A Really Long Weekend

March 30, 2009

It seems like more things have happened on this weekend than can possibly be crammed into three short days.

Apart from the puncture saga related earlier, the highlight of the weekend was an impromptu dinner party during Earth Hour. We were actually supposed to go to S&S’s place for dinner on Saturday (two dinner invitations in a row!), but the venue was changed at the last minute to our place. It didn’t matter too much, because nobody was cooking – it would be an order-in kind of evening, with some drinks, snacks, and ice cream. A fairly typical get together with S&S, V&V, and their respective kids.

I managed to organise some ready-to-fry fish and chicken snacks, and S&S contributed ready-to-fry french fries (leftover from another such get together in the distant past).We laid in provisions of juice, soft drinks, and ice cream, and we already had Vodka at home, so we were all set for a good time. It had been a long time since the six of us got together at our place, and I must say I thought it was a lot of fun. The kids, after an initial ice-breaking pause, completely freaked out together. We turned out almost all the lights at 8.30 and kept them off till 10.30, and the semi-darkness was quite nice, too. Ordered in food arrived promptly at 9, by which time three of the four kids had been put in bed. In fact, everything went like clockwork and we even got to bed by about midnight.

So that was fun, but that wasn’t all.

On two of the three days of the weekend, we took the kids swimming. And they loved it! Of course, “swimming” is a bit of an exaggeration – Tara got into the water and held on to the railing quite happily, but Mrini for the most part preferred to sit on the edge and dangle hands and feet in the water. But she was happy doing that, so that was good enough for us. She was, of course, eager to see the “fishy-fishy” in the water; apparently, she still has fond memories of the trip to Lakshadweep, specially the short trip in the glass-bottomed boat when she saw lots of lovely, brightly-coloured “fishy-fishy”; however, this did not induce her to spend too much time actually in the swimming pool.

So much for highlights. I didn’t have to spend any time working this weekend, which was good, but… I did happen to glimpse an email from the customer’s customer saying that they probably didn’t have any work for us for the next several weeks. Which was not so good. Now I have the unenviable task of telling my team of 30 writers that I can no longer provide them with the jam for their bread and butter right now. Plus, that pretty much puts paid to my bread and butter as well. Such are the vagaries of contract labour.

And then, there’s the whole Earring Saga. But that’s another story.

Deflated. Re-flated?

March 29, 2009

One day, a few weeks ago, we were taking the kids and heading out in the old car one evening, when we found we had a puncture. We ditched the car, hailed an auto, and struggled with changing the tyre a few days later. Then the punctured tyre lay in the car awaiting repairs for another ten-odd days. By the time we got around to getting it fixed, the car hadn’t been started for over two weeks. It refused to start, something it has almost never done in all eight years of its existence. We thought the battery had died, but it turned out the petrol had dried up. Overall, it was a bloody nuisance.

A couple of weeks later, we had another puncture. Amit decided to take advantage of this opportunity to give me a live demo of changing a tyre, while the girls watched and helped. The lesson came to a quick end when one of the girls picked up a tool and drew a couple of artistic scratches on the sparkling clean new car’s paint.

This time, we didn’t waste any time getting it fixed. Despite my hectic work schedule, I fled to the puncture repair shop almost the very next day.

Then, last Friday, after a delicious dinner of pau-bhaji at S&P’s place, we all headed out for ice cream. Since they are three and we are four, we thought we’d take two cars (though, with three under three, we could have squeezed into one). When the four of us got to our car, what do we see? You guessed it – another flat. Well, in our collective determination to get our ice cream, we all piled into one car, and the next day we were faced with yet another change-the-tyre-and-get-the-puncture-fixed outing.

Meanwhile, the new car, just over six months old, had also suffered its first puncture. Tubeless tyres are not supposed to get punctures, but this one had. Strangely enough, it was the front right tyre in both cars that seemed to be particularly susceptible to punctures. When Amit took that one to get it repaired, he was told that tubeless tyres cannot really be repaired. He came home and spent a perfectly foul Saturday afternoon waiting for the company mechanic to come and take a look. The mechanic came, saw, and pronounced: intentional damage, with a sharp instrument. We could have the tyre tubed, have it repaired, or throw it away and buy a new one.

What? After six months of use?

So, on this long weekend, it looked as if neither car was at all reliable, with an un-repaired puncture apiece. We had decided that the old car probably needed new wheels (or at least, new tyres) but had been trying to put off the purchase till the next financial year. Now, with the new financial year three whole days away, it looked altogether impossible. On Saturday, after spending a couple of hours surfing the Net and speaking to dealers on the phone, Amit went out to procure a set of tyres. The first shop he went to quickly removed the current wheels, then told him that, since there was no electricity, they couldn’t actually put the new tyres on the car. “But electricity will be back in 5 minutes, we’ve checked with KEB,” they said glibly. After 45 minutes, Amit got them to put the old tyres back on and drove to another shop. In an hour or so, he was done.

So, I got me some new wheels. Not, sadly, a whole new car, but an old car dressed up with new wheels. Meanwhile, the new car is still sitting with its old, torn tyre in the boot. Amit has been too – deflated? – to get that replaced, but we’ll have to do it sometime soon.

Book Review – Are You Experienced?

March 28, 2009

This book, by William Sutcliffe (whom I haven’t previously heard of) I picked up on a whim. It was – on the face of it – about a young British chap travelling in India. What it actually turned out to be was as much about his love life as about his travels, but it was quite entertaining all the same. I’d say it was worth a read, though maybe not quite worth buying.

One part of it was just fabulous, though. The guy was traveling on a bus from Delhi to Manali and a Hindi movie was playing. Here’s his description:

“As far as I could tell it was about a guy who wants to marry a sexy girl, but his parents want him to marry an ugly girl. Just when he’s about to marry the ugly girl, he discovers that the sexy girl has been kidnapped by an ugly man who wears black leather and scowls at the camera. The hero rushes out on a horse in search of the kidnapped sexy girl, and has a punch-up in the desert with the ugly man. He’s about to save the sexy girl when it emerges that the ugly girl is in cahoots with the ugly man, and she has somehow tied the father to a chair in the sand and is in the process of pouring petrol all over him. The ugly girl pulls out a box of matches, and they all pause to sing a song. Just then, fifty blokes in black jump out from behind a bush that wasn’t there until they jumped out from behind it and start shooting at the hero, who hides behind a small wooden box. Eventually, he comes out, holding a white handkerchief, but when the ugly man in black comes to gloat (which he does in song) the hero trips him up, steals his gun, and shoots all the fifty men in black who jumped out from behind the magically appearing bush.

The father, whose petrol seems to have dried off, frees himself from the chair and has a comedy fight with a fat man who appears to serve no purpose. The sexy girl points out to the hero that the ugly girl is escaping through the desert just as the father defeats the fat man by putting a bucket on his head. The hero, the father and the sexy girl then all sing a song in which the father seems to give his blessing to their marriage. Meanwhile, the ugly girl on the horizon shakes her fist, and says something which can only be a vow of revenge. A few seconds later, just as she is on the point of dying of thirst, she comes across a lonely hut on top of a sand-dune. She knocks on the door and is welcomed by a man who tries to seduce her (in song). She is unimpressed by his advances until she notices that in the corner of the room is a mini-laboratory, containing what appears to be a half-finished nuclear bomb. Together they hatch a plan.

After that, the plot became a bit too difficult to follow. As far as I could tell, in the end the sexy people married each other, the ugly people got blown up, and the fat people ended up with buckets on their head.

Now that’s what I call quality entertainment.”

Adoption: Our Journey

March 23, 2009

Ever since we adopted our kids, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about adoption: people who wanted to adopt, or who knew people who wanted to adopt; or, occasionally, people who had adopted.

When we were thinking of adopting, I went out of my way to find people who had adopted. And I, the world’s greatest phono-phobe, called up two separate people, complete strangers to me (though linked by a couple of degrees of separation), and asked them personal, intimate, and almost nosy questions about adoption.

So, for all those who want to know about adoption, for those who want to know whether it’s ok to ask me about adoption, for those who are wondering whether they want to adopt, and for anyone who knows anyone who… well, you know…

Here’s my take on adoption. Questions and comments welcome.

Adoption was not an easy decision to make. For me, personally, it wasn’t something I had always wanted to do. It was something that was forced upon me by our inability to conceive naturally. This is a messy issue, there are a lot of strong, horrible emotions mixed up in it. And yet, opting out of the whole aided conception business, and eventually, after some months, deciding to adopt, was one of the best – no, probably THE best – decisions I’ve ever made.

Adoption itself is not easy. It’s a weird way to have a family. Instead of doctors, you meet social workers; instead of hospitals, you do the rounds of orphanage and court room. You have to convince people that you’re worthy of being parents; you even have to get people who know you well to write a letter saying why they think you’d make great parents. This is weird, believe me. Flattering, no doubt, when you read the letters, but weird.

There are other differences. With pregnancy, you know roughly when your baby will come, with adoption you only know when she’s already home. Even in pregnancy, there’s the fear of somehow losing the baby; but in adoption there’s no real expectation of even getting the baby till she’s suddenly home with you and it’s done. We hadn’t had the courage to buy anything other than a couple of frocks and a couple of night-suits each for the twins – what if it didn’t work out? We didn’t even buy the diapers until after our first visit to the hospital. So talk about being unprepared.

We each had our fears and concerns, not just about the decision to adopt, but even after the kids came home. Would they be absolutely normal, emotionally, psychologically, physically. Would they be completely healthy? Of course, any parent has these worries, but ours were based on ignorance. We didn’t know what our girls had been through, medically or emotionally. What were those strange scars and bites on her body? Chicken pox? Syphillis? Scabies? Why were they so short and thin? Were they malnourished? Would they grow normally? Would their intellectual development be normal?

Before we adopted, I’d read on a number of websites about parents saying that adoption didn’t make any difference to how they felt about their kids; that they loved them just as much as they loved (or could have loved) their biological offspring. Well, I don’t have any way to say whether or not I could have loved biological offspring more. I feel that I love my kids in as balanced and normal a way as I possibly could. The fact of their being adopted doesn’t make any difference to how I feel about them. I do wish, sometimes, that I had given birth to them; I even think that if I had, they might have resembled Amit and me more, which would have been nice; but I don’t wish that I’d had any children other than these. To me, they are mine.

I know that there are still many difficulties for us on the road ahead. Soon, we’ll have to start explaining to them about adoption – current wisdom says, the earlier you tell them, the better, and that makes sense to me. Then will follow a lifetime of questioning. Questioning where they come from, who they really are, what their biological parents are like, why they wound up with us, what life would have been like… And, certainly, at some point they will question our love for them. It is only natural. We will have to face all this and more in the years and decades that follow. We might have got their birth certificates, but our adoption journey is far from being ended; it has only just begun.

And then there are the other people. The people who are outright mean, or who – often unintentionally – say insensitive things. So far, people have only been able to get through to us, but as the girls grow up and start understanding more, they are going to be at the receiving end too.

And yet, despite the complications, despite the worries, despite the differences, despite the irritatingly lingering regrets over infertility, despite everything… deciding to adopt is the best decision we ever made. I can understand people not being sure about making this momentous decision; I can understand the many, many reasons not to adopt (though I can’t say I empathise with all of them); I can understand people eventually deciding that they simply can’t go ahead with it. It’s not an easy decision for anyone. But, for me, for us, it was absolutely the right decision, it was the decision that brought our girls home to us.


March 20, 2009

When we were in Binsar last month, I carried a large, 20-piece, floor puzzle which was invaluable in keeping the kids entertained on those cold, dark evenings. Of course, they couldn’t actually do the puzzle – not even close. The first couple of times even I had to work quite hard at doing it. (And if you have any uncomplimentary thoughts about my intellect or my visual-spatial skills, go ahead, leave a comment, that’s what blogs are about, right?)

Anyway, I didn’t expect the girls to get anywhere with the puzzle and I didn’t tell them to do it either. I just left them to it. They loved putting the pieces together in random order, and once in a way I’d help them to do it right and they enjoyed seeing it done.

But it took them a lot less time than I expected to get it. Now they do it with elan, and in very little time at that. I was wondering whether they had perhaps memorized the overall picture (a collection of farm animals), but it seems that they have just figured out that various different parts of the animals go together in the appropriate orientation to make whole animals. So I got them another jigsaw puzzle, a small one of only 5-6 pieces, and they got that one right away. Wow, they’re smart.

I loved doing jigsaws as a child, and I kept at it until quite an advanced age, so I’m pretty pleased that they enjoy it too. Plus, it keeps them happily engaged – and working together – for 20 minutes at a stretch. So they’re puzzling away and they’re happy and I’m happy.


March 19, 2009

Ok, I finally snapped. One of my team members called me to say she can’t do this work and I just let off and screamed at her. For about 5 minutes, straight.

It didn’t help that she was the second person to ditch out on me bright and early, right before breakfast, on what should have been a very busy morning.

It didn’t help that this is – what? – the third? time she has ditched out on me in this project and I really should not even have given her this third chance except that I’m such a sucker.

It certainly didn’t help that she’s also a friend of many years. Who’s going through depression.

It didn’t even help that there’s a mountain of dirty laundry that needs to go in the washing machine, only, we’ve run out of detergent and I’ve not had the time, energy and presence of mind to go get some.

None of this helped, but still… I should have kept my cool, like I always do. I should have taken it in my stride. Re-allocate. That’s what this job is all about, anyway.

But I snapped, people, and I’m not happy about it.

Work. Life. Balance?

March 11, 2009

Ok, so I got the dream job, the one that lets me work flexitime from home, pays satisfactorily, is challenging and stimulating (in a manner of speaking) and ideal in every way. So now my life is perfect, right?

Sigh. Right.

To keep pace with my work, I have to work late many nights. Last Sunday I put in several hours in the afternoon, evening, and night. Even when I’m not actually working I’m getting calls on my mobile phone. I don’t have time for any of my other interests, and only a little time, about 4 hours, for the kids. And none at all for Amit.

And I’m tired all the time. Last week I was so tired, I skipped tennis one day. Today, I just didn’t hear the alarm on my mobile phone and it must have been ringing for one minute every five minutes for a whole 45 minutes before I woke up feeling disgusted.

On the other hand, this job has many plus points, apart from the income. I’ve lost that ‘what am I doing with my life’ feeling and regained a sense of confidence in my professional skills and the ability to earn money. I have a place to call office, and I go there about once a week. I meet a lot of people, many of them electronically, some telephonically, a few face to face. I have something to think about and talk about other than the kids – in fact I seem to talk about work more than about the kids and I think of it all the time, I’m practically obsessed with it, I even dream about it.

So, is it a good thing or a bad thing to be back at work? That’s a question I haven’t made up my mind about yet, but what I can say is that, though it lines the pockets nicely, it is also, literally, a pain in the neck.

Bubbles and Balloons

March 9, 2009

On Wednesday last week, the kids were invited to a birthday party. S&S’s daughter, Jathi, was turning one. It was a grand affair at a nearby club.

The kids have quite got the concept of birthday parties now. If I bake a cake – a not infrequent occurrence nowadays – or if I light a candle (an extremely frequent occurrence, necessitated by the almost daily powercuts in the evening), they immediately start crowding around and singing happy birthday to you.

A late evening birthday party that starts after their dinner time and ends after our dinner time is a slightly novel concept to them, but if I had been worried about their energy levels and manageability (which I might have been if I’d had a moment to think about it; but after I resumed working, I’ve completely given up the luxury of thinking) I needn’t have bothered. From the start, they were in great spirits, running around everywhere and getting up to all kinds of – mostly harmless – mischief. They attacked the food with gusto and went through an embarrassing quantity of chicken. Thus fortified, they decided to gang up with V&V’s son, Vidit, and get down to serious work.

First, it was bubbles. There were these small plastic cylindrical containers full of soap solution, into which you dip a small plastic skewer-type thingy (there must be names for these objects, but somebody will have to enlighten me) and it picks up a thin film of the solution, and then you blow on it and you get a stream of bubbles.

Vidit was quite good at it, and there were a couple of older kids who were absolute experts, but Mrini and Tara were seeing these marvels of science and technology for the first time ever. They were thrilled to bits, but spectacularly unsuccessful. They grinned and giggled, spilt the solution, and swallowed a fair bit, frothed at the mouth and looked pleased as punch, but they got hardly one or two tiny bubbles out of it all. It was completely heart-rending, somehow somewhat uplifting, and thoroughly entertaining to watch these two tiny tots huffing and puffing with all their might, only for all their efforts to be rewarded with more spittle and soap solution than bubbles, while all around them other kids got streams of bubbles with complete ease. Their puzzlement was almost as great as their delight.

After all the soap solution had been spilt or ingested (it must have cleaned out their insides wonderfully, they suffered no ill-effects of the spicy food), the three of them turned their attention to the balloons.

There were lots and lots of balloons decorating the place. The older kids had started by bursting them with toothpicks, but had tired of it long before they made a serious dent in the stock of balloons. Armed with spoons, our three little musketeers attacked the balloons with complete determination. Working as a team, they cornered a bunch, pinned it down to the floor and mercilessly jabbed hapless the balloons with the butt-ends if the spoons, till the bunch was completely annihilated. Then, they went on to the next bunch, and they kept it up until there was not a single balloon left within their reach.

It was a most marvelous and entertaining way to spend an evening, for both performers and audience. Bubbles and balloons – the simple pleasures of childhood.


March 7, 2009

What bliss. For the last two weeks, since we returned from vacation and I started working, I’ve enlisted the services of shaba-aunty in managing the kids. Shaba-aunty is the girl who has been cleaning our house for the last five years or so. She’s not a girl at all, considering that she’s probably just a bit younger than me, but I don’t like to call her my servant or maid, and referring to her as my woman sounds just weird.

Shaba-aunty used to come just once a week, on weekends, and it wasn’t till the girls came that we thought we even needed the house cleaned six days a week.

In the last quarter of 2007, she went through a fairly bad bout of depression, which I heard quite a lot about from my other ‘girl’, her sister, the cook.

By December or so, she was back at work after three months off, much of it without loss of pay. Let me say that again : I gave her a medical leave of absence with full pay for a couple of months. Amit accused me of treating her like a software engineer, but it wasn’t about that. I’ve seen depression at first and second hand; it isn’t pretty. She had obviously lost her other positions by now, and I thought of her trying to come out of her depression and then finding she’d lost her last job too… And I didn’t want to do that to her.

So she resumed work in December, and at the end of January, after a prolonged period of shoddy work and unplanned absences, I fired her. Much to my surprise and embarassment, she cringed, cried, and begged me not to, so I relented.

That an excellent decision. Since then, she has pulled up her socks and really got her act together. She is punctual, dependable, and hard-working. So much so that now I know I can leave the kids in her care for any length of time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Not only will she manage them with more patience and kindness than I do, but she’ll also take the initiative and make herself useful around the house. She drops them to and picks them up from playschool nearby; gives them lunch and tidies up after that, takes them to the toilet and puts them to bed; puts out or picks up the clothes; and then, if she still has time on her hands, she empties out the bookshelves or kitchen cabinets and cleans them. Once she even went so far as to scrub the corners of the floor with acid, which made them go conspicuously and weirdly white (instead of ordinarily murky off-white), but with every good intention, so I didn’t have the heart to scold her.

All this, and she’s several months pregnant.

When she takes off to have her baby, I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.

Which only proves that you should always give people a second chance.

Incredibly Immaterial

March 5, 2009

If you had a million dollars and no questions asked, what would you do?

This is the sort of thing you dream about when you watch crappy reality shows and think how great life would be if you won one of those. But I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be the most boringly non-materialistic person on this earth. I can’t think of much I’d like to do.

I mean, I’d love to travel, of course. But the kind of travel I enjoy doesn’t need a million dollars – it just needs a complete abandonment of responsibilities.

I like to buy books and I never grudge money spent on books – but how many books can you read in one lifetime anyway? Besides, I’ve run out of bookshelf space in the house.

So, buy a new house? Well, it’s not as much fun as you’d think.

New car? New bike? New camera? Nope. I don’t get excited by a thing just because it’s new. I like my old faithfuls and if they work and they work for me, that’s all I want.

Clothes? CDs? Music system? Nope – see above. Yes, that goes for clothes too.

Furniture? Furnishings? A fancy bed or mirror or chest of drawers? Nope – I like my living space spartan. Well, perhaps a Laz-y-Boy (or however you spell it)… but then, you need to have the entire set-up to go with it, and we just don’t have the space in our little 3-bedroom apartment.

Gadgets! Computers. Mobile phones. TV, fridge, microwave. Nope. I like my new Nokia 5800 Xpress Music because it works like a pocket PC for me. I hardly use it as a phone. My desktop works – most of the time. I don’t need newer, smaller, better. And as for the white goods, I don’t need newer, shinier, bigger either. They all look just as mundane after a week or two.

Jewellery? Every woman’s secret desire, a solitaire? Naaaah. Not for me.

So here’s my dilemma – now I’m earning money again, I just don’t know what to spend it on. Oh well, Landmark, here I come.

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