The choice of becoming a parent

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A few days ago, a discussion at office sparked up a thought in my head. I would like to discuss it today. The discussion was about adapting to changes in life after having kids and why we have kids in the first place 😀 If any of you have had clarity about this aspect in your lives, I would love to hear!

I realised that I myself have probably not given a clear conscious thought as to why did I feel like having a baby 3 years ago. I mean, having and raising a baby is no easy task. Especially in today’s world, where the spectrum of things that you can explore and do by yourself is so wide; the idea of signing up for something that deprives you of this ease and freedom is enough to dissuade many from getting into parenthood.

So there must be some reason that makes us add something which gives us sleepless nights, endless jobs to take care of, makes us rework our career plans, steps into EVERYTHING we plan and do in our daily life (I mean EVERYTHING) and gives us a never ending responsibility for life?!!! There surely has to be something that goes beyond all this right. Is there? Or is there not?

Today when my daughter is 22 months old, I certainly know there is a lot more to it. However, when we decided to have a baby, I had no idea how the journey was going to be!

So why did I decide to have a baby?
Was it because we were already married for 5 years and it was the ‘next thing’ necessary? – Clearly no!!
Was it because of family/society pressures? – Thankfully no!!
Was it because my biological clock was ticking? – No, not yet!!
Was it because I needed a change in life after a major milestone of life after completing Ph.D ? – No! There could have been several other ways to achieve a change in life!

So what then?

I decided to recap and flashback.
I realised that I had always been clear about wanting to have a kid of my own. I knew that at a stage where time commitment for career can be relaxed a bit, I would become a mother. I had this in mind even before making any professional choices. To be honest, it was even before I could finalize who the father of my kids would be!! Much before I met H, I knew it was always going to be –> build a career foundation –> then have a baby. I have never been from the clan who thinks the sooner you have kids, the better; and that your career will grow ‘in the background’. No, I have never been supportive of this. Thankfully, when I met H and we got to serious discussions, we shared the exact same opinions about this. So the question of whether we want to get into parenting was always a yes; the only critical aspect was identifying the suitable time. However, the question of why did I or we choose to have a baby still remained unanswered!

What is it that we gained?
Or the more correct question is – what was I trying to gain 3 years ago when I decided to be a mother?

After a bit of pondering, I think the answer was actually very simple – the underlying parenting instinct is a strong universally conserved emotion that was the chief reason for this decision.

Deep down, we all want to take care of something so badly that we cannot handle any discomforts to it.
We all want that little something that we can be completely ‘responsible for’ and ‘in-charge of’.
We want to be able to influence and raise someone by yourself – with all your creative freedom.
We want to be given the magical power of being able to be influential and mould someone’s life, be someone’s unconditional love.
We want to be someone’s purest love with all security.
We want to be someone’s in all it’s entirety, to be irreplaceable!

We all have that desire of parenting. I think it peaks sometime around when we are in the quarter life-thirties crisis! Some, like me, choose to have a baby around this time. I have often seen that several couples this age also tend to adopt pets and raise their pets with the same emotion. Not just couples, several single men and women also adopt pets and raise them. I don’t know how many of you have noticed this, but the number of people who declare themselves as parents of pets has risen immensely in the last decade. Some of us take up a very serious hobby/passion or build an organization and nurture it with the same emotion. Some of them even say – This company is like my first baby! To me; these are all manifestations of the same parenting instinct.

A BIG difference in raising your own child is undoubtedly though, that the level of dependence on you is extremeeeely high! AND it’s a no-rest-no-vacation job; much unlike pursuing your passions like your child – where, well, lets be honest – you can at least have a cup of coffee undisturbed 😀

But either ways, I think the parenting instinct put us into this. It definitely put me into this.
And with the parenting instinct also came in the very practical considerations of having a baby while you are young and fit enough to physically endure carrying a child and also do all the literal ‘running around’. And like what I described earlier, the very important consideration of having sufficient time at hand to take care of the baby; and also a sense of having completed one foundation stone of career and financial plannings.

So, 3 years ago I decided to have a baby because I wanted to parent someone and I wanted to do it when I have enough time and fitness at hand to take care of him/her! Yes! I think I finally have my answer – and it was so simple!

So did I end up achieving all that I sought to? I did, and in fact I got much more!
That having a baby is the most magnificent sort of happiness that you can ever get. The little one, the innocence, the affection, the feeling of belonging – is priceless!!!
It is also something that puts you in a fantastic self discovery and introspection mode because you now know that someone is looking at your life and learning to copy you entirely!! It helps you in time management, makes you responsible, fiercely independent and of course, PATIENT!!!
However, I also learnt that it comes with a price. A price of your priorities, time, career paths, vacations, everyday business, relations, mental health, physical health – and the freedom of smallest things in life such as sleep times or even going out!

So, when you have a baby, you are signing up for the entire package – remember that the best things in life ARE going to come with a price. I don’t want to play the diplomatic mom and tell would-be moms that its a superb smooth happy journey once you get into it. It’s a superb journey undoubtedly, but it’s not going to be super smooth ever. But that is the fun and amusing part of it for me as well – Like they say, motherhood is the greatest thing and the hardest thing in life ever!!!

Richard Dawkins has told us about how the selfish gene wants to procreate so it can stay alive and in circulation in the gene pool. I am glad that for this, the selfish gene has chosen the cutest path ever. Whatever made the gene so selfish, thank you!! I owe my little bundle of joy to you!

Dosa, a baby and a stranger

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My baby is 1.5 years old. Whoever has traveled with a baby knows the sweet and not-so-sweet sides of it. We recently started traveling with J after she turned a year old. This story is about our recent trip to Chennai and Pondicherry in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India.

So little J loves south Indian food since the first time she tasted it. Much unlike her father who is a fan of butter coated parathas and chhole from the up north in India, she is actually more like her mother in this regard and has developed a taste for idlis and dosas and appam and pongal; all of which come from the south of India. So,on this trip to South India I began my regular routine of traveling with J – packing dried roasted powders that can be cooked up by adding milk/ water, dry snacks, fruits and so on. I was not very concerned about finding food for her since south indian food has always been her favourite.

On our very first day in Pondy, it was around 7 pm and I sensed that she was getting hungry. I knew the solution to her hunger – dosa! I called up the room service and asked them to send in a dosa, with extra instructions of making it crisp – just the way she likes it. I hung up and told her that a dosa is on its way and saw her eyes swell with happiness. Sorted.

The room service guys brought in the dosa and I started feeding her small portions of it. But much to my surprise, she just wouldn’t eat it! I tasted it and saw that it tasted all right. In fact pretty nicely made. Then why wouldn’t she eat it. Second attempt. Failed. Third one. Failed. Fourth attempt with a reluctant switching on of Baby TV. Still failed. Now she was also getting cranky so I stopped all attempts of feeding her. Decided to pause feeding her, finish up our dinner and then try feeding her somthing again.

We all went for dinner to a nearby place which was at a small walk from the hotel. All through the walk I was constantly pondering over this. Why wouldn’t she eat something that she otherwise loves and so easily eats at home?! I couldn’t enjoy my food at dinner since I knew my baby was hungry for a reason I could not understand.
On our way to dinner, J came with my mother-in-law (MIL). MIL told me- ‘on the way J saw a roadside stall selling freshly made dosas and made me stop there. I asked her if she wants to eat a dosa there and she has agreed. Lets try on our way back’. I saw a ray of hope; I gobbled my food and we took her to the food stall that had caught her attention.

I saw a young girl in her twenties there. A very cheerful girl, smiling. Standing behind a hot stove and besides a big bucket of dosa batter. One after the other she was churning out dosas and looking at her, J was giggling. I asked J- ‘who is she?’. She answers- ‘Tai’ (elder sister in marathi). ‘What is she making?’ ‘Dosa’. Eyes twinkling. The lady there cleared the pan and sprinkled water. A sizzle. J giggles yet again. She spreads the dosa batter and J starts saying ‘dosa, dosa’. Smiles again. I ask J – ‘Do you want to eat the dosa that this tai is making?’ ‘Yes’ she answers. The girl at the dosa stall also sensed something funny happening. With her rudimentary english and my lack of Tamil, we hardly had a language to communicate 😀 but somethings dont need a language. This was one of those. I asked her for a dosa for J, and asked if we could just stand there watching. She agreed. She and J exchanged looks and smiles. J is not someone who associates with strangers very easily, but with this girl she did.

And then it dawned upon me. J likes dosas not just for the entity; but also for the process associated with making it. She literally connects with the dosa making and dosa maker emotionally. Even at home, when I make dosas or chillas for her for dinner; she sits with me through the entire process- making the batter, heating the stove, spreading the batter, cooking and serving the dosa – and then she eats it!
The dosa brought by the hotel room service clearly lacked this entire experience and no wonder then, that J just could not associate with it!

This young lady at the dosa counter gave J the entire dosa experience that she wanted and she also connected with J. Like I said, there was no language medium. But more often than not, especially with babies; the best communication happens without words! J loved the dosa and had her fill. We stood there watching our new friend make dosas and serve several other people. J was at her chattering best now. ‘Humpty Dumpty’ she said, pointing to the egg stand when her friend was making momelettes to serve others!! J was happy and so was the young girl – and I was amused and relieved!

For the next 3 days, every night when I asked J what she wanted for dinner, her answer was always tai dosa! Which meant dosa made by her tai (elder sister) 😀 Every night my MIL and I took J to the dosa stall, and fed her her dinner having so much fun watching the young lady make dosas.
This girl at the dosa counter is also a very cheerful lady and always served us with a smile. In the span of 3 days, she also developed a fondness for J. In fact, the moment she saw us approaching, she would actually put aside her waiting customers and give priority to my baby!

I cannot thank this lady enough for keeping J’s dinner sorted during our trip. Every mother has this biggest concern all the time – of feeding her baby good food! So once that is sorted, a mother can enjoy other things- That is exactly what happened to me!

I am also very positively amused by the kind of defined preferences that J has. At a tender age of just 19 months, she is able to distinguish food ‘experiences’ and not just go by food for the sake of food! Which sometimes as a mother can make food management difficult, but on the side of emotional and intelligence development of a child, its a big plus indeed and makes me proud!

The last night of our trip, I paid her the final twenty rupees for that day’s dosa. She smiled. I paid her for the dosa, but she actually gave me something way more that I cannot ever repay – the joy and security of a happily fed baby to a mother 🙂 Thank you, stranger.

The dosa lady 🙂

Some days

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Some days I wonder and let my thoughts linger

And on others I get rid of my thinking cap

 

Some days I rush into organization

And on others the clutter just doesn’t bother me

 

Some days I love being active throughout the day

And on some others a couch potato life I enjoy

 

Some days I envy and I worry

Think too much and compare too much

And on others letting go is so easy

 

Some days make me furious and fuming

And on some others, it just doesn’t matter

 

Some days get me excited and thrilled

Dressing up, adding colours to the day

And some others are so dull; even my coffee yawns back at me

 

Some days I admire and am grateful for the life I have

And on others I just cannot stop cribbing

 

What is the magic that sets apart some days from the others?

Some days things matter, and on some others they will not?

Our state of mind dictates it all

Tells us what to take seriously and what not

 

I give in to moods too much I realise

Old habits die hard, my father says

Remembers the first complaint about me from kindergarten

She’s very moody they told him

I laugh as I see my 8 month old following suit

Will history repeat, will be fun to note

 

Right or wrong? I contemplate

On this difference in my responses

On giving in to moods

On having a different mood every day?

 

Only being a human, I assure myself

After all, who but a human has mood differences I ask?

I ain’t no machine

Or a computer program

Where the same input gives the same output all the time

 

I cannot predict you, my better half laughs

Heck, I cannot predict myself I say – and join in his laugh!

 

I will live the present mood

Allow it to shape my day

And create a memory of this moment

The way it is, impulsive, without any predisposition

 

I cannot give in to one state of mind forever

Cannot make it platonic ever

I cannot have just one mood

Because I am a human

I am a human.

 

 

 

My favourite things – Day 7: The beauty of eyes!

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And I am down to the last of my list of favourite things from this compilation. This one is again a concept as well as a thing, more of a concept. And is probably the most favourite concept based observation for me. This one is looking at eyes and appreciating the beauty of what they are conveying!

Look into my eyes, you ll see

What you mean to me…..

Said Bryan Adams so many years ago. This is one example of one song which discusses the role of eyes as something that is a straight gateway to what the mind is thinking. The eyes as mirrors of the soul have been an inspiration for many poets and writers for very long. And of course for mere observers like yours truly as well 🙂

A little baby’s eyes full of innocence

A child’s eyes lit with curiosity and amusement

A teenager’s eyes shouting out admiration for role models

A parent’s eyes full of pride and content at their kid’s achievement

A lover’s eyes with overflowing passion

A friend’s eyes while playing a prank on his best friend

Anyone looking at their dreams being fulfilled

An elderly’s grateful eyes as a young girl helps her cross the street……..

And so many more examples! The spectrum of emotions that eyes convey is exactly as wide as that of emotions that exist in the human mind.

Aren’t these some of the most beautiful things you have seen ever? They are, undoubtedly, for me! There is something so peculiarly wonderful about a person’s eyes conveying just exactly what is on their mind, with all the precision and detail. For today, I will confine myself to discussing the positive things that eyes convey; since this one is titled my favourite things. Of course goes without saying, that eyes also convey all the negative emotions in a person’s mind as well.

I love to look at a person’s eyes when they sparkle. And I love to read a person’s face and mind through what their eyes are conveying. Biologically, this is such an interesting thing. I mean anatomically eyes are the same in every emotion. Unlike body language, there is no structural change to eyes when there is a difference in emotion. It’s not as if the pupils look any deflected or differently located when the person is happy or sad!! 😀 Yet, even subtle changes in moods are reflected through some change in your eyes. It’s just so fascinating and beautiful; almost miraculous!

I think the reason that eyes appeal to me as such an expressive medium is because of their pure honesty. A person may be able to hide his/her thoughts or emotions through changes in words; but cannot do so when it comes to eyes. And I must confess, this is also one of the principal reasons why I end up making first impressions about people through what their eyes convey 🙂 AND as an extension of this, I end up making impressions about artists based on how they depict the subject’s emotion in eyes.

To understand the real honest innermost response of any person to a given situation, it is the easiest to just observe their eyes. Happiness, dislike, anger, fury,admiration, secrecy, lies – all will shout out to you. And this observation and interpretation forms one of the most enjoyable one for me!

Well Shakira may say hips don’t lie. But I guess even in the seldom times that hips may lie, a person’s eyes won’t 😛

 

My favourite things – Day 6: A hot meal

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Day 6 : A hot meal

The next thing on my list of favourites is a hot steaming delicious meal!!

Image courtesy of Alanna Taylor Tobin | The Bojon Gourmet

Here I have a special emphasis on the temperature of the food being consumed. I really love to devour into a plate of food that is sizzling or steaming; essentially straight from the wok or oven!

Having been a foodie since I can remember, food in general is a BIG love of mine 🙂 People who have known me since childhood remember me as being a kid with food and eating always on my mind – and this is a consistent part of me even now. But within this love for food in my mind are some slight finicky requirements which are essential for me to enjoy food to the maximum extent. And while flavours, salt balance, colour and aesthetics of food are important to me just like to others, the temperature of the food is also a consideration I have.

The joy of having food which has just been cooked and served to you is unparalleled. Barring desserts of course, all other food items that we eat, I prefer to eat them just after they are done cooking. I could definitely blame my mother and my grandmother for spoiling me on this habit since they were the ones to provide this kind of steaming hot food to me since my childhood – but hey it has been drilled in my system, and is here to stay now 😛 And in fact I am thankful to them for introducing to me a way in which the taste and nutritional value of food emerges out to be the highest!

An ultimate scene of enjoyment of food in my mind would be this kind of a hot meal in cold surroundings i.e. primarily during rains or winter! Be it breakfast or lunch or dinner or even a casual snack. Be it a simple meal of roti with vegetables and dal, or an elaborate one with several courses, it is undoubtedly enjoyed the best when it is served to you in a steaming state. The sight of steam erupting from the food contributes to not just its aesthetic appeal, but also makes it very appetizing for me! Digging into food while its’s hot leads you to be a part of a mini struggle while balancing its temperature and the one suitable for your mouth – and I absolutely enjoy it. The mini juggle of sorts, adjusting portions of food so that they don’t burn your tongue  – all are little parts of enjoying hot food – and I so love it!

It is exactly this kind of obsession with having food hot that makes me dislike carrying lunches to work. The thought of eating food that has been wrapped inside a claustrophobia inducing tiffin box/packet, with all it’s freshness lost, with a small amount of dehydration having set in, and mostly – GONE COLD, is a major turn-off for me! I carry lunch to work only because convenience and the nutritional and taste value of home cooked food is still a high enough factor 🙂 Sometimes you have to choose convenience and nutrition over your itsy bitsy definitions of perfect enjoyment!

We are taught to say a prayer and thank God for the food we eat before any meal. It is something that we do since we start talking. Since growing up, I have a personal addition to this prayer for a hot meal. In addition to thanking the Almighty for giving us the food, I also thank Him for letting me enjoy the luxury of having it hot and steaming 😉

The weekend cracks in soon. For all those who have to eat cold lunches throughout the week, you won’t have to do so for the next two days at least! If you are like me, wishing you more of hot meals your way – Bon appetit!

 

My favourite things – Day 5: Conversations!

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Day 5: Conversations!

Today I will be writing about the fifth thing in my list of favourites. Today’s ‘thing’ is a concept as well as an activity. This one is about having great conversations with people and all that I enjoy about it!

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So a conversation is classically defined as an interaction between two parties. We could go on to classify conversations a bit more depending on the nature of the parties involved – conversations with self, with people, with things, with God, with pets. In today’s age, we have another kind of classification depending on the medium used for conversing – in addition to the classical conversation of talking in person; it could as well be a typed (written) conversation through letters or through chats on devices over the internet; or over phone.

What I am particularly trying to describe today is the simplest form of conversation that involves interacting with a different person through talking. The bare essentials of conversing in my opinion revolve around this simplest definition, and this is mainly what I enjoy the most as well 🙂

I like to talk to people about their lives, their stories, my life and stories as also general ideas, concepts, information and philosophies. In our everyday life and routine, we have general casual conversations that involve discussions about stuff, as also emotionally intense comforting conversations. I enjoy both kinds, and there is definitely a lot to gain and learn from each of them.

In the real sense, I love knowing people itself – knowing their life, their everyday routines, their choices – and the best way for me to do so is through talking to a person itself. Here it’s not simply strangers that I am talking about. Having a good conversation lets you know different facets of the personalities of your closest relations, parents, friends, spouse or even children. What is interesting is that a conversation is a great way of getting to know a person, as also getting to know yourself. In a way, the way you converse tells you a lot of things about your own self – so it’s a learning exercise on your side as well! The next important thing that happens through conversations is you get to exchange a lot of concepts and ideas and also gain newer perspectives by listening to what people have to say about a particular concept. Innovative ideas, brainstorming, trouble shooting all are easily accomplished through a single good conversation. I enjoy all these aspects of conversing with people, and thus an enriching conversation is one which either i. takes you closer to knowing that person ii. Takes you closer to knowing yourself iii. Leads to exchange of ideas and gives you new knowledge iv. Provides a new perspective of thinking.

To me, the entire experience of a conversation is important. By that I mean, it’s the other person’s words, use of pauses, body language, other distractions, gestures which are all equally important in conveying the overall theme of a talk. I especially like to pay extra attention to the choice of words, construction of sentences, and peculiarity of unique words used by that person. And of course, to what makes that person laugh.

An underlying unwritten necessity of a good conversation for me is actually two things – honesty of participation in the talk and lack of judgmental attitude towards the other person. The kinds of conversations that I enjoy are the relaxed ones which involve these two factors. It’s fun to converse with introverts and extroverts alike if these two aspects are taken care of 🙂 Some great memories of conversations that I have had include ones with a friend during evening walks, with cousins and friends when I have visited them in a different city, with my father on the day before my wedding, with my better half during our initial days of knowing each other, with a stranger old lady on a flight, with an elderly uncle in the waiting room of a doctor among many others!

I recently read about the concept of a ‘Human Library’ which is based on ‘reading’ a new person through conversations with the person and listening to that person’s story. I absolutely loved this concept, and am looking forward to participating in something of this sort J Who’s up with me on this?

My favourite things – Day 4: Colour assemblages

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So coming to day 4 of the weeklong writing challenge. The next thing on my list for favourite things today is more of a concept than a thing. And that is an assemblage of colours. I love to look at sights of a host of colours put together in one place. Or maybe in one frame of viewing. These could be natural, like the hues of colours in the sky, or of different coloured flowers or plants or leaves. Or more often these could be of human creation and origin. For instance, coloured items on display in shops, coloured architecture, a painters colour palette and so on. I think it is one of the most positive and soothing sights for the eyes to look at. A splash of colours, vivid or pastels, is still a very beautiful thing to look at 🙂

Today I thought it would be nice to let some pictures do the talking. So here are some pictures of colour assemblages that I have taken at various places and stages 🙂

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A colourful door (Udaipur, Rajasthan, India)

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Market scenes (Rajasthan, India)

 

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Puppets (Rajasthan, India)

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Colourful buildings (Lavassa, Maharashtra, India)

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Buddhist prayer flags (Langza, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India)

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Random buildings (New Jersey, USA)

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Palette and artwork by yours truly 🙂

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Coloured pieces of paper!