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Parents Say ‘What!’: Q and A with Me

Beginning with me, the empress of the Eggfacemomhead kingdom, we’re going to ask parents to sleep a little less, think a little more and answer some questions about their almost always fun and never ever dull lives. Stay right here will you.

 

In one word, life as a parent is

Irreparable

The easiest thing about parenting

Nap Time

3 things that make you want to pull your hair out

The Amazing Race at meal time

Strangers telling you what’s what about YOUR kid

“When are you having the second?”

Something you’ve lied about to your kid(s)

How she was born. “We wanted a baby, we had a baby.”

Most embarrassing moment as a parent

Calling up room service during vacation to report room keys thrown inside toilet

One thing you’ve learnt from your kid(s)

Dogged determination

A pre-parenting thing you miss the most

Tuesdays with Morrie. Wait, “pre-parenting”? I thought we were born this way.

An unforgettable thing your child said or did

“No F*** That” at two. I blame the other parent.

You laugh out loud when

(Laugh inside my head) when I’m presented with a seemingly logical argument for something that was broken, spilled, done to the cat.

A tip (or two) for new parents

Scarlett O’Hara was right. ‘Tomorrow is another day’. You’ll get better with time

All kids tell everyone about everything. Speak less, listen more.

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a friend, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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In which Vikram Seth is (possibly) Drunk and Arundhati Roy asks Who I Am

The room is bathed in a red light reflecting off from the neatly laid out chairs and tables covered in red linen. The stage is lit, the podium is set, with a placard in front of it reminding everyone what this evening is about. It is the posthumous launch of Editor Unplugged, the autobiography ‘sequel’ of Journalist & Outlook Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Vinod Mehta.

AloneI walk in dressed in red corduroy pants (and a non-committal black & white tee), unaware then of being co-ordinated with the color of the night. My friend is waiting, with his brand new camera around his neck, waiting for her and him. She is a woman with a Man Booker Prize. He is A (bi-sexual) Suitable Boy. She is launching the book. He is going to read from it. They are the reason I’m not attending a string music festival that night at a garden across town.

IMG_20150331_185404771My friend ventures out into the thin crowd to thrust his camera unabashedly into the faces of attendees, only the remotely famous ones. I stand in a corner, watching him, wondering what wine they’ll be serving. And then she walks in, clad in a plain saree (is it light brown, with a green tinge, or does it bear the shade of dust in Delhi?). It is paired with a gold and green blouse that fits so well I want to ask her where she got it stitched. The saree is from “a small shop in Meherchand Market”, she’ll be telling gushing ladies later that evening.

IMG_20150331_195449800By now I’ve smiled at other guests, the kind of smile that simply acknowledges another human being, strangers though they may be. I’ve had a glass of white wine (of indeterminate origin, since the waiter does not know and I’d have to walk to the bar to find out, and well, let’s leave it be because it’s a nice drink on a fine evening). And then he walks in, with a non-polythene packet from the publisher (with the book inside I presume) and his mother on his arm. He’s short. He’s wearing a blue blazer and you can see that his hair will soon leave him. Some already have.

IMG_20150331_200348576After greeting certain other guests, they run into each other and smile, politely. They’re not friends. They’re here for respective roles in the book launch drama.

He’s called in first to read a passage from the book. He walks to the podium with the book packet in one hand and a glass of red (Merlot?) wine in the other. The audience will need theirs too. The reading is boring to say the least, irreverently mis-pronounced to say it all. In his drunken slur, ‘rummaging’ becomes ‘scrummaging’, silent pauses are deafening, not poignant and while he raises an arm to settle sparse but flowing locks, we all forget the man that we’ve gathered together to celebrate. And everyone claps.

“Vinod was in love with me.” She is looking in the distance as she talks about the editor who published her copious politically-incorrect essays that got both of them into trouble. My eyes dart towards the gentleman’s wife seated at the table near the stage. I can’t see her face. “We were partners.” She continues in a similar vein, taking everyone along on a walk through her years working with a man she believed stood for ‘fearless journalism’. Perhaps there are tears, if only a hint. But it now feels like an obituary in prose, befitting the event.

She smiles as she walks away from the podium and the guests are encouraged to wine and dine (with finger food). I wonder if I should ask her to write something in my book, not her book, but the one I’ve been reading. It’s from the 18th century so I presume she wouldn’t be miffed. Watching her I imagine she would smile even if she was miffed. I ask my friend if I should do it and he wants to click our picture together instead.

She is standing next to me and smiling at the camera. This is all quite neurotic (with an unhealthy sprinkling of thrill).

“And who are you”, she asks.

“I’m Manika.”

She goes back to smiling at me, at the camera and again at everyone else in this garden party book launch, before making a royal exit, the first for the night.

We follow soon after, less royally, leaving behind one of the many worlds that seem wonderful at a distance, are a tad humorous up close, and are positively entertaining if you’re watching from the sidelines, preferably with a witty partner and/or fine wine.

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Why you must not make life-transforming decisions on a Monday PLUS 5 Ways to Get Through It

Monday should long ago have been re-christened ‘Hang in There’ Day.

It officially marks the end of all that is glorious, sunny and well-fed. It is the enemy of life spent on roller-blades in empty parking lots, ruminations on the color purple (on your fingernails, not the book) and all categories of happy sounds that end in repetitive consonants.

Monday is the day you wish you were a Princess in a bow-tie (because you could), chewing Sour-Punk and watching The Thick of It to no end. Or atleast that your current partner was a filthy rich bugger who spoiled you silly and you were cannabis-happy to oblige, with no desires of ‘doing something with your life’.

Monday is just downright horrid when it drives in after a three-day long, festival followed weekend.

But it is on such very Mondays that one must never, ever, ever QUIT. Or tell a man (who is obviously wrong for you) that you love him. Or start a blog titled my-turquoise-shoes. (if you must, go for that last one.)

Because Mondays are slimy lizard things that way, designed to make you wonder at the joys of non-alarmy mornings, with what-ifs and the maybe-coulds and the even deadlier, Today-I-must-make-a-life-changing-(extremely stupid, that will only come to light post facto)-decision.

Monday, then, is best dealt with your armor on, your nose neck deep in the fluffy stuff that makes you tick, with no time for thoughts and what-not.

Here’s some things to try out…

1. It’s fine if neither you nor your book-holding arms have a place to stand during morning commute. Ditch the book and watch Outnumbered. Laugh out loud, even if people stare. Because let’s face it, you are a little nuts.

2. Answer ALL emails. It’s either that or editing a 1000 word article (written by someone who thinks Eats, Shoots & Leaves is the autobiography of the Panda from Kung-Fu Panda) on the weaving techniques used by Bedouin tribes, juxtaposed with those found in Romania and North-West Asia.  On Monday. So, emails it is.

3. To keep the warm glow of Sunday still shining over you, have Green Tea with a teaspoon of honey and freshly squeezed lemon. If you can’t get cannabis. Otherwise, have that.

4. Everyone around you will be sleepy, sorry, singing of drudgery. Don’t disown them, these are the blokes you’ll be hangin’ with over the wild wild weekend. Just practice the silent, smiling nod whilst imagining what the nice people in Iceland are doing right now.

5. During the last hour of the day, if you hit your elbow on the bathroom door at work (if it doesn’t happen on it’s own, just go bang it already), scream F*** as loud as you can silently. That will help release all and any forms of tension that may have built up during the day. Even as the excruciating and real pain of the injury passes through your arm and you slowly lose all feeling in a possibly fractured elbow, just don’t pass out in there because God knows no one wants to see that, on any day.

When you do get out, Monday will almost be over. Yayee-oo-aa-hmph.

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10 Things They Don’t Teach You in Pregnancy School

Knowledge sharing on Motherhood is unfairly tilted on the side of pregnancy-related information (maybe because there’s a giant woman on that side of the scale). Very little is said about what really goes on behind unbolted doors and open parking lots. Here’s my contribution to the What-To-Expect-When-The-Baby-Is-Outside-Your-Body section of the library.

1. There is no such thing as ‘private space’.

Prepare to be watched (touched, kissed even) while you’re trying to unload body junk in YOUR bathroom. No you cannot lock the door. Yes it’ll happen everyday.

2. Remember the days when you slept without a care in the world.

History, in this case, will not repeat itself. And there’s a new alarm to boot. Foot-in-mouth.

3. Put on your thinking caps, all the time.

You have to say something when your little girl points to a bra (or even what-lies-beneath) and asks “Mommy, what’s that?” Undergarment. Chest. In case you’re wondering.

4. Learn to say “Fudge”.

Its a 5 letter replacement for an oft needed 4 letter word.

5. Bid Adieu to Moaning Rights

Sex, at the odd chance that you get to indulge in it, must be carried out in stealth, like teenagers sneaking a smoke break. You could say there’s a unique adventure in that. Many wouldn’t agree. But you could say it.

6. Master the Deep Breath

Projectile Vomit on your face, Nosy Strangers telling you how to hold your baby, Chocolate hands on your linen pants. A deep breath tells you there’s a good life across the river.

7. Hide the Caffeine

If you love coffee (you don’t? seriously? let’s pretend this never happened) then you must consume it like sex (#5 above). A toddler will take to coffee like a cat jumping off the ledge chasing a pigeon. Them cuckoo. And with caffeine in their system, them the sort of young-wild-free you don’t want in your house. No Ma’am.

8. Watch the Baby Talk

Male colleagues, Twenty-something juniors, Unmarried friends might smile but frankly no one wants to hear what your little one said or did or ate or spilled. Everyday. That conversation is best had with always eager grandparents, the other parent of aforementioned baby and the baby.

9. Forget Television (or Beer/or Beer in front on the Television)

You can’t enforce No-TV rules and then put your feet up and watch Suits. If you must, there’s humping tigers on Discovery. And who needs television when life with a child resembles most features on ‘America’s Funniest Videos’. Go make your own TV. Better still, READ.

10. Get Flexible

You must have seen the cute little picture of a baby in a mother’s lap as she works from the comfort of her home.

And you thought, “Aww. I want that!”

Well, that picture is a lie.

Reality looks more like a toddler dancing in your lap pressing random keys on your laptop. As long as she doesn’t hit send, we’re safe. Learn magic maneuvers that involve arms (and legs) going around said toddler. Practice hard. Also, Proust must now be devoured under lamp-light after baby is asleep. So, (10a) Get a lamp.

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Write On

I have been away for a week. There would be punishments for this kind of thing but I’m the boss and not a keen follower of the masochism movement. Instead I can only make a note to self: Live and let write.

No revolutionary events to report but mundane thoughts on things continue. Like happiness worth 50 bucks by way of two (second hand) books I bought for 25 each. Cheap thrills aren’t easy. In the 10 minutes before the 10.30 pm movie show, you must scan piles of mindless junk to get to anything worth more than 25. And when you do, the joy lasts for days on end. If you’re turning your nose up at “second hand” stuff and think you’re cat’s whiskers, well then you better do a good job chasing the tiny rat’s ass I care about your opinion on that one. The great thing about second hand books is that there’s always a story (or more) than what exists between the covers. If you find names or personal notes, you’re lucky. Otherwise you can invent your own story and imagine it played out as the finest drama there ever was.

Talking about drama, there’s enough everyday to belittle Television soap operas. Having your zombie moment at work in the form of picking up the phone and dialing the number on the keyboard instead of the phone pad. Spilling cheese from an eat-on-the-go sandwich all over your clothes on your way to work. Paying 50 bucks and getting lost on your way to a place that’s at a five minute walking distance. Or days going downhill suddenly picking up towards the end and making you a star (at least for a while).

As star vices go, I have those of the restless variety. There is a need to always be doing something that amounts to more than can be summed up in a word (or sentence). There’s the urge to eat the forbidden sweet (did I say “forbidden”? Nonsense. In my world there are no forbidden sweet vices). There’s the desire to watch back-to-back episodes of the favourite show late into the night, with knowledge of how resulting lack of sleep will affect next day at work. There’s the conversation with the almighty where wishes shift priorities at the speed of light/sound, whichever you prefer.

And so the days pass, one bead on a string followed by another.

Jaded, Coloured, Crooked, Pearl white.

Good, Bad or Ugly. But none like the other.

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What they don’t teach you in (V)alue-Education

Under normal circumstances I abide by the doctrine of non-violence. But sometimes things or people just drive me over the edge. It never results in homicide but in the darkest chambers of my mind it plays out with utmost clarity.

I always liked the Guns and Roses song, “I used to love her, but I had to kill her”. It speaks to the side of me that might like to swing a baseball bat or two (its easier swingin’ than a cricket bat) at certain people at uncertain times. Mostly it’s those who hyperventilate. Nothing gets easier or better with panic for company but some dimwits just don’t get it. So they will do the crazy dance over your head and all you want to do is pick the best gloves in the house and box their head off.

The other category I can’t stand are micro-managers who don’t leave that skill at work. I mean, a trip is more fun if you know enough to come out of it alive. Leave the rest to chance and adventure so that you can live to tell the tale of how you got lost or how the trek to the top of the mountain left you staring not at the panoramic view of the city but a well guarded military base.

Don’t even get me started on how many maniacs on the road have made me want to play my version of the Monster Truck Madness (Yes video games are integral to your personality development. Don’t listen to Mommy).

However, more difficult than all of this is experiencing fury within and maintaining a straight face, (or worse still) a smile, without. Giving someone a piece of your mind might help you reach a bearable lightness of being. But it doesn’t last long enough to save you from the next jolt from the blue.

Therefore it helps to cultivate the fine art of making a Kill Bill rip-off in your head, while somebody is blabbering on like there’s no tomorrow. All the imaginary swashbuckling leaves you satiated enough to smile at something that ordinarily would make you want to turn diabolical.

It is almost like reaching a state where you can levitate far from the maddening crowd and pretend that nothing below don’t matter.

Ah the (short-lived) joy of fooling yourself with the I-can-rise-above-and-be-a-bigger-person-by-not-reacting.

There’s no rising above anything really.

The only decision worth making is what will be your weapon of choice in the violent movie in your head the next time someone more than tickles your not so funny bone.

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A Candid Chat with a Cultured (C)at

Ahead of the week-long celebrations for her upcoming birthday on April 10th, we caught up with Delhi’s Culture Cat, Ms. Snooty in her favorite hangout, The Chair.

Ms. Snooty

In a candid chat over cheese and fish treats, we spoke about her work as a professional Chair-Clawer, her picks for the upcoming elections and recent rumors regarding a new relationship.

Q Team: “If you can’t find her anywhere, just check in The Chair.” That’s a common phrase surrounding your love for this place. Do you think it’s true?

Ms. Snooty: The Chair gives me a sense of ownership. It also allows me to have quick naps when conversations drag on. And then there is the comfort of clawing. What’s not to love?

Q Team: Cats are often not very forthcoming about their age and here you are celebrating your fifth birthday in style.

Ms. Snooty: For one, there is the business of nine lives. Give that to anyone and they’d be dead before they are sorry. As for the celebrations, these are being planned by my special friends. I cannot refuse them the joy of celebrating my presence in their lives.

Q Team: Speaking of special friends, there are quite a few stories doing the rounds about Mr. Randy having been spotted outside your house at odd hours. Care to clear the air on that one?

Ms. Snooty: (Refuses to answer)

Q Team: And then there was the interview with your ex-boyfriend Garfield where he said he had to leave after you called him fat.

Ms. Snooty: I saw a lot of things while I was with him that I should do an expose on, the piles of rotting lasagne, the stench of laziness, (raising her voice) But I never used the F word.

Q Team: On to happier things. We heard you humming a tune when we walked in. What’s on your playlist these days?

Ms. Snooty: It’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Q Team: What?! But, that’s not a song!

Ms. Snooty: Darling, it is. She released the single only among a close knit group of her dearest pals. I’m even talking to dear Suzanne (Roshan) to do a cover version for Indian audiences.

Q Team: From music to politics. Who’s getting your vote in the upcoming elections?

Ms. Snooty: (Sighs) I’m not a big fan of the lotus, as a flower. And we’re still getting some data on the Felicide. So not the orange brigade.Then there’s the Ordinary People Party. Sounds more like something dogs will vote for since they’re the four-legged people-pleasers. And lastly, let’s not even consider someone whose election symbol says ‘Talk to the Hand’

Q Team: That’s a wonderful insight into…

(Ms. Snooty is now napping) 

The Interview Ends Here

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12 things Toddlers have in common with Drunk friends

Parenting for the most part feels like learning to fly a jet in mid-air, guided by a 5000 page manual written in German (the pictures help). But when you’re parenting a toddler it feels more like being the only sober person at a wild party.

When babies cross the magical stage of being stationary (hardly the first six months) and move into toddler-land you begin to feel like you’re dealing with a very drunk friend.

1. In supermarkets, crowded malls, parking lots everyone stares at you because your toddler will lie flat on the ground for no apparent reason.
Toddler in a mall
2. From time to time they will touch your knees inappropriately and say “I luhve you” or “I really really like you” and mostly soon after they’ve raised hell over something innocuous.
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3. At hotels you find yourself making odd requests. “Hi, Can you please send someone up to the room. Our child threw the keys in the toilet…No we didn’t flush them.”
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4. They think dancing means jumping up and down, rolling on the floor and moving their hands around wildly. (Okay, this one is unbelievably cute in toddlers. Drunk people should just get a room.)

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5. It doesn’t matter if you’re running late. If they decide to spend 45 minutes on the pot, there’s nothing you can do about it.

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6. Everything and everyone is “mine”. The car, the dogs that live nearby, the movie they saw yesterday and someone else is watching now. “Oh that’s MY movie.”

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7. They love mirrors and posing for pictures with their cheesiest smiles, looking drunker than you know they are.

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8. Their urgency to pee is in inverse proportion to your proximity to a washroom. They want to “go so bad” when you’re on a boat, visiting a protected monument or sitting on the crowded banks of a holy river during evening prayers.

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9. Exaggeration is their middle name. Prepare to be badmouthed if you refuse them something. They will go around town howling to the heavens and saying you tried to kill them.

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10. They string meaningless words together to make grandiose statements that you surprisingly understand.

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11. They are open to being pushed around in trolleys, baskets and other curious vehicles for the general merriment of all.

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12. And finally, what really makes toddlers and drunk friends two peas in a pod is that you have no control over what they will do, play with, put in their mouth, dial on your phone, cry about, love today, hate tomorrow. All you can hope to do is take control of the extinguisher and point it in the right direction. Because when the fire starts (and it will) you better do a bloody good job putting it out.

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Love Song

There are three kinds of women in this world.

The ones I really like
the ones who make me yawn
and the ones I would not want to touch with a stick

Of course I would like to accumulate very many of the first kind in my life. But it often hands down the dreaded third sort.

An all girl’s school, a women’s college and an (almost) all women first job got me right at the heart of the matter…that the best friends and worst enemies are to be found on the female side of things (maybe because men are too busy imagining you naked…yes yes I’m stereotyping. Or am I?)

There have been many firsts with women-folk:

First friend-stealing affair. In sixth standard. At boarding school. Far far away from home. Tragic, lonely.

First knowledge-sharing seminar on prevalent sexual practices. During college. One night at a friend’s place, with semi-burnt pizzas and a cocker spaniel for company.

First unplanned trip. Free work weekend turned into what’re-you-doing-tomorrow madness. Slanting rooftop drinking, dreaming and star gazing packed into two super fun days with two super cool friends.

For all the inspiring, loving, merry-making ladies around, there are those who’re keen to suck the life blood out of you. I dedicate this verse to the very such:

Love Song_Darts

Beware mean queens, you’re all wrapped up
into senseless words that won’t amount to much
dress up, hold still, wait for the kill
derision laced darts are shooting down the hill

(Written with the heart of a five year old who wants to pick up a fight…you want a piece of me? Huh? Huh?)