Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Neil ka Dabba

A group of fellow mums were chatting next to me at work when the topic came to our kid's dabbas - specifically the humongous variety in Neil's dabba. I was within earshot and one of the mums said, "Huh! She should give him some junk food and lesser variety. Only then he will start eating better!". I did not say anything as I was used to this. My comeback would have not been short, and I believe that there are many mums like me and her in this world that need to know the following. So, here goes...

My little boy has always been underweight - right since his first month. His weight gain was never drastic. ALL the paeds would look at his growth curve and the so-called WHO charts and express utter shock and dismay. "Why is your baby not following, this growth curve??," they would ask me. 

I'd be chided for not eating well while nursing, and when he started eating solids, I would be blamed for not giving him the right food. I still remember 10 days before I joined work, one of the paeds we met scared the hell out of us w.r.t. his weight-gain and the food we were giving him. She actually started checking him for signs of timely development to verify if his brain development was on track! 

All the while, we knew at the back of our minds that he is the way he is because of nothing - but genes. If both his parents were tiny and extremely thin all their childhood, why would he be any different? Would his genes follow the stupid WHO charts that were made with a small sample-set of babies that belonged to ethnicities all over the world? 

People who would come to visit us would pick him up and say, "Oh, no weight gain huh. He's still very light-weight". It was so irritating. In the meantime, our little boy started flashing us a beautiful smile, spoke to us through his bright, shiny eyes, had rapidly growing long nails and shiny mop of thick fast-growing hair. These were enough to tell us that he is fine. 

I was always told by many people that you need to run behind your boy to feed him. "That is how it is done". I complied. Mealtimes would be hell - for us both. One day, I took out the spoon to feed him his dinner. He saw the spoon and started crying very loudly. That was a wake-up call for me. Nutritious, tasty, warm food is supposed to give happiness to everyone. It should never be a source of extreme stress!

When he turned one, I decided to not force him to eat. I would offer food, and if he refused, I would happily say ok and try another time again. I also started offering him a wide variety of foods. His daycare nurses were asked to give feedback about his food preferences. Apparently, he would ask for food from other kids dabbas. :) I would send whatever he seemed interested in.  

I started reading, joined multiple Facebook groups related to food and nutrition for babies, completed an online course on child nutrition. I read about unhealthy food and what it does to our food habits in the long-term and to our bodies. How much more it hurts the bodies of our little ones. I read, read and read, applied all my knowledge and listened to my basic parental instincts. It started working. 

Neil started developing a keen interest in food. He would smell wonderful aromas of different foods and crawl to the kitchen, point and ask me for the food cooking in the pan. I would always let him taste. I will never forget the amused expressions on his face. He would ask for more and I would happily oblige. 

Krish and I also started eating better food so that he does not get exposed to the wrong sort of food already. As much as possible, we would all sit together and eat homecooked food. We would be positive about what we ate. It slowly started making a big impact on how Neil perceived food.

Refined Sugar: I am chided time and again for not giving him refined sugar. "Why do you restrict him? I don't restrict my child. Why are you torturing him?" Really, people?? 

Have you seen Neil munch on a capsicum? Have you seen how happy he is? What is more harmful in the long run - refined sugar or capsicum? Not to mention that he loves his savoury food as much as sweet food. He does not need to be tricked into eating good food by dipping it in sugar at all.

Did you know that Neil has a tooth since birth? Yes, I was equally shocked to see a tooth jutting out of his tiny gums. Today, that tooth looks yellower than the rest of his new teeth. It is my constant source of worry that it may be the first one to catch cavities if we are not careful right now. Do you know how tooth decay spreads? Do you know how much he hates brushing? Isn't it best that we avoid too much sugar knowing the situation? Can you imagine a little boy sitting in a dentist's chair?? It will be the worst trauma ever. No one ever thinks at all while giving their gyan or before shoving a piece of cake into a child's mouth!

Since the time he's turned 2.5, I have started letting him try "restricted" foods as well - so that he does not go overboard when he actually gets to taste them. But there are ways to ensure this - for e.g. he knows that cakes are only meant for special occasions and he may eat to his heart's content. Unlike the popular belief, children know when to stop eating, they do NOT overeat. You need to leave it up to them and their own instincts. They have very strong food instincts.

Today my boy is as skinny as he always was. His weight is also low. But he is super-active, super-smart, has an amazing sense of humour. Yes, he falls ill very often. I have been told that he falls ill because I do not give him junk food. <>. He falls ill because he is exposed to so many things - kids in daycare, germs in the cab we travel in, germs from his nanny (and indirectly her school-going son) and the street-kids he interacts with everyday near our house. We do not restrict his interactions, because learning happens through human-interactions - not by being confined at home. I believe all of this is only making him stronger and stronger - mentally and physically. 

Neil does not live in a sterilized environment that kids in foreign countries or kids who mostly stay at home enjoy. Fewer people in India have any basic sense of hygiene. When he falls ill - and it happens very often - it takes an iron will-power to sail through. Illness is obviously harder on him than us. There is a lot more that we go through than what meets the eye. 

So as a comeback to the mum who passed the judgment without a forethought - you have a disorder. Don't worry, it is very common. Symptoms are - passing judgments and giving unsolicited advice to another mother without knowing her child. I just told you our story. And I would love to hear yours and what made you pass that insensitive comment - am sure there is a reason. Am all ears.

(For all those who are still skeptical, please join the Baby-led weaning (Self-fed babies) group on Facebook. Although I did not follow BLW to the T, I learnt sooooooooooooo much from this group.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Have your say!

I stood in front of my window at 4.30 am in the morning and stared outside at the balcony of the neighboring apartment building. There was a bunch of bachelors smoking, drinking and making noise. This is the usual deal - every weekend especially Sunday nights, mostly till Monday early morning.  I watched on helplessly as they made noise without a single worry or concern for their neighbors. Amongst all the challenges I face on hectic Monday mornings, the exhaustion of a sleepless night caused due to these morons, is an unnecessary overhead. What makes matters harder is that my little boy is a light-sleeper!

To cut the long story short, let me tell you that we tried everything to deal with this issue - including talking to them politely in the beginning. Once we tried calling the cops on 100 as well, but the call went unanswered (can you believe it??). To all  those people who think that any help in an emergency is just a phone-call away, let me forewarn you - 100 does not work at times!

I tried seeking more ideas and support on some Facebook groups. Surprisingly, in one group of fellow mums, I was told, "Live and let live,". "You can't do anything about it", "Everyone parties on weekends". Some of them were quite taken aback that I actually called '100' to report this. Calling any of the authorities for help is not very common - even when one really needs help.  

I realized that most people do not know their rights as citizens. "No one can help, nothing works", is what a majority of people believe. I don't blame them. The number of stories of bribery and corruption we hear, make us cynical. But there are many avenues and options to seek help in such cases. In a world of very high connectivity, you can reach out to seek support from many people and make enough noise if things go awry.

I have a couple of examples to quote:
On my way back home from office for a couple of days, I saw a big trailer truck parked in the wrong place that was causing too much of unnecessary traffic on the road. I tweeted to BTP about this and within minutes they replied back saying it has been taken care of. When I mentioned this to a couple of my friends who were equally troubled by the daily traffic, they was surprised that I complained! 

Recently, I also posted a complaint on ichangemycity.com about 2-3 stretches of bad roads and potholes on my way to work. Within 3 days of my complaint being posted. I saw that the road was being tarred. I was pleasantly surprised at the promptness. The roads had been in this state since 4-5 years and all it took was a formal online complaint to bring this to the notice of authorities. (Sad state of affairs. But, it worked!)

There are many times when our pleas to various govt agencies do not work. Bribery and corruption are rampant everywhere. It is not just in public sector, but even in the private sector, things are not the way they should be. But people do not know that they can make their voice count. 

I am probably deemed as a complaint-box. But I look at it differently. Speaking up at the right authorities, on the right platform only makes you more powerful. Complaining about issues inside your homes, only harbors negativity. People tend to think twice before they do something wrong when they know that there is a "whiny" person who will set things right.

As for the bachelors next door, I am methodically evaluating all my options to handle the issue in the right way. It won't be too long before they find cops at their doorstep and a stink-bomb in their balcony. ;).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sugar And Spice!

Yes people. I am a mommy now. :D I haven't been posting anything on the blog for a long time coz I didn't find the words to express myself for the last one year. Today, I kinda do. Please expect more baby-posts on my blog from now on :D. I promise to keep it interesting for everyone.

Nine months of exhilaration and complete bliss. My husband, my family, friends and coworkers ensured my happiness was topped up with a lot more. I looooooooved the nine months that went by - most definitely the best months of my life.

No one warned me what the initial two months of motherhood are like. Unfortunately, I have never been around a new born baby and mother either. So I had no clue what it was supposed to be like. Thanks to a lot of close people who supported me through the initial months. All I was told by everyone were six words "Hang in there. It gets better". Best advice ever, coz that's all you can do in that time. 

Amidst the sleepless nights, the incessant, unexplained crying of the baby, nappy changing, wet burp-ups, crazy messy house (yes it still drives me mad),  visits to the doc, baby blues, (plus a LOOOT of other things that I'd refrain from mentioning here) and missing practically everything I was able to do just a few days back! 

Then one very early morning I woke up and got into the grind - starting with a nappy change and same old things I do everyday. I looked at my little boy who was studying my face intently, as usual, batting his long eye-lashes as he did so. He stared at me for hours as I talked to him or went about doing my work.

He whined a little, so I picked him up in my arms, expecting him to cry any moment. Instead, when our eyes locked, he narrowed his big eyes and gurgled softly. After a moment or two, he suddenly broke into this beautiful, inexplicably amazing smile for the first time. Instantly, all the pain and trauma of the first two months disappeared and was forgotten. My baby was puzzled when he saw me smile through blurry, moist eyes. 

It was that moment of enlightenment - when I understood what parenthood is all about. It is about selfless giving - (as said by Elizabeth Stone) - to this little piece of heart who will be forever walking out of your body. It is about what our parents did for us all along - all of their sleepless nights, patience and sacrifices. The greatest part is that they do not even remember the painful parts of parenthood. All they remember are the moments you smiled and were happy...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Louuu and all that... :)

I would really not be amongst those to talk openly on this subject. Four (actually seven!) years of togetherness means a lot to me. I wrote this long ago and after debating for a while on whether I should post this, here I am - talking about it..

Falling in love, is the most beautiful feeling in the world. I don't think there is any other emotion that can beat it. Then you get married and this person becomes a part of your life. Everyday mundane things from the dirty sink to attending to work and social life becomes top-prio. All of a sudden your focus temporarily changes. But something happens that makes you realize how much love you are still in with this amazing person.

Sometimes I wonder how fate works. What if our paths would have never crossed, what if we would have both gone to different places. And I shiver to think, what if I would never have moved to the city we met in...But that deserves another blog post. ;)

It was one of the most hectic weeks at office and things were edging on madness. There was hardly any time to breathe. So when my husband left for this native place, there was no time to miss him on the first day. I was so tired, that I flopped on the bed and fell asleep. I was supposed to join him in his native place the following week.

At home, I had planned to start my cleaning up spree. I came across his "107 pile of clothes". To those who do not know this concept - its a huge pile of washed clothes that we do not fold, because "they have to be anyway opened up to use again". I came across his numerous shoes, little Yoda, hidden chocolates, empty Flipkart boxes and just didn't have the heart to clean up - he was right there amongst all his stuff :).

Then came the cold and fever. Colds can really annoy me a lot. Whenever I fall ill and he is not around, I miss him sorely. By the end of the week, I was missing him so much that I could not believe it myself. Finally, on Friday, I got onto the train. Considering my very poor sense of direction, he was worried if I would ever even get onto the correct train. I can find my way on any airport in the world, but train stations confuse me a lot and I get onto correct trains only if I am with him.

When it had been dinner time on the train, I had opened my Egg-Rice packet from Comesum and started eating alone. At the end of my meal, I stared at the remaining rice and had a lump in my throat. There was no one to help me finish it. :( 

That day, I had been praying that I get sound sleep. I simply cannot sleep in moving vehicles, especially trains - I stare for hours at the berth above or the whirring fans - but luckily, that night, I did sleep well.

I got off the train very early the next morning and waited for a couple of minutes amidst the unfamiliar swarm of people all around me. It was still very dark and in the minimal lighting on the platform, I saw a familiar tall figure walking towards me. Relief swept all over me and it felt like I found the other part of me - quite literally. I clung on to that hand and did not let go of it for very long. I could not believe I missed him so. Yet, I loved every bit of that whole episode..

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Of Things That Matter Most...

(Dear readers, it has been ages since I updated my blog. I have had so many thoughts and opinions about so many things that I could not decide what to put up here. Some of the topics I have wanted to post on, have been on matters that may create a bit of melodrama here or some personal stuff too. So, I'd keep away from those. 
Some of my thoughts have revolved around home and my beloved city. In order to not bother everyone with my stories about Mumbai, I plan to start a separate blog. :) For now, here is a tiny post about an unforgettable incident that took place a few years ago...)

Even the smallest gestures in the world can make the most amount of difference. In a world where hatred breeds and petty matters are blown out of proportion, I have been also seeing another part of the world where people find absolute love and affection for each other.
Sometimes I actually feel it is sad that humans have words to express themselves in. We misuse them - more often than we think. With increasing virtual connectivity, we forget that it is not a must to put across each of our thoughts onto the online world or mobile phones.

There is a very old man in my husband's native place in Kerala - we call him Achu-eshan. He is very thin but extremely active. He has been with my mother-in-law's family for a very very long time. He took care of her when she was a little girl and used to be a caretaker of the family. Even today he plays the same role in the family very happily. He always has a welcoming toothless smile - no matter who he is greeting.

It was a hot summer's day 2-3 months after my wedding I was at this village for some occasion. It was Holi back home and I was a little sad as it was my first Holi away from my parents in a new, unknown place - where I was not familiar with a lot of things around me - the food, language, culture, festivals, etc. I was missing home a bit and it probably showed.

Achu-eshan speaks only Malaylam and back then I could not understand the tongue at all, so we would not converse with each other. He has probably never met too many people outside Kerala until now, so I was almost a complete stranger to him in every way. He was doing some work when I was trying to keep myself busy by reading a book. But I was not able to concentrate. 

After five minutes I was startled to see him standing next to me. His hand was extended with a little flower in his hand that he had plucked from the garden, as a gesture of compassion and friendship in a place where I was so out of place back then. It was so touching, that I will perhaps never forget it. This old man sensed the turmoil in my mind without exchange of any words between us, and tried in his own tiny way to soothe me and bring a smile to my face. Sometimes, only tiny things matter...

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Story of the Working Mother...

Recently, a leading newspaper published a poem, "Where are you, Mother?". It was a poem to convey to a working mother that she is basically ignoring her child and giving more time to her job..(Can you believe it?) The wordings were somewhat as follows: "When I find my Math tough, you teach other children..When I am feeling ill, you treat other people.." and so on. I cannot believe that someone wrote a poem like that! It was absolutely shocking. Let me tell you the other side of the story - the story of the working mother - that most people do not know.

I see working moms around me, in office, literally struggling in a bid to strike the right balance at work and home. I know what they sacrifice at both places in order to do this. We have been brought up in a generation in which we were told quite vehemently that men and women are equal. We were allowed to study as much as our brothers or male counterparts in the family. An equal amount of money was spent on our education and grooming. But somehow, the moment some of us stepped out of our schools or colleges we were made aware of our limitations.

When a mother comes to office in the morning, she's had already done a million things before leaving her home. All day, half of her mind is with her kids who are in daycare. There is a phenomenon called the "working mother guilt" which all these women go through. By the time they reach home in the evenings there is another list of things pending for them to finish while their husbands (invariably in higher positions at office) come home late.

A working mother reserves her sick leaves to use them when her child is sick. But when she is sick she drags herself to office. She reserves her yearly leaves so that they can be used for such emergencies which may arise in case her kids or relatives fall ill. 

A working mother feels awful, because on one hand she has been hammered in her childhood to stand on par with the men, but on the other she has to dial down her talents and abilities so that she is able to pay equal attention to her family life and kids. I see some men at workplaces who take it very easy, but most women stretch and work really hard so that they make up for lagging behind. 

It is sad, believe me. These women give up a lot of opportunities (for e.g. traveling abroad, promotions, better ratings, rewards.) The so-called fact that women can be on par with men is false in the current generation. I have seen very few women in top-most leading positions. Why? Because they drop-out on the way to the top. They get overwhelmed and the working mother guilt consumes them eventually. 

The competition today is tremendous because the work-force has doubled since the time women have entered technical and managerial fields. The expenses and standards of living in most cities is very high. Schooling has become extremely expensive and so has real estate.  So women also have to support their families - they do not have a choice.

On top of all that, they need to make sure they fit into the so-called norms of an "ideal woman" that the Indian society still expects them to fit into.
It is said that a woman is expected to..
"Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man and work like a horse." Very very true.

Most of my friends' mothers were working women. They had 9 to 5 women-friendly clerical or teaching jobs. That generation was a stepping stone for us. Our generation went one step further by entering technical/managerial fields - traditionally avoided by women. I think it will take one more generation, a better support system and a better society for working moms to really be comfortable to march ahead confidently...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Losing my wisdom...

I have always heard of kids having cavities and visiting dentists. Somehow, I never really had to go to one. Not that I took special care of my teeth all the time. But somehow I never had to go, except for an occasional cleanup. So, I have always heard stories, but never experienced anything bad. I had heard people get to eat ice-cream after a visit to the dentist. It sounded pretty hunky-dory to me. Little did I know why kids hate dentists.

My wisdom teeth sprung up pretty late. I do not know why they are called wisdom teeth. I don't remember suddenly getting wiser or anything. Two years back, my dentist saw nothing where my wisdom teeth were supposed to be. But they suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started bothering me. I tried to ignore the pain for weeks, but woke up one night with an immense pain in my jaw. The next day I decided to go to a dentist who asked me to get an X-Ray. It showed that one of my wisdom teeth in the lower jaw was growing horizontal and was causing the pain. They advised to get it removed.

I held it off for a couple of days. There was a wedding coming up and I didn't want to have a huge inflamed cheek in the pictures. But I could wait no more. One Friday evening, I finally decided to get them removed.

All the dentists in the clinic convinced me to get two of my teeth removed. After a while, I agreed. They came with needles and with no prior warnings injected stuff in my mouth. I winced. Have you seen those little rescued animals on Animal Planet who don't know what's going on when the vets hold them and give them injections and what-not. I felt like one of those animals. 

Then they led me inside a mini OR. I looked at the surgeon who was wearing a tie, his face half-covered with a mask. My hands shivering, I told him with my benumbed jaw that I was "tewiffied". I could see the nurses around giggling.

"Why?! The painful part - the injection - is over! Don't worry..," said the doctor. After some time, he looked at the X-Ray and said, "Ohh...this will take time. It is very deep and seems to be near a nerve. It will be very, very difficult". My eyes widened. He quickly said, "Difficult for us, not for you!!" How is that supposed to make me feel better??

There was a screen that showed visitors in the waiting room. I could see my husband in it. :) Perhaps the only respite I was offered. (Yes, people, this is an awww moment.) 

Through the course of the surgery, I could feel the doc pull and push at something in my jaw and another guy use the vacuum to suck the debris. The doc kept referring to the X-Ray and said again and again, "This is very, very tricky".

I wished they would give me a general anesthesia or at least shut up! Oh, wait, they didn't have to..I saw something the next minute - which I will censor from here. I was surely going to pass out then - no general anesthesia needed! That's when I knew, why I could have never been a doctor. 

The drilling and noises with pointy instruments, I will never forget! Each little thump made me vow that I will always take good care of my teeth and never want to come back again in this chair. I regretted the fact that I came to get the wisdom teeth removed, I could have lived with the pain, perhaps? And there was a wedding around the corner, did I want to look like a little pumpkin! He kept asking me questions every now and then.
A peculiar thing about dentists - they ask questions when you have a thousand instruments in your mouth and you cannot talk or even nod.

After the surgery, the doc sat next to me, gave a big sigh and said, "It is going to be tough for you to heal. It will pain and you will have massive swelling." When he said 'massive swelling' his hands went far out. My expression was definitely like a goat in a lion's cage, but he was undeterred by that. He was very,very honest. He went on for a couple of minutes about dos and don'ts which I did not hear. I just kept nodding. (No one told me how complicated this was before the surgery! All the consulting dentists had also seen the same X-Ray and they had said nothing!)

After getting a shot (perhaps for pain-relief - I don't know), I went out to the sitting room to my husband and sat next to him with my eyes wide after the ordeal. I tried to tell him that I will have swelling for three days, but he could not decipher my dumb charades. Little did I know I had more audience, an old uncle, who piped up and tried to guess what I was trying to say every now and then. I was ecstatic, each time he would get it right.

Then the post-operative doc gave us another set of guidelines and very scary things about how much pain I would have. This time my husband was with me. I asked him if he would remember what she was saying. They charged me truckloads extra for the complicated tooth extraction. I did not and most importantly - could not - argue for not being warned before the surgery. Which patient would argue in a state like that?

A doc came out after some time and gave me a very sad "you-are-going-to-be-in-a-lot-of-pain" look. He did not have a mask on, so I realized this was the surgeon who had pulled out the teeth. "Come tomorrow morning. I will give you another injection". What?? Why??! :( The real pain started 3 days after the surgery. The whole thing terrified me so much, that I have promised myself I will never go to a dentist again!