Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The brat has been very thoughtful over the past few days. The kind of thoughtful that demands a scrunched up face and a furrowed brow and the momentary staring off into space in the midst of superhero battles on the bedspread. And he's keener to sit at his desk and get down, sleeves rolled up metaphorically to grappling with his sight words and spellings and numbers. And, miracle of miracles, he is writing on his own. Honest confession. Mamma had been haranguing him to write so terribly that he'd gone into a little phobia about writing on his own, and would refuse to write unless his hand was held. In school. At home. At tuitions. Mamma had been hyperventilating and doing all the bean picking, clay moulding and whatever she could think of to improve grip but figured that if the child had a grip good enough to draw dinosaurs and astronauts hanging out of rockets, he could jolly well write the alphabet, given that his hand moved perfectly if held. So here we were, finally doing our writing, with frowny forehead and little tongue stuck out of mouth and eye at paper level concentration.
But dense mamma had still not made the connection. Until last night when the brat looked up at mamma. "I can write poperly mamma?"
Mamma didnt see it coming. "Yes, love, of course you can," she said in her honeyed encouraging tone voice.
"Then you wont send me boarding skul?"
A cold clammy hand clutched mamma's heart. Now where did that come from?
"No, love, of course not. You stay with mamma, and papa and dadi and tauji."
"Boarding school is very boreding. I not going. I do my padhai at home only. Donsenme boreding school."
Mamma hugged him hard and planted one wet sloppy kichu on his scalp which he rubbed off in great disgust in the way only boys with a horror of PDA (he inherits that from his father) have.
"I'm not sending my boy anywhere." Mamma hastened to reassure him.
"No, only send me Merika. To Disneywirl."
Seriously though, in the pre brat era when the mothers heart hadnt yet happened, mamma, brought up on Enid Blytons of St Clares and Malory Towers and first hand accounts from the mother who taught at three of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country, the last being in Mussourie before she got married and had herself me, mamma was determined that her child should be packed off to a boarding school to get himself a good education. In fact, so deep seated was this belief that the best days in the life of a child could be at boarding, fuelled by the newer series of the loveless Harry Potter who finds friends and happiness galore at Hogwarts that Mamma actually sat down at the computer during her pregnancy when she was supposed to lie flat on her back through the day, with both legs up in the air to check out boarding school websites and check out admission requirements. And she optimistically shortlisted some, made enquiries, sent out money for forms and such like. Yes, yes, its true, you have to apply when you're pregnant or some such ridiculous thing, or maybe even before you sign the registrars papers to ensure your child a seat.
And then the brat was born. And mamma knows now that she will have to be drawn and quartered before she sends him off to a school of strangers. And she's begun hearing the horror stories too. The raggings. The drugs. The sadist teachers. The kids growing up haywire and feeling unloved and morphing into little mercernary monsters. And she's seen some students emerge from boarding schools, perfectly mannered and fiercely independent and so uncaring about those around them that their parents find them strangers. It scares her. She wants her child to feel dependent on her. Selfish it may be, but she wants to be the one he turns to when he is upset, or sad or hurt. She wants him to come to her with his joys and his achievements, and search her out in a throng of parents when he has to dance on stage. She wants him to still want her hand under his head every night to lull him into sleep. There is time enough in the world for him to be independent and strong and self sufficient, but that would come around college days one hopes.
Maybe mamma is a coward. Maybe mamma wants to be needed too much. But boarding school is definitely not an option for me right now. Yet I know some schools are wonderful. Ive had friends and colleagues from the best schools, who have old boys and girls networks that I will never know the joy of. Nana has told Mamma infinite stories of her days as a teacher and of how beautifully they cared for the children entrusted to them. And Nana tells Mamma, you should let him go when he is a little bigger, a little older. It will be good for him. Maybe Mamma will reconsider when the brat grows older, and more able to hold his own against a gang of bullies. Right now, he needs to be around people who will watch out for him. He needs to be with Mamma who will notice him looking a little peaky and check his temperature. Or a Mamma who sternly forces him to sit on the potty on days he's too busy raising Cain to be bothered. Maybe the brat needs an escape from this smothering Mamma.
What about you? Would you put your child in a boarding school?
Despite the fact that pest control these days is the kind of painless process which has single uniformed polite creature come in, shoot his gel like stuff in various drawers (sheesh, dirty minds, you, this is a family blog, sheesh, what were you thinking), mamma still has visions of the days of yore when pest control meant that even the inhabitants were fumigated out of the house, and returned to find the creepy crawly denizens one shared premises with, without the benefit of shared rent lying in undignified on back, legs in the air kind of poses that werent the kind of stuff that good women looked at without shielding their delicate eyes.
Therefore, the brat calls the mamma from nana house in his enforced house arrest.
Mamma: Hello, brat? (This on seeing Nana's number buzzing frenetically on her screen)
Brat: Hullooo Hullloooo Hullooo (screaming in the kind of arbit loud way that is a sure indication of how he will scream into the phone seventy years down the line when his hearing has gone)
Mamma: Yes, brat?
Mamma: I'm having my lunch.
Brat: The pest is gone?
Mamma: The pest control man has gone, yes.
Brat: Cockoach have died in the house?
Mamma: Cant see any yet. (This fact can be attributed to ultra efficient Godrej Pest Control and ultra manic Mamma who runs around behind stray cockroaches armed with spray and slippers whatever the time of day or night. The most notable occasion being the one when she wandered into the loo in the night with uncomfortably full bladder, climbed on basin platform to kill two errants she spied near the ceiling and returned to her bed without doing the business she had woken up for in the first place.)
Brat: Why the cockoch not die? Where they gone?
Mamma: Brat, go take a nap.
And disconnects phone ruthlessly seeing as the conversation has taken on proportions of infinite possibilities.
A second later the phone rings again. The brat has discovered that Nana has mamma on speed dial.
Brat, shouting at tymphanum splitting levels: Mamma, Mamma, Mamma
Mamma, wincing and holding said instrument at arms length, before deciding to switch on speakerphone and continue with the feature she's keying out on laptop, decides to be brusque: Yes, what is it now?
Brat: When cockoch they die, they go heaven or hell?
Mamma is still grappling with that one.
And takes the cowards way out; as she does with all theological questions.
And replies: Ask Nana.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Coming back to the Saturday, thanks to the very efficient promotions on Nick for the Lets Just Play do, the brat opened his eyes at the crack of dawn and insisted I carried him unwashed and unbrushed to Inorbit for a darshan of his idol, Ninja Hattori. Cruella de Ville Mamma had other plans. First, she declared, the brat would have to do his weekly visit to Nana House.
Brat hopped from foot to foot, and yelled up a storm. No, no, I go Inorbit now, I wanna sekhand with Hattori. I wanna dance with Hattori. Mamma would have no truck of this and bathed him brusquely, fed him his breakfast and dragged him kicking and screaming to Nana House, where he was in a foul mood through the day much to Nana's dismay. And then he dropped off to sleep at around four pm. Mamma tested her theory that he actually hears what is being whispered around him, even when he seems to be in deep sleep and whispered Ninja Hattori. Voila, the brat sprung up like a jack in the box, rubbing sleep from his eyes and began pulling on his shoes with an alacrity that had Mamma shamed for resorting to such underhand tactics.
And so we went off to Inorbit mall. Through the route the driver was subjected to detailed descriptions of Ninja Hattori's stunts. And of what a good fella he was. And how the brat was going to make him his new best friend. Needless to say, said driver was quite zoned out by the time we reached, and had to be gently guided towards the entry gate to a mall he's taken us to almost everyday since the day it was thrown open to the public.
The lawns, Mamma saw, was a throng of people accompanying children of various sizes and aggressiveness. Many of said children had been accompanied by muscle bound potbellied and very illmannered Pappas who had no qualms about pushing this Mamma aside to give their offspring a view of the stage. When Mamma finally caught a glimpse of said stage, she could only see the backs of one million camera people clicking furiously at something or someone that was swarmed. With visions of a hapless animal being cornered by a hunter, and not seeing anything remotely resembling a Hattori in the vicinity, Mamma decided to take the brat around to check out the games on offer. All of which were already full up and had no place for a small little boy of five to come in and play. And the small little boy was, thankfully on his best behaviour, and no footstomping tantrums ensued, except for a moment when one entered and he realised that the Mamma had not called best friend in mall crime, Ayaan to be present on this momentous occasion.
The throng on the stage dispersed and a little mouse squeaked out and ran off to the cars in the parking area surrounded by men in black safari suits in walkie talkies cutting a path for said mouse through the crowd. Alas, none of the crowd was interested in the mouse aka Tushar Kapoor, and were keener on the Nicktoons who had escaped to the greenroom. And so Mamma and son waited, having cornered prime spot near stairs going upto stage from green room, and the brat waited, quietly, so quietly that Mamma actually got quite worried at such quietness. When finally, the Hattori emerged from the green room, accompanied by Dora, the brat's expression was to die for. I expected to see him throwing underwear at Hattori, screaming Hattori Hattori, and tears streaming down his face, but he held up. Rather Mamma held him up till her arms threatened to fall out of their sockets, with no replacement or warranty on said body parts.
And then, happy and content he agreed to leave the mall. And not even want to go to dplayzone. Or to Sopperzsop. Or to Lifetile.
So we fought our way through the crowd and emerged, gulping breaths of fresh air, at the exit.
Where the brat looked back sadly. "I donlike Hattori now. He din sekhand wid me."
Thursday, September 25, 2008
He's been in hospital since. For his febrile seizures. For his constipation that took such a bad turn that he needed hospitalisation.
And everytime I was with him in hospital I would see a case that would scare me. And make me hold onto my child and thank the lord that he was well and he would recover. Newborns with holes in their hearts, babies with congenital tumours, cancers, and I would marvel at the stoicism with which the parents faced the situation. I would have been a mass of tears. I remember one instance when I was in Nanavati pediatric ward, sobbing because of an MRI which revealed some causes for concern with the brat's brain, and another parent sat next to me in the waiting area outside the NICU, and told me not to worry. Everything would be fine. He was a rickshaw driver. His son was three years old and in the ICU. The child had been having continual seizures for almost five days. And was almost comatose. And the man's face was grim but composed. "I dont know if he will survive, " he said. "And I dont know if he will be back to normal after this. Ive left it all to God."
And there were the parents who would sit with faces of stone when handed the day to day bills, often calling friends and aquaintances asking them to lend them some funds to settle the bi weekly bills. And NICU bills are crushing. Believe me.
Which is what scares me. What if I had not been able to afford the treatment the brat required to make him well? What if I was forced to take him to a municipal hospital? I read all the appeals in the newspapers for help and wonder what I would have done in such a situation, whom would I have turned to.
And I wonder what I can do apart from sending in my cheques to the sad appeals that come in the papers everyday, with a photograph of a child, and an appeal for donations to enable the child to be treated. I send in my cheques and I wonder if the money will reach the child who needs it, I have no way of knowing. But I pray that it does, and I trust that the child would recover and go home with his or her parents.
I have a dream, to start a charity that funds lifecritical surgical procedures for critically ill children. But I have no clue how to go about it. But I know I will do it. For my child. Its what I owe him. I am already taking the first steps towards figuring out how to set this in place. And I welcome all the help I can get.
Is there anything you dream you can do for children less privileged than your own?
"The Brilliant Weblog Award- a prize given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is topromote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere. Here are the rules to follow:When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, togetherwith the name of who has given it to you, and link back to them.Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in content or design. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing them that they have been awarded with the ‘Brilliant Weblog’ award.Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional) to."
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Okay, that was my cue to run to the bathroom and start sobbing piteously.
Having blown nose noisily and inelegantly into kerchief I return to apprise you, dear reader, of the circumstances that have led to me coming to such a heartbreaking conclusion.
The child, gasp, gasp, does not want to sleep next to Mamma anymore. This blow to the heart coming after years of a cramped right arm forced to play pillow to snoring brat head. In fact, the night the brat announced that he was taking himself off to his grandmother's room to sleep, Mamma almost asked the Pappa to keep his head on her hand through the night, so difficult was it to fall asleep without that weight pinning hand and Mamma down. Of course, Pappa's head being much weightier, and hair much scratchier than the brats resulted in Mamma chucking said head off after five minutes and then tossing and turning through the night, waking up periodically in myopic horror wondering where the brat had gone to, only to realise the brat had taken self and blankie and doggie to the next bedroom. And mamma would get up, and pad softly to the next room and brave sleeping mother in laws to check if brat is with legs dangling off the bed, or with blankie flung off, or licking dry lips, or heaven forbid, flooded the mattress. And pad back softly, moueing the fact that yes, the brat did indeed not need her around. He'd fallen asleep pretty comfortably without her arm. It was she who was sleepless and padding through the house on tip toe, like some broken hearted stalker type checking on him.
Mamma also suspects, a lot of this decision has been motivated by the fact that despite having commissioned and made a very very big bed, in the hope that the child would be tied to the damn invisible umblical cord for a while yet, we would need more space, unlike the earlier apartment where floor mattresses had to be pressed into service to accommodate the three of us in a single room, there isnt enough space for a growing child to kick in his sleep to his heart's content.
Add to this fact, couple of really nasty occasions when ferocious kicks in the night have landed bang on the pater's family jewels leading to violent explosions and sputterings of rage in the dead of the witching hour, leaving us all shocked into wakefullness by irate Pappa clutching in agony and yelling profanities.
Then there is the issue of Mamma and Pappa being pretty particular about having the lights and the television switched off by 9.30 pm. And continuing their conversations over the brat's head till the wee hours of the morning. Well, actually, waiting for the gentle snores to begin from the brat before they moved on to worthier things.
The Pappa of course, was not complaining. As can be expected. But a mopey Mamma on his hands wasnt exactly cause for joy. This continued for a few nights. Come 9 pm, the brat would lift his blankie and march off to dadi's room, no explanation brokered, while mamma did the emotional equivalent of Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, short of getting drunk and singing Na Jao Saiyan.
A part of Mamma's rational mind welcomed this taking of self to other room. It was high time he did. She and Pappa had been convincing him to do so for well over a year, and he had flat out refused each and every time they had fallen to their knees and begged. Mamma had been promising herself she would dump him in the next room post the birthday next month, as a rite of passage. And had foolhardily convinced herself that the brat would sob piteously, hammer on the bedroom door till his knuckles bled, requesting to be allowed in at such like. This determined walking off was a shock. A rejection.
And so Mamma reconciled herself to being a mamma of a grown up boy. Not a baby who needed her. And gleefully took out her books she could never read before dropping off, and piled them by her bedside in hand rubbing anticipation of a brat free wind down every evening before bed time.
And then yesterday, at around 10 pm, a couple of sharp raps on the door, and a stern call. "Mamma, open the door. I wanna come in d room."
Pappa raised an eyebrow.
Mamma lept to her feet in the shameless way women have when what they're waiting for comes back to them, errant husbands included, and threw the door open.
The brat stood outside looking up at her, brow furrowed. His blankie tossed over his shoulder.
"I is sleeping here only. I become big boy tomorrow."
Monday, September 22, 2008
Then Rani Mukerji comes into the picture, playing Mary Poppins in the recent Bollywood release, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic.
'I have to dance with dinosaur?"
I hastily informed him to perish the thought. Dinosaurs, if any, would be statues, I told him. They wouldnt dance with him, and no Egyptian mummies were going to do the walk never mind what he saw in the movie. That was a movie. This is real museum.
There would be pictures on the wall, and displays and such like. And the roof wouldnt open up to sky, no matter how much his class teacher danced or gesticulated, and they were going on no crazy car ride to get there, but had to behave themselves and sit quietly in the bus without making masti, and listening to teacher, and holding teachers hand, because lets face it, Mamma would be having a heart attack every minute till he got back safe and sound and in one piece. And the teacher would be having one every minute till she got him back to me.
Obviously, this was so much water off a very skanky ducks back.
"What we do in museum?"
I explained that their teacher would show them interesting things about the world, about dinosaurs, about freedom fighters, these being topics that had been taught to them over the din that masquerades for regular class on a normal day.
"There games? There jungle gym? There car racing? There slide? "
No love, but there's lots of things about the jungle you can learn. There will be pictures of the wild animals and the different plants and trees.
He sighed and flopped down on the bed, his face sad and wan.
"Why, Why," he mewled pathetically. And then steeled himself to the situation from whence there seemed no escape, "Okay I go. But I having making fun in dbus. In dmujheum there nothing to do."
I nodded reluctantly. Yes, but he would get to see so many different things and learn so much.
"But I do learning in school. I donwanna do padhai in dmujheum."
Mamma spoke about how he would see the things that teacher had taught him in school, and the little that had percolated into the skull would be reinforced she hoped, and how he would have a great time, and why did he not want to go on a field trip which meant no school was beyond her, and all his friends would be going and they would enjoy themselves and learn so much.
He looked at me with his sudden wizened old zen master expression, which usually meant something was coming up which I would not be able to counter or reply to.
"I dont have to learn. I already knows. I knows evyting."
I wish I could say that.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The mammas and the children trooped in. This was the party of a friend's son, who is three years older than the brat so the age difference meant that the brat wasnt getting much attention nor any fun. Add to the fact that he didnt know anyone out there. He sat quietly in a corner. "No one playing with me." He said sadly. "They tell me sit down or you get hurt." Mamma was inclined to agree with them and applaud their considerateness given that the play happening in the little party room had almost dislodged the music system twice and the hapless girl assigned to be party hostess was running a weary hand on her forehead.
The yummy mummies were there in full sparkle. Guess bags all. Like some uniform. Tight blue jeans and black tops. They could have marched off in formation, sticking a rifle on their shoulders. The hostess is a wonderfully graceful woman I admire keenly for her sense of style and soigne in anything she wears. This day it was a Pucci print shift dress with golden gladiator sandals and she looked sensational. Mamma shifted uncomfortably in her too tight Next Jeans and copper and gold FCUK top that showed more midriff and assorted tyres than she would have liked.
The birthday cake was cut, the birthday song sung and the fake snow sprayed all over. The brat stood wistfully by the glass door. "Can we go home now, I want to play with I." I being best friend who lives next door. Needless to say, Mamma said her goodbyes promptly and took him home. Better friends he enjoys playing with than a birthday party he feels out of place at.
The moment we stepped out of the lift he ran across to I's home. "I, I, see whachIgot!"
I emerged sleeptousled and grinning from ear to ear, as they got their heads together to unwrap and decimate the budday return gift.
Brat looks up at Mamma, "Mamma, next time this budday, we say bye bye aunty first only. Is so boreding."
Yes, son. Thats one lesson learnt.
No more boreding pahties.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Mamma chose Mahatma Gandhi for the simple reason that the brat had seen Lagey Raho Munnabhai. We are nothing if not a filmy family.
Envisage the scene. Mamma brandishing cutout of Mahatma Gandhi, downloaded from google baba, pasted on cardboard and cut out painstakingly.
"Brat, this is Mahatma Gandhi."
Brat casts perfuctory eye on picture.
"Why he not wear clothes?"
Mamma decides this is an appropriate start to the story and launches into the saga of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the barrister at law, and the poor first class ticket holder thrown out of his berth, the seeds of the non violent revolution and such like and how it all culminated in Indians gaining their independence from the British.
Without fighting. This fact emphasised repeatedly.
The brat registered it dimly through the wars being fought out on my duvet between superheroes and aliens from the Ben 10 universe.
Yup, without fighting, only with talking.
His mouth doesnt pain?
Mamma is, in a feeling that is becoming increasingly familiar, at a complete loss for words. A state of being that once witnessed by Pappa had him shellshocked and rooting around for the videocamera to record a holy miracle.
Brat, Gandhiji taught us how to be non violent. To get people to do the right things without fighting.
Okay Mamma, tomorru I be non violin. I dont push back when L pushes me. I say come push me.
No no....not that way, you have to defend yourself. Or you will get hurt.
Matmagani get hurt?
No....but it was different. Anyway, brat, who was Mahatma Gandhi?
Brat looks at me cockily.
Mamma, he was the nation of the father.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Which means I drop the brat to school, run to office, squeeze in two hours of very hard work which involves surfing the net, reading as many mommy and non mommy blogs as is humanly possible, probably do a post or two, and then do what I came for, and what brings the butter and the jam to the table, aka research and write out a feature or two. Then I run off and pick the brat up from school and take him to his tuitions. Wait outside the tuition class baking in the car, feeling my skin slowly browning nicely in the yellow tin can I rattle around in. Take the brat home, throw him at his grandmother and run out, before her pleas for help begin. Seriously though, the grandmother seems delighted to have him around. And he seems delighted to be with her. A lot of cartoon network watching is happening in my absence I suspect, but then thats a choice I have to live with.
Run off back to the office. As is inevitable in Mumbai, I spend more time travelling (this action being distributed between four to five suburbs) than actually getting any work done. But the basic discipline of sitting at a desk and working is refreshing. But the guilt.....killing.
There I am having deposited brat back at home, and seeing him swagger in checking out the room for his toys, and sniffing the air for chicken or mutton smells. "Okay baby, bye, mamma's going to office." This said with plaintive look, waiting just waiting for him to turn around, run back and fling himself into my arms and cry woebegonely, "No no, mamma, dont go, please dont go, I come with you."
"Bye???" Thats it. Mamma goes on a slow steam. "At least, come here and give me a bye bye kichu," says Mamma pleading, having lost all dignity and behaving like dumped person with no self respect and not being the boss of herself.
"No, you go," he says sternly, waving mamma off like so much flotsam.
Mamma turns around, shoulders drooping and walks sadly towards the lift, waiting for the call to come. The door closes not so gently behind her. She presses the lift button and waits for the lift to climb up 15 floors, one eye cocked on the firmly shut door, hoping against hope that it will open, and bingo, as the lift reaches floor 10, the door opens, it is the brat.
"Mamma, bring a Batman mask." And closes the door.
So much for attachment and dependence and such issues. Looks like Mamma needs to get over them.
Monday, September 15, 2008
This is maternity leave increased to six months, and an additional two year paid leave to enable them to take care of their kids. This will probably be extended to semi government organisations and is a wonderful first step towards recognising the issues faced by working mothers in leaving small children back at daycares, or being unable to cope with either job or small children at home.
Now if only private companies could follow this precedent. I do remember when I was in the workforce, the media house I was with had a room demarcated as the creche within the premises where mothers could bring in their infants with them to work, and be able to visit periodically in the course of the day to either breastfeed or play or generally check on the child's wellbeing. While that was a concept ahead of its times in India, remember this was way back in the 1990s, it was still logistically difficult for the women thanks to the fact that the sheer travelling distances, and the intensely chaotic local trains made it impossible to travel with small children, so the staffers prefered to keep their children in day care closer to their homes, and ran out at the stroke of 5.30 pm.
Still others quit working when their children came along, and got back to the workforce only three to four years down the line, when the children were school going and independent, for reasons that ranged from wanting to spend quality and quantity time with the child in its formative years, to conciously deciding to put their career on the back burner for the sake of experiencing motherhood with no support system.
These are the basic laws any woman with a baby should be aware of if she is a working woman:
This law is referred is the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. It was passed by the Central Government in 1961 and pertains to the whole of India. In other words, the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 is applicable to every institution under the government, be it industrial, commercial or agricultural. It is important for all women to know about it because it provides for certain benefits to her during her pregnancy.
The maternity leave right in India stipulates that a woman cannot be dismissed from her job just because she is expecting. Also this policy provides that all working mothers-to-be are entitled to a maternity leave period of 12 weeks from her office. While the first six weeks of maternity leave is to be taken before delivery, the remaining six weeks of leave will be granted immediately after the child is born. A woman can also ask for light work before she goes off on leave.
Moreover, the maternity leave right in India specifies that the employer cannot deduct her salary under such circumstances. At the same time, the maternity benefits permitted under the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 can only be withdrawn if the employee joins some other organization during this time. Generally a lot of women do not stop working soon after coming to know of their pregnancy. Maternity leave law in India is really helpful to those women who cannot risk leaving their jobs in order to support their family.
Very recently, a modification was suggested in the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961. According to this new proposal, the maternity leave will be extended from the present three months to six months.
Furthermore, in terms of the THE MATERNITY BENEFIT ACT, you are entitled to receive maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence, that is to say, the period immediately preceding and including the day of her delivery, the actual day of her delivery and any period immediately following that day i.e. 16 weeks after the date of delivery. [Wage simply put means your salary]
What is the scene in corporate India? While many companies have instituted maternity friendly benefits for their female employees, down to extending leave benefits, with pay, extending work from home facilities, telecommuting, flexi time, creche and playschools on premises with factories and manufacturing facilities, corporate India on the whole is just that wee bit wary of the expectant mother. On the flip side, some companies even do offer maternity insurance benefits that saves the employee a whole lot of expenses. On an average though, maternity leave in most private organisations is at three months paid leave. And then the mother has to rejoin work, leaving behind a three month old in the care of either in laws or day care. And this brings us to the crucial issue of breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, as advised by the medical community. What is a new mother to do? Choose between feeding her child or bringing in an income? For many women, it is not even about a career but about the sheer necessity of bringing in an additional pay packet into the house.
What is the scene like in the rest of the world with regards to mothers who work?
And all ye who work and have babies, what is your company's policy like, and how did you manage?
Where is Jai Jai Bhagwanji?
In the sky, beta.
But where he sits?
Mamma hems and haws for suitable answer.
How he can sit on cloud? He fall down no?
He sits far far over the clouds. In space.
Mamma. This said indignantly. You cant sit in space. You float. Like in the water.
Mamma prays to Jai Jai Bhagwanji to give her an answer.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Once upon a time. Why once upon a time. Once upon what time? Sade baje? There was a little girl who loved to wear a big red velvet cape and hood. Like Batman. She superhero? She fly in the sky? Yes, like Batman, but she's not a superhero, she's just a little girl who always wore a red cloak and hood and they called her Little Red Riding Hood.... aaaaaawwww Mamma, even I want to wear my Batman cloak everywhere. Why you dont let me? I wear to school tumarru? One day, the little girl's grandma was very sick, so her mamma told her to take a basket of food through the woods to the grandma's house on the other side of the woods. Her mamma let her go alone? Reelly. How? Why you dont let me go alone to the garden? Her mother told her, "Little Red Riding Hood, dont talk to anyone on the way, go fast and come home soon." What stupid name, hyuck hyuck, Little Red Riding Hood, is not a name, is stupid, hyuck hyuck... And so Little Red Riding Hood went into the woods and was walking when a wicked wolf came along and asked her, "Where are you going little girl?" Mamma, wolf cant talk. How? Show me? On the Discovery channel wolf was only making OOOOOOO sound in the night.
Little Red Riding Hood didnt remember that her mamma had told her not to talk to anyone, and told the wicked wolf that she was going to her grandma's house to give her food. Why you tell me talk to everyone, say gumawnin this aunty, guevening this uncle? Why the wolf wicked, he bad wolf, he not saying prayers? He's a wicked wolf because he wanted to eat Little Red Riding Hood, so he told her to go pick some flowers and make a bouquet for her sick grandmother. Why sick gramma all alone, why she not in hopital?
And so Little Red Riding Hood began picking many flowers and made a nice big bouquet for her grandmother. Then why you shoutatme when I break flower in the garden? But in making this bouquet Little Red Riding Hood wasted a lot of time, and it became very late and began getting dark. And Little Red Riding Hood ran to her grandma's house. But she didnt know that her grandma had already been eaten by the wolf who was now in the grandmas house wearing grandma's clothes and was waiting to eat Little Red Riding Hood. Mamma, why wolf didnt eat Red Riding first only? How wolf took out Grammas clothes and then ate her? He dont have hands how he took out clothes. Is boring story. Tell me udder story.
Note: I am having serious issues with the violence and sexism inherrent in most of the fairy tales I read out to him. Any other political correct agonisers like me, and any political correct fairy tale series you can recommend for bedtime reading?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I, for one, think its a great idea. And obviously, people across the world think so too. And not all of them hostile childless people. In fact, hold your breath, a majority of those surveyed and in favour of child free zones, are themselves parents. I understand. I empathise. I would put down hard cash in advance booking for a table at a child free restaurant if I wanted a special night out with the hubby. If I'm going to reach there and find other kids
running around, I might as well have carted along my own.
The kid is not the best company for dinner. For one, he's generally cranky. For another the lighting in these restaurants in generally dim, which makes everything on the plate look unappetising. For a third, he wants to explore his surroundings, and sometimes, if he manages to find another critter his size for company, they manage to raise Cain, and have the live bands (new trend, new trend, and I hate it) drowned out. Consequently the husband will tell me, you yell at home, you yell when we're out for dinner, can you ever stop yelling. Yes, noise levels do escalate a bit.
Not that I have anything against kids. God. I adore them. Anyone will vouch for that. I am the first to play goof games with them, separate warring factions, get down on my hands and knees and be horsey. But at times, I'd like to go back to being an adult again. Without having to hold my dinner napkin to the overflowing snotfilled nose of the fruit of my own womb.
Some of the issues are very real in opting for kid free zones. For one, the smoke in restaurants can sometimes fumigate the lice out of one's hair. I have a no smoking zone house, and I'd prefer to keep the brat's lungs smokefree as much as I can. For another, the decibel levels at some places are pierce the ear high, and not the kind of levels I'd like the child to be exposed to. And thirdly, I wouldnt wish my brat on a roll on myself, how dare I inflict him on an unsuspecting public paying good money to have a relaxing evening. Our dinners, with the brat, are generally always at child friendly restaurants, the ones that circumvent mall play zones, so the decibel levels are anyway crush the tymphanum, and the place is full of other harried parents who smile sympathetically as you try to get your child interested in the contents of his own plate instead of wandering around to check out the decor and the other diners. The few times we've dined at fine dining places, I've been on BP overdrive just waiting for a fork or a spoon to come in aggroblast contact with a fluted stem glass, and decided never again, even if the brat was then young enough to sit placidly in the high chair kindly provided for him by the restaurant. I could see he was being a nuisance not only to me but also to the others, and I almost walked around tables apologising for his very vocal tantrums. Or spent almost all my meal walking him outside the restaurant waiting for the rest of the troupe to finish their meal peacefully, without any food being flung at them. Yes, I dont have a maid for the brat too. Unlike them pristine types who have the maid hold the child while they eat, gush and converse. But thats another post.
We do go for movies with him now, but he's learnt to behave himself. A fair cry from the early days when the unfortunate person to land the seat in front of him would be subject to kicking, and even, horror of horrors, one instance of hair pulling that had me apologising fervently and dragging the child out of the show midway. And yup. It was a kiddie movie, Shrek, if you must know. Which no kid in his class really enjoyed I learnt later. He goes for non kiddy movies now with us, which we think he will enjoy and always the evening shows. Never the late night shows. Yup. I'm the one more likely than he is to be shaken awake, the drool running down my chin, my snores gently causing little eathquakes in the immediate vicinity.
And as for shops and malls, unless he's physically threatening the security guard with his own assault weapons, and these are not luxury product stores with rarified stratospheres of hushed perfumed silences and preferred clientele, I do think its okay if he is around. He does need to learn to wait, to have patience and behave. And how will he learn how to behave in public, if not in public places.
Where I will not take him to:
A discotheque: For most obvious reasons. I wont be able to spot him running through the dancing throng in the darkness. And he might nip and bite if backed into a corner by narcissistic types dancing with their reflections.
Late night movies: Not for any real consideration for the feelings of the others around but because I believe that by 9.30 pm a child should be fed, tucked in and snoring.
A fine dining restaurant: Not until he is a teenager at least, and I can stop feeding him and cutting his food into bite sizes, and tucking his napkin into his shirt. To add to it, I'm as it is terrified of making an ass of myself with the gleaming rows on rows of cutlery to be doing it twice over for him as well. Plus the menus arent exactly bursting with stuff he'd willingly swallow without a lot of coaxing.
Dinner parties that are not kiddy birthday parties: I'd like to have a conversation with friends, standing in a single spot rather than jogging the mile marathon through the venue. And add to this the smoke and the drink and the general air of adults making a complete fool of themselves is not what I want the child to witness and comment on in a public situation later.
A Bar or a coffee shop: A coffee shop is an adult place in a way a bar is. It is unlike a pizza place or another fast food joint. When I want to escape from having my brat underfoot, I meet with friends at coffee shops over a cappuchino. It is a sacred place. As for bars, I dont go to bars anymore.
The beauty salon: With due apologies to the mothers who probably have nowhere to offload their offspring while they get primped up, its a disaster waiting to happen. Not to mention downright dangerous. Sharp implements. Hot wax. Chemicals. What kind of a mother would lay back getting her face pummelled while her child wanders around unattended in this Danger Zone?
If there ever comes about the much lobbied for child free flights, I dont think I will lobby against them. I just wouldnt book on those flights. I think everyone deserves some amount of peace, if they desire, and if they're willing to pay for it.
What do you think? Which side of the fence are you at?
In full pomp and regalia. With a mauled Jaipur pagdi. A Ganapati idol mukut. And rows of mamma's faux pearls completing the look.
What you dont see here is the cardboard scabbard and the mojris.
And what you must close your eyes to imagine is the swagger, and the sly glancing around to check out who is noticing and keeling over at this vision of three footer royalty entering the school premises.
And yes, thats his real name. With the Thakur. The Manrals are part of Kumaoni royalty I am told. I'd hedge my bets on it, until I have proof though. Some old text I am told puts them down as such.
Right now I'd be only just too pleased to see my little mongrel blood live up to the dignity implied by his ancestry and not insist on roaming the streets in Spiderman costume. Or Batman costume. This Maharaja costume though was mandated by school and is forgiven.
Yesterday the skies darkened ominously in the morning and thunder crackled through the windows at ear splitting volume. The brat who was snoring peacefully, with a slight smile on his face, no doubt through dreams of being let loose in a toy shop without Cruella de Ville Mamma repeating like a monotone "Only one small toy, only one small toy," leapt out of his skin and fled into the living room to find us sipping our morning cuppa peacefully.
"I is frightened. There's thundering and lightening."
I tried to hug him, but he was on a hate mamma mode.
"Dont be frightened of thunder," I tried, "Its only the clouds pushing each other to go fast across the sky."
His face remained tiny and petulant.
"I get frightened. Is scarier than Pappa snoring."
Pappa spent the rest of the morning asking Mamma repeatedly if he was really that loud.
General Knowledge lesson time.
Mamma is on educate the child overdrive given that beloved fruit of the womb seems to be reserving all his mental faculties for important tasks like intergalactic wars actioned by Batman and Spiderman and Superman.
Therefore, came this, sitting with the atlas spread open in front of us.
After the usual drivel about the countries and their capitals and their flora and fauna and their national monuments which, given that action figures were being called to arms, needed to shown by physical dipping the brat's head into the said encyclopedia for registration. Mamma started the question answer session.
"Which is the highest peak in the world?"
Brat doesnt even blink his eyes or have his action figures take a time out from their bout.
Amen.And that was the end of that lesson.
Monday, September 08, 2008
"Mamma, you go to Nana house and stay there. I stay here with Daadi and Pappa and Tauji. I getting new mamma.
Mamma's heart thuds to the floor and breaks into a million pieces.
She goes to hold her son and give him a hug.
"Dont hold me, dont touch me, dont give me kichu.I dont want you. Go Go.
Small tears begin pricking at the back of Mamma's eyes.
The entire day yesterday, the brat was aloof and morose and withdrawn. This morning too, he was happy to see mamma go. He was at home, courtesy a sudden thunderstorm while mamma hotfooted it to the office.
He gave her a cursory wave and continued with his playing.
She called home to check on him. He said loudly, "I not talking to mamma."
Mamma mopes around office like a post heart break victim. Teary eyed and morose.
This is what comes of being the disciplinarian when the rest of the household is falling over their feet to indulge him.
Adolescent angst has already set in with my child.
Okay, excuse me now while I blow my nose and mop my overflowing eyes.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Never mind if it is a religious occasion, you can count on Spidey to liven up the festivities with some swinging of the non scandalous kind. Big agarbattis are in actuality light sabres masquerading as incense releasers.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
We follow the little etiquettes of not leaving the Lord alone in the room ever, if at all, let the child keep him company for a bit. Its like a guest coming home. You need to be mindful. The diya should never burn out nor the agarbattis and dhoop. We ve solved that by getting these ingenious agarbattis that could substitute for walking sticks on an average day and stay lit and fragrant for hours so mamma with a memory like a seive can rest a little peaceful after it is lit and stuck into its holder. And if one can keept the brat and friends from using them as duelling swords.
The guests begin trickling in from ten am. Directly as the pandit finishes with his puja. I was on my feet till 11 pm, the last guests left at 11.30 pm. The feet were ready to hand in their resignations, without paid notice, by 10pm. The brat lounged around being cute and brattish in his Spiderman costume till around five pm, until the bulk of the guests were to show up. We usually have a five to seven slot for guests to drop in for bhajans and the evening aarti. Thats when the father raised his non stentorian voice and informed brat that should he not change into decent clothes instantly he would be sent to school. That did the trick and prickly sherwani was worn without a moue of protest and then followed by an hour of admiring self in every reflective surface including lying down on the floor and examining self up close. The dupatta was wrapped and draped in every possible permutation, putting mamma's practical round the neck to shame. And then, as the bhajan mandali cleared their throats and started their singing, the mike was ursurped by sherwani clad Bollywood aspirant and Om Shanti Om sung loud and clear. Followed by the Spiderman song. Followed by Dupatta tera nau rang ka. Followed by giggly and loud and crisply clear "Su-Su", "Potty" to much hyuck hyucking from the rest of the brat brigade hovering around the mike for their chance at singing. They were shooed away, but insisted on being the floor show.
So much dancing and singing happening. With the brat the ring leader. They brought their plates and sat right in front of the murti snacking away. They happily pinched the laddoos and pedas and modaks kept before and munched on them. Sugar fix done, they ran screeching through the house like a swarm of bees while the poor bhajan mandali struggled to stick to tune.
And then, at one am, when Mamma was snoring unbecomingly, her feet high on three pillows the brat awoke. "Mamma," he shakes me awake. "Come on. Oh My Friend Ganesha will come now. Lesh wait."
So Mamma and brat sat before the idol, unblinking from one am to three am, waiting for the Lord to manifest. Maybe he had. Maybe he was sitting right next to me and I didnt know it.
Ganapati Bappa Morya
Monday, September 01, 2008
This, of course, as you might deduce, has been inspired by the Salman, Shahrukh, Saif and Sanjay act in the Om Shanti Om title track. Mammas were scrambling for flung jackets.