Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Something new for 2007...

After a long break I looked through a few posts randomly...and I signed into my own and saw Tharini's message...Thanks Tharini, sweet of you! I especially think of you now and I actually read one your old posts again a few weeks back - the one about how if you think of parenting as something spritual it makes a lot of difference in being able to cope with the challenges that come with it...and you can guess now why I might have read that post again. I am pregnant with the second child due end of June.
Unlike madmomma who very much wanted a second (and I assume you too) and is very very excited about it from day one, I actually found this to be a difficult decision for me. I was very happy with just one child. I did not desire to have a second child nor did I look forward to going through pregnancy all over again. I had planned to join a program (with a fellowship that is awarded to very few students each year) but having a child meant giving up both the admission and the fellowship. I knew that if I did have a second I would have to postpone getting back to the work/study world for that much longer. This was not the only reason but everything put together I really hesistated to even think about having a second child. I feel there is so much pain and suffering in this world, why bring one more child into this world. I feel/felt guilty even about wanting to have our own child when there are so many in need of a home. Yet the desire to have our own was strong and I also did not want to adopt - I was ready to just support a lot of children (I am involved with a home for children) rather than adopting one - I feared how it would be if I regretted the adoption - the guilt would kill me. Illogical as it may seem, I felt more at liberty to feel anger during difficult moments with my own child than with an adopted one.
The first child, I was looking forward to it. Everything was novel and I felt completely at peace. For the second, I wanted my child to have a sibling (and the two of them for each other) and that was the only driving force behind my decision. I could not imagine my life without my siblings and I wanted my child to also have that joy. One of my brothers was totally not in favor of having a second (he has only one) and the other one (who also has only one son) was always trying to convince me not to make the mistake of having just one child! My mother ofcourse was all in favor of it and I suppose she thinks I make this decision too - she wanted me to badly have a girl! My husband was sure we should have two children. If he had had any doubts about it, we would not have gone for it since I was so unsure of it myself. Anyway - with a lot of trepidation I did make the decision that I would give it a few months and if within that time I did get pregnant, we would indeed have a second child. I found out I was pregnant just a day before my mother-in-law passed away. I did not even get around to telling her about it - she would have been so happy to know about it. I went to India for her funeral and came back in two weeks. I had to deal with 10 days of jetlag with my son along with my first trimester nausea - not so much throwing up - but just a total lack of appetite and hence a constant feeling of hunger. It was also getting dark very early since it is winter and my husband was working late hours each day and weekends to catch up on the two weeks of work that had piled up when he was away in India. Those were depressing 10 days. At that moment I reminded myself of Tharini's post - sometimes it does feel like it is something you give of yourself to raise children. Even if it is difficult and painful at times. Ofcourse the joys too are endless but you really earn the joy with a lot of hardwork. And I do feel that while working mothers have to face a different set of challenges, sahm's have to deal with a lot of mental drain - you don't get a break to just do something for yourself - not even read something in total peace for an hour - it is a a difficult thing to get used to. It is a choice you make no doubt, but that doesn't make it easier. Well, I have got through the first trimester and I am able to eat a lot better though I have not gained any weight at all. I am looking forward to knowing the gender of the baby - just like madmomma - I too am all for knowing the gender as soon as possible! My friend who is also pregnant is trying hard to convince me not to find out and I am trying hard to convince her to find out the gender! Anyway - that's the news from my end. Hoping for a healthy child for all of us who are pregnant now...and a healthy girl esp for madmomma since she so badly wants a girl! I am ok with either one really - with the first one I was so eager and was so sure it would be a girl - it took me a day to mentally readjust when the ultrasound technician casually told me "oh by the way it's a boy!". Now I am ok with a boy or a girl - just praying for a healthy child! Taking it by the day now...hopefully everything will go well and we will have a healthy child. I cannot imagine what it will be like to deal with two children at the same time. My son is a good natured child but he does give me a difficult time when it comes to eating - it drains me out to feed him his meals three times a day - I do hope that changes for the better so I have the energy to cope with feeding two children at the same time! Plenty of changes and new things to look forward to in 2007!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I read this article in the NYT and I found it quite astounding. I hardly come across news items that are totally shocking or where I am just not able to understand the other person's perspective. If the news is about some horrific act commited by someone, it will be so horrific that you can surely conclude that the person is not a normal person otherwise. And there are so many weird things you read about in the news that you hardly even find those news items shocking. But this was something I could not understand. This is the gist of what my rant is about:

The article reviews the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or P.G.D., a process in which embryos are created in a test tube and their DNA is analyzed before being transferred to a woman’s uterus. In this manner, embryos destined to have, for example, cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease can be excluded, and only healthy embryos implanted.
Yet Susannah A. Baruch and colleagues at the Genetics and Public Policy Center at
Johns Hopkins University recently surveyed 190 American P.G.D. clinics, and found that 3 percent reported having intentionally used P.G.D. “to select an embryo for the presence of a disability.”
In other words, some parents had the painful and expensive fertility procedure for the express purpose of having children with a defective gene. It turns out that some mothers and fathers don’t view certain genetic conditions as disabilities but as a way to enter into a rich, shared culture.

I absolutely cannot understand this. One of the commenters (if you read the comments section) has expressed anger that people have spewed so much venom against people with defects - I think she has completely misunderstood those comments - it is not that people are expressing anger towards people who are born with defects and have learnt to live with it - I do think in fact at least the people who have commented here are all possibly people with compassion for those who endure and overcome such difficulties - the anger is towards parents who would intentionally choose to have children with defects. It is like saying "I was abused, I learnt to deal with it and learnt so much from overcoming it and am so much the richer for it, hence I plan to abuse my child too". Extreme as it sounds that's how I feel . How can you intentionally choose to have a baby with cystic fibrosis? It is not about your (the parents) choice, your ego but it is about what the child has to endure for life without ever having had a choice about it. When a CF child is not able to breathe freely and is enduring so much pain, is the parent going to think, well I made the right choice for my child?! This is tantamount to abuse even before birth in my opinion. Even if you take dwarfism, which one may argue is just about height and society just has to learn to deal with the difference - it is not just that - there is much more to it - people with dwarfism may also be affected by a lot of other health problems related to it. I feel if parents want to live in a shared culture where their child too has a similar defect they could adopt such a child. I can understand wanting your own child but why would you decide to control the child's health - it is not just about what soceity accepts as normal - but there is a very perceptible thing called pain that any person with any health defect has to endure. Both physically and emotionally. The comments from readers are varied and very interesting because you find a lot of people with health problems who feel offended by any opposition to this. But there are also quite a few people who have been born with genetic defects who have written that they would definitely not intentionally do that to their child. What I found really unbelievable was that there are doctors who are willing to do this and that it is legal to do this. But then again when I think about abortion - which is actually killing a fetus - which is worse? It is very hard to say. If I think of a life time of suffering for a child I suppose I would find abortion acceptable - depending on the nature of the illness. Some are really painful and debilitating and some are just a matter of teaching the child to cope with the difference. Either way I am not able to understand an intentional choice to create a child who would be born with a genetic defect.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The new life

In response to, I ask you write 12.

Mohan had told her not to wear Indian outfits when she took her afternoon walk to the supermarket near their town home. “There are very few immigrants in this area, so until we move just try to blend in, Charu. Wear jeans and none of those ornaments or bindhi” he had told her the first day he left for work leaving her alone in her new surroundings. A bold red bindhi on her forehead, kumkum on the parting of her hair, long braid dancing along with the pallu of her saree, bright yellow mangalsutra, dazzling diamond ear rings, she spelt newly wed even from a distance. She had fallen in love with her husband and loved to think of him during her afternoon walk, admiring the snow covered mountains she could see in the distance.
He was a tall white man who looked like a decent person but had sprung out of nowhere. She didn’t know when he started walking close to her. He offered to help her carry the milk cartons she was lugging back home. She refused politely but he had insisted. As they walked the two blocks to her home, the silence had been unnerving. She thought of running but she knew it would be pointless considering the snow mounds everywhere and the heavy jacket and saree she was in. “I have to go to the front office to get something. Thank you for helping” she lied to him, grabbed the bags and hurried to the front office in her housing complex. She had recited slokas all along her walk back and thanked god a million times for getting her home safely. She called Mohan from the pay phone and told him to hurry home that evening. She was dying of thirst and felt weak and hungry after she hung up the phone. “I am probably being overly paranoid” she told herself. “Wonder if I locked the yard door when I left” she thought to herself fearfully as she walked towards her home. She unlocked the front door, entered her home and bolted the door. She felt the loud silence and wished Mohan had been home already. He had asked her to wait for a couple of hours in the front office until he got home. "Don't go home if you are nervous. I told you not to look so conspicuous! I will try to get home early ok. Don't panic" he had told her sweetly as she melted all over again thinking of her lovely husband. The office was about to close for the holiday weekend and she had felt uncomfortable to linger around for no reason. She missed home. She had never ever walked into an empty home before this she realized. Her mother and patti were always home when she got back from college. Suddenly the excitement of the new life and the beauty of the snow morphed into a feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Exhausted she sat on the couch and put her head back and controlled her tears. She reached for the remote control and turned on the TV. “America’s most wanted” was playing at that moment. The talk show host showed a picture of the man as drawn by the sketch artist. It looked just like him. She screamed in utter fear and instinctively ran to the door by the staircase. Just that instant she saw the latch move to the right. She screamed even louder and headed for the kitchen to escape through the garage door. Mohan walked in to see her ashen face. “I cannot live here anymore” she sobbed into her shaking hands.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The moment...


Ananthan worshipped his father. “Sangeedham’naa anandan appa’va minja mudiyuma?! Epperpatta vidwan avar!” - he often heard his neighbor Kanakavalli mami tell her son. Ananthan’s father fondly called his son “Aanandha” and would teasingly lapse into “Aanandha anandhamdha dhanamdha” while calling him to come and play for him. It was strange to see a light sense of humor in the interactions with his son considering he was otherwise a straight faced and serious musician. Ananthan was initiated into playing the Mridangam at the age of four by his guru, the legendary Mudumbai Krishnamachari, his beloved father. Both his mother and father saw natural talent and a great sense of rhythm in the child and got him started at an early age. His father was a musical genius and could play both Mridangam and Veena even though he was famous as a vocalist.
Ananthan was passionate about his music. His mother often recalled how as a child he would mumble “kidathaka tham” in his sleep. He would keep beat with his feet even when he was half asleep if he heard a song playing on the radio. Every morning at 5.00 am when his father would do his “Sadakam”, Ananthan would wake up on his own and keenly observe and learn. He did not know mathematics at that young age but he intuitively grasped the complex patterns of swarams that his father would spontaneously break into while singing. His father was “Swara Chakravarthi” after all. When his father rendered the kalpanaswara, Ananthan would sit mesmerized in front of him. His father’s genius came through in not just the complexity of the patterns but in the grace and flow the swaras carried along. The accompanying artist had to be mature and confident in his skills to keep up with his father during such renditions. Ananthan attained fame as a child artist and soon enough accompanied many stalwarts at various concerts. Yet, he could not get himself to accompany his father on stage. He had refused to even when he was 10 years old. He did not measure up to his own expectations as the son of this music genius. Yet the challenge gnawed at him for years. He went on to become a successful engineer while keeping up with his music but he was not a single-minded musician like his father. His life felt incomplete for not having faced his own fears.
Four years after Ananthan’s marriage, his wife Lakshmi announced to him that she was pregnant. Everyone in the family was elated by the news. It was a turning point for him. It was then that he decided that he would in fact accompany his father on stage at the opening concert for the December season. He could not explain what prompted him to take that decision himself. He had wanted to do it all along but could not muster the courage to do so. The majestic image of his father, his resounding voice, the reverent audience, the rapt attention when he worked through complex patterns while singing swarams all left him weak with admiration in front of a giant. He could not understand his own reservation or fear. Yet it was perceptible in his mind. The fear of missing a beat…of letting down his father. He could not bear the thought. Yet he decided the time had come – he had to put himself through the ultimate test of his talent and confidence.
The crowds thronged through the gates at the opening concert. Women in dazzling silks fresh jasmines and fine jewellery, middle aged men in kurtas and thathas in crisp white jarigai veshti and shirt. Mothers held their children by hand and brought them in eager to have them listen to the legendary musician about to perform. There was an added sizzle to this year’s concert since father and son were on stage together for the firs time. The sabha chairman reveled in the moment and gave a lengthy speech on music and introduced the artists. The curtains were drawn. His father sat center stage chest forward, head held high, his thiruman bold on his forehead, his hair in a close crop and his angavastram adding a tinge of color to the white of his veshti and shirt. His father was a giant whose talent spoke for him but the man himself was most unassuming and the accolades barely touched him. In his father’s mind, music was his god and he served god through his industry and dedication to music. His face was radiant with the peace that comes with such dedication and there were no signs of any anxiety in him. The accompanying violinist who had played many concerts with his father looked at Ananthan kindly as if to assure him that all was going to be well. His father started off the concert with the Ata thala varnam “Viriboni”. Ananthan played along with his father. He felt at that moment that he was born all over again. He was there in front of the world in silent admiration of the colossus that was his father and yet at that moment performing with him as an artiste worthy of being there. At that moment he knew without a doubt that he would match his father’s vidwat and keep pace with him. He felt a surge of pride and elation and bowed to the creator in his mind and thanked him for the gift of music. It was at that moment that he felt he had become an adult. Worthy of becoming a father himself. They had finished the varnam to loud applause from the excited crowd. He thought to himself “Yentharo Mahanu Bhavulu Anthariki Vandhanamu (I salute all the Mahanubhava or noble souls)”.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Live and let live

Of late I have begun to notice the kinds of remarks people – in my position as a mom I notice this more – moms make to each other. Quite often it ends up being advice that is either patronizing or irritating or remarks that are purely thoughtless and insensitive. I wonder if people think before or after they make such remarks to other mothers.

- Woman with two children telling another who has been trying for a child and going through IVF wanting her own child “You know, you can adopt, why don’t you think about that?”.

- Woman with two chubby kids telling another who has a child who is naturally not the weight gaining type “ My god, the child has not grown at all since the last time I saw him five months back!”

- Stay at home mom telling a working mother without having any clue as to why she may have chosen to keep her job “ You know I would never allow anyone else to take care of my baby”

- A friend telling another breast feeding mother “You mean you are still breast feeding your daughter?! She is probably not even getting enough milk from you!”

- A working mother to another one who stopped pumping milk after 3 or 4 months: “Oh, I pumped and pumped for a long time. I just would not allow even a drop of formula for my baby!”

- A working mom with an older child to one about to deliver and has taken a break from work to have children (because her job involves field work) and is very nervous about labor pains: “Well, you know I was very active and working at my job till the day of delivery – so I did not have any problems with labor (this is a software analyst who always sat at her desk and often worked from home).

- One mom to another who’s child doesn’t like to eat Indian food often “ Oh, my children – at school they can have pasta or pizza, but at home, I insist, only rice and dal”

- Mother of a rambunctious toddler telling the mother of a rather mild mannered one “My child is very active and energetic. You saw how in one second he broke that candy bowl”

- One mom who took epidural during delivery telling another who didn’t “Oh, that’s a no-brainer – you should have taken it!”

- One mother telling another mother of a rather picky eater “I trained my kids from when they were young to eat all kinds of food”

Examples of this nature abound. I too was guilty of making a judgemental remark just a couple of days ago while talking to my good friend. She told me about her colleague who sent her second child to her parents place in India for a little while. I told my friend immediately “God, why do people have kids and then send them away with grandparents, why bother?!”. My friend then told me that her friend’s husband was extremely controlling with money and she was afraid to lose her job trying to manage two kids and become completely dependent on him. Now it is easy to say walk out in that case, but such decisions are personal and not simple. I realized that I was quick to judge and felt bad about it. I wish we could all give each other space and know that especially when it comes to children, every mom tries her best. And even if not, it is really not our business unless it is a case of abuse. Many of these remarks either annoyed the person at the receiving end or really hurt the person and made them feel guilty needlessly. There is no need to feel one up by taking jabs at the other person. To each her own…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My mother-in-law

I was away in India for the last couple of weeks for a very sad reason – my mother-in-law passed away suddenly at age 65. She had a congenital heart defect that had not been diagnosed when she was born or for that matter until she was 50 or so. She had been so energetic and had given birth to two children, had done a lot of physical work while raising them and her heart had coped so well through it all. Even in the last couple of months the doctors at the teaching college in Bangalore used to call her as a subject to show students how there are people with heart defects who almost beat it and keep active.

Since her diagnosis 12 years back she has been on several medications, diet restrictions and worst of all restriction in the amount of water she could drink per day. If I think about that it really breaks my heart. She was very disciplined about it and did everything in her capacity to fight her limitation and live on. She took art of living courses and never failed to do her breathing exercises each day. I have never seen a patient who was on so many medications and diet restrictions be so patient and calm and never show any irritation or anger from having to go through it all. She never complained – she silently just fought it. Had she been educated she would have scaled great heights for she was very sharp and was in with the times and could grasp things quickly. Even when I explained some scientific concept to her she grasped it immediately and responded with understanding and left me amazed.

While there may have been minor irritations natural in such a relationship, I really respected her as a person and we shared a friendly relationship. She was not openly warm and fuzzy but she would show that she cared in many other ways. If I asked her for a particular kind of kurta, she would go out of her way to get exactly that for me. At her funeral ceremony an older relative told me that she had mentioned things in praise of me to her – I never knew she ever thought those things of me.

She was a great mother to her two children – she used to celebrate their every victory but would never brag about it to anyone. She had religiously saved all my husband’s prize books, certificates and any mention of him in newspapers and gave it to me after our wedding. In all those little ways she showed them how much she celebrated their achievements. She used to call us from Bangalore and leave us messages for our birthdays and anniversary. She loved hearing every detail about any interesting thing our son did. She knew no fear so much so her cousins fondly referred to her as “Captain”.

She lost her mother when she was barely eight and grew up in a large joint family with Aunts and Uncles as caretakers. After growing up in a liberal family, she married into a rather conservative one. But she adjusted to her new surroundings and coped with any challenges that came her way. She did not have a maid for housework because she felt she could do it herself. Only after her diagnosis she hired a maid to help out. She was a fantastic cook, could sew all kinds of clothes and was skilled at handicrafts. She would not miss any wedding or function she was invited to on principle. She loved people and was extremely hospitable. She loved sports and used to stay up nights watching cricket, tennis or soccer matches with her son. My husband now recalls so many little incidents and all the things his mother did for him. In the four and half years that I have known her, I too have become quite fond of her. We will miss her terribly. We have a few more spoons of the “Avakai” pickle she made for us this year – we don’t have the heart to finish it. She was a courageous and patient woman who lived her life to the fullest. Death is final and leaves you wishing you had said this or done that but there are no second chances. It only leaves you with one thing to hold on to – memories.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Baby's first class

On Wednesday Oct.11.06, I took my child to his first class – “Gym for tots”. It is a class where kids and their parents get together in one room filled with interesting play items (a tunnel leading to a play house filled with colored balls for example). Kids indulge in playtime that is then followed by some music time where everyone sings children’s songs sitting in a circle. I keep telling myself that I am not going to be the kind of parent who will overdose the child with an assortment of classes that fills up all the free time and doesn’t leave much room for just being a child. My friend says “There is so much peer pressure…I visit my friends and relatives and their children are in so many classes and know so much, I feel nervous if I don’t do the same for my child”. I think of what she said when she called me while driving her five year old to a Kumon class. Will I be able to subscribe to what my husband believes is a good thing – benign neglect? He says we should nurture what the child enjoys doing and provide the environment for him to learn but not push him. I agree with him and I too believe in that. Yet, when I look at the assortment of classes offered even for a child as young as one plus, I waver a little and wonder where to draw the line. The advertisements are meant to lure you to bring your child in and tap the genius – just in case! I tell myself I will not subject him to unnecessary pressure which I certainly did not enjoy myself and I do strongly believe that it kills creativity when you leave no breathing room for a child to just be. Well, even just ten years from now I hope I look back on this post to see how I have faired in this respect! My child may have more to say on that topic then! :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Single moms

Every night after our baby goes to bed (he sleeps between 10.00 and 10.30pm) I come to the living room (usually to find husband dear snoozing away with a book in hand!) and we try to get some quiet time when we either watch a movie or “Law and order” or just read/chat. But whatever it is we end up doing, invariably we will talk very fondly about something that our baby did that day. He could have done that very thing just the day before yet we like to discuss it like it is some major achievement.
Me - “You know today in the park Bubbly (oft used pet name) touched a dog for the first time”
Hub - “Wow, really?”
Me - “Yeah, he saw the dog by the soft ball field and he kept saying “Baa Baa” and the lady said “He can pet him”…so I took him near the dog and he scratched it’s nose…it was so cute you know! It was a Golden retriever. Dog looked so kind or I wouldn’t have gone near it”
Hub - “He is so cute!”
Me - “Yeah, you should have seen him, it was so cute how he scratched the dog!”
Hub - “Can I go and bring him here now?!”
Me - “NO!!!!”

As I think about how much joy both me and my husband get from talking to each other about our baby and all the little things he does, I wonder how it is for single moms. I really wonder. I cannot imagine not being able to tell someone every single day about all the little things that my child did. Something about sharing makes the experience so wonderful. Being a mother is an incredible joy but it also brings with it incredible amount of work, trials and frustrations. Depending on the choice you make, be it a working mom or a stay at home, it still is a lot of work – just the kind of work is different. Stay at home moms have to bear with the monotony of life while knowing that they could have been working or studying during that time had they chosen to do so. They enjoy all that time they have with the child and they also grudge all that they had to miss out on because of that even if it was their own decision. The monotony is given some respite when the father comes home – gives the mom a person to vent to freely, a person to share concerns and joys with the one person who is sure to enjoy it and have the same level of care and concern as the mom. For a working mom, the father of the child can share in the duties of dropping off the baby in day care, in having a choice as to who will take off from work if the child falls sick and all the rest of the same issues with regards to raising a child.
Do single moms ever get a break? How do they find the energy to do it? Some of them do have the fathers visiting but I cannot imagine that it would be the same as the father being an integral part of the household. I have renewed respect for single moms ever since I had a child because now I know what it entails. It is not just about providing for a child. It is about all the little moments as well as the big ones. To have the other person right there to look up to and see their face also light up in joy when the baby does something new…to have the other person also stay up at night and worry when the child falls ill. To have the other person say "OK, you go rest, or you go talk to your friend, I will take the baby out for a walk". If I had to do it alone, I would probably be shouting hysterically at my child if he gave me a hard time and I did not have any one right there giving me a break. I cannot rave about all the little things my child does to any one else so freely without worrying about boring them. With the father, I can. Any number of times! Knowing he too will feel the same joy. Single moms with a lot of money probably have nannies helping them with the physical work. But that is just one side of it anyway. There are plenty of single moms with not just one but two or three children who have to do it all on their own. What ever it is the life circumstance that made them a single mom, my heart does go out to them. I admire them for their patience and courage in facing it and moving on with their lives. Now that I am a mother, I think of the scores of women all over the world who have lost their husbands and hence the father of their child/children to war, to fateful accidents, to terrorist activities, to disease…I wish that whatever power it is that took something so important away from them also gives them strength and makes up for it in the bigger picture of life by giving them and their children good health, luck, success and happiness.
And I can't help but add "Thank you god for big mercies, knock on wood" thinking about my own life now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Okra dish

Baked Okra

I made a baked okra dish recently. Okra has this problem that unless it is cooked right, it can get sticky. Either it should be dry before putting it in oil or you need to fry it for a while and in a good amount of oil if you want cooked okra that is not sticky. But I found that baking the okra gives good cooked okra that is not sticky and doesn’t need a ton of oil.

Pre heat oven to 425F

Okra – I don’t know how much okra I used that day – let’s say about 50 okras! Cut into 1 or 1.5 inch pieces.

Tomatoes – 2 – cut into small pieces (Vine ripened tomatoes preferably)

Onions – 2 medium – cut into medium size pieces

Ginger and Garlic – optional – according to taste – one or two pods of garlic chopped fine and ½ inch of ginger – I use big pieces so I can take it out!

Hand full of finely chopped coriander.

Cut all three vegetables, ginger, garlic, coriander and keep in a flat glass pan. Add 2 or 3 table spoons of oil, add chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it), salt .

Mix it all well. I added MDH garam masala powder (just 1 tea spoon to give some masala flavor but not too much). Spread it evenly flat on the pan.

Keep it in the oven for 15 min. Check if it is cooked. Keep 5 min longer if it could be cooked a little more. I judge it based on how the tomatoes look. If they look nicely cooked and mashed, then it is done. Mix it well.

It tasted quite good. Goes well with rotis. And it was easy to make – I just cut the veggies, added the powders and mixed it and 20 min later it was ready. I didn’t have to add it one by one or stir it or anything. And okra was not at all sticky. I find that if I wash the okra a couple of hours before cutting it , the water dries out and dry okra is easier to cook.
Okra always reminds me of how my mom (and several other moms I knew) used to tell me to eat more okra because it makes you good at mathematics! :)

Friday, October 06, 2006

mami arattai

Not sure how many of the few bloggers who visit my site know tamil. In anycase hopefully at least one or two may understand (and hopefully enjoy) the tamil/mami lingo.
Mylapore mami at the local temple.

Mami 1 - Yenna mami aathule yellarum sowkiyama? Paathu oru vaaram aardhu. Kovil pakkam kooda kanam ungla velli kazhame anniku?

Mami 2 - Amam mami, romba busy ayiduthu. Pone velli kazhame nanga oorle ille…

Mami 1 - Yenga poirndhel?

Mami 2 - Bengloor poirndhom. Ivar mootha Anna peranukku poonal potta. Pathu vayasu dhan aardhu. Aana ava rendu perum nanna irukarcheye podanum’nu ippove pottutaa.
Appdiye Sridhar’ku oru varan vandhrundhudhu, ponna poi pathutu varalam’nu ponom.

Mami 1 - Appdiyaa! Yaaru ponnu? Yenna nichyam pannitelaa?

Mami 2 - Kitta thatta nichyam pannirkom. Indha kaalathule yenga mada mada’nu nichyam panna mudiyardhu. Ponnum pillayum pesindrukka phone’le. Avo ippo oru varathule states poga poralam contract’le. Appo ivarode thambi aathule New Jersey’le poi nere meet panni, OK’nu sonna nichyam’nu sollalam. Namma kai’le yenna irukku mami. Ellam bagavath sangalpam.

Mami 1 - Amam amam indha kaalame vere. Namballam moonjiya koode seriya pathomo illayo. Yedho periyava sonnanu thalaya attitom. Nalladho polladho appdiye kaalatha kazhichutom. Indha kaalathu kozhandhagal, ponngalum seri, yellam idhu venum adhu venum’nu kekardhugal. Yenna pannardhu – adhugal cinema ginuma paathu vere kathukkardhugal. Kadhal kathrika’nu. Appdi illame ponaa, jaadhagam pathu panna kooda ivaa decide pannarthukkulle vidinju poidardhu.

Mami 2- Yennamo, naa idhule thalaye idala, dho paaru paa nee pesi pidichirundha sollu’nu solliten. Namma romba sonna pechu dhan mami vizhum. Kalathukku yeatha maari nadandhukka vendirku parungo. Nalakki adhugal sandhoshama irukkanume…

Mami 1 - Adhu seri. Ponnu yenna panraa? Periya edama?

Mami 2 - Software ponnu. Paatu nanna padaraa. Maa nerama irukka aana nalla kalaiya irukka. Nalla family. Padichurkaa nanna. Oru anna, kalyanam ayiduthu. Mattu ponnu’um nanna irundha mookum muzhiyuma. Mariyadhaya pesinaa. Ava appa chartered accountant. Nalla position’le irukkar. Mami housewife. Yellam nanna irukku, pakkalam, yaarukku theriyum yenna potrukku’nu.
Seri mami, varen naa – potaadha potta padi vandhen, pona varam kooda kovilukku varalayen’nu. Rendu suthu suthitu aathule poi samayala mudikanum.

(Mami 2 thinking to herself as Mami 1 is leaving) - “panandu pradhakshanam pannalam’nu irundhen, nazhi ayidthu, mami vere pidichuntaa…seri adutha vaaram pathukalam. Nallabadiyaa nichyam aana marudiyum vandhu thenga odachu, abishegam panren.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Meal time joy!

The little boss is carried by papa slave and gently placed on his booster throne. He sits there with his big puppy eyes glancing nonchalantly at the bowl of food on the table. Me, the mama slave pulled the chair in front of him and sat down for the meal time tussle. I bring the electronic rhyme book close to me on the table and then take a spoonful of food and bring it to little boss’s mouth. Swish, the face moves away to the right. The royal diss. “Chinnu, you can’t do this, it’s lunch time”.
Well he is one, sure he understands the logic there! I try again. Face moves to the left now.
OK, let’s play some songs. I open the rhyme book and move some knob and the cow maa’s and I hear “hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle” for the nth time. Little boss is distracted and I bring the spoon of food eagerly and he now opens his mouth. I try to load up the spoon fully and thrust as much as possible at this opportunity. I think of my little nephew (my younger cousin’s son who is 3 now) who saw me do this when I was visiting them. He couldn’t help but speak for his kin and said to me in his innocent baby voice “Peimaa, don’t give lot of ok, don’t give lot of!”.
“But, Aadhu, if I don’t give it like that he will eat slowly”
“Slow is OK, don’t give lot of !”, he continued to plead with me like I was a monster who thrust food into my hapless baby.
The next spoon, I load a little less food.
Two more spoons and boss is bored of the two songs in that page, he wants to move on the next.
But the spoon is in front of his mouth and I try to get my way in before turning the page for him.
“Nah ahn…turn the page”, he signals to me by moving his mouth away from the spoon calmly.
I try again.
“Which part of no don’t’ you understand?” . He moves his face away from the spoon while looking at the book and whines “Ahhnnn…”!
I give in. I turn the page.
“Old Mcdonald had a farm…”
Five more spoons in rapid succession while the boss is engrossed in moving the door of the farm and hearing the pigs oink and cows moo. He looks at me again and not wanting to lose the flow, I start singing Old Mcdonald in a high pitch. Poor Ol’McDonald will be stirring in his grave begging me to stop summoning his farm animals million times a day to make my son eat his food.
I begin to relax a little. Looks like the flow is going okay. He is taking the food easily.
And invariably it happens. I tell myself not to jinx it by thinking such thoughts and yet I do it. The boss catches me off guard and grabs the spoon at the head.
“Hmm….what’s this gooy stuff in my hand?”… Pchk pchk…he rubs his hands.
I rush in with a paper towel and wipe his hands. Before I am fully done, he yanks his hand out and decides his nose is itchy and rubs his hand over his nose, eyes. Sticky paruppu sadam all over his face now.
“Such joy” I tell myself angrily and wet the towel and clean his face up.
I try to contain my anger and start singing again.
“Wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round”!
He takes mercy on me I suppose. Few more spoons of food go in.
Suddenly he looks up to see papa slave sitting on the couch in front of the laptop enjoying the lazy Sunday morning. Papa gives him a sweet smile and boss’s face is now completely at an odd angle relative to me.
Papa shakes his head left to right that the boss finds funny and shakes his head vigorously left to right smiling just when I bring the food near his mouth. Now there is a “Got milk?” kind of food moustache on the little one’s mouth. I glare and gnarl at papa slave and tell him, “Why don’t YOU do the feeding?!”.
“I will, but he is not taking food from me, you know that” papa says in his oh so pragmatic manner.
I remember the last time I handed the food for papa to feed, I was handed the bowl back with hardly any food eaten with the simple comment “I don’t think he is interested in lunch”!
“Well, then come and entertain him now that you have distracted him”.
Papa slave immediately responds and brings the “Alphabet pal” toy – a caterpillar with each of its legs a different letter.
Boss responds to the change and allows me to feed him a few more spoonfulls. My heart is beating faster now for I am nearing the end of my journey. For now. Until the next meal. I do wonder if there is some kind of baby genie who is invoked by children to seek vengeance on mothers who insist on boring meals and adds a few more spoonfuls of food at the end phase. I mean it just never ends. I cannot have the satisfaction of a cleaned up bowl. I simply cannot garner any more patience in me to wait while the little boss listens to one full song and then swallows the food. One more song and then he opens his mouth for the next. I console myself that he has eaten most of it even if not all of it. I feel victorious. Relieved feeling that baby dear ate most of the food despite the song and dance routine, the wet towels and spilt food. I just get out of the spot abruptly and tell papa slave “Ok, he is done”.
It is understood that the rest of the clean up is not my domain. I went through the drill of feeding the little boss after all!
I call my friend (parent of a 4yr old) and invariably we discuss our kid’s meals. I tell her “Not bad, he took an hour, but he ate most of it”.
“Oh good, don’t jinx it for tonight” she says in a way only a mother can understand!
I sit on the couch and decide to check my email and forget about “solids” until it is time for dinner!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The march of the penguins

I have always liked penguins – they look so adorable waddling along in their tuxedo suits. But when I saw the movie “The march of the penguins” last night, I felt such renewed respect for them, for nature. Nature is simply astounding. How creatures in its fold manage to survive, to evolve and thrive. The movie tracks a group of Emperor Penguins in the icy wilderness of Antartica in their march inland where they breed and keep their species going. It is indeed a story of courage and determination – the penguins brave the harshest of cold conditions as they march nearly 70 miles in almost a single file, gracefully to their ancestral breeding ground. After the mating process, they manage to protect the egg under severely cold conditions (70 below zero and 150 mph winds) until it is ready to hatch. The males protect the eggs while the female goes to the ocean to feed herself. During this time the entire flock of males huddle together in a mass so as to conserve heat and resist the brutal cold. It is an incredible sight to see such cooperation amongst its members in order to survive. There are touching moments in this movie as if this were a family drama when you see the unfortunate penguin looking wistfully at the egg that did not survive the cold in the few seconds it takes to transfer it from the female to the male (while the female goes foraging for food) or when the newborn fails to survive if the mother is even a tad late in relieving the hungry male who is ready to transfer duty and go foraging for food himself. The cinematography is incredible and the icy, white glittering beauty of Antartica leaves you wishing if only you could witness it first hand. I felt thankful to the team for bringing the beauty of the continent and the story of the determined penguins to our living rooms (and theaters) for us to marvel at.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sleep baby...but where?

I was looking through the newspaper and an article "Sleep baby...but where?" about children and parents cosleeping caught my attention. Should the baby "cosleep" with the parents or sleep in the crib? A hot topic amongst parents. Being a parent myself especially in the US where children are trained to be independent as early as possible in all ways possible - sleep in the crib, sleep in a separate room, eat on your own, tie your own shoes, cosleeping is certainly not taken for granted as it was when I was a child. We had our baby sleep in the crib until our trip to India when he turned one. When he was an infant, we were terrified that we would suffocate this tender little being by rolling over him or throwing a big fat pillow over him - so we did not entertain the idea of this him sleeping in our bed. I would wake up 4 or 5 times a night if he needed to feed, but I would put him back in the crib. When he was a month old, our pediatrician (a jovial old man, 6 foot plus who wears Hawaiian shirts so babies will enjoy looking at the bright colors, his years of experience showing in the way he would casually swoop the little baby in a football hold with one arm!) casually asked me "So how is the night time?"' and I promptly relayed my woes like a child would complain to a parent about a troublesome friend, of how often he wakes up to nurse and how I wish he would at least just cut it down to just once a night. And he casually said "You know he doesn't need any night time feeding now. He is ready to sleep through the night"! "But doctor, he is only a month old and he cries so much if I don't nurse him when he wakes up". "Well, he has opinions. Why do you want him to be happy all the time?! Let him cry. It's ok. He will learn to sleep eventually". I didn't know what to say to that. The next appointment with the pediatrician was a couple of months later and things hadn't changed too much on the night front. This time he again asked me "So, how is the night time?”. Knowing things could turn on me I was careful in how much I poured out. "Well, it's okay, I mean, not too bad. He still wakes up...but it's okay". "You know unless you let him cry it out he is not going to learn to fall asleep on his own". Oh dear, there it goes. “It's my fault. I need to train him to sleep. But how can I let him cry! What if he is thirsty? I can't go to bed without a bottle of water beside me" I thought to myself. "But what if he doesn't stop crying, how long do I let him cry?" “Well he won't cry for as long as you think. You can keep patting him, but don't get him out of the crib. If he cries for four hours, then may be you have to do something about it".On the way back I ask my husband " You think we can do that?". He quite simply says "Not with grandparents around". That made it easier for me. Yes, blame the grandparents. They just won't let me train him to sleep! My mother would come rushing in and ask what the matter was if she heard him cry for longer than 5 minutes. No way I can train him to sleep now. Let me just keep status quo. Change of guards. My parents leave and my husband’s parents come to stay with us and spend time with their only son's son. Now this little one is the king of the house needless to say in their opinion. There is even less of a chance for me to train my son to sleep through the night by letting him cry it out. I mean I cannot do that in front of my in-laws! What about my reputation! "She let's the poor baby cry and won't let us hold him" I imagine the gossip spreading amongst the in-law circles! Move on. Month 6. Parents alone with baby. No doubt it was great having both sets of doting grand parents around. But now we have our baby to ourselves and do as we please - well to some extant - there's always the phone monitor with both grand mothers asking for regular updates. "Ippo thoongardha kozhandhe? Appdi dhan kozhandhai naa minna pinna dhan irukkum!" (Is the baby sleeping, well if not, that's how babies are - goes back and forth you know" implying I should just deal with it and not take extreme measures). My close friend, mother of two calls me up. "Well NOW what is your excuse? Don't chicken out. Just Ferberize him, I am telling you! It's totally worth it". I convey this to a older relative who had a child pre-internet days and she is horrified "Ferberize?! What is that? Sounds bad!" "My friend who suffered sleepless nights for two years with her first child tells me it worked like magic with her second child!", I tell my skeptical relative on the other end of the line. Guilt strikes again. I mean what kind of horrible parent would I be to let my baby cry for even 2-3 hours if that's what it takes to train him. On the other hand things are so out of control by now, baby waking up 4-5 times a night and all my feelings by the third or fourth waking are negative and I feel so much anger and frustration. "I mean I just nursed you, rocked you and put you in the crib. How can you do this to me?!" I would complain to my wailing baby when I picked him up from the crib. Finally I peruse the relevant chapters in Dr.Ferber's book on sleep training (my friend points me to those) and the case studies presented are exactly what I am going through with my child. I now brace myself to "Ferberize"! . Month 7. Start of sleep training. I keep myself busy in the kitchen that night preparing something for guests who are to arrive the next day. Husband, the cool "I am sure I can do it, I just don't know if YOU can handle it" father has been handed the job of "Ferberizing" the baby. I am so nervous that I clean the counter top frantically. We let him cry for 5 min, pat him and leave the room, then 10 min, pat him. then 15 min, pat him. Our son carries on now full-throated! This is the break point I need to cross. I am not going into the room yet. Next cycle. Now you can go into the room only after 15 more minutes, not 5 minutes! We look at the clock. Time seems to go very slowly. Has it only been five minutes? It feels like he has been crying forever! Suddenly there is silence. I am worried. Is he asleep or has he lost his breath? My hear beats faster. I ask my husband if he checked in on him. It's not yet 15 minutes but my husband is also a bit nervous I think with the sudden quiet. He goes in, checks on baby's breath and comes out triumphantly and declares "Baby is asleep"! I wait for him to wake up for the next two hours. Nothing. He is still asleep. Breath check ok! He wakes up only once that night. The next night he cries only for 5 minutes and falls asleep on his own. The third night, I am able to leave him in the crib half awake, without any crying, five minutes later he is asleep. And sleeps through the night until 5.00 am. This is miraculous! I still do not sleep through the night. I wake up all those times the baby would normally have woken up. I have been banished into the guest bedroom for those few days. Finally I can't take it anymore, I come back to our room and all is well. Baby now sleeps through the night. “That wasn't so bad”, I think to myself. "See!" my friend says as expected. I am thrilled at this marvelous change in my baby's sleep routine. Soon enough we take it for granted. Until the trip back home!One year old. Bangalore, India. No crib in the house. Of course baby has to sleep between us both. We can't deny it felt good to have him so close to us. The mornings were precious. He would wake up singing some baby sounds, fresh and happy with a burst of energy and sit up and look at us. He would smile and dash towards my face. Pretend to bite me like a little koala bear. He would do so many cute little things that cannot even be put into words. It was somehow more delightful to experience all this without getting out of bed first thing in the morning. Precious moments for doting parents. The first few nights are calm and peaceful. And then slowly and steadily he starts waking up two or three times a night, feed and then go back to sleep. One month of this while in India. Back in the USA. Jetlag strikes baby. He is up playing actively from 1.00 am to 5.00 am in the morning. I am up playing with him patiently, giving him his meal at 3.00 am! I decide not to deal with putting him back in the crib until he is out of jetlag. It is now a whole month since he came out of jetlag and we are not making any attempt to put him back in the crib. I wake up three or four times a night when he does and my body clock has adjusted to that. Every morning at 3.00am I get frustrated and tell my husband “This is it, I can’t do this anymore. We are going to put him back in the crib and make him sleep through the night”. And yet every morning when our child wakes up and mesmerizes us with all his cute antics I forget about my resolution. Every night we stay up for an hour or so watching TV or reading after our baby goes to bed. And when we go to our room and climb into bed and feel the warmth of our baby sleeping innocently next to us, we can only feel the joy of having him right next to us. No thoughts whatsoever of putting him back in the crib. I suppose I need to look for a book on how to Ferberize parents who co sleep with their children!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The master earned his living

She sat down on the choir mat with a red border. It was a hot afternoon and she could see the sweat beads on master’s forehead. Mother brought a steaming hot cup of coffee and laid it down by master’s side in a shining steel tumbler. Why does he drink hot coffee on a hot afternoon? She pushed aside this thought and cleared her throat for the day’s lessons. His teeth look so crooked and stained, how ugly she thought. She saw him take a few gulps of the hot coffee noisily. In the few seconds of silence while he took his coffee, she could hear the hum of the ceiling fan. She noticed his clean white shirt with patterns of sweat. She could see the sacred thread across his chest. She looked away at the cup on the floor so she could look at something more pleasant. She cleared her throat again. He adjusted his thick black spectacles and wiped the sweat off his forehead with a white hand-kerchief and stuffed it back into his shirt pocket. He started playing the shruti potti (tuning instrument). “Ahm..” he said, signaling her to start with the usual “Sa, Pa, Sa”. He followed on before she could finish. He sang the Arahonam and Avarohanam for "Bhairavi". She waited for this moment. It never failed to happen. That moment of transformation. The man who looked so unappealing to her physically now filled up the room with his reverberant voice. He became the object of her envy. Every note in its place. Precisely. She wanted to prostrate before him at that moment. Bow to his talent. He was the guru. Not any ordinary person in front of her. She yearned to sing like him. And he did it so effortlessly. She listened intently and repeated after him as he began the song. She felt like a little child looking up to her teacher. How does he do it? Why does it come to him so easily? She sensed the note falling out of tune as she kept the beat while letting her mind wander in desperation. “Yerangardhu paaru”(note is off key), he said casually. She had hoped he wouldn’t have noticed. He sang a few lines for her to follow after. What a deep voice, what sense of control, she thought to herself. She looked down for a second to see the envelope to be given to him at the end of the class. Five hundred rupee notes. She felt a lump in her throat, cleared her voice and started over.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hallo Idli!

I was cutting a whole bunch of veggies (well kovakai - I think it is called Ivy gourd in English) this morning and while doing that I was thinking about how in Indian weddings, quite commonly some 500-1000 people attend and the cooking team manages to cut the vegetables and put together a grand meal all ready before lunch time (this after a breakfast meal in the morning). The team doesn't look like a large team on the face of it. Quite amazing how they manage to pull it all off. The head chef in these teams usually sports an air of cool authority and doesn't look tense about having to prepare such large quantities and *well* since food is very important in Indian weddings and will be talked about during the post analysis sessions. I find some of the scenes in the dining area very cute and funny...children struggling to eat in a huge banana leaf trying to hold the watery rasam in place by holding the leaf with their left hand...while the mom wants to chat on with her neighbor but has to keep an eye on the little toddler next to her...some poor soul in one of the corner tables needing a little extra of something waiting around amidst the buzz of chatter amongst everyone there hoping the server will notice him/her on the return route...and finally when the bride and groom and their immediate relatives all come to the dining area to have their meal there is a sense of urgency and there is always one tall male relative who ushers the men who are serving to hurry and bring this or that and serve more and more...and if the bride or someone in that group mutters "Idli", then there will be a loud call across the hall to the server who himself now gets christened as "Idli" - "Hallo Idli, come here, come here, serve some more idli's for the bride"....Indian weddings in spite of the chaos and loudness have their own charm...this is the dining area charm. What happens upstairs in the main wedding hall is yet another story...with its own special charm.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Unconditional love

It's funny that the first blog I am ever writing is about this heavy topic "unconditional love". A few masochistic friends/relatives of mine have asked me to post stuff...and today happens to be the grand opening day of my blog store!
I wrote to an old friend today about how for the first time I felt like I felt unconditional love...and hence I thought that would be my opening topic...
She wrote to me that she doesn't plan on having children and may be some biological instinct is missing in her...I can understand her not wanting to have kids - it is a personal choice...and she may adopt later and am sure she will be just as happy with it as she would having her own child.
I wrote back to her about my baby who is now 10m old and how for the first time I feel like I know or can feel unconditional love...And I feel like *this* really is unconditional love - even more than what a parent can give a child or a spouse can give his/her partner. I can let my baby cry it out for a few minutes just so he will fall asleep or just so he doesn't get hurt by some sharp object that he wants but the next instant when he is calm it is totally forgotten - no judgements, no hurt feelings lingering - he can hug or come at my face like a little bear with pure untainted affection. Ofcourse the cynic in me wants to add that this too is only for the first two or three years....once grown up - it's not unconditional....
I have always felt it is selfish to have your own baby when there are so many in need of a home. But something in us all compels us to have our own...may be the desire to see us in our child/children. In different ways we are all selfish to some extent - just the fact we are able to live in reasonable comfort while we know there are children going hungry elsehwere, while we walk past a homeless man to Starbucks to have a frappucino we can well live without...different limits for different people...people like Medha Patkar or activists like her probably give a lot more of them than most other people...but experiencing this sort of unconditional love from a child, somehow one tends to forget the selfishness in having your is definitely possible to experience all of this though with an adopted child I am sure...