Sunday, 27 July 2008

Touching 30

My 30th birthday was peaceful and fun. Presents came early in the form of a brand new laptop (thank you Ro) and a snazzy mobile phone (thank you Mummy and Pappa). We then drove down to Mysore on Saturday morning (despite the blasts in Bangalore the previous day) for the weekend.

Mysore was fun! Better roads (and climate), less crowded streets and power cuts just made it better. With some help from people on the road, we got to my cousin's house in time for lunch. An animal crazy home that once housed a great dane, her 6 puppies, three geese, two cats, and a chicken with an identity crisis, it has always held a special place in my life. I went there on holiday alone, for the first time, when I was 15. I went there again from time to time, but this was the first time I was taking Ro there. This time we were welcomed in to the sound of their joyous chatter, the curious barks of their friendly Rottweiler, and the feigned indifference of their pregnant cat.

An hour later, another cousin and her two boys arrived on the afternoon train. Adiv who was lapping up all the attention from everyone took to the younger boy immediately. He gave him generous kisses, and gurgled loudly when the 9-yr-old played "Super Baby" with him. My heart was in my mouth, as I followed the excitable 9-yr-old running around with my even-more-excitable 6-month old in his arms. They were later grounded to the confines of the bed, with one of the adults watching over.

In the evening, everyone was rudely woken up from their siestas, so we could drive to the Mysore Palace grounds. The minute we got out, several horse driven carriages approached us. The america-returned boys were ecstatic, but Adiv was strangely oblivious to the sight of a real horse. Anyway, we climbed into three carriages and went for a ride. Adiv sat on my lap with a big smile that never left his face. After the ride, my cousin's daughters fussed over Adiv some more, while the boys were lured into buying cheap chains by a roadside hawker. Their embarassed mother mouthed, "lets leave", and we were off to the Philomina Church. By the time we got there, Adiv was hungry and it was beginning to pour. So after a quick peek inside, we decided to head back.

Back home, the men opened up bottles of beer and whiskey, while we sat around with the kids ocassionally sipping our breezers. Adiv was changed into his night clothes, and he was happily following his new hero, 9-year-old P, on all fours.

P and J are both typical american kids with an unusual fondness for appams and stew. Their holiday was ending now, and they couldn't wait to get back to Newyork. They spoke about home, their room, their Dad who was still back home, and their friends. At 13 and 9, they were both unusually business minded. On his 8th birthday, P took home-made brownies to school. After giving them to his friends and teachers, he sold the leftover brownies for a dollar each. His older brother was smarter. After collecting his pocket money over a period of time, he'd bought all the candy at a nearby store, just so he could sell them to his a profit! We laughed ofcourse, but his mother explained to me that they were at a stage where they had to explain to their kids about right and wrong. We have a long way to go I thought, looking at Adiv who was sitting on Nindiya's lap, examining her watch.

The next day, my birthday, was filled with phone calls from allover. I got calls from my family, Ro's family, and friends. My in-laws sent me my favorite chocolate truffle cake, and my cousin's daughter Nimisha baked me a chocolate pudding. 30 candles were carefully placed on the pudding. I blew them at one go, before scooping out some delicious pudding into my bowl. The lunch that followed was a feast. After pigging out, and relaxing for a bit, we then decided it was time to drive back to Bangalore. We both had work the next day, and we couldn't afford to be too late.
We got back at 8, after a break or two, ready to flop into bed. Adiv was being fed, and I was still answering calls, when Ro's uncle and family arrived with a book I can't wait to read, a CD i am listening to, and some delicious Goan food.
So yeah, the weekend was wonderful! Turning 30 couldn't have been more fun. However, now I better think in terms of burning up all the calories I collected over the weekend.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Nanny Watch

Even though it was an offer I couldn't refuse, I had to do a lot of thinking before accepting. As the mother of a 6-month-old, I was quite clear about what my priorities were. I wanted to be around for my baby, meeting all his emotional, physical, and intellectual needs. However, when I was given the option of working from home, the family urged me to think again.
"You will feel good about yourself", said Mom gently.
"You won't get this opportunity again", said Dad more firmly.
"By the time Adiv grows up, it might be too late to start again", said Ro kindly.

I wept, reminded them of the time when Adiv was crying and I was on the phone discussing the offer. I said emphatically, "I don't want him to suffer."
Then Ro and I began discussing the possibility of hiring a Nanny. Initially, I wasn't too kicked about the idea, because I didn't really know if anyone else could do a good job taking care of him. Ialso didn't want to share Adiv with a random stranger. Anyway,I gave in eventually!

The Nanny came via an agency. As my parents were in Bangalore for a week, my mom had the responsibility of training her. As with most nannies, this one came armed with credentials and experience. I wasnt impressed, the mother rarely is. "I've taken care of many babies. I know exactly what to do", she said, wearing a big smile on her face.
Anyway, her day eventually began with the mother hen clucking around her nervously. Adiv took to her immediately, and that eased my tension. In her early 30s, the nanny wore bright colors and some shiny gold-plated jewellery. He was loved this jazzy woman with the loud, high-pitched voice.
"Enna baby", she said and picked him up immediately. After that, she didn't say much.
Limiting herself to the confines of our pool-facing balcony, she walked up and down.

"Talk to him", I said.
She smiled.
Then she wandered out of the bedroom and walked to the kitchen. The top-worker cum cook was only too pleased to see someone she could talk to. With Adiv in her arms, the nanny spoke to the maid in whispered tones.
I was livid.

"No taking him to the kitchen. It isn't safe, and I don't want him growing up between two servants", I said firmly.
"Sorry Madam!"
"Play with him. Talk to him. Don't just walk around quietly."
"No madam. He is only 6 months old. No use talking to him. He probably won't understand anyway."
"I've been talking to him from day one. He responds. So talk to him. Sing to him. Show him his toys and books."
"Okay Madam."

After another hour of working, I decided to peek again. I could hear her talking loudly, but I wasn't sure if it was for my benefit.
She was standing by the bed, talking loudly to noone in particular. Adiv was on the bed, with his cloth book in his mouth.
"Talk to him", I urged again. "What do you think you are doing?"
"Okay Madam."

Eventually Adiv got bored with her. The whining graduated into loud sobs.
"Why is he crying?"
"Maybe he is hungry."
Picking him up, I told her where his flask was, and how the bottles had to be handled.
"I know Madam", she said placing the bottle teat on counter.
"That has been sterilized. Why are you putting it there?"
"Sorry Madam."

When Adiv drinks his milk, he likes to hold on to something. That day he was holding his favorite rattle.
"No No No" she said, snatching away the rattle from him. After a few seconds of looking rather shocked, Adiv screamed and cried.
"Let him hold it if he wants to", I said irritably.
"Okay Madam"
Adiv was too irritated to care. By then he didn't want the rattle or his milk.

"I'll put him to sleep now", she said picking him up.
She sat down, forced his head on her lap and rocked him violently.
"DONT", I screamed. "He doesn't like it like that."
I picked him up and took him to my parents who were quite fed up by then. I then told her she could wash and iron his clothes. She did that quite well. When she was done, I told her to sit with him on his mat.
Adiv likes to crawl, and we always put him down in longs, so he can explore. He even likes holding on to things to stand up. So someone needs to watch him constantly. If not he'll either put something into his mouth, or bang his head against tables.

"Let him crawl, but just watch him", i said going back to my laptop.
I sat down for a minute, and I could hear Adiv crying again. She wasn't letting him crawl. She was holding him with both her hands and restricting his movement.
"Let him go", i said.
She let him go, but began following him very very closely. He was irritated.
"Give him some space."
"Yes Madam."

Bath time was no less traumatic. She held him upright with one hand, soaped him and pour water over his face. He was horrified.
"Lay him down and be careful. He doesn't like water on his face."
I'd given her a demo the day before, she seemed to be doing her own thing.
"I've bathed many babies. I know how to do it."
"Leave your experience outside. I don't want you to spoil his bathtime for him. He usually enjoys his bath."
After this much crying, Adiv was tired. I quickly wiped him, put him in comfortable clothes and told her to put him to sleep gently. She rocked him gently, but instead of singing to him, she chose the horrifying option of screaming, "Bah Bah Bah Bah."
Adiv was crying again and I was tearing out my hair.
"Leave him alone. Don't you know any songs?"
"Okay Madam."

After her first day, I was begining to wonder if working had been a good idea. Anyway, we had a chat with her. She was being paid to keep him happy, so she had to do what we wanted her to do. She agreed, because she wanted to stay on. I decided to give her another chance, because I realized she needed some time as well to get to know Adiv. Three days later, things are gradually improving. Adiv seems happier, and she is making more of an effort of playing with him. I'm however continuing to keep a close watch.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Baptised on the 6th of July

Last week, we travelled to Chennai for Adiv's baptism. The people who mattered (except for Onke Ash) were there, and Adiv looked lovely in a gown that Ro wore for his own baptism over 34 years ago.

Made from material that was originally intended for the altar in a church, Adiv's christening gown had a special story to tell. After Ro's birth two women came to see the baby. They had a present for him; material that his grandmother used to make him his christening gown. After she'd begun, the women returned apologizing for a mistake they had made. They'd given baby Ro the wrong present. The material they'd given him was intended for the church. By then it was too late! The material was already being stitched into a beautiful gown that Ro and Adiv would wear.

The service was small and sweet, and Adiv didn't bawl as expected. When the pastor wet his hair with blessed water, he merely smiled. Eventually he fell asleep, waking up only for a feed.

What followed, was breakfast. While the grownups ate, Adiv lapped up all the attention that came his way.

Adiv with two of his God parents (Onke Ash couldn't make it, so he is God father by proxy!)

Adiv with his cousins

It was his day, and he was having fun. The breakfast ended with him falling asleep, tired!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Fitting In

When I first drove into our apartment complex, what caught my attention was the play area in front. Furnished with swings, a merry-go-round, slide, and seesaw, I knew it was going to be Adiv's favorite spot. So, from day one I began taking him downstairs, to socialize and eventually form friendships.

It wasn't easy in the beginning. He was wary, and the children appeared too noisy. He was happy just playing spectator. In time he began flashing smiles at anyone who would look in his direction. Eventually he wanted to sit on the swing and merry-go-round just like the older children. I'd put him on the swing and push it gently while holding him firmly with my hand. He'd put his head up and smile with half closed eyes, enjoying the breeze that hit his face.

These evenings in the play area grew longer with time, and soon Adiv was on the merry-go-round and the slide, and I got some much needed exercise in the process. Going in circles while holding him upright on the merry-go-round, and then sliding him up and down on the slippery slide, wasn't so much fun for my back. However, he was having fun and I was having some much needed adult conversations with the women.

Getting initiated into the play area was no different from being accepted in college or the workplace. We'd begin with smiles and introductions, but after that you had to fit in. People chose different ways to do that. Some resorted to memorizing the names of those children who'd been there longer, just so they could call out to them and eventually befriend their mothers. If you spoke the same language and had similar tales to share, it became easier. Also, as with any group, this one had the dominant mothers and the submissive mothers. The loud mouthed leaders walked around asking the rest questions about what they were feeding their children, and why they'd chosen the names they'd chosen for their kids.

"You call her G? What an old fashioned name. Ha Ha. My son is called R (a name popularized by Shahrukh Khan on celluloid)."

From a safe distance, I watched for a week, mimicing the bullies each evening for Ro's amusement. Then one day I began to steer in. I knew that if I was friendly enough I'd have someone to turn to if i needed help. So I began making my own attempts. I smiled, asked questions about their lives and kids, and let Adiv do the rest. He smiled, cooed, and charmed them, forcing a friendship between us. Yes, if they liked him, I decided I could like them. Before I knew it, I was part of a smaller group that was made of mothers of babies. We had a lot more in common than I had imagined. Oblivious to the seniors who ruled the play area, we walked around with our infants, put them on the swings and slides, and had fun. And when it was time for the fathers to return, we'd walk back to our flats.

I've been here two months, and i've now begun looking forward to these outings. Apart from the fact that Adiv enjoys these outings, I've come to realize that you can be friends with all kinds of people; even those who don't speak the same language.