November 25, 2009

The kids don’t know what’s in store for them. They know something is coming, but they don’t quite know what. They know I’ve been going for “job interview”s and that I want to go back to “work”. They have heard Amit and me discussing daycare, but they don’t know what daycare means. I’ve told them they’ll be going to a second school soon, it seems to have got Mrini a bit worried. Yesterday, when I went to pick them up from school, she was sobbing in the teacher’s lap – most unlike either of them to behave like that. She saw me and greeted me with an absolute flood of tears. It turned out that she had been worried that I wasn’t going to show up. I wasn’t late, really, but some of the kids had started to leave, so she got worried. Poor little thing.

Today they had a class picnic. Wow! A picnic! My kids went out with a bunch of friends and not a single parent went along! They went in a school bus for the first time, they went to a strange place (a park of some kind, I gather) and somebody else took them! I don’t know about them, but this was a big thing for me. Given the uncertainty in the air with my new job and all, I thought they (or at least Mrini) might be worried about where they were going and all that, but they came back looking ok. I was waiting on the sidelines as the school bus drove up and disgorged the kids – the twins got off separately and walked off without seeing me. Tara was fine, though a bit confused (as always); Mrini had a slightly worried expression, but when she finally saw me, she smiled. If she had been really anxious, when she saw me she would have cried. So that’s ok. They didn’t say anything to me at all about the picnic, which is sad, because I’m dying of curiosity… but I suppose it will come out slowly.

And tomorrow, they start daycare. The first few days are on a trial basis to see how they take to it. If they seem willing to settle down and enjoy it, then we’ll have to shell out a horrendous amount towards enrollment, and three months’ fees.

The saddest thing about this daycare is that by the time they get home, it will be too late and too dark for them to go to the park. They don’t know it, but the era of park outings every evening with their gang, the Famous Five, is coming to an end.

Actually, the era of the Famous Five would have ended anyway, with the two boys going off to a distant land in a couple of weeks’ time. But the twins don’t know about that yet either. They so look forward to meeting their gang every evening in the park, it is going to be sad having to explain “goodbye” to them. At least daycare will give them a new set of friends, albeit in an indoor environment. The boys who are moving away, on the other hand, will have to get used to a new home, new country, new everything. They’re a few months over two, they’ll adjust quickly. Soon, they won’t even remember their gang, the Famous Five. It’s still sad, though.

It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks, as I spend long afternoons at daycare getting the kids used to the place. It would have been easier if I didn’t also have an Archaeology assignment that needs to be completed before I start work. But I know that it’s only a matter of getting over the bump – things will get easier with time as we all settle down to the new regime. I hope.

And then, soon after, sure enough things will change again.

Got It!

November 25, 2009

Yesssss, I got a job! Company 2 it is, the one in the same campus as Amit’s office and the kids’ daycare. I’m really happy, because the test last week was a lot of fun, and a bit tough too, and I spoke to four people (three on the phone) and came away feeling pretty good after each conversation. I thought I liked the people I spoke to. This is unusual – I usually don’t come away with any firm impression of the people I speak to, neither good nor bad. The domain that the company is in looks interesting and very challenging. The office is nice enough, the toilets are decent (though not first class, but good enough). And they made me an offer that seemed pretty good… considering the state of the global economy and the fact that I’ve not done any work for two whole years…

We’ve agreed to a start date of 10th Dec. We had planned a trip to Calcutta and Sandakphu during the Christmas-New-Year vacations, so I was a bit disappointed that I might have to give that up, but no: this company has a winter break that exactly coincides with the period we will be away. So I join, and two weeks later I go on paid vacation. What more could anyone want?

If you think all of this sounds too good to be true… and if you think what the heck has she done to deserve this… well, I’m wondering about that too. ..


November 20, 2009

I hadn’t expected job-hunting to be so energy- and time-consuming, and so tiring! But I also hadn’t expected it to be so exciting! I can’t believe how alive I have started to feel just going for interviews and talking to people about what I used to do and how good I was at it. (There’s a time and place for modesty: neither my blog, nor my job interviews are the time and place for it.) Now that I’m actually interviewing for jobs and meeting people who are in the same field as I was and who can relate to what I did professionally for years, now that I can sniff a job or two in the air, now that people are even asking me what kind of remuneration package I expect… I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my chest and I can breathe fully and deeply at last.

Of course I enjoyed my time at home with my kids. Of course I was thrilled to bits at various stages of their development. I know that I’ve written enough about them here for nobody to doubt that. But at the same time, spending all day, every day, at the intellectual level of three-year-olds… I think I was slowly degenerating. Kids are stimulating, sure, but maybe they don’t provide all the kinds of intellectual stimulation that you need, once you are used to it. After a while, the constant chatter of “what colour is that shirt” and “say hi to your car” can leave you feeling somewhat deadened. At least I’ve had my writing, my Archaeology studies, and, of course, friends and the Park Moms Inc to keep me sane, but none of that makes up for the challenges and stimulation of a working life. And that’s just not something two little girls, however entertaining they might be, can provide.

Strangely, I never really realised the extent of my vegetation, my brain-dead-ness, until just now, when I’m finally faced with the prospect of leading a “normal” adult life again; of talking to colleagues about meetings, deadlines, products, tools and technology.

Parts of me are apprehensive about how the kids will handle it, how we all will handle it; parts of me are anxious and guilty about putting them in daycare; parts of me are worrying about how on earth we are going to keep this household running when both of us are going to be busy at work all day. But the part of me that suddenly feels awake and alive, excited and thrilled says, whatever happens, we will find a way to cope, but right now it is time, high time, that I got back to my professional life.


November 19, 2009

Whoever said the only thing that’s constant is change certainly knew what they were talking about.

The economy is still down, but thanks to my friends, my resume has landed in half a dozen critical inboxes this week. I’ve been interviewed by one organisation already, where I happened to meet two erstwhile colleagues. It is nice to see familiar faces in new places; what’s even nicer is that I respect both these people as being good at their work – and that’s not something I’d say of a lot of people. A company that can retain good people – one for several years – can’t be all bad. The other thing I liked about this place was that they had an intelligent test – the kind that I enjoy doing and leaves me feeling so pleased with myself (for doing well, obviously). Most importantly, they had well-maintained and sparkling clean toilets. This, in my opinion, is a highly important and non-negotiable criterion when looking for a new workplace.

Meanwhile, another company has set up an interview with me tomorrow.

A third company, located not too far from home, closer than either of the other two, has a very interesting job description, the most exciting of those I’ve seen so far. But they haven’t even gotten in touch with me yet.

None of these three companies is one of those that has instant brand recall like, say, IBM, Intel, or Microsoft. But my resume has also found its way into some companies that do have that. Of course, I haven’t actually heard from any of them yet, but if I do, then I’ll really have some fun… Deciding which one I want most, which is most practical, which the best for my career prospects, which good from the perspective of work-life balance, which is so crucial right now… Not to mention work environment, remuneration, commute time and all that.

So in all this – what is to become of the kids? We’ve struggled and struggled with this question for months without coming to any very satisfactory answer. As of now, we’re thinking of putting them in a daycare center in the same office complex as Amit’s office and my company2. We’ve heard some good and some bad things about this daycare, but the bad things have been about other branches while the good things have been about this particular branch. This daycare does also offer to pick up the kids from their school, which will be required because their school bus does not ply on this route at this time. So this looks like what we will be doing soon. Neither of us is very happy about it – the thought of sending two small kids to daycare for the whole day, every day of the week… But there doesn’t seem to be any other option, now that I’ve decided to go back to work.

So this is going to be a big change coming up. I hope it all goes well and we all get settled into the new regime without too much difficulty. But first, I have to actually get a job.

Lunch Break

November 13, 2009

Three friends came over for lunch today. They are all working women, so they took a long lunch break on a working day and took a long drive from their respective offices (home-office, in two instances) to come and meet me and the kids. These are friends I made in the workplace. Two of them I first met back in 2001 or so; the third I met even earlier than that, at another organisation. So I’ve known them a long time, but I’ve been in touch with them only sporadically. One of them I have met every so many months, or so, but the other two I was meeting after several years – certainly more than two years, because I hadn’t met them after the twins came home. So I was quite excited about meeting all of them for lunch. I even washed my hair and put on one of my more decent (new) T-shirts. Isn’t that a little pathetic? Well, such is life as a career-woman-turned-stay-at-home-mom.

Initially, lunch at a nearby restaurant had been proposed, but I suggested lunch at home because the kids would be happier, and then someone suggested potluck, so that’s what we did finally. It was great. I brought the kids home from school, got them bathed and dressed, and laid the table and just as I got the salad dressed, my friends turned up. They’d even managed to synchronise it so that they all arrived together. They were all a little short on time, so we started lunch quite soon. The kids ate with us, though Mrini grabbed the opportunity to play with her food and eat almost nothing at all without coming under serious fire from me. I was, of course, hopping around serving the kids their lunch while grabbing bites of fish and chicken from my plate in-between servings, but that’s something I’m used to by now. Desert, which I’d made (chocolate puddle pudding), was a hit, of course. The best part was that I parceled out whatever little was left of the desert, while they left behind the leftovers of the fish and chicken they’d brought.

So everything was just perfect.

Only… while the three of them chatted about bosses, appraisals, raises (or the lack of) and other work-related matters, I sat silent and felt out of place. It isn’t that long ago that that was my world too, but now it’s all so far away… and I wish it weren’t.

On the other hand, though… two of them are married and have two kids each. The third is still unmarried, though – now – she wishes she weren’t.

I suppose there are no easy answers.

Cauvery Fishing Camp (Without The ‘Fishing’)

November 9, 2009

For the sake of posterity, I must report that we took the kids to Cauvery Fishing Camp a couple of weeks ago. We’d taken them to Doddamakkali a year-and-a-half ago, when they were still too small to have enjoyed it much. This time we went to Bheemeshwari and they really did enjoy themselves.

Bheemeshwari is quite a bit nearer than Doddamakkali. We started around 8 a.m. and after a leisurely drive that included a break for a snack, we reached around noon. The kids played in some rubber rafts that were kept by the water’s edge, and then it was time for lunch. In the early evening, we went for a coracle boat ride. Unlike the usual such boat rides, which just take you around in a small area, this time we actually went downstream for a couple of km, and the water was quite fast. We have been whie-water rafting once, years ago, and this was nothing compared to that, but it wasn’t entirely placid either. There were sizeable waves, one of which swept right into the boat and wet a good part of Amit’s pants. Given that it was soon after the floods in North Karnataka, and that water level in the Cauvery was said to be still quite high – and, in fact, it appeared to be quite high, as we could see trees up to their knees in water, and roots of some of the massive old trees in the camp that we thought used to be above water were now submerged – I’m not sure how wise we were to go on this boat ride; but this was all part of the Jungle Lodges package, and they should know what they’re doing, so we didn’t worry too much about it. Besides, we all had our life jackets on… For whatever that was worth.

There was a jeep waiting to drive us back to the camp, but we decided to walk. They all thought we were crazy, and perhaps we were, but it was a comfortable walk of half an hour or so, and helped the kids work off some of their energy.

The bonfire that evening was very pleasant. It was too warm for a fire, but that didn’t seem to matter. We took a table some distance from the barbecue area, and the twins spent the evening running up and down ferrying food to the table and clearing away the used plates. I was amazed to see them go and ask the servers, coherently, for whatever they wanted. Amit had palpitations whenever the ran past the fire, logs from which jutted out in various directions, but they managed the evening without falling anywhere in the vicinity of the flames.

The next morning, we went for a mini trek. The guide allotted to us was visibly reluctant to lead us up the mountain path with the girls in tow. First he proposed a flat route, then, when I said no, we want to go to the watch tower on top of the hill, he led us a short way, then stopped and pointed up to where the watch tower stood. “Full teep” he said. It did look a formidable climb from there, but, having done it before, I knew it wasn’t that bad. Besides, after all the Himalayan treks we’ve done, I wasn’t going to be scared off a small hill like that, not even with the kids in tow. So we went on up the “full teep” path, holdin the twins hands and egging them on, and the guide took pity on them and led us up a route that eventually joined up with a jeep track and was quite as steep as advertised. We reached the tower in 40 minutes or so, and climbed the wet and slippery metal tower to the top. It was very misty, so we couldn’t see anything worth seeing, but it felt good to have made it that far with the kids. The descent, of course, was somewhat worse, but we made it without incident and were soon back at the camp seated at the breakfast table.

After breakfast, the girls had fun climbing the giant net and tackling the hammocks, and got scared by a monkey whom they rashly invited into the tent ‘for lunch’ and who appeared ready to take them up on their invitation. Then we all bathed and it was time to leave. Mrini kept us entertained during the early part of the car ride home by making up stories based on pictures in the books we keep for them in the car. She was amazingly good at it. She started each story with those hallowed words “once upon a time…” then she introduced some characters, usually monkeys, tigers or other wild animals, then she strung together 6-10 sentences about the characters, then she either trailed off, or ended with the other hallowed words, “happily ever after,” which, as she says it, would be written “happiligili after.” And on that happy note ended our first mini trek outing with our girls.

Writer Unblocked

November 6, 2009

Recently, two friends mentioned how my writing here on my blog seems so spontaneous, as though the thoughts are just there and are written without much effort. This pleased me. To a large extent, it is true, but I didn’t know that it showed. Often, when I sit down to write, I do have just a thought – only that much is conscious. The words come on their own. It’s lovely when they do come, and it’s true that writing then is not much of an effort; it’s a pleasure. At those times, it’s not what I have to say that’s important, it’s how I say it. It’s like riding a cycle when you’ve no place to go, just riding around this way and that, wherever the wheels take you; it’s like cooking a dish you’ve never made before, without a recipe, not really sure what you’re making but just throwing things together because it feels like it might work; it’s like watching a bird soar and glide, effortlessly, in the slightest breeze in a clear blue sky.

There are, unfortunately, other kinds of writing that I do, which are less inspired. One that I do quite often is thinking aloud. This is sincere but could be jumbled and directionless. Another is plain reporting. I don’t like doing this – it’s boring to write and I can only imagine that it’s just as boring to read.

In the month or so before I publicly declared myself to have hit a writer’s block, I think I was doing mostly reporting. It was partly from a sense of duty to my blog; blogging was something I wanted to keep up ‘conscientiously’; a way of practising writing the way I, for years, practised playing the violin. But I found myself hunting desperately for ideas (instead of having the ideas come to me) and then, listlessly, ‘reporting’.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the itch to write just once or twice. There was a particularly fun outing last Sunday that would make for an interesting post (to write). There’s a movie that I’d love to review here, specially because I’ve already reviewed the book (Kite Runner). But there’s been just no time and not enough inspiration.

There could be another reason for my writer’s block. Over the past four months or so, I’ve put together a book – or at least a manuscript of what I hope will someday be a book. It’s only 40,000 words, so it’s more like a book-let than a book, really. Still, it’s an important work for me – it’s the story of our family, of our decision to adopt and the adoption process and all that it entailed. I shouldn’t, of course, blow my own horn, but I feel it’s a good book, and one that might be of interest to many, many people out there. I think I’m done with writing it; now starts the long, draining process of trying to get it published.

I know it’s a long, draining process, because I’ve already tried it with my other manuscript, the one of my long, adventurous, solo sojourn in the Himalayas. I’ve been trying to get that published for four years now, with no success, so I’m not exactly full of hope and optimism for this new project of mine… But, well… I’ve already written the story, so I suppose I’ll just have to keep trying.

And another thing. A month or so ago, I decided firmly that it was time to go back to work. Yes, the daily nine-to-five grind, with all its implications for family life as we have known it for the last two years. I’m done with the arguments about whether or not it’s the best thing to do, or the right thing to do, or even about how, exactly, we are going to manage it on a day-to-day basis. I just need to get back to work. Now, if only I could find a job willing to take me. I’ve applied for about a dozen vacancies so far, but, amazingly, I’m not actually flooded with offer letters yet. In fact, I haven’t even got as far as a single interview call yet.

Oh, well… At least it gives me time to start on my next book. I don’t know whether perseverance pays off, but I do think there’s a very thin line between stubbornness and stupidity and I don’t seem to mind which side of it I’m on, as long as I can get off this writer’s block and just write.

It Must Be Bad Karma Catching Up With Me

November 5, 2009

This is the kind of morning that makes you wish… All sorts of things.

It started at the unholy hour of 4 a.m., when Tara woke us up by coming in to our room. I took her back to her room and left her there, but, though I got back in bed right away, I just couldn’t go back to sleep. My mind woke up and started doing gymnastics.

Anyway, it was just as well, because half an hour later Tara was back, wanting to do potty. This, of course, is unheard of. Who does potty at 4.30 a.m.? It turned out that the had a slightly bad stomach. Anyway, I got her pottied and, having taken off the diaper she wears at night, I threw it out because it was morning now and she was awake enough to find her way to the toilet should she need to use it. Or so I thought.

I went back to bed, then, but only for about 15 minutes, then it was time to get up anyway. It being Thursday, I rather optimistically dressed for tennis; rather too optimistically, as it turned out. It had rained yesterday evening, and when I called the coach, he said the courts were wet, so we couldn’t play. Since I was up and dressed — and really thoroughly awake instead of being half asleep as I usually am — I went for a walk. It started out nice; there aren’t too many lunatics out walking on the road in the dark at 5.30 a.m… But by 6.30 it was as crowded as the City railway station. At least it was good to see a whole sea of humanity, of which most were either older than me, or fatter than me, or both. The young, thin people were all at home, sleeping, the lucky buggers.

So I got home tired invigorated to find that Tara had managed to dirty her pants. It was just a tiny little bit, but… A tiny bit of crap is still crap and none the nicer to clean at 7 a.m.

A short while later, Amit put a steaming cup of coffee on the table in front of me. The kids had a school holiday for some fairly abstract reason (Kanakadasa Jayanthi) and Amit had decided to take the day off as well, for an even more unbelievable reason: he wanted to finish off some vacation days before the end of the year. Before the coffee was on the table, though, he announced that he had too much work and was going to go to office after all. Poof, my holiday went up in smoke in an instant.

So, I decided to grab the opportunity while he was still around to enjoy some quality time in the bathroom. I know, I know, hot coffee on the table, weird time to go to the bathroom, but as they say, opportunity only knocks once. Besides, the coffee was really too hot to drink (I like it lukewarm)… And I’m really very quick in the bathroom… So off I went.

Whenever I leave Amit to manage the kids while I’m in the bathroom, some crisis is bound to occur. Loud voices and floods of tears are inevitable. I’ve become almost inured to it. I know something is going to get messed up, so I’ll be as quick as possible and then turn my attention to damage-control. Today, I swear I took less than three minutes. Really. And yes, I heard the shouting and the tears even in that short spell of time. I came out to be greeted by the contents of a big cup of coffee elaborately spread all over the dining table, chair, and floor. Lovely – just the way a cup of coffee should not be. After I had cleaned up the mess and Amit had made his peace with the culprit, Mrini, but before a fresh cup of coffee could be made and consumed, my dear husband had vanished out the front door and I had the whole long day ahead of me.

I hope I did something really bad to have earned a morning like this.

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