Mother’s Day?

May 11, 2014

What’s the big deal about Mother’s Day? I don’t need a “day” to remind me about all it means to be a mother. My kids do that every day.


Sometimes I think I should give up my job and stay at home and look after my family and maybe, if my Muse comes to me, write books.


But then, I have these conversations at office that make me realize how vital it is to keep meeting and interacting with different people. (Of course, there’s more to office than that, but that’s another matter altogether.)


So some of the young people in office, just out of college, early twenties, have been quite vocal about what a pain it is to have kids and how they never want to have kids and how much fun they have in life without these unnecessary encumbrances.


When I hear them, I don’t say anything, and I hope I don’t smile, but inwardly I’m smiling – because it’s like hearing myself talk, 15-odd years ago.


Thinking back, I don’t think I was ever very vocal about it – having kids or not having kids. But inside, I felt that way. Screaming, squalling, runny-nosed brats, who needs them?


And, to be sure, of all the young people who voice these thoughts and those who think them without saying them, it’s not true that all of them will come around to the other way of thinking. It’s not inevitable that all women (to leave the other half out for the moment) will necessarily feel maternal urges later on in life. Some of them might choose to never have kids and they might be quite happy with that choice. I have no problem with that. Let each woman make her own choice, let everyone live their own lives and make their own decisions. I am not crusading in favour of parenthood.


But it amuses me to think that I used to think like that, and then I changed, and now I live with those screaming, squalling, runny-nosed brats, two of them, and I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.


It counts for something, that I had many years of freedom and adventure before the kids came into my life. I traveled, I worked, I partied, I was gay and free and irresponsible. I made the most of it, those happy childless years. But then I chose to be a parent and I worked towards it with single-minded determination. I made it happen (against quite formidable odds). I made the choice and I gave up all that I needed to give up – the travel, the work, the partying, the gay, free, irresponsible lifestyle. It’s not that I don’t miss it. It’s just that what I have now, with my kids… it’s different. It’s tiring, it’s frustrating, it’s maddening at times, but it’s satisfying at a different level. When the kids are screaming and hollering and running around and fighting and driving me crazy (which, let’s face it, is every single day), it’s easy to lose sight of it. But when I step back a moment, it’s still there. I won’t say parenting makes me happy on a moment-to-moment basis, but there’s a much deeper satisfaction to it that mere joy or happiness can’t compete with.


So I was chatting with a much older colleague at work. I don’t even really know this person, we’ve interacted a couple of times, and remotely at that. I mentioned my kids and he said his daughters were grown up now, 19 and 25. I said I was waiting for my girls to get there. He said, “you won’t need to wait. It will happen so fast, and then you will miss tripping over their toys and sneakers.”


So says a father whose two little girls have grown up and left home.


I know he’s right. I have heard it, occasionally, from other parents too. The days crawl by but the years fly. And while we are immersed in the crawling days, we don’t notice the years till they’ve gone.


Once in a way, you need someone to remind you of what the view will be like 15-odd years from now. You need to hear the things that you know you are going to say 15-odd years in the future. Hear them and heed them. You need to remember to hold on to what you have right now. Don’t just fret about the days that crawl, take a step back to cherish the years… before they fly away.


Happy Mother’s Day!

My Daily Fix

May 8, 2014

It’s like a drug, this thing. I’ve been hooked for months and I just can’t stop. I’ve been telling myself at the end of each installment: “This is it. Now I’m going to stop. I’m not going to waste any more time and money on this.” But it doesn’t work. I promptly go and buy the next installment and am deep into it before the night is over.


George RR Martin and his Game of Thrones, or Song of Ice and Fire as it’s more properly called. What a book. What a world! The characters, the events, the drama, the politics, the scheming manipulations. It’s like nothing I’ve ever come across before. I haven’t watched the TV series (yet; I will, though, I will) but I can just imagine it. I love the way the story unravels at its own leisurely pace, unravels and unravels and unravels like an endless carpet of words. I love the plotting and intrigue. I love the characters. I especially love how, though he starts off with black and white characters, they develop slowly, slowly, over the course of five thousand pages (or is it more; I’ve lost count) till each of them has shades of the other. You can understand what motivates each of them. You can admire them – at least certain aspects – even the ones you are supposed to dislike.


After Book 1, I was a bit disappointed. So many things didn’t join up, didn’t come to any kind of satisfactory ending at all. I went on to read other stuff, but it pulled me back. It did. I had to know what happened to all those people, especially to Arya Stark. So I went into Book 2. In Book 2, I decided that magic and fantasy thing weren’t my thing. I would plod through this one (having bought it, after all) and then stop. But that was when I was in the middle of Book 2. By the end, I knew I wasn’t going to stop. At least, not now. Maybe after Book 3. Book 3 had 2 parts, though. I looked longingly at it online, and then went and bought the combined version – 1218 pages! (Thank god for ebooks.)


I’m done with that now, and I didn’t even bother to pause before downloading the fourth book. It’s become my daily fix now. I can’t go to sleep without it. I am not entirely pleased with all the plot points, I must admit. I never liked the way he killed off Ned Stark in book 1 and various other favourites have been killed off since. But like I said… good or bad, I just can’t stop. I want to know what happens, but I don’t want it to end.

Old Dog, New Tricks

May 6, 2014

There are certainly some privileges to being female. One is that nobody ever really expects you to be able to change a flat tyre. If you’re lucky, you have your father, brother, husband, son, or male friend with you when you discover the flat, and they grumblingly take responsibility for getting the flat tyre off and replacing it with a healthier spare. If you’re unlucky and you happen to be alone… well, with a bit of distressed hand-wringing, help can usually be found. If merely the allure of helping a damsel in distress is not enough, help can sometimes be obtained with the promise of a cash reward. Sometimes, even just a smile will do.


I must confess, I haven’t often been in the unlucky situation. In ages gone by, when flats were common enough, when cars were ancient enough and tyres were often completely bald before anyone even thought of getting a new set, it was my father who changed the tyre. In those days, we always had an extra 15 minutes in hand when driving to the railway station (and it was always the railway station, never the airport, for who could afford flights back then?). And 15 minutes was all it took. If we were lucky enough to be in a taxi, then seven minutes were sufficient.


I never did much to help my father change the tyre. Usually, we women stood around and passed unhelpful and perhaps infuriating comments. Well, nothing helpful can be expected from the mouths of those who’ve no practical experience in a task.


Once we got married, it was, of course, Amit’s job to handle such eventualities. I don’t think we had flats quite as often by then. For one thing, once we were done with the family heirloom Fiat, we got a new car with new tyres. And in those days, I didn’t drive the car that much, especially not alone – if I was going somewhere on my own, I took my two-wheeler. And then tubeless tyres came along. So now you could actually drive with a punctured tyre; as long as you didn’t stop, it would be ok. My first experience with tubeless tyres was on my last bike (by which I mean, my motorcycle) and it was a relief, because motorcycles don’t even come with a spare. Which was especially great, because it also meant that you didn’t have to bother about keeping the spare tyre inflated.


So I haven’t had too many opportunities with flat tyres in recent years. And those I have had, I’ve happily passed up. I mean, like I said, nobody really expects you to be able to do it, anyway. It’s quite ok to wave one’s hands, look hapless, and summon up help.


But then again – why shouldn’t I be able to do it?


All along, I’ve had this sneaking suspicion that it would be really tough to change a flat. I didn’t think I could. But Amit has been telling me for a while that I jolly well should be able to change a flat on my own.


So here’s how things went on Friday. I was at the tennis court when I noticed that one tyre was really low on air. I started to drive back home, wondering about it. It was 7 a.m. so the chances of getting it fixed right away were nonexistent. I did manage to get it pumped up, on the way home. But I was pretty sure it was a flat. I had had my tyres checked just recently, so there was no reason for the air to be low unless it was a flat.


I resolved to change the tyre when I got home. Myself, I thought. This time, I’ll do it myself.


In fact, it was the perfect opportunity. Amit was home to help me (I mean, advise me). I was not getting late for anything more critical than work. I was already sweaty and ready for a shower. And I even had a serviceable spare.


Or did I? Actually, come to think of it, when was the last time I got that tyre inflated? And why didn’t I think of doing it when I stopped to pump up the punctured tyre just now? Well, it would just have to do.

I got home, got Amit, got a cup of coffee, and set to work. Managed to take the jack and spare tyre out of the boot. Managed, after fiddling around for a bit, to find the proper place to fix the jack. Managed to figure out, after quite a bit of head scratching, how to operate the jack. Was advised by Amit to loosen the nuts before jacking up the car, which little trick I would have never figured out on my own. And then I even actually managed to loosen the nuts on my own. Of course I used the time-honored technique of standing on the spanner. There are some advantages to being overweight, who’d have thought? Next, I struggled to place the spare on the rim, manouevred it into position, and put the nuts in. Jacked the car back down.


And found that the spare was much, much lower on air than the punctured tyre had been.




It’s not that the process thus far had been as physically strenuous as I’d feared. But I certainly didn’t fancy doing it all over again, to remove this spare. And once I did that, what then? Either walk or drive one or both of the tyres to the petrol bunk to get it (or them) inflated. Or replace the punctured tyre and drive on it.


Maybe we can pump it up with the cycle pump, I suggested.


Amit dismissed the idea out of hand, but both the alternatives were so unappealing that we tried it anyway and guess what? It worked! When I finally drove to the petrol bunk and got the tyre inflated, it was at 27 psi, compared to the ideal of 33 psi. Not bad at all, eh?


So, lessons learned: Loosen the screws before you jack up the car. Check the picture on the jack to figure out where exactly it should be placed. Make sure your spare tyre is inflated (and if not, keep a cycle pump handy). And at any rate, it’s not as tough as it looks.


Oh, and one more thing. It’s never too late to learn. Or, in other words, yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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