Thursday, September 27, 2007

The symphony of an afternoon

A bright sparkly afternoon outside. The sun is radiating the last of its goodness before giving way to the more subdued tones of the evening. All is well, save for a little one caught in the throes of the sniffles and the ensuing battle of the body in feverish pursuit. He tries to put up a smile but his body reminds him once too often, and he dissolves into pitiful cries. He's been up for 3 hours since he last rested, and I know he should sleep.

I resort to the fiery goodness of a Vicks Vaporub. I rub it persistently on his chest, until I feel a warmth rising. Repeat the same on the soles of his little baby feet, and then trap the heat with his socks. And a little dab on the forehead, and a little dab on the nostrils. It is enough to set him wailing in the agony of the stinging heat. He whimpers, while I prop up some pillows to cushion his little head and back. He is not one to take things lying down, and I have to push him back into the softness, willing him to stay put, so I can move onto the job of gentler soothing.

Perhaps a song will work. No. It doesn't. I look at him...all watery eyes and a faintly pink nose. I try patting him very firmly...thump thump thump thump...it works for a few seconds only to give way to the restlessness once more. I begin to get a little desperate. Suddenly, I remember something I read earlier that day. Why not, I think???

And I begin chanting softly at first....auuuummmmmm...and he stops fidgeting and looks at me, in mid-cry. I say it then a little more deeply, loudly and with faith...and he completely stills, his body surrendering the fight of movement and giving in to the sated bliss of the vibration. He sinks into the pillow, his eyes locked into mine, a picture of repose and emptiness. I go on chanting...and I go on patting, an unbroken symphony of sound and movement, depth and gentleness, everything and nothing.

His eyes are still open, but his face is turned away...towards the window. He silently scans the cars whizzing past on the road...or does he? Not even a blink interrupts the gaze, and now I know that the eyes are unseeing. It is an empty gaze, emanating from the peace within his body. By now, the sizzling heat of the Vicks has died away to a refreshing coolness. His voice breaks out in a gentle accompaniment to my continued chanting. aaaaaaaaaa......

He goes on like this for sometime, while I keep up the symphony. His eyes are glazing over with sleep....but still remain open. My thoughts wander away from him and settle deep within me. The vibrations which started as a way to pacify are now casting a spell over me. I conjecture on what I read once about how Ganesha was said to be born when the Eternal Couple contemplated on AUM. How this symbol can be seen when he is viewed sideways...I close my eyes and focus completely on the sensations it generates. The aaaaa doesn't take much effort...it feels like a natural sound, something that will rise to the lips without thought. The uuuuu is brief, and the sound that I cross over, to settle into the vibration of the mmmmm. The mmmmm is achieved when the mouth is restful and closed. It escapes my lips, leaving little tremors behind. And as I say it more and more times, I sink deeper and deeper within it. It slices through all the false layers of the upper voice and releases the voice at the core...the true voice, the deepest voice. And I realise with a start, that this is my real voice. And this is the closest I will get to what is original.

I open my eyes and see that my hands have continued with the steady movement with a mind of their own. And it has worked, for the eyes are gently closed, and his little chest rises and falls with his breaths. I increase the interval between each successive pat, and chant a little bit more softly. There is no change in his countenance. I stop patting and leave my hand resting on his chest and the auuummm is barely a whisper. It makes no difference. He is deep in the recesses of slumber. I retract my hand dimly aware that they ache from the labour of comfort. And when my whispers die out, the silence that follows is deafening.

Slowly slowly, my hand feels normal again, and the silence is punctuated by the whooosh of the cars passing by outside the window. The serenity radiating from his sleeping form, mirrors the state of my mind and heart, and I give in to the understated luxury of laying down next to him and closing my eyes for a little while. And just then, my eyes fall on the letters embroidered on his little onesie....


And it doesn't b.e.g.i.n to describe how he looks to me just then...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Words of the Eternal...lips of a child.

There are some days when Winkie just totally shakes me with some of the most profound things. Out of the blue, they are like brilliant flashes of wisdom, coming from the most innocent of sources, without a thought.

For instance, the other day, he was eating breakfast, and I sat with him. And in between spoonfuls, he looked up at me and said...

Amma, I am your rescuer.

Can you imagine my feeling, upon hearing that? I was stupefied for a few seconds and then I recovered to ask him...Where did you learn that word?

From Shrek...he replied.

LOL. It must have been from that scene where Shrek goes into the tower room where Princess Fiona lay, and talks to her.

The word obviously made an impression and he remembers it. And then tries it out, for effect, on his unsuspecting Mamma, without actually knowing what it means. Little does he know, on how many levels, he is right.

Another instance, from yesterday evening. We had picked up his Dad from the station and were driving back home. R takes a look at Winkie in the rear view mirror and comments to me....He's looking really brown today, isn't he?

" Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of humanity. Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility."

I look back at him, as he looks out the window and note that he is indeed looking a bit more tanned than usual. I turn back around and then he pipes up...Appa, I am not looking braaauun. And then follows it up with a giggle.

So I ask him what colour he IS. He looks down at his hands. I am not blaaaccck. Another giggle.

Okay, you are not black, so what is your colour then?

I know he doesn't know words like wheatish etc, so I am curious to see how he will answer that.

And then comes the reply....

I am not braauun...I am not blaaack...I am not ANY colour. I am just ME.

!!!!

Me and R exchanged glances. And said the same thing in a look. Wow! Can wisdom get any deeper than this? Reminds me of a term I used back in another post....about the words of the Eternal coming through the lips of a child.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pat...pat...patties!

Long long ago, so long ago...that I don't know how long ago....okay okay....it was a year and some months ago, when Winkie first joined school, to be precise. One day, I dropped him off at school, forgetting his lunch box at home. Rats! I was about to rush back home and get it, when Uma said she'd give him some lunch herself. And that day, he had homemade veggie pattie burgers for the first time. He polished it off to the last bit on his plate, she said. So I borrowed the recipe from her, and then forgot all about it. I don't know why.

Now, with the recent meal debacles that we have had, and following the excellent suggestions from all of you, I have been inspired to think outside the 'pressure cooker', and whip up that forgotten meal and this will be my first contribution (in a line of many, I hope) to the series...



So...huddle closer, and I'll tell you the secret recipe.




For the Pattie:

Potatoes (steamed and mashed to a pulp!)
Rajma beans/kidney beans (steamed and mashed to a pulp)
Peas (cooked and mashed to a pulp)
Carrots (cooked and mashed to a pulp OR grated since I got tired of all the mashing!)
Any other veggies that you want to steal in, and would enhance the flavour (steamed and mashed to a pulp)

Spices for flavouring like cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala or curry powder, salt.

For the dressing up:

Cut lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions and cucumber
Ketchup, mayo, slices of cheese.

For the wrap:

Burger buns, bread slices, pita pockets, chappathis, tortillas. (I chose bread, since that's what I had at home!)




Combine all the veggies (mashed to a pulp!) and the spices. Take a slice of bread, run it through the mixer for a quick 2 seconds so it powders, and then mix it in with the stuffing. Flatten it out into little circles, squares oval, oblong or whatever shape is currently in trend in Toddler Town or Kid Kingdom, and then cook it in one of 2 ways:

1. Shallow fry on a pan, turning over every few minutes till it gets brown and crisp. (nice method, but it got charred in a few places and had that grilled burger taste.)

2. Coat with some oil and put it into the oven, turning over once in between. (much easier, healthier and effort free. I cooked at 350 degrees for 20 min, and then turned it around for another 10 min.)

Assemble the burger/sandwich/wrap now. Base spread with mayo, pattie, ketchup, sliced goodies, lettuce on top, followed by the cheese. Then cap it off.





It got an '8' rating from Winkie's taste buds. And only because he was sooo tired after some mega cycling and would have crashed on the table. I know I shall try every once a while, just so the novelty doesn't wear off.

And now, I have to say a very special thank you to dear Gauri, who revived this excellent idea for me over email. Here's what she says:

You could also try aloo tikkis. Small tikkis with a little bit of ketchup should be a hit. And if he likes the aloo tikkis - you could add any veggie - carrots, peas, spinach, spring onions etc to the potatoes and turn them into tikkis.

With aloo tikkis - if they are made flatter and thinner, put it into a burger bun, a couple of wafer thin slices of cucumber (optional) and a leaf of lettuce with some ketchup smeared on teh tikki - call it a veggie burger.

Shape the tikki differently - make it longer and flatter - stick it into a hot dog bun - some lettuce shreds - mustard (optional) and ketchup - you have a veggie hotdog.

Or try pita pockets - could be stuffed with just about anything right from boiled chick peas to boiled veggies. For a bit of diff you could try Caesar's salad dressing or 1000 island dressing instead of ketchup.

And there you are! The first thing I tried to break the bored, sick, tried, again? pattern...and it worked. There's a quote I hunted down, which sums up everything perfectly...

“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom.”

Precisely.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rush, run, race...rest?

5:15 Am. The distant sounds of Thambi crying out loud. The day has begun. Nurse him, change his diaper, come downstairs. 5:45. Brush, wash, start cooking. Tea brews. Carry Thambi, set him down, back to finish up the cooking. 6:30. Drink tea, check mails. Ready breakfast. R's down, eats, drinks, carries Thambi. I pack lunches, finish tea...7:45. 2 kids in car seats, R gets in...rush rush rush to train station. A little late, but train is late too. Phew! Stay till train leaves and is out of sight. Drive back home. 8:00 AM. Back home, and rush upstairs. Winkie's bath, Thambi's diaper change, a quick shower for me. Back downstairs for breakfast. Winkie takes the longest, Thambi's done in a flash and I get done in between. Shoes on, car seats belted, off we go to school.

9:00 Am. Winkie's in. Thambi's asleep. Short drive to grocery store. Park. Haul car seat onto the cart. Go in. Shop while T sleeps. 15 min later, he's up. Smiles, coos, looks around. Shopping done. Checkout. Load the trunk with bags. 10:17. Back home. Wash. Nurse. T down for a nap. 11:00. All bags away. 11:45. A quick lunch. Email. Catching my breath. 1:00. Pick up T and back to the car. Reach school. T sleeps on in the car. Chat. Pick up Winkie. Back home. 1:30. Movie for Winkie. Lunch for T. 20 min. Clean up. He's on the swing. Get dinner prep started. Kitchen clean up. 2:45. Thambi's massage. Singing. Soaking. Bath ready. Clean baby. Dress, nurse, nap. 3:30. Exhauuuusted! Just a 10 min nap? Close my eyes. Winkie sits by, reads a book in whispers. He doesn't want to wake me. 40 min later. Awake. Fresher. Downstairs. Tea. Milk. Biscuits. Cook dinner. Clean up. 6:00 PM.

Thambi's up. Rush rush rush. Change his diaper. Winkie washes up. I get ready. Both in car seats. Pack some tea and snacks for R. Water. Library books. Stroller in the trunk. Pack the cycle and gear. All set. Drive. Cellphone rings. R reminds me of slippers. Oh oh. Forgot that. U-turn at first light. Back home. Pack the slippers. Rush rush rush. Reach library. R reaches by bus. Drop off books. Thambi in stroller. Winkie geared for bike. 6:45. Set off for walk.

Aaaaaahhh! Finally. Slow down enough to enjoy the weather. Its getting dark. Insects are out. Boys getting hungry. Walk quickly back. 20 min later, reach car. Back home. Put together Thambi's dinner. Feed. Sleepy baby. Cranky baby. Winkie wiped out from cycling. No strength to eat. Feed. Hurriedly down my dinner in the midst of whining. 8:30. Upstairs for bed. Diaper change. Nurse. Thambi down in crib. Cry a little. Sleep 2 min later. Winkie wants a book. A book, even in that state. A long book. No, I say. Pick a small one. Pleading eyes. Oh alright! Read read read. Long book. 15 minutes. Not yet brushed teeth. Almost decide to skip. Change my mind. Drag him to the bathroom. Count till 10 slowly. Brush quickly. Bathroom. Bed. Stay with me, he says. So 5 min. He nods off. Back downstairs. Clear up. R's eating dinner. Kitchen clean. 9:30 PM.

A movie. Mind going blank. Peace. Quiet. Laid back. Typing. Watching. Typing. Finishing. 10 minutes more and time to rest the senses. Gear up to do it all over again tomorrow.

*sigh*

" Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."

Try as I might to stay in the moment and not rush through the days, it inevitably happens. That constant battle against time. And when I look back, I feel like I've missed out on doing the most important thing of all. Be with my kids. With a 100% attention. Make them smile. Make them laugh. Only barking orders. And being with R? He's tired too. Who's up for more words. The mind's already packed up for the night. It seems that we postpone living life to just those 2 days of the weekend. And despite understanding, to an extent, what this life is meant to be about, it all seems meaningless. I go through these snatches of mindless questioning. Where do we put on the brakes? What do we cut out to make it more enjoyable? How much more can we stretch it, to fit something in? How will we do it all? Happy sometimes. Sad other times. Angry. Frustrated. Ecstatic. Questioning. A little peace. Flare-up. This roundabout cycle. Is this it?

A penny for your thoughts...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Love...from across a thousand miles!

I have always loved packages from home. They always transport me. Starting right from the bag it came in...sometimes a Kumaran silks, or a Thangavel Nadar & Co. or a Suriya Sweets cover...they have a decided ethnicity. I love looking over the full address on the cover and trying to place where exactly the shop must be located. And this is just the beginning...

I fondly picture how only a few days ago my parents would have held that very same package in their hands as they hand over the goodies to the person making the journey. And for that instant, just that wee wee instant, the distances melt away and I can almost reach out and touch them. It is a mind's trick, but such a pleasurable one. And I feel for how lucky that person was to have met them and talked to them and smiled with them in the same room for that 1/2 hour.

I love the anticipation of the phonecalls that will take place very soon...their delight when they know I received it and then the questions asking for feedback...did you like it? Is it enough? Does it fit?

Dipping into the bag is of course the pinnacle of the whole experience. The childish love of a surprise takes over. And even if I know what to expect from it...I still hope for some untold goodies. Its not a pleasure derived from the object, but rather the joy of an unexpected discovery....and this time too, I am not disappointed.

A nazhi so I can continue to make Thambi home's best sustenance

2 little DVD's for a sure-to-be-delighted Winkie

Packets of Samahan in preparation for R's battle with the winter sniffles

Packets of cheedai....a belated but authentic Janmashtami treat

Ayurvedic lehiyams to make sure Winkie never coughs a single day this winter

...all these are the expected arrivals. And amongst them, one little thing stands out. It is an innocuous object, but since it is the surprise guest, it delights me no end. 2 packets of sticker bindis...and on both of them, my full name is written on top. I see my sister's touch and her hand in this. I hope and look for a letter, a handwritten note, anything....to see some words addressed to me, but that is missing. Emails rule the day.

And once I have extracted each and every object and laid them out, I find that the bag is still not empty. I peer inside more closely, and suddenly feel enveloped. By the love that found its way inside. The love that thought about my needs and matched them with the items that were sent; the love that fuelled the efforts that went into the many shopping trips to procure them; the love that dialled the numbers, made the appointment and undertook the visit to drop off the package with the person; the love that leaps out at me, when they hear my voice on the phone and feel a spark of happiness...the love envelopes my heart and makes me feel just a little more....and a little less...homesick.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sick, bored, again...aaarghh!

I knew it would happen someday. I'm only a little surprised that it happened this soon. And this is how the story goes...

Wednesday evening:

I cook dinner. I am not in the mood for anything fancy, so I keep it simple. Nice whole green moong dal cooked in the pressure cooker. Full of protein, full of goodness, very low maintenance. I know it won't be a runaway hit with Winkie, so I do my utmost to dress it up, by spooning it into a chappathi, putting some shredded cheese on top, wrapping it up and toasting it in the oven. Then I cut it up into little sections, arrange them nicely on a plate and present it to His Royal Highness. Moong wraps I say, when he looks at me questioningly. He looks very very dubious, but notes the determined set of my jaw, and begins tucking in. All is at peace, and I heave a sigh of relief that we haven't locked horns yet. Some 10 minutes, and 6 sections later, I hear the first sign of battle. A huuuge exaggerated sigh!!! The dreaded sigh. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end, but I decide to play it cool and ignore it. Seconds later, I hear it again. I turn to look at him. And there he is, hands resting on his chin, looking veeery disgruntled with life. What's the matter, I ask.

I'm so sick of this food Amma..he says tiredly.

.....**silence**.....

Even as I was wondering how I should feel about hearing that, I was conscious that I was not offended. Not in the least. And I just continued looking at him, my face blank. And he looked back at me. Sceptical. Knowing that he had said something potent, and waiting to see what the effect of that was going to be. After a full minute of speechless comprehension, I burst out laughing. Yes! And he looked shocked. I don't know if that qualified as appropriate behavior under the circumstances, but in a way, I was damn proud of him. Because this was soooo typical that it was lovable. Kids are not supposed to love their mom's food while growing up. In fact, they are supposed to screw up their noses in distaste 75% of the time, and the worth of home cooked meals is supposed to hit only when they move out of home. This qualified as a rite of passage in my eyes, and my son was bang on target!

And all jokes aside, if I really sat down to think about it, its easy to see why Winkie has a right to feel that way. His lunchboxes and meals were interesting enough when he had his Patti around. but once she left, my criteria for a meal was very simple and straightforward. Low fuss, healthy foods that could be made in under an hour. And its interest appeal, was not really considered. Plus, I am very particular that he should be in as much touch with Indian food as possible, while growing up here. So the end result was boring, repetitive but healthy meals and zero excitement in opening his lunch-box everyday.

Coming back to the Wednesday evening scenario, I empathised with him fully, and he somehow finished his meal and the day ended on a peaceful note, while I made mental notes to myself to pack him something nice the next day.

Thursday afternoon:

Its 1:00 PM and I pull up outside Winkie's home school to pick him up. Its a gorgeous day, and I see Uma and the kids sitting under the tree-shade enjoying picnic. But my son, he looks very morose. And I already knew the reason why. For that very morning, all my plans to give him something exotic washed down the drain, when I got carried away in the frenzy of a particularly chaotic morning with both the boys, and as a last resort, I packed up the leftover dal along with some rice for his lunch. Somehow, I thought, he wouldn't mind it so much in school, since they play right before lunch time and are well and truly hungry when they start lunch. But it was not to be. He recognised the moong from the moong wrap, and after the 10 customary spoonfuls that took the edge away off the hunger, his engine slowed down and sputtered to a halt. And he admitted to his teacher...I'm so bored of eating. My mom gives me the same food aaaaallll the time!

Thursday evening:

So I knew I really I had to get my act together and made him some mac and cheese that evening for dinner. He was suitably excited, suitably hungry and did reasonable justice. And when I say that, I mean 'not' that he finished the whole portion, but rather that it took him a third of the time it normally takes, and with fewer prods from me to get going. And things like being bored and sick, did not cross his lips that evening. And while I had won this round of the battle, I had yet not won the war, and Friday's boxed lunch would prove crucial. So back to the planning board it was.

Friday morning:

The day dawned bright, but chilly. One of those days when you just need a cup of hot ginger tea to warm those cold muscles and get going. And one of those days when a nice hot, buttery aloo paratha would be well received and win me some much needed favours. And so I set about, revved up by my tea...boiling the aloo, kneading the dough and rolling it out. It was my lucky day for there was no aloo popping out of the dough waiting to create a sticky mess and it came out to a buttery golden perfection. I wrapped it up in foil and put it inside his lunchbox. And before zipping it closed, I inserted a little note into it:

Hope you like your lunch today, Akhil....Amma.

My first surprise note to him. I couldn't wait to see how he would react and whether it would be favourable.

Friday afternoon:

1:00 PM and I walked in to his school. His teacher was the first to give me the feedback. He was surprised by the note. He enjoyed his paratha. I feel happy...he told her.

And at home, he kept asking me why I had thought to send him that note, and kept it by his side during dinner, reading it out loud between every mouthful. Round 2!!!

A swift weekend flies by and we are back to Monday morning:

And again a time crunch. So I make a hurried corn pulao and pack his lunch. En route, in the car, I tell him what he will eat later on that day, and he says...

Again?

*sigh*

[This is the cue for you, as readers, to pipe up with intelligent suggestions bearing in mind both criteria...mine and his, in return for a thousand mouthings of gratitude...mine and his!]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A letter to Winkie...

Dear dear Winkie,

I am writing this letter to you to remember and recollect a little incident that took place 3 nights ago. It was 3:00 Am, and me and your father were deep in sleep. And so were you, until the persistent wailing of your Thambi woke you. I am picturing how you must have lain in that sleep induced state for awhile, before finally realising what was happening. Thereupon, you got up and out of bed, padded across the room in the pitch dark, opened the door, walked across the passage, opened the door to our room, walked over to your father who was closest to the door, and tapped him ever so gently on the shoulder, and said...Appa, Sathya's crying...in a soft voice. And to me you said...Amma, put Sathya to sleep. Thereupon, you asked for permission to sleep on our bed and cuddled with your father, whilst I checked on Thambi. And when I returned, you linked hands with mine and stared at the ceiling in the dark, before the sound of your deep, even breathing reached my ears. I marvelled at how the bed became even more comfortable once your sleeping form lay on it. And we both loved waking next to you in the morning.

While sipping our coffee, we enjoyed reliving the whole incident all over again, and we plied each other for details. He recollected the gentleness with which you tapped him, thoughtful not to wake him roughly; I recalled your little silhouetted form outlined in the dark; he remembered the exact words you had said to him, and I recalled mine. And when you came downstairs, we searched your memory hungrily, to get a first hand account, of what you thought, what you felt and why you did what you did. Your answer was such a simple one. Because Thambi was crying...you said. You had a very goofy smile, sensing that you had done something that had pleased us immensely and you blushed. And I even told you that I thought you were very sweet and caring to have come to us like that in the middle of the night and I told you I was proud of you. You just giggled, like you had been tickled and forgot all about it the next instant. So amazing, this trait you have to simply move on. You move on easily, after a huge and raging storm we have had, and you move ahead just as easily, after a particularly happy moment. This equanimity is what makes you and other little ones like you so awe inspiring to all us adals.

And that is why I am writing this letter to you. So you can read it many many years later, and understand just how happy we felt about you that night, because right now, your childish innocence will not let you grasp how huge it was for us. You are such a good Anna, Winkie. Even if, yesterday night, you shooed me away while I was tucking you in, and asked me to attend to your crying Thambi instead, and I got all gooey with emotion, and asked you why you were doing that (expecting you to mouth this sweet line of how he needed me more)...and you said...because he is disturbing me, so make him stop Amma! Even so, you are a top notch bro, my little man. And a very honest one. Amen.

With love and fond remembrances,
Mumsie!

P.S. - Its been 2 whole weeks since you called home, young man! And where were you last night when I called your dorm room at 11:00 PM?

P.P.S - Oops! Sorry! Was just practicing! :D

Monday, September 10, 2007

7 months, tag, quirks, update!

very month, this time rolls around, and I realise how hard it is for me to sit down and write proper updates. I am talking about Thambi's monthlies. And it is hard, not for any emotional reasons (heck no!), but simply for finding the right words to capture all that is current with him. And so, I let each day slide thinking I'll do it the next day. And before I know it, a monthly becomes a month + fortnight feature. But thank goodness for this tag by Kodi's mom, which gives me the much needed push to talk about the baby of the house, while revealing his quirks too.

I am happy to say that he has been settling in at the babysitting facility in my gym. The ladies there have found the secret to keeping him calm. As soon as I leave and he starts to fuss, they put him in the stroller, set him near the boom box, wrap a blanket over the stroller to block out any external stimulation, and let him fall asleep listening to the music. It makes complete sense to me, because that is how he sleeps at home too....listening to the music. And now...here's quirk # 1...his preferred music is rap music, and MC Hammer in particular. The ladies there swear by it.


Here's a quiz question : What does pizza sauce, cake, chappathis, bread, broccoli, ice-cream, coffee, gulab jamun and pancakes have in common? Answer : They have all found their way into the baby's mouth sometime or other in this past month. He is all agog about food now, only, not his baby food, but rather the novel exciting stuff that finds its way into all other mouths save his own. And already he has realised that he needs to be aggressive and demand his share, otherwise he ain't getting any! At least not till he sprouts a pearly or two! And the fun part is how he asks for it, and it becomes quirk # 2. The minute he spots a coffee cup, or an item of food in the near vicinity, his eyes open wide and become alight, his body turns stiff and he sits up straighter, his hands come to life as they get ready to reach out and grab and he starts to grunt confirming to me....that this is probably how the early man communicated. *grunt**grunt**grunt* until he gets a sampler. And *grunt**grunt**grunt* when he wants more. And the sweeter the item, the fiercer the grunt. I guess this effectively establishes the fact that he has a sweet tooth. Just like his Anna. Just like his Appa. And just like me!

I love playing little games with him. One of my favorites is the loyalty game. From time to time, I spring a bottle on him and test his steadfastness. And he n.e.v.e.r lets me down. So now the bottle has been relegated to the farthest corner in the shelf as a useless relic of his baby days. But thank God he doesn't treat the cup on the same footing. He likes to drink his water from it and sips like a champ, with the valves on. For me, this is a huge huge deal because Winkie never gave me the satisfaction of taking to a cup until it came to a struggle that lasted all thru to the end of his second year. Speaking of sipping, something funny and cute happened yesterday while we were at Ikea. We had bought a cold drink of Mountain Dew and were drinking it from a straw, when as usual, we heard the all too familiar grunt. *grunt*grunt*grunt* until his father brought the straw to his lips, thinking the most he could do would be to lick the straw. But the sipper champ did his thing, quite unexpectedly (I didn't think he would be able to counter the force of gravity!), and a sizzling burst of cold caffeinated fizz exploded in his tiny mouth, and he drew back in shock, his face contorted in the weirdest way possible! In a few seconds, he recovered though, and we discovered. That the sipper has already become defunct...he's ready for the straw!!

There's this other little game that I discovered quite by accident. Once you read it, you are going to think me a mean mommy to call it a game, leave alone having indulged in it quite a few times! If I raise my voice just a little bit, in annoyance, irritation or whatever, he immediately turns his face away from me. And keeps it turned, whilst stealing sly glaces at me every few seconds to gauge whether I am still irritated or annoyed. If I am, he turns away again and refuses to meet my eye. A few repeat rounds of this, and finally I smile. And I see a reflection of my smile on his face, as he relaxes and makes little sounds as if to say...Boy...that was a little scary, don't do that to me again Ma..! I was and continue to be simply astounded by the very adult emotion and reaction he displays during these times. And while that first time was an accidental discovery, the future repeat performances on my part, were not. How can I stop myself from watching him go from baby to little man and back to baby, in those few sweet minutes? *sigh*

The sight of Winkie gets him veeeeerrry excited. But there is a hidden clause in this. The optimal distance for his enjoyment has to be a good 3 feet above his Anna, which happens when he is perched in my arms or that of R. From this safe nest, he will watch Winkie and his antics in fascination, and bounce up and down in response. The minute they are within arm's reach of one another however, he becomes a little wary. For Anna, in all his sudden surges of love and affection has this tendency to squeeze his head a little too tight, while kissing him. And Thambi, likes that, not! Which brings me to the much overdue quirk # 3....Thambi's little jack-in-the-box springing antic. He suddenly springs to life, just as we are carrying him down the stairs while cautiously watching our step, and bounces and wriggles his whole body all over the place. And I just can't figure out what all the excitement is about, and why he launches into it at the precise point when we reach the 3rd step???


Okay, now I have a confession to make. A very silly, silly, and highly embarrassing one. And it is this : I make up many silly names for him. And talk to him in silly lang. And sing absolutely meaningless gibberish songs with great gusto. But this confession is not about talk and song...it is about the names. And its not a name outright....rather more of a little snippet verse in silly script which I use only for him, and which he knows is only for him. I conclude this because of the way he responds to me when I sing it. R picked it up too, and uses it sometimes, but it never gets that same instant look and smile as when I sing it. My mom picked it up too when she was here, and Winkie knows it by heart, tho he mixes up the words. (what words!!!) Okay...so you want to know what it is....I'll come out with it soon enough, after some more ramblings. The whole silly names thing actually deserves a whole separate post all of its own, because there have been so many that made the rounds at different points of time. Notable among them are *gulp*...Mushtaq Ahmed. Yup, you heard me right. I used to call little baby Thambi that from Month 1 to Month 4. And somewhere after that, the trail ended and it got left behind, in the annals of weird, but not so forgotten names. Now why would I nick my baby after a Pakistani leg spin bowler, you may wonder. Well, wonder all you want. Conjecture. Analyse. Fathom. But figure it out, you will not. Because figure it out, I have not! Its just one of those unexplained sillies! But I no longer call him that. What I call him now....correction..the little verse I sing to catch his attention...is a carefully rendered version and it goes like this...(and you probably need magnifiers to read this, for only the use of the smallest possible font size will allow me to come out with it!)

gustakhi ka mustakhi...

dushmana dushmana dustakhi!

And when that is done, I follow it up with...

kushmaniya dushmaniya

gundu gundu bushmaniya!

Okay, moving on, and fast!

Let's do #4 and make Thambi the quirky one again. This one is also about a song. But its a well known, established baby verse. Saanjaadu Amma saanjaadu...the minute I start singing it to him, he stops all movement and looks at me, riveted. Funny how a song that is supposed to have him rock back and forth in tune, makes him absolutely still. But I know the reason for that. It is the song that my mom always sang to him, and now when he hears it, he connects it to her, and stops in concentration. Its his lovable quirk. And a very useful one too. I store it deep inside, and brandish it, like a sword at the most opportune times, like when he deems he is done with eating and wants to blow messy raspberries instead; or when he can't even spare a few seconds for a diaper change, and wants to rollover and be on his way....I lovingly extract it and let the words escape my lips. And it stops him in his tracks. E.v.e.r.y time.

Speaking of stopping him in his tracks, this makes a definite quirk # 5! Ever since he learnt to roll over, that's all he wants to do and try. He is one of those practice-makes-perfection babies and not the quintessential new-skill-leads-to-next-skill child. In an attempt to challenge him to move forward, I enticed him with a little book that he could chew and munch on to his heart's content, placed some distance away. He stared at it for the longest possible time, part of the pensive strategy process, I reckon, and then managed to get ahold of it. But did he move forward like I planned he would? Nah ah! Why should he, when he can just roll this-a-way and that-a-way and this-a-way and that-a-way, and somehow find himself in the close vicinity of his drool-worthy object? I should just take him to the temple, let him have a go at it and accumulate some of the Almighty's favours in the process!

Okay okay, so I am being a little harsh on him...let's put things back on an even keel now. My baby has also learnt to confer sweet kisses. There are moments, when I suppose a rush of affection overcomes him, and he leans forward to plant some wet, slobbery ones on our cheeks. And there are moments, when the same rush of affection comes on, and instead of leaning forward himself, he will hook a hand around an ear (ours), another hand grasps the nose (ouch!) and anchored thus, he pulls himself close for the said contact. Lazy fellow! All said and done, it is terrifically blissful and flattering. Me and R always keep a count of who packed in more of these k's on a particular day. And I got a head start just today morning, when the chosen moment arrived just after we came home after dropping Anna to school. He hooked with his right, he grasped with his left, leaned in close and made my day. And just for that, I will choose to disregard the little scratches he left behind, reminding me to cut his nails!

And speaking of sweet nothings, a weekday morning ritual has established itself in our lives. We now undertake the morning drive to the train station to drop R off, who gets out of the car, opens Winkie's side of the door first, ruffles his hair and kisses him goodbye. All this while Thambi watches on silently. Then R closes the door and starts walking over to the other side. And the minute he closes the door, Thambi turns his face towards the window waiting for his father to reappear and kiss him goodbye. We make special note of it everyday. And I relish how he has tuned into this bit of regularity and has learnt to anticipate it. I just love it!

*For someone who has trouble finding the words, she sure has a lot to say!* Well, if that's what you are wondering, then its time to wrap up this post! So I'll do it with his last quirk. # 6. He coughs when he wants to get our attention. And he coughs as a way of speaking. He coughs to communicate something. At first, I got a little stressed thinking he was suffering from a very irritant throat. But pretty soon, I realised that he's just being deliberately noisy and practicing a new sound that he has learnt to produce. And going by his penchant for ""practice"", the cough is here to stay.

Am leaving you here with a snapshot of Thambi taken on the day he completed 7 months, and capturing one of his firsts....the first ever time he sat on a swing in the park, and he rather enjoyed it. It was a breezy evening, and the gentle up and down motion of the swing, put him in a trance.


And now for the business of winding up the tag of little quirks, I specifically tag the young man Chip, Ana, Little N and Chula!

And now for my very own tag...called the silly names tag, I tag Kodi's mom as a thank you gesture for getting me started on all of the above. Also on the tag list are :

The Mad Momma, UTBT, Boo & Moppet's Mom. I am hoping you guys will come up with sillier ones than mine!

Rules of the tag, if not already clear are : To reminisce and own up to all the silly names you have used to fondly refer to the main protagonists in your lives, and please...spread the tag love people!

Edited to add : I am also tagging Mnamma, especially after her comment confession of eccentric sillies. :D. I leave the rest of the bloggers' names for the tagged ones to pick up. I don't want to appear greedy, you see.

And now, I am off, to go wake up a sleeping, 7 and 1/2 month old Thambi, with my special song! ;)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

auuu...up...or...?

A little exercise in some basic language...

Starting off with a simple 'a' sound, and then the tongue touches the roof of the mouth with some emphasis, and then mouth opens again to form the 'aaaa'. - A.n.n.a.

Start now by putting the tongue right behind the two upper front teeth, make the sound and then open up to an 'aaaa', and back again to repeat it a second time. - T.a.t.t.h.a

Coming back to the 'a' sound, and the lips close together, and with a short burst of air , open up and end with the 'aaaa' - A.p.p.a

Where did all this come from, you may wonder. Well, I was spending some time with Thambi, and mouthing out all these simple words to prompt him to try them out on his tongue. He watched me intently and then broke into a wide smile. And it made me spend some time in trying out all these sounds in slow motion, just to see exactly what kind of movements it took to achieve the said words. A very fascinating exercise. And I began to appreciate just what lay ahead of him to master, and how he would begin.

Winkie's very first words was 'Aum' or in the more familiar letters...'Om'. Yes, we were startled too, when at the tender age of 5 months, he lay happily on his grandfather's lap, watched his lips intently as he chanted the word slowly and with deep reverberation, and the wee little one, pouted his lips in the exact same manner, and said 'auuuu'. It was perfect. And the video caught it all. And then, there was never a repeat performace, and he kept us waiting for the next 15 months, before saying his very first real toddler-stage word....'up'. He pointed his index finger towards the ceiling and said up.

I tried 'auuu' on Thambi too...some weeks back, and it reduced him to tears. Probably the serious conjecture on my face unsettled him a bit and he showed his upset. Now, he's more stoic about it, and I too remember to wear my smile and take the edge off it. :) Still, no sounds have escaped his baby lips.

And in the end of all this word exercise, I came back to this one...

The same 'a' sound, with the open mouth. Bring together the lips and let them touch gently, and with no added effort, no extra emphasis. And then slowly open up again to go back to the 'aaaa'.....A.m.m.a....simple, effortless, full of comfort, full of sighs, full of soul.

So what will it be...the auuu...the up...or Amma? It remains heavily shrouded in time's mystery.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Double Trouble in 2007!

Krishna Janmashtami this year has been a very special one what with two little Krishnas to dress up and adorn. I was really looking forward to seeing how Thambi would look wearing a dhoti, chandanam on his forehead and a pearl necklace. Well, we'll get to that bit soon enough.
But right now, I just have to gush about how I love the feel of a festival. Starting with the casual mentioning by my mother or MIL that it is coming up on such and such date, and then a reminder email or phone call, closer to the actual date. Recipes are hurriedly sought and patiently given for the nth time. And then finally, that day is born. We don't make a big event of each and every auspicious day in the calender, but there are some that we never miss as far as we can help. Gokulashtami is one of them.
I spent some time cleaning out the kitchen where I would prepare the prasadam. And then, I mixed some rice flour for the drawing of Krishna's footprints. At first, I thought I'd dip Thambi's feet in it and form the impressions on the floor. But it looked too faint. And so, once his basic footprint took form, I filled it in more to make it look brighter. And then I made the prasadam. A simple offering of vella aval (poha and gud). And then came the fun part of dressing up the boys. Winkie, for the very first time in all the 3 years that I have dressed him up, actually cooperated and enjoyed the whole thing. Thambi was a lot harder. He was hungry and getting sleepy, but we really wanted this one opportunity to see them both dressed up together. And of course for the pictures. So we kept it very simple instead.


All the daylight had given way to nightfall, so the opportunity to shoot them in natural light was gone and we had to use the flash. We sat them both down in their kutti sofa, draped a white cloth over it and R clicked left, right and center, while Thambi could still be distracted with a hand-clap and some songs. The one on the left was the first picture. Regular enough. The second one turned comical with Winkie looking down and Thambi looking up. And to take a different angle, I walked over to the side, and both of them followed me with their eyes, which should explain the 3rd pic on the left. And over to the right, Winkie got immersed in checking out whether any part of the chandanam was peeling off, while Thambi struck this singing bhagavathar pose. And in this next one, affection took over and its expression took precedence over preening for the camera, at least in Winkie's case. And this last one on the right is my favorite because it was a moment in which both of us fond parents were all eyes for the little baby who was smiling so sweetly while attempting to topple over, and we caught the same expression mirrored on the big brother's face too. Sweet thing!
And once Thambi had simply had enough, we let him off the hook. But Winkie was made to try and stand in the exact pose of Krishna as he holds up the Govardhana hill on one hand, whilst standing on one leg, and it was such an awkward pose for him to get into that he kept losing balance. These pictures capture the innocent attempt. And the second picture had me plunging into nostalgia and the archives in that order, because it caught him in a kind of running pose, which was the exact pose from his 1st year Janmashtami pictures.


Anyways, once the photo-shoot for posterity ended, we had a little prayer session at the end of which we could dig into the delicious prasadam. It was a very simple proceeding in all. I am not very big on rituals and poojas, simply because I don't know how to go about them. There was a point of time when I used to even question why we had to do all those things. After all, isn't it simply enough to try and live your life doing your duty and being of value to everyone? Why resort to all these traditions? Why all the elaborate rituals, done simply out of habit? Being married to R has had its advantages though. :) For he has been able to enlighten me on several of these fronts. And thru him, I realised that everything is deeply symbolic and steeped in spiritual meaning.
For instance...a simple everyday occurrence...lighting the lamp. I read up on it and this was the beautiful explanation...the flame is light and represents knowledge. The oil or ghee in the lamp represents all our negative tendencies and the wick is our ego. Thus, when lit by spiritual knowledge, our negative tendencies gets steadily exhausted and the ego perishes little by little. The flame always burns upwards, which signifies that we should acquire knowledge that takes us towards higher ideals.
Such realisations totally entranced me, and I began to look at everything else in a new light. When I cleaned out the kitchen before making the prasadam, I was in fact, cleaning out all the clutter in my mind and heart and creating sacred space for the preparation of the offering.


When I drew the footprints on the floor, I remembered from my childhood days that it symbolised the entering of Krishna into the home and his presence within it. But there's another really cute story behind it which I discovered online today in a Sai Journal. We have all heard about Krishna and his maakhan chor antics. Apparently, once he broke the pot of butter, he would distribute it to all His playmates and then trample on it and run away. And then the gopikas would go and complain to Ma Yashoda about her son, who would go out looking for him to punish him. But how did she know where he was hiding? Why from the footprints smeared in butter and curds of course!!! I was so delighted to discover this little snippet, and realised that while tracing out the footprints on the floor, I was in fact re-constructing evidence to give away the Lord's presence to His mother. It made me smile.


And all these little little things made the whole day so meaningful. Festive. Exciting. And a class apart from just another regular day. All the things I want my sons to also tune into and feel in the years that they grow up under the roof that we provide. So while we may strive to lead just and worthy lives, taking up rituals in the original spirit in which they were intended gives it a whole new dimension.


We ended the busy day with a little story time, where none of us did the telling and all of us did the listening. We extracted the story CD (Karadi Tales) that Winkie's grandparents had sent over for his birthday, switched off all the lights, set the volume at just the right level, closed our eyes and listened....to the story of the birth of Krishna. It was only 9:00 PM with another 3 hours left to go till the hour of his birth at midnight...but he certainly came alive for us just then in that mystical setting.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Just another day in highlights!

Following the upbeat kind of day I had last, Thursday dawned all bright and lazy! It already had that Friday morning feel and I had mentally wound things down for the long labour day weekend. Once R headed off to work, I debated over whether to send Winkie off to school as usual and follow our regular pattern or keep him home so we didn't have to start the morning rush. One look at the gorgeous weather outside, and I decided he could bunk school, but stay at home...we would not! So I called up his teacher and told her I was going on a picnic with my sons, and could she please excuse Winkie for the day? She gave her blessings and I gave Winkie the news. Yeaaaaayyy...he squealed in delight. No school, and an impromptu trip to his favorite place? Double whammy!

So we had a leisurely breakfast, him and I. And then showered and dressed, and once Thambi had some cereal inside him, we packed the picnic basket and set off. I was a little nervous about taking the two of them out on my own for an extended period of time. But the gorgeous weather and soaring spirits did wonders to my confidence. It was a short 15 min drive to Waterwhoosh. A gorgeous place nestled near the city's downtown, with beautiful walking trails along the river, a lovely play park right in the middle of the woods, ample picnic spots and just the most idyllic surroundings possible. This place also holds a lot of my memories. It was here that I took a long walk with my mom and R, just the evening before Winkie was born. And when he was older, we used to take him there for walks and he christened the place waterwhoosh after listening to the sound of the water rushing over the rocks in a steady whoosh. We have spent many evenings there, just walking, feeding the ducks, listening to the water and enjoying the bells tolling in the distance.

When we arrived there, it wore a very festive look. For one, there was a big turnout at the park. And it was only 10:30 in the morning. But I wasn't surprised, for who could have resisted such perfect weather. And I guess I keep talking about the gorgeous-perfect over and over and its because it really was so. There are many days when its nice outside, but without much of a breeze, and the bright heat of the sun becomes hard to bear. And then, there are days in the summer, when its just plain humid, that even a little breeze cannot alleviate your discomfort. And then there are those days, when its breezy enough, but thick clouds obstruct the warmth of the sun. And then of course those plain windy days where you'd rather stay indoors. But today....all the elements came together in absolute harmony, and the symphony of their functions was a delight to all the senses. It was a beautifully bright sunny day, with clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds. The sun shone brightly between the treetops and it was all an eyeful. There was this divine breeze that kissed everything in its movement....and tantalised your skin with pleasantness. And the ensuing rustle of the trees swaying in unison formed such a soothing white noise for the ears, that every part of you screamed gratitude for such perfection. The lawns were covered with a pretty carpet of dried leaves that had fallen from their swaying homes and lay silently under my feet. And its not often that this kind of day happens, and when it does, you can well imagine the effect it had on me.

We set off on a little walk along the river trail, with Winkie leading the way, and me following close behind pushing Thambi in his stroller and clicking pictures. Oh he was sooo excited, gleeful and happy. He sang silly songs to himself, pausing every now and then to look back at me and smile, whence I would try and click a picture of him. Every now and then we'd see people crossing our paths...men and women walking their dogs, other mothers pushing strollers and smiling pleasantly, and old old snowy white haired couples ambling slowly by, stopping to smile at Winkie and coo at Thambi and wish us a good day. There was such a feel good atmosphere permeating the air that morning. And I was happily contemplating how a little bit of beauty from nature brought out such joy in people...and how it united them in a feeling of shared camaraderie, of oneness. Pardon me, for I shall be using this word quite often....but it was just beeeeyutiful and I was glad a 100 times over that I had gotten over my lethargy and just gotten out the door!!



We made it to our first stop...a bridge overlooking a very placid river on the one side, and when you walk to the opposite side, the river suddenly turns rapid, and gurgles its way downstream. The picture up there is the placid side of it....and Winkie looks down from the other end down to his waterwhoosh. There is something very relaxing about the sound of rushing water, isn't it? Especially the sound of it rushing over mossy rocks, pulling twigs and leaves alongwith it, and racing racing down the stream....very lulling and very steadying. Winkie was lost. He just stared down at the water from a comfortable position on the bridge railing and his whole body exuded calm and peace. Little Thambi, on the other hand, was tiring of his cushiony backrest on the stroller and wanted to be lifted. I obliged him for a little while and we all watched the water whoosh down the rocks in silence.


And then, it was time for some play! Winkie decided to help with the civic upkeep of the park grounds, by gathering all the fallen leaves in a pile, carrying them in a bunch and throwing them off the bridge into the rushing waters below. He'd count and get exactly 10 leaves each time, and then carry them dutifully for their onward journey. It was acually a pretty sight, watching the leaves fly hither thither in the breeze before finally dotting the water and disappearing out of sight. Such a simple exercise providing such a lot of fun! Harmless, no-cost, happy play that I didn't have to raise my eyebrows for or say no to. Priceless!!!

All the up and down work whet Winkie's appetite. He declared that he was ready for the picnic lunch. And so, we left the happy bridge and started walking back towards the park. I stopped along the way to take so many pictures, that the hungry man got a little upset with me and enacted a little protest right in the middle of the path. I had to finally pack the camera back into the bag and cajole him into striding action...but not before I clicked this last picture of him in the heart of the protest! After that, it was quick progress and walked without stopping. And with the wafting breeze, more thoughts came floating to my mind.. I always have this problem. Whenever I find myself in a particularly beautiful setting of nature, I feel helpless... restless even. For with surroundings so beautiful, I wish to be such an intricate part of it, fused interminably with it and I don't quite know how. How can you look at a beautiful painting and not wish to be inside it, rather than be the spectator that views it from the outside....a separate entity. I look, I see, I smell, I relish, I feel joy but I feel incomplete. Like there should be something more that I need to do to become wholly involved. This has always been a feeling that I have carried, and it came to me now. I took in every aspect of that beautiful place with my eyes, I clicked pictures for making the memories, I emptied my mind of all thought (well nearly all!)...I left all my worries behind and just stayed in that moment, and yet it didn't feel enough. And as I kept walking, I waited for some profound revelation to come to me, but nothing did. All that was there was the steady rhythm of my feet keeping pace, one foot in front of the other, taking me forward and along. The eyes kept seeing and all the senses received their share of the pleasure, and the scenes kept varying themselves. Maybe that IS all there is to it. But I am yet to fully appreciate that.


Pretty soon we reached the parking lot and got out the picnic basket. We now had to find a good picnic spot. I spotted one just a little away from the park, in a huge grassy area with tall tall trees. We stopped under one with ample shade and spread out our picnic cloth. We had worked up an appetite and dug into the sandwiches I had packed. A very simple affair of thin tomato wedges arranged on a slice of cheese formed the filling. Thambi demanded a share and munched delicately on soft bits of bread. We also munched on some olives and slurped our mango juice and felt some of the lost energy returning. Winkie put on his sandals and dashed around the lawn picking up sticks and making a loot of it, while Thambi played hide and seek with the dancing rays of sunlight streaming through the tree branches. When a particularly bright ray caught his face, he would avert it in a quick reflex motion and stay frozen until a few moments passed, whereby he would slowly brave turning his face back to the original position, feeling tentatively for the same blinding brightness. He made a comic sight, but this picture managed to capture him in his moment of bravery and also gave his face the soft glow of natural light that it shall remain one of my all time favorites of him.



Then Winkie was all geared up to be done with our stationery setting, and head for the action of the slides and monkey bars. So we quickly packed up and headed to the lovely little park that is nestled right in the heart of the tall wooded grounds. And while the big boy climbed little rock mountains, swung high on the swings and played with some beach sand...the baby boy slept peacefully in my arms, while I sat back leisurely on a shady bench. Loud chirping of the birds, excited squeals of playing children, the swoosh-swoosh of the trees swaying overhead, the sound of a child's name being called out by a father here, a mother there....all formed a united chorus that stilled all the voices in my head. There was no other place that I would have rather been in, no other person I would rather become....than the here and now.

And peaceful as it all may sound....there were also little things that got in the way every now and then. Nothing goes so smoothly, that there is no exception to take note of. For instance, I did buckle under the awkwardness of pushing a stroller with one hand, and lugging a big basket in the other; of alternating between taking pictures on the camera and footage for the video, replacing lens caps, ensuring they didn't get scratches; the oft futile efforts of capturing stills of an impatient and moving child who refused to cooperate; chasing away all the ants, flies and bees who came in search of the food from our picnic; pushing Winkie on the swings with one hand while holding Thambi in the other....these were the moments of reality that irritated and burdened me, and threatened to overturn my mood. But I like to think back on them as my little tethers, ensuring I stayed strapped to earth, when I might have otherwise floated away in the magical breeze of that magnificient morning.