Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Oh boy.
Yes I know I have a little baby and should have little time to do nosing around into things which are not relevant to me or even of any significant interest to me..but is turning out to be a cool guy, called 'Buddha' by my pals and 'chinese Buddha' by those who have noticed his girth, mirth and high raised hands pose while asleep.

So I did get a shock of my life, reading about the various types of mothers who exist, discovered by nosing around the school gate, here is a list (courtesy Mumsnet):

The Queen Bee Mum
The unfeasably glam mum, done up to the nines and whip-thin
The Busybody Mum with too much time on her hands who likes to get everyone's email address and send everyone APBs about cake sales etc
The Keepfit Mum who does the school run in lycra before jogging off over the horizon.
The late mum who lives very near the school but is always rushing in just as the door is shutting.
There's always a Sporty Mum, and there's always Ageing Hippy Mum.
There's always a Popular Mum, who is really nice and smiley and knows everyone.
There's usually Mum of Disruptive Child, who keeps her head down and everyone feels a bit sorry for (but not sorry enough to invite Disruptive Child home to play).
And there's usually a Very Young Mum, and a Very Old Mum.
The mummy who wears sunglasses on her head all year round.
The super-efficient working mum who is always wearing a designer suit, and engrossed in important work on Blackberry until the minute her child comes out of school.
The precious mum who is constantly fussing over her child.
The pushy, competitive mum (loads of those) who enrolls child in every activity possible to give her child the edge.
The 'worn out' mum......fleece and baggy tracksuit bottoms
The 'serial mum'.....a horde of kids,all in different schools/classes

I am Gobsmacked. I am.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I do?

And when the clock is ticking and society looks at you and shakes their collective heads in a combination of sadness and sympathy. When that piece of paper by the court - called a marriage certificate becomes all important, do you then say I do?

How important is it really to get married? I am not talking about being single or not, I am talking pure facts - marriage - the whole hog of the Indian style one or the paper version in court, either way - is it important being married?

If your significant other is not married to you, does this mean that they are not as committed to you as they would be if you were married? Does being married really provide any guarantees about the longevity of a relationship? Surely rising divorce rates answer that last question. Does it contribute to the happiness of a relationship at any point?

But does being married really give your relationship a dignity it can only get through societal approval of living together not-in-sin status? How important is it really for any children you might want to have to be married to their parent? Yet again, that all important society and how it would accept/ or not a child born out of wedlock..matters, or does it? Does this really mean that you marry only to procreate? What if you wanted no children at all, and yes that is an option, would you then find marriage all that necessary?

What about parental approval - is that a good enough reason to marry, so your folks can feel that you are now 'settled'? I still do not quite know what that term encompasses.

Is not the institution over subscribed and over rated?

Could you not just live in peace together, without the pressure of society..which always disapproves anyway?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Space, and getting used to it

Its been a LONG, long, long time since I shared space with more than one adult at a time. I did not realize how much I valued it and in a very cliched way, yes, how much I miss it when its taken away.

Over a period of time, we, who have lived or spent some part of our lives away from the parental home, get used to being alone. Not alone in the lonely way, but alone in the i-can-spend-all-day-in-silence way. The I dont mind making tea for one and sitting quietly and drinking it. I am used to doing laundry once a week and I only talk on the phone when I want to. I am also used to opening the door of my house to find it empty and silent - in the peaceful, ahhhhh-i-am-home way. I am used to shutting the lights and making sure the door is locked when I leave. I am used to thinking about food and making it to my requirements...

It is a long list when you think about it.

Over a period of time you get used to engaging in conversation when you feel like it. You also know that any physical company you have comes with a time limit and eventually you shall be back in your own space and place with your mind for company. In my case it is books for company. I have always loved lying down with a book and spending hours in silence, deeply engrossed in a book. I also like listening to loud music and secretly dancing with great abandon to it when the feeling takes over.
So, though the word is often used and abused, space, as a concept, should have made its presence known and felt to most people who have spent some time alone. Once you recognize it, you also instantly learn to realize when it is missing.

Recently with family over at my house, guests, visitors and the baby - space seems to come at a premium. Instead of being sunk in seemingly endless space, it now comes with time - defining and limiting it. I only get little windows or pockets of space in a day to match my previous existence. Makes it all the more precious, worth recognizing and protecting.

However it is amazing how well this little pocket or 'timeout' works. A few hours of silence, physical emptiness and peace makes a huge difference to overall day quality. A small amount of 'space' and silence with time limits makes you welcome noise, company and distraction.

Monday, September 06, 2010


I remember a certain non Indian relation of mine, telling me a long time ago, that Indians can never travel light. At that time I had never flown outside India, so I put on my indignant hat and argued with him for a few minutes.

A few years down the line, I flew to England to study, of course I had the biggest suitcase money could buy and needless to say I took with me essentials like a pressure cooker and many boxes of spices (did not know at this time that there everything I desire that is Indian is available readily in UK as well). My suitcase weighted close to 65 kilos, but the logic given for this excsssive baggage was the year long stay and the fact that BA was doing a student deal (did not know at this time that there would not be a return deal like this from BA and would cost me over 350 pounds for this).

Over the past decade of so, I have flown many time to many places and each time I have indeed noticed that most people of Indian (South Asian lets say) do not travel light. They will have the biggest bags, with the 'HEAVY' tags on them, and they will need to spend a long time arguing at the check-in desk over excess baggage.

Yesterday I was at Heathrow again, at a terminal which has many flights to India. The check-in process was never ending and the shop selling bags to repack excess baggage was doing good business. There was a proper 'REPACK' area and new trolleys were seen. A couple traveling back to India were with 4 large bags (this is not the norm for EU/UK - Asia flights, as opposed to the US). The man at the check-in desk sighed and hummed and hawed and pointed the brown folks to the excess baggage shop and counter.

Do we carry in the kitchen sink with us? Or are our bags full of presents for the people we so care about? Or are we the 'what-if' category of packers? What is it that makes us pack and pack and pack and weigh everything 5 times before we leave for the airport, all set to argue with the check-in desk guy. Is it financial/ economy reasons?

Going back to my non Indian relation and other non Indian friends who have traveled the planet with nothing much. How do they do this? Simple, they say, you take nothing. You reach India, you buy stuff, you use the stuff, you throw the stuff and you come back! Shaking my head I thought - they clearly dont buy handmade throws and pottery to carry back with them. They obviously dont haunt Cottage Emporium before departure and are not fans of Indian publications!

I know I dont travel light - my excuse is my obsession with all things handmade which keep traveling from UK to India and back. I fit the stereotype. Yes I know. But is the stereotype just my imagination or do we really not know how to travel light?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Temple Treat

So this has been a month of many firsts. And one of them included my heading to a Hindu Temple in London, which I heard about for the past 10 years, finally I headed to the Swaminarain Temple in Neasden, London. It is a famous Gujarati temple which is on the tourist trail in London. I had stood in the crowds, close to the temple to see a spectacular firework display on Diwali in 2000, a long time ago. And since then I had not been in.

I am a fairly religious person, though talking about my faith and belief is not something I like doing, therefore temple visiting is not a need/ habit, its one of those..lets go and see it type of situations. Once in a temple I am happy, I pray, look around, feel good and go home. I have somehow managed to travel and see quite a few of the important Indian temples - Tirupati, Kashi, Haridwar, Rishikesh....and I do have a deep desire to see Amarnath at some point of time..anyway, I deviate.

So we went to this temple as a family and so we went in to see the temple and pray.

First we got pushed around quite a lot by some very rude people.
For the first time I was told that I could not take the baby bag as it was a "bag' and bags are not allowed in the interest of security (Heathrow eat your heart out). Then we stood (a first in a Hindu Temple for me) in two seperate queues, one for men and one for women. This differentiation by the same people who point steady fingers at mosques and Islam for differentiating between the sexes.

So the little one who is all of 2 months old was wearing these cute shoes.

Two uniformed men within the worship areas made me take off the tiny shoes the little one was wearing, as they were 'shoes'. They did not mind the leather belts, the phone holsters and the shiny leather wallets, but in the interest of being pure they wanted all shoes. Needless to say my fast asleep son woke up and was not pleased. I dont think I need to tell you that they were indeed very rude, bearing in mind the level of 'offense' and the offender here being a baby.

According to most religions babies/ children are equated to God, Angels, and have a special status which they enjoy till they grow up.
The experience was nasty, depressing and one I shall not want to repeat in a rush.

I dont know if this is a Gujarati thing, a British Gujarati thing, a question of rules of just plain stupidity on part of the temple. It might also be me being jumpy about anything to do with the baby, but I did not like the sex discrimination in the queuing system either. I have a special place in my heart for shoes, now especially for tiny fabric made ones with dragons on the sole.
I dont know if it is all of the above in parts, but, I did not like it. At all.

Monday, July 26, 2010


'The Supreme Court has frowned upon the clubbing of `housewives' with prostitutes, beggars and prisoners under the economically non-productive' category in the Census, saying this betrayed the "totally insensitive" and "callous" approach of statutory authorities.' from here

I mean...REALLY. And we are supposed to be progressive and moving towards being an equal society. Do they not know the basics of feminist economic thinking? Or even simple economics? Have they not heard about such things as domestic economies.

Beggars in Delhi are known to earn close to Rs 5000 a day at times and often run a parallel economy where in they loan and even donate, yes, donate money to others in need.

I dont even want to whisper about prostitution and economics..really.

I am so in shock, okay maybe not shock, surprise and a deep sense of disappointment maybe..

'There is also increasing recognition of the unquantifiable service women provide by raising children.'
I dont want to keep going back to my baby, but its about 120.00 Pounds per day to get childcare in this country..

And now I am getting so mad, I want to hit someone.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back with Baby

So I am back..
I am back with a permanent resident in my head and a presence in my life which has changed things by 360 degrees..
Had a baby boy a few weeks ago..and its been a whirlwind ride since then! and I am sure there is more to go.
Much as I LOVE my little boy I do think the whole pregnancy, labour and delivery business is a BIG con. The whole thing about 'you will forget the pain' etc etc does not happen. Being pregnant was kind of interesting and fun, given the amount of stuff you can read, absorb and think was interesting till the last trimester, which was painful enough for me to look forward to labour pains!! Yes, that bad.
I am still a bit traumatized by the whole child birth business so will spare you the detail, shall just say a bit and then stop.
I had kidney stones, and the Dr then said if you have gone through this pain, child birth will be a breeze. Guess what...he was kidding..labour pains made kidney stones feel like mosquito bites in comparison!!Yes, that bad.

Came home with 20 staples on me and 28 inside me. ahhh!
And then they came out.
And then I was made to walk within 26 hours of being operated..walk, take a shower, eat something and then go pick the baby and feed him. Tough love has a whole new meaning in the NHS, UK.

Baby is damn cute and occupies most of my mind and body and time and energy. I hoped not to turn into baby mush filled mommie who cant think and talk beyond baby..but I have some fears right now about this.

Having a lot of time off as maternity leave, means I can enjoy the baby for a while before he goes to nursery...I hope he enjoys me though. I mean how much fun can someone who wipes your face and nose every 2 hours be?

So yes, life is a bit different now..well more than a bit. And this is not including the thinking I have been doing about my own mother, having people here in the house with me, my relationship with the daddy of the baby and how the world does not look ALL that different yet..but I guess I can take things as they come...

Hope to blog more..and not always about BABY.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Too young you say?

We recently lost a friend. A young friend.
A friend who we had seen a lot of, with his young wife and baby.
With who we cooked, chatted, ate and celebrated.
Life moved us to separate ends of the country, yet we remembered the good times.
As a similar age couple, you see yourself in others your own age, at the same place in life in terms of work, finances, family commitments and the never ending promise of and eternity to do all that we want to by 40. It is almost like we have bought a stake in our futures and shall work towards it. Life is good and shall continue to be so, atleast for a while.

A very early morning phone call to say he has passed, came as a surprise. Which turned to shock and disbelief. And now its grief, not just at our loss, but at the loss to this family and his young child who does not understand the idea of 'never', 'ever' and 'forever'. It has been heartbreaking.

None of us, at least all of us under 40 or even 50/60 perhaps dont think about death.
A few weeks ago, I walked past a woman in the shop who was selling legal aid for making a Will and I smiled, shook my head and walked past. Not me! I thought..are oyu crazy, I am too young, thanks, but no thanks. I dont have anything to put in a will and I also think I am too young to contemplate death.

Youth and death seem not to be friends.
But then I make a mistake,
Death is no ones friend.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Surreality in India

So I was in India for a few days for my brothers wedding (more on that later). And on one of the evenings that I was relatively free I decided to go out to eat all the stuff that I dont get that easily in UK. So out I went with mom and sister to the local market.

I spied a fellow selling kachaloo chat (sweet potato, roasted on coal, served diced into squares with spices and lemon juice - FANTASTIC). I used to love this chat and I was dying to eat it. However there was also the more pressing need to go to the toilet. Sister points out the McDonalds and says she shall wait in the car while I use the toilet and come.

Off I go to McD and on the way ask the Aloo chat guy to make me a plate quickly. On my way out of McD a beggar woman (lets calls her AMMA) comes and tells me that she is hungry and has not eaten in days. She follows me to that chat guy and keeps begging. I handed her a Rs10 note and she walked away whispering blessings for me.

Now comes the turn of the chat guy to get paid. Its Rs 15. I hand over 20 as I had no change. Turns out neither did he looks left and right and spots Amma, the beggar. He asks me to walk with him, so I do.

We go to the beggar, he asks her for change for a 10 rupee note as I watch.

She pulls out a large-ish bag full of coins and notes of a small denomination....

I stretch out my empty hands in front of the beggar for money...

She hands over a Rs5 coin to the chat guy and one to me, as my sister watches.

I was indeed taking money from a beggar!

Weird. Very weird.

I know I should re think my preconceived ideas...but I never did think that i would ask a beggar for change. In fact one of the standard excuses one gives a beggar is that you have no change to give him/her. Not only did I get change from her. The idea of standing in front of a beggar with my hands outstretched was one of the things I never thought I would see myself do!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Brightest Spark

In life as a lecturer I have come across many varieties of students. Needless to say some are bright..while others..lets just say..the lights are on but no one's home...not sharp, to say the least.

As a fair person with an overly developed sense of fairness and duty I try my best with the second category..encouraging, cajoling, threatening and sometimes also scaring them into trying harder. But it does not always work!

So at the start of last term, I was approached by a very quiet first year who asked me which lecture she must attend. As she is one of my students I told her it would be the Textiles lecture at 12 in the Main Room. She then proceeded to attend the Graphics lecture from 10-12 and then my lecture from 12-2 and then moaned that its too hard. I had to explain quite calmly that she only needs to attend her own class and does not have to sit through some other lesson. (To be noted - each class has over 200 students and so it is hard to notice new faces and figure out for lecturers who do not belong in the session).

It was the start of term, she was new, a little lost and perhaps would figure it out eventually I thought. But nope...she did attend all the lectures all of sept-dec from 10-2pm. She came back this term and told me she cant handle this..and I asked her, without trying to sound condescending..if she is sure that she is attending only my class..and when I heard the answer I gave up. I dont know what she cant get...
- no one in that room is from her friends etc
- no one in that lesson speaks about textiles...ever
- no attendance sheets in that lesson have her name
- no one else complains of attending 4 hour lectures.

Thus I am pushed into making a few guesses:
A - She likes the Graphics lectures
B - She loves the Graphics Lecturers
C - She sleeps in both sessions
D - She wants to learn more than what she signed up for
E - She is not very smart, and perhaps shall never be.

Oh yes, she is incredibly sweet and nice and polite..but apparently E is the best guess..she is NOT the brightest spark!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

and this was a long time coming..

So I moved was manic..needless to say. The change of address with a million people, moving of TV and Internet and Phone, buying of new furniture and conflict of opinion about where to put what...well...anyone who owns more than 20 pairs of shoes and more than 4 suitcases of clothes, more than 3 book and definitely more than 1 DVD/CD carton and is a foodie and enjoys cooking, therefore has a huge kitchen... would know what I am talking about!

Mom came to visit me in this part of the world for the first time...and it was a short trip and I wanted to take her everywhere..forgetting her limited energy levels and my unlimited enthusiasm levels :) it was more slow walking, talking, eating, shopping, English Breakfast Tea and Crumpet breaks than sight seeing etc. As usual..good times go by really quick and leaving her at the airport watching her clear security and disappear into the vast terminal was sad..I felt like a school child again..not wanting to let go of that hand. But then I am heading to India soon for the mother of all I was okay in the knowledge that I shall be back soon with the family.

I finally got around to attending the PhD graduation ceremony. 2 are held each year and I was busy in finally got my robes, my funny hat and my photos. Mom and the Husband came along with me to the city in which I spend 8 long years..long, fun, sad, painful, hardworking, ill, ecstatic years of my life. I had not been back for a year or more and it felt strange yet familiar to be back. The city of Leicester holds too many memories for after a while of happiness the sad and painful memories came back and I said goodbye. My education..for over..and so the chapter is closed.

Moved to the new house, unpacked with the help of the lovely friends and managed to get back to work without taking time out. And then came sad news of the person I respected the most and loved a lot passing away. Yes he was old and yes he was ill, and yes each time I left India and said Good bye I was not sure if I would see him again. But its known..that when you love someone, truly and deeply..there is never a right time to let go and say goodbye. The news came as a shock..and the instant reaction of floods of tears took a while to be replaced by deep emptiness and a brain struggling to contemplate a life without this important person. He stood for knowledge, humility, justice, affection, indulgence and kindness..memories of wandering Rashtrapati Bhawan, eating Chinese, getting a Sony Walkman in the late 80's, getting endless gifts of books, shoes, music, clothes, warm hugs and endless chats...came back. Being in Delhi without still hard for me to imagine...being away from family and not being able to share their grief and pain was not helping. Even now..I am welling up at the thought of reaching India and not heading straight to his house to say hello before heading home to mum and dad. Strange. Not really.

It was a hard year 2009..with tension, losses, victories, achievements, good, bad and startling news..and so the way to end it was not planned...till off we went to Prague. It was fantastic place..lovely dogs and beer, German crafts and tall people. Trams and trains from the Communist past and a new country with clean empty streets, old old architecture and the space to walk and breathe, seeing as its not a very popular tourist destination. The place was straight out of a fairy tale with castles and Gothic spires..very very nice. Saw the New Year Fireworks..interesting it was...and entertaining to see this free for all firework display.

Came back with a tummy bug and promptly landed up in hospital..:) nice. Am okay now, have overcome work and paperwork and all the misc things you queue up to do when you get a vacation. So at the end of my winter vacation..I am finally in a place where I can say..I have nothing to do till tomorrow morning. done, food cooked, clothes sorted for tomorrow's start back at work. Ah...I think this calls for a cup of tea and relaxation with some music.

Apologies for disappearing...but if the aforementioned is explanation enough for you...come back again..I shall come back to this world now.