A Flying Start – Not Exactly!

May 31, 2012

They never cease to amaze me, these kids. Despite all my misgivings, on the way to their new daycare on Monday, a place they’ve never seen, apart from driving past it fairly regularly, Tara said, “I’m so excited because I’m going to a new daycare.”


That’s the attitude! I wish I could be more like that – for me, it’s equal measures of excitement and apprehension for new things – and sometimes more of the latter and less of the former.


My new job, for instance – there have been innumerable interruptions till date. On two days in one week, I took a half day off to attend to personal errands. It was planned – but the way things turn out, when I planned it, it appeared my work load would be fairly slack, but by the time that week rolled around, it was pretty hectic! Then one day Tara was sick, so I worked from home. Then one day I had to go to their school to pick up bits and pieces of their uniform. Then just yesterday Mrini was sick. This time, I didn’t work from home… but while I was in office, part of my heart and mind was at home, holding my baby.


Not the most auspicious start for a position where you want to establish yourself early on.


The kids? Well, on day one at the new daycare, we heard that they had their lunch and went to sleep. In the evening, I quizzed them about their day. When we had dropped them off in the morning, the place was deserted, so I was kinda worried about whether any kids would eventually turn up or not. I wouldn’t want to find that I had ended up selecting an empty tomb kind of place for them – the whole fun of daycare is to have lots of friends around, right. But the kids reported that evening that there were three babies and five or six big kids but they didn’t know anyone’s name. The second day was better – when I dropped them off in the morning, they took one look at a dad offloading a lunch bag from the car and named the girl who should be inside already. “My friend,” Tara proclaimed, happily. Sigh – things are so easy for five-year-olds – meet a girl one day and by the next day, she is your friend.


The following day, Amit dropped the kids to daycare and by 10.00 in the morning, I got a call – Mrini is vomiting and beginning to cry. Sigh! Luckily, I could send Amit off to get her, while I stayed in office. But Mrini was puking all over the place and she called me in a sorry sounding voice that broke my heart. When my girls are sick, they want me. Fathers are good for the fun times, but when they are sick, they are mommy’s girls. It was not an easy thing to do – to be the one stuck in office. But there was a meeting in the afternoon that I wanted to attend in person, so I stayed and felt bad.


And now, to top it all – today is a holiday. It’s not fun – a holiday should be a holiday, but this is a bandh, which means – no going out for a movie, a meal, or anything else. And what’s worse, this “holiday” will have to be compensated by working on a Saturday. Ugh. Our Saturdays are busy enough and there’s no daycare on Saturday. But today is a bandh and there’s no daycare today either. So here we are, stuck at home with two cranky kids hanging around the house, whining, fighting and constantly saying “I’m hungry!” I haven’t even managed to get out for a cycle ride.


The only thing one can do on a day like this is to put them to work making cake. After all, every cloud has to have a single lining, even if that lining is made of butter, sugar, and gluten-free flour.

Going Green

May 27, 2012

Ok, ok, hold on to your hats. You all know that Amit is the one who’s gone green around here – certainly not me! He’s the one installing a composting toilet in the new home, not to mention already composting our kitchen waste, growing organic veggies on the terrace ,and scaring the living daylights out of the kids or anyone else who wastes so much as a half-drop of water.

My part? I’m all for it – I’m even for recycling toilet water – in theory. As long as it’s not in my house. Somewhere else is fine with me, thank you very much. Unfortunately, my better half believes in actually living by his principles and that means we will be (shudder) recycling toilet water and using it to water the vegetables that ultimately end up on our dining table. You might want to keep that in mind next time we invite you to dinner.

All the same, I have decided to make a bit of a contribution to the green revolution around here. I’m not sure how much of a contribution it is, or if it has lasting power or not, but for whatever it’s worth, here it is:

Green Wheels

Green Wheels

Yes, that’s a cycle. Well, I always loved two-wheelers, though it’s easier to love something that moves on petrol. Now this particular two-wheeler actually requires muscle power, so I’m not sure how much I’m going to love it, but well – with petrol prices shooting through the roof and heading for the stars without so much as a stop sign along the way, this is actually more of a financial decision than an environmental one. The idea is to cycle to work – some day. I’m not sure if it will be in this lifetime or not, but if I can work up the courage to do it, it might be. I used to enjoy cycling in my growing up years. That was when I was growing up vertically and anything new was fun, even if it involved physical activity. Now that the growth is all in the other dimension… I’m not so sure.

This cycle entered our family just yesterday and with this, the bicycle component of our family is now complete – each of us has one. I’ve just taken a single spin on it so far, and I have to admit, I’m quite nervous. I don’t know how to turn on it, much less how to do a u-turn. I’m also not very sure how to stop. The starting part, which I thought would be dicey, has been ok so far – all one time that I’ve done it. This creature has gears and I’m a long way from figuring those out. The first time I changed gears, it clicked so loudly and jerked so unexpectedly that I almost fell off!

And then, of course, I have to learn to cope with traffic. I’ve driven two-wheelers for years, to the extent that I often drive a car as though I’m riding a bike – which is to say, I weave in and out of traffic and try to squeeze through impossibly narrow gaps. Now that I have a two-wheeler again, I seem to think that it’s a motor vehicle and therefore cruise insolently in front of impatient cars, forgetting that I am now on a puny bicycle. This is a dangerous strategy.

But even if I don’t end up cycling to work – I’m still happy to have a cycle. After all, why should Amit get all the brownie points for going green?


May 25, 2012

For the last two-and-a-half years, life has chugged along rather smoothly. Amit’s job went through all kinds of ups and downs, but everything else was calm and stable. The kids’ school was settled and their class teacher and friends remained the same over this time; daycare was settled and remained the same; even the van driver who took them from school to daycare was the same. My job was the same. Our home was the same. It was wonderful.

And just as if our destiny were determined by some strange celestial movement (which I don’t believe) something shifted and everything changed. From June, the kids go to First Standard. Of course, they are enormously excited – First Standard is “big girls’ school”. I remember the feeling from my own childhood – I just couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, for the first time, they get to wear uniforms. Their notebooks must be neatly covered in brown paper. They will now need proper black shoes, proper canvas shoes, a school belt, house-colour T-shirts, and even proper pencil boxes.

Meanwhile, my company got acquired and it has resulted in a change in my office location. I also have a new role – it’s pretty much like joining a new job, except that my payslip looks just the same as before. It’s a busy time for me, and I’m just as nervous, apprehensive, eager and stressed out as I would have been had I joined any other organization. A new job always means having to prove oneself all over again – an exciting but tiring task. There are also goodbyes – to people and even to places. I took a long time to settle into my old organization, to make my space there, to feel at home. Today I went back to that office to collect my stuff and suddenly I realized just how much it felt like home. My cube with its lovely view out of the window, my dear colleagues, my fabulous fresh filter coffee, my workspace cluttered with two-and-a-half years of little things… I really didn’t want to leave it all.

The change in office location also means that our old faithful daycare is no longer on my route. Amit has also left his old job – which used to be in the same office complex as mine – so daycare hasn’t been on his route for quite a while. When I realized that my office location shift was imminent, we immediately began looking for a daycare closer to home or my new office. We found several – and it was a tough decision to pick one. It is such a weighty decision – the cost is pertinent, of course, but when it comes to daycare, it just can’t be the “most important” factor. We need to pick a place we are happy with on many levels, a place we feel will be right for our kids. We’ve picked one – but we won’t know for some weeks or months yet whether or not this is the right decision.

Tara has been enthusiastic about dancing. For their “graduation day” – when they said goodbye to their Montessori class just prior to the summer vacation – they all put up a wonderful song-and-dance show in an auditorium near school. It wasn’t Mrini and Tara’s first stage show – they’d been part of a dance show in the summer of 2010 (not even four years old at the time) and again that December. Though Tara had been nervous the first time – and she appeared to be nervous this time as well – they loved it. They loved being on stage and having us – and sometimes our friends – come to watch. They loved the dance, but they also loved the whole backstage experience, getting dressed up in costume, having make-up applied, waiting around with their friends, the whole nine yards. Strangely enough, when their daycare re-introduced dance class this year, Mrini opted out after a month or so, but Tara was thrilled. She has a particular flexibility of movement that makes her a wonderfully graceful dancer and that might possibly be motivating her to keep dancing. So we enrolled her in the dance class and eventually, as the end of the summer holidays approached, a dance show was announced. Only thing was, this time they were just doing a small performance at the daycare centre itself – no special costumes, no big stage, no fanfare at all. Tara, however, had all the trappings of a big event firmly etched in her mind. Every time we or the daycare coordinator tried to tell her it would be just a small show at the daycare centre itself, she stomped off refusing to believe us. Right until a day before the show, she was telling me how we would drop her at the daycare centre and from there they would take her to the venue and we must be sure to get seats right in the front row to watch her and that Mrini must also come. Of course Mrini is going to watch – but it was heart-breaking to try to convince Tara that this time it would just be a small, informal show with a handful of parents forming the entire audience and that all the glitz and glamour of a big stage and auditorium would be missing. That girl likes the spotlight!

So anyway, when we told the kids we would have to change their daycare because my office was going to be shifting, Tara’s first reaction was – not before my dance show! She even went so far as to say, let Mrini go to the new daycare, but let me go to the old daycare because I have to practice for my dance show. Well, of course, we couldn’t possibly move them before that!

And that’s how it happened that the first two weeks in my new job were spent driving miles and miles out of my way twice each day – to drop the kids and pick them up from the old daycare, while I went all the way around to my new office in-between. Amit did help as much as he could – but it was no short a commute for him, either. And it was exhausting. Just when you think you can finally bid goodbye to your everyday commute – the same commute I’ve been doing for the past two-and-a-half years without complaining too much – it becomes utterly unbearable. Partly, it’s just the thought of not having to do it any more that makes doing it unbearable; partly it’s knowing that you needn’t really do it even now; and partly it’s the sheer, breathtaking stupidity of Bangalore’s traffic systems.

So, having slogged through the traffic needlessly for two weeks, today, at last, was their last day at the old daycare. The kids didn’t care. I packed them two homemade chocolate cakes to share with everyone, but apart from that, it was business as usual for them. They went in their usual ragged clothes. They packed their usual boring snacks and lunch. They even said bye as usual to everyone as we left. No hugs, no kisses and – thank god! – no tears. It was us, the adults, who were sad. It’s been a home away from home for the kids and for me, it’s been a haven, a place and a set of people that I can absolutely rely on to take care of my kids so that I don’t have to worry at all about them while I’m at work. Their staff has been good (barring minor incidents) and the coordinator has been so pleasant, so sensible, so… so much a friend – it breaks my heart to take them away from there.

I remember when I was about ten, my family moved from Chandigarh to Delhi. My mother was not very happy about the move. I don’t remember now what my sister felt. My father, I think, was eager because it was a good move for him career-wise. I? I was excited, thrilled, delighted. I knew, of course, that I’d be leaving my friends behind and possibly never seeing them again (or at least, not for a year or whatever, which is pretty much “forever” to a ten-year-old) but it really didn’t bother me as much as the prospect of a new everything excited me. And I see the same thing with my kids – the prospect of the new is so exciting that they never pause to miss the old faithfuls. For me, it was only when I was much older, looking back, that I had any sense of sadness at what I’d left behind.

It’s just as well, of course. I already have to deal with my own sadness, my own uncertainty and regrets about these changes. If I had to deal with nervous, scared, sad kids as well, I really don’t know how I’d manage.

Tomorrow is the dance show. And Monday, the new daycare. And next Monday, the first day of First Standard. And then, sometime next month, a new home. That’s a lot of change in a short time. Thank god for the stability of two-and-a-half years that precedes it. It’s going to be an interesting period of transitions. I know the kids will swim through it with ease. The question is – will I?

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