Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for six

Every once in a while, I look at Xena and go, "Oh my goodness, she's SIX."

Seriously, sometimes I can't believe I have a six-year-old on my hands. She seems so -- for lack of a better term -- 'grown-up' sometimes. Was I like this at six?

And then I got down to thinking -- what was I like around that age?

I only remember snatches of my life back then. Some of it is hazy and some of it crystal clear. But boy, was it a big contrast from Xena's life as a six-year-old.

My dad had just gotten posted to Patna. An alien city in an alien state with an alien language. I had joined Std I in a school which was about 150 metres from my house. (Distance was the most important -- and probably the only -- consideration when it came to choosing schools in those days.) The nearest big and important road to my place was called West (or was it East?) Boring Canal Road, or just Boring Road as most people preferred to call it. Only now do I see the humour in it.

I used to walk to school every morning. There was one particular point in the lane in front of our house, where I would pause and look up at the living room windows of my home. Mom would always be there, waving. I remember one day I was mad at her for something and I didn't look up and just kept walking. (I had no idea how hurtful it must have been for her. If Xena did this to me, I would be heartbroken. Sorry, Mama!)

My best friend in school was the class teacher's daughter who used to be top of the class before I joined. Then I took over, but somehow we still remained 'best friends' in spite of the competition. She was Muslim, and I remember thinking that that made her qualified to answer my inane questions such as, "So tell me, what's the difference between ikhtiyar, ibtida, intehaa, imtihaan, istakbal and inteqal?" I still remember the horrified (and sometimes terrified) looks she used to give me. You see, Hindi was very new to me, and so was Urdu, and I was just trying really really hard to pick up the languages, using whatever means I had. I used to listen to a crazy amount of Hindi film music and would spend a lot of time dissecting the lyrics and trying to really understand them.

In the evenings, I used to attempt to play badminton with the bhaiyas and didis of the colony. I also insisted on playing cricket, and because "girls were not allowed to play cricket", the boys would say "iska doodh-bhaat hai" which pretty much translated to "she's totally inconsequential, but we can use her to fetch the ball and stuff". I did that for quite some time and then I got really good at fielding and then they just had to let me bat. (I had paid my dues after all.) Woohoo! Highlight of my year, I tell you.

Soon, they let me in, and tried to teach me how to fly kites and play marbles and spin a top (I got surprisingly good at it. Haven't spun a top in decades though.)

Every evening, I would go downstairs to play and come back only when it started getting dark. All the kids did that and none of the parents worried. In spite of the fact that no one, including ourselves, knew where we would be heading each day.

Our landlord lived in the same building as us, and he had this huge dog called Jimmy. And because it was always leashed, we would dance in front of it, singing, "Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy! Aaja aaja aaja!" (Remember the song?)

We didn't have a phone. In fact, there were only two phones in our building, and we were really fortunate because one of them was in the apartment just opposite ours. But we had strict orders from our parents never to give out the number to anyone because we had an understanding with the neighbours that we could use their phone for "making and receiving very urgent calls only".

There was an aunty in the neighbourhood who had a mehendi tree in her courtyard. She would pluck the leaves, make the paste and invite us to go nuts over it. She had a tenant who was newly married and used to put the mehendi on her lips. I kid you not. She looked scary, sporting the mehendi-orange lips.

Some evenings, the dosa wala would come by. He would use his steel spatula to make loud clanging noises on his griddle, and all the grown-ups would rush down and surround him. Buying authentic dosas from a Tamilian in a small colony in Patna. It was the real deal. It was a big deal.

It got really cold during winters (I think the lowest was about 6 degrees), and sometimes some uncles would collect newspapers from everyone and make a bonfire in a side alley! I think it was just for the heck of it. I mean, no one needed a bonfire. But it was such an event. We would huddle around it, all excited, warming our hands.

Maybe it's time to share with Xena what her mommy was as a six-year-old. I can already imagine her baffled look when I recount all this.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for rebel

I should have seen it coming.

One of the games Xena has been playing since she was really tiny has been waking up each morning pretending to be a new animal. So on some days, she'd go, "Mama, I'm a snail today. My name is Snailie. You're Mama Snailie and Dada is Dada Snailie."

The very next day, if I'd address her as 'Snailie', she'd protest.

"I'm not a snail today, Mama! I'm a snake called Snakie!" And this update would be reflected in all of the drawings she'd make that day. Take a look!

Of course, she'd quickly undergo metamorphosis again.

"Mama, I'm not a snake today! I'm a scorpion! I'm Scorpie the scorpion. You're Mama Scorpie and Dada is Dada Scorpie!"

The next day, she'd be a worm called Wormie, and so on. Crickey the cricket. Grassy the grasshopper. Cammy the camel. You get the drift. I was quite amused that in addition to the cutesy animals that most kids want to be, such as bunnies and squirrels, she also had some very odd choices.

For the last few weeks -- ever since we got back from the Science Centre hatchery actually -- she's been a chick. A chick called Chicky. Obviously. And I'm obviously Heny/Henny, while Viv is Roosty. This has been dutifully reflected in the drawings.

She asked her teacher to draw a Mauritian Fody so she could colour it. The hapless teacher had to google what on earth a Mauritian Fody was first. 

Yesterday, when I logged into the school portal to check her learning portfolio in preparation for the parent-teacher meeting, I almost fell off my chair laughing. The learning portfolio features photos of work that the kids do in class, and most of it is 'serious' stuff, to showcase to parents how well their kids are doing.

There was a project called 'A look into the future', where the other kids had ambitiously described how they wanted to be doctors and astronauts and superheroes when they grew up.

My dear child, on the other hand, had written the below.

Bas itna sa khwaab hai?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for questions

"Mama, we should have brought the dinosaur cards along!"


"Then we could have played with them while we waited for our food."

We were at Blooie's with the in-laws for dinner. Strangely, Viv had also made a rare appearance. Xena had been pulled out of a serious dinosaur card game she had been playing with her grandma, and it was making her restless at the restaurant.

"Why do we need dinosaur cards? We can play something else." I suggested.

"Like what?"

"Like... Questions!"

"What is that?"

Now that I had made up the name of the game, I had to quickly make up the rules.

"Umm... Each person asks the others one question each, which he/she doesn't know the answer to." I hoped it made sense.

Apparently, it did.

We spent the next half an hour playing Questions. And even though the questions were really basic, the whole experience was quite an eye-opener.

I found out that my mom-in-law had majored in Economics and my dad-in-law in Physics! 

I found out that my dad-in-law's favourite food is puri with aloo ki sabzi (and I've never even made that for him!). 

I found out that Viv travelled in a train without his parents when he was 7 years old.

I found out that as a kid, Viv would ask all visitors as soon as they had stepped inside, what time they were going to leave. Not because he was rude or wanted them to leave, but because he wanted to know how long he had them to play with.  

I found out that my mom-in-law's favourite colour is turquoise. 

I found out that dad-in-law never really liked being a banker. And he was a banker all his working life! (In contrast, imagine the freedom newer generations have when it comes to picking a vocation!)

I found out that Xena's favourite school lunch is macaroni soup.
(It seriously is the world's most awesome preschool menu ever! Everything is all wholemeal and super-healthy, and they grow their own herbs in the school garden. The dishes follow a 30-day rotation, which means each dish is not repeated until the next month. Wowza.) 

I found out that Xena's favourite food at home is idli-oh-no-mama-it's-not-idli-it's-dosa-no-wait-it's-not-dosa-it's-actually-pizza! Okay then.

And it wasn't just stuff about the others I was discovering. The rapid fire format made me discover things about myself too. There were many, but this one stood out, because the answer was quite unexpected.

I found out that if asked what my most favourite thing to do was, I'd say 'baking'. I'd have never guessed. Baking? Really? Reeeeeally? 

Yeah, maybe. 

Do try playing Questions at your next gathering with family and close friends (i.e. people you think you know really well) and see if you make any interesting discoveries!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for party

I live in the east coast of Singapore, which is a popular area for many expats. Most condominiums in this area have a good mix of locals and expats. The diversity in ours is pretty mind-blowing. And that is one of the biggest reasons why I'm always so gung-ho about organising pot luck parties. Most communities kind of stick to themselves, and these are the only opportunities when not only does everyone come together, the entire world's cuisine also comes together.

I've realised that most people are always happy to attend such events, as long as someone is willing to do all the organising. And everyone knows I'm always willing to be the willing one. And there are always enough enthusiastic people who are happy to join the organising committee and put their talents to good use. And boy, do we have some talent in our neighbourhood or what.

Last week had been a busy, busy one. Other than the planning for the big neighbourhood Easter party, I also had to make Easter cookies for Xena's class Easter party on Thursday. I decided to experiment with wholewheat, low-sugar cookies. Thanks to the very cute Easter cookie cutters I have, you totally couldn't tell that the cookies were healthier than regular ones. The wholewheat made the dough not very smooth and the edges were not as sharp when cut, but the cookies turned out fine. According to Xena's report, the kids gobbled them up in no time.

Aren't they kayoooot? This is the recipe I used, but I cut the sugar in half. 

Cut to Sunday. Our neighbourhood Easter party. The skies looked dark and we looked troubled. We had spent an incredible amount of time and effort on the decoration, egg hunt plan and games, and even though we had an indoor back-up venue, it just wouldn't be the same if we didn't have it in the open bbq area, which was right next to a playground and had lots of space for kids to run around and adults to mingle.

Just as we were putting up the decorations on the trees, we felt the first drops. "Make a call," said one of the organisers, "Let's move in now. The decorations will be ruined if they get wet." I was very reluctant to move in. There were some clouds but the other parts of the sky looked really blue. I'd also checked the cloud cover for 240 km around Singapore (and also 480 km; yes, I'm crazy like that) and it didn't look like any dark clouds were headed to our island to wreak any havoc that evening. So I told everyone to stay put and continue, keeping my fingers crossed that my gut feeling wouldn't let me down. Thankfully, the little drops that had fallen on us were the only ones that evening. Phew!

One of the ladies had made these cheerful Easter cut-outs, which looked lovely on the trees.

I'd drawn this basket of Easter eggs on the side of a giant cardboard box, and a neighbour had painted it. 

We also had some standalone 3D eggs in the bushes, which a talented neighbour had made. Xena and I painted the pink one. She used a paint roller to whitewash the egg (as it was made from an old brown cardboard box) and add the pink layer, and I painted the designs.

More cardboard box Easter decor items! 

My amazing neighbour who juggles three kids and part-time studies somehow found time to make this hockey game station for the party. 

Obviously, the kids had a real ball with it.

Another lady had done up a 'Pin the tail on the bunny' game and kids of all ages loved it. We had decided that both games were just for fun, and would have no prizes. Kids these days are too used to getting prizes for every little thing and we wanted to break that trend. 

One of the ladies had set up an Easter craft station where the kids made little Easter bunnies using toilet paper rolls and craft items. Xena is posing with hers. 

Then came the egg hunt. Since we had a whopping 72 kids, I split them up into three groups according to age. We used the same set of plastic eggs (and they didn't have any candy inside, of course) for all three groups. Each kid had to find at least 2 eggs to claim a yo-yo, so we got all the eggs back after each group was done. That way, we didn't have to buy, like, 144 eggs. 

The egg hunt was hilarious. We had it in the playground and the hiding places got progressively tougher as the age range went up. 

The 4-6-year-olds, for instance, not only had to find the eggs, but they had to sit down together, pull each of them apart into two halves and then put them together by colour. Xena had helped me the day before to scramble up the halves of the eggs.

I felt that the oldest kids would find the egg hunt a bit too juvenile for their liking so I made theirs into a group activity involving teamwork. They had five minutes to do these tasks: (a) find all the eggs; (b) exchange the eggs with me for some jumbled letters; and (c) unscramble the letters to form three Easter-related words. 

I didn't really time them; it was just a threat to add some drama, but the kids felt very important when they solved the puzzle 'just in time'. 

We also had a game for the adults. Each adult picked a chit with one half of a Hollywood celebrity name, and they had to find the other half. And because we had close to 100 people, it was totally chaotic. Just as I had hoped and expected, and a lot of fun. 

The winning couple's chits 

And of course, what is a party without food? There sure was a LOT of food. And it was of all kinds. 


At the end of the party, the kids were scrambling to get their hands on their decor, especially the cardboard cut-out animals. We were only too happy to let them take them home, considering the time and effort we had put into them. 

Everything went very well, and everyone ended up making new friends. People were amazed at how little they knew about their neighbours. In fact, every other face seemed to be a new one. We really need to have more of such gatherings with our neighbours. 

Happy belated Easter!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O for obsessed

Since the last post was a big ol' rant, I need to have a rave to balance things out a bit. And the only thing that I have been raving about for more than a month is Coke Studio Pakistan. After I was done listening to Khakhi banda some 3487583475 times, I went back to old seasons and rediscovered some amazing gems from the Rohail Hyatt era.

So here they are, my top all-time Coke Studio Pakistan songs. Well, I started off meaning to pick just five but then I just couldn't do it. So I said okay, I'll do seven, but that wasn't looking possible either. Then I told myself that ten would be the absolute last option, but then I just had to include this one, and that one, and oh, that other cute little one, and oh gosh how could I even think of excluding that other one? So... one thing led to another and here we have 13 (Yay! My favourite number though!) of my top favourite Coke Studio songs!

Miyan ki malhaar
Gosh, this song is rain and rain is this song! Listen to it and you'll know what I mean. We've been having some beautiful unseasonal rain in Singapore lately, and this song goes so well with it! I listen to it at least 4-5 times a day.

Neer bharan
This song is a killer. I'm in love with Zara Madani's voice. 'Nuff said.

Tum naraaz ho
Sajjad Ali's voice is so velvety, you'll be totally lost in this song. Oh, the feels.

Khakhi banda
Nope, still not sick of it. Still listening. Still loving.

Mahi gal
Okay, this song took a while, but now I love it to bits! And the lyrics are magical -- 'Teri deed gareeban da hajj ve'... Fariha Pervez's guest appearance takes the song to a whole new level.

Anokha laadla
At first, I found this song very weird. I still can't tell what it is about. Religion? Love? A spoilt brat? It's probably one of the very very few songs that I really love without caring too much about the lyrics.

Ve baneya
I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of Fizza Javed's parts but Mulazim Hussain's parts are mind-blowing. It took a few listens before the song grew on me though. I just love the honesty and smile the man carries in his voice.

Nimma nimma
In general, I don't like lullaby-type or meri-maaa type of songs, so I quickly dismissed this in the beginning. But later, I found myself humming the tune and craving to listen to it again. And now I'm hooked.

Moray naina
Zara Madani. Stop it, lady. You're killing me.

Uddi ja
Okay, this guy is super-talented. He wrote, composed and sang this song. And it's done brilliantly. Even Xena really likes this song and keeps singing it.

Ala baali
Setting aside the very strong Sukhwinder Singh vibes you get from Jabar Abbas, this song is a winner. Nirmal Roy's unique voice and the playfulness of the song make a great combination. Kinda makes me want to belly-dance to it. Weird, huh?

Shamaan pai gaiyaan
I've seen Rachel Viccaji as the back-up singer in pretty much every single Coke Studio song. So when I saw her come up to the front, I was madly rooting for her. And boy, did she deliver. In fact, she almost overshadows Kashif Ali in this song, who's already very very very good.

Tu kuja man kuja
I added this song only two days ago, and I'm still getting into it, but I do know it's here to stay. The two very different voices come together so well. And the instrumentalists do a mind-blowing job.

I wish I could have included some more, but I really shouldn't. There is this one hilarious parody song by Ali Zafar though, with lyrics that go, 'Baby, you're the one, but allowed toh hai na chaar!' Only Ali Zafar can do justice to a song like that. But because the song is very un-Coke Studio, I excluded it from my top 13. But do check it out. It will have you in splits.

And wait, wait, wait, there's this other little song...


Okay, you know what? I have a playlist of the 30+ songs that I have been listening to on loop day and night, so if you'd like to listen to all of it as a single playlist, here it it! You can click on this to see all the songs, or simply press play below.

Play it really really loudly, okay? And do let me know if you like/hate any of them!

Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for Netflix

For people like Viv and me who do not watch TV, or have any TV channels, or no time to channel-surf, Netflix is a boon. I'm sure there will be people who will argue that Netflix is a boon for everyone, but it is especially for us. Every now and then, after putting Xena to bed, we like to sit down and watch something on Netflix together.

However, like everything in life, Netflix has some good stuff and a whole bunch of crap. If you thought this post is about my favourite Netflix shows, you're mistaken. Here is a list of shows that we started watching, but ditched midway because it was just sucharoyalwasteoftime.

Mad Men
This was one of the first few Netflix shows we watched, and it was a multiple award-winning show, so we had high expectations. Many many episodes later, I still couldn't care less for any of the characters (and boy, does the show have a lot of characters). We stuck around for quite some time (why oh why) hoping for the show to go somewhere. It didn't, so we went elsewhere.

Orange is the New Black
I know fans of the show are going to hate this review, but we couldn't even get past the first season. The girl-on-girl action was getting a bit too much and was happening literally for no reason, and overall the show just didn't seem to go anywhere. Someone said the newer seasons are getting good reviews, but we just can't go back to this show anymore.

I'm not a fan of supernatural dramas, or anything that involves zombies, so I wasn't even sure why I started watching it in the first place, but after the end of the season, I told Viv to go watch it by himself if he wants, but under no circumstances am I going to watch the next season. Terrible, terrible show.

Stranger Things
I get it, I get it. The nod to the 80s pop culture, the E.T. nostalgia, etc. etc. But I just found it very hard to care for anyone in the show. And that 'beast'. My goodness, where do I even start? I know it's supposed to give you a feel for the 80s, but surely they could have made a better beast.

We started watching this on the recommendation of someone who said look, finally, the homosexual community gets the forefront in a mainstream TV show. All that is fine, but I cannot watch a show just for that. Where is the story, where is it all going? Why is that Icelandic character so utterly useless? And don't even get me started on the Indian character Kala who goes to a Ganesha temple in Mumbai and speaks to the lord in English.

How to Get Away with Murder
Like Sense8, I felt this show was also more in the news due to its PC-ness than its actual content. Powerful female black lead? Applause! But the story itself? Nothing to really hold my interest. Annalise Keating's character felt like it had more style than substance, and her students looked like they were in the middle of a bad I Know What You Did Last Summer movie.

Master of None
Again, the PC-ness of it was too much. And the show is so not funny. I watched two episodes with a poker face, not even breaking into a smile. And I totally don't get how that episode with Aziz Ansari's parents got so many awards. It was the worst ever! Just because you're the star of a show and you get your parents to act the part of your parents doesn't give them the ability to act. They were terrible.

Prison Break
We actually started watching this because we had pretty much run out of material, and I remembered that it had been a very popular show at one point. (Is it still?) But I can't say I liked it. Everything just seemed a little too convenient and the lead character a little too smug for my liking.

The OA
If I had to pick a show as the highest-level crap of the crap, it has to be the super-pretentious OA. I found everything about the lead character sooooooo annoying, I just couldn't stand her after a while. The way she casually tells everyone, "I'm the OA." as if that's explanation enough just grates on my nerves. This is probably what happens when you conceptualise a show and then decide to play the lead (unless you're Charlie Chaplin.) And that 'prison' of theirs, with the shared 'river' and oh, where is their toilet, if some of them have been living in those glass pods for years? If it's the river, then lord, oh lord, I definitely don't want to watch this show.


Breaking Bad, what have you done to me? Why did you set the bar so high? Now I can never ever enjoy any TV show. :|

Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Mini-me

"Oh Mama," exclaimed Xena. "The chick is SOOOOOO KAYOOOOT!"

We were looking at a newly-hatched chick in the hatchery at the Science Centre's discovery zone. There is a completely transparent incubator where eggs are segregated based on how old they are, and if you have enough time and patience to hang around near the 21st day eggs, you will be rewarded with an amazing sight. We didn't have the time to actually see a chick hatch out of an egg (there is this really cool video someone took and uploaded, in case you're keen), but we did see a wobbly little chick and the two halves of the egg it had climbed out of. And it was this particular chick that Xena was finding SOOOOOO KAYOOOOOOT.

It amuses me how much Xena copies the strange terms and quirky words that I use sometimes. When I find something irresistibly cute, I feel that the word 'cute' just doesn't do it justice, and I go "SOOOOO KAYOOOOOT!"

The other day, I was kinda panicking about the number of things I had to do that morning, and she came to me, held my hands and gently said, "Mama... first... we need to calm down. Then we can think better." I nearly fell down laughing. Every time she flips out over something -- a bruise or a school project or a lost library book -- I hold her hands and gently say, "Xena... first... we need to calm down. Then we can think better."

Then there was this time I was making dosas for her. When I served the first one to her, she said, "Oh Mama, this is wrong..."

"It is?"

"I wanted one carrot dosa with no cheese, and one plain dosa with cheese. This is a carrot dosa with cheese..."

"Oh dear... sorry, I must have mixed them up in my head. But it's okay, isn't it? You can eat this. I'll just make the plain dosa without cheese."

"Yeah, it's okay. I can eat this," she said, sounding a little disappointed. "But I had specifically said one carrot dosa with no cheese, and one plain dosa with cheese..."

Oh dear lord. My 6-year-old had specifically said that. I wonder who overuses the word specifically. Oh. Dear. Lord.

As she grows older and I realise that her mirroring my words and actions is moving out of the KAYOOOOOT phase into serious territory, I feel a little nervous. Take what happened the other day, for example. Normally, I'm very particular about using only an after-then strategy ("After you finish your meal, we can play Scrabble.") instead of a threatening if-then strategy ("If you finish your meal, we can play Scrabble."). But that day, I was cooking and she kept getting up and coming to the kitchen instead of staying put at the dining table and finishing her milk.

"Mama, please play Afreen afreen for me." She said. Without thinking, I'd blurted out, "I'll play it if you finish your milk." Without hesitation, she said, "I'll finish it if you play the song." My ears literally burned. Not only was I horrified at how rude and threatening that sounded coming from her, I was also shocked at how fast these kids catch on. I repaired the situation quickly by saying, "Ooh, how about we focus on the milk first, and then we can focus and really listen to the song together properly?" She agreed. Phew! I made a quick mental note to be even more watchful of my words around her.

Sometimes, it's so hard to be yourself and yet be this ideal person for your kids to emulate. I'm not talking about hiding our mistakes from them, just showing them the 'better' way to deal with things. How we react to stuff is exactly how our little Mini-mes will react to stuff; the words we choose to use are what they are going to use. So I try to show her my best side at all times -- my kindest, most polite, most enthusiastic, most creative, most resourceful, most pleasant, most sociable, most politically correct, most unbiased, most forgiving, most resilient, most adaptive side, even though I'm obviously not like that all the time. But I do it, at the cost of feeling a little hypocritical at times. I'm still trying to make my peace with this conflicted feeling. But then that's my view on it -- in parenting Xena, I'm just trying to create a slightly better version of myself.

Friday, April 14, 2017

L is for lovely

Without any attempts at any subtle plugging, I shall go ahead and shamelessly proclaim it -- it was my BIRTHDAY yesterday!

After a certain age, birthdays are not that exciting. When someone asks, "Ooh, what are you doing for your birthday?" there's no real cool answer to that. "Nothing much... normal workday, then birthday dinner in the evening." has been my standard answer these last few years. And though you wouldn't associate the word 'exciting' with this scenario, to me, it's a perfectly acceptable way to spend an adult's birthday. However, this year, I felt a weird sense of inner joy and contentment and that was pretty exciting. Old age, I tell you. I wonder what else it has in store for me?

The days leading up to my birthday had been rather crazy. My magazine's current issue had to be sent to press urgently, a colleague wanted the proofs that I was working on so urgently he was ready to meet me at the airport (in-laws left for India today and I'd told him I wouldn't be home) to pick them up. On top of that, I'm organising the Easter party for our neighbourhood and I totally didn't expect 95 adults and 75 kids to register for it!

Viv has been literally living in the office in preparation for his US work trip, once in a while making it home, say around 3 am or 5 am. And not to even mention the April blogathon. In the midst of all this, I'd thought my birthday would just come and go. Like any other day. But it was quite lovely, to be honest.

I was working late on the eve of my birthday when dad-in-law popped his head in exactly at midnight (Why was he awake at that hour, you ask? I have three letters for you - IPL.) to wish me a happy birthday. At about 12.05 am, I heard the keys in the front door. It was definitely more likely to be a burglar than Viv. But it was Viv! My husband had crossed oceans and fought dragons cast aside screens and screens of C++ to get to me as soon as my birthday began! I was touched. We decided to take a midnight stroll and get some ice-cream. It was a privilege because we can do this kind of thing only when someone is home with Xena.

When we got back, I scooped her up from her bed and transferred her to ours. She turned sleepily and mumbled something. Viv said, "Hey Xena, what day is it?" She immediately got all alert, and kissed and hugged and wished me before promptly going back to sleep.

On the morning of my birthday, I put on new clothes after my shower. I can't remember the last time I'd put on new clothes on my birthday right from the morning. I do buy something new for my birthday (or save an outfit gifted by someone) but I wear it only in the evening when going out to celebrate. But this time, the in-laws had taken me shopping for my birthday and got me a whole bunch of outfits. I could wear one in the morning and then wear another one in the evening, and I'd still have two more to go! It was pretty exciting.

Then the WhatsApp fiasco happened. A neighbour, who occasionally plays badminton with me, decided it would be damn fun to wish me for my birthday on the neighbourhood WhatsApp group -- yes, the one with SIXTY-TWO people on it -- instead of messaging me directly. As more and more people felt arm-twisted into following her message with their own happy birthday messages, I had to literally beg for it to be taken offline so we could spare everyone the spam.

But this meant that everyone in the group now knew it was my birthday. And because I know almost everyone (because I'm the admin of the neighbourhood FB group and organise the social events), many of them took the time to send me personal wishes. I was touched. To me, if someone is taking time off to do something for you that is 100% optional, it's very touching.

Later, when I checked my FB account, I saw a lot of birthday wishes on my wall as well. Many of them from people I'm not really in touch with. Again, going by my 100% optional rule, it was touching that people had bothered to wish me. I decided to spend some time replying properly to each person. I didn't want to simply 'like' their wishes, or post generic thank you messages to everyone, or just write an FB post on the lines of 'Thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes. Feeling blessed.' I feel that is just lazy and also stresses everyone else out -- those who had not wished you and now that you have thopo'ed your birthday on their faces, have no choice but to sheepishly say 'Happy belated birthday'. So I took a moment to think about each of them, about our last interaction or something relevant about them that I remembered, before individually replying to them. I felt like it was the least I could do. I felt happy doing it.

It was strange to feel the kind of gratitude I was feeling, because in my 20s I used to be someone who had high expectations from everyone on my birthday, which on hindsight, was not a good thing at all. These days, I'm a lot more mellow and content with whatever I get. So much more soothing for the soul. For example, if an acquaintance wished me on FB, my first thought would have been 'Ha! You remembered only because FB reminded you!' whereas now I feel grateful. FB reminds everyone, but it's those who take the time to wish you when they didn't really have to, who make it that much more special.

The sister-in-law had sent me a very pretty wallet for my birthday. Knowing my practical self, she'd let me choose what I wanted and ordered it to be delivered to me. But she had a bigger surprise waiting for me on her blog -- a heartwarming post about me! (Well, it's about Viv and me, but mostly me, hehehe!) In the post, she's documented our friendship from the first time she'd met me some 12 years ago when I was just Viv's girlfriend. Who doesn't want to read stuff like "She fires on all cylinders, she’s living proof that it can be done. At any point in time, she’s juggling a dozen balls, and doing it in a fabulous dress and kickass heels." on their birthday? Because this week had been one of those where my super-efficient self was also having its doubts about itself, this really helped. It made my birthday extra special.

When I picked up Xena from school, her friend's mom who knows it's my birthday insisted on dropping us home in her car. "I have to drop you home. It's your birthday!" I couldn't say no. I'm always declining her offers to drop us home (mainly because we are bus people and I don't want Xena to get used to being ferried around in a car every day) but I had to take it. On the way she was telling me how much she loves her own birthday, and suddenly it struck me -- one should!

For lunch, mom-in-law had made puri and aloo ki sabzi. Like dad-in-law, I really like puris too, but I rarely make them because of the hassle and oil involved. She, on the other hand, had made about 20 or maybe more puris, and I swear I only had about 7 or 8 of them. Not more. Mom-in-law looked at my guilty face and insisted that the puris were really tiny so it was okay, but the truth is the truth. I told my inner fitter self that it was okay because I had gone to the gym in the morning and no one goes to the gym on their birthday. My inner fitter self just shook her head and said, "Riiiight."

And because I'd not already consumed enough calories at lunch, in the afternoon, right after I'd sent the issue off to the printer and the child off to bed for her nap, I made a cake. (Of course, I make my own birthday cake. It had to be homemade, low-sugar, yada yada yada.) I made a heart-shaped green pandan cake -- no icing. And I have no pictures of it because we cut it up and ate it. It was soft and spongy and homely and comforting.

In the evening, all of us went for dinner at Super Loco, a Mexican restaurant I'd been dying to go to for the longest time. I'd chosen an outlet which was at walking distance from Viv's office because I expected him to go back to work after dinner, but strangely he didn't. Yay! We wrapped the evening up with some tiramisu and cheesecake (definitely not homemade, definitely not low-sugar, but definitely tasty as hell).

It was a lovely day indeed. I guess growing older isn't that bad.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

K is for kimkartavyavimoodh

Say what?!

If you didn't have Hindi as a subject in school, you might have never heard of the word किंकर्तव्यविमूढ. When our Hindi teacher broke the word to us, we were blown away. What a word. What length. What beauty. What randomness. What joblessness.

I think if you break it down, it goes something like किं = what, कर्तव्य = to doविमूढ = dunno. Basically it means "dunno what to do". This word has particular significance for many a bloggers during the taxing month of April, because there are some letters in the alphabet which you just don't know what to do with. 

After 'words that start with k' failed to turn up any satisfactory results, I turned to my own creative juices. Come on, guys. Give me something!

K for karaoke? Write about the Bollywood karaoke club that I have recently joined? (It's true. We get together, sing loudly and off-key, and hope that the security guards -- or worse, the police -- won't come-a-knocking.)

K for knock knock jokes? Xena has been introduced to the world of knock knock jokes by her classmates and because they totally don't get how these jokes work, people around her have to endure really really bad knock knock jokes that do not make any sense at all. Sample this:

Knock knock

Who's there?
Octo who?

K for kanjak? Every year, some of my neighbours organise kanjak puj where nine girls are worshipped as devis. We just attended four last week. We were literally puja-hopping. Xena even attended one in her swimsuit because the invitation was for 5 pm and her swim lesson was at 5.30 pm. I don't care much about pujas and stuff, but it's definitely a fun social event that I try not to miss. I also lug my DSLR along to capture shots of the girls in their pretty Indian gear. And then I go back and dig up kanjak photos from the previous years and get all senti about how much they have grown. And then I send these old photos to the ladies who hosted the pujas and get them all senti too. 

So yeah, these were some options, but none of them seemed worthy of a full blog post by themselves.

"Somebody help me with the letter K!" I pleaded to the in-laws and Xena at dinner the other day. I was really in a किंकर्तव्यविमूढ state. While the in-laws racked their brains, Xena looked at me with a startled expression -- as if I'd let her down in some way. 

"Mamaaaaaa!" She said. 


"You can just write K for Kentrosaurus!!" She said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 

(I don't know anything about Kentrosaurus. I didn't even know such a dinosaur existed. I had to look up its spelling for this post.)

I looked at her face, earnestly looking up at me, totally expecting me to take up her Kentrosaurus suggestion. 

Oh my darling, darling daughter. What do I do with you? किंकर्तव्यविमूढ is what I am. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J is for journal

One of the best things I like about Xena's school is that they follow an exploration-based approach to teaching. There are no worksheets or homework to take home. There is a parent-accompanied project for each term, but it's optional. (We, of course, do not take it as optional, because it is too much fun.)

As this is the last year of preschool and the kids needs to start getting ready for a lot more writing, the K2 kids have started a journal-writing project. Every week, the kids need to write a journal entry on any topic they like. They can also paste pictures to accompany the text. 

Viv and I do not interfere much with what Xena wants to write (i.e. her ideas and the content), though we do need to help her with the process. He needs to keep correcting her hold on the pencil (she holds it as if she's about to stab the paper), while I help her to spell the words she doesn't know how to spell, but wants to include in her entry. 

Just the other day, as I saw her bent over her journal, laboriously writing her entry, it suddenly struck me that my little one has already started her blog! 

Here are a few of her journal entries. (Yes, this is basically a guest post.)

Last Thursday, my friend and I went to a very special place called The City. I wore a wig and a superhero dress. I looked funny. Hehehehe! I dressed like a surgeon too. I patted a toy stegosaurus to sleep. I dressed like a policewoman and took care of the city. I was a cook and a waitress. I served food to my mummy. There was a mini cash register. I was a mini mini mini cashier. I was a shopper too. What a fun day!!!!!!!!!!

Friday was a school holiday. My mummy had a meeting in her office so she took me along. I got many gifts from people in her office. I got a clock toy, M&Ms and biscuits. There were many people who wanted to take photos with me. There was a giant model of a T-Rex. His name was Professor T-Rex. He was wearing a funny hat. I sat in my mummy's meeting, reading my book. Everyone said that I was good. 

I had a wonderful time at Mauritius. I went to a nature park. I touched a giant tortoise. I named it Tortie. We went on a sunset cruise. I lay on a net over the water. I did dry snorkelling. Hehehe! We went to many beaches, waterfalls, a volcanic crater and a tea plantation. Mauritius is a part of Africa. I had a good time!

I went to my uncle's wedding in India. I dressed up and danced. I put mehendi on my hand. I named the bride and groom 'Bridie' and 'Groomie'. He looked handsome and she looked gorgeous. Everyone said that I was pretty too. The bride and groom were on stage for a long time. I gave them food, a drink and water. They said I saved their lives. I met a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles. We took a family photo. I can't wait to go back to INDIA!

I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. I wore funky yellow goggles. I watched a cartoon show on a TV fixed on the ceiling. At the end of the session, the dentist told me that I had been a very good patient. She even gave me an inflated glove with a smiley face on it. I have a shaky tooth. When it falls, the tooth fairy will come and give me a shiny coin. 

When my first tooth started shaking, I wrote a letter to the tooth fairy. When my tooth fell out, I put the tooth under my pillow with the letter. In the morning, guess what I saw? A shiny coin! It was super shiny!!! After all my teeth have fallen out, I would have 20 coins. That is 20 dollars!!!! I will buy something nice with it. Do you have any ideas??

When I was in India, my grandpa took me to three special places. We visited a natural history museum. I saw an elephant skeleton and a whale skeleton. The skeletons were enormous!!!! I also saw preserved snakes and other animals. I watched a show about the sun at a planetarium. We went to the science centre and the dinosaur park. I had a good time!

Last weekend, I had a dinosaur-themed party at my home. There was a big dinosaur balloon on my TV. I wore a dinosaur T-shirt. I put on a dinosaur tattoo. My grandma made dinosaur idlis and my mummy made dinosaur crackers! My mummy made a cake with dinosaurs on it! The inside was very colourful. The dinosaurs were green, yellow and pink. We had brownies and ice-cream for dessert. There were chocolate dinosaurs on top. Hooray!!! I had a good time!

I watched a movie called E.T. It was about an alien on earth. My friend said that E.T. was running to his spaceship but it was too late. The spaceship was gone! E.T. was alone and scared. A boy called Elliott took E.T. to his house. They became friends!!! E.T. was so cute!! At first Elliott's sister Gertie was scared of E.T. Then later they became friends. Elliott and his family and his friends helped E.T. stay away from bad guys. E.T. was able to go home in an enormous spaceship!!!!

I went to Gardens by the bay! There were many dinosaurs all over! I saw a stegosaurus, diplodocus, T-rex, parasaurolophus, triceratops and ankylosaurus. The diplodocus' neck was very long, as long as a supertree!!! I did many dinosaur crafts. I made a sand art bookmark and a keychain. We played many fun games but I couldn't win a prize. I went for a train ride with my mummy!!! At night there was a light show. The dinosaurs and supertrees were glowing! It was great!!!