane. Eating, drinking, wearing clothes, climbing steps, bathing, washing hands, climbing up and sliding down the slide, playing the merry-go-round, carrying things, applying oil/cream/lotion on herself, opening the pages of a book - you name it, she wants to do it herself.

She now recognizes almost all animals and a few birds, and even says their names out, not always clearly. Her retention, object recognition and association skills are improving remarkably.

She has even got tired of the much-loved play instruments in the park. She tries new things. She is bored of climbing the small slide from the regular rung ladder, so she tries to climb it from the complicated ladder without the handrails at the side, or from the incline itself. She even tried to climb the largest slide, but I stopped her just in time. She now isn't content to just play on the merry-go-round - she wants to push it! She made her friend sit on it, and she set about trying to push it! I just sat back, looking on indulgently, not expecting her to have the strength to push that huge iron thing - but to my shock, she actually did. She also wants to climb monkey ladders, and is bored of the once-loved swing. She still loves playing with sand, though. But what she plays with it has changed. She now wants to throw sand around, and see what will happen if she puts it in the hair of the child playing next to her. Phew!

One thing - she needs more children of her age to play with. More often than not, she treats other children like she does her toys. She pokes their eyes, pulls their hair - so until I find friends for her to play with regularly, I have started telling her not to mishandle her teddy bears and dolls - that they will get hurt. Hopefully it will translate to treating other children gently too.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan Schedule - 2008

Continuing with the tradition, here is this year's schedule of Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan concerts. This time, the schedule was sent to my father, on request, by AIR itself! (They seem to have finally become internet savvy :)

I do not have enough time to format this info - but here is the key:

KM - Karnatic Music
HM - Hindustani Music
The number at the end is the duration in minutes.

Happy listening!

25.10.08 (Sat) 9.30 P.M. KM Nagaswaram Chinnamanur A Vijaykartikeyan 60
25.10.08 (Sat) 10.30 P.M. KM Mridangam Solo V. Kamalakara Rao 30
26.10.08 (Sun) 10.00 A.M. HM Guitar Pt. Anup Das Gupta 60
26.10.08 (Sun) 11.00 A.M. KM Vocal Dwaram V J Lakshmi 60
27.10.08 (Mon) 10.00 P.M. HM Santoor Pt. Ulhas Bapat 60
28.10.08 (Tue) 10.00 P.M. KM Vocal Koviladi R Madhwa Prasad 60
29.10.08 (Wed) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Mashkoor Ali Khan 60
30.10.08 (Thurs) 10.00 P.M. HM Sitar Syed Ahmed Alvi 60
31.10.08 (Fri) 10.00 P.M. KM Flute A Chandan Kumar 60
1.11.08 ( Sat) 9.30 P.M. HM Vocal Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty 90
2.11.08 (Sun) 10.00 A.M. HM Sitar Sahitya Kumar Nahar 60
2.11.08 (Sun) 11.00 A.M. HM Vocal Jayasri Patnekar 60
2.11.08 (Sun) 9.30 P.M. KM Violin Duet R Ganesh & R Kumaresh 90
3.11.08 (Mon) 10.00 P.M. HM Dhrupad Dhamar Brij Bhushan Goswami 60
4.11.08 (Tue) 10.00 P.M. HM Clarionet Gopal Das 60
5.11.08 (Wed) 10.00 P.M. KM Veena R Madhuri Devi 60
6.11.08 (Thurs) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Raka Mukherjee 60
7.11.08 (Fri) 10.00 P.M. HM Sarod Pt. Sunil Mukherjee 60
8.11.08 (Sat) 9.30 P.M. KM Vocal Duet Lalita & Haripriya 90
9.11.08 (Sun) 10.00 A.M. HM Sitar Kushal Das 60
9.11.08 (Sun) 11.00 A.M. HM Vocal Ganapati Bhatt 60
9.11.08 (Sun) 9.30 P.M. HM Thumri/Dadra Vid. Savita Devi 60
9.11.08 (Sun) 10.30 P.M. HM Pakhawaj Solo Prithvi Raj Kumar 30
10.11.08 (Mon) 10.00 P.M. KM Vocal G Baby 60
11.11.08 (Tue) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Ajay Pohankar 60
12.11.08 (Wed) 10.00 P.M. HM Sarangi Liaqat Ali Khan 60
13.11.08 (Thurs) 10.00 P.M. KM Mandolin Suresh Kumar 60
14.11.08 (Fri) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Narayan Bodos 60
15.11.08 (Sat) 9.30 P.M. HM Sitar Purbayan Chattopadhyay 90
16.11.08 (Sun) 10.00 A.M. HM Flute Sunil Kant Gupta 60
16.11.08 (Sun) 11.00 A.M. HM Vocal Vid. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande 60
16.11.08 (Sun) 9.30 P.M. KM Vocal S Sowmya 60
16.11.08 (Sun) 10.30 P.M. KM Tavil Solo Tanjore T R Govindarajan 30
17.11.08 (Mon) 10.00 P.M. HM Violin Asgar Hussain 60
18.11.08 (Tue) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Manjari Alegaonkar 60
19.11.08 (Wed) 10.00 P.M. KM Vichitra Veena Vijay Venkateshwar 60
20.11.08 (Thurs) 10.00 P.M. HM Shehnai Pramod Prabhashankar Gaikwad 60
21.11.08 (Fri) 10.00 P.M. KM Vocal M Raghvendra 60
22.11.08 (Sat) 9.30 P.M. HM Sitar Vidushi Manju Mehta 90
23.11.08 (Sun) 9.30 P.M. HM Vocal Pashupatinath Mishra 60
23.11.08 (Sun) 10.30 P.M. HM Tabla Solo Ustad Zafar Mohd 30
24.11.08 (Mon) 10.00 P.M. KM Vocal Nedumkulam Vasudevan 60
25.11.08 (Tue) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Uma Garg 60
26.11.08 (Wed) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Raja Kale 60
27.11.08 (Thurs) 10.00 P.M. KM Veena M R Shashikanth 60
28.11.08 (Fri) 10.00 P.M HM Vocal Sarathi Chaterjee 60
29.11.08 (Sat) 9.30 P.M. HM Rudra Veena Ustad Asad Ali Khan 90
30.11.08 (Sun) 9.30 P.M. HM Vocal Pt. Kaivalya Kumar Gurav 90
1.12.08 (Mon) 10.00 P.M. KM Violin Duet Lalgudi GJR Krishnan & Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi 60
2.12.08 (Tue) 10.00 P.M. HM Vocal Vid. Sumitra Guha 60
4.12.08 (Thurs) 10.00 P.M. KM Saxophone Kadiri Gopalanath 60
5.12.08 (Fri) 9.30 P.M. HM Vocal Pt. L.K. Pandit 90

Friday, October 31, 2008

Township Tales - Rajyotsava

Somewhere, sometime, I had started off our Township Tales - and for no reason at all, it came to a standstill. I remembered our township again because of the date - Nov 1st - the highlight of the year in our township was the Rajyotsava Celebration.

The planning and organization for the Rajyotsava Celebrations, which was held throughout the month of November, started much earlier. The "Township committee" drew up a careful calendar of events, and nominated a "Sports committee" and "Cultural programme Committee". The heads of the respective committees plunged into sincere and thorough arrangements.

Through November, there were games and competitions and other events. The sports events consisted of Carrom, Badminton, Table Tennis, Chess, Cricket, and so on, all of which we played in all possible versions - Singles, Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Team Events... you name it, we had it. Since the participants consisted not only of children, but also adults, all the events were held in the evenings after the adults got back from work, and they went on until late at night.

On ordinary days, we kids usually stopped playing and got back home by 7 30 pm, with only occasional forays after dinner to chat up with a friend (but those occasions were rare.) But during November, all deadlines and self-imposed rules disappeared. Our parents also became very lenient during this period, allowing us to do things that wouldn't otherwise have been tolerated.

For example, I would be eating dinner with the family, when someone would shout out from the Community Center, loud enough for everybody to hear......

"Shruuuuuuuuthiiiiiiiiiiii... your carrom match starts in five minutes!"

Me: *mouth stuffed with food* Can't you postpone it by fifteen minuuuuuutess?"

"Nooooooooo, it is a doubles maaaaaaatch, your partner is free only nooooow, if you don't come right away, the other team will receive a byeeeeeeeeee!!!"

Horrors! How could I allow that? I would ditch my food and dash out in a trice. And my mom would understandingly say nothing, and keep my plate aside for me to come back and eat later. Bliss.

And there was something exciting about playing a night match of Badminton on the lawn. With real floodlights. We felt so important!

There were other events like Memory Test, Singing, Fancy Dress, Quiz, Antakshari, painting, and other games like putting the ball in the bucket and seeing who could light the most candles with a single burning match... we participated in everything that could be participated in.

Whether we lost or whether we won, the whole experience was head-spinningly exciting!

Along with these events, the rehearsals for the main function were held through the month. Invariably, my mom was in charge of training the singers for the group songs, and the rehearsals took place in our home or in the house of others who were in the group.  These rehearsals were accompanied by hot tea and snacks made by whoever was hosting. There usually was a whole lot of giggling, and I have stories just from these rehearsals that I air out whenever I meet friends from the township, causing great mirth. I was also be in the group, and a couple of years, I played the keyboard accompaniment.

After all the rehearsals were concluded, the matches played, the competitions held, and the winners decided, it was time for the Grand Finale. The actual day of celebration. The Main Function. The Gathering.

This day, sometime towards the end of November - this day, I can tell you - was VERY exciting. Just writing about it is producing goosebumps in me.

It was usually held on a Saturday, which meant half-day at school. By the time we got back from school, the arrangements would have begun. Someone would have started arranging light brown folding metal chairs on the lawn, and a wooden stage would be getting ready. Red screens and curtains would be lying by the side, ready to be put up. We'd run home, have a quick lunch and get back to "oversee" the arrangements, and then go back home to have a nap because the programme would go on late into the night.

We'd be awakened from our naps by the setting up of the microphone and sound system, accompanied by feedback screeches and "Allo, allo, 1-2-3 testing.." We'd tremble, our excitement reaching a fever pitch.

Sharp at 4 30 pm, we'd turn out in new clothes (or costumes), and salivating mouths, to partake of snacks and tea, to a background of songs about the greatness of Kannada and Karnataka being blared from loudspeakers. After that, the programme began with a huge screech. Invariably some Sandalwood personality (one time it was Master Manjunath of Malgudi Days fame) or an Office Biggie would have been invited, and their arrival would be marked with a lot of buzzing and whispering.

The programme would then start with an invocation, followed by speeches, and then the cultural events, in which we'd also participate, presenting the songs that we'd rehearsed so long for. The fancy dress and prize distribution followed - and then dinner.

And if you thought that was all, no. This was followed by late night Housie - where we delighted in losing money and cursing those who always seemed to win lots of money (But they buy ten tickets - they will anyway win!)

I don't think I have enough words to tell you how exciting these times were for us - but we would revel in the memory of it for days afterwards, reliving each moment, breaking down every event for careful contemplation and ruthless remarks.

And after all the excitement died down and the routine of school swallowed us again, we would look forward to the next Rajyotsava.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What to do when you don't know where to start

What do you do when lots of things are happening, and you have so much to write about but don't know where to start? Take up tags.

The first one, by Emma.

My earliest memory: These.

Ten years ago: I was studying in the first year of engineering college (or had the second year begun?) - and I was troubled with life's great problems like not having completed writing the practical record, and wondering how I could eat an entire chapati and visit the toilet and get back in the ten minute break. I was making great friends, laughing at strange teachers, and, as I was to realize later, having a very good time. Was that ten years ago, really??

My first thought in the morning: It's cold - I hope Puttachi hasn't kicked off her blanket.

If you built a time capsule, what would it contain: Lots of food, lots of books, a laptop with internet connection - that is, if I have to go alone. If I can take somebody along, I'll add to this, Puttachi, her things, and something to sleep on.

This year
- has been great. Very different. Some of the sweetest times with a sweet little child. I have started working from home in a field that I always wanted to work in, but never had the courage to make the switch. Am making some major changes in my life - which I will talk about shortly. And there are some more happy moments yet to come. A unique year.

14 years from now: Why 14? Why not 5, or 10, or 20? Anyway, 14 years from now, I will be exactly as old as my beloved aunt - and I hope I will be as young, graceful and enthusiastic as her!

Now, for the second tag: By Sachin.

7 things I abhor.

There was a time when I abhorred a lot of things. So much so, that I had made an entire list

At this point of times, these are the things I abhor.

1) Reality shows on TV - especially dance shows for children. And especially those that eliminate kids dramatically and bring tears.
2) Saas-bahu shows on TV
3) Public urination
4) Parents who scold their tiny tots very rudely, and spank them unnecessarily - I hear things like "Saayisbidthini! (I will kill you)", "You are an utterly useless boy", and worse things - said with such rage and venom that it frightens me. I feel like gathering up the child in my arms and give him/her a reassuring hug.
5) Child murderers, child rapists, paedophiles, and the kind. Before I had a child, I would just shudder at news like this and leave it at that. Now, it chills me to the bone. And I cannot even imagine a punishment great enough for those criminals.
6) Terrorists
7) People who do not care about animals and the environment.

A very happy Deepavali to the rest of you!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Talking, understanding and deciding!

Did you know that it helps to actually sit down and talk to your child, actually explain things to her, regardless of how young she is?

A few weeks ago, at dawn, Puttachi awoke, perhaps to a bad dream, and started crying. I held her and tried to comfort her, but she continued whimpering. I would have held her for longer, but I had to visit the toilet urgently. I tried to pass her on to S~ and sneak away, but she caught on and bawled louder. So I looked into her eyes, and told her, "Puttachi, Amma needs to go to the toilet. I will be back in a minute. Until then, Papa will hold you. Alright?" Puttachi didn't answer. But she looked at me seriously. I then handed her over to S~, and left. No protest.

I was at my parents' place last weekend, and Puttachi followed my father around like his shadow. When my father had to leave for work in the morning, Puttachi watched him come out of the room, dressed to leave, and she grew uneasy. When he moved towards the door, she wailed and followed him, stamping her feet in protest. My father looked at me with a questioning "What shall we do?" look. "Why don't you explain to her where you are going and when you will be back?" I suggested. My father knelt, got down to her level, and said, "Puttachi, I have to go to work now. I will be back in the evening, and then we can play. Ok?" Puttachi listened with concentration, and then smiled, and waved, "Bye!" She then turned and sauntered in coolly, and went back to her toys.

It is working. Talking to her as if she can understand. And perhaps she does understand a little. Many of her could-have-been tantrums have been nipped in the bud just because I gave her a sincere, long-winded explanation on why she cannot have her way right now, and why she can later. I have no idea if she understands anything at all, but she does tend to listen to me after that.

On another note, one thing I have learnt is not to underestimate how much a child can understand. They catch on to keywords in your speech, and by the tone of your voice, they know exactly what you are saying. Naturally, S~ and I have started spelling words, speaking in Hindi (She seems to understand English too), so that she doesn't understand what we are saying.

One more thing - I realised that kids are never too young to want to take a decision of their own! Just about a week ago, someone was telling me about a two-year old who insisted on choosing the clothes she wanted to wear. "That early?" I was really surprised. The very next day, as I was trying to get Puttachi to wear her trousers to go out to the park, she made a huge fuss coz she wanted to wear her old pink pyjamas instead. Phew! It took lots of talking and some distractions to bring her around to wearing what I wanted her to wear. And I know I will not be on the winning side for much longer!

She also wants to make the call on what she will eat and when, and how. I thought I had a baby. What I have is a young, independent seventeen-month-old decision-maker.

Life never ceases to surprise you!

[Aside: Thanks a million to everybody who took the time and trouble to vote for me in the Bloggers' choice awards. The voting has closed, and the winner got 489 votes, and my count when I last saw it was around 27. :) But what really matters is that 26 of you (1 vote is mine :D) actually took that effort to sign up and vote for me - and that, for me, counts as a lot!]

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Suitable Book

... it is, to have in your library - and to read at least once, if not many times. (If not for the size of the book, I would have read it again right after I finished it.) Ok, and the book is.. of coure, A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.

This book has never been recommended to me. (It hasn't been dis-recommended either. It's just that I haven't heard any reviews about the book). I have just heard about it, and on an impulse, I picked it up a few months ago. And am I glad I did!

Because, never have I read a book that is so vast, teeming with characters, brimming with stories, involving so many people, so many events, and so much of everything. And in spite of being about 1400 pages long, there is never a boring moment. In fact, if not for my other commitments, I would have liked to sit down and read it at one go.

There are many striking and unique things about the book.

For one, it is like a banyan tree, as one of the characters in the book talks about his own book. It starts from one person, and then branches out to talk about his/her family, then branches out from the family to talk about their friends, acquaintances, their extended family, and so on.... until you have a vast canopy of people you seem to know.

In spite of there being hundreds of characters in the book, you don't get confused when a character suddenly appears out of context. This must be because every character is very well-etched, very memorable.

In spite of it being such a long story, with the characters going through many joys and tribulations, their essential character remains constant right from the beginning of the book up to the end. For example, How Mrs.Rupa Mehra is behaving at the wedding at the beginning of the book is exactly the way she is behaving at the wedding at the end of the book.

I had to go to Mysore for 3-4 weeks in between, and I thought that lugging along such a heavy book was impractical, and so I left it in Bangalore. One week into Mysore, and I was actually missing the characters! What might Maan be up to? What could Lata have decided? - I found myself thinking. The characters really get to you. Then there was this other time when I actually found myself thinking, hmmm.. "this happened in the fifties... I wonder if any of them are alive now." I had actually started believing it is a true story!

And along with attachment to the characters, come tears, of course. I found myself weeping quite a bit reading the book. I have noticed that tears come more easily when I read nowadays. Has it got something to do with being a mom? Or is it that I have started understanding people and situations better, and I empathize with them more? I don't know.

The book is liberally sprinkled with delightful alliterations, and excellent use of metaphors and other figures of speech that I can't even name. It makes the reading experience totally enjoyable.

There is generous use of sarcasm and irony - which lend a touch of humour throughout. All the follies and weaknesses of the characters are dealt with almost with love. It makes you laugh and love the characters in spite of everything.

It is not easy to get into the shoes of the other sex, and write accurately about their thought processes. But Vikram Seth has done just that.

His attention to details is quite mind-blowing.

And there are other small matters that matter. For example, Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor, who is a silent, shy lady, always in the shadow of her politician husband. Though she is such a major character, not once is her name mentioned. She is always Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor - perhaps an indication of the life she lives.

And then the most remarkable thing of all - Vikram Seth writes with amazing authority and familiarity about all and varied matters, like religion, caste, beliefs, law, politics, music, literature, shoemaking, sensibilities, social graces, psychology, lifestyle - everything. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of effort that has gone into writing this book!

And what is a book review without casting a few doubts? The social circles that Meenakshi and Arun Mehra interact with - was it really like that in those early fifties? Backless cholis? Dancing freely with the opposite sex? Affairs? And forget all that.... Lata and Malati interacting so free with the boys in their college? Really?

Anyway, I am sure I am missing a lot of things, but on the whole, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book. Sometimes, I read it standing up, bending down, with one eye on the stove, you know - things like that, just because I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I don't have to mention that I am really upset that the book is over. I now need to recuperate for a few days before I start the next book.

And in the wedding at the end of the book, Mrs. Rupa Mehra tells Varun Mehra that she will find a suitable girl for him. Mr. Vikram Seth, I for one, will not be averse to another "wrist-spraining, purse-straining" book of the same kind - A Suitable Girl.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Blogger's Choice Awards

My friend Vidya has been sweet enough to nominate my blog for the Blogger's Choice Award, in the category of the Best Parenting Blog.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

Now, people, I need your help. :) Please go to this site, and sign up here

Now go to this page, or just click on the badge above, and please vote for me!

Thank you!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wake me up when September ends...

Well, I have woken up. I wasn't exactly asleep in real life - in fact, I have been suffering from lack of sleep. Too many things have been happening, and I am trying to digest everything! More on them when the time comes. Many things have been happening on the work front, due to which the time I get to blog has gone down a lot.

Anyway, on to Puttachi matters. She turned sixteen months old about ten days ago.

If there is one thing she is, she is a perfectionist. I have always been the take-it-easy kind of person. As a result, I was hounded first by my mom and now by S~, and now it looks like I have to answer to my daughter. There is no escape. :(

If she takes things from one place, more often than not, she returns them to the same place. When she is eating, even if a tiny bit of food spills anywhere other than on her bib - on the high chair, on her leg, on her dress or on the floor, she insists that it be cleaned before she continues. If I want her to eat the rest of the food, I just have to clean it. I think I should be glad that she doesn't mind food falling on her bib. If she did, I would have needed a hundred bibs for each meal.

Then there was this time I was mixing her food, and she was dancing around me, impatient. "After this, let's add some ghee..." I said, and then realized that I hadn't kept the ghee ready. I looked back to see Puttachi go to the ghee, pick it up carefully in both hands and bring it to me. I added the ghee and kept it aside and continued mixing the food - and then I realized that Puttachi had closed the lid of the ghee container, and was taking it back carefully to its place! Phew!

Even in the middle of the night, she remains a perfectionist. She sometimes wakes up because of thirst, and I give her water from a steel container with a screw-on lid. As soon as she is done drinking the water, she points to the lid, and doesn't go back to sleep until I put the lid back on. And this when she is so sleepy that she cannot even keep her eyes open.

When we go out, if I take out something from her bag, like a handkerchief to wipe her nose, and if I delay putting it back into the bag, she starts dancing around impatiently until I put it back inside. Then there was this time when we were about to go to the park. I took the key, went to the door, and then placed the key on a chair, and bent down to slip her shoes on her feet. After I was done, I got up and took my bag. I had forgotten about the key. Little Miss Perfect goes directly to the key, picks it up and goes to the door, and holds out the key to me. What will I do without her? :)

She also likes being entrusted with work. She assumes a very busy air and a look of responsibility appears on her face, and she sets about the work with great seriousness.

She now speaks in little sentences, most of which can be understood only by me. Sometimes, she tries to tell me something with great passion, and I try my mightiest to understand - when I finally do, the poor little thing becomes so happy, that she laughes loud and claps her hands with delight.

When she learns a new skill, she knows that she is doing something momentous. Like today, she drank water from a steel tumbler all by herself without spilling a drop - and she was so excited that she wanted to go on drinking water!

She remains very friendly, and I don't know if all kids are like that, but from her behaviour with other children, especially in the park, I feel that she is a really kind and considerate child. I hope I am right!

She loves to sing and she loves to dance, and she wants to watch this a thousand times a day. She absolutely loves books (yay!) and sometimes, I have to literally drag her and lure her away from her books to go to the park. But once she gets to the park, it takes all I have to drag her back!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A visit to the Doc.

So it was time for another round of shots for Puttachi, and I called the doctor to fix an appointment. The receptionist said she would call me back. A couple of hours later, she called, and I answered. But there was some confusion at her end, with probably another call coming in at just that moment, and my call was left unattended for a while. But I didn't know all this yet. This was what happened from my point of view.

Phone Rings
Me: Hello?
A faint female voice: .....Dr.X's clinic.
Me: Yes?
She: What did you say the problem was?
Me: Problem? No problem. My daughter is due for some shots, that's all.
She: Oh, does she have any loose motions?
Me: What? Loose motions? No, no, nothing is wrong with her - she just needs to be vaccinated.
She: Oh, how long has she had fever?
Me: Fever? Are you not able to hear me? NO FEVER! VACCINATION! INOCULATION! MMR! VARICELLA!!
She: Have you given her anything for the fever?
Me: Ohhhh.... look, I'll call you back, okay?
She: I'll call you back. Please give me your number.
Me: But you just called me.... oh well, my number is so-and-so.
She: Ok, thank you, ma'am.
Just as I was about to hang up, the line crackled, and the same voice spoke in my ear, loud and clear.
She: Hello?
Me: Hello?
She: Sorry to keep you waiting, ma'am. Are you Puttachi's mother?
Enlightenment dawns on me, at last.
Me: Ahh!.. Heh heh.. (sheepish).. yes, yes..
She: Can you come at 5 30 today ma'am?
Me: Heh heh... heh heh.... heh heh... oh, yes, yes.
She: Thank you ma'am.
Me: Heh heh...
I collapse on the floor, laughing helplessly, delighting Puttachi who promptly collapses on top of me.

Next scene: Evening. We are on the way to the clinic. Puttachi, despite being so friendly and cheerful with everybody all the time, is known to scream horrendously at the very sight of the doctor. So I am trying to prepare her.
Me: Puttachi, we are going to the doctor!
Puttachi catches sight of a dog.
Puttachi: Bow bow!
Me: Ah yes, bow bow, nice black dog. Now listen, we are going to the doc..
Puttachi: Bow bow bow bow!
Me: Yes yes bow bow... the doc is a very nice man..
Puttachi: Bow bow bow bow...
Me: He will examine you..... like this.. like this....
Puttachi: Bow bow!!
Me: Ok, ok, bow bow, bow bow tata... now listen.. he will give you two tiny shots...
Puttachi: Auto! Car! Light!
Me: Here, on your thigh... like this... tiny shots....
Puttachi: (Starts singing and dancing) 'Appy know! ("If you're happy and you know it")
Sigh. So much for trying to prepare her!

When we arrived at the clinic, she was her usual cheerful self, smiling at everybody, playing on the slide in the waiting room, looking at the fish, playing with the wind chimes, calling kids twice her size "paapa" (baby). Then we entered the ante-room where the doc's assistant spoke to her and took some notes. We then told her..
Me: Puttachi, we will go inside to see the doc now.
S~: Will you smile and say "Hi" to him?
Puttachi, already fidgety and uneasy, waves and says a small "Hi".
Me: Not to us, to the doc!
Just then, we are asked to enter. Puttachi walks in with a smile, and a wave, and a cheery "Hi!"
Doc: Ah, what a pleasure to see Puttachi smiling for a change!
But Puttachi is already clinging to my clothes.
Her length and weight are measured, and she starts her bawling. I pick her up, comfort her, showing her the toys in the room, while the doctor surreptitiously examines her. Meanwhile the assistant prepares the shots. Her bawling continues unabated.
"Aache! Aache!" (Outside), she says, pointing to the door.
Me: Yes, yes, just after two tiny shots....
The shots are ready, and are administered to her. But she is already bawling so much, that I don't think she even feels the pain.
I pick her up again, hold her close, rub her back, and carry her out of the doc's chamber into the waiting room - she points to the door, saying "Aache". I take her out into the compound, she points to the gate saying "Aache"... I take her out of the gate into the road, where, fortunately, a blessed dog saunters by, resulting in a complete mood change.

And that's the story of the visit to the doc.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It is becoming frighteningly familiar. Bombs placed at crowded areas, killing and injuring unsuspecting people. Breaking their lives apart. And causing that tremor in the minds of those not directly affected - will we be next?

Last evening, we had been to a popular shopping area close to our home. As we merged into the crowds, I couldn't help but feel uneasy. I found myself looking at dustbins - could there be a bomb in there?

If these events can get to a die-hard optimist like me, then it must be working. Terror seems to be taking root in our hearts. And I don't like it one bit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Award!

Thanks to Shyam, Ano and Snippetsnscribbles for this award. :)

This award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.

I pass this award to:

1) Which Main? What Cross? - Beautiful, interesting and strategically captured images of Bangalore, with crisp captions.

2) Bangalore Blues - Very humorous, and very Bangalore. Some of the incidents that Vijay narrates seem too fantastic to be true - and that makes it all the more fun.

3) Anil, who has a number of blogs, each one more interesting than the other.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Puttachi in the Mysore Park

We were in Mysore for the greater part of a month, and naturally, a park visit in the evenings was a must for Puttachi. The park visit is very important because it serves to dissipate the little terror's excess energy, which would otherwise be spent in destructive activity. Of course, it also helps that the activities in the park give her a better appetite and tires her out enough to go to bed early and stay in bed :D

There is a park very close to my grandparents' place, one that we used to go to when we were kids. Some of the monkey ladders that we used to play on still exist. Repaired, patched, mended, painted, but still there. A quarter of a century old at least. There are new ones too, and the park has been spruced up, but it still remains the same old park.

As usual, Puttachi made friends with everybody in a couple of days, and went around waving hi and bye like British Royalty. I even had to fend off paparazzi on her behalf. (Seriously. Young girls trying to get her snap on their mobile phones. Frightening.)

The first few days, Puttachi ran around (when excited to find open space after a period of confinement, she walks around like she is drunk, in a state of euphoria), she played on the slide, and she climbed monkey ladders with minimum help from me. Then I decided to introduce her to the wonders of sand, as the play area had loads of sand. In preparation, I had even brought to Mysore, her sand implements, which consisted of a couple of spades, a cup, a sand truck, and some moulds.

So, the next day, we set out with her sand set, and after her constitutional, I plonked her down on the sand and gave her the sand playthings. She was delighted. She explored the sand with her fingers, and then was content to just pick up sand with a spade, load it into the truck, and then empty the truck, and start all over again. [I hadn't let her play with sand until now mainly because she put everything, and just everything into her mouth. She still does it, but she is better now.]

As I sat watching her, I noticed that the colourful playthings had attracted many kids. They stood around and watched. Slowly, a couple of them started playing with those things that Puttachi was not using. I welcomed this, as I felt that Puttachi would like company. But kids of her age don't yet know how to play "with" other kids, but they just play "alongside" the others. Puttachi did not even seem to notice the other kids, she was in her own world.

The kids kept looking at me to see if I would prevent them from playing, and some kids even tried to butter me up by telling me that "Puttachi was the cutest kid in the world, can they play with the truck please?" Kids, I tell you - they know how to get things done. Since I obviously seemed to welcome them, they got more adventurous, other kids joined, until there was a lot of pushing and shoving and sand flying all over the place. Some of it landed in Puttachi's eye, and I gave the kids a warning. "She is a small kid, please be careful." They piped down for two minutes, before they were at it again. I just removed Puttachi from the vicinity, and she continued playing. But she took the truck with her, and the kids followed the truck. Soon they were snatching the playthings from Puttachi's hands. Puttachi, who until then, was totally oblivious to the others, now looked up and appealed to me. "Ask for it", I told her. "Taa, taa", she said politely to the boisterous crowd, but her voice was totally drowned in the cacophony. She looked pleadingly at me again. I told the boy who had snatched the toy from her to give it back to her. He did give it back without any fuss. Then she wanted the truck which was lost in the sand amidst the crowd of kids. She stood up unsteadily, walked right into the middle of the ring of kids, picked up the truck, and walked back to me, and resumed playing nonchalantly. The kids just stared, not knowing what to do. Just then, one of the boys shouted to another, "Oye!" Puttachi, of course, had to imitate that sound. But as it happened, she said a loud "Oye" just as another boy was trying to snatch a spade from her. Thinking that it was meant for him, he dropped the spade in alarm and backed off. It had me giggling helplessly. Puttachi had absolutely no idea what she had just done!

The next day, I didn't want this whole unruly episode to repeat itself, with sand in Puttachi's hair and eyes, and so I just took along one spade and one cup, enough for her to play on her own. Understandably, the crowd was much thinner than the previous day, though a couple of kids did try to take over the toys. But my little cousin V was with us that day, and he, fiercely protective of his beloved niece, established firm boundaries that stayed for the rest of our visits.

I still don't know how to handle a crowd of kids. I don't want to discourage them, because I don't want to give Puttachi the message that she shouldn't share her toys. At the same time, I don't want her to be overpowered by kids older than herself, so much that she doesn't get to do what she wants to. What do I do? My instinct tells me that things will just take care of themseleves, and that Puttachi will learn how to handle such situations by herself, and that I should just sit back and relax.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a couple of images.

Puttachi playing by herself during one of the quieter moments.

Commander-in-chief of the Wooden Cavalry of Channapatna.

- Hotel Indradhanush, near Maddur, Bangalore-Mysore highway (on our way back to Bangalore).
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Puttachi is doing in Mysore

Watching the rain....

Exploring the garden....

Weeding her great-grandmother's garden....

....And getting her hands dirty :)

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fifteen Months

I haven't given you Puttachi updates in a while, and since some of you reminded me to, here they are. I seem to have forgotten how to write interesting updates - either because her progress is so overwhelming or that I have so much to say that I don't know where to start!

Anyway here it is in "short".

Puttachi is a very spirited child. Very active and restless, she is nearly always a blur of movement. Even if she is sitting in one place, her hands and feet are blurs. Her curiosity is endless. No object around the house is safe from her scrutiny. She wants to go everywhere, see everything, and test it for taste, breakage, and even for ergonomics! She continues to be very friendly, dazzling everybody with her smile.

She has a vocabulary of more than 130-140 words as I write this. And I am not counting the words that she repeats immediately after us, because that is plain imitation. These 140 words are those that she actually knows.

And when she wants something, she doesn't stop saying the word until she gets it. For example, if she wants a spoon, which btw, is her favourite object now, she goes on saying "phoonphoonphoonphoon...." with her hands and legs dancing to the rhythm, until she gets the spoon in her hand. Only then does she stop. It can get quite maddening - a little hurricane dancing around your legs, chanting loudly, something like "aacheaacheaacheaacheaache..."[Aache - outside] - sometimes your brain just refuses to work until the hurricane is catered to.

Her dance when she wants something is such a unique movement that everybody who sees it comments about it and has a hearty laugh. Her two feet are stomping on the floor alternately, her hands are flapping, palms are doing a round-and-round bulb screwing-unscrewing action, her head is thrown back, her eyes are looking at the ground, her face has an expression of urgency, and she says the name of the objec trepeatedly, like I mentioned before, like a stuck gramophone record. And oh yes, her lips hardly move when she is saying whatever she is. In this state, she is in her own world - I cannot really begin to describe it to you - you have to see it to believe it!

Lately, she has started stringing words together. "Papa elli?" (where's Papa?) "Adu Elephant" (That is an elephant) "Amma taachi" (Amma is sleeping). She also communicates with sign language to get things done. She also understands a lot of what we say, and sometimes follows my instructions to the T. Sometimes her level of understanding and communication takes me totally by surprise.

She is turning out to be very independent. She wants to eat by herself, wash her feet herself, pour water over herself in the bath, she even tries to wear her clothes herself. If I put food in front of her, more often than not, she eats the entire thing herself. [Even if it is something sticky like anna-saaru, dal-rice, etc] The cleaning up is a pain, but she sometimes refuses to be fed, wanting to do it herself. So I am forced to give in. But there are times of course, when she just plays with the food and starts flinging it around, in which case I have to put my foot down.

She also communicates her needs pretty well now, which is a huge relief. She says nunu for water when thirsty, she points to a plate or at the microwave when she is hungry, and she literally drags me to bed when she is sleepy.

Which reminds me, when she is dragging you somewhere, it is just like a dog pulling at its leash. She is strong and she is fast. If she decides to drag you someplace, you have no choice but to follow her.

She is a drama queen through and through. And when she knows that she is being watched, she puts on such a performance for everybody to see. She is also an imitator of the first order. Then there are other funny things she does, like walking backwards towards a seating target, no matter how far it is. She walks backward until the back of her legs occur resistance, and then she sits down.

She loves the outdoors, and will willingly give up food and sleep to be outside.

On the whole, it is tremendous fun with such a hyper little thing around, though at times, I get so exhausted that I remember to breathe only after she falls asleep!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shruthi's Law of Parenting

Just when you think that parenting cannot possibly get any harder, it does.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I read a very likeable book last week - Totto-chan. The author, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, is a well-known Japanese television personality. The book is an account of her own experiences at an ideal school that she attended as a child. Apparently, the author credits her success in life to this school and its headmaster.

Totto-chan (the author herself), a little girl, is expelled from her elementary school because she is "disruptive", whereas actually the active little girl is just following her natural child's curiosity. Totto-Chan's mother then takes her to the school, Tomoe Gakuen, whose headmaster Sosaku Kobayashi has studied educational methods from around the world, and has started this school to run on these ideals.

The school is unique in many ways - the classrooms are used railway carriages, there are no fixed classes, anybody can do what they want to when they like, and there is a focus on doing rather than just rote learning. The school teaches openness, frankness, love and acceptance, and aims to keep the spark in the children alive. The students actually enjoy going to school, and are disappointed when school hours get over!

"Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear."

... Is one of the things the headmaster believes in. Now how wonderful is that!?

The book and the incidents in it are very interesting. Since the language is simple, it can be good reading for young children too. And I think it is a must for parents and teachers.

I found a very nice write-up of the book - here and here.

I can see shades of Totto-chan in Puttachi. She is growing up to be a very active, curious child. She is bursting with energy, and she is so full of life. Reading this book made me wish that there is a Tomoe Gakuen where I can send Puttachi to study, so that the fiery spirit in her doesn't fade.

I'm afraid that is what schools do to us - compel us to conform to the "system", set wrong parameters for success, and turn bright kids into boxes. I know that we, as parents, do have a say in the matter, and it is definitely possible for us to ensure that the spark is not extinguished. But do we really have that much strength to resist the deep-rooted institutionalization that schools have to offer?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Olympics

For me, it all began with the Seoul Olympics of 1988. I was old enough to watch and understand it, and I was very fascinated by it. I would come back from school and sit hooked to the television, forgetting even to go out and play. I watched with a sense of horror as Ben Johnson was stripped of his medal, I watched with glee as Steffi Graf won the Gold Medal, I wanted to paint my nails and grow my hair like FloJo, I watched with bated breath as Greg Louganis hit his head against the spring board.... I remember so many things from that first Olympics. I can even remember the pictures used to represent each event. That set the stage for my love affair with the Olympics.

During our crazy days of trying to be Nadia Comaneci and Jesse Owens, I was quite sure that one day I would represent India at the Olympics. I didn't know in what sport, but I would. As the years passed, of course, my dream came down to just wanting to watch the Olympics some day. [That hasn't happened either... yet.]

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics did everything to fuel my fascination. I cut out the event schedule from the newspaper and pasted it on the back of my bedroom door, and everyday I would check the list to see if any of my favourite events were on, and I would be sure to watch it. The events would go on late into the night due to the time difference, but it would hardly deter me. At that time, it was fashionable to say that you had a crush on one of the Olympic athletes. (though I don't think we called it "crush") And I had chosen Vitaly Scherbo, the gymnast, who won Gold after Gold. I can still see quite clearly in my mind's eye, Scherbo's performance on the rings.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics was marked by the fact that we got a new (colour) television set just in time for the Opening Ceremony (calling the store and shouting at them because they hadn't delivered it yet, and the ceremony was to be telecast the next morning). The events, of course, only started in the evening for us, and so I had to be content with the highlights.

The 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics were nearly non-existent to me. I don't remember why I didn't watch the Sydney Olympics (most probably exams or some such thing), but I was in Mumbai during the Athens Olympics, without easy access to television. So I just read the reports in the newspapers, if I could get hold of one. It was that bad.

But the Beijing Olympics has been an unexpected party for me. For one, I am not going out to work, and so I can watch television all the time. Second, I do not even have school/college/studies. I do have some work that I have to do, but it is something I can do with the television set on. Third, I am in Mysore right now, with a bunch of people, all of them who are crazy about the Olympics, and watching with them all is even more fun. Fourth, the Olympics being held in China, the time difference is hardly anything, and I can watch all the events live, right from morning till night, without having to wait for the highlights. What fun, I tell you!

I like watching the events, yes, but do you know what I like better than that? To feel the palpable tension of the final moments in each event, to watch the athletes react after winning. To watch their faces as they climb the podium to receive their medals. To watch them fight to hold back tears as the flags of their countries go up, with their national anthems in the background. To feel their joy, to revel in their excitement. To live their moments in proxy.

But in my eyes, every Olympian is a winner. You just cannot belittle the years of hard work and sweat and dedication, that enables them to participate in this magnificent show. It is almost unfair to crown one person the winner.

But whatever it is, I love the Olympics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bangalore to Mysore

Some of the high points of my hitherto mostly uneventful life are journeys from Bangalore to Mysore. They have always been special because Mysore means to me - holidays, lazing around, getting to meet grandparents and cousins and aunts, eating good food, and generally having fun.

And the journey to Mysore has always been sweet - the anticipation, the excitement....

My first memories of going to Mysore consist of getting up at unearthly hours to catch the 4 45 am bus from near our home, that went directly to Mysore, with a stop at the main bus stop. So my parents would pull us out of bed and drag us, half asleep, to catch this bus, telling me that I could sleep on the way (which I usually did). There was a corresponding bus (at a slightly more earthly hour) from Mysore back to Bangalore. These early buses ensured that we reached our destination very early, and had the whole day ahead of us. But the buses those days weren't as comfortable as they are now - but they would do - after all, it was a journey of just about 3 hours. I would sleep for the first half of the journey, and wake up when the bus stopped half-way at Maddur. I would then eat the sandwiches that my mother had packed, and then doze fitfully for the rest of the journey. My mother, usually travelling with two small kids and a fair amount of luggage, never got down from the bus during the ten minute stop. But when my father was travelling with us, he would get down to stretch his legs, and I would be paranoid that the bus would leave without him. I would be jittery and keep looking out of the window to keep him in my sight, and my pulse rate would come back to normal only when he got back onto the bus.

But the 4 45 bus service from near our house was discontinued, and then we would have to go all the way to Majestic to catch the bus. But since we anyway had to go to Majestic, we started going by train, because we enjoyed it more. Oh the excitement! Rushing in to the compartment and grabbing two window seats - one for my sister and one for me, better still if the window seats were west-facing (so that the sun wouldn't blind us as the journey progressed). Settling in, keeping the luggage away, removing our footwear and sitting on the seats, and looking out of the windows. Wait desperately for the train to start, and when it did, stare mesmerized at the huge city of Bangalore. Know that we have left Bangalore, at the stench of the city sewage canal. Watch the landscape unfold. The green paddy fields, the bushes and shrubs, and then the distinctive rocky landscape of Ramanagaram. Watch once again as the rocks fade away, giving rise to the same kind of hypnotic landscape, the sapota trees, the coconut trees, the toddy palms, the wild flowers, an occasional lake or stream, a hillock or two with a temple right on top, the stations, some small, some big, but all the same.

None of the stations held as much interest as that of the Maddur station, simply because of the vendors selling hot Maddur vades. How our stomachs would growl and mouths water at the tantalizing fragrance! But our mother would refuse to buy it for us, stating lack of hygiene as the reason. She would say that she would make it for us after we got to Mysore. We would just have to be content to dream about the hygienic Maddur Vades we would get at home, and do with watching our co-passengers gobble down the Maddur Vades and wiping their fingers on the oily paper. Once, just once, our mother astonished us by buying us Maddur vades at the station. We went mad with joy, and wolfed down the oily vades with glee.

But what she did buy for us regularly were the roasted groundnuts, peddled by a toothless old man, mumbling, "Kallekaaaayi, kallekaaaayi." We would buy heaps of groundnuts, and crack each nut laboriously, to eat the delicious nuts within. We would then wrap up all the shells carefully in paper to dispose of later. A few years later, a young boy replaced the old man, and we were told that the old man had died and this boy was his grandson. We bought the groundnuts anyway.

The landscape, meanwhile, remained unchanged, until, of course, we reached the island town of Srirangapatna. We would pass the Kaveri river twice with a deafening clanging, and we would peep out to see how many of the rocks in the rocky river was visible, and exclaim at how much rain or how less of it had fallen that year.

When we had passed the Kaveri the second time, we would grow dizzy with excitement and impatience, because it meant that Mysore was just a stone's throw away. And sure enough, as the first clumps of homes and buildings came into view, we would start putting on our shoes and taking the luggage down, and start jummping up and down. As the train rolled into the station and stopped, we would jump out and rush to the auto stand to find the auto that would take us to Ajji-Tata's house. The superb culmination of a wonderful journey.

But we've hardly travelled by trains in the last five-six years. With roads getting broader and better, and the cars getting faster, we have been driving down to Mysore. But my excitement remains unabated. I love getting up in the cool of the morning, loading things into the car, and setting out on the smooth drive, punctuated only by a stop at Kamat Lokaruchi or some other popular highway restaurant for a mouthful of delicious breakfast, and some steaming coffee.

I guess the journey to Mysore, for me, will always be sweet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Beetle in the Park

Have you ever seen such a beautiful beetle? It shone with such a lovely greenish-gold glow!

My cousin V found it in the park in front of my parents' home, when my father and V took Puttachi there for a walk.

Oh, have I told you the story of this park? It belongs to the Housing Society of which my father is a member. For years and years, it languished, full of overgrown bushes and trees, and filled with snakes and other animals. It was also a site for illegal and dirty activities. Very often, there were threats of it being taken over for private use by unauthorised people. My father and other members worked long and hard to protect the park, and very recently, the park was finally marked for development. The bushes were cleared, and a walking path and a couple of shelters have already been built.

What a relief! The best part is that it is right across my parents' home. As for this beetle, it was found wandering alone on the side of the walking path.

Disclaimer: No animals were hurt during the preparation of this post and the clicking of the photo. The aforementioned beetle was safely let go in a bush in my mother's garden.
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