Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What's in a name?

"Mama... Mama... Mama..."

It was one of those busy days where I couldn't listen to one more "Mama". (I'm trying to get Xena to stop looking for me for everything. Well, the inane stuff, at least. Sometimes I even get "Mama, can I go and pee?" I wonder what would happen if I said no.)

"Oops, you've reached the max limit of the number of times you can say 'Mama' in a day." I said.

She thought for a moment and readily agreed, "Oh okay."

Wow, that was easy.

I went back to whatever I was doing, while she got busy with her stuff.

In about 3 seconds, she spoke again.

"Mother..."

:| 



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Devil's workshop

Everyone and their grandmas are aware of my kind and loving feelings about WhatsApp forwards.

So imagine my face when my horrified and terrified mother sent me this, asking me if it was true and if she should "follow the instructions".


*deeeeep breath*

What the hell.

I mean, seriously. WHAT. THE. HELL.

So I sat down and explained to her that it was nonsense and no, she didn't need to do anything and no, she won't get charged for using WhatsApp and no, there is no over usage of user names, and no, Modiji's team is not debugging WhatsApp issues (they have better things to do... I hope), and no, her account will not be deleted, and no, she doesn't have to "actively chat with 50 people" (what the...?!) to retain her WhatsApp account.

Then I showed her some articles about how all WhatsApp-related WhatsApp forwards are hoaxes.

She had one question. It's a very, very good question.

"But who would come up with something like this and why???"

Beats me.

Got any ideas?




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Random review: Baahubali

"Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?" Mom asked me.

Oh dear lord, no.

Over the last two years, I'd seen and received enough Kattappa-Baahubali jokes (but to be honest, this one was really funny) and I just wasn't ready to hear another one. As it is, Mom keeps relentlessly sending me terrible jokes on WhatsApp. I couldn't believe that she was going to crack one in person.

Turns out it wasn't a joke.

She was genuinely curious.

"I... have no idea, Mama."

I hadn't even watched the first one to know what the hullabaloo was over. I generally don't watch epics or dubbed movies (Hey, don't judge. I watched Jurassic Park in Hindi when I was a child. When you hear something like "Bhaago, badi chhipkali aa rahi hai!" you never want to watch another dubbed movie ever again.)

"Let's go watch Baahubali 2. Then we will know why Kattappa killed Baahubali."

"Err... we could, but do you know who Kattappa and Baahubali are?"

"No."

Wow. Here was my Mom, with no idea who the heck Kattappa and Baahubali were, eager to find out the answer to the question that the nation (and other nations) wanted to know.

"I think we need to find out who they are first, so we can care about the question."

"But how?"

"YouTube."

Fortunately, we found a good print on YouTube and watched the first part. I mostly liked it, except of course, the cringe-inducing part where Baahubali Jr., transforms "warrior" Avanthika to "woman" Avanthika. Over the course of a song. And he dares to say, "You're mine so your mission is mine so you go home and chill ya, I'll go get the queen." And she instantly abandons her mission, something she'd dedicated her life to, and has the audacity to go back to her army and say, "No worries, my bae's got it. Chill ya. Oh, btw, I just met him like... 5 minutes ago." That really infuriated me, but other than that, I found it a highly watchable movie for many reasons.

So last night, now that we cared enough about the two characters, Mom and I finally embarked on a journey to find out why Kattappa killed Baahubali.

Here is a list of my random thoughts about the movie.

  • Perhaps it was the fact that I was watching part 2 on a big screen -- the way such movies are meant to be watched -- but I liked it much better than the first part. The grandeur, the colours, the music, everything was stunning and delightful. It also had a lot more humour than the first one.
  • It's not easy to play such-a-good-guy-that-he-cannot-be-any-gooder character without making the audience hurl, but there is something so sincere and likeable about Prabhas that he makes it work. I'd never heard of him before, and now I'm looking up his interviews. It's incredible how shy he is in real life!
  • I loved Anushka Shetty in the movie, but mainly her pre-wedding avatar. In fact, when we saw the first movie, we were wondering why they cast such a young actress as the mother, but we figured she probably had a meaty flashback coming up. And we were right -- what an effect she had every time she appeared on screen! However, I did feel that she kinda became a little useless just like Tamannah did once the guy was in the picture. When they were banished from the kingdom and Baahubali was coming up with all sorts of ingenious ways to make the villagers' lives better, if only they'd shown her to have had some of the ideas, it would have been awesome.
  • Mom was very agitated that the older Devasena was not doing anything while the fights were going on. "She's old na..." I suggested. "She's as old as Bhalla, and look at him go!" She countered. Fair point. But then Bhalla had continued honing his body and skills, while she had been chained, so maybe that knocked some wind out of her.
  • I generally loved how regal both Anushka and Ramya Krishnan looked as the queens. They really nailed their stately characters. I couldn't believe this was the same Ramya Krishnan from that terrible SRK-starrer Chaahat. (Have you watched it? Don't.) I wonder how Sridevi would have fared as Sivagami -- she'd been offered the role first but she turned it down. As money no enough.
  • The movie was loooooong. Surprisingly, I didn't mind the songs too much -- they were gorgeous -- but I did think the battles and fight scenes could have been shorter. Speaking of the fight scenes, whatta lot of blood and gore there was! Ufff.
     
  • Mom was horrified that Kattappa did actually kill Baahubali. She was expecting some kind of a twist I reckon. "He really killed him???" She turned to ask me when it happened. Even Viv (he'd watched it with his cousin while he was in the US) said later that he didn't expect Kattappa to be so loyal to the throne that he'd actually kill Baahubali. It was a pretty horrifying betrayal indeed. We wondered if killing himself instead would have been a solution to his dilemma?
  • I expected Aslam Khan from the first movie to make a surprise appearance in the climax, but it didn't. The scene between him and Kattappa had been quite significant and hinted at a possible re-entry so I'm not sure what happened there. But then all this coulda-woulda-shoulda is kinda unfair to the filmmakers.
  • My heart was going out to the poor CGI animals. They'd all better be CGI. Were they all? The horses that kept slamming into the ground seemed very very real. If that was CGI, I hope the VFX team got a big fat paycheck.
  • The stunts were amazing, and because I was so into the movie, I didn't mind all the Physics-defying stuff, but I did literally burst out laughing when the army not only propelled itself into the palace using the coconut trees, they even made mid-air sky-diving formations using their shields, before making perfect landings on their feet. It was hilarious.
  • Oh, by the way, the theatre had a total of eight people including Mom and me. Three Indians and five Malays. I don't know why I expected a full theatre on a Monday 8.45 pm show.
  • Why were the tickets so expensive? The weekend tickets were $18 each and the weekday tickets $15 each! We pay less than half of that for regular movies. Is this partly why the movie is the highest-grossing ever? 1000 crores in net profit apparently!
  • In contrast, here are some sad numbers (and they just get progressively sadder) showing how much the actors got paid: Prabhas 25 crores, Rana Daggubati 15 crores, Tammannah 5 crores, Anushka Shetty 5 crore, Ramya Krishnan 2.5 crores, and Satyaraj 2 crores.
  • So, will there be a Baahubali 3? What do you think? And will there be a Bollywood Baahubali?  BaahuBolly? I hope not. I can think of a gazillion ways in which they can screw this up. 





Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom's the word

Though the 'new' concept of "actually every day is Mother's day" makes me roll my eyes just as much as the concept of "Mother's day" itself, it's fun to see all the cute crafts the kids do at school for such days. Someone's gonna make my kid sit down and write nice things about me? Bring it on!

Xena made a flower with the centre saying 'My mom is'. The kids were asked to lift each of the petals and write things that described their moms.

This is what I got. :)




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The scruti-knee

So my left knee had been hurting for the last few weeks. For no apparent reason. In the past, I had hurt my knee in the gym once or twice by being overenthusiastic with the weights, but I knew that wasn't the reason this time. Because I just hadn't been able to gym.

First, we had the long Labour Day weekend, followed immediately by a school holiday for teacher training and with Viv being away, there was no one I could leave Xena with and go to the gym. Then they had Mother's Day celebrations at school last Friday morning so I was there. I start work around 9 am so if weekday mornings are taken up by something else, I have to skip gym. Also, since I have to drop her to school in the mornings in Viv's absence, if we are delayed by some reason (e.g. Xena not waking up in time, taking approx. 83748947 minutes to finish a glass of milk, etc. etc.) there goes my gym time.

Skipping gym really annoys me. Once I saw a gym named 'Gym and Tonic', and it made me nod vigorously. Because my gym really is my tonic. As long as I can go to the gym every weekday, I feel healthy and happy and I don't have to care too much about what I eat.

Anyway, so with all the gym-skipping that had been happening, I knew that the pain in my knee was not a result of a workout injury. I had not fallen or banged it against anything. I was not walking around in high heels. I did have a knee fracture but that was the other knee and it was 18 years ago.

And it was only the left side that hurt, which really puzzled me. Strangely, as the days passed, the pain only got worse. I couldn't believe it. What had I done wrong? What was I continuing to do so wrong that the pain was actually worsening with each passing day? I was struggling to climb up the stairs to go to the upper level of double-decker buses. I, who does 100 squats without pausing, couldn't even do one anymore. Working out on the treadmill hurt. Working out on the cross-trainer hurt. Working out on the exercise bike hurt. The idea of leg weights had become laughable. I couldn't even do any post-workout stretches involving my left knee. Once, I sat on the floor to read with Xena and I couldn't get up without support.

I wondered if I should go see a doctor. But what would I say? "Hi, my knee is hurting for no apparent reason." The doctor would probably ask me to "monitor the situation" and arm me with some painkillers. Going to a specialist seemed a little ridiculous. After all, I had done nothing to cause it. I had no reason to get an X-ray or whatever-other-scan done.

I didn't even want to Google it. What would I type? "Knee pain?" There are 33782758365896439857 reasons for knee pain and I was in no mood to go and read all the possible things that could be wrong with me.

There could only be one possible reason for the knee to hurt without reason.

Old age.

*GASP*

Oh dear lord no. Surely I, the regular exerciser, strength-trainer, milk-drinker, spinach-eater, broccoli-lover, couldn't be so old that her bones were giving way?

Or was I? Was this what my future was going to be like? No gym? No squats? No climbing stairs? Nooooooooo!

One night, I just couldn't sleep thinking about this. I decided to go through every little detail to investigate what exactly was happening.

1. The knee pain had started about the time Viv left for the US.
2. The only thing that was different since then was that Xena was sleeping next to me on our bed.
3. Only the left knee was hurting.
4. The pain actually got worse with each passing day, even after I had skipped gym for five days straight.

What was I doing wrong? What had happened to me without my own knowledge?

And *ting*! There it was! The lightbulb above my head lit up brightly.

Whenever Xena sleeps on our bed (Saturday nights and when Viv is travelling), she has this habit of pushing me (only me, never her father) to the edge until I'm almost falling off the bed. In addition to having my face punched and pummelled and socked and breathed into by my child, I also have to deal with this. I cannot count the number of times I have woken up and slid her faaaaaar away from me, only to find us nose to nose after approximately 3 minutes. "Please give me some space!" I'd say every single time. (She's probably going to say the same to me as soon as she hits teenage.)

So, for fear of getting head-butted in my sleep, I'd turn and face away and sleep in whatever little space she allowed me. And now with Viv being away on one of his longest trips, she'd been sleeping in our bed for three weeks straight. So I'd been sleeping for three straight weeks in a cramped position, almost at the edge of the bed, with my right leg over my left, most probably with its centre of gravity resting sharply on my left knee or something. All night. And that was probably why I was waking up to that pain every morning.

So two nights ago, I told her what I thought was happening, and I asked her to sleep on my side of the bed while I slept on Viv's side. My hope was that she'd continue her moving patterns, leaving me the humongous space that Viv gets when all of us are in the same bed. Sure enough, that happened (though a part of me was apprehensive that she'd reverse her movement and push me off anyway). I remember changing my sleeping posture several times that night. Because there actually was space to change posture!

For the first time that morning, my knee didn't hurt.

I took the stairs up in the bus when dropping her to school, and the pain was only a fraction of what I'd been experiencing all these days. We followed the same sleeping arrangement last night too. Today I went to the gym and did 20 minutes on the cross-trainer and 20 minutes on the exercise bike. I did stretches that involved the knee. Minimal pain.

What a breakthrough.

I'd like to end this post with this public service message: Please be careful. Having children may be great for your heart, but it's terrible for your posture.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for zoom

Zoom!

And it's gone. April, that is.

I can only imagine how slowly it would crawl without the A-Z blogging marathon, with Viv being away (for three weeks this time!), and me having to take over his half of Xena-related stuff too. I would literally be counting days and wondering why time was passing so slowly. However, the blogathon ensured that instead of me groaning, "When will it be tomorrow???" I say, "WHAAAT?! It's tomorrow already?? Whyyy so fast, whyyy whyyy whyyy??"

However, I have to say that the panic attacks I used to have in previous years of the challenge did not happen this year. At least, the intensity wasn't so high. Perhaps it's because this is my fourth year of doing this. In fact, this year I have felt the most relaxed about it. In previous years, I'd decide on what I'd be posting at least the night before, or occasionally even have a typed-out draft ready, but this year was very different. There were actual days when I sat down in the evening at the computer and said, "Hmmm... so what's the letter for today? What shall I post?" My Google search history also shows fewer instances of 'Words that start with...' But of course, I have to admit that I miss some of the hilarious mass panicking that used to happen with the challenge.

By posting today, I've broken the rule that says no posting on Sundays. But tomorrow is a part of May, and this is supposed to be an April challenge! It would be super-weird to have 25 posts in April and 1 post in May. I'd also feel like I missed a deadline or something. Oh, the horror.

It's day 2 of a 4-day long weekend for us, and I'm glad to be wrapping things up today. I want to take some time over the next two days to respond to the comments on my posts, and also go and read and comment on other people's A-Z posts.

As always, the blogathon has left me rejuvenated about blogging, and I hope I will continue to blog as regularly as I possibly can.

Thank you for hanging out!

Cheers,
Sayesha





Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for yearbook

I was searching for some documents in our underbed storage compartment when I came across very old photos of Viv and me from our university days, when he had legendary pimples and I had legendary hair. (A classmate once remarked, "What's up with your hair? You look like Einstein." A compliment that is not.)

I also found our yearbooks! The yearbook issued by the university just had photos and course names, but the other one, the one that our immediate juniors had designed for our farewell had elaborate write-ups! Check out what our juniors thought of Viv and me back in 2002.

Viv's write-up

Legend:
GIGs - The name given to our batch by our Indian seniors. Every batch got a name, which followed this format: [first letter of choice of expletive] + IG (Indian Gang). I'll let you imagination run wild on what the G stood for.

CHIGs - Our immediate juniors

VP - Vice President

OC - Orientation Committee (lame attempt to give a formal and official name to what was essentially organised ragging)

The Baatman - Viv's computer's name on the shared network because Batman is (was?) his favourite superhero


 My write-up

Legend:
Official IG snap rigger - One of my hobbies was to take candid photos of people in the IG and 'rig' them by using MS Paint and Powerpoint to create 'stories' and comic strips, complete with speech and thought bubbles. I then used to share them on the network (my computer was called Sayesha!) for everyone. People used to actually message me asking for more! Ah, glorious days. Wonder where all those files are now.

Sangam - The annual inter-hostel culturals, which often became a matter of life and death. One of the most fulfilling parts of my university life actually.

'Scores of people think she is the most creative person in their batch' - The CHIGs got all the GIGs to vote and determine who was the funniest, who was the most creative, who was the craziest, who was the one most likely to end up in prison, etc. Apparently I was the winner in the 'Funniest female' category, which they announced at our farewell party (but they didn't mention it here, hmmph!) and came second in the 'Most creative' category, losing out to a Photoshop genius.

NTU - Nanyang Technological University, our alma mater

Tarang - The annual tooth-and-nail culturals between arch rivals NTU and NUS (National University of Singapore)

RIGs - Our immediate seniors

spine - This needs clarification. Contrary to how it appears, I didn't whack his spinal cord! The spine (there were two actually - north spine and south spine) was a part of the university building where we had our classes.

My warning message to all IGs - No, really. Our batch was NOTORIOUS. If there was an award for the worst batch ever (in terms of not studying, rule-breaking and the likes), we would win it hands down.



Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for Xena's gyaan

For a long time now, I've harboured the idea of doing a blog post series where each year I ask Xena some 'serious' adult-level questions and record her answers and over the years I see how her answers change, showing the evolution of her thought process. And I thought I'd label the series 'Xena isi ka naam hai' -- a joke my dad has been cracking since forever! (Since 2011, to be precise.)

Obviously, to embark on a project like this, you need your child to be of a certain age. First, I thought I'd start when she turned five, but she didn't seem too keen so I dropped the idea. The last thing I wanted was it to become a tedious chore for her. Now that she's turned six, I thought of trying it out and hey, this time, she really seemed to like this 'fun game'!

I was in the kitchen and she was at the dining table playing with her toys and chatting with me. As we talked, like a court stenographer, I was furiously typing on my iPad, every word she was uttering. (I realised it was too much for me to remember and type later, and I wanted to capture every 'hmm...', and 'oh' and 'hee hee'.)

We had the coolest Q and A session ever. Here it is, all the gyaan, straight from the 6-year-old horse's mouth.

Q: Why are some people in the world sad?
A: Because their daddy is away.

Q: Why are some people in the world happy?
A: Because their daddy has come back.

Q: How much money should a person have?
A: Oh, that's an easy question. (thinks) No, I mean it's a tricky question. Ok let me think. I know, I know! 200 dollars. Mama, I will also tell you how many notes and coins, ok? (thinks) Each person should have ten note monies (sic) and... 48 coins.

Q: At what age should a person get a mobile phone?
A: 28 or 29 or 30.

Q: At what age should a person get married?
A: 30 or 29.

Q: Is it ok if someone doesn't want to get married?
A: Yup.

Q: Is it ok if a man wants to marry a man, or a woman wants to marry a woman?
A: That's a funny question. Hee hee!

Q: But they love each other and want to get married... can they?
A: Hmmm.... Yup.

Q: How many friends does a person need?
A: 11 to 13.

Q: Why do we need so many friends?
A: To have swim class with, play dates with and to go out with.

Q: Why do some people have cars and others don't?
A: Because I think some people like cars. And others think that it is too difficult to drive a car or they don't know how to drive a car.

Q: What should you do when you feel lonely?
A: Hug your mommy or your daddy if they are there. If only mommy is there, then you hug her. Then roll around the bed.

Q: What if no one is there?
A: Be sad and start crying?

Q: What does a person need to be happy?
A: Hugs, cuddles and squashes.

Q: What are squashes?
A: I'll tell you all three, ok? Hug is like a BIG hug... like this (demonstrates), cuddle is like a small one, and a squash is when you're sleeping next to me and I snuggle up to you and squash you.

Q: Are you a happy person?
A: I am medium.

Q: What does that mean?
A: That means both sad and happy.

Q: Why sad?
A: Because my daddy is not here.

Q: And why happy?
A: Because my daddy is coming back.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for WhatsApp groups

A few months ago, Mom and Dad got on WhatsApp.

I had both the "YAYY!" and "OMG!" reactions at the same time.

"YAYY!" because now they didn't have to wait for any weekly Skype sessions. They could message me anytime.

"OMG!" because now they didn't have to wait for any weekly Skype sessions. They could message me anytime.

This meant that once we were past the daily "What else is happening?" and "Nothing much." messages, the forwards would start.

Last year, I quit my school friends' WhatsApp group because I just couldn't take the forwards -- the 236492365024 jokes a day, the shayari, the "inspirational" quotes, and the daily good morning messages attached to random photos of random babies and random flowers. I was also deeply disturbed to learn from one of my trusted sources that some of the boys apparently had a separate WhatsApp group where any photos sent to the main group were scrutinised in a way that would be considered, erm, unsavoury, by the girls. Ewww. Some of the girls regularly sent selfies to the group, probably in an attempt to show everyone how much hotter they had gotten since our school days (they had, indeed) and knowing about this other boys-only group and their agenda creeped me out so much I made a hasty exit from the group. However, something good did come out of it. It made me put more effort into individually keeping in touch with the school friends that I do want to keep in touch with.

Another kind of WhatsApp message I absolutely detest is from desis in my neighbourhood WhatsApp group who are completely oblivious to the fact that this is a neighbourhood WhatsApp group in Singapore, and even though the majority are desi, there are plenty of non-desis who don't understand or care for your jokes in devnagri, or Happy Saraswati Puja messages or the fact that "UNESCO has crowned the wonderful Modiji with the title of 'best PM ever'". And also the Indian National Anthem as the best anthem ever. And also the Indian flag as the best flag ever. It's all true. After all, UNESCO has said so. UNESCO has nothing better to do in life.

Recently, someone had sent a message alerting parents about "some kind of red candy that kidnappers were using around schools". One of my Caucasian neighbours decided enough was enough and asked point blank, "Is this in Singapore?" The reply came, "No, India."

The group was silent for two days.

Karwa chauth last year was the pits. A group of about 10 women in the group started an animated discussion concerning the moon's whereabouts. They went on and on, and my full sympathies were with my hapless non-Indian neighbours who must have been deeply traumatised to see such sudden and psychotic levels of astronomy in the group. And wondering why these very hungry, very angry women were so hungry and so angry.

Extended family WhatsApp groups have also caused me much grief. I discovered to my horror that some people actually keep track of who complimented the photos sent by them and who didn't, and who congratulated when their kid won some prize in school and who didn't. Gosh, with some 30 people in the group and 389578975943 messages flying across in a day, I don't think I compliment and congratulate every single person! That means I am probably on some people's blacklist already.

So when Mom and Dad got on WhatsApp, I briefed them to the best of my knowledge on how to use it responsibly, causing minimal damage to others' brain cells. When we were in Mauritius, I realised the insane number of forwards, especially videos, both of them were receiving from people. Dad was still okay, but Mom was very keen to "share this wealth of knowledge" with all her sisters, neighbours and friends. I sat down with her and googled to show her how 99.9999999999% of WhatsApp claims are nothing but rubbish. So now she forwards me EVERYTHING she gets and only if I give the green light, she forwards them on. It's painful for me, but at least she spares the world.

I created a family group for my parents, sister and me, and it was hilarious how my parents would send messages to the group and then send the very same messages individually to us. Another briefing was needed to fix this little glitch, and we were all set. They have also realised and gracefully accepted the fact that there is nothing much to say on WhatsApp on a daily basis. And that is perfectly fine and you DO NOT need to fill the silent days with forwards.

I do send lots of our photos on the group though, so that keeps them happy. My sister rarely sends photos. She's just not the kind, and we all know it. One day, I was so thrilled to see a family photo from her. I thought my parents would go over the moon. And just then, my mom replied with a "Only one photo????" GRRRRRR... I was OUTRAGED on behalf of my sister. She lives in the US and must have been sleeping then, but I wasn't ready to let go. I started yelling on WhatsApp itself. "She finally sends a photo and THIS IS ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY????"

When my sister woke up, she still didn't react, but she went a little ballistic around Easter and sent 48 photos of their neighbourhood Easter egg hunt, with only one photo featuring her kids. Mom was livid. "Why are you sending so many photos???" She asked. "Photo bhejo toh problem, na bhejo toh problem." I did a little narad muni act. What drama. Gosh.

Mom still sends me jokes and shayari from time to time. I am hopeful that my stoic silence will one day signal to her to stop it. I once made the mistake of sending a laughing emoji to a joke an acquaintance sent me. Out of nothing but sheer politeness. Now she sends me an average of six jokes a day. She's a really sweet person, and I don't know her well enough to yell at her like I do with others, so I don't know what to do.

And don't even get me started on the health-related forwards. I'm certain I'm considered public enemy #1 in all the groups I'm in, because I immediately challenge any nonsensical health-related forward anyone sends.

Vigorously cough your way out of a serious heart attack. Homeopathy your way out of cancer. Achieve painless and successful suicide by consuming mango along with Coke. Apply raw egg whites to serious burns. Government has issued red alert for three days. Mean temperature will be between 45.1 to 48.5 degrees Celsius. Please drink 6-7 litres of water a day. 

Thanks to me publicly calling them out, now everyone has become a little more cautious when it comes to sending random pieces of health advice on WhatsApp. But it still happens from time to time.

Now I have found my brahmastra. The next time I get anything like that, I'll reply with this photo, which is pretty much the only 100% Science-backed, 100% accurate, 100% reliable health advice I've ever received on WhatsApp.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for visitors

Every April for the A-Z challenge, I like to do a post sharing some stats about my blog's visitors. Frankly, it's the easiest post to do as all I need are some screenshots, but I still have fun doing it and analysing the different aspects. Now it has kind of become an annual tradition.

The sis-in-law tells me that whenever I include a link to her blog, her stats shoot up. I feel happy and amused at the same time. It amazes me that people are still reading blogs in the age of quick fixes. That too, my blog, which features mostly personal anecdotes and Xena stories. In the instant gratification era, the fact that people go through the tedium of reading someone's blog, is both surprising and touching.

I started blogging more than 12 years ago, and I always thought that one day personal blogs would die out and no one would read or write them anymore. However, my love for blogging kept me going and I was determined to keep blogging instead of switching to something like Twitter. I always tell myself that I am my own motivation, whether it's blogging or fitness or any of the things that I want to do in my life. But I can't deny the fact that when the blog stats show that people out there are reading it, it does give me a boost.

I feel really grateful to have you guys read my blog and I do apologise for the hazaar typos and grammatical errors my posts often have. (I type way faster than I think, and I'm guilty of not proofreading my posts once I type them out. When you edit and proofread stuff for a living, you don't feel like editing and proofreading your own blog posts. Strange, but true. Or maybe it holds true only for me. Not a valid excuse still. But lately, I've been trying a little harder to get a little better.)

Thank you, my dear visitors (or bewdas of the bar, as I like to call you), for all the love, support, comments and emails all these years!

Where do you live? (All-time stats)


Where do you live? (This month's stats)


How did you get here? (All-time stats)


How did you get here? (This month's stats)




 Which posts did you read the most? (All-time stats)


 Which posts did you read the most? (This month's stats)


What were you searching for when you landed on my blog? (All-time stats only, as this month's stats have nothing)



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for unusual

I can be quite the purist when it comes to masala chai.

Once, I met this lady who told me she loves masala chai tea (grrr....) so much that she went to Mustafa and bought the masala tea mix (GRRRR....) so she could make authentic (GRRRRRRRR...) masala chai tea (STOP CALLING IT CHAI TEA ALREADY, YOU FEMALE WOMAN!).

Already offended on multiple levels, I still got myself to tell her how to make authentic masala tea the proper way, by boiling the actual spices in the milk+water mixture and using tea leaves, not tea bags. I'm not very sure she was listening though, because very soon after, she was subtly trying to check if I'd accept Jesus as my saviour.

Lady, I have masala chai in my life. You really think I need a saviour?

There are very few things in life that I revere as much as a well-made cup of masala chai. Which is why I found it very uncharacteristic of me that when I came across the concept of masala chai cupcakes, instead of going 'What the...?!", I went, "Why not?"

"Omg there is such a thing as masala chai cupcakes!!!" I messaged the family WhatsApp group, followed by a "Omg where are you ALL when I wanna try making them????"  😭😭😭

The sister-in-law, who is sweet enough to always indulge me when I say really weird things reacted with a "Oh!!" followed by "But also ew?"

(She's a chai-lover, but not a dessert-lover, so the idea of masala chai cupcakes must have short-circuited her brain. Kind of what happened to me when I found out about vodka pani puri.)

I was a little sceptical at first, but strangely, I was feeling quite open to the idea of masala chai cupcakes. Compared to the weird teas I'd been offered in different points in my life (tea with pepper powder, tea boiled with green chillis, and of course, Starbucks chai tea), this seemed like a safe bet. I figured I'd make a small batch so that if it was as disgusting as I'm sure it sounds to many people, I could just toss it without feeling bad. But here's the thing with baking stuff that needs eggs. You can only go down to one egg when reducing your batch size. And that still makes quite a big number of cupcakes.

Anyway, last weekend, I threw caution and cynicism to the wind and made them! Xena sat at the dining table, reading her book (and silently judging me). She looked quite disturbed at the sight of the tea cooling on the table and more disturbed when I told her I was going to add it to the cupcake batter, but at the same time, she was filled with relief because she knew that the presence of tea meant that she wouldn't have to sample the cupcakes at all.

With Viv in the US, and the in-laws back in Bangalore and with no guinea pig sister-in-law, I knew it would come down to me to finish off the batch. And I was willing to take the risk.

What a relief that the cupcakes turned out to be totally... edible! I wouldn't call them fantastic (yet) because I still want to tweak the recipe (use a bit of baking soda to counter the tea's acidity, and use more tea leaves so that their flavour comes through more strongly).

The masala chai flavour was quite subtle, but it was there all right and it didn't seem to disagree with the idea of being in a cupcake. Phew!


***


Bonus:
Okay, I absolutely have to share this punversation the sis-in-law and I had over WhatsApp last night as we tried to find her a suitable topic for her U post. She had recently posted about how much she missed the pun wars we punstars and pundits used to have on her Facebook wall (gosh, I miss them too!) and so it was so fun to get back to punning, even though it was just the two of us! We need a gigantic group pun war soon!   

***



Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for tenacious

We were shopping for groceries at the nearby Fairprice, when we realised that the volume of our loot far exceeded that of the shopping trolley we'd taken along to lug the stuff back in.

So Viv and I started splitting up some of the bags between ourselves to carry in our hands.

Never the one to be left behind, Xena immediately offered the power of her tiny muscles.

Xena - Mama, can I carry one of the bags? This one?

Me - Oh, that's so kind of you. Thanks, baby. But I think it might be too heavy for you to carry all the way home. The straps of the bags might cut your hands.

Xena - Hmmm... Mama, I have a great idea.





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!"

"Why??"

"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. 

ATTACK!

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...

*sigh*

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.

Glitch
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.

Sense8
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.