Friday, December 18, 2009

Letting go

Being a good parent is all about letting go.

It can be heart-wrenching. But some part of you becomes stronger when you do it successfully.

Only after I became a mother did I understand my mother's apprehensions when allowing us to do something for the first time. Sending me alone to Mysore by bus for the first time. Seeing my sister off at the airport, when she was flying to the US, alone. Sending us to a friend's house, or on a picnic, or on a date, or to a party. Trusting the values they have given us, and trusting a third person to care for us. Each event is a bit of letting go - letting the child take an independent step ahead, to become the unique person s/he is.

With little kids, the instances are very tiny, but significant all the same. The first time I left a sleeping baby Puttachi at home, and went to the doctor for a post-natal checkup. The first time Puttachi stayed overnight away from me - even though I was leaving her at the hands of her loving grandparents, it was a kind of letting go. To relax and know that someone else is looking after her.

Putting her into the hands of someone totally unconnected, like leaving her at a playschool - that was a totally different ball game. But it had to be done, and it was, successfully.

And today, her school took her for a Nature Walk to Lalbagh. I was initially worried. Will they look after her? What if she runs away like toddlers so love to do? But I had seen first hand how the staff in her school look after the children. I knew I could trust them. So when I left her at the gate, and I saw her small figure walking through the gate with her teachers, tears welled up in my eyes. But I was so proud of my little girl, and so happy for her. Her eyes shining, her round face glowing with excitement, she waved at me as she went inside. And I knew that both of us had just taken a very big step.

And I know that this is just one of many, many of them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Two and a Half

For all of you who complained that I don't give you enough Puttachi updates:

At 2.5 years, Puttachi is great fun. For one, living with her is like being in a musical. She sings all day long - mostly twisting songs, substituting words to suit the current situation. In effect, she sings parodies all day and laughs at her own jokes. She is constantly clowning around, and jumping around

She has learned this annoying habit of whining when things don't go her way. The only way I can get her to stop it is to pretend that I cannot make out anything she is saying when she is whining. Then, she puts on this artificial smile and asks me "nicely".

Another worrisome habit is that she is sticking to me a lot, protesting hotly when I am not around. I think it is just habit more than real unease.

She loves doing jigsaw puzzles. She did 4-6 pieces with ease, and I thought she was ready to move to bigger puzzles. But they didn't seem to interest her. Just then, S~'s nephew's Disney 24-piece jigsaw puzzle came down to her - and this one has giant pieces. And Puttachi could do it, with a little help at first. She can sit with it all day, making it, breaking it. So I realized that at this age, giant pieces are better.

Puttachi also loves alphabets. More than a year ago, S~ bought refrigerator alphabet magnets - when each alphabet is fitted into a slot on the main piece, it sings out the name of the alphabet, and the sound it makes. Since that was always on the refrigerator, she played with it often. Without our even realizing it, Puttachi started recognizing a few alphabets, and nearly six months ago, made me fall off her chair by recognizing A, B, O and V in the newspaper. She then discovered that my laptop has alphabet keys, and I let her carefully tap the keys and see the results on the monitor. I made her type her name a few times, and voila, she started recognizing all those letters. Now, any printed material she gets, she tries and picks out the letters of her name from it. It is great fun to watch her - and a pleasant surprise too, because it came about by itself.

She loves to play with clay, and she loves books. Oh, and yes, I hadn't been speaking to her much in English before this, but after she started going to the Montessori and picking up English, I have started telling her stories in both English and Kannada, one after the other. I read a sentence in my mind, tell it to her in Kannada, and then read it in English, stopping to explain one word or the other. She is now picking up English so quickly that it surprises me. She supplies the English words for Kannada words without my asking her, and any thing she hears, or any English rhyme that she learns, she comes to me and asks me to explain it to her.

A mandatory visit to the park every evening helps in satisfying her urge to run around, (and my urge to be around people) - and both of us come back happy.

This age, I have realized, is one where they are tremendously curious, and eager to learn. And the more we stimulate them, the happier they are!

Monday, December 07, 2009

At the montessori house

I never thought it would happen - but it did. I drop Puttachi at her Montessori school and she stays there happily, and I pick her up at the end of the day!

Up-side: I get a lot of work done in the morning, I can put my feet up, drink a 10 30 cup of tea...
Down-side: I haven't read a word of any book since Monday!

How the transition happened:

Groundwork: As I had told you before, I had been sitting outside at the school for quite a long time, and I knew for sure that Puttachi was entirely comfortable. I had a talk with the head of the school last Friday, and she agreed with me that it was time to try and leave Puttachi alone at school. She told me that they would try and distract and engage Puttachi if she cried, but warned me that if she became uncontrollable, they would call me back.

After we got back home, last Friday, I casually dropped the idea to Puttachi that I would leave her at school and come home, starting Monday. I used the words "When I leave you at school...." I used it often when speaking to S~ too, in a matter-of-fact tone, until I was certain that Puttachi had understood what was to come. I also told her that I would come back home and make Kesaribhath for her. (She doesn't even like Kesaribhath, she just has a fancy for it.)

Yet, inspite of all this, I had nightmares about Puttachi bawling and me walking away. I wondered if I could go through with it - and I nearly backed out at the last moment.

What happened on Monday: I set out the ingredients of Kesaribhath on the kitchen counter and showed it to Puttachi, telling her htat I would make it after I left her at school, and she accepted it calmly.

While I was locking the door while leaving for school, she said, "Amma, don't leave me!"
I looked at her questioningly, she clarified, "I meant, don't leave me at home and go, but you can leave me at the montessori and come back."

I took it as a good sign. when we got to the school, I opened the gate and started walking in, when she said, "Oh, are you coming inside? I thought you would leave me at the gate." My jaw dropped.

When we went in and I found the teachers, I said, "Ok, Puttachi, bye," as she started going inside. She suddenly stopped and turned. "Wait, Amma!"
"Yes?" I said, thinking, "Uh oh!"
But she said, "I want to hug you!"
She hugged me, kissed me on each cheek, and said, "Ok, bye, thank you, go home, come back later, ok?" And she bounded in without a backward glance.

I could have screamed for joy. We had actually done it without making her cry!

I am hoping that now that she is used to the idea of going to a school, leaving her at the big school will also be easy. If that can also be accomplished without too many tears, nothing like it.

Still to go: Puttachi is not very comfortable with the last activity of the day - sitting in a group and learning songs. Though she loves songs, something about that setup bothers her - she would cry even during the time I was sitting there. And she continues that even now. So I have to go half an hour early, just at the moment that she starts getting jittery.

Let's see how we overcome this little hurdle! :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Shruthi's law of parenting - 2

Just like in life, nothing is constant in the world of parenting.

Though Puttachi started staying at school by herself from Monday, I resisted telling you about it, wanting to give it some time, making sure that it was indeed working. So I waited until today to put up a post about it.

Two minutes after I clicked on "Publish" on the previous post, I got a call from her school telling me that she was crying uncontrollably, and asking me to pick her up.

It could be because she was sleepy (she woke up very early), but whatever the reason, she did cry.

So there goes my brain again - how will Monday be?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Big School

And along with the lookout for a suitable playhome, the hunt for the perfect Big School was happening too. I had done a bit of research and shortlisted two schols X and Y as being suitable. (Teaching, teaching methods, values, distance, etc being the criteria.) I made the necessary enquiries and applied to both the schools. I also applied to school Z because it is a traditionally sought after school ;)

Puttachi gained admission in school Z first, but since that wasn't our preference, we waited.

Schools X and Y balanced out kind of evenly, and I would probably have been in a fix if we had heard from both of them at the same time. But as it happened, school X contacted us first, took a 1-minute interview in which Puttachi was in her element, and got back to us the next day to tell us that Puttachi was through.

So I made some more inquiries, talked to parents with children studying in the school, and came to the conclusion that this school is probably best suited to what we want for Puttachi, and so today we paid the fees, and she is in.

So there you go! My little baby will go to a Big School starting this June.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

School Time!

And so, that was the longest break that I have ever taken from blogging. Wasn't intentional, no.

So what's been happening? A lot, actually. For one, Puttachi's been going to a Montessori centre. I wasn't really very keen on sending her to school before she turned three. But there was only so much I could do for her - I felt she needed more stimulation than I could provide. Empty, directionless mornings made her very restless and we decided that she ought to go to school. She has just turned 2 and a half, by the way.

So I scouted around a bit for good playhomes in our area, and zeroed in on this one for many reasons. (You can write to me if you need to know what to look for while selecting a playhome/playschool. I will tell you what little I know.) One of the many nice things about this place is that you can go and sit there for as long as you want, as many days as you want, until the child is comfortable. That appealed to me.

The first week was great - she went, was absorbed in play, and it looked like it would just need another week until the time Puttachi would walk in, wave goodbye to me and disappear inside without a backward glance. But just then, both Puttachi and I fell sick with this really strong viral flu that had us out of circulation for two weeks. So when I took her back to school after two weeks, she clung to me, and refused to even go inside. At home, she would say that she wanted to go, but once there, she stuck to me. The teachers told me that this behaviour was quite normal after a break, especially when it was due to illness. I persisted, and I go and sit there for all the three hours.

It has paid off. She is now comfortable, is interacting with the other kids and is doing much of her work herself. The only problem is that she still wants me around. She even comes out from time to time to check if I am sitting outside. The teacher has assured me that a day will come very soon when she herself will tell me to go home. I am waiting. But meanwhile, I finish my cooking in a rush in the morning and I go and sit at that montessori centre and read for three glorious, uninterrupted hours.

You can expect many book reviews shortly!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heaven is...

- Snuggling under a blanket with a sleepy, soft, warm and fragrant toddler on a cold, wet afternoon.
- Falling into a long, deep and unplanned sleep, holding the toddler, and the toddler holding you.
- Waking up suddenly, and realizing that the unexpected nap has refreshed and rejuvenated you, rather than making you grouchy and cranky as such naps tend to.
- Realizing, lying there, that a pair of bright, shining, smiling eyes is watching you, two inches from your face, and a small, soft hand is patting your cheek and stroking your hair.

My heart is full.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Puttachi at 2 years and 4 months.

New kind of questions that I cannot answer:

She: *pointing to a picture* Amma, is this tiger crying?
Me: No, it is not.
She: Why is it not crying?

She: Amma, are your spectacles broken?
Me: No, they are not.
She: Why are they not broken?

I wonder if there is something deeper behind those questions!


She wants to know who everybody's mother is. Including animals, ants, plants, even stars. But to test her, if I ask her who is the chair's mother, for instance, she answers haughtily that chairs don't have mothers.


She: Amma, I want the moon.
Me: Huh?
She: The moon. Please get the moon for me.
Me: How shall I get it?
She: Go to the sky, and bring it down.
Me: What will you do with it?
She: *makes a gesture of rocking a ball* I will play with it.

Kids these days, I tell you - they ask for the moon!


She loves dressing up. Her favourite past-time is putting on clothes. One on top of another. Drop in on a surprise visit, and you can see her dressed in various articles of clothing from socks to gloves to mufflers and bibs and scarves and pyjamas and sweaters and caps and necklaces and bracelets and ribbons and clips - ALL AT THE SAME TIME. She has a particular fascination for articles of clothing that she can no longer fit into. If you need her to wear something, tell her that she used to wear it as a child!


She has discovered a sense of humour. She gets a huge kick out of inserting her own words in familiar rhymes or stories. For example, she says, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Amma!" Then pauses for effect, before bursting into helpless laughter. She can and does do this all day. Or twists a word, or puts in a nonsense word, or puts in an extra word into songs, and enjoys the joke immensely. She loves it even more if I join in and add my own nonsense words.


I had read so much about kids being afraid of monsters under the bed or in the closet, and I had never paid too much attention to it, because of a vague observation that no kid I knew seemed to have such fears. But yesterday, while I was putting Puttachi to bed, she got up abruptly from her crib, and crept towards my bed (which is attached to her crib).

Me: What happened, Puttachi?
She: *pointing towards the other side of the crib* Shoorpanakha (a demoness) is sitting there.

In the articles that spoke about this fear, I had understood that the response to this should not be something like, "Where? There is nothing there, dear, see? Go to sleep." Apparently, it not only trivializes the child's fears, but also does nothing to remove the fear. Kids at this age have such an active imagination that they truly believe that a demon or monster or a scary being is sitting there. So I employed this approach.

Me: Oh, Shoorpanakha? *looking at where Puttachi was pointing* Hey Shoorpanakha, what is wrong with you? Why do you want to disturb Puttachi when she is trying to sleep? Do you know how strong she is? Go, go, go away, don't come back! *Looking back at Puttachi* See, Shoorpanakha got scared! She is flying out of the window!
And that was enough for her. Puttachi smiled triumphantly and went back to bed.


Speaking about imagination, Puttachi's is in overdrive. She gets so immersed in play-acting that there is nothing one can do when she is involved in it. Nothing can break her concentration, and she forgets hunger, sleep, and sometimes, she can't even hear nature's call! She burst into horrified tears when I accidentally sat on a "baby" that she had placed on the sofa, and she looked on with pride when I picked and ate "fruits" from a "tree" that she had watered and grown.

Even her dreams seem to be pretty graphic. Yesterday she woke up in the middle of her nap, told me something in garbled diction, and then laboriously dusted her pillow for two minutes before she fell asleep again. She wakes up sometimes, telling me something seriously about someone or something, and then handing over "something" to me before going back to sleep.

I find it utterly fascinating to wonder what goes on in that head of hers!


She is a fun child, and a funny child. And backbreaking as it might be caring for her, there never is a dull moment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To travel without an itinerary - and Books

When I was younger, and was at that age and stage where I was convinced that I would one day hold the world in the palm of my hand, I dreamed of just setting out with a backpack and going around the world as my fancy took me. I would visit one place, and then go to the bus/railway station/airport, look at all the destinations, and take off to whichever destination caught my eye. And I would stay there as long as I wanted to before taking off yet again.

This dream hasn't died yet - it has just been put on the back burner, the die hard optimist that I am. I am now reading a travel book, by Bill Bryson, called "Neither here nor there" about his travels in Europe, in which this is exactly what he does. Goes where his impulse takes him. He starts off with going to the northernmost part of Norway to see the Northern Lights - one of my greatest ambitions too. And oh, I have been travelling with Bryson in a way that I hadn't employed before. When he talks about a city, or a building or a museum, I immediately look it up on Google, and view the pics and read more about it, and there you go - I am travelling too!

By the way, before reading this book, I read one more book of his, "Mother Tongue", where Bryson traces the development of the English language, what influenced it, and how it came to be as we know it now. And with that, I understand most of the idiosyncrasies of the language. The illogical spellings, the weird pronunciations, etc. Inspired, I asked my grandfather in Mysore for a similar book in Kannada, and he gave me one to read, a part of "Kannada Kaipidi" series by Kuvempu. That was fascinating too, but I had to stop in the middle. I am looking forward to continuing on my next visit to Mysore.

While on the subject of books, I was recently introduced to the works of L.M.Montgomery by my friend M, who also fed and fanned my urge to read more and more of them. I absolutely love discovering new (to me!) writers.

Another fascinating book I read was "Survival of the Sickest" by Sharon Moalem. I recommend it.

Ah, books and travelling - if only I had a million dollars......

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A wedding on the cards?

I am telling Puttachi the story of little Shruthi and little S~, and their exploits, and how they grew up and got married and got a little baby. I have reached the point where Shruthi and S~ have got married.

Puttachi: Papa and you got married?
Me: Yes, Puttachi.
She: Like X and Y?
Me: Yes, dear.
She stares off into space, and I allow her to digest the information or try and visualize the scene or however it is that two-year-olds process shocking information.
After a while.
She: Amma, but I did not attend!
Me: Yes, mari, you were not born yet.
She: (getting teary-eyed) But Amma, I want to attend!
Me: But the wedding is over, baby, wait, I will show you the snaps.
She: I don't want to see the snaps, I want to go to your wedding! (She stands up and pulls my hand) Amma, take me to yours and Papa's wedding!

What say, S~, time to renew our vows? A good reason to go on a second honeymoon, at least! :D

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I cannot believe that there was a time when Puttachi did not understand stories. The days now are so filled with stories for every occasion that it makes my head go round. She demands stories during mealtime, bedtime.. and err.. even pottytime.

There is no dearth of stories in the world. But there is a major problem. She cannot bear songs and rhymes and stories in which something unpleasant happens to the characters. Humpty Dumpty, for example, makes her cry. Now tell me, what choice do I have? All our mythological tales and Panchatantra and Jataka and even fairy tales have stories of beings eating each other up or hurting or killing or mauling or lying or cheating - I had never realized how much violence there is in children's tales.

So I usually give her a sanitized version of everything. For example, the story of Three Little Pigs doesn't have the Big Bad Wolf falling into the boiling cauldron at the end. In my story, the wolf just gives up and runs away.

But how long can I shield her from harsh realities? I plunged into the story of the Ramayana - and there is enough killing and mutilating there for starters! After the first time I told her the entire story, the only thing she remembered in the end was, "Shoorpanakha is a bad Rakshasi and her nose and ears got cut off!"

But she doesn't care too much about the Ramayana. All she wants are "Pooh" stories. Which means that I have to make up stories with Pooh as the central character. This works for both of us. I can insert little suggestions into the stories like "Pooh ate his food without any fuss, and that is why he is so strong" or "Pooh went to the dentist with toothache and the dentist told Pooh to brush twice a day like Puttachi - see how strong and clean her teeth are!"

So Pooh stories suit me, and that is the only way to get her undivided attention during mealtimes. But of course the problem with made up stories is that when you repeat the story, you unconsciously change some details, and the child catches you immediately, berating you for not remembering the story. And oh, it is lovely to hear her tell the story in her own words. She narrates it with expressions in her face and voice, employing a sad face and voice for "Ayyooo my ball fell into the lake" and a happy face and voice for "Yay! Thank you, crocodile, for getting my ball back from the lake!"

The other category of stories she likes are "Stories of Puttachi when she was a baby." My baby has grown so much that I am already telling her stories of her babyhood!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This time of my own....

It has been more than two years since Puttachi was born, and she has never stayed away from me overnight. A few hours, yes, eight hours being the longest time she has been away from me. But yesterday, my parents took her home with them.

I am getting glowing reports. She is no trouble at all, everything is hunky-dory. She is enjoying herself thoroughly - and not once has she even mentioned me! I tried to get her to talk to me on the phone - but she was too busy listening to stories that my mother was telling her about Peevee and me.

As for me, I am feeling very weird. In the night, it seemed strange to not feel the steady, heavy breathing on the crib next to my bed. I missed the little hand, soft and warm, creeping up towards mine to hold the ring on my finger. But I welcomed the rare undisturbed sleep.

For about twenty minutes this morning, I couldn't think of what to do at all and felt uneasy and restless. Then I slapped my forehead, exclaimed, "Carpe diem!" and am relishing this time of my own.

Until tomorrow, then...

Update at 1:25 PM: So much for seizing the day. I am bored stiff, and am feeling so lazy that I don't feel like moving a limb to do all those things I had planned.

Update at 3 PM: I was so bored that I had a nap. I have stopped having naps after Puttachi was born (unless I am tired) because I think them a waste of precious time.

How ironic! When Puttachi is around, I feel like snatching a little time for myself all the time, and now that she is nice and safe and happy in mom's hands, I have all the time to do everything, but I absolutely cannot get myself to move.

I simply must stop these twitter-like updates and do something. Ta.

P.S. Aaaaargh!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Questions, questions, and questions...

I had heard and read about the phase of questioning. Why, how, what, who, where... but I had no idea it would be this irksome.

Puttachi is full of questions and that gets unbearable at times. The chain of questions can go and on and on, and neverending.

She: What is that?
Me: Shirt
She: Whose shirt?
Me: Papa's shirt
She: Who bought it?
Me: I did.
She: From which shop?
Me: XYZ shop
She: Where is XYZ shop?
Me: Jayanagar
She: Which Jayanagar?
Me: Jayanagar where so-and-so lives.
She: Who so-and-so?

And on and on on.

Nowadays, after one question, I do the questioning and answering myself.

She: What is that?
Me: Shampoo whose shampoo Papa's shampoo which shampoo XYZ shampoo who bought it Papa bought it which shop ABC shop ....
And then she looks at me and laughs, the imp.

She likes asking questions for which she knows the answer.
She: (pointing to a picture of Obama) Who is that?
Me: Tell me yourself.
She: Obama.
This happens all the time.

Some questions have no answer.

Me: Come on, let's have lunch.
She: What lunch?
Me: Rice and huLi
She: Which huLi
Me: pumpkin huLi
She: How?
Me: Now how what?


She: Who had called you?
Me: Papa
She: Which Papa?

I think that she feels compelled to ask questions - she doesn't even know what she is asking sometimes.

And then she wants entire conversations repeated.

Me: Let's take off your frock.
She: I don't want to.
Me: But it's dirty. Let's wear another frock.
She: Ok.
After two seconds.
She: What did Amma say?
Me: Amma said, "Take off your frock".
She: Then what did Puttachi say?
Me: Puttachi said, "I don't want to."
She: Then what did Amma say?

And so on. I used to answer patiently in the beginning, repeating the whole conversation, but now I ask her to repeat it herself, and she does.

Oh and one more thing. She thinks I am omniscient. She doesn't understand that I might not know the answers to some things.

Check out this example.

She: *Eating a bun* Who made this?
Me: It is from the bakery.
She: But who made it?
Me: I don't know, mari.
She: Who made it?
Me: I don't know.
She: Who made it?
Me: I really don't know, Puttachi.
She: Amma, amma, tell me amma, who made it, amma?
Me: An uncle made it.
She: Which uncle?
Me: I don't know.
She: Which uncle?
Me: I don't know, dear.
She: What is his name, Amma?
Me: I have no idea, baby.
She: Amma, amma, what is the name of the uncle who made this bun?
Me: Ramesh Uncle (blurt out the first name that comes to mind.)
She: Where is he?
Me: He finished making the bun, went to his house in Malleshwaram, placed his head on his pillow and fell fast asleep.
(Triumphantly giving myself a five, thinking that that should do the trick.)
She: (After a moment) How?

You get the picture.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The journey of learning

The thing with kids growing up is that it happens so gradually that you don't realize it usually, unless you happen to see an old photo and say, "Oh hey, look at that!" It is even more difficult to notice the growth in their intelligence and reasoning and knowledge of things.
But when you have a toy or a book that has been with you throughout, you have a kind of yardstick to note how your child has grown.

Let me explain.

The two toys in the picture, for example, have been with us ever since Puttachi has been a few months old. We had kept the Channapatna stacking toy away until she stopped putting things into her mouth, but the other toy, the one with shaped blocks, she has chomped through her teething.

So first, it was only good for biting. As she grew slightly older, she liked to look at and feel the blocks, and place them one over the other. After a while, I tried to teach her the concept of dropping the blocks into the box through the shaped holes. I still remember, when I said, "Put this in the box", Puttachi had looked at me quizzically, removed the yellow lid, and dropped the block into the box. Yeah, yeah, smart alec.;)

But one day, suddenly, she realized what it was all about. She took each block, tested it against each shape and dropped it. Then came the time she would look at the block, look at each shape and then drop it correctly.

And now? Now she even mouths "This is a green triangle, this is a blue circle" and drops it in. So the whole journey from biting the blocks to naming their shapes and colours has been one big journey which I have been able to actually notice.

Similarly, the stacking toy. She now can stack it from biggest to smallest and vice versa all along telling me all the colours.

There are some books too which tell the story of the learning journey. Previously, she would just look at the pictures and gurgle, then she would point out objects if I named them. Then came the time she named the objects herself, and soon she was old enough to listen to and understand the story herself, and now she tells me the story herself.

I have said it before, but I never cease to marvel at this journey. It is a miracle.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

When you're helpless...

I had spoken, if you remember, of a friend D, who went into a coma during a surgery following a rupture of her fallopian tubes due to an ectopic pregnancy. It has been five months now. She has been taken off the support systems, and all her body functions are normal. But her brain is not working. She opens her eyes and looks around, but does not recognize anybody. She is being fed from a tube.

This is what I heard when I called her husband today, and no, I do not know any more details.

They had been trying to have a baby for a long time. When I had called to tell her that I was expecting Puttachi, I had started off with a "How are you" and she poured out her troubles to me - her ill-health, surgery to remove cysts in her uterus and a miscarriage, and how she is desperate for a baby. After listening to all this, I felt it was not the time to tell her the reason for my call, but I told her anyway. She erupted with genuine joy and chastized me for not telling her earlier. "I would have kept my mouth shut and not told you my tales of woe. A pregnant woman must listen to only nice things."

The last time I spoke to her was on her birthday in November. "What is happy about my birthday, all I want is a baby", was her refrain. And just two months later, I heard about this.

In the beginning, I was distraught, calling her husband every alternate day to find out how she was. Then you know how it is, life takes over and my calls dropped in frequency - once a week, then once a fortnight.... because each time, the poor man's answer was the same. "No change in her state."

But she has been in my thoughts all the time. In the beginning, I dreamt of her all the time, and the dream was always the same. She would call me and say, "I'm alright now! I have recovered! I called you because I knew you were worried!" There was one night when the dream was so real - in my dream, she had called me at 3 am, woken me up to tell me she was alright, and then told me to go back to sleep and that she would call me in the morning. When I woke up in the morning (in reality), I actually checked the Received Calls in my mobile, hoping against hope that it wasn't a dream.

There are so many things that remind me of her every other day. Fish, for example, "Feesh! I feel like eating feesh!" She would say with her eyes sparkling. Her loud voice (You don't need a telephone, we would tell her), and her tinkling, clear, rippling laughter keep coming back to me.

One part of me wants to catch the next flight to Mumbai and see her and hug her, another part, the selfish part is thankful that she is far away in Mumbai - because I don't think I would be able to see her in that state.

I wish there was something I could do, instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs, feeling sorry for her and her husband and for myself.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Can Jeans Cry?

Every time I decide that I simply must do a non-Puttachi post next, it just happens that some new gem drops out of Puttachi's mouth, compelling me to share it with you.

So Puttachi and I were having a conversation about who can cry and who cannot. I will not waste my breath explaining how we landed up with this topic. Conversations with toddlers can take the weirdest paths. Anyway, Puttachi was asking questions like "Can Puttachi cry? Can Amma cry? Can Papa cry?" and so on, and I was supposed to answer yes or no. Soon, she ran out of people, and her attention turned to things. The first thing she spotted was a pair of jeans.

Puttachi: (pointing to the jeans) Can this cry?
Me: What, jeans? No, jeans cannot cry.
Puttachi: Why can't jeans cry?

I paused for a moment, wondering in what words to explain the concepts of life and emotions to a two-year-old. But Puttachi solved my problem.

Puttachi: I know why jeans can't cry.
Me: Why?
Puttachi: Because it doesn't have a face!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Get this!

Here are a few pieces of conversations.

X and Y have just finished breakfast and there are crumbs on the floor. X looks around, and sees that the room is dirty.

X: Y, please sweep the room.
Y: I will, X, just after I finish reading the newspaper.
X: No, clean it first, and then read the newspaper.
Y: No, I won't. Please don't bother me.
X: Now! Do it now!
Y: Don't force me! It's my life! (But gets up anyway to sweep the room.)


Y comes out dressed in a salwar-kurta.

X: Where is the dupatta?
Y: This dress doesn't have a dupatta.
X: Wear a dupatta.
Y: No, I won't. This dress doesn't need a dupatta, see?
X: Wear a dupatta! Wear a dupatta! Wear it!!!


Y goes out of the room without switching off the light.

X: Ohhooo, you haven't switched off the light, Y!


Y gets up to go out of the room, and leaves the cushion crooked.

X: Again you left your cushion crooked. It's alright. I will set it right for you.


Ok. Now get this. X is Puttachi, and I am Y. Honest.

I have my very own Moral Police and Mother Hen - rolled into one small, authoritative human.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The First Sketch?

Puttachi called out to me to show me what she had drawn, and said, "Nodu Amma, Chandamama!" [Look, Amma, Moon Uncle!]

And for the first time, what she had drawn did look like what she said she had drawn ;)

Now what I am not sure of is - whether she did intend to draw a moon and succeeded, or whether she just did a squiggle and realized that it looked like the moon. I tried to get her to draw it again, but she was not interested. She had moved on to other important matters.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009


This comes two days too late. Puttachi turned two on Saturday.

My sweet Puttachi,

Happy Birthday to you!

Even as I wistfully bid goodbye to the last traces of the baby in you, I welcome with open arms the little girl that you now are, bright, bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic, full of life, itching to share her joys with us.

On one hand, I wait everyday to be pleasantly surprised by the things you say, and on the other hand, I wish I could tape your little mouth shut so that I can have a moment of peace.

On one hand, I watch with amazement at your levels of energy, and on the other hand, I wish some of that energy would rub off on me, enough to tie your hands and legs up.

On one hand, I wake up every morning and miss your antics until you wake up, and on the other hand, I can't wait for you to go to bed at night so that I can catch a few quiet moments.

You are fascinating. You are exasperating.

You amaze me. You exhaust me.

I love the way you do everything with abandonment. Laugh. Dance. Love. Live.

Puttachi, my wish for you on this birthday is that you live the rest of your life with the same kind of joy and fullness with which you have lived these two years.

Puttachi, Thank you for you.

I love you.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Evening Snacks in Mumbai

When I was working in Mumbai, I lived as a PG. PG Aunty gave us breakfast and dinner, and packed lunch for us to take to office. That accounted for three square meals a day.

But what about hungry evenings? I always get hungry in the evenings. Even now. Mumbai was no different.

If I spent the evening working in office, I would either order a sandwich from the coffee guy in the pantry, made to exact specifications (only one layer of butter, no onion, no toasting - only roasting, etc.), or if I had the time, I would go out to one of the two canteens in the SEZ in which my office was, and have a high-calorie snack. My favourite was the Sabudana Vada, which only used to be available on the usual fasting days of the typical Maharashtrian.

But when I left office early, I would come back to a near empty PG. Sometimes I would buy a packet of Maggi, cook it up and have it with tea. Or sometimes I would buy a 100 g pack of Amul Shrikhand and eat it all up at one go, unabashedly scooping it up with my hands and licking my fingers.

But most often, I had Dabeli. There was this little stall outside this awesome shop that sold the most head-whirringly fascinating foodstuff, called - Parry's (??) near where I lived. I would get down from the office bus, walk straight to the Dabeli man, and order a Dabeli. It was a small snack - peanuts and pomegranate seeds and masala sandwiched between two half-pieces of pav. It was just the right size - enough to quieten my hunger pangs, but not large enough to fill my stomach so much that I couldn't eat PG aunty's usually delicious dinner. I had Dabeli nearly every evening. I have never eaten Dabeli ever since I left Mumbai, though I have heard of it being sold around here. I once decided to make it myself, and even got Dabeli masala from my aunt in Pune, but I never got around to it.

I have a suspicion that I don't want to eat it again for fear that it will not reach the high standard that my brain remembers. But everytime I hear about Dabelis, my salivary glands start working overtime, I remember the smell, taste and look of the Dabeli, and the simple pleasure of my biting into the delicious snack, standing outside the shop overlooking the Gurudwara.

If my hunger was too large to be fed by a small Dabeli, I would have a Frankie further down the road. But Frankies dug too deep a hole in my pocket without giving me the requisite satisfaction in my stomach or my mind - so this was rare.

But what did provide immense Shanti to both stomach and mind was the peerless Lassi that was available in the Punjabi dairy shops on the same road. This Lassi came in a tall glass, and was thick, sweet and rich. The lassi man usually asked for your permission before he topped the lassi with a dollop of Malai. Thick cream. So thick that you could cut it with a knife. And so delicious that tears of joy would sting my eyes.

And this glass of heaven was available for just 12 rupees - or was it 15? Just one glass and it quenched my thirst, satisfied my hunger and energized me immediately. If you caught me at that point and asked me for anything, I would do it for you without hesitation.

Some things, I tell you - they make life more beautiful than it already is.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Games Puttachi plays

If only I could remember and note down all the games that Puttachi has played over the months.... But then, here are a few from recent times.


Puttachi is eating raisins from a bowl. One raisin drops to the floor. She pushes the bowl aside, takes off her pyjamas, and starts whipping the poor raisin that is lying on the floor. She whips it with all her might, causing it to jump from one end of the room to another, but she continues her relentless whipping. When the raisin rolls under the table or the sofa, she bends down, retrieves it, places it carefully on the floor, like footballers do at kick-off time, and then resumes whipping the raisin.


Puttachi finds a piece of thermocol. She breaks off little round balls of thermocol, and places about ten or so of the tiny, light, white balls in her cupped hands. She blows on it hard, causing the little balls to fly out and land all around her. Then she patiently picks each one of them, puts it back in her palm, and blows again. Repeats endlessly.


Puttachi finds one of her small, soft handkerchiefs, and proceeds to throw it in the air, and catch it - and throw it, and catch it - and throw it, and catch it - and - you get the picture.


Her crib (one end of which is open and is attached to our cot) has a tiny mosquito net. She places an object, like a small toy, over the mosquito net. She gets into the mosquito net and then from within, she starts hitting the object, making it bounce on top of the net. If it falls off the crib, onto the ground, she gets down carefully, brings it back and continues.


I keep all her hair clips in a box. I don't know what it is about those hair clips - but she takes them out, puts them back in, plays with them for hours and hours.


Puttachi loves to sweep the house. Give her a broom and a dustpan, and to her, it is equivalent to bliss of the highest order. A couple of days ago, I was totally exhausted, and needed a cup of tea and five minutes to myself. All I did was thrust a broom and dustpan into Puttachi's hands, and that was it. I got my five peaceful minutes - but if anybody had just looked in through the window at that time, it would have been a great sight. I, sitting on the sofa, book in hand, taking sipfuls of glorious tea, and a little girl at my feet, sweeping away with utmost seriousness. I just hope I won't be hauled away for using child labour.


Her all time favourite game is to catch hold of a stuffed toy and pretend to put it to bed. It is unbelievable how she never tires of this.


One more favourite is to carry on pretend conversations on her toy phone with everybody she knows.


Last evening, S~, Puttachi and I went for a walk in the quiet bylanes near our house. Throughout the walk, and I mean, throughout the half an hour or more that we were outside, Puttachi assumed this half-bent posture (have you seen ancient grandmas with bent backs? Like that), and walked about, saying all the while, "Mummum elli? Illi idya? Alli idya? Naanu pranigalu thara mummum hudukta iddini." [Where is food? Is it here? Is it there? I am looking for food like animals do.] Not only did she walk the entire way like that, but she kept up this endless litany of "Where is food?"

Kids live in their own, wonderful world.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Five Things I love about being a mother.

Tagged by Anitha. The tag originated here.

1) I have gained a healthy respect and admiration for myself. I didn't know I was capable of so much love and tenderness, patience and forbearance, strength and magnanimity, tolerance and fortitude - you get the drift. Besides, I have met a new me. The un-lazy, determined, multitasking person I am now is a far cry from what I was. Even if I say so myself, I have become a better person.

2) I have discovered the value of our lives. My life, my child's life, S~'s life, the lives of everybody around me. I am not sure how this happened, and why, but it did. This may not exactly a good thing - it has made me more nervous and anxious than I used to be. But I'll still take it as a good thing - I at least make an attempt to live a full life.

3) Motherhood makes one see everything like a miracle. Conception, birth, growth of a child - each is a huge miracle in itself. And when you look at the world through your child's eyes - each day is a miracle, each thing is wonderful, each occurence is fascinating. You rediscover childhood, you rediscover life, you see everything in a new light - everything is different, everything is brighter. Life itself is more joyful.

4) I have seen the people I love in a new and much better light.
My mother - I know that I was not a very easy child - stubborn, lazy, and yes, rude too. Yet, I can count on my fingers the number of times my mother has lost her temper with me. With all her work, even with the kind of suffering she was undergoing, the fact that she has always been gentle and patient and understanding with us, and the fact that she has always been there for us, at any time of the nychthemeron, and has sustained that kind of love and patience for 30 years - that is incredible. I cannot even begin to fathom the kind of sacrifices she has made for us - and with a steely determination, has seen us through all the ups and downs of life - I am in awe of her. I really don't think I would have been as good a mother had I been in the situation that she was in. I credit motherhood for making me see all these things so clearly.
And not forgetting my father - I know that though his direct involvement in our upbringing has been considerably less than that of my mother, the fact that he has always been around, patient, rock-like, strong and unshakeable - I realize now how important that has been, and how difficult it is, too.
S~ - I have rediscovered the man I married. He is a fabulous father, and is incredibly supportive. I have seen an entirely new side of him after Puttachi was born - and that has exceeded my wildest imaginations. Parenthood has taken our relationship to a different level altogether.

5) I love the love that exists between my child and me. It is pure, complete, unconditional, exuberant, joyous, full of trust and just so perfect. It makes my heart soar just to think about it. Sometimes, Puttachi leaves whatever she is doing, comes to me, places a small palm on my cheek, and says, "This is Amma. This is Puttachi's Amma. This is MY Amma (patting her chest)." And then she as quickly goes back to her work. This, for me, encompasses everything that motherhood means.

Ok, now I am getting all teary-eyed. Passing on tags takes too much time - I'll come back to it later - or if you like it (believe me, you will), please take up the tag!

Monday, May 04, 2009

The moment of truth.

Well, I couldn't think of a better title. Finally, here is my prizewinning story. It was published in yesterday's Sunday Herald.

Feedback and criticism welcome - either in the comments section or to shruthi DOT hallucinations AT gmail DOT com. Thank you!

Update: DH has revamped its site and the above link doesn't work any more. Until I find the time to find the new link, here is the story.

Update 2: The link is working now, but the story is here anyway.



Vivek threw his backpack down on the rock, flexed his shoulders, and put his hands on his hips. "We are lost", he announced with an air of finality. Aditi didn't answer. She had known that for the last one hour.
They were on a trek to Mailari hills with an adventure group. Raghav, a veteran trekker, was leading. Right at the beginning, Raghav had warned them of the confusing foliage of Mailari hills and had asked everybody to stick together at all times. It had been going well, until Vivek and Aditi, who were trailing, stopped to photograph some pretty yellow flowers peeping shyly from behind a rock.

When they looked up, the others were nowhere in sight. It had happened so suddenly that they were taken by surprise. They could still hear the others, and they called out loudly. But the wind was blowing towards them, and their voices just died in the wind. They ran up the track they had been following, but they reached nowhere.

They pulled out their mobile phones. No signal. This place was miles from any town. Nevertheless they fiddled with their phones for sometime, hoping that miraculously, they would catch the signal from some nearby tower, but to no avail.

The plan had been to stay at the rooms at the Mailareshwara temple at the summit of Mailari hills. So, Vivek reasoned, if they just followed the incline upwards, they would reach the top at some point, from where they would surely catch sight of the temple.

Accordingly, they had trudged up the incline, but the track had suddenly dipped, then curved and forked, and they seemed to be going in circles. Aditi was sure that they had passed the same creeper-covered tree at least thrice.

They then reached a small clearing in the foliage, where there was a broad, flat rock. It was here that they now sat, contemplating their next move.

It was almost six in the evening, and was getting dark. They ought to have been at the temple premises by now. The others had probably already reached.

"I still don't believe it", Aditi said. "Haven't they realized we have been left behind?”

"We were trailing, remember?" Vivek said. "It would have taken some time before they discovered that we weren't with them. I am sure Raghav will come looking for us once they find us missing."

"He had better. I am not very comfortable with the thought of spending the night in the jungle."

"There aren't any wild animals in these hills."

"So? Wild animals or not, do you really want to spend the night on this rock? There might be snakes – or poisonous insects."

"We might not have a choice."

"Raghav will come for us." Aditi's tone was final.

They sat on the rock, looking out at the stunning landscape that was fading rapidly in the receding sunlight. A sudden gust of wind ruffled their hair and rustled the leaves in the trees. Aditi shivered.

"Maybe we should try to find a way to the temple, one last time", ventured Vivek.

"No", said Aditi, "It's getting very dark. Besides, if they come looking for us, they have a better chance of finding us if we are in one place."

Vivek didn't argue with that logic. For all his bravado, he was getting jittery.

The sun had gone down. They could barely see anything even a few feet away. Unfamiliar noises punctuated the silence, and unseen insects called out intermittently.

The whispering sounds of the shadowy forests set Aditi quivering with terror. She drew her legs close to her body, and hugged them tight. Vivek drew closer to Aditi, and put a comforting arm around her.

"I can't hear anything, and I can't see anything", Aditi said, miserably. "Perhaps we should light a fire.”

"Raghav has explicitly warned us against it, Aditi. A lot of dry leaves in this area. And winds too. There are high chances of a forest fire."

"But I can't bear it, Vivek - "


Aditi looked in the direction Vivek was pointing. Through the trees, they could see a faint light bobbing up and down.

A spasm of fear shot up through her spine before she realized what it could be.

"They have come! They found us!" Aditi exclaimed. She stood up and waved her arms, jumping. "Here! We are here!"

The light came closer. Out of the trees emerged a man, holding a lantern. It was not anybody they knew.

He was a middle-aged man, cleanshaven, greying slightly around his temples. He had a large mole on his nose. He was dressed in a brown jubba of a coarse fabric, and was wearing a faded white dhoti.

"Lost?" He asked.

"Yes", said Vivek, "We got separated from the rest of our group. We are supposed to stay at the Mailareshwara temple premises tonight. Can you tell us how to reach the place?"

The man nodded. "I'll take you there. Follow me."

It was as if someone had infused new life into Aditi and Vivek. They stood up quickly and picked up their things. The man had already started off through the trees, and they walked swiftly to catch up with him.

"This is not an easy forest to navigate if you are new to it", said the man. "But it is gorgeous, don't you think?" He looked over his shoulder. "The Western Ghats are home to some of the most beautiful and rare species of plants in the world."

Vivek and Aditi struggled to keep pace with him.

"Do you live in these forests?" Vivek asked.



"Oh, close by", said the man with a vague wave of his free hand. "Watch your step. That stretch is slippery."

The man turned, and held the lantern high in the air to light up their way. The light from the lantern fell on his sharp features, casting deep shadows on his face. It gave his features an unearthly look.

He resumed walking, soundlessly and effortlessly. He strode through the bushes and rocks and trees as comfortably as if he were walking in his home, amidst familiar furniture.

“Have you lived here a long time?" Aditi asked.


They continued the night-time trek. Leaves and branches brushed against them from time to time, startling them. The walk seemed endless. Aditi started getting apprehensive.

"How are you sure he is taking us to the temple? " She whispered to Vivek. "What if he takes us somewhere else and robs us?"

"You watch too many movies. Don't worry." Vivek was hurrying to keep the man in sight.

The man continued to glide along, pointing out shrubs and trees in the darkness.

"This is a silk-cotton tree", he said, indicating a massive, dark figure. "It has sharp thorns on its trunk. According to mythology, a Rakshasa, running away from his pursuers, climbed the tree, and as he did so, plucked off his teeth and stuck them on the trunk of the tree so that they couldn't climb up after him."

"Interesting!" Vivek exclaimed.

"That is a very old tamarind tree. You know what they say about tamarind trees, don't you?"

"That ghosts live in it?" Aditi said.

"Yes!" The man said. "Have you met any ghosts in your life?"


"Hmmm. Well, there is always a first time."

Aditi looked at Vivek questioningly. But it was too dark to make out his expression.

The man glanced over his shoulder. "Don't you believe in ghosts?"


"That's good. It wouldn't have been easy sitting all alone in the darkness if you did."

They didn't answer. Aditi had taken Vivek's arm. She was feeling uneasy. Her heart was thudding, whether with the effort of walking or with panic, she couldn't say.

It was pitch dark by now. A cicada called out persistently from somewhere. The man slowed down, holding the lantern aloft. It cast terrifying shadows in the murky jungle, and Vivek and Aditi walked close together, slowly, and guardedly.

The moon was a tiny sliver in the night sky. The thick forest seemed to press in upon them in the darkness.

“I can't bear it any more.” Aditi was in tears.

"Is it a long way off?" Vivek asked. He was also restless now.

"Nearly there."

They stepped out into a large clearing. They could see the indistinct form of a temple gopura, silhouetted against the night sky. A path led from where they stood to a low parapet, which seemed to form the boundary of the temple premises.

The man stopped. "There it is."

Aditi felt a flood of relief wash over her. She couldn't wait to get to the predictability of a man-made structure.

Vivek turned to the man. "I don't know how to thank you. If not for you....."

The man smiled. "Not a big deal. Your companions would have rescued you anyway. Now hurry. They will be waiting for you."

"And you?"

"Back home!" The man's eyes twinkled, and he waved them away.

Aditi and Vivek stepped out on to the path that led to the temple, and nearly ran towards the reassuring structure.

They jumped over the waist-high parapet. About fifty feet away was the back of the temple. From behind that came the sound of voices, and a vague, hazy, glow of light.

Vivek turned back to see if the man was still there. He wasn't, and neither could he see the light of the lantern. Vivek shuddered.

They went round the temple, the walls of which were carved with large, grotesque figures that seemed to look down upon them in disapproval. Aditi felt an uncomfortable tingling at the back of her neck, and fear was still stuck in her throat. They hurried past the crude figures. It was clear that this temple wasn't famed for its architectural beauty, but for the setting it was in. It was obvious that, come morning, the sights from there would be a wonder to behold.

They arrived at a courtyard, flanked on one side by the temple, and open to the hills on the opposite side. The other two sides had large buildings built in the style of old homes, with a raised platform supported by pillars, covered with a tiled, sloping roof. From the platform, small doors opened out into shadowy little rooms. These were probably the rooms they would stay in that night, Vivek thought.

There was activity, and the sound of vessels from one of the rooms nearby. A heavenly aroma of freshly cooked food wafted towards them, and they realized how hungry they were.

A couple of string cots and mats were spread out in the middle of the courtyard, and some lanterns lent a pale glow to the atmosphere. Their friends were sitting there, talking animatedly. Aditi felt a sudden pang. Hadn't they thought of going in search of their lost companions?

On the raised platform, leaning against a pillar, sat a very old man. He was dressed in a white dhoti, and a beige shawl covered his upper torso. His yellowing hair was tied up in a small knot at the back of his head. A moustache nearly covered his mouth, and his beard reached his chest. He was deeply engrossed in a book.

Vivek and Aditi walked up to their group, relief written all over their faces. Someone in the group looked up and exclaimed loudly. The next moment, a few had clambered to their feet, and a couple of them trotted up to the them, welcoming them warmly.

There was a flurry of voices.

"Where were you? We turned and you were gone!"

"How did you find your way back?"

Raghav spoke. "I went back along the track as soon as I realized that you were missing. You seemed to have disappeared without a trace."

Vivek said, "We were trying to find our way. We must have been somewhere in the trees when you came looking for us."

"Oh", said Raghav. "Anyway, I dropped the others here, and then went back immediately with Vasant. I couldn't find my way. It was getting dark, and so I came back for stronger torches or lanterns. Shastrigalu --" He pointed to the old man sitting against the pillar. "The priest, Shastrigalu, said that there was no need for us to go looking for you – that you would come back on your own."

"I didn't really believe him.” Raghav continued softly. “At this very moment, I was making plans of going back into the forest in search of you."

He resumed in his normal voice. "We were worried. Great to see you back safe. Not a very pleasant place, this. Unnerving, don't you think? Anyway, how did you find your way back?"

Aditi answered. "We met a man who led us here."


"A man, quite creepy, I should say. He had a mole on his nose, he said he lived in the forest."

"I knew he wouldn't fail you.” Shastrigalu spoke suddenly.

The voice was very strong for such an old man. Everybody turned and looked at the priest.

He spoke again. "I knew he would find you and bring you here, safe. That is why I asked this young man not to take the trouble of going back to look for you."

"Oh, do you know that man?" Vivek asked.

"Everybody knows him", said the priest, paused, and then added mysteriously, "And yet, nobody really knows him."

"What do you mean? Have you met him?" Vivek pressed.

"Oh yes, I meet him all the time. The first time I met him was many years ago, when I was a boy of eight or so. My father was the priest of this temple then. I had gone to the jungle looking for Kaulikayi, and had got lost. This man showed me the way back."

Vivek laughed. "Oh, then it cannot be the same person, Shastrigale! This was a middle-aged man, much younger than you are!"

Shastrigalu smiled. His mouth appeared from behind the yellow beard. There were spaces where his teeth used to be.

His voice dropped to a chilling whisper. He enunciated each word slowly and deliberately. "It is the same man", he said. "He was middle-aged then, he is middle-aged now. He will be middle-aged long after you and I are gone."

The night suddenly seemed to grow cold. His words hung uncomfortably in the air, thick with silence. A breeze rustled the leaves in the trees. Cicadas chirped from somewhere, and the hissing kerosene stoves from the kitchen were not heard any longer.

Aditi's heart throbbed.

"Is he... is he a ghost?"

Shastrigalu smiled. "Call him what you want. A ghost, a guiding spirit – how does it matter?"

There was a hush. Vivek and Aditi looked at each other. Nobody spoke.

"You don't believe me, do you?" Shastrigalu asked. He smiled and shut the book.

Vivek had trouble finding his voice. “Are you.... quite sure that he is the same man that you met when you were a boy? Perhaps you had met this man's father?"

"You youngsters ask too many questions."

Shastrigalu got up with some effort. He picked up the walking stick which was leaning against the pillar.

"There need not be an explanation for everything, you know."

He shuffled through the corridor. "Now, go and have dinner." He paused and looked sidelong at them. "You have a long night ahead of you. A very..... long...... night."

Everybody looked on uncertainly as Shastrigalu continued on his way.

At the far end of the dark corridor, there was a movement. A figure seemed to appear out of the darkness. It approached Shastrigalu noiselessly. As it came nearer, they discerned it to be the figure of a man. As the man drew closer, they caught a glimpse of his face by the light of the lanterns.

The man had a large mole on his nose.

Aditi gasped and clutched Vivek's arm. There was a sharp intake of breath from someone in the gathering.

The activity from the kitchen had ceased.

The man came closer. Everybody seemed to be rooted to the ground.

Shastrigalu, who had been walking away unsteadily, stopped and turned around. "Hmmm. I didn't mention that he lives here, did I? I hope this will not change your plans for the night. Not that you have anywhere else to go."

There was a deafening silence, for what seemed like an eternity.

A sudden and dramatic laughter rang out, breaking the silence. It was the man with the mole.

“Appa, just look at their faces!” He said.

There was confusion. Everybody turned to look at Shastrigalu. He was shaking with noiseless laughter.

“Appa, now they probably think you are a ghost too! A father-son ghost duo!” The man with the mole laughed even louder.

The priest's laughter turned into a spasm of coughing. When it subsided, he spoke in a hoarse voice. "This is Bhaskara. My son. Knows the forest like the back of his hand. I sent him to bring the two of you back."

He continued. "You youngsters claim to have modern views, analytical thinking. You claim not to believe in the supernatural." He paused. "Got frightened anyway, didn't you?"

Shastrigalu shook his head slowly, turned again, leaned on his cane and started hobbling away. He looked over his shoulder. The group was still standing there, looking after him, open-mouthed.

His toothless mouth appeared again from behind his beard.

"What are you looking at me like that for? Aren't old people allowed to have a sense of humour?"

Bhaskara was now laughing so much that he had to hold on to a pillar to support himself.

"It never fails to work!" He said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Just trying to add a little spice to a lonely life, you see. You must excuse our little joke. Now come, the dinner is getting cold!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pooh and Pooh's Amma

Last night, Puttachi was terribly hyper, and though it was past her bedtime, and her eyes had become tiny, she was showing no inclination to go to bed. She was bouncing in her crib, and I told her stories, sang songs to soothe her, but nothing worked. I had reached the end of my patience.

Me: Puttachi, I've had enough. Now, just lie down still, close your eyes and go to sleep.

Puttachi: Tell me a story.

Me: No more stories. Time to sleep.

Puttachi: I'll tell you a story.

Me: (Resignedly) Ok, go ahead.

Puttachi: Once upon a time, there lived one Pooh. There also lived Pooh's Amma. You are my Amma, aren't you?

Me: Yes, Puttachi, I am.

Puttachi: Just like that, Pooh also had an Amma.

Me: Oh, really.

Puttachi: Then one day, Pooh told Pooh's Amma..... do you know what Pooh told Pooh's Amma?

Me: No, what did Pooh say?

Puttachi: Pooh told Pooh's Amma, "Amma, I am not feeling sleepy."

Then, she looked at me through the corner of her eye, burst out laughing, and continued her bouncing.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Some like it hot

The weather, that is. They cannot stand the cold, and long for the heat of summer. But I am totally a winter person. I would any day don warm clothes and curl up under a blanket with a hot beverage, than bear the heat of summer.

Heat drains me, tires me out. If I don't remember to keep myself constantly hydrated, I turn into this moping, grouchy, whiny, tired, irritable person, someone you would do best to steer clear of.

Bangalore summer has never been too bad, but it is progressively getting worse. Yet, I should be thankful I live in a city with a fairly good thermostat.

As if to teach me a lesson for complaining, fate sent me to do my post-grad in Trichy, a hot, dry place in Tamilnadu. The town is known for three kinds of weather - hot, hotter and hottest. I don't know how I survived 18 months in that place, but I came back with a healthier respect for Bangalore.

When I first entered the hostel, I was surprised to see that most of the local girls slept directly on the metal cots, without mattresses. Come summer, I understood the logic. The mattress was an encumbrance. It radiated heat. I rolled up my mattress, set it aside and lay down on the welcoming cool of the steel cot. It was alright for a while, until the cot took on the temperature of my body. Add to that the discomfort of sleeping on a hard surface, and I decided that I would rather sleep on the mattress. I then took to pouring a bottle of water over my mattress before I went to bed, just for the few hours of coolness. By midnight, the mattress would be dry, and it would be hell again. There was a fan, of course, but somehow, it was just not enough. Thankfully, there weren't many power cuts there. There was only one terrible night, where there was no power for a few hours. It was the peak of summer, and I stayed up all night fanning myself with the moistened lavancha (khus/vettiver) hand-fan. Yet, by morning, I was drenched in sweat.

The sun in Trichy is treacherous. Even when it doesn't look all that sunny, all you have to do is venture out to feel the sun burn your skin. It almost feels like needles pricking you. I travelled around the campus in a bicycle, mainly to make sure that I get from one place to another as quickly as possible. It didn't help that it was a terribly conservative place, where I couldn't wear even a sleeveless top without a thousand tongues wagging. So there I was, overdressed, panting, pedalling with all my might, straining to get to my destination before I turned into a dry leaf.

In spite of all my avoiding being out in the sun, our department (of Energy Engineering), had very thoughtfully arranged the Solar Energy Experiments in the Summer Semester. And the time? Just after lunch. So there we were, out in the sun in 42 dec C (I measured that in the thermometer we used for our experiments), and working out things like which inclination works best for solar water heaters and which for solar photovoltaics. It was so hot that you could fry pakodas on our heads. Not that you would want to, though, in that heat. And the strange thing is that I never sweated. Probably it was so hot that the sweat evaporated as soon as it was ejected from the pores of my body

When I got back to my room after that, I would go to the bathroom and pour a bucketful of cold water over myself. None of that water reached the floor of the bathroom. My parched body absorbed it all.

Then there was this time when my friend R and I had been out to the city. We hadn't carried water with us, and we were very thirsty. The city bus dropped us at the main gate of the campus, from where we had to walk nearly a kilometer to reach our hostel. We were so thirsty that our throats were burning and dry; we could't even talk. Just as we got down from the bus, the sky opened up a wee bit, and let loose a few drops of water. But we had no reason to rejoice. The moment the drops of water touched the burning, black, tarred road, the water just turned into steam and rose up. So there we were, walking in a veritable sauna. If the hostel had been even a wee bit farther than it was, we would have had to crawl up to the hostel, with our tongues hanging out. I realized then that those actors who portray thirsty people in the movies weren't really overacting.

The water that finally slaked our thirst felt like it came straight from heaven.

Now just writing all this has burned me up. Time for a drink of water.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Doing nothing and everything

I am at my mom's place. I came here for a 4-day visit, but due to various reasons, I have had to extend my stay. It has been more than a week now.

Since Puttachi has totally hooked on to my parents, I am left with a lot of free time. So I have had the opportunity to do a lot of things that I hadn't done in a long time, so long that I had forgotten how beautiful it is to do them.

- Reading a book for long stretches without a break.
- Drinking tea in peace before it gets cold, and eating junk along with it.
- Just sitting and looking at the ceiling and contemplating life.
- Trying out something totally new - I have been meaning to start solving Cryptic crosswords for years now - I have finally got round to doing it. You can see me sitting around with stacks of old papers, pencil in hand, and scribbling away furiously. I can see why it is so addictive.
- Just picking up a random photo album from the shelf, going through old photographs, laughing and reliving sweet memories.
- Sleeping when I actually feel sleepy.

I could go on.... Ahh.. The small pleasures of life.....

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Puttachi Speak

I can't remember the last time I gave you Puttachi updates. The only update these days is how MUCH she talks. And understands, and communicates.

Here are a few snippets of conversation.

NOTE: Our entire conversation is in Kannada. If I try to write everything as she speaks, I will have to translate her words first into intelligible Kannada, and then into English for non-Kannada readers. So I am directly giving you the English version, with some exceptions.


Out of the blue, Puttachi walks up to the shoe stand with purpose, takes her sandals and walks up to the door, her stuffed chimpanzee tucked under one arm. She starts putting on her sandals (Btw, she can put on her sandals herself now.)

Me: Puttachi, what's the matter? Where are you going?
She: (looking at me with all earnestness and concern) Chimpanzee has got hurt. I am taking it to the doctor.

I wonder what she would have done had I opened the door and let her go!


She: Amma, come, dance with me!
Me: I can't dance today, Puttachi, I have a tummy ache. You dance alone.
She: (immediately stops dancing, comes to me, sits cross-legged, pulls my head on to her tiny lap, pats my head.) Poor Amma is hurt.. go to sleep now. (And she "sings" a lullaby)


Sound of an aeroplane is heard. Puttachi strains to see it in the sky, but cannot spot it.
She: Aeroplane modad hinde bachitkondbittide. [Aeroplane is hiding behind the clouds.]


Her first story:

Me: Puttachi, tell me a story.
She: Once upon a time there lived a baby. Baby said "Aaaaa!".... Then... Baby went round and round. Then baby went zoommmmmm. Then..... baby went to bed.


Me: ... And this is a rhino's horn.
She: Peem peem?


She does something cute, and overcome with love, I squeeze her tight and give her hard kisses on her cheeks.

She: (Frowning and pulling away.) Don't do that! It hurts! (Wags her index finger at me.) Now come on, stroke my cheek and say sorry!


S~: (Trying to entertain her with one of her favourite songs).
She: (Frowns) You don't sing! Let Amma sing.


Me: Puttachi, don't come close to me. I have a needle in my hand. It might prick you.
She: Like a porcupine?


She: (Drinking milk, points to the froth). What is this?
Me: Froth. There is air inside those little bubbles.
She: Like the air that comes from the fan?


She: (Says something unintelligible) Baathish.
Me: What did you say?
She: Baathish.
Me: Say it again, what is it? Show it to me, where is it?
She: (vehemently) Baathish
Me: (puzzled and helpless look)
She: Gottagtaillva? (Aren't you able to understand?)


She: (Eating cashews)
ME: Puttachi, give me some cashews, please?
She: (Gives me two) Eat them one by one, and chew them well, okay?


Me: (showing her a book on pandas) Look, this is a bamboo tree.. what is the Panda doing there? (I expect the reply, "Panda is climbing up the tree.")
She: Panda is climbing DOWN the tree.
Me: (We and our stunted thinking!)


S~ has gone out to buy, among other things, Rajma.
She: Where is Papa?
Me: He has gone to the shop.
She: To buy bread?
Me: No, to buy beans.
She: (thinks for a while.) Papa will bring the beans home and Amma will throw them away.
Me: What?
She repeats.
Me: Why will Amma throw them away?
She: Amma will throw the beans away. Like this. (And makes a throwing action).
Now I wondered why on earth she thinks that I will throw away the beans... I wondered.. until it hit me. Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack brings home beans and his "amma" throws them away... So here, S~ brings home beans, and "amma" will throw them away!


She: (sees the picture of a waterfall in a book) What is this?
Me: You tell me what it is?
She: "Down".
Me: ??
She: Down. And she makes a falling action with her hands.
Then I get it. "We all fall down" at the end of "Ring-a-ring-a-roses.". Water fall. Fall down. And so Down. Get it?


She: (Confiscating a ball lying in the park.)
Me: Puttachi, the ball belongs to that little boy, give it back to him.
She: Who?
Me: That little boy in the red shirt.
She: A red shirt, like the red shirt that Pooh wears?


I am in my mom's place, and I take her to the bathroom to give her a bath. She has just started recognizing and naming colours, and so she is thrilled to see that the bathroom is entirely in blue.

She: (points to the washstand) "Boo!" (To the commode) "Boo!" (The floor tiles) "Boo!" (To the wall tiles) "Boo!" (To the bucket) "Boo!"
(Then she points to the pink mug, and stops short. She picks it up in her hand with a frown of puzzlement.) "Amma, the mug is pink. Why?"


Yet, yet - her speech remains terribly unclear. Extreme baby-talk. I am kind of thankful for that. With all this talking, if her speech was also clear, my baby would not be a baby any longer! :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


At some point in every child's life, the parents probably start to wonder about sharing, how to teach it, its age-appropriateness, and the frustrations that arise when the child doesn't seem to want to share.

During random reading about children and parenting, I have frequently come across the statement that children have a "natural, inbuilt sense of generosity." So why does that sense go into hiding when it comes to sharing?

Long before Puttachi was born, S~'s cousin came home with her daughter Y. When we gave Y a bar of chocolate, her mom asked her to break it into pieces and give one to everybody before she ate one herself. When she gave me a piece, I told her, "Its okay, baby, you can have this one too." Her mom immediately said, "No, no, please take it. I want her to learn to share." I remember being pretty impressed, especially because the child, barely two years old, smilingly and willingly gave everybody a piece of chocolate before settling down to eat her share.

After Puttachi was old enough to understand, it has been S~ who has taken it upon himself to teach her to share. Whenever she is given a treat to eat (raisins, nuts, puffed rice), he asks her to give one to everybody and then eat. If she protests if I am sitting on "her" chair, he tells her gently, "Amma wants to sit too. Let us allow her to sit for a while, and then you can sit on it." And then when I get up, he says, "Ahh, see, now it is your turn, you can sit on the chair."

There have been a spate of weddings in the family. I take dry fruits along with me to such events to engage Puttachi if she gets too edgy. In these weddings, when she was eating the nuts, she would herself, voluntarily, offer it to the nearest person, even if it happened to be a stranger, and then continue eating. But yes, I am aware that this is a situation where she had enough raisins for herself, enough to feel sufficiently magnanimous.

But then, about a month ago, Sanjay and his wife had come home with their son Jaanamari. Puttachi was delighted to see this fellow, just her age, and she took him gleefully to see her toys, and plied him with her toys and books. "Maybe she doesn't like that book", Sanjay ventured to say, when Puttachi was forcing one particular book on Jaanamari. "On the contrary", I said, "that's one of her favourites." Both Sanjay and his wife concurred that (I am paraphrasing) "Puttachi is the most generous child we have ever encountered." S~ and I were very pleased, of course, and later that night, we discussed why it could be. Is it because we continuously encourage her to share, or is it that by nature she is a generous child? We concluded that it was probably a combination of both, and left it at that.

Then there came another sharing situation. Actively sharing toys everyday. Puttachi plays in the sand everyday in the park, with her new friend, little Sk, just about three months younger to her. (Sk's mom M and I met at the park and became friends, and then later got to know that we go back a long way. One of those unexpected encounters that one is thankful for - knowing them has been enriching.)

When Sk and Puttachi play with the garden set in the sand, naturally, they have to share. Inevitably, each wants the toy the other is playing with. It leads to a bit of grabbing and snatching and screaming, before we, as moms intervene and tell them, "Hey listen, she was playing with it, don't take it from her hand, pick the one that is not being used." To give both the kids due credit, they listen, and don't make too much of a fuss. Even if they do, a small distraction serves to make them forget. Lately they have even taken to "gifting" each other sticks, stones, seeds and seashells.

Last week, M sent me a very thought-provoking link about sharing, asking me what I felt about it. Do read the whole thing, but what it says is that sharing is not a natural thing, and it is probably wrong to force kids to do it at such a young age. After all, don't we also have our favourite things that we don't want to share with anybody else? Sometimes not even with our loved ones, leave alone strangers. Then why should we force our children to do it? Especially because at that age, sharing means "giving". There is one more thing I realized. When our children grab a toy from another child's hands, what do we do? Grab it back from her, saying, "You should not grab!" I mean, what on earth are we teaching them if we don't practice what we preach?

I saw sharing in a new light. The article does have an element of truth. I almost felt sorry for making Puttachi share her things with absolute strangers. But I still believe that if the concept is inculcated really early, it will become a habit.

As if to validate my feeling, M sent me another link. That's almost the kind of approach S~ has been following with Puttachi. So far, more or less it has worked with Puttachi. Or is it because she is still too young? Or haven't we encountered situations that really test her? Or is the "possessiveness" feeling more acute in older children? I would love to hear from you all - what you think is right, your experiences, and how you have handled it all.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Award Ceremony

On Saturday, there was a small and informal ceremony at the office of Deccan Herald, where we, the winners of the Short Story competition were given our awards.

Two of the judges were there - the incredibly elegant author Usha K.R., and columnist Pradeep Sebastian, he of the scathing movies reviews that we loved to read as children. The third judge, Anita Nair, wasn't present.

We met Ms. Dipti Nair, one of the editors of DH, who has been responsible for organizing the whole contest. She actually waded single-handedly through the 600-odd entries that they received, and shortlisted about 30 which were sent to the judges.

The judges spoke about the prizewinning stories and on what basis they judged the stories. Then, we were asked to speak about where we got our ideas from, and our work. Since only the first prize story has been published so far, it was interesting to hear the author speak about it - coz we knew what he was talking about. I really wish this gathering had taken place after all the stories had been published and read, so that it could have been a more meaningful interaction.

We had a discussion about the new and revamped DH with the other Editors and staff of DH. I enjoyed meeting the people behind the newspaper that I have read all my life. I really did. So much so that when I opened the newspaper the next morning, I virtually saw their faces in it! ;)

Well, I saw my face too in the newspaper - a report was published on Sunday (Mar 22). The link doesn't have the photograph - you can probably see it in the epaper (Page 3, main paper). Yes, that's me in white, smiling the wry smile.

Special thanks to Puttachi for being on her best behaviour, and to S~ for taking her outside and letting me participate in peace when she got too talkative.

So I am now richer by Rs.15000-TDS. :) And am looking forward to my story being published - on the first Sunday of May. Thank you for your patience!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Introducing - The School of Parenting.

Venue: Your nearest park.
Time: Every evening
Fees: Entry free
Mode of teaching: Live demonstrations.
Teachers: Parents/caregivers and children.
What you need to bring with you: A pair of open eyes.

Example Scenario: A little girl has climbed onto the jungle gym and is stuck. She is afraid to get down.

Reaction 1: One mother, who is at the other end of the park, looks around at her daughter calling her urgently, and she turns around, finishes her conversation with her friend, and walks across leisurely, the little girl screaming with panic all through. She lazily holds out a hand to the girl, helps her down, and goes back to her friend without wasting another moment.

Reaction 2: Another mother stomps furiously towards her daughter, lifts her down, slaps her hard, and says, "How many times have I told you not to climb this? You always get stuck. You cannot climb it. Can't you understand this simple thing?" (Any wonder that the girl always gets stuck on it?)

Reaction 3: A father stands and looks up at his wailing daughter and laughs at her. "Heh heh ha ha, you look so funny stuck there..." while the little girl is shaking with fear, holding on to the rods for dear life.

Reaction 4: And then there is a father who goes to his daughter and encourages her. "Come on, you can do it. No, I won't hold you, but I am right here. I will not let you fall. One foot there.. that's right.. hold this rod... yes... yes... now, one foot down there.. correct... and there! You did it yourself!"

Now you look at all this and don't learn? Impossible :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

A morning walk with a difference.

I took one of the Bangalore Walks on Saturday - The Traditional Bengaluru one.

Taking a guided tour in a new city is a beautiful experience, yes. It is a journey of discovery and learning. But to take a guided tour of your own city? That is nothing less than enthralling. It is like being taken around your own backyard, and being pointed out treasures you never knew existed.

I will not give away the secrets I learned about Bangalore. I suggest you go discover them yourself. But all that I seemed to keep doing was say, "Really? X played a part in the design of Bangalore's sanitation? Wow!" "Oh, I've passed this place a dozen times - I had no idea it was so unique." "Man! Such a historical spot, right next door to me!"

I felt pretty much the same way while I read "Bangalore through the Centuries" by M.Fazlul Hasan, but this was first-hand experience, and that made it much better.

It helped that our guide, Savita, is very obviously passionate about Bangalore and its history, and some of the things she said gave me an idea of just how much research and planning has gone into the development of this park. A wonderful effort.

It doesn't matter if you are new to Bangalore, or have lived in Bangalore all your life. I suggest that you go take one of these walks. It is well-worth the time.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Kids and maids

This post, about maids looking after kids, has been simmering in my mind for a very, very long time now. I didn't want to sound judgemental or righteous, nor did I want to comment on a trend that has almost been accepted as a way of life, whatever be the reason. But I feel very strongly about this and as such things go, strong feelings ought to be purged, or else!

I know perfectly well all the reasons that people employ maids. Just because I could easily chuck my hated job to look after my baby, it doesn't mean that I am insensitive to all those mothers who care so much about their career. Just because I have hard-headedly decided to do everything on my own around the house, it doesn't mean that I find it easy and fun. It doesn't mean that I have very often wished that there was someone who would just watch my child as I caught forty winks, or someone who would engage her as I sat back and sipped tea and read the newspaper, and a million such small things. But so far, I have been able to manage, mainly due to S~, who gets back from work and looks after Puttachi for a while, while I put my feet up, and who helps me with the housework even after a long day, so that I can get to do the things I like after Puttachi goes to bed, and hence feel normal after an insane day. I know that not everybody has these luxuries, and I am thankful for them. But that will not stop me from expressing my concerns.

It was in my township that I first noticed a maid looking after two young girls, because both the husband and wife went out to work. The maid in question was terribly young herself, certainly not more than 12. And she was extremely dirty. Unwashed face, snot pouring out of her nose, uncombed hair, dirty hands - the works. And she looked after these two kids, daughters of my father's colleague, by which reasoning the girls were like us. I don't want to go into details, but even to my young mind, that concept put me off, and probably scarred me for life.

That of course, must have been an extreme case. The maids I see now are older, much smarter, very clean and neat. Yet, I fail to understand how a maid can fit into a mother's shoes, even temporarily.

I don't know how it works inside the house - the mother-maid-child relationship, because I can't say that I have seen any such cases up close. My experiences are only those on the outside.

Case 1: When both mother and maid are around: In malls or in the market or in the park, the mother glides through, impeccably dressed, smiling a gracious smile out of a perfectly lipsticked mouth, every hair in place, every crease in her dress perfectly aligned, while behind her comes a huffing and a puffing maid, carrying a child, the child's bag, and shopping bags if any. [I have seen two maids too, sometimes]. Then there are those maids who sit on a different table at a restaurant, feeding the children and themselves, while at the next table sit the child's parents, "enjoying" a "relaxed" meal. If the child cries, it is the maid's problem. But if an acquaintance is sighted, then the child is picked up and shown off to gushes and gurgles, and then agian deposited with the maid to do the dirty work. And then there are those maids at a park, who engage the child in play while the mother just sits there and does nothing. I have seen other moms who go for a walk when the said maid is engaging the said child, and I approve of that. Makes the best use of the situation. Then there are those moms like these in LAK's post.

Case 2: When only the maid is around: The best place to watch this phenomenon unfold is the park. Elsewhere, it could be a one-off situation. But in the park, you know that it is not so. My pet example is this old maid who brings a three-four year old boy everyday. She is undoubtedly sincere. She carries the boy all the way, and brings along a big bag too, full of toys and a waterbottle and a change of clothes. Every day, her routine is the same. She puts the boy on the swing for five minutes, takes him to the slide for five minutes, and so on until a round of all the playthings is done, after which she puts him on the sand and gives him his implements to play. If there is any slip in schedule, for example, if the boy doesn't want to play the merry go round, he gets a rain of curses on his small head, and he is forced to comply. If he dilly-dallies on top of the slide, examining the rods, for example, or looking up at the sky to see an aeroplane, this old lady shouts at him not to waste time and to slide down immediately. Every single day, these two arrive at the park, and not once have I seen a smile on either one's face. Ok, forget the old maid who might have problems of her own. But a three year old boy without a smile? No smile on the slide, no smile on the swing, no interest in anything, always staring off into space with a vacant look. It pains me to look at him, it breaks my heart. I tried to engage him in conversation once, using all the broken Tamil I knew, but he just wouldn't respond. I let Puttachi loose upon him, but he just looked through her. I had to give up. I wonder what extreme necessity it is that makes the boy's parents/caregivers not be there for him.

I also remember two little boys in the park I used to go to previously. Each boy had a maid for himself. The younger of the boys, about a year old, wet his pants and the maid just let it be. Wet and stinking. Another time, she made him pee right there in the kids play area, where other kids play in the sand. She also tried making him walk barefoot on the sand, and the other maid scolded her. "What if he cuts his foot or something! Their mother just goes kwa-kwa-kwa for everything. She is a witch, she is ruthless, she has no heart. If he gets hurt, we will get it properly." Now, the older boy was old enough to understand all that was being said about his mother. I looked at his face - there was no expression. Was all that so common that it didn't affect the boy anymore? What on earth will he think about his mother?

This is just one aspect. I have seen other maids who truly enjoy being with their wards. They laugh, talk and sing, and they obviously have fun with them. And that's great. But yet. Yet I feel that with the mother around, the child would have got a more wholesome experience. But then, that's just my opinion.

Having said all this, I am fully aware that I am not in a position to judge anybody. I do not approve of how maids are being employed to care for their children. Their role is becoming increasingly greater, gradually replacing the mother more and more. And that is what troubles me. While a maid as a help and a temporary companion is understandable, the fact that a child has to spend a majority of its time with someone who is not an immediate member of the family - it troubles me. While it might actually work out beautifully if there is a great maid, my guess is that such people are very rare.

I've got it all out - well, almost, so that should give me a peaceful night.
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