Saturday, August 07, 2021


After the assault on the ears with the new 'Chura ke dil mera', I was SO thankful to randomly discover this song by Amit Trivedi and Neeti Mohan. Been playing it on loop for days now. Xena is going to disown me if I don't change the song. So I figured the only way to get this song out of my head is to pour it into yours. 

You're welcome.

PS: Here is the original if you prefer it in Amit Trivedi's voice. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Chura ke song mera...


That was my first thought when I found out that there is a Chura ke dil mera 20. 

And my next thought was: No.

And then I watched the song. 



It doesn't matter that the music director is the same. 

It doesn't matter that Shilpa Shetty is still in the song.

It doesn't matter that she looks a million times hotter (in spite of that bizarre sari-thingie-whatever-it-is) than in the original. 

It doesn't matter that they steered clear of Neha Kakkar. 

No means no. 

If you had a childhood steeped in Bollywood oldies like mine, full of Kishore and Lata and Rafi melodies, you wouldn't dare to use the word "classic" loosely. You definitely wouldn't use it for songs from the 90s. 


There are some songs that are a part of our childhood, a part of us. Chura ke dil mera was one of them. The other was Pehla nasha. And the fact that I cannot think of any more already tells you how few we had of what I can only call 'hum bechaare gareebon ke classics'. 

And you simply don't touch them. You don't twist them and squash them and add random words and ruin them and stomp on our childhood like that. You simply don't.

(Of course, in later years, we discovered that many, many of our bachpan ke classics were actually not really original but that's a story for another day.)

In case you have not seen/heard this abomination, yeh lo. Hum kyun akele bhugtein?

Ok, now let's talk about the cure. After subjecting my senses and my soul to this, I did what anyone in my shoes would have done. I went for chaar-dhaam ki yatra and ganga snaan by immediately watching the original. Oho aatma ko tab jaakar shanti mili. 

And the most heartwarming part? The comments section was full of people like me who had also immediately gone to the original to seek solace. 

Yeh lo dawaai. Original par bharosa rakho, sab theek ho jaayega. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Annual report - 2020

I know, I know.

It's damn weird. 

Half of 2021 has passed and I am doing my annual report post 6 months late. BUT, given that I have not posted anything in a WHOLE YEAR, I think this is okay. I gotta catch up, in the immortal words of Guru Randhawa ft. Pitbull, "slowly slowly slowly slowly". 

I'd be lying if I said I just woke up and decided to start blogging again. I was administered a gentle but firm kick in the ass by some old-time bewdas of the bar (thank you, guys... and girl!). 

So 2020 had actually started with a bang. A friend of ours was getting married in Bali in January! Never in my weirdest dreams would I have imagined that that would be the first and last flight I'd be taking that year (and perhaps the following year). To think that I was having second thoughts about whether or not to make Xena miss two days of school to go attend the wedding. Sheesh. It was a beautiful wedding and lots of fun was had by all. When we returned to Singapore, things were still fine.  

And then BOOM. Covid-19. As we all know, pretty much the entire 2020 was wasted on Covid. In fact, I was very tempted to write just 'Covid-19' as my annual report post. But then, things did happen, you know. Life did go on. 

We learnt to work from home effectively and efficiently. We got used to Teams and Zoom and not seeing our friends and colleagues. Viv and I had designated 'office spaces'. Initially we sat next to each other at our desks, and in the beginning it was quite fun to have a "co-worker" who did something so very different from you. We would take chai and lunch breaks together. But within the first few days, we realised that with the incessant calls that both of us have, sitting next to each other was not an option. I moved my workspace to the dining room, and we would only see each other for lunch and chai (if we were lucky). But soon, the breaks dissolved into the work and the calls and I realised that even with the commute we save when working from home, we end up working so much more because there is simply no 'end time'. There is no 'pack up and go home'. I am still struggling to have a life 'outside of work', which is infinitely harder because there is not much of a literal 'outside' to go to. 

Home-based learning was also very challenging in the beginning because not only did we have to arrange for Xena to have a screen for her classes, we also had to be available as tech support all the time. Homework had to be scanned and uploaded, Zoom details had to be received and entered, and assistance rendered in other aspects such as tying her hair up before her PE classes (also on Zoom) and giving her screen-free productive things to do after school hours. Trying to get all that done with 3874289 work calls in a day was tough. 

In the evenings, we still tried to do something fun together. On good days, we would take her out to the field to play cricket once in a while, but when things would get scary again, we would switch to indoor cricket, using a yoga mat as a pitch. Our workouts had also moved to indoor ones, and sometimes Xena would join us. 

Online grocery shopping, which I had never been a fan of, became the norm. On the flip side, I found some very interesting items thanks to the search function of the grocery shopping apps. The most prominent discovery has been Ruffles jalapeño ranch chips. Seriously, where was it all my life? I was doing a harmless search for jalapeños to make pizza (it's a Friday night staple in our house, and before you scream "SO UNHEALTHY!", let me tell you that I make the pizza base with 50% atta and 50% bread flour so that I can feel 1% better about it), when I came across this magical food item.  

Have you tried it? If not, WHY NOT?

This became such an integral part of my grocery orders that my app would actually prompt me that I "might be running low" on it. 

I kid you not. This actually happened. 

So now I am trying to control the consumption but it's been very very hard. You will know when you taste it. So I have upped my exercise so I can feel 2% better about it. 

So the year pretty much went by like this. Towards the end of the year, it had really sunk in what they meant by "we just have to learn to live with the virus". Before that, it felt like something that would go away, you know, like SARS did. It came, it disrupted, it went. But this was different. Even with the promise of the vaccine on the horizon, everyone could feel that something had shifted. We would never "go back to normal". Everyone was talking about "the new normal" and the new normal didn't sound like fun at all. We couldn't travel, we couldn't meet family. And there was no end date to it. There still isn't. 

And then the guilt would hit. How dare we whine and complain when there were so many in unbelievably worse situations? People dying, not getting oxygen cylinders or hospital beds. People losing their loved ones, their livelihoods. Many of my favourite restaurants didn't survive the pandemic and had to shut down. It was heartbreaking to think of the employees of such places. 

Things were so depressing around December that it didn't seem even worth it to get the Christmas tree out, which we do every year. It was only when she asked me, "Mama, why don't we have the Christmas tree out this year?" that I asked myself, "Why not, huh?" So for the sake of the kid, I dragged the tree out of storage and set it up. Viv, Xena and I made origami animals and decorated it. I have to say it did bring a bit of cheer to our house. 

Our origami Christmas tree

As and when restrictions lifted, we started going out a little more, learning to live with the masks and the regulations. The beach, which is literally 10 minutes away from us, called out to us. And we answered. 

It had been ages since I had put on my skates. It was exhilarating. Viv would run, Xena would bike and I would skate. I called it 'the family triathlon'. 

So that was how our 2020 went. Dominated by a tiny invisible thing, and forcing us to rethink how and why we do what we do. Forcing us to introspect and not take anything for granted. Nudging us to be grateful for so many things — for having jobs that survived the virus, for all the travel that we had done all over the world before the pandemic hit, for having a competent government, and for being in one of the safest places one could be in at the moment. 

Never had the realisation of our own privilege hit us squarely across our faces like this. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Lockdown life

Okay, so I have received many many (okay, four) emails from fans of this blog checking on me and questioning the lack of posts. It was high time I got back into it.

On Feb 21, I wrote a post about Covid-19 in Singapore and the naive me was like, "OMG we have 86 cases."

Ha. Who'd have thought I'd be shaking my head at my own naivety a few months later.

Watch this and relate.

It's been about 4 months since then, and as of today, the total number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore is 44,122. Every day, we have a few hundred new cases, which, given Singapore's small size, is not exactly negligible. Things seem to be under control though. There is a steady stream of people (in the hundreds) being discharged daily and we have moved on to 'phase 2' of our lockdown (what we call "circuit breaker"), with schools and some public places opening up. Masks are mandatory, of course, and you can get arrested for not wearing one. Except when you're doing strenuous exercise, of course. So if you forget your mask and you spot an enforcement office, run at top speed. Not away, but towards him/her.

Viv and I have been working from home for months now. I worked from home as a freelancer for years after Xena was born, but this is so different. The good -- no waking up at 5:30 am YAY! The bad -- there is no "end of work day" anymore. Everything has fused into everything else. Xena had school holidays for a month, and as we still don't give her any alone screen time, I took leave to sit down and write a full month's 'what to do you're stuck indoors' plan for her. I incorporated all subjects, reading, art, household chores and even workouts, so that she would have stuff to do during our working hours. I have to say that she took it very well and was very disciplined. Every day, she'd carry out her tasks and check them off. (Maa par gayi hai bilkul.)

So Xena's birthday came and went and my birthday came and went and it looks like Viv's birthday is also gonna come and go like this. I had told him (way before Covid-19 hit us) that I wanted a quiet, private birthday this year. Yeh kuchh zyada hi quiet and private nahin ho gaya? Damn.

I don't really miss the office all that much (except my team; I miss hanging out and joking around with them) but I do miss skating a lot and I do somewhat miss the gym. Luckily, Viv found Hasfit on YouTube, which has been an absolute blessing for both of us. Viv, missing his heavy gym weights, came up with the very creative solution of using Xena as his 20-kg weight for stuff like goblet squats. After not doing much on the workout front for most of April and May, I ordered a pair of dumbbells online, and I have been working out using the Hasfit videos at least 5 times a week. Now that Xena's school has opened, I walk with her to school and the return journey is about 2.5 km. All this is great because then I can have less guilt over all the potato chips I have been downing over Netflix every night. To make matters worse splendid, Ruffles has come up with a jalapeno-flavoured pack of chips! Why, why, why would you do this to me, Ruffles? (Well done, by the way.)

Speaking of Netflix, we have discovered a whole bunch of new stuff to watch. We have finished Fauda (awesome), Pataal Lok (great) and Criminal Justice (quite good). When things get too violent/crime-y, we switch to Brooklyn 99 for a break. Two night ago, we started watching Aarya on someone's recommendation, but I found the writing, screenplay and acting really bad so I couldn't carry on after the first episode. I found a Quora thread on "Best shows to watch during lockdown" and Mirzapur seems to be quite a hot favourite, so we might try that out next. Any other recos?

Viv and Xena have been playing tons of games, including indoor cricket (using a yoga mat as the pitch!) and 'dog and the bone' and what not. I was trying hard to pull Xena away from her 389753208750th reading of the Harry Potter books, but she simply wouldn't yield. So I started reading one of my childhood favourites (Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers) to her over meals, and now she (and Viv too) loves it! It has now become a family tradition to take turns to read a couple of chapters of this series each day.

One of the amazing things that seems to have happened everywhere is that people have started reconnecting over Zoom. Both Viv and I had our respective 'cousins on Zoom' calls (and I'm still pondering over why his was so civilised and mine was dangal-in-jungle level). My sister who lives in the US has started a weekly call between her kids and Xena, and it's heartwarming to see cousins who have only seen one another thrice, interacting and showing off their artwork and what not.

We also have a Friday call with some of our friends from university, and it's nice to have that to look forward to at the end of the work week. The girls in the group have now decided to dress up a bit for these calls because our nice clothes, jewellery and make-up are rotting away. I haven't put on contact lenses or make-up in months. In fact, on Monday, I had to go submit some documents for a tender. I had no contact with anyone, it was just the tender box and me, and YET, I put on eyeliner. (There was no point in putting on lipstick I felt, because we have all been reduced to masked bandits). I came back and reported my eyeliner badassery to some friends and was showered with their hearty congratulations.

So that is what has been happening here. And how have you been?

PS: Half the year is over, guys. Half the year is over

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Sigh baba


No, I'm not sighing because of the Covid-19 situation (which I admit is quite sigh-inducing indeed).

I'm actually talking about Sigh, the butterfly, which we released this morning.

So the other day, my boss' boss was telling me about her lime tree and the caterpillars she sees on them and asked me if I'd like one. Would I like one?! I jumped. Of course I'd like one. Who wouldn't? She knew I'd like one. Six years ago, Xena and I had purchased a caterpillar from a caterpillar farm just to be able to see it go from caterpillar to pupa to butterfly. Xena was tiny then. (She had named that butterfly Lydia, even though we found out later through Google images that it was a male.) I couldn't wait to do it all over again, with an older Xena who understands stuff better and is about to embark on learning about life cycles in Science at school! Talk about timing.

Not to mention that it is the ideal fuss-free pet for people with pet-commitment issues — feed it, admire it and when it turns into a butterfly, just release it.

A few days later, on the 12th of March to be precise, boss' boss walked over with a transparent plastic box with holes on the lid and leaves inside. "OMG!" I shrieked. My audible fawning attracted the attention of my team, who walked over to admire it. Imagine a bunch of Science editors looking at a very hungry caterpillar munching on leaves. Yeah.

And just like that, I had a thought. Maybe I could keep the caterpillar at work instead. It had been an incredibly stressful week at work with 12 books going to press at once. We had worked on a chapter on life cycles together. It would be so wonderful to actually view a real-life 3D version! It would be our team pet, and we could watch it go from caterpillar to pupa and when it turned into a butterfly, we could all walk outside and release it into the big, bad world.

Xena had seen it before. These guys hadn't. So I told them.

"OMG we have to name it!" I asked one of my teammates. "Any clues?"

"Err... Sci?" She said, presumably because it belonged to the Science team.

I misheard her.

"Sigh? I LOVE it! It's the perfect representation of our feelings these last few months."

And so, Sigh it was, much to the amusement of my teammates, especially the babies (interns).

And how Sigh ate. It went through the leaves in the container in half a day and just as I was about to walk to the boss' boss' room to put in a formal request for more leaves (caterpillars are incredibly picky and will only eat the leaves of the kind of plant that the eggs are laid on), the whole Covid-19 thing blew through the roof. It was around 3 pm and we were asked to immediately vacate the premises for disinfection as someone in the office (I don't know who... there are like 500 people in my office) had been sent for Covid-19 testing.

As I packed my stuff, I knew the original plan was off — I couldn't leave Sigh in the office. I didn't know when/whether we'd be going back and it would surely starve to death.

So I got him home.

Except that I don't have any lime trees or lime leaves.

So I used the neighbourhood WhatsApp group for the reason it should be used (forwards on how to beat the Coronovirus with ginger and garlic... not).

One of my neighbours quickly replied and said she had a lime plant. I dashed over and picked up some leaves for Sigh.

It ate and it pooped for days on end. And soon, I had no more leaves. Another neighbour told me that I could get some from the community garden. So Xena and I marched off and came back armed with tons of leaves, which we stored in the refrigerator.

And how it ate and pooped.

Many of us were already working from home by then, but I took regular photos and videos of Sigh and kept the team updated. Watching it goggle the leaves also provided Xena with a lot of indoor entertainment, now that we couldn't go out all that much.

By 17th of March, Sigh had stopped eating, and crawled up the side of the container. From my last butterfly life cycle experience, I knew it was going to pupate very soon.

The next day, 18th March, this is what I saw. The fat, wriggly caterpillar had turned into, err... a green seahorse.

It stayed like that, unmoved by the happenings in the world. In the middle of the chaos, lockdowns, and insanity shaking up the whole world, it was the only thing that stayed unchanged.

Or so it seemed.

By the morning of 26th March, aka today, the pupa had started to become translucent and I could see the markings of the butterfly's wings.

About 2 hours later, the butterfly emerged from the pupa! What a gorgeous little thing, and how phenomenal that this large fluttering butterfly had been all squashed and folded up inside a casing that was a quarter of its size.

I was so glad that both Viv and I were working from home today. If we'd not been around to release it, who knows — it would have died of starvation.

And here's the video of the official 'release', which my team had requested me to take. Xena was in school so she also had to make do with the video.

Bye bye, Sigh! Be good!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Viral post

So lately, I have gotten myself deep into Punjabi music. How?? Why?? Well, it just happened. When you leave for work at 6:40 am and take a 45-minute bus ride, you zone out in the bus and do not have any energy to change the autoplay music. You just let it do its thing. And once "it" realises you ain't budgin' your ass, it will really do its thing. Once in a while, you jerk awake because you hear a guy singing, "Mainu lehenga le de mehenga ja marjaniya". (Buy me an expensive lehenga??) Or "Sun le hun ek gal sohneya, Singapore le chal sohneya." (Listen to me, my darling; take me to Singapore.)


No one, I repeat, no one in their right mind is asking anyone to take them to Singapore at the moment. We used to be the hub of trade and travel; we are now a hub of the Covid-19 virus. I never thought I'd see Singapore so high up in a negative list.

It's been crazy. But we have seen crazy before. I was here when SARS hit in 2003, and I remember the temperature checks before we were allowed into the office, the uncertainty, the panic, the deaths. There was no social media back then, which was probably a blessing. I cannot imagine the kind of forwards that would have circulated.

So yeah, we have 86 cases and things are still kind of uncertain. Anyone with a respiratory symptom is being given a 5-day medical certificate. Anyone who has been to mainland China has to be quarantined. Anyone who has any contact with anyone who has it has to be quarantined. Companies that can afford it are having some or all of their staff work from home.

The fear is palpable. Any cough or sneeze you hear in the bus is enough to cause a mild panic attack, especially if you're not wearing a mask. We are out of masks and sanitiser. The entire island. Totally out. Not a single shop has a single mask. I was ranting about it to a colleague (I take public transport three times a day) and she recommended her 'dealer' to me. A lady in the Admin department is actually her dealer. You need to email the lady that you need a mask and she will literally say, "Meet me at the back door in 5 minutes." where she will discreetly hand you the contraband. It's hilarious.

So I have 4 masks in the office and 4 at home but because that's all I have, I am not using a mask daily like many people I see in the bus. Sometimes I look at the masked folks longingly, and I can sense them giving me a proud "Mere paas ma(sk) hai" look. The class divide between the haves and have-nots is sharp. But I did attempt to hand-stitch my very own washable, eco-friendly masks. I made three pieces, one each for Viv, Xena and me. They are not very successful though, because they don't have the metal strip that keeps the mask tight over the bridge of the nose, and the elastic loops keep slipping off too.

So I am clinging on to the 8 masks I have and like a good law-abiding citizen, following the government's advice on saving the masks for trips to the clinic or hospital, in case we need to. Speaking of government, my Mom told me that our Prime Minister's speech was going viral in her circles. Bloomberg covered it too. Did you see that kickass speech? Clear, calm, decisive. (And yeah, he delivered it in 3 languages. And yeah, he's a coder.) So I feel incredibly proud of him and also incredibly sorry for him for possibly being the first Prime Minister in the world to have to use the words "toilet paper" in a speech addressed to the nation.

Yes, the trigger for his speech was the insane hoarding that happened that week. Supermarkets were wiped clean. People were sweeping all the instant noodles, all the rice, all the toilet paper into their trolleys. Clearly, the sense of panic was its peak. Like a friend said, it felt like we were going to war.

But immediately after this speech, a sense of calm swept the nation. The National Trades Union Congress supermarket even issued a video the next day, showing that they had 9 million packs of toilet paper in their warehouse, in case junta was shitting their pants over the virus. Suddenly, toilet paper and instant noodles and hoarding were the hot topic, sidelining the virus. There were memes and jokes and forwards and we all laughed and moved on.

Speaking of forwards, I received some lovely ones from India, about how homeopathy can cure the disease (scientists and researchers all the world racing to find a vaccine are just doing timepass, no? I sent this right back.) and how drinking ginger (or was it garlic? Whatever.) water can kill the virus and oh, drinking hot water too because "the virus is not heat-resistant and dies at 23-26 degrees" (and our body temperature is...?) Finally, someone sent the one forward that made logical sense.

The 2019-nCoV has mutated to affect the human brain.
The reported symptoms include immediate alarming drop of IQ to zero, lack of judgment, rush to stock of supplies like toilet paper and instant noodles. (This symptom is the same as rush for Hello Kitty many years ago.)
This symptom may appear immediately. There is no incubation period.
The new 2019-nCoV is spread by WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram from person to person contacts
There is no known cure. The infected will die from stupidity.

Someone even sent me a forward about a new song called "Humra lehenga mein coronavirus ghusal ba". Bas, yehi sunna baaki reh gaya tha.

Things are a lot better now. There is a WhatsApp service by the government you can subscribe to, which provides daily updates on how many people are diagnosed and discharged each day, and precautions we should be taking. Lately more people are discharged each day than those diagnosed. My heart breaks though for the Bangladeshi construction worker who is in a very critical condition. The whole country is rooting for him though, so let's hope a miracle happens and he recovers. There was even a 6-month-old baby who had been admitted, but now he's home.

Clusters have been identified (including two churches, a health shop, a meeting at the Grand Hyatt and a construction site) and contact tracing has been very efficient so far. But once in a while, isolated cases do surface. Because of the incubation period when there are no symptoms, anyone could have it and be roaming around, spreading it. We could have it. Our friends or colleagues could have it. We are trying to be responsible. Washing our hands 87639846 times a day. Not touching our faces. Not going to crowded places. Avoiding meet-ups. Of course, none of this will guarantee that we won't get it. We just do the best we can.

Posters have been put up in the office reminding people to wash their hands. Bottles of disinfectant have been handed out to each team to disinfect the usual suspects every day — the work area, laptops, phones, etc. All essential work travel has been cancelled. I was supposed to travel to promote a new school book series we are publishing and sure enough, the schools we were supposed to go to plainly refused to meet anyone from Singapore. I heaved a mental sigh of relief because I have no desire at the moment to go through two airports and one aeroplane.

I will just stay put and wait for this thing to blow over. I will trust the system. After all, Pulitzer prize-winning epidemics expert Laurie Garrett said, "If Singapore can’t do it, if Singapore can’t keep it under control, then we’re all screwed, because they’ve got the best system in the world."

And if things still look bleak, I will sit in the bus wearing my inefficient homemade mask, plug in my earphones and listen to "O teri navi saheli de naallo mere sandal sohneya" (My sandals are better than your new girlfriend).

Saturday, February 01, 2020

The thinking cap

It happened some time last year.

I saw a tiiiiiny plant peeking from my compost pile. Now I had put all sorts of kitchen scraps in there so I had absolutely no clue what plant it was. I gently pulled it out and planted it in a pot, hoping that it was a green chilli plant. I'd been trying to grow green chillies from seeds and had proven myself to be a total failure. Or in the words of monk Jianyu, "pre-successful".

I watered it and the plant grew. And I watered it some more and it grew some more. Unlike my cherry tomato plants Tommy, Timmy, Tammy and Tom, who were sprouting flowers by the dozen, this plant, unwilling to reveal its identity, had nothing but leaves. Xena, frustrated at not being able to name it, asked me to do so and so I named it 'Wildcard'.

Weeks passed by. Nothing but leaves. So I decided to call in the expert. My dad, who has grown everything from ginger procured from an unwilling tour guide in Bali to coconuts found washed ashore at Singapore's east coast beach.

I interrupted my family WhatsApp chat group, which is mostly kept alive by mom forwarding us forwards and asking me to check if they are legit. My favourite is this one:

तुलसी के दो पत्ते मोबाइल के पीछे कवर मे रखे रहेने से मोबाइल का रेडिएशन एक दम चला जायेगा।
प्रैक्टिकल कर के दिखाया बाबा राम देव

Wow. Just... wow.

Anyway, I sent them Wildcard's photo.

Me: Dad, what plant is this? It grew from my compost pile. I can’t identify it. Hoping for it to be chilli.

Dad: Wait for some time; if chillies appear, it is so!

Me: This advice is not useful at all!

Mom: I don't think it's chilli. Maybe capsicum. 

Sister: Send for dna testing????


Anyway, fast-forward several months. I was out on the balcony plucking Tommy's latest offerings to make veggie uttapams, when I spotted something on Wildcard that made me do a double take. 


Ladies and gentlemen, Wildcard finally has a name! Please say 'hello' to 'CAPtain'. 

(And yes, mom, you're a genius. Please just stop forwarding the forwards.)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Annual report - 2019

Happy new year, bewdas! Hope 2020 has gotten off to a fantastic start.

2019 was quite an interesting year for me. It started off with me deciding quite suddenly to go back to the office full-time after 8 years of working from home. And it has been a roller-coaster ride. Things are so insanely crazy all the time, and though a part of me thrives on that sort of thing, I have had some trouble trying to do ALL the things that I want to do in my life. I hope to do better this year and have a better work-life balance.

The sense of having become so much older from the last time I worked at this company (I'd worked here years ago as a clueless fresh grad) never gets old. I have babies interns coming and going, and every time I look at one of their resumes, it hits me hard -- when I was in university, these guys were in... um... diapers. When/how did we all get so old?

2019 was also significant because both Xena and I passed inline skating level 5. It had been a loooong time since I'd had an 'exam' so I was really nervous that I'd flunk one of the tricky skills or fall flat on my face during one of the stunts, but all went well and now we have both earned our black certificates (to me, it's the equivalent of a black belt).

This is me, doing a skill called 'toe-heel transition'.

And here is Xena, demonstrating a rather tricky one called 'eagle'. 

2019 was also the year when I threw caution to the wind and travelled to India in June. 42 frikkin' degrees. And I call Singapore hot. But it was nice to catch up with my parents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and then it also rained so it wasn't too bad. 

Xena turned 8 last year, but her 8th birthday was different. Increasingly, birthdays had been making us sick, with all the gifts and the plastic and the wastage and what not. We were really glad when Xena was instantly on board when we told her how we wanted to celebrate her 8th birthday. We had a very small gathering and we expressly forbid people from bringing any gifts (including cash/vouchers). We told them that all we'd accept were homemade cards and handwritten letters and our friends stuck to the instructions. In addition to cards made by her friends, she got some lovely letters from our friends too. There were no return gifts of plastic items smothered in plastic packaging -- we gave the guests a copy of my friend Shub's amazing book on introducing kids to recycling, along with some homemade cookies that Xena had helped me bake. We did not use any plastic cutlery. For party games, we had a treasure hunt on recyclable and non-recyclable items. We hope to continue doing something like that this year too, and hope we don't stress out our friends who choose to have conventional birthday parties. Everyone is free to do what they want to do. This is just a small start towards leading a slightly greener life. There is so much we still feel SO guilty about, so much more we can do. 

Last year was also the year Xena got majorly into Harry Potter. She's on book 5 now; she gets to watch the corresponding movie after she finishes each book. We still don't have cable TV and she still doesn't have any alone screen time (and it doesn't seem to bother her, which is great). Once in a while, we watch carefully curated movies together. So far, so good. 

I had some fantastically good fortune in gardening this year, though I have the blackest thumb I know of and I'm perfectly capable of killing even a cactus. We don't have space inside the house, so I planted some cherry tomato seeds in pots at the staircase landing and crossed my fingers. I also learnt from a neighbour how to do composting, but I still haven't nailed it yet. To my utter amazement, compared to the 6 cherry tomatoes we had harvested when I did the same in 2018, this year we had a bumper harvest. In 6 months, our amazing plants (Xena christened them Tommy, Timmy, Tammy and Tom) gave us about 60 tomatoes. Amazingly, 40 of them were from Tommy and he's still going strong. 

Tommy's gorgeous offerings

Our big holiday in 2019 was Tasmania, which is now my new favourite holiday destination. Highly highly recommended for kids. I've started updating the travel blog, though I'm afraid it will take a while. Because Tasmania is so beautiful, you cannot not take 23094839027534 photos.

This year, I consciously chose not to make any formal new year's resolutions, mainly because I need to sort my work-life balance before I can embark on something serious, but I do have a few vaguely-worded secret ones that I am working towards (and afraid of breaking). Let's see how that goes.

So how have you guys been? Any non-secret resolutions? :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Greetings from Tasmania!

Hello, bewdas and bewdis!

No, I’ve not moved to Tasmania (but I might, in about 2 decades or so), though I know it may seem like that, given my looooong absence from the bar. Many of you have written to me, concerned, and I could almost read between the lines — “Are you alive?”

I am, I am. And I’m super touched that you guys care enough to check on me. As you know, early this year I switched from a work-from-home arrangement (for 8 years!) to a fulltime position in the office and it has been CRAZY, to say the least. But I love it, so it’s okay. Publishing is crazy anyway, but this year has been especially cray-cray, leaving me no time to do anything other than waking up at 5:30 am to get breakfast and snack boxes and Xena ready, getting to office by 7:30 am and bolting at 5 pm so I can get to student care by 6 pm to pick her up, bolting home to get dinner ready and then after getting Xena to bed, settling down to a nice evening of... WORK! Everything that I can’t do in the limited time I have in the office is pretty much done at night, which used to be my Netflix/blogging time.

Weekends ka toh poochho hi mat. Our entire weekend is spent at the beach at inline skating lessons (I passed level 5 OMG OMG TOO EXCITED OMG but that’s a whole other post!). Hope that Xena can get her level 5 certificate soon so we can get our weekends back and move on to our next new hobby and complain again that our weekends are toh totally gone.

This Tasmanian holiday is the first proper vacation I’ve had this year. I’d forgotten how it was to expel all work-related thoughts from my head and fill it up with other random things. We did a 15-km hike on Maria Island today, with hundreds of wallabies and wombats running free around us, and it was something else.

Suddenly my head has been filled up with all sorts of other thoughts such as, “Gosh, wombat poop really is cube-shaped.” and “Hey, remember the time you used to blog?”

So here I am, not really “back” back, but kinda back, and determined to be “back” back.

Hope y’all are doing great and wrapping up a great year and looking forward to a brand new, smashing one.

Love always,

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Home away from home

  • A sweltering 42 degrees outside
  • The first rain after the 42 degrees
  • The smell of that rain falling on the soil
  • Not having to wake up at 5:30 am
  • An avalanche of adoring relatives descending upon me (half of whom I don't know; I did not grow up there)
  • Being told that I've become too thin (Erm, my weight has stayed the same since the year 2001, except for when I was preggers)
  • Being told that Xena is too thin (you don't say!)
  • Being asked if I give her food
  • Xena being asked if I give her food
  • Getting lunch/dinner invitations from relatives on a daily basis
  • Getting lunch invitations from relatives of relatives (ok that's very sweet, but why?)
  • Mom constantly asking me what I want to eat
  • Cousins and cousins-in-law constantly getting me all the things I like to eat
  • Chicken biryani from the restaurant whose name no one knows but which is known as "the place where the owner makes the biryani himself and refuses to remove the dum until IT IS TIME, no matter how long the queue of starved patrons is
  • Mutton biryani from the above-mentioned place
  • Remembering the trauma experienced during my last visit and swearing off street food (blame it on two decades of living in super sanitised Singapore) 
  • Thinking "Ok I will only have a little bit and early enough during my trip so I don't fall sick just before the flight"
  • Roadside chicken samosas on day 2
  • Eating said chicken samosas in a parked car next to the stall, with tears streaming down my face, thanks to the freshly chopped onions that accompany the samosas
  • The driver opening his window because tears are about to roll down his eyes too
  • Roadside chicken pakodas on day 3
  • Roadside chaat on day 3
  • Telling myself that's the last of the street food, but then spotting the pani puri man
  • Trying not to think of the 'behind the scenes' as I eat the street food
  • Roadside pani puri 2 days before my flight (to my credit, I stopped myself at 6)
  • Guiltily offering roadside food to Xena and feeling relieved at her polite rejection
  • Mango season
  • Masala Thums Up
  • Egg rolls
  • Intercity drives to see more relatives who feed me and then feed me some more
  • A flabbergasted Xena looking at Virat Kohli's face on every other giant billboard, selling everything from steel to sherwanis, asking me, "Mama, when does Virat Uncle play cricket?"
  • A flabbergasted Xena counting the cows and bulls (134) spotted on the road during a single (but long) car ride 
  • Shopping, and shopping some more
  • Weighing my suitcase on a daily basis to make sure my shopping didn't exceed my baggage allowance
  • Wondering how the driver passes the time when we go on long shopping trips
  • Getting excited to see the giant bottles of Thums Up at Big Bazar
  • Kaam wali bai touching my feet! (omg she's probably the same age as me)
  • Xena refusing to touch anyone's feet, but doing a shy namaste to save her unsanskari mommy from total humiliation
  • Saas-bahu serials still going strong, which ladies now watch on their phones as they cook
  • More people to send me random WhatsApp forwards
  • More random relatives adding me on Facebook 
  • Hearing fireworks and wondering if someone is getting married or watching the World Cup
  • Kids as young as 1.5 years old swiping away on mobile phones for literally hours
  • Xena discovering in utter amazement that there is such a thing as cable TV that has channels only for children omg
  • Relatives finding out that Xena doesn't get "TV time" and "mobile phone time" and "tablet time" and asking me why I'm torturing my child
  • Trying to cross the road with vehicles coming at me from every direction
  • Trying to cross the above-mentioned road with Xena
  • The sheer affection from people 
  • The utter chaos in everything, everywhere
  • Feeling strangely old and young at the same time when I'm there (perhaps because I have spent my entire adult life in Singapore)
  • Thinking to myself, "What was I thinking? NEVER doing this in summer again!"
  • Thinking to myself, "Oh, come on."
  • Do I hate it? Do I love it? I hate it. I love it. 

Yup, that about sums up my recent India trip.